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Newsline - May 7, 2004

In a lavish Kremlin ceremony on 7 May, President Vladimir Putin formally took the oath of office for his second term, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "The presidential duties of preserving the state and faithfully serving the people will remain sacrosanct for me," Putin said. "I shall do everything in my power to justify the hopes of millions of people." Putin spoke about the achievements of his first four years in office, saying he has restored the country's territorial integrity and had success combating terrorism. Following the official inauguration ceremony, Putin met privately in the Kremlin's Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II. Former President Boris Yeltsin was prevented by ill health from attending the ceremony, Reuters reported. Yeltsin's wife, Naina, was present. RC

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov submitted his resignation and that of his cabinet to President Putin on 7 May, as required by the Russian Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2004), and other Russian media reported. Putin was expected to sign a decree naming an acting prime minister -- almost certainly Fradkov -- to serve until he submits a new government to the Duma and the legislature approves it. Putin said earlier that the government will remain "basically" the same. However, the government's press service noted that "the final word belongs to the president." RC

More than 1,700 people were invited to President Putin's inauguration, reported on 6 May. Included on the guest list were the speakers of both houses, the chairpersons of all judiciary bodies, representatives of the country's main religions, ambassadors, key business figures, and some journalists. Nevertheless, some well-known figures were left off the list. Former presidential candidate and leader of the Free Russia movement Irina Khakamada was not invited, nor were deputy Yabloko leaders Sergei Mitrokhin and Sergei Ivanenko, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 May. Mitrokhin said that in theory, all political-party leaders were to be invited, but apparently political loyalty also played a role. JAC

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 6 May that Moscow welcomes the peaceful resolution of the dispute between the central Georgian government and the autonomous region of Adjaria, Interfax reported. "We are satisfied with the fact that the situation surrounding Adjaria was settled in a peaceful manner and that the parties managed to avoid bloodshed, the option Russia has always favored," Lavrov said following talks with Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili. Lavrov emphasized that the dispute was an internal matter for Georgia, but added that Moscow welcomes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's promises to preserve Adjaria's autonomy. State Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov (Unified Russia) said on 6 May that former Adjar leader Aslan Abashidze "acted courageously" in stepping down to avoid a conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. "There is no doubt that the visit to [the Adjar capital] Batumi by Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov influenced Abashidze's decision," Morozov said. RC

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 6 May that the resolution of the Adjar conflict was the work of U.S. intelligence services, Interfax reported. "This is another successful operation by American [special] services, which are aiming at stronger positions in the Caucasus," Zyuganov said. He said the Georgian government is completely controlled by the United States. "The Georgian administration does not set about trying to solve any serious problems without the American ambassador," Zyuganov said. "It looks as though the Russian authorities have just followed the trail of Uncle Bush's policy and served his interests rather than their own." RC

Police in Orenburg raided the offices of the local nonstate OREN-TV television station on 6 May and seized several computers and hard-disc drives, ITAR-TASS and reported. According to police, the raid was carried out after police detected an illegal attempt to enter their computer network and traced it back to the television station. OREN-TV staff, however, told that the raid was carried out in retaliation for a critical program aired about a week ago. The channel was forced to stop broadcasting during the several hours that police, many of whom were in masks, searched the premises. OREN-TV journalists denied having attempted to enter the police computer network and said the charges are an illegal attempt to compel the station to reveal the sources of their information. RC

In a meeting with Central Election Commission (TsIK) members on 6 May, President Putin praised the 2001 law on political parties, ITAR-TASS reported. "There have been many disputes and struggles over the law on political parties, but the practice of recent months and years has confirmed the correctness of the choice," he said. He noted that 46 parties are currently registered by the Justice Ministry and "have the right to remain in the political arena, which is quite enough for voters making their choice." TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov suggested the same day that Russia should switch to a system of electing State Duma deputies entirely through proportional party lists, Ekho Moskvy reported. Currently, one-half of the Duma is selected by party lists and the other half by voting in single-mandate districts. According to "Vremya novostei" on 7 May, Veshnyakov also favors lowering the threshold for parties to enter local legislative assemblies to 5 percent of the total vote. Currently, 10 percent is required in some regions. Veshnyakov said such amendments to current legislation will be introduced to the Duma early next year. JAC

