GOVERNMENT DEFLATES HOPES THAT A YUKOS DEAL MIGHT BE PENDING...
The Justice Ministry announced on 5 August that it "has many questions" regarding the proposed sale by embattled oil giant Yukos of a 56 percent stake in Rospan to TNK-BP, Prime-TASS and other Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2004). The ministry said that it would take several more days before it can make a final decision regarding the legality of the proposed sale. The ministry on 5 August also denied an earlier report by Yukos management that bailiffs would allow the company to use money in its accounts to finance operating costs. "Bailiffs have not made a decision on issuing permission to Yukos to make monthly payments or to ensure current activities," the ministry's statement said, according to ITAR-TASS. Yukos stock fell 14 percent following the announcement, Interfax reported. RC
...AS INDUSTRY UNION OFFICIAL SAYS SITUATION IMPROVING
Before the Justice Ministry's announcements, Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) President Arkadii Volskii told Interfax that "we're seeing some easing of the situation around Yukos.... This is the result of our discussions, including with the authorities." RSPP official and Renaissance Capital Chairman Oleg Kiselev called on business not to criticize court decisions in the Yukos case, saying that doing so undermines the authority of the judiciary. RC
GENERAL SAYS POOR QUALITY CRIPPLING DEFENSE COMPLEX
The Russian military-industrial complex is incapable of producing fourth- and fifth-generation weapons, Colonel General Anatolii Sitnov said, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 August. Sitnov served as the head of the Defense Ministry's armaments department from 1994 until 2000. Speaking at a conference in Moscow, Sitnov cited a U.S. study that described the campaigns waged in Yugoslavia, the first Gulf War, and Iraq as "fourth-generation wars," saying that Russia, by contrast, is capable only of waging a "third-generation" war such as the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan or the wars in Chechnya. Sitnov said the main problem with the military-industrial complex is a lack of quality control, meaning that it produces an unacceptably large amount of inferior goods. He blamed the problem on the liquidation of the State Standards Bureau, saying that the new Technical Regulation Service has not yet begun to function properly. Only 1 percent of Russian defense enterprises are currently ISO 9000 certified, Sitnov said. RC
MOSCOW DENIES REPORT THAT NORTH KOREA HAS LONG-RANGE MISSILE
The Defense Ministry has denied Western reports that Russian specialists helped North Korea build a long-range, submarine-launched missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2004). The ministry told the daily that Moscow does not believe that Pyongyang possesses such a missile. "I think that the United States is clearly conducting a definite campaign against Russian defense enterprises," Yurii Telitsyn, chief designer at the Makeev State Rocket Design Bureau in Miass, told the daily. Admiral Eduard Baltin of the Black Sea Fleet described the original report in "Jane's Defence Weekly" as "absurd." Another expert told the daily that North Korea would have to conduct extensive tests of such a missile before deploying it and that such tests would be impossible to conceal from the outside world. RC
NEWSPAPER: CENTRAL BANK PLACES SHARP RESTRICTIONS ON DIALOG-OPTIM BANK
The Central Bank has barred Dialog-Optim bank from conducting virtually all operations except for withdrawals from savings accounts, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 August, citing an unnamed source at Dialog-Optim. Nether Dialog-Optim nor the Central Bank confirmed the information, although an unnamed Central Bank source told the daily that "the only official supervisory measure that the Central Bank is allowed to voice in public is the revocation of a bank's license." According to the report, for the next six months, Dialog-Optim will not be able to conduct currency-exchange operations, accept deposits, make loans, or transfer money to other banks. Last month, the Central Bank barred the bank from handling tax payments, the daily reported. The daily cited unnamed tellers at Dialog-Optim bank as saying that although they are allowed to process withdrawals, there is no money to do so. "Vedomosti" on 6 August issued a similar report titled "Dialog-Bank In A Coma." RC
DUMA TAKES AWAY REGIONS' SAY IN MANAGING MINERAL RESOURCES...
State Duma deputies passed in their third readings on 5 August amendments to the law on subsurface mineral resources and to the Forest and Water codes, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 August. The bill would revoke the so-called two-keys principles, which divides responsibility for natural resources between the federal and local levels in accordance with the Russian Constitution, according to the daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2004). In the opinion of the Natural Resources Ministry, whose head is former Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev, many governors "with the help of the second key simply blackmailed mineral-resource users." Commenting on the law, Yamalo-Nenets Governor Vladimir Butov said, "The bill deprives regions of the right to insist on the interests of regional residents." The daily predicted that despite opposition to the bill by some governors, the Federation Council will pass it on 7 August. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 4 August that a Federation Council adviser, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said regional governors have been warned not to speak out against a controversial bill converting most in-kind social benefits to cash payments that was also passed in its third reading on 5 August if they want to be reelected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2004). JAC
...AND BANS SHOWING OF BEER ADS DURING WAKING HOURS
Also on 5 August, legislators voted to approve in its third reading a bill amending the Budget Code to reorder interbudgetary transfers and tax-revenue sharing among the various levels of government, RIA-Novosti reported. The vote was 314 in favor with 115 against. According to RosBalt, regions will get more revenues from transportation, property, and gambling taxes, while the center will take all revenues from the water tax, which is currently divided 40 percent-60 percent in the regions' favor. Also approved in their third and final reading were amendments to the law on advertising that would severely restrict the advertising of beer, Russian news agencies reported. If the law is enacted, beer commercials could not be aired on television or radio between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to Interfax. The vote was 439 in favor, according to RIA-Novosti. Beer advertisements would also be banned within 100 meters of any children's, educational, medical, athletic, or cultural facilities. JAC
SOCIAL TENSIONS RISING IN SOUTHERN REGION...
