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Newsline - September 3, 2004


RUSSIAN TROOPS STORM SCHOOL IN BESLAN...
The Beslan hostage takers tried to fight their way to freedom on the morning of 3 September after Russian troops began closing in on the school building, the roof of which partially caved in following a series of explosions, Western and Russian agencies reported. A correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service reported from Beslan that "the assault began after Emergency Situations Ministry workers were allowed [by the hostage takers] to take the dead bodies of killed hostages away from the territory of the school, after which intensive shooting began. At first there were two explosions, then the shooting intensified." Reuters quoted ITAR-TASS as reporting that Russian special forces blasted a hole in the building to permit hostages to escape. Five hostage takers were reportedly killed in the initial gun battle with Russian forces, while an unspecified number reportedly escaped. Casualties during the shootout reportedly run into the hundreds.Earlier on 3 September, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov had assured waiting relatives that no attempt would be made to storm the building. Dzasokhov also said that during talks the previous day with former Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, the hostage takers demanded independence for Chechnya, Reuters reported. Leonid Roshal, the Russian pediatrician who made telephone contact with the hostage takers late on 1 September, talked to them again on 3 September, dpa reported. Roshal confirmed a 3 September "Nezavisimaya gazeta" report that an unspecified number of adult hostages had been killed, and said the talks at that point focused on recovering their bodies. LF

...TO PRECLUDE CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S INVOLVEMENT IN MEDIATION?
On 2 September, after former Ingushetian President Aushev successfully negotiated with the hostage takers the release of 26 women and children, Aushev and Dzasokhov telephoned Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative in London, Akhmed Zakaev, to discuss ways of ending the hostage crisis, chechenpress.com reported on 3 September. Zakaev said that insofar as the hostages had put forward "political demands concerning Chechnya," Maskhadov considered it appropriate to offer to travel to Beslan to mediate with them on condition that the Russian authorities guarantee his security. Zakaev said that, according to Dzasokhov and Aushev, the hostage takers were demanding an end to the war in Chechnya and had agreed to release the hostages on receipt of an official decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. LF

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA TARGET OF 'TERRORIST OFFENSIVE'
President Putin on 2 September made his first public statements since the hostage crisis began in North Ossetia the previous day, saying Russia has experienced a "series of terrorist attacks [in the past 10 days] that has made victims of dozens of innocent people" but has also been directed "against Russia as a whole," RTR and ORT reported. Putin was speaking during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Kremlin. "Our main goal is to save the lives and health of the hostages, and the activities of our forces involved in the liberation of hostages is subordinate to this goal," Putin said. The Russian president also thanked Abdullah for coming to Russia under current circumstances, adding, "I hope that your voice -- of an authoritative leader of a Muslim country and a person considered to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad -- will be heard by those on whom the lives of the hostages depends." Abdullah declared that he is "firmly on the side of Russia," according to RTR. VY

U.S. PRESIDENT DISCUSSES HOSTAGE CRISIS WITH PUTIN
Putin's presidential press service announced that U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned his Russian counterpart on 1 September to say the United States was prepared to assist in any way possible to resolve the North Ossetian hostage crisis, ITAR-TASS, AP, and Reuters reported. Bush stressed that Washington and Moscow stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against terrorism, according to the Kremlin. The head of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee who led a Russian parliamentary delegation to the Republican Party convention in New York City, Mikhail Margelov, said on 2 September that convention participants who spoke with him share the opinion that Russia is a victim of "international terrorist aggression," Ekho Moskvy reported. "Russia is the target of a massive attack, just as the U.S. and Spain have been," Margelov said. VY

SAUDI ARABIA CALLS FOR RELEASE OF HOSTAGES IN NORTH OSSETIA
The Saudi Foreign Ministry issued an appeal to the hostage takers in Beslan on 2 September via its embassy in Moscow, urging them "to immediately release all hostages," ORT reported. The statement added that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was watching with concern and believed such actions "violate Islamic religious principles." "Islam, based on justice, grace, and tolerance, rejects any action leading to attacks on innocents," it added. VY

MEDIA HEADS URGE CAUTIOUS COVERAGE OF HOSTAGE DRAMA
The pro-Kremlin Industrial Mass Media Committee that unites the heads of Russia's major television and newspaper outlets released a statement on 2 September saying coverage of the hostage situation in North Ossetia should be subordinated to the interests of antiterrorism operations, ORT reported. "In extreme situations, the right to live has priority over other human rights," the statement said. VY

WEBSITE SLAMS FEDERAL TV CHANNELS' COVERAGE OF HOSTAGE CRISIS
Writing on utro.ru on 2 September, commentator Aleksandra Kirichenko argued that Russian television is not providing a full picture of events in Beslan. "People who receive their information only from [television] simply cannot know that the terrorists are holding more than 400 hostages," she wrote. Reports from North Ossetia come out not in special editions but alternate with news about "special treatments for pancreatitis or the opening of a honey market." Utro.ru reported that television crews recorded the appeals of parents of the hostages to President Putin but did not air them. Kirichenko said the lack of information came as the population endured three days of tension following the Moscow metro explosion and the seizure of the school -- all without an address by Putin to the Russian population. JAC

