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Newsline - July 13, 2005

The Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on 12 July that it has arrested Aleksandr Miskov, the deputy chief of the financial and audit department within the Industry and Energy Ministry, on charges of accepting a bribe, and other media reported. According to the FSB, Miskov extorted a bribe from the management of a state enterprise in Krasnoyarsk Krai, which was in the process of being auctioned off by the ministry. Miskov, a former navy officer, was caught red-handed in his office on 29 June, but his arrest was announced only now. Before joining the ministry in 2004, Miskov worked as an adviser to the Chechen finance minister and the federal deputy atomic energy minister. Gaps in his official biography suggest that Miskov might have worked for military intelligence (GRU). And the FSB usually does not deal with such crimes, unless military officers are involved. In a press release, the Industry and Energy Ministry said it is "very concerned by this development and will cooperate completely with the investigation," reported. VY

The Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed on 12 July that it has begun an investigation of a deputy director of the Central Bank of Russia, whose name was not revealed, on charges of using insider information for profit by passing it to a commercial entity, reported. The investigation follows a request from the head of the Motherland Duma faction, Dmitrii Rogozin, and faction member Ivan Kharchenko, who accused the Central Bank official of illegally transferring confidential business information to a private company where he previously worked as a vice president. "If one knows in advance what will happen with the currency-exchange rates, which are set by [Central Bank] officials, one can make a lot of money," RIA-Novosti quoted Kharchenko as saying. The Central Bank refused to comment on the investigation, reported. VY

The Prosecutor-General's Office has sent Israel a new request for the extradition of Menatep shareholder and former Yukos executive Leonid Nevzlin, who has lived in Israel since 2003, "Vremya novostei" reported on 13 July. The prosecutors accuse Nevzlin of acting through former Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin to contract the killings of several people whose business activities conflicted with Yukos's interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2005). Israel has already rejected two previous Russian extradition requests for Nevzlin in connection with financial criminal charges. Yulii Edelstein, a member of Israel's Knesset, told "Vremya novostei" that "Israel tries to prevent the extradition of its citizens as far as economic and ordinary crimes are concerned. But the graveness of the crimes Nevzlin is accused of certainly could be grounds for extradition." In 2002 and 2003, Israel extradited to Russia two Israelis accused of murder and serious crimes, the newspaper noted. Meanwhile, Nevzlin said the accusations are part of the political persecution of Yukos and that he has no plans to leave Israel. VY

Aleksei Mitrofanov, the deputy head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's (LDPR) Duma faction, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 12 July that he thinks former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov faces a dilemma over whether to become a full-fledged opposition leader or stay abroad. However, Mitrofanov does not think Kasyanov will accept the challenge, "as he is not a fighter." Unified Russia General Council Secretary and Duma Deputy Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on 12 July that he doesn't see politics behind the investigation of Kasyanov, reported. "Kasyanov is undoubtedly a politician, but he is engaged in business and held a prominent state position -- there is room for an audit here," he said. Globalization Institute Director and Duma Deputy Mikhail Delyagin (Motherland), who served as an adviser to Kasyanov, said, "We are moving toward a situation where soon criminal cases will be filed against all politicians who are not members of United Russia." Delyagin said he suspects that President Vladimir Putin knew in advance about the privatization of a dacha in a restricted area near Moscow that Kasyanov is said to have acquired for far less than its market price. Former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said the case is politically motivated. "Once the West placed its bet on Kasyanov, our Prosecutor-General's Office showed it is on the alert." Memorial human rights group Chairman Sergei Kovalev said on 12 July that he does not believe Kasyanov made an illegal deal for the dacha. "He has money, but he is not a man who would risk it for the sake of a dacha," Kovalev said, adding that "he will try to buy himself off," reported. VY

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on 12 July, Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that the U.S.-Russian Working Group on Nuclear Security has prepared and presented to both countries' presidents a report on the protection of their nuclear facilities, RIA-Novosti and other media reported. The report notes nuclear storage sites and facilities in Russia and the United States are well protected but additional measures are needed to face new challenges and threats. Rumyantsev said specialists from both countries worked out recommendations on how to improve the physical protection of nuclear facilities and create a better monitoring system. Rumyantsev also said the case of former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, who was arrested in Switzerland in May and accused of money laundering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2005), has not affected bilateral cooperation. VY

The package of electoral reforms recently passed by the State Duma and awaiting approval by the Federation Council will be the last changes to Russian election law before the parliamentary and presidential campaigns of 2007 and 2008, according to Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov. Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 12 July, Veshnyakov said, "there are no more reasons to change the law" and argued that finalizing election rules a full two years before the next election cycle will give political parties and candidates time to prepare, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 13 July. Veshnyakov specifically ruled out changes to the law on presidential elections in the foreseeable future, Interfax reported on 12 July. In addition to highlighting the most important amendments to election legislation recently passed by the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 7 July 2005), Veshnyakov dismissed as a "myth" the notion that the new rules hamper journalists' ability to cover the election process. He noted that journalists will retain the right to be present when votes are counted and to film or photograph the counting of votes, NTV reported on 12 July. LB

