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Newsline - June 7, 2005


SECURITY CHIEF TOURS KURILE ISLANDS...
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev completed a five-day visit to Sakhalin Oblast on 6 June, during which he inspected local border-guard stations and the Russo-Japanese border by sea and air, strana.ru reported. Russia's border troops are under the jurisdiction of the FSB. Patrushev also held talks with local officials on protecting biological resources in the region and securing the state border. He visited the disputed South Kurile Islands and inspected the FSB unit stationed on Kunashir, one of the islands claimed by both Russia and Japan. An unidentified source in the Sakhalin Oblast administration told strana.ru that local officials erected a Russian Orthodox cross and chapel on the island. The structure is visible from the Japanese island of Hokkaido. VY

...AS PRESIDENT SEEKS CLARITY FROM JAPAN ON PIPELINE PROJECT
Speaking after chairing a cabinet meeting on 6 June, President Vladimir Putin said that he will meet soon with former Japanese Prime Minister Iosiro Mori, the co-chairman of the intergovernmental Council of Wise Men, to discuss the proposed new strategic oil pipeline from eastern Siberia to the Russian Pacific coast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005), strana.ru reported. Putin has instructed Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko to oversee planning for the project, which will be known as the Eastern. "We must understand specifically [Japan's] interests [in the project," Putin said. "We have already reached such clarity on the issue with our Chinese partners, although not all decisions have been made yet. Now we want the same from Japan," Putin said. VY

POLL SHOWS RUSSIANS SANGUINE ABOUT YUKOS CASES
Appearing on Channel One on 5 June, Center for Political Technologies Director Igor Bunich said that a recent poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that only 8 percent of Russians consider the prosecution of former Yukos managers "a threat to democracy." Twenty-nine percent said it represents "the restoration of law and order," while the remainder said they don't care about the fates of the defendants. Other participants in the same Channel One program argued that, although severe, the punishments meted out to former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and his colleagues are not incommensurate with punishments in similar cases in other countries. Aleksandr Shokhin, who heads a coordination council of business unions, said the oligarchs should not be blamed because they "privatized the state." "The state itself initiated this process by selling itself to the oligarchs through 'shares-for-loans' schemes," Shokhin said. VY

RADIO LISTENERS SKEPTICAL ABOUT EXISTENCE OF RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY
An informal, self-selected survey of Ekho Moskvy listeners on 6 June found that 75 percent of respondents agree with a 5 June statement by Nobel Prize-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn that there has been no assault on Russian democracy because Russia has no democracy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). Several observers commented that President Putin has used a similar argument on several occasions to reject charges that his policies represent a threat to democracy in Russia. VY

ARRESTED MINISTER CONFIDENT OF VICTORY IN U.S. COURT
In a commentary for "Izvestiya" on 6 June, former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, who was arrested in Switzerland on 3 May and faces possible extradition to the United States or to Russia, wrote that he would rather be sent to face trial in the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 May 2005). He said that he is fighting extradition to Russia because he does not have faith in the objectivity of the Russian courts. He cited numerous statements in the Duma and the mass media accusing him of corruption or a lack of patriotism, as well as calls for his physical liquidation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 27 May 2005). He added that if he accepted extradition to Russia, it would make him vulnerable to possible reprisals and convince people in the West that he is guilty of the charges against him. He said that although he is convinced of "the perfidy of the U.S. authorities," he believes that U.S. courts are independent and that he can exonerate himself there. He said that his lawyers are negotiating now for him to travel to the United States as a free man to face the charges against him. Adamov writes that he plans to return to Russia following his anticipated victory. VY

NEW TV CHANNEL SET TO SOLVE RUSSIA'S IMAGE PROBLEM
Russia Today TV (RTTV), a new global television channel, could begin broadcasting in September, "Vedomosti" and "Izvestiya" reported on 6 June. The channel will broadcast 24 hours a day in English and will feature "Russia's stance on major issues in global politics," as well as "information about events in Russia," according to "Vedomosti." According to "Izvestiya," the station's goal will be to form the "proper" image of Russia for abroad, namely the United States and Europe. The station will reach audiences in Russia, the CIS, Europe, the United States, and several Asian countries via satellite. According to "Vedomosti," the project will not be financed from the federal budget, but by loans from Russian commercial banks. Presidential adviser and former Media Minister Mikhail Lesin has been promoting the idea of the channel since 2001, when he suggested that Russians "must do propaganda for ourselves." JAC

