PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER SAYS IRAN MUST ALLOW NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS...
Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told a press conference in Moscow on 3 June that Russia seeks to continue to develop bilateral cooperation with Iran "in a wide range of areas, including peaceful nuclear energy projects," but first wants to clear up doubts about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, strana.ru and RTR reported. "Just like the other G-8 countries, we would like to be convinced that Iran does not have plans to create nuclear weapons, and only afterward can we talk about broader cooperation," he said. Illarionov added that providing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors with access to all Iranian nuclear facilities would be the best way to remove all questions and suspicions. VY
...AS RUSSIAN CONTRACTORS IN IRAN SAY BUSHEHR CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES...
Viktor Kozlov, general director of Atomstroieksport, the main contractor for the construction of Iran's nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, has said that the company has received no instructions from the Atomic Energy Ministry to halt work on the project, polit.ru reported on 4 June. Meanwhile, Aleksei Shavrov, the deputy director of United Machine Building Works, the company responsible for construction of the plant's nuclear reactor, said the Atomic Energy Ministry told him that the work in Bushehr should not be dependent on Iran acceding to the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which signatories would make their nuclear facilities available for unannounced IAEA inspections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 June 2003). An unidentified spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry told strana.ru on 3 June that his agency has no information confirming Western reports that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but supports the idea of strengthening IAEA control over Iran's nuclear program. VY
...AND FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS RUSSIA WILL GO AHEAD WITH NUCLEAR FUEL FOR IRAN
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in Moscow on 5 June that Russia will "supply nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant even if Iran does not sign an additional protocol on guarantees with the IAEA," ITAR-TASS reported. However, he said Russia would begin supplying the fuel only after the two sides sign an agreement on returning the spent fuel to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline III" below). BS
RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN SAYS IRANIAN NUCLEAR THREAT IS REAL
Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman and former Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin said on 3 June that the danger of Iran creating a nuclear weapon is "not invented, but a real threat," rusenergy.ru reported. He said there is a lot of evidence that Iran has reached a dangerous level in the development of its nuclear program. In addition, he said Iran is designing a missile with "quite a long range" and there is a risk it will be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such a development would be a "real headache" for the entire international community, he said, but first all for Russia, which the West could blame for the situation. Thus, it is in Russia's national interest to support international efforts to prevent such a scenario from developing. VY
RUSSIA HEDGES ON RATIFICATION OF KYOTO PROTOCOL
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 3 June, presidential economic adviser Illarionov said Russia is in no hurry to ratify the Kyoto protocol, which has been signed by most industrial and developing countries and would impose limits on smokestack emissions and other causes of global warming, Russian news agencies reported. In general, Russia supports international efforts to prevent global warming, he said, but the protocol's benefits for Russia are illusory, RosBalt reported. In addition, Illarionov said the concept of global warming is controversial and that it is questionable whether human activity contributes to the problem. Illarionov also said there has been no serious analysis of the Kyoto protocol, and noted that the United States retreated from the protocol because the expenses associated with its implementation could be higher than the benefits it would bring. "I am not sure Russia can bear expenses that the richest country in the world cannot afford," Illarionov said. VY
PUTIN CONGRATULATES PATRIARCH OF RUSSIAN NATIONALISM
President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter of congratulations to mathematician Igor Shafarevich on the occasion of his 80th birthday on 3 June, ORT reported on 2 June. In the letter, Putin reported praised Shafarevich as an "outstanding mathematician who created a scientific school known not only at home, but abroad." Shafarevich is highly regarded by the world's scientific community, but is controversial for authoring several anti-Semitic books, according to gazeta.ru on 3 June. His work "Russophobia" (1989) is highly valued by the xenophobic movement Pamyat and other nationalist groups. Many anti-Semites in modern Russia consider Shafarevich their idol and teacher, gazeta.ru commented. VY
NEW BANNER FOR MILITARY TAKEN UP
The State Duma approved on 4 June a presidential bill amending the law on the banners of the armed forces, navy, and other military services, Russian media reported. The vote was 271 in favor with 105 against and two abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. If passed into law, the bill would change the design of the banner of the armed forces "in accordance with the historical traditions of banner design as official symbols and military relics," according to Georgii Vilinbakhov, chairman of the presidential Heraldic Council. The insignia of the armed forces will feature five-point stars and the words "fatherland, duty, and honor" -- words that appeared on Russian army banners starting in the 18th century, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 June. The flag will also feature a large golden double-headed eagle. The Communist faction voted against the bill, and according to polit.ru, tried to get an answer from Vilinbakhov as to why the new legislation was necessary when a law on state symbols was passed just two years ago. JAC
PUTIN CALLS FOR CLEANING UP ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION...
At a meeting of the State Council presidium in Moscow on 4 June, President Putin called for a serious revision of Russia's environmental legislation, Russian media reported. A key problem, according to Putin, is that "Russia has virtually no legal mechanisms to compensate for damage caused by industrial enterprises to the environment," Interfax reported. "Up to 15 percent of Russia's regions are in a critical or nearly critical condition," Putin said, and the "situation in a number of Siberian and Urals regions is particularly alarming." Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin told the presidium that his region, which has the fifth- to seventh-largest volume of industrial production in Russia, is well acquainted with bad environmental conditions, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. "We built up the volume of industrial production, increased the volume of metals production, forgetting about [cleanup] and not thinking about the preservation of the environment," Sumin said. JAC
...AS ACTIVIST CONSIDERS HIGH-LEVEL DISCUSSION STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION
President Putin also called for a single body to manage Russia's environmental policy, noting that it is currently spread across at least five ministries and a myriad of intermediate government bodies, Reuters reported. Yevgenii Shvarts, an official at the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund, commented in "Vremya novostei" on 5 June that everyone understands that the meeting of the State Council presidium took place against the backdrop of an upcoming national election. But the fact that the meeting was held at all is a "big plus," he said, adding that the report prepared for it is "strong" and takes into account the views of NGOs and the academic community. JAC
NO ONE WANTS TO BE MAYOR OF NORILSK
The acting mayor of the city of Norilsk, Gennadii Petukhov, has tendered his resignation because of difficulties executing the city's 2003 budget, Regnum reported on 4 June. The city failed to elect a new mayor last April when the leader of the first round was disqualified and the three remaining candidates withdrew before the second round (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2003). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 June that three of the most likely candidates to replace Petukhov have already declined the honor, and therefore Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin will have to proffer a candidate to be confirmed by the Norilsk city council. The analytical website polit.ru commented on 4 June that the future of the city's leadership is unclear, since the date of the new mayoral elections has not yet been determined. The Norilsk city election commission on 6 May decided that a new mayoral election will not be held on 19 October, as had been previously announced, but the commission did not set a new date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2003). Norilsk is home to the headquarters of Norilsk Nickel, which was formerly headed by Khloponin. JAC
MORE THAN HALF OF REGION'S RESIDENTS CONSIDER LOCAL LEADERS TO BE CORRUPT
In a survey conducted by the Northwest Center for Social-Political Research in Pskov Oblast, some 58.6 percent of respondents said they believe that corruption is very widespread in the oblast administration, RosBalt reported on 4 June. Only 16.1 percent think there is only a little corruption, and 2.2 percent believe there is none at all. Respondents had a better opinion of the courts and the prosecutor's office, with only 12.8 percent and 11 percent, respectively, ranking those entities as seriously corrupt. However, only 1 percent of respondents ranked corruption as one of the most serious problems, requiring a quick solution. According to center director Viktor Ostrenko, Pskov residents are more concerned about their material well-being, unemployment, and the low quality of housing and public services. Also on 4 June, Mikhail Margelov, Federation Council representative from Pskov, noted that "the 1100th anniversary of Pskov is a jubilee for democracy, for the republic; the [recent] 300th jubilee in St. Petersburg was a jubilee for the [Russian] empire. Pskov and Novgorod -- these are the two oldest republics from which democracy came to Russia," regions.ru reported. JAC
BARELY FLOWS THE VOLGA
The water level on the Volga River is dropping every year, and some cargo ships are experiencing difficulty navigating, Ren TV reported on 4 June. According to the station, the level of the Volga in Nizhnii Novogorod Oblast has decreased by one meter over the last few years, and some experts believe that navigation may be halted completely in a year. The oblast administration is hoping to construct a dam, but the project will cost 10 billion rubles ($326 million). Regional officials are pinning their hopes on businessmen coming up with the necessary funds. Earlier this week, the State Water Service reported that a number of regions are experiencing water shortages because of the lack of snow and rain this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). JAC
FINANCE MINISTRY URGES INHERITANCE-TAX CUTS...
