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Newsline - September 12, 2003


PUTIN SUSPENDS NORTHERN FLEET COMMANDER
President Vladimir Putin on 11 September "temporarily suspended" the commander of the Northern Fleet, Admiral Gennadii Suchkov, in connection with the investigation into the 30 August sinking of the K-159 decommissioned nuclear submarine, which took the lives on nine seamen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003), Russian media reported. Earlier, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov accused the officers involved in the towing operation of negligence, while investigators brought an indictment on charges of violating navigation rules against second-rank Captain Sergei Zhemchuzhnyi, who was in charge of the operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003). Other experts, however, said that Ivanov was too quick to judge and that it was the Northern Fleet command that hindered efforts by the submarine's crew to save the vessel after a leak was discovered. Suchkov took command of the fleet in 2001 after Putin dismissed his predecessor, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, in connection with the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in August 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). VY

NEW AIRBORNE FORCES COMMANDER APPOINTED...
President Putin on 11 September appointed the deputy commander of the Far Eastern Military District, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Kolmakov, as the new commander of Russia's Airborne Forces, RIA-Novosti and newsinfo.ru reported. The former airborne commander, Colonel General Georgii Shpak, retired this month after reaching the mandatory-retirement age of 60. Speaking with Kolmakov and Shpak in the Kremlin in the presence of Defense Minister Ivanov, Putin said the Airborne Forces must be in "a state of constant readiness and their numbers should increase." Putin said he considers them to be an important military asset. "I ask that you not forget this," Putin said. At present, the Airborne Forces comprise four divisions with 34,000 troops. VY

...AS FORCE REFORM SET TO PROCEED...
Colonel General Shpak's retirement means that the General Staff can proceed to reform the Airborne Forces, Interfax Military News Agency reported on 11 September. Shpak was widely believed to have opposed such reforms. According to the reports, the Airborne Forces will be restructured into brigades and its total personnel will be reduced by 3,000-4,000 troops. If so, it will be the fourth reduction since 1995, when the force numbered 40,000. VY

...AND FORMER AIRBORNE COMMANDER JOINS NEW LEFTIST BLOC
Colonel General Shpak will become one of the leaders of the new National-Patriotic Union of Russia, a leftist election bloc headed by Duma Deputies Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin, gazeta.ru reported on 11 September. Rogozin told journalists that Shpak and Valentin Varennikov, former commander of Soviet ground forces and an active participant in the August 1991 coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, will both join the movement, occupying the fourth and fifth spots on the bloc's election list for the 7 December Duma elections, following Glazev, Rogozin, and former Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko. VY

MINISTRY ALARMED BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
Interior Ministry Major General Vladimir Popkov told journalists in Moscow on 11 September that illegal immigration into Russia has become a very serious economic and crime problem and the situation is getting worse because of inconsistencies in the laws on citizenship and on the status of foreigners that were adopted last year, Russian media reported. The number of illegal immigrants in Russia has been estimated at anywhere from 1.5 million to 15 million, and could grow to 19 million by 2010, Popkov said. Most of them are seasonal workers, students, and transit passengers whose visas have expired. Illegal immigrants are underpaying billions of rubles in taxes and are contributing to a number of criminal phenomena, he added. However, polit.ru commented on 11 September that Popkov's figures are extremely unreliable. VY

FORMER OLIGARCH SAYS HE WON THIS ROUND OF CONFRONTATION WITH KREMLIN...
In interviews with gazeta.ru and Ekho Moskvy on 11 September, self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii said a recent decision by the British government to grant him political asylum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003) was the result of Moscow's campaign against him and the activity of Russia's special services. He confirmed that the granting of political asylum does not mean that Russia's efforts to seek his extradition have come to an end, and a final decision on that matter rests with the British home secretary. He said, however, that he believes that since Home Secretary David Blunkett has approved the asylum request, he would also overrule any court decision authorizing Berezovskii's extradition. Berezovskii added that he will proceed with his plans to run in the 7 December State Duma elections, which is his right as a Russian citizen. VY

...AS COURT RECOGNIZES PRO-BEREZOVSKII GROUP AS THE REAL LIBERAL RUSSIA
A court in southern Russia has upheld the legality of a party congress held by the Liberal Russia splinter group that supports Boris Berezovskii, during which Viktor Pokhmelkin and other foes of the self-exiled tycoon were expelled from the party's ranks, newsru.com reported on 11 September. The decision by the Trusovskii District Court in Astrakhan overturned the Justice Ministry's refusal to validate decisions adopted by the pro-Berezovskii splinter group during its June 14-15 congress, which amounted to the ouster of Pokhmelkin and his supporters from the party. The leader of the pro-Berezovskii group, former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, hailed the court's decision, calling it "a definitive response to the question of the legitimacy of the Liberal Russia party headed by Boris Berezovskii and Ivan Rybkin" and saying that it confirmed the legality of the Berezovskii-Rybkin group's decisions, newsru.com reported. Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko said his ministry will file an appeal challenging the verdict, Interfax reported on 11 September. JB

ST. PETERSBURG COURT WILL TAKE UP COMPLAINT AGAINST KREMLIN'S CANDIDATE...
On 12 September, the St. Petersburg city court will take up a lawsuit filed by St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova, who is seeking to revoke the registration of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko as a candidate in St. Petersburg's 21 September gubernatorial election, Interfax reported on 11 September. Markova, who is also running in the race, charges in her suit that a nationally televised meeting between President Putin and Matvienko on 2 September, during which he praised her proposals and wished her success in the governor's race, was a violation of election law. The city's election commission is also investigating Markova's complaint (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003). Matvienko, for her part, argued that her meeting with Putin did not violate election law given he is her immediate boss and said that the issue of whether the television channels had violated election law by covering the meeting would have to be determined by the election commission. JB

...WHILE HER RIVAL FINDS MORE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT
Deputy Governor Markova, meanwhile, lodged another complaint with the city's election commission, this time concerning election posters put up by Matvienko's campaign around St. Petersburg. The posters show Matvienko with President Putin and bear the slogan "Together we can do anything!", gazeta.ru reported on 11 September. However, both the election commission and Matvienko's campaign headquarters indicated that Matvienko received written permission from the head of state to use his image for campaign purposes, as election rules require. JB