ADOPTIVE PARENTS ACCUSED OF CHILD ABUSE
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 7 June that an Italian couple brought a six-year-old boy named Misha from Siberia to Moscow after adopting him but they allegedly beat him so severely on the plane on 3 June that a stewardess complained to the police. The police took the boy into custody and put him in a hospital, while the adoptive parents are under house arrest at a Moscow hotel, according to the daily. Last week, the paper covered another case in which police took away a recently adopted child from a set of U.S. adoptive parents in Moscow after receiving a complaint of alleged abuse from a waitress. The U.S. Embassy complained that the paper is trying "to enflame growing public hysteria over foreign adoptions," "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 June. In its story about the Italians, "Komsomolskaya pravda" complained that "hundreds" of Western adoption agencies are working in Russia without licenses or the legal right to engage in such activities. It suggested that the Education and Science Ministry is not eager to publicize its "blunders" in the handling of foreign adoption agencies and will drag out its response to a demand to publish a list of these agencies until "another Russian child is adopted by a family of sadists." JAC

GUBERNATORIAL-APPOINTMENT PROCESS EXPLAINED...
In a commentary in "The Moscow Times" on 6 June, Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center evaluated the practice of appointing governors, which began in January. Petrov noted that the number of governors asking President Putin for a vote of confidence is growing, and Putin has "reappointed everyone who has asked to be reappointed." Preceding this reappointment, according to Petrov, "a certain kind of ritual has evolved in which a governor first tries to get a positive signal from the president, usually by meeting with him personally." Petrov quoted unnamed Kremlin insiders who estimate that governors seeking such a signal have to pay several tens of millions of dollars to secure a meeting with Putin. However, this service can be paid for gradually or in kind with appointments for the presidential gatekeepers' cronies in the respective region, the sources said. JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEGISLATORS SUGGEST ALTERNATIVE
Members of the Unified Russia faction in the Kaliningrad Oblast legislature are asking the State Duma to consider a new method for selecting governors, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 June. The Kaliningrad lawmakers have suggested that the process be organized as a competition with potential candidates applying, after which a jury composed of members of the Unified Russia party and regional officials evaluates them. According to the daily, at the beginning of October the regional legislature will be asked to confirm a new oblast governor for the oblast, and there is talk that incumbent Governor Vladimir Yegorov might leave his post. Among the possible replacements being suggested are Kaliningrad Mayor Yurii Savenko, presidential adviser on relations with the EU Sergei Yastrzhembskii, State Duma Deputy and former Tax Minister Georgii Boos (Unified Russia), Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Vitalii Shipov, and State Duma Economics Committee Chairman Valerii Draganov (Unified Russia). JAC

LDPR WANTS TO DISCOURAGE RUSSIAN WOMEN FROM MARRYING FOREIGNERS
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Duma Deputy Nikolai Kuryanovich is preparing a draft bill that would deprive Russian women who marry foreigners of their citizenship, lenta.ru reported on 6 June. LDPR head and Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii raised the issue at a Duma roundtable on "Patriotism and Citizens' Duty" on 6 June. However, Kuryanovich said the bill has not yet been introduced to the Duma. Kuryanovich admitted to Ekho Moskvy that the measure is unlikely to be passed. He complained that by marrying foreigners, Russian women "are wasting the most valuable thing we have -- the gene pool of our nation." Meanwhile, the most recent census showed that they are 10 million more women than men in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2003). Part of the reason is that more women are born than men, and men on average die at a younger age than women. The census also found that 1 million more women identify themselves as married than men, suggesting that some men may be bigamists. JAC

U.S. SCIENTISTS REPORT DOZENS OF LAKES MISSING IN SIBERIA
In an article in the most recent issue of the journal "Science," four U.S.-based scientists reported that more than 100 large lakes in the Arctic region of Siberia have disappeared, "The Washington Post" reported on 6 June. Using satellite photos from 1972 to 1998, the researchers found that 125 lakes disappeared entirely, while 11,000 lakes have shrunk significantly. The researchers concluded that the lakes are shrinking or disappearing because the Arctic climate is warming. Meanwhile, RTR reported in May that scientists at an avalanche-research station in Murmansk Oblast found that during the last 50 years the average temperature in the Khibinyi Mountains has risen by 1 degree Celsius. As a result, in several places the snow cover has been reduced by half. Yurii Zyuzin, head of security at the avalanche station, said on 10 May that if the melting continues at the same rate, the Khibinyi glaciers will melt away entirely in the next 10 to 15 years. JAC

PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE ISSUES CLARIFICATION ON KLEBNIKOV CASE
The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 6 June that Fail Sadretdinov, who was arrested on suspicion of ordering a contract killing, has nothing to do with the murder of U.S. journalist and editor of the Russian version of "Forbes" Paul Klebnikov, as Russian media previously reported, Interfax reported on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). According to an official spokesman, Sadretdinov is accused of knowing the two men who were arrested earlier in connection with Klebnikov's murder, but he is suspected only of involvement in only the murder of an unnamed Moscow businessman. The other two men are alleged to have been involved in both the killing of Klebnikov and of the businessman. However, according to "Vremya novostei" on 7 June, Sadretdinov was initially called to the prosecutor's office for questioning with regard to the Klebnikov case. JAC

NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT BOWS OUT
In his farewell address on 7 June to the parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Aleksandr Dzasokhov reviewed the republic's achievements since his election in January 1998, izvestia.ru reported. He noted that organized crime has been reduced, but that a new threat to the republic has emerged in the form of "terrorist strikes from neighboring territories." President Putin has proposed as Dzasokhov's successor North Ossetian parliament speaker Taymuraz Mamsurov, who also heads the republican branch of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. In a 7 June interview with "Izvestiya," Dzasokhov said he considers Mamsurov better qualified than alternative candidate Aleksandr Merkulov. He praised Merkulov's managerial talents, but said Mamsurov combines the skills of an economist and politician. LF

APPOINTMENT OF LOCAL ADMINISTRATOR IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA TRIGGERS NEW PROTEST
The Balkar Public Council has requested a meeting with Kabardino-Balkar Republic (KBR) President Valerii Kokov and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak to discuss Kokov's appointment of Kurman Otarov as his new personal representative in the Elbrus Raion, replacing incumbent Khizir Makitov, regnum.ru reported on 3 June. Makitov was quoted by regnum.ru as saying Otarov has criminal connections and is partly to blame for the economic collapse of the Tyrnyauz Mining Complex, of which Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is currently negotiating the purchase. Local residents gathered outside the municipal administration building in Tyrnyauz, the raion center, on 30 May to protest Otarov's appointment, and they were still there on 2 June, according to regnum.ru. Also on 2 June, KBR Prosecutor Yurii Ketov wrote to Makitov, formally blaming him for the rising tensions in Elbrus Raion, regnum.ru reported. Makitov is currently serving his second term as local administrator. Regnum.ru quoted him as saying he is under pressure to step down prematurely, and that the district's finances have been repeatedly subjected to scrutiny in recent months. LF

JAILED ARMENIAN PILOTS PARDONED
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea, has pardoned six Armenian airmen sentenced in November to between 14 and 24 years' imprisonment on charges, which they denied, of planning a coup against the country's leadership, Reuters and Noyan Tapan reported on 6 June. Armenian diplomats, including Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, have traveled to Malabo on several occasions to try to negotiate the jailed men's release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2005). LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT POSTPONES TWO FOREIGN TRIPS
An official visit by President Ilham Aliyev to Slovenia, originally scheduled for later this week has been postponed, day.az reported on 7 June, quoting presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov. Aliyev will still visit Croatia this week as planned. A separate visit to Greece planned for early June has likewise been postponed. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONISTS MEET WITH OSCE OFFICIALS
The leaders of the three opposition parties aligned in the Ugur election bloc -- the Musavat party, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the progressive wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) -- met in Baku on 6 June with representatives of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to discuss that body's long-term mission to monitor preparations for and the conduct of the parliamentary elections due this fall, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 6 and 7 June, respectively. AHCP leader Ali Kerimli told zerkalo.az that particular attention was paid to the need to amend the election law and the composition of election commissions. Also on 6 June, the New Politics (YeS) election bloc addressed an open letter to President Aliyev and parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov stressing the need for such changes in the election law, zerkalo.az reported on 7 June. The letter warned of the possibility of a civil confrontation if the authorities fail to amend the election law and instead attempt to falsify the outcome of the ballot. LF

CRISIS WITHIN GEORGIAN TRADE UNIONS INTENSIFIES
Irakli Tughushi, the embattled chairman of the Georgian Union of Trade Unions, has appealed to police to take action against a rival trade-union faction headed by his former deputy, Irakli Petriashvili, members of which recently nailed shut the door to his office, rustavi2.com reported on 7 June. Petriashvili's supporters have occupied the trade-union headquarters and say they will leave only when Tughushi resigns. Tughushi is reportedly willing to do so on condition that Petriashvili does not participate in the election to choose his successor. Tughushi has been under pressure for the past year from the Georgian authorities, which are apparently seeking to take possession of real estate formerly owned by the Union of Trade Unions (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 16 September 2004 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2005). LF

KYRGYZ PROSECUTORS ISSUE WARRANT FOR FORMER PREMIER
Acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov told Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 6 June that the Prosecutor-General's Office has issued an order for the arrest of former Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. One charge against Tanaev, who is currently in Russia, involves alleged abuse of office involving 40 million soms ($977,000) in state funds that were allegedly transferred to a company controlled by Tanaev's son. Beknazarov said an investigative group will depart for Russia to interrogate Tanaev and attempt to arrange his return to Kyrgyzstan to face charges. Gazeta.ru reported on 6 June that an attempt to extradite Tanaev could create difficulties in Russian-Kyrgyz relations. In a possible premonition of those difficulties, Konstantin Zatulin, the head of the Russian State Duma's CIS Committee, told the online newspaper that the criminal case against Tanaev is a "political case" connected with the 10 July presidential election in Kyrgyzstan. DK

