Accessibility links

Newsline - July 2, 2003


COMMUNISTS, LIBERALS BELIEVE INTERIOR MINISTER IS EITHER VIOLATING THE LAW...
A group of State Duma deputies on 1 July appealed to the Justice Ministry to issue a warning to the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, claiming that its leader, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, is violating a federal law prohibiting the combination of governmental duties and political-party activities, Russian media reported. The group includes Communist deputies Sergei Glazev, Viktor Ilyukhin, and Igor Rodionov, and Russian Regions Deputy Georgii Tikhonov. Ilyukhin told reporters in Moscow that Gryzlov has been violating the law, even though he is formally not a member of Unified Russia, RosBalt reported. JAC

...OR THAT HE HAS TOO MUCH FREE TIME...
Interior Minister Gryzlov on 29 June commented that he feels that he is first and foremost the interior minister and that "in my free time, I am a supporter of Unified Russia," Interfax reported. "As chairman of the party's Supreme Council I am responsible for the party's preparations for State Duma elections," Gryzlov said. In an informal survey published on 2 July, "Kommersant-Daily" asked politicians if they think Gryzlov is behaving honestly. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii responded: "[Emergency Situations Minister Sergei] Shoigu and Gryzlov said many times that they are leading the party, but are not members of it. It's impossible to find fault with this legally or formally. [But] this clever variation is possible only in Russia." Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov declared that his party is ready to support Gryzlov's fight against crime, but only if he gives up his post at Unified Russia. Aleksei Volin, deputy director of the government apparatus, declared: "Neither Gryzlov nor Shoigu are party members. They are only sympathizers. Besides, no one has the right to stop ministers from thinking and feeling." JAC

...AS UNIFIED RUSSIA LAWYER JUSTIFIES INTERIOR MINISTER'S PARTY ROLE
Anatolii Kucherena, a well-known lawyer who is also the coordinator of Unified Russia's election campaign, has acknowledged that Russian law bars senior government officials from engaging in political-party activities, strana.ru reported on 1 July. However, he added that Interior Minister Gryzlov fulfills his duties as the head of Unified Russia in his spare time. Kucherena was responding to inquiries by State Duma deputies asking him to justify Gryzlov's dual roles as a party leader and a cabinet minister. Kucherena said that the law does not explicitly forbid officials from engaging in party activity in their off-work hours and during vacations. Asked about Gryzlov's recent announcements regarding the high-profile 23 June arrests of seven senior police officials, Kucherena said that Gryzlov has every right to comment on the performance of his ministry. VY

OFFICIAL PLEDGES THAT INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED POLICE CORRUPTION WILL BE IMPARTIAL
Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 1 July, Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev said that the cases of the recently arrested senior police officials accused of massive corruption and links with organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 25, and 30 June 2003) will be investigated impartially and in strict accordance with the law, Russian media reported. He acknowledged widespread criticism that the arrests are part of a pre-election promotional campaign for Unified Russia, which is headed by Interior Minister Gryzlov, but said that it is pointless to argue with such comments. "Everybody is entitled to have their own opinion," Vasilev said. "Russia has a civilized system of justice that conforms to international standards." Vasilev also said that because of public concerns about this case, it will be kept under meticulous and impartial control, including public scrutiny. VY

OLIGARCH TO TAKE OVER LEADING BRITISH SOCCER CLUB
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor and leading Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich will purchase a 50.09 percent stake in the London-based Premier League Chelsea soccer club for $98.6 million in cash, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 1 July, citing a press release from the team's owner, Chelsea Village Plc. According to Bloomberg, Abramovich will extend the same offer of $0.58 per share to the team's other shareholders. He will also assume the team's debts, which stand at more than $116.5 million. Abramovich, who is 36 and was recently listed by Britain's "Sunday Times" as the 19th richest person in Europe, is the major shareholder of oil giant Sibneft, which owns one of Russia's best hockey teams, Omsk-based Vanguard, the BBC and sovsport.ru reported. Although Chelsea Village Plc. described the sale as "fair and reasonable," British MP and former Sports Minister Tony Banks called for an inquiry into the sale, the BBC reported. "I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea," Banks was quoted as saying. VY

BORDER GUARDS ARRESTED FOR ALLEGEDLY HELPING CRIMINAL SUSPECTS TO FLEE THE COUNTRY
Three officers from the border-guard service were arrested in Moscow on 1 July on suspicion of helping wanted criminal suspects to escape abroad, ORT, gazeta.ru, and ITAR-TASS reported. Among those arrested was Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Karpov, who headed the border-guard unit at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, Russia's main international gateway. According to police sources, Karpov and the others, with the help of the owner of a private security agency, charged $3,000-$10,000 to smuggle wanted criminal suspects out of the country. The officers allegedly created fake foreign passports and counterfeit U.S. visas, to which they added genuine authorization stamps and then entered them into the country's computer database. Interior Ministry Main Moscow Directorate spokesman Filipp Zolotnitskii said that police confiscated 40 fake passports and a list of 15 people who had already been smuggled out of the country, but he did not divulge any of those names. He said that many more than those 15 suspects were involved. VY

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN CASE OF SLAIN DEPUTY
Genri Reznik, one of Russia's most prominent human rights lawyers and the head of the Moscow Lawyers Chamber, has declined to defend Mikhail Kodanev, the co-chairman of the Liberal Russia party splinter group that supports self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, who was arrested on 26 June for allegedly ordering the killing of Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 July. Reznik said that he had preliminarily told Berezovskii that he would defend Kodanev, but that he changed his mind because of concerns that doing so would jeopardize the work of the Moscow Lawyers Chamber, according to the daily, which is controlled by Berezovskii. The tycoon was quoted as saying that Reznik's decision "testifies to the elimination of independent lawyers in Russia." Aleksandr Vinnik, who was arrested on 25 June, has reportedly confessed to killing Yushenkov on Kodanev's order, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. VY

NEW ANTIDRUG AGENCY UP AND RUNNING
President Vladimir Putin on 1 July met in the Kremlin with State Committee on Drug Trafficking Chairman Viktor Cherkesov, who briefed the president on the status of his new agency, strana.ru and ORT reported. Putin issued a presidential creating the State Committee on Drug Trafficking on 11 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 2003). Cherkesov reportedly told Putin that the committee began working at full capacity on 1 July. Ultimately, the committee will have a staff of 40,000 people, which is roughly twice as many as formerly dealt with narcotics issues in all of the country's law enforcement agencies. He also told Putin that he is paying particular attention to security issues within the agency because experience has shown that the narcotics underworld is often able to corrupt law enforcement personnel. In an interview with RosBalt, which is headed by Cherkesov's wife, Natalya Chaplina, Cherkesov said the committee will be a full-fledged security agency not only investigating drug trafficking, but also looking into crimes that are often associated with narcotics, such as corruption and money laundering. He said the committee will monitor the country's legal pharmaceutical sector and represent Russia internationally in the area of antidrug law enforcement. VY

