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Newsline - August 6, 2003


PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA MIGHT JOIN ISLAMIC CONFERENCE
Concluding a two-day visit to Malaysia on 5 August, President Vladimir Putin made the surprise announcement that Russia is considering joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Russian and international media reported. The OIC is an umbrella organization of 57 Muslim countries working "to safeguard the interests and secure the progress and well-being of their peoples and of all Muslims in the world," according to the OIC website (http://www.oic-un.org). Putin noted that Russia has more than 20 million Muslims, more than many OIC members, including Malaysia. On 5 August, Council of Russian Muftis Chairman Ravil Gainutdin wholeheartedly endorsed Putin's proposal. "That move would be especially important now that fighting with international terrorism is in full swing," Gainutdin was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. Also on 5 August, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church told the news agency that Russia is a multiconfessional country and therefore "it would be quite logical for Russia to seek membership in European as well as Oriental organizations, including the Islamic Conference." The news agency also reported on 5 August that Putin confirmed that he will address the 58th session of the UN General Assembly in September. RC

SOMEONE WANTS TO KILL THE MESSENGER...
All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) Director Yurii Levada told reporters in Moscow on 5 August that the leadership of his organization will change in about a month because several unidentified politicians are dissatisfied with the results of the center's research, polit.ru reported. "These results interfere with the prestige of the political parties, but it is not our fault that the public doesn't like everything." Levada told Ekho Moskvy that a new board of directors for the center is currently being formed and will include representatives of the presidential administration and the Labor and Social Affairs and Property Relations ministries. National Strategy Council Deputy General Director Iosif Diskin told apn.ru that VTsIOM's results are always lower for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party than those of the Public Opinion Foundation. He added that the academic community considers VTsIOM the most objective. JAC

...AS PEOPLE'S PARTY COMPLAINS ABOUT POLLSTERS
In an interview with "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 30, State Duma Deputy and People's Party leader Gennadii Raikov said his party is supported by 5 percent of voters, despite the fact that his party regularly polls less than 1 percent in VTsIOM's surveys. He said his party prefers to work with Igor Bunin of the Center for Political Technology and Center for Strategic Analysis Director Dmitrii Olshanskii. "I hope I'm not being offensive," Raikov said, "but everybody knows that the outcomes of surveys and polls depend on how much you pay sociologists." In the same interview, Raikov said his party has never accepted any money from oligarchs and is sponsored by "medium-sized organizations," such as a furniture factory in Tyumen and a tobacco company in Rostov. JAC

ANALYSTS BREAK WITH COUNCIL THAT ISSUED REPORT OF 'OLIGARCHIC COUP'
Several leading political analysts have issued an open letter disassociating themselves the National Strategy Council, the think tank that issued a controversial report in May warning of an impending "oligarchic coup," "Moskovskie novosti," No. 30, reported. Analysts Boris Makarenko, Mark Urnov, and Liliya Shevtsova -- all of whom have previously participated in National Strategy Council activities -- wrote that council General Director Stanislav Belkovskii and Deputy General Director Diskin overruled the opinions of other council members and "turned the council into a public-relations agency for a group of Kremlin purgers." The analysts denounced a recent proposal by Diskin calling for the Constitutional Court to review the privatizations of the 1990s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003) as "an action consciously aimed at the economic isolation of the country from the outside world." They further charged that the council has become "a tool of the redistribution of property" and that it has "divided and politicized the expert community." Finally, they concluded that the current investigations into Yukos "have revealed the absence of structural mechanisms for defending the market and political freedoms" and called on analysts to address this problem. RC

UNIFIED RUSSIA TOPS IN LINING UP CORPORATE MONEY
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 August reported on the financial accounts of various political parties as recorded by the Tax and Justice ministries. According to the accounting, the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party has not managed to attract any individual donations, but it leads the pack with almost 400 million rubles ($13 million) in corporate donations. Raikov's People's Party was second with 115 million rubles in total donations, more than 90 percent of that amount being corporate donations. The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) received a total of almost 63 million rubles, with more than 60 million rubles coming from corporations. Yabloko took in 45 million, with more than 43 million coming from corporations. The Communist Party, on the other hand, received nearly 3 million rubles of its approximately 3.5 million ruble total from individuals. Unified Russia was also the most frugal, judging by the official figures. Last year, the party did not spend a single official kopek on conducting party congresses or conferences. The Communists, meanwhile, spent 108,300 rubles on such public events, about half the amount that Yabloko spent. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," the deputy director of the Justice Ministry's department for public associations and religious organizations, Aleksei Zhafyarov, said that journalists would find nothing interesting in the parties' financial accounts -- just "dry figures." JAC

YABLOKO OFFICIALS COMPLAIN ABOUT 'BLACK PR'
A new movement called Yabloko Without Yavlinskii has emerged, "Gazeta" reported on 5 August. Despite comments from leaders of regional Yabloko branches, such as Bashkortostan's Igor Rabinovich, that the movement was manufactured by the party's enemies, the daily argues that Yabloko Without Yavlinskii is a product of the centrifugal tendencies within the party. It notes that former Duma Deputy Yurii Boldyrev, Deputy Vyacheslav Igrunov, former Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and "about 20 other leaders" quit Yabloko at various times because they were unable to work with Yavlinskii. According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 5 August, Igor Morozov, the leader of the new movement, is a deputy in St. Petersburg's legislature. The daily reported that the movement has activists in Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Ufa, and Chelyabinsk. Meanwhile, Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy leader of the Yabloko faction in the State Duma, referred to the movement's formation as political "hackwork" and an action of "black PR," RosBalt reported the same day. He said it is an action without support, similar to other paid provocations. JAC

MINIMUM WAGE TO BE BUMPED UP AGAIN
Russia will almost certainly raise its monthly minimum wage to 600 rubles ($19.80) from 450 rubles as of 1 October, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told journalists in Birobidzhan on 6 August, Russian media reported. Mironov said the size and timing of the increase have been agreed upon by all the relevant authorities. The minimum monthly wage, upon which the calculations for many Russian social payments are based, was last raised from 300 rubles to 450 rubles on 1 May 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. RC

FORMER KGB GENERAL GETS U.S. CITIZENSHIP
Controversial former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin has been granted U.S. citizenship, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported on 6 August. Kalugin, who has lived in the United States since 1993, was convicted in absentia in June 2002 of state treason and subverting the constitutional order and security of the country and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. Kalugin was accused of compromising several KGB agents and operations in the United States. In particular, Kalugin said on Soviet television in 1991 that the KGB helped to organize the killing of Bulgarian dissident Georgii Markov, who was poisoned in London in 1978. He also testified as a witness in 2001 in the trial of retired U.S. Army Colonel George Trofimoff, who was later sentenced to life in prison for spying for the Soviet Union. Kalugin told ITAR-TASS that he has not renounced his Russian citizenship, but has no plans to return to Russia. RC

