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Newsline - June 4, 2003


PUTIN TOUTS U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS...
Speaking at a press briefing after the G-8 summit in Evian, France, President Vladimir Putin said on 3 June there is no alternative to U.S.-Russian cooperation, RTR and ORT reported. "The U.S. is Russia's major partner, and in some areas the United States' role is absolutely unique for Russia," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. "We are talking about issues relating to the strengthening of international security and strategic stability." He added, "In some areas, such as the fight against terrorism, the U.S. is a consistent and reliable partner for Russia." Putin also said he does not agree with the opinion that the United States has isolated itself from the global community as a result of differences over Iraq. VY/MS

...AND DISCUSSES FALLOUT FROM IRAQ CRISIS
At the same 3 June press briefing, Putin said that "the situation with Iraq was largely connected to the fact that the Americans felt they were threatened, felt that their national pride was hurt and felt the need to assert themselves," Interfax reported. "This was one of the motives for their actions." However, he added that "I don't think this was done correctly" and vowed that Russia will continue to "defend our positions on issues that affect our country's national interests," while at the same time working to develop international cooperation. In recalling Russia's tough stance on the Iraq issue, Putin said it could have caused U.S. President George W. Bush "to take offense, not to come to St. Petersburg, and head for further confrontation in the relations between Moscow and Washington." However, Putin said, "Bush acted like a serious politician who wants to develop relations with Russia and the whole world." He said it would be a mistake to "reject a hand outstretched in friendship" and said Russia would not contribute to a split in the global community by joining any anti-U.S. coalitions. VY/MS

RUSSIA TO CONTINUE COOPERATION WITH IRAN
President Putin said at the 3 June press briefing in Evian that "Iran is our neighbor" and that "we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate" with Iran, Interfax reported. Putin also expressed concern that unidentified rivals might take over at Iran's Bushehr nuclear-power plant, which is being constructed with Russian help. "We are categorically against the dredging up of problems that could be used in the name of unscrupulous competition, including on the Iranian market," he said. Putin added that Russia will insist on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision of Iran's nuclear program, although he was not reported to have specified that Russia would require Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would require Iran to submit to surprise inspections by the IAEA. An earlier report had cited an anonymous, high-ranking British official as saying that Putin told G-8 leaders on 2 June that Russia has frozen the Bushehr project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Meanwhile, a correspondent from RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 3 June that Moscow has decided to delay deliveries of nuclear fuel to Bushehr until Tehran guarantees the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia and provides information on other possible nuclear facilities. SF/VY

EXPERTS DISCUSS MAIN ISSUES OF PARLIAMENTARY-ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Foundation for Effective Politics head and Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovskii said in an RTR open-studio discussion on 3 June that in his annual address to the nation, President Putin made economic growth and combating poverty the main themes of the campaign for the December parliamentary election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2003). Pavlovskii said that while the general public and many Russian businessmen support Putin's calls to double the size of the economy, the government seems to be ignoring the idea and has thus doomed itself politically. "Ekspert" magazine Editor in Chief Valerii Fadeev said economic growth is possible in Russia only through the development of the domestic market and an increase in domestic consumption, which he said is dependent on improving the standard of living in Russia. Therefore, he said, economic growth and fighting poverty are intrinsically linked. VY

MOSCOW GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE SYMBOL OF 'SOCIALIST REALISM'
The Moscow government has decided to restore the city's famous "The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman" monument, RTR reported on 3 June. The 24-meter stainless-steel statue was created by Vera Mukhina in 1936 and was exhibited at the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris World Fair in 1937. It was considered the premier symbol of Soviet art and exemplified the so-called socialist realism style. According to the plan, the huge monument will be dismantled from its present location and following renovation will be assembled atop a commercial building constructed as an exact replica of the 1937 World Fair pavilion. The renovation of the monument would be the first of a socialist symbol since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to RTR. VY

RUSSIAN OFFICIALDOM SAYS 12 REGIONS HAVE SUSPECTED SARS CASES
Russian officials informed the World Health Organization on 3 June that suspected cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have been registered in 12 regions of the country, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency did not name those 12 regions. "Meditsinskii vestnik" reported the same day that the federal government has adopted a decree under which medical workers who treat people with SARS will receive double their normal salaries. A course on how to treat such patients opened in Novosibirsk on 26 May, and a similar course is planned for Moscow in mid-June. Also on 3 June, the head of the Moscow police, Vladimir Pronin, reported that some 500 citizens of China and Vietnam have been deported from the capital in order to prevent the spread of SARS, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. JAC

COMMUNISTS, YABLOKO TO FORCE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT
The Communist and Yabloko factions will submit the necessary documents to hold a vote of confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to the Duma Council on 10 June, "Vremya novostei" reported on 4 June. The signatures of 90 deputies are required in order to launch the procedure, according to Duma regulations, while 226 votes are necessary for a no-confidence vote to pass. Politika Foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov told the daily that he has no doubt that the parties will collect enough signatures, but that the measure itself will not win enough votes. He added that the vote itself "is, of course, an election maneuver.... Their electorate is thirsting for blood, and the parties will demonstrate that they are ready to spill it." JAC

PRICE TAG FOR ST. PETERSBURG CELEBRATION ADDS UP TO ANNUAL CITY BUDGET
Presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko told reporters in St. Petersburg on 2 June that almost 60 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) has been spent over the past three years on preparations for the city's 300-year jubilee, Russian media reported. According to "Gazeta" the next day, this is more than the city's annual budget, which was 58 billion rubles in 2002. Of the total amount spent on the jubilee, 40 billion rubles was spent on the reconstruction of architectural monuments, and 20 billion on preparations for the celebration itself. Matvienko expressed satisfaction with the event; however, Vadim Tyulpanov, chairman of the city legislature, told the newspaper that he found one of the events, a laser show, "dubious." He also complained about trash on the streets and "government motorcades that paralyzed traffic in the city for two days," concluding that "to a large extent, the holiday was oriented toward VIPs." JAC

CABINET MINISTER TO SEEK DUMA SEAT FOR SPS...
The leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) branch in Udmurtiya, Dmitrii Shumkov, told reporters in Izhevsk on 3 June that Science and Industry Minister Ilya Klebanov will seek a seat in the State Duma from a single-mandate district in the republic in the December elections, regions.ru reported, citing ITA Privolzhe. According to Shumkov, the SPS considers Klebanov "its" candidate. JAC

...AS YABLOKO COURTS TV JOURNALIST
Yabloko party head Grigorii Yavlinskii has been personally conducting negotiations with well-known TV journalist Svetlana Sorokina about the possibility of her joining the party, Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Ivanenko said at a 2 June press conference, "Gazeta" reported the next day. Unnamed Yabloko officials told the newspaper that it is possible that Sorokina will get one of the top three spots on the party list for the December State Duma elections. However, the list will not be confirmed until the party congress in the early fall. JAC