Some Duma deputies oppose Veshnyakov's proposed changes, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 May. Deputy Galina Khovanskaya (independent), who was nominated by the Yabloko party in the December elections, said changes would mean "that there are no places left for independent legislators." Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin (Motherland) said legislators from single-mandate districts are linked to particular areas and particular residents. On the other hand, Yabloko deputy leader Mitrokhin said his party supports the idea, in part because single-mandate-district legislators are not responsive to voters but to regional administrations. After they come to Moscow, they become reliant on the Kremlin, Mitrokhin said. Communist Party deputy faction leader Ivan Melnikov said his party would support the idea under certain conditions, but not if it were "an artificial move toward the two-party system that the authorities are currently trying to build." JAC

The idea of creating two opposing political parties on the basis of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party is now circulating in Moscow, political analyst Igor Kharichev reported in "Rodnaya gazeta," No. 17. The idea, according to Kharichev, is that Unified Russia would split into two parties, like the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, and this would ensure the development of "a real two-party system in Russia." Kharichev noted that the party's Duma faction is already diverse enough that it would not be hard to divide the group into liberals and non-liberals or socialists and non-socialists. Kharichev also reported that in Kaluga Oblast, anyone seeking a government job or a job with an enterprise controlled by the local administration must be a member of Unified Russia. The requirement, according to local authorities, was imposed "from above." JAC

Igor Kovalevskii, executive secretary of the Russian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters in Moscow on 6 May that certain steps taken by Vatican representatives could be interpreted as proselytism, Interfax reported. "However, this was not done deliberately," he said. Kovalevskii was speaking following the first session of a joint working group for relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches. "The Vatican is not pursuing any proselytism policy and has no goal of making Russia a Catholic nation," Kovalevskii added. Kovalevskii's remarks followed comments made by Mikhail Dudko, secretary for cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the public of the Moscow Patriarchate, in Rome last month, in which he suggested that a meeting between the heads of the two churches is "very likely" if the two churches resume their dialogue, reported on 5 May. JAC

Prosecutors spent several hours searching the Moscow offices of embattled oil giant Yukos on 6 May, seizing documents and presenting several managers with summonses to appear for questioning, and other Russian media reported. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly searched the building and other Yukos and Yukos-sibsidiaries' offices during its months-long probe into alleged tax evasion. Yukos shares fell by 2 percent on the day. RC

A new book by a former Interfax reporter who covered the Kremlin provides new details of life in the Kremlin under Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 6 May. The book, "Postoronnii v Kremle," was written by Boris Grishchenko, who died on 21 April. According to Grishchenko, in the fall of 1994, during British Queen Elizabeth II's official visit to Moscow, few people understood the finer details of royal protocol, least of all Yeltsin. Greeting the queen, Yeltsin told her that it was not cold in the Kremlin and that she should take her coat off. He then leaned over to assist her with her coat. "Her Majesty, as [agile] a basketball player, evaded the presidential hands with a kind of a feint, instantly finding herself seated in the corner of a sofa. Yeltsin sat next to her, and the conversation flowed smoothly into an impersonal protocol [mode]." JAC

Dacha season unofficially began in the city of Samara and other Volga regions cities on 2 May, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported on 5 May. The transportation department of the Samara mayoral administration earlier promised that 200 more buses would be on the roads to accommodate the expected surge in travel from the city to the countryside, but the promise was not fulfilled. Difficulties with transportation have prompted some local pensioners to sell their dachas. However, local retiree Viktor Timofeev told RFE/RL that for pensioners on fixed incomes, dachas are a necessity. "They can grow potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, various green vegetables, parsley, and bay leaves," Timofeev said. Last summer, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported that dacha burglaries were on the upswing nationwide, as thieves hit the summer homes while they are unoccupied between October and May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). JAC

Interfax quoted an unnamed source within the Chechen division of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 6 May as saying that office has no knowledge of any attempt to prevent the surrender of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. In an interview with "Trud" on 6 May, Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads the personal guard of his father, pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, claimed that he met with a group of Maskhadov's emissaries to discuss Maskhadov's surrender following the surrender of Chechen Defense Minister Magomed Khambiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 11, and 12 March 2004), but that the FSB surrounded and stormed the two houses where Kadyrov had found accommodation for the envoys, killing three of them and wounding four others. The unnamed FSB official told Interfax that the FSB would have been aware of it if any such incident had occurred, regardless of who the attackers were. He also said Maskhadov was in Daghestan last month and that federal forces, including the FSB, continue both to search for Maskhadov and to seek to establish contact with him in the hope of persuading him to surrender. LF

Thirteen representatives of all parliament factions, including five members of the opposition alliance Artarutiun and the opposition National Accord Party, met for five hours on 6 May at the initiative of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian to discuss approaches to defusing political tensions, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The participants reportedly agreed on the need to "create a new situation in the country" and drafted a 32-point agenda for further consultations. Viktor Dallakian, a senior member of Artarutiun, told RFE/RL that the agenda includes both issues that figured during previous talks and in last week's resolution on Armenia adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as others raised by the three-party governing coalition. He also said the two sides plan to discuss the opposition's demand for a nationwide referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian. LF

