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Newsline - July 13, 2004

Speaking at the Foreign Ministry at a convocation of 160 Russian ambassadors 12 July, President Vladimir Putin urged Russian diplomats to respond to attempts from abroad to "discredit" Russia, ORT and other Russian media reported. "The image of Russia in the countries [you work in] is far removed from reality," Putin said. "Quite often there are managed campaigns aimed at compromising our country and the damage from such campaigns is obvious both for the state and Russian businesses." Putin added that the priorities of Russian foreign policy remain the CIS, the European Union, the United States, and the Asian-Pacific region. As far as the CIS is concerned, Russian diplomacy should reject the notion "that nobody except [Russia] can lay claim to leadership in this area," he said. Such ideas are both "illusory and mistaken -- the extension of the EU and NATO create a new geopolitical reality" that must be considered in formulating Moscow's foreign policy. Putin added that good relations with U.S. officials are not enough for a "sustainable partnership" and called for cooperating with "broader circles" of the American public. VY

President Putin also told the diplomats that he has signed a decree to reform the Foreign Ministry, making it more "lean and compact" and at the same time increasing the salaries and benefits of diplomats, ORT reported. According to the decree, the number of deputy foreign ministers will be reduced from 12 to seven, the number of Foreign Ministry departments from 42 to 35, and the central staff of the ministry will decrease from some 3,500 to 3,048 people. Putin said these changes are being made within the framework of the administrative reform of the federal government. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who served as foreign minister from 1996-98, accompanied Putin to the meeting. VY

Anton Drel, the lawyer of jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, said on 12 July in Moscow that his client is offering the 44 percent stake in Yukos that belongs to him and other major shareholders in order to pay Yukos's debts, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Khodorkovskii stressed that he will give up the stake "if the government is really interested in saving the company from defaulting and is ready" to unfreeze the accounts of Khodorkovskii and his partners, which have been blocked since October. Moscow's Basmannnyi Raion Court resumed hearing the case of Khordorkovskii and the head of the financial group Menatep, Platon Lebedev, on 12 July. VY

However, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 July that the government is studying the proposal. Khodorkovskii's proposal hardly will be interesting enough for the government to make a deal with the former Yukos leader, the daily "Vedomosti" predicted on 12 July. According to legal expert Yevgenii Timofeev, the deal proposed by Khodorkovskii is difficult to accept because it could be argued in another court afterward that the offer was made under pressure while Khordorkovskii was in detention. According to the daily, 44 percent of the shares in Yukos is currently worth about $9.3 billion. "Vedomosti" added that an unnamed source in the presidential administration said that a decision on Khodorkovskii's proposal "is still to be made." VY

Sergei Ivanov said in London on 12 July that the Yukos court case "has nothing to do with violations of democratic norms in Russia," NTV reported. Ivanov, who is considered one of Putin's closest advisers, said those who raise such questions understand only "the Western notion of democracy." But if there is "Western democracy," there should also be "Eastern" and "Southern" democracies, Ivanov said. "But most important is that this case is being handled within the framework of Russian law," he said. VY

In his annual budget-policy statement to the Federal Assembly, President Putin on 12 July said that on-site tax inspections must not be used to intimidate businesses, Russian media reported. "On-site tax inspections should not obstruct the entrepreneurial activities of law-abiding taxpayers and may not be used as a punitive instrument," Putin said. In an interview with "Novaya gazeta," No. 48, Higher Economics School Rector Yevgenii Yasin said that in Russia "there has not yet been any serious demand for law and order." "The Kremlin bureaucracy has achieved full control over the Duma with the aid of Unified Russia," Yasin said. "As a result, oligarchic capitalism has in fact been replaced by bureaucratic capitalism." RC

The Interior Ministry's tax unit has asked an Internet-development project funded by Yukos's Open Russia foundation to submit all of its financial records dating back to 2001, Interfax reported. Officials from the program told the news agency that they are complying with the demand. The goal of the program is to provide Internet training to schoolteachers and to open 50 Internet centers in the Russian regions. RC

IN FINAL INTERVIEW, KLEBNIKOV CRITICIZED KREMLIN... published on 12 July an interview with Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian-language version of "Forbes" who was slain on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004), in which he harshly criticizes Kremlin policies. The interview was given just a few hours before Klebnikov was killed. Comparing Russia now with the 1990s, when he began to study Russian capitalism, Klebnikov said not much has changed: "Just like it was then, there is still a very small number of people who continue to control a huge part of the Russian economy." Klebnikov criticized the Kremlin over the Yukos affair and contrasted Khodorkovskii's fate with the majority owner of Sibneft, Chutkotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. Klebnikov said Abramovich and Sibneft have violated the law far more than Khodorkovskii and Yukos, yet Abramovich has no troubles simply because he is Putin's friend. Accordingly, Klebnikov said corporations like Gazprom, LUKoil, Surgutneftegaz, and Severostal share the Kremlin's ideology and don't face justice. VY

Talking about his conflict with tycoon Boris Berezovskii, Klebnikov said that with the help of a powerful public-relations campaign, the self-exiled Berezovskii was able to create the impression that Klebnikov and "Forbes" lost a slander suit for the publication of the book "Boris Berezovskii: Godfather Of The Kremlin." In reality, Klebnikov said, Berezovskii withdrew the suit and the magazine made no apology to him. Most of revelations in the book were based on boastful statements made by Berezovskii publicly during privatization campaigns, Klebnikov added. VY

