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Newsline - August 1, 2003


PYONGYANG AGREES TO INCLUDE RUSSIA IN MULTILATERAL TALKS ON NUCLEAR CRISIS
North Korea has agreed to Russia's participation in multilateral talks to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program, Russian media reported on 1 August, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. North Korean Ambassador to Russia Pak Ui Chun met on 31 July in Moscow with Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov, newsru.com reported. "The Russian side emphasized the necessity of regulating existing problems politically through negotiations predicated upon the non-nuclear status of the Korean Peninsula and the security of the countries located there," the Foreign Ministry's statement declared. In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan hailed the initiative. "We welcome the multilateral approach," he said, according to AP. "It's important that we continue to move forward and that North Korea once and for all ends its nuclear-weapons program." Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 31 July that the crisis "is one of the most serious threats to regional security," newsru.com reported. RC

WOULD RUSSIA LAUNCH A PREEMPTIVE STRIKE AGAINST NORTH KOREA?
On 30 July, "Izvestiya" editorialized that "Russia's best response" to the unfolding crisis in North Korea could be to launch a preemptive strike against that country's nuclear facilities. The daily argued that if North Korea launched a nuclear strike against Seoul, radiation could easily spread within hours through Primorskii and Khabarovsk krais. The paper also reported that regional officials are holding meetings in Khabarovsk on civil defense and a possible emergency situation. The paper quoted a Vladivostok-based meteorologist as saying that radiation from Seoul could reach Vladivostok within two-three hours. An unidentified source within the Pacific Fleet told the paper that the cruiser "Varyag" is capable of carrying out a preemptive surgical strike, saying, "As soon as North Korea begins preparations to launch a rocket, we will know about it." As for the preemptive strike, the fleet source told the newspaper, "It would be better if the Americans did it themselves." Defense Ministry official Major General Vladimir Dvorkin noted that North Korea has not even tested a nuclear weapon and so it is premature to consider Pyongyang a nuclear threat. "Therefore, I completely exclude the possibility of Russia carrying out a preemptive strike," Dvorkin was quoted as saying. "But it cannot be ruled out that the United States will do so." RC

RUMORS SWIRL THAT PROSECUTORS ARE TARGETING ANOTHER OLIGARCH...
Citing only unidentified "informed sources," Interfax on 31 July reported that prosecutors intend to launch a criminal investigation targeting oil giant Sibneft, which is in the midst of merging with embattled oil company Yukos. Sibneft is controlled by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor and leading oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Interfax cited its sources as saying that Abramovich might be the real target of the prosecutors' next move. The Prosecutor-General's Office refused to comment on the reports, lenta.ru and "Izvestiya" reported on 1 August. Newsru.com on 31 July noted that Sibneft President Yevgenii Shvidler and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Tatyana Breeva were questioned by prosecutors in June in connection with the embezzlement investigation of Menatep board Chairman and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev. The Antimonopoly Ministry on 31 July reported that it received all the necessary documentation concerning the proposed merger of Yukos and Sibneft on 23 July, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 August. "At present, we are analyzing all the documents, analyzing the statistical information," an unidentified ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. RC

...AS YUKOS-CONNECTED BANKER DENIES PRIME MINISTER WAS TARGET OF PREVIOUS RAID...
Trast Investment Bank President Ilya Yurov on 31 July denied media reports that during a search of Trast on 30 July prosecutors sought information about a state-owned bank that is reportedly close to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, "The Moscow Times" reported on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). "This is absolute rubbish," Yurov said, pointing to an article on the topic in "Kommersant-Daily." "Only 15 percent of that article was true." Yurov said investigators seized files relating to 15 Trast clients, but that the Russian Development Bank (RosBR) was not among them. He said he believes the seizures are related to the tax-evasion charges filed recently against Menatep board Chairman Lebedev. Prosecutor-General's Office spokeswoman Natalya Vishnyakova refused either to confirm or deny the "Kommersant-Daily" story, "The Moscow Times" reported. RosBR was created in 2000 at the initiative of Kasyanov as a state-owned vehicle to channel state credits to industry. Current RosBR President Tatyana Ryskina until 2000 was the president of Trast and Investment Bank, which later changed its name to Trast Investment Bank. Prior to that, she worked at a number of Menatep-connected companies, "The Moscow Times" reported. "Kommersant-Daily" is owned by self-exiled former oligarch Boris Berezovskii. RC

...AND ARRESTED YUKOS SECURITY OFFICER RECANTS PREVIOUS TESTIMONY
Aleksei Pichugin, a senior Yukos security official who is facing double-murder charges, informed prosecutors on 31 July that he renounces the statements he made under interrogation on 14 July in connection with the investigation, gazeta.ru reported on 1 August. Pichugin's move came the same day that the Prosecutor-General's Office formally rejected his allegations that he had been given psychotropic drugs while in custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). Pichugin's lawyer, Tatyana Akimtseva, appeared at a press conference on 31 July together with Duma Deputy Aleksei Melnikov (Yabloko) and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseeva and announced that she is appealing the prosecutor-general's conclusions in court. She is asking the court to remove the lead investigator from the case. Akimtseva said the prosecutors' medical examination of Pichugin took place without the presence of any representatives of the defense and that the prosecutors' report did not say when the examination took place. Melnikov said he is dissatisfied with the response to his complaint and intends to send another official letter of inquiry about the matter to prosecutors and the Federal Security Service. RC

PUTIN ATTENDS CEREMONY IN HONOR OF REVERED SAINT...
President Vladimir Putin on 31 July attended a ceremony in the formerly closed central Russian city of Sarov to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the canonization of St. Serafim of Sarov, Russian media reported on 31 July and 1 August. The ceremony was conducted by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and attended by Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, Deputy Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska, Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, and other dignitaries, "Vremya novostei" reported on 1 August. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 July noted that this is the first time Putin has appeared in public with the patriarch in quite a while, as he spent Christmas in Siberia and Easter in Tajikistan. However, the government declared the event to be of "national significance" and contributed significant budgetary resources to it. Kirienko was co-chairman of the organizing committee. Putin presented state awards to two senior church officials and thanked the church "for its service to God and the Russian people," regnum.ru reported on 31 July. RC

...AND VISITS LEADING NUCLEAR-RESEARCH FACILITY
While in Sarov, President Putin visited on 31 July the top-secret nuclear-weapons laboratory Arzamas-16, where he told scientists that Russia will always be a great nuclear power, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. Atomic Energy Minister Rumyantsev conducted a tour of the facility, showing Putin its supercomputers and other technology. Rumyantsev said that although Russia has not conducted any nuclear-weapons tests since 1990, its arsenal remains at a high state of military readiness. Putin emphasized the potential civilian applications of the facility's research. "Today the scientific discoveries of this institute -- based on modern military technologies -- are used in many branches of industry and they are capable of successfully competing on international markets," Putin said, according to regnum.ru on 1 August. "Therefore, it is essential to apply the techniques of your center as widely as possible to the production of civilian goods, to use the most modern nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes." RC

RUSSIA AGAIN REDUCES OIL-EXPORT DUTIES
As of 1 August, Russia reduced its export duties on oil and oil products, RIA-Novosti reported. The duty on oil was reduced from $26.80 a ton to $25.10, while that for oil products was reduced from $24.10 a ton to $22.60. The average price of Urals crude in May-June was $181.45 a ton ($24.80 a barrel), the news agency reported. RC

