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Newsline - August 5, 2003


SECURITY CHIEF WARNS OF FURTHER TERRORIST ATTACKS...
Speaking to journalists in Rostov-na-Donu on 4 August, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev warned of further suicide bombings in Russia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other Russian media reported on 5 August. He asserted that 11 planned terrorist acts were prevented on the territory of Chechnya in the month of July alone. Patrushev also said that an unspecified number of people have been detained in connection with the 1 August suicide bombing of a military hospital in Mozdok. On 4 August, RIA-Novosti reported that the extraordinary security measures in Moscow that were scheduled to end on 7 August will be extended until 11 August. RC

...AS PUTIN LAMBASTES PROSECUTORS AND THE COURTS
The day after the Mozdok hospital bombing, President Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with FSB Director Patrushev and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and on 3 August, he met with Ustinov and Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 5 August. At both meetings, Putin sharply criticized prosecutors and the courts for being too slow in prosecuting terrorism-related cases and punishing those who are convicted. He reportedly complained that it often takes months or years for cases to be investigated and tried. "This creates the impression that the government cannot or does not react to such events," Putin said. Putin also condemned the "lack of discipline" among the police and the military, a failing that he said often facilitates terrorist acts. "The lack of discipline that we observe in many cases and which enables the commission of crimes and terrorists acts now exceeds all bounds," Putin said. RC

PUTIN CALLS FOR MORE OPEN TRAVEL...
President Putin on 5 August continued his state visit to Malaysia with calls for extending bilateral economic cooperation, Russian and Western media reported. Putin addressed the Malaysia-Russian Business Forum in Kuala Lumpur, noting that economic ties demand open access to information and free travel. However, "terrorist organizations are more active and many countries make visa procedures and movement of citizens more and more complicated," Putin was quoted by dpa as saying. He suggested that travel be facilitated for certain categories of people, including businesspeople, politicians, and students. RC

...AND FOR ECONOMIC MULTILATERALISM
At the same business forum in Kuala Lumpur on 5 August, President Putin called for the development of economic relations on the basis of the principles of international law, ITAR-TASS reported. "This could be a multipolar world where international law rules. Without the strengthening of the international legal system, it is impossible to speak of fair trade-economic ties," Putin said. He called for "strengthening international financial institutions" and said that Russia will work toward this in international organizations, including the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries. RC

SENIOR OFFICIAL CALLS FOR DEVELOPING HIGH-TECHNOLOGY DEFENSE INDUSTRIES
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin, speaking to journalists in Nizhnii Novgorod on 5 August, said that Russia must concentrate on developing its high-technology defense industries, ITAR-TASS reported. "Further development of the defense industry is linked to the development of industry as a whole," Aleshin said. "The more the defense industry is integrated into the civilian economy, the more effectively it will work." Aleshin criticized those within the military-industrial complex who hinder the transfer of military technology to civilian applications. "We should develop these technologies," Aleshin said. Aleshin's comments echoed remarks made on 31 July by President Putin during a visit to the Arzamas-16 nuclear-weapons research laboratory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2003). RC

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR SECURITY GUARANTEES FOR NORTH KOREA
Russia is prepared to participate in security guarantees for North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang's renunciation of its nuclear program, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told reporters on 5 August during a working visit to Beijing, Russian media reported. "We believe the non-nuclear status of the Korean Peninsula should be preserved and we proceed from the view that North Korea, in return for renouncing its nuclear program, can count on guarantees of its security," Mironov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying. "Russia is ready to take part in creating such guarantees." Mironov also praised Russia and China for their diplomatic efforts to convince North Korea to agree to six-way talks to resolve the current crisis. RC

POLICE GO AFTER PUBLISHER FOR PRINTING TOO MANY BOOKS
Moscow police have launched a criminal case against Eksmo, a publisher of popular detective and romance novels, Russian media reported on 5 August. According to a police spokesman, the publisher and a related firm called Eksmo-Press are accused of printing extra copies of many of the works it publishes and selling them without paying taxes or royalties. The case began in spring 2002 when police in Rostov Oblast confiscated a large shipment of popular novels, which they eventually traced back to Eksmo. The police source said that it is possible the scam cost the government $2 million-$3 million. According to "Vremya novostei," Eksmo security chief Aleksandr Chernyak filed a complaint with police early in 2002 claiming that one of the investigating officers was trying to extort $600,000 from the firm. The newspaper quoted a police spokesman as saying that the practice of excess print runs is extremely common in the Russian publishing industry. RC

GOVERNMENT SAYS SCHOOL IS MAKING KIDS SICK
The State Health Inspectorate on 4 August released statistics showing that Russian schoolchildren are increasingly falling ill because of the heavy workload at school, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the figures, more than 60 percent of Russian schoolchildren have blood-pressure problems, while about 80 percent suffer from neuroses. The inspectorate ascribed the situation to the fact that most Russian schools have switched from a six-day week to a five-day week, but there has been no reduction in the curriculum. Moreover, many schools suffer from chronic overcrowding, with schools in regions like Orenburg and Kemerovo oblasts working in two or three daily shifts. According to the report, 20 percent of the schools in Tyumen Oblast have no physical-education facilities. Many schools report difficulty providing hot meals, as virtually all federal funding for school meals has been eliminated. RC

NEW DEPUTY PREMIER DECIDES TO THROW MORE OFFICIALS AT HOUSING-REFORM PROBLEM
Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Yakovlev headed a meeting in Moscow on the problems of communal housing and the public utilities sector on 4 August, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. On that day, hot water flowed to residents of Ulyanovsk, although not to everyone in the city. The water shut-off first occurred in the spring of this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2003). According to the daily, the debt owed by regional authorities to Ulyanovskenergo has reached 246 million rubles ($8.1 million); however, negotiations between the utility and regional officials have reached a dead-end. Yakovlev has decided that the regional authorities were unable to reach an agreement with their counterparts in the public utility because of the "human factor," and has therefore decided to create a team of negotiators under the auspices of the State Construction Committee that would then be deployed to Ulyanovsk. JAC

IS ENVOY'S OFFICE PREPARING TO IMPOSE FEDERAL ADMINISTRATION IN CRISIS REGIONS?
In a meeting with President Putin during the 100th anniversary celebrations of the canonization of St. Serafim in Sarov last week, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko referred to two regions, Kirov and Ulyanovsk Oblasts, as regions in crisis, Regnum reported on 4 August. Kirienko said that the office of the envoy is working on a system of control in which it will check the balancing of the budget, the volume of fuel reserves, and the timeliness of payments to state sector workers. "If the parameters are not being met, then we will control the timeliness of payments of salaries to state-sector workers," he said. JAC