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov on 2 June proposed radically reducing or eliminating inheritance taxes on many assets on the grounds that Russians are evading such taxes, "Izvestiya" and RTR reported the next day. The government would like to eliminate the 30 percent tax rate on inheritance, he said, and replace it with a 13 percent rate for distant relatives and a 5 percent rate for immediate family members. To offset the effect on state revenues, Shatalov said the government plan would include assessments for tax purposes on the basis of market value rather than the value reported by recipients, as is currently the case. The minister proposed eliminating the inheritance tax on securities such as stocks and bonds, cash, jewelry, and luxury goods. VY
...AND EASING FINANCIAL MONITORING
Shatalov also effectively conceded defeat to deputies on 2 June in one area of the government's effort to combat financial crime, urging Duma support for a government proposal to abandon the monitoring of transactions over $30,000. He said the government's monitoring of such transactions -- in many cases concerning home purchases and the acquisition of gold -- has proven inefficient. Oksana Dmitrieva, deputy chairwoman of the Duma's Budget Committee, immediately rejected the proposal to narrow the scope of the inheritance tax as a "conception from the Soviet era," "Izvestiya" reported. In initially considering the scheme, Budget Committee members recommended that securities be returned to the list of taxable items, since exempting them might create a situation in which an individual could profit from the expedient death of a relative who possesses sizable assets in the form of securities. VY
SPS EXPELS DEPUTY FROM FACTION
The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has expelled Deputy Vera Lekareva from its faction, RosBalt reported on 4 June. SPS deputy faction leader Boris Nadezhdin told the agency that Lekareva was being kicked out because she had voted too often against the decisions of the faction. Lekareva was elected from a single-mandate district in Samara Oblast. JAC
16 KILLED IN SUICIDE BOMBING IN NORTH OSSETIA
Sixteen people were killed, 14 of them female technical personnel, and a dozen more were injured when a female suicide bomber detonated an explosive device close to a bus carrying air force personnel from the North Ossetian town of Mozdok to a nearby military airfield, Russian news agencies reported. The bus had come to a halt at a train crossing, according to Reuters. LF
DUMA PASSES CHECHEN AMNESTY BILL IN SECOND READING
Deputies passed the bill on an amnesty for selected participants of the Chechen conflict by a vote of 33 to two with one abstention on 4 June, Russian news agencies reported. They also approved amendments under which the amnesty will remain in force until 1 September, rather than 1 August as originally stipulated. Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Duma Legislation Committee, stressed when the bill was passed in the first reading last month that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and other prominent resistance figures including Shamil Basaev and Movladi Udugov are not eligible for amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2003). Deputies rejected an amendment proposed by Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Chechnya's Duma deputy, to pardon all women who participated in the conflict, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 June. LF
OSCE DETAILS FURTHER ARMENIAN ELECTION VIOLATIONS
In a second report on the 25 May parliamentary election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission noted that in violation of the Election Code and instructions from the Central Election Commission, district election commissions failed to provide "tabulation of the preliminary results of either the proportional or the majoritarian contests broken down by polling station," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The observer mission said this failure "further undermined confidence...in the transparency and accuracy of the tabulation process." The mission also revealed that vote recounts in some 80 polling stations yielded new evidence of fraud, and that the results of party-list voting were not annulled in three constituencies where the majoritarian vote was annulled due to major irregularities and a repeat vote scheduled. It also questioned the accuracy of the official turnout figure of 52.71 percent, noting that three hours before polling stations closed participation stood at only just over 30 percent. LF
TALKS STILL CONTINUING ON FORMING NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT
Talks between the three largest parties that support incumbent President Robert Kocharian have not yet led to an agreement on the allocation of portfolios in the next government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 June. Vahan Hovannisian, a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) that has some 12 seats in the new legislature, told RFE/RL on 4 June that Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (the largest faction with some 34 seats) is reluctant to cede ministerial posts either to the HHD or to Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State), which has 20 seats. Hovannisian said the HHD has a particular interest in heading a new government agency that will combat corruption. Meanwhile, opposition publications continue to predict which of the two smaller coalition partners will obtain which ministerial and territorial-administrative positions. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BLOC DECIDES AGAINST PARLIAMENT BOYCOTT
Leaders of the opposition Artarutiun election bloc that won 14 seats in the 25 May parliamentary elections decided on 4 June not to boycott sessions of the new parliament, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Some representatives, including Albert Bazeyan, a leading member of the Hanrapetutiun party, had advocated a boycott to protest the perceived falsification of the election results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). However, Hanrapetutiun Chairman Aram Sargsian said on 4 June that "we will continue our struggle against the illegitimate authorities both inside and outside parliament, including in the Constitutional Court," to which Artarutiun has appealed the validity of the ballot results. LF
EU OFFERS FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO SHUT DOWN ARMENIAN NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
Visiting EU official Hugues Mingarelli told Armenian officials in Yerevan on 4 June that the EU believes the Medzamor nuclear-power plant should be closed down as soon as possible and is ready to provide a grant of 100 million euros ($117 million) to expedite the shutdown, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. Medzamor currently generates some 40 percent of Armenia's energy. Mingarelli suggested that importing gas from Iran could compensate for the closure of Medzamor, but admitted that no agreement has yet been reached on EU funding to build a pipeline to transport that gas. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development helped finance reactivating Medzamor in 1995 on condition that the plant would be closed again by 2004. In December 1998, Armenian officials confirmed their readiness to comply with that deadline, but have argued more recently that Medzamor cannot be shut down until an alternative source of energy is available (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1998, 19 June 2001, and 8 April 2002). LF
ARMENIAN, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET
Vartan Oskanian and Abdullah Gul met on 3 June on the sidelines of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting in Madrid, according to Noyan Tapan on 4 June and an Armenian Foreign Ministry press release cited by Groong. The two ministers agreed that improved relations between their respective countries would contribute to regional stability and security. They also discussed regional problems, including the Karabakh conflict. Oskanian also met the same day with the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to discuss the Karabakh negotiating process and issues related to the next visit by the co-chairs to the South Caucasus, for which no date has yet been set. LF
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL PROPOSES AZERBAIJAN EXPORT GAS TO TURKEY VIA 'BLUE STREAM'
Speaking at the Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibit in Baku on 4 June, Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, who is Russia's presidential envoy for Caspian issues, suggested that construction of the planned $3 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum (BTE) gas-export pipeline is unnecessary, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Kalyuzhnyi argued that gas from the Shah Deniz offshore Caspian field could be exported instead via the Blue Stream pipeline that runs under the Black Sea from southern Russia to Turkey. Russia began exports to Turkey via Blue Stream in late December 2002, but those shipments have since been suspended due to a fall in domestic demand in Turkey. But U.S. State Department special representative for the Caspian Steven Mann responded that it is better for Azerbaijan to have its own export capacity rather than rely on pipelines monopolized by other suppliers, Turan reported. Mann also pointed out that Turkey supports the BTE pipeline because gas exported via that route will be cheaper than by Blue Stream. LF
AZERBAIJAN, CHINA SIGN NEW PSA
Azerbaijan's State Oil Company SOCAR signed a production-sharing agreement (PSA) in Baku on 4 June with Sheng-Li, a subsidiary of China's Sinopec, to increase production from existing wells at the Pirsagat field and conduct further exploration and development work, including the drilling of two new exploration wells, Turan and Interfax reported. Sheng-Li will have a 50 percent stake and SOCAR 25 percent, with the remaining 25 percent still to be acquired. The contract, worth $140 million, is the 22nd Azerbaijan has signed over the past nine years, but at least two have been dissolved after trial wells failed to yield oil in commercially viable quantities. LF
AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS COMMEMORATE UNREST, DENOUNCE MUSLIM CLERIC
Residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku congregated on 3 June to commemorate the violent clashes in the village one year earlier between villagers and police in which one villager was killed and dozens injured, Turan reported on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 5 June 2002). The villagers also condemned the appeal made two days earlier to all citizens of Azerbaijan by the country's top Muslim cleric, Sheikh ul-Islan Allakhshukur Pashazade, to vote for incumbent President Heidar Aliev in the upcoming presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS OPPOSITION PROTEST