CONTROVERSIAL KRASNOYARSK BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED, RELEASED...
A Krasnoyarsk Krai court on 1 July sentenced former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov to one year in prison for his involvement in the 1996 murder of local businessman Oleg Gubin, Russian media reported. The court then immediately released him under the terms of a State Duma amnesty issued in 2000 on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of victory in World War II, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 July. The prosecutor, who had asked that Bykov be sentenced to nine years in prison, said he plans to appeal the court's sentence, and Bykov has also said that he will appeal his conviction. According to "Vremya novostei" on 2 July, prosecutors accused Bykov of not only being aware that the murder had been planned and of helping those who carried it out, but also of creating a criminal organization. However, the court dismissed the second charge. JAC

...AS COMMENTATORS MARVEL AT COURT'S LENIENCY
State Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Grishankov (People's Deputy) called the krai court's sentence "evidence of the complete lack of legal boundaries in Russia," "Vremya novostei" reported. Oleg Nechiporenko, general director of the National Anticrime and Antiterrorism Foundation, expressed surprise that the court ruled Bykov eligible for the 2000 amnesty. "I don't understand what our victory in the Great Patriotic War has to do with people who were charged with murder," Nechiporenko said, according to RIA-Novosti. "It turns out that our war veterans have paid again with their blood for the freedom of a Krasnoyarsk mafioso." The analytical website polit.ru noted that the last time Bykov was sentenced for his involvement in the murder of another businessman, Bykov became a local legislator, an office which carries with it immunity from criminal prosecution. Therefore, the website suggests it is not unreasonable to expect that Bykov will now participate in the 7 December State Duma elections. Bykov told journalists on 2 July that he will resign his seat in the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature as of September, RTR and other Russian media reported. However, sources within the legislature have said that lawmakers will consider removing him before that date. JAC/RC

NEW AUTO-INSURANCE LAW COMES INTO EFFECT...
A law requiring car owners to purchase automobile insurance came into force on 1 July, Russian media reported. However, no fines will be imposed for not having insurance until 1 January, RTR reported. According to the station, most car owners are not aware of the new law. According to "Vremya-MN" on 2 July, many traffic-police officers breathed a sign of relief when the law came into force, because they will have less work to do. However, this is "not because drivers who get into accidents will be able to simply exchange information about the insurance policies and not even call the police as they do in the United States." Under the new law, an inspector is required to participate in the investigation of any accident or the insurance company will not have to provide compensation. However, if the drivers involved do not have policies, then the traffic inspectors are simply to do nothing. JAC

...BUT CRITICS SAY ONLY THE INSURANCE COMPANIES BENEFIT
The Movement of Russian Motorists (DAR) believes that the law raises revenue for insurance companies, but does not give ordinary drivers much in return, polit.ru reported on 1 July. DAR Vice President Leonid Olshanskii argued that in many cases the compensation provided will not cover the real losses suffered. JAC

'OPPOSITION' NEWSPAPER REAPPEARS MINUS CONTROVERSIAL TYCOON
After a four-month hiatus, the daily "Novye izvestiya" reappeared on 1 July with a declared print run of more than 40,000 copies, polit.ru reported, citing Editor in Chief Valerii Yakov. According to Yakov, the new "Novye izvestiya" "will not be as loyal to the authorities as the majority of [other] publications." Yakov received from former proprietor Oleg Mitvol the right to use the newspaper's old name. The chief investor in the newspaper is the Alyans group, and according to Yakov, the new paper has no relationship to self-exiled tycoon Berezovskii, who provided the financing for the old version of the paper. Former "Novye izvestiya" Editor in Chief Igor Golembiovskii now works for "Russkii kurer," according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 July. JAC

TOMSK ON TRACK FOR SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS
Legislators in Tomsk Oblast voted on 1 July to set 21 September as the date for the oblast's gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported. Incumbent Governor Viktor Kress is expected to seek a third term and to win it easily. Kress reportedly enjoys a close relationship with oil giant Yukos (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 23 January 2003). JAC

ANOTHER ASIAN DIPLOMAT BEATEN UP IN MOSCOW
An unidentified assailant struck a Vietnamese diplomat in the face on a Moscow street on the evening of 30 June, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. According to the agency, Moscow police believe the attack can be attributed to hooliganism. Earlier in the month, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported that a Chinese diplomat was beaten up by a gang of hooligans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2003). JAC

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT FIRES YEREVAN MAYOR
Robert Kocharian issued a decree on 1 July dismissing Robert Nazarian from the post of mayor of Yerevan, which he had held since January 2001, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Nazarian was appointed to chair a state commission regulating public utilities and other so-called natural monopolies, including the Greek-owned Armentel telecommunications operator. Nazarian's pro-presidential Hzor Hayrenik (Mighty Fatherland) party garnered only 3 percent of the vote in the 25 May parliamentary elections, failing to win a single seat in the new legislature. Kocharian simultaneously named as the capital's new mayor Yervand Zakharian, who previously headed the government's tax-collection agency. Zakharian is succeeded in that post by Feliks Tsolakian, a senior member of the presidential staff. LF

AZERBAIJAN AGAIN RULES OUT TALKS WITH KARABAKH OFFICIALS
Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), told journalists in Stepanakert that his republic should participate in talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on how the Karabakh conflict should be resolved, Interfax reported on 1 July. Ghukasian said that if talks under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group on how to resolve the conflict resume, the NKR should be included. But Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev told Interfax the same day that Azerbaijan does not consider Nagorno-Karabakh a party to the Karabakh conflict and consequently will not conduct negotiations with its leaders. He said the core of the conflict is Armenia's territorial claims on Azerbaijan, and that a solution to the conflict must preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTER RESENTENCED
Following a 13-month court hearing, Azerbaijan's Appeals Court on 1 July handed down an 11-year sentence to former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov, according to Interfax on 1 July and zerkalo.az on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2002). The court found Hamidov guilty of embezzlement, abuse of his official position, and causing grievous bodily harm. Hamidov was arrested in March 1995 and sentenced in September of that year to 14 years' imprisonment on the same charges. The Council of Europe, which considers him a political prisoner, had demanded a retrial. On 1 July, Hamidov's lawyers denounced the new verdict as "criminal" and entirely politically motivated, and said they will appeal it. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE AGAIN BREAK UP UNAUTHORIZED PROTEST
Police in Baku on 1 July forcibly prevented a small group of members of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) from holding an unauthorized demonstration outside the Central Election Commission building to demand that party Chairman Rasul Guliev be allowed to return from his self-imposed exile in the United States to contest the presidential elections scheduled for 15 October, Turan reported. Ten demonstrators were detained. The ADR attempted a similar protest on 18 June, jointly with the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, and another on 28 June. Both demonstrations were broken up by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 June 2003). On 2 July, zerkalo.az observed that the small number of participants in ADR protests casts doubts on Guliev's claims to be a major player in Azerbaijani politics. To qualify for such status, a party should be capable of mobilizing at least 30,000 supporters, the online paper commented. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS MINISTERS' PARTICIPATION IN PRESIDENTIAL-ELECTION CAMPAIGN
In a statement released on 1 July, the opposition Musavat party protested what it termed the illegal interference of government ministers in the ongoing campaign for the 15 October presidential election, Turan reported. The statement singled out visits by Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev to rural areas to campaign on behalf of President Heidar Aliev. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION AGREES ON OPTIMAL COMPOSITION OF ELECTION BODY...
During consultations on 1 July, most Georgian opposition parties represented in parliament approved a proposal by election-law expert Vakhtang Khmaladze (Union of Entrepreneurs) on the optimal composition of the new Central Election Commission, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2003). Khmaladze suggested that two of the 15 CEC members be nominated by the president, one each by the republics of Abkhazia and Adjaria, two each by the three parties (the Union of Citizens of Georgia, the Revival Union, and the Union of Entrepreneurs) that garnered more than 7 percent of the vote in the 1999 parliamentary elections, and one each by the five parties that polled 4 percent or more of the vote in 1999 (Labor Party, National Movement, United Democrats, New Rightists, and Ertoba [Unity]). The CEC would adopt decisions by a two-thirds majority. LF

