PACE CALLS ON RUSSIA TO 'IMPROVE DEMOCRACY'...
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg "urged Russia to improve its democracy, calling for more power for the Russian parliament, pluralist and impartial broadcasting and normal conditions for civil society" in a resolution passed on 22 June, according to a statement on the assembly's website (http://assembly.coe.int). The PACE also warned that solutions to Russia's problems "should be in line with Council of Europe principles," the statement said. "In order for democracy to function properly, power must not only be vertically reinforced but also horizontally shared," the PACE stated in reference to Kremlin-backed reforms approved in the fall of 2004, adding that Moscow should "adjust the direction" of recent reforms. The group also urged that "significantly" more Council of Europe assistance be granted to Russia to help it honor its commitments. The PACE resolution specifically called on Russia to abolish the death penalty, withdraw its troops from the breakaway Transdniester republic, and bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations in Chechnya. AH
...AS REPORT CONDEMNS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, DEMANDS ACTION...
PACE rapporteurs on Russia Rudolf Bindig and David Atkinson harshly criticized Moscow for a perceived lack of compliance with the commitment to human rights it made along with membership in 1995, polit.ru reported. Bindig and Atkinson also noted a slowdown in the democratization process in Russia in recent years. "The fact is that Russia is not yet a free democracy," RFE/RL's Russia Service quoted Atkinson as saying. The report also noted that the main threats to democracy in Russia remain the conflict in Chechnya, corruption and "dubious privatization deals." RFE/RL reported. VY
...PROMPTING VEILED THREAT OVER MOSCOW'S PACE CONTRIBUTION
The head of the Russian delegation to the PACE, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), expressed disappointment with the assembly after passage of the PACE resolution on 22 June, RTR reported. He called some wording in the document "absolutely unacceptable to Russia," according to RTR, singling out for mention a reference to the "Soviet occupation of the Baltic states." Kosachev then said Russia's financial contributions to the PACE are excessive and noted that Moscow could decide to halt such payments. "That is neither our sanction toward the Council of Europe nor an expression of disappointment, but a realistic evaluation of the situation," he said, according to RTR. Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis countered by saying the same day that "it is Russia's own business to decide what financial contribution it will make to the organization," RTR reported. Davis also asserted that "neither Russia nor Latvia is responsible for the misdeeds of past regimes," RIA-Novosti reported. Russia contributes some 28 million euros ($33.76 million) annually to the Council of Europe's budget, putting it among the top five contributors. VY
CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY MEMBERS CALL FOR RATIFICATION OF CFE TREATY
Meeting in Moscow on 22 June, the foreign ministers of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (ODKB) member states (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) signed a statement calling for the swiftest possible ratification of the amended Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), Interfax reported. They argued that the treaty, once ratified by all signatories, could serve as a fundamental guarantee of stability in Europe. The United States has made ratification contingent on the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Georgia and Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2004). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov similarly told journalists after the 22 June Moscow meeting that ODKB states are abiding by the limitations imposed by the treaty and would like to see other signatories do so, too, Interfax reported. LF
LAVROV DEMANDS CHANGE IN BORDER TREATY WITH ESTONIA AHEAD OF RATIFICATION
Foreign Minister Lavrov said in Brussels on 22 June that he will not recommend that the border treaty with Estonia be submitted for ratification in the State Duma unless Tallinn drops "unacceptable" legal wording in the preamble of the document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 June 2005), RIA-Novosti reported. Clauses inserted by the Estonian parliament would ensure that "references to aggression, occupation, and illegal entrance into the Soviet Union remain in force," Lavrov said. "They are illegitimate theses used by some Baltic politicians to bring not only moral, but also financial, claims against us." The Estonian government on 22 June expressed regret that Russia has suspended its effort to ratify the treaty, international media reported. "Estonia has demonstrated its goodwill by ratifying the border agreements quickly," the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a press release. VY
GENERAL CLAIMS MILITARY FOILED TERRORIST INFILTRATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES
Colonel General Igor Volynkin, who commands the Defense Ministry's directorate in charge of the Russian nuclear arsenal, told journalists on 22 June that his forces thwarted two attempts by terrorist groups to penetrate military nuclear facilities, "Izvestiya" and other media reported. Volynkin did not provide details of the incidents "We have been working with nuclear weapons for 55 years, and in that period we have never lost a nuclear weapon or had any other incident [involving nuclear weapons]," Volynkin said. Speaking at the same news conference, the head of technical monitoring in Russia, Andrei Malyshev, said that while some 300 civil nuclear installations were without power during the massive Moscow-area blackout on 25 May, "no contamination or other incidents were registered," according to "Izvestiya." Malyshev said his agency is currently working on a special response plan for the functioning of nuclear facilities in emergency situations. VY
UNIFIED RUSSIA SAYS GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC POLICIES THREATEN 'LOSS OF NATIONAL SECURITY'
The chairman of Unified Russia's executive committee, Andrei Vorobiev, continued the public attack on "liberal ministers" within the government on 22 June, according to "Vedomosti." Speaking at an investment conference, Vorobiev blamed liberals in the cabinet for slow economic growth and an increased dependence on the export of raw materials and the import of finished goods, according to "Vedomosti." He claimed that a continuation of current government policies "will inevitably lead to an economic crisis and, eventually, to the loss of Russian sovereignty." Unified Russia opposes the government's failure to include spending increases on highway construction, mortgage subsidies, assistance on the lease of agricultural equipment, and other domestic programs in the 2006 draft budget. At the same time, the massive assets the government has are "lying idle or working on international markets," Vorobiev charged, according to "Vedomosti." Unified Russia has prepared "demands" on Mikhail Fradkov's cabinet that include spending the budget surplus domestically and establishing a so-called National Economic Council to be chaired by President Vladimir Putin to monitor the economy. VY
POLL POINTS TO DECLINING GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENTIAL POPULARITY...
