OFFICIALS LAUD ANTITERRORISM COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED STATES...
Lieutenant General Sergei Fomenko, deputy head of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) counterterrorism department, said on 13 August that the FSB is grateful to the U.S. and British intelligence agencies for their cooperation in successfully breaking open a plot to smuggle a shoulder-launched Igla antiaircraft missile into the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003), Russian media reported. Speaking at a joint U.S.-Russian press conference in Newark, New Jersey, Fomenko said that the significance of the joint operation goes far beyond mere cooperation between intelligence services, and reaches the political level. In Moscow, former FSB Director and current Duma Security Committee Chairman Nikolai Kovalev (Fatherland-All Russia) told ORT on 13 August that joint U.S-Russian antiterrorism activity has evolved from individual operations into permanent, standing cooperation. He said that for a long time both countries misjudged the common enemy -- international terrorism -- but that this changed following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. VY
...AS EXPERTS EMPHASIZE THAT ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILE IS A SERIOUS THREAT
The 10-kilogram, shoulder-launched Igla missile is produced in Kolomna and can hit targets at altitudes of up to 3 kilometers, Russian and Western media reported on 13 August. Russian, U.S., and Israeli security experts consider it a highly effective weapon against both military and civilian aircraft. Until the 1990s, it was strictly classified, but since then it has been exported to about 30 countries. In the last 18 months, there have been at least three attempts using the missile to shoot down commercial airliners, newsru.com reported on 13 August. The BBC on 13 August cited unidentified FBI sources as saying that terrorists planned to smuggle up to 50 Iglas into the United States. Although Russian security officials maintain that they keep strict track of the country's Igla missiles, last month 10 were stolen from a naval-supply depot in Leningrad Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2003). Russian security agents recovered those missiles on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2003). VY
PUTIN TELLS BUSINESS TO GET READY FOR WTO MEMBERSHIP
Speaking to a Kremlin gathering of leading industrialists on 13 August, President Vladimir Putin said that joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) is "a crucial element of the country's economic policy," polit.ru and other Russian media reported. He said that the efficiency of domestic industry depends on its readiness to compete in the global environment. As a member of the WTO, Russia would be able to participate in elaborating global trade regulations which, in turn, would have an impact on the national economy, Putin argued. However, WTO membership will not be a panacea for Russia, and it will not solve crucial economic problems such as the lack of investment. These problems must be addressed by boosting the economic-growth rate, Putin said. He also urged business to help create an attractive image of Russia abroad. He said that to do so, Russia should change the structure of the economy, create a civilized business environment, and develop democracy. At the same meeting, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said that it is realistic to expect that Russia will join the WTO in 2005-06. VY
RUSSIA READY TO MAKE SECURITY GUARANTEES IN NORTH KOREA TALKS
Closed-door negotiations began in Moscow on 13 August between Russian, North Korean, and South Korean diplomats to prepare for six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program that are set to begin in Beijing at the end of the month, RTR and strana.ru reported. First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin and Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov are representing Russia in the negotiations. Losyukov told journalists on 13 August that Russia and China might give Pyongyang additional security guarantees in exchange for agreeing to renounce its nuclear-weapons program, if the assurances proposed by the United States are not deemed sufficient. Losyukov added that he believes North Korea will insist on additional guarantees and that "this demand is logical." He also said that Russia does not want to sit in judgment regarding this conflict, but is interested only in eliminating the danger of war in the region, which Moscow sees as a threat to its national security. VY
COURT KEEPS YUKOS SECURITY OFFICIAL IN CUSTODY
A Moscow district court on 13 August extended until 19 November the period of detention of Aleksei Pichugin, a senior Yukos security officer who was arrested in June on suspicion of arranging two murders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003), newsru.com reported. Pichugin's lawyer, Georgii Kaganer, said the court rejected a defense request that Pichugin be released on bail and ruled that he should remain in custody "because there is a risk that he might flee from the investigation, pressure witnesses, or destroy evidence." VY
POLICE ALLEGE TRAVEL AGENCY HELPED SUSPECTS ESCAPE ABROAD
Filipp Zolotnitskii, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's Moscow Economic Crime Directorate, said on 13 August that police are investigating a Moscow travel agency that reportedly helped some 300 suspected criminals -- including some on the federal most-wanted list -- to flee the country, lenta.ru reported on 13 August. Zolotnitskii said that Alyans-Turs employees inserted the pictures of criminal suspects into passports that had been lost, stolen, or illegally obtained and helped them to get the necessary visas to travel abroad. He added that among those whom the firm allegedly helped to flee abroad were some residents of Chechnya. He said the company's owner, Nina Fedotyuk, had made at least $800,000 on the deals. Fedotyuk and two company employees have been detained in connection with the case. A list of the suspects that Alyans-Turs is accused of helping has been forwarded to Interpol, lenta reported. VY
EMBATTLED POLLSTER FINDS PUBLIC SEES PUTIN AS BACKED PRIMARILY BY SECURITY FORCES...
In a new poll conducted by the embattled All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 11 August 2003), respondents gave President Putin a higher performance rating for foreign policy than for his handling of domestic issues and the war in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 August. Sixty-six percent of respondents said Putin had succeeded in improving Russia's international standing, while only 30 percent of respondents said that he has succeeded in defeating guerrillas in Chechnya. Forty-five percent of respondents thought he has been successful in defending democracy and citizens' political liberties. In terms of domestic sources of support for his regime, the highest percentage of respondents -- 51 percent -- said that Putin relies on the "siloviki" as his main base of support, and just 15 percent said that his support base consists of ordinary citizens. JAC
...AND ANALYST CONCLUDES FORCES UNLEASHED IN YUKOS AFFAIR MIGHT NOT BE REINED IN AGAIN
In a column in "The Moscow Times" on 13 August, commentator Yuliya Latynina argues that by unleashing the siloviki in the legal assault against Yukos, other forces -- such as the St. Petersburg prosecutor's office -- have been emboldened to pursue their own agendas. "To what extent is [President] Putin in control of the situation?" Latynina asks. "And can anyone rein in the siloviki?" She concludes: "The siloviki are like genies let out of the bottle, first by the oligarchs, then by the president. Both tried to make the genies serve their own ends. And now they're astonished to see that they have triggered an uncontrollable chain reaction." JAC
TWO MORE PARTIES LOSE THEIR REGISTRATION
The Justice Ministry has disqualified two more political parties from officially registering, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. The New Communist Party, led by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's grandson Andrei Brezhnev, and the Socialist People's Party both failed to register enough regional branches (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). Both are now seeking registration as public associations, a status which does not give them the right to participate in the 7 December State Duma elections. JAC
DEPUTY GOVERNOR IN ST. PETERSBURG ATTACKED...
