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Newsline - August 2, 2004


RUSSIA INCREASES OIL DUTIES TO RECORD LEVELS
Russia has hiked its oil export duties from $41.60 to $69.90 per metric ton starting from 1 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 August. According to the report, the hike is the biggest in the last decade. The Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade have argued that increasing the tax burden on the oil sector will compensate for tax losses in other sectors and reflect the continuous growth in world oil prices. According to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the additional duties should bring an extra $3 billion in revenues to the Russian budget. VY

...AS EXPERT WARNS ABOUT DIRECTION OF RUSSIA'S OIL POLICY...
Arguments from Russian officials that the country can compensate for the shortfall in Arab oil exports is a bluff, Nodari Simoniya, the director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told "Argumenty i fakty," No.30, as Russia's share of global oil reserves is small and does not exceed 6 percent. "While Russia and the CIS extract only about 10 million tons a year, the United States consumes 561 million tons," Simoniya noted. In addition, the planned acceleration in Russia's economic growth requires increased domestic oil consumption, Simoniya argued, saying that the Russian oil oligarchs are ignorant about the long-term strategy for the exploration and development of national oil resources and care only about short-term profits. With such an attitude, East Siberia, where most of Russia's oil reserves are concentrated, will be depopulated in 20-25 years and people there will begin to speak Chinese or Korean, Simoniya argued. Under such conditions, Russia cannot further explore the East Siberia oil deposits without serious investments and reliable partners from the West. "The West should realize that the epoch of [former Russian President Boris] Yeltsin's 'wild capitalism' is going away and Russia is learning to protect its national interests," Simoniya concluded. VY

...AND NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTER DESCRIBES NEW MINERAL-WEALTH LAW
Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev said on 30 July that by September his ministry will submit a new mineral-wealth bill that will eliminate the "two keys" rule according to which access to mineral resources is regulated both by the federal center and the regional authorities, polit.ru reported. According to Trutnev, the "two keys" rule will be replaced by an auction process for mineral-wealth concessions. Regional authorities currently have veto rights on such auctions. Trutnev admitted that many governors are against changing the "two keys" principle but have "brought no convincing arguments against it." The minister also said the bill will contain provisions on both open and closed auctions. The closed auctions will be related to "strategically important mineral resource deposits linked with the development of the state pipeline company Transneft." VY

KREMLIN PUTS STATE BROADCASTER ON TIGHTER LEASH
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on 30 July approving the appointment of Oleg Dobrodeev as the general director of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), "Kommersant-daily" reported. Dobrodeev was formally the company's chairman. The move is linked to the radical government-sponsored changes in the company structure, the daily reported. Under the reorganization, television channels RTR, Culture, and also regional affiliates of VGTRK will lose their status as financially and administratively independent elements of the network and will become subdivisions of VGTRK. A single, unified correspondent network will be formed, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 July. Regarding the possibility of privatizing VGTRK, Dobrodeev said that "such a move is categorically forbidden and, even, criminal." "The holding takes on a social responsibility that no private investor can, " Dobrodeev said. VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY TO REGULATE JOURNALISTS' ACCESS TO CHECHNYA
Vera Falyakhova, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman, announced at a Moscow news conference on 30 July that her ministry will be in charge of issuing permits to journalists visiting Chechnya, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 August. Previously, the presidential administration was responsible for regulating journalists' visits to Chechnya; but the system does not work, the paper noted, and journalists frequently visit Chechnya without permission. The Interior Ministry has representatives across the republic and has the power to punish journalists for certain violations, for instance the publication of information about the movements of Russian troops. "Kommersant daily" wrote that it is strange that ordinary Russians can visit Chechnya without special permission, but journalists cannot. VY

PUTIN WARNS ATHLETES AGAINST CHEWING DURING NATIONAL ANTHEM
President Putin recently told Leonid Tyagachov, the head of the National Olympic Committee, that he wants Russian athletes to sing the national anthem without chewing gum or smiling stupidly, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported on 30 July. Tyagachov reportedly said that he conveyed Putin's wishes to the coach of the Olympic soccer team, Vyacheslav Koloskov. Koloskov, in turn, reportedly said that he has told his players to be more serious when the national anthem is being played. VY

DUMA PASSES PART OF HOUSING REFORM PACKAGE...
The State Duma met on 31 July in a special session and approved dozens of bills. The Duma adopted in its third and final reading eight of 28 laws that are part of a package of legislation aimed at reforming the housing market, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The remaining bills will be considered in their second and third readings at the end of September, according to State Duma Chairman (Unified Russia) Boris Gryzlov. According to ORT, the laws are important for the preparation of the 2005 federal budget and could not be postponed until fall. The bills passed already are designed to make it easier for citizens to obtain mortgages and to end the monopoly of a few companies dominating the housing-construction market. Deputies also passed a bill in its second and third readings providing witnesses and other participants in criminal proceedings protection, according to Interfax and RosBalt. The bill was supported unanimously and, if enacted, will provide witnesses -- who are considered to be in danger -- with new homes, jobs, and identities. JAC

...PROVISIONALLY LIMITS ADVERTISING OF BEER...
Legislators also approved on 31 July a bill in its second reading that would amend the law on advertising and ban the advertisement of beer on television and radio from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The bill passed with 432 in favor, zero against, and one abstention, according to Interfax. The bill also prohibits the suggestion that drinking beer "has important significance for the achievement of social, sporting, and personal success." "In other words," according to the newspaper, "the bill bans almost all the ways that beermakers currently advertise their products." Both beermakers and advertisers are unhappy with the law. Experts believe that beer advertisements made up about 10 percent of all television advertising market last year. JAC

