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Newsline - August 27, 2004


TERRORISM CONSIDERED MOST LIKELY CAUSE OF TWIN AIR DISASTERS...
Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Nikolai Zakharov announced on 27 August that traces of the explosive hexogen have been found among the wreckage of the Tu-154 passenger jet that crashed on 24 August near Rostov-na-Donu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2004), RTR and other Russian media reported. Zakharov added that so far no explosives have been found at the crash site near Tula of a Tu-134 that crashed within minutes of the Tu-154, although analyses are ongoing. "Gazeta" reported on 27 August that an unidentified source close to the investigation said that both planes managed to send SOS signals before crashing and that a crewmember of the Tu-134 managed to send a radio message reporting "an attack on the aircraft." The unidentified source was quoted as saying that "now practically all the specialists have come to the conclusion that both disasters were planned terrorist acts." The source said that it is likely that in both cases, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a rear lavatory, blowing off the tail section of the plane. This explains why there was no sign of fire aboard either aircraft and why the bodies of the victims were not burned. RC

...AS INVESTIGATORS LOOKING INTO CHECHEN CONNECTION...
FSB spokesman Zakharov added on 27 August that investigators have identified an unspecified number of passengers who might have been involved in the crashes, RTR and other Russian media reported. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 August that each flight had one Chechen woman among its passengers. The woman aboard the Tu-154 was identified only as S. Dzhebirkhanova, while the one aboard the Tu-134 was identified as Amanta Salm. Nagaeva. A spokesman for Sibir Airlines, the operator of the Tu-154, told the daily that no relatives of Dzhebirkhanova have yet been in contact with officials. The airline was unable to explain why the woman's full name was not available and said that an internal investigation is being carried out. A spokesman for Volga Aviaekspress, the operator of the Tu-134, told the daily that no relatives of Nagaeva have contacted the airline. RIA-Novosti reported on 27 August that Nagaeva's body is the only one aboard the downed plane who has not been recovered. RC

...AND ISLAMIC TERRORIST GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
A terrorist group calling itself the Islambuli Brigades on 27 August posted on the Internet a statement claiming responsibility for blowing up the two Russian passenger jets, AP and other media reported. The group's statement blames the Russians for "slaughtering Muslims" in Chechnya. It claimed that there were five "mujahedin" aboard each plane and that information about them will be published soon. The statement did not provide further details of the attacks. On 31 July, a group by the same name claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Pakistani Prime Minister-designate Shawkat Aziz. The group claims to be connected with Al-Qaeda, and it is believed to be named after Khaled Islambuli, the leader of a group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. RC

PUTIN DISCUSSES SOUTH OSSETIA WITH NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT
President Putin met in Moscow on 25 August with Aleksandr Dzasokhov, president of the republic of North Ossetia-Alania, to discuss the political and economic situation in that republic and the ongoing tensions in South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 26 August, quoting presidential press secretary Aleksei Gromov. Public organizations in North Ossetia have adopted a formal appeal, a copy of which has been sent to President Putin, to the leaderships of both Georgia and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia urging them to show restraint and the political will to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, Caucasus Press reported. LF

DATE FOR LUKOIL SHARES SALE SET
The government's 7.59 percent stake in LUKoil will be sold on 29 September, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 27 August, citing acting Federal Property Fund head Kirill Tomashchuk. The starting price for the stake is $1.93 billion. The sale is expected to generate about 90 percent of all the money the government will raise from privatization this year, the daily reported. In December 2002, the government sold a 5.9 percent stake in the company for $775 million. Tomashchuk told the daily that ConocoPhillips and Dabir have stated that they will bid for the packet. President Vladimir Putin met in July with ConocoPhillips President James Mulva and LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2004) and expressed his personal support for the companies' joint projects. RC

NEW SEARCH CARRIED OUT IN YUKOS INVESTIGATION
Investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office on 26 August carried out a search of the Moscow offices of Yukos-FPTs, the Yukos affiliate that provides accounting services for Yukos and most of its subsidiaries, newsru.com and other Russian media reported. The search was widely interpreted as a sign that the government is preparing additional tax-evasion charges against the embattled oil giant. The website reported that prosecutors seized about 50 boxes of documents dating to 2003 and 2004. However, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told Interfax that the search was carried out in connection with a probe into the alleged embezzlement of funds in 2001 via the Moldovan company Fargoil. RC

MINISTER, PRESIDENT DISCUSS 2005 DEFENSE BUDGET
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov met with President Putin on 27 August to discuss his ministry's proposed 2005 budget, ITAR-TASS reported. The proposed defense budget is 573 billion rubles ($19.1 billion). "This will allow us to fulfill our strategic goal," Ivanov told Putin during the televised meeting. "In 2005, 60 percent of the budget will be spent maintaining the armed forces and 40 percent on development." He said that the ministry continues to experience problems providing adequate housing for service personnel, adding that the government's goal is to resolve that issue completely by 2015. RC

TOP COMMUNIST OFFICIAL THINKS PARTY NEEDS STYLE MAKEOVER...
In an article published on the Communist Party's website (http://www.kprf.ru), party leader Gennadii Zyuganov ponders why the party's popularity is fading, lenta.ru reported on 26 August. He suggests that one explanation may be the party's style and language. "The rough bureaucratic language, the language of postulates is simply boring," he writes. "Against the background of the devilish bacchanalia of modern mass media, especially electronic, our clumsy [albeit] correct language of written declarations simply isn't heard." JAC