POLICE RECOVER STOLEN SHOULDER-LAUNCHED MISSILES NEAR ST. PETERSBURG
Security agents in Leningrad Oblast have arrested a man who allegedly stole 10 shoulder-launched Strela surface-to-air missiles from a naval warehouse outside of St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003), "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 1 August. The 10 missiles were recovered during the operation, strana.ru and polit.ru reported on 1 August. The suspect was identified as a former naval officer who had been assigned to the base from which the missiles were stolen. He reportedly attempted unsuccessfully to sell the weapons. Investigators are still looking into the case and anticipate that more arrests will be made, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported. RC

14 CANDIDATES TO VIE FOR MAYOR'S OFFICE IN ST. PETERSBURG
By the end of the registration period on 31 July, the number of candidates to compete in the 21 September gubernatorial election in St. Petersburg had dwindled from a high of 33 to just 14, Russian media reported. Among the 14 who submitted either the required number of signatures or paid an election deposit were presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Valentina Matvienko; St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova; Duma Deputy Petr Shelishch (Fatherland-All Russia); pornographic film director Sergei Pryanishnikov; Regional Programs President Sergei Belyaev; entrepreneur Rashid Dzahabarov; First Petersburg Pasta Factory Director Viktor Yefimov; city legislators Konstantin Sukhenko, Aleksei Timofeev, Vadim Voitanovskii, and Mikhail Amosov; Petrogradskii Raion Deputy Aleksandr Gabitov; Petrolakt General Director Gennadii Vasilenko; and Oleg Titov, a senior air steward for Pulkovo Airlines, Interfax and newsru.com reported. Amosov heads the Yabloko faction in the city's Legislative Assembly. A fifth city legislator, Yurii Shutov, also sought to register, but was disqualified because his assistant failed to present the required number of signatures. Shutov complained that a "full blockade" was been organized against him because of his current imprisonment on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. JAC

KREMLIN REPORTEDLY TELLS ENVOYS TO DO MORE FOR THEIR PARTY
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 31 July without reference to sourcing that presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin upbraided the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts during their regularly scheduled monthly meeting for their inadequate efforts promoting the Unified Russia party during the run-up to the 7 December State Duma election. According to the daily, Gleb Pavlovskii, political consultant and head of the Foundation for Effective Politics and pollster Aleksandr Oslon were also present at the meeting. Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev argued that public relations and land mines do not go together and some of the party's attempts to promote itself have backfired in his conflict-ridden territory, which includes Chechnya. The newspaper, which is controlled by self-exiled tycoon Berezovskii, made a similar report about the envoys two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). JAC

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER LANDS ANOTHER TOUGH ASSIGNMENT
Former St. Petersburg Governor and recently appointed Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Yakovlev has been assigned to resolve the problem of the low water levels in Siberia's Lena River, NTV reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). According to the station, "the solution is simple: deepen the river bed." Food and oil supplies have been difficult to deliver to the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic's northernmost regions because the river has become too shallow for navigation. When Yakovlev's appointment was first announced, analysts argued that President Putin was setting his old enemy up for a fall by giving him one of the toughest briefs in the cabinet -- reforming the housing and communal-services sectors. They predicted that Putin will dismiss Yakovlev when he fails to cope with this task (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 4 July 2003). JAC

AUDIT CHAMBER HEAD COMPLAINS ABOUT CHAMBER'S STATUS
In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty," No. 31, Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said that legislation on the Audit Chamber has stalled in the Duma for years. A presidential bill creating regional structures of the chamber was introduced three years ago, but has not progressed further. At the same time, amendments to the law on the Audit Chamber have not proceeded beyond an initial positive vote. Stepashin also called for a change in the rules on how the chamber initiates audits. Currently, just 90 deputies need to sign an audit request, which, Stepashin said, makes launching audits "too easy." He suggested it would be better to require a Duma majority for such questions. JAC

PUTIN RESHUFFLES REGIONAL POLICE CORPS
President Putin has signed a decree making new assignments among the ranks of senior regional police officials, RIA-Novosti reported on 31 July. He dismissed Major General Viktor Bratanov as first deputy head of the Interior Ministry's directorate for the Volga Federal District and named him head of that ministry's directorate in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. He named police Colonel Valerii Krasnov as interior minister for Marii-El Republic. Major General Yurii Fokin was transferred from his post as first deputy head of the Interior Ministry's directorate for the Far East Federal District to head the ministry in Amur Oblast. Police Colonel Ivan Chashchin was named head of the Internal Affairs Department for Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. JAC

NENETS GOVERNOR STILL AT LARGE
A federal arrest warrant for Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov remains outstanding, Interfax reported on 31 July. Yelena Ordynskaya, senior assistant to the St. Petersburg prosecutor, told the agency that she will not comment on news reports that the traffic cop who Butov is accused of striking has changed his testimony and declared that no one hit him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003). She did say that "nothing has changed," the warrant remains in effect, and the evidence gathered is sufficient for an arrest. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 July, Butov said he has never hit anyone, and the entire story was invented by his enemies. He explained that there are companies, such as LUKoil, that do not want the "governor to deal with the region's problems, such as the environment." JAC

RUSSIA, TURKEY REACH AGREEMENT ON BLUE STREAM
During talks on 30 July, Turkish government officials and a visiting Gazprom delegation succeeded in resolving "almost all disputed issues" relating to Turkish imports of Russian gas via the Blue Stream pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July, quoting a Gazprom press release. Turkey suspended gas imports via Blue Stream in March 2003, just months after shipments via the Blue Stream pipeline got under way. In June, Russia filed suit in the International Court of Arbitration in an attempt to coerce Ankara to comply with its formal commitment to pay for 800 million cubic meters of gas in 2003, regardless of whether it takes delivery. Gazprom said on 31 July it might withdraw that suit if it reaches a mutually acceptable settlement with Turkey during further talks in Ankara next week. Meanwhile, gas supplies to Turkey via Blue Stream are to resume on 1 August. LF

KHASBULATOV SAYS HE WILL RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT
Former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov told Interfax on 31 July he plans to register as an independent candidate to contest the 5 October Chechen presidential ballot. He added that he has already recruited a team of supporters to organize his election campaign, and is certain of victory in the first round. In May 2000, Khasbulatov claimed he has the backing of more than half the adult population of Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 May 2000). But "Ekspert," No. 26, of July 2003 characterized him as the least acceptable candidate to the Kremlin. LF

RUSSIANS, CHECHENS BOTH CLAIM SUCCESS IN FIGHTING IN SOUTHERN CHECHNYA
Interfax on 31 July quoted Russian military spokesman Colonel Ilya Shabalkin as claiming that Russian troops killed 25 Chechen fighters in reconnaissance and search operations in three localities in southern Chechnya over the previous 24 hours. But according to chechenpress.com, the Chechen resistance wiped out an entire detachment of elite forces (spetsnaz) in Sharoi Raion on 30 July and killed eight Russian servicemen and a group of pro-Moscow Chechen fighters loyal to deputy military commandant Ruslan Yamadaev in Vedeno the same day. Yamadaev for his part told Interfax his men had killed eight resistance fighters, some of whom appeared to be Arab mercenaries. LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION DECLARE TRUCE IN 'MEDIA WAR'
Azerbaijan's new Press Council mediated three hours of talks on 31 July between representatives of the Azerbaijani authorities and the leaders of four major opposition parties, zerkalo.az reported the following day. The authorities were represented by ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party executive secretary Ali Akhmedov and presidential administration official Ali Hasanov. The two sides agreed to refrain, beginning on 1 August, from publication of any materials that could further exacerbate political tensions, or that violate ethical norms. Press Council Chairman Aflatun Amashev, one of the mediators, noted that such an agreement was urgently needed to preclude a resort to "medieval methods" in the standoff between the government and opposition press. His colleague Arif Aliev of the journalists union Yeni Nesil argued that the lack of official information about President Aliev's health does not justify the publication of libelous or insulting speculation. Despite the agreement, the opposition dailies "Yeni Musavat," "Azadlig," and "Hurriyet" published on the front page of their respective 1 August editions speculation that the president is dead, citing reports from www.avrasyaturk.com, Turan reported on 1 August. LF

