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Newsline - August 25, 2003


FORMER NTV OWNER ARRESTED IN GREECE...
Vladimir Gusinskii, the self-exiled former oligarch and former owner of Media-MOST, was arrested on 21 August in the Athens airport by local police acting on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia and on a bilateral law enforcement agreement, Western and Russian news agencies reported. On 25 August, the Athens Appeals Court ruled that Gusinskii will be held in jail until a decision regarding possible extradition is made, which will be not sooner than in 45 days. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has accused Gusinskii of massive fraud and of illegally transferring $263 million out of Russia. Gusinskii has denied all the accusations and maintains that all Moscow's legal actions against him, including his latest arrest, are politically motivated, RFE/RL's Russian Service, gazeta.ru, and pravda.ru reported on 24 August. VY

...AS RUSSIA SEEKS HIS EXTRADITION...
Gusinskii, who has both Russian and Israeli citizenship, arrived in Athens to spend his vacation with his family, which was awaiting him aboard a yacht in the Athens port. The Prosecutor-General's Office and the Russian Embassy in Athens declined to comment on the arrest. Pravda.ru on 24 August speculated that the Russian government's extradition request might be based on testimony from former Media-MOST chief financial officer Anton Titov, who might have testified that Gusinskii directed him to develop a scheme to move a $263 million loan from the state-owned natural-gas company Gazprom out of Russia. In 2001, Titov was arrested, and in 2002 he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for fraud. However, he was released the same day under the terms of an amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002). VY

...IN LATEST TWIST IN LONG-RUNNING FEUD
In 2000-01, Gusinskii was caught up in a political confrontation with the Kremlin administration of President Vladimir Putin, in the course of which the Prosecutor-General's Office accused him of fraud and money laundering. Analysts believe the Kremlin targeted Gusinskii because his media outlets sharply criticized the government's campaign in Chechnya and other Kremlin policies. He was briefly arrested in Moscow in 2000, and soon after he was released he left the country. In 2001, he was arrested at Russia's request at his villa in Spain, but a Spanish court later that year declined to extradite him. The same year, Interpol refused Russia's demand to issue an arrest warrant for Gusinskii, saying the request was politically motivated. Meanwhile, the Media-MOST holding was systematically dismantled, as the daily newspaper "Segodnya" was closed, and Gazprom took control of the NTV television station and the weekly news magazine "Itogi." VY

SAKHALIN GOVERNOR'S BODY FOUND NEAR DOWNED HELICOPTER...
The bodies of all 17 passengers -- including Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov and many members of the oblast's leadership -- and three crew members of a missing M-8 helicopter were found on 23 August, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 August 2003). Also among the dead were Farkhutdinov's press secretary; the oblast's chief financial specialist; its chief doctor; and the head of the oblast's construction department; the head of the oblast's health, housing, and communal-services department; the heads of the oblast's transportation department; and the head of its fuel and energy department, as well as the directors of three private companies, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 August. JAC

...AS CAUSE OF CRASH REMAINS UNKNOWN
The helicopter went missing on 20 August, and presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii told reporters on 22 August that there were numerous violations of air-safety rules and norms regulating the transportation of high-ranking officials, according to ORT. However, the cause of the crash has not yet been determined, and President Putin on 23 August ordered that a state commission be set up to investigate the crash, ITAR-TASS reported. Oblast Deputy Governor Ivan Malakhov has been named acting governor until a new one can be elected. JAC

PROSECUTORS WIND UP INVESTIGATION OF MENATEP CHAIRMAN
The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 22 August that it has completed its investigation into the embezzlement charges against Menatep Chairman and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev and has handed its findings over to his lawyers, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported on 22 August. Lebedev was arrested in July on suspicion of having embezzled nearly $300 million in a 1994 privatization deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). Later, the state added additional charges of tax evasion to bring a four-count indictment. Lebedev's lawyers maintain their client's innocence and say the charges are politically motivated. One unidentified defense lawyer told "Izvestiya" that Lebedev's case comprises 146 volumes, meaning that the investigating team produced an unprecedented 2 1/2 300-page volumes per day during the probe. Defense lawyers also expressed the hope that now that the investigation is completed, Lebedev can be released on bail pending his trial. VY

SPAIN EXTRADITES ALLEGED MOSCOW CRIME BOSS
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced on 23 August that Spain has extradited to Russia the accused leader of the so-called Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, RTR and ORT reported. Marat Polyanskii is accused of being involved in more than 30 murders. He was arrested in Spain together with his bodyguard in 2001 and sentenced there to 8 1/2 years in prison for a number of crimes. Gryzlov said that with Polyanskii's extradition, the Orekhovo group will virtually cease to exist. Interior Ministry official Vladimir Pronin announced on 23 August that Moscow expects that Spain will soon extradite another alleged Orekhovo group leader, Andrei Pylev. Pylev was arrested in Barcelona on 7 August and is accused of organizing 35 murders, Pronin said. VY

FAR EAST MILITARY EXERCISES ENTER FINAL STAGES
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov arrived in Vladivostok on 24 August aboard a Tu-160 strategic bomber to oversee the final stage of a major military exercise being held in the Bering and Okhotsk seas and the Sea of Japan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003), Russian media reported. Ivanov observed special-forces antiterrorism drills in Primorskii Krai and visited other military units on 24 and 25 August. Navy commander and Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov told journalists that "foreign submarines" are observing the exercises, newsru.com reported on 25 August. He did not say to which countries those vessels might belong, but did say that they are not submarines of any countries participating in or officially observing the exercises. He said that China, South Korea, and Canada have sent observers, while the United States, Japan, and South Korea declined invitations to do so. VY

FSB DIRECTOR SCALES NEW HEIGHTS
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev participated in exercises of the elite Alfa antiterrorism force on 21-23 August on Mount Elbrus in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 24 August. In the course of the exercises, FSB units liquidated a group of "terrorists" that had set up a hidden base on the slope of the mountain. With a group of Alfa officers, Patrushev climbed the 5,642-meter mountain, which is the highest peak in Europe. VY

LEADING AEROSPACE COMPANY INCLUDED IN STATE PRIVATIZATION PLAN
The government has included aircraft producer MiG in its privatization plan for 2004, which was signed on 21 August by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 August. MiG General Director Nikolai Nikitin told the daily that he has no information about the terms of the impending privatization. However, the newspaper reported that the enterprise will not be turned over to private hands and that a controlling packet of shares in the company will remain under the state's control. A total of 1,000 companies are included in the state's 2004 privatization plan. VY

GLAZEV-LED BLOC TALLIES UP MORE THAN A DOZEN PARTIES
State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazev announced on 24 August that the Russian Regions Party has created a coalition of leftwing patriotic parties and movements, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported. Representatives of 16 or 17 parties and movements have signed an agreement forming the new coalition, according to the reports. Many of the parties are fairly small, such as For Holy Russia and the Union movement. Glazev is co-chairman of the Russian Regions Party, along with State Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin. Among the coalition's goals are defending the rights of Russians abroad and resolving the "Kaliningrad problem," Rogozin said. According to Ekho Moskvy on 23 August, Glazev also announced that Airborne Troops Commander Colonel General Georgii Shpak and former Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko have expressed interest in supporting the coalition. JAC

