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Newsline - July 1, 2005


RUSSIAN, CHINESE PRESIDENT DISCUSS EXPANDING POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, MILITARY COOPERATION...
President Vladimir Putin told Chinese President Hu Jintao during their informal meeting at Putin's summer residence in Novoe Ogarevo that Hu's visit to Russia "will give a new impulse" to bilateral relations, Channel One and RTR reported on 30 June. Putin noted progress in improving bilateral political and economic relations, saying, "especially positive dynamics between our two countries should be boosted by cooperation in the military sector," "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 30 June. Putin noted that in August the two countries are to hold joint military exercises. Hu said that Chinese-Russian relations are developing in a "new historical epoch, when the border dispute between our two states has been resolved." On 1 July, Putin and Hu were to hold talks almost all day at the Kremlin and sign a declaration about the 21st-century world order, including provisions "on the inadmissibility of claims on a monopoly in world affairs, division of states into leading and led ones, and the imposing of one's own model of sociopolitical development," regnum.ru reported. Speaking to Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov on 30 June, Hu said that China wants to increase its investment in the Russian economy substantially and boost bilateral trade to $80 billion, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

...AS EXPERT OUTLINES STRATEGIC POINTS IN RELATIONS BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BEIJING...
Yurii Galenovich, the leading sinologist of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Far East Institute, said on 30 June that during President Hu's four-day visit to Russia, he will certainly raise the issue of a "dedicated supply of Russian oil to China," strana.ru reported. After President Putin's recent pledge to supply millions of tons of oil to the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2005), China expects a Russian commitment to supply at least the same amount to China and to construct a pipeline for this purpose, Galenovich said. Another point for discussion is the emerging alliance among Russia, China, and India, which last month held a special meeting of their foreign ministers in Vladivostok (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2005). Galenovich added that the presence of Russia helps China and India to settle their own conflicts. The biggest problem between Russia and China is that ordinary Russians and Chinese continue to mistrust each other, Galenovich concluded. VY

...AND TV REPORTS ON RUSSIAN-CHINESE MISTRUST
While relations between Russian and Chinese leaders may be better than ever, the ordinary citizens of both countries, as well as low-ranking officials, continue to perceive each other with suspicion and mistrust, TV-Tsentr commented on 30 June. Only 8 percent of Russians see China as a friend, while 45 percent view it as an adversary. At the same time, 47 percent of Russians consider China a model for success. Chinese immigration into the Far East and Siberia is a real problem, TV-Tsentr added. While Russia badly needs Chinese labor, if the Chinese begin to explore the regions too enthusiastically, the question of "who is the boss in Siberia" will become a rhetorical one. In addition, rising Chinese military might concerns the Russian Army, TV-Tsentr noted. VY

COURT SENTENCES STAROVOITOVA'S KILLERS
The St. Petersburg City Court on 30 June convicted two of the six men accused of the November 1998 murder of liberal Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2005), RosBalt, RTR, and other media reported. The court sentenced Yurii Kolchin, a former sergeant of military intelligence (GRU), to 20 years in prison as the organizer of the killing and Vitalii Akishin to 23 1/2 years as the actual murderer. The court acquitted the other four defendants and released them, including Aleksei Voronin, who pled guilty. Judge Valentina Kudryashova said that Starovoitova's killing was a "terrorist act against an elected public official" and that it was "a politically motivated crime." She failed, however, to explain the motivation but added that she came to her conclusion "by the process of elimination," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 June. Finally, Kudryashova said the person who ordered the killing remains unidentified. Observers note that information about the trial proceedings is fragmentary. The investigation was carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in St. Petersburg, the case was reviewed not by jury but by a single judge, and the announcement of the verdict was the only open hearing during the 18 months of the trial proceedings. VY

JUSTICE MINISTRY MOVES TO FREEZE YUKOS'S FOREIGN ASSETS
Justice Minister Yurii Chaika announced on 30 June that Russia has asked law-enforcement agencies in Lithuania and the Netherlands to freeze Yukos assets in their countries because Yukos owes $2 billion in back taxes, newsru.com reported. Chaika said that the Russian request concerned transactions with shares of Yukos-affiliated companies and in particular Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil) refinery, of which Yukos owns 53.7 percent. The Lithuanian government holds 40.6 percent. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said that Lithuania had yet to receive the Russian request, but that when it did, it would react "with difficulty," newsru.com reported. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on 29 June described the Russian request as interference in his country's internal affairs. VY

PUTIN CHANGES PROCEDURE FOR SELECTING REGIONAL LEADERS...
President Putin on 30 June issued a decree altering the procedure for considering candidates for chief executive posts in regions of the Russian Federation, gazeta.ru reported. An earlier decree called for the Kremlin chief of staff, along with presidential envoys to the seven federal districts, to nominate at least two candidates for each position to the president, who would then choose a candidate to present for confirmation by the regional legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2004). According to gazeta.ru, the new procedure will allow envoys in the federal districts to nominate candidates without coordinating with the president's chief of staff. In addition, the envoys will no longer be forced to nominate at least two candidates for each top regional post. Finally, the new decree applies the same procedure for selecting all regional leaders. Previously, leaders who asked Putin for a vote of confidence well before their terms were due to expire were able to go through an expedited appointment process, facing less scrutiny from presidential envoys. LB