A raion court in Vladivostok on 12 July struck State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov (independent) from the second round of the city's mayoral election, Russian media reported. The court ruled that Cherepkov abused his office during the first-round campaign, in which he came in second. Cherepkov is currently hospitalized following a 9 July assassination attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). Incumbent Mayor Yurii Kopylov, who came in third in the first round, said on 13 July that he would not participate in the second round, saying that Cherepkov was eliminated for political reasons. "The mayor considers the entire campaign a farce," an official statement released by the city administration on 13 July said, according to "Its purpose is to make the mayor a candidate chosen in advance, regardless for whom the citizens of Vladivostok vote." RIA-Novosti reported that Kopylov is calling on voters to vote "against all" candidates during the 18 July second round. Cherepkov on 13 July filed an appeal against the raion court's decision, reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 July reported that the federal government could take over the conducting of the second round. RC

RTR Deputy Programming Director Yevgenii Kucherenko was named the programming director of NTV on 12 July, and other Russian media reported. The move is just the latest development in a serious shakeup of NTV's management (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 July 2004). also confirmed that popular journalist Tatyana Mitkova has been named NTV deputy general director in charge of information programming. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 9 July reported that Leonid Parfenov, who was dismissed from NTV in June, is negotiating to bring a "politically correct" version of his popular "Namedni" analytical program to ORT. The daily also reported that Parfenov is negotiating with NTV management about a possible return to the station. RC

The main achievement of the spring Duma session, which ended on 10 July, was the rapid acceleration of the passage of laws, "Gazeta" reported on 12 July. During the session, 100 bills and five constitutional laws passed the lower chamber. This is roughly 15 times as many bills as were adopted during the Duma's spring 2000 session, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov noted. "Russkii kurer" on 12 July commented that the price of such efficiency has been the virtual elimination of all opposition in the chamber. "The Unified Russia Duma has become a mechanical adjunct of the government and the president," the paper commented. The spring session was extended by one week and deputies will convene again in two weeks in a special session to consider several bills that the government considers urgent, including a controversial proposal to convert many in-kind social benefits to cash payments. RC

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has begun a picket outside the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow calling for an end to legal proceedings against deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Ekho Moskvy reported on 12 July. About 15 protestors carried signs reading, "Hands Off Hussein." "Saddam Hussein ensured peace and calm in his republic," LDPR leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii told demonstrators. "OK, there were no other parties there, just one ruling party. But elections were held and people cast their votes for Saddam Hussein. If someone thinks that elections were held under pressure, let's hold elections now. Saddam Hussein will win them, even from a prison cell." Zhirinovskii was a frequent visitor to Baghdad during Hussein's reign and there have been reports that Hussein has financed the LDPR. RC

The French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met in Yerevan on 12 July with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, according to Interfax and Mediamax on 12 July as cited by Groong. On 11 July, the co-chairs met at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Yerevan John Ordway with representatives of both pro-government and opposition political parties and NGOs to discuss the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 July. LF

The ruling board of the opposition Musavat Party convened on 9 July for the first time since the defeat of its candidate, party chairman Isa Qambar, in the 15 October 2003 presidential election, Turan and reported on 12 and 13 July respectively. Qambar delivered a lengthy address to the session in which he reportedly reaffirmed his earlier claim that the party made no "serious" tactical errors either before or in the wake of the ballot (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 2 January 2004). Party First Deputy Chairman Vurgun Eyub told that Qambar polled "over 50 percent" of the ballot, but that the Azerbaijani authorities falsified the outcome in favor of acting President Ilham Aliyev. Qambar earlier claimed to have polled 60 percent of the vote. The party board formally decided to contest the municipal elections due this fall. LF

The seven opposition politicians currently on trial for their imputed role in the clashes in Baku on 15-16 October 2003 between police and Musavat supporters protesting Qambar's election defeat announced on 12 July that they will begin a three-day hunger strike on 13 July to protest "intolerable" prison conditions, Turan and reported. Turan further reported on 12 July that the heads of two organizations representing Azerbaijani journalists have appealed to the presiding judge at the trial, Mansur Ibaev, to release on bail one of the defendants, Rauf Arigfoglu, who is a deputy chairman of Musavat and editor of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat." LF

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on 12 July before his departure on a three-day official visit to Great Britain that the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone should be changed because those forces openly side with the South Ossetian authorities, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Saakashvili further accused Russian military intelligence of fuelling the conflict in South Ossetia, and he said that the Georgian government knows "precisely" who in Moscow is channeling weaponry to the breakaway republic, according to BS-Press as cited by Turan. In 1993, the Georgian authorities produced a dossier detailing weapons transfers to Abkhazia organized by senior Russian military officials. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said later on 12 July that the mandate of the peacekeepers in South Ossetia should be extended to cover the entire territory of the unrecognized republic, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the Georgian proposal to amend the Russian peacekeepers' mandate, affirming that the Russian contingent has not taken any steps contrary to its mandate, Interfax reported. Lavrov further pointed out that although that mandate empowers the peacekeepers to resort to peace enforcement, they have not yet done so. South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murat Djioev also argued that the peacekeepers are discharging their duties competently, Interfax reported on 12 July. For that reason, Djioev continued, the South Ossetian authorities see no need to change their mandate in any way. Djioev went on to criticize the OSCE military observers in South Ossetia, accusing them of sending to the organization's Vienna headquarters tendentious and biased information based exclusively on Georgian reports. LF

