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Newsline - July 16, 2004


FORMER YUKOS CEO, CO-DEFENDANTS PLEAD NOT GUILTY
Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev, and Volna head Andrei Krainov on 16 July pleaded not guilty to all charges against them in the Meshchanskii Raion Court, Russian news agencies reported. Lebedev and Khodorkovskii each face 11 charges of violations of the Russian Criminal Code, including fraud, tax evasion, the creation of an organized-crime group, and document forgery. "I understand the indictment and plead not guilty on all points," Khodorkovskii said, gazeta.ru reported. Both Khodorkovskii and Lebedev told the Moscow court on 16 July that the charges against them are politically motivated, international media reported. The hearing is scheduled to resume on 20 July. VY

RUSSIAN ANALYSTS PREDICT GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WILL NOT REGAIN SOUTH OSSETIA SOON...
Politika foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov said on 15 July that although the West is sympathetic toward Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president will not succeed in convincing the West to pressure Russia regarding South Ossetia, strana.ru reported. Nikonov said Georgia's efforts to regain control of South Ossetia are no more realistic than if Belgrade were to decide to take back Kosova. He said that Saakashvili's actions remind him more and more of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, Andranik Migranyan, a political adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin, told strana.ru on 13 July that he believes the South Ossetia issue will not be resolved to Saakashvili's liking "now, or in foreseeable future." VY

...AND GENERAL CALLS FOR TOUGHER STANCE AGAINST GEORGIA
Major General Vladimir Romanenko, deputy director of the Institute of the CIS, said that the situation in South Ossetia must be seen in relation to "the desire of the West to strengthen its positions in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia," RIA-Novosti reported on 15 July. Romanenko said it is natural for what he called the West's main partner in the region, Georgia, to attempt to use the situation to its benefit. Romanenko suggested that Russia should remind Georgia that despite its unfriendly policy toward Russia, it continues to be dependent on cheap Russian gas and electricity. As far as the West concerned, Romanenko added, it has a poor understanding of the mentality of the Caucasian peoples. That is why Russia should "work more closely with the West" and take a stronger stance vis-a-vis Georgia, Romanenko concluded. VY

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES KAZAN ICON'S RETURN DURING VATICAN VISIT
Sergei Lavrov said after meeting on 15 July with Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano that both parties expressed satisfaction with a recent agreement under which a 17th-century copy of the venerated Mother of God of Kazan (Our Lady of Kazan) icon will be returned to Russia, Interfax reported. The Vatican on 10 July announced that it will return the sacred wooden icon -- a copy of an icon that was discovered among the ruins of Kazan in 1579 -- during a 28 August ceremony. The copy was taken from the Soviet Union following the Bolshevik Revolution and resurfaced in the 1970s when it was purchased by a Roman Catholic group. The icon was eventually presented to Pope John Paul II as a gift, and has since been a source of dispute between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. Pope John Paul II hoped last year to return the icon personally during a proposed trip to Russia, but failed to receive the Orthodox Church's approval for his visit. Lavrov said the possibility of a papal visit to Russia was not discussed during the 15 July talks. VY

FEDERATION COUNCIL PASSES SEVERAL MAJOR BILLS
The Federation Council on 15 July approved a number of new pieces of legislation, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 16 July. The upper chamber passed an anti-money-laundering bill that will require real-estate agents, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals to report a wide range of transactions to the government. The council also passed a bill on reforming the civil service and a bill stiffening penalties for driving while intoxicated. RC

LOCAL POLLS PREDICT 'AGAINST ALL' WILL WIN IN VLADIVOSTOK SECOND ROUND
Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 15 July made his first public statement about the controversial mayoral election being conducted in Vladivostok, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2004). The election indicates "a crisis of power in Vladivostok and an inability to resolve this crisis by democratic means," Veshnyakov said. According to the daily, local opinion polls indicate that a majority of voters intend to vote "against all" candidates in the 18 July second round, which would invalidate the election. Veshnyakov called a local court decision to disqualify State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov (independent) from the second round "an abuse of justice," and said that such decisions could prompt voters to act in order to invalidate elections. Natalya Menshenina of the Pacific Ocean Institute of Politics and Law predicted that turnout for the second round will be 55-60 percent and that 40-45 percent will vote "against all." RC

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST MISSING IN ST. PETERSBURG
Police in St. Petersburg are searching for local investigative journalist Maksim Maksimov, who has been missing since at least 5 July, "Novye izvestiya" and other Russian media reported on 16 July. Maksimov, 41, is a special correspondent for the local magazine "Gorod" and has worked for the local Agency for Investigative Reporting. His recent work has been coverage of the trial of the men accused of the 1998 killing of liberal State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, the daily reported. In the past, he has specialized in reporting on organized crime and high-profile local trials. Nikolai Donskoi of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations told "Novye izvestiya" that Maksimov was in the process of exchanging his downtown apartment for a larger one on the outskirts and that this might have been a motive for his disappearance. "Operations with buying and selling real estate in our country have traditionally taken place in a risk zone," Donskoi said, "particularly when there isn't a whole family living in an apartment, but only one person." RC

NGO HIGHLIGHTS ABUSE OF CHILDREN IN MENTAL HOSPITALS
Approximately 600,000 Russian children -- about 2 percent of all the country's minors -- are living in mental institutions, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 16 July, citing the local branch of the international nongovernmental organization Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). "It is a widespread practice for children to be sent to a mental institution simply for bad behavior and after an examination that usually lasts no longer than five minutes that finds them to be mentally ill," CCHR St. Petersburg representative Roman Chernyi said. He said that a recent Human Rights Watch report documented inhumane punishments, including the punitive use of psychotropic drugs, in Russian mental institutions. He said that staffers in institutions often pay no attention to their wards, meaning that children who are institutionalized often do not learn to read or write. Chernyi said a CCHR representative recently visited a St. Petersburg mental hospital where all the children were lying in bed naked. "When she asked why they were naked, a nurse said, 'Who cares? They are mentally disabled anyway.'" RC

GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS BORROWING POLICY FOR 2005
The cabinet on 15 July held a session devoted to state borrowing policy in 2005, strana.ru reported. The session concluded that Russia has sufficient domestic resources to enable the government to implement its policies without significant borrowing from international lenders. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the cabinet that 90-95 percent of all state borrowing next year will be done domestically, and the amount borrowed will be 210 billion to 230 billion rubles ($7 billion-$7.7 billion). Kudrin also proposed using the stabilization fund to refinance Russia's foreign debt in order to enable the government to avoid additional international borrowing. RC

BEREZOVSKII BLASTS MOTHERLAND PARTY
Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii said on 15 July in response to a rally staged on 14 July outside his London office by the youth movement of the leftist-nationalistic Motherland party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 July 2004), that "I am happy for these young people, who have seen London at the party's expense," gazeta.ru. "I believe that a party that conducts no serious political activities, and wastes money on this type of activity, has no future," Berezovskii added. As part of their 10-minute rally, the youth offered Berezovskii a plane ticket from London to Kolyma, a place of internal exile in Russia, and prison garb, holding a sign reading "Berezovskii Go Home!" As regards the possibility of his return to Russia, Berezovskii said, "I see my residence in Britain as just a temporary stay," NTV reported. VY

UNKNOWN FIELD COMMANDER BLAMED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON CHECHEN LEADER
A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry's North Caucasus press center said on 15 July that fighters subordinate to a Chechen field commander identified as R. Mamatsuev were probably responsible for planting a radio-controlled land mine in Grozny that exploded on 13 July as acting Chechen leader Sergei Abramov's motorcade drove past, but failed to kill him, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2004). No observers of developments in Chechnya questioned by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service have ever heard of Mamatsuev, who may be one of a new and as yet unknown generation of fighters. Reporting the attack on 13 July, chechenpress.com merely identified the perpetrators as "Chechen fighters." ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian Interior Ministry official as saying the explosive device used in the attempt to kill Abramov was identical to that used to kill pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov in Grozny on 9 May. LF

MORE SUSPECTS DETAINED IN CONNECTION WITH INGUSH RAIDS
The number of people detained on suspicion of participation in coordinated attacks on Interior Ministry facilities in Ingushetia on 21-22 June has risen to around 30, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in Grozny on 15 July, Interfax reported. He added that some 20 people have been formally charged, all are giving testimony, and some have confessed to their role in the attacks. Ustinov predicted that the case will come to court "soon." LF

ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR QUITS AS TV STATION HEAD
Aram Abramian, who for years edited the independent daily "Aravot" that has consistently criticized the present Armenian leadership, announced on 15 July that he has resigned as director-general of the Kentron TV station, Noyan Tapan reported. Abramian joined Kentron three months ago at the invitation of its new owner Murad Galoyan, who is a member of the parliament faction of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia. Abramian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 26 April that he had been given carte blanche to ensure "free, unrestricted, and impartial" coverage of developments in Armenia. LF

FORMER BAKU MAYOR SAYS SENIOR AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN 'CORRUPT'
Rafael Allakhvediev, who resigned as mayor of Baku in October 2000, was quoted by the journal "Monitor" earlier this week as threatening to make public materials substantiating his corruption allegations against presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev unless Mekhtiev desists from blackening his name, Turan reported on 15 July quoting interviews Allakhverdiev gave to the newspapers "Ekho," "Baki khabar," and "Yeni Musavat." In a lengthy interview published in "Zerkalo" on 7 October 2000, Allakhverdiev complained about Mekhtiev's unhelpful and uncooperative attitude, and implied that he considered him a pernicious influence on then-President Heidar Aliyev (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 and 27 October 2000). Some Azerbaijani commentators have predicted that if Allakhverdiev makes good on his threat he could trigger a flood of mutually incriminating revelations from senior officials, and that he would risk arrest. But zerkalo.az on 16 July noted that no one has yet been arrested for making public materials incriminating a senior government official, and that as a parliament deputy Allakhverdiev enjoys immunity from prosecution. LF

GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA ABJURE USE OF FORCE, ECONOMIC PRESSURE
Following a two-day session in Moscow of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, the Georgian and South Ossetian government representatives signed a protocol late on 15 July affirming their intention to resolve the conflict in South Ossetia peacefully and to refrain from the use of economic or other pressure against each other, Interfax reported quoting Lieutenant General Valerii Yevnevich, who is deputy commander of Russian ground forces for peacekeeping operations. Dmitrii Medoev, who is South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity's envoy to Moscow, said that the two sides pledged to take steps to ease tensions and to withdraw from the conflict zone all military forces except for the peacekeepers deployed there, Interfax reported. On 16 July, Major General Svyatoslav Nabdzorov, commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that the South Ossetians have begun withdrawing illegal armed formations from the conflict zone, but the Georgians have not yet done so. The protocol did not, however, incorporate Georgia's demand to be allowed to monitor all cargoes entering South Ossetia via the Roki tunnel, ITAR-TASS reported. Yevnevich explained that the mandate of the JCC extends only to the conflict zone, which does not include the tunnel. LF

GEORGIA DENIES DEPLOYING ADDITIONAL FORCES TO SOUTH OSSETIA
Both Medoev and South Ossetian Minister Without Portfolio Boris Chochiev accused Georgia on 15 July of deploying additional Interior Ministry forces to the conflict zone, Russian agencies and Caucasus Press reported. Chochiev gave the number of troops as 200 and Medoev as 600. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said in Moscow, where he was attending the JCC session, that those reports were untrue. But in Tbilisi, Georgian parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Givi Targamadze told the independent television station Rustavi-2 that Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili entered Georgia earlier that day at the head of 200 Interior Ministry troops. Meanwhile, Mikheil Kebadze, commander of the Georgian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia, confirmed that one Georgian member of that force accidentally shot and killed a colleague, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 July. LF

RUSSIAN, U.S. OFFICIALS DISCUSS SOUTH OSSETIAN STANDOFF IN TBILISI
CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met in Tbilisi on 15 July with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, Georgian media reported. While the primary issue discussed was Saakashvili's participation in the CIS summit scheduled for mid-September, Rushailo also addressed the ongoing tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia, stressing that the conflict must be resolved by exclusively peaceful means. Zhvania also met with senior U.S. diplomat Steven Mann and briefed him on the situation in South Ossetia, Interfax reported. Rustavi-2 quoted Mann as telling journalists that Washington will do its best to ensure the conflict is resolved peacefully. LF

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY IN KAZAKHSTAN SAYS ELECTION BLOC UNLIKELY
Kazakhstan's pro-presidential Otan party is not planning to enter into a bloc with any other party for the 19 September parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 15 July. The news agency quoted Otan Chairman Amangeldy Ermegiyaev as saying, "We are not going to set up any election blocs with anyone." Ermegiyaev noted, however, that Otan would be willing to entertain such a proposal but has not received any offers. The party will meet on 18 July to adopt an election manifesto and confirm candidates for single-mandate constituencies and the party slate. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT LAUDS INVESTMENT GROWTH
Askar Akaev praised rising foreign investment in Kyrgyzstan at the fourth Issyk-Kul Investment Summit in Cholpon-Ata on 15 July, Kyrgyzinfo reported. The president noted that foreign investment in 2003 represented a 65 percent gain over 2001 figures. In 2004, foreign direct investment jumped by 47 percent, although it was unclear whether it was a year-on-year increase. Akaev also pointed out that the percentage of foreign direct investment is growing in proportion to loans, with direct investments rising from 7 percent of the total in 2001 to 12 percent in 2003, akipress.org reported. The president said that additional measures will be required to attract further investment, however. He stressed that the priority task is to make land an object of investment, Kyrgyz-Press reported. Akaev also spoke of the need to improve tax legislation and move away from an overly regulated economy. DK

UNDP TO HELP WITH KYRGYZ ELECTIONS
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) concluded an agreement with a Kyrgyz government-sponsored program in Bishkek on 15 July to provide support for elections in Kyrgyzstan, Kabar news agency reported. Jerzy Skuratowicz, the UNDP permanent representative in Kyrgyzstan, and Sulaiman Imanbaev, chairman of the Central Election Commission, signed the agreement. The UNDP will cooperate with Kyrgyzstan's "program to strengthen the nation's ability to organize and hold elections." The project, which is scheduled to last through June 2006, will focus on providing strategic assistance to the institutions that form the backbone of the electoral process. Within the project framework, the UNDP will cooperate with local NGOs, international organizations, and media outlets. DK

TAJIK PRESIDENT SIGNS ELECTION LAW
Imomali Rakhmonov signed a contested election bill into law on 15 July, Tajik TV reported. The new law, which amends the country's existing election law, has drawn harsh criticism from opposition parties. The U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan also expressed reservations about the law in a 13 July statement, saying that it fails to ensure truly independent electoral commissions at all levels and requires excessively high deposits for candidates to take part in elections, Avesta reported. Rakhmonov also signed a law against human trafficking and a moratorium on the death penalty. DK

TAJIK CAPITAL EXPERIENCES WATER SHORTAGE FOLLOWING TORRENTIAL RAINS
Nearly two-thirds of Dushanbe has been without running water for two days after heavy rains and mudslides filled the Varzob River with sludge, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 July. The river is the city's main source of potable water. Some 50 trucks with tanks of drinking water are servicing the city at present, and 40 percent of city residents have access to artesian water. Still, the efforts city officials have made to keep residents supplied with water are insufficient, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Mahmudullo Halimov appealed to international organizations to provide aid in an effort to avoid an outbreak of disease. Halimov also said that mudslides have destroyed 45 kilometers of roads and left 3,000 people cut off from the outside world. According to Asia Plus-Blitz, weather forecasts have predicted the heavy rain to continue for several more days. DK

