RUSSIA WARNS OF DANGER IF NORTH KOREA TALKS FAIL
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov is heading the Russian delegation to the six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear program that opened in Beijing on 27 August, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. Losyukov said after the first round of talks that if the current diplomatic efforts fail, the crisis could erupt into war. The situation at the talks -- in which China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States are participating -- is tense because both the United States and North Korea have adopted firm positions, Losyukov said. However, he said, compromises are still possible, and North Korea might still agree to international inspections of its nuclear sites, although the negotiations over the details of such inspections would be difficult. VY
RUSSIA, SAUDI ARABIA READY TO SIGN ENERGY PACT...
Moscow plans to sign an energy agreement with Saudi Arabia during the visit to Moscow next month of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, newsru.com reported on 27 August. Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world's leading oil producers, and by cooperating they can help improve price stability on global markets, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov said in an interview with the Saudi newspaper "Al-Riyadh," which was posted on the Foreign Ministry's website (http://www.mid.ru). Saltanov added that Russia is ready to receive Saudi investment and to discuss providing Russian technology and know-how to Saudi Arabia. VY
...AS AGENDA FOR MOSCOW SUMMIT SET
In the same interview, Deputy Foreign Minister Saltanov said Russia hopes Saudi Arabia will support Moscow's bid to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). During their talks, President Vladimir Putin and Abdullah will discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Iraq. Saltanov said that both Russia and Saudi Arabia would like to see the United Nations playing a larger role in creating a postwar settlement throughout the Persian Gulf region. VY
GOVERNMENT GIVES NOD TO TNK-BP MERGER
The Antimonopoly Ministry has given its approval for the merger of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and the Russian assets of British Petroleum (BP), ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported on 28 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003). If the merger is completed, the resulting company will be Russia's third-largest oil concern. It is expected to begin operations at the end of this year and will operate in Russia, Ukraine, Eastern and Central Europe, and China, ITAR-TASS reported. The deal must still be approved by the Ukrainian government. VY
OFFICIAL TOUTS POSITIVE TRENDS IN MARKET CAPITALIZATION
Russia is among the world's leading emerging markets in terms of the capitalization of its securities market, Federal Securities Commission Chairman Igor Kostyukov said on 27 August, Russian media reported. Kostyukov said capitalization now stands at $165 billion-$168 billion. He added that there have also been positive trends in the structure of Russian markets. In 2000, the energy sector accounted for 90 percent of the country's market capitalization, while in 2002 that figure had fallen to 75 percent and now it stands at 67 percent, Kostyukov said. "The Russian emerging market has evolved from a toy into a real factor, and it is beginning to play an increasingly important role in the Russian economy," he concluded. VY
PROSECUTORS PREPARING CASE FOR FORMER NTV OWNER'S EXTRADITION
The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 27 August that it has received official notice from Greek law enforcement authorities about the arrest of former oligarch and media tycoon Vladimir Gusinskii and has begun preparing an application for his extradition, Russian media reported. The government has charged Gusinskii with illegally transferring a loan of nearly $300 million abroad. According to international law, all supporting documentation in the case will have to be translated into Greek. Prosecutors are considering sending an investigator who is familiar with the case against Gusinskii to Athens to assist in the case, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos said in Athens that, in addition to Russia, both Israel and the United States have expressed interest in the Gusinskii case, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 August. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and several members of the U.S. Congress have contacted Greece and expressed their concern about Gusinskii's fate. Gusinskii holds both Russian and Israeli citizenship. VY
KUBAN POLICE DETAIN SUSPECTS IN RECENT BOMBINGS
Police in Krasnodar have detained an unspecified number of people on suspicion of involvement in three bomb explosions in central Krasnodar on 25 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003), Russian media reported on 27 August. The detentions resulted partly from the numerous tips authorities received from the public via a special hotline. "The hope remains that those arrested were not simply snatched up randomly," polit.ru commented. "It is no secret that after a terrorist act, law enforcement officials frequently round up suspects in order to [publicize] their success. And only after that, when they are released, the real investigation begins." JAC
THIEVES STRIKE OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICE BEFORE OPENING OF NEXT DUMA SESSION
Unidentified thieves broke into the office of Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov on 26 August and cracked open safes there, Russian media reported on 27 August. Mironov's press service said the break-in was "organized intentionally since the second round of elections to replace Mironov will be held in September," RIA-Novosti reported. Mironov's wife told Ekho Moskvy that "doors, drawers, and strongboxes were broken into, and documents were stolen." According to the station, Zoya Mironova did not rule out the possibility that the robbers were looking for "compromising material" in view of the approaching vote on the ombudsman. Mironov's term expired on 22 June, but he agreed to stay on until the fall session when State Duma deputies could hold another vote. A vote on 21 June ended in a deadlock, with State Duma Deputy Pavel Krashennikov (Union of Rightist Forces) receiving the most votes, and Mironov coming in second (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2003). JAC
ST. PETERSBURG FRONT-RUNNER CONFIDENT OF VICTORY?