President Saakashvili also said on 12 July that Tbilisi has proposed to Moscow jointly overseeing the destruction of the missiles confiscated by Georgian Interior Ministry troops from the Russian peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia last week, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2004). Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, however, rejected that proposal as unacceptable, and demanded that Georgia return the "stolen" property to the peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Russian agencies reported. Speaking in Moscow on 11 July, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stressed that Tbilisi endorsed the original proposal made in 1992 that the peacekeepers be supplied with helicopters, and produced a document signed last month by Khaindrava agreeing that the helicopters finally be transported to the conflict zone, according to Interfax. LF

Seven Georgian seamen from the crew of the naval vessel "Dioskuria," three members of a government guard detachment, and one civilian were wounded on 8 July in an exchange of fire near Senaki in western Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 12 July. The guardsmen reportedly halted the bus in which the sailors were travelling and demanded that they alight; no further details were released. The seamen were hospitalized; the guardsmen have been arrested and charged with hooliganism. LF

Raul Khadjimba has rejected as a provocation recent Georgian media reports alleging that Turkish laborers have been forced to work as slaves on plantations in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 12 July. On 6 July, Georgian agencies reported that the Abkhaz handed over either three or four Turks to the Georgian authorities. The Turks were quoted as saying that they had responded to advertisements for paid farm labor, but on arrival in Abkhazia in May they were beaten and treated "like slaves," and forced to work 13 hours per day without remuneration. On 7 July, Abkhaz Interior Minister Abesalom Beya denied those reports, but added that several Abkhaz construction companies employ predominantly Turkish labor, Caucasus Press reported. LF

President Nursultan Nazarbaev appointed Altynbek Sarsenbaev minister of information on 12 July, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Sarsenbaev, the co-chairman of moderate opposition party Ak Zhol, replaces Sautbek Abdrakhmanov, who relinquished his post to become the president of the Yegemen Qazaqstan newspaper company. In a 12 July statement, Sarsenbaev stressed that he will retain his post in Ak Zhol and has not lost his political convictions. "I regard this appointment as a real possibility to start constructive cooperation between the authorities and all political forces in the country," he added. Sarsenbaev said that his priorities will be to ensure a fair media environment for 19 September parliamentary elections, aid in the implementation of President Nazarbaev's political reform program, and help to draft a new media law that meets "the democratic standards and international obligations taken on by Kazakhstan." DK

In his first action as minister, Sarsenbaev promised to withdraw a lawsuit the Information Ministry filed against the "Nachnem s ponedelnika" newspaper, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 12 July. According to Editor in Chief Ramazan Esergepov, the Russian-language newspaper faced charges after it introduced materials in Kazakh without applying for reregistration, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Sarsenbaev said that information about a publication's language is required only for statistical purposes and cannot serve as grounds for closing a media outlet. He said that an official apology will be forthcoming on 13 July. Summing up, Sarsenbaev commented, "It is stupid to create a conflict with the media over nothing." DK

Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 12 July denying reports that President Askar Akaev proposed the creation of a joint Russian-U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan, Kabar news agency reported. As quoted by RIA-Novosti, the statement says, "President Akaev did not advance such proposals either at the [28-29 June] NATO summit in Istanbul or at any other location." The statement goes on to note that the existing Russian and U.S. bases in Kyrgyzstan complement, rather than contradict, each other: "The [U.S.-led] international antiterrorist coalition's air base at Manas airport aims to fight international terrorism in Afghanistan, while the [Russian] air base at Kant ensures the security and interests of the Collective Security Treaty Organization countries in Central Asia." DK

The unregistered opposition party Taraqqiyot has offered to cooperate with the Social-Democratic Party, Democratic Party, and Socialist Party in order to participate in upcoming elections, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 12 July. Rahmatullo Valiev, executive secretary of the Democratic Party, told the news agency that it will be difficult to establish a mechanism for Taraqqiyot to take part in elections in conjunction with three other parties. But Mirhuseyn Narziev, chairman of the Socialist Party (SPT), called Taraqqiyot's proposal a positive step. He said, "I think that the SPT Central Committee wouldn't be opposed to accepting members of Taraqqiyot into its ranks in the process of elections." Taraqqiyot has made several attempts to obtain official registration, so far without success (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 19, and 30 March, 2 April and 17 June 2004). DK

Russia's 201st Motorized Infantry Division will shift from temporary deployment in Tajikistan to a permanent military base in the fall of 2004, Tajik Radio reported on 12 July. The radio station quoted Maksim Peshkov, Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan, as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin will come to Tajikistan in the fall for an official visit to sign the necessary agreements. Russian troops will also begin handing over control of the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajikistan in the fall. Tajik Border Committee Chairman Abdurahmon Azimov told ITAR-TASS on 12 July that bilateral working groups have drawn up agreements for the handover of the 700-kilometer Pamir section of the border in September. According to Azimov, the handover will begin as soon as the documents have been signed "at the highest level." DK

The Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan sent an official note to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 12 July to ask why broadcasts of Russia's Mayak radio station in Turkmenistan stopped without warning, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Russian Charge d'Affairs Andrei Krutko, the embassy has not yet received a reply, RIA-Novosti reported. The news agency reported that broadcasting stopped on 10 July. ITAR-TASS cited a source at the Turkmen Communications Ministry as saying that Mayak went off the air because "equipment that was installed back in 1964 has broken down. To resume broadcasting, $120,000 is needed." According to the ministry, it will take "at least a year" before Mayak can resume broadcasts. Mayak, which broadcast to Turkmenistan for 18 hours a day, was the only radio station still broadcasting in Russian within Turkmenistan. DK