...AS TAX OFFICIALS CAREFULLY PERUSE PARTY ACCOUNTS
Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 August that the Communist Party is about to have its accounts audited by the Tax Inspectorate. Vadim Solovev, secretary of the party's Central Committee, told the daily that "audits previously were limited to the federal level, but now audits are taking place in all regions. Local officials demanded that we turn over regional financial accounts immediately." Solovev said that he sees the tax officials' expanded efforts as part of the government's attempt to reduce the political field to two to three parties. He noted that the Central Election Commission has already drafted legislation that would increase the minimum membership for political parties to 100,000. According to Solovev, the weakest point for many parties is their financing, since many exist only in a legal sense. He suggests that the system is evolving into one in which the government will become the main source of financing based on proportional results in the State Duma elections. "But these will be financial flows that can be shut off at any moment," he concluded. JAC

COURT ASKS FOR HARSHER FOR SENTENCE FOR SIBERIAN COAL-MINE DIRECTOR
The Supreme Court of Khakasia has ruled that a sentence handed down by a Chernogorsk court in July to Ten Yen Tak, the former director of the Yenisei coal mines, for not paying miners for several months, was too lenient and has ordered that the case be reexamined, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 26, and 28 May 2004). The lower court had sentenced Tak to a fine of 80,000 rubles ($2,740) and barred him from serving in management positions in any enterprise for three years. The coal miners attracted national attention to their plight by launching multiple hunger strikes. JAC

JOURNALIST/EXTORTIONIST GETS HEFTY SENTENCE
A raion-level court in Moscow on 26 August sentenced Yulia Pelekhova, editor of the dossie.ru website, to 7 1/2 years in prison for large-scale extortion, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported. Pelekhova was convicted of attempting to blackmail businesswoman Oksana Tokareva. She threatened to publish articles exposing Tokareva and to send materials to law enforcement officials if she did not receive $150,000. Pelekhova maintains that she is innocent and told investigator that the $40,000 she received in a Moscow restaurant was a fee paid in advance for an article that would appear on the website in the near future, according to gazeta.ru. Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Union of Journalists, complained that the harsh sentence illustrates that "today's justice reeks of media-phobia." The website noted that former deputy head of the State Fisheries Committee Yurii Moskaltsov and his various accomplices who misappropriated $8 million and caused $38 million in damages to the state were sentenced to only three to four years in prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). JAC

ALFA BANK FILES SUIT AGAINST KOMMERSANT PUBLISHING HOUSE
Alfa Bank on 26 August filed a libel suit in the Moscow Arbitration Court against the Kommersant publishing group for a 6 July article in "Kommersant-Daily," polit.ru and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 August. The bank is seeking 320.77 million rubles ($1.07 million) in damages. Alfa Bank claims the article caused panicked depositors to withdraw their savings from the bank (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 2 August 2004). Kommersant's lawyer, Georgii Ivanov, told the website that the article is completely accurate and did not unfairly harm the bank's reputation. RC

PATRIARCH ASKS VATICAN FOR MORE CONCESSIONS...
The Moscow Patriarchate expressed its gratitude on 26 August for the Vatican's "symbolic act" of returning "one of the latest copies" of the Mother of God of Kazan (Our Lady of Kazan) icon to Russia, adding that it expects "more significant" steps from the Holy See directed at improving relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, RIA-Novosti reported. The icon is to be transferred to the Patriarchate during a 28 August ceremony. As an example of a "more significant" step, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Patriarchate's external relations department, said that the Catholic Church could "give up its missionary and proselytizing activities among people who are Orthodox." JAC

...AND TATAR NATIONALIST GROUP DISPLEASED
Meanwhile, the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center criticized the Vatican's gesture in a letter published in the Kazan-based weekly "Zvezda povolzhya" on 26 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The center accused Pope John Paul II of involvement in "indecent political games" through his role in the church's return of the icon. The center claimed that the icon is a symbol of the colonization of the Tatars, because following Russia's conquest of the Kazan khanate, the Russian authorities spread word that the original icon was miraculously discovered among the ruins of the Kazan fortress in 1579, and upheld as proof that the Russian state was the rightful ruler of the Tatar lands. Earlier, the center criticized Kazan city authorities for spending time and money on "affairs insulting the religious sensibilities of Muslims." Last year, the Vatican considered giving the icon to Tatarstan directly, bypassing Moscow and Russian Orthodox Church officials (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Daily Report," 31 October 2003). JAC

CHECHEN INTERIOR MINISTRY BANS WEARING OF MASKS IN PUBLIC
Acting Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov announced on 26 August that he has given orders to Chechen police to open fire on anyone wearing a mask in an urban area, Interfax reported. He pointed out that "most crimes are committed by people who hide their faces behind masks." Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov, widely regarded as the Kremlin's choice to win the 29 August ballot to elect a successor to slain pro-Moscow leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, similarly argued on 18 August that "I am categorically against security and law enforcement agencies working in masks. A man serving the law and protecting his people should not cover his face." Not only do the Chechen resistance use masks to avoid identification; members of the private army commanded by Kadyrov's son, First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, also reportedly do so when engaging in the abduction for ransom of Chechen civilians. LF