...AND ALLOWS ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SERVE SIMULTANEOUSLY IN LOCAL AND REGIONAL BODIES
President Putin on 30 June signed legislation that will permit elected officials in bodies of local self-government to serve simultaneously in regional legislatures, gazeta.ru reported, citing the presidential press service. The legislation in question amends the law on basic guarantees of electoral rights and the law on general principles of local self-government. Also on 30 June, Putin submitted to the State Duma a draft law that would create a new Russian Federation subject by merging Krasnoyarsk Krai, Evenk Autonomous Okrug, and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, Interfax reported. Earlier this year, voters in each of those regions approved referendums on the proposed merger (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2005 and "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 April 2005). The new region will be called Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the draft law Putin submitted calls for completing the process of forming state bodies in the new region by 31 December 2007. LB

ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON ELECTION FRAUD...
Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov asserted on 30 June that speedy and trustworthy tabulation of votes is the key to preventing a popular uprising against the regime, Russian media reported. Addressing a Moscow meeting of the heads of regional election commissions, Veshnyakov mentioned several cases in which local or regional election officials in the Russian Federation falsified results, only to receive small fines or have criminal investigations closed without prosecution or conviction. Veshnyakov concluded that "inappropriate light punishments discredit the authorities and give the opposition serious arguments for discrediting elections in Russia. Analysis of the so-called 'colored revolutions' in several CIS countries shows that one of the causes is society's loss of trust in the organs that administer elections," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 July. Veshnyakov called for prosecutors and courts to toughen the criminal and administrative penalties for violating election laws. LB

...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL CHIEF OF STAFF SEES ELECTRONIC VOTE COUNTS AS SOLUTION
Speaking to the same gathering of regional election officials, presidential-administration head Dmitrii Medvedev agreed that faulty vote counting may serve as a source of political instability," Russian media reported. He argued that "the inability of election administrators to efficiently and fully present election results to the public may be used in political battles and [may] lead to all kinds of different results for the state," including "destabilization," RTR reported on 30 June. But whereas TsIK head Veshnyakov focused on tougher penalties in order to deter election fraud, Medvedev advocated further development and use of the electronic vote-counting system GAS-Vybory as the solution to the problem. Opposition politicians have charged for nearly a decade that the GAS-Vybory tabulations are not transparent and that officials can easily tamper with the results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2004). In fact, Radio Rosiii reported on 30 June that Veshnyakov's speech about the need to impose greater punishment for electoral fraud included examples of local officials typing inaccurate results into the GAS-Vybory system. LB

AUDIT CHAMBER CHAIRMAN PRESENTS ANNUAL REPORT TO DUMA
Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin on 29 June presented the annual report on the chamber's work to Duma deputies, Russian media reported. According to his report, summarized in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 30 June, the chamber audited some 1,450 entities in 2004, uncovering evidence that served as the basis for 299 criminal cases, 20 percent more than in 2003. The financial violations uncovered involved some 150 billion rubles ($5.2 billion), and resulted in more than 34 billion rubles being returned to the budget, four times more than the corresponding amount in 2003. Stepashin added that the chamber "closed enormous holes, so-called 'internal off-shores,'" which previously cost the Russian budget some $10 billion to $12 billion annually. Alluding to the recent conviction of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Stepashin added: "Large oil companies used the very intellectual, it would seem, phrase 'minimizing of taxes.' Well, one 'minimizer' is now sitting [in prison]," NTV and Radio Mayak reported. However, Stepashin estimated that tax evasion still reduces the country's tax receipts by approximately 30 percent. Commenting on the chamber's analysis of Russian privatization policy from 1993 to 2003, Stepashin characterized that policy as "the most unsuccessful path of privatization in all of Eastern Europe." LB

INDEPENDENT REPORT CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN ARMENIAN PRISONS
An independent monitoring group comprised of representatives of a dozen NGOs and the Armenian Apostolic Church issued a report on 30 June calling on the Armenian government to address the "unsatisfactory" conditions in the country's penal institutions, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The report, based on a yearlong series of inspections of Armenian prisons, found that prisoners are forced to endure overcrowding and often deplorable living conditions, including inadequate food, water, and lighting, and an overall lack of proper sanitation. Oversight and management of Armenian prisons were transferred from the jurisdiction of the police to the Justice Ministry in 2002 in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe. A Justice Ministry official responsible for penal conditions, Samvel Hovannisian, noted that the report's findings were generally accurate but explained that the Armenian government lacks the necessary funding needed to introduce serious improvements in living conditions. RG

ARMENIAN REPORT HIGHLIGHTS IMPROVED TAX COLLECTION...
The Armenian Finance Ministry released a report on 30 June detailing continued improvements in the overall rate of tax collection, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The report cited a nearly 25 percent increase in proceeds from the collection of various taxes and customs duties, which it explained was the result of continuing economic growth, improved tax and customs administration, and a crackdown on endemic tax evasion initiated in January 2005. The report estimated overall tax collection at 134.4 billion drams ($300 million) for the first five months of the year, or almost 40 percent of the annual state budget target, and stressed that the improved tax collection ensures that the Armenian government will meet its increased expenditure targets. Armenia's excise and value-added tax (VAT) continue to be the principal source of government tax revenues, accounting for almost 60 percent of the total. RG

