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Newsline - August 7, 2003


PROSECUTORS SEARCH ANOTHER YUKOS-RELATED COMPANY...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 6 August searched the Moscow offices of Sibintek and seized 28 personal files of Rosprom and Yukos employees, Russian media reported. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office told ITAR-TASS that the search was carried out as part of the investigation into charges that Menatep Chairman and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev embezzled about $300 million from the state in a 1994 privatization deal. According to "Vremya novostei" on 7 August, investigators also seized a number of computers and computer discs. The daily reported that Sibintek is a Yukos affiliate that designs software for the entire Yukos group, including Menatep. Investigators also reportedly seized the minutes of Yukos board meetings for 1993-99. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August reported that prosecutors also seized a file of newspaper clippings relating to the Prosecutor-General's Office's cases against Yukos and its affiliates. RC

...AS YUKOS HEAD SAYS MERGER SPARKED PROBES...
In an interview with the "Financial Times" on 6 August, Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii repeated his opinion that the prosecutors' actions against Yukos are intended to block the company's impending merger with Sibneft. "By announcing the merger, we strengthened the position of one-half of [President Vladimir] Putin's inner circle -- or at least that's what the other half thought," Khodorkovskii said. "They decided to take countermeasures." Sibneft is controlled by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. RC

...AS MOSCOW COURT POSTPONES HEARING ON YUKOS COMPLAINT FOR THIRD TIME
A Moscow district court on 6 August postponed until 13 August hearing a complaint from Yukos alleging that prosecutors illegally searched the company's Moscow offices on the night of 11-12 July, Russian media reported. The court, which met in a closed session, offered no reason for the postponement, although the previous delay was reportedly caused by the prosecutors' failure to submit the necessary documents, including the search warrant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003). At the same time, the court rejected similar complaints about the 4 July search of Yukos affiliate M-Reestr and about another search at Yukos-Lizing. RC

U.S. OFFICIAL IN MOSCOW FOR CONSULTATIONS ON IRAQ
Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns met in Moscow on 7 August to discuss the administration and reconstruction of Iraq, Russian media reported. Fedotov told ITAR-TASS on 7 August before the talks that he would urge a greater role for the United Nations "in the process of restoration and settlement in Iraq." The two men were also expected to discuss the implementation of the "road map" peace process in the Middle East. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August, Burns was expected to present a U.S. draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and to discuss the possibility of deploying Russian security forces there. RC

DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS MILITARY PROCUREMENTS TO BE CUT IN 2004...
The 2004 budget for military procurement will be just half of that for 2003, strana.ru reported on 5 August, citing Deputy Defense Minister Aleksei Moskovskii. The current budget allocates 119 billion rubles ($3.9 billion). It will be the first time since 2001 that such spending has not been increased. Thanks to these increases, Moskovskii said, the military has been able to complete testing and begin production of 280 types of military equipment, including the Yakhont supersonic antiship cruise missile. RIA-Novosti, also citing Moskovskii, reported on 6 August that the navy will receive four new nuclear submarines by 2010. Moskovskii said these purchases will account for roughly 10 percent of the country's military-procurement budget. He added that the army will most likely not receive the new S-400 antiaircraft missile system until 2005, despite earlier reports that it might be deployed as early as this year. He said the S-400 exceeds the parameters of the S-300 by "two to 2 1/2 times." RC

...AS NEW UNIT OF TOPOL ICBMS NEARLY READY FOR DUTY
A fifth unit of Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) will be put on active combat duty by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August, citing Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Anatolii Grebenyuk. He added that a launch complex for Angara heavy missiles is being built at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, which is also upgrading its runway to accommodate new generations of aircraft and spacecraft. Grebenyuk said Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will inspect the work there in September. RC

OLIGARCH OPENS UP HIS CHECKBOOK TO BUILD UP ENGLISH SOCCER TEAM
Chuktoka Autonomous Okrug Governor and leading oligarch Abramovich has spent nearly $100 million adding players to his newly acquired English soccer club Chelsea, "The Moscow Times" and other Russian media reported on 7 August. Abramovich has signed at least five new players since buying the team last month, most recently picking up Manchester United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron for more than $20 million. "I haven't thought about how much I am ready to spend," Abramovich said in an interview with the BBC published in "Vremya novostei" on 7 August. "If I feel that a player is needed in order to get results, I will spend more money." Asked about criticism he has received for not investing in Russian soccer, Abramovich said: "We haven't lived very long in a free country. We aren't used to the idea that a person can spend his money any way he wants. Every petty politician is giving advice about how everyone else should live." RIA-Novosti reported on 6 August that Abramovich and other Russian businesspeople intend to finance the construction of a new soccer stadium in Moscow that would serve as the home field for two or three teams. RC

POLICE CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER OF MOSCOW AD EXECUTIVE
Two Interior Ministry officers and three former Interior Ministry conscripts have been arrested in connection with the 2002 attempted murder of prominent advertising executive Maksim Tkachev, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian media reported on 6 August. According to the daily, the two officers -- who were identified as Major Aleksandr Demchenko and Warrant Officer Anatolii Bogdanov -- allegedly collected information on conscript misconduct, which they then used to blackmail the men into committing the crime. "Gazeta" reported that the officers offered the conscripts early release in exchange for their cooperation. According to some media reports, investigators believe an unidentified competitor of Tkachev's ordered his murder. Tkachev is chairman of the News Outdoor advertising agency, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and one of the largest advertising agencies in Eastern and Central Europe. Tkachev told "Kommersant-Daily" that Murdoch appealed to President Putin to ensure a thorough investigation of the case. RC

JUSTICE MINISTRY DISQUALIFIES FOUR MORE PARTIES
The Justice Minister has omitted four political parties from its official registry because they failed to register the required 45 regional branches by the deadline for participation in the 7 December State Duma election, "Gazeta" reported on 6 August. There is less than one month remaining before the official start of the campaign for that election. Those four parties, which will now be unable to participate in the election, are the Party of Russian Citizens, the Communist Labor Party, the Constitutional Party of Russia, and the Great Power Party. Another seven parties are in danger of losing their registration if they do not manage to register sufficient regional branches before September, according to the newspaper. These are the Socialist People's Party, the Human Rights Party, the Economic Freedom Party, the Party of Justice and Development, the Union of People for Education and Science, and the New Communist Party, which is led by former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's grandson, Andrei Brezhnev. As of last month, more than 30 parties were registered (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 9 July 2003). JAC