A June poll by the Levada Analytical Center shows a continuing drop in the popularity of the federal government, Interfax reported on 22 June. The survey included responses from 1,600 people across 46 regions of the country. Seventy-one percent of Russians disapproved of the work of the government, compared with 55 percent in May, while 43 percent thought the government cannot improve its performance and 22 percent said it can. President Putin's popularity slipped three percentage points but remained relatively high at 66 percent. The second most popular politician in the poll was Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu (27 percent versus 11 percent in May), followed by Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii (13 percent versus 11 percent in May), Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov (12 percent), and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov (10 percent). VY
...WHILE ANOTHER SHOWS RISING ANTIPATHY TOWARD KHODORKOVSKII
A mid-June survey by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) suggests that public opinion about recently sentenced former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii and his former partner Platon Lebedev has deteriorated slightly, polit.ru reported on 22 June. Just one in three respondents (32 percent) think Khodorkovskii's and Lebedev's nine-year sentences are adequate, compared with one in four respondents (25 percent) in May, polit.ru reported. Some 28 percent of people said those sentences are "too soft," versus just 8 percent a month ago. VY
BEREZOVSKII SHAKES UP MANAGEMENT AT TOP NEWSPAPER...
Kommersant Publishing House's board of directors has named a new director-general and a new editor in chief of "Kommersant-Daily," RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 22 June. Vladimir Lenskii will serve as director-general, and former gazeta.ru editor in chief Vladislav Borodulin, 37, will take on the editorial leadership. Lenskii was an executive director of NTV-Plus when that company was owned by Vladimir Gusinskii. He also worked on developing the newsru.com and anekdot.ru websites, according to the BBC. Aleksandr Pisarev, 34, formerly of "Kommersant-Daily" and "Segodnya," will replace Bordulin at gazeta.ru. The board of directors met in London, where former oligarch and Kommersant owner Boris Berezovskii resides. JAC
...AS ANALYSTS ARE DIVIDED ON 'KOMMERSANT' PROSPECTS
Dmitrii Polikanov of the VTsIOM told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 22 June that "Kommersant-Daily" as an elite publication is not in a position to effect political change in Russia, as owner and former oligarch and Berezovskii might desire. If the goal is to increase the daily's audience, Polikanov reckons, the new editors will have to make it a bit more "yellow" in the style of "Komsomolskaya pravda." Sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii made a similar comment in "Novye izvestiya" on 21 June, noting that "Kommersant-Daily" is the "primary source of information for a significant part of the business elite and some part of the political elite, but it is not an instrument for mass influence." Writing in "Russkii zhurnal," Lev Sigal adopted a different tone, saying he is afraid that Borodulin's appointment at the influential daily will mean that it will become what it was in 1989-90, a "propaganda mouthpiece." The subheading of Sigal's article declares "the best newspaper in Russia should not be a play-thing for offended ex-oligarchs." JAC
DESPITE RISING INCOMES, ALMOST HALF OF RUSSIANS FEEL POOR
A survey conducted by the Levada Analytical Center in May suggests that nearly 40 percent of respondents consider themselves poor, which is more than twice the official poverty rate, "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 June. In 2004, the proportion of the population living below the poverty line -- that is, earning 2,451 rubles a month ($86 at current exchange rate) or less -- was 17.8 percent. Analysts at FBK consulting firm were surprised to note that more people between the ages of 16 and 30 are members of the poorest segment of the population; however, this is because the number of students in that group has grown, not the number of unemployed people, according to the daily. FBK Director for Strategic Analysis Igor Nikolaev told "Izvestiya" that the public mood depends not on how the government calculates poverty but how they themselves feel and, according to the Levada Center's results, 40-42 percent of the population believes it is poor. "Izvestiya" also noted that real incomes still have not reached the level that they were at the start of economic reform in 1991. JAC
UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER APPROVES A HOST OF NEW BILLS
The Federation Council approved a bill on 22 June amending the Tax Code to eliminate the inheritance tax, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 137 in favor with two against and two abstentions, according to Interfax and ITAR-TASS. If signed by the president, the bill will come into force on 1 January. Representatives also voted to approve amendments to the 2005 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005), distributing extra revenue received in the first quarter of 2005. Most of the funds went into social spending, such as pensions and wages, RTR reported. The vote was 158 in favor with none opposed. A constitutional bill concerning the unification of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyatskii Autonomous Okrug was also approved on 22 June, strana.ru reported. The law establishes a procedure for electing the leader of the new territory for a term of five years. Senators also confirmed Rustem Shiyanov as representative for Ulyanovsk Oblast's Governor Sergei Morozov. The candidacy of Shiyanov, president of the SOK group, had foundered for months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2005). JAC
YOUTH MOVEMENT REMEMBERS WWII
The Nashi youth movement organized an event on 22 June to honor the 64th anniversary of the beginning of WWII in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tula, and 27 other Russian cities, Russian news agencies reported. In Moscow, some 500 Nashi members laid wreaths and lit candles at the embassies of the former Soviet states, RTR and Interfax reported. At 4:00 a.m., they formed a human chain, holding flags of the former Soviet republics, and observed a minute of silence for the memory of the war dead. In Tula, around 150 Nashi members lit candles along the city's main street and also observed a minute of silence, Radio Rossii reported. JAC
PUTIN SACKS TOP COP IN DIAMOND REGION
President Putin has dismissed Major General Aleksandr Nazarov as Interior Minister of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), strana.ru reported on 22 June, citing the presidential press service. Nazarov was appointed in 2002. JAC
KREMLIN ENVOY CONDEMNS CHECHEN SWEEP AS SABOTAGE...