RUSSIA ACQUIRES CONTROLLING SHARE IN TBILISI POWER GRID
A subsidiary company of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) on 31 July acquired a 75 percent stake in the AES-Telasi electricity distribution company from the U.S. company AES Silk Road, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. No details of the deal have yet been made public. AES and the Georgian government have been at loggerheads since late 2001, most recently over the government's refusal to raise electricity tariffs. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told Interfax on 31 July that fears expressed by some opposition parties that the sale reflects a revision of Georgia's unequivocally pro-Western foreign policy are misplaced. He added that there has been no "negative reaction" to the deal on the part of the United States. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO PASS ELECTION LAW
Deputies resumed discussion in the second reading of the amendments to the Election Code on 31 July but again failed to pass them, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The sticking point remains the allocation among opposition parties of the nine Central Election Commission seats to which they are collectively entitled (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 August 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SETS DEADLINE FOR CRACKDOWN ON SMUGGLING
Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered government agencies to put measures in place within the next 10 days to prevent the loss of further budget revenues from the smuggling of oil, cigarettes, and flour, Caucasus Press reported on 31 July. The previous day, Shevardnadze approved a program intended to reduce the volume of the shadow economy, which experts estimate accounts for up to 73 percent of all economic activity, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH ENERGY MINISTER IN U.S. TO DISCUSSES ENERGY COOPERATION
At the end of a two-day visit to Washington that included meetings with senior U.S. administration officials, Kazakh Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Vladimir Shkolnik announced that the United States and Kazakhstan will cooperate more extensively in the areas of energy-resource development and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Kazinform reported on 31 July, quoting the press service of the Kazakh Embassy in Washington. During a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who heads a Kazakh-American Commission on Energy Partnership, Shkolnik discussed specific cooperation to expand oil-and-gas extraction and transportation and the physical protection of the oil-and-gas industries. According to the report, nuclear power was also discussed. The Kazakh government wants to build a nuclear-power plant on Lake Balkhash, but local environmental activists are strongly opposed, as are many citizens, according to the environmentalists. BB

KYRGYZ STUDENTS HOPE NEW ACADEMIC CODE WILL IMPROVE HIGHER EDUCATION
Students from several Kyrgyz institutions of higher education have drafted an Academic Honor Code that they hope will help rid the country's academic community of corruption and other undesirable phenomena, Deutsche Welle reported on 30 July. The code prohibits paying bribes to teachers, copying from other students during exams, or using crib sheets. It also bans submitting papers copied from the Internet, failing to attend classes, drinking, smoking, taking drugs, and sleeping with teachers to pass exams. A commission of students and a lawyer will be set up to resolve conflicts and deal with violations of the code, according to one of the authors of the draft. Students involved in the project were quoted as saying that at present it costs about $2,000 to complete a course of study with good marks at a good university. The code was the idea of a student organization called Progress. Every higher-educational institution that subscribes to the code will receive $6,000 for implementing it. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is providing funding for the project. BB

IMF GIVES TAJIKISTAN ADDITIONAL $11 MILLION FOR POVERTY PROGRAM
The head of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation to Tajikistan, Robert Christiansen, told journalists on 31 July that the IMF is providing Tajikistan with an additional $11 million credit for the country's antipoverty program, Asia Plus-Blitz, RIA-Novosti, and other news agencies reported. This amount is in addition to the $90 million assigned by the IMF to support the program over three years. The program was launched in December. Christiansen told journalists that the IMF mission was very impressed with the growth rate of the Tajik economy this year, estimated at 9.3 percent growth in GDP in the first half of this year. He added that the IMF is particularly urging the privatization of state farms, because doing so will not only expand the private sector, but also create jobs. The process of privatization is being hampered, he said, by the large debts of the state farms. BB

RELIGIOUS SCHOOL, MOSQUES REMAIN CLOSED IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN
A madrassa in the Isfara Raion of northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast remains shut a year after a speech by President Imomali Rakhmonov that led to its closure, an official of the Isfara branch of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) told the Forum 18 news service on 28 July. Forum 18, a Norway-based NGO that monitors religious developments in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, reported the statement of the IRPT official, Mukhamadali Abdumalakov, on 31 July. According to Abdumalakov, the madrassa was closed after Rakhmonov told the country in July 2002 that three Tajiks from Isfara were among the purported terrorists detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The official excuse for the later closure of 33 mosques was that there were too many mosques in Isfara, an area known for its Muslim piety. Twenty percent of the imams in Isfara Raion were removed for allegedly meddling in politics. The closed mosques are reportedly functioning again, but the madrassa remains closed. BB

TURKMEN PRESIDENT PLANS TO EXPAND ROLE OF PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY
Saparmurat Niyazov has announced that he intends to expand the role of the Halk Maslahaty (People's Assembly) at the next session of that body, scheduled for 14-16 August, Turkmenistan.ru reported on 1 August. Niyazov was speaking on the eve of a conference at which the agenda for the rubber-stamp assembly was to be set. According to the Turkmen Constitution, the Halk Maslahaty, which normally meets only once a year, is the supreme body of power in the country. In fact, however, it does little more than approve by acclamation the decrees issued between sessions by the president and the government. Niyazov now says he wants to have the assembly change the constitution so that the body will remain in continuous session and its membership will officially include representatives of the government-run social organizations -- the Women's Union, the Veterans' Association, and the Youth Union -- that make up the Galkynysh (Revival) Movement, which promotes Niyazov's policies. Up to now, Galkynysh members have taken part in assembly sessions unofficially. Niyazov said the assembly should play a role in protecting the country's security. BB

MEMORIAL APPEALS FOR BROAD SUPPORT IN KHAMROEV AFFAIR
The Moscow human rights group Memorial has appealed for all human rights and journalism organizations to join in pressuring the Russian government to release exiled Uzbek political and human rights activist Bakhrom Khamroev, who was arrested in Moscow on 20 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003), centrasia.ru reported on 31 July. A recent Memorial article describes in detail the problems Khamroev, who has been closely associated with Memorial, and his family have had with Russian security officials, who apparently believe the Uzbek political figure was involved with Muslim terrorists. The account gives substance to the assertions by Moscow activists at the time of Khamroev's arrest that the security service was retaliating for Khamroev's public statement that the harassment of him and his family demonstrates the incompetence of Russian security officials in dealing with real terrorist threats. According to official sources, Khamroev was detained under suspicion of possession of a small amount of heroin, which his wife insists she saw arresting officers planting on her husband. BB

UZBEKISTAN AS GRAIN EXPORTER?
Experts in the Uzbek Agriculture Ministry are rejoicing over the country's large grain harvest this year, centran.ru reported on 31 July. With 70 percent of the harvest completed, the total harvest is expected to be about 4.4 million tons, and officials are predicting that Uzbekistan could become an exporter of grain. However, the centran.ru report claims the actual situation of Uzbek agriculture is not as rosy as the Agriculture Ministry claims. Farmers working on collective farms -- still the largest portion of people working in agriculture in Uzbekistan -- say that farm managers are not honoring contracts that require that agricultural produce in excess of the amount that must be sold to the state should be divided among the farmers. Farm managers reportedly reply that they need the extra produce to pay off farm debts. Despite reforms in agriculture proclaimed by the government, private farmers are still being told by local officials what and when to plant, the website reported. Both collective and private farmers say that local bureaucrats are the main obstacle to agricultural reform. Private ownership of agricultural land does not exist in Uzbekistan, and private farmers who complain can lose the land they have leased. BB

