PUTIN RECALLS LESSONS OF WORLD WAR II...
Addressing a military parade on Red Square on the 9 May anniversary of the end of World War II, President Vladimir Putin said that no one should forget the experience of that war, Russian media reported. He said that in the run-up to the war, the world did not immediately recognize the gravity of the threat of fascism. He said the Nazis adopted arrogant and aggressive policies in anticipation of the passivity of the international community. The Nazis came to believe they had the sole right to determine the fate of the world and to shape history, Putin said. Now, the world faces the serious, global threat of international terrorism and civilized countries must stand united against it. In contrast to most post-Soviet Victory Day speeches, Putin's address this year did not mention the contributions of the Soviet Union's World War II allies toward the defeat of Nazi Germany. After his speech, a military choir sang the newly adopted Russian national anthem, which is based on the music of the Soviet anthem, and the parade passed before the VIP tribunal erected next to the mausoleum of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. VY
...AS PUBLIC REVELS IN LEGACY OF VICTORY
Eighty-three percent of Russians consider Victory Day to be an important holiday, while only 17 percent disagree, newsru.com and strana.ru reported on 8 May, citing a national poll by the ROMIR polling agency and the Public Opinion Foundation. In addition, 53 percent of respondents said that even now Russia could win a similar global conflict. This figure was five points higher than in a similar poll last year. Forty percent of respondents, however, said that Victory Day is primarily a day of mourning because of the extremely large number of casualties that the Soviet Union suffered during the war. VY
RUSSIA TAKES FURTHER MEASURES TO PREVENT SPREAD OF SARS...
Transport Minister Sergei Frank said in Nizhnii Novgorod on 10 May that Russia has suspended surface-transport links and postal service with Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the rest of China as a measure to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), RIA-Novosti reported. Russian airlines have cancelled flights to the southern provinces of China, where the largest number of SARS cases have been registered. Amur Oblast and its capital, Blagoveshchensk, have completely halted passenger and cargo traffic from China. Frank described the prophylactic measures as "adequate and reasonable" and said that only border checkpoints with "effective medical controls" will remain open along the border with China. Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev said in Moscow on 10 May that his ministry is spending 200 million rubles ($6.67 million) per month on SARS-related sanitary measures, RIA-Novosti reported. VY
...AS OFFICIALS STILL CANNOT CONFIRM DIAGNOSES OF PATIENT WITH SARS-LIKE SYMPTOMS
Amur Oblast Governor Leonid Korotkov told journalists on 11 May that Denis Soinikov, a Russian citizen hospitalized in Blagoveshchensk last week with SARS-like symptoms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2003), is in "serious, but stable" condition, ORT reported. He added that the likelihood that Soinikov will be diagnosed with SARS is high, but stressed that his laboratory tests are still being studied in Moscow. Deputy Health Minister and head of the State Health Inspectorate Gennadii Onishchenko told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 May that Soinikov's analyses are being studied at the Defense Ministry's Microbiology Institute in Moscow. He explained that the institute was chosen because it has "all necessary means of protecting [staff] against the disease." He added that the possibility of the disease spreading to Moscow is higher than for other Russian cities because it has direct air links with Southeast Asia. Two Moscow hospitals are preparing special facilities to handle any suspected SARS cases, Onishchenko said. VY
AGENDA SET FOR POWELL'S TALKS IN MOSCOW
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will discuss the role of the United Nations and the international community in postconflict Iraq during his 14-15 May visit to Moscow, Russian news agencies reported on 12 May, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko. Powell will be in Russia to prepare for the 1 June summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Putin in St. Petersburg. Powell, who will meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, is also expected to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The two men will also review the entire U.S.-Russian bilateral agenda, including strategic stability, the nonproliferation regime, the dismantling of Russian weapons of mass destruction under the U.S.-sponsored Nunn-Lugar program, and joint efforts to combat drug trafficking in Afghanistan and international terrorism. They will also discuss expanding trade ties and energy-sector cooperation, Yakovenko said. VY
OFFICIAL: GLOBAL BANKRUPTCY SYSTEM NEEDED TO CONTAIN DEBT CRISIS
Russia will support an International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiative to create a global bankruptcy system for countries that are unable to repay their debts, Federation Council First Deputy Chairman Valerii Goreglyad said in an 8 May interview with ITAR-TASS. He noted that such a system could help protect the global economy from volatility. If the IMF is able to differentiate its relations with various debtor countries and to act creatively, then it might be able to generate a new approach to the world debt crisis, Goreglyad said. Then a new system of protective measures could emerge that would defend the global economy from shocks such as the 1998 Russian default and the 2001 financial crisis in Argentina. VY
EXPERT SEES DRAFT MEDIA BILL AS THREAT TO PRESS FREEDOM
Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists and former State Press Committee chairman under President Boris Yeltsin, told "Argumenty i fakty," No. 19, that the new law on the mass media being drafted by the Industrial Committee -- an organization that represents the owners of the country's major media outlets, including the state-controlled media -- is a threat to freedom of the press in Russia. Fedotov, who is a co-author of the current law on the mass media that was adopted in 1990, said the new draft contains several worrying provisions that "might not be dangerous under a 'good' president and a liberal media minister, but which otherwise could be used as a big stick in a political struggle." He said that the draft also strongly favors media owners over journalists, who would be reduced under it to the status of merely hired personnel. Fedotov said that the Union of Journalists wants to improve the bill to separate and define the rights of property owners and those of journalists. He said he does not believe that Russia's mass media have "been captured by information oligarchs." He said that various media outlets are controlled by different financial and industrial groups and, therefore, represent a variety of opinions. He noted as well that most of the country's media are still controlled by the state and, therefore, the most dangerous "information oligarch" is the government. VY
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH EXPANDS JURISDICTION IN WESTERN EUROPE
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has announced that it has incorporated into its jurisdiction nine new European religious communities, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. These include three parishes in Germany, three parishes in Sweden, and the Russian Orthodox congregations on Tenerife, Canary Islands; in Porto, Portugal; and in Bordeaux, France. The synod also approved a proposal by Patriarch Aleksii II to unite several Western European dioceses subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate into a single archbishopric. Also on 10 May, President Putin visited the patriarch at his residence outside of Moscow and presented him with an icon to mark Orthodox Easter, which was celebrated on 30 April, ORT and NTV reported. Putin noted that he was a bit late with his gift because of his recent trip to Tajikistan. "Although I was in a Muslim country, I attended a [Russian Orthodox] service in Dushanbe," Putin said. VY
LIBERAL RUSSIA FACTION REINSTATES TYCOON...
A group of Liberal Russia members voted to reinstate businessman Boris Berezovskii, who helped create the party and financed its activities until his expulsion last October, Russian media reported on 11 May. Berezovskii participated in what his allies called a central council meeting from his self-imposed exile in London via a video link. The Berezovskii loyalists also voted to expel Liberal Russia co-Chairman Viktor Pokhmelkin and to convene an extraordinary party congress on 12 June. Berezovskii has clashed frequently with the Moscow leadership of Liberal Russia over the past seven months. During interviews with Ekho Moskvy on 8 May, he and Pokhmelkin accused one another of fomenting a split in the party. LB
...BUT PARTY LEADERS CALL MOVE ILLEGITIMATE
Speaking to Ekho Moskvy and Interfax on 11 May, Pokhmelkin argued that the meeting held by Berezovskii's allies carries no legal force. He noted that only Liberal Russia's political council can convene a meeting of the central council, and it had not done so. He also said that some of the regional leaders who participated in the meeting are not members of the central council. Furthermore, he said the Justice Ministry confirmed on 17 April -- the day Liberal Russia completed its registration as a political party and the day that party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov was shot dead in Moscow -- that Berezovskii's expulsion from Liberal Russia was carried out legally. Pokhmelkin derided the dissident Liberal Russia members as "supporters of Berezovskii's money." Meanwhile, party co-Chairman Boris Zolotukhin suggested that those who convened the 11 May meeting might be expelled for violating the Liberal Russia charter, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 May. LB
MAJOR PARTIES SELECT IMAGE-MAKERS FOR DUMA CAMPAIGN
Russia's leading political parties have already selected image-makers, or public-relations agencies, to handle this fall's campaign for the State Duma, NTV reported on 10 May. Gleb Pavlovskii's Foundation for Effective Politics will handle the Unified Russia campaign. A special Information-Technological Center headed by Ilya Ponomarev will handle the Communist Party's campaign. The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) will hire two image-making firms: Video International PR and Vladimir Ruga's PR Center. Yabloko will use Leonid Levin's Secret Adviser agency, which it has used in the past, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has hired Yelena Sorokina's agency Feedback. According to recent opinion polls, the Communist Party and Unified Russia are each supported by more than 20 percent of the population, with the SPS, Yabloko, and the LDPR all hovering around the 5 percent threshold needed to gain Duma seats allocated by proportional representation. LB
KALININGRAD AUTHORITIES SEEK FEDERAL AID FOR TRAVEL
Kaliningrad Oblast officials plan to seek federal aid to compensate residents for transit across Lithuania to the rest of Russia, NTV reported on 11 May. Under a draft law being prepared by Kaliningrad officials, oblast residents would receive annually a free visa and one free train ticket -- or a discounted airplane or ferry ticket -- to Russia. The scheme would cost an estimated $40 per Kaliningrad resident each year, or approximately $40 million for the entire region. LB
FINAL CURTAIN FOR 'NORD-OST'
The final performance of the musical "Nord-Ost" took place in Moscow's Dubrovka Theater on 10 May, gazeta.ru reported. It was a sold-out show, according to Ekho Moskvy. "Nord-Ost" became notorious last October, when Chechen fighters interrupted a performance and held some 800 people hostage for more than two days. More than 120 hostages died when security forces piped in a sleeping gas before raiding the theater. Although the musical ran for a year before the hostage crisis and for three months since reopening in February, it failed to turn a profit, "The New York Times" reported on 10 May. LB
DOZENS KILLED IN CHECHNYA CAR-BOMB ATTACK
At least 30, and possibly as many as 40, people died on 12 May when a KamAZ truck loaded with explosives drove into the local administration building in the Nadterechnyi Raion in northern Chechnya. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov immediately blamed the blast on fighters loyal to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Some 80 people died in a similar car-bomb attack on the government building in Grozny in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 December 2002). In Moscow, President Putin said on 12 May that such attacks will not halt the process of establishing a peaceful political settlement in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin instructed government officials to speed up the drafting of the planned power-sharing treaty between Russia and Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 31 March and 25 April 2003). LF
ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS SEEKS TO PROMOTE NATIONAL UNITY
Speaking on 9 May at a joint press conference in Echmiadzin with visiting Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, Garegin II, who is head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said the church could play a role in easing the political tensions that resulted from the disputed presidential election in February-March, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Garegin stopped short of offering to mediate between the Armenian leadership and the opposition parties that support defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian. On 10 May, Demirchian's aides said he has still not decided whether to appeal the election outcome at the European Court for Human Rights. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RETURNS TO BAKU
Heidar Aliev was discharged on 11 May from the Gulhane Military Hospital in Ankara and flown back to Baku, Reuters reported. The previous day, Turkish Television screened footage of Aliev meeting with Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer, who visited Aliev to congratulate him on his 80th birthday. Reuters on 11 May quoted Sezer as commenting that Aliev's "kidney problems have been cured." Azerbaijani officials last week rejected as untrue statements in the Turkish and Azerbaijani opposition press that Aliev is suffering from kidney and liver problems. U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Aliev on 10 May to convey birthday greetings, while French President Jacques Chirac announced that Aliev is to be awarded the Legion d'Honneur, Turan reported. Speaking in Yerevan on 10 May, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian wished Aliev "good health," stressing that it is in the interests of the Armenian leadership to negotiate with Azerbaijani leaders who "have demonstrated...that they are interested in maintaining peace in the region," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY ELECTIONS WILL BE POSTPONED
In a statement released on 8 May, opposition New Rightists leader David Gamkrelidze said that the Georgian National Security Council has discussed the possibility of imposing a state of emergency as a pretext for postponing the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2 November, Caucasus Press reported. Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili both dismissed that hypothesis on 9 May as unfounded, while Gia Zurabishvili, a leading member of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia that supports the present leadership, said the opposition would like to see the ballot postponed because it has little chance of winning. President Eduard Shevardnadze commented on 12 May that the consent of parliament is required to impose a state of emergency, Caucasus Press reported. Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze said on 9 May that all possible measures should be taken to prevent destabilization, Caucasus Press reported. She said passage of the new Election Code would contribute to political stability. LF
PRESIDENT TERMS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT BRAWL 'A DISGRACE'
In his regular Monday radio interview, President Shevardnadze on 12 May deplored as "a disgrace" the fistfight in parliament on 5 May between deputy speaker Vaktang Rcheulishvili and a group of opposition deputies whom he had implied are homosexuals, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze noted with regret that such incidents have become commonplace. The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into the fracas. LF
GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER AGAIN DENIES AL-QAEDA PRESENCE IN PANKISI
Georgian Interior Minister Narchemashvili on 8 May rejected the possibility, raised the previous day by his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, that Al-Qaeda militants might have taken refuge in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. But Narchemashvili did not exclude the presence of international "terrorists" in Abkhazia. Georgian National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania similarly claimed that the Georgian authorities control Pankisi and that there is no danger that fugitives from Afghanistan or Iraq could take refuge there, according to ITAR-TASS on 10 May. But at the same time Khaburzania admitted that "two or three odious figures," whom he did not name, might currently be in Pankisi. At his weekly press briefing, President Shevardnadze on 10 May invited Sarkozy to visit Pankisi and see for himself that the situation there is "normal," Caucasus Press reported. LF
RADIOACTIVE CONTAINERS DISCOVERED IN GEORGIAN CAPITAL
The Department for Emergency Situations has discovered three containers of radioactive cesium-137 in an abandoned factory in the suburbs of Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported on 9 May, quoting an unidentified National Security Ministry official. That official claimed the containers do not pose a health hazard as they are hermetically sealed. LF
ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP SIGNALS WILLINGNESS TO RESUME TALKS...