KYRGYZSTAN TO BEGIN CONSIDERING REFUGEE APPLICATIONS
First Deputy Foreign Minister Taalai Kydyrov told a news conference in Bishkek on 6 June that Kyrgyzstan will soon begin the process of determining whether some 500 Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan should receive refugee status, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The process will take from three months to one year. Kydyrov noted that the asylum seekers were recently moved to a location farther from the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Kydyrov said that all expenses associated with the asylum seekers are currently being covered by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the Red Cross, and UNICEF, akipress.org reported. Kadyr Bechelov, a local government representative in the region where the asylum seekers' camp is located, announced on 6 June that access to the camp is currently closed, but he said that accredited journalists will be allowed in on 7 June, RFE/RL reported. The camp now holds 466 would-be refugees. In a 6 June press release, UNHCR welcomed the Kyrgyz government's decision to move the asylum seekers away from the border; it put their number at 467. DK

TURKMEN LEADER MEETS WITH RUSSIAN OIL HEAD
President Saparmurat Niyazov met with Vagit Alekperov, head of the Russian oil company LUKoil, in Ashgabat on 6 June, turkmenistan.ru reported. Alekperov informed Niyazov about the company's potential participation in projects to develop oil and gas deposits on the Turkmen section of the Caspian shelf, the report noted. Niyazov proposed that LUKoil take part in the reconstruction of the Seidi oil refinery, Interfax reported. LUKoil spokesman Dmitrii Dolgov said the company will "study in detail the proposal to reconstruct the refinery." DK

AGENCY REPORTS UZBEK LAW-ENFORCEMENT SHAKE-UP
Citing an anonymous source in Tashkent, fergana.ru reported on 6 June that Uzbekistan's Interior Ministry has recently been stripped of its combat units. The report indicated that the units have been reassigned to the Defense Ministry and National Security Service, leaving the Interior Ministry with only one battalion of special forces. The report could not be independently confirmed. DK

BELARUSIAN STUDENTS END HUNGER STRIKE OVER EXPULSION OF COLLEAGUE
Eleven young people in Zhodzina on 6 June ended their hunger strike against what they call the politically motivated expulsion of their colleague, Syarhey Murashka, from a local vocational school (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005), RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. The local authorities did not reinstate Murashka but promised not to take any further action against two other students, who had reportedly been facing expulsions from another local school. JM

FORMER CZECH PRESIDENT FORMS GROUP TO SUPPORT BELARUSIAN NGOS
In the Czech Senate on 6 June, a group of former Czech dissidents led by ex-Czech President Vaclav Havel presented a new organization they set up last week -- the Civic Belarus International Association, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. The association was set up to provide support to Belarusian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have faced official pressure or have been closed down by the authorities. Aside from Havel, the founders of Civic Belarus include Czech senators Jaromir Stetina and Karel Schwarzenberg, former Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Ruml, Deputy Ombudsman Anna Sabatova, and head of the People in Need Foundation Tomas Pojar. JM

UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATORS QUESTION FORMER PREMIER
Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the opposition Party of Regions, appeared for questioning as a witness in Kyiv on 6 June, in a case involving alleged misuse of budgetary funds in the construction of an airport in his native region, Donetsk, Ukrainian news agencies reported. "The authorities are diverting public attention from urgent problems in our country," Yanukovych said. "There is nothing to frighten me and there are no reasons to flee [Ukraine]. I don't feel guilty and I will serve my motherland in my country," Yanukovych said after a three-hour interrogation at the Interior Ministry's Kyiv Directorate for Combating Organized Crime. Yanukovych did not rule out being asked back for further questions, saying that the investigators are also interested in separatist tendencies in eastern Ukraine that surfaced during the 2004 presidential-election campaign. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER ORDERS RESALE OF STEEL GIANT
Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told journalists in Kyiv on 6 June that she has instructed the State Property Fund to immediately begin preparations for the sale of the Kryvorizhstal company, the country's largest steel mill, Interfax reported. "I signed the instructions to start the Kryvorizhstal privatization tender immediately, using a shortened procedure," Tymoshenko said. Kryvorizhstal was sold in 2004 for some $800 million in a controversial tender that was annulled by a court last week (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 3 June 2005). Tymoshenko added that the controversial winners of the Kryvorizhstal tender in 2004, Ukrainian economic moguls Rynat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk, may take part in a reprivatization tender if they desire. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET REPORTS REPAYMENT OF WAGE ARREARS IN BUDGET SECTOR
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko told journalists in Kyiv on 6 June that the government has paid off all its debts to budget-sector employees, Interfax reported. JM

