RUSSIA SAYS IRAN HEADED 'IN WRONG DIRECTION'...
A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on April 12 that the statement the previous day by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad that his country has successfully enriched uranium shows that Iran has taken a "step in the wrong direction," Russian news agencies reported. The spokesman added that the Iranian move "goes counter to the decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and the [position] of the UN Security Council. [Iran should] stop all work to enrich uranium, including research." The diplomat noted that his government backs the mission of IAEA head Mohammad el-Baradei to Tehran, which is slated to begin on April 12 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 13, 29, and 31, 2006, and "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," January 19, 2006). Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later on April 12 that one should not make "conclusions in haste" regarding Ahmadinejad's statement, adding that "emotions too often run high over the Iranian nuclear program." PM
...FOR WHICