LEADING LIBERAL SAYS PROSECUTORS ARE 'HUMILIATING RUSSIA' IN YUKOS AFFAIR...
Deputy Duma Speaker Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces, or SPS) said on 21 July that the investigations of Yukos are not linked to the alleged political ambitions of Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii or to the impending Duma election campaign, RosBalt and other Russian media reported. SPS is one of the political parties that Khodorkovskii has financed in recent years. Khakamada said the dispute is a new attempt to redistribute property by means of law enforcement agencies. Similar attempts are under way in many regions, but they have not attracted much public or media attention, she charged. Asked to comment on the effect of the Yukos scandal abroad, Khakamada said that "the involvement of the Prosecutor-General's Office in this case is simply humiliating for Russia." VY
...AS ECONOMICS MINISTER URGES PROSECUTORS TO BE QUICK
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref has stated that "those who participated in privatization honestly and acted according to existing rules have nothing of which to be afraid," strana.ru reported on 21 July. Gref said he hopes the Yukos controversy is short-lived and that it will be resolved quickly so that markets can return to normal. Otherwise, he said, it could cause great damage to many companies that had nothing to do with privatization. "I hope that the investigators probing Yukos understand this aspect," Gref said. VY
KREMLIN INSIDER REPORTEDLY SEEKING TO MUTE YUKOS CONTROVERSY...
Speaking during a regular Kremlin briefing with the heads of the national television networks on 18 July, presidential administration chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin said that he and his staff are concerned about the ongoing confrontation between oil giant Yukos and law enforcement authorities, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 July. He added that he is working to resolve the conflict. Participants at the briefing reportedly told the daily that Voloshin said Kremlin advisers have told President Vladimir Putin to make a statement about Yukos that would criticize both sides in the dispute. Such a statement, Voloshin said, would send a signal to both sides that they should wind down the scandal. The next step would be to release Menatep CEO and Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev from custody and to drop the embezzlement charges pending against him. So far, Voloshin said, the populist domestic reaction to the attacks on Yukos has been overshadowed by the sharply negative impact on the image of Russian business abroad. The daily noted that Putin might not take Voloshin's advice, since he has a very tight schedule of domestic and foreign travel over the next two weeks. VY
...AS JOURNALIST FORESEES TOUGH CHOICE FOR PUTIN...
Viktor Loshak, editor in chief of the weekly "Moskovskie novosti," wrote in the latest issue, No. 27, that the Yukos scandal has divided the presidential administration. The latest attacks on the oligarchs were initiated by security-agency representatives among the Kremlin staff and by two deputy heads of the presidential administration -- Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin, Loshak wrote. Now, however, it is up to the so-called Kremlin liberals -- chief of staff Voloshin and his other deputies, Vladislav Surkov, Dmitrii Medvedev, Aleksandr Abramov, and Dmitrii Kozak -- to cope with the unfolding scandal. Surkov, Loshak notes, formerly worked as an executive at Yukos's financial arm Menatep. Loshak said that Putin's press spokesman, Aleksei Gromov, and his main foreign-affairs adviser Sergei Prikhodko, are also among the so-called liberals. The conflict between these two groups could develop into a confrontation similar to the one that arose within the administration of former President Boris Yeltsin in 1996 between his chief bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov, and "liberals" within Yeltsin's inner circle. At that time, Yeltsin eventually sided with the so-called liberals and ousted Korzhakov. President Putin will eventually be forced to make a similar choice, Loshak predicted. VY
TAX-POLICE CORRUPTION CASE HEADS TO THE COURTS
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 21 July handed over to the Moscow Municipal Court the case of Major General Sergei Platonov, a senior officer of the former Federal Tax Police Service, newsru.com reported. Platonov was arrested in March on suspicion of corruption, after reportedly being caught red-handed in his office accepting a bribe of $25,000, and is currently being held in Lefortovo prison. Platonov maintains that he is innocent and says that the money was a debt that was being repaid to him. Although Platonov's case is not formally linked to other recent anticorruption efforts, observers have noted that the case will be heard in a civilian court, which will ensure maximal publicity. Normally, cases involving law enforcement officers are heard by military courts. VY
ANALYSTS SUM UP LESSONS OF IRAQ CAMPAIGN
"Krasnaya zvezda," the official organ of the Defense Ministry, published a three-part series (28 June and 7 and 18 July 2003) containing an unusually frank discussion by leading military strategists about the lessons of the recent U.S.-led military action against the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Discussion participants agreed that the overthrow of the Hussein regime was not just a victory for the U.S. military, but also a remarkable success for U.S. intelligence. Participants concluded that non-military factors are playing an increasing role in modern warfare. Duma Defense Committee Chairman and Army General Andrei Nikolaev said that the United States has taught the whole world a lesson in conducting a modern war. He added that one look at the state of the Russian economy, the army, the attitude of the public toward military service, and the public's shaky willingness to defend Russia is enough to understand how unprepared Russia is to wage a modern war. VY
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION OPENS WAY FOR QUIET REVOLUTION
An 18 July decision by the Constitutional Court ruling that only that court can consider lawsuits contesting whether local legislation complies with federal laws "will open a new page in the relationship between the federal center and the regions," "Vremya-MN" wrote on 22 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). According to the daily, regional elections will -- as before -- have to be held in such a way that they conform to standards outlined in the Russian Constitution. However, some regional peculiarities may now be preserved. For example, the election of the vice mayor of Moscow should now be allowed, the daily reported, citing "the opinions of many experts" who were not identified (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2003). Elections to regional legislatures will also be affected. According to the daily, those regions that have not already introduced changes to their constitutions and charters requiring that one-half of the seats in legislatures be elected according to party lists will no longer have to do so. JAC
JAILED LEGISLATOR AIMS FOR ANOTHER VICTORY AT BALLOT BOX
Yurii Shutov, a St. Petersburg legislator who has been incarcerated since November 1999 on suspicion of organizing a contract murder, has notified the city's election commission that he intends to participate in the 21 September gubernatorial election, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 July. In December 2002, Shutov won re-election to the city's Legislative Assembly, receiving almost 33 percent of the vote compared to 21 percent for his closest rival (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2002). So far, more than 25 people have declared their intention to run, according to newsru.com. All of the potential candidates have until 31 July either to gather enough signatures to register or to pay an election tax of 7.5 million rubles ($247,000). Meanwhile, the SPS in St. Petersburg has decided to support the Kremlin-backed candidate, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, RosBalt reported on 21 July. Last week, the Communist Party announced that it will not nominate a candidate or support anyone else. JAC
BULGARIAN NUCLEAR WASTE TO BE STORED IN URALS INDEFINITELY, BUT NOT PERMANENTLY
A trainload of spent nuclear fuel from a Bulgarian nuclear-power plant has arrived at the Mayak facility near Chelyabinsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 July. Facility spokesman Yevgenii Ryzhkov told the agency that the fuel will now undergo recycling, during which 90 percent of its valuable components will be extracted for future use. The leftover radioactive waste will be sent to special storage. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy earlier this month, Ryzhkov said the waste "will remain at the facility for an undetermined period." "We are talking not about burying, but about temporary storage," Ryzhkov said. "Such a procedure is perfectly legal." Local environmentalists maintain that according to an earlier agreement between Russia and Bulgaria, Russia agreed to recycle the fuel, but not to store it, the radio station reported on 11 July. JAC
JAILED SCHOLAR/SUSPECTED SPY DEMANDS JURY TRIAL
Lawyers for political scientist Igor Sutyagin, who is accused of espionage, have asked that he be given a jury trial, Interfax reported on 21 July. Anna Stavitskaya, one of Sutyagin's lawyers, told reporters that Sutyagin's only chance of getting a fair verdict rests with a jury. Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva noted that Sutyagin is the only Russian citizen accused of espionage in recent years who remains in custody. She asserted that Sutyagin never had access to classified information and obtained all of his information from open sources. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999 on suspicion of treason and has remained in jail ever since, despite a 2 October 2002 ruling saying that his detention is illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Sutyagin was a researcher at the U.S.A. and Canada Institute. JAC
FAR EASTERN LEGISLATOR SUCCUMBS TO PROTRACTED ILLNESS
State Duma Deputy Yurii Ten died on 21 July after a long illness, Russian media reported. Ten, 51, was a member of the People's Deputy group and had been elected from a single-mandate district in Irkutsk Oblast. He had served in two previous Dumas, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC
MINISTER'S WIFE FINDS IT HARD TO PARK SAFELY...