Eduard Shevardnadze told a government session on 4 June that he sees no need to "dramatize" the previous day's protest in Tbilisi during which the estimated 7,000 participants backed calls for him to resign, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). Shevardnadze said he is prepared to meet and talk with opposition politicians. Shevardnadze instructed law enforcement agencies to take the necessary measures to protect public order, saying it is impossible given current crime levels to ensure that the 2 November parliamentary elections will be democratic. Also on 4 June, the independent paper "Rezonansi" quoted Akaki Bobokhidze, a leading member of the opposition National Movement, as warning that the opposition "will resort to more radical measures" including blocking highways and railroads, unless the government makes further concessions. LF
UN OBSERVERS ABDUCTED IN GEORGIA
Three members of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and their interpreter have been abducted in the Kodori Gorge, local Governor Emzar Kvitsiani announced on 5 June. The observers began a six-day patrol of the gorge on 2 June together with members of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, whom the kidnappers later released. Caucasus Press on 5 June quoted the UNOMIG office in Sukhum as saying that the observers were abducted at gunpoint by masked men who opened fire on their car. It is the fourth such abduction of UN personnel in Kodori in the past four years. In all previous cases, the observers were finally released unharmed and the kidnappers were never apprehended. LF
USE OF IMMIGRATION CARDS BEGINS IN KAZAKHSTAN
The use of immigration cards for foreigners entering Kazakhstan went into effect on 1 June, centrasia.ru reported on 5 June, quoting an article in the 4 June issue of "Ekspress K" that described how the new system was working in its first few days. The immigration card system was set up in accordance with a government decree of 13 March; its purpose is to stop illegal immigration into the country and at the same time make it easier for legitimate visitors to Kazakhstan to enter and stay in the country. As the article points out, the immigration card spares foreign visitors the necessity of waiting in long lines to register or extend their stays. The cards are given to foreigners at their point of entry to be filled out on the spot, with half the card retained by authorities and the other half to be handed in at the point of departure. The card is valid for three months and may be extended for another three. Certain categories of foreigners, including diplomats and plane and train crews in transit, are exempt from the requirement. The immigration official who proposed the new system was quoted in the article as saying that 80,000 cards were handed out on the first day the system went into effect, and the recipients were visibly pleased at the simplification of entry procedures. BB
KAZAKH PARTY OPPOSES IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTE
Alikhan Baimenov and Bolat Abilov, leaders of the Aq Zhol (Bright Path) Party, told a press conference in Almaty on 4 June that their party opposes the importing and burial of nuclear waste materials from other countries, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 4 June. The proposal that Kazakhstan could earn considerable amounts of money by accepting and disposing of nuclear waste from abroad unleashed controversy among politicians and environmentalists in 2002. Many opponents of the scheme have argued that Kazakhstan has enough of its own nuclear pollutants to deal with without accepting that of other countries. It is rumored that imported waste is already being buried in Kazakhstan, although no legislation permitting such activity has been adopted yet. BB
NEW HEAD OF KAZAKHSTAN'S FREE-TRADE UNIONS ELECTED
The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan elected a new chairman at a special conference on 2-3 June, "Ekspress K" reported on 4 June. Sergei Belkin, former head of the Free Trade Unions branch in Karaganda, was chosen from a field of five candidates to replace confederation founder Leonid Solomin, who resigned voluntarily, according to the report. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions, originally the Independent Trade Union Center, is one of two major trade-union associations in the country, the other being the association of government-sponsored unions. Solomin was deeply involved in the formation of independent unions in Kazakhstan immediately prior to the country's independence in 1991 and has been a major figure in labor struggles in Kazakhstan ever since. BB
MORE RADIOACTIVE TAILINGS DUMPS IN NEED OF REPAIR IN KYRGYZSTAN
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan's Naryn Oblast are calling attention to the danger posed by a group of tailings dumps near the village of Min-Kush that contain radioactive uranium ore, akipress.org reported on 5 June. The dumps are left over from uranium mining in 1961. As is the case in other parts of Kyrgyzstan where radioactive materials were stored in the Soviet era, the integrity of the Min-Kush dumps is threatened by landslides and the possibility that dams on nearby rivers could break. The problems could be solved, however, at little expense, according to the Naryn authorities, who were quoted as complaining that only half the funds budgeted for repair work in 2002 were actually spent. A joint U.S.-Russian project to clean up and repair storage facilities for radioactive materials has been launched in Kyrgyzstan this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 17 April 2003). Presumably more "forgotten" sites such as Min-Kush will be publicized as the cleanup proceeds. BB
INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS' GROUP ASKS TAJIK GOVERNMENT TO STOP BLOCKING OPPOSITION WEBSITE
The international journalists' association Reporters Without Borders has appealed to the Tajik government to stop blocking the Tajikistan.Times.ru website, Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 4 June. The website, devoted primarily to critical items on the political situation in Tajikistan, was started up at the beginning of March by opposition journalist Dodojon Atovulloev, editor of the Tajik opposition publication "Charogi ruz," who lives in exile in Moscow. It has been inaccessible to Internet users in Tajikistan since 24 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2003). The appeal was contained in a letter sent by Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Menard to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. Menard called attention to repeated harassment of Atovulloev by the Tajik authorities in retaliation for his critical writings. The association believes the website was blocked in order to prevent Internet users in Tajikistan from having access to critical materials. According to Asia-Plus, Atovulloev told foreign journalists on 2 June that he thought the site had been blocked in retaliation for an article about the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments, scheduled for 22 June. BB
TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
The Islamic Renaissance Party has appealed to the OSCE Office and UN agencies in Dushanbe for help in establishing the whereabouts of its Deputy Chairman Shamsiddin Shamsiddinov, and clarifying the circumstances under which he was detained by police in the northern town of Chkalovsk on 30 May, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). Party spokesman Hikmatullo Saifullozoda told the news agency that no reply has yet been received to a 3 June appeal to the Tajik government and police for help in ascertaining Shamsiddinov's whereabouts. Saifullozoda said Shamsiddinov might have been brought to Dushanbe for questioning. LF
UN PRESENCE IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED FOR ONE YEAR
Vladimir Sotirov, who is a special representative of the UN secretary-general, told journalists in Dushanbe on 4 June that the mandate of UNTOP (UN Tajik Office of Peace-Building) has been extended for a further year, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 June. Sotirov explained that decision in terms of such destabilizing factors as the large quantity of arms circulating in the country, the low level of economic development, poverty, corruption, drug trafficking, and the activities of the banned Islamic movement Hizb ut-Tahrir. UNTOP was established in June 2000 after the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Tajikistan expired. LF
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS DUAL CITIZENSHIP ACCORD WITH TURKMENISTAN IS STILL IN EFFECT
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told Russian journalists on 4 June that, as far as the Russian Federation is concerned, the agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan on dual citizenship is still in effect, Interfax reported the same day. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov agreed to revoke the 1993 dual citizenship agreement when the two leaders met in Moscow in April to sign a major gas deal. After his return to Ashgabat, Niyazov issued a decree giving holders of dual citizenship residing in Turkmenistan two months to decide which passport they wanted to retain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). The result has been panic among the holders of dual citizenship in Turkmenistan and a political scandal in Russia, where a number of politicians and media outlets have accused Putin of selling out the ethnic Russians of Turkmenistan for the sake of the gas deal. The Russian Foreign Ministry publicly criticized Turkmenistan at the end of April for ignoring the terms of the protocol revoking the dual citizenship agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2003). Yakovenko said that Russia is taking active measures through diplomatic channels to ensure that the interests of ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan are not infringed upon, adding that a Foreign Ministry delegation will soon travel to Ashgabat to hold consultations on enforcing the protocol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). BB
DANISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES EU ENLARGEMENT
Danish lawmakers approved the EU Treaty of Accession in a 96-0 vote on 4 June with 15 abstentions by right-wing politicians opposed to enlargement, AP reported. Sixty-eight deputies were absent from the vote, which gives the green light to 10 new states from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean (Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) to join the bloc. The Danish parliament is the first legislature among the 15 current EU member states to have ratified the treaty. MS
