RISK OF TERRORISM GREATER IN U.S., BRITAIN THAN IN RUSSIA
Russia faces less risk of terrorism than the United States, Israel, or Great Britain, according a study of the risks of conducting business in various countries released by the British World Market Research Centre, globalrus.ru reported on 18 August. The study takes into account such factors as the motivations of potential terrorists, the presence of terrorist groups in the country, the scale and number of past terrorist incidents, and the effectiveness of both local terrorists and local security forces. According to the study, the most dangerous of the 138 countries studied was one that has no Islamic extremists at all -- Colombia. Israel was second, followed by Pakistan, the United States, and the Philippines. Great Britain ranked 10th, and Russia was 14th. VY
GOVERNMENT TAPS SECURITY OFFICIAL TO HEAD LEADING DEFENSE CONTRACTOR...
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has asked the Property Relations Ministry and the Russian Agency for Control Systems (RASU) to select Major General Vladislav Menshikov as the new general director of the major defense holding Almaz-Antei, gazeta.ru and other Russian media reported on 18 August. Menshikov is currently a senior official with the highly secretive State Reserve Agency. The previous acting general director of Almaz-Antei, which is the country's leading producer of air-defense systems, was Igor Klimov, a former Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) officer who was murdered in Moscow on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). Media reports have linked Klimov's killing with infighting over control of the lucrative export of air-defense systems between two competing groups within Almaz-Antei's management. VY
...AS MEDIA GIVES INFO ON HIS BIOGRAPHY
Menshikov, who is from St. Petersburg, graduated from the Leningrad Mechanical Institute in 1982 with a specialization in aircraft systems. In his official biography, there is a gap from 1983-95, a sure indication that he worked as a state security officer, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 August. Before joining the State Reserve Agency, where he worked when he was promoted to general, Menshikov worked as a senior specialist at the Central Bank's office in St. Petersburg. VY
U.S. FIGHTERS TAKE TO THE SKIES OVER MOSCOW
The Moscow International Air Show (MAKS) opened at the Zhukovskii airfield near Moscow on 19 August, Russian and Western media reported. The government hopes to turn the annual event into one of the world's largest air shows, comparable to France's Paris Air Show and Britain's Farnborough International Air Show, and MAKS-2003 is the largest in the event's six-year history with 800 companies from 38 companies participating. More than 200 civilian and military aircraft will be on display, including U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 jet fighters. These planes will be making demonstration flights over Moscow for the first time. Show visitors will also be able to see a U.S. B-52 strategic bomber, widely held as one of the most potent symbols of the Cold War, ORT reported on 18 August. VY
1991 COUP PLOT REMAINS A MYSTERY
Although 19 August marked the 12th anniversary of the 1991 coup attempt by senior KGB and Communist Party leaders against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, many materials generated by state and parliamentary commissions probing the plot have never been published, "Trud" wrote on 18 August. Former KGB officer Igor Naumenko, who has worked with some of the documents in state archives, told the daily that the materials show that the KGB was the primary force behind the plot. Naumenko said the KGB began working on the putsch in December 1990 and that it authored the famous "Word to the Soviet People" declaration that was issued by the coup plotters. He said the KGB had issued clear orders to destroy the leaders of Russia's democratic forces "in the event of resistance." However, the plot unraveled because the middle echelons of KGB officers, especially those commanding the elite Alfa antiterrorism force, refused to obey orders. These officers came to distrust the Soviet leadership -- and, in particular, Gorbachev -- after it sent them to Vilnius to crack down on Lithuanian independence demonstrators and then later refused to take responsibility for the violence that occurred. VY
TAX POLICE CASE HEADS TO COURT
The Moscow Municipal Court on 18 August began hearing the case of Major General Sergei Platonov, a former senior official with the Federal Tax Police Service, RIA-Novosti reported. Platonov was arrested in March after reportedly being caught red-handed accepting a $25,000 bribe in his office. According to investigators, the bribe came to Platonov through a middleman -- a Tax Police civilian specialist named Mikhail Petrovskii -- from a television company in exchange for Platonov's agreement to close down a tax probe against it. Petrovskii, who was also arrested in connection with the case, allegedly received $5,000 for his role. Both men maintain their innocence and say that the money was a debt that was being repaid. VY
STATE MOVES TO LIMIT LATE-TERM ABORTIONS
Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a decree on 11 August reducing the number of circumstances under which women can legally get late-term abortions, gazeta.ru reported on 18 August. The document came into force on 15 August when it was published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta." The majority of women will no longer be able get late-term abortions, the website concluded. After 22 weeks of pregnancy, no women will be allowed to get abortions under the new rules. Between 12 and 22 weeks, abortions will be legal only if certain medical and social indicators are met. Previously, there were 13 such indicators, and now there are only four (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). Andrei Korsunskii, head of the administration for medical problems of mothers and children at the Health Ministry, warned doctors. "Ignorance of the new decree does not free doctors from responsibility," he said. "The decree was published and has already come into force." One unidentified doctor commented that private abortion clinics will likely receive more business as a result of the decree. JAC
COMMUNISTS WANT TO REMAIN FIRST AMONG EQUALS
After a closed session of the Communist Party's Central Committee presidium on 18 August, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters that a coalition of "people's patriotic forces" can be formed only on the basis of the Communist Party, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 August. Zyuganov reported that of all of the members of the Coordinating Council of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR), only NPSR Coordinating Council co-Chairman and State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazev (Communist) has not agreed to join the future coalition. Last week, Glazev issued a public invitation to the Communist Party to join a new left-patriotic bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003). In response to Zyuganov's comments, Glazev said the position demonstrated by several colleagues is "sectarian" and is in fact "a repetition of an endless chain of defeats." JAC
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROMISES TO DEFEND CITIZENS AGAINST ELECTRICITY CUTOFFS...
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has promised to follow closely the situation in the public-housing and communal-services sectors and to use his powers to defend the rights of citizens, RIA-Novosti reported on 18 August. According to Ustinov, during the last heating season, more than 70 criminal cases were launched across the country. Almost half of them are already in the courts. Many of these cases are connected to cutting off electricity to hospitals or other sources of life-sustaining equipment. In addition, many of the cases involve allegations of negligence or arbitrariness. JAC
...AS ECONOMIC ADVISER AGAIN SLAMS ELECTRICITY REFORMS...
Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 18 August that the blackout that struck the United States and Canada on 14 August "shows how dangerous it would be for [Russia] to follow this path," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the package of laws reforming Russia's power industry that the State Duma approved earlier is "wrong and dangerous," and will considerably restrict investments in the country's electricity networks. According to Illarionov, the North American incident occurred "largely because of restrictions on investments in energy systems in some [U.S.] states imposed by legislators." Illarionov is a longtime foe of Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais. JAC
...AND CHUBAIS'S NAME WILL APPEAR ON SPS PARTY LIST
Anatolii Chubais's name will appear in the No. 3 slot on the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) party list in the 7 December State Duma elections, Russian media reported on 18 August. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov will appear first, Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Khakamada second, and former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar fourth, ITAR-TASS reported. According to strana.ru, the final list will be confirmed at a party congress on 8 September. In a recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, 51 percent of respondents said they have a negative opinion of Chubais, "Inostranets," No. 29, reported. However, according to the weekly, some political analysts believe SPS has more to gain than to lose by including Chubais in its top three because it would be coming out into the open and admitting that SPS is the party of Chubais. "Vedomosti" on 18 August called Chubais "probably the strongest public polemicist today." "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 August reported that there is speculation that the St. Petersburg chekisty in the presidential administration believe that one way of getting current presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin out of his post is to offer him Chubais's job as head of EES. Voloshin is currently chairman of the EES board. JAC
LEFTIST STEPS UP TO CHALLENGE SIBERIAN INCUMBENT
The Communist Party in Novosibirsk Oblast has decided to back Vestfalika shoe factory head Mikhail Titov as its candidate in the 7 December gubernatorial election, Regnum reported on 18 August, citing "Novaya Sibir." According to the newspaper, the party's oblast branch made the decision, but did not publicize it widely, causing some local politicians and analysts to speculate about the lack of fanfare. However, Titov told a recent press conference in Novosibirsk that Obkom First Secretary Viktor Kuznetsov personally suggested that Titov run. Titov added that rural residents in the oblast "categorically do not accept the policies of the current oblast leadership." Last March, the oblast branch of the SPS announced that it will back incumbent Governor Viktor Tolokonskii, regions.ru reported on 11 March. At the time, State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Fomin (SPS) said Tolokonskii had strengthened his ties with Moscow over the past few years, and that the Kremlin will not back another candidate in the election. JAC
SMILE, YOU'RE ON CANDID CAMERA
By the end of the year, video cameras will be installed throughout the center of Moscow, RTR reported on 18 August. Cameras have already been installed at the entrances of some 2,863 apartment buildings, and are now being [or have now been?] installed throughout Tverskoi Raion. A system for monitoring all 10,000 or so entrances in the city's central administrative okrug will also be set up. JAC
RUSSIA'S SEABISCUIT MAKES A COMEBACK OF SORTS
A racehorse named Sorrento, who was once considered Russia's fastest horse, has made an unexpected comeback of sorts, newsru.com reported on 18 August. The horse's owner, Georgii Shilokhvostov, who also owns a racetrack in Tyumen, bought the ailing Sorrento several months ago, and after receiving the care of the oblast's best veterinarians, the once ailing stallion impregnated six mares. In the 1990s, Sorrento was ranked among the top 10 European racehorses, but more recently he fell upon hard times and came to Tyumen completely skin and bones, according to Shilokhvostov. Since then, his health has improved significantly. JAC
ZAKAEV SAYS CHECHNYA SHOULD BECOME INTERNATIONAL PROTECTORATE
In an interview published on 15 August in the Estonian daily "Postimees," Akhmed Zakaev, who serves as deputy prime minister in the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, argued that Chechnya should be declared an international protectorate following the withdrawal of Russian troops, Interfax reported. Zakaev reasoned that "if Russian troops leave Chechnya tomorrow and we remain alone, but Russia refuses to drop its claims on Chechnya, something even worse might happen." Zakaev added that further developments in Chechnya will depend on whether a London court accedes to Russia's demand for his extradition. The Prosecutor-General's Office has charged Zakaev with murder, terrorism, and hostage taking. LF
OFFICIALS CITE CONTRADICTORY FIGURES FOR NUMBER OF CHECHEN FIGHTERS
Speaking in Moscow on 14 August, Chechen Prime Minister and acting administration head Anatolii Popov estimated the present strength of the Chechen resistance at 2,000-3,000 fighters, Interfax reported. Also on 14 August, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is spokesman for the combined Russian forces in Chechnya, told Interfax from the Russian military base at Khankala near Grozny that the Chechen fighters currently number no more than 1,200 men, who operate in groups of between three and 10 men. Five months ago, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Igor Puzanov told journalists the Chechen forces number no more than 1,000 men, Interfax reported on 11 March. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR HALT TO HOSPITAL PRIVATIZATION
In a statement released on 18 August by the parliamentary press service, Artur Baghdasarian argued that the "haphazard" privatization of medical institutions should be suspended as it risks paralyzing the health-care sector, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Baghdasarian said that in order to avoid "social problems," hospitals and clinics should not be sold into private hands until a national mandatory system of medical insurance is in place. The creation of such a system is hampered by widespread poverty and unemployment. Several major hospitals in Yerevan have been privatized in recent years, generally by their government-appointed directors. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION BEGINS TALKS ON SELECTING SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE...
The six opposition candidates for the 15 October Azerbaijani presidential election have begun discussing the possibility of endorsing a single opposition candidate to challenge incumbent President Heidar Aliev and his son, Ilham, both of whom are running as candidates from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party. Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar told journalists on 18 August that opposition parties are discussing various aspects of pre-election cooperation. He added that the talks on a possible single candidate do not involve just the "big three" -- himself, Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov, and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (progressive wing) Chairman Ali Kerimli -- but also other opposition parties that he declined to name. Six of the 12 registered candidates represent the opposition, but at least one of them -- independent candidate Lala Shovket Gadjieva -- has made it clear that she will not pull out of the race in favor of a rival opposition candidate. LF
...AND CALLS ON INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO MONITOR ELECTION CAMPAIGN
The opposition election bloc Our Azerbaijan, which backs Isa Gambar as its presidential candidate, has called upon international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, to send representatives to Azerbaijan without delay to monitor the presidential-election campaign, which began on 16 August, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 18 and 19 August, respectively. The bloc noted that in recent weeks those organizations have distanced themselves from developments in Azerbaijan, and appealed to them to take a more active interest in the campaign. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER CHALLENGES PREMIER TO TELEVISED DEBATE
Musavat Party Chairman leader Gambar on 18 August challenged Prime Minister and rival presidential candidate Ilham Aliev to a series of live televised debates, according to zerkalo.az on 19 August. Gambar argued that such debates would do more to enlighten the electorate than the concerts broadcast as part of Prime Minister Aliev's election campaign. LF
SABOTAGE CAUSES NATIONWIDE POWER FAILURE IN GEORGIA
Georgia was left without electrical power for several hours during the morning on 18 August after the Imereti power line in western Georgia was deliberately damaged, Caucasus Press reported, quoting the Fuel and Energy Ministry. Power was restored in Tbilisi, where thousands of people were evacuated from the subway, by using back-up plants. Mamuka Nikolaishvili, who was appointed fuel and energy minister last week, said he does not believe the sabotage was directed against him personally. He said the State Security Ministry might be called upon to investigate who was responsible for damaging the transmission line. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM
In his regular Monday radio interview, President Eduard Shevardnadze criticized parliament deputies on 18 August for failing to enact "vitally important" bills, including the budget sequester and the bill he proposed personally that designates bribing voters a criminal offense, Caucasus Press reported. He called on deputies to discuss and approve the proposed budget cuts without delay, according to ITAR-TASS. An International Monetary Fund delegation that visited Georgia earlier this summer made disbursement of the third annual installment of a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan contingent upon enacting budget cuts by 15 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). On 19 August, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze rejected Shevardnadze's criticism, pointing out that she is not a schoolmistress and cannot constrain deputies to attend parliament like recalcitrant students, Caucasus Press reported. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY JOINS FORCES WITH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER
The political council of the opposition United Democrats, which is headed by Burdjanadze's predecessor as parliament speaker, Zurab Zhvania, decided at a meeting on 18 August to align with the new political group Burdjanadze is creating, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 11 July 2003). Interfax quoted Zhvania as saying that the opposition must form a united coalition to win the 2 November parliamentary elections, and as urging opposition party leaders to set aside their personal ambitions and join forces. LF
VISITING U.S. SENATOR RECEIVES KAZAKH AWARD FOR THREAT-REDUCTION PROGRAM...
