UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR RUSSIA TO SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ...
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 3 May urged France, Germany, and Russia to consider contributing troops to the U.S.-led stabilization force in Iraq, Russian and Western media reported. "It would be extremely helpful to the process if we can really internationalize the efforts in Iraq and bring in everybody," Annan said in an interview on the U.S. television network NBC. He said that doing so might allow the United States to reduce its forces in the country, "but it will depend on how fast...we are able to get other governments to join and provide troops." RC
...WHILE MOSCOW RESPONDS CAUTIOUSLY
Duma Foreign Relations Committee Deputy Chairman Leonid Slutskii (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) told Ekho Moskvy on 3 May that, "Russia, with its rather unfortunate experience of participating in the Afghan war,... should not rush into half-baked decisions to take part in operations of this kind." Aleksei Arbatov of the Moscow Carnegie Center told the station that Russia should send forces to Iraq, but only as part of an internationally led peacekeeping operation. "Of course, neither Russia, nor Germany, nor France are going to send troops just to fight in Iraq like the Americans are doing now," Arbatov said. RC
DEPUTY CALLS FOR BOOSTING MILITARY PRESENCE IN CIS
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Zavarzin (Unified Russia) told Interfax on 3 May that Russia's national-security interests dictate increasing Moscow's military presence in the CIS, especially in Georgia and Moldova. "Our objective interests demand our further military presence in order to maintain stability in those regions," Zavarzin said, adding that this is all the more necessary because of NATO expansion and a NATO agreement on basing forces in Ukraine. RC
ONE U.S. NGO RATES RUSSIAN PRESS AS 'NOT FREE'...
Russian Union of Journalists General Secretary Igor Yakovenko told Ekho Moskvy on 3 May that he agrees with an assessment by the U.S. nongovernmental organization Freedom House released on 30 April that judged the Russian media as "not free." "I think that the conclusions of the Western experts correspond to reality," Yakovenko said. "Over the last few years, we have definitely moved backward both in terms of human rights and of freedom of the press." He said that the print media are more free than broadcast media, but that self-censorship is a major problem. "No one is beating people up, but people are looking over their shoulders," Yakovenko said. In the Freedom House survey, Russia ranked in 148th place -- between Yemen and Cameroon -- out of 193 countries. RC
...WHILE ANOTHER RANKS THE COUNTRY AS AMONG THE MOST DANGEROUS FOR JOURNALISTS
In a survey released on 3 May by the U.S. NGO the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia was listed as one of the 10 most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. "A shift from blatant pressures to more subtle and covert tactics, such as politicized lawsuits and hostile corporate takeovers by businessmen with close ties to [President Vladimir] Putin, has allowed the Kremlin to stifle criticism of the president and reports on government corruption and human rights abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya," the CPJ report reads. Both the Freedom House and the CPJ reports were issued to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. RC
ALMOST 1.5 MILLION RUSSIANS RALLY FOR MAY DAY...
More than 1.4 million Russians participated in May Day marches, demonstrations, or street actions across the country, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 1 May, citing the Interior Ministry. This was more than organizers had originally planned: They had predicted the total number would be 1.3 million. In Moscow, some 20 parties and organizations had permission to hold rallies. Unified Russia activists marched together with trade-union members along a central Moscow street, according to NTV. Rightist groups such as the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko held a rally in Lubyanka Square, while the Communists gathered around a statue of Karl Marx on Teatralnaya Square. In St. Petersburg, diverse political parties such as the Communists, the People's Party, the Party of Life, and Unified Russia participated in a May Day rally, attended by about 23,000 people, according to ITAR-TASS. However, the trade unions that organized the event allowed only Communist Party leaders to speak. According to NTV, 100,000 people attended a rally for decent wages in Irkutsk. In Vladivostok, more than 20,000 gathered. JAC
...AS COMMUNIST MARCHER KILLED BY POLICE BUS IN VOLGA REGION
In Nizhnii Novgorod, a bus filled with police troops ran over and killed a Communist Party activist, lenta.ru reported on 2 May. A statement released by the oblast Communist party said, "We consider the crime committed by the authorities to be a political provocation, an appearance of police arbitrariness and terror with regard to its own people." JAC
RUMORS OF REPORTS OF RUSSIA'S DISINTEGRATION GREATLY EXAGGERATED...
Russian newspapers carried on 28 and 29 April reactions to a December 2000 report by the CIA's U.S. National Intelligence Council, which allegedly forecast that Russia could break up into six or eight separate countries by 2015. In a message posted on "Johnson's Russia List" on 2 May, George Kolt, a retired CIA official with responsibility from Russia, denied that the report made any such forecast and he alleged that the first report of such a prediction appeared in "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Despite the lack of an actual forecast, Russian media managed to get a wealth of reaction to the prediction. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 29 April, Dmitrii Orlov of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications said there have been and will continue to be such reports from the CIA, in part because the conservative part of the Republican Party is interested in seeing Russia as weak as possible. Orlov added that he does not agree with "such alarmists," claiming that the head of the same department said on the site four years ago that Russia would disintegrate. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on 28 April categorically rejected the possibility of the Russian Federation breaking up, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued that "a lot had been done over the last four years to strengthen vertical power" and that Russian state has been "strengthened." JAC
...WHILE OTHERS TREAT THREAT OF BREAK-UP AS JUSTIFICATION FOR RENEWED NATIONALISM
Political analysts Sergei Markov and Stanislav Belkovskii were more inclined to agree with the "prediction" of Russia's disintegration, provided that current trends hold. Markov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" that if the elite doesn't stop stealing from the country, then such a forecast could come true. Belkovskii told "Izvestiya" that Russia, "as an extremely eclectic formation, can only maintain itself as a unified imperial project." "In the absence of an idea around which a new Russian state can be formed...it is highly likely that China will informally control the Siberian and Far Eastern parts of Russia after five years and formally after 10 years," he said. Belkovskii is considered by some sources to be the consummate Kremlin insider (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 7 April 2004). JAC
PRO-ISLAMIC GROUP FORMS IN STATE DUMA
A new inter-factional deputies' association has been created in the State Duma called Russia and the Islamic World: A Strategic Dialogue, regions.ru reported on 30 April. Association co-Chairman Shamil Sultanov (Motherland) announced the group's formation at a press conference on 28 April. The group reportedly has 45 members, including Yurii Savelev (Motherland) and Albert Makashov (Communist). Savelev is the former director of St. Petersburg's Military Technological Institute, which was included on a U.S. "blacklist" for alleged unsanctioned military cooperation with Iran, according to the website (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May and 25 April 2000). General Makashov is perhaps best known for anti-Semitic statements on the floor of the Duma. According to Sultanov, the group brings together all legislators who understand that today it is the Islamic world -- not the West -- that is interested in a strong Russia and is therefore Russia's natural partner. Nothing was said at the press conference with regard to the association's concrete plans, the website reported. JAC