Social tensions in Rostov Oblast are nearing a level that is "unprecedented" in recent years and are continuing to rise, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August. Several thousand people from more than 200 enterprises in the region have not received their wages, and the total arrears amounts to 500 million rubles ($17.2 million). In Volgodonsk, workers from the bankrupt Energostroiservis are demanding their wages, but the mayoral administration said that no money will be forthcoming until the enterprise's equipment and other property can be sold. But city administration officials admit that the proceeds from that sale are not likely to be enough to cover the arrears. JAC
...AS POLICE BREAK UP PROTESTS...
On 4 August, police broke up a picket of former Energostroiservis workers in front of the Volgodonsk city administration building because demonstrators failed to fill out the proper documentation for their protest, rostov.ru reported. The signature of the organizer was missing on one form, according to the report. Another picket was broken up on 28 July because the picketers drummed on construction helmets below administration windows and the noise interfered with officials' work. Deputy Mayor Yurii Maskimov complained that protestors said their demonstration would be only of a purely economic nature but political slogans appears on the posters, including a demand for the resignation of Mayor Aleksandr Kleimenov. Kleimanov, his wife, and mother were all founders of Energostroiservis, according to Lyubov Baskakova, one of the protest organizers. JAC
...AND BANKRUPT FIRMS, FARMS LEAVE WORKERS WITHOUT WAGES
In the village of Dorozhnyi, some 48 women are on a hunger strike to get their land returned to them, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August. They were shareholders in a farm, and when it went bankrupt, all its remaining property went to a private individual, Aleksei Gorkovenko. Gorkovenko then decided to seize the land of the former shareholders for his livestock. In the city of Krasnyi Sulin, around 30 people are on a hunger strike following a decision by the local administration to close a market where around 500 people worked. In February, President Vladimir Putin took then Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok to task for the continuing problem of wage arrears. Pochinok said that most wage delays involved Russia's estimated 300,000 bankrupt enterprises and fly-by-night companies that the Tax Ministry has a hard time tracking down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2004). JAC
MOSCOW POLICE RAID NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY 'BUNKER'
National Bolshevik Party (NBP) leader Eduard Limonov reported on 5 August that several party's members were arrested in the party's Moscow office earlier that day for their alleged involvement in the 2 August takeover of the Health and Social Development Ministry, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2004). Party members took over several offices in the ministry's headquarters to protest the bill to convert most in-kind social benefits into cash payments. Limonov told lenta.ru that the Moscow office is more like a "bunker" than a party headquarters. He said the party emphasizes self-initiative, and neither he nor a central committee assumes any responsibility for the activities of NBP members or their sympathizers. JAC
ENVOY SAYS ALLEGED GANGSTER/MAYOR GUILTY ONLY OF YOUTHFUL OVER-EXUBERANCE
At a press conference in Moscow, presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii shared his impressions of newly elected Vladivostok Mayor Vladimir Nikolaev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August. Pulikovskii said his office "carefully and thoroughly" went through Nikolaev's biography and "found many slanders." According to Pulikovskii, Nikolaev had a "wild, boisterous youth," and although one of his "rivals sustained severe injuries, "this all happened when he was 21, 22, 23 years old." "I would not put such an emphasis on what a person did during his youth," Pulikovskii noted. Nikolaev, who was elected on 18 July and who is 30 years old, served 3 1/2 years in prison for beating up one Primorskii Krai legislator and threatening to murder another (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 29 July 2004). Numerous local and national media reports have described Nikolaev as a mid-level gangster, known in the criminal world as "Winnie the Pooh." In 2001, Pulikovskii challenged Nikolaev's predecessor, Yurii Kopylov, to a duel at a local press conference. "Choose your weapon and if we fight, I will not miss," Pulikovskii reportedly told Kopylov (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 March 2001). JAC
CHECHEN FOREIGN MINISTER GRANTED ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES
Ilyas Akhmadov, who is the foreign minister in the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, was granted political asylum in the United States, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 August, citing the U.S.-based American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. A spokesman for the Russian bureau of Interpol told the news agency the Akhmadov is the subject of an international arrest warrant and that Russia formally requested his extradition from the United States in January. The Russian authorities accuse Akhmadov of having ties with radical Chechen fighter Shamil Basaev. Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov told "RIA-Novosti" that "it looks strange that a country that has suffered from terrorism and that is heading the armed struggle against it in a coalition together with Russia would grant political asylum" to Akhmadov. RC
The 2 August "RFE/RL Newsline" item "Expert Warns About Direction Of Russia's Oil Policy" erroneously cited Institute of World Economy and International Relations Director Nodari Simoniya as saying that Russian and CIS oil production is "only about 10 million tons a year." Simoniya actually said that the United States only imports about 10 million tons of oil per year from Russia and the other CIS countries. Russian oil production in 2003 was about 8.4 million barrels per day, according to the Middle East Economic Survey.
ARMENIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH CONTINUES THROUGH MID-2004
Stepan Mnatsakanian, the head of the Armenian National Statistical Service, cited official figures for the first six months of 2004 that showed the Armenian economy grew by 9.2 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 5 August. The continued growth in the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was accompanied by a 7.2 percent increase in net exports, reaching $340 million, and a 33 percent rise in the average monthly wage, to 40,000 drams ($78), compared to the same period last year. The impact of the increase in wages is largely offset by a comparable rise in prices. RG
ARMENIA MOVES TO ENHANCE STATE AID TO ORPHANS
The Armenian government finalized a new legislative package on 5 August that would enhance state protection and assistance for children in state-run orphanages, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The proposed measures, crafted as amendments to existing laws on aid to orphans, are to be presented to the parliament upon its return from summer recess. Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ashot Yessayan explained that the government is focused on improving the rights of orphans and seeks to strengthen measures designed to prevent incidents of "violence, exploitation, and sexual abuse" within state-run orphanages. The measures also seek to aid in the transition process for the orphans as they are eventually reintegrated into Armenian society. One such proposal would provide free housing to all homeless orphans released from state institutions since 1992. RG
IRANIAN PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN BAKU ON STATE VISIT
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met on 5 August with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku at the start of a three-day state visit, Turan and Interfax reported. The Iranian president discussed a number of bilateral issues with his Azerbaijani counterpart and extended a formal invitation for a reciprocal visit by President Aliyev to Iran. The presidents also signed 10 bilateral agreements, including accords on energy and economic cooperation, the division of the Caspian Sea, and the Iranian supply of natural gas to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, Interfax reported. The visit to Azerbaijan is the first by an Iranian leader in more than a decade. RG
AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH VISITING NATO OFFICIAL
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev met on 4 August with NATO Joint Command official Major General Hans Mammen in Baku, Turan reported. The Defense Minister reiterated his country's goals for enhanced cooperation with the NATO alliance that were formulated in Azerbaijan's draft Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in May. The officials also discussed the upcoming NATO "Cooperative Best Effort-2004" military exercises to be held in Baku in September. The NATO officer arrived in Baku to participate in a NATO training seminar for Azerbaijani officers currently underway in Baku. RG
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE...
Mikheil Saakashvili was welcomed at the Pentagon on 5 August for a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a visit to Washington, the Caucasus Press and Rustavi-2 Television reported. The Georgian president held a detailed discussion with Rumsfeld on the current situation in South Ossetia and concerning the next stage of U.S. military aid to the country, with a particular focus on pipeline security in preparation for the resumption of construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline running through southern Georgia. RG
...AND WITH U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER IN WASHINGTON
Following his meeting at the Pentagon, President Saakashvili also met with the U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House on 5 August, the Caucasus Press and Rustavi-2 reported. Following the White House meeting, the president met separately with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. In both meetings, the president briefed the U.S. officials on the latest developments in South Ossetia and explained his intention to continue an "open dialogue" with Russia. The meetings are characterized as "unofficial" as the Georgian president is in Washington on a "private visit" on his way to a meeting of the American Bar Association. RG
GEORGIAN PREMIER UNVEILS THREE-POINT PLAN FOR DEALING WITH SOUTH OSSETIA
Zurab Zhvania unveiled a new three-point plan on 5 August outlining the government's handling of the conflict with South Ossetia, Imedi Television reported. The new plan seeks to stabilize the tense situation with South Ossetia and provides a framework for Tbilisi's effort to reintegrate South Ossetia into Georgia proper. According to the three-point plan, Georgia will pursue direct talks with the South Ossetian leadership, seek a complete demilitarization of the conflict zone, and increase the OSCE mandate in South Ossetia. Zhvania criticized the recent "frenzy stirred up by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian media" over a recent shooting incident involving a senior member of the Russian Duma as "provocative" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2004). The prime minister added that the Georgian government's policy is "to resume the political dialogue and take all the necessary measures to resolve this problem through economic and political steps as well as demilitarization," and reiterated his readiness to enter into an "immediate direct dialogue" with South Ossetian leaders. RG
NEW NUCLEAR-TEST-MONITORING STATION ESTABLISHED IN KAZAKHSTAN
Officials of the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan announced on 4 August that its new Akbulak nuclear-test-monitoring facility will be fully operational in the coming days, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The new facility, located 200 kilometers south of Astana, is a joint project by Kazakhstan and the U.S. Air Force and will conduct extensive monitoring of underground nuclear tests. RG
NEW BIOMEDICAL CENTER ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS TO OPEN IN KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyz officials announced plans on 5 August to open the country's first scientific center on genetically modified products, according to Kyrgyzinfo. The biomedical center is a joint effort with the Russian Academy of Sciences and is to "control and create" a number of genetically modified agricultural products. RG
TURKMEN STATE AIRLINES LAUNCHES NEW DIRECT FLIGHTS TO CHINA
An inaugural flight of a commercial Turkmen Airlines Boeing-757 on 4 August marked the start of new direct service between Ashgabat and Beijing, turkmenistan.ru reported. The popularity of the new route is confirmed by the purchase of over half of the available seats several months in advance. RG
RUSSIA NEGOTIATING TRANSPORT OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL FROM UZBEKISTAN
Officials of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency confirmed on 5 August that they are currently negotiating with Uzbek authorities to import spent nuclear fuel from a scientific reactor in Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. The negotiations are to include two separate contracts -- one for the transportation and another for the handling and processing of the spent fuel -- and are expected to be concluded in 2005. The deal is described as a "pilot project" for the two countries that "may run [into] hundreds of thousands of dollars," according to an agency official quoted by Interfax. The removal of spent nuclear fuel from Uzbekistan is seen as an important measure to prevent proliferation. RG
GREECE BANS BELARUSIAN SPORTS MINISTER