...AND PASSES BILL CANCELING FULL GUARANTEE ON SBERBANK ACCOUNTS
Also on 31 July, deputies adopted in all three readings amendments to the law on insurance of individual banking deposits, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 August. The bill cancels the 100 percent state guarantee on deposits held in state savings bank Sberbank. Under the legislation, accounts opened before October 2004 will be insured in full, but after that date account holders will be reimbursed at the same rate as account holders in commercial banks -- that is, up to the 100,000 rubles ($3,400) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). One of the authors of the bill, Banking Committee Deputy Chairman Vasilii Galushkin (Unified Russia), said the current system gives Sberbank an unjustified competitive advantage against other commercial banks. Sberbank currently holds around 60 percent of all retail accounts. The Communist Party, Motherland, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions opposed the bill, but it passed with 280 votes in the first reading, with 104 against and one abstention. JAC

GOVERNOR PREDICTS UNREST FOLLOWING IMPLEMENTATION OF SOCIAL-BENEFITS REFORM...
In an interview with "Novaya gazeta," No. 54, Perm Oblast Governor Oleg Chirkunov said that it is "quite possible" that the planned reform of the social-benefits system could cause many regions to go bankrupt and provoke social unrest. "If the law is enacted in its present form, citizens will become distressed and direct their complaints to regional authorities," Chirkunov said. Nevertheless, Chirkunov said he does not plan to sent President Putin a letter protesting the planned reforms as governors did recently in the Far East Federal District (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004). He thinks that in a year or two the system of monetary compensation will be working properly and people will get over their initial dislike. "One can already perceive a trend of the federal government taking away more and more money from the regions," he added. JAC

...AS RURAL REGIONS STAND TO PROFIT
In the same "Novaya gazeta," No. 54, article, Pskov Oblast Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov also commented on the social benefits reform by noting that the main factor determining whether a governor favors or opposes the reform is whether or not his region is dependent on federal subsidies. According to Mikhailov, Pskov Oblast will benefit from the reform and the amount of money supposed to be allocated to the citizens of the oblast will considerably exceed previous allocations. The greater part of the region lives in rural areas where benefits such as free public transportation are harder to take advantage of due to lack of proximity to public transportation routes. According to the weekly, no more than 30 percent of the population lives in urban areas. JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY SEEKING EXPANDED POWERS TO INVESTIGATE OFFICIAL CORRUPTION
Interior Ministry Department for Combating Organized Crime head Nikolai Ovchinnikov has said that the number of crimes committed by civil servants at the federal and regional level increased by 33 percent in the first half of 2004 compared with the same period the previous year, according to Interfax on 30 July. According to "Izvestiya" on 28 July, there were some 6,240 cases of bribery during the first half of the year, of which 1,931 led to criminal proceedings. According to the daily, the ministry has suggested amending legislation to limit the presumption of innocence in cases against officials so that government officials are obligated to confirm the sources of their income. In addition, the Interior Ministry would like to be able to tap judges' telephones -- which they currently are unable to do -- so that they could determine whether or not a judge is taking bribes. JAC

STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN FAR EAST REGION DUE TO DROUGHT
A state of emergency has been declared in Chita Oblast due to severe drought conditions, Radio Rossii and Interfax reported on 31 July. Preliminary estimates put the total damage at 450 million rubles ($15,500), as grain and fodder crops were wiped out in 22 raions in the oblast. A special commission is trying to determine the extent of the damage. JAC

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF NEW BODY TO OVERSEE EU RELATIONS
The Armenian government announced on 30 July the formation of a new state body to oversee relations with the European Union, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. According to Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Samvel Mkrtchian, the new state body will be headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and demonstrates the Armenian commitment to adhering to EU standards and norms. The announcement also stems from the government's stated goal of expanding the Armenia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, first signed in 1999. Such a move would also promote specific policies related to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It is also seen as an attempt to improve Armenia's position in anticipation of EU engagement in the region as part of its recent European Neighborhood Policy. RG

HEAD OF OSCE ARMENIA OFFICE REACTS TO RECENT CRITICISM...
The head of the OSCE's Yerevan office, Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin, responded on 30 July to recent criticism of the OSCE by officials of Armenia and eight other former Soviet countries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The criticism of the OSCE, leveled last month in a collective statement, accused the OSCE of interfering in those countries' internal affairs by highlighting electoral irregularities, human rights abuses, and other deficiencies (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). Pryakhin dismissed the Armenian government's support for the criticism, stating that "the critical content of that statement is not addressed to our office" and affirming that "we do not interfere in Armenia's internal affairs and do not engage in disproportionate actions mentioned in that statement." The incident also led to a sharp denunciation of the Armenian government by several Armenian nongovernmental organizations, which contended that the criticism was "absolutely inappropriate" and damages the country's international reputation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2004). RG

...AS THE ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DEFENDS ITS STANCE
Responding to the OSCE official's statement, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian retorted on 30 July that the government has "concerns which we presented to the OSCE leadership and appropriate bodies," according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Attempting to counter charges that Armenia was forced to follow Russia's lead in signing the critical statement, the spokesman added that as an OSCE member, Armenia has "equal rights and full participation in decision-making." RG

NEW ANTICORRUPTION CENTER OPENS IN ARMENIA
In a ceremony on 30 July in Yerevan, the Armenian branch of the international nongovernmental Transparency International opened a new center to combat corruption in the country, Noyan Tapan reported. The Anticorruption Center seeks to partner with the country's emerging civil society in an effort to fight corruption and promote greater transparency in governance. According to Amalia Kostanian, the head of Transparency International's chapter in Armenia, the new center will also organize national anticorruption campaigns utilizing educational and training programs for the public and local nongovernmental organizations. Attending the ceremony, Justice Minister David Haroutiunian announced that the government supports the plans, noting that the state effort to combat corruption can only be successful with public support. RG

AZERBAIJANI IMAM ARRESTED, RELEASED BY POLICE
Police in the Azerbaijani capital Baku arrested Imam Ilqar Ibrahimoglu and 20 others on 31 July, Turan reported. The imam and the 20 detainees were released a few hours after their arrest. Police officials were quoted by Ibrahimoglu as saying that they had information indicating "plans against the state were being discussed" during a religious ceremony that the imam was conducting in a private residence, according to Turan. Ibrahimoglu, a prominent critic of the government and the head of Baku's Djuma Mosque, was detained for three months after being arrested in early December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2003). The Azerbaijani authorities view the Djuma Mosque as a center for extremists and had it "closed for repairs" last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). RG