JOURNALISTS' TRIPS TO NORTH OSSETIA DISRUPTED
Two Russian journalists who effectively made their reputations through their reporting on Chechnya, RFE/RL's Andrei Babitskii and "Novaya gazeta" correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, were forced to delay planned trips to North Ossetia on 2 September after unexpected setbacks, Russian media reported. Babitskii, who was detained by Russian forces in Chechnya and held incommunicado for more than one month in 2000, was first detained at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport when authorities accused him of carrying explosives in his luggage, according to an RFE/RL press release. After a search failed to turn up any explosives, Babitskii was again detained after two men sought to provoke a fight while he awaited his flight, RFE/RL reported. He was then sentenced on 3 September by a Moscow court to five days in jail for "hooliganism." Politkovskaya, whose work has included critical reports on Russian policies and abuses in Chechnya, interrupted her planned trip due to "sudden illness," according to "Novaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Dmitrii Muratov as quoted in the Russian media. Politkovskaya, who had drunk tea in the plane the first leg of her trip from Moscow, was diagnosed with acute food poisoning at a clinic in Rostov and returned to Moscow for treatment. VY

REGIONAL OFFICIALS CRITICIZE PRESIDENT OVER RESPONSE TO TERRORISM...
Some regional politicians have criticized federal authorities' reaction to the recent series of terrorist acts and are calling on them to step up their activities, regions.ru reported on 2 September. "Over the last five days, five terrorist acts have taken place in Russia; however, I have not observed any measures on the part of the Russian federal government," Yurii Nizhechuk, a member of the Yekaterinburg city parliament, said. "Putin is silent, and federal authorities are surprisingly unperturbed." His colleague, Dmitrii Volkov, added, "I do not understand the government's reaction. Putin conducted urgent consultations at the airport -- and he says nothing about it to anyone!" Fellow deputy Aleksandr Shlyapin said, "Look at how quickly and sharply other presidents respond to terrorists! Ours should have learned this a long time ago!" JAC

...AND SCRAMBLE TO PROVIDE TOUGHER SECURITY MEASURES AT LOCAL SCHOOLS
Local officials posted additional police at schools in some Russian regions including Sakha Republic, regions.ru reported. However, in Sverdlovsk Oblast, oblast Education Minister Valerii Nesterov told reporters on 2 September that the only way to provide security for children arriving at school would be for parents to collect money and hire private security guards, since his ministry does not have the funds to provide extra security, "Novyi region" reported. In Leningrad Oblast, Governor Valerii Serdyukov called on the security services of private enterprises to help protect local schools, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 September. In the city of Moscow, police were reportedly asking virtually all passersby for their identification documents, regions.ru reported. Police were also being stationed near subway entrances and exits. JAC

RELIGIOUS LEADERS REACT TO NORTH OSSETIAN HOSTAGE STANDOFF
Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations, told Ekho Moskvy on 2 September that the hostage crisis in Beslan "could pit persons of different religions and nationalities against each other." He added that Russia has over centuries built up a foundation of multifaith and multiethnic peace, but this "foundation is now under threat." He called on Russian citizens to "worry about each other's safety" and "do everything possible to make sure that this multi-denominational peace survives." The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Russia's Muslim leaders have for the first time called for stricter antiterrorist measures in response to the seizure of the school. Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis, said, "I am expressing my full support for the activities of law enforcement agencies, no matter how tough these may be." Previously, according to the daily, Gainutdin has been careful to caution law enforcement officials that "the words 'terrorist' and 'Muslim' are not synonymous." JAC

MUSLIM LEADERS CALL FOR STRICTER MIGRATION CONTROLS
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 September that the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia deputy head and Mufti for Perm Oblast Mukhammedgali Khuzin called on authorities to tighten migration policies. He said that "criminals from among emigrants from the Transcaucasus and Central Asia brazenly bribe officials and representatives of law enforcement agencies, which creates the conditions for crime to flourish in this country." He added that the administration has information about the existence of several underground Islamic training centers in the regions, and it is ready to turn over this information to the special services. JAC

PARTY OF POWER NOT INVITED TO PARTY POWWOW IN U.S.?
"Kommersant-Daily" on 2 September quoted an unidentified source in Washington, D.C., who reportedly said that Putin presidential-administration head Dmitrii Medvedev called U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to wangle an invitation for a delegation of State Duma deputies headed by speaker Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia). However, Rice politely rejected this initiative, noting that the United States in principle does not accept the presence of delegations from foreign political parties at its conventions. In addition, she reportedly added that Republican Party functionaries will be too busy to give their guests much attention. In 2000, Russian media outlets, including "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Gryzlov led a Russian delegation to attend the Republican Party convention at the invitation of the International Republican Institute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 4 and 1 August 2000). Gryzlov said at the time that "we are sure that we will succeed in establishing close relations with the Republican Party." JAC

SIBERIAN LEADERS FAIL TO GIVE THUMBS UP TO KUZBASS'S LEADER OVERTURE
Altai Krai Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov responded on 2 September negatively to Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev's recent declaration that his oblast should be merged with Altai Krai and Tomsk Oblast, regions.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2004). Yevdokimov said the idea is not even being discussed anywhere but added, "We will undoubtedly consider the expediency of such integration, although, to be honest, I don't see any economic or political necessity for such a step." He also noted that any decision about a possible merger should be made by the residents of the regions in question. According to Interfax, Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress said any decision about unification should be thoroughly regulated, adding that so far such an initiative raises more questions than answers. JAC

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTERS COMMENT ON PRAGUE TALKS
Vartan Oskanian told Armenian Public Television on 1 September that his talks two days earlier in Prague with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict were "the most important" to date, Noyn Tapan reported on 2 September. The two ministers have met four times since late April. Oskanian added that the aim of the talks is to create the foundations, which do not yet exist, for discussing the "principal" and "more specific" issues. Mammadyarov for his part was quoted by the private television station ATV on 31 August as saying, "I would say for the first time that there is progress, we have made a step forward." Interfax on 1 September quoted Mammadyarov as telling journalists in Baku that "the negotiations were very interesting and thorough." Mammadyarov added that he also raised during his talks with Oskanian the Azerbaijani government's "grievances" concerning the local elections held last month in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VISITS NAKHICHEVAN...
Ilham Aliyev began an official visit to Nakhichevan on 2 September, his second in four months, Turan and zerkalo.az reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 May 2004). Aliyev attended the formal opening of a civil-defense complex and of a school named after his father and predecessor as president, Heidar Aliyev. Ilham Aliyev said that talks with Armenia on resolving the Karabakh conflict "are continuing on concrete issues" and affirmed his belief that at present it is imperative to continue those talks. At the same time, he warned that he will terminate them if he comes to the conclusion that they are no longer yielding results. LF

...AND CRITICIZES SENTENCES OF AZERBAIJANI PROTESTERS
President Aliyev told journalists on 2 September that he considers the prison terms handed down earlier this week to six members of the Karabakh Liberation Organization (QAT) incommensurate with the offenses they committed, Turan reported. Aliyev stressed that as president he has no right to interfere in the work of the judiciary, but that "as a citizen" he considers the sentences "very severe punishment." Parties from across the political spectrum, including some members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, have criticized the sentences, which range from three to five years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August and 1 September 2004). The six QAT activists tried to force their way into a Baku hotel in June to protest the presence of two Armenian army officers at a conference to plan for NATO maneuvers in Azerbaijan in September (see below). LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS ANNOUNCE PROTEST
The editors of several of Azerbaijan's most influential and serious media outlets announced in a statement published on 3 September in the online daily zerkalo.az their shared concern over the planned participation of Armenian military personnel at maneuvers to be held in Azerbaijan on 12 September under NATO's aegis. They termed the anticipated Armenian participation "a blow against [Azerbaijan's] state independence" and "an insult to the Azerbaijani people," and warned that it could exacerbate domestic political tensions. They declared that on 4 September the independent ANS television station will cease broadcasting for three hours in protest, while seven print publications will leave their front page blank. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY TERRORIST PRESENCE IN PANKISI
A spokesman for Georgia's State Security Ministry rejected on 2 September as "nonsense" a statement earlier that day by former Russian General Leonid Ivashov, Caucasus Press reported. Ivashov told a news conference in Moscow that several camps exist in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge at which terrorists are trained in preparation for attacks in Russia. Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 September that the Russian government has acknowledged that there is no longer any terrorist threat to Russia from Pankisi and has therefore proposed ending the monitoring by OSCE observers of the Georgian-Chechen border, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Temur Adjaparidze, who is police chief in Georgia's eastern Kakheti region that includes Pankisi, likewise told Caucasus Press that Georgian police and military are in full control of Pankisi and that there are no terrorist bases there. LF

SIX PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES REGISTERED IN ABKHAZIA
Abkhazia's Central Election Commission on 2 September, which is the deadline for registration, refused to register former Interior Minister Aleksandr Ankvab as a candidate for the 3 October presidential ballot, Caucasus Press reported. Anvab had earlier refused to sit the mandatory test for proficiency in the Abkhaz language, arguing that it is unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 27 August 2004). The opposition movement Aitaira, which supported Ankvab's candidacy, has sent a protest to the election commission accusing the Abkhaz authorities of seeking to prevent a fair ballot, Caucasus Press reported on 2 September. Of eight presidential nominees, six have been registered: Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba, Vice President Valerii Arshba, former Prime Minister Anri Djergenia, former Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh, and People's Party Chairman Yakub Lakoba. LF

MORE ALLEGATIONS SURFACE OF SLAVERY IN ABKHAZIA
Two ethnic Armenians have claimed in recent days to have escaped from "slavery" in Abkhazia's Gagra Raion, Caucasus Press reported on 30 August and 2 September. The two men both claimed that they applied for work in the construction sector but were paid far less than agreed and kept in semi-human conditions from which they managed to flee only with difficulty. A group of Turks made similar claims two months ago, which Abkhaz Prime Minister Khadjimba rejected as a provocation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004). LF

