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Newsline - August 16, 2004

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed regional conflicts and bilateral military cooperation during their talks in St. Petersburg on 14-15 August, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The situation in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, was among the topics of discussion, as was the Georgia-South Ossetia crisis. Rumsfeld and Ivanov expressed satisfaction that this year the U.S. and Russian militaries are expected to conduct 20 joint drills, including naval exercises in the Norwegian Sea in September. Ivanov told journalists on 15 August that Russia is ready to cooperate with the United States in developing an antimissile defense system and in implementing tighter controls to stem the illegal trade of shoulder-launched missiles, ORT reported. Over the course of the talks, Rumsfeld explained U.S. plans to reposition many of its forces stationed around the globe, in some cases potentially bringing them closer to Russia's borders, AP reported on 15 August. Rumsfeld, who was visiting St. Petersburg for the first time, was treated to an extensive tour of the city's cultural attractions by native son Ivanov that included the State Hermitage and other museums, the palace of Petrodvorets, and the Mariinskii Theater. VY

Ivanov told journalists on 14 August following his talks that day with Rumsfeld that the situation in Georgia "is developing rapidly into a dangerous scenario," ORT reported. "I brought to Rumsfeld's attention Russia's concerns and worries about the developments [in Georgia], but do not want to quote them here," he said. Ivanov also characterized as "nonsense" Georgian accusations that Russian peacekeepers stationed in South Ossetia are biased (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2004). Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry released a statement on 13 August that denounced Georgian calls for the expansion of the peacekeeping forces' mandate and of the OSCE monitoring group in the region (see Georgian item in Caucasus section below), ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. "The threat of a resurgence of a military conflict lies exactly in the place from which calls for the internalization of the peacekeeping operation originate," the statement read. The ministry suggested that the format of the peacekeeping operation not be changed, and that earlier accords be fulfilled unconditionally. VY

Leading Russian political scientists warned during a press conference in Moscow on 13 August that the situation in South Ossetia might soon develop into open military conflict, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. Vyachelav Nikonov, president of the Politika foundation, described Russia's position regarding the conflict as "passive" and said that future developments depend on the Georgian side. This, he said, could lead to a military scenario. Boris Makarenko, deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies, said that events "in the conflict zone are proceeding in the direction of a Kosovo scenario" that could lead Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia to resort to "military force." Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii said he believes that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's actions could spark a "new world war." Comparing Saakashvili to a modern-day Hitler, Pavlovskii described him "a politician of the new generation, a living threat." "[Saakashvili] will open a new military front in the Caucasus, but will take no responsibility [for the consequences], as the Georgian Army is capable of participating only in games," Pavlovskii said. VY

Institute for Problems of Globalization head Mikhail Delyagin said at the 13 August press conference that "Saakashvili has to go to war because he has no way to stimulate economic development" in Georgia, reported. According to Delyagin, Russia would not take military action against Georgia for fear that doing so could lead to confrontation with the West. Delyagin said that exacerbating the situation would lead to discontent among Russia's citizens and ultimately weaken President Vladimir Putin's power. The only way to solve the problem is the "reunification of Russia and Georgia," Delyagin concluded. VY

President Putin on 13 August reappointed Valerii Loshchinin first deputy foreign minister, "Izvestiya" and the other Russian media reported. Loshchinin, who was previously responsible for relations with the CIS, will be Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's only first deputy. Putin also approved Aleksandr Alekseev, Sergei Kislyak, Sergei Razov, Aleksandr Saltanov, Vladimir Chizhov, and Yurii Fedotov as Lavrov's deputies. Alekseev, who served previously as Russia's representative to the OSCE, will oversee policy on Asia. He also will lead the Russian delegation in six-way discussions on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. Kislyak will remain responsible for policy on North and South America, Razov for Europe, Saltanov for Africa, Chizhov for the European Union and NATO, and Fedotov for international organizations. Putin also appointed Ambassador to Tanzania Doku Zavgaev as director-general of the Foreign Ministry, a top administrative post. Zavgaev was the last chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR in 1990-91 and served in 1995-96 as the pro-Moscow leader of Chechnya during the first Chechen war. VY

National Strategy Institute head Stanislav Belkovskii on 11 August announced the formation of a new organization called the Corporation of Orthodox Action (KPD), which is intended to facilitate the "formation of a new political and business elite," RosBalt reported. Members of the organization will include both political figures and noted clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church. The organization will work under the slogan "Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality" adopted by Tsarist-era Education Minister Sergei Uvarov (1833-49), and "will formulate a Russian response to the American free-market ideology," Belkovskii said. He said that the organization does not violate the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. Belkovskii said the KPD will support the introduction into school curriculums of the foundations of Russian Orthodoxy only at the "initiative of municipal governments." Belkovskii also said he believes the introduction of religious-based education is "timely, justified, and necessary." He added said that while the KPD's ideology is similar to that of Motherland, it has no direct association with that party. VY