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL VISITS BAKU
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones on 29 July in Baku, Interfax reported. Jones reviewed several bilateral issues with the Azerbaijani president, including regional energy projects and plans for greater military assistance for Azerbaijan. There was also discussion of the possible increase in the number of Azerbaijani troops deployed in Iraq. RG

SEVERAL WOUNDED IN CLASH BETWEEN GEORGIAN AND OSSETIAN FORCES...
At least six South Ossetians were killed and two Georgian policemen wounded in an overnight shootout near the village of Prisi during the late night and early morning hours of 31 July-1 August, ITAR-TASS and Civil Georgia reported. The clash followed an exchange of small-arms and heavy-artillery fire between Georgian and South Ossetian troops near the Georgian village of Tamarasheni and the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2004). RG

...BUT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE UNIMPEDED
Despite the incident, negotiations between Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian, and North Ossetian representatives, within the framework of the Joint Control Commission, continued and reached an agreement on 31 July for the establishment of a joint Russian-Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping checkpoint near Tskhinvali, Civil Georgia and ITAR-TASS reported. RG

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS SUSPENDED AFTER TURKISH VESSEL SHELLED
Abkhaz officials suspended talks with their Georgian counterparts on 31 July in response to the recent shelling of a Turkish commercial cargo ship off the Abkhaz coast, Interfax reported. A statement issued by the Abkhaz official criticized the incident as breach of the cease-fire agreement in effect and stated that "the actions of the new Georgian authorities in regard to South Ossetia, and now in regard to Abkhazia, demonstrate that the Georgian side has embarked upon a policy of wrecking the process of peaceful settlement of conflicts." RG

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEETS WITH VISITING U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL
Georgian Parliament Speaker Nino Burdjanadze met in Tbilisi on 30 July with visiting U.S. diplomat Jones, ITAR-TASS reported. Jones affirmed Washington's desire for "a political settlement" to the conflict with South Ossetia but pledged to support Georgian territorial integrity. Jones also reviewed issues related to the "East-West" energy corridor, including the status of construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum natural-gas pipeline. RG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS MILITARY COOPERATION WITH ISRAEL
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called for military cooperation with Israel after touring several leading Israeli military industrial firms on 29 July, Civil Georgia and "The Georgian Times" reported. During the visit to Israel, President Saakashvili and Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze met with senior officials of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Israel Military Industries (IMI), and Elbit Systems, which develops advanced electronic defense systems and already enjoys a cooperative relationship with the Georgian state-run Aircraft Factory. The Georgian Aircraft Factory produces a series of four modified Su-25 combat aircraft, including the modern Su-25 Scorpio, designed jointly with Elbit Systems. RG

CSTO MILITARY EXERCISES UNDER WAY IN KAZAKHSTAN
The initial stage of joint military exercises by the armed forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was launched on 2 August in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. The first stage, primarily focused on preparation rather than operations, involves commanders from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan implementing procedures for initiating multinational counterinsurgency operations within the CSTO. The second stage of the exercise, to feature actual operations, is to be held at the training ground outside of Balykchi in Kyrgyzstan from 4-6 August and will consist of 2,000 troops from the armed forces of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. A number of other military officials from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will also attend the exercises as observers. RG

KAZAKHSTAN PLACES BORDER GUARDS ON HEIGHTENED ALERT...
Kazakhstan has placed its border guard units on a heightened state of alert on 30 July in response to the bombings in Tashkent, Khabar TV reported. In addition, border guards were reinforced at all border posts, crossings, and detour routes. RG

...AND LATER INCREASES SECURITY AT ALL MILITARY INSTALLATIONS
Officials from the Kazakh Defense Ministry ordered increased security at all military installations on 31 July, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The elevated security includes new measures designed to "ensure vigilance and tighter security of military facilities, particularly arms and munitions depots, aerodromes, and air bases." RG

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF KAZAKHSTAN AGREES TO CANDIDATES FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS...
The pro-government Democratic Party of Kazakhstan formally endorsed a new slate of 27 candidates on 31 July for the parliamentary election set for September, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The list of candidates for the lower house of parliament was adopted at the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan's party congress in Astana. Party leader Maksut Narikbaev heads the seven-people party list, while another 20 members of the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan are to run in single-seat constituencies. RG

...AND OPPOSITION AK ZHOL PARTY FORGES CANDIDATE LIST
The Kazakh reformist opposition Ak Zhol party met on 31 July and endorsed a group of 13 to run as party list candidates for the upcoming election of the lower house of parliament, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan. One of the party's five co-chairmen, Alikhan Baymenov, announced that he will join party co-chairman Altynbek Sarsenbaev and former Security Council secretary Tulegen Zhukeyev on the party list. Baymenov added that the party will also present another 40 candidates running in single-seat constituencies. The Ak Zhol party has also pledged to support the 25 candidates of the opposition election bloc comprised of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and Communist parties. RG

KYRGYZ FORCES GO ON ALERT AND SECURE BORDER WITH UZBEKISTAN
Responding to the 30 July bombings in the Uzbek capital, Kyrgyz Border Service forces were placed on alert on 30 July and instituted strict border controls along the Kyrgyz border with Uzbekistan, according to the Kabar News Agency. Although the border remains open, special Interior Ministry forces have erected new checkpoints along all mountain routes and passes along the country's southern perimeter. RG

TAJIKISTAN ALSO TIGHTENS SECURITY
In line with similar moves by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Tajik security forces tightened security throughout the country on 31 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Forces from the Tajik Interior Ministry have been deployed to protect "vital facilities" and military forces are cooperating to impose new "special surveillance" of the country's airports and railway stations. RG

