RUSSIA AND IAEA REACH ACCORD ON NUCLEAR-WASTE STORAGE
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Muhammad el-Baradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced in Moscow on 28 June that they have agreed to construct in Russia an international storage depot for nuclear waste and spent fuel, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The purpose of such a depot is to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear material. Fradkov said the agreement became possible after Russian legislation was adapted to allow the import of nuclear waste in 2002. He added that the storage facility will be built in Siberia. VY
FOREIGN MINISTER CONCERNED BY NATO PRESENCE NEAR RUSSIAN BORDER
Sergei Lavrov said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Istanbul on 28 June that Russia is concerned that NATO has begun "military exploration of the territories of its new members and [will] increase its military presence near Russia's borders," polit.ru and newsru.com. Lavrov said after a session of the Russia-NATO Council that he thinks NATO is following an outdated doctrine "about the defense of the territories of its member countries, policies that were written in another epoch." He added that additional measures for mutual trust and control are necessary to improve the situation. Finally, Lavrov reiterated Russia's position on NATO's insistence on a quick withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and Moldova's Transdniester region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004). "There is no legal linkage between the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and Moldova and the signing of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe by the Baltics states," he said. VY
FORMER PRIME MINISTER APPARENTLY THE VICTIM OF DIRTY TRICK...
Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District and former prime minister, is apparently the victim of a black public-relations trick, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported on 29 June. "Novaya gazeta," No. 45, this week printed a letter purported to have been written by five Republican U.S. congressmen asking U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to look into reports that Kirienko is seeking permanent-resident status in the United States. The letter noted that a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Russia from 1998 -- when Kirienko was prime minister -- has never been accounted for properly. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that four of the five congressmen whose names appeared on the letter printed by "Novaya gazeta," which was also posted on the website of the U.S.-based American Defense Council (http:www.americandefensecouncil.com), denied having anything to do with the letter. The fifth congressman could not be reached for comment. Kirienko told Ekho Moskvy on 29 June that the "Novaya gazeta" report was "not only a lie, but a boldfaced lie" and said that he will sue the paper unless it apologizes. RC
...AS NEWSPAPER EDITOR WELCOMES COURT CHALLENGE...
Meanwhile, Dmitrii Muratov, the editor in chief of "Novaya gazeta," told RFE/RL's Russian Service 28 June that "he will be very glad to face Kirienko in a court. Then we can ask him specific questions about the fate of the $4.8 billion loan." As for publishing the purported U.S. congressmen's letter, Muratov said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy the same day that it is his duty to inform the public. "We would like to finally clear up the issue that cost Russia billions of dollars," he said. VY
...AND INVESTIGATION INTO IMF LOAN OFFERS DIFFERENT ANSWERS
Commenting on the official investigation into the use of the IMF's $4.8 billion loan, samaratoday.ru wrote on 28 June that the probe into the money was unusual. The chairman of the audit chamber, Sergei Stepashin, said in April 2002 that the loan had "disappeared without a trace." In April 2004, however, he said the money from the loan had been accounted for and that the results of the investigation were shared with U.S. officials. In June 2004 he again confirmed that the sum of the loan "has been accounted for." Meanwhile, independent researchers note that the most complete investigation of the loan was made in 1999 by a special commission appointed by the chairman of the Federation Council, Yegor Stroev. That commission named those who were responsible for Russia's August 1998 default and the misuse of the IMF loan, and posted the report on a website. But it was removed after a few days and it never appeared again. Boris Nemtsov, who was deputy prime minister under Kirienko, told Ekho Moskvy on 28 June that the IMF loan was used to try to prop up the ruble in the run-up to the August 1998 financial crisis. "Although economically speaking this was a mistake, there was nothing criminal in it," he said. VY
CASH-FOR-BENEFITS BILL PICKS UP DUMA COMMITTEE'S ENDORSEMENT...
