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Newsline - July 14, 2004


PUTIN RESHUFFLES RUSSIAN DIPLOMATIC CORPS
The restructuring of the Foreign Ministry announced by President Vladimir Putin on 12 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004) has led to the elimination of several top positions in the ministry, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 13 July. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin will now be Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's only first deputy. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who served as a first deputy minister, has been named the new ambassador to India. Eleonora Mitrofanova will leave her first-deputy ministerial position to head the Foreign Ministry's Agency for Relations With Russians Abroad. Andrei Denisov, who was a deputy minister, will head Russia's Mission to the United Nations. Sergei Razov will leave his position as deputy minister to become ambassador to China. Deputy Minister and special presidential adviser on Caspian affairs Viktor Kalyuzhnyi has been named the new ambassador to Latvia. Former Energy Minister Igor Yusufov has been tasked with overseeing energy policy abroad, with the rank of special envoy. The position of special presidential envoy for integration with the CIS will be added to Industry and Energy Minster Viktor Khristenko's duties. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER BLAMES GEORGIA FOR DISPUTE OVER SOUTH OSSETIA...
Sergei Ivanov said on the last day of his three-day trip to Britain on 13 July that the situation in South Ossetia "became explosive when Georgia failed to keep its obligation concerning peacekeeping in the conflict zone," RTR reported. According to an agreement signed by all sides in 1992, Russia, Georgia, and South Ossetia may each deploy 500 peacekeepers in the conflict zone, but Georgia alone has more than 3,000 servicemen in the area, according to Ivanov. This, he said, "provoked an understandable reaction from South Ossetia," which began to arm itself and mobilize its forces. VY

...AS FOREIGN MINISTER EXPRESSES HIS BEWILDERMENT AT GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S STANCE
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 13 July that Russia considers recent statements by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili "bewildering and unacceptable," Interfax reported. At the height of tensions over the weekend, Saakashvili on 10 July told graduates of Georgia's Defense Ministry academy in an apparent reference to Russia that they should be prepared to fight "foreign invaders" who are helping South Ossetia. "If they want to come to Georgia and spill blood, then let them come," Saakashvili was quoted as saying. Yakovenko responded by saying that Russia is making every effort to resolve the dispute peacefully (see also Transcaucasus section below). VY

MOTHERLAND FACES POSSIBLE SPLIT...
Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin on 12 July left the Motherland party headed by Duma Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin, "Gazeta" reported on 13 July. Baburin said that he disagreed with Rogozin's efforts to transform Motherland from a bloc of parties into a single party with one leader. "[Rogozin] is trying to control everything himself," Baburin told the daily. "He has privatized the Motherland brand." Baburin told "Gazeta" that he and Rogozin were summoned to the presidential administration on 11 July and that the Kremlin attempted to reconcile them. Baburin also said that he is negotiating with People's Party leader Gennadii Gudkov about the possible creation of a new left-center coalition. Gudkov confirmed that such talks are taking place. Center for Political Technologies analyst Aleksei Makarkin told the daily that the formation of a new left-center bloc could take away enough support from Motherland to prevent it from obtaining the 7 percent of the vote necessary to win party-list seats in the next Duma. Motherland received about 9 percent in the December 2003 Duma elections. RC

...AS COMMUNISTS KICK OUT COLORFUL NATIONALIST
Retired Lieutenant General and radical nationalist leader Albert Makashov has been removed from the Samara Oblast Communist Party Committee for his sharp criticism of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the run-up to the 3 July party congress, "Gazeta" reported on 13 July. Makashov participated in an alternative party congress that elected Ivanov Oblast Governor Vladimir Tikhonov as its leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2004). The Justice Ministry has not yet ruled which congress was legitimate, and a Justice Ministry official told "Russkii kurer" on 13 July that the ministry has not yet received official documentation from either congress. RC

IS THE LEFT OPPOSITION BEING RADICALIZED?
The National-Bolshevik Party of Russia (NBPR), headed by radical writer Eduard Limonov, has issued a statement saying that it intends to occupy the niche being created by the collapse of the Communist Party, "Russkii kurer" reported on 13 July. "Parliamentary politics is over," Limonov told the paper. "The State Duma is completely controlled. Now the broken Communists must begin to struggle on the streets. But for that, they don't have the people, the tactics, or the ability. We have all that." "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 27, hypothesized that the Kremlin is behind the split of the Communist Party and is backing Tikhonov's bid to head the party. The magazine wrote that by removing all legal legitimacy from Zyuganov and his supporters, the Kremlin risks pushing them to move "from parliamentary forms of struggle to the streets." "Kommersant-Vlast" noted that during his speech to delegates at the 3 July party congress, Zyuganov described the party repeatedly as "revolutionary" and called on delegates to take their example from the anti-globalization movement. The magazine reported that local Communists in Karelia have formed a joint Red Youth Front with the local NBPR branch. "We need to change the methods of our political struggle," local Communist official Aleksandr Merkushev was quoted as saying. RC