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana) was given the Kazakh Friendship Order during a visit to Almaty on 18 August, khabar.kz, Interfax-Kazakhstan, and the Kazakhstan Today news agency reported. The award came in recognition of Lugar's role in the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which helped Kazakhstan rid itself of nuclear weapons. Lugar was quoted as telling a news conference in Almaty that the United States will continue to cooperate with Kazakhstan to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to fight the spread of infectious diseases. Kazakh Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told the news conference that the U.S. Congress has allocated $20 million in 2003 to reconstruct Kazakhstan's plague research station. BB
...AS OBLAST ANNOUNCES QUARANTINE AFTER PLAGUE DEATH
A four year-old child died of the plague on 16 August in Kazakhstan's Kyzyl-Orda Oblast, and a quarantine has been instituted in the Aralsk area to contain the disease, the Kazakhstan Today news agency reported on 18 August. According to Interfax-Kazakhstan the same day, Baurzhan Bayserkin, an official in the Health Ministry in Astana, told journalists the child contracted the plague from infected fleas. Oblast health officials are reported to be combing the Aralsk area to locate other people who might be infected. Twenty-seven people who had contact with the sick child have been placed under medical observation. An outbreak of plague, which is endemic to Kazakhstan, occurred in Mangystau Oblast at the end of July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2003), but there were no fatalities. BB
12 REJECTED LOCAL ELECTION CANDIDATES ALLOWED TO RUN AFTER ALL...
An open meeting of Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission (CEC) held in Astana on 18 August overturned the decisions of local election boards to reject the candidacies of 12 people seeking to run for local councils, khabar.kz reported. The nationwide elections for seats on local councils is scheduled for 20 September. Altogether, 142 candidacies were rejected, while 7,473 hopefuls were registered. According to the report, all refusals were checked by the CEC and Prosecutor-General's Office. The present law on elections states that candidacies may be rejected only if a court case is filed against the applicant, not for the type of minor infractions allegedly committed by the 12 people whose candidacies were reinstated by the CEC. BB
...AND CEC HEAD DENIES THAT INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS REFUSED TO SEND ELECTION OBSERVERS
CEC head Zagipa Balieva told the open meeting on 18 August that, contrary to some reports, international organizations have not refused to send observers to Kazakhstan's local-council elections in September, Kazinform and other Kazakh media reported. Balieva noted that it would be unusual for international observers to appear at local-level elections, but the OSCE, which has sharply criticized previous presidential and parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan, has offered to send two election consultants to observe the September ballot. So far, no other international organization has applied to the Foreign Ministry, she added. BB
KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER FEARS SMALLER GRAIN HARVEST COULD CAUSE FOOD PROBLEMS
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told a task force overseeing the country's grain harvest that the expected decline in the harvest could negatively affect the food situation in Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported. Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Kostyuk told the meeting that this year's harvest is expected to total 1,846,000 tons, 106,000 tons less than in 2002. According to Tanaev, buyers from neighboring countries may purchase grain directly from Kyrgyz farmers to sell abroad, so the Kyrgyz government needs to act quickly to secure enough to meet Kyrgyzstan's domestic requirements. BB
ALLEGED HIZB UT-TAHRIR CELL LEADER ARRESTED IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN
A resident of Khujand, the administrative center of northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast, has been charged with founding a cell of the banned Muslim extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, the Khujand news agency Varorud reported on 18 August. The detainee was identified only as A. Raufov, who was reportedly arrested by the organized-crime department of the Khujand police. The authorities assert that a book and a magazine propounding Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology were found during a search of Raufov's house. He is also being charged with recruiting local residents to distribute Hizb ut-Tahrir literature, according to Varorud. As of late July, 30 people had been arrested in Tajikistan for Hizb ut-Tahrir activity this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003). BB
GAZPROM AND TURKMEN OFFICIALS AGREE ON PIPELINE RECONSTRUCTION
Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yolly Gurbanmuradov, who oversees the country's oil-and-gas industry, signed an agreement with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller in Moscow on 18 August on the reconstruction and expansion of the gas-pipeline system connecting Central Asia with Russia, RIA-Novosti and turkmenistan.ru reported. Development of the pipeline system is a necessary precondition for full implementation of the gas-delivery agreement signed in Moscow in April between Gazprom and Turkmenistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003) because the existing system does not have the throughput capacity envisioned in that agreement. An additional agreement was signed on 18 August on the delivery by the Russian firm Gazeksport of equipment and services as partial payment for Turkmen gas deliveries in 2004-06. BB
BELARUS EXPELS YOUNG GERMAN POLITICIAN
The Belarusian KGB has deported Jan Busch, a member of Germany's Young Socialists, the youth wing of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP), for "interference in the internal affairs of Belarus," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 18 August. The KGB's press service said Busch "took an active part in organizing and conducting seminars for members of unregistered radical politicized youth groups such as Youth Front, Zubr, the Belarusian Freedom Party, the Youth Christian and Social Union, and others" under the framework of a project carried out by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. According to the KGB, Busch "called on participants in the seminars to unite for the purpose of countering the leadership of Belarus and changing the country's foreign and domestic policies." JM
DISMISSED BELARUSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER BECOMES DEPUTY CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 18 August appointed former Deputy Prime Minister Alyaksandr Papkou as first deputy chief of the presidential administration, Belapan reported. Lukashenka dismissed Papkou on 10 July, together with Prime Minister Henadz Navitski and two other members of the government responsible for the agricultural sector, charging them with falsifying reports on the economic situation and failing to pay state-run farms on time for milk and meat deliveries (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 July 2003). In his new capacity, Papkou is to deal with "personnel issues and regional policy," coordinate "work with soviets of all levels," map out a "strategy of rural development," and "secure continuity in reforming the agro-industrial complex," Belarusian Television reported. JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ASKS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO PROBE ELECTORAL CODE
