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Newsline - July 9, 2004


ALFA-BANK ACTS TO STAUNCH THE FLOW OF MONEY...
After reporting that almost $100 million was withdrawn by shaken depositors this week, Alfa-Bank announced on 8 July that it is imposing a 10 percent commission on early withdrawals, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). Alfa-Bank called the measure a "temporary" one designed to stem the "panic." The same day, Fitch ratings agency confirmed its previous rating for Alfa-Bank, noting that the bank's shareholders have injected liquidity into the bank, and Standard & Poor's announced that the recent crisis will have no impact on its ratings for Russian banks, Reuters reported. However, Moody's said that it has placed 18 Russian banks under review for possible downgrades. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 July, the Moody's announcement increased tensions on the interbank market. JAC

ALFA-BANK ACTS TO STAUNCH THE FLOW OF MONEY...
After reporting that almost $100 million was withdrawn by shaken depositors this week, Alfa-Bank announced on 8 July that it is imposing a 10 percent commission on early withdrawals, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). Alfa-Bank called the measure a "temporary" one designed to stem the "panic." The same day, Fitch ratings agency confirmed its previous rating for Alfa-Bank, noting that the bank's shareholders have injected liquidity into the bank, and Standard & Poor's announced that the recent crisis will have no impact on its ratings for Russian banks, Reuters reported. However, Moody's said that it has placed 18 Russian banks under review for possible downgrades. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 July, the Moody's announcement increased tensions on the interbank market. JAC

...AS CENTRAL BANK'S CRISIS-MANAGEMENT EFFORTS DRAW FIRE...
Samuel Theodore, director of the Moody's financial-institutions group, was quoted by "Vedomosti" on 9 July as saying that his organization is unsure whether the measures adopted by the Central Bank are sufficient to stop the crisis. "The fate [of the 18 banks on Moody's list] will depend on the ability of the authorities and market participants to provide financial support to those who need it," according to the daily. Aleksei Mamontov, president of the Moscow International Foreign Exchange Association, called the Central Bank's lowering of the reserve requirement a "senseless measure" that will not really improve the situation, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 July. He said the market's problem is not a crisis of liquidity but one of confidence: Banks are not giving each other money not because there is no money in the system. Yurii Maksutov of the Bank of Moscow said lowering the reserve requirement will increase liquidity for those banks that are not experiencing a problem now; for the rest, the effect will be significantly smaller. JAC

...AS CENTRAL BANK'S CRISIS-MANAGEMENT EFFORTS DRAW FIRE...
Samuel Theodore, director of the Moody's financial-institutions group, was quoted by "Vedomosti" on 9 July as saying that his organization is unsure whether the measures adopted by the Central Bank are sufficient to stop the crisis. "The fate [of the 18 banks on Moody's list] will depend on the ability of the authorities and market participants to provide financial support to those who need it," according to the daily. Aleksei Mamontov, president of the Moscow International Foreign Exchange Association, called the Central Bank's lowering of the reserve requirement a "senseless measure" that will not really improve the situation, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 July. He said the market's problem is not a crisis of liquidity but one of confidence: Banks are not giving each other money not because there is no money in the system. Yurii Maksutov of the Bank of Moscow said lowering the reserve requirement will increase liquidity for those banks that are not experiencing a problem now; for the rest, the effect will be significantly smaller. JAC

...AND PREMIER SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL TRY TO ENCOURAGE MERGERS
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told cabinet ministers on 8 July that the situation in the banking sector is favorable and that the problems that have arisen are being resolved by the Central Bank, Russian news agencies reported. He added the government favors larger Russian banks created through mergers and said state policy will try to stimulate such mergers, ORT reported. Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov appeared to contradict Fradkov, telling Interfax that "it is obvious that there is a banking crisis" and this crisis, "like any other economic crisis, is a result of the authorities' actions." Illarianov also criticized the Central Bank for lowering the reserve requirement, predicting that the move will spur inflation. JAC

...AND PREMIER SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL TRY TO ENCOURAGE MERGERS
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told cabinet ministers on 8 July that the situation in the banking sector is favorable and that the problems that have arisen are being resolved by the Central Bank, Russian news agencies reported. He added the government favors larger Russian banks created through mergers and said state policy will try to stimulate such mergers, ORT reported. Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov appeared to contradict Fradkov, telling Interfax that "it is obvious that there is a banking crisis" and this crisis, "like any other economic crisis, is a result of the authorities' actions." Illarianov also criticized the Central Bank for lowering the reserve requirement, predicting that the move will spur inflation. JAC

MUSCOVITES DUMPING RUBLES FOR DOLLARS
The demand for foreign currencies on 8 July at Moscow's currency-exchange centers was 50-70 percent higher on average than is usually recorded in July, lenta.ru reported. The U.S. dollar was the most preferred foreign currency, according to the website. One representative of an exchange point said customers were not purchasing $50-$100 as usual but $200-$250. Workers at the exchange centers noted a definite nervousness on the part of their customers, who are expecting the values of foreign currencies to rise. According to gazeta.ru, the ruble fell on 8 July to 29.115 rubles per U.S. dollar compared with 29.075 rubles per dollar on 7 July. JAC

MUSCOVITES DUMPING RUBLES FOR DOLLARS
The demand for foreign currencies on 8 July at Moscow's currency-exchange centers was 50-70 percent higher on average than is usually recorded in July, lenta.ru reported. The U.S. dollar was the most preferred foreign currency, according to the website. One representative of an exchange point said customers were not purchasing $50-$100 as usual but $200-$250. Workers at the exchange centers noted a definite nervousness on the part of their customers, who are expecting the values of foreign currencies to rise. According to gazeta.ru, the ruble fell on 8 July to 29.115 rubles per U.S. dollar compared with 29.075 rubles per dollar on 7 July. JAC

PUTIN HOLDS TALKS IN MOSCOW WITH GERMAN CHANCELLOR...
President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on 8 July with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian media reported on 9 July. The two leaders lauded recent contracts in the energy sector but added that there are opportunities to develop closer ties in the consumer-goods sector. Putin told reporters on 8 July that the two countries "will develop our cooperation in the international arena and in international organizations." RC

PUTIN HOLDS TALKS IN MOSCOW WITH GERMAN CHANCELLOR...
President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on 8 July with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian media reported on 9 July. The two leaders lauded recent contracts in the energy sector but added that there are opportunities to develop closer ties in the consumer-goods sector. Putin told reporters on 8 July that the two countries "will develop our cooperation in the international arena and in international organizations." RC

...AND ANNOUNCES PLANS TO ATTEND FUNERAL OF AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT
The Kremlin announced on 8 July that President Putin will attend the 10 July funeral in Vienna of Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Russian media reported. RC

...AND ANNOUNCES PLANS TO ATTEND FUNERAL OF AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT
The Kremlin announced on 8 July that President Putin will attend the 10 July funeral in Vienna of Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Russian media reported. RC

STRATEGIC BOMBER CRASHES, FLIGHTS SUSPENDED
Russia suspended all flights of the Tu-22 strategic bomber on 9 July pending an investigation into an 8 July crash of one of the planes in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Four crewmembers were killed as the unarmed bomber was attempting to land at night. An unidentified aviation official told ITAR-TASS on 9 July that the crash is still under investigation, but "it was most likely an error in piloting." The news agency reported that experts consider the Tu-22 difficult to land because of poor visibility from the cabin and a high landing speed of 320 kilometers per hour. The plane's ejection seats also propel the crew downward, making low-altitude ejections impossible. RC

STRATEGIC BOMBER CRASHES, FLIGHTS SUSPENDED
Russia suspended all flights of the Tu-22 strategic bomber on 9 July pending an investigation into an 8 July crash of one of the planes in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Four crewmembers were killed as the unarmed bomber was attempting to land at night. An unidentified aviation official told ITAR-TASS on 9 July that the crash is still under investigation, but "it was most likely an error in piloting." The news agency reported that experts consider the Tu-22 difficult to land because of poor visibility from the cabin and a high landing speed of 320 kilometers per hour. The plane's ejection seats also propel the crew downward, making low-altitude ejections impossible. RC

FORMER PUTIN COLLEAGUE TAKES OVER PERSONNEL POLICY AT NTV...
Gazprom-Media Deputy General Director Tamara Gavrilova has been named NTV first deputy general director responsible for finances, management, and personnel, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported on 8 July. Gavrilova was born in Leningrad and attended the law department of Leningrad State University at the same time as President Putin. In 1993, she began working for the External Relations Committee of the St. Petersburg city administration, which was headed by Putin. "Novaya gazeta" television critic Yelena Afanaseva told the website that the appointment is "logical" because NTV has been pursuing a policy of filling senior management slots with St. Petersburgers connected with Putin since Gazprom-Media took over NTV in 2001. RC

FORMER PUTIN COLLEAGUE TAKES OVER PERSONNEL POLICY AT NTV...
Gazprom-Media Deputy General Director Tamara Gavrilova has been named NTV first deputy general director responsible for finances, management, and personnel, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported on 8 July. Gavrilova was born in Leningrad and attended the law department of Leningrad State University at the same time as President Putin. In 1993, she began working for the External Relations Committee of the St. Petersburg city administration, which was headed by Putin. "Novaya gazeta" television critic Yelena Afanaseva told the website that the appointment is "logical" because NTV has been pursuing a policy of filling senior management slots with St. Petersburgers connected with Putin since Gazprom-Media took over NTV in 2001. RC

...AS MEDIA REPORTS INDICATE THAT POPULAR PRESENTER WILL BECOME NTV NEWS DIRECTOR...
NTV Editor in Chief Tatyana Mitkova is poised to become NTV deputy general director in charge of informational programming, replacing "Lichnyi vklad" host Aleksandr Gerasimov, utro.ru and other Russian media reported on 9 July. NTV has not confirmed the reports. According to utro.ru, Gerasimov has already been informed that his program has been abolished and he has been sent on one month's forced leave. "Izvestiya" wrote on 9 July that NTV General Director Vladimir Kulistikov has met with "Strana i Mir" host Aleksei Pivovarov and offered him a new Sunday-evening analytical program. RC