PREMIER MAKES SERIES OF APPOINTMENTS
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has named Gennadii Alekseev as head of the administration for personnel and government service in the government apparatus, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 August. Alekseev had previously served in this position until his dismissal in March 1999. Kasyanov also named Vsevolod Vukolov as head of the administration for administrative-reform issues within the government apparatus. Vukolov previously served in the government's control department, and is a former vice president of Rossiiskii Kredit. In addition, Kasyanov confirmed the leadership of the government commission for conducting administrative reform. Deputy Prime Minister Aleshin will serve as the commission's chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003), and he will have three deputies: Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak, and Konstantin Merzlikin, director of the government apparatus. JAC

POSSIBLE REPERCUSSIONS OF NEW LEGISLATION PONDERED
As of 1 January 2004, amendments to the law on government registration of legal entities will come into force that will make the founding documents of organizations available to the public, "Vremya novostei" reported on 5 August. According to the daily, the law will require most Russian businessmen to reveal information that they currently go to great lengths to conceal, such as their passport numbers. Tax Ministry officials believe that access to founding documents will reduce the number or conflict situations. Today, if a firm is not fulfilling the conditions of an agreement with its partners, if it owes money to the budget or is participating in criminal activities, it can simply change its legal address, and its partners need to resort to "informal" methods to try to locate it. On the other hand, the daily noted that passport information will not only make it easier for partners to find their former associates, but also for criminal groups to exert pressure on businessmen. JAC

MOSCOW MAYOR SAYS FEDS TRYING TO TAKE AWAY AS MUCH SOVEREIGNTY AS THEY CAN
In an interview with TV-Tsentr on 2 August, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that he is concerned that some functions and powers are being needlessly redistributed in favor of the federal center. He noted that while former President Boris Yeltsin's appeal to regional leaders, "Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow" was dangerous, the opposite trend is also causing him concern. He said, "Sitting in Moscow, one cannot exercise control over issues of labor resources, employment, pensions, and the environmental situation in all remote parts of the Russian Federation." Luzhkov's criticism of the local government reforms follows similar negative comments by former Yeltsin-era presidential administration head Sergei Filatov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). JAC

ONE MAYOR TAKES FIGHT WITH GOVERNOR TO THE COURTS...
Voronezh Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev has filed a suit against Voronezh Oblast Governor Vladimir Kulakov for defamation, gazeta.ru reported on 4 August. He is asking for 3 million rubles ($99,000) in damages. Kovalev objected in particular to an interview that the governor gave to "Molodoi kommunar" in which Kulakov accused him of having spent vast sums of money artificially fuelling an information war between oblast and city authorities. Kovalev is demanding that Kulakov provide evidence to substantiate that allegation. On 10 July, presscenter.ru reported that Mayor Kovalev has announced that he will run in the 2004 gubernatorial election. JAC

...AS ANOTHER LOSES LAWSUIT
A raion level court in Kazan rejected on 4 August a lawsuit filed by Volzhsk Mayor Nikolai Svistunov against the regional bureau of "Rossiiskaya gazeta," Regnum reported. Last year, the newspaper published two articles that described the poor state of the public-housing and communal-services sectors in that city and the local authorities' -- and particularly the mayor's -- failure to address the problems. Svistunov was recently arrested on suspicion of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). JAC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD CONFIRMS HE WILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov submitted his request for registration as a candidate in the 5 October Chechen presidential election to the Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 4 August, Russian news agencies reported. He told journalists in Grozny that if elected, his primary task will be promote peace. Kadyrov stressed that despite offers of support from Unified Russia and the People's Party, he will run as an independent candidate. Under the Chechen Constitution, Kadyrov must now step down from his post as acting president, and his duties will devolve on to Prime Minister Anatolii Popov, according to ITAR-TASS. Popov said on 4 August he has no intention of participating in the presidential election. Including Kadyrov, 11 presidential candidates have registered with the TsIK. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S NEW PREMIER INTRODUCED TO CABINET...
Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev signed a decree on 4 August confirming the appointment of his son Ilham as prime minister, Turan reported. Parliament deputies approved Ilham's nomination as premier at an emergency parliament session earlier the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). Presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev, who reportedly met with the president several days ago at the Gulhane military hospital in Ankara where he is undergoing treatment, presented Ilham Aliev to government ministers later on 4 August. In a separate decree on 4 August, President Aliev appointed outgoing Prime Minister Artur Rasizade to the post of first deputy premier, Turan reported. LF

...RECEIVES CONGRATULATIONS FROM TURKEY, GEORGIA...
In a 4 August telephone call, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan conveyed congratulations to Ilham Aliev on his appointment as prime minister, Turan reported, quoting Azertadj. Ilham Aliev for his part pledged to continue his father's policy in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. In Tbilisi, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze hailed Ilham's appointment as a wise move on the part of his father, Caucasus Press reported, quoting the presidential press office. Shevardnadze characterized Ilham Aliev as a worthy son of his father and predicted he would continue to implement the president's policy line. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Ilham's appointment as prime minister was "fully consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution" and that the U.S. administration looks forward to working with him, Reuters reported. Reeker said Washington hopes and expects that Ilham Aliev "will work for economic and democratic reform," including creating conditions to ensure that the presidential election scheduled for 15 October is free and democratic. LF

...AS AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CLAIMS HIS APPOINTMENT ILLEGAL
Azerbaijani opposition parties on 4 August denounced President Aliev's appointment of his son as premier as a velvet coup d'etat and aimed at falsifying the outcome of the October presidential election, in which both Heidar and Ilham Aliev are registered as candidates, Turan reported. The Opposition Coordinating Center (MKM), made up of nine opposition parties; the Amal movement, which represents the Azerbaijani intelligentsia; and the Monitoring Group of Human Rights Organizations all termed the appointment a coup. The MKM issued a statement saying it will not recognize the legality of any decrees purportedly issued by President Aliev until the state of his health is clarified. Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar and Azerbaijan National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov both argued that Ilham Aliev's appointment as premier violates Article 69.2 of the Election Code, according to which a registered presidential candidate cannot subsequently be appointed to a senior government post. The Central Election Commission confirmed Ilham Aliev's candidacy on 2 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). LF

ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP DECLINES COMMENT ON AZERBAIJANI LEADERSHIP CHANGES
Both the office of President Robert Kocharian and the Armenian Foreign Ministry declined on 4 August to comment on the possible repercussions of Ilham Aliev's appointment as Azerbaijani prime minister, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A senior official told RFE/RL "we are closely following the developments but find it too early to make any comments." But Galust Sahakian, who heads the parliament faction of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL that "it is not certain what policy [Azerbaijan is] going to pursue from now on, and that uncertainty is dangerous." LF

TEN INJURED IN FIGHT BETWEEN GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES
Ten people were hospitalized in Tbilisi on 4 August for injuries received during a brawl between some 40 members of the opposition Labor Party and the Samshoblo (Fatherland) union, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The Samshoblo members showed up at the Labor Party headquarters and demanded that Labor expel from its ranks former government Minister Pridon Indjia, whom they characterized as a "leech." Four Samshoblo members were subsequently arrested in connection with the fight, which Samshoblo accuses Labor of starting, Caucasus Press reported on 5 August. The previous day, Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili accused members of the rival National Movement of participating in the attack, which he claimed was undertaken as a result of an agreement among President Shevardnadze, Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava, and National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili. The Labor Party recently accused the latter two men of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). LF

