RUSSIA AND CHINA BEGIN JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES...
Speaking to reporters in Vladivostok on 18 August, the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, and his Chinese counterpart Colonel General Liang Guanglie announced the opening of the first-ever joint Chinese-Russian military exercises, RIA-Novosti, ITAR-TASS, and other news agencies reported. "Peace Mission 2005" will include army, navy, air force, marine, airborne, and logistics units and run until 25 August. The first stage of the exercises will have both general staffs leading training and will be mainly conducted in Russia's Far East Military District. The second phase of the exercises will be carried out from 23 August on the Chinese Shandong Peninsula and Yellow Sea. "Our exercises don't threaten any country," polit.ru and deita.ru quoted Baluevskii as saying in Vladivostok. VY
...AS MEDIA SPECULATE ON REAL GOAL...
Although the official purpose of the exercises is setting up cooperation in "joint counterterrorist and counterextremist operations," some in the Russian media say that the exercises are directed mainly against the United States. "Russia and China plays on the nerves of the United States," pravda.ru commented on 18 August. The political goal of the exercises for Moscow and Beijing is the "creation of a multipolar world," "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 18 August. In addition, Moscow has its own goal: to promote and increase the sale of its weapons to China. Rbk.ru suggested that the goal of the operation is to demonstrate to the United States that it should stay out of any future conflict between China and Taiwan. Another aim of the exercises could be the gradual transformation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (which is comprised of China and Russia as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) into a military alliance, rbk.ru added. VY
...AND ANALYST WARNS OF 'INEVITABLE' CHINESE CONQUEST OF SIBERIA
Aleksandr Khramchikhin, the head of the analytical department of the Moscow-based Institute of Political and Military Analysis, said that establishing Chinese control over the natural resources of Siberia is not a hypothetical threat, but an imperative of Chinese policy, because within a decade China will exhaust its internal resources and import possibilities for the development of its economy, politjournal.ru reported on 15 August. In this case, China has no choice but to reach for the natural resources of Siberia and Kazakhstan, Khramchikhin noted. The threat is real because Beijing does not consider the Russian Army capable of confronting the People's Liberation Army. The only factor that could neutralize or delay the Chinese threat to Russia is U.S. intervention. But before dealing with Russia or Kazakhstan, Beijing will probably test its strength on Taiwan and here the United States can intervene, Khramchikhin concluded. VY
MOSCOW AGAINST USING FORCE AGAINST IRAN...
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on 17 August that Russia is against using force in resolving the issue of Iran's nuclear program, mid.ru reported. Russia advocates "continued dialogue" and considers the "use of force against Iran counterproductive and dangerous," he said. U.S. President George W. Bush said in an interview on Israeli television on 12 August that if diplomacy fails, "all options are on the table" regarding Iran's nuclear program, and that "we've used force in the recent past to secure our country." Kamynin added that the issues around Iran's nuclear program "should be resolved by political-diplomatic methods on the basis of international law and within the framework of close cooperation by Tehran with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]." Kamynin also said that the IAEA reaffirmed "the sovereign right of states to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." VY
...AND WON'T RULE OUT SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA
An unnamed senior official in the presidential administration said on 17 August that the Kremlin would not rule out using economic sanctions against Latvia "if it continues to restrict the rights of its Russian speakers," ITAR-TASS reported. The official added that it would be a last resort. "We should seek the resolution of all problems by diplomatic and political means, including the support of other European countries." The official added that sanctions would be political or economic, not military. "It will be very harmful for our country to frighten our neighbors with military threats, like a crazy man scaring people with a knife," he said. VY
ZHIRINOVSKII, RUSSIAN TELEVISION, EXPRESS SYMPATHY FOR EVICTED ISRAELI SETTLERS
State Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii sent a letter on 17 August to Israeli Ambassador to Russia Arkadii Mil-Man, in which he expresses his concern at the fate of Israeli settlers forcibly evacuated from their houses in Gaza on orders from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, RosBalt reported. "As a person who also was forced to leave his home at 17, I perfectly understand the feeling of people forced to leave the homes where their children were raised," he said. Meanwhile, Channel One, NTV, and RTR over the last three days have broadcast lengthy reports from the Gaza Strip expressing sympathy for the Jewish settlers leaving their homes. VY
KAZAN EXPECTING CIS HEADS OF STATE FOR MILLENNIUM CELEBRATION
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov said on 17 August that the culmination of the celebrations to mark the city's millennium will take place on 30 August, when the heads of the CIS states will be in Kazan, strana.ru reported. Iskhakov added that the leaders of Iran and Turkey have also been invited, though their participation has not been confirmed. The Kazan mayor also told journalists that security in the city will be ensured by about 15,000 federal and local policemen. The main gift for city residents will be the opening of a subway built with federal funds, Iskhakov said. VY
PRESIDENT DENIES RUMORS OF GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE...
