PUTIN WARNS CANDIDATES NOT TO EXPLOIT ETHNIC TENSIONS
Speaking to journalists in Rostov-na-Donu on 3 September, President Vladimir Putin warned candidates in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections that using nationalist and chauvinistic rhetoric is impermissible, ORT and other Russian media reported. Putin said that exploiting interethnic tensions is easy, but wrong in a multinational country like Russia. "If we want to destroy the country, then we should welcome such slogans," Putin said, "but if we want to preserve it, we should stop them." Putin urged the public to be intolerant of such tactics and said that he has "an extremely negative" personal attitude toward them. VY
EXPERTS QUESTION OFFICIAL VERSION OF SUBMARINE DISASTER...
An unnamed high-ranking Russian Navy officer told AFP that the 30 August sinking of the decommissioned K-159 nuclear submarine was not the result of negligence as was officially announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003), newsru.com reported on 3 September. The tragedy, in which nine crewmembers died, occurred because of a leak in the vessel's hull. The source said the submarine's commander, second-rank Captain Sergei Lappa, was informed of the leak and sought the permission of Northern Fleet command to have the K-159 towed to shallow water close to a nearby island, but he was ordered not to do so. Independent military journalist Pavel Felgenhauer has refuted the Northern Fleet's statement that there was a severe storm in the area of the Barents Sea at the time of the sinking, "Novaya gazeta," No. 64, reported. He said that the weather at the time was calm. "In such weather, one can go for a swim," Felgenhauer said. VY
...AS PROSECUTORS BRING AN INDICTMENT
Main Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov announced on 3 September that an indictment has been filed for "violations of navigation rules" against second-rank Captain Sergei Zhemchuzhnyi, who was in command of the K-159 towing operation, nns.ru reported. Military prosecutors have sealed all documents relating to the K-159 from the navy's Moscow headquarters, as well as those in the Leningrad Military District, the news agency added. VY
POLICE CONSIDER KISLOVODSK EXPLOSION AN ACT OF TERRORISM
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 3 September that police have opened a terrorism investigation in connection with the bombing that day of a commuter train in Kislovodsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003), Russian media reported. "I have no doubt that we will solve this crime, just as we have already solved most of the terrorist acts that have been committed," Gryzlov said. Four people were killed and 35 wounded in the bombing, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 September. Most of the victims were students on their way to school. Police also confirmed reports that one person, who was injured in the explosion and who is currently hospitalized under guard, has been detained as a suspect, nns.ru reported. VY
SPIN DOCTOR WARNS OF CREEPING INFLUENCE OF SILOVIKI...
In a report dated 2 September and carried in full on vlasti.net the next day, Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii wrote that the siloviki faction within the Kremlin has become more political active with this summer's legal attack on oil giant Yukos. The faction, according to Pavlovskii, is led by former Mezhprombank head Sergei Pugachev and deputy presidential administration heads Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin. According to Pavlovskii, the group has also become active in the run-up to the 7 December State Duma election and is supporting Gennadii Raikov's People's Party. It has also become an important player in certain important regional elections such as in St. Petersburg, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, and the city of Moscow, Pavlovskii said. JAC
...AS 'FAMILY' LAUNCHES COUNTERATTACK
According to Gleb Pavlovskii, the siloviki group aims to restructure all levels of political power -- including the presidential level -- and to form government policy in a number of areas directly, including reexamining the results of privatization. Polit.ru noted that Pavlovskii is himself considered close to a competing clan within the Kremlin, the so-called Yeltsin-era Family. It concludes that in this context, the publication of the analytical essay appears to be a counterattack launched by presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin and his circle. Last month, "Novaya gazeta," No. 58, reported that Pavlovskii, who played a central role in the Unity party's 1999 State Duma campaign, is overseeing the campaign effort of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. JAC
GENERAL'S WIFE CONFESSES TO KILLING HUSBAND...
Volgograd Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Mikhail Murzaev on 1 September announced the arrest of Irina Moiseeva, the widow of local garrison commander Major General Sergei Moiseev, Russian media reported. Moiseeva has reportedly confessed to the killing that day of her husband. Moiseev, 41, was the commander of the 20th Guard Motorized Infantry Division and was found dead from a single shot fired from his own sidearm in his apartment. Murzaev said that Moiseeva told investigators she shot her husband during a domestic quarrel. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists that Moiseev's killing demonstrated "no signs of terrorism or criminal involvement and has social origins," pravda.ru reported on 1 September. VY
...IN CASE REMINISCENT OF ANOTHER GENERAL'S
In July 1998, the popular State Duma Deputy Lieutenant General Lev Rokhlin, who was a predecessor of Moiseev's as Volgograd garrison commander, was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). His wife, Tamara Rokhlina, testified that she killed him "for reasons of personal enmity," pravda.ru reported. She later recanted her testimony, saying that she incriminated herself because she feared the three unknown masked men who she said killed her husband might harm her family. In November 2000, Rokhlina was convicted of the murder and sentenced to eight years in prison, but the Supreme Court overturned that verdict in June 2001 and ordered a new trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2001). That trial is still being heard, having been repeatedly delayed by Rokhlina's poor health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). VY
MEDIA-FUND OFFICIAL FOUND STRANGLED
Mikhail Paperno, vice president of the media-support fund 095, was found strangled to death in his Moscow apartment on 3 September, RIA-Novosti and newsru.com reported. A police spokesman told journalists that earlier in the day Paperno had telephoned relatives asking to borrow a large sum of money. The concerned relatives reportedly called the police, who went to Paperno's apartment and found him dead. The 095 fund, which provides assistance to print media organs covering cinema, was created in 1995 on the initiative of former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov and former Cinematographers Union President Armen Medvedev. VY
PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY COMPLAINS ABOUT DIRTY TRICK...
The press service of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, who is a candidate in the 21 September St. Petersburg gubernatorial election, has charged that Matvienko has been a victim of "black public relations," Russian media reported on 3 September. According to the service, a fake version of the official campaign newspaper "Valentina Matvienko" that contained materials discrediting her was distributed on 2 September. The city prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into possible defamation. JAC
...WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CHARGES PUTIN WITH VIOLATING ELECTION LAW
On the same day, the NGO For Human Rights sent an appeal to Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov complaining that President Putin "openly used his official position to the [advantage] of a gubernatorial candidate in St. Petersburg, which is a violation of the federal law on basic guarantees of election rights," Regnum reported. The previous day, state-controlled ORT and RTR television broadcast footage of a meeting between Putin and presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Matvienko, in which the former expressed his support for the latter in the upcoming election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). Also on 3 September, pornographic film director Sergei Pryanishnikov withdrew his candidacy in the St. Petersburg election. He commented that he realized during the course of his campaign that the city's problems can only be solved at the federal level, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 September. JAC
ENERGY HEAD EXPECTED TO ELECTRIFY SPS'S CAMPAIGN EFFORT
Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais, who will occupy the No. 3 slot on the Union of Rightist Forces's (SPS) party list for the December Duma elections, explained to directors of EES subsidiaries on 2 September that he sees no inherent conflict in his heading EES and running for the Duma, Interfax reported the next day. He added, however, that he strongly reprimanded the director of one of the EES electricity grids for working to organize a campaign for a political party. Meanwhile, Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technology, told Ekho Moskvy that he thinks "with the appearance of Chubais" SPS's campaign, which had been "hibernating" recently, will get a "dynamic impetus." JAC
FAR NORTHERN CITY LOSES ELECTRICITY JUST BEFORE MAYORAL BALLOT
Local electricity supplier Kolenergo shut off electricity supplies to the city of Murmansk on 3 September because, as company official Mikhail Vatin explained, the city's debt has reached 340 million rubles ($11 million), RosBalt reported. Vatin told reporters that he had hoped until the last few days that an agreement with local authorities could be reached, but no decision about reducing the debt was adopted. A mayoral election will be held in Murmansk on 7 September. JAC
FAR EASTERN CITY EXPERIENCING SEVERE SHORTAGE OF WATER...