Abkhaz presidential adviser Astamur Tania and Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba said in Sukhum on 5 and 9 May, respectively, that Abkhazia is ready to resume talks with Georgia within the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhazia suspended its participation in such talks last year to protest the deployment of Georgian troops in the divided Kodori Gorge. Khadjimba also said on 9 May that he sees no need to create additional working groups to address problems related to the conflict, as recently suggested by the "Friends of the UN Secretary-General" group of states that seek to expedite a solution to the Abkhaz conflict. Speaking in Tbilisi on 9 May, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister David Aptsiauri expressed concern that recent diplomatic initiatives have focused on the resumption of economic cooperation between Abkhazia and Georgia rather than on promoting a political solution to the conflict on the basis of the UN-drafted "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies Between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," Caucasus Press reported. LF
...SOLICITS INTERNATIONAL AID FOR GEORGIAN REPATRIATION
Sergei Shamba, who retains the post of foreign minister in the new Abkhaz cabinet approved on 6 May, said in Sukhum on 9 May that the Abkhaz leadership has drafted and submitted to international organizations a program of security guarantees for the estimated 45,000 Georgian displaced persons who wish to return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion, from which they fled during the 1992-93 war, Caucasus Press reported. Shamba said that Abkhazia can protect those who are repatriated and there is no need to empower the CIS peacekeepers deployed in the conflict zone to do so as some Georgian officials have demanded. But Shamba also said that, in order to begin the repatriation process, Abkhazia will need assistance from the international community in the form of training, equipment, and humanitarian aid. LF
KAZAKHSTAN OFFERS USE OF SHYMKENT AIRPORT TO ANTITERRORISM COALITION
Kazakhstan's government has offered the use of the airport at Shymkent to the international antiterrorism coalition for emergency landings and refueling operations, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 8 May. The approval reportedly applies specifically to coalition members Norway and Denmark. Last year, Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States on the emergency use of the international airport at Almaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). The main coalition air base is located in Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek's Manas Airport. The Kazakh offer of the emergency use of the Shymkent airport is reported to apply specifically in situations in which the runways at Manas have been closed, where bad weather prevents landing elsewhere, or in case of problems on board the aircraft. BB
EXPLOSION AT EXCHANGE OFFICE IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN KILLS ONE
An explosion at a currency-exchange bureau located in a gas station in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on 8 May killed one bureau employee, akipress.org reported on 12 May. The press service of the Osh interior department was quoted as saying that eyewitnesses said they saw someone leave a plastic sack in the office. Uzreport.com reported on 10 May that Kyrgyz police have detained an Uzbek citizen in connection with the explosion, and the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry described the crime as an act of terror committed by the Muslim extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, with which the detained Uzbek is suspected of having contacts. According to uzreport.com, Kyrgyz police are searching for two other people suspected of having been involved in the bombing. BB
TAJIK ECONOMIST SAYS LABOR MIGRATION AFFECTING BIRTHRATE
Hojimahmad Umarov, an economist at Tajikistan's Economic Research Institute, said on 11 May that the high annual rate of migration of able-bodied young people out of Tajikistan in search of work is affecting the country's birthrate, ITAR-TASS reported. Umarov was quoted as saying that about one-third of the approximately 800,000 labor migrants who leave the country each year start families in the place where they find work, even if they already have families in Tajikistan. The result, said Umarov, is a shortage of marriageable young men and a growing number of children without fathers at home. Other sources have warned that many women in Tajik villages are being left without any means of support for themselves and their children. Umarov said that while the Tajik birthrate was 40 per 1,000 in 1985, it is now considerably lower because of labor migration, the ravages of the 1992-97 civil war, and the general poverty of the population. Senior Tajik officials, including President Imomali Rakhmonov, have said job creation must be a top priority for the country. BB
TAJIK OPPOSITION WEBSITE UNAVAILABLE IN TAJIKISTAN
In an interview published in the 8 May issue of the Russian newspaper "Kommersant-Daily," Dododjon Atovulloev -- editor in chief of "Charogi ruz," a Tajik opposition newspaper that is published abroad -- said access to the website he launched on 1 March has been blocked in Tajikistan. The website -- http://www.tajikistantimes.ru -- is compiled by the staff of "Charogi ruz." Atovulloev said the site is important because the newspaper appears only once a month and, in his view; tajikistantimes.ru provides Tajik citizens with objective information about the country. He noted that within two to three weeks of its launch, the site received some 20,000 visitors a day. By now, he said, that number has risen to 50,000. The Tajik authorities blocked access to it a few days ago, Atovulloev charged, quoting Deutsche Welle and BBC reports that the Tajik Ministry of National Security had blocked the site. This is reportedly the first time such an action has been taken in Tajikistan. Atovulloev speculated that items on the referendum on constitutional amendments scheduled for 22 June were a primary reason for move. The referendum is being widely seen as a vote on extending President Rakhmonov's term in office. Another reason, according to Atovulloev, was the publication of materials about the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights in Tajikistan. BB
UZBEK AIR CANCELS FLIGHTS TO CHINA, SOUTHEAST ASIA
Uzbek Airlines has cancelled its flights to China, Malaysia, and Thailand in order to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to Uzbekistan, uza.uz reported on 9 May. In addition, Uzbek health authorities have recommended that planes serving any region where SARS has appeared be equipped with surgical gloves, masks, and disinfectants and that a place where possible victims of the disease can be isolated on board be established. The Health Ministry has reportedly begun organizing seminars on coping with SARS for airport personnel, as well as for oblast health workers. According to health authorities, Uzbek citizens are being warned not to visit Southeast Asia and strictly to observe rules of hygiene. So far there have been no cases of SARS registered in Uzbekistan. BB
CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION TO BE PRIVATIZED IN UZBEKISTAN
President Islam Karimov on 6 May issued a decree on the privatization of capital construction, centrasia.ru reported on 11 May. The privatization process, involving the creation of private and joint-venture firms on the basis of existing state organizations, is to be carried out in 2003-04. The customers will be responsible for arranging the financing of their project, which is supposed to result in lower construction costs and the timely completion of projects. Construction projects are to be subject to competitive bidding, with only those firms that can prove they have adequate cash flows or a bank guarantees being allowed to participate. Customs tariffs on imported construction materials are to be reduced for five years. The State Committee on Architecture and Construction will ensure that legal construction standards are observed. BB
UZBEK RESTAURANTS MUST GET STATE APPROVAL OF MENUS, SAYS KAZAKH NEWSPAPER
All cafes and restaurants in Uzbekistan must have their menus and the recipes of the dishes they intend to serve approved by the Health Ministry and registered with state standardization bodies, the Almaty weekly "Delovaya nedelya" reported on 9 May. The new rules are intended to improve the quality of life of Uzbek citizens. The article notes the rules seem to be in line with restrictions imposed last year on the private clothing trade, the prohibition on entertainment establishments working after midnight, and the closure of billiard parlors on the grounds that they encourage alcoholism, drug addiction, and prostitution. A cabinet resolution issued in February was intended to encourage more public catering in Uzbekistan. An appendix to this resolution was issued in April specifying what types of food each category of establishment may serve. The next step, the article notes, is to be the official designation of establishments that may serve foreigners. These will be required to provide menus in a foreign language as well as in Uzbek and to hire only serving staff who speak a foreign language. The article notes that these requirements, intended to strengthen state control over small businesses, contradict the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the Uzbek government give more freedom to the private sector. BB
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LEADS V-DAY VETERANS' MARCH
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka led a Victory Day parade of veterans in Minsk on 9 May to mark the defeat of Nazi forces in World War II, Belapan reported. In an address to participants in the event, Lukashenka said Belarus adheres to the ideals of peace and democracy, adding that its uncompromising position on key international issues does not suit "those who ignore the charters of international organizations and international laws." He said the Belarusian Army is capable of waging modern war and "must and will keep its powder dry" to counter possible threats to the country's sovereignty or territorial integrity. Lukashenka said Belarus's strategic course is to build a union and boost military ties with Russia. "This is an essential factor of our national security, of the security of the peoples of Belarus and Russia, and of international stability," he noted. JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION YOUTHS MOCK STATE EMBLEM AT PUBLIC EVENT
A dozen activists of the unregistered opposition youth group Razam (Together) passed out cabbage leaves to a crowd at a government-organized rally in Hrodna on 11 May, Belapan reported. The rally was held to mark State Emblem and Flag Day, which President Lukashenka decreed several years ago for the second Sunday in May. The Razam activists' cabbage leaves apparently symbolized the Soviet-style state emblem that was introduced, along with a red-green flag reminiscent of Soviet symbols, in Belarus in 1995 following a referendum initiated by Lukashenka. Opponents of the Lukashenka regime have dubbed the state emblem that was introduced -- along with a red and green flag reminiscent of Soviet symbols -- in 1995 a "cabbage" for its resemblance to the leafy vegetable. Some 3,000 people, mostly students, attended the 30-minute rally in Hrodna. "Youths cheered us; the police were the only ones who disliked our action," Razam activist Ryhor Kavalchuk told Belapan. JM
OFFICIAL SAYS UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS SHOULD TAKE PART IN STABILIZING IRAQ
Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense, told UNIAN on 9 May that Ukrainian peacekeepers should take part in the stabilization of postwar Iraq. "I personally think that we should get involved -- this is not a war, this is something else," Marchuk said. Asked whether Ukraine may take part in the stabilization forces in Iraq without approval from the UN Security Council, Marchuk said such authorization would be "desirable." JM
UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN TROOPS MARK V-DAY WITH JOINT PARADE IN SEVASTOPOL...