Pornographic film director and candidate in the 21 September gubernatorial election Sergei Pryanishnikov told RosBalt on 26 August that presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko -- the favorite in the race -- has already compiled a list of people she would like to serve in her administration if she is elected. According to Pryanishnikov, "no major politician in the city will be offended" because "all of the people named are well known and to some extent favorites for local residents." According to the list, Nobel Prize laureate and State Duma Deputy Zhores Alferov (Communist) will head the city's Science and Higher Education Committee. The report did not indicate how Pryanishnikov obtained the list or why he is publicizing it. Utro.ru on 27 August also reported that Matvienko's representatives have begun selecting candidates for her new team and will start interviewing "young, talented managers" next week. JAC
KOSTROMA DECLARED AGRICULTURAL DISASTER AREA
Agricultural authorities in Kostroma Oblast on 27 August declared their region a disaster area, Regnum reported, citing Kostroma-TV. Farmer there have reportedly gathered just 6 percent of the grain necessary for local needs. Weather conditions, including heavy rain and winds, have made it impossible for farmers to operate their machinery. There is less than one week left for harvesting, and forecasters are predicting more bad weather for at least that long. According to preliminary estimates, losses total 11 million rubles ($360,000), and local officials are going to ask Moscow to compensate them for the lost harvest. JAC
HOLD THE MAYO, HOLD THE LEAFLETS, CLEAN ELECTIONS DON'T UPSET US
During a speech closing the Elections-2003 forum on 27 August, Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov was struck by thrown mayonnaise and a bundle of leaflets bearing the imprimatur of the radical writer Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, Russian media reported. A young man was arrested, and criminal proceedings on charges of hooliganism are being opened, RIA-Novosti reported. According to polit.ru, Veshnyakov reacted coolly in the face of the flying condiment and calmly finished his speech, commenting later that "in Russia there is still scum, and one of these [scumbags] appeared here." "No provocations will prevent us from conducting clean elections," he added. JAC/VY
DAGHESTAN'S NATIONALITIES MINISTER KILLED BY CAR BOMB
Magomedsalikh Gusaev was killed on 27 August by a magnetic bomb that two unidentified attackers placed on the roof of his car as he was traveling to work, Russian media reported. The perpetrators escaped. Gusaev, who was 52, was injured in an assassination attempt two years earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). Politicians in Makhachkala and Moscow lauded Gusaev's work during his 10-year stint as minister to maintain interethnic harmony in Daghestan and to crack down on Islamic fundamentalism. Federation Council member Ramazan Abdulatipov praised him as "a man of courage and principle" and "a real statesman." Officials in Daghestan believe radical Islamists were responsible for the murder, as Gusaev was the author of a program of measures to eradicate wahhabism in the wake of the August 1999 Chechen incursion into Daghestan, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 August. LF
MURDERED CHECHEN WOMAN'S FAMILY FLEES ABROAD
The family of Elza Kungaeva, the young Chechen woman who was murdered in March 2000 by Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov, arrived on 27 August in Norway, where they have been granted refugee status, "The Guardian" reported on 28 August. The family has lived for the past three years in a displaced-persons' camp in Ingushetia. Kungaeva's father, Visa Kungaev, said the family has received repeated threats of reprisals from Russian troops. The North Caucasus Military Court sentenced Budanov last month to 10 years' imprisonment for the murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2003). LF
TWO CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES REGISTERED
Chechnya's Central Election Commission on 27 August formally registered administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Moscow-based businessman Malik Saidullaev to contest the 5 October presidential election, Russian media reported. Applications to register for the ballot have also been accepted from nine other would-be candidates (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 22 August 2003). LF
RUSSIAN TROOPS CORDON OFF AVTURY
Russian troops surrounded the village of Avtury southeast of Grozny early on 27 August and are not permitting any residents to enter or leave, chechenpress.com reported on 28 August, quoting Kavkaz-Tsentr. Fierce fighting was reported last week in the vicinity of Avtury between Chechen fighters and Russian troops backed by pro-Moscow Chechen security police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 August 2003). LF
AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSES ARMENIA OF 'DESTABILIZATION'
Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 27 August, Vilayat Guliev accused Armenia of violating the cease-fire along the Line of Contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces "many times" over the past two months, and predicted that such incidents will continue, Turan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Guliev said instability in Azerbaijan "is in Armenia's interests," but expressed confidence that the Azerbaijani armed forces are capable of responding to Armenian "provocations." The previous day, Guliev's Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, told Armnews TV that Yerevan hopes the situation in Azerbaijan remains stable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). LF
FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ELECTED HEAD OF SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PARTY
At a congress in Baku on 27 August, the Social-Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (SDPA) elected former President Ayaz Mutalibov as its co-chairman, Turan reported. Mutalibov, who has lived in Russia since fleeing Azerbaijan after an abortive comeback attempt in May 1992, was previously chairman of the Civic Unity Party (VHP). Mutalibov was quoted by zerkalo.az on 15 August as saying the merger was prompted by the Justice Ministry's repeated refusals to register the VHP, but VHP Secretary-General Sabir Gadjiev told Turan the same day that not all VHP members approve the merger, and that the VHP will continue to function under its own name. SDPA co-Chairman Araz Alizade told the 27 August congress that his party will not participate in the 15 October presidential election, and called on voters to boycott the ballot. Mutalibov, who was refused registration as a presidential candidate, has similarly called for a boycott of the election. LF
POWER CUT DURING AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER'S TV BROADCAST
Civic Solidarity Party Chairman and presidential candidate Sabir Rustamkhanli lodged a formal protest on 27 August with Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission after electricity was cut off the previous day to several southern regions during his televised election campaign broadcast, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 27 August. Rustamkhanli said he believes the cuts were deliberate as the Azerbaijani authorities are aware that he enjoys strong support in the south of the country. LF
GEORGIAN WAR VETERANS CALL FOR RESIGNATION OF PARLIAMENT IN EXILE CHAIRMAN
The Georgian veterans of the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia who embarked on a hunger strike last week to demand the resignation of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile demanded on 27 August that Supreme Council in exile Chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili also quit his post, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2003). The veterans say the Supreme Council in exile has done nothing to alleviate the hardships suffered by Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the fighting. Also on 27 August, the daily "Akhali taoba" quoted Nadareishvili as accusing unnamed forces of attempting to "paralyze" the government in exile as it prepares to bring genocide charges against the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Nadareishvili said he will not meet with the hunger strikers. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had urged Nadareishvili on 25 August to do so. Government in exile Chairman Londer Tsaava has expressed his readiness to meet with the hunger-striking veterans, even though he considers unfounded their demand for his resignation and that of the entire exile government, Caucasus Press reported on 27 August. LF