...BUT REVEALS UNDERREPORTING OF CORPORATE TAXES
The Armenian Finance Ministry's 30 June report also revealed the continued problems with the serious underreporting of corporate taxes, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Although there is a state effort to improve the collection of corporate income tax, profit tax revenues barely rose in the last few years despite double-digit rates of economic growth and, despite a surge in revenues of 72 percent during the first five months of 2005, accounted for a mere 16.8 percent of overall tax proceeds. This problem was also reflected in an earlier government listing of the largest 300 Armenian corporate taxpayers, which revealed that two-thirds paid less than $20,000 in profit tax during the first quarter of 2005. Notably absent from that list, however, were companies and monopoly groups controlled by wealthy government-connected oligarchs and even members of parliament. RG

KARABAKH ELECTS NEW PARLIAMENTARY LEADERSHIP
The newly elected parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic held its first session on 30 June and elected a new leadership, Mediamax and Caucasus Press reported. The new parliament elected former Foreign Minister Ashot Ghulian as speaker and Rudik Hyusnunts as deputy speaker. Ghulian resigned as education and culture minister, a position he assumed following his tenure as foreign minister from October 2002 to December 2004. The composition of the new Karabakh parliament reflects changes in the parliamentary election of 19 June that resulted in an overwhelming pro-government majority. The main opposition group, an alliance comprised of the local branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and the Movement 88 party, secured only three seats in the new 33-seat parliament and another eight deputies are officially independent. Ghulian is the head of the pro-government Democratic Party of Artsakh (AZhK), which holds 12 seats, and Hyusnunts is a senior member of the pro-government Azat Hayrenik (Free Fatherland) party, which holds 10 parliamentary seats. The Karabakh election was tainted, however, by an assault on HHD candidate Pavel Manukian by senior military officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22, 23, and 27 June 2005) RG

TURKISH PREMIER REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR AZERBAIJANI POSITION ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH
Visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on 30 June to uphold Turkish support for Azerbaijan's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ANS-TV and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Erdogan reaffirmed that any normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations will continue to remain conditional on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all areas of Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev also promised to "help northern Cyprus to find a way out of isolation" by granting diplomatic recognition of passports issued by northern Cyprus and announced that a delegation of Azerbaijani businessmen will be sent to northern Cyprus, Turan reported. In response to a question during a press conference on the last day of his state visit to Azerbaijan, Erdogan said that the transfer of Russian military equipment from bases in Georgia to Armenia is "an internal affair of Russia," Caucasus Press reported. RG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION VISITS AZERBAIJAN
A delegation of 10 diplomats from the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, known as the Ago Group, held a press conference in Baku on 30 June to report on its visit to Azerbaijan, Turan and Lider TV reported. The Council of Europe delegation, led by German diplomat Roland Wegener, met with human rights activists, opposition leaders, and various government officials. The delegation assessed the Azerbaijani government's human rights record, inspected the country's prison facilities, and reviewed electoral preparations for Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections set for November 2005. The delegation praised the Azerbaijani authorities for releasing a group of 30 political prisoners and noted the judicial release of another four detainees classified as political prisoners. RG

TWO NEW GEORGIAN MINISTERS APPOINTED
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appointed Economy Minister Aleksi Aleksishvili as the new finance minister on 30 June, Imedi TV and Caucasus Press reported. The appointment follows the dismissal of Valeri Chechelashvili the day before amid a widening bribery scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2005). Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli also announced on 30 June that Irakli Chogovadze has been appointed the new economy minister. Prior to his appointment, Chogovadze served as the head of the agency for state property management. Reacting to the appointment of Aleksishvili as finance minister, opposition Conservative Party of Georgia leader Zviad Dzidziguri condemned the move as a "great mistake" and accused Aleksishvili of being involved in corruption related to a tender for a construction project at Tbilisi airport. RG

SUPPORTERS OF POPULAR GEORGIAN WRESTLERS STAGE DEMONSTRATION...
Supporters of popular Georgian wrestlers Aleksi Davitashvili and Giorgi Revazishvili staged a demonstration in central Tbilisi on 30 June to protest a court ruling sentencing the wrestlers to three months pretrial detention, Rustavi-2 television reported. The two wrestlers were arrested on 28 June for allegedly extorting money from an ethnic Georgian Greek businessman. The demonstration was forcibly dispersed after several attempts by special masked units of riot police to break up the protest. RG

...AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS AT ITS FORCIBLE DISPERSION
Several opposition parliamentarians, including New Rightists leader Davit Gamkrelidze, Conservative Party leader Koba Davitashvili, and Republican Party head Levan Berdzenishvili, arrived late on 30 June at the scene of the demonstration and strongly condemned the police for overreacting, Rustavi-2 reported. Berdzenishvili accused the Georgian government of committing "a crime against humanity" after police and masked troops forcibly dispersed the crowd, adding that "people have chosen this form of protest against a court's decision. Whether we like it or not, people have the right to protest. No one had the right to assault protesters using these violent methods," Imedi TV reported. RG