President Kocharian told journalists in Yerevan on 6 May that he considers the recommendations contained in last week's PACE resolution on Armenia "normal," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. At the same time, Kocharian said its description of recent developments in Armenia contains "serious inaccuracies." Kocharian also pointed out that in terms of ensuring compliance with its own rulings, the Council of Europe does not have the authority of the Soviet-era Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and he personally cannot force government agencies to implement the council's demands. He said Yerevan will present to the PACE by June, as requested, a written response to the demands contained in the resolution. Among the developments criticized by the PACE was the practice of fining protest participants or sentencing them to administrative detention. A court in the central town of Charentsavan handed down three such rulings on 5 May to residents of neighboring villages who attended the protest rally in Yerevan the previous day. The men were arrested and forced to sign "confessions" that they had defied police, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. LF

The preliminary hearing opened on 7 May at Azerbaijan's Court for Grave Crimes in the trial of seven prominent opposition figures charged for their roles in the clashes between police and protesters in Baku on 15-16 October in the wake of the disputed presidential ballot, Turan reported. Defeated presidential candidate and Musavat party Chairman Isa Gambar, three of whose subordinates are among the defendants, was barred from entering the courtroom, which holds only 46 people. Some 1,000 opposition supporters congregated outside the building, demanding the defendants' release. The proceedings were suspended after one hour and should resume on 12 May. LF

By 137 votes in favor and one against, deputies approved on 6 May a resolution empowering Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to dismiss the parliament and government of the Adjar Autonomous Republic and schedule new elections, Georgian media reported. Following a protracted standoff with Saakashvili, Aslan Abashidze stepped down late the previous day as Adjar Supreme Council chairman and left Georgia for Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2004). Georgian Prosecutor-General Irakli Okruashvili said on 6 May that the guarantees of immunity that the Georgian authorities extended to Abashidze and members of his entourage will not be revoked, Georgian media reported. "I do not think we shall open criminal proceedings," Caucasus Press quoted Okruashvili as saying. LF

The Supreme Council of the Adjar Autonomous Republic voted late on 6 May to abolish the position of republican head occupied until the previous day by Abashidze, Georgian media reported. The legislature of the autonomous republic also scheduled new parliamentary elections within 40 days and then dissolved itself. Also on 6 May, President Saakashvili named Georgian Railways Director Levan Varsholamidze to head an interim council that will rule Adjaria until new elections are held. ITAR-TASS on 6 May quoted Rostom Djaparidze as saying he has resigned from the post of Adjar prime minister and that the remaining ministers will also resign, but that he does not plan to leave Adjaria. Abashidze named Djaparidze prime minister last month. Also on 6 May, Abashidze's representative in Tbilisi, Hamlet Chipashvili, told Caucasus Press that Abashidze's political party, the Union for Democratic Revival, will be dissolved. LF

Prosecutor-General Okruashvili and Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze have promised immunity from prosecution to members of Adjar armed groups who surrender their weapons within seven days, the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported on 6 May. Georgia's Ministry of State Security estimates the number of such illegal armed groups at 30, Caucasus Press reported. Some 200 people handed in machine guns on 6 May, while the State Security Ministry confiscated two tanks. Saakashvili announced on 6 May that searches in Batumi located eight storehouses containing arms and ammunition. LF

Major General Roman Dumbadze, the commander of a Georgian division based in Batumi who pledged his loyalty to Abashidze last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 21 April 2004), was apprehended in Batumi on 6 May and taken to Tbilisi, where he has been charged with high treason, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. That crime carries a possible life sentence. LF

Temur Khachishvili, who served as Georgian interior minister in the early 1990s, was released from pretrial detention on 6 May and the charge against him of illegal possession of arms was dropped, Caucasus Press reported. Khachishvili was imprisoned in 1998 for his alleged role in the August 1995 attempt to assassinate then-Georgian parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, but released in 2002 and subsequently co-founded a political party that advocates close ties with Russia. He was arrested last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2004). LF

Kazakhstan's cabinet decided on 6 May to increase 2004 budget expenditures by $424 million, Khabar TV reported the same day. Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov noted that the decision to increase expenditures came in response to President Nursultan Nazarbaev's recent "state of the nation" address and was made possible by increased revenues due to high oil prices, KazInform reported. Initial budget forecasts estimated an oil price of $22 per barrel; current prices are approximately $27 per barrel. The cabinet also revised 2004 GDP projections upward to 5.083 trillion tenges ($37 billion) from 4.877 trillion tenges. The amendments will now be submitted to parliament. DK

