RUSSIA SAYS IT'S TOO EARLY TO VOTE ON NEW UN RESOLUTION ON IRAQ
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Oslo on 2 June that it is "too soon" to vote on a draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq that has been proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. He said that consultations are continuing with all Security Council members. Lavrov added that Moscow attaches great importance to the 30 June deadline for the transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi government. "It is important that the actions of the world community after 30 June be in keeping with the wishes of the Iraqi government that will be formed," Lavrov was quoted as saying. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told journalists in Moscow on 2 June that Russia expects the new government in Iraq "to make a tangible contribution to the creation of national institutions of representative government and to address such fundamental issues as the achievement of internal stabilization," ITAR-TASS reported. RC
PUTIN TO SKIP NATO ISTANBUL SUMMIT
President Vladimir Putin will not attend the NATO summit in Istanbul on 28-29 June, Russian and international media reported. Foreign Minister Lavrov told journalists in Oslo on 2 June: "It was never agreed he would go. This was discussed, but he never accepted, so you cannot speak of a cancellation." Asked to comment on a NATO official's statement earlier that day that Lavrov would attend the summit instead of Putin, Lavrov said, "I was never invited." Lavrov mentioned that Putin will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in France during commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings on 6 June and during the G-8 summit in the U.S. state of Georgia on 8-10 June. RC
GAS MONOPOLY DENIES THAT IT HAS ITS EYES ON YUKOS
Gazprom press spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov denied on 2 June that the state-controlled gas monopoly is interested in purchasing some assets of embattled oil giant Yukos if they come up for sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), Interfax reported. "Announcements regarding possible acquisitions are not within the jurisdiction of Gazprom executive Vlada Rusakova, and her words on this topic are not the company's official position," Kupriyanov said. Rusakova, the company's strategic-development director, told journalists on1 June that Gazprom would consider buying Yukos assets. Kupriyanov said that Gazprom is developing some joint projects with Yukos and is not interested in destabilizing a potential partner. "Vedomosti" reported on 2 June that Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller told the German daily "Handelsblatt" on 1 June that the company is interested in greatly expanding its oil interests and has created a subsidiary called Gazpromneft for this purpose. Miller added that Gazprom also intends to enter the retail gasoline trade. "Vedomosti" also quoted an unnamed Yukos source as saying that Rusakova's declaration was not accidental, but rather part of a concerted attack on Yukos with the goal of "forcibly taking [the company's property] through a process of pseudo-bankruptcy." RC
POPULAR JOURNALIST'S DISMISSAL CONTINUES TO STIR CONTROVERSY
Journalists and other observers continued on 2 June to comment on the firing of popular NTV host Leonid Parfenov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), Russian media reported. The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) issued a statement on 2 June saying, "we think the government played a certain part in the making of this decision," Interfax reported. The SPS statement added that canceling Parfenov's popular "Namedni" analytical program "is a direct violation of the citizens' constitutional right to receive information." The Russian PEN center also criticized the firing and cancellation. "One of the best analytical and informational programs has not only been censored, but has been destroyed, which is a clear sign of a police state," said the statement posted on the organization's website (http://www.penrussia.org). State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said that the firing was an internal matter of a private company, and noted that he personally didn't watch "Namedni," preferring "Vremya" on state-controlled ORT, Interfax reported. REN-TV President Irena Lesnevskaya told the news agency that she agrees with NTV's decision. "If something similar happened in my company, I would also dismiss such an employee," she said. "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 3 June reported that a one-minute commercial spot during "Namedni" used to cost $141,600, making it one of NTV's most profitable programs. RC
FORMER 'NOVYE IZVESTIYA' EDITOR CHARGED WITH INTENTIONALLY BANKRUPTING PAPER
Igor Golembiovskii, the former editor in chief of "Novye izvestiya," has been charged with intentionally attempting to bankrupt the newspaper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian media reported on 1 June. Golembiovskii's former deputy, Sergei Agafonov, faces similar charges, according to an Interior Ministry source. Golembiovskii, who was the long-time editor of "Izvestiya" before leaving to create "Novye izvestiya," is now the editor of "Russkii kurer." Both Golembiovskii and Agafonov deny any wrongdoing. RC
DUMA GIVES INITIAL NOD TO BILL LIMITING REFERENDUMS...
With 300 votes in favor and 96 against, the State Duma passed on 2 June a draft constitutional law on referendums in its first reading, Russian media reported. The Communist and Motherland factions and independent deputies opposed the bill. Ekozashita ecological movement Director Vladimir Slivak told RosBalt that the bill would limit citizens' rights to express their will, because it would make it practically impossible to conduct referendums based on grassroots initiatives. According to Slivak, the law makes the holding of referendums the exclusive right of the authorities. Independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov told "Gazeta" on 1 June: "As soon as the president signs this into law, we can forget about truly democratic referendums. The referendums we will have will be like those in Central Asia or in Italy under Mussolini." The Duma set 9 June as the date for preparing amendments for the second reading of the bill, despite the fact that current legislation provides for as much as one month between the first and second readings, Interfax reported. JAC
...AS POLICE BEAT PROTESTORS OUTSIDE OF THE LEGISLATURE
Outside the Duma building, about 100 activists from the Communist Party, Yabloko's youth movement, and Working Russia gathered to protest the referendums bill carrying signs saying "No -- Shame on the Authorities!" "Power to the Councils," and "No to a Police State," lenta.ru reported. Ekho Moskvy reported that Federal Protection Service officers pushed journalists away, seizing their cameras, and beat several protesters. Yabloko's press service said police manhandled Communist Deputy Aleksandr Kuvaev, who was participating in the protest. JAC
PRO-KREMLIN FACTION PREPARING BILL ON RENATIONALIZATION OF PROPERTY...