KAZAKH PREMIER MEETS WITH RUSSIAN MOBILE-PHONE EXECUTIVE
Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov met with Aleksandr Izosimov, the CEO of Russian cellular operator VimpelCom, in Astana on 2 September, Kazinform reported. Izosimov said that VimpelCom, which recently acquired Kazakh wireless operator KaR-Tel for $350 million, plans to increase its $1.5 billion 2004 investment portfolio to develop Kazakhstan's cellular communications market. Akhmetov called VimpelCom's appearance on the Kazakh wireless market a positive development and predicted that Kazakhstan's telecom sector will attain a new level of development once the country gets its own telecommunications satellite, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. With 600,000 subscribers and a 30 percent market share, KaR-Tel is Kazakhstan's second-largest wireless operator; VimpelCom says that it has over 18 million subscribers. DK

KAZAKH COURT DISMISSES OPPOSITION LAWSUITS
Kazakhstan's Supreme Court dismissed on 2 September two election-related lawsuits filed by opposition figures, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. In one ruling, the court dismissed a lawsuit by the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan's (DVK) election bloc to reverse a Central Election Commission decision to change the bloc's original name. The bloc had wanted to call itself The Opposition Bloc of Abdildin and Zhaqiyanov, a reference to the parties' leaders. The court cited a law forbidding the use of leaders' names in the names of political parties. The court also threw out a lawsuit by DVK member Marzhan Aspandiyarova against Darigha Nazarbaeva, the daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and head of the pro-presidential Asar party. The suit had charged that Asar began televised campaign activities before the official start of the election campaigning period. DK

KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS ECONOMIC GROWTH
Kyrgyzstan's gross domestic product (GDP) totaled 44.3 billion soms ($1 billion) for the first seven months of 2004, an 8.6 percent year-on-year increase, akipress.org reported on 2 September, citing the National Statistics Committee. Without the Kumtor gold mine, economic growth for the period came to 7.6 percent. First Deputy Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev said on 2 September that Kyrgyzstan needs to develop its service sector, Kyrgyz TV reported. Service-sector revenues currently account for just 40 percent of GDP, whereas in countries the report described as "similar," service-sector revenues comprise up to 80 percent of GDP. DK

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL PROMISES ANNOUNCEMENT ON CONTRACT KILLINGS
Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Egemberdiev told a briefing on 2 September in Bishkek that his ministry knows the names of people who organized the contract killings earlier this year of Interior Ministry official Chynybek Aliev and Dinara Mamasheva, the director of the company Dasmiya, akipress.org reported. "We know who carried out and ordered these killings," Egemberdiev said. "You will soon hear that these crimes have been solved." Aliev, who was the Interior Ministry's top anticorruption official, was gunned down on 5 May; Mamasheva was killed under similar circumstances on 2 August. DK

DIFFICULTIES CONTINUE FOR TAJIK INDEPENDENT PRESS
Safvat Burhonov, deputy editor of "Odamu Olam," told Avesta on 2 September that the independent weekly has received an official warning from the Prosecutor-General's Office for encouraging ethnic strife and regionalism. Burhonov said the newspaper disputes the allegation. He also noted that the newspaper has not managed to find a new printer since tax police sealed the Jiyonkhon printing press on 19 August. In comments to Avesta on 2 September, "Ruzi Nav" Editor in Chief Rajab Mirzo said that the independent weekly, which had also been printed at Jiyonkhon, is having similar difficulties finding a new printer. He said that several printing presses have declined to print "Ruzi Nav," citing unofficial instructions "from above." Mirzo noted that "Ruzi Nav" has appealed to state-run printing press Sharqi Ozod. But he added, "I doubt that the response will be positive. I spoke yesterday with presidential adviser Karomatullo Olimov, and he stressed that the events surrounding Tajikistan's independent newspapers don't have a political aspect. But if the authorities don't have a stake in closing down independent newspapers, that means that there's some kind of third force at work." DK

TURKMEN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov in Ashgabat on 2 September, turkmenistan.ru reported. Talks focused on economic cooperation between the two countries and the ongoing effort to define the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan.ru noted that Iran is one of the largest purchasers of Turkmenistan's liquefied natural gas, and it quoted Kharrazi as saying that Turkmenistan has created suitable conditions for Iranian companies to work on the Turkmen market. Kharrazi suggested that the Iran-Turkmenistan Economic Commission should be more active, IRNA reported. "Mutual interests will be better provided if consultations of the working groups continue to explore the grounds for economic cooperation," he said. DK

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS AUTHORITIES PREPARING FOR 'MASS FALSIFICATIONS'
According to Belarusian opposition parties, the authorities have not included opposition representatives in polling-station commissions for the 17 October legislative ballot, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 2 September. The Belarusian authorities completed the formation of polling-station commissions on 1 September. In particular, the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) proposed 27 candidates for polling-station commissions in the election district in Minsk from which BNF leader Vintsuk Vyachorka is seeking a seat in the Chamber of Representatives. Vyachorka told RFE/RL that all of them were rejected. "This confirms my conviction that [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka's government is going to implement its usual scenario," Vyachorka said. "They don't even have enough brains to create an appearance of democracy by letting a certain number of representatives of democratic forces to sit on district or polling-station commissions.... This shows that they will resort to mass falsifications. Second, this shows their fear. They are afraid of an actual victory by the BNF and all democratic forces in people's minds." Belapan quoted Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik as saying on 3 September that some 8 percent of members on polling-station commissions are representatives of political parties and NGOs, including opposition political parties. JM