The Interior Ministry issued an open appeal on 6 May asking for information that could help solve the 5 May killing of Chynybek Aliev, who headed the ministry's corruption-fighting directorate, KyrgyzInfo reported on 6 May. Aliev was gunned down in Bishkek by unknown assailants wielding automatic weapons, reported on 5 May. Kyrgyz TV quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Joldoshbek Busurmankulov as saying on 6 May: "Aliev was investigating contract killings and achieved certain results. He was...moving toward finding the main mastermind behind the contract killings.... Therefore, the [criminals] presumably decided to eliminate him." DK

Kyrgyzstan's "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported on 6 May that the latest round of Kyrgyz-Tajik border-delimitation talks, held on 3-6 May, failed to "produce the expected results." The two countries remain at odds over the maps that should serve as the basis for delimiting the border, with Kyrgyzstan proposing 1958 maps and Tajikistan proposing maps from 1925 and 1927. Kyrgyzstan's Batken Oblast shares a 613-kilometer border with Tajikistan, a significant portion of which is disputed. Border talks are likely to continue at some point this spring. DK

Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattorov said on 6 May that the possible withdrawal of Russia's 201st Motorized Infantry Division from Tajikistan "has not been and is not on the agenda," Asia Plus-Blitz reported the same day. He went on to say, "Neither the Tajik nor the Russian side has raised the question of the division's withdrawal." Speaking in Brussels on 5 May, General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of Russia's General Staff, said that talks on the future of Russian-Tajik military cooperation are proceeding, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency quoted Kvashnin as saying: "I am confident that we will reach the relevant agreements. There are no special problems." Recent reports had hinted at deadlocked negotiations and the possible withdrawal of Russia's 201st Division from Tajikistan. DK

President Saparmurat Niyazov issued a resolution on 6 May appointing Colonel Gurbanguly Gurbanguliev commander of Turkmenistan's Air Force, Turkmen TV reported the same day. Gurbanguliev had held the post of deputy air force commander. DK

Citing sources in the Turkmen Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May that Turkmenistan is boosting exports of natural gas. According to the news agency, exports for the first four months of 2004 totaled 17.6 billion cubic meters, a 10 percent year-on-year increase. Gas production rose 7 percent during the same period. The top three purchasers were, in order, Ukraine, Iran, and Russia. The report also indicated that the production of liquefied natural gas is increasing rapidly, rising 80 percent year-on-year to 108,300 tons in the first four months of 2004. DK

The State Security Committee (KGB) has formally charged Mikhail Marynich, a former Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland as well as former foreign-trade minister, with "illegal actions regarding firearms, ammunition, and explosives," Belapan reported on 6 May. The KGB, which arrested Marynich on 26 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2004), claimed to have seized classified government documents, two unregistered foreign-made pistols, and more than $90,000 in cash from him. According to Belarusian Television on 6 May, Marynich confessed that the money -- part of which is reportedly counterfeit -- was to have been spent on financing "selected candidates" in this year's legislative election. Belarusian opposition activists view Marynich's arrest as politically motivated. Marynich unsuccessfully tried to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 2001 presidential election. JM

Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ruslan Yesin on 6 May expressed regret over European Commission President Romano Prodi's pronouncement earlier this week that Belarus and Ukraine have no prospects of joining the EU members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2004), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "We hope that the European Union will continue active cooperation with the Republic of Belarus both at the level of the Foreign Ministry leadership and bilateral relations with EU members," Yesin said. JM

Belarus's Education Ministry, which was obliged by a presidential decree to review licenses for all universities in the country by 1 May, has not revealed its decision with regard to the private European Humanitarian University (EHU) in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 6 May. Formally branded illegal, the EHU has already ceased its financial activities and is going to do the same with regard to its classes next week. "The EHU has found itself in an emergency situation," EHU Legal Faculty Deacon Ala Sakalova told RFE/RL. "The authorities remain silent [about our license], while students are waiting for some decision. Some 1,000 students and 250 lecturers are being kept in an absolutely incomprehensible and alarming state." Some in the university believe the current situation with the license is linked to an earlier attempt by Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou to force EHU Rector Anatol Mikhaylau resign. Radzkou reportedly complained that the EHU hosts too many foreigners (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 9 March 2004). JM