The Unified Russia faction is developing a draft bill on nationalization, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 June, citing Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov (Unified Russia). The bill envisions giving the state the right to repossess facilities and enterprises that are used ineffectively. According to the station, economic expediency would become grounds for nationalization. Independent Duma Deputy Ryzhkov told the station that the bill is an attack on private property and "will lead to a collapse of the Russian economy because all the capital that can be taken out of the country will be." JAC
...AND LEGISLATION TO PUNISH EMPLOYERS WHO DON'T PAY WAGES ON TIME
State Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee Chairman Andrei Isaev (Unified Russia) said on 1 June that amendments to the Criminal and Administrative codes have been prepared that will make it easier to punish directors of enterprises who delay paying wages, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 June. The amendments, according to Isaev, will be submitted to the State Duma in the near future. According to information from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, around 5 million workers do not receive their wages on time. Gazeta.ru suggested that once the legislation is adopted it will be easier to send such employers to prison. According to Isaev, under the bill, if the consequences of not paying wages are shown to be severe, then the employer can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov said that he does not favor strengthening criminal measures. He thinks it would be more effective to make changes in insurance legislation, requiring employers to insure their obligations to their workers. JAC
INTERIOR MINISTRY CATCHES FOUR TOP OFFICIALS DOING SOMETHING FISHY
Interior Ministry officers arrested four former and current high-level officials of federal ministries and departments on suspicion of soliciting bribes in exchange for lobbying in the granting of fishing quotas, gazeta.ru and lenta.ru reported on 2 June. The names of the former officials were not provided, but they include former members of the State Fisheries Committee. That committee was disbanded in March and reformed under the name of the Federal Fisheries Agency and is subordinated to the Agriculture Ministry. These officials allegedly received bribes worth $3.7 million from the director of an enterprise in Khabarovsk Krai for a 2004 fishing quota, according to gazeta.ru. A number of former officials of the State Fisheries Committee have previously been arrested on a variety of charges. Yurii Moskaltsov, former deputy chairman of the committee, was sentenced to four years in prison for large-scale fraud and abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2003). JAC
ANGRY DEPOSITORS BARE MESSAGE FOR CENTRAL BANK
Depositors in the now-defunct Sodbiznesbank mooned passersby and TV cameras in downtown Moscow to protest their inability to access their funds, NTV reported on 2 June. The Central Bank withdrew the bank's license last month on suspicion of money laundering, and the Moscow Arbitration Court placed a lien on the bank's assets and funds on 25 May. On 24 June, the court will hold a hearing on the bank's liquidation. According to newsru.com, written on depositors' posteriors was the message "Kozlov is a fool," referring to Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov. Kozlov held a press conference earlier on 2 June and stated that the bank's temporary management has already started to give out property from depositors' safety deposit boxes. According to the website, a "gigantic" queue of depositors formed outside the bank overnight. JAC
RISING HEMLINES RAISE EYEBROWS IN KALININGRAD
The Kaliningrad Oblast administration has banned its workers from wearing mini-skirts or shirts with plunging necklines, RIA-Novosti and Regnum reported on 2 June. Kaliningrad Oblast Deputy Governor Oleg Shlyk said that "our workers are wearing skirts that are too short and blouses with deep decolletage," which is contributing to a "frivolous mood" in the oblast administration. "It is of course pretty and romantic, but it undermines the work mentality," he said. Oblast administration workers, who were identified only as young, told Regnum that they will "rush" to fulfill Shlyk's order, calling Shlyk a "woman-hating, bureaucratic, dried-up old man" who is interfering in the private affairs of women. JAC
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PRESIDENT'S DISPARAGING COMMENTS
Stepan Demirchian, one of the leaders of the opposition Artarutiun alliance, rejected on 2 June as unethical comments made the previous day by President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Speaking in Giumri on 1 June, Kocharian likened the ongoing opposition campaign to force his resignation to a Brazilian soap opera. Kocharian also alleged that the opposition's efforts to impel the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to condemn the Armenian leadership's reprisals against participants in opposition demonstrations are "close to treason" and damage the country's international reputation. In an allusion to last year's flawed presidential and parliamentary elections, Demirchian countered that "treason is falsifying elections, beating up peaceful demonstrators, and infringing on the people's will." LF
ARMENIA ESTABLISHES NEW ANTICORRUPTION BODY
President Kocharian signed a decree on 2 June establishing a new commission to implement the country's anticorruption program, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September and 7 November 2003). The commission will be chaired by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and also includes Justice Minister David Harutiunian, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, and Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian. The program, to be implemented over the next three years, comprises mainly legislative measures that the authorities claim will reduce bribery and nepotism. LF
AZERBAIJAN, KYRGYZSTAN AGREE ON DEFENSE COOPERATION
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev and his visiting Kyrgyz counterpart Colonel General Esen Topoev signed an agreement in Baku on 1 June on cooperation in building their respective countries' armed forces, military education and training, and military-technical cooperation, Turan reported. On 2 June, Topoev met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and requested that Azerbaijan accept between five and 10 Kyrgyz candidates annually to study at higher military colleges in Azerbaijan. Aliyev agreed to that request, Turan reported. LF
RUSSIA WANTS TO EXPORT MORE AZERBAIJANI OIL
Speaking on 2 June at the annual Caspian oil and gas conference in Baku, Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, who is a Russian deputy foreign minister and presidential envoy for Caspian issues, called on Azerbaijan to increase the amount of crude it exports annually via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline from the present level of 2.5 million metric tons, Russian agencies reported. Kalyuzhnyi stressed that Moscow does not dispute the right of Caspian oil producers to choose how to export their hydrocarbons to world markets. But at the same time, he pointed out that three years after it was commissioned, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium is still operating at considerably less than its throughput capacity, and he hinted that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline currently under construction might likewise prove not economically viable. LF