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak met in Grozny on 22 June with relatives of the Avar families who fled the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya for neighboring Daghestan following a sweep operation on 4 June in which at least one person was killed and 11 were detained, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 17, 20, and 22 June 2005). Kozak condemned the sweep operation as "an act of sabotage directed against Chechnya, Daghestan, and Russia," and he vowed that those responsible will be apprehended and punished. The Prosecutor-General's Office of the Southern Federal District has launched an investigation into the operation, which the Russian human rights group Memorial said on 22 June was conducted by Sulim Yamadaev's Eastern Battalion. But "The Moscow Times" on 23 June quoted Yamadaev's brother Ruslan, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, as having denied Sulim's involvement in the sweep in an interview with a Daghestani newspaper on 21 June. LF
...AS CHECHEN LEADER FIRES LOCAL OFFICIAL
Pro-Moscow Chechen-administration head Alu Alkhanov told journalists in Grozny on 22 June that he has fired Khusein Nutaev, the local administrator of Shelkovskii Raion, in which Borozdinovsksaya is located, for his "inaction," Interfax reported. Alkhanov also said he and Kozak have tasked local security forces with locating within five to 10 days the 11 people missing since the 4 June sweep in Borozdinovskaya, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov set up a government commission on 22 June to "stabilize" the situation in Borozdinovskaya and return the villagers from the tent camp in neighboring Kizlyar raion where they have taken refuge, Russian media reported. LF
ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET
Robert Kocharian and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on 22 June on the eve of a CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (ODKB) summit, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. While both presidents gave an overall positive assessment of bilateral relations, Kocharian noted the need to address problems in the energy sector. Those problems arise from Russia's failure to invest as promised in five Armenian enterprises it acquired in payment of Armenia's $100 million debt. Putin for his part lauded Armenia's decision to request observer status in the Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization, Interfax reported. Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who will also attend the ODKB summit, told journalists in Moscow on 22 June that he believes Armenia's membership of the ODKB "is one of the integral parts of Armenia's national security," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He argued that planned increased cooperation with NATO will not negatively impact on Armenia's ODKB membership. LF
KARABAKH ARMY COMMANDERS ACCUSED OF BEATING OPPOSITION POLITICIAN
Pavel Manukian, who participated unsuccessfully in the 19 June parliamentary elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as a candidate for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), has accused NKR Defense Minister Lieutenant General Seyran Ohanian and other senior officers of assaulting and kicking him after he was brought by force on 21 June to Ohanian's office, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2005). Manukian was subsequently taken to the military hospital in Stepanakert with severe injuries, and journalists have not been permitted to question him. Members of the HHD-Movement 88 election bloc met later on 21 June with NKR President Arkadii Ghukasian, who pledged to investigate the incident and ensure that those responsible for beating Manukian are punished. LF
SENIOR RUSSIAN OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Russian presidential-administration head Dmitrii Medvedev held talks in Baku on 21 June with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and on 22 June with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade and presidential-administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. While Aliyev expressed satisfaction with the rapid growth of bilateral trade, Rasi-Zade deplored the comparatively low level of Russian investment in Azerbaijan. Aliyev and Medvedev also discussed cooperation within the CIS. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST SENTENCED IN NAKHICHEVAN
The Nakhichevan City Court handed down a five-year prison sentence on 22 June to lawyer Elman Calilov, a former Nakhichevan city prosecutor who has since become a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Turan reported. The court found Calilov guilty of swindling, but Calilov, who is the only lawyer in Nakhichevan prepared to defend opposition activists, described the sentence as politically motivated. Calilov was sentenced in April to 15 days administrative detention on charges of resisting arrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2005). LF
AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL PROPOSES AMENDING 'CONTRACT OF CENTURY'
Safar Mekhtiev, who is deputy chairman of Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee, has told the parliament's Permanent Committee for Economic Policy that some aspects of the so-called Contract of the Century concluded in 1994 between the Azerbaijani government and a consortium of Western oil companies will have to be revised, echo-az.com reported on 23 June. Mekhtiev explained that the contract exempts the consortium from paying customs tariffs and VAT on any import or export operations, and that international financial organizations insist on abolishing that exemption before Azerbaijan may join the World Trade Organization (WTO). The consortium in question, the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, has released a statement pointing out that the contract in question has the status of law and takes precedence over other Azerbaijani legislation. Moreover, all 11 members of the consortium would have to sign off on any amendments to it. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE KNOWS WHO THREW GRENADE DURING BUSH VISIT...
Mikheil Saakashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 22 June he knows the identity of the "abominable and subhuman" person who threw a hand grenade in the direction of U.S. President George W. Bush while Bush was addressing a crowd of thousands on Tbilisi's Freedom Square on 10 May, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili did not disclose the identity of the perpetrator or specify whether he has been apprehended. Saakashvili further told Georgian Supreme Court members on 22 June that he will continue his crackdown on corruption within the police and court system, Interfax reported. He noted that 10 judges, 15 prosecutors, and numerous police officers have been fired for corruption over the past 18 months. LF
...AND PRAISES MUNICIPAL ELECTION PLANS
Saakashvili expressed his support on 22 June for the amendments proposed by parliamentary deputy speaker Mikheil Machavariani to the law on the election of the mayor of Tbilisi, Georgian media reported. While still in opposition to then President Eduard Shevardnadze, Saakashvili's National Movement supported the idea of electing the Tbilisi mayor, but Machavariani's amendments envisage that members of the city council elect the mayor and are empowered to recall him. The city council members would in turn be elected by universal ballot from the city's various districts. RFE/RL's Georgian Service quoted Machavariani as explaining that his proposals are intended to exclude a situation in which the mayor represents one political party while the municipal council is dominated by another, and the two sides are constantly at loggerheads. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR 'CIVIL INSUBORDINATION'
Former National Movement activist Koba Davitashvili, who now heads the opposition Conservative Party, argued on 22 June during parliamentary debate on Machavariani's proposals that, if passed, they would put an end to democracy in city politics, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. He said Machavariani's proposals are tantamount to "abolishing elections" and that the opposition now has no alternative but to call for a campaign of mass civil disobedience. LF
INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EXPERTS BARRED FROM TRAVELING TO SOUTH OSSETIAN CAPITAL
A group of experts from the Marshall Center, including former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, were refused permission on 21 June to travel to Tskhinvali where they hoped to meet with the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press and yufo.ru reported on 22 June. Meanwhile, the Joint Control Commission met in Moscow on 22 June to assess the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, and agreed to form a working group that will investigate the recent shooting of four Ossetians and the subsequent abduction of four Georgians, Interfax reported. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava, who attended the Moscow meeting, told journalists afterward that Tbilisi might call for the withdrawal of the multinational peacekeeping force deployed in the conflict zone if it proves incapable of protecting the local Georgian population, Caucasus Press reported. LF
ABKHAZ PRESIDENT REJECTS INTERNATIONALIZATION OF PEACEKEEPING FORCE
