GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONSERVATIVE MILITARY-REFORM PLAN
A cabinet session on 10 July approved a Defense Ministry's reform proposal, under which the Russian military will retain a mixed system of conscription and contract-based service, gazeta.ru and lenta.ru reported. According to the plan, by 2007 about 49 percent of the Russian military will comprise contract personnel, their salaries will be increased, and conscripts' term of service will be cut to one year. The plan is expected to cost 79.1 billion rubles ($2.6 billion). The government rejected a more radical and less-expensive plan initiated by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yegor Gaidar's Institute of Transitional Economy, under which the army would be completely professionalized by 2007. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told the cabinet that the Defense Ministry's plan could lead to conflict within the military by establishing a rift between the privileged and the less privileged. However, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said his opponents from SPS "exaggerate the shortcomings of [the] plan." He said that to promise to entirely revamp the military into a professional force in the near future is just as unrealistic as the Communist Party's promise in the 1960s to build communism in 20 years. VY
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE BEGINS PROBE OF SIBNEFT...
The Prosecutor-General's Office and the Tax Police have begun their probe into the business activities of the Russian oil major Sibneft, which is controlled by billionaire oligarch and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich and is in the process of merging with embattled oil giant Yukos, newsru.com and other Russian media reported on 10 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Sibneft has confirmed that Sibneft President Yevgenii Shvidler and Vice President for Finance Tatyana Breeva have been questioned by the Prosecutor-General's Office, but declined to provide further information regarding the investigation. VY
...AS OTHER INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 10 July ordered that Menatep-St. Petersburg's Moscow offices be sealed in connection with the investigation of the company's manager, Platon Lebedev, who was arrested last week on charges stemming from a 1994 privatization deal, strana.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003). Menatep-St. Petersburg is a subsidiary of Menatep, the financial arm of Yukos. "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 10 July that Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin has informed the government that major energy companies underpaid their taxes by 100 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) combined over an unspecified amount of time. Stepashin also said the Audit Chamber is conducting planned probes of major oil companies, and that he expects the State Duma to discuss in its fall session ways of closing loopholes in the country's tax legislation. VY
ANALYST OFFERS EXPLANATION FOR THE REAL MYSTERY OF YUKOS SCANDAL
Writing in "Moskovskii novosti," No. 26, analyst Dmitrii Furman argues that the real mystery of the recent Yukos affair is not why the company is being targeted by law enforcement agencies, but why its leader, Mikhail Khodorkovskii, ever thought he could dabble in politics. "The authorities are not too bothered when the oligarchs cheat [and] intrigue against each other, and they will ignore them sending assassins after one another," Furman wrote. "But if an oligarch enters into public politics, guided by progressive motives, [then] he is encroaching on the foundation of the [current power] structure. His money can reshuffle the cards of power -- it can, for example, change the planned results of the State Duma elections. [In that case] such a person should be punished." Furman asked why Khodorkovskii -- who he said is "undoubtedly smart," "knows the system well," and saw with his own eyes the example of his predecessors -- nevertheless chose, like "a moth to a flame," to enter politics. Furman speculated that Khodorkovskii wishes to be respected and remembered not as one of those persons who got rich during the early 1990's property-grab but as an intellectual and progressive Russian politician. JAC
ECONOMY MINISTER SAYS THERE WILL BE NO REVISION OF PRIVATIZATIONS
Commenting on the situation concerning Yukos and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's recent calls for investigations into the legitimacy of Russian billionaires' fortunes (see " RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003), Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said in Moscow on 10 July that the "positions of the president and the government in this respect have not changed -- there will be no revision of the results of privatization," RIA-Novosti reported. Gref also expressed the opinion that as long as the current presidential administration is in power, the issue will not be opened up. Meanwhile, news of the investigation of Yukos for possible tax evasion caused the company's stock price to fall 4.77 percent, accounting to a loss of some $1.43 million, in trading on the Russian Stock Exchange on 10 July, RosBalt reported. The company market capitalization was approximately $31.4 billion as of 1 July. VY
POPULAR NEWSPAPER DOCUMENTS ABRAMOVICH'S LAVISH LIFESTYLE
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 10 July published a photograph of Abramovich's luxury yacht "Le Grand Bleu" moored in port in Vladivostok. The 100-meter, $90 million yacht was built for Abramovich in Germany and features an Australian crew, a helicopter, and two hovercraft launches. The yacht's christening in Rio de Janeiro was attended by many of Abramovich's jet-setting friends, according to the newspaper. The yacht's home port is reportedly Hamilton, Bermuda. VY
INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS SUICIDE-BOMBER NETWORK IS OPERATING IN RUSSIA
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov told journalists on 10 July that there is a direct connection between the 5 July suicide bombings and the 9 July attempted bombing attempt of a central Moscow restaurant, RTR and other Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, 9, and 10 July 2003). Gryzlov said the 5 July attack, in which two women believed to be Chechens reportedly killed themselves and 13 others when they detonated separate explosive devices at a rock concert, and the 9 July attempted bombing were carried out by a group of terrorists unified under a joint command structure that is sending suicide bombers to various Russian cities. He said the ministry has obtained information that will lead it to the group's command network. VY
SUSPECT IN ATTEMPTED RESTAURANT BOMBING CHARGED WITH TERRORISM
The Prosecutor-General's Office has obtained a court order to charge 22-year-old Zarima Muzhikhoeva with terrorism for her alleged role in the 9 July suicide-bombing attempt at a downtown Moscow restaurant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003), RTR reported. Muzhikhoeva, a resident of Chechnya, was arrested after she allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in her bag. The bomb later exploded and killed a Federal Security Service (FSB) major who was trying to disarm it. FSB experts believe it is possible that a remote-controlled device was used to detonate the bomb. The FSB also denied that any individual other than Muzhikhoeva has been arrested in connection with the attempted bombing, as was reported earlier. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced after a meeting of city officials called on 10 July to discuss the security situation that they decided against declaring a state of emergency, opting instead to "reinforce vigilance" in the capital, RosBalt reported. VY
PRIME MINISTER URGES FASTER PACE FOR LAND REFORM
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov at the 10 July cabinet session called on the government to speed up land reform, saying it is one of cabinet's top priorities, polit.ru reported. He said the reform should facilitate the positive trends in the economy and "beef up the muscle of market forces." Kasyanov called on the Duma to adopt legislation that will create a transparent and accessible land market in Russia. VY
BUSINESS LEADER LAMENTS STATE OF NATIONAL MEDIA
The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) has decided to leave Media-Sotsium, the noncommercial partnership that participated in a tender for the broadcasting rights of TV-6, RSPP President Arkadii Volskii told Ekho Moskvy on 10 July. Volskii said he has taken the closure of TVS to heart and has "still not completely gotten over the night when [it] was taken off the air." "This is not the way to work in a democratic country," he said. Volskii said that another media outlet might soon experience the same fate as TVS. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy on 10 July posted on its Internet site direct video feeds from its Moscow studios, lenta.ru reported. JAC
COMEBACK BY FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER?
"Novaya gazeta," No. 49, reported that a number of recent high-level appointments to the government all share a common feature: They are all somehow connected to Yurii Maslyukov, a Communist first deputy prime minister during the government of Yevgenii Primakov in 1998-99. Mikhail Sinelin, who now heads Prime Minister Kasyanov's secretariat, is the former director of the Maslyukov's secretariat. Konstantin Merzlikin, who also once worked for Maslyukov, now heads the government apparatus. Aleksandr Moiseev, State Fisheries Committee chairman, was once Maslyukov's assistant for personal matters. The deputy head of Kasyanov's secretariat and the deputy head of Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko's secretariat are both former assistants of Maslyukov. The weekly noted that "some time ago, when famous economist Mikhail Delyagin left the government, this was a strange anomaly." However, it commented that the changes should be taken a lot more seriously today. The weekly described Maslyukov's current position as a "lobbyist" for importers of U.S. poultry products. JAC
LEFTIST PARTY DENIED REGISTRATION
The Justice Ministry on 9 July denied the registration of Viktor Anpilov's Communists of Working Russia Party, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the next day. According to Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko, the party failed to register a sufficient number of regional branches to qualify for official registration. Without registration, a party cannot participate in the 7 December State Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 9 July 2003). Anpilov's party is considered to be to the left of the Communist Party of Russia. JAC
MAN ON THE STREET INDIFFERENT TO RUSSIA'S UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Russian society has no particular interest in the 7 December State Duma elections, Center for Political Technology General Director Igor Bunin said at a 10 July roundtable on the elections, RosBalt reported. Bunin attributed this lack of interest to the Russian authorities' monopolization of the mass media and society's distrust of the authorities in general. "The State Duma elections will not be ideological -- this will be a war of brands," he said. JAC
DEPUTY GOVERNOR KILLED IN FAR EAST
Chita Oblast Deputy Governor Aleksandr Shapnevskii was shot and killed on the evening of 10 July outside his dacha, ITAR-TASS reported. Shapnevskii was on vacation at the time with his family. Investigators are not excluding the possibility that his murder was carried out by a contract killer. Shapnevskii was also chairman of the oblast's Property Committee. According to "Gazeta" on 10 July, a weapon similar to the one used to kill Shapnevskii was used in last year's murder of former State Duma Deputy Vladimir Bogatov, who was elected from the single-mandate district in Chita Oblast. His killer or killers have yet to be found. JAC
SVERDLOVSK FINANCE OFFICIAL GONE FISHING...