GEORGIA DEPLOYS ARMOR TO BORDER WITH SOUTH OSSETIA
At a meeting in Tskhinvali on 2 June of the Joint Control Commission that monitors developments in the South Ossetian conflict zone, the Georgian representatives gave oral consent to withdraw all its troops from South Ossetia except for the peacekeeping contingent it is entitled to maintain there under the terms of a 1992 peace agreement. The commission -- which comprises representatives from Georgia, Russia, the Republic of North Ossetia, and South Ossetia -- also reached agreement on repairing the railroad linking Georgia and the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, Georgian media reported. Also on 2 June, Georgia deployed large quantities of military hardware, including tanks and artillery systems to its internal border with South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 3 June. That agency quoted a Defense Ministry official as saying that "a part" of the equipment is intended for the Georgian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, whose strength is to be increased from the present 100 to the statutory 500 men. LF
SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER ANTICIPATES MILITARY INCURSION
Eduard Kokoity, the president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, was quoted by Caucasus Press on 3 June as pointing out that no formal protocol was signed at the previous day's Joint Control Commission meeting on the withdrawal of Georgian Interior Ministry forces from the region. He claimed that between 3,000-5,000 Georgian troops are currently concentrated on Georgia's internal border with South Ossetia "ready for large-scale intervention." In Sukhum, Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Asrhba told Interfax on 2 June that the Abkhaz leadership is closely monitoring developments in South Ossetia, and continues to insist that problems betwen the Georgian central government and the breakaway republics be resolved by exclusively peaceful means. In Tiraspol, Igor Smirnov, leader of the unrecognized Transdniester Republic, said he is ready to provide military aid within the framework of an agreement on mutual assistance in the event of an armed attack by Georgian forces on South Ossetia, Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTEST
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania both rejected on 2 June as inappropriate and interference in Georgia's internal affairs statements released on 31 May and 1 June by the Russian Foreign Ministry condemning the dispatch of Georgian Interior Ministry troops to South Ossetia as part of a proclaimed crackdown on smuggling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 June 2004). The Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 2 June responding to its Russian counterpart and affirming, "Georgia is a sovereign state and has the right to uphold the law on its own territory," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma adopted a statement on 2 June warning that the dispatch of Georgian troops to South Ossetia "drastically destabilizes the situation" there and "poses a threat to the security of many Russian citizens." In an interview published in "Vremya novostei" on 23 December, Kokoity said that like 90 percent of the South Ossetian population, he has a Russian passport. LF
UNITED STATES SIGNS TRADE FRAMEWORK WITH CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick joined representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on 1 June, UPI reported the same day. Zoellick said the TIFA, which is intended to provide a forum for various trade issues, will "increase and diversify trade and investment opportunities between the United States and Central Asia." Central Asian representatives echoed Zoellick's comments. Interfax-Kazakhstan quoted Kanat Saudabaev, Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United States, on 2 June as saying that his country is "interested in further expanding the economic realm." The agreement also sets up a U.S.-Central Asia trade council, AP reported. The United States imported $571 million in goods from Central Asia in 2003 and exported $548 million. DK
KAZAKH NEWSPAPER DISAVOWS 'FAKE' ISSUE
The editors of the opposition newspaper "Assandi-Times" issued a statement on 2 June alerting media, Western embassies, Kazakh authorities, and other readers to a forged issue of the newspaper distributed on 2 June. Calling the forged issue a "provocation," the editors alleged that "this is one more action by the [Kazakh] presidential administration, or structures close to it, in an attempt to discredit the newspaper in the eyes of its readers." The editors asked Kazakh authorities to investigate the matter. The Internet publication "Navigator" issued the centerpiece article of the bogus issue -- a mock letter from jailed opposition leader Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov in which he purportedly speaks out against the opposition parties that have been his staunchest supporters. DK
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev met with visiting Estonian President Arnold Ruutel on 2 June, Khabar reported the same day. In remarks after their meeting, Nazarbaev cited Estonia as an example for Kazakhstan to emulate. "Among all the former Soviet republics, Estonia today boasts the best indicators in economics and in reform, and Estonia's experience is very important to us," Khabar quoted Nazarbaev as saying. For his part, Ruutel noted that Kazakhstan and Estonia have "much potential for cooperation in transportation, heavy machinery, and information technologies," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The two presidents signed cooperation agreements on the fight against organized crime and the development of cultural and humanitarian ties, KazInform reported. DK
TURKEY, U.S. WANT KAZAKHSTAN TO JOIN PIPELINE PROJECT
Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told journalists at a 2 June news conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, that Turkey expects Kazakhstan to join the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project, Anatolia reported the same day. Guler went so far as to say, "We wish it were referred to as the Aktau-Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan [project]." Kazakh President Nazarbaev has pledged on numerous occasions to transport Kazakh oil via the BTC, most recently during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's early March visit to Kazakhstan. Stephen Mann, the U.S. State Department envoy for Caspian energy development, foreshadowed Guler's comments, remarking in Baku on 1 June, "We are hopeful of the integration of Kazakhstan into the BTC system," "Baku Today" reported the next day. The BTC pipeline is scheduled to begin transporting oil in the second half of 2005, "Forbes" reported on 2 June. DK
KAZAKH NATIONAL DIES IN UZBEK BORDER INCIDENT
