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Newsline - June 30, 2004


COURT UPHOLDS TAX RULING AGAINST YUKOS, THREATENING COMPANY WITH BANKRUPTCY...
The Moscow Arbitration Court on 29 June rejected three appeals by embattled oil giant Yukos and ruled that the company must pay $3.4 billion in back taxes and penalties, Russian and international media reported. The decision came as a surprise, as analysts and company managers had hoped that the firm would be able to reach an agreement with the Tax Ministry to pay the debts over time. Newly selected board Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko was quoted on the morning of 29 June as saying that he believed "common sense" would prevail and that "the company is ready to pay under certain conditions and an appropriate proposal has been made to the government," "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 June. The company has said that it has only a little more than $1 billion in cash available and that it can only meet the government's demand by selling assets or, possibly, filing for bankruptcy, "Gazeta" reported on 29 June. ITAR-TASS quoted a Yukos statement on 29 June as saying the firm will do its best to comply with the court's decision, although it plans to appeal the verdict. According to "Vremya novostei," the company must proceed with the implementation of the decision even if it decides to appeal. RC

...AS STATE-CONTROLLED FIRMS LINE UP TO BUY YUKOS ASSETS
"Gazeta" on 29 June speculated that the most likely purchasers of Yukos assets are state-controlled Gazprom and the state-owned oil companies Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz. "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 25, reported that most Yukos assets remain frozen by earlier court decisions and it will not be possible for the company to sell them without the government's permission. The most likely Yukos assets to be sold are the company's shares in Sibneft, Yurganneftegaz, Samaraneftegaz, Tomskneft VNK, Rospan, Angarsk Neftekhimicheskaya Kompaniya, the Kuibyshev and Achinsk oil refineries, Mazeikiu Nafta, Stavropolneftegaz, Khakasneftenprodukt, and Khantymansiiskneftprodukt, "Gazeta" reported. "Kommersant-Vlast" speculated that the company's fate could yet be decided by Sibneft owner and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. The weekly noted that Sibneft received $3 billion from Yukos as part of the failed merger of the two companies, an amount that almost matches Yukos's tax debt. It added that Abramovich "knows how effectively to settle conflicts with state structures, including the Tax Ministry." The paper added that "no one seems to remember" the Russian government's "$1 billion [tax] claim on Sibneft that was filed at almost the same time as the claims against Yukos." RC

YUKOS FOUNDATION REPORTEDLY CONSIDERING NEW STRATEGY, LEADERSHIP
The Yukos-funded charitable foundation Open Russia intends to review all its programs and to select a new head to replace jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, "Vremya novostei" wrote on 30 June. The foundation intends to convene an extraordinary management meeting on 1 July, according to the report. The daily reported that the foundation -- which provides grants to civil-society organizations -- has not announced any new initiatives since Khodorkovskii was arrested in October. The daily speculated that the foundation's managers will opt on 1 July to refocus the foundation's efforts on less controversial projects such as the modernization of education. RC

QATARI COURT SENTENCES TWO RUSSIANS TO LIFE FOR YANDARBIEV KILLING
A court in Qatar on 30 June sentenced two Russian citizens to life imprisonment for the 19 February killing of former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Russian and international media reported. The judge ruled that the men committed the murder on orders from the Russian government. The unidentified men have been widely reported to work for the Russian secret services and were arrested in a Russian diplomatic villa. The Foreign Ministry earlier stated that the men "were legally in Qatar and were carrying out informational-analytical work connected with preventing international terrorism without violating any local laws," lenta.ru reported on 30 June. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 30 June said that the men were not involved in Yandarbiev's murder. Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov told strana.ru on 30 June that "the sentence is in no way just because the guilt of our compatriots was not proven." "In a totalitarian, monarchical state such as Qatar, it is very difficult to speak of the justice or injustice of judicial verdicts," Margelov said. RC

FOREIGN MINISTER: MOSCOW WILL NOT HELP REBUILD IRAQI ARMY
Sergei Lavrov told journalists on 29 June in Istanbul, where he was attending a NATO summit, that Russia has no plans to provide assistance to help rebuild the Iraqi Army, ITAR-TASS reported. He called, however, for the restoration of former military structures in the country, saying that the decision by the U.S.-led coalition to disband them had contributed to destabilization in the country. He also criticized the coalition's former policy of banning the employment of former members of the Ba'ath Party. RC

PUTIN, IAEA HEAD DISCUSS PROPOSED NUCLEAR-FUEL STORAGE FACILITY...
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei met on 29 June with President Vladimir Putin and senior Russian officials to discuss a proposal to construct a radioactive-waste storage facility in Russia, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004). "Unfortunately, many people are already talking about this as if it were an accomplished fact," Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev told reporters following the meeting. "This proposal will be worked over at the expert level of the IAEA for several years." El-Baradei said that Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Japan, and Germany all "have considerable experience handling reprocessed nuclear fuel," "Izvestiya" reported. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that the head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental-policy department, Amirkhan Amirkhanov, said his agency does not object to the proposed storage site. He added, however, that Russian law would have to be amended to allow the import of nuclear fuel that did not originate in Russia. RC

IAEA HEAD SANGUINE ABOUT RUSSIAN NUCLEAR AID TO IRAN
IAEA Director-General el-Baradei said in Moscow on 29 June that his agency is not concerned about Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran, despite U.S. allegations that the assistance is helping Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. "Bushehr is not apparently at the center of international concern because Bushehr is a project to produce nuclear energy," el-Baradei said, referring to the nuclear-power plant being built with Russian technical assistance. He lauded an agreement between Moscow and Tehran under which spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr will be returned to Russia. El-Baradei told the news agency that he did not discuss Bushehr during his hour-long meeting with President Putin and other senior Russian officials. RC

MOBILITY-2004 MILITARY EXERCISES CONCLUDE WITH SUCCESSFUL MISSILE LAUNCHES
The Mobility-2004 military exercise ended on 30 June, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 22, and 23 June 2004). The maneuvers, which involved the airlifting of an 800-man motorized-infantry regiment and all its equipment from European Russia to the Far East, was the largest of its kind since the breakup of the Soviet Union. On 29 June, sea-based and air-based strategic missiles were launched as part of the exercise, the news agency reported. The "Yekaterinburg" nuclear submarine, based in the Barents Sea, reportedly hit a target in Kamchatka, while a Tu-95MS strategic bomber hit a target on Novaya Zemlya, ITAR-TASS reported. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the news agency that the Defense Ministry will spend 16 percent of its budget on training this year. RC