The Justice Ministry on 12 August named the German bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein to appraise Yuganskneftegaz, the main production subsidiary of embattled oil giant Yukos, as a prelude to selling off the company to pay Yukos's tax debts, "The Moscow Times" and other Russian media reported on 16 August. Yukos shares rallied by about 13 percent as investors took the move as a sign that the government would not sell of the subsidiary at a sharply reduced price. Various analysts have valued Yuganskneftegaz at from $7 billion to $30 billion, the daily reported. "The question for me is: If Dresdner puts a realistic value on Yuganskneftegaz, which we think is about $14 billion, who could buy it?" United Financial Group analyst Erik Wigertz was quoted as saying. Institute of Globalization head Delyagin told Ekho Moskvy on 13 August: "Things are currently being put in order in the country, but this order is being taken to the extreme. And one result of that is the Yukos affair. I would not be surprised if in the near future a state oil company emerges in Russia that will include not just the remnants of Yukos." RC

Institute for Problems of Globalization head Delyagin told "Moskovskie novosti," No. 30, that "there were no economic preconditions for the banking crisis and there are none now." He said that he does not believe that Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatev intentionally provoked the crisis in order to divide up property, but that "I have the impression that he does not completely control the Central Bank." "There are several influence groups there and each of them is trying to pull things in their direction," Delyagin said. He noted that state-owned Vneshtorgbank was able to take over Guta Bank "for the price of a room in an unfashionable Moscow apartment building." RC

15 August marked the 100th day of President Putin's second term, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and other Russian media reported on 14 August. According to an All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) poll, slightly more than 50 percent of respondents said that Putin has lived up to their expectations, while 28 percent say that he has not, the daily reported. Forty percent described him as "steady and methodical," while 24 percent said that he is too inclined toward "radicalism" in conducting economic reforms. Politika foundation head Nikonov told the daily that Putin's main achievement since coming to power has been improving Russia's international status and relations with the United States. Nikonov said that Putin's domestic policies have both good and bad aspects, but overall the balance is "positive." Center for Political Technologies Deputy General Director Makarenko said that Putin's second term will show that the Putin system of power works more effectively than expected. However, he criticized it as "a model of a closed system," and closed systems "always become dull." RC

Former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev, one of seven candidates registered to contest the 29 August ballot to elect a successor to murdered pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, has rescinded his signature to the 27 July declaration under which candidates pledged to abjure illegal electioneering, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). Bugaev complained that he was not permitted his full quota of free airtime on the state-controlled media and alleged that one of his rival candidates -- meaning Interior Minister Major General Alu Alkhanov, widely regarded as the Kremlin's preferred candidate -- enjoys special privileges. According to Interfax on 2 August, all seven candidates are entitled to four minutes and 15 seconds of free airtime on Chechen state television and radio and an unspecified amount of free airtime on Grozny radio. On 13 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that some representatives of the Russian military are campaigning to have the 29 August ballot postponed and for the imposition of a state of emergency in Chechnya for a minimum of two years, during which the republic would be governed by a special representative of President Putin. LF

An "RFE/RL Newsline" item on 13 August entitled "First Case of Racially Motivated Murder Goes To Court" cited an erroneous Interfax news agency assertion that no one has previously been tried in Russia on charges of committing an ethnically motivated murder. In November 2003, the Moscow Municipal Court convicted five men aged between 12 and 17 for the 28 March 2002 murder of an ethnic Armenian Russian citizen named Karen Yakhshibekov, reported on 18 November 2003.

Galust Sahakian, who heads the parliament faction of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 13 August that in recent weeks he has met with unnamed opposition leaders in an attempt to persuade them to abandon their six-month boycott of parliamentary proceedings. The 24 opposition parliamentarians declared that boycott in early February to protest what they termed the majority's "illegal" refusal to debate proposed constitutional amendments that would pave the way for a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February and 12 July 2004). Sahakian said renewed opposition participation in the legislative process could contribute to finding "solutions to issues that could become dangerous for our state in the near future." "Many of the superpowers now seem to be debating Armenia's future status, as was the case with Azerbaijan and Georgia," Sahakian added. LF

The Court of Appeals upheld on 13 August the 18-month jail sentence handed down in May to a People's Party of Armenia activist who threw an empty plastic mineral water bottle at a policeman during clashes between police and demonstrators in Yerevan one month earlier, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 26 May and 1 July 2004). Edgar Arakelian, 24, was found guilty of "attacking a state official performing his duties." His lawyer said he may take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. LF