ABKHAZ CUSTOMS OFFICIALS KILLED IN AMBUSH
Four employees of the Abkhaz State Customs Committee died and three more were injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their minibus in the village of Chuburkhindji in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 4 August, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Security Service head Givi Agrba blamed the killings on Georgian guerrillas. The Abkhaz Foreign Ministry issued a statement the same day protesting the incident and recalling that the UN Security Council called in a 30 July resolution for both sides to abstain from any actions that could impede the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). The Georgian head of the Gali police force denied that Georgians were responsible for the killings, which he attributed to a dispute among the victims, Caucasus Press reported on 5 August. LF

OSCE URGES GEORGIA TO AMEND ELECTION CODE
The OSCE Mission in Georgia issued a statement on 4 August expressing concern that parliament has not yet adopted amendments to the Election Code aimed at minimizing electoral fraud and creating a credible election administration, Caucasus Press reported on 4 August. The OSCE reaffirmed its readiness to assist in the selection of a respected and politically neutral candidate to head the new Central Election Commission (CEC). Also on 4 August, President Shevardnadze disclaimed any responsibility for the failure to pass the amendments, pointing out that he has no right to dictate to parliament, Caucasus Press reported. On 2 August, the U.S. Embassy issued a statement calling on all political parties to expedite passage of the amendments, including the proposal unveiled in early July by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker for distributing seats on the CEC among pro-presidential and opposition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 August 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PEACEKEEPERS DEPART FOR IRAQ
A Georgian peacekeeping detachment left Tbilisi on 3 August for Kuwait en route for Iraq, where it will be deployed in Tikrit, Caucasus Press reported on 4 August. The contingent numbers 34 commandos from the crack Kojori battalion, 15 sappers, and 20 medical personnel. Transportation and much of the peacekeepers' special equipment was provided by the United States. The Georgian Defense Ministry will pay the peacekeepers' salaries, which range from $400-$600 per month. LF

KAZAKHSTAN WANTS IN ON PLANNED OIL PIPELINE TO CROATIA
Kazakh President Nazarbaev and visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych discussed Kazakhstan's participation in the Druzhba-Adria oil-pipeline project during their meeting in Astana on 4 August, Kazinform reported the same day. The planned pipeline is intended to transport Russian and Caspian oil to the Croatian port of Omisalj. Kazakhstan has already expressed interest to Ukraine in the Odessa-Brody pipeline project. According to Yanukovych, he and Nazarbaev also discussed the possibility of expanding the pumping capacity of that pipeline as well as joint Kazakh-Ukrainian development of oil and gas fields. BB

FOUR CENTRAL ASIAN STATES AGREE ON JOINT ANTITERRORISM OPERATIONS...
Heads of the law enforcement and security agencies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan agreed at a conference in the Kyrgyz city of Osh on 2 August to conduct future joint operations against international terrorists, religious extremists, and drug traffickers, RIA-Novosti and akipress.org reported on 4 August. Bolot Djanuzakov, head of the Kyrgyz presidential office's department for defense, security, and law enforcement, told a press conference on 4 August that the participants at the Osh meeting had also agreed to share information and work out specific ways to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. According to Djanuzakov, the Osh meeting was held in response to decisions on joint anti-terrorism actions made at the 5-6 July summit of Central Asian leaders in Almaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). BB

...ALTHOUGH CURRENT SITUATION CONSIDERED STABLE
Djanuzakov told the 4 August press conference on the Osh meeting of Central Asian security officials that at present the situation in the region is stable, but groups of terrorists and religious extremists still exist and the drug trade is flourishing. He asserted that at any moment such groups could join forces and pose a real threat. Djanuzakov said that the major problem hampering cooperation among Central Asian security agencies is differences in legislation: what is legal in one country is illegal in another. The Osh conference -- Djanuzakov said he believed it was the first of its kind in the region -- ended with the signing of a protocol on the specific forms of cooperation to be implemented, the details of which could not be revealed. BB

KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN INTENDS TO SUE NEWSPAPER
Before departing on a UN-sponsored trip to the Czech Republic and Estonia to study the working of ombudsman's offices in those countries, Kyrgyzstan's Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu told a press conference on 1 August that he intends to sue the newspaper "Agym," akipress.org reported on 4 August. Bakir-uulu said that he had the necessary documents ready to launch the suit, but the "Agym" staff and the publication's chief editor were all on vacation. The ombudsman's claim that he was defamed arises from an article asserting that he had traveled to an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session in Rotterdam and a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in Kiev at government expense, statements that Bakir-uulu said are demonstrably untrue; his travel was paid for by an international human rights group. He managed to persuade the pro-government daily "Vecherniy Bishkek" not to publish the article, he said, by threatening that publication with a court case. Akipress.org did not mention the date when the article appeared in "Agym." BB

NATO TO OBSERVE MILITARY EXERCISES IN TURKMENISTAN
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has accepted Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's invitation for NATO observers to view military exercises in Turkmenistan on 16 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 August. The exercises are being organized to coincide with the annual meeting of the Halk Maslahaty (People's Assembly), Turkmenistan's rubber-stamp legislative body. The NATO observers will attend the exercises under the Partnership for Peace program, of which Turkmenistan is a member. Reportedly all the branches of the Turkmen armed forces will take part, along with Interior Ministry troops and other law enforcement agencies. BB

ADB HOLDS CONFERENCE ON TRADE AND TRANSPORT IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH ASIA
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) held a conference on 2-3 August at its Manila headquarters for transportation and trade ministers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to promote economic cooperation in Central and South Asia, uzreport.com reported on 3 August. Iran took part as an observer. According to the report, the conference ended with the signing of a protocol on specific actions to be taken in cooperation with the ADB to improve transport and trade within the region, with the ultimate goal of reducing poverty. The conference participants also agreed to establish a Central and South Asia Transport and Trade Forum to promote discussion and action on regional transport and trade issues. ADB President Tadao Chino noted that "South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Iran can play a vital role in promoting cooperation by providing the landlocked countries of Central Asia with access to the sea, and thereby linking their economies to world markets." The participants scheduled another meeting in Manila for December and asked the ADB to invite Turkmenistan. BB

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SEEK TO CLOSE LAWYERS' ASSOCIATION
The justice department of the Minsk Executive Committee has filed a lawsuit in a Minsk court for the liquidation of the Association for Legal Assistance to the Population (PDN), Belapan reported on 4 August, quoting the press office of the Vyasna human rights group. The PDN was notified of the action on 2 August and described the authorities' decision as an attempt to "prevent human rights activists from rendering efficient and prompt assistance to individuals." The PDN was established in 1998 and has provided legal assistance to around 4,000 people, including the disabled, war veterans, single mothers, minors, and the unemployed. PDN lawyers have also represented the families of politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski -- all of whom have disappeared under unexplained circumstances. AM