St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anatolii Kagan was attacked by unknown assailants near the street where he lives on the evening of 12 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 August. A local hospital has deemed his condition serious, but not life threatening. On 14 August, a local court will consider a lawsuit seeking to annul the candidacy of Deputy Governor Anna Markova in the city's 21 September gubernatorial election. JAC
...AS REPUTED KINGPIN RUNS OUT OF LIVES
On 11 August, one of St. Petersburg's most notorious reputed "criminal authorities," Ruslan Kolyak, was killed at an outdoor cafe in Yalta, "Gazeta" reported. According to police records, Kolyak had survived nine previous attempts on his life, but Kolyak himself put the figure at more than 15. According to the daily, Kolyak at one point allegedly controlled prostitution in St. Petersburg, but later invested in legal businesses, including media outlets. JAC
EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES CAN NOW BE USED FOR RELIGIOUS STUDY
Education Minister Vladimir Filippov has signed a decree allowing religious study in schools outside of the framework of official educational programs, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 13 August. According to Lyubov Garmash, a consultant with the ministry's department of educational programs and standards, such study can take place only if the child and his or her parents request it. The idea is not to make religious study an activity for school faculty, but only to provide school and kindergarten premises for religious study at the initiative of parents. JAC
GRAIN HARVEST DOWN MORE THAN 70 PERCENT...
Russia's grain harvest as of 1 August was 71.2 percent lower than the amount produced the previous year by the same day, Interfax reported, citing the State Statistics Committee. Crop production has declined in many regions. In Krasnodar Krai, production is 3.26 tons per hectare, compared with 4.78 tons last year. In Stavropol Krai, the rate has dipped to 2.45 tons per hectare, compared with 3.4 tons last year. According to Saratov television, the harvest was more than 40 percent less than expected in seven raions in the oblast, Regnum reported. JAC
...AND CENTRAL GOVERNOR ACCUSES FARMERS OF COOKING THE BOOKS
In Voronezh Oblast, Governor Vladimir Kulakov has accused farmers of understating their final yield in order to sell more grain at higher prices later, utro.ru reported. According to statistics gathered by his staff, the grain harvest is only a little less than last year, but is "decent" just the same. According to Kulakov, the black earth in the oblast is unique, and the low levels of crop productivity being recorded simply cannot be correct. According to utro.ru, the price of bread in the oblast has risen by 20 percent over an unspecified time period. Before being elected governor in 2000, Kulakov was the head of the oblast's FSB directorate. JAC
RUSSIAN BUSINESSPEOPLE CONSIDER BEREZOVSKII-CONTROLLED NEWSPAPER THEIR FAVORITE
The national newspaper "Kommersant-Daily" and the weekly magazine "Ekspert" received the top ratings in a member survey conducted by the Association of Russian Managers at the end of the July asking respondents to assess the quality of print media, VolgaInform reported on 9 August. Other highly rated publications were "Izvestiya," "Finansovaya gazeta," "Profil," and "Ekonomika i zhizn." Among regional newspapers, "Zolotoi rog" (Vladivostok), "Sovetskaya Chuvashiya," "Mariinskaya pravda," "Penzenskie vesti," "Saratovskie vesti," "Simbirskii kurer" (Ulyanovsk), "Volzhskaya kommuna" (Samara), and "Vremya i dengi" (Kazan) were high scorers. JAC
RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS CHECHEN FIGHTERS REMAIN IN GEORGIA
Some 150 fighters loyal to Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev are preparing to enter Chechnya from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge with the aim of perpetrating terrorist acts in the run-up to the 5 October Chechen presidential election, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported on 13 August, quoting an unnamed source within the Antiterrorism Council of the Southern Federal District. That source claimed the men include mercenaries from Turkey, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and that they cooperate closely with the Al-Qaeda international terrorism network. Two senior Georgian officials have recently denied that any Chechen fighters remained in the Pankisi Gorge following the large-scale operation undertaken a year ago to expel them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 12 August 2003). LF
DUMA DEPUTY TO RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT
Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, formally announced on 13 August that he will contest the 5 October Chechen presidential election, Russian media reported. The number of prospective candidates now stands at 15. LF
JUDGE REJECTS REQUEST THAT ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TESTIFY IN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS TRIAL
Presiding judge Samvel Uzunian rejected on 13 August a request by Nairi Hunanian that President Robert Kocharian be required to testify in Hunanian's ongoing trial, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hunanian led a group of five gunmen who shot eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament building in October 1999. They subsequently surrendered after negotiations between Hunanian and Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). Hunanian argued on 13 August that Kocharian could disprove allegations of treason leveled against Hunanian and confirm that he surrendered unconditionally. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER AFFIRMS THAT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WILL BE DEMOCRATIC
Responding to a message of congratulations from U.S. President George W. Bush, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ilham Aliev said that the Azerbaijani leadership "is determined to cooperate closely with the United States and corresponding international structures in order to conduct free and democratic elections," Turan and ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. Aliev also stressed the U.S. role in implementing Azerbaijan's oil strategy. He further noted that "the Azerbaijani people pins great hopes on the efforts undertaken by the United States as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen" in seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. LF
AZERBAIJANI POLICE BREAK UP UNSANCTIONED PROTESTS
Azerbaijani police forcibly disrupted three protests by opposition parties on 13 August, zerkalo.az reported on 14 August. Some 20 members of the Musavat Party were intercepted en route to staging a picket outside the Constitutional Court to protest the 4 August appointment of Ilham Aliev as prime minister. Ten of them were detained, of whom three were subsequently remanded for six days' and one for five days' administrative arrest. A group of seven or eight members of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party was prevented from staging a similar picket outside the Supreme Court. Police armed with rubber truncheons attacked members of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) who attempted to picket the Central Election Commission to demand the registration as a candidate for the 15 October presidential election of ADR Chairman Rasul Guliev, whose application for registration was turned down last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). But some 15-20 ADR members were able to stage a similar, sanctioned protest later on 13 August outside the Supreme Court building. LF
AZERBAIJANI PEACEKEEPERS DEPART FOR IRAQ
A contingent of 150 Azerbaijani troops -- 120 servicemen and 30 officers -- left Baku on 13 August for Kuwait en route for Iraq, where they will serve for 12 months as part of the U.S.-led stabilization force in that country, Turan and Russian media reported. The Azerbaijani troops will be deployed in the towns of Kirkuk, Al-Najaf, and Karbala and will guard Muslim holy sites. The United States will pay the estimated $3.5 million cost of the Azerbaijani participation. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PRESSURES JUSTICE MINISTER, CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER ELECTRICITY TARIFFS...