The Conservative Christian Party (KKhP), led by exiled Zyanon Paznyak from Poland, has called on Belarusians to boycott the legislative elections this fall, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 12 July. "Only a boycott gives the people a chance for victory, a possibility to renounce the election farce," Paznyak said in a message to a KKhP conference in Minsk earlier this month. "There are no elections whatsoever, [election] protocols record only those results that are conveyed from the top," KKhP Acting Chairman Yuras Belenki told RFE/RL. "In such a situation there is only one way of counteraction for society -- to show its attitude to the farce by refusing to go to the polls." According to a recent poll by the Minsk-based Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies, some 63 percent of voters said they will take part in the October elections. JM

Two Belarusian opposition alliances, the Popular Coalition Five Plus and the European Coalition Free Belarus, were unenthusiastic about the proposed boycott, RFE/RL reported on 12 July. "Today [the KKhP] has no influence on anything.... Its position [on the 2004 election] is a sectarian one," Viktar Ivashkevich from the Popular Coalition Five Plus told RFE/RL, adding that the boycott is primarily imposed on KKhP members by its charismatic leader Paznyak. "This is a dead-end street," Mikalay Statkevich from the European Coalition Free Belarus said about the KKhP's call for a boycott. "Because a boycott means the rejection of a chance for victory in the future." JM

The "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 12 July published Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's presidential election program. Yanukovych pledged to improve comprehensively the economic situation for Ukrainians, including a 2-2.5-fold increase in average monthly salaries and to raise the minimum wage to the subsistence-minimum level. Yanukovych also promised to implement constitutional, judicial, administrative, and military reforms intended to "develop democracy [and] local self-government, protect civic rights and freedoms, and improve the national security of the state." In the foreign-policy sphere, Yanukovych promised to deepen Ukraine's "European integration advance [and] cooperation with the Russian Federation and other states that are our traditional partners." JM

On 12 July, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website also published Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko's presidential-election program. Symonenko asserted that the ruling regime has led Ukraine to "a national catastrophe that has no analogy in the world." He proposed "strengthening the role of the state" in achieving an "economic recovery," including the introduction of state control over prices of "essential goods," natural gas, fuel, electricity, and utilities, as well as the establishment of state monopolies in foreign trade and in the alcohol, tobacco, and medicine markets. Symonenko also proposed introducing a moratorium on the sale of state-run enterprises of "strategic importance" and reviewing previous privatizations. Symonenko pledged to create 1 million new jobs, increase the average monthly salary 2.5-fold, the minimum wage threefold, and the average pension 4.3-fold. Symonenko said he wants Ukraine to give up its intention to join NATO, pull its troops out of Iraq, and deepen integration with CIS countries, specifically within the Single Economic Space framework. JM

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko has sent official invitations to heads of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the UN asking the organizations to send monitors for the 31 October presidential election in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 13 July, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Dmytro Svystkov. Svystkov added that similar invitations were also sent by Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn to the European Parliament and parliamentary structures of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and NATO. JM

Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, who is also leader of the Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o), said on 13 July that he is sure Prime Minister Yanukovych will win the fall presidential election, Interfax reported. "[Incumbent President] Leonid Danylovych Kuchma has no desire to run [in the election]," Medvedchuk said. "Regarding myself, I have no such desire, either." A congress of the SDPU-o in Kharkiv on 10 July backed Yanukovych's presidential bid. Presidential candidates may be proposed for registration by the Central Election Commission until 28 July. JM

EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 12 July to step up "planning and preparations in consultation with Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities and with NATO" to take over Bosnian peacekeeping responsibilities from the Atlantic alliance at the end of 2004, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). The 7,000-strong EU force will be known as Althea and include many soldiers already serving in SFOR, the "Financial Times" reported. Unlike the previous EU missions in Congo and Macedonia, this one does not have a time limit. Like its two EU predecessors, Althea has a name of classical origin that eliminates problems in translating its name and acronym into the many languages of the EU. The mission will enable the EU to show that it can bring military as well as civilian resources to bear, maintaining order and promoting reform in an unstable part of Europe without a central role for U.S. forces. Althea will nonetheless have much overlap with NATO. Assets will be shared under a formula known as "Berlin plus," and the mission's headquarters will be at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Germany's Admiral Rainer Feist, NATO's deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, will be the EU's operation commander. Britain's Major General David Leakey will be the force commander. PM

For its part, NATO will retain a smaller mission in Bosnia to promote reforms in the military, apprehend indicted war criminals, and combat terrorism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 13 July. The United States also plans to maintain its base near Tuzla out of concern for possible terrorist activities in Bosnia, the broadcast added. 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 continuing 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 region. PM

Amnesty International said in a statement in Brussels on 12 July that Althea should learn from the mistakes of SFOR. "The EU should not fall victim to the same lack of safeguards shown by SFOR, including the failure to adequately address violations of detainees, human rights," said Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International's EU Office. "It is more important than ever to ensure the highest standards of behavior of troops on foreign soil, with real accountability to match," he added. Among its many recommendations, Amnesty International called for civilian control over the peacekeeping operation and "a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual exploitation, including prohibiting through disciplinary and criminal sanctions, the use of women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution." PM