...WITH ONE DISSENTING VOICE
On 2 July, representatives of the National Movement (EM), which did not participate in the previous day's talks, said that Khmaladze's blueprint is unfair because it would grant the Labor Party -- which is neck-and-neck at the top of opinion polls with the EM -- two seats on the CEC while the EM would have only one, Caucasus Press reported. President Eduard Shevardnadze, whom parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze briefed late on 1 July on the talks, proposed convening a joint meeting of government and opposition representatives to coordinate a final decision on the composition of the CEC. LF

GEORGIAN COMMISSION DISCUSSES ABKHAZIA...
Senior Georgian officials met on 1 July to discuss issues related to the Abkhaz conflict, including the planned resumption of rail traffic from Russia via Abkhazia to Georgia and Armenia, the situation in the Kodori Gorge, and prolonging the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile and who advocates military action to restore Georgia's control over the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, walked out of the meeting to protest the Georgian leadership's willingness to prolong the peacekeepers' mandate. Nadareishvili had demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers, according to the Caspian News Agency, and said the Georgian Foreign Ministry should ask the UN to mount a "peace-enforcement" operation in Abkhazia. According to a poll of 2,060 Georgian citizens conducted by the Mzera television station, 74 percent believe Georgia can win Abkhazia back only by military force, while only 11 percent believe the conflict can be resolved peacefully, and 15 percent do not believe Abkhazia will ever return to Georgian jurisdiction, Caucasus Press reported on 27 June. LF

...AS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ABJURES NEW WAR
Addressing the constituent assembly in Tbilisi of the Organization of Fugitives from South Ossetia, President Shevardnadze said on 1 July that "as long as I am president of Georgia, I will not allow the use of arms against Abkhazia or South Ossetia," ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said calls by some Georgian politicians for a new military campaign to restore Georgian control over those unrecognized republics are "unacceptable," and that both conflicts can be resolved peacefully. He singled out as the most difficult problem with regard to South Ossetia reaching agreement with that republic's leadership on the region's political status within Georgia in order to permit Georgians who fled South Ossetia in 1991-92 to return to their homes, Interfax reported. LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER SACKS POWER MINISTERS
Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, fired his defense, interior, security, and justice ministers on 1 July, as well as the head of the National Security Council and the head of the Customs Service, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported. Parliament deputy Bala Bestaev has been named defense minister, and Oleg Alborov state security minister. South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murad Dzhioev told Interfax the personnel changes are intended to make the work of the respective ministries and other government bodies more efficient. Dzhioev denied Georgian media reports, including one by rustavi2.com, that police tried unsuccessfully to arrest Security Minister Robert Taboev and Security Council head Albert Tedeev, and that the commanders of the Defense Ministry and Security Ministry troops were injured in shootouts in Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized republic. Local Georgian police chief Aleko Sukhitashvili confirmed to Caucasus Press on 1 July that shooting was heard in Tskhinvali that morning, but added that the Georgian Interior Ministry will not send additional troops to the disputed region. In Tbilisi, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili welcomed the dismissals as "the beginning of a wholesome process," Caucasus Press reported on 2 July. He claimed that Albert Tedeev and his brother Valerii (the dismissed South Ossetian defense minister) were involved in criminal activities. LF

12 MORE PRISONERS ESCAPE FROM GEORGIAN JAIL
Twelve men serving jail terms for violent crimes escaped late on 1 July from a prison in Rustavi, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Two have since been recaptured. Caucasus Press said the escapees injured and overpowered a prison guard, while rustavi2.com said another guard helped them escape. It is the second such mass jailbreak within one week, and brings the total of escaped prisoners still at liberty to 45 (see upcoming "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 3 July 2003). LF

ARMENIANS IN GEORGIA PROTEST THEY WERE PREVENTED FROM MEETING WITH KOCHARIAN
The heads of two organizations representing Georgia's large Armenian minority have said they were detained by police on 28 June and thus forcibly prevented from meeting in Tbilisi with visiting Armenian President Kocharian, according to the Russian-language website of the independent newspaper "Azg" on 1 July, as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Mikhail Tadevosian, who heads the coordinating council of Armenian organizations in Georgia, said he will ask the Georgian parliamentary commission on human rights, the OSCE and the Armenian and U.S. embassies in Tbilisi to determine the reasons for his detention. Seyran Gabrielian, head of the NGO Sayat-Nova, claimed that those handpicked Armenians permitted to meet with Kocharian do not represent the Armenian community in Georgia. LF

U.S. TO REDUCE AID TO KAZAKHSTAN BECAUSE OF ECONOMIC SUCCESS
U.S. President George W. Bush has asked Congress for $32 million for assistance to Kazakhstan in 2004, $10 million less than in 2003, khabar.kz reported on 1 July. State Department acting Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia Thomas Adams said that the reduction is a response to Kazakhstan's considerable progress in carrying out economic reforms. Adams reportedly added that Kazakhstan has the best prospects for economic development of any former Soviet republic, and according to U.S. assessments it is now the richest state in Central Asia, thanks to its oil and other mineral resources and its modern economic system. For these reasons, Washington is reportedly considering eventually ending all economic assistance to Kazakhstan. Since 1992, Kazakhstan has received almost $1 billion in U.S. aid. BB

KAZAKHSTAN REOPENS BORDER WITH CHINA
Kazakhstan reopened its border with China as of 1 July, Khabar.kz reported, adding that citizens of both countries are already crossing in both directions at the Khorgos border post, the most heavily used road crossing point between the two countries. The Kazakh border with China was closed in May to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2003). Road, rail, and air communications with China ceased, with the exception of Kazakh or Chinese citizens returning home. Khabar noted that the measures kept SARS out of Kazakhstan, and that not a single case of the illness was reported in Kazakhstan or anywhere else in Central Asia. But the two-month cessation of trade with China cost the Kazakh budget more than $700 million. The other Central Asian states, except Turkmenistan, took similar measures to prevent the spread of SARS. Kyrgyzstan's health minister has recommended that his government reopen that country's border with China, akipress.org reported on 29 June. BB

KAZAKH OPPOSITION FIGURES REJECT ACCUSATIONS OF TAX EVASION
Two prominent Kazakh opposition figures, Republican People's Party leader Amirzhan Kosanov and former editor of the newspaper "SolDat" Ermurat Bapi, told a news conference in Almaty on 1 July that the authorities have unjustly accused them of tax evasion, Interfax-Kazakhstan and Deutsche Welle reported. Kosanov said the tax police are charging him with failing to pay income taxes for the last five years. His political party originated as a nongovernmental organization and received grants as an NGO, but Kosanov said the grants are now being considered taxable party income and the tax authorities are demanding 5 million tenges ($34,000). Bapi told journalists that he is being investigated for tax evasion, and the tax police prevented him from receiving a visa to attend the European Parliament hearings on the "Kazakhgate" bribery scandal that are scheduled to begin on 3 July in Strasbourg. BB

