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Newsline - July 8, 2003

Speaking during his weekly meeting with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and the heads of Russia's security agencies on 7 July, President Vladimir Putin attributed the 5 July suicide bombing in Moscow to Chechen separatists and said that their main goal is disrupt "a political settlement in Chechnya," RTR reported. Putin called on the security forces to seek out the "terrorists" and destroy them. "The bandits operating in Chechnya are part of the international terrorist network," Putin said. "It is useless to try to work with them. They should be plucked out of the basements and caves where they are hiding and destroyed." Putin asked Ivanov and his colleagues in the security organs to boost efforts "through the partnership channels of the international terrorism coalition" to secure the extradition of people suspected of having committed crimes in Russia. Putin also urged the security chiefs "not to be provoked by terrorists." He said their actions should be selective and precise in order to avoid harming the civilian population and detracting support from the political processes that have begun. VY

Speaking at a conference of regional Federal Security Service (FSB) officials in Ulyanovsk on 4 July, FSB Chairman Nikolai Patrushev said that his agency should have control over the privatization of industrial enterprises, especially those within the defense sector, and reported on 7 July. He said that he is "concerned" about some deals that have already been made in this sector. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko supported Patrushev's initiative and said that information gathered by regional FSB officials has played an important role in combating economic crime and in detecting violations of the laws regulating privatization, reported. Property Relations Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Parshukov said that the ministry routinely uses FSB agents who are assigned to the ministry to monitor defense-sector privatization. "If they have concerns in this area, they should address them with their own people," Parshukov said, according to The website commented that Patrushev's concern might have been piqued by the 6 June slaying of Igor Klimov, the acting general director of the leading defense contractor Almaz-Antei (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). VY

Prosecutors are not allowing the lawyers of Platon Lebedev, the billionaire chairman of the board of Yukos's financial arm Menatep, to be present during interrogations, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 July. Lebedev was arrested on 3 July on suspicion of embezzling nearly $300 million from the state during a 1994 privatization deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 July 2003). In apparent violation of earlier promises that the inquiry into the case would be lawful and transparent, interrogators now say that the lawyers -- Yevgenii Baru and Anton Drel -- cannot enter Lefortovo prison for the interrogations because "there is not any free room in the building to conduct interrogations." Baru and Drel told journalists that they have appealed a Moscow district court decision upholding the prosecutor's arrest warrant for Lebedev and that they are demanding their client be released on bond. "Vremya novostei" on 7 July reported that state-owned petrochemical major Rosneft had complained to the Prosecutor-General's Office that Yukos had allegedly "stolen" a 19 percent stake in a company called Yeniseineftegas that Rosneft claims belongs to it. Rosneft alleged that Yukos illegally included the stake in the company's offshore assets, and has asked prosecutors to investigate. VY

Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the CEO of oil giant Yukos and reportedly the richest person in Russia, said on 7 July that the recent actions of the authorities against Yukos officials are unlawful, Russian media reported. Although the actions are being carried out with the appearance of legality, Khodorkovskii said, they are essentially illegitimate. "We are witnessing the beginning of a power struggle between different camps in the entourage of President Putin," he said, adding that the struggle will be completed after the March 2004 presidential elections. He noted that it is Putin's political style not to intervene in such struggles. on 7 July wrote that the Kremlin believes that Khodorkovskii violated an unwritten agreement that was struck between Putin and the oligarchs when the president came to power in 2000. Under that agreement, the Kremlin would not look into the legitimacy of any capital accumulations if the oligarchs renounced any claim on political power. Instead, the website argued, Khodorkovskii began financing the Communist Party, Yabloko, and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), which could give him influence over up to one-half of the deputies in the new Duma. Naturally, the Kremlin cannot ignore this possibility, since it is trying to achieve the same goal, concluded. VY

Sergei Stepashin said in St. Petersburg on 7 July that Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich's recent purchase of a majority stake in the London-based Chelsea soccer club (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003) was "an arrogant and demonstrative challenge to Russia," RosBalt and other Russian media reported. Stepashin said that if Abramovich has extra money, then as a politician and a governor, he should invest it in his region rather than buying a British sports team. He added that the Audit Chamber has established that Sibneft, the oil giant that Abramovich controls, evaded paying 10 billion rubles ($300 million) in taxes in 2001. "The state will soon make its own conclusions about the deal with Chelsea," Stepashin said. VY

LEFT-WING WEBSITE COMMENTS ON LATEST ANTICORRUPTION CAMPAIGN on 7 July editorialized that the recent arrests of allegedly corrupt senior law enforcement officials, the arrests of a group of border guards charged with smuggling wanted criminal suspects out of the country, and the arrest and interrogations of top Yukos managers seem at first glance to be an election-campaign tactic to boost the image of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, which is headed by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov. However, a second glance reveals that one of those who has experienced problems because of the anticorruption effort is Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is also a leader of Unified Russia. Instead, the website argues, what we are seeing is a struggle for control of the country's security and law enforcement community between the so-called St. Petersburg chekists and the Yeltsin-era Family. The former is headed by a former colleague of Putin's from the KGB, Lieutenant General Konstantin Romadanovskii, who now heads the Interior Ministry's Internal Affairs Department. Shoigu is the Family's senior official within the security community, the website wrote. VY

The Liberal Russia splinter group that continues to work with self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii has picked former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin as its leader, and other Russian media reported on 7 July. According to the website, the decision to elevate Rybkin was made during a meeting of the party's political council on 4 July. In 1996-97, Berezovskii was Rybkin's deputy on the Security Council, overseeing the government's policies in Chechnya. Rybkin was quoted as saying the party will hold a congress in September that will "definitively stabilize the situation" in the party's leadership. The party's main task, he said, is to create a "broad front of creative opposition to the current authorities," adding that it is ready for dialogue with like-minded groups, reported on 7 July. The significance of Rybkin's elevation as leader of the pro-Berezovskii splinter group is as murky as the group's status generally, given that it is not an officially recognized party. The Justice Ministry registered the Liberal Russia grouping headed by Viktor Pokhmelkin and the late Sergei Yushenkov, immediately after it expelled Berezovskii and his supporters from its ranks. Yushenkov was shot dead in Moscow the same day that his party's registration became official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003). The pro-Berezovskii group's co-chairman and de facto leader prior to Rybkin's elevation, Mikhail Kodanev, was charged on 2 July with ordering Yushenkov's killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). JB