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION LEADER RECALLS ROMANY HOLOCAUST TRAGEDY
Representative Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey), who is co-chairman of the U.S. Congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued a statement on 31 July to mark the annual commemoration of the "Porrajmos" ("the Devouring" in Romany), according to a communique from the representative's office. Smith called on governments to ensure that the fundamental rights of Roma are respected. During the night of 2-3 August 1944, the Romany camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liquidated, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 Romany men, women, and children in gas chambers in a single night. "Each year, Roma from around the globe -- from Lety, Sibiu and Nagykanizsa, to New York, London and Berlin -- remember their experience during the Holocaust," Smith said. "I join them as they mourn their dead and seek to protect the living." Smith said he welcomes the progress made in recent years in improving respect for the basic human rights of Roma, but he emphasized that "throughout the OSCE region, Roma face bigotry and discrimination of pandemic proportion." He said that in the 12 months since last year's remembrance of "Porrajmos," Roma "have been brutally attacked in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and murdered in Bulgaria" while "Ukraine has yet to undertake any credible investigation into the arson murder of a family of five Roma in October 2001." MS

U.S. OFFICIAL CITES GROWING EVIDENCE THAT BELARUS SUPPLIED ARMS TO IRAQ
Washington has mounting evidence that Belarus supplied arms to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Belarus told Belapan in an exclusive interview published on 31 July. Michael Kozak said the United States has access to "files and documents" proving that Belarus sold arms to Iraq in violation of international requirements. The U.S. government will not produce the evidence "in the next few weeks," as it is "far down the list of its current priorities," he said, adding that the evidence will come out in due course. Reports that coalition forces found a document suggesting that Belarusian entities provided illegal arms and services to Iraq arose in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 28 April 2003). President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stridently rejected the allegation. AM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CLOSE NGO IN VITSEBSK
The Vitsebsk Regional Court on 31 July ordered the closure of the Center of Youth Initiatives Kontur, a nongovernmental organization focused on assisting other nonprofits, Belapan reported. The closure was requested by the regional executive committee's justice department. Authorities filed for the closure based on the fact that the organization's governing body had not been located at Kontur's officially registered address since August 2000. Kontur was also accused of receiving foreign aid without the appropriate permission. Kontur leader Syarhey Serabro called the closure an official response to Kontur's information activities -- including its founding of the independent publication "Vitsebskaya Trybuna." According to Yury Chavusau, a coordinator with the unregistered Assembly of Democratic Nongovernmental Organizations, the case against Kontur was part of the authorities' crackdown on active organizations in the nonprofit sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2003). AM

BELARUSIAN VENDORS PROTEST CLOSURES
Over 300 vendors participated in an authorized demonstration in Minsk on 31 July to protest city authorities' decision to remove private kiosks from the streets and shut down a number of small outdoor markets, Belapan reported. Authorities have cited sanitary, fire, and safety violations at many such retail operations. Supreme Economic Court Chairman Viktar Kamyankou said the same day that the court might force the city government to reverse the move if many kiosk owners effectively contest the decision. The demonstrators adopted a petition urging Minsk authorities to stop removing kiosks and shutting down small outdoor markets, curb the constant raids on retail outlets, and "hold a constructive dialogue" in order to improve the retail trade. AM

UKRAINIAN, POLISH FIRMS SIGN ACCORD TO BUILD PIPELINE...
Ukraine and Poland signed a memorandum in Donetsk on 31 July on creating a Ukrainian-Polish joint venture to implement the Brody-Plock oil-pipeline project, Interfax reported. The accord was signed by the chairmen of Ukrtransnafta and Polish pipeline operator Pern. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller attended the signing ceremony. Yanukovych said Poland can become a doorway to Europe for Ukraine. He urged both sides to do all they can to ensure that the Polish-Ukrainian border never becomes another Berlin Wall. Miller said he shared this view, and stressed that Poland is ready to play such a role for Ukraine. AM

...AND CONCLUDE OIL CONTRACT
Ukrtransnafta and Polish oil concern Orlen signed a contract on 31 July to supply 4 million tons of oil per year to Orlen refineries, UNIAN reported. The report does not mention the length of the deal. The contract was signed by Ukrtransnafta Chairman Oleksandr Todiychuk and Orlen General Director Zbigniew Wrobel. Oil will be delivered after the construction of the Odesa-Brody-Plock pipeline. AM

ESTONIAN CENTER PARTY TO CHOOSE FROM AMONG THREE EU PLATFORMS
The board of the Center Party decided that the party's congress scheduled to be held in Tartu on 9 August will vote for one of three platforms regarding membership of the EU, BNS reported on 31 July. Delegates will be able to choose between platforms favoring or opposing Estonia's membership of the EU and one urging voters to participate in the country's 14 September referendum on EU membership. Party Deputy Chairman Peeter Kreitzberg, parliament deputy Heimar Lenk, and West Tallinn Central Hospital board Chairman Peep Podder will present the three platforms at the congress. Kreitzberg also announced his candidacy for the party's chairmanship. Incumbent Edgar Savisaar and parliament deputy Harry Raudvere, who has said that accession to the EU would be tantamount to prostitution, will also vie for the post. SG

LATVIA'S VENTSPILS NAFTA READY TO COOPERATE WITH RUSSIA'S YUKOS
The joint-stock company Ventspils Nafta (Ventspils Oil) has sent a letter to Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii declaring its readiness to cooperate directly with the Russian oil company, LETA reported on 31 July. Ventspils Nafta President Janis Adamsons told reporters that Yukos had written to Latvian Prime Minister Einars Repse expressing its dissatisfaction that Ventspils Nafta had offered to cooperate through a forwarding agent and not directly. However, Adamsons noted that Yukos itself had insisted that the companies cooperate via intermediaries, and proposed the company Vudisona Terminals to serve as the forwarding agent. But this company was "unacceptable" for this role because, Adamsons claimed, it has driven more than one company to bankruptcy and owes Ventspils Nafta about 300,000 lats ($525,000), LETA reported. On 31 July, Yukos Vice President Mikhail Yelfimov met with Deputy Premier Ainars Slesers and reiterated the company's request for help in achieving direct cooperation with Ventspils Nafta, apparently unaware of Adamsons's position. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINE NEED FOR TROOPS' PARTICIPATION IN IRAQ
President Aleksander Kwasniewski wished departing soldiers well on 31 July in the run-up to a major Polish deployment to Iraq that begins on 4-8 August, Polish television reported. The deployment will include the main Polish military contingent, the international North-East Corps, and other forces. Kwasniewski said the decision to send Polish troops to the conflict zone was difficult, but stressed the importance of Polish participation and said Poles cannot stand back under such circumstances. "Friends and allies who are in need must not be left to their own devices," he said. "Poland [is]...a loyal and predictable partner. Thanks to such a position we are certain we can also count on the help of the United States." The stabilization mission in Iraq is the first large-scale military operation in Poland's post-Soviet history. The troops will first stop in Kuwait, then start their mission in Iraq in early September. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski stressed that the troops are leaving to provide assistance and bring hope to people. "Iraqi citizens should see most of all your hands outstretched in a gesture of help," he said. AM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO REFERENDUM NECESSARY ON EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on 31 July that Czechs need not go to the polls to approve the European Constitution that is currently under debate, CTK reported. Addressing the upper house's European Integration Committee, Svoboda said the European Constitution will not affect the rights of Czechs to an extent that would warrant its approval in a national referendum. He added that the possible rejection of the document in a referendum would create "fundamental complications" for the Czech Republic. The opposition Civic Democratic Party has demanded that any European Constitution be submitted for approval in a plebiscite, and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla recently said he does not rule out the possibility of a vote. MS