A group of opposition politicians and leaders of nongovernmental organizations have petitioned the Constitutional Court to look into the Election Code's articles that pertain to the early-voting procedure and the formation of election commissions, Belapan reported on 18 August. The petitioners argue that these articles run counter to the constitution, which declares that the country's political system is based on the diversity of political institutions, ideologies and opinions, and secures the right of individuals to participate in state affairs both directly and through their representatives. The petition was signed by Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party; Mikhail Marynich, president of the Business Initiative association; Syarhey Skrabets, leader of the "Respublika" group in the Chamber of Representatives; Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists; Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front; Stanislau Shushkevich, chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly; and others. JM
KYIV CONFIRMS UKRAINIAN INVOLVEMENT IN SMUGGLING INCIDENT IN PERSIAN GULF
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy said on 19 August that the captain and 20 crewmembers of the "Navstar-1" tanker apprehended in the Persian Gulf by a British Navy ship on 9 August are Ukrainian citizens, Interfax reported. The "Navstar-1" reportedly was caught with an illegal cargo of some 1,000 tons of Iraqi diesel fuel and taken to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2003). Lubkivskyy added that two lawyers have been hired to represent the Ukrainian crew. JM
THREE GERMANS ARRESTED FOR ILLEGAL FLIGHT TO UKRAINE
Ukrainian police on 18 August arrested three German senior citizens for flying a private airplane to Dnipropetrovsk, eastern Ukraine, without permission, dpa and Interfax reported. The pilot of the plane is 74 years old, while each of the other two men onboard are 64. One of trio reportedly is a World War II veteran who wanted to visit the site of an battle in which he had fought. JM
WORLD CONGRESS OF UKRAINIANS CONVENES IN KYIV
More than 300 delegates and 200 guests from some 20 countries opened a three-day forum of the World Congress of Ukrainians in Kyiv on 18 August, Interfax and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. The forum, which is taking place in Ukraine for the first time, is expected to discuss the role of the Ukrainian diaspora in political and other processes in the country. "The tragedy of the current situation is that the authorities [in Ukraine] have not Ukrainianized themselves, [and] they have become even more indifferent [to Ukrainian problems]," former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, the leading democratic contender in next year's presidential elections, told the gathering. "Poverty and unemployment have killed faith in the Ukrainian state for many." The World Congress of Ukrainians, founded in New York in 1967 and headed by Askold Lozynsky, includes more than 100 organizations of the Ukrainian diaspora. JM
ESTONIA TO HALVE THE NUMBER OF CONSCRIPTS IN ARMED FORCES
During a session of the government's NATO committee on 18 August, Prime Minister Juhan Parts expressed support for the Defense Ministry's plan to reduce the number of conscripts by 50 percent, LETA reported the next day, citing the daily "Postimees." Estonia currently conscripts about 3,000 soldiers per year, and the plan also calls for increasing the number of professional soldiers. Defense Minister Margus Hanson said Estonia formed its armed forces in the 1990s based on the principle of independent operation, a model that will be irrelevant because of the country's upcoming NATO membership. NATO is advising future members to reduce efforts for the direct defense of their territory and to increase units trained for participation in NATO operations. With little threat of a foreign attack, the military can devote more attention to coping with manmade and natural catastrophes and to supporting the civilian authorities in crisis situations. SG
LATVIA TO DONATE EQUIPMENT FOR GEORGIA'S DEFENSE SYSTEM
The government decided on 18 August to donate communications equipment to the Georgian defense system as part of a cooperation agreement signed last year by the Latvian Defense Ministry and the Georgian Foreign Ministry, LETA reported. Latvia will deliver to Tbilisi 188 SEM 70 radio transmitters and receivers, 240 Ni-HM batteries with 30 battery-charging systems, and seven frequency-programming and copying machines. Latvia received the equipment in 2000 as a gift from the United States, which has agreed that it can be given to Georgia. With the donation, Latvia wants to show that its defense system has reached a level of development, at which it is able to provide assistance to other countries with similar foreign-policy goals. SG
LITHUANIA'S CONSTRUCTION MARKET GROWS RAPIDLY
The Statistics Department released data on 18 August indicating that builders in Lithuania carried out construction work worth 992 million litas ($330 million) in the second quarter of the year, up 28 percent over the same period last year, ELTA reported. The greatest share of the work, 38 percent, was for the construction of new buildings. Thirty percent of the work was renovations, 27 percent was reconstruction, and 5 percent was other jobs. The construction was carried out primarily -- 69 percent -- in the districts of Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda. The department also announced that investments in the construction sector during the period totaled 2.07 billion litas. Only 178 million litas of this sum, or 8.6 percent, was for residential buildings, with 1.3 billion litas, or 62.7 percent, for engineering structures and reconstruction. SG
POLAND'S RULING PARTY BEGINS VETTING MEMBERS
The national board of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) will begin meetings with SLD regional leaders from Poland's 16 provinces on 19 August in order to vet all SLD members, PAP reported on 18 August. "The vetting will be conducted by the activists who will confirm their party membership by filling a declaration. [SLD local cells] may expel or propose to expel those people who are inactive or who violate the party's statutes or ethical norms," SLD General Secretary Marek Dyduch said. JM
CZECH EDUCATION MINISTRY FILES LAWSUIT IN INTERNET-PROJECT CASE
The Education Ministry on 18 August filed a lawsuit against "unknown perpetrators" in the ministry in connection with last week's report of the Supreme Audit Office (NKU), CTK reported. The NKU said in its report that at least 884 million crowns ($31 million) out of 7 billion crowns allocated by the ministry for a project to connect schools to the Internet had been misspent through contracts that put the state at a disadvantage and by breaking the law on budgetary guidelines. The NKU has already filed a complaint, and a ministry spokeswoman said her office is joining the NKU's lawsuit. The NKU report also said the ministry paid for work that was not completed and did not check whether contracts were fulfilled. The NKU therefore filed its lawsuit against unknown perpetrators on grounds of "infringement of responsibilities" in managing property that was put in their charge. The contractor for the project, AutoCont On Line, denies any wrongdoing. Separately, the weekly "Respekt" has launched a complaint against former Education Minister Eduard Zeman, who signed the majority of disadvantageous contracts. MS
CZECH COURT STOPS PROCEEDINGS AGAINST WOULD-BE RFE/RL BOMBER
The Brno Regional Court on 18 August halted criminal proceedings against Pavel Minarik, a former agent of the communist secret police, CTK reported the next day, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." Minarik had been charged with plotting to bomb the RFE/RL headquarters in Munich in the mid-1970s. He worked as an undercover agent in the RFE/RL Czech Service between 1969-76. The judge said in her ruling that it was clear from the evidence that Minarik intended to alert the station before the bomb exploded, and thus did not intend to harm anybody. The prosecution said it would consider appealing the case to the Supreme Court. This is the second time that proceedings against Minarik have been halted by a Brno court. A city court in the same town issued the same verdict, which was appealed by the prosecution to the regional court. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT URGES COALITION LEADERS TO END CONFLICTS...
President Rudolf Schuster on 18 August urged the leaders of the four parties represented in the center-right ruling coalition to "find as soon as possible an agreement enabling them to continue cooperation," TASR reported. Presidential spokesman Jan Fuele told the agency that Schuster is closely following the situation inside the coalition. The government has been besieged by the ongoing conflict between the Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) triggered by the ANO-proposed bill that would amend abortion regulations and by the more recent conflict within the ANO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003). Schuster also called on political leaders to stop using and misusing the media to promote their interests, and said they must cooperate in a way that would "strengthen Slovakia both at home and abroad." MS
...HOPES POPE WILL RECEIVE ROMANY DELEGATION DURING SEPTEMBER VISIT
President Schuster told journalists on 18 August during a visit to Roznava, east Slovakia, that he hopes Pope John Paul II will find it possible during his 11-14 September visit to Slovakia to receive a delegation representing the country's Romany minority, CTK reported. Members of the community have asked to meet the pope, but thus far the pontiff, whose health is frail, has only confirmed meetings with Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Schuster said he hopes Pope John Paul will receive the Romany delegation after mass in Roznava on 13 September. Last week, the president proposed that representatives of all denominations in Slovakia attend a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul and meet with him. This will be the pope's third visit to Slovakia. He also will visit Banska Bystrica, Trnava, and Bratislava. MS
HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ATTACKS OPPOSITION FIDESZ
In an interview on Klub Radio, Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said on 18 August that the major opposition party, FIDESZ, is purposefully attempting to foster a tense atmosphere across the country. "Magyar Hirlap" quoted Medgyessy as saying that FIDESZ deputies have recently demanded 400 billion forints ($1.7 billion) worth of budgetary spending, while FIDESZ claims the cabinet itself is overspending. Medgyessy charged that the cabinet is "in a particularly difficult situation" as it faces an opposition that "has no shame" and "demands things that it did not fulfill even during its own tenure." He listed as examples the introduction of dual citizenship, improving the situation of the agricultural sector, supporting pensioners, and providing free textbooks to schoolchildren. MSZ
HUNGARY'S CENTRAL BANK FORESEES SLOWER GROWTH, HIGHER INFLATION
The Hungarian National Bank (MNB) has revised its earlier forecasts of the country's key economic data, and significantly raised its 2004 average inflation target from 4.1 percent to 6.5 percent, MNB Governor Zsigmond Jarai announced on 18 August, the MTI news agency reported. According to the MNB, the value-added-tax increase scheduled for next year will add 1.4 percent to the inflation rate, and an additional 1 percent will be added by changed macroeconomic factors, such as wage increases and the weak national currency. In 2003, GNP is expected to grow by 3.2 percent, rather than the 3.4 percent target rate, while in 2004 the growth rate will be only 2.7 percent instead of the 3.6 percent predicted earlier, MTI reported. In contrast to the central bank, the government remains upbeat on the economy and continues to predict GDP growth of 3.5 percent and inflation of 5 percent for 2004. MSZ
KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER WARNS OF SERBIAN 'DIPLOMATIC ATTACKS'...
Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 18 August that the Serbian authorities have been carrying out "diplomatic attacks on Kosova" in recent days, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 8, and 15 August 2003). Rexhepi appealed to the UN Security Council, which held a special session on Kosova, not to allow itself to be manipulated by Belgrade. The Serbian authorities have responded to some recent unclarified violent acts in Kosova, including the killing of two Serbian teenagers, with strong rhetoric. Belgrade has also reaffirmed Serbian claims to the province, which has a more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority that wants nothing to do with Belgrade. Elections are widely expected in Serbia within the next 12 months, and competition is keen for nationalist votes. Some politicians might also be seeking to distract attention from Serbia's main problems, which are poverty, corruption, and organized crime. PM
...AS SERBIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER BLASTS 'FASCISM' IN KOSOVA...
Addressing the special UN Security Council session on Kosova on 18 August, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is also Belgrade's point man for Kosova, said that the international community must improve the security situation in the province lest it be forced to assume "a historic responsibility for the growth of fascism" there, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He accused the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) of involvement in unspecified recent violent incidents and demanded that it be investigated and disbanded. He stressed that "Albanian extremist and terrorist groups represent the main threat to the stabilization [of the province] and the region as a whole." Covic also appealed for closer cooperation between security forces in Kosova and those elsewhere in the region. He did not provide evidence for his charges of who is responsible for which acts of violence. Kosovar Albanians are likely to regard his remarks as unacceptable and an attempt to seek the return of Serbian forces to the province. Covic's comments are also likely to reduce the chances that EU-backed Prishtina-Belgrade talks could take place at any time in the foreseeable future. PM
...AND FOREIGN DIPLOMATS RESPOND
Speaking at the UN Security Council's special session on Kosova on 18 August, several council members deplored the recent violence in the province, RFE/RL reported. Many speakers said it is important for leaders in Prishtina and Belgrade to renew their efforts to cooperate in building a multiethnic Kosova. Britain's Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry was one of the few to respond directly to Covic's criticisms. He rejected Covic's charges of inaction by the international community, stressing that the recent violence in the province must still be considered isolated acts of extremism and not be allowed to polarize Kosova society further. He also argued that "those in responsible positions have a responsibility to ensure that their rhetoric actually matches the gravity of the situation." Germany's deputy ambassador, Wolfgang Trautwein, pressed Albanian and Serbian leaders to move forward with pledges to hold direct talks on technical issues, although neither side has shown much enthusiasm to do so. Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Gennadii Gatilov said that the recent events show how complex the situation is in Kosova and called for life there to be "normalized." PM
SERBIAN LEADER SAYS ALBANIANS FEAR SERBIA'S NEW IMAGE
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 18 August that the recent acts of violence in Kosova show that "Albanian extremists want war and are afraid because of recent policy changes toward Serbia on the part of the international community, especially New York, Washington, and Brussels," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 8, and 15 August 2003). He added that he expects that the recent appointment of Harri Holkeri as head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) will lead to new policies in Prishtina aimed at better enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and enabling refugees and displaced persons to go home. PM
VIOLENT INCIDENTS AGAINST ALBANIANS IN KOSOVA
UNMIK announced in Prishtina on 18 August that two violent incidents took place during the previous 24 hours involving attacks by Serbs against cars driven by ethnic Albanians, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. One incident took place in the Gracanica enclave, leaving the Albanian motorist slightly injured. The second attack was made on two cars driven by Albanians on the Prishtina-Gjilan road. It is not clear if there were any injuries in that attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 August 2003). PM