SLOWLY TURN THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE IN JOURNALIST'S MURDER CASE
The Moscow Military District Court was scheduled to open on 25 August a new trial in connection with the 1994 murder of "Moskovskii komsomolets" investigative journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, RIA-Novosti reported on 25 August. The new trial was scheduled to open on 21 July, but was postponed due to the absence of one of the lawyers for the accused (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003). In June 2002, the Moscow Military District Court acquitted Colonel Pavel Popovskikh, a unit commander in the Russian Airborne Troops, and five of his comrades. However, the Supreme Court's Military Collegium, at the request of the Prosecutor-General's Office, overturned that acquittal in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2003) and sent the case back to the Moscow Military District Court for retrial. JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN BLASTED FOR MEDIA CENSORSHIP
Russian Union of Journalists General Secretary Igor Yakovenko has denounced republican authorities in Bashkortostan for their unstinting efforts to limit freedom of speech, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 August. The union found that 17 national newspapers and magazines were subject to direct censorship during May and July of this year. Either articles were cut or whole editions were never delivered to the republic. In addition, according to the daily, the opposition radio station Retro-Ufa was not allowed to renew its broadcasting contract. Yakovenko declared that Bashkortostan has the most odious political regime in Russia and that many of its laws violate the Russian Constitution, Regnum reported on 20 August. JAC

REGIONS RESIST ENACTING NEW LAND CODE
During an inspection of how 30 of Russia's 89 regions are implementing the new Land Code, the Prosecutor-General's Office has found numerous violations, Radio Rossii reported on 22 August. According to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, more than 200 criminal proceedings have been instituted, and 3,500 claims for the invalidation of land deals have been sent to the courts. In April, President Putin gave his envoys to the seven federal districts a deadline of 14 July to bring regional legislation into line with federal law (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 May 2003). The Land Code came into effect in January. JAC

KREMLIN DOES SOME HORSE TRADING IN KIROV?
The next gubernatorial election in Kirov Oblast will be held on 7 December simultaneously with State Duma elections, Regnum reported on 21 August, citing unidentified sources in the presidential administration. According to these sources, incumbent Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov has been in negotiations with the Kremlin over his support or noninterference in the race to succeed him in exchange for a spot in the federal nomenclature. The last election in that oblast, when Sergeenkov was elected to his second term, was also brought forward by seven months to coincide with the March 2000 presidential elections. JAC

FIVE CHECHENS ABDUCTED AT GUNPOINT IN INGUSHETIA
Up to 40 masked gunmen snatched five Chechens from the waiting room of a clinic in Nazran, former capital of neighboring Ingushetia, on 21 August, "The Independent" reported two days later. A spokesman for the Ingushetian Interior Ministry said the gunmen are believed to be members of the Chechen security police headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. A spokesman for the latter rejected that claim as intended to sully Kadyrov's reputation in the run-up to the 5 October Chechen presidential ballot, in which he is the clear favorite. LF

ARMENIA PLEDGES TO MEET COMMITMENTS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE
During talks in Yerevan on 22 August, Armenian parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian assured a two-man fact-finding team from the Council of Europe that Yerevan is determined to fulfill its obligations to the council, including ratifying Protocol No. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights abolishing the death penalty, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliament deputy speaker Tigran Torosian said that by 25 September parliament deputies will vote to abolish a legal loophole that provides for capital punishment in exceptional circumstances. That clause would have allowed the execution of the five men currently on trial for shooting eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999 if they are convicted. LF

OSCE CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI SHOOTING
In a statement released on 22 August, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative Andrzej Kasprzyk said he has been unable to determine which side was responsible for opening fire on 19 August on the Line of Contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces while OSCE officials were monitoring that section of the line, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 22 August 2003). Kasprzyk called on both sides to conduct investigations of the incident that would include consultations by military representatives from the two countries. Azerbaijan blamed the incident on Armenian forces, and Yerevan has denied responsibility. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADERS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The leaders of Azerbaijan's four most influential opposition parties -- Isa Gambar (Musavat), Etibar Mamedov (Azerbaijan National Independence Party), Ali Kerimli (Azerbaijan Popular Front Party [AHCP]-reformist wing), and Rasul Guliev (Democratic Party of Azerbaijan) -- failed to reach agreement during talks in London on 24 August on selecting a single opposition candidate to contest the 15 October presidential election, Turan reported on 25 August. Kerimli stated earlier this month that he would withdraw his candidacy if agreement was reached on a single candidate, but Interfax on 22 August quoted Gambar as saying he was reluctant to do so as he believes most voters will vote for him. Gambar, Mamedov, and Kerimli are all registered to contest the ballot, from which Guliev was barred on the grounds that he is resident in the United States and holds U.S. permanent residency. The four leaders did, however, agree to establish a movement for democratic stability, the primary objective of which to is replace the current stability which, the four say, is based on military and police repression with voluntary stability based on popular consensus. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION UNDER PRESSURE IN NAKHICHEVAN
Police in the exclave of Nakhichevan intervened on 22 August to break up a ceremony to commemorate the third anniversary of the death of former Azerbaijani President and AHCP Chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2000). The previous evening, police attacked and beat up AHCP-conservative wing and Musavat Party activists in the exclave's Shahbuz Raion. LF

GEORGIAN STATE MINISTER PLAYS DOWN FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH IMF CONDITIONS
For lack of a quorum, the Georgian parliament on 22 August failed yet again to debate and endorse the budget cuts proposed by the government in response to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) ultimatum, Caucasus Press reported. Deputy Finance Minister Zurab Soselia told Caucasus Press the same day that Georgia is in danger of defaulting on its foreign-debt repayments. He explained that IMF support for Georgia in its talks with Paris Club creditors in October was contingent on meeting the IMF's deadline (originally set for 15 August and then extended by one week) for approving the budget cuts. Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze said on 23 August that if parliament fails to approve the cuts by 26 August -- the last day of the present emergency session -- the Finance Minister has the right unilaterally to cut budget expenditures by up to 10 percent, which would satisfy the IMF, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia will begin talks in early September with its CIS creditors within the framework of the CIS Economic Council. LF

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL FOCUSES ON CRIME IN WESTERN GEORGIA
At a 22 August session chaired by President Eduard Shevardnadze, the National Security Council discussed how to crack down on crime in western Georgia's mountainous Svaneti region, where foreign tourists are routinely attacked and robbed, Caucasus Press reported. An ad hoc working group will study the crime situation in Svaneti and draft an action plan, which Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said will entail separate small-scale operations against known criminals. LF

WAR VETERANS DEMAND RESIGNATION OF ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT IN EXILE
Five Georgian veterans of the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia who began an open-ended hunger strike on 21 August to demand the resignation of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile said on 25 August that they will no longer consume even fluids, Caucasus Press reported. They argued that Londer Tsaava, who heads the exile government, is incapable of resolving the problems of the Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during that conflict. They appealed for support to Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, but Nadareishvili, whose 24-year-old son, Vladimir, was recently named justice minister in the exile government, refused. LF

HIZB UT-TAHRIR SAID TO BE MORE ACTIVE IN NORTHERN KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service announced on 23 August that the extremist Muslim movement Hizb ut-Tahrir is becoming more active in the northern part of Kyrgyzstan, as indicated by the number of arrests in the region in the first half of this year, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 24 August. According to the security service, 18 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in the Chui, Issyk-Kul, and Talas oblasts during this period. Some of those arrested were residents of these areas. Ten of the detainees are reportedly facing criminal charges for distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets. The same source added that about 2,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. BB

OPPOSITION CONGRESS HELD IN KYRGYZSTAN
A nationwide kurultai (congress) of Kyrgyz opposition groups was held in southern Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion on 23 August, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 24 August. One prominent participant, NGO coalition For Democracy and Civil Society head Edil Baysalov, was quoted as saying afterward that the congress had made no positive decisions. The congress adopted a series of resolutions, however, one of which blamed President Askar Akaev for the country's poor economic situation, and another called for the government's resignation. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov, commenting later on the congress, said the government will not step down, because the country is stable and progress is being made in agriculture. According to an Interfax report on 22 August, the congress was supposed to plan an opposition strategy for the presidential election that is scheduled for 2005, but which some opposition figures expect will be moved forward -- possibly to later this year. BB