CZECH CENTRAL BANK CUTS INTEREST RATES AGAIN
The Czech National Bank cut three key interest rates by 25 basis points, or 0.25 percent, in the third rate decrease since January, dpa and local media reported on 31 July. The discount rate was to be cut to 1 percent, the two-week repurchase rate 2 percent, and the Lombard rate 3 percent on 1 August. The bank provided no explanation for the decision, but dpa said the institution's long-term goal is to bring monetary policy into line with that of the European Central Bank. The Czech Republic is likely to join the EU in May 2004 and hopes to join the euro currency zone in 2010. MS

SLOVAK TRADE UNIONS THREATEN TO ENTER POLITICAL ARENA
Trade Unions Confederation (KOZ) President Ivan Saktor said on 30 July that the KOZ will enter politics and initiate a referendum on early elections if the cabinet does not solve that group's grievances by September, TASR reported. Saktor said KOZ would in that case act as a "political opposition." The unions are demanding that the government approve a minimum wage of 8,100 crowns ($220) per month. Representatives of parties in the ruling coalition criticized the threat, while the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia said it would support the KOZ initiative for a referendum on early elections. MS

HIZBALLAH TO BE ESTABLISHED IN SLOVAKIA?
Representatives of a civic association calling itself the Slovak Islamic Movement-Hizballah applied to the Interior Ministry to register the association on 15 July and began collecting the 1,000 signatures needed for registration, TASR reported on 31 July. The agency cited Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) spokesman Vladimir Simko as saying the SIS does not monitor legally registered associations and parties. "We monitor only groups that carry out extremist activities," Simko said. MS

HUNGARY GOVERNMENT UNVEILS MILITARY-REFORM PLAN
A 10-year military-reform plan presented by the government to parliament's Defense Committee on 31 August would shed the Hungarian Army's obsolete and costly technology and eliminate a number of units designed specifically for territorial defense, "Nepszabadsag," "Magyar Nemzet," and "Nepszava" reported the next day. The report envisages cutting army personnel from the current 45,000 to 26,500 and abolishing conscription almost immediately. The report assumes that Hungary will not be attacked by any traditional military force in the next decade and that the real danger stems from terrorist groups equipped with an expanding array of military hardware. Peacekeeping would be the military's other major responsibility, and forces should be prepared for possible international deployment. Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz told the committee that air-force reforms are urgent as most of that branch's equipment, especially its MiG-29 fighter planes, are becoming obsolete. One of Hungary's MiG squadrons will be decommissioned this year, and the second in 2009, following the expected arrival of newly acquired Gripen aircraft. As a result, Hungary will have just 14 fighter jets at its disposal between 2004 and 2009.MS

HUNGARIAN UNIONS DEMAND NEGOTIATIONS ON GOVERNMENT'S FISCAL PLANS
Hungary's largest confederation of trade unions, MSZOSZ, is demanding negotiations with the government on planned changes in taxation, benefits, and budget priorities in 2004, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 1 August. MSZOSZ said it cannot accept the government's unilateral announcement on such issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 17 July 2003). MS

HUNGARY, CZECH REPUBLIC WANT EARLY ENTRY TO SCHENGEN ZONE
Visiting Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and his Hungarian counterpart Monika Lamperth told journalists after talks in Budapest on 31 July that the Visegrad Four countries should be allowed to join the Schengen Agreement soon after EU accession, CTK reported. Poland and Slovakia are also members of the Visegrad Four. Lamperth and Gross said both Hungary and the Czech Republic will do everything possible to join the Schengen zone by 2006 or early 2007. The Schengen Agreement establishes conditions for the free movement of people in 13 of the EU's 15 current member states. Gross said the Visegrad Four need to work together to convince the EU to allow for the earliest accession to the agreement. Lamperth also said she and Gross agreed to work together to combat terrorism, organized crime, and the illegal-drug trade, as well as to strengthen police cooperation in curbing illegal migration. MS

STABILITY PACT CHIEF WARNS BALKAN COUNTRIES AGAINST INFLATED EU AMBITIONS
Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, which is a clearinghouse for aid and development projects, wrote in Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 1 August that western Balkan countries must be patient if they want to join the Brussels-based bloc. He warned would-be members against setting overly ambitious and arbitrary target dates for EU membership, singling out Croatian and Serbian hopes for joining in 2007 in that regard. Busek reminded western Balkan countries that EU membership is neither a right, a gift, nor a "beauty contest," adding that long negotiations and an extensive restructuring of a country's legal system are at the core of the membership process that the countries themselves chose to begin. The EU has been generous with western Balkan countries, and the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2003 did much to advance their cause for membership, Busek argued (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). PM

MACEDONIA MARKS 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF ANTI-OTTOMAN UPRISING
Macedonia has begun marking the 100th anniversary of the Ilinden (St. Elijah's Day) Uprising of 2 August 1903 with a large number of official celebrations, Macedonian media reported on 1 August. The uprising in the central Macedonian town of Krusevo against Ottoman rule led to the formation of a short-lived republic, which is widely regarded the first modern Macedonian state. The most important celebrations are expected to take place in Krusevo and in the southern Serbian Prohor Pcinjski Monastery on 2 August. They are overshadowed by an ongoing dispute between the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on the one hand and the Macedonian and Serbian governments on the other. The SPC refuses to return to the Serbian authorities a plaque honoring the first meeting of the communist-led Anti-Fascist National Liberation Council of Macedonia (ASNOM) on 2 August 1944 at the Prohor Pcinjski Monastery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 August 2002). UB

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO ARREST WAR CRIME INDICTEES BY THE END OF 2003
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 31 July that the authorities will arrest by the end of 2003 all individuals on Serbian territory who have been indicted for war crimes by the Hague-based tribunal, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 29 July 2003). Referring to concerns abroad that former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic is at large in Serbia, Zivkovic added, "Mladic is a reality, and his arrest is no longer a political issue. The question now is whether he is or is not in our country." Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, has said repeatedly that she knows Mladic is in Serbia. PM

BOSNIAN SERB EX-MAYOR GETS LIFE SENTENCE FOR WAR CRIMES
On 31 July, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced Milomir Stakic, who is a former mayor of Prijedor in northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina, to life imprisonment for his role in the 1992 ethnic cleansing there and for orchestrating the establishment of concentration camps in the region, international and regional media reported. Among the camps he helped set up were Keraterm, Omarska, and Trnopolje. Pictures of starving and emaciated men behind barbed wire in those camps were broadcast by television stations around the world in August 1992, drawing international attention to the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign that saw 1,500 killed and 20,000 driven from their homes in the Prijedor region. Stakic will be eligible for parole "for good behavior" after 20 years. The longest sentence that the tribunal previously gave out was 46 years in 2001 to former Bosnian Serb commander General Radislav Krstic for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 August 2001). PM

BOSNIA DETAINS TERRORIST SUSPECT
Members of the Bosnian State Border Service detained an Egyptian citizen, his wife, and their three children at the Orasje border crossing on 31 July on suspicion of his involvement with a terrorist organization known as Al-Islamiya, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and dpa reported. He was traveling on a forged Belgian passport. The man's Bosnian citizenship was revoked in 2001, apparently as part of a Bosnian government campaign, carried out under Western pressure, to expel foreign Islamic militants from the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000 and 5 January 2001). PM