GEORGIA CUTS ELECTRICITY TO DEBTOR DISTRICTS
Power supplies were cut on 27 August to 22 Georgian raions that have failed to pay debts for earlier energy supplies, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking at a cabinet meeting the same day, President Shevardnadze said such blackouts are the only way to teach consumers to pay their debts. Also on 27 August, Interfax quoted an Itera official as saying that the company will suspend supplies of gas to Tbilisi on 29 August due to the failure of the Tbilisi gas distributor Tbilgazi to pay for gas supplies for August. Georgia's total debt to Itera is $100 million. LF
PROMINENT KAZAKH JOURNALIST CRITICIZES DRAFT MEDIA LAW
Journalist Rozlana Taukina, president of the Journalists in Need Foundation of Kazakhstan, said the draft law on the media submitted for government approval on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003) has not been published as promised by the authorities, and from this she concludes that the new law will restrict freedom of speech, Deutsche Welle reported on 27 August. Media representatives were involved in the drafting process, but according to Taukina only those suggestions that the authorities liked were taken into account. In her view, the best media legislation in Kazakhstan was the law adopted in 1992. All subsequent changes have involved prohibitions, and the result has been a decline in the number of media outlets in the country and a lack of courage in reporting on domestic political events. BB
KYRGYZ PREMIER SAYS U.S. HAS NOT ASKED TO EXTEND AIR BASE LEASE
In an interview in the 27 August issue of "Argumenty i fakty Kyrgyzstana," Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev said that the United States has not asked to extend its lease on the air base at Bishkek's Manas Airport, despite frequent reports to the contrary in the domestic and foreign media. He also noted that the base is not a NATO installation, but is exclusively used by the international antiterrorism coalition to support its activities in Afghanistan. According to Interfax on 27 August, Tanaev told the visiting deputy commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Lieutenant General Michael DeLong that the coalition base has given Kyrgyzstan confidence that incursions by armed militants such as those in 1999 and 2000 will not happen again. BB
DEPOSED HEAD OF KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE SAYS HIS REMOVAL WAS ILLEGAL
Ramazan Dyryldaev, who was replaced as chairman of the Kyrgyz Human Rights Committee (KHRC) on 25 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003), has issued a statement saying that his removal was illegal, centrasia.ru reported on 28 August, posting the text of Dyryldaev's statement. Dyryldaev has insisted for more than a year that Bolot Tynaliev -- who was chosen by a special conference to replace him -- and others who took part in the special conference are not members of the KHRC. According to Dyryldaev, Tynaliev left the group of his own accord, so the terms of the KHRC's charter prevent him taking over the chairmanship. As for Dyryldaev, he can only be properly removed by the KHRC board. He linked the action of the special conference to a months-long campaign by the authorities to discredit him. BB
MILITANT GROUP COULD BE TRYING TO ENTER KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Tanaev announced on 27 August that the country is reinforcing its border defenses in connection with Independence Day celebrations on 31 August and in response to reports that a group of armed militants might be trying to enter Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported. According to Tanaev, the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry and the State Border Service have sent out groups of searchers to investigate reports received in early August that a group of 15-20 militants, including eight Kyrgyz citizens, tried to cross the Afghan border into Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, which borders on Kyrgyzstan. Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev told Interfax that the reinforced border defenses would probably be left in place for a month. BB
IMF QUESTIONS KAMBAR-ATA HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT
Warning Kyrgyzstan that it must reduce expenditures on capital-construction projects, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Bishkek focused on the Kambar-Ata hydroelectric project, "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported on 27 August. Mission chief Tapio Saavalainen was quoted as saying the project is very expensive, and the IMF doubts whether Kyrgyzstan will be able to complete it. The Kambar-Ata power plant, part of a series of hydroelectric installations on the Naryn River that was begun before Kyrgyzstan became independent, is intended to produce electricity primarily for export. Kyrgyzstan has been trying to attract Kazakh and Russian investment in the Kambar-Ata project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2003), so far without success. BB
UZBEK GOVERNMENT SPEEDS UP SALE OF FAILING STATE FIRMS
The Uzbek cabinet of ministers has issued a decree to accelerate the privatization of insolvent state firms, the official daily "Narodnoe slovo" reported on 27 August, printing the text of the decree. Ownership of low-profit and loss-making state-owned businesses is to be handed over to Uzbek and foreign investors on a competitive basis without a purchase price being paid. The firms will go to the investor who offers the best investment projects and commitments, including repayment of the firm's debts. Investors will be exempt from income taxes on the firm they acquire. If the new owners fail to meet their contractual obligations, the state will repossess the firm and resell it. BB
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS NATIONAL CURRENCY
During a meeting with voters in Vitsebsk Oblast on 25 August, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he fears that the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus under the conditions proposed by Moscow might put his country in a "secondary" and "subordinate" position in the Russia-Belarus Union, Belarusian Television reported. "Are we once again, as in Soviet times, to crawl on our knees somewhere there, in the Russian Central Bank, and beg for money to pay wages?" Lukashenka said. He said that a week ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the signing of an accord introducing the Russian ruble in Belarus. The Belarusian president said, however, that so far there has been no agreement between Minsk and Moscow on the terms of the planned currency union. "Please, don't be worried. [And] take my advice: Keep your Belarusian rubles in your pockets," Lukashenka stressed. "They are scarce, but they are our own." JM
BELARUSIAN SOLDIERS HELP FARMERS COLLECT HARVEST
More than 360 troops and 170 military vehicles are currently assisting Belarusian farmers with the harvest, Belapan reported on 27 August, citing the Defense Ministry's Moral and Psychological Support Department. The harvest work has not distracted troops from their daily combat-training duties, the department added. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REPLACES INTERIOR MINISTER
President Leonid Kuchma on 27 August dismissed Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov and replaced him with Mykola Bilokon, head of the presidential administration's Department for Judiciary Reform and the Activity of Military Formations and Law-Enforcing Bodies, Interfax reported. Kuchma commented that "there is no politics" in the replacement. "Fresh blood will in no way harm the activity of the Interior Ministry," the Ukrainian president told journalists. "This is the first news for you, and I think it will not be the last," Kuchma added, apparently suggesting that other cabinet changes might be forthcoming. JM
UKRAINIAN NGOS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF KYIV MAYOR
