Accessibility links

Newsline - July 21, 2003


SEVEN CASES NOW OPEN IN YUKOS AFFAIR...
The Prosecutor-General's Office has announced that it currently has seven criminal cases pending against oil giant Yukos and its employees, Russian media reported on 18 July. The cases include charges of embezzlement in connection with the 1994 privatization of chemical company Apapit, charges of tax evasion against Yukos branches, double-murder charges against senior Yukos security officer Aleksei Pichugin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003), and four other cases reportedly involving contract murders. Yukos's legal department on 19 July released a statement saying that prosecutors have been unable to come up with evidence of crimes committed by the company and therefore they are trying to smear the firm's reputation in the media. This is why investigators have sought to connect Yukos with crimes allegedly committed several years ago, the statement said. "Everybody, including the Prosecutor-General's Office, knows that none of these cases will reach the courts, because they have no legal basis," the Yukos statement declared. VY

...AS DEPUTIES CONCERNED ABOUT CHARGES POLICE USED DRUGS ON SUSPECT
A group of Duma deputies has sent a request to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and presidential human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov asking them to investigate complaints by Aleksei Pichugin's wife and lawyers that police have used psychotropic drugs on Pichugin since he has been in custody, newsru.com reported on 19 July. The group includes Aleksei Melnikov (Yabloko), Igor Annenskii (Communist), Aleksandr Barannikov (Union of Rightist Forces, or SPS), and Vladimir Dubov (Fatherland-All Russia). Pichugin, a former KGB officer who is charged with organizing the killings of two people, maintains that he is innocent and says he was arrested in an effort by authorities to obtain compromising material against Yukos. On 18 July, a Moscow district court rejected an appeal by Pichugin's lawyers alleging that his arrest and the searches of his offices were illegal. VY

ALUMINUM TITAN, ELECTRICITY TSAR SAFE FOR NOW FROM PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE...
The Prosecutor-General's Office does not plan to conduct an inquiry into the so-called Ingosstrakh affair, the office's information and public-affairs directorate told Interfax on 18 July. In that case, entrepreneur Andrei Andreev accused Russian Aluminum (Rusal) head Oleg Deripaska of being involved in illegally depriving him of assets in Ingosstrakh and other companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003). According to the prosecutor's office, no active investigation is planned in the immediate future. The prosecutor's office also denied press reports that it is planning to conduct an investigation into the privatization of Novosibirskenergo. JAC

...AS TV VIEWERS DIFFER WITH FORMER STATE PROPERTY HEAD OVER EXPEDIENCY OF REVIEWING PRIVATIZATION
In a 20 July interview with NTV, Alfred Kokh, who was chairman of the State Property Committee during some of the most controversial privatizations of the mid-1990s, suggested that the "battle against the oligarchs" is being conducted by someone close to the Kremlin for purposes of winning an election, RosBalt reported. However, Kokh concluded that the slogan of "battle against the oligarchs" does not coincide with the task of increasing the country's gross domestic product. "It's either one or the other," Kokh said. According to RosBalt, TV-Tsentr on 19 July conducted a poll among viewers and 9,500 of 10,000 respondents said they think people would live better if the results of privatization were reexamined. JAC

INTELLECTUALS WARN AGAINST CREEPING CONSERVATISM IN THE SCHOOLS
A group of prominent cultural figures has written a letter to Education Minister Vladimir Filippov in which they warn that a tradition of great Russian writers who opposed tyranny and totalitarianism is being consigned to oblivion and eliminated from the curriculum of Russian schools, newsru.com and the BBC reported on 19 July. Over the last couple of years, antitotalitarian works by writers such as Boris Pasternak, Andrei Platonov, Anna Akhmatova, and Osip Mandelshtam have been removed from required-reading lists, while Soviet literary icons such as Mikhail Sholokhov continue to be taught. Recent pedagogical materials on literature show clear "conservative trends" toward undoing efforts over the last decade to condemn totalitarianism, the intellectuals' letter said. The letter was signed by writers Vladimir Voinovich, Fasil Iskander, Andrei Voznesenskii, and Rimma Kazakova, among others. Commenting on the changes to the school curriculum, rock star Andrei Makarevich told Ekho Moskvy that the authorities are working to restore the cult of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and predicted that within five years Stalin will be viewed as a heroic figure by young Russians. VY

RUSSIA BRACING FOR THE WORST IN KOREA?
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov has said that Russia is concerned about the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and that Moscow has undertaken several precautionary measures to cope with any possible military conflict in the region, including a conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 July. He said it is natural that the possibility of such a conflict should concern bordering countries, including Russia and China, which is also implementing precautionary measures. Losyukov did not specify exactly what measures Russia has taken, but he said they are being taken in the Far East and throughout the country. The issue has been discussed at the interbranch level of government and the necessary instructions have been issued to the proper governmental agencies, Losyukov said. However, the daily was unable to confirm these statements with the Defense Ministry, the Health Ministry, or the Emergency Situations Ministry. A spokesman from the latter told the daily that ordinary civil-defense precautions against nuclear radiation are being implemented in the Far East. VY

PROMINENT INGUSH JOURNALIST KILLED IN MOSCOW
An unknown person killed Ingush journalist Alikhan Guliev on 18 July near his home in Moscow, Russian media reported. Guliev, who worked for a regional television station in Ingushetia and as a stringer for TV-Tsentr and "Kommersant-Daily," was well known for his analytical reports about Chechnya and Ingushetia, gazeta.ru reported on 19 July. Guliev had also publicized critical materials about former Ingush Interior Minister Khamsat Gutseriev, RTR and NTV reported. In response to an appeal from Guliev, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia last year annulled the registration of Gutseriev as a candidate for republican president for violating campaign rules. Investigators are looking into possible political, personal, and economic motives for Guliev's killing. VY

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF CURBING PROSECUTORS' RIGHTS IN BATTLES WITH REGIONS...
The Constitutional Court issued a ruling on 18 July that "Kommersant-Daily" described the next day as "sensational." The court ruled that prosecutors do not have the right to file lawsuits challenging the conformity of local and regional legislation with federal laws. Only the Constitutional Court itself has this authority. The newspaper concluded that this decision will hinder the federal center's effort to create a uniform legal space. The lawsuit was brought by legislators in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, who questioned specific provisions of the law on prosecutors that allowed any prosecutor to protest contradictions of legal acts in courts of general or arbitration jurisdiction, "Vremya-MN" reported. Tatarstan Supreme Court Chairman Roman Gafarov told "Kommersant-Daily," "We are 100 percent satisfied with this decision." JAC

...AND TV-6 LOSES ANOTHER COURT BATTLE
The Constitutional Court upheld on 18 July a lower-court decision to close the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Company (MNKV), the company that owned TV-6, Russian media reported. On 11 January, the presidium of the Supreme Arbitration Court upheld a 27 November decision ordering the company's liquidation (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 14 January 2002 and 26 June 2003). At the time of the January decision, TV-6 shareholder and self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. JAC

DAILY ALLEGES THAT ENVOYS' RESOURCES BEING USED FOR UNIFIED RUSSIA'S CAMPAIGN...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" alleged on 18 July that the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts have been instructed to support the State Duma campaign of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, and as a result, the envoys' reception offices are being made available for the campaign. However, an analytical report prepared last year by the Regional Applied Policy Agency and the Regional Issues Institute concluded that the envoys would not likely be much help in this task since they have proven incompetent in most areas. For example, they still have not completed their main task of bringing regional laws into compliance with federal law. JAC

...AND THAT KREMLIN WILL STILL NEED GOVERNORS' SUPPORT TO WIN DUMA ELECTIONS
Regional governors still have significant administrative resources at their disposal despite attempts by Moscow to curb their power, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 July. The daily argues that the Kremlin's main goal is to secure a pro-Kremlin majority in the Duma. Therefore, Kremlin officials will likely have to bypass the presidential envoys and deal with regional leaders directly. JAC

CHURCHES SAID TO BE CARRYING THE MESSAGE THIS POLITICAL SEASON...
A Justice Ministry official recently told reporters in Moscow that the "role of religious organizations has grown noticeably, and they exert a huge influence over the electorate," "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 12, reported. Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, director for the Justice Ministry's department of public affairs and religious associations, said that "several parties will successfully play the religious card, using priests in the capacity of campaigners and propagandists." However, this assertion was strongly disputed by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the department of external relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He told the fortnightly that he does not know of a single instance of a priest campaigning for a political party. JAC