NATO CALLS ON BOSNIA TO CLOSE WEAPONS DEPOTS
U.S. Army weapons expert Major Tom Barnett said in Sarajevo on 31 July that Bosnia must reduce the number of arms-storage sites on its territory from 160 to fewer than 10 as soon as possible to save money, reduce the risk of accidents, and prevent illegal weapons sales, Reuters reported. There were 500 such sites at the end of the 1992-95 war. PM

ROMANIAN PATRONAGE UNION READY TO FINANCE OPPOSITION
The chairman of Popular Action, former President Emil Constantinescu, and National Union of Romanian Patronage (UNPR) Chairman Marian Miluta, signed a cooperation agreement on 31 July, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They said they will jointly work to promote democratic values and professional competence ahead of the parliamentary elections that will take place in 2004 or 2005. The UNPR said it will "logistically and financially" support those candidates it considers competent and who defend the interests of its members. The UNPR earlier concluded similar agreements with the Democratic Party and the National Liberal Party (PNL). Miluta said it is up to UNPR members to decide which of the three parties to support. Constantinescu said his Popular Action and the other two formations share a common political adversary -- the ruling Social Democratic Party -- and an alliance among the three formations could eventually come into being ahead of the elections. The PNL promptly ruled out any pre-election alliance with Popular Action, but added that it does not rule out postelection cooperation if Popular Action -- now an extraparliamentary formation -- manages to gain representation in the legislature. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT FACES PEASANTS' PROTEST IN IASI...
About 100 peasants on 31 July called on President Ion Iliescu to intervene on their behalf, demanding that they receive the same plots of land that were nationalized during the communist era, and not substitution plots as has been the case during the process of land restitution, Mediafax reported. Iliescu told the peasants they should not let themselves be "manipulated" and later declared that "hidden interests" are behind the protests. The Iasi County authorities claim that the original plots cannot be restituted to their original owners, because those land parcels are now incorporated into state farms. Iliescu also said in Iasi that he is not opposed in principle to the restitution of property to Israelis of Romanian origin, but the cost of such restitution would amount to $9 billion-$10 billion, which he said the country cannot afford given the state of its economy, Romanian Radio reported. Therefore, he said, restitution to those Israelis must be "spaced out over time." He added that it is not Israel that insists on the restitution, but individuals living in that country. MS

...SAYS BASIC TREATY WITH MOLDOVA MUST BE RENEGOTIATED
Speaking ahead of his 1 August meeting with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, Iliescu said on 31 July that the basic treaty initialed in April 2000 by the two countries' foreign ministers must be negotiated, Mediafax reported. He said the text of the treaty "no longer reflects current realities." Voronin said last week that during his meeting with Iliescu at the countries' border he would seek to discuss "concrete terms" for the presidents' signing of that text. "We are ready to sign the treaty as soon as the negotiations are finalized," Voronin said, adding that this should happen by the end of 2003. MS

MOSCOW REPORTEDLY CONCERNED ABOUT ITS ROLE IN SETTLEMENT OF TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT...
Visiting Russian deputy administration head Dimitrii Kozak and separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 29 July discussed for six hours the current state of negotiations between Tiraspol and Chisinau and the future role of Russia in the settlement of the conflict, Infotag reported on 31 July. The report said Kozak conveyed President Vladimir Putin's concern that following Russia's 10-year effort to secure peace and stability in the region, its role as a "genuine" peacemaker might be assigned to the EU. Russia has on several occasions expressed its negative posture over a plan attributed to OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that reportedly envisages the participation of EU forces in peacekeeping operations in the Transdniester under the aegis of the OSCE. MS

...AS TIRASPOL AGAIN STOPS EVACUATION OF RUSSIAN ARSENAL
Separatist leader Smirnov on 30 July told U.S. envoy Rudolf Perina, who heads the U.S. State Department's negotiators' group for conflicts in the former USSR, that "Transdniester has allowed 39 trainloads of Russian ammunition to leave its territory in exchange for promised financial compensation...but to this date the Russian government has not fulfilled its obligations," Infotag reported on 31 July. Smirnov said the evacuation process is again being halted as a result. He also complained that Moldova "deliberately delays the settlement process." He said President Voronin touted his idea of federalization, but then "submitted to us a draft constitution in which the word 'federation' is not even mentioned." Instead, Smirnov complained, the draft "refers to the Transdniester as an autonomous territorial entity whose legal rights are even inferior to those of Gagauz-Yeri." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT CANCELS VAT ON TRANSDNIESTER GOODS
Parliament on 31 July canceled the obligatory payment of value-added taxes on goods produced in the Transdniester, dpa and Flux reported. The decision, which relieves the separatist region's products sold on Moldovan markets of a 20 percent tax, does not apply to goods imported to Moldova from other places via the Transdniester. Deputies described the decision as "a political gesture" that is unlikely to have much of an economic impact, according to Infotag. MS

EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT RULES AGAINST BULGARIA
The Strasburg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 31 July ruled against Bulgaria in four cases that were filed by individuals against the state, according to an ECHR press release. Three cases -- Al Akidi vs. Bulgaria, Hristov vs. Bulgaria, and Mihov vs. Bulgaria -- were interrelated, as all three applicants sentenced by Bulgarian courts to long prison terms in connection with the same case. The ECHR found that the Bulgarian courts that sentenced the men violated the European Convention on Human Rights because proceedings were unreasonably long and there was inequality of arms in two of the cases. The ECHR awarded the applicants $3,400 to $4,500 each for nonpecuniary damages. In the fourth case, the ECHR awarded approximately $2,500 in nonpecuniary damages to a man, ruling that he was unlawfully held in a psychiatric clinic. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT REACHES AGREEMENT OVER CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION
Representatives of Bulgarian parliamentary groups on 31 July signed an agreement on the distribution of seats on the 21-member Central Election Commission (TsIK) for the upcoming local elections, mediapool.bg reported. Under the new agreement the governing coalition National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) will have 10 seats, its coalition partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, will get two seats, while four seats each go to the opposition Union of Democratic Forces and the Socialist Party, and one to the National Ideal for Unity parliamentary group. Small parties had protested recent amendments to the law on local elections, which require a minimum of 10 legislators for parties to be granted the status of a "party represented in parliament." This could have prevented smaller parties from gaining seats on the Central Election Commission. However, the "Oborishte" Movement and the Party of Bulgarian Women are still hoping that President Georgi Parvanov, who appoints the TsIK members, will grant them one seat each instead of the combined one from the NDSV's contingent under the current agreement. UB

MR. HOLKERI GOES TO PRISHTINA


A leading Finnish international political figure is the new head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK). The challenges he faces are daunting and decidedly un-Scandinavian in nature.

On 25 July, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan named former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri to succeed Germany's Michael Steiner as head of UNMIK. Holkeri, who has no Balkan experience, served as Finland's prime minister from 1987-91 and was involved in the Northern Irish peace process from 1995-98. In 2000-01 he served as president of the UN General Assembly, where he reportedly developed a good working relationship with Annan. Holkeri has also served on the governing boards of the Bank of Finland and Finnair.

It is clear that he will face no easy assignment, in which none of his three predecessors spent even two full years. One local newspaper suggested he will need the supernatural skills of a Harry Potter if he is to succeed.

First, as the chief representative of the international community, Holkeri will have to deal with rivalries between some of the major foreign players. These tensions most notably involve the EU -- which provides most of the aid -- and the United States -- which supplies the political and military muscle that the ethnic Albanian majority most respects. Holkeri's own appointment, in fact, is largely the result of disagreements between Washington and Brussels over other candidates. One might also mention that Holkeri will need to earn and keep the respect of UNMIK's multiethnic staff and manage it effectively.