Some 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations gathered before the office of Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko on 27 August to protest what they believe is the imminent dismissal of Omelchenko by President Kuchma, Interfax reported. Since Omelchenko turned 65 earlier this month, he may be subject to obligatory retirement under a law on state service. NGO protesters argue that by virtue of the same law on state service, Omelchenko -- who is simultaneously the head of the Kyiv City Council, an elected body -- is not liable to dismissal even if he is overage. Kuchma said the same day that he is going to ask the Justice Ministry for clarification of those provisions of the law on state service that relate to dismissals of nominated officials who are overage. JM
ESTONIAN DEFENSE-REFORM CONTROVERSY ERUPTS
Res Publica parliament faction Chairman Taavi Veskimagi and Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher criticized Defense Minister Margus Hanson's plans to reduce the number of military conscripts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2003) and said Estonia must preserve the principles of total defense, LETA reported on 28 August, citing the daily "Eesti Paevaleht." Veskimagi noted that the Res Publica faction met with Prime Minister Juhan Parts on 25 August and concluded that Estonia cannot afford a professional army. Veskimagi said the party plans to hold a conference soon to discuss the conceptual basis of Estonia's national defense. The party hopes that development guidelines for the defense forces will be discussed in parliament as a matter of national importance. SG
LATVIA TO OPEN FIVE ECONOMIC REPRESENTATIONS ABROAD THIS YEAR
Economy Minister Juris Lujans announced on 27 August that Latvia plans to open economic representations this year in the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and France to promote Latvian exports, BNS reported. Lujans said the Latvian economy has developed to the extent that not only should investment in Latvia be promoted, but also Latvian investment abroad. Latvian Development Agency Chairman Juris Kanels told reporters that almost all the new economic representatives have been selected. They will start working in September so that their offices can begin operation by November. The representations will be located at the Latvian embassies of the countries involved, except for Germany, since Berlin is not that country's economic center. Lujans also noted that three more economic representations in the United States, the Czech Republic, and an unnamed country should be opened before the end of 2004. SG
WORLD INFORMATION-TECHNOLOGY FORUM OPENS IN LITHUANIA
The WITFOR-Vilnius 2003 world information-technology forum was officially opened in Vilnius on 27 August by its honorary chairman, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, BNS reported. The three-day forum, attended by more than 670 participants from 72 countries -- including vice presidents from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM -- was organized by the Lithuanian government and the International Federation for Information Processing, under the patronage of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UNESCO. ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi noted that the forum will adopt a declaration that will serve as the basis for the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva in December. UNESCO Deputy Director-General Abdul Waheed Khan said the forum should devote attention not only to the development of information technologies, but also to their use in education and to increasing information accessibility to all. SG
POLISH JOBLESS CONVERGE IN PROTEST MARCH ON WARSAW
Several hundred unemployed people staged a demonstration in Warsaw on 27 August, in the culmination of a protest march launched on 21 August from major Polish cities, including Katowice, Wroclaw, Szczecin, and Krakow, Polish media reported. The protesters demanded that the government allow the participation of jobless people in a trilateral commission of employers, unionists, and government officials; appoint an unemployment crisis team; propose changes to labor laws; and provide free public transport for job seekers. Following the demonstration, 14 participants set up a "slum township" made of cardboard boxes in front of the prime minister's office. Police removed the boxes and their tenants on 28 August. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Market Agency announced on 27 August that it will donate 7,000 tons of canned meat to the needy. According to the Main Statistical Office, some 4 million Poles cannot afford to buy enough food. JM
CZECH PREMIER PICKS NEW JUSTICE MINISTER
Former Czech Bar Association head Karel Cermak is to be the Czech Republic's next justice minister, CTK reported on 27 August. According to CTK, Cermak confirmed that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has offered him the position and, Cermak said, "I did not say no." Government spokeswoman Anna Starkova said Spidla has made a decision, but she does not know the name of the person selected for the job. Starkova said Spidla discussed the nomination with President Vaclav Klaus on 26 August, and she expects the prime minister to announce the name of the candidate on 29 August. The Justice Ministry has been without a head since 6 August, when Klaus appointed Pavel Rychetsky to the Constitutional Court. Cermak is not a member of any political party. MS
CZECH TELEVISION FACING HUGE DEFICIT
The Czech Television Council on 27 August "took note" of the dismissal of Petr Klimes from his post as chief financial officer of Czech Television, CTK reported. Czech Television did not publicly indicate the reasons for Klimes's dismissal, but CTK said the institution is facing a deficit of some 250 million crowns ($8.3 million) in 2003. The news agency reported that Czech Television Council members called the situation "alarming" and expressed fears that Czech Television might have to follow the example of Slovak Television, which underwent a radical restructuring, reduced programming, and dismissed more than 1,100 employees earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2003). MS
SLOVAK ECONOMY MINISTER TO RESIGN
Economy Minister Robert Nemcsics announced after a 27 August meeting with Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko that he will resign from the cabinet, TASR reported. One day earlier, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda turned down ANO's request to dismiss Nemcsics and Transportation Ministry State Secretary Branislav Opaterny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). Nemcsics said that in spite of the support he received from the premier, he cannot imagine functioning as a minister without the support of his party. He said he will tender his resignation in the coming weeks, after he completes essential work at the ministry. Unlike Nemcsics, Opaterny is standing by his refusal to resign. After they criticized Rusko, both Nemcsics and Opaterny were asked by the ANO leadership to step down. MS
SLOVAK CABINET DECIDES TO ABOLISH ELECTION-SPENDING CEILING
The cabinet decided on 27 August to ask parliament to abolish as of 1 January 2004 limits on what parties may spend during the general election campaign, TASR and CTK reported. Currently, the limit is 12 million crowns ($311,500). The Finance Ministry said the legislation now in force is ineffective in capping spending, and in November the Interior Ministry will submit for the cabinet's approval a new, comprehensive draft law on the financing of political parties and movements, including rules on campaign spending. ANO representatives in the government oppose the change, saying it would "completely deregulate" political funding, according to an ANO communique cited by TASR. MS
SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTRY SETS UP 'SPECIAL TEAM' TO INVESTIGATE PREMIER'S COMPLAINT
The Interior Ministry will set up a special team to investigate Prime Minister Dzurinda's suspicion that a "group" is acting to discredit his Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and the Slovak Information Service (SIS), CTK reported on 27 August, citing ministry spokesman Boris Azaltovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003). Azaltovic said Interior Minister Vladimir Palko has already ordered an investigative team to be established. MS
FIDESZ OPPOSES TRAINING OF IRAQI POLICE AT HUNGARIAN BASE
