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Newsline - April 28, 2004


SPS SAYS NO CRISIS IN LIBERALISM...
The Political Council of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) met on 27 April to discuss the fate of Russian liberalism in the context of the continuing discussion over the 29 March "Vedomosti" article signed by jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vedomosti" reported on 28 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2004). "Kommersant-Daily" quoted council Secretary Leonid Gozman as arguing that "there is no crisis of the liberal idea in Russia." "[The] decline in the ratings of rightist groups is a result not of an absence of ideas, but bad management," Gozman said. According to the daily, the council's session was an attempt to form an official position on the fate of liberal ideas. One outcome of the session was a declaration that SPS will form a unified list of candidates from all democratic forces for the 2007 State Duma elections. JAC

...AS RIGHTISTS' FUTURE SAID TO HINGE ON DEMONSTRATING CHANGE...
Commenting on SPS's activities to "Vedomosti," political analyst Stanislav Belkovskii compared the party to the Communists at the end of the 1980s. "Similar to the Communists under conditions of the decay of their ideology and constant political defeats, the rightists continue obstinately to insist on the correctness of their election path," Belkovskii said. "The electorate is expecting from SPS a renewal of its ideology and the appearance of new leaders," political consultant Oleg Matveichev of the Bakster Group said. "If they don't get this, then they will be disappointed once and for all." JAC

...AND PUBLIC YAWNS
A ROMIR-Monitoring poll published on 27 April shows that only 2 percent of Russians have read Khodorkovskii's 29 March article and just 16 percent are "generally acquainted" with its contents, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 April. About three-quarters of the survey's 1,600 respondents said they hadn't heard anything about the article, which continues to generate considerable controversy in the Russian media. Among the 18 percent who claimed to know something about the article, 68 percent said that former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and 1990s-era privatization chief Anatolii Chubais "deceived the people and used their power in their own interests." Almost 25 percent said that the reformers were honestly doing what they thought was best, but were simply not able to cope with the job. Four percent believe that the reformers "were correct in their radical-reform methods." RC

OFFICIALS REBUKE JOURNALISTS FOR 'RETRANSLATING' TERROR
Deputy Security Council Secretary Valentin Sobolev told a Moscow conference on 26 April that "the mass media are retranslators of terrorism," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other Russian media reported. Sobolev said that journalists -- or "citizens who work in the media" -- must be vigilant because terrorists are attempting to use them to influence the public and to sow panic. Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Anatolii Kulikov (Unified Russia) told the conference that the media "are more dangerous weapons than conventional ones," and claimed that the first war in Chechnya was lost by Russia "on the informational level." In order to defeat terrorism, Russia must learn to control information flows effectively, he said, adding that the United States has already learned to do so. RC

ALMOST 15,000 WOMEN KILLED EACH YEAR BY HUSBAND OR OTHER RELATIVE
In Russia, 14,000 women are killed each year by their husband or another relative, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 April, citing Amnesty International. Russia has no special law on domestic violence, and the police do not maintain separate statistics on the phenomenon, according to the daily. Research conducted by Irina Gorshkova of Moscow State University and Irina Shurygina of the Russian Academy of Sciences has indicated that 18 percent of wives are beaten regularly by their husbands, while more than 40 percent have been beaten once. Larisa Ponarina of the Anna women's crisis center told the daily that some 3,000 women kill their husbands each year, usually in response to years of violence. JAC

FOUR SENTENCED IN MCDONALD'S BOMBING CASE
The Moscow Municipal Court on 27 April sentenced four men to prison terms of from 15 years to 22 years for carrying out the 19 October 2002 bombing of a Moscow McDonald's restaurant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2002) that killed one and injured eight, Russian media reported on 28 April. The four convicted men -- Alkhan Mezhiev, his brother Akhyad Mezhiev, Aslan Murdalov, and Khampasha Sobraliev -- all live in Chechnya, as does a fifth man accused in the case, Aslanbek Khaskhanov. Khaskhanov was remanded into psychiatric care. Alkhan Mezhiev was also convicted of abetting the Chechen fighters who took over a Moscow theater just four days after the McDonald's blast. RC

RETURN FLIGHT FROM ISS TO PROCEED AS SCHEDULED
A leak in a propulsion unit of the "Soyuz" spacecraft that was discovered on 28 April will not delay or otherwise affect the scheduled 30 April return of the International Space Station (ISS) crew, RTR and Russian media reported. "Soyuz" is currently docked at the ISS. The tiny helium leak was judged to be inconsequential. "Such leaks have occurred in the past and they have not had any effect on landings," said Russian Mission Control Center Flight Director Vladimir Solovev, according to RTR. The return flight carrying cosmonaut Aleksandr Kaleri, U.S. astronaut Michael Foale, and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers is scheduled to land in Kazakhstan on 30 April. RC

'PETER THE GREAT' OFFICER SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT
Lieutenant Captain Denis Dolgachev, the chief financial officer aboard the nuclear missile cruiser "Peter the Great," was sentenced by the North Sea Garrison Court on 28 April to five years' imprisonment after being convicted of embezzling more than 12 million rubles ($40,000) intended for the purchase of supplies and wages for the crew, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported. A naval commission last month determined that 14 million rubles worth of equipment disappeared from the ship in 2003 and an additional 400,000 rubles' worth in the first months of this year. Last month, the "Peter the Great," which is the flagship of the Northern Fleet, was removed from service for repairs after Navy commander Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov publicly said the ship "could explode at any moment" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2004). RC

PROSECUTORS SEEK FOUR-YEAR TERM FOR FORMER NORTHERN FLEET COMMANDER
Prosecutors on 27 April asked the Northern Sea Garrison Court to sentence Admiral Gennadii Suchkov, former commander of the Northern Fleet, to four years' imprisonment for his alleged responsibility for the August 2003 sinking of the K-159 nuclear submarine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003), RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. The K-159 sank as it was being towed in rough seas to be decommissioned, and nine of the 10 seamen aboard drowned. A verdict in the case is expected early next month. ITAR-TASS reported on 27 April that Northern Fleet spokesman Igor Dygalo said the navy plans to raise the vessel in July or August 2005 if it receives financing for the project from the government. RC