AUTO GIANT TO SEND TAXIS TO BAGHDAD
Automaker GAZ in Nizhnii Novgorod confirmed on 5 August that it will ship 486 cars to Iraq for use as taxicabs in Baghdad, ITAR-TASS reported. The cars were ordered by the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and the contract has been confirmed by the current Iraqi administration, a GAZ spokesman said. The consignment, which will be shipped before the end of the year, is part of a 2001 deal to provide 5,000 Volga cars to Iraq. The GAZ spokesman said, without specifying, that the taxis have been specially modified to perform in Iraq's desert climate. RC

SOVIET-ERA DDT CACHE FOUND IN SOUTHERN TOWN
Authorities in Volgograd Oblast have discovered a buried cache of 20 tons of the banned insecticide DDT, newsru.com reported on 6 August. According to Aleksandr Surkov, the head of the oblast administration's Ecological Control Department, the DDT was buried in 1991 and "all this time it has presented a real threat to the environment and to people's health." Surkov said local residents were aware of the illegal chemicals and even used them in their gardens on occasion. The discovery was made as part of an oblast-wide effort to get rid of dangerous chemicals. "In various locations, about 300 cases of illegal and expired poisonous chemicals have been discovered [during the operation]," Surkov said, adding that such chemicals present a "serious problem" throughout the oblast. He added that the oblast has not yet found the funding to remove and dispose of the chemicals. RC

SENATORS SEEKING NEW LINE OF WORK
Several members of the upper legislative house are planning to compete in upcoming gubernatorial and State Duma elections, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August. Two senators, Vadim Gustov (Vladimir Oblast) and Andrei Vikharev (Kurgan Oblast), have already declared their intention to participate in the gubernatorial races in Leningrad and Sverdlovsk oblasts, respectively. Ivan Starikov (Kostroma Oblast) will again seek the governor's seat in Novosibirsk Oblast, and according to the daily's unidentified sources, former head of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Aleksandr Nazarov plans to run there again. In Irkutsk Oblast, that region's representative to the Federation Council, Valentin Mezhevich, hopes to become governor of the oblast. The newspaper also reported that a number of political parties are in negotiations with senators to run in single-mandate districts in the 7 December State Duma elections. Sergei Antufev (Smolensk Oblast) plans to challenge Communist Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov in a single-mandate district in Smolensk Oblast. Sergei Popov, senator from Ust-Ordynskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug, has also reportedly agreed to run for the State Duma. JAC

11 CANDIDATES MAKE FINAL LIST FOR ST. PETERSBURG RACE
The St. Petersburg election commission announced on 5 August that 11 candidates have either submitted the required number of signatures to register as candidates for the 21 September gubernatorial election or have paid the required election fee, RosBalt reported. Presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko was the first candidate registered. Also appearing on the ballot will be Deputy Governor Anna Markova; State Duma Deputy Petr Shelishch (Fatherland-All Russia); pornographic film director Sergei Pryanishnikov; city legislators Mikhail Amosov, Konstantin Sukhenko, Vadim Voitanovskii, and Aleksei Timofeev; Regional Programs President Sergei Belyaev; First Pasta Factory Director Viktor Yefimov; and Pulkovo Airlines steward Oleg Titov. The commission rejected the registration of entrepreneur Rashid Dzhabarov because 44 percent of the signatures checked were determined to be false. Petrolakt General Director Gennadii Vasilenko withdrew his candidacy on 4 August. Municipal Deputy Aleksandr Gabitov withdrew his candidacy on 2 August and on 5 August urged his supporters to vote for Matvienko, Regnum reported. Originally, 33 people expressed their intention to run. JAC

FAR EAST PROSECUTOR SEEKS TO PURGE LOCAL JUDGE
Primorskii Krai Prosecutor Valerii Vasilenko has raised questions about the competence of Vladivostok Judge Aleksandr Goncharov, presscenter.ru reported on 5 August. According to Vasilenko, Goncharov has systematically condoned gross violations of the law and displays incompetence and unprofessionalism. In a recent case, Goncharov allegedly "illegally requalified the activities of the accused under a milder statute -- illegal entrepreneurship -- and freed the accused from jail, as a result of which one suspect is hiding from law enforcement officials and another served only two years" for a pyramid scheme that deprived residents of the krai of "hundreds of thousands of dollars." JAC

THIRD MOZDOK BOMBING SUSPECT DETAINED
Police have detained a third person suspected of involvement in the 1 August suicide bombing of a Russian military hospital in Mozdok, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii told Interfax on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). He declined to identify any of the suspects. LF

CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER TAKES OVER PRESIDENTIAL DUTIES
Anatolii Popov became acting president of Chechnya on 5 August after Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov began a vacation, Interfax reported. Popov will continue to act as president until the 5 October presidential ballot, in which Kadyrov is a candidate. LF

CHECHEN POLICE CONFINED TO BARRACKS
Chechen Interior Ministry personnel were ordered to remain in their barracks and security across Chechnya was intensified on 5 August, one day before the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the 1996 offensive that culminated in the retaking of the Chechen capital by fighters loyal to then-acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Interfax reported. LF

CHECHENS BLOCK HIGHWAY TO PROTEST ABDUCTION OF TEENAGE GIRL
Residents of the village of Samashki blocked the main highway linking Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia on 5 August to protest the Chechen Interior Ministry's failure to locate and free Elza Katsaeva, who was forcibly abducted from her home in Samashki on 2 August, Interfax reported. Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, who is President Putin's commissioner for human rights in Chechnya, said finding Katsaeva is "a challenge" for the Chechen police force and that "the criminals involved in the abduction should be found and put on trial," Interfax reported. LF

U.S. ENVOY EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR EMBATTLED ARMENIAN TV STATION
U.S. Ambassador John Ordway told journalists in Yerevan on 5 August that Washington was "disappointed" by the decision last month not to award the independent television station A1+ a frequency to enable it to resume broadcasting, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003). "A1+ made a very valuable contribution to political debate and discussion by providing a much broader forum for the expression of views -- particularly views by the political opposition -- than the rest of the broadcast media," Ordway said. The Council of Europe and the OSCE have also criticized the National Commission on Television and Radio's decision not to award a frequency to A1+ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 24, and 28 July 2003). LF

ARMENIAN MURDER TRIAL POSTPONED INDEFINITELY
The trial of 13 people accused of the December 2002 murder of Public Television and Radio Council head Tigran Naghdalian resumed on 5 August but was then postponed indefinitely, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). Presiding judge Saribek Aramian explained that the Cassation Court building where the hearing took place is currently the venue of the trial of the five gunmen who killed eight prominent officials in the Armenian parliament building in October 1999. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS INTERCEPT THREE ARMENIANS FROM IRAQ
Major-General Sergei Bondarev, who commands the Russian border-guard force deployed on Armenia's borders with Turkey and Iran, announced in Yerevan on 5 August that his men detained three ethnic Armenians from Iraq who tried to enter Armenia illegally from Iran earlier this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That was the only known attempt to enter Armenia illegally by land in 2003, Bondarev said. He added that a total of 45 people have been detained so far this year at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport while trying to enter or leave the country without the necessary documentation. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FLOWN TO U.S. FOR MEDICAL TESTS...
President Heidar Aliev was transported by ambulance from the Gulhane military clinic in Ankara to Esenboga airport on 6 August en route for the United States, where he will undergo medical tests at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio that will last for "at least two days," Reuters quoted presidential administration official Ali Hasanov as saying. Hasanov added that the president "feels well." But the CHH Turk television channel on 5 August quoted unnamed medical personnel at Gulhane as saying that Aliev's condition is "critical," according to Reuters, which quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying that "at one point his doctors considered sending him to Cleveland...but they decided not to because it would be too risky for the patient." LF