...AS MEDIA REPORTS INDICATE THAT POPULAR PRESENTER WILL BECOME NTV NEWS DIRECTOR...
NTV Editor in Chief Tatyana Mitkova is poised to become NTV deputy general director in charge of informational programming, replacing "Lichnyi vklad" host Aleksandr Gerasimov, utro.ru and other Russian media reported on 9 July. NTV has not confirmed the reports. According to utro.ru, Gerasimov has already been informed that his program has been abolished and he has been sent on one month's forced leave. "Izvestiya" wrote on 9 July that NTV General Director Vladimir Kulistikov has met with "Strana i Mir" host Aleksei Pivovarov and offered him a new Sunday-evening analytical program. RC

...AND SPECULATION CONTINUES OVER FUTURE OF THE STATION
Russian media on 9 July continued to report that the popular NTV analytical programs "Svoboda slova," "Lichnyi vklad," and "Strana i mir" will soon be canceled. "The Moscow Times" reported that it is widely believed that the 9 July broadcast of "Svoboda slova" will be its last. Yabloko issued a statement on 8 July asking NTV managers not to cancel the program, which is the last analytical program on Russian television to be broadcast live. "[The program] is the last oasis of freedom of thought on Russian television," the Yabloko statement said, according to Ekho Moskvy. "Its banishment would be equivalent to the final extirpation of publicly aired politics from television." "Moskvoskii komosolets" on 7 July speculated that popular television presenter Leonid Parfenov, who was fired by NTV in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), might return to the station now that its management has been changed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004). Shortly after Parfenov was dismissed, "Moskovskie novosti" Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev wrote in his paper, No. 20, that "there are rumors that the firing of Parfenov was a clever move by the authorities, that the scandal was provoked with the intention of discrediting and removing the current leadership of NTV." RC

...AND SPECULATION CONTINUES OVER FUTURE OF THE STATION
Russian media on 9 July continued to report that the popular NTV analytical programs "Svoboda slova," "Lichnyi vklad," and "Strana i mir" will soon be canceled. "The Moscow Times" reported that it is widely believed that the 9 July broadcast of "Svoboda slova" will be its last. Yabloko issued a statement on 8 July asking NTV managers not to cancel the program, which is the last analytical program on Russian television to be broadcast live. "[The program] is the last oasis of freedom of thought on Russian television," the Yabloko statement said, according to Ekho Moskvy. "Its banishment would be equivalent to the final extirpation of publicly aired politics from television." "Moskvoskii komosolets" on 7 July speculated that popular television presenter Leonid Parfenov, who was fired by NTV in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), might return to the station now that its management has been changed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004). Shortly after Parfenov was dismissed, "Moskovskie novosti" Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev wrote in his paper, No. 20, that "there are rumors that the firing of Parfenov was a clever move by the authorities, that the scandal was provoked with the intention of discrediting and removing the current leadership of NTV." RC

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS DECIDE TO FIGHT RECALLS
Federation Council representative for Evenk Autonomous Okrug's legislature Nikolai Anisimov is challenging in court a decision by the legislature to recall him as its representative, and he has called on his colleagues not to terminate his powers until the court renders a decision, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 July. "This is not just my problem," Anisimov told legislators. "Today this is a problem of the entire chamber." The senators agreed, but since they had already confirmed the powers of the legislators' new choice, Mikhail Odintsov, the okrug now has three rather than two senators. Odintsov told "Izvestiya": "They asked me to wait until the court concluded Anisimov's case, and I waited. But I can't wait forever." Meanwhile, recently recalled representative from Kurgan Oblast Andrei Vikharev made his allegations of bribery against Kurgan Oblast legislators more specific (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). He told "Izvestiya" that he is ready to provide the surnames of deputies who received from $20,000 to $60,000 each for voting to recall him and replace him with former advertising executive Sergei Lisovskii. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS DECIDE TO FIGHT RECALLS
Federation Council representative for Evenk Autonomous Okrug's legislature Nikolai Anisimov is challenging in court a decision by the legislature to recall him as its representative, and he has called on his colleagues not to terminate his powers until the court renders a decision, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 July. "This is not just my problem," Anisimov told legislators. "Today this is a problem of the entire chamber." The senators agreed, but since they had already confirmed the powers of the legislators' new choice, Mikhail Odintsov, the okrug now has three rather than two senators. Odintsov told "Izvestiya": "They asked me to wait until the court concluded Anisimov's case, and I waited. But I can't wait forever." Meanwhile, recently recalled representative from Kurgan Oblast Andrei Vikharev made his allegations of bribery against Kurgan Oblast legislators more specific (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). He told "Izvestiya" that he is ready to provide the surnames of deputies who received from $20,000 to $60,000 each for voting to recall him and replace him with former advertising executive Sergei Lisovskii. JAC

SARATOV GOVERNOR IN THE HOT SEAT AGAIN
A Saratov court ordered the seizure on 8 July of two houses valued at $2.5 million-$3 million combined and belonging to Olga Sergeeva, the wife of Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, gazeta.ru reported. The decision was made in the context of a criminal investigation against Sergeeva, the director of an oblast government hotel complex, and Stanislav Boiko, an oblast-government administrator. They are suspected of swindling and abuse of office. Saratov Oblast press secretary Roman Chuichenko commented: "In this situation, when the prosecutor is trying to save face, it is possible to talk about a search for a 'point man.' There are serious doubts that this matter will stand up in court," Regnum reported. At a news conference on 5 July, Ayatskov was asked how he managed to find the money to purchase the two huge homes where he and his family live. He said that all of his income was reported in his tax declaration. At the news conference, Ayatskov complimented Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov for "putting things in order." In May, the Prosecutor-General's Office ordered that a criminal investigation of Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov be returned for additional checking to the prosecutor's office of the Volga Federal District (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). JAC

SARATOV GOVERNOR IN THE HOT SEAT AGAIN
A Saratov court ordered the seizure on 8 July of two houses valued at $2.5 million-$3 million combined and belonging to Olga Sergeeva, the wife of Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, gazeta.ru reported. The decision was made in the context of a criminal investigation against Sergeeva, the director of an oblast government hotel complex, and Stanislav Boiko, an oblast-government administrator. They are suspected of swindling and abuse of office. Saratov Oblast press secretary Roman Chuichenko commented: "In this situation, when the prosecutor is trying to save face, it is possible to talk about a search for a 'point man.' There are serious doubts that this matter will stand up in court," Regnum reported. At a news conference on 5 July, Ayatskov was asked how he managed to find the money to purchase the two huge homes where he and his family live. He said that all of his income was reported in his tax declaration. At the news conference, Ayatskov complimented Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov for "putting things in order." In May, the Prosecutor-General's Office ordered that a criminal investigation of Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov be returned for additional checking to the prosecutor's office of the Volga Federal District (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). JAC

INGUSH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CLERGY
Murat Zyazikov met on 8 July with imams, government officials, and local administrators to discuss the situation in the republic in the wake of the 21-22 June attacks on Interior Ministry facilities in which some 90 people were killed, ingushetiya.ru reported. Zyazikov warned specifically against mutual attempts to offload onto others responsibility for those attacks. Participants also focused on the predicament of displaced persons from Chechnya and from North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion. At a separate meeting on 8 July, Ingushetia's senior Muslim clergymen confirmed as their new mufti Isa Khamkhoev, former first deputy to Magomed-hadji Albogachiev, who resigned earlier this week to protest what he termed Zyazikov's "divisive" and "anti-Islamic" policies, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004). LF

INGUSH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CLERGY
Murat Zyazikov met on 8 July with imams, government officials, and local administrators to discuss the situation in the republic in the wake of the 21-22 June attacks on Interior Ministry facilities in which some 90 people were killed, ingushetiya.ru reported. Zyazikov warned specifically against mutual attempts to offload onto others responsibility for those attacks. Participants also focused on the predicament of displaced persons from Chechnya and from North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion. At a separate meeting on 8 July, Ingushetia's senior Muslim clergymen confirmed as their new mufti Isa Khamkhoev, former first deputy to Magomed-hadji Albogachiev, who resigned earlier this week to protest what he termed Zyazikov's "divisive" and "anti-Islamic" policies, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004). LF

EU COMMISSIONER VISITS ARMENIA
EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik met in Yerevan on 8 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian to discuss the EU's European Neighborhood Policy into which the three South Caucasus states were formally accepted last month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Potocnik told journalists after the talks that the extent of EU cooperation with Armenia is contingent on that country's progress in meeting European standards on human rights, freedom of speech, and free elections. He also said the EU continues to insist that Armenia close the Medzamor nuclear power station, and will provide a 100 million euros ($124 million) grant toward the cost of providing an alternative source of electricity. Potocnik stressed that the EU wants to see Armenia establish "normal relations" with its neighbors and is ready to contribute to efforts by the OSCE's Minsk Group to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF

EU COMMISSIONER VISITS ARMENIA
EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik met in Yerevan on 8 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian to discuss the EU's European Neighborhood Policy into which the three South Caucasus states were formally accepted last month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Potocnik told journalists after the talks that the extent of EU cooperation with Armenia is contingent on that country's progress in meeting European standards on human rights, freedom of speech, and free elections. He also said the EU continues to insist that Armenia close the Medzamor nuclear power station, and will provide a 100 million euros ($124 million) grant toward the cost of providing an alternative source of electricity. Potocnik stressed that the EU wants to see Armenia establish "normal relations" with its neighbors and is ready to contribute to efforts by the OSCE's Minsk Group to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF

AZERBAIJAN, PAKISTAN PLEDGE TO EXPAND COOPERATION
On a one-day visit to Baku on 8 July, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to discuss regional conflicts, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, bilateral relations, and the prospects for expanding cooperation, Azerbaijani media reported. Characterizing political relations between the two countries as "good," Aliyev noted the potential for expanding cooperation in the fuel and energy sector, agriculture and tourism, while Musharraf singled out finance, banking, insurance, and information technology as promising areas for cooperation, Turan reported on 9 July. Musharraf also said that "after long discussions," Pakistan is ready to proceed with defense cooperation, specifically the training of Azerbaijani officers and production of military equipment. The two countries signed a major military cooperation agreement two years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 19 September 2002), but Musharraf's comments suggest that little has been done so far toward implementing it. LF

AZERBAIJAN, PAKISTAN PLEDGE TO EXPAND COOPERATION
On a one-day visit to Baku on 8 July, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to discuss regional conflicts, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, bilateral relations, and the prospects for expanding cooperation, Azerbaijani media reported. Characterizing political relations between the two countries as "good," Aliyev noted the potential for expanding cooperation in the fuel and energy sector, agriculture and tourism, while Musharraf singled out finance, banking, insurance, and information technology as promising areas for cooperation, Turan reported on 9 July. Musharraf also said that "after long discussions," Pakistan is ready to proceed with defense cooperation, specifically the training of Azerbaijani officers and production of military equipment. The two countries signed a major military cooperation agreement two years ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 19 September 2002), but Musharraf's comments suggest that little has been done so far toward implementing it. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA RELEASES GEORGIANS...
The South Ossetian authorities handed over to Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili in Tskhinvali on 9 July the Georgians apprehended early on 8 July in the village of Vanati, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). The number of Georgians originally detained has been estimated at between 36 and 50, and unconfirmed reports say that at least three of them were not released on 9 July, according to ITAR-TASS. It is also still unclear whether the men were bona fide members of the Georgian peacekeeping detachment in South Ossetia, as the Georgian government claims, or members of the semi-legal White Legion and Forest Brothers guerrilla formations wearing peacekeepers' uniforms, as an unnamed South Ossetian security official alleged to Interfax on 8 July. Following a telephone conversation on 8 July between Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington demands the immediate release of the Georgians, Caucasus Press reported. A Georgian official in Tskhinvali Raion told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 8 July that Russian peacekeepers participated in the capture of the Georgians in Vanati, Interfax reported. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA RELEASES GEORGIANS...
The South Ossetian authorities handed over to Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili in Tskhinvali on 9 July the Georgians apprehended early on 8 July in the village of Vanati, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). The number of Georgians originally detained has been estimated at between 36 and 50, and unconfirmed reports say that at least three of them were not released on 9 July, according to ITAR-TASS. It is also still unclear whether the men were bona fide members of the Georgian peacekeeping detachment in South Ossetia, as the Georgian government claims, or members of the semi-legal White Legion and Forest Brothers guerrilla formations wearing peacekeepers' uniforms, as an unnamed South Ossetian security official alleged to Interfax on 8 July. Following a telephone conversation on 8 July between Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington demands the immediate release of the Georgians, Caucasus Press reported. A Georgian official in Tskhinvali Raion told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 8 July that Russian peacekeepers participated in the capture of the Georgians in Vanati, Interfax reported. LF

...AND DENIES ATTACKING PEACEKEEPERS
South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murad Djioev denied on 8 July that servicemen from the South Ossetian armed forces were responsible for an attack earlier that day on a Georgian peacekeepers post in which two Georgians were reportedly wounded, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). South Ossetian Minister for Special Assignments Boris Chochiev confirmed to Interfax that two Georgians were injured, but both he and Major General Svyatoslav Nabdzorov, commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia, said that the Georgians were not members of the Georgian peacekeeping force, Interfax reported. LF

...AND DENIES ATTACKING PEACEKEEPERS
South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murad Djioev denied on 8 July that servicemen from the South Ossetian armed forces were responsible for an attack earlier that day on a Georgian peacekeepers post in which two Georgians were reportedly wounded, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). South Ossetian Minister for Special Assignments Boris Chochiev confirmed to Interfax that two Georgians were injured, but both he and Major General Svyatoslav Nabdzorov, commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia, said that the Georgians were not members of the Georgian peacekeeping force, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN POLITICIANS BLAME TENSIONS ON SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER...
Speaking in Tbilisi on 8 July, Georgian Interior Minister Okruashvili pledged that Georgia will "force [South Ossetian President Eduard] Kokoity to express regret" for humiliating the Georgians by forcing them to kneel in front of South Ossetian servicemen and parade across a square in Tskhinvali with their hands on their heads, Reuters reported. Russian state television screened footage of those scenes. Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze similarly warned that "sooner or later Kokoity will pay for everything," Rustavi-2 reported on 8 July. For his part, Georgian Prime Minister Zhvania branded the South Ossetian leader "a criminal" and "a man with no sense of responsibility," adding that Georgia remains committed to peaceful dialogue with the Ossetian leadership, Rustavi-2 reported on 8 July. LF

GEORGIAN POLITICIANS BLAME TENSIONS ON SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER...
Speaking in Tbilisi on 8 July, Georgian Interior Minister Okruashvili pledged that Georgia will "force [South Ossetian President Eduard] Kokoity to express regret" for humiliating the Georgians by forcing them to kneel in front of South Ossetian servicemen and parade across a square in Tskhinvali with their hands on their heads, Reuters reported. Russian state television screened footage of those scenes. Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze similarly warned that "sooner or later Kokoity will pay for everything," Rustavi-2 reported on 8 July. For his part, Georgian Prime Minister Zhvania branded the South Ossetian leader "a criminal" and "a man with no sense of responsibility," adding that Georgia remains committed to peaceful dialogue with the Ossetian leadership, Rustavi-2 reported on 8 July. LF

...WHO BRACES TO REPULSE ANTICIPATED GEORGIAN AGGRESSION
Kokoity issued orders to the South Ossetian armed forces on 8 July to reinforce the defenses surrounding Tskhinvali, Caucasus Press reported. ITAR-TASS on 9 July reported that a convoy of 10 trucks transported additional Georgian Interior Ministry troops to South Ossetia early that morning, but Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava denied that report. An unnamed Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said on 9 July that around midnight on 8 July Russian peacekeepers intercepted five vehicles transporting Georgian Interior Ministry troops and ordered them to return to Gori. The Georgians then attempted to enter South Ossetia on foot by an alternative route but were again intercepted and finally returned to Gori, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...WHO BRACES TO REPULSE ANTICIPATED GEORGIAN AGGRESSION
Kokoity issued orders to the South Ossetian armed forces on 8 July to reinforce the defenses surrounding Tskhinvali, Caucasus Press reported. ITAR-TASS on 9 July reported that a convoy of 10 trucks transported additional Georgian Interior Ministry troops to South Ossetia early that morning, but Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava denied that report. An unnamed Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said on 9 July that around midnight on 8 July Russian peacekeepers intercepted five vehicles transporting Georgian Interior Ministry troops and ordered them to return to Gori. The Georgians then attempted to enter South Ossetia on foot by an alternative route but were again intercepted and finally returned to Gori, Caucasus Press reported. LF

ACTING DIRECTOR NAMED FOR KAZAKH ANTIMONOPOLY AGENCY
Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov signed a resolution on 8 July appointing Bakytzhan Sagintaev acting director of the Agency for Regulating Natural Monopolies, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The appointment came the day after former director Uraz Dzhandosov was dismissed in the course of a restructuring. DK

ACTING DIRECTOR NAMED FOR KAZAKH ANTIMONOPOLY AGENCY
Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov signed a resolution on 8 July appointing Bakytzhan Sagintaev acting director of the Agency for Regulating Natural Monopolies, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The appointment came the day after former director Uraz Dzhandosov was dismissed in the course of a restructuring. DK

SECURITY SERVICE HEAD NAMES KYRGYZ SPY SUSPECTS...
National Security Service (SNB) head Kalyk Imankulov told an 8 July news conference in Bishkek that six current and former officials have been charged with disclosing state secrets, akipress.org reported. One employee in the Transportation Ministry's courier service, an Interior Ministry official, a former Interior Ministry official, an entrepreneur, and a teacher were charged on 28 June; a Border Service official was charged on 3 July. The first group of suspects was arrested on 25 June; the Border Service official was arrested on 1 July. (News of the arrests first emerged on 2 July; see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004.) Imankulov showed journalists a videotape with a statement by Kelsenbek Akimaliev, the Border Service official, who confessed to providing classified documents to members of parliament, Kyrgyzinfo reported. According to Imankulov, the documents played an important role in the scandal that broke out in January over listening devices in the offices of opposition parliamentarians. Imankulov noted that legislators' decision to publicize classified materials undermined a covert operation. He added that several legislators are now under investigation. He also said that the suspects acted out of financial interests, netting $60,000 in 2003. DK

SECURITY SERVICE HEAD NAMES KYRGYZ SPY SUSPECTS...
National Security Service (SNB) head Kalyk Imankulov told an 8 July news conference in Bishkek that six current and former officials have been charged with disclosing state secrets, akipress.org reported. One employee in the Transportation Ministry's courier service, an Interior Ministry official, a former Interior Ministry official, an entrepreneur, and a teacher were charged on 28 June; a Border Service official was charged on 3 July. The first group of suspects was arrested on 25 June; the Border Service official was arrested on 1 July. (News of the arrests first emerged on 2 July; see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2004.) Imankulov showed journalists a videotape with a statement by Kelsenbek Akimaliev, the Border Service official, who confessed to providing classified documents to members of parliament, Kyrgyzinfo reported. According to Imankulov, the documents played an important role in the scandal that broke out in January over listening devices in the offices of opposition parliamentarians. Imankulov noted that legislators' decision to publicize classified materials undermined a covert operation. He added that several legislators are now under investigation. He also said that the suspects acted out of financial interests, netting $60,000 in 2003. DK