Vladivostok declared a state of emergency on 3 September because of an acute water shortage, ORT reported. Businesses and military units have no water, while residences have water only for a few hours a day. At the same time, the city's water company has warned that it might cut off water to the city's main electricity- and heat-generating plant, and residents would be left without electricity as well. According to ITAR-TASS, a strict water-conservation regime has already been in place for two months. At the same time, significant rain is not expected soon, so city authorities are considering a variety of measures, including importing water by tanker. JAC
...IN COUNTRY RICH IN WATER RESOURCES
Also on 3 September, President Putin met with the presidium of the State Council aboard a ship in Rostov-na-Donu to discuss the state and prospects of Russia's water economy, Interfax reported. Putin noted that Russia ranks second in the world in terms of water resources with more than 6 million bodies of water. In addition, "Russia is among the world leaders in reserves of drinking water, which has been recognized as the main commodity of the 21st century and is currently in short supply," Putin said. According to a report by the council's working group on water issues, Russia's water complex has aged and urgently needs modernization, and "local, regional, and industrial authorities can no longer control the situation," ITAR-TASS reported. The report noted that Russia has neither a clear economic policy for water use nor legislation spelling out responsibility for squandering water resources. JAC
CHECHEN PRESS MINISTER DISMISSED
Acting Chechen pro-Kremlin administration head Anatolii Popov issued a decree on 3 September firing Beslan Gantamirov from his post as press minister, Russian media reported. Gantamirov had openly expressed his support for Moscow-based businessman Khusein Dzhabrailov in the 5 October presidential elections. Dzhabrailov withdrew from the race on 2 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 3 September 2003). In an interview in December 2002, Gantamirov said that his control of the Chechen media would enable him to determine the outcome of the presidential ballot (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 March and 22 August 2003). Popov on 3 September also issued a decree abolishing both the Press Ministry and the Nationalities, Regional Policy, and External Communications Ministry, and creating a new ministry to address all those functions. Former Nationalities Minister Taus Dzhabrailov (no relation to Khusein Dzhabrailov), who is running Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's presidential-election campaign, was named to head the new combined ministry. LF
CHECHEN PRESIDENT IMPLICATED IN GROZNY BOMBING
The Prosecutor-General's Office has completed its investigation into a 27 December car-bomb attack on the government building in Grozny in which 72 people died, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 August. Three men have been charged with helping prepare the attack, in which three people drove two trucks loaded with explosives into the building. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 September, without identifying its sources, that the decision to launch the attack was made in August 2002 at a meeting near Shali of some 20 Chechen field commanders. The meeting was reportedly chaired by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and field commanders Abu Al-Walid and Shamil Basaev. Basaev proposed the operation and selected two of the perpetrators, the paper claimed. Basaev subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003). LF
NEW AGREEMENT ON ARMENIAN-GREEK MILITARY COOPERATION SIGNED, MORE AID PROMISED
Following a three-day official visit to Armenia, General Georgios Antonakopoulos, the Greek Army's chief of staff, promised on 3 September that Greece will increase its military assistance to Armenia, saying that the two countries share common geopolitical goals, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Armenpress reported. Antonakopoulos signed a new memorandum of understanding with his Armenian counterpart, Deputy Defense Minister General Mikael Harutiunian, and agreed to expand bilateral military cooperation with the formulation of a more detailed cooperation plan by November. According to the agreement, Armenia is expected to deploy a 30-man contingent of troops for peacekeeping duties under the command of Greek forces in Kosova. The Armenian contingent is part of a larger Greek-trained battalion formed last year specifically for peacekeeping duties. Armenia enjoys close military ties with Greece and has more than 110 officers currently training in Greek military academies. RG
CIVIL SERVICE HEAD CITES LACK OF PROFESSIONALISM AMONG ARMENIAN BUREAUCRATS
Armenian State Council on Civil Service chief Manvel Badalian said on 3 September that most senior Armenian bureaucrats do not meet required professional standards and are often less competent than their subordinates, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and the Noyan Tapan television station. The seven-member State Council on Civil Service is a government body appointed by the president and empowered with supervising the country's civil service. In accordance with last year's reforms to the Civil Service Code, the State Council has conducted a series of examinations, or "attestations," of government employees, including written tests and interviews. Badalian revealed that 73 government employees, including 27 high-ranking civil servants, have failed to pass the tests conducted by his agency and have been dismissed as a result. He added that he was "appalled" by the poor professional level of some of them. RG
NAGORNO-KARABAKH MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE DECLARATION
The unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic marked the 12th anniversary of its declaration of independence on 2 September and its president said he believed a peaceful settlement of the dispute over the enclave was possible, AP and Arminfo reported. The president of the unrecognized enclave, Arkadii Ghukasian, said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict "can finally be settled only in a peaceful way" and added that "neither people in Azerbaijan, nor in Armenia, nor even more so in Nagorno-Karabakh, want war." RG
AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER APPEALS TO ELECTORATE TO VOTE FOR INCUMBENT PRESIDENT
In a presidential-campaign broadcast on 3 September, Prime Minister Ilham Aliev appealed to voters to re-elect his father, 80-year-old incumbent President Heidar Aliev, in the 15 October presidential ballot, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Aliev said his father's policies aimed at promoting stability and development are "vital" for Azerbaijan. President Aliev has been hospitalized for heart and kidney ailments since early July, first in Ankara and since early August in the Cleveland Clinic in the United States. Prime Minister Aliev is also a candidate in the presidential race. LF
SENIOR AZERBAIJANI CLERIC APPEALS TO ARMENIAN COUNTERPART
Sheikh ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, who is chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board of the Caucasus, has written to his Armenian counterpart, Catholicos Garegin II, asking him to intervene to halt the alleged destruction of Azerbaijani historical monuments on Azerbaijani territories currently controlled by Armenian forces, Interfax and zerkalo.az reported on 3 and 4 September, respectively. The letter claimed that "hundreds" of architectural and historic monuments have been destroyed in recent years, including the history museum in Shusha and the Museum of Stone Monuments in Zangelan, according to Pashazade's spokesman Hadji Akif. LF
AZERBAIJANI SPEAKER RENEWS CRITICISM OF INTERNATIONAL MEDIATORS...