Greek authorities have banned Belarusian Sports Minister Yury Sivakou, who is due to lead Belarus's delegation to the Summer Olympic Games from 11-29 August, from entering Greece, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 5 August, citing an unnamed EU official. The ban was agreed to by all EU members, and is based on Sivakou's alleged involvement in the disappearance of three opposition politicians and a journalist in Belarus. In a December 2003 report, Cypriot lawmaker Christos Pourgourides, a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur on high-profile disappearances in Belarus, suggested that former Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman (now prosecutor-general) and Sivakou, a former interior minister, might have been involved in arranging the disappearance of Yury Zakharanka (7 May 1999), Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski (16 December 1999), and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (7 July 2000) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2003 and 28 January 2004). The EU is expected to issue a statement on 6 August about the Sivakou ban. JM
PUBLICATION OF BELARUSIAN DAILY BLOCKED OVER UNPAID LIBEL DAMAGES
Belarusian authorities on 5 August blocked the printing of the private, opposition-minded daily "Narodnaya volya" over nonpayment of $30,000 in libel damages to businessman Syarhey Atroshchanka and Yahor Rybakou, the former head of the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company, Belapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March and 1 June 2004). Earlier this week, court bailiffs issued orders to seize some $27,000 worth of property from the newspaper as partial payment. "Narodnaya volya" Editor in Chief Iosif Syaredzich told reporters on 5 August that the newspaper would publish in Vilnius if it cannot publish in Belarus. Many independent observers see the court's action against "Narodnaya volya," which has a circulation of some 30,000, as an attempt to silence government critics ahead of the 17 October legislative elections. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATES GOOD HARVEST PERFORMANCE
Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a televised conference on 5 August with officials and collective farm managers to discuss this year's harvest, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka said Belarus could expect to reap between 6.5 million-7 million tons of grain this year and promised to buy foreign-made harvesters for any farm that brings in more than five tons of grain per hectare. Lukashenka also compared this year's harvest to the performance of Belarusian athletes in the summer Olympics. "As I see it, there is a sort of plot developing [before us]: an inconspicuous competition, a somewhat strange competition, peasants versus great, talented athletes," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "Summing up our results in August, we will see who will win, who will bring more joy to the people, who will give the best gift: either the athletes with their [anticipated] 25 medals or the peasants who may gather 6.5 or perhaps 7 million tons of grain nationally." JM
PRIVATE TV CHANNEL OFF THE AIR IN PARTS OF EASTERN UKRAINE
A dozen political parties in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast issued a statement on 5 August protesting the removal of television programs by the privately owned 5 Channel from the distribution networks of two regional cable television operators, UNIAN reported. The statement says the 4 August replacement of 5 Channel with the Russian television channel Mir is a deliberate attempt by local authorities to "restrict the legitimate rights of Dnipropetrovsk viewers during the [presidential] election campaign." 5 Channel reported on 4 August that its programs have also been removed from cable distribution networks in Simferopol and Donetsk. The station's owner is Petro Poroshenko, a legislator with the opposition Our Ukraine bloc and a political ally of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. JM
26 CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY
The Central Election Commission (TsVK) on 5 August registered Mykola Rohozhynskyy and Mykola Hrabar as presidential candidates for the 31 October ballot, bringing the total number of registered hopefuls to 26, Ukrainian media reported. "This is the final figure," TsVK Serhiy Kyvalov told journalists. "We did not expect that there would be 26 candidates, but this is no obstacle to us." Kyvalov said a preliminary estimate of state election expenditures was based on 20 candidates competing, and must be revised. "[The registration of such a number of candidates] is by no means the case where we can say, 'the more the better,'" President Leonid Kuchma said in an interview with "Fakty i kommentarii" on 6 August. JM
KYIV HAILS ABOLITION OF VAT ON RUSSIAN OIL, GAS EXPORTS
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov on 5 August welcomed the Russia Duma's decision the same day to cancel the value-added tax (VAT) on oil and gas exports to CIS countries as of 1 January, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. "This is an extremely positive decision which undoubtedly will give an additional impetus to Ukrainian-Russian trade and economic relations," Azarov said. "This is a real implementation of the principles underlying the creation of a Single Economic Space [of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan]." Azarov said that as of January 2005, VAT on Russian oil and gas exports will be collected according to the country-of-destination principle, which could lead to a reduction in prices of oil products in Ukraine. JM
SERBIAN MINISTER URGES KOSOVA'S SERBS NOT TO VOTE...
Zoran Loncar, who is Serbia's minister for local government, said at the United Nations on 5 August that Kosova's Serbs should not take part in the 23 October elections to Kosova's parliament because of concerns for their safety, RFE/RL reported. But Stuart Holliday, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, called on the Serbs not to boycott the vote. "We look...to [Serbian] Prime Minister [Vojislav] Kostunica, President [Boris] Tadic, and the Serbian government. We look to them to send a clear signal that Kosovo Serbs should, without precondition, participate in the elections." U.K. Ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry stressed that "nonparticipation will only disenfranchise the Kosovo Serbs at a time when we have seen real progress on their key concerns. The Kosovo Serbs should participate in the elections and should rejoin the institutions" that they have been boycotting. Several other EU diplomats made similar points. The Kosovar government has dismissed the Serbian complaints as politically motivated, noting that the Serbs had found nothing wrong with voting conditions when they cast their ballots in the recent Serbian presidential vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 July 2004). PM
...AS CONCERNS GROW OVER KOSOVA'S FUTURE
UN ambassador Holliday said in New York on 5 August that time has come to move toward more self-government for the Kosovars, RFE/RL reported. "The international presence in Kosovo should move increasingly toward a monitoring role and less of a governing role," he said. Holliday stressed that "we, of course, would not support the wholesale transfer of reserved authority that the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo proposed last month, but the UN in Kosovo can further shift additional competencies to the local authorities or further share these competencies with them" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 29 July, and 6 August 2004). The meeting at the UN coincides with the release of a 12-page, 64-paragraph report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stressing that the Kosovar authorities must meet internationally mandated standards and address the concerns of the Serbian minority. Albanian Ambassador to the UN Agim Nesho argued, however, that it will help promote regional stability if the "international community -- along with the discussion of standards -- takes into consideration the final status of Kosova under the belief that the implementation of the policy of 'status with standards' will advance concretely the political process in Kosova and further normalize the situation in the region." PM