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP
Arriving in Tbilisi at the start of a two-day official visit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk met on 30 June with President Saakashvili, Prime Minister Noghaideli, and Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili, Interfax and Georgian TV reported. Tarasyuk signed a new bilateral accord pledging support for Georgia's "European and Euro-Atlantic integration" and reviewed plans for the expansion of the GUAM regional organization (comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). Tarasyuk's visit is also focused on preparing for a state visit to Georgia by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko scheduled for 15 July. RG

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS STRICTER NATIONAL SECURITY LAWS...
The lower house of the Kazakh parliament on 29 June passed several new amendments to the Kazakh law on national security, Interfax reported. The amendments imposed new restrictions in several areas, including the Criminal Code and the laws regulating the activities of religious groups, the media and political parties. Some of the more controversial amendments include criminal penalties for "foreign citizens" engaging in the "financing" of political parties or conducting "activities to promote candidates and political parties" throughout the electoral process. An amendment covering the media specifically prohibits a "foreigner" from holding an editorial position in a Kazakh media outlet. RG

...AND MODIFIES MILITARY SERVICE
The Kazakh parliament voted on 29 June to adopt the government's proposed amendments to the country's law on military service, Asia-Plus and Interfax reported. According to Deputy Defense Minister Abay Tasbulatov, the move, which will reduce the length of military service from 18 to 12 months, is part of a broader military reform effort that includes a transition of the army to a contractual volunteer-based service. RG

KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT REVOKES MANDATE OF FORMER PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER...
. The Kyrgyz Supreme Court issued a ruling on 30 June upholding the decision of the Central Election Commission to revoke the parliamentary mandate of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's daughter Bermet Akaeva, Asia-Plus and Interfax reported. The ruling marks the last in a series of appeals lodged by Akaeva, who protested the decision as "a politically motivated ruling" and vowed to "appeal to an international court," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. She secured the parliamentary seat by a small margin during the second round of the March 2004 parliamentary election. The Kyrgyz parliament has postponed any consideration of the mandate held by her brother, Aidar Akaev, until September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2005). RG

...AND UPHOLDS DISQUALIFICATION OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The Kyrgyz Supreme Court upheld on 30 June a ruling by a lower court disqualifying Urmat Baryktabasov as a presidential candidate, Interfax and AKIpress reported. The original ruling was based on the legal prohibition banning a foreign citizen from running for president after the Kazakh Justice Ministry confirmed that he is a Kazakh citizen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2005). Baryktabasov, who holds dual citizenship, has lost several appeals seeking to overturn the ban. RG

GUNMEN ROB TAJIK NATIONAL BANK CHAIRMAN'S FATHER
A group of three gunmen broke into the residence of the father of Tajik National Bank Chairman Murodali Alimardonov in the early morning hours of 30 June, Asia-Plus and RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The gunmen killed one bodyguard and injured two other guards during the attack and seized more than $7,000 in cash, Interfax reported. Tajik Interior Ministry Major General Tohir Normatov set up a special police unit on 30 June to conduct an investigation, but stressed that it was a robbery with no political motives. RG

TAJIK VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING FREED IN SPECIAL OPERATION
A joint operation by Tajik police and United Arab Emirates special services freed a group of 40 Tajik women on 30 June in Dubai, Asia-Plus reported. The Tajik women, ranging between the age of 14 and 25, were victims of an organized human-trafficking network that preys on impoverished females from Central Asia and other former Soviet states. The operation also resulted in the arrest of an undetermined number of traffickers. RG

BELARUS UNVEILS 'STALIN LINE' MEMORIAL
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 30 June attended the official unveiling of partly restored World War II fortifications called the Stalin Line near Zaslaul, some 30 kilometers from Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. The renewed memorial includes engineering installations dating from 1931-32, machine-gun pillboxes, and some World War II weaponry. The opening ceremony before some 10,000 spectators was followed by a theatrical battle show involving equipment and troops clad in Nazi and Soviet uniforms of the World War II period. JM

MINSK SLAMS RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP FOR 'DOUBLE STANDARDS'
The Belarusian Embassy in Moscow has blasted the Council for Promoting Civil Society and Human Rights under Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in "the internal affairs of a sovereign country," Belapan reported on 30 June. "The anti-Belarusian initiatives of Ella Panfilova [head of the council] and co. exemplify double standards used by well-known opponents of our country," the embassy said in a statement. The embassy was reacting to last week's open letter of the council to President Lukashenka, in which the Russian group condemned the Belarusian authorities' crackdown on nongovernmental and human rights organizations, reluctance to bring electoral laws into line with CIS standards, and alleged violations of the rights of Russian citizens in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2005). "There is hardly any other country in the world where Russians feel as comfortable as in Belarus. The decent and kind-hearted attitude to the brotherly Russians is a sort of litmus test of Belarusian national dignity," the Belarusian mission's statement reads. JM