The Duma's Budget Committee on 28 June recommended that the legislature adopt a controversial government plan to convert in-kind social benefits to cash payments, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. The committee said that the current benefits infrastructure is "bulky and not systematized." The committee pointed out a number of "flaws" in the draft that should be corrected before the bill's second reading. The Audit Chamber also endorsed the bill, the news agency reported, although it said the measure needs serious changes. Most notably, auditor Valerii Goreglyad told a Duma roundtable on 28 June that the current law on veterans qualifies about 340,000 people to receive benefits for service performed during World War II, while the government bill qualifies only about 100,000. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said the government bill is "undoubtedly progressive" and urged deputies to support it. Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov told the Duma roundtable that the government has accepted deputies' criticism of a proposal to eliminate the minimum-wage provision and the concept will be restored to the government draft before it is submitted to the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. RC
...AS COMMUNISTS URGE PRESIDENT TO REJECT THE PLAN
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov sent an open letter to President Vladimir Putin on 28 June urging him to reject the government's plan to convert in-kind social benefits to cash payments, RosBalt reported. Zyuganov labeled the initiative "unconstitutional and inhuman." Zyuganov rejected government arguments that it cannot afford to maintain the current social-benefits program. "The [country's] huge hard-currency reserves and the stabilization fund deprive the government of the right to speak about the inability to afford benefits," Zyuganov wrote. "Rather, it is a case of the government's clear lack of desire to fulfill the norms of the Russian Constitution." He added that adoption of the plan would demonstrate the defenselessness of citizens and the "powerlessness of the president to maintain constitutional order and legality in the face of the arbitrariness of corrupt officials." The Communists have called for nationwide protests of the plan on 2 July, the day that the Duma is expected to consider the bill in its first reading. RC
ACTIVISTS CONCERNED ABOUT TRANSFER OF RESEARCHER CONVICTED OF ESPIONAGE
The For Human Rights NGO issued a statement on 29 June expressing concern about the transfer of researcher Igor Sutyagin, who was sentenced in April to 15 years' imprisonment for spying for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2004), to the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison, newsru.com and other Russian media reported. Gazeta.ru reported that it was uncertain where Sutyagin has been sent and that the Moscow Municipal Court has no information about his whereabouts. The activists claim that the transfer from the Lefortovo prison is illegal because the sentence of the Moscow Municipal Court has not yet come into force. An unidentified legal source told Interfax that the transfer might be connected with preparations to send Sutyagin to the facility where he will serve his sentence, although another unnamed lawyer said Sutyagin was moved because of repair work being done at Lefortovo. For Human Rights head Lev Ponmarev told Ekho Moskvy that Matrosskaya Tishina is badly overcrowded. Sutyagin is preparing an appeal of his conviction. RC
PRESIDENT SIGNS NEW CONSTITUTIONAL LAW ON REFERENDUMS
President Putin on 29 June signed into law a controversial measure on referendums, Interfax and other Russian media reported. The bill was passed by the Duma on 11 June and by the Federation Council on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 25 June 2004). The new law makes it more difficult to initiate referendums. Now, initiative groups must be local subgroups that represent at least one-half of the federation's 89 subjects. It also gives political parties the right to form initiative groups. Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent) said that he will file a case against the law with the Constitutional Court, arguing that 15 points of the law are unconstitutional. Moreover, at least 90 deputies are expected to sign a petition to the court arguing that the bill was illegally pushed through the Duma, newsru.com reported. RC
RUSSIA NEEDS THOUSANDS MORE JUDGES
Supreme Court Chairman Vyachelsav Lebedev told a conference of regional judges on 28 June that Russia needs about 5,000 additional judges, Interfax reported. General-jurisdiction courts have about 4,800 vacancies, Lebedev said, while about 1,000 additional justices of the peace are needed as well as about 150 military judges. In all, Russia currently has 23,176 federal judges. Lebedev said that one reason for the shortages is that the Federal Security Service is vetting all candidates for judgeships and "many candidates are turned down." He said many also fail to pass the necessary examination. Lebedev added that security for judges is also a problem and the country faces a shortage of court bailiffs. "The number of bailiffs has been increased this year, but courts keep informing me that bailiffs cannot provide for security," Lebedev said. RC
BELEAGUERED PETERSBURG SUBWAY LINE OPENS, FACES NEW PROBLEMS
President Putin on 26 June made a short trip to St. Petersburg where he participated in the grand reopening of a metro line that has been closed since December 1995, newsru.com reported on 29 June. The reconstruction of the flooded tunnel was a sore point for the city administration for many years, and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko made it a campaign promise during her successful election campaign last year. Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 June that workers have discovered cracks in the Leninskii Prospekt station, which is on the same line as the reconstructed section of the tunnel. Authorities believe that cracks were caused by the construction of a shopping mall above the station. RC
RUSSIAN CLAIM TO HAVE KILLED ALLEGED LEADER OF INGUSH RAIDS DISPUTED
On 28 June, Russian military spokesmen and staff members of the Prosecutor's Office claimed that Magomed Evloev, who allegedly commanded the militants responsible for the coordinated attacks on 21-22 June on Interior Ministry facilities in Ingushetia, was killed in the course of a special operation that day in the village of Dalakovo, near Nazran, Russian agencies reported. But the independent website ingushetiya.ru cast doubts on that claim. The website pointed out that Evloev, who was born in 1971 in the village of Sagopshi in Malgobek Raion, was reportedly a former member of the Ingushetian Interior Ministry and a personal bodyguard of former acting Ingushetian Interior Minister Daud Korigov. A search warrant was issued for that Evloev in April 1998 in connection with the ambush of a Russian Defense Ministry motorcade in which five senior officers were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1998). The website quoted friends of that Evloev as being convinced that he neither participated in last week's raids nor had any connection with radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. On 23 June, ingushetiya.ru noted that the Evloevs are one of the largest teyps in Ingushetia and there are hundreds of men named Magomed Evloev; the Moscow telephone directory alone lists 78 people with that name. LF