UNIFIED RUSSIA LOSES FIGHT TO CONTROL REGIONAL ELECTION COMMISSIONS...
"Vedomosti" reported on 6 August that Volgograd Oblast Prosecutor Mikhail Muzraev has been blocking attempts by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party to take control of the election commission in that region. According to the daily, this is a particularly important task for the party, since a mayoral election in Volgograd will take place next month, and in December elections for the oblast legislature will be held concurrently with the State Duma elections. The oblast is currently governed by Communist Party member Nikolai Maksyuta, and the region is considered part of the so-called Red Belt. According to the daily, on 17 July, the oblast election commission voted to support Gennadii Shaikhullin as chairman of the commission. Shaikhullin, who is head of the local Unity election bloc (Unity is a predecessor organization to Unified Russia), was recommended for the post by the Central Election Commission. JAC

...AS ANALYST SUGGESTS PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE MIGHT BE NEXT TOOL DEPLOYED IN ELECTION BATTLES
The next day, the oblast prosecutor challenged Shaikhullin's candidacy in the oblast legislature, citing complaints he received about procedural violations during Shaikhullin's election. Analyst Dmitrii Oreshkin told the daily that he believes the Volgograd case might set a precedent for a new method of interfering with elections -- through the prosecutor's office. JAC

ENERGY MINISTRY LOSES A DEPUTY MINISTER, CHUBAIS LOSES A FOE
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed an order on 5 August dismissing Deputy Energy Minister Viktor Kudryavyi from his post, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day, noting that Kasyanov is still officially on vacation. Kudryavyi is a longtime foe of Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003) and, according to the daily, never missed an opportunity to try to replace Chubais as head of EES, including lawsuits. In his last attempt, a Moscow arbitration court heard a lawsuit on 15 May filed by Kudryavyi seeking an extraordinary shareholders' meeting in order to dismiss Chubais. Kudryavyi lost that case but appealed, and a hearing is scheduled for the Supreme Arbitration Court on 26 August. In an interview with the daily, Kudryavyi said Energy Minister Igor Yusufov does not know why Kudryavyi was fired now, rather than long ago. Kudryavyi speculated that one reason might be that if he won his lawsuit, the reform of the electricity sector would not go forward. JAC

PUTIN ISSUES PARDONS
President Putin has issued pardons to 16 prisoners for "humanitarian reasons," Interfax reported on 6 August. Seven people were released from any further jail time, while seven others had their terms reduced, one had his conviction repealed, and another was freed from having to pay a fine. Earlier in the month, Putin issued pardons to 17 prisoners. Since the Presidential Pardons Commission was disbanded at the end of 2001, the number of pardons issued nationwide by its regional replacements has reportedly been declining (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2002). JAC

FAR NORTHERN HOUSING OFFICIALS LOOKING TO EVICT DEADBEATS
Local housing authorities in Snezhnogorsk in Murmansk Oblast have announced a new policy whereby people who routinely fail to pay their rent and utility bills will be forced to move, TV-Tsentr reported on 6 August. Housing officials will now seek court orders to evict nonpayers whose debts exceed 40,000 rubles ($1,300) and move them into less comfortable accommodations, such as hostels in which only 6 square meters is allocated to each person. According to the station, the tenants will not be left without housing but will no longer be able to privatize, exchange, or rent out their new accommodations. JAC

MORE INNOVATIONS FOR FOREST FORAGERS UNVEILED
What is being described as the first tender for a lease to gather mushrooms, berries, and the ingredients for medicines, such as herbs, on forest land will be held in Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug on 15 August, Regnum reported on 6 August, citing Vladimir Khochev, head of the administration for natural resources and the environment for the okrug. The conditions for participating are that the individual or entity must be registered in the okrug and have a sufficient work force to gather the forest's products. Last year in Chavashia, an Internet cafe was offering computer access in exchange for medicinal herbs gathered in local forests because the republic was having trouble finding people to search for the herbs because of the low pay offered for the painstaking work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2002). The ROMIR polling agency on 6 August released the results of a poll that showed that 60 percent of Russians gather mushrooms at least occasionally, while just 18 percent said that they have never done so. ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August that nearly 80 people have died of mushroom poisoning in Russia so far this year. JAC/RC

ARE CHECHEN OFFICIALS EVACUATING THEIR FAMILIES FROM GROZNY?
As the Chechen authorities imposed strict security precautions in anticipation of a major offensive to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1996 battle for Grozny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003), chechenpress.com reported on 6 August, citing unidentified "reliable sources," that many members of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration have moved their families from Grozny to northern districts of Chechnya for safety. The website said rumors of an imminent offensive by Chechen fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov are totally unfounded. LF

ABDUCTED CHECHEN GIRL RELEASED
Elza Katsaeva, the 16-year-old Chechen girl abducted from her home in Samashki on 2 August, was found abandoned and handcuffed by a roadside in North Ossetia on 5 August and returned to her family the following day, Chechen officials said on 6 August. It is still not clear who abducted her and why. Villagers blocked the main highway from Chechnya to Ingushetia on 5 August to demand that Chechen police locate and free Katsaeva (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY FACES EVICTION FROM YEREVAN HQ
Acting on a suit filed by the Armenian government and Academy of Sciences, Armenia's Economic Court ruled on 1 August that the opposition Self-Determination Union (IM) be evicted from the premises it occupies in Yerevan, IM Chairman Paruyr Hairikian told journalists in Yerevan on 6 August. The IM has also been forced to vacate its offices in Giumri and Vanadzor. LF

THREE ARMENIAN SERVICEMEN KILLED
Three Armenian soldiers on guard duty at a military base in Vanadzor were shot dead during the night of 5-6 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 6 August. According to a local human rights activist, the bodies and the guards' hut where they were killed were subsequently burned. Police have launched an investigation, and Armenia's Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Djahangirian said "some progress" has been made in identifying and tracking down the killers. He did not elaborate. LF

ARMENIAN JUSTICE MINISTRY DENIES REPORTS OF HUNGER STRIKE
A spokesman for the Armenian Justice Ministry rejected on 5 August as untrue rumors that the 42 prisoners whose death sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment have embarked on a protest hunger strike, according to Armenpress on 5 August, as quoted by Groong the following day. President Robert Kocharian issued a decree last week commuting the death sentences in line with the new Criminal Code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S HEALTH SAID 'NORMAL'
President Heidar Aliev arrived at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio during the evening of 6 August, local time, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. Aliev was transported from Ankara in an aircraft supplied by Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry that is equipped for medical emergencies. He was accompanied by a team of doctors who for the past month have been treating him at the Gulhane military clinic in the Turkish capital. Presidential administration official Novruz Mamaedov told journalists in Baku on 7 August that Aliev's condition is "normal" and "stable," Turan reported. But the Turkish television channel NTV on 6 August quoted medical personnel from Gulhane as saying that Aliev is paralyzed, but still conscious, Turan reported. LF