UKRAINE TURNS TO KAZAKHSTAN TO ALLEVIATE GRAIN CRISIS
Ukraine intends to purchase around 1.2 million tons of Kazakh grain in 2003-04 at a price of 600-750 hryvnyas ($112-140) per ton, Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych announced after a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Astana on 4 August, according to Interfax. Yanukovych said 800,000 tons of grain will be supplied to Ukraine under an intergovernmental agreement, while the remainder will be delivered under contracts between Ukrainian and Kazakh enterprises. Ukraine, facing a harvest decimated by drought, reached a similar agreement with Russia on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). AM

ESTONIA MAY LOSE EU FUNDS FOR VIA BALTICA HIGHWAY
It appears that Estonia might not receive the anticipated 328 million kroons ($23.7 million) in aid from the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) fund for repairs on the Via Baltica highway, LETA reported on 5 August, citing an article in the daily "Eesti Paevaleht." According to the agreement with the EU, the repairs were to have begun in April and been completed in October, but the necessary documentation has not yet been presented to the European Commission. Economy and Communications Minister Meelis Atonen said that several departments were to blame for the delay and added that "the EU is also very strict and apparently did not accept the opinion of Estonian experts." Ivar Sikk, the head of the external financing department of the Finance Ministry, noted that the EC agreed to an Estonian request for an extension on submitting the documentation, but only until the end of August. SG

FRANCE TO CO-FINANCE STUDY ON CONTINUING NUCLEAR ENERGY IN LITHUANIA
Parliamentary deputy Kazimiera Prunskiene told a press conference in Vilnius on 4 August that during her recent visit to France, she received promises from the heads of the French energy department to help finance studies on the possibility of Lithuania building another nuclear power plant, "Kauno diena" reported on 5 August. Prunskiene, who heads the parliamentary commission dealing with problems created by the closing of the Ignalina atomic power plant, noted that specialists from the companies Areva and Framatome ANP, a subsidiary of Siemens, are conducting preparatory work for the study, which is expected to cost about 700,000-800,000 litas ($233,000-267,000). The Lithuanian government has only provided 100,000 litas for the study. SG

POLAND'S RADICAL FARMERS PREPARE CANDIDATES FOR EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper said in Lodz on 4 August that his party is preparing a list of candidates for the European Parliament, PAP reported. Self-Defense candidates will include young people "who have already had contacts with Brussels and Strasbourg, have been specially trained by Self-Defense, and have been taught foreign languages," Lepper said. Additional training courses organized by Self-Defense will start this fall, he added. Elections to the European Parliament, in which Poland will have 54 seats, are scheduled for June 2004. AM

POLISH GAY-RIGHTS GROUPS ACCUSE VATICAN OF DISCRIMINATION
Polish gay and lesbian organizations on 4 August protested a recent Vatican statement on homosexuality, PAP reported. The Vatican Congregation for Science and Faith said in a 31 July statement on homosexuality that respect for homosexuals should in no way be interpreted as acceptance of homosexual behavior or the legalization of homosexual marriages. Three organizations -- Campaign Against Homophobia, the International Gay and Lesbian Association for Culture in Poland, and the Lambda Poland Association -- called the Vatican statement "deeply unjust, subjective, and...discriminatory against non-heterosexuals." The Vatican document condemns homosexuals to lives of loneliness, pain, and sadness by forbidding them the joys of close relationships with other human beings, the groups said. AM

U.S. GENERAL PRAISES CZECH PARTICIPATION IN IRAQ
General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists in Prague on 4 August that "the Czech Republic has been our good friend in many ways," dpa and CTK reported. Pace praised the Czech government for having deployed an anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit in Kuwait during the Iraqi conflict and for having dispatched a field hospital to Iraq after the U.S. declared an end to major combat operations. Pace discussed cooperation within NATO, Czech military reforms, and Czech participation in peacekeeping operations worldwide with Czech Deputy Chief of Staff Jaroslav Kolkus. Kolkus said after the meeting that the NATO team that will assume command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan on 11 August will include four Czech officers, according to CTK. MS

CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER RESIGNS CABINET POST
Justice Minister and Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky officially tendered his resignation on 4 August to pave the way for his expected appointment to the Czech Constitutional Court, CTK reported. Rychetsky resigned from the senior ruling Social Democratic Party on 18 July. His Senate mandate will automatically expire once he is sworn in as a Constitutional Court justice. President Vaclav Klaus is expected to administer the oath to Rychetsky and two other Constitutional Court appointees on 6 August. The position of justice minister is being filled by Premier Vladimir Spidla until he can find a replacement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2003). MS

SLOVAK MAYOR ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL BID
Stanislav Bernat, the mayor of Martin in the Zilina region of northwestern Slovakia, officially announced on 4 August that he plans to run for president in elections slated for May 2004, TASR reported. President Rudolf Schuster, whose first five-year term ends in the spring, has not yet decided whether to seek re-election. The senior coalition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union has announced its intention to back Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan for the post. Observers expect as many as 10 candidates to join the race. Bernat, who will run as an independent, must collect 15,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. MS

SLOVAKIA, WORLD BANK SIGN AGREEMENT ON LOAN
Slovak charge d'affaires in Washington Peter Kmec and World Bank Vice President Shiego Katsu on 4 August signed a 5 million euro ($5.64 million) loan agreement aimed at improving the management of public finances, TASR reported. The project is primarily aimed at reforming Slovak public spending to help the country meet the Maastrich criteria ahead of its expected accession to the EU in May 2004. The project should be completed by 2006. MS

HUNGARIAN NATIONAL BANK CALLS FOR TIGHTER FISCAL POLICY
The Hungarian National Bank (MNB) on 4 August called on the government to implement a fiscal policy that curbs domestic demand to help fight inflation and meet the Maastricht criteria for adopting the euro in 2008, "Vilaggazdasag" reported the next day. "In order for such criteria to be met, inflation will have to be kept below 3 percent in 2006," the MNB said in a statement released after a meeting of its monetary-policy council. The bank said meeting the Maastricht criterion on inflation will require "a fiscal policy contracting demand, a stringent monetary policy, and a forint exchange rate permanently stronger than the current market rate." The country's budget deficit is expected to exceed 5.5 percent of GDP in 2003, while inflation will be around 4.5 percent, the daily reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN DIASPORA LEADER SAYS DIPLOMACY HAS DISAPPOINTED
Hungarian politicians and diplomats have failed adequately to seize the historical opportunity offered by the Hungarian Status Law and its application in neighboring Slovakia, Miklos Patrubany, chairman of the World Union of Hungarians (MVSZ), told TASR in Budapest on 4 August. "It would have sufficed for Hungarian negotiators to raise the question of the Benes Decrees and to condition Slovakia's entry into NATO on nullifying the decrees," Patrubany said. Slovakia would then have accepted the Status Law without major objections, he concluded. The postwar Benes Decrees, issued by Czechoslovak President Eduard Benes, allowed for the expropriation of property and expulsion of 3 million ethnic Germans and 600,000 ethnic Hungarians for alleged wartime collaboration with occupying Nazi forces. MSZ