...AS RAIKOV'S PARTY SEEKS TO LURE AWAY SOME OF COMMUNIST PARTY FAITHFUL
Igor Bunin of the Center for Political Technologies, who was interviewed for the same "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii" article, said regular churchgoers generally support the Communist Party. He added that the only party actively to use the "religion factor" is Gennadii Raikov's People's Party, which is trying to take away some of the Communist Party's electorate. According to an article in the paper's previous issue, No. 11, the People's Deputy faction has regularly introduced legislation in support of Russia's traditional religions, and one-third of the members of the faction are also member of the interfactional deputy group called In Support of Traditional Spiritual-Moral Values. JAC

TWO FORMER BUREAUCRATS FOUND GUILTY OF BRIBERY, GIVEN SUSPENDED SENTENCES
The Moscow Municipal Court on 18 July found two 1990s-era Economics Ministry officials guilty of accepting bribes, Russian media reported. Andrei Lifanchikov, former head of the department for the agro-industrial sector, and his deputy, Vladimir Korneev, were given suspended sentences of 8 1/2 and seven years, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. Lifanchikov, 66, will be on probation for five years and must pay a fine of 74,150 rubles ($2,400). Korneev, 63, must pay 63,312 rubles. Prosecutors acquiesced to the lenient sentence because of the advanced ages of the defendants. According to polit.ru, the two men did not just take bribes, but created an entire system of extorting gifts, free trips, and even an apartment in a resort town. Of the approximately 50 counts of bribe taking that the two men faced, they were convicted on only three. JAC

DUMA SPEAKER SAYS HE IS THERE TO STAY
Gennadii Seleznev issued a statement on 18 July denying reports that he will take over as presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District if Valentina Matvienko wins the 21 September gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg, polit.ru reported. Seleznev said he will run in the first slot on the party list for his party, Russia's Rebirth, and as a candidate in the 209th single-mandate district in St. Petersburg. Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Khakamada (SPS) has also announced that she will compete in that district (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003). JAC

INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR OPERATOR OF ARMENIAN AIRPORT
A judge in Argentina issued an international arrest warrant on 17 July for Eduardo Eurnekian, the operator of Armenia's international airport, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Azg reported. The Armenian government awarded a 30-year contract to Eurnekian's Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 consortium to manage Yerevan's Zvartnots Airport. The award was criticized for alleged favoritism and for its closed bidding process, although the Armenian government dismissed these objections and claimed the group would invest in modernizing and upgrading the airport. The arrest warrant for Eurnekian, who is suspected of having evaded more than $5 million in taxes, followed his failure to return to Argentina from a vacation in Italy, thereby violating a court summons. Officials of the Armenian Justice Ministry stated that the incident will have no bearing on the airport-management contract. RG

ARMENIAN CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION TO SUE GROUP OF CANDIDATES
The Armenian Central Election Commission (CEC) adopted a proposal by commission Deputy Chairman Hamlet Abrahimian on 18 July to file administrative lawsuits against a group of 141 parliamentary candidates, Yerkir reported. Most of the candidates were defeated, although five candidates -- Hovik Azoyan, Nahapet Gevorgian, Hakob Hakobian, Mekhak Mkhitarian, and Arshak Sadoyan -- were elected as deputies in the new parliament. The candidates have allegedly failed to submit detailed financial statements of their campaign finances as legally required. RG

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WEIGHS IN ON POSSIBLE OPENING OF BORDER WITH TURKEY
Vardan Oskanian stated on 19 July that recent speculation over possible negative economic effects from opening the Armenian-Turkish border is incorrect, Golos Armenii reported. "In principle, I do not suppose that the possible lifting of the blockade from the Armenian-Turkish border will have any negative consequences for our country's economy," Oskanian said. "I am absolutely sure the opening of the border is beneficial not only to the two countries, but also to the region as a whole." The comments follow recent statements by deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovannisian warning that the opening of border trade will inflict serious damage on the Armenian economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 July 2003). RG

JOINT U.S.-ARMENIAN OPERATION MAKES ARREST IN CHILD-PORNOGRAPHY CASE
Armenian security forces, in conjunction with their U.S. counterparts, arrested three men on 19 July suspected of producing and selling child pornography, AP reported. The suspect was allegedly caught with more than 50 videotapes containing pornographic material. National Security Service spokesman Armenak Manukian said the group's alleged leader worked for an Armenian-U.S. joint venture and allegedly had contacts with criminal groups in Russia and the United States. RG

LEADER OF ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTY RESIGNS
The chairman of the Armenian Liberal-Democratic ("Ramkavar-Azatakan") Party, Ruben Mirzakhanian, resigned on 19 July, Armenpress and Yerkir reported. Mirzakhanian reportedly submitted his resignation to a party convention after his party failed to garner any seats in the new parliament that was elected on 25 May. The convention of the small, center-right party also resolved to replace the position of chairman with a three-member board to lead the party. RG

DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER COMMENTS ON RECENT ARMENIAN TV STATION'S FAILED TENDER BID
Tigran Torosian expressed his surprise in a 19 July statement about a recent decision by the National Television and Radio Commission rejecting three bids for broadcasting frequencies by the independent A1+ television company, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. Torosian added that it "is clear that the television companies that will continue broadcasting by the commission's decision are much inferior to the A1+ television company, both in professional and creative terms." He noted that it was "strange" for the commission to justify its denial solely on financial grounds. The A1+ station was stripped of its original frequency in April 2002 and lost another bid for an alternative frequency last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June and 15 July 2003). RG

OFFICIAL: ARMENIAN NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT SAFE FOR ANOTHER 14 YEARS
Armenian State Atomic Energy Inspection Service head Ashot Martirosian announced on 20 July that the country's nuclear-power plant can safely operate for another 14 years, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the Medzamor facility, located just outside Yerevan, is subject to constant monitoring and safety inspections. Security at the Soviet-era plant has been increased in recent weeks. The plant provides more than 40 percent of the country's energy. It was first opened in 1979, but was shut down in 1989 after a devastating earthquake. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) financed the reactivation of Medzamor in 1995 on the precondition that the plant close by 2004. In December 1998, Armenian officials confirmed their readiness to comply with the deadline, but they have argued in recent years that the plant cannot be shut down until an alternative source of energy is available (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1998, 19 June 2001, and 8 April 2002). The European Union is pressuring the Armenian government to close the aging plant, promising some 100 million euros ($117 million) to assist in the transition to alternative energy sources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). RG

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON U.S. CONCERNS ABOUT APPROACHING ELECTION
Novruz Mammadov, the head of the foreign relations department of the Azerbaijani presidential staff, said on 17 July that a recent U.S State Department statement expressing concern over the upcoming presidential election is "normal" and merely reflects an interest in Azerbaijani affairs, ANS and "Baku Today" reported. The U.S. State Department noted that although it does not hold "a position or support any particular candidate," it is concerned that the election be "conducted in accordance with the recently adopted unified election code, Azerbaijan's constitution, and with international standards," including "registering all qualified candidates, permitting public debate, providing equal access to the media, and ensuring that the balloting is free and fair" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). Mammadov added that the election will be free and fair, and pledged the government's commitment to meeting international electoral standards. RG

CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION OFFICIALLY CERTIFIES AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S CANDIDACY
Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission met on 18 July and formally certified the candidacy of President Heidar Aliev for re-election in the October presidential election, ANS reported. Commission officials dismissed 1,256 of the nearly 52,000 signed petitions in support of the candidacy before registering the incumbent president as the candidate of the "Yeni Azerbaican" Party (YAP). RG

PRESIDENT'S BROTHER WARNS AGAINST SPECULATION ABOUT AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S HEALTH
Jalal Aliev, the brother of President Aliev, stated on 18 July that the president will return to Baku soon and warned journalists that any speculation over his health is "immoral," ANS reported. The 80-year old Azerbaijani president has been undergoing unspecified medical treatment in Turkey's Gulhane military hospital in Ankara for several days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 2003). RG

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY EXPANDS HUNGER STRIKE
Five representatives of the opposition National Movement party on 18 July joined an ongoing hunger strike by launching their own hunger strike in the western Georgian city of Kutaisi, Civil Georgia and "The Georgian Times" reported. The Kutaisi hunger strikers are demanding that the government pay the serious compensation arrears to public servants in the city. In Tbilisi, seven National Movement deputies are continuing a hunger strike in front of the Justice Ministry, demanding that the ministry abide by a recent court ruling ordering the payment of pension arrears in the Samtredia District of western Georgia. President Eduard Shevardnadze dismissed the hunger strike on 18 July, arguing that there is no real reason to protest and stating that the hunger strikers "only want to lose weight." Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili added that the hunger strikers are not motivated by concern for pensioners but are trying "to attract public attention" in preparation for the 2 November parliamentary elections. RG