NATO ISTANBUL SUMMIT NOTES 'STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE' OF CAUCASUS, CENTRAL ASIA
In a 28 June communique subsequently posted on NATO's website (http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2004/p04-096e.htm), heads of state and government who attended the Istanbul NATO summit express their intent of "engaging with our partners in the strategically important regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia," to which two liaison officers will be assigned in order to improve the alliance's contacts with those regions. The leaders welcomed the decision by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan to develop individual Partnership Action Plans with NATO, and also the affirmed commitment of the new Georgian government to reform. LF
ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES KARABAKH WITH TURKISH, AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPARTS
Vartan Oskanian met on 28 June in Istanbul on the sidelines of the NATO summit first with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, and then with both Gul and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian characterized his talks with Gul as "quite good," but declined to divulge any details. Zerkalo.az on 29 June quoted "Turkish diplomatic sources" as saying that during the three-way meeting the ministers discussed the possibility of opening a border crossing between Turkey and Armenia. Gul and Oskanian discussed the prospects for doing so at three meetings last year, but Ankara eventually hardened its position, possibly as a result of pressure from Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June, 29 September, and 8 December 2003; and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 January 2004). The same unnamed Turkish diplomatic sources also said that Ankara unveiled a new draft plan to resolve the Karabakh conflict similar to the formula employed for Cyprus, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 29 June. LF
AZERBAIJANI, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET
Also on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Istanbul, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev met on 28 June with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Azerbaijani state news agency Azertadj, as cited by Groong. Topics discussed included regional security, the Karabakh conflict, and aspects of bilateral relations and cooperation in the export via Turkey of Azerbaijani oil and gas. LF
GEORGIAN LEADER PREDICTS POPULAR UPRISING IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Speaking in Istanbul on 27 June on the eve of the NATO summit, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili predicted that "what happened in Adjara," where popular protests forced Aslan Abashidze, the longtime head of the Adjaran Autonomous Republic, to step down early last month, will be repeated in the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 28 June. Saakashvili branded South Ossetia a dictatorship where human rights are routinely violated and drug trafficking flourishes. Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze similarly alleged on 28 June that the leadership of South Ossetia "is in its death throes," Caucasus Press reported. Also on 28 June, the South Ossetian authorities allowed six buses that they halted the previous day in the Roki tunnel to continue on their journey to Tbilisi, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, they warned that private vehicles carrying passengers or cargo will not be allowed to transit South Ossetia en route for destinations elsewhere in Georgia until the Georgian authorities release two South Ossetian-owned fuel trucks they intercepted last week on suspicion of transporting smuggled goods. LF
FORMER GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REHABILITATED
Deputy Prosecutor Giorgi Djanashia announced on 28 June that all criminal charges against deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia have been dropped, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Charges of abuse of office and of embezzlement were brought against Gamsakhurdia shortly after he fled Tbilisi in early January 1992. A further charges of treason was added in the fall of 1993 after he returned to Georgia at the head of a group of armed supporters in an abortive bid to regain power. Also on 28 June, three parliament deputies announced their intention to collect signatures to demand the creation of a special parliament commission to investigate the circumstances and causes of Gamsakhurdia's death on 31 December 1993. An official investigation in 1994 concluded that Gamsakhurdia committed suicide, but his widow and close associates claim he was murdered. LF
FORMER GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISMISSED FROM NATO POST
The daily "Mtavari gazeti" noted on 28 June that other print media (which it did not name) have suggested that David Tevzadze may soon face criminal proceedings in connection with his imputed role in facilitating an incursion into Abkhazia in September-October 2001 by a group of Chechen fighters led by field commander Ruslan Gelaev. Observers questioned at the time how Gelaev's men could have made their way undetected from their base in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge to western Georgia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 12 October 2001). Georgian President Saakashvili issued a decree late last week dismissing Tevzadze from his post as ambassador to NATO, but Tevzadze, along with a dozen other ambassadors who were likewise recalled or who received new postings, has not yet received official notification, opposition parliament deputy Zurab Tkemaladze alleged on 28 June, Caucasus Press reported. LF
OPPOSITION LEADER IMPLICATES GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN IN EMBEZZLEMENT
Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili told journalists on 28 June that the appointment last week of former Ambassador to Russia Konstantine Kemularia to head the Georgian Supreme Court "has put an end to the era of independent justice in Georgia," Caucasus Press reported. Natelashvili recalled that an investigation was opened into claims that Kemularia embezzled 3 million laris ($1.56 million) from a fund for disabled servicemen. The outcome of that investigation remains unclear. LF
FOUR COUNTRIES SIGN AIDS ACCORD IN ALMATY
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed on 28 June a memorandum on mutual assistance to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Kazinform reported. Great Britain's Department for International Development, the World Bank, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS joined the accord as well. The signing took place in the course of a 28-29 June meeting in Almaty on HIV/AIDS prevention. Under the agreement, the countries and international bodies will coordinate their efforts to combat the spread of the disease in Central Asia. Dennis de Tray, the World Bank director for Central Asia, called the memorandum an "important document," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. However, he added that much remains to be done. De Tray added that there are now 5,000 officially registered AIDS cases in the region. Joana Godinho of the World Bank said that the bank will provide a $20 million grant to support the fight against HIV/AIDS in Central Asia. DK
KAZAKH COMMISSION PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS
Representatives of the Central Election Commission announced in Almaty on 28 June that the nomination of candidates for 19 September elections to Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament will begin on 18 July and end on 9 August, Kazakh TV reported. Registration will last until 18 August. A spokesperson said that the central budget will provide each candidate with 191,650 tenges ($1,400) for campaign advertising; 13,000 tenges each will go toward a 10-minute radio address; and 60,000 tenges each will be allocated for a 15-minute television address. Parties, which can each field 10 candidates, will have a spending cap of 99 million tenges ($735,000). The lower house of parliament consists of 77 deputies. Of them, 67 are elected from single-candidate constituencies and 10 on party slates. DK
KYRGYZ OFFICIALS SOUND HIZB UT-TAHRIR WARNING
Prime Minster Nikolai Tanaev, Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov, and Deputy National Security Service (SNB) Chairman Tokon Mamytov during a 28 June meeting in Bishkek addressed the issue of religious extremism, news agencies reported. Their remarks focused on Hizb ut-Tahrir. Mamytov warned that the Islamist organization has changed its tactics, filing complains against law-enforcement officials and attempting to portray itself as "harassed and persecuted," Kabar news agency reported. Hizb ut-Tahrir occasionally receives support in these efforts from NGOs and the political opposition, according to Mamytov. Mamytov also noted that the SNB has had little success in identifying the organization's source of funding, akipress.org reported. For his part, Subanbekov said that Hizb ut-Tahrir activists are increasingly calling for armed resistance. He also said that the organization is winning new recruits in the country's north, although its base of support remains in the south. Prime Minister Tanaev announced that the government will create a special board to review religious literature, Kabar reported. He also conceded that difficult economic conditions create a breeding ground for extremism. "If we manage to create jobs for young people, then we'll take away half of that breeding ground," akipress.org quoted Tanaev as saying. DK
TURKMENISTAN SPENDS $53 MILLION ON HELICOPTERS
President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a $53 million contract in Ashgabat on 28 June with the U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for the purchase of two S-92 multi-mission helicopters, turkmenistan.ru reported. The helicopters, which will be outfitted to transport high-ranking officials, will be delivered in 2005-06. President Niyazov expressed his satisfaction with the two Sikorsky helicopters Turkmenistan has already purchased, and a company representative reportedly accepted his offer to establish a long-term cooperation agreement. DK
UZBEK JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY SENTENCED TO COMMUNITY SERVICE
Ruslan Sharipov has been sentenced to two years' community service in Bukhara after a secret trial that ended on 23 June, Reporters Without Borders announced in a 28 June press release. According to the report, the journalist was transferred to Bukhara on 25 June. Sharipov received a four-year prison term in 2003 for homosexual activities and sex with a minor. Sharipov's supporters allege that the government framed him to punish him for his activities in defense of human rights. Sharipov became eligible for amnesty in June, and officials had suggested that he might be freed. The opposition Harakat news agency noted that Sharipov will be under house arrest in Bukhara and will not be allowed to leave the city. DK
CHINA GIVES UZBEKISTAN $3.6 MILLION IN MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
Uzbekistan and China signed an intergovernmental agreement in Tashkent on 28 June for China to provide Uzbekistan with $3.6 million worth of equipment for medical schools, Uzbek TV reported. The report quoted Chinese Ambassador Gao Yusheng as saying that "relations of friendship and cooperation between Uzbekistan and China are entering a qualitatively new stage." DK
BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE LAUNCHES WEBSITE
The Chamber of Representatives has launched a website in an effort to provide voters with necessary information lawmakers believe was unavailable despite media coverage, Belapan reported on 28 June, citing deputy speaker Uladzimir Kanaplyou. Belarusian lawmakers "have always placed special emphasis on proper and comprehensive coverage of the parliament's activities," Kanaplyou said. The website (http://www.house.gov.by), contains information about the chamber's structure, members, regulations, and lawmaking activities. The latter section contains legislative schedules, and material on special hearings and decisions. Each lawmaker has a personal page that provides their individual e-mail addresses. AM
UKRAINE MARKS CONSTITUTION DAY
President Leonid Kuchma said on 28 June on the occasion of Constitution Day that "the adoption of the fundamental law sealed for all time our independence and the will of the Ukrainian nation to live in their sovereign state," Interfax reported. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said that since the Ukrainian Constitution was adopted on 28 June 1996, that date has come to symbolize national consensus and "the superiority of national interests over the ever-changing political situation." Lytvyn also said the constitution needs to be improved and "enriched by the experience of the creation of a state." Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych stressed that the constitution is not "an adamant dogma," and that "the decentralization of the power [in Ukraine] is necessary." The Verkhovna Rada is currently considering possible constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2004). AM
OUR UKRAINE LEADER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT AS INDEPENDENT
