PUTIN CELEBRATES RUSSIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY...
President Vladimir Putin started a new Independence Day tradition on 12 June by receiving representatives of all 89 federation subjects on Moscow's Red Square, Russian news agencies reported. In previous years, celebrations had a less official character. Breaking with decades-long Soviet and Russian security precautions, Putin also allowed jets to fly over Red Square for the first time since the 1950s. The jets released white, red, and blue smoke to create the Russian tricolor. Addressing the audience, Putin said that Russia greets this year's holiday as "a unified country that sees its possibilities and is confident of its own forces," RTR reported. "A country like Russia can be only a strong country," he said. VY
...AND SAYS RUSSIA WANTS APPROPRIATE ROLE IN THE WORLD
Speaking the same day at a Kremlin reception to an audience that included Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Putin said, "Russia cannot claim any special way [of development], but it can claim a place in the world and a view of itself that is appropriate to its rich history, the creative potential of its people, and its enormous size," strana.ru reported. VY
DEFENSE MINISTER PRAISES RUSSIA-NATO COOPERATION...
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who arrived in Brussels on 12 June to take part in the 13 June NATO-Russia Council meeting, told Russian journalists that he will broach the topics of combating terrorism, joint peacekeeping efforts, and military-technical cooperation, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Ivanov said the first year of the NATO-Russia Council was very successful, as both sides achieved concrete results in developing operative compatibility and in preparing an agreement on the joint use of military air transport. He also stressed the importance of Russia's cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan and said the worsening situation there calls for more intense cooperation, as it directly affects Russia and its allies in Central Asia. In addition, he noted the positive role NATO has played in facilitating Russian military reform. VY
...AND VOWS TO ADDRESS FURTHER EXPANDING MILITARY COOPERATION
Immediately upon his arrival in Brussels, Defense Minister Ivanov met on 12 June with his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the possibility of expanding cooperation in combating terrorism, the nonproliferation of weapons, and other defense and security issues, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported. According to Russian media, Ivanov told Rumsfeld that Russia is prepared to cooperate with the United States in developing an antimissile defense system. He also extended an invitation to the U.S. Navy to participate in Russian military exercises in the Pacific Ocean this August. Ivanov also reportedly told Rumsfeld that although Russia's and the United States' positions on global affairs do not always coincide, it is important for the two sides to demonstrate mutual trust and a willingness to compromise in order to continue to strengthen cooperation. VY
RUSSIA SAYS IT WILL NOT SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO IRAQ
Answering a question posed by Russian journalists in Brussels on 12 June regarding the possibility of Russia cooperating with the United States in Iraq as it has in the Balkans, Defense Minister Ivanov said Russia will not send peacekeeping troops to Iraq, newsru.com reported. Ivanov said there is no parallel between the situations in Iraq and the Balkans, and that Russia's mandate for its peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia was set up in a format that is not applicable in Iraq. VY
FATE OF TVS REPORTEDLY SEALED
The electronic daily gazeta.ru reported on 12 June that an all-sports channel will soon begin broadcasting on channel 6 in place of Yevgenii Kiselev's TVS. A federal channel called Sport, created by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), started broadcasting on 12 June on a frequency available only to viewers in the city of Moscow and the Moscow Oblast, according to lenta.ru. Gazeta.ru speculates that TVS's license will be given to Sport once it becomes available again. According to the daily, TVS is expected to go off the air completely at any time, in order to allow the Media Ministry to take advantage of the Independence Day holiday weekend and minimize any protests around the event. JAC
DUMA PASSES CONTROVERSIAL MEDIA BILL...
State Duma deputies managed to pass one of the most controversial bills of the spring 2003 session on 11 June. By a vote of 267 in favor and 38 against, legislators approved in its second reading a presidential bill amending various election laws regarding media coverage, RosBalt reported on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 March 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2003). The bill, which was passed in its first reading in March, amends the law on mass media so that a court can decide to shut down for the entire period of the campaign any media outlet that violates election rules. If an outlet commits more than one violation, its broadcasting license can be canceled. JAC
...AND APPROVES NEW DISTRICT SCHEME FOR DUMA ELECTIONS...
At the same session, deputies also approved a new plan for forming single-mandate districts for State Duma elections in its second reading. The vote was 366 in favor, according to RosBalt. Under the legislation, a single-mandate district should have a population of 478,000 voters. If this new norm is adopted, certain regions, such as Murmansk and Irkutsk oblasts, will lose a district, while others, such as Daghestan and Krasnodar Krai, will gain one. JAC
...AS IT TINKERS WITH SOCIAL POLICY
Also adopted on 11 June was a new framework legislative act that will establish certain minimum social standards for citizens, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, which was passed in its first reading, will require the provision of certain minimum levels of free social services across the territory of Russia. A group of deputies proposed the legislation. JAC
MATVIENKO PROMISES PSKOV JUBILEE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS ST. PETERSBURG'S...
Presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko told reporters in Pskov that the upcoming 300th anniversary of Petrozavodsk and 1,100th anniversary of Pskov will not be as grandiose as the recent jubilee in St. Petersburg, but that the federal government will pay no less attention to these events, regions.ru reported on 11 June. She noted that the Culture Ministry has allotted more than 12 million rubles ($400,000) for the second All-Russia Festival of National Culture, which will take place in Petrozavodsk later this month to celebrate those occasions. At the same time, Matvienko also noted that preparations for the jubilee in St. Petersburg revealed a number of serious problems the city is facing, particularly regarding the state of its monuments, museums, and emergency housing. Earlier in the month, Matvienko said that almost 60 billion rubles were spent on preparations for the city's 300-year jubilee over the past three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). JAC
...AS ENVOY FAILS TO WIN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE ELECTORATE
Meanwhile, a National TV and Radio Research Center poll conducted in May found that Matvienko heads the list of politicians with the greatest number of unnecessary TV appearances. Center director Aleksei Samokhvalov told Ekho Moskvy radio on 12 June that "residents of St. Petersburg were horrified by how frequently she appeared on the screen." Last week, when announcing her candidacy for governor in St. Petersburg, Deputy Governor Anna Markova said that she hoped to "preserve the remains of democracy" in the city with her candidacy, adding that it is "no secret that an artificially importunate election campaign for one person [Matvienko]" has already been launched (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2003). JAC
SARS PATIENT RELEASED...
The first and so far only patient in Russia to have a confirmed case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Denis Soinikov, has been released from the hospital in Blagoveshchensk, Russian media reported on 12 June. Soinikov spent about 40 days in the hospital at a cost of around 300,000 rubles ($9,800), according to local doctor Aleksei Tarasov, regions.ru reported. JAC
...AND FLIGHTS TO CHINA RESUMED
Also on 12 June, Sibir airlines announced that it will resume regular flights to China next month now that the risk of the spread of SARS has eased, ITAR-TASS reported. Flights to Shenyang in northern China will begin in July, and a new regular flight to Dalian, also in northern China, will also be launched in the future, according to a company spokesperson. JAC
SCIENTISTS SET UP COMMITTEE TO PROTECT RUSSIA'S NONRENEWABLE RESOURCES
Duma Deputy Sergei Glasiev (Communist Party) announced on 10 June that a group of left-wing scientists have formed the Committee for the Protection of Russian Citizens' Rights to Mineral Resources, RIA-Novosti reported. The group aims to plead the case that Russian mining companies are usurping national resources that rightfully belong to the entire country, said Glasiev, who will chair the committee. Russia's mineral and other nonrenewable resources are worth some $50 trillion-150 trillion, Glasiev said, adding that the export of such commodities represents two-thirds of the country's exports. The new committee will seek to publish precise profit figures of the companies that currently benefit from those resources, and propose ways that those funds might be redistributed in high-tech industry. The group will back initiatives such as new export taxes, environmental taxes, and increased payments for the industrial use of water. Glasiev said the committee, of which he is chairman, includes Duma Deputy and Nobel Prize winner in physics Zhores Alferov (Communist Party) along with Dmitrii Lvov, who heads the economic department of the Russian Academy of Sciences. VY
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS OPENING SESSION OF NEW PARLIAMENT...