U.S. CONFIRMS KIRIENKO LETTER WAS A FAKE...
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has stated that a letter published this week in "Novaya gazeta," No. 45, purported to have been written by five Republican U.S. congressmen, is a forgery and U.S. authorities have asked the U.S.-based American Defense Council to remove it from its website (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004), "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 June. The letter asked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to look into allegations that former Prime Minster Sergei Kirienko was involved in the alleged misappropriation of a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan made in 1998. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman on 29 June said that "officials at the IMF do not believe the Russian government mismanaged the money it received from the fund," according to ITAR-TASS on 30 June. "If the IMF is okay with it, we're okay with it," she said. She added that all the money was paid back to the IMF, "in some cases ahead of schedule." ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that the U.S. State Department is investigating the forged letter. RC

...AS ENVOY AND NEWSPAPER GET READY TO GO TO COURT
Kirienko, who is President Putin's envoy to the Volga Federal District, on 29 June repeated his statement that the allegations in the forged letter are false and that he intends to sue "Novaya gazeta" over the article, ITAR-TASS reported. On 30 June, "Novaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Dmitrii Muratov said that the newspaper is ready to meet Kirienko in court. "I know that the letter existed, so why should I look for proof that it didn't exist," Muratov said, according to Interfax. "Let Kirienko prove that." RC

WITNESS TO STAROVOITOVA KILLING IDENTIFIES AN ALLEGED MURDERER IN COURT
The trial of the accused murderers of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2004) reopened in St. Petersburg on 29 June with Ruslan Linkov, a former aide to Starovoitova, identifying Vitalii Akishin as one of the murderers, Russian news agencies reported. According to Linkov, Akishin was one of the figures who shot both him and Starovoitova, killing the latter, in her apartment building in St. Petersburg on 20 November 1998. Along with Akishin, five men are accused of the murder, and only one of them has partly admitted his guilt, according to lenta.ru. They were arrested in November 2002. JAC

COURT DECISION HAILED AS BREAKTHROUGH IN DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The Constitutional Court has banned the country's law enforcement agencies from putting State Duma and Federation Council deputies under house arrest without the consent of the chamber of parliament they belong to, Interfax reported on 29 June. On the same day, answering an inquiry from the Duma, the court ruled that several articles of the new Criminal Procedure Code conflict with Article 49 of the Russian Constitution, RBK reported. According to the court, prosecutors and investigators are required to proceed in their work from the presumption of the innocence of the accused and may file charges only after all circumstances in the case have been investigated. Yabloko party member and State Duma Deputy Sergei Popov (independent) called the court's decision a "breakthrough" in the provision of citizens' constitutional rights, RosBalt reported. According to "Vremya novostei," law-enforcement officials intend to lobby the State Duma to make changes to the Criminal Procedure Code. JAC

STATE ORGANS HAVE CONFLICTING FIGURES FOR FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that direct foreign investment in Russia has fallen to its lowest level in the last 10 years, "Vedomosti" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 June. According to the organization, direct foreign investment fell to $1 billion last year, its lowest level since the mid-1990s. The bulk of the investment went to "the resource-based sectors and a few service-related sectors such as retail and distribution in the larger cities." According to "Vedomosti," the OECD used data from the Central Bank in its analysis. The Central Bank put direct foreign investment at $1.1 billion in 2003 compared to $3.5 billion in 2002, attributing the decline to several incomplete transactions between Russian companies. However, the Federal Statistics Service showed that the level of investment rose by 70 percent last year to total $6.8 billion. Kirill Tremasov, head of the analytical department of the Bank of Moscow, told the daily that he considers the service's analysis the best because of last year's megamerger between BP and Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), a deal that eclipsed all previous investments by foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2003). JAC

BANKERS, BUSINESSMEN PREPARE FOR LONG-AWAITED MEETING WITH PUTIN
President Putin on 28 June appointed his representatives to the National Banking Council, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Putin appointed presidential aide Igor Shuvalov, head of the presidential administration's expert directorate, and presidential economics adviser Andrei Illarionov. Putin is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Association of Russian Banks (ARB) along with members of the Russian Union of Industrials and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) and Business Russia on 1 July. The meeting was originally scheduled for 19 May, but was postponed until 16 June and then 1 July (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 13 May 2004). According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 June, bankers plan to raise the issue of the latest banking crisis with the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 8, and 14 June 2004). In a commentary for "The Moscow Times" on 23 June, Richard Hainsworth of Renaissance Capital wrote that the most recent banking crisis had little in common with the one in 1998 and said it was caused by banks' "excessive reliance on rumor." JAC

LISOVSKII RESURFACES IN FEDERATION COUNCIL
Legislators in Kurgan Oblast have elected former advertising magnate and head of the Mosselprom agricultural company Sergei Lisovskii as their representative to the Federation Council, replacing Andrei Vikharev, "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 June. Legislators were dissatisfied with Vikharev for a number of reasons, including the fact that he did not directly tell them he was planning to run for governor of neighboring Sverdlovsk Oblast. Lisovskii, according to uralpolit.ru, is considered "one of the fathers of modern Russian show business and the media market." Lisovskii was also a former campaign aide to former President Boris Yeltsin. He was one of two workers on Yeltsin's campaign detained in June 1996 while carrying more than $500,000 out of government headquarters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1997.) Lisovskii will serve as Kurgan Oblast's representative until November, when the legislators will face reelection. JAC

GLAZEV BLAMES KREMLIN FOR FAILURE TO REGISTER PARTY...
State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazev (Motherland) told reporters on 29 June that he would reconcile with the Communist Party if party delegates do not reelect leader Gennadii Zyuganov at their 3 July party congress and would even "agree to sail in the same boat" with his former colleague, Motherland party leader Dmitrii Rogozin, gazeta.ru reported. Glazev also disclosed that he has not decided whether to challenge the Justice Ministry's recent refusal to register his new movement, For a Worthy Life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2004). He said that the rejection occurred because the Kremlin is not especially fond of him. "I don't know if Putin personally gave the order not to register us, but the Justice Ministry officials' unprincipled attitude toward us -- this was a direct order of the presidential administration." JAC