DELEGATION OF U.S. CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
A delegation of 19 staffers from both houses of the U.S. Congress visited Kyrgyzstan on 22-24 August, "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported on 25 August. The group was led by a senior adviser of the USA-Asia Foundation, General Electric Vice President Rob Wallace. The delegation met with President Akaev, who briefed the visitors on the political situation in Kyrgyzstan, including the February referendum on constitutional changes and the creation of the ombudsman's office. The group also met with Kyrgyz parliamentarians and presidential-staff members. The chairman of Kyrgyzstan's upper house, Altai Borubaev, appealed for closer ties between the parliaments of the two countries. According to the reports, this is the ninth time a U.S. congressional-staff delegation has visited Kyrgyzstan to learn about the political, economic, and social situation in the country. BB

TURKMEN ANTITERRORISM LAW PUBLISHED
The Turkmen media published the text of a law on combating terrorism on 22 August, Interfax reported. The law was approved during a session of the Halk Maslahaty (People's Assembly) on 15 August. According to the report, the law prohibits complying with demands made by terrorists. In particular, convicts or detainees may not be released to further negotiations with terrorists, nor may terrorists be given weapons or anything else that might endanger human lives. Turkmenistan.ru reported on 24 August that the antiterrorism law also calls for the creation of a commission to coordinate the work of agencies involved in antiterrorism activities. These include the Interior, National Security, and Defense ministries, as well as the presidential security service, the border and customs services, the service for registering foreigners, and the Prosecutor-General's Office. BB

U.S. GIVES UZBEK BORDER TROOPS 17 TONS OF COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT
The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent handed over 17 tons of communications and other equipment worth $1.8 million to the Uzbek border and customs services on 22 August, RIA-Novosti reported. The equipment -- which includes surveillance equipment, protective and medical supplies, transport, and radios and antennas -- is part of a program for export control and border protection that is being financed by the U.S. State Department. According to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, since the start of the program in April 2000, the government of Uzbekistan has received $5.3 million worth of equipment and training. Lieutenant General Gafurjon Tishaev, head of Uzbekistan's Committee for Protecting the State Border, attributed the U.S. generosity to the common U.S. and Uzbek interest in fighting terrorism, drug and weapons trafficking, and organized crime. BB

FORMER BELARUSIAN RAILWAYS CHIEF SENTENCED FOR ABUSE OF POWER
The Supreme Court on 22 August sentenced Viktar Rakhmanko, former chief of the Belarusian Railways, to 21 months' imprisonment for abuse of power and forgery, Belapan reported. The court also banned Rakhmanko from occupying administrative positions for five years. However, Rakhmanko was immediately released, since he already spent 21 months in pretrial detention and under house arrest. Rakhmanko was arrested in November 2001 on charges of inflicting serious damage on the state by abusing his position for personal gain. The arrest took place without the formal approval of the Council of the Republic (Belarus's upper house), of which Rakhmanko was a member. Belarusian Television subsequently charged that Rakhmanko robbed the state of $44 million. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR NEW POLITICAL-REFORM PLAN...
Speaking on 23 August, the eve of Ukraine's Independence Day, President Leonid Kuchma said he is ready to support a new constitutional-reform plan that has been agreed upon with the opposition, Ukrainian news agencies reported. "Despite certain drawbacks, I think that this draft should be approved by the Verkhovna Rada," Kuchma said. "The support of the constitutional majority of votes [300 votes] has already probably been secured for it." The previous day, Kuchma withdrew the political-reform draft he submitted to the parliament in June (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine," 25 June 2003). On 21 August, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said the presidential administration and the opposition are working on a joint bill of amendments to the constitution intended to reform the political system in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2003). JM

...WHILE SOCIALIST PARTY LEADER REVEALS SOME DETAILS
Socialist Party leader Moroz told journalists on 23 August that the new political-reform draft that is currently being discussed by the Communists and the Socialists with the presidential administration suggests that parliament propose and confirm all cabinet ministers except for the defense minister and the foreign minister, both of whom are to be nominated by the president, Interfax reported. The draft reportedly drops President Kuchma's previous proposal that presidential, parliamentary, and local elections be held in the same year. Moroz said he is in favor of holding direct presidential elections. On 21 August, Moroz divulged that a key innovation in the political-reform draft is the presidential administration's proposal that the Verkhovna Rada elect the president. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told the 23-29 August issue of "Zerkalo nedeli" that a presidential model of government for today's Ukraine is more efficient that a parliamentary-presidential one. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT SENDS LETTER TO HIS UKRAINIAN COUNTERPART
A group of U.S. congressional representatives led by Representative Curt Weldon (Republican, Pennsylvania) met with President Kuchma on 24 August and passed to him a letter from U.S. President George W. Bush, Interfax reported. Weldon subsequently told journalists that in his letter Bush thanked the Ukrainian people for their support in combating terrorism. Kuchma reportedly said at the meeting that Ukraine is ready for broader cooperation with the United States in all areas. Referring to Ukrainian-U.S. relations in his speech on 23 August, Kuchma said, "The logic of mutual interests, coincidence of strategic interests, and common values of democracy and humanism, have inevitably gained the upper hand over emotional and sometimes overly emotional perceptions of ambiguous and sometimes non-existing circumstances." JM

ESTONIAN MINISTER URGES VETERANS TO TAKE PART IN DEBATE OVER REFORM OF DEFENSE FORCES
Speaking at a rally of World War II veterans in Rakvere on 23 August, Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher expressed support for the recently proposed military reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2003), BNS reported. He noted that as a member of the paramilitary Defense League, he fully supports the country's defense forces, and urged the audience to participate in the debate on what Estonia's long-term defense doctrine should be. Noting that the day marked the 64th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which Germany and the Soviet Union divided up Central Europe, Vaher also expressed regret that "the crimes of communism have not been tried in a tribunal of nations" similar to the Nazi war-crimes trials held in Nuremberg. SG

BALTIC PREMIERS URGE LATVIANS, ESTONIANS TO APPROVE EU REFERENDUMS
Prime Ministers Juhan Parts of Estonia, Einars Repse of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania made a joint statement on 22 August calling on the citizens of Estonia and Latvia to vote in favor of EU membership in the upcoming referendums in those countries, BNS reported. The appeal said: "The most important reason to vote 'yes' is the future of our young generation. European Union membership will result in far more opportunities for our children. They will be able to get better educations and better jobs. Accession in the EU means the stable and safe development of our countries. We will no longer be the gray zone between the East and the West." The three premiers also said EU membership will benefit agriculture, rural districts, and business. SG

LITHUANIANS PROTEST IN FRONT OF RUSSIAN EMBASSY
Approximately 50 people gathered at the Russian Embassy in Vilnius on 22 August for a protest organized by the Sajudis movement and other public organizations, BNS reported. The protesters' main demands were that Russia pay some 80 billion litas ($28 billion) for damages inflicted on Lithuania during the Soviet occupation from 1940-90 and that Russia halt LUKoil's plans to extract oil from the Baltic Sea near the Curonian Spit, because the danger of ecological damage is too great. Rytis Kupcinskas, the leader of Sajudis, also told reporters that the Russian Army and civilian administration should leave Chechnya and allow a UN caretaker administration to be established. SG