NEW AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER TAKES VACATION
President Aliev's son Ilham, whom he named prime minister in a decree on 4 August, handed over his duties on 6 August to his predecessor Artur Rasizade, now first deputy prime minister, and embarked on unpaid leave of absence that will last until the official results of the 15 October presidential election are made public, Turan reported. Ilham Aliev and his father are both registered as presidential candidates. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS PROTESTS...
Opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) Secretary-General Serdar Djalaloglu during a press conference in Baku on 6 August criticized Ilham Aliev's appointment as prime minister as a further step toward falsifying the outcome of the presidential election in order to ensure that the present leadership retains power, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Djalaloglu queried the legality of the appointment on the grounds that there is no evidence that President Aliev is alive and capable of signing the relevant decree. Djalaloglu and other speakers criticized the failure of the United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom to condemn Ilham Aliev's appointment as unconstitutional, and announced that they will convene a protest on 7 August in front of the U.S. Embassy in Baku. They also said they will organize mass protests against Ilham Aliev's appointment as premier. Also on 6 August, police in Baku resorted to violence to disperse a small group of ADR activists who for the past two weeks have tried on a daily basis to picket the Central Election Commission (CEC) building to protest that body's refusal to register ADR Chairman Rasul Guliev as a presidential candidate, Turan reported. LF

...AS MOSCOW COMMENTS ON APPOINTMENT OF NEW AZERBAIJANI PREMIER
In a 6 August statement posted on its website (http://www.mid.ru), the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has extended congratulations to Ilham Aliev on his appointment as prime minister of Azerbaijan. The statement expressed the hope that Ilham Aliev's appointment will contribute to the strengthening of the country's sovereignty and the implementation of "profound changes in the interest of the peaceful development and well-being of the Azerbaijani people." LF

ANOTHER DEADLINE EXPIRES IN AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN
The deadline expired at 6 p.m. local time on 6 August for would-be presidential candidates to submit to the CEC the required minimum 45,000 signatures in their support. According to Turan on 6 August and zerkalo.az on 7 August, a further 11 candidates submitted their lists of signatures, which must now be checked for authenticity. Five candidates: incumbent President Heidar Aliev, Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar, pro-government Alliance for Azerbaijan Chairman Abutalib Samedov, and Gudrat Gasankuliev, head of a pro-government group that split from the divided opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, have been confirmed as registered candidates following authentication of the signatures collected in their support. LF

RUSSIAN ENERGY TSAR SEEKS TO REASSURE GEORGIANS...
Anatolii Chubais, chairman of the board of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), which has just acquired a 75 percent stake in Georgia's TELASI energy-distribution network from the U.S. company AES, traveled to Tbilisi on 6 August together with his deputy Leonid Grossman for talks with the Georgian leadership, ITAR-TASS and Georgian media reported. Stressing that the acquisition of TELASI was the result of purely commercial, rather than political interests, Chubais sought to allay fears that Moscow will seek to blackmail Tbilisi by threatening to cut off energy supplies. He also said EES is prepared to cut Georgian electricity tariffs in two months provided that payments improve. AES raised tariffs to the point that they are now five times higher in Georgia than in Russia. LF

...WHILE OPPOSITION SLAMS SALE OF ENERGY NETWORK...
Chubais also met on 6 August with Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, who at a cabinet session earlier that day demanded an explanation from the government for its acquiescence to the sale of TELASI and clarification of the terms of the sale, according to the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2. "It is of paramount importance whether or not we have electricity this winter, but at the same time we need to know what price we shall have to pay," she said. Burdjanadze later told journalists that Chubais offered to sell 50 percent of the shares in TELASI back to the Georgian government. Grossman for his part met with representatives of the opposition New Rightists and United Democrats, but failed to convince them that the sale is in Georgia's interest, Rustavi-2 reported. New Rightists leader Levan Gachechiladze said after the meeting that his party opposes "ceding Georgian independence in exchange for electricity" and will seek to prevent further sales of strategic enterprises to foreign companies. United Democrats leader Zurab Zhvania said Grossman confirmed that the Georgian government was informed in advance of the impending sale of TELASI. Some Georgian officials have said that AES announced the sale only after it was finalized. LF

...AND RENEWS CRITICISM OF PRESIDENT
Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 6 August, Zhvania accused President Eduard Shevardnadze of abandoning his previous unequivocally pro-Western orientation and commitment to democracy, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Zhvania characterized the model for distributing seats on the new Central Election Commission approved by parliament the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003) as depriving the Georgian people of the right to free elections and as intended solely to enable the present leadership to retain power at the 2 November parliamentary elections. Burdjanadze for her part told journalists after her meeting with Chubais that the present Georgian leadership is "absolutely incompetent" and incapable of resolving either basic social problems or the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. She predicted that the authorities "will use every opportunity" to falsify the outcome of the 2 November parliamentary ballot. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES MINISTERS FOR BUDGET SHORTFALL
President Shevardnadze warned ministers at the cabinet session on 6 August that some of them might lose their posts as a result of the budget-revenue shortfall during the first seven months of the year, Interfax and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. He ordered the Finance and Tax Revenues ministries and the Customs Department to take more effective efforts to prevent smuggling, and criticized the Interior and State Security ministries for failing to crack down on smuggling. On 31 July, Shevardnadze ordered ministers to put implement antismuggling measures within 10 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2003). But State Security Minister Valeri Khabrdzania told journalists after the cabinet session that a minimum of six weeks is needed for those measures to bring quantifiable results, Interfax reported. LF

SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION BEGINS ANTI-TERRORISM EXERCISES IN KAZAKHSTAN
Military units from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia launched the first stage of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) antiterrorism exercises at a Kazakh air base on 6 August, khabar.kz, Interfax, and other Central Asian and Russian media reported. The three countries are members of the SCO along with Tajikistan and China. Tajikistan has sent observers to the exercises, which will involve training in intercepting aircraft, dropping airborne troops, and encircling and eliminating a terrorist group. The head of the Chinese military delegation to the exercises told journalists that the exercises confirm the common stance of the SCO member states on countering terrorism. The second stage of the exercises is scheduled to take place in Xinjiang on 11-12 August. BB

KAZAKH PARENTS DEMAND ROLE IN DETERMINING SCHOOL POLICIES
Parents whose children attend state schools are demanding a role in determining school budgetary policies, gazeta.kz reported on 6 August, quoting the Association of School-Related Public Organizations in Almaty. Groups of parents have formed in Almaty, Astana, Shymkent, and Rudniy demanding to know exactly what state school administrators are doing with school funds, starting with finding out how much each school actually receives from the state budget. The formation of the groups was reportedly set off by school administrators' increasing demands that parents provide funds for things such as school maintenance and heating. In addition, parents have learned that other countries have influential parents' associations that play a role in education, and they would like to introduce this practice into Kazakhstan. BB