The main opposition party FIDESZ said on 27 August that the plan to have 28,000 Iraqi police officers trained at the Taszar military base would entail grave security risks for Hungary, "Magyar Nemzet," "Nepszabadsag," and "Nepszava" reported the next day. Istvan Simicsko, the FIDESZ official in charge of security affairs, also said it is unjust for Hungarian society to learn from a U.S. newspaper, "The New York Times," that the Iraqis are slated to be trained at Taszar. He added that it is a mystery what type of training those men would need "as 99 percent of them" have already undergone training "to defend the Saddam Hussein regime." Simicsko warned that the Iraqis might actually be trained as soldiers and that the scheme is intended to circumvent the need for parliament to approve such training by a two-thirds majority. The constitution does not require approval for police training, leaving the matter to cabinet purview. "I think the cabinet is making an effort to put Hungary on the terrorists' target lists," Simicsko said. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth reiterated that the U.S. State Department has not submitted an official request for the training. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker on 27 August also said that the United States has not requested use of the Taszar base to train Iraqi police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 August 2003). MS
HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS CLASH OVER KEHI REPORT
Istvan Stump -- who served as Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff under the previous, FIDESZ-led government -- defended himself on 27 August against allegations that during Stump's tenure, billions of taxpayers' forints were taken out of state coffers by the IT Commissioner's Office (IKB), which is under the prime minister's office, Hungarian media reported. Stump called the allegations "a crude political attack," designed to divert public attention from current problems. On 26 August, the Government Audit Office (KEHI) filed a criminal complaint, alleging possible abuse of funds at the IKB during the tenure of the previous FIDESZ-led government. Government spokesman Zoltan Gal told journalists that the KEHI report shows "how the previous government built its clientele base by siphoning billions of taxpayer forints out of public funds." Stump said the investigation is politically motivated and its findings are questionable, being based on documents to which KEHI could not have had access. MS
HUNGARIAN POLICE SUSPECT PSZAF HEAD OF MISUSING PUBLIC FUNDS
The Anti-Organized Crime Unit of the National Police (ORFK) intends to interrogate Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF) head Karoly Szasz as a suspect in connection with the misuse of public funds and forgery, the pro-government "Nepszabadsag" reported on 28 August. Public Funds State Secretary Laszlo Keller -- who claims the PSZAF illegally paid some 15 million forints ($63,600) to undisclosed recipients and committed 56 counts of "private document forgery" -- is said to have reported Szasz to police. Some of the charges involve allegations that PSZAF employees received separate payments for work that is part of their job description. The FIDESZ-appointed PSZAF head has for some time been in conflict with the current government, which intends to replace him. MS
HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER BEGINS CHINA VISIT
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy unveiled a bust of Hungarian national poet Sandor Petofi in Beijing on 27 August, shortly after arriving in the Chinese capital for a three-day official visit, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy is to hold talks on 28 August with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and parliamentary speaker Wu Bangguo. Medgyessy is heading a large delegation that includes Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, Interior Minister Monika Lamperth, Economy Minister Istvan Csillag, eight state secretaries, a number of undersecretaries, and a group of Hungarian business executives. MS
SERBIA STRESSES CLAIM TO KOSOVA...
With general elections widely expected within the next 12 months, the Serbian parliament approved a declaration on 27 August reaffirming Serbia's claim to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 8, 15, and 22 August 2003). The vote was 186 deputies in favor, 23 abstentions, and not a single vote against. The declaration demanded that the international community better enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and ruled out any solution for Kosova's future except wide autonomy within Serbia. Kosovar leaders have called the declaration a provocation that will only worsen relations between Prishtina and Belgrade. In Podgorica, representatives of Montenegro's governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Social Democrats (SDP) said their deputies will not attend an upcoming session of Serbia and Montenegro's parliament at which unnamed Serbian deputies want to discuss the declaration. PM
...AND SLAMS BOSNIA
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic told Bosnian Serb television on 27 August that the Sarajevo government must drop its genocide case against Serbia at the Hague-based International Court of Justice if Bosnia intends to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Zivkovic argued that no country is accepted into the program if it is involved in legal disputes with its neighbors. In Sarajevo, a Dutch lawyer for the Bosnian government told RFE/RL that Bosnia will press its case regardless of what Belgrade says (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003). Serbia and Montenegro's membership in Partnership for Peace is being held up by Belgrade's failure to catch indicted war criminals, remove suspected war criminals from the military, and institute transparent civilian control over the military. NATO officials have also ruled out Belgrade's membership as long as it pursues its Milosevic-era lawsuit against the Atlantic alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June and 23 July 2003). Bosnia's chief problem in joining NATO's program is the absence of a single Defense Ministry and army. The Bosnian Serbs in particular refuse to give up their separate army and join the Muslims and Croats in a joint force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2003). PM
ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADERS IN SOUTHERN SERBIA SAY SITUATION IS WORSE THAN IN 2001
Several ethnic Albanian leaders in southern Serbia's Presevo Valley region said recently that the "Zivkovic regime" has turned the area "into a fortress" by bringing in extra army, police, and paramilitary units, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July and 19, 20, and 25 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 22 August 2003). Jonuz Musliu, who heads the Movement for Democratic Progress (LPD), said Belgrade has made the security situation even worse than it was during the 2000-01 conflict. Speaking on condition of anonymity, another ethnic Albanian leader said that the Serbian authorities have recently fabricated a series of violent incidents in order to justify the influx of security forces. PM
SERBIAN AND KFOR COMMANDERS MEET
General Branko Krga, who heads Serbia and Montenegro's General Staff, and Italian General Fabio Mini, who commands NATO forces in Kosova, met on 27 August near the Serbian-Kosovar border, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. No details are available. Krga recently called for the return of Serbian forces to Kosova, although Defense Minister Boris Tadic effectively ruled out such a move (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 26 August 2003). PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO NAMES TWO KEY AMBASSADORS
Serbia and Montenegro's Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Branko Lukovac was named ambassador to Italy on 27 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Milan Rocen, who is chief adviser to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, will become ambassador to Russia. The two posts became vacant in April, when the new government sacked 16 ambassadors with ties to the Montenegrin opposition, which supported the last Yugoslav government of President Vojislav Kostunica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). PM
TWO KIDNAPPED POLICEMEN FREED IN MACEDONIA
Two police officers -- an ethnic Albanian and an ethnic Macedonian -- were kidnapped on 27 August in the northern town of Kumanovo, Macedonian media reported. Local rebel commander Avdil Jakupi "Jackal" took responsibility for the kidnapping. He told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters that the two policemen had shot at him before he and his men decided to "arrest" them. Jakupi said his group would not release their captives unless an ethnic Albanian charged with two bomb attacks in Kumanovo was freed. Macedonian police nonetheless managed to free the two officers later the same day "in an extensive operation," according to an Interior Ministry spokeswoman, who did not elaborate, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February and 12 August 2003). UB