FIFTH-PLACE FINISHER PROMOTED TO SECOND ROUND IN VLADIVOSTOK
The Vladivostok City Election Commission on 14 July confirmed Primorskii Krai legislature Deputy Nikolai Markovtsev as a candidate in the 18 July second round of the city's mayoral election, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported. Markovtsev, who came in fifth place in the first round, was named after second-place finisher State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov (independent) was disqualified from the ballot by a local court and after third-place candidate Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov and fourth-place finisher krai legislator Aleksandr Peredni withdrew their candidacies in protest, RIA-Novosti reported. Local businessman Vladimir Nikolaev, who is supported by Unified Russia and who has been labeled an underworld figure in the media, came in first in the 4 July first round (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004). Cherepkov, who was seriously injured in an apparent assassination attempt on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004), is appealing his disqualification. RC

PUTIN CALLS FOR PETERSBURG-KALININGRAD FERRY
President Putin on 13 July asked the administration of the Northwest Federal District to create a passenger-ferry service between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, Interfax reported. He also asked the border-guard service to ensure that passengers using the new service would be able to do so with the minimum of documentation. "Until now, people going to Kaliningrad have had to go through the same procedures as those going abroad," Putin said. "[Officials] have pledged that that system will be changed in the near future." RC

ORT FINED FOR ADVERTISING-LAW VIOLATIONS
The Federal Antimonopoly Service has levied a 40,000-ruble ($1,333) fine against state-controlled ORT for several violations of the law on advertising, newsru.com and other Russian media reported on 14 July. The service ruled that the station interrupted a 44-minute boxing broadcast with commercials eight times and that the volume of some of the advertisements was louder than that of the program being broadcast. It also cited the station for advertising the same product more than two times in one hour. RC

ACTING CHECHEN HEAD ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Former Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov escaped uninjured on 13 July when Chechen militants detonated a radio-controlled land mine as he drove through Grozny, Russian news agencies reported. Abramov's armored Volga limousine was undamaged, but one of his bodyguards was killed and a second bodyguard and Abramov's aide Andrei Aleksintsev, who were traveling in a following car, were seriously injured. Abramov was returning from an inspection of buildings under reconstruction. Abramov is temporarily serving as acting republic head pending the 29 August ballot to elect a successor to Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was killed in a terrorist bombing two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2004). LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DECRIES EFFORTS TO FORCE 'RECONCILIATION' WITH 'TERRORISTS'
Speaking on 13 July at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Defense Minister Ivanov reiterated that Moscow will never embark on talks with Chechen "terrorists and bandits," Interfax reported. He accused unidentified European countries of pressuring Russia to begin such talks even though they have declared their support for the fight against international terrorism, and of granting shelter to "international terrorists fleeing justice." Britain granted political asylum last year to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakaev. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA PLEDGE TO EXPAND COOPERATION
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, during talks in Moscow on 13 July with his visiting Armenian counterpart, Andranik Markarian, said that even though trade turnover between the two countries has increased over the past year by 30 percent to top $200 million, the limits to economic cooperation have not yet been reached, Russian agencies reported. Fradkov also assessed as "not bad" the prospects for expanding bilateral military-technical cooperation, noting that the first session of a joint commission to promote such cooperation will take place in September or October. Such cooperation will center on modernizing equipment Russia previously supplied to Armenia, Fradkov said. LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS VISIT NAGORNO-KARABAKH
The French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met in Stepanakert on 13 July with Arkadii Ghukasian and Ashot Ghulian, who are respectively president and foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, to discuss approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. Ghulian argued, as Karabakh officials have done consistently, that representatives of the unrecognized republic should be present at talks between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on resolving the conflict. The co-chairmen also met with representatives of public organizations, just as they had done two days earlier in Yerevan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004). LF

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARIES MEET...
Gela Bezhuashvili and Igor Ivanov met in Moscow on 13 July to discuss the tensions in bilateral relations resulting from the continuing standoff between the central Georgian government and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Ivanov said after the talks that the recourse to military force is not in the interest of either side, ITAR-TASS reported. He also warned that the current tensions could delay the ongoing talks on a framework treaty on Russian-Georgian relations, Caucasus Press reported. Bezhuashvili for his part said that he does not consider that the conflict with South Ossetia has reached deadlock, and that it can be solved "if Russia adopts a constructive approach," Interfax reported. Bezhuashvili said he will unveil at a meeting on 14 July of the Joint Control Commission, which is tasked with monitoring the situation in the conflict zone, specific proposals for resolving the conflict. At the same time, he also warned that Georgia will not permit "mercenaries and militants" to enter South Ossetia. LF

...BUT FAIL TO DISCUSS PEACEKEEPERS
At their talks on 13 July, Ivanov and Bezhuashvili did not address Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's demand that the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping contingent currently deployed in South Ossetia be changed, Ivanov told journalists. But Ivanov expressed the hope that the peacekeepers will remain as they "have helped to prevent a serious conflict." In Tskhinvali, South Ossetian President Eduard Koikoity said that only Russia can guarantee peace and stability in the conflict zone as other countries, and also the OSCE, have shown "an extremely biased approach," Interfax reported. South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murat Djioev also argued that the Georgian proposal to amend the peacekeepers' mandate is aimed at derailing efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully, ITAR-TASS reported. "We are now at the brink of an armed conflict and we believe every effort must be made to...sit down at the negotiating table," Djioev said. LF