TWO KAZAKH POLICEMEN JAILED FOR FORCING CONFESSIONS
The Terekti Raion court in West Kazakhstan Oblast has sentenced two policemen to two years in jail for torturing suspects in order to obtain confessions, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 6 August. The two were charged with having forced four young men to confess to having stolen some horses. The four were subsequently released, and the real thieves were never caught. According to the report, this is the first time a case has been brought against law enforcement officers in West Kazakhstan for using torture to extract confessions. The relevant article of the Kazakh Criminal Code, Article 347, was added to the code in December. BB

KAZAKH OPPOSITION COMPLAINS OF PRESSURE ON CANDIDATES
The national election headquarters of the Kazakh democratic opposition has complained that opposition candidates for the local elections scheduled for 20 September are being pressured by the authorities, the chairman of the headquarters, Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, told journalists on 6 August, Interfax-Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan Today reported the same day. Specifically, candidates who work for organizations financed from the state budget or whose relatives work for such organizations are being pressured to withdraw from the race, and some have done so. Some election commissions have been slow in processing the registration documents of opposition candidates or have demanded documents not required under the election law, resulting in opposition candidates missing the registration deadline. BB

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY AGAIN REFUSED REGISTRATION
During the 6 August meeting with journalists at the Kazakh opposition's national election headquarters, Kozhakhmetov said the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan coalition succeeded in registering 315 candidates from among 446 applicants for upcoming local-council elections. The rest were refused registration. And the Justice Ministry refused to register Democratic Choice as a public organization for the 37th time. According to Kozhakhmetov, the refusal has been challenged in the courts 11 times, so far without success. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION INTENDS TO UNITE BEHIND SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The Movement for the Resignation of [President Askar] Akaev and for Reforms for the People intends to support a single opposition candidate in the next presidential election, movement leader and human rights activist Topchubek Turgunaliev told journalists on 6 August, akipress.org reported the same day. He added that he believes his movement can unite 60 percent to 70 percent of the Kyrgyz opposition, which he said would be a great achievement in a country where so many fancy themselves to be politicians. Turgunaliev and other opposition leaders had called a press conference to announce plans for a nationwide opposition kurultai (congress) on 23 August. The opposition expects that presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2005 will be moved forward to autumn 2003. BB

UZBEKISTAN WANTS GAZPROM INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING UZBEK GAS FIELDS...
Uzbekistan wants the Russian gas firm Gazprom to help develop its natural-gas deposits, Uzbek President Islam Karimov told a press conference at the end of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Samarkand on 6 August, RIA-Novosti, uzreport.com, and other Uzbek and Russian news agencies reported. Putin told the press conference that among the topics covered in nearly three hours of talks were possible cooperation in energy, aircraft construction, and light industry. He added that the Russian government is ready to back Gazprom's activities in Uzbekistan, including the expansion of the gas-pipeline network. BB

...WHILE DEMONSTRATORS WANT KHAMROEV RELEASED
While the Uzbek and Russian presidents were meeting in Samarkand, some 30 Uzbek human rights activists picketed in front of the Russian Embassy in Tashkent, demanding the release of exiled opposition figure Bakhrom Khamroev, who was arrested by Russian security officers in Moscow on 20 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003), "Kommersant" reported on 7 August. The picketing was organized by the unregistered Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, the human rights movement Ezgulik, and other groups that consider Khamroev a human rights activist. The Russian security services have tried to link him to Islamic extremism and drug trafficking. According to the article, a number of people waiting in a line at the embassy joined the picketers to protest against changes in regulations on obtaining Russian citizenship. The result was described as the largest demonstration in Tashkent in many years. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS EDUCATION, INFORMATION MINISTERS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 6 August appointed Alyaksandr Radzkou and Uladzimir Rusakevich as the country's new ministers of education and information, respectively, Belapan cited the presidential press office as saying. Radzkou, who replaces Pyotr Bryhadzin, served as a rector of Mahilou State University prior to his appointment. Lukashenka tasked Radzkou with creating efficient institutions at all levels of education, ensuring that teachers are highly skilled, and monitoring educational reform, according to the press office. Lukashenka also said he expects Rusakevich, who replaced Mikhail Padhayny at the Information Ministry, to increase efficiency at this "very important ideological ministry" and assume control of all processes related to printing, publishing, and information distribution. AM

RUSSIA DISMISSES TALK OF APOLOGY TO UKRAINE FOR 1932-33 FAMINE
Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, said on 6 August that his country, as a successor to Soviet Union, will not apologize to Ukraine for the 1932-33 famine, Interfax reported. "The famine afflicted the whole Soviet state," Chernomyrdin told a press conference in Kyiv, adding, "Why Russia?" Russia should be praised for bearing its responsibility with respect to Soviet debts and all other issues, Chernomyrdin said, but it does not bear responsibility for the famine. The Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution in May declaring that the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine was "an act of genocide" against the Ukrainian people. Historians estimate that 7 million-10 million Ukrainians died as a result of administrative measures by Soviet authorities in Ukraine in 1932-33. AM

ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTRY PREDICTS LARGE BUDGET SURPLUS
Andrus Saalik, the head of the Finance Ministry's Economic Analysis Department, told reporters on 6 August that the government's decision not to have a second supplementary budget this year will probably result in a budget surplus of 424 million kroons ($30.9 million), or 0.4 percent of GDP, BNS reported. He predicted that the central government budget would have a surplus of 774 million kroons, while local governments budgets would have a deficit of 350 million kroons. The surplus is primarily due to higher-than-anticipated receipts from corporate income taxes and increased collection of value-added tax (VAT). SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT REMOVES ITS REPRESENTATIVES FROM RIGA FREE PORT BOARD
The cabinet decided on 5 August to suspend the activities of the Riga Free Port board by removing the five officials who represented the Economy, Environment, Finance, and Transport ministries and the Latvian Development Agency, LETA reported. The remaining five members of the board, appointed by the Riga City Council, will not be able to approve any decisions until new state representatives are appointed. This is unlikely to occur before October, by which time the government expects the parliament to have passed its proposed amendments to the laws on ports and on the Riga Free Port, reducing the size of the board to five members: one appointed by each of the four ministries and one by the Riga City Council. Prime Minister Einars Repse said that the changes in the board's membership are necessary to improve representation of national interests in the port. SG

WINNING BID FOR LITHUANIA'S LARGEST DISTILLERY PRIVATIZATION ANNOUNCED
The State Property Fund (VTF) announced on 6 August that local alcohol distributor Mineraliniai Vandenys (MN) won the public tender to find a purchaser for the Stumbras distillery, BNS reported. MN offered 152 million litas ($50 million) for a 91.95 percent stake in Stumbras and pledged an additional 30 million litas in investment. On 4 August, VTF declared that it was rejecting the bid of one of the five bidders because it received written information from competent Lithuanian public institutions about the bidder's unreliability. The company was not named, but it was believed to be Latvijas Balzams, run by the Russian SPI Group, which placed the highest bid of 158 million litas. SG