COORDINATED SUICIDE BOMBINGS ROCK UZBEK CAPITAL...
A series of three coordinated, nearly simultaneous bombings struck the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Prosecutor-General's Office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in the afternoon of 30 July, killing three and wounding eight, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Uzbek President Islam Karimov abruptly returned to Tashkent on 31 July, ending his vacation in the Crimea and assuming control of the investigation. Damage was heaviest at the Prosecutor-General's Office, where seven people were injured after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the lobby. The two other bombings were much less destructive, as the suicide bombers were prevented from coming close to the embassies themselves; there were no Americans or Israelis among the dead or injured. The attack on the Israeli Embassy killed two Uzbek security personnel, however. The attacks, each carried out by suicide bombers, follows the start of a trial of 15 Islamic militants purportedly linked to the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2004). The defendants are charged with planning and carrying out an earlier series of bombings and other assaults in late March 2004 that killed 47 people. RG

...AS BANNED ISLAMIST GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
A previously unknown group calling itself the "Islamic Holy War Group in Uzbekistan" claimed responsibility on an Islamist website on 30 July for the same day's attacks, AP and Interfax reported. Speaking in a 25-minute televised national address, President Karimov announced on 31 July that the attacks were carried out by Hizb ut-Tahrir. The president refuted earlier claims of responsibility by another Islamist group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and stressed that the bombings were directly linked to attacks in March. Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov also reported on 31 July that security forces have already detained an unspecified number of suspects and stressed that calm has been restored to the capital, with additional security forces deployed at all foreign embassies. RG

MINSK EXPELS BRITISH EXPERT IN RADIOLOGY
Belarusian authorities have invalidated a multiple-entry visa for Alan Flowers, an expert in radiology based at Kingston University in London, and banned him from visiting the country for the next five years, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported on 31 July. Officials gave no explanation for the expulsion. Flowers, who came to Belarus earlier in July, must leave Belarus by 3 August. Flowers, who has spent years studying the fallout from the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, told journalists that his deportation might be linked to his contacts with the unregistered European Youth Parliament group in Belarus. "The main reason I believe the Belarusian authorities are not happy with my presence here is that this organization has become stronger and more Belarusian students have actively joined the debate," he said. JM

EU URGES MINSK TO REOPEN BANNED UNIVERSITY
The Netherlands, which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, urged Belarusian authorities on 29 July to reverse their decision to revoke the license of the European Humanities University (EHU), Belapan reported on 30 July. The private EHU, financed by grants from the EU and other organizations, was closed by Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou last week on the grounds that it had no sufficient space to accommodate its 300 lecturers and 1,000 students (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2004). JM

OUR UKRAINE, SOCIALIST PARTY LEADERS SIGN FAIR-ELECTION ACCORD
Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, two major candidates in the 31 October presidential candidates, signed an agreement for a "fair election" in Kyiv on 2 August, Interfax and UNIAN reported. The politicians pledged to pool efforts in monitoring the vote and exposing violations of the law during the election campaign. Yushchenko said he hopes to sign a similar agreement with another presidential candidate, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. Commenting on Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's decision not to run for a third term, Yushchenko said the option of making Kuchma the country's prime minister after the election has not been ruled out. JM

FOUR MILLION UKRAINIANS REPORTEDLY BACK PREMIER'S PRESIDENTIAL BID
Four million signatures have been collected to back the presidential candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Interfax reported on 31 July, quoting Serhiy Tihipko, the chief of Yanukovych's election staff. According to Ukraine's law on presidential elections, a registered candidate for the 31 October election must submit at least 500,000 signatures in support of his or her candidacy to the Central Election Commission by 20 September. JM

RUSSIAN OIL FLOWS INTO UKRAINE'S ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE
Ukrtransnafta, the operator of Ukrainian oil pipelines, has started pumping Russian crude through the Odesa-Brody pipeline in the "reverse" direction, from Brody to the oil terminal at the Yuzhnyy port in Odesa, Interfax reported on 2 August. The action follows the recent signing of a contract between Ukrtransnafta and the Russian oil company TNK-BP, which will ship 9 million tons of Russian oil annually for the next three years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). The West and Russia have long been engaged in a political tug-of-war over the Odesa-Body pipeline and the direction of the oil flow in it (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 20 July 2004). JM

SECRETARY OF STATE SAYS U.S. WILL REMAIN IN BOSNIA...
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters during his four-hour visit to Sarajevo on 31 July that the United States will maintain a military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the EU takes over peacekeeping duties from NATO at the end of 2004, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March and 16 July 2004). The U.S. forces will help fight terrorism, catch indicted war criminals, and promote reforms in the Bosnian military. Powell expressed his support for Bosnia's efforts to join Euro-Atlantic institutions. PM

...AND STRESSES THE NEED TO CATCH WAR CRIMES INDICTEES
Secretary of State Powell said in Sarajevo on 31 July that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, and other indicted war criminals must be caught and sent to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal if Bosnia is to succeed in joining Euro-Atlantic institutions, Reuters reported. "I hope that those who may be harboring these individuals realize that the future of their country is being held at risk by allowing these individuals to remain free," Powell added. He stressed that "criminals should not escape justice, [but] unfortunately those harboring these criminals make it more difficult for Bosnia to undertake the kind of reforms that it needs...and keeps obstacles in the way of Bosnia's full integration into institutions" like NATO and the EU. "I hope [the indictees] will be apprehended as soon as possible. It should have happened years ago," he added. In related news, NATO-led peacekeepers detained former Bijeljina police chief Mile Pejcic in Brcko on suspicion of aiding fugitive indictees, "Nezavisne novine" reported. A NATO spokesman said that Pejcic is being held at an unspecified "secure location," declining to comment on details of Pejcic's arrest. PM

BOSNIA'S HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SAYS HE WILL LEAVE IN NOVEMBER 2005
High Representative Paddy Ashdown told the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni avaz" of 31 July that he will stay on in office for only an additional six months when his current mandate expires in May 2005, Hina reported. Noting that several unnamed foreign leaders have asked him to remain until May 2006, Ashdown stressed that he and his wife agreed to return to the United Kingdom by Christmas 2005. He added that he is ready to face or fight any force in the Balkans but not his wife. PM

