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Newsline - June 17, 2005

Speaking at a 16 June cabinet meeting, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that economic growth in Russia will slow in 2005 to 5-6 percent from 7.1 percent in 2004, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other Russian media reported on 17 June. He predicted that capital flight will reach at least $5 billion to $7 billion, and oil exports will fall by at least 10 million tons (65 million barrels) due to "a decline in production and exporting efficiency, which is connected to a lack of pipeline development and, of course, to a cut in Yukos's production for reasons that are well-known." Inflation will certainly exceed the projected level of 8.5 percent and foreign investment will decrease. Gref's figures cast doubt over whether President Vladimir Putin's stated goal of doubling gross domestic product by 2012 can be met. VY

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov criticized Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref's forecasts, saying that the ministry itself is responsible for the slowdown in economic growth. He added that Gref's ministry failed to produce any meaningful plan using the government's investment fund to stimulate the economy. Fradkov was quick to add that the so-called stabilization fund remains untouchable, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 June. "Forget about the stabilization fund," Fradkov was quoted by the daily as saying. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that criticism directed toward Gref from within the government and the media has become a constant exercise in recent months and it seems to be a coordinated public-relations campaign. VY

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 15 June, a group of pro-Kremlin political consultants and analysts said that the liberal ministers in the government, including Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, and Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, are positioned as shadow allies of those, "who want to instigate a 'birch revolution' in Russia," "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. Political analyst Sergei Markov said it is impossible to organize a revolution in Russia without a social-economic crisis, and that one could be deliberately provoked by the liberal ministers' reforms. Markov said former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is the main focus of the anti-Putin coalition preparing for the 2008 presidential campaign and some ministers who joined the cabinet while he was in charge are still loyal to him. National Strategy Council head Valerii Khomyakov said potential allies of Kasyanov, whom he described as the preferred candidate of the "oligarchic-revanche party," could also include many regional governors who have already been reappointed and who are unhappy with Kremlin policies. VY

The board of directors of natural-gas giant Gazprom approved on 16 June a deal to sell a 10.74 percent stake in the company to the wholly state-owned corporation Rosneftegaz for 203.5 billion rubles ($7.1 billion), RIA-Novosti and other media reported. The deal increases the state's stake in Gazprom to just over 50 percent, securing Kremlin control over the company. Presidential administration head Dmitrii Medvedev is the chairman of Gazprom's board. The government on 16 June announced that after the deal is completed, it will liberalize the market in Gazprom shares and provide equal access to them for domestic and foreign investors. At present, Gazprom shares in Russia are much cheaper than shares acquired internationally and foreign investors are not allowed to purchase the Russian shares. VY

State Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) said on 15 June that she supports the idea of school courses on "the basics of traditional religious confessions," reported. She said she categorically opposes teaching about Protestantism, Mormonism, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and other similar confessions. The "traditional" religions of Russia are Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Sliska stressed that 85 percent of Russians "are Christians of the Russian Orthodox faith." "It is not important that the church be separate from the state," she said. "Russian Orthodoxy is our religion, in which many generations have been raised." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 June quoted Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II as saying that "in Russia, the church is separated from the state, but not from society or the people." VY

The lawyer for former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Genrikh Padva, announced on 16 June that his client has filed an appeal to the Moscow Municipal Court against the verdict of Moscow's Meshchanskii Raion Court according to which he was sentenced on 31 May to nine years' imprisonment, RIA-Novosti reported. Khodorkovskii requested the verdict be overturned as "illegitimate and unsubstantiated" and he be acquitted of all charges. VY

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reporter and State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Khinshtein (Unified Russia) reported on 16 June that he has obtained a copy of presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak's report to President Putin on his first six months in office. According to Khinshtein, Kozak said that clan groups dominate the power structures throughout the North Caucasus and any system of checks and balances has been destroyed, leading to widespread corruption. Kozak reportedly predicted that a sharp growth in radicalism and extremism could result in "the appearance of a macro-region of sociopolitical and economic instability," which would include all of the Caucasian republics and part of Stavropol Krai. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 16 June, Kozak's deputy Aleksandr Pochinok could not confirm Khinshtein's account, saying that he hasn't read the article. JAC

Speaking at an international conference of ombudsmen in Kazan on 16 June, federal human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he is concerned that aggressive intolerance "on the part of certain representatives of the majority" in Russia is spreading in many Russian regions and assuming a criminal form, reported. Lukin said, "We should reproach federal authorities, and sometimes regional and local authorities, but primarily [officials of the] judicial and prosecution systems, [who] have been trying to ignore these incidents for a long time, pretending that they are ordinary hooliganism and they are not connected in any way with the problem of ethnic extremism." He continued: "It is absolutely wrong to close our eyes to this. President Putin was right when he said there is nothing stupider and more ignorant than the slogan 'Russia for Russians'.... This is a slogan for civil war and the extermination of many people, including Russians." Meanwhile, Chechnya's commissioner for human rights, Lema Khasuev, told Interfax on 15 June that he will not cooperate with representatives of Memorial because that human rights organization "has a principle: the worse the situation in Chechnya, the better for Memorial." He added that Memorial is "pursuing their only goal -- to spend all the money received from Western structures." JAC