COMMUNISTS PURSUE LIBEL CASE OVER MURDER IN TVER
A criminal libel case has been launched against Andrei Karaulov, host of the TV-Tsentr program "Moment of Truth," RosBalt reported on 3 June, citing Andrei Andreev, press secretary for the Communist Party's State Duma faction. In a program that aired on 13 April, Karaulov reported that a former member of the Communist faction, Vladimir Bayunov, had been hiding in a bedroom in Tver when a woman named Ivanova was murdered there in 1995 and that he did nothing to stop the crime. In 2000, Bayunov ran in the gubernatorial election in Tver and lost (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2000). Bayunov told "Vremya novostei" on 4 June that the false story about his failure to prevent the murder had been spread during that campaign, and that a local newspaper had to pay 50,000 rubles ($1,600) in damages at the time. He said that the story has been dug up again because another gubernatorial election is pending. For his part, Karaulov said that he was informed of the circumstances of the killing by the murderer himself, Ivanova's former husband, who has already served his term in prison for the murder. JAC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD DISMISSES CABINET...
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov issued a decree on 3 June dismissing all cabinet ministers except Prime Minister Anatolii Popov and Security Council members, Interfax reported. According to Adlan Magomadov, who is Kadyrov's envoy to the Kremlin, the dismissals are in line with the new Chechen Constitution adopted in a referendum in late March, according to which Kadyrov's status is now that of acting president, and new executive bodies are to be appointed. Kadyrov himself told Interfax that Popov has been asked to propose a new cabinet within two weeks, and that outgoing ministers will continue to perform their duties until a decision is made on whether they should be reappointed. He also said the number of deputy premiers is to be cut from five to three. LF

...AND REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS
Also on 3 June, Kadyrov dismissed Grozny Mayor Oleg Zhidkov and the heads of Chechnya's 21 territorial-administrative units, Interfax reported. He simultaneously named Khozh-Akhmed Arsanov, outgoing chairman of the government's Committee for Youth Affairs, to succeed Zhidkov as mayor. Kadyrov stressed that Zhidkov submitted a written resignation following the offer of a new post, and that Zhidkov's departure is not the result of any professional failings on his part. However, Kadyrov also said that following weekly visits to the regions, Prime Minister Popov had criticized unnamed local administrators, and for that reason Kadyrov intends to appoint replacements who will be more effective in tackling the difficult tasks involved in reviving Chechnya's economy. Kadyrov further named Igor Tarasov as head of the presidential and governmental executive office, Interfax reported. Tarasov has been performing those duties for the past three months, having previously worked for three years as an aide to the Chechen prime minister. LF

CHECHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY SAYS HE WILL NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Speaking at a 3 June press conference at Interfax's head office in Moscow, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov said he has no intention of contesting the upcoming Chechen presidential election, Interfax reported. He predicted that some 15 candidates will contest the ballot, of whom he said three have a good chance of victory: Kadyrov, and Moscow-based Chechen businessmen Khusein Dzhabrailov and Malik Saidullaev. Saidullaev has been identified by a former Federal Security Service officer as having been involved in the 1996 assassination of President Djokhar Dudaev, according to chechenpress.com on 8 May. Sultygov advocated holding the Chechen presidential election in October, rather than concurrently with the State Duma elections in December, in order to enable observers from the Federal Assembly to monitor the vote. He said he hopes that other international organizations, including the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, will also be invited to send election observers. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER ACKNOWLEDGES ELECTION CRITICISM
Meeting on 3 June in Yerevan with Ambassador Robert Barry, who headed the OSCE Observer Mission that together with representatives from the Council of Europe monitored the 25 May parliamentary election, Andranik Markarian said he "largely agrees" with the monitors' criticisms, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, quoting Markarian's press service. A preliminary assessment characterized the vote as not meeting international standards and listed numerous procedural violations during the voting and vote count (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). But Markarian added that those violations did not have a "substantial impact" on the outcome of the ballot. According to official returns, Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has the largest number of seats (35) in the 131-mandate parliament. The opposition Artarutiun election bloc rejects those results, claiming that it polled over 50 percent of the vote. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER REJECTS COOPERATION WITH NEW GOVERNMENT
Artashes Geghamian, whose National Unity Party won nine seats in the parliament elected on 25 May, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 3 June that he has not been invited to participate in talks with the HHK on the composition of the new government. He said if such an invitation is made, he will reject it. Members of the opposition Artarutiun election bloc and independent commentators have accused Geghamian of acting as a stalking horse for the ruling authorities, a charge Geghamian denies (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 25 April 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2003). LF

DATE SET FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The Azerbaijani presidential elections have been scheduled for 17 October and the election campaign will begin on 17 June, Turan reported on 3 June, citing Central Election Commission Chairman Mazahir Panakhov. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FAILS TO ATTEND OIL EXHIBIT OPENING
Octogenarian incumbent President Heidar Aliev, who insists he will run for a third term in the October ballot, did not attend the opening on 3 June of the 10th Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibit in Baku, Turan reported. He has always done so in previous years. Presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev read a message of greetings from the president to participants at the event, but failed to explain the reasons for Aliev's absence. Commentators note that Aliev has not appeared in public since his collapse on 21 April, and that he has appeared pale and feeble in brief televised footage of his meetings with various Azerbaijani and foreign officials. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION FORMS NEW ALIGNMENT, DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION...
The five Georgian opposition parties that convened a mass protest demonstration on 3 June outside the parliament building in Tbilisi to demand the appointment of a new Central Election Commission (CEC) have aligned in a new United Resistance Front, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The five parties are the New National Movement, the United Democrats, the New Rightists, the Union of Traditionalists, and the People's Party of Georgia. Caucasus Press quoted National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili as saying that the front's aim is to replace the present Georgian leadership. Some 300 of the estimated 7,000 demonstrators then marched to the state chancellery to demand that President Eduard Shevardnadze resign, but later dispersed after State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania came out to speak with the party leaders. Meanwhile, CEC Chairman Djumber Lominadze and nine other CEC members have submitted their resignations. LF

...AS PROTESTS SPREAD TO PROVINCES
As independent media outlets broadcast news of the Tbilisi protest, people took to the streets in towns across Georgia to back the opposition's demands and publicize their own grievances, Caucasus Press reported. In Zugdidi, western Georgia, some 2,000 people assembled to demand the payment of back wages and pensions, according to the Rustavi-2 website. Protests were also reported in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Poti, Gori, Rustavi, Akhaltsikhe, and Gurdjaani, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND PEACEKEEPERS' WITHDRAWAL
Members of at least four organizations representing the Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war have issued a statement in Tbilisi demanding the withdrawal from the Abkhaz conflict zone of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed there under the CIS aegis since July 1994, Caucasus Press reported on 3 June. In October 2001, the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution insisting on the peacekeepers' withdrawal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001), but the UN as well as the Georgian, Abkhaz, and Russian leaderships consider it imprudent to do so. Extending the peacekeepers' mandate indefinitely was discussed at the recent informal CIS summit in St. Petersburg, but no firm decision was taken to do so. LF

CHINESE PRESIDENT PAYS OFFICIAL VISIT TO KAZAKHSTAN
China's President Hu Jintao has paid his first state visit to Kazakhstan, arriving in Astana on 2 June and departing on 4 June for Mongolia, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 3 June. During a 3 June news briefing, Hu and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev stated that their countries will continue to cooperate in the fight against terrorism in accordance with a 2002 bilateral agreement on fighting terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking. Nazarbaev said that the two countries, as members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, have identical positions on most important current political issues. Hu expressed China's interest in Kazakhstan's energy resources and also in shipping goods to Europe through Kazakhstan, khabar.kz reported, and said that China can provide Kazakhstan access to seaports. With this objective, the two countries are working together to reconstruct roads and rail lines in Kazakhstan, he noted. The Chinese president also thanked Kazakhstan for its assistance in dealing with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic. Nazarbaev said during the briefing that Kazakhstan intends to send equipment and medicine to China to help fight SARS. BB

TAJIK-KYRGYZ INTERGOVERNMENTAL COOPERATION COMMISSION MEETS IN DUSHANBE
The fourth session of the Tajik-Kyrgyz Intergovernmental Cooperation Commission opened in Dushanbe on 2 June to discuss issues such as expanding trade, launching joint ventures, and cooperating in the fields of transportation, energy, defense, and border protection, Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 3 June. The joint use and maintenance of roads is reported to top the agenda for this session. The commission, chaired by Tajik First Deputy Prime Minister Hoji Akbar Turadzhonzoda and Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbai Mambetov, is also trying to work out an amicable solution to a disagreement between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over a piece of land that technically belongs to Kyrgyzstan but has been used by Tajik citizens for several decades (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). Kyrgyzstan has asked for the land back, and Tajikistan has asked for its citizens to be allowed to continue using it. BB