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST MOVING U.S. BASES TO POLAND
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on 5 June that the potential redeployment of U.S. troops from Western Europe to Poland, as suggested in some media reports earlier this year, would be an "unwise" move, Belarusian Television reported. The Belarusian leader pledged that Belarus will take "adequate measures" if U.S. military bases appear in Poland. "We will not only keep an eye on [U.S. bases in Poland] but will also -- let us speak openly -- keep them in our sights," Lukashenka said. JM
NEW 'FREE BELARUS' BLOC TO SEEK CHANGE THROUGH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
A new democratic bloc calling itself Svabodnaya Belarus (Free Belarus) declared in Minsk on 4 June that it will seek a change of the current regime through parliamentary elections, Belapan reported. Free Belarus is planning to field one candidate in each of the 110 single-mandate constituencies in 2004 elections to the Chamber of Representatives. "If the authorities do not let the Belarusian citizens exercise their right to choose deputies, the bloc will launch a lawful campaign of civil disobedience," the group said in its declaration. The declaration was signed by Dzmitry Barodzka, Valery Dranchuk, Yury Khashchavatski, Iryna Krasouskaya, Leanid Malakhau, Andrey Sannikau, and Valery Shchukin, among others. "The bloc has not been created on a party basis. We are going to negotiate primarily with [public] activists and individuals," Andrey Sannikau, coordinator of the Charter-97 human rights group and former deputy foreign minister, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. JM
BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER THWARTED BY PRINTER
"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," which was suspended for three months by the Information Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003), succeeded in publishing two issues this week under the mastheads of two independent newspapers, "Salidarnasts" and "Ekho," but failed to appear as planned under the masthead of the "Predprinimatelskaya gazeta," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 4 June. The Chyrvonaya Zorka printing house in Minsk refused to print the issue, citing technical difficulties. "We are looking for some other printer, but our preliminary talks with all printing houses in Minsk Oblast suggest that they have been warned [against printing us], and each of them is finding some pretext to refuse us," "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Svyatlana Kalinkina said. She pledged to print the newspaper abroad, most likely in Russia. JM
PRISON TERM HALVED FOR BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST
Belarusian authorities have applied an amnesty law to imprisoned journalist Viktar Ivashkevich and halved his two-year term at a corrective-labor facility in Baranavichy, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 4 June. Ivashkevich has been serving a sentence since 16 December for defaming President Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES TROOPS FOR IRAQ
The Verkhovna Rada voted 273-103 on 5 June to endorse a proposal by President Leonid Kuchma to send a Ukrainian contingent of up to 1,800 troops to the Polish-administered stabilization zone in Iraq, Interfax reported. The proposal was backed by lawmakers from the pro-presidential majority as well as by 39 deputies from Our Ukraine and three deputies from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. Other deputies from Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc joined those from the Socialist Party and the Communist Party in opposing the move. National Defense and Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk, who addressed lawmakers before the vote, warned that Ukrainian companies would have no chance of winning reconstruction contracts in Iraq if the parliament failed to dispatch Ukrainian peacekeepers to that country. Marchuk also said the United States has pledged compensation amounting to two-thirds of the estimated 69.4 million hryvnyas ($13 million) required for the deployment through the end of 2003. JM
LITHUANIA OFFERS FREE VISAS FOR UKRAINIANS
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said in Kyiv on 4 June that Lithuania, in light of its imminent EU entry, is prepared to issue visas to Ukrainians free of charge if Lithuanian citizens are allowed to enter Ukraine without visas, Interfax reported. Brazauskas is in Ukraine for a three-day official visit. JM
CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCH WISHES SUCCESS TO ESTONIA'S EU REFERENDUM
Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I told Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts in Tallinn on 4 June that he hopes Estonians approve EU membership in the referendum on 14 September, BNS reported. Bartholomew was visiting Tallinn as part of an eight-day environmental protection tour of the Baltic Sea aboard the cruise ship "Ocean Monarch." More than 200 clergy members, political leaders, and scientists from all over Europe are taking part in the tour, entitled "Baltic Sea: Common Legacy, Shared Responsibility." The talks between the two leaders primarily focused on environmental issues, with Parts mentioning the environment-related points of his government's program and the long-term development plan "Sustainable Estonia 21." Parts also said that environmental protection will be one of the main issues for Estonia when it heads the Council of Baltic Sea States in the second half of this year. SG
LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT SUGGESTS MORE AID TO FARMERS
The cabinet decided on 4 June to redirect 188 million litas ($63 million) in the 2003 budget toward agriculture, police, health, education, and other fields, "Lietuvos zinios" reported the next day. The funds would be taken from savings in the servicing of the state debt, SAPARD programs, and the highway fund so as not to increase the budget deficit, which stands at 1.31 billion litas. The largest share of the funds will go toward assisting farmers and guaranteeing the same price for milk as last year. Dairies will receive an additional 56 million litas for this purpose. Parliament is expected to approve the proposals. SG
GERMAN CHANCELLOR URGES POLES TO EMBRACE EU MEMBERSHIP
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met with Prime Minister Leszek Miller in Lodz on 4 June and appealed to Poles to vote in favor of entry into the European Union in the country's 7-8 June referendum, Polish media reported. "Without European solidarity, the Germans would never have raised themselves from the ashes of World War II, attaining success and the position of one of the greatest economic powers in the world," Polish Radio quoted Schroeder as saying. "I am certain that European solidarity will also help Poland in a way similar to that in which it helped Germany." JM
POLAND LIKELY TO DELAY INTRODUCTION OF VISAS FOR UKRAINIANS
Marek Siwiec, head of the presidential National Security Office, said on 4 June that Poland will most likely introduce entry visas for Ukrainians later than 1 July, the date that was originally planned, PAP reported. Siwiec said Poland was planning to join the EU on 1 January 2004 when it set the 1 July deadline for issuing visas to Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians. He added that since EU accession was put off to 1 May 2004, the visa requirement can also be postponed. JM
POLISH RULING PARTY EXPELS FORMER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
The Democratic Left Alliance's (SLD) disciplinary body, the National Party Court, expelled former Health Minister Mariusz Lapinski and former National Health Fund head Andrzej Nauman from the party on 4 June, Polish media reported. The expulsions stem from the men's failure to act when two members of the SLD youth wing attacked a "Newsweek-Polska" journalist while he was taking pictures of Lapinski and Nauman meeting with two other people in a Warsaw restaurant last week. The party court did not confirm reports in some Polish media claiming that Lapinski and Nauman incited the two SLD youths to attack the reporter. According to some Polish media, including "Newsweek-Polska," Lapinski and Nauman were engaged in unlawfully favoring certain pharmaceutical firms through drug-reimbursement schemes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2003). JM
CZECH PREMIER DESIGNATES DEFENSE MINISTER'S REPLACEMENT
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla announced on 4 June that he intends to appoint Miroslav Kostelka as the country's next defense minister, CTK and Reuters reported. The post was vacated this week by Jaroslav Tvrdik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29, 30 May and 2 June 2003), who complained of budget cuts that he said hamper military reforms. Kostelka, a former Czech Army general, was Tvrdik's deputy. Spidla said Tvrdik recommended Kostelka for the post, but he added that Kostelka's greatest assets are the respect he enjoys within the Defense Ministry and the fact that he will be able to continue reforms without delay. MS
CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BILL ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The government approved a draft bill on 4 June providing for the election of the Czech Republic's president by popular vote, CTK reported. The bill must be approved by a three-fifths majority in both houses of parliament, since it entails a constitutional amendment. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky told journalists that the draft bill stipulates a runoff between the first two contenders for the post if no candidate garners more than 50 percent in the first round. The draft bill also would provide for reducing the immunity of lawmakers from prosecution. MS
CZECH REPUBLIC JOINS 'LETTER OF NINE' AT EU CONVENTION