Second, as in the case of the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Holkeri has the seemingly contradictory mandate of creating a functioning democracy by fiat. He must do this while trying to overcome the social and economic effects of communism, repression, and war in order to promote a functioning market economy. In the process, he must try to bring together ethnic groups that would generally prefer not to have much to do with each other.

Third, he will have to use his well-honed political skills in trying to reconcile the agendas of the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority and the Serbian minority, which accounts for most of the rest of the population.

The Kosovar Albanian position is clear: they want the dissolution of former Yugoslavia to continue so that they can have independence in keeping with the worldwide post-1945 trend toward decolonization based on self-determination and majority rule. They have an elected president and prime minister, and their political parties hold a comfortable majority in the parliament. There are political and other divisions among them, but there is no disagreement on independence as the goal and the fledgling Kosovar institutions as the basis for the new state.

The Albanians will need constant reminding that the international community will not support independence for a state that does not allow its minorities to live in security and peace with rights in keeping with European standards. But the international community will have to face up to the question of status -- i.e., independence -- sooner rather than later if it wants to combat the crime and lack of security that flourish in the absence of a clear political framework.

The Serbian situation that Holkeri will face is more complex than often meets the eye. The Serbs living north of the Ibar River, much like the Croats of western Herzegovina, live in a compact area contiguous to their "motherland," to which they hope to be annexed. Like the western Herzegovinians during the rule of President Franjo Tudjman in the 1990s, they have received encouragement from the other side of the border.

The Serbs living in enclaves elsewhere in Kosova, like the Croats of central Bosnia, know -- if they are realistic -- that their future lies in living integrated with other ethnic groups. Their main concerns are freedom of movement and the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The Serbian authorities in Belgrade are another matter. Although some of them admit in private that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic lost Kosova in 1999, many of them lose no opportunity to seek political capital among nationalist voters by publicly reasserting their claim to the province. In so doing, they also give false hope to the Serbs living in Kosova that Serbian officials -- and security forces -- might some day return and settle scores with "the Albanians."

In reality, however, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 stated that Kosova remains part of "Yugoslavia" simply as a face-saving measure to facilitate the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the province in 1999. The ethnic Albanian majority wants nothing to do with Serbia, even if the EU tries to force them into a joint state, as Brussels did in the case of Serbia and Montenegro.

A fourth set of difficulties facing Holkeri involves political culture. The Balkans are littered with the wrecks of well-intentioned plans and hopes of experienced and self-confident foreigners who came to sort out the wars and problems of the past decade and a half.

One reason that many of them failed or were less than successful was that they did not understand the political culture they were dealing with. If compromise is the essence of politics in some parts of Europe, it is regarded in much of the Balkans as a sign of weakness -- which the other party will exploit ruthlessly.

Furthermore, in negotiating, the devil is in the details, and agreements can come undone at almost any stage. Nor is the acceptance of economic or other "carrots" any guarantee that the local parties will do what is expected of them. Most likely they will signal acceptance of an agreement -- and then try to find a way around it while still claiming as many of its benefits as possible.

The brief history of the state of Serbia and Montenegro illustrates this point. Another example is the much-touted Serbian-Albanian "dialogue" on Kosova that the EU wants to launch. Belgrade and Prishtina formally accepted the proposal but lost little time in raising objections and enumerating preconditions.

Nor should one forget the problems posed by periodic displays of Balkan "inat," or stubborn defiance. This has become known as something of a Serbian specialty, but it is by no means a Serbian monopoly.

What commands respect and can help ensure success is toughness backed up by credible force and the willingness to bring one's political, economic, and other advantages to bear as firmly as possible. Any other approach will not be taken particularly seriously in the Balkans -- and will be treated accordingly.

UN OFFICIAL STRESSES NEED FOR SECURITY BEFORE MEANINGFUL ELECTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN
On 30 July, the UN secretary-general's special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, delivered a speech to the Symposium on Security Sector Reform that was held in Kabul on 30-31 July. A text of Brahimi's speech has been obtained by RFE/RL. Brahimi said the Constitutional Loya Jirga scheduled for October and the general elections slated for 2004 can only "be meaningful" if Afghans are "at liberty to express their views, free of threats of violence, intimidation, and pressure by anyone." However, Brahimi added, "from across the country we continue to receive daily reports of abuses committed by gunmen against the population -- armed gangs who establish illegal checkpoints, tax farmers and traders, intimidate, rob, rape, and do so -- all too often -- while wielding the formal title of military commander [or] police or security chief." He said that quite often these lawbreakers and warlords claim to be affiliated with political organizations or prominent individuals who are part of the Transitional Administration or of provincial governments (for more on Afghan elections, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 19 July 2003). AT

NORTHERN WARLORD REFUSES TO DISARM OR LEAVE BASE IN BALKH
General Ata Mohammad, commander of the 7th Army Corps, has said he will not disband his forces as suggested by his rival, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, until the Afghan National Army (ANA) is formed, Balkh TV reported on 30 July. He added that, "Since a broad-based national army has not been formed and there is no powerful government [in Kabul], putting guns away would be nonsense." Ata Mohammad also rejected earlier reports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003) that he has agreed to relocate his forces from Balkh Province to neighboring Baghlan Province. "Why should [I] go to Baghlan Province, since Baghlan is not part of the northern provinces? What kind of resolution is that?" he said. Ata Mohammad suggested that Dostum's forces should leave Mazar-e Sharif, capital of Balkh Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May 2003). AT

GOVERNOR DENIES ASKING FOR HELP TO COMBAT NEO-TALIBAN FORCES
Zabul Province Governor Hamidullah Tokhi on 31 July denied reports that he has requested assistance from U.S. forces in neighboring Kandahar Province to help his forces defeat the neo-Taliban forces active in Zabul Province, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Tokhi also categorically denied reports that forces loyal to the former Taliban regime, or neo-Taliban, have taken control of parts of his province. Zabul Province Deputy Governor Mulla Mohammad Omar (not to be confused with the Taliban leader of the same name) was quoted as saying the neo-Taliban has increased its activities in his province, forcing the government to seek assistance from U.S. forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 July 2003). AT

U.S. TROOPS INJURE THREE ANA OFFICERS
Three officers of the nascent ANA were injured on 31 July when U.S. troops fired on their taxi in Pol-e Charkhi near Kabul, Hindukosh news agency reported. A spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Lefforge, said that U.S. military police "attempted to wave off the taxi, but the taxi continued to aggressively approach the [U.S.] convoy," Reuters reported on 31 July. The driver of the taxi disputed the claims, saying the U.S. forces "suddenly fired on my car," without giving any warnings. Guards at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul shot dead four ANA soldiers and wounded four more on 21 May, in what was described as a "misunderstanding" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2003). AT

PAKISTAN CLAIMS AFGHANISTAN'S USE OF FAULTY RUSSIAN MAP CAUSED CONFUSION OVER BORDER
An unidentified senior Pakistani official said on 31 July that Afghanistan has mistakenly claimed that "Pakistani forces have intruded 12 kilometers inside Afghanistan" because Kabul is using old, Soviet-produced maps, the Pakistani daily "Dawn" reported on 1 August. The official added that this claim "cannot be true." "Russian maps are known to be flawed and inaccurate," he said. "Even if there was an intrusion, it could not possibly be more than a few meters." The official claimed that the maps used by the Afghan side "vary from the maps used by Pakistan and the United States." He said that Islamabad is using British maps, on the basis of which the "Durand Line" -- after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the British signatory of the 1893 agreement that demarcated the border between Afghanistan and British India -- was signed. The comments came after a meeting of the tripartite commission of Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. representatives that was established on 15 July to investigate claims by Afghanistan that Pakistani forces have violated its territory (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 and 24 July 2003). AT