YABLOKO DOMINATING ANTIMONOPOLY AGENCY
Half of the members of the administration of the newly formed Federal Antimonopoly Service are members of the Yabloko party, "Vedomosti" reported on 28 April. According to the daily, Yabloko party members, under the leadership of service Director Igor Artemev, are "trying to bring to life the party's antimonopoly policy." The heads of seven of the service's 14 administrations are party members, as are the heads of the personnel department and the press service. In addition, most of the Yabloko members are from the party's St. Petersburg branch. For example, former deputy head of the St. Petersburg branch Mikhail Yevraev heads the administration for local monopolies. JAC

MORE DEPUTY MINISTERS SACKED
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed an order on 27 April dismissing more members of the government, RIA-Novosti reported. Nine deputy ministers were relieved of their posts: Deputy Transportation and Communications Ministers Karl Ruppel and Aleksandr Kolik, Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Ministers Vladimir Malyshev and Valerii Govorukhin, First Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Golutva, Deputy Agriculture Ministers Belan Khamchiev and Aleksandr Antonets, Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Minister Andrei Romanchenko, and Deputy Natural Resources Minister Kirill Yankov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. New positions for the deputies were not announced. Under the government reorganization, most ministers will be allowed only two deputies, although it is likely that the power ministers will retain more under a separate restructuring plan. JAC

SENATOR FALLS SICK JUST BEFORE RESIGNATION ANNOUNCEMENT
Federation Council representative Ivan Starikov has been hospitalized in serious condition after a heart attack, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 April. Starikov had been planning to hold a press conference on 27 April to announce his resignation from the Federation Council to protest agricultural policies, according to the agency. Starikov, who is a member of the SPS, represents the administration of Kostroma Oblast Governor Viktor Shershunov, who reportedly wanted to replace Starikov with a former agriculture minister. Starikov, who formerly served as a deputy to Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, chairs the council's Agricultural Policy Committee. JAC

SVERDLOVSK LEADER BACKPEDALS ON URALS CONGLOMERATION PROPOSAL
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel told a press conference in Yekaterinburg on 27 April that he did not initiate the drive to create a single region by joining Sverdlovsk Oblast with neighboring Chelyabinsk and Kurgan oblasts because such questions are decided only at the federal level, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. In December, Rossel told reporters that his administration had been studying the idea of merging the three regions and had decided that, "according to the ethnic make-up of the areas, their economic potential, and the system of administration, this would be an extremely useful merger" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 2003). According to the daily, the governors of Chelyabinsk and Kurgan oblasts reacted negatively to Rossel's proposal, declaring that they will do everything possible to prevent it. In March, Kurgan Oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov reportedly raised the issue in a conversation with President Vladimir Putin. Bogomolov's press spokesman, Dmitrii Serov, told the newspaper that Rossel's renunciation of his own plan means that Putin does not support it. JAC

MOSCOW NIXES REOPENING OF WATER PARK
The prefecture of the Moscow's Southwestern Raion banned the Transvaal swimming and recreation center from reopening on 1 May, as had been announced earlier this week, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 April. The center has been closed since February, when the park's glass dome collapsed, killing 28 people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2004). "We understand the desire of the park's owners to make maximal profits, but we cannot risk people's lives," the prefecture's order stated. "Not only visiting, but also working at the facility is potentially dangerous. The water-park administration's failure to understand the full extent of its responsibility for the possible consequences of using the facility is surprising." JAC

THEY NEED THE PRACTICE
Five trucks transporting T-80 tanks to a Victory Day parade rehearsal crashed into one another in downtown Khabarovsk on 28 April, newsru.com reported. The collision occurred when the driver of the first truck braked suddenly for a red light and the remaining trucks were unable to stop in time. Police said that only the trucks, and not the tanks, were damaged in the incident, in which no one was seriously injured. The accident will not affect the holding of the parade. RC

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION STAGES NEW PROTEST DEMONSTRATION...
Several thousand people attended a further demonstration convened in Yerevan on 27 April by the Artarutiun opposition bloc to demand the resignation of President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The organizers postponed their planned march on the presidential palace from 27 April to 4 May, saying they will give the authorities a final chance to stage a nationwide referendum of confidence in Kocharian. They also stressed they did not want to exacerbate tensions on the eve of a 28 April discussion of the political situation in Armenia by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe spring session in Strasbourg. Also on 27 April, the Armenian authorities deported Artur Vartanian, an Armenian-born U.S. citizen who served as a bodyguard to Artarutiun leader Stepan Demirchian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Vartanian was detained last week for participating in the ongoing series of protest demonstrations organized by Artarutiun (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). LF

...AS TALKS WITH AUTHORITIES BREAK DOWN
Talks between representatives of Artarutiun and the three-party coalition government resumed on 27 April but broke up after 30 minutes, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Interfax quoted Viktor Dallakian, a leading Artarutiun member, as saying that it was "inexpedient" to continue discussions as the ruling coalition failed to demonstrate the political will to reach agreement. Unnamed opposition politicians said the authorities have already rejected two of the opposition's 10 demands. But parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian said the talks were "suspended" to give the three coalition parties time to discuss the opposition demands. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER UNVEILS NEW ECONOMIC PROGRAM
Ali Kerimli, chairman of the progressive wing of the divided opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), acquainted journalists on 27 April with his new economic-reform program, the online daily zerkalo.az reported on 28 April. The program contains up to 300 concrete proposals for restructuring industry and agriculture, abolishing the disproportionate concentration of economic activity in Baku, and eradicating poverty and the shadow economy. Other speakers criticized the Azerbaijani authorities' budget policy, the unfavorable investment climate, and shortcomings in the banking system. Kerimli, who earlier this year presented for public discussion his proposals for constitutional reform (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 6 February 2004), also told journalists that his party is currently preparing amendments to the Azerbaijani Electoral Code and new draft laws on local government and the struggle against corruption. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS ADJAR LEADER WITH ARREST
Speaking during an official visit to Kyiv on 27 April, Mikheil Saakashvili reiterated that Tbilisi's difficulties with the Adjar Autonomous Republic are concentrated in one individual, Adjar Supreme Council Aslan Abashidze, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili warned that Georgian police will intervene to arrest Abashidze if he continues to exacerbate tensions or fails to comply with Tbilisi's demands, including that he disarm his supporters and private army. Saakashvili claimed that almost the entire population of the autonomous republic supports the central Georgian authorities and would be happy to see Abashidze ousted. In Tbilisi, former Batumi Mayor Aslan Smirba told journalists he fears bloodshed in Adjaria is inevitable unless Abashidze's militia is disarmed, Georgian media reported. Smirba added that Abashidze takes decisions in a virtual information vacuum as none of his entourage "will tell him the truth," Caucasus Press reported. LF