Igor Shabdurasulov, who represents the shareholders of the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Company (MNVK), announced on 7 July that an agreement-in-principle has been reached to sell the 75 percent stake in the company held by structures controlled by Berezovskii to a consortium that includes advertising monopolist Video International, Vneshekonombank, Rosmediakom, Sberbank, and other companies, Interfax reported. Video International was founded by and maintains close ties to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin. State-owned Vneshekonombank holds more than $100 million in overdue debts owed by state-controlled ORT television. Shabdurasulov did not specify the terms under which the deal to sell the stake in MNVK, parent company of the now-defunct TV-6, might be consummated, but said the terms are "very complicated." The Media Ministry pulled the plug on TV-6 in early 2002 after one of MNVK's then-shareholders, the LUKOIL-Garant pension fund, successfully sued it. The license to broadcast over TV-6's frequency was then awarded to the Media-Sotsium noncommercial partnership, which set up TVS. In April, the Media Ministry, following a court ruling, rescinded its order suspending MNVK's broadcasting license (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). The Media Ministry shut down TVS in June, replacing it with state-owned Sport TV (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 24, and 27 June 2003). Shabdurasulov said on 7 July that MNVK has officially handed its broadcasting license over to Sport TV. JB

A poll conducted by the Agency for Regional and Political Research (ARPI) at the beginning of July found that 23 percent of respondents are ready to vote for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, 17 percent for the Communist Party, 4 percent for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), 3 percent for Yabloko, 2 percent for the SPS, and 2 percent "against all." The poll was taken among 1,600 respondents across Russia, Interfax reported on 7 July. A significant number of the respondents -- 43 percent -- said they are not sure which party they prefer. Asked for whom they would vote if the presidential election were to be held the following Sunday, 68 percent named President Putin, while a mere 7 percent named Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov. JB

The SPS might, "under certain conditions," support presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko in the 21 September St. Petersburg gubernatorial elections, SPS Deputy Chairwoman Irina Khakamada told Ekho Moskvy on 6 July. Among the conditions that Khakamada said Matvienko had to meet in order to win SPS support was adopting the party's program for St. Petersburg's economic development. Khakamada told RosBalt on 4 July that the SPS will decide whom to back in the race after all the candidates are registered and the party has a chance to study their programs. Khakamada said she personally will support Matvienko, but that the SPS's political council will make a decision for the party. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii released a statement on 7 July saying that his party is considering running its own candidate in the race. The statement noted, however, that "recent experience" shows that Yabloko could "cooperate" with Matvienko in improving the situation in St. Petersburg. Matvienko, meanwhile, said that all candidates in the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race must have equal access to the media, Interfax reported on 7 July. So far, nine candidates, including Matvienko, have thrown their hats into the ring. JB

The Health Ministry and the World Health Organization on 7 July presented a joint report on violence in Russia, Russian media reported. The report states that Russia has three times more murders and suicides each year than the Western European average. According to Dmitrii Veltishchev of the Moscow Psychiatric Research Institute, "one of the factors giving rise to violence in the Russian Federation is an absence of a proper family upbringing," ITAR-TASS reported. Adolescents incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong grow up into cruel and amoral people, Veltishchev said, adding that violence is usually committed by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs. RosBalt quoted Veltishchev as saying that Russia's suicide rate is 2.7 times the international average and steadily rising. It increased from 26.4 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 39.7 per 100,000 in 2001. It peaked in 1994 at 42.1 per 100,000 and dropped to its lowest level in 1998 at 35.4 per 100,000, reported. The highest suicide rate is found among men aged 45-54 (106.7 per 100,000). Russian men are six times more likely to commit suicide than Russian women, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. JB

In a 7 July statement posted on, Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov dismissed as "a crime against the Chechen people" and a mockery of the basic principles of democracy President Putin's 4 July decree scheduling elections for a new Chechen president for 5 October. Akhmadov appealed to the international community to condemn Russia's "genocidal policy" in Chechnya. LF

It is still not clear whether mechanical failure caused the crash of a Russian military helicopter in Chechnya's Kurchaloi Raion on 6 July, or whether the aircraft was hit by gunfire from the ground as it was taking off, Russian media reported on 7 July. ITAR-TASS quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the rotor fell off shortly after takeoff, while Interfax on 7 July quoted unnamed Defense Ministry officials as saying the helicopter had been hit by several dozen bullets. Five Russian servicemen died in the crash, and 10 were injured. LF

The Constitutional Court on 7 July rejected an appeal by the opposition alliance Artarutiun to invalidate the results of the party-list voting in the 25 May parliamentary election, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 30 June and 7 July 2003). The opposition argued that as a result of deliberate and widespread falsification, the percentage of votes cast for Artarutiun under the proportional system was reduced from more than 50 percent to 14 percent. The court acknowledged that widespread irregularities occurred during the election process, but denied that the opposition arguments constituted hard evidence that could serve as a legal basis for invalidating the election outcome. LF

The Council of Europe's Ago Group met in Yerevan on 7 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and the leaders of parliamentary factions, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Ago Group's leader, Piero Ercole Ago, told journalists after those meetings that Kocharian and Baghdasarian pledged to make greater efforts to comply with Armenia's commitments to the Council of Europe, specifically by abolishing the death penalty before the end of this year and by amending the constitution and Election Code. But opposition leaders, including Artarutiun head Stepan Demirchian, argued that it is premature to abolish capital punishment. Many Armenians insist that the five men currently on trial for the1999 killings of eight prominent officials, including Demirchian's father, Karen, should be sentenced to death and executed. LF

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve has written to Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian calling for the abolition of an article in the recently adopted new Armenian Criminal Code under which libel is designated a criminal offense punishable by up to three years' imprisonment, Noyan Tapan reported on 7 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2003). LF

Seven Armenian pro-Communist parties announced their merger into the United Communist Party of Armenia on 7 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The seven are the Communist Party of the Working People, the United Progressive Communist Party, the Workers' Union, the Union of Communists, the Party of Intellectuals, the Marxist Party, and the Renewed Communist Party of Armenia. The original Communist Party of Armenia founded in 1920 continues to exist as a separate entity. LF

Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian told Interfax on 7 July there is no truth to claims by his Azerbaijani counterpart Colonel Ramiz Melikov that five Armenian servicemen and officers were killed and many more wounded in a 5 July attack on Azerbaijani positions in Garakhanbeyli, southwest of Baku. Melikov claimed that the Armenian forces launched a surprise attack during the evening of 5 July, but were repulsed by the Azerbaijani side. Two Azerbaijanis have been killed in exchanges of fire in Garakhanbeyli in the past 10 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 3 July 2003). Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told journalists in Baku on 7 July that further violations by Armenia of the cease-fire signed in April 1994 would negatively affect efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. LF