The 17 deputies elected from the opposition Artarutiun bloc and the nine from the opposition National Unity Party (AMK) failed on 12 June to attend the opening session of the parliament elected on 25 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Majority leaders expressed regret at the opposition deputies' absence and said they hope it will not be permanent. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, whose Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) is the single largest faction with 40 seats, told journalists he believes there will be future "opportunities for cooperation" with Artarutitiun and the AMK, with whose chairman, Artashes Geghamian, he said he recently held a "constructive" meeting. The deputies voted formally to confirm the nomination of Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) party Chairman Artur Baghdasarian as speaker and of Tigran Torosian (HHK)) and Vahan Hovannisian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun [HHD]) as deputy speakers. LF
...AND CONDEMNS COALITION GOVERNMENT
Leading members of both Artarutiun and the AMK on 12 June criticized the agreement forged the previous day among the HHK, Orinats Yerkir, and the HHD on sharing power in a coalition government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Artarutiun leader Stepan Demirchian of the People's Party of Armenia said "this deal has nothing to do with the real results of the elections," in which he believes Artarutiun received more than 50 percent of the votes cast under the proportional system. In an interview published the same day in the independent daily "Aravot," Demirchian said he does not believe Artarutiun, which unites some nine parties, will collapse. He said the bloc is ready to cooperate within parliament with "different forces" that share its principles. LF
AZERBAIJAN DENIES IT WILL HOST U.S. TROOPS
Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said on 12 June that he has no knowledge of any U.S. request to the Azerbaijani government to deploy troops at a base on Azerbaijani territory, Turan reported on 12 June. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson was quoted by zerkalo.az on 13 June as likewise denying that Washington plans to establish a military base in Azerbaijan. Parliament Deputy Chairman Ziyafet Askerov noted that parliament would have to approve any such deployment. On 10 June, the "Wall Street Journal" quoted a U.S. general as stating that the Pentagon intends to move some of the 70,000 U.S servicemen currently based in Germany to locations in Africa and the Caucasus, where they would protect strategic oil reserves. That redeployment was said to include the establishing of a small base in Azerbaijan with some 15,000 troops. LF
MORE ELECTION COMMISSION MEMBERS NAMED IN AZERBAIJAN
On 12 June, representatives of four Azerbaijani opposition parties that garnered over 1 percent of the vote in the November 2000 parliamentary elections attended a sortition to determine which three of those parties would be entitled to nominate a member of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Turan and zerkalo.az reported. The Musavat, Democratic, and Azerbaijan National Independence parties won that right. The Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, which initially opposed the sortition, will not be represented on the CEC. However, under an agreement the four parties reached on 11 June, it will have 70 seats on the 250 regional election commissions compared with 60 seats shared among the other three. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT QUERIES ALLY'S WARNING OF ANTICIPATED CHECHEN INCURSION
Eduard Shevardnadze has questioned a statement made at a press conference in Tbilisi on 12 June by Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, leader of the National Democratic Party of Georgia, which is a member of the pro-Shevardnadze For a New Georgia election bloc, Caucasus Press reported. Sarishvili-Chanturia told journalists that Russian security services have co-opted Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, whose men are congregating on the Russian-Georgian border and plan to enter Georgia in either July or August. Russian troops will then invade Georgia in pursuit of the 1,000-strong Chechen band, Sarishvili-Chanturia predicted. She said Shevardnadze has ordered the Georgian Border Protection Service to monitor the situation on the frontier with Russia. But National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze told Caucasus Press later on 12 June that he is not aware of any danger of a Chechen incursion, Caucasus Press reported. LF
GEORGIAN POLICE DETAIN YOUTH ACTIVISTS
Nine members of the opposition youth movement Kmara! (Enough) were detained on 12 June when they tried to write slogans on the walls of the Interior Ministry building, according to Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2. Fifteen more members of the movement were involved in an incident with police outside the state chancellery later the same day. LF
LOCAL PROSECUTOR SUMMONS GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS
The prosecutor of Tbilisi's Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi Raion has summoned leading members of two of the five opposition parties that staged an unsanctioned protest in central Tbilisi on 3 June, Caucasus Press reported on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 June 2003). David Gamkrelidze (New Rightists) and Zurab Zhvania (United Democrats) were questioned on 11 and 12 June, respectively; Giorgi Baramidze (United Democrats) will be questioned on 13 June. Gamkrelidze and Zhvania were warned that organizing an unsanctioned demonstration is punishable by a prison term of up to five years. Zhvania characterized that warning as a reflection of the Georgian leadership's weakness and as moral corruption. LF
NEW KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER CHOSEN
Daniyal Akhmetov, former akim (governor) of Pavlodar Oblast, was presented by President Nursultan Nazarbaev to a joint session of parliament on 13 June as his choice to replace Imanghali Tasmaghambetov, who resigned as prime minister two days earlier. Nazarbaev told the parliament that a new prime minister would need to have experience in oblast government because the country needs to speed up the pace of social and economic development. Akmetov was approved in an almost unanimous vote by 36 of 39 senators and 73 of 77 members of the Mazhilis, khabar.kz and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported the same day. Akhmetov has 10 days under Kazakh law to form a government. Nazarbaev appointed Tasmaghambetov state secretary and told parliament that he had been satisfied with the work of the former prime minister's government, adding that he had not intended to replace it. BB
AKHMETOV SAYS HE BELIEVES IN CONTINUITY FOR KAZAKHSTAN
Newly confirmed Prime Minister Akhmetov told the Kazakh parliament on 13 June that there should be continuity even when governments change, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported, indicating that he intends to make few ministerial changes and that the policies of his predecessor will remain in place. Akhmetov was quoted as saying that Kazakhstan is building a state governed by the rule of law where everyone has the right to freedom of conscience and expression, but that everyone should work within the law. He added that there should be no dissidents, but rather a constructive dialogue in an atmosphere of mutual understanding. He noted that there are presidential programs aimed at making Kazakhstan prosperous and that everyone should be engaged in implementing them. Akhmetov will be 49 on 15 June, Interfax noted; he has been governor of Pavlodar, of which he is a native, since 2001. He has degrees in construction engineering and economics and has held a number of government posts, including deputy prime minister for industry, energy, transport, and communications. BB
UNDP WARNS OF DESERTIFICATION IN KAZAKHSTAN
A UN Development Program report warns that more than 50 percent of Kazakhstan's territory is threatened by desertification, Interfax stated on 12 June, the day the report was circulated in that country. The report noted specifically that 10 to 15 percent of arable land in Kzyl-Orda Oblast (southwest Kazakhstan) is turning into desert every year because irrigation systems are not functioning, and 20 to 25 percent of the pasture lands south of the Aral Sea have been lost due to lack of water. Loss of humus, salinization, chemical pollution, erosion, mining, and oil extraction are cited in the report as other reasons for the loss of arable land in Kazakhstan. All of these problems are well known in Kazakhstan, but the extent of the threat as portrayed by the UNDP may help generate support for basic agricultural reforms. BB
KYRGYZSTAN OPENS 26 NEW BORDER CROSSINGS
The Kyrgyz government has issued a decree ordering the establishment of 26 new border crossings to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, akipress.org reported on 12 June, quoting the government press office. The new crossings are intended to strengthen border control and national security and reduce illegal migration and smuggling, the report said. Most of the new crossing points will be set up on roads, the rest on rail lines. BB
TAJIK PARTY CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF REFERENDUM
The National Movement of Tajikistan has sent an appeal to the countries guaranteeing the peace accord of 1997 that ended the Tajik civil war, requesting them to intervene to force the cancellation of the national referendum on a series of constitutional amendments that is scheduled for 22 June, Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 12 June. The appeal, which was also was sent to the United States, the OSCE, the EU, and other international institutions, was quoted as asserting that the only objective of the referendum is to enable President Imomali Rakhmonov to remain in office for two more terms. His current term expires in 2006. One of the proposed amendments lifts the restriction on the number of terms one person can serve as president. The appeal also calls attention to proposed amendments that would abolish constitutionally guaranteed rights to free higher education, health care, and other social benefits, and states that the government will use all resources at its disposal, including law enforcement and security agencies, as well as falsification of the referendum results, to ensure that the amendments are approved. BB
OFFICIALS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN SEEK WAYS TO STOP HIZB UT-TAHRIR