POLISH SECRET SERVICE CHIEF CALLS DETENTION OF STATE INSPECTOR 'ROUTINE'
Internal Security Agency (ABW) head Andrzej Barcikowski told Polish Television on 22 August that the detention of Supreme Audit Chamber (NIK) inspector Jacek Kalas three days earlier was a "routine" job, not motivated by politics. Barcikowski said Kalas -- a former officer of the ABW's predecessor, the State Protection Office -- was detained for allegedly revealing state secrets. "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 22 August that four teams of ABW officers jointly with prosecutors hunted for Kalas, after he found evidence that the opening report of the Democratic Left Alliance government, which blamed the previous cabinet of Jerzy Buzek (1997-2001) for the catastrophic condition of state companies, contained falsified data. Prosecutors sought Kalas's arrest, but a court has not consented to this. Antoni Maciarewicz, head of the parliamentary Commission for Special Services, said he believes the action against Kalas might be in revenge for the NIK revelation concerning the opening report. JM

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS CZECH REPUBLIC WILL NOT FORSAKE RESPONSIBILITIES IN IRAQ
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in an interview with the daily "Pravo" on 22 August that Czech military and diplomatic commitments to the coalition in Iraq will not change in the wake of the 19 August bombing of the UN office in Baghdad, CTK and dpa reported. Svoboda said the "correct response" to the threats of global terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is "to face the danger" and " confront terrorism," since "running away from this conflict would only mean shutting our eyes to reality." He added that no country is safe from terrorism. Svoboda said next month the cabinet will discuss the future of Czech involvement in Iraq. The United States has asked Prague to consider deploying military police in Iraq. Thus far, parliament has only approved "humanitarian assistance" and a field hospital has been deployed to Al-Basrah. Some 80 Czech military police are guarding that hospital and the Czech Embassy in Baghdad. MS

CZECH TEACHERS MIGHT START SCHOOL YEAR WITH STRIKE
Frantisek Dobsik, chairman of the Union of Education Workers, said on 22 August that the country's elementary and high schools will be closed on 1 September if his union's demands are not met by then, CTK and AP reported. The teachers object to the planned budget cuts and the intended freeze of wages for most state employees. While the Union of Education Workers plans only a one-day warning-strike, the rival Teacher's Trade Union has called for an unlimited general strike. MS

SLOVAK POLICE WANT ANO CHAIRMAN STRIPPED OF POLITICAL IMMUNITY...
Police on 22 August asked the Special Prosecutor's Office to initiate the procedure for stripping Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavel Rusko of his parliamentary immunity, TASR and CTK reported. The Interior Ministry said Rusko has been charged with blackmail in connection with the complaint launched against him by businessman Frantisek Mojzis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003). A spokesman for the Special Prosecutor's Office said the charges will be studied and a decision will be made. Rusko claimed the move to strip his immunity was initiated by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and called the charges "unbelievable lies" that show the police are "acting on political orders to discredit ANO and destroy me personally." In turn, Pavol Hrusovsky, chairman of the KDH and speaker of parliament, discounted Rusko's allegations, and said Rusko must face investigation as any ordinary citizen would. MS

...AS ANO CHAIRMAN PREDICTS FATE OF POLITICAL RIVALS SEALED
ANO Chairman Rusko told TASR on 24 August he believes the fates of his two critics in the party, Economy Minister Robert Nemcsics and Transport Ministry State Secretary Branislav Opaterny, "have been sealed." Rusko spoke after ANO regional branches in Kosice and Presov called the same day for the two politicians to resign from the cabinet. Nemcsics and Opaterny recently criticized Rusko's leadership style and said their party is divided because of him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003). The ANO National Executive is to meet on 25 August to approve Rusko's request to have Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda dismiss Nemcsics and Opaterny. Both said they do not intend to resign from the cabinet willingly. MS

IRAQIS TO GET POLICE TRAINING IN HUNGARY
Washington plans to send up to 28,000 Iraqis to Eastern Europe for a police-training course, according to the 25 August issue of "The New York Times." Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner now in charge of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said Budapest has given permission to set up the police academy at a former Soviet military base in Taszar. "The New York Times" reported that this is the same facility where Iraqi volunteers were trained earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 February 2003). Kerik said the eight-week training course for the first group of 1,500 Iraqis will start in about four months, and they will undergo additional training when they return to Iraq. BS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER ACKNOWLEDGES POLITICAL MISTAKES
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy reportedly told a meeting of his Social Democratic Party's top leadership on 21 August that he and other top party leaders made serious political mistakes this summer, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 23 August. Medgyessy apparently was referring to the fact that he and other party leaders publicly referred to changes in taxation as if an agreement with the coalition partner Free Democrats had already been reached on this issue. This created tension with the Free Democrats. MS

HUNGARIAN RIGHTIST PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The chairman of FIDESZ, former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Peter Harrach, co-chairman of the extraparliamentary Hungarian Christian Democratic Federation, signed a cooperation agreement between their parties on 22 August in Gyor, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 23 August. The agreement stipulates that the two formations will work together to achieve national goals, and it states that those goals cannot be achieved without the Christian Democrats. FIDESZ, the major opposition party, consented in the agreement to increase its reliance on Christian Democratic experts in the fields of church policy, social care, and family policies. MS

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM LAUNCHING PETITION DRIVE FOR DUAL CITIZENSHIP
The Hungarian Democratic Forum is organizing a nationwide drive to collect signatures in support of dual citizenship for ethnic Hungarians living outside the country's borders, Hungarian media reported. In related news, FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Zsolt Nemeth told journalists on 22 August that Prime Minister Medgyessy is keeping silent on the issue, which, Nemeth says, indicates the government does not intend to pursue it. MS

UNEXPLAINED VIOLENCE CONTINUES IN SOUTHERN SERBIA
In the latest in a series of unexplained incidents in Serbia's Presevo Valley region, unknown persons fired unidentified projectiles into the town's cultural center on 24 August, injuring two visitors from Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 August 2003, "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2003, and End Note, below). Milisav Markovic said on behalf of the Serbian government's committee responsible for southern Serbia that the "terrorist attack" proves that unnamed Albanians are not interested in living together with Serbs. Meanwhile, Ragmi Mustafa, who heads the local branch of the Democratic Party of the Albanians, said it is not possible to describe the incident as terrorism without knowing who carried it out and why. PM

SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER CALLS FOR PUBLIC TRIALS IN ASSASSINATION CASE
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Sombor on 24 August that he wants public trials for those charged in connection with the 12 March killing of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2003, "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March, 9 May, and 8 and 15 August 2003, and End Note, below). He added that the trials are likely to take begin in late October. The "International Herald Tribune" reported from Belgrade on 25 August that it is not clear that the authorities have indeed crushed organized criminal networks. The daily added that the reform process has stalled and that "inaction by the reformers could lead to greater support for nationalist candidates" in the general elections widely expected within the next 12 months. PM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S LEADERS LAUNCH A 'DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE'...
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic and his Montenegrin counterpart, Milo Djukanovic, told the joint state's diplomats accredited in European countries in Belgrade on 23 August that the time has come to launch a "diplomatic offensive" to change Serbia and Montenegro's image abroad, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 15 August 2003, and End Note below). Zivkovic said later in Nis that the offensive will include the publication of a "white book" to show that many Kosovar Albanian leaders are involved in organized crime. PM

...AND PRESENT THEIR COUNTRY AS THE 'MOST STABLE PARTNER' OF THE U.S.
Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic told a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation in Belgrade on 23 August that his country could become "the most stable partner of the United States...in the region," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 15 August 2003, and End Note below). He also expressed interest in obtaining U.S. support in reforming Serbia and Montenegro's military to prepare it for membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Dragoljub Micunovic, speaker of the joint state's parliament, called for improving bilateral cooperation in education, business, defense, and research. It is not clear how these suggestions relate to Prime Minister Zivkovic's recent statement that "there are three things Serbs cannot stand: an independent Kosovo, NATO, and the United States" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). PM