Azerbaijani parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 3 September said he is not happy with international efforts to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Alesqerov's comments were made during a meeting with a visiting delegation from the French Senate, led by deputy Ambroise DuPont, the chairman of the Senate's France-Caucasus Friendship Group. The United States, France, and Russia co-chair the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and have been engaged in an international effort to broker a solution to the long-standing conflict. The criticism reflects Baku's general feeling that the OSCE's position favors the Armenian side in the peace effort. Azerbaijani Prime Minister Aliev is due to discuss the issue with Yuri Merzlyakov, Russia's newly appointed representative to the Minsk Group, who arrived in Baku on 3 September. RG
...AS DEMONSTRATORS PICKET U.S. EMBASSY
Members of the Azerbaijani Karabakh Liberation Organization staged a picket in front of the U.S. Embassy in Baku on 3 September to protest a recent visit to Karabakh by a delegation of U.S. congressional aides, Turan and ANS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2003). The protesters denounced the fact that the aides traveled to Stepanakert from Yerevan without Azerbaijani permission as "an affront to their country." They also demanded that the United States adopt a harder line on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and called on the United States to impose sanctions on Armenia. RG
AZERBAIJANI-IRANIAN TALKS OPEN IN BAKU
An Iranian delegation began talks in Baku with Azerbaijani officials on 3 September, the Azerbaijani State News Agency and "Baku Today" reported. The officials discussed bilateral relations and reviewed plans to expand the electrical-transmission lines connecting Astara in Azerbaijan with Astara in Iran. Azerbaijan is also seeking to expand the electrical grids in the Imishli-Parsabad region and the Azerbaijani city of Julfa. RG
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SCHEDULES REFERENDUM ON DOWNSIZING PARLIAMENT...
Eduard Shevardnadze issued a decree on 3 September on holding a referendum in which voters will be asked to approve or reject a reduction of the number of parliament deputies from the present 235 to 150, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The referendum will take place concurrently with the 2 November parliamentary elections. If the downsizing is approved, the new parliament would be required to amend the constitution, and the parliament elected in 2007 would have only 150 deputies. Both government officials and opposition politicians argue that Georgia cannot afford such a large legislature. LF
...SLAMS ADJAR FAILURE TO PAY TAXES TO CENTRAL BUDGET
At a government session on 3 September, President Shevardnadze harshly criticized Djimi Kipiani, who represents in Tbilisi the Adjar Autonomous Republic, for that region's failure over the past two years to transfer taxes collected locally to the central budget, Interfax and Rustavi-2 reported. Shevardnadze stressed that Adjaria "is not part of a foreign state." Kipiani responded that Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze has repeatedly proposed bilateral discussions of his republic's tax liabilities. LF
PROTESTS OVER ELECTRICITY SHORTAGES CONTINUE IN GEORGIA...
Several hundred residents of the southern Georgian Marneuli region blocked the central highway to Tbilisi on 2 September to protest the mounting electricity shortage, ITAR-TASS reported. The Marneuli region has been without adequate electricity for nearly a week and similar protests in other regions have already been staged (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003). Georgian government officials announced that Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) would resume electricity to most regions after completing repairs to the Kavkasioni high-voltage transmission lines. EES assumed management on 1 September of the Telasi energy-distribution company that provides power to the Georgian capital. RG
...AS ENERGY MINISTER REVEALS SABOTAGE OF POWER LINE
Energy Minister Mamuka Nikolaishvili revealed on 3 September that the Imereti high-voltage transmission line was damaged "as a result of intentional sabotage," Rustavi-2 reported. The minister added that the incident exacerbated an already serious shortage of electricity and cut power to all of eastern Georgia, including the capital Tbilisi. Georgian law enforcement bodies immediately launched an investigation into the alleged crime. RG
GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPERTS RESUME NEGOTIATIONS
Georgian and Russian military experts met in Tbilisi on 3 September to resume negotiations over the withdrawal of Russian military forces and the closure of military bases on Georgian territory, according to "The Georgian Times." The two sides reached an agreement on the disposition of an ammunition depot in Sagaredzho but failed to make any progress over the status of the Russian military bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi. The talks remain hampered by the Russian insistence on an 11-year timetable for the withdrawal of their forces, which Georgia views as unacceptable. Under the terms of an agreement reached at a 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, Russia pledged to close all of its military bases in Georgia. RG
KAZAKH GOVERNMENT HOLDS NGO GRANT COMPETITION
The Kazakh government is holding a competition among nongovernmental organization for grants funded by the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony, khabar.kz reported on 3 September. On that day, independent experts began evaluating the 109 grant applications submitted, including proposals to disseminate legal information in rural areas, to monitor the environment, and to create a center to monitor elections. According to khabar.kz, this is the first competition among NGOs for government grants held in Kazakhstan. A representative of a Pavlodar women's group was quoted as saying the competition represents a big step on the part of the government toward establishing a more constructive relationship with Kazakhstan's nongovernmental organizations. Kazakhstan reportedly has about 3,500 officially registered NGOs, although NGO sources say only about half of them are active. BB
PROMINENT KAZAKH JOURNALISM GROUP CRITICIZES DRAFT MEDIA LAW
The Adil Soz (Free Word) International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech has criticized a new draft law on the media in an open letter to journalists and members of the Kazakh parliament, gazeta.kz reported on 2 September. The Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony submitted the draft law to the government on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2003). The Adil Soz letter asserts that the law would significantly worsen the legal position of the mass media in Kazakhstan and restrict freedom of speech under the guise of preventing the abuse of this constitutionally guaranteed right. According to the letter's authors, broadcasting would be restricted as well if the current practice of holding competitions for broadcast frequencies is transformed into competitions for the right to broadcast. BB
ETHNIC RUSSIAN LEADER SAYS KYRGYZ INDEPENDENCE DAY IS NO HOLIDAY FOR RUSSIANS
Valerii Uleev, leader of the Slavic Diaspora Society of ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan's Djalal-Abad Oblast, told the Djalal-Abad city council during preparations for celebrations of the country's Independence Day that Kyrgyz Independence Day is not a holiday for Kyrgyzstan's Russian population, akipress.org reported on 2 September. City council member Umsunay Kadyrkulova told akipress that Uleev refused an invitation to his society to join the oblast's other ethnic groups in presenting their traditional culture during the festivities. He also refused to give an interview to the local newspaper "Ferghana." Uleev is known for his strongly nationalistic views and his regret over the loss of Russian primacy with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but this appears to be the first time he has been so publicly antagonistic about Kyrgyzstan's independence. BB
TAJIKISTAN, CHINA AGREE TO COOPERATE AGAINST TERRORISM
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, on an official visit to Tajikistan, and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov signed an agreement on 2 September in Dushanbe on cooperation in fighting terrorism, extremism, and separatism, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported on 3 September. The two countries agreed to set up bilateral and multilateral systems to counter these threats, particularly in the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). After the signing, Li told journalists that the two countries will jointly combat the Uighur separatists of the East Turkestan movement who seek to create an independent Uighur state. Nazarov said that Tajikistan recognizes only one China and considers the government of the People's Republic of China as the country's only legitimate government. BB
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CRITICIZES TURKMENISTAN FOR HINDERING ETHNIC RUSSIAN CONTACTS WITH RUSSIA