Michael Sahlin, who is a former Swedish ambassador to Yugoslavia (2000-02) and former director-general of the Swedish government's Folke Bernadotte Academy, will be the EU's new special representative in Macedonia, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 13 July. Sahlin replaces Soren Jessen-Petersen, who was recently named head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January and 24 June 2004). The daily quoted unnamed diplomatic sources in Brussels, according to which the EU changed its original plan to name Sahlin as a nonresident representative because of the deadlocked talks on the government's decentralization and redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 July 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 2004). The latest round of talks on 12 July ended without results; every day of delay makes it more likely that the local elections slated for 17 October will have to be postponed. UB

Polish lawyer Marek Nowicki, who is the international ombudsman in Kosova, said in his annual report published in Prishtina on 12 July that the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) functions without any adequate system of checks and balances, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 2 and 16 April, and 9 July 2004). UNMIK has "entirely ignored one of the basic principles of democracy, namely the division of powers," Nowicki argued, adding that "nowhere in the world does a democratic state operating under the rule of law accord itself immunity from any administrative, civil, or criminal responsibility." Nowicki noted that these criticisms also apply to KFOR peacekeepers. He also called for better protection of human rights, particularly "the guaranteed right of members of minority live, travel, and work freely." PM

The Montenegrin parliament voted on 12 July to adopt a flag, coat of arms, anthem, and national holiday, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Opposition deputies did not attend the session. The flag is red with a gold coat of arms in the center. The coat of arms is that of the former Montenegrin Petrovic dynasty, which was replaced by Serbia's Karadjordjevic dynasty in 1918. The anthem is a traditional patriotic song ("Oj, svijetla majska zoro"). The state holiday is 13 July, which was the date in 1878 that the Congress of Berlin recognized Montenegrin independence, and the date in 1941 that Josip Broz Tito's Partisans launched their uprising against the Axis occupation. PM

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Bogdan Aurescu told journalists on 12 July that Romania will bring its dispute with Ukraine over the oil-rich Black Sea shelf surrounding Serpents Island (Zimiynyy Ostrov) before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague if no agreement is reached in bilateral discussions by next month, Mediafax reported. Bogdanescu said that a new round of talks ended in Yalta on 10 July without agreement between the representatives of Kyiv and Bucharest. A new round of negotiations is planned for August and, according to Bogdanescu, Bucharest will appeal to the ICJ if that round ends in a deadlock (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2004). MS

Aurescu also said on 12 July that European Commission President Romano Prodi and Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten have expressed their concern over Ukraine's decision to proceed with its construction of a deep-water canal through the Bystraya estuary, Mediafax reported. Aurescu said that at last week's EU summit the two officials "firmly insisted" on the need for a study on the environmental impact the canal might have on the Danube Delta, adding that construction should be halted until the study can be completed. Aurescu said Ukraine has sent only a "summary" of its construction plans in response to Romania's demand that all documents pertaining to the project be released, in line with relevant international conventions. He said the canal is not just a Romanian-Ukrainian issue, as the Danube Delta is a site protected by UNESCO and other international organizations. He also said that Kyiv has yet to respond to a letter sent by European Environment Affairs Commissioner Margot Wallstrom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May, 4 and 24 June 2004. MS

Theodor Stolojan and Traian Basescu, co-chairmen of the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance, announced on 12 July they will not attend a meeting President Ion Iliescu has called for consultation with opposition parties, Mediafax reported. Stolojan and Basescu said they refused the invitation because they "do not want to be a party to defying the constitution." They said that Iliescu has violated constitutional stipulations that he be politically neutral by attending events organized by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and through his involvement in the PSD's electoral activities. According to Stolojan and Basescu, the invitation is a smoke screen to cover Iliescu's pro-PSD activities. In response, presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu expressed Iliescu's surprise at the snub, and said the president hopes the leaders of the PNL-Democratic Party alliance will reconsider their decision. Iliescu called the consultations to discuss the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections this fall and issues related to EU accession. MS

Police said on 12 July that two suspects were detained last week in connection with last month's attack on "Timpul" journalist Alina Anghel, Flux and Infotag reported. "Timpul" lawyer Alexandru Tanase said he finds it strange that police found Anghel's identification in the possession of the two suspects, along with her diary and some of her personal effects, since in most cases those who perpetrate an attack on a person get rid of any evidence that could lead to their incrimination. Tanase said Anghel has not been yet asked to identify the two suspects and that police should display "more transparency" in the investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 28 and 29 June 2004). Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc said opposition parties and media outlets should apologize for having engaged in a "tarnishing and denigration campaign" aimed at the ministry as regards the investigation. MS

A press release recently issued by the Transdniester Education Ministry states that Moldovan schools located in Transdniester and subordinate to the Education Ministry in Chisinau are now required to obtain a licensing permit from the Tiraspol authorities, Infotag reported on 12 June. The separatist ministry said its decision was prompted by the fact that "Romanian language and literature -- as well as Romanian history taught in Moldovan schools --instill in the minds of the children values contrary to those of the Transdniester Republic, as well as to those imbedded in the Moldovan Constitution." MS

Continued Russian support for Iran's nuclear-energy program despite U.S. objections that this could help Tehran acquire nuclear weapons appears to be a source of great pride to many Russian officials and commentators. Indeed, Moscow's defiance of Washington feeds into the notion that Russia is still a great power. Moscow's continued contribution to the Iranian nuclear program may, however, ultimately serve to weaken Russia, not strengthen it.