...AS TURKISH OFFICIALS REFUSE TO DISCLOSE DETAILS OF HIS ILLNESS
Ahmed Unal Cevikez, who is Turkey's ambassador to Baku, told journalists on 5 August that the Turkish authorities will not comply with a request addressed by the Azerbaijani opposition to the staff of the Gulhane military hospital to make public details of President Aliev's medical condition and treatment, zerkalo.az reported on 6 August. Cevikez said that only the Azerbaijani leadership is authorized to request such information. Also on 5 August, Interfax quoted former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov as telling Ekho Moskvy that the Azerbaijani people have a right to know the truth about the president's medical condition. "Officials close to the president should keep the people informed about the president's health in order to avoid unnecessary rumors," Mutalibov argued. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF PRIME MINISTER'S APPOINTMENT
Meeting in Baku on 5 August, the nine Azerbaijani opposition parties aligned in the Opposition Coordinating Center (MKM) addressed a demand to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to annul the registration as a candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for 15 October of President Aliev's son Ilham, who was appointed prime minister the previous day, zerkalo.az reported on 6 August. The letter pointed out that Article 69.2 of the Election Code precludes the participation of the prime minister and other senior officials in the ballot. The MKM also wrote to the Azerbaijani parliament protesting that Ilham Aliev's appointment as premier was illegal and warning that it intends to ask the Constitutional Court to verify the authenticity of President Aliev's signature on the relevant decree. ITAR-TASS on 5 August quoted CEC secretary Inglab Nasirov as saying that Ilham Aliev will suspend execution of his duties as premier for the duration of the election campaign in accordance with the requirements of the Election Code. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DIES
Opposition parliament deputy Shadman Huseinov died of heart failure in Baku on 5 August at the age of 57, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. A physician by training, Huseinov was one of the founders of the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party, which he quit in 2001. He was elected to parliament in 1990, 1995, and in a by-election in 2003. The day before his death, he submitted to the CEC the signatures in his support required to substantiate his registration for the presidential election scheduled for 15 October. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMPOSITION OF ELECTION BODY
Meeting in emergency session on 5 August, deputies voted by 129 to 30 in favor of a proposal by the pro-presidential faction, the Revival Union, and the Industrialists for the allocation of seats on the new Central Election Commission, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Under that model, the authorities will nominate five CEC members, Revival three, the Industrialists two, and the four parties that polled the largest number of votes in the June 2002 local elections -- the Labor Party, the New Rightists, the National Movement and the United Democrats -- one each. Deputies continued debating further proposed amendments to the Election Code on 6 August. Some opposition parties denounced that allocation as the outcome of a covert agreement among the authorities, Revival, and the Industrialists that violated the original proposal by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that opposition parties should control nine seats on the CEC. However, Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze told Mze TV that he believes the allocation complies with Baker's original proposal, Caucasus Press reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 August 2003). LF

ABKHAZ CABINET DISCUSSES GALI KILLINGS
The Abkhaz government met on 5 August to discuss the attack in Gali Raion the previous day that left four customs officials dead and injured three others, Caucasus Press reported on 6 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2003). Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Leonid Gablia blamed the killings on Georgian guerrillas, saying investigators have recovered fragments of masks and explosives, together with a truck used by the attackers. He rejected Georgian denials of responsibility as "disinformation." Interior Minister Abesalom Beyya said that according to witnesses, five attackers fled after the killings toward the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. LF

DUVANOV'S LAWYERS APPEAL TO KAZAKH SUPREME COURT
The lawyers of imprisoned opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov told a news conference on 5 August that they have appealed to Kazakhstan's Supreme Court to review the case against their client, the official news agency khabar.kz and other Kazakh media reported the same day. Duvanov was sentenced to a three-and-a-half-year prison term in January 2003 on a charge of forcibly raping a minor. He denies the charge, and the Kazakh opposition considers the accusation to be politically motivated, in retaliation for Duvanov's investigative journalism, particularly in connection with the "Kazakhgate" bribery scandal. Other courts have refused to review the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2003). Duvanov's lawyers have said that if the Supreme Court turns down their request, they will appeal to international courts. BB

KAZAKH OPPOSITION INTENDS TO INVITE FOREIGN EXPERTS TO ASSESS ZHAQIYANOV'S HEALTH
The leadership of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement intends to invite foreign medical experts to assess the health of imprisoned DVK co-founder Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, DVK press secretary Vladimir Kozlov told Gazeta.kz on 5 August. Zhaqiyanov is serving a seven-year sentence for alleged abuse of office while he was governor of Pavlodar Oblast. The Kazakh opposition asserts that the charge was concocted by the government in retaliation for Zhaqiyanov's activity in the opposition. Relatives and colleagues who have visited Zhaqiyanov in prison have said that he is showing symptoms of tuberculosis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003); government officials deny that he has contracted the disease (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). If Zhaqiyanov is proven to have tuberculosis, the DVK will seek his early release from prison, Kozlov was quoted as saying. BB

CHEAP UZBEK IMPORTS THREATEN KAZAKH FARMERS
At the height of the summer fruit and vegetable season, cheap produce from Uzbekistan is undercutting domestic producers throughout Kazakhstan, khabar.kz reported on 5 August, quoting Kazakh Customs Control Agency official Muratzhan Dzhangozin, who said the Uzbek produce is being sold at dumping prices and the Uzbek exporters are finding ways to avoid paying customs duties. He added that it is impossible for customs officials to patrol the entire border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Liberalization of import regulations is also complicating the situation, according to Dzhangozin: where previously only one firm had the right to fill out import documents, now there are more than 70 brokers, with several in every major city. This, he said, has simplified the market, but is making life difficult for Kazakh producers. His proposed solution was for Kazakhstan to legislate against dumping prices. BB

PLAGUE SOURCE REPORTED FOUND IN KAZAKHSTAN
The recent outbreak of plague in western Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003) has been traced to desert gerbils found near the village of Zhangeldi in Mangystau Oblast, the home of the three confirmed plague victims, and at desert camps not far from Aktau, the oblast administrative center, khabar.kz and other Kazakh media reported on 5 August. Local residents and the staff of the oil and gas companies working in the oblast are being vaccinated against the disease. Oblast health officials are reportedly trying to find out why a vaccine given to camels in Zhangeldi did not prevent one of the animals from passing the disease to the three victims. Presumably the camel had picked up infected fleas from local gerbils. BB