Nikolai Goshko, deputy editor of the Smolensk weekly "Odinstovskaya nedela," has been sentenced to five years at a hard-labor colony for libeling top officials in the city of Smolensk, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 June. According to the station, five years ago Goshko accused three top officials of involvement in the murder of Sergei Novikov, president of a local radio station. Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that the "disgusting and incredible sentence is totally out of proportion to the offense and in violation of international standards." The statement quoted Oksana Laberko, Smolensk bureau chief for REN-TV, who noted, "It's odd that the authorities punished a journalist, who may've spoken out rashly in the heat of the moment, on the same day as a court sentenced another person to just a year in prison for murdering someone." In February 2004, Goshko was fined 15,000 rubles ($500) in a defamation suit filed by members of the National Bolshevik Party, Regnum reported on 18 February. JAC

Meanwhile, those responsible for the killing of Sergei Novikov have not been found. At the time of his death, the Russian Union of Journalists called Novikov's killing "an attack on freedom of speech, on the right of society to know the truth about itself," noting that Novikov was gunned down a day after his station had aired a program harshly criticizing the administration of then Smolensk Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2000). JAC

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 16 June that it has completed its investigation of the 9 July murder of Paul Klebnikov, editor in chief of the Russian version of "Forbes," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 16 June. According to the Prosecutor-General's Office, former Chechen field commander Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev allegedly asked members of a criminal group to kill Klebnikov because Klebnikov wrote negatively about him in his 2003 book "Conversations with a Barbarian." These members included Musa Vakhaev, Magomed Edilsultanov, Kazbek Dukuzov, his brother Magomed, and others, two of whom, Vakhaev and Dukusov, are in police custody. JAC

Some 250 members of the Motherland party gathered in front of the Bolshoi Theater on 16 June to express their disapproval of an event to mark the 50th birthday of Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau and Ekho Moskvy reported. The protesters, most of whom were young, carried posters saying "Chubais = Russia minus electrification of the whole country," "Chubais is the grandmother of the Russian oligarchy," (a play on Vladimir Lenin's definition "communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country") and "50 years old and still at liberty." Several Russian newspapers noted Chubais's jubilee. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that "to many, Chubais seems the all-powerful demonic personality of our politics." However, not all the sentiments were negative: "Izvestiya" carried the well wishes of Ivan Starikov, secretary of the Union of Rightist Forces' Political Council, who congratulated "Iron Anatolii," "fervent, unbending, not surrendering his convictions or his comrades." JAC

President Putin has named Yurii Fedotov Russia's ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Interfax and RBK reported on 16 June. Fedotov most recently worked as deputy foreign minister in charge of international organizations. He replaces Grigorii Karasin, who was recently named deputy foreign minister. JAC

The daughter of a former Mexican secret-service agent, Ana Alicia Salas, claims that she possesses the steel mountaineering pick that was used to kill Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in August 1940, "The Guardian" reported on 16 June. According to Salas, her father stole the pick, which is still stained with Trotsky's blood, in order to preserve it for posterity. Trotsky's grandson, Seva Volkhov, has offered to provide a DNA sample to test the blood on the pick but only if Salas agrees to donate the instrument to the museum in the house where Trotsky was killed. She, however, maintains that she is "looking for some financial benefit." According to, the wielder of the pick, Ramon Merkader, an NKVD lieutenant in the Spanish Republican Army, fared fairly well despite his bloody deed. He served his 20-year prison sentence for murdering Trotsky in relative comfort in a spacious cell with a small patio where he was allowed to entertain overnight female visitors. After his sentence was up, he flew to Moscow where he received the gold star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, a pension, a four-room apartment in central Moscow, and a dacha outside the city. Still, one honor eluded him: the Communist Party of the Soviet Union rejected his request to become a party member, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service. JAC

Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov and State Council Chairman Taus Djabrailov have appealed to President Putin to take action against former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantamirov, who has secured the backing of the Motherland party for his candidacy in the parliamentary elections to be held in Chechnya in November, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 June. The two officials claimed Gantamirov is trying to capitalize on unresolved social and economic problems in Chechnya "to satisfy his personal political ambitions." Gantamirov last month similarly appealed to the Russian leadership to protect him and his relatives from blackmail and reprisals by the security police regiment loyal to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005). Gantamirov alleged that the pressure is intended to dissuade him from participating in the November ballot. LF

Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov met on 16 June in Grozny with relatives of six Chechen civilians killed in January 2002 by four Russian Army officers led by Captain Eduard Ulman, Russian media reported. A Russian military court in Rostov-na-Donu acquitted the four men in April, after they confessed to the killings but said they acted on orders from their superiors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 23 May 2005). Alkhanov said after the meeting that he will ask for a new trial to be held in Chechnya, without a jury. LF