NEO-NAZI GROUP STAGES DEMONSTRATION IN BUDAPEST
The neo-Nazi Blood and Honor Cultural Society staged a gathering on a Budapest sports field on 2 August under the slogan "Action Against Hatred That Afflicts Hungarians," "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 4 August. Speeches commemorated the deaths of Hungarians, citing cases in which "Negroes, Romanians, and Gypsies" murdered skinhead youths. Attendees responded to the inauguration of the group's new flag by singing the wartime Arrow Cross anthem. T-shirts with portraits of Hungary's Arrow Cross fascist leader Ferenc Szalasi and Adolf Hitler, as well as right-wing books, were on sale at the demonstration. The organizers estimated attendance in the hundreds, while police or other estimates were not immediately available. Budapest police said the function was staged peacefully, no laws were broken, and authorities did not have to intervene, the daily reported. MSZ

NATO COMMANDER SAYS EU NOT READY FOR BOSNIAN MISSION
NATO's supreme commander in Europe said in Brussels on 4 August that it would be "premature" for the EU to take over the international military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina from SFOR, "The Independent" reported. U.S. Marine General James Jones added that the EU should concentrate instead on developing and expanding its current police mission, noting that "sooner rather than later the only thing that [will be] required [in Bosnia] is police, tough police." Jones stressed that High Representative Lord Paddy Ashdown has also said that it is too early to speak of an EU military mission to replace SFOR. An unnamed EU official expressed "irritation" over Jones' remarks, arguing that the EU would not have asked to take on the mission if it were not ready. The United States has taken a renewed interest in the Balkans since 11 September 2001 because of the region's importance in the counterterrorism effort. The EU is anxious to develop its own military capacity without the United States (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13, 20, and 27 June 2003). PM

BOSNIAN NGO OPPOSES PRESENCE OF FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT IN SREBRENICA
The NGO Mothers of Srebrenica and the Drina Region (Majke Srebrenice i Podrinja) said in a statement in Sarajevo on 5 August that they consider it "scandalous" that former U.S. President Bill Clinton has been invited to open a memorial center in Srebrenica in September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). The NGO said that Clinton should not be hailed for his role in ending the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict but criticized for not ending it much sooner and preventing the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The NGO also charged that the 1995 Dayton peace agreements, of which Clinton was a primary sponsor, served to institutionalize the results of ethnic cleansing. PM

PROTESTS IN BOSNIAN SERB CAPITAL
About 1,000 medical workers blocked streets in Banja Luka on 5 August to demand payment of wages dating back to March, dpa reported. There have been several such protests in recent months over back wages and other problems in the health system. PM

SERBIA PRIVATIZES TOBACCO INDUSTRY
In the largest Serbian privatization deal since the ouster of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco (BAT) will pay a combined total of $680 million for controlling stakes in the DIN and DIV tobacco factories, respectively, the "Financial Times" reported from London on 5 August. The Nis-based DIN and the smaller, Vranje-based DIV posted a combined profit of over $5 million in 2002. Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said the sale shows that his country has progressed from being "a smugglers' paradise to an orderly market" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May and 25 July 2003). PM

TOP SERBIAN OFFICIALS TO LEAVE OFFICE
Nemanja Kolesar, who heads the Serbian bank privatization agency, and Zoran Janjusevic, who is Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic's security adviser, will soon leave their posts following a decision of the cabinet to that effect, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 4 August. The government decided that the two men's departure is necessary if the authorities' investigation of corruption charges against them is to proceed smoothly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 July 2003). PM

MONTENEGRO AND ALBANIA OPEN REMOTE BORDER CROSSING
Montenegrin Foreign Minister Dragisa Burzan and acting Albanian Foreign Minister Luan Hajdaraga opened the Grncar-Vermosh border crossing connecting Montenegro's Plav district with the northernmost tip of Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The region is rugged and remote even by Balkan standards. PM

GREECE EASES VISA REGIME FOR MACEDONIAN CIVIL WAR REFUGEES
Beginning on 4 August, Greece introduced new visa regulations for ethnic Macedonians who fled that country during the 1946-48 Civil War, Macedonian media reported. Under the new regime, ethnic Macedonian refugees who have effectively been banned from returning to Greece can obtain a visa easily. Refugee organizations hailed the step, as it will enable the refugees to participate in a 20 August meeting in the northern Greek town of Florina. Under the new visa regulations, the refugees will be allowed to stay in Greece from 10 August to 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2003). UB

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, in an interview with Romanian Radio, described his 4 August meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as "very warm and positive." Geoana, who is touring the United States, said Powell praised the "impeccable" manner in which Romania has supported the international fight against terrorism and the presence of Romanian peacekeepers in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he also discussed with Powell bilateral economic relations and the strategic role Romania envisages playing in the Black Sea region. MS

NATO COMMANDER IN ROMANIA
Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James Jones, on a two-day visit to Romania, met on 4 August with Romanian Chief of Staff General Mihail Popescu and Foreign Ministry officials, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Jones and Popescu discussed the ongoing reforms of Romania's armed forces and Romania's preparations for NATO accession. They also discussed Bucharest's participation in the international effort to combat terrorism and in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as regional cooperation. Jones was expected to meet on 5 August with President Ion Iliescu and with Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu. MS

BUCHAREST MAYOR ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF ATTEMPTING TO DESTROY HIM
Bucharest Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu in a 4 August letter reprobated President Ion Iliescu, accusing him of being willing "to destroy people in order to safeguard the perpetuation of your power," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The letter comes in the wake of Basescu's recent indictment for allegedly selling off state-owned ships (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). He said the president patronizes "forgery and lies" in state institutions and defends "opportunism among [his] cronies." The mayor pledged to remain Iliescu's and Premier Adrian Nastase's "intolerant political adversary." Basescu also told Iliescu that "no Romanian politician is more convinced than I am" that Iliescu's Social Democratic Party "must be evicted from power to restore justice, human dignity, and respect for the letter of the law and for state institutions." Since Iliescu failed "to destroy me as a politician," Basescu wrote, the president is "now attempting to destroy me as a human being." He said that "he who consciously finances his own electoral campaigns from stolen funds is no less corrupt than he who steals" and ended his letter by signing "Yours never, Traian Basescu." MS

ROMANIAN SENATE BEGINS DEBATING CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
The ad hoc commission tasked with formulating amendments to the Romanian Constitution on 4 August began debating amendments proposed by senators, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Chamber of Deputies, Romania's lower house, has already approved amendments to the basic document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2003). No fewer than 233 amendments were proposed in the Senate by formations whose amendments were rejected by the lower house. On 4 August, the commission rejected an amendment proposed by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania that the description of Romania as a "national state" be deleted from Article 1 of the constitution. It approved an amendment proposed by Social Democratic Party Senator Adrian Paunescu under which the state would finance the studies of students from impoverished families. The commission's recommendations are to be debated by the plenum in an extraordinary session at the end of this month, when rejected amendment proposals can be resubmitted for debate by the chamber. MS

