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Newsline - July 1, 2004

Defense attorneys claim that the statute of limitations on one of the main charges against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev expired on 1 July, reported. Defense lawyers intend to ask the Meshchanskii Raion Court to dismiss the charges stemming from the 1994 privatization of the Apatit fertilizer factory, arguing that 10 years have passed since that event, Interfax reported. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 12 July. RC

Menatep Chairman Lebedev, who will have been held in pretrial detention for exactly one year on 2 July, has been transferred to a 20-person cell in the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison, Russian media reported on 1 July. Lebedev's lawyer, Yevgenii Baru, expressed concern for Lebedev's health on 1 July and speculated that the transfer might have been done in order to make it more difficult for Lebedev to participate actively in his defense. "Lebedev's activity in the courtroom, apparently, has met with the disapproval of the authorities," Baru said. RC

The government has approved a new strategy for developing the banking sector, Russian media reported on 1 July. "Our goal is to approach matters as systematically as possible, to address the entire complex of questions, to create stability and predictability," Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said, according to The National Banking Council will play the leading role in implementing the strategy, Fradkov said, according to RIA-Novosti. A final document outlining the strategy will be released in two weeks after changes discussed during the cabinet session have been introduced into the draft, reported. RC

State-controlled ORT held its annual shareholders meeting on 30 June and elected a new board of directors, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. Deputy Health and Social Development Minister and Social Insurance Fund Chairwoman Galina Karelova, presidential media adviser Mikhail Lesin, and Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency Director Mikhail Shvydkoi were added to the 10-person board. Federal Press and Mass Communications Agency Director Mikhail Seslavinskii, former Deputy Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman, and former ORT First Deputy Director and Media Soyuz head Aleksandr Lyubimov were removed. The other seven board members include ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, presidential press spokesman Aleksei Gromov, and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov. The chairman of the new board will be chosen at its first full meeting, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 July. The meeting also endorsed ORT's 2003 financial report, although details were not released to the public. "In 2003 the channel made a profit, and that profit will be used to pay off ORT's debts to Vneshekonombank, as previously agreed," ORT spokesman Igor Burenkov told "Vremya novostei" on 1 July. RC

"Izvestiya" on 1 July also reported on the ownership of ORT. According to the daily, 38.9 percent of the channel belongs to the Russian Federal Property Fund, 24 percent belongs to ORT-KB, 14 percent to RastrKom2002, 11 percent to EberLink2002, 9.1 percent belongs to ITAR-TASS, and 3 percent to the Ostankino Television Technical Center. "Izvestiya" reported that ORT-KB, RastrKom2002, and EberLink2002 are all commercial companies owned by oligarch and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. "This ownership structure is maximally convenient both for budgetary financing and for nonbudgetary financing, which in this case is carried out in close coordination with the main shareholder -- the government," the daily commented. RC

An annual shareholders meeting of state-controlled electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems (EES) elected a new board on 30 June, Russian media reported. Board Chairman Anatolii Chubais was reelected to the board, as was former presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, who is chairman of the company's management board. The government retained its 10 seats on the 15-member board, including Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko. The new board will choose a chairman at its meeting at the end of this month, ITAR-TASS reported. RC

A ceremony was held on 29 June in the Udmurtia town of Kambarka to mark the beginning of construction of a new chemical-weapons-disposal facility, the Military News Agency reported on 30 June. One of Russia's seven chemical-weapons storage depots is located in the town. The facility is expected to begin functioning in December 2005, Regnum reported on 28 June. The European Union will spend 300 million euros ($366 million) on the project, including 33 million from Germany. Russia has earmarked 6 billion rubles ($206 million). Regnum reported that all of the weapons stores in Udmurtia are scheduled for destruction by 2012. RC

Human Rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin issued a statement on 30 June criticizing draft legislation that will replace most in-kind social benefits, such as free transportation, with monetary payments, Interfax reported. According to Lukin, "numerous provisions of the bill do not correspond with a number of constitutional requirements." He cautioned that the final draft of the bill should reflect President Vladimir Putin's wish that the lot of any group of recipients should not worsen. On the same day, Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii, head of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, told RosBalt that the government's initiative is "inopportune." "It is possible to conduct a reform such as this when inflation is low and the banking system is stable," he said. "But our economy has still not strengthened. As before it relies to a significant measure on the export of oil and other resources. Where is the guarantee that in two to three years cash compensation will not be eroded by the growth of prices and a corresponding reduction in budget expenditures?" JAC

On an official visit to Yaroslavl on 30 June, Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref said that criminal businesses with a turnover of several billion rubles are operating within the current system of benefits financing, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported. As a result, he said, "billions of rubles never reach the people for whom they were intended." According to, he also suggested that under the reform plan regions will probably be given the right to keep the existing benefits system. JAC