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Yelenora Mitrofanova criticized Turkmen authorities for its negative attitude toward contacts between Turkmenistan's ethnic Russians and Russia, Interfax reported on 3 September, quoting Mitrofanova's interview in that day's issue of "Rossiiskaya gazeta." Mitrofanova said that ethnic Russians reportedly were prevented by the Turkmen authorities from attending a meeting of Russians living in Central Asia. According to Mitrofanova, would-be participants in the meeting were intimidated by various threats, including the loss of their jobs. She also reiterated the official Russian position that Turkmenistan's revocation of dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship is illegal because the Russian side has not ratified the agreement on revocation signed by the presidents of the two countries in April. A joint Russian-Turkmen commission is due to meet in September for the second time to try to resolve the dual-citizenship dispute. BB
SON OF TURKMEN OPPOSITION FIGURE BEATEN IN MOSCOW
Shanazar Berdyev, an RFE/RL stringer who is the son of prominent Turkmen opposition figure Muhamedgeldy Berdyev, was attacked at the door of his Moscow apartment on 2 September and severely injured by a person reportedly wearing a police uniform, the Russian human rights group Memorial reported on 4 September. Muhamedgeldy Berdyev's brother, Meretmuhammet, was detained in 1997 for distributing the opposition publication "Turkmen Ili" in Mary Oblast, and later died in a psychiatric institution under unexplained circumstances. Shanazar Berdyev emigrated to Russia in 2002 to escape the Turkmen security services and two unidentified Turkmen speakers reportedly attempted to kidnap him from a Moscow street in October 2002. His father was beaten on a Moscow street on 29 July 2003. Muhamedgeldy Berdyev told Memorial that he has not reported the attacks on him and his son to the Moscow police because they do not have residence permits for Moscow, and they fear they will be deported to Turkmenistan. BB
UZBEKISTAN COMPLETES GAS PIPELINE BYPASSING TURKMENISTAN
Uzbekistan has completed a natural-gas pipeline that was built to bypass Turkmenistan, "Vremya novostei" reported on 3 September. The pipeline will supply enough gas to meet the needs of the Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya oblasts in southern Uzbekistan. Previously, these areas had to be supplied via a line built in the Soviet era that is located mostly on Turkmen territory. The Uzbek authorities are reportedly looking at the possibility of using the new pipeline to export gas to Tajikistan. BB
NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR ARRIVES IN BELARUS
George Krol, the new U.S. ambassador to Belarus, arrived in Minsk on 3 September, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Krol addressed journalists gathered at a Minsk airport with a short speech in Belarusian. "Although I lived and worked in Belarus before, I hope to learn more about your beautiful and hardworking country," he said. Krol, a career diplomat, served in Minsk from 1992-94. He also served in U.S. diplomatic missions in Poland, India, Ukraine, and Russia. In Minsk, Krol replaces Michael Kozak. Diplomatic relations between Minsk and Washington are tense. Minsk made Kozak wait four months in 2000 before receiving his credentials. The new Belarusian ambassador to the United States, Mikhail Khvastou, has now been waiting for more than three months in Washington to present his credentials. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS CLAIM TO HAVE SOLVED JOURNALIST'S MURDER...
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun told Interfax in Bishkek on 3 September that his colleagues have concluded investigations into a number of high-profile criminal cases, including the 2000 murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the secret tapes allegedly made in Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's office by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Piskun said prosecutors have placed three suspects in the Gongadze case on a search list, but declined to reveal their names. Piskun also said prosecutors have charged Melnychenko with forgery and revealing state secrets. He stressed that three tests performed have failed to authenticate the Melnychenko tapes. Therefore, he added, the Prosecutor-General's Office has ordered one more test -- a unique "phono-psycholinguistic" test -- that should answer the question of whether "the people whose voices were allegedly taped could say what is heard [on the Melnychenko tapes]." JM
...AND ACCUSE TYMOSHENKO OF GIVING LAZARENKO AN $87 MILLION BRIBE
Prosecutor Andriy Khochunskyy told journalists in Kyiv on 3 September that investigators have collected evidence that Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous opposition bloc, paid $86.88 million in bribes to former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, Interfax reported. According to Khochunskyy, the sums were transferred from Tymoshenko's account in a Cypriot bank to Lazarenko's accounts in Polish and Swiss banks during 1996. "She gave bribes to [Lazarenko] for the creation of favorable conditions for financial and economic operations of the Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine [YeESU] on the gas market and for assistance in making this company a monopoly," Khoshchunskyy said. Tymoshenko headed YeESU in 1996-97. JM
ESTONIA, SPAIN SIGN AGREEMENT ON AVOIDING DOUBLE TAXATION
Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs Ramon de Miguel and Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation in Tallinn on 3 September, BNS reported. In talks with Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts, de Miguel noted that membership of the EU has been a success story for Spain. "We are much more independent than we used to be," he said. De Miguel suggested that Estonia should follow the successful example of small countries such as Ireland and Portugal and added that it is important for Estonia to establish a strong administrative basis so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the EU. He also had meetings with Liina Tonisson, the deputy head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and Henrik Hololei, the director of the State Chancellery's European Union Secretariat. SG
EU ENLARGEMENT COMMISSIONER PRAISES LATVIA'S PREPARATIONS FOR EU MEMBERSHIP
After meeting with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on 3 September, the EU's enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, told reporters that Latvian citizens should understand that their vote in the referendum on EU membership on 20 September is about the future of the country and not the performance of the current government, LETA reported. At a meeting with Prime Minister Einars Repse, Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, and Justice Minister Aivars Aksenoks, Verheugen praised Latvia's progress in its preparations to join the EU and discussed the intergovernmental congress, beginning in early October in Rome, which aims to adopt the new EU constitution. SG
EESTI ENERGIA TO BID FOR LITHUANIAN ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
Gunnar Okk, the executive director and board chairman of Eesti Energia, announced in Vilnius on 3 September that his company will make a bid to acquire a 71.35 percent stake in the distribution company Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai (RST), ELTA reported. The fully state-owned Eesti Energia fulfills all the requirements for participation in the contest, but has not yet decided whether it will do so alone or with an unnamed Western investor. In any case, it will face serious competition as other energy companies that have expressed their interest in buying the company include Germany's E.ON Energie, Finland's Fortum, France's Electricite de France, Poland's Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne, and the U.S. group AES. Okk said that Baltic ownership of RST would be the best alternative and that, if successful, Eesti Energia would leave local management in charge, but would introduce effective cost management and make targeted investments. SG
OPPOSITION MOVES TO OUST POLISH SEJM SPEAKER
Lawmakers from the opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) and the League of Polish Families have submitted two separate motions to the Sejm calling for the dismissal of speaker Marek Borowski, PAP reported on 3 September. The opposition charges that Borowski falsified the Sejm's resolution of 26 August on the election of Jan Czekaj as a member of the Monetary Policy Council (RPP) to make it possible for Czekaj to remain in the RPP for six years instead of the four months for which he was elected. Borowski denies the charges. "The PiS move is a manifestation of brutal political struggle," Borowski commented, adding that PiS has initiated its presidential campaign by this motion. "PiS already sees me in the role of a presidential candidate and a rival of [PiS leader] Lech Kaczynski," Borowski noted. The presidential election in Poland is in 2005. JM
CZECH REPUBLIC TO REOPEN PYONGYANG EMBASSY
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told CTK on 3 September that his country intends to re-open its embassy in the North Korean capital as soon as possible. Svoboda said he expects the embassy in Pyongyang to start operating "within months." Relations between the Czech Republic and North Korea were suspended in 1993, but not severed, Svoboda stressed. The reopening of the embassy is a decision linked to requests by South Korea and Japan that Prague join the search for a solution to the conflict over Pyongyang's nuclear program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003). Svoboda said negotiations are under way with North Korea as to the level of diplomatic representation. "We are interested in having the highest possible representation, but this does not depend on us alone," he said. MS
ANO CHAIRMAN LIKELY TO BE SLOVAKIA'S NEXT ECONOMY MINISTER...