Administrative, law enforcement, and education officials held a meeting in northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast on 10 June to discuss ways of dealing with the banned Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 12 June. Media representatives were also invited to take part in the meeting, the report said. Oblast Prosecutor Tojiddin Turaev was quoted as saying that there has been a recent increase in the number of Hizb ut-Tahrir members and sympathizers in Sughd because many young people, particularly students, have become involved in the movement. Asia-Plus quoted data indicating that between 2000 and April 2003, some 100 Hizb ut-Tahrir cells were discovered by law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan as a whole, several thousand Hizb ut-Tahrir publications and leaflets were confiscated, and dozens of members were jailed. According to the report, about 20 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in Tajikistan so far this year. BB
TURKMEN REFINERY TO PROCESS SIBERIAN CRUDE OIL
The Russian petroleum firm Yukos plans to send up to 2 million tons of crude oil annually from Siberia for processing in Turkmenistan's Seidi refinery, turkmenistan.ru reported on 11 June. The firm intends to ship the refined oil products to a seaport in Iran. According to the report, Yukos intends to repair the pipeline from Omsk to Turkmenabad (Chardjou), which has not been used since the Soviet Union disintegrated. A contract to process Siberian oil would be most welcome to the Seidi refinery, which has been unable to function at full capacity since its completion. Soviet authorities had concluded that there would be problems supplying the refinery with crude oil and failed to complete the facility, which was finished after Turkmenistan became independent. But the facility had difficulty finding both supplies and customers. One of the refinery's most important customers was Afghanistan, giving rise to the charge that Turkmenistan was supplying fuel to the Taliban. BB
BELARUS DETAILS PLANNED CURRENCY UNION WITH RUSSIA
Pyotr Kalaur, first deputy chairman of the Belarusian National Bank, on 12 June unveiled some aspects of a recent draft accord providing for the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003), Belapan reported. He said both the Belarusian National Bank and the Russian Central Bank would retain their status but the National Bank would have "limited control" over the printing of money as well as over exchange-rate and monetary policies. The Russian Central Bank would supply Belarus with ruble notes after 1 January 2005, and provide the country with an interest-free loan. The agreement would require the Russian Central Bank to coordinate monetary policy with the Belarusian National Bank, but the Russian side's decisions would prevail in issues that directly affect the stability of the ruble. The Belarusian National Bank would be allowed to set the base refinancing rate, buy treasury bills and foreign currencies, and carry out other transactions within limits set by the Russian Central Bank, which would be proportional to Belarus's GDP, currently accounting for 4.1-4.2 percent of the combined GDPs of Belarus and Russia. Kalaur stressed that Belarus may ratify the agreement only after amending its constitution. JM
BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SIGNS ACCORD WITH ORTHODOX CHURCH
Premier Henadz Navitski and Patriarchal Exarch Filaret, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus, signed a cooperation agreement in Minsk on 12 June, Belapan reported. Navitski said the accord does not restrict the government's cooperation with other religious denominations. Filaret called the agreement "a new milestone in relations between the state, the church, and society." He praised the religion law adopted last fall, which many other denominations and human rights groups criticized as discriminating in favor of the Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 8 October 2002). Filaret argued that the accord does not place the Orthodox Church in a privileged position and rejected speculation that the church is seeking any favored status. JM
NEW DEPUTY TO JOIN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT
The Central Election Commission has registered Oleksandr Yaroslavskyy as a Verkhovna Rada deputy, Interfax reported on 13 June. Yaroslavskyy, president of UkrSibbank, won a by-election in Chernihiv Oblast on 8 June with 27.1 percent of the vote. With Yaroslavskyy's swearing in, the Verkhovna Rada will reach its constitutionally prescribed membership figure of 450. JM
FORMER UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RELEASED ON BAIL
The Pecherskyy District Court in Kyiv released Leonid Kozachenko, former deputy prime minister for agricultural reform, on bail on 12 June, Ukrainian agencies reported, quoting Kozachenko's lawyer. Kozachenko was arrested in March on charges of abuse of office, tax evasion, and bribery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003). JM
PARLIAMENT REAPPOINTS BANK OF ESTONIA COUNCIL CHAIRMAN
The parliament voted 43 to 23 with two abstentions to reappoint Mart Sorg to a second five-year term as chairman of the council of the Bank of Estonia on 12 June, BNS reported. President Arnold Ruutel had nominated Sorg, but his appointment appeared uncertain earlier in the week when public ETV television reported that Res Publica planned to nominate another candidate. The party did not do so and did not instruct its deputies on how to vote. This was the last official meeting of the parliament's spring session, but an extraordinary session will be held on 30 June to deal with amendments to the Social Welfare Act concerning students' subsistence benefits. SG
LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
By a vote of 27 to 55 with 17 abstentions, the parliament did not approve a no-confidence resolution against Einars Repse on 12 June, LETA reported. The opposition People's Party had accused the government of not fulfilling campaign promises, of planning an excessive budget deficit, and of authoritarianism for seeking to bring the Constitutional Defense Bureau and the Corruption Prevention Bureau under Repse's personal control (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 11 June 2003). The three ruling coalition parties firmly backed the prime minister, with only the For Human Rights in a United Latvia faction joining the People's Party in seeking his ouster, while the National Harmony Party (TSP) abstained. TSP Chairman Janis Jurkans, said that the ouster effort was prompted by a fear of the fight against corruption that Repse has launched. SG
LAW ON LATVIA'S CORRUPTION PREVENTION BUREAU AMENDED
The parliament on 12 June passed by a vote of 57 to 39 amendments to the qualifications necessary for the post of director of the Corruption Prevention Bureau, LETA reported. Prime Minister Repse's proposal to abolish the previous requirement that a candidate have a law degree was approved. According to the amendments, a candidate must be a citizen of Latvia with a university degree, sufficient work experience, and proficiency in Latvian and at least two other foreign languages; may not have a criminal record; and must meet the requirements for access to classified information. Repse said that the competition for the next director would be "as broad as Latvia has ever experienced," and would not exclude Latvian citizens living abroad. SG
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR COOPERATION WITH LITHUANIA ON ATOMIC ENERGY ISSUE
Georgi Parvanov began a two-day visit to Lithuania on 12 June with a welcoming ceremony in the courtyard of the president's office, ELTA reported. Subsequent talks with President Rolandas Paksas focused on bilateral relations, upcoming membership in NATO and the European Union, as well as the future of the two countries' atomic energy systems. The presidents agreed to urge their governments to speed up the signing of agreements on protecting investments and avoiding double taxation. As Bulgaria is likely to gain EU membership only in 2007, Parvanov was interested in learning more about Lithuania's ongoing negotiations. Bulgaria and Lithuania have a common legacy of Soviet-built atomic power plants, at Kozloduy and Ignalina, respectively, which they have agreed to shut down to comply with EU demands. Parvanov noted that both countries want to build new, modern nuclear reactors but lack the funds, and suggested that they work together in seeking them. On 13 June, Parvanov is scheduled to attend a business forum at the Economy Ministry, meet with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, and attend a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas before flying home. SG
POLISH PREMIER URGES PARLIAMENT TO LET HIM STAY
Premier Leszek Miller appealed to lawmakers on 13 June to support his cabinet in a vote of confidence expected to take place in the Sejm later the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 11 June 2003), PAP reported. Miller urged all political parties to help his cabinet implement tough reforms to prepare Poland for EU membership next year. He said there are "symptoms of economic revitalization" in the country but admitted they have not been felt by Polish families yet. He pledged that his minority government will boost economic growth to 5 percent and reduce the number of unemployed by 250,000 by the end of the current term in 2005. JM
SPAIN TO SEND 1,100 TROOPS TO POLISH ZONE IN IRAQ
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said in Brussels on 12 June that Spain will contribute 1,100 troops to a multinational division in the Polish-administered zone in Iraq, PAP reported. "Our division is based on three brigades: the Polish brigade, including soldiers from other countries; the Ukrainian brigade; and the Spanish brigade [that will] include 1,100 Spanish soldiers, as well as soldiers from Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador," Szmajdzinski said. Poland is to deploy some 2,300 troops in Iraq, while Ukraine pledged 1,700. JM
CATHOLIC TELEVISION STARTS REGULAR BROADCASTING IN POLAND
Trwam Television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2003) began regular broadcasts via satellite on 12 June, PAP reported. Its daily programming will extend from 6 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. and be rebroadcast the next day at 9 a.m. Trwam Television is owned by the Lux Veritatis foundation chaired by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, director of the conservative Catholic Radio Maryja. JM
CZECHS GO TO POLLS IN EU REFERENDUM
Two days of voting in the country's referendum on EU membership began on 13 June, CTK reported. According to the latest polls, some 60 percent of eligible voters plan to cast their ballots, with 70 percent pledging to back EU membership. There is no mandatory turnout for the referendum to be valid, but its results are binding on the government. MS
CZECH PREMIER CALLS ON COUNTRYMEN TO VOTE IN REFERENDUM...