RUSSIA PLANS TO OPEN AN 'EMBASSY CHANCELLERY' IN KOSOVA
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov said in Moscow on 5 August that his government will open an "embassy chancellery," or a branch of its embassy in Belgrade, in Kosova, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued that the embassy chancellery, rather than a separate mission, "fully conforms to the clauses of Resolution 1244 of the [UN] Security Council," which states that Kosova is "part of Yugoslavia." Razov said that Russia wants "to establish more close contacts with the international structures and local self-rule bodies operating in the region, while...intending to take part in the organization of the direct political dialogue [between] Belgrade [and] Pristina." It is not clear when the new office will open or where. PM
MORE PROTESTS AGAINST REDISTRICTING PLANS IN MACEDONIA
The conservative opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) charged that a group of ethnic Albanians attacked a motorcade organized by that party in an Albanian part of Skopje on 4 August, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The motorcade sought to protest the government's redistricting plans, which would also change the administrative borders of some districts in Skopje. Police reportedly said that they only witnessed arguments between protesters and locals who blocked the road with a container, but did not confirm that the motorcade was indeed attacked. Several persons were slightly injured in the incident. On 22-23 July, a protest against the redistricting plans turned violent in Struga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 26 July 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2, 23, and 30 July 2004). UB
BOSNIAN DISPUTE OVER NATIONAL SYMBOLS AND TERMINOLOGIES INTENSIFIES
The Muslim deputies in the Republika Srpska's parliament agreed in Banja Luka on 5 August to declare formally the matter of place name changes mandated by Bosnia-Herzegovina's Constitutional Court to be a matter of "vital national interest" for the Muslims, Onasa news agency reported. The Muslims said that the name changes recently approved by the Bosnian Serb government are a "mockery" of the court's ruling because some of them still retain clear references to "Serbian" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2004). The issue has become part of a larger dispute over national symbols ad terminologies, and ultimately over sovereignty, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Sulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim member and chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, has objected to the use of Serbian nationalist symbols for the Republika Srpska and even to the name Republika Srpska itself, saying it is not inclusive and hence is unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). In response, Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic told RFE/RL that his Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) will challenge the Muslims' use of the terms "Bosnjak" to describe themselves and the "Bosnian language" to refer to their speech. PM
JOINT ACTION TO CATCH BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES INDICTEES?
Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic said in Milocer, Montenegro, on 5 August that the intelligence services and secret police of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Serbia and Montenegro are working together to find indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and former General Ratko Mladic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Terzic said that he spoke about Karadzic and Mladic with his host in Milocer, Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic, but did not elaborate. PM
MORE BODIES RECOVERED NEAR BOSNIAN MASSACRE SITE
Murat Hurtic from the Croat-Muslim Federation's Commission for Missing Persons told Reuters by telephone on 4 August that his team has found more than 120 complete and 70 incomplete bodies in a mass grave near Bljecevo in the vicinity of Srebrenica's suburb of Potocari. Hurtic said that his workers must cope with very high temperatures and gasses released from the plastic body bags used by the former Yugoslav Army to dispose of the remains of some of the up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males killed there by Serbian forces in July 1995 and some Muslims killed earlier at Bratunac. The grave appears to be a "secondary mass grave," meaning that bodies were dumped there to better hide the evidence after having first been buried elsewhere. Hundreds of mass graves have been found across Bosnia-Herzegovina dating from the 1992-95 conflict, in which perhaps 2 million people fled their homes, 200,000 were killed, and many missing persons remain unaccounted for. About 5,000 victims have been identified through DNA tests. PM
SERBIAN RADICALS OPPOSE PROPOSED NATIONAL ANTHEM
The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which won 81 out of 240 seats in the December 2003 Serbian parliamentary elections and constitutes the largest single faction in the legislature, announced in Belgrade on 5 August that it opposes plans to approve a new national anthem for Serbia and Montenegro in a 11 August parliamentary vote of the joint state's parliament, the private Beta news agency reported. Gordana Pop-Lazic, who is a leader of the SRS, said that the proposed national anthem combining verses from both the Serbian patriotic song "Boze pravde" and the Montenegrin anthem "Oj, svijetla majska zoro" is as artificial as the joint state itself (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July and 5 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 February 2003). She added that the SRS wants the Serbian song "Onamo, namo" dating from 1867 to become the new anthem. The former Czechoslovakia had an anthem that combined one set of verses in Czech with another in Slovak. When the joint state ceased to exist on 1 January 1993, the Czech verses became the anthem of the Czech Republic and the Slovak verses the national hymn of Slovakia. PM
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT REPLACES PREFECTS
The government on 5 August replaced Bucharest Prefect Ovidiu Grecea with Dan Darabont, the former mayor of one of Bucharest's municipal sectors, Mediafax reported. Grecea has been appointed Romania's consul general in Sydney, Australia, governmental spokeswoman Despina Neagoe said. She added that the change is part of the government's drive to "improve the efficiency of local administration." Since the 2000 elections, the prefect of Bucharest has been replaced four times. The government also replaced Caras-Severin Prefect Barbu Enache with Gheorghe Cahnita. MS
ROYAL FAMILY ROW IN ROMANIA
A lawyer representing the German branch of the Hohenzollern family warned Prince Radu Hohenzollern-Veringen on 5 August in Bucharest to stop using that title because he is not entitled to carry it, Mediafax reported. Lawyer Brad Johnson said the warning was delivered in a letter signed by Prince Karl Friedrich von Hohenzollern. Prince Radu was awarded his title in 1999, following his 1996 marriage to Princess Margareta, former King Michael I's eldest daughter. A former actor, he currently works for the government as a special representative for NATO and EU integration, cooperation and durable development. Romanian royal family lawyer Eugen Vasiliu said no letter from Prince Karl Friedrich had been received and that Prince Radu's title was granted to him by Prince Karl Friedrich's father, Friedrich Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, the only recognized head of the former European dynastic family, Mediafax reported. Even if the letter from Prince Karl's Friedrich is genuine, Vasiliu said, it has "no legal value." MS
TRANSDNIESTER ANNOUNCES MILITARY MOBILIZATION...