The leadership of the junior coalition party Alliance for a New Citizenship (ANO) decided on 3 September that party Chairman Pavol Rusko should replace outgoing Economy Minister Robert Nemcsics, who resigned after losing the party's backing, TASR and CTK reported. Rusko said that Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda "has not disagreed" with the ANO decision, which Rusko described as "a good solution for ANO and not a bad one for the ruling coalition." Dzurinda's spokesman Martin Maruska, however, said "the premier is considering the proposal" and will announce his decision after consultations with the other members of the four-party, center-right coalition. Rusko said he sees no reason why coalition partners would oppose his appointment and that relations inside the coalition would certainly not worsen, and could possibly improve, as a result. MS
...HAVING SECURED POLITICAL IMMUNITY -- FOR NOW
Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel announced on 3 September that he has decided against submitting to parliament a police request to have the political immunity of ANO Chairman Rusko lifted, TASR reported. Hanzel said he is returning the case to police for further investigation. Police requested the lifting of Rusko's immunity after bankrupt businessman Frantisek Mojzis alleged Rusko blackmailed him into supporting ANO. Rusko, who claims the charge was trumped up by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with which he is engaged in a prolonged conflict, welcomed Hanzel's decision, saying it shows that charges against him are baseless (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July and 6, 25, and 29 August 2003). Constitutional expert Peter Kresak said that if Rusko takes up the post of Economic Minister, he must resign from parliament and, as a result, will also lose political immunity, according to TASR. MS
SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER CRITICIZES PROSECUTION'S DECISION IN TOTH CASE
Interior Minister Vladimir Palko on 3 September criticized a decision by the Prosecutor-General's Office's military section to drop criminal proceedings against former Slovak Information Service counterespionage section head Peter Toth, TASR reported. The prosecution made the decision earlier this month on grounds that the Criminal Code under which he was charged was amended as of 1 September, and the offense is no longer punishable. Toth was charged with "abusing a public servant" after he allegedly filed an anonymous complaint against Palko, claiming that he had illegally wiretapped the offices of the daily "Sme" and ANO Chairman Rusko's telephone. Toth denied the allegations, but left his post. Palko said the prosecution knew from the start that the code would be changed and that it should have charged Toth with defamation and providing false testimony, which are still on the books. Chief Military Prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka described Palko's accusations as "nonsense" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5,6, and 12 March and 30 April 2003). MS
MORE DETAILS EMERGE ON HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY'S CRISIS MEETING
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy has refused to dismiss Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo and Sports Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany as demanded by some Socialist Party officials during a tense six-hour meeting of the party's leaders on 2 September late night (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003), Hungarian dailies reported on 4 September. The daily "Vilaggazdasag" quoted unidentified Socialists as complaining that Gyurcsany is morally unacceptable due to his real-estate dealings dating back to 1994, while Laszlo has repeatedly committed mistakes in preparing the budget. Medgyessy admitted that several administrative state secretaries will have to be dismissed, but said the government program is under way, and he will not deviate from it. MSZ
HUNGARIAN HEALTH MINISTER CLARIFIES REASONS FOR RESIGNATION
Health Minister Judit Csehak on 3 September officially announced that she is quitting her post, but denied earlier media reports that planned budget cuts at her ministry are the reason for her resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003), "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Csehak explained that when she accepted the position last year, she agreed with Premier Medgyessy that they would consider whether she would like to stay on after a year. Csehak said she had to leave before parliament begins debating the 2004 budget, so as not to limit her successor's scope of action. She told a press briefing that the 50 billion-70 billion forints ($220 million-$300 million) to be cut from her ministry's budget next year would be needed to carry out health reform. She expressed hope that her successor will have access to at least two-thirds of the missing 50 billion-70 billion forints, the daily reported. MSZ
PREMIER SAYS HUNGARY CANNOT TRAIN THAT MANY IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS
"Magyar Hirlap" on 4 September quoted an "International Herald Tribune" article that said Prime Minister Medgyessy has ruled out the training of 25,000-30,000 Iraqi police officers in Hungary. Medgyessy said Hungary simply does not have the infrastructure to receive so many trainees. He did not rule out the possibility of training a smaller number of Iraqis. He noted that the government has never formally discussed such a plan with the United States. In 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 the Taszar military air base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2003). MSZ
SERBIA KEEPS UP TOUGH TALK TO ALBANIA
Aleksandra Joksimovic, who is assistant foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, said in Belgrade on 3 September that the Albanian parliament's recent resolution condemning the Serbian legislature's declaration on Kosova "is a gross violation and interference in the internal affairs of a neighboring country," Reuters reported. "It is an effort to exert an influence and to destabilize the situation in the region, which is something Serbia and Montenegro cannot allow. I'm afraid that these actions lead to blocking the only way towards establishing confidence and finding a solution for Kosovo," Joksimovic added. The Foreign Ministry has formally protested the Albanian resolution. Joksimovic is but one of several Serbian officials who have used strong rhetoric regarding Kosova and other neighboring states recently in advance of elections that are widely expected within the next 12 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 August and 2 and 3 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 8, 15, and 22 August 2003). PM
KOSOVAR GOVERNMENT CALLS ON INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO RESPECT KOSOVA'S WISHES
Kosova's cabinet approved a declaration on 3 September urging the UN Security Council to declare invalid the Serbian parliament's recent declaration on Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 29 August and 2 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 and 22 September 2003). The government also appealed to the Macedonian authorities to strictly implement the 2001 Ohrid agreement that ended the interethnic conflict there. Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi called on the latest Moscow meeting of the international Contact Group of major powers not to take any decision about the province that runs against the will of its people. PM
UN CHIEF SAYS KOSOVA VIOLENCE WILL NOT STOP DIALOGUE
Harri Holkeri, who is the new head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 4 September that he does not believe that the recent violent incidents in Kosova are necessarily the result of a single conspiracy or ethnic in nature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 and 22 September 2003). He noted that violence can be criminal, and that there are conflicts within the Serbian and Albanian communities as well as between the two groups. Holkeri called for better cooperation between the population and UNMIK, including a stronger witness protection program. He stressed that violence should not affect the progress of a dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina. He also said he hopes to make a concrete proposal about launching a dialogue after he finishes the ongoing series of talks that brought him to Belgrade and Moscow and will soon take him to Geneva and Brussels. In Belgrade, the president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, wrote a letter to all deputies in the joint parliament saying that a dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina should be launched as soon as possible, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
POLICE WITHDRAWAL REDUCES TENSIONS IN NORTHERN MACEDONIA
A police spokeswoman said in Vaksince on 3 September that tensions have eased in the region following the police withdrawal "in phases" from Vaksince, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). An EU spokeswoman told reporters in Skopje that even though "there has been some nervousness that this is a repeat of 2001...the situation is completely different today. This is not about ethnicity. The current operation is about establishing law and order." Several observers have suggested that the local armed bands are criminal rather than political in nature. PM
IS THE EU SEEKING A MACEDONIAN SUCCESS STORY?