WILL SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO HAVE A 'VELVET DIVORCE'?
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade recently that the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro should have parliamentary elections in February 2005 as planned, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 2 August. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, however, said in Podgorica that it is a waste of time to hold such elections because it is clear that the joint state has become dysfunctional and is holding Montenegro back from its goals of Euro-Atlantic integration. Montenegro has long planned a referendum on independence, but voices are growing louder in Serbia for a referendum to take place there, too, the daily added. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, and 23 July 2004). Goran Paunovic of Serbia's governing G-17 Plus party said recently that the joint state does not function either politically or economically. He called for it to be dissolved peacefully on the model of the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993. The EU, which pressured Belgrade and Podgorica into setting up the joint state in 2002-03, has repeatedly warned them to concentrate their efforts on making it work. PM

SERBIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED
Predrag Markovic, who is speaker of the Serbian parliament, said in Belgrade on 1 August that Serbian local elections will be held on 19 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Voters will elect officials ranging from local council members to the mayor of Belgrade. Communities that have already elected officials under the 13 June 2002 legislation will not take part. PM

ETHNIC ALBANIANS IN SOUTHERN SERBIA SEEK AUTONOMY
The leaders of the three main ethnic Albanian opposition parties in southern Serbia announced in Presevo on 30 July that they have agreed on a joint program calling for regional autonomy for the Presevo Valley with the right to join Kosova, with which the area was linked in pre-communist times, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The leaders said that the unspecified "anti-Albanian activities of the Serbian authorities" left them with no choice. Many ethnic Albanians still refer to the region as "eastern Kosova." In Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica's advisers Slobodan Samardzic and Aleksandar Simic said that the proposed program is unnecessary, adding that the situation of the Albanians in the Presevo Valley cannot be compared to that of the Serbs in Kosova, which is far worse. Dusan Janjic of Belgrade's Forum for Ethnic Relations said that the proposed platform resembles that of the former guerrillas in the region and could lead to a serious crisis. PM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON SERBS TO VOTE IN KOSOVA'S ELECTION
Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 31 July that members of Kosova's Serbian minority should vote in the province's 23 October parliamentary elections, the "Southeast European Times" reported. He said that plans by some local Serbian leaders and Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica for the Serbian minority to boycott the vote help nobody. Draskovic called on Serbs to protect their interests by filling the up to 30 seats to which they are entitled to in Kosova's legislature. The previous day in Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana stressed that participating in the elections is the best way for all ethnic groups to defend their respective interests, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 July 2004). The OSCE announced in Prishtina on 1 August that 4 August is the deadline for political parties to register to participate in the 23 October vote. PM

MACEDONIAN LOCAL VOTE REPORTEDLY TO BE POSTPONED
Macedonia's governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM) is planning to postpone by one month the local elections slated for mid-October, "Utrinski vesnik" and RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported on 31 July, quoting unnamed sources within that party. SDSM lawmakers will propose the necessary change in the election law on 3 or 4 July, the report added. Without the postponement, it will not be possible to hold the elections under the new system set down in the government's proposed redistricting plan because the parliamentary debate on the controversial proposal is unlikely to be finished in time to meet the deadline for the October vote, (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2, 23, and 30 July 2004). An EU spokeswoman in Macedonia told a press conference on 30 July that the international community will consider holding elections under the old system to be a failure to implement the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, RFE/RL's broadcasters reported. UB

ROMANIAN PREMIER SLAMS LIBERAL LEADER...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase told a meeting of his Social Democratic Party (PSD) leadership on 30 July that National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan has "a vocation of bankruptcy," Mediafax reported. Nastase said that Stolojan has been a failure in every position he has held in the past. The PNL leader and former premier, Stolojan is the presidential candidate of the opposition PNL-Democratic Party alliance. Nastase, who presumably will run for president, also said he finds it "strange" to hear people speak about "the PSD former communists" when everyone knows that Stolojan was a Communist Party secretary in the Finance Ministry before 1989. Nastase said the PSD would have to enter "pre-electoral alliances" ahead of the November parliamentary elections, but that it rules out any alliance with the PNL, the Democratic Party, and the Greater Romania Party (PRM). The premier added that the PSD wants President Ion Iliescu, whose term ends in 2004, to run on the PSD's parliamentary lists. MS

...AND IS SLAMMED BACK
Reacting to Nastase's attack on Stolojan, PNL spokesman Eugen Nicolaescu said on 30 July that it is the prime minister, not Stolojan, who has the "vocation of bankruptcy" and that Nastase is bankrupting the PSD. Nicolaescu also said that Nastase's "suburban attack" demonstrates his desperation amid the realization that he will lose the election, Mediafax reported. Stolojan himself said in Targu-Mures on 1 August that the PSD is "desperately hanging on to power" and in order to save its rule is ready to enter again into an alliance with the PRM. Such an alliance, he said, would be at once "natural" for the PSD and "toxic for Romania." "The Red Quadrangle is re-emerging," said Stolojan, referring to the 1992-1995 coalition of the ruling party with the PRM, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Democratic Agrarian Party. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SUDAN
Mircea Geoana met in Khartoum on 31 July with Sudanese counterpart Mustafa Isma'il, Mediafax reported. Geoana said after the meeting that he demanded from Isma'il that Sudan take immediate steps to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region. Romania held the UN Security Council's rotating chairmanship in July. Geoana said he will send the council a report on his visit. Geoana visited a refugee camp in Darfur on 1 August. MS

MOLDOVA MAKES GOOD ON ULTIMATUM TO IMPOSE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS ON TRANSDNIESTER...
The Moldovan government announced on 30 July that it stopped issuing export certificates for Transdniester-based companies on 1 August, Infotag reported. The cabinet thus made good on its ultimatum to impose economic sanctions on the separatist region if the problem of schools teaching Moldovan (Romanian) with the Latin script is not solved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2004). The decision was made at a cabinet meeting chaired by President Vladimir Voronin. Voronin said at the meeting that it is misleading to call the measures an economic blockade against Tiraspol. He said Transdniester-based companies that have registered in Moldova in line with legal requirements will be able to continue trading without problems but those that failed to do so would no longer be issued export certificates. MS