Eduard Shevardnadze is exerting pressure on embattled Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili to endorse the new, higher energy tariffs proposed on 8 August by the National Energy Regulating Committee, Caucasus Press reported on 13 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003). Giligashvili told a cabinet session on 13 August that such an increase would violate a ruling by the Constitutional Court, which last year ruled in favor of the opposition Labor Party, which opposed a tariff increase. Caucasus Press on 14 August quoted Constitutional Court Chairman Djoni Khetsuriani as rejecting Shevardnadze's expressions of displeasure at the court's decision. Khetsuriani affirmed that the court is an independent body and will hand down its rulings in accordance with the principle of supremacy of the law. LF
...CALLS ON MINISTERS TO QUIT SMOKING
President Shevardnadze appealed to ministers at a cabinet session on 13 August to quit smoking, pointing out that those of them who leave government sessions for a smoke sometimes fail to return, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze announced his intention of launching an antismoking campaign within the state chancellery. LF
ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS INVOLVEMENT OF MORE COUNTRIES IN PEACE TALKS
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told journalists he considers inexpedient an 11 August proposal by Hamlet Chipashvili, a parliamentarian from Georgia's Adjar Autonomous Republic, that a neutral country such as Sweden or Switzerland be invited to mediate talks between Abkhazia and Georgia on resolving the conflict between them, Caucasus Press reported on 13 August. Shamba said Sukhum sees no point in changing the current format for negotiations unless some foreign country recognizes the Republic of Abkhazia as an independent entity and expresses support for the Abkhaz' right to self-determination. LF
SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES CABINET
Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, has dismissed the entire government, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported on 14 August. His reasons for doing so are not clear. In early July Kokoyty fired several "force " ministers on the grounds of their alleged links with organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 July 2003). LF
IMPRISONED KAZAKH OPPOSITION FIGURE APPEALS FOR PARDON
Yelena Rebenchuk, a lawyer of Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, imprisoned co-founder of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, told a news conference in Astana on 13 August that her client has appealed for a pardon, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Rebenchuk said she learned of Zhaqiyanov's appeal from his wife, who spoke to her husband by telephone on 12 August. He reportedly said that he submitted his appeal on 6 August, but the prison administration has not yet sent it to the presidential administration. Rebenchuk added that the prison administration has not even acknowledged that it has the pardon appeal. Previously, Zhaqiyanov, who is serving a seven-year term for alleged abuse of office when he was governor of Pavlodar Oblast, had refused to ask for pardon, asserting that he is innocent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2003). BB
OSCE SAYS RUBBER BULLETS ARE NOT PART OF ITS TRAINING PROGRAM FOR KYRGYZ POLICE
An official from the OSCE headquarters in Vienna spoke to Bishkek journalists on 13 August in an attempt to calm Kyrgyz concerns about a police-training program that the organization is implementing in Kyrgyzstan at the request of the Kyrgyz government, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. OSCE official Barry Mayers said that a local oversight group for the program will be set up following recommendations from nongovernmental organizations. He added that the only equipment that will be provided under the program is fire extinguishers. There would be no automatic weapons or rubber bullets for riot control, he said. BB
KYRGYZ PREMIER, FOREIGN MINISTER STUDY BORDER SITUATION
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev and Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov have held a closed-door meeting with officials of the Aksy Raion in southern Kyrgyzstan's Djalal-Abad Oblast on 12 August to hear recommendations from local specialists on how to boost security measures along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, akipress.org reported on 14 August. According to the report, Tanaev and Aitmatov are seeking to work out a Kyrgyz position on simplified border-crossing procedures in anticipation of the next round of talks with Uzbekistan. The two countries have been trading accusations since a Kyrgyz citizen was killed by an Uzbek border guard in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2003). Aksy Raion was the site of the shooting of five demonstrators by police in March 2002. According to the Kyrgyz opposition, the inhabitants of the raion are still distrustful of the authorities. BB
TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS UN SHOULD SHIFT FROM HUMANITARIAN TO TECHNICAL AID
Imomali Rakhmonov told the newly appointed resident representative of the UN Development Program in Tajikistan, William Payton, that UN agencies working in the country should shift their emphasis from humanitarian aid to long-term technical assistance, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 August, quoting the presidential press service. The meeting took place on 12 August. Rakhmonov expressed appreciation for the UN's contribution to the restoration of peace in Tajikistan after the 1992-97 civil war and asked that the agencies help the country achieve sustainable economic and social development by increasing the volume of UN aid and helping to attract foreign investment. BB
INDEPENDENT TAJIK MEDIA GROUP ASKS FOR GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR LOCAL MEDIA
The National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (Nansmit) has sent a letter to Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and to the chairman of the lower house of parliament, Sadullo Khairulloev, asking for tax exemptions for the media for a 10-year period and for revisions of the tax and customs laws to encourage the development of the Tajik media, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 13 August. The journalists' letter noted that the heads of 29 newspapers and journalists' groups sent the same appeal to President Rakhmonov in April, but there has been no response. The journalists pointed out that Tajikistan's poor economic situation, undeveloped advertising sector, and the lack of quality printing facilities are causing severe financial problems for the domestic media, and these are compounded by current tax and customs laws. BB
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL SAYS TURKMENISTAN WILL NOT LOSE JACKSON-VANIK EXEMPTION
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told journalists 11 August that although Turkmenistan is not observing international standards on freedom of emigration, U.S President George W. Bush's 8 August letter to Congress certifying the performance of countries granted waivers from the Jackson-Vanik amendment did not recommend that Turkmenistan lose its exemption, the State Department's website (http://www.state.gov) reported. The quasi official website turkmenistan.ru reported on 13 August that Central Asian and Russian media that reported the possibility of U.S. sanctions against Turkmenistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003) were inaccurate. Reeker said the Turkmen government has assured the United States that emigration restrictions, including the re-imposition of exit visas and "the selective use of regulations against individuals identified by the government," have been temporarily imposed in the wake of the purported November 2002 attack on President Saparmurat Niyazov's motorcade. He added that U.S. authorities hope that continuing Jackson-Vanik waiver will encourage the Turkmen government to "move forward expeditiously to remove the exit-[visa] regime and its selective application. Because they had already lifted the exit-visa ban, there is reason to believe they will do it again." BB