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in Madrid on 4 June that the Czech Republic has decided to endorse the "letter of nine" that calls for the preservation of the Nice Treaty's provisions on the EU's institutional framework, CTK reported. Last week, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, and Sweden called for preserving the Nice Treaty, thus challenging the proposals made by the chairman of the European Convention on the future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Svoboda also said that in the event that no agreement is reached at the EU's Thessaloniki summit on 20 June, the convention should continue debating the different proposals. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Kohut said in Prague that 18 of the 28 participants in the European Convention support the preservation of the Nice Treaty. The draft submitted by d'Estaing stipulates that decisions of the EU Council of Ministers would require a simple majority of countries representing at least 60 percent of the EU's population, rather than unanimity. Svoboda also said Prague opposes d'Estaing's proposal to abolish the practice of granting each member state a representative on the European Commission in 2009. The Czech Republic is prepared to accept the replacement of the rotating EU Presidency with an elected chairman or president, Svoboda said. MS
CZECH TELEVISION COUNCIL RE-ELECTS CHAIRMAN
Jan Mrzena was re-elected chairman of the Czech Television Council on 4 June, CTK reported. He received nine votes in the second round of balloting. The council also elected Milan Badal as deputy chairman and re-elected Deputy Chairman Bohumil Fanta. The terms of the chairman and his deputies are two years. The 15 members of the council are elected by the lower house of parliament for six years, with one-third of the council's members replaced every two years. Last month, the lower house elected five new members of the council, most of them considered close to the ruling three-party coalition. MS
CZECH SENTENCED FOR THREATENING TO BLOW UP AIRPORT
Jaroslav Horacek, 25, was sentenced on 4 June to five years in prison for a hoax telephone call in August 2002 in which he threatened to bomb Prague's Ruzyne international airport, CTK reported. Horacek said he is considering an appeal. The number of phone threats to Ruzyne Airport has increased steadily, with 11 such hoaxes so far in 2003. MS
CZECHS, SLOVAKS TRAIN IN JOINT ACTION AGAINST TERRORISM
Five days of joint Czech-Slovak military staff exercises on countering terrorism are being conducted on the border between the two countries, CTK reported on 4 June. Commanders are testing cooperation between Czech and Slovak military emergency teams in simulation exercises. MS
THINGS GET TIGHT FOR SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER...
Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar told journalists on 4 June that the SMK has warned its representatives in the government that they might be recalled if the SMK concludes that they are responsible for the Slovak failure to draw EU structural funds, TASR reported. At this stage, Bugar said, the party's cabinet members still enjoy its trust. But Bugar criticized Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, who is in charge of EU integration, for having failed to respond publicly to a European Commission report voicing concern at Slovakia's preparations for tapping EU funds. He said the SMK does not want "either now or in the future" to be linked with criticism that Slovakia failed to use EU funding. On 2 June, the SMK rallied to Csaky's defense (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 3 June 2003) in the face of criticism linked to the use of EU funds. In related news, Peter Miklosi, Csaky's spokesman, resigned on 4 June, without specifying a reason for his decision. Reports in the media last week alleged that a company headed by Miklosi's wife was commissioned by the government to print materials for last month's referendum on EU accession. Asked by journalists why he accepted Miklosi's resignation, Csaky replied: "That is my own business." MS
...BUT PRESIDENT SAYS CSAKY IS NOT ALONE
President Rudolf Schuster said on 4 June that he does not consider Csaky to be the only one responsible for Slovak delays in drawing EU funds, TASR reported. Schuster said responsibility lies with the entire cabinet. He added that instead of focusing on possible personnel changes in the cabinet, ministers should seek ways to overcome those obstacles. Schuster was speaking after a meeting with Csaky and EU Ambassador to Slovakia Eric van der Linden. Csaky said after the meeting that he intends to impose a "tough fist" system in the future handling of EU funds, vowing that ministries will be strictly supervised in their handling of those resources, CTK reported. "I'll invite the relevant minister for talks. I'll tell him what I consider to be a problem and what solution I propose.... If we fail to reach consensus,... I shall take the matter to the cabinet. Let it decide," Csaky said. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT DENIES HE DIVULGED MILITARY SECRETS IN CRITICIZING AIR FORCE
President Schuster said on 4 June that he does not believe he disclosed any military secrets when he told journalists the previous day that the Slovak Air Force is not combat ready, TASR reported. "You always knew how many fighters we have and what condition they are in. You knew it before, and you know it now. It was more of a joke than serious talk," Schuster said. He was reacting to a statement by Deputy Chief of Staff General Jozef Blizman in which the latter said the number of military aircraft in operation is classified information and should not have been made public by the president. MS
HUNGARY DEVALUES FORINT, TRIMS BUDGET...
In a surprise move, the government announced on 4 June that the Hungarian central bank will effectively devalue the forint in exchange for budget cuts, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The central bank will lower the midpoint of the forint's trading band by 2.26 percent, while the Socialist-led government will pare 76 billion forints ($362 million) from its planned 2003 expenditures. Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo said the aim of the move is to improve the country's economic competitiveness in both the short and the long term. Hungarian National Bank (MNB) Governor Zsigmond Jarai predicted that if the euro exchange rate remains around 250 forints, annual inflation rate could drop to 4.6 percent by the end of the year, and to 3.9 percent by the end of 2004. MSZ
...BAFFLING ANALYSTS AND PROMPTING POLITICAL BARBS
Laszlo Akar, director of Hungary's Economic Research Institute, said on 4 June that the central bank's move clearly shows that the MNB was coerced into abandoning close adherence to its inflation target, "Magyar Hirlap" reported the next day. "The government's obvious motivation was to beef up exports, but whether such a small shift will do the trick remains to be seen," he said. Raiffeisenbank analyst Zoltan Torok said investors will be stunned by the move, which he says is obviously politically motivated, the daily said. Judit Nemenyi, senior research fellow at Financial Research Institute, welcomed the more competitive exchange rate and fiscal cuts, but said the way they were brought about raises questions about whether the government has a comprehensive economic strategy. Former FIDESZ Finance Minister Mihaly Varga said, "The government should have considered whether it wasn't starting a bigger fire than it can put out," the MTI agency reported on 5 June. Varga said the government's economic strategy "has been adrift" for the past year, adding that Hungary is now seeing the consequences. Varga predicted that the devaluation will be followed by austerity measures, and suggested that the move is the result of government incompetence. MSZ
HUNGARIAN CABINET PROPOSES AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON MILITARY SERVICE
Cabinet ministers on 4 June proposed amending the country's civil-service act regarding alternatives to compulsory military service, government spokesman Zoltan Gal told reporters. According to the draft amendment, fathers of more than one child would not be required to serve the prescribed 15 months of alternative service, Hungarian radio reported. The amendment also would allow for performing such nonmilitary service with nonprofit organizations, and would broaden the scope of activities in which such service would be possible to include the information-technology sector and disaster-control services. MSZ
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS FIDESZ CRITICISM OF FOREIGN POLICY
FIDESZ deputy Jozsef Szajer charged on 4 June that foreign policy in the first year of Premier Peter Medgyessy's cabinet has been "marked by inertia and drifting stances" and is being subordinated to party interests, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs responded to Szajer's remarks by saying the current Socialist-led government has repaired the damage caused by foreign policy mistakes of its predecessor, "Nepszabadsag" reported. For instance, he said, trust has been restored between Hungary and the United States, and a partnership with Russia is gaining impetus after a four-year lull. He added that Visegrad Four cooperation has been put back in order after what he called "a most unfortunate statement" by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Kovacs was presumably referring to comments Orban made in Brussels in February 2002 regarding Czechoslovakia's decision to expel ethnic Germans and Hungarians and expropriate their property after World War II. Orban said the so-called Benes Decrees were not in line with EU legislation, so Hungary expects them to be automatically annulled once the Czech Republic and Slovakia join the bloc. MSZ
HAGUE TRIBUNAL SAYS NO PRETRIAL RELEASE FOR THREE TOP SERBS
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal decided on 4 June not to allow former Yugoslav President Milan Milutinovic to return to Serbia prior to his trial for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The tribunal recently made a similar ruling in regard to former Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and former Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 30 April 2002). On 3 June, Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice said the Serbian authorities are denying the tribunal access to unspecified important documents in conjunction with the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
NGO CALLS FOR U.S. TO PRESSURE SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO TO COOPERATE WITH THE HAGUE
The NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement in Washington on 4 June that the United States should demand that Serbia and Montenegro "demonstrate stronger commitment to the rule of law, including a genuine commitment to establishing accountability for war crimes," in return for State Department certification for continued U.S. aid, Hina reported. The statement acknowledged Belgrade's progress in the past 12 months, adding, however, that Serbia and Montenegro "still lacks clear political leadership to ensure that all those responsible for war crimes are held accountable." PM
CROATIA LIFTS VISA REQUIREMENT FOR SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO...