Azerbaijan's Appeals Court rejected on 7 July an appeal by Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) Chairman Rasul Guliev against the Central Election Commission's refusal to register him as a candidate to contest the presidential election scheduled for 15 October, Turan and reported on 7 and 8 July, respectively. ADR General Secretary Sardar Djalaloglu told Turan that the party will now appeal to Azerbaijan's Supreme Court. An unknown number of Guliev's supporters who were waiting outside the Appeals Court building on 7 July for the ruling to be made public were injured in clashes with police. LF

Former President Ayaz Mutalibov, who has lived in Moscow since fleeing Azerbaijan after a bloodless coup in May 1992, plans to contest the 15 October presidential election as an independent candidate, rather than be nominated by his Party of Civic Unity, because the latter has still not succeeded in registering with the Justice Ministry, reported on 8 July. Mutalibov said a group of Azerbaijani citizens is preparing to propose his candidacy. LF

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation that visited Georgia on 24 June-7 July has issued a memorandum listing demands the Georgian government must fulfill by mid-August, Caucasus Press reported on 7 July. The fund insists that 2003 budget expenditures be cut by 95 million laris ($45 million) and revenues increased by 40 million laris, that the total 220 million-lari pension and state-sector wages backlog for 1998-2000 be added to the country's domestic debt, that electricity tariffs be raised, and that a new tax code be adopted. Deputy Minister of State Giorgi Isakadze, who met with the IMF delegation on 7 July before their departure, told Caucasus Press that it is crucial that Georgia comply with those demands. Failure to do so, Isakadze explained, might result in the loss of the IMF's support during talks with the Paris Club on the rescheduling of Georgia's foreign debt that are scheduled for September. LF

Eduard Shevardnadze suggested on 7 July convening a meeting with opposition representatives to discuss the proposals outlined during a visit to Tbilisi two days earlier by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker for ensuring the 2 November parliamentary election is free and democratic, the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). Shevardnadze also rejected the argument by the opposition party Ertoba that Baker's efforts to overcome the standoff between the Georgian authorities and opposition regarding the optimal composition of the new Central Election Commission constituted unwarranted interference in Georgian domestic politics, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze described the United States as a "strategic partner" that has "a moral right" to offer such advice. LF

Vladislav Ardzinba, who is undergoing a further course of treatment in Moscow for an undisclosed illness, has told Russian journalists that he will not step down before his presidential term expires in October 2004, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July. Ardzinba said he is the guarantor of political stability in the unrecognized republic. Amtsakhara, the Abkhaz opposition movement of which veterans of the 1992-93 war with Georgia form the nucleus, plans to demand Ardzinba's resignation at its upcoming congress on 10 July, Caucasus Press reported on 7 July quoting Garri Samanba, one of the movement's leaders. Samanba argued that a power vacuum has emerged during the past three years as a result of Ardzinba's incapacitation. LF

Three people were killed and four injured when an oil storage facility in Eshera was destroyed by an explosion late on 7 July, Caucasus Press and "Mtavari gazeti" reported on 8 July. The Tbilisi-based Abkhaz State Security Ministry denied that guerrillas dispatched to Abkhazia from Georgia were responsible for the explosion. LF

The members of the Conference on Cooperation and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CCCBMA) have sent diplomats to Almaty to begin drafting a catalog of confidence-building measures for the organization, reported on 7 July. The heads of state of the 16 CCCBMA members agreed in June 2002 to draft the catalog. According to the report, the catalog will include rules committing CCCBMA members to take steps to ensure security and resolve conflicts. Kazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov was quoted as saying the military and political dimension of the document will be the most difficult, because among the confidence-building measures to be included are exchanges of military information and information on troop movements. The catalog will also include measures in the areas of culture, economics, and tourism. CCCBMA was the brainchild of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who envisioned it as a sort of Asian equivalent to the OSCE. The members are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Palestinian Autonomy, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. BB

OSCE Chairman in Office and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Kazakhstan on 7 July as the first stop in the traditional chairman's tour of the Central Asian OSCE participating states, Kazakhstan Today, Interfax-Kazakhstan, and Deutsche Welle reported. Scheffer was quoted as saying that he is convinced that Kazakhstan "is acting as a driving force, a locomotive, of political and economic reforms" in Central Asia. He met with President Nazarbaev, with whom he discussed Kazakhstan's political and economic development, as well as relations between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. Nazarbaev reportedly asked for increased Dutch investment in his country. The issue of new election legislation was also raised. The OSCE has been sharply critical of election practices in Kazakhstan during previous parliamentary and presidential elections. During a meeting with Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Scheffer offered OSCE assistance in any area where Kazakhstan felt it was needed. BB

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie paid her first visit to Kazakhstan on 7 July, discussing military and technical cooperation with President Nazarbaev and the country's top military leadership, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Alliot-Marie told journalists that the French leadership is interested in cooperating with its partners in Central Asia to analyze the unstable situation developing in that region. She also offered French help to Kazakhstan in professionalizing its army and discussed French interest in using Kazakh military testing grounds for joint training exercises. Kazakh Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev told journalists that a project to teach French to the Kazakh military is under way with the assistance of the French Embassy in Almaty. France has offered to provide training for Kazakh officers at French military institutions and technical assistance for Kazakh peacekeepers in Iraq. BB

Three influential Kazakh parliamentarians -- Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin, Vladislav Kosarev, and Tolen Tokhtasynov -- have written a letter to President Nazarbaev, calling on him to reveal the names of the high-level Kazakh functionaries allegedly involved in the bribery scandal known as "Kazakhgate," because the affair is damaging the image of the country at home and abroad, reported on 4 July. Tokhtasynov read the letter to the joint session of parliament held that day. Its authors point out that no official Kazakh media outlet has explained the affair, although the independent media are publishing a great deal about it and the entire country is aware of the affair. He noted that recently Nazarbaev had told London's "Financial Times" that former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin was involved in Kazakhgate. The parliamentarians added that the people of Kazakhstan would also like to know if the country will be able to recover the large sums that are believed to be sequestered in Western banks. BB

Some of Kyrgyzstan's civil society and human rights activists have drafted a resolution based on discussions at a 3 July roundtable, at which government representatives and activists explored partnership possibilities for promoting political and social stability, reported on 7 July. The resolution calls for measures to ensure that presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2005 are free and fair, arguing that the possibility of changing governments is a guarantee of democratic development. President Askar Akaev is asked to declare publicly that he will not seek another term in office. According to the resolution, a moratorium should be declared on criminal libel cases filed by government functionaries against media outlets and journalists, and real measures -- via the media and civil society -- should be taken against corruption. The activists also argue that parliamentarians should be elected from party lists, and that an independent judiciary should be created. They call on the government to stop violating the civil and political rights of the opposition, to investigate the killings of demonstrators by police in March 2002, and to release Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov from prison. These principles are presented as the basic requirements for the partnership with civil society that the government says it wants. BB