CHECHEN OFFICIALS HAIL MILITARY-COURT RULING
First Deputy Prime Minister Kadyrov and State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov expressed their satisfaction on 26 August with a decision by the military panel of Russia's Supreme Court to overturn the acquittal of four Russian servicemen who were charged with killing six Chechen civilians in January 2002, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2004). The Supreme Court ruled that the members of the jury that acquitted the four men were selected in violation of the relevant legislation, and ordered a new investigation into the circumstances of the killings. Dzhabrailov termed the ruling "a triumph of the law," while Kadyrov argued that it shows that Russian law also extends to Chechnya. LF

ARMENIA, CHINA DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION
Major General Jiang Lihua, deputy head of the Chinese Defense Ministry's Foreign Relations Department, met in Yerevan on 26 August with Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to discuss how to expand bilateral military cooperation, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Sarkisian thanked Beijing for the assistance it has provided to the Armenian military. That aid includes the training in Chinese military academies of 10 Armenian military personnel. Sarkisian also announced that Armenian President Robert Kocharian will visit China in September. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY CONTINUES FIGHT FOR NEW HEADQUARTERS
Azerbaijan's Economic Court rejected on 26 August an appeal by the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) against the withdrawal by the Economic Development Ministry from an agreement reached earlier this summer under which the ministry offered AMIP new office space, zerkalo.az reported on 27 August. AMIP was evicted in 2001 from the premises it had occupied for the previous nine years, and since then has concluded a series of short-term leases. It was evicted from its most recent premises four months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2004). LF

SOUTH OSSETIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF VIOLATING TROOP-WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT
South Ossetian government spokeswoman Irina Gagloeva accused Tbilisi on 26 August of sending 60 special forces troops to the South Ossetian conflict zone in violation of the 19 August agreement under which Russia, Georgia, and South Ossetia pledged to withdraw all forces except for 500 peacekeepers each, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Guram Donadze rejected that allegation and offered to launch a joint inspection with the South Ossetian side of the Djava District where the forces in question were allegedly deployed. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIAN MILITARY EXERCISE...
Speaking on 26 August in Batumi where he attended a government meeting the previous day, Mikheil Saakashvili criticized the Russian military exercises under way at the Gonio firing range near Batumi, which he claimed are inconveniencing tens of thousands of tourists, many of them from abroad, who are currently vacationing at Black Sea resorts, Caucasus Press reported. He warned that if Moscow does not voluntarily close its military base at Batumi by the spring of 2005, "we shall force them to leave." LF

...AND CALLS FOR WOMEN TO JOINT RESERVIST FORCE
Saakashvili also argued that Georgia should create a strong reservist force even though the country is not currently preparing for war, Russian media reported. He said some 40 percent of the population would be liable to serve in that force, which would also include women, as is the case in the Israeli armed forces, according to Caucasus Press. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT, WTO HEAD MEET
President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with World Trade Organization (WTO) General-Director Supachai Panitchpakdi in Almaty on 26 August to discuss Kazakhstan's progress toward WTO membership, Khabar TV reported. After the meeting Panitchpakdi told journalists that once Kazakhstan becomes a WTO member, the country's agricultural sector may be eligible for allowances to allow it to compete on equal terms with foreign producers, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Panitchpakdi noted, however, that Kazakhstan will have to bring domestic energy prices in line with international standards. A working group on Kazakhstan's accession to the WTO will begin work in Geneva in September, Panitchpakdi said. Among the issues it will discuss are access to Kazakhstan's domestic market and taxation issues. In February 2004, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov said the country hopes to become a member of the WTO by late 2005 or early 2006, Interfax reported on 5 February. DK

KAZAKH ELECTION HEAD DECRIES COMMISSION NO-SHOWS
Central Electoral Commission head Zagipa Balieva told an international conference on the country's electoral system in Almaty on 25 August that political parties are shirking participation in local-election commissions, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. She said that 199 representatives of political parties are skipping sessions. "They have to be replaced by teachers, doctors, and people from public-sector organizations," Balieva said. Under the country's new election law, political parties, public associations, and higher-level election commissions nominate candidates to serve on seven-member local-election commissions, which are then formed by local assemblies. Previously, the local administration formed election commissions. Noting that the absent commission members hail from parties across the political spectrum, Balieva concluded: "If a party nominates its members...it should fulfill its obligations." DK

RUSSIA TO GAIN CONTROL OF TAJIK POWER STATION
Tajikistan's Energy Ministry has announced that Russia and Tajikistan have reached a preliminary agreement for Russia to acquire a 51 percent stake in Tajikistan's unfinished Sangtuda hydropower plant for $100 million, Avesta reported on 26 August. Tajik Energy Minister Jurabek Nurmahmadov hammered out the deal with Viktor Khristenko, his Russian counterpart, at a 24 August meeting in Moscow, a Tajik Energy Ministry spokesman told the news agency. Under the agreement, Sangtuda will undergo an independent assessment by 1 October with a subsequent share issue by 15 December. Russia will pay for half of the shares with $50 million and acquire the remainder by writing off a portion of Tajikistan's sovereign debt to Russia. Polit.ru reported on 25 August that some sources estimate the value of Sangtuda at $300 million-$500 million. DK