Vladimir Putin has rejected speculation that he is planning a government reshuffle, Russian and international news agencies reported on 17 August. "I see no reason for this game of musical chairs with personnel," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. "It changes nothing for the better. You have to work with the people you have got: force them to work, teach them how to work, give them the opportunity to realize their potential." Under Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Russia's government has fallen behind on targets for economic growth despite high oil prices. Analysts and investors also say Fradkov's government has been indecisive, fraught with infighting, and has squandered opportunities to use massive oil revenues to create long-term prosperity, Reuters reported. BW
...AND CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN EDUCATION AND SCIENCE EDUCATION...
Putin called on the Education Ministry and the Academy of Sciences to improve conditions for the development of science and education in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. "Young scientists must stay in science," Putin said the same day in a meeting with Education Minister Andrei Fursenko and Academy of Sciences President Yurii Osipov. "It is necessary to think about what can be done in order to improve the financing of these fields and particularly raise salaries," he added. The Academy of Sciences has proposed raising the average monthly salary of researchers to 30,000 rubles ($1,050) within three years. Osipov said such a plan would require additional funding from the budget and other sources. BW
...AS EDUCATION MINISTER CALLS FOR BETTER SALARIES AND CAREER PROSPECTS FOR SCIENTISTS
Fursenko meanwhile said young specialists need guarantees of higher salaries and faster career advancement if Russian science is to be revived, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. "In some cases the salary of young specialists must grow faster than that of their colleagues with a longer service record," the education minister said in a meeting with Putin the same day. Fursenko said the ministry plans to "revive the schools of young scientists," adding that he hopes the governments of Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States would support the idea. BW
POLICE SEARCH YUKOS SUBSIDIARY IN VOLGOGRAD
Prosecutors and police in Volgograd searched the office of the oil company Servis-M, a subsidiary of Yukos, on 17 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Prosecutors claim that Servis-M has cheated the state out of 3 million rubles ($105,000) in tax revenues by understating its taxable income and has avoid paying value-added tax. Prosecutors also claim that Servis-M worked with companies that were registered under false names. BW
INTERIOR MINISTRY TO RAISE REGIONAL POLICE BUDGETS
The Interior Ministry will reallocate funding in favor of regional police departments beginning in 2006, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August, citing First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin. "The development of regional police units is central to the law-enforcement system today and guarantees the rights and freedoms of citizens against criminal encroachments," Chekalin said, adding that 3.5 billion rubles ($123 million) will be provided from the ministry's budget to purchase computers, communications equipment, and automobiles. "This will improve the work of regional units and have virtually no impact on the central staff," he said. BW
FOUR KILLED IN TWO SEPARATE HELICOPTER CRASHES
Four people died and four were injured in two separate helicopter crashes in Russia on 18 August, Russian and international news agencies reported the same day. A civilian Mi-8 crashed near the western Siberian town of Nefteyugansk, Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug. Four people aboard were killed and two were injured. It reportedly crashed after colliding with cargo strung beneath another helicopter. A military Mi-8 crashed near the Far East city of Khabarovsk. Three crewmen were hospitalized. BW
ELDERLY KIDNAP VICTIM RELEASED IN INGUSHETIA
Khusein Amirkhanov, 88, the father of former State Duma Deputy for Ingushetia Alikhan Amirkhanov, was released late on 16 August, four days after being abducted from his home in Nazran, ingushetiya.ru reported on 17 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2005). The abductors neither set conditions nor demanded a ransom for his release. Khusein Amirkhanov, who spent his career in the NKVD (the precursor of the Soviet Interior Ministry), said the four men who snatched him spoke Russian, but were Chechens and Ingush; his relatives told ingushetiya.ru they believe the abductors work for one of the "power" ministries deployed in Chechnya. Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev and Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev both took a personal interest in the search for Amirkhanov, and pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov traveled in person to Nazran on 16 August, accompanied by a sizeable delegation, to express his willingness to help locate and release him, ingushetiya.ru reported. LF
RELATIVES APPEAL ON BEHALF OF SENTENCED INGUSH
The mothers, sisters, and wives of 13 young Ingush and Chechens sentenced earlier this month to terms ranging from eight to 23 years imprisonment for their alleged participation in the June 2004 raids on Interior Ministry targets across Ingushetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2004 and 4 August 2005) have addressed an appeal to world public opinion saying that most of the young men did not participate in that attack, ingushetiya.ru reported on 17 August. Appended to the appeal are accounts by six of the young men of the circumstances of their arrest and the tortures to which they were subjected during interrogation. All six said they confessed under torture to participating in the attack. LF
TWO MILITANTS APPREHENDED IN CHECHNYA, OTHERS REPORTEDLY SURROUNDED
Pro-Moscow Chechen forces from the Akhmed Kadyrov regiment have detained two participants in the attack during the night of 13-14 August on the village of Roshni-Chu in Urus Martan Raion, in which five Russian military personnel were killed, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). Meanwhile, federal forces including units from Sulim Yamadaev's Vostok Battalion surrounded a group of 15-20 Chechen militants on 17 August near Eshilkhatoy in Vedeno Raion, lenta.ru reported. The pro-resistance website chechenpress.org confirmed on 17 August that a wooded area between Eshilkhatoy and the village of Vedeno was being subjected to bombing and artillery attack after several resistance actions in the region during the previous two days in which an armored personnel carrier and three trucks were destroyed and 29 Russian military personnel killed or wounded. LF
The 17 August "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled ...After Opening International Air Show Near Moscow" incorrectly referred to the MAKS-2005 international air show held at the Zhukovskii air field outside Moscow.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL HOPES ARMENIAN REFERENDUM WILL BE FREE AND FAIR...