Some 1,000 Ukrainian and Russian troops, mostly sailors, took part in a joint military parade in Sevastopol on 9 May to mark Victory Day, Ukrainian news agencies reported. It was the second time since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991 that Ukrainian and Russia servicemen have marched together. A similar march took place in May 2000, also in Sevastopol, where Ukraine and Russia maintain naval bases. JM
...AS RIGHTISTS CLASH WITH LEFTISTS ON V-DAY IN LVIV
Some 500 people were involved on 9 May in a violent clash at the Marsovo Pole memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression, which lay on the route of left-wing veterans marching to lay wreaths at a nearby World War II monument, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Police had to intervene, clearing a path for the veterans through a cordon of right-wingers objecting to the red flags being displayed by leftist participants in the march. "Representatives of leftist parties came today to Marsove Pole on purpose, even despite the court ban on conducting any rallies, while attempts to compromise with them were unsuccessful, since they did not agree to the main demand of rightists: no red-flag march," local rightist leader Yuriy Shukhevych told Interfax. JM
ESTONIA'S MODERATES LEAVE NAME UNCHANGED
At their congress in Tallinn on 10 May, the Moderates did not approve proposals to change the party's name, BNS reported. The alternatives, Estonian Social Democratic Party and Estonian Labor Party, received only 80 and 42 votes, respectively, from the 233 delegates. Chairman Ivari Padar said in a press release the he was re-elected party chairman by a vote of 180 to 10, with former trade union association leader Kadi Parnits and former Social Affairs Minister Eiki Nestor replacing ex-Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves and ex-Population Minister Katrin Saks as deputy chairmen. Padar told the congress that the fall in the party's representation in parliament, which dropped to six deputies from 17 as a result of the March elections, highlights the need for greater reforms. Padar said the party's organization should become more open, chapters should have more rights in decision making, and elections should be held within the party for various appointments. SG
SOVIET WORLD WAR II VICTORY MARKED IN LATVIA
Continuing the Soviet tradition of celebrating Victory Day on 9 May to mark the end of World War II, some 5,000 people gathered at the Victory Monument in Riga, BNS reported. Prior to the celebrations, Russia's, Belarus's, and Uzbekistan's ambassadors to Latvia placed flowers at the monument. Equal Rights leader Tatyana Zhdanoka, Socialist Party Chairman Alfreds Rubiks, and some veterans spoke to the crowd, which included many World War II veterans dressed in Soviet army uniforms as well as several classes from Russian-language schools, led by their teachers. The speakers noted the major contribution the Russian people made to Latvia's liberation from Nazism and expressed opposition to Latvia's planned education reform that will make Latvian the language of instruction in all schools. Rubiks also condemned Latvia's support for U.S. actions against Iraq. SG
LITHUANIANS OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVE EU MEMBERSHIP
The Central Elections Committee announced on 12 May that preliminary results indicated that about 63.3 percent of the 2.6 million eligible voters participated in Lithuania's referendum on EU membership held on 10 and 11 May, ELTA reported. More than 89.9 percent of them voted in favor of membership, according to the committee. The voter turnout on the first day was low, as only a little more than 23 percent of voters went to the polls. When the results of the referendum are confirmed, Lithuania will become the fourth EU candidate country, after Malta, Slovenia, and Hungary, to approve EU membership. SG
POLAND MOVES TO SMOOTH RIFT OVER IRAQ WITH GERMANY, FRANCE
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski met in Wroclaw on 9 May with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in what was interpreted by Polish and international media as an attempt to mend relations that have deteriorated over Poland's backing of the U.S.-led coalition in the Iraq war. "We want to have very good relations with the United States; we want to have very good relations with our great European partners, Germany and France. It seems to me that the meeting of the Weimar Triangle [Poland, Germany, France] today shows that despite the various tensions, such a policy is possible and effective," Polish Television quoted Kwasniewski as saying. Asked whether Poland can help France and Germany restore friendly ties with Washington, Chirac said, "I do not get the impression that we need a bridge between the EU and the United States." For his part, Schroeder said in Wroclaw that Germany can play a role in the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq if this process is conducted under UN auspices. JM
POLISH PARLIAMENT CHANGES REFERENDUM LAW TO BOOST EU VOTE'S TURNOUT
The Sejm on 10 May voted 267 to 10 with seven abstentions to amend an electoral law in a move aimed at increasing turnout in the 7-8 June referendum on EU membership, Polish media reported. The change allows the Central Election Commission to disclose the turnout after the first day of the referendum, potentially mobilizing voters to show up on the second day. The Sejm rejected more than 300 amendments submitted by lawmaker Bogdan Pek from the staunchly anti-EU League of Polish Families with the apparent intention of obstructing the amendment of that legislation. If turnout in the June referendum falls short of 50 percent, the Polish parliament would have to approve EU entry by a two-thirds majority to allow for membership, which is possible in practice but might require much political horse trading on the part of the country's left-wing minority government. JM
POLAND'S RULING PARTY ALLEGES CRIMINAL SLANDER BY OPPOSITION LEADER
The ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 9 May charged to prosecutors that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the opposition Law and Justice party, committed a criminal offense by calling the SLD a "criminal organization" earlier the same day on a radio station and in parliament, Polish media reported. "I have collected a sufficient quantity of various kinds of information that together gives me a basis for claiming that the SLD is a criminal organization," Kaczynski said on the private Radio Zet. "Political struggle is sometimes sharp, and sharp words are sometimes used, ones that are difficult to accept," Sejm speaker Marek Borowski commented. "But this has its limits. These limits have been exceeded." JM
CZECH DAILY REPORTS FEUDING BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE CHIEFS
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla declined to say after a cabinet meeting on 10 May whether the government intends to dismiss the directors of both of the country's civilian intelligence agencies due to a bugging scandal, CTK reported. A "Pravo" report the same day suggested that Czech Security Information Service (BIS) chief Jiri Ruzek and National Security Office (NBU) head Thomas Kadlec might be sacked in connection with alleged eavesdropping on government ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2003). "I have never commented on any information [in the media] concerning the NBU or the BIS and am not going to do so now," Spidla said. The daily, citing unidentified government sources, said Ruzek's dismissal is being demanded by Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, and Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik following allegations that BIS agents have monitored the activities of Gross and Tvrdik. "Pravo" also reported that a row erupted between Ruzek and Kadlec at a recent cabinet meeting. The daily cited unidentified government sources as saying their enmity creates problems and would best be resolved by the dismissal of both men. MS
GREEK PREMIER DISCUSSES EU FUTURE WITH CZECH COUNTERPART
Visiting Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis wrapped up his 10-country tour of EU candidate states in Prague on 10 May with a discussion on accelerating EU expansion and possible organizational changes with Czech Premier Spidla, CTK reported (see also Slovak item below). Spidla told Simitis, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, that Prague favors a continuation of the current EU procedures, under which each member has a representative in the European Commission. He said the Czech Republic also wants to see a continuation of the rotating EU Presidency, rather than the election of an EU president for a longer term. MS
FICO RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY
Robert Fico was re-elected chairman of the Smer (Direction) party on 10 May, CTK and TASR reported. He ran unopposed. The Smer conference also re-elected as his deputies Dusan Caplovic, Milan Murgas, and Monika Benova along with two new faces, Pavol Paska and Robert Kalinak. Addressing the gathering, Fico stressed Smer's center-left orientation and added that the party hopes to join the Socialist International and be admitted to the Socialist grouping in the European Parliament. Fico also criticized the leader of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, former Premier Vladimir Meciar, saying his attitude toward Smer has obstructed cooperation among opposition parties. He also attacked the government of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, saying its policies are more suitable to the 19th than the 21st century. Fico said he doubts Dzurinda's cabinet can preserve Slovakia's sovereignty after joining the EU, since the country has "already been deprived" of much of its sovereignty by selling banks, gas and energy utilities, and "pointlessly decommissioning" two reactors at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear-power plant. MS
SLOVAK LEADERS CALL ON VOTERS TO PARTICIPATE IN EU REFERENDUM...