IN CHECHEN ELECTION, IT'S ALL OVER BUT THE VOTING...
Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has been virtually assured of victory in the republic's 5 October presidential election with the sidelining of his two remaining serious rivals, Russian and international media reported on 11 September. First, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Duma, announced he is withdrawing from the race in order to accept an offer to become an aide to President Putin. Hours later, Chechnya's Supreme Court annulled millionaire businessman Malik Saidullaev's candidacy. The court ruled that more than 40 percent of the signatures that Saidullaev gathered in support of his candidacy were invalid, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 September. A third candidate, Khusein Dzhabrailov, withdrew from the race on 2 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). Observers gave the remaining seven candidates little or no chance of beating Kadyrov. Kadyrov, meanwhile, met with Putin in Sochi on 11 September to discuss compensation payments to residents of Chechnya for lost housing, RIA-Novosti reported. According to "Kommersant-Daily," reports about the meeting were aired on federal television channels. JB

...AS OBSERVERS SPECULATE ABOUT WHO PUT IN THE FIX, AND HOW
Observers on 11-12 September speculated about whether the Kremlin had a hand in removing Aslakhanov and Saidullaev from the Chechen presidential race. Aslakhanov, who had also been accused of violating registration rules and was expecting to be thrown out the race, denied that the offer of a job in the Kremlin had been orchestrated, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 September. Political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov, however, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 11 September that Aslakhanov was "taken out of the game" by a "win-win" method that involved "no threats, just incentives." "Kommersant-Daily" suggested the Kremlin played a role in Dzhabrailov's withdrawal from the race. Saidullaev, for his part, said he will challenge the verdict nullifying his candidacy in the Russian Supreme Court. "Kommersant-Daily," however, wrote that the court "almost never makes decisions that run counter to the wishes of the presidential administration" regarding the removal of candidates from elections. On 8 September, Saidullaev accused the Chechen police force, headed by Kadyrov's son, Ramzan, of using intimidation and force against people working for the campaigns of Kadyrov's rivals, AP reported. JB

ARMENIAN OFFICIAL SAYS PRIVATIZATION TO BE COMPLETED IN 2004
The chairman of the Armenian government's Committee on State Property Management, David Vartanian, announced on 11 September that the country's privatization of state enterprises and assets is now in its final stages and will be completed by the end of next year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Azg reported. Vartanian explained that the 12-year privatization process has already sold the country's most promising firms, with the remaining companies increasingly being "declared bankrupt or liquidated altogether." Official statistics show that 1,789 large and medium-sized firms and 7,178 small businesses have been privatized, with more than 80 percent of Armenia's GDP now being generated by the private sector. Vartanian did not explain the apparent discrepancy between his ambitious forecast and the fact that Armenia failed to meet its privatization targets for 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). The privatization effort was significantly flawed by widespread corruption during the government of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, and more recently, by a growing trend of transferring key industrial assets to Russia in exchange for the cancellation of Armenian debt to Moscow. RG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW ANTICORRUPTION ADVISER
President Robert Kocharian on 11 September appointed a new presidential adviser empowered to head the state campaign to combat corruption, according to Yerkir and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The new adviser, Bagrat Yesayan, was formerly the chief of staff for the Commission on Securities, and is a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, a pro-government party that has consistently advocated stronger measures against corruption. Although a junior partner in the government's ruling coalition, the Dashnaktsutiun party has strongly criticized Kocharian for failing to exert sufficient measures against corrupt practices and after the recent parliamentary elections, unsuccessfully called for the creation of a special state body with sweeping powers to combat corruption. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian has yet to release his long-awaited anticorruption strategy, despite more than two years of work on it by a team of government experts. In another decree issued the same day, Kocharian dismissed Razmik Davoyan, a presidential adviser on culture and human rights, "at his own request." RG

AZERBAIJANI PREMIER ADOPTS HARD-LINE RHETORIC ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT
Azerbaijani Prime Minister and presidential candidate Ilham Aliev warned in a nationally televised campaign address on 10 September that Azerbaijan will not establish economic relations with Armenia until the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved and reiterated a threat to "use whatever means at its disposal to liberate its lands," Interfax and AP reported. Aliev vowed that there can be no peace in the region until "Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is restored, Armenia withdraws from occupied Azerbaijani lands, and displaced people are returned to their homes." The premier added that although he hopes the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will step up its activities to broker a resolution to the conflict, "the Azerbaijani nation's patience is running out." He also issued a call for "nongovernmental organizations to end relations with Armenia" and criticized several leading opposition presidential candidates for their recent statements promising "to liberate Nagorno-Karabakh within six months after they take office," adding that the country has already got rid of them once and their return is out of the question." RG

OSCE LAUNCHES ELECTION-MONITORING MISSION IN AZERBAIJAN
The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) launched its election-observation mission on 11 September to monitor Azerbaijan's 15 October presidential election, ANS and Interfax reported. The OSCE mission in Azerbaijan consists of 30 international election experts from 18 OSCE countries, and it will deploy 500 observers to monitor the election campaign and media coverage and to assess voting throughout the country. Speaking at a Baku press conference, the head of the OSCE mission in Azerbaijan, Peter Eicher, stated that the coming presidential "election is a critical test for democracy in Azerbaijan." He noted that after more than a decade of undemocratic rule, "Azerbaijan deserves a free and fair election." RG

DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL WARNS THAT AZERBAIJANI ENERGY SECTOR IS VULNERABLE TO TERRORIST ATTACK
The chief of civil defense in the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, Dzhavad Gasymov, warned on 10 September that the country's oil infrastructure is a potential target for international terrorism, according to ANS and Interfax. The official added that Azerbaijan has solicited assistance from NATO's Civil Defense Committee and is hosting a joint counterterrorism exercise with NATO experts. The 11 September exercise involved a simulated security operation at the Azerneftyanacag oil refinery, including measures to protect the facility from a terrorist attack. Gasymov revealed that the exercise is part of a broader plan to protect the country's oil pipelines against terrorism and added that the Defense Ministry has an "urgent need for a crisis center" to prepare for possible terrorist attacks in the future. The NATO Civil Defense Committee convened a meeting in Baku on 10 September and oversaw the exercise. RG

PRESIDENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF MASS ESCAPE FROM GEORGIAN PRISON
President Eduard Shevardnadze on 11 September ordered an immediate investigation by national security officials into the mass escape of some 138 prisoners from the Rustavi penal facility, 24 kilometers south of Tbilisi, Reuters and the "Georgian Times" reported. One hundred prisoners remain at large after the 10 September escape, which was reportedly carried out with the assistance of armed accomplices who entered the prison facility and provided transportation for the escapees. With a mere handful of guards responsible for overseeing more than 1,000 prisoners, this is the third successful escape from the Rustavi prison. Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili, widely believed to be in danger of being dismissed for the incident, explained that the repeated escapes are "largely due to the scarcity of finances," and warned that escapes "might recur in the penitentiary system of Georgia." RG

KAZAKH OPPOSITION, AUTHORITIES COMPLAIN OF DIRTY CAMPAIGN PRACTICES
As Kazakhstan's 20 September nationwide elections to local councils approach, both the opposition and the authorities are complaining of the "dirty" campaign practices being employed, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 11 September. Opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) official and Almaty city council candidate Petr Svoik showed a news conference in Almaty a leaflet allegedly written by him, but which he said was actually a provocation by a "powerful and influential body." The leaflet offers to pay for information on people who do not trust the DVK. The head of the public-relations department of the Almaty city police, Colonel Alikhan Bektasov, said the DVK suspects that a major pro-government political party engineered the provocation. He said such dirty tricks are increasing as the election approaches, and the police have set up special groups in every raion to deal with them. The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) issued a statement on 11 September saying the number of complaints it has received about dirty campaign practices has been increasing. BB

KAZAKH CASPIAN DEVELOPMENT PLAN TIGHTENS ENVIRONMENTAL RULES
The Kazakh government has confirmed the 2003-05 portion of a program to develop the hydrocarbon resources in the country's sector of the Caspian Sea and tightened the environmental rules that companies working in the area must follow, Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told the Caspian Ecology 2003 international environmental conference in Aktau on 11 September. He said that among the first measures to be taken will be the dismantling of abandoned oil wells on the Caspian coast, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan. The program will also include studies of the condition of local flora and fauna, according to Shkolnik. BB

NEW RADIOACTIVE HOT SPOTS FOUND AT KAZAKH TEST SITE
Additional areas of high radiation have reportedly been found at the former Azgir nuclear-test site in the Kurmangazy Raion of western Kazakhstan's Atyrau Oblast, "Ekspress-K" and Deutsche Welle reported on 11 September. Details on the number of hot spots and the levels of radiation were not available. The site was used for underground nuclear tests from 1966 to 1970. In 1996, health officials found serious health problems in the local population, which have increased, according to intensive monitoring carried out this year. In addition to increased radioactivity, the site is also contaminated by heavy metals. Kurmangazy Raion is the site of a major oilfield being developed by a Kazakh-Russian joint venture. BB

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE CONFIRMS PRESIDENT CANNOT RUN AGAIN
The Government Affairs Committee of the lower house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament confirmed on 11 September that President Askar Akaev is not eligible to run for president again in 2005, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. According to committee Chairman Absamat Masaliev, Akaev's present term is illegal. The Kyrgyz Constitution allows a president only two terms in office, but the Kyrgyz Supreme Court ruled prior to the last presidential election that Akaev's first two terms should not be counted, because those elections took place before the adoption of the present constitution. Akaev has said repeatedly that he will not run in 2005, but the opposition is distrustful. BB

MSF REPORTS ON TAJIKISTAN'S PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITALS
The international medical NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has published a report on the state of Tajikistan's psychiatric hospitals asserting that the facilities do not meet the basic needs of patients, Deutsche Welle reported on 10 September. MSF, financed by the Humanitarian Office of the EU, has been working with Tajik psychiatric facilities for six years, reportedly the only international organization doing so. According to MSF, Tajikistan's mental facilities were left in a "horrific" condition after the 1992-97 civil war. According to the report, by 1997 half of the patients were dying every year from cold, illness, and lack of food. MSF assistance has reportedly reduced this number considerably, but its mandate is expiring and the organization must leave Tajikistan in the near future. An MSF official warned that the Tajik Health Ministry is unable to continue the work itself and expressed the hope that other international groups will take over. BB

UZBEK INTERIOR MINISTRY REPORTEDLY INVESTIGATING ATTACK ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST
The Uzbek Interior Ministry is investigating the 28 August attack on human rights activist and lawyer Surat Ikramov, Interfax reported on 11 September, quoting the Uzbek Foreign Ministry's press service. Ikramov, a member of the unregistered Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan, was reportedly kidnapped from a Tashkent street by three masked men who tied him up, beat him, and dumped him outside the city, where he was found by passersby (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003). Ikramov has taken part in a number of high-profile human rights cases. BB

UZBEK CUSTOMS OFFICIALS STOP BUS WITH 'GIFTS FROM BIN LADEN'
Uzbek customs and security-service officials stopped a bus carrying 125 kilograms of heroin divided up into small packets labeled "From Osama bin Laden," kabar.kg reported on 12 September. The bus was reportedly traveling from Tajikistan to Russia and was driven by a Kyrgyz citizen who told officials he had been promised a lot of money for taking the load to Russia. According to kabar.kg, quoting RIA-Novosti, the heroin is worth about $9 million. BB

GOVERNMENT SURVEY SAYS 79 PERCENT OF BELARUSIANS NEED STATE IDEOLOGY
A poll conducted by the government-controlled Institute of Social and Political Studies among 1,505 Belarusians from 14-20 August found that 79 percent of respondents answered "yes" to the question whether their country "needs the ideology of the Belarusian state," Belapan reported on 11 September. Earlier this year, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decided to inculcate state ideology in school and at the workplace on a mandatory basis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 April 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER ASKS PARLIAMENT TO MULL CIS COMMON ECONOMIC AREA
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has requested that the Verkhovna Rada discuss on 16 September the issue of a draft accord between Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine on the creation of a single economic zone, UNIAN reported on 12 September, quoting parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. The cabinet is expected on 17 September to adopt a stance on the possible signing of the accord, which has provoked much controversy in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003), by President Leonid Kuchma during a CIS summit in Yalta on 18-19 September. Meanwhile, Labor Ukraine leader Serhiy Tyhypko, who is also head of the National Bank of Ukraine, has threatened that his party will recall its three representatives in Yanukovych's cabinet -- Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, Industrial Policy Minister Anatoliy Myalytsya, and Economy Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy -- if they fail to support the creation of a single economic zone of the four CIS states, Interfax reported on 11 September. JM