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS EUROPE NEEDS TO TACKLE HIZB UT-TAHRIR...
President Islam Karimov told journalists in Tashkent on 26 August that European countries need to take more stringent measures to deal with Hizb ut-Tahrir, Uzbek Television reported. He delivered the remarks during a break in the opening session of Uzbekistan's parliament. "Take London, for example, where Hizb ut-Tahrir has its headquarters," RFE/RL's Uzbek Service quoted Karimov as saying. "Party members go about their business unimpeded, collecting money, hiring lawyers, and spreading their views. They put articles in the paper that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a little lamb that harms no one. Then why is it banned in Germany? It would be good if the countries in the European Union got together and resolved this issue." Karimov also stated that those responsible for recent terror attacks in Uzbekistan are "zombies and fanatics" who have used training facilities in Pakistan's southern Waziristan Province, Interfax reported. DK

...PROMISES LARGE-SCALE JOINT EXERCISES WITH RUSSIA...
President Karimov also told journalists that Uzbekistan and Russia will hold large-scale military exercises in Uzbekistan next year, Uzbek TV reported on 26 August. "What is at issue is not a routine exercise but a very serious one, which will be held at our new training ground in Forish [in central Uzbekistan]," he stressed. "This fact is further proof that there is a high level of trust between the armed forces of Uzbekistan and Russia." Karimov also praised the Russian business presence in Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported. He said: "It is pleasant to note that today Russia regards Uzbekistan as a reliable and loyal partner. For our part, we regard Russia as the state that has been present in the country for a long time and this presence will further develop and strengthen." DK

...AND MEETS WITH JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER
Karimov met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in Tashkent on 26 August, Uzbek TV reported. The report said that the two discussed economic relations and regional security. In remarks to journalists in Uzbekistan's parliament, Karimov called Japan a "fair country" and praised Tokyo for its aid to Uzbekistan, Uzbek Radio reported. "As of today, the all-around assistance Japan has provided to Uzbekistan totals $1.828 billion, about $2 billion," Karimov said. "A total of $147 million was allocated with no strings attached." Kawaguchi also met with Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safaev, Uzbek TV reported. The two signed an air-transportation agreement and documents for Japan to provide a low-interest loan for railway construction. DK

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGE
KGB investigators have charged opposition politician Mikhail Marynich with stealing office equipment from the Business Initiative think tank, an NGO of which he is chairman, Belapan reported on 26 August, quoting Marynich's lawyer, Vera Stramkouskaya. At the same time they prolonged his detention by one month. Marynich has been in custody since 26 April on charges of illegal possession of firearms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 11 May 2004). Stramkouskaya said the new charge is a "far-fetched" pretext to keep the politician in jail. "Apart from the fact that [the new charge] carries a prison term of up to 15 years, it also provides for property confiscation," Stramkouskaya said. "That is, [the KGB] will be allowed to keep the $90,000 seized from Mr. Marynich." Earlier this week the KGB denied a meeting with Marynich to visiting members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions. JM

TWO BELARUSIAN VENDORS TRIED FOR INSULTING PRESIDENT
The trial of Valery Levaneuski, leader of local market vendors' strike committee, and Alyaksandr Vasilyeu, deputy chairman of the strike committee, began in a district court in Hrodna, western Belarus, on 26 August, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Levaneuski and Vasilyeu are accused of distributing leaflets with a poem that allegedly libeled President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Levaneuski has been additionally charged with organizing and taking an active part in an unsanctioned May Day demonstration. He has been in jail since early May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2004). JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE ARREST KYIV MARKET BOMBING SUSPECTS...
Police have arrested four people -- three men and one woman -- suspected of organizing two explosions at Kyiv's Troyeshchynskyy market on 20 August, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 27 August, quoting Kyiv police chief Oleksandr Milenin. Milenin disclosed that the detainees were members of "political movements" and specified that two individuals had membership cards of the Ukrainian Popular Party. According to Milenin, the motive behind the blasts was to "influence the political situation" and create "social tension" among the population. The 20 August explosions at the Troyeshchynskyy market killed one person and injured 13 others. There were reportedly citizens of Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh among the casualties. JM

...AS OPPOSITION LAWMAKER ACCUSES POLICE OF 'PROVOCATION'
Our Ukraine lawmaker Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, a member of the Ukrainian Popular Party (UNP), told UNIAN that the police's statement about the involvement of UNP members in the Troyeshchynskyy market blasts is a "provocation" intended to impact the presidential election. The UNP, which bore the name of Ukrainian Popular Rukh until 25 January 2003, is a member of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc. Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko told journalists on 27 August that the motive behind the blast was purely criminal. The Kyiv city administration closed the Troyeshchynskyy market on 25 August, which caused a protest by market vendors who blocked several streets in the vicinity of the market later the same day and staged a picket in front of the mayoral office on 26 August. The city administration reopened the market on 26 August. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS INTERNATIONAL CRITICS OF DANUBE-BLACK SEA CANAL
Following the official inauguration of the Bystraya canal project in the Ukrainian part of the Danube River Delta on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2004), President Leonid Kuchma told journalists that international criticism of the Ukrainian canal project was motivated by "political and economic" reasons rather than environmental, Interfax reported. "You all know well how many skeptical accusations and even open provocations there have been that set the entire international community against this project," Kuchma said. "But we know very well whose interests stand behind these attempts to stir the waters around the canal, while in fact all international ecological requirements were met during its construction." International criticism of the Bystraya canal project primarily focused on its potential damage to the Danube Delta's unique ecosystem. By opening the Bystraya canal, Ukraine has broken Romania's monopoly on navigation in the delta. JM