HUNGARY OFFERS DISCARDED MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO KYRGYZSTAN
Hungary has offered to give Kyrgyzstan military equipment that had to be discarded when Hungary joined NATO, the official Kyrgyz news agency Kabar reported on 3 June, quoting Altai Borubaev, chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament's lower house. Hungary is offering the equipment and armaments free of charge, Borubaev said, adding that Kyrgyzstan is definitely interested, as it could use the donated materiel in border protection and the fight against terrorism. Earlier, the Czech Republic made a similar offer to give Kyrgyzstan military equipment the Czech military can no longer use as a NATO member. BB

KYRGYZ PREMIER ASKS FOR U.S. HELP TO PREVENT NATURAL DISASTERS
During a 3 June meeting in Bishkek with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Lynn Pascoe, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev asked for U.S. financial assistance for a program designed to help avert natural disasters such as the landslides and avalanches that have plagued Kyrgyzstan in recent months, akipress.org reported. Tanaev also asked Pascoe to ensure that Kyrgyzstan is included in the economic revival program for Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz prime minister said that although his country was not participating in the tenders for the program, it could produce goods for the program and deliver them to Afghanistan. Tanaev also noted that the redeployment of part of the international anti-terrorism coalition from Bishkek's Manas airport to a site further from the capital will benefit Kyrgyzstan by providing jobs. He said that the United States is investing $37 million in the redeployment project. Pascoe in turn said that Kyrgyzstan will achieve prosperity only when it meets International Monetary Fund requirements, carries out reforms, and attacks the corruption that is undermining the entire economy. BB

KYRGYZ COURT DECIDES FOR PRIME MINISTER IN CASE AGAINST NEWSPAPER
A court in Bishkek's Lenin Raion ruled on 3 June in favor of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Tanaev in a libel case against the independent newspaper "Moya stolitsa-novosti" and the author of the offending article, NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society Deputy Chairman Mikhail Korsunskii, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. In his article, Korsunskii criticized the workings of the Kyrgyz social-security system, which Tanaev took as an insult to his honor and dignity. The court ordered "Moya stolitsa" to pay Tanaev 500,000 soms (about $11,900) -- Tanaev has demanded 15 million soms -- and Korsunskii to pay 5,000 soms (about $119). "Moya stolitsa-novosti" Editor Aleksandr Kim said he will appeal the verdict. When the ruling became known, members of the Communist Party in Naryn Oblast held a meeting to condemn the verdict and show support for "Moya stolitsa-novosti," akipress.org reported on 3 June. BB

DEPUTY HEAD OF ISLAMIC RENAISSANCE PARTY OF TAJIKISTAN ARRESTED
Shamsiddin Shamsiddinov, deputy chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) of Tajikistan, has been arrested by security officers in Sughd Oblast in northern Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. The previous day Interfax reported having been told by IRP spokesman Hikmatullo Saifullozoda that Shamsiddinov had been kidnapped from his home in the town of Chkalovsk in Sughd Oblast on 30 May, and the IRP had called on the country's law enforcement agencies to find him. The party spokesman said that Shamsiddinov's relatives had reported that the abductors were accompanied by the head of the Chkalovsk city criminal investigation department. Sughd Oblast prosecutor Sharif Qurbonov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying that charges would be brought against Shamsiddinov within 10 days of his arrest. BB

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONDEMNS DEATHS FROM TORTURE OF UZBEK PRISONERS
In a 4 June statement posted on its website (http://www.hrw.org), Human Rights Watch has called on the international community to exert pressure on Uzbekistan to comply with its human rights commitments, Reuters reported. The appeal was triggered by the death in prison of Atamirzo Gafarov shortly before his release after serving a seven-year prison term. Prison authorities told Gafarov's family he died of a heart attack, but his body bore signs of torture, according to Human Rights Watch, which calculated that Gafarov was the 10th prisoner to die from torture in an Uzbek jail in the past 18 months. On 3 June, Interfax quoted a U.S. envoy to the OSCE as expressing concern over the death in an Uzbek prison on 15 May of Orif Yershanov, who according to Human Rights Watch had likewise been tortured, Reuters reported on 21 May. LF

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES PROTEST CLAMPDOWN ON NONSTATE PRESS
The leaders of seven opposition parties have issued a statement in support of the independent press in Belarus, Belapan reported on 3 June. The statement says the recent three-month suspension of the publication of "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003) and official warnings issued to other nonstate publications bear witness to the authorities' intention "to finally do away with the surviving islets of freedom" in the country. "The regime is striving to deprive Belarusian society of any opportunity to receive information about alternatives to the current course, which has led this country to deadlock," the statement reads. The document was signed by the Belarusian Popular Front, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Belarusian Women's Party "Hope," the Belarusian Party of Communists, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly), the Belarusian Party of Labor, and the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly. JM

UKRAINIAN MINISTER FEARS POOR GRAIN HARVEST
Agriculture Minister Serhiy Ryzhuk said on 4 June that if Ukraine sees no rain in the next 10 days, the country's grain harvest in 2003 might total just 25 million-27 million tons, as predicted by Ukrainian agricultural experts earlier this year, Interfax reported. Last year, Ukraine harvested 38.8 million tons of grain. JM

UKRAINIAN POST OFFICE LOSES MONOPOLY ON SALE OF STAMPS, ENVELOPES, POSTCARDS
The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 4 June that the sale of postage stamps, envelopes, and postcards may be conducted by other economic entities than the Ukrposhta national postal service on the basis of appropriate contracts with Ukrposhta, Interfax reported. The ruling came in response to a motion requesting an official interpretation of some provisions of a 2001 law on postal services. JM

RUSSIAN DEPUTIES SET UP GROUP IN ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT
Six Russian-speaking members of the parliament announced on 3 June the formation of a parliamentary group to deal with issues of national minorities, BNS reported. The group elected former Ethnic Affairs Minister Eldar Efendiyev of the Center Party as its chairman, with Sergei Ivanov of the Reform Party as his deputy. Ivanov told BNS: "We are in favor of developing in Estonia an integrated, multicultural society with conditions for the preservation of the culture and language of national minorities. This is particularly topical in view of accession to the European Union." He said the group is open to all interested deputies who consider themselves members of a national minority. SG

LATVIA'S CAPITAL COULD BE REMOVED FROM UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST
Mechtild Rossler, chief of the UNESCO World Heritage Center in the European Region, told Latvian parliament and Riga city council deputies on 2 June that the planned construction of the 26-story Sun Stone business complex in Riga's Kipsalu district could result in the removal of the city from the UNESCO list, LETA reported. He noted that a similar situation had arisen in Vienna, where a project for constructing four skyscrapers in the city's historic center was halted after a similar warning. Two floors of the Riga building and a parking lot have already been built. At an extraordinary meeting on 3 June, the council's City Development Committee invited Rossler to its next meeting the following day to explain what UNESCO legal enactments Riga should observe. SG