During the same news conference, TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov provided data on what leading political parties would receive from the federal budget in 2006, assuming the latest election-reform package passed by the Duma becomes law, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 July. As before, state funding would go to parties that received at least 3 percent of the nationwide vote in the previous parliamentary election, but under the new rules, parties that qualified for state funding would receive five rubles annually for each vote received in the last election, 10 times more than the amount provided under current law. That formula would translate to approximately 113 million rubles ($3.9 million) for Unified Russia, 38 million rubles for the Communist Party, 37 million rubles to be divided among the three parties that formed the Motherland bloc, 13 million rubles for Yabloko, 12 million rubles for the Union of Rightist Forces, 11 million rubles for the Agrarian Party, 10 million rubles for the People's Party, and 9 million rubles to be divided between the Pensioners' Party and the Party of Social Justice, which campaigned for the Duma as a bloc in 2003. LB

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has approved plans to hold an unofficial "popular referendum" during the third week of September, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 12 July. Earlier this year, the TsIK blocked the KPRF's efforts to hold a wide-ranging 17-question referendum on President Putin's policies and Communist proposals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April and 3 June 2005). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the TsIK, and the KPRF's appeal to the high court's appellate chamber is pending, according to Central Committee Secretary Vadim Solovev. Instead of waiting for the court ruling (which is almost certain to go against the KPRF), Communist Party leaders plan to distribute some 10 million ballots nationwide for their unofficial plebiscite. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted Oleg Kulikov, the Central Committee secretary for informational and analytical work, as saying that the referendum will be a "form of pressure on the authorities." The KPRF has sought since 2002 to call a referendum not only to underscore popular dissatisfaction with government policies, but also as a way to publicize KPRF demands, such as large increases in the minimum wage. LB

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov has issued a directive to Duma deputies laying out strict new rules for conducting press conferences, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 12 July. The newspaper obtained a copy of the document, which states that Duma deputies who are chairpersons or deputy chairs of committees and commissions may hold press conferences only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays between noon and 2 p.m., and only with prior approval by the Duma department that provides organizational assistance. Deputy groups may hold press conferences only on Wednesdays and Fridays, and only at certain times. Press briefings are to run no longer than half an hour and should be scheduled at least two days in advance. Ordinary Duma deputies will need clearance from either the leader of a Duma group, a Duma deputy speaker, or a committee chairperson before calling a press conference. The directive also states that only journalists invited to press conferences should be permitted to ask questions. The Regnum news agency on 12 July quoted unnamed Duma sources as saying the document is designed to limit the activities of opposition deputies. LB

Although a recent presidential decree appears at first glance to be a "revolutionary step" broadening the authority of regional leaders, closer scrutiny reveals little of substance that regional leaders gained, "Kommersant-Vlast" argued in its latest edition (No. 27, 11 July). Putin signed the decree on 2 July during a session of the State Council, and early media reports emphasized that it returned some 114 powers taken away from governors since Putin became president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2005). But according to "Kommersant-Vlast," the decree for the most part merely strengthened "the existing system in which the head of a region differs little from the [local] representative of a federal ministry"; both are "bureaucrats appointed from above" who work on policy tasks assigned to them by federal authorities. The weekly also questioned whether governors genuinely want more powers, since "a real redistribution of powers in favor of regional authorities would signify a corresponding increase in their political responsibility. And the regional leaders have no desire to become scapegoats for unpopular social reforms" carried out by the presidential administration and federal government. LB

Speaking in the Federation Council at a closed-door hearing devoted to improving Russia's image abroad on 12 July, Sergei Mironov called on all Russians and domestic organizations to work to improve Russia's reputation, RIA-Novosti and other media reported. Mironov said that in projecting Russia's image abroad there is no coordination, public diplomacy is inefficient, and funds allotted for this purpose are wasted. He proposed that a single entity coordinate all public diplomacy efforts. Mironov also complained that Western media disseminate unfair information about Russia. "Many people are retrieving their information from garbage dumps that exist on the Internet and then reprint this nonsense in respectable Western publications, " he said. He also said there are many tools to enhance Russia's image abroad, but not all of them should be revealed. Mironov also refused to reveal the extra funds the Russian parliament wants to spend for this purpose but noted that "the honor of the motherland costs dearly." VY

Victor Chernomyrdin, who served as prime minister under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, told Interfax by telephone on 12 July that rumors that have surfaced in recent days concerning his imminent appointment as Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan are "a load of rubbish" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). Chernomyrdin, who was named ambassador to Kyiv four years ago, admitted that he recently visited Baku while on vacation, but said he did so simply to meet with "friends," including President Ilham Aliyev. Also on 12 July, a press officer at the Russian Embassy in Baku told Turan that the procedure of naming and confirming a new ambassador is under way, but he did not name him. Former Russian envoy Nikolai Ryabov's tour of duty in Baku ended in September 2004. LF

Speaking in Nalchik earlier this week at a session of the North Caucasus Association, Daghestan State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov said all necessary measures are being taken to render the struggle with crime and "terrorism" more effective, reported on 13 July, citing He predicted that a breakthrough in that struggle is imminent. At the same time, Magomedov acknowledged that "terrorists" from outside Daghestan, meaning Chechen militants, have infiltrated the republic and are systematically targeting police officers. Some 30 police officers have been killed in Daghestan so far this year; the total number of killings and bomb attacks reported is over 80. LF

Deputy parliamentary speaker Tigran Torosian (Republican Party of Armenia) told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 12 July that further changes could be made to the draft constitutional amendments submitted last week for approval to the Council of Europe's Venice Commission if the commission considers they are needed. Tororian implied that the opposition Artarutiun alliance acted prematurely in announcing on 11 July that it will call for the rejection of those amendments because they do not fully meet its demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). Artarutiun legislator Shavarsh Kocharian said on 12 July that the most recent version of the draft amendments is better than previous ones but still "flawed." Once endorsed by the Venice Commission, the final draft must be approved at a parliamentary session scheduled for 29 August before its submission to a nationwide referendum in the fall. LF

The French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met on 12 July in Baku for the second time in two days with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Turan reported. At a subsequent news conference prior to their departure for Yerevan, Russian co-Chairman Yurii Merzlyakov said that "we are working on formulating the principal points" of a peace settlement, reported. Merlyakov said it is unlikely that the peace agreement will be ready for signing on the sidelines of the 26 August CIS summit in Kazan, which the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are slated to attend. Merzlyakov declined to comment on the 11 July report by RFE/RL's Armenian Service that a formal settlement of the conflict might be signed by the end of this year and that it will include provision for the conduct of a referendum on the future status of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). Speaking on 12 July in Yerevan, Artarutiun leader and former Armenian Prime Minister Aram Sargsian argued against holding any such referendum, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Sargsian, who recently visited Stepanakert, said that NKR President Arkadii Ghukasian similarly opposes a "phased" peace agreement that would postpone clarification of the republic's future status. LF

In a joint statement released on 12 July, the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry and the Prosecutor General's Office said that the results of the preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the 2 March murder of opposition journalist Elmar Huseinov have been confirmed, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2005). The statement named Georgian citizens Tair Khubanov and Teimuraz Aliyev as the putative killers; Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov had identified them as prime suspects last month and said Baku has asked Interpol and the Georgian authorities for assistance in locating and apprehending them, according to Turan on 27 June. LF

Mikheil Saakashvili announced late on 12 July the dismissal of Zurab Chiaberashvili as mayor of Tbilisi and his replacement by Gigi Ugulava, Georgian media reported. Ugulava is a former deputy national security minister who served from late September 2004 until mid-April 2005 as governor of Mingrelia and Upper Svaneti, and since then as head of the presidential administration. Saakashvili said he has nominated Chiaberashvili, a former Central Election Commission chairman who was appointed mayor late last year, as Georgia's ambassador to the Council of Europe. Chiaberashvili has had at least two serious disagreements with his subordinates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2004) and rumors of his imminent dismissal have circulated for several months, but he told journalists earlier on 12 July that they were merely part of a "well-planned" campaign to denigrate him by people who no longer have access to funds from the municipal budget. LF

Meeting in Tbilisi on 12 July, representatives of the Republican, Conservative, and Labor parties and of the New Conservative Party (aka the New Rightists) agreed that they will select a single candidate to represent them in each of the six by-elections to be held this fall, Caucasus Press and reported. New Conservative Mamuka Katsitadze said other opposition parties may also join that initiative. LF

Irakli Okruashvili, who is a former interior minister, has advocated a special police operation against "criminal elements" ensconced in the Kodori Gorge in western Georgia, according to the independent daily "Rezonansi" on 12 July. Kakha Ardia, Ugulava's successor as governor of the Mingrelia and Upper Svaneti, has reportedly endorsed that proposal, while Irakli Alasania, who heads the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, commented that such an operation is the prerogative of the Interior Ministry. Okruashvili recently ordered the disbanding of the Monadire (Hunter) battalion, which comprised several hundred Kodori residents and functioned as a home guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 22 June 2005). LF

Okruashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 12 July that he is profoundly disturbed by deep-rooted corruption on the part of ministry officials responsible for procurements, and he warned of an imminent purge of the culprits, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Also on 12 July, the Control Chamber reported that an inspection of the Defense Ministry revealed numerous cases in 2004 in which individual direct contracts were concluded for purchasing supplies rather than announcing a tender, Georgian media reported. On 7 July, Okruashvili told journalists he planned to dismiss ministry officials whose work has proved "disappointing," Caucasus Press reported. Georgian media suggested those officials could include navy commander Levan Bakradze, Deputy Defense Minister David Sikharulidze, and National Military Academy rector Giorgi Tavdgiradze, who was appointed to that post in March 2004. On 8 July and again on 13 July, Tavdgiradze told journalists he has not been formally notified of his dismissal, and on 13 July he said he plans to ask President Saakashvili to explain the rationale for it, as Okruashvili has not done so, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), announced on 12 July that Kazakhstan has released an Uzbek human rights activist who was arrested recently in Almaty on the basis of an Uzbek deportation request, Interfax and AP reported. The activist, Lutfullo Shamsiddinov, witnessed the violence in Andijon in May and fled Uzbekistan with his family later the same month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2005). The UNHCR granted refugee status to Shamsiddinov and six members of his family on 24 June. Shamsiddinov and his family are to be temporarily relocated to an unnamed European country pending permanent resettlement elsewhere. Uzbekistan continues to demand the return of several hundred Uzbek asylum seekers from a Kyrgyz detention camp despite international outcry, accusing them of being "criminals or terrorists." RG

The Kazakh Central Electoral Commission announced on 12 July that it has registered more than 70 candidates for the country's upcoming parliamentary elections, Kazakh Khabar TV reported. The balloting, for 16 open seats in the upper house of the Kazakh parliament, is scheduled for this fall. Candidates are to be provided with officially guaranteed media coverage during the campaign, including 10 minutes of state radio airtime, 15 minutes on state television, and two newspaper articles. The upper house comprises 40 members directly elected to six-year terms and another seven deputies directly appointed by the Kazakh president. RG

The Kazakh Central Electoral Commission also registered another nine candidates on 12 July to run in new district elections, Kazinform news agency and Kazakh TV reported. The voting, set for 12 August, is for local government officials in the Yeskeldi district of the southern Almaty region, the Zhanakala district of western Kazakhstan, Kokpekti in eastern Kazakhstan, and Timiryazev in northern Kazakhstan. RG

Kyrgyz President-elect Kurmanbek Bakiev vowed on 11 July to reduce the powers of the presidency and impose new government reforms, ITAR-TASS reported. Bakiev promised to restore a balanced system of government by introducing a mixed majority/proportional system for the Kyrgyz parliament and enhancing the role of civil society in the country. RG

Speaking at a press conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu called for an end to the official ban on the activities of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, adding that the organization is "not harmful to society" and that "its supporters are suffering unjustified persecution," Kyrgyz public television reported. Commenting on the 10 July Kyrgyz presidential election in which he finished a distant second to President-elect Bakiev, Bakir uulu accused the Kyrgyz National Security Service of "persecuting and exerting pressure" on his supporters. RG

Officials of a Kyrgyz state commission for religious affairs argued on 12 July that Hizb ut-Tahrir poses a significant "threat to national security," according to the Kabar news agency. The state commission, which includes representatives from the Spiritual Directorate of Kyrgyzstan's Muslims and the state commission for religious affairs, works with the staff of the Interior Ministry and National Security Service and routinely provides "analysis of Islamist" leaflets and materials for use in court proceedings against suspects detained for links to the Islamist group. Commission members said on 12 July that Hizb ut-Tahrir currently has 2,000-2,500 followers in Kyrgyzstan and warned that the group's activities are increasing, especially in the south of the country. RG

The Tajik Embassy in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat forwarded a draft protocol on 12 July to the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the status of more than 15,000 Tajiks living in Turkmenistan, Asia-Plus reported. The draft bilateral accord would allow Tajik citizens living in Turkmenistan to renounce their Tajik citizenship in return for a simplified process of acquiring full Turkmen citizenship. The more than 15,000 Tajiks fled to Turkmenistan during the height of the civil war in Tajikistan in the early 1990s. If the draft agreement is accepted by the Tajik government, it will be subject to parliamentary approval by both countries. RG

An Iranian delegation led by Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari participated in the opening session of the intergovernmental Tajik-Iranian commission for economic cooperation in Dushanbe on 13 July, Asia-Plus and Avesta reported. An unnamed official from the Tajik Economy and Trade Ministry said on 12 July that the summit will focus on cooperation in the energy, education, transport, agriculture, and financial sectors, according to Asia-Plus. The Iranian delegation is also expected to sign a new agreement on economic cooperation with Tajikistan. Iran has pledged to invest in the construction of a tunnel under the Anzob Pass, north of the capital Dushanbe, and will provide a further $180 million toward construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydroelectric power station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April and 16 June 2005). RG

A delegation of international diplomats on 13 July investigated events related to the May unrest in Uzbekistan's Andijon province, Uzbek state television and reported. Accompanied by international media representatives and officials of the Uzbek Defense Ministry, the delegation toured Andijon and interviewed local residents and members of the militia and military units who were present during the violence. Local Uzbek prosecutor Bahodir Dehqonov recently raised the death toll to 187 and blamed the violence on splinter groups affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). RG