GEORGIA AGAIN INTERCEPTS RUSSIAN CONVOY IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Georgian police intercepted on 13 July a Russian convoy that was transporting humanitarian aid to South Ossetia, Russian and Georgian media reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement later on 13 July protesting the Georgian move, which Russian diplomat Lev Mironov said is "illegal" and a direct violation of an agreement signed by Russia and Georgia in July 1992 guaranteeing the unimpeded transportation of humanitarian aid, ITAR-TASS reported. In Tbilisi, however, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said the Georgian police acted "in accordance with the law," Interfax reported. Speaking in London, where he was on an official visit, President Saakashvili said Moscow should coordinate such transports with Georgia, Interfax reported. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry statement, Moscow notified Tbilisi of the impending transport on 9 July. LF

PROSECUTOR DENIES FORMER GEORGIAN OFFICIAL TORTURED IN DETENTION
Tbilisi City Prosecutor Valerii Grigalashvili told journalists on 13 July that an investigation has ruled out the possibility that former Control Chamber Chairman Sulkhan Molashvili was subjected to torture during pre-trial detention, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. A Georgian human rights activist said on 2 July that Molashvili, who faces charges of embezzlement, had been subjected to beatings, electric shocks, and cigarette burns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004). Grigalashvili admitted that Molashvili's body bears signs of mistreatment, but suggested the injuries were either self-inflicted or the result of violence by fellow detainees. Meanwhile, Russian Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin, who is also president of a European organization uniting heads of state audit agencies, has written to Georgian Prime Minister Zhvania and parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze to express his and his international colleagues' concern over the reports that Molashvili has been tortured, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Stepashin said he hopes the Georgian authorities will ensure that in future Molashvili is treated in accordance with legislation on human rights. LF

KAZAKH PARTY CO-CHAIR REJECTS LIBEL CHARGE
Bulat Abilov, co-chairman of the moderate opposition party Ak Zhol, told a 13 July news conference in Almaty that he stands by his earlier statements about Majilis deputy Mukhtar Tinikeev, Kazinform reported. Tinikeev has sued Abilov for libel and defamation, asking a total of $11 million in damages, after the latter announced on television that Tinikeev paid $100,000 for his seat in parliament. Hearings on both cases began in Almaty on 12 July, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. "I am convinced that I am right. I will not take back my words and I am going to defend my rights to the end," Abilov said. He went on to say that, by filing suit, Tinikeev "aims to ban me from the election campaign for a seat in the Majilis." Abilov also promised to bring in witnesses to substantiate his charges. DK

TURKMEN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW TRADE MINISTER...
President Saparmurat Niyazov fired Trade Minister Charymmamed Gayibov and replaced him with Gurbangeldi Melekeev, who heads the Turkmen Consumers Union, at a 12 July cabinet meeting, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov also issued a decree merging the Ministry of Trade and External Economic Ties with the Turkmen Consumers Union, Turkmen TV reported on 13 July. At the cabinet meeting, Niyazov criticized Gayibov for "begging all the time" and gave instructions for him to be given a job at the Consumers Union. DK

...UPS DEFENSE SPENDING, APPROVES $123.6 MILLION CONTRACT...
At the same cabinet meeting, Niyazov said that the Defense Ministry is in the process of purchasing $80 million of new equipment. The president's press service also reported that Niyazov signed a decree on 10 July to engage Belgium's Enex Process Engineering in building a $123.6 million compressor station for state gas company Turkmengaz, turkmenistan.ru reported on 12 July. DK

...AND FINISHES SECOND VOLUME OF 'RUKHNAMA'
President Niyazov has finished the second volume of his "Rukhnama," or "Book of the Soul," turkmenistan.ru reported on 13 July. The new work, a continuation of the president's much-publicized spiritual guide for the Turkmen people, will be printed in September and officially launched in October. (The month of September has already been renamed "Ruhnama" in Turkmenistan in honor of the president's first book.) The state-run Internet newspaper described "Rukhnama," old and new, as "a comprehensive spiritual and educational process, which, along with successes in the economy, should ensure the balanced development of the individual, society, citizens, and the state." DK

UZBEK PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW FINANCE MINISTER
President Islam Karimov appointed Saidahmad Rahimov finance minister on 13 July, the official news agency UzA reported. Rahimov replaces Mamarizo Nurmuratov, who was appointed governor of the Samarkand Oblast on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). DK

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES IMPOSE TRAVEL BAN ON OPPOSITION ACTIVIST
A district visa department in Minsk has nullified a foreign-travel permit in the passport of Lyudmila Hraznova, deputy head of the opposition United Civic Party, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 13 July. The authorities justified their measure by Hraznova's failure to pay a fine of some $2,000 for her role in staging an unauthorized opposition march to mark an anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2004). But Hraznova asserts that the travel ban was imposed for her recent appearance on television in Latvia where she criticized Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "This is very similar to what was done in the Soviet Union, when dissidents were not allowed to travel abroad," Hraznova told RFE/RL. "We may find ourselves in the same situation as Soviet-era dissidents. I have a feeling that the [Belarusian] authorities have begun to close an iron curtain." JM