Nahid Mamedov, one of two witnesses who testified on 12 August at the ongoing trial of seven opposition activists charged in connection with their role in the clashes between police and opposition supporters following the disputed 15 October presidential ballot, retracted his pretrial testimony which, he claimed, was extracted from him under torture, Turan reported. Mamedov said he was repeatedly beaten and his teeth smashed, but he was not allowed medical aid. Mamedov further claimed that he was taken on the morning of 12 August to the Prosecutor-General's Office where he was offered a bribe of 90,000 manats ($18.3) to repeat his pretrial testimony in court. Also on 12 August, the second witness, Baku Police Department official Shamil Hasabov, reportedly used "foul language" in referring to the defendants, incensing Taliyat Aliev of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan to the point that he responded in kind, whereupon Hasabov had to be physically restrained from punching Aliev, according to Turan on 13 August. Aliev was summoned on 13 August to the Nasimi Raion prosecutor's office where he was fined 85,000 manats and formally charged under Article 299.3 of the Criminal Code with insulting and pressuring a witness. LF

Zurab Zhvania's motorcade came under fire on the morning of 13 August while traveling between the Georgian-populated villages of Kurta and Eredvi in South Ossetia, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. No one was injured in the shooting, which Zhvania blamed on South Ossetian militants. He told Georgian television hours after the incident that the assailants were aware that he was in one of the vehicles targeted. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity rejected the Georgian accusations as "a provocation," Interfax reported on 13 August. Kokoity denied that the South Ossetian side opened fire, and noted that Eredvi is controlled by Georgian Interior Ministry forces. LF

At a four-hour meeting in Tskhinvali on 13 August of the Joint Control Commission that monitors the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, the Georgian and South Ossetian government representatives agreed on a cease-fire to take effect at midnight on 13 August, Georgian and Russian media reported. Caucasus Press quoted Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava as saying that Zhvania and Kokoity will ink the agreement "in the immediate future." At a subsequent meeting on 14 August near Tskhinvali, the Georgian and South Ossetian defense and interior ministers agreed on mechanisms for enforcing the cease-fire, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili and North Ossetian government representative Teimuraz Kusov as saying the meeting took place in "a constructive atmosphere," but Caucasus Press quoted Okruashvili as saying that "if the Ossetian militants fire on Georgian soldiers again I will find a way to avenge them." ITAR-TASS reported on 15 August that the cease-fire agreement entails safe transport on the Trans-Caucasian highway, the deployment of additional checkpoints, and the withdrawal of all illegal armed groups from the conflict zone within two weeks. LF

Gunfire was reported early on 15 August in villages close to Tskhinvali, but no casualties were reported, dpa reported. The South Ossetian authorities blamed the Georgian side for violating the cease-fire. Intensive fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers in the vicinity of the Ossetian village of Sarabuk and the Georgian-populated village of Tamarasheni was likewise reported during the night of 15-16 August, according to ITAR-TASS. Caucasus Press reported that two Georgian servicemen were killed in the incident and several injured. LF

The Georgian parliament responded on 13 August to the attack on Prime Minister Zhvania by adopting a statement criticizing the Russian peacekeepers deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone since 1992 and calling for their mandate to be amended, Caucasus Press reported. The statement alleged that the Russian peacekeepers "support the separatist regime and condone smuggling" across the Russian-Georgian border from which they profit financially. It further claimed that the Russian leadership uses the peacekeepers "as a means of preserving its political influence" in the South Caucasus and to exert "pressure on a sovereign state," ITAR-TASS reported. The statement demanded that the peacekeeping contingents deployed in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia be internationalized. The South Ossetian force comprises 500 men each from Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, and the Republic of North Ossetia, which is part of the Russian Federation. The peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, which operates under the CIS aegis, is exclusively Russian. LF

Speaking on 14 August in St. Petersburg, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected as "nonsense" the Georgian allegations that the Russian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia supports the breakaway regime, Caucasus Press reported. Ivanov argued that the first step toward easing tensions should be the withdrawal of all illegal armed groups from the conflict zone. In Sukhum, both Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba and presidential aide Astamur Tania argued that the Russian peacekeepers' withdrawal could trigger a resumption of hostilities, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Tania noted that the UN has positively assessed the role of the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia. LF

General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Army Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Major-General Bolat Darbekov, his Kazakh counterpart, in Astana on 13 August, Kazinform reported. The two discussed bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to ensure stability in the region. Interfax-Kazakhstan quoted General Myers as saying, "Kazakhstan has made a great contribution to the stabilization of the region and provided considerable assistance in the antiterror operations in Afghanistan and Iraq." Myers also expressed his gratitude to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev "for his continued support for the fight against terrorism," RIA-Novosti reported. DK

A poll conducted by Kazakhstan's National Association of Sociologists and Political Scientists has shown that supporters of electronic voting outnumber opponents by a ratio of two to one, Kazakh TV reported on 13 August. According to the report, 44 percent of respondents support electronic voting, 24 percent oppose it, and 30 percent could not answer the question. Also on 13 August, Central Election Commission chairwoman Zagipa Balieva told a news conference in Almaty that the commission plans to use the electronic voting system in all district and regional centers, including Astana and Almaty, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. She noted that the system will undergo tests in the lead-up to parliamentary elections on 19 September. Not everyone is convinced, however. Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the chairman of the Mazhilis (lower house), said on 13 August that it remains unclear whether electronic voting will make for more transparent and fair elections, Kazinform reported. The news agency quoted him as saying, "We must limit the use of electronic voting in upcoming parliamentary elections as much as possible, because we still don't know what it's really about." DK

Major-General Liu Yun, deputy commander of China's Xinjiang Military District, met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev in Bishkek on 13 August, Kyrgyzinfo reported. The closed-door talks apparently focused on bilateral military cooperation. Liu Yun also gave a briefing with Deputy Defense Minister Asylbek Ormokoev, reported. Ormokoev noted that military cooperation between the two countries is intended primarily to combat the threat of international terrorism. For his part, Liu Yun stated, "The main thing is that the governments of China and Kyrgyzstan have solved the problem of the border area between the two countries, which has aided the development and deepening of relations between the two countries' military establishments." A Kyrgyz military spokesman said that further meetings are planned, as well as joint tactical exercises. DK

Major-General Alinazar Davlatmamadov told Avesta on 13 August that Tajik forces will be able to guard the Tajik-Afghan border if Russia abides by agreements to hand over military equipment. Noting that Tajik border guards have a pressing need for armored personnel carriers and heavy infantry combat vehicles, Davlatmamadov said, "Unfortunately, as a result of artificially created problems, the Russian side is writing off this equipment in every way that they can." Davlatmamadov commands Tajik border forces in the Khorog region, where Russian border forces are slated to cede control to their Tajik counterparts by the end of the year. DK

Tajikistan has asked the government of Afghanistan for assistance in recovering a helicopter that former Drug Control Agency head Ghaffor Mirzoev is accused of having rented out illegally in Afghanistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 August. Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Dovud Panjsheri confirmed the receipt of a request from Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry for help in returning the Russian-made MI-8 helicopter. The Foreign Ministry request notes that in 2003 Tajikistan's Olympic Committee, which Mirzoev headed at the time, leased the helicopter to an American company in Afghanistan. The helicopter, along with its six-member crew, was supposed to have been returned on 7 March 2004. Ambassador Panjsheri told Asia Plus, "Afghanistan is not involved in this and has no connection with this matter, since the contract was between an American company active in Afghanistan and Tajikistan's Olympic Committee." Panjsheri told Avesta, however, that the request has been passed on to Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry. DK

Uzbekistan has begun to demine sections of its border with Kyrgyzstan, reported on 13 August. The report cited a source in the Uzbek Defense Ministry as saying that mine-clearing activities have begun along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near the Uzbek enclaves of Sokh and Shohimardon to the south of the Ferghana Valley. The source also noted that mine-clearing will soon start along the Uzbek-Tajik border. Uzbekistan began to mine the borders in 1999 to prevent incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Since then at least 70 Tajik citizens and 11 Kyrgyz citizens have been killed by mines. DK

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHK) has expressed "deep disappointment" over the Russian Orthodox Church's recent decision to award the St. Grand Prince Vladimir Order to Dzmitry Paulichenka, commander of an Interior Troops brigade in Belarus, Belapan reported on 13 August. The church reportedly bestowed on Paulichenka the award in recognition of his contribution to the construction of a church on the territory of the brigade. Paulichenka was arrested in November 2000 on suspicion of being involved in the abduction and murder of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 10 August 2004). "Paulichenka was [subsequently] released by order of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Viktar Sheyman, then-secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus, who are also suspected of being involved in the forced disappearances," the BHK said in a statement. "The authorities have neither confirmed nor denied incriminating reports concerning the forced disappearances. Given these circumstances, the BHK considers it to be against the public and Christian morality to grant a high award to one of those who are suspected of a heinous crime." JM

Major candidates in the 31 October presidential elections continue to visit Ukrainian regions to present their campaign platforms, Interfax reported on 16 August. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko will travel to Crimea on 17-19 August; Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, who is currently visiting Kherson, will return to Kyiv on 17 August and then visit Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, and Chernihiv; Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz will travel to Poltava, Vinnytsya, and Odesa later this week. Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych is currently with the Ukrainian Olympic team in the Athens, from where he will return to Kyiv on 17 August. JM

Prime Minister Yanukovych has told a European journalist in Athens that Ukraine's course for European integration remains invariable, UNIAN reported on 16 August, quoting the prime minister's press service. "We are in no way changing the course, but we are changing the tactic," Yanukovych said, stressing that Ukraine's has its own vision of the path toward a unified Europe. JM

The Kram cable-TV operator has stopped broadcasting Channel 5 in the residential district of Uzhhorod, home to 30,000 of the town's population of 120,000, UNIAN reported on 14 August. "We really have stopped broadcasting Channel 5 since some business issues were not resolved and we won't restart until they are completely resolved," Kram director Oleksandr Medvetskyy said, refusing to specify what those unresolved issues might be. Channel 5 is owned by Petro Poroshenko, a political ally of opposition Our Ukraine leader and presidential candidate Yushchenko. On 3 August, cable television operator Falstap stopped broadcasting Channel 5 in Dnipropetrovsk for technical reasons. On 6 August, more than 50,000 opposition supporters picketed the Dnipropetrovsk regional administration building protesting the disappearance of Channel 5 from the city's cable networks. Falstap on 7 August resumed broadcasting Channel 5. JM