UKRAINIAN BUSINESSES TAKE OVER POLISH STEEL MILL, CAR MAKER
The presidents of Poland and Ukraine -- Aleksander Kwasniewski and Viktor Yushchenko, respectively -- attended the signing of two major deals at an annual Polish-Ukrainian economic forum in Gdynia on 30 June, Ukrainian and Polish media reported. The Industrial Union of Donbas finalized the purchase of the Huta Czestochowa steel mill, following a lengthy and controversial privatization duel with the Indian-Dutch-British holding LMN in 2003-04 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2004). Moreover, Ukraine's AvtoZAZ motor company signed a deal for the takeover -- for a symbolic 1 zloty ($0.3) -- of 20 percent of the troubled Warsaw-based FSO carmaker's shares. AvtoZAZ has promised that it will not lay off anyone from the 2,000-strong workforce within the following six months. The remaining 80 percent of the shares in FSO belong to the South Korean company Daewoo, which became insolvent in 1999. JM

POLAND REPORTEDLY INTENDS TO ALLOW 200,000 UKRAINIAN GUEST WORKERS
Warsaw is finalizing negotiations with Kyiv on an accord that could allow up to 200,000 Ukrainian guest workers annually to work in Poland, the Polish daily "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 1 July, quoting an official from the Polish Economy Ministry. "This is a part of the Polish strategy that intends to tie Ukraine to the West as closely as possible. The first stage of [this strategy] was the cancellation of visa fees for Ukrainians entering Poland," an official from the Polish Foreign Ministry told the daily. JM

UKRAINE SIMPLIFIES VISA REGIME FOR U.S. CITIZENS
President Yushchenko on 30 June issued a decree simplifying trips of U.S. citizens to Ukraine as of 1 July. The decree, published on the government's website (http://www.president.gov.ua), stipulates that visas will no longer be required by U.S. citizens making a second trip within six months, provided the new stay in Ukraine does not exceed 90 days. The document says the measure is intended to develop and implement a "strategic partnership" between both countries. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET ANNOUNCES UPCOMING PRIVATIZATIONS
Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told journalists on 30 June than her cabinet has approved a list of more than 10 enterprises that will soon be offered for sale, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) reported. The list includes the Kryvorizhskyy Ore Enriching Combine, the Odesa Port Plant, the Nikopol Pipe Plant, the Kyiv Motorcycle Plant, and a number of hotels. Tymoshenko also predicted that the controversial Kryvorizhstal steel mill will be resold by the government by 24 October. Asked to comment on Kryvorizhstal former owner Viktor Pinchuk's words that no one will take part in the new privatization of the company as its recent takeover by the state is being disputed in the European Court for Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2005), Tymoshenko said: "What Pinchuk said is psychotherapy for those who owned the steel mill. I know at least five large enterprises in the world that have expressed their interest in participating in a new auction." JM

ALBANIA TO ELECT A NEW PARLIAMENT...
Albanian voters are scheduled to elect a new 140-member parliament on 3 July, regional and international reported on 30 June. One hundred seats will be elected directly, and the remaining 40 will be determined by party lists. The latest poll gives former President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party 35 percent against 34 percent for Prime Minister Fatos Nano's Socialist Party, Reuters reported on 29 June. Postcommunist Albanian politics are highly polarized between those two parties, and the political culture is often characterized by acrimony and personal insults. Previous elections have been marred by mutual charges of fraud, which have not always been proven. Most leading politicians have their roots in the communist-era elite, and many are widely regarded as heavy handed and corrupt. Many people still consider Berisha impulsive and blame him for the collapse of pyramid investment schemes in 1997, which led to his resigning the presidency that year. Many Albanians similarly regard Nano as a corrupt vestige of a communist-era old-boy network and ill suited to 21st-century tasks. There is a broad national consensus in support of issues such as Euro-Atlantic integration, and differences between the two main parties often boil down to matters of personal trust and loyalties. PM

...AMID AN UNCERTAIN OUTCOME
Several smaller parties might win seats in the new legislature, including Genci Pollo's New Democrats, who have an election pact with Berisha's party, from which Pollo split several years ago, Reuters reported on 29 June. Another possible kingmaker is former Socialist Prime Minister Ilir Meta, who broke with Nano in 2004 and set up the Socialist Integration Movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2004). Meta has 10 percent of the vote in the latest poll and has not committed himself to any coalition partner. He and Nano are bitter rivals, and his price for forming a coalition with the Socialists is likely to be that they name a prime minister other than Nano. One such possibility is Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, who made a name for himself in recent years by rigorously enforcing zoning legislation, improving the quality of the streets, and liberally using color to liven up the skyline. Rama, Pollo, and Meta are representatives of the younger generation in Albanian politics. The EU and United States will be closely watching the elections for evidence that Albania is overcoming the problems that have marred earlier ballots. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIMS REBUFF REPORTED BRITISH SREBRENICA INITIATIVE...
A reported plan by U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw aimed at promoting reconciliation between Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims on the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on 11 July has received "an angry rebuff from the Bosnian Muslim leadership," London's "The Guardian" reported on 1 July. The Foreign Office has been quietly approaching regional leaders about making a mutual declaration of "reconciliation and apology" to mark the anniversary of the slaying of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males by Serbian forces. The daily wrote that "British diplomats appear to have badly misjudged the local mood, floating the notion of a common declaration aimed at healing wounds which, in the case of Srebrenica, remain fresh for the tens of thousands of relatives of the dead, many of whom have yet to locate their loved ones' remains." The paper quoted Edin Dilberovic, who is foreign policy advisor to Sulejman Tihic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian Presidency, as calling the proposal "completely unacceptable." He stressed that "Srebrenica is the wrong place at the wrong time for a declaration of reconciliation and forgiveness. Srebrenica is special. It was a real, organized massacre. [The British] can't be serious" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 June and 1 July 2005). PM