UZBEK DIASPORA IN KAZAKHSTAN ELECTS NEW HEAD
Dustlik, an association of ethnic Uzbeks living in Kazakhstan, held a congress over the weekend in South Kazakhstan Oblast, electing a new president and voting to move the association's headquarters from Almaty to Shymkent, the administrative center of South Kazakhstan Oblast and the largest Kazakh city near the border of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Today reported on 30 June. Rozakul Khalmuradov, head of the South Kazakhstan Oblast Disciplinary Council, was elected to head Dustlik and to act as spokesman for the 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks living in Kazakhstan, most of them in South Kazakhstan Oblast. The greatest problem Kazakhstan's ethnic Uzbeks face, according to the report, is obtaining quality education in their native language. Dustlik is calling for the Kazakh Education Ministry to conduct examinations in Uzbek and to provide grants for the study of Uzbek language and literature. The association is also trying to restart the rebroadcasting of television programs from Uzbekistan. BB

TAJIKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN AGREE ON SIMPLIFIED BORDER-CROSSING RULES
The current round of talks in Bishkek between Tajik and Kyrgyz officials on delimiting the common border between the two countries has led to an agreement on simplified border-crossing procedures, tajikistan.tajnet.com and kabar.kg reported on 1 July. The simplified procedures apply to both cargo and people. The Kyrgyz government's press service announced that the two sides have also agreed on procedures for exchanging the aerial photographs and topographic maps needed for the border-delimitation process. This is the third round of such discussions. Previous sessions were held in late 2000 in Bishkek and in spring 2003 in Dushanbe. The main sticking point in the progress of the discussions -- continued use by Tajik citizens of a piece of land belonging to Kyrgyzstan -- was resolved between the rounds of formal talks. BB

MAYOR OF TURKMEN CAPITAL PROHIBITS ALL DOMESTIC ANIMALS EXCEPT DOGS AND CATS
Ashgabat Hyakim (mayor) Amangeldy Rejepov has issued a decree forbidding residents of Ashgabat from keeping any domestic animals other than dogs and cats within the city limits, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 July. The decree also covers any type of bird. The official explanation for the decree is that in recent years a number of villages have been incorporated into Ashgabat. The villagers traditionally kept sheep, goats, cattle, camels, and poultry, and they have continued to do so. In fact, chickens are kept in the courtyards of homes throughout the city, and many people earn money by selling eggs in the city markets. Others believe that keeping their own chickens is an effective measure against salmonella. Other livestock is also common in residential areas outside the center. Although Rejepov's decree exempts dogs and cats from the prohibition on keeping domestic animals, municipal authorities organize periodic campaigns of shooting "stray" dogs and cats in residential areas. BB

TURKMENISTAN ACCUSES DEUTSCHE WELLE OF DISSEMINATING FALSE INFORMATION
The Turkmen authorities have accused Deutsche Welle of disseminating false information because of a report on the confiscations by Turkmen security officers of apartments inhabited by holders of dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), turkmenistan.ru reported on 1 July. The Deutsche Welle report set off investigations by Russian media that confirmed and added detail to the story. According to turkmenistan.ru, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry has sent a note to its German counterpart, expressing "serious concern" over Deutsche Welle broadcasts concerning the termination of dual citizenship and particularly the apartment-confiscation story. The Foreign Ministry's note calls the story "a flagrant falsification intended to deliberately distort reality and create an atmosphere of distrust in Turkmen society." After accusing Deutsche Welle of taking an active part in a purported propaganda campaign against "independent, neutral Turkmenistan," the note asks the German Foreign Ministry to take measures to prevent the German media from reporting "slanderous material" against Turkmenistan. Similar demands have been made of the Russian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2003). BB

KARAKALPAK OFFICIAL COMPLAINS OF INACTION ON SAVING ARAL SEA
The director of the Nukus branch of the executive council of the International Fund to Save the Aral (IFAS) has said that the heads of state of the countries affected by the drying up of the Aral Sea must agree on what the fate of the sea should be and declare a moratorium on the construction of new water projects, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 July, quoting an interview in "Pravda vostoka." Ubbiniyaz Ashirbekov noted that this has not been done, but the Karakalpak branch of IFAS launched a project in 2001 to create a series of small reservoirs in the Amudarya delta to try at least to maintain the ecosystem. Karakalpakstan is the part of Central Asia that has been most severely affected by the drying up of the Aral, and its officials are constantly in search of foreign assistance to help the republic cope with the effects. BB

BELARUS PUTS THE BRAKES ON CURRENCY UNION WITH RUSSIA
Belarus has postponed the introduction of the Russian ruble in noncash transactions that was planned for 1 July, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "A decision by the head of state is necessary to make this step, but a [relevant] draft presidential decree, which was prepared by the National Bank in coordination with the government, has not been signed yet," Belarusian National Bank spokesman Anatol Drazdou said. Another National Bank official, Syarhey Dubkou, told journalists that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka returned the draft decree to the government last week for further examination. Dubkou said that scrutiny might take at least a month. The introduction of the Russian ruble in noncash transactions in Belarus is potentially a major step toward a Russia-Belarus currency union. The next planned moves are the pegging of the Belarusian ruble to the Russian ruble on 1 January 2004 and the introduction of the Russian ruble as the sole currency in Belarus on 1 January 2005. In the past two weeks, Lukashenka has repeatedly signaled that Belarus might back down on the currency merger. He claimed that Russia does not want to offer Belarus equal terms in the planned union and thus threatens his country's sovereignty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 June 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO START MISSION IN IRAQ IN SEPTEMBER
A Ukrainian brigade of some 1,800 peacekeepers will start its mission in the Polish-administered sector of Iraq on 1 September, Interfax reported on 2 July, quoting the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's press service. The brigade, a part of the Polish-led international division, will be deployed at a military airfield in Al-Kut, the capital of the Wasit Governate. Wasit's population is roughly 800,000 people, most of whom are Shi'a. The Ukrainian peacekeepers will replace 1,200 U.S. Marines who have been in Wasit for three months. Their duties will include patrolling two highways that connect the southern part of the country with Baghdad, escorting humanitarian cargos, and guarding the 120-kilometer border with Iran. JM

CANADA IMPOUNDS UKRAINIAN PLANE OVER DEBT CLAIM
Ukraine's State Property Fund has dismissed as "groundless" a claim by Cyprus-based TMR Energy Ltd. that the fund owes the company $42.3 million in connection with a 1993 contract involving the modernization of the Lysychansk Oil Refinery in eastern Ukraine, Interfax reported on 2 July. The claim was recognized by the Stockholm Arbitration Court in May 2002. Following a decision by a Canadian federal court recognizing the validity of the Stockholm ruling on Canadian territory, Canadian authorities on 26 June impounded a Ukrainian An-24 Ruslan cargo plane at a military base in Newfoundland. The cost of a Ruslan plane is estimated at $50 million-150 million. The Ukrainian State Property Fund has vowed to appeal the Stockholm court's ruling. JM