Residents of the village of Borozdinovskaya in Chechnya's Shelkovskii Raion are planning to take their belongings and resettle in a tent camp in Kizlyar Raion, Interfax reported on 16 June. The villagers, most of whom belong to ethnic groups indigenous to Daghestan, fear for their safety in the wake of the abduction of 11 villagers during a sweep operation on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). LF

Vartan Oskanian submitted the presentation document of Armenia's Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) to the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 16 June in the presence of ambassadors from the 26 NATO member states, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian said the IPAP focuses on three key issues: putting NATO-Armenian relations on a more institutional basis; reform of Armenia's defense system; and Armenian participation in NATO peacekeeping operations. He also noted that the IPAP represents the highest possible level of cooperation with NATO short of NATO membership, which Armenian officials have consistently ruled out (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2004). Later on 16 June, Oskanian submitted Armenia's first plan for cooperation with the EU within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. He also met with EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and with External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to discuss Armenian-EU relations, the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict, and Armenian-Turkish relations. LF

Speaking in Brussels on 16 June, Oskanian hailed the resolution adopted by the German Bundestag earlier that day condemning the "annihilation" of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915, Noyan Tapan reported. Oskanian described the resolution, which deplores the German government's complicity in those killings, as "an important step for the international recognition of the Armenian genocide." LF

Addressing a rally of some several hundred supporters of his Nor zhamanakner (New Times) party in Yerevan on 15 June, Aram Karapetian argued that Armenia as it is today "has no future," Interfax reported on 16 June. He called for a peaceful campaign to force President Robert Kocharian to resign. Karapetian polled fourth in the February 2003 presidential ballot in which Kocharian was reelected for a second term. LF

Ilham Aliyev told journalists on 16 June on his arrival in Kyiv that the political situation in Azerbaijan is stable and he does not fear an "Orange Revolution," Turan and Interfax reported. He pointed out that opinion polls put his popularity rating at 77 percent, which is higher than any other CIS president. LF

Meanwhile, two separate opposition groups plan to stage demonstrations in Baku in which participants will manifest their intention to successfully duplicate last December's Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Hafiz Hadjiev's Modern Musavat party plans to stage a march in Baku on the evening of 17 June to demand that the November parliamentary elections are free and democratic, reported. Hadjiev told the online daily that he expects some 10,000 people to participate, and that they will wear orange T-shirts and scarves and carry orange banners. On 18 June, the opposition Azadlyg (Liberty) election bloc likewise plans to hold a march and rally in Baku, reported on 17 June. Participants will wear orange shirts and caps. Earlier this week police reportedly confiscated 27 orange flags ordered by Azadlyg, according to the eponymous newspaper on 13 June as cited by Turan. LF

One Russian serviceman was killed and two Georgian policemen were injured on 17 June by a land mine that exploded while they were searching near the village of Kekhvi in the South Ossetian conflict zone for an elderly Georgian man who disappeared from the village two days ago after setting out to fetch firewood, Georgian media reported. The man's body was found nearby; he appears to have died of natural causes. On 16 June, Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, met with relatives of four Georgian men believed to have been abducted in the conflict zone on 4 June, and of several Ossetians shot dead by Georgian police one week earlier, reported. LF

Aleksandr Ankvab told Interfax on 16 June that the Abkhaz leadership welcomes the upcoming visit by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as "we have nothing to hide." An IAEA spokeswoman announced that impending visit on 15 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2005). Ankvab said he hopes the visit will dispel "rumors" that nuclear materials have gone missing from a research institute in Sukhum. The director of the Sukhum Physics and Technology Institute, Anatolii Markolia, similarly told Interfax on 16 June that the institute has no fissile materials suitable for manufacturing nuclear weapons, although it does have "quite a large quantity" of radioactive materials that, Markolia said, are "under armed protection." He added that the IAEA has been slow to respond to repeated Abkhaz requests for help in constructing a special storage facility in Abkhazia for radioactive materials. LF

Several hundred supporters of businessman Urmatbek Baryktabasov, a would-be presidential candidate who was disqualified because he holds Kazakh citizenship, stormed and briefly held the government building in Bishkek on 17 June, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Police later succeeded in driving the demonstrators out of the building. and Kabar reported that at least four policemen and an equal number of protesters were injured. A police spokesman said that police would mount increased patrols to prevent any further outbreaks of lawlessness, Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev stressed that he and his government have attained legal legitimacy and will not melt away like that of his predecessor, Askar Akaev, who fled demonstrators on 24 March. Kabar quoted Bakiev as saying: "I have done nothing and will do nothing to run from my native Kyrgyzstan. If necessary, I will defend this [government] building and this authority myself with weapons in my hands." DK