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office is investigating the Yaroslavl Oblast administration for alleged misuse of federal budget money, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 June. Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn told a local television station that the presidential administration is upset with his recent critical statements about the government's plan to replace in-kind benefits with monetary payments, implying that the investigation of his administration is motivated partly by political reasons. The last straw, according to Lisitsyn, was his appearance on the NTV program "Svoboda slova." Lisitsyn told the local legislature on 29 June that investigators are interested in the history of a credit granted to local businesses that the oblast administration guaranteed and the businesses never repaid. According to "Izvestiya" on 29 June, another investigation into oblast finances being undertaken by the Audit Chamber was initiated by the State Duma on 11 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). JAC

A new nationwide poll shows that nearly half of those queried know nothing about new limitations on initiating referendums, reported on 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004). The controversial amendments to the law on referendums came into effect on 30 June, and results from the polling firm ROMIR show that 46 percent know nothing about the legislation, while 36 percent recalled hearing something about it. Seventeen percent, most of whom were older, said they know about the new amendments. Sixty percent of respondents said that they thought the procedure for conducting referendums should be as simple as possible and that they should be held quickly and regularly. Twenty-eight percent said that they thought the procedure should be complex so that money and time aren't wasted discussing unnecessary questions. The poll was conducted in 45 regions and had 2,028 respondents. The bill has been criticized by opposition members of the State Duma as excessively restrictive. Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent) 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" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2004). JAC

The State Duma voted on 30 June to approve in their third and final reading amendments to the Criminal Code that Legislation Committee Deputy Chairman Petr Shelishch (Unified Russia) said are designed to "humanize legal norms," reported. According to RosBalt, the amendments soften punishments for a number of offenses by reducing fines. The vote was 385 in favor, with zero against and one abstention. JAC

A krai-level court in Krasnoyarsk sentenced on 30 June former Krasnoyarsk Krai Deputy Governor Valerii Suladze to 7 1/2 years in a maximum security prison for abuse of office, embezzlement of funds, and accepting bribes, ITAR-TASS reported. Suladze was arrested in his office in June 2002 while accepting a $250,000 bribe in an apparent Federal Security Service (FSB) sting operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). Suladze is a former deputy of the late Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who thought so highly of Suladze that he sent a request to the presidential administration that Suladze be given an order of merit, according to "Vremya novostei." Suladze denies all charges and his lawyers have already drafted an appeal to the Supreme Court. JAC

The government approved on 30 June a provision detailing the responsibilities of the newly created Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Interfax reported. Among the agency's duties is the provision of licenses to legal entities that use nuclear materials and radioactive substances. Meanwhile, "Profil" reported on 28 June that two former deputy atomic energy ministers for atomic energy, Ivan Kamenskikh and Anatolii Kotelnikov, have been named deputy directors of the new agency. Boris Yurlov, a former financial officer for Gazprom, was also named a deputy. Yurlov will oversee the nuclear-energy industry's finances. JAC

Magadan city legislators accepted on 30 June the resignation of Mayor Nikolai Karpenko, who is moving to Rostov to head the control department of the apparatus for the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Vladimir Yakovlev, "Vremya novostei" reported on 1 July. Karpenko was mayor of Magadan for 11 years. Born in Rostov, Karpenko is giving up his mayoral post two years before his term was due to expire. Legislators must decide by 20 July when the next mayoral election will be. JAC

Moscow will send about 100 troops to Burundi to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. An unidentified Defense Ministry source told the news agency that the troops could be ready to depart within two weeks. RC

The number of Russians who are reported missing each year has increased annually by 10-12 percent over the last four years, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 June, citing Interior Ministry official Colonel Yelena Zarembinskaya. She said that the number of missing was 102,800 in 2000 and 118,700 in 2003. She added that about one-fifth of those missing in 2003 were minors, including about 8,000 infants younger than 3 years old. Zarembinskaya reported that last year about 64 percent of those reported missing were found, including 92 percent of the minors. "We are concerned about the involvement of various religious sects in the selling of minors," she said. "Children are taken to compounds, to model residences, and are forced to renounce their families and friends." In order to assist in the process of finding missing people, the Interior Ministry has proposed the creation of a national DNA databank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2004). RC

Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told Chechen State Television on 30 June there is no truth to reports that the militants who launched multiple attacks during the night of 21-22 June on police targets in Ingushetia were Chechens who entered Ingushetia from Chechen territory and returned to Chechnya after the operation, Interfax and the independent website reported. He added that the attack stems from the "inactivity" of the Ingush leadership and claimed he warned them that an attack was imminent. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 30 June, North Ossetian President Dzasokhov likewise denied that his republic could have served as a base for the militants, Interfax reported. He characterized the attacks as an attempt to destabilize Ingushetia, "which is striving...towards establishing peace in the North Caucasus." LF

Makhmud Sakalov has written to the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy to complain about an interview it aired on 29 June with Ingushetian parliament deputy Musa Ozdoev, reported on 30 June. In that interview, Ozdoev claimed the Ingushetian leadership is dishonest, corrupt, and inefficient, and that the majority of deputies to the republic's parliament were appointed rather than elected in a fair ballot. Sakalov alleged that Ozdoev was motivated by "petty personal interests," and that Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov continues to enjoy "broad support" not only from the population of Ingushetia but also from the Russian leadership. LF

An item titled "Qatari Court Sentences Two Russians To Life For Yandarbiev Killing" in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 30 June 2004 should have identified the two Russian citizens sentenced for the killing for former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev as Anatolii Belashkov and Vassilii Bogachev.