POLISH RADICAL FARMERS CREATE CORRUPTION DATA CENTER
The opposition Self-Defense party established a Corruption Data Center (CIA) on 6 August with the aim of probing corruption in Polish public life, PAP reported. Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper said the same day in Katowice that his party has received many allegations of corruption from all over the country and keeps thousands of files on such cases. Any allegations that prove true will be passed on to the media and the courts, he added. Self-Defense representatives also announced that 1,000 billboards encouraging Poles to call the center should appear this week all over the country. AM

POLISH PEASANT PARTY LEADER REJECTS CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
Polish Peasant Party (PSL) leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski said on 6 August that he sees no reason to resign his post despite erroneous decisions that have cost the party millions of zlotys, Polish Radio reported. According to a 5 August report in the daily "Rzeczpospolita," two PSL deputies, Zdzislaw Podkanski and Waldemar Pawlak, initiated the call. They blamed Kalinowski for a lost financial opportunity at the PSL and urged him to resign the leadership, the report said. The State Electoral Commission rejected a PSL financial report on the parliamentary elections, thus depriving the PSL of a 7 million-zloty ($1.8 million) refund from the state budget. Kalinowski conceded that negligence resulted in the party not receiving the refund, but he blamed the entire PSL leadership. AM

CZECH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN...
President Vaclav Klaus appointed former Deputy Premier and Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky as the new chairman of the Constitutional Court on 6 August, CTK reported. Rychetsky is a newcomer among Constitutional Court judges. Pavel Hollaender, whom Klaus also appointed on 6 August, is among the court's deputy chairmen. Vojen Guettler was also appointed to the court the same day. Hollaender and Guettler have each served a term as a Constitutional Court judge. MS

...BUT SENATE REJECTS SOME OTHER NOMINEES
The Czech upper house approved President Klaus's proposal to appoint Dagmar Lastovecka as a Constitutional Court judge but rejected three other presidential nominees, CTK reported. Judges Vladimir Balas, Vaclav Pavlicek, and Klara Vesela-Samkova all failed to gain Senate approval. Presidential chief of staff Petr Hajek called the Senate's vote "absolutely scandalous" and said the upper house's decision was "politicized." "The Senate has thus assumed the responsibility for endangering the [proper] functioning of the Constitutional Court, with all related consequences," Hajek said. Last month, the upper house rejected presidential nominee Ales Pejchal. The Senate has thus approved just five of Klaus's nine nominations for the Constitutional Court. Senate President Petr Pithart told the Czech service of the BBC that one of the reasons for the rejection is that candidacies have not been sufficiently discussed with senators before the vote. Pithart said the approval of nominations by the president is a "laborious process" and "the new people in the new president's team are learning this." MS

CZECH REPUBLIC EXTRADITES ALLEGED SLOVAK CRIME BOSS
Czech authorities extradited reputed Slovak crime boss Mikulas Cernak to Slovakia on 6 August, CTK and TASR reported. Cernak's extradition was approved by Rychetsky when he still served as justice minister. Cernak was transported to a maximum-security prison in Ilava, central Slovakia, where he is to serve out his 8 1/2-year sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003), CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY COULD FACE PROSECUTION OVER ENDANGERED PARROTS
Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel has asked the Slovak parliament to lift the immunity from prosecution of Smer (Direction) deputy Dusan Munko to face charges that he kept endangered parrots at his home, TASR reported on 6 August. Munko is charged with illegally possessing 25 such parrots and of being unable to prove how he acquired the birds. Smer reacted to Hanzel's request by saying police are "concentrating on parrot-keepers instead of clearing up frauds worth billions of crowns." The Smer statement also said Munko's birds are "better off than Slovak citizens under the current government of [Prime Minister] Mikulas Dzurinda." MS

SLOVAK SKINHEADS CALL FOR ATTACKS ON 'ENEMIES OF WHITE RACE'
A neofascist group calling itself "NS Slovensko" has posted a list of 28 young Slovaks whom it dubs "enemies of the white race" on the Internet because they engaged in antiracist activities, TASR and CTK reported on 6 August, citing the daily "Pravda." NS Slovensko calls on radical groups to assault those individuals, whose names, addresses, and in some cases birth dates are listed. It also says those listed can have their names removed from the list if they provide the group with the names of three other "militant antifascists," according to CTK. Police Vice President Jaroslav Spisiak said the case is under investigation, but he added that the investigation has run into problems because NS Slovensko's website is located on a Russian server to which Slovak investigators have no access. MS

HUNGARIAN OFFICIALS SUGGEST OVERSIGHT BODY FAILED IN K&H FINANCIAL SCANDAL
Government spokesman Zoltan Gal told reporters on 6 August that the head of an independent state authority -- which he did not name -- could have prevented the illegal transactions at the heart of the K&H loan-for-equities scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June, 10 and 29 July and 4 August 2003), Hungarian media reported. Gal added that evidence to back that assertion will be presented within days. The daily "Nepszabadsag" reported that Gal was alluding to the Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF) and its head, Karoly Szasz. In an interview with Hungarian state television on 6 August, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said he finds it impossible to understand how those irregularities were not uncovered in the past five years, adding that the PSZAF is responsible. MSZ

HUNGARIAN ROMANY COMMUNITY FURTHER DIVIDED
Aladar Horvath, recently ousted as chairman of the National Romany Authority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), announced at a meeting in the northeastern town of Nyiregyhaza on 6 August that he plans to launch a new Romany movement in Hungary, "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. Horvath, who already heads the Romany Rights Movement, said the tasks of the planned movement will include recording the history of Romany residents in all Hungarian settlements, organizing camping trips for children, and providing professional training for Romany adults. Followers of Orban Kolompar, the new head of the National Romany Authority, repeatedly clashed with Horvath's supporters during the meeting. MSZ

POSSIBLE SERBIAN PEACEKEEPING MISSION BECOMES DOMESTIC POLITICAL ISSUE
Speaking in Belgrade on 6 August, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic confirmed media reports that he recently discussed a possible peacekeeping mission for Serbian troops in Liberia with Jacques Klein, who heads the UN mission to that war-torn West African country, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). Zivkovic stressed that it was Klein who brought up the topic. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac and unnamed Defense Ministry officials said participation in peacekeeping missions is especially welcome for political reasons, particularly for promoting good relations with the United States, "Vesti" and "Danas" reported. The Defense Ministry officials stressed that Serbia could make a good showing in U.S. eyes by sending top units to Iraq, such as the paratroopers of the 63rd Special Brigade or the commandos of the 72nd Special Brigade, which Belgrade military officials claim are better trained than the best troops of several countries belonging to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The opposition Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), however, said that Zivkovic had no business discussing the matter. Several politicians stressed that any decision to send peacekeepers may be made only by Serbia and Montenegro's Supreme Defense Council as a whole or by the parliament. PM