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko announced on 28 June he will run as an independent in this fall's presidential election, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko said he decided to run as an independent because while all the parties in the Our Ukraine Bloc supported his candidacy, his program was also supported by many organizations that are not associated with the bloc. "The main election struggle will take place not between representatives of particular parties but between the representative of the authorities and the representative of the nation," Yushchenko said. AM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'NO MORE EXCUSES' ON COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic told a Belgrade press conference on 28 June that the recent Serbian presidential victory of reformist candidate Boris Tadic means that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other leaders will no longer be able to claim that domestic political constraints prevent them from cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, the "International Herald Tribune" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 February, 9 April, and 18 June 2004). "No one will be able to sell stories to Brussels or Washington or anyone in the democratic world, that we cannot fulfill our international commitments such as those towards the Hague tribunal," Draskovic said. In commenting on Tadic's victory, a U.S. State Department spokesman said that Serbia has "clearly chosen the path that will lead [it] to the Euro-Atlantic integration and institutions where it belongs," Reuters reported. But Belgrade must "now intensify its efforts to fulfill its international obligations" regarding the tribunal, the spokesman added. He also noted that Washington intends to "explore the new opportunities...to assist Serbia." PM
SERBIA'S PRESIDENT-ELECT INVITES CROATIAN LEADER TO HIS INAUGURATION
Referring to his election victory, Tadic said in Belgrade on 28 June that it "means the true rebirth of Serbia...a triumph over the dark policies of the past," "The Christian Science Monitor" reported. He told the Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" that he will invite Croatian President Stipe Mesic to his inauguration and hopes to make a visit to Zagreb "among the first" trips of his presidency. Tadic noted the importance of promoting good relations in the region. In the Croatian capital, parliament speaker Vladimir Seks said that Tadic's victory "is excellent, both for Serbia and the future of our relations," Reuters reported. "Serbian citizens definitely showed they have turned towards Europe," he added. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek hailed Tadic's victory, stressing the importance of continuing reforms and promoting regional stability, Hina reported. PM
EU WARNS AGAINST SEPARATION OF JOINT STATE
Commenting on Tadic's election, EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana said in Istanbul on 28 June: "Boris Tadic is a friend of Europe. The people of Serbia have clearly expressed their desire for a European future," the "Financial Times" reported. The head of the European Commission's delegation in Serbia and Montenegro, Geoffrey Barrett, however warned that Belgrade will have to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and make the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro function effectively, dpa reported. "When the tribunal informs us that Serbia and Montenegro is fully cooperating, we will consider that question closed. And we will not support the separation of Serbia and Montenegro" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2004). PM
EU TO TAKE OVER BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING -- WITH A NATO PRESENCE
NATO leaders agreed on 28 June at their Istanbul summit to end NATO's SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the end of the year, the "International Herald Tribune" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). SFOR will be replaced by the EU's EUFOR. EU foreign- and security-policy chief Solana said that Brussels will supply not only military but also economic assistance, and that he will visit Bosnia on 15 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. For its part, NATO will retain a smaller mission in Bosnia to promote reforms in the military, apprehend indicted war criminals, and combat terrorism. Some voices in Germany, France, and elsewhere in the EU have called for the United States to leave Bosnia and perhaps other Balkan regions in favor of the EU. Many Bosnian Muslim and Kosovar Albanian leaders, however, consider a continued U.S. military presence crucial for regional security. Washington has shown renewed interest in the Balkans since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks because of possible Islamic-extremist activity in the area. PM
WESTERN BALKAN STATES COME AWAY FROM ISTANBUL WITH LITTLE TO SHOW
NATO's Istanbul summit ended on 29 June without any firm membership date being promised to Albania, Croatia, or Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). All three countries had hoped for some sort of "clear signal" on membership. Instead, they were told to continue with reforms and that NATO's doors "remain open" to them. And as had been widely expected, neither Bosnia nor Serbia and Montenegro was invited to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program because of issues related to cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS FAVORABLY OF NATO POLICY OF 'OPEN DOORS'
In reaction to NATO's 28-29 June Istanbul summit, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said on 29 June that the gathering was a "big success for Macedonia," "Utrinski vesnik" reported. "What we have expected for a long time and what we have worked for found its place in the [summit's] final document," Crvenkovski said. In the summit communique, the heads of state and government of NATO member states reaffirmed that "NATO's door remains open to new members, and encouraged Albania, Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to continue the reforms necessary to progress towards NATO membership," according to NATO's official website (http://www.nato.int). "During the next summit in 2006, we will be invited [to join NATO], and I hope that by 2007, Macedonia will be an equal member of the alliance," Crvenkovski said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002, and 28 May 2004). At the Istanbul gathering, Crvenkovski discussed regional cooperation with Croatian President Mesic and their Albanian counterpart, Alfred Moisiu, on 29 June, Hina reported. The three were scheduled to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush later in the day. UB/PM
SLOVENIA TO TRAIN IRAQIS ONLY IN THIRD COUNTRIES
Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop said at the NATO summit in Istanbul on 28 June that his country will train Iraqi security forces only in third countries, dpa reported. Rop suggested that Slovenia's role will not go beyond its current project of training Iraqi police in Jordan. PM
FORMER CROATIAN SERB REBEL LEADER GETS 13 YEARS
On 29 June, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced former Croatian Serb rebel leader Milan Babic to 13 years in prison for his role in killing and persecuting Croats during 1991-92, Reuters reported. Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said that "more than 200 civilians, including women and elderly persons, were murdered, and several hundred civilians were confined or imprisoned in inhumane conditions. The crime was characterized by ruthlessness and savagery and had a severe impact on victims and their relatives. Their suffering is still significant." The tribunal convicted Babic on 28 January on one count of a crime against humanity, lifting several other charges against him in keeping with a plea bargain he reached with prosecutors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27, 28, and 29 January 2004). As a result of the deal, the prosecutors asked for an 11-year sentence. The tribunal decided on a 13-year term, however, because of the seriousness of the crimes. While in The Hague, Babic has also acted as a witness at the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