Armenia's Review Court rejected on 30 June an appeal by 24-year-old Edgar Arakelian against the 18-month prison sentence handed down to him in May, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 May 2004). Arakelian threw an empty plastic mineral water bottle at a police officer during clashes in Yerevan on the night of 12-13 April between participants in a peaceful antigovernment demonstration and police who resorted to violence to try to disperse them. A Yerevan district court found Arakelian guilty of "attacking a state official performing his duties." LF

Baku police surrounded the Djuma mosque on 30 June and forcibly evicted worshippers, including the mosque's controversial imam Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, Turan reported. A Baku district court ruled in March that the congregation had illegally taken possession of the building, which from the 1920s until the collapse of the USSR served as a museum, but did nothing to enforce that ruling when the congregation failed to vacate the premises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 10, and 11 March and 26 April 2004). Also on 30 June, it was announced that Allakhshukur Pashazade, Azerbaijan's senior Muslim clergyman, has appointed a new imam to replace Ibrahimoglu, but believers refused to participate in evening prayers led by him later on 30 June, Turan reported on 1 July. Turan on 30 June quoted an unnamed U.S. State Department official as telling Voice of America that Washington is "concerned" at the eviction and other restrictions on religious freedom in Azerbaijan. LF

Russian diplomat Mikhail Mayorov told journalists in Moscow on 1 July that the Georgian delegation refuses to take part in the meeting scheduled for that day of the Joint Control Commission comprising officials from Georgia, Russia, North and South Ossetia and which monitors developments in the South Ossetian conflict zone, ITAR-TASS reported. The Georgian delegation is headed by Giorgi Khaindrava, the minister for conflict resolution. Khaindrava said on 30 June -- the day the session was supposed to begin -- that his delegation would not take part as long as the South Ossetian authorities "held hostage" three Georgian State Security Ministry staffers apprehended on 26 June in South Ossetia apparently engaging in espionage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004. The Caucasus Press report of 30 June that the three agents had been released was apparently untrue). Interfax on 30 June quoted Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili as stating that his ministry is preparing an operation in South Ossetia to release the three detainees. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 30 June deploring Georgia's failure to comply with oral assurances it gave on 2 June to remove police inspection posts it established in South Ossetia without the consent of the Joint Control Commission, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 30 June, Alekandr Dzasokhov proposed that the Russian and Georgian governments reach agreement on "most favored nation" status for a zone on the border between the two countries comprising South Ossetia and adjacent districts of North Ossetia, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. He argued that such an arrangement would be "more flexible" than a free economic zone, and would generate income to be used to finance reconstruction in the South Ossetian conflict zone. At the same press conference, Dzasokhov expressed dismay at the formal posthumous rehabilitation by the Georgian government of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004). Dzasokhov pointed out that it was Gamsakhurdia who abolished South Ossetia's autonomy in 1990 and incited Georgian militants to attack the region. LF

The Georgian Finance Ministry has not yet paid the 155,000 euros ($188,816) which the European Court of Human Rights ruled should be awarded to former Batumi Mayor Tengiz Asanidze as compensation for his imprisonment for 10 years on fabricated charges of embezzlement, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June quoting Asanidze's wife Guliko, who stressed that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has assured her husband several times that the money will be paid. Asanidze was released from jail in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 April 2004). LF

Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 30 June following a two-day visit, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy is interested in investing in the energy, agriculture, tourism, and banking sectors, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He also said Italy will support Georgia's efforts for integration with the EU, and is prepared to engage in a dialogue with Moscow in order to facilitate a solution to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts. LF

The fifth term of Kazakhstan's second parliament ended on 30 June, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, the speaker of the Majilis (lower chamber), addressed the session, which was attended by 69 Majilis deputies, 33 senators, and Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov. Tuyakbai noted that between December 1999 and June 2004 parliament reviewed 790 bills, 566 of which have since been signed into law. He also offered some critical remarks on the "many unresolved issues" that remain. Tuyakbai expressed the hope that deputies will initiate more bills in the future and he suggested the creation of a commission to further legislative cooperation between the cabinet and parliament. Tuyakbai lamented the fact that parliament has failed to resolve the unclear legal status of Kazakh peacekeepers in Iraq and warned that discussions of budgetary issues have "too often become a predictable formality." Deputies from both chambers will gather on 1 September to open the sixth term of parliament; parliamentary elections will take place on 19 September. DK

Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev announced on 30 June that Kyrgyzstan has sold an $85 million stake in Centerra Gold, akipress reported. Tanaev said that the proceeds will go to fight poverty. The sale came in the course of Centerra's initial and secondary offering on the Toronto stock market, which raised a total of $252.6 million, Canadian Press reported on 30 June. The news agency quoted CEO Len Homeniuk as saying, "In 12 years we have become the largest western-based gold producer in the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, with large, modern operations in the Kyrgyz Republic and Mongolia." Centerra operates the Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan. Canadian mining company Cameco owns 54 percent of Centerra, Kyrgyzaltyn JSC owns 16 percent, and International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) together own 4 percent. DK

Parliament passed a bill on 30 June requiring high-level government officials to make public information about their incomes, Kyrgyzinfo reported. The bill applies to the president, ministers, and heads of major government agencies, as well as high-ranking members of the presidential administration. Bolot Januzakov, first deputy director of the presidential administration, said that the first declarations will be presented in May 2005. (President Askar Akaev has been making public information about his earnings for the past four years.) On their last day of work before the summer recess, deputies also passed a number of social welfare bills. DK

Parliament deputies met on 30 June for the last session of the fifth term of the Majilsi Namoyandagon (lower house) before the summer recess, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Speaker Saidullo Khairulloev said that the fifth term, which began in October 2003, marked "another step forward and turned a new page in the lawmaking activities of the country's professional parliament." The fifth term saw the passage of 89 bills and 155 resolutions, as well as the ratification of more than 30 agreements and treaties. Khairulloev also noted that legislators are making greater efforts to initiate bills themselves. The legislature passed six bills on its last day, Avesta reported. They included a bill defending consumers' rights and a bill to combat human trafficking. DK

Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov called on law-enforcement bodies and other government agencies on 29 June to step up their efforts to fight the spread of drug use in Tajikistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. Oqilov also noted Tajikistan's successes in thwarting the drug trade, citing UN data that accord Tajikistan fourth place in the world by the amount of heroin destroyed. "Tajikistan accounts for 82 percent of all the narcotics destroyed in Central Asia," he added. In conclusion, he said that more active efforts are needed to conduct antidrug consciousness-raising in schools and other educational institutions. DK

The Belarusian Chamber of Representatives (lower house) on 30 June approved amendments to the law on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Belapan reported. The bill enables the closure of NGOs for violating laws regarding the use of foreign aid and street demonstrations. The bill also allows courts to shut down NGOs for six months if they don't comply with the law. Justice Minister Viktar Halavanau told the chamber that the latter measure will "democratize" relations between authorities and NGOs by applying sanctions rather than liquidation. The bill authorizes the Justice Ministry to suspend NGOs' registration for one month if their documents are found to be flawed. Under the bill, NGOs should report annually about the organization's membership, structure, and activities. AM

The Chamber of Representatives on 30 June approved changes to the law on political parties, Belapan reported. The bill forbids dual party membership and party membership for legal entities. Under the amended law, to be legal a party must have a Minsk city branch and regional branches in at least four of the country's six regions. According to the new law, branches should be established within six months of the party's registration. Justice Minister Halavanau said that such a provision will prevent "an artificial increase" of party membership in particular regions. The bill bars political parties from receiving aid from foreign private individuals, foreign organizations, stateless or anonymous people, minors, and religious organizations. AM

The Chamber of Representatives approved on 29 June amendments to the law on state security agencies, which extends the functions of the State Security Committee (KGB), Belapan reported. According to the amended law, the KGB will contribute to the nation's political, social, economic, and scientific progress, will ensure strategic military security, as well as providing the president, cabinet, and government agencies with information necessary for decision making. The bill also requires other state agencies to assist the KGB. AM

On 29 June, the Belarusian Chamber of Representatives supported the proposal of lawmaker Uladzimir Navasyad to question the Central Election Commission on provisions in the Election Code, Belapan reported. Navasyad wants the commission's Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna to explain the procedure for forming local election commissions, the criteria for selecting their members, the relations between commissions and observers, the rules regarding observers' rights to monitor ballot boxes, as well as observers' rights to study voting records. Speaking to the chamber, Navasyad said that during the 2003 election to the Minsk City Council he had seen "situations not specified in existing electoral law." Navasyad said that he believes Yarmoshyna's explanations will "remove many doubts" and make the election process more democratic. AM

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said on 30 June that the United States will support Ukraine's efforts to become a market economy, Unian reported. Herbst said that the country should still take a number of important steps in order to become a market economy and efficiently enter world markets. Ukraine has achieved significant changes in the macroeconomic sphere, but the lack of changes on the microeconomic level is "disturbing," Herbst added. The main problem of Ukraine's economy, according to Herbst, is insufficient transparency in the privatization process and flaws in laws regulating business activity. Herbst praised Ukraine's efforts to join the World Trade Organization but said that the issue of copyright protection still concerns the United States. AM