FORMER YUGOSLAV LEADER DENIES ROLE IN MENTOR'S MURDER
Former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said in a seven-page, hand-written open letter from The Hague recently that he had no role in the August 2000 abduction and murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic, who was Milosevic's mentor in the early years of his political career, "The Independent" reported from Belgrade on 25 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 18, and 25 April 2003). Milosevic added that there was no reason for him to concern himself as president with a "forgotten" politician such as Stambolic. At the time of his abduction, however, Stambolic was widely considered a strong contender against Milosevic in the upcoming general elections, which brought about Milosevic's downfall. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT SERBIA
Croatian President Stipe Mesic paid a one-day visit to the Boka Kotorska region of Montenegro on 22 August, the first Croatian head of state to visit that republic since the breakup of former Yugoslavia in 1991, "Vesti" reported. Mesic said to Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and Prime Minister Djukanovic that Croatia and Montenegro share the common goal of "entering Europe" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). Mesic told reporters that he plans to pay an official visit to Serbia soon, probably on 10 September. This will be the first official visit by a Croatian head of state to Serbia since independence. PM

LARGEST MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION PARTY LASHES OUT AT THE GOVERNMENT
The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) has launched an offensive against the governing coalition, which is made up of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), "Utrinski vesnik" and "Dnevnik" reported on 25 August. The VMRO-DPMNE said the government is employing more ethnic Albanians than Macedonians in the administration, and that it has violated the Ohrid peace agreement by legalizing the Albanian university in Tetovo (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 July 2003). It also accused the Interior Ministry of not consolidate peace and stability throughout the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 18, 19, and 21 August, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 June 2003). UB

DISPUTE OVER HIGHWAY ACROSS BOSNIA
Differences continue between Sarajevo, and Zagreb and Banja Luka, over the construction of the so-called Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 5-C connecting Budapest with Ploce via Osijek and Sarajevo, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 23 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2003). Croatia has offered to help build the Bosnian segment of the highway on the condition that the contractor is chosen on the basis of international competitive bidding, which the Republika Srpska also supports. But Seada Palavric, who is vice president of the governing Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), called such a competitive tender a "waste of time" and repeated Sarajevo's position that the contract should go outright to the Malaysian Bosmal company. PM

TWO BOSNIAN MUSLIMS ARRESTED ON WAR CRIMES CHARGES
Bosnian police told Reuters in Sarajevo on 23 August that they arrested Mustafa Hota and Enes Sakrak the previous day on suspicion of involvement in the 1993 killings of 33 Croats in Grabovica. The warrant was issued by the Sarajevo cantonal court, which will try them with the approval of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The two men were members of the largely Muslim Bosnian Army at the time of the killings. PM

BOSNIA'S MOSTAR BRIDGE NEARS COMPLETION
The final important section of masonry work at the center of Mostar's famed Old Bridge was completed on 22 August, international and regional media reported. The bridge was built in 1566 and stood as the symbol of Herzegovina's largest city until Croatian gunners destroyed it on 9 November 1993. The Croats claimed that Muslim forces used the bridge for military purposes in breach of a mutual understanding that it would be demilitarized, while the Muslims claimed that the Croats shelled the structure out of spite. The bridge is expected to be officially reopened in 2004. PM

ROMANIA SHUTS DOWN ITS ONLY NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
Romanian authorities announced on 23 August that they are shutting down the country's only nuclear-power plant because there is not enough water to cool the reactor, international news agencies and Romanian Radio reported. Economy and Commerce Minister Dan Ioan Popescu said the closure was caused by the "unprecedented dropping of water levels" in the Danube River. Located in Cernavoda, the plant supplies 10-15 percent of the country's electricity. Romania also announced that, due to the crisis, it has stopped exporting electricity to other countries. According to a Mediafax report, it is expected the plant will remain closed for four to six weeks, until water levels in the Danube return to normal. The Danube dropped as a result of a prolonged drought and heat wave in Eastern and Central Europe. This is the first time the plant has encountered water-level problems since its inauguration in 1996. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT FIRES PREFECTS
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase announced on 22 August after a meeting of the cabinet that five prefects have been dismissed, Romanian Radio reported. Among those fired is Ioan Rus, the Alba County prefect who recently criticized his dismissal as Social Democratic Party local branch chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2003). Also dismissed were the prefects of Caras-Severin, Dolj, Maramures, and Neamt counties, as well as several deputy prefects. The premier mentioned no grounds for the decision and said other changes could soon follow. Nastase also announced the names of the five officials' successors. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CONTINUES CHINA VISIT
President Ion Iliescu arrived in Hong Kong on 24 August, after visiting Chongqing and Shanghai on 22-23 August, international news agencies and Romanian Radio reported. Iliescu said after talks with local authorities in Shanghai that Romanian companies might participate in the construction of sports facilities for the 2008 Olympics in that city. On his way to Hong Kong, Iliescu told a Romanian Radio correspondent that Romania would be an ideal place for Chinese investments in production outlets aimed at the EU market. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CONSIDERING POSSIBILITY OF HAVING ILIESCU 'SUSPENDED FROM OFFICE'
Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Emil Boc said on 24 August that his party is considering initiating the procedure for the president's "suspension from office," Mediafax reported. The move, Boc said, would be a response to Iliescu's alleged infringement of the provisions of emergency ordinance 31/2002, which outlawed denial of the Holocaust. The constitution stipulates that if the president breaks the law, he can be "suspended from office" by an absolute majority vote in parliament. If the legislature approves the move, a referendum must be called within 30 days. The possible initiative to suspend Iliescu follows his controversial interview with the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" on 25 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28, 29 and 30 July 2002). MS

ROMANIAN NATIONALIST PARTY TO SUE STATE FOR SHOOTING CEAUSESCU COUPLE
Greater Romania Party (PRM) Senator Dumitru Pop announced on 24 August that the PRM will sue the Romanian state for having groundlessly executed communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena Ceausescu, in 1989, Mediafax reported. Pop said that when a military tribunal found the couple guilty, one of the charges stemmed from their attempt to escape from Romania carrying $1 million. "We want to know what happened to that money," Pop said, adding that Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu has responded to a PRM inquiry, saying "the money does not exist." If this is so, Pop said, it follows that at least one out of the three accusations leveled against the Ceausescus was false, and this is grounds for the PRM's suit. The presidential couple was summarily tried and executed on 25 December 1989. MS

MOLDOVAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS ANNOUNCE RESUMPTION OF PROTESTS
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca announced on 22 August that the PPCD will organize a protest demonstration in front of parliament in Chisinau on 28 September, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rosca said the protest will mark one year since the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved a resolution on civil liberties and institutions in Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). He said the governing Party of Moldovan Communists has disregarded that resolution. Participants, Rosca said, will condemn the "federalization plan promoted by Russia via the OSCE," and the government's plan to replace the "History of Romanians" course in schools with a class on "integrated history." MS

MOLDOVA REQUESTS EXTENDED CREDIT TERM FROM WORLD BANK
The government on 22 August sent a letter asking the World Bank to extend the term of the Third Structural Adjustment Credit (SAC-III), the validity of which expires on 30 September, Infotag reported. The World Bank approved the credit, aimed at supporting reforms and economic development, in June 2002. It disbursed the first $10 million tranche in August of that year, but froze further disbursements after Moldova failed to abide by the creditors' conditions. Observers doubt the bank will agree to the request as Moldova recently failed to meet International Monetary Fund conditions for resuming disbursement of a $147 million loan that expires this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 31 July 2003). MS