ELECTION COMMISSION REJECTS REFERENDUM ON CHANGING LITHUANIAN VOTING SYSTEM
Central Election Commission Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas announced on 3 June that a referendum on changing the electoral system will not be held, as the necessary 300,000 signatures of registered voters were not collected, "Lietuvos zinios" reported the next day. The referendum, for which signatures began to be collected in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 2003), called for amending the constitution by replacing the 70 parliamentary deputies elected from party lists with 60 directly elected deputies -- one from each of the municipalities. Parliamentarian Viktor Uspaskich brought more than 330,000 signatures to the commission on 19 May, but Vaigauskas said that almost 65,000 were rejected because the signers had not filled out the required information. A computer check also revealed that more than 41,000 signatures were repeated, almost 1,700 of the signers were already dead before the campaign started, and more than 2,150 were too young to vote. SG

'AGNOSTIC' POLISH PRESIDENT WANTS REFERENCE TO CHRISTIANITY IN EU CONSTITUTION
"The lack of a reference to the Christian civilization in the preamble to the European Constitution is a misunderstanding," Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists on 2 June in Gniezno, the birthplace of Polish Catholicism and the country's first capital, Polish media reported. "We are all closely tied to the Christian tradition, even if not all of us believe in God. I am saying this as someone who describes himself as an agnostic." The preamble to the EU Constitution proposed by the European Convention last week refers to the "religious heritage" of Europe without mentioning God or the role of Christianity in European history. At the same time, it refers to the legacy of ancient Greece and Rome and the Enlightenment. JM

IRISH PRESIDENT URGES POLES TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM
Irish President Mary McAleese said during a visit to Warsaw on 3 June that she would not want to advise Poles on what to do regarding their future but appealed to them to vote in the EU plebiscite on 7-8 June, PAP reported. McAleese said it would be a "slap in the face" of ancestors who sacrificed so much in hopes of democracy and Poland's freedom if Poles were to stay away from polling stations. JM

POLISH MINERS, TRANSPORTATION WORKERS STRIKE
Some 700 miners from 14 coal mines in Silesia, southern Poland, have gone on strike to protest closures and layoffs, PAP reported on 3 June, quoting a representative from the Solidarity trade union. Moreover, all tram drivers and some 45 percent of bus drivers walked off the job in Silesia for two hours on 3 June to demand higher municipal outlays on transportation in the region. The same day, some 2,000 taxi drivers snarled traffic in Warsaw to protest the Finance Ministry's plans to make them install new meters to track fares more effectively for tax purposes. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT ACCEPTS DEFENSE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION...
President Vaclav Klaus announced on 3 June that he has accepted the resignation of Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, CTK and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 May and 2 June 2003). Before the announcement, Klaus received Tvrdik at Prague Castle to discuss the future of reforms in the Czech Army. Tvrdik resigned on the grounds that planned cuts in the Defense Ministry budget do not allow for the completion of envisaged reforms. MS

...AND APPOINTS NEW CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGE
President Klaus officially appointed former Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) parliamentary deputy Miloslav Vyborny as a justice on the Constitutional Court on 3 June, CTK reported. Before accepting the appointment, Vyborny resigned from the lower house and from the KDU-CSL, as required by the Czech Constitution. He replaces Zdenek Kessler, who resigned in February on health grounds. Vyborny is the first member of the Constitutional Court appointed by Klaus since his election as president earlier this year. Klaus is expected to appoint eight other Constitutional Court judges to replace others whose 10-year mandates expire in mid-July. Also on 3 June, Klaus nominated a university professor and expert in international law, Vladimir Balas, for a seat on the court. Klaus has so far announced five nominations for those vacancies. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES AIR FORCE'S COMBAT READINESS
President Rudolf Schuster told journalists on 3 June that the lack of combat readiness of the Slovak Air Force is alarming, CTK reported. Schuster said the force has just three combat-ready MiG-29 fighters and that pilots are unlikely to meet minimum requirements for flight hours logged, as they have no planes to fly. Schuster said he has alerted members of the government, including Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Finance Minister Ivan Miklos, asking that funds be released to repair 18 grounded MiGs. MS

SLOVAK COMMUNISTS TO BACK DISMISSAL OF MINISTERS
The opposition Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) said on 3 June that it has decided to back a motion calling for the dismissal of Deputy Premier Pal Csaky and Finance Minister Miklos, TASR reported. The motion was announced last week by the opposition Smer (Direction) and People's Union parties. The KSS decision means the motion is backed by 47 lawmakers in the 150-seat parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2003). MS

SLOVAK UNIONISTS 'GO SLOW' IN HIGHWAY PROTEST
Slovak trade unionists used vehicles to slow traffic in both directions on five highways on 3 June to protest the government's planned cuts in social payments and the postponement of wage hikes, TASR reported. Slovak Trade Unions Confederation Deputy Chairman Eugen Skultety said there is a threat of a full-fledged general strike later this month if the government does not agree to renegotiate those measures. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATO EXPANSION
Hungarian lawmakers unanimously approved the eastward expansion of NATO entailed in the alliance's Protocols of Accession on 3 June, AFP reported. All 329 parliamentarians present voted in favor of Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia being allowed to join the North Atlantic alliance. Andras Barsony, a senior Hungarian Foreign Ministry official, said, "It is with pleasure that we can say that of the seven new members, three are neighbors of Hungary." Hungary joined NATO in 1999, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, in the alliance's first wave of enlargement. The seven invitees are likely to join NATO at the alliance's 2004 summit. MSZ

NATO WELCOMES PLANNED DEPLOYMENT OF HUNGARIAN TROOPS TO IRAQ
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on 3 June that NATO foreign ministers gathered in Madrid have welcomed Hungary's participation in the Iraq stabilization mission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003), "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. The daily also quoted Hungarian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Zoltan Szenes as saying the U.S. Air Force has offered to fly a future Hungarian transport unit to Iraq. The offer could reduce the cost of the Hungarian mission by some 1 billion forints ($4.7 million). Szenes said a decision will be made by next week as to whether the Hungarian unit will use allied forces' transport vehicles or bring its own vehicles to Iraq. MSZ

IRAQI ENVOY TO HUNGARY ORDERED HOME
Mukhlif Yasin, the charge d'affaires at the Iraqi Embassy in Budapest, has been recalled to Baghdad, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 4 June. Yasin's recall is not necessarily final, as a meeting is likely to take place on 7-8 June in Baghdad at which a decision will be made as to which diplomats will return to their posts. Until the situation is settled, the first secretary at the embassy will serve as interim charge d'affaires. A source speaking on condition of anonymity told the daily that a committee of Iraqis at the Foreign Ministry in Baghdad is deciding which diplomats will continue to be accredited to foreign countries. MSZ

U.S. CALLS EU MILITARY MISSION IN BOSNIA 'PREMATURE'...
Unnamed U.S. officials said at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Madrid on 3 June that EU plans to take over peacekeeping from NATO's SFOR in Bosnia by mid-2004 are "premature," the "Financial Times" and Deutsche Welle reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 19 December 2002). An unnamed U.S. official told dpa that "NATO still has work to do in Bosnia" by hunting war criminals, combating terrorism and organized crime, and promoting nation building. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the Atlantic alliance has "not yet had the time" to address the issue, adding that the EU's offer has been noted. PM

...WHICH RAISES QUESTIONS
An unnamed U.S. official said in Madrid on 3 June that there is no new dispute between allies, adding that "anyone who says it's a dispute is trying to cause trouble," the "Financial Times" reported. An unnamed European foreign minister told the daily, however, that "why the [United States] should be so against the idea [of the EU replacing NATO in Bosnia] is strange. The [United States] should be delighted we are prepared to take over the military responsibilities in Bosnia." The "Frankfurter Rundschau," which is often highly critical of U.S. policies, suggested that the United States is unreasonably "blocking" the EU. Questions have been raised in the United States in recent months regarding the motives of some EU members in wanting an EU military capability independent of the United States and NATO. Furthermore, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz noted after his recent trip to the Balkans that Bosnia remains very important to the United States in the post-11 September world. PM