The automobile of Irina Shoigu, the wife of Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, was broken into during the evening of 19 July on the streets of an elite neighborhood in Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 July. Irina Shoigu's purse -- which contained a mobile phone, an unspecified amount of cash, and plane tickets to Sochi -- was stolen. The newspaper concluded that the losses to the Shoigu family are not great, and it commented on the fact that a minister's official wages are hardly enough to allow him to afford a BMW-X5 "jeep," which reportedly costs no less than $50,000. Irina Shoigu is president of a company called Ekspo-EM, which organizes the participation of large Russian producers in international exhibitions. Ekspo-EM clients include state arms-exporting monopoly Rosoboroneksport; leading aircraft designer OKB Sukhoi; and Emerkom, a company that coordinates international humanitarian operations for the Emergency Situations Ministry. Last year, a car belonging to Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov's wife, Ada, was stolen from the streets of St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). She was driving a BMW-745, which local police never recovered. JAC
...AS KOSTROMA GOVERNOR IS FORCED TO ECONOMIZE ON SERVICE CAR
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 21 July reported on the recent scandal in Kostroma Oblast surrounding the governor's purchase of a Mercedes with budget money. A local prosecutor forced Governor Vladimir Shershunov to sell his service automobile and return the 4.2 million rubles ($138,000) to the oblast budget. Shershunov told the newspaper that he is sure the scandal was "ordered up," but he declined to say by whom. Shershunov argued that in order for the oblast to attract foreign investment, the governor needs a high-class car. However, he admitted that he managed to attract approximately 60 million euros ($68 million) in investment some 18 months ago -- before he owned the Mercedes. The daily noted that Shershunov is not the first regional leader to have expensive tastes when it comes to service vehicles. Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn of neighboring Yaroslavl Oblast reportedly has a service airplane at his disposal. JAC
CHECHEN PRESIDENT SEEKS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR CONCEPT OF 'CONDITIONAL INDEPENDENCE'...
In a 21 July statement posted on chechenpress.com, Aslan Maskhadov argued that in the light of the brutality inflicted on Chechens by Russian troops over the past two years and Russia's categorical rejection of his repeated offers of peace talks, only the involvement of the international community can bring about an end to the ongoing fighting. Maskhadov explained that independence for Chechnya is not an end in itself, but the only way of ending the past four centuries' standoff with Russia and of guaranteeing Chechnya's security. He said that the Chechen resistance is strong enough to win independence militarily if Russia continues to reject peace talks. Maskhadov said that Russian and European fears that an independent Chechnya would become a hotbed of Islamic terrorism are unfounded. He argued that the proposal drafted at his behest by Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov for ending the war by granting Chechnya "conditional independence" under international jurisdiction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 2003) would guarantee stable democratic development in Chechnya and, by extension, stabilize the entire North Caucasus. LF
...WHILE RUSSIA AGAIN RULES OUT INTERNATIONAL MEDIATION
Moscow is perfectly capable of "resolving the problem of Chechnya" without the help of international mediators, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 18 July. He added that attempts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to mediate during the 1994-96 war were anything but successful, and that the OSCE frequently demonstrated pro-Chechen bias in those negotiations. Earlier on 18 July, Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Alekseeva told journalists in Moscow that the only way to end the war in Chechnya is through negotiations mediated by an international organization such as the OSCE or the UN, Interfax reported. LF
OSCE CRITICIZES FAILURE TO ENABLE INDEPENDENT ARMENIAN TV STATIONS TO RESUME BROADCASTING
Freimut Duve, who is the OSCE's high representative for the media, issued a statement on 21 July deploring the outcome of the most recent tender for Armenian television frequencies, in which bids by the outspoken independent broadcasters A1+ and Noyan Tapan were rejected, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 July 2003). Duve said the fact that neither company has been able to broadcast for more than a year limits "the Armenian public's ability to watch and listen to a broader range of opinion and diverse reporting." He said the tender outcome constitutes further proof that "freedom of expression in Armenia continues to be restricted." LF
PRO-GOVERNMENT CANDIDATE WINS ARMENIAN REPEAT ELECTION
Independent candidate Vladimir Badalian won a repeat ballot in a Yerevan constituency on 20 July, polling more than 5,400 votes compared with 1,866 cast for his closest rival, Shavarsh Kocharian of the opposition Artarutiun election bloc, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 21 July. Badalian was initially declared the winner in that constituency in the 25 May parliamentary election, but the result was annulled after Kocharian alleged massive fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). Kocharian told RFE/RL that the outcome of the 20 July vote was the result of large-scale vote buying by Badalian and unprecedented low voter turnout of less than 20 percent. Badalian is close to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, and his daughter recently married the eldest son of President Robert Kocharian (no relation to Shavarsh). LF
ARMENIA DENIES AZERBAIJANI REPORTS OF FURTHER CEASEFIRE VIOLATION
Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian denied on 18 July Azerbaijani media reports that Armenian troops opened fire on Azerbaijani positions in Nakhichevan the previous day, killing one Azerbaijani serviceman and injuring another, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijan News Service, as cited by Groong on 18 July, claimed the Armenians suffered heavy losses. A group of Azerbaijani journalists, including a correspondent for RFE/RL, traveled to the village of Karmachatag, scene of the alleged exchange of fire, on 18 July to investigate reports of persistent Armenian artillery bombardments. They were, however, intercepted and manhandled by local officials and forced to leave, Turan reported on 19 July. LF
FORMER PRESIDENT REFUSED REGISTRATION FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
By a vote of 10 against and five in favor, the Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected on 21 July former President Ayaz Mutalibov's application to register as a candidate in the 15 October presidential ballot, Turan and Interfax reported. Commission Secretary Inglab Nasirov said that Mutalibov's supporting documentation contained errors and that Mutalibov is registered as resident in Russia. Mutalibov was constrained to resign as president in March 1992 and after an abortive comeback attempt two months later he fled to Russia, where he has lived ever since. Also on 21 July, the CEC postponed a discussion of whether rejected would-be presidential candidates are legally entitled to submit a second registration application, Interfax reported. LF
SUPPORTERS PROTEST REFUSAL TO REGISTER OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Several thousand supporters of former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev staged a further protest on 19 July against the CEC's rejection of his application to register as a candidate for the 15 October presidential ballot, Turan reported. The protest was approved by the Baku municipal authorities, which might explain the relatively high turnout. Earlier, unsanctioned protests in support of Guliev attracted only a few dozen participants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 June and 2 July 2003). LF
SOME AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS RELEASED, OTHERS DETAINED, FINED
Three members of the opposition Musavat Party who were detained on 14 July for allegedly violating traffic regulations and sentenced to 15 days' administrative detention were released on 19 July following a ruling by the Appeals Court, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"17 July 2003). Also on 19 July, police detained one Musavat Party member and one member of the progressive wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party who attended a meeting in Gedabey that was organized by the Amal movement that represents Azerbaijan's intelligentsia, Turan reported on 21 July. The two men were initially sentenced to 10 days' administrative detention, but that sentence was subsequently commuted to fines of 150,000 manats ($30.60) and 110,000 manats. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES RUSSIA OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN ABKHAZIA...