...AND CONFIRMS FOILED TERROR PLOTS
Imankulov confirmed that the SNB stopped three attempts over the past year to carry out terrorist attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 July. Imankulov said that one group was detained, while two others were subjected to "measures of a precautionary nature." He was tight-lipped on further details, saying only, "I am not in favor of publicizing the results of our work, as this may negatively affect the situation." DK

...AND CONFIRMS FOILED TERROR PLOTS
Imankulov confirmed that the SNB stopped three attempts over the past year to carry out terrorist attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 July. Imankulov said that one group was detained, while two others were subjected to "measures of a precautionary nature." He was tight-lipped on further details, saying only, "I am not in favor of publicizing the results of our work, as this may negatively affect the situation." DK

KYRGYZ CIVIC UNION HEAD RULES OUT PRESIDENTIAL BID
Misir Ashyrkulov, former head of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council and now the leader of the "For Fair Elections" civic union, told a news conference in Bishkek on 8 July that he does not plan to run for the presidency of Kyrgyzstan in 2005, akipress.org reported. Nonetheless, he said that the civic union plans to propose amendments to the country's election law. On other issues, Ashirkulov said that he expects a court decision soon on the fate of jailed opposition leader Feliks Kulov. Ashirkulov, who survived a September 2002 grenade attack, told reporters that he has not ruled out the possibility of another attempt on his life. DK

KYRGYZ CIVIC UNION HEAD RULES OUT PRESIDENTIAL BID
Misir Ashyrkulov, former head of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council and now the leader of the "For Fair Elections" civic union, told a news conference in Bishkek on 8 July that he does not plan to run for the presidency of Kyrgyzstan in 2005, akipress.org reported. Nonetheless, he said that the civic union plans to propose amendments to the country's election law. On other issues, Ashirkulov said that he expects a court decision soon on the fate of jailed opposition leader Feliks Kulov. Ashirkulov, who survived a September 2002 grenade attack, told reporters that he has not ruled out the possibility of another attempt on his life. DK

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 8 July in Dushanbe with CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Their discussion focused on economic integration issues, as well as on the agenda for the 15-17 September CIS summit in Astana. Rushailo also met with Prime Minster Oqil Oqilov and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov. Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov told Avesta, "The talks took place in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. They discussed means of increasing the effectiveness of CIS institutions, creating new free trade [opportunities], developing trade ties between CIS countries, and stepping up the fight against terrorism, extremism, and drug smuggling." DK

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 8 July in Dushanbe with CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Their discussion focused on economic integration issues, as well as on the agenda for the 15-17 September CIS summit in Astana. Rushailo also met with Prime Minster Oqil Oqilov and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov. Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov told Avesta, "The talks took place in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. They discussed means of increasing the effectiveness of CIS institutions, creating new free trade [opportunities], developing trade ties between CIS countries, and stepping up the fight against terrorism, extremism, and drug smuggling." DK

TAJIK UPPER HOUSE PASSES MORATORIUM, ELECTION BILL
Tajikistan's upper chamber of parliament on 8 July passed a moratorium on the death penalty and a bill with changes to the country's election law, Tajik Television reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov proposed the death penalty moratorium in his 30 April annual address; the lower house passed it on 2 June. The lower house passed the new election bill on 16 June over the objections of opposition parties. On 1 July, "Ruzi Nav" published an appeal from five opposition parties to President Rakhmonov asking him to veto the election bill. DK

TAJIK UPPER HOUSE PASSES MORATORIUM, ELECTION BILL
Tajikistan's upper chamber of parliament on 8 July passed a moratorium on the death penalty and a bill with changes to the country's election law, Tajik Television reported. President Imomali Rakhmonov proposed the death penalty moratorium in his 30 April annual address; the lower house passed it on 2 June. The lower house passed the new election bill on 16 June over the objections of opposition parties. On 1 July, "Ruzi Nav" published an appeal from five opposition parties to President Rakhmonov asking him to veto the election bill. DK

FBI DISCUSSES COOPERATION WITH TAJIK COLLEAGUES
Jeffrey Iverson, the FBI's regional representative for Central Asia, met on 7 July in Dushanbe with officials from Tajikistan's Interior Ministry and security services, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The meeting with the Interior Ministry focused on cooperation in training matters, while talks with the security services covered the current status of the fight against terrorism and extremism in Tajikistan. DK

FBI DISCUSSES COOPERATION WITH TAJIK COLLEAGUES
Jeffrey Iverson, the FBI's regional representative for Central Asia, met on 7 July in Dushanbe with officials from Tajikistan's Interior Ministry and security services, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The meeting with the Interior Ministry focused on cooperation in training matters, while talks with the security services covered the current status of the fight against terrorism and extremism in Tajikistan. DK

UZBEKISTAN CREATES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
President Islam Karimov signed a decree on 7 July to create a Chamber of Commerce in Uzbekistan, UzA news agency reported the next day. A private noncommercial organization, the Chamber of Commerce will be formed from the existing Chamber of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs. Its tasks will include developing entrepreneurship, promoting Uzbek goods, and attracting foreign investment. DK

UZBEKISTAN CREATES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
President Islam Karimov signed a decree on 7 July to create a Chamber of Commerce in Uzbekistan, UzA news agency reported the next day. A private noncommercial organization, the Chamber of Commerce will be formed from the existing Chamber of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs. Its tasks will include developing entrepreneurship, promoting Uzbek goods, and attracting foreign investment. DK

BELARUSIAN LAWMAKERS SIGN DECLARATION WITH OSCE TO PROMOTE FAIR ELECTIONS...
The Belarusian delegation to a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Edinburgh on 8 July signed a joint declaration with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus expressing its intention to contribute to making the October parliamentary election in Belarus meet OSCE standards for free and fair elections, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. In particular, the Belarusian side agreed to give the opposition access to the state-controlled media. Uta Zapf, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, reportedly withdrew a strongly worded draft resolution condemning the antidemocratic practices of the Belarusian regime in order to find a compromise and sign the declaration. "It would be an exaggeration to say that I am optimistic [about the fulfillment of the declaration by Minsk]," Zapf told RFE/RL. "But I think that we should take advantage of any move, including when Belarusian parliamentarians take up the responsibility of guaranteeing elections in Belarus in line with OSCE standards." JM

BELARUSIAN LAWMAKERS SIGN DECLARATION WITH OSCE TO PROMOTE FAIR ELECTIONS...
The Belarusian delegation to a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Edinburgh on 8 July signed a joint declaration with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus expressing its intention to contribute to making the October parliamentary election in Belarus meet OSCE standards for free and fair elections, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. In particular, the Belarusian side agreed to give the opposition access to the state-controlled media. Uta Zapf, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, reportedly withdrew a strongly worded draft resolution condemning the antidemocratic practices of the Belarusian regime in order to find a compromise and sign the declaration. "It would be an exaggeration to say that I am optimistic [about the fulfillment of the declaration by Minsk]," Zapf told RFE/RL. "But I think that we should take advantage of any move, including when Belarusian parliamentarians take up the responsibility of guaranteeing elections in Belarus in line with OSCE standards." JM

...BUT OPPOSITION REMAINS SKEPTICAL
Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 8 July that the declaration signed in Edinburgh is "yet another move in the political game" conducted by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. "[For the regime] declaration on paper is one thing, while practice is another," Vyachorka said. "Hardly anything will change after the return of the official delegation from Edinburgh." United Civic Party deputy head Yaraslau Ramanchuk was no less skeptical about the signed declaration. "In the past 10 years Europeans have regretfully failed to understand Mr. Lukashenka and his attitude to political reforms in the country," Ramanchuk said. "When we saw how lawmakers voted down amendments to the Election Code, it became clear to us that there will be no improvement in the election situation. There are no legislative grounds for this." On 22 June, the Chamber of Representatives voted 71 to eight to reject liberalizing changes to the Election Code proposed by three dissident lawmakers who staged an 18-day hunger strike in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2004). JM

...BUT OPPOSITION REMAINS SKEPTICAL
Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 8 July that the declaration signed in Edinburgh is "yet another move in the political game" conducted by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. "[For the regime] declaration on paper is one thing, while practice is another," Vyachorka said. "Hardly anything will change after the return of the official delegation from Edinburgh." United Civic Party deputy head Yaraslau Ramanchuk was no less skeptical about the signed declaration. "In the past 10 years Europeans have regretfully failed to understand Mr. Lukashenka and his attitude to political reforms in the country," Ramanchuk said. "When we saw how lawmakers voted down amendments to the Election Code, it became clear to us that there will be no improvement in the election situation. There are no legislative grounds for this." On 22 June, the Chamber of Representatives voted 71 to eight to reject liberalizing changes to the Election Code proposed by three dissident lawmakers who staged an 18-day hunger strike in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2004). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES EU'S NEIGHBORHOOD POLICY
The Ukraine-EU summit in The Hague on 8 July has failed to produce any political or economic agreements regarding mutual ties, Ukrainian and international media reported. In particular, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende did not make any promises about when the EU may grant Ukraine a market-economy status, which is a key step for Kyiv on its path to membership of the World Trade Organization. Moreover, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the EU's European Neighborhood Policy does not suit Ukraine's interests and he refused to sign a prepared action plan for Ukraine within the policy's framework. Kuchma said in The Hague that the action plan should not be a simple systematization of the existing cooperation areas but should open up "realistic prospects for expanding four freedoms in Ukraine -- free movement of goods, services, capital, and people," Interfax reported. According to Kuchma, the action plan should include a list of specific measures to set up a free-trade zone between Ukraine and the EU, to gradually liberalize the visa process, to facilitate the employment and social protection of Ukrainian labor migrants, and to minimize the consequences of EU expansion in the areas of trade and the economy. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES EU'S NEIGHBORHOOD POLICY
The Ukraine-EU summit in The Hague on 8 July has failed to produce any political or economic agreements regarding mutual ties, Ukrainian and international media reported. In particular, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende did not make any promises about when the EU may grant Ukraine a market-economy status, which is a key step for Kyiv on its path to membership of the World Trade Organization. Moreover, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the EU's European Neighborhood Policy does not suit Ukraine's interests and he refused to sign a prepared action plan for Ukraine within the policy's framework. Kuchma said in The Hague that the action plan should not be a simple systematization of the existing cooperation areas but should open up "realistic prospects for expanding four freedoms in Ukraine -- free movement of goods, services, capital, and people," Interfax reported. According to Kuchma, the action plan should include a list of specific measures to set up a free-trade zone between Ukraine and the EU, to gradually liberalize the visa process, to facilitate the employment and social protection of Ukrainian labor migrants, and to minimize the consequences of EU expansion in the areas of trade and the economy. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROMISES FAIR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told "The Washington Times" on 9 July that the presidential election in Ukraine this fall will be free and fair and added that he hopes the ballot will open the door to a new relationship with the West. "I've said before I don't need elections at any price," Yanukovych said. "We need to strictly keep to Ukrainian laws. The government will monitor the election and create all conditions for observers to be convinced of what is being done in Ukraine." JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PROMISES FAIR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told "The Washington Times" on 9 July that the presidential election in Ukraine this fall will be free and fair and added that he hopes the ballot will open the door to a new relationship with the West. "I've said before I don't need elections at any price," Yanukovych said. "We need to strictly keep to Ukrainian laws. The government will monitor the election and create all conditions for observers to be convinced of what is being done in Ukraine." JM