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk told journalists following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Crimea on 13 August that Ukraine will replace its 1,600-strong brigade in Iraq with a new one "from mid-September until mid-October," Ukrainian media reported. Marchuk thus effectively refuted media speculation that Ukraine may be planning to withdraw its military contingent from Iraq in the near future. "No one can give you a deadline [for eventual withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Iraq] yet," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service quoted Marchuk as saying. "This is a subject of negotiations and it will largely depend on the development of the situation in Iraq. This will depend on how soon the Iraqi security forces will be able to take control of the situation in their country." Meanwhile, international news agencies reported that Ukrainian officer Yuriy Ivanov was killed and four soldiers were injured in Iraq on 15 August. JM

Danish diplomat Soren Jessen-Petersen, who is the new head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 15 August that "there will be no normalization, no stability in the western Balkans, unless the issue of Kosovo is resolved," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 29 July, and 6 and 13 August 2004). "Stability, normalization, [and] clarity of status in Kosovo will benefit not only Kosovo and its inhabitants, but the entire region," he said. Leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority have long called for a quick resolution of the status question, which, for them, means independence. In the wake of the 17-18 March violence, leaders of the Serbian minority have stressed the importance of security issues. Some Serbian leaders have become particularly interested in proposals from within the EU to turn Kosova into an EU protectorate. An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters that "the fact that the international community isn't prepared to take the decision [on status] seems to be exacerbating tensions and leaving the field open for extremists." PM

Oliver Ivanovic, who is a leader of the influential Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition and a member of the Presidency of Kosova's current legislature, said in Prishtina on 16 August that Jessen-Petersen would be well advised not to "flirt" with extremists and seek a "hasty" solution to the Kosova question, the private Serbian Beta news agency reported. Ivanovic stressed that there is "no quick and easy solution" to the province's problems. If there were one, the international community would have hit upon it and left long ago, Ivanovic added. PM

Conservative Opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) Chairman Nikola Gruevski told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 15 August that the governing coalition of Social Democratic Union (SDSM), Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) has a "hidden agenda" to carve up the country along ethnic lines. Gruevski said that recent statements by BDI lawmaker Fazli Veliu suggest that the BDI still wants a Greater Albania. On 11 August, Veliu mentioned to a convention of veterans of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) the "national unification of all Albanians," according to "Utrinski vesnik." The following day, Veliu clarified his statement, saying he was speaking of a "spiritual unification of all Albanians," "Dnevnik" reported. In 2001, the UCK successfully fought for greater rights for the Albanian minority in Macedonia, which makes up one-quarter of the country's population. Many Macedonians fear that the insurgency was part of a plan to create a Greater Albania that would include Kosova, the Presevo Valley, and parts of Macedonia, as well as Albanian proper. No mainstream political party in any of those places backs a Greater Albania as a political program. UB

National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan said in Cluj on 15 August that the PNL rules out any postelection cooperation with the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Mediafax reported. Stolojan said that if the PNL is forced to decide after the November parliamentary elections between remaining in the opposition or forming a governing coalition with the PSD, it would choose the former. Stolojan also said that he rules out any cooperation with parties such as the extremist Greater Romania Party. He said negotiations with other political formations such as the Humanist Party or the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania are possible, but only after the results of the election become known. MS

The Romanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on 13 August that Bucharest will continue to "act responsibly" alongside its Western partners and "other involved international actors" to bring about the reopening of the Transdniestrian schools teaching in Moldovan (Romanian) with Latin script, Mediafax reported. The ministry thus rejected what it called "Tiraspol's public offer" to negotiate the reopening of the schools directly with Bucharest, circumventing Chisinau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2004). The statement also said that the ministry "has repeatedly signaled the serious encroachments on human rights by the totalitarian Tiraspol regime" in all its international contacts over the schools' closure. It also said that Romania "consistently backs" the efforts of Moldova's authorities to restart the normal and unobstructed functioning of the schools. MS

Vasyl Baziv, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, told journalists on 13 August that Ukraine will not send peacekeepers to the security zone dividing the opposing sides in Moldova unless the Joint Control Commission decides Kyiv should do so, ITAR-TASS reported. He was reacting to Transdniestrian "Foreign Minister" Valerii Liskay's statement of 10 August, according to which Ukraine should dispatch those troops in line with the accords reached at Odessa in March 1998 by Russian, Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Transdniestrian leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2004). MS

After visiting Chisinau and Tiraspol on 13 August, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Motsyk said his country is concerned by the deterioration of the situation in Transdniester and urged all sides to resume negotiations in the five-party format, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. Motsyk met with Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova and with separatist leader Igor Smirnov. Smirnov told Motsyk that Tiraspol is opposed to any change in the five-party format and wants the Ukrainian and Russian governments to extend guarantees that will stop the "war of economic sanctions" launched by Chisinau. MS

Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, essayist, and interpreter of the troubled borderlands of Eastern Europe, died at his home in Krakow, Poland, on 14 August at the age of 93.