CREW JAILED AFTER GREEKS FIND EXPLOSIVES ABOARD UKRAINIAN CARGO SHIP
Greek prosecutors have charged the crew of a Ukrainian ship, "Baltic Sky," with illegally shipping nearly 700 tons of explosives to Sudan, Ukrainian Television reported on 1 July, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy. The ship was detained in Greece on 22 June and its crew of five Ukrainians and two Azerbaijanis was jailed in the town of Ioannina. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES COST-CUTTING PLAN
The cabinet on 1 July discussed the government's cost-cutting plan at its regular weekly meeting, BNS reported. Prime Minister Juhan Parts told reporters before the meeting that the plan is intended not so much to curb spending, as to achieve better results at a lower cost. He declined to say how much money the plan is expected to save, but promised to keep the public informed as the development of the plan progresses. He said the plan deals with three major areas: establishing a flexible administrative structure, making investments only where it is really necessary, and preventing unnecessary spending at the end of the year. The daily "Eesti Paevaleht" reported that the plan calls for halting the creation of new government jobs and for cutting some benefits, such as automobiles, that are provided to government officials. SG

MONGOLIAN PRESIDENT PAYS OFFICIAL VISIT TO LATVIA
Natsagiyn Bagabandi completed his tour of the Baltic states on 1 July in Riga, where he was welcomed by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, LETA reported. Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete and Martins Bondars, who heads the Latvian president's office, also participated in talks between the two presidents that primarily focused on the expansion of economic cooperation. Bagabandi pointed out that Mongolia was the first Asian country to recognize Latvia's independence in 1991 and that many Latvian products are highly valued in Mongolia. He also spoke at a Mongolian-Latvian business forum and met with Prime Minister Einars Repse and with parliament speaker Ingrida Udre. Several Latvian-Mongolian agreements on culture, education, and science were also signed during the visit. SG

SECOND LITHUANIAN PEACEKEEPING UNIT TO SERVE IN KARBALA, IRAQ
Head of the Defense Headquarters' International Operations Division Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandras Temnolonskis told BNS on 1 July that Lithuania's second peacekeeping unit in Iraq will be stationed at Karbala, some 100 kilometers south of Baghdad. The unit, which will comprise some 50 soldiers and is scheduled to leave for Iraq on 10 August, will serve for six months in the Polish-controlled sector of Iraq together with Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian, Latvian, and Philippine troops. A 45-member unit from the Grand Duke Algirdas Motorized Infantry Battalion has been serving with Danish troops in southern Iraq since early June, and eight Lithuanian military cargo-handling specialists have been working in Kuwait since late April. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT WILL NOT TESTIFY IN 'RYWINGATE'
Legislators probing high-level bribery allegations rejected a motion on 1 July to summon President Aleksander Kwasniewski to testify before their parliamentary commission investigating the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2003), PAP reported. Five opposition lawmakers wanted to call Kwasniewski to testify, while the five commission members from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union bloc voted against the move. Commission head Tomasz Nalecz said the group will present a report on its findings in September. JM

CZECH POLITICIANS RALLY TO AVOID RETURN OF ARISTOCRAT'S FORTUNE...
Culture Minister Pavel Dostal met with leaders from both opposition and coalition political parties on 1 July to discuss ways to avoid a potentially huge return of property to an heir to the Kinsky fortune, local media reported. The impetus for political action was sparked by direct claims on some 40 billion crowns' ($1.46 billion) worth of property by Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky, who has recently won five such lawsuits in Czech courts and has another 157 lawsuits pending, according the "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 2 July. Dostal and other Czech politicians have expressed fears that the resulting court decisions might also effectively nullify the contentious postwar Benes Decrees, which included the expropriation of assets from Nazi collaborators. There is considerable evidence that Kinsky's father collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, the paper noted. AH

...INCLUDING THROUGH LEGAL AMENDMENT...
Much of Minister Dostal's attention has been focused on the possible amendment of the country's law on restitution, which limits restitution to individuals who never lost Czechoslovak or Czech citizenship, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 2 July. "In no case do I wish to cast doubt on our independent judiciary, but on the other hand it is necessary to consider amending restitution legislation," Dostal said. Kinsky's lawyer insists the cases do not concern restitution per se, since his client was bequeathed the property by a great-grandfather in 1904 and family members other than Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky were merely trustees; thus, the lawyer claims, his 66-year-old client never "lost" the property under the postwar decrees. Politicians emerged from the 1 July meeting saying they will meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla to continue their effort to prevent such judgments in the future. AH

...PROMPTING CONCERN WITHIN LEGAL COMMUNITY
Czech Constitutional Court Justice Antonin Prochazka has accused politicians allied against such property returns of "acting like a senior organ under totalitarianism," "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 2 July. "They are casting people [into the categories of] aristocrats and non-aristocrats," Prochazka said. "If legal conditions are fulfilled, it must be returned to a citizen, come what may. Otherwise, it's discrimination." One lawyer quoted by the daily warned that "politicians can discuss whatever they like, but that's all they can do. Even if a law is approved, it cannot be applied retroactively." AH

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EU-ACCESSION TREATY
Slovak legislators on 1 July overwhelmingly approved the country's agreement on accession to the European Union, confirming the path to membership that was backed by a majority of Slovak voters in a 16-17 May referendum, TASR reported. One hundred and twenty-nine of 140 deputies from across the political spectrum approved the accession treaty, with 10 Communist Party of Slovakia lawmakers opposed and one coalition deputy abstaining, the news agency reported. President Rudolf Schuster and Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, who attended the historic vote in parliament, stressed that the session demonstrated a broad political consensus within Slovakia on EU membership. AH

SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTER WANTS TO PUNISH JUDGE IN HIGH-PROFILE FRAUD CASE
Daniel Lipsic has requested the launch of disciplinary procedures against Kosice district Judge Jan Poprocky in connection with his decision to release a defendant who authorities say has sought to influence witnesses, TASR reported on 1 July. Poprocky ruled on 30 June that there are insufficient grounds to hold businessman Jozef Majsky in pretrial detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 1 July 2003). Lipic declined to elaborate on the punishment that he has requested for Poprocky. An appeals court is expected to decide on 3 July whether Majsky must remain in custody. AH

SLOVAK PREMIER DOWNPLAYS CLASH OVER HUNGARY'S STATUS LAW
Prime Minister Dzurinda sought to ease regional tensions on 1 July by stressing that it is too early to speculate about possible "retaliatory measures" in response to the recent amendment in Hungary of that country's Status Law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 26, and 27 June 2003), TASR reported. "The application in practice, reality, will determine [how Slovakia responds]," Dzurinda said. Speaking after a meeting with OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus, Dzurinda added that Slovakia wants to meet, but meet "European[-style and] on the basis of bilateral interstate agreements," TASR added. AH

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM RESISTS FIDESZ PRESSURE FOR ALLIANCE
Opposition FIDESZ Chairman Viktor Orban and Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) Chairwoman Ibolya David met on 1 July for the first time since their coalition lost the parliamentary elections in May 2002, Hungarian media reported, but the two reportedly failed to reach an agreement on opposition strategy issues. Orban failed to persuade David that the MDF should join the broad-ranging FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Alliance. In separate press briefings, Orban reiterated his belief in the importance of "one alliance -- one camp," while David stressed the need for "continued opposition in parallel." Orban said he asked David to reconsider the MDF's decision to field a separate list of candidates in next year's elections to the European Parliament, and he asked the MDF to familiarize itself with FIDESZ's new dual party membership. If two parties consistently think the same way about everything, one of them is unnecessary, Orban concluded. MSZ