Five people were killed by a powerful blast at an ammunition depot in the village of Novobohdanivka, Zaporizhzhya Oblast, on 6 May, Ukrainian news media reported. The authorities have evacuated some 5,000 people from the vicinity of the depot, which has been on fire since the blast. JM

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on 6 May said European integration remains the country's basic foreign-policy priority, Interfax reported. "Ukraine is not changing its strategic plans," Yanukovych said, commenting on a recent statement by European Commission President Romano Prodi that Ukraine has no place in the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2004). "We must build a Europe in our state." JM

Prime Minister Yanukovych also stressed on 6 May that Ukraine might pull its military contingent out of Iraq if Ukrainian enterprises are denied participation in the reconstruction of that country or the United Nations fails to take control of the situation there, Interfax reported. "If the UN does not take responsibility for bringing order [to Iraq] in the near future, if Ukraine fails to get an immediate opportunity to take part in the measures that are planned in Iraq, our partners should realize that we reserve the right to withdraw our contingent," Yanukovych said. "It was not written in the protocol, but I personally feel this way." JM

Yanukovych has replaced his spokesman, Taras Avrakhov, with Hanna Herman, who served as the head of the RFE/RL bureau in Kyiv, Interfax reported on 6 May. Herman told journalists that she was offered the post of government press secretary on 1 May, one day after she recorded an interview with Yanukovych for RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2004). JM

Amnesty International issued a report on 6 May in which it argues that human trafficking, the sex trade, and forced prostitution have rapidly increased in Kosova since the arrival of international peacekeepers in 1999, local and international media reported. The report claims that the number of venues at which trafficked girls are being exploited has grown from 18 in 1999 to more than 200 in 2003. The victims come mainly from other Eastern European countries, including Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, the group claims. Organized-crime structures frequently promise girls as young as 11 years old jobs in Kosova and then force them into prostitution, it adds. International forces are "not only failing to protect the human rights of the women and girls, but are in many cases themselves using them for sexual gratification and are even allegedly involved in trafficking itself," London's "The Independent" quoted the report as saying. (The full report can be found at UB

In a press release related to its 6 May report, Amnesty International calls on authorities in Kosova, including the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), to implement measures aimed at ending the trafficking of women and girls to, from, and within Kosova for forced prostitution. "The authorities should also ensure that measures are taken to protect victims of trafficking, and to afford them the right to redress and reparation for the human rights abuses they have suffered," the release states. The organization also calls on the United Nations and NATO to implement measures to ensure that any members of military and civilian peacekeeping forces suspected of criminal offenses associated with trafficking are brought to justice. UB

In a report to the UN Security Council on Kosova on 5 May, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the outbreak of violence in Kosova in March was "an organized and targeted campaign" to drive out Kosova's Serbian, Romany, and Ashkali communities, the "Southeast European Times" reported. Annan said the violent clashes threatened to destabilize the region, adding that they also lead to questions about the timetable for the successful implementation of the standards set by the international community. "The events had shown that the international community's determination to ensure Kosovo's path of coexistence and reconciliation is, on its own, not sufficient," according to a UN press release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 March and 4 May 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 March, 2 and 16 April 2004). UB

Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and her visiting Albanian counterpart Kastriot Islami told a joint news conference in Skopje on 6 May that the two countries are united in their wish for dynamic cooperation and their common aim to join NATO and the EU, MIA reported. Mitreva said she hopes the three countries of the U.S.-Adriatic Charter -- Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia -- receive a clear signal for their membership at the upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). The two ministers also discussed regional infrastructure projects such as the Trans-European corridor No. 8 and the AMBO oil-pipeline project running through Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2004). Mitreva also lauded recent Albanian efforts to improve the integration of the Macedonian minority in Albania. Islami and Mitreva agreed to open two new border checkpoints, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. UB

After meeting with his visiting Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase, Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen said on 6 May that his country will support Romanian efforts to conclude EU accession negotiations this year, Mediafax reported. Rasmussen added that he is aware the accession process means "great efforts and that there are still problems to be solved," but said the 2007 target for Romanian and Bulgarian admission should be respected. Nastase said the Romanian government merely expects a "fair and friendly evaluation" of Romanian efforts to meet accession criteria. Nastase was on a one-day visit to Copenhagen. ZsM

The U.S. Embassy in Romania issued a press release on 6 May protesting a declaration the same day by the European Commission delegation suggesting that the U.S. Embassy acts in the narrow interest of American adoptive families, Mediafax reported. The European Commission stated that the EU "supports the child legislation best protecting the interests of the contrast with a policy that concerns the interest of families who want to adopt children in all possible countries." The commission's press release came after a 6 May reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, promoting international adoptions, which was attended by 20 American families with adopted Romanian children. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and 23 members of the U.S. Congress recently urged Romanian lawmakers to revise the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 April 2004). ZsM