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic said in Banja Luka on 30 June that the decision by High Representative Paddy Ashdown to fire 59 Bosnian Serb officials, ban 12 of them from ever holding office again, freeze 60 bank accounts, and issue an unspecified number of travel bans is a "heavy blow against the Republika Srpska and its institutions," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004) (for the names of the people sacked see Mikerevic stressed that Ashdown's decision and the manner in which it went into effect ignore what the prime minister called the great efforts that many of the sacked officials had made to help their country over the years, adding that the decision will not help promote democracy in the Republika Srpska. He suggested that the government might take some unspecified measures of its own (see PM

On 30 June, legislators belonging to the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) walked out of the parliament in Banja Luka to protest Ashdown's decision, especially the sacking of speaker Dragan Kalinic, Reuters reported. Ashdown's move is designed to break up the structures supporting and funding former Bosnian Serb leader and fugitive indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The high representative believes that Kalinic oversees the funds enabling Karadzic to evade justice. For his part, Kalinic said that Karadzic "is probably being guarded by God and the angels." Ashdown ordered an audit of the Srpske Sume company, which he suspects has links to war criminals or the criminal underworld. He also diverted $600,000 in public funds earmarked for the SDS to "organizations committed to human rights and hunting war criminals," London's "The Guardian" reported. The SDS is expected to issue a statement on Ashdown's decision soon. PM

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington on 30 June that the officials sacked by Ashdown "have worked to prevent the fulfillment of the Dayton accords and UN obligations to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal" based in The Hague, RFE/RL reported. "For its part and in support of the high representative's actions, the United States is freezing the assets of a Republika Srpska-owned firm and three Republika Srpska officials who have provided financial, logistical and security assistance to Radovan Karadzic," he added. In Brussels, the EU added 13 people to its list of those banned from receiving EU visas, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 30 June that it is unlikely that any Bosnian Serb will help arrest Karadzic. The article added that the Bosnian Serb leadership lacks the political will to apprehend him and that any arrest will have to be made by NATO-led peacekeepers. Early on 1 July, at least 70 SFOR peacekeepers, supported by Bosnian Serb police, conducted a search operation in Han Pijesak. A NATO spokesman in Sarajevo said that "we are conducting a search operation in Han Pijesak focused on a facility, as part of our normal framework operation to ensure compliance with the Dayton peace agreement." He did not specifically refer to Karadzic or to any move under way to arrest him or any other indictees. Han Pijesak was the base during the 1992-95 conflict of fugitive indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who, along with Karadzic and former Croatian General Ante Gotovina, is one of the tribunal's most wanted indictees. PM

Serbian President-elect Boris Tadic told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 29 June that his Democratic Party (DS) has no plans to enter the minority coalition government headed by his party's rival, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Tadic added that he is under no pressure from abroad to do so. He stressed that his party will not try to bring down the government, adding that the Democrats will not be responsible if that happens. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 30 June that Tadic might be hoping that the government will fall in order to benefit from early elections by capitalizing on Tadic's recent electoral victory (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 February and 18 June 2004). Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 29 June that he expects that a new constitution will be approved in the fall, followed by early elections, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He added that Kostunica agreed with him on the need of approving the constitution and holding elections, which is Kostunica's long-standing position. PM

On 27 June, unidentified persons attacked journalist Svetlana Djordjevic in Vranje and injected her with an unidentified substance, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 30 June. She said that her attackers told her she must publicly withdraw the charges in her book "Kosovo Witness" regarding the involvement of Serbian police in crimes in that province. Her husband later found her in their home unconscious with a red rose in her hand. Djordjevic said subsequently that she had received various threats in recent months with clear references to her writings. PM

Veteran journalist Veton Surroi, who heads the Koha publishing and broadcasting group, and NGO leader Ylber Hysa announced in Prishtina on 30 June that they have set up an independent citizens' election grouping called Ora that will take part in the October parliamentary elections, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. Surroi stressed that time has come to mobilize ordinary citizens to bring new life and transparency into politics and government, which he described as ossified. Some recent polls suggest that the established parties are indeed losing some voter support. Those parties nonetheless all have readily identifiable bases of support, dating from either the political structures predating the 1998-99 conflict or the guerrilla organizations that emerged during the war. If Ora proves successful, it would mean a definite change in Kosova's political landscape. PM

The leadership of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) decided on 30 June that candidates for the party's lists in the November parliamentary elections will be selected in county primaries, Mediafax reported. The PSD leadership also decided that the party's next Permanent Delegation (the party's decision-making forum) is to be smaller in size than the current one. The delegation's makeup is to be decided by a PSD extraordinary congress slated for August. The congress is to select a Permanent Delegation whose members are neither cabinet members nor PSD lawmakers in order to divide party from governmental or parliamentary activities. Finally, the PSD leadership decided that county-branch leaders whose organizations fared poorly in the 6 and 20 June local elections are to "assume moral and political responsibility" and resign by 5 July. The proposals were made by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. MS