Anton Bakov, a legislator in the Sverdlovsk Oblast legislature, told reporters in Yekaterinburg on 10 July that he does not believe that the recent death of oblast Finance Minister Vladimir Chervyakov was accidental, regions.ru reported. The body of Chervyakov, 45, was found on the banks of Lake Chusovskoe on the evening of 7 July. Chervyakov had been participating in a fishing festival, RosBalt reported on 8 July. According to Bakov, Chervaykov had long been collecting documents that could be of interest to "this and that organ." Bakov said Chervyakov gave him documents in Moscow pertaining to the oblast television station's co-founders, both of whom were sentenced to multiple years in prison as a result of the documents' exposure. JAC
...FOLLOWING YEARS OF DOCUMENT COLLECTION
"Examining these documents, you will understand why Chervyakov spoke about the unbearable atmosphere that surrounded his work and why he was depressed," Bakov told regions.ru. Meanwhile, UralBiznesKonsalting reported on 8 July that the Prosecutor's Office of the Ural Federal District has already established that Chervyakov died of a heart attack. An additional medical exam is under way, but the office reported that "in all likelihood, the reason for the death of Chervyakov is not of a criminal nature." Bakov is a longtime foe of Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, who is seeking a third term in gubernatorial elections on 7 September. JAC
ANIMALS GETTING FREE RIDE ON ST. PETERSBURG PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The driver of trolleybus No. 5 in St. Petersburg on a recent trip spied an unattended package that was stirring suspiciously of its own accord, IMApress reported on 10 July. Fearing that the package might be a bomb, the conductor nevertheless dared to open the bag, in which he discovered a stowaway guinea pig sitting inside a shoebox. The conductor reportedly took the squeaking package home to join his pet cat -- which the driver also found on his bus. JAC
RUSSIA SLAMS U.S. RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS IN GEORGIA
Andrei Kokoshin, who heads the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, told the Russian television program "Vremya" on 10 July that the Duma considers the recent flights over Georgian territory by U.S. AWACS reconnaissance aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003) "an unfriendly act," Caucasus Press reported. Also on 10 July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said Moscow will demand from NATO a full explanation of the purpose of those flights, Caucasus Press reported. LF
PACE RAPPORTEUR MEETS WITH CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S REPRESENTATIVE
Swiss parliamentarian Andreas Gross, who was recently appointed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteur for Chechnya, met in Moscow on 10 July with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative in Russia Salambek Maigov, chechenpress.com reported. Maigov said he assured Gross that Maskhadov continues to eschew acts of terrorism, including the 5 July suicide bombings at Tushino (see above). Maigov said those bombings might have been carried out by "fringe groups" for whose actions Maskhadov is not responsible. Maigov said Gross asked him whether it would be possible to meet personally with Maskhadov, but that he told Gross such a meeting is impossible in conditions of war unless the Russian military provides guarantees of security. Maigov also said Maskhadov is still ready for peace talks. But Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax the same day that "the time for negotiations with Mr. Maskhadov is irretrievably passed," and that Moscow has no interest in meeting with "a representative whom no one recognizes." LF
CHECHEN GOVERNMENT BUILDING REOPENED
The Government House in Grozny, which was badly damaged by two cars bombs in December that killed 72 people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 December 2002), was formally reopened on10 July, Russian news agencies reported. The building will also house the State Council -- the interim Chechen legislature created last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 23 June 2003). LF
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CONDEMNS USE OF TORTURE IN CHECHNYA
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which is subordinate to the Council of Europe, issued a statement on 10 July condemning Russia's failure to take action to prevent the recurrence of torture and other mistreatment of Chechen detainees by Russian troops and Interior Ministry personnel, Reuters reported. The CPT criticized and called for an end to such mistreatment in a statement in 2001. The 10 July statement was based on information collected by CPT officials who visited Chechnya in 2002 and May 2003 and interviewed Chechens who had been detained. Meanwhile, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said in Grozny on 10 July that the human rights situation in Chechnya has improved considerably, Interfax reported. LF
EU OFFICIALS VISIT ARMENIA
An EU delegation headed by Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Margarita Boniver met in Yerevan on 10 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. The talks focused primarily on Armenian-EU cooperation, the Karabakh conflict, and the prospects for an improvement in Armenian-Turkish relations. Oskanian said there is a "real chance" to normalize relations with Turkey step-by-step. Boniver reportedly stressed that the EU is "really keen" to enhance its cooperation with the states of the South Caucasus, adding that they could join the EU once they met the required standards of democracy. Newly appointed EU special representative for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie, who is a former co-chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, told journalists after the talks that his mandate includes participating in the search for an acceptable solution to the Karabakh and other regional conflicts. LF
AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSES ARMENIA OF AGGRAVATING TENSIONS
Vilayat Guliev told journalists in Baku on 9 July that the recent exchanges of fire between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 3, and 8 July 2003) were the result of a deliberate attempt by Armenia to exacerbate tensions in the run-up to the Azerbaijani presidential election scheduled for 15 October, according to ANS TV as cited by Groong. Also on 9 July, ANS TV reported that despite the agreement reached the previous day between the Armenian and Azerbaijani defense ministers on preventing further cross-border exchanges of fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003), Armenian troops opened fire on Azerbaijani posts in the Tovuz and Kazakh raions late on 8 July and early on 9 July. Interfax on 10 July quoted OSCE officials who monitored a section of the Line of Contact that day as saying they detected no signs of either a cease-fire violation or any attempt by either side to advance their positions. LF
MEDICS SAY AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SUFFERING FROM EDEMA, LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
Quoting "well-informed sources in Ankara," Turan reported on 11 July that physicians at Turkey's Gulhane military clinic say Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev is suffering from edema of the legs, low blood pressure, and unspecified cardiac and lung problems. The same sources in Ankara said that while doctors have not predicted how long Aliev will remain hospitalized, it is likely to be a long time. On 10 July, Interfax quoted Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey Mamed Aliev (no relation to the president) as saying the president will undergo several more days of medical examinations and return to Baku "soon." President Aliev's son, Ilham, flew to Ankara early on 10 July, Turan reported. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer telephoned President Aliev on 10 July to wish him a speedy recovery. LF
LEADER OF BREAKAWAY REPUBLIC AGAIN SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT IN AZERBAIJAN
Following court proceedings that lasted almost 18 months, Alikram Gumbatov was sentenced on 10 July to life imprisonment on charges of seizing power, abuse of power, illegal possession of arms, and the creation of illegal armed formations, Turan reported. The charges derive from Gumbatov's declaration in June 1993 of an independent Talysh-Mugan Republic on Azerbaijan's southeastern border with Iran. He was sentenced to death on December 1996, but that verdict was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. The Council of Europe, which regards Gumbatov as a political prisoner, insisted on a retrial, which took place in the high security Gobustan jail. Gumbatov in his final address on 8 July denounced the trial as a staged performance and the judges for playing the roles assigned to them by the Azerbaijani authorities, Turan reported. LF
GEORGIAN, AZERBAIJANI SECURITY MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania met in the west Azerbaijani city of Gyanja on 10 July with his Azerbaijani counterpart Namig Abbasov, Turan and Caucasus Press reported. The two ministers discussed cooperation in the fight against terrorism, aggressive separatism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and signed a protocol on cooperation. ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July that the protocol specifically mentions joint measures to protect the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline currently under construction. The board of directors of the consortium formed to build that pipeline met in Tbilisi on 9-10 July to review progress in that project, Caucasus Press reported on 10 July. The first oil is expected to flow via that pipeline in early 2005. LF
ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE THREATENS TO JOIN GEORGIAN OPPOSITION
The Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, which comprises the Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in late 1991, adopted a resolution on 10 July condemning the Georgian government's Abkhaz policy, Caucasus Press, ITAR-TASS and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Council Chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili told journalists after the session that the council is convinced that there is no longer any hope of resolving the Abkhaz conflict peacefully, and that the Georgian government should therefore resort to military action against the breakaway republic. He implied that if the Georgian government fails to do so, the council will withdraw its support for the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc. As he has done on numerous previous occasions, Nadareishvili also demanded the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, and a UN "Peace Enforcement" operation to bring Abkhazia back under Georgia's control. LF
GEORGIAN SECURITY COUNCIL REJECTS CALL FOR USE OF FORCE IN ABKHAZIA
Despite the absence in Yerevan (see above) of its secretary Tedo Djaparidze, President Eduard Shevardnadze convened a session of the National Security Council on 11 July to discuss the Abkhaz Supreme Council statement and other issues related to Abkhazia, the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists that there is no alternative to continuing the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict, and that the international community supports Tbilisi's position. LF
RUSSIAN, UN ENVOYS DISCUSS ABKHAZIA
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Moscow with Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, who performs the same function for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to discuss preparations for a meeting in Geneva on 21-22 July of the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group of five countries (Russia, the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) that is seeking to expedite a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported on 11 July. The same agency quoted Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze, who is Tbilisi's point man for the Abkhaz conflict, as saying he is not aware that a meeting of Georgian and Abkhaz officials with the "Friends" group is scheduled for 15 July in Sukhum. On 10 July, Caucasus Press quoted Abkhaz presidential adviser Astamur Tania as telling journalists in Sukhum that such a meeting will take place. LF
ABKHAZ OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
Meeting in Sukhum on 10 July, the leaders of the opposition movement Amtsakhara adopted a resolution calling on Vladislav Ardzinba, president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, to resign on the grounds that he is too ill to continue discharging his duties, Interfax and Georgian agencies reported. The resolution accuses the Abkhaz leadership of having made "serious mistakes" in recent years that have resulted in a high crime rate, the breakdown of law and order, and a "deep social divide" between rich and poor that has left the latter category without hope, according to Interfax. It says those trends have only compounded social and political tensions in Abkhazia. Ardzinba, who is currently in Moscow undergoing medical treatment, has already stated that he has no intention of stepping down before his second presidential term expires in October 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). LF
GEORGIA INTERCEPTS CARGO OF ABKHAZ PASSPORTS
The Georgian coast guard intercepted a Turkish ship in Georgian territorial waters on 5 July with a cargo of 20,000-25,000 passports printed in Abkhaz and Russian, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 10 July. The passports, which representatives of the Abkhaz government-in-exile told Interfax were intended for Georgian displaced persons returning to Gali Raion, were confiscated. LF
OPPOSITION PLANS TO SUE GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT OVER BUDGET SHORTFALL...