U.S. SLAMS EU PRESSURE IN ICC AFFAIR
U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Johnny Young said in Ljubljana on 3 June that the EU is conducting a highly active campaign aimed at discouraging countries from signing a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 29 May and 3 June 2003). He stressed that Washington fears politically motivated indictments by the ICC against U.S. citizens. Unnamed U.S. officials said the EU is exerting pressure not only on countries about to join the Brussels-based bloc, but also on those whose chances of membership seem remote. For his part, Erwan Fouere, who heads the EU mission in Slovenia, said the bloc is not trying to exert pressure but rather to ensure respect for the Rome Statute, which is the legal basis on which the ICC was set up. PM

GERMANY PROTESTS SERBIAN DECISION TO SELL STEEL FIRM TO THE U.S.
German Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Kurt Leonberger told "Vesti" of 4 June that Belgrade's recent decision to sell Smederevo's Sartid steel company to U.S. Steel involved "serious violations of important laws in Serbia." He added that unspecified German, Italian, and Austrian firms will file a suit with the International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration in Vienna in the matter. Leonberger also warned Serbia against leaving the joint state with Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May and 2 June 2003). For his part, Serbian Privatization Minister Aleksandar Vlahovic said the sale was perfectly legal and that there are no grounds for a court case. He added that the Germans are angry because they lost, and that losers have a right to complain. PM

SERBIAN COURT BLOCKS DISTRIBUTION OF TABLOID WEEKLY
The Belgrade District Court banned the distribution of the tabloid weekly "Svedok" on 3 June because it contained a purported interview with the alleged criminal "Zemun clan" leader Milorad Lukovic-Ulemek "Legija," who is wanted in connection with the 12 March assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March and 9 May 2003). The court statement said that "publishing an interview with the main suspect in the assassination of a premier is considered an attempt to disturb the public, undermine a police investigation, and shows an absolute lack of professional ethics." In the interview, which first appeared in a controversial Macedonian tabloid also called "Svedok," Legija allegedly said he was "following orders" in acting against Djindjic and that the government's crackdown is simply a battle between two factions for "control over the Mafia." The Macedonian "Svedok" plans to publish the second installment of the interview in its next issue. PM

IS THE POPE PLANNING A TRIP TO SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO?
On the eve of Pope John Paul II's third trip to Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic met with the pope in the Vatican on 3 June as part of Marovic's two-day visit to Italy, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). Markovic later told reporters that their discussion included a possible papal trip to Serbia and Montenegro, which, Vatican Radio noted, is one of the few European countries that the pope has not visited. Serbia and Montenegro's population is overwhelmingly Orthodox in heritage, with a large Muslim minority in Sandzak and the Presevo region. Roman Catholics live primarily in regions of northern Serbia that once belonged to the Habsburg monarchy, in Montenegro's Kotor Bay region, and in areas inhabited by Montenegro's ethnic Albanian minority. PM

MACEDONIA SENDS FIRST TROOPS TO IRAQ
In the presence of President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, and Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, the first two Macedonian Army officers left for Iraq on 3 June. They are to lead the contingent consisting of a 28-strong special-forces platoon and a nine-member medical team, which is to leave for Iraq on 6 June. Trajkovski, who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces, told the officers that their mission will benefit not just Macedonia but also world peace. "Together with members of 22 other armies, you must help the Iraqi people to reconstruct its country and build democratic institutions," he added. "Together with [the Iraqi people], you must pave the way that leads away from tyranny and repression" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 24 April 2003). UB

RFE/RL BOSNIAN BROADCAST RECEIVES OSCE PRIZE
On 3 June, the OSCE awarded first prize in its Bosnian media competition to RFE/RL Sarajevo Bureau Editor Danijela Bozic for her 14 February televised roundtable of officials and experts, the bureau said in a statement. The roundtable dealt with the lack of a unified education system in Bosnia and was rebroadcast by 22 television stations across the country. There were 96 entries in the contest from all parts of Bosnia. In presenting the award to Bozic, OSCE Ambassador to Bosnia Robert Beecroft congratulated her "for the extraordinary quality and professionalism in covering [Bosnian] education reform issues...[and] setting a high journalistic standard for the media." A full English-language transcript and other information about the conference and its participants is available at http://www.regionalanalysis.org/specialreports/specialreports/en/2003/02/ 273824EE-98A8-4585-AC12-42173215D3F4.ASP (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 April 2003). PM

CROATIA ANNOUNCES TELEVISION-PRIVATIZATION BIDS
The state Radio and Television Commission announced on 3 June that seven firms have filed bids in the privatization of Croatian Television's (HTV) third nationwide channel, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. A decision in the matter is expected before the end of 2003. PM

THREE SERBS KILLED IN KOSOVA
Unknown assailants killed an elderly Serbian couple and their son in Obilic with a "sharp object" in the night of 3-4 June, Reuters reported. Firemen found the bodies when they arrived to put out a blaze in the Serbs' home. Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, called the killings a "heinous act and perfidious crime which was directed against multiethnicity" in the province. Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said: "This is a barbarous act, and we strongly demand that those who committed it be brought to justice as soon as possible. Just at the moment when we were preparing for the return of 20 Serbian families to Obilic, a cruel act has taken place before this very important day for Kosova." An investigation is under way. A crowd of angry Serbs prevented Steiner and Rexhepi from entering the charred home. Kosovar Serb political leader Rada Trajkovic said the three victims are Slobodan and Radmila Stolic and their son Ljubinko. Local residents told reporters that the Stolic family had been under pressure from ethnic Albanians to sell their home. PM

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. TROOPS WILL CONTINUE TO USE AIR BASE
Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu said on 3 June that, "contrary to hasty reports," U.S. troops will continue using the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base near the Black Sea port of Constanta, Mediafax reported. Pascu said that although the base will be evacuated by troops that used it during the Iraq conflict, other U.S. forces will soon arrive at the base, which will be used for the rotation of KFOR troops, among other things. Pascu said it is up to the United States to decide whether the base will be transformed into a "permanent one," but he added that it is already certain that the facility will continue to be used for training purposes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27 May 2003). MS

ROMANIAN OFFICIALS RETHINK BUY OFFS FOR MILITARY SERVICE
Pascu also said on 3 June that his ministry is likely to withdraw its recent proposal that individuals aged 28 and over be allowed to pay for exemptions from military service, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2003). Pascu said the practice exists in a number of European countries but, in view of adverse public opinion, the Defense Ministry will probably replace this stipulation in a draft law on military service with one that would allow this and other categories of individuals to opt for "community service." MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SIGNALS OBJECTIONS TO HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW AMENDMENTS
The Romanian government said in an official communique on 3 June that it has "taken note" of a recent Hungarian draft to amend the controversial Status Law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). The cabinet said it "appreciates" the deletion of "most discriminatory and extraterritorial stipulations" included in the version approved by the Hungarian parliament in 2001, when the FIDESZ-led government was in power. However, ministers still believe the Hungarian side should "reflect" on other stipulations that in their opinion continue to be "out of line with European norms," according to the communique. Ministers added that a clause on financial aid to schools will not be applied in Romania unless it is granted to "all schools, without discrimination" and unless its implementation is agreed by the countries' joint, intergovernmental commission. The cabinet also said it believes the Hungarian Status Law will "continue to be in the attention of European institutions." In related news, the Romanian government on 3 June "warmly saluted" the ratification by the Hungarian parliament of the NATO accession protocols on 2 June (see item above and "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). MS