ADJAR LEADER DENIES DECLARING GENERAL MOBILIZATION
Georgian tanks and armored vehicles arrived on 27 April in the Black Sea port of Poti, north of Adjaria, in readiness for military exercises on the internal border between Adjaria and the rest of Georgia that are to last from 30 April to 2 May, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Major General Givi Iukuridze denied that the maneuvers are "in any way" directed against the population of Adjaria. Abashidze responded to the anticipated threat by establishing in each of Adjaria's districts security councils that are tasked with monitoring the security situation and preventing a possible Georgian incursion, Caucasus Press reported quoting Abashidze's press service. Georgian media construed that report as meaning that Abashidze ordered a general mobilization, but his press service denied this, stressing that "the councils will not include military men," Interfax reported. LF

U.S. CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION IN ADJARIA
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told journalists in Washington on 27 April after talks with visiting Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania that the United States hopes the Georgian central government will prove able to find political and economic solutions to the outstanding issues within the state of Georgia without recourse to violence, Caucasus Press reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has responded to Abashidze's letter requesting that Washington intervene to prevent an anticipated attempt by the Georgian authorities to assassinate Abashidze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2004), Caucasus Press reported on 24 April. That response reportedly rejects as "absurd" Abashidze's fears that the United States is colluding with Tbilisi against him and reaffirms Washington's hope that the differences between Abashidze and the central Georgian government can be resolved peacefully and in accordance with the interests of the autonomous republic's population. LF

KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER BOOSTS CHINA TIES
Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev and his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan signed a cooperation agreement in Peking on 27 April, KazInform reported the same day. Under the agreement, China will provide the Kazakh Army with aid worth 8 million yuans ($967,000). Between 1997 and 2003, Kazakh armed forces received 30 million yuans in aid from China. The news agency quoted Altynbaev as saying, "We are satisfied with the level of our military cooperation with China." Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev is scheduled to visit China in May, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 April. Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Qayrat Abuseitov announced on 26 April that a final agreement on an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China might be signed during the president's visit, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported the same day. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT HELPS TO RESTART TV STATION
The Piramida television station resumed VHF broadcasting on 27 April, akipress.org reported. The station ceased VHF broadcasts on 17 March after apparent equipment problems. Kyrgyz officials said that the station's problems were technical, but station representatives claimed that their difficulties stemmed from political disagreements with Kyrgyz authorities over the station's coverage. On 26 April, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev promised the financier and philanthropist George Soros he would take care of the situation. He also promised to examine the situation surrounding Osh-TV, which stopped VHF broadcasting in late March when state officials requested that it switch to UHF broadcasting. DK

TAJIK DRUG HEAD PREDICTS BORDER DIFFICULTIES
Lieutenant-General Ghaffor Mirzoev, head of Tajikistan's Drug Control Agency, told reporters on 27 April that a difficult period may ensue when Russian troops withdraw from the Tajik-Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported. Mirzoev said that certain problems are inevitable in the course of a transition, but that they should last no longer than six months. He thanked Russian border guards for the help they have provided over the years, but stressed that "a sovereign state must ensure the security of its own borders with its own forces." Mirzoev also noted that Tajikistan needs assistance to stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The news agency quoted him as saying, however, that Tajikistan is not the only conduit for narcotics, with some 40 percent of Afghan heroin traveling through Iran. DK

TAJIK PARTIES MULL OVER 'FAIR ELECTIONS' COALITION
Rahmatullo Valiev, executive secretary of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT), announced on 27 April that the DPT will not join a tactical coalition to ensure fair and transparent elections in Tajikistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the same day. Valiev noted that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has promised to invite the leaders of all political parties to discuss a new election law in early May. Valiev called on other parties to refrain from forming a watchdog coalition until the new law is passed. Nevertheless, the news agency reported that the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) and Social-Democratic Party still plan to move ahead with the coalition. The DPT, IRP, Social-Democratic Party, and Socialist Party agreed in principle to the idea of a coalition in early April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2004). DK

RUSSIAN-TURKMEN CITIZENSHIP COMMISSION TO RENEW WORK
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 27 April that a Russian-Turkmen commission on citizenship will soon begin working again, Interfax reported. The commission was formed in 2003. The news agency quoted him as saying, "The Turkmen side has provided assurances that this commission will begin working and that concrete problems with schools and theaters will be resolved." International organizations and the Russian government have expressed concern over the plight of Turkmenistan's Russian minority. DK

BELARUSIAN KGB ARRESTS OPPOSITION FIGURE...
The State Security Committee (KGB) has arrested Mikhail Marynich, a former diplomat who sided with the opposition before the 2001 presidential election, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 27 April. The KGB instituted criminal proceedings against Marynich, accusing him of stealing official documents and illegal possession of firearms. KGB investigators reportedly seized classified documents of state agencies, two unregistered foreign-made pistols, and more than $90,000 in cash from Marynich. In 2001 Marynich resigned as Belarus's ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland and unsuccessfully tried to register as a presidential candidate. He subsequently set up the Business Initiative Association, an organization that promotes the concept of a market economy. JM