NATO ENDS BRIEF OPERATION IN BOSNIA
An SFOR spokesman said in Sarajevo on 27 August that NATO troops that evening ended an operation aimed at disrupting the activities of persons opposed to the Dayton agreements, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The operation appears to have been directed at relatives and supporters of Radovan Karadzic, an indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader, who remains at large (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). PM
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES DIPLOMATS TO FOCUS ON ECONOMICS
Addressing an annual forum of Romanian diplomats in Bucharest, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana urged his audience to dedicate much of their activity to the economic sphere in general and to international marketing and technical-scientific specializations in particular, Mediafax reported. Geoana announced that beginning next year, a new category of attaches specializing in those fields will serve at the most important Romanian embassies abroad. Last year, doubts still lingered about Romania's Euro-Atlantic future, he said, but those apprehensions are gone and Romania knows when and how it will be integrated into NATO and the EU. In the last three years, he said, Romania has moved from the stage of building international credibility to one of consolidating international influence. He also announced that as of next year, Western criteria for performance evaluation will be introduced in the foreign service. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER HINTS AT 'TEMPORARY VELVET DIVORCE' FROM HUMANIST PARTY
Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Adrian Nastase said on 27 August after meeting with Humanist Party Chairman Dan Voiculescu that both political formations intend to concentrate in the near future on strengthening their own political identity, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said he finds it "normal" that each of the two allied parties, which ran on a joint list in the 2000 parliamentary elections, should separately "place their own ideology on offer to the electorate" in the next parliamentary elections, slated for late 2004 or late 2005. "I am convinced that relations between our two parties will continue to be very good" and that "after the elections, [each would] look for political partners if [they are] unable to form a government by themselves," he said. The Humanist Party is to decide on its alliance with the PSD at a meeting of its Standing Bureau on 30 August. MS
WARNING STRIKE HALTS ROMANIAN TRAINS
A warning strike called by railway unions halted all passenger and cargo trains for two hours on 28 August, Romanian Radio and dpa reported. The strike came after failed negotiations between union representatives and government officials. The unions called the strike to protest the planned layoffs of 19,328 rail workers by the end of September. Transportation, Construction, and Tourism Minister Miron Mitrea said on 27 August that the unions demand the layoffs be reduced to 11,000. The ministry rejected the demand, saying the planned layoffs are necessary to make the rail system more competitive and profitable. The sides plan to return to the negotiating table on 29 August, with the unions threatening a general strike if no compromise is reached. Romania pledged during negotiations with the IMF earlier this month to lay off redundant rail workers and miners and to close or sell state-owned enterprises that are losing money (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). MS
VORONIN CALLS ON MOLDOVANS ABROAD TO RETURN HOME...
In a speech delivered on 27 August, Moldova's national day, President Vladimir Voronin called on his fellow countrymen who live abroad to return to Moldova and help build the country's future, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to an ITAR-TASS report, Voronin said that European integration is "the shortest path to consistent social, economic, and political reforms, [and] the most reliable mechanism for restoring territorial integrity, preserving ethno-cultural distinctiveness, and ensuring the rights of citizens of every nationality." Voronin, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, and parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc opened the festivities by the laying a wreath at a monument to Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great and a monument to soldiers who fell in the 1992 war with Transdniester. MS
...BUT GAGAUZ-YERI REFUSES TO JOIN IN NATIONAL-DAY CELEBRATIONS
The autonomous Gagauz-Yeri region did not observe national-day celebrations on 27 August, according to an RFE/RL report from Comrat. Popular Assembly Chairman Mikhail Kendegelian said the region boycotted the celebrations because authorities in Chisinau have refused to recognize 19 August as the "national day of the Gagauz people." On 19 August 1990, Gagauz-Yeri proclaimed its status as an autonomous republic. MS
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS OPPOSE DEPLOYMENT OF CIVILIAN SPECIALISTS TO IRAQ...
Opposition Socialist Party (BSP) spokesman Angel Naydenov told RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 27 August that his party opposes the deployment of civilian specialists to Iraq to help create a civilian administration in the city of Kerbala. Naydenov added that the BSP will announce its final position on the issue after a meeting with Chief of the General Staff General Nikola Kolev. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 27 August that so far Bulgaria has not been officially asked to take over the administration of Kerbala, mediapool.bg reported. In an interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 26 August, a spokesman for the Polish-led multinational stabilization forces said Bulgarian troops will not be in charge of the administration, but rather will oversee cooperation with the civilian population (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 August 2003). UB
...AS PRESIDENT TRIES TO CALM THE WATERS
President Georgi Parvanov on 27 August told journalists that so far the Bulgarian contingent in Iraq has not been officially asked to take over additional tasks, the president's official website (http://www.president.bg) reported. "If [such a request] arrives, I am prepared," Parvanov said. "I have discussed [the matter] with the prime minister [Simeon Saxecoburggotski], the defense minister [Nikolay Svinarov], and the chief of the General Staff [Kolev], and we will meet to assess [such a request] and work out a coordinated Bulgarian position. Because at the moment, anything else is improvisation." UB
THE AFGHAN ECONOMY: WHERE FROM HERE?
In the bustling district of Pul-e Bagh-e Umumi in downtown Kabul the din of car horns drowns out the hawkers' cries. A one-legged man hobbles along the pavement clutching a wad of afghani notes.
"People need afghanis for their day-to-day transactions, but they prefer to save in [U.S.] dollars," explained Abdul Ra'uf, who is one of the many war veterans who have found employment as money changers. The going rate is 48 afghanis to $1.
"There is a lot of competition," he said, pointing to the legions of bedraggled men on the pavement. Abdul Ra'uf has a wife, three children, a father, and a brother to support. His monthly income is roughly 3,000 afghanis ($60). He concedes it is a paltry sum and hardly enough to make ends meet, but there are no alternative means for him to earn his bread. "Jobs are available for the educated people, but for people like me, there are no jobs," he lamented.
His views about the Transitional Administration are ambivalent. "We can't say the government is doing its best for the people, but we can't say it is doing nothing either," he said.
Anwar al-Haq Ahady -- governor of Afghanistan's central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank -- believes the country has made great strides in alleviating the burden for the average Afghan over the past year. When Ahady took office in April 2002, he was faced with the colossal challenge of creating a banking system out of a central bank that was looted by the Taliban when the militia abandoned Kabul in November 2001. "The militiamen took with them some $5.5 million in U.S. currency, plus close to $1 million in Pakistani rupees and Afghan currency," according to an article published on Eurasianet (http://www.eurasianet.org) in December 2001.