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a meeting with Ukrainian Communist Party head Petro Symonenko in Minsk on 12 July that there are political and diplomatic differences between Minsk and Kyiv, Belapan and Belarusian Television reported. "We are sliding more and more into misunderstanding in the sphere of political relations, diplomacy, etc," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. At the same time, Lukashenka said that economic relations between both countries are improving, with trade turnover rising to $1 billion last year and continuing to grow in 2005. Lukashenka thanked Symonenko for "the colossal support" the latter's party is rendering to Minsk during "these hard times of all-out pressure on our country from certain forces." JM

Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet on 13 July called on the Verkhovna Rada to form an efficient majority in order to implement the government's program, UNIAN reported. At the same time, the cabinet branded last week's tumultuous debates in the parliament, where lawmakers were unable to adopt a number of bills proposed by the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2005), as a "planned provocation" against the government and the president. "It is sad to admit that [this provocation] involved the parliamentary leadership, which preferred to maintain social and economic tension in society," the cabinet's statement reads. "All that culminated in absolute political savagery when for the first time in the country's history the parliament cast in doubt the right of the president of the country and the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] to address the Ukrainian people from the parliamentary rostrum." On 6 July, Communist Party lawmakers prevented PACE President Rene van der Linden from speaking in the Verkhovna Rada. JM

President Viktor Yushchenko has ordered that the government set up an Institute of National Memory by 26 November, when Ukraine will observe the Day of Remembrance of Famine Victims to memorialize millions of Ukrainians who died in an artificially induced famine in the Soviet Union in 1933, UNIAN reported on 12 July. The government is obliged to decide on the planned structure of the institute and main areas of its research by 15 September, after consultations with the National Academy of Sciences and nongovernmental organizations studying political repression in Ukraine and the 1933 famine (Holodomor). By virtue of another decree, Yushchenko instructed the government to draft a bill on increasing social support for victims of political repression and their families. JM

About 1,000 Serbs gathered in Bratunac on 12 July to honor Serbs killed by Muslim forces in the Drina River valley area of eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, Banja Luka's "Nezavisne novine" and dpa reported. The ceremony took place just one day after 50,000 people paid respects to the Muslim victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre nearby (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 July 2005). Republika Srpska authorities put the total number of Serbian victims from 1992 at about 3,000. Top Bosnian Serb officials attended the Bratunac gathering, but Sarajevo-based diplomats and foreign NGOs stayed away even though the organizers had invited them. Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic arrived from Belgrade on behalf of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Serbian President Boris Tadic was represented by his aide, Jovan Simic. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (SRS) sent its vice president, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic. PM

Borislav Paravac, who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency, told the commemorative gathering in Bratunac on 12 July that events in and around Srebrenica during the 1992-95 conflict should not be viewed exclusively in the context of the killing of Muslims, adding that one must also take Serbian victims into account, "Nezavisne novine" reported. "One tragedy cannot be isolated from the other. All Serbian villages in the Srebrenica area were burned down in 1992," he said. Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic told the gathering that those who lost loved ones during the war have difficulty accepting the idea of a shared future among Bosnia's three main ethnic groups. He stressed that Serbs must have the same right as Muslims to know what happened to their missing persons and to obtain justice for atrocities. PM

The Hague-based war crimes tribunal decided on 12 July to try together six leading Serbian civilian and military indictees because they were all indicted in connection with the same war crimes allegedly committed by Serbian forces in Kosova in 1999, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The six are former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, and former Generals Dragoljub Ojdanic, Vladimir Lazarevic, Nebojsa Pavkovic, and Sreten Lukic. The trial is expected to begin in late 2005 or early 2006. PM

Macedonian police officials said in Skopje on 12 July that unidentified gunmen the previous night attacked a multiethnic police station in Vratnica in the rugged Sar Planina area near the border with Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. No one was injured in the incident, which police are investigating. Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski called the attack "a provocation by extremists" but did not elaborate. The region is inhabited largely by ethnic Albanians. Violent incidents in the border area often have criminal rather than political motives. PM

Intermediaries in the Transdniester conflict settlement from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have passed a document to Chisinau and Tiraspol proposing measures to build confidence and security between the two sides, BASA and ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. The document, worked out by military experts of the mediating sides, reportedly proposes reductions in the armed forces and weaponry of Moldova and Transdniester. Neither Chisinau nor Tiraspol have so far commented on the proposals. JM

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called on Chisinau to free Russian citizens Aleksei Kochetkov and Vladimir Lebedkin, who were detained in Moldova on 10 July during a brawl and sentenced the same day to seven and 13 days behind bars, respectively, for breaking registration rules in that country, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. Moscow said the detention of the Russians was a "crude arbitrary action" and threatened to take "adequate measures" if the two were not immediately released. The two Russians were reportedly members of a CIS mission to monitor the mayoral election in Chisinau on 10 July. Moldova's Central Election Commission said the CIS mission was not allowed to monitor the vote. JM

Egyptian Ambassador-designate Ihab al-Sharif was kidnapped in Baghdad on 2 July by Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn. The group on 7 July claimed it had executed al-Sharif, a report that was subsequently confirmed by Egyptian authorities, although his body has not been recovered.