SERB ARRESTED IN CONJUNCTION WITH KILLING OF UN POLICE OFFICER IN KOSOVA
A UN police spokesman said in Prishtina on 19 August that an unnamed 21-year-old Serbian male was just arrested in the village of Slatina in connection with the killing of UN police Major Satish Menon of India on 3 August, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). The spokesman noted that police have a "strong case against the suspect," who offered no resistance to arrest, but have not yet determined a possible motive. This was the first killing of a UN policeman in Kosova since Serbian forces left the province in 1999. There are 4,000 UN and 5,000 local police officers in Kosova. Some observers have suggested that criminal gangs might have been involved in the killing. PM
NATO PLEDGES ACTION AGAINST 'EXTREMISTS' IN KOSOVA
U.S. General Jerry Beck, who heads U.S. forces in Kosova, told a press conference at Camp Bondsteel on 18 August that KFOR peacekeepers "are aware of activities of [unspecified] extremist organizations in Kosovo, which are trying to spread the violence into neighboring countries," dpa reported. He added that troublemakers will be "identified, hunted down, and punished." PM
PRESIDENT SAYS ARMED GROUPS STILL ACTIVE IN MACEDONIA
Speaking on Macedonian Army Day, President Boris Trajkovski said on 18 August that NATO membership will not be granted to Macedonia outright but only after some difficult reforms are carried out, the president's official website reported (http://www.president.gov.mk). Trajkovski called on the authorities to "neutralize" unspecified armed "extremist" groups that contribute to tension in the former crisis regions, even if those groups say their activities are purely political ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May, 13 June, and 12 and 18 August 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002 and 13 June 2003). UB
ROMANIA'S RULING PARTY RESHUFFLES LOCAL LEADERSHIP...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who also is chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), announced on 18 August after a meeting of the PSD Permanent Bureau that the party has decided to change the heads of its local branches in five counties, Romanian Radio reported. The counties affected are Alba, Caras-Severin, Constanta, Dolj, and Galati. Nastase said the PSD has no reason to reproach the replaced local leaders, including Alba County branch head and Interior Minister Ioan Rus. Rather, Nastase, said, the party must start preparing for the local elections due in mid-2004 and improvements are in order in those, as well as in other, local PSD branches. Nastase announced the names of "temporary replacements" for the five PSD officials, saying that the final decision will have to be taken by the local branches themselves. Nastase said it "is possible, and even natural" that the decision might trigger internal conflicts within the party, adding that "conflict is better than apathy." Petre Stanca, who was replaced as the Constanta County branch chairman, told Mediafax he believes the decision "is a mistake." MS
...STARTS COURTING RURAL ELECTORATE AHEAD OF LOCAL ELECTIONS
Following the PSD Permanent Bureau meeting, Prime Minister Nastase also announced that all owners of up to 5 hectares of arable land will receive 2 million lei ($62) per hectare in governmental aid to improve crops, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said that 4.4 million people will receive the aid, at a total cost for the state of 12.2 billion lei. MS
MOLDOVAN NEWS AGENCY CLAIMS CONSPIRACY INTENDS TO LIQUIDATE IT
In a press release dated 18 August, the independent Flux news agency and the daily "Flux" charged that Moldovan authorities and Canada-based tycoon Boris Birstein are conspiring to liquidate them. The press release is in response to the summons the agency received the same day announcing that Birstein has sued them for defamation and is requesting the seizure of their assets until a court rules on the case. Birstein is asking for damages of 480,000 lei ($35,000) each from the daily and from the agency, and 1 million lei ($72,000) from Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca. On 15 July, the daily and the agency carried an article entitled "The Tandem Birstein-Voronin: Who Is The Leader?" based on statements Rosca made in parliament on 10 July. Birstein claims that his reputation has been tarnished by the allegation that he has met with President Vladimir Voronin to discussing ways to protect Birstein's business interests in Moldova. MS
OSCE ACCUSES TRANSDNIESTER OF BLOCKING RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL
The OSCE has accused the Transdniester separatist authorities of blocking the withdrawal of Russian troops and ammunition, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August. The agency cited the OSCE as saying that despite repeated attempts by its representatives to persuade the separatist leaders to allow the renewal of the withdrawal, its efforts met with no response. The OSCE said the process was interrupted on 15 June and is now lagging behind. It added that the failure to resume it might endanger meeting the 31 December deadline for the completion of the withdrawal. MS
BULGARIAN MINISTER ANNOUNCES MODERNIZATION OF WATER SUPPLY
Regional Development Minister Valentin Tserovski on 18 August presented a national strategy for the modernization of the country's water supply and sewage system, Focus news agency reported. Assessing the water-supply situation, the strategy says that although there is no lack of water, some 10 percent-15 percent of the population is temporarily cut off from water supplies due to outdated or damaged equipment. Tserovski said there are plans to invest some $4 billion in the modernization before 2015. The government has yet to approve the strategy. UB
NEW BULGARIAN CONTINGENT LEAVES FOR AFGHANISTAN
On 18 August, a motorized infantry platoon left for Kabul, where it will replace the current troops operating facilities for decontaminating troops and vehicles in the event of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack, BTA reported. The new contingent will be under German command and will take over guarding assignments. UB
CZECH GOVERNMENT, UNIONS BATTLE OVER EU REFORMS
When government officials urged Czechs to support joining the European Union in this summer's referendum, they argued that membership would soon bring them the kind of prosperity enjoyed by their Western neighbors. But first, it appears they must endure something else that has become a regular part of life in Western Europe: strikes and labor unrest.
On 15 June, Czech voters overwhelmingly voted to join the EU in May 2004, and now the government must implement painful budget cuts to bring public finances into line with union standards. And that means less money for public-sector workers.
So come fall, it might be a bad time to get sick in the Czech Republic: the doctors are threatening to strike. And students might be enjoying an extended summer vacations this year, as schoolteachers are threatening a walk out come September as well. So are railway workers and museum employees.
"Welcome to the EU and back to reality," read a front-page headline in the daily Czech newspaper "Lidove noviny" on 17 June, just two days after the referendum.
The Czech Republic is not alone as it struggles with labor unions over curbing deficit spending. The governments of EU members Germany, France, and Austria have been waging a pitched battle with unions all summer over trimming social-welfare benefits.
The wave of labor unrest in Europe, analysts say, is a symptom of a larger struggle over what kind of economy the continent will have.
In an integrated global economy marked by highly mobile capital and labor markets, some economists argue that to be competitive Europe must move closer to a more freewheeling U.S.-style economy with a smaller public sector and fewer social-welfare benefits. But the trend has meet stiff opposition from labor activists who are trying to protect the cradle-to-grave security and benefits that workers have traditionally enjoyed.