Sergei Bagapsh told a group of visiting Russian journalists in Sukhum on 22 June that the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since 1994 under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone should remain there until the conflict is finally resolved, RIA-Novosti reported. At the same time, Bagapsh rejected proposals that other countries should send contingents to augment the Russian force, according to Interfax. Ukraine has repeatedly offered to provide peacekeepers to serve in a UN peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. LF
KAZAKH LEGISLATORS DEBATE DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Justice Minister Zagipa Balieva and Central Election Commission head Onalsyn Zhumabekov addressed Kazakhstan's Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) on 22 June in response to a deputy's previous inquiry about the date of the upcoming presidential election, Khabar reported. Balieva and Zhumabekov said that, according to Article 94 of the Kazakh Constitution, the election should be held in December 2006. They noted, however, that it is the Mazhilis that sets the election date. A number of deputies spoke in favor of holding the election in December 2005, since President Nursultan Nazarbaev's current term ends in January 2006, Kazakh TV1 reported. "There are legal grounds for holding the election in December 2006, but this will lead to a heated debate which may undermine the country's unity and integrity," Deputy Amangeldi Aitaly said. The Mazhilis will now await a response on the issue from Igor Rogov, chairman of the Constitutional Council, Channel 31 reported. Rogov will provide his view at a 27 June joint session of parliament. DK
KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA TO STEP UP ANTICRIME COOPERATION
Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong met with Kazakh Interior Minister Zautbek Turisbekov in Beijing on 22 June for talks focused on security cooperation, Xinhua reported. "It's in the basic interest of our two peoples to strengthen cooperation in anti-terrorism and law enforcement," Zeng commented. Turisbekov said that Chinese-Kazakh cooperation will be concentrated on fighting terrorism, separatism, extremism, cross-border crime, and drug smuggling. DK
UZBEK EMBASSY REPORTS REQUEST FOR EXTRADITION OF ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM KYRGYZSTAN
Uzbekistan's embassy in Kyrgyzstan announced in a statement on 22 June that the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office has requested the extradition of at least 13 asylum seekers currently housed in a camp in Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad Province, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "At present, 100 citizens of Uzbekistan and 31 citizens of Kyrgyzstan who are located in the tent city [in Kyrgyzstan] have been identified as direct participants in acts of terror and charged in absentia," the statement said. "Thirteen individuals in the camp were illegally freed by terrorists from prison [in Andijon on the night of 12 May], and requests have been conveyed for their detention and extradition to Uzbekistan," akipress.org quoted the statement as saying. The embassy also said that Uzbekistan has sent materials detailing criminal cases against the 31 Kyrgyz citizens to the Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office. DK
MEMBERS OF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY JAILED
A Tajik court has found Nizomiddin Begmatov and Nasim Shukurov, both members of the opposition Social Democratic Party, guilty of hooliganism, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 22 June. The court sentenced Begmatov to one year in prison and Shukorov to 1 1/2 years. The two men had been arrested in Sughd Province after February parliamentary elections, prompting protests from the Social Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2005). The two denounced the verdict as politically motivated. Party head Rahmatullo Zoirov said that they will appeal the sentence. DK
KUWAIT FUND TO FINANCE UZBEK RAIL PROJECT
The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) will provide a $21 million loan to electrify the 115-kilometer railway linking Tashkent and Angren, UzA reported on 22 June. The agreement was signed during a visit to Uzbekistan by Hisham Al-Waqayan, KFAED's deputy director for operations and distribution. In the course of his visit, Al-Waqayan met with Uzbek Finance Minister Saidahmad Rahimov and Uzbek railways head Ochilboy Ramatov. The railway electrification project is slated for completion in 2008. DK
BELARUSIAN POLES APPEAL TO PRESIDENT OVER THEIR ORGANIZATION
The Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB) on 22 June sent a petition to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, asking him to prevent the ongoing "destruction" of the SPB, Belapan reported. Last month the Justice Ministry invalidated an SPB congress in March, thus provoking a bitter standoff over who is to lead this organization (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 22 June 2005). The authorities seem to be on the side of the old leadership that was replaced at the March congress. In May, Belarusian Television aired a documentary -- "Who Ordered the Killing of the Union of Poles?" -- which contained derisive remarks by the previous SPB leadership about their successors. "One of the most important achievements of Belarus is stability and the absence of interethnic conflicts. Those who are behind this provocative film hit this achievement above all," the petition says. The petition was reportedly signed by nearly 3,000 people. JM
MORE THAN 3 MILLION MOBILE PHONES OPERATE IN BELARUS
The number of mobile-phone subscribers in Belarus has exceeded 3 million, Belapan reported on 22 June, quoting an official from the Communications Ministry. Belarus, a country of 10 million people, has three operators of GSM-standard cellular telephony: Mobile Digital Communications (Velcom), Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), and Belarusian Telecommunications Network (BeST). JM
UKRAINIAN REGIONAL OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF FOMENTING SEPARATISM
Ukrainian prosecutors on 22 June brought formal charges against Viktor Tykhonov, head of the Luhansk Oblast Council, under a Criminal Code article pertaining to jeopardizing Ukraine's territorial integrity, Ukrainian news agencies reported. It is the first official accusation in an ongoing investigation of separatist tendencies in the country. Following the second round of the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine, regional councilors from eastern and southern Ukraine held a convention attended by then prime minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, at which they threatened to hold a referendum on "a possible change of Ukraine's administrative-territorial system" if Yanukovych failed to become Ukrainian president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004). JM
UKRAINIAN BUSINESSMAN DIES IN REPORTEDLY MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES
Influential businessmen and lawmaker Ihor Pluzhnykov died in mysterious circumstances on 22 June, the English-language "Kyiv Post" reported on 23 June. Pluzhnykov, 47, died in a hospital in Germany, following an illness ascribed by some accounts to poisoning. Pluzhnykov's death reportedly came as he was close to selling Inter, one of Ukraine's two top television channels. Pluzhnykov was a member of the Social Democratic Party-united led by Viktor Medvedchuk, former head of the presidential administration. Pluzhnykov's demise is the most recent in a string of deaths of individuals who were very influential during the era of former President Leonid Kuchma. In December, Ukrainian Credit Bank head Yuriy Lyakh was found dead in his office and Transportation Minister Heorhiy Kirpa was found shot dead at his home. In March, former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko was found dead at his dacha just before he was to give testimony in the case of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS FRANCE
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Paris on 22 June, Reuters reported. "I am convinced that without Ukraine, Europe is not complete and with Ukraine, it would be much more interesting," Yushchenko said after the meeting. Chirac's spokesman said France supports Ukraine's accession to the World Trade Organization. Later the same day, Yushchenko participated in the unveiling of monument to Anna Yaroslavna, daughter of Kievan Rus Grand Duke Yaroslav the Wise and wife of French King Henri I (reigned from 1031-60). The monument, devised by Ukrainian sculptors, is in Senlis near Paris. JM
UKRAINE SEEKS CIVIL ROLE IN IRAQ AFTER MILITARY PULLOUT
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told journalists in Brussels on 22 June that Ukraine will continue to play a civilian role in the reconstruction of Iraq after its 1,600-strong military contingent completes it pullout later this year, Reuters reported. "We will transform our presence into a nonmilitary one, having in mind cooperation on such projects as water supply, transportation, the oil and gas industry, the areas where Ukrainians have been known for decades in Iraq," Tarasyuk said. The first 150 Ukrainian troops left Iraq in March, with another 500 following in May. JM
VOJVODINA LAWMAKERS PROPOSE SREBRENICA DECLARATION...