...AND TAX INSPECTOR IMPOSES TRAVEL BAN ON 'SUSPECT' NGO LEADER
The State Monitoring Committee's Financial Investigation Department has imposed a foreign travel ban on Tatsyana Protska -- chairwoman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHK), a prominent nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Belarus -- days after declaring her a suspect in a tax-evasion case, Belapan reported on 26 April. Tax inspectors claim the BHK owes them more than 380 million rubles ($176,000) in unpaid taxes and penalties in connection with aid received under the European Union's Technical Assistance to CIS Countries (Tacis) program in 2002 and 2003. The BHK claims that assistance under Tacis is exempt from taxation according to general rules agreed upon by Belarus and the EU in a 1994 memorandum. JM

ORGANIZERS OF MINSK'S CHORNOBYL MARCH PUNISHED
A district court in Minsk on 27 April jailed Ales Mikhalevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front, for 10 days and imposed a fine of some $2,000 on Lyudmila Hraznova, a member of the United Civic Party's Political Council, for the organization of an unauthorized march in Minsk to mark the 18th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2004), Belapan reported. The court also jailed Andrey Kozel, a member of the United Civic Party, for seven days. Kozel was not among the official organizers of the banned demonstration, but police concluded that he was its instigator. JM

UKRAINIAN, GEORGIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS COOPERATION
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv on 27 April to discuss bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Both presidents reportedly agreed to remove "restrictions" on free trade between their countries. They also agreed that the next summit of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) should be held in Tbilisi. Kuchma and Saakashvili confirmed that the Ukrainian and Georgian military contingents in Iraq will remain there until the end of their mission. The same day Saakashvili also met with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS POLAND FOR INACTION OVER ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE
President Kuchma harshly criticized Poland on 27 April for what he sees as Warsaw's lack of cooperation in making the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline a route for transporting Caspian oil to Europe, Interfax reported. Kuchma said Poland has not made a "single poke of a shovel" and not allocated any funds to prolong the Odesa-Brody pipeline to Plock. Warsaw and Kyiv have signed an intergovernmental accord on extending the pipeline to Plock in 2004-05 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2004). Kuchma also satirized the EU stance over the issue, saying that Brussels has pledged a "big sum" of 3 million euros ($3.5 million) for the Odesa-Brody-Plock project but the money still remains "on paper." "There have been no proposals from either suppliers of oil [to the Odesa-Brody pipeline] or potential buyers," Kuchma said. "This is an impasse scenario for Ukraine." JM

ESTONIAN, DUTCH PRIME MINISTERS PRAISE EU-RUSSIA AGREEMENT
Juhan Parts and Jan Peter Balkenende expressed their satisfaction in Tallinn on 27 April that the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed earlier the same day in Luxembourg, BNS reported. Parts noted that the double tariffs that Russia imposed on imports from Estonia from May 1995 will thus be abolished on 1 May, when Estonia formally joins the EU. Earlier in the day, Balkenende discussed EU affairs, including the draft EU constitution, with Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and acting President Arturas Paulauskas in Vilnius. On 26 April, Balkenende was in Riga on the first leg of his tour of the Baltic states in preparation for the Dutch EU Presidency in the second half of 2004. SG

LATVIA TO URGE NONCITIZENS TO APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP FOR THEIR ELIGIBLE CHILDREN
Children and Family Affairs Minister Ainars Bastiks and Integration Minister Nils Muiznieks on 27 April announced a government campaign to urge noncitizens to apply for Latvian citizenship on behalf of their children born in Latvia after the restoration of independence in 1991, BNS reported. Latvian Naturalization Administration head Eizenija Aldermane said many parents incorrectly believe that their children automatically receive citizenship and thus have not filled out the requisite applications. According to the Citizenship and Migration Administration, applications for citizenship had been received for just 1,601 of the 17,036 children born to noncitizens in Latvia after 21 August 1991. As part of the campaign, which is supported by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Riga, letters will be sent to parents without citizenship soliciting such applications. SG

IMPEACHED LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT QUESTIONED BY STATE SECURITY DEPARTMENT
Lithuania's recently impeached president, Rolandas Paksas, spent more than two hours at the State Security Department on 26 April answering questions about possible leaks of classified information from his presidential office, "Lietuvos zinios" reported the next day. "I gave answers to all the questions and believe that the official was satisfied," Paksas told reporters afterward. "I do not have any secrets; I am open." Paksas said the information from a classified report on possible threats to national security that appeared in the media in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003) could not have come from his office, as it was politically damaging to him. The previous day, Paksas refused to answer questions at the Prosecutor-General's Office about his alleged attempts to pressure shareholders of road-construction company Zemaitijos Keliai to transfer their shares to his friends and partners on the grounds that such testimony could incriminate him. SG

POLAND TO IMPOSE MUTUAL JOB CURBS ON EU COUNTRIES
Poland will introduce restrictions on access to its labor market for citizens of those EU states that have introduced restrictions for Poles, Polish media reported on 27 April, quoting government spokesman Marcin Kaszuba. Kaszuba said a relevant directive is waiting for the economy minister's signature. Poland will grant free access to its labor market only for Irish and British nationals, as these countries have planned no restrictions for Poles. Apart from the remaining 13 EU states, the Polish job restrictions will also apply to Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Economic Area. JM

CZECH PREMIER REJECTS PREDECESSOR'S CRITICISM
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla wrote, in an article published on 27 April in the daily "Pravo," that the path recommended by his predecessor Milos Zeman for the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leads nowhere, CTK reported. On 25 April, Zeman called on the CSSD to abandon the ruling coalition with the Freedom Union-Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party and to oust Spidla as premier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2004). Zeman also said the CSSD should form a minority cabinet backed in parliament by the opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM). Spidla wrote that a minority cabinet supported by the KSCM would be less effective in securing the implementation of the CSSD program, which he said only a coalition is able to achieve. He also said Zeman's attitude is in breach of a CSSD resolution calling on members to abstain from polemics during electoral campaigns. Education Minister and the CSSD's Prague-branch leader Petra Buzkova told "Pravo" that Zeman is "interested in nothing but harming the party and bringing about its internal disintegration...ahead of the European Parliament elections in order to be in position to run for the CSSD chairmanship." MS