MACEDONIAN LEADERS STRESS UNITY
Macedonian Prime Minster Branko Crvenkovski and Ali Ahmeti, who heads the governing Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and is a former ethnic Albanian guerrilla leader, visited Debar along the Albanian border on 6 August in a demonstration of national unity, "Southeast European Times" reported. Both men stressed the importance of implementing the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement and resisting opposition plans to partition Macedonia along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 28 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 and 25 April 2003). PM

MACEDONIAN STATE TO LEASE LAND TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS
The Agriculture and the Labor and Social Affairs ministries will lease about 745 hectares of arable land for three to five years to unemployed people who receive welfare benefits, MIA news agency reported on 6 August. The land will be provided rent-free to individuals who have been registered with the state unemployment office for more than one year. Agriculture Minister Slavko Petrov said the decision is part of the fight against rural poverty and will contribute to the rational use of state-owned land. In related news, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jovan Manasievski told journalists that some 3,600 unemployed people recently found new jobs under a state employment scheme known as the Branko Act, named after Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. UB

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION APPROVES AMENDMENT PROPOSALS BEFORE SENATE VOTE
The ad hoc constitutional commission tasked with examining possible amendments to the constitution completed its work on 6 August, approving 33 proposed amendments out of the 234 submitted to it by various political parties, Mediafax reported. Eleven proposals were withdrawn by lawmakers and 190 were rejected. The approved proposals will now be submitted to an extraordinary session of the upper house that is slated to begin its work on 25 August. The Greater Romania Party boycotted the commission. MS

ROMANIAN FUGITIVE EXTRADITED FROM UNITED STATES
Former Bankcoop President Alexandru Dinulescu arrived in Romania on 5 August after being extradited by the United States, AP reported the next day. Dinulescu was convicted in September 1988 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for demanding tens of thousands of U.S. dollars from customers in exchange for loan approvals. He was recently arrested in Philadelphia on an Interpol warrant. A court declared Bankcoop insolvent in 2000, although it is not clear whether the bank's troubles were linked to Dinulescu's performance as bank president. MS

U.S. DIPLOMATS DEFEND PLAN FOR MOLDOVAN FEDERALIZATION...
In an opinion piece in the "The Wall Street Journal Europe" of 5 August, three U.S. diplomats involved in the efforts to resolve the Transdniester conflict defended the plan for Moldova's federalization. Stephan Minikes, who is U.S. representative to the OSCE; Rudolf Perina, U.S. special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts; and Pamela Hyde Smith, U.S. Ambassador to Moldova, wrote that for 10 years the sides involved in the conflict "were unable to agree on a mutually acceptable framework to end the division of the country." They said it was only after the submission of the plan that "the separatist authorities in Transdniester indicated for the first time that they were willing...to be part of the Republic of Moldova." The three diplomats dismissed the argument that the proposed federal solution "would halt Moldova's efforts at European integration." "In reality, the opposite is true," because until the conflict is resolved "Moldova will not be an attractive candidate for European integration." They also wrote that the United States wants the resolution of the conflict to be "acceptable to the majority of Moldovans" and to "pave the way for increased democratization and economic development in Europe's poorest country." MS

...AND NEGOTIATORS MAKE PROGRESS ON DRAFTING FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
Moldovan and Transdniester negotiators on the joint constitutional commission tasked with drafting the federal constitution have nearly finalized the basic document's first chapter, which deals with citizens' fundamental rights, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 6 August. The chapter has more than 30 articles. The sides were not able to bridge differences that remain over citizenship. While Chisinau insists on a unified citizenry, Tiraspol is adamant that the federal constitution mention separate citizenships for Moldovans and Transdniestrians. The commission will start work next week on the constitutional chapter that deals with the federal state's structures. MS

MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MILITARY REFORM UNDER WAY
Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc said on 6 August that Moldova has started reforming its military in line with decisions approved in February by the parliament, Flux and ITAR-TASS reported. Gaiciuc said the decisions stipulate the "creation of a small but well-trained army." The first phase of the reform, he said, will last from August to September and will involve the discharge of 400 officers and 100 civilians, thus reducing the numerical strength of the army's personnel from 7,300 to 6,800. Gaiciuc noted that the discharged personnel will undergo training to facilitate their success in finding jobs in the civil sector. ITAR-TASS reported that reforms recently initiated by President Vladimir Voronin also include cutting 500 staff positions from the Information and Security Service. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTS HEAD OF DEPARTMENT FOR EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan was appointed by the cabinet on 6 August as the head of the newly established European Integration Department, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The department will be in charge of implementing Moldova's strategy for European integration and supervising the use of EU funds. MS

NEW DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER SAYS BULGARIA'S 'TAX CULTURE' MUST IMPROVE
Newly appointed Deputy Finance Minister Stamen Tasev told journalists during his first press conference on 6 August that one of his main tasks will be to improve the tax culture among citizens, "Dnevnik" reported. "We will try to teach people that anyone who does not take the receipt, for instance, will become an accomplice and will facilitate tax fraud," Tasev said. Before his appointment, Tasev served, among other things, as Bulgarian trade attache in the United States and as a manager for Sony Bulgaria. He worked in the Finance Ministry between 1984 and 1993. UB

MOTHERS OF RUSSIAN GUANTANAMO DETAINEES FEAR SONS' EXTRADITION
Among the some 600 suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan and now detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are eight Russian citizens. Russia is eager to see the eight men returned, and First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov was recently in Washington to discuss their possible extradition. However, some of the detainees' mothers fear that their sons would be subject to harassment and imprisonment upon their return.

The detainees are Shamil Khadzhiev and Ravil Gumarov from Bashkortostan, Rasul Kudaev and Ruslan Odigov from Kabardino-Balkaria, Ravil Mingazov and Airat Vakhitov from Tatarstan, Rustam Akmerov from Chelyabinsk, and Timur Ishmuradov from Tyumen Oblast.

Amina Hasanova, Vakhitov's mother, said her son was born in Tatarstan, and as an adult became the imam at a mosque in that Russian republic. Hasanova said her son went to Chechnya in 1999 to study Islam, but was quickly detained by Chechen fighters, who suspected him of being a Russian spy. He was released after several months and returned to Tatarstan.

At that point, Hasanova said, her son began to experience harassment by the Russian security services, and he fled to Afghanistan. Hasanova said she learned of her son's detention in Guantanamo after receiving a letter from him last November. "He writes that he is treated kindly and with respect, that he has good food, cleanliness, and as he says in his letter, he feels better than if he was at the best Russian sanatoriums," according to Hasanova.

Hasanova said her son also writes that his fellow detainees are friendly toward him, and that they often lend each other copies of the Koran and pray together. Hasanova is aware of the Russian efforts to extradite the detainees for trial at home, and says the thought fills her with dread.