EU COMMISSIONER URGES UKRAINE TO LOOK TOWARD 'WIDER EUROPE'
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen told Ukrainian President Kuchma at a meeting in Crimea on 11 September that Ukraine and the European Commission should focus on talks regarding the signing of a joint-action plan within the EU's Wider Europe initiative (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 1 July 2003), Interfax reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Kuchma reportedly said during the meeting that "Ukraine's strategic course toward European integration remains unchanged." The following day, Verheugen met with lawmakers from the Verkhovna Rada's Commission for European Integration, headed by Borys Tarasyuk. According to Tarasyuk, Verheugen expressed hope that Ukraine's intention to form a common economic area with three other CIS countries (see above) will not change Kyiv's course toward integration with Europe. JM

ESTONIA PRESENTS PLAN ON PROTECTING EASTERN BORDER
The Interior Ministry has sent to the European Commission a plan on how it will spend the 1.07 billion kroons ($77 million) the EU will provide to Estonia to help meet Schengen requirements for its border with Russia, BNS reported on 11 September. The funds will be transferred once Estonia officially joins the EU, which is expected to happen in May 2004. "With the money, we want to renovate and build up the border guard infrastructure, acquire means of transport, and create a joint radio-communication system for the border guard, the police, and other related services," Interior Ministry Chancellor Mart Kraft said. The major expenditures include 320 million kroons to create a professional mobile radio- and data-communication system, 265 million kroons to buy ships and up-to-date maritime-surveillance equipment, and 128 million kroons in three years to build the infrastructure necessary to guard the maritime border. The commission will give the ministry its comments on the plan in the second week of October. SG

MAYORS OF EU CANDIDATE COUNTRY CAPITALS HOLD CONFERENCE IN RIGA
The mayors of Budapest, Hungary; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Nicosia, Cyprus; Warsaw, Poland; Prague, Czech Republic; Tallinn, Estonia; and Vilnius, Lithuania, along with representatives from Vienna, Austria, participated in an 11 September conference in Riga on the capital cities' role in EU enlargement, LETA reported. Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars said the capitals should cooperate and exchange information and experiences in strengthening security and fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption. He said the cities have vast potential for developing cooperation in tourism, public transportation, and utilities. The conference adopted a joint statement stating that EU members and candidates should pay great attention to security problems and provide required funding and other support. They also agreed that EU integration should improve public security. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER VISITS SWEDEN
Algirdas Brazauskas began a three-day visit to Sweden on 10 September at the European Commission's representative office in Stockholm where he told diplomats of foreign countries residing in Sweden and EC representatives that Lithuania will be a reliable partner when it joins the EU in May 2004, BNS reported. He later attended a basketball game between Lithuania and Serbia-Montenegro in the European Basketball Championship and campaigned for holding the 2007 Championship in Lithuania. Brazauskas held talks on 11 September with Swedish parliament speaker Bjorn von Sydow to whom he expressed his condolences over the death of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. They agreed on the need for more intense political and economic cooperation. Brazauskas also met with Jan Nistad, the director for international projects under the Swedish Nuclear Energy Safety Agency. Brazauskas's scheduled meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson on 12 September was cancelled due to Lindh's death. SG

POLISH MINERS RIOT IN WARSAW OVER PLANNED MINE CLOSURES
Some 7,000 coal miners from Silesia arrived in Warsaw on 11 September to protest the government's plans to close down four coal mines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003), Polish media reported. The demonstration turned into one of the worst riots in postcommunist Poland. Miners smashed windows at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance. They also threw Molotov cocktails, firecrackers, and cobblestones at the Economy Ministry, and clashed with riot police protecting the Economy Ministry and the prime minister's office. Police responded with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. Several dozen policemen and miners were injured. "The liquidation of the mines is necessary to keep up the entire sector," PAP quoted Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner as saying. "Everybody is talking about the four mines under liquidation, but nobody is talking about the several dozen others that we want to save in this way." JM

POLISH PREMIER OPPOSES CENTER AGAINST EXPULSION IN BERLIN
Prime Minister Leszek Miller told parliament on 11 September that the creation in Berlin of a Center Against Expulsions, as proposed by Germany's League of Expellees (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 August 2003), could negatively affect Polish-German relations, PAP reported. Miller said that if a center commemorating expulsions is to be established, it should have a "European dimension." He stressed that the resettlement of Germans was the consequence of World War II and criminal policies of the Third Reich in the occupied states. "It wasn't Poland that attacked Germany but Nazi Germany that attacked Poland," Miller said. "Obviously, every nation has the right to commemorate its victims. It should not, however, distort history, blur differences between cause and effect, and crime and punishment." JM

CZECH PREMIER IN TUNIS
Visiting Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and his Tunisian counterpart Mohamed Ghannouchi jointly marked the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by stressing they condemn any form of terrorism, CTK reported. "We have agreed that the struggle against terrorism is global and necessitates an international effort" to overcome its dangers, Spidla said after meeting with Ghannouchi. He also said they share the same views on the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means. MS

BRITAIN DROPS OUT OF RACE TO PROVIDE SUPERSONIC PLANES TO CZECH REPUBLIC
Deputy Defense Minister Jan Vana told CTK on 11 September that the Untied Kingdom has decided to withdraw its offer to lease or sell to the Czech Republic 14 secondhand Tornado supersonic fighters. Vana said the British representatives informed the Czech authorities that they cannot meet the conditions of the Czech tender. Vana said Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United States are still interested in participating in the tender. They have to submit their offers by the end of October and the cabinet is to make a decision in December. Last year, Prague annulled a tender for the purchase of new fighters due to high costs and decided instead to replace its aging fleet of Russian-made MiGs with leased or used planes capable of meeting NATO standards. MS