Speaking on state radio and television on 12 June, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla called on Czechs to vote in the 13-14 June referendum on EU membership, CTK reported. Spidla said this weekend's decision is binding and "cannot be reversed." "If we decide 'yes,' the Czech Republic will enter the EU, a union of free, sovereign nations that decided to integrate in order to jointly act when necessary and advantageous.... If we decide 'no',... a curtain will fall along our borders -- not an iron curtain, but still a very palpable one. The Czech Republic will become an island in a united Europe." In an obvious rejection of President Vaclav Klaus's warnings about an EU "supra-state," Spidla said, "The EU is no superstate; it is a free association of nations that -- in the wake of World War II experience -- [decided] to replace the policies of a balance of power with a policy of integration." The new policy has proven itself by ushering in 50 years of peace, said Spidla, who is a historian by training. He also said that in 1947, Czechoslovakia rejected the Marshall Plan under Soviet pressure, and "we paid for this by losing our sovereignty and our prosperity." The premier added: "After long consideration,... I decided that the European project corresponds to our national interest and it is appropriate to join it. However, the decision rests with each of you, and it is only up to you to decide. The Czech Republic and Czech people carry in themselves the great trauma of [decisions made] about us but without us. I think you should not allow anyone to decide about you without you." MS
...BUT WARNS AGAINST 'FEDERAL' EU IN GERMAN INTERVIEW
In an interview with "Berliner Zeitung" of 13 June, Premier Spidla warned against transferring too many powers from member states to the EU capital, Brussels, CTK reported. "We support integration in various political areas, but not the transformation of the EU into a federation," he said. Spidla also said that in the context of the ongoing "historical debate" between the Czech Republic and Germany, Prague owes Berlin nothing. He said the postwar Benes Decrees are valid and will remain so, adding that Czech courts will continue to rule on the basis of those decrees, if necessary, particularly if German citizens attempt to regain property confiscated under the decrees. MS
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NBC UNIT WILL BE PART OF NATO'S RAPID REACTION FORCE
Newly named Defense Minister Miroslav Kostelka told CTK in Brussels on 12 June that a Czech anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit will become part of an international NBC battalion that will operate as part of NATO's Rapid Reaction Force (RRF). NATO's 19 defense ministers the same day approved radical reforms in the alliance, including the creation of the RRF. The RRF should become fully operational within two years of its establishment. Kostelka said the staff and the command of the RRF's international NBC battalion will be located in the Czech Republic, while units of the battalion will have headquarters in various countries. The Czech Republic will also host related training activities. MS
CZECH REPUBLIC OFFICIALLY LIFTS SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ
The Czech government officially lifted economic sanctions against Iraq on 12 June, CTK reported, citing a Foreign Ministry official. The decision to lift the sanctions was taken by the cabinet on 28 May following the relevant UN resolution of 22 May. The Foreign Ministry source said lifting the sanctions is also "a signal for our entrepreneurs...that it is again possible to trade with Iraq in a normal and simple way." More than 300 Czech companies have expressed interest in participating in Iraq's postwar reconstruction. MS
BRITISH-SWEDISH CONSORTIUM DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF BRIBERY IN CZECH GRIPEN DEAL
A spokesman for BAE Systems on 12 June denied allegations that its consortium with Sweden's Saab attempted to bribe senior Czech politicians in order to win a multibillion-dollar contract to supply Gripen jets to the Czech military, AFP and CTK reported. A 12 June report in "The Guardian" newspaper renewed suspicions that attempts were made to bribe politicians involved in the decision on whether to purchase the jets. The BAE Systems representative said the allegations "were groundless when first raised, they were groundless when repeated, and [they] are still groundless when repeated by 'The Guardian.'" The BAE-Saab consortium was awarded the contract in April 2002, after rival U.S. and French manufacturers pulled out of the bidding following suggestions that the outcome was preordained. The Czech government eventually canceled the deal, citing budgetary constraints imposed by the catastrophic floods of August 2002. MS
CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS FORMER PRESIDENT TO BE 'GOODWILL AMBASSADOR'
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on 12 June that he has asked former President Vaclav Havel to act as a "goodwill ambassador" for the country, CTK reported, citing Czech Television. Svoboda said Havel's international prestige and his contacts can help promote Czech foreign-policy goals. The Czech Television also reported that Havel responded positively to the proposal, saying, "I could do several things, which I would anyhow do, even if I did not have official state approval." Havel, a communist-era dissident who stepped down early this year after more than a decade as president, also said he is mainly interested in promoting human rights. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES PENSION HIKE
President Rudolf Schuster on 12 June vetoed a bill to increase pensions, returning it to parliament for further debate, TASR reported. Schuster said the 6 percent hike stipulated in the bill is insufficient and the legislature should consider an 8 percent rise. The bill was to come into effect on 1 July, and the veto will delay its implementation. Lawmakers can still override the presidential veto. MS
SLOVAK MUSICIANS CHARGED WITH RACIST CRIMES
Three musicians from Martin in central Slovakia were detained by police on 12 June and charged with displaying racial intolerance and dissemination of fascist propaganda, CTK reported. Martin police chief Milos Mikula said racist and fascist tapes and leaflets were found during raids on the musicians' flats. Their band regularly performs at events organized by skinheads, including in the Czech Republic and Poland, and has released a compact disk that police allege is based on clearly racist texts. If found guilty, the three face prison sentences of 5-8 years. MS
IDC OFFICIAL EXPLAINS RESOLUTION ON HUNGARY
Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, secretary-general of the International Democratic Center (IDC), sought on 12 June to distance his organization from reports that the IDC effectively accused Hungary of being a "dictatorship," Hungarian dailies reported. Lopez-Isturiz added that a resolution adopted by the IDC leadership in Lisbon last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003) was aimed at condemning political abuses within Hungary's state media. He stressed that, based on information provided by opposition FIDESZ leader and former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, government pressure appears to have been exerted on media outlets. "The IDC will not let itself be drawn into internal disputes, and any interested parties should appeal to FIDESZ for more information," Lopez-Isturiz said, according to "Magyar Hirlap." An unidentified IDC source was quoted by "Nepszabadsag" as saying that, exhibiting the normal ruthlessness evident in Hungarian domestic politics, "FIDESZ seeks outside supporters, as the Socialists evidently do as well." In Budapest, opposition Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David said criticisms such as those expressed in the resolution should be aired in Hungary, not abroad. MSZ
HUNGARY WILL MAINTAIN CURRENT LEVEL OF DEFENSE SPENDING
The Hungarian government has no plans to increase military expenditures but will keep its pledge to allocate 2 percent of GDP for defense spending, Defense Ministry political state secretary Imre Ivancsik told reporters during a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on 12 June, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Military Chief of Staff Zoltan Szenes told the daily that a Hungarian transport unit that is being sent to Iraq to take part in the international stabilization mission will be based in the Polish sector, about 20 kilometers from Babylon. Szenes also said Hungary will soon consider how it can contribute to the earliest possible establishment of a NATO rapid-reaction force. He suggested that Hungary could establish a surveillance battalion, an artillery unit, or a technical contingent. MSZ
STUDY FINDS HUNGARIAN ROMA DON'T LIVE AS LONG AS NON-ROMA
Roma in Hungary die some 10-15 years earlier than non-Roma on average, due in part to factors that stem from a lack of education, high unemployment, and poor housing, sociologist Ferenc Babusik said at a press briefing organized by the Health Ministry on 12 June, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Babusik and Delphoi Consulting recently conducted a research project in the county of Borsod that found that coronary disease is 15 times more prevalent among Roma than the statistical average, and Roma are 11 times more likely to contract tuberculosis than non-Roma. Another recent survey conducted among fourth- and fifth-year medical students revealed that 10 percent of future doctors are strongly prejudiced against Roma and 40 percent harbor a mild prejudice, while just 30 percent claim they are not prejudiced against Roma. MSZ
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT ALLOCATES SUBSIDY FOR EDUCATION OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ABROAD
Education Ministry Political State Secretary Tamas Szabados told "Nepszabadsag" on 12 June that the Hungarian government will allocate nearly 5 billion forints ($22 million) to support education for ethnic Hungarians abroad. He said 3.5 billion forints of that sum will be spent in Romania. Szabados also noted that more than 60,000 students from Transylvania studied in Hungary last year. MSZ
GREENPEACE DEMONSTRATES OUTSIDE HUNGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT
Some 40 Greenpeace activists from Hungary and abroad staged a demonstration on 12 June outside the entrance to Hungary's Paks Nuclear Power Plant to protest a planned extension of the plant's lifespan, Hungarian media reported. Police detained 19 of the demonstrators, who had chained themselves to the plant's gate, and broke up the demonstration, claiming protesters had not reported their plans in advance. Judit Kalovits, press officer for Greenpeace in Hungary, told Hungarian television that her organization insists that power currently being provided in the form of nuclear energy should instead come from clean energy sources. The reactors are set to be shut down between 2012 and 2017, but the government is considering extending the plant's operating life by up to 20 years. Greenpeace claims the plan is irresponsible in light of the 10 April malfunction at the plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2003) and the unresolved question of safe storage of nuclear waste. MSZ
SERBIAN POLICE ARREST WAR CRIMES SUSPECT AMID VIOLENT CLASHES
More than 100 riot police arrested fugitive war crimes suspect and former Major Veselin Sljivancanin on 12 June following 10 hours of clashes with hundreds of his supporters outside his Belgrade apartment that left 10 police and seven demonstrators injured, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His wife later told reporters that he "surrendered voluntarily." He is one of the so-called Vukovar Three, who were indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal in connection with the massacre of up to 300 Croats at Ovcara near Vukovar following the fall of that city in November 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 22, and 28 May 2003). The other two men are already in The Hague. Sljivancanin was on the run from October 2000 until 12 June, when he returned home to celebrate his 50th birthday. The U.S. State Department recently extended until 15 June its deadline by which it wants Belgrade to demonstrate that it is fully cooperating with the tribunal in order to qualify for U.S. aid. In Belgrade on 13 June, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said he hopes the arrest of Sljivancanin will favorably influence Washington's decision. PM
CROATIA DECLINES TO SIGN EXTRADITION PACT WITH U.S...
. Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Simonovic told Hina in Zagreb on 12 June that "Croatia has said 'no'" to signing a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United Sates prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 4, 9, and 11 June 2003). He added, however, that Zagreb still wants a "dialogue" and unspecified "separate bilateral agreements" with Washington. Croatia risks losing $19 million in U.S. military aid if it does not sign an agreement with the United States by 1 July. Croatia and other countries in the region are under strong EU pressure not to accommodate Washington. There is also strong domestic political pressure not to grant immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces when Croatia is obliged to send its citizens to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if it indicts them. PM
...WHILE MACEDONIA PLAYS FOR TIME
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said in Brussels on 12 June that his government will not decide whether to sign a similar extradition-immunity agreement with the United States until after the 21 June EU Thessaloniki summit, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that he hopes the EU and United States will be able to work out their differences by that time. Serbia and Montenegro has taken a similar position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2003). PM
UN VOTE KEEPS U.S. BACKING FOR BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING
The Security Council voted 12-0 on 12 June to extend by one year a measure granting U.S. personnel involved in UN peacekeeping operations immunity from prosecution by the ICC, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 July 2002). Germany and France abstained, arguing that the measure undermines the authority of the ICC. Syria also abstained. Washington maintains that the measure is necessary to protect U.S. citizens against politically motivated lawsuits such as those filed in Belgian courts against General Tommy Franks in conjunction with his role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN James Cunningham called the ICC "a fatally flawed institution," adding that it "is not the law." Washington had threatened to veto Bosnian and other UN peacekeeping operations unless its forces were granted immunity from prosecution. UN peacekeepers in Afghanistan enjoy such immunity as part of the International Security Assistance Force's founding agreement. PM
FRANCE PRESSES NATO TO ALLOW EU TO TAKE OVER BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said in Brussels on 12 June that she told her U.S. colleague Donald Rumsfeld and other NATO defense ministers that the EU should take over Bosnian peacekeeping from NATO despite U.S. objections that NATO still has a job to do there, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). She stressed that "the NATO-EU relationship must be based on transparency and confidence. If some people are permanently suspicious, we will not be able to be effective in our common work for peace and security." Alliot-Marie added that the EU's handling of peacekeeping in Macedonia "could serve as a model." Critics charge that the EU took over in Macedonia only after NATO had done the tough work and at a time when Macedonian officials had come to feel that there is no further need for foreign peacekeepers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April, 30 May, and 10 June 2003). PM
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 'NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT'
On 11 June, the Macedonian parliament approved a "national security and defense concept" that lists terrorism, extremism, and organized crime as the major threats to lasting stability, dpa reported. The plan provides for the formation of a Crisis Management Center (CMK) under the authority of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. The CMK will also include the interior and defense ministers as well as representatives of President Boris Trajkovski. Critics charge that the text is too long and muddled in some points, and that it fails to clarify the reasons for and results of the 2001 interethnic conflict. Others argue that the formation of the CMK runs counter to the division of powers as provided for in the Macedonian Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). UB
SERBIA FINE-TUNES POSITION ON KOSOVA TALKS
The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition said in a statement in Belgrade on 12 June that it endorses direct talks with Kosova's elected authorities, but not on the margins of the EU Thessaloniki summit, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). DOS also said that Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic enjoys its backing despite criticism of him by many Kosovar Serb politicians, including some with links to DOS. Meanwhile, on a visit to Viti in Kosova, Covic called on all communities there with Serbian majorities to form an association (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 February 2003). PM
HUNGARIAN FORMATION IN ROMANIA AIMS HIGH FOR NEXT ELECTIONS
Senator Gyorgy Frunda, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR)'s Council of Union Representatives, said on 12 June that the UDMR strives to garner 7.5-8 percent of the vote in the next parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. Such a percentage would represent more than the proportion of the Hungarian minority in Romania's population. Frunda said the UDMR has a stable electorate, but hopes to also attract votes from the ethnic Romanian population due to its promotion of policies that are geared toward all Romanian citizens. He said he does not fear the possibility that new formations claiming to represent the Hungarian minority will take votes from the UDMR. Such formations "have a populist discourse without any real content," Frunda said. Meanwhile, a formation calling itself the Magyar Liberal Democratic Party, which was set up in the early 1990s but failed to attract a significant number of votes, announced on 11 June that it will reregister under the name Liberal Union of Romanian Magyars, the daily "Adevarul" reported on 13 June. MS
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SAYS THERE WAS NO HOLOCAUST 'ON ROMANIAN TERRITORY'
A government communique released on 12 June announced that the cabinet has approved a cooperation agreement between Romania's National Archives and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The communique added that Romania's government "encourages research concerning the Holocaust in Europe -- including documents referring to it and found in Romanian archives -- but strongly emphasizes that between 1940-45 no Holocaust took place within Romania's boundaries." Observers note that while this statement is technically accurate -- the Romanian Holocaust was mostly, although not uniquely perpetrated on the territory of Transnistria, which was occupied by Romanian troops but was not a part of Romanian territory -- the statement represents an attempt to whitewash Romania's participation in the Holocaust. The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania said in reaction that it is "deeply concerned" and disagrees with the government's statement, and urged the government to "reconsider its openly expressed denial of the Holocaust in Romania." MS
GREECE PROTESTS FAILURE TO ELECT DEPUTY CHAIRMAN AT BSEC MEETING IN CHISINAU
The Chisinau session of the Black See Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) ended in discord on 12 June when Greece protested the failure of its bid for a BSEC deputy chairmanship post, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. After new BSEC rotating chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu of Romania announced that cooperation between the BSEC and the EU will be a priority during his six-month tenure, Greece submitted its candidacy for one of the deputy chairmanship posts. However, in the secret voting that followed, the three deputy chair positions went to the representatives of the Russian Federation, Moldova, and Turkey. This prompted protests from Athens, which drew attention to the fact that Greece is the only current EU member in the BSEC. Albania joined the Greek protests, its representative telling the forum that in the 10-year history of the BSEC no Albanian has ever been appointed to a leading post in the organization. Earlier, the BSEC Parliamentary Assembly voted to accept Moldova's proposal to grant observer status to the Russia-Belarus Union and full membership to Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro. MS
MOLDOVAN PREMIER OUTLINES DIRECTIONS IT WILL TAKE WITH EU...