ILLEGAL CAMPAIGNING REPORTED IN UKRAINIAN REGION
The authorities of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast are already taking part in the presidential election campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 12 July, quoting an anonymous local source. Dnipropetrovsk Governor Volodymyr Yatsuba reportedly chairs a regional election staff consisting of state administration employees. According to the source, the heads of institutions and organizations subsidized from the state budget in the oblast have recently been instructed in raion executive committees how to organize presidential campaign meetings, collect signatures in support of Yanukovych, and "prepare people for street actions." Ukraine's legislation forbids using the state administration in election campaigns. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER CONSIDERS ACCORD ON FAIR ELECTION A 'CONVENTIONALITY'
Answering a journalist's question about his attitude to the signing of an agreement on a fair election by presidential candidates, Prime Minister Yanukovych said on 13 July that such an accord would be a "conventionality," Interfax reported. "If a man is honest, he is honest in his soul," Yanukovych added. Last week Our Ukraine leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko proposed to other presidential candidates to sign a Declaration for a Fair Election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). JM

MORE CANDIDATES REGISTERED FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The Central Election Commission on 13 July registered Oleksandr Yakovenko, leader of the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants, and Bohdan Boyko, leader of the Popular Rukh for Unity, as candidates for the 31 October presidential ballot. The number of registered candidates has risen to nine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). The registration of presidential candidates will last until 28 July. JM

UKRAINE REPORTS CONTINUING ECONOMIC BOOM
The State Statistics Committee disclosed on 14 July that Ukraine's gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 12.7 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2004, Interfax reported. In 2003, Ukraine's GDP rose by 9.4 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN POPULATION CONTINUES TO SHRINK
The State Statistics Committee made known on 13 July that as of 1 June Ukraine's population numbered 47.46 million people, 30,000 less than a month before or some 200,000 less than six months before, Interfax reported. JM

MONTENEGRIN PREMIER PREDICTS INDEPENDENCE BY 2006
In an interview marking Montenegro's new state holiday, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told the Podgorica daily "Pobjeda" of 13 July that his country will be an independent state in 2006, ending the state union of Serbia and Montenegro that was created in 2002-03 under EU pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 February and 4 October 2002 and 14 February and 16 May 2003). Djukanovic suggested that the link with Serbia has hindered Montenegro's Euro-Atlantic integration because Serbia lags behind the mountainous republic in cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and instituting reforms. The main ceremony to mark the state holiday took place in Bijelo Polje, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In Brussels, Montenegrin Minister for Economic Relations and European Integration Gordana Djurovic said the joint state is too costly and inefficient, adding that Serbia and Montenegro would be better off seeking European integration as separate states. PM

THE EU'S BOSNIAN MISSION: WHY ALTHEA?
The EU will take over international peacekeeping duties in Bosnia at the end of 2004 with a mission named Althea, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 13 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). The EU uses names from classical mythology for its peacekeeping missions to avoid problems in translating names and acronyms between its many languages, but the name Althea seems a curious choice. She was a tragic and not particularly well-known figure in Greek mythology, the aunt of Castor and Pollux and of Helen of Troy. Enmeshed in family violence fueled by motives of revenge, Althea was the mother of Meleager. She brought about her son's death to extract revenge for his having killed her two brothers. Meleager had slain his two braggart uncles in retribution for their having killed Meleager's paramour Atalanta, of whose hunting skills the two men were envious. In the end, a grief-stricken Althea committed suicide in a violent fashion. PM

MACEDONIA WANTS A COPY OF BOSNIAN REPORT ON PRESIDENT'S DEATH
Macedonian Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti sent a letter to Sarajevo on 13 July, officially demanding that the Bosnian authorities provide him with a copy of their report on the 26 February plane crash in which President Boris Trajkovski died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 February 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 February and 5 March 2004). Mehmeti stressed that the Bosnian authorities did not fulfill an agreement to keep their Macedonian counterparts informed about the investigation. Medzida Kreso, who is Bosnia's deputy public prosecutor, announced earlier this month that the report on the plane crash is finished. UB

AUSTRIAN PLAN FOR KOSOVA A NONSTARTER?
Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner opened a conference on the future of Kosova near Vienna on 14 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 and 16 April and 9 July 2004). Participants include representatives of the Prishtina and Belgrade authorities, as well as international experts. Ferrero-Waldner, who is tipped to be her country's next representative on the European Commission, put forward a plan "based on the Belgian federal model" that will transfer additional powers from the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) to Kosova's elected officials while offering a large measure of home rule to the Serbs and other minorities. Some ethnic Albanian officials said that the project is not very appealing because it delays a decision on Kosova's final status, which, for the 90 percent Albanian majority, can only mean independence. Other Albanians objected on the grounds that a federal structure is unrealistic because most of the ethnic minority population lives scattered in relatively small communities. Some Serbs noted approvingly that the home-rule provisions are close to Belgrade's plan to "cantonize" Kosova -- a proposal that the UN has already rejected -- while other Serbs argued that the Austrian project moves Kosova unacceptably close to independence. PM