MINISTER ANNOUNCES DEEP CUTS IN HUNGARIAN ARMED FORCES
The overall size of the Hungarian armed forces will be reduced from the current 45,000 to 25,000-30,000, Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz announced on 1 July, according to "Magyar Hirlap." The cutbacks are the centerpiece of a recently finalized defense review that was originally due to be completed last March, the paper reported. Several garrisons will be dissolved, while only three of the country's five military airfields will be maintained. Under the plan, the Kecskemet airfield will host Gripen fighter jets, and the Papa airfield will be home to NATO-financed investment projects. Juhasz said the United States will have to bear the costs of operating the Taszar air base if it wishes to use it in the future; otherwise, he said, NATO could use the base. The ministry will also sell some property, including holiday resorts, to the State Privatization Agency, the daily reported. MSZ

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SIGNS EXTRADITION-IMMUNITY AGREEMENT WITH U.S.
Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Lawrence Butler signed a bilateral agreement in Skopje on 30 June prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The daily notes that, contrary to expectations, the document does not use the constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, but rather Macedonia. This is nevertheless seen as a victory in Skopje, as the text does not contain the term Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, under which the country is recognized by the UN and other international institutions under Greek pressure. Romania, Albania, and Bosnia have already concluded similar agreements with the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 June 2003). UB

DEADLINE PASSES FOR SIGNING EXTRADITION-IMMUNITY AGREEMENTS
President George W. Bush froze military aid to an unspecified number of countries on 1 July for failing to conclude bilateral extradition-immunity agreements with the United States, the "Financial Times" reported. "Some countries want [their respective] agreements...kept secret," so a full list has not been published. The daily added: "Bush has the authority to issue waivers in cases of national interest. Diplomats and analysts were surprised that he did not exempt the European countries due to join NATO next year -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Slovenia." Dpa put the number of countries affected by the aid freeze at 35, presumably including Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic told reporters in Belgrade that "it would be difficult to explain [to Serbian citizens]...why we are protecting [U.S.] citizens while we catch, arrest, and hand over our own people to The Hague [war crimes] tribunal," dpa reported. The Croatian government faces a similar dilemma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June and 1 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). PM

EU ANNOUNCES ADDITIONS TO BLACKLIST OF BANNED BALKAN VISITORS
The EU in Brussels and High Representative Paddy Ashdown in Sarajevo announced 14 additions to the long-standing EU blacklist of individuals banned from transit and other travel to EU member states on 1 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Those banned for their alleged roles in protecting or otherwise helping indicted war criminals avoid capture are: Ljuban Ecim, Aleksandar Karadzic, Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, Radomir Kojic, Tomislav Kovac, Petar Krasic, Predrag Kujundzic, Milorad Lukovic "Legija," Branko Ratic, Slavko Roguljic, Vasilije Veinovic, Milenko Vracar, Milovan Bjelica, and Momcilo Mandic. On 29 May, U.S. President Bush announced that economic and legal sanctions will remain in force against approximately 150 people and organizations considered to be obstructing peace and stability in former Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May and 2 June 2003). The EU list does not involve economic sanctions. PM

ANOTHER SERBIAN INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL ARRIVES IN THE HAGUE
Officials of Hague-based war crimes tribunal announced on 1 July the arrival of former Major Veselin Sljivancanin, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He is one of the so-called Vukovar Three, who were indicted by the tribunal in connection with the massacre of up to 300 Croats at Ovcara near Vukovar following the fall of that city in November 1991. Police arrested him in Belgrade on 12 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 June 2003). PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES WAR CRIMES LEGISLATION
The parliament adopted government-backed legislation on 1 July to prepare the way for trying indicted war criminals in Serbia, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). Justice Minister Vladan Batic said that "Serbia now has a credible legal system capable of reckoning with its past." PM

SFOR KEEPS SILENT ON BOSNIAN SWEEP
NATO peacekeepers said in Sarajevo on 2 July that they will not comment on an operation involving helicopters and ground forces north of Jablanica and east of Prozor until the apparent sweep is over, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The operation has already uncovered an unspecified quantity of weapons, equipment, and what Fena news agency described as a "secret training camp." PM

BUCHAREST COURT RULES ON COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF FAILED INVESTMENT FUND
A Bucharest court on 1 July decided to force the National Agency for the Evaluation of Bank Accounts (AVAB) to pay 49 billion lei (approximately $1.5 million) in compensation to investors of the National Investment Fund (FNI) that collapsed in 2000, Mediafax reported. The court ruled in favor of 359 FNI investors who sued for compensation. Mediafax commented that this case marked the first time a case had been decided in favor of FNI investors, as all previous cases involving investors seeking compensation for their losses were dismissed. The AVAB is a state authority that was made responsible for an association contract between the FNI and the state savings bank CEC, under which the CEC had guaranteed the investment. The same day the AVAB said it considers the decision "illegal" and will appeal it. ZsM

OPPOSITION DEPUTIES CRITICIZE RADIO-TV TAX BEFORE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
A group of 54 deputies from the opposition National Liberal Party and Democratic Party on 1 July asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of a government ordinance that introduces a tax on the ownership of radios and televisions, Mediafax reported. The ordinance, which was recently adopted by parliament's lower house, forces every family to pay a "radio-TV tax," irrespective of whether they actually own a television or radio. The deputies argued that the ordinance is unconstitutional, and that if failed in the Chamber of Deputies to obtain the required number of votes for passage. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PREMIER DISMISSES THREAT OF TRANSDNIESTRIAN ECONOMIC RETALIATION
Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev at a 1 July press conference dismissed Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov's recent threat to respond to the "economic war" he said Moldova is waging against the breakaway region, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003). Tarlev said Smirnov will not resort to blocking gas or electricity deliveries to Moldova from the Transdniester because it is not possible for him to do so. Tarlev said such measures would affect Transdniester more than Moldova. He said that through such "threats and blackmailing," Tiraspol merely seeks to block the activities of the joint commission set up to elaborate the country's future federal constitution as well as to halt the process of removing Russian armaments from the region. He further called on Tiraspol authorities to "restart the civilized dialogue on solving the Transdniester problem." ZsM

U.S. SUSPENDS MILITARY AID TO BULGARIA
The U.S. government announced on 1 July that Bulgaria will lose some $10 million in military aid from the United States as a result of its refusal to sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), novinite.bg reported. As the deadline to sign such agreements expired, U.S. President George W. Bush on 1 July issued waivers sparing 22 countries that signed but had not yet ratified agreements with the United Stated from being sanctioned. However, Bulgaria along with fellow NATO invitees Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Slovakia were not among the countries that received waivers. U.S. officials said on 1 July that 35 countries will lose a total of $47.6 million in aid and $613,000 in military-education programs, according to "The New York Times." Chief of General Staff General Nikola Kolev told BTA that the suspension of military aid could lead to a delay in the modernization of Bulgaria's armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). UB

FINANCE HEADS SAY RATING AGENCIES PREFER BULGARIA TO REMAIN UNDER IMF CONTROL
Deputy Finance Minister Krasimir Katev told Darik Radio on 1 July that during a recent visit to New York, he and Finance Minister Milen Velchev were told by representatives of the rating agencies Standard & Poor's and Fitch that Bulgaria stands a better chance of improving its ratings if it continues to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Katev said the representatives indicated that the rating agencies would not look unfavorably upon Bulgaria if it were to switch from its current stand-by arrangement with the IMF to a lighter form of financial control (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 20 May 2003). UB

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR DETAILS PLAN FOR IRAQ


The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, outlined the coalition's plan for the rebuilding of Iraq in an address to the World Economic Forum's extraordinary session in Jordan on 22 June. In his presentation, Bremer highlighted the progress that has been made in Iraq so far, citing in particular the doubling of the police force to 30,000 officers -- a 200 percent increase in 30 days -- and the participation of Iraqis in neighborhood-watch groups and district advisory councils, according to the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil).