Moreover, in the wake of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban, there were at least four different currencies in circulation -- the official currency, the afghani; the Pakistani rupee; and money printed by two rival warlords.
Ahady's first move was to introduce a new currency to replace the decimated afghani. Since the conversion, the new afghani has maintained a steady value, which has had "a positive impact on prices in general," he said. "In 2003, we've witnessed 8 percent deflation, as opposed to inflation," he pointed out. Another reform was the "separation of commercial banks from the central bank." "In the past, the central bank owned and regulated commercial banks," he explained.
The key to rebuilding war-ravaged Afghanistan is creating a suitable climate for private foreign investment. Abdul Ali Seraj, an Afghan-American businessman, insists Afghanistan cannot afford to be dependent on the pledges of donor countries. For sustained development, a strong private sector is imperative, he said.
Omar Samad, spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, concurs. "Private enterprise will surely form the backbone of the Afghan economy in the future, and the legal framework needed to encourage and foster that sector are being put in place at this juncture," he said.
"Small businesses are booming, not only in Kabul but in most Afghan cities," Samad continued. "There is an acute shortage of commercial space. Restaurants, Internet cafes, grocery stores, telecom outlets, bakeries, high-technology stores, and, especially, household and construction-material retail outlets are springing up all over town," he said. "But a postwar, ravaged economy cannot be sustained by small entrepreneurship alone. The government has to attract mid- and large-size investment -- whether foreign or Afghan -- to the industrial, natural resources, and infrastructure-building sectors."
According to a report compiled by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, businesspeople are daunted by the corruption, bureaucracy, and the lack of access to resources. The most important priorities for creating a sound business climate in Afghanistan are a banking system, improved infrastructure, and strengthening the rule of law.
"Right now, the central bank can offer banking services to Afghans and foreigners in the country. Our services have become more sophisticated. And by the end of 2003, we will have commercial-banking services. We have introduced a new banking law, which we expect to be passed in the next few weeks. This will allow competition among banks," Ahady said. "We have also introduced a law on the central bank, which calls for autonomy from the central government," he said. "The law stipulates that we don't take orders from the president. We expect this to be passed in the next two months."
Ahady added that he has also sought to modernize the modus operandi of the central bank. "When I first came, we had only three computers in the office. It took a year or so to get completely computerized," said the governor, who holds an MBA in finance and management and a Ph.D. in political science. "We hired English-speaking staff with management backgrounds. They will be the people of the future. We also need to form a human-resources department."
Ahady outlined several sectors that are primed for investment: telecommunications, mining, transportation, and irrigation.
Twenty-three years of war have left the country's infrastructure in ruins, and Afghanistan is in need of almost everything from consumer products -- such as electronics, food, and clothing -- to industrial development -- everything from cement to plastics to construction materials and iron smelting.
According to Samad: "Energy and roads are high priorities. Being an agricultural country, irrigation and water management are also important factors. The problem faced by the government is that almost every sector is a priority, and not enough resources are available yet to jump-start the whole system."
Ahady conceded that there are "risks," including political risks and the lack of security. "But this is up to the government to provide," he said. "There are also business risks. The businessman might misjudge the demand for the product, but this is up to the businessman."
Tanya Goudsouzian is a freelance journalist who covers Afghanistan.
GERMANY OFFERS MORE TROOPS FOR AFGHANISTAN, BUT WITH UN MANDATE
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on 27 August that his country is prepared to send 250 soldiers to Konduz Province in northern Afghanistan, but only if the United Nations mandates such a deployment, dpa reported. Downplaying opposition parties' arguments that Germany cannot afford to send more troops to Afghanistan, Schroeder said, "The money will be found." The proposed German deployment would take over control of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) currently managed by the United States. The UN mandate does not extend to the PRTs. Germany currently has 2,000 troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul and an undisclosed number of special-operations forces, who are part of the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition. Schroeder's demand for a mandate for the PRTs might be an effort to expand ISAF's mandate beyond Kabul and integrate the PRTs into ISAF. AT
IMF VISITING AFGHANISTAN AFTER 12 YEARS
According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman, a team from the fund is visiting Afghanistan for the first time since 1991 to "complete an Article IV review in Afghanistan," Reuters reported on 27 August. The IMF spokesman said the team "will be on the ground for a number of weeks." Since the demise of the Taliban regime in December 2001, Afghanistan has settled its financial obligations to the IMF. The IMF team's main objective will be to assess the performance of the Afghan economy. AT
AFGHAN PAPER CRITICIZES LACK OF SECURITY
The Kabul paper "Erada" said in a commentary on 23 August that while the Afghan Transitional Administration is doing a great deal to bring about a more secure environment in the country, there are still "many instances of breakdowns in law and order." "Why does security in Kabul and in the provinces deteriorate day by day," "Erada" asked, "in spite of mobilization of all government and other forces to restore security and in spite of all those interviews, talk shows, and statements broadcast on government television?" The paper said that the authorities have not yet provided a convincing answer to that question, and that government functionaries "in uniforms and in plain clothes" commit crimes. "Erada" said that instead of ducking its responsibility to address the breakdown of security by "holding meetings," the Transitional Administration should concentrate on effective ways to solve the problem of urban crime, otherwise its image will be tarnished. AT
MAZAR-E SHARIF OFF-LIMITS TO GUNMEN
The National Security Office has issued a directive prohibiting gunmen from entering the Balkh Province capital of Mazar-e Sharif with their weapons, Balkh TV reported on 26 August. According to that directive, if security forces find anyone with weapons within the Mazar-e Sharif city limits, his weapon will be confiscated and will not be returned. The directive also says that all government premises that are illegally occupied by nongovernmental organizations or individuals must be evacuated within 10 days or the occupiers will face prosecution. The directive seems to be part of an effort to disarm the northern warlords and curb their power at least in the largest city in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). AT
IRANIAN PARLIAMENT LOOKS INTO WEBSITE FILTERING
Parliamentary representative Ali-Akbar Musavi-Khoeni told reporters on 27 August that Minister of Post, Telegraph, and Telephones Ahmad Motamedi must appear before the legislature to answer questions from 40 parliamentarians about the filtering of certain websites, IRNA reported. Musavi-Khoeni said that the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution had approved filtering by the ministry. He added that the filtering is enforced selectively and this is a factional problem. "Certain websites continue to insult legal and real entities but no action has been taken against them," he said. (For more on website filtering, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 June and 21 July 2003.) BS