The U.S. government has long been worried that Tehran is using its nuclear-energy program to develop nuclear weapons, and has therefore repeatedly urged Moscow to halt work on the reactor it is building for the Iranians at Bushehr. The standard Russian response has been that Iran is in compliance with all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations, and thus has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop a peaceful nuclear-energy program. But with the revelation that Iran possesses hitherto secret nuclear facilities that it had not declared to the IAEA and that some of the equipment IAEA inspectors have found in Iran bore traces of weapons grade uranium, it has become increasingly clear that Iran is not in total compliance with IAEA regulations

Yet despite these revelations, Russian work on the Iranian nuclear-energy program has continued. While the United States wanted the IAEA to declare Iran to be in violation of the NPT and refer the matter to the UN Security Council, Russia sided with European and other states that were unwilling to do so and sought to "engage" Tehran instead. In the past few months, though, it has become obvious to the Europeans that their engagement efforts have not succeeded, and that Iran appears determined to acquire the equipment and technology that could enable it to fabricate nuclear weapons, although Iran insists it seeks only to develop a peaceful nuclear-energy program.

Moscow meanwhile has continued to declare that it will complete the nuclear reactor it is currently helping to build at Bushehr, and to express its hopes of building several more. True, the Russian government insists that Iran must agree to return to Russia all spent fuel (which could be used for nuclear weapons), but the value of such an agreement (if it is signed) as a nonproliferation measure is dubious. Aleksandr Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said in May that any such spent fuel would not arrive in Russia for at least seven or eight years.

It would seem that Russia would have as much of an incentive -- or an even greater one -- than the United States and the EU in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia is much closer geographically to Iran, and thus is much more within range of the type of missile currently available to Tehran. Nor would Russia be less vulnerable to an Iranian attack if Tehran were to succeed in developing longer-range missiles.

Yet, while Moscow genuinely does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, it has a strong incentive to continue assisting the Iranian nuclear-energy program. In December 2002, Radzhab Safarov, who is director-general of the Russian Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies, noted that the Russian nuclear-power industry faced an uncertain future after it lost customers both in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union itself following the 1989-91 collapse of communism. "Therefore, Iran has in effect saved Russia's nuclear-power sector. And we should be grateful to Iran for having provided tens of thousands of Russian companies with 70 percent of their work," Safarov told Ekho Moskvy. In other words, without the work in Iran, the Russian nuclear industry, which Moscow places a high priority on preserving, may not have enough customers to survive.

Iran regards the United States as its greatest opponent. One strong motive the Iranian hard-liners would appear to have for acquiring nuclear weapons is to deter the United States from military intervention against Iran. This motive was undoubtedly heightened after witnessing how rapidly U.S.-led forces overthrew first the Taliban and then Saddam Hussein in countries neighboring Iran. Iran, then, would appear to have a strong incentive to remain on good terms with Russia -- at least, that is, until Tehran actually does acquire nuclear weapons. What is surprising, though, is that Moscow does not attempt to exploit Iran's dependence on Russia in the nuclear arena to obtain concessions in other areas, especially the delimitation of the Caspian Sea. However, Iran is refusing to accept an agreement signed in May 2003 by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan that would give those three states nearly 70 percent of the seabed; Iran is holding out for dividing the seabed and the waters into five equal parts among the littoral states.

Iran's intransigence has negatively affected Moscow because it has prevented Russian oil firms from participating in the exploitation of oil deposits in the area of the southern Caspian to which both Azerbaijan and Iran lay claim, and has motivated Azerbaijan to seek military assistance from the United States, which Moscow sees as undercutting its own influence in the region.

Moscow could attempt to link its continued participation in the Iranian nuclear-energy program to Iranian concessions on the delimitation of the Caspian. Alternatively, or simultaneously, Russia could cooperate with the United States in trying to persuade the IAEA to refer Iran's violations of the NPT to the UN Security Council. Iran would then become much more dependent on Russia to prevent sanctions from being imposed on it -- and presumably consequently more willing to accommodate Moscow both in the Caspian and on the issue of nuclear safeguards (assuming that Tehran really is only developing a peaceful atomic energy program, as it claims, and is not seeking nuclear weapons).

Russia, though, has not made any such linkage, and Iran's continued stubbornness on the Caspian issue suggests that Tehran does not fear it will do so. Instead, it is Moscow that seems afraid that annoying Tehran could result in the Russian nuclear-power industry not receiving contracts to build any more nuclear reactors for Iran after the first one at Bushehr is completed.

But if Tehran is unwilling to accommodate Russian interests in the Caspian before it acquires nuclear weapons, it is hardly likely to do so after acquiring them, when it will be less dependent on Russia. A more belligerent Iran armed with nuclear weapons might also confront Moscow with the choice between continuing to provide Tehran with nuclear know-how in order to appease it, or reluctantly turning to the United States for support. Thus, instead of enhancing Russia's status as a great power, the sale of nuclear technology to Iran is far more likely to undermine it.