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who was dismissed as executive chairman of the PSD's Bucharest branch one day earlier, said on 30 June that the PSD and other political parties must avoid "political cannibalism," Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004). Geoana said his dismissal was an "inelegant and noncollegial gesture" by Bucharest PSD branch Chairman Dan Ioan Popescu, who should have waited for the 30 June meeting to see how Geoana himself reacted to his poor electoral performance as PSD mayoral candidate. It was his intention to resign in any case, Geoana said, adding that he now expects other poorly performing PSD candidates to follow suit. "I believe the worst thing we could do would be to start publicly tearing ourselves up," he said. MS

The Steering Committee of the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 30 June dissolved the PRM Municipal Executive Committee in view of the party's poor performance in the local elections, Mediafax reported. PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor told journalists that for the same reason, the Steering Committee has also dissolved the Sibiu PRM County Executive Committee and has suspended from their functions Covasna County PRM Chairman Gheorghe Agrigoroaie and Teleorman County PRM Chairman Florea Buga. The PRM leadership also expelled from the party three members of the Buzau County PRM branch for "pursuing their own interests at the expense of party interests" and decided to suspend from his functions the county council chairman, Senator Eugen Constantinescu. MS

Romania's chief negotiator with the EU, Vasile Puscas, announced on 30 June that his country has closed an additional chapter in the accession negotiations with the EU, the Energy chapter. Romania has thus far closed 25 out of the 31 chapters of the acquis communautaire. MS

On 1 July, Romania took over for one month the rotating chairmanship of the UN Security Council, Mediafax reported, citing a Foreign Ministry press release. MS

Addressing the NATO summit in Istanbul on 29 June, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said he fully backs NATO's call for Russian troops to withdraw from Moldova, Flux and Infotag reported on 30 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 2004). Voronin said Moscow must "unconditionally fulfill the decisions of the 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit" and stressed that the withdrawal of Russian arms and troops is the precondition for improving the situation in eastern Moldova. He also said the political solution of the Transdniester conflict should be based on modern standards of conflict resolution, which imply long-term international accords and international guarantees for post-conflict stability ensured by an OSCE mandate. MS

Asked in early 2002 whether Uzbekistan aspired to be a member of NATO, the Uzbek ambassador to Turkmenistan replied, "Oh, I so hope it will be."

How widely Uzbek officials share this view is unclear, but Uzbekistan has unquestionably profited from its relationship with the Atlantic alliance. It has been part of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program since signing the partnership framework document in 1994 and is an active member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Uzbekistan has been the most active PfP member state in Central Asia, but in recent weeks Russian political observers have drawn attention in the media to the increasingly close relations between Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation, as exemplified by the signing of a deal between Russian oil firm LUKoil and the Uzbek state gas concern for Russian development and export of Uzbek gas. Those Russian commentators speculated that Uzbekistan is cooling toward the West at the same time that the West is becoming more irritated with Uzbekistan's failure to take more energetic steps to reform its economy and political system, and overcome its poor human rights record. The mid-June summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent provided further grounds for speculation in the Russian media about a possible reorientation of Uzbek security ties, particularly after China promised Uzbekistan over $1 billion in economic assistance in an apparent attempt to gain influence in the region.

Moscow is apparently hoping to lure Uzbekistan into the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization and away from its pro-U.S. and pro-NATO security orientation. This hope has been encouraged by the signing during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Uzbekistan in connection with the Shanghai organization summit of an agreement on developing strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and Russia in the interests of regional security and stability.

Speculation about a Russian-Uzbek security rapprochement will doubtless be fueled by Uzbek President Islam Karimov's conspicuous absence from the just-concluded NATO summit in Istanbul. Karimov attended the previous NATO summit in Prague in November 2002, and three of his Central Asian colleagues -- Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan, and Imomali Rakhmonov of Tajikistan -- were present in Istanbul. To judge from the final summit communique, however, the relationship between Uzbekistan and the North Atlantic alliance remains good. The declaration adopted at the summit on 29 June commended Uzbekistan for its decision to prepare an Individual Partnership Action Plan as a step toward even closer relations with NATO.

In a speech on 24 June reporting on preparations for the summit, new NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer praised Uzbekistan's active role in the PfP and promised to strengthen the alliance's focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus, describing them as important strategic regions. At a recent briefing for Uzbek journalists, NATO officials said the alliance is focusing on Central Asia not in the expectation that the Central Asian states would become full members but because of a perceived need to assist them in their economic and political transition. One official said Uzbekistan is considered by NATO to have a key role in combating international terrorism. In this he was echoing remarks made by de Hoop Scheffer's predecessor, Lord George Robertson, during a visit to Uzbekistan in September 2003, not long before his term as secretary-general expired.

Speaking to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 29 June, Uzbek Foreign Minister Sodyq Safaev laid out the official Uzbek view of Uzbekistan's relationship with NATO. He said his country highly appreciates that relationship and attaches special importance to expanding it. Uzbekistan, according to Safaev, sees the Individual Partnership Action Plan as potentially providing "a solid ground for the development of more individualized relations" oriented to the country's specific needs. Safaev mentioned particularly NATO's role in fighting international terrorism and religious extremism, and also countering drug trafficking. He also promised all possible support for NATO activities in Afghanistan -- Uzbekistan is clearly very comfortable with the NATO presence there.