CZECH MINISTER SAYS WESTERN EUROPE 'OWES US SOMETHING'
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach said on 27 April that Western Europe has a debt to pay to Eastern Europe and the time has come "to close the gap and return what Europe owes us," CTK and dpa reported. Skromach said that rising living standards in Western Europe protected it from communism during the Cold War, while Czechs and other Eastern Europeans were held back by the communist regimes. Skromach said this is his answer to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who said in an interview with the Czech weekly "Focus" that the new EU members expect the western part of the continent to finance their lag-behind development and "this is not easy." MS

SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS EU ACCESSION IS CHANCE FOR PROSPERITY
Mikulas Dzurinda said on 27 April that Slovakia's accession of the EU on 1 May is "a chance for peace, stability, and security, and therefore a chance for prosperity," TASR reported. Addressing an economic forum in Bratislava, Dzurinda said Slovaks could profit from joining the EU "if we are skillful, active, and hard working," and they could offer the EU their experience in carrying out major reforms. "Few countries managed in such a short time to implement such fundamental reforms in politics, property relations, agriculture, and the financial system," Dzurinda said. However, he warned against being complacent: "We must not expect our reforms to give us an easy head start over other countries. We need to be competitive over the long run," he said. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER INAUGURATES EU EMBASSY
Eduard Kukan inaugurated Slovakia's permanent representation to the EU in Brussels on 27 April, TASR reported. The permanent representation replaces Slovakia's permanent mission in Brussels. Kukan said the change is "not just symbolic. It means we have reached the level of other [EU] member countries...and that our relations with the EU are becoming relations between equals," he said. MS

SLOVAK CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT LASHES OUT AT PRIME MINISTER
Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) Chairman and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky said on 27 April that Prime Minister Dzurinda has been trying to impose his views on junior coalition members KDH and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and he termed it "unacceptable," TASR reported. Hrusovsky said he is not demanding Dzurinda's resignation but is urging his party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), to reconsider its nomination of Dzurinda as prime minister. Hrusovsky said Dzurinda's style of leadership has not only damaged coalition relations but could harm the country and its parliamentary democracy. He said the KDH and the SMK have been warning Dzurinda for a long time but he has ignored them. MS

HUNGARY'S OPPOSITION FIDESZ PARTY STILL MOST POPULAR
According to a public-opinion poll carried out on 15-20 April by Gallup, 32 percent of Hungary's eligible voters would cast their votes for the opposition FIDESZ party if European parliamentary elections were held on 2 May, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 28 April. The senior coalition Socialist Party would receive 21 percent support, while its junior coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats, would garner 5 percent. The opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum was favored by only 3 percent of respondents. According to the poll, the popularity of FIDESZ has declined by 3 percent since last month, while that of the Socialists increased by 1 percent. Some 47 percent of eligible voters said they would participate in the 13 June European parliamentary ballot. MSZ

GREECE CONCERNED ABOUT SECURITY IN THE BALKANS AHEAD OF OLYMPICS
Greek Minister for Public Order Giorgos Voulgarakis said on 26 April that his government is urging all Balkan countries to improve cooperation with the Greek authorities in fighting organized crime and terrorism, the "Southeast European Times" reported. "Our joint goal is to create a shield that will protect all Balkan countries from organized crime, not just during the Olympics but afterwards, too," Voulgarakis said after a recent meeting with Albanian Interior Minister Igli Toska. The ministers agreed to form joint taskforces and improve border patrols. UB

SERBIAN RADICALS TAKE PACE SEATS
The Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on 27 April issued assembly credentials to members of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), despite criticism from a Slovenian delegation member, Roman Jakic, SRNA reported. Jakic challenged the credentials, recalling that the heads of the SRS and the SPS, Vojislav Seselj and Slobodan Milosevic respectively, are indictees of the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal. UB

CHILDREN ENDANGERED BY POVERTY IN SERBIA, ALCOHOL IN MONTENEGRO
According to a study sponsored by UNICEF's Belgrade bureau, the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade, and the Amiti NGO, one-third of Serbia's 2 million children under the age of 18 are living in poverty and have no chance to experience a happy and normal childhood, Tanjug reported on 27 April. The study was carried out in seven districts between May and November 2003. In neighboring Montenegro, up to 20,000 of the country's 600,000 citizens can be regarded as alcoholics, Jelena Radulovic, a social scientist at Podgorica's Institute for Health said on 27 April, Tanjug reported. Radulovic warned that one-fourth of the country's high-school students say they drink alcohol every day and that many school-age children drink alcohol on a regular basis. UB

EU TO SEND ADVANCE UNIT TO BOSNIA IN MAY
The EU will send an advance technical unit to Sarajevo on 1 May, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 26 April. Quoting a confidential EU document, the daily reported that a conference will be held in June to decide on the strength of the future EU-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some 7,000 EU troops, dubbed EUFOR, are to replace the current NATO-led SFOR troops. Germany will provide the strongest contingent in the new peacekeeping mission. The EU is planning to ask the UN Security Council for a mandate for the mission in July, according to the report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 27 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 5 March 2004). UB

CROATIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
Croatian President Stipe Mesic said on 27 April that "[Croatia has] assured [Britain] and all the others that Croatia is cooperating with The Hague tribunal, because all the witnesses, suspects, and indictees have responded to the summons from the tribunal," Hina reported. The statement came in response to an announcement by British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane that Britain will soon ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between Croatia and the EU. On 26 April, MacShane said in Zagreb that the decision "follows [Hague tribunal] chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's recent positive assessment of Croatian cooperation and the recent assurances given to me by the Croatian government that this level of cooperation would be sustained." He warned, however, that Croatia needs to maintain full cooperation and take all necessary steps to ensure that fugitive former General Ante Gotovina is located and transferred to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 December 2003 and 16 January 2004). UB