A Kazakh citizen was killed in an apparent dispute with Uzbek border guards at the Kazakh-Uzbek border on 1 June, KazInform reported the next day. On the evening of 1 June, 27-year-old Nurzhigit Botanov was attempting to travel from a village in Kazakhstan to a nearby Uzbek village. According to the news agency, an argument broke out during a document check and Uzbek border guards opened fire on Botanov, killing him. Kazakh authorities, who are conducting an investigation, told KazInform that this is the fourth fatal shooting of a Kazakh citizen by Uzbek border guards. A police source told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 2 June that "a thorough investigation into the incident is needed." DK
COMMAND-CONTROL EXERCISES BEGIN IN KYRGYZSTAN
Command-and-control exercises involving the CIS Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF) and Kyrgyzstan's own rapid-reaction forces began on 2 June in Kyrgyzstan, Kabar news agency reported the same day. A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's Defense Ministry told RIA-Novosti that the exercises are intended to "work through issues of preparing and conducting joint missions between the CRRF and Kyrgyz military and law enforcement to preserve Kyrgyzstan's military security in the case of a threat to its stability." The exercises were expected to last until 3 June. DK
TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS UZBEKS WANT TO STAY IN TURKMENISTAN
President Saparmurat Niyazov said on 1 June that ethnic Uzbeks do not want to be repatriated from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan, Turkmen TV reported the next day. Recent negotiations with Uzbekistan have resulted in the transfer of 187 square kilometers from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan. "When we offered local residents a choice between going to Uzbekistan or remaining here and obtaining Turkmen citizenship, no one displayed any desire to go there [to Uzbekistan]," Niyazov said. "Here, they are provided with free gas and electricity." DK
OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION THWARTED IN UZBEKISTAN
Police and security officials in Tashkent intercepted early on 1 June opposition activists both in Tashkent and from other regions of Uzbekistan who intended to converge on the capital to stage the first opposition demonstration in Uzbekistan in a decade, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 3 June, quoting centrasia.ru. Only some 30 of the 1,000 people who intended to participate in the protest managed to reach the venue selected for it, and they were dispersed by police within minutes after unfurling placards calling for the resignation of President Islam Karimov. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SKEPTICAL ABOUT EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Grigorii Rapota, general secretary of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC -- Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), in Minsk on 2 June that he is concerned about the EEC's prospects and does not believe in its efficiency, Belarusian Television and Belapan reported. In particular, Lukashenka pointed to the lack of coordination between EEC members regarding their World Trade Organization (WTO) accession talks. "Kyrgyzstan is in the WTO," Lukashenka said. "Russia has allegedly advanced [in the accession talks] but does not tell anybody how far. In this situation Belarus and Kazakhstan are starting to think whether [the EEC] is efficient -- no, it is not efficient -- and what will happen in the future." Lukashenka also told Rapota that many of the issues on the planned agenda of an EEC summit in Astana on 18 June are not "topical" for Belarus. JM
BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO SELL UNPROFITABLE FARMS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 2 June held a government conference devoted to the planned sale of 106 loss-making collective farms, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka is soon expected to issue a decree determining procedures and conditions for the sale. Under the government's plans, unprofitable farms will be put up for sale at a price equivalent to 20 percent of their net assets. In particular, the conditions of the sale will include guarantees that the new owners will not change the farms' current specialization or dismiss their current workers, and will pay off the farms' debts. "Kolkhozes and sovkhozes should be sold at a reasonable price so that [the new owners] take responsibility for their land, workers, pensioners and older people, and work on our conditions," Lukashenka said. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS COMMISSION TO PROBE PRESSURE ON DEPUTIES...
The Verkhovna Rada on 3 June set up an ad hoc commission to investigate "pressure" applied by state bodies on lawmakers, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The commission is to present a report on its investigation no later than mid-November. The formation of the commission followed the recent allegations that lawmaker Mykhaylo Dobkin was pressured into leaving the Center group and joining the parliamentary caucus of the Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Meanwhile, Dobkin denied on 2 June that he was pressured to join the SDPU-o caucus. He said he joined it because the SDPU-o is a "powerful party" that "supports political reform," UNIAN reported. JM
...AND OPTS NOT TO STOP CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION OF METALLURGICAL GIANT
The Verkhovna Rada on 3 June failed yet again to block the privatization of the metallurgical combine Kryvorizhstal, which produces some 20 percent of Ukraine's steel output, UNIAN reported. The motion to relaunch a debate on the announced sale of a 93 percent stake in Kryvorizhstal at a starting price of 3.8 billion hryvnyas ($713 million) was supported by 218 deputies, primarily from opposition factions (226 votes were needed for approval). Opposition lawmakers have made several unsuccessful attempts in the past few weeks to block the Kryvorizhstal sale. Both domestic and foreign observers say the privatization conditions set by the government are highly discriminative and actually favor only one bidder -- the Investment-Metallurgical Union, a consortium linked to Ukrainian oligarchs Viktor Pinchuk and Rynat Akhmetov. JM
DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR 'RADICAL REFORM' OF UKRAINIAN ARMY
Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk, writing in the "Den" newspaper on 3 June, said that he is in favor of "radical reform" in the Ukrainian armed forces. Marchuk wrote that, in terms of the numerical strength of its army, Ukraine comes 13th in the world, while, in terms of military budget expenditures, the country is in 126th place. Marchuk said Ukraine spends $2,600 per serviceman annually, while this figure amounts to $8,460 in Romania, $34,600 in Hungary, and $91,000 in France. The minister revealed that during Ukraine's 12 years of independence the armed forces have not bought a single domestically produced tank or a single airplane or helicopter. The Ukrainian armed forces currently have some 355,000 servicemen. JM
UKRAINE, AZERBAIJAN SIGN OIL DEAL
The governments of Ukraine and Azerbaijan on 3 June signed an accord on cooperation in the oil sector, UNIAN reported. The document was signed within the framework of an ongoing visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Kyiv. Under the accord, Azerbaijan is reportedly obliged to sell a "sufficient amount" of oil to Ukraine "on a commercial, indiscriminate basis," in order to make it possible for Kyiv to fill the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline. JM
PROGRESS IN SOLVING MONTENEGRO'S MURDER MYSTERY?