CROATIA TAKES DOWN PLAQUES HONORING FASCIST-ERA LEADERS
In the latest stage of a long controversy, the Croatian authorities announced on 27 August that two plaques have been removed, each honoring a World War II-era leader associated with the pro-Axis Ustasha regime, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The government issued a statement saying that the plaques were against Croatia's constitution and national interests. A plaque in Sveti Rok honored Ustasha cabinet minister and writer Mile Budak, who is linked to genocidal racial laws and a famous statement that one-third of all Croatian Serbs should be killed, another third expelled, and the rest converted to Roman Catholicism. His defenders say he was one of the best Croatian writers of the 20th century, who backed the Ustashe only after being beaten by Serbian thugs. The other plaque, in Slunj, was dedicated to Ustasha military leader Jure Francetic, who headed the notorious Black Legion that fought in Bosnia. The current government also called on the Justice Ministry to draft legislation banning the promotion of totalitarian ideologies, including communism and fascism, Reuters reported. The Penal Code currently prohibits attempts to praise or justify those guilty of genocide or crimes against humanity, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The late President Franjo Tudjman, who served in Josip Broz Tito's Partisans, generally opposed attempts to rehabilitate the Ustashe and their leaders. PM

BOSNIAN LEADER TELLS PAKISTAN THAT ISLAMIC COUNTRIES SHOULD HELP MORE
Sulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim member and chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, told a group of Pakistani businessmen in Islamabad on 26 August that the Islamic world should do more to help his country, dpa reported. "Bosnia, a country of 3.85 million people, needs foreign investment for rapid economic development," he said. "We still need assistance from the Islamic countries to get out of the ravages of war, which killed 200,000 people." Tihic thanked Pakistan for its political and economic support, calling on the businessmen to promote direct investments and trade. During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Pakistan provided money as well as military equipment, including short-range Anza missiles, manufactured by its prominent Kahutta Research Laboratories. Pakistani troops have also served as UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. Turkey and Saudi Arabia were also significant supporters of the wartime Muslim cause. PM

BRIDGE STOLEN IN HERZEGOVINA
Unknown thieves recently dismantled and took away a 150-year-old metal bridge in the village of Gornje Opine near Herzegovina's main city, Mostar, dpa reported on 27 August. Eyewitnesses told police that they saw a group of Roma removing the structure, which dates from the period of Austro-Hungarian rule between 1878 and 1918. The news agency suggested that the guilty parties might have sold the bridge as scrap on the black market for about $173 at current prices. The police investigation is continuing, and nobody has been charged in the case. PM

SERBIAN LEADER SAYS HE STILL CAN'T FIND PROMINENT WAR CRIMES INDICTEE
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 26 August that "very credible checks...have not determined that [indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic] is on Serbian territory," Reuters reported. Serbian President Boris Tadic recently suggested that Mladic "is somewhere between Bosnia and Serbia," while Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, has repeatedly said that Mladic is in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 July, and 5, 12, and 20 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 December 2003 and 2 July 2004). PM

MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT WEIGHS IN AGAINST CONTROVERSIAL DAM PROJECT
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 26 August that the government will not do anything to endanger the Tara River Canyon, which is the deepest in Europe and the second deepest in the world, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His statement is the clearest one yet from the government indicating that the controversial Buk Bijela hydroelectric plant on the Drina River, which would flood the canyon, is unlikely to be built. Parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic recently said in response to a petition drive that the legislature will soon pass a declaration to protect the canyon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2004). Construction has been supported by some Bosnian Serb labor unions. PM

GUN CULTURE REMAINS A PROBLEM IN MACEDONIA
In response to information provided by the UNDP office in Skopje that up to 170,000 Macedonians illegally possess firearms, Vladimir Pandovski of the private National Arms Association (NAzO) told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 26 August that it is possible to carry out a new disarmament operation if it is supported by the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2003). Pandovski warned, however, that due to the "sensitive political situation," any such operation could be more damaging than helpful. Pandovski alluded to the growing interethnic tensions over the referendum drive supported by the ethnic Macedonian opposition parties against the government's redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 August and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 27 August 2004). UB

NATO COMMANDER IN KOSOVA TAKES LEAVE
German Lieutenant General Holger Kammerhoff, who commands KFOR, told a farewell conference in Prishtina on 27 August that NATO-led peacekeepers have done an "excellent job," dpa reported. He stressed that "there are no indications for new violence, on the contrary...the security situation has improved significantly in the last few months." German and some other European KFOR troops have recently come in for heavy criticism from NGOs and the German military for their performance during the 17-18 March unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July, and 9 and 26 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 and 16 April, and 9 July 2004). PM

ROMANIA TO SUE UKRAINE OVER DANUBE DELTA CANAL
The government said on 26 August that it will file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Ukraine's opening of a shipping canal in the Danube delta, Reuters reported. Construction on the Bystraya Canal was officially inaugurated the same day by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Romanian President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, and the foreign affairs, transport, environment, and justice ministers met to discuss the issue. Environmentalists claim that changes to the delta's water table will harm the extensive flora and fauna in the area, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, however, dismissed the criticism as politically and economically motivated. He said that "all the international ecological requirements were met." Both the EU and the U.S. have asked Ukraine to halt construction until a more complete environmental-impact assessment can be completed. PB