Representatives of all parliamentary parties on 11 May called on voters to participate in the 16-17 May referendum on Slovakia's EU accession, CTK reported. The political leaders were speaking during a televised debate on Slovak state television. In a related development, President Rudolf Schuster the same day vowed to call a meeting with representatives of all seven parliamentary parties to enlist their help to ensure a high turnout in the plebiscite, TASR reported. Schuster discussed getting out the vote for the referendum on 10 May with Premier Dzurinda and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky, according to TASR. In a debate broadcast on Slovak state radio, the three leaders called on citizens to cast their ballots in favor of joining the EU. MS
...AND VISITING GREEK PREMIER DOES THE SAME
Visiting Greek Premier Simitis, the current president of the European Council, appealed to Slovaks to vote for EU membership in the upcoming referendum following a meeting with Premier Dzurinda on 9 May, CTK reported. Simitis said the more members the EU has, the stronger the organization will become. The two premiers discussed preparations for the EU summit in June in Thessaloniki and the envisaged reforms of EU institutions. MS
HUNGARIAN PUBLIC FIGURES OFFICIALLY JOIN FIDESZ
Hungarian Olympic Committee Chairman Pal Schmitt was one of several high-profile individuals admitted to the opposition FIDESZ on 10 May amid the party's efforts to attract a broader base of support, Hungarian television reported. The FIDESZ National Council meeting also formally accepted the party membership of former Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi; former Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy; former Health Minister Istvan Mikola; film directors Marcell Jankovics and Gabor Koltay; actor and director Peter Cseke; and onetime national football star Kalman Meszoly. The National Council decided that once the party transforms itself into an alliance, FIDESZ will rescind all existing agreements with other organizations, National Council Chairman Laszlo Kover told reporters. MSZ
PETO TO HEAD HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS' COUNCIL
Former party Chairman Ivan Peto was elected chairman of the coalition Free Democrats' (SZDSZ) National Council, garnering 52 votes to parliamentary deputy Imre Mecs's 25 votes, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Mecs's supporters said after the vote that he would have received greater backing if there had been less criticism of the party leadership, as this led delegates to unite behind the current leaders. Peto said he considers an amendment to the party statute a top priority, arguing that the party cannot function properly under the current guidelines. SZDSZ Chairman Gabor Kuncze told reporters after the meeting that the council concluded that some results have been achieved in implementing tax cuts and health-care reform. He said the Free Democrats still hope to have their proposed tax reform accepted before the next elections, slated for 2006. MSZ
IMF URGES HUNGARY TO STOP SPENDING
Rising wages and increased government spending will further inflate the current-account deficit and undermine Hungary's competitiveness on world markets, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned in its annual report on Hungary issued on 9 May. The IMF predicted 3.6 percent economic growth in 2003 and said inflation will definitely exceed the government's target figure of 5.2 percent, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. The IMF urged the government to change the course the economy has taken and introduce corrective measures before the end of its term. Hungary must curtail spending in a number of ways, the report asserted, including: shedding jobs in the public sector, reducing spending on health care, pensions, and social benefits; and freezing public-sector wages. Members of the IMF board of directors also suggested that the government postpone its tax-reduction plans. MSZ
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HOPEFUL OF ROLE IN IRAQ
The government is seeking ways to contribute to stability in Iraq, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told the BBC's Hungarian service on 11 May. Kovacs said "some way must be found," within constitutional bounds, if parliament does not authorize a 300-member Hungarian peacekeeping contingent for Iraq, which was proposed by the cabinet. Kovacs noted that the opposition parties will not assent in the absence of a UN resolution for a peacekeeping mission, but he said, "They clearly know that there will be no such [UN] authorization." MSZ
MONTENEGRINS ELECT A PRESIDENT...