GEORGIAN NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIAL IN MOSCOW
Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze arrived in Moscow on 18 July for a two-day official visit, Civil Georgia reported. Djaparidze met that day with Andrei Kokoshin, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs, and Victor Sobolev, first deputy secretary of the Russian National Security Council. He discussed issues of bilateral cooperation and regional security, as well as the status of the Abkhaz conflict. The officials also reviewed the situation in the Pankisi Gorge. RG

PARLIAMENT HEAD RESUMES TALKS WITH GEORGIAN OPPOSITION
Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze resumed consultations on 18 July with representatives of Georgian opposition parties over proposed changes to the Election Code, according to Civil Georgia. The Revival Union and the Industrialists boycotted the talks, however, and continue to demand four and two seats, respectively, on the Central Election Commission. The other opposition parties have agreed to one representative each on the commission. The two boycotting parties are also opposed to U.S.-proposed election guidelines, which call for the Central Election Commission to comprise nine opposition representatives and five representatives of the pro-government For a New Georgia electoral alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2003). Despite the boycott, the negotiations are to resume on 21 July. RG

GEORGIAN NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADERSHIP
Georgia's opposition National Democratic Party convened a party congress on 18 July and re-elected party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, "The Georgian Times" reported. National Democratic Party General-Secretary Bachuki Khardava was also reelected to another term. Party delegates discussed their preparations for the November parliamentary elections. RG

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PARTICIPATES IN ROUNDTABLE WITH OPPOSITION...
Askar Akaev took part in a roundtable on 19 July that included government officials, representatives of pro-governmental and opposition political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the media, kabar.kg and Deutsche Welle reported. The discussion focused on the situation of NGOs, political parties, and the media in Kyrgyzstan, and on problems that roundtable participants might help to resolve. According to official news agency kabar.kz, the pro-governmental and opposition sides exchanged verbal blows, but on the whole the event was notable for its constructive orientation, which was reflected in the final declaration adopted by participants. In his opening speech, Akaev repeated his earlier assertion that he will not run for re-election in 2005. Opposition Ar-Namys Party official Emil Aliev commented later that Akaev's assurance concerning his future plans was intended for the international community, Deutsche Welle reported. According to the same source, three oppositionists who were not invited to the roundtable because they are considered irreconcilable -- human rights activists Topchubek Turgunaliev and Tursunbek Akunov and parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov -- attended anyway, but were not allowed to speak. BB

...AS SOME NGOS FOUND ROUNDTABLE USEFUL AND SOME PARTIES BOYCOTTED
A number of NGOs said after the 19 July roundtable that they found it useful, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 20 July. Edil Baisalov, head of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, said that President Akaev's statement that he will not run again, as well as statements concerning the dates of parliamentary and presidential elections, provide a basis for stability in the country. Several political parties -- including the Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan, the Asaba Party, and others -- boycotted the roundtable, for which they were criticized by the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, according to the RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service. The critics were quoted as saying the event should have been used as a forum for expressing their demands to the authorities. Communist Party leader Klara Azhibekova said that parliamentarian Absamat Masaliev, head of the Party of Communists, should have told the roundtable about alleged government deception in the formation of the Constitutional Council. BB

KYRGYZ PARTIES APPROVE CREATION OF CIVIC COUNCIL
The day before the roundtable with the government, the centrist New Times Party organized a roundtable of leaders of 14 political parties, kabar.kg reported on 19 July. The purpose of the meeting, according to New Times leader Bolot Begaliev, was the presentation of his party's proposal for creation of a Civic Council of Kyrgyzstan that would bring together not only political parties, but also NGOs and individuals for whom the council would function as an arena for constructive dialogue among all political forces in the country. Participants in the meeting approved the idea of a Civic Council, and nine of the 14 parties subscribed to a series of principles drawn up by New Times, emphasizing stability, transparency in government and public organizations, and constructivism as the basis for political-party activity. The leaders of the other five parties reportedly said they will have to consult with party members before signing, but in general they approve the principles. BB

INHABITANTS LEAVING SOUTHERN KYRGYZ TOWN
Inhabitants of the southern Kyrgyz town of Maili-Suu, frightened by stories of the potential threat to their health and lives posed by the uranium-tailings dumps around the town, are moving away, according to the newspaper "Obshchestvennie reiting," which cited town council head Zarkhanbek Yunusaliev. Yunusaliev said the town's population has fallen from 35,000 to 23,000, though he did not indicate over what time period this had happened. He claimed that the loss of population has not affected the town's economy, but noted that there are plenty of job vacancies. In order to reassure the remaining population, Yunusaliev said the experts working on to clean up and stabilize the dump sites are setting up a group to explain the situation and why there are no grounds for panic. BB

KYRGYZSTAN FORMALLY PROTESTS BORDER SHOOTING; UZBEKISTAN BLAMES KYRGYZ...
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry formally protested to Uzbekistan about the shooting of a Kyrgyz citizen by an Uzbek border guard on 16 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003), Interfax reported on 18 July. On 19 July, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry announced that Kyrgyzstan was responsible for the incident, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 July. According to the Uzbek version of the incident, some 40 Kyrgyz citizens attempted to cross the border illegally and threw stones and bottles containing flammable substances at Uzbek border guards who tried to stop them. The Uzbek side asserts that the border guards only fired into the air, and a number of the guards were injured by the aggressive actions of the Kyrgyz. According to the Kyrgyz version, four young men crossed the border to talk to Uzbek border guards about building a bridge across the stream that forms the border, a quarrel broke out, and one Kyrgyz citizen, Adil Urkinbaev, was killed. BB

...AND KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN DEMANDS LAND-MINE MAPS
Along with the protest note about the killing of a Kyrgyz citizen, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry on 18 July sent its Uzbek counterpart another demand for maps of the minefields along the border between the two countries, akipress.org reported. The Kyrgyz side has been unsuccessfully asking the Uzbeks for such maps since the minefields were laid. Reportedly, the Kyrgyz note about the minefields contains an assessment based on international law claiming that the mining of the border was illegal. The mines were laid by the Uzbek military after incursions into Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000 by Muslim militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who were trying to reach Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley in hopes of stirring up insurrection against the Uzbek authorities. Pointing out that the mining of the border has caused considerable material damage to Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry called for consultations in the near future to resolve the problems that are creating an increasingly tense situation along the border. BB

TWO ALLEGED HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN
Two more alleged activists of the illegal Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 July, citing the Tajik Interior Ministry. One of the detainees was reported to have been caught distributing leaflets in the town of Chkalovsk in northern Tajikistan, while the other was arrested in central Tajikistan's Kofarnihon Raion. According to the ministry, the second detainee was allegedly the leader of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group in the raion. The two arrests bring the total of Hizb ut-Tahrir activists arrested in Tajikistan this year to 30. According to the Tajik security service, 12 of those arrested have been tried and convicted. BB

UZBEK EXILE ARRESTED IN MOSCOW
Uzbek political exile Bakhrom Khamroev was arrested in Moscow by Russian special-services officers on 20 July, the human rights organization Memorial reported. Khamroev has been living in Russia since 1992. According to Khamroev's wife, he was seized by men in masks who beat him and then "found" a packet of narcotics in his pocket. Memorial reported that in recent months the Khamroev family has been harassed by Russian security officers, who have accused Khamroev of Muslim extremism. He reported the harassment to human rights organizations and gave them information about the arrests of 55 alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir sympathizers in Moscow in early June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). It was later proven that those arrested had no connection with religious extremism. In the opinion of Memorial, Khamroev's arrest is a response to his revelations about the incompetence of Russian security agencies in identifying and coping with real terrorist threats. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS CLOSURE OF RUSSIA'S NTV...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appeared live on Russia's NTV on 19 July to comment on his government's recent decision to shut down the NTV offices in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2003), Belapan reported. The government alleged defamation during the network's coverage of the funeral of Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Belarusian authorities were angered by NTV correspondent Pavel Selin's report that Bykau's widow had trouble obtaining a residence permit and that police mounted obstacles to the funeral procession. Lukashenka said a government commission probed the NTV allegations and demonstrated that they were false. Lukashenka added that the Russian broadcaster would have been allowed to remain in Belarus if it had offered an apology. JM