TAJIK-INDIAN MILITARY EXERCISES UNDER WAY
Joint Tajik-Indian command staff and airborne military exercises were conducted from 2 to 5 August at the Fakhrobod training camp south of Dushanbe, Asia-Plus Blitz, centran.ru, and other Russian news agencies reported on 4-5 August. The objective of the exercises, according to Tajik Defense Ministry press chief Zarobiddin Siroev, was to practice joint actions to free hostages and annihilate terrorist groups. He added that the exercises were part of the Tajik Defense Ministry's anti-terrorism training program as well as being part of a Tajik-Indian cooperation program that includes sending graduates of Tajik military institutes to India for further study. BB

UZBEK PHARMACEUTICAL PLANTS STOP PRODUCTION DUE TO POOR SALES
Six Uzbek pharmaceutical plants, including the country's largest, Uzkhimfarm, have stopped production because of poor sales, Interfax reported on 4 August. An unnamed source at Uzkhimfarm was quoted as saying that six other plants, including some partially funded with foreign capital, may cease production soon, because domestic firms are unable to compete with imported drugs that are exempt from customs duty and value-added tax (VAT). A law adopted in 2002 gave the exemptions to imported drugs and other medical supplies, but domestic pharmaceutical manufacturers must pay a 30 percent customs duty on imported ingredients for pharmaceutical products. Uzbek pharmaceutical makers are also disadvantaged on the domestic market by the lingering perception that imported drugs are by definition better than local ones. BB

PARENTS BLOCK PURPORTED RENOVATION OF CLOSED BELARUSIAN LYCEUM
A group of parents of students of the embattled National Humanities Lyceum in Minsk prevented workers from entering the school building and ostensibly starting renovation work on 5 August, Belapan reported. Belarusian authorities closed the National Humanities Lyceum -- the only high school in Belarus that provided instruction in all subjects in Belarusian -- in late June, arguing that its building needs renovation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). Many parents have labeled the decision politically motivated and aimed at suppressing the atmosphere of respect for democratic values and national history. The decision to block the renovation was reportedly made the previous day, after an anonymous renovation worker disclosed that there is in fact no renovation plan. "Fears that they will imitate renovation to prevent classes from starting on 1 September are becoming reality," school founder Uladzimir Kolas said. The parents have vowed to gather daily and prevent any work on the school unless completion by 1 September is guaranteed. AM

SUSPECT IN SLAYING OF UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION JOURNALIST DIES
Ihor Honcharov, a former policemen and reputed crime boss implicated in the slaying of Ukrainian opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, died on 1 August in an ambulance en route from jail to a hospital, Interfax reported on 5 August. The news agency quoted the Institute for Mass Information (IMI), the Ukrainian branch of government watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Honcharov was to give evidence in connection with the Gongadze's case to the Prosecutor-General's Office later this month. The IMI also said it received a letter from Honcharov, to be opened in the event of his death, that it passed along to Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun. Gongadze, who reported widespread corruption within the Ukrainian government and was highly critical of President Leonid Kuchma, disappeared in 1999. His headless corpse was later found buried in a forest. Ukrainian authorities have never charged anyone with Gongadze's murder. AM

ESTONIAN OFFICIAL DISPUTES FIGURES ON ILLEGAL RESIDENTS
Population Minister Paul-Eerik Rummo said on 5 August that reports of tens of thousands of illegal residents living in Estonia are incorrect, as the correct figure is approximately 5,000, BNS reported. He said there are currently 1,090,000 Estonian citizens and another 267,000 people with residency permits in the country -- 102,000 of whom are foreign nationals and 165,000 of whom are stateless. Rummo said the large number of stateless inhabitants is due in part to a misperception, adding that "meeting the citizenship requirements is not as difficult a process as some are trying to portray it." He expressed satisfaction that the pace of naturalization has increased, albeit only modestly. Russian Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov recently told a press conference in Pskov that there are 120,000 Russian citizens and 200,000 Russian-speaking stateless individuals in Estonia, BNS reported on 5 August. SG

105 LATVIAN PEACEKEEPERS LEAVE FOR IRAQ
Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis said at an official send-off ceremony at the Adazi military center on 5 August that the 105 soldiers departing for Iraq demonstrate Latvia's ability to participate in peacekeeping and stabilization missions outside its territory, LETA reported. Armed forces commander Rear Admiral Gaidis Andrejs Zeibots apologized for the fact that the pre-mission training was hastily prepared and expressed the hope that such a situation will not be repeated. The soldiers are traveling by bus to Szczecin, Poland, where they will board a U.S. Air Force transport plane bound for Kuwait on 7 August. Most of the Latvian solders (98) are infantrymen bound for the Polish-led multinational stabilization force. SG

GAZPROM TO SUBMIT FINAL OFFER FOR LITHUANIAN GAS BY 11 AUGUST
Russian gas supplier Gazprom's deputy chairman, Aleksandr Ryazanov, told Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas in Vilnius on 5 August that his company will present its final offer for a 34 percent stake in state-owned Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) by 11 August, "Kauno diena" reported on 6 August. Lithuania sold a similar 34 percent stake of the company in June 2002 to German energy companies Ruhrgas and E.ON Energie for 116 million litas ($32.5 million), and expected a similar purchase price from Gazprom. The Russian company, however, was reported to have offered only 80 million litas. Gazprom is widely expected to raise its offer to at least 90 million litas. Brazauskas noted that gas usage in Lithuania is expected to increase once the nuclear-power plant at Ignalina is shut down, and he said an agreement guaranteeing Lithuania a steady supply of gas for 10 years will be signed along with the sale agreement. SG

POLISH SHIPYARD TO BUILD FIVE VESSELS UNDER INDUSTRIAL OFFSETS
The Szczecin shipyard will build five ships under offset agreements with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics linked to the U.S. manufacturer's supply of supersonic fighter aircraft, PAP reported on 5 August, quoting the shipyard marketing director. Lockheed Martin won a 2002 government tender to upgrade Poland's aging air fleet to NATO standards. Warsaw will pay roughly $3.5 billion for 48 F-16 aircraft under the terms of that deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002). U.S. firms have committed themselves to more than $6 billion in direct and indirect offsets in Poland in 2003-13 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). The Szczecin order will come from a German shipowner and provide for two standard container ships and three modified vessels that can be adjusted to carry heavy vehicles, according to the shipyard's marketing director, Andrzej Zarnoch. Lockheed Martin will be involved in the financial side of the contracts, most likely guaranteeing bank credits to the shipyard, according to PAP. AM