Eduard Shevardnadze said on 21 July during his regular Monday radio interview that he has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to protest what he termed the policy of double standards Russia has allegedly pursued since 1996 vis-a-vis the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Russian media reported. But ITAR-TASS quoted a Russian presidential administration official as saying the same day that Putin has not received any such letter from Shevardnadze. On 19 July, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze, who is the Georgian government's point man for Abkhazia, complained that the Moscow City Duma has dispatched humanitarian aid to Abkhazia without first obtaining formal clearance from Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported. LF
...AS RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS DEPLORE GEORGIAN REQUEST FOR UN INTERVENTION
Members of a Russian State Duma delegation currently visiting Georgia have criticized as inappropriate a Georgian parliament resolution calling on the government to demand that the UN launch a peace-enforcement operation in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2003). Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) said that demand is at odds with the agreement reached in Sochi in March between Putin and Shevardnadze on ways to promote a peaceful solution of the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported on 19 July. LF
ABKHAZIA ASKS RUSSIA TO PROTECT ITS AIRSPACE...
Abkaz First Deputy Premier Astamur Tarba told journalists on 18 July that the Abkhaz government hopes for Russian help in establishing an air-defense system, Apsnipress reported. Caucasus Press on 21 July said the Abkhaz request was prompted by recent overflights of Georgian territory by U.S. AWACS surveillance aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 July 2003). The Georgian Defense Ministry denied on 19 July that further such flights are planned, according to the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2. On 21 July, Interfax quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Nikolai Deryabin as denying Russian press reports that Russia plans to deploy S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in Abkhazia to discourage such reconnaissance flights. LF
...AND MOBILIZE POLICE TO PROTECT RUSSIAN TOURISTS
The Abkhaz authorities have placed police on the alert, anticipating possible acts of violence against visiting Russian tourists, Caucasus Press reported on 21 July. On 11 July, the Georgian Interior Ministry and the Georgian Embassy in Moscow issued separate statements warning Russian tourists not to travel to Abkhazia in the light of rising crime and political tensions there. Tourism is one of Abkhazia's most important sources of income. LF
EUROPEAN COMMISSION COMMITS FUNDS FOR CENTRAL ASIAN BORDER MANAGEMENT AND POLICE REFORM
The European Commission has committed up to 2.5 million euros ($2.84 million) under its Rapid Reaction Mechanism for border-management and police-reform programs in Central Asia, uzreport.com reported on 19 July. The programs include intensive training programs and border-demarcation activities that will help the Central Asian states fight the trafficking of drugs, arms, and human beings. Of the total, 1 million euros have been earmarked for the OSCE police-training project in Kyrgyzstan. The rest will be used for the first phase of the border-management program, the total cost of which is projected to be 20 million euros. TACIS and several EU member states will finance the second phase of the border program. BB
KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS SINGAPORE'S PARTICIPATION IN INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told Singapore's Minister of Trade and Industry George Yeo during a meeting in Astana on 21 July that Kazakhstan would like Singapore firms to take part in the development of oil-and-gas deposits on the Caspian Shelf, khabar.kz and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Speaking to journalists after the talks, Yeo said Akhmetov also asked that Singapore take part in developing the technology parks that are being set up outside Astana and Almaty, and in upgrading Kazakhstan's airports. Yeo said that he brought a large delegation of Singapore's businesspeople to Kazakhstan because the island state is itself interested in expanding its business activities there. He mentioned particular interest in tourism, food processing, and information technologies. According to the reports, there are now six Kazakh-Singapore joint ventures in Kazakhstan, along with five Singapore companies working there. Kazakh interest in East Asia's "little tigers," including Singapore, dates to the earliest years of Kazakhstan's independence, when the development strategies that had produced the then-booming economies of the region were examined as possible models for Kazakhstan's development. BB
SOME KAZAKH ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS WANT PROTECTION AGAINST SLANDER
Members of election commissions at the electoral district, raion, and polling-station level in Almaty have proposed that a draft law on elections include provisions to protect the honor and dignity of commission members against unfounded accusations, khabar.kz reported on 21 July. Commission members gathered that day to discuss and suggest alterations to a draft law on elections. Reportedly, Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Zagipa Balieva, who attended the meeting, approved the proposal. Participants in the meeting, which was organized by the electoral commission of Almaty's Auezov Raion, also called for more rights for the media in election campaigns, for electoral commissions to be enlarged, and for the rights and responsibilities of election observers and political-party representatives in election commissions to be spelled out. Balieva told khabar.kz that the CEC plans to organize more such meetings to collect further recommendations from polling-station commissions. BB
NUMBER OF TAJIK MIGRANT WORKERS DYING IN RUSSIA REPORTED TO BE RISING
Tajik prosecutor Kurbonali Mukhabatov said on 21 July that the number of Tajik migrant workers who die in Russia is rising, centran.ru reported. In 2002, Mukhabatov said, Russian authorities returned to Tajikistan 328 bodies of migrant workers. Seventy-eight of them had been killed, 118 died of illnesses, and the cause of death was unknown in 125 cases. In the first half of this year, 211 bodies of Tajik migrant workers have been returned to their homeland. According to information from the Society of Tajiks in Moscow, more than 40,000 Tajik citizens are in prison in Russia, hundreds of whom die there each year. In recent weeks, Russian media have been giving considerable attention to the plight of Tajik migrants in Russia, who are often deceived by labor-placement officials and employers, forced to live in substandard conditions, and are paid little, if at all. BB
TAJIK DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBERS REJECT OPPOSITION TO GOVERNMENT
Lower-echelon members of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan voted at a party congress on 19 July for the party to cooperate with the government, rejecting the party leadership's opposition stance, Asia Plus-Blitz and Deutsche Welle reported on 21 July. Opening the congress, party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov attacked the government of President Imomali Rakhmonov for failing to reduce poverty, to overcome the domination of Tajik politics by regional and clan interests, or to cope with the high unemployment rate. Iskandarov and other party leaders again criticized the recent referendum on constitutional changes, which the Democratic Party boycotted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 23, and 24 June 2003). The party leadership also refused to accept the results of the referendum, saying that the outcome was falsified. But congress delegates from outside Dushanbe refused to support the leaders' call for the party to continue to act in opposition to the government. Exiled journalist Dodozhon Atovulloev, summing up the congress, commented that the action of the regional delegates dealt a severe blow to democracy in Tajikistan. BB
NUMBER OF DRUG ADDICTS IN UZBEKISTAN CONTINUES TO RISE
The number of registered drug addicts in Uzbekistan rose to 19,000 in 2002, First Deputy Health Minister Damin Asadov said on 20 July, uzreport.com reported. Asadov was speaking at a seminar on drug addiction organized by the parliamentary Commission on Women and Family Affairs. He noted that drug addiction was a serious problem in Uzbekistan 20 years ago. In 1981, official statistics indicated there were some 2,450 drug addicts in the republic. By 1995, there were reportedly 6,000. By 1996, official concern over the rising rate of drug addiction caused President Islam Karimov to warn that drugs posed a threat to Uzbek society and culture. Asadov explained that one of the main reasons for official concern is the demographic structure of the Uzbek population: Two-thirds of the country's inhabitants are under 30, and more than 80 percent of addicts are in this age group. The regions with the highest incidence of addiction, according to Asadov, are the city of Tashkent and Samarkand and Surkhandarya oblasts, with problem areas in Khorezm and Ferghana oblasts. BB
UZBEK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
Describing Uzbekistan's system of state management as a major brake on reform, President Karimov told a session of the cabinet on 18 July that administrative reform and improving economic management are two of the major tasks facing the government, Interfax reported on 21 July. He said the country's GDP rose by 3.8 percent in the first half of this year, a statement that was greeted with skepticism by international economic experts, according to Deutsche Welle on 20 July. The experts also questioned Karimov's figures on the inflation rate. According to Karimov, inflations was 14 percent in 2002 and 4.2 percent in 2003, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that inflation has been around 40 percent per year in recent years. Per capita GDP has fallen to the third lowest in the CIS. The unidentified foreign experts agreed, however, with Karimov's assessment of the state management system, and welcomed his promise that Uzbekistan's currency will be fully convertible by the end of the year. Karimov has made similar promises to the IMF on many occasions in recent years. BB
U.S. PRESIDENT CONDEMNS 'AUTHORITARIAN' REGIME IN BELARUS
U.S. President George W. Bush on 19 July branded the regime in Belarus -- along with those in Burma, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Zimbabwe -- among the world's worst political oppressors and abusers of human rights, Belapan reported on 21 July. In a proclamation issued to mark "Captive Nations Week," Bush said, "Millions of people still live under regimes that violate their citizens' rights daily." He added, "An authoritarian government in Belarus smothers political dissent." JM
UKRAINIAN RIGHTISTS PROTEST CONSTRUCTION OF JEWISH CENTER AT BABI YAR MEMORIAL
Representatives of several Ukrainian right-wing organizations signed a statement on 21 July protesting the planned construction of a Jewish Social and Cultural Center at the Babi Yar memorial site near Kyiv, UNIAN reported. The statement calls on President Leonid Kuchma and other senior officials to "give peace to the slain." The signatories warn that Babi Yar risks becoming a site of interethnic "discord" as a result of "ill-considered decisions." Babi Yar is widely perceived as a symbol of the mass murder of Jews in World War II. On 29-30 September 1941, Nazi soldiers killed some 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar. The ultimate death toll at Babi Yar during World War II, including Ukrainians, Jews, Roma, and others, is estimated at 100,000. JM
ESTONIA EXTENDS MINE-CLEARANCE MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN
The cabinet decided on 22 July to allocate 3 million kroons ($216,000) to extend the mission of the Estonian mine-clearance unit in Afghanistan to the end of this year, LETA reported. This is the fourth -- and most likely final -- extension of the mission, which the government first approved last July (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 24 July 2002). The unit is composed of men and canines that work for the Rescue Board. U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Joseph DeThomas sent a written request to Interior Minister Margus Leivo at the end of June asking that the mine-clearance mission be extended. The main task of the mission is to guarantee the safety of U.S. coalition troops stationed at airfields. SG
FITCH UPGRADES LATVIA'S CREDIT RATING
Fitch IBCA upgraded Latvia's long-term foreign-currency rating from BBB to BBB+ on 21 July, BNS reported. The long-term local-currency and short-term foreign-currency ratings remained unchanged at A and F3, respectively, with a stable outlook. Fitch said the higher rating reflects the strength of the Latvian economy, which has continued to post impressive growth rates, supported by structural reforms, the privatization process, a stronger banking sector, and sustained foreign investment. The agency noted that developments in Russia remain important to Latvia due to the transit trade, but said the country is becoming increasingly integrated with Western European and Scandinavian markets. The agency said Latvia's external debt, which following a Eurobond issue will increase to roughly 20 percent of GDP by the end of 2003, will remain favorable compared to the BBB countries' median of 39 percent. Fitch suggested that the government should delay or modify its planned tax cuts as the current account deficit last year represented 7.8 percent of GDP. SG
LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CAUTIONS AGAINST HASTE ON EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Antanas Valionis told a meeting of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 21 July that the draft European Constitution is too important a document to be sped through simply to fulfill the Italian EU Presidency's wish to complete the document under its six-month tenure, ELTA reported the next day. Valionis said EU member states agree that the constitution can be signed after 1 May 2004, when the 10 candidate countries are expected to become full-fledged members. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she has no objections to Italy's suggestion that the Intergovernmental Conference on finalizing a constitution begin its work on 4 October; but she added that she opposes setting any date for its conclusion. The Italian EU Presidency ends on 31 December. SG
POLAND TO PROVIDE EXTRA INSURANCE FOR TROOPS IN IRAQ
In response to growing tension in Iraq, the Polish Defense Ministry has decided to provide additional insurance for its soldiers in Iraq, Polish Radio reported on 21 July. Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke said families of soldiers killed during their tours of duty there would get 150,000 zlotys ($38,000), which is one-third more than current insurance levels. The insurance will also cover the risk of contracting tropical diseases and transport accidents. Zemke also said Poland will send more armored personnel carriers and other specialist equipment to its contingent in Iraq. JM
POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS TO DISCARD CONTROVERSIAL MEDIA BILL
Several opposition parties declared on 21 July that they want the Sejm to vote down a planned media bill on 22 July, PAP reported. The bill, which has provoked much controversy in Poland and gave rise to the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal, is already past its second reading in the Sejm and, according to parliamentary procedure, cannot be killed otherwise than through a vote rejecting the legislation. Earlier the same day, Premier Miller said on Polish Radio that the government will ask the Sejm either to suspend work on the bill or to withdraw it altogether from the legislative process. Sejm speaker Marek Borowski suggested that he will dispose of the bill by putting it on hold until the end of the Sejm's current term in 2005. JM
UN PRESIDENT BARRED ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED CZECH FILES
The Czech National Security Office (NBU) has declined to issue current UN General Assembly President and former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan the authorization for access to classified materials, CTK reported on 22 July, citing the daily "Pravo." The office reportedly said its decision was prompted by Kavan's alleged mishandling of classified documents when he was foreign minister in 1998-2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). Kavan eventually confirmed the shredding of some 400 secret files at the ministry, while two-thirds of the remainder of the missing documents were eventually located, including diplomatic ciphers and NATO materials. Kavan told "Pravo" that he intends to lodge a complaint against the NBU decision. MS
CZECH PREMIER ANNOUNCES CHOICE FOR JUSTICE MINISTER