...AND DENIES RUMORS OF IMMINENT REFERENDUM ON HIS TENURE
Lukashenka said on NTV on 19 July that he does not plan a referendum "in the near future" on changes to the constitution that would allow presidents to serve more than two terms, Belapan reported. "No political battles are scheduled on the Belarusian political horizon in the near future," he said in response to a question as to when such a referendum might be expected. Some Belarusian opposition leaders have predicted that a referendum might be held as early as this fall. Lukashenka's second term is scheduled to end in 2006. JM

BELARUS TO ALLOW RUSSIAN RUBLE IN NONCASH DEALS
Lukashenka also promised on NTV on 19 July that he will sign a decree "within days" allowing the use of the Russian ruble in noncash transactions in Belarus, Belapan reported. The introduction of the Russian ruble for noncash settlements, one aspect of a broader plan for adopting Russia's currency in Belarus on 1 January 2005, was originally scheduled for 1 July. But the move was postponed after Lukashenka backpedaled on the plan last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Commenting on the recent failure to sell stakes in four major petrochemical enterprises to Russian investors (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 June 2003), Lukashenka said Belarus can manage without privatizing its petrochemical sector. JM

U.S. HOUSE PASSES BELARUS DEMOCRACY ACT
The U.S. House of Representatives on 16 July passed a Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005 that incorporates the Belarus Democracy Act, Belapan reported on 18 July. The act calls for $40 million in assistance to promote democracy in Belarus in 2004-05. The money would be channeled to NGOs, independent media including radio and television broadcasting to Belarus, and international exchanges. If U.S. President George W. Bush signs the act into law, the United States will impose a travel ban on senior Belarusian officials, prohibit any financial assistance to the Belarusian government (and thus bar the U.S. Agency for International Development from operating in Belarus), and require U.S. representatives in all international financial institutions to oppose delivery of any non-humanitarian aid to Belarus. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA AGREE TO COOPERATE IN MILITARY EXPORTS
Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov signed an agreement in Yalta on 18 July on cooperation in military exports to third countries, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. "Russia and Ukraine will not hamper one another in third countries' markets," Kasyanov said of the deal. The men also discussed the planned creation of a Ukrainian-Russian gas consortium and the joint construction of the An-70 cargo plane. Contrary to expectations expressed in some Ukrainian media, the premiers did not sign a prepared 15-year agreement on the transit of Russian oil through Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). Russia is ready to sign the agreement only after Ukraine agrees to allow Russian oil producers to use the Odesa-Brody pipeline, Interfax reported, citing Kasyanov. JM

OPPOSITION LEADER WELCOMES UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S CLIMB DOWN ON CONSTITUTIONAL-REFORM BILL
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko on 19 July welcomed President Leonid Kuchma's suggestion that he might withdraw the constitutional-reform bill he submitted to parliament last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003 and "Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 June 2003), Interfax reported. But Yushchenko also expressed concern over Kuchma's possible intention to defer the presidential election in 2004 in a proposal to elect parliament, local councils, and the president in the same year for five-year terms. Yushchenko said that provision is not of primary importance for constitutional reform in the country. He stressed that a proportional general election is a priority because the so-called first-past-the-post system "has proven undemocratic." JM

ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTER SUSPENDS TAX BOARD DIRECTOR
Tonis Palts on 18 July suspended Tax Board General Director Aivar Soerd on 18 July from his duties until an investigation into his performance is completed, BNS reported. Palts' reasons for taking the disciplinary measure include Soerd's alleged failures adequately to protect data, to observe the principle of uniform taxation, and to fulfill court decisions, as well as for making unjustified inquiries for taxpayers' personal information. Palts reportedly wanted to discuss the situation with Soerd before the announcement, but Soerd arrived late for the meeting and declared that doctors had forbidden him to meet with the minister. Palts appointed Customs Board Director General Aivar Rehe to head the tax board during the investigation. SG

LATVIA PROTESTS RUSSIAN STATEMENT ON SITUATION OF MINORITIES
The Foreign Ministry on 18 July handed an official note to the Russian Embassy protesting a Russian representative's claims at a 16 July meeting of Council of Europe deputy ministers that tensions over Latvia's educational reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003) could lead to civil unrest and conflict in Latvia, BNS reported. On 17 July the ministry told BNS that the unidentified representative had "taken upon himself the role of spokesperson for Latvia's minorities and suggested and toyed with a provocative question -- do minorities really have to tackle extreme measures for their rights to be satisfied?" The note called upon Russia to provide any information it has regarding the possibility of civil unrest or to retract the statement. In addition, it said the Russian representative's statement does not reflect the true situation and draws false conclusions with respect to the situation of minority rights regarding education and language in Latvia. The ministry also urged Russia to take note of the positive assessments made by international human rights organizations on the human rights situation in Latvia. SG

CHAIRMEN OF THREE LITHUANIAN COURTS FACE CHARGES OF ASSISTING SMUGGLERS
President Rolandas Paksas signed a decree on 18 July permitting the filing of criminal charges against the heads of three Lithuanian county courts accused of unlawful interference in smuggling cases, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. According to the Lithuanian Constitution, judges cannot be criminally charged without parliament's consent, or that of the president if parliament is not in session. The judges have not been arrested, but were summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning. The three -- Arvydas Gudas in Lazdijai, Darius Japertas in Panevezys, and Palmira Linkeviciene in Birzai -- are likely to face charges of abuse of office and attempting to exert influence on colleagues who were investigating and hearing smuggling cases. SG

POLISH ARTIST SENTENCED FOR OFFENDING RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITIES
A court in Gdansk on 18 July found artist Dorota Nieznalska guilty of having offended religious feelings, fining her 2,000 zlotys ($500) and sentencing her to 20 hours per month of "unpaid and supervised" community work for six months, Polish media reported. Nieznalska's incriminating work, titled "The Passion," included a photograph of male genitals placed on a cross and was on display in a gallery in Gdansk in December 2001-January 2002. "This is a shock for me, such a harsh sentence.... The court is completely biased regarding the work of artists. The court itself said it does not know anything about art," Polish Radio quoted the artist as saying. "It was not her direct intention to consciously offend anyone, but...the defendant was seeking to achieve artistic and personal success in her circles, and wanting to achieve this success she even decided to offend religious feelings," the judge said. Nieznalska announced that she will appeal the verdict. JM

CZECHS REASSESSING UN ROLE IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in Houston, Texas, on 18 July that a draft of the Czech government's security strategy envisages curtailing the role of international organizations, including the United Nations, in global conflict resolution, CTK reported. The government was expected to discuss the proposal on 21 July. Svoboda suggested that consensus-seeking within international organizations is lengthy and ineffectual, the news agency reported. Svoboda was speaking to Czech journalists during a high-profile official visit to the United States. In a speech delivered at Rice University the previous day, Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla said the Czech approach is anchored on the fact that consensus is more easily reached within NATO than in any other international organization, including the UN. Spidla added that the UN's role should not change, but "there is nothing that could replace NATO." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT TESTS COALITION WITH SURPRISE VETO
Vaclav Klaus on 18 July vetoed a government-backed bill aimed at raising value-added taxes (VAT) on some goods, CTK reported, setting the stage for a showdown in the legislature and putting the center-left government on notice that Klaus is prepared to play an active role in day-to-day politics. The repeat vote could have far-reaching consequences, since the VAT reforms are a key element of Premier Spidla's public-finance-reform plans and his governing coalition must muster all of its 101 votes in the lower house to override the veto. Spidla has vowed to resign if his reforms do not pass, and other major aspects of the plan come up for debate this week in parliament. Spidla blasted the president for partisanship unbecoming of the head of state, saying Klaus "remains rather more the chairman of [the Civic Democratic Party that he founded] than a president of all [citizens]," according to "Hospodarske noviny" of 21 July. Klaus previously signaled no objections to the VAT hikes, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 19 July, which also noted that deputies last week rejected one of his nominees to the Constitutional Court. Presidential staff said business and industrial groups staunchly oppose the VAT increases, according to "Pravo" on 19 July. "It will be a new test of coalition solidarity," Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said, according to "Hospodarske noviny." AH

FORMER CZECH PRESIDENT TO RECEIVE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL
Vaclav Havel is among 11 leaders in the arts, sports, politics, science, and business slated to receive the presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony to be held at the White House on 23 July, AP reported on 19 July. The Medal of Freedom was established by President Harry Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their service during World War II and was reinstated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished service. A dissident playwright and human rights activist under the communist regime, Havel's final term as Czech president ended early this year. MS