CZECH FINANCE MINISTER ACCUSES JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER OF BREAKING AGREEMENT
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on 11 September that junior coalition Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) has violated the coalition agreement by refusing to support in the Senate a government-sponsored bill on raising excise duties, CTK reported. The upper house returned the bill to the Chamber of Deputies earlier on 11 September. US-DEU Chairman Petr Mares said his party colleagues behaved "irresponsibly" and failed to fully consider the consequences of their move. Mares said he believes the lower house will override the Senate's vote. MS

VISEGRAD COUNTRIES AGREE IN PRAGUE TO COORDINATE SCHENGEN-AGREEMENT ACCESSION
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 11 September after meeting in Prague with his counterparts from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia that they reached an agreement to coordinate their countries' accession to the Schengen agreement at the earliest possible date, CTK reported. The Visegrad group interior ministers agreed, however, that border-check controls cannot be dropped before 2006 due to security risks and the need to improve protection against illegal immigration. After their presumed May 2004 EU accession, the Visegrad countries will become EU border-states. MS

CZECH SUPREME COURT MAKES MILESTONE RULING IN RESTITUTION CONTROVERSY
The Supreme Court ruled on 11 September that restitution legislation takes precedence over the Civil Code, CTK reported. The ruling was made in a relatively insignificant case, but it establishes a precedent that might affect important restitution cases involving claimants who are asking for the restitution of large properties confiscated under the Benes Decrees. If courts abide by this precedent, it could be detrimental to the pending lawsuits of people such as Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky and Ernst Harrach, who are demanding restitution on the basis of Civil Code provisions. Kinsky, who has submitted 157 lawsuits, has won some of them on account of Civil Code stipulations. Harrach's cases are yet to be heard. The Supreme Court ruling is not binding on lower courts, but it is expected to be viewed by them as a recommendation. If those courts decide otherwise, the appeals would reach the Supreme Court. CTK reported that if the Supreme Court ruling blocks further restitution of property to Kinsky, he would still remain in possession of the assets already returned to him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 7 July 2003). MS

CZECH UN PRESIDENT CONSIDERING APPEAL TO ECHR
The president of the UN General Assembly, former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, is considering launching a lawsuit against the National Security Office (NBU) at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, CTK reported on 12 September, citing the daily "Pravo." The NBU recently rejected an appeal by Kavan against its July decision to deny him the security clearance needed to access classified information on the grounds that Kavan approved the shredding of secret documents while he was foreign minister from 1998-2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2003). Kavan can appeal against the NBU's latest decision at the Brno-base Supreme State Attorney's Office within 15 days, and "Pravo" said he is certain to do that. The daily quoted him as saying that, if need be, "I am prepared...to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg." MS

FRAIL POPE FALTERS AT START OF SLOVAK TRIP...
A visibly weak Pope John Paul II sparked fresh concern over his health on 11 September, the first of a four-day visit trip to Slovakia, international news agencies reported. At the welcoming ceremony at the Bratislava airport, the pontiff, looking fatigued and trembling because of Parkinson's disease, was unable to finish his prepared speech and handed it over to an aide. After several minutes of rest, the pope picked up his address again and read the last section, urging Slovaks to "bring to the construction of Europe's new identity the contribution of your rich Christian tradition," according to AFP. John Paul II has been insisting for an explicit reference to Europe's Christian roots in the envisaged European Constitution. He later met with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and other Slovak politicians. After several hours of rest, the pontiff traveled to visit the ancient cathedral in Trnava, but was unable to read his prepared address and a cardinal read it to the congregation for him. Earlier, he was rushed to the cathedral's sacristy, but Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls denied he was given medical treatment. MS

...BUT DEFIES WEATHER, PRESIDES OVER MASS IN BANSKA BYSTRICA
Braving a chilly drizzle, Pope John Paul II presided over a 12 September Mass for as many as 150,000 people in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, international news agencies reported. Speaking in Slovak in a shaky and sometimes slurred voice, the pontiff thanked God that "He allowed me another apostolic trip in the name of Christ." But after beginning his homily by greeting the crowd, which chanted "Let the Holy father live!", John Paul II asked Cardinal Josef Tomko to read most of the rest of his prepared speech, finishing only the last line himself. The pontiff was expected to meet later on 12 September with Slovak bishops and leaders of the country's other religious communities. MS

FORMER CONTROVERSIAL SLOVAK POLITICIAN HIRED BY EBRD
Former Transportation Minister Gabriel Palacka is to become assistant to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's (EBRD) director for the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia, TASR reported on 11 September. Palacka, who resigned in August 1999 over several corruption allegations, later became Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) party treasurer and recently has been employed by the Finance Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 August 1999). Palacka won a competition for the post carried out by the ministry on EBRD's behalf and is to take over his new position in London on 1 October. Junior coalition Alliance for a New Citizen Chairman Pavol Rusko said he might raise the subject at the next meeting of the Coalition Council. Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, which also is a member of the ruling coalition, said the choice is a disservice to Slovakia. Opposition Smer (Direction) Deputy Chairwoman Monika Benova said Palacka won the competition for the post due to SDKU party cronyism. MS

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES REDUCING MILITARY SERVICE
The cabinet on 10 September approved reducing the duration of compulsory military service from nine to six months as of January 2004, TASR reported, citing the daily "Sme." Outgoing Defense Minister Ivan Simko told the daily that the decision is "a gradual step toward the professionalization of the armed forces." Parliament has yet to approve the decision. MS

FINANCIAL WATCHDOG'S HEAD STRIKES OUT AT HUNGARIAN PREMIER, FINANCE MINISTER
Karoly Szasz, the head of the Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF), said on 11 September following a PSZAF meeting that Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo and Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy have been implicated in PSZAF investigations into the embezzlement scandal at K&H Equities, Hungarian radio reported. Finance Ministry spokesman Daniel Mate denied Laszlo's involvement in the scandal, however, and said Szasz was wrong when he reiterated that PSZAF is an independent body that cannot be investigated by a governmental organization. Mate said the ministry's administrative state secretary, Jozsef Thuma, is leading an ongoing investigation into PSZAF finances, because PSZAF is supervised by the Finance Ministry. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST LEADER LAYS WREATH AT TOMB OF ALLEGED JEWISH-RITUAL-MURDER VICTIM
Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), and his followers on 11 September laid wreaths at the grave of a young Christian girl, Eszter Solymosi, who allegedly was murdered in a Jewish ritual in 1883, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The same day, a scholarly conference attended by former President Arpad Goncz as well as prominent historians, literary historians, and lawyers, was held in nearby Nyiregyhaza, to commemorate the 120th anniversary of a trial in which Jews in Tiszaeszlar were accused of the ritual murder of Solymosi. The girl was eventually found drowned in the Tisza River and the accused were acquitted. Speakers at the conference said intellectuals had exploited medieval folk beliefs about ritual murders to justify extremist anti-Semitic views, the daily reported. MSZ