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY WANTS TO BE PART OF NEXT RULING COALITION
Greater Romania Party (PRM) Executive Secretary Gheorghe Funar said in Vaslui on 13 July that the PRM is ready to form a preelection alliance with "any political party except the anti-nationalists" with the aim of being part of the next ruling coalition, Mediafax reported. Funar said the PRM is confident it will be part of any governing coalition that emerges from November's parliamentary elections. "We have been in opposition too long, and the time has come to be in the government," Funar said. "I believe we should set up a team with some [other party] in order for our country to finally make some progress." Funar also said that after elections in the fall, the PRM is likely to become the "balancing factor" that will determine which of the two main camps forms the next cabinet. He predicted that the PRM will receive at least the 21 percent support that it did in 2000 elections, and possibly as much as 25 percent. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF JUSTICE
President Ion Iliescu appointed Nicolae Popa on 13 July to head Romania's highest court, the recently renamed High Court of Cassation and Justice, Mediafax reported. Popa replaces Paul Florea, who was forced to retire last month under what many observers suggested was political pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). Media reports on 14 July described Popa as a personal friend of President Iliescu. MS

WWF CALLS FOR HALT TO DANUBE CANAL PLAN
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on 13 July urged countries abutting the Danube River to pressure Ukraine to halt construction of the Bystraya Canal, Reuters reported. The WWF said the project threatens the river's environmentally sensitive delta. In a statement addressed to a meeting of the Danube Cooperation Process in Bucharest, the WWF urged all participants "to demand that Ukraine's government immediately halt construction activity until a proper and responsible environmental impact assessment has been carried out." The fund described the construction as an "action by the Ukrainian government against the entire Danube -- a European and global treasure" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004). MS

ILASCU GROUP SAYS MOLDOVA'S PRESIDENT SHOULD PAY ECHR COURT COSTS...
Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu and lawyer Vitalie Nagacevschi argued in a statement released on 13 July that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin should pay from his own pocket the 12,000-euro ($14,850) court costs related to the recently concluded process concerning individuals unfairly detained by Transdniestrian authorities, Infotag and Flux reported. Nagacevschi represented the current and former detainees of the so-called Ilascu group recently, which won a challenge before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). The statement said that Voronin claimed on 6 July 2001 that three of the group's members remained imprisoned in Tiraspol because Ilascu refused to withdraw the ECHR complaint (one of the three was subsequently freed). Ilascu said Voronin's statement led the court to oblige Moldova to pay compensation to the group. MS

...AND DEMANDS CHISINAU'S HELP IN FREEING REMAINING DETAINEES
In a letter addressed to President Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 13 July, Ilascu and Nagacevschi said the ECHR ruling obliges the Moldovan authorities to demand that the Russian Federation immediately release the Ilascu group's two remaining detainees, Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, Flux reported. They called it deplorable that "the key to the Tiraspol cells is to be found in Moscow," adding that the ECHR's ruling implicitly acknowledges such a conclusion. MS

STUDY SUGGESTS PRO-GOVERNMENT BIAS ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA
Monitoring by the Independent Media Center (CIJ) and the Center for Sociological and Political Investigation (CIVIS) in cooperation with Swiss experts and the Belgian and Dutch embassies in Chisinau suggests that Teleradio Moldova's news coverage has a heavy pro-government bias, Infotag and Flux reported on 13 July. Political parties were mentioned on radio and television 195 times during sampling in the month of June: 108 of those mentions were of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), while 34 references each were of the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic and the Our Moldova alliance and the others were of extraparliamentary parties. MS

TWO DAYS IN ISTANBUL: A LOOK AT THE NATO SUMMIT
While the 26 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) succeeded in resolving most of the issues on the agenda at the NATO summit in Istanbul in late June, the agenda itself differed significantly from expectations. And the successes notched up had more to do with new geopolitical landscape that has emerged since 11 September 2001, than with the accession to the alliance last year of seven new members.

The summit's three primary achievements were largely ceremonial and of marginal practical value for the alliance itself. The fact that the summit took place without incident in Turkey was an important symbolic demonstration of NATO's commitment to support the Turkish government in the face of sporadic terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamists claiming affiliation with the Al-Qaeda "movement."

Second, the presence of not only NATO's seven newest members but also of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari underscored the fundamental changes that have taken place in both the alliance's composition and its geopolitical focus -- despite the fact that Zebari's presence was clearly orchestrated to strengthen the U.S. argument for a NATO role in Iraq.

Third, NATO ceded its primary security duties in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the European Union, thereby reducing its role from security provider to security supervisor, while retaining a diminished but vital presence in the region.

But the summit's primary focus was on NATO's core challenge -- stabilization. In line with the new emphasis on "out-of-area" deployments as confirmation of NATO's continued post-Cold War relevance, the Istanbul summit discussed in some depth NATO's mission in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet even here, Istanbul represented a mixed bag of disappointing returns and dissipating resources.