Several members of the European Parliament told "Dnevnik" of 4 September that they support the extension of the EU's Concordia military mission in Macedonia, the mandate of which expires on 15 December. Doris Pack, who is the European Parliament's chief representative for Southeastern Europe, said the government should reconsider its decision not to extend the mandate. Johannes Swoboda, of Austria, said Concordia should stay in Macedonia for one more year because lasting stability has not yet been achieved. Dutch parliamentarian Joost Lagendijk stressed the symbolic importance of the EU military mission for the union's joint security policy, saying that the EU must prove its ability to ensure security and stability in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May, 4 June, and 24 July 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 November 2002 and 17 January 2003). UB
WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL TURNS DOWN FORMER SERBIAN LEADER'S REQUEST
On 2 September, judges at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal rejected a call by former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for a break of "at least two years" in his trial to prepare his defense in a place of his choosing, the "International Herald Tribune" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). PM
BOSNIAN SERB POLICE HUNT TOP INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL
Bosnian Serb police raided the Bijeljina home of Serbian Orthodox Bishop Vasilije of Zvornik and Tuzla on 3 September after receiving a tip from EU police that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic was hiding there, Reuters reported. The news agency said this is the first time that Bosnian Serb police have gone after an indicted war criminal, about 20 of whom are believed to be living in the Republika Srpska. The police did not find Karadzic at the home of the bishop, who is a well-known supporter of hard-line nationalists. PM
BOSNIAN AIRLINE FIGHTS TO SURVIVE
Mustafa Eminefendic, who is acting director of Air Bosna, told dpa in Sarajevo on 3 September that his airline faces closure unless its sponsors -- the Croat-Muslim federation's government and the major Energoinvest company -- find a way to pay off its debts, which amount to more than $7 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). Much of its debt is owed to partner airlines and to various European airports. Employees agreed on 3 September to donate their salaries to the company to prevent the stoppage of flights that had been expected on that day. Eminefendic noted, however, that this is not a long-term solution. He pointed out that Air Bosna flew only 38,000 passengers in 2002 but has already flown 51,000 in 2003. Eminefendic added that new direct flights from London and Amsterdam to Sarajevo enable many Bosnians flying home from the United States to use Air Bosna for those routes. He regretted, however, that ticket sales have fallen off markedly since news of the airlines troubles became public. PM
SCANDALS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
Ivan Vuksic resigned as acting director of the Muslim-Croat federation's Intelligence Service (FOSS) on 4 September following reports that FOSS has bugged Vuksic's predecessor, Munir Alibabic, whom High Representative Paddy Ashdown fired last October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). Dpa reported that Vuksic has been under pressure after his recent indictment by the Sarajevo Cantonal Court for his alleged role in instigating violent Croatian nationalist protests against international officials and SFOR troops in Grude in 2001. Elsewhere, Borislav Paravac, who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency, said he will seek unspecified disciplinary measures against unnamed members of the presidency's staff who recently made public details of alleged excessive spending by Paravac's office. PM
ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY LEADER TO RESIGN IF ALLIANCE WITH DEMOCRATS IS REJECTED
National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan told a forum of young PNL members on 3 September that he will resign if the PNL's Permanent Delegation does not endorse a proposed alliance with the Democratic Party, Mediafax reported. He said the decision to set up the alliance is a "strategic one" and that he is "ready to assume responsibility" if the party rejects it. Stolojan admitted that at last week's Permanent Delegation meeting some members spoke out against the alliance. Those members, he said, want the PNL to carry more weight in the alliance than the Democrats, but this is not possible, since the alliance must be one of equal partners, he said. He explained that in the envisaged formula, the alliance would have two joint chairmen, a national leading council, and a forum dealing with possible conflicts between the two parties. Stolojan also said he has agreed with Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu that if the alliance wins the parliamentary elections the premier would be nominated by the joint chairmen. Should the chairmen fail to reach agreement then the party that gained the larger parliamentary representation would nominate the premier. MS
FORMER ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ACCEPTS DIPLOMATIC POST
Joita Tanase, who resigned last week as prosecutor-general on health grounds, has accepted a proposal from Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana to be Romania's general consul in Strasbourg, Mediafax reported. The government approved the nomination on 28 August, the agency said (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 29 August and 2 September 2003). MS
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY
In Berlin on 2 September, visiting Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau discussed with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer the Transdniester conflict, relations between their countries, and cooperation between Moldova and the European Union, Flux reported. Fischer said Germany is ready to continue contributing to the search for a solution to the Transdniester conflict at the bilateral German-Moldovan level, as well within the OSCE, the EU, and the European Commission. He also said his country will continue backing Moldovan economic reforms and is ready to include Moldova among countries benefiting from German technical assistance. Also on 2 August, Dudau addressed the Social Democratic Party's Friedrich Ebert Foundation, making a presentation on Moldova's internal and foreign policy. MS
MOLDOVA'S POPULATION DROPPING
Moldova's population in 2002 was 3.6 million -- 9,500 fewer than the previous year, Flux reported on 3 August, citing the governmental Department for Statistics and Demography. Estimates released by the department show that 59 percent of the country's population lives in the countryside, and 52 percent of the population is female. MS
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES...
In what parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov called "an unprecedented consensus," parliament on 3 September approved a series of draft constitutional changes at the first of three readings with a vote of 222-0, Bulgarian media reported. The amendments, which are the first steps of a far-reaching reform of the country's ineffective judiciary, limit the immunity and the irrevocability of magistrates, thus lifting their status as "untouchables." The amendments also change the election procedure, the length of the mandate, and the status of leading officials in the judiciary. The constitutional changes require a three-fourths parliamentary majority in all three readings. UB
During the six-hour parliamentary debate preceding the vote on the constitutional changes, opposition legislators expressed their concerns over the draft amendments, mediapool.bg reported. Ekaterina Mihailova of the conservative opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS), called the amendments insufficient and cosmetic, but admitted that they are a first step toward reforming the judiciary. Mihailova demanded that the prosecutors' offices and the investigation service be taken out of the judiciary system. She also proposed to lift legislators' immunity. Socialist Party (BSP) lawmaker Lyuben Kornezov said it is an illusion that the constitutional changes automatically will lead to a better judiciary. "The main problem is not the constitution, but the personnel and organization [of the judiciary]," Kornezov said. The BSP majority in the constituent Grand National Assembly passed the current constitution in 1991. UB
SUPREME COURT RULES ON BULGARIAN TELEKOM SALE
The Supreme Administrative Court on 3 September ruled that the Supervisory Council of the state Privatization Agency has given its tacit consent to the sale of a 65-percent stake in the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) to the Vienna-based Viva Ventures, mediapool.bg reported. With the ruling, the Privatization Agency is obliged to finalize the deal with Viva Ventures, and not with the Turkish consortium Koc Holding/Turk Telecom, which finished second in the tender, but was later preferred by the government for political reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 August 2003). UB
AIDS EXPERTS TESTIFIES IN CASE AGAINST BULGARIAN MEDICS
The French AIDS expert Luc Montagnier and his Italian colleague, Vittorio Colizzi, on 3 September testified in the case against six Bulgarian medical workers facing a trial in the Libyan city of Benghazi, mediapool.bg reported. The medics are charged with deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital in 1998. Before the court, Montagnier and Colizzi repeated the findings of their expert opinion, according to which the HIV infections occurred in that hospital already in 1997, that is before the Bulgarians began working there. They also stressed that new infections occurred after the arrest of the Bulgarian medics. Two Libyan experts, however, testified during the same session that only a deliberate infection could have caused the tragedy. UB
AIDS EXPERTS TESTIFY IN CASE AGAINT BULGARIAN MEDICS
The French AIDS expert Luc Montagnier and his Italian colleague, Vittorio Colizzi, on 3 September testified in the case against six Bulgarian medical workers facing a trial in the Libyan city of Benghazi, mediapool.bg reported. The medics are charged with deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital in 1998. Before the court, Montagnier and Colizzi repeated the findings of their expert opinion, according to which the HIV infections occurred in that hospital already in 1997, before the Bulgarians began working there. They also stressed that new infections occurred after the arrest of the Bulgarian medics. Two Libyan experts, however, testified during the same session that only a deliberate infection could have caused the tragedy. UB
IAEA REPORT ON IRANIAN NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES NOTES GOOD AND BAD
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report on Iran is expected in early-September, and at the end of August major newspapers reported on a leaked version of that report, which did not paint an encouraging picture. Later comments by IAEA chief Muhammad el-Baradei were similarly discouraging. Tehran, meanwhile, is resorting to its usual delaying tactics in order to put off the possibility of its signing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Speaking in advance of the expected release of the IAEA report, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said that Iran has agreed to start negotiations relating to signing the Additional Protocol, AFP reported on 26 August. But a willingness to start negotiations should not be confused with an actual commitment to sign the Additional Protocol. Saber Zaimian, a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, stressed on 28 August that Iran is merely willing to look into the technical and legal aspects of the Additional Protocol, Mehr News Agency reported.