EU FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER VISITS PRISHTINA...
In his address to the Kosovar parliament, the EU's commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, said in Prishtina on 11 September that the declarations of the Kosovar and Serbian parliaments in favor or against independence will not have any influence on the decision on the province's final status, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 15, and 22 August and 5 September 2003). In reply to Patten's demand that the Kosovar institutions should start a dialogue with Belgrade, Kosovar parliament speaker Nexhat Daci asked Patten whether they should hold talks with the government of Serbia or the authorities of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro. In Belgrade, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, Belgrade's point man for Kosova and southern Serbia, told a press conference that he expects the talks to begin in early November, Tanjug reported. UB

...AND BELGRADE
Also on 11 September, Patten met with representatives of the Serbian and Montenegrin governments in Belgrade, Tanjug reported. After a meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, Patten said he expects a feasibility study on possible negotiations about a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia and Montenegro to be finalized in the first quarter of 2004. Speaking at a joint press conference, Patten and Zivkovic expressed hope that talks between Belgrade and Prishtina will begin as soon as possible. Patten said the EU's role in the talks must not be that of a "boxing referee," but -- together with the United States and the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) -- to facilitate the dialogue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 8 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 15, and 22 August and 5 September 2003). UB

ONE MONTENEGRIN MINISTER RESIGNS, ANOTHER THREATENS TO FOLLOW
Montenegrin Environment and Regional Planning Minister Ranko Radovic resigned on 11 September due to "too many obligations," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Interior Minister Milan Filipovic the same day threatened to withdraw from his post should the governing coalition of the Democratic Party of Socialists and the Social Democratic Party fail to agree on a new Police and National Security Agency Act, Tanjug reported. The new law should have been passed months ago, but the coalition could not agree on a consensus on some of its provisions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2003). UB

CROATIAN UNIONS THREATEN TO BLOCK ADRIATIC SEA PORTS
On 11 September, 11 unions of port workers threatened to block the Adriatic Sea ports of Rijeka, Sibenik, Split, and Dubrovnik on 25 September unless the government withdraws a draft law on seaports, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The unions are protesting the fact that the government has not taken into account their proposal for the draft law. They charge the new law would strip them of their previous rights. UB

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT SET TO INTRODUCE PROFESSIONAL ARMY
The government on 11 September acknowledged that the army must become a professional one, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. It is too early, however, to lift the compulsory military service as proposed by former Defense Minister Jozo Rado, the government said. UB

MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SETS ULTIMATUM FOR ETHNIC ALBANIAN SUBORDINATES
In a surprising move, Interior Minister Hari Kostov on 11 September ordered his deputy, Hazbi Lika, Deputy State Security Agency Director Fatmir Dehari, and the deputy head of the bureau for public security, Besir Deari, to prepare a plan how to arrest within a month two ethnic Albanians suspected of kidnapping and leading armed groups, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. Kostov ordered the plan to be ready by 2 p.m. on 12 September. Lika, Dehari, and Deari are members of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which recently criticized a police operation aimed at arresting the armed group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 11 September and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 and 12 September 2003). UB

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION HEAD REBUKES INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DIRECTOR...
Ion Stan, chairman of the parliamentary commission supervising the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), denied on 11 September that the commission's press release of the previous day distorts the content of discussions between its members and SRI Director Radu Timofte, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Stan said he is ready any time to make the transcript of the conversations with Timofte available to the bureaus of the parliament's two chambers. At the same time, Stan rebuked Timofte for asking that the conflict be brought to debate in the Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT). He said Timofte is apparently unaware of the legislation regulating the function of the SRI, which is subordinated to parliament, whereas the commission he heads is not in any way subordinated to the CSAT. In an allusion to what apparently brought about the conflict (see below), Stan said he "neither intends to retire on health grounds nor to take up some diplomatic post in some corner of the world." MS

...WHILE COMMISSION MEMBER CLAIMS CLASH IS REFLECTION OF PRESIDENT-PREMIER STRUGGLE
Daniela Buruiana, a member of the SRI commission supervising the activity of the SRI, said the clash in the commission was triggered by a struggle for the control of the SRI between President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Romanian media reported on 11 September. Buruiana, a member of the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party, said that last month Timofte dismissed his deputy, General Vasile Iancu, at the orders of President Iliescu. She said Iancu was aware of the intention to privatize the state oil company Petrom by selling the company to businessman Ovidiu Tender, which Iancu opposed as "state robbery." Iancu, she said, was close to Prime Minister Nastase and was forced by Timofte to retire on health grounds at President Iliescu's orders. As retaliation, she claimed, Nastase ordered the dismissal of an Iliescu crony, former Prosecutor-General Joita Tanase, who was sent off to Strasbourg as Romanian consul in that city. MS