OSCE STARTS MONITORING BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS
A mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on 2 September started monitoring Belarus's campaign for the 17 October parliamentary elections, Belapan reported. The mission comprises 11 observers based in Minsk and 22 monitors deployed in the provinces. The ODIHR is also planning to send 300 short-term observers who are scheduled to arrive in Belarus on 13 October. They will monitor the opening of polling stations, the voting process, the vote count, and the tabulation of results at all levels. The mission will present its preliminary findings on 18 October, one day after the vote. A comprehensive report will be released approximately six weeks after the completion of the election process. JM

ANOTHER BOMB ATTACK IN KYIV INJURES CITY OFFICIAL
An explosion in an elevator of an apartment building in Kyiv on the morning of 3 September seriously injured Serhiy Alisimenko, deputy director of the Troyeshchyna market in the Ukrainian capital, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Two blasts at the Troyeshchyna market on 20 August killed one person and injured around a dozen. Police arrested four suspects and suggested a link between the blasts and the opposition, while the opposition charged that the 20 August bomb attacks may have been organized by special services (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 31 August 2004). On 2 September, the Interior Ministry categorized the Troyeshchyna blasts as "terrorism" and passed the case to the Security Service of Ukraine for further investigation. JM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER SLAMS FAR RIGHT
In an open letter published in the Croatian media on 2 September, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader blasted supporters of the far right, including many living abroad, for recently erecting a commemorative plaque to each of two people closely identified with the pro-Axis World War II Croatian regime, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2004). In his letter, Sanader said that the plaques, which the authorities removed on 27 August, were against "the interests of the Croatian people and Croatia's struggle for further international affirmation." Sanader's letter is the latest example of his efforts to break with right-wing elements closely associated with the era of the late President Franjo Tudjman, who founded the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in 1989 and led Croatia to independence in 1991. PM

NGO WARNS OF INTOLERANCE IN SLOVENIA
Ljubljana's Peace Institute issued a report on 1 September warning of growing intolerance in Slovenia, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The study drew particular attention to intolerance toward Muslims, Roma, gays, lesbians, and former residents of Slovenia removed from state records in 1992, known as "the erased" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 February and 23 April 2004). The report noted an increase of hate speech by several politicians, particularly toward Muslims and Islam. It also warned of what it called a tendency by the Roman Catholic Church to meddle in politics, charging that some leading clerics "consider the [Slovenian] constitution simply a supplement to the Holy Scriptures." PM

OSCE TO MONITOR BOSNIAN ELECTIONS
An OSCE spokeswoman announced in Sarajevo on 2 September that her organization will monitor the 2 October Bosnian local elections, RFE/RL reported. She said the OSCE's observers will monitor the election campaign, including local media coverage and administrative preparations, as well as the resolution of any election disputes. PM

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL NAMES TWO DEFENSE LAWYERS FOR FORMER SERBIAN LEADER
The Hague-based international war crimes tribunal decided on 2 September to name two British lawyers now serving as "friends of the court" to act as former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's defense attorneys, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2004). The senior of the two lawyers, Steven Kay, recently argued against appointing defense attorneys for Milosevic, who insists on acting as his own counsel despite his poor health. Kay stressed that Milosevic has the right to be his own lawyer even if the stress is detrimental to his health. The second lawyer is Gillian Higgins. PM

MONTENEGRO WANTS NO PART OF FOOT-DRAGGING ON COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE-BASED TRIBUNAL
Serbia and Montenegro's Minister for Human Rights and Minority Rights Rasim Ljajic, who also chairs the National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, called in Belgrade on 2 September for a combined session of the cabinets of the joint state and each of the two constituent republics to define priorities in cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In an apparent warning against foot-dragging in cooperating with the tribunal, Montenegrin Deputy Foreign Minister Predrag Boskovic said that his government does not want to be part of any project that is aimed at not fulfilling international obligations and hence would be harmful to Montenegro's hopes for EU integration. The tribunal maintains that Belgrade is not cooperating with it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2004). PM

NATO TROOPS IN KOSOVA GET A FRENCH COMMANDER
Major General Yves de Kermabon of France, who has served two previous tours in Kosova, took command of NATO-led troops there at a ceremony at KFOR headquarters on 1 September, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. He replaces German Lieutenant General Holger Kammerhoff, who has completed his tour of duty. De Kermabon said that his primary task is to support the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) by providing security, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said of Kosova: "We're entering a period of maximum risk. The situation is calm but extremely fragile." German, French, and Italian KFOR troops have recently come in for heavy criticism from some NGOs for their performance during the 17-18 March unrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July, and 9, 26, and 27 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 and 16 April, and 9 July 2004). PM

THREE MACEDONIANS HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAQ
According to an unconfirmed report by the daily "Dnevnik" of 2 September, three Macedonian workers have been kidnapped in Iraq. Unidentified armed men allegedly abducted the three Macedonians on 23 August, demanding ransom. The Macedonians reportedly worked for a U.S. construction company in Baghdad. The company decided to keep the kidnapping a secret in order to inform the victims' families first, dpa reported. UB