In response to an appeal by embattled Afghan leader Hamid Karzai for immediate action, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of 6,500 in Afghanistan is to be bolstered by 3,500 troops, although 1,300 of these forces will be placed on "standby" in Europe. The duration of that deployment remains unclear, however, as does which countries will provide the additional manpower. Moreover, as the NATO contingent will be almost exclusively deployed in and around Kabul, the Afghan presidential elections set for 9 October could present an ideal opportunity for the resurgent Taliban to launch a new and damaging offensive.

As for Iraq, the summit did accommodate U.S. President George W. Bush by agreeing to provide training for the new Iraqi armed forces, although not surprisingly, France and Germany insisted that the training be conducted outside of Iraq. That decision, substantially less than the United States had hoped for, reflects a wait-and-see approach among the European members of NATO as the U.S. presidential election approaches, as much as a hesitation to commit to Iraq.

But the real significance of the Istanbul summit lies in two broader trends. The first is the recognition that the general nature of the NATO alliance, and the course of NATO enlargement in particular, remain contingent on the broader U.S.-Russian strategic partnership. Secondly, the construction of a new international security architecture is largely based on a series of U.S. bilateral ties, with an international and regional application yet without a multilateral starting point. This web of bilateral U.S. security ties is now the main vehicle for the U.S. pursuit of global security, with NATO relegated to a secondary role.

Concern not to jeopardize the U.S.-Russian relationship may lie behind the summit's cautious approach to the anticipated next stage of enlargement. Although the final communique heralded Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia as promising aspirants, it designated the South Caucasus and Central Asian states as "partners" rather than potential future members, a formulation that was rather unexpected and that led to general disappointment.

Plagued by an overall security deficit and hostage to the overpowering influence of Russia, the states of Central Asia and the South Caucasus see the NATO alliance as a combination of security provider and counterweight to Russian power. Several of them (including Georgia and Azerbaijan but not Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan) perceive closer ties with NATO as essential to bolster their weakened sovereignty and statehood. Yet the message they received from Istanbul was that the United States may be a more reliable security partner.

In many ways, the reinvigoration of the NATO alliance is derived increasingly from its new mission-defined offense and no longer from its geography-based defense. Projecting stabilization, not "holding the line," is the new core NATO operation, with counterterrorism and counterproliferation as the priority tasks. And it is this new focus that appeals to the former Soviet republics. The emphasis given at the Istanbul summit on "improving NATO liaison arrangements" with the "strategically important regions" of the Caucasus and Central Asia suggests a shift in NATO's focus from integration and inclusion to defense cooperation and reform.

The implicit downgrading of those regions in NATO's overall priorities could encourage factions in Moscow that seek at all costs to avert the expansion of the alliance into the CIS. Meanwhile, two significant factors raise the geopolitical stakes even higher, as Russia and the United States risk being drawn into the confrontation between Georgia and the renegade unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, and the still-unresolved insecurity situation in Afghanistan mandates a continued, or even increased, U.S. presence in Central Asia, in a direct challenge to entrenched Russian interests there.

ATTACKERS KILL LOCAL AFGHAN POLICE CHIEF AND HIS DRIVER
Gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a local police chief and his driver in Ghazni Province about 170 kilometers south of Kabul on 12 July, AFP reported on 13 July. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal called the attack a "Taliban ambush" and said the slain official was the chief of the Andar district police force. "Taliban riding on motorbikes ambushed the police vehicle, and they managed to escape," Mashal said. The Ghazni area has remained one of the most restive regions of Afghanistan, with insurgents regularly attacking U.S.-led coalition forces, aid workers, UN staff, Afghan troops, and others working with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. AFP reported that security across Afghanistan has deteriorated rapidly as the 9 October deadline for a national presidential election nears. Suspected neo-Taliban insurgents have vowed to disrupt the balloting and have targeted election workers and other officials in a string of recent ambushes and bombing attacks. MR

TALIBAN KILL POLICE CHIEF, TORCH GOVERNMENT OFFICE NEAR KANDAHAR
Suspected neo-Taliban killed a local police chief south of Kandahar and torched the mayor's office in the Miana Shien district, AP reported on 13 July. "Police chief Rahmatullah was killed along with three of his men," Taliban spokesman Abdul Hakim Latifi said in a satellite-telephone interview with AP. Latifi said Taliban fighters burned the mayor's office and two pickup trucks. He also said one Taliban fighter died in the attack. Khalid Pashtun, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, confirmed that Rahmatullah was slain and the building burned. In neighboring Helmand Province, a bomb blast killed one suspected neo-Taliban insurgent and injured another late on 11 July. The bomb apparently detonated as the two men were rigging it to explode in a bazaar in Girishk, police chief Haji Bil Jan said. MR