Mikhail Machavariani, a leading member of the opposition United Democrats, told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 July that his party intends to sue the government for its failure to implement legislation passed in May on raising the minimum salary to 35 laris ($16), Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2003). The increase was to have taken effect on 1 July, but has fallen victim to the budget shortfall for the first six months of the year. The International Monetary Fund recently demanded additional cuts in budget spending (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). LF
...AS GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS CUTS WILL UNDERMINE ARMED FORCES
Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze said on 10 July that further funding cuts risk inflicting irrevocable damage on the Georgian armed forces, as a result of which the entire defense system might collapse, Caucasus Press reported. During the first six months of the year, the armed forces received only 22 million laris ($10.4 million) instead of the planned 34 million. That shortfall necessitated postponing military exercises planned for late June, Defense Ministry official Mirian Kiknadze told Caucasus Press on 10 July. LF
ABDUCTED TURKISH BUSINESSMAN RELEASED IN GEORGIA
Georgian police succeeded in freeing kidnapped Turkish businessman Iren Neki Digi late on 10 July, Georgian agencies reported. Digi was forced into a car in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). Police did not disclose details of the operation to free him, but denied any ransom was paid. But Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 both quoted unnamed sources on 11 July as saying that a ransom was paid and that three Abkhaz taken hostage on 15 March in Gali Raion were released in exchange for Digi. LF
NATO HEAD CALLS KAZAKHSTAN A GOOD ALLIANCE PARTNER
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, on an official visit to Kazakhstan as part of his tour of Central Asia, met on 10 June with President Nursultan Nazarbaev and the country's top military leaders, khabar.kz and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Robertson later told journalists that Kazakhstan is a good partner to NATO in the struggle against international terrorism. He added that one of the main purposes of his visit to Kazakhstan was to thank President Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan's parliament, and the Kazakh people for their support in Iraq, which he said will contribute to stabilization in that country. In a lecture at the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, Robertson called attention to the NATO Science for Peace Program, which has already provided grants to a number of Kazakh scientists. According to khabar.kz, Robertson told Nazarbaev that NATO is expanding its influence in Central Asia because Europe's security depends on stability in the region, and that Kazakhstan, as a leading country in Central Asia, could help draw other countries into dialogue and partnership on issues such as drug trafficking, illegal migration, and organized crime, as well as international terrorism. He was quoted as telling military officials that the future of the country and the region depends on the courage and resolve of Kazakhstan's present and future leadership. BB
KAZAKH PRESIDENT SIGNS BILL ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Kazakh President Nazarbaev has signed a bill strengthening articles in the Criminal Code relating to trafficking in human beings, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 10 July, quoting deputy head of the presidential administration Igor Rogov. The official said the problem has become acute in Kazakhstan because the country's citizens often fall into the hands of traffickers when they go abroad in search of work, and that Kazakhstan itself is a transit country for trafficked persons. Several articles of the Criminal Code are applicable to trafficking cases: Article 125 covers abduction, Article 126 deals with unlawful deprivation of freedom, Article 128 prohibits recruiting people for exploitative purposes, Article 133 prohibits trafficking in minors, and luring persons into prostitution and maintaining brothels are covered by articles 270 and 271, respectively. The purpose of the new legislation is to change or add wording to specify that the articles apply to trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to increase the sentences specified for these crimes. Kazakhstan has been criticized by a number of international human rights organizations for failing to adequately criminalize human trafficking. A special working group is being set up within the government's Crime Commission to draft proposals on fighting human trafficking. BB
KAZAKH CITIZENS WANT TO RETAIN DEATH PENALTY
Kazakh Justice Minister Onalsyn Zhumabekov told journalists in Astana on 10 July that polls indicate that the majority of citizens want to retain the death penalty, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Zhumabekov was quoted as saying that the Kazakh government intends to introduce life imprisonment as a prelude to a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, but government agencies must explain to the population the need for abolishing it. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer raised the issue of the death penalty during his visit to Kazakhstan earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). The Kazakh government plans to introduce the sentence of life imprisonment at the beginning of 2004, according to Zhumabekov, and is building a new prison to accommodate convicts who receive life sentences. BB
KYRGYZ POLICE OFFICIAL SAYS HIZB UT-TAHRIR BECOMING MORE ACTIVE IN BISHKEK...