A group of politicians from Vojvodina have tabled a draft declaration on Srebrenica in the northern Serbian province's legislature, B92 reported on 22 June. "The murder of Bosnians in Srebrenica is not just one more war crime committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia but, going by all the information available, the worst war crime in Europe since World War II, and has elements of genocide," the draft, which was proposed by the League of Vojvodina Hungarians and the Together for Vojvodina coalition, reads. "Senior officials in Serbia and the Serbian state apparatus took an active role in preparing, ordering, and concealing the crimes in Srebrenica and this responsibility of the state for that crime can only be absolved by clearly condemning the crimes and criminals," it continued. Earlier this month, Serbia's parliament failed to pass a resolution condemning the July 1995 massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005). BW
...AS RIFT OPENS IN BOSNIAN COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION...
A rift has emerged within Bosnia-Herzegovina's delegation to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly over a declaration on the Srebrenica massacre, Hina reported on 22 June. Sead Avdic, a member of the Bosnian delegation, called on representatives from his country to openly declare their positions on a draft resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre. But delegates from Bosnia's Republika Srpska said they would not support the document, alleging that Avdic drafted it without informing them. Tihomir Gligoric, a representative from Republika Srpska, criticized Avdic for lobbying for signatures from foreign delegations before trying to achieve consensus among Bosnians. BW
...AND VICTIMS' GROUPS THREATEN BOYCOTT OF CEREMONY OVER SERBIAN PRESIDENT'S ATTENDANCE
Representatives of the families of Srebrenica victims are threatening to boycott part of a ceremony marking the massacre's 10th anniversary if Serbian President Boris Tadic attends, Hina reported on 22 June. Sulejman Tihic, a member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's collective Presidency, met on 20 June with representatives of victims' families to calm mounting tension over Tadic's attendance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2005). "We said that our position was the same -- we did not invite anyone to come nor will we prevent anyone, including the delegation from Serbia and Montenegro...if they have the face to show up at the graveyard of thousands of innocent Srebrenica victims," Munira Subasic of the Srebrenica Mothers group was quoted as saying by the daily newspaper "Dnevni avaz," according to Hina. Tuzla's Mufti Husein Kavazovic said the Islamic community will not participate in the commemoration's official protocol, including the part when the delegation from Serbia and Montenegro is expected to arrive. BW
KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER MEETS NEW ELITE GUARD FORCE
Bajram Kosumi took the first salute from a new "ceremonial guard" of ex-guerrillas and said he hopes they will soon become the nucleus of an independent Kosova's army, Reuters reported on 22 June. Called the Kosova Protection Corps (KPC), the 80-member guard was formed from the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA). "We see the KPC as the nucleus of the army of the state of Kosova," Kosumi said after meeting KPC commander Agim Ceku. "Kosova in the future needs an army, small in number but well-equipped and founded on European standards," he added. BW
MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM...
Miodrag Vlahovic said his country is determined to hold a referendum on independence next year and is concerned that U.S. diplomats have been giving priority to Kosova at the expense of Montenegro, B92 reported on 22 June. "Paying attention to Kosova is all very well, but not in a way that marginalizes Montenegro," Vlahovic said. "The Montenegrin government wants to hold a referendum [on independence] in the spring of 2006, regardless of what is happening in Kosova at the time. Whatever happens in Montenegro won't affect Kosova," he added. BW
...AS SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER DEFENDS MONTENEGRIN VOTER LISTS
Zoran Stojkovic said he cannot understand Montenegro's objections to a list of its nationals living in Serbia who Belgrade says should be allowed to vote in an independence referendum, B92 reported on 22 June. "Every citizen has the basic human right of expressing his opinion on vital issues of the state in a referendum," Stojkovic said. "But I don't see why they're making a problem about the lists themselves. Everywhere in the world, all states have lists of residents who have foreign citizenship. It's nothing new," he added. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had given European Union officials lists of some 250,000 Montenegrin citizens residing in Serbia who, according to the prime minister, should be allowed to vote at a referendum. Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic had called Kostunica's action "irresponsible and irritating" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2005). BW
TIRASPOL OPPOSES RUSSIAN MILITARY PULLOUT...