SLOVAKIA WELCOMES CZECH DECISION TO EXTRADITE ALLEGED CRIME BOSS
Slovak Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic welcomed a decision on 18 July by Czech counterpart Pavel Rychetsky to extradite reputed Slovak crime boss Mikulas Cernak, TASR and CTK reported. Rychetsky approved the Slovak request in shortened proceedings after Cernak agreed to his extradition. Cernak was released from prison in November after serving half of his 8 1/2-year sentence for blackmail and racketeering, but the Slovak Supreme Court later ruled that he must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 April 2003). Czech authorities, who said they believe Cernak was cooperating with "Russian-speaking" crime groups while in their country, said the extradition will be carried out in secrecy for security reasons. MS

DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES SLOVAKIA IS WORST-PREPARED EU CANDIDATE TO RECEIVE EU FUNDS
Slovakia's deputy premier in charge of EU accession, Pal Csaky, denied in Brussels on 18 July that his country is the worst-prepared EU candidate for receiving EU funds, CTK and TASR reported. Referring to a European Commission report published last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003), Csaky said the report "does not reflect clear-cut positive changes" that were eventually acknowledged after his talks in Brussels on 18 July with Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen. Csaky admitted, however, that the European Commission is "perfectly right" in reproaching Bratislava that "not much" was done between August and December 2002. He said Slovakia was caught in pre-election "political uncertainty" at the time. Csaky expressed confidence that Bratislava will catch up with other candidates by the time the European Commission issues its annual report in October 2003. Meanwhile, Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico said on 18 July that if Premier Mikulas Dzurinda does not dismiss Csaky by 20 July, his party will initiate a new no-confidence motion in the deputy premier. A motion to dismiss Csaky failed in parliament on 20 June. MS

SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY AGREE ON SETTLING STATUS LAW DISPUTE
Visiting Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan agreed on 19 July on the principles of a possible solution to the long-standing dispute over the implementation in Slovakia of the controversial Hungarian Status Law, CTK reported. A similar solution was agreed by Kovacs in Romania one day earlier (see item below). A joint statement released by Kukan and Kovacs said the version of the law amended in June will be implemented respecting Slovak legislation and through organizations officially registered in that country. The list of such organizations and the conditions under which they may act is to be agreed on by the two countries' joint commission on minority affairs. Bratislava agreed to take note of facilities provided to Slovaks studying Hungarian culture and language on Hungarian territory. Kovacs pledged that there will be no discrimination and that all Slovak citizens, regardless of ethnic identity, will be eligible to receive such assistance. MS

FIRST HUNGARIAN CONTINGENT LEAVES FOR IRAQ...
The first contingent of Hungarian troops left that country on 18 July for Iraq, where soldiers will carry out logistical work until the end of 2004, AFP reported. Two other groups of Hungarian soldiers followed on 19 and 20 July, bringing the total to 54 troops, who will prepare headquarters for the main contingent of 240 Hungarian troops expected to arrive in August, according to Hungarian Iraqi mission spokesman Deszo Kiss. Parliament has authorized the deployment of 300 Hungarian soldiers to aid in Iraqi reconstruction. The troops are to operate under Polish command and will be based in Al-Hillah, some 100 kilometers south of Baghdad. MS

...AS HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SUMMONS U.S. MILITARY ATTACHE
Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz summoned the U.S. military attache in Budapest on 18 July and asked him to ensure that U.S. media receive accurate information regarding Hungary's role in Iraq, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 19 July. Juhasz's move was a response to an article published the previous day in "The Washington Post," "Nepszabadsag" reported, in which the U.S. daily quoted an unidentified Pentagon official saying Hungary offered to send a transport company that has no vehicles to Iraq. The U.S. Embassy in Budapest sent "Nepszabadsag" a statement disassociating itself from the article in "The Washington Post." The embassy said the U.S. State Department views Hungary as an active and highly appreciated member of the coalition. The statement goes on to say that Washington is satisfied that Hungary has more than fulfilled its commitments to the coalition, adding that claims to the contrary should be ignored, as they do not reflect official U.S. opinion. MS

SERBIAN BANK OFFICIALS RESIGN TO PROTEST NEW LAW...
Deputy Governor of the Serbian National Bank Radovan Jelasic and several other top officials quit their posts following the Serbian parliament's passage of a new bank law on 18 July, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 2003). The bill is widely seen as a move against the bank's governor, Mladjan Dinkic, whose sacking and replacement are expected soon. He is a political rival of many in the governing coalition. Critics of the bill fear that it will mean the end of the bank's autonomy from the government and of tough reforms. PM

...AS CONTROVERSY OVER ALLEGED CORRUPTION CONTINUES
The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement to state-run television on 18 July that Dinkic's recent charges of money laundering leveled against several top government officials are unfounded, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). Referring to his claim that a total of about $1.6 million was paid by one offshore company in Cyprus and another in the Seychelles into the bank accounts of Nemanja Kolesar, who heads the Serbian bank privatization agency, and Zoran Janjusevic, who is Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic's security adviser, the two men said they have the right to conduct their business activities as they see fit. In related news, former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said in a statement that the controversy is proof that the government "is ready to sweep under the carpet every crime, case of corruption, and mafia affair in order to keep its ill-gotten hold on power," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO CRACKS DOWN ON ABUSE WITHIN THE ARMY
Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic sacked several high-ranking officers on 19 July following a fatal incident during a training exercise at the Kraljevo military base, "Vesti" reported. The incident involved a hand-held rocket-launcher, and left soldier Pavel Krajci from Backi Petrovac dead and 12 other soldiers injured. Among those replaced were General Milivoje Bojovic and Colonel Vladeta Baltic. Criminal charges will be filed against four noncommissioned officers, according to "Vesti." Tadic said the incident was the result not just of the bad behavior of individuals, but also of "organizational" problems within the military as a whole, the paper reported. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER WARNS AGAINST BREAKUP OF JOINT STATE
Prime Minister Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 19 July that the breakup of Serbia and Montenegro would lead to independence for Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that Kosova will be among the issues on his agenda in upcoming talks in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. PM

KOSOVAR LEADERS CALL ON SERBS TO COME HOME
Nexhat Daci, who is the speaker of Kosova's parliament, and former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci, who heads Kosova's second largest party, the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), told Serbian state-run television on 18 July that all Serbian refugees should return to their homes in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 11, and 16 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13, 20, and 27 June 2003). Daci stressed that the appeal is sincere should not be seen as a political ploy. Thaci emphasized that Kosova must be open to members of all ethnic groups. PM

CROATIA AND SERBIA TO DEAL WITH SOME WAR-RELATED ISSUES
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 20 July that Serbia and Croatia will soon set up one working group dealing with returning stolen registers of births, marriages, and deaths and a second group for preparing lists of names of people charged with war crimes, dpa reported. Batic added that the two sides agreed that each side will try its own citizens and imprison those found guilty on its own territory. PM

(UN-)SUCCESSFUL MACEDONIAN PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO CROATIA
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski paid a three-day official visit to Croatia starting on 17 July, Macedonian and Croatian media reported. On the first day of his visit, Trajkovski held talks with his Croatian counterpart Stipe Mesic focusing on regional cooperation and the two countries' bids for EU membership. While the state-owned news agencies in both countries described Trajkovski's visit as successful, the Macedonian dailies "Utrinski vesnik" and "Vest" reported that Trajkovski was not allowed to deliver a speech before the Croatian parliament. Unidentified Macedonian Foreign Ministry sources blamed Trajkovski's office for the apparently poor organization of the official visit, while the president's office said the Macedonian Embassy in Zagreb failed to prepare the visit thoroughly, according to "Vest." UB

NO YOGA IN CROATIAN SCHOOLS
The Croatian government has backed down from plans to have public-school teachers professionally trained in yoga skills and techniques, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 18 July. The move comes in response to stiff opposition from the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference to introducing yoga in public schools (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). PM

TWO MOSQUES DEDICATED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
Several thousand Muslims took part in the opening ceremony on 19 July for a mosque in the Banja Luka suburb of Vrbanja, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Mufti Edhem Camdzic said the message from Vrbanja is one of peace and tolerance. Prior to the 1992-95 war, there were more than 20 mosques in the Banja Luka area, including two well-known Ottoman-era ones. All of the mosques were destroyed in the conflict. The Vrbanja mosque is the first to be rebuilt. In related news, an unspecified number of Muslims laid the cornerstone for the reconstruction of a historic mosque in Visegrad. Both ceremonies passed without incident. PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR WANTS 'RESULTS' FROM BOSNIAN SERBS
Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in Banja Luka on 18 July after meeting with Bosnian Serb leaders that governments come and go in the Republika Srpska but the lack of cooperation with the tribunal remains the same, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She stressed that she is tired of promises and wants results. About 20 indicted war criminals are believed to be at large on Bosnian Serb territory, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003). PM