Born in the Russian Empire in what is now Lithuania in 1911, Milosz was a freedom fighter in Poland during World War II and an emigre in France and then the United States for much of the past half century. Milosz and his work mirrored the complex history of the region out of which he came and from which he never departed spiritually. Not only did he write some of the most remarkable Polish poetry of the past century, but he was an accomplished translator between the many languages that he had made his own.

Milosz received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, primarily for his poetry, and he has earned a permanent place in the pantheon of Polish and world poets. But for many people in Eastern Europe and the West, he is likely to be best remembered for his remarkable book-length essay "The Captive Mind." Published in 1953 -- the year of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's death -- "The Captive Mind" was subsequently translated into a variety of languages, including English in 1973, and helped define how many people in the West came to understand the most insidious aspect of the impact of communism on the minds and especially the souls of those living under Soviet occupation.

Drawing on the insights of the totalitarian temptation offered in Stanislaw Witkiewicz's 1927 novel "Insatiability," Milosz argued in his essay that totalitarian regimes offered their victims the "murti bing" or "happiness" pill. That "pill" promises to provide its consumers with all their basic physical needs -- hence its promise of "happiness" -- but only at the cost of preventing them from having the power to make decisions and, hence, to take responsibility for their lives.

Witkiewicz, writing in the 1920s and early 1930s, focused on the twin totalitarianisms of that time -- Hitlerite fascism and Stalinist communism -- and on the ways in which each of them had carried the powers of the modern state and modern communications systems to some of their most terrifying conclusions.

Like Witkewicz, Milosz precisely described the superficial attractions of this pill and this status. But even more than his predecessor, Milosz underscored the ways in which this poisonous pill would continue to act even after the external coercive powers that had insisted on its consumption had passed. He thus understood well in advance of many others that the removal of the forces of totalitarian regimes and the occupations that had made them possible would not by themselves heal the wounds that these events had caused.

Instead, as he argued both in that essay of a half century ago and in his poetry and writings later on, Milosz insisted that the only way to fight this poison was always to seek to understand the nature of this evil and to be one of those who "protests [and] screams."

Whether he was speaking to his fellow East Europeans, to the West, or to world leaders from popes to presidents, Milosz was one of those who always protested and screamed. His physical voice is now stilled, but his message is certain to reverberate wherever people are forced to confront the world the totalitarians created and, even more, the world they left behind.

Paul Goble, former publisher of "RFE/RL Newsline" and a longtime Soviet nationalities expert with the U.S. government, is currently a research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia.

Rival militias clashed late on 13 August in Herat Province, claiming approximately 21 lives, international news agencies reported on 15 August. Fighters loyal to Herat Governor Ismail Khan reportedly engaged in gun battles with others linked to rival warlords in the region. One commander from the district of Shindand, approximately 100 kilometers south of Herat City, who identified himself as "Amanullah," told AP that his men had taken over a Soviet-built air base from men loyal to Khan during a nighttime raid using machine guns and rockets. A spokesman for Khan, Abdul Wahed Tawakali, contradicted Amanullah's statement, saying that there was hand-to-hand fighting at the base between the warring factions, but that Khan's men remained in control. Khan reportedly moved tanks and rocket launchers to the front line of the fighting to deter the insurgents. Amanullah, a Pashtun, told AP that the Tajik governor discriminated against Afghans belonging to different ethnic groups, and for that reason they would continue to oppose his rule in the region. "So long as Ismail Khan is governor, the fighting will continue," he said. KM

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 15 August condemned the recent violence in Herat Province, AP reported. Karzai referred to the attacks against Herat Governor Khan and his forces as "an attack on the state," according to AP, and he warned insurgents that "serious measures" will be taken against rebellious commanders. Afghan Defense Ministry officials said originally that Khan's forces will address the situation on their own, and that neither Afghan nor U.S. forces located nearby will intervene. On 15 August, however, the Afghan government decided to send troops to Herat to alleviate the situation. For starters, 150 Afghan soldiers flew to Shindand District in Herat Province on 15 August, and the Defense Ministry said that it will send a total of 1,500 soldiers, according to AP. In a statement supportive of Khan, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi told reporters on 15 August, "The militia attacked Herat's legal government. It is an illegal action that benefits Afghanistan's enemies." KM

Clashes between warring militias in Shindand District of Herat Province reportedly subsided late on 15 August, according to Reuters. Herat spokesman Sayed Nasir Alawi said that some "sporadic clashes" continued in Shindand District, but that generally the situation throughout the province was calm, according to Reuters. Regional clashes present another obstacle for the Afghan government as well as for the U.S.-led coalition in bringing stability and security to the country in the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for October. KM