Investigating Judge Radomir Ivanovic told the MINA news agency in Podgorica on 3 June that karate expert Damir Mandic and several other individuals have been arrested in connection with the recent drive-by killing of Dusko Jovanovic, who was chief editor of the opposition daily "Dan," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ivanovic said he does not have a complete list of those arrested or to whom summons have been issued, and urged reporters to seek further information from the prosecutor's office. Ivanovic said that well-equipped German forensics experts, who came to Montenegro recently to inspect the Volkswagen Golf believed to have been used in the killing, have completed their work in Podgorica and will now conduct further tests in Wiesbaden (see "Analysis: Mysterious Killing Rocks Montenegro," rferl.org, 1 June 2004). PM
NEW MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN IN
The new Macedonian government was sworn in on 2 June, MIA reported. The ceremony followed an exchange of arguments between Prime Minister-designate Hari Kostov and former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). Georgievski repeated the VMRO-DPMNE's claim that Kostov is responsible for establishing "totalitarian rule" and failing to attract foreign investments, whereas Kostov accused Georgievski of corruption, according to "Utrinski vesnik" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004). In other news, the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) announced on 2 June that it will end its cooperation with the governing ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and will now seek to cooperate with the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The reason for the split between the PPD and BDI is reportedly due to the fact that no PPD representatives were included in the new government. UB
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS SLAMS OSCE REPORT ON KOSOVA'S MEDIA
On 2 June, the Canadian NGO International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) quoted a recent press release by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) saying that the IFJ backs "its affiliate, the Professional Journalists Association of Kosova, in their protests over a [recent] report jointly issued by the...OSCE and the Temporary Media Commissioner in Kosovo, which accuses media over their coverage of tensions between Serb and Albanian communities that led to violent clashes and several deaths in March 2004. The report, supported by the newly appointed OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, is unconvincing and fails to establish any evidence of systematic attempts to distort news coverage and incite violence." The IFJ, which says it represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, welcomes "the commitment of Haraszti in his pledge to open renewed dialogues with the media community and, in particular, to support self-regulation [of the media] in Kosovo, but his role should always be to deal with attempts to oppress media freedom instead of providing ammunition for others who try to rein in the freedom of media and journalists when it suits their political interests," IFEX reported (http://www.ifex.org) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 March and 2 and 16 April 2004). PM
HAGUE WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR PROMISES BOSNIANS MORE INDICTMENTS
Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in Sarajevo on 3 June that she plans to issue five additional indictments for unspecified war crimes in the former Yugoslavia by the end of 2004, Reuters reported. She did not elaborate, but the regional media often speculates on who might be a likely candidate for an indictment. On 1 June, she visited Bugojno, where delegations of Muslims and Croats blamed each other for war crimes committed in the area during the 1992-95 conflict, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The next day, she went to Srebrenica and then paid her first ever visit to Mostar. PM
AGREEMENT ON FORMER YUGOSLAV ASSETS COMES INTO FORCE
On 3 June, an agreement came into force to divide the property of the former Yugoslavia, which was originally reached in 2001 between Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and what is now called Serbia and Montenegro, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001). All of those countries ratified the pact long ago except Croatia, which did so only on 3 March 2004. The agreement divides assets on the basis of a formula recommended by the International Monetary Fund, whereby 36.5 percent goes to Serbia and Montenegro, 28.5 percent to Croatia, 16.4 percent to Slovenia, 13.2 percent to Bosnia, and 5.4 percent to Macedonia. PM
ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES SHUT DOWN MUSLIM CHARITY
The Albanian authorities have officially closed the Al-Haramain Islamic charity, following the recent forced departure of several of its non-Albanian officials from the country, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2004). The charity's official purpose is to use donations from the Middle East to construct Islamic buildings and provide assistance to orphans, but the United States maintains that it helps fund international terrorism. PM
ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO COOPERATE IN SUPERVISING LOCAL ELECTIONS
Representatives of the Bucharest branches of four opposition parties agreed on 2 June to cooperate to ensure that local elections slated for 6 June are free and fair, Mediafax reported. The National Liberal Party (PNL), the Democratic Party, the Greater Romania Party (PRM), and the Humanist Party agreed to exchange information and launch legal proceedings in the event of electoral wrongdoing. The parties also agreed to conduct a parallel tally of votes during the official ballot count. Democratic Party representative Vasile Blaga said similar agreements have been signed in as many as 30 of Romania's 41 counties. The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) described the move as electoral collaboration "in substance" under the guise of supervising fairness. PSD spokesman Titus Corlatean noted that the PNL and the Democrats have harshly criticized PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor in the past, but suddenly perceive him as a "fully acceptable partner" and "whitewash the PRM." MS