TATARSTAN MOVES INTO UZBEK MARKET
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov of the Russian Federation's Republic of Tatarstan announced on 13 August at the end of a two-day visit to Uzbekistan that his republic has moved into the Uzbek market to stay, ITAR-TASS reported. During the Tatar delegation's visit, a number of agreements were signed, including a promise to supply Uzbekistan with road-construction machinery and spare parts for KamAZ trucks manufactured in Tatarstan. The two sides also discussed the possibility of cooperating in the construction of roads and bridges in Afghanistan. BB
UZBEK MILITARY CONDUCTING EXERCISES ON TURKMEN BORDER
Uzbekistan's mountain troops, including Interior Ministry troops and border guards, are conducting operational-tactical exercises in mountainous areas of Kashkadarya Oblast on the Uzbek-Turkmen border, uzreport.com reported on 13 August. The objective of the exercises, in addition to practicing the coordination of joint operations in mountainous terrain, is reported to be a study of the territory bordering Turkmenistan. BB
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ADVISES FORMING STATE IDEOLOGY ON SOVIET 'BASIS'...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka convened a conference on 13 August to discuss and improve a draft presidential decree "on the system of state bodies and other organizations carrying out ideological work in the Republic of Belarus," Belapan and Belarusian Television reported. The draft decree is aimed at inculcating state ideology in school and the workplace. In particular, it provides for the introduction of a post of deputy director for ideology at every industrial enterprise with more than 300 employees and every state-run farm with more than 150 farmers. Lukashenka said the Belarusian state ideology should incorporate the "basis" of the Soviet-era ideology. JM
...AND CHIDES AIDES OVER BLOATED BUREAUCRACY
Lukashenka scolded his aides on 13 August for proposing the formation of "an army of people" salaried by the state to propagate state ideology. "You propose this to me, but today you yourselves do not know what these people will be doing," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. However, the Belarusian president has appeared noncommittal about what he would like to instill in Belarusians. Earlier this year, Lukashenka suggested that he will make Orthodox Christianity a basis of the state ideology (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 2003). The Presidential Academy of Management has been instructed to work out a syllabus and textbooks for a mandatory course in state ideology, to be introduced at all Belarusian universities in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003). JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER REQUESTS PROTECTION FOR WITNESSES IN GONGADZE CASE
Hryhoriy Omelchenko, head of an ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the 2000 murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has asked the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) to guarantee the safety of individuals who come forward with information about the case, Interfax reported, quoting the Ukrainian media watchdog Mass Information Institute (IMI). Omelchenko specifically asked that the SBU provide protection to SBU officers who reportedly helped former police officer Ihor Honcharov collect material on the Gongadze murder. Honcharov, who is regarded as a key suspect in the Gongadze case, died in police custody on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 August 2003). Honcharov reportedly managed to give the IMI a 17-page handwritten letter in which he claims to possess information about Gongadze's killers, including audio recordings and a confession that he said he wanted to reveal to investigators in the presence of independent witnesses. JM
STATE FINANCING OF ESTONIAN POLITICAL PARTIES TO TRIPLE
The six political parties that won seats in the March parliamentary elections will receive a total of 60 million kroons ($4.3 million) from the 2004 state budget -- triple the amount parties received this year, LETA reported on 14 August, citing the daily "Eesti Paevaleht." The amount equals what all parties collectively spent on their election campaigns, according to official statistics. The action was considered necessary to compensate losses the parties will suffer because new laws prohibit political parties from accepting donations from businesses. The state funds will be distributed in proportion to the number of seats the parties have in the parliament, amounting to a little less than 600,000 kroons for each of the parliament's 101 deputies. In the March elections, Res Publica and the Center Party won 28 seats each; the Reform Party, 19; the People's Union, 13; Pro Patria Union, 7; and the Moderates, 6 seats. SG
ENVIRONMENT TO BE TOP PRIORITY FOR PLANNED CELLULOSE PLANT IN LATVIA
Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Slesers told representatives of the Finnish company Metsaliitto on 13 August in Riga that compliance with strict environmental requirements will be the main demand for the planned construction of a cellulose plant in Ozolsala, located in the Jekabpils District near the Dauguva River, BNS reported. The plant, for which construction costs are estimated at more than $1 billion, would be the largest ever investment project in Latvia. It was agreed that a Latvian delegation comprising political figures, environmental experts, and reporters, will travel to Finland to study the environmental impact of cellulose plants operating there. Prime Minister Einars Repse said the construction of the plant should use the latest technologies to reduce the possible impact on the environment. SG
RUSSIA TO GIVE LITHUANIA INFORMATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF D-6 OIL FIELD
Outgoing Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov in a farewell meeting on 13 August told Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas that Russia will provide Lithuania with the results of environmental-impact and safety studies conducted on the D-6 oil field in the Baltic Sea as soon as they are received, BNS reported. The Russian oil giant LUKoil plans to extract oil from the D-6 site, 22 kilometers off the Russian-Lithuanian Curonian Spit and seven kilometers from the countries' maritime border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003). Zubakov also told reporters after the meeting that preparations have begun for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Lithuania, although an exact date has not yet been set. The visit would be a follow up to Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus's visit to Moscow in the spring of 2001, and would be the first ever by a Russian president to Lithuania. Zubakov, who served in Lithuania for four years and will leave this week to take the ambassador's post in Moldova, will be replaced by Russian Ambassador to Kenya Boris Tsepov. SG
POLAND TO TAKE OVER STABILIZATION SECTOR IN IRAQ IN SEPTEMBER
Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke told Polish Radio on 14 August that Warsaw will take over the responsibility for its stabilization sector in Iraq at the beginning of September. "It will be a solemn ceremony and we expect that, for example, not only Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and perhaps other Polish officials will participate in it, but also ministers from other states, those that decided to send the largest military contingents to join our division," Zemke said. General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, commander of the Polish-led multinational division in the sector, said there are some 3,000 troops under Polish command in Iraq at the moment, including Poles, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Mongolians, Romanians, and Hungarians. A further 4,000 international troops currently deployed in Kuwait will later join the Polish-led force. JM