RUSSIA SIGNALS GAS PRICE FOR UKRAINE MAY TRIPLE
The price of Russian gas delivered to Ukraine might soar from the current $50 for 1,000 cubic meters to $160 in 2006, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 June, citing a source close to ongoing talks between Gazprom head Aleksei Miller and Naftohaz Ukrayiny head Oleksiy Ivanchenko. According to the source, the potential price hike is connected to an earlier agreement that, starting from 2006, Russia and Ukraine will switch to cash payments (under European-level tariffs) for Russian gas deliveries to and gas transit across Ukraine. JM

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS FORM STANDING COMMITTEE TO REGULATE SUCCESSION...
Representatives from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia formed a standing committee in Skopje on 6 June, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. The committee is to regulate the remaining questions of the distribution of assets and property of former Yugoslavia among the successor states. It will also discuss other issues such as the regulation of state pensions and the access to archives, according to Dusanka Hristova, who represented Macedonia in the ongoing talks on succession. The committee will also investigate the disappearance of Yugoslav currency reserves worth $635 million from the Yugoslav National Bank during the rule of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001 and 6 May 2005). UB

...BUT JUDICIAL COOPERATION HITS A SNAG
Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Belgrade on 6 June that his country cannot accept a proposed agreement recommended by the OSCE on judicial and legal cooperation between Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ljajic noted that the agreement calls on each of the three countries to extradite its citizens to the other two countries if those citizens have been indicted there. He pointed out that the Serbian Constitution bans the extradition of Serbian citizens. Elsewhere, Snjezana Bagic, who is a secretary in the Croatian Justice Ministry, said her country also cannot sign a document calling for the extradition of its citizens. Experts are scheduled to meet on 8 June on the Croatian island of Brioni to discuss the proposed text. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL TO FREE KOSOVAR LEADER PENDING HIS TRIAL
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal announced on 6 June that it will soon release Kosova's former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj pending his trial for war crimes dating from the 1998-99 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 20 May 2005). Judges said in a statement that they are "satisfied that, if released, he will appear for trial and that there are no indications that he will pose any danger to victims, witnesses, or other persons." Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, opposes Haradinaj's release, saying that his presence in Kosova "might hamper the investigation." She was expected to lodge a final appeal on 7 June against his release. Haradinaj went to The Hague voluntarily in March shortly after being indicted. The tribunal allowed him to return to Kosova the following month for his brother's funeral. PM

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS SPECIAL ENVOY TO KOSOVA
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide as his special envoy to Kosova on 4 June, international news agencies reported the same day. Eide, a former UN envoy to Bosnia-Herzegovina and expert on the Balkans, will assess whether Kosova has attained the standards of democracy, human and minority rights, security, and the rule of law that are necessary to commence talks on the province's final status, Once that is clarified, probably in the fall of 2005, then the UN will launch international negotiations on the status issue. Eide made a study on Kosova for Annan in 2004 in which Eide called on the UN to move quickly on giving the Kosovars a "road map" for the future, but Annan was more cautious (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August and 17 December 2004). BW/PM

ALBANIAN COURT SENTENCES TWO MEN FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A Tirana court on 6 June sentenced Baftar Gjana to 18 years in prison and Xhevair Lusha to 15 years for kidnapping a 20-year-old woman, smuggling her across the Adriatic, and selling her in Italy in December 2001, dpa reported. The woman, who was forced into prostitution, subsequently escaped, returned to Albania, and testified against the kidnappers. Despite repeated efforts by the Albanian and Italian authorities, human trafficking from Albania to Western Europe remains problematic. PM

RUSSIA REPORTEDLY MOVES TOWARD LIFTING BAN ON MOLDOVAN MEAT
Russian and Moldovan veterinary services have signed a protocol that specifies conditions for resuming Moldovan meat exports to Russia, which have been banned since 18 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. Under the protocol, Moldovan veterinaries will submit a list every quarter of meat-processing plants that are licensed to export meat to Russia. The list will also indicate export volumes and the names of Russian importers. Russia imposed the ban after charging that Moldova was re-exporting meat from Latin America via a meat-processing plant based in Tiraspol. JM

IRANIAN CLERICS FACE A PRESIDENTIAL DILEMMA
The Iranian constitution requires that the president be a "religious-political individual" (rejal-i mazhabi-siasi), but this does not mean the president must be a cleric. Indeed, only two clerics won approval as candidates in the presidential race. Nevertheless, the clerical community's endorsement is important in a theocratic state. Clerical leaders are professing neutrality, but their effort to ensure a conservative consensus is indicative of their biases.

Members of the Assembly of Experts, the 86-member clerical body that is tasked with supervising the supreme leader, said the body does not support a specific person and an individual does not have to be a cleric to be president. Tabriz representative Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed-Shabestari, for example, said, "In Islam, the criteria for selecting a person is meritocracy and his familiarity with the constitution. Place and position are not important" ("Siyasat-i Ruz," 5 April 2005).