ROMANIA INCREASES CASH AWARDS FOR OLYMPIC MEDAL WINNERS
Octavian Morariu, the head of Romania's National Sports Agency, said on 26 August that the government is increasing the cash prizes for its Olympic medal winners, Reuters reported. Gold-medal winners will receive 55,000 euros ($66,430) instead of the original 50,000 euros, while silver medalists will get 44,000 euros instead of the original 25,000 euros, and bronze-medal winners will receive 33,000 euros instead of 15,000 euros. Romanian athletes have thus far won eight gold, five silver, and four bronze medals, most of them in gymnastics. The average monthly salary in Romania is roughly $170, Reuters reported. PB

EU, U.S. TIGHTEN TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIALS
The EU and United States announced on 27 August that they are banning 10 Transdniestrian officials from travelling to the U.S. or EU countries, Infotag reported. The 10 are deemed responsible for the recent closure of Moldovan-language schools in Transdniester that teach in the Latin alphabet. They join a list of 17 Transdniestrian officials that have been banned from travelling to the EU since 2003. Six of the eight schools in Transdniester that teach with the Latin alphabet have been closed by Transdniestrian officials in the last several weeks. PB

NORTH KOREA CONGRATULATES MOLDOVA ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
The president of the presidium of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong-Nam, sent a message of congratulations to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on the occasion of Moldova's independence day on 27 August, the state North Korean news agency KCNA reported. Kim said in his message to Voronin, a Communist, that he hopes "the excellent friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries will continue to grow strong in the interest of the two peoples." PB

BULGARIAN TRADE UNION LEADER SPARKS PROTESTS WITH REMARKS ON 'CRIMINAL' ROMA
An incident in early August in which a group of illegal woodcutters severely beat up foresters provided the background for a racist outburst by one of Bulgaria's most prominent trade-union leaders, Konstantin Trenchev of the labor confederation Podkrepa. Trenchev, who was not previously known for racist remarks, used the fact that the timber thieves were Roma to imply that all of the country's some 370,000 Roma are criminals.

"The gypsies are carrying out systematic robberies in the villages, engaging in pickpocketing in the cities, in prostitution, [they] are not paying for consumed goods -- electricity, heating, and water -- and, most shockingly, are selling their children," Trenchev said on 10 August.

But Trenchev did not only identify what he regards as a major problem for Bulgarian society -- he also proposed a solution. He called on citizens to form a national guard closely modeled on the country's communist-era volunteer units. In order to vest this national guard with enough firepower, Trenchev also called for liberalizing regulations on firearms. Trenchev warned that if society fails to address the problem of crime among the Roma, a severe interethnic conflict could result. Trenchev added that politicians should stop flirting with Romany voters by making empty promises.

Later the same day, Trenchev said he expected to come under fire from human-rights organization for his statements. He added that he will not yield to the pressure from these organizations.

On 11 August, the Roma rights organization Romani Baht announced that it will sue Trenchev for inciting racial hatred. Trenchev responded that he was not surprised by the organization's announcement. He defended himself by saying that he only voiced what many Bulgarians think, adding that he is convinced that what he said is true. At the same time, Trenchev watered down his initial statement, saying in an interview with the private bTV that he did not intend to brand the Roma as the only ethnic group that has criminals. "I do not say that there is no criminality among other ethnic groups. There is, of course," Trenchev said.

Despite this clarification, several human-rights organizations, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, joined Romani Baht in protesting Trenchev's statement. In their protest letter, the organizations stated that it is unacceptable for someone in Trenchev's position to call for interethnic confrontation. They also warned that statements of this kind could harm Bulgaria's reputation at a time when the country is entering the final stage of the EU-accession process.

However, the human-rights activists not only criticized Trenchev, but also tried to explain why many members of the country's Roma minority have no alternative to trying to make a living from illegal activities. Yonko Grozev, deputy chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said the minority's main problem is that its members were excluded from the labor market in the early 1990s. At the same time, tens of thousands of them dropped out of the education system, thus further aggravating the Roma's economic and social problems.

Rumyan Sechkov of the S.E.G.A. foundation attributed the theft of timber to mafia-style structures in the timber business that foster the practice. "The Roma came to steal timber, which they can neither eat nor use for heating as they cut enormous amounts. But they can sell it," Sechkov said. Sechkov believes that the government must do more to curb the activities of firms that buy up illegally cut timber and illegally acquired scrap metals.

Other critics concentrated on Trenchev's calls for the formation of some sort of national guard. Helsinki Committee Chairman Krasimir Kanev said that Trenchev's idea of a national guard contradicts the basic principles of modern states and the rule of law. "If the activities of [the guard] are directed against a specific ethnic group, this is a clear sign that the society is becoming fascist," he said.

National Police Deputy Director Colonel Pavlin Dimitrov said on 12 August that the idea of forming an armed national guard is unacceptable, and he compared Trenchev's proposed guard with the Ku Klux Klan, the daily "Sega" reported. Such a guard could indeed spark interethnic tensions, Dimitrov warned.

Dimitrov said that the National Police are currently working to draft a legal framework for volunteer units similar to the communist-era ones. The new units would be placed under the supervision of the local mayor and financed by the municipalities. They would have less extensive powers than their communist-style counterparts. Dimitrov stressed that they would not have the right to carry arms or to arrest suspects.

Trenchev, for his part, has shown little remorse for his comments. Sidestepping a public apology, he said on bTV that his organization has developed ideas for resolving the problem of unemployment among the Roma. The solution, he said, is to allot arable land to them and to include them in programs to revive the country's agricultural sector.