...AND REMAINS OPEN TO ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS AND FORMER POLITICAL ENEMIES
Glazev said his movement might continue to work without registration and will decide whether to enter into a coalition with the Communist Party after that party's 3 July congress, gazeta.ru reported on 29 June. With regard to joining a bloc with Motherland, Glazev noted that Motherland will be holding its own congress on 6 July, at which it will decide its future strategy with regard to political alliances. Glazev is a former member of the Communist Party faction in the Duma and a former co-chairman of Motherland with Rogozin. JAC

U.S. UNIVERSITY TAKES STATE OIL COMPANY TO COURT
Harvard University on 29 June filed suit in New York against Russian state oil giant Surgutneftegaz, strana.ru and other Russian media reported, citing the university's assets-management firm Harvard Management. The suit charges that the company intentionally understated profits in order to reduce its dividend obligations, saying the decision cost the university's pension fund millions of dollars. RC

COURT DATE SET IN CASE OF JOURNALIST VERSUS POP STAR
The Oktyabrskii Raion Court in Rostov-na-Donu on 30 June set 5 July as the date for the beginning of hearings in the case of a local journalist who charges she was offended during a 20 May press conference by singer Filipp Kirkorov, newsru.com and other Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 18, and 21 June 2004). Neither Kirkorov nor his defense lawyers appeared at the 30 June hearing. The journalist, Irina Aroyan, told Interfax that she would no longer be satisfied by a mere private apology from Kirkorov, since the singer has made many statements since the 20 May incident justifying his behavior and alleging that Aroyan provoked him. Kirkorov has said that he will accept any court punishment but he will not apologize to Aroyan, newsru.com reported. About 165,000 people have signed on online petition calling on the singer to apologize, and more than 200 Russian and international media outlets have agreed to boycott Kirkorov's music, according to the website kirkorov.net. RC

ARMENIAN MEDIA GROUPS DEPLORE HARASSMENT
In a joint statement adopted on 29 June, four organizations representing Armenian journalists criticized the authorities' failure to apprehend and bring to justice the persons who attacked journalists seeking to cover recent opposition demonstrations and deliberately smashed their cameras, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The statement dismissed as "a farce" the trial of two men who were fined 100,000 drams ($185) each for attacking journalists at an opposition rally in Yerevan on 5 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April and 11 June 2004). Also on 29 June, participants at a seminar in Yerevan organized by the Yerevan Press Club condemned as "distorted" coverage by the state-controlled media of the ongoing standoff between the opposition and the Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN ACCUSES ARMENIA OF 'TERRORISM'...
Addressing NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Istanbul on 29 June, Ilham Aliyev stressed Azerbaijan's commitment to integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures and its role in the global fight against terrorism, according to the Azerbaijani state news agency Azertadj, as cited by Groong. He noted the participation of Azerbaijani forces in NATO peacekeeping operations. At the same time Aliyev accused Armenia of terrorism and pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which he described as "a lawless uncontrolled zone" and "a constant threat to security and stability in the South Caucasus." The Azerbaijani opposition daily "Azadlig" on 29 June noted that President Aliyev was not accorded the same degree of respect and adulation in Istanbul as his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili. The paper pointed out that while Saakashvili was met at the airport by Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, President Aliyev was met by the Turkish transport minister. Aliyev met on 29 June on the sidelines of the Istanbul NATO summit with U.S. President George W. Bush to discuss the Karabakh conflict, other unspecified aspects of regional security, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Turan reported on 30 June. LF

...PROMPTING ARMENIAN REBUTTAL
In his address to the EAPC in Istanbul on 29 June, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian rejected President Aliyev's allegations as "absurd," while acknowledging that Nagorno-Karabakh does indeed pose "a serious security problem," according to the text of his address as posted on the Armenian Foreign Ministry website (http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am). Oskanian reaffirmed Yerevan's willingness "to make the necessary compromises to reach a peaceful solution to achieve long-lasting peace and stability." Oskanian further stressed Turkey's potential role as a bridge between Europe, and NATO, on the one hand and the states of the South Caucasus on the other. He expressed the hope that Turkey will opt for "even-handed regional policies" that would indirectly contribute to resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONISTS THREATEN NEW TRIAL BOYCOTT
At the 29 June hearing in the trial of seven opposition politicians charged in connection with their imputed role in the clashes in Baku on 15-16 October in the wake of the disputed presidential election, presiding Judge Mansur Ibaev rejected all requests submitted by the defendants, Turan and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. Those requests included summoning additional witnesses, the consideration as evidence for the accused of a videotape of the 15-16 October unrest, and summoning as witnesses for defendant Arif Gadjili people who were with him on 15-16 October and could testify as to his actions on those days. Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," warned the judge that he and his codefendants might again decide to boycott the proceedings to protest what he termed the court's "illegal actions," according to zerkalo.az on 30 June. LF

GEORGIANS BOYCOTT SOUTH OSSETIA TALKS
The Georgian delegation announced on 30 June that it will not attend a meeting scheduled for 30 June-1 July in Moscow of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava explained that the Georgian delegation refuses to participate in the talks as long as the South Ossetian authorities hold Georgians "hostage." Khaindrava reportedly cited the detention on 26 June of three Georgian State Security Ministry staffers by the South Ossetian authorities. Those men have reportedly been released, but three more Georgians -- one police officer and two civilians -- were arrested on 29 June. A local Georgian official told Caucasus Press on 30 June that they too have been released. Meanwhile Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, accused the Georgian leadership on 29 June of "dangerous provocations...aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region," Caucasus Press reported. LF

FOUR DEPUTIES QUIT GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY
Four parliament deputies representing the Republican Party, which contested the 28 March parliamentary ballot as part of the Saakashvili National Movement- Burdjanadze-Democrats bloc, announced on 30 June their decision to quit the majority faction to protest the alleged rigging of the outcome of the 20 June Adjaran parliamentary elections and proposed amendments to the Adjaran Constitution, Caucasus Press reported. The four are Republican Party Chairman David Berdzenishvili, his brother Levan, Ivliane Khaindrava, and Temur Nemtsadze. According to the final official returns made public on 28 June, the Republican Party polled 13.51 percent of the vote, giving it only two of the 30 parliament mandates. Two other deputies representing the Republican Party, Nugzar Mgeladze and Parliament Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Roman Gotsiridze, said they will remain in the minority faction. LF

CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS PARTICIPATE IN NATO SUMMIT
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov attended the NATO summit on 28-29 June in Istanbul, where they also conducted a number of bilateral meetings, news agencies reported. Speaking during a meeting on Afghanistan, President Akaev expressed his gratitude toward NATO forces for ensuring stability there, akipress.org reported. Akaev also met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and voiced his support for Turkey's efforts to join the EU. President Nazarbaev addressed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and met with French President Jacques Chirac on 28 June, Khabar TV reported. The two decided that Chirac will make an official visit to Kazakhstan in 2005. President Rakhmonov spoke about the "threat of drugs" and instability in Afghanistan, Tajik Television reported. Rakhmonov met with U.S. President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and President Chirac. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are members of the NATO Partnership for Peace program and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. DK

TAJIK OPPOSITION JOURNALIST COMES HOME
Opposition journalist Dodojon Atovulloev told a 26 June press conference in Dushanbe that he has returned to Tajikistan to hold talks on the fates of his newspaper and website, Avesta reported on 29 June. "I intend to discuss with the authorities the possibility of publishing my newspaper, 'Charoghi Ruz,' and the unblocking of my site, tajikistantimes.ru," Atovulloev said. He said he does not plan to join any of Tajikistan's political parties, and expressed his belief that President Imomali Rakhmonov was not elected legally. "The 1994 presidential elections were falsified, and the alternative candidate from the Islamic Renaissance Party at that time, Davlat Usmon, was appointed [to be a candidate] against his will," according to Atovulloev. DK

RUSSIAN-TAJIK BORDER TALKS BEGIN
A Russian delegation headed by deputy border-guard commander Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov arrived in Tajikistan on 28 June for talks on the future of Russian-Tajik cooperation on the Tajik-Afghan border, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 29 June. "The delegation of officers and generals from Russia's Federal Security Service and the Tajik Border Committee will examine border security issues and the continued cooperation of Russian and Tajik border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border," Aleksandr Kondratev, a spokesman for Russian border forces in Tajikistan, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service. Border Committee head Abdurahmon Azimov said that talks will focus on the transfer of the Khorugh section from Russian to Tajik control, ITAR-TASS reported. Border Committee Deputy Chairman Nuralisho Nazarov told Asia Plus-Blitz that the transfer could start as early as the beginning of July. DK

TAJIK PARTIES CALL FOR ELECTION-LAW VETO
Four opposition parties have called on President Imomali Rakhmonov to veto recently passed changes to Tajikistan's election law, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 29 June. "Tajikistan can be saved from authoritarianism and a single-party system, and one of the ways to save it is for the head of state to veto this law," states an appeal signed by the leaders of the Democratic Party, the Social-Democratic Party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, and the Socialist Party during a 26 June news conference in Dushanbe. "The transparency and democratic nature of the upcoming elections has been put in doubt," RFE/RL's Tajik Service quoted Democratic Party head Muhammadruzi Iskandarov as saying. "If the president does not return the law [to parliament] and does not accept our suggestions, I think that the participation of the undersigned political parties in the upcoming elections is in doubt." DK

TURKMEN OPPOSITION LEADER REPORTEDLY IN POOR HEALTH
Deutsche Welle reported on 29 June that imprisoned opposition leader Boris Shikhmuradov is in poor health and is being held in an underground cell beneath the National Security Ministry in Ashgabat. An anonymous Security Ministry source told Deutsche Welle that Shikhmuradov is not receiving any medication and can no longer walk on his own. Moreover, he is not allowed any visits from friends and family, according to the report. Shikhmuradov received a lengthy prison term for his role, which he acknowledged in a televised confession, in a November 2002 attempt on Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002 and 3 January 2003). Turkmen authorities have denied requests by international organizations to visit Shikhmuradov. DK

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES NATO TO EXPAND RELATIONS...
During his address on 29 June at the NATO summit in Istanbul, President Leonid Kuchma called on the Atlantic alliance to broaden its relations with Ukraine, Interfax reported. Kuchma said that Ukraine has undergone important changes over the past five years, adding that its pace of economic growth has been among the highest in Europe and that the country is characterized by "the stability of its political situation and ethnic tolerance." Kuchma also said that after a "period of loud but ineffective declarations," relations between Ukraine and NATO are headed in the right direction, "the way of practical actions." Kuchma assured the alliance that Ukraine intends to continue participating in joint projects -- in particular the scrapping of ammunition and light weapons -- and to take measures to make Ukraine's military standards compatible with those of NATO. AM

...AND PROMISES TO CREATE ACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS FOR ELECTION MONITORING
Kuchma on 29 June told participants at the NATO summit that Ukraine will "assure all necessary conditions" are made for observers' work during the country's presidential elections this fall, Interfax reported. Kuchma noted NATO members' recent interest in Ukraine's domestic politics, in particular the presidential election. He added that Ukraine expects "just one thing" from outside election observers: "To report objectively about events in the country and bring this information to the broad international community." AM

UKRAINE PRESSED TO SHARE NATO VALUES
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer reiterated on 29 June his stance that Ukraine should make greater efforts to absorb values shared by NATO members, Interfax reported. Among those values, according to de Hoop Scheffer, are the superiority of law, free and fair elections, and media freedom. He stressed the importance of NATO's partnership with Ukraine and praised the country's military reforms. "Ukraine does a good job," he said. "But do not forget that the further integration with NATO structures means the protection and the observance [of the] values on which the alliance was built." AM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SPECIFIC PATH OF COOPERATION WITH EU
President Kuchma announced on 29 June that talks between Ukraine and the EU regarding the signing of a joint action plan should yield a specific program of cooperation, Interfax reported, citing presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Kuchma said that Ukraine's highest priorities in the talks are achieving market-economy status, access to the EU's markets, and less stringent EU visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens. "If the EU proves unready for such decisions, talks should be extended" until Ukraine achieves more favorable conditions, Kuchma said. AM