Head of the Bishkek city internal affairs office Keneshbek Duishebaev asserted on 10 July that the level of activity of the banned Muslim extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir has increased in the Kyrgyz capital in the first half of 2003, akipress.org reported the same day. He told journalists that in 2002, only two people were detained in Bishkek for distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir publications, and 201 leaflets and 101 brochures were confiscated from them, but that so far in 2003, eight people have been detained for distributing leaflets on seven separate occasions, and more than 400 copies of the leaflets have been confiscated and handed over to the National Security Service for further investigation. The leaflets, which are usually distributed in bazaars, mini-bazaars and apartment houses, call for the removal of the secular state and its replacement by a medieval-style caliphate. The Kyrgyz authorities regard this as a call to overthrow the constitution, a crime under Kyrgyz law. BB
...WHILE KYRGYZ ARMY COMMANDERS FACE PROSECUTION
Kyrgyz Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev told journalists on 10 July that the Military Prosecutor's Office has begun criminal proceedings against army commanders accused of beating conscripts, Deutsche Welle reported the same day. The case originated with the flight of 13 conscripts on 7 July from a military base in the town of Kant. The escapees said they ran away because officers beat them and they had to face humiliation almost from their first day of service. Topoev said that the runaways would be prosecuted for desertion, while their officers would face charges for permitting attacks on young soldiers, and a commission of the General Staff would conduct an investigation into harassment in the armed forces. Most of the runaways reportedly have returned to their unit but have said they refuse to answer prosecutors' questions without their parents being present. BB
KYRGYZSTAN ASKS UZBEKISTAN TO RETURN THREE OIL AND GAS FIELDS
Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbai Mambetov, reporting on the 9-10 July session of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek intergovernmental commission in Tashkent, said that the Kyrgyz side had asked its Uzbek counterpart for the return to Kyrgyzstan of three oil and gas fields on the border between the two countries, akipress.org reported on 10 July. During the Soviet era, Moscow handed the fields to Uzbekistan for development. After the disintegration of the USSR, the Uzbeks kept working on the fields, arguing that the area where the fields were located was disputed territory. Mambetov was quoted as saying that the Kyrgyz delegation to the commission meeting had produced documents showing that the fields indisputably belonged to Kyrgyzstan, and the Uzbek side said it would consider returning them. Akipress.org reported on 11 July that the commission session had also raised the issue of a drop in the level of trade between the two countries, which Kyrgyzstan attributes to stricter Uzbek border-crossing procedures that have made it more difficult for people and goods to cross the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003). BB
FURTHER INFORMATION EMERGES ABOUT TURKMEN-RUSSIAN DUAL-CITIZENSHIP TALKS
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Fedotov, who headed the Russian delegation to the 8-9 July Turkmen-Russian talks on dual citizenship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003), told journalists in Moscow on 10 July that Russia will continue to grant requests from residents of Turkmenistan for Russian citizenship until the protocol revoking dual citizenship is ratified. As Prima-News, RIA-Novosti, and other Russian media outlets reported on 10 and 11 July, Fedotov acknowledged that the commission meeting did not produce any concrete results. The Turkmen side did not commit itself to honor a Russian request that Russian citizens no longer be required to have exit visas to leave Turkmenistan, although Turkmenistan promised not to violate the rights of Russian citizens. Fedotov was reported to have said that unresolved issues will have to be worked out at the next meeting of the commission, to be held sometime in the fall. "Vremya novostei" noted on 11 July that the Russian delegation did not met in Ashgabat with Russian citizens who could have provided information about the situation of the Russians in Turkmenistan because the rights activists were put under house arrest during the commission meeting. BB
TURKMEN PRESIDENT PHONES PUTIN TO DISCUSS CITIZENSHIP TALKS
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 10 July to discuss the outcome of the 8-9 July session of the bilateral commission on dual citizenship, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 July and turkmenistan.ru on 11 July. According to RIA-Novosti, Putin stressed the Turkmen commitment to fully respect the rights of Russian citizens in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan.ru noted the Turkmen commitment, adding that the two leaders also discussed economic issues, in particular Turkmen gas exports to Russia, and the unresolved status of the Caspian Sea. Putin has been repeatedly accused by Russian political figures and the media of selling out the interests of Russian citizens in Turkmenistan in return for Turkmen gas. BB
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SACKS PRIME MINISTER, SENIOR AGRICULTURAL OFFICIALS...
Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed Prime Minister Henadz Navitski and members of the cabinet responsible for the agricultural sector -- Deputy Prime Minister Alyaksandr Papkou, Agriculture Minister Mikhail Rusy, and State Food Industry Concern Chairman Anatol Kuzma -- on 10 July, Belapan reported. Lukashenka accused the cabinet of falsifying reports and failing to carry out his instructions. "The recent failures to pay wages, pay farmers for produce supplies, and -- something that is particularly intolerable -- falsifications and distortions of facts do not give me confidence that the cabinet will be an efficient economic decision-making center," Lukashenka said. AM
...AND APPOINTS NEW GOVERNMENT LEADER...
President Lukashenka immediately appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski acting prime minister following Navitski's dismissal on 10 July, Belapan reported. Presidential aide Raman Unuchka, chief inspector for Minsk Oblast, will replace Papkou, and presidential aide Zyanon Lomats, chief inspector for the Homel Oblast, will succeed Agriculture Minister Rusy. Uladzimir Dalzhankou, chairman of the Horki District's executive committee, will replace Anatol Kuzma as president of the Belarusian State Food Industry Concern. AM
...WHILE OPPOSITION ACCUSES BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OF 'BLAMING THE BOYARS'
The 10 July government reshuffle is part of Lukashenka's "large-scale plan to prepare a referendum" that will enable him to extend his tenure, United Civic Party (AHP) leader Anatol Lyabedzka told Belapan the same day. "Lukashenka...is trying to win back voters disenchanted with his rule," Lyabedzka added. Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) leader Mikalay Statkevich called the ouster a sign of a pending referendum aimed at consolidating public support for the regime. "The scenario is clear: The tsar is good, but the boyars are bad and are to blame," Statkevich said. AM
U.S. URGES BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES TO STOP 'STRANGLING' INDEPENDENT MEDIA...
In a 10 July statement by the U.S. Embassy in Minsk and posted on its website (http://www.usis.minsk.by), the United States called on Belarusian authorities to abandon their campaign of "strangling the struggling independent media in Belarus." The statement was prompted by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's decision to shut down the Minsk office of the nonprofit International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). "IREX has implemented a variety of assistance programs in Belarus for a number of years," and the Belarusian government's "own documentation demonstrates its official acceptance of these programs," the statement stressed. The U.S. government "deplores" the move and urges Belarusian authorities to reverse the decision "for the benefit of its citizens, if not in deference to the treaty obligations breached through its accreditation decision," it added. AM
...AND CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESSES IN BELARUS
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk issued a statement on 10 July marking the ninth anniversary of "the last [Belarusian] election recognized by the international community as being democratic in character," urging the Belarusian government to put its electoral house in order. The statement urges "Belarusian authorities promptly to take the concrete steps identified by international experts to bring Belarusian electoral processes into line with those applicable throughout the region and with democratic criteria," according to the text posted on the embassy's website. The statement says relations at the time of the 1994 elections were "excellent and the prospects for progress were great," adding, "Belarus' relations with the rest of the world have suffered greatly due to this and other policies and practices that bring about the self-isolation of the country." The international community will respect "leaders who are honestly elected," which will lead to a "return to the bright prospects for improved relations between Belarus and the rest of the world that existed when Belarus was on the path to democracy," the statement said. AM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES MONEY-LAUNDERING PROBLEMS ON LEGISLATIVE GAPS
President Leonid Kuchma said on 10 July that Ukraine should take all necessary measures to avoid criticism from international organizations regarding Ukrainian efforts to combat money laundering, Interfax reported. There are many shortcomings in Ukrainian legislation that leave room for money-laundering structures to "flourish," he added. Kuchma announced he will meet next week with the heads of state bodies responsible for fighting money laundering to consider the work of the State Department for Financial Monitoring. AM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONTENTIOUS RESOLUTION ON VOLHYNIA MASSACRES
The Verkhovna Rada voted 227-25 on 10 July to adopt a fiercely debated declaration on the 60th anniversary of the Volhynia massacres (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 8 July 2003), Ukrainian media reported. The document recognizes events in Volhynia in 1943-44 -- when serious crimes were committed by Ukrainians and Poles in what is now northwestern Ukraine -- as a tragedy for both the Ukrainian and Polish nations. The vote was preceded by heated debate in the Ukrainian parliament because the events were described as a tragedy for the Polish people in the first sentence of the resolution while Ukrainian victims were recalled only at the end of the paragraph (see Poland item below). AM
PHARE STEERING COMMITTEE APPROVES 20 ESTONIAN PROJECTS
The steering committee of the EU's PHARE program approved 20 Estonian projects costing 23.5 million euros ($26.8 million) in Brussels on 10 July, BNS reported. Estonia will have to provide some 8 million euros to co-finance the projects. The aims of the projects include upgrading the infrastructure of the border with Russia, developing and implementing a state anti-drug strategy, increasing energy-efficiency investments of local governments, developing a hydrographic network, and establishing an electronic information system for structural funds. Earlier this year PHARE allocated 12.5 million euros for other Estonian projects, and the government hopes that an additional 3.5 million euros will be granted before the end of the year. SG
LATVIAN, AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTS VOICE SIMILAR VIEWS ON EU REFORM
Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Thomas Klestil held talks in Vienna on 10 July and noted that they have similar opinions about future EU reforms, BNS reported. They both support retaining the rotating six-month EU presidency and each member state having its own commissioner with voting rights. Both presidents called for closer cooperation and partnership between the small states in the EU to ensure that they have the same rights as the larger member states in determining the future of the union. Vike-Freiberga also met with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whom she invited to visit Latvia before its EU membership referendum on 20 September. They discussed how to boost economic relations between their countries, including cooperation in tourism, business, and higher education. The Latvian president then traveled to Graz, where on 11 July she is scheduled to open the Latvian honorary consulate, hold talks with Styrian Governor Waltraud Klasnic, and attend a concert of the Graz music festival. SG
ITALIAN, LATVIAN PREMIERS DISCUSS EU PRESIDENCY PRIORITIES