Mohammad Qasim Fahim, defense minister and one of two vice presidents of the Transitional Administration, met with the general commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Lieutenant General Jean-Louis Py, on 15 August, "Afghanistan Television" reported. A number of ISAF officials accompanied Py on his visit to the Defense Ministry and were introduced to Fahim. Py reportedly described ISAF's responsibilities and tasks with regard to maintaining peace and security during the upcoming presidential elections. Fahim, in turn, reported on the strategy and actions the Defense Ministry is taking to ensure security. Fahim hailed the cooperation between the Transitional Administration and ISAF, saying that together they "would help usher great progress toward peace and stability in the country," "Afghanistan Television" reported. KM

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) political bureau chief Yadollah Javani said on 14 August that the United States is unable to take military action against Iran, and he also threatened Israel, Fars News Agency reported. Referring to U.S. concern about the Iranian nuclear program, he said, "Such threats are issued as part of psychological operations and they are not real or serious threats. Regional and international circumstances do not permit military action against Iran." "Given the circumstances, it is highly unlikely that America will have the wherewithal to open another front," he added. Javani also dismissed the danger of Israeli action against Iran. "At present, all the areas under the sovereignty of the Zionist regime, including the nuclear installations and the atomic arsenal of that regime, are within range of Iran's advanced missiles. Therefore, neither the Zionist regime nor America will carry out its threats because such actions are not cost-effective," he said. BS

Khalil Ali Mohammadzadeh, secretary-general of the Iranian Nation's Welfare Party, said on 15 August that the party met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and asked him to run for president in the 2005 race, ISNA reported. Rafsanjani served two terms as president from 1989-1997. Rafsanjani reportedly expressed dismay that the party sought him out, and he said the country needs a pool of qualified individuals. Representatives of the Islamic Labor Party and the House of Labor, a state-affiliated workers' organization, also asked Rafsanjani to be a candidate, Fars News Agency reported, but he declined. Executives of Construction Party central council member Hedayat Aqai said on 14 August that the party will ask Rafsanjani to run again, ILNA reported. BS

Al-Jazeera television and Al-Alam television reported on 15 August that the Islamic Army of Iraq released a statement on 13 August announcing that unless Iran released 500 Iraqis held since the Iran-Iraq War it would take action against Iranian consular official Fereidun Jahani. Jahani disappeared on the highway from Baghdad to Karbala on 8 August, and the Iraqi Army took credit for the kidnapping (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 August 2004). According to Al-Alam, "Jahani was abducted by elements of the Mujahedin Khalq terrorist organization" and "the group planned the abduction in the corridors of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi denied that there are any Iraqi POWs in Iran, IRNA reported. He said the identity of the kidnappers and the nature of their demands are "suspicious." BS

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Mohammad Sadr said on 15 August that Tehran is "almost" convinced that Iraqi police detained four IRNA correspondents on 9 August, but Tehran still cannot confirm this, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 August 2004). He added that his ministry is in constant touch with Iraqi officials in an effort to secure the release of the IRNA personnel. Amir Mohebbian, an editor of Iran's "Resalat" newspaper, said on 14 August that the IRNA personnel were arrested in a calculated move to sever communication links between Iraq and the outside world. BS

Police in Al-Najaf arrested an Iranian, an Egyptian, and a Jordanian who had weapons of Iranian origin in their possession, Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 14 August. An Iraqi Interior Ministry source said the weapons included rocket-propelled grenades, "Kalashnikovs" (it did not specify if they were AK-47s, AK-74s, or AKMs), and machine guns. Earlier media reports described more extensive Iranian involvement in Iraqi unrest -- police arrested 28 Iranians and three Afghans in Karbala on 8 August, and they deported about 1,000 Iranians from the city on 7 August (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 August 2004). BS

A closed-door hearing relating to the Ayandeh Research Institute took place on 15 August, ILNA reported. Ayandeh, in cooperation with the Washington-based Gallup Organization, conducted a poll in 2002 that found that the majority of Tehran respondents favored a resumption of Iranian-U.S. dialogue and relations (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 October 2002). Institute director Abbas Abdi and his colleagues were subsequently tried and jailed on espionage charges (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9, 16, and 23 December 2002, and 6 and 20 January, 10 February, and 21 April 2003). After the 15 August hearing Abdi said he would not discuss the case until a verdict is issued. Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization member and former parliament deputy Mohsen Armin appeared in court on 14 August in response to a complaint relating to speeches he made in 1999-2002 and an accusation of spreading lies, "Iran Daily" reported. Armin said on 14 August that unidentified people arrested two individuals connected with the reformist Emrooz website ( on 28 July, ISNA reported. Armin did not identify the people who were arrested, and he said the arresting institution was not identified for a week. BS