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla confirmed on 21 July that he intends to appoint lawyer Vladimir Papez as the next Czech justice minister, CTK reported. Papez would replace Pavel Rychetsky, whose appointment as a judge on the Constitutional Court was confirmed earlier this month by parliament. While he stressed the South Bohemian lawyer's qualifications and professional reputation, Spidla confirmed a report in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" that Papez once had his license revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol. The daily also noted that Papez, who is deputy chairman of the Czech Bar Association, is a personal friend of Spidla's. Papez ran unsuccessfully for the Czech Senate in 1996 and 2000, both times as a candidate for Spidla's Social Democratic Party. According to CTK, Spidla expects to present Papez's nomination to President Vaclav Klaus on 22 July. MS
HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS SPAR OVER STATUS LAW COMPROMISE
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 21 July described the past 12 months as a year of eliminating damage to bilateral relations done by the previous government, Hungarian media reported. Kovacs said the current two-party, center left coalition has carried out intensive consultations with Hungary's neighbors and amended the Status Law while "protecting the interests of ethnic Hungarians in a way acceptable to both Hungary's neighbors and the EU" during that period. Kovacs said that during his talks last week in Bucharest and Bratislava on the Status Law, Hungary "persuaded rather than defeated" its Romanian and Slovak negotiating partners. The opposition FIDESZ party's chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Zsolt Nemeth, called the agreements reached by Kovacs in the two capitals an "unprincipled compromise." In a statement issued on 21 July, Nemeth said the government has written off ethnic Hungarians abroad and exposed them "to the aspirations of Romanian and Slovak anti-minority forces." He also complained about the agreed removal of the St. Stephen's crown symbol from Hungarian identification certificates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). MS
HUNGARIAN MINISTER SLAMS EU DECISION MAKERS
EU Integration Affairs Minister Endre Juhasz said on 21 July that while representatives of the 10 candidate countries have been given consultation rights when attending EU ministerial meetings, their opinions are mostly ignored by the 15-member body, Hungarian media reported. Juhasz told a meeting of Hungarian diplomatic staff that the candidate countries have not been allowed to become involved in the admission talks under way with Romania and Bulgaria, despite the fact that Hungary is considerably more affected by the issue than any other current member states. MS
TOP-LEVEL SERBIAN MUDSLINGING CONTINUES
Nemanja Kolesar, who heads Serbia's bank-privatization agency, and Zoran Janjusevic, who is Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic's security adviser, held a press conference in Belgrade on 21 July to discuss their upcoming lawsuits against Miroljub Labus and Mladjan Dinkic, who are the two top leaders of the G-17 Plus political party, "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 19 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003). Kolesar and Janjusevic also accused Labus, who is a former Yugoslav deputy prime minister, and Dinkic, who heads the Serbian National Bank, of using government funds for party purposes and other forms of corruption. Janjusevic added that Dinkic has had business dealings with reputed criminal boss Volf Minic. Kolesar and Janjusevic said the G-17 Plus transferred government funds to its account at HVB Bank in 2000-02, but the party denied ever having had an account at that bank, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. G-17 Plus was an NGO rather than a political party for much of the time in question. PM
ONE CANDIDATE NOMINATED FOR SERBIAN NATIONAL BANK POST
The Serbian parliament's Finance Committee accepted the nomination by the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition of Mining and Energy Minister Kori Udovicki to succeed Dinkic as head of the Serbian National Bank, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She is the only candidate for the post, from which a new banking law effectively removed Dinkic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). The parliament began discussing Dinkic's replacement on 22 July. PM
DUAL CITIZENSHIP FOR VOJVODINA'S HUNGARIANS?
On 21 July in Novi Sad, Andras Agoston, who heads the Democratic Party of Hungarians in Vojvodina, called on the Hungarian parliament to enable members of Vojvodina's large Hungarian minority to have Hungarian citizenship as well as that of Serbia and Montenegro, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic recently told his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy in Subotica that he has no objection to dual citizenship for the Vojvodina Hungarians. PM
PRESEVO VALLEY ALBANIANS REJECT SERBIAN DEMANDS
On 18 July in Bujanovac, leaders of ethnic Albanian political parties in southern Serbia's Presevo valley region rejected a demand by an unspecified number of local Serbian town councils for the resignation of Nagip Arifi as mayor of Bujanovac, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Jonuz Musliu, who heads the Movement for Democratic Progress (LPD), said that Belgrade is trying to foment instability in the region to provide an excuse for sending in its security forces. PM
NO MACEDONIAN-SPONSORED MONUMENT FOR MOTHER TERESA IN ROME
In response to the recent protest by Albanian intellectuals, Italian authorities have decided not to allow the erection of a monument to Mother Teresa in Rome, dpa reported on 21 July. The intellectuals objected to plans by the Macedonian government because the inscription did not mention that Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian. The Macedonian-language inscription in the Cyrillic alphabet was to read: "Macedonia honors her daughter -- Gonxhe Bojaxhiu -- Mother Teresa, Skopje 1910 -- Calcutta 1997" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2003). UB
EU APPEALS TO BOSNIAN MUSLIMS
The ambassadors of EU countries accredited by the Bosnian government made an appeal in Mostar on 21 July to politicians of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) to end their boycott of the local commission working out a new charter for Herzegovina's largest city, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Muslims object to the recommendation by High Representative Paddy Ashdown to replace the present system of having three Muslim districts and three Croat districts with one unified district (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 April 2002 and 2 and 16 May 2003). PM
STILL NO DECISION ON CROATIAN ELECTIONS
Speaking in Zagreb on 21 July, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said he favors holding general elections in the fall, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. President Stipe Mesic said, however, that he prefers a spring 2004 vote, close to the time by which a ballot is due. PM
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DECLINES COMMENT ON OSCE CHAIRMAN'S INITIATIVE
President Vladimir Voronin has not yet formed an opinion on Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's recent initiative that envisages the possible participation of OSCE forces in peacekeeping operations in Transdniester, presidential spokesman Valeriu Renita told RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 21 July. Renita refused to comment on the positions of the other two mediators in the conflict, Ukraine and Russia. While Ukraine has favorably commented on the initiative, Russia has distanced itself from it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). MS
JOINT MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MEETS IN BENDERY-TIGHINA
The first meeting of the joint Moldovan-Transdniester commission on elaborating a federal constitution was held in Bendery-Tighina on 21 July, BASA-press reported the same day. The commission's joint chairmen, Ion Creanga and Evgenii Shevchuk, said they were satisfied with the outcome of the talks, during which the sides exchanged drafts and discussed the constitutional article pertaining to citizens' rights and freedoms. The commission is to meet again next week. According to an agreement reached on 10 July, all decisions by the commission must be agreed upon unanimously and all meetings are to be held in Bendery-Tighina. MS
MOLDOVA FAILS TO MEET IMF DEADLINE