U.S. FORCES LAUNCH OFFENSIVE AIMED AT SAFEGUARDING AFGHAN ELECTIONS
Thousands of U.S. troops have launched a new offensive targeting insurgents bent on disrupting Afghanistan's presidential election in the fall, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said according to AP on 13 July. "Now we'll be shifting our efforts to helping to build the required security going into the election itself," said U.S. Lieutenant General David Barno. "We should expect that we have to fight to get to these elections." Barno said Operation Lightning Resolve was "kicking off as we speak" in an interview with AP on 13 July. Without offering details, Barno said the operation involves an "offensive punch" against militants. A 2,000-member Marine contingent that has been battling neo-Taliban fighters since March is pulling out, Barno said. The rest of the 17,000 troops and special-operations soldiers will take up the new mission while increasing cooperation with the United Nations, which is organizing the election. "A counterinsurgency strategy does not achieve success in three months or six months," Barno said. "These are longer-term, sustained strategies." MR

AFGHANS HOPEFUL ABOUT RECOVERY, POLLSTERS CONCLUDE
Two-thirds of Afghans polled in a recent survey say they hold out hope for the future of the country despite pressing worries about the security situation, pollsters announced on 13 July. Commissioned by the U.S.-based Asia Foundation, the survey's findings also suggest that a majority of Afghans support Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, AP reported the same day. Some 13 percent of those Afghans polled voiced support for the ousted Taliban regime, according to the pollsters, who said two-thirds of Afghans approved of the U.S. move to unseat that hard-line Islamic regime in October 2001. Pollsters interviewed 804 rural and urban Afghans from 22 February to 13 March. Interviewers failed to conduct the survey in four of 34 Afghan provinces, including the Taliban stronghold of Uruzgan, where poor security persists. The study's margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. In the survey, 37 percent of respondents listed security as the greatest "national" concern; 29 percent listed the economy as the most serious problem in the country. MR

TEHRAN SAYS IT CAN GENERATE NUCLEAR POWER...
Minister of Mines and Industries Ishaq Jahangiri said in Karaj on 13 July that Iran now can generate electricity using nuclear power, IRNA reported. Jahangiri stressed that Iran has the right to generate nuclear power, and he added that its nuclear program reflects Iran's desire to increase its production capability to 7,000 megawatts of electricity per year within the next 20 years. BS

...AND PLANS TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR DISCUSSIONS WITH EUROPEANS...
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani said on 13 July that Iran will resume nuclear-related discussions with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom later this month, IRNA reported. Tehran previously expressed unhappiness that the European powers went along with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolution that criticized the level of Iranian cooperation with the nuclear watchdog (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 and 28 June 2004). Iran announced in a letter to the head of the IAEA as well as to the three countries that it will resume building centrifuges on 29 June but will continue to suspend uranium enrichment. BS

...BUT SEES NO NEED FOR DISCUSSIONS WITH U.S.
Rohani said on 12 July that Iran sees no need to discuss the nuclear issue with the United States, Radio Farda reported, citing state television (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2004/7/c087d7af-6bab-465b-b315-89d29754949b.html). IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei reportedly told officials during his March visit to Washington that an Iran-U.S. dialogue could help resolve questions over the nuclear program, and he said he believes the Iranians are amenable to a deal but are waiting for Washington to make the first move (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 March 2004). BS

IRAN SEIZES QATARI VESSELS
An anonymous Iranian Interior Ministry official said on 13 July that the regular navy has confiscated two Qatari launches that entered Iranian waters illegally, ISNA reported. According to Iranian state television on 9 July, Kuwait recently seized three Iranian fishing boats, Reuters reported. Another anonymous Iranian official said on 10 July that the crews of the impounded Iranian boats were released and soon would be in Iranian hands. There has been a spate of such incidents recently, as Iran and the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf enforce their borders more aggressively (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 June and 5 July 2004). BS

SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA ASSOCIATE IN IRAN TURNS SELF IN
Khalid bin Ouda bin Muhammad al-Harbi (aka Abu Suleiman al-Makki), who was seen talking to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden about the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States in a videotape uncovered after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, returned to Saudi Arabia on 13 July after turning himself in to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, international news agencies reported. He reportedly was living in the Afghanistan-Iran border area, and he responded to a 30-day amnesty program that the Saudis announced on 23 June. In a statement broadcast by Al-Arabiyah television on 13 June, al-Harbi said that upon arriving at the embassy, "we felt as if we were among family." He added, "There is no doubt that this graceful initiative by the king, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, and his highness the crown prince is a grace and opportunity." Anonymous U.S. intelligence officials cited by the "Los Angeles Times" on 14 July downplayed the significance of the event, saying al-Harbi is unlikely to have valuable information on bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. One official said, "He is really an extremist cleric who had more influence and impact around the time we saw him in that bin Laden video." BS

FORMER HIZBALLAH SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES CRITICISM OF IRAN
Former Hizballah Secretary-General Subih Tufaili has aired new criticism of his former patrons in Iran in an interview published in "The Daily Star" on 14 July (for his earlier comments, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 October 2003 and 19 January 2004). Tufaili, who lives on the outskirts of Baalbek, said he is effectively under house arrest due to a "tacit, tripartite agreement" between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Shi'a leaders in Lebanon, and the regime in Damascus. Tufaili accused Iran of "executing America's agenda in the whole region" and said Iranian policy and religious ideology "hurt Islam and the Muslims' causes in their fight for freedom and liberation." He said Iran is preventing unity between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, and added, "The Iranian leadership is begging for a role in Iraq similar to that in Afghanistan; covering up for the occupation by concealing its long-term, true intensions." BS