MOSTAR COURT CLEARS MUSLIMS OF WAR CRIMES
On 28 June, the Mostar Cantonal Court dismissed a war crimes case against seven Muslims for allegedly killing two Serbs in Konjic in 1992, citing what it said was a lack of evidence, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Prosecutors said that they will appeal the decision to the Bosnian federal Supreme Court. The trial was authorized by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM
MEDIA ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS ATTACK ON MOLDOVAN JOURNALIST
In a 28 June letter sent to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) expressed "deep concern" over the recent attack on Alina Anghel, an investigative journalist for the "Timpul" weekly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 28 June 2004). The letter points out that the attack on the journalist "comes at a time when the press freedom situation in Moldova is deteriorating, and the authorities are trying to maintain control over National Radio and Television at any price and to limit the voice of the independent press." SEEMO condemns the attack on Anghel and asks Moldovan authorities "to ensure a thorough investigation into this case and to bring those responsible to justice." In related news, Chisinau police announced they have identified one of the two assailants who participated in the "robbery" of Anghel, Flux reported. According to the police, Anghel identified the person from a picture. The assailant is a well-known "robbery specialist," the police added. ZsM
CIS ANTITERROR EXERCISE BEGINS IN MOLDOVA
Special services from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries on 28 June began a joint "West Antiterror 2004" headquarters-command exercise, Infotag reported. The exercise is being held in conformity with a plan prepared by the CIS Antiterror Center. Officers from the special services of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova are participating in the exercise, which is due to end on 30 June. ZsM
IRAN: HEGEMONIC ASPIRATIONS VERSUS STRATEGIC REALISM
The Shi'ite clerics who rule Iran recognize that U.S. actions in Iraq have provided Tehran with a unique opportunity to realize its constitutional mandate to export its revolution and establish itself as the region's foremost power. To achieve that end, Iran is supporting rival factions in Iraq, making efforts to dominate the oil market, developing weapons of mass destruction, and burnishing its revolutionary credentials.
The removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein last year by the U.S.-led coalition forces appears to have finally ended the era of Sunni dominance in Iraq. With a Shi'ite prime minister heading the interim government and elections scheduled for 2005, Tehran has good reason to expect that the era of Shi'ite marginalization in Iraq is over. Though Shi'ites comprise the majority of the population, they have lived under Sunni rule since the Ottoman sacking of Baghdad in 1534.
This is perhaps why Iran is believed to have aided Muqtada al-Sadr with his Shi'ite insurgency, although it was never even remotely possible that his Imam Al-Mahdi Army would prevail. Through al-Sadr, Iran could indirectly send the message that the Shi'ites are a force to be reckoned with and that the road to peace in Baghdad goes through Tehran. At the same time, Tehran was careful not to interfere with the calming efforts of the ranking Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Al-Sistani made clear that he does not favor clerical rule, and the mullahs could have construed this as a criticism of their theocratic regime in Iran, but they also recognized that the U.S. agenda in Iraq would ultimately be good for Iran.
Regardless of whether the forthcoming elections are by party slate (the UN proposal) or by representation in single-mandate districts, the Shi'ite majority is likely to win a clear majority in the new Iraqi legislature. Iran, which is the seat of Shi'ite power, can only benefit from any Shi'ite ascendance.
That the current terrorist threat comes from the Sunni side of Islam has also helped improve the image of the Iranian clerics. With this more virulent form of Islamic extremism now dominating the news, the mullahs in Tehran seem almost benign in comparison.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the oil market's self-appointed leader, is distracted by its own war against terrorism. Iran has its own plan to dominate world oil markets and recently announced plans to open a regional oil-trading market to be located in Tehran as early as 2005. The goal is to create a rival to London's International Petroleum Exchange and shift the gravitational center of the oil markets to the Middle East. Tehran's ambitious plan contrasts sharply with Saudi Arabia's approach to oil-market leadership, which was largely limited to playing the role of swing supplier.
Tehran's eagerness to become the regional hegemon explains the headlines it has been generating in connection with its nuclear programs. To be taken seriously, Iran needs to convince the world of its determination to acquire the potential to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. While it would be reckless for the regime to actually demonstrate a nuclear-weapons capability and risk a U.S. or Israeli military response, the current disciplinary action by the International Atomic Energy Agency serves as a potent reminder that Iran is getting close enough to the "Islamic" bomb to be a real force, a virtual member of the nuclear club, without the risks involved in actually exiting from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
To be a credible Islamic leader, Tehran also needs to show that in spite of the U.S. war on terrorism, it has not weakened in its resolve to back what its sees as "liberation" movements -- Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. To compete with new Sunni rivals such as Al-Qaeda, furthermore, the Islamic regime has had to go one step further. This is why in May, Tehran permitted a nongovernmental organization to sign up volunteers to launch suicide attacks against such predictable foes as Salman Rushdie, the U.S. and British forces in Iraq, and the "Zionists in Palestine." The regime can distance itself from the effort of this so-called NGO and hence avoid retaliation while still showing that it retains ultimate control by having the group's leader announce that before it deploys its legion of "martyrs" it will seek the permission of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran's most recent moves -- the assembling of troops on its border with Iraq and its seizure of British Navy vessels -- show that it can also wear the cloak of anti-imperialism, another necessary policy dressing needed to win the hearts and minds of the region. Without doing anything really substantial, such as disrupting trade relations with France, Iran demonstrated that it is the only regional actor that has the courage to face down the great powers.