Grigorii Marakutsa, speaker of the Supreme Soviet of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, told journalists in Tiraspol on 22 June that the region sees the presence of a Russian military contingent as a guarantee of its security and does not want it to be withdrawn, ITAR-TASS reported. Marakutsa was commenting on Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan's speech at the OSCE Annual Security Review Conference in Vienna the previous day. Stratan said at that conference that the Russian troops must be replaced with a multinational stabilization mission under an OSCE mandate as a sine qua non for settling the Transdniester conflict. JM
...AS CHISINAU URGES OBSERVANCE OF BASIC RIGHTS IN TRANSDNIESTER
Moldovan Minister for Reintegration Vasile Sova told reporters in Vienna on 22 June that Tiraspol needs to ensure the observance of basic human rights, including the freedom of media, before any internationally monitored elections may be staged there, ITAR-TASS reported. "There are still political prisoners [in Transdniester], and they are recognized as political prisoners by the European Court of Human Rights, and the region is under the ideological control of the so-called military police or the so-called State Security Ministry," Sova noted. "Unless all of these obstacles are eliminated with the help of the international community, I don't think we can talk about setting a concrete date for elections there." The Moldovan parliament has recently approved Ukraine's plan for the Transdniester conflict settlement, which calls, among other provisions, for holding democratic parliamentary elections under international monitoring in the separatist region. JM
STUDENTS WARN AGAINST 'ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE' IN CHISINAU
The Moldovan Students' Alliance organized a protest march along Chisinau's main thoroughfare on 22 June, calling on the municipal authorities to prevent a looming "environmental catastrophe" in the Moldovan capital, Infotag reported. According to the protesters, the city's sewage is virtually untreated because of antiquated equipment at the municipal sewage plant. The sewage, they claim, is simply dumped into open ground where it dries in the sun, emitting an unbearable smell, particularly in summer. JM
IRAQI MINISTER HAS AMBITIOUS PLANS FOR OIL SECTOR
In May, transitional Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum set an ambitious program to encourage productivity and foreign investment in the oil sector. The plan calls for reducing attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure, reducing corruption in the oil sector, and improving fuel availability at home.
Bahr al-Ulum also plans to merge North Oil Company, South Oil Company, the Oil Exploration Company, and the Iraq Drilling Company into an Iraqi National Oil Company by the end of the year. The merger would reportedly create the third-largest oil company in the world in terms of reserves, behind state-run Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company.
Other initiatives include the establishment of a "technical committee" with Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras that will advise Iraqi oil companies about increasing output, bloomberg.net reported on 25 May.
The success of the program depends on Iraq's ability to meet the Oil Ministry's primary goal -- establishing security. Recurrent insurgent attacks have left the northern system -- which exports oil through a vast pipeline to Turkey -- nearly crippled. Former interim Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban cited 642 attacks on Iraq's oil infrastructure in 2004, costing $10 billion, according to a June 2005 U.S. Department of Energy country-analysis brief (http://www.eia.doe.gov). Al-Ghadban told "Al-Hayat" in February 2005 that there has been a marked increase from the 77 reported attacks in 2003.
Part of the problem remains a shortage of security personnel to protect Iraq's vast pipeline network. In the north, the oil industry has hired tribes to secure Iraq's pipelines, copying a practice used by the Hussein regime. But some oil officials have claimed for more than a year that the tribes -- whether out of revenge or for profit -- are behind the majority of attacks on the pipelines. The tribes, in turn, have blamed the 1,500-strong oil-pipeline-protection force, saying the force has not done enough to protect the pipelines. Tribal leaders outside the program could also be behind the attacks.
While attacks against Iraqi oil installations and pipelines have brought export production in the north to a near halt, there are worrying signs that an increase of attacks on southern oil facilities could increase soon. There have been at least two reported incidents in the past month of raids by insurgents on tankers docked at the Al-Basrah export terminal. U.S.-led forces have since increased patrols in and around the Al-Basrah terminal -- something that was said to have been done in mid-2004 after insurgents loyal to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi carried out suicide boat attacks at the terminal.
Investors are likely to remain hesitant about investing as long as insecurity remains an issue. Likewise, Iraq's political stability remains tenuous at best, leaving investors apprehensive about launching major projects inside Iraq. Numerous trade publications report that most foreign oil companies have limited their activities thus far to technical training and consulting. The goal of foreign investors appears to be one of getting their foot in the door without making enormous financial investments in such an unpredictable environment.
As of May, some 30 companies had reportedly signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Iraq. The majority of the contracts are for engineering, procurement, and construction and "generally cover the training of Iraqi staff (often for free), consulting work, and reservoir studies (also often for free). The MOUs are generally considered to be a way for oil companies to show their interest in future Iraq work, gather technical data, and to demonstrate their capabilities. In addition, the MOUs can help companies establish relationships that could be useful in the future, when Iraq is ready to start awarding major oil and gas development projects," the U.S. Department of Energy report said.
But with the Iraqi Oil Ministry's announcement last week of a 10-year plan to more than triple oil production to 6 million barrels per day in the next six to 10 years (current exports remain at 1.5 million barrels per day, largely due to insurgent attacks and a crippled infrastructure), it will need some $20 billion in foreign investment, the ministry's director-general, N. K. al-Bayati, said at the Asia Oil and Gas Conference organized by Malaysia's government-owned petroleum corporation Petronas in Kuala Lumpur last week, AFP reported. In order to meet its goals, Iraq plans to seek foreign assistance in the development of 11 oilfields, the ministry's field development chief, Hazim Sultan, told Reuters on 13 June.
Petronas is among the foreign companies currently courting Iraq, and it hopes to gain valuable contracts with the Iraqi government for the development of Iraq's biggest oil reserve near Al-Basrah. Petronas Chief Executive Hassan Marican commented on the talks on 13 June, saying, "any oil and gas player cannot ignore Iraq." Petronas has reportedly been providing Iraq with limited technical assistance and training.
After a year of talks, Iraq is also poised to sign a deal with Iran in which Iraq will send oil to Iran's Abadan refinery for processing. Iranian media reports in early June indicate that a deal is expected to be signed during Bahr al-Ulum's upcoming trip to Iran. Bahr al-Ulum has repeatedly stated Iraq's readiness to work with Iran in the oil sector, a position he took as oil minister under the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council. Turkish company AvrAsya Technology Engineering secured a contract in December to develop the Khurmala field near Kirkuk, while Canada's OGI Group will help develop the Hamrin field, southwest of Kirkuk.
A consortium of Shell, BHP Billiton, and Tigris Petroleum reached an agreement with the Oil Ministry in January to boost production from fields in the Maysan area of southeastern Iraq, including the Halfayah field. Contracts were also awarded to several companies to evaluate fields west of the Rumaylah fields in southern Iraq. Oil giants Shell and BP stayed away from the bidding process last summer, reportedly due to the small size of the contracts first tendered and the security situation. "We obtained a copy of the tender but the scope and contract format are not compatible with our aspirations for long-term risk-reward contracts," bbc.co.uk quoted a Shell spokesman as saying in a 9 July 2004 report.