SLOVAK PREMIER DISCUSSES BUGGING SCANDALS WITH PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda met with Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel on 12 August to discuss allegations made by Dzurinda concerning the existence of a "group" seeking to discredit his Slovak Democratic and Christian Union and the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), CTK reported the next day. The meeting took place at Hanzel's request. Dzurinda made the allegations last week in connection with reported eavesdropping on Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko and the daily "Sme" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 22, 24, and 31 January and 11, 15, 16, and 17 July 2003). Hanzel said after the meeting that Dzurinda should provide him with written evidence before the case is handed over to a special team of investigators. Dzurinda, speaking through a spokesman, said the "group" has political power and business interests. The investigation into the alleged illegal bugging by the SIS was closed by military prosecutors, who concluded that they have no evidence pinpointing any suspects, Hanzel said, according to TASR and CTK. MS
ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADER VOWS TO OPPOSE EARLY ELECTIONS IN SLOVAKIA
Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), said on 13 August that the SMK will not support the opposition Smer (Direction) party's call for early elections, TASR reported. Bugar was speaking after meeting with Smer Chairman Robert Fico. Bugar also ruled out withdrawing SMK support for Deputy Premier Pal Csaky and said he hopes the coalition will support Csaky (a SMK member) if Smer initiates a no-confidence motion in him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003). MS
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS DEMANDS FOR DUAL CITIZENSHIP 'CHILDISH'
Laszlo Kovacs told a Hungarian-language Transylvanian weekly that it is "childish" to believe that 1 million ethnic Hungarians abroad can become Hungarian citizens on the basis of a single decision, the MTI news agency reported on 13 August. In an interview with "Erdelyi Riport," Kovacs remarked that dual citizenship is "not an issue, as any ethnic Hungarian in Vojvodina or Romania can apply [individually] for Hungarian citizenship." He said collectively granting citizenship would create a "catastrophic situation," since the same health and social care available to residents of Hungary would have to be provided to another 3 million people. "In my opinion, such an irresponsible proposal only serves to stir up the political mood," Kovacs added. Ethnic Hungarian organization from Serbia, Ukraine, and Romania have recently proposed that Hungarians abroad be entitled to Hungarian passports (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003). MSZ
KOSOVAR LEADERS SLAM SERBIAN GOVERNMENT DECLARATION
Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, and parliament speaker Nexhat Daci said in a statement in Prishtina on 13 August that the recent Serbian government declaration stressing that Kosova is a part of Serbia runs counter to the will of the people of Kosova, who want to be "independent and sovereign," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June and 1 August 2003). PM
TWO SERBIAN TEENAGERS KILLED IN KOSOVA
Unidentified gunmen shot into a group of Serbian teenagers swimming in the Bistrica River near Gorazdevac in the Peja region on 13 August, killing two and wounding four, Reuters reported. Local Serbs said the gunmen came from a nearby ethnic Albanian village. A crowd of angry Serbs subsequently injured a young ethnic Albanian woman nearby by pelting her with rocks. Harri Holkeri, the newly appointed head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UMMIK), called the killings a "tragedy for Kosovo," adding that "we cannot allow a few extremists, of whatever ethnicity, to undermine the secure and hopeful future many have worked to build here." The Kosovar government and all ethnic Albanian political parties condemned the killings, arguing that such incidents not only take human lives but also harm the image of Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Kosova, called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council. Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said the incident shows that the UN and NATO have failed to establish a secure environment. Reuters noted that ethnically motivated violence remains a problem but has decreased considerably since 2001. PM
ETHNIC ALBANIAN POLITICIANS DOUBT SERBIAN CHARGES OF GUERRILLA VIOLENCE
Skender Destani, who heads the Presevo town council, told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 13 August that he opposes any renewal of violence in the Presevo Valley, which Belgrade says ethnic Albanian guerrillas have already begun (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003). Ragmi Mustafa, who heads the Democratic Party of the Albanians, said he has no information about any alleged activities of the shadowy Albanian National Army (ANA) in the region. Sevdail Hyseni, who heads the Bujanovac town council and the Movement for Democratic Progress, agreed with Mustafa, adding that any armed incidents are unwelcome in an area where stability remains fragile. On 14 August, the Serbia and Montenegro's Supreme Defense Council met in Meljine near Herceg Novi to discuss the security situation in southern Serbia and Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
MACEDONIA MARKS SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF PEACE AGREEMENT
Speaking on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement that put an end to the 2001 interethnic conflict, President Boris Trajkovski said on 13 August that many citizens still are skeptical about the deal. He added, however, that citizens should not regard this day as "a basis for new divisions or as a date that we...try to avoid or forget," his official website (http://www.president.gov.mk) reported. For the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Ohrid agreement, although imperfect, was a necessary compromise to end the violence, MIA reported. Its junior coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which consists primarily of former rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK), said there is no alternative to the Ohrid accord. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) stressed that the country still does not "function normally," while its former coalition partner, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), said that the agreement achieved nothing. UB
NATO TROOPS FAIL TO NAB BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT
An unspecified number of Italian SFOR peacekeepers supported by military helicopters, combat vehicles, and sniffer dogs sealed off the home of Stana Mladic, the mother of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, in Kasindo near Sarajevo on 13 August shortly after her death, Reuters reported. Mladic, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted for crimes including genocide, did not appear at her funeral, as NATO apparently had expected. SFOR said in a statement that the "operation did not result in the detention of Ratko Mladic. No military or civilian casualties or injuries were incurred in this operation." Dpa quoted unnamed local "witnesses" as saying he stayed away from the funeral because he feared NATO would try to arrest him there. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted a local elderly woman as saying that the foreigners "can perhaps find Mladic but they cannot take him out of our hearts." PM
BOSNIAN MUSLIM LEADER REBUFFS SERBIAN MINISTER
Sulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim representative on the Bosnian Presidency, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 13 August that Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic should present any evidence he has regarding war crimes against Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 conflict to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003). Tihic argued that Batic is mistaken if he thinks he can use the alleged evidence as a bargaining chip in persuading Bosnia to drop its charges of genocide against Serbia before the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ). Tihic stressed that the Bosnian case before the ICJ involves specific crimes and individuals, and that justice must run its course. PM
ROMANIA'S HUMANIST PARTY RESPONDS TO PSD ULTIMATUM