MORE COMPETITORS JOIN UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The Central Election Commission has so far registered seven candidates for the 31 October presidential ballot, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 8 July. In addition to Viktor Yanukovych, Viktor Yushchenko, and Oleksandr Moroz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004), Petro Symonenko, Natalya Vitrenko, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy, and Oleksandr Bazylyuk have joined the presidential race. JM

MORE COMPETITORS JOIN UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The Central Election Commission has so far registered seven candidates for the 31 October presidential ballot, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 8 July. In addition to Viktor Yanukovych, Viktor Yushchenko, and Oleksandr Moroz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004), Petro Symonenko, Natalya Vitrenko, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy, and Oleksandr Bazylyuk have joined the presidential race. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES LAW PROLONGING BAN ON LAND SALES UNTIL 2007
President Kuchma has vetoed a law on prolonging the moratorium on land trading until 1 January 2007, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 8 July. Last month, the Verkhovna Rada made changes to the Land Code, prolonging the ban on the buying and selling of agricultural land for citizens and legal entities until 1 January 2007. In accordance with the current Land Code, the moratorium ends on 1 January 2005. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES LAW PROLONGING BAN ON LAND SALES UNTIL 2007
President Kuchma has vetoed a law on prolonging the moratorium on land trading until 1 January 2007, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 8 July. Last month, the Verkhovna Rada made changes to the Land Code, prolonging the ban on the buying and selling of agricultural land for citizens and legal entities until 1 January 2007. In accordance with the current Land Code, the moratorium ends on 1 January 2005. JM

KOSOVAR LEGISLATORS PRESS FORWARD WITH CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION
Members of Kosova's parliament representing the ethnic Albanian majority voted overwhelmingly on 8 July for a series of amendments to the Constitutional Framework, which was set down in 1999 by the UN Security Council, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see End Note, below, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). The parliament passed the measures despite a boycott by Serbian legislators and warnings by officials of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) that the legislature has no competence to deal with constitutional issues. Arsim Bajrami of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), who heads the legislature's Constitutional Affairs Committee, told the parliament that the amendments are but a first step toward passing a "good and compete constitution," which, he stressed, is what the citizens want. Sabri Hamiti of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) argued that the amendments are just one element in expanding the authority of Kosova's own elected institutions. Oliver Ivanovic, who is a legislator from the Serbian minority's Povratak (Return) coalition, cautioned that the vote could "threaten the already fragile stability and security" in Kosova, Reuters reported. In the wake of the March violence, many Kosovar Albanian leaders have stressed the need to transfer power from UNMIK to the elected authorities (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). PM

KOSOVAR LEGISLATORS PRESS FORWARD WITH CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION
Members of Kosova's parliament representing the ethnic Albanian majority voted overwhelmingly on 8 July for a series of amendments to the Constitutional Framework, which was set down in 1999 by the UN Security Council, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see End Note, below, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). The parliament passed the measures despite a boycott by Serbian legislators and warnings by officials of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) that the legislature has no competence to deal with constitutional issues. Arsim Bajrami of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), who heads the legislature's Constitutional Affairs Committee, told the parliament that the amendments are but a first step toward passing a "good and compete constitution," which, he stressed, is what the citizens want. Sabri Hamiti of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) argued that the amendments are just one element in expanding the authority of Kosova's own elected institutions. Oliver Ivanovic, who is a legislator from the Serbian minority's Povratak (Return) coalition, cautioned that the vote could "threaten the already fragile stability and security" in Kosova, Reuters reported. In the wake of the March violence, many Kosovar Albanian leaders have stressed the need to transfer power from UNMIK to the elected authorities (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April 2004). PM

CLASHES BETWEEN MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION CONTINUE
Police detained at least five people in Ohrid on 8 July following a second day of clashes between government forces and supporters of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), which objects to government-sponsored plans for redistricting and decentralization, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). PM

CLASHES BETWEEN MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION CONTINUE
Police detained at least five people in Ohrid on 8 July following a second day of clashes between government forces and supporters of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), which objects to government-sponsored plans for redistricting and decentralization, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). PM

MACEDONIA AND ISRAEL SIGN LANDMARK COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and Israeli Ambassador to Macedonia Jaffa Ben-Ari signed an agreement on cooperation in culture, education, and science in Skopje on 8 July, MIA news agency reported. The agency noted that this is the first international agreement signed under Macedonia's constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia. Under Greek pressure, most international institutions such as the UN and the EU have not recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name but as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Talks under the auspices of the UN in New York aimed at resolving the long-standing name dispute are deadlocked (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March and 8 April 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2003). UB

MACEDONIA AND ISRAEL SIGN LANDMARK COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and Israeli Ambassador to Macedonia Jaffa Ben-Ari signed an agreement on cooperation in culture, education, and science in Skopje on 8 July, MIA news agency reported. The agency noted that this is the first international agreement signed under Macedonia's constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia. Under Greek pressure, most international institutions such as the UN and the EU have not recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name but as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Talks under the auspices of the UN in New York aimed at resolving the long-standing name dispute are deadlocked (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March and 8 April 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2003). UB

ATTEMPT TO CATCH FORMER BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL FAILS
An unspecified number of SFOR peacekeepers searched the apartment of former Bosnian Serb General Dragan Lalovic in the Borik district of Banja Luka in the evening of 8 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. An SFOR spokesman later said that the peacekeepers did not detain anyone. Bosnian Serb police chief Radomir Njegus confirmed that Lalovic was the target of the search, which was aided by the Bosnian Serb police. Peacekeepers confiscated some documents and "spoke to" Lalovic's family but did not find him. He was relieved of his high-ranking post in 2003 when the United States and the EU put him on a list of persons ineligible for travel to those countries because of alleged links to networks supporting fugitive indicted war criminals. PM

ATTEMPT TO CATCH FORMER BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL FAILS
An unspecified number of SFOR peacekeepers searched the apartment of former Bosnian Serb General Dragan Lalovic in the Borik district of Banja Luka in the evening of 8 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. An SFOR spokesman later said that the peacekeepers did not detain anyone. Bosnian Serb police chief Radomir Njegus confirmed that Lalovic was the target of the search, which was aided by the Bosnian Serb police. Peacekeepers confiscated some documents and "spoke to" Lalovic's family but did not find him. He was relieved of his high-ranking post in 2003 when the United States and the EU put him on a list of persons ineligible for travel to those countries because of alleged links to networks supporting fugitive indicted war criminals. PM

FORMER CROATIAN GENERAL PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN THE HAGUE
Croatian General Mirko Norac pleaded not guilty on 8 July before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on charges related to the 1993 campaign in the Medak Pocket (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). He subsequently returned to his prison cell in Rijeka, where he is serving a 12-year sentence for war crimes. PM

FORMER CROATIAN GENERAL PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN THE HAGUE
Croatian General Mirko Norac pleaded not guilty on 8 July before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on charges related to the 1993 campaign in the Medak Pocket (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). He subsequently returned to his prison cell in Rijeka, where he is serving a 12-year sentence for war crimes. PM

CROATIA'S FIRST PRIVATE TELEVISION STATION SOLD
Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which was founded in 1994 by former U.S. diplomat and businessman Ronald Lauder, bought Zagreb-based TV Nova for $30 million on 8 July, Hina reported. Nova is Croatia's first private commercial broadcaster with a license to broadcast nationwide. CME already owns two television stations in Slovenia, three in Romania, and one each in Slovakia and Ukraine, with an estimated total of 70 million viewers, the news agency added. PM