Baitemir Ibraev, a prosecutor in Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-Abad Oblast, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 16 June that 12 Uzbek asylum seekers have been transferred from a camp to a detention facility in Osh. According to information provided by Uzbek authorities, the 12, who were part of a group of more than 400 asylum seekers currently housed in a camp in Jalal-Abad Oblast, had been serving prison terms in Andijon on charges of religious extremism, Ibraev said. They were freed during a prison break on the night of 12 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2005) and subsequently fled to Kyrgyzstan. Ibraev said that other asylum seekers suspected of playing a role in unrest in Andijon on 13 May will also be transferred to the detention facility in Osh for additional investigation. DK

In two appeals dated 13 June and addressed, respectively, to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and acting Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, a group of six Uzbek asylum seekers in Kyrgyzstan charged that Kyrgyz authorities have removed 16 asylum seekers from the camp in Jalal-Abad Oblast, subsequently handing four of them over to Uzbek security forces, reported. The appeal to Bakiev charges that the four individuals who were given to the Uzbek authorities are not guilty of crimes, but were eyewitnesses to the killing of peaceful demonstrators by security forces in Andijon. The appeals' signatories also charged that Kyrgyz security officials attempted to convince the asylum seekers that they can and should return to Uzbekistan. The appeals' authors called on Annan to intervene on their behalf in the face of "injustice and lawlessness"; they called on Bakiev to investigate the handover of asylum seekers to Uzbek authorities. DK

In a 16 June interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service,, and "Vechernii Bishkek," U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Stephen Young addressed Kyrgyzstan's upcoming 10 July presidential election and the issue of Uzbek asylum seekers. "I have never, nor has my government, ever supported individual candidates, and we won't do so in this election," he said. "But what we support is the creation of a level playing field so that free, fair, and transparent elections are possible." Young added, "We are devoting $2.7 million specifically to elections as part of a $4 million fund that is going to developing associated institutional reforms here in Kyrgyzstan." On the asylum seekers, Young said, "Kyrgyzstan should not send any of the refugees back to Uzbekistan without having allowed them to be screened by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for possible acceptance of the status of a political refugee." DK

Ulan Sarbanov, head of Kyrgyzstan's Central Bank, announced at a press conference in Bishkek on 16 June that inflation has risen 5 percent since the beginning of the year, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Prices for food products have jumped 13.5 percent. Sarbanov called rising inflation worrisome but not catastrophic. He also pointed to an increasing trade deficit, which now stands at $112 million as compared to $45.7 million last year. He commented, "The situation is not improving, and there are signs that the trade deficit is growing." DK

President Imomali Rakhmonov told an international banking conference in Dushanbe on 16 June that his government has decided to lift all restrictions on the activities of foreign banks in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The measure is intended to make it easier to attract foreign investments, Rakhmonov said. DK

President Rakhmonov told journalists on 16 June that Jumaboy Tolibov, who has been jailed since late April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 June 2005), cannot be considered a professional journalist, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Rakhmonov said: "I've studied this issue in detail. According to the information I have, Mr. Tolibov is not a professional journalist. If he's not a professional journalist, why are you denigrating journalism? No, he's not a journalist. Nevertheless, I've ordered the Prosecutor-General's Office to examine this issue from all sides and report back to me." Watchdog groups have charged that Tolibov, who also occupied a post in local government in Sughd Province, was jailed for articles he wrote criticizing a local prosecutor. The Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan noted that Tolibov graduated from university in 1984 with a degree in journalism. And Maysara Fokhirova, a lawyer representing Tolibov, has said that one of the charges against Tolibov involves his activities as a journalist, RFE/RL reported. DK

Anvar Nabiev, Uzbekistan's deputy prosecutor-general, announced on 16 June that 176 people were killed in unrest in Andijon on 13 May, RIA-Novosti reported. The previous official death toll had been 173. Nabiev identified 79 of those killed as "terrorists." He said that the "terrorists" seized 65 hostages, killing 14 of them. In subsequent clashes, the "terrorists" killed 20 policemen, 11 soldiers, and 45 ordinary residents. The identities of 21 people who were killed are still being established, Nabiev said. Independent reports on the bloodshed by the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch cite numerous accounts by eyewitnesses who say that hundreds were killed in Andijon on 13 May when security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators. DK

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree stiffening the rules for state officials' trips abroad, the Moscow-based "Gazeta" reported on 16 June. The document empowers a group of persons that can grant permission to state officials for foreign trips and defines a group of officials who may travel abroad only with Lukashenka's permission. The latter group includes cabinet ministers, the head of the presidential administration, regional governors, the prosecutor-general, and the directors of organizations who were appointed by the president. An official trip abroad may not exceed two days; officials wanting to stay abroad longer need to provide justification, and a relevant decision is reportedly to be made "proceeding from official necessity and the need to maximally economize state funds." "[Lukashenka] decided to keep his functionaries on a tighter rein because he sees that many of them return from foreign trips as thinking people and cease to believe so blindly in the rightness of the economic and political course set by the Belarusian president," Belarusian United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka told "Gazeta." JM