"I am terribly afraid that he might be returned to Russia and put into a Russian prison," Hasanova said. "I am afraid of everything in the Russian jails. It is better for me that he remains there than to be jailed in Russia."

Kudaev's mother, Nina Adizheva, said her son left Russia for Afghanistan after being persecuted for his Muslim activities at home, and claims he could not have fought in Afghanistan because of his weak health. Kudaev is now in detention in Guantanamo Bay, and his mother said she fears he will be prosecuted, tortured, and killed if he is extradited to Russia.

"I appeal to the government of the United States: Do not extradite my son to Russia, because he went to Afghanistan before 11 September and he is not a terrorist, but a victim of political repression [at home]," Adizheva said. "I also appeal to the countries of the European Union and ask them to grant my son political asylum, because if he returns home his life will be in great danger."

Many countries whose nationals are currently among the Guantanamo detainees are seeking their extradition. Zumrati Juma, the mother of one of nine British nationals, told a press conference recently that she fears for her son, who has been detained for 18 months. She said she has not heard from him since February, and asked for British authorities to facilitate her son's return.

British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith opened talks with U.S. counterparts last week over the fate of the British citizens detained at Guantanamo. He has reportedly won U.S. assurances that some of the detainees will not face the death penalty, including Juma's son, Feroz Abbasi.

The situation is different in Russia. Some of the families of the detainees say they feel abandoned by the authorities.

Detainee Shamil Khadzhiev worked as an investigator in Bashkortostan and later left for Chechnya to serve with the Russian troops. He then disappeared, and his mother later received a letter from him when he was already at Guantanamo Bay. She said Russian officials have offered her no assistance in getting information about her son, and that she knows nothing about the status of the negotiations between the U.S. and Russian officials.

RFE/RL's repeated efforts to learn from the Russian Foreign Ministry about what Russia is doing to secure the release of the detainees were unsuccessful.

Amnesty International has repeatedly accused the United States of violating the rights of the Guantanamo detainees. In a press release issued early this year, the group detailed the detainees' conditions: "No access to the courts, lawyers, or relatives; the prospect of indefinite detention in small cells for up to 24 hours a day; the possibility of trials by executive military commissions with the power to hand down death sentences and no right of appeal."

Still, some Russian citizens say this is no worse a fate for the detainees than the prospect of being returned to Russia.

Valentinas Mite is an RFE/RL correspondent.

RIGHTS GROUP OUTRAGED AT CONFIRMATION OF JOURNALISTS' DEATH SENTENCES
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement issued on 6 August expressed its outrage at the Afghan Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the death sentences passed on journalists Sayyed Husayn Mahdawi and Ali Reza Payam. The two were found guilty of blasphemy for articles published in the weekly journal "Aftab" of 11 June in which they criticized some of Afghanistan's Islamic leaders and the way Islam is practiced in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 June 2003). In a letter to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, RSF expressed regret that the conservatives who dominate the Afghan judicial system are once again abusing their power by attacking freedom of expression. The organization urged Karzai to ensure the safety of the two journalists and called for the Supreme Court to be reformed "so that it becomes an independent body that guarantees individual freedoms." The death sentences were recently suggested by a council of ulama (Muslim scholars) and were subsequently passed down by Supreme Court Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari. AT

OUTGOING ISAF COMMANDER HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR SECURITY, BUT DOUBTS FORCE WILL BE EXPANDED
German Lieutenant General Norbert van Heyst, who will hand over International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command to German Lieutenant General and NATO officer Goetz Gliemeroth on 11 August, said on 6 August that while it is vitally important that security be established to ensure the success of the Afghan general elections scheduled for May-June 2004, he does not "see anybody who is willing to provide" the 9,000-10,000 soldiers required to expand the ISAF's mission beyond Kabul, Reuters reported. It has been suggested that the ISAF's role might expand under NATO's command, but Van Heyst said there is not sufficient time to implement such an expansion before the elections. He suggested that a more realistic measure would be to expand the role of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). As most of the countries providing forces to the antiterrorism coalition in Afghanistan and to the PRTs are also members of NATO, by assuming command of ISAF the alliance might be able to provide logistical support to the PRTs. AT

AFGHAN TRIBAL LEADERS PLEDGE TO SUPPORT BORDER POLICE
Elders from the Mangal tribe in Paktiya Province offered during a meeting with Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali on 6 August to send young men from their tribe to participate in the new national police force and, in particular, for recruitment to the border police, Radio Afghanistan reported. It is not clear from the report whether the Mangal tribal leaders are offering to send the recruits to join the nascent Afghan National Army or to support tribal militias (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 January 2003). AT

MAN KILLED IN MINE BLAST ON JALALABAD-KONAR ROAD
A man was killed when the vehicle he was traveling in hit a mine on the Jalalabad-Konar road on 6 August, Radio Afghanistan reported. The victim was reportedly a relative of one of the governmental authorities of Konar Province. No arrests have been made in connection with the incident. AT

IMAM'S GRANDSON DEFENDS IRAN'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said in a meeting with members of the University Basij on the evening of 5 July that public morale should not be harmed by drawing a negative picture of events, "Entekhab" daily newspaper reported on 7 August. He said negative comments by the factions of the left and right do not reflect reality, and in fact many great things have been accomplished since the 1979 revolution. Among the accomplishments he cited is the increase in the number of university students (from 70,000 to 1.5 million), the acquisition of nuclear know-how, and the increase in electricity generation. BS

TOP IRANIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS OUTSTANDING ISSUES
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, judicary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, cabinet members, parliamentarians, senior military and security commanders, and other national leaders on 6 August, state television reported. On domestic issues, Khamenei mentioned the importance of the Five-Year Development Plan and said that all activities should take place within a constitutional framework. Khamenei also called on officials and political factions to maintain unity in the run-up to the seventh parliamentary elections, which are due to take place in spring 2004. On international issues, Khamenei warned that the United States and Israel are the centers of hostility against Iran, and he added, "Internal cohesion, resistance, and firm resolve for a legitimate and rational defense is the only correct way of confronting the enemies of the nation and [of] the Islamic system." BS

NINE IRANIAN STUDENTS RELEASED FROM JAIL
In response to Supreme Leader Khamenei's order that judicial officials show leniency toward students detained following the June and July unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003), the Tehran Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the immediate release of nine students, Reuters reported on 6 August, citing IRNA. This is reportedly just the first stage of releases. Those released include student leaders Abdullah Momeni and Reza Ameri-Nasab, as well as Mehdi Shirzad, who is the son of a parliamentarian. The supreme leader's involvement might have saved Ameri-Nasab's life: According to Amnesty International, Judge Said Mortazavi told Ameri-Nasab's parents that they should prepare a tombstone for their son (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 August 2003). BS