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER QUITS
Ilir Meta resigned as foreign minister on 18 July after delivering a scathing attack on his fellow Socialist and archrival, Prime Minister Fatos Nano, whom Meta accused of trying to concentrate all power in his own hands, Reuters reported. European Integration Minister Sokol Nako quit his post the following day in support of Meta. The resignations came just two weeks after Socialist leaders put together a truce between the two factions in preparation for the 12 October local elections. PM

ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS CLEAR FINAL HURDLE ON STATUS LAW
Visiting Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana reached an agreement on 18 July on a formula that would enable the implementation of the controversial Hungarian Status Law on Romanian territory, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau and international news agencies reported (see Slovak item above). The agreement is to be signed by the two countries' premiers and ratified by their respective parliaments. It stipulates that Hungarian identification cards issued in Budapest to those eligible to benefit from the law will no longer bear the Hungarian national symbol St. Stephen's Crown or any other symbol likely to carry political significance. In addition, benefits granted by Hungary for the study of Hungarian culture and language in Romania will go to institutions rather than individuals. Geoana said the agreement makes the Status Law fully compatible with European standards. The two ministers also discussed joint lobbying abroad to enlist aid for the construction of the Budapest-Bucharest highway and for opening new border crossings. Kovacs requested, on behalf of 5,000 Hungarians, compensation for property that was seized from them during the communist era in Romania. He was also received by Premier Adrian Nastase and President Ion Iliescu. MS

SERBIAN INTERIOR MINISTER MEETS WITH ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER
Visiting Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic met with Premier Nastase on 18 July to discuss ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation, Romanian Radio reported. They also discussed cooperation in combating international terrorism and organized crime. Mihajlovic thanked Nastase for Romania's support during the crisis triggered by the assassination of former Premier Zoran Djindjic earlier this year. MS

SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA
Visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio and her Romanian counterpart Geoana on 20 July discussed bilateral economic cooperation and Madrid's efforts to help Romania meet its 2007 target date for EU membership, Mediafax reported. Geoana said after the meeting that Spain is Romania's "most loyal and most generous friend." Palacio and Geoana also discussed the forthcoming intergovernmental conference on elaborating a European Constitution; the situation in the Middle East, in general, and in Iraq in particular; and the state of affairs in the western Balkans. Palacio said that, as a fellow Latinate country, Spain has a strategic interest in seeing Romania admitted as a EU member. The two ministers also discussed ways of coping with the problem of the approximately 5,000 illegal Romanian immigrants in Spain. Palacio was also received by President Iliescu. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AGAIN HE MIGHT PARDON MINERS' LEADER
President Iliescu said on 18 July the 18-year sentence passed in 1999 on miners' leader Miron Cozma is "exaggerated" and that he would be ready to consider pardoning him if he received a personal, "well-grounded request" to do so, Mediafax and the private Antena 1 television channel reported. In 2001, Iliescu hinted several times at the possibility of pardoning Cozma, but refused to in the end on the grounds that Cozma had expressed no regret for leading several violent protests in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991. Romanian civil society and political parties have protested any talk of pardoning Cozma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 August 2001). Iliescu said on 18 July that Cozma is not the only one responsible for the rampages. He stressed that he cannot initiate the pardon and must act upon the recommendation of the Justice Ministry. National Liberal Party Senator Radu F. Alexandru on 20 July sent Iliescu an open letter in which he said the rampages of 1990-91 and the Cozma-led attempted march on Bucharest in February 1999 have greatly hindered Romania's chances of be admitted "among the democratic countries of the world." Alexandru said displaying clemency toward Cozma would be "tantamount to complicity," Mediafax reported. MS

RUSSIA CRITICIZES OSCE CHAIRMAN'S PLAN FOR TRANSDNIESTER PEACEKEEPING FORCE...
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 18 July that the plan attributed to OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer -- which envisages the participation of OSCE forces in Transdniester peacekeeping operations -- could "aggravate the very difficult negotiations" currently under way between Chisinau and Tiraspol, ITAR-TASS reported. Yakovenko said international organizations and personalities should "avoid statements" that "distract participants [in the negotiations] from the most pressing issues and are made without preliminary diplomatic discussions using the established negotiations mechanism." Yakovenko added, however, that Russia is ready to discuss any proposal within "the context of a search for a lasting and comprehensive political settlement of the Transdniester problem." MS

...WHILE CHAIRMAN SAYS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT PLAN ARE 'PREMATURE'
In a statement released by the OSCE on 18 July, Chairman in Office Scheffer said any speculation at this stage about possible changes to the current Transdniester peacekeeping-operation framework is premature, Infotag reported. Scheffer said in the statement that the OSCE is sparing no effort in seeking a political solution to the Transdniester conflict. He said that, in its capacity as the current holder of the OSCE's rotating chairmanship, the Netherlands voices proposals aimed at boosting the chances of a political settlement by setting up a special commission established under OSCE mandate including both civilians and a limited number of military personnel. Scheffer emphasized that at this stage, the Netherlands is holding preliminary consultations with all parties involved in the settlement process. These consultations make evident the importance of setting up, during the transition period, a multinational force under the aegis of the OSCE that is aimed at supporting peace and stability in Moldova, the Dutch foreign minister said. MS

TRANSDNIESTER LEADER AGAIN ACCUSES CHISINAU OF EXERTING PRESSURE ON TIRASPOL...
Separatist leader Igor Smirnov told OSCE mission chief to Moldova William Hill on 18 July that Chisinau is exerting economic pressure on Tiraspol, Flux reported. At a meeting held in Tiraspol at Hill's initiative, Smirnov was asked to explain why the separatist authorities recently introduced economic sanctions against Chisinau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003). Smirnov countered that his administration was forced to take the measure as a result of economic pressures initiated by Moldova, adding that Moldova owes Tiraspol $30 million for electricity supplies. Smirnov also insisted that the envisaged federal constitution currently being negotiated must include a stipulation under which Moldova would relinquish its ownership rights to enterprises located in Transdniester. MS

...AND DECREES FREE-TRADE REGIME WITH UKRAINE
On 19 July, Smirnov signed a decree establishing a free-trade regime with Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The legislation would make it impossible for Moldova to impose taxes on Ukrainian goods reaching the country via Transdniester. Observers cited by the Russian news agency said the step will aggravate the already tense relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE FORMALIZES MERGER
The opposition Our Moldova Alliance, which ran jointly in the April-May local elections, merged on 19 July into a unified political party under that name, Flux reported. The three members of the alliance -- the Independents' Alliance, the Liberal Party, and the Braghis Alliance (also known as the Social-Democratic Alliance) -- agreed on the merger at an extraordinary congress and elected former Premier Dumitru Braghis, Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean, and Liberal Party Chairman Vyacheslav Untila as joint chairmen of the new party. They said the Our Moldova Alliance is entrenched in a "social-liberal" ideology and strives for Moldova's integration into Europe, a market economy, and interethnic harmony. MS

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ASSIGNS TASKS TO HIS DEPUTIES
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski on 18 July followed up on his recent government reshuffle by assigning responsibilities to new appointees, novinite.bg reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Plamen Panayotov has been tasked with overseeing the country's power ministries -- the Defense, Foreign, Interior, Justice, and State Administration ministries. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Lidia Shuleva will oversee the work of the Energy, Health, and Education ministries, while Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Nikolay Vasilev will oversee the work of the Environment, Sports, Culture, and Regional Development ministries. Only the Finance Ministry will remain under Saxecoburggotski's direct supervision. UB

BULGARIAN TELECOM PRIVATIZATION CONTINUES DESPITE PENDING LAWSUIT
The state Privatization Agency and the consortium of Koc Holding/Turk Telecom on 18 July signed a letter of intent on the sale of a 65 percent stake in the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK), novinite.bg and mediapool.bg reported. However, the last instance of the Supreme Administrative Court has yet to rule on an appeal filed by the Privatization Agency against an earlier decision by a lower instance of the same court, according to which legal irregularities occurred during the privatization process. Should the court turn down the Privatization Agency's claim and abide by its earlier decision, the agency must either sign a deal with the Vienna-based Viva Ventures -- a holding backed by the U.S. Advent International Investment fund that initially was named as the preferred bidder -- or call a new tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May and 23 June 2003). UB

BULGARIAN PREMIER DEALS NEW GOVERNMENT HAND


Right in the middle of his four-year term as prime minister, former Bulgarian monarch Simeon Saxecoburggotski has undertaken changes within the leadership of his party, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), and in his government. These changes were prompted not only by media criticism and the party's low ratings in opinion polls, but also by differences within the ruling party itself.