OSCE MISSION CHIEF IN MOLDOVA THREATENS NEW SANCTIONS AGAINST TRANSDNIESTER
The OSCE mission chief in Moldova, William Hill, told journalists on 4 August that the international community might apply sanctions against those guilty of dragging out the negotiations on the Transdniester settlement, ITAR-TASS reported. Hill said that the negotiations on Moldova's federalization are stalled due to the separatists' insistence on creating a federation based on two subjects, while Moldova is pushing for an "asymmetrical" federation with its center in Chisinau. The two sides also have differences concerning tax collection in Transdniester; Hill said those can be settled in negotiations. He added that the international community (the EU and the United States) have already imposed sanctions on Transdniester for stalling the settlement, prohibiting entry to the EU and the United States of 17 Transdniester officials earlier this year. MS

CHISINAU, TIRASPOL REACH COMPROMISE ON TRUCE ZONE RESOLUTION
OSCE mission chief Hill also announced on 4 August that a compromise has been reached between Chisinau and Tiraspol concerning the implementation of the 27 May Joint Control Commission (JCC) resolution on the withdrawal of armored vehicles from the zone that partitions Moldovan and Transdniester forces, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The compromise stipulates that both sides will withdraw their vehicles and a group of JCC military observers will be able to inspect the locations where Tiraspol's armored vehicles are stationed after the withdrawal is completed. The separatist delegation to the JCC earlier announced it would boycott the commission's meetings in protest against Chisinau's refusal to withdraw its vehicles if an inspection of the locations where Tiraspol's vehicles are stationed after the withdrawal is not allowed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 30 July 2003). MS

MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SAY CRISIS WITH IMF WILL LEAD TO DRASTIC BUDGET CUTS
Dumitru Braghis, chairman of the Braghis Alliance and former prime minister, warned on 4 August that the decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to cease disbursements to Moldova in 2003 will lead to drastic budget cuts, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Braghis also said that Moldova's international image will be negatively affected by the decision of the lending organizations. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) parliamentary deputy Eugeniu Garla said that Moldova might have to default on its external debt. Deputy Finance Minister Marian Lupu told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova service that the government is currently preparing a plan to cover the budget deficit resulting from the decision of the two organizations. Lupu said details of the plan will be announced in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003). MS

LIBYAN COURT ADMITS INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS IN CASE AGAINST BULGARIAN MEDICS
A court in Benghazi has decided to admit internationally renowned AIDS experts Vittorio Colizzi and Luc Montagnier as witnesses in the case against six Bulgarian medics charged with deliberately infecting some 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus in a Benghazi hospital, "Standart" reported. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi lauded the decision as an "important step forward." Montagnier and Colizzi are the authors of an expert opinion in the case; according to their findings, the AIDS infections in the Benghazi hospital were present before the Bulgarians starting working there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June and 23 July 2003). UB

BULGARIAN MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN INTEGRATION URGES PARLIAMENT TO PROCEED WITH LAWMAKING
European Integration Minister Meglena Kuneva on 4 August urged the parliament to adopt the new Telecommunications Act by 25 September, mediapool.bg reported. Kuneva also underscored that by 20 September, the Antimonopoly Commission must begin its work. Both the passing of the Telecommunications Act and the formation of commission are preconditions for the Bulgarian economy to be recognized by the EU as competitive, Kuneva said. UB

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS' AND ENTREPRENEURS' ORGANIZATION STRIKES DEAL ON LOCAL ELECTIONS
Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Sergey Stanishev and Dobromir Gushterov, who chairs the Bulgarian Private Entrepreneurs' Union Vazrazhdane, on 4 August agreed to cooperate during the upcoming local elections. Gushterov said after the meeting that Vazrazhdane is likely to nominate a number of mayoral candidates but refused to give any details. He added that his union will participate in the local elections because the problems of the family and small enterprises can best be resolved at the local level. UB

AZERBAIJAN POSTPONES THE DAY OF RECKONING


In a clear attempt to ensure the transition of power from ailing octogenarian President Heidar Aliev to his son Ilham, the Azerbaijani parliament, meeting in emergency session on 4 August, approved Heidar Aliev's nomination of Ilham as prime minister. Under amendments to the constitution adopted in a disputed nationwide referendum in August 2002, the president's powers devolve to the premier should the former resign or die in office.

Azerbaijani opposition parties were swift to denounce the parliament's move, which was confirmed by a presidential decree later on 4 August, as a "velvet coup" aimed at ensuring that Ilham succeeds his father as president. The Opposition Coordinating Center, an umbrella group of nine prominent opposition parties, issued a statement saying that its members will not acknowledge the legitimacy of any decrees signed by the president until adequate information is released clarifying his state of health. Heidar Aliev has not appeared in public or been shown on state television since he entered the Gulhane military hospital in Ankara four weeks ago. Azerbaijani officials, including Ambassador to Turkey Mamed Aliev, have repeatedly rejected as untrue persistent rumors that the president is dead, in a coma, or on life support. Ilham Aliev told journalists in Baku on 4 August that his father will return to Baku within days.

Rumors that Heidar Aliev intended to ensure that Ilham succeeded him as president have been circulating for several years. But at the same time, observers both in Baku and abroad have repeatedly questioned whether Ilham Aliev is either willing or capable of stepping into his father's shoes. Born in Baku on 24 December 1961, Ilham Aliev graduated from, and then taught for several years at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). In 1992, he moved to Istanbul, where he went into business, returning to Azerbaijan in late 1993 after his father was elected president. In early 1994, he began working at Azerbaijan's State Oil Company, of which he later became first deputy president.

Observers characterize Ilham Aliev as sensitive and intelligent, but lacking in ruthlessness and not a natural-born leader. A Stratfor commentary on 4 August said that "Ilham Aliev lacks his father's charisma, political skills, contacts, experience, stature, intelligence, and authority." Reuters the same day quoted an unnamed Western diplomat in Baku as saying that "nobody takes him seriously."

Ilham's first statements as prime minister confirmed suspicions that he sees his function as continuing to implement the policies launched by his father. Until now, he has loyally said and done precisely what was required of him, but it is by no means clear how he will be able to cope when his father is no longer there to issue such instructions. Moreover, by duly saying what is expected of him, he has gone a long way toward demolishing his own political credibility both with voters in Azerbaijan and with some international organizations. The opposition newspaper "Azadlig" last week questioned the accuracy of the income declaration Ilham appended to his official application for registration as a presidential candidate, in which his annual income is given as $6,500. Many believe that he is in fact the richest man in Azerbaijan. Ilham has, moreover, made contradictory statements about his father's recent incapacitation, saying in late April that the president cracked one rib in a fall, and on 4 August that he broke seven ribs. He has repeatedly rejected the Council of Europe's designation of dozens of former officials and security personnel as political prisoners. And his assertion last week that "we shall never allow the opposition to come to power" casts serious doubt on his commitment to democracy.