OSCE MISSION CHIEF IN MOLDOVA WORRIED BY TRANSDNIESTER ULTIMATUM
William Hill, the OSCE mission chief to Moldova, told RFE/RL on 22 August that the mission is worried about Transdniester authorities' recent ultimatum demanding that Moldova evacuate its police force from Bendery-Tighina. Hill said that the mission "can under no circumstances agree" to ultimatums and that "problems must find a solution by negotiation and not by unilateral demands" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003). MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LEAVES FOR IRAQ
Speaking before his departure for a one-day visit to Iraq, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said in Burgas on 24 August that one of the aims of his mission is to express solidarity with the UN, "Standart" reported. During his visit, Pasi is to meet with L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq. Due to "technical reasons," Pasi will not visit the Bulgarian contingent, which is stationed in the region of Kerbala. He did not confirm reports that the 500-soldier contingent has been asked to take on additional assignments, saying the troops' duties are clearly defined. In Baghdad, Pasi is scheduled to hand over medical equipment and other humanitarian aid. The Bulgarian delegation also includes a group of businesspeople. UB

BULGARIAN TOP BRASS CALLS THE OPENING OF U.S. AND NATO MILITARY BASES A 'POLITICAL QUESTION'
Whether NATO or the United States will open military bases in Bulgaria is a political question, Chief of the General Staff General Nikola Kolev said in an interview with Bulgarian National Radio on 24 August, Focus news agency reported. Kolev confirmed that the U.S. military is interested in the country's air bases and training facilities. He added that the politicians who have the final say in this question should keep in mind that the stationing of foreign troops in Bulgaria would also create new jobs and might stimulate tourism. Kolev said the question should be resolved by the end of the year. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS PRIME MINISTER ABOUT 'HALF-RESIGNATIONS'
Commenting on the recent withdrawal of Finance Minister Milen Velchev's resignation, President Georgi Parvanov said on 23 August that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski should take measures to prevent "society from being held hostage to the governing party's internal conflicts," mediapool.bg reported. Parvanov cautioned that, should the "half-resignations" continue, the country's reputation abroad could be damaged, and citizens' confidence in government will suffer. Parvanov also alluded to the case of Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov, whose resignation was rejected by Saxecoburggotski in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 30 April, and 8, 20, and 21 August 2003). UB

POLITICS AND VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA
Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 18 August that the Serbian authorities have been carrying out "diplomatic attacks on Kosova" in recent days. Rexhepi appealed to the UN Security Council, which held a special session on Kosova, not to allow itself to be manipulated by Belgrade.

The Serbian authorities have responded to some recent unclarified violent acts in Kosova, including the killings of two Serbian teenagers, with strong rhetoric. Belgrade has also reaffirmed Serbian claims to the province, which has a more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority that wants nothing to do with Belgrade. One can only guess what the Serbian authorities would do with this large and hostile population if the province were now returned to Belgrade's control.

But the reason for the "diplomatic attacks" is likely to be closer to home for the Serbian politicians than Kosova. Elections are widely expected in Serbia within the next 12 months, and competition is keen for nationalist votes.

Some politicians might also be seeking to distract attention from Serbia's main problems, which are poverty, corruption, and organized crime. Miroljub Labus and Mladjan Dinkic -- who are the two top leaders of the G-17 Plus political party that competes with the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition for the pro-reform vote -- recently exposed two alleged cases of corruption in high places.

That scandal further tarnished the image of the government, which has been trying to portray itself since the 12 March assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as honest and the victor in the war on organized crime.

Nobody has been more outspoken on the Kosova issue than Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is also Belgrade's point man for Kosova and a politician with at least his share of rivals both inside and outside the DOS. Addressing the special UN Security Council session on Kosova on 18 August, Covic said that the international community must improve the security situation in the province lest it be forced to assume "a historic responsibility for the growth of fascism" there.

This was the second time in a week that he used the term "fascism" in connection with still-unexplained incidents of violence in Kosova. Most Serbian and Macedonian nationalist politicians use the terms "terrorism" or "organized crime" when seeking to slam ethnic Albanians, much as some Western politicians talk about "law and order" when calling for a crackdown on their own ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile at the UN, Covic accused the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) of involvement in unspecified recent violent incidents and demanded that it be investigated and disbanded. He stressed that "Albanian extremist and terrorist groups represent the main threat to the stabilization [of the province] and the region as a whole."

Covic also appealed for closer cooperation between security forces in Kosova and those elsewhere in the region. He did not provide evidence for his charges of who is responsible for which acts of violence.

Kosovar Albanians are likely to regard his remarks as unacceptable and an attempt to promote the return of Serbian forces to the province (which Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic subsequently advocated in remarks in Belgrade). Covic's comments are also likely to reduce the chances that EU-backed Prishtina-Belgrade talks could take place at any time in the foreseeable future -- especially since nobody but Brussels has shown much enthusiasm for them.

Also at the UN Security Council's special session, several council members deplored the recent violence in the province, RFE/RL reported. Many speakers said it is important for leaders in Prishtina and Belgrade to renew their efforts to cooperate in building a multiethnic Kosova.

British Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry was one of the few to respond directly to Covic's criticisms. He rejected Covic's charges of inaction by the international community, stressing that the recent violence in the province must still be considered as isolated acts of extremism and not be allowed to polarize society in Kosova any further. He also argued that "those in responsible positions have a responsibility to ensure that their rhetoric actually matches the gravity of the situation."

Not one to yield the stage to Covic, Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 18 August that the recent acts of violence in Kosova show that "Albanian extremists want war and are afraid because of the recent favorable policy changes toward Serbia on the part of the international community, especially New York, Washington, and Brussels."

He added that he expects that the recent appointment of Harri Holkeri as head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) will lead to new policies in Prishtina aimed at better enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and enabling refugees and displaced persons to go home.

But the same day as Zivkovic and Covic were blaming ethnic Albanians for various acts of violence, UNMIK announced in Prishtina on 18 August that two incidents took place during the previous 24 hours involving attacks by Serbs against cars driven by ethnic Albanians. One incident took place in the Gracanica enclave, leaving the Albanian motorist slightly injured. The second attack was made on two cars driven by Albanians on the Prishtina-Gjilan road.

In addition, a UN police spokesman said in Prishtina on 19 August that an unnamed 21-year-old Serbian male was just arrested in the village of Slatina in conjunction with the killing of UN police Major Satish Menon of India on 3 August. The spokesman noted that police have a "strong case against the suspect," who offered no resistance to arrest, but have not yet determined a possible motive.

This was the first killing of a UN police officer in Kosova since Serbian forces left the province in 1999. There are 4,000 UN and 5,000 local police officers in Kosova. The UN says that 921 people have been killed there since 1999, which is at odds with the figure of 1,173 victims of "Albanian terrorists," which Belgrade police claim.

Some observers have suggested that criminal gangs could have been involved in the Menon murder or other recent incidents. This raises a caveat that needs to be kept in mind when dealing with violence in Kosova or any other area in which ethnic tensions are rife.

The point is that not all violence is ethnically related. Some is criminal, while other cases could be random or involve business, family, personal, or romantic problems.

Some incidents, moreover, may not prove to be what they seemed at first glance. This was the case in 1985 with Djordje Martinovic, a Kosovar Serb civilian employee of the Yugoslav People's Army. He appears to have manufactured a tale of ethnically motivated violence to explain what was really a self-inflicted injury with a broken beer bottle in his anus. When he first told his story, Martinovic became a hero among Serbs. But after further evidence came to light, he became a laughingstock among Slovenes, Croats, and Albanians, who chanted his name at soccer matches against Serbian teams.