The Moldovan authorities acknowledged on 21 July that they have failed to meet several of the conditions stipulated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of lending to Moldova, BASA-press reported. Deputy Economy Minister Marian Lupu told journalists in Chisinau that, as a result, Moldova will not be able to request at the IMF executive board's meeting on 10 September that the fund unfreeze payouts of a $147 million, three-year loan that was inked in December 2002. The fund disbursed only three tranches, totaling some $37 million, before it froze lending to Moldova last year. Lupu said the authorities will ask the IMF and the World Bank during the organizations' special joint meeting at the end of September or early October to consider resuming lending to Moldova. On 18 June, IMF official Marta de Castello Branco said after visiting Chisinau that if Moldova failed by 21 July to meet the fund's conditions for resuming payments, it will have to negotiate a new standby accord in 2004. MS
MOLDOVA SEEKS FINANCIAL RELIEF FROM DROUGHT
The Moldovan authorities have asked international lending organizations to help them overcome the worst drought the country has suffered in 50 years, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 July. The authorities are asking for assistance in the form of food deliveries, wheat seed, and grain fodder. Moldovan Agriculture Ministry experts say the wheat harvest in 2003 will be only 80 percent of last year's, and that a shortage of some 400,000 tons of wheat, 600,000 tons of grain fodder, and 40,000 tons of wheat seed is expected as a result of the draught. MS
NEW CONSERVATIVE COALITION FORMED IN BULGARIA
The Bulgarian Agrarian National Union -- National Union (BZNS-NS) headed by Anastasia Moser, the Democratic Party, and the small Civic Movement "Gergyovden" have agreed to form a pre-election coalition for the local and mayoral elections slated for the end of October, mediapool.bg reported on 21 July. The BZNS-NS and the Democratic Party have their roots in pre-World War II Bulgaria; they are former allies of the conservative Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 July 2003). "Gergyovden" is a relatively new movement that attracted the votes of many young voters in the 2001 parliamentary elections, when it ran on a joint ticket with the small nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO). UB
BULGARIAN MEDIA ENFORCE MEASURES AGAINST EXPLICIT SONG LYRICS
The Council on Electronic Media (SEM) on 21 July reminded radio and television stations they are not allowed to play music and video clips with explicit lyrics between 6.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m., "Standart" reported. The SEM cited a passage of the Law on Radio and Television that bans broadcasts of "cynical content" unless an advisory warning of such content is first aired. Stations that fail to comply with the regulation will face fines of $1,150 to $8,600. The SEM enforced the passage in reaction to the growing number of Bulgarian-language rap songs and videos with vulgar lyrics and explicit content. UB
IRANIAN JUSTICE UNLIKELY IN CASE OF DEAD CANADIAN JOURNALIST
The report on the official investigation into the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was presented to President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami on 20 July, and Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi announced the next day that the Tehran prosecutor-general will conduct the investigation. It would be unrealistic to expect anything but a cover-up from the Iranian government, given Iran's track record in dealing with charges of government repression and in light of wide-spread suspicion that the Tehran prosecutor-general is responsible for Kazemi's death.
A naturalized Canadian who was born in Iran, Kazemi was photographing the families of political prisoners in front of Evin Prison on 23 June when she was detained by the authorities. On 10 July it was reported that she was comatose in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Baghiatollah Hospital and she died the next day of what officials termed a cerebral hemorrhage.
Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi said after the 16 July cabinet meeting that Kazemi "died from a brain hemorrhage resulting from a blow," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. Abtahi's statement appeared to confirm speculation that Kazemi died from injuries sustained during a beating while in detention.
On the other hand, Health Minister Masud Pezeshkian said after the same meeting that there was no evidence of injuries to Kazemi's face, IRNA reported. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in a 16 July conversation with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham that Kazemi had a fractured skull and suggested that she could have been injured in a fall, Toronto's "The Globe and Mail" newspaper reported on 17 July.
Graham insisted that the Iranian government get to the bottom of the matter. Canadian Ambassador to Iran Philip McKinnon, however, warned that Iran's "feudal" political system leaves little hope for a fair and transparent investigation, "The Globe and Mail" reported on 16 July. He added that Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship and Tehran is treating the case as the death of an Iranian citizen, precluding Canadian participation in the investigation.
President Khatami called on the ministries of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Interior, Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Justice to launch an investigation into Kazemi's death, IRNA reported on 13 July. RFE/RL on 13 July quoted Tanya Churchmuch, the head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Canadian branch, as saying: "The fact that the Iranian government says it wants to lead its own investigation, perhaps we can see that as a slight, slight step in the right direction, but for us at Reporters Without Borders, it's far from being sufficient. It would be like having a prisoner being held by Montreal police who dies in custody and having the Montreal police investigate. It's not the right way to do things. You need somebody that's independent, outside, that's not involved with what happened to do the investigation."
An independent investigation probably will not take place. Asked if a Canadian medical team would be allowed to conduct an autopsy, Pezeshkian said, "I think we are educated enough to investigate this issue ourselves," IRNA reported on 16 July.
Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, demanded that his mother's remains be returned to Canada, the "The Globe and Mail" reported on 17 July. He said he had spoken with his grandmother in Shiraz, and "It has been clear between us, and all the members of the family, that [Zahra Kazemi] won't be buried in the land of the people who murdered her." He added, "She belongs with me, her only child." Hachemi said that independent medical experts in Canada could determine the true cause of death, Toronto's "National Post" reported on 14 July, and he filed a formal request with the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa for repatriation of the body to Canada.
"Since Mrs. Zahra Kazemi is an Iranian, no country has the right to seek the transfer of her body," Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 16 July, according to IRNA. Ramezanzadeh said that as an Iranian national Kazemi is subject to Iranian law, regardless of what the Canadian government says.
Canadian diplomats cited by the "National Post" said Kazemi's mother in Shiraz is authorized to determine what is done with the remains, while Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said Canadian authorities are likely to drop their efforts to repatriate the body because of the mother's reported authority over the body. In what could be an effort to intimidate the mother, officials from the Fars Province office of the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry visited the Kazemi family home on 14 July, IRNA reported.
The German news agency dpa reported on 21 July that the grandmother had changed her mind and wanted Zahra returned to Canada.
The status of Kazemi's remains is in question. Seyyed Sadeq Kharrazi, Iran's ambassador to France, told a delegation from RSF on 16 July that Kazemi's body was buried on 13 or 14 July, RSF announced on 16 July. Kharrazi said he does not know the precise location of the burial site. Hours later, the Iranian Embassy in Paris said on 16 July that Kazemi's remains had not been buried and would not be buried until an investigation into her death was concluded, AFP reported.