Mark Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said in an interview in "The New York Times" of 12 July that Afghanistan's warlord armies, not Taliban insurgents, pose the gravest risk to his country's security. In calling on militias to disarm, Karzai said that "the frustration that we have in this country is that progress has sometimes been stopped by private militias, life has been threatened by private militias, so it should not be tolerated." Without disarmament, he said, "the Afghan state will have really serious difficulties." Karzai's comments reflected a shift in the order of concerns he sees Afghanistan facing. Previously, attacks on aid workers and election officials staged by suspected neo-Taliban guerillas most worried the fledgling government in Kabul. But Karzai put dangers posed by militias first, saying they threaten to hamper progress toward nationwide presidential elections scheduled for 9 October. Just 10,000 of Afghanistan's estimated 60,000 fighters have been disarmed, and disarmament efforts led by the United Nations have recently slowed. MR

Authorities in the western Afghan city of Herat have arrested four people suspected of involvement in a weekend bombing attack in the city, AFP reported on 12 July. "We have arrested four suspects [in connection with the 11 July] bomb attack, and we are hoping that these suspects will lead us to capture the people behind the attack," Herat police chief Ziauddin Muhmoodi said. Muhmoodi said police seized 18 high-quality Russian-made pistols and ammunition from a house where one of the suspects lived. But he refused to offer further details due to security concerns. Five people were killed in the blast on 11 July, and one man later died in the hospital from his injuries, according to police and hospital officials in Herat. Herat, which borders Iran and lies 625 kilometers west of Kabul, has seen repeated factional fighting on its outskirts in recent years. However, the 11 July blast was the first attack in the downtown area. MR

Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat said during his visit to Kabul on 12 July that Pakistan will help train Afghan police, AP reported. "Pakistan is deeply and strongly committed to strengthening the rebuilding efforts inside Afghanistan," Hayyat said after talks with his Afghan counterpart Ali Ahmad Jalali. According to an agreement signed by Hayyat and Jalali, officers from Afghanistan's highway patrol will visit Pakistan for training. Afghanistan hopes to field some 20,000 Afghan police officers as part of security efforts during nationwide presidential elections slated for 9 October. Hayyat also said Pakistan will provide Afghanistan with help in fighting Afghanistan's flourishing trade in opium and heroin. But it remains unclear what kind of interdiction assistance Pakistan will provide or how many Afghan officers might train in Pakistan. "We wish to see the government of...Hamid Karzai strengthened by the day," said Hayyat, who later met with the Transitional Administration chairman. MR

Gunmen targeted a prominent female Afghan political figure in what appears to be a failed assassination attempt, AFP reported 12 July. "I was on my way back from Khogiani district to Jalabad city when we saw two armed men on the highway waiting for our convoy," female activist Safia Sediqi, the women's representative for eastern Nangarhar Province, told the news agency. "But as soon as they realized we had more than a dozen bodyguards they tried to escape." Sediqi said her guards pursued the attackers. One got away, and the other committed suicide to avoid capture, she said. Sediqi said the suicide victim "swallowed his identity card and destroyed documents he had on him, then he blew himself with one of the hand grenades he was carrying." Sediqi had traveled to eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province to investigate rural problems and visited the Khogiani district some 90 kilometers east of Kabul. Suspected neo-Taliban insurgents in the area have killed four female election workers in recent weeks. MR

The second hearing in the trial of Iraj Jamshidi, editor in chief of the economic newspaper "Asia," took place on 11 July, Radio Farda reported. Jamshidi and his lawyer, Nasser Chubdar, entered their defense in the second session. The most serious of the 11 charges against Jamshidi are endangering national security and providing intelligence to foreign services by giving interviews. The next hearing was scheduled for 13 July, Radio Farda reported. Jamshidi was arrested in July 2003, and the authorities subsequently arrested his son and held him in solitary confinement for 30 days, according to Jamshidi's website ( In addition to his work for RFE/RL, according to the website, Jamshidi has worked for the BBC, Radio France International, NHK, KRSI, and Voice of America. BS

Plainclothes policemen on 10 July arrested the secretary-general of the trade association for Iranian teachers, Mahmud Beheshti-Langerudi, and spokesman Ali-Asghar Zati, Radio Farda reported ( Their homes and automobiles were searched for two hours, and personal papers and a computer were reportedly confiscated. Ali Pursuleiman, a member of the association's central council, told Radio Farda that the arrests are a preventive measure in advance of the national meeting of teachers' representatives in Gilan Province. The telephones of other association members have been disconnected, he added. Teachers have held a number of protests recently (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 26 January, 22 March, and 21 June 2004), and according to Pursuleiman, their representatives intend to discuss future actions during the Gilan meeting. It also is possible, Pursuleiman said, that the government objects to the association's criticism of a plan to promote all teachers by one pay grade and then freeze promotions for five years. BS

Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, met in Tehran on 12 July with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, IRNA reported. Rohani told the visitor that Iran wants to continue to have good relations with Iraq and added that Iran is ready to assist in development of Iraq's trade sector. Rohani said Iraq will be truly independent only when its occupiers leave. He also dismissed any questions about changing the country's borders and stressed that Iraqis should defend their territorial integrity. Al-Hakim later told reporters that Iran has not interfered in Iraqi affairs and it has actually provided a great deal of assistance, IRNA reported. He said some people do not want Iran and Iraq to have good relations. Turning to the Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which was hosted in Iraq by former President Saddam Hussein, al-Hakim said that Baghdad wants to expel its members from the country. The problem, he said, is that the United Nations sees the MKO members as refugees. BS