ROMANIA TO INTRODUCE FLAT INCOME TAX
Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu announced on 11 September that the government intends to introduce a flat personal-income tax of 23 percent as of 2004, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported. At present, personal income is taxed at 18 percent-40 percent. MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS CHISINAU WON'T CHANGE FRAMEWORK OF SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS
Contradicting President Vladimir Voronin's statement earlier on 11 September, deputy parliamentary speaker Vadim Mishin said the same day that Moldova does not intend to change the framework of the current negotiations with Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. Mishin said Voronin's proposal to invite the EU to participate in the negotiations on a settlement in Transdniester does not mean that the current five-party negotiations framework -- including Moldova, Transdniester, the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- would be changed. He also said Chisinau is satisfied with the present framework. Mishin is widely believed to be a rival of Voronin in the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists. He also said the "future peacekeeping contingent under OSCE aegis will include Russian and Ukrainian peacekeepers." Mishin also said the settlement of the Transdniester conflict should be considered separately from the issue of the withdrawal of Russian troops. "The negotiation process is one thing, while the peacekeeping force and their military presence is another thing," he said. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PROMULGATES NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL
President Voronin signed into law on 11 September the National Defense bill that parliament approved on 25 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The law establishes the national-defense structure and the basic principles of the country's defense system. The promulgation of the law is part and parcel of ongoing military reforms, envisaging the setting up of a small, well-trained army. By 1 October, the Moldovan Army is to be reduced by 400 soldiers and 100 civilian employees, to a total of 6,800 soldiers and 2,300 civilians. MS

BULGARIAN INTELLIGENCE HEAD SEES NO IMMEDIATE THREAT TO SECURITY
Kircho Kirov, the acting director of the National Intelligence Service (NRS), on 11 September said on the joint radio and television program "Blitz," a production of RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service and the private bTV, that there is no immediate threat to the country's security -- neither military nor any other global threat. Kirov added, however, that there is a potential threat of terrorist attacks in the country. The previous day, Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said that Bulgarian security forces have stepped up controls on the Bulgarian-Macedonian border due to the activities of the separatist Albanian National Army (AKSH), mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003). UB

BULGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER SAYS DIFFERENCES WITH IMF 'NOT INSURMOUNTABLE'
After a meeting with Jerald Schiff, who is a division chief representing the Bulgarian team at International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters, Finance Minister Milen Velchev said on 11 September that the differences between the government and the IMF over the country's budgetary deficit are "not insurmountable," mediapool.bg reported. The IMF insists that the deficit not exceed 0.5 percent of GDP, while the budgetary framework drafted by Velchev envisions a deficit of 0.7 percent. Velchev explained the bigger deficit with rising imports, which are a result of the economic growth and growing foreign investment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003). UB

RUSSIA AND SAUDI ARABIA: $200 BILLION DREAMING
When Crown Prince Abdallah Bin Abd-al-Aziz al-Sa'ud arrived in Moscow on 1 September, the press found ample reason to play up the three-day visit to Russia by the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. The last such high-level meeting took place back in 1932, and it was followed by decades of strained ties. In fact, diplomatic relations between the two countries ceased altogether between 1938 and 1990. Practical-minded observers noted that Saudi Arabia and Russia are today the world's top two exporters of crude oil.

That said, a mutual dependence on oil revenues is hardly the basis for a lasting partnership. Saudi Arabia is a key member in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which has a penchant for price control through quotas. Russia is not a member, and the country's mainly privatized oil companies have happily produced as much oil for export as they can in order to profit from high world energy prices.

Moreover, Russian-Saudi relations have hardly benefited from ongoing separatist violence in Muslim Chechnya, where Russian security forces suspect that Chechen rebels continue to receive financial support from well-heeled Saudi sympathizers. Leading Russian business daily "Vedomosti" summed up these concerns in a 3 September editorial, commenting, "It is difficult to find a greater conundrum for a diplomat than a rapprochement between Riyadh and Moscow."

Not everyone agreed. As the crown prince met with top Russian officials in Moscow, prominent optimists from both countries engaged in strikingly similar "what-if" speculation. Russia's other leading business newspaper, "Kommersant-Daily," ran a 2 September analysis by Aleksandr Reutov. Noting that many Saudi businessmen began pulling their money out of the U.S. economy after the "anti-Saudi campaign that broke out in the United States after 11 September [2001]," Reutov began to muse about "$200 billion looking for a new use."

Warming to his theme, Reutov continued: "The $200 billion that Riyadh could invest, if things work out, in Russia's military-industrial complex would allow Moscow to make a tremendous leap forward. The combination of Saudi financial capabilities and Russian high-tech designs could add to the political map of the planet an entirely new center of power perhaps capable of returning the world to a bipolar system."

Though cooler heads might be tempted to dismiss the preceding as fantasy, it is apparently a fantasy shared by more than one. An op-ed by Al-Sirr Sayyid Ahmad on 4 September in the Saudi-owned, London-based Arabic daily "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" also touted an investment-fueled Saudi-Russian push for bipolarity. After informing readers that "the volume of trade between Russia and the Arab world was $5.5 billion last year, although it reached $55 billion in the years before the collapse of the Soviet Union," Ahmad boldly stated: "Russia can provide investment opportunities for the private Saudi funds that are still wandering the world's capitals in search of investment opportunities. Russia is tempting because of the unwelcoming, or even hostile, atmosphere for Saudi money in Western capitals.... Broadening the base of economic cooperation can give added impetus to cooperation in the political sphere in order to confront Washington's dubious intent to exploit its status as sole superpower to redraw the map of the Middle East."

Judging by the results of the crown prince's visit, however, the march to a bipolar world is off to a slow start. Amid much talk of goodwill and common cause, the showcase event came in the form of a vaguely worded intergovernmental agreement pledging to stabilize world oil markets through -- you guessed it -- increased cooperation. A few deals also emerged on the margins. Russian pipeline builder Stroitransgaz signed a strategic-partnership agreement with Saudi construction firm Oger Ltd., Prime-TASS reported on 3 September. Two heavyweight holding companies -- Russia's AFK Sistema and Saudi Arabia's Jeraisy Group -- signed an agreement on 3 September to produce Russian helicopters in Saudi Arabia, regnum.ru reported the next day. And a Smolensk diamond broker is apparently gearing up to sell gems in Saudi Arabia, "Vremya novostei" reported on 4 September.

The question lurking in the wings is whether Russia's foreign policy, with its inchoate longing for a multipolar world and its tendency toward ill-considered opportunism, can help to draw investment to non-raw-materials sectors of the economy that badly need it. The above-quoted musings from "Kommersant-Daily" and "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" indicate a shared readiness, on the rhetorical level at least, to entertain grand dreams of business serving a broader geopolitical agenda. The modest results of the crown prince's visit show that much more will be required to translate rhetoric into reality.

AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN AGREE TO BOLSTER TROOP PRESENCE AT BORDER
Afghan and Pakistani border officials, together with representatives of the U.S. military, met in the border town of Chaman on 10 September to discuss ways to avert terrorist attacks and stem illegal border crossings, the Pakistani daily "Dawn" reported. In what appeared from the daily's account to be a cooperative endeavor, the Afghan government decided to reinforce troops on its side of the border while Pakistan agreed to deploy 800 more soldiers on its side, and both parties said they will coordinate to investigate suspicious activities. Pakistani officials also reportedly raised the issue of India's secret service, which Islamabad believes is active in the area. Also on 10 September, the tripartite commission formed to address the volatile situation along the countries' shared border postponed its fifth scheduled meeting, which was to be held near Islamabad that day, because of what one diplomat described as "logistical problems" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). IL

AFGHAN GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE SECURITY IN KABUL AND ON MAJOR ROADS
Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told reporters 11 September the government will bolster the police force in Kabul and move to secure the main roads connecting Kabul with Kandahar and Kandahar with Herat, Reuters reported, as well as those linking Kabul with the Pakistani and Uzbek borders. Of the situation in the capital, Jalali said security there has been deteriorating and many police have "failed to respond to the challenges they face." Jalali also said government delegations have been dispatched to quell factional fighting in Paktiya and Herat provinces and that a third will soon make its way to Mazar-e Sharif. Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 11 September that Paktiya Province has seen 20 people killed and 40 injured in an area 35 kilometers east of Gardez as the Totakhel and Mangal tribes struggle for control of Dam Mountain. IL

ROCKETS LAND HARMLESSLY NEAR ISAF BASE IN KABUL
A compound in eastern Kabul housing German soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) came under rocket attack in the late hours of 11 September, but no one was hurt and no damages were reported, according to AP. Of the three rockets fired, only one landed inside the camp, and it fell harmlessly in a corner near the perimeter, authorities said. AP noted that the attack came a day after Germany and the United States asked NATO to consider expanding the mandate of the peacekeeping force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). AFP reported that another explosion was heard in Kabul about an hour after the strike on the base, but there were no further details at press time. IL

AFGHAN NEWSPAPER DEMANDS ETHICAL LOYA JIRGA SELECTION
Declaring that Afghanistan is "about to be tested by history," the Kabul-based newspaper "Nangarhar" on 2 September called for extreme care in the selection of delegates to the Constitutional Loya Jirga. The newspaper praised the Loya Jirga as an institution but said some previous assemblies -- it did not say which -- were "fake and just for show." To avoid such a fate this time, the article's author wrote, the representatives to this assembly should be "respected public figures" who are "capable of putting public interests ahead of personal preferences." The Loya Jirga "is not a place for warlords, armed militias, and those who possess just power and wealth." The newspaper added that native and foreign constitutional experts should examine not only the draft constitution itself but the constitutional commission's preparation for the Loya Jirga, "so that the performance of the commissioners does not remain unchecked." IL

IAEA GOVERNORS TO VOTE ON IRAN
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-country board of governors was expected to vote in a closed-door session on 12 September on a draft resolution giving Iran a final opportunity to demonstrate that it is in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Reuters reported. Nearly 30 countries reportedly back the resolution, but China and Russia were expected to abstain from voting. An anonymous Russian Atomic Energy Ministry official was quoted as saying that Moscow does not want to provoke Tehran or push it into a corner, but an anonymous Western diplomat told Reuters that, in reality, Moscow opposes a tough resolution because it fears the potential harm it would do to its lucrative deal to construct a nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, Iran. The board's 11 September meeting was postponed as the United States and 14 allies lobbied other member states to back the resolution, AFP reported. BS

HARD-LINE IRANIAN ACTIVIST RELEASED FROM JAIL
Ansar-i Hizbullah leader Said Asqar was seen shopping with his wife in the vicinity of Dolatabad Avenue on 9 September, Fars News Agency reported on 11 September. He was released from Evin prison a few days earlier, an anonymous "informed source" told Fars. Asqar received a 15-year prison sentence for shooting reformist ideologue Said Hajjarian in March 2000, but he was out on bail when he played a role in suppressing the June 2003 student unrest (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 March 2000, 29 May 2000, and 23 June 2003). He subsequently turned himself in when he heard that Prosecutor-General Said Mortazavi was seeking his arrest (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 11 August 2003). BS

IRAN DESCRIBES VISA PROCEDURE FOR IRAQIS
An anonymous "responsible source" at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad announced on 11 September that renewable one-month visas will be issued to Iraqis, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Iran-based Voice of the Mujahedin radio station reported. Visa applicants were told that they will be charged $41 for each visa, and these will be issued for the purposes of religious travel, trade, and tourism. BS

U.S. HOLDING IRANIAN REBELS IN IRAQ
The U.S. military said on 11 September that it is holding some 3,800 Iranian rebel detainees in eastern Iraq, and denied that the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) is still launching cross-border raids into Iran, Reuters reported. "Are they continuing to enter Iran? I can guarantee you that is not happening. They are contained," Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, told a Baghdad press conference. The MKO is an Iranian opposition group that was based in Iraq and supported by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein; the U.S. State Department describes the MKO as a foreign terrorist organization. Sanchez added that the detainees have been "separated from their weapons systems" and are being screened to determine their "defined end state." KR

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS UN ROLE 'CRUCIAL'
Adnan Pachachi met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 11 September to discuss the UN's role in postwar Iraq, Reuters reported the same day. "In my opinion, the role of the United Nations is crucial in the restoration and helping of the political process in Iraq," council member Pachachi told reporters following the meeting in Geneva. The foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's five permanent member states will meet with Annan in Geneva on 13 September to discuss Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2003). KR

U.K. PARLIAMENT RELEASES REPORT ON BLAIR CABINET
The British Parliament released a report on 11 September criticizing Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet for the way it handled its case for war in Iraq, Reuters reported. The Intelligence and Security Committee said a claim made by U.K. officials that Iraq could launch biological or chemical weapons within 45 minutes was "unhelpful" because it did not clarify that it was referring only to short-range munitions. The committee also said British intelligence officials cautioned Blair that invading Iraq would open the possibility for militants to obtain Iraqi chemical or biological weapons. The committee also criticized Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon for his department's role in the case for war. KR

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