Addressing a session of the Moldova-EU interparliamentary committee for cooperation in Chisinau on 11 June, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev identified five main ways in which Moldova will seek to intensify cooperation with the European Union, Infotag reported. These include the judicial system and domestic policy; efforts to fight crime; combating drug trafficking; migration policy; and the investment environment. Tarlev emphasized that successful cooperation with the EU is also largely dependent on a lasting settlement of the Transdniester conflict. He said that in order to improve the investment environment in Moldova, a draft bill aimed at creating conditions of equality for domestic and foreign investors has been approved by his cabinet. The bill, he said, offers state security for the free movement of capital and against expropriation and nationalization. He said 2,570 enterprises with foreign capital currently work in Moldova, and expressed regret that only 640 of those companies are from EU member states. The EU co-chairman of the joint committee, Jan Marinus Wiersma, said the EU is ready to render assistance to Moldova in resolving the Transdniester conflict. Wiersma said the EU supports the idea of setting up a federal state that would include the Transdniester. MS
...WHILE PRESIDENT VORONIN CALLS ON EU TO OPEN PERMANENT REPRESENTATION IN CHISINAU
President Vladimir Voronin on 12 June invited the EU to open a permanent representation in Chisinau, Infotag reported. He told Wiersma that such a step would foster cooperation between the two sides. Wiersma said the EU is ready to accept the proposal and pointed out that the EU-enlargement process will have a beneficial impact on Moldova. Wiersma said Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus might eventually gain a status that is "more significant than that of an EU neighbor." MS
BOARD OF OBSERVERS AT TELERADIO MOLDOVA ELECTS LEADERSHIP
The newly established Board of Observers for Teleradio Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 14 March 2003) elected its chairman, deputy chairman, and secretary on 12 June, Flux reported. The board will be chaired by Valentin Beniuc, who is dean of the Academy for International Relations and Diplomatic Studies. Beniuc was appointed to the board by the Moldovan government. His deputy is former parliament member Gheorghe Mazilu, who was appointed to the board by President Voronin. Vitalie Tabunscic, counselor of the parliament's Cultural Committee, will serve as the board's secretary. Tabunscic was appointed a member of the board by the Moldovan legislature. MS
EU COMMISSIONER POSITIVE OVER BULGARIAN NEGOTIATIONS
European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou said after a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi in Brussels on 12 June that she does not believe a final date for the end of Bulgaria's EU accession talks will be fixed at the upcoming EU summit in Thessaloniki, mediapool.bg reported. Diamantopoulou became the first commissioner to state officially that the European Commission wishes to conclude accession talks with Bulgaria before the end of its term in 2004. In a separate meeting, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told Pasi the same day that Bulgaria's program is realistic and achievable, the government's official website (http://www.government.bg) reported. UB
SOCIALISTS PICK MAYORAL CANDIDATE FOR BULGARIAN CAPITAL
The opposition Socialist Party (BSP) on 12 June selected Stoyan Aleksandrov, a banker and former finance minister, to field as the party's candidate for mayor of Sofia in upcoming local elections, Bulgarian media reported. Aleksandrov's rivals are incumbent Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski of the Union of Free Democrats (SSD) and conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Deputy Chairman Plamen Oresharski. The governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) has yet to nominate a candidate; Bulgarian media have suggested that the NDSV is leaning toward Sports Minister Vasil Ivanov. The nationwide local elections are regarded as an important midterm test for the governing coalition. UB
ALLEGED BEATING PROMPTS BULGARIAN-MACEDONIAN DIPLOMATIC ROW
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry issued a verbal demand to Macedonian Ambassador to Bulgaria Ljubisa Georgievski for an investigation into the case of Bulgarian citizen Ana Paskova, who was purportedly beaten and detained by Macedonian police and subsequently fined by a court in Skopje, bnn reported. The court had found Paskova guilty of having sparked a quarrel on a bus in Macedonia by saying that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. On 11 June, Paskova presented her case to Foreign Minister Pasi. Bulgaria has long refused to recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, which has marred the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations. UB
ALL SYSTEMS GO IN CHECHNYA
Since the beginning of this month, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has sacked the government and all local administration heads, paving the way for establishing the new executive power structures and the State Council that is intended to function as an interim legislature pending elections to a new two-chamber parliament.
On 5 June, the Russian government approved amendments to the federal budget allocating some 14.3 billion rubles ($467.3 million) to be paid in compensation to citizens of Chechnya whose homes have been destroyed in fighting over the past nine years. And on 6 June, the Russian State Duma passed in the third and final reading the amnesty bill that the Russian leadership apparently believes will break the back of popular support for the Chechen resistance.
At the same time, Kadyrov himself and Russian presidential commissioner for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov have both come out in favor of holding presidential elections in Chechnya in October 2003. The earliest permissible date for such elections is six months after the adoption of the new constitution, which was approved in a referendum on 23 March, the validity of which the Chechen resistance and some independent observers have questioned. Both prior to and immediately after the March referendum, Kadyrov had advocated holding presidential elections in Chechnya either simultaneously with the December elections to the Russian State Duma or in March 2004. But "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 June quoted Akhmar Zavgaev, Chechnya's representative to the Federation Council, as saying that the Chechen presidential poll will not be held simultaneously with the State Duma elections, and that the anticipated new power-sharing treaty between Chechnya and the federal center will be signed by 10 December. The new Chechen president will sign that treaty for the Chechen side.
Some Russian commentators have construed Kadyrov's move to restructure the cabinet and establish the State Council as a reflection of the Kremlin's endorsement of him as the most suitable presidential candidate. Certainly the cabinet reshuffle has strengthened Kadyrov's hand: "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 10 June that Media Minister Beslan Gantemirov, who last December boasted that his control of the Chechen media would enable him to determine the outcome if the presidential election campaign, has been reappointed to his post but stripped of that of deputy prime minister.
The payment at this juncture of compensation to those Chechens whose homes have been destroyed might also, some observers suggest, be intended to predispose voters in Kadyrov's favor. But "Vedomosti" on 5 June quoted Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Chechnya's deputy to the State Duma, as pointing out that lower-level officials regularly demand a cut of between 25-50 percent for processing claims for compensation. (Perhaps Kadyrov's rationale for appointing new raion administration heads was to select people whom he could count on not to do so.)
Assuming that, at least for the moment, the Kremlin regards Kadyrov as the most appropriate presidential candidate, it is not clear what the basis for that endorsement is. Has Kadyrov indeed become the tail that wags the Kremlin dog? Or is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who reportedly supports Kadyrov (as does presidential envoy to the South Russia Federal District Viktor Kazantsev) not aware of the more alarming rumors surrounding the activities of Kadyrov and his entourage, including the reports of concentration camps. Or is the Kremlin hedging its bets, as Sanobar Shermatova suggested in a commentary run by mn.ru on 1 April. Shermatova quotes unnamed observers as believing that the Kremlin has a "reserve" presidential candidate who will be produced in the event that Kadyrov fails to meet expectations. (One possible such candidate is Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev, who is a former KGB colonel who served most recently as head of the CIS Council on Relations with Muslims Abroad.)
If that is indeed the case, then much might depend on the success of the amnesty declared on 6 June. Kadyrov told Interfax on 9 June his government is drafting a rehabilitation program for those Chechen fighters who take advantage of the amnesty and lay down their arms. He said that despite the shortage of jobs, employment will be found for such young men or, if they prefer, they will be offered the opportunity to complete their education. But at the same time, Kadyrov's newly appointed Interior Minister Ali Alkhanov told ITAR-TASS on 10 June that the police force "will keep a close watch" on former fighters, just as they did in the case of those who surrendered voluntarily in 1999. (According to Aslakhanov, most of those earlier amnesty beneficiaries either subsequently disappeared in Russian mop-up operations or were killed by fellow Chechens.)