...WHILE TIRASPOL ANNOUNCES RESTRICTIONS ON GRAIN EXPORTS...
Reacting to the Moldovan economic sanctions, Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 1 August signed a decree prohibiting agricultural enterprises in Transdniester with debts to the budget from exporting grain without the authorities' permission, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree also bans the sale of bread to buyers based outside the separatist region. On 31 July, the Tiraspol authorities proposed the resumption of negotiations with Chisinau. A statement issued by the separatist "Foreign Ministry" appealed to the Moldovan leadership and the three mediators (Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) calling for a "civilized dialogue" within the framework of the five-sided negotiations. At the same time, the statement accused Moldova of intending to settle the conflict by force and charged that Chisinau has escalated the dispute over the closed schools. On 1 August, ITAR-TASS cited Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova as saying, "If the leaders in Tiraspol want to begin negotiations, they must agree to the proposals made on 27 July by the mediators to diffuse tension." MS

...AS MOSCOW EXPRESSES 'DEEP CONCERN' OVER CONFLICT'S ESCALATION
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 30 July it was "deeply concerned over the continuing deterioration in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol," Infotag reported. The ministry said the escalation of the conflict is "fraught with unpredictable consequences and has the potential to affect the situation in the region as a whole...[and] obstructs the prospect of reaching a political settlement." It said that the idea of forcibly resolving "the Transdniester problem" is "extremely dangerous." The ministry did not specify who was contemplating the use of force. It also "urged both sides to display political wisdom and not allow the situation to get out of control." In an apparent allusion to economic sanctions against Tiraspol, the ministry said it urges the sides to "abstain from taking any destructive measures and to return to dialogue." MS

POWELL SAYS TRANSDNIESTER RISKS INTERNATIONAL ISOLATION
In a letter to Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 30 July that the Tiraspol authorities are risking "isolation by the international community" if they fail to display the will to "seriously negotiate" within the existing five-party negotiations framework, Flux reported. Powell said he was "worried" by the continuing "provocations" of the separatists, including their decision to close down schools teaching Moldovan in the Latin script. He also said the United States will continue urging Russia to abide by its obligations assumed at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit. U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges met on 30 July with President Voronin, discussing bilateral relations and the situation created by the separatists' decision to close down the schools. MS

POLICE STORM MOLDOVAN STATE RADIO BUILDING
Police on 1 August stormed Teleradio Moldova's radio building and broke up a sit-in by more than a dozen journalists and opposition lawmakers protesting alleged politically motivated layoffs, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). Before the break in, hundreds gathered outside the radio tower in Chisinau in a show of support for the journalists, who were evicted one day earlier. Thirteen journalists and two Popular Party Christian Democratic deputies were taking part in the sit-in. On 30 July, the OSCE mission to Moldova issued a statement saying the procedure of rehiring journalists at Teleradio Moldova lacks transparency, Flux reported. All journalists were dismissed ahead of Teleradio Moldova's transformation from a state-owned into a public company, and the protesters said the rehiring procedure is used to get rid of politically unwanted journalists. MS

60 YEARS AFTER CENTRAL EUROPE'S ROMANY HOLOCAUST
Sixty years ago, on the night of 2-3 August 1944, the "Gypsy camp" at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liquidated after the last group of 2,897 Romany inmates there were gassed.

The "Gypsy camp" had been established in February 1943 as a separate section of the death factory in which 1.1 million Jews perished, according to the latest estimates. The "Gypsy camp" was originally intended to function as a "family camp" in which men, women, and children were interned together. Of the 23,000 Romany inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau, just 3,000 survived. Most died of hunger and disease, according to Franciszek Piper, a historian who heads the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. After Jews and Poles (some 70,000-75,000 victims), the Roma were the third most numerous national group exterminated by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The "Porrajmos," or Holocaust in Romany, remains under-researched to this day. As in the case of the Jewish victims, one is unlikely ever to be able to produce an exact figure of Roma killed in the Porrajmos. But while estimates of Jewish victims vary between 5.1 and 6.2 million, those of Romany victims fluctuate at far greater discrepancies, from 200,000 to as many as 1.5 million. As U.S.-based political scientist Zoltan Barany wrote in a book published in 2002, there are several reasons for these large discrepancies. First, many Romany victims were illiterate or semi-illiterate and thus few among them could "bear witness" after the ordeal. "Gypsy survivors," Barany wrote, "did not leave behind diaries, did not write memoirs, and did not subsequently research into the subject." This combined with the fact that, according to Barany, history has until recently been largely an alien concept in Romany culture. Second, reliable demographic data on the Roma and Sinti population of the pre-World War II period in Europe are hard to come by, he wrote, the more so as many belonged to migrant populations. Futhermore, the "extermination of the Gypsies was far less meticulously documented by the Nazis and their collaborators than was the murder of the Jews," Barany wrote.

There is, however, a fourth reason for the lack of sufficient research into the Porrajmos that Barany cautiously avoided mentioning. Some Jewish historians believe the Nazis did not intend to wipe out the Romany population as a whole, and that herein lies sufficient justification for not regarding the Romany and Sinti populations of Europe as part of the Nazi genocidal plan. However, while it is true that the Nazis "classified" the Roma into several categories, the classification was never really applied in practice. Many Sinti and Lalleri -- who were supposed to be spared the fate of the rest in being considered "Arian Gypsies" who had genetically not mixed with the descendants of "European criminals" in the course of history -- ended up in many cases being forcibly sterilized and/or deported to the death camps, just as the other Roma did. As British historian John Grenville has shown, SS-Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler -- who devised the distinctions in a decree published in December 1942 -- was particularly eager to rid Germany of its Romany population and the distinctions "were arbitrary and by no means always observed; few Gypsies would be left in 1945; their mass murder, like that of the Jews, extended to all of Europe under German domination."