Diane Alai, the Bahai community's representative to the United Nations, told Radio Farda on 11 August that Bahai high school students who pass the university entrance exam are not being allowed to enter institutions of higher education. In previous years, she explained, applicants had to declare their religious affiliation when registering for the exam. The question on religion was omitted on the applications this year, however, a document notifying the students of their exam results stated they were Muslim. Students who corrected the mistake were denied admission. Bani Dugal, another Bahai representative, said, "The Iranian government is, in effect, attempting to force Bahai youth to recant their faith if they want to go to university," according to a press release from the Bahai International Community ( By taking the exam at all, according to reports from Iran described in the press release, "officials are saying that their action amounts to a de facto declaration of faith in Islam." BS

The Iraqi National Conference to elect a 100-member interim national assembly convened in Baghdad on 15 August, international media reported. The conference proceedings were quickly overshadowed by the situation in Al-Najaf when members of the Shi'ite Political Council interrupted the proceedings to protest the standoff in the Shi'ite holy city. Fighting in Al-Najaf resumed on 15 August after the government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi pulled out of negotiations with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr a day earlier, AP reported on 16 August. Members from the council stormed out of the opening session and refused to return until their demands were met, council spokesman Muhyi al-Din al-Khatib said, according to Al-Jazeera. As a result, the conference was forced to break minutes into the first session. The organization's demands included the cessation of military operations in Al-Najaf and the opening of a dialogue between all concerned parties; power given to the interim assembly to withdraw confidence from and unseat the government if the government harms national interests; the renomination of people who were nominated "without the knowledge of the preparatory committee"; and the inclusion of al-Sadr in the political process. Al-Sadr refused to participate in the conference. KR

The conference reconvened after the abrupt recess and Shi'ite scholar Husayn al-Sadr addressed the conference, broadcast live on Al-Arabiyah, demanding that a negotiating committee be formed to find a solution to the crisis in Al-Najaf. Conference organizer Fu'ad Ma'sum then asked the participants to vote on al-Sadr's proposal, after which he said that Prime Minister Allawi will follow up on the participants' demand. Iraqi State Minister Wa'il Abd al-Latif subsequently told a press briefing that the government will resume negotiations based on three conditions. "The first is the laying down of arms, the full disarmament of the [al-Sadr] militia; [the second] is leaving the holy city of Al-Najaf; and [the third] is evacuating the Al-Sahn al-Haydari al-Sharif [the holy shrine containing the tomb of Imam Ali] and engaging in the political process," Abd al-Latif said. KR

State Minister Abd al-Latif also told reporters during the 15 August briefing broadcast on Al-Arabiyah that although the interim government seeks a peaceful settlement in Al-Najaf "if things turn into an armed rebellion...then [the government] will not have any other choice" but to fight the insurgents. Abd al-Latif said that the door for negotiations will not remain open for long. "Once the deadline is over, the other position will be taken," he said. The minister also told the press that he will soon provide them with a CD that includes footage of foreign fighters in Iraq, including Afghans, Iranians, and Jordanians. KR

U.S. and Iraqi forces continued to battle militiamen from the Imam Al-Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr on 14 August, international media reported. The U.S. military said it killed 50 fighters near the northern Iraqi town of Samarra on 14 August, Reuters reported. Warplanes dropped 500-pound (227 kilograms) bombs on the militia's position, according to a U.S. military statement. Iraqi police, meanwhile, said that at least five people were killed and 50 wounded in the fighting. Intense fighting also took place in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Hillah overnight on 13-14 August. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said that 40 fighters were killed and three police officers wounded in the town, Reuters reported. KR

Iraq reportedly halted exports from Al-Basrah on 14 August, an unnamed official from the Southern Oil Company told KUNA on the same day. The official said that the flow of crude had been cut due to "sabotage and pressures and threats by the [al-Sadr] militia to blow up the pipelines" in response to the fighting in Al-Najaf. The official added that managers of the oil sector in Al-Basrah have continually been threatened by al-Sadr militiamen. The oil flow last week was drastically cut from 2 million barrels per day to 800,000. Al-Basrah is the sole exit point for Iraqi crude; officials halted exports through northern Iraq after several attacks on the pipeline rendered it inoperative. According to Al-Arabiyah on 14 August, the southern pipeline was closed following intelligence reports that militiamen were planning a major attack on it. KR

Members of a NATO training mission have arrived in Iraq, according to a statement by the alliance's Naples-based southern command, AFP reported on 15 August. The Training Implementation Mission in Iraq reportedly began arriving in Iraq one week earlier. The mission will "contribute to the goal shared by the entire international community -- to help Iraqi provide for its own peace and security," NATO's Joint Force Command Naples said in a 14 August statement, AFP reported. KR

Iraq earned a slot in the soccer quarterfinals at the Olympic Games in Athens when it defeated Costa Rica 2-0 on 15 August, Reuters reported on the same day. The Iraqi team earlier defeated Portugal 4-2 in their opening game on 12 August, BBC reported. The Iraqi team earned a trip to the Olympics after it defeated Saudi Arabia 3-1 in May. The team's performance thus far has stunned many soccer enthusiasts; the 2004 games is the first time that an Iraqi soccer team has competed in the Olympics. KR