IRANIAN SPY ON TRIAL IN BERLIN
The trial of a man with Iranian and German citizenship who has admitted to working for Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) began in Berlin on 26 August, the daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 27 August. The man was an employee of the former regime's intelligence and security organization, SAVAK (Sazeman-i Ettelaat va Amniyat-i Keshvar), and served in Tehran, Hamburg, and Berlin. After the 1979 revolution he secured asylum in Germany, and in 1991 his parents in Tehran contacted him to say that they were being threatened in order to force him to return to service, this time for the MOIS. By his own admission, the man reported to the MOIS on the activities of Iranian royalists in Germany from 1991-2002. "Iraj S." was previously identified as a restaurateur from Berlin (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 July 2003). BS
TOKYO ENCOURAGES IRANIAN COOPERATION WITH IAEA
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 28 August that Iran should cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Japan's Jiji Press reported. Kharrazi told his host that Iran intends to strengthen its relationship with the IAEA and will negotiate with it on signing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He said, "We are increasing our cooperation with the IAEA and recently decided to discuss the additional protocol with the IAEA," according to Reuters. BS
TALKS ON JAPANESE DEVELOPMENT OF AZADEGAN OIL FIELD CONTINUE
After his meeting with Koizumi, Kharrazi said that discussions on Japanese development of the Azadegan oil field are continuing, Reuters reported on 28 August. Washington has pressed Tokyo to pull out of the deal, which is worth about $2 billion, due to concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions and activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 and 21 July 2003). Tokyo, however, is keen to diversify its energy sources. BS
OTTAWA RESPONDS ANGRILY TO LACK OF IRANIAN COOPERATION
Tehran's failure to provide the official report on the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in Iranian custody has prompted an angry response from Ottawa, Reuters reported on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003). Isabelle Savard, a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Bill Graham, said, "Although Canada has made repeated requests, the Iranian government has yet to provide us with the investigative report on Ms Kazemi's death." "This is not the cooperation and transparency that Canada has insisted on and that I have been promised by Foreign Minister Kharrazi," Savard quoted Graham as saying. Graham also was quoted as saying that Canada will continue to try to have Kazemi's remains returned to Canada in accordance with her family's wishes. BS
U.S. HINTS IT COULD SUPPORT A MULTINATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ
The United States has signaled that it might support a UN-sponsored multinational force in Iraq through a new UN Security Council resolution that will encourage states to commit troops to Iraq, Reuters reported on 28 August. An unidentified UN diplomat told the news agency that there is a push for a new resolution by mid-September. The United Kingdom will chair the Security Council that month. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters in an interview released on 27 August that the plan will call for a multinational force under the sponsorship of the UN and under the command of the United States. "That's one idea being explored. And others just started talking about widening decision making. [We] haven't finished our deliberations," Armitage said. "We've got a ways to go." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed the proposed plan recently, saying that the Security Council could approve a new multinational force headed by the United States, which is the largest troop contributor, Reuters reported. Many countries have said they will not participate in peacekeeping operations in Iraq without a UN mandate. KR
BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED IN ATTACK BY ARMED IRAQIS
One British soldier was killed and another wounded when their convoy was attacked while on patrol in Ali Al-Sharqi, some 200 kilometers northwest of Al-Basrah, on 27 August, Reuters reported on 28 August. According to a British military spokesman, the convoy was returning from an arrest operation when it encountered a roadblock that diverted it through the town, where the soldiers were confronted by a group of around 30 Iraqis. A second group of Iraqis blocked the soldiers from behind. "The British soldiers fired two warning shots, and the crowd opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades," the spokesman said, adding, "One soldier was fatally wounded, and another was seriously wounded in the hand." Ten Iraqis were arrested, and the British convoy returned to its base under an aerial escort. According to Reuters, 11 British soldiers have been killed in action since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat over in Iraq on 1 May. KR
DENMARK COMPENSATES FAMILIES OF IRAQIS KILLED IN INCIDENT
Denmark will pay compensation to the families of two Iraqis killed by Danish soldiers and to one Iraqi who was injured during a 16 August incident near Al-Basrah, Danish Radio P1 reported on 27 August. According to press reports at the time of the incident, a Danish patrol stopped a truck carrying several Iraqis west of Al-Basrah. An exchange of gunfire ensued and one Dane was killed, along with the two Iraqis. The injured Iraqi and the families of the two Iraqi victims will be paid around 80,000 kroners ($11,700) each, according to the Danish Army Operative Command, Radio P1 reported. KR
TRIBAL CHIEFS SANCTION THE KILLING OF VIOLENT CRIMINALS
Tribal chiefs in Central Iraq's Wasit Governorate have reportedly signed a document condoning the killing of anyone who is proved to have committed armed robbery, theft, looting, or kidnapping, if that person's actions resulted in the death or injury of his victims, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 27 August. The decision was made at a meeting to discuss ways to establish law and order in the governorate, attended by the governor of Wasit, Ni'mah Sultan, and representatives of local political and religious parties. According to the radio report, a "tribal document" was signed at the meeting that said that the tribes will sanction the killing of anyone who uses arms to confront local security forces, which will patrol local roads and public spaces, as well as pipelines in the governorate. KR
KIRKUK GOVERNOR COMMENTS ON PRESS REPORTS ON CLASHES
The governor of Kirkuk, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa, has issued a statement to "Kurdistani Nuwe" denying international press reports attributing recent clashes in the city (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 August 2003) to ethnic tensions between Kurds and Turkomans, the daily reported on 26 August. "These disturbances were carried out by some troublemakers," Mustafa wrote, adding, "The incidents did not occur as a result of conflict between two national groups as reported by some Arab and Western media.... In this context, I deny the statement which an Arab channel TV attributed to me, according to which I had said that the Kurds killed three Turkomans in Kirkuk." Meanwhile, the Turkoman representative to the Kirkuk Civil Administration Council, Irfan Jamal Kirkukli, issued a statement blaming Ba'athist elements for sparking the clashes. "I also want to say that before Operation Iraqi Freedom, we, as Turkoman political parties in Kurdistan, have had offices and Turkoman media and a TV station, which still continues to exist thanks to the Kurdistan Regional Government. We have never been badly treated. On the contrary, we have been helped by the regional government and [Kurdish] political sides, and Turkomans' rights have been defended on all levels," Kirkukli said. KR