CROATIA'S FIRST PRIVATE TELEVISION STATION SOLD
Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which was founded in 1994 by former U.S. diplomat and businessman Ronald Lauder, bought Zagreb-based TV Nova for $30 million on 8 July, Hina reported. Nova is Croatia's first private commercial broadcaster with a license to broadcast nationwide. CME already owns two television stations in Slovenia, three in Romania, and one each in Slovakia and Ukraine, with an estimated total of 70 million viewers, the news agency added. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER WITHDRAWS THREAT TO QUIT AS PSD CHIEF...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase confirmed on 8 July that he had considered resigning as chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), but said he has changed his mind after talks with "loyal party members," Mediafax and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). Nastase said the intention to quit as head of the party was prompted by the outcome of the June local elections. He said "radical changes" are needed in the PSD and he is confident he can implement them. "I shall go ahead with my mandate as prime minister and I shall soon make changes in the government team," Nastase said. He added that the PSD candidate for the November presidential election will be selected at an extraordinary party congress in August. Nastase also said that after 14 years of working side-by-side with President Ion Iliescu in the same party "it would be difficult to imagine a conflict leading to a major break" between them. But he admitted that there have been "differences concerning the government's performance" between himself and Iliescu. "We have clarified those differences point by point" in an earlier meeting on 8 July, Nastase said. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER WITHDRAWS THREAT TO QUIT AS PSD CHIEF...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase confirmed on 8 July that he had considered resigning as chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), but said he has changed his mind after talks with "loyal party members," Mediafax and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). Nastase said the intention to quit as head of the party was prompted by the outcome of the June local elections. He said "radical changes" are needed in the PSD and he is confident he can implement them. "I shall go ahead with my mandate as prime minister and I shall soon make changes in the government team," Nastase said. He added that the PSD candidate for the November presidential election will be selected at an extraordinary party congress in August. Nastase also said that after 14 years of working side-by-side with President Ion Iliescu in the same party "it would be difficult to imagine a conflict leading to a major break" between them. But he admitted that there have been "differences concerning the government's performance" between himself and Iliescu. "We have clarified those differences point by point" in an earlier meeting on 8 July, Nastase said. MS

...BUT OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS SHOWDOWN WITH ILIESCU HAS JUST BEEN POSTPONED
Bucharest Mayor and National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance co-Chairman Traian Basescu said on 8 July that Prime Minister Nastase has "played the game more intelligently" than did President Iliescu, Mediafax reported. According to Basescu, Nastase has brought about a "postponement of the political battle" between himself and Iliescu by making use of "the ultimate threat." Basescu said Nastase put Iliescu in a difficult position, as he was perfectly aware that there is no suitable candidate in the PSD who could succeed him at the head of the party at this particular time. Basescu also said that Nastase will "do his utmost" to avoid running for president, because he is aware that he would lose that race. The conflict between the prime minister and the president, Basescu said, will nonetheless continue because Iliescu "will not renounce his habit of devouring prime ministers," as shown by the 1991 precedent of former Prime Minister Petre Roman. MS

...BUT OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS SHOWDOWN WITH ILIESCU HAS JUST BEEN POSTPONED
Bucharest Mayor and National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance co-Chairman Traian Basescu said on 8 July that Prime Minister Nastase has "played the game more intelligently" than did President Iliescu, Mediafax reported. According to Basescu, Nastase has brought about a "postponement of the political battle" between himself and Iliescu by making use of "the ultimate threat." Basescu said Nastase put Iliescu in a difficult position, as he was perfectly aware that there is no suitable candidate in the PSD who could succeed him at the head of the party at this particular time. Basescu also said that Nastase will "do his utmost" to avoid running for president, because he is aware that he would lose that race. The conflict between the prime minister and the president, Basescu said, will nonetheless continue because Iliescu "will not renounce his habit of devouring prime ministers," as shown by the 1991 precedent of former Prime Minister Petre Roman. MS

TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS ROMANIA
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer met on 8 July with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu at the start of a two-day visit to Romania, Mediafax reported. Sezer brought with him the sword of Prince Stephen the Great, as Romania is marking 500 years since the death of the Moldavian ruler, who often fought the Ottoman Empire. The sword, captured by the Turks, is to be temporarily exhibited at Romania's National Art Museum, which is to be jointly inaugurated by Iliescu and Sezer on 9 July. The two presidents discussed the situation in Europe and the international situation, as well as bilateral, particularly economic, relations. MS

TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS ROMANIA
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer met on 8 July with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu at the start of a two-day visit to Romania, Mediafax reported. Sezer brought with him the sword of Prince Stephen the Great, as Romania is marking 500 years since the death of the Moldavian ruler, who often fought the Ottoman Empire. The sword, captured by the Turks, is to be temporarily exhibited at Romania's National Art Museum, which is to be jointly inaugurated by Iliescu and Sezer on 9 July. The two presidents discussed the situation in Europe and the international situation, as well as bilateral, particularly economic, relations. MS

ECHR RULES RUSSIA, MOLDOVA MUST COMPENSATE TIRASPOL PRISONERS
Heeding a 1999 complaint by the members of the "Ilascu group," the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled on 8 July that Russia and Moldova are responsible for the group members' detention by the Transdniester authorities and must pay compensation to them, Mediafax reported. The court also ruled that Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, the two members of the group who are still detained in Tiraspol, must be immediately freed. The court said that Russia is responsible for the detention because it has delivered military equipment and has politically supported the separatist regime, while Moldova, though not ruling de facto over the territory controlled by the separatists, is duty-bound to take measures ensuring that human rights are respected in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which it is a party. The court said the human rights of the group's members, who were detained in July 1992, have been seriously infringed by the Tiraspol authorities. It ruled that Ilie Ilascu, who had been sentenced to death by the separatists and is now a Romanian senator, is entitled to a compensation of 180,000 euros ($222,606) from Russia, and the other members of the group should receive 127,000 euros each. The court ordered Moldova to pay Ivantoc, Petrov-Popa, and Alexandru Lesco (who was released in June after serving his sentence) 63,000 euros. MS

ECHR RULES RUSSIA, MOLDOVA MUST COMPENSATE TIRASPOL PRISONERS
Heeding a 1999 complaint by the members of the "Ilascu group," the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled on 8 July that Russia and Moldova are responsible for the group members' detention by the Transdniester authorities and must pay compensation to them, Mediafax reported. The court also ruled that Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, the two members of the group who are still detained in Tiraspol, must be immediately freed. The court said that Russia is responsible for the detention because it has delivered military equipment and has politically supported the separatist regime, while Moldova, though not ruling de facto over the territory controlled by the separatists, is duty-bound to take measures ensuring that human rights are respected in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which it is a party. The court said the human rights of the group's members, who were detained in July 1992, have been seriously infringed by the Tiraspol authorities. It ruled that Ilie Ilascu, who had been sentenced to death by the separatists and is now a Romanian senator, is entitled to a compensation of 180,000 euros ($222,606) from Russia, and the other members of the group should receive 127,000 euros each. The court ordered Moldova to pay Ivantoc, Petrov-Popa, and Alexandru Lesco (who was released in June after serving his sentence) 63,000 euros. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER ATTACKS OPPOSITION PARLIAMENTARIAN
Victor Stepaniuc, chairman of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group, physically assaulted opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu on 8 July, Flux reported. The incident took place in the corridors of the parliament, after Secareanu reiterated in the plenum allegations that Stepaniuc was involved in corruption. Secareanu said he is considering suing Stepaniuc. MS

MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER ATTACKS OPPOSITION PARLIAMENTARIAN
Victor Stepaniuc, chairman of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group, physically assaulted opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu on 8 July, Flux reported. The incident took place in the corridors of the parliament, after Secareanu reiterated in the plenum allegations that Stepaniuc was involved in corruption. Secareanu said he is considering suing Stepaniuc. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS PCM HAS 'NO WORTHY RIVALS IN 2005 ELECTIONS
President Vladimir Voronin on 7 July told journalists that his PCM would like to have really worthy rivals in the 2005 parliamentary elections, but no opposition political party meets these expectations, Infotag reported. "The PCM embarked on preparing the 2005 elections right after its 2001 victory, and we [therefore] are ready to start electoral campaigning at any moment. Those who are beginning to prepare only now are lagging behind some 3 1/2 years," he said. Voronin added that a genuine political party must promote its views both in the country's capital and in other localities and seek to recruit supporters everywhere. The opposition concentrates its effort only in Chisinau, where it can be sure of publicity and TV coverage, he said. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS PCM HAS 'NO WORTHY RIVALS IN 2005 ELECTIONS
President Vladimir Voronin on 7 July told journalists that his PCM would like to have really worthy rivals in the 2005 parliamentary elections, but no opposition political party meets these expectations, Infotag reported. "The PCM embarked on preparing the 2005 elections right after its 2001 victory, and we [therefore] are ready to start electoral campaigning at any moment. Those who are beginning to prepare only now are lagging behind some 3 1/2 years," he said. Voronin added that a genuine political party must promote its views both in the country's capital and in other localities and seek to recruit supporters everywhere. The opposition concentrates its effort only in Chisinau, where it can be sure of publicity and TV coverage, he said. MS

KOSOVA'S PARLIAMENT SET TO CHALLENGE UN'S AUTHORITY
Kosova's parliament voted on 8 July to adopt several constitutional changes, including one establishing the right to hold a referendum on independence. Other approved measures call for switching responsibility for international relations and public security from the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) to Kosova's own officials.

UNMIK has repeatedly warned the parliament that it is not competent to make changes to the Constitutional Framework. Only the UN Security Council, which adopted Resolution 1244 in 1999, has the authority to make such changes, UNMIK stresses. One unnamed international official called the parliament's vote a waste of time.

But in the wake of the ethnically motivated unrest in March, many political leaders in Kosova have called for speeding up the transfer of authority from UNMIK to Kosovar officials. In a well-publicized editorial, publisher Veton Surroi suggested in the 17 June issue of "Koha Ditore" that the next head of the international administration would do well not to bring any grand plan along. Instead, he should simply let the elected Kosovar officials get on with governing, intervening only when absolutely necessary.

In fact, many Kosovars argue that the violence showed that the province is a time bomb waiting to explode so long as the status issue remains unresolved. They stress that time has come to end what is essentially a colonial administration in a postcolonial world, moving toward independence based on self-determination and majority rule, as has been the standard in the post-1945 process of decolonization.

These and other scenarios regarding Kosova were discussed on 17 and 18 June at an off-the-record conference in Berlin sponsored by the German Foreign Ministry, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the Munich-based Center for Applied Policy Research, titled "Rethinking the Balkans."

Many of the Western participants at that gathering stressed that the Kosovars must first meet internationally mandated standards before there can be movement toward clarifying Kosova's final status.

Serbian participants, for their part, were generally keen to note the importance of all minority rights, including freedom of movement and the right of all refugees and displaced persons to go home. Several Serbs stressed that they will measure the Albanians' sincerity by the extent to which they protect the Serbs' rights, adding that few Serbs are optimistic on this score following the March violence.