The Minsk City Economic Court on 16 June began hearing yet another libel suit against the Minsk-based daily "Narodnaya volya," Belapan reported. The Salihorsk State Mining Technical School wants the newspaper to retract a story published in April, in which it claimed that 37 mining school students put their signatures under a manifesto of the opposition movement Will of the People, led by Alyaksandr Kazulin, the former rector of Belarusian State University. The plaintiff claims that some of the signers listed in the story were not students of the mining school and some others have never signed the statement. The hearing comes the day after a district judge in Minsk ruled that "Narodnaya volya" pay 100 million rubles ($46,500) in damages to lawmaker Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). "We urge the government to cancel this exorbitant fine that threatens the survival of 'Narodnaya volya' and to stop the repeated sentencing of the few independent newspapers that try to operate in Belarus," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on 16 June. JM

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said at an international economic forum in Kyiv on 16 June, which was dubbed a "mini-Davos" by media, that Ukraine will launch reforms in the second half of 2005, Ukrainian and international media reported. "The next year will become the peak of reforms," Yushchenko pledged, predicting that this year Ukraine will see reduced but healthy economic growth of 7-8 percent, down from more than 12 percent in 2004. Yushchenko also promised that privatization "will be continued and pursued more actively." Speaking at the forum earlier the same day, Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Oleh Rybachuk said the government will abandon its earlier plan to publish a list of enterprises subject to reprivatization, leaving some questionable privatizations for reviews by the courts. The economic forum in Kyiv was attended by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joachin Almunia, and some 150 international businessmen. JM

President Yuschhenko, Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, and Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn on 16 June signed a memorandum guaranteeing property rights in Ukraine, in an apparent move to ally fears over the government's earlier reprivatization plans, Ukrainian and international media reported. "The memorandum signed right now means that Ukraine is putting a full stop in the discussion of privatization processes that has been pursued for several recent months," Yushchenko commented. "The memorandum means that starting from now all privatizations in Ukraine will be made exclusively in accordance with the law.... The properties that have been privatized with violations of privatization tenders or the law in force will be contested in the courts." JM

The statement by EU leaders to be issued in Brussels on 17 June does not make any specific mention of Romania's or Bulgaria's planned accession in 2007 or negotiations expected by Turkey or Croatia, dpa reported. Unnamed diplomats from Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU chair, said that the references were omitted because enlargement was not a topic at the summit, adding that the EU's policy on enlargement has not changed. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that Brussels will honor its agreements with applicants. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg pointed out that Bulgaria and Romania can count on accession because "the treaties have been signed [and] will be respected in full." He also argued, however, that EU member states need time to "think about the rhythm and extent of enlargement. There is no conclusion on this point for the moment," RFE/RL reported. French President Jacques Chirac also suggested that the EU might not be able to cope with additional members for a while (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005). PM

The draft communique of EU leaders prepared for release on 17 June in Brussels said that the future of the western Balkan states lies with the EU, but did not give any of them a timetable for further integration, adding that each country will be judged on its own merits, dpa reported. The text encouraged Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to improve on their existing efforts toward European integration and stressed the importance of cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The declaration ruled out any return of Kosova to the pre-1999 situation and added that the EU will accept no political solutions there imposed unilaterally or by force. Unnamed diplomats said, however, that the membership prospects for the Balkan countries could already be severely damaged as a result of the recent rejection of the proposed EU constitution by French and Dutch voters and the ongoing EU constitutional and budget crises, RFE/RL reported. Although the prime ministers of Turkey and Croatia were initially invited to meet EU leaders that afternoon, the meeting was called off in a move regarded as ominous by many observers in Zagreb. PM

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said in Brussels on 16 June that members of the European People's Party, which is a coalition of conservative parties active in European affairs, have given "full support" to Croatia's bid for EU membership, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that negotiations could start now and last two to three years, during which time all outstanding problems between Zagreb and Brussels could be resolved. Elsewhere in the Belgian capital, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that the EU should not close its doors to the Balkan countries, adding that he will soon submit a "strategic plan" for Serbia and Montenegro to join the EU in 2012. In Zagreb, Croatian President Stipe Mesic warned that negative signals from Brussels will "strengthen Euroskeptic and nationalist forces" in Croatia and the region. PM

Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said in Washington on 16 June that Macedonia will continue its efforts to join NATO and the EU, VOA's Macedonian Service reported. Mitreva said the period of reflection after the French and Dutch "no" to the EU constitution should not last too long, adding that it would be a mistake to stop or delay the EU enlargement process, as some leading European politicians have suggested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 June 2005). UB