FORMER MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER REMAINS IN CUSTODY
The county court in the Croatian town of Pula decided on 2 September to keep former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski in custody for an additional 72 hours, Makfax news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2004). Boskovski was detained on 31 August in connection with the murder of six Pakistanis and one Indian in Macedonia in March 2002. The migrants were allegedly killed by members of a special police unit known as the Lions with the knowledge of Boskovski (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). Also on 2 September, Boskovski informed Macedonian parliamentary speaker Ljupco Jordanovski that he will give up his parliamentary seat, charging that he was forced to do so by what he called the "totalitarian regime" in Skopje, according to Makfax. UB

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY NOMINATES PRIME MINISTERIAL CANDIDATE
Ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, the party's candidate for the November presidential election, on 3 September announced that Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana is going to be the PSD's candidate for the prime minister after the election, Mediafax reported. Nastase added there is a need for a young team that will guarantee continuity for the current government. Geoana has reportedly accepted the nomination. The two made their statements during a visit to the Daewoo car factory in the southern Romanian city of Craiova. Commenting on the announcement, President Ion Iliescu, who will take over as PSD leader after completing his presidential term, said there are several candidates for the post of prime minister and Geoana is one of them. Geoana is one of the most charismatic politicians in Romania, but his popularity has waned since he lost the Bucharest mayoral election in June. ZsM

DANUBE CANAL CREATES CONFLICT BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND FORMER PRESIDENT
Former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 2 September accused Prime Minister Nastase's cabinet of showing incompetence and a lack of interest in the issue of the deep-water shipping canal being built by Ukraine in the Danube Delta, Mediafax reported. He said the former government, based on the 1997 basic treaty with Ukraine, signed a trilateral agreement in 2000 with Romanian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan environment ministries on cooperation regarding the delta. But the current government only approved that agreement in 2003, thus "proving lack of interest in protecting the delta," Constantinescu added. Nastase recently said that "the rush" in signing the 1997 treaty with Ukraine only created further "complications that still have to be solved." ZsM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TRANSDNIESTER RULED BY RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
Vladimir Voronin told the BBC's Ukrainian Service, as reported by Flux on 2 September, that the "Transdniestrian regime is and will stay a puppet, as it is actually ruled by Russia and Ukraine." He said he cannot say if high-ranking officials from these countries are responsible for this manipulation, as several structures are interested in the existence of the region, seen by Voronin as "a huge black and corrupt ditch." He said that the breakaway region of Transdniester is "an illegal business." Voronin said the solution to the conflict depends entirely on Moscow's position. ZsM

TRANSDNIESTER MARKS 'INDEPENDENCE' DAY
Transdniester on 2 September celebrated the 14th anniversary of its "independence" from Moldova with festivities that included a military parade in downtown Tiraspol, the BBC's website reported. Apart from Transdneistrian authorities, guests from Russia, Ukraine, and the unrecognized Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, also attended the event. Speaking at the celebration, Transdniestrian "Defense Minister" Stanislav Hajeev said the "Transdniestrian Republic" is a "viable state, a politically and economically independent country, that can defend itself from foreign aggressions." He criticized the Chisinau authorities for fueling tensions in bilateral relations, adding that "one of the most important tasks in foreign policy for Tiraspol is normalizing relations with Moldova," based on a treaty. He further accused western powers for helping Moldova try to topple the Tiraspol authorities. Hajeev added that Transdniester believes in Russia and its military capacity. ZsM

RUSSIA GIRDS ITSELF FOR WAR
As Russia continues to reel from an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks that apparently included the 24 August downing of two civilian airliners and the takeover of a school in North Ossetia, it increasingly seems that the country is on the edge of a transformation similar to that experienced by the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks there.

Among the many dramatic statements made over the last week in the heat of the unfolding events, perhaps the strongest came from Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 1 September. "War has been declared, a war in which the enemy is invisible and there is no front line," Ivanov said in a statement that was repeatedly broadcast on the national television channels. He said that the 31 August suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station "was not the first and not the last terrorist" act that Russia will see in this now-open war.

State Duma Speaker and former Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov echoed Ivanov's statements in remarks the same day. "It is time for all those who tried to romanticize acts of madness, who try to present acts of terrorism as a lonely struggle for independence and justice, to come to the only proper conclusion: this is war," Gryzlov said, according to "Vremya novostei" on 2 September. He added that the war is being waged by well-financed and well-organized groups with international ties. "We are obliged to undertake measures commensurate with this situation," Gryzlov added. He said that the front line in this war "passes through the entire country" and the new situation "demands particular vigilance from everyone."

Gryzlov also said that new legislative initiatives in keeping with the new, wartime situation are being drafted and will be presented to the Duma in short order. He added that many of these initiatives are being drafted by law-enforcement and security agencies themselves, including the Justice Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Interior Ministry.

Duma Security Committee Chairman and former Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev (Unified Russia) said on 1 September that the new measures will include a proposal to allow airport security personnel the discretion to deny passengers access to aircraft. He warned that "difficult times" have begun and said that Russians must "prepare themselves for complications." "We must learn how to defend our families, our homes," Vasilev said.