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY ESCHEWS COOPERATION
Muhiddin Kabiri, deputy chairman of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), told Avesta on 15 July that "a party that stands firmly on its feet doesn't go looking for partners." Kabiri's remarks refer to a recent agreement between the Social-Democratic Party (SDPT) and the unregistered Taraqqiyot party that will see Taraqqiyot candidates occupy eight places on the SDPT's 22-candidate slate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2004). But Kabiri did not entirely close the door to cooperation, saying, "We don't need partners, but if someone has a desire to work with us, we won't refuse; this also applies to the Taraqqiyot party." Taraqqiyot Deputy Chairman Rustam Fayziev said earlier, however, that his party is not interested in collaborating with the IRP or the Communist Party. DK

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE VOWS TO FIELD PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES IN EACH DISTRICT...
The opposition parties constituting the Popular Coalition Five Plus -- the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Party of Labor, the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly, and the Belarusian Party of Communists (PKB) -- are going to ensure that their common candidate is on the ballot in each of the country's 110 districts for the 17 October legislative elections, Belapan reported on 15 July. PKB leader Syarhey Kalyakin told journalists that Five Plus will field two candidates in each district so that the first-choice nominee can be replaced by the back-up one if needed. According to Kalyakin, Five Plus's parties will not have any candidate quotas, and nominees will be selected solely on the basis of their popularity in each particular district. The same day the Central Election Commission approved the borders of all 110 electoral districts. The average number of registered voters in one district is nearly 65,000. JM

...AND DEFIES JUSTICE MINISTER'S THREATS OVER REGISTRATION
Leaders of the Popular Coalition Five Plus said on 15 July that they do not intend to register their coalition with the Justice Ministry, despite Justice Minister Viktar Halavanau's threats that he will use "penalties" against them if they fail to do so by mid-August, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. "Five Plus means five steps to a better life," PKB leader Syarhey Kalyakin told journalists. "This is an idea. How can one register an idea? This is an absurdity." However, Halavanau asserted at a news conference on 14 July that the Popular Coalition Five Plus must be registered just like any other public association, otherwise the alliance will be illegal. To support this view, Belarusian Justice Ministry officials quoted a Russian-language dictionary, which reportedly says that "coalition" means the same as "association." Halavanau also disclosed how he will determine which party belongs to the Popular Coalition Five Plus. "We have a photograph printed in newspapers, which practically confirms the creation of this coalition," Halavanau said. "There are well-known politicians sitting at the front [of the photograph]." JM

BELARUS IS 62ND AND UKRAINE 70TH IN UN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT RANKING
Belarus ranks 62nd and Ukraine 70th on a list of 177 countries assessed with regard to their Human Development Index in the United Nations "Human Development Report 2004," Belarusian and Ukrainian news agencies reported on 16 July. The Human Development Index is a composite indicator that measures a country's achievements in three aspects of human development: longevity, knowledge, and standard of living. Longevity is measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge is measured by a combination of the adult literacy rate and education enrollment; and standard of living is measured by gross domestic product per capita. JM

OUR UKRAINE WARNS AGAINST PROVOCATION BY NATIONALIST GROUP...
The Our Ukraine bloc led by presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has demanded that President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and leaders of law enforcement bodies prevent the staging of what they termed a potentially dangerous and provocative action by the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), an extremist nationalist group, Interfax reported on 15 July, quoting Our Ukraine activists Mykola Katerynchuk and Volodymyr Bondarenko. Katerynchuk and Bondarenko told journalists that the UNA is going to hold a congress and a march with flaming torches in Kyiv on 16 July, during which its activists will shout "anti-Semitic and anti-Russian slogans" and express "pseudo-support for Yushchenko." The Our Ukraine leader recently sent a letter to Kuchma warning that the presidential campaign has activated "forces that profess fascism and ethnic and racial intolerance." According to Yushchenko, "central television channels popularize the activities of radical, pro-fascist structures" which, the Our Ukraine leader added, are financed by top-level officials. JM

...AS GROUP LEADER VOWS TO STRUGGLE FOR 'HONEST AND PURE' GOVERNMENT
UNA leader Eduard Kovalenko told Hromadske Radio on 15 July that the UNA congress and march planned for 16 July has been rescheduled for 31 July, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua/) reported. "After the conclusion of the congress, we will march with flaming torches to the Castle Hill," Kovalenko said. "There we will set on fire [a symbol] of wealth as a sign of the beginning of the UNA's national-patriotic fight for honest and pure government, for establishing Ukrainians in power," he added. Kovalenko did not say whether this action will be connected to Yushchenko's presidential bid. "[The UNA action] is necessary to nourish the media image of Yushchenko as a man supported by fascists, " Our Ukraine activist Bondarenko commented on 15 July. JM

ANOTHER FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER REGISTERED AS PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL
The Central Election Commission on 15 July registered Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs head Anatoliy Kinakh, prime minister from May 2001 to November 2002, as the 10th candidate for the 31 October presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2004), Ukrainian news agencies reported. Kinakh is the second former prime minister running for the post of president, along with Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko, who was prime minister from December 1999 to April 2001. JM