IRANIAN STUDENT GROUP ALLEGEDLY BEING SQUEEZED
Said Elah-Bedashti, a member of the Tehran council of the Office for Strengthening Unity student organization, said his group is in a tight spot, the "Mardom Salari" daily newspaper reported on 5 August. Political factions that want to see his group dissolved are on one side, he said; on the other side is the radicalization brought about by the refusal of President Khatami, the reformists, and the system to meet the accumulated demands of the students. Elah-Bedashti criticized Khatami's passivity. BS

IRANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING BILL
The Iranian parliament approved the general outlines of a bill to combat money laundering on 5 August, IRNA reported the next day. Under the bill, property owners must provide evidence of the origin of the funds used to buy real estate or shares on the stock exchange, and those who fail to provide such evidence could have their assets confiscated or be liable for a fine of at least one-fourth of the illegal property's value. The legislation is intended to help identify money originating from illegal activities, such as embezzlement from the government, racketeering, smuggling of goods or drugs, or gambling. Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri told IRNA that the legislation will reform the economy, improve investment security, and reduce unemployment. BS

IRAN-U.A.E. TIES CONTINUE TO DEVELOP
The Abu Dhabi customs organization announced on 6 August that Iran was its top trading partner in the first six months of 2003, IRNA reported. More than $51 million worth of goods was re-exported from the Persian Gulf state to Iran. Three days earlier, IRNA reported that Iranian caviar would become available on the United Arab Emirates' (U.A.E.) market legally for the first time after the Iranian Fisheries Company licensed an Emirates firm. The Fisheries Company had suspended its cooperation with U.A.E. firms because of the absence of regulations governing caviar sales. The first consignment reportedly will weigh 120 kilograms and will be worth about $79,700. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and U.A.E. President Sheikh Zayyid bin Zayyid al-Nuhayyan had a telephone conversation on 3 August in which they stressed that the expansion of ties would contribute to regional peace, stability, and progress, according to an IRNA dispatch. Nevertheless, relations are bedeviled by the two sides' dispute over three Persian Gulf islands -- Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs -- that have been occupied by Iranian troops since 1971. BS

SEVERAL KILLED IN BAGHDAD EXPLOSION
Several people died when what is believed to have been a car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad on 7 August. Al-Jazeera reported that the explosion tore the building's facade off and caused extensive damage to the structure and to vehicles parked on the street. Local hospital officials told AFP that around 20 people had been transported to the hospital. Meanwhile, CNN quoted Iraqi police saying that five officers guarding the embassy and four civilian passersby were killed in the blast. There were no initial reports of casualties from inside the building. Jordan and a number of other Arab states have been criticized in recent weeks in statements issued by anti-U.S. militant groups in Iraq for their cooperation with coalition forces. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. AP reported that Iraqi men chanted anti-Jordanian slogans and stormed the gate of the embassy after the blast, smashing pictures of Jordan's King Abdullah II and his late father, King Hussein. KR

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER DISCUSSES PROGRESS
Iraqi National Accord head and Iraq Governing Council member Iyad Allawi told Reuters in an interview published on 6 August that the council is making progress as it works to build an Iraqi government. "We have surveyed damage inflicted on the ministries and started to discuss naming a cabinet," he told the news agency. "Most probably it will be a government of technocrats rather than politicians." Asked about the council's decision to opt for a rotating leadership rather than a prime minister, Allawi said, "We believe that appointing a prime minister would further complicate red tape and bureaucracy, so we decided that the council will act as a prime minister." He said that one of the council's highest priorities is to work for national elections. "We are actively working to hold elections next year in the period from June to September," he said. "This is our ambition." He said council members envision a federal government, saying: "A federation does not mean separation [of ethnic and religious groups]. Instead, it helps boost national unity." KR

ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF KURDISTAN PROTESTS LEADER'S ARREST
Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Rahim, a member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan's consultative council, told London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 5 August that the movement's leader was unjustly arrested by U.S. forces in Halabjah. He claimed that Mullah Ali Abd al-Aziz is a member of the former Iraqi opposition who has since called for "means other than weapons" to further the movement's agenda. Asked about reports linking the movement to the terrorist Ansar Al-Islam group, Abd al-Rahim said, "The Ansar Al-Islam group members were not happy with our new [nonviolent] policy. They are vehemently opposed to the stand of [Abd al-Aziz] on cooperation with the provincial [Kurdistan] government and the movement's participation in municipal elections." Asked whether the movement will disarm its fighters, he said, "Every party in the world should reconsider its stands and policies every now and then, and this applies to us.... We believe that our priorities at this current stage are limited to preaching and guidance. And I assure you that we have no training or other camps. All our activities are now confined to party organizational affairs." KR

IRAQI POLICE ARREST BROTHER OF HUSSEIN BODYGUARD
Iraqi police arrested the brother of one of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's bodyguards who was wanted for organizing militant attacks, AP reported on 6 August, quoting a U.S. military official. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell did not identify the man by name but said he is the brother of former Hussein bodyguard Adnan Abdullah Abid al-Muslit, who was captured by U.S. forces on 29 July in Tikrit. Meanwhile, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division reportedly detained 18 suspected former regime loyalists in seven overnight raids on 5-6 August across north-central Iraq. KR

U.S. FORCES CAPTURE SUSPECTED MILITANT LEADERS IN IRAQ
U.S. forces captured three men who they believe are Iraqi militant leaders in predawn raids in Tikrit on 7 August, international media reported. One man who was arrested after a raid on a workers' hostel is thought to be a "national fedayeen [Saddam devotee] leader" who funds and arms resistance outside Tikrit, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Russell said, according to Reuters. The other two are believed to have served as generals under the defunct Hussein regime. Those men were captured in separate raids at an undisclosed village south of Tikrit, Reuters reported. Russell said the three men are believed to have held meetings, adding, "We're very interested to know what they were up to." Thirty-eight individuals were briefly detained in the hostel raid and later released with the military's apology. "As we cast a wide net for sharks, we catch dolphins too. And we apologize," Russell said. 6 August marked the fifth straight day that no U.S. military personnel were reported killed in Iraq, AP reported the same day. KR

CENTCOM SAYS IRAQIS ARE TURNING IN WEAPONS
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported two separate incidents of Iraqi citizens turning in proscribed arms to the police and military in a 6 August press release posted on the CENTCOM website (http://www.centcom.mil). In one incident, an Iraqi turned himself in to Iraqi police in the 4th Infantry Division's area of operation, claiming that local former regime loyalists had forced him to conceal weapons for them. The man handed over three AK-47s, one 60-millimeter mortar, five 60-millimeter mortar rounds, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, six rocket-propelled grenade rounds, and other ammunition. In a separate incident, an Iraqi citizen handed in a rocket-propelled grenade and "an assortment of materials used to make improvised explosive devices [IEDs]" to 4th Infantry Division soldiers. The citizen also provided soldiers with information about an individual who instructs people on how to build IEDs, the press release stated. KR

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