Although the Russian authorities were somewhat slow to acknowledge that a wave of terrorist attacks had indeed begun, they were quick to seize on the unconfirmed claims of responsibility by a little-known foreign terrorist group called the Islambuli Brigades, which claims to be associated with Al-Qaeda. Sharing a platform in Sochi with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, President Vladimir Putin on 31 August focused on this development. The attacks "confirm a connection between destructive elements in Chechnya and international terrorism, as one of the organizations linked with Al-Qaeda has taken responsibility for these terrorist acts," Putin said.

After the 1 September hostage taking in North Ossetia, Russia took the unusual step of asking for an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council. The Russian media noted that Moscow did not make a similar request during the 1999 incursions by Chechen militants into Daghestan or the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage drama. At that time, Moscow might well have felt inhibited about drawing international attention to the Chechen conflict. Now, however, the international climate against terrorism is so heated that the Kremlin ran no risk that the UN's resolution would be anything less than a categorical condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Russia.

Although Moscow did not seek a specific affirmation of its right to respond to terrorist attacks with force, such as the United States did following the 11 September 2001 attacks, it did ask for and receive an unqualified condemnation of the North Ossetia hostage taking. The council asked all UN member countries to render any possible assistance to Russia in its effort to bring the organizers and perpetrators of the school takeover to justice. The statement specifically said that terrorist acts cannot be justified by any conceivable motive. From the Kremlin's point of view, this resolution can easily be presented as an acknowledgment that the Chechen conflict fits under the rubric of the fight against international terrorism.

Clearly, the UN resolution differs sharply in tone and intent from the kind of international role envisioned in Chechnya by political scientist Liliya Shevtsova. Speaking to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 September, Shevtsova said, "only international involvement can bring an end to this senseless standoff." She called for "the kind of international cooperation and mediation that managed to stop the escalation of violence in Northern Ireland." But she acknowledged that the Russian government would never accept such a role, which would be "an admission of weakness, even impotence of the political regime and its leader, which the Kremlin of course would never allow."

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SAYS AFGHAN SUPREME COURT HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DISQUALIFY HIM
Presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram on 2 September said that the Afghan Supreme Court has no authority to disqualify him from competing in the October presidential election, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. On 1 September, the head of the Supreme Court, Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, called for Pedram's disqualification based on charges that Pedram made blasphemous remarks about Islam (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2004). Pedram said Shinwari has not paid close attention to his remarks, adding that he believes "political intentions might be involved." Pedram said that he has spoken to the UN-backed Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), which has informed him "that nobody has the authority to take such action [to disqualify him]." Only the JEMB has the authority to disqualify candidates, Pedram added. AT

MEMBERS OF POLITICAL PARTY GATHER IN SUPPORT OF AFGHAN LEADER
An estimated 100 members of the Republican Party of Afghanistan gathered in a central Kabul square on 2 September in support of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, Radio Kelid reported. The group, led by party leader Sebghatullah Sanjar, said that they want Karzai to stay in office until the election is held in October, rejecting calls made by 15 out of 18 candidates for the Afghan leader to step down before the election (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 August and 1 September 2004). Sanjar is not a candidate in the upcoming election and his party was the first political organization to officially endorse Karzai's candidacy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2004). AT

AFGHAN LEADER MEETS BELGIAN AND FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTERS
Chairman Karzai on 2 September met with Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahuat and his French counterpart Michelle Alliot-Marie, Radio Afghanistan reported. The French defense minister said that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be reinforced if necessary during the election period in Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 2 September. "Security before the elections...is a great concern," Alliot-Marie said, adding that a number of reinforcements have already arrived, increasing the strength of ISAF from 5,500 to 8,000 personnel. In June, NATO decided to increase the number of troops serving with ISAF in Kabul and also expanded the force in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June and 1 July 2004). AT

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN HAILS DDR PROGRESS IN KABUL
According to a 2 September press release from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that he was "very encouraged" by the report that Kabul is free of heavy weapons. Khalilzad noted that the cache of heavy weapons in Kabul was a critical component of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program under way in Afghanistan. "Step by step, the power of the gun is being removed from Afghanistan's future -- a future where weapons will no longer be tolerated as a means of influence," Khalilzad added. According to the statement, the warehousing of heavy weapons is currently underway in the town of Gardayz and Mazar-e Sharif, in eastern and northern Afghanistan, respectively. The heavy weapons seized in Kabul belonged to the militia loyal to the Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, in breach of the 2001 Bonn Agreement. AT

TEHRAN POLL FAVORS REFORMIST PRESIDENTIAL VICTORY
A recent poll of 1,123 people in Tehran found that the majority of respondents favor the probable reformist candidate in the May 2005 presidential election. The Iran University Students' Polling Center, which is affiliated with the University Jihad, conducted the poll, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 1 September. Former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Musavi topped the list with 29.4 percent of the respondents favoring him as their top choice for the election. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was a close second with 26.4 percent. Trailing far behind were Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad with 6.8 percent, Tehran parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakoli and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani with 4.7 percent each, parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel with 4.3 percent, former Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ataollah Mohajerani with 3 percent, and former parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri with 2.6 percent. (This amounts to about 82 percent, and the report does not account for the remaining 18 percent.) Of the respondents, 56.6 percent said they do not follow news about the presidential election, and only 22.6 percent of the respondents were familiar with the prospective candidates. Of the respondents, 43.5 percent believe that the election will help resolve many of the country's problems. BS