"This marks the end of the welfare state in Europe," Jaroslav Plesl, business editor for "Lidove noviny," said in an interview. "Europe wants to catch up with the United States in terms of political power, but you only have political power to the extent that you have economic power," Plesl added. "If you want economic power you need a more flexible economy, and Europe's economy is not flexible."
In France, the government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has faced down strikes and protests as it tries to push through reforms that increase the number of years employees must work to get full pensions.
In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet is pushing a program to cut the duration of unemployment benefits and ease Germany's strict job-protection laws in an effort to encourage small businesses to hire. Schroeder is also meeting stiff opposition from labor leaders as he seeks to trim Germany's generous pension and health care systems.
But the reforms are particularly difficult for former communist countries like the Czech Republic, one of 10 new members scheduled to join the EU next year. Former Soviet-bloc countries have just undergone a decade-long transformation from socialist central planning to market capitalism and now, having largely completed that transition, they must endure more painful cuts in social spending to help make the continent's economy more competitive. This, analysts say, will lead to more economic pain, and possibly social upheaval.
In the Czech Republic, the Bohemian-Moravian Trade Union Confederation and the Association of Independent Trade Unions are planning demonstrations on 13 September -- around the time parliament will debate public-finance reforms. The government plan -- which includes cuts in social, pension, and health care benefits and freezes the wages of doctors and teachers -- will reduce government spending by $7.4 billion by 2006. The cuts are aimed at reducing the country's budget deficit to 4 percent of GDP by 2006, down from the 6.2 percent forecast for this year, so the country can eventually join the common European currency, the euro.
The unions argue that the budget deficit should not be reduced on the backs of already underpaid public-sector workers, but rather with higher taxes on the wealthy and on businesses.
Czech doctors staged a one-day warning strike on 19 June, and are threatening a full-fledged walkout -- with an exception for emergency medical services -- if the government does not back down on the planned spending cuts. Teachers are also threatening a strike in the fall. But the greatest fear is that railway workers will strike, as they have threatened to do. Such a move could severely damage the regional economy. Analysts also warn that a brain drain could plague the medical profession once the Czech Republic joins the EU, as doctors and nurses seek higher salaries abroad.
However, the government is showing no signs of caving in. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has threatened to resign if the government's reform package is not passed.
"To give up the plan for consolidation of budgets is too high a price for calming down the unions," Czech media quoted Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as saying.
Brian Whitmore covers Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans for "The Boston Globe."
AFGHANS CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY
At an Independence Day celebration held under tight security at Kabul's Olympic Stadium, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 19 August called on Afghans to "launch a holy war to reconstruct this nation," AP reported. "We must try harder. We must catch up with the rest of the world," he told the crowd of several thousand celebrating Afghanistan's 84th year of independence from Britain. Karzai marked the day by ordering the release of prisoners more than 70 years of age, women with one-year prison sentences, and women serving six-year sentences who have completed half there sentence, dpa reported. After a brief war, Afghanistan and Britain signed a peace treaty in Rawalpindi on 8 August 1919, leading to Afghanistan's full independence. Prior to this Afghanistan was independent in its internal affairs while Britain controlled the country's foreign affairs and, in theory, protected it from external threats. AT
BLAST ROCKS HOME OF AFGHAN LEADER'S BROTHER
An explosion occurred on 19 August at the Kandahar city home of Ahmad Wali Karzai, a brother of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, AP reported. Kandahar police said Wali Karzai was not in his home at the time of the explosion, which initially was described as having been caused by a bomb. Wali Karzai later said the explosion was "no act of terrorism" and Transitional Administration spokesman Jawyed Ludin said that "some munitions accidentally went off." "It wasn't a bomb or anything like that," Ludin said. "It was just...a servant who was moving small-arms munitions and for some reason it suddenly exploded." Wali Karzai said two guards were hurt in the explosion but their injuries are "not life threatening," dpa reported. Wali Karzai, who does not hold any official government titles, represents his brother in their native Kandahar Province. AT
AID WORKERS INJURED IN ATTACK IN BALKH PROVINCE...
Two Afghans working for the Save the Children Fund were injured in Balkh Province on 18 August when unidentified gunmen attacked a vehicle belonging to the U.K.-based nonprofit organization, Hindukosh news agency reported. The attack occurred 15 kilometers west of the provincial capital Mazar-e Sharif. Balkh Province security commander Mohammad Isa Eftekhari has blamed neo-Taliban forces for the attack, Reuters reported on 19 August. Eftekhari said the attack was carried out by members of the former Taliban regime "who melted into the local population," and not by individuals from abroad. A spokesman for the neo-Taliban was recently quoted as saying the militants intend to expand their operations in northern parts of Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003). No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack. AT
...AS ROBBERS RAID OFFICE OF GERMAN DEVELOPMENT AGENCY IN KABUL
The Kabul office of the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) was attacked and robbed on 18 August, Reuters reported. The robbers injured an Afghan employee of the state-run organization and took $132,000 in cash. Germany's Economic Cooperation and Development Ministry said in a statement that the attack "robs the people of Afghanistan, who urgently need support, of important resources for their future." A bomb damaged GTZ's office in Kandahar in late May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). AT
PAKISTAN HINTS THAT NEO-TALIBAN FORCES MIGHT BE ON ITS TERRITORY
Calling the neo-Taliban a threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said on 18 August that while most of the neo-Taliban are on the Afghan side of the border, "there might be some remnants on the Pakistani side," the Pakistani daily "The News" reported. Responding to an accusation leveled by Afghan authorities that Islamabad is assisting the neo-Taliban in carrying out attacks on targets in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003), Khan said Afghans should stop blaming Pakistan for recent cross-border attacks and cooperate with Islamabad in addressing the problem. AT
IRAN'S JUDICIARY TO INVESTIGATE PROVINCIAL UNREST
Judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmud Shahrudi on 19 August ordered the State Inspectorate and the State Prosecutor's Office to establish a committee to investigate weekend unrest in Isfahan Province that resulted in eight deaths, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 August 2003.) BS
IRANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS BILL ON DIVIDING KHORASAN PROVINCE
The parliament on 18 August rejected one article of a bill that would divide Iran's eastern Khorasan Province into two new provinces, and it rejected another proposal that would divide Khorasan into five new provinces, IRNA reported. The legislation has been returned to the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee for further deliberation. Proposals to divide the province, which has a population of roughly 6 million people, have caused a great deal of unrest in the past, and recent incidents in Isfahan Province (see item above) might have added to legislators' concerns (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 September 2001, and 11 February, 6 and 13 May, 29 July, and 11 November 2002). BS
IRANIAN NEWSPAPER CHIEF SUMMONED TO COURT
Gholi Sheikhi, managing director of "Toseh" daily newspaper, is to appear in court on 19 August for the fourth time in the past 1 1/2 months, IRNA reported. The daily's editor in chief, Seyyed Hussein Sajjadi, said the summons related to the general prosecutor's complaint that the daily distorted public opinion. Among the plaintiffs are the Islamic Azad University, the Security Department of the state police, the Basij Resistance Force, and the ultraconservative "Ya al-Tharat" daily. BS
SENIOR IRANIAN CLERIC ADVOCATES CEDAW MEMBERSHIP...