ROMANIAN DEPUTY PREMIER, OIL CHIEFTAIN CLASH OVER PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL
Deputy Prime Minister Ioan Talpes confirmed on 2 June that he approved a memorandum detailing illegalities allegedly committed in the process of the privatization of the Petromidia oil company in 2000 while serving as presidential counselor in 2001-03, Mediafax reported. Talpes said he has passed on the memorandum to President Ion Iliescu, adding that the president in turn passed it on to the Justice Ministry, which asked the National Anticorruption Prosecution to launch an investigation. Talpes said the document suggests that more than $600 million owed to the state treasury landed in the pockets of Petromidia's new owners. Earlier on 2 June, Petromidia head Dinu Patriciu claimed that the investigation launched against him is politically motivated and that Talpes was involved in initiating it. Patriciu, who is also a prominent PNL leader, said he has been threatened by the owners of the bankrupt Rafo refineries. Patriciu claimed they told him that unless he agrees to a merger between Rafo and the Rompetrol Group, details of the Petromidia privatization will be leaked to the media. Patriciu also said he believes the National Anticorruption Prosecution has been "manipulated" but is not part of the conspiracy against him. MS
FORMER ROMANIAN PRIVATIZATION-FUND DIRECTOR CHARGED OVER SALE OF MARITIME FLEET
Prosecutors from the National Anticorruption Prosecution officially charged former State Privatization fund head Radu Sarbu on 2 June with abuse of office and acting against state interests in connection with the privatization of Romania's maritime fleet in 2000, the daily "Adevarul" reported the next day. Eighty-nine people, including Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, have been investigated over their suspected roles in the affair, which prosecutors claim cost the state treasury over $300 million. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT 'DOES NOT UNDERSTAND' PURPOSE OF VORONIN'S SSPM INITIATIVE
President Iliescu said on 2 June that he does "not exactly comprehend" the purpose of the new Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM) initiative, launched by his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Iliescu said Romania will consult with the other proposed signatories -- Russia, the United States, the European Union, and Ukraine-- but added that all the envisaged participants are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) , which is already involved in plans to bring about a settlement of the Transdniester conflict. Iliescu also said that Voronin did not consult any of those whom he proposed for participation in the SSPM before announcing the initiative. MS
TIRASPOL FREES, EXPELS ILASCU GROUP MEMBER...
Alexandru Lesco, a member of the "Ilascu group" who was sentenced in 1993 to 12 years in prison by the separatist authorities in Tiraspol, was released from prison on 2 June having served his sentence, Flux, Infotag, and AP reported. Lesco was escorted to the partition line in Bendery-Tighina, where an official told him he has been declared persona non grata by Transdniestrian authorities. His wife and his lawyer had to wait for him in Bendery-Tighina, as the authorities would not let them drive to the Tiraspol prison ahead of Lesco's release. Two more members of the group who were sentenced to 15 years each, Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, have three more years to serve. Ilascu himself was freed in 2001 and is now a Romanian senator. He was among the acquaintances who greeted Lesco on his arrival in Chisinau. MS
...WHO IS GREETED IN CHISINAU BY ROMANIA'S AMBASSADOR
Romanian Ambassador to Moldova Filip Teodorescu greeted Lesco on 2 June in front of the building where his family lives in Chisinau, saying that Romania "always takes care of its citizens," Flux and Mediafax reported. The Romanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saluting his release. The four members of the group were granted Romanian citizenship sometime after being sentenced. Moldovan authorities did not react officially to Lesco's liberation, and Lesco declined an offer of a ride to Chisinau in a car dispatched by Moldovan authorities to Bendery-Tighina, saying no Moldovan official ever inquired about his fate. MS
FORMER MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE TO DIRECT NEWS AGENCY
Valeriu Renita, who resigned as chief of the presidential press office on 26 May, was appointed director of official government news agency Moldpres on 2 June, Flux reported. MS
BELARUSIAN POLLSTER SAYS ELITES ARE OVERWHELMINGLY DISSATISFIED WITH GOVERNMENT
The Minsk-based Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) conducted a poll in May among "more than 60 policymakers, media managers, scientists, and businessmen who represented approximately equally the state and nonstate sectors," Belapan reported on 31 May. The poll revealed that the overwhelming majority of Belarusian experts are displeased with the performance of the Belarusian government -- this dissatisfaction was declared by 87 percent of respondents from the state sector and 97 percent of those from the nonstate sector. As regards President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, his work was criticized by 90 percent and 100 percent of respondents from the state and nonstate group, respectively.
Asked to assess the urgency of political and economic changes in Belarus on a 10-point scale (where 1 denoted the opinion that "changes are unnecessary" and 10 stood for "radical changes are necessary"), the respondents provided an average estimate of 9.3 (an average of 8.6 for those in the state sector and 9.5 in the nonstate one). "In other words, attempts of the authorities to persuade at least the elites that the country has formed a correct political and economic model of society...that secures a worthy life for the population...are not finding the required support," NISEPI commented on this result.