Two opposition party leaders claimed on 4 August that Ilham Aliev's appointment as premier violates the provision of the new Election Code that a registered presidential candidate is not eligible for appointment to a senior government position. The Azerbaijani leadership may, however, be planning to circumvent that restriction by announcing the president's resignation. In that event, new elections must be scheduled within three months. From Baku's point of view, the optimum date would be 2 November to coincide with the Georgian parliamentary elections, as the OSCE would be hard-pressed to field two major election-observation missions simultaneously. In those circumstances, any attempt to falsify the outcome of the ballot would be more difficult both to detect and to prove.

For most observers, Ilham Aliev's victory in the next presidential ballot, whenever it takes place, is a foregone conclusion. But such a victory would not necessarily guarantee long-term political stability, especially in light of rumors that up to 50 senior officials, including some government ministers, have in recent weeks engaged in clandestine talks with opposition party leaders on possible alliances for the post-Heidar Aliev era. And any attempt to purge the present leadership of persons suspected of disaffection would only risk strengthening internal opposition to Ilham. The new premier can, however, almost certainly rely on the loyalty of Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, who has campaigned for him in rural areas, and of Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev.

Ilham Aliev told journalists on 4 August that he does not envisage any changes to his father's policies. But his election as president would in all likelihood undercut the chances of a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, given that he could not afford to make any concessions that would alienate public opinion. On the contrary, he might acquiesce to calls for a military offensive to win back Karabakh -- a course of action that Defense Minister Abiev has threatened on numerous occasions.

AFGHAN WOMEN PRESENT DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
The women's group Negar on 3 August presented Afghanistan's 35-member Constitutional Review Commission with a declaration and 100,000 signatures demanding equal rights for women under the country's forthcoming constitution, AP reported. The "Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women," drafted in 2000 by Afghan women in exile in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, seeks to end gender-based discrimination and grant women freedom of movement and choice in such substantive and symbolic matters as dress. Negar, reportedly formed with international assistance during the Taliban era, said in a statement that without equality between the sexes, "Afghanistan cannot achieve its legitimacy as an independent, sovereign, and self-ruling state of the world." The final draft of the constitution is due in October. IL

ACCIDENT KILLS 13 IN DISARMAMENT EFFORT IN AFGHANISTAN
Thirteen soldiers died and 21 were injured on 4 August when munitions collected during a disarmament drive in Jowzjan Province accidentally detonated, Reuters reported. All the casualties were troops loyal to powerful regional commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who serves as security adviser to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai. Dostum was undertaking a campaign to disarm 3,000 soldiers of his own militia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August). According to Xinhua News Agency, a representative of Dostum's said on 4 August that the blast, which destroyed five trucks, occurred when a land mine accidentally detonated. The spokesman said the accident will not stop the disarmament effort. A spokesman for Chairman Karzai was quoted by Xinhua as saying Dostum's disarmament campaign is a "positive development," but that it is not part of a comprehensive government-sponsored effort that was scheduled to begin on 1 July. That disarmament campaign has been postponed until Defense Ministry reforms can be implemented. IL

AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN DISCUSS BILATERAL TRADE
Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai traveled to Islamabad on 4 August at the head of a 17-member delegation participating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission, dpa reported. In the first day of the two-day talks, the commission agreed on 4 August to forge closer bilateral relations in trade, banking, and other finance-related areas. Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said his country last year exported $400 million worth of goods to Afghanistan, imported $35 million worth from Afghanistan, and allowed a further $15 million of Afghan goods to pass through Pakistan en route to India. Ahmadzai sought Pakistan's assistance in establishing Afghanistan's own postal services, customs administration, and accounting practices, and said imminent reforms will allow Pakistani banks to open in Afghanistan. The two sides also discussed fostering business travel by increasing the frequency of flights between their countries, which currently number two per week. IL

DEPUTY TALIBAN MINISTER ARRESTED IN BAGHLAN PROVINCE
Zabihullah Zahid, former deputy education minister under the Taliban regime, was arrested recently in Baghlan province, Reuters reported on 4 August, citing a report by state-run Kabul Television. The station did not say when Zahid was captured or what he was doing there. In addition, on 3 August Afghan authorities announced they captured 20 Taliban suspects over the past week during operations in the south that resulted in the deaths of five rebel fighters and two government soldiers, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, "Time" magazine reported in its 11 August issue that "many" of the 800 U.S. special-forces troops hunting Al-Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan returned to the United States in December, were given several weeks' rest, and sent to Iraq. According to the weekly, when the elite troops left Afghanistan they took sophisticated equipment and a number of Arabic speakers with them. Many of their replacements are reportedly reservists trained in Spanish and Russian. IL

IRANIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN STABILITY
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami assured the UN secretary-general's special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, that Tehran will "spare no effort" in establishing peace and security in Afghanistan, IRNA reported on 4 August. Khatami highlighted Iran's road- and rail-building projects in Afghanistan as examples of Tehran's helpfulness and voiced concern over the burgeoning opium trade, IRNA reported. Much of the opium trafficked out of Afghanistan crosses the Iranian border. Brahimi, describing the situation in the country as "difficult and dangerous," asked for more help from Iran in guaranteeing Afghanistan's security. IL

PRESIDENT MEETS WITH IRAN'S LEGISLATORS...
President Khatami and his cabinet met with members of parliament on 3 August at the presidential office to discuss a number of the country's outstanding political issues, state radio reported on 4 August. He defended the two pieces of legislation introduced last September that are intended to strengthen the presidency and which are currently being discussed by the parliament and the Guardians Council. Khatami described the legislation as a "minimum requirement" that might, "to some extent, change the climate and make it more favorable to ensuring the rights of the people and the state." Khatami said that although "the constitution is not the same as divine revelation,... it does serve as the basis of the system we have approved." Strengthening the "democratic essence" of the state on the basis of the constitution is a prerequisite to "saving the Islamic republican state," he said. Khatami also called for continuation of the reform platform. Two types of people believe the reform program has failed, according to the president: those who think that any type of reform equals hostility to the state, and those who are hostile to the Islamic Republic of Iran and who think reforms should extirpate religion from people's lives. BS

...AND HEARS MINORITIES' DEMANDS
One of the topics discussed by the parliamentarians in their 3 August meeting with President Khatami was the government's failure to meet the expectations of minorities and ethnic groups, ISNA reported on 4 August. Eighteen parliamentarians who represent mainly Sunni constituencies of Kurds and Baluchis wrote an open letter on the same subject in late July, complaining about the lack of Sunnis in high government posts, criticizing the appointment of Shi'a clerics to administer Sunni religious facilities, and bemoaning the absence of a Sunni mosque in Tehran, the BBC reported on 21 July. Only one of the three sources of emulation who responded to this letter, Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, sounded slightly sympathetic, "Yas-i No" reported on 23 July. Jalal Jalalizadeh was one of the parliamentarians who spoke during the 3 August meeting with Khatami, and he wrote in a 23 July commentary in the "Yas-i No" newspaper that the response from the sources of emulation shows that some of them do not agree with the slogan "Iran for all Iranians." Jalalizadeh said Iranian Sunnis preserve law and order but they do not receive social justice, and the media ignores them. BS