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Rene van den Linden told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 17 August that it is crucial that the nationwide referendum this fall on amendments to Armenia's constitution be free and fair. He stressed that the Armenian authorities "have to show that they are a full-fledged member of the Council of Europe." Van den Linden is scheduled to arrive in Yerevan on 18 August. During his visit, he will discuss the constitutional amendments both with senior officials, including President Robert Kocharian and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, and with opposition parties, which have signaled their intention to reject the proposed changes. LF
...INTENDS TO PRESSURE AZERBAIJAN OVER POLITICAL PRISONERS
During his tour of the South Caucasus, Van den Linden will also visit Tbilisi before arriving in Baku on 21 August. In a 17 August interview with Turan, he noted "encouraging signs" in Azerbaijan in recent months that he said he hopes will be reflected in "genuinely free and fair" parliamentary elections. He noted that the PACE adopted a resolution in June calling on Azerbaijan to implement changes proposed by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission to the Electoral Code prior to the 6 November parliamentary ballot. Van den Linden said he will stress during his talks with President Ilham Aliyev the need for Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners, which was a condition of its admittance to the Council of Europe in 2001. He declined to comment on the recent attacks on the headquarters in Baku of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2005), saying only that if such attacks have indeed taken place, the Azerbaijani authorities should intervene to enforce the law "in an effective and nondiscriminatory fashion." LF
INVESTIGATORS CONFISCATE COMPUTERS FROM AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION YOUTH GROUP
Investigators impounded on 17 August two computers from the Baku offices of the opposition youth group Yeni Fikir, according to Turan on 17 August and echo-az.com on 18 August. Yeni Fikir leader Ruslan Bashirli was arrested on 3 August and faces charges of plotting to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership with financial support from Armenian intelligence (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 August 2005). LF
AZERBAIJANI COURT REJECTS RELIGIOUS LEADER'S APPEAL
Azerbaijan's Appeals Court rejected on 17 August an appeal by Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, imam of Baku's Djuma Mosque, to annul his February 2004 conviction on charges connected with the violent protests in Baku between police and opposition supporters in the wake of the disputed October 2003 presidential ballot, Turan reported. Seven other opposition activists who were also sentenced in connection with those disturbances have had their verdicts overturned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 July and 2 and 3 August 2005). LF
ABKHAZ LEADER REAFFIRMS READINESS FOR DIALOGUE WITH GEORGIA
Sergei Bagapsh, president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, told journalists in Moscow on 17 August that Abkhazia wants to continue "peaceful dialogue" with Georgia, and that even though the negotiating process is "fragile," he hopes to sign an agreement on security issues, meaning a renewed commitment by the two sides to the nonresumption of hostilities, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 August 2005) . At the same time, Bagapsh said, as he did in an interview last week with RIA-Novosti, that he sees no point in meeting at this juncture with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Bagapsh said consultations on Abkhazia's associate membership in the Russian Federation are continuing, and the unrecognized republic is bringing its legislation into line with Russia's. (Bagapsh said five months ago Abkhazia would hold a referendum on whether to join Russia, according to rustavi2.com on 11 March.) He rejected as untrue the claim by Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava that homes belonging to Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war are being auctioned off, regnum.ru reported. Bagapsh explained that an inventory is being taken of all residential buildings. He likewise denied reports that the Abkhaz armed forces, numbering some 12,000 men of a total population of 220,000, is financed from Moscow, saying that defense spending accounts for some 22 percent of all budget expenditures. LF
SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS TERRORISTS TRYING TO OPEN BASES IN KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakh National Security Committee Chairman Nartai Dutbaev alleged on 17 August that terrorists are trying to establish a foothold in Kazakhstan, Kazinform reported. "Members of international terrorist organizations are trying to create training centers on Kazakh territory," he said. Dutbaev said that a 2004 investigation broke up an underground group with links to Al-Qaeda. Some members of the group, which had been trying to set up training bases in Kazakhstan, were implicated in terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan in 2004, Dutbaev added. Dutbaev's remarks came on the eve of the Antiterror-2005 exercises, which will begin on 18 August in Aqtau involving special-forces units from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, Khabar reported. DK
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SIGNS AMNESTY
President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed an amnesty bill into law, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 17 August. The law, which is intended to commemorate the 60th anniversary of World War II, will release 1,124 prisoners and reduce the sentences of 1,500, RIA-Novosti reported. A contributing factor in the amnesty is the critical state of the penitentiary system, where overcrowding has led to heightened incidences of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov had spoken out against the measure, warning that it could imperil ongoing corruption probes by extending amnesty to crimes for which former officials are under investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2005). DK
KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR SAYS NORWAY MAY ACCEPT 15 UZBEK DETAINEES