IAEA's Gwozdecky also said, "There are still a number of outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran's enrichment program, which require urgent resolution," AFP reported. Gwozdecky called for increased Iranian cooperation in order to resolve these issues, and he said, "The only way to build high confidence in the peaceful nature of their nuclear program, is for Iran to sign and bring into force an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement with the IAEA."
The IAEA confidential report on Iran, as described in "The New York Times" on 27 August, notes that international inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The report added, "Additional work is also required to enable the agency to arrive at conclusions about Iran's statements that there have been no uranium-enrichment activities in Iran involving nuclear material."
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Zaimian was dismissive of reports that samples taken by IAEA inspectors contained traces of highly enriched uranium. "The samples have not been tested yet," Zaimian said. The normal procedure is for the samples to be tested by reliable laboratories in three neutral countries, and "the Iranian samples have not gone through those stages yet."
Iran also acknowledges for the first time, according to a portion of the report described in "The Washington Post" on 27 August, that it received a lot of foreign help in building the Natanz facility. The source of that help is not identified, but according to anonymous sources IAEA information indicates that Pakistani firms supplied technology and parts. Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told "The Washington Post," "The notion that Pakistan wasn't involved is getting less and less tenable."
IAEA chief el-Baradei said in a interview that appeared on the BBC's "HARDtalk" television program on 29 August that Iran has purchased nuclear components on the international black market, and although he is not certain which countries made the equipment he has a "pretty good idea" which ones did so, Reuters reported.
Islamabad rejects allegations that it has provided Iran with nuclear technology. "We have never provided nuclear technology or information to any other country," Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said, as reported by Karachi's Urdu-language "Islam" newspaper on 28 August. Khan said Pakistan has faced similar charges in the past. "Today also," he maintained, "nobody has any proof to substantiate these charges." Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri reiterated this denial in Islamabad on 29 August during a joint press conference with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Reuters reported.
Iranian officials would not give IAEA inspectors who visited Iran in June access to the Kalaye Electric Company's nuclear power plant in Tehran. The most recent report notes that the facility has been sanitized since that time. "We did get access to the Kalaye Electric Company," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told RFE/RL on 27 August. "There had been accusations that the centrifuges were tested there, using nuclear material that would have to have been declared to us. We had requested to take these sophisticated samples from that facility and were finally given access a couple of weeks ago. However, we did find once we arrived that the facility had been modified, which could have an impact on the results of our samples. Construction had been done. It had been rebuilt in a way that could have consequences on our ability to take accurate samples."
IAEA's el-Baradei said on "HARDtalk" that Tehran should be more "proactive" and "transparent" and noted that it has not provided a full picture of its nuclear program. "They have not really been fully transparent in telling us in advance what was going on," he said. El-Baradei said that Iran's nuclear program has a longer history than the IAEA realized. "It would have been easier for us to complete our job if we knew what was going on as early as the mid 1980s," el-Baradei said. "Now we have to go...20 years back."
TALIBAN REPORTED ACTIVE AT KABUL UNIVERSITY
Higher Education Minister Mohammad Sharif Faez acknowledged in the 3 September "The Toronto Star" that the Kabul University campus has been infiltrated by groups connected with Afghanistan's former regime. "We have found groups with links to the Taliban. Money is being distributed to students to help recruit them," he said. Abdul Qadus Ahmad of the Afghan National Army told "The Toronto Star" that some student groups have links with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. "They preach against the government and they claim that ISAF is an occupying army," he said. Captain Brian Healey of the Royal Canadian regiment that is assigned to ISAF acknowledged that pro-Taliban students are on campus, but said that information on the extent of the problem is unavailable. BS
DISARMAMENT IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN PROCEEDS
Local disarmament in the Balkh District of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif started on 18 August and, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), 112 weapons -- including mortars and heavy machine guns -- have been collected so far, IRIN reported on 3 September. The UN refers to these initiatives as "voluntary disarmament exercises" by the key factions. "They have no connection to the national Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Program that is due to start in the coming weeks," an UNAMA representative said. According to IRIN, the current disarmament process has limitations, relying as it does upon the goodwill of the many armed groups and their leaders. Observers say that until the country's national army is expanded to the north and a neutral and trained police force is created, all that can be done is to seek the agreement of different factions to act peacefully. TG
GROWING VIOLENCE IN AFGHANISTAN UNSETTLES REGION
Aid workers and officials fear that the lack of security, which is disrupting reconstruction and assistance, could undermine public support for U.S. forces and bolster sympathy for the Taliban, dpa reported on 4 September. Asadullah Walwalji, an Afghan politician and member of Afghan Human Rights Commission, said the warlords see advantages in the turmoil, believing the United States and Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai will seek their help to overcome the insecurity created by the Taliban. The promised transition to an elected government in June 2004 is facing difficulties, dpa wrote. This was evident when the commission drawing up a new constitution called on 28 August for a two-month postponement of the loya jirga that is due to meet in October to approve the draft constitution. TG
AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MEET IN FORMER TALIBAN STRONGHOLD
A group of 31 Afghan women gathered in the Taliban's former stronghold of Kandahar on 2 September to demand the enshrinement of their rights in the national constitution that is currently being drafted, Canada's "The Globe and Mail" reported on 3 September. For security reasons, the meeting was held in a compound owned by the nonprofit organization Afghans for Civil Society. News of the gathering was kept confidential out of fear that it might be bombed by Taliban and Al-Qaeda supporters still in Kandahar. Masuda Sultan, founder of the Women for Afghan Women group that organized the conference, said she chose Kandahar to make a political point. "This is the most conservative province in the country," she said. "If the women's rights movement is going to be successful, then it can't just be for the educated, elite women of Kabul. We have to bring along the women at the end of the queue, those who don't have permission to leave their homes or go to school." TG
IRANIAN PRESIDENT MIGHT ATTEND LEGISLATURE'S DEBATE ON NPT ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL
Commenting on the 3 September discussion in the legislature about the possibility of Iran becoming a signatory of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Ardabil parliamentary representative Nureddin Pirmoazen said further discussions in President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's presence are required before reaching a "final conclusion," ISNA reported the same day. Parliamentary presidium spokesman Ahmad Burqani, meanwhile, said that during this session Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi reported on the country's nuclear activities and the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs reported on his ministry's efforts to assure the international community of "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities," according to ILNA. Burqani went on to say: "Both the Foreign Ministry and the [Iranian] Atomic Energy Organization are conducting negotiations on the signing of the protocol so that they can give the international community the assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activity, and we have to have a positive attitude toward the issue as long as all the aspects of the NPT are administered." BS