To date, only a few dozen fighters have accepted the offer of amnesty, which does not extend to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and several other prominent field commanders. Maskhadov recently warned that the Chechen resistance will intensify its strikes against Russian forces during the summer months. In an interview carried by Daymohk on 9 June, field commander Shamil Basaev similarly affirmed that "we are planning to liberate our homeland from occupying forces," adding that every year since 2000 the Chechen resistance has made plans for a large-scale offensive to retake Grozny as it did in 1996, but every time the operation was thwarted by a leak of information.
AL-DAW'AH OFFICIAL WARNS OF LOOMING CLASH WITH U.S. IN IRAQ
Jawad al-Maliki, a member of the Al-Daw'ah Party's political bureau, told the Beirut-based daily "Al-Mustaqbal" of 12 June that he foresees clashes between the United States and Iraqis in the near future. "The [U.S.] military and political activities in Iraq are pushing things there toward an open clash, especially if the Americans fail to meet the demand by the Iraqi political and religious forces to form a provisional government," al-Maliki said. He added that Iraq's current economic state, coupled with increased joblessness that resulted from the U.S. dissolution of the Iraqi Army and some ministries, compounds Iraqi frustrations with the U.S.-led occupation. Regarding relations among Shi'ite groups, al-Maliki said, "Efforts are continuing to calm the situation and remove differences among the Shi'ite authorities and to coordinate the positions of all parties, although there are some difficulties and hindrances in this respect." He called on Iraqis to continue to pressure the Americans to respond to their political demands, adding, "If political and diplomatic efforts fail, the Iraqis will have no choice but to turn to negative options." In an interview with Beirut's "Al-Safir" on 12 June, al-Maliki said, "We believe there is a chance for dialogue" with the U.S., but he cautioned, "Time is running out." He told the daily that the Al-Daw'ah Party has opened 47 offices throughout Iraq. KR
KURDISH PARTIES TO MERGE ADMINISTRATIONS IN IRAQ
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have decided to merge the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), based in Irbil and Al-Sulaymaniyah, respectively, the KDP's Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on 12 June. KDP head Mas'ud Barzani and PUK leader Jalal Talabani agreed to merge the KRG administrations as a step toward further uniting the two groups, the station reported. In related news, the Kurdistan National Assembly celebrated its 11th anniversary on 9 June, the KRG website reported (http://www.krg.org).
SHI'ITE CLERIC SANCTIONS KILLING OF IRAQI BA'ATHIST LEADERS
Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Sayyid Kazim Ha'iri issued a statement in which he sanctioned the killing of Ba'ath Party figures that participated in criminal acts under the regime of Saddam Hussein regime, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 12 June. Ha'iri said it is acceptable to kill those responsible for the murders and assassinations of Iraqi civilians. Those Ba'athists that did not commit crimes should not be killed, he added. KR
U.S. TROOPS KILL 70 IRAQIS IN RAID ON PURPORTED TERRORIST TRAINING CAMP...
U.S. forces killed at least 70 Iraqis in a raid on a purported terrorist training camp in northwest Iraq, located some 150 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, Reuters reported on 13 June. One U.S. soldier was wounded in the attack, which was launched on 12 June and is reportedly continuing. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) described the raid as "part of the continued effort to eradicate Ba'ath Party loyalists, paramilitary groups, and other subversive elements" in a statement posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). "It's a large operation. It is ongoing," a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters, adding, "It is a large force with special-operations troops." Meanwhile, Reuters reported that some 4,000 coalition troops continue to search an area around the Tigris River northeast of the town of Balad. KR
...AS MILITANTS SHOOT DOWN HELICOPTER...
Militants in northwest Iraq shot down a U.S. Apache helicopter gunship on 12 June, hours after the raid on the alleged terrorist camp was launched, AP reported the same day. The AH-64 Apache helicopter belonged to the 101st Airborne Division, CENTCOM stated in a press release. The two-member crew of the Apache was rescued, as "irregular forces" exchanged gunfire with two Apaches sent to recover the downed pilots, AP reported. They were not injured in the incident, according to CENTCOM. In related news, a U.S. Air Force F-16 CG fighter aircraft crashed southwest of Baghdad on 12 June. "The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat aircraft and was rescued" one hour later, CENTCOM reported. The cause of the incident is under investigation. KR
...AND FIGHTING CONTINUES
U.S. forces killed 27 Iraqis on 13 June after Iraqis attacked a tank patrol north of Baghdad, Reuters reported. The Iraqis fired antitank weapons at the patrol in the town of Balad. According to Reuters, the U.S. tanks returned fire, killing four Iraqis, while helicopter gunships pursued the attackers, killing 23. KR
IRAQI PRISONERS' ESCAPE ATTEMPT FOILED
Two Iraqis being held by coalition forces at Baghdad International Airport attempted to escape on 12 June, CENTCOM announced in a press release. One prisoner was shot and killed in the incident. The second prisoner was recaptured. KR
CLASHES ERUPT IN NORTHERN IRAQI CITY OF MOSUL
Mosul erupted in clashes on 12 June, leaving four Iraqis dead and seven others injured, MENA reported. Three U.S. soldiers were injured when unidentified gunmen threw bombs at a military jeep they were riding in, according to MENA. U.S. troops reportedly opened fire to disperse demonstrators, as helicopters hovered over the demonstration. Reports differ as to the impetus of the demonstration. MENA reported that it stemmed from a conflict between U.S. forces and the "Shame" [as reported] clan, which was given 24 hours to lay down its arms. The clan was suspected of providing a safe haven for family members of deposed Iraqi President Hussein. Meanwhile, AFP reported on 13 June that the protest broke out after the local Mosul administration refused to pay members of the disbanded Iraqi Army. Several hundred former army members tried to storm the government building, witnesses told AFP. The Iraqi ex-soldiers then fired on U.S. troops, presumably prompting them to return fire. KR
IRAQI NEWSPAPER FIRES JOURNALISTS OVER BOGUS RAPE STORY
The Iraqi pro-Shi'a newspaper "Al-Sa'ah" has reportedly fired two journalists after they concocted a story accusing U.S. soldiers of raping two Iraqi girls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). "Al-Sa'ah" reported on 11 June that a team of the newspaper's reporters investigated the fabricated story outside Wasit, where "people there spelled out the alleged crime." However, N'ima Abd al-Razzaq, the newspaper's editor, writes that the medical center in the town exposed the story as false. Abd al-Razzaq said he was disappointed in the response by CENTCOM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003), which reportedly accused the newspaper of backing the outlawed Ba'ath Party and its head, Saddam Hussein. "All topics of the newspaper disclose the oppressive measures the former regime took against the people of Iraq. Our newspaper relies on credibility and freedom of opinion," Abd al-Razzaq wrote. KR
PIPELINE BOMBED IN NORTHERN IRAQ
Two bombs reportedly exploded in an oil field in northern Iraq on 13 June, igniting a fire, Al-Jazeera Television reported. The nearby pipeline transports oil from Iraq to Turkey. The report has not been confirmed. KR
HUSAYN FAMILY FEUD -- GRANDSON SEEKS REVENGE
The grandson of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the son of Husayn Kamil al-Majid, who was killed by the regime when he and his brother Saddam Kamil returned to Iraq in 1996 after defecting to Jordan one year earlier, has reportedly attempted to kill the two sons of Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein and the uncle of Husayn Kamil, London-based "Al-Zaman" reported on 12 June. Ali Hassan al-Majid and Uday Hussein, the deposed dictator's son, were reportedly responsible for the killing of Husayn Kamil and his brother Saddam Kamil. According to "Al-Zaman," Husayn Kamil's eldest son, accompanied by an armed group, attempted to avenge the death of his father. It was not confirmed whether the sons of Ali Hassan al-Majid were killed in the incident, but the daily noted that medical sources confirmed that two members of the al-Majid family were recently killed in Tikrit. KR
TEHRAN DENIES BLOCKING IAEA INSPECTORS
Khalil Musavi, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told Reuters on 12 June that Tehran did not block International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors' access to nuclear sites. "Based on the IAEA's letter which was sent to us, they visited all the places that were mentioned in the letter and they left the country based on the schedule which was mentioned in the letter," he said. An anonymous source told Reuters that the inspectors did not leave Iran "abruptly," as the "Wall Street Journal" had reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003), but the source acknowledged that they were not allowed to collect environmental samples at the Kalaye Electric Company nuclear-power plant in Tehran. Citing a confidential report, Reuters asserted that the IAEA had requested permission to get samples at Kalaye, where Iran has admitted building components for the centrifuges that enrich uranium. BS
IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER COMPLAINS ABOUT ENEMY PROPAGANDA
During his 12 June speech in Veramin, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that enemy propaganda is trying to incite despair among the Iranian people because it recognizes that conventional warfare would fail, state radio reported. He added: "You hear the American officials saying that their policy toward Iran is not war. Yes, they are telling the truth,... war in Iran is not the same as war in Iraq. Here, a whole nation is standing against them -- a nation as brave and as great as this will give the aggressor a hell of a time." BS
IRAN'S CONSERVATIVES ARE BLAMING THE VICTIM IN RECENT ATTACKS ON REFORMIST STUDENTS
The club-wielding thugs euphemistically called "pressure groups" have been in Iranian news lately, most recently for attacking students and other demonstrators at Tehran University this week and, before that, reformist-leaning students at universities in Hamedan, Isfahan, and Tehran. Supreme Leader Khamenei in his 12 June speech in Veramin expressed the conservative faction's outlook on this phenomenon. He blamed the student demonstrators for attracting vigilante attackers, whom he warned not to "enter the arena when others pave the way for riots." In remarks reported by Iranian state radio, Khamenei apparently stated his belief that the students aim to discredit their attackers by provoking "riots and insecurity and then blame the committed [Muslim] youth as the culprit." Khamenei warned the students that they will be crushed if they go too far, saying, "Should the Iranian nation decide to take action against the rioters, it would do the same as on 23 Tir 1378 [14 July 1999, when student demonstrations were quashed and organized counter-rallies took place]," according to state radio. SF/BS
CONSERVATIVE WORRIES FOR 'PRESSURE GROUPS'...