ANOTHER SKINHEAD INCIDENT IN VORONEZH
Two skinheads attacked Aleksei Kozlov of the Youth Human Rights Movement on 29 April, jewish.ru reported on 30 April. According to Kozlov, the youths, who were drunk at the time, threw rocks at him, yelling "Run [Negroes] and Jews." According to gazeta.ru, Kozlov was walking in the city center at 6 p.m. near the movement's office. A criminal case on suspicion of hooliganism has been opened by the police, but Kozlov has declared that he will insist that anyone arrested be prosecuted under the Criminal Code article on inciting ethnic hatred. Meanwhile, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 April, Duma Motherland faction head Dmitrii Rogozin was asked about skinhead incidents in his district. Rogozin said that the single-mandate district from which he was elected is rural and the skinhead problem is concentrated in Voronezh and other cities in the Black Earth zone. He connected the existence of nationalist-extremist groups with Russia's "open borders." "If the situation is not improved, if the migration service does not work, then the growth of xenophobia will have much more serious consequences," Rogozin said. He added that he will "always defend those people who are located in Russia on a legal basis and defend the citizens of Russia without regard to their nationality." JAC
PRISON STRIKE ENDS IN URALS
Hunger strikes affecting three prisons in Chelyabinsk Oblast have ended, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2004). Aleksei Sevastyanov, chairman of the Legal Consciousness organization, told the daily that the prisoners had to end their strike because "special measures" were being conducted in the prison colonies with the participation of Interior Ministry troops. The report did not elaborate on exactly what the special measures were. Earlier, the parents of 40 hunger strikers sent a letter to the senior prosecutor in charge of penal facilities in Chelyabinsk Oblast complaining that the administrations of the colonies have been systematically violating the rights of their children. JAC
GREF TIES THE KNOT AND TIES UP TRAFFIC
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, 40, married for the second time on 30 April, and the parade of VIP cars to the ceremony, which was held in St. Petersburg, reportedly paralyzed city traffic, Ekho Moskvy reported. Among the guests were Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and government-apparatus head Dmitrii Kozak. The identity of Gref's wife has not been released, although some media reported that her first name is Yana, that she is about 30 years old, and that she has one school-aged son from a previous marriage. Also, the son of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko, Sergei, recently married 20-year-old singer Zara Mgoyan, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 26 April. Sergei Matvienko, 30, is a vice president of Bank Sankt-Peterburg. JAC
CHECHEN MUFTI DEPLORES ACQUITTAL OF RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN
Echoing a 29 April statement by pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, Akhmad-hadji Shamaev criticized on 30 April the acquittal by a Russian military court in Rostov-na-Donu the previous day of a group of Russian servicemen who killed six Chechen civilians in January 2002, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2004). In Moscow, prominent Russian human rights activist Lev Ponamarev similarly condemned the verdict as biased, Interfax reported on 30 April. He added that Russian "propaganda has made every North Caucasian into an enemy." Interfax further quoted Chief Military Prosecutor Colonel General Aleksandr Savenkov as saying that the prosecution plans to appeal the jury's verdict. LF
INJURED ARMENIAN OPPOSITIONIST LEAVES HOSPITAL
Ashot Manucharian, who was attacked and injured by unknown assailants in Yerevan 10 days ago, has been discharged from hospital, Noyan Tapan reported on 3 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2004). He will, however, have to undergo further plastic surgery. LF
POLICE TARGET OPPOSITION IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE
Police in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan have intensified their harassment of opposition politicians in the wake of last week's announcement of the creation of a Center for Democratic Development (DIM) comprising the regional organizations of several prominent opposition parties, Turan reported on 1 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2004). On 28 April, two men abducted and beat up a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the following day a Nakhichevan police official visited the DIM headquarters in Nakhichevan and warned activists to abandon their activities and stop publicizing negative political developments in the region. Meeting on 1 May, DIM members agreed to stage a mass rally on 28 May, which is the anniversary of the declaration in 1918 of an independent Azerbaijan Republic, Turan reported on 3 May. LF
ADJAR LEADER ORDERS DESTRUCTION OF BORDER BRIDGES
On orders from Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze, two bridges linking his autonomous republic with the rest of Georgia were blown up on 2 May, Caucasus Press and Reuters reported. Abashidze argued that the move was necessary in the light of the largescale maneuvers by the Georgian military that began on the Georgian side of the order two days earlier, and which he feared presage military aggression against Adjaria. Adjar opposition leader Tamaz Diasamidze said on 2 May that Abashidze also ordered that railway tracks from Georgia to Adjaria be dismantled on the Adjar side of the internal border, Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES NEW ULTIMATUM
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili again denied in Tbilisi on 1 May that the Georgian government plans any military aggression against Adjaria, Interfax reported. Following the destruction of the two border bridges, Saakashvili said late on 2 May that Abashidze has 10 days in which to comply with his earlier demands to disarm all illegal armed groups in Adjaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 April 2004) and "to return to within the framework of Georgia's constitution," Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. If Abashidze fails to comply with those demands, Saakashvili continued, he will avail himself of his constitutional right to dismiss the Adjar leadership and schedule new elections to enable the population of the autonomous republic to select a new leader democratically, Caucasus Press reported on 3 May. At the same time, Saakashvili stressed that he will not abolish Adjaria's autonomous status within Georgia. LF
FORMER GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ESCALATION IN ADJARIA
In a statement released in Tbilisi on 1 May, Eduard Shevardnadze said the "senseless and destructive conflict" between the central Georgian government and Abashidze heralds the beginning of the breakup of the Georgian state, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He urged the two sides to begin peaceful negotiations and abide by the Georgian Constitution as the only way to avert such a split. LF
TBILISI REJECTS RUSSIAN WARNINGS OVER ADJARIA
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko warned in Moscow on 1 May that that any threat of or recourse to force by the Georgian leadership against Adjaria is "inadmissible," Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He added that the use of force would have "catastrophic consequences," especially for Georgia itself, and urged that Tbilisi and Batumi set about resolving differences at the negotiating table. The Georgian Foreign Ministry responded on 2 May by denying "categorically" that the use of force against Adjaria is being considered, Interfax reported. LF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS FOR DIALOGUE OVER ADJARIA
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer has expressed profound concern at the destruction of the border bridges, Caucasus Press reported on 3 May. Schwimmer appealed to both Abashidze and Saakashvili to "do their utmost to stop this extremely dangerous escalation," and again reaffirmed the council's readiness to "facilitate dialogue and to help Georgia develop a sound legal basis for the relations between the central authorities and the autonomous regions." LF
SENIOR GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL ARRESTED
Former Deputy Minister of State Security Levan Kenchadze, who simultaneously headed the ministry's antiterrorism center, was summoned on 29 April to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning and remanded the following day for three months' pre-trial detention, Caucasus Press reported. Kenchadze faces charges of abuse of office, in particular of involvement in the abduction in December 2000 of two Spanish businessmen and of selling weapons confiscated by the ministry to Chechen fighters encamped in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Kenchadze has refused to answer questions and insists he is innocent. His lawyer said on 30 April that the prosecution cannot furnish any documentary evidence to substantiate the charges against Kenchadze. LF
MANDATES OF EXILED ABKHAZ PARLIAMENTARIANS REVOKED
After a four-hour discussion, the Georgian parliament's judicial and procedure committees jointly ruled on 30 April to annul the mandates of 10 Georgian deputies elected in late 1991 to the parliament of Abkhazia, and who since the end of the 1992-1993 civil war have been ex officio deputies of the Georgian parliament, Caucasus Press reported. Those 10 seats in the Georgian parliament will remain vacant until the central government restores its control over the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. LF
KAZAKH MINISTER SAYS CENTRAL ASIA INTEGRATION 'UNLIKELY'
Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said on 30 April that integration among Central Asian countries is "unlikely to take place in the near future," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported the same day. The remarks came at the fifth session of the Foreign Ministry's Council for Foreign Policy. Toqaev noted that integration requires similar levels of structural development, a desire for integration, and an enormous amount of work. He concluded that Central Asian countries are not yet prepared for this. Nevertheless, Toqaev termed the Single Economic Space "the first real integration [effort] in the former Soviet Union." Toqaev also said that U.S. military bases in Central Asia are "a natural addition to the other U.S. presence -- economic and political," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Additionally, Toqaev thanked the United States for eliminating the Taliban regime. Finally, Toqaev observed that Russia is "making a major effort to direct investments to the economies of virtually all post-Soviet countries," akipress.org reported. DK
TAJIK UPPER HOUSE APPROVES LAWS
The 12th session of the Majlisi Oli, or upper house of parliament, on 30 April approved 17 laws passed by the lower house since 11 February, Asia-Plus Blitz reported. The laws concerned such issues as the creation of free economic zones, local executive organs, tenders, education, licensing, and microfinancing organizations. Qasim Qasimov, head of the committee on economics and communications, said that the new law on free economic zones will help to bring more foreign investment in Tajikistan. The session will continue on 3 May. DK
TAJIK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov addressed parliament on 30 April, discussing a mix of regional and domestic issues. Rakhmonov recalled the "horror and catastrophe of policies of racism and fascism" as he expressed concern at the "expansion of dangerous political movements within the Commonwealth of Independent States," Tajik TV reported. Rakhmonov went on to caution against drawing a link between Islam and terrorism, calling this "very dangerous." On the domestic front, the Tajik president said that reforms have failed to achieve a "noticeable impact on increasing people's living standards." Terming bureaucracy a "breeding ground for corruption," Rakhmonov called for a fight against corruption. ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying that corruption is "the main obstacle" on the path to developing entrepreneurship and implementing major reform projects. He concluded, "Common people should know where and how much money from the state budget or foreign loans has been spent to construct this or that building. This money should not end up in the pockets of officials." DK
UZBEK PARLIAMENT PASSES LAWS, ENDS SESSION
The 14th session of Uzbekistan's Supreme Assembly, or parliament, concluded on 30 April, Uzbek Radio reported the same day. Legislators passed draft laws on illegally acquired funds and export controls, both in the first reading. A decision was made to put the latter law up for national discussion. Minor changes were also made to the structure of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. DK
UZBEK PRESIDENT URGES GREATER PARTY ACTIVISM
In an address to parliament on 30 April, President Islam Karimov berated Uzbek political parties for failing to take a more active role in the country's political life, Uzbek Radio reported the same day. Karimov said, "We have five political parties.... Why don't you even say a word against each other?... The collision of ideas will certainly lead to justice and truth. If there is no struggle between ideas, then why do we need five parties?" The remarks reinforced comments Karimov made at a 29 April press conference. Uzbek Radio quoted him as saying, "[T]hese parties have no independent platform or ideology and, regrettably, are still weak in terms of winning the hearts and minds of ordinary people." DK
BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS, OPPOSITION STAGE RIVAL RALLIES ON MAY DAY
The government-favored Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB) and opposition parties staged rival rallies in a Minsk park to mark May Day, Belapan reported on 1 May. The FPB rally brought together some 1,500 participants who also celebrated the 100th anniversary of trade unions in Belarus. Several hundred opposition supporters marched to the same park carrying flags of their parties and blocs, European Union banners, and placards reading "No to Price Hikes!" and "For Decent Life!" Plainclothes police officers arrested five member of opposition youth movements. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR TRADE UNION FEDERATION
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a grand gathering to mark the 100th anniversary of trade unions in Belarus on 30 April that the government will support the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB), an organization loyal to the government, Belapan reported. "Belarus is the only state in the world where trade unions have been officially declared one of the powerful support pillars of Belarusian society along with the local soviets, the youth, veterans' and women's organizations," Lukashenka said. Meanwhile, last week the Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO) concluded hearings on alleged violations of the rights of trade unions in Belarus. The ILO is expected to make its verdict public in September. "Independent trade unions [in Belarus] struggle to survive in a climate in which the authorities are stifling their activities by curtailing their rights to freedom of assembly and expression," Amnesty International said in a press release on 1 May. "In this they share the fate of all human-rights defenders in the country." JM
UKRAINIAN PARTIES MARK MAY DAY
Some 10,000 people took part in a rally organized by the Communist Party in Kyiv on 1 May, "Ukrayinska pravda" reported. The rally took place under anti-NATO, anti-EU, and antigovernment slogans. Participants in the rally supported a resolution proposing Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko as a presidential candidate. Some 10,000 people participated in a separate May Day rally organized in Kyiv by the Party of Regions led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. A karaoke organized on a square in Kyiv by Our Ukraine attracted only some 200 primarily young people. According to "Ukrayinska pravda," mass May Day rallies were also staged in the provinces, where pro-government parties reportedly resorted to administrative leverage to get people into the streets. In particular, 35,000 people celebrated May Day in Kharkiv and 12,000 in Simferopol. JM
WILL UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS FIELD COMMON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE?