On 5 July, Pakistani and Bahraini ambassadors to Iraq were attacked in separate incidents in Baghdad. Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Yunis Khan escaped unharmed when gunmen in two vehicles fired on his convoy in the Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad, prompting Khan to relocate to Jordan. Bahrain's top diplomat in Baghdad was wounded in a separate attack in the same neighborhood, which houses a number of embassies, when gunmen fired at his vehicle.

These incidents were clearly meant to send a message to all Arab and Muslim states: Those who forge relations with the transitional Iraqi government will be targeted by Al-Qaeda. This message, while not new, seeks to stem progress made by the transitional Iraqi government in recent weeks in terms of persuading Arab and Muslim states to reopen embassies and missions in Baghdad.

Those countries had, since the toppling of the Hussein regime, declined by and large to return to Iraq under the pretext that the interim Iraqi government -- the current government's predecessor -- was illegitimate. January's national elections changed all that, as the transitional Iraqi government pointed out to participating states at the June donors conference in Brussels.

Al-Zarqawi's tactic is part of an ideology that has routinely sought to stem any progress in the post-Hussein era, whether it be in the fields of reconstruction, security, or political development.

Al-Sharif's abduction and killing enforces an underlying mistrust between Arab states and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. Soon after al-Sharif's abduction, some Iraqi officials -- including Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's spokesman, Laith Kubba -- suggested that al-Sharif might have been attempting to establish relations with insurgents when he was snatched.

Foreign Minister al-Zebari attempted to cushion the allegation following similar statements by Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who alleged "that some foreign ambassadors made contacts with some parties." "We don't believe that the [Egyptian] ambassador[-designate] or any other ambassador had any contacts with forces that use arms, violence, terrorism, and murder," said Al-Zebari told journalists on 11 July, RFI reported.

Most Arab states have done little more than pay lip service in their condemnation of terrorism in Iraq, preferring instead to propagate the view that the Iraqi government needs to do more to bring Sunni Arabs into the political process. The position of these Arab states is rooted partly in an Arab nationalist mentality that is still reflected today across the Arab world's Sunni-led governments -- one that has never shown much regard for Iraq's Shi'ite population, which is viewed as more closely linked to Iran than the Arab world. Moreover, Arab states recognize the negative impact the occupation of Iraq has had on Arab popular opinion on Iraq.

Arab states also view the uprooting of the Hussein regime in Iraq and the prospect of the region's first Arab democracy as a threat to the stability of their own regimes, which maintain order -- to varying degrees -- much the same as Hussein did: through strong security apparatuses and governments that afford little political freedom to their peoples.

Many Arab governments also recognize the Islamist threat and many fear the spread of terrorism by Sunni Islamists to their own countries, where Islamists have been afforded little, if any, political space historically. These governments understand the havoc that could be wrought by Islamists at home.

The killing of al-Sharif has prompted the transitional government to take action to prevent a possible setback in attempts to normalize relations with Arab and Islamic states.

But al-Sharif's abduction and killing evoked a predictable response from Egypt. Officials there first contended the incident would not affect its relations or diplomatic presence in Baghdad, but soon after announced that that Cairo will scale down its embassy staff. It appears that a new ambassador will not be heading to Iraq anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Jordan, which also vowed in Brussels to send a new ambassador to Iraq, has said it intends to keep its commitment, although it remains unclear when the Jordanian ambassador might arrive in Baghdad. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Zebari told reporters at an 11 July press briefing in Baghdad that Yemen and Morocco have named new ambassadors to Iraq, while Syria and the Arab League remain intent on doing so, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported.

The incidents involving the Egyptian, Pakistani, and Bahraini diplomats prompted the Iraqi interim government -- which initially contended that foreign diplomats hadn't taken the necessary security precautions -- to offer new protection to ensure the security of foreign diplomats working in Iraq.

Al-Zebari told members of the diplomatic corps in Baghdad on 11 July that the Foreign and Interior ministries have devised a new security plan, including the establishment of a special hotline that would give embassies and diplomats direct access to the Interior Ministry, which is ultimately responsible for security.

"No doubt, we too have responsibilities. The Iraqi government has security responsibilities under international law. It must guarantee protection and security for the diplomats and the embassies and missions here in Baghdad," al-Zebari told a press briefing following the meeting.

He added that the Iraqi government is capable of protecting all embassies, ambassadors, and diplomats in Baghdad "without depending on any other quarter." There are currently 45 embassies and missions operating in Iraq, al-Zebari said.