Prosecutor-General Beknazarov told reporters on 17 August that 15 Uzbek citizens currently detained in Osh may soon leave for Norway, Interfax reported. "The Prosecutor-General's Office received notification from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry that Norway is considering the possibility of accepting the Uzbeks and granting them refugee status," he said. "They promised to give their decision within 10 days." The 15 Uzbeks, part of a larger group who fled Uzbekistan after violence in Andijon on 12-13 May, have been detained in Kyrgyzstan on the basis of materials provided by Uzbek authorities, who charge that they committed crimes, including drug trafficking and the murder of an Uzbek official. Also on 17 August, Kyrgyzinfo reported that Kyrgyz officials have registered three Uzbeks as asylum seekers. The three had also fled Uzbekistan after 12-13 May, but had not been registered by Kyrgyz authorities and were not included in the group of 439 Uzbek refugees airlifted to Romania on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2005). Rights activists have asserted that up to 1,000 unregistered Uzbek refugees may now be residing in Kyrgyzstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2005). DK
TURKMEN AMNESTY TO FREE 8,000 INMATES, OFFICIAL SAYS
A Turkmen government official told Reuters on 17 August that an amnesty at the end of Ramadan (4 November) will free 8,000 prisoners. The end-of-Ramadan amnesty has become a tradition in independent Turkmenistan, with a total of 120,000 prisoners released. Early release is only available to prisoners who have committed petty crimes of a nonpolitical nature. DK
UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER HOPES TO CREATE PRECEDENT WITH LAWSUIT
Sanjar Umarov, the leader of Uzbekistan's Sunshine Coalition opposition movement, told tribune.uz on 17 August that he hopes to create a precedent with his lawsuit against the newspaper "Zerkalo XXI," which he has accused of defaming him in a recent article. "It would be good to find out what organizations or people are behind this," he said. "And when we find out, then I'll think about how to hold these people or organizations responsible, either here or at the international level." The first hearing in the case was scheduled for 17 August but did not take place because representatives of "Zerkalo XXI" did not attend. An editor at the newspaper told Arena, a media-watchdog site in Uzbekistan, that "Zerkalo XXI" representatives did not attend the hearing because they were only informed of the proceedings on 16 August, when by law they should have been informed three days before the first hearing. The editor told Arena that the newspaper plans to defend itself and will present proof of the allegations that Umarov deemed defamatory. DK
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TIGHTENS RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGN TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree prohibiting organizations and individuals from receiving and using foreign technical assistance for purposes deemed "unconstitutional," Belapan reported on 17 August, citing the presidential press service. In particular, the decree restricts providing such assistance for seminars, conferences, and public discussions. The organizers of such events are required to apply for official permission to the Cabinet of Ministers' Commission on International Technical Cooperation and the Economy Ministry. The measure drew criticism from the opposition. "It would be more logical to ban elections altogether," United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka commented on the decree. "Nongovernmental organizations and political parties will not be able to train observers and volunteers with assistance of trainers from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine." However, Mikalay Astreyka, a coordinator of an election-observation network, said the decree will not affect so much election monitoring as internationally sponsored conferences. "Our election-monitoring system is based on volunteers who are not paid for their work," Astreyka said. "But the decree provides authorities with legislative tools against harmless seminars and conferences. In fact, it gives the authorities a free hand to take any action against civic society." JM
BELARUSIAN CARTOONISTS UNDER CLOSE WATCH
The Minsk City Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal inquiry into a series of satirical Internet cartoons that it claims have defamed President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 17 August. The case was opened under a Criminal Code article that carries punishment of up to five years in prison. The short animated cartoons, some of which parody Lukashenka, were created by activists of an association called Tretsi Shlyakh (The Third Path) and posted on its website, which has since been shut down. The cartoons can be viewed on a mirror site found at http://mult.batke.net/. KGB officers on 16 August searched the apartments of Andrey Abuzau and Pavel Marozau, who collaborated on the cartoon project, and seized all their computer equipment. "These cartoons were distributed only via the Internet," Marozau told Belapan. "This is a global information network. This is not the property of the Republic of Belarus and accusing the creators of the cartoons of violating Belarusian laws is wrong." Abuzau and Marozau have not yet been officially charged. JM
FORMER UKRAINIAN REGIONAL GOVERNOR ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF ABUSE OF OFFICE
Yevhen Kushnyarov, former governor of Kharkiv Oblast, was arrested in the Prosecutor-General's Office in Kyiv on 16 August, where he was summoned to make himself familiar with materials pertaining to a criminal case on separatism, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The same day, Kushnyarov was transferred to a hospital in Kyiv for treatment for what his lawyer termed as a "grave physical condition." Kushnyarov was an active participant of a convention of councilors from eastern and southern Ukraine last November, where separatist tendencies were voiced by supporters of then-presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004). However, Kushnyarov was reportedly detained in connection with another criminal investigation involving abuse of office and infliction of heavy financial losses on the state. According to the New Democracy party, which is headed by Kushnyarov, his arrest is connected with the construction of two metro stations in Kharkiv during his administration of the region. JM
UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH PROTESTS MOVING COUNTRY'S GREEK CATHOLIC HEADQUARTERS TO KYIV