Tajikistan has signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guaranteeing that no fissionable materials under its control will be used to make nuclear weapons, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported on 7 July, quoting the Tajik Foreign Ministry. Under the agreement, the IAEA promises not to interfere with Tajikistan's development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The agreement provides guarantees in accord with the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of which Tajikistan is a signatory. Tajikistan has uranium deposits that were mined in the Soviet era, and Tajik authorities have suggested that the country could develop a nuclear industry of its own. BB

Islam Karimov has proposed what he calls the "information integration" of the member states of the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003), reported on 7 July. He told journalists that he raised the issue at the CACO meeting on 5 July, explaining that the Central Asian states lack information about one another. Karimov said that the CACO presidents agreed to organize the broadcasting of television programs about each other's countries, starting with two hours of such programming each week. Moreover, the CACO states are planning to launch a communications satellite that would serve the Central Asian region. Karimov was pointing out a problem that was quite noticeable in the Central Asian media in the early years of independence, but which has improved considerably with the development of independent media, at least in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. BB

Chamber of Representatives Chairman Anatol Malafeyeu criticized a draft resolution on Belarus proposed by the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Rotterdam on 6 July, Belapan reported on 7 July. "There is nothing unexpected or new in it for us," Malafeyeu told Belapan. "The document distorts the essence of the processes that are taking place in Belarus," and it was adopted "under pressure from the overseas masters," Malafeyeu said. He expressed the hope that "common sense will prevail." Among other things, the draft notes the Belarusian government's failure to ensure political parties' access to the public media, give meaningful powers and functions to the legislature, refrain from discriminatory measures against the opposition, take measures to create a climate of trust in society, democratize the electoral law, or make the election process transparent. AM

Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka pledged government support for the Belarusian community in Poland at a 5 July meeting with leaders of the Belarusian Society and Culture Association (BSCA) in Bialystok, Belapan reported on 7 July, quoting the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's press office. Herasimenka said he hopes a reduction in the number of Belarusians in Poland (Poland's 2002 national census showed around 50,000 Belarusians) will not result in a decrease in financial support for cultural and education projects. BSCA Chairman Jan Syczewski stressed the importance for his organization of support and constructive relations with the Belarusian government. AM

The Association of War and Labor Veterans and Ex-Servicemen in Hrodna petitioned Education Minister Pyotr Bryhadzin and Premier Henadz Navitski to reverse the Belarusian government's decision to close the National Humanities Lyceum in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 7 July 2003), Belapan reported on 7 July, quoting association Chairman Mikalay Melnikau. It was "immoral and inhuman" to close the school shortly after the death of renowned writer Vasil Bykau, the petition said. Veterans also expressed their concern about what they called the revival of Soviet-era ideological values in schools and the government's efforts to remove the Belarusian language and national culture from the school curriculum. AM

President Leonid Kuchma said on 7 July that last week's confrontation between the pro-government majority and opposition deputies in the Verkhovna Rada was "absolutely irresponsible," Interfax reported. On 3 July, lawmakers failed to vote on any legislative issue as dispute continued over two bills on constitutional reforms, one proposed by the president and the other submitted by a group of opposition deputies. Lawmakers disagreed over which of the bills should be sent to the Constitutional Court for review. "The head of state must have the right to dissolve an inefficient parliament. This power in itself would force deputies to be more careful in carrying out their duties," Kuchma said, adding that he is pondering withdrawing his political-reform bill. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said he will "be forced" to send both bills to the Constitutional Court if the "mutual blockade" continues in the Verkhovna Rada. The Ukrainian parliament adjourns for summer recess at the end of this week. AM

The Statistics Office announced on 7 June that inflation rose 0.3 percent in the year to June, BNS reported. This is the lowest annual inflation rate since Estonia regained independence in 1991. Month-on-month deflation was 0.4 percent, marking the third consecutive month of deflation, with the greatest price decreases being for fuel and foodstuffs. There were also drops in the prices of household goods and communication services. Bank of Estonia official Andres Saarniit said food prices were lower because prices were unusually high last June and because demand was low throughout Europe. SG

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov met with President Rolandas Paksas in Vilnius on 6 July to discuss possibilities for further business cooperation between the two cities, BNS reported. The two cities signed an economic-cooperation agreement in 1999, and about 32 percent of all Lithuanian imports to Russia are consumed in Moscow, according to ITAR-TASS. Luzhkov said Moscow and St. Petersburg offer good opportunities for Lithuanian construction firms, as there are numerous construction projects in the two cities. Luzhkov spoke later that day with representatives of the Lithuanian Industrialists Confederation to discuss opportunities for business cooperation. Luzhkov traveled to Vilnius to participate in the 6 July festivities commemorating the 750th anniversary of the coronation of Lithuania's only king, Mindaugas. SG

Deputy Andrzej Jagiello tendered his resignation from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance's (SLD) parliamentary caucus and from all party functions, Polish Radio reported on 7 July. Jagiello also applied to Sejm speaker Marek Borowski for the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Grzegorz Kurczuk had already filed a request that Jagiello's immunity be lifted. Jagiello has been accused of having revealed state secrets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003) by warning local party colleagues in Starachowice of a pending operation by the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation. Podlasie Region Senator Sergiusz Plewa (SLD) also announced on 7 July that he will surrender his parliamentary immunity in an unrelated case; Plewa has been accused of causing a car accident while under the influence of alcohol. "I am ready to bear all the legal and political consequences of my behavior, in association with which I resign my senatorial immunity," Plewa said in a press statement. AM

Unexplained installations that are not included in the plans of the Polish Embassy in Moscow -- and reportedly could be used for eavesdropping -- have been found on the embassy's premises, Polish Television reported on 7 July, quoting "two credible sources." Neither Polish diplomats in Russia nor sources at the Foreign Ministry confirmed the report, but the Foreign Ministry is taking extraordinary measures to clarify the discovery, according to Polish Television. AM

Jan Kavan, a former Czech foreign minister who is currently presiding over the UN General Assembly, accused U.S. officials of "petty" efforts to persecute him and his family for his opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, London's "Financial Times" reported on 5 July. The Czech daily "Lidove noviny" picked up the story on 8 July, adding that a U.S. Embassy source in Prague dismissed the accusation as untrue. The "Financial Times" interviewer, Lionel Barber, reported that Kavan told him that his son and his son's girlfriend have encountered difficulties in obtaining visas to visit him in New York, where the UN is headquartered, adding that "[Kavan] is convinced that he and his family are being persecuted." During the same lunchtime interview, Kavan reportedly said of his experience as president of the UN General Assembly, "It's always the same countries that cause the problems: the Americans, the Cubans, and the Arabs." Kavan's term as foreign minister has come under intense political pressure since a former senior aide was charged with corruption and with contracting the would-be murder of a Czech journalist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). U.S. authorities have been asked by their Czech counterparts to take a deposition from the woman who currently heads Kavan's UN offices, Helena Opovicka, in connection with the corruption allegations, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 3 July. AH

Parliamentary speaker and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky on 7 July refused to sign the controversial amendment to the abortion law passed last week by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 July 2003), TASR reported on 8 July. According to the Slovak Constitution, a bill must be signed by the prime minister, speaker of parliament, and the president before it becomes law. Pavol Rusko, chairman of the Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO), which allied with opposition parties to pass the amendment despite fierce opposition from its coalition partners, said Hrusovsky has set a sad precedent. "It confirms that some politicians put their party's ideology ahead of the interests of the state and constitutional responsibilities," Rusko said. The amendment extends the permissible period for an abortion in cases when the fetus has genetic defects from the 12th to the 24th week of pregnancy. DW

According to constitutional lawyer Peter Kresak, KDH Chairman Hrusovsky would be in violation of the constitution if he refused to sign the amendment, TASR reported on 8 July. Only the president has the right to refuse to sign a bill after its approval by lawmakers, who may then override the president with a majority of votes in the 150-member parliament. President Rudolf Schuster will not accept the amendment from parliament until it has been signed by Hrusovsky or one of the deputy speakers, TASR quoted presidential spokesman Jan Fule as saying on 8 July. Rusko said ANO will call for special parliamentary discussion on the matter, but only after referring the matter to legal experts and the Constitutional Committee. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda signed the amendment on 8 July, TASR reported, citing government spokesman Martin Maruska. DW

At a 6 July meeting of the Free Forum, internal opposition members within the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), participants criticized the party leadership for perceived restrictions on the right to express their views freely, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The Free Forum is the product of growing dissent within the party's National Council. Dissenters object to a new procedural order -- proposed by council Chairman Ivan Peto and approved at a recent meeting of the SZDSZ National Council -- that they say greatly restricts the number of participants and their allowable contributions to party debate. ZsM

Visiting NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James L. Jones discussed NATO and Hungarian military reforms with Hungarian Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz in Budapest on 7 July, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Jones stressed the need for a professional army, but noted that funds must be ensured for the transformation of the armed forces. Acknowledging that reforms can be painful, he said NATO and the armies of its member states must prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. Jones, who is on a fact-finding visit to all NATO member states, also met with Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and President Ferenc Madl. ZsM

Albanian Economy Minister Arben Malaj, Kosovar Trade and Industry Minister Ali Jakupi, and Michael Steiner, who is the outgoing head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), signed a free-trade agreement in Prishtina on 7 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Tariffs will be lifted immediately on 50 percent of the goods in Albania-Kosova trade, with that figure rising to 90 percent by the end of 2003, excluding only a small quantity of agricultural products. The pact is the result of cooperation between the European Commission and the UN's Legal Office in New York, dpa reported. The international community stresses the importance of regional integration in the Balkans. In Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said the agreement violates existing international agreements on Kosova, adding that he will take up the matter with the UN (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June 2003). PM

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 7 July that the UN's new legal code for Kosova violates UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which stipulates that Kosova is part of "Yugoslavia," "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June 2003). Covic stressed that the code is "not serious," adding, "Steiner is leaving this job in the same fashion as he came into it." Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Nis that the code is a slap at the Serbian legal system and an endorsement of "Albanian separatism," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

Patrick Cox, who is the speaker of the European Parliament, has urged the Macedonian parliament not to ratify the recently signed, bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), "Dnevnik" reported on 7 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). In a letter to the parliament's speaker, Nikola Popovski, Cox wrote that countries that have signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU should act in line with EU policies. Popovski told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 6 July, however, that even 26 months after signing the agreement with Macedonia, not all EU members have ratified it. Popovski added that Macedonia currently depends much more on the United States from a political, military, and security standpoint than on the EU. UB

High Representative Paddy Ashdown announced in Sarajevo on 7 July that he has frozen the bank accounts of four family members of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic and 10 additional people believed to have helped him evade capture and extradition to The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The U.S. Embassy to Bosnia said in a statement that it has added three of those 10 names to President George W. Bush's recent Balkan blacklist of people on whom the United States has imposed political and economic sanctions. The EU recently announced a Balkan blacklist of its own, but it does not include economic sanctions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May, 2 June, and 2 July 2003). PM

In Banja Luka on 8 July, Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic called Ashdown's directive, in which the high representative also sacked two Bosnian Serb legislators, a "violation of human rights and the principles of democracy, [including] the right to work and [to express] one's own political opinion," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Elsewhere, Milenko Vracar, who heads Nova Banjalucka Banka and is included on Ashdown's list, said he has resigned his post pending clarification of how he came to be included, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. He suggested that "certain people in the Republika Srpska," whom he declined to name, wrongly supplied his name to Ashdown. PM

A State Department spokeswoman said in Washington on 7 July that Croatia is among the countries that will lose U.S. military assistance because it did not sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with Washington regarding the ICC by 1 July, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). PM

Ruling Social-Democratic (PSD) Party Secretary-General Cosmin Gusa on 7 July announced his resignation from his post and the party, Romanian Radio reported. He cited "differences of vision" as the reason for his decision, and said the PSD's absorption of the Socialist Labor Party (PSM) (see item below) is totally inappropriate and is something in which he cannot justify participating. Gusa, 33, said he does not intend to join any other party, but will continue to be politically active "in the spirit" of his generation. PSD Chairman and Premier Adrian Nastase the same day expressed regret over Gusa's decision to resign. ZsM

The PSD leadership on 7 July signed merger agreements with the Socialist Labor Party (PSM) and the Socialist Party of National Revival (PSRN), Mediafax reported. Leaders of the two extraparliamentary parties merging with the PSD will be elected to that party's boards, and they will also be represented in the PSD's local organizations. The mergers are to be completed by 30 September. PSD Deputy Chairman said the mergers will not negatively affect the PSD's political orientation, but rather reflect the other two parties' intention to adopt the PSD's values. The PSM was founded by former Communist Prime Minister Ilie Verdet, who served as chairman of the party until 1 July 2000. The PSRN was founded two years ago by former Greater Romania Party member Ioan Radu. ZsM

In a 2 July meeting, the Superior Council of the Magistracy accused Supreme Court President Paul Florea of violating laws and the magistrates' code of ethics, Mediafax reported on 7 July. Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita summoned Florea before the Superior Council of the Magistracy after the court ruled on 19 June that Mures Tribunal President Andreea Ciuca should be released from detention (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2003). The council argued that Florea unlawfully influenced the 19 June ruling in Ciuca's favor on behalf of the Mures Tribunal president, and thus failed to maintain the legal standards of the Supreme Court. The council stated that it "firmly rejects" such measures and called on magistrates to maintain their objectivity and impartiality. ZsM