"Many of these embassies are in the protected Green Zone," he said. "As for the ones outside the zone, we believe that the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry have the capabilities to guarantee the necessary protection."

He asked, however, that embassies and foreign missions alert the Iraqi government to any additional security needs.

The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) on 12 July released the final list of thousands of candidates for the 18 September elections to the lower house of the new Afghan parliament and to provincial councils, the JEMB announced on its website ( The final list incorporates more than 250 withdrawals and 17 exclusions, 11 of whom were identified by the JEMB as having links to "an unofficial armed group," while five more were disqualified over incomplete supporter lists and one was excluded for failing to resign from a senior government post as required by law, the statement added. Candidates for parliament must have 300 signatures and provincial-council hopefuls 200 in order to get onto the ballot. The final list stands at 2,709 candidates running for 249 seats in the lower house of the parliament and 3,027 candidates for the provincial councils, whose composition is based on local population figures. AT

Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the possible capture of one of four suspected terrorists who is believed to have links to Al-Qaeda and who escaped from a detention facility at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul on 11 July. One of the fugitives was captured by Afghan security forces in the Bagram district of Parwan Province on 12 July, according to the official Bakhtar News Agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 11 July 2005). But Parwan security commander Abdul Rahman Sayyed-Khayli told Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) on 12 July that he has no information of such a capture. A spokeswoman for U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, Cindy Moore, also told AIP that she has no information about any such detention. The four suspects have been identified as threats to Afghan and international security by the United States, which is conducting a massive manhunt to recapture them, AP reported on 12 July. AT

A neo-Taliban spokesman identified as Abdul Latif Hakimi on 12 July said that his forces are offering shelter to the four Arab escapees, AFP reported. "Our mujahedin are looking for the four brothers who managed to escape" from Bagram, Hakimi reportedly told AFP in a telephone interview, adding, "We are pretty confident we will able to take them to a safe place." The four, identified as citizens of Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria, are reportedly the first prisoners to have escaped from the U.S. facility at Bagram. AT

Abd al-Rab al-Rasul Sayyaf, the leader of a former mujahedin party, has called a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report an attack on Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion, Kabul-based Tolu television reported on 12 July. HRW released a report on 7 July titled "Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan's Legacy of Impunity," in which the organization urges Afghan President Hamid Karzai to set up a war crimes court (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2005). The HRW report named several senior past and current Afghan government and political personalities, including Sayyaf, over their alleged involvement in war crimes. An Afghan government spokesman, Mohammad Karim Rahimi, described the HRW report as "incomplete and controversial," according to Tolu television. Rahimi objected to the authors' decision to cover rights violations during one period of time while ignoring other dates. "People who were buried alive [by the communist regimes in the 1980s] were also human," Sayyaf said. "Those who were hanged because they were Muslim were also human." Sayyaf called the HRW report anti-Afghan and anti-Islam. AT

Petro Poroshenko, secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, met with Iranian officials including President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani in Tehran on 12 July, Iranian news agencies reported the same day. Iran is ready to cooperate with Ukraine in the energy and aerospace sectors, ISNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. Outgoing President Khatami told Poroshenko separately that the joint construction of Antonov-140 passenger planes demonstrates the two countries' ability to cooperate on "new technology" projects, adding that the experience can be successfully applied to shipbuilding or the oil industry, ISNA reported. Khatami expressed hope that his government will reach an "effective and executive" agreement on energy transfers through Ukraine, to be pursued "by the next government." Rohani told Poroshenko that Iran and Ukraine can cooperate on Middle East security affairs, including in Iraq, ISNA reported. Poroshenko told him Ukraine would welcome joint investment projects to pipe Iranian gas to the European Union. VS

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran on 12 July that Iran's recent presidential voting was "the height of democracy" and entailed a "referendum" on its political system, adding that "those who engage in negative publicity about Iran's elections must change, and respect the will of the nation," and ISNA reported the same day. Kharrazi told a gathering of foreign ambassadors that the "ambivalent" response of "certain states that followed America" to the "process of democracy" in Iran is "an injustice" to Iranians, ISNA reported. He said that "detente and cooperation" with foreign countries remain "Iran's official, firm, and certain policy," which will "continue in the new government." But, he warned, "We shall certainly not have relations with countries that seek to change Iran's system, [and show] hostility and ill will toward" Iranians, and "that is our permanent policy." VS

Kurds living in Mahabad in western Iran clashed with police after a local activist was reported killed by state security agents, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on 12 July, quoting local journalist Masud Kordpur. Kordpur alleged to Radio Farda that "security agents" killed activist Shavaneh Qader, whose death provoked clashes on 11 July between police and residents in Mahabad. One person might have been killed in the unrest, Kordpur suggested. Kordpur said that Qader was arrested for unspecified political activities and the violent police response to the subsequent protest gathering shows that the Iranian government is hardening its attitude to protests. "Unfortunately, now that the elections are over and Mr. Khatami's government is coming to an end, this is a new type of approach that has led to deaths," Kordpur said. "Most gatherings so far were tolerated." VS