The two clerical candidates in the election, which is scheduled for 17 June, are Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi. In terms of the political spectrum, the former is center-right, while the latter is center-left.

But it is the one of the right-wing candidates, former police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who seems the keenest for a clerical endorsement, having spent a whole day with the senior clerics in Qom in late-May. He told reporters later that some of his meetings were behind closed doors, but in general terms he received guidance on how to serve the country effectively ("Iran," 28 May 2005).

Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Qom Seminary Lecturers' Association, said in late May that his organization has not expressed support for a specific candidate. Anybody saying otherwise is only expressing a personal opinion, he added ("Etemad," 28 May 2005). Just a few days later, Khatami said, "I would guess that the final choice is unlikely to be a non-cleric, but the final decision has to be taken by the Qom Seminary Lecturers' Association as a whole" (Fars News Agency, 30 May 2005).

Five of the eight candidates in the parliamentary race -- Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Qalibaf, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Ali Larijani, and Mohsen Rezai -- are supported by different conservative constituencies. Those constituencies include the Coordination Council of Islamic Revolution Forces; Islamic Coalition Party (Hizb-i Motalefeh-yi Islami); Islamic Iran Developers Council (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami); Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami); and the Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Jameh-yi Ruhaniyat-i Mobarez-i Tehran). Their differences have as much to do with age and the belief that their moment has come as they do with ideology.

The big concern for the conservative clerical community is that having so many candidates undermines the image of unity. On election day, furthermore, there is the fear that no single candidate will secure enough votes for a clear cut victory, and in the subsequent second round the clerics' favorite could lose. Leading clerics, therefore, are demanding that the right-wing act with greater coordination. Indeed, Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi-Kani, who is secretary-general of the Tehran Militant Clergy Association, urged the conservative candidates to behave selflessly and settle on one candidate. His action was unexpected and showed the urgency of the situation, because he is seen as more of a "traditional guru" (murshid-i sunnati) rather than an activist, and in recent years he has tried to work behind the scenes ("Etemad," 21 April 2005).

More than one month later, other senior clerics were expressing similar opinions. Grand Ayatollah Hussein Nuri-Hamedani called on the conservative candidates to "reach a general consensus in these sensitive conditions," and Grand Ayatollah Abdol-Karim Musavi-Ardabili asked, "How much longer will this business of factional differences go on, while the people's general conditions are overlooked?" ("Aftab-i Yazd," 28 May 2005). Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi told the conservatives that they must achieve consensus in the short time remaining before the election ("Siyasat-i Ruz," 28 May 2005).

Hashemi-Rafsanjani met with Qom seminarians at Jamaran's Husseinieh No. 2 and told them that he will not withdraw from the race (Fars News Agency, 27 May 2005). Asked if he would do so if the conservatives reach a consensus on another candidate, Hashemi-Rafsanjani responded, "For the time being, no."

Hashemi-Rafsanjani is a member of the Tehran Militant Clergy Association, and one would expect it to support his candidacy. Yet it does not seem very enthusiastic. An association spokesman said that it has postponed its decision for a week (ILNA, 27 May 2005). And Mahdavi-Kani's office was forced to deny a report in which he allegedly said, "I have no attachment to Hashemi-Rafsanjani, but, at the end of the day, he is a cleric and I support him on this basis" (Fars News Agency, 30 May 2005).

But if there is any semblance of clerical unity, even if that unity is a reluctant one, it is illusory. Some seminary lecturers reportedly have asked Hashemi-Rafsanjani to quit the race ("Siyasat-i Ruz," 28 May 2005). They fear that he will continue policies that lead to corruption and a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Meanwhile, popular dissident cleric Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri predicts that public participation in the election will be low (Reuters, 20 May 2005). This is because the president does not have any real power, he said, unlike the unelected Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

With a little more than two weeks remaining before the election, Iran's clerical community is not sure whom it will endorse. As Ali Larijani is the chosen candidate of the Coordination Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, he is probably the first choice. But some clerics may feel an obligation to support Hashemi-Rafsanjani because of his long involvement in the revolution. Younger members of the clerical community may feel a greater affinity with Qalibaf or even Ahmadinejad. The clerics face a difficult choice -- they will not want to endorse the losing candidate, because this would highlight the distance between them and the public.