Einars Repse paid a short working visit to Rome on 10 July at the invitation of his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, whose country took over the six-month presidency of the EU at the beginning of the month, BNS reported. The two-hour talks revealed many points of agreement; however, the opinions of the two countries were not the same on all matters. Repse opposed the idea of forming a joint EU border-guard unit, although he backed the idea of Latvia receiving funding from all EU countries for monitoring its border with Russia. Considerable attention was given to EU relations with Russia, with Repse noting that the EU could help resolve the Latvian-Russian border treaty problem. Berlusconi praised Latvia's position on the Iraq issue and its active participation in international peacekeeping operations. SG
LITHUANIAN, POLISH POWER UTILITIES, AND EBRD TO ESTABLISH JOINT VENTURE
Representatives of Lithuanian Energy, Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne (PSE), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) held talks in Vilnius on 9 and 10 July, at which they decided to establish a new joint venture called the Project Development Company, BNS reported. It will prepare before the end of the year a project to link the energy networks of the two countries with a 1,000-megawatt power-transmission line. A consortium led by Britain's IPA Energy Consulting has estimated that the project, which would also modernize power plants in the two countries as well as in Estonia and Latvia, would cost about 434 million euros ($495 million), of which about 275 million euros would be requested from the EU. Prime ministers Leszek Miller of Poland and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania sent a joint letter to European Commission President Romano Prodi asking for EU assistance for the project in late June. SG
POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES VOLHYNIA DECLARATION
The Sejm voted 323-35 with 14 abstentions on 10 July to pass a declaration on the 60th anniversary of the Volhynia massacres, PAP reported. The voting was preceded by debate on 9 July. Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his party opposes the declaration because it does not contain the term "genocide." "All that took place in Volhynia 60 years ago was genocide in the most explicit meaning of the word, a large-scale genocide," Kaczynski said. The League of Polish Families (LPR), the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), and three minor opposition caucuses also criticized the draft, arguing that it is not sufficiently explicit (see Ukraine item above). AM
POLISH PREMIER VOWS ZERO TOLERANCE FOR CRIMINALS
Premier Leszek Miller declared in the Sejm on 10 July that there will be no tolerance for criminals, irrespective of their posts or parties, Polish Radio reported. Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik and Justice Minister Grzegorz Kurczuk briefed deputies on the investigation into the so-called Starachowice scandal, in which Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) deputy Andrzej Jagiello allegedly divulged to local officials a pending police raid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). Deputy Interior Minister Zbigniew Sobotka has also been linked to the incident. "Andrzej Jagiello behaved disgracefully and atrociously," Miller said. "It was possible to bring the charges -- not thanks to a press publication, as some would like -- but thanks to the methodical and effective work of state bodies." AM
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER PLANS DEEP CUTS
Miroslav Kostelka will present a plan by the end of the year that maps out deep cuts in troop numbers and technology while greatly increasing Czech reliance on NATO for national defense, the daily "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 11 July. Kostelka, who took the defense portfolio after Jaroslav Tvrdik resigned to protest imminent budget cuts, is reworking a military-reform strategy originally approved by the government in 2002. Kostelka envisages a reduction of troops from the current 60,000 to 30,000, just 30 tanks, and a fleet of 18 subsonic L-159 jets rather than the originally contracted figure, 72. He said the new-look Czech Army will be small, professional, and exceptional in some areas but heavily reliant on NATO allies in others, the daily reported. While questions might arise over the combat-readiness of the Czech Army, "Hospodarske noviny" reported, defense officials are confident that the country will be able to fulfill its NATO obligations and participate in foreign missions. AH
EUROPEAN COURT RULES CZECH JUSTICE WAS UNDULY SLOW
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg published a verdict on 10 July in which it awards damages to Czechoslovak emigrants as a result of excessive delays by Czech courts in hearing their cases in the 1990s, CTK and local dailies reported the next day. The case, Hartman v. The Czech Republic, arose after it took Czech courts some 10 years to hear restitution cases brought by Jiri and Jan Hartman, who charged that they were denied their rights to a fair trial within a reasonable time and to an effective remedy, according to documents provided on the court registrar's website (http://www.echr.coe.int). The court awarded the Hartmans 360,000 crowns ($12,880) in damages and legal fees, according to the daily "Hospodarske noviny." The Strasbourg court generally considers court proceedings of longer than 3 1/2 years excessive -- of which, the paper noted, the Czech Republic has some 77,000. AH
SLOVAK COALITION PARTY AGAIN VOTES WITH OPPOSITION
The junior governing Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO) joined opposition parties in approving a motion on 10 July to require the government to reopen Slovakia's treaty with the Vatican, TASR reported. The opposition Smer party proposed the motion. One day earlier, ANO's ministers dissented from the cabinet's approval of an agreement with the Vatican on Catholic education, one of four appendices to a comprehensive bilateral treaty, with ANO head Pavol Rusko saying the agreement must be approved by parliament. ANO's move follows a contentious week for the coalition that was sparked by ANO joining the opposition in passing an abortion-law amendment vehemently opposed by the other three coalition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 7, 8, and 9 July 2003). DW
SLOVAK PROSECUTORS DROP PHONE-TAPPING CASE AGAINST PARTY HEAD
Prosecutors have dropped a criminal investigation into the apparent tapping of ANO Chairman Rusko's phone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, 24, 27, and 31 January and 3 February 2003), TASR reported on 9 July. Rusko said the decision came as no surprise. "There are still many important people in important positions in Slovakia who would be satisfied with such a conclusion of the investigation," he said. Fallout from Rusko's eavesdropping allegations led to the resignation of Slovak Intelligence Service Director Vladimir Mitro in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 March 2003). DW
HUNGARIAN BANK EXECUTIVES RESIGN...
K&H Bank CEO Tibor Rejto resigned on 10 July as fallout continues from allegations of mismanagement and fraud at subsidiary K&H Equities, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The brokerage was among those implicated in a scandal that has already cost the head of the State Highways Management Company (AAK) his job (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 30 June 2003). Rejto added that senior management at K&H Equities should also step down. Rejto said he had no knowledge of illegal transactions at the brokerage, but added that he has a "moral duty" to step down. Rejto took over K&H Bank in January 1999 and said he is leaving "with [his] head high," having transformed an unprofitable bank into a prestigious financial institution. Deputy CEO Ludo Jacobs, responsible for the bank's internal supervision, also resigned. Financial Director Agnes Baba has been named acting CEO. Damage assessment is continuing at the bank, which is controlled by. Belgian KBC Bank. KBC said in a statement that neither the affair nor the resignations will not affect KBC's long-term commitment to K&H. ZsM
...AS POLITICAL MUDSLINGING CONTINUES
Opposition FIDESZ deputy Andras Tallai on 10 July demanded an investigation into possible connections between AAK and K&H Equities, Hungarian media reported on 10 July. Tallai, who heads parliament's audit commission, said he has formally asked Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy to order the State Audit Office to investigate. FIDESZ deputy Antal Rogan asked whether Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo, a former K&H Bank senior executive, was aware of the embezzlement at K&H Equities. Several Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) deputies issued a statement on 10 July demanding that FIDESZ "stop its filthy smear campaign." MSZP deputy Bela Katona countered that Attila Kulcsar, who has been charged in the K&H Equities case, was in close contact with several FIDESZ dignitaries. ZsM
THOUSANDS COMMEMORATE BOSNIAN MASSACRE VICTIMS
About 20,000 mainly Muslim mourners attended the funeral in Potocari near Srebrenica on 11 July of 282 victims of the 1995 massacre by Bosnian Serb forces of up to 8,000 Muslim males, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 10 July 2003). Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa Ceric -- who heads Bosnia's Islamic Community -- led the service. Security was provided by Bosnian Serb police and SFOR peacekeepers. PM
EU CHIEF TELLS BALKAN COUNTRIES TO 'TEAR DOWN WALLS'
European Commission President Romano Prodi arrived in Zagreb on 10 July with a 150-page document containing 2,500 questions that the Croatian government must answer before that country can be admitted to the Brussels-based bloc, Reuters and Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002 and 27 June 2003). He met with top government and opposition leaders. Prodi called on the countries of what the EU calls the "western Balkans" -- Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro -- to work together if they want to join the EU. "I want to stress how important it is never to lose sight of the regional reference framework. The whole, I repeat, the whole of [the] Balkans must come into the EU. No wall, no barrier must divide the Balkans," he stressed. Few things anger most Croats more than to be called "Balkan" and linked in any context to Serbia. Referring to obstacles Croatia faces in seeking EU membership, Prodi argued that "further efforts are needed in areas such as the reform of the judicial system, freedom of the press, respect for minority rights, and the return of refugees." PM
CROATIA INVITES GERMAN LEADER FOR VACATION
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 10 July that he has invited his German counterpart Gerhard Schroeder to spend his vacation in Croatia following the row between some Italian and German leaders that prompted Schroeder to scrap plans to vacation in Italy, dpa reported. The German leader "accepted the invitation and will come in October. We'd be very glad if he came even earlier," Racan added. The main foreign-policy goal of the Racan government is to join the EU by 2007. Croatia has attached great hopes to the current Italian EU Presidency in its quest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). In related news, tourism officials of the Albanian city of Gjirokaster invited Schroeder to spend his vacation there, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. PM
ISRAELI PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN CROATIA
Israeli President Moshe Katsav arrived in Zagreb on 11 July to reciprocate the 2001 visit to Israel by his Croatian counterpart Stipe Mesic, according to dpa. The exchange of visits marks a success for the Croatian leadership that took office in early 2000, following the death of President Franjo Tudjman the previous December. Tudjman was widely regarded as anti-Semitic, and the Israeli authorities generally shunned his diplomatic overtures. Some Israeli firms have, however, received contracts from the Croatian military over the years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2001). PM
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON POLITICAL PARTIES NOT TO 'ABUSE' NATIONAL HOLIDAY
On 10 July, President Boris Trajkovski called on political parties not to exploit for their own purposes the 100th anniversary of the Ilinden -- St. Elijah's Day -- uprising, which will be marked on 2 August, MIA news agency reported. He told the organizing committee that he wants "a festive atmosphere, because the holiday should not be abused...for political campaigning." During the Ilinden uprising against the Ottoman authorities in 1903, a short-lived republic was founded that is regarded by many Macedonians as the first attempt in modern times to create a Macedonian state. In the past, there have been sharp controversies among the ethnic Macedonian political parties about the historical interpretation of the uprising (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 9 August 2002). UB
MACEDONIA CONFRONTS A BRAIN DRAIN
About 15 percent of all Macedonian citizens with a higher education, or 15,000 people in all, have left their homeland to work abroad, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 10 July. Those who leave often cite poor living conditions and a lack of jobs or chances to use their talents as their motive. One of the poorest regions of former Yugoslavia, Macedonia has long seen many young people leave for a new life in the United States, Australia, or Western Europe. PM
KOSOVA TALKS NOT BEFORE SEPTEMBER?