Yosyp Vinskyy, one of the leaders of the Socialist Party, said on 1 May that his party and the Communist Party might nominate a single candidate for the 31 October presidential election, Interfax reported. "It is absolutely evident that the basic players [in the election] will be [Our Ukraine leader Viktor] Yushchenko and [Prime Minister Viktor] Yanukovych, so we should present a powerful alternative," Vinskyy said. He added that if such a joint candidate lost to both Yushchenko and Yanukovych on 31 October the Socialists and the Communists might support Yushchenko in the second election round. JM
KYIV HOPES FOR COOPERATION WITH ENLARGED EU
In a statement welcoming the EU expansion on 1 May, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed its hope that the 25-member union will not confine itself to domestic issues but will cooperate with its neighbors, Interfax reported. "EU enlargement opens broad opportunities for Ukraine to develop and expand cooperation both with the EU and our neighbors, new EU member countries, which are linked to us by common history, close economic, cultural, and human relationships," the statement reads. JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT COMPARES EU ENTRY TO FALL OF IRON CURTAIN
Arnold Ruutel said at an EU-flag-raising ceremony outside his official residence on 1 May that EU enlargement the same day will in effect banish the final remnants of the Iron Curtain, BNS reported. In remarks the previous evening at a concert celebrating Estonia's accession, Ruutel stressed the importance of culture in shaping the identity of Europe. "Culture is the language that is capable of creating a sense of togetherness between both individuals and nations," he said. Ruutel asserted that the EU is more than an economic and trade alliance with a security dimension, saying common aspirations are the basis of a united Europe. "We are returning to where we belong, to a community that shares the same values and visions," said Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts. "All members can contribute to the development of Europe with new, fresh, bold ideas and strive for the economic and political consolidation of the whole union." In a campaign to mark EU accession, some 20,000 volunteers planted 1 million trees across Estonia. SG
PROTESTS AGAINST SCHOOL REFORM MAR LATVIA'S EU CELEBRATIONS
Festivities across Latvia marking the accession of that country to the EU on 1 May were to some extent spoiled by protests in Riga and Liepaja against planned education reforms that curb the use of the Russian language in schools, BNS reported. Some 15,000-20,000 people, most of them school-aged youths, gathered in a park at the Victory Monument in suburban Riga to protest the planned increase of classes in the Latvian language in Russian and other minority schools from September. Nearly one-third of Latvia's 2.4 million people are ethnic Russian. Some of the protesters held European Union flags with black ribbons on them. Some 200 supporters of the Latvian Socialist Party also met in Grizinkalns Park in Riga to voice regret over Latvia's membership of the EU. Socialist Chairman Alfreds Rubiks declared: "Personally I feel no happiness at all about Latvia joining the EU. The prices are growing, but the government is doing nothing to compensate it." Some participants also carried placards protesting the education reforms. About 500 opponents of the school reforms held an unsanctioned rally during the official EU-flag-raising ceremony in Liepaja and later marched through the city's streets, at times blocking traffic. SG
LITHUANIA CELEBRATES EU MEMBERSHIP, SETS NEW FOREIGN POLICY GOALS
A special session of the Lithuanian parliament, meeting on the occasion of the country's accession to the EU on 1 May, adopted a nonbinding resolution setting out new foreign policy goals, BNS reported. The measure noted that the previous long-term goals in foreign policy -- EU and NATO membership -- have been achieved. The measure was approved by a vote of 64 to zero with one abstention. The resolution says Lithuania will seek to be among first new member states to join the Schengen zone and adopt the euro, as well as seek an early end to restrictions set by most EU members on the movement of labor from the accession states. Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis declared: "Our goal is the 'open-door' policy with states situated east of Vilnius. The more democracy, economic, and social stability gain ground in the neighbor states, the better we, living at the EU border, will feel." Acting President Arturas Paulauskas expressed the hope that EU membership will bring greater prosperity to Lithuania's people and raise the country's standard of living to that of other EU countries. SG
POLISH PRESIDENT DESIGNATES NEW CABINET
Following the expected resignation of Prime Minister Leszek Miller and his cabinet on 2 May, President Aleksander Kwasniewski designated a new government headed by Marek Belka, Polish media reported. Belka's cabinet includes seven ministers who served under Miller: Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, Finance Minister Andrzej Raczko, Agriculture Minister Wojciech Olejniczak, Culture Minister Waldemar Dabrowski, and Science Minister Michal Kleiber. The new faces are Deputy Prime Minister (without portfolio) Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, Interior Minister Ryszard Kalisz, Treasury Minister Jacek Socha, Education Minister Miroslaw Sawicki, Infrastructure Minister Krzysztof Opawski, Health Minister Wojciech Rudnicki, Social Policy Minister Krzysztof Pater, and Environment Minister Jerzy Swaton. Belka's cabinet needs to be approved by the 460-seat Sejm, Poland's lower house. A new cabinet in Poland is appointed by a majority of votes (50 percent plus one vote) in the presence of at least half of the deputies. JM
TOP POLISH OFFICIALS HAIL EU ENTRY AS DREAM FULFILLED
President Kwasniewski on 30 April welcomed Poland's EU entry by saying to a crowd on Pilsudski Square in Warsaw that the current EU enlargement is a "historic moment." "What is happening now is what generations of Poles dreamed of and towards which they moved," Kwasniewski added. Earlier the same day, Sejm speaker Jozef Oleksy hailed Poland's EU entry as an achievement of all governments of postcommunist Poland that worked toward this end "in accord." "Our great, Polish dream has become a reality," PAP quoted outgoing Prime Minister Miller as saying on 1 May in Zittau, at the meeting point of the borders of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic, where he met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen to mark the accession of 10 new EU members. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY MUST 'PRESERVE' SOVEREIGNTY IN UNION...