EUROPEAN COURT CONDEMNS ROMANIA'S TREATMENT OF FORMER PROSECUTOR
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg condemned Romania on 3 June for inhumane and degrading treatment of a detained former prosecutor, ordering the country to pay the former magistrate 46,000 euros ($54,000) in compensation, AFP and Romanian media reported. Alexandru Pintea was arrested in 1994 after a dispute that ended with another person seriously injured. The court determined that Pintea was left for days without medical care on the orders of the facility's staff following a beating in jail by fellow inmates. He suffered multiple fractures but went untreated until his transfer to a prison hospital, a process that included several days on a crowded train where Pintea could not sit down and during which he was left without food or water. MS

MOLDOVAN COURT RULES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES IS CONSTITUTIONAL -- OR DOES IT?
Moldova's Constitutional Court ruled on 3 June that recently approved legislation obliging political parties to re-register every year with the Justice Ministry is constitutional, Flux reported. The "Law on Parties and Other Social Organizations" obliges parties to demonstrate every year that they have at least 5,000 permanent members spread across at least half of Moldova's districts. The constitutional appeal was launched by independent deputy Mihai Petrache, who said the law denies the right to freedom of association. At the same time, the Constitutional Court struck down a stipulation in the law providing that the Supreme Court may suspend, on the Justice Ministry's request, the activities of a party if it has not held a congress in four years or if it has fewer than 5,000 members. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT INVITES WORLD BANK PRESIDENT TO VISIT
Vladimir Voronin has invited World Bank President James Wolfensohn to visit Moldova in early 2004, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 3 June, citing a communique from the president's office. Voronin received the World Bank's director for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, Luca Barbone, on 2 June, saying his administration wants to establish the basis for a "performing market economy" that would "include efficient mechanisms for social protection" and is seeking "efficient cooperation with international financial organizations." According to Infotag, Barbone told Voronin that the World Bank will not resume credits to Moldova as long as Chisinau fails to meet conditions set by the bank for those facilities. MS

BOGUS REPORT TARGETS LEGITIMACY OF BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev rejected a claim, broadcast on private radio on 3 June, that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski holds Spanish citizenship, mediapool.bg reported the same day. The Bulgarian Constitution bars individuals with dual citizenship from holding senior government positions. The assertion purportedly came from a Spanish Justice Ministry official during an interview aired by private broadcaster Darik Radio. But Spanish Justice Minister Jose Maria Michavila subsequently denied the existence of the official named by Darik Radio in a letter to the Bulgarian Embassy in Madrid, mediapool.bg reported on 4 June. According to Michavila, the former Bulgarian king never held Spanish citizenship. Saxecoburggotski and his family resided in Madrid after 1951. They had to leave Bulgaria in 1946, after Saxecoburggotski was dethroned by the communist regime. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES PROGRAM FOR ROMA'S INTEGRATION...
Deputy Social Affairs Minister Radoslav Bozadzhiev announced on 3 June that the government will launch a literacy program to assist some 4,500 illiterate Roma over 16 years of age, the online edition of the daily "Sega" (http://www.segabg.com) reported on 4 June. EU PHARE funds for the project will be available to nongovernmental organizations, educational institutions, and employers. Bozadzhiev also presented a project, jointly funded by the PHARE program and the government, which will provide professional training for jobless youths, women, the disabled, and the long-term unemployed. UB

...WHILE LOCAL ROMANY GROUPS PROTEST RACIST ATTACKS
Romany groups sent a letter to authorities in the western Bulgarian town of Pernik on 3 June to protest a vicious attack on a Roma that has left the man fighting for his life, segabg.com reported. The 30 May attack left the 27-year-old man with severe head injuries, and doctors say he is unlikely to survive. The protesters demand that authorities act swiftly against the perpetrators, one of whom has been detained twice in connection with the attack but released. The signatories also announced that they will organize a series of protest meetings outside the local court building under the slogan "No to Racism." A local prosecutor ruled out racial motivation in the incident after officials received the protest letter. He said the letter represents an improper attempt to influence the courts, adding that the signatories call for vigilante justice, which is a crime. UB

RUSSIAN CONTRACTS IN IRAQ: FORGIVE OR FORGET?
World punditry's sound bite of the moment is "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia." Attributed to U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the phrase is said to be the blueprint for the United States' postwar policy toward its three most prominent prewar critics. The current brouhaha over the contract to develop Iraq's vast West Qurna oil field indicates that, at least as far as Russia is concerned, forgiveness is a tricky business.

West Qurna is one of Iraq's tastier morsels. According to data published in "Vedomosti" on 2 June, the field contains reserves of 8 billion-10 billion barrels of oil. A 1997 production-sharing agreement gave Russia's LUKoil a 68.5 percent stake in the field (with 3.25 percent stakes each for compatriots Mashinoimport and Zarubezhneft). The agreement, which ran through 2020, envisaged investments of $6 billion into the field's development. According to a report in "Kommersant" on 27 May, the contract would have brought the three Russian companies $70 billion worth of oil. UN sanctions rendered the contract stillborn.

Iraq canceled the contract with LUKoil in December, initially alleging that the company had failed to meet its obligations. LUKoil pointed indignantly to UN sanctions that prohibited work on the project. Subsequent reports indicated that Saddam Hussein's regime really intended to punish LUKoil for behind-the-scenes talks with the United States aimed at securing the company a role in a post-Saddam Iraq. Throughout, LUKoil insisted that unilateral termination represented a violation of the contract's terms and promised to pursue the matter through international arbitration. War temporarily quelled the controversy.

The issue resurfaced on 26 May, when Thamir al-Ghadban, Iraq's U.S.-appointed oil minister, told the BBC that LUKoil had "already lost" its contract to develop West Qurna. With their company suddenly in the unenviable position of a suitor spurned by both Hussein and his successors, LUKoil representatives went on an verbal offensive. "Kommersant" reported spokesman Dmitrii Dolgov's official reaction the next day: "We do not consider the remarks by Thamir al-Ghadban the official position of the legitimate government of Iraq. We will conduct negotiations about the future of the oil field only with lawfully elected authorities." LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun went farther, threatening legal action in the event of the contract's cancellation: "We'll arrest tankers with Iraqi oil through the arbitration court in Geneva. LUKoil will present claims for $20 billion in lost profits."

Coming on the heels of Russia's 22 May vote for a U.S.-backed UN resolution to end sanctions against Iraq, al-Ghadban's comments prompted a gloomy 27 May editorial in "Vedomosti." "Russia has lost the diplomatic Iraqi campaign once and for all," the editors began. They went on to conclude: "The bargaining failed: the resolution passed, and the U.S. position has hardly changed. The fate of the debt, it's true, may still be decided within the Paris Club of creditors, but the contracts will be canceled."

LUKoil kept pressing its case. On 30 May, Interfax quoted an anonymous source in the company as saying that the lifting of sanctions on 22 May had kicked off a 100-day period in which LUKoil would begin fulfilling the terms of its West Qurna contract.

On 1 June, a U.S. State Department representative told a briefing in St. Petersburg, temporarily at the center of world attention for its 300th anniversary celebration, that al-Ghadban's comments had been "incorrectly cited," Prime-TASS reported the same day. The official explained that a decision on West Qurna would have to wait for a government to emerge in Baghdad. Until then, all contracts would be frozen.

By 2 June, LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun had switched from litigation to negotiation. "We are in consultation with the occupying power," he told journalists at an investment conference, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. According to Fedun, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was making LUKoil's case to U.S. officials in the course of high-level contacts in St. Petersburg and Evian, France.

The two highest levels of contact were coy when queried about Qurna. According to the White House transcript (http://www.whitehouse.gov), U.S. President George W. Bush responded to a question about Iraqi oil and Russian companies at a 1 June joint press conference in St. Petersburg as follows: "And as to the energy sector, the Iraqi people will make the decision which is in their best interest." Not to be outdone, Russian President Vladimir Putin parried: "We don't rule out that our companies will work there. That will depend on the situation that emerges in Iraq."