BRITISH EMBASSY IN TEHRAN FIRED UPON
Shots fired from a passing motorcycle struck the British Embassy in Tehran on 3 September, news agencies reported. "Six shots were fired at the embassy building," British Ambassador Richard Dalton told journalists. "Several of them entered offices on the second floor. It was a serious incident." Dalton said he is in contact with the Iranian authorities and local police are providing additional protection. "It was a serious attack and the embassy will be closed until further notice while the investigation continues," Dalton added. Efforts are under way to determine who is behind the attack. "It is too early to speculate who is responsible or why," Dalton said. "My priority is to ensure that there is a full investigation and that the results are shared with us and of course that the incident is not repeated." A truck loaded with flammable liquids slammed into the British Embassy in the spring, and the embassy has been the site of numerous demonstrations against the war in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April 2003). BS
IRANIAN LEGISLATOR WARNS OF FACTIONAL EFFORT TO RUIN IRANIAN-BRITISH RELATIONS
Mahmud Akhavan-Bazardeh, a member of parliament from Gilan Province who serves on the National Security and Foreign Affairs committee, said on 3 September that the country's senior officials should not let political factionalism affect foreign relations, ILNA reported. Akhavan-Bazardeh said that because they can act unchecked the factions are interfering with the conduct of foreign affairs and this in turn causes problems for Iran. He said factional elements are responsible for shooting at the British Embassy. "Their aim is to destroy relations between Iran and Britain," he said. BS
ITALY WORKING ON IRANIAN PIPELINE PROJECT WORTH $69 MILLION
Assadollah Salehfiruz, the managing director of the South Pars oil and gas field, told IRNA on 3 September that Iran and Italy have started a joint project to lay 210 kilometers of pipeline 70 meters under the Persian Gulf for transferring gas from phases 4 and 5 of the South Pars gas field to the Asaluyeh refinery, IRNA reported. The offshore sections of South Pars include two platforms, each of which has 12 wells exploiting reserves at a depth of 3.5 kilometers. Salehfiruz said a total of 2 billion cubic feet of natural gases will be extracted by these platforms once they become operational in the spring and this will include LPG, ethane, and sulfur. Salehfiruz said the project is expected to cost some $69.5 million. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT WILL NOT COMPROMISE ON HIS LEGISLATION
Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said in a 3 September interview with AP that President Khatami will not compromise with the Guardians Council over two pieces of legislation introduced by his administration one year ago. Abtahi claimed that Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmadi Jannati said the council would approve a bill that would increase presidential powers in exchange for the withdrawal of a bill affecting elections. This latter bill would greatly reduce the Guardians Council's ability to vet candidates for elected office The Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on Islamic and constitutional grounds, has already rejected these pieces of legislation and sent them back to the parliament for revision. BS
IRANIAN VIGILANTES' DEATH SENTENCES OVERTURNED
An Iranian court has overturned the death sentences on six men who reportedly confessed to killing five people in the city of Kerman in an effort to uphold Islamic morality, "Etemad" daily newspaper reported on 3 September, according to AFP. The killers, aged between 19 and 22, reportedly confessed to killing some of their victims by tying them up and throwing them into swimming pools, while others were stoned to death. BS
U.S. SUBMITS DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRAQ TO SECURITY COUNCIL
The United States submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on 3 September calling on the international community to contribute financially, militarily, and technically to rebuilding Iraq, Reuters reported. Specifically, the draft resolution provides for a "multinational force under unified command" that will "contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the institutions of the Iraqi interim authority, including the Governing Council of Iraq, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure." Member states are also asked to "contribute to the training and equipping of Iraqi police." In terms of financial support, it calls on international financial institutions "to provide their full range of loans and other financial assistance" and on states to "accelerate [the] provision of substantial financial contributions to support" Iraqi reconstruction. The draft also seeks UN assistance in helping establish the electoral process in Iraq. The draft is expected to undergo a number of revisions before the Security Council votes on it in the coming days. KR
AS U.S. OFFICIAL CALLS FOR MORE IRAQI, INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN SECURITY...
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on 3 September called on Iraqis and the international community to contribute more to Iraq's security, Reuters reported. Speaking to reporters en route to the Persian Gulf region, he said that U.S. military leaders do not believe that an increase in U.S. forces is required in Iraq. "Rather than flooding [Iraq] with American soldiers, it seems to me it makes all the sense in the world to have a principle effort to strengthen the size of the Iraqi security forces," Rumsfeld said. "I think they're right because the question is where do you want to put your effort? Do you want to put your effort on further U.S. involvement or do you want to put your effort on pushing to see that Iraqis that live there...can provide for their own security?" He noted that some 50,000-60,000 Iraqis are now involved in security efforts in the country. KR
...AS U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY CALLS FOR TROOP REVIEW
U.K. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has ordered a review of U.K. force levels in Iraq, the Defense Ministry announced on 4 September, Reuters reported. "In light of events in Iraq, the Defense Secretary has asked for a review of the forces and resources required to support U.K. operations," a spokesman said. London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 4 September that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to send another 5,000 troops to Iraq or risk "strategic failure" there. Straw also noted in notes drawn up for a meeting with Blair, which were viewed by the "Daily Telegraph," that a "lack of political progress in solving the linked problems of security, infrastructure, and the political process are undermining the consent of the Iraqi people to the coalition presence and providing fertile ground for extremists and terrorists." He stressed that "visible improvements" need to be seen in Iraq before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in late October. KR
ANSAR 'SOURCE' SAYS GROUP INVOLVED IN UN BOMBING
Oslo's "Aftenposten," citing a 3 September report by TV2 Nettavisen, reported that a "centrally placed source" in the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam has claimed that breakaway members of the group are behind the 19 August bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. "It was the new leaders of Ansar Al-Islam who were behind the bombing of the UN headquarters. They were also behind another car bomb in northern Iraq," the source claimed. The report cites Khalid Faraj Ahmad, the brother of Ansar leader Mullah Krekar, who has asylum in Norway, as saying that Ansar is divided and that many members of Ansar left after Mullah Krekar went to Norway, while a small group remains active inside Iraq. Ahmad could not confirm the source's claims, however, telling TV2 Nettavisen, "I can confirm the split, but I know nothing about who was behind the UN bombing." The Ansar source has said that a number car bombs and suicide attacks are planned against U.S. targets in Iraq. Krekar denied any Ansar involvement in the UN bombing in a 24 August interview with Rome's "La Repubblica" daily (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 August 2003). KR
MUHAMMAD'S ARMY SEEKING EXPLOSIVES IN IRAQ
The Kurdish weekly "Jamawar" issued a report on 1 September claiming that the newly established group Muhammad's Army is seeking arms and explosives in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Ba'qubah, Al-Fallujah, and Sharaban. The group has said that its main agenda is to drive U.S. forces from Iraq. The report speculated that former Ba'athists and Muslim fundamentalists have established contacts with Muhammad's Army. The group also sent an audiotape to LBC TV claiming responsibility for the 19 August UN bombing in Baghdad, the Lebanese satellite channel reported on 23 August. The audiotape claimed that the U.S. seeks to "drive a wedge" between Sunnis and Shi'a in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 August 2003). KR