At least two groups of Uzbek journalists have visited NATO headquarters in Brussels in recent years, subsequently reporting in the Uzbek media on the warmth of their reception. These visits have been organized by the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, which has actively encouraged the development of good relations between Uzbekistan and NATO. Visits by Uzbek officials to NATO headquarters took place in October 2001 and March 2002, and participants in these and other Uzbek visits to Brussels have commented that they felt they were receiving special treatment and were given access to information normally accessible only to officials of alliance members.

Since 1993, NATO has funded 170 scientific projects in Central Asia and given 135 grants to Central Asian scientists, with 78 grants -- the largest number -- going to Uzbeks. NATO's Science Committee held its spring meeting in June 2002 in Tashkent, and Uzbekistan has been a beneficiary of the NATO project to link Central Asian scientific communities with their international colleagues via the Internet. NATO's scientific arm has already provided Internet access for some Uzbek higher-educational institutions. It has also taken an interest in the ecological problems of the Aral Sea basin as part of its environmental program, and NATO scientists are becoming involved with the difficult issue of Uzbekistan's water supply.

In the purely military sphere, the alliance has been providing Uzbekistan with assistance in reforming and modernizing its armed forces and its military equipment, particularly in connection with the war on terrorism. Plans are in the works for a PfP training center at Uzbekistan's military academy. NATO assistance has also been provided in the development of an effective Uzbek civil-defense system. In 2003, NATO held a major exercise in coping with natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, in the Ferghana Valley under the title "Fergana-2003." The site was chosen because the area is subject to massive landslides as well as earthquakes.

Given the benefits that Uzbekistan has enjoyed through its close relationship with NATO, and the alliance's assessment of Uzbekistan as a key strategic partner in the Central Asian region, it seems safe to assume that the partnership will continue, regardless of fluctuations in the Uzbek relationship with the West.

Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan has dismissed the province's chief of security, General Abdul Aziz Ma'il, the Kabul daily "Erada" reported on 1 July. Kabul had appointed Ma'il to replace Nasir Ahamd Alawi, but Ismail Khan has asked him to leave the province immediately. Ma'il has said that he will not leave his post under any circumstances. Ismail Khan rules Herat like his own fiefdom and often ignores orders from the central government in Kabul. AT

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is to assume command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh, on 1 July, Hindukosh News Agency reported. The PRT in Mazar-e Sharif has been under the command of the United Kingdom but as part of the agreement reached by NATO leaders during their summit in Istanbul on 28 June to expand the area of operation, ISAF will assume command of the unit (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 1 July 2004). AT

Two French soldiers from the ISAF were injured on 29 June when an antipersonnel mine exploded during an operation in the French Battle Group area of operations 20 kilometers north of Kabul, the ISAF website reported ( The area where the explosion occurred was cleared by ISAF and proclaimed to be free of mines. An investigation is ongoing. AT

Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, a former reformist legislator, said on 30 June that Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani should apologize to the Iranian people for the secrecy on Iran's nuclear activities, Radio Farda and ISNA reported. Mohtashami-Pur referred to Rohani's trip to Brussels earlier this year and an agreement that he signed with the European Union. Mohtashami-Pur asked what right Rohani has to sign such agreements with the Europeans behind closed doors and not inform the public about it. Rohani had come to the legislature on 27 June, and in a conversation with a correspondent he said: "In Brussels, we had an agreement with three European countries, which they confirmed in a letter dated 26 February. But as the three European countries failed to act by their commitments, Iran will go back to the state before the Brussels agreements," "Resalat" reported on 28 June. "Aftab-i Yazd" on 30 June also noted that this is the first time Rohani has referred to a Brussels agreement. It cited Boin-Zahra representative Qodratollah Alikhani's criticism of Rohani. BS

A 30 June written statement from U.K. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon to Parliament about the 21 June naval incident with Iran casts doubt on earlier reports, Radio Farda reported on 1 July (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 July 2004). The British personnel have claimed in debriefings after their release from Iranian custody that they were "forcibly escorted" from Iraqi waters into Iranian territorial waters by their eventual captors. The British personnel had said on Iranian television that their navigation equipment was not working and they had mistakenly entered Iranian waters. Hoon said that negotiations on retrieving the British boats and other equipment that the Iranians seized are continuing. Hoon said that London has made clear that the blindfolding of the British personnel is not to be repeated. The shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, reacted with disgust, saying, "This is outrageous," according to the 1 July "Financial Times." "Not only were our servicemen illegally seized and subsequently humiliated by being blindfolded and paraded in front of the cameras, but their equipment, which was also illegally seized, has not been returned." Ancram added, "At the very least we expect a formal apology." BS