The Croatian government decided on 4 June to lift the visa requirement for tourists from Serbia and Montenegro from 10 June-31 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). The rule will apply for visits lasting up to 90 days. The government said it hopes that its "goodwill gesture" will prompt Serbia and Montenegro to "improve" unspecified other aspects of bilateral relations. Croatian authorities said they will consider making the visa changes permanent if border security improves regarding illegal migration and drug smuggling, dpa reported. The Croatian-Slovenian border will become the EU's outer frontier when Slovenia joins the Brussels-based bloc in 2004. PM
...WHICH MEETS WITH A WARM WELCOME
In Belgrade on 4 June, Assistant Foreign Minister Aleksandra Joksimovic called the move a "strong impulse for relations between the two countries and cooperation in general," dpa reported. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce said the Croatian decision will prove good for business, and travel companies are particularly optimistic. Citizens of most western Balkan states need visas to visit neighboring and Western countries, which is a frequent source of complaints by those affected. Many former Yugoslavs recall the days prior to the breakup of that country, when their passport was welcome in both Eastern and Western Europe. PM
RUSSIA STILL TO PLAY A ROLE IN BOSNIA
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Madrid on 4 June that his country intends to play a role in the Balkans despite its withdrawal of peacekeepers from Bosnia and Kosova, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April and 28 May 2003). "We will continue multilateral cooperation in the framework of the OSCE and also with other structures," he added. Ivanov noted that much work remains to be done in Bosnia in the process of stabilization and in extending greater responsibilities to local authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
IS AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE MACEDONIAN POLITICAL CLIMATE IN THE OFFING?
Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and Nikola Gruevski, the newly elected chairman of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), met on 4 June to discuss possibilities for cooperation, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. After the meeting, Crvenkovski said he hopes that the antagonisms between the two parties will now be left behind and that a climate of fair political dialogue and mutual respect can emerge. Gruevski said there will be more consultations on issues of national importance between the two parties in the future, but also warned that his party will continue to criticize what it regards as the government's mistakes. Under the VMRO-DPMNE's previous leader, former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, relations between the two parties were poisoned by mutual recriminations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 May 2003). UB
BALKAN PRESIDENTS END TRILATERAL MEETING IN ROMANIA
A two-day summit attended by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and hosted by President Ion Iliescu ended in the Romanian Black Sea resort of Neptun on 4 June with the publication of a joint declaration, Romanian media and international news agencies reported. The three leaders pledged to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism and organized crime; step up political and military cooperation within NATO and contribute to the strengthening of trans-Atlantic cooperation among NATO members; cooperate in regional economic projects in general and in energy and infrastructure projects in particular; and they expressed their confidence that Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU in 2007 while pledging to aid Turkey's effort to join the EU in the future. MS
EXTREMIST ROMANIAN PARTY GETS BACK IN PARLIAMENT -- WITHOUT ELECTIONS
Two deputies from the Humanist Party (PUR), Florentin Moraru and Ioan Mihai Nastase, announced on 4 June that they have resigned from the PUR and joined the extraparliamentary Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), Mediafax reported. The two deputies are former members of the extremist Greater Romania Party and joined the PUR after the 2000 elections -- making this their second change of political allegiance since the 2000 parliamentary ballot. The PUNR failed to win parliamentary representation in those elections and is now led by former General Mircea Chelaru. MS
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS NATO TO HELP SECURE FRONTIERS
Speaking at the Madrid meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 4 June, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau said the decision adopted at the organization's November 2002 Prague summit on NATO enlargement is beneficial to his country, Flux reported. Dudau said Moldova is fully determined to become integrated in the EU and to cooperate with NATO. He said one of the main dangers to regional stability stems from insufficient border security, adding that events in territories ruled by Transdniestrian separatists are a good illustration. He said illicit economic and financial activities are thriving in the separatist region, alongside trafficking in arms, drugs, and women. Dudau said both the EU and NATO can "contribute to the effort to secure" that frontier as well to the peacekeeping effort that will follow any settlement. MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIAL
Visiting Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov discussed ongoing efforts to resolve the Transdniester conflict with President Vladimir Voronin on 4 June, Infotag reported. They also discussed the future activities of the joint Moldovan-Transdniestrian commission on drafting a constitution for the future federal state, as well as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the separatist region. Trubnikov is heading the Russian delegation to a new round of negotiations due to start on 5 June between Tiraspol and Chisinau in the presence of the three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine. MS
IMF OFFICIAL WARNS OF MOLDOVAN CRISIS WITHOUT FOREIGN FINANCING
The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) representative in Moldova, Edgardo Ruggiero, said on 4 June that Moldova might "face survival complications" this year if it fails to enlist foreign aid, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Ruggiero was speaking ahead of the arrival in Chisinau of an IMF delegation to examine whether the Moldovan government has met the fund's conditions for renewing the disbursement of a $12.3 million tranche of credit frozen in June 2002 and a subsequent $25 million tranche that went untapped in December. The two payments are part of a planned $147 million loan. Ruggiero said Moldova's macroeconomic situation is satisfactory, but cautioned that the government has included that money in the 2003 budget as if its disbursement were guaranteed. He also said the cabinet has passed a number of laws that would lead to increasing the country's budget deficit, citing a law on compensating veterans and a decision to raise pensions. He also said the IMF has received no cost estimates concerning recent local-administration reforms, and added that the previous territorial administrative division into 10 counties was adequate for a small country like Moldova. MS
BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS GREEK, ITALIAN COUNTERPARTS
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi met with his Greek and Italian counterparts, George Papandreou and Franco Frattini, in Madrid on 4 June, BTA reported. Papandreou, who will hand over the rotating EU Presidency to Frattini on 1 July, pledged that Greece will continue to support Bulgaria's efforts to complete EU accession talks in 2004. Frattini said he is confident that the talks will be finalized during the current term of the European Commission, which ends in September 2004. He added that the Balkans will be a top priority of Italy's EU Presidency. UB
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT CHANGES LICENSING LAW
In an effort to fight corruption within the state administration, parliament adopted a draft law aimed at reducing bureaucracy that introduces the principle of silent consent, "Dnevnik" reported. Business deals that require administrative approval will now be considered approved if civil servants do not respond to those requests within a given period. "Corruption in the lower and middle levels of administration, which is a mass phenomenon and which suffocates business, will be limited [under the new law]," Valeri Dimitrov, the chairman of the parliament's Economic Committee, said. Business leaders have welcomed the legislation, arguing that corruption deters foreign investors. UB
BULGARIAN ELECTION COMMISSION MEMBER WARNS OF POSSIBLE FRAUD
A member of the Central Election Commission (TsIK) warned on 4 June of the threat of fraud in this year's Bulgarian local elections, citing the fact that some 800,000 registered voters have left the country, "Standart" reported. The presence of those names on voter lists could invite attempts at electoral fraud in the form of "phantom voters," according to commission member Mihail Konstantinov. However, observers note that this problem is long-standing and has never led to major problems during past elections. Konstantinov said the elections should be held no later than 12 October, but he added that President Georgi Parvanov has the final say on election schedules. UB
AFGHAN WOMEN STILL STRUGGLING FOR RIGHT TO EDUCATION, WORK
A year and a half after the Taliban's ouster, many Afghan girls and women are still deprived of education and work opportunities. Observers say Afghanistan's conservative traditions are still presenting an obstacle to greater rights and freedoms for women.