Lawmakers in Chisinau on 6 May adopted in their first reading amendments to the Moldovan legislature's internal rules that would allow members to be forcefully removed and other sanctions for perceived misbehavior, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Deputies from the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCRM) initiated the amendments in an effort to end protests by members of the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) who blocked access to parliament's central rostrum. The PPCD were protesting the chamber's refusal to publish financial reports on the use of parliamentary, presidential, and other central institutions' budget funds. The new internal rules would allow for a 10-session ban on attendance for parliamentarians who were deemed to have misbehaved by a parliamentary majority. ZsM

Despite continued violence in southern Afghanistan, there are signs that an appeal by the central government to reach out to opponents might be bearing fruit.

This week, a breakaway faction of the radical Islamic group Hizb-e Islami, which has been blamed for guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan's restive south and east, announced that it wants peace and a constructive role to play in the U.S.-backed government of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai.

Although the group does not represent the whole of Hizb-e Islami or leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- whose whereabouts remain unknown -- analysts say its announcement may signal a positive trend in Afghanistan's evolving "peace process."

The announcement came after Karzai recently appealed to rank-and-file members of the former Taliban regime to stop fighting the government and work to rebuild Afghanistan, which is set to hold general elections in September.

Khalid Farooqi, calling himself the head of Hizb-e Islami's "decision-making body," told a news conference in Kabul on 2 May that he and others in a breakaway faction of the radical Islamic group are tired of fighting and want to contribute to the country's rebirth.

"We hate violence and understand that it will not serve to rehabilitate Afghanistan. We believe that only peaceful discussions between Afghans can create national confidence and resolve problems," Farooqi said.

Fighting between government troops and U.S. soldiers and forces loyal to the Taliban has intensified in recent weeks.

The Taliban, ousted with U.S. help in late 2001, has vowed to wage holy war against the Kabul government, aid workers, foreign troops, and international peacekeeping forces.

Abdul Ghafar Karyab is another member of the Hizb-e Islami faction that says it wants peace. A former mayor of Jalalabad, Karyab told a recent news conference that his group has developed an "atmosphere of trust" after engaging in secret talks with the government. He also urged the government to continue urging opponents to join the political process.

"I don't think that Hizb-e Islami supports terrorism," Karyab said. "In our view, those who think they can solve Afghanistan's problems through military means are wrong. We don't think Afghanistan is an occupied country. We tell these people [government opponents] they should follow the peace process. We have also appealed to the government to invite these people to the peace process. We expect a new initiative of the government to convince all the others who want war, not just Hizb-e Islami, to join the peace process."

Farooqi said his faction had cut all ties with Hizb-e Islami founder Hekmatyar, a former prime minister identified as a "terrorist" by Washington. He said the faction has had no contact with Hekmatyar for the last three years.

The precise whereabouts of Hekmatyar, who rained rockets on Kabul during factional clashes in the 1990s and is believed to have teamed up with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, have been a mystery since he was expelled from Iran in 2002.

Farooqi said fighting no longer interested Hizb-e Islami and that his group supports the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army, higher education for women, free elections, and moves to disarm private militias.

But given Hekmatyar's central role in Hizb-e Islami, analysts question the extent to which the faction's peace gesture represents the whole group -- or could influence its remaining members.

Kathy Gannon, a fellow with New York's Council on Foreign Relations with more than a decade of work as a journalist in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the gesture by Farooqi and his colleagues might be genuine; but it might not mean that much, since they do not represent Hizb-e Islami.

"The thing is, if they haven't had any contact with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, then they don't represent Hizb-e Islami. Then it is [simply] a group of people that are saying that we want to be part of the government," Gannon said.

Yet that in itself might hold the seeds of a significant trend, said Michael Griffin, a British expert on Afghanistan and author of "Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan."

Griffin said that despite the violence that continues to rage in the south and east of the country, Karzai's government stands to gain a lot if he can convince other opponents to choose politics over violence. He said the success of Karzai's appeal to ordinary members of the Taliban and other opponents of the government could go a long way toward determining the country's future stability. Griffin added that Karzai's effort to co-opt insurgents came after long-standing opposition from the U.S. Defense Department.

"For the short-term interests -- for the medium- and long-term interests of Afghanistan, for that matter -- you have to bring in the Pashtun majority," Griffin said. "It's the majority in the south and east of the country which have been fighting most virulently against America and Afghan soldiers -- they've killed 400 [Afghan soldiers] since September 2003. Thus, they need to be compromised. They need to be brought into government. They need very much to be brought into the electoral process. Whether they can handle it or not is another question."