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SACKS 60 BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS OVER FAILURE TO ARREST WAR CRIMES INDICTEES
High Representative Paddy Ashdown announced in Sarajevo on 30 June that he has fired 60 Bosnian Serb officials from their government and party jobs, Reuters reported. Among those sacked for failing to arrest top war crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic are parliament speaker Dragan Kalinic and Interior Minister Zoran Djeric. In Banja Luka, Kalinic said: "I was removed today by the high representative...because of Radovan Karadzic." Kalinic is the current head of the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which Karadzic founded in 1990 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 28 May 2004). PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR CALLS SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO A 'SAFE HAVEN' FOR WAR CRIMINALS...
Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told the UN Security Council on 29 June that she has received almost no cooperation from the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro since December, when parliamentary elections took place, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 29 June 2004). Del Ponte added that she is waiting to see whether the recent election of reformist candidate Boris Tadic to the Serbian presidency will improve matters. "In the absence of a significant number of transfers of fugitives in the weeks to come, I will have to conclude that Serbia and Montenegro continues to be unwilling to abide by its international legal obligations," she said. In response, Serbia and Montenegro's ambassador to the UN, Nebojsa Kaludjerovic, said that "internal political conditions have been created for the government of Serbia to honor its obligation to the [tribunal] as soon as possible. I assure you that the cooperation with the tribunal, primarily with its prosecutor's office, will be one of our foreign policy priorities." PM

...AND URGES THAT CLEAR SIGNALS BE SENT...
Del Ponte told the UN Security Council on 29 June that indicted war criminals and those protecting them hope to evade capture until the tribunal is disbanded. "Fugitives and their protective networks are trying to buy time until 2008 in hopes of evading justice, as they believe the time to be tried in The Hague will soon expire," she said. Del Ponte asked the Security Council to issue a statement affirming that the tribunal will remain open as long as necessary to ensure top suspects are tried there. Britain's Deputy Ambassador to the UN Adam Thomson stressed that the authorities in Belgrade must work with the tribunal: "Cooperation is a requirement, not an option. Continuing noncompliance will frustrate any Serbia-Montenegrin aspirations to closer integration with Euro-Atlantic structures." PM

...WHILE MAINTAINING OPTIMISM ON ARRESTS
Del Ponte told the UN Security Council on 29 June that she is confident that former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic will be arrested shortly, "The Washington Post" reported. For several weeks, she has been publicly predicting his arrest by 29 June, namely one day after St. Vitus' Day, or Vidovdan, which is the most important date in the Serbian historical calendar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004). She told the council: "I'm still thinking that somebody is looking for Karadzic very hard, and that he will be arrested very soon. Of course, I have [information]. But you all understand that I cannot tell it now publicly. Let's obtain the arrest of Karadzic, and after we will speak about what we have done." When a reporter reminded her that June is almost over, she replied: "Let's see." PM

IS SERBIA PREPARING FOR MORE EXTRADITIONS...
The Belgrade daily "Blic" reported on 30 June that the next extraditions of indicted war criminals -- namely one or more of four generals -- from Serbia to The Hague could take place as early as July. Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic told the daily that he, unlike his predecessor in that office, Goran Svilanovic, probably will not head Belgrade's National Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal. Draskovic argued that the best candidates to head the council are Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Prvoslav Davinic or Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic, because the people wanted in The Hague are not diplomats, but rather army or police personnel. PM

...AND RENEWED HUNT FOR A TOP INDICTEE?
Serbia and Montenegro's Minister for Human Rights and Minority Rights Rasim Ljajic told "Blic" on 30 June that his government has never stopped cooperating with the tribunal, adding that the only change in Belgrade's policy since December was to refrain from any new extraditions pending the outcome of the Serbian presidential vote. Ljajic stressed that the recent election of a new Serbian president means that the way is now open for new extraditions to The Hague. For his part, Serbian President-elect Boris Tadic said that the police should redouble their efforts to find former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who should then face charges in The Hague stemming from the massacre of up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males in Srebrenica in 1995, Reuters reported. PM

MACEDONIA AND GERMANY AGREE ON TROOP REINFORCEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN
On the sidelines of the 28-29 June NATO summit in Istanbul, Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Walter Kolbow, who is the secretary of state in the German Defense Ministry, agreed that Macedonia will step up its military presence in Afghanistan from the current 10 to 20 soldiers, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The soldiers will be part of the German contingent in that country. Kolbow signaled that Germany is also prepared to integrate a joint medical team of the U.S.-Adriatic Charter countries -- Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia -- into the German medical unit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2004). In other news, Buckovski told a press conference on 29 June that the much-lauded Macedonian contingent in Iraq will remain under U.S. command until NATO takes over the training of the new Iraqi security forces, "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2004). UB

BILATERAL MEETINGS YIELD RESULTS, SHOW OPPORTUNITIES FOR MACEDONIA
A first meeting between Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and her Greek counterpart, Petros Molyviatis, led to an agreement to sign a bilateral contract on seasonal workers from Macedonia, who are important for the economies of both countries, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 29 June. Mitreva and Molyviatis also agreed that consular and economic liaison offices will be opened in the Macedonian border town of Bitola and the Greek port of Thessaloniki. In other news, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Mitreva that Macedonia is on the right path and encouraged it to continue its reforms, according to "Utrinski vesnik" on 30 June. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assured his Macedonian counterpart Vlado Buckovski that the United States will support Macedonia on its way to NATO partnership during the next round of enlargement. In a meeting with Mitreva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian-Macedonian diplomatic relations are unproblematic, adding that more efforts should be made to improve the economic cooperation between the two countries. Lavrov said Russian energy companies such as Lukoil and Gazprom are interested in investing in the Balkan state. UB

CROATIAN PRESIDENT SAYS BUSH PLEASED WITH CROATIA
Croatian President Stipe Mesic said at the Istanbul NATO summit on 29 June that U.S. President George W. Bush "supports our endeavors [aimed at NATO membership] and all we have done so far," Hina reported. Mesic made his remarks after a meeting with Bush, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, and their Albanian counterpart Alfred Moisiu. Mesic added that he might meet with Bush again before or after the November U.S. presidential elections but did not elaborate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002, and 28 May 2004). PM

BOSNIA AND SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO GET THEIR BAD NEWS
NATO leaders said in a joint statement at the close of their summit in Istanbul on 29 June that Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro should do more to fulfill their international obligations, especially regarding cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Atlantic alliance offered its assistance to the two countries in preparing for eventual membership in the Partnership for Peace program. PM