U.S. CONGRESSMEN PROTEST ROMANIAN BAN ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS
About two dozen members of the U.S. Congress have written to the Romanian parliament to request the reversal of a bill effectively banning foreign adoptions, Reuters reported on 26 April. The news agency also quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying American families that have already adopted Romanian children are planning to travel to Bucharest to protest being depicted as "child molesters." Some U.S. families have advertised in Romanian papers to protest the freeze and urge the Romanian government to allow children to be adopted by families abroad. U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest said the issue of international adoption is not one "that places Romania between the EU and the U.S. All of us recognize that inter-country adoption is a legitimate form of child protection," he said. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently urged Romanian lawmakers to revise the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). MS

EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER POSTPONES REPORT ON ROMANIA'S PROGRESS TOWARD EU MEMBERSHIP
EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has postponed delivery of a report to the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Romania's progress toward membership, Mediafax reported on 27 April. EU Ambassador to Romania Jonathan Scheele told Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana in Bucharest the same day that Verheugen was forced to postpone the report because the Cyprus issue is more urgent, and that Verheugen is likely to deliver the report in writing. Scheele said the postponement need not be interpreted as a negative sign. Geoana expressed confidence that by the time Verheugen visits Romania on 15 June, Bucharest will have implemented in spirit and letter a 39-point list of priority measures aimed at overcoming the criticism expressed by the Foreign Affairs Committee in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 26 and 27 February 2004). MS

PACE TO DEBATE RESOLUTION CRITICIZING ROMANIA'S NON-REGISTRATION OF UCM
Fifteen deputies from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) submitted a draft resolution on 27 April criticizing the refusal of Romania's election commission to register the ethnic Hungarian Civic Union (UCM) as a political party eligible to compete in June's local elections, Mediafax reported, quoting UCM member Zsolt Szilagy. The draft should be debated in the coming days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). It was signed by PACE deputies from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. MS

GREEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ROMANIAN OFFICIALS
Visiting Greek President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos met in Bucharest on 27 April with President Ion Iliescu and with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Mediafax reported. Stephanopoulos said he has no doubt that Romania will accede to the EU by 2007 and said Greece will consistently back Romania's efforts in that direction. MS

TIRASPOL DEMANDS 'DECLARATION OF GOOD INTENTIONS' FROM CHISINAU
On the first day of a new round of negotiations over the Transdniester conflict on 26 April, the separatist delegation demanded that a joint declaration be issued by Moldova and Transdniester stating that the sides are ready to work toward a "joint federal state," Infotag and Flux reported the next day. The delegation said its demand is based on lessons learned from previous negotiations, and particularly Moldova's refusal last year to sign the agreement stipulated in the so-called Kozak memorandum. According to Infotag, the Moldovan delegation was stopped by Transdniestrian border guards in Bendery-Tighina as it was driving to Tiraspol on 26 April. The guards said they had no official instructions to let the delegation pass. The incident was settled after officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and from mediator states Russia and Ukraine intervened. MS

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO MOLDOVA RECALLED
Russian Ambassador to Moldova Yurii Zubakov was recalled on 27 April, just seven months after his appointment, through a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin, Flux and Infotag reported. The decree said Zubakov was being recalled "in connection with being assigned other tasks." According to Infotag, relations between Zubakov and the Moldovan administration have been tense since Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin refused to sign the Kozak memorandum in November. MS

LIBYAN LEADER SAYS HE TRIED TO INFLUENCE COURT ON BEHALF OF BULGARIANS
Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi, speaking on 27 April during his first visit in 15 years to Brussels, said he used his "moral authority" to ensure that the trial of six Bulgarian medics charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children in a Benghazi hospital be as fair and open as possible, BTA reported. European Commission President Romano Prodi said he expects the open questions between Libya and Bulgaria, and Germany, where Libyan agents carried out the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco, to be resolved in the near future. Asked to comment on Ghaddafi's statement, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said he expects the verdicts in the trial of the Bulgarian medics to be more just today than they would have been in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 16 April 2004; and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 2004). UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS RELOCATION OF BULGARIAN TROOPS IN IRAQ
President Georgi Parvanov said in Sofia on 27 April that he expects the Bulgarian contingent to be moved out of Karbala, Iraq by 30 October at the latest, vsekiden.com reported. Speaking after returning from visiting Bulgarian troops in Iraq, Parvanov said everything possible must be done to move the troops out of the current base after the handover of power to Iraqi authorities planned for 30 June. According to the president, the local population should see the troop movement as a confidence-building measure. He added that the troop movement was also necessary to ensure the troops' safety under conditions which he described as a "civil war." Commenting on allegations that his convoy came under fire in Karbala because unspecified Polish media leaked information about his visit, Parvanov said he does not see a connection between the incident and the media reporting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). UB

TURKMENISTAN'S TEFLON LADY RESURFACES UNSCATHED
The Russian Internet news site news.ru reported on 26 April that Turkmenistan's former minister of internal affairs and one of the longer-serving top officials in the Cabinet of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Poran Berdiev, was sentenced the previous week to 25 years in prison. The charges against him were not publicized, beyond a presidential complaint that he had failed to meet the annual cotton-production target when serving briefly as governor of Balkan Oblast last year.

In May 2002, Berdiev was appointed by Niyazov to take over the former National Security Committee (KNB) after the arrest of its chairman, Muhamed Nazarov. Berdiev's primary task at the KNB was to gather information to be used in prosecuting his predecessor and his top deputies and to furnish grounds for a purge of the upper levels of the committee. Nazarov was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison on a variety of charges ranging from illegal arrest to murder. Politically astute observers in Ashgabat insisted privately that Nazarov, having been entrusted in 2001 by Niyazov with supervision of Turkmenistan's law enforcement, defense, and foreign affairs establishments, assumed he could run the country and, in collusion with the defense minister, planned a coup.

But while Berdiev faces what in Turkmen conditions could well prove to be a death sentence, his colleague, Prosecutor-General Gurbanbibi Atadjanova, apparently continues to flourish, despite her rumored removal from a cabinet meeting on 17 December under guard.