OSCE TO SEND LARGE MONITORING GROUP FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will dispatch 650 people to observe the fall presidential election in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 16 July, quoting OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine David Nicholas. Nicholas said the overwhelming majority of monitors will arrive in Ukraine on the eve of election day, while 50 observers will work in Ukraine during the entire election campaign. JM

NUMBER OF UNPROFITABLE UKRAINIAN COMPANIES DECREASES
The State Statistics Committee made known on 15 July that the share of loss-making companies in January-May 2004 was 36.8 percent, with their losses totaling 6.6 billion hryvnyas ($1.2 billion), Interfax reported. The share of unprofitable enterprises in the same period of 2003 was 42.3 percent, and the losses amounted to $7.6 billion hryvnyas. JM

MONTENEGRIN FLAG IS RAISED OVER PARLIAMENT BUILDING
For the first time since the Montenegrin kingdom was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918 (it became Yugoslavia in 1929), its traditional red flag with a gold coat of arms was raised over the Montenegrin parliament on 15 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The parliament recently approved a package of new state symbols that effectively entails a revival of older ones (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 July 2004). About 2,000 spectators, many of whom were dressed in folk costumes, sang the Montenegrin anthem and heard parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic say that "today we have given new life to the spirit of those for whom ideas were more important than life and who gave everything for the freedom of Montenegro," the Podgorica daily "Pobjeda" reported. The government wants to end the state union with Serbia that was formed in 2002-03 under EU pressure and gain independence by 2006. Nearly half of the population continues to favor some sort of links to Serbia, however. In modern times, there has never been a clear consensus among Montenegrins as to whether they are a distinct people or a special branch of the Serbian nation. PM

MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION TO PROTEST REDISTRICTING
On 15 July, the conservative opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) called for more street protests in the wake of the government's approval of plans to cut the number of administrative districts from 123 to 80 now and to 76 by 2006, and to devolve some powers to local administrations, "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 July 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 2004). Followers of former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski (VMRO-DPMNE) said they will support the nationalist World Macedonian Congress's (SMK) drive to collect the necessary signatures for a referendum against the government's redistricting plans. Opponents of the plan argue that the new districts will be set up along ethnic lines. Incumbent Prime Minister Hari Kostov defended the project, saying that it does not amount to partitioning the country and that no border checkpoints will be set up between the districts. "There will be no building of walls or moving of people," Reuters quoted Kostov as saying. However, he also admitted that the talks on the redistricting plans were unnecessarily prolonged by a lack of confidence among the coalition partners -- the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), "Utrinski vesnik" reported. UB

UN 'WELCOMES' PROPOSAL FOR NEW MINISTRY IN KOSOVA
The UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) said in a statement on 15 July that it welcomes the proposal recently agreed by ethnic Albanian and local Serbian political leaders to set up a new ministry to deal with communities and the return of refugees and displaced people, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2004). The UNMIK statement noted that the politicians' joint declaration "has many positive aspects that [reflect] the democratic progress [made] in the rebuilding of interethnic relations. On the specific question of creating a ministry for communities, human rights, and returns, we welcome initiatives to improve the environment for the return of Kosovo people to their homes." Kosovar Albanian leaders in particular continue to seek a transfer of powers from UNMIK to local elected officials (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 July 2004). PM

BOSNIA GETS ITS OWN NATIONAL 'FBI'
On 14 July, all four departments of Bosnia-Herzegovina's criminal investigation agency (SIPA) began work in a new building in Sarajevo, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. SIPA's mandate corresponds approximately to that of the FBI in the United States and is Bosnia's first nationwide state police agency. It will combat organized crime and terrorism, and seek to bring indicted war criminals to justice. SIPA head Sredoje Novic noted that Bosnia's prosecutor's office and Supreme Court have long waited for his agency to start work. The creation of SIPA is widely seen as an important step toward Bosnia's Euro-Atlantic integration and the eventual lifting of visa requirements for Bosnian citizens by EU countries. PM

BOSNIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL FOR HELP
The Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina met in Banja Luka from 12-14 July, devoting special attention to the difficult situation of Catholics in the Republika Srpska, Hina reported. The bishops called on international and Bosnian officials to provide more assistance to the most needy. Archbishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka appealed to the Croatian government to make good on its pledges to provide financial assistance to Bosnian Croats seeking to return to their homes. PM

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER PAINTS NEGATIVE PICTURE OF ROMANIAN DEMOCRACY
In a report to the conservative European People's Party (EPP), former Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the state of democracy in Romania is "worrying," Mediafax reported. Orban headed an EPP commission assessing democratic progress by EU candidate states. Orban, who is chairman of the largest Hungarian opposition party FIDESZ, accused Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase's government of amending election laws ahead of June local elections. This was apparently a reference to legislation imposing new conditions on extraparliamentary parties for running in local elections. The Hungarian Civic Union (UCM), which Orban has backed, was denied registration as a result (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2004). In its report, the EPP commission said the Romanian government is again seeking to amend electoral laws ahead of the fall parliamentary and presidential elections, and that this raises the specter of undemocratic elections. MS

ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR REITERATES POSITION ON REHABILITATED WAR CRIMINALS
Prosecutor-General Ilie Botos suggested to journalists on 15 July that it is "technically impossible" for his office to annul the judicial rehabilitation of alleged war criminals Colonels Radu Dinulescu and Gheorghe Petrescu, Mediafax reported. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, demanded in February that the Romanian authorities annul both rehabilitations, which were granted by the Supreme Court in 1997 and 1998 following an appeal by the Prosecutor-General's Office under an "extraordinary appeal" procedure. Botos said that due to the abolition of that procedure from Romanian criminal and penal law, a decision by the Supreme Court can no longer be challenged and may only be appealed before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The men were sentenced following World War II for participating in crimes against Jews and the extermination of Jews in Bessarabia and Bukovina in 1941 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January, 3 February, and 21 April 2004). MS

OSCE OFFICIAL DENOUNCES 'LINGUISTIC CLEANSING' IN TRANSDNIESTER
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Rolf Ekeus on 15 July deplored the forced closure of a Moldovan high school in Tiraspol, calling the measure "nothing less than linguistic cleansing," according to a press release issued by the HCNM's office in The Hague. Ekeus issued the statement after Transdniestrian police surrounded a school that uses the Latin script and authorities removed the school's furniture and equipment. Parents and teachers attempted to block the trucks being used to remove the equipment but were themselves forcefully removed by police. The HCNM's office said the incident was especially provocative as it occurred one day after Ekeus visited the school and received assurances from Tiraspol authorities that they will allow registration of students within one week. Ekeus said the action "is further evidence of the Transdniestrian disregard for basic human rights and education standards." He also said the authorities are using thousands of children "as pawns in a political game." The separatist authorities claim that Moldovan is only one of the official languages in the region and that it should be taught using the Cyrillic script, as in the Soviet Union. MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS RUSSIA AGAINST TRANSDNIESTRIAN PRIVATIZATION
Visiting Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on 15 July that privatization operations currently under way in Transdniester are illegal, Infotag reported. Stratan said any person or company bidding for assets in the breakaway province needs to have the prior approval of the government in Chisinau. On returning to Chisinau later on 15 July, Stratan said he received assurances from Lavrov, State Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin, and from government-apparatus head Dmitrii Kozak that Russia will in future abide by Moldovan legislation on privatization and that participation in state sales in Transdniester will take place only with Moldovan consent. Last year, Tiraspol sold 14 major enterprises for a total of $10.2 million; most of the buyers were Russian. Some 100 state-owned enterprises in the separatist region were slated for privatization by Tiraspol authorities in 2004. MS

MOLDOVAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS NEWSPAPER'S COMPLAINT AGAINST PARLIAMENT
The Moldovan Supreme Court rejected a complaint on 15 July by the "Timpul" publication seeking to oblige the Moldovan parliament to make available the minutes of its debates in the 2002 spring and summer session, Flux reported. "Timpul" had argued that parliament must provide free access to public information under current law, but the legislature's legal representative submitted a copy of chamber rules that stipulates that the minutes may only be consulted by lawmakers and those for whom access is explicitly provided by law. The "Timpul" representative vowed to appeal the decision before an enlarged panel of judges. MS

MILITANTS IN IRAQ TAKE OVER SAMARRA
Reports emanating from Samarra in recent days blame both Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic militants for the surge in violence there, with many Iraqi media outlets reporting that the militants have gained control over the city, located 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. A look at the most recent attacks sheds light on the violence that is plaguing the town, violence that is reminiscent of that which occurred in Al-Fallujah in April and May.

Five 1st Infantry Division soldiers and two Iraqi national guardsmen were killed in Samarra on 8 July, and 20 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division and four Iraqi national guardsmen were wounded when militants attacked the Iraqi national-guard headquarters in Samarra at about 10:30 a.m., U.S. Central Command reported. AP reported that militants detonated a car bomb at the national-guard headquarters before launching some 38 mortars at a U.S. military base.

A contributor to the Global Islamic Media website (http://www.ansarnet.ws/vb) posted "Communique Number 16" to the site on 11 July. The communique, issued by Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad -- a militant group associated with suspected Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi -- claimed the group was responsible for the 8 July attacks. Two Turkish truck drivers were also killed on 8 July while transporting supplies near Samarra, NTV reported on 9 July. On 11 July, two U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb outside the city, U.S. Central Command reported. International media reported that the Iraqi national-guard headquarters was hit by four mortar strikes, which essentially leveled the building. By 12 July, U.S. troops surrounded the city. Families trying to flee the fighting were caught between U.S. forces and gunmen, LBC satellite television reported.

So who is behind the violence in Samarra? Some media reports contend that Hussein loyalists -- more precisely, former Iraqi army members -- have organized themselves into well-armed groups and are launching coordinated attacks, such as the 8 July attacks mentioned above. Other evidence points to Islamic militants. "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 11 July that Hussein loyalists seized control of the town two weeks earlier. The report cited a "synchronized" attack organized by a former general of the Iraqi army, noting, "Professional soldiers who knew how to gauge and range an artillery piece were in charge." The former soldiers were reportedly easily identified by their Hussein-era army uniforms. One militant, manning a makeshift checkpoint, told "The Daily Telegraph," "The National Guard are traitors, they work with the Americans but are afraid to come in here. We control Samarra now." The same soldier said that his colleagues had begun to force the Kurdish population out of the city, saying that Kurds constituted a pro-American fifth column.