NISEPI also found that 93 percent of respondents believe that the upcoming parliamentary election -- preliminarily set for 17 October -- will not be free or fair; 89 percent of them (including 83 percent of experts from the state sector) said they think that the officially announced results will not correspond to the actual results of the vote. Asked about their election preferences (it was possible to name more that one party), 77 percent of respondents said they will vote for the opposition Popular Coalition Five Plus, 61 percent for candidates fielded by the Respublika group in the Chamber of Representatives, and 50 percent for those supported by the opposition coalition Free Belarus. Just 7 percent said that they will vote for pro-Lukashenka candidates. Only 29 percent opined that international monitoring could influence voting results, whereas 57 percent said that it could not and 11 percent found it difficult to answer.
"The voters from the elites cannot influence the final election results in a noticeable way, because they constitute only an insignificant part of the entire Belarusian electorate," NISEPI commented on the aforementioned figures. "However, as regards the election campaign itself -- the formation of election commissions, the tone of statements in the media, the vote count, etc. -- the position of the elites, primarily from state institutions, may have some influence."
NISEPI also asked its respondents about the recent arrest of Mikhail Marynich, a former Belarusian nomenklatura man, who in 2001 unsuccessfully tried to challenge Lukashenka in the presidential election. Marynich, a former Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland as well as former foreign-trade minister, was arrested by the KGB in late April on charges of stealing official documents and illegal possession of firearms. KGB investigators also seized more than $90,000 in cash from Marynich (the money was reportedly received by him from Russia to sponsor some candidates in the legislative elections). Subsequently, however, Marynich was formally charged only with "illegal actions regarding firearms, ammunition, and explosives." Marynich reportedly claims that the pistol found at his dacha was planted there in order to build a case against him.
Of the more than 60 state and independent experts polled by NISEPI, 82 percent thought that the arrest of Marynich is politically motivated, while just 2 percent said that the Marynich case is criminal and 8 percent thought that the politician was arrested on both political and criminal grounds. NISEPI commented that the behavior of law enforcers in the Marynich case unavoidably leads "any unbiased observer" to the conclusion that "the authorities are applying the repeatedly used method of neutralizing potential opponents by charging them with a criminal offense." "If this scenario is followed through, we should expect another high-profile trial and the removal of Mr. Marynich from big politics for a certain period. Previous experience suggests that the prospects for a verdict of not guilty are slim," the pollster added.
FIVE AID WORKERS KILLED IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN...
Three foreign and two Afghan staff members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were killed in an ambush on 2 June near Qala'-e Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis Province, according to a 3 June MSF statement (http://www.msf.org). The foreign staffers of MSF were from Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands. According to MSF, the car carrying the five aid workers was reportedly hit by gunfire from the front and back and attacked with grenades. MSF has been working in Badghis since 1999, running an outpatient department, and has been present in Afghanistan since 1979. The organization is currently working in 12 provinces with around 80 expat and 1,400 local staff. AT
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
Mullah Abdul Hakim Latifi, purportedly speaking on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said that the group carried out the attack against the MSF aid workers, AP reported on 2 June. Latifi made the claim over the telephone to AP, saying that "international aid workers were working for the policy of America." Latifi warned of more attacks in the future. However, Badghis provincial police chief Amir Shah Nayebzadah disputed Latifi's claim, saying it was "too early" to determine who was responsible for the attack. Badghis is not considered a region in which the neo-Taliban are very active. In a February statement, the ousted Taliban movement named Hamed Agha as its only authorized spokesman. Latifi appears to be a new name on the growing list of individuals claiming to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, often in contradictory terms (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 4 March and 1 April 2004). AT
UN PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE OF AFGHAN DRUG PROBLEM
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has said he sees "little hope" in eradicating Afghanistan's growing heroin industry, the BBC reported on 3 June. Costa, who is visiting northern and western Afghanistan, is expected to meet with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai and provide him with a gloomy assessment of the situation. There is a fear that the Afghan government might not be willing to tackle the drug problem at least until the elections scheduled for September, the BBC reported. According to UNODC estimates, Afghan farmers produced 3,600 tons of opium in 2003, three-quarters of the global supply (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February 2004 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Afghanistan reportedly produces over 90 percent of the heroin sold on Europe's streets. AT
FRANCE TO INCREASE ITS MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN
French Chief of the Defense Staff General Henri Bentegeat said on 1 June while visiting Kabul that his country will increase the number of its troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Radio France Internationale reported on 2 June. General Bentegeat said 300 additional French troops will be stationed in Afghanistan starting in August when a French-German brigade from Eurocorps is expected to take over command of ISAF from Canada (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January and 2 June 2004). Currently France has around 700 troops serving with ISAF and with the U.S.-led coalition. In August, a French general is expected to assume command of ISAF. AT
IRANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NUCLEAR DOSSIER ALMOST CLOSED...
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani said in Tehran on 2 June that a report released on 1 June by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shows Iran's "nuclear activities [are] peaceful and have not deviated from this course" and that its "nuclear dossier is close to conclusion," IRNA reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2004). On 1 June, before the release of the IAEA report, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton told AP in Krakow, where he attended a nonproliferation conference, that Iran is using "denial and deception" and pursuing a "clandestine program to acquire nuclear weapons." Rohani said "the Americans are scaring the [IAEA] and [claiming] there is much Iran has not revealed." If America has sufficient information on Iran's nuclear activities, then it should give it to the IAEA, he said. Rohani stressed that "Iran will not permit the [IAEA] access to specific military and nonmilitary centers." Iran, he said, has suspended uranium-enrichment voluntarily, for a time it considers "necessary," IRNA reported. VS
...AND ELABORATES ON IAEA CONCERNS...