JEMB TO CONTINUE ITS WORK DESPITE SLAYING OF AFGHAN ELECTION WORKER...
The UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) vowed on 6 June to continue its work despite the killing of an election worker in the southern Oruzgan Province on 3 June, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Speaking to RFE/RL on 6 June, Sultan Ahmad Bahin, a spokesman for the JEMB, said that despite the killing, its workers are determined to continue their work. Condemning the murder of the worker who was "a public educator and was cooperating" with the JEMB, Bahin said that "our workers all around the country are determined to continue their work." The UN also condemned the killing, with spokeswoman Ariane Quentier saying the attack was aimed at derailing Afghanistan's election process. Bahin said that this was the first killing of an election-public-awareness official since the program began in May, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 6 June. AT

...AS NEO-TALIBAN ACCUSED OF KILLING
JEMB spokesman Terence White told a press conference in the southern city of Kandahar on 6 June that the slain election worker "was gunned down in Oruzgan Province after being captured by a group of 20 Taliban," Pajhwak News Agency reported. Thus far no one has claimed responsibility for the killing, but the area where the worker was killed is a known stronghold of the neo-Taliban insurgents. AT

MORE THAN 6,000 CANDIDATES REGISTER FOR AFGHAN PARLIAMENTARY AND PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS
JEMB spokesman Bahin told a news conference held in Kabul on 5 June that over 6,000 people have registered as candidates for the lower house of the Afghan parliament and for provincial council elections scheduled for September, Kabul-based Tolu Television reported. According to Bahin, 2,816 candidates have been registered for the parliament, among whom 336 are women and 68 representatives from the country's nomadic communities. For the provincial councils, 3,188 men and 240 women have registered. AT

FATHER OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE KILLED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Unidentified assailants on 5 June killed Mu'alim Sher Ahmad, father of Mirwais Danish, a parliamentary candidate from Zurmat District of Paktiya Province, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 6 June. Mira Mohammad, district chief of Zurmat, confirmed the killing and said that an investigation is under way. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing. AT

SPECIAL COUNTERNARCOTICS FORCES RAID TWO PROVINCES
The Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF) has completed raids in the southern Helmand and eastern Nangarhar provinces, a 6 June press release from the Afghan Interior Ministry indicated. In a five-day operation, the ASNF destroyed 21 tons of opium, 180 kilograms of heroin, and a "significant amount of precursor chemicals." In the recent surge in opium production, Nangarhar and Helmand have been two of the highest producing provinces. According to Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, "The ASNF continues to target the drug traffickers, and not the ordinary farmers. It has received a positive response from local people during [its] operations." AT

COMMENTARY DOUBTS AFGHAN MOSQUE SUICIDE BOMBER WAS ARAB
In a 4 June commentary, the Kabul-based daily "Erada" questioned the official Afghan stance that the suicide bomber who on 1 June killed 21 and injured more than 50 people at a mosque in Kandahar city (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 June 2005) was an Arab. The claim by Afghan authorities that the bomber was an Arab is an attempt to prevent the incident from "harming the process of inviting the Taliban to come over to the government side," "Erada" noted. "It is very hard to believe that an easily recognizable Arab or foreigner could have been waiting around for such a long time in a military uniform before attacking people like [General Akram] Khakrezwal," the commentary noted. Khakrezwal, the security chief of Kabul, was among the dead and probably the main target of the attack. The attacker, dressed in an Afghan military uniform, reportedly helped Khakrezwal with his shoes before detonating the explosives he was carrying. No one has claimed responsibility for the mosque bombing, which occurred during a funeral service for a cleric who was gunned down by the neo-Taliban. AT

INDIA SAYS IT WANTS TO JOIN TAP PIPELINE PROJECT
Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told his Pakistani counterpart Amanullah Khan Jadoon during bilateral talks that India wants to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) natural-gas pipeline project, Delhi-based Doordarshan Television reported on 6 June. The on-again, off-again TAP project is dependent on both India and Pakistan buying Turkmen gas, and on the size of Turkmen gas reserves (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 February 2003 and 25 February 2005). AT

DISSIDENT IRANIAN JOURNALIST THREATENS TO RESUME HUNGER STRIKE
Journalist Akbar Ganji, who was released from prison in late May for medical reasons, told Radio Farda that the instant he returns to prison he will resume his hunger strike. He said he was effectively thrown out of prison when given medical leave, and the official he spoke to that final evening told him to take all the time required to have his health problems resolved. Ganji said the corrections officers know where to find him, since they transported him to his home. BS

IRANIAN CENTER-RIGHT CANDIDATE GETS PARLIAMENTARY BACKING...
More than 63 present and former parliamentarians have declared their support for Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in the 17 June presidential election, ILNA reported on 6 June. The legislators issued a signed statement backing Hashemi-Rafsanjani's reform plans. BS

...AND OPPOSITION FROM HARD-LINER
Hojatoleslam Mujtaba Keshani, who serves on the central council of the hard-line Ansar-i Hizbullah political organization, is less enthusiastic about Hashemi-Rafsanjani. He said the same corrupt people associated with the Executives of Construction Party, who were in the Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khatami governments, are trying to make a comeback, "Ya Lisarat al-Hussein" reported on 25 May. He also criticized the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party. Keshani compared the privatization plans of Hashemi-Rafsanjani's administration with the era of the Thousand Families, the aristocracy of the monarchic period. Keshani criticized Hashemi-Rafsanjani for his campaign photographs with made-up girls who are not wearing their Islamic head coverings in a sufficiently modest fashion. He said social cleavages grew during Hashemi-Rafsanjani's presidency. BS