When the report was presented on 20 July, it asserted that Kazemi died as the result of a physical attack, according to IRNA. It did not identify the party responsible for inflicting the beating that led to her death. The Judiciary chief announced the next day that he had been tasked with conducting the investigation into Kazemi's death, and he called on the Tehran prosecutor-general's office to conduct the investigation, state radio reported on 21 July.
Yet there is suspicion that Tehran's chief prosecutor, Said Mortazavi, is the person responsible for Kazemi's death. Parliamentarian Mohsen Armin told the legislature on 20 July that Mortazavi issued the warrant for Kazemi's arrest, ISNA reported, and after two days of questioning she was handed over to the police for more questioning. She told the police she was hit in the head while at the Prosecutor's Office. Later that day, Mortazavi had her returned to his office, and several hours later he asked the MOIS to take her. MOIS personnel told Armin that they declared Kazemi's arrest unnecessary, but Mortazavi refused to send her home. At midnight on 26 June, she was transferred to a hospital and the next day she slipped into a coma, according to Armin. He said Mortazavi should explain why Kazemi was arrested and added, "I declare that Judge Mortazavi and his supporters should be removed from power and a court should investigate their actions."
Tehran's record, furthermore, contributes to doubts about the punishment of those who killed Kazemi. When rogue MOIS agents allegedly murdered dissidents in 1998, the MOIS chief was replaced with a more hard-line official. The individuals found guilty of the murders were imprisoned, but their sentences have been reduced numerous times. The investigation into the unrest of July 1999 resulted in the Soviet-style forced and televised confessions of students, and the minor sentences of policemen tried in connection with the unrest have been reduced. One of the individuals found guilty of trying to murder reformist ideologue Said Hajjarian in 2000, Ansar-i Hizbullah leader Said Asqar, was free on bail when he took part in the vigilante repression of students participating in the recent June protests.
MASSIVE FIRE SWEEPS THROUGH JALALABAD
A major fire that apparently started at a wholesale timber market in central Jalalabad on the morning of 21 July spread and destroyed 100-150 shops by the end of the day, international news agencies reported. The Nangarhar Province capital is the center of Afghanistan's timber trade. "The people of the city will lose millions of dollars if the fire is not extinguished," dpa quoted from a state television report, adding that no fire extinguishers are available in the city. The fire reportedly spread quickly from the market to neighboring wooden-roofed shops. "There's only one fire engine in Jalalabad, which could do nothing to fight this big fire," AFP quoted city police chief Ajab Shah as saying. No casualties have been reported as result of the blaze, the cause of which has yet to be determined. AT
PAKISTAN REOPENS ITS EMBASSY IN KABUL
The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul reopened on 21 July, the BBC reported. The embassy was shut down after approximately 2,000 protestors stormed the compound on 8 July following reports that Pakistani forces had made incursions inside Afghan territory. The Afghan Transitional Administration has since paid compensation for damages, apologized, and arrested four people in connection with the incident (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). However, Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Rostam Shah Mohmand said the number of people arrested is not sufficient, adding that his country will insist that the people who "conceived and planned and gave orders" for the attack should also be taken into custody. The reopening of the embassy signals a positive step toward the improvement of the states' recently strained relations. However, the core issue of the dispute -- Afghan claims that Pakistan is interfering in its international affairs -- remains to be resolved. AT
PAKISTANI SPOKESMAN SAYS BORDER TENSION WITH AFGHANISTAN UNDER CONTROL...
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said on 21 July that there was a "situation" on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border "but now it is under control," Associated Press of Pakistan reported. Khan said there was no incursion on the part of Pakistani forces, and added that the tripartite commission comprising Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. representatives will soon visit the Mohmand tribal areas to investigate the situation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 July 2003). "All channels of communication at all level[s] are open," Khan said in reference to Kabul-Islamabad relations, adding that both countries understand the need to resolve issues that occasionally arise. AT
...AS AFGHANISTAN SPOKESMAN QUESTIONS NEW INCURSION INTO AFGHANISTAN BY PRO-TALIBAN FORCES
Transitional Administration spokesman Ahmad Jawayd Lodin said on 21 July that the perpetrators of a 19 July attack on a coalition convoy crossed the Afghan-Pakistan border in broad daylight, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). Nine coalition soldiers were wounded (see item below) and 22-24 pro-Taliban fighters, or neo-Taliban, were killed in the ensuing fighting near Spin Boldak. Without naming Pakistan directly, Lodin said forces loyal to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan "have to have their base somewhere. They have to get their resources, their materials, their equipment from somewhere." Afghan government officials have maintained that elements within Pakistan's military are supporting neo-Taliban forces in an effort to undermine the Transitional Administration's authority. AT
NINE COALITION TROOPS CONFIRMED INJURED IN SPIN BOLDAK ATTACK
U.S. military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said on 21 July that nine coalition soldiers were wounded in fighting between neo-Taliban and coalition forces in Spin Boldak on 19 July, Reuters reported. Davies also confirmed that 22-24 opposition fighters were killed, thus supporting earlier reports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). Mulla Abdul Samad, speaking on behalf of the Taliban, on 21 July refuted the validity of the number of Taliban casualties and called on the sources of the original figures to "show the bodies of these Taliban fighters." Davis said that after patrolling the scene on 20 July, U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia found "indicators of wounded enemy, including clothing, shoes, [and] discarded equipment." During the Soviet-Afghan conflict (1979-89) and the ensuing civil war Afghans regularly provided exaggerated casualty figures, and to date there is no accurate account of the number of Afghans who perished during those conflicts. AT
IRANIAN JUDICIARY TO PROBE ITSELF IN JOURNALIST CASE
Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi announced at the weekly meeting of judiciary officials on 21 July that the Tehran prosecutor-general should promptly and legally investigate the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, Iranian state radio and IRNA reported. An official report presented to the presidential cabinet on 20 July determined that Kazemi died of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a blow she sustained while in custody. Parliamentarian Mohsen Armin told the legislature the same day that Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi is responsible for Kazemi's death (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). BS
OTTAWA WANTS FOLLOW-THROUGH ON JOURNALIST'S DEATH...