In her talks with Secretary of State Rice and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Foreign Minister Mitreva also raised the issue of the demarcation of the border between Macedonia and Kosova, VOA's Macedonian Service reported. Mitreva said the border should be demarcated as soon as possible in order to increase regional stability and create a "positive atmosphere" ahead of the upcoming talks on the future status of Kosova, which is administered by the UN. Recent discussions with the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), the Kosovar government, and Belgrade over the demarcation did not yield any results, since it is not clear who has the right under international law to determine the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 13, and 14 June 2005). UB

The authorities of Moldova's secessionist region of Transdniester are going to prohibit Moldovan automobiles from entering and crossing the region in transit to Ukraine if Chisinau refuses to issue special permits allowing Transdniester passenger and cargo transport operators to enter Ukraine, Infotag reported on 16 June, quoting a transport official from Tiraspol. Earlier this month, the Ukrainian transport authorities withdrew such permits from Transdniester transport agencies, bringing to a halt virtually all regular line buses from Transdniester to Ukraine. The permits are issued through the Moldovan Transport Ministry. Under a 1999 transport agreement, Chisinau obliged itself to allocating 20 percent of Ukrainian permits to Transdniester operators. The withdrawal of Ukrainian transport permits from Transdniester transport operators appears to be Kyiv's move toward fulfilling its pledges to cooperate with Chisinau in curbing smuggling through the Ukrainian-Moldovan border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2005). JM

The Moldovan Bureau for Statistics reported earlier this week that Moldovan's gross-domestic product (GDP) in January-March rose by 8.2 percent year-on-year, which is the highest first-quarter GDP growth in the past 15 years, Infotag reported on 16 June. JM

The United States and Iraqi officials have reportedly begun discussions over the drafting of an amnesty policy for insurgents wishing to lay down their arms and participate in Iraq's political process. The policy remains in its early stages, and officials from both countries have remained rather tight-lipped about any future policy.

Political and military analysts in the United States said this week that the Iraqi government has no choice but to initiate a dialogue to convince as many insurgents as possible to lay down their arms and join the political process. But doing so may not be so easy. Giving an insurgent a political stake in the process may not be enough to win him over. Large factions within the insurgency are driven by an Islamist agenda that views the transitional government -- and any likely successor government -- as an apostate government conflicting with their radical Sunni doctrine that calls for the establishment of a Wahhabi-style Islamic state.

Other portions of the insurgency may be easier to sway: these are the so-called former Ba'athists and Sunni disenfranchised who work with "secular" insurgent groups and even Islamist groups -- not because of ideology, but rather for profit. Alleged terrorists in Iraqi custody have said they were paid between $100 and $1,500 by insurgent groups to carry out attacks. Many said that although they believed the attacks were immoral or against Islamic doctrine, they carried them out anyway, citing pressure from the groups they worked for and because of the money.

As Iraq develops stronger law enforcement, it will be better able to rein in the criminal elements of the insurgency. Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein released thousands of prisoners in an October 2002 general amnesty; these elements are assumed to be responsible for a large percentage of criminal attacks, kidnappings, and violence in Iraq today. Several alleged terrorists said in confessions aired on Al-Iraqiyah television in May that they carried out car-jackings, kidnappings, theft, and murder on behalf of insurgent groups, including Islamist groups.

The most difficult task in persuading insurgents to lay down their arms may be the "public opinion" factor. A recent survey in Iraq sponsored by the U.S.-led coalition found that nearly 45 percent of those polled said they support insurgent attacks. While it is likely that the number of true supporters is much lower, the survey demonstrates that Iraqis, for whatever reason, may feel it is socially unacceptable to say otherwise. This could indicate that the "man on the street" cannot be won over until the Sunni leadership says, and demonstrates, that it is acceptable to do so. Other analysts have argued that the tide may only turn when Sunni Iraqis turn against the insurgency. The true answer may be somewhere in the middle.

The Sunni leadership, however, remains quite fractured with no cohesive stance on the issue of participation. While several Sunni groups agree that they want to play a role in the government and constitutional drafting, the conditions or "red lines" of each group are different. In addition, a number of Sunni political groups are internally fractured, a factor that will limit progress, at least in the short-term.

Sunni leaders with suspected ties to the insurgency, however, will remain outside the political process and not negotiate, leaving the government in need of an alternative Sunni representation. In some cases, tribal leaders could play a key role in bringing Sunnis into the government and reining in the insurgency. Local governance may just make the difference in the center.

Two armed groups announced last week their willingness to disarm and begin negotiations with the government for their participation in the political process, the daily "Baghdad" reported on 9 June. Citing former Electricity Minister and Sunni leader Ayham al-Samarra'i, the report said that political leaders from the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Al-Mujahedin Army expressed in meetings with him their readiness to disarm. Sunni sheikhs and tribal leaders in Al-Fallujah vowed to assist the government in enhancing security in a meeting with Interior Ministry officials in the city, "Al-Mada" reported on 13 June. Tribal leaders in Mosul have also agreed to hand over wanted suspects to security officials, the Defense Ministry announced in on 13 June.