IRAQI POLICE LAUNCH WIDE-RANGING RAIDS IN BAGHDAD
Iraqi police arrested some 525 suspected criminals in raids across Baghdad on 13 July, Al-Jazeera reported. "This is the largest operation for the Interior Ministry since the fall of Saddam Hussein," ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan Abd al-Rahman said. "About 500 criminals were arrested, suspected of crimes such as stealing, murder, kidnapping, and selling drugs." About 500 Iraqi police carried out the raid, which was planned by the ministry as part of an attempt to crack down on gangs that have taken to the streets of Baghdad in recent months. Abd al-Rahman claimed that the majority of those arrested were professional criminals, many of whom were released from prison during a general amnesty issued by Hussein prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 October 2002). KR

CAR BOMB DETONATES OUTSIDE GREEN ZONE IN IRAQI CAPITAL...
A car bomb detonated on 14 July outside the so-called green zone in central Baghdad, international media reported. Al-Arabiyah television cited Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as saying that at least 11 people were killed, including three Iraqi National Guard personnel. Forty individuals were wounded, including one U.S. soldier. The green zone, which houses the U.S. and U.K. embassies and the offices of the prime minister, remains under the control of multinational forces in Iraq. According to Al-Jazeera, the vehicle, a Land Cruiser, approached the green zone and detonated before reaching the first checkpoint. Eight vehicles caught fire nearby as a result of the explosion. All government offices were closed on 14 July because of a public holiday marking the anniversary of the 1958 revolution that deposed the Iraqi monarchy. KR

...AS IRAQI PRIME MINISTER SAYS ATTACK CONNECTED TO ARRESTS
Prime Minister Allawi told reporters in Baghdad that he suspects that the car bombing may be an act of revenge by criminal elements for the wide-ranging arrests in the Iraqi capital on 13 July, Al-Arabiyah reported. "I think the attack is connected to the series of arrests that were carried out in the last two days. We arrested a number of criminals based on information gathered by investigations. Among the arrested are Iraqis and foreigners. I would like to assure the international community that we will move forward on the path of providing peace and security in Iraq. We call on the international community to maintain its support of our country. Together we will defeat the forces of evil and hand them over to justice," Allawi said. KR

U.K. INQUIRY EXONERATES BLAIR OVER WMD CLAIMS
An inquiry into the U.K. government's claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that led to the country's subsequent involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom has determined that prewar intelligence had "serious flaws" but Prime Minister Tony Blair was not directly responsible, Reuters reported on 14 July. "No single individual was to blame. This was a collective operation," Lord Butler told reporters in London following the report's release. The report determined that then-President Saddam Hussein had no significant proscribed weapons ready for use in the run-up to the war. The report said that Iraq "did not have significant -- if any -- stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment nor developed plans for using them." The report also concluded that the U.K. Joint Intelligence Committee was under "strain" to put together an objective dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in 2002. The dossier contended that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the order being issued. "Our view, having reviewed all of the material, is that judgments in the dossier went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available," the report said. KR

BULGARIAN HOSTAGE BEHEADED IN IRAQ...
Militants loyal to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi beheaded one of two Bulgarian hostages held captive in Iraq on 13 July, international media reported on 14 July. The beheading was videotaped and reportedly sent to Al-Jazeera television. The satellite news channel has declined to air the footage. The fate of the second Bulgarian is not known; the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group said in the same videotape released to Al-Jazeera that it intended to kill that hostage within 24 hours unless multinational forces in Iraq freed prisoners. Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, and parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov issued a joint statement on 14 July condemning the killing, according to the Bulgarian government's official website (http://www.government.bg). They also expressed their resolve to remain engaged in the reconstruction, stabilization, and democratization of Iraq. KR/UB

...WHILE FATE OF OTHER HOSTAGES REMAINS UNCLEAR
Philippine Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said on 14 July that her country's humanitarian contingent has been reduced from 51 to 43, the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" website (http://www.inq7.net) reported. The Philippines has said that it will withdraw its contingent from Iraq ahead of schedule in order to obtain the release of Philippine national Angelo de la Cruz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004). A group identified as the National Islamic Resistance is holding an Egyptian national hostage and has threatened to kill him within 72 hours unless his Saudi employer pulls out of Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported on 13 July. KR

IRAQ BEGINS ISSUING NEW PASSPORTS
The Iraqi government has begun to issue new passports that carry the emblem of the interim Iraqi government, according to a 13 July report by Al-Jazeera. The passports will serve as temporary travel documents -- replacing those issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. Fa'iz Subayh, the director of a local passport office in the Al-Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, told Al-Jazeera that the passport will be issued to all citizens without exception. Some 300 Iraqis are applying for the new passport daily, Al-Jazeera reported. KR

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