According to Barany, there were "significant disparities" in the policies of the German-dominated satellites toward the Roma during World War II. The Croatian Ustasha "were hardly more merciful in their treatment of the Roma than their German sponsors," and as many as 26,000 Roma were killed or died in deportation in Croatia or Sardinia. In German-occupied Serbia, tens of thousands of Roma were sent to extermination camps and thousands died there. Hungary handled its Romany population much as it handled its Jews. Discriminatory legislation was enacted in the early 1940s, but it was only after the German occupation of that country in March 1944 and the ascension to power of the Ferenc Szalasi regime in October of that year that Roma were deported to concentration camps, where several thousand died. In Poland, the occupying German authorities killed between 20,000 and 35,000, by shooting or in concentration camps. As in their handling of the Jews, Bulgarian authorities defended "home Gypsies" from deportation; but in Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia and Thrace, Roma were rounded up and sent to their deaths. Radu Ioanid of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, has estimated the number of dead among the 25,000 deported to Transnistria by the Antonescu regime at 19,000, while according to historian Viorel Achim, about half of those deported returned to Romania. In the Slovak "Parish Republic" of Monsignor Josef Tiso, there was plenty of discrimination but no extermination policy against the Roma. Still, Roma in Slovakia were placed in forced labor camps and, after the country's occupation by German forces in the wake of the 1944 Slovak National Uprising, some 1,000 Roma perished in pogroms and mass killings. Of the 6,000 Roma who lived in Czechoslovakia, 1/10th survived the Porrajmos. The authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia interned 1,300 Roma in the Lety camp, 538 of whom were dispatched to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A total of 326, including 241 children, died in Lety. Scandalously, the site is today a commercial pig farm that Czech authorities have for years promised to expel.

The Porrajmos has increasingly come to the attention of historians in recent years, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has directed much attention to this long-neglected chapter of the Holocaust. Whether this new focus might help eradicate the widespread anti-Roma prejudice from postcommunist East-Central Europe remains to be seen.

NORTHERN WARLORD ASSUMES GOVERNORSHIP...
The former commander of Military Corps No. 7, General Ata Mohammad (Nuri), on 1 August became the governor of Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan based on a July decree from Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai to reduce the power of warlords (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July 2004), the Hindukosh News Agency reported. Since the demise of the Taliban in late 2001, Ata Mohammad's militia, which is loyal to the Jami'at-e Islami party, sporadically clashed in northern Afghanistan with the militia of the Junbish-e Melli-ye Islami party led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum. The most recent truce between Ata Mohammad and Dostum's militias was reached in June (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 June 2004). According to Hindukosh, an unidentified representative of Dostum attended Ata Mohammad's inauguration ceremonies and pledged Dostum's support to the new governor of Balkh. AT

...AND REPORTEDLY IS SUPPORTING KARZAI'S MAIN RIVAL IN ELECTIONS
General Ata Mohammad is said to support the candidacy of former Education Minister Mohammad Yunos Qanuni in the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, the Kabul weekly "Panjara" reported on 29 July. The unexpected candidacy of Qanuni -- who according to "Panjara" is enjoying the support of powerful political and military personalities such as Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, western Afghan Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, and Ahmad Wali Mas'ud, a bother of the slain military leader of the United Front (aka Northern Alliance) Ahmad Shah Mas'ud -- appears to represent the main challenge to Karzai (for a list of all presidential candidates, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July 2004). By appointing Ata Mohammad as the governor of Balkh, Karzai is seeking to persuade the warlords to join political life and abandon their military units. If Ata Mohammad's militia truly disarms, then the policy can be successful, if not for Karzai's own political career then for Afghanistan's move toward statehood and normalcy. AT

AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTRY TO DEPLOY 16,000 TROOPS TO SAFEGUARD ELECTIONS
Defense Ministry spokesman General Zaher Azimi said on 1 August that 16,000 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) would be mobilized and dispatched to various parts of the country ahead of the October presidential elections, Radio Afghanistan reported. The troops are to be drawn from five different army divisions, Azimi added. It is not clear to which locations the ANA troops would be deployed. The number of newly trained ANA troops has not reached the figures presented by Azimi, therefore the troops in question are most likely part of Afghanistan's former military structure. AT

NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR TWO ATTACKS ON VOTER-REGISTRATION CENTERS
Hamed Agha, purporting to speak on behalf of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," said in a 1 August statement that neo-Taliban forces on 31 July attacked two voter-registration centers, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported the same day. The statement claimed that the neo-Taliban attacked an election office in the Barakibarak district of Logar Province, south of Kabul, and another one in the Nawa district of the south-central Ghazni Province. Two guards were wounded in the Logar attack and registration cards and other election materials were destroyed in both locations. Neo-Taliban elements have vowed to disrupt Afghanistan's election process, but voter registration has continued. According to the United Nations, 90 percent of Afghanistan's estimated 9.8 million eligible voters had registered to vote as of August, AP reported on 2 August. AT

IRAN SAYS IT IS BUILDING CENTRIFUGES
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on 31 July that Iran has resumed building nuclear centrifuges -- which may enrich uranium for civilian or military purposes -- but said it will not enrich uranium at this time, news agencies reported on 1 August. Iran also reportedly told European diplomats at closed talks in Paris on 29 July that it retains the right to enrich uranium, Reuters reported on 1 August. Additionally, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran the same day that Iran has decided to reverse a promise it made to European states in Brussels in February to halt "the construction and assembly of parts" in addition to an earlier pledge to suspend uranium-enrichment-related activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003), the daily added. Iran is dissatisfied that France, Britain, and Germany have failed to get UN nuclear inspectors to clear Iran's nuclear dossier, a move that would end the current scrutiny of its nuclear activities. The United States is concerned that Iran might develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran rejects. Assefi said Iran suspended uranium enrichment "to build confidence and show our sincerity in our activities" but that it "will not accept any imposition under any circumstances," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 2 August. VS