Unofficial returns show that Filip Vujanovic of the governing coalition easily won the presidency with approximately 63 percent of the votes cast in the 11 May election, Reuters reported. Miodrag Zivkovic of the small, pro-independence Liberal Alliance took just over 30 percent, primarily from supporters of the opposition coalition, which failed to agree on a candidate of its own, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Independent candidate Dragan Hajdukovic appears to have about 4 percent in the unofficial total. Approximately 48 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. The opposition's boycott of presidential votes on 22 December and 9 February contributed to the failure of those two rounds, as turnout failed to meet the 50 percent threshold required by law. The parliament has since abolished that minimum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002 and 10 February 2003). PM
...WHO PLEDGES TO LEAD HIS COUNTRY INTO THE EU
Vujanovic, a close ally of President Milo Djukanovic, said in Podgorica on 12 May that he intends to be president of all Montenegrin citizens and lead them into the EU, local and international media reported. Montenegro's population includes about 15 percent Bosnian Muslims, at least 10 percent Serbs, and about 7 percent Albanians, many of whom support Djukanovic rather than the small ethnic Albanian parties, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 10 May. Many Podgorica-based analysts were surprised by what they called the weakness of opposition support for Zivkovic, Reuters reported. The EU insists that Serbia and Montenegro seek membership as a single country. Many politicians from both republics want separate memberships, however, arguing that their respective economies are too different to be effectively "harmonized" for EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 5 May 2003). PM
VOJVODINA LEADER SAYS HUNGARIANS BEING PUSHED OUT OF COMPANIES
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Jozef Kasza, who heads the League of Vojvodina Hungarians, told the Novi Sad daily "Magyar Szo" of 12 May that unnamed Serbs are replacing ethnic Hungarians in unspecified companies slated for privatization with Serbs from elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, dpa reported. Kasza added that the Serbs in question seek to use the privatization process to launder money gained "dishonestly" in the Croatian, Bosnian, and Kosova conflicts of the 1990s. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NO MORE LINKS TO BOSNIAN SERB COMMANDER
Boris Tadic told the Belgrade daily "Politika" of 11 May that the last documented contact between indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic and members of the former Yugoslav Army was on 15 May 2002. Tadic added that an investigation is now under way to see if any former army personnel stayed in touch with Mladic after their retirement. PM
BOSNIA PROMOTES TIES TO SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic discussed economic cooperation and joint activities in fighting organized crime with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic in Belgrade on 9 May, "Vesti" reported. The two leaders agreed to work together at the EU's June Thessaloniki summit for the abolition of the EU's visa requirement for citizens of their two countries. Zivkovic stressed that Belgrade and Sarajevo must make it clear to the EU that their two countries regard the visa issue as a political question and not an economic one. In Podgorica, Terzic and Prime Minister Djukanovic also agreed on the importance of convincing the EU to end its visa requirement. Those two leaders also called for setting up a regional free-trade zone, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
U.S. AMBASSADORS DISCUSS REGIONAL PROBLEMS
Clifford Bond, Lawrence Rossin, and William Montgomery -- who are the U.S. ambassadors to Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro, respectively -- discussed refugee returns, the need to arrest indicted war criminals, and the fight against organized crime in Sarajevo on 9 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Montgomery praised the Serbian authorities' recent crackdown on organized crime but noted that the fight against corruption continues (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). The previous day, Serbian Prime Minister Zivkovic told the private Beta news agency that Serbian-U.S. relations are the best they have been "in 50 years" because of U.S. backing for Operation Saber, as the crackdown is officially known. He added that Secretary of State Colin Powell recently told him that Serbian firms will be able to play a role in the reconstruction of Iraq, where they previously built "not just bunkers [but also] roads, schools, and hospitals" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2003). PM
KOSOVAR LEADER CALLS ON CROATS TO RETURN
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi marked the 700th anniversary of the ethnically mixed community of Janjevo by calling on its Croatian former inhabitants to return, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that returnees will have the full support of the local Albanians. Zagreb authorities helped resettle many members of Kosova's long-standing ethnic Croatian communities in Croatia after independence in 1991. Many of the migrants had difficulty adapting to a more fast-paced society and to the standard Croatian language. PM
CROATS MARK TWO WORLD WAR II ANNIVERSARIES
President Stipe Mesic joined other top Croatian officials, foreign ambassadors, tripartite Bosnian Presidency member Sulejman Tihic, an unspecified number of former inmates of the Jasenovac concentration camp, and other individuals to mark the anniversary of the 11 May 1945 killing of over 500 camp inmates who tried to escape their pro-Axis captors, London's "The Independent" reported. The prisoners died as they "tried to flee the camp where tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and antifascist Croats had been exterminated during the war," the paper added. This was the first time that a Croatian head of state attended the annual commemoration at Jasenovac. Meanwhile, in Bleiburg in southern Austria, Bishop Zelimir Puljic, who heads the Croatian Bishops' Conference, celebrated Mass at a memorial service for at least 100,000 Croats killed by Josip Broz "Tito's" Partisans in 1945. The dead included civilians, reservists, and conscripts, as well as hardened pro-Axis fighters, all of whom were handed over to the Partisans by British forces. Any discussion of the Bleiburg killings was taboo in former Yugoslavia before the collapse of communism in 1990. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY MIGHT PARTICIPATE IN IRAQ STABILIZATION FORCES...
President Ion Iliescu said on 9 May that Romania is examining a request from Great Britain to deploy troops to participate in the stabilization forces that are being set up to monitor postwar Iraq, Romanian Radio reported. The forces would work alongside British forces in one of the zones into which Iraq is to be divided (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 May 2003). Defense Ministry State Secretary George Mayor said the same day that Romania will send peacekeeping troops to Iraq and that the forces will include infantry, military police, and engineering troops, Mediafax reported. Also on 9 May, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana met in Washington with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios to discuss the participation of Romanian companies in the reconstruction of Iraq, Romanian Radio reported. MS
...AND WARNS AGAINST DISMISSING U.S. SENATE'S REMARKS
Iliescu on 9 May warned that remarks included in a recent U.S. Senate report on the progress of democratization in Romania should not be taken lightheartedly, Romanian Radio reported. The remarks were included in a report before the upper house ratified Romania's and six other candidate countries' NATO-accession protocols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2003). The report said Romania must act resolutely against corruption and called the Greater Romania Party (PRM), the country's second-largest political party, a xenophobic formation. PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor responded that the remarks constitute an "irresponsible act" reminiscent of the Cold War era. MS
RULING PARTY WINS FIRST ROUND OF LOCAL BY-ELECTIONS IN ROMANIA
The ruling Social Democratic Party won 10 mayoral seats and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania two seats in local by-elections held in 24 localities on 11 May, Romanian Radio reported the next day, citing Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca. A runoff is to take place on 18 May in the remaining 12 localities between the two best-placed candidates, none of whom garnered more than 50 percent in the first round. MS
PRINCE OF WALES ON PRIVATE ROMANIAN VISIT
Prince Charles on 9 May arrived for a private visit to Romania that was to include visits to the country's famous northern monasteries, Mediafax reported. Prince Charles dined in Suceava privately with President Iliescu and some of his councilors. Iliescu said Prince Charles's visit is of a private nature and that Charles explicitly requested that its character be respected. Iliescu said their talks were "warm and amiable" and that Prince Charles "loves Romania" and decided to visit the northern areas of the country after having paid a visit to Transylvania last year. MS
MOLDOVA OSCE MISSION CHIEF SAYS CRITICISM OF FEDERALIZATION PLAN REFLECTS 'MISUNDERSTANDING'...