OSCE Chairman and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's annual session in Rotterdam on 5 July said peacekeeping forces should be sent to Moldova in the event the Moldovan and Transdniester authorities fail to reach a political solution to their ongoing conflict, Flux reported on 7 July. OSCE Chairman spokeswoman Stella Ronner said the organization wants to see a political resolution to the Transdniester conflict and that even such a resolution would have to be observed with a "small peacekeeping force, armed with light weaponry." She added that this possibility has already been discussed within the OSCE, which considers reaching a settlement to the Transdniester conflict a top priority. The OSCE is mediating negotiations on a settlement along with Russia and Ukraine. A 6 July resolution of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly called on the Moldovan and Transdniester authorities to "continue negotiations" on resolving the crisis "by creating a federal state." Meanwhile, a meeting of experts from both sides that was to be held on 7 July to discuss recent tensions has been postponed, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. ZsM

President Georgi Parvanov on 7 July signed the amendments to the Judiciary Act that were passed by parliament on 3 July, according to a press release from the president's office. Parvanov underscored that the amendments will fill some of the gaps in the current legislation that developed after some provisions of the act were declared unconstitutional. "On the whole, [with the amendments] a necessary but insufficient step has been made for the reform efforts of the judiciary," Parvanov said. UB

President Parvanov warned that the amendments could spark new tensions between the parliament and the judiciary, as their adoption by the parliament coincides with the beginning of the election procedure for the new head of the Supreme Administrative Court, according to the 7 July press release from the president's office. Parvanov said the hasty adoption of the amendment leaves the impression that the changes are being made to thwart the election scheduled for 9 July of Constitutional Judge Georgi Markov as new Supreme Administrative Court head by the Supreme Judicial Council. The council reflects the composition of the previous parliament, in which the now-opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) held the majority. Under the amended Judiciary Act, a three-fourths majority is necessary to elect Supreme Court judges. Parvanov also criticized the Supreme Judicial Council's unsuccessful attempt to elect Markov in a quick procedure before the adoption of the amendments, saying that this might undermine confidence in the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). UB

The Prosecutor's Office at the Supreme Administrative Court has challenged the state Privatization Agency's decision to sell a 70-percent stake of the state-owned company Atomenergoremont to the Bulgarian Energy Company, reported on 7 July. The Prosecutor's Office reasoned that the Privatization Agency failed to take into account the Energy Ministry's conditions for the privatization, according to which only companies experienced in the maintenance and repair of nuclear-power plants were allowed to bid for Atomenergoremont. The prosecutors also fear that the privatization runs counter to national and nuclear security. UB

The fourth anniversary of the day in July 1999 ("18 Tir" or 9 July) when Iranian security forces and vigilantes stormed the Tehran University campus will be marked this week. The authorities have rejected student groups' applications to hold a commemorative march, and they have closed the university campus to outside visitors. These measures indicate the authorities' concern over residual anger from the unrest of just a few weeks earlier and their awareness of the students' restiveness. Nevertheless, one should avoid the temptation to overstate the situation and its potential significance.

The unrest of June 2003 did not reach the level of that of July 1999. And the events of July 1999, November 2002, or June 2003 are not comparable in scale to those of June 1963 or September 1978, when millions of people filled the streets of Tehran and other cities.

The students' current activism attracts a lot of media attention, but there are only 1.2 million university students in Iran, out of a total population of some 66.6 million. Nor are all students opposed to the regime. Some have withdrawn from political activism, some were not politically active to begin with, and others are members of the University Basij and are, in fact, supporters of the regime.

Those students who are politically active are not very united. The best-known student organization, the Office for Strengthening Unity, underwent a split in early 2002 over a dispute regarding support for President Mohammad Khatami and the reformists. The majority wing, known as the Neshast-i Allameh, wanted to withdraw from mainstream politics, whereas the minority wing, known as the Neshast-i Shiraz, preferred to continue its support for the president.

Ahmad Alamshahi, who heads the minority wing's public-relations office, said his group would not hold a gathering on 9 July, the Baztab website ( reported on 29 June. Reza Ameri-Nasab of the majority Allameh wing said that his group is determined to hold rallies on 9 July, the Baztab website reported on 24 June. Ameri-Nasab clarified this statement on 5 July, when he said that all 30 members of the Allameh wing's central council would stage a sit-in at the UN office in Tehran, Fars News Agency reported.

In another sign of disunity within the student movement, Allameh faction activist Said Razavi-Faqih wrote about the "new" Office for Fostering Democracy in a 1 July editorial in the "Yas-i No" daily from Tehran. He pointed out that when the Office for Strengthening Unity was created, its full name was the Office for Strengthening the Unity of the Seminary and University (Daftar-i Tahkim-i Vahdat-i Hozeh va Daneshgah). The situation is no longer about the pursuit of unity, Razavi-Faqih wrote, it is about democracy and governmental accountability. He wrote that the old organization is too centralized, too exclusive, and too dependent on the existing power structure, whereas the new one would be for all students and would have an "extranational and global approach." Yet Razavi-Faqih said that the Office for Fostering Democracy would continue to support the Office for Strengthening Unity.

Razavi-Faqih said in an interview that appeared in the 4 July issue of Milan's "Il Giornale" that there has been no response to his organization's request to commemorate the events of 9 July. Asked what they would do, he responded, "For the moment, we are waiting. I can only say that we are prepared to use all our energies."

Another student organization is Heshmatollah Tabarzadi's Democratic Front. A veteran activist, the 43-year-old Tabarzadi has been imprisoned many times. He announced that there will be massive crowds on the streets on 9 July, Germany's "Der Spiegel" reported on 23 June. Although the actual membership in his organization appears to be small, Tabarzadi's calls-to-arms are relayed throughout Iran by Los Angeles-based Persian-language satellite-television stations.

The students' leaders are, moreover, disunited in their attitude toward outside assistance. Tabarzadi told "Der Spiegel," "we have not received any help from the United States, and we do not want it in future either." Tabarzadi added, "we regard the Americans, and also the U.S. government, as friends." "And support and recognition from friends is a source of pleasure," he said in what appears to be a hopeful manner.

Razavi-Faqih seemed even less open to outside help. Asked about U.S. President George W. Bush's supportive words and the possibility of help from the United States, Razavi-Faqih told "Il Giornale," "I am interested in receiving support only from my people. Bush does not give a damn about us. His only interest is in expanding the power of the United States. This is why we do not accept and are not interested in the U.S.'s support." When the interviewer reminded Razavi-Faqih about the difficulty of acting without support, the activist said, "We cannot accept any foreign aid because we shall be accused of being the U.S.'s fifth column. And furthermore, in my opinion, the U.S. is seeking a pretext for intervening forcefully, as it did in Iraq."