The Islamic regime may push the Shi'ite power play to the limit, but in the end the mullahs will probably not cross the line that would invoke any real U.S. hostility. They almost certainly understand that doing so would ultimately deprive them of their exclusive access to the national treasury and in the end, they probably will opt for importing luxury items over exporting their Islamic revolution.Sharon Chadha is an independent analyst of Persian Gulf affairs.
NATO DECIDES TO INCREASE ITS PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN...
Heads of state and governments of NATO member states meeting in Istanbul decided on 28 June to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Anatolia news agency reported. According to NATO officials, the number of ISAF troops will be increased from the current 6,500 to 10,000. According to NATO's website (http://www.nato.int), the alliance will take command of four new Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in northern Afghanistan. The new PRTs will be based in Balkh, Badakhshan, Baghlan, and Faryab provinces. From these bases, the PRT in Konduz that is currently commanded by NATO, and temporary "satellite" presences in Jowzjan, Samangan, and Sar-e Pol provinces, "ISAF will now be able to influence security in nine provinces in the north" of Afghanistan. Earlier reports had indicated that NATO would expand its force to the northern provinces of Balkh and Faryab as well as to Parwan and Logar provinces, situated to the north and south of Kabul (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2004). AT
...PROMISES TO ENSURE SECURITY FOR AFGHAN ELECTIONS...
NATO leaders also made commitments to deploy extra forces to support the upcoming elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September-October, a statement on NATO's website stated. "Each ISAF-led PRT will be temporarily reinforced by an additional infantry company (about 100 extra troops). In addition, NATO will deploy a quick reaction force of up to 1,000 troops. Further troops will be put on high readiness to move into theater if required," the statement adds. The Istanbul summit communique issued on 28 June states that "after the election, it will be for the government of Afghanistan to develop a forward-looking plan that fulfils the vision of the Bonn agreement to promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability, and respect for human rights." AT
...AND PROMISES TO TAKE 'RESOLUTE ACTION' ON DRUG PROBLEM IN AFGHANISTAN
The Istanbul summit communique also implies that NATO will try to help address the growing drug problem in Afghanistan. "We will provide appropriate support, within ISAF's mandate, to the Afghan authorities in taking resolute action against the production and trafficking of narcotics," the communique states. While the statement does not specify what measures the NATO-led ISAF will take against Afghanistan's drug problem, this is the first time the alliance has decided to address the issue, which until now it has said is outside its mandate (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June 2004). AT
AFGHAN LEADER WELCOMES NATO'S COMMITMENTS
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 29 June welcomed the commitment by NATO to send additional troops to his country, AFP reported. "I'm sure that what you have done yesterday [28 June] will bring to the Afghan people an improvement...that will eventually cause Afghanistan to have institutions of its own to defend itself and to protect itself," Karzai said. The Afghan leader said that while terrorism will continue to plague Afghanistan for some time to come and the fight against terrorism needs to be a long-term struggle, he vowed that the terrorists are "not really capable [of posing] a threat to the political process" in his country. AT
NUCLEAR INSPECTORS VISIT SUSPECTED IRANIAN SITE
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said on 28 June in Moscow that IAEA inspectors were given access to a suspect site in Tehran, AFP reported. Satellite imagery of a site in Lavizan-Shian, a northeastern Tehran neighborhood, revealed that large buildings inside a secure perimeter had been dismantled, the rubble removed, and the earth scraped (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 June 2004). El-Baradei said: "Today, we went to Lavizan, we took environmental samples, we did all we wanted to. We got a prompt response for access from the Iranians." El-Baradei said he views the prompt Iranian response as "something positive," Reuters reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 27 June dismissed concerns about the Lavizan site as a U.S. "psychological war against Iran," IRNA reported. He said, "They have raised an issue against Tehran municipality's decision to demolish a district of Lavizan for redevelopment; I suppose they expect the Iranian municipalities to obtain a permit from the mayor of New York to carry out redevelopment plans!" BS
TEHRAN RIDICULES REPORT OF NUCLEAR SPILL AT AIRPORT
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh gave his first press conference in five months on 28 June and dismissed a recent press report about the delay in the opening of the new Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 April and 17 May 2004). London's "The Sunday Telegraph" reported on 27 June that use of the airport has been delayed because of an accident during the December 2002 delivery of a "secret shipment of weapons-grade uranium from North Korea." Some of the uranium was spilled, and although it was cleaned up, the authorities fear that IAEA inspectors might detect the spillage. "Iranian aviation officials, who cannot be named for their own security," assert that the new airport will not reopen until Russian nuclear experts can confirm the absence of nuclear spillage. BS
TEHRAN COMMENTS ON IRAQI HANDOVER