CZECHS SET TO LIMIT PEACEKEEPING ACTIVITIES
A Defense Ministry spokesman has hinted that the Czech Republic will curtail its international-peacekeeping plans due to expected cuts in its defense budget, CTK reported on 5 August. "Because of the intended military reform, and because we would like to continue with the participation of Czech soldiers in foreign missions, we must carefully consider where we will send [peacekeeping troops]," spokesman Ladislav Sticha told the agency. "We have no presence now in Cyprus, and our priorities remain Kosovo and Iraq." Sticha was responding to reports of a recent letter from Czech Defense Minister Miroslav Kostelka to his Slovak counterpart Ivan Simko. Based on that letter, Simko told journalists in Bratislava on 5 August that the Czech Republic is unlikely to participate in a planned Czech-Slovak-Hungarian peacekeeping mission to Cyprus, according to CTK. Simko said Kostelka cited "present restrictions on the Czech Army," whose budget is expected to decrease as the center-left government battles mounting budget deficits. Simko noted that former Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, who resigned to protest budget restrictions, had proposed the participation of Czech forces in UN peacekeeping missions. Two hundred and seventy-nine Slovak and 89 Hungarian troops currently serve in the UNFICYP battalion in Cyprus. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER EXPECTS RULING COALITION TO FACE 'HOT AUTUMN'
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists on 5 August that a "hot autumn" might decide the fate of his four-party coalition, TASR and CTK reported. Dzurinda said that by fall it will become clear "whether [Deputy Premier Pavol] Rusko and his Alliance for a New Citizen [ANO] wish to remain in the ruling coalition or not." Dzurinda said he still believes differences within the center-right coalition can be solved and "the best option" for ANO is to remain in the coalition. Asked whether other scenarios are possible, Dzurinda replied, "Every responsible politician prepares for various alternatives." ANO and the other coalition members -- particularly the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) -- have been at odds over an ANO-initiated amendment to the abortion law that was passed by parliament but subsequently vetoed by President Rudolf Schuster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 24 July 2003). Other contentious issues include Rusko's claim that the KDH was illegally sponsored by businessman Frantisek Mojzis, who is facing fraud charges, and an agreement with the Vatican that ANO opposes on providing religious education in Slovak schools. MS

UN OFFERS REWARD IN KOSOVA POLICE KILLING
On 5 August, the UN police in Prishtina announced a reward of over $56,000 for information leading them to the killer or killers of UN police Major Satish Menon of India, who was shot two days earlier, "The Independent" reported. The sniper attack took place near the village of Slatina in a largely Serbian-inhabited area, but local Serbs and ethnic Albanians blamed each other for Menon's death. The London-based daily suggested there might be a link between Menon's killing, some recent attacks on court and police buildings in Kosova, and the July sentencing of four former guerrillas for their roles in war crimes against fellow ethnic Albanians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003). Menon is the first international policeman to die in Kosova since the UN mission began in mid-1999. PM

A PEACEKEEPING MISSION FOR SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO?
Serbian state-run television reported on 5 August that Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic offered to send 1,000 troops to Iraq as peacekeepers during his recent visit to the United States, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 July 2003). Zivkovic's office and the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the story. In related news, Jacques Klein, who heads the UN mission to Liberia, asked Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic during his recent U.S. visit to send peacekeepers to Liberia, Tanjug reported. According to the state-run news agency, Svilanovic replied that his government is interested in principle, but the Supreme Defense Council alone can make such a decision. Belgrade is anxious to improve its international standing following the 12 March killing of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. "The Washington Times" on 6 August nonetheless quoted Zivkovic as saying on his recent U.S. trip that "there are three things Serbs cannot stand: an independent Kosovo, NATO, and the United States." PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY TO START TRADITION OF 'BALKAN PRAYER BREAKFASTS'
Albanian President Alfred Moisiu plans to hold a two-day "Balkan friendship-building meeting" on 22-23 August in Tirana that is modeled on the U.S. presidential prayer breakfasts, Radio B92 reported, quoting the Belgrade daily "Blic." Those said to be invited are Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic; Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic; Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski; Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana; Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leader and former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica; Rasim Ljajic, who is Serbia and Montenegro's minister for human and minority rights; and Vladimir Bozovic, the head of the Coordination Center for Kosova's Legal Department. President Moisiu hopes the meeting will become a traditional event, held in a different Balkan country each year, "Blic" added. PM

IRANIAN CHARITY REBUILDING BOSNIAN MOSQUES
Representatives of the Iranian charity Birds and Bosnian religious officials signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 5 August under which Iran will finance the rebuilding of mosques in Gorazde, Bratunac, and Janjari, the ONASA news agency reported. Birds Director Mohsen Mirhadi, Tuzla Mufti Husein ef. Kavazovic, and Gorazde Mufti Hamid ef. Efendic signed the agreement, and Iranian charge d'affaires Mahmud Heidari said that construction will begin in the coming week and should last three months. The first project will be the one in Gorazde, worth 100,000 convertible marks (roughly $58,000), then Bratunac (26,000 convertible marks), and finally the Janjari mosque, worth 26,000 convertible marks. Half of each project will be financed by Birds. "Our participation in the reconstruction of religious facilities in [Bosnia-Herzegovina, or BiH] has a message to all BiH citizens that Iran did not forget BiH and that [Iran] will further provide assistance. We hope this will have positive impact in the [refugee-] return process in BiH," Heidari said. BS

NATO SUPREME COMMANDER URGES ROMANIANS TO CONTINUE MILITARY REFORMS
Visiting Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James Jones told journalists after talks with Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and Chief of Staff General Mihail Popescu that Romania must continue reforming its armed forces to achieve professionalism and be capable of responding to new challenges faced by NATO, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Jones said NATO's focus is on achieving "flexibility" and the ability to deploy forces wherever they might be needed. Regarding the possible redeployment of U.S. bases from Western to Eastern Europe, Jones said, "The decision...has not been made, and when it is made, I am sure that it will be done in full consultation with our friends and allies." MS

U.S. GRANTS ROMANIA AID FOR COMBATING CORRUPTION
Interior Minister Ioan Rus and U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest on 5 August signed an agreement in Bucharest under which Washington will grant an additional $975,000 to help Romania combat corruption, Internet delinquency, and drug trafficking, Mediafax reported. The first such agreement for U.S. aid was signed in 2001. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT 'EXPECTS AN APOLOGY' FROM BUCHAREST MAYOR
In response to Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu's scathing letter to President Ion Iliescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2005), the presidential office on 5 August issued a statement demanding that Basescu apologize for having "defamed state institutions and the president himself," Mediafax reported. The statement said Basescu, who is also Democratic Party chairman, is indulging in an attempt to "transform the problems he faces with the law into a political scandal and a pretext for settling scores." Basescu later told Mediafax he has no intention of apologizing, saying, "It is Iliescu who should apologize to the Romanian people, whom he cheated for 13 years with [communist] propaganda formulas that he learned before 1989." In related news, the National Anticorruption Prosecution on 5 August indicted former Transportation Minister Aurel Novac. Like Basescu, Novac has been charged with illegally selling a ship from the country's maritime fleet while in office in 1994. MS