Vaclav Klaus said on the eve of his country's entry into the EU that the Czech Republic will lose its independence when it enters the union, CTK reported on 30 April. A well-known Euro-skeptic, Klaus said at a ceremonial meeting at the Prague Castle that EU membership is one of the most significant events in the 1,000-year history of the Czech lands and that Czechs must find a way to preserve their "identity and national sovereignty." Klaus reiterated such remarks at a public event on Wencseslas Square later on 30 April. Klaus's predecessor, Vaclav Havel, wrote in a statement on 30 April in Prague that entry into the EU will "primarily limit the power of post-Communist economic mafias, swindlers, and financial acrobats" and their "political protectors." The statement was seen as a reaction to negative EU comments by Klaus. Havel added that the Czech identity "is threatened only by ourselves alone." PB
...AS CZECH PREMIER SAYS SOVEREIGNTY WILL BE ENHANCED
Vladimir Spidla said in Prague on 30 April that not only will the Czech Republic not lose its sovereignty within the EU, but it will be "enhanced," CTK reported. Spidla added that Czechs will share their sovereignty with the other 24 EU countries. Spidla, who was present at a formal EU accession ceremony in Dublin on 1 May after attending day- and night-long festivities in Prague the previous day, said it is mainly members of the opposition Civic Democrats who use the "loss of a part of our sovereignty" as an argument against joining the union. A recent poll taken by the STEM organization said that 52 percent of Czechs believe the EU will be good for the Czech Republic, while 48 percent said it will not be good for the country, CTK reported. PB
SLOVAK LEADER WELCOMES EU ACCESSION, URGE SINGLE-TIER UNION
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told EU leaders gathered in Dublin on 1 May to celebrate EU enlargement the same day that the "vast majority of my countrymen understand what a great and landmark day this is for us," TASR reported. He added, however, that member states should be free to decide their own fates, stressing also the desire to maintain equality among member states. "We want an EU of states with equal rights. There has been enough division," Dzurinda said. "We'd like to say calmly but clearly that we will work with all our might for national states to have the right to decide independently about tax and social policies." Slovakia has been accused obliquely by some EU leaders of "tax dumping" while at the same time benefiting from sizable EU handouts. AH
HUNGARY ENTERS NEW 'EUROPEAN ERA'
At midnight on 30 April, Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy ceremoniously started an 8-meter, 60-ton clock that will count Hungary's time in the EU, Hungarian television reported. During his speech, Medgyessy thanked the 10 million Hungarians for their efforts in the past 15 years to secure Hungary's EU accession. "We should not expect miracles from Europe," Medgyessy said, adding "the miracle is in all of us." EU accession ceremonies started early on 30 April when Medgyessy and Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky tolled two flower-shaped bells in the Buda Castle, symbolizing European solidarity and peace. The next day Medgyessy and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel cut down a barbed-wire, Iron Curtain-era fence on the two countries' border. Hungarian President Ferenc Madl said on 1 May in the presidential palace that "Hungary has chosen Europe not through a referendum, but through her whole history," "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ
SERBIAN PREMIER SAYS NO ALTERNATIVE TO KOSOVAR SERBS' AUTONOMY...
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in an interview with the German weekly "Der Spiegel" on 3 May that there is no alternative to autonomy and self-government for Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosova if one wants to avoid "Kosova [looking] like its capital Prishtina -- without a single Serb." "This has nothing to do with defending some laws, but with naked survival," Kostunica added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003 and 13 and 20 February 2004). He said his government is holding talks on the issue with the UN civilian administration in Kosova. "Anything else but autonomy could result in [developments] that would be a shame not only for us, but for the whole Europe," Kostunica said. Asked what would happen if the Kosovar Albanian majority voted for the province's independence in a referendum, Kostunica said the international community controls the province, has more power than Kosovar Albanian institutions, and therefore is responsible for its future. UB
...OR COOPERATION WITH HAGUE
Asked whether the Serbian government will suspend its cooperation with The Hague under pressure from Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Kostunica told "Der Spiegel" that Serbia has no alternative to cooperation with the war crimes tribunal, but added that it "[will] comply with this international obligation in a way that will neither endanger political stability in our country nor strengthen radicalism." Kostunica's minority government is relying on SPS and SRS votes in parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2004; "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 December and 20 February 2004; and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 5 and 12 February 2004). Repeating his allegation that the tribunal is anti-Serbian, Kostunica said he would extradite indicted former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic to The Hague, if he knew that he was in Serbia. UB
MAIN SUSPECT IN SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ASSASSINATION CASE TURNS HIMSELF IN
Milorad Lukovic "Legija," who is the main suspect in the March 2003 assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, surrendered to police in Belgrade on 2 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lukovic is also charged with the murder of four members of the Serbian Renewal Movement in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 March and 26 November 2003). UB
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO REGRETS NOT BEING EU CANDIDATE
Vuk Draskovic, the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, said in Belgrade on 1 May that EU enlargement is a "historic" development, but added that it is regrettable that the country has not yet entered the dynamic for EU accession, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In related news, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Podgorica on 1 May that it is too early for Serbia and Montenegro to think about EU membership. Reinhard Priebe, who is responsible for the western Balkans at the European Commission, said in Belgrade on 30 April that no time must be lost in carrying out structural reforms in Serbia and Montenegro that are necessary for integration in European institutions, Mina reported. UB
UNMIK POLICE MAKE ARRESTS IN CONNECTION WITH KOSOVA VIOLENCE
KFOR units on 2 May arrested two former members of the disbanded Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) on charges that they participated in a recent outbreak of violence, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 March and 29 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 March and 2 and 16 April 2004). An UNMIK spokesman said the arrested participated in the violence in the region of Pec. UB
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SAYS BOSNIA PART OF EUROPEAN FAMILY
High Representative Paddy Ashdown, commenting on the EU enlargement of 1 May, said in a statement issued on 2 May that Bosnia-Herzegovina is part of the family of European countries, but added that it still has a long way to go to become a member of the EU, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ashdown said a first step in this direction will be Bosnia's membership in the NATO Partnership for Peace program, which is expected in June. The high representative also said that much depends on Bosnia's cooperation with the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal and Republika Srpska's capability and resolve to arrest indicted war criminals. UB
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CRITICIZES MACEDONIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
A press release by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee issued on 30 April said the 28 April presidential runoff did not take place in a fair and democratic atmosphere, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. According to the human rights watchdog, voters were subjected to pressure, intimidation, and threats to vote. The Helsinki Committee said "during the campaign the freedom to vote was replaced with the duty to vote," adding that State Election Commission head Stevo Pendarovski has made similar statements. According to the committee, irregularities, including ballot stuffing and group voting, occurred on election day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004). UB