Government spokesman Ramezanzadeh commented on 28 June on that day's transfer of sovereignty in Baghdad, ISNA reported. He said that the Iranian government welcomes any development that leads to the majority of Iraqi people running their country's affairs. Ramezanzadeh hoped that this will lead to the end of the occupation and to the establishment of a system based on the popular vote. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 28 June, "The transfer of power to the Iraqi government and end of occupation, which is taking place on the basis of the [UN] Security Council Resolution 1546, is a positive step," IRNA reported. Alaedin Borujerdi, who heads the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said one of the biggest problems facing the new Iraqi government is establishing security, ISNA reported. Borujerdi said the withdrawal of occupation forces would help the security situation, but he does not foresee this happening. Iranian presidential adviser Mohammad Shariati said on 28 June that the transfer of power was "too late," Al-Arabiyah television reported. He said the current Iraqi government is not legitimized by elections so these should be held soon. BS
IRAN IMPORTANT TO NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi discussed Iran in the context of relations with neighboring states in a speech after his 28 June swearing-in ceremony, Al-Arabiyah television reported. He thanked Iran and other countries who "opened their doors" to exiled Iraqis as they struggled against the regime of Saddam Hussein. He added, "I extend a hand of peace and brotherhood to Iran and Turkey, the two Muslim neighbors." These two countries and Iraq's Arab neighbors must work together to address regional problems and to bring security and prosperity to its people, he said. Hamid al-Kafai, who heads the Iraqi interim cabinet's public-relations unit, referred to Allawi's speech and said Iran "enjoys a special status" among Iraq's neighbors, IRNA reported, citing Iraqi television. He noted that Iran recognized the legitimacy of the interim Iraqi government, and that the former regime's eight-year war against Iran harmed relations between the two countries. BS
THREE TURKISH HOSTAGES HELD IN IRAQ RELEASED
Three Turkish hostages being held in Iraq by the Monotheism and Jihad group associated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi have been released, the group announced in a video recording aired by Al-Jazeera on 29 June. The group said that it released the men "for the sake of Muslims in Turkey and [due to] their demonstrations against [U.S. President George W.] Bush." Two other Turkish nationals remain captive in Iraq. KR
GROUP CLAIMS TO HAVE EXECUTED U.S. SOLDIER IN IRAQ
Al-Jazeera reported on 29 June that it has received a videotaped statement from a group identifying itself as the Unsheathed Sword Against the Enemy of God and the Prophet that said the group has executed U.S. Army Private Keith Maupin, who was taken hostage in Iraq on 9 April. The statement said that the group killed Maupin because the United States has not changed its policy in Iraq, and in an attempt to avenge "martyrs" in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. The videotape shows Maupin speaking followed by what appears to be a man being executed outside in the dark. It is unclear whether the man, who is shown with his back to the camera, is in fact Maupin. The Pentagon has issued a statement saying it was unable to immediately confirm whether the man shown being shot was Maupin, AP reported on 29 June. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed an unknown number of U.S. Marines in the Iraqi capital on 29 June, international media reported. "I don't know how many died here, [they] killed some Marines," one Marine at the scene told Reuters. Al-Arabiyah reported that an unidentified Marine at the scene said "several" of his comrades were killed or wounded in the blast. KR
ROADSIDE BOMB TARGETS KIRKUK POLICE OFFICIAL
A roadside bomb exploded in Kirkuk on 29 June as a Kurdish police official was driving by, AP reported. Major Ahmad al-Hamawandi, who heads the police in the Azadi district of the city, was injured in the blast. One of his bodyguards was killed. Al-Jazeera reported on 28 June that the director of the Al-Awja police station was killed that day when a bomb detonated at his home. The television network cited police sources as saying that the explosion took place one hour after Captain Ahmad Hamzah returned home from work. Gunfire was also reportedly heard inside the house following the blast. Al-Awja is located near Tikrit. KR
FRENCH PRESIDENT SIGNALS POSSIBLE NATO SPLIT OVER IRAQ
Jacques Chirac told reporters at the NATO summit in Istanbul on 28 June that he will not support deploying NATO personnel in Iraq, French LCI television reported. NATO issued a statement that day offering assistance to the Iraqi interim government for the training of Iraqi security forces, although it has yet to be decided where that training would take place. "I do not think that it is part of NATO's mission to intervene in Iraq," LCI quoted Chirac as saying. "And moreover, I'm convinced that if NATO were to intervene in Iraq, the negative consequences would without any doubt be much greater, in particular on the psychological and the political level, than the positive consequences." He said France would be willing to participate in the training of Iraqi security forces -- but not on Iraqi soil. KR
IRAQ'S NEIGHBORS WELCOME TRANSFER OF POWER
Iraq's neighbors issued statements of congratulations after Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim government was granted sovereign status on 28 June, international media reported. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry announced that it will resume diplomatic ties with Iraq, severed since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of its southern neighbor, KUNA reported. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani said that Syria is ready to offer support and backing to the interim Iraqi government. Jordan's King Abdallah II sent a cable to Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil Yawir saying that Jordan is keen to help Iraq restore its position as an independent and democratic state, Petra reported. In Turkey, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that "it is everyone's duty to support this [Iraqi] government," TRT2 television reported. Gul said he will support sending Turkish troops to Iraq under the NATO umbrella. KR