The separatist region's "Defense Ministry" announced on 5 August that it is mobilizing reserves for the "Transdniester Army," special services, and "Interior Ministry" troops, Flux reported. The "ministry" said its units have been placed "on alert" and that border checkpoints are being reinforced. It also said several thousand reservists are being called up for military retraining "in view of the growing threat of an intrusion by Moldova," ITAR-TASS reported. The Defense Ministry in Chisinau refused to comment on the mobilization reports, saying it cannot "assume responsibility" for commenting on what happens in non-Moldovan military forces. Reports in the separatist media have claimed that Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's vacation in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic is an effort to distance himself from Moldovan preparations for military aggression. But such claims are "lies and provocations," Presidential adviser Mark Tkachuk said, Flux reported citing ITAR-TASS. Tkachuk said Voronin is following developments closely while at the spa and receives daily briefings, Flux reported. MS
...CUTS OFF ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES TO MOLDOVAN VILLAGES...
Separatist authorities on 5 August cut off electricity supplies to several Moldovan villages, Infotag and international news agencies reported. Vasile Gribnicea, spokesman for the Moldovan Union Fenosa electricity distribution network, said the Transdniestrian regional utility Dnester-Elektro disconnected high-voltage transmission lines, leaving 50 villages on the left bank of the Dniester River without electricity, Reuters reported. "They gave no reason, but this is not an accident, it is a premeditated action," Gribnicea said. MS
...BUT LIFTS RAIL BLOCKADE
Separatist leader Igor Smirnov announced on 5 August that his administration has decided to lift the blockade on rail links between Transdniester and Moldova, and Transdniester and Ukraine and Russia, Flux, Infotag, and ITAR-TASS reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma urged that the blockade be lifted during telephone conversations earlier the same day with Smirnov and Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev. Smirnov said he decided to lift the blockade after Kyiv agreed to allow Transdniester exports to transit Ukrainian territory without Moldovan export certificates, which Chisinau has stopped issuing as part of the sanctions it imposed on 1 August, Infotag reported. "I am grateful to Ukraine for its decision to allow Transdniester to sell its goods abroad marked as 'Made in Transdniester' and without any Moldovan attributes," Infotag quoted Smirnov as saying. MS
SMIRNOV SAYS TRANSDNIESTER ON ITS WAY TO 'INDEPENDENT, SOVEREIGN STATE'
Separatist leader Igor Smirnov said in Tiraspol on 5 August that Transdniester "is marching on the road to setting up an independent, sovereign state," Flux reported. Smirnov called on Russia to increase its peacekeeping force in the region and said that although Tiraspol considers Ukraine a "strategic partner," Kyiv must "clearly define where its interests lie" in the conflict. Tiraspol has not ruled out the prospect of future negotiations with Chisinau, he said, because "one way or another, Transdniester must establish normal relations with its neighbor," Infotag reported. But Smirnov added that "we must have solid guarantees that Chisinau would abandon the idea of an [economic] blockade and other destructive acts against Transdniester." Smirnov also said he would be satisfied with a conflict settlement signed by Russia and Ukraine. "We do not need Voronin's signature, because we do not trust the Chisinau gentleman anymore," Infotag quoted him as saying. MS
KYRGYZSTAN'S MASALIEV: FROM THE PARTY TO THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION
Absamat Masaliev, installed in 1985 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic with a mandate to begin reforms and clean up corruption after the nearly quarter-century rule of his predecessor, died in Bishkek on 31 July, aged 71.
Masaliev was one of the few Soviet Central Asian leaders to make a successful transition from Soviet-style leader to a prominent role in the parliamentary opposition. On learning of his death, political rival Abdygany Erkebaev described him as "one of the greatest figures in Kyrgyzstan in the 20th and early 21st centuries." While Masaliev's personal commitment to all aspects of Western-style democracy might be questioned, he learned to value democratic principles, including freedom of speech, as highly useful political tools.
At Masaliev's funeral on 3 August, which according to Interfax was attended by more than 3,000 people, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev noted that the Communist leader had risen from a job as a miner -- he was trained as a mining engineer at the Moscow Institute of Mines -- through the ranks of the Communist Party in his native Osh Oblast. He progressed through a series of posts in the republican party organization, and later, after Kyrgyzstan gained its independence in 1991, took a prominent role in opposition to Akaev's own government, while not abandoning his commitment to communist ideology. President Akaev also praised Masaliev's commitment to democratic principles, although he never gave up his belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a serious mistake and the root cause of Kyrgyzstan's economic and social woes in the years of its independence. He was always very happy to speak to visitors to his parliamentary office about what he saw as Gorbachev's and Akaev's mistakes. Masaliev said privately that had he been elected president instead of Akaev, things would have gone very differently for the republic, though he was reluctant to expand, at least to this author, on the specifics. In 1993, he published his views on the state of the country in a book with the suggestive title, "Pages of My Life and Our Poor Fatherland."