Disagreements among the various factions have led to the defection of a number of NDSV lawmakers, reducing the party's parliamentary group from its original 120 members in June 2001 to 108 by July 2003. Saxecoburggotski might also have been motivated by the fear of a major defeat for his party in the local and mayoral elections slated for October.

Saxecoburggotski first announced the changes in a 6 July speech to party members. In unusually clear words, the normally hesitant and cautious premier accused unidentified lawmakers of an "unexplainable urge" to make "ill-considered public statements." Addressing the various factions within his party, Saxecoburggotski said that "the time has come to give evidence to our voters that we are able to review our mistakes, to renew ourselves so that we can meet the challenges with new power." "That is why I decided to propose to you changes in the leadership of the parliamentary group." It was during this session that Saxecoburggotski also announced that he would reshuffle his government, but did not say when. Various factions within the NDSV as well as its coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), had long demanded such changes.

On 8 July, the parliamentary group approved Saxecoburggotski's proposal to replace its controversial leader Plamen Panayotov with the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign, Defense, and Security Affairs Committee, Stanimir Ilchev. Panayotov has often been criticized by NDSV legislators for his authoritarian style of leadership. During the 8 July session, Panayotov's critics, who belong to a faction known as the New Time political-discussion club headed by Miroslav Sevlievski and Emil Koshlukov, managed to increase their representation in the parliamentary group's leadership. However, to the unpleasant surprise of New Time members, Saxecoburggotski did not drop Panayotov but said he would give him a position in his government.

As it turned out, the prime minister once more dashed the hopes of New Time members for greater input in formulating government policies. In what the opposition described as "moving around pawns on the chessboard," Saxecoburggotski announced on 16 July that he will replace Social Affairs Minister Lidia Shuleva, Education Minister Vladimir Atanasov, and Health Minister Bozhidar Finkov with their current deputies, Hristina Hristova, Igor Damyanov, and Slavcho Bogoev, respectively. Shuleva will replace Nikolay Vasilev as economy minister and Vasilev will become the new transport minister. In addition, incumbent Silistra Oblast deputy administrator Filiz Husmenova will replace Minister without portfolio Nezhdet Mollov. Atanasov, Finkov, and Mollov will leave the government.

After protests from New Time, Saxecoburggotski agreed to keep outgoing Transport Minister Plamen Petrov either as an adviser or as head of the state Communications Agency. But he did not yield to the pressure to drop Panayotov; instead, he nominated him as deputy prime minister in charge of coordinating ministries' work during the European-integration process, while European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva will remain the country's chief negotiator with the EU.

As Saxecoburggotski put it, Panayotov will support him "in his difficult governing work." Behind the scenes, Saxecoburggotski also had to deal with the DPS's demands for structural changes in the government, specifically the creation of a Tourism Ministry and the transfer of responsibility for the food- and tobacco-production industry from the Economy Ministry to the DPS-dominated Agriculture Ministry.

The DPS was especially interested in gaining control of the state tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac that is due for privatization. But the prime minister complied with these demands only in part. The Economy Ministry's responsibility for the food- and tobacco-production industries will be handed over to the Agriculture Ministry, but without Bulgartabac. Saxecoburggotski created a state Tourism Agency headed by a DPS member, but it will remain subject to the Economy Ministry. For DPS Chairman Ahmed Dogan, this solution meant a "downgrading" rather than an improvement of the importance of tourism.

Although the parliament approved the reshuffle and the structural changes on 17 July, the vote itself clearly reflected the conflicting interests within the governing coalition. The lawmakers from the NDSV's junior coalition partners -- the National Movement for Renewal "Oborishte" and the Party of Bulgarian Women -- voted "against" or abstained to protest that they were represented neither in the coalition leadership nor in the government. New Time protested the reshuffle as not going far enough, but grudgingly supported it.

As the changes took place shortly before parliament's summer break, it remains to be seen whether political scientist Ognian Minchev's prediction that the reshuffle will have only a minimal positive effect on the government's work will prove accurate. "There is no evidence in the Bulgarian political tradition of the past 13 democratic years that any midterm changes...lead to lasting stabilization of the respective party or majority," Minchev told the mediapool.bg news agency. "On the contrary, so far, most changes have in fact intensified the interior contradictions of the governing party or coalition and have eventually led to a further weakening of the power structures."

MORE THAN 20 OPPOSITION FIGHTERS REPORTEDLY KILLED IN KANDAHAR...
U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas Lefforge said on 20 July that U.S. forces killed 24 unidentified fighters in Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province, after they attacked a coalition convoy on 19 July, Reuters reported. Lefforge said that when the convoy came under attack it "requested close air support and engaged the enemy forces," killing some of the attackers. Attack helicopters subsequently strafed the area, killing more of the fighters. Lefforge said no U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting. Sayyed Fazluddin Agha, the head of Spin Boldak district, said two government militiamen were killed, whereas witnesses said four pro-government militiamen were killed. The clash was the bloodiest incident in Afghanistan since 4 June, when nearly 50 fighters loyal to the former Taliban regime were killed in Spin Boldak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). AT

...AS FORMER TALIBAN OFFICIAL CLAIMS 20 PRO-GOVERNMENT CASUALTIES
Mulla Abdul Rauf, an official in the former Taliban regime, said in a telephone interview on 20 June that at least 20 pro-government soldiers were killed in the Spin Boldak clash, Reuters reported. Foreign Ministry official Khalid Achakzai said the fighting lasted for five hours and involved about 75 fighters led by former Taliban leaders, naming Mulla Abdul Razaq, Hafiz Abdul Rahim, and Mulla Abdul Rauf. It should be noted that on 31 March, Kandahar Province Governor Gol Agha Sherzai said that in operations carried out in Oruzgan Province, 13 members of the former Taliban regime were arrested, naming Mulla Abdul Razaq as one of them. Afghan government officials have in the past provided conflicting reports about clashes with forces they have described as "Taliban," possibly with the intention of covering up interfactional fighting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). AT

THREE ITALIAN SOLDIERS INJURED IN LAND-MINE BLAST IN PAKTIA PROVINCE...
Three Italian soldiers were injured on 20 June when a land mine detonated in front of their vehicle in Paktia Province, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The mine was apparently set off by remote control, AFP reported on 20 July, which reported that four Italian soldier were injured in the blast. About 500 Italian military personnel serve with the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition force in Afghanistan. AT

...AND MINE KILLS AFGHAN IN KABUL
An Afghan man was killed and another injured on 19 June when a land mine exploded as they dug a well in Kabul, Reuters reported. An official suggested the mine was laid during the factional fighting that destroyed much of the Afghan capital in the 1990s. AT

GERMANY TO REDUCE MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN BY ONE-THIRD
A German Defense Ministry spokesman said on 19 June that his country plans to withdraw about 800 of its current 2,400 troops stationed in Afghanistan by September, dpa reported. The spokesman said the extra troops are not needed following Germany's handover to Canada on 17 July of command of the International Security Assistance Force. A German official described as "familiar" with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on 16 July said Germany has "no intention to reduce" its military presence in Afghanistan. The announcement came after British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in his 17 July address to the U.S. Congress that "if Afghanistan needs more troops from the international community to police outside Kabul, our duty is to get them" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 July 2003). AT

UN INSPECTORS ALLEGEDLY FIND ENRICHED URANIUM IN IRAN
Anonymous "diplomats" from an unidentified country said on 18 July that UN inspectors found enriched uranium in environmental samples they took in Iran, Reuters reported. Initial analysis, they claimed, showed enrichment levels that could be consistent with efforts to make weapons-grade nuclear material. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said only that her agency is continuing its sampling in Iran, and the complex inspection process is continuing, according to the news agency. Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Khalil Musavi said on 19 July that Tehran will not comment on such reports unless the source is identified, IRNA reported. Musavi said that only the IAEA is authorized to comment on this issue. Musavi also said a team of IAEA inspectors had just begun their work in Iran. Hamid Reza Assefi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, dismissed the report on 19 July. "This type of forged news is suspicious and vague, since it is up to the International Atomic Energy Agency to make comments on this issue, and not diplomats who have no accurate information about it," IRNA quoted him as saying. BS