An estimated 200 people gathered near Tehran University on 12 July to urge the release of jailed dissident Akbar Ganji, ISNA reported the same day. Police later beat dozens with batons to disperse the crowd, Reuters and ISNA reported. Authorities also arrested some participants who were distributing unspecified leaflets, ILNA reported. Ganji is reportedly in poor health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005), and the protest was attended by family members and activists including Hashem Aqajari, who has previously criticized Iran's senior clergy, and Abdullah Momeni of the Office for Strengthening Unity, a student group. Separately, the mother of another detainee, Manuchehr Mohammadi, told ISNA on 12 July that she is worried about her son's well-being, as he might have launched a hunger strike. Mohammadi is in prison for alleged involvement in 1999 riots in Tehran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 July 2004). Mohammadi's mother suggested he begun a hunger strike after prison officials told him he would "absolutely" not be given prison leave. But the head of Evin prison, identified only as Khamizadeh, countered that Mohammadi is neither on hunger strike nor has he been denied leave, ISNA reported. VS

A suicide car bomb detonated alongside a U.S. military vehicle in Baghdad on 13 July, killing at least 24 people and wounding 25 others, international media quoted police officials as saying. Seven of the dead were children. At least one U.S. soldier was killed in the blast and three wounded. "The vehicle, laden with explosives, drove up to a Humvee before detonating. Many Iraqi civilians, mostly children, were around the Humvee at the time of the blast," U.S. military spokesman David Abrams said. A Reuters cameraman on the scene said the vehicle detonated between houses, destroying parts of three houses. CNN reported that the Humvee had stopped in the neighborhood to pass out candy to the children when the attack occurred. KR

A bomb exploded at a Sunni mosque in Jalawla, approximately 120 kilometers northeast of Baghdad on 12 July, killing two people and wounding 16, international media reported. Meanwhile, the Syrian government reportedly arrested 11 would-be terrorists en route to Iraq on 10 July, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 12 July. Those arrested include Saudi, Yemeni, Libyan, and Tunisian nationals. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers told U.S. public broadcaster PBS on 12 July that Abu Abd al-Aziz, the "main leader" of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Baghdad, was captured in the capital on 11 July. KR

Judge Wa'il Abd al-Latif, a member of the constitution-drafting committee, told reporters at a 12 July press briefing in Baghdad that progress is being made on the document, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Abd al-Latif said the committee has completed the framework of a constitution. Ahmad al-Safi, a subcommittee member, told reporters on 12 July that the issues that have been agreed upon include the state structure, federalism, sovereignty, language, and religion, Kurdistan Satellite TV reported the same day. KR

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari rejected the resignation of Baghdad Mayor Ala al-Tamimi on 12 July, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Al-Tamimi had requested to be relieved of his post two weeks ago, citing growing frustration over meeting the city's needs in light of budget constraints and terrorism. Al-Tamimi has been working to resolve a water crisis that began in late June following terrorist attacks on the network, leaving much of the capital without potable water. The mayor contends that his job is hindered by budget constraints. The Iraqi government has allocated just $85 million of the $1 billion requested by al-Tamimi for running Baghdad this year. Al-Tamimi is pursuing other funding, however, including a World Bank offer of a $65 million grant to the Baghdad municipality. The mayor met with World Bank officials in Jordan last week to discuss the possibility of a grant, Baghdad daily "Al-Mashriq" reported on 5 July. KR

Adnan Pachachi, head of the Independent Democrats Grouping, told the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that he believes the transitional government is practicing "sectarian discrimination," the daily reported on 12 July. "This government is sectarian because Shi'ite religious parties dominate it and sectarian discrimination is the basis for their existence," Pachachi said, adding: "We do not see any Sunni in [the Islamic] Al-Da'wah and Supreme Council [for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq] parties, which exist on the [assumption] that Shi'ites should have a party, while we say that the Shi'ites should not have a part or the Sunnis [have] a party because we will in fact find among the Shi'ites and Sunnis persons from all tendencies.... It is not their sectarian creeds that drive a wedge between the Iraqi peoples' groups but the policies [of these parties]. Democracy cannot be established on a sectarian or doctrinal basis." KR

Pachachi said his party intends to align with "democratic and secular national forces" in December elections and will enter into discussions with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party to that end, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 12 July. The Sunni leader and former member of the Iraqi Governing Council still contends he was unfairly sidelined from positions within the interim and transitional governments. He claimed in April that he was nominated by Sunni groups to the post of vice president in the transitional government but said that Kurds and Shi'ites influenced the Sunni Arab nomination to the position by allowing three Sunni Arab candidates to be nominated and picking one from the nominations -- which, Pachachi said, essentially left the decision in the hands of Shi'ites and Kurds rather than the Sunni Arabs. KR