Atadjanova was appointed prosecutor general in the spring of 1997, even though, as she told an employee of an international organization in 1997, she has no legal qualifications and first began work at the procuracy as a typist. Since her appointment, she devised a uniform for herself based on the traditional Turkmen long robe, with a little round uniform cap to cover her traditional hair topknot. She has long had a reputation as one of Niyazov's most vocal and most slavish supporters.

According to rumors circulating in Ashgabat in late December, Atadjanova was put under house arrest because members of her family were involved in the illegal drug trade. More specifically, her husband was rumored to have been detained at a border crossing with a large quantity of drugs in his possession. This was not the first time that members of Atadjanova's family were said to have been involved in questionable activities: Some years earlier, Niyazov had criticized her publicly for her son's lavish lifestyle.

But at the time of Atadjanova's December detention (if that is what actually happened -- it was never reported in the official media), cynics in Ashgabat and journalists writing on Turkmenistan in the Russian media predicted that unlike most of her former colleagues from the so-called power ministries who have fallen afoul of the Turkmen president for various reasons, she would never be put on trial. It was assumed that she knew too much about corruption at the top, and she had proved herself too useful to Niyazov's ongoing witch-hunt for disloyalty among government officials to be easily discarded. In particular, it has been Atadjanova who assembled the "evidence" implicating the alleged plotters in the purported coup (or assassination attempt) against Niyazov in November 2002, and who put together the requisite materials incriminating against any government official whom the president wishes to discredit publicly. Niyazov presented Atadjanova with a special award in acknowledgement of her public performance after the November 2002 events. Since then, he usually calls on her at cabinet meetings to provide specific details of the malfeasance of whichever officials are the target of his most recent criticism. These cabinet meetings are a staple of the country's television broadcasting; the president, ably assisted by Atadjanova, appears to believe that by offloading the responsibility for shortcomings in the country on his subordinates, he will substantiate in the eyes of the population his claim to be constantly looking after the interests of his people.

Most recently, Atadjanova and her office have been involved in the investigation of alleged mismanagement and illegalities in the country's financial structure. She reportedly provided the information that led to the dismissal, reported in the Russian media on 23 April, of Economics and Finance Minister Yazguly Kakaliev and two top banking officials in connection with Niyazov's discovery that the salaries of thousands of state employees was in arrears because financial officials in Ashgabat had failed to supply the cash needed to pay them.

At the same cabinet meeting earlier this month, Niyazov announced the removal of the education minister, the two deputy ministers, and the deputy head of the education department of the city of Ashgabat on the basis of information provided by the prosecutor-general asserting that education sector officials have been engaged in massive corruption. According to the president, every one of the capital's kindergartens had added "dead souls" to the number of employees for whom it drew salaries. That this might have enabled the kindergarten directors to pay a living wage to their real employees was left unsaid, of course.

Measures to curb corruption in the education system have been taken on previous occasions in response to public criticism by the president; the real reason for the current attack on the Education Ministry remains obscure. Certainly Niyazov's systematic dumbing down of the educational system in recent years is severely affecting the country's future, as many international observers have pointed out. Among other "reforms," he has fired thousands of teachers, including those who took degrees at foreign universities; effectively abolished the teaching of foreign languages except on a private basis; reduced the number of years of basic education; and made his own book on Turkmen history and traditions, "Rukhnama," the most important subject in schools at all levels. But so far, Niyazov has ignored all such criticism from abroad, and his faithful top prosecutor continues to makes sure that he will hear no such criticism at home.

NEO-TALIBAN BLAMED FOR KILLING AID WORKERS IN AFGHANISTAN
Around 70 suspected neo-Taliban militia attacked a nongovernmental organization on 26 April in the southern Kandahar Province, killing three aid workers and one security guard, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. The attack occurred in the Panjway District of Kandahar and was directed against the local office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance organization. The attackers burned down the organization's office and three vehicles. Six people were wounded in the attack. Panjway District chief Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi said that he has no doubt that neo-Taliban were responsible for the attack, "The New York Times," reported on 28 April. The district's police chief, Sa'dullah Mashuzai, added that the attackers left a Chinese-made assault rifle of the kind used by Pakistani police. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT

NEO-TALIBAN REJECT AFGHAN LEADER'S CLAIM OF CONTACTS...
Hamid Agha, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, refuted claims made by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai regarding contacts between neo-Taliban leaders and Kabul, the Islamabad daily "The News" reported on 27 April. In a faxed statement, Hamid Agha said only the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. "If Karzai is true in his endeavors, he should initiate the release of those Afghans, whose ages are beyond 80 years and [who] are languishing in [Guantanamo Bay,] Cuba," the statement added. The neo-Taliban statement said there can be no negotiations when innocent Afghans are being arrested in the name of the Taliban and many areas of the country are being bombed. During a recent trip to Kandahar, Karzai repeated his claim that his administration is in contact with some leaders of the ousted Taliban regime (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 April 2004). Hamid Agha's statement challenged Karzai to provide the names of those who have contacted his administration. AT

...AND HIS ESTIMATION OF NEO-TALIBAN NUMBERS
Hamid Agha mocked Karzai for allegedly saying that the resurgent Taliban movement numbers only 100 to 150 "troublemakers," "The News" reported on 27 April. On 26 April, Karzai stated that his administration's "problem is mainly with the top Taliban -- who might number no more than 150 people -- who had links with Al-Qaeda" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 April 2004). Hamid Agha's statement asked "Why are guerrilla attacks taking place in 15 provinces in one day when only 100 to 150 Taliban have been identified as troublemakers?" The statement concluded that the interests of the United States are dearer to Karzai than the interests of Afghanistan and Muslims. Since April 2003 Karzai has tried to distinguish between a few militants among the ranks of the former Taliban and what he has described as "the honest sons" of Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). AT

POLICE ARREST NEO-TALIBAN COMMANDER NEAR KABUL
Afghan antiterror police belonging to the National Directorate of Security have arrested a neo-Taliban commander named Zmaray in Logar Province, south of Kabul, Radio Afghanistan reported on 26 April. Zmaray was arrested along with two other suspected neo-Taliban members while another person, alleged to be an associate of former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and a leader of the radical Hizb-e Islami, managed to escape. The arrests in Logar come at a time when Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sources have reported several arrests of militants in or near the Afghan capital (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 April 2004). AT