After meeting with Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on 11 July, al-Hakim said that former Iraqi President Hussein will face charges relating to his eight-year war against Iran and other attacks against Iraq's neighbors, "Al-Hayah" reported on 12 July. "There will be a serious follow up of all the crimes that Saddam Hussein had committed and all the cases against him will be heard, including the war on Iran and the former regime's murder and displacement crimes as well as the use of chemical weapons," Al-Hakim said. He rejected reports that Iran is interfering in Iraqi affairs and said that it is working to help stability there. BS

Recent border clashes involving Iranian troops and members of the Turkish Kongra-Gel organization (formerly known as the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK]) are reportedly being discussed at a joint-Iran-Turkey security meeting in Ankara, CNN Turk reported on 12 July. Officials from the armed forces general staff, Interior Ministry, Gendarmerie, National Intelligence Organization, and Security Directorate are representing the Turkish side, and Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi is representing the Iranian side. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi confirmed on 11 July that two Iranian border guards and unknown number of Kongra-Gel personnel were killed in an incident in late June, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 July 2004). Tehran dailies reported more clashes on 10 July amid descriptions of an offensive "on Ankara's behalf," AFP reported on 11 July. The newspapers referred to fighting near Baneh, a town in Kurdistan Province that is some 200 kilometers from Turkey. BS

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the visiting prime minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, that he suspects Israel and the United States are behind terrorists' decapitations of hostages in Iraq, Iranian state television and IRNA reported. "As far as the perpetrators of terrorist incidents in Iraq are concerned, we are strongly suspicious of Israeli and American agents," Khamenei said. "We do not believe that Muslims took Philippines citizens hostage or murdered people, such as the American citizen." President Khatami also attended this meeting. BS

Philippine Deputy Foreign Minister Rafael Seguis read a statement by his government on Al-Jazeera television on 12 July that said the Philippines will withdraw its humanitarian forces from Iraq "as soon as preparations" are made. The decision has reportedly satisfied the demands of the Khalid bin Al-Walid group that is holding Philippine national Angelo de la Cruz hostage. The group has demanded that the Philippines withdraw from Iraq immediately or de la Cruz will be killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). The group now says it will release de la Cruz unharmed, CNN reported on 13 July. KR

The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry has reached an agreement with U.S. forces that will allow it to oversee the supervision of Iraqi prisons, Al-Arabiyah reported on 12 July. "The ministry will play a supervisory role in all Iraqi prisons. This was reached in an agreement with [Major-General Geoffrey] Miller, chief of detentions and interrogations in Iraq," the satellite news channel quoted Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin as saying. Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera cited Amin on 12 July as saying that 99 Arab and foreign prisoners are currently being held by multinational forces in Iraq. The foreigners include one Afghan, 12 Egyptians, 14 Iranians, five Palestinians, 14 Saudis, nine Sudanese, 26 Syrians, five Tunisians, five Yemenis, five Jordanians, one Moroccan, one Turkish, and one Lebanese national, Amin said. KR

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named current Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as the UN's new special representative to Iraq on 12 July, UN News Center reported ( Qazi replaces Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the 19 August 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad. Qazi previously served as Pakistan's high commissioner to India, and as ambassador to China, Russia, the former East Germany, and Syria. He has also held diplomatic postings in Tripoli, Cairo, and London. KR

Iyad Allawi held separate meetings on 12 July with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) head Mas'ud Barzani in Irbil and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) chief Jalal Talabani in Qalajulan to address security issues in Iraq, Voice of the Mujahidin radio reported on the same day. The talks focused on expanding cooperation between the Iraqi Army, police, and Kurdish peshmerga. The radio reported that 25,000 peshmerga have arrived in the Iraqi capital and other main cities to help maintain security. Defense Minister Hazim al-Sha'lan and Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib also took part in the meetings. Voice of the Mujahidin cited al-Sha'lan as saying that 20 percent of the militias of the various Iraqi parties will be integrated into the Iraqi Army. KR

France and Iraq resumed diplomatic relations on 12 July after 13 years with the reopening of the French Embassy in Baghdad, international media reported. Diplomatic relations between the two states were severed on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Muhammad al-Haj Humud read a joint statement issued by the two states at a press briefing broadcast on Al-Sharqiyah television on 12 July, saying that Iraq and France have agreed to "exchange ambassadors as soon as possible." Humud added that there are now 40 foreign embassies open in Baghdad. Iraq has some 37 missions functioning abroad. He added that the names of appointed Iraqi ambassadors will be announced in the coming days. KR

Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir told Al-Sharqiyah television on 12 July that the soon to be announced amnesty will "open a new page" for Iraqis. "Anyone who wants to benefit from this amnesty should head to the closest police center or post, hand over his weapon, register his name, and go back to practice his life once again as an Iraqi citizen, provided that he pledges not to [remain armed] in the future," Al-Yawir said. "Such a person will be pardoned, but if he returns to his previous behavior, he will be held responsible for the old things he did in the past," he added. "We want to give a chance to those who were misled in the past." KR

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has begun a picket outside the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow calling for an end to legal proceedings against deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Ekho Moskvy reported on 12 July. About 15 protestors carried signs reading, "Hands Off Hussein." "Saddam Hussein ensured peace and calm in his republic," LDPR leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii told demonstrators. "OK, there were no other parties there, just one ruling party. But elections were held and people cast their votes for Saddam Hussein. If someone thinks that elections were held under pressure, let's hold elections now. Saddam Hussein will win them, even from a prison cell." RC