The only government official who has condemned Trenchev's statement is Mihail Ivanov, the secretary of the Council of Ministers' Council for Ethnic and Demographic Questions. Ivanov said he expects Trenchev to withdraw at least part of his statements, adding that it is time for the trade unions to help resolve the grave problems facing the Romany minority.

INTERIOR MINISTRY REJECTS REPORTS OF TROOP DISPATCH TO HERAT...
The Afghan Interior Ministry rejected reports that troops from the Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan have arrived in the western Herat Province, Afghanistan Television reported on 26 August. Abdul Karim Afghan, a spokesman for Amanullah Khan, a local warlord in Herat, claimed on 25 August that Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Nur has dispatched 2,000 fighters to support Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2004). Afghan also accused Iran of providing weapons to Ismail Khan. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that it "rejects claims made by Aref Afghan and regards such claims as rumors." Afghan has been identified by Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) as Abdul Karim and the number of troops he is alleged to have been sent are 2,000. In its statement the Interior Ministry refers to "Aref Afghan" and gives the number of fighters as 2,500. The Interior Ministry statement does not mention the allegation of Iranian military support (for more on the Herat crisis, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 and 26 August 2004). AT

...WHILE HERAT'S NEIGHBORS CONDEMN THE DISPATCH OF TROOPS
Spokesmen for the Ghor and Badghis provinces to the west and northwest of Herat, respectively, condemned the dispatch of forces from Balkh to help Ismail Khan, AIP reported on 26 August. Ahmad Ayyubi, spokesman for Ghor's Public Council, told AIP that the "dispatch of forces from other provinces to Herat is a negative action and we are strictly against it." According to Ayyubi, sending troops from other provinces will only complicate the situation, and only efforts "in line with the central government's instructions" can be helpful. General Mohammad Omar Nezami, speaking for Badghis Governor Azizullah Afzali, also condemned the dispatch of forces to Herat and said it will "create tension in the area." "The only way to resolve the Herat problem is to sack Mohammad Ismail Khan from his post," Nazemi added. A delegation representing Balkh Governor Nur and the leader of Junbish-e Melli party, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, is in Herat trying to mediate between Ismail Khan and Ghor Governor Ebrahim Malikzadah and Afzali; however, Nezami said that the delegation would not able to solve the problem as long as Ismail Khan rules Herat. AT

CLASHES IN LAGHMAN PROVINCE LEAVE CASUALTIES
Three people have been killed and six, including women, have been injured in clashes between two armed groups in Laghman Province east of Kabul, AIP reported on 26 August. An unidentified security official from Laghman, confirmed the clashes, added that the incident took place in Korini village and it was brought to an end by the provincial security forces who also detained a number of people. The identity of the armed groups and the cause of the clash is not known. AT

CANDIDATES CALLING FOR RESIGNATION OF KARZAI EXTEND THEIR DEADLINE
Fifteen presidential candidates calling for Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai to resign before the 9 October elections have extended their deadline by another week, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 26 August. The candidates held a meeting on 26 August in which they invited Karzai to meet with them on 3 September or another date and clarify issues related to the election. The chairman of the meeting, independent candidate Homayun Shah Asefi, alleged that interior and border affairs ministries are inviting tribal and clan chiefs and are giving them ultimatums to vote for Karzai. Earlier in August, at a meeting led by independent candidate Abdul Sattar Sirat, a call was made for Karzai's resignation (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 August 2004). According to the report, out of the 17 candidates challenging Karzai, only Abdul Hasib Aryan and Mas'uda Jalal are not backing the call for his resignation. Karzai has rejected the call, calling it unconstitutional. AT

IRANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES VIGILANTISM...
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami discussed the problem of vigilante groups in a 25 August meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, state radio reported on 26 August. Khatami said that people should pay attention to morality, but interaction with the public, especially the youth, must improve. "While confronting the root causes of moral corruption, we call on our friends [fundamentalist vigilante groups] to observe the necessary caution in their interaction with the people and in trying to intrude into the people's private matters." Khatami said the police have received the proper training, but "I believe that more recommendations should be made." BS

...AND CORRUPTION
Khatami went on to say in his 25 August comments, "The main corruption which creates problem is economic corruption," state radio reported the next day. He said the judiciary and the executive branch have taken steps to deal with this problem and the legislature's efforts to confront the problem have not been announced publicly. Suggesting that anticorruption measures will cause discomfort for those with vested interests, Khatami said, "These steps may not please you and our society 100 percent, but I would like to point out that work has been done in this field," state radio reported. Khatami thanked the ministry of Intelligence and Security and the judiciary for their anticorruption efforts. BS

IRAN WANTS TO EXCLUDE FOREIGNERS FROM REGION
Iranian Ambassador to Russia Gholamreza Shafei told ITAR-TASS on 27 August that Iran is worried about the presence of what he termed "extraregional powers" in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Shafei said the only reason outsiders are in the region is for economic gain. Shafei said Iran and Russia recognize that the only way to resolve issues is through the cooperation of regional neighbors. BS

LITTLE PROGRESS ON RETURN OF IRANIAN SPENT FUEL TO RUSSIA
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov instructed Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) chief Aleksandr Rumyantsev to sign a protocol with Iran on the return of spent fuel from the Bushehr nuclear facility after all issues are addressed, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. Rosatom spokesman Nikolai Shingarev said Russia would supply fuel to Iran only if this condition is met. The outstanding issue remains Iran's return of spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing and storage. Iranian ambassador to Moscow Shafei said on 26 August that the price for this exchange has not been agreed upon, and "Negotiations are currently under way to reach a mutually acceptable decision on the price," ITAR-TASS reported. BS