U.S. REITERATES CHARGE THAT IRAN UNTRUTHFUL ABOUT NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in New York on 27 April that Iran is deceiving the world over its nuclear activities and, "if we permit [its] deception to go on much longer, it will be too late," because Iran "will have nuclear weapons," AFP reported the same day. He stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will "at some point" have to report Iran to the UN Security Council and, if the council does not respond to the Iranian "threat to international peace and security," the IAEA's credibility and the nonproliferation regime will be undermined, AFP added. Also on 27 April, Reuters cited an Iranian exile and unnamed diplomats as saying that members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are watching Iranian nuclear experts to prevent information leaks. Exile Alireza Jafarzadeh said that Iran's nuclear activities consist of a public program, open to UN inspections, and a secret one designed to make bombs that is run by the IRGC and headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran insists its program is only to generate electricity. VS

UN NUCLEAR INSPECTORS TO VISIT IRAN IN LATE MAY
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Vienna on 27 April that the agency's inspectors will visit Iran at the end of May for a close check of its installations, "Iran" cited her on 27 April as telling IRNA, without giving a precise date for the visit. Inspectors are to complete a report for the IAEA Board of Governors before it meets on 14 June, "Iran" added. Meanwhile, Vahid Ahmadi, head of research at the Iran Atomic Energy Organization, said on 27 April that Iran has completed studies for a second nuclear-power plant and is making preliminary plans for its construction, Fars News Agency reported that day. He told a nuclear-technology seminar in Shiraz that his organization merely implements instructions. "Politics are in the hands of the country's diplomacy, and the [Supreme] National Security Council dictates to us whatever it decides, and we do that," he said. VS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT: 'YES, WE HAVE POLITICAL PRISONERS'
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami admitted on 27 April that "we certainly have political prisoners [in Iran] and...people who are in prison for their ideas," ISNA reported the same day. "I have pursued these people's problems...and protested," he said in a meeting with a youth group in Tehran. "I have clearly stated that I do not accept the conviction of any political or press activist unless tried in a free and fair tribunal." Some in the audience objected to the fact that he had remained silent during "sensitive political moments" and turned the "enthusiasm [of early reform days] into despair," ISNA reported. But he urged young people to be realistic. "We are in the East," he said, and Iran's internal conditions should not be compared to countries "that have experienced democracy for hundreds of years." VS

IRAN'S DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS JORDAN
Brigadier-General Hussein Alayi met with Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal Fayez in Amman on 27 April to discuss bilateral ties, defense, and regional politics, IRNA reported. Alayi, who is heading an Iranian delegation to SOFEX 2004, Jordan's biennial defense fair, warned that "the regional situation will be dangerous" if U.S. forces remain in Iraq and tensions increase, and he urged regional consultation and cooperation to restore security to Iraq. He condemned Israel's "disastrous" policies toward Palestinians and the support the U.S. has given them. "It seems as if America and Israel are, with their behavior, helping the spread of terrorism in the region." He told Fayez, who is also Jordan's defense minister, that Iran is able to "design, build, and produce all the equipment presented at this fair, and is keen that Jordan should utilize Iran's defense experience." VS

COALITION TO ESTABLISH COMMISSION FOR COMPENSATION OF FORMER IRAQI REGIME'S VICTIMS
In a weekly interview with Al-Iraqiyah television on 27 April, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer said the U.S.-led coalition will establish a commission to compensate victims of Iraq's former Ba'ath regime. According to senior adviser Dan Senor during a CPA briefing, the commission will be "primarily targeted at those who survived crimes of the former regime but were either imprisoned under the former regime unjustly or lost jobs." The coalition will set aside a substantial amount of initial funding to begin this process of correcting these injustices of the past, Senor added. He also said the commission will be run and implemented by Iraqis. MH

INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS VISITS SADDAM HUSSEIN
An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team visited deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in U.S. custody on 27 April, AP reported. U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt declined to say where the visit took place, as Hussein has been held at an undisclosed location by U.S. forces since his capture in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 2003). The ICRC previously saw the former Iraqi leader on 21 February, and the organization has visited most of the 43 other high-ranking Ba'athists captured by coalition forces, as well as other prisoners-of-war in Iraq. They are mandated to visit detainees under the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners-of-war, but the organization will not speak publicly on its findings. MH

MINARET IN AL-FALLUJAH DESTROYED BY U.S. FORCES
CPA spokesman Kimmitt said at a Coalition Provisional Authority briefing on 27 April that U.S. forces destroyed a minaret in Al-Fallujah on 26 April after insurgents used the tower as a base for firing on U.S. Marines. "We very reluctantly go after holy sites, but when those holy sites are used to store weapons, to fire weapons, we must take action if our Marines are pinned down," Kimmitt said, also expressing regret at having to fire upon a place of worship. The minaret was badly damaged, he said, but the mosque attached was left standing. MH

UN ENVOY SAYS NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT CAN BE CHOSEN IN MAY
UN envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi said on 27 April that an interim Iraqi government can be chosen by the end of May despite the continuing security concerns throughout Iraq, and especially in Al-Fallujah, Reuters reported. "Though it will certainly not be easy, we do believe that it shall be possible to identify by the end of May a group of people respected and acceptable to Iraqis across the country, to form this caretaker government," Brahimi said. The newly chosen interim government would have one month to prepare itself for assuming power after the 30 June deadline for the U.S.-led coalition to transfer power. MH

IRAQI OFFICIAL BLAMES U.S. FOR RECENT MILITARY STANDOFF
The president of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) for the month of April, Mas'ud Barzani, placed the blame for the current military standoff in the towns of Al-Najaf and Al-Fallujah squarely on the U.S. administration, AP reported, quoting from an interview on 27 April. Barzani said the United States changed its military mandate from "an army of liberation" to an "army of occupation" and has fueled tensions within Iraqi society. Barzani is the head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, a group that strongly supported the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq. MH

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