No government anywhere can ensure absolute security at all times, even though much progress has been made regarding security in Kosova since 2001. There is no total cure for the problem of violence in Kosova, any more than there is for that in Belgrade, London, or Detroit.

A start could be made, however, by clarifying the final status of the province, which would remove a lot of political, social, and economic uncertainty from the picture. Based on the principles of self-determination and majority rule, this can only mean independence.

A second point involves social discipline within each ethnic community in Kosova. More efforts could be made in those close-knit worlds, particularly where the socialization of young males is concerned. It is ultimately up to the people of Kosova themselves to determine if they will tolerate violence and other forms of crime.

UP TO NINE REPORTEDLY KILLED IN CLASH WITH NEO-TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN
Three supporters of the ousted Taliban regime were killed on 23 August in an "abortive military attack" in Daichopan District of Zabul Province, Radio Afghanistan reported on 24 August. According to a 25 August report by Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari Service, nine people were killed in the clash and four neo-Taliban, including one of their commanders, were captured. The report did not indicate to which side the nine casualties belonged. Five pro-government Afghan soldiers were killed in the attack, "The New York Times" reported on 25 August. Mohammad Hanif, a spokesman for the neo-Taliban, claimed that 12 pro-government soldiers were killed while his side suffered no casualties, AP reported on 24 August. AT

NEO-TALIBAN REPORTEDLY ASSEMBLING IN KANDAHAR, ZABUL PROVINCES
More than 200 neo-Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have reportedly gathered in the Arghestan and Maruf districts of Kandahar Province and the Daichopan and Ata Ghar districts of Zabul Province, Afghanistan Television reported on 23 August. According to that report, most districts of those two provinces have witnessed sporadic attacks, but due to its mountainous terrain, Daichopan has become a favorite base from which to launch neo-Taliban operations. In April, five people, including two pro-government soldiers, were killed in an attack attributed to the neo-Taliban in Daichopan. Six police officers were killed in Ata Ghar District in July in an attack by some 200 neo-Taliban forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April and 2 and 3 July 2003). AT

ZABUL GOVERNOR BLAMES PAKISTAN FOR ALLOWING AND ENCOURAGING ATTACKS...
Governor Hafizullah Khan said that one of the neo-Taliban fighters captured in Daichopan (see above) admitted that he was offered money in Pakistan to fight in Afghanistan, "The New York Times" reported on 25 August. Many Afghan officials have claimed that Pakistan either assists infiltrators to Afghanistan or at least is not doing enough to prevent them from crossing the Afghan-Pakistani border. U.S. Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona) told journalists in Kabul on 22 August that Islamabad is "not doing as much as it can" to prevent cross-border movements, the New York daily reported. AT

...WHICH PAKISTAN DENIES
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said on 24 August that his country will not allow terrorists to use its territory to launch attacks against Afghanistan, the Pakistani daily "Dawn" reported on 25 August. Kasuri added that if incidents of cross-border infiltration are found to have occurred, they will be investigated. The accusations of Pakistani support for neo-Taliban forces inside Afghanistan have come from numerous officials in Afghanistan, in particular, from members of the United Front (Northern Alliance) who fought a bitter war with the Islamabad-backed Taliban from the late 1990s to 2001. Asked why members of the United Front accuse Pakistan of supporting the neo-Taliban, Kasuri replied, "Our only effort is to bring improvement to the conditions and not to allow [them] to deteriorate." AT

PAKISTAN SAYS U.S. INVITED IT TO MOHMAND AREAS
Discussing the reports of Pakistani advances into the Mohmand areas that abut the border with Afghanistan, Kasuri said, "We went there directly on the invitation of the U.S.," "Dawn," reported on 25 August. Pakistan's military activities in late June in the hitherto semi-autonomous Mohmand Agency in that country's North-West Frontier Province, ostensibly to combat elements of Al-Qaeda and neo-Taliban forces who were using the area as a launching area for attacks in Afghanistan, triggered accusations by Afghan officials that Pakistani forces had crossed into Afghanistan. These charges led to an attack on the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul in July, bringing the two countries to the brink of a larger conflict. The issue of security along the partially un-demarcated and disputed Afghan-Pakistani border remains a point of contention between Kabul and Islamabad (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11, 17, and 24 July and 7 August 2003). AT

FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT WANTS GREATER PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN CONSTITUTION-MAKING PROCESS
Burhanuddin Rabbani said on 24 August that the Afghan people should directly elect the members of the Constitutional Loya Jirga that is scheduled to adopt a new constitution for Afghanistan in October, AP reported on 24 August. Rabbani also called for the formation of a parallel commission comprising teachers, lawyers, judges, and other "people with open minds" to help the current 35-member Constitutional Commission finalize the new constitution. Rabbani added that he has "heard, and it's a rumor, that the [October] Loya Jirga for the constitution might be delayed until December 2003. And that is good because until then the commission members could continue their work and people could give more ideas about the constitution." The draft constitution remains shrouded in secrecy, although it is scheduled to be made public by 1 September (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January and 3, 10, and 24 April 2003). AT

FORMER IRANIAN DIPLOMAT ARRESTED IN BRITAIN
Hadi Suleimanpur, who previously served as Iranian ambassador to Argentina, was arrested in England on 21 August in connection with his alleged role in the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded another 265, international news agencies reported. On 13 August, Argentina's Judge Juan Jose Galeano ordered the arrest of eight Iranian officials for their suspected involvement in the July 1994 bombing (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 August 2003). Suleimanpur is studying at the University of Durham, and it is not clear if he currently enjoys diplomatic immunity. BS

TEHRAN REACTS TO DIPLOMAT'S ARREST
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami reacted to Suleimanpur's arrest by saying, according to state radio on 24 August, "I believe what happened has been politically motivated, and the currents and lobbies that are behind the case are trying to exert pressure on the Islamic republic with their baseless accusations and false claims.... Argentina will be dealt with seriously...and we here announce that the British government must quickly put an end to its incorrect action and apologize." The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned British Charge d'Affaires Matthew Gould on 24 August to update Director-General for Western Europe Ebrahim Rahimpur on efforts to release Suleimanpur, IRNA reported on 24 August. This was the second time Gould had to appear. Argentine Charge d'Affaires Ernesto Alvarez was similarly summoned to the Foreign Ministry to learn from Director-General for American Affairs Mehdi Mohtashami that Tehran has suspended all economic and cultural cooperation with Argentina, the Telam news agency reported on 23 August. "The Argentine government will be held responsible for all the legal and political consequences on bilateral relations," Mohtashami said. BS

IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS COMMENT ON DIPLOMAT'S ARREST
Speaker of parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi on 24 August criticized Suleimanpur's arrest as a politically motivated plot and an effort to exert pressure on Iran, and deputy speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami said the arrest violates international regulations, IRNA reported. Qazvin representative Qodratollah Alikhani said the arrest is intended to pressure Iran, and Iran must expect this because it will not submit to U.S. pressure, ILNA reported on 23 August. Nishabur representative Mohammad Reza Dolatabadi said the arrest is related to internal Argentine affairs. Qaenat parliamentarian Musa Qorbani opined, "The arrest took place because of pressure exerted by the Zionist regime and America, and without any evidence," ILNA reported on 23 August. Nishabur parliamentary representative Hojatoleslam Hussein Ansari-Rad said on 22 August that the arrest should be seen as a warning in light of current strained relations with the United States and concerns over the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, ILNA reported. BS