TEHRAN MULLS OVER NPT ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said during a 4 August press conference that "we will decide according to national interests on whether to join the Additional Protocol [of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]," IRNA reported. Ramezanzadeh explained that the final decision will be made by the Supreme National Security Council pending approval by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The spokesman also repeated Tehran's demand for better access to nuclear know-how if it actually signs the Additional Protocol. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of legal experts discussed the technicalities of the Additional Protocol with Iranian experts in Tehran on 4 August, according to Reuters, and according to a 3 August Reuters report, another IAEA team is expected to conduct routine inspections in advance of the 8 September IAEA release of its report on Iran's nuclear facilities. Ramezanzadeh rejected calls for Iran to withdraw from the NPT. BS

TEHRAN WILL NOT IDENTIFY AL-QAEDA MEMBERS IT HOLDS
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said during a 4 August press conference that due to security reasons Tehran will not identify Al-Qaeda members it has in custody, IRNA reported. "The New York Times" on 2 August cited anonymous U.S. officials who said Sayf al-Adel, the reputed No. 3 man of Al-Qaeda, is in Iranian custody but that Tehran has refused to turn him and other suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists over unless they are exchanged for members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization. Ramezanzadeh denied that Tehran had ever proposed such a swap and said, "We do not make a deal nor act selectively in fighting terrorism." He added that he has no information about the possible extraditions. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked about this subject on 4 August, and he replied, "Using appropriate interlocutory, we are in touch with the Iranians on both of these issues," according to the State Department's Bureau of International Programs (http://usinfo.state.gov). BS

IRAN RELEASES TWO DETAINEES IN CANADIAN JOURNALIST CASE
The Tehran Public-Prosecutor's Office said in a 4 August fax that two female prison guards who were detained during the investigation into the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi have been released on bail, IRNA reported. Only three other people have been detained during the investigation (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 July 2003), and they are being held for further questioning. BS

IRANIAN DELEGATION MEETS WITH IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL
An Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation led by Hussein Sadeqi, head of the ministry's Persian Gulf desk, met with the members of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad on 4 August, Al-Jazeera Television reported the same day. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told the satellite channel that the visit was politically and strategically significant for Iraqis. "We in the Governing Council...look [forward] to a new era in Iraqi-Iranian relations," al-Rubay'i said. He added that the Iranian delegation expressed its support for the Governing Council, and said, "We believe that the new regime in Iraq after the [Saddam Hussein] era...will open up to the Islamic Republic of Iran. We aspire to develop strategic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran." The two sides reportedly agreed to work to promote better relations, and to do more to prevent infiltrators and smugglers from crossing their mutual border. They also addressed ways in which the two sides might facilitate pilgrimages to holy sites in both countries. Council members also called on Iran to release Iraqi prisoners. KR

IRAQI ARMY RECRUITS BEGIN TRAINING
Some 400 volunteers for the U.S.-backed New Iraqi Army began a two-month basic-training program in the northern city of Kirkuk on 4 August, AP reported the same day. U.S. forces transported the recruits to a base in the city under heavy guard for fear of attacks by militants, the agency added. The trainees comprise around half of the first group of soldiers to undergo training by U.S. forces this month, AP reported. The United States will train more than 12,000 Iraqi soldiers by yearend, and another 40,000 by the end of 2004. Upon completion of training, they are expected to serve at least 26 months. The deputy commanding general of the Coalition Military Advisory and Training Team, Brigadier General Jonathon Riley, was quoted in a 19 July press release posted on the U.S. Central Command website (http://www.centcom.mil) as saying that each enlistee will initially be paid $60 per month. "At the conclusion of training, individuals will be appointed to ranks and assigned to positions of leadership according to their abilities and performance in training. Their pay will be increased according to their duties and responsibilities," Riley added (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 24 July 2003). KR

ANTI-U.S. GROUPS CONTINUE THREATS AGAINST COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ
A number of groups have continued to threaten coalition forces and Iraqi "collaborators" in recent days, according to international media reports. The Al-Jihad Brigades reportedly circulated a statement in Baghdad on 3 August threatening Iraqis who work with coalition officials, according to a 4 August report in "Al-Hayat." The statement refers to such Iraqis as "agents who have cheaply sold their religion, land, and honor, and have chosen to deviate from the right path." The statement adds that those who "do not conform" with the statement's demands to cease cooperation with the coalition "are liable to be killed by the mujahedin." The "Al-Hayat" report also noted that a group known as the Sons of Iraq Grouping claimed, "Many parties are taking part in a plan that aims to make the Iraqis kneel and accept anything." The same group labeled the Iraqi Governing Council illegitimate and demanded that each Iraqi ministry elect its own minister and deputy. Meanwhile, Baghdad's "Al-Fadilah" carried a statement on 31 July from the Islamic Virtue Party that praises anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and calls on the coalition to withdraw its forces or "face bloodshed." KR

U.S. OUTLINES RULES FOR IRAQI CLAIMS
U.S. military officials in Baghdad laid down rules on 3 August that will determine whether Iraqis may seek compensation for death or destruction of property caused by the occupying powers in Iraq, guardian.co.uk reported the next day. A U.S. military spokesman said that under the foreign claims act, Iraqis will only be entitled to compensation if it can be proven that soldiers acted wrongfully or negligently during "noncombat activities." The unidentified spokesman added that claims made against the United States for acts occurring before 1 May -- the date when U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq -- are unlikely to be considered. The spokesman said that the United States has received 2,400 claims and paid out $262,000 in compensation so far. According to guardian.co.uk, the spokesman was unable to say whether any payments have been made for loss of life but said that such claims will be paid at a local rate. "I hate to say it, but the value of a life in Iraq is probably less than a life in the U.S. or U.K.," he reportedly said. KR

IRAQI CENTRAL BANK HEAD REQUESTS TRANSFER OF FROZEN FUNDS
Iraqi Central Bank acting Governor Faleh Dawud Salman asked UN members on 4 August to release all frozen assets of the former Iraqi government held in their states to a development fund set up at the New York Federal Reserve, Reuters reported the same day. The UN authorized the establishment of the development fund in Security Council Resolution 1483. Under that resolution, the fund was to be established at the Iraqi Central Bank and monitored by an international advisory board. A U.S. official told Reuters that the New York Federal Reserve bank account was an interim agreement. In a letter to the Security Council, Salman wrote, "I respectfully ask that you urge all member states to transfer Iraqi assets in their jurisdictions to this account without delay," Reuters reported. KR

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