Much like the Taliban, Hizb-e Islami is mostly made up of ethnic Pashtuns.

As in Afghanistan with the Taliban, the Pentagon has also recently reversed its former policy in Iraq that prevented members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party from holding government jobs. Partly in a bid to quell violence against U.S. forces by Sunni Muslims, Washington is now recruiting former members of the mostly Sunni Ba'ath Party for key positions in Iraq.

Gannon said Afghanistan would probably benefit from a similar policy as it gears up for September's presidential and parliamentary elections, its first national polls after years of fighting and instability.

"Demonizing everybody isn't the answer in Afghanistan, and I think that's what Hamid Karzai is saying," Gannon said. "You know, every Pashtun isn't in the Taliban, and every person who's in the Taliban isn't an enemy."

Jeffrey Donovan is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent.

Approximately 2,200 U.S. Marines have been sent to operate from a new military base in central Afghanistan, AFP reported on 6 May. The 22nd U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit established Forward Operating Base Ripley just outside Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan Province. Suspected neo-Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants have been active in the province. U.S. military officials hope the new base, created to support the mission Taskforce Linebacker, will play a role in establishing security before the national elections in September. Base Ripley's commanding officer, Colonel Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., told AFP that "Our mission here is to improve the general security environment and that will lead to successful elections." McKenzie stated that the base camp in the center of the country will help to restrict the movement and activities of militants. "Uruzgan," said McKenzie, "sits central to's a natural transit point for people to move from east and west." KM

Afghan disarmament has yet to begin, reported UN special representative for Afghanistan Jean Arnault on 6 May, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) the same day. Arnault stated that attempts to disarm clashing Afghan militia factions before the national elections, scheduled to take place in September this year, are in "serious jeopardy," CBC reported. "Many of [the militias] have been, in the past two years, involved in factional fighting, which is a continuing cause of instability -- and of suffering for the communities affected by it," Arnault said. The UN has continued to emphasize the necessity of disarming Afghan militias in order to ensure successful elections. KM

The district of Panjsher, formerly a part of Parwan Province and a major center of jihad activities during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s, officially became its own province on 6 May, Bakhtar News Agency reported. Representing Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, First Deputy Head of State and National Defense Minister Marshal Fahim presided over the inaugural ceremony. Several Afghan cabinet members as well as former Afghan jihad leaders attended. "You have made sacrifices to protect the dignity and pride of Afghanistan, so you deserve to have an administration with the new process in Afghanistan through which you can share efforts towards reconstruction of your province," Fahim said at the ceremony. Fahim also encouraged residents of the new province to participate in national reconstruction: "As you showed devotion during jihad and resistance, you should also be committed to the establishment of a friendly atmosphere, national unity, and acceleration of the reconstruction process in the country." KM

The Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 6 May that "it looks as if the solidarity of some members of the Hizb-e Islami party of Afghanistan with the Afghan government has caused discord in the party." AIP said some Hizb-e Islami members were unhappy with recent overtures by the party's central council to the Afghan Transitional Administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2004). A statement by Hizb-e Islami, dated 3 May, was allegedly sent to press offices in Peshawar on 6 May, in which it was stated that the group wanted to make some "clarifications regarding the surrender of some people to the American-backed Kabul government." The statement claimed that the group did not negotiate any agreements with the Kabul administration. Further, Hizb-e Islami claimed in the statement that renegade militant Gulbuddin Hekmetyar remains its leader, the Peshawar-based Afghan daily "Sahar" reported on 6 May. KM

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran on 6 May that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not condemn Iran at the agency's June meeting because "Iran's cooperation so far and respect for its commitments on nuclear issues are very clear and transparent," IRNA reported that day. Assefi was confident that "other countries too will honor their commitments to Iran," including European states, "which have made every effort to respect their commitments," IRNA added (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 May 2004). He said he hopes the IAEA governing board will consider Iran's nuclear dossier "without political maneuvers and with a technical approach, so [it] can return to normal." The board is to state on 14 June whether or not Iran has been entirely truthful on informing about its purportedly peaceful nuclear program. IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei told French legislators in Paris on 6 May that the world will not wait "forever" for Iran to "come clean" on its program, Reuters reported the same day. VS