As it happens, Akaev owes his first presidential election victory in 1990 to a major miscalculation on Masaliev's part. In the last years of the Soviet regime, republican Communist Party leaders throughout the country, following Gorbachev's lead, were creating the position of executive president and having their Supreme Soviets elect them to it. Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Soviet was willing enough to create the position, but added to the law establishing the post the provision that any candidate who failed to win in the first round of voting was disqualified from subsequent rounds. Masaliev seriously miscalculated his influence with the normally docile republican parliament and failed to obtain the necessary number of votes in the first round; for the second round a number of prominent republican figures were nominated, including the Academy of Sciences president and science secretary of the republican Communist Party Central Committee, Askar Akaev. Kyrgyz nationalist intellectuals, gathered in front of the building of the Supreme Soviet, hailed Akaev's election as marking the beginning of a new era in the history of the Kyrgyz nation.
Prior to the presidential contest, Masaliev had earned Kyrgyzstan the reputation in the Soviet Union as being the Central Asian republic that was least willing to adopt perestroika and glasnost. At Communist Party meetings in Moscow, the Kyrgyz leader sharply criticized Gorbachev's reform efforts, warning that they endangered the stability of the Soviet system. At the end of the 1980s, Moscow intellectuals characterised Kyrgyzstan as a laughing stock and cited Masaliev as a prime example of an unreformed and unreformable communist leader. Akaev's commitment to making Kyrgyzstan a model democracy -- the Switzerland of Central Asia, as he put it -- turned the republic's previous reputation on its head.
Masaliev was replaced as republican Communist Party chief prior to Akaev's ban on the party in the wake of the August 1991 Moscow coup attempt, but the next year the former party head took over the leadership of the reconstituted Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan, one of two postindependence communist parties in the country. Attempts to unite the two communist parties failed, apparently due largely to personal differences between Masaliev and Klara Adzhibekova, head of the rival group.
In 1995, Masaliev again ran for president against Akaev, receiving 24 percent of the vote to Akaev's 72 percent. In the same year, he was elected to parliament and served as head of the Communist parliamentary faction as well as chairman of the Committee on State Structure until his death.
TWO SOLDIERS KILLED IN CLASH BETWEEN PROVINCIAL FORCES IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
Two Afghan soldiers were reported killed on 5 August in clashes between border forces of Herat and Ghor provinces, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported the following day. Ahmad Ayyubi, spokesman for Ghor's Public Council, said that Herat forces initially gained some ground, but eventually Ghor forces defeated them. "The Herat forces had captured one of our security checkpoints in the Hesarak area of Shahrak District, but we recaptured it in a counterattack," Ayyubi said. Seven Ghor provincial soldiers are missing and are presumed to have been captured, Ayyubi added. In the absence of effective central-government control, some Afghan provinces are ruled virtually as fiefdoms by local military commanders or, in the case of Herat, by Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan. AT
AFGHAN LEADER PROMISES CAPTURE OF KILLERS OF AID WORKERS
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai promised during a meeting with Francesc Vendrell, the EU special representative in Afghanistan, and some European ambassadors in Kabul on 4 August, that the killers of employees of Brussels-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) would be hunted down, arrested, and punished, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. On 28 July, MSF closed all of its programs in Afghanistan after the alleged killers of five of its staff members were apparently bailed out of detention by Afghan authorities (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 August 2004). AT
FIVE PEOPLE KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Five people traveling in a vehicle were killed in an ambush on 4 August in the outskirts of Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar, Hindukosh News Agency reported. The victims were traveling to the shrine of a saint. The motive and the identity of the attackers is not known. AT
MEDIA-TRAINING CENTER INAUGURATED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
A media-training center with six computers, access to the Internet, and a wide range of practical courses opened on 4 August at Khost University, a press release from Kabul-based Sayara Media and Communications indicated. The media center will boost the range of courses offered by the university's Journalism Department and will link Khost University with a nationwide network of journalism students. Khost University is part of the Novice Journalism Training Program (NJTP), a two-year project that provides practical journalism training to Afghan university students and is being implemented by Sayara, an Afghan nongovernmental organization. Sayara already has a media-training center at Herat University in western Afghanistan. AT
IRANIAN PRESIDENT IN BAKU
Mohammad Khatami arrived in Baku on 5 August and met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, news agencies reported the same day. Khatami said Iran wants "a stable, strong, and progressive" Azerbaijan, separated from Iran by a frontier "of peace and friendship," IRNA reported. Officials from both countries signed 10 cooperation agreements, IRNA also reported, including agreements on border trade, terrorism, drug trafficking, and police training. Iran's Development and Export Bank will provide $75 million for electricity projects in Azerbaijan and the two countries will also increase road and rail links. In Tehran, Hassan No'i-Muqaddam, a lawmaker for Ardebil, told Fars news agency on 5 August that Azerbaijani officials owe Iran an apology for recent remarks made by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who said Azerbaijani speakers in Iran are "guests." Azeris form Iran's second-largest ethnic group, and Iran is sensitive to any talk of links between Iranian Azeris and Azerbaijan. "These comments are influenced by the policies of the CIA and global Zionism, which aim to divert healthy relations between Islamic states to meet their own interests," Muqaddam said. VS
IRAN'S JUDICIARY CHIEF WANTS AN ORDERLY, MORAL PRESS
Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, who heads Iran's conservative-dominated judiciary, said on 5 August in Mashhad, in northeast Iran, that the judiciary has had to intervene in press affairs because state bodies like the Culture Ministry, which regulates Iran's newspapers, have failed in their supervisory duties, IRNA reported the same day. Hashemi-Shahrudi urged journalists to respect "sincerity" and the "trust" placed in them, and engage in "Islamic news reporting," which raises "cultural levels and public awareness," IRNA added. The judiciary has closed dozens of newspapers and journals over the past two years on charges such as contempt for religious values and insulting state officials or clerics. Shahrudi made the remarks at one of his regular face-to-face meetings with the public, designed to hear citizens' complaints, which this time was held in the country's Justice Department. At the meeting, he also said that "competent judges are identified and encouraged, and weak judges admonished," IRNA reported. VS