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 1 July that Hoon's comments about the 21 June naval incident are untrue, IRNA reported. Assefi said the charge d'affaires signed minutes of a meeting in which the mistaken entry of the British vessels into Iranian waters was acknowledged. Assefi added that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also acknowledged the mistaken entry of the British personnel into Iranian waters. BS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi announced on 30 June the release of United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) sailors who were detained for illegally entering Iranian waters, IRNA reported. Assefi said the release was reciprocation for the U.A.E.'s release of Iranian sailors it was holding. BS

On 30 June President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami congratulated Iraq's President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir and Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi congratulated Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Iranian state radio reported. Khatami expressed the hope that grounds for ending the occupation, establishing full sovereignty, and democratic elections would be created. BS

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arraigned in an Iraqi courtroom on 1 July on seven preliminary charges under an arrest warrant related to suspected crimes against humanity committed during his Ba'ath Party's 35-year rule over Iraq, according to CNN, which had reporters present at the proceedings. The charges against Hussein are reportedly related to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja. Hussein was not represented by lawyers at the proceedings. Asked his name, Hussein twice identified himself as "Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq." Regarding Kuwait, Hussein denied that he occupied the country, claiming his invasion was done to protect the Iraqi people and seemingly referring to Kuwaitis as "dogs." On the chemical attacks in Halabja, Hussein said that he had "heard" that such things were reported to have happened while he was president. Al-Jazeera broadcast "pool tape" of the proceedings on 1 July showing Hussein dressed in civilian clothes and with a short beard. Eleven senior members of Hussein's former Ba'athist regime were expected to be arraigned the same day, although no information was immediately available on those proceedings. KR

The preliminary charges against Hussein are likely to be expanded in the months ahead as investigators gather evidence of other alleged crimes by the former dictator, international media reports. During the 1 July proceedings, Hussein was also charged with the 1974 intentional killing of Iraqi religious figures; the 1983 killing of Barzani clan members; the 1987-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurds; and the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings in 1991. Hussein reportedly refused to sign a statement acknowledging that he understood his rights without the presence of his lawyers. The Iraqi judge presiding over the court session instead noted in the court record that Hussein was read and understood his rights. Reuters reported that the courtroom is located on Hussein's former hunting grounds in southwest Baghdad, now under U.S. military control and referred to as "Camp Victory." KR

The commander of the Al-Najaf police, Brigadier General Ghalib al-Jaza'iri told Al-Jazeera television on 30 June that a 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew was to be imposed in the city that day after police seized a car filled with 50 kilograms of TNT and 20 explosive charges equipped with detonators. Twelve automatic rifles were also found in the car. "After seizing the car, we arrested a Libyan person called Muhammad Hasan Turki. He confessed that he is a member of Al-Qaeda and that he came to resist the occupation and carry out a bombing operation," al-Jaza'iri said. Turki entered Iraq illegally from Syria, al-Jaza'iri said, noting that extra security measures are not being implemented in the city. Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television cited al-Jaza'iri as saying that the curfew was also related to ongoing clashes between coalition forces and militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. KR

U.S. warplanes bombed the restive city of Al-Fallujah on 30 June, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding several others, Al-Jazeera reported. Reuters reported on 1 July that the bombing targeted a safe house used by militants loyal to Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who is reportedly linked to Al-Qaeda. Reuters reported that the bombing killed four people. The United States has more than doubled its reward for information leading to the killing or capture of al-Zarqawi to $25 million, Reuters reported on 1 July. The same bounty is on the head of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden ( A senior Iraqi Finance Ministry official was injured in an attack on his convoy on 30 June, Reuters reported on 1 July. Militants attached a bomb to a vehicle in Ihsan Karim's convoy, which later detonated as the convoy drove through Baghdad. Two of Karim's staff members were killed in the attack, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. A U.S. soldier at the scene told Reuters that a roadside bomb caused the explosion. KR

The United Kingdom opened a new consulate in Kirkuk on 30 June, KurdSat reported. Paul Harvey, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head in Kirkuk, announced the end of the CPA's authority in the city at the opening of the consulate, adding that the British and American consulates will work to provide support and cooperation needed for governors and local councils in the surrounding areas, according to KurdSat. Meanwhile, Edward Chaplin assumes his duties on 1 July as the new U.K. ambassador to Iraq. Chaplin has spent most of his 30-year foreign service career working in the Middle East, according to a press release posted on the British Embassy in Cairo's website ( KR

Jordan and Bahrain both announced on 30 June that they will upgrade their relations with Iraq by sending ambassadors to Baghdad, Arab media reported. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said in a statement to the Jordanian news agency Petra that Jordan is keen to assist Iraq in the building of a new state. He added that Amman and Baghdad will discuss security measures that need to be taken to protect the Jordanian embassy before staff can return. The embassy was bombed in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). The Bahrain news agency reported on 30 June that Foreign Undersecretary Yousif Muhammad Mahmud has announced that the kingdom has informed the Iraqi Foreign Ministry of its intention to send an ambassador to Iraq. The embassy is currently run by a charge d'affaires. KR