The Taliban administration is a thing of the past, but even so, few Afghan women dare to leave the house without covering their heads. Even working women in the capital Kabul wear a headscarf, a long-sleeved dress, and "tumbon," or long trousers, to cover nearly all of their body. Wearing the all-concealing burqa is still the norm for many Afghan women.
Women's rights activists say some women continue to wear the burqa out of traditional Afghan belief that women should maintain a low profile. Others feel it is simply not safe to leave the house bare-headed.
Khadija Bahari, the head of the Establishment and Rehabilitation Center, a nongovernmental organization in Kabul that supports women's rights and constitutional reform, told RFE/RL, "There are still many people in some provinces who could not tolerate their daughters and wives going outside their homes without a burqa."
But the burqa is only one part of the problem. Activists are also concerned about the fate of the country's 2 million war widows -- women who have lost their husbands and are left to raise a family on their own. In a society that discourages an active role for women and plagued by widespread unemployment, many Afghan war widows struggle to put food on their children's plates.
Shukriya Barakzai, the editor in chief of the Afghan magazine "Ayena-ye zan" (Women's Mirror), told RFE/RL on 28 May that many women work from home as tailors, but barely earn enough to make ends meet. Widespread illiteracy also reduces many Afghan women's chances of finding employment. "Some women earn money by sewing. For instance, they sew blankets and sell their products in markets. Some women have been left in such a desperate situation that they have become beggars or were even forced into inappropriate work [prostitution]." Barakzai said.
The current Afghan government officially encourages gender equality and has welcomed initiatives to create job and education opportunities for women. The Transitional Administration allocated some $10 million to the Women's Affairs Ministry to expand women's role in society. Even so, Barakzai said, there has been little evident change in women's lives so far. "The ministry claims that they support women," she said. "In reality, the ministry has not done anything. It does not have any clear strategy to prove that it is really working for women, and protecting women's political, social and economic rights."
Karima Salehi, a director at the Women's Affairs Ministry, told RFE/RL the ministry has opened offices throughout Kabul, as well as in many provinces, in order to provide more opportunities for women. Their initiatives include special courses to teach women how to read and write. "Our ministry provides job opportunities for women, especially for widows, the poor and refugees who have returned to their homes. About 75 percent of employees in our ministry are women. We have a project, which helps women to find jobs. We have established offices in 16 districts of Kabul," Salehi said.
During the current school year, millions of children, including girls, returned to school. Gulsang, a teenager from Kabul, told RFE/RL that despite shortages of textbooks, blackboards, and even chairs, she is happy to be able to resume her education. "I study in a high school. Under the Taliban administration we were not allowed to go school. Now girls' schools are reopened and I am very happy that I can attend my lessons freely," she said.
Bahari said the situation varies from region to region. In northern and central provinces such as Balkh, Jowzjan, and Bamyan, many parents were eager to send their daughters to school. "We had a survey in Bamyan Province. Even in remote villages, many families want their daughters to return to school. But every province is different. In some places, such as Kandahar, people are still afraid of the Taliban and they do not allow their daughters to go to school," she said.
Experts believe that the role and rights of women is the most sensitive issue in Afghanistan's conservative society. Some men do not even allow female family members to leave the house alone, let alone permitting girls to attend school or women to seek employment. Some women still die during childbirth because they do not have access to professional health care.
The Women's Affairs Ministry and nongovernmental organizations dealing with women's rights say the country's deep conservatism means they have to take a careful and low-key approach to the issue. "Under the circumstances," Bahari said, "we have to focus on very basic steps, such as providing access to health care and establishing training classes for women. Issues like the burqa will be solved eventually, once Afghan women begin to earn a proper income and are guaranteed security."
Farangis Najibullah is an RFE correspondent and Amin Tarzi is an Afghan analyst for RFE/RL's Regional Analysis.
U.S. TROOPS AGAIN COME UNDER ATTACK IN AL-FALLUJAH
A U.S. soldier was killed and five others were wounded in a 5 June attack in Al-Fallujah, according to a press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). An unknown assailant reportedly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the soldiers in the early morning hours. A number of attacks in recent weeks have targeted U.S. forces in that city, which is located some 50 kilometers west of Baghdad. Lieutenant General David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, sent in reinforcements on 4 June in an effort to stabilize the situation. McKiernan told reporters that "regime-connected or Ba'ath Party remnants" were responsible for the attacks, Reuters reported on 4 June. "To address this threat, we are applying additional military resources and forces to help us identify and decisively defeat these anti-coalition, and I might add anti-Iraqi, regime elements," he said. KR
ANOTHER FORMER IRAQI REGIME MEMBER IN CUSTODY
Another member of the deposed regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in coalition custody, CENTCOM announced in a 4 June press release. Iyad Futayyih Khalifa al-Rawi reportedly served as chief of staff for the Al-Quds Military Force. That volunteer force consisted of Ba'ath Party and Iraqi military personnel. Al-Rawi was 30th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the former regime. The Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Force was created by Hussein to prepare to fight Israel. The force, which Hussein claimed was 7 million strong, fell under the command of the deposed president's son, Qusay Hussein. KR
RIFT OPENS IN IRAQI NATIONAL ACCORD
Seven members of the Iraqi National Accord (INA) withdrew their membership from the former opposition group, citing procedural differences, according to a statement printed in "Al-Quds al-Arabi" on 2 June. Those who resigned, all from the Kurdistan "organization command," declared that they "represent the real internal organizational structure both in Iraq's Kurdistan and [in] the interior." They said they "undertook the difficult years" of the struggle against the Hussein regime on the ground inside Iraq, and claimed that since the return of INA figures from the diaspora, they have "sensed...a major shortcoming in the course of action and an obvious wrong in dealing with the movement's strugglers, cadres, followers, and fighters who were dismissed from action without any justification and without any regard" for their years of struggle. They also criticized newcomers to the party, who they say brought a "structural political imbalance" to the INA "that is impossible to redress." The departing members said they now consider themselves outside the organizational structure of the INA, which is headed by Iyad Allawi. KR
FIRST WEEK OF IRAQI WEAPONS AMNESTY YIELDS LITTLE
The Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) first week of a two-week weapons-amnesty program in which Iraqis were ordered to hand in all heavy weapons at coalition-designated sites (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May 2003) has yielded few results, international media reported. Lieutenant General McKiernan told reporters on 4 June that around 300 weapons have been turned in across the country, according to Reuters, a staggeringly small amount in a country that was heavily armed under the Hussein regime. Many Iraqis have protested the U.S. policy, insisting that they need to remain armed as long as chaos reigns on the streets of Iraq. The amnesty program ends on 14 June. KR
IRAQI TRIBAL LEADERS AIM TO ORGANIZE
A group of Iraqi tribal leaders have reportedly called for a general conference in July to discuss how the tribes might work together to form an umbrella group that will act as a political force in the post-Hussein era, "Iraq Press" reported on its website on 3 June (http://iraqpress.org). "We seek the establishment of a free and democratic government and the promulgation of a constitution that respects human rights and lays down the foundations of justice, freedom, and prosperity and puts an end to occupation," a statement released by the group reads. KR
RUSSIA SAYS IT WILL GO AHEAD WITH NUCLEAR-FUEL SUPPLIES TO IRAN
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in Moscow on 5 June that Russia will "supply nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant even if Iran does not sign an additional protocol on guarantees with the IAEA," ITAR-TASS news agency reported. However, he said Russia would begin supplying the fuel only after the two sides sign an agreement on returning the spent fuel to Russia. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani announced in March that the nuclear facility in Natanz will enrich uranium extracted in Yazd Province and therefore would make Iran self-sufficient in producing the fuel to run its nuclear-power stations. This obviates the need for Russian fuel and would eliminate a level of control over Iran's ability to divert spent fuel for the manufacture of nuclear weapons (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 10 March 2003). BS
EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN RAGES AGAINST U.S.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said during a 4 June ceremony at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran that U.S. anger toward Iran mainly is based on the Islamic revolution's negative impact on U.S. regional interests, Iranian state radio reported on 5 June. Rafsanjani claimed that public support for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini foiled American plots against Iran. "America is caught in the swamp of Afghanistan and Iraq," he added. BS
U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DENIES SEEKING REGIME CHANGE IN IRAN
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith said during a 4 June Pentagon briefing that the United States wants Iran to turn over all the Al-Qaeda operatives on its territory and to comply with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, the American Forces Press Service reported. However, he said, "as for the future of the Iranian government, that's a matter to be decided by the Iranian people." Feith said a recent report in London's "Financial Times" newspaper "grossly misrepresented" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's views on Iran and U.S. desire for regime change there. A 30 May report in the British newspaper stated that Rumsfeld is pushing for regime change while "'neoconservatives' outside the administration are turning up the volume of their demands for an end to Tehran's theocracy." BS
IRANIAN LEADER VOWS YOUTHFUL RESISTANCE
Speaking at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran on 4 June, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran's young people would resist a foreign military attack, IRNA and state radio reported. He claimed that the United States has been threatening Iran since the 1979 revolution. Iranian officials do not want to expose the country and its people to war, he said, but attacking Iran would be suicidal. In recognition of this, Khamenei said, Washington is trying to "terrorize Iranian people and officials by speculating on a military attack or other threats so that they achieve their wishes upon the retreat of [Iranian] officials and their betrayal of the nation." According to IRNA, the slightly fewer than 1 million mourners from all over the country replied with "thunderous" chants of "Death to America." BS
FORMER IRANIAN SPEAKER WARNS OF U.S. PLOTS...