Instead, many Serbs argued for some form of administrative partition. One Serb said that dividing Bosnia into two ethnically based entities in 1995 might not have been a perfect solution, but it has worked. Besides, he wondered, how can one charge that Bosnia is a weak state when it has the might of the international community behind it?

Some of the Kosovar Albanian participants took the opposite approach, arguing that one reason for the frustration that led to the March violence was the tendency of UNMIK to try to build a multiethnic society on the basis of ethnic divisions. Instead, Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that Kosova needs a solution resembling Macedonia's 2001 Ohrid agreement, which would reconstruct Kosova on the civic principle rather than on an ethnic basis. This, Thaci continued, would mean an end to enclaves and parallel structures by treating Kosova as a single country. Serbs would have the right to dual Serbian and Kosovar citizenship and to contacts with Serbia. Their cultural and historical monuments would be protected, Thaci stressed.

But at least some of the Westerners at the Berlin conference called for recasting rather than ending the foreign administration in Kosova. Some participants close to Germany's opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) repeated their party's call for replacing UNMIK with an EU administration, while maintaining NATO's security presence.

One FDP member of the German parliament told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that the EU is more knowledgeable about Kosova's affairs than are many international officials from Africa or Asia, adding that the EU is in the best position to offer the Kosovars incentives to meet the necessary standards. When asked what the EU would do if the Kosovar Albanian majority wanted a political as well as a military role for the United States, the FDP legislator replied, "We'll see."

For their part, many Serbian participants eagerly leaned forward in their seats when the subject of EU rule in Kosova was raised.

But the Kosovar Albanians tended to be skeptical, sensing that the project is more an attempt by some in the EU to show that Brussels can solve Balkan problems than something that will truly benefit Kosova. One Kosovar remarked that it seems strange that foreigners want to leave Iraq at the first sign of violence, but when unrest breaks out in Kosova, some foreigners seem more intent on staying than they were before.

KOSOVA'S PARLIAMENT SET TO CHALLENGE UN'S AUTHORITY
Kosova's parliament voted on 8 July to adopt several constitutional changes, including one establishing the right to hold a referendum on independence. Other approved measures call for switching responsibility for international relations and public security from the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) to Kosova's own officials.

UNMIK has repeatedly warned the parliament that it is not competent to make changes to the Constitutional Framework. Only the UN Security Council, which adopted Resolution 1244 in 1999, has the authority to make such changes, UNMIK stresses. One unnamed international official called the parliament's vote a waste of time.

But in the wake of the ethnically motivated unrest in March, many political leaders in Kosova have called for speeding up the transfer of authority from UNMIK to Kosovar officials. In a well-publicized editorial, publisher Veton Surroi suggested in the 17 June issue of "Koha Ditore" that the next head of the international administration would do well not to bring any grand plan along. Instead, he should simply let the elected Kosovar officials get on with governing, intervening only when absolutely necessary.

In fact, many Kosovars argue that the violence showed that the province is a time bomb waiting to explode so long as the status issue remains unresolved. They stress that time has come to end what is essentially a colonial administration in a postcolonial world, moving toward independence based on self-determination and majority rule, as has been the standard in the post-1945 process of decolonization.

These and other scenarios regarding Kosova were discussed on 17 and 18 June at an off-the-record conference in Berlin sponsored by the German Foreign Ministry, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the Munich-based Center for Applied Policy Research, titled "Rethinking the Balkans."

Many of the Western participants at that gathering stressed that the Kosovars must first meet internationally mandated standards before there can be movement toward clarifying Kosova's final status.

Serbian participants, for their part, were generally keen to note the importance of all minority rights, including freedom of movement and the right of all refugees and displaced persons to go home. Several Serbs stressed that they will measure the Albanians' sincerity by the extent to which they protect the Serbs' rights, adding that few Serbs are optimistic on this score following the March violence.

Instead, many Serbs argued for some form of administrative partition. One Serb said that dividing Bosnia into two ethnically based entities in 1995 might not have been a perfect solution, but it has worked. Besides, he wondered, how can one charge that Bosnia is a weak state when it has the might of the international community behind it?

Some of the Kosovar Albanian participants took the opposite approach, arguing that one reason for the frustration that led to the March violence was the tendency of UNMIK to try to build a multiethnic society on the basis of ethnic divisions. Instead, Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that Kosova needs a solution resembling Macedonia's 2001 Ohrid agreement, which would reconstruct Kosova on the civic principle rather than on an ethnic basis. This, Thaci continued, would mean an end to enclaves and parallel structures by treating Kosova as a single country. Serbs would have the right to dual Serbian and Kosovar citizenship and to contacts with Serbia. Their cultural and historical monuments would be protected, Thaci stressed.

But at least some of the Westerners at the Berlin conference called for recasting rather than ending the foreign administration in Kosova. Some participants close to Germany's opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) repeated their party's call for replacing UNMIK with an EU administration, while maintaining NATO's security presence.

One FDP member of the German parliament told "RFE/RL Balkan Report" on the margins of the conference that the EU is more knowledgeable about Kosova's affairs than are many international officials from Africa or Asia, adding that the EU is in the best position to offer the Kosovars incentives to meet the necessary standards. When asked what the EU would do if the Kosovar Albanian majority wanted a political as well as a military role for the United States, the FDP legislator replied, "We'll see."

For their part, many Serbian participants eagerly leaned forward in their seats when the subject of EU rule in Kosova was raised.

But the Kosovar Albanians tended to be skeptical, sensing that the project is more an attempt by some in the EU to show that Brussels can solve Balkan problems than something that will truly benefit Kosova. One Kosovar remarked that it seems strange that foreigners want to leave Iraq at the first sign of violence, but when unrest breaks out in Kosova, some foreigners seem more intent on staying than they were before.

THREE AMERICANS ARRESTED IN AFGHANISTAN FOR LINKS TO VIGILANTE GROUP
Afghan forces arrested three U.S. citizens in Kabul on 5 July for allegedly forming a private "vigilante group" that sought to hunt down terrorists and capture them, AP and AFP reported on 8 July. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the men were posing as U.S. military officials and/or agents in Afghanistan, but that the men were not employees of the U.S. government. In fact, the U.S.-led coalition forces issued a press release earlier this week warning of at least one of the individual's activities. Two of the men were identified as Jonathan Idema, the alleged ringleader, and Brent Bennett. "Let me make clear, first of all, the U.S. government does not employ or sponsor these men," Boucher told reporters. In addition to hunting down terrorists, the men were also allegedly illegally holding eight locals in a private jail as part of their personal war against terror, AFP reported. When the group's house was raided, Afghan forces found prisoners hanging by their feet, according to AP. Four Afghans were also taken into custody during the raid. KM

THREE AMERICANS ARRESTED IN AFGHANISTAN FOR LINKS TO VIGILANTE GROUP
Afghan forces arrested three U.S. citizens in Kabul on 5 July for allegedly forming a private "vigilante group" that sought to hunt down terrorists and capture them, AP and AFP reported on 8 July. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the men were posing as U.S. military officials and/or agents in Afghanistan, but that the men were not employees of the U.S. government. In fact, the U.S.-led coalition forces issued a press release earlier this week warning of at least one of the individual's activities. Two of the men were identified as Jonathan Idema, the alleged ringleader, and Brent Bennett. "Let me make clear, first of all, the U.S. government does not employ or sponsor these men," Boucher told reporters. In addition to hunting down terrorists, the men were also allegedly illegally holding eight locals in a private jail as part of their personal war against terror, AFP reported. When the group's house was raided, Afghan forces found prisoners hanging by their feet, according to AP. Four Afghans were also taken into custody during the raid. KM

U.K. GIVES 100 MILLION POUNDS FOR DRUG ERADICATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The United Kingdom is funding a 100 million-pound ($185 million) campaign "to combat the explosion in the drugs trade in Afghanistan, which is fuelling violence and anarchy," the British daily "The Independent" reported on 9 July. Moreover, the British government has pushed to increase the role of international peacekeeping troops in drug-eradication efforts in the country, according to the daily. It has also encouraged "'high-profile' arrests of warlords and members of the administration of [Transitional Administration Chairman] Hamid Karzai who are involved in the trade," according to "The Independent." Along with this new policy commitment, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has increased aid to Afghanistan from 200 million pounds to 500 million pounds over five years, and it is considering sending additional troops to help quell insecurity and violence. KM

U.K. GIVES 100 MILLION POUNDS FOR DRUG ERADICATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The United Kingdom is funding a 100 million-pound ($185 million) campaign "to combat the explosion in the drugs trade in Afghanistan, which is fuelling violence and anarchy," the British daily "The Independent" reported on 9 July. Moreover, the British government has pushed to increase the role of international peacekeeping troops in drug-eradication efforts in the country, according to the daily. It has also encouraged "'high-profile' arrests of warlords and members of the administration of [Transitional Administration Chairman] Hamid Karzai who are involved in the trade," according to "The Independent." Along with this new policy commitment, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has increased aid to Afghanistan from 200 million pounds to 500 million pounds over five years, and it is considering sending additional troops to help quell insecurity and violence. KM

AFGHAN LEADER STRESSES NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY IN AID DISTRIBUTION
"One of the basic responsibilities of a responsible government is to be accountable before the people," Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA) Chairman Karzai said in a speech to the Afghan people broadcast on Radio Afghanistan on 8 July. "A government that considers itself responsible and accountable before the people always gives reports and presents all the records of the disbursement and flow of funds to people in a completely transparent manner," Karzai continued. An effort to institute transparency and accountability is likely to be welcomed by international donors and organizations that have raised concern about corruption and impropriety on the part of the ATA. "Dear countrymen," Karzai said, "every infrastructure in Afghanistan is in the process of rehabilitation, and we need financial resources and facilities to fund all these activities. We need foreign assistance to fund all of our projects, which are currently being implemented." Karzai spoke against the misuse or wasting of aid funding, and he added that Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has recently submitted "a detailed report to the media about foreign assistance, and how the money was disbursed." KM