IRANIAN PRESIDENT AND PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS LEGISLATIVE DEADLOCK
The deadlock between the Iranian parliament and the Guardians Council over two pieces of legislation that would strengthen the executive branch appears to be causing tensions in the already fragile reformist coalition. Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi said in the 29 July issue of the government newspaper "Iran" that there will be a meeting of the cabinet and members of the legislature on 3 August to enhance the two sides' cooperation. On the other hand, Ardabil parliamentary representative Nureddin Pirmoazen said he and 24 of his colleagues have summoned President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami to the legislature on 3 August to answer their questions about the current situation, ISNA reported on 30 July. BS

IRANIAN STUDENTS SENTENCED TO JAIL
Nine students from Ilam University have received jail sentences after a closed-door trial, ILNA reported on 30 July. Six of the students received three-year sentences for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, two received one-year sentences for unspecified reasons, and a third student received an 18-month sentence for acting against national security. BS

OTTAWA WELCOMES PROGRESS IN CASE OF JOURNALIST KILLED IN IRAN
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said on 30 July that the inquiry into the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Iran seems to be progressing, "The Globe and Mail" reported on 31 July. Graham also welcomed Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Abtahi's statement about the suspicious circumstances surrounding Kazemi's death as a sign that reformists in the Iranian government want to get to the truth. Graham repeated the demand that Kazemi's remains be returned to Canada. BS

TEHRAN-KYIV TO CONCLUDE GAS AGREEMENT
Iranian Deputy Petroleum Minister Mohammad Nejad-Husseinian and Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov agreed on 30 July in Kyiv that Iran will supply Ukraine with 10 billion-15 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported on 31 July. The report did not specify the length of the future deal. The two sides are expected to sign the relevant memorandum after 31 July, and are also studying new routes for transporting gas from the Caspian Sea region to Ukraine. Nejad-Husseinian was quoted as saying that 50 percent of the Caspian's natural-gas resources are Iran's, and he went on to say that Ukraine might serve as a transshipment point for gas exports to the rest of Europe. He also said that Ukrainian companies are welcome to work on the Iranian energy market. BS

IRAN SCRAPS SATELLITE DEAL WITH RUSSIA
Rajab Safarov, general director of the Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies and the head of the iran.ru news agency, said on 29 July that Iran has decided against purchasing a communications satellite from Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry first recommended purchasing the satellite, known as Zohreh, from a state-run company called Aviaeksport, while Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov recommended the Intersputnik company to the Iranians. This behavior surprised the Iranians, according to Safarov, leading to the cancellation of the deal. "Iran is a leader of the Islamic world, and losing the Iranian market is a serious blow to Russia's interests," he said. BS

IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM DISCUSSED IN TOKYO
Japan and the United States expressed concern over the Iranian nuclear program during bilateral discussions in Tokyo on 1 August, the Jiji Press news agency reported. Foreign Ministry Director-General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs Yukiya Amano was representing Japan, while Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, who is on a tour of regional capitals, was representing the United States. The two sides agreed to pressure Tehran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inspection regime, and the U.S. side suggested referring the issue to the UN Security Council if it is demonstrated at the September IAEA Board of Governors meeting that Iran is in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The possibility of Japanese companies developing the Azadegan oil field, a project opposed by Washington, was not discussed, according to the Jiji Press dispatch. BS

$30 MILLION REWARD APPROVED FOR IRAQI INFORMANT
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 31 July approved a payment of $30 million to the individual who provided coalition forces with information leading them to the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein, according to the State Department's website (http://usinfo.state.gov). Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons were killed in a gun battle with U.S. forces in Mosul on 22 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2003). Boucher told reporters that the payment is the largest ever paid under the Rewards for Justice Program (http://www.rewardsforjustice.net), established through the 1984 Act to Combat International Terrorism. The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security administers the program, which previously capped rewards at $5 million. The USA Patriot Act, passed on 26 October 2001, authorizes the secretary of state to offer or pay rewards of greater than $5 million in cases relating to the fight against terrorism. Boucher declined to divulge any information on the identity or whereabouts of the informant. KR

JORDAN OFFERS ASYLUM TO FORMER IRAQI LEADER'S DAUGHTERS
Jordanian Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif confirmed that Saddam Hussein's two eldest daughters, Raghad and Rana Hussein, and their nine children were granted asylum by Jordan's King Abdullah II on 31 July, Reuters reported the same day. "They arrived this evening and they are his majesty's guests for purely humanitarian reasons," the news agency quoted al-Sharif as saying. "They are Arab women who have run out of all options," the "Arab Times" quoted al-Sharif as telling reporters. Raghad is the wife of the late Husayn Kamil al-Majid, who was assassinated by the Hussein regime after he and his brother Saddam, the husband of Rana, and their families defected to Jordan in 1995, only to be lured back to Iraq by Hussein on promises of amnesty. Raghad and Rana were reportedly placed under house arrest after the incident. The women are not thought to have any information as to the whereabouts of their father. In June, Hussein's cousin, Izz al-Din Hasan al-Majid, said he would try to secure asylum for the women in Britain, where he lives, but Raghad said it would be impossible to live there (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 June 2003). KR

PURPORTED HUSSEIN AUDIOTAPE AIRS IN MIDEAST
An audiotape purporting to carry the voice of Saddam Hussein was aired on Al-Arabiyah and Al-Jazeera satellite channels on 1 August. The speaker in the tape urges Iraqis to overcome fear and intimidation and fight to evict the occupiers from Iraq. "Some people lost their sense of balance during the war...and afterwards," the speaker says, according to Reuters. "The sense of balance will not be restored except with those who struggle in the name of the principles that will satisfy the nation, people, and God." The speaker later contends, "Only the actions of the faithful who struggled and fought can evict the invaders." The audiotape is dated 28 July, Reuters reported. CIA officials this week said an audiotape aired on 29 July in which an individual purported to be Hussein mourns the deaths of his sons, Uday and Qusay, is likely authentic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). KR

U.S. PRESIDENT RENEWS SANCTIONS ON IRAQ
U.S. President George W. Bush renewed sanctions on Iraq on 31 July, according to an announcement on the State Department website. Bush's father, President George H. W. Bush, placed those sanctions on Iraq in 1990 through an executive order. The sanctions freeze Iraqi government assets held in U.S. banks and bans U.S. trade with Iraq. "Because of the continued instability in Iraq, the United States and Coalition partners' role as the temporary authority in Iraq, and the need to ensure the establishment of a process leading to a representative Iraqi self-rule, the national emergency declared on August 2, 1990...must continue in effect beyond August 2, 2003.... Therefore, I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to Iraq," a White House notice signed by Bush read. KR

U.S. TO ASK FOREIGN BANKS TO RUN IRAQI STATE-OWNED BANKS
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has vowed to seek the assistance of foreign banks in running Iraq's two state-owned banks, Reuters reported on 31 July. "We will put out a request for proposals from foreign banking corporations to express interest in managing the Al-Rashid and Al-Rafidain banks that were wholly owned by the Iraqi government," a CPA official told reporters. "This will enable foreign banks to come here and help them to restructure." The banks will remain in government hands and under the supervision of Iraq's central bank. U.S. Treasury officials are already reviewing proposals in an effort to appoint an international consortium of banks to handle letters of credit for the newly created Trade Bank of Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 July 2003). KR

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