Responding to the ruling Social Democratic Party's (PSD) ultimatum to decide by the end of this month whether it intends to continue the formations' alliance, the Humanist Party (PUR) said on 13 August that it is determined to defend its own separate "social-liberal identity" and will sign no agreement that would endanger that identity, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003). The PUR said in a press release that the PSD has been recently "sliding to the left" of the political spectrum and cited the PSD's recent merger with the Socialist Labor Party as evidence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). The PUR also accused the PSD of "arrogance" and of failing to respect the provisions of the agreement signed ahead of the 2000 parliamentary elections. MS
POLL SHOWS LIBERAL LEADER TRAILING ROMANIAN PREMIER IN RACE FOR PRESIDENCY
Additional results of a public-opinion poll conducted by CURS in early August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003) show that National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan is trailing PSD Chairman and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in the race for the presidency, Mediafax reported. If the presidential ballot slated for late 2004 took place today, Nastase would garner 42 percent and Stolojan 22 percent, according to the poll. In third place would be Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor (18 percent), followed by Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu (11 percent). In the event Stolojan ran on a joint PNL-Democratic ticket, he would take 28 percent of the vote compared to Nastase's 41 percent. If Nastase and Stolojan faced each other in a runoff, the PSD leader would receive 40 percent and Stolojan 36 percent of the vote. If Nastase faced Tudor in a runoff, he would take 52 percent of the vote compared to 19 percent for the PRM leader. Stolojan would garner 50 percent if he ran against Tudor (19 percent) in a runoff. MS
PROMINENT ROMANIAN LIBERALS OPPOSE ALLIANCE WITH DEMOCRATS
Prominent PNL leaders on 13 August expressed opposition to a possible alliance of their party with the Democrats ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for the end of 2004 or early 2005, Mediafax reported. PNL parliamentary deputy Calin Popescu Tariceanu said at a meeting of the PNL Executive Bureau that the PNL has nothing to gain from allying itself with a party that has been unable to fare better than 10 percent in public-opinion polls conducted in the past three years. Former PNL Deputy Chairman Viorel Catarama expressed a similar position, while Dinu Patriciu, who recently gave up his seat in parliament but is considered to be the main financial force behind the PNL, said at the meeting that an alliance can be considered warranted only if polls show that it can win the elections. Meanwhile, the PSD has accused CURS of "compromising its credibility" as a pollster by openly backing an alliance of the PNL and the Democrats. MS
BISHOP TOKES'S SUPPORTERS IN TRANSYLVANIA BACK REQUEST FOR DUAL CITIZENSHIP
The committee tasked with setting up a National Council of Hungarians in Transylvania on 13 August joined calls for the Hungarian authorities to grant Hungarian citizenship to Magyars living in neighboring countries, Mediafax reported. The demand was first formulated by members of the Hungarian minority from Vojvodina (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 22 and 30 July and 4, 6, and 11 August 2003). Committee member Attila Tulit said the demand is based on the right to preserve one's national identity, which he said is a basic human right. Tulit said the Hungarian Szeklers living in Transylvania did not lose their Hungarian citizenship willingly, but as a result of "unjust international decisions" that the Hungarian authorities should now correct by creating a "judicial framework" that would allow Magyar minorities to continue living "on native lands" and at the same time "belong to the Hungarian nation." MS
FORMER MOLDOVAN ECONOMY MINISTER CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT
Former Economy Minister Ion Gutu told Infotag on 13 August that the government seems to be unaware of the negative consequences the cessation of external funding will have on the Moldovan economy. Gutu said that in the best of circumstances, Moldova can hope to receive new loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in September 2004. With no external financing available, Gutu said, the government will have to take new loans from the National Bank to finance its activities, thus increasing the domestic debt -- which is already close to 3 billion lei ($214.2 million). Servicing the external debt will only be possible if the cabinet decides to introduce a policy of extreme austerity, Gutu said. "What worries me most is the absence of any logic in the [Vasile] Tarlev government's economic policy," he said. "I have the impression that the Moldovan authorities fail to realize their responsibility for the fiasco in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund." Moldova is supposed to pay $83.5 million in 2003 for servicing its external debt and the budget has slated only $51.1 million for that purpose, as it expected the rest to be covered by IMF and World Bank loans and the restructuring of Moldova's debt by the Paris Club. Neither possibility is now feasible, Gutu emphasized. MS
ROW OVER BULGARIAN TELECOM OVER?
The Vienna-based Viva Ventures has accepted the government's conditions for the purchase of a 65 percent stake in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK), "Dnevnik" reported on 14 August. Viva Ventures, which is backed by the U.S.-based Advent International Investment fund, has agreed to improve its initial offer from $237 million to $260 million, to waive reception of the company's $73 million dividend for 2002, to move up the time frame of its investments in BTK, and to cut fewer jobs than initially planned. Viva Ventures was brought back into the bidding process by the Supreme Administrative Court. It originally won the tender for BTK, but for political reasons, the state Privatization Agency nixed that decision and gave preference to the Turkish consortium Koc Holding/Turk Telecom, which initially finished second (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 30, and 31 July and 6 and 11 August 2003). UB
BULGARIAN COUNCIL ON ELECTRONIC MEDIA ISSUES RECOMMENDATION FOR ELECTION COVERAGE
The Council on Electronic Media, which regulates the activities of radio and television stations, has issued recommendations for the media coverage of the upcoming local elections slated for late October, mediapool.bg reported on 13 August. The recommendations call for editorial independence, political pluralism, clear identification of campaign broadcasts, and would guarantee candidates the right to respond to their opponents' campaign broadcasts. In addition, state and municipal authorities would not be given any preferences during the election campaign, and exit-poll results would not be published on election day. Central Election Commission member Georgi Lozanov said, "I believe that although the law does not [regulate media] behavior in the pre-election period, the media themselves will take self-regulating measures and will look after their implementation." UB
IRANIAN OFFICIALS TRY TO IGNORE ECSTASY ABUSE
It is difficult for some people to imagine the extent of drug abuse in Iran, an Islamic theocracy. Yet on 21 July an official in Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, Mohammad Hussein Khademi, said almost 3 million people out of a total population of about 67 million have addiction problems, IRNA reported on 27 July. And on 12 August, Mohsen Vazirian, an official with the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education, described the distribution of free syringes to Tehran drug addicts in order to fight the spread of HIV infection and AIDS and other contagious diseases, ILNA reported.
Being the neighbor of Afghanistan, the world's biggest opium producer, means that narcotics will always be available in Iran. Iranian officials, after a period of denial, have faced up to the problem posed by narcotics and are addressing the issue to the best of their ability through a combination of supply intervention and demand reduction. But now they are facing a new problem, synthetic drugs, and the practice of denial has resumed.
Synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, Ketamine, LSD, methamphetamines (crank), and Rohypnol are just some of the "club drugs" that young people in the West use at all-night dance parties (raves), dance clubs, and bars. When asked about reports of such substances being seized in Iran, Brigadier General Mehdi Aboui, the officer in charge of Iran's police counternarcotics effort, denied the actual discovery of any synthetic or manufactured drugs, both "Resalat" and "Iran" reported on 29 August 2002. Aboui acknowledged reports on the presence of such substances, suggested that Iranians who travel to the West purchase synthetic drugs for personal use, and said that the insignificant amount does not warrant official concern. Aboui then warned against discussing the topic because it would create curiosity among young people.
Less than a year later, Atekeh Tehrani, an official with the drug-abuse department of the State Welfare Organization, said that Ecstasy and LSD use is on the rise.
A reliable source based in Iran told "RFE/RL Iran Report" that Ecstasy began to find a niche in the Tehran market in early to mid-2002. By November 2002 around 40 brands were available, with "Mercedes Benz" and "BMW" being among the most popular. Prices at the time ranged from $3.75 to $4.00 per pill. Prices began to drop by January 2003, and among the cheaper types of Ecstasy were "James Bond," "007," and "Channel." More brands entered the market in the following months.
"Ecstasy Spray" appeared in May 2003. Each can of the aerosol costs about $200. The host of a party empties the spray into a room of 50 or 60 people, and this reportedly duplicates the effect of consuming Ecstasy pills.
Ecstasy is not the only synthetic drug being abused in Iran. A new amphetamine called "Shaba" hit the scene in January 2003, at prices between $7.50 and $8.75 a pill. "Power Powder" turned up in February. Each pill measures 5 centimeters by 8 centimeters and costs about $35.00. The pills are divided into two or three pieces.
In April, 10-milliliter ampoules of Ketamine turned up on the Tehran market at a cost of about $25 per ampoule. Also known as K, Special K, Vitamin K, and Kit Kat, Ketamine is a central-nervous-system depressant and has some hallucinogenic qualities.
There is a notable difference between Iran's approach to narcotics and its approach to synthetic drugs. Its approach to dealing with narcotics is very public. For example, Drug Control Headquarters chief Ali Hashemi announced on 29 July that Tehran has signed relevant agreements with 30 countries, IRNA reported, and discussions are under way with 26 other countries. Hashemi and Turkmen officials met in Tehran on 21 July to discuss counternarcotics efforts, IRNA reported. He met with Georgian security officials in Tehran on 16 July for the same reason, according to IRNA.
Brigadier General Aboui said on 16 July that the amount of narcotics crossing the eastern border has increased significantly, according to IRNA. Some 29,700 traffickers and distributors were arrested and almost 75,000 addicts were detained in the first quarter of the year, he said. After making much of Iranian efforts to interdict the smugglers, Aboui chided Western powers for their lack of cooperation with Iran.
In contrast, Tehran is silent about Ecstasy, Ketamine, and amphetamines. Why?
Tehran's role in the war on drugs originating in Afghanistan has been greeted with international praise, and in some cases, Western countries have provided Iran with assistance. Counternarcotics efforts serve as an entree into the international community for Iran. And Tehran can blame Iranians' drug abuse on proximity and say that supply has created demand.
Synthetic drugs, on the other hand, can be made in Iran or are imported from the West. Abuse of these substances cannot be blamed on proximity, therefore, and it also poses a greater law enforcement challenge. Iranian officials frequently cite unemployment as the reason people turn to opiates. Nobody has explained the newfound interest in club drugs, but it could be that young Iranians turn to ecstasy and amphetamines and participate in rave parties because they want to escape from the realities of daily life. They want to feel good and have fun, even if it is only temporary and could have serious adverse health consequences.
BUS BOMB KILLS 15 IN AFGHANISTAN'S HELMAND PROVINCE
Fifteen people, including six children, died on the morning of 13 August when a blast tore apart a minibus traveling through Helmand Province just outside the city of Lashkargah, AP reported. A policeman who spoke to AFP put the body count at 17, but he said the severity of the wreckage, which appeared to be caused by explosives planted inside the bus, made an exact count difficult. Authorities blamed Al-Qaeda and neo-Taliban militants for the blast, the deadliest bombing since a September 2002 explosion in a Kabul market killed 35 people, according to AP. Reuters reported there is some speculation the bomb was intended for independence celebrations next week but detonated prematurely. The attack was the second major strike in Helmand Province in the past week. On 7 August, six Afghan soldiers and an Afghan aid worker were killed in an attack there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2003). IL
25 KILLED IN FACTIONAL FIGHTING IN ORUZGAN PROVINCE
Violence erupted early on 13 August in Oruzgan Province between forces loyal to a deposed provincial official and his successor, killing at least 25 people, Reuters reported. Hostilities reportedly began when fighters of the former head of Kajran District, Amanullah, fired on a busload of supporters of the new district head, Abdul Rahman Khan. According to AIP, Amanullah's men blocked a road in the district, then opened fire when Khan's men attempted to remove the barrier. An unidentified cabinet minister cited by Reuters said fighting continued late into the evening and that the central government was trying to negotiate a truce. As a result of the clash in Oruzgan Province, the minibus bomb (see above), and an attack by neo-Taliban forces on Afghan soldiers along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003), 61 people were killed on 13 August -- the bloodiest day Afghanistan has seen in a year, according to Reuters. IL
TWO STUDENTS KILLED IN KABUL BOMB-MAKING ACCIDENT
Two students with suspected links to Al-Qaeda were killed and another injured on 12 August in a bomb-making accident at a home in Kabul, AFP reported. The 4 a.m. blast rocked a neighborhood in the western part of the capital and destroyed the room they were in as well as the basement, leading authorities to suspect the bomb they were reportedly working on was a sizable one, although relatives of the dead said the three had been working on a grenade. In addition, police found two old Volkswagens at the residence that they suspected might have been intended for use in car bombings. All three men were students at Kabul Medical Institute and were suspected by police of being Al-Qaeda militants. IL
HERAT, KANDAHAR GOVERNORS LOSE TITLES IN RESHUFFLE
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has stripped Herat Governor Ismail Khan of his position as military commander of western Afghanistan in accordance with an earlier decree that officials may not serve in civil and military capacities simultaneously, Bakhtar news agency reported on 13 August. Herat's new military commander has not yet been named. Meanwhile, Kandahar Provincial Governor Gul Agha Shirzai was named minister of urban development, while the outgoing minister, Mohammad Yusuf Pashtun, will assume Shirzai's former post. Kandahar security chief General Mohammad Akram was also replaced. Finally, the governor of southeastern Afghanistan's Zabul Province, Hamidullah Tokhi, was transferred to Wardak Province. Karzai spokesman Jawed Ludin told AFP that the changes, which he did not expect to meet with opposition, are part of the government's reform process, adding that "it was time these changes were made." IL