Russian oil companies, meanwhile, have undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at both new development contracts and the reinstatement of contracts initiated with the former regime. Lukoil began training Iraqi oil workers in Russia last year in an effort to get back the lucrative West Qurna contract. Soyuzneftegaz and other companies are in talks to develop the Rafidayn field. Other Russian companies have partnered with foreign firms in an attempt to secure deals in the Iraqi market. Stroitransgas has maintained a contract signed by the Hussein regime for development of Block 4 southwest of Al-Fallujah.
Still, it appears security remains a primary concern of investors. Iraq announced in 2003 that it would uphold an agreement with Indonesia's Pertamina for development of Block 3 in western Iraq. The announcement prompted Pertamina to announce a $24 million investment over three years in Block 3, only to suspend its activities eight months later due to the security situation.
Bahr al-Ulum insists that Iraq is taking some measures to increase security. "In general we do have two problems: loss of security in the north and lack of investment," forbes.com quoted him as saying on 15 June. "Also there are technical problems in some of the oil fields and we're trying to accommodate these problems. If we would like to get back to our project...to get 5 to 6 million bpd [barrels per day] by 2011, we need investment, we need to talk to the oil companies," he said.
U.S. AIR STRIKES KILL 76 IN AFGHANISTAN
U.S. air strikes on 22 June in southern Afghanistan left up to 76 people dead, AP reported the same day. The air strikes targeted neo-Taliban positions around the Kandahar area, where fighting has raged for several days this week. Witnesses said the U.S. attacks destroyed rebel positions, leaving bodies scattered across hillsides. "Their camps were decimated. Bodies lay everywhere. Heavy machine guns and AK-47s were scattered alongside blankets, kettles, and food," said General Salim Khan, commander of 400 Afghan policemen who took part in the ground fighting. "Some of the Taliban were also killed in caves where they were hiding and U.S. helicopters came and pounded them," he said. A U.S. spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara, said the 11-hour battle left 49 rebels dead. But Kandahar Province police chief General Ayub Salangi said Afghan forces found 76 bodies thought to be dead insurgents. Afghan forces also said they captured 30 militants. The fighting on 22 June marked another clash in the area, where neo-Taliban insurgents have dramatically stepped up guerilla activities in recent weeks. MR
ISLAMABAD ASKS WASHINGTON FOR INFORMATION ABOUT TALIBAN LEADER
Pakistan on 22 June called on the United States to share any information it has about the location of Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar, AP reported the same day. Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said Pakistan has no information about Omar's whereabouts. But the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Omar is most likely hiding in Pakistan. Responding to Khalilzad's remarks, Sherpao said, "If he [Khalilzad] has any such information, instead of leveling allegations, he should pass that on to us." Tensions between Kabul and Islamabad have increased in recent days as insurgent activity in southern Afghanistan has intensified. Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of allowing neo-Taliban insurgents safe havens in Pakistani territory bordering Afghanistan in the south. MR
NETHERLANDS, U.K. TO SEND MORE TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
The Netherlands and Britain on 22 June said they are planning to deploy several hundred more troops to Afghanistan in the coming months ahead of the country's parliamentary elections in September, AP reported the same day. British Defense Secretary John Reid said the United Kingdom will boost the number of its troops in Afghanistan by 400. British forces currently number about 1,100 in Afghanistan. Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp said the Netherlands will send an additional 750 marines to Afghanistan, adding that as many as 1,300 Dutch troops will be in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Reid said the additional troops will largely serve in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) dealing with antinarcotics, reconstruction, and security operations. MR
AFGHAN POLICE ARREST TWO NEO-TALIBAN OPERATIVES
Afghan authorities said on 22 June that they have arrested two neo-Taliban operatives in eastern Afghanistan, the Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported the same day. The arrests were made in Konar Province. Authorities said one of the detainees was Pakistani. "Two Taliban, one of them a Pakistani national, were arrested by the police in the Watapur area today," said Konar Governor Assadollah Wafa. "Both had come to the province in the company of a Taliban commander called Mohammad Esmail. They confessed that they were aiming to film Taliban operations for an Arab TV channel for a large sum of money." MR
HARD-LINE IRANIAN CANDIDATE LEADS IN VOTER SURVEY
Ms. Nura, who heads the women's section of Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's campaign, predicted in a 22 June interview with Radio Farda that her candidate will secure 10-15 million votes in the presidential runoff scheduled for 24 June. Mahmud Ahmadinejad was the most popular candidate in a poll of 3,435 people in 12 provinces conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency on 21 June, Fars News Agency reported on 22 June. Ahmadinejad earned 1,500 votes, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani earned 1,302 votes, and 633 voters are undecided. Furthermore, 62.6 percent said they will definitely vote and 11.4 percent said they might vote. The poll took place in Ardabil, Boir Ahmad and Kohkiluyeh, Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiar, Gilan, Hamedan, Isfahan, Khorasan Razavi, Kurdistan, Markazi (Central), Tehran, West Azerbaijan, and Zanjan Provinces. Hashemi-Rafsanjani led in Gilan, Kurdistan, and Tehran, while Ahmadinejad led in the other provinces. BS
IRANIAN BUSINESS SECTOR REPORTEDLY OPPOSES HARD-LINER
Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh has said that he worries about the future of the oil industry if Hashemi-Rafsanjani does not win the presidential runoff, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 22 July. The secretary-general of the Tehran Stock Exchange, Hussein Abdeh-Tabrizi, said in a letter to "Farhang-i Ashti" that Hashemi-Rafsanjani is the best choice. The newspaper reported on the same day that Ahmadinejad told the Hatef website that the stock market is like gambling, and it should be stopped. In a meeting with legislators, furthermore, Ahmadinejad said, "I am opposed to middleman jobs instead of productive jobs." BS
IRANIAN HARD-LINER TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
Iranian Parliamentarian Fatemeh Alia said in a 22 June interview with Radio Farda that Ahmadinejad will eliminate the aqazadehs (offspring of important clerics) from the oil industry and the stock exchange, which they currently control. Currently, she said, those with access to power get wealthy while those without such access get poorer. On the same day, "Siyasat-i Ruz" newspaper reported that Ahmadinejad met with legislators and told them he intends to eliminate the role of certain families in the oil industry and other economic areas. He put this in the context of his campaign against corruption and privilege, and added that he does not oppose the stock market. Ahmadinejad said people are propagandizing against him because of his anticorruption campaign. On state television on 22 June, Ahmadinejad denied allegations that he opposes the stock exchange. BS
SCARE TACTICS USED AGAINST HARD-LINE CANDIDATE IN IRAN
Nationalist-religious activist Mohammad Maleki told Radio Farda on 22 June that scare tactics --including accusations of fascism -- are being employed to persuade people to support Hashemi-Rafsanjani instead of Ahmadinejad. Maleki said Iranians are already enduring fascism. Who is elected is less important than how many people vote, Maleki said. There is little difference between a Hashemi-Rafsanjani or an Ahmadinejad presidency, he said, because the orders come from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Maleki also dismissed speculation that Ahmadinejad was the supreme leader's choice all along. Iran's big problem is not the difference between candidates, Maleki said, the problem is the constitution. BS
IRAQI SECURITY MINISTER SAYS NEIGHBORS NEED TO DO MORE TO STOP TERRORISTS...