...AS DO THE CROATS
Tomislav Jakic, who is a foreign policy adviser to President Stipe Mesic of Croatia, told "The Guardian" on 1 July that the reported British proposal regarding Srebrenica came as a surprise. "The [British] idea is that everyone should apologize to everyone else.... It's misrepresenting what happened," he stressed. "There are only two parties who could and should apologize in Srebrenica -- the Serbs and the Dutch," Jakic added. Dutch peacekeepers had responsibility for guarding the UN-declared "safe area" of Srebrenica but lacked the means to do much in the face of Serbian armed strength. In April 2002, the Dutch government resigned following the publication of an official report on the fall of Srebrenica and the massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002 and 13 May 2005). PM

CHISINAU OFFERS STABILIZATION MEASURES FOR TRANSDNIESTER
The Moldovan delegation to the Joint Control Commission (JCC) has proposed a list of measures aimed at stabilizing the situation in the Transdniester security zone, Infotag and Flux reported on 30 June. The delegation conditions the resumption of its participation in the JCC, which was suspended in April, on the approval of these measures by international mediators in the Transdniester conflict -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. Chisinau postulates removing from the security zone -- a long, narrow strip of land along the Dniester River separating Transdniester from the rest of Moldova -- all Moldovan and Transdniester border and customs checkpoints. Order in the security zone, according to Chisinau, should be maintained by the Joint Peacekeeping Force (Russian, Moldovan, and Transdniester troops) with contributions from Moldovan and Transdniester police. All sides involved in the conflict settlement should freely share information about troops and armaments in the security zone and have trouble-free access to all military units deployed in the area. Chisinau also suggests resuming motor traffic over a recently repaired bridge across the Dniester at Gura Bicului. JM

UZBEK OPPOSITION FIGURE APPEALS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION AID
A leading Uzbek opposition figure, Muhammad Solih, is seeking to use a visit to Washington to urge the United States and the European Union to expand their support for democracy activists in Uzbekistan. Solih says the events in Andijon in May demonstrate that democratization is the only way to ensure a peaceful transition in power from the regime of President Islam Karimov.

Solih, the exiled leader of the Erk party, told a briefing at RFE/RL on 30 June that the violent events in Andijon last month underscore the erosion in patience of the Uzbek people toward the government.

Hundreds of mostly unarmed people are believed to have been killed after an uprising triggered by a trial of businessmen in Andijon. Solih said he hoped those events will move the West closer to embracing the democracy movement in Uzbekistan as the only path toward a stable transition of power.

"We do not ask for a lot from the West," Solih said. "We want the West to aid the legalization of political parties in Uzbekistan. We would like the West to aid the leaders of the opposition to function in Uzbekistan, to ensure the conduct of fair elections in Uzbekistan and the participation of the opposition in those elections and to ensure the existence of a free press. This in and of itself is enough to ensure the peaceful removal of this antidemocratic regime."

Solih announced that some key Uzbek opposition leaders have united and formed a new group, the United Uzbek Democratic Coalition, to press their cause. Solih was named to head the coalition.

Solih, who will be in the United States for several weeks, has held meetings with influential members of Congress such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, Florida) of the House of Representatives' International Relations Committee. He has also met representatives of key nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from the United States, such as the National Democracy Institute, the International Republican Institute, and IFES, a Washington-based election-assistance organization.

He was also due to meet with officials of the Bush administration's National Security Council.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus Matthew Bryza told RFE/RL on 30 June that the United States remains intent on guiding democratic reforms in Uzbekistan. But he made clear that Washington is not planning to focus its interests on opposition activists despite concerns over the actions of the Karimov government.

Bryza said Solih's visit to Washington was coincidental and did not reflect new ties with the Uzbek opposition. "We work across the board with all Uzbek people -- with the government, with the political opposition, with people in the middle. We want to work with the entire society, as we do in the neighboring broader Middle East," Bryza said. "And that's an enduring interest of ours, so we haven't grown any more active in our engagement with all Uzbekistan society. Maybe the world is paying more attention to our engagement now."

The Bush administration has repeatedly called for an independent international inquiry into the events in Andijon. It has also talked of possible diplomatic measures, including action at the United Nations, but has not made any specific threats.

Solih said in testimony on 29 June before the U.S. Helsinki Commission, a human rights monitoring agency, that Karimov's departure would not result in a takeover of power by fundamentalist Muslims -- an argument Karimov himself has made.

Solih later added that his movement is dedicated to peaceful change and will not condone acts by violent extremist organizations. And he told the RFE/RL briefing on 29 June that he has made contacts with Uzbeks linked to government security agencies to try to ensure that any future demonstrations are not met with violence.

"We will not bring the people out into the streets until we are sure that the Andijon events will not be repeated," Solih said.

Meanwhile, a co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Congressman Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey), says he is introducing this week the Central Asia Democracy and Human Rights Act. It will aim to set conditions for all non-humanitarian U.S. assistance, both economic and military, to individual governments in the region.