IRAN TO LAUNCH WEATHER SATELLITE
Scientific and Industrial Research Center chief Mohammad Fathi said on 2 September that Iran will launch its first satellite by May 2005, Reuters reported, citing Iranian state television. Fathi said the domestically made Mesbah satellite would be used for meteorology and geology. BS

IRAQI MILITANT LEADER CRITICAL OF IRAN...
Ansar al-Sunnah leader Abu Abdallah al-Hassan bin Mahmud has criticized Iran in an interview published in the 21-27 August issue of the Beirut political weekly newspaper "Al-Muharrir" (for a description of the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 June 2004). He said bombings that target Iraqi citizens are carried out by organizations representing Iran, because the Persians bear a grudge dating from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. He accused the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Da'wah al-Islamiya, and the Islamic Action Organization of being Iranian products. Abu al-Hassan claimed that Iranian intelligence operatives killed SCIRI leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim because he turned against his Iranian patrons by promoting a democratic federal Iraq rather than a Shi'a theocracy. The Iranians, furthermore, want the "fatwa headquarters" transferred from Al-Najaf to Qom. Iran's objective in Iraq is to spread Shi'a Islam, create an Islamic government, have the Shi'a rule the country, buy land, and "obliterate the Iraqi identity." He added that Iran wants to control the shrines, introduce prostitution networks, sell drugs, and create sectarian strife. BS

...AND COOPERATES WITH RADICAL SHI'A CLERIC
Ansar al-Sunnah leader Abu Abdallah al-Hassan bin Mahmud also said in his interview in "Al-Muharrir" that his organization met with Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003. According to al-Hassan bin Mahmud, al-Sadr showed a note from his father that said if he is martyred his sons should "follow the fatwas of Al-Sayyid al-Haeri and Sheikh D. Ahmad al-Kubaisi. You must unite with the Sunnis." Subsequently, the Ansar al-Sunnah and the Imam Al-Mahdi Army exchanged personnel. "Therefore, the relationship can be described as intimate," Abu al-Hassan said. BS

IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.K. DESCRIBES PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY IN BAGHDAD...
Salah al-Shaikhly, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Kingdom, said on 2 September that there is a powerful lobby in Baghdad that favors the idea of relations with Israel, "Haaretz" reported on 3 September. Al-Shaikhly specified that Iraqis themselves favor such a move, but the issue will not be raised until the general elections due to its sensitivity. "The current situation is so uncertain, so volatile, that any attempts to push this through, at this point, will almost certainly backfire." BS

...AND ALLUDES TO IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT IN HIS COUNTRY
Iraqi ambassador to the United Kingdom Salah al-Shaikhly said that Baghdad has good relations with the governments in Tehran and Riyadh, "Haaretz" reported on 3 September, when asked about his colleagues' accusations of Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs. The problem relates to autonomous actors in these countries, he said. "The problem is that these structures [central governments] do not have control over the fanatical zealots that send forces across the border to Iraq," al-Shaikhly said. He explained that Baghdad has asked the central governments in Saudi Arabia and Iran to take action. He said, "We approached the two governments and asked them to deal with this, as they are better equipped than we are to do so." BS

IMAM AL-MAHDI ARMY ACCUSES IRAQI PRIME MINISTER OF BETRAYAL
Yusef al-Nasiri, a senior leader in Muqtada al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army militia, said on 2 September that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is betraying his organization, and by stalling peace negotiations he is trying to prevent the Imam Al-Mahdi Army's participation in the political process, "The New York Times" reported on 3 September. Allawi cancelled a peace deal with the insurgent group on 31 August. On the same day, he met with about 300 leaders in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'a Al-Sadr City and offered them about $300 million in reconstruction projects as an inducement to withdraw their support for the Imam Al-Mahdi Army. Al-Sadr City notables welcome the development money, "The New York Times" reported, but some of them said it is a mistake to try to marginalize the Imam Al-Mahdi Army or to eliminate it by force. University of Michigan professor Juan Cole was quoted in the "Christian Science Monitor" on 3 September as saying that al-Sadr's militia is unlikely to disarm even if it forms a party because it recognizes the power conveyed by arms. BS

UKRAINIAN PREMIER VISITS IRAQ
Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych met with Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir and Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Baghdad on 2 September to discuss the deployment of the Ukrainian military contingent in Iraq and Ukraine's participation in rebuilding the country, Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych agreed with his Iraqi partners to reactivate the work of a Ukrainian-Iraqi intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation. Yanukovych also met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte, who reportedly promised U.S. support for Ukraine's participation in the reconstruction of Iraq. Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovych's main presidential rival, said the prime minister went to Iraq "for his own sake, not in order to protect Ukrainian interests," Channel 5 reported. Yushchenko added that the Ukrainian authorities' involvement in Iraq is intended as a diversion from the "undemocratic policy of President [Leonid] Kuchma." JM

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