HUNGARIAN LEADER IN ROMANIA SUPPORTS IDEA OF DUAL CITIZENSHIP
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman (UDMR) Bela Marko said on 5 August in an interview with the Cluj Hungarian-language daily "Szabadsag" that the UDMR supports the idea of dual citizenship for ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary, Mediafax reported. Marko made the statement following Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovac's declaration that Hungary is ready to raise with the EU the possibility of granting Hungarian citizenship to the Magyar diaspora in neighboring countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). "The majority of Transylvanian Hungarians would be content to obtain a Hungarian passport and any other benefits stemming from dual citizenship," Marko said. MS

PROMINENT ROMANIAN HISTORIAN HAUNTED BY SHADY PAST
The daily "Evenimentul zilei" reported on 5 August that historian Dan Berindei, chairman of the Romanian Academy's History and Archeology Section, has admitted to having served as an informer for the communist-era secret police. One day earlier, the daily published an article alleging that Berindei was blackmailed into working for the Securitate on the basis of his membership of the fascist Iron Guard during his youth. Berindei acknowledged the accuracy of the report, according to journalist Dan Tapalaga. In a book published earlier this year about Romania's Securitate, historian Marius Oprea also referred to Berindei's dubious past. According to these reports, at the time of his recruitment Berindei's wife was imprisoned on political grounds. Berindei traveled extensively abroad during the communist era, defending the record of Nicolae Ceausescu's communist regime and espousing the regime's nationalist propaganda. Academy Deputy Chairman Florin Filip said Berindei "will offer explanations to his peers" in the fall. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW MINISTERS
President Vladimir Voronin on 5 August appointed Marian Lupu as economy minister and deputy premier and Valentin Beniuc as the country's new education minister, Infotag and Flux reported. Lupu, who served as deputy economy minister since May 2001, replaces Stefan Odagiu and Beniuc replaces Gheorghe Sima. Odagiu and Sima were dismissed on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003). Beniuc, who is dean of the Institute for International Relations, told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service that he intends to introduce in schools a curriculum of "integrated history." He has been heading a team tasked with replacing the currently taught "History of Romanians" with a course of "integrated universal history," which will focus on the "history of Moldova" and the "history of the Moldovan people." MS

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN LANGUAGE MIGHT BE USED IN FEDERAL MOLDOVA'S ARMY
Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc said on 5 August that alongside "Moldovan," the Russian language might be used in the envisaged federal Moldovan Army as a "communication language," Flux reported. Gaiciuc said the use of both languages will be "temporarily allowed in the transition period," when the Moldovan and the Transdniestrian armies would be unified. How long that period would last and which language the army would use at the end of the transition is "too early to tell," Gaiciuc said. He added that in the current Moldovan Army, all officers master "both the state language and Russian." MS

MOLDOVA TO TRANSFORM MILITARY AIR BASE INTO CIVILIAN AIRPORT
Moldova intends to transform the country's only military air base, located in Marculesti, into a civilian airport, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 August, citing President Voronin. Voronin last weekend visited the base, which is situated in the northern part of the country and used to host fighter aircraft from the Black Sea fleet when Moldova was part of the Soviet Union. After 1992, Moldova sold most of the MiG fighter planes it received following the breakup of Soviet Union. It now has only six MiGs, which hardly ever fly due to a lack of funds for maintaining their combat readiness. Experts cited by ITAR-TASS commented that while Marculesti could be transformed into a modern airport, it is doubtful that investors will be found because Moldova's other civilian airports in Chisinau, Tiraspol, and Balti operate well below their passenger- and freight-transport capacities. MS

TELERADIO MOLDOVA BOARD APPOINTS RADIO, TV DIRECTORS
The Teleradio Moldova Board of Observers on 5 August reappointed Ilie Telesco as director of Moldovan Radio and selected film director Sergiu Prodan to be the next director of Moldovan Television, Flux reported. Both are also to serve as vice presidents of Teleradio Moldova. Reacting to the appointments, Moldovan Union of Journalists Chairman Valeriu Saharneanu said the ruling party "continues to maintain its control" over Teleradio Moldova. Saharneanu said both Telesco and Prodan are appointees of the governing Party of Moldovan Communists and were appointed to their positions "to implement orders and make propaganda" for the ruling party. MS

BULGARIA TO LIBERALIZE ENERGY MARKET
Plamen Popov of the National Electricity Company (NEK) announced on 5 August that 35 to 40 percent of the country's energy market will be liberalized by July 2004, mediapool.bg reported. By that date, NEK's commercial clients will be able to negotiate prices for electricity. By July 2007, all electricity consumers will be able to choose their electricity provider. Deputy Energy Minister Angel Minev added that when Bulgaria joins the EU in 2007, it will enter the union's common energy market and must therefore introduce anti-dumping measures to block cheap electricity imports from countries that do not meet the EU's ecological requirements. UB

ROW OVER BULGARIAN TELECOM CONTINUES
Speaking at a press conference in Sofia on 5 August, Ali Koc of the Turkish consortium Koc Holding/Turk Telecom said the consortium will respect any decision by the state Privatization Agency, as his company has long-term interests in Bulgaria, novinite.com reported. The Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that the Privatization Agency's decision to sign a letter of intent with the Turkish consortium on the sale of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) violated privatization regulations. Koc charged, however, that the second bidder for BTK, the Vienna-based Viva Ventures, lacks the financial means to make the required investment, mediapool.bg reported. He added that representatives of Viva Ventures are trying to influence media reports about the privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 July 2003). UB

TAJIKISTAN ON THE DEFENSIVE ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY


The support Tajikistan provided in late 2001 to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan served to draw the international community's attention to this small Central Asian state. Tajikistan is still struggling to recover from the devastation unleashed during its civil war that ended in 1997, and many of the high-level diplomats who have visited Dushanbe since, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in October 2002, were disturbed by what they saw.

Tajikistan's recent emergence on the political stage has brought it bumping up against the international community in ways it probably did not foresee. One sticking point has been human rights, and particularly Tajikistan's employment of the death penalty. European institutions have said that without progress on this front, they might take their money elsewhere. This was the message of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in its 2002 annual report. The signs are that Tajikistan has registered this message.

Tajikistan executes more people per capita than any other member of the OSCE, except the United States. Since 2001, Tajikistan has sentenced more than 130 people to death, including 11 of President Imomali Rakhmonov's civil-war opponents in one trial early this year. International uneasiness at these figures has been voiced many times. After exchanging courtesies with Belgian King Albert II during a visit to Brussels in March, Rakhmonov found himself urged directly by European Parliament President Patrick Cox to halt executions.

President Rakhmonov was so shaken by his reception in Brussels, according to sources in Dushanbe, that upon his return to Dushanbe he immediately instructed his Clemency Commission to pardon more prisoners on death row, apparently in an effort to take the heat off future visits abroad. At least 14 prisoners have had their death sentences rescinded in the past year, through a mixture of pardons and commutations. Previous yearly averages were just two or three.