AFGHAN LEADER STRESSES NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY IN AID DISTRIBUTION
"One of the basic responsibilities of a responsible government is to be accountable before the people," Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA) Chairman Karzai said in a speech to the Afghan people broadcast on Radio Afghanistan on 8 July. "A government that considers itself responsible and accountable before the people always gives reports and presents all the records of the disbursement and flow of funds to people in a completely transparent manner," Karzai continued. An effort to institute transparency and accountability is likely to be welcomed by international donors and organizations that have raised concern about corruption and impropriety on the part of the ATA. "Dear countrymen," Karzai said, "every infrastructure in Afghanistan is in the process of rehabilitation, and we need financial resources and facilities to fund all these activities. We need foreign assistance to fund all of our projects, which are currently being implemented." Karzai spoke against the misuse or wasting of aid funding, and he added that Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has recently submitted "a detailed report to the media about foreign assistance, and how the money was disbursed." KM

MORE VOTERS REGISTERED IN PANJSHER PROVINCE
Approximately 500 residents of Hesa-e Awali District in northern Panjsher Province received voting cards at various voter-registration centers located in the district, state-run Afghanistan Television reported on 8 July. Commenting on the successful registration drive in his province, Panjsher Governor Mohammad Wasel said: "People, including men and women, came here to receive voting cards. The process is continuing. I can tell you that some 80,000 people in Panjsher have received voting cards." This report from Panjsher is likely to be welcomed by international observers and election monitors, as speculation has increased recently that the upcoming Afghan parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in September this year, are now to be delayed a second time. Still, millions of voters remain to be registered throughout the country. KM

MORE VOTERS REGISTERED IN PANJSHER PROVINCE
Approximately 500 residents of Hesa-e Awali District in northern Panjsher Province received voting cards at various voter-registration centers located in the district, state-run Afghanistan Television reported on 8 July. Commenting on the successful registration drive in his province, Panjsher Governor Mohammad Wasel said: "People, including men and women, came here to receive voting cards. The process is continuing. I can tell you that some 80,000 people in Panjsher have received voting cards." This report from Panjsher is likely to be welcomed by international observers and election monitors, as speculation has increased recently that the upcoming Afghan parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in September this year, are now to be delayed a second time. Still, millions of voters remain to be registered throughout the country. KM

IRANIAN LEGISLATURE BEGINS DISCUSSIONS ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT
The Foreign Policy Subcommittee of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee met with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani on 6 July to discuss the nuclear issue, "Sharq" reported on 7 July. Afterwards, the subcommittee approved a plan to resume the enrichment of uranium. Kharrazi subsequently told reporters that Tehran, London, Paris, and Berlin would resume talks on the nuclear issue around 21 July, "Sharq" reported. Kharrazi emphasized that Iran will not forsake the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, adding, "What has been done so far has been done purely in order to win their [the Europeans] trust." Kharrazi explained: "First of all, the government has not given up the enrichment of uranium. If during this period the government has suspended it, it has been in order to win their trust. Otherwise, from the start we have been intent on making use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes." BS

IRANIAN LEGISLATURE BEGINS DISCUSSIONS ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT
The Foreign Policy Subcommittee of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee met with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani on 6 July to discuss the nuclear issue, "Sharq" reported on 7 July. Afterwards, the subcommittee approved a plan to resume the enrichment of uranium. Kharrazi subsequently told reporters that Tehran, London, Paris, and Berlin would resume talks on the nuclear issue around 21 July, "Sharq" reported. Kharrazi emphasized that Iran will not forsake the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, adding, "What has been done so far has been done purely in order to win their [the Europeans] trust." Kharrazi explained: "First of all, the government has not given up the enrichment of uranium. If during this period the government has suspended it, it has been in order to win their trust. Otherwise, from the start we have been intent on making use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes." BS

HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORS SPEAK OUT FOR IRANIAN STUDENTS
On 7 July, Amnesty International called on the Iranian judiciary to review the cases of individuals tried in connection with the July 1999 student unrest (known as 18 Tir). Amnesty International also called for an inquiry into prisoners' allegations of torture, and it cited letters from the imprisoned Akbar Mohammadi and Ahmad Batebi. On 8 July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) took a stronger tack, calling on the Iranian government to "immediately release all student detainees still imprisoned for peaceful dissent." HRW said that an unknown number of the students are still imprisoned, and it referred to an earlier report on the physical and psychological abuse of political detainees (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 June 2004). In addition to Batebi and Mohammadi, HRW referred to Abbas Fakhravar, Manuchehr Mohammadi (Akbar's brother), and Mehrdad Lahrasbi. BS

HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORS SPEAK OUT FOR IRANIAN STUDENTS
On 7 July, Amnesty International called on the Iranian judiciary to review the cases of individuals tried in connection with the July 1999 student unrest (known as 18 Tir). Amnesty International also called for an inquiry into prisoners' allegations of torture, and it cited letters from the imprisoned Akbar Mohammadi and Ahmad Batebi. On 8 July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) took a stronger tack, calling on the Iranian government to "immediately release all student detainees still imprisoned for peaceful dissent." HRW said that an unknown number of the students are still imprisoned, and it referred to an earlier report on the physical and psychological abuse of political detainees (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 June 2004). In addition to Batebi and Mohammadi, HRW referred to Abbas Fakhravar, Manuchehr Mohammadi (Akbar's brother), and Mehrdad Lahrasbi. BS

IRAQI POLL FINDS SUPPORT FOR AL-DA'WAH
In a poll conducted at the end of June by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, 16.5 percent of Iraqis said they will vote for Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Al-Da'wah al-Islamiya party as president, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 July. Al-Da'wah is a predominantly Shi'a organization with a long history of opposition to the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. Other candidates who fared well in the poll were Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani (6.6 percent), former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi (4.8 percent); President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and former President Saddam Hussein all polled around 2 percent. The "Financial Times" ascribed al-Jaafari's popularity to the fact that he is a Shi'a Muslim and to "popular nostalgia" for Al-Da'wah. BS

IRAQI POLL FINDS SUPPORT FOR AL-DA'WAH
In a poll conducted at the end of June by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, 16.5 percent of Iraqis said they will vote for Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Al-Da'wah al-Islamiya party as president, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 July. Al-Da'wah is a predominantly Shi'a organization with a long history of opposition to the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. Other candidates who fared well in the poll were Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani (6.6 percent), former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi (4.8 percent); President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and former President Saddam Hussein all polled around 2 percent. The "Financial Times" ascribed al-Jaafari's popularity to the fact that he is a Shi'a Muslim and to "popular nostalgia" for Al-Da'wah. BS

IRAQI BORDERS STILL POROUS
The "Kurdistani Nuwe" newspaper reported on 8 July that 60,000 people have crossed the Iranian border into Iraq over the last seven months. Diyala Governorate border guards commander Nazim Haji Sharif said: "Most of those who infiltrated and who were arrested by our force are Iranians, Pakistanis, and Afghans, who will be sent to a special court." There have been frequent allegations that foreign fighters are entering Iraq from Iran and Syria (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 July 2004). BS

IRAQI BORDERS STILL POROUS
The "Kurdistani Nuwe" newspaper reported on 8 July that 60,000 people have crossed the Iranian border into Iraq over the last seven months. Diyala Governorate border guards commander Nazim Haji Sharif said: "Most of those who infiltrated and who were arrested by our force are Iranians, Pakistanis, and Afghans, who will be sent to a special court." There have been frequent allegations that foreign fighters are entering Iraq from Iran and Syria (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 July 2004). BS

GROUP THREATENS TO KILL HUSSEIN'S DEFENDERS
A group calling itself "Seifullah" has announced in a videotape that it will kill any Iraqi lawyer who defends former President Saddam Hussein in court, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on 8 July, citing Radio Sawa. Hussein appeared in court on 1 July for his arraignment on charges of crimes against humanity. His defense team has said from Jordan that it will go to Baghdad despite being threatened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 July 2004). BS

GROUP THREATENS TO KILL HUSSEIN'S DEFENDERS
A group calling itself "Seifullah" has announced in a videotape that it will kill any Iraqi lawyer who defends former President Saddam Hussein in court, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on 8 July, citing Radio Sawa. Hussein appeared in court on 1 July for his arraignment on charges of crimes against humanity. His defense team has said from Jordan that it will go to Baghdad despite being threatened (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 July 2004). BS

MISSING U.S. MARINE REAPPEARS IN LEBANON
Lebanese-born Marine Corporal Hassoun Wassef Ali, who disappeared from his base in Iraq in late June, appeared with his relatives at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on 8 July, "The New York Times" reported the next day. It is not clear if he was kidnapped, deserted, or staged a hoax. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency are investigating the case. Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General David Rodriguez said: "The investigation is ongoing, and we don't know how he got there or what went on between the time that he was reported missing from his unit until he got to Lebanon." A group calling itself the Movement of Islamic Retribution, the Security Wing of the National Islamic Resistance, which is an offshoot of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to behead him. There were contradictory reports on whether or not the decapitation took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004). BS

MISSING U.S. MARINE REAPPEARS IN LEBANON
Lebanese-born Marine Corporal Hassoun Wassef Ali, who disappeared from his base in Iraq in late June, appeared with his relatives at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on 8 July, "The New York Times" reported the next day. It is not clear if he was kidnapped, deserted, or staged a hoax. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency are investigating the case. Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General David Rodriguez said: "The investigation is ongoing, and we don't know how he got there or what went on between the time that he was reported missing from his unit until he got to Lebanon." A group calling itself the Movement of Islamic Retribution, the Security Wing of the National Islamic Resistance, which is an offshoot of the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to behead him. There were contradictory reports on whether or not the decapitation took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004). BS

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