Such assistance would be conditioned on whether each government is making "substantial, sustained and demonstrable progress" toward democratization and full respect of human rights.

(Robert McMahon is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington, D.C. RFE/RL's Uzbek Service Director Adolat Najimova contributed to this report.)

SIXTEEN U.S. PERSONNEL FOUND DEAD AT HELICOPTER CRASH SITE
The U.S. Defense Department told RFE/RL on 30 June that a recovery team has secured the remains of 16 U.S. military personnel who died in the crash of their Chinook helicopter in a mountain ravine in the northeastern Konar Province. U.S. Army Major Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, told RFE/RL in Washington that the recovery team had secured the site of the crash and that the remains of all 16 people aboard had been secured. Swiergosz said it is too early to say whether the remains have been removed. The crash site is in remote, rugged terrain, and enemy fighters are in the area. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Only 16 people were on the Chinook helicopter at the time of the crash, according to Swiergosz. The Pentagon originally reported that 17 people were aboard, but Swiergosz said that number was based on an inaccurate flight manifest. The crash of the Chinook on 28 June has been widely attributed to enemy fire and the neo-Taliban has claimed responsibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2005). AT

DISTRICT SECURITY COMMANDER KILLED IN KONAR
Gol Mohammad, the security commander of Surkhanay District of Konar Province, was killed on 28 June while two of his family members received injuries, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 29 June. Gol Mohammad was killed by an explosion apparently triggered by a remote-control device. While Hindukosh has blamed the neo-Taliban for the incident, no one has claimed responsibility for killing the security chief. AT

TWO STUDENTS KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Two teenage students were killed when a device exploded in Yaqubi District of Khost Province on 30 June, Pajhwak News Agency reported. Deputy police chief of Khost, Mohammad Zaman, told Pajhwak that the explosive device was a time-bomb planted to target the district headquarters, which is located near a school in which the students were attending evening classes. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. AT

FIVE PAKISTANI NATIONALS ARRESTED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan security forces, based on intelligence reports provided by coalition forces, have arrested five Pakistani nationals in Shahr-e Safa, Zabul Province, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 30 June. Gholam Rasul, Shahr-e Safa's security commander, told AIP that during interrogations, the captives "confessed that they were sent for jihad by a certain Mullah Taher in Quetta [Pakistan]." According to Gholam Rasul, four of the detainees spoke Urdu, however the fifth spoke a language he did not recognize. The Pakistani captives have been handed over to U.S. forces. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lotfullah Mashal said that the detainees are "terrorists" who were involved in the recent clashes in Kandahar Province, southwest of Zabul, Kabul-based Tolu television reported on 30 June. AT

WHITE HOUSE LOOKS INTO ALLEGATIONS THAT IRAN'S PRESIDENT-ELECT WAS A HOSTAGE TAKER...
U.S. President George W. Bush said on 30 January that he wants to know if allegations that President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad was involved in the 1979-81 hostage crisis are accurate, Reuters reported. Several of the Americans who were held hostage for 44 days -- including former naval officer Donald Sharer, former army officer Charles Scott, former Marine Kevin Hermening, and former CIA officer William Daugherty -- said they are certain that Ahmadinejad was one of their captors, Reuters reported. The organization that seized the embassy was named the Students Following the Imam's Line. BS

...AS IRANIANS ISSUE DENIALS
On his website, President-elect Ahmadinejad states that he was a founding member of the Office for Strengthening Unity (DTV). Mohammad Ali Seyyednejad, one of DTV's five founding members, said in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda on 30 June that he and Ahmadinejad were the only students who opposed the embassy seizure. He added, "[Ahmadinejad and I] both agreed that the U.S. embassy should not be occupied. This was why the issue of the embassy occupation was not approved by the DTV's central council, and Mr. [Ebrahim] Asgharzadeh and Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi [two DTV central council members who supported the planned seizure] then coordinated their activities with four universities in Tehran [Sharif, Polytechnic, Shahid Beheshti, and Tehran Universities] and used the name 'Students Following the Imam's Line' to pursue the embassy occupation." According to Reuters, Mirdamadi said, "I deny such reports. Ahmadinejad was not a member of the radical students' group who seized the embassy." BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT MEETS WITH CABINET MEMBERS
Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who will be sworn in in early August, is continuing his efforts to select a cabinet. On 30 June, Ahmadinejad met with Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ahmad Masjid-Jamei, Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani, Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi, and Roads and Transport Minister Mohammad Rahmati, Fars News Agency reported. They discussed their respective ministries and offered advice on possible successors. One day earlier, Fars News Agency reported that the legislature's hard-line faction has formed a five-member committee -- Reza Abdullahi, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Hussein Fadai, Mohsen Kuhkan, and Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moqaddam-- to advise Ahmadinejad on cabinet choices. Pro-reform legislator Ghodratollah Alikhani said parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel has asked the reformists to select three people to reflect their views. BS