OSCE Mission Chief to Moldova William Hill on 10 May said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service that criticism of the OSCE's plan for the country's federalization reflects a "mistaken comprehension of the notion of federalization." He said the plan's critics believe its end result will be "the de facto dismemberment of the country or a de facto acceptance of the continuation of foreign, particularly Russian, military presence in the Moldovan Republic." Hill said that "none of these objections" is based on reality. He said the plan is aimed at "the reunification of a [currently] divided country" and creating a state with a joint economy, no restrictions on the free movement of labor, and joint customs and defense systems. "Our objective is certainly that of reaching an agreement on a reunified, independent, and sovereign Moldova," he said. Hill added that the OSCE should "perhaps to make our intentions more clear" to critics of the plan. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca last week in an interview with the BBC accused Hill of being driven by a "clearly old-fashioned pro-Russian imperial mentality" and said, "The best thing [Hill] can do for Moldova is leave." MS
...WHILE PRO-PPCD PUBLICATIONS CRITICIZE HILL
The editors in chief of the daily "Flux " and the weekly "Timpul" on 10 May published an open letter addressed to Hill in which they denied being driven by "nationalist bias," the Moldovan news agency Flux reported. The letter came in response to comments Hill allegedly made in letters to the editors last week. They called the allegations "unfounded and insulting." The two editors said Hill was reacting to an article in which they had questioned his objectivity as a mediator. They said the article to which Hill referred did not address national or language-related issues and questioned only Hill's diplomatic activity. The journalists said Hill is attempting to "avoid the issues raised" and indulging in behavior inappropriate for a Western diplomat. They also said Hill is attempting to misuse the OSCE "to intimidate the growing number of critics of your activity as mediator," and that the terminology he employs "is the same as that used by the Soviet authorities in Moscow and Chisinau when we were demanding our rights to [use] our mother tongue and to independence." MS
CHISINAU CEREMONY MARKS 'VICTORY DAY' UNDER STALIN'S PORTRAITS
At a Victory Day ceremony held in Chisinau on 9 May to mark the end of World War II, participants carried portraits of Stalin and Russian-language banners reading "the Soviet Union is our fatherland," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The ceremony was attended by President Vladimir Voronin, prominent members of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists, and Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean. MS
MOODY'S IMPROVES MOLDOVA'S RATING
Moody's international rating agency has upgraded Moldova's country-risk ratings for medium-and long-term credits from Caa3 to Caa2 and for local-currency deposits from Caa2 to Caa1, Infotag and Flux reported on 7 May. The agency reportedly based its decision on the country's economic growth, which is largely due to agricultural exports to Russia. Moody's warned, however, that the Moldovan government still carries a large debt burden and has not achieved significant progress in its privatization process. In addition, the agency said the government has failed to implement structural reforms and will continue to depend on foreign loans to cover its budget deficit. ZsM/MS
FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BULGARIA'S POSITION ON IRAQ WAS 'CRUCIAL' TO U.S. RATIFICATION OF NATO PROTOCOLS
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists in Bulgaria on 9 May that the U.S. Senate's ratification of Bulgaria's NATO-accession protocols "crowned 13 years of continuous efforts" to join the alliance, BTA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2003). Pasi made the comments upon returning from Washington, D.C., where he participated in a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and representatives of the seven states whose NATO-accession protocols were ratified on 8 May. Pasi said that "Bulgaria's approach to the Iraq crisis" played a "crucial" role in the Senate's decision. The ratification "gave an additional green light to the European Union's future enlargement as well," he said. Pasi said Bush personally told him that the "Bulgarians are great allies" and that he is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to Sofia this week "to express our respect for your country." MS
IMF DELEGATION REVIEWING IMPLEMENTATION OF BULGARIAN COMMITMENTS
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation headed by Jerald Schiff arrived in Bulgaria on 9 May to review the implementation of commitments Sofia undertook in December 2002, when the release of the first $32 million tranche of a two-year $300 million standby loan was approved by the IMF'S executive board, BTA and dpa reported. The delegation will remain in Bulgaria until 20 May. Finance Minister Milen Velchev was expected to conduct a first round of discussions with Schiff on 12 May. IMF resident representative Piritta Sorsa told the private Darik radio that the mission will focus on inconsistencies in the budget, particularly pertaining to revenue and spending targets. When the tranche was disbursed in December 2002, IMF officials warned that the planned deficit of 0.7 percent of GDP was based on overly optimistic revenue figures, according to dpa. MS
UNEMPLOYMENT DECLINING IN BULGARIA
Labor Minister Lidia Shuleva told journalists on 10 May that unemployment in Bulgaria at the end of April was 14.9 percent, down from 17.75 percent in April 2002, BTA reported. She said unemployment rates have been steadily declining since last year and that 126,500 fewer people are registered as being unemployed compared to April 2002. Shuleva said the drop is partly due to the implementation of a policy by which municipalities registering high unemployment rates benefit from special incentives related to income-tax cuts, which is designed to spur new jobs. She said the special incentives will remain in place for five years. MS
A FEDERATION FOR IRAQ
Before and during the brief U.S.-led military campaign to topple Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein's brutal Ba'athist regime a great deal of attention was paid to Iraq's ethnic and religious complexities. Since then, much of the discussion on how to engage nation building has focused on economic issues and the dangers of Iraqi opposition to the U.S. presence. To be sure, these are important issues, but the most important issue will be fashioning a viable federal system that balances the interests of Iraq's regions and nationalities. This is especially so since one group, the Sunni minority of central Iraq, formed the power base of Hussein's Ba'ath Party, which with a heavy hand oppressed both the Shi'ite community in southern Iraq that makes up 60 percent of Iraq's population and the independence-minded Kurdish minority that dominates northern Iraq. Turkoman and Armenian minorities further complicate the picture in the north.
While one can question the particulars, the effort to create a multi-communal council for the northern city of Mosul is a good first step. However, the walkout by some groups to protest the ethnic basis upon which the council's membership was organized shows just how sensitive, even explosive, these issues can be. In this light, the international community, foremost the United States, needs to focus intensively on federation building in Iraq in a way that strikes a balance between different minority interests and the interest of all in maintaining an integral Iraqi state. The breakup of states as a result of one or more of its communities' drive for self-determination through secession is often accompanied by violence.
There are several institutions and mechanisms that can be implemented over the mid- to long term to build an Iraqi federation acceptable to Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds alike. First and most obviously, the country needs to be subdivided into at least three autonomous provinces for the Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds, respectively. Each should have considerable authority for local self-rule over economic and cultural policies.
Each province should have control over the majority of the natural resources on its territory or tax revenues from the profits generated by their exploitation. A minority portion of the same should go to federal coffers. At least part of the federal share from oil profits should go into a special fund like that which exists in the U.S. state of Alaska that would deliver annual checks to each family in Iraq. Also, perhaps, ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities could be given extraterritorial control over language, cultural, and religious education. Shi'a, for example, could be given some tax revenues or taxation powers to create their own governing bodies to administer policies in these issue areas anywhere in Iraq where communities of Shi'a are concentrated.
Not only should the federal Iraqi government have a limited role in provincial governance, but the autonomous provinces should have an important role in federal lawmaking. The typical mechanism for consensual decision-making in the central governments of federative systems is an upper house of the federal parliament that gives equal representation to each region. This, however, is not feasible in Iraq given the small number of sub-federal constituent parts. Therefore, the upper house could be composed of an equal number of senators from each of the three national-territorial provinces, plus proportional representation for each of Iraq's ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, including Arabs, Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Turkomans, Shebak, Yezidi, and Armenians.
The executive branch, specifically government ministerial posts or even a trilateral or rotating presidency like that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, could be shared to foster joint decision-making. Alternatively, the autonomous provinces' legislatures could be given veto powers over federal legislative bills.
In addition to these internally oriented institutions, which address communal aspirations for self-determination and ideally will obviate the impulse toward secession, externally oriented measures can assuage these communities' desires for an independent role on the international stage. This is especially important in our globalizing age, when state sovereignty is already compromised and substate actors are increasingly integrated into regional and international cultural, economic, and even political organizations. Thus the autonomous provinces and entities on their territories could be given some leeway to conduct international trade and cultural programs without federal interference. Iraq's own rapid integration into regional and global organizations will facilitate its provinces' involvement in programs such as the European Union's Euro-Regions program.
With these mechanisms in place, others should be implemented to counterbalance their tendency to reinforce communal divisions and, perhaps, to spark centrifugal, separatist tendencies. A democratic Iraqi national identity must evolve and individual aspirations must become part of Iraqis' sense of dignity if more narrow communal identities are not to consume the new Iraq in internecine strife. Some or all of the above arrangements should be firmly institutionalized in federal-provincial power-sharing agreements democratically endorsed in popular referendums.
In order to establish and strengthen a new democratic Iraqi supranational identity, electoral practices that encourage cross-communal electoral coalitions and some cultural-assimilation policies are in order. Political parties could be required to seek a certain minimum number of members in each autonomous province in order to qualify to run candidates in federal elections or be required to garner a certain minimum number of votes in each province to take seats in the federal parliament's lower house. The federal government must be given some competences in fiscal, economic, and education policies and have broad powers to enforce political and civil rights.