Ayatollah Kazem Musavi-Bojnurdi -- a presidential adviser on information-dissemination affairs, head of the national library, and head of the Imam Khomeini Center for Islamic Studies -- said on 18 August that Iran could sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), IRNA reported, Bojnurdi noted that Iran can opt out of sections of the convention it finds un-Islamic. The Guardians Council on 12 August rejected a parliamentary bill on Iranian CEDAW membership on the grounds that the bill violates Islamic law and the constitution (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 August 2003). Bojnurdi said Islamic law is applicable to social life, and he added that Iran should not separate itself from the international community by rejecting the convention. "Islam supports the emancipation of women, so we have no difficulty signing up to the convention except for certain parts that the religious leaders are opposed to," he said. BS
...AS FEMALE PARLIAMENTARIAN CRITICIZES CEDAW REJECTION
Tehran parliamentary representative Elahe Kulyai told female managers of Kerman Province on 19 August that many of those who criticize the CEDAW have not even read it, IRNA reported. She added that the members of parliament who passed the bill take their religious beliefs seriously, and furthermore, they have sworn on the Koran not to pass any legislation that violates Islamic law. (For arguments for and against the bill, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 July and 11 and 18 August 2003.) BS
DISPUTE OVER DATE OF IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
Deputy Interior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Seyyed Mahmud Mirlohi has said the Guardians Council wants to hold the next parliamentary election on 26 February, which would coincide with the Muharram mourning period, "Etemad" reported on 18 August. In contrast, "the Interior Ministry has proposed holding the elections during the Ten Days of Dawn [revolution anniversary celebrations in early February] and coinciding with the Id al-Ghadir [the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad's designation of Ali as his successor], which is a celebratory occasion, and the people would take part in the elections with enthusiasm and joy," Mirlohi said. Reformist campaigning, which tends to be positive and cheerful by Iranian standards, would seem inappropriate during a somber period like Muharram and could be criticized by conservative forces. BS
IRAN TO BUILD CULTURE-SPORTS COMPLEX IN BOSNIAN CAPITAL
Mahmud Heidari, deputy head of the Iranian Embassy in Sarajevo, told Croat-Muslim federation Prime Minister Ahmet Hadzipasic on 18 August that Iran plans to build a complex for cultural and sports activities in Sarajevo, Onasa news agency reported. The cornerstone for the complex will be laid in September, when Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is scheduled to visit the capital. BS
INTIFADA CONFERENCE OPENS IN TEHRAN
A conference entitled Intifada -- a Step Toward Freedom will open at Tehran University on 19 August, ISNA reported the previous day. It will be hosted by the student committee of the secretariat of the Support for the Palestinian Intifada conference series. Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pur -- who is secretary of the Support for the Palestinian Intifada conference series, a founder of Lebanese Hizballah, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's special envoy, and a reformist parliamentarian from Tehran -- and Palestinian scholar and Hamas ideologue Munir Shafiq will give the opening speeches. Conference secretary Ruhollah Owhadi said that "active Palestinian students from numerous Palestinian Jihadi groups" will be there, and "a number of Iranian students from various branches of political parties have also been invited to attend the conference in order to establish cultural and civil ties with the Palestinian students, and to reaffirm their support for the Palestinian nation's resistance against the Zionist regime." BS
SABOTAGE IN IRAQ AFFECTS SECURITY, OIL PRICES
As global oil prices edged higher, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) announced it is doubling the number of guards at oil facilities in Iraq in the wake of a weekend attack that knocked out the country's only oil-export pipeline. North Sea Brent crude contracts for delivery in September went up $0.35 to $29.16 a barrel in London trading on 18 August, AP reported the same day. The same day, the U.S.-led administration announced that it will add 6,500 guards to the 5,000 who already protect the 1,000-kilometer pipeline that connects Iraq's Kirkuk oil fields with Turkey's Ceyhan port, the BBC reported. U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told CNN in an 18 August interview that infrastructure attacks by "bitter-enders" have caused billions of dollars of damage over the past three months. Before the war, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline moved 700,000 barrels of oil a day to Turkey, Reuters reported. Though estimates vary, the damage could take as long as a month to repair, AFP reported. DK
U.S. SOLDIER KILLED IN BAGHDAD
A U.S. soldier was killed by an explosive device on 18 August, a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press release confirmed the same day. The press release did not provide the soldier's name, noting only that the incident occurred in the Karadah District, a Shi'ite neighborhood in Baghdad. A CENTCOM spokesman in Florida said the death resulted from a "hostile act," Reuters reported on 18 August. According to the news agency, 61 U.S. solders have been killed in attacks since 1 May, when major combat was declared ended. DK
JOURNALIST'S DEATH IN IRAQ SPURS INQUIRY DEMANDS
The death of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, who was fatally shot by U.S. troops on 17 August while covering a mortar attack on the Abu Gharib prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003), has prompted calls for an investigation, international media reported on 18 August. "I am personally calling upon the highest levels of the U.S. government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this tragedy," Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer said in a statement on 18 August. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders have joined calls for an inquiry. The U.S. military has said the shooting is being investigated. Eyewitnesses have given conflicting accounts of the death of the 43-year-old Palestinian. Some have said soldiers should have known Dana was a journalist, while others have speculated that his camera might have been mistaken for a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, "The New York Times" reported on 18 August. Dana's colleague, Nael Shyoukhi, told "The Washington Post" on 18 August that he and Dana obtained permission from U.S. forces to work in the area. DK
IRAQI CLERIC MULLS CONSTITUTION AMID TENSIONS
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Iraq's most prominent Shi'ite clerics, explained his stance on Iraq's future constitution in remarks to Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" on 18 August, even as his aides warned of waning Shi'ite patience. Queried by the newspaper about his view of a new constitution, Al-Sistani replied, "The religious beliefs, moral principles, and noble social values of the Iraqi people must form the foundation for Iraq's future constitution." Al-Sistani expressed his support for "the principle of consultation, pluralism, and respect by the minority for the majority opinion." He also told the newspaper the role of authoritative religious figures should be "to supply the believers with fatwas [legal rulings] on various aspects of life." Al-Sistani spokesman Akram al-Zubaydi told AFP on 17 August that pressure is growing for an anti-U.S. fatwa. "Every day, we receive dozens of complaints from Iraqis asking us to declare a fatwa against the Americans and we say 'no,'" Al-Zubaydi said. "But this 'no' will not last forever." DK