ALLEGATIONS OF IRANIAN ELECTION MISCONDUCT PERSIST
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said at a 29 ceremony in Tehran commemorating the 1981 bombing of the Islamic Republic Party headquarters that he has documentation on campaign and election violations, IRNA reported. "Based on quite authentic documents, I have prepared a detailed dossier on violations of election laws before and during the voting [in the first and second rounds of the presidential election]," Khatami said, adding that he would present this information to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, and President-elect Ahmadinejad. Khamenei said in a 28 June speech in Tehran, "A number of the presidential election candidates were subjected to unfair and cowardly defamation," state radio reported. Khamenei said the judiciary should follow up on such cases. However, Khamenei said allegations of interference in the campaign and the election by the Basij Resistance Force are inaccurate. "That is not true," he said. "The hands of the enemy are involved here in order to create mischief and to create corruption." Losing candidates -- including Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani -- have complained of interference by the Basij and others (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 and 27 June 2004). BS

INCREASING FEAR OVER JAILED IRANIAN JOURNALIST'S HEALTH
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi discussed the poor state of imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji, who is on hunger strike, with Radio Farda on 30 June. "Unfortunately, Mr. Ganji is still on hunger strike and judiciary officials are not paying attention to the fact that, with his illness, this is dangerous and Mr. Ganji is step by step getting closer to a serious danger," Ebadi said. Ebadi reiterated that Ganji is in danger, saying, "If no immediate action is taken he could [die]. I ask judiciary officials and the Iranian and international public opinion to help Ganji." One day earlier, the U.S. State Department called for Ganji's unconditional release and the provision of medical assistance, according to its website (http://usinfo.state.gov). "His mistreatment in prison is a serious violation of fundamental human rights," the statement added. BS

IRAQI KURDS CALL FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF ARTICLE 58
Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi National Assembly have voiced their opposition to calls from some Shi'ite parliamentarians to delay implementation of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law (http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraqcrisis/Iraq-interim-constitution.pdf) until after the drafting of a permanent constitution, Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on 30 June. The law calls on the transitional government to "expeditiously" remedy the injustice caused by the Hussein regime in altering the demographic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk. "If such a proposal is raised, the Kurdistan Coalition bloc will adopt a tough and decisive stance. We will not accept this by any means; this issue cannot be compromised," said parliamentarian Sa'di Berzinji from the Kurdistan Coalition list. Fellow Kurdish parliamentarian Firyad Rewanduzi told the station that the normalization of Kirkuk was "one of the key terms of the agreement" between the Kurdish list and the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance following the January elections (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 14 March 2005). The two parties together form a majority in the parliament. He said a failure by the transitional government to implement Article 58 might prompt the Kurds to not vote in favor of the constitution, adding, "Hence, we will return to where we began." KR

IRAQI INSURGENT GROUPS THREATEN SUNNI LEADER
The Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the Mujahedin Army issued a statement on 30 June posted on the Internet (http://www.lajnah22me.co.uk) announcing they have listed former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samarra'i on their hit list for assassination. Al-Samarra'i and other Sunni leaders announced the formation of the Council of Unity and Reconstruction of Iraq, a political resistance group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2005). The statement said al-Samarra'i "has exceeded the limits and gone beyond what reason, legitimacy, and logic can accept," adding, "he has falsified and lied about others almost every day with a face full of impertinence and no shame." The statement claims that the United States plans to bring the Ba'athists "back to the spotlight and power under the name of the Iraqi resistance," adding that the United States schemed with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to instruct al-Samarra'i, a former Ba'athist, to unite Ba'athists to negotiate with the United States for participation in the Iraqi government. The statement advises the United States to "save your time and effort," because it will not succeed in pulling the carpet from under the mujahedin. The statement concludes by claiming that assassinating al-Samarra'i is "permissible," as well as anyone affiliated with him. KR

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS FOR PATIENCE IN DEALING WITH PKK
Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari has asked for Turkey's patience in Iraq's handling of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), "The New Anatolian" reported on 30 June. Al-Zebari issued the request on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in San'a on 29 June, the daily reported. Turkey has called on Iraq to expel the Turkish-Kurdish fighters from their base in northern Iraq. "The Iraqi government's position is clear," al-Zebari told Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, adding that Iraq will not permit any militias, whether Iraqi or foreign, to function inside its territory. "Unlike Saddam Hussein's policies, we won't use these groups as a weapon in diplomacy or as a proxy to solve differences," he continued. Al-Zebari said that Iraq's fledgling security forces are not capable of dealing with the PKK at the moment. "Everyone's aware of the Turkish government's concerns, which we fully understand. It is a question of time," he added. Gul told the daily that based on al-Zebari's remarks, he believes the Iraqi government has begun to look "more broadly rather than locally" at Iraq's problems. KR

UN COMMISSION COMPLETES IRAQ WAR CLAIMS AWARDS
The United Nations Compensation Commission has completed 12 years of work in processing claims by Iraq's neighboring states, foreign companies, and foreign nationals for damages resulting from Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent occupation and war, the UN News Center reported on 30 June (http://www.un.org/news). The commission, in its final processing of claims, awarded nearly $367 million to claimants, bringing the total compensation paid out to some $52.5 billion. The commission began its work in 1993, and reviewed more than 2.68 million claims seeking about $354 billion in compensation. The statement said that $19.2 billion has been paid out thus far. Another $200 million will be distributed to claimants in July. The commission will continue to operate in order to issue payments of awards and other "residual tasks," according to a 30 June press release on the commission's activities posted on the Compensation Commission's website (http://www2.unog.ch/uncc). KR

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