Hamid Reza Taraqi, of the hard-line Islamic Coalition Association, expressed his fears that the pressure groups would get drawn into a situation that would discredit them, according to a 9 June interview with the Fars News Agency. "There are certain factions that believe that the course of their existence, and presence, depends on their embroilment in conflict with the pressure groups," Taraqi explained. "They see themselves, and their renewed presence, as dependent on the provocation of the pressure groups. " SF
...BUT REFORMISTS CRITICIZE 'PRESSURE GROUPS'
Several reformist politicians and journalists, however, did not sugarcoat their condemnation of the conservative faction's "pressure groups" this week. Tehran parliamentarian and former Labor Minister Abolqasem Sarhaddizadeh, in an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency published on 11 June by the reformist Tehran daily "Aftab-i Yazd," explained that, "In mental terms, the pressure groups are extremely feeble-minded." He warned that these are individuals whose "mouths are like the gates of hell and have learned nothing except violence, hatred, and curse." He called on the country's ulema (clerics) to control the pressure groups and "shut those mouths." Though the "pressure groups" are most affiliated with the anti-U.S. conservative faction, some pro-reformists try to discredit them as benefiting the United States. University lecturer Dr. Ja'far Habibzadeh, for example, in an interview published by the reformist daily "Mardom Salari" on 11 June, said that whatever their affiliation, the pressure groups are "pleasing America, which says that there is no right to speak or to hold lawful gatherings in the Islamic Republic of Iran and that the people's representative does not have the right to express an opinion. Does America want anything else but unrest under such conditions? These are people who secure America's objectives. They are either foolish or American elements." SF
IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES SET UP 'BRAINSTORMING' CLUB
The hard-line conservative Islamic Coalition Association has established a political club for "talks," the conservative Tehran daily "Resalat" reported on 9 June. The director-general of the new club, Hamid Reza Taraqi, said it will be a "venue for debate and brainstorming" that will attract the younger generation to the country's political scene. This expanded political development will "create peace in the arena of political rivalry," Resalat reported. The club's first session was to be held on 10 June, during which two "political personalities" were scheduled to debate whether there is a need for political talks. SF
ICG REPORT CRITICIZES CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS IN AFGHANISTAN
In a report released on 12 June entitled "Afghanistan's Flawed Constitutional Process," the International Crisis Group (ICG) says the future Afghan constitution should express the values and aspirations of the Afghan people (http://www.crisisweb.org). However, it notes that the constitution might lack widespread legitimacy because it has been drafted in a secretive and unaccountable manner. The report states that a unique opportunity to create democratic institutions and ensure the future stability of Afghanistan will be wasted unless far greater efforts are made to consult with the population on the development of the new constitution. "The Constitutional Loya Jirga planned in October 2003 should be dropped," ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer said. "Instead, national elections mandated for 2004 should be used to create a national assembly that can conclude work on and adopt a new constitution." RFE/RL Regional Analysis recommended in January that the constitutional process be postponed until a more suitable political climate is established in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003). AT
CONSTITUTIONAL-REVIEW COMMISSION VISITS NANGARHAR PROVINCE...
Three members of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) met on 11 June with Nangarhar Province Deputy Governor Mohammad Asef Qazizada and began the process of collecting information on Nangarhar residents' opinions of the draft Afghan constitution, Nangarhar radio reported. Qazizada said the future constitution "should be comprehensive, Islamic, and Afghan," and be acceptable to all Afghans. The public-consultation process was originally scheduled to last from 1 May to 30 June, but its start was delayed until 1 June. It is likely that the CRC has decided to shorten the time allotted for public consultation and present the Afghans with a document -- the draft of which has not been made public -- without true public participation, as is suggested by a recent ICG report (see above) (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 April and 5 June 2003). AT
...AS COMMISSION HEAD RULES OUT FEDERAL SYSTEM FOR AFGHANISTAN
Nematullah Shahrani, one of deputy chairmen of the Afghan Transitional Administration and the head of the CRC, visited Kandahar Province on 11 June to explain the draft constitution to the people, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 12 June. Shahrani said the new constitution will be adopted in accordance with the principles of Islam, but he did not elaborate whether the new document will make Islamic jurisprudence the basis of law of Afghanistan. Shahrani said the draft constitution contains no provisions for a federal Afghan state. A preliminary draft of the constitution obtained by RFE/RL confirms Shahrani's comments (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 24 April 2003). AT
CLASH BETWEEN WARLORDS IN BALKH PROVINCE LEAVES CIVILIANS DEAD...
Two civilians were killed in fighting in Balkh Province on 11 June between forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, and General Ata Mohammad, commander of the Afghan 7th Army Corps, Radio Afghanistan reported on 12 June. Officials from both sides confirmed the fighting, but refused to provide details. Meanwhile, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 12 June that five people have been killed in the fighting. Karzai on 21 May appointed Dostum as his special adviser, with one of his tasks being disarming the 7th Army Corps. This was seen a potential bone of contention between Dostum and Mohammad Ata, although Mohammad Ata said he would allow Dostum to disarm his forces. The two have fought turf wars in northern Afghanistan since the demise of the Taliban in late 2001 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 and 29 May 2003). AT
...WHILE 12 ARE KILLED IN ORUZGAN PROVINCE
Twelve people were killed during an attack on a bus carrying civilians in the Kajran District of Oruzgan Province on 11 June, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Oruzgan Governor Jan Mohammad Mohammadi said the identity of the attackers has been established, but the report did not further elaborate. Attacks against foreign and as well domestic aid workers and civilians have recently increased in southeastern Afghanistan, apparently as a result of various forces' efforts to instill fear in international agencies and the local population and to plunge the country into chaos (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 June 2003). AT
AFGHAN NARCOTICS PROBLEM BLAMED ON FOREIGNERS
Afghan Antidrug Commission head Abdul Hai Elahi said in a 12 June interview with the Pashtu-language service of Iranian state radio that foreigners are urging Afghan farmers to cultivate opium, and the farmers, in turn, have accepted these demands because of the difficulties they face. Elahi criticized the international community's failure to take the necessary steps to combat drug production and smuggling. He appealed to the Afghan government to take the necessary steps. BS
The 12 June "RFE/RL Newsline" report entitled "Suicide Bomber of ISAF Bus Identified" stated that the perpetrator of the 7 June attack on a bus carrying German soldiers was Abdul Rashid, an Afghan from the Khogiani District of Nangarhar Province. According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, Abdul Rashid, who purchased the taxi used in the attack, did not actually carry out the suicide mission. The ministry said the perpetrator of the attack was a foreigner.