Metropolitan Volodymyr, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has called on Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI not to transfer the residence of the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church from Lviv to Kyiv, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. The move, approved by the late Pope John Paul II, is scheduled to take place on 21 August. "[The move] has stirred up the Orthodox Church and secular communities in Ukraine, added confusion to the already troubled church life, and provoked interconfessional and political speculations," Volodymyr reportedly wrote in a letter to Benedict XVI. "We view the transfer of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church residence to Kyiv as a blatant challenge to the confessional self-awareness of Orthodox Ukrainians, which provokes social, political, and religious instability," the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate said in a special statement. Earlier this month, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II also denounced the move as a hostile Vatican act against Orthodoxy. "These activities cannot be justified from a historical point of view, or from the point of view of church rules and canons," Aleksii was quoted as saying. "The Kyiv pulpit from the first years of its existence has been one of the capitals of the Russian Orthodox Church." JM
MONTENEGRO ARRESTS AND EXTRADITES BOSNIAN SERB EX-MINISTER ON FRAUD CHARGES
A Montenegrin Interior Ministry spokesman said in Podgorica on 17 August that police arrested controversial businessman Momcilo Mandic in Budva that day on the basis of a 2003 arrest warrant from Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has indicted him for money laundering and other economic crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Montenegrin police handed Mandic over to their Bosnian colleagues, who took him to a Sarajevo prison. Mandic is a former justice minister of the Republika Srpska who has been blacklisted by the United States and EU for his reputed links to support networks for leading war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 July and 12 August 2005). Belgrade refused to extradite Mandic in 2004 on the grounds that he is a citizen of Serbia and Montenegro as well as of Bosnia and that Serbian law bars extradition of its citizens. In other news, the Montenegrin Interior Ministry on 17 August denied media reports that two if its members have been arrested in Slovenia on auto-theft charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). PM
DEADLOCK CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN POLICE REFORM
Political leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Croat-Muslim Federation, and the Republika Srpska failed on 17 August in Mrakovica to reach an agreement on police reform and decided to resume talks on 23 August in Mostar, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic told reporters that the parties agreed not to provide any details of the talks to the media. But Republika Srpska Prime Minister Pero Bukejlovic said that, in contrast to previous meetings on police reform, the Mrakovica session took place in what he called a "tolerant and constructive atmosphere." He noted that the talks were mainly "about maps," adding that Muslims would be the largest ethnic group in seven of the 10 proposed police districts, Croats in two, and Serbs in only one. Failure to reform the police along non-ethnic administrative lines is the main obstacle to Bosnia's integration into the EU. Bosnia must present a plan for police reform to Brussels by 15 September if it expects to start Stabilization and Association talks. The Bosnian Serbs consider the proposed police reform unconstitutional and a threat to the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska because the proposed police administrative boundaries will cross entity lines and deny each entity control of its own security forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 22, and 30 June and 27 July 2005). PM
ROW ERUPTS IN SERBIA OVER MINISTER'S BEHAVIOR TOWARD JOURNALISTS
Serbian Minister for Capital Investments Velimir Ilic has emerged at the center of a controversy over some recent moves by the government, which are widely regarded as a rehabilitation of the family of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, London's "Financial Times" reported from Belgrade on 18 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). When Ana Veljkovic, a journalist for the independent broadcaster B92 questioned him on 15 August about his role in those government decisions, he called her "sick" and "in need of psychiatric help," warning her not to "get in our way." His press adviser, Petar Lazovic, then told Veljkovic that he will "kill" B92's director, Veran Matic. Lazovic later denied making the threat, but Matic announced on 17 August that he will file criminal charges against Lazovic. Matic's move seems likely to keep public attention centered on the government's alleged abuse of its powers on behalf of the Milosevic family for political reasons. On 16 August, Ilic, who is no stranger to controversy regarding his public behavior toward journalists, said on television that Matic and his associates are "robbers" and "anti-Serb" propagandists who have received money from U.S. and EU NGOs and other foundations. Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic plans to raise the matter of Ilic's behavior at the 18 August cabinet meeting. PM
ROMANIAN UNIVERSITIES BEGIN ENROLLING MOLDOVAN STUDENTS
Romanian universities on 17 August started accepting entry applications from Moldovan nationals, Infotag reported. This year Romania will accept 1,175 Moldovan students, 25 more than a year earlier. Moldovans will be enrolled based on their high-school performance without entry examinations. The enrollment deadline is 27 August. Three higher-education institutions in Iasi, eastern Romania, provided what Infotag termed as "the lion's share" of scholarships for Moldovans -- Iasi University (60), the Academy of Economic Studies (25), and Polytechnic University (20). Romanian scholarships for Moldovan students, except for those granted by Bucharest-based universities, include accommodation. Additionally, the Romanian government offered Moldovans 120 post-graduate scholarships for master's and PhD courses. JM
AMENDMENT TO TRANSITIONAL LAW GIVES IRAQI CONSTITUTION DRAFTERS MORE TIME
Just before midnight on 15 August, Iraq's National Assembly voted unanimously to amend the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Iraq's interim constitution, to allow the committee charged with drafting a permanent constitution seven more days to draft the document.