SENIOR IRANIAN CLERIC WANTS CLEAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN 2005
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardians Council, the conservative-led body that supervises elections and confirms voting results, said in Tehran on 4 August that proper supervision of the 2005 presidential elections is "very important" and authorities must ensure "there are no violations," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 5 August. "People must be sure that the vote they drop in is the one that comes out," Jannati told a gathering of election inspectors. The Guardians Council's supervision of February's legislative elections was "more successful than past rounds," he said. The council publicly clashed with the reformist-led government and Interior Ministry, which organized the voting, after the Guardians Council banned thousands of candidates, and many sitting legislators, from running in the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 23 February, and 1 March 2004). It will be easier to supervise the next election, Jannati said, because "the hopefuls are better known," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. VS
IRAQI GRAND AYATOLLAH FLIES TO LONDON FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT
Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has flown from his home in Al-Najaf to London for medical treatment, Reuters reported on 6 August. A statement posted to al-Sistani's alnajaf.org website on 5 August said that the ayatollah was canceling all of his daily engagements on the advice of his medical doctors. "The medical team following His Eminence's health said that due to his heart condition, he needs to rest," it said. The statement added that doctors feared al-Sistani might not be able to receive proper medical treatment "under the present circumstances." Reuters reported that those circumstances are related to the ongoing fighting between al-Sadr militiamen and multinational forces in the city. An aide to al-Sistani told Reuters that it was the first time that the 73-year-old ayatollah had experienced heart problems. The trip is the first in many years for the ayatollah, who rarely leaves his house, let alone the city of Al-Najaf. KR
FIGHTING BETWEEN AL-SADR MILITIAMEN AND MULTINATIONAL FORCES ESCALATES...
The fighting between multinational forces and militiamen from the Imam Al-Mahdi Army, which is loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, escalated on 5 August and spread to a number of cities across Iraq, international media reported. Militiamen in Al-Najaf downed a U.S. helicopter, wounding two soldiers, in what Reuters reported as the heaviest fighting since April and May. Seven militiamen were killed in the fighting there while 22 were wounded and taken into custody, centcom.mil reported on 5 August, citing Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib. The Al-Mahdi fighters also battled Italian troops in Al-Nasiriyah, and U.S. forces in the Al-Sadr City area of Baghdad, where 16 U.S. soldiers were wounded in four separate attacks. British forces also came under heavy fire in Al-Amarah and Al-Basrah, as insurgents demanded the release of four of their comrades who were arrested one day earlier. KR
...AS AL-MAHDI MILITIAMEN ISSUE THREATS
Spokesmen for Muqtada al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army issued threats against U.S. and British forces on 5 August, Al-Jazeera television reported on the same day. Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji said in a telephone interview from Baghdad, "The command of the Al-Mahdi Army is ready to retaliate against any action by the occupation troops." He claimed that militiamen had mobilized in a number of Iraqi cities and were prepared to fight multinational forces. Al-Darraji held Al-Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurufi responsible for the situation in Al-Najaf, saying al-Zurufi "extended his evil hands to assist the occupation troops and escalated the situation. I believe there are agents who work with the occupation troops to destroy al-Sadr's trend and its leaders through attempts, the last of which were the widescale arrests among members of al-Sadr's trend." Meanwhile, al-Sadr spokesman As'ad al-Basri told Al-Jazeera from Al-Basrah that there are over 1,000 candidates (suicide bombers) for "martyrdom" ready to carry out attacks against British forces in the city. KR
INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS ISLAMIST GROUPS COMPOSED OF COMMON CRIMINALS
Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told a 5 August Baghdad press briefing broadcast on Al-Arabiyah television that many groups operating in Iraq under Islamic names are actually criminal gangs. "The issue of terrorism is no different from organized crime," al-Naqib said. "These were gangs that robbed and killed for material gain. Now, because of certain satellite channels and such media, these have taken on a political color. In many cases, many of the gangs that we have arrested have religious Islamic names or party names. If we look at their [members'] history, we find that they had been imprisoned in Abu Ghurayb. They were convicted killers." Al-Naqib said that the men, released under a October 2002 general amnesty issued by Saddam Hussein, have established organized crime networks over the past 15 months. "Now such a person, when stealing a truck, does not stop at stealing and selling it; he appears on television as a resistance group, an Islamic group, or some such thing," the minister said. KR
AL-ANBAR GOVERNOR RESIGNS TO SECURE RELEASE OF KIDNAPPED SONS
Al-Anbar Governor Abd al-Karim Barjas resigned from his position on 5 August in order to secure the release of his sons, kidnapped by the Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group, Abu Dhabi television reported on the same day. "I...announce that I repent to God and in front of you of any act that I did against the mujahidin or any act that I did in cooperation with the infidel Americans. I announce my resignation from my post at this moment," Barjas said in a videotaped statement that showed him standing beneath an Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad banner. The group released his three sons from captivity following the resignation, the news channel reported. KR
MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES POSSIBLE TROOP COMMITMENT
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said on 5 August that three conditions would need to be met before Malaysia would support the sending of Muslim troops to Iraq, Bernama news agency reported the same day. "We have to give deep thought to this matter. Firstly, we must ascertain whether or not the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] troops will be accepted by the Iraqis," he said. A second factor requires that Malaysia, as the OIC chair, ensures that the troops will not be deployed alongside multinational forces, he said. "Thirdly, we want to know if OIC nations formally agree to establish an OIC force to be operating in Iraq." Asked whether Malaysia had changed its stance on Iraq, Najib said, "It's not a change of heart but we want to play a constructive role in helping the situation in Iraq, so that the cycle of violence can be put to an end once and for all." KR