A multi-communal Iraq thus must become a "pluri-communal" Iraq. Institutional design will play a major role in any outcome. To be successful, Iraq and the international community must evenhandedly juggle supranational Iraqi interests and sub-federal regional and communal interests, as well as individual rights and freedoms.
Gordon M. Hahn is a lecturer at San Jose State University and a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
IRANIAN OPPOSITION GROUP AGREES TO DISARM
The Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), an armed Iranian opposition movement based in Iraq, agreed on 10 May to hand over its weapons to U.S. forces, RFE/RL reported the same day. General Ray Odierno of the U.S. Army's 5th Corps was careful to note that MKO members are disarming themselves, not surrendering, the BBC reported the same day. Unidentified officials at 5th Corps told AP on 10 May that the MKO, based some 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, will now be "protected by American forces." The capitulation of the group, which London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 23 April as having as many as 20,000 associates in Iraq, shores up U.S. control of the situation on the ground. The broader question of the organization's future in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq remains open. Hussein supported the MKO in its struggle against the Iranian government, and the group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, allegedly helped to train the ousted Iraqi leader's Republican Guard. DK
U.S. SHAKES UP IRAQ ADMINISTRATION
U.S. Army Major John Cornelio announced on 11 May that Barbara Bodine, U.S. coordinator for central Iraq, will be vacating her position immediately, AP reported the same day. Bodine, whose position made her the effective mayor of Baghdad, told "The Washington Post" on 11 May that she will be reassigned to Washington to be deputy director of the State Department's political-military division. The move marks the continuation of an administrative shake-up that will soon see counterterrorism expert L. Paul Bremer replace retired General Jay Garner at the helm of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) for Postwar Iraq. The "Los Angeles Times" reported on 11 May that, as Bremer takes control, two more senior officials will follow in Bodine's footsteps. An anonymous State Department source told the paper that Bodine will be replaced by a "retired foreign-service officer." The shake-up comes amid reports of mounting Iraqi frustration at continuing disorder and a vacuum of authority. The departing Bodine told "The Washington Post," "I'm not leaving with a sense that we've done everything we could have done, but I'm also not leaving with the sense that it's been a failure." DK
REPORT ALLEGES THAT IRAQI AGENTS INFILTRATED AL-JAZEERA
Britain's "Sunday Times" reported on 11 May that documents from Baghdad prove that Iraqi intelligence agents infiltrated Qatar-based satellite-television network Al-Jazeera. According to the documents, allegedly obtained by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and subsequently made available to the "Sunday Times," Iraqi intelligence controlled three agents within Al-Jazeera and referred to the network as an "instrument" the regime used to "foil" U.S. aggression. There was no independent confirmation of the allegations. For its part, Al-Jazeera promised to investigate the matter, CNN reported on 11 May. Network spokesman Jihad Ballout commented, "We were told that there were documents, we were presented with documents, but we have not ascertained their authenticity." Ballout told Reuters on 11 May that the network did not know of "any member of Al-Jazeera who is working for any foreign intelligence" group. Some observers saw a pro-Hussein bias in the network's war coverage, which focused heavily on Iraqi civilian casualties. An Al-Jazeera crew was harassed by a crowd of Iraqis in Al-Basrah on 10 May, AP reported the next day. According to the Al-Jazeera newscaster, "Angry locals accused the station of complicity with the previous regime." No one was hurt in the incident. DK
EXILED SCIRI LEADER RETURNS TO IRAQ
Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim returned to Iraq on 10 May after a 23-year-exile in Iran. He promptly gave a speech in Al-Basrah in which he demanded that foreigners leave Iraq, called for unity among Iraqis, and appeared to praise a theocratic system of government, according to Iranian state television. "We should speak with one voice. The marjaiyat [sources of emulation] is one of the institutions that unifies our people and we shall be serving it." According to London's "The Times" on 10 May, al-Hakim's supporters compare his return to Iraq to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's return to Iran in 1979. His opponents, on the other hand, see him as old news and criticize his alliance with Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. These opponents consider Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Hojatoleslam Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqis who stayed in Iraq, more representative. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT HEADS TO BEIRUT FOR HISTORIC VISIT
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami was expected to arrive in Lebanon on 12 May for a three-day visit, the first to the country by an Iranian president. Khatami is scheduled to meet with President Emile Lahud and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, Tele-Liban reported on 9 May. Khatami is to receive an honorary doctorate from Lebanese University and then visit St. Joseph University. It is almost certain that Khatami will meet with Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, but this was not mentioned. Khatami and Lahud are scheduled to sign several agreements, according to Tele-Liban. These include: "an agreement for a...$50 million loan to finance a number of projects in a number of areas, an environmental-cooperation agreement, an agreement for cooperation in customs administration, an agreement for cooperation in the fields of youth and sports, a memorandum for starting trade negotiations between the two countries, and an agreement for women's affairs." BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL TRIP TO SYRIA OUTLINED
Housing and Urban Development Minister Ali Abdol-Alizadeh said on 10 May that President Khatami will arrive in Syria on 14 May, IRNA reported. Abdol-Alizadeh, who heads the Iran-Syria Joint Economic Commission, said Khatami will stay in the Syrian capital for two days and will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri, and Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari. Khatami's first presidential visit to Damascus took place on 12-15 May 1999. During that trip he met with Hizballah Secretary-General Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP) Secretary-General Ahmed Jibril, PFLP head George Habash, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, and Hamas political bureau head Khalid Mashaal (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 May 1999). Khatami also met with former Syrian President Hafez Assad. Khatami returned to Damascus in June 2000 to attend Assad's funeral (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 June 2000). BS
FORMER IRANIAN GUESTS MEET IN AFGHANISTAN
Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the Jamiyat-e Islami party, met on 7 May with Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported. Both Rabbani and Ismail Khan were guests of the Iranian government after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. BS
AFGHAN GOVERNMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SAFETY OF AFGHANS IN PAKISTAN
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad has said that the ministry has expressed its concern over reports that large numbers of Afghan refugees have recently been arrested by provincial security forces in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, IRIN reported on 9 May. The ministry has "transmitted the government's views on the subject through diplomatic channels to the Pakistani authorities," he said. "The Afghan government hopes that the government of Pakistan will find a solution and address the concerns expressed by the Afghan side." TG
AFGHAN CLERIC KILLED ON WAY TO PRAYERS
Hajji Abibullah, a cleric from central Afghanistan's central Uruzgan Province was killed on 7 May, the Bahrain-based "Gulf Daily News" reported on 12 May. Hajji Abibullah, the principal mullah of a mosque in the Deh Raoud District, was killed by unidentified assailants as he was traveling from the village of Kalacha to the mosque, Oruzgan Province Governor Jan Mohammad said. The Afghan Transitional Administration on 10 May condemned the killing as a "terrorist and anti-Islamic act," and accused the Taliban and their allies of responsibility. Deh Raoud, which is 100 kilometers north of Kandahar, is the home of Mohammad Omar, the former spiritual leader of the Taliban regime. TG
TWO GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS REPORTEDLY KILLED IN AFGHAN LAND-MINE BLAST
Two government officials were killed on 11 May when their vehicle hit a land mine in Khost Province, Afghan Islamic Press reported, citing unidentified sources from the area. The blast reportedly took place near Nadar Shah Kot, some 20 kilometers northwest of Khost city. TG