Relatives of members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), a rebel group formerly based in Iraq and now reportedly disarmed and detained by coalition forces, demonstrated outside the British and Swiss embassies in Tehran on 6 May, demanding the return of family members, IRNA reported the same day. The Swiss embassy handles U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic ties. The agency cited a former MKO member at one of the gatherings as saying that the group is forcibly holding 3,000 members, including some 1,500 women, who wish to return to Iran. The British Embassy in Tehran issued a statement promising to convey the relatives' concerns to U.S. forces, who it stated are guarding the group at the Ashraf camp in Iraq, IRNA added. The United States, the embassy stated, is investigating the cases of these detainees but has yet to decide their fate. The Iraqi Governing Council has said it intends to expel the MKO in June (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 May 2004). VS

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi formed a team on 6 May "to be sent to prisons around the country to inspect their conditions," ISNA cited Hadi Husseini, the head of the judiciary's complaints department, as saying in Tehran the same day. "The team is to be sent to different prisons [on 8 May] and, after inspecting the state of prisons and prisoners, will present [Shahrudi] with its report," Husseini said. The order is part of a new directive in which Shahrudi also instructed provincial judiciary chiefs to spend one a day a week meeting with citizens, as he does, and giving personal attention to "important cases" while referring lesser disputes to "arbitration councils and pseudo-judicial bodies," ISNA reported. Husseini said people should make a written request for an appointment to see Shahrudi. VS

The number of Iranians diagnosed as having contracted the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, rose from 6,327 in the month ending 20 January 2004 to 6,746 in the month ending 19 April 2004, "Iran" reported on 6 May, citing Riyaz Gheiratmand, the head of health care and nutrition at the Education Ministry. The figures he gave, released by the Health Ministry, slightly differ from earlier figures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2004). The latest number includes 698 people in the 5-24 age group, while 20 percent of all women with AIDS are in the 15-24 age group, "Iran" cited him as saying. He said that schools in some regions began AIDS prevention courses in secondary schools one year ago, "though there has been no assessment on these and, certainly, if there are no positive results, we shall stop them," "Iran" reported. VS

President George W. Bush formally apologized for the abuse of Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Washington on 6 May, according to a press release issued on the State Department's website ( "I told [King Abdullah] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him Americans, like me, didn't appreciate what we saw, that it made us sick to our stomachs," Bush told reporters in the White House Rose Garden. KR

Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer appointed Adnan al-Zurufi as the new governor of Al-Najaf on 6 May, according to a press release posted on the State Department website. Bremer described al-Zurufi as "the right man for the job at this time." The new governor holds a degree in Islamic law and participated in the 1991 Shi'ite uprising against Saddam Hussein's regime before he was exiled from Iraq. He returned to Iraq in 2003. Addressing the Iraqi public on 6 May, al-Zurufi outlined four goals of his new administration: to adhere to the rule of law; dissolve all militias and ban weapons in Al-Najaf; to delay all cases [in an apparent reference to fugitive Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr] until the 30 June transfer of power; and to make security the responsibility of the Iraqi police. Al-Zurufi also announced plans to open an employment center in the city and to focus on improving the religious tourism industry there, creating some 10,000 jobs. He also said corruption and bribery will not be tolerated in government offices. KR

A statement purporting to have been written by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and posted to the Al-Qal'ah website ( on 6 May offered 10,000 grams in gold (currently worth roughly $125,000) to anyone who kills CPA administrator Bremer, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq (currently General John Abizaid), or his deputy in Iraq (Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez). The statement called the United Nations a "crusader-Zionist tool" and said whoever kills UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan or UN envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi will be awarded 10,000 grams of gold. Rewards of 1,000 grams of gold were offered to those who kill U.S. or U.K. military personnel or civilians, and 500 grams of gold to those who kill figures from coalition member states. "Whoever is killed after killing one of the soldiers of occupation, the biggest prize [martyrdom] will be for us and for him," the statement read. KR

The purported bin Laden statement posted to Al-Qal'ah website on 6 May also criticized the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), calling it a puppet of the United States. "Members of the IGC, when they approved the constitution, have become more infidel than they already are," the statement said. "The biggest reason in declaring our rulers infidels is that they do not rule by the rules of God in all our affairs, in addition to their alliance with America," it continued. The writer of the statement called Iraq "the decisive war...after which we will either rise and have pride or descend and be humiliated." The writer added that he sees the Islamic world as being at a crossroads. "It is obvious that the great trick being promoted by the United States nowadays under the pretext of forcing the so-called reform on the greater Islamic world is a replica of Bremer's plan for Iraq, which provides for excluding religion, plundering wealth, killing men, terrifying people, and transgressing on [women]." He calls on Iraqis from a number of towns to continue their fight against the coalition, saying, "If you demonstrate greater patience than Bush, you will get your hearts' desire." KR