West Qurna is not the only Russian oil contract in Iraq, just the biggest and best known. "Nefte Compass" reported on 28 May that other contracts include: Mashinoimport ($77 million), Slavneft ($21.2 million), Zarubezhneft ($8.3 million), Tatneft ($4.8 million), and Stroitransgaz ($33.5 million and $150 million). According to "Nefte Compass," representatives of LUKoil, Zarubezhneft, and Stroitransgaz plan to accompany a group of Russian diplomats to Baghdad in early June to discuss the fate of the contracts.

Under Saddam Hussein, Baghdad made lavish promises to Russian companies; Moscow responded with occasionally sympathetic rhetoric. With UN sanctions preventing real movement on the juiciest contracts, the billions remained shimmering on the horizon as the two capitals bartered promises for rhetoric in a verbal tit-for-tat that did not, in the end, amount to much.

With Hussein gone and UN sanctions a thing of the past, the development of West Qurna is now a real possibility. That said, LUKoil's future in Iraq remains shrouded in uncertainty. What seems clearer in the back-and-forth of the past week is that even if the pundits are right about postwar forgiveness for prewar obstreperousness, forgiveness might not come easy.

U.S. TO DISMISS 500,000 IRAQI WORKERS
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) intends to lay off some 500,000 Iraqi military and civilian personnel in the coming days, the "Los Angeles Times" website (http://www.latimes.com) reported on 3 June. Information Ministry and armed-forces personnel, along with other government employees, will receive "termination payments" of around $20 -- the equivalent of an average monthly salary. According to the daily, around 30 percent of Iraqi workers were employed by the government under deposed President Saddam Hussein. The move, coupled with an estimated 20 percent unemployment, could further destabilize the country. U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told reporters on 2 June that the CPA is looking into ways of providing at least temporary employment to some Iraqis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003), including a $70 million community-development program that should resume municipal services such as trash collection and rebuild schools damaged during the conflict. The CPA estimates that about 100,000 of Iraq's 400,000 Hussein-era military personnel will be rehired as part of the New Iraqi Corps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). KR

UN INSPECTION CHIEF ISSUES FINAL REPORT OF HIS TENURE...
Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), issued the final quarterly report of his term to the UN Security Council on 2 June, international media reported the next day. Blix is slated to leave his post at the end of June. The report states that "little progress" has been made toward resolving outstanding issues related to Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Blix wrote that while UNMOVIC inspections and documents provided by Iraq "contributed to a better understanding of [Iraq's] past weapons programs,... a long list of proscribed items unaccounted for and as such resulting in unresolved disarmament issues was neither shortened by the inspections nor by Iraqi declarations and documentation." Blix is scheduled to address the Security Council on 6 June. KR

...AND REQUESTS THAT UNMOVIC NOT BE DISMANTLED
Blix also requested in his quarterly report that the Security Council not dismantle UNMOVIC, "The Washington Post" reported on 2 June. "It would be inadvisable to undertake any drastic overall reduction in the present cadre of staff," he reportedly writes. "In the months to come it may also be desirable that this staff engage in summarizing and digesting unique experience gained" from inspections in Iraq, he adds. The daily also reported that the United Kingdom has requested that the United States allow UNMOVIC personnel to return to Iraq to complete their task. UNMOVIC employed around 76 weapons inspectors prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March. Washington recently announced that a two-week transition phase will begin "no later than 7 June" to transfer the search for weapons of mass destruction from the 75th Exploitation Task Force to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which will oversee the weapons search under the command of U.S. Major General Keith Dayton. The ISG will consist of 1,300-1,400 personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, Dayton told a press conference at the Pentagon on 30 May. KR

IAEA HEADS TO IRAQ
A team of seven inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) departed Vienna for Kuwait on 4 June en route to Iraq, where they will inspect a part of the Al-Tuwaythah Nuclear Research Facility, located some 18 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, Reuters reported. Looters reportedly ransacked that facility and six others in the days after the Hussein regime fell, prompting IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei to seek U.S. permission to send inspectors back to Iraq to assess the situation (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 23 May 2003). According to Reuters, the Al-Tuwaythah inspection will be confined to a storage depot known as "Location C," which is located outside the complex. Inspectors will not have access to the complex itself. Over 500 tons of natural uranium and 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium were stored at Al-Tuwaythah, in addition to other radioactive materials. (For a look at UN weapons inspections in Iraq prior to the outbreak of Operation Iraqi Freedom, go to http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraq-inspec.) KR

KURDISH PAPER SAYS HUSSEIN LOYALIST ASSISTING PUK
The Kurdish independent weekly "Jamawar" claimed on 2 June that an individual loyal to the Hussein regime is working with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in northern Iraq. Muhammad Najm al-Din Naqshbandi was reportedly close to Watban al-Tikriti, a half brother of the deposed president, and held a post at the Iraqi Interior Ministry. According to the weekly, Naqshabandi now holds a position "under the banner of reorganizing the officers of the former [Iraqi] army." The paper suggests that he obtained the position through PUK senior official Nawshirwan Mustafa. "He also contacts former Kurdish officers on behalf of the PUK," the weekly reported. KR

G-8 ENDORSES IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION
Group of Eight (G-8) representatives concluded a three-day summit in Evian, France, by voicing support on 3 June for the building of peace and the reconstruction of Iraq, according to a "Chair's Summary" statement on the G-8 website (http://www.g8.fr/evian). "Our shared objective is a fully sovereign, stable and democratic Iraq, at peace with its neighbors and firmly on the road to progress," the statement reads. Members also welcomed the UN announcement of a preparatory meeting for an international conference on the reconstruction of Iraq. The summit signaled an apparent easing of tensions between the United States and G-8 members France and Germany, who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. KR

COMMITTEE TO DEVELOP NORTHERN IRAQI AIRPORT
A committee has been set up to work on the development of a civilian airport in Irbil, northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) newspaper "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 2 June. The committee, comprising relevant ministry and government-agency representatives, was appointed by the Council of Ministers, the executive branch of the Irbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government. The committee has reportedly submitted a number of proposals to the Council of Ministers for the revitalization of the airport. KR

CORRECTION:
The 3 June "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "...As U.S. Administrator Defends Plan" should have named "The Washington Post" as the source of U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer's quotes.

IRANIAN ASSISTANCE TO IRAQI SHI'A CONTINUES
John Sawers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Baghdad, said on 3 June that Tehran is still providing support to Iraqi Shi'a groups, "The Guardian" reported on 4 June. "We have seen signs of and attempts to exercise undue and unwelcome influence in support of fundamentalist groupings," Sawers said. He added that Tehran continues to aid the Badr Brigades, the military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Sawers pointed out that cross-border traffic is difficult to track, "But it's clearly not done with purely humanitarian intent." Iran used humanitarian and cultural activities as cover for subversion and covert action in Bosnia in the 1990s and Afghanistan more recently. BS

IRANIAN AZERI OPPOSITION FIGURE DETAILS GOALS
Anonymous U.S. defense officials confirmed on 3 June that they have met with Mahmudali Chehragani, who heads the Southern Azerbaijan National Awareness Movement, "The Washington Times" reported on 4 June. Chehragani is just one dissident Iranian with whom the United States occasionally speaks, the officials said, but they are not specifically trying to encourage internal opposition or support a change in government. "The role of the U.S. is to communicate to the Iranian people our firm support for their democratic aspirations and human rights, and to let them know their voice is heard," the officials said in a statement. Chehragani has other ideas, saying in an interview that appeared in the 3 June issue of Baku's "Ekho" daily, "Our aim is to create a democratic, modern, and secular state with a federal system in Iran, in which the highest status of autonomy will be granted to Southern Azerbaijan." He continued, "We want Tabriz to become the capital of our autonomy, which will have its own government, parliament, state attributes, and army." Chehragani said his organization is in touch with other Iranian minorities, including Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen, and Arabs. He acknowledged that there are some problems with the Kurds stemming from conflicting territorial claims to the cities of Urumiyeh, Maku, and Khoi. BS