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 10 July that September is the earliest possible "realistic" date for talks between Kosovar and Serbian authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13, 20, and 27 June 2003). He noted that a major problem in holding talks earlier is that the EU shuts down for the August vacation season. Zivkovic added that Belgrade will ask the new head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) to annul the recent free-trade agreement between Albania and Kosova as soon as that person takes office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 10 July 2003). PM
RENEWED CALLS FOR SERBIAN REFUGEES TO RETURN TO KOSOVA
The Kosovar legislature passed a resolution on 10 July reaffirming its commitment to promoting the return of Serbian refugees to the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). Legislators belonging to the Serbian minority did not vote, saying the resolution was not sufficiently specific. Meanwhile, in Ferizaj, President Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), and Reno Harnish, who is chief of mission of the U.S. Office Prishtina, visited local Serbs and called on Serbian refugees to come home. In the village of Belo Polje near Peja, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic inspected the damaged or destroyed homes of Serbs who plan to return soon. PM
ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RETURNS RADIO-TV TAX ORDINANCE TO PARLIAMENT
The Constitutional Court on 10 July admitted an opposition motion against a recently adopted government ordinance that introduced a tax on the ownership of radios and televisions, Antena1 Television reported. Opposition deputies argued that the government wanted to modify an organic law by an ordinance, which is unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Government spokeswoman Despina Neagoe said the government will respect the court's decision. ZsM
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT MODIFIES PENAL PROCEDURE CODE...
In its 10 July meeting, the government modified the recently adopted Penal Procedure Code, Romanian media reported. Among other provisions, the government modified an article that could have led to the freeing of persons accused of serious felonies. According to the article, a court could only extend an arrest warrant by 30 days if there were new developments in the case that warranted that extension. The government modified the article, asking the judges to take into consideration the circumstances of the arrest in considering requests for extensions. Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu said parliament will be summoned for an extraordinary session to approve the change. ZsM
...AND ESTABLISHES ROMANY CULTURAL CENTER
At the same meeting, the government moved to establish a National Romany Culture Center, a press release reported. The center, the aim of which is to support Romany culture and traditions, is part of the Culture Ministry's "Roma 2002 -- Together for Europe" action plan, which was adopted last year. ZsM
ROMANIAN NGOS PROTEST VIOLATION OF LAW ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Five nongovernmental organizations on 10 July addressed a protest to Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita concerning an alleged violation of the law on access to public information, Mediafax reported. According to the NGOs, the mayor and the local council of Selimbar in Sibiu County violated the law by raising the fee for copying documents from 1,500 lei (some $0.05) to 100,000 lei per page. According to the law, adopted in 2001, access to public information is free. The protesters argue that the cost of copying documents "cannot be transformed into a pretext for annulling that free access." Former Selimbar Mayor Doru Sandru was asked to pay 22.6 million lei for copying requested documents. The local council raised the fees following Sandru's request for the documents. The NGOs asked Joita to investigate. ZsM
CHISINAU, TIRASPOL MAKE SMALL PROGRESS IN TALKS
Moldovan and Transdniester representatives on 10 July signed an agreement on the rules by which the mixed commission on the new federal constitution is to function, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. The commission's activity was stalled for almost three months due to disagreements over the location of the meetings and other organizational problems. The commission is to meet weekly in the Transdniester city of Tighina. On 10 July the parties also presented their views on the structure of the federal state. Chisinau and Tiraspol have radically different positions: While the first wants an asymmetric federation with the center in Chisinau, the latter wants a federation with two equal subjects. ZsM
ISRAELI PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO MOLDOVA
Israeli President Moshe Katsav was expected to end a two-day visit to Moldova on 11 July, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. At a press conference following his meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin, Katsav said the Jews in Moldova represent "a bridge between the two countries." He added that his visit commemorates the victims of a 1903 pogrom that left 49 Jews dead. Katsav warned of an escalation in the Middle East conflict should Palestinian authorities fail to stop "the terrorist attacks faced by Israel in the last 100 days." Speaking at a Moldovan-Israeli business forum on 10 July, Voronin encouraged the 60 Israeli businessmen present to invest in Moldova. Katsav also met Moldovan Parliament Chairwoman Eugenia Ostapciuc and gave a speech in parliament. ZsM
EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BULGARIAN ACCESSION TALKS
Emerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in Sofia on 10 July that the European Commission will do everything it can to ensure that Bulgaria completes accession negotiations by fall 2004, mediapool.bg reported. Verheugen said a lot of work remains to be done, but added that the EC wants Bulgaria to become a full EU member in 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 9 July 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 May 2003). UB
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO TO FAMILY CODE AMENDMENTS
Voting 148-26 with six abstentions, parliament on 10 July overrode President Georgi Parvanov's veto of amendments to the Family Code pertaining to adoption, mediapool.bg reported. Deputies from the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), its coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and the opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) voted in favor of the amendments. Parvanov had vetoed the amendments because, he argued, they would give foreigners a better chance of adopting Bulgarian children than domestic adoptive parents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January and 30 June 2003). UB
AFGHAN ADMINISTRATION HEAD'S 'FIRST FOREIGN-POLICY SPEECH' TRIGGERS ANTI-PAKISTAN RIOT
On the occasion of the inauguration of the International Press Center in the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul on 6 July, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai delivered a bellicose speech that had little to do with the events of the day, but which rather targeted Pakistan.
Karzai told his audience that he would present them with "a brief sketch of not only what happened in Afghanistan, but more importantly, what we Afghans have felt and thought about what happened." In other words, Karzai made it clear in the beginning of his speech that the perceptions held by Afghans, presumably including himself, are as important as the events that he would recount.
He then said that since 27 December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and triggered a "holy war (jihad) and massive emigration," the country has suffered from the effects of "dual extremism" -- communism and religious-based extremism. Karzai claimed that both of these extremisms "were completely alien" to Afghanistan and the Afghans.
Trying to illustrate that the Afghans were not behind the rise of extremism and terrorism that emanated from their country, Karzai spoke about the Soviet Union's withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan in 1989. He said that the "countries of the world" that had supported the anti-Soviet struggle by the Afghans "turned their backs," leaving Afghanistan "at the mercy of the regional powers and its neighbors." Karzai criticized the absence of acknowledgment by the United States, Europe, and the Muslim world of the sacrifices made by the Afghans in helping to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, he claimed that this was "at the heart" of the failure of the Afghan mujahedin groups to establish a credible government after their victory over the Soviet- and later Russian-backed Communist regime of President Najibullah in 1992.
At this juncture, most likely referring to Pakistan, Karzai said that Afghanistan faced a "new form of aggression, a more comprehensive one, one that spanned cultural subjugation too." According to Karzai, the "aggressor" -- not naming Pakistan directly -- intended to destroy Afghan history and historical identity, culture, and economy. He added, "Educated Afghans were to be either killed or expelled." The Afghan leader's own father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, who was politically active and supported the policies of former Afghan King Mohammad Zaher, was assassinated in Pakistan in 1999.