So far, transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari has shied away from the amnesty issue in his statements to reporters this week, saying that no dialogue is under way between the government and armed groups in Iraq. Instead, al-Ja'fari said multinational forces have undertaken a dialogue, through which the insurgents have conveyed messages to the transitional government. "No official dialogue with any side that carries guns and fights has taken place," he said, adding: "The remaining issue is that of the mediator as it is not always true that you are the one who chooses the mediator. The other [side] might be sending you messages through the coalition or multinational forces, which means that it was not you who chose the mediator."

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not acknowledge U.S. involvement in the proposed amnesty, telling reporters at a 14 June press briefing: "To the extent you can get a tribe that has a portion of its people opposing the government and a portion of the people supporting the government pulled in [to the political process], why, that's a good thing." Rumsfeld said any amnesty decision would be solely for the sovereign Iraqi government to take, "not an American decision."

Neo-Taliban insurgents killed Afghan parliamentary candidate Abdul Wahid in an attack in the Kandahar area on 15 June, the Afghan Islamic Press Agency reported on 16 June. "The candidate was killed by the enemies of the country," Kandahar police chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi said. Wahid was also a close friend of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mofti Latifollah Hakimi claimed responsibility for the killing. "We have killed another candidate," Hakimi said. "We have already issued a fatwa that we will kill anyone who spreads propaganda against the Islamic Emirate and describes jihad as a disorder. Abdul Wahid was doing precisely this and that is why we killed him." MR

Afghan security forces killed three suspected neo-Taliban fighters and wounded two others in an hour-long battle in southern Afghanistan, AFP reported on 16 June. The fighting occurred about 280 kilometers south of Kabul in Zabul Province, where attackers fired on a policy convoy. "Three Taliban were killed and two Taliban and one police were wounded in a one hour exchange of fire," said Gullab Shah Ali Khail, a spokesman for the Zabul governor. "The three bodies of the Taliban [members] are still lying on the spot." Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi claimed responsibility for the attack but denied reports of neo-Taliban casualties. "Taliban carried out the ambush targeting the police convoy and destroyed one of their vehicles with rocket-propelled grenade fire and killed its passengers," Hakimi said. MR

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar are not in Afghanistan, AFP reported on 16 June. "Mullah Omar is not in Afghanistan. I do not believe that Osama is in Afghanistan," he said. Khalilzad's statement came a day after a neo-Taliban spokesman said the pair of 11 September fugitives are alive despite a manhunt by U.S.-led forces for them. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they believe bin Ladan and Omar are hiding in the mountainous border region straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border. Officials in Islamabad refused to comment on the matter on 16 June. Khalilzad is leaving Afghanistan to become the U.S. ambassador in Iraq. MR

Four Afghans have died in insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan in an ongoing rise in violence throughout the country, AP reported on 16 June. Two boys were among the victims, having been killed in recent days in apparent neo-Taliban attacks in the Khost area east of Kabul. Two separate land-mine explosions were responsible for three of the latest deaths, according to local officials. The fourth victim was a teacher shot dead by apparent neo-Taliban gunmen. MR

A 16 June statement from President George W. Bush noted the advance of freedom across the Middle East and predicted, "as a tide of freedom sweeps this region, it will also come eventually to Iran," Radio Farda reported (see also, It said Iran's rulers "suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world." The 17 June presidential election is consistent with a pattern in which "power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy." The statement said the United States backs Iran's territorial integrity and the Iranian people's right to determine their future. It concluded, "As you stand for your own liberty, the people of America stand with you." BS

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi told Al-Arabiyah television on 16 June that Bush's statement is not a serious one and ignores the realities of the country. Assefi accused the United States of having double standards. "As you know, this is the election night," he added. "We will tomorrow know who will win and who will lose." Assefi predicted that the new president could have a major impact on Iran-U.S. relations, saying that he is important in determining foreign policy. "If the United States changes its policy," Assefi said, "we will certainly change our policy." He continued, "If the United States maintains its hostile policy toward Iran, then none of the [presidential] candidates will adopt a positive stand toward the United States, which speaks in an impolite manner." Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi said: "I am actually happy that Bush made these comments because it will lead to more participation. Our people are a special nation, in defiance to the evil nature the enemies are showing, the [Iranian people] become more determined.... A real democracy exists in Iran that can be a model for all countries. The Americans are very concerned...[that] an Islamic democracy also exists." BS

According to on 16 June, exiled Iranian oppositionists are being trained in nonviolent conflict by an organization based in the United States. The Washington-based International Center on Non-Violent Conflict is conducting the workshops. Persian-language copies of "Bringing Down a Dictator," a documentary about civil society organizations' success in overthrowing Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, were sent to Iran. According to the center's website (, "In a nonviolent conflict, disruptive actions such as strikes and boycotts are used by civilians, who are part of a movement struggling for rights or justice, to constrain and defeat their opponents." It listed petitions, parades, walkouts and mass demonstrations as means of mobilization. Resignations and civil disobedience can undermine government operations. It also described as "the weapons of nonviolent conflict" sit-ins, economic sabotage, and blockades. BS