The TAL, written by the Coalition Provisional Authority, originally called for a draft to be written by 15 August, stipulating that if this is not done, the National Assembly must be dissolved. Iraqi officials said that despite intense meetings between Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish members of the drafting committee, agreement could not be reached on some issues.
"I can summarize them in the following points," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said in response to a question posed by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) during a 16 August press briefing: "Details of federalism; details of [the question of sharing natural] resources; a detailed formulation on the balance of authority and the distribution of power [between the center and federal regions]; details of the representation of [federal] regions abroad [in Iraq's diplomatic mission]; and details of defining the electoral system." He added that the remaining obstacles were "very minute details."
Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders avoided blaming Sunni Arabs outright for the delay, but contended that the draft was ready on 15 August, and only postponed to allow more time to satisfy "some" drafters opposed certain provisions in the document.
The two groups now stand poised to submit the draft to parliament on 22 August, with or without the Sunnis onboard. The two parties together form a majority in the assembly and could easily send it to referendum without the Sunnis. Such a move would prove disastrous for Sunni Arabs who were politically sidelined after boycotting January's elections. It would also be seen as a setback in the progress made between Sunnis, Kurds, and the majority Shi'ites.
"We were at the very verge of arriving at an agreement," Shi'ite leader Husayn Shahristani told RFI on 15 August. "There are only some [Sunni Arab] brothers who did not participate in the elections [of January 2005] and later were invited to join the political process. They have had some objections against some paragraphs on the federal system."
Sunni negotiators had expressed disappointment after Kurdish and Shi'ite drafters this week rejected their proposal to postpone the details of the outstanding issues -- particularly federalism -- until a new National Assembly convenes in December. The next assembly, Sunnis argue, will be more balanced in terms of representation, placing them in a better position to have their demands met.
Sunnis believe that Kurdish and Shi'ite proposals for federalism will lead to a fragmentation of the country along sectarian lines, with a Shi'ite region in the south and a Kurdish region to the north. Some Sunnis do recognize the "special" status of Iraq's Kurds and even point to earlier Iraqi governments' recognition of the Kurdish situation. However, the Sunnis strongly reject Shi'ite attempts to establish a regional government.
On the issue of the distribution of resources, Sunnis would prefer that all resources be distributed equally through the central government to the governorates. Shi'ites, who hold the majority in government, have said they support the Sunni proposal, but Kurds would prefer to retain control over their resources, particularly if the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk is incorporated into the Kurdistan region.
"Regarding the natural resources of Iraq, there is a stance taken by the [United Iraqi] Alliance, the [Sunni Arab] brothers invited to join the political process, and others in general," Shahristani said. "It is: The natural resources are the common property of all Iraqi people, [which have] to be administrated by the central federal government." In addition, he said, income generated from these resources must be "distributed to all regions of Iraq in a just way, depending on the population density and the needs of the respective region."
Even if the outstanding issues are resolved and the Sunni drafters satisfied, they will still need to sell it to their constituencies. Some Sunni leaders outside the drafting process have already said that they will consider any document drafted under occupation illegitimate. Muthanna Harith al-Dari, spokesman for the influential Muslim Scholars Association, hinted in a 15 August interview with Al-Jazeera television that the group will not support the referendum.
Prime Minister al-Ja'fari praised the transparency of the drafting process, telling reporters on 16 August: "I am very happy about the transparency of the dialogue conducted and of the way in which everyone voted. I strongly hope that other brothers have felt the same mood and the same determination so that we successfully complete this task and present the Iraqi constitution to the whole world watching us."Al-Ja'fari said that all sides were required to make concessions during the drafting process, adding that those concessions could only benefit the entire constitutional process.
He told reporters that the document will reflect the common points of interest among Iraqis. "I would say they are the freedom of individual, the freedom of belief, unity of Iraq, sovereignty of Iraq, adopting democratic principles, the separation of three powers [i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial], women's rights, and human rights," RFI reported.