Expediency Council member Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a former parliament speaker and the heavily favored candidate who Mohammad Khatami defeated in the 1997 presidential election, warned Iranians on 4 June that the United States is seeking to overthrow Iran's Islamic system of government by fomenting instability. He said the United States would like to engineer popular uprisings to bring down the Iranian regime, IRNA reported. He explained that in its efforts "to sow discord among the masses to materialize its evil objectives," the United States is aided by some people within the country who weaken Iran's revolutionary institutions "by the heavy criticisms they direct at them." Among these people, he said, are those who claim there are "unelected, powerful bodies in Iran's system." SF
...AS IRGC CLERIC WARNS IRANIANS WHO BACK CHANGE
Also on 4 June, Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), echoed Nateq-Nuri's statements in warning that Iran's "arch-foe" is launching a psychological war by sowing discord, IRNA reported. Some Iranians aid the United States, he said, by "raising unsubstantiated claims that the religious state is inefficient." His remarks came after the IRGC issued a statement on 2 June that said allegations about human rights violations in Iran and a "propaganda campaign" against Iran's nuclear program "are all aimed to disappoint the Iranian people, but to no avail," IRNA reported. As did Nateq-Nuri, Movahedi-Kermani complained that the United States is promoting the idea of holding a referendum in Iran, presumably on the system of rule, as a way to undermine the system, and that "some political camps in Iran are backing the idea." Movahedi-Kermani said change is not needed, but noted that "those favoring change should be removed from the system." SF
47 KILLED IN CLASH WITH TALIBAN IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN...
Fighting erupted on 4 June between Taliban fighters and troops loyal to Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai near Spin Boldak in southern Afghanistan, leaving at least 40 Taliban and seven Afghans dead in the wake of a nine-hour firefight, AP reported. The battle reportedly started in the morning in the town of Nimakai, about 10 kilometers north of Spin Boldak, and spread to the neighboring villages of Populzai and Hasanzai. According to Spin Boldak District Chief Sayyed Fazluddin Agha, 50 soldiers descended on Nimakai following a tip that Taliban fighters, who had been launching sporadic attacks in the region for several days, were hiding in the villages. Another 50 soldiers later reinforced those troops. Agha said it was unclear who was leading the Taliban faction because "they were all killed and nobody is left." TH
...AND COALITION FORCES ARREST 21 GUERRILLA FIGHTERS
U.S. and Italian troops arrested 21 people in a major military operation in the Shahi Kot Mountains in the eastern province of Paktiya, AP reported on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). According to U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Lefforge, the 21 suspected guerrilla fighters were arrested on 2 and 3 June without incident after coalition troops searched 300 vehicles and 800 people as part of a mission dubbed "Operation Dragon Fury." The mission, in which several hundred U.S. soldiers were joined by 150 Italian troops and backed by 20 aircraft, ended on 3 June. Its purpose was to "prevent the re-emergence of terrorism, deny anti-coalition members sanctuary, and prevent further attacks against nongovernmental organizations, coalition forces, and equipment," according to an official statement. TH
AFGHAN LEADER ARRIVES IN THE U.K. TO DISCUSS SECURITY
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai arrived in the United Kingdom on the eve of scheduled talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in which the two are expected to discuss Afghanistan's worsening security situation, stalled reconstruction efforts, and resurgent opium trade, AP reported on 4 June. Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah are accompanying Karzai on the state visit. The delegation intends to explore with London "new ways to expand relations and see how the United Kingdom can play a larger role" in rebuilding Afghanistan and making it secure, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad. Reuters reported that Karzai will likely seek financial assistance from London following Ahmadzai's announcement this week that the country needs $15 billion over the next five years, a figure far in excess of commitments made by international donors since the Taliban regime crumbled in the fall of 2001. The news agency also reported that Afghan officials are fearful the world's preoccupation with reconstructing Iraq will divert attention from their plight. After meeting with Blair on 5 June, Karzai will visit Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, Home Secretary David Blunkett, and Queen Elizabeth II, then give a lecture at Oxford University before returning to Kabul on 6 June. TH
RUSSIA AGREES TO SEND NATO SUPPORT -- BUT NO TROOPS -- TO AFGHANISTAN
A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Madrid on 4 June ended with a pledge by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to lend non-troop support to the alliance's peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan when NATO assumes command of the International Security Assistance Force in August, Reuters reported. Ivanov did not specify what type of support Moscow would provide, but he did say it "has no plans to deploy military forces." Russian troops would likely be an unwelcome sight in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion and subsequent 10-year occupation spawned more than two decades of bloodshed. A NATO diplomat cited by Reuters said Russia was considering extending logistical and intelligence aid, as well as provisional use of its air bases in Tajikistan. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said Russia's offer, which would have been "inconceivable" a few years ago, underscored a marked improvement in relations between Russia and the West. TH
ADB APPROVES $150 MILLION INFRASTRUCTURE-REPAIR LOAN FOR AFGHANISTAN
The Asian Development Bank announced on 3 June its approval of a $150 million concessional loan to rebuild roads, power lines, and natural gas facilities throughout Afghanistan, Dow Jones reported. The loan is the first installment of a $610 million aid package to be disbursed over the next three years for the purpose of rehabilitating infrastructure and managing natural resources. Funds from this round will repair the highway system linking Afghanistan and Karachi, a project expected to reduce poverty for 9 million Afghans by stimulating trade, Dow Jones reports. According to an ADB press release, this disbursement will also help repair damaged power lines in the northern provinces, the electricity system in Kabul, and natural gas production facilities in Sheberghan, including a pipeline to Mazar-e Sharif. The 40-year loan, which bears an annual interest rate of 1 percent, comes with a 10-year grace period. TH