MINISTERS SAY RUSSIA HAS SETTLED ITS DEBT WITH SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic and his Montenegrin counterpart, Igor Luksic, said in Moscow on 29 June that they have settled the matter of Russia's debt to their respective republics, which is part of the former Soviet debt to Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Dinkic said that about two-thirds of Russia's $290 million clearing account debt to Serbia will be eliminated by reducing the debt of the Serbian oil company NIS to Gazprom. Luksic said that Russia's $18 million debt to Montenegro will be paid off through the renovation by Russian firms of Montenegro's Pljevlja thermoelectric plant and related projects. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER LIKELY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, in an interview with Reuters on 28 June, said he was "most likely" to run for president in the November elections. "My colleagues [think] I should run...but we haven't made a decision yet," Nastase said. Nastase has repeatedly postponed an official announcement of his candidacy. He said his Social Democratic Party (PSD) is "very determined to win the race for president and to have a very strong leadership [in order to] continue the macroeconomic reform process and the policy of EU integration." Nastase also said that the June local elections "were an interesting test for my party." He added: "We got less than we expected. We have to assess the message of the population now. This may mean a reorientation of our strategy over the next months." President Ion Iliescu said that he is "not surprised" by Nastase's announcement, but refused to comment on it, Mediafax reported on 29 June. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REPLACED AS BUCHAREST PSD CHAIRMAN
The Bucharest PSD branch decided on 28 June to replace Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana as its executive chairman, Mediafax reported the next day. Geoana was replaced by Neculai Olteanu. The decision was taken in Geoana's absence. Geoana was appointed to the position in early May, ahead of the 6 June local elections in which he unsuccessfully ran for the post of Bucharest mayor. Returning from Istanbul where he attended the NATO summit, Geoana said on 29 June that he will "flatly" express his views on the manner of the change at a meeting of the PSD leadership. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE REJECTS SZEKLER AUTONOMY BILL
The upper house on 29 June rejected a bill for the autonomy of the lands inhabited by the Szeklers -- a group within Romania's Hungarian minority, Mediafax reported. The bill was only supported by 12 deputies representing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. The Chamber of Deputies has already rejected the bill. MS

MOLDOVAN ENVOY NEGOTIATES PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO ROMANIA
Romanian President Iliescu said on 29 June that he discussed with his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin at the NATO Istanbul summit the possibility of Voronin attending the 2 July ceremony at Putna monastery marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Moldovan Prince Stephen the Great, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said a Voronin envoy will visit Bucharest on 30 June to negotiate the text of a joint declaration that would reiterate Romania's support of Moldova's "statehood, integrity, and the backing of its efforts to solve the country's complicated problems, in particular those of Transdniester and integration in European regional structures." Later, Romanian Foreign Minister Geoana revealed that the envoy would be Sergiu Mocanu, an adviser to Voronin. Voronin said in Istanbul that "if our proposals for a declaration are accepted, our participation is possible." Geoana said that the declaration would have a "political character," but would also be linked with the anniversary celebrated in Putna. Both countries view the Moldovan prince as a founding father. Asked whether the declaration will address the contentious issue of a "Moldovan language," Geoana replied: "We shall see what the results of the negotiations are." MS

NATO 'REGRETS' RUSSIAN FAILURE TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM MOLDOVA
In the official communique issued at the end of the NATO summit in Istanbul on 29 June, NATO said it "regrets" that Russia has failed to abide by its obligations to withdraw its troops from Moldova by the end of 2003, Infotag reported. The statement also said that the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) continues to be the basis on which the continent's security is to be based and the ratification of that document by NATO members depends on the fulfillment of Russia's obligations, undertaken at the 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit, on the withdrawal of troops from Moldova and Georgia. Interfax on 29 June cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying there is no connection between the ratification of the CFE Treaty and the withdrawal of Russian forces from the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004). MS

POLITICAL SPARRING TAKES TO THE STREETS IN SLOVENIA
Since 1991, the renaming of socialist-era streets and squares in Slovenia has continued at a steady trickle, much like the country's gentle transition from communism to capitalism. Long gone are the days when every town had its obligatory "Tito Street" or "Tito Square," although anomalies such as Izola's "Lenin Street" still linger. Throughout Slovenia, however, many public places still bear less internationally recognizable references to the communist past, including the communist-led Liberation Front (OF), socialist work brigades, and Tito's Partisan heroes.

Renaming Ljubljana's "Tito Street" was easy -- it simply reverted to its centuries-old name "Vienna Street." The same solution applied for renaming a downtown street honoring Mosa Pijade (1890-1957) -- a communist bureaucrat, prison companion of Tito, and translator of Marx. Restoring the name "Railway Street" brought back a name with roots in the mid-19th century.

Attention was recently drawn again to such name changes with the announcement in late May that a downtown Ljubljana street named for Pope John Paul II will be restored to its previous name, "Zrinjski Street." The successful proposal was put forward in the Ljubljana city council by the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) -- the heir to Slovenia's Communist Party.

A "Delo" article of 27 May notes that the game of renaming the street began in 1997, when conservative city council member Michael Jarc and the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) backed a successful resolution on a name-change to commemorate a papal visit to Slovenia. Actually, the game is even older: the original "Elizabeth Street" was renamed "Zrinjski" in interwar Yugoslavia to honor a Croatian noble family -- and to promote the kingdom's official policy of Yugoslavism, in which Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes were encouraged to regard each other's heroes as their own. (Hungarians also claim the noble family as Zrinyi, but that is another story.)

Although the 1997 change honoring the pope was ideologically contested, it was not an entirely incongruous choice. The street is the site of St. Joseph's Church, which was nationalized by the communists and converted into a film studio that produced a string of socialist-era movies.

A 31 May article in the left-wing weekly "Mladina" applauded the decision to remove the reference to the pope, noting with satisfaction that 95 percent of the street's residents had opposed the 1997 change. However, such popular disapproval of renamings does not necessarily reflect political preferences. A "Delo" article of 14 March noted that dozens of towns in neighboring Hungary still have major streets named for Lenin, Marx, and the prewar communist leader Bela Kun -- but there is unanimous resistance to changing the names. Hungary's backlogged administrative system means the expense and time needed to change addresses on official documents is simply too daunting.

Ironically, the epicenter of Ljubljana's own cumbersome administrative system for issuing such documents is itself located on a street with a name that rankles many: Macek Street. Ivan Macek (1908-93) headed the Slovenian Department for People's Defense (OZNA) -- the secret-police organization responsible for the murder of up to 200,000 people in Slovenia after World War II.