KIDNAPPED LEBANESE ENGINEER FREED IN AFGHANISTAN
A Lebanese engineer who was recently kidnapped in southern Afghanistan was released on 18 August after the company that employs him agreed to cease operations in the country, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 August 2005). Fahd Soufan, an official of Lebanon-based Soufan Industries, said that he told neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi in a 17 August telephone conversation that the diesel-engine supplier would leave Afghanistan by 18 August, thus meeting the captors' demands for the release of company employee Safi al-Din Rida (previously identified as Nur al-Din Muhammad Rida and Ahmad Reza). Pajhwak News Agency reported. Hakimi had told Pajhwak on 17 August that Rida would be freed once the firm had pledged in the media to leave. Soufan said his contact with Hakimi was arranged with the help of Afghan tribal elders. The neo-Taliban claimed responsibility for kidnapping Rida in southern Afghanistan on 14 August. AT
SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS HELICOPTER CRASH SITE...
Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono Martinez on 17 August visited the site of the helicopter crash in Afghanistan's western Herat Province in which 17 Spanish soldiers were killed on 16 August, according to an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) press release (http://www.afnorth.nato.int/ISAF). Bono also met with Spanish soldiers who were injured when a second Cougar helicopter made an emergency landing after seeing the first helicopter go down, believing that ground fire may have caused the crash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). Spain has around 1,400 soldiers and five Cougar helicopters operating in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led ISAF. AT
...AND RULES OUT HOSTILE FIRE
Spanish experts "have found no evidence" that ground fire caused the deadly helicopter crash near Herat, Madrid-based EFE news agency reported on 17 August, citing a briefing Bono gave to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero from the crash site. The "most probable hypothesis" is that the helicopter crashed due to "strong and gusty winds," Bono told Zapatero in a video conference. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi said the crash resulted from a midair collision of the two Cougar helicopters, AFP reported on 17 August. "It was an aerial accident. The helicopters were not fired at," Azimi said. NATO spokesman Major Andy Elmes said that his organization believes that the crash was an accident. AT
ROADSIDE EXPLOSION STRIKES POLICE OFFICERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
One police officer was killed and 16 others injured when a police vehicle hit a roadside explosive device in Kandahar on 17 August, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The explosive device was hidden in a cart along the road, according to General Nasrullah Zarifi, who oversees police training in the city. Two of the injured police officers are in serious condition, Zarifi added. No one has claimed responsibility for incident. AT
IRAN PROPOSES EXTENDING GAS PIPELINE TO WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
An Iranian delegation visiting Heart on 17 August proposed extending a gas pipeline from the Iranian city of Toyabat to Herat, Sada-ye Jawan radio reported. Herat Mayor Mohammad Rafiq Mojaddedi said that a decision on the proposal is in the competence of the Afghan government. AT
DISSIDENT IRANIAN JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY ENDS HUNGER STRIKE
Tehran Justice Department deputy chief Mohammad Salarkia said on 17 August that Akbar Ganji, whose hunger strike has lasted for more than two months, has agreed to cooperate with physicians, ISNA reported. Salarkia added that Ganji ended his fast on 16 August. He said that on doctor's orders, Ganji's family will not be allowed to see him. In a 16 August interview with Radio Farda, Ganji's mother said she had not seen him for 20 days and that his wife and son have not seen him for 16 days. Ganji's mother, whose first name was not provided in deference to traditional practices, denounced Judge Said Mortazavi's statements about her son's case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). BS
CALLS MADE FOR GREATER MINORITY REPRESENTATION IN IRANIAN CABINET
Parliamentarian Jafar Ainparast, a Sunni who represents Mahabad, said on 17 August that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad should have included members of various ethnic minorities in his cabinet, Mehr News Agency. "There are many capable and skilled people among Kurds and we hope that they can be employed in the realm of management as deputy ministers, ambassadors in countries with Sunni Muslims, presidential advisers, governor generals and governors, and that this major ethnic group will not be treated unkindly," Ainparast said. Several prospective ministers visited the legislature on 17 August, Mehr News Agency reported. Proposed interior minister Mustafa Purmohammadi cited ethnic divisions as one of the biggest problems his ministry must address. BS
PROSPECTIVE IRANIAN JUSTICE MINISTER WANTS TWO JOBS
Jamal Karimirad, who was nominated to be justice minister, announced on 17 August in Tehran that he will retain his current job as judiciary spokesman regardless of winning a vote of confidence, Mehr news agency. BS
THREE PROPOSED IRANIAN MINISTERS EXPECTED TO WIN EASY APPROVAL
Kazem Jalali, rapporteur of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said on 17 August that he believes the proposed ministers of defense and armed forces logistics (Mustafa Mohammad Najjar), of foreign affairs (Manuchehr Mottaki), and of intelligence and security (Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei) will win votes of confidence easily, Fars News Agency reported. He said the three men were questioned by the committee the previous day. BS
BRITISH INVOLVEMENT IN UNREST IN SOUTHWESTERN IRAN ALLEGEDLY DOCUMENTED
The prospective minister of intelligence and security, Mohseni-Ejei said during his 17 August visit to the legislature that documented evidence of British interference in southwestern Iran will be made public soon, Mehr news agency reported. A 16 August communique from the ministry's public-affairs office said the people arrested for involvement in April riots and June bombings have confessed to links with foreign intelligence services, particularly Britain's. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi claimed on 14 August that the people responsible for the unrest trained at British bases in southeastern Iraq, IRNA reported. BS
CHOLERA CASES IN IRAN ON THE RISE
An Iranian Health Ministry official identified only as Dr. Sorush announced on 17 August that the number of identified cholera cases in Iran has risen to 560, state television reported. He said the disease is most commonly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water and vegetables. BS
GUNMEN ATTACK MEETING IN CENTRAL IRAQI MOSQUE
Gunmen opened fire on 18 August inside Al-Ramadi's Al-Dawla Al-Kabir Mosque, where Al-Anbar Governor Ma'mun al-Alwani was meeting with members of the Muslim Scholars Association, international media reported. Dhahir al-Ubaydi, head of the Sunni Endowments Office in Al-Ramadi, was wounded in the attack. Al-Alwani and local Muslim Scholars head Thamir al-Dulaymi escaped injury. Meanwhile, Iraqi Judge Jasim Muhayyib al-Duwayj and his driver were assassinated in Baghdad on 18 August, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. Al-Duwayj worked at the Al-Karkh Court of Appeals in Baghdad. KR
U.S. ARMED FORCES CHIEF VISITS IRAQ...
Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid a one-day visit to Iraq on 17 August, telling reporters that he visited U.S. troops in Tikrit, Baghdad, and elsewhere, and met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Speaking to reporters during a press conference, President Talabani thanked General Myers for the sacrifice made by U.S. forces in helping bring freedom to Iraq. Myers told reporters that the U.S. intends to finish its job in Iraq. "The U.S. military and the coalition have contingency plans for all sorts of outcomes because we're dedicated to getting this mission done and done right," he said. KR
...AND PRAISES POLITICAL PROGRESS
General Myers on 17 August praised the efforts of those drafting the Iraqi constitution, RFI reported. "The constitutional process is obviously a political matter, but I guess what impresses me as a military person is that the National Assembly followed the law as it's currently written, that they extended the deadline, and I've been assured today by both the prime minister and the president that they're making very good headway toward that deadline," Myers said. "The Iraqi people spoke in January [during parliamentary elections] this year. They're going to speak again when they ratify the constitution, and they'll speak again when they elect a new government" in December. Myers added that the United States will do the utmost to provide a safe environment for the constitutional referendum and December elections. "We're prepared to do what we need to do to make sure that we help the Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces, make the elections secure and safe for the Iraqi people." KR
SECURITY TRANSFERRED TO IRAQIS IN AL-NAJAF
Coalition forces have reportedly transferred responsibility for security in the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf to Iraqi security forces, the Al-Najaf News Network reported on 15 August (http://www.alnajafnews.net). The report said the city is the first to take over responsibility for its own security, and credits the work of the governorate council headed by governor As'ad Abu Kalal. The local administration reportedly worked to build up the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces in the city by supplying them with equipment. It also led an awareness campaign to encourage the public to cooperate with security forces working in the city. Deputy Governor Abd al-Husayn Abd al-Rida Abtan said at a ceremony marking the event that at least 30 terrorist groups have been captured by Iraqi security forces working in the city. KR
THREE MEN SENTENCED TO DEATH IN IRAQ
Iraq's Presidency Council has signed the death sentences of three men convicted of murder, Reuters reported on 17 August. President Jalal Talabani, who is opposed to capital punishment, did not sign the sentences, but passed them to Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to sign, according to a statement from the president's office on 17 August. Iraqi law requires the cabinet, president, and two vice presidents to approve death sentences. The cabinet gave its approval on 14 August, Reuters reported. A spokeswoman for the Iraqi High Court said the men will be hanged. They were convicted of murder, kidnapping, and rape by a court in the south-central Wasit governorate. "We have 31 cases where people have been given the death penalty," said spokeswoman Ahlam Jamil. "They are for various crimes, not just terrorist incidents." KR
UMMAH PARTY HEAD CRITICIZES PRIME MINISTER OVER SECURITY
Mithal al-Alusi, head of the Ummah Party, criticized Prime Minister al-Ja'fari on 17 August for not warning him of an apparent threat against his life, Al-Arabiyah television reported the same day. Al-Alusi told the news channel that he obtained information "in the form of official documents" that say that three booby-trapped cars carrying three tons of explosives had been prepared for an assassination attempt against him and Interior Ministry Wolf Brigade commander Abu al-Walid. He criticized al-Ja'fari for not notifying him of the threat. Al-Alusi said al-Ja'fari is sufficiently protected by Iraqi and U.S. security, and claimed that the prime minister cares little about the security of others. Al-Alusi has survived at least three assassination attempts this year. One attack, on 8 February, killed two of his sons. Last week, gunmen opened fire on his party's headquarters in Baghdad. No one was injured in that attack. KR