Police dispersed on 16 June about 300 people who were participating in an unlicensed rally in Tehran's Mellat Park, ILNA reported. Some of the demonstrators, who were chanting against the election and the regime, were arrested. The Pounak Square shopping center in northwest Tehran was evacuated on 15 June because of a bomb threat, IRNA reported. The police bomb squad did not find a bomb. BS

Some 5,000 police officers patrolled Tehran the day before the presidential election, police commander Morteza Talai said on 16 June, IRNA reported. And on election day, 17 June, 20,000 police will guarantee security, he said. Mujtaba Reshad, who heads the election headquarters, announced in a circular to all the country's governors that they should immediately report violations of election regulations by military personnel, ILNA reported on 16 June. Reshad listed the regular armed forces, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the Basij. He added that the ban on election interference also applies to police personnel. Mohammad Atrianfar, a leader in the Hashemi-Rafsanjani campaign, told Radio Farda on 16 June that military personnel supporting the candidacy of former Guards Corps air force commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinejad are behind the vandalism of the candidate's publicity materials. BS

Noted intellectual Abdolkarim Sorush has not endorsed any of the candidates in the Iranian presidential election, the head of his office, Javad Dabbagh, said on 15 June according to IRNA. "Etemad" reported the same day that Sorush described Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi as the best choice because reformist candidate Mustafa Moin would face the same fate as Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. BS

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel-Lankarani said on 17 June that it is necessary for people to participate in the election, state radio reported. Grand Ayatollah Hussein Nuri-Hamedani described voting as a religious obligation. Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi said participation is a divine and national duty. BS

Sunni leaders agreed to an offer by Shi'ite and Kurdish parliamentarians to increase the number of Sunnis on the constitutional drafting committee to 17, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 16 June. Another 10 Sunnis will serve as informal consultants to the committee. There were previously only two Sunnis serving on the committee. The agreement ended weeks of stalemate over the participation of Sunnis in the process. Under the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) set up by the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraqis have a 15 August deadline to draft the document, which is to be voted on in a general referendum on 15 October. The TAL includes a clause allowing for another six months to write the constitution, but lawmakers have said they will push to meet the August deadline. If the referendum is delayed, national elections slated for December will also be delayed another six months. KR

Iraqi and U.S. security forces captured accused terrorist leader Muhammad Khalaf Shakar in Mosul on 14 June, according to a 16 June press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website ( Shakar, also known as Abu Talha, reportedly oversaw operations in Mosul for Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn. The press release said that "multiple intelligence sources" led coalition forces to Shakar's location in a quiet neighborhood in Mosul. Former associates of Shakar had said that he never slept more than one night at any residence and always wore a suicide vest that he said he would detonate to avoid capture. CENTCOM said that Shakar surrendered peacefully to coalition forces and "is fully cooperating." KR

Some 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces launched Operation Spear on 17 June, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. military statement. The statement said the operation aims at "rooting out insurgents and foreign fighters and disrupting insurgent support systems in and around Karabila," the news agency reported. Local residents in the town, located close to the Syrian border, told Reuters that gun battles broke out overnight and continued into the morning hours. Mudhafar al-Ani, a leader of the Muslim Scholars Association in Al-Qa'im, said he has asked residents to remain indoors and to close their businesses after Friday prayers in protest of the operation, which he claimed is endangering civilian lives. "The U.S. forces are escalating the situation and we will declare a general strike after Friday prayers," al-Ani said. KR

Brigadier Sherko Khaker Hassan told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) in an exclusive interview on 16 June that he considers his deputy, General Turhan Yusuf Abd al-Rahman, an accomplice in the rash of abductions of Turkomans and Arabs in Kirkuk by Kurdish parties because he failed to take action for one year. Abd al-Rahman was identified by "The Washington Post" as the police chief in the city in a 15 June article in which he said he was helpless to take action against policemen who participated in the abductions because they were members of the two main Kurdish parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). "As to the statements made by Brigadier Turhan, my deputy, and since he has had this information since one year or one year and a half...he didn't take any action nor did he inform the higher authorities. Also, there are no cases recorded by the police on this issue," Hassan said. "In these press statements, I consider Brigadier Turhan an accomplice in this operation because he didn't inform his higher commander and he didn't take any action," Hassan added.

Hassan also accused Abd al-Rahman of falsely identifying himself as police chief. However, it is unclear whether Abd al-Rahman misrepresented himself or if he was erroneously identified in the newspaper report. "Why did he say he was head of the police and give these statements?" Hassan told RFI, adding that Abd al-Rahman should have "taken some action and inform[ed] the higher authorities.... As head of police, I could take action." KR