IRANIAN COURT RELEASES DISSIDENT ACADEMIC
Hashem Aghajari, an academic sentenced to death in 2002 for apostasy, reprieved, then sentenced to imprisonment in July for insulting Iran's ruling clergy (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 26 July 2004), was released on bail on 31 July, news agencies reported that day. He left a Tehran prison after a sum equivalent to about $122,500 was posted as bail, AP reported. Having been in jail since 2002, he has already served two years of the three-year sentence given him in July. He went home to meet the press and a crowd of friends, including Muhsin Kadivar, a liberal cleric, and reformist journalists Imaddudin Baqi and Isa Saharkhiz, all of whom were previously jailed by the conservative-led judiciary, Radio Farda and ISNA reported. "I am very happy to be among people again," Radio Farda quoted Aghajari as saying. He said he will challenge the court's decision to bar him from publishing articles and speaking in public, which he said violates his rights, ISNA reported. The sentence given him in July included the "deprivation of social rights" for five years. VS

FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS IRAQIS ABOUT COMMENTS
Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi stated in Tehran on 1 August that Iraqi officials should be "cautious" in comments they make about Iran and blamed recent Iraqi charges of Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs on "disorderly conditions in Iraq and the lack of experience" of Iraqi ministers, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 2 August. Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib recently accused Iran of involvement in unrest in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2004), while Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuzai accused Iran on 20 July of "blatant interference" in Iraqi affairs (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 July 2004). "Iraqi officials have just begun working and need to be cautious," Assefi said, because "such remarks have serious legal and political consequences," the daily added. Foreign Minister Kharrazi said in Tehran on 1 August that "we only think of being good neighbors and wish to interact with the Iraqi government," IRNA reported the same day. He said Iraqi Prime Minster Iyad Allawi has rejected al-Khuzai's remarks, IRNA added. VS

BOMBS TARGET FIVE CHURCHES IN IRAQ, LEAVING AT LEAST 11 DEAD
Four car bombs detonated within a 30-minute period outside four Baghdad churches just as parishioners were leaving Sunday services on 1 August, international media reported. At least 10 people were killed in the attacks and more than 40 wounded, Reuters reported on 2 August. A fifth bomb detonated outside a church in Mosul, killing at least one person. Iraqi police found and cleared an explosive device that contained 15 mortar rounds outside a fifth Baghdad church, Reuters reported. The attacks are the first to target the minority Christian community in Iraq since the start of the 15-month insurgency. Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the attacks, calling on Iraqis to respect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, Al-Arabiyah reported on 2 August. KR

IRAQI ADVISER BLAMES AL-ZARQAWI FOR ATTACKS
Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Al-Jazeera in a 2 August interview that it appears that fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was behind the 1 August attacks, saying evidence gathered on the ground points to al-Zarqawi and his followers. "I believe a misled, cowardly clique that wants to harm Iraq's national unity is behind these actions. It wants to drive a wedge between the Muslims and Christians, just as it wanted to drive a wedge between the Shi'ites and Sunnis," al-Rubay'i said. KR

MILITANT GROUP RELEASES SOMALI HOSTAGE, FATE OF OTHERS UNKNOWN...
The armed group Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad said in a videotaped message released to Al-Jazeera that it has decided to release a Somali hostage in appreciation of his government's stance toward Iraq and because the man's Kuwaiti employer has promised to pull out of Iraq, the satellite news channel reported on 2 August. Reports also circulated in Iraq on 1 and 2 August that the seven foreign truck drivers held in Iraq had been released. It appears, however, that those reports are false. Al-Arabiyah reported that Iraqi Sheikh Hisham al-Dulaymi said on 1 August that he was abandoning negotiations for the release of the men (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2004). KR

...AS JIHADIST WEBSITE POSTS VIDEO OF EXECUTION...
A jihadist website (https://www.qal3ah.net/vb/) posted a video and still pictures purportedly depicting the execution of Turkish truck driver Murat Yuce on 2 August. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad confirmed his death, AFP reported the same day. The video depicts a masked man from the Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group reading a statement addressing "Muslims of the world" and "Turkish Muslims," saying: "Although we have appealed to our Muslims brothers in the world and in Turkey in particular not to support the occupation, and although we have released many of their workers, hoping that they would repent, they continue their work, including this renegade, Murat Yuce." The man continues: "Let everybody know that we will apply the ruling of God to this renegade and all those whom we will catch later without giving any deadlines." In the footage, Yuce also makes a statement denouncing what he called the "injustice" inflicted by American forces on Iraqi civilians and calls on Turkish citizens and companies to leave Iraq. Yuce is then blindfolded and shot in the head several times. KR

...AND IRAQI COMMANDOS FREE LEBANESE HOSTAGE
Iraqi commandos freed a Lebanese taken hostage in Iraq on 1 August, international media reported the same day. The mission to free the captive was announced by a Lebanese Foreign Ministry source. The man, Vlad Dama'a, was taken hostage at gunpoint on 30 July at a construction firm he operates with his brother, Reuters reported on 1 August. The company sells prefabricated buildings to U.S. forces in Iraq. There has been no word on the fate of a second Lebanese hostage, Antoine Antoun, who was abducted from his Baghdad dairy, the news agency reported. KR

NATO MEMBERS REACH CONSENSUS ON IRAQ TRAINING...
NATO member states reached a consensus on 30 July that paves the way for the alliance to train Iraqi security forces, according to a statement posted on the organization's website (http://www.nato.int) the same day. The statement says NATO will work closely with the Iraqi authorities to help establish a structured Ministry of Defense and Military Headquarters. "This will include the immediate start of training for selected Iraqi headquarter personnel in Iraq," the statement notes. The training of Iraqi security forces outside Iraq will begin this month, and NATO will help the interim government select those personnel eligible for training outside Iraq. The organization will also help coordinate individual state offers of military equipment and training. KR

...DELAYING DECISION ON COMMAND STRUCTURE
NATO ambassadors struck the 30 July agreement after have accepting a French proposal to delay any decision on who will command NATO forces, AP reported on 31 July. The United States had earlier insisted that NATO forces in Iraq fall under U.S. command; France vehemently objected to such a proposal. NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Marine General James Jones, is expected to make a recommendation to NATO ambassadors by 15 September on the command structure. NATO addressed the contentious issue in its 30 July statement, saying: "The Training Implementation Mission will be a distinct mission, under the political control of the NAC [North Atlantic Council]. It will be closely coordinated with the Multinational Force." KR

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