The absence of cohesiveness among the students is just one factor limiting the scope of the unrest. Another is the regime's formal and informal repressive apparatus. Some 4,000 people were arrested in June and about half that number remained in jail as of 27 June. The possibility exists that some will be executed, and it is only a matter of time before the televised confessions that are a hallmark of Iranian justice begin.

The vigilantes from the Ansar-i Hizbullah, who act with impunity, can be let loose at any time to support the security forces. Indeed, the head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps's public relations office, Masud Jazayeri, said on 30 June, "Spontaneous gatherings of people are being organized to counter provocations staged by rioters," the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. And if the vigilantes go too far the regime can deny having a formal relationship with them.

The government also employs something akin to the "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome to control dissent. Commodities such as cooking oil, meat, rice, and bread are available at subsidized prices, and gasoline prices are among the cheapest in the world. The country's unemployment rate is estimated to be over 20 percent, and hiring quotas for veterans' families and a privileged few serve to exacerbate the situation. Competitions serve as a distraction, with prizes for top students, awards for the best wives of disabled veterans, and Koran recital competitions, to name a few. Iran's national passion for soccer is no secret, but more esoteric sports, such as archery and karate, are regularly shown on television and reported on by newspapers.

Unrest and disturbances are very likely in Iran on 9 July. Nevertheless, the factors discussed here suggest that these events will not be as revolutionary as some would like and others would fear. What is of greater significance is that 44.3 million Iranians -- roughly two-thirds of the population -- are under the age of 30. This group did not participate in such formative experiences as life under the pro-U.S. monarchy, the activism of the 1978-79 revolution, or the battles of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. As this segment of the population comes of age, it is likely to bring about significant and lasting -- but probably not revolutionary -- changes in the political system.

Approximately 2,000 protestors stormed the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul on 8 July, breaking into the compound and burning a Pakistani flag, Reuters reported. The attack came following a smaller march on the embassy on 7 July in which participants protested Pakistani forces' recent incursions inside Afghan territory (see items below), chanting "Death to Pakistan," according to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) and Reuters on 7 July. Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Rostam Shah Mohmand said his government holds the "Afghan government squarely responsible for negligence and not only for negligence but for stage-managing this show, for creating an environment in which such an attack could take place, and then for their failure to act swiftly to prevent the damage." Mohmand said he closed the embassy and that Pakistan will not reopen its mission to Kabul "until Afghanistan [has] paid compensation for the damage, apologized, and [can] guarantee security." He added that he has spoken to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf about the incident, which he termed as "a big setback" to Afghan-Pakistani relations. The protests and reports of border incursions are reminiscent of the 1950s to 1970s, when Afghanistan and Pakistan were constantly at odds over their mutual border. AT

Already strained tensions between Kabul and Islamabad worsened after Afghan government spokesman Ahmad Jawayed Lodin on 7 July accused Pakistan's President Musharraf of interfering in Afghanistan's domestic affairs during his recent tour of Europe and the United States, Radio Afghanistan reported. Relations had soured in the wake of clashes that broke out last week in Mohmand tribal areas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). Musharraf was quoted as saying in Paris on 5 July that Osama bin Laden could be "in Afghanistan, where there is a total power vacuum," AFP reported. In addition, Musharraf said, "The weight of the government does not go beyond the capital [Kabul]." Musharraf also criticized the ethnic imbalance of the Afghan Transitional Administration, Reuters reported on 7 July, and other news agencies reported that he suggested that international forces in Afghanistan should be withdrawn at some point. Afghan media quoted Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai as saying Musharraf's comments "have become a subject of sadness and regret" for him. Karzai plans to call the Pakistani president "in the coming days" to receive "some explanation as to what his intention was," Reuters reported on 7 July. AT

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Mohammad Rahim Sherzai met on 7 July with Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohmand, telling him that Afghanistan considers the recent clashes near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border "interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and a violation of the noninterference declaration signed on 22 December 2002," Radio Afghanistan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). The "Kabul Agreement" was signed by Afghanistan and its six neighbors in an effort to prevent interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs on the part of its neighbors, particularly Pakistan and Iran, which following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 became heavily involved in the internal affairs of Afghanistan through their support of various groups inside the county. Pakistan backed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan militarily and politically (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 January 2003). Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan on 7 July said that while intermittent firing has occurred across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the situation has not reached "an alarming scale." He added that Islamabad respects the border between the two counties, Reuters reported. AT

According to residents of Mohmand tribal areas, heavy artillery fire continued on 7 July between Afghan and Pakistani forces in areas of Yaqubi and Bradra, AIP reported. While no official reports of casualties have been reported, AIP said two injured Afghan soldiers were transferred to a hospital in Jalalabad. The Mohmand tribal confederation lives on either side of the Afghan-Pakistani border and there are reports that Pakistani border forces have moved into the Afghan section of the area, claiming it as their own, according to AIP. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has never been officially recognized by Afghanistan and parts of it remain in dispute. AT

Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai on 6 July inaugurated the International Press Center (IPC) in Kabul, according to Afghan Deputy Information and Culture Minister Abdul Hamid Mobarez, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported the next day. Mobarez said the IPC will be used as a venue for press conferences and other media activities. The IPC will be administered by a six-member board, two from the Afghan government, two independent Afghan journalists, and two representatives of foreign journalists working in Afghanistan, Radio Afghanistan reported on 7 July. AT

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was called on during a 7 July press briefing to explain U.S. officials' statements about the Iranian political system and the democratic status thereof, according to the Bureau of International Information Programs website ( Boucher said: "We certainly have seen elements of democracy. We've certainly seen some democratic voting, democratic processes in Iran. But we also know that the Iranian people are calling for much more democracy and for real democracy and open democracy. So that remains the area where we express our support." Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage described Iran as a "democracy" in February, and Secretary of State Colin Powell in a 2 July radio interview described President Mohammad Khatami as "freely elected" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 24 February and 7 July 2003). BS

A reporter asked Boucher if he had a message for the students who do not think that Khatami is freely elected and who are likely to demonstrate on 9 July, according to Boucher responded, "Our message has been and remains that we support democracy in Iran, like we support it everywhere; that we believe that the calls of the Iranian people, including the students who are demonstrating, need to be listened to, need to be heeded; and that the kind of change that they are asking for would be good for Iran and good for Iran's place in the world." BS

Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi announced on 7 July that an indictment for 65 people who allegedly were involved in the unrest in the country in June has been submitted to the Revolutionary Court, Iranian state radio reported. The cases of 317 people who were arrested have been dealt with already, he said. Mortazavi and student representatives met earlier that day, ISNA reported, and they called for the speedy release of some of the students. He promised to release some students as soon as possible. The student groups' headquarters of the supreme leader's representative office at the universities organized this meeting. Seyyed Kazem Musavi-Nejad, the head of the Shahid Beheshti University's Islamic Students Association, said on 7 July that the court summons for the university's students has been revoked, ISNA reported. The status of one student, Peyman Sharifi, is unknown, he added. Musavi-Nejad said the Shahid Beheshti University's Islamic Students Association will issue a statement to commemorate the events of 9 July 1999 in which security forces and vigilantes stormed the Tehran University campus, an event that resulted in the country's most violent demonstrations since 1979 (see End Note). BS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 7 July that judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi is expected to discuss many topics during his trip to Saudi Arabia, IRNA reported. Assefi denied that the extradition of Al-Qaeda personnel in Iran is on the agenda. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-'Aziz al-Sa'ud had said that the extraditions would dominate the parties' discussions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). BS

Mohammad Hussein Khademi, director of the Public Relations and International Affairs Department at the Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ), announced on 7 July that 3 million Iranians out of a population of approximately 67 million "have addiction problems," IRNA reported. This marks a significant increase, because Iranian officials had been saying that the country is home to some 1.2 million drug addicts and 600,000 drug abusers, although former DCHQ chief Mohammad Fallah had suggested that the real figures could be much higher because most drug abusers try not to be identified as addicts in order to avoid stigmatization (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 July 2002). BS

Mohammad Foruzandeh, the head of the Oppressed and Disabled Foundation (Bonyad-i Mostazafan va Janbazan, MJF), and Aleksei Miller, the CEO of Russia's Gazprom, met in Moscow on 7 July and discussed several joint projects, IRNA reported. Among these topics were joint activities in the South Pars gas field, the formation of joint companies to export gas, and the review of a 10-year agreement on cooperation in the construction of gas rigs and the excavation of gas wells. Foruzandeh visited Russia in April and in a meeting with Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov expressed an interest in bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, Interfax reported on 9 April. Foruzandeh proposed Russian participation in the building and modernization of regular-cycle thermal-power plants and gas-operated combined-cycle plants, the supply of Russian oil and oil products to northern Iran, and activities in South Pars. Foruzandeh also met with Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii and Union of Oil and Gas Producers Chairman Yurii Shafranik, according to IRNA on 9 April. A parastatal organization, the MJF is Iran's second-largest commercial enterprise after the National Iranian Oil Company. Its value is estimated at more than $10 billion. BS

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer announced on 7 July the key spending priorities for the Iraqi national budget over the next six months, the U.S. State Department's "Washington File" reported the same day ( Bremer said coalition and Iraqi officials designed the budget, which allocates over 9 trillion dinars ($6 billion) to key projects such as security, judicial reform, and infrastructure projects, including electricity, telecommunications, construction, water and sewage, and public health. He added that slightly more than half the budget will be funded by Iraq's oil revenues. The United States will contribute an additional 4.5 trillion dinars ($3 billion) toward Iraqi reconstruction. "Together these programs will have an enormous impact on your lives. But some will take time to come into effect, so you and we, working together, will have to be patient," Bremer told Iraqis. The "Washington File" noted that one U.S. dollar is equal to about 1,500 Iraqi dinars. Prior to the outbreak of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one dollar equaled roughly 2,000 dinars in areas controlled by President Saddam Hussein. KR

In his 7 July address to the Iraqi people, CPA head Bremer announced that the coalition will print and distribute new banknotes to replace the two forms now in circulation -- the "print dinars" circulating in most of the country and the "Swiss" dinars widely used in the northern Kurdish areas. "'Print dinars' are poor quality, and in practice circulate widely in only two denominations -- the 250-dinar note, and the 10,000-dinar note. This makes them very inconvenient to use. The 'Swiss' dinars, while of higher quality, are so old that they are literally falling apart in people's hands," Bremer said. He added that after consulting with Iraqi political, economic, and business leaders, it was decided that new banknotes will be issued on 15 October and will replace and carry the same value as one "print" dinar. The dinar will replace the "Swiss" dinar at the rate of 150 new dinars for one "Swiss" dinar. "These different rates reflect the different prices expressed in local currency, in different parts of the country," Bremer said. The prewar value of the "Swiss" dinar was approximately 7 dinars to one U.S. dollar. The dinars will carry the same design as the former national "Swiss" dinar but with different colors and denominations, and will be very difficult to forge, Bremer said. Iraqis will have three months from 15 October to exchange old notes for new dinars. KR

The Council of the European Union voted on 7 July to lift "most of the [EU] sanctions on Iraq," according to a press release posted on the Italian EU Presidency's website ( The remaining sanctions are in accordance with restrictions still placed on Iraq by UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which relates to the lifting of sanctions. "These measures repeal all sanctions established by Security Council Resolution 661 (1990) and subsequent resolutions, with the exception of those related to the sale or supply to Iraq of arms and related material other than that required by the occupying powers, the United States and the United Kingdom," the press release stated. "The sanctions are replaced with specific restrictive measures relating to the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas from Iraq, and to trade in goods that are part of Iraq's cultural heritage." In addition, funds and "economic resources" belonging to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or senior members of his regime will be frozen, the statement noted. KR

The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced its findings on 7 July following an investigation into whether Prime Minister Tony Blair's office improperly embellished a report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to mislead parliament and the British public in the effort to make a case for war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2003), the BBC reported the same day. The committee concluded that ministers did not mislead parliament and that the prime minister's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, was not involved in "sexing up" the dossier, as a BBC report charged. According to the BBC, six of the committee's 12 members said there is ample evidence to exonerate Campbell. The 107-page report can be viewed on the House of Commons website ( The committee included seven Labour MPs, three Conservatives, and one Liberal Democrat. KR

The Iraqi Tribes Democratic Grouping gathered in Baghdad on 7 July to address prospects for a future political role for Iraq's tribes, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. The tribes are currently divided into nine groupings, the satellite channel reported. "We call on the Iraqi national movement's parties and factions to quickly form specialized committees and to craft an ambitious Iraqi constitution, which must include the constitutional and legal structure of the system, and to ensure the rights of all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliations," member Wa'il al-Rikabi told the conferees. The tribes called on political parties to hold an expanded conference in the near future, and urged Iraqi citizens not to resort to violence when seeking their rights, Al-Jazeera reported. KR

The U.S.-led CPA that is administering postwar Iraq has launched a website ( The website carries transcripts of speeches by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials, fact sheets on Iraqi ministries, public-service announcements, press releases, and official documents such as regulations and orders issued by the CPA. KR