Then, in late June, Rakhmonov submitted to parliament a draft law on changes to the Criminal Code that would reduce the number of capital crimes from 15 to five, and exempt all women from the death penalty. Parliament adopted the bill within days. The net effect of the changes will, however, probably be very slight. Women are rarely sentenced to death, and most death-row inmates are there on murder convictions. And as long as statistics and cases involving the death penalty remain a state secret, it will be difficult to assess the impact of the changes. There is no sign yet of a change in the official secrets law, according to lawyers in the field.

Like all UN members, Tajikistan has said it will abolish the death penalty over time. It is a party to the UN's Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, to the surprise of some local human rights lawyers, it has also recognized the right of people to take grievances to the UN Human Rights Committee. Lawyers representing death-row inmates have increasingly done so, usually claiming their clients were deprived of a fair trial and tortured. Tajikistan's response to such cases has been a source of great friction with the UN. Four prisoners have been executed as their case files were being reviewed by the committee, despite UN requests for a stay of execution in each case.

The latest such execution was in June 2002 and involved two brothers, Dovud and Sherali Nazriev, who were executed in Qurgantoppa prison while the UN Human Rights Committee was determining whether they had had a fair trial. It is hard to overstate the reaction of the international organizations. The European Union threatened to withdraw its support unless Tajikistan exhibited a willingness to carry out "genuine reforms." The UN deplored Tajikistan's total disregard for UN procedures.

Whether Tajikistan deliberately defied the UN, or whether a message simply got lost in transmission is not clear, but during his recent visit to Dushanbe, acting UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan requested assurances that it not happen again. An interdepartmental government commission has been given the task of making sure it does not. The commission is chaired by Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and coordinates the fulfillment of Tajikistan's obligations under human rights treaties. These will include the need to respect requests from the UN Human Rights Committee. The commission was actually in existence at the time the Nazriev brothers were shot, so how effective it will be remains to be seen. But with nine complaints from Tajikistan currently being reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee, the international community will soon find out.

Marjorie Farquharson writes on human rights issues.

ICG REPORT CALLS FOR EMPOWERMENT OF AFGHANISTAN'S PASHTUNS
A report published on 5 August by the International Crisis Group (ICG) says that a key obstacle to an enduring peace in Afghanistan is the perception among ethnic Pashtuns that they are not meaningfully represented in the Afghan Transitional Administration. In the report, titled "Afghanistan: The Problem of Pashtun Alienation" (available at www.crisisweb.org), Vikram Parekh, Afghanistan analyst for the Brussels-based ICG, said, "Unless measures are taken to address Pashtun grievances and ensure that a more representative government emerges from the 2004 elections, the political process could end in failure." According to the report, although Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, Tajiks from Panjsher Valley dominate security institutions in his administration. The ICG recommends that beyond addressing the ethnic imbalance in the Afghan power structure, the abusive regional authorities (i.e., warlords) need to be removed with the help of an expanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or a similar peacekeeping operation. AT

NATO CONSIDERING EXPANDED PEACEKEEPING ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
As NATO prepares to take over command of International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) next week from the joint German and Dutch command, it is also considering expanding its presence and activities throughout Afghanistan, according to a 5 August "Financial Times" report based on statements made the previous day by NATO military officials. According to the report, some NATO countries have expressed concern that there are not enough available troops for such an expanded role. In his meeting with NATO representatives in July, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, seemed to have given up on his hope that NATO might agree to an expansion of the ISAF mandate beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). AT

NATO COMMANDER ARRIVES IN KABUL FOR ISAF TAKEOVER
German Lieutenant-General Goetz Gliemeroth is in Kabul to prepare for NATO's 11 August assumption of ISAF command from German Lieutenant-General Norbert van Heyst, Bakhtar news agency reported on 5 August. Gliemeroth met with Afghan Army Chief of Staff General Asef Delawar and talked about cooperation between NATO and the Afghan National Army. AT

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP BRIDGE FAILS
An explosion damaged a bridge near Khost City in Khost Province on 5 August but did not destroy it, Radio Afghanistan reported. According to the report, unidentified "terrorists" targeted the bridge on the strategic Khost-Gardayz road. AT

GERMAN-STYLE BEER GARDEN POPULAR IN KABUL
The Deutscher Hof has become a popular destination in Kabul, dpa reported on 5 August. Two former German soldiers opened the beer garden, which who also offers pork to its customers. Five-meter walls surround the restaurant, and guards carrying submachine guns provide security. Afghan Muslims, who are forbidden by their religion to drink alcohol and eat pork, are only allowed into the Deutscher Hof in the company of foreigners. AT

TEHRAN WANTS IAEA 'CONFIDENCE BUILDING'
Deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami said in a 5 August reference to the possibility of Iran's signing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that closer Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) depends mainly on "confidence-building," IRNA reported. Khatami was alluding to Tehran's grievance that although it is an NPT signatory, its access to nuclear technology has been circumscribed. Khatami claimed that Iranian officials are being "truthful" when they deny intending to build nuclear weapons. BS

PYONGYANG CONSIDERS PROVIDING MISSILES AND NUCLEAR KNOW-HOW TO TEHRAN
North Korea is considering export of its Taepo Dong 2 long-range ballistic missiles to Iran and the joint development of nuclear warheads, Japan's Kyodo World Service news agency reported on 5 August and Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported on 6 August, both of them citing the "Sankei Shimbun" newspaper. The newspaper cited defense sources who said that Seoul and Tehran have been discussing the subject for about a year and expect to reach an agreement in mid-October. North Korea would export missile components to Iran, where they would be assembled, and North Korean experts would provide technological aid for developing nuclear warheads. BS

IRANIAN FUNDING OF PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS INCREASES
An anonymous Israeli "senior security official" said on 5 August that Iranian funding of Palestinian terrorists, especially those affiliated with armed wing of Fatah known as the Tanzim, has increased since a cease-fire (hudna) went into effect on 29 June, the "Jerusalem Post" reported on 6 August. Much of that money goes to Fatah Tanzim units in Tulkaram, Jenin, and Nablus that do not recognize the cease-fire or obey the Fatah political leadership. The anonymous official said a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander being sheltered in Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's compound is recruiting personnel and plotting attacks with the help of the Iranian funding. "We know without a doubt that Iran and Hizballah in Lebanon are in contact with elements on the ground, issue orders, and send funds," the source said. Iran operates through Lebanese Hizballah and its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, which has contacts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and Islamic Jihad is the "most prominent" recipient of Iranian aid. According to "Ha'aretz" on 5 August, members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades cells receive orders from Iran and are more dependent on Iran and Hizballah than on Fatah. BS

IRANIAN CHARITY REBUILDING BOSNIAN MOSQUES
Representatives of the Iranian charity Birds and Bosnian religious officials signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 5 August under which Iran will finance the rebuilding of mosques in Gorazde, Bratunac, and Janjari, the ONASA news agency reported. Birds Director Mohsen Mirhadi, Tuzla Mufti Husein ef. Kavazovic, and Gorazde Mufti Hamid ef. Efendic signed the agreement, and Iranian charge d'affaires Mahmud Heidari said that construction will begin in the coming week and should last three months. The first project will be the one in Gorazde, worth 100,000 convertible marks (roughly $58,000), then Bratunac (26,000 convertible marks), and finally the Janjari mosque, worth 26,000 convertible marks. Half of each project will be financed by Birds. "Our participation in the reconstruction of religious facilities in [Bosnia-Herzegovina, or BiH] has a message to all BiH citizens that Iran did not forget BiH and that [Iran] will further provide assistance. We hope this will have positive impact in the [refugee-] return process in BiH," Heidari said. BS