FORMER MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TO BE ARRESTED IN IMMIGRANT DEATHS' CASE
Prosecutors in Skopje have ordered the detention of hawkish former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski in connection with the killing of seven illegal immigrants by police forces outside Skopje on 2 March 2002, "Utrinski vesnik" and "Dnevnik" reported on 1 May. A parliamentary commission on 30 April lifted the immunity of Boskovski, who is currently a lawmaker for the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). It is unclear whether Boskovski has already been arrested or charged. According to Macedonian media reports, preliminary results of Interior Ministry investigations show that Boskovski at least knew of a conspiracy to kill the seven immigrants, six Pakistani and one Indian. Immediately after the killing, Boskovski said the "group planned attacks on important buildings and foreign diplomats most probably from the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. -- those that were involved in the fight against global terrorism." During a 30 April press conference, Boskovski denied the charges, saying that such a "monstrous scenario can be made only by a totalitarian government," "Utrinski vesnik" reported. UB
ROMANIAN LEADERS UPBEAT ON ROMANIA'S EU-ACCESSION CHANCES
Speaking at Bucharest airport before departing for EU-enlargement celebrations in Dublin, Romanian President Ion Iliescu said on 1 May that the newest EU members are part of an expansion wave that actually involves 12 countries, Mediafax reported. "Romania and Bulgaria are to join the EU in 2007," Iliescu said. One day earlier, Iliescu said that while having certain "virtues," a market economy "cultivates ferocious individualism" and people "become beasts." He said this individualism is manifested by the desire to accumulate wealth, adding that more human solidarity is needed. Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 1 May predicted that Romania will join the EU in 2007, as it "wants to and deserves to." In a message on 1 May, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said two important pieces are missing from the big European puzzle: Romania and Bulgaria. He encouraged Bucharest to go ahead with "the last efforts" necessary to fulfill accession requirements, adding that the European Commission "will do all in its power" to help Romania end negotiations in time to join the EU in 2007. ZsM
ROMANIAN PREMIER PROMISES HIGHER WAGES AND PENSIONS
Speaking in the southern Romanian city of Pitesti, Romanian Prime Minister and ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Nastase said on 1 May that the PSD's four-year program provides for higher salaries and pensions, subsidies for pupils to continue their studies, and the modernization of the country's health-care system, Mediafax reported. He claimed that a consolidated business environment could lead to a doubling of the average wage within four years. Nastase added that his party is pushing for an increase in pensions, such as a doubling of the lowest pensions and a 50 percent rise in mid-level ones. Nastase is widely expected to run for president in the elections in November, but has not yet announced his candidacy. ZsM
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW HAS WITHDRAWN TWO-THIRDS OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT FROM TRANSDNIESTER
In an interview with the Russian military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" published on 30 April, the commander of Russian troops in the breakaway Transdniester region, General Boris Sergeev, said Russia has withdrawn two-thirds of its military equipment, ammunition, weapons, and materiel from the region, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that another train of 20 railcars is headed for the Russian border. The Russian army did a great deal of shipping and redeployment of forces and equipment to Russia in 2003, as "all in all, 31 trainloads were pulled out," Sergeev said. According to Sergeev, troops "received a great inheritance" in the Transdniester area, with more than 45,000 tons of ammunition from the former Soviet Union -- around 3,000 rail cars -- stored "in the village of Colbasna alone." ZsM
TELERADIO MOLDOVA CANCELS OPPOSITION, GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS
Teleradio Moldova's Observers Council changed the state-owned radio and television station's program schedule on 30 April, canceling "The Opposition Hour" program, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. The program is to be replaced by a political talk show with guests from all over the political spectrum. Council member and "Jurnal de Chisinau" Director Val Butnaru claimed the move shows that the government wants to further limit the right to free speech at Teleradio. Council member and Basa-Press news agency Director Vasile Botnaru also criticized the move, saying it contradicts President Vladimir Voronin's announced liberalization of Moldovan media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2004). However, the council also canceled "The Government Hour" television program, which will be replaced by the program "Public Life." ZsM
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES NEW EU MEMBERS
President Georgi Parvanov told the presidents of the 10 new EU member states in a 1 May telegram that the union's enlargement is a huge step toward the unification of the continent, the president's official website (http://www.president.bg) reported. Parvanov said that Bulgaria was also part of this round of enlargement and sees this day as part of its own success. He expressed his hope that within the larger EU, a feeling of solidarity, shared values, and joint responsibility for a common future will develop. Speaking in Dublin on 1 May, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said the enlargement will not hamper Bulgaria on its way to EU accession, the "Sofia Morning News" reported. He thus contradicted Minister for European Affairs Meglena Kuneva who recently warned that it could become more difficult for Bulgaria to finalize the accession negotiations with the EU after the union's enlargement. UB
WHERE DOES EUROPE'S ENLARGEMENT END?
The European Union has always remained deliberately vague about where its borders lie. Provided countries fulfill the 1993 Copenhagen criteria -- guaranteeing the rule of law, human rights, and respect for minorities, as well as having a functioning market economy -- technically anyone can join. In the late 1980s, Morocco -- with its eyes on the market just 16 kilometers across the Straits of Gibraltar -- applied to join the union, only to be told it was not European enough.
Following the accession of 10 mostly Central and Eastern European countries on 1 May, one of the big questions is: Where next? If all goes well, Romania and Bulgaria (and possibly Croatia) will join in 2007. In the event that they meet the demands of Copenhagen, the remaining countries of the western Balkans and Turkey are probably next on the list, perhaps sometime in the next decade.
After that, the choices become less palatable. Ukraine is still trying to make the right noises, but its enthusiasm for reforms remains laconic at best. Moldova, Europe's poorest country, has a flimsy civil society and a glacial pace of reform. It is burdened by Transdniester -- a pro-Russian breakaway region that is a lawless paradise for gangsters and arms dealers. Belarus, hamstrung by the erratic populism of autocratic President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and its unreformed Soviet-style economy, is a particularly unattractive prospect.
Farther east, there are the countries of the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The latter's "Rose Revolution" in November brought the region back onto policymakers' radar screens, but subsequent tensions over the republic of Adjaria represent a major step backward for Georgia. Armenia's strongman president, Robert Kocharian, has meanwhile moved ruthlessly to quash opposition demands for his resignation. Azerbaijan remains isolated from the European family over shortcomings like the continuing standoff for Nagorno-Karabakh, the government's stubborn refusal to free all political prisoners, and a general lack of respect for democracy and human rights.
John Palmer, the political director of the Brussels-based European Policy Center, thinks that after the countries of the western Balkans get accepted, "we might see the end of classic enlargement."
That could usher in a multispeed Europe -- one that allows for a certain amount of differentiation. European politicians have always balked at the term, for all its connotations of a Europe divided between dunces and high-flyers. More recently it has been seen as French President Jacques Chirac's Plan B -- an opportunity for France and Germany to forge ahead with an inward-looking European agenda after the failure of the European constitution talks late last year.