Rohani told a Tehran press conference that traces of highly enriched uranium, found at several sites in Iran and of concern to the IAEA for their potential use in bomb-making, were from "imported equipment" and already contaminated, IRNA reported. He suggested inspectors take more samples to confirm this and prove Iran is not enriching uranium to that level. He said Iran is undertaking research on P-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, and will decide whether to manufacture the parts once the research is complete. Iran has already agreed to stop making centrifuge parts, but Rohani said he cannot "determine a specific time" when the three private firms currently making parts for P-1 centrifuges, which enrich uranium to a lower level for civilian purposes, will stop. VS
...THREATENS ISRAEL WITH RETALIATION IN CASE OF STRIKE...
Rohani threatened "painful" Iranian retaliation in the case of Israel striking Iran's nuclear installations, IRNA reported. With Russian help, Iran is building a nuclear power station in Bushehr on its southern coast. Israel, which Iran considers to be a hostile and illegitimate state, has previously threatened to strike Iranian installations to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power. "Israel says these things, but I do not think it would do such a foolish act," Rohani said. "The Israelis know our response to their mistaken acts. They know how painful and destructive our response to an attack on Iran [would be]. [Israeli threats] are more for publicity," he said. Iran and Russia are negotiating the financial aspects of a future deal to repatriate spent fuel from the Bushehr nuclear plant, Rohani added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 2004). VS
...AND SAYS NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
Rohani said in Tehran on 2 June that while the new Iraqi interim government "may not be subject to everybody's approval and satisfaction...[it] is a step forward, and we hope this provisional government will pave the way for free elections, the formation of a government, and national sovereignty in Iraq," IRNA reported the same day. "This government is not chosen by the Iraqi people," he said, but by the "occupiers." But he welcomed "any step that benefits [Iraqis] and distances the occupiers from direct interference in [Iraqi] affairs." Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi also welcomed on 2 June the formation of an Iraqi government, as a step toward "a full transfer of power and a true end to the occupation," ISNA reported. Meanwhile, Rohani rejected reports that Ahmad Chalabi, a former Iraqi Governing Council member, informed Iran that the United States broke an Iranian spy code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Iran, he said, has had "no contacts or special relationship with Chalabi." VS
NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION
The newly formed interim Iraqi cabinet held its first session on 3 June, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi chaired the session of 27 ministers held in the former chambers of the Governing Council, according to a 2 June Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) press release. The session discussed security issues, the revised U.S.-U.K. UN Security Council draft resolution, and the relationship of multinational forces with the Iraqi authorities, Al-Arabiyah reported. "I suggest you send a note to all the ministers asking for our input about the draft [U.S.-U.K. resolution]," interim Public Works Minister Nasreen Mustafa Siddek Barwari told Allawi, according to the CPA. "It's important for us to participate, to give our opinion." When asked by interim Provincial Affairs Minister Wa'il Abd al-Latif when the cabinet will begin its work, Allawi said the governance of Iraq "is our responsibility now." MES
IRAQ'S INTERIM FOREIGN MINISTER HEADS TO UN FOR TALKS ON RESOLUTION
Hoshyar al-Zebari was scheduled to meet with the UN Security Council on 3 June to discuss a revised draft resolution on Iraq proposed by the United States and Britain, international media reported. "This is a very important resolution for us and definitely, we need to have our own input into this," he said. An original draft U.S.-U.K. resolution was criticized for not providing enough authority to Iraqis in managing their own affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004), and some Security Council members have cited flaws in the revised draft as well. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said on 3 June that "we still have many reservations," adding that the "new resolution must spell out a transition to a new...stage of regulating the Iraqi crisis," Interfax reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Oslo on 2 June that it is "too soon" to vote on the revised resolution, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on 3 June that "China welcomes the new modifications.... [The revised draft] reflects the voices and concerns of China and some other countries," AFP reported. MES
TOP SHI'ITE CLERIC GIVES TACIT SUPPORT TO NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT...
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, issued a statement on 3 June in which he gave his tacit support to the new interim Iraqi government, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 June 2004). However, al-Sistani said the process used to choose the government "resulted in the formation of a new government without electoral legitimacy" and that "not all segments of Iraqi society and its political forces are represented in an appropriate manner," Reuters quoted the statement as saying. Al-Sistani added that "it is hoped that this government will prove its efficiency and integrity and show resolve to carry out the enormous tasks that rest on its shoulders," AP reported. He listed those tasks as security, basic services for all, a new UN resolution granting Iraq complete sovereignty, and organizing elections to be held next year. "The new government will not have popular acceptance unless it proves through practical and clear steps that it seeks diligently and seriously to achieve these tasks," al-Sistani said, according to Reuters. MES
...AS IRAQI MINISTER COUNTERS CRITICISM OF NEW GOVERNMENT
In a live interview with Al-Jazeera on 3 June, newly appointed Industry Minister Hazim al-Hassani dismissed early doubts cast on the interim government. In response to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's implicit criticisms of the new government, al-Hassani said: "The approval we need for this government comes not from outside Iraq, but from the Iraqi people themselves.... As for the views of others outside the government, I don't know what these views are based on." He added, "We should wait until we can judge the performance of the government." Addressing reported criticism from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, al-Hassani said: "How can they who are ignorant of the facts say that this government receives orders from America? We are not receiving any orders from anyone right now; we are taking over the work of all ministries. On 1 July, all the decisions we make will be purely Iraqi." He added, "We said from the outset that this government would enjoy full sovereignty and that the expected UN Security Council resolution would give Iraq full sovereignty. We would not accept anything less." AH