Although communist-era street names remain pervasive, more often the figures behind the names are obscure. For example, a study of the street names of Ljubljana's Crnuce neighborhood (available at: http://rhv.rutka.net/ulice.html) reveals that nearly one-third have some sort of communist origin -- although the minor party activists they honor are largely forgotten today. Vlado Jama is an educated retiree who has lived in Ljubljana's Sentvid suburb all his life, a stone's throw from Joze Jama Street. When asked about the nearby street, he responded, "I've got no idea who he was -- some communist. My father was a Joze Jama, but not that one."

Simultaneous with the renaming of Ljubljana's Zrinjski Street, the council also approved the naming of a city street after Joze Pucnik (1932-2003), a communist-era dissident and cofounder of the SDS. In what was viewed as a contest between an exiled writer and a reformed communist, Pucnik won 41 percent of the vote in a 1990 runoff election that saw Milan Kucan elected the first president of independent Slovenia.

The decision will provide some small satisfaction for the SDS, which has been campaigning to rename a street and square in the former communist showpiece town of Nova Gorica. The two sites are currently named after leading communist heroes Boris Kidric (1912-53) and Edvard Kardelj (1910-79).

So far, though, the SDS proposal to christen the sites "Pucnik Square" and "Reconciliation Street" has encountered stiff local opposition. Slovenia's westernmost region is sometimes referred to as "red" Primorska because of the local enthusiasm for communism due to its role in liberating the area after nearly three decades of oppressive Italian rule. The ZLSD also opposes the name changes, insisting that the current names are part of the cultural heritage.

The names printed on street signs may seem like a trivial concern. However, it is at such mundane levels that progress and resistance are manifested in the transition from communism to democracy.

Donald Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University doctoral candidate based in Ljubljana.

AFGHAN LEADER URGES NATO TO HURRY TROOP DEPLOYMENT...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, speaking at the NATO summit in Istanbul on 29 June, urged the alliance to speed up sending additional troops to his country, Anatolia news agency reported. Karzai thanked NATO's decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004) and added: "I would like you to please hurry...come sooner than September," the BBC reported on 29 June. In September, elections are being held in Afghanistan. Karzai said that he needs the additional NATO "forces today in Afghanistan to provide a secure environment for elections for the Afghan people and beyond." The Afghan leader said that the main problems in his country are terrorism, the existence of militia forces, and illicit drug production. NATO has so far done little to address the narcotics problem or force warlords to disarm. During the Istanbul summit, NATO leaders agreed to a vaguely worded commitment to address the narcotics problem in Afghanistan. AT

...AS CONTROVERSY DEVELOPS OVER NATO RESPONSE FORCE
A day after NATO announced on 28 June that it has decided to deploy a 1,000-troop NATO Response Force (NRF) to Afghanistan for the elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004), a dispute erupted between the United States and France over the issue, AFP reported on 29 June. French President Jacques Chirac said during a press conference that NATO leaders have decided "not to mobilize, as some had imagined, NATO's rapid reaction force, because it isn't meant for this." According to AFP, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his French counterpart, Michele Alliot-Marie, had a sharp exchange on the issue of deployment of the NRF in Afghanistan. Chirac said that NATO has decided "on the one hand to put the NRF on maximum alert" in case the security situation deteriorates prior to the elections and, on the other hand, to "immediately [send] an assessment mission" to the country. Most of the NRF troops are French, the BBC reported on 29 June. AT

EIGHT POLICEMEN KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
A group of nine Afghan policemen came under attack on a road in the Helmand Province on 29 June and eight of them were killed, Hindukosh News Agency reported. Gholam Jan, commander of the police battalion in charge of security on the main road connecting the southern Afghan city of Kandahar with the western city of Herat, was among those killed in the attack. The policemen were traveling on the road when unidentified gunmen ambushed their vehicle. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT

RELIGIOUS LEADERS CONDEMN KILLING OF CIVILIANS BY NEO-TALIBAN
The Ulama Council of Afghanistan in a statement issued on 29 June condemned the killing of civilians by the neo-Taliban, Radio Afghanistan reported. The council's statement specifically addressed the killing of 16 people on 24 June in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan by the neo-Taliban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004). "We ulama condemn the ruthless actions carried out by mercenary Taliban. Their actions have no religious justification; rather these actions are against all human standards. We ask the government to use every possible means to bring such enemies to justice," the statement said. The neo-Taliban have claimed responsibility for killing the men whom they identified as soldiers and election workers. AT

IAEA HEAD SANGUINE ABOUT RUSSIAN NUCLEAR AID TO IRAN
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in Moscow on 29 June that his agency is not concerned about Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran, despite U.S. allegations that the assistance is helping Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. "Bushehr is not apparently at the center of international concern because Bushehr is a project to produce nuclear energy," el-Baradei said, referring to the nuclear-power plant being built with Russian technical assistance. He lauded an agreement between Moscow and Tehran under which spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr will be returned to Russia. El-Baradei told the news agency that he did not discuss Bushehr in his hour-long meeting with President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials. RC

IRANIAN OFFICIALS EXPELLED FROM UNITED STATES
The Iranian Foreign Ministry on 29 June condemned the expulsion from the United States of two of its UN mission guards, IRNA reported. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on the same day that the guards were expelled for engaging in activities "incompatible with their stated duties," which is most likely diplomatic language for spying, RFE/RL reported. Meanwhile, at UN headquarters in New York, U.S. envoy Stuart Holliday told reporters, "These individuals were moving around New York City and essentially taking photographs of a variety of New York landmarks and infrastructure and the rest," Reuters reported. Holliday added, "We had to notify the mission that we had information that their security officials were not conducting themselves appropriately, and they took it upon themselves to accept the invitation to depart the country over the weekend." A 30 June statement from Iran's Permanent Mission to the UN denied that the guards were filming sensitive or security-related sites, IRNA reported, and said they were only filming popular tourist attractions. This is not the first case of Iranian officials' behavior in New York eliciting suspicion (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002). BS