Bremer added that coalition forces are focusing on three key areas that will facilitate Iraq's transition to a stable, economically viable, democratic state. He said that the first focus area is that of ensuring security and establishing law and order. Iraqis are working together with coalition forces to help realize this goal, Bremer said. He noted that some 2,000 Iraqi police officers are patrolling the streets of Baghdad alongside coalition troops, and added that the coalition will begin recruiting for the new Iraqi army in two weeks. The army will work to secure Iraq's borders, Bremer said. Addressing the current challenges to security from loyalists to the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the CPA head said that the coalition "will not let the last vestiges of Saddam's regime turn the clock back for the Iraqi people, whose best days are yet to come."

Bremer told the World Economic Forum that the second focus of the CPA is the political transformation of Iraq. He said that a political council will be announced within the next month to assist in the management of Iraq. Promising that the council will be representative of all Iraqis, Bremer added: "It will have real authority from its first day. It will nominate ministry heads and form commissions to recommend policies concerning issues significant to Iraq's future -- from reform of the educational curriculum, to plans for a telecommunications infrastructure, to proposals [for] stimulating the private sector."

A constitutional conference will also be convened and "run entirely by Iraqis" to draft a new Iraqi constitution. The constitution will "provide the foundation for national elections for a free and sovereign Iraqi government," Bremer said.

The third focus and "most immediate priority" is a free and vibrant economy, according to Bremer. Iraq faces an economy devastated by 12 years of international economic sanctions and by mismanagement under the Hussein regime. Fifty percent of Iraqis were unemployed prior to the U.S.-led intervention to depose Hussein. Hussein spent one-third of Iraq's GDP on the military, while 60 percent of the nation remained dependent on government food rations. Bremer added that Iraq's vast state-owned enterprise system destroyed the market. "Our strategic goal in the months ahead is to set in motion policies which will have the effect of reallocating people and resources from state enterprises to the more-productive private firms. A fundamental component of this process will be to force state enterprises to face hard budget constraints by reducing subsidies and special deals," he said.

Lower subsidies will result in lower taxes and the level playing field that private firms need in order to compete, according to Bremer. Reduced subsidies will also ward off the "temptation to print money with the attendant risks to inflation and interest rates." These policies should also contribute to competition, low inflation and interest rates, and fiscal discipline.

The U.S. administrator recognized Iraq's need for a "humane social safety net" and suggested that all Iraqis could benefit from their country's oil wealth through the establishment of a dividend program similar to the one in the U.S. state of Alaska or through the establishment of a national trust fund that would finance public pensions and other "social safety net" programs.

Bremer also said that small and medium-sized enterprises could help create jobs quickly, leading to a shorter economic-recovery time. New technology, coupled with a clear commercial code, low tariffs, and transparent corporate governance will also facilitate a quick transition.

PROJECT LAUNCHED TO BUILD IRBIL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The deputy head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Sami Abd al-Rahman, and Brigadier General David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, unveiled the Irbil International Airport plaque, Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on 1 July. Abd al-Rahman told guests at a ceremony to mark the event that the establishment of an international airport in Irbil will contribute to northern Iraq's economic development, particularly in the realm of tourism and trade. He added that the airport will link Kurdistan with other parts of Iraq and the region following years of isolation by the deposed Hussein regime. Petraeus reportedly said the airport project serves as an initial step toward improving the overall situation in Iraq. He added that he hopes the airport will become an effective port for the transport of humanitarian aid and trade activities, the satellite channel reported. KR

RETIRED U.S. GENERAL SAYS TROOPS COULD REMAIN IN IRAQ FOR A DECADE
U.S. Army General (Retired) Barry McCaffrey told BBC television's "Newsnight" program on 1 July that U.S. forces are facing a long haul in Iraq, adding, "I think we are there for 10 years," Reuters reported the same day. McCaffrey, who led the U.S. 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Gulf War, said the next 12 months will pose the biggest challenge to U.S. troops. "We have got a year of very complex, dangerous, violent environment that we are going to have to deal with," McCaffrey said. He intimated that the United States will need to move quickly to rebuild Iraq's security forces, saying, "The coalition can't create security and stability operations by themselves. You have to build an Iraqi police force and build a new Iraqi military...that is capable of maintaining their own security." He suggested that the U.S. government has not been forthright with the American public about the situation in Iraq, saying: "I think there has been some unhelpful language. We have got to be straight with the American people and we have got to be straight with the U.S. armed forces." Some U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq have expressed frustration and confusion over the length of their tours of duty in Iraq in recent interviews with international news agencies. KR

SHARIF ALI SLAMS U.S. OVER ITS ADMINISTRATION OF IRAQ...
Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, head of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, criticized the United States in an interview with Abu Dhabi's "Al-Ittihad" on 30 June for its administration of Iraq, saying the situation in Iraq was better under deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Al-Husayn said that even if Washington appoints an Iraqi advisory council, "there will be no sovereignty and no independence in decision making because the council will be [at] the mercy of the U.S. governor, who will appoint or dismiss any person he wants." Al-Husayn said he has asked Arab states to support the Iraqi people by pressuring the United States to let Iraqis govern themselves. Asked how he can demand that U.S. forces leave, after they liberated Iraq and facilitated his return to the country, al-Husayn said: "The coalition forces did not come for the sake of the Iraqi people, but out of their belief that there are weapons of mass destruction. As a result of this, they toppled the Iraqi regime, and we thank them for this." KR

...AND SAYS WASHINGTON HAS FAILED TO FILL THE VACUUM
In his 30 June interview with "Al-Ittihad," Sharif Ali maintained that the United States failed to fill the vacuum left when the Hussein regime crumbled. "We were surprised when [the United States] put the entire Iraqi state out of existence, including all ministries and establishments and...the army," Al-Husayn said. He added that the Iraqi people face "the same situation" as they did under President Hussein, which has forced his group to devise a plan to normalize the internal situation ahead of elections. Al-Husayn said that only Iraqis are capable of governing themselves, adding: "The truth is that the United States is not an empire or a colonial country. This means that it does not have the staff to run a foreign country. This is the mistake that was committed by the United States." KR

IMAM DIES OF INJURIES FROM AL-FALLUJAH BLAST
The imam of the Al-Hasan Mosque in Al-Fallujah, which was rocked by an explosion on 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003), has died from injuries sustained in that incident, Al-Jazeera reported on 1 July. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a statement on the same day denying any involvement in the explosion, which destroyed a building in the mosque courtyard. Al-Fallujah residents have claimed that they saw a missile hit the mosque, sparking an explosion. KR