TEHRAN NOT CONSIDERING WITHDRAWAL FROM NPT
Iranian Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi told reporters after a 13 August cabinet meeting that the possibility of Iran's leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has not been raised and it is not on the government's agenda, IRNA reported. Some conservative commentators have called for such a step as a reaction to international pressure on Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the NPT. Aqazadeh said he is satisfied with the previous week's visit by a team of legal experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and he added that many issues were clarified but the talks should continue. He predicted that a second meeting will take place soon but could not specify a date. Asked to comment on what IRNA termed a "propaganda campaign" against "Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Aqazadeh said the propaganda is connected with Israeli and U.S. concerns about the potential costs to them of the "highly superior and global technology" on which Iran's nuclear pursuits are based. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT: TWIN BILLS WILL NOT GO TO EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL
Iran's Guardians Council rejected a bill to amend the election law on 12 August, and the next day President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said he will not forward this piece of legislation to the Expediency Council, IRNA reported. The Expediency Council normally mediates when there are impasses between the parliament and the Guardians Council, but Khatami expressed the hope that the legislative bodies can resolve their disagreement before the upcoming parliamentary election, which is scheduled for February. Guardians Council spokesman Ebrahim Azizi explained on 12 August that the parliament did not address discrepancies that had resulted in rejection of the bill previously, and he added that in some cases the problems have gotten worse, IRNA reported. BS
LEGISLATION'S REJECTION LEADS TO CALL FOR REFERENDUM
At least one parliamentarian, Jafar Golbaz, has reacted to the Guardians Council's rejection of the election law by calling for a national referendum, ILNA reported on 13 August. Golbaz said rejection of the bill comes as no surprise because the Guardians Council is "like a book that has been printed a million times and everyone is familiar with it." Nevertheless, he said, the parliament did its utmost to follow the normal legislative process. Golbaz said such an issue can be put to the public. Article 59 of the constitution permits direct recourse to a popular vote on extremely important matters, if such a request is approved by two-thirds of the legislature. Article 177 states that the constitution may be revised through a referendum. BS
IRANIAN NEWSPAPER CHIEFS APPEAR IN COURT
The managing directors of the Iranian dailies "Kayhan," "Siyasat-i Ruz," and Etemad" -- Hussein Shariatmadari, Ali Yusefpur, and Elias Hazrati, respectively -- appeared in court on 13 August to face complaints against their publications, IRNA reported. Shariatmadari had to answer questions relating to a complaint filed by the Blood Refining and Research Company. Yusefpur had to explain a report in his newspaper about the resignation of Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin-Najafabadi. Hazrati faced questions stemming from a complaint about an insulting photo and article that was filed by the Armed Forces General Headquarters. BS
IRANIAN OFFICIALS WANTED BY ARGENTINA
Argentina's Judge Juan Jose Galeano on 13 August ordered the arrest of eight Iranian officials for their alleged parts in the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Reuters reported. The attack killed 85 people, and another 265 people were injured. According to Reuters, the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires said in a statement, "Iran objects to and rejects these declarations and believes they result from international Zionism's plan to manipulate Argentina." Galeano previously signed international extradition requests to bring four suspected organizers of the attack to justice: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, then-President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, then-Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and then-MOIS chief Ali Akbar Fallahian-Khuzestani (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 March 2003). BS
SHI'ITES ACCUSE U.S. OF DEFILING RELIGIOUS BANNER, RALLY IN BAGHDAD...
Some 3,000 Iraqi Shi'ites took to the streets of Baghdad's Al-Sadr City on 13 August to protest the presence of U.S. troops after a U.S. helicopter flew too low over a religious school, striking the school's flag, international media reported. Protesters shouted "No, no to America!" during the protest in the poor Shi'ite neighborhood, once known as Saddam City, according to Reuters. Arab television aired footage of the incident, in which the helicopter's wheel touched the religious banner, which was mounted atop a tower at the school. A Shi'ite cleric told Reuters that the incident was interpreted as defiling a sacred place. "We request that no American soldier enter this city," Shaykh Qays said, adding, "The presence of American soldiers shakes security and causes terrorism. This is an aggression on the sacred Muslim places." U.S. military spokesman Sergeant Danny Martin told AP that the banner was blown down by a rotor wash from the helicopter. But AP reported that amateur video footage obtained by the news agency showed the Black Hawk helicopter hovering near the tower in a possibly deliberate attempt to tear down the banner. KR
...AND AT LEAST ONE IRAQI IS KILLED AFTER VIOLENCE ERUPTS
The 13 August protest in Baghdad's Al-Sadr City turned violent after demonstrators "directed" stones, gunfire, and a rocket-propelled grenade at U.S. soldiers, AP reported, citing Martin. U.S. troops returned fire, he said, killing one civilian and wounding four others. No soldiers were injured in the incident. "We're peaceful people, but one edict [from the imams] and the entire American army will become our prisoner," AP quoted local council member Hassan Azab as saying. KR
U.S. PRESENTS SECURITY COUNCIL WITH DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRAQ...
The United States presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on 13 August seeking UN recognition of Iraq's Governing Council and authorizing a UN assistance mission to Iraq, Reuters reported the same day. The draft "welcomes the establishment of the broadly representative Governing Council of Iraq on 13 July" and calls the establishment of the council "an important step towards the formation by the people of Iraq of an internationally recognized, representative government that will exercise the sovereignty of Iraq," according to Reuters. If approved, the draft would also provide for a UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) with an initial 12-month mandate. According to Reuters, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a resolution recognizing the Governing Council and providing a defined role for the UN. KR
...AS SYRIA RESISTS TEXT
Syria, which holds a temporary seat on the 15-member Security Council, asked for additional time to review the text of the U.S. draft resolution during the council session on 13 August, Reuters reported. "We asked for consultations. It's not a matter to take it or leave it," Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe told reporters following the session. Wehbe is serving as Security Council president for the month of August. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said he would push the world body to vote on the resolution on 14 August, saying, "We don't think that this draft resolution comes as a surprise -- from the point of view of substance -- to any of the delegations." According to Reuters, all five permanent Security Council member states signed off on the draft at a 13 August meeting. KR