RUSSIA TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH IRAN
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 3 June that Russia will continue with its construction of Iran's nuclear-power plant at Bushehr, Reuters and several Russian news sources reported. "Iran is our neighbor. We have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with [Iran]," Putin said at a briefing in Evian, France, after the G-8 summit, Interfax reported. His reported remarks contradicted earlier reports that cited an anonymous, high-ranking British official as saying that Putin told G-8 leaders on 2 June that Russia has frozen the Bushehr project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Putin expressed concern that unidentified rivals might take over at Bushehr. "We are categorically against the dredging up of problems that could be used in the name of unscrupulous competition, including on the Iranian market," he said. Putin added that Russia would insist on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision of Iran's nuclear program, though he was not reported to have specified that Russia would require Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would require Iran to submit to surprise inspections by the IAEA. SF

RUSSIAN WEBSITE ASSESSES COSTS OF BUSHEHR 'FREEZING'
If Moscow were to suspend work on the Bushehr nuclear-power station, the Russian nuclear industry would incur "enormous losses," gazeta.ru reported on 3 June. The state budget would lose around $500 million a year if the project were not implemented, according to the report. Some 600 Russian specialists currently working in Bushehr along with "several hundred" more expected by the end of this year would lose their jobs. In addition, numerous subcontracting companies, such as one in St. Petersburg that is producing a turbine for $38 million, would incur losses, according to the website. SF

MOST WORK ON BUSHEHR REACTOR COMPLETE
Mr. Ghaffurian, head of Iran's Nuclear Research Center, said in the 1 June issue of "Kayhan" newspaper that 80 percent of the "operational work" on the nuclear reactor at Bushehr is complete, and IAEA regulations have been observed in the project. Ghaffurian said that the light-water reactors that will be used at Bushehr for electricity production are "extremely safe." The Bushehr facility initially would produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity and this eventually would increase to 6,000 megawatts, according to Ghaffurian. BS

IRANIAN STUDENT GROUP REFUSED RALLY PERMIT
The "Toseh" daily newspaper reported on 3 June that the Iranian government has refused to issue a rally permit to the country's main politically active student group. The rally was scheduled for 9 July, which is the anniversary of the 1999 attack on a Tehran University dormitory by security personnel and hard-line vigilantes. Abdullah Momeni, secretary of the majority Allameh wing of the Office for Strengthening Unity, said that exams end on 1 July and that, because the summer holiday will have begun, the rally must be held off-campus. Momeni said citizens are constitutionally entitled to hold rallies, and that by refusing to issue the permit the government is depriving them of the right to condemn the 1999 attack. The "Aftab-i Yazd" daily reported on 29 May that Iranian universities have witnessed several violent incidents in recent weeks. It cited events in Isfahan, Hamedan, and Tehran that were organized by the Office for Strengthening Unity and disrupted by rival conservative student groups (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 and 26 May 2003). BS

TEHRAN ARRESTS, DEPORTS PAKISTANI IMMIGRANTS
Iranian security forces recently deported 190 Pakistanis who had entered the country illegally en route for Europe, where they hoped to find employment, Islamabad's daily "The News" reported on 3 June. Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency Deputy Director Akbar Baluch said the immigrants crossed the Pakistan-Iran border from the Mand and Taftan areas of Baluchistan. One of the deportees said he and his companions contacted agents in Karachi who arranged for their transport to Mand, and in Mand each one of them paid 10,000 rupees (about $180) to an agent who "helped us cross over the border into Iran via unfrequented routes." The Pakistanis were arrested when they reached the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Reports such as this indicate the ease with which Al-Qaeda personnel could slip into Iran. BS

WARLORD REFUSES TO ABIDE BY PLEDGE TO AFGHAN LEADER
General Abdul Rashid Dostum, as expected (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May 2003), has refused to leave his seat of power in northern Afghanistan and move to Kabul to take his post as a special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, Reuters reported on 3 June. As a way to curb the power of the warlords, Karzai appointed Dostum to his new post on 21 May, but the general immediately left for his power base in the north. According to Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, "the very optimistic conclusions which were made just after the meeting [between Karzai and Dostum] might not have been the real ones," Reuters reported. However, Abdullah added that the situation should not be viewed with pessimism "because of a single issue which has not been done, that is, the presence of General Dostum in Kabul." The main problem is not whether Dostum moves to Kabul or not, but the fact that his action illustrates the powerlessness of the Kabul administration to enforce its policies. Unless the central administration in Afghanistan is given international support to extend its rule over the provinces, one warlord or another will undermine the country's move toward a peaceful existence. AT

FOUR AFGHANS DIE IN BATTLE BETWEEN RIVALS
Militiamen loyal to Commander Abdul Razaq on 2 June killed an Afghan who was working as translator for U.S. forces and who belonged to the militia of Commander Payda Gol in Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province, the Hindukosh news agency reported on 3 June. Later, forces loyal to Payda Gol killed three members of the militia of Abdul Razaq. According to Sayyed Fazluddin Agha, the district governor of Spin Boldak, the "clash was [due to a] misunderstanding between the personnel of the two groups." The fighting, which lasted for several hours, was brought under control only when U.S. forces intervened, Reuters reported on 3 June. According to the report, one militia member and two civilians died after being caught in the cross fire. AT

U.S. RESUMES MILITARY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN'S SHAHI KOT MOUNTAINS...
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have launched a large-scale military operation in the Shahi Kot Mountains in eastern Afghanistan's Paktiya Province, "The New York Times" reported on 4 June. Major Jack Marr of the U.S. military said that intelligence reports had pointed to the existence of Al-Qaeda or Taliban elements in the area, which he described as "one of the hottest areas in Afghanistan." Afghan intelligence sources had indicated that the Taliban regime's chief of staff, Jalaluddin Haqqani, along with several Arab fighters, had crossed into Paktiya from Pakistan. The Taliban team reportedly included Saif al-Rahman Mansur, who was responsible for leading a battle against U.S. forces in the Shahi Kot in March 2002 that resulted in the deaths of seven U.S. military personnel. Mansur was also named as the person behind the attempted assassination of Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 2002). AT

...ARRESTING FOUR PEOPLE...
According to eyewitnesses in Zormat, Paktiya Province, a convoy of at least 20 U.S. military vehicles and tanks moved from Gadayz to the Shahi Kot Mountains on 2 June, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 3 June. Reports also indicated that 10 helicopters were flying low over the area; however, there were no indications that a large-scale military confrontation was taking place, the AIP reported. The major operation announced by the U.S. forces resulted in the arrest of "just four men on a farm," Reuters reported on 4 June. AT

...AND LOSING A HELICOPTER IN A CRASH
A U.S. military spokesman announced that an AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed on 3 June near Urgon, Paktika Province, while providing backup for a military operation, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 4 June. The spokesman denied reports that the helicopter had come under fire. No further details on the crash were available, including whether the helicopter was directly involved in the military operations in the Shahi Kot. AT

AFGHAN LEADER APPOINTS NEW SPOKESMAN
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai appointed Ahmad Jawed Lodin as the head of his press office on 3 June, Radio Afghanistan reported. Lodin replaces Sayyed Fazl Akbar, who was appointed governor of Konar Province in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002). AT

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