IRANIAN GOVERNMENTAL REPORT RULES CANADIAN JOURNALIST DIED FROM BEATING
A report on the 11 July death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi that was presented to the presidential cabinet on 20 July determined that she died as the result of a physical attack, according to IRNA. A naturalized Canadian who was born in Iran, Kazemi was photographing the families of political prisoners in front of Evin Prison on 23 June when she was detained by the authorities. The inquiry into her subsequent death while in custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14, 16, and 17 July 2003) was headed by the Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Interior, Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Justice ministries. The report did not, at least according to IRNA, identify the party responsible for the beating that led to her death. Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 20 July that the full report would be released the next day, "Iran Daily" reported on 21 July. BS

IRANIAN LEGISLATOR SAYS JUDGE RESPONSIBLE FOR CANADIAN'S DEATH
Parliamentarian Mohsen Armin, who is a member of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, told the legislature on 20 July that Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi is responsible for Zahra Kazemi's death, ISNA reported. Armin said Mortazavi issued the warrant for Kazemi's arrest, and after two days of questioning she was handed over to the police for more questioning. She told the police she was hit in the head while at the Prosecutor's Office. Later that day, Mortazavi had her returned to his office, and several hours later he asked the MOIS to take her. MOIS personnel told Armin that they declared Kazemi's arrest unnecessary, but Mortazavi refused to send her home. At midnight on 26 June, she was transferred to a hospital and the next day she slipped into a coma, according to Armin. He said Mortazavi should explain why Kazemi was arrested and added, "I declare that Judge Mortazavi and his supporters should be removed from power and a court should investigate their actions." BS

IRAN'S REVOLUTION GUARDS CORPS RECEIVE LONG-RANGE MISSILES
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited the Fath air base of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps on 20 July to oversee a ceremony during which 1,300-kilometer-range Shihab-3 missiles, Sukhoi-25 fighter aircraft, and different types of rotary-wing aircraft were delivered to the IRGC's air force, state television reported. In his speech, Khamenei said Iran and its armed forces combine material and divine power and are prepared to confront the enemy. Material power permits oppression, ignorance, humiliation, occupation, and deprivation, he said. "America's arrogant system was a blatant example of material power," Khamenei said. "America's main objective...is to secure its arrogant interests without giving value to human rights and morals." Iran's Islamic Republic system, on the other hand, is an example of divine power that is based on the people and the defense of their values. The speech was later broadcast in its entirety by state radio, and in that transmission Khamenei said: "America's imperialist face has been exposed. The Islamic revolution stamped the expiry date on the forehead of that imperialistic and nihilistic government that espouses nihilism. Its true nature has been exposed to the entire world." BS

SCIRI DENIES ITS TEHRAN OFFICE CLOSING
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) official Muhsin al-Hakim denied that the organization will soon close its Tehran office, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 17 July. He was reacting to a report in the 16 July issue of the newspaper "Etemad" that said the SCIRI warned its Tehran staffers they would be fired if they failed to return to Iraq by 23 July. Al-Hakim told "Aftab-i Yazd" that the SCIRI office in Tehran will continue its activities and that "there might only be a change in the number of staff members." Al-Hakim suggested that SCIRI is trying to transfer its personnel to Iraq as quickly as possible so they can serve the Iraqi nation. BS

CENTCOM CHIEF ANNOUNCES CREATION OF 7,000-STRONG MILITIA IN IRAQ
The recently named head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General John Abizaid, announced plans to create an Iraqi civil-defense force -- a 7,000-strong Iraqi militia -- that will work alongside U.S. forces in Iraq, AP reported on 21 July. The militia will comprise eight battalions of armed Iraqi militiamen, each in turn comprising 850 members. Abizaid announced the militia during his first visit to Iraq since assuming his role as commander of CENTCOM earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003). According to a 21 July report on nytimes.com, the militia will replace U.S. troops in guarding power plants, ammunition depots, and supply convoys. "Over time, it'll free up an awful lot of American forces," Abizaid told reporters. Conventional U.S. forces will train the militia. Special-operations forces normally carry out such duties, according to AP. The militia is expected to be operational within 45 days. KR

AL-SADR CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE, SHI'ITE ARMY...
Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr continued to reject the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in his Friday prayer sermon on 18 July, saying that instead he will seek to establish an Islamic state in Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. "I will seek, and so will you, to bring together some parties to write a constitution, establish a governing council, and declare the establishment of an Islamic state that seeks to apply the rule of religion," al-Sadr told his followers in the holy city of Al-Najaf. "With the help of God, you and I will seek to establish the major pillar of the state, which is an Islamic army, obedient to its authorities and leaders." Al-Sadr also called for the establishment of a governing council to counter the U.S.-appointed council, and the establishment of an army -- the Imam al-Mahdi Army -- to defend the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite Seminary and its religious figures. One day earlier, al-Sadr told Al-Jazeera that his group was not excluded from the Iraq Governing Council but chose not to participate, calling it "illegitimate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003). Al-Sadr called on Iraqi Shi'ites to volunteer for his proposed army, Reuters reported on 18 July. KR

...AND CLAIMS U.S. MILITARY SURROUNDED HIS HOME, SPARKING DEMONSTRATION
A representative of al-Sadr claimed that U.S. forces surrounded the Shi'ite cleric's home in the holy city of Al-Najaf on 19 July, one day after his fiery anti-coalition Friday prayer sermon, Al-Jazeera reported. Al-Sadr representative Akram al-Ka'bi said massive demonstrations broke out in Al-Najaf in reaction to the U.S. troops' presence "in the area between Muqtada al-Sadr's house and the shrine of Imam Ali," forcing the U.S. forces to withdraw from the area. Al-Ka'bi threatened U.S. forces in the interview, saying, "The U.S. forces should know that any attempt to harm the leader Muqtada al-Sadr will be the end of the United States, and not only the end of [the] U.S. presence in Iraq." He also claimed that the U.S.-led war in Iraq was not aimed at the removal of Saddam Hussein but rather at Islam and Muslims. Al-Jazeera reported that another demonstration in support of al-Sadr broke out in Baghdad on 19 July. Again on 20 July, thousands of al-Sadr followers marched nearly 10 kilometers from the Imam Ali shrine to U.S. headquarters in the region to demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces, AP reported the same day. U.S. military representatives have denied that they surrounded al-Sadr's home, saying the increased military presence in Al-Najaf was due to U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's visit to the holy city. KR

U.S. OPERATION SODA MOUNTAIN CONCLUDES...
U.S. CENTCOM announced the end of Operation Soda Mountain on 17 July, claiming it successfully met its objectives of neutralizing subversive individuals and confiscating banned weapons, according to an 18 July press release posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). "Operation Soda Mountain, which followed Operations Peninsula Strike, Desert Scorpion and Sidewinder, continued the common purpose to deter, disrupt or defeat enemy attacks. Additionally, the operation served to identify and fund additional stability projects designed to provide or enhance long-term stability throughout Iraq," the press release stated. According to CENTCOM, 141 raids were conducted in the operation, resulting in the detention of 611 individuals, including 62 former regime leaders. Some 4,297 mortar rounds were confiscated, along with 1,346 rocket-propelled grenades and 635 weapons. The same press release stated that more than 9,000 former Iraqi soldiers have been paid so far by the coalition. KR

...WITH HUMANITARIAN GOALS MET
Another press release by CENTCOM dated 19 July listed a number of what U.S. military officials labeled successful humanitarian projects accomplished over a five-day period in support of Operation Soda Mountain. Engineers from the 4th Infantry Division collaborated with Iraqis to reopen the Buffalo Soldier Bridge across the Tigris River on 17 July. That bridge, which had been damaged by erosion, is now open to civilian and military traffic. The 101st Airborne Division delivered 50,000 liters of water to the village of Musaid, located some 17 kilometers west of Mosul. The village has neither a water pipeline nor a well to provide adequate water, the press release noted. In Al-Anbar, the 122nd Engineer Battalion met with community and school leaders to discuss a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the purchase of school materials and supplies. CENTCOM also reported that six medical clinics remain under renovation by the 1st Armored Division, while the 3rd Infantry Division coordinated the deliver of X-ray equipment and furniture to the Al-Taji and Mandy Al-Batchechy medical clinics. KR

XS
SM
MD
LG