IRANIAN DRUG SEIZURES SOAR
Police counternarcotics chief Colonel Mehdi Aboui said on 29 June that the 80 tons of drugs seized in Iran during the first three months of the year is a 78 percent increase over the same period last year, IRNA reported. In just the 21 May-20 June period, he said, the seizure of 29 tons of narcotics marks a 112 percent increase over the previous year. The increase in seizures, which indicates an increase in trafficking, coincides with greater impurity in the drugs. Aboui also dismissed complaints about the ineffectiveness of the police's counternarcotics campaign. President Mohammad Khatami said two days earlier that interdiction alone would not solve Iran's drug abuse problem (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004). Aboui also dismissed as "sheer lies" warnings about home laboratories along Afghanistan's borders; Drug Control Headquarters chief Ali Hashemi referred to this problem in the "Iran" newspaper on 28 June. BS

DIPLOMACY REVERSES IRANIAN INVASION
An anonymous "senior British officer" said at a conference in London last week that British forces defied an order to repel Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps units that had crossed approximately 1 kilometer into Iraq, telegraph.co.uk reported on 30 June, citing that day's edition of "Defense Analysis." "Some Iranian border and observation posts were re-positioned over the border, broadly a kilometer into Iraq," an unnamed Defense Ministry spokesman said. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez ordered the British to prepare to attack the Iranian positions, but the British preferred a diplomatic solution. The issue was resolved after a week of discussions between Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The incident occurred in July 2003, and at the time Tehran denied everything (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 July 2003). BS

STATOIL FINED IN CASE INVOLVING IRAN
The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Okokrim) has ruled that the Norwegian state oil company Statoil and one of its officials must pay fines for attempting to gain improper influence of Iranian government officials, the "Financial Times" and AP reported on 30 June. Statoil must pay 20 million Norwegian crowns ($2.9 million) and its former head of international exploration and production, Richard Hubbard, must pay 200,000 crowns ($29,000). Statoil's agreement with Horton Investment, Okokrim said, "involved an offer of improper advantages in return for Mehdi Hashemi and or others influencing persons who were or would be involved in the decision-making process relevant to Statoil's commercial activity in Iran, including administrative acts concerning the award of contracts." Horton is reportedly associated with Mehdi Hashemi, the managing director of the Organization for Optimization of Energy Consumption, which is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company. Hashemi said on 27 May that he reserves the right to sue Statoil and the Norwegian press, IRNA reported. He added that he would file a complaint with the International Court of Justice and the Iranian judiciary. BS

IRAQ OBTAINS LEGAL CUSTODY OF HUSSEIN, 11 HIGH-LEVEL DETAINEES
The Multinational Force-Iraq on 30 June transferred legal custody of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and 11 other detainees to the interim Iraqi government, international media reported. Hussein and the other detainees will be charged before an Iraqi investigative judge on 1 July for crimes related to atrocities the regime is accused of committing against the Iraqi people. A press release posted on the Multinational Force-Iraq website (http://www.cjtf7.com) on 30 June stated that the proceedings will not be open to the media, but that pool video, photos, and narrative will be made available. Among the other detainees to be charged on 1 July are former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan; former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz; former Hussein adviser Ali Hassan al-Majid; former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim; and Hussein's half-brothers, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti and Sabawi Ibrahim. The men are not expected to be formally indicted for several months. The Multinational Force-Iraq on 15 May formally replaced the Coalition Joint Task Force-7, and U.S. forces officially began reporting to the commander of MNF-Iraq on 30 June, according to globalsecurity.org. KR

HUSSEIN REPORTEDLY DISORIENTED IN COURT
Saddam Hussein appeared dazed and confused when an Iraqi judge formally informed him that he is no longer being held under prisoner-of-war status and will be brought before an Iraqi judge on 1 July, CNN reported on 30 June. Hussein and 11 other detainees were informed that they have a right to counsel. Hussein reportedly indicated that he had questions regarding the process, but the judge declined to entertain his questions, CNN reported. KR

IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS DEATH PENALTY TO BE REINSTATED
Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawir said on 29 June that Iraq will reinstate the death penalty, international media reported on 29 June. Al-Yawir said that the punishment will be reinstated, "but with rules which comply with the norms in most countries of the world," Reuters reported on 30 June. The punishment would be applied to crimes of murder, terrorism, rape, and kidnapping. Former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer suspended the punishment last year. Al-Yawir also said that amnesty will be offered "to all whose hands are not stained with the blood of Iraqi people and who did not carry out terrorist acts and did not take part in the massacres in which the Iraqi people were victims." He added that the Iraqi interim government will also reinstate a national-security law that dates to the 1960s. The law was "less severe than emergency laws, but includes resolute measures against terrorist acts and breaches of the law," he said. KR

JORDANIAN KING ORDERS BORDER GUARDS TO FACILITATE IRAQI TRAVEL
Jordan's King Abdallah II announced on 29 June that immediate and practical steps are to be taken to facilitate the passage of Iraqi civilians through Jordanian checkpoints, the Jordanian news agency Petra reported. Abdallah reportedly issued directives to provide services to those civilians and businessmen crossing the Jordan-Iraq border. To this end, the kingdom has begun to construct a number of temporary structures to house travelers' facilities, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on 30 June. Those structures will reportedly eventually be replaced by permanent buildings. KR

U.S. EMBASSY WEBSITE GOES ON LINE
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's website is up and running, according to an announcement posted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) website on 29 June. The CPA officially ceased to exist on 28 June when CPA Bremer transferred authority to the Iraqi interim government. The U.S. Embassy website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov) will now serve as the source for information regarding U.S. relations with Iraq. The CPA website notes that it will no longer be updated, but will be available for "historical purposes" until 30 June 2005. KR

AL-SADR LOYALISTS REPORTEDLY TAKE IRAQI POLICE CAPTIVE
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)'s Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 29 June that militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr the same day seized an Iraqi police car and took two policemen captive in Al-Najaf. A correspondent said that the appearance of armed militiamen on the street caused panic among civilians, prompting shop owners to close their businesses and forcing residents off the street. The radio station also reported that rumors have spread through Al-Najaf that al-Sadr's Al-Mahdi Army arrested more than 20 Iraqi policemen on 29 June and are offering to release them in exchange for the release of Al-Mahdi militants in custody. KR

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS MOSCOW WILL NOT HELP REBUILD IRAQI ARMY
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on 29 June in Istanbul, where he was attending a NATO summit, that Russia has no plans to provide assistance to help rebuild the Iraqi Army, ITAR-TASS reported. He called, however, for the restoration of former military structures in the country, saying that the decision by the U.S.-led coalition to disband them had contributed to destabilization in the country. He also criticized the coalition's former policy of banning the employment of former members of the Ba'ath Party. RC

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