Yet a multispeed EU might be the only way the union can expand further while maintaining the standards laid out in the acquis communautaire and not overstretching the purse strings of the richest member states. The recurring nightmare for many European politicians is that the inclusion of dubious democracies -- like Moldova or Ukraine -- would seriously discredit the union. The EU would become an ailing franchise, the political equivalent of a fast-food giant letting any old greasy spoon hang its global logo above the door. Even the much-maligned Eurovision song contest would garner more respect on the international stage.
Early signs of the EU's willingness to embrace differentiation can be seen in the Wider Europe program, which is a framework for countries in the western NIS and southern Mediterranean who will soon find themselves sharing a border with the union. Countries in the Wider Europe program have been offered the prospect of full participation in the EU's market and its four fundamental freedoms -- goods, capital, services, and, eventually, people -- provided they adhere to certain core values and show concrete progress in political, economic, and institutional reforms. The ethos of the program is "Integration, Not Membership."
In the future, if the EU abandoned its open-door policy, states on the fringes of the union would not become full members of the union, but there would be some elements of shared sovereignty. Europe might become what has been termed a "union of concentric circles," with an inner core that accepts the acquis communautaire in full, monetary union, the Common Agricultural Policy, and then wider circles of countries accepting decreasing levels of commitment.
Europe a la carte exists already to some degree, most notably with the single currency, and the European Policy Center's Palmer says these types of ad hoc alliances and groupings will become more common. Countries will club together and pursue various shared policy interests.
There are several significant problems with such a differentiated approach. The first, according to Jonathan Lipkin, an analyst for Oxford Analytica writing for EUObserver.com, is "how overlapping coalitions of states could find a way to put in place coherent and effective administrative and enforcement mechanisms."
The second is that prospective partners, or members, might not go for an "accession lite." Anything less than full membership "just doesn't do it for these countries. It's not enough," says Gergana Noutcheva, an enlargement expert at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. And as financier and philanthropist George Soros wrote in a syndicated column for Project Syndicate in March, "The most powerful tool that the EU has for influencing political and economic developments in neighboring countries is the prospect of membership."
Further expansion will also require a good deal of housekeeping. The brouhaha about the draft constitution in December illustrated the shortcomings of the decision-making process within a larger union. Without reform, the situation would only get worse. "The bigger the EU gets, the national veto will become more a source of paralysis," Palmer says. That means the union will have to rely more heavily on qualified majority voting (QMV) in the future.
The likelihood and extent of further expansion (in terms of political will and popular tolerance) will depend largely on how this most recent wave goes. Enlargement fatigue has already set in. The richest EU states are worried about the cost of integration and are currently sparring with the European Commission about capping the budget. Europeans outside the Euro-elite tend to be lukewarm about EU expansion. According to a November Eurobarometer poll, 54 percent of the French public opposed enlargement.
It would only take a few high-level scandals (diseased Slovak chickens or embezzled structural funds earmarked for a children's hospital in Poznan, perhaps) for the mood to swing further against enlargement. Britain's recent backpedaling over migration after a few scaremongering stories in the tabloid press about the imminent arrival of job-stealing, welfare-sapping Eastern Europeans showed the impact that public opinion can have on government policy.
TANKER EXPLOSION IN AFGHANISTAN KILLS 39, INJURES SCORES
At least 39 people were killed and approximately another 40 injured when a gas tanker exploded in the market area of Azizabad, a village in the Shindand District in the southern part of western Herat Province, according to international news agencies on 2 May. Provincial police chief Zia-Ulldin Mahmodi reported to AFP that at least half of the injured had "100 percent burns" and are also likely to die. The cause of the accidental explosion, according to officials, was "careless welding." Herat government spokesperson Qarim Masoom told Reuters on 2 May, "It was an accident. A gas truck had some problem and the driver tried to weld it. That set off an explosion that triggered another explosion." Valerie Gentner, a spokesperson for the French nongovernmental organization, Doctors of the World, told AFP that the Herat hospital was not prepared to handle the emergency. KM
SENIOR LEADERS OF AFGHAN OPPOSITION GROUP MEET KARZAI
At least 10 members of the decision-making council of Hezb-e Islami-e Afghanistan met with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 2 May, according to state-run Kabul Radio Afghanistan the same day. Along with Karzai, Deputy Head of State and Minister of Defense Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Deputy Head of State Mohammad Karim Khalili were also present at the meeting. Declared a terrorist group by the U.S. for its alliance with former Taliban, Hezb-e Islami has reportedly denounced violence in a bid to join the political process, according to "The New York Times" on 3 May. After "months of negotiations with [Karzai]," the paper reported, Khaled Farooqi, head of the party in Paktika Province, said at a news conference on 2 May, "[Hezb-e Islami] wants to play an effective role in bringing about peace." Farooqi declared that the party has no contact with renegade leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and that it supports the Afghan National Army and police forces. KM
FOUR KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN...
Four alleged militants were killed after a U.S. military convoy was attacked near Gardayz in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia on 1 May, according to AP the next day. When two U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack on the convoy, according to U.S. spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Michele DeWerth, airstrikes were requested. DeWerth reported that four militants were killed by the airstrikes, two were injured, and two detained. Provincial police chief General Haygul Salemankhel, however, claimed that the four men were actually policemen mistaken as militants and that the incident took place at a police checkpoint, AP reported. "Because of a misunderstanding, they opened fire on each other," Salemankhel told the news agency. This most recent incident in Afghanistan raises the number of reported violent deaths in 2004 to more than 300. Neo-Taliban attacks have accounted for a majority of these deaths. KM
...AS AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS U.S. SOUGHT 'AFGHAN GUARD FORCE' TO FIGHT TERRORISM
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi announced that the ministry will recruit Afghan militia units from all over the country to join a Kabul-based, 2,000-strong Afghan Guard Force to fight terrorism, AP reported on 2 May. "If they are needed in any place to suppress terrorism, we will send them," Azimi told AP. The U.S. requested that the Afghan Defense Ministry establish the force in order to improve its cooperation with various Afghan militias. Critics worry, however, that this program to establish official cooperation with regional militias will undermine the internationally supported programs to disarm factional leaders throughout the country, many of whom have not cooperated fully with the central Afghan Transitional Administration. The guard force is to be disbanded within two years, said Azimi, when the Afghan National Army is stronger and able to fight terrorism and other threats. KM
IRAN SAYS U.S. IS IRAQ'S NEW SADDAM HUSSEIN...