After the events of 11 September 2001, "finally the world woke up," Karzai continued. "Driven by its own interests," the international community began to reengage itself in Afghanistan. "The Afghans forgot and forgave." Again making a masked reference to Pakistan, the Afghan leader said, "We forgave...those neighbors who had attacked us, who had fragmented us, killed us in thousands, and destroyed our land."
Then Karzai turned to the more recent events, saying the extremism "that was aimed at harming Afghanistan, has now got its claws deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan." The deadly 4 July attack against a mosque in the Pakistani city of Quetta and the assault on a mosque in Kandahar three days earlier "are examples of the consequences that resulted from the mistake of cherishing extremism for the destruction of Afghanistan." Here Karzai was referring to the policy in the 1980s to radicalize the Afghan mujahedin by infusing Arab and Pakistani fighters among their ranks. Later in the 1990s, the creation of the Taliban who sheltered Al-Qaeda terrorist networks was a direct result. He added that today the seeds of plans to radicalize the Afghan opposition -- and extremist foreign fighters -- still present in the region are "emerging from within Pakistan."
Karzai said that during their struggle against the Soviet Red Army, those who shouted "slogans of friendship" stabbed the Afghans in the back. Then, speaking of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, whom he referred to as "a close friend," Karzai said that remarks made by the Pakistani leader while in Europe "saddened" him.
While Karzai did not elaborate in his speech, the remarks that caused the greatest apprehension to him were made during Musharraf's visit to Paris on 5 July. Musharraf spoke about Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and said that he might be hiding in Afghanistan because "there is a total power vacuum. The weight of the government does not go beyond the capital [Kabul]." Furthermore, Musharraf criticized the ethnic imbalance in the Afghan Transitional Administration. Karzai stated that he wished to speak to Musharraf soon to "seek clarification as to what his intention was."
Karzai's speech then turned more offensive, while tentatively offering an olive branch. "Afghanistan keeps friends, but knows its interests," he said. Karzai, in lofty words, basically said that Afghanistan knows its limits, but hopes that its neighbors -- i.e. Pakistan -- know their limits as well. "Afghanistan will not become a gamble any more," he declared. "We have preserved our land with our blood."
At the end of his speech, Karzai said that Afghanistan desires a "friendly and constructive relationship" with all of its neighbors, and it wishes to harm no one. He concluded his speech, amid approving applause, by stating, "If you are in doubt about my Afghan valor; you will know it when you face me in battle." Karzai's unusually strong language, especially with regard to a foreign state, was the result of several possible factors.
First, Karzai must have felt a level of personal frustration and disillusionment with Musharraf, whom he has called a brother and a friend. While Pakistani officials have since claimed that Musharraf's remarks were misunderstood and that he merely wanted to help the Afghan cause, Karzai must have regarded these comments not only as interference into his country's internal affairs, but as a public disapproval of his own performance. This might be something that he hears much from international media and organizations, but not from world leaders who, at least publicly, revere Karzai. In short, it appears that Musharraf's comments hurt Karzai's feelings.
Second, and more importantly, although Karzai did not directly discuss the current and ongoing incursions inside Afghan territory by Pakistani militia, the speech might have been used as a way to tell his own nation that he cares about these reports and is ready to lead them in battle, if necessary. One need only recall Pakistan's recent past adventures within Afghanistan to gain some appreciation of Afghan apprehension and fear over Pakistani incursions, however minor they might prove to be in the end.
Third, Karzai has been under pressure by various Afghan factions, specially the dominant United Front (Northern Alliance) forces, after his April speech, in which he tried to draw a line between good and bad Taliban. By disassociating himself from Pakistan -- the main backer and in some sense the creator of the Taliban movement -- Karzai might have desired to champion an Afghan nationalist stance. Many in Afghanistan, including Karzai, most probably were incensed to hear Musharraf patronize the Afghans by pointing to problems that many believe were and continue to be fueled by the Pakistanis themselves. By using the phrase "forgetting and forgiving" more than once, he might have also wanted to signal that anyone who today is loyal to Afghanistan is forgiven, regardless of their past behavior. In the upcoming 2004 presidential election in Afghanistan, if Karzai is to win in a truly democratic race, he needs the backing of the disenchanted Pashtuns.
Whatever Karzai's main reason for delivering his first major "foreign policy" speech, the events of 8 July -- in which the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul was ransacked by a mob -- turned the tables on him. Following the attack on the Pakistani mission, Karzai told a news conference in Kabul that he had expected a call from Musharraf to explain the remarks he made about Afghanistan in his recent tour of Europe. But, he offered, under the circumstances he decided to call Musharraf himself and "apologize for the incident." Karzai, to the disapproval of many Afghans, described the attackers as "enemies of Afghan-Pakistani friendship [and] of peace and prosperity of the Afghan people."
From Karzai's swift reaction and strong condemnation of the attack against the Pakistani Embassy it can be deduced that he was not expecting such a violent popular response to his speech. Or perhaps he was discounting the fact that other political players inside his administration might use this opportunity to create a greater rift between Kabul and Islamabad that has opened in the last weeks.
While his 6 July speech might have backfired in the short-term, Karzai also faces a greater long-term dilemma. Karzai must show his people that the borders of his country are safe from intrusion by its neighbors. For its part, Afghanistan must -- once and for all -- accept the legitimacy and legality of its boundary with Pakistan, which it has so far refused to do. Then Pakistan has to respect that border as an international line between two countries, not as a line in the battlefield against terrorists, or as it was regarded in the past, against the communists. Only the strongest ally for both of Kabul and Islamabad -- the United States -- can pressure both sides to resolve this problem.
There is a fear held widely among Afghans that was illustrated by Karzai: that Afghanistan will be delivered to the will of Pakistan. As Karzai has rightly warned, the international community should "not repeat that mistake."
(Kimberly McCloud contributed to this article.)
PAKISTAN BLAMES AFGHAN 'MILITIA' FOR ATTACKS ON ITS BORDER POST
Sahibzada Mohammad Anees of the Mohmand Political Agency said on 9 July that Afghan militia loyal to the Nangarhar Military Corps commander Hazrat-e Ali "launched an unprovoked attack" against a Pakistani border post in the Yaqubi region, Pakistan's daily "The News" reported on 10 July. Anees's claim could not be confirmed independently, however, local residents blamed the Afghan side for firing first, the report added. An Afghan commander in the area who wished to remain anonymous said that Pakistan has initiated the conflict in an effort to bring the area under its control (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2003). AT
PROTESTORS IN KANDAHAR CALL ON PAKISTAN TO WITHDRAW ITS TROOPS
Over 500 residents of Kandahar staged a peaceful rally on 10 July calling on Pakistan to withdraw its forces from Afghan territory, Hindukosh news agency reported. Haji Lal Mohammad, who is a tribal leader and former member of parliament, called on Pakistan to evacuate "Pashtunistan" -- meaning the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan that is largely inhabited by Pashtuns -- in a repeat of the policies followed by Afghanistan in the 1950s-80s. Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's brother Abdul Wali Karzai also participated in the march. The current border between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- known as the "Durand Line" after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the British signatory of the 1893 agreement that demarcated the border between Afghanistan and British India -- has never been officially recognized by Afghanistan, and has been at the heart of disagreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Those sections of the border where the current clashes are occurring have never been demarcated properly. AT
HEAD OF CRC SAYS ISLAM WILL FIGURE PROMINENTLY IN CONSTITUTION
At a meeting organized on 8 July in Balkh University in Mazar-e Sharif to discuss the future Afghan constitution, Nematullah Shahrani, the head of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), said the new Afghan constitution will have "Islamic agendas...that are not found in the constitutions of other Islamic countries," Balkh TV reported. He did not specify what Islamic rules will be used in education and in Afghan government offices. Shahrani added that the constitution has "proclamations of emancipation, but there are some rules too." He did not elaborate on those rules, however. Pointing to articles critical of Islam which were published in June in "Aftab" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 June 2003), he said that what was published was not journalism, "not democracy, [and] it was not fair." Shahrani said that the Afghan calendar will be changed to the lunar system from the solar system currently in use (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January and 10 and 24 April 2003). AT
CONSTRUCTION OF UNIVERSITY BEGINS IN HERAT
Minister of Higher Education Mohammad Sharif Fayez has laid the foundation of a major university to be built in the western Afghan city of Herat, Pakistan's "Daily Times" reported on 10 July. The construction project for the university that will accommodate 3,300 students will take three years to complete. Fayez asked local merchants for donations toward the cost of building the university, which is being funded by the central government in Kabul and from the customs revenue generated in Herat Province. Afghanistan has one of lowest literacy rates in the world, with less than 10 percent of the population being able to read and write. AT
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MIGHT BE ESTABLISHED IN AFGHANISTAN