CLEMENCY FOR DETAINED IRANIAN STUDENTS
In response to a letter from his representative at the universities, Hojatoleslam Mohsen Qomi, and his Tehran University representative, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Hassan Abu-Torabi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "ordered judicial officials to show more leniency toward students who are in detention following the June and July unrest," IRNA and ISNA reported. Khamenei also said that it is up to the centers holding the students to decide how to exercise clemency. The two officials had written: "Please approve that Islamic compassion should be shown to the small number of students who have been detained because of [their involvement in the unrest due to] their curiosity, or because a dormitory was attacked, or because they have had some demands as students; but have made it clear that they have not been part of [any] conspiracy." BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT'S COMMENTS TO LEGISLATORS PRAISED
A commentary in the 5 August issue of the "Yas-i No" daily newspaper, which is affiliated with the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party, argued that President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's remarks during his 3 August meeting with parliamentarians were significant because of their transparency and because they clarified where the president stands on domestic issues. Some groups have suggested that Khatami has devoted more attention in his second term to external affairs than to domestic factors that might hinder the reform process, and that he no longer emphasizes his past views. According to the commentary, Khatami's remarks disproved such "oversimplifications." Khatami said, for example, "It would be a disaster if we used fascistic foundations and interpretations of religion and the [1979] revolution to repel the rivals today." The fascists will go to any length to remove their perceived opponents, the commentary charged. Khatami's remarks might have to contend with "narrow-mindedness and radical optimism," or they might be "neglected," it added. Nevertheless, the daily said the remarks will "help the reform process move faster and with more perfection." BS

ARAB FOREIGN MINISTERS SAID TO ACKNOWLEDGE IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL...
Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on 5 August welcomed the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council, Reuters reported. Many Arab leaders were initially hesitant to recognize the U.S.-appointed council, and instead had called for Iraqis to hold national elections to elect a new ruling government. "We believe the creation of the council is a step in the right direction. We hope it will lead to a new constitution, an election and creation of a government," Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaykh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa told a press conference following the meeting, Reuters reported on 5 August. Bahrain currently heads the rotating chairmanship of the Arab League. Al-Khalifa told reporters that the Arab League is willing to meet with an Iraqi delegation, but he declined to comment when asked whether the Iraqi Governing Council will be allowed to fill Iraq's seat in the organization. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reported on 5 August that the foreign ministers rejected a U.S. request to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq. The 11 foreign ministers who met are members of the Arab Follow-Up Committee, established at the Beirut Summit in March 2002. KR

...AS COUNCIL HEAD DISCUSSES ROLE OF ARABS IN IRAQ
Meanwhile, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, told Republic of Egypt Radio in a 5 August telephone interview that Iraqis are sensitive to the issue of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and that an Iraqi army or police force will carry more weight in Iraq. "It has been proven practically that the performance of the Iraqi military and police is more effective in the Iraqi streets, although they might be less advanced on the technical level," al-Ja'fari said. He expressed hope, however, that Arab states will help jumpstart the Iraqi economy through trade and investment. Al-Ja'fari called the Arab foreign ministers' statement concerning Iraq, in which they called the council a "step in the right direction," "accurate." KR

U.S. ARMY TO DEPLOY NEW SECURITY FORCE TO IRAQ
The U.S. Army will deploy an experimental new security force to Iraq that combines infantry soldiers, elite special forces, military police, and civil-affairs officers into a single unit for more effective peacekeeping, Reuters reported on 5 August. Army Vice Chief of Staff General John Keane told reporters that the task force was designed to meet the Pentagon's call for a more flexible military. "I think it's going to be a combination of forces we are taking [into Iraq] plus forces that are [already] on the ground." Keane did not say how large the force will be or where it will be stationed in Iraq. He told reporters that one of the lessons learned from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq has been the need for more joint operations among the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. "Some of the more traditional and historical associations that we've sort of put together under a task force, they have to change," Keane said. "These cases are cultural, some of them, but we're willing to cross these lines. And I think you're just going to see a lot more of them." KR

IRAQI POLICE CONTINUE TO BREAK KIDNAPPING RINGS...
Iraqi police have dismantled four kidnapping rings in the past three weeks, Interior Minister General Ibrahim Ahmad said on 5 August, dpa reported. The number of kidnappings in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has been on the rise in recent weeks, with highly organized kidnapping gangs seeking up to $75,000 ransom for their hostages, according to a 6 August report on the "Los Angeles Times" website (http://www.latimes.com). One family was able to bargain kidnappers down from an initial demand of $50,000 to $15,000 for the return of their 6-year-old son. The kidnappers had threatened to return the boy dead if the ransom was not paid. According to the "Los Angeles Times," the criminals often target Christian families, where no tribal networks exist to retaliate against the gangs. Bernard Kerik, the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) adviser to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told reporters at the same 5 August press conference that a previous day's raid resulted in the release of several hostages and the capture of a gang of nine kidnappers. Police uniforms were found in the home that was raided, Kerik said, suggesting that abductors are posing as police officers. He urged citizens to report abductions to the police. KR

...BUT CITIZENS SAY POLICE AND U.S. MILITARY REFUSE TO HELP
According to the "Los Angeles Times" report on 6 August, many families complained that they approached the police and U.S. military for assistance in kidnapping cases but received no help. Adib Yunan, the uncle of a kidnapped 6-year-old (see item above), said, "We went to the police and saw the Americans. An American told us, 'What can we do?'" He added that he provided information and photographs of his nephew to U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, who promised to keep in touch but never followed through. His family then negotiated the ransom and got the boy back. Another Iraqi, Adnan Issa, told the daily that when he asked U.S. soldiers for help after his son's kidnapping, they replied, "It's not our business,' adding, 'We're here to search for Saddam Hussein.'" Yunan blamed the kidnappings on common criminals released by the deposed Hussein regime before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, adding, "This is the aftermath of two or three wars. There are so many men who have no job, so they resort to the simplest way to get money." KR

RUSSIAN AUTOMAKER TO SEND TAXIS TO BAGHDAD
Automaker GAZ in Nizhnii Novgorod confirmed on 5 August that it will ship 486 cars to Iraq for use as taxicabs in Baghdad, ITAR-TASS reported. The cars were ordered by the Hussein regime and the contract has been confirmed by the current Iraqi administration, a GAZ spokesman said. The consignment, which will be shipped before the end of the year, is part of a 2001 deal to provide 5,000 Volga cars to Iraq. The GAZ spokesman said, without specifying, that the taxis have been specially modified to perform in Iraq's desert climate. RC

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