Abd al-Karim al-Anzi, state minister for security affairs, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) at the 22 June Brussels conference that neighboring states need to do more to prevent terrorist infiltrations into Iraq, RFI reported on 22 June. "We hope that these [neighboring] countries will realize their enormous responsibility for strengthening the security and stability of Iraq. Remarkable portions of these countries have been used by terrorists for their maneuvers and infiltrations into Iraq. We certainly expect a positive attitude from these countries so that they boost their activities in this field," al-Anzi said. At the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iraq's neighbors, and specifically Syria, to "live up to its responsibilities" in preventing insurgents from crossing into Iraq, AFP reported on 22 June. KR
...AS PLANNING MINISTER ACKNOWLEDGES NEED TO REASSURE DONORS
Planning Minister Barham Salih told RFI at the Brussels conference that donors can no longer hesitate on disbursing aid under the pretense that the Iraqi government is not democratically elected, RFI reported on 22 June. He added, however, that the Iraqi government "must be constantly prepared to secure measures that will enable the donor countries to turn their aid into reality." "The Iraqi people have been promised to receive a package of international aid," Salih said, adding: "Time has come for Iraqi citizens to benefit from this aid, and time has come for the Iraqi government, too, to take its responsibility and provide the donor countries and the Iraqi people with clear and specific measures ensuring that the aid reaches the Iraqi economy." KR
DONOR STATES ENDORSE IRAQI GOVERNMENT PLANS, PLEDGE SUPPORT...
Donor states at the Brussels conference endorsed a plan set forth by the transitional Iraqi government and pledged to aid Iraqi efforts on the political, economic, and security level, according to the conference statement posted on the EU Council website (http://ue.eu.int). The statement called on Iraq and regional states to enhance cooperation to prevent cross-border transit and support for terrorists, and participants "underlined the importance of other members of the international community joining ongoing regional and multilateral efforts" to enhance Iraqi security. Although no specifics were given, that support will likely come in the training of Iraqi security forces. Iraqi officials at the conference called on donor states to help train security forces inside Iraq. Currently, donor states involved in training operate outside the country. KR
...AS IRAQ SECURES SUPPORT TO ESTABLISH DONOR COORDINATION MECHANISM
Participants to the Brussels conference endorsed a proposal by the Iraqi interim government to establish a donor coordination mechanism under Iraqi leadership with the support of the UN, the conference statement said. The operation will be based in Baghdad with links to the donor community in Amman, Jordan and elsewhere, the statement said. Donors pledged to further expedite the disbursement of aid pledged at the 2003 Madrid conference, but not delivered. The Iraqi government will present more specifics on the mechanism and present a list of priority aid needs at the 18-19 July donors meeting in Amman, Jordan, the statement noted. Participants also stressed further support for Iraqi investigative, judicial, and penal bodies, and pledged to continue to support the provision of basic services to Iraq. Participants welcomed the role of the United Nations in supporting the drafting of a permanent constitution, and "agreed to coordinate their contributions to the political and constitutional process with the UN." KR
FOUR CAR BOMBS DETONATE IN IRAQI CAPITAL
Four car bombs detonated in Baghdad on 23 June, killing at least 17 and wounding dozens, Reuters reported. A suicide car bomber killed three policemen and two civilians in the Al-Karrada neighborhood. A second attack in the commercial district of Al-Karrada killed seven civilians. Two other vehicles were detonated in the same area, one close to a Shi'ite mosque. Estimates on the number of wounded range between 23 and 50, the news agency said. The attacks came one day after three booby-trapped cars detonated in the Shi'ite neighborhood of Al-Shu'lah in Baghdad on 22 June, international media reported. The first vehicle detonated in front of an office for Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; the second vehicle detonated at a city entrance near the Al-Ba'ath Bridge; and the third near a parking lot for travelers, Al-Jazeera television reported on 22 June. Initial reports indicated that 18 people, mostly civilians, were killed in those attacks and more than 40 wounded. Terrorist leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn claimed responsibility for the 22 June attacks. KR
U.K. REPORT SAYS EUROPEAN JIHADISTS RECRUITED THROUGH SYRIA TO IRAQ
Jihadists heading to Iraq from Europe and the United Kingdom pass through a "highly professional infrastructure" in Damascus, according to intelligence evidence, London's "The Times" reported on 22 June. The report cites U.S. intelligence that suspects Syrians, some of them "known businessmen," who act as facilitators, laying the groundwork for volunteers to travel to Syria, and then Iraq. Senior U.S. officials told the daily that volunteers were flown to Damascus and taken to a safe house where their documents were confiscated and replaced with false identification papers. They are then escorted to the border where they cross either through conventional means or through bribery. The volunteers are then passed to a handler inside Iraq. U.S. officials said two Kuwaitis who volunteered only to change their mind once inside Iraq, were arrested by Saudi authorities after crossing the border. The men said the entire process from recruitment to their arrival in Iraq took two weeks. KR