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) awarded a grant to the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education on 8 July to fund a feasibility study for a proposed American University in Afghanistan (AUA), USTDA announced. If established, the AUA would be an American-style, private, coeducational higher education institution in Afghanistan, similar to universities around the world that are members of the Association of American International Colleges and Universities. These universities are accredited for degree purposes, both in their host countries and in the United States. AT
IRANIAN PRESIDENT MENTIONS QUITTING -- AGAIN
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said during a 10 July speech in the city of Karaj that if the public is displeased with his government, it will step aside, IRNA reported on 11 July. "If the nation says, 'We do not like [you],' we will quit. A society should be so," he said. Khatami said the government serves the people, not the other way around. Khatami criticized the exploitation of revolutionary and religious values for factional purposes, urged people to vote in the 2004 parliamentary election, and vowed that the government will campaign against economic problems such as inflation and unemployment. BS
FIRMS SUSPECTED OF SHIPPING MILITARY GOODS TO IRAN SEARCHED
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed search warrants on 18 U.S. companies in 10 states on 10 July pursuant to an investigation regarding possible illegal transfers of military components to Iran, the U.S. Defense Department announced (http://www.defenselink.mil). The companies are suspected of exporting, without the appropriate license from the State Department, components for the F-4 Phantom, F-5 Tiger, and F-14 Tomcat aircraft, and for the Hawk missile system. The components allegedly were shipped to London-based Multicore Limited, which has ties to the Iranian armed forces, according to the U.S. Defense Department. Two Multicore shareholders, Said Homayouni, an Iranian-born Canadian, and Yew Leng Fung, a Malaysian, pleaded guilty in June 2001 to conspiring to ship restricted parts for military aircraft to Iran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 June 2001). Information provided by the British authorities in August 2002 to the DCIS and ICE revealed that U.S. companies were doing business with Multicore London even after raids on Homayouni and Fung's facilities in Bakersfield, California. Officials at the companies denied any knowledge of involvement in the shipment of goods to Iran or that they were doing business with Multicore, AP reported on 11 July. BS
KIDNAPPED IRANIAN JOURNALIST REAPPEARS
Payman Pakmehr, formerly a correspondent for the banned daily "Nasim-i Sabah" and the banned weekly "Ahrar-i Tabriz," returned to his home on 4 July, 48 hours after being attacked and kidnapped by unidentified individuals, according to a 10 July Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announcement. Pakmehr disappeared shortly after reporting on a gathering at Babak Castle, near the East Azerbaijan Province town of Kelidar, for the annual commemoration of Babak Khorramdin, one of the first popular Persian leaders to oppose the imposition of Islamic and Arabic rule (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). BS
JAPAN AND RUSSIA WILL NOT DEVELOP IRANIAN OIL FIELD JOINTLY...
Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma denied on 11 July that Moscow has proposed that Russia and Japan jointly develop Iran's Azadegan oil field, Kyodo World Service reported. Citing anonymous "industry sources," the 10 July "Financial Times" reported that as part of the joint development deal, Russia would build a pipeline from Siberia to the Sea of Japan. The "Financial Times" also reported that Russia and China are offering to develop the Azadegan oil field. Under pressure from Washington, Tokyo announced on 1 July that it will not sign a contract for the Azadegan oil-development project if Tehran fails to address international concerns about its nuclear activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 July 2003). BS
...BUT TOKYO STILL KEEN ON IRANIAN OIL-FIELD PROJECT
Tehran reacted to Tokyo's stance by announcing on 7 July that it reserves the right to enter negotiations with other parties. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said Iran can look elsewhere because the preferential deadline of 30 June expired without Japan finalizing the deal, but "Japan has not been ruled out yet and Japanese are still continuing negotiations," IRNA reported on 7 July. The Japanese Embassy in Tehran announced the same day that a delegation led by Yukia Amano, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's director-general for arms control and scientific affairs, will arrive in Tehran on 12 July to discuss disarmament and nonproliferation, according to IRNA. According to the Kyodo news agency on 7 July, Amano will try to persuade Iran to eliminate suspicions about its possible nuclear-weapons-development program, and he will reiterate Tokyo's desire that Tehran sign the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. An anonymous "senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official" said, "If we can gain transparency regarding the nuclear suspicions, we want to move forward with the negotiations [for the Azadegan project]." BS
PROTESTORS STORM IRANIAN EMBASSY IN OSLO
Hussein Shirazi, the Iranian ambassador to Norway, was rushed to the hospital with chest pains on 9 July after demonstrators reportedly attempted to storm the embassy and his residence with sticks and weapons, AFP reported on 10 July. An anonymous Iranian diplomat was quoted by AFP as saying, "It seems as though he has heart problems." The source said protestors from the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) "came with sticks and weapons and tried to storm the building, banging on the door and trying to get in." The embassy alerted local police, who dispersed the protestors. An MKO representative told AFP that his group was not involved in the protest and that the Iranian diplomat's claims were "absolutely false." BS
U.S. TROOPS REPORTEDLY PULL OUT OF AL-FALLUJAH
U.S. troops reportedly have pulled out of the central Iraqi town of Al-Fallujah, located some 50 kilometers west of Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported on 11 July. Weeks of mounting tension between locals and coalition troops escalated into a 10 July protest by Iraqi police officers following overnight attacks on their police station and municipal building by unknown militants. The police threatened to resign if coalition forces did not leave within 48 hours (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). According to Al-Jazeera, U.S. forces moved from two posts they had set up in the city center to positions outside the city. The report has not been independently confirmed. KR
TURKOMANS IN ANKARA FOR POLITICAL TRAINING
A group of 27 Iraqi Turkomans are currently attending a political training seminar in Ankara, Istanbul's "Hurriyet" reported on 9 July. According to the report, the Turkomans are attending political-science courses on topics including constitutional law, the European Union, history, management, communications, political geography, and U.S. policy. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is sponsoring the seminar. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has denied that a Turkish Special Forces team was training Iraqi Turkomans on the use of explosives, but added, "It is normal for the special [forces] team to have special weapons and special explosives." The team was arrested in the northern Iraqi town of Al-Sulaymaniyah on 4 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003) for reportedly planning an assassination attempt on the governor of Kirkuk. KR
INC NEWSPAPERS CLAIM CHALABI 'STRONGEST CANDIDATE'
The Iraqi National Congress newspaper "Al-Mu'tamar" reported on 8 July that INC head Ahmad Chalabi appears to be the best candidate for Iraqi prime minister, based on a proposed list of some 25 Iraqis to sit on the upcoming governing council. The report appears to reflect Chalabi's desire to position himself politically despite repeated claims since his return to Iraq that he will not seek a political role in the future Iraqi government. Meanwhile, "Al-Nahdah" reported on 9 July that INC member Entifadh Qanbar has said the group of seven major political parties agreed at a 7 July meeting in Salah Al-Din that an Iraqi military force should be formed to replace coalition troops. Such a force, he claimed, would be more knowledgeable about local customs and thus more qualified to stop criminals. KR
COALITION FORCES SEIZE ARTIFACTS
Soldiers from the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion seized 12 Iraqi artifacts during a house raid on 7 July, according to a 10 July press release on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). The artifacts include a skull, a clay bowl, and miniature statues. "A local archaeologist determined one of the artifacts to be pre-Sumerian, dated 3000-3200 BC," the press release stated. The archaeologist said that all of the pieces were taken from the Baghdad Museum, presumably looted during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "The artifacts were found wrapped in towels in a rice bag in the residence along with AK-47s, grenades, several million Iraqi dinar and communications equipment," according to the press release. CENTCOM also said a suspected smuggler and what appear to be two prospective buyers were detained in the raid. KR
FORMER CENTCOM HEAD SAYS 10-25 VIOLENT INCIDENTS OCCUR IN IRAQ EACH DAY
The former head of U.S. CENTCOM, General Tommy Franks, told the House Armed Services Committee on 10 July that "on a given day, there will be somewhere between 10 and 25 violent incidents" in Iraq, Reuters reported the same day. U.S. troops in Iraq, which number 148,000, have come under increasing attack in recent weeks from militants opposed to the U.S.-led occupation. Franks said the militants include revenge-seeking Ba'athists, as well as "jihadists," a term he used but did not define except to say that they include "terrorists," Reuters reported. "We have our people every day, not sitting in base camps, but rather out looking to find the Ba'athists, looking to find the jihadists, looking to find these people who cross the border from Syria and are hell-bent on creating difficulty," he said. Franks reportedly did not expound on his reference to Syria; but when asked whether foreign fighters are infiltrating Iraq to carry out attacks on coalition forces, he said, "It's very difficult to say right now," adding, "Our forces are on the lookout for them." Franks stepped down as head of CENTCOM on 7 July, ahead of his retirement later this summer, turning the reins over to Lieutenant General John Abizaid. KR