IRANIAN POLITICAL FRONT ENDORSES CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE...
Conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai received an endorsement from the Islamic Iran Popular Front on 6 June, ILNA reported. The organization's secretary, Fayazi, said there are 30 parties and political associations in the front. They first chose Mohsen Rezai and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani as their favorite candidates, and because Rezai satisfied their criteria they settled on him. BS

...WHO SAYS IRANIAN WOMEN SUPERIOR TO OTHER WOMEN
Rezai said in Tehran on 6 June that Iranian women are the most capable in the world, Mehr News Agency reported. He added that they are better suited to run the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry, although he did not provide an explanation. During a visit to Arak on the same day, Rezai said, "If necessary, I will confront Ms. [Condoleezza] Rice with an Iranian woman to prove that the capability and intelligence of Iranian women is superior to most women in the world," ISNA reported. He stressed that the participation of women in elections is more than just a formality and it is important to the country. BS

CAR BOMBERS KILL AT LEAST 18 PEOPLE IN IRAQ
A series of car bombs in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed at least 19 people on 7 June, international news agencies reported the same day. Four of the attacks were in or near the northern town of Hawija. One bomber blew up his car near a U.S. military facility, another beside an Iraqi Army checkpoint, and a third close to a market, Reuters reported, quoting police officials. A fourth struck a checkpoint in the town of Abasi, near Hawija. In Baghdad, a car bomb detonated alongside a police patrol, wounding nine people, including two policemen. Iraq's transitional government announced on 6 June that it has detained nearly 900 suspected militants and set up more than 800 checkpoints in a two-week sweep aimed at blunting attacks in Baghdad, AP reported on 6 June. BW

SUNNI CLERIC KILLED IN SOUTHERN IRAQ
In the latest in a string of assassinations of religious figures, Sunni Muslim cleric Salam Abd al-Karim has been killed in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah, Reuters reported on 7 June, quoting relatives. Witnesses said men wearing police uniforms took al-Karim from his home on 5 June. His body was found the following day. Police denied any involvement in the killing. The killing followed that of Shi'ite cleric Ali Abd al-Husayn in Al-Basrah last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2005). BW

U.S. FORCES DETAIN SUNNI OFFICIAL IN IRAQ
U.S. forces have detained a member of the Muslim Scholars Association, a leading Sunni organization, dpa reported on 7 June. Witnesses said the soldiers arrested Sheikh Abd al-Sittar al-Jumaili at his home in Al-Fallujah. In another incident, two civilians, a man and a woman, were killed on 7 June when they were caught in the crossfire between U.S. soldiers and insurgents in Al-Ramadi, dpa reported the same day, quoting hospital officials. BW

COURT SAYS NO FIXED TIMETABLE FOR SADDAM HUSSEIN'S TRIAL
The Iraqi court chosen to try Saddam Hussein dismissed government statements that the trial will begin within two months, AFP reported on 6 June." There is no precise schedule for holding the trial, in accordance with the independence of the Iraqi Special Tribunal," the court said in a statement. "Any trial date depends on the judges who will consider indictments against the accused after completing their investigations," it added in reference to the trials of Hussein and 11 other former Iraqi leaders currently in U.S. detention. Government spokesman Laith Kubba said on 5 June that the deposed Iraqi leader will be indicted on 12 charges of crimes against humanity out of a possible 500 cases against him and will go on trial within two months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). BW

RIOTING BREAKS OUT AT IRAQ'S ABU GHURAYB PRISON
Rioting erupted in the Abu Ghurayb prison after a detainee tried to escape under the cover of a heavy sandstorm, international news agencies reported on 7 June, quoting U.S. military officials. "The disturbance occurred shortly after a detainee, using the hours of darkness and a heavy sandstorm, was caught trying to escape," the U.S. military said in a statement. "Detainees in several of the compounds began throwing rocks at the portable light generators and the guards," the statement continued, adding that the incident occurred on 5 June shortly before midnight. Four guards and six detainees were injured in the disturbance and treated at the scene. BW

IRAQI SHI'ITE CLERIC VOWS TO AVOID POLITICS DURING U.S. OCCUPATION
Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he will stay out of Iraqi politics as long as U.S. troops remain in the country, AP reported on 6 June. "As long as the occupier is here, I will not interfere in the political process," al-Sadr said. "I would like to condemn and denounce the last Iraqi government's decision to legalize the occupation. Legalizing the occupation is rejected from any angle." Al-Sadr also condemned alleged abuses of the Koran by U.S. troops and interrogators in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "Islam has lost nothing from this crime," he said. "God willing, whenever the tyranny's blows increase in frequency, our own courage and strength increase, too," he added. BW

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