MOSCOW SAYS IRANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT ON SCHEDULE
Disputing Iranian claims that the Bushehr nuclear power plant will not be completed until 2006, Rosatom spokesman Shingarev said on 26 August that the facility's first generating set will be completed in 2005, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2004). Shingarev explained, "The date for deliveries of nuclear fuel is in no way linked to the progress of [the] construction of the generating set." For technical reasons, Shingarev said, the fuel must be delivered six months before the reactor is physically launched. BS

IRAQI SECURITY FORCES ARREST IRANIAN SABOTEURS
An Iraqi military spokesman announced on 26 August that a joint National Guard/police unit arrested one male and one female saboteur from Iran, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. The Iraqi unit raided a house in Al-Najaf that was the source of gunfire targeting Iraqi personnel. The Iranians were arrested and machine guns and other weapons were seized. The two Iranians entered Iraq three months ago, Al-Sharqiyah reported. BS

IRAQI AUTHORITIES RELEASE IRANIAN CORRESPONDENT
Mustafa Darban, one of the IRNA correspondents detained by Iraqi police in early-August, was released on 27 August, IRNA reported. He was being held at the Iraqi Interior Ministry. BS

IRAQI AYATOLLAH NEGOTIATES END TO STANDOFF...
Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani negotiated an end on 26 August to the standoff between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and militants from the Imam Al-Mahdi Army loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, international media reported. Both the Iraqi interim government and al-Sadr agreed to the terms of al-Sistani's ceasefire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2004); the government also reportedly agreed not to prosecute al-Sadr on murder charges related to the 11 April 2003 killing of Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi. Iraqi State Minister Qasim Dawud announced at a 26 August press briefing that the government has created a Committee for the Reconstruction of Al-Najaf. He claimed that the committee was formed two weeks ago, and will work on assessing the damage done to homes and businesses as a result of the three-week standoff in order to provide compensation. KR

...AS CLERIC ORDERS MILITIA TO LAY DOWN THEIR ARMS
Al-Sadr reportedly ordered militiamen from the Imam Al-Mahdi Army to lay down their arms and evacuate the Imam Ali Mosque in Al-Najaf on 27 August. The order was broadcast over the mosque's loud speakers on al-Sadr's behalf, Reuters reported on 27 August. His spokesman in Al-Kazimiyah, Sheikh Ra'id al-Kazimi, told Al-Jazeera in a 27 August interview: "We have always said -- and Muqtada al-Sadr said during his news conferences and Friday sermons which are the legal pulpit of the Iraqis -- that we implement the orders of the religious authority. God willing, the crisis will end peacefully." Some militiamen on the streets of Al-Najaf were seen handing in their weapons and changing into civilian clothes, witnesses told Reuters. The news agency reported, however, that militiamen brandishing AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades could still be seen on the streets of the holy city. Al-Arabiyah reported on 27 August that the keys to the Imam Ali Shrine have been given to al-Sistani. KR

CAR BOMB IN MOSUL
A car bomb detonated near a U.S. military convoy in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on 27 August, Reuters reported. At least 10 Iraqi civilians were injured in the attack, police and hospital officials said. U.S. Army Captain Angela Bowman told the media that no U.S. military personnel were killed in the attack, AP reported. Bowman said she did not have information on whether any personnel were injured. KR

ITALIAN HOSTAGE REPORTEDLY EXECUTED
Al-Jazeera television reported on 26 August that Italian journalist Endo Baldoni has been executed by militants holding him captive in Iraq. Baldoni was taken hostage on 19 August; his interpreter, who was traveling with him when he was abducted, was earlier found dead. The Islamic Army in Iraq had issued a statement on 22 August demanding that the Italian government withdraw its forces from Iraq; Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to meet the demand. The militant group sent a videotaped statement to Al-Jazeera that purportedly depicts the execution. The group said that it executed Baldoni following a verdict by what it termed its religious court. Al-Jazeera did not broadcast the videotape out of consideration for Baldoni's family. KR

PUK OFFICIAL ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Sa'di Ahmad Pire, an official for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), survived an assassination attempt in Mosul on 26 August, Al-Jazeera reported. The attack occurred when a booby-trapped car detonated as his motorcade drove by. A bodyguard and two civilian bystanders were wounded in the attack, Al-Jazeera reported. KR

BLACK BANNERS ISSUES STATEMENT ON SEVEN HOSTAGES
The Black Banners Group that is holding seven hostages in Iraq said in a videotaped statement obtained by Al-Arabiyah television and broadcast on 26 August that it is dropping some of its previous demands for the release of the hostages. The seven -- including Egyptian, Kenyan, and Indian nationals -- were taken hostage on 21 July. "In response to the call of the Indian ambassador in Iraq and his appeal to release the seven hostages working for the Kuwaiti company, the higher command of the Islamic Secret Army announces its readiness to release the hostages on condition that the Kuwaiti Al-Rabitah Company official announces [a] halt to its operations in Iraq and immediately withdraws its employees from Iraq," the group said in a videotaped statement. The negotiations between the Kuwaiti firm and the hostage-takers came to an abrupt halt earlier this month when the firm lost contact with the militant group. The firm said on 27 August that it would meet the group's demand and cease its activities in Iraq. KR

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