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 2 May in Tehran that "today the people of Iraq are fighting America," because it has "replaced Saddam [Hussein] in opposing [Iraqis], and that is the greatest defeat," ISNA reported. The United States pursues its own interests in Iraq, he said, adding that this explains "policies that seem a little strange," such as the decision to allow former Ba'athists back into the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2004). Assefi said U.S. strategy in Iraq is based on "trial and error" because "it has not had a strategy or has had the wrong strategy," ISNA reported. He repeated a ministry advisory against travel to Iraq by Iranian nationals due to insecurity, ISNA reported. Separately, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is to return to Europe on 3 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 April 2004), to discuss Mideast politics and Iran's nuclear program with European officials in Belgium, Denmark, and Germany, ISNA added. VS
...AND REJECTS NUCLEAR BOMB AND TERRORISM CHARGES
Assefi rejected on 2 May recent charges that Iran is hiding a nuclear-weapons program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2004), ISNA reported the same day. "The [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] must not be politicized, but considered technically and scientifically," he told a Tehran press conference. "Regarding the [International Atomic Energy] agency our cooperation continues, as will the voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment." He said exiles linked to Mujahedin Khalq Organization rebels have "made up" charges that Iran seeks nuclear bombs so that they can win the attention of "America and the West," ISNA reported. "Westerners do not accept this claim, which merits little attention." On 30 April, Assefi rejected as "repetitive, demagogical, and worthless" charges by the U.S. State Department that Iran backs terrorists, "Iran" reported the next day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2004). In supporting "the terrorist regime of Israel," the United States "has had an active role in spreading murder and terrorism and is not in a position to assess the record of others. " VS
IRANIAN LEADER SAYS U.S. WANTS TO 'SWALLOW' MIDEAST
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on 1 May in Tehran that the "gang running America under [Israeli] stage management...is out to gobble up" the Middle East, but "this enormous mouthful...will kill them," "Iran" reported the next day. The United States uses the "unacceptable logic of all dictators" in justifying Israel's selective assassination of Palestinian militants as a defensive move, he told a gathering of teachers and workers. It lacks "convincing arguments" for its policies and "is in decline," he said, "and the people of the world will witness the destruction of this arrogant regime." Khamenei said U.S. forces are in Iraq to "control Iraq's oil resources and serve the interests of Zionist companies," and "current events in Iraq show that American slogans to defend human rights, freedom, and democracy are a deceitful boast," "Iran" reported. British and U.S. forces, he said, are "suppressing the people" because they are stuck in Iraq, "like a wolf caught in a trap," "Iran" reported. VS
IRANIAN REFORMER GOES ON TRIAL
Muhammad Salamati, the secretary-general of the reformist Organization of the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin, went on trial on 2 May in Tehran on charges he insulted Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders, made false allegations against them, and insulted clerics, IRNA reported that day. Salamati said "this charge is political," though the judiciary says such charges do not legally exist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2004). The session was public, but without a jury, IRNA reported. The IRGC and Tehran's public prosecutor pressed charges when Salamati's party publicly criticized an open letter by the IRGC accusing reformists of serving U.S. interests in Iran, IRNA reported. Separately, parliament will ratify a recent judiciary directive to safeguard prisoner rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2004), "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 2 May. "We wish to give this directive a legal aspect [to make it] more obligatory," the daily quoted legislator Ebrahim Amini as saying. The legislature will debate it within days, after it examines a bill on the 2005-2010 five-year plan, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). VS
IRAQI INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS ROLE IN OPERATING PRISONS
Iraqi Interior Minister Samir Shakir Mahmud al-Sumaydi'i called for Iraqi participation in the running of prisons following allegations of prisoner abuse by U.S. and U.K. forces in Iraq, Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television reported on 1 May. "We will seek to make the Interior Ministry take part in the measures and in the administration of the affairs of prisoners," he said. Iraqi and coalition forces should "agree on a method of treating prisoners in the wake of the [30 June] transfer of authority so that the Iraqi authorities will have a primary role in treating them," al-Sumaydi'i added. Iraqi Governing Council member Muhsin Abd al-Hamid criticized coalition forces over purported photographs of prisoner abuse published in the Western press, telling Al-Jazeera television on 1 May: "These photos show a flagrant aggression against the Iraqi people's dignity, because most of the prisoners are innocent. How can the army and soldiers of a modern country that claims that it came to liberate Iraq commit these crimes against citizens and prisoners?" KR
U.S. COMMANDER SAYS FORMER HUSSEIN GENERAL NOT IN CHARGE
General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on 2 May that Iraqi General Jassim Muhammad Salih, who served under former President Saddam Hussein, will almost certainly not command the Al-Fallujah Brigade, Reuters reported the same day. "My guess is, it would not be General Salih.... He will not be their leader," Myers told ABC Television's "This Week" program. "He may have a role to play, but that vetting has yet to take place." Reuters reported on 3 May, however, that Salih might continue heading the 1st Battalion of the brigade if Muhammad Latif assumes command of the brigade. Latif also served as a general under the Hussein regime, but he ultimately opposed Hussein's rule. Salih's participation in the new Iraqi army has drawn widespread criticism from many Iraqis because of his former role in the Iraqi Republican Guards, which he purportedly led during the suppression of the 1991 Shi'ite uprising against the Hussein regime. KR
GOVERNING COUNCIL APPARENTLY DIVIDED OVER APPOINTMENTS
Iraqi Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told Cairo's Voice of the Arabs in a 2 May interview that the decision to hire senior army officers from the ranks of the former Hussein regime "reflects a 180-degree shift in policy." Uthman criticized Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer for the decision, saying, "We believe that Bremer is somewhat confused when it comes to solving problems." The Iraqi National Congress (INC) issued a press statement via e-mail on 1 May that was signed by INC head and Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, as well as Shi'ite council member Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), although it was not directly attributed to SCIRI head and council member Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. The statement read in part: "We stand strongly against this move because it seriously threatens the security and future of Iraq." Meanwhile, Kurdish council member Jalal Talabani said on 2 May that Salih's appointment is acceptable to the Governing Council, Reuters reported the same day. "Because the people of [Al-]Fallujah choose this man and this man will do his best, we must forget something that happened in the past," he said. KR
GROUP THREATENS TO BRING 'RESISTANCE' TO BAGHDAD
The anticoalition terrorist group Al-Mujahedin Brigades has reportedly been circulating statements in Baghdad calling on Iraqis to refrain from leaving their homes, attending schools, or walking in markets as the group prepares to launch attacks against the coalition in the Iraqi capital, London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 1 May. "Your mujahedin brothers in Al-Ramadi, Al-Khalidiyah, and Al-Fallujah will bring the fire of the resistance to the capital Baghdad and lend support to our mujahedin brothers in the Al-Mahdi Army with the aim of liberating you from the injustice of the occupation. Forewarned is forearmed," the statement reads. The statement also calls on all business owners to close their establishments. KR