The Shi'ite News Agency website (http://www.ebaa.net) reported on 10 July that hundreds of Islamic militants had come to Samarra from other cities. The fighters were reportedly armed with "tens of antiaircraft guns and armor-piercing and antiaircraft shells." The report contends that militants loyal to Ansar Al-Islam have teamed up with the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad. The report also claims that the two Sunni groups have joined forces with 200 of the city's local fighters, "who have full control of the city in the absence of any Iraqi authority." According to ebaa.net, the city has experienced chaos since the fall of the Hussein regime, when armed gangs and criminals arrived on the scene threatening locals. "Sources" told the website that militants in recent days have blown up the headquarters of the Iraqi National Movement Party led by Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, the City Council, the headquarters of the peshmerga forces, and the home of Municipal Council Chairman Adnan Thabit, among other sites.

Meanwhile, Baghdad's "Al-Manar" reported on 12 July that flyers had been posted on buildings and mosques throughout the city urging people working for the multinational forces in Iraq to repent. The flyers, issued by "The Legitimate Committee for the Islamic Resistance -- Mujahedin Shura Council," said a decision was made on 25 June that a pardon would be granted to those "spies, translators, contractors, defense force members," and others loyal to coalition forces who repented.

The flyers advised such people to "declare their sincere repentance, perform the legal vow according to the Shari'a, and make [a] written pledge that they will not return to such acts in the Grand Mosque in the center of the city or in the Al-Razzaq Mosque in [the] east of Samarra city." The flyer marked 8 July as the last day for a pardon. The flyers also contended that the mujahedin in Samarra had obtained "files, documents, and confessions" that identify the names and positions of those working with multinational forces in the city. "Al-Manar" reported that the Islamic militants in the city accuse some 300 Iraqis of working with U.S. forces there. Mosque officials told the daily that "no one has seized the opportunity" to repent. It is difficult to imagine any Iraqis would, since they and their families would be labeled "collaborators" and likely be targeted by insurgents.

It is unclear how long it might take multinational forces to gain control over the city. Eyewitnesses told "Al-Mada" on 14 July that masked gunmen remained in control of the city and were continuing to target national-guard forces stationed there. Samarra is a city with large Shi'a and Kurdish populations; the city suffered under the Hussein regime. The volatile city of Al-Fallujah lies just across the river, and some media reports indicate that fighters from the city have regularly crossed into Samarra in recent months.

FUEL-LADEN TRUCKS EXPLODE ON AFGHAN BORDER
Two tanker trucks carrying fuel for U.S. forces in Afghanistan exploded on the border of Pakistan on 15 July, AFX reported the same day. Carrying fuel loaded in the port city of Karachi, the trucks erupted in flames near the Pakistani border city of Chamam, which is located in the area surrounding the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. "It appears to be an act of terrorism," Chaman administration official Nazar Hussain said, adding that investigations have been launched. In June, an oil-tanker truck on the same route exploded in Chaman. Residents said neo-Taliban forces operating in the area claimed responsibility for that blast. According to an AP report on 15 July, however, a carelessly discarded cigarette butt caused the most recent tanker fires. In the AP report, Bashir Bazai, a senior Pakistani government official in the area, said the blazes were not caused by an attack. He also said there were no casualties and that the drivers of the trucks have been arrested. MR

AFGHAN ARMY SEIZES A TON OF OPIUM POPPIES
The nascent Afghan Army seized more than a ton of opium poppies during a raid in the central Ghor Province, AFP reported on 15 July. The Afghan forces, supervised and financed by U.S. troops, halted six pickup trucks carrying 1,343 kilograms of opium poppies in the provincial capital Chaghcharan, some 350 kilometers outside Kabul, Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. Local authorities and UN drug officers burned the cache. Afghanistan has reemerged as the world's largest opium producer, and output is on the rise. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime's annual report on opium released in October said Afghanistan's poppy production had increased by 6 percent over the past year. The report also said an estimated 1.7 million Afghans depend on poppy farming for their livelihoods. MR

AFGHAN TROOPS KILL TWO IN SHOOT-OUT
Afghan National Army troops killed two men in Western Afghanistan in a shoot-out that gave rise to a mob attack on an election office, AP reported on 15 July. The melee broke out in Chagcharan, the capital of Ghor Province, 350 kilometers west of Kabul. Ghor deputy police chief Ghulam Yahya said the shooting started when Afghan soldiers tried to steal money from people they were searching on the western side of town. UN spokesman David Singh said the dead were two local militiamen. Afghan Defense Ministry officials said the victims were area shopkeepers. Yahya said witnesses identified four of the soldiers, who were later arrested. Officials said a crowd gathered to protest the killings. Demanding the bodies of the two people killed, the mob then marched on an army outpost at the area airport and stormed a compound used by the joint UN-Afghan electoral commission. "Eight people entered the office and vandalized it by throwing stones at vehicles and windows and destroying furniture," Singh said. Seventeen people, mostly foreigners, were evacuated by helicopter to the western city of Herat, he said. MR