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham described Zahra Kazemi's death as a "horrific act" and said the Iranian government's report raises serious questions, Reuters reported on 21 July. "We now ask the Iranian government to take the next step and proceed with the full and swift prosecution of those responsible for Ms. Kazemi's death to clearly demonstrate...that its officials are not allowed to act with impunity and to deter any future violations," Graham said. BS
...AND DEMANDS RETURN OF REMAINS
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 21 July that only the Iranian judiciary can decide on the final destination of Kazemi's remains, dpa reported. Both Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, and her mother, Ezat Kazemi, want her remains to be returned to Canada. Ottawa shares this view, with Foreign Minister Graham saying: "There should be no further delay in having her remains returned to Canada. It is unacceptable that authorities in Iran continue to refuse to accept the agreed wishes of the family." BS
ANOTHER IRANIAN JOURNALIST JAILED
Abolqasem Golbaz, the managing director of the monthly "Guzarish," has been arrested on charges of propagandizing against the system, spreading lies, presenting a black picture (siah nemai) of the internal situation, and justifying the overthrow of the system, "Iran" reported on 21 July. Golbaz has been sent to Evin Prison, and journalists Nadir Karimi and Ismail Amini, as well as photographer Hojatollah Sepahvand, have been summoned for questioning. BS
TEHRAN, HAVANA DENY INTERFERING WITH U.S.-BASED SATELLITE BROADCASTS
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said during a 21 July press conference that Tehran and Havana have not held talks on jamming satellite-television broadcasts originating in the United States, dpa reported, citing IRNA. Cuba's Foreign Affair's Ministry denied in a 19 July statement that it is blocking broadcasts from the United States meant for a third country, RFE/RL reported. Cuban jamming activities are limited to blocking U.S. radio and television signals that are intended for the Cuban people, according to the statement. Cuban National Assembly of People's Power President Ricardo Alarcon on 17 July said recent reports of Cuban interference with satellite communications to Iran are part of a new anti-Cuban maneuver, Havana's official AIN news agency reported. Jamming of Persian-language satellite-television stations intensified on 6 July, when VOA Television began broadcasting a new program to Iran. This has also affected the broadcasts of private Los Angeles-based Persian-language satellite-television stations. International media reported on 11 July that the jamming appears to originate in Cuba (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 July 2003). BS
YAZDI RESIGNS AS PRAYER LEADER
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi has resigned as a substitute Tehran Friday prayer leader due to poor health, Fars News Agency reported on 20 July, citing Friday-prayer headquarters head Javad Maqsudi. A replacement has not been selected yet. Formerly head of the judiciary, Yazdi now serves on the Guardians Council. It is not known if he will resign from this body, too. BS
TEHRAN DENIES TERRORISM CONNECTION
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 21 July denied that Iran supports terrorism and claimed, "It is America that supports terrorists," state radio reported the next day. Kharrazi mentioned the United States' signing of an accord with the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) as evidence and added, "America supports the conduct of terrorist groups abroad that are opponents of Iran," ISNA reported on 22 July, citing Germany's "Die Presse." Kharrazi's comments were in response to a 21 July statement by U.S. President George W. Bush. "Today, Syria and Iran continue to harbor and assist terrorists. This behavior is completely unacceptable and states that support terror will be held accountable," Bush said, according to RFE/RL. BS
EU CONCERNED ABOUT IRANIAN NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
In a joint declaration that was issued after their 21 July meeting in Brussels, European Union foreign ministers expressed concern about Iran's nuclear activities and said closer economic ties are dependent on Iranian progress in human rights, counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and the Middle East peace process, Reuters reported on 21 July and the "Financial Times" on 22 July. The statement said further cooperation will be considered in light of International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei's September report on Iran. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Iran's acceptance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol would be a "strategic choice." BS
IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL ELECTS THREE-MAN LEADERSHIP
The Iraqi Governing Council has reportedly elected a three-man leadership headed by Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani, former Iraqi Foreign Minister and Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement leader Adnan Pachachi, and Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi, the Baghdad daily "Al-Zaman" reported on 21 July. The three men will chair the council on a rotating basis. The Governing Council comprises 25 members. KR
INC CLAIMS U.S. IS REVIVING PARTS OF IRAQI INTELLIGENCE INFRASTRUCTURE...
The U.S. government is reportedly working to revive parts of the Iraqi intelligence infrastructure, in particular the branch that monitors Iran, former Iraqi agents and politicians have told "The New York Times," the daily reported on 22 July. INC leader Chalabi told the daily that senior officials from that party have met with senior members of the Iraqi Mukhabarat's Turkey and Iran units over the past several weeks. INC official Abd al-Aziz Kubaysi said the INC received documents from former intelligence officers and recruited them into a new intelligence unit, "The New York Times" reported. Kubaysi said that U.S. officials are aware of INC activities, while former intelligence officers have claimed that the United States is supporting the operation. "As far as what we do, we are sending back information to the Pentagon, to people who are responsible," Kubaysi said. "They know the nature of what we're doing. There is coordination. We have representatives of [U.S. Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld at the INC." Kubaysi said that Iran is the key focus, noting that some Iraqi political groups have long-standing ties to Iran. KR
...AS LINKS TO MKO ALLEGED...
A former Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly told "The New York Times" of 22 July that he declined an offer to work with the United States after learning that he would also be working with Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), an Iranian opposition group long based in Iraq that is listed on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups. Sabi al-Hamed said he worked with the MKO during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and called them "butchers." The United States reportedly signed a cease-fire with the group in April and worked to disarm them in May. According to the daily, INC officials have called for the removal of the MKO from the State Department list, saying the organization can play a valuable role in providing intelligence on Iran. INC official Kubaysi has denied that a future Iraqi intelligence arm will work with the MKO, but former Iraqi agents told the daily that the reconstituted intelligence unit is already operating in Baghdad. KR
...AND U.S. REMAINS TIGHT-LIPPED
Meanwhile, U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad reportedly told "The New York Times" of 22 July that the idea of reviving the Iran branch of the Iraqi Mukhabarat was only in the discussion phase. "There's been a lot of discussion, but I haven't seen anything that has developed into concrete thinking," one unnamed official was quoted as saying. The official declined to comment when asked whether the U.S. Defense Department is working with the INC to recruit former Iraqi intelligence officers. KR
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL UNVEILS PLAN ON IRAQ...
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a 23-page report to the UN Security Council on 17 July assessing the UN role in Iraq since the appointment of UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello on 23 May pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May 2003). The report, available on the UN website (http://www.un.org), provides "an initial assessment of the scope of the challenges involved in implementing the mandate conferred" by Resolution 1483, Annan writes, and lays out a plan for UN assistance in the rebuilding of Iraq. In particular, the report states that the UN will focus on human rights and humanitarian assistance, and contribute to the building of a national dialogue. Other key areas include judicial and legal reform, police training, public administration, economic reconstruction, and technical assistance. The UN will carry out its mission under the new UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), staffed by over 300 international and local personnel. The report was to be formally presented to the Security Council on 22 July. KR
...WHILE IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL SQUABBLES OVER UN PRESENTATION
Members of a delegation appointed by the Iraqi Governing Council to speak on behalf of Iraq at the UN Security Council were reportedly squabbling over who should speak after learning that the council might only allow one Iraqi to address the world body, Reuters reported on 21 July. The purported incident reflects the long-standing failure of Iraqi factions to cooperate for the greater good. According to Reuters, the dispute erupted when the INC's Chalabi refused to join the delegation on the trip to New York after learning that only one member of the delegation would address the UN, unidentified diplomats there said. Chalabi changed his mind after it was tentatively agreed that both he and former Iraqi Foreign Minister Pachachi could speak, the sources reportedly told the news agency. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias, Security Council president for July, told Reuters, "Pachachi will talk in the name of the delegation -- only one person." The third member of the Iraq delegation is Akila al-Hashemi, who served in the Iraqi diplomatic corps under ousted President Saddam Hussein. Security Council members have been reluctant to say whether they will agree to recognize the U.S.-backed Governing Council as the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people. KR