U.S. FORCES REPORTEDLY ARREST FORMER IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER
U.S. forces have reportedly arrested the daughter of former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, Al-Jazeera reported on 1 July. She was arrested along with her six children in Baghdad on suspicion that she was hiding her father and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at her home. Eyewitnesses told Al-Jazeera that some Ramadan family members were injured when U.S. troops stormed the woman's home. KR

IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS VISIT DETAINEES
Two members of parliament, Mohsen Safai-Farahani and Mohammad Hassan Abu-Torabi, visited Evin Prison on 1 July and met with people detained for their alleged involvement in the June riots in Tehran, Fars News Agency reported the next day. The parliamentarians said 601 people are in detention and 40 of them are students. The two spent five hours with the detainees, who said they are satisfied with the prison regime -- food, interrogations, and guards. Some detainees said university authorities provoked the unrest that broke out throughout the country, and other detainees said members of the legislature provoked and even directed the rioting students. Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said on 1 July that a total of 1,000 people were arrested during the unrest, IRNA reported on 2 July. Fewer than 100 students, 50 of them in Tehran, were arrested, he said. State Prosecutor-General Abdul-Nabi Namazi previously said 4,000 people were detained across the country (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 June 2003). BS

IRAN ACCUSES ISRAEL OF BOMBINGS IN ARGENTINA
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 1 July expressed his dismay about Argentinean Foreign Relations, International Trade, and Worship Rafael Minister Bielsa's linkage of Iran to the 18 June 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of AMIA, the city's Jewish Community Center, IRNA and ISNA reported. Bielsa said in a recent interview with the "Pagina" newspaper that Buenos Aires requested the extradition of two Iranian citizens in connection with the AMIA bombing, but that Iran refuses to fulfill the request, according to ISNA. Assefi said in reaction that "if the Argentine judicial system carries out an impartial investigation to discover the truth, then it will understand that the Zionist regime had a hand in planning and carrying out both explosions in Buenos Aires." He was apparently referring to the 1994 AMIA bombing and the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy. Assefi said the Argentine government should correct its anti-Iran statement. (For details on both bombings and the case's status, see "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch," 26 June 2003). BS

JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER WEIGHS IN ON POSSIBLE OIL DEAL WITH IRAN
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on 2 July urged the Japanese consortium that includes Tomen Corporation, Inoex Corporation, and Japan Petroleum Exploration Company to examine from several angles the possibility of signing an oil-development contract with Iran, Jiji Press reported. Koizumi said important factors are nuclear nonproliferation, Japan's role in the international community, and domestic Iranian issues. On 1 July, Tokyo announced that Japan will not sign a contract with Iran for an oil-development project if Tehran fails to address international concern about its nuclear activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003). BS

IRAN-INDIA GAS PIPELINE LOOKS DOUBTFUL
The respected daily "New Delhi Business Standard" reported on 2 July that the possible discovery of more natural-gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh and the deep waters off the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal is threatening to overshadow the proposed natural-gas pipeline from Iran to India. Citing anonymous "knowledgeable sources," the report said that even if India does import liquefied natural gas from Iran, it is unlikely to invest in a natural-gas pipeline, not least because supply and demand projections show that India's natural-gas supplies are sufficient to meet demand by 2006-07, and if there are more discoveries India could have a surplus of gas. The pipeline project was a major feature of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's January visit to India, and India has voiced skepticism about the security of a pipeline that would pass through Pakistan (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 January 2003 and 10 March 2003). BS

YEMENI PRESIDENT DISCUSSES IRANIAN AL-QAEDA EXTRADITIONS
Yemen's President Ali Abdallah Salih said in an interview in London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" of 29 June that Iran has extradited approximately six Al-Qaeda members to Yemen, and Yemen currently has 80 of the terrorists in custody. Other Yemeni Al-Qaeda members were returned via Oman and Saudi Arabia. Salih said Al-Qaeda causes unease in all the regional states so nobody encourages them or harbors them. "These terrorists are ignorant extremists who pick and choose from Islam what suits their purposes and do not know anything about the principles of the religion," Salih said. BS

HEKMATYAR RESURFACES WITH ANOTHER THREAT AGAINST FOREIGNERS IN AFGHANISTAN
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical leader of Hizb-e Islami and Afghan prime minister in the 1990s, has urged Afghans to "cut off the hands of the foreign meddlers" and drive all foreign forces out of Afghanistan, AP reported on 2 July. Hekmatyar forwarded his video message to AP from his mountain hideout, believed to be situated somewhere in Konar Province near the Afghan-Pakistan border, the report added. In December, Hekmatyar declared a jihad against foreign forces in Afghanistan, although he denied reports that he had formed an alliance with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The United States in February designated him a terrorist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002 and 7 January and 20 February 2003). Hekmatyar has been out of the spotlight for the past two months, although German sources blamed him for the 7 June attack on International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Kabul. AT

BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY VISITS KANDAHAR FOLLOWING MOSQUE BOMBING
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Kandahar on 1 July as part of his two-day visit to Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002), telling Kandahar Province Governor Gul Agha Sherzai that the United Kingdom remains "completely committed to remain in Afghanistan for as long as you want to help you build this country into a prosperous and stable community," the BBC reported. Just hours before Straw's arrival to Kandahar, a time bomb exploded in a local mosque during evening prayers, injuring 17 people, three of them seriously, AFP reported. Mulla Mawlawi Abdullah Fayaz said his mosque was targeted because he has spoken out against the Taliban, Reuters reported. Sherzai told Straw that those behind the attack on the mosque "have no religion. They are terrorists," the BBC reported. AT

SUSPECTED SUICIDE BOMBER DIES IN KABUL
Kabul police chief Basir Salangi said on 2 July that a man died at a bazaar on the outskirts of Kabul late in the evening of 1 July when explosives attached to his body detonated prematurely, international media reported. Salangi said it is unclear what the man's intended target was. The fatal blast occurred about 3 kilometers from a base at which U.S. and French soldiers are training troops for the Afghan National Army. A base used by German peacekeepers is also located nearby. On 16 June, leaflets distributed in Kandahar Province in the name of the former Afghan Taliban regime warned of suicide attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan, and four German ISAF soldiers were killed in a 7 June suicide attack in Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June and 17 June 2003). AT

FIGHTING REPORTED IN ZABUL PROVINCE
An unidentified spokesman for Zabul Province Governor Hamidullah Tokhi said on 1 July that fighting is continuing between provincial forces and the Taliban in province's Atghar District, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The spokesman said that "fighting is more or less continuing in the area," but that he could provide "no details at the moment." It is not clear when the fighting began. While Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai stated recently that the Taliban are no longer a viable force, most provincial administrators have continued to blame the Taliban for clashes (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 June 2003). AT

AFGHAN SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT LEADER BECOMES FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Sayyed Eshaq Gailani, leader of the National Solidarity Movement for Afghanistan, on 21 June announced his candidacy for the presidential elections expected in June 2004, the weekly "Afghanistan" reported on 29 June. Sayyed Eshaq Gailani is the nephew of Sayyed Ahmad Gailani, who heads the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, one of the former mujahedin parties, but the two are not on the same side of the political spectrum. Some analysts and international observers have argued that under the current political situation and insecure environment in Afghanistan, the planned elections for 2004 cannot be held in a democratic fashion (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 June 2003). AT

XS
SM
MD
LG