CANADA RECALLS ITS AMBASSADOR TO IRAN
Canada has recalled its ambassador to Tehran after the Iranian government refused to allow Canadian observers at the trial of a man accused of killing Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said on 14 July, according to AFP on 16 July. Graham called the Iranian decision "completely unacceptable." "This is not [a] case [of] a secret trial. We do not accept the position of Iran," he said. AFP cited Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi as saying earlier, "Iran does not feel at all obliged to accept the presence of Canadian observers in this trial." Meanwhile, Iran's ambassador to Canada, Seyyed Mohammad Ali Musavi, commented on Graham's assertions that economic and political sanctions against Iran might be pursued, saying: "I think this is not a helpful approach to move constructively in a mutual interest on the trial of Ms. Kazemi and our bilateral relations," albawaba.com reported on 15 July. The trial was expected to resume on 17 July in Tehran, RFE/RL reported on 15 July. KR

IRAN REAPPOINTS JANNATI TO LEAD GUARDIANS COUNCIL
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reappointed Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as head of the 12-member Guardians Council on 15 July, Reuters reported on 16 July. Jannati is a senior hard-line cleric. Six clerics and six Islamic jurists sit on the Guardians Council, which has the power to block legislation that it sees as unconstitutional or un-Islamic. Jannabi has been on the council since 1979. KR

KHARRAZI DEPARTS TUNIS AFTER ECONOMIC SUMMIT
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi departed Tunis on 15 July following a three-day economic summit, IRNA reported on 16 July. The summit, the seventh between Iran and Tunisia, resulted in the signing of seven memorandums of understanding on mutual cooperation on issues including radio and television cooperation, private-sector economic cooperation, expansion of technical and marine cooperation, and an agreement on the allocation of 25 million euros ($30.9 million) to Tunisia. Kharrazi reportedly traveled to Khartoum at the summit's end. KR

HUNDREDS OF AL-QAEDA MEMBERS SAID TO BE LIVING IN IRAN
London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 15 July that hundreds of Al-Qaeda members are living in Iran, many under tight security. The daily cited a senior source within the Iranian presidency as saying that more than 384 members of the group and other terrorist organizations have sought haven in Iran, including 18 senior members of Al-Qaeda. The terrorist leaders are reportedly living under tight security -- some of them in villas in the Namak Abrud region, close to the town of Chalous on the Caspian Sea. Others are reportedly living in Lavizan, northwest of the capital. A large military complex is also located in the area, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported. The daily noted that it could not independently confirm the senior official's claims. KR

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER ANNOUNCES CREATION OF SECURITY ORGAN
Iyad Allawi announced on 15 July the creation of a new domestic security branch that will work to combat militant activities in Iraq, international media reported. The General Security Directorate will "annihilate these groups" Allawi said, washingtonpost.com reported on 16 July. He added that he will call upon neighboring states to help secure Iraq's borders and help bolster Iraqi security forces through the provision of military equipment and other aid during his tour of Arab states next week.. Asked whether the directorate will employ former intelligence officers who served under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Allawi said no, adding: "We will seek the help of professional people who have expertise and...are present in all parts of Iraq and we will employ them in this new unit," Al-Jazeera reported. KR

IRAQIS CALL FOR HUSSEIN'S EXECUTION
Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad on 15 July calling for the execution of former President Hussein, Al-Jazeera reported on the same day. The demonstrators also reportedly demanded compensation for the victims of the former regime and their families, and demanded that Ba'ath Party members not be allowed to obtain positions within government departments. A similar demonstration was also reportedly held in Al-Najaf on 15 July, Arab media reported. KR

PHILIPPINES RECALLS HEAD OF HUMANITARIAN CONTINGENT
The Philippine government announced on 16 July that it has recalled the head of its humanitarian contingent in Iraq, as well as 10 other members of the team, in an effort to gain the release of hostage Angelo de la Cruz, ABS-CBN news reported. Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said in a statement that the remaining members of the contingent will be withdrawn "shortly." The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group that is holding de la Cruz captive said in a 15 July statement released to Al-Jazeera that de la Cruz would not be released until the last Philippine soldier in Iraq departed, the news channel reported. KR

BODY OF BULGARIAN HOSTAGE RECOVERED IN BAGHDAD
Iraqi police on 15 July found the decapitated body of a Bulgarian hostage killed in Iraq earlier this week, Al-Jazeera reported. The hostage's remains were discovered in Mosul. Major General Salim al-Hajj Isa, the head of security in the Ninawah governorate, said that the U.S. Army verified that the body was that of the Bulgarian hostage. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 15 July that there was no credible information available on the fate of a second Bulgarian hostage, BGNES reported. Meanwhile, the National Islamic Resistance Brigades of the 1920 Revolution announced on 15 July that it has given the Saudi-based Al-Jari Transport Company an additional 24 hours to withdraw its employees from Iraq before deciding the fate of Egyptian hostage Muhammad al-Gharbawi, Al-Jazeera reported on the same day. KR

KURDISH DELEGATION ASKS GRAND AYATOLLAH TO INTERVENE IN KIRKUK
A delegation from the Kurdistan Islamic Ulama Union visited Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Al-Najaf on 12 July to seek his assistance in returning seized land to the Kurds in Kirkuk, the Al-Najaf News Network reported on 14 July. The delegation presented the ayatollah with a petition signed by 1,292 people who had their land taken from them and asks al-Sistani to issue a fatwa calling for the return of these lands to their Kurdish owners. The land was given away to Arabs during President Saddam Hussein's Arabization project in the 1980s. Al-Sistani reportedly told the delegation that they should seek to resolve the issue through the courts. KR

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