INTIFADA CONFERENCE IN TEHRAN ENDS...
In his 21 August closing speech to the conference at Tehran University called Intifada: A Step Toward Freedom, Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur said the existence of Israel precludes the establishment of regional peace and stability, "Iran" reported on 23 August, citing ISNA. Mohtashami-Pur is secretary of the Support for the Palestinian Intifada conference series, a founder of Lebanese Hizballah, President Khatami's special envoy, and a reformist parliamentarian from Tehran. He also said: "The racist Israeli regime will be isolated because of the unity, solidarity, and unanimity of the Islamic world. Only through the disintegration of that regime will a government of the people be established in Palestine." The Palestinian issue will be resolved only if, in the words of "Iran," "the Jews who invaded the land of Palestine go back to their own countries." Mohtashami-Pur called for a referendum in which all Palestinians, whether Muslims, Christians, or Jews, determine their own destiny. BS

...WITH CALL FOR ISRAEL'S ANNIHILATION
"The participants in the conference consider the annihilation of the Zionist regime as a prerequisite and precondition for democracy in the Middle East," according to the final resolution of the conference, as reported in the 23 August "Siyasat-i Ruz." The resolution condemned Israel for a variety of reasons and called on the international community to support Palestinians' rights. The resolution promoted a nuclear-free Middle East and the disarmament of Israel. The Al Aqsa Intifada was hailed as the only way to defeat the occupation of Palestine. The resolution condemned U.S. threats against independent countries and its occupation of Islamic ones, and it called for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. BS

TEHRAN STRESSES SAUDI AL-QAEDA EXTRADITIONS
Iran's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ali Asghar Khaji, said on 23 August that Tehran has extradited alleged Saudi Al-Qaeda members to their country of origin, IRNA reported. He did not identify any of these individuals by name. Among the alleged top Al-Qaeda figures who reportedly are or have been in Iran are Saad bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Sayf al-Adel, Suleiman Abu Ghayth, and Abu Musab Zarqawi. According to anonymous "Iranian sources" cited by the 23 August "Financial Times," Saad bin Laden has been sent to Pakistan, and al-Zawahiri is "too big a fish to keep in Iran." The British daily noted that there is controversy in Iran over what to do with the alleged Al-Qaeda personnel, and further complicating the issue in some cases is that some of the detainees have been stripped of their citizenships. BS

NEW IRANIAN SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND TECHNOLOGY MINISTER APPOINTED
A 24 August letter from President Khatami to Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karrubi introduced Reza Faraji-Dana as the new Science, Research, and Technology Minister, IRNA reported. The legislature must give the candidate its vote of confidence. Faraji-Dana is to succeed Mustafa Moin, who submitted his resignation on 24 July. The acting minister is Jafar Meili-Monfared, IRNA reported on 23 July. Moin resigned because the Guardians Council rejected a bill for restructuring his ministry (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 August 2003). BS

FAMILIES OF IRANIANS DETAINED IN IRAQ STAGE SIT-IN
The families of Iranian documentary filmmakers Soheil Karimi and Said Abutaleb, who were apprehended in Iraq by the U.S. military, announced on 24 August that they would hold a sit-in at the United Nations office in Tehran on 25 August, IRNA reported. The two, who are employees of the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), were taken into custody on 1 July. In addition, according to IRNA, more than 100 Iranian movie actors and documentary directors urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to press for the two Iranians' release, and 162 members of the Iranian legislature wrote a letter to President Khatami urging him to act. The Iran Red Crescent Society announced on 7 August that Karimi and Abutaleb are in good health, IRNA reported. BS

ALLEGED IRANIAN AGENTS ARRESTED IN IRAQ
Haytham Sulayman, security patrols director for Al-Salihiyah, said in an interview that appeared in the 21 August issue of "Al-Ahd al-Jadid" that 12 Iranian intelligence agents have been arrested at the offices of Al-Mashriq Money Exchange Company in Al-Salihiyah. Majid Athab interrogated them and it was determined that they allegedly intended to perpetrate bombings in Baghdad. The 12 agents reportedly possessed counterfeit U.S. dollars. BS

'IRANIANS' IN IRAQI GOVERNMENT POSTS WARNED TO LEAVE
Muqtada al-Sadr said in his 22 August Friday Prayer sermon in Al-Kufah that Iran has placed its security officials in some major Iraqi government posts, the Baztab website reported on 23 August. Al-Sadr warned the Iranians to leave Iraq promptly. Al-Sadr reportedly said that the 19 August bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad resulted either from the absence of a security apparatus or because the security organizations are under the control of Iranians and other foreigners. BS

MUHAMMAD'S ARMY CLAIMS IT BOMBED UN COMPOUND IN IRAQ
A masked man claiming to speak for the Islamic Jihad Brigades of Muhammad's Army (Jaysh Muhammad), Abdallah Bin-Iyad Brigade, took responsibility for the 19 August bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad in an audiotape provided to Lebanon's LBC satellite television on 23 August. A second masked man said this was not a suicide bombing but was based on intelligence. The speakers urged the occupation forces to leave Iraq and said that the organization has been unsuccessful in driving a wedge between Shia and Sunni Iraqis. BS

AL-SISTANI EXTENDS SYMPATHIES TO UNITED NATIONS
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani sent a letter of condolences to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in connection with the death of UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello in the 19 August bombing of the UN compound, Al-Jazeera satellite television reported on 23 August. Al-Sistani condemned the bombing as a criminal act, and he praised the role of the UN in restoring Iraqi sovereignty. BS

BRITISH TROOPS KILLED IN AL-BASRAH
Three British soldiers were killed and one was wounded in a 23 August attack on their vehicle in Al-Basrah, "The Guardian" reported the next day. The soldiers were members of the 19th Mechanized Brigade. Details of the attack are sketchy. Anonymous "army sources" mentioned local activism by groups calling themselves Hizballah. British forces spokesman Captain Hisham Halawi said in a 23 August interview with Al-Arabiyah satellite television: "We, members of the Iraqi police and several Basrah officials, are carrying out an investigation to clarify the implications of the incident and find out who is behind such operations. Therefore, it is difficult to predict who is behind these operations." Asked about future plans, Halawi said: "We are mounting special patrols in some areas which we find suspicious. We will carry out an intelligence investigation to track down the remnants [of the former regime] and to find out who stands behind these attacks. We are mounting intelligence operations and patrols which are making some progress on the ground to help the people stand on their own feet and stop these attacks and restore peace." BS

AL-NAJAF BOMBING WOUNDS SENIOR CLERIC
A 24 August explosion in Al-Najaf wounded Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, who is described by IRNA as an uncle of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. The explosion of a booby-trapped gas cylinder killed three people and wounded 10 others. Muhsin al-Hakim, who is Iraqi Interim Governing Council member Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim's political adviser, said, "we suspect that [the perpetrators are] members of the former Ba'ath regime and Saddam supporters who wish to ignite a war between the Sunnis and the Shi'as," SCIRI's Voice of the Mujahedin radio reported. BS

U.S. FORCES REPORTEDLY ARREST IRAQI GENERAL
The U.S. military has arrested Al-Quds Army Brigades commander Major General Subhi Kamal al-Ruzayq, Al-Jazeera satellite television reported on 24 August. The arrest reportedly occurred in the Hit area west of Baghdad, where al-Ruzayq was hiding in a friend's house. Al-Ruzayq's arrest has not been confirmed by other sources. BS

IRAQIS TO GET POLICE TRAINING IN HUNGARY
Washington is planning to send up to 28,000 Iraqis to Eastern Europe for a police-training course, according to "The New York Times" on 25 August. Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner who is now in charge of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said Budapest has given permission for the use of an old Soviet military base for the police academy. "The New York Times" reported that this is the same facility in Taszar at which Iraqi volunteers were trained earlier in the year (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 2 February 2003). Kerik said that the eight-week training course for the first group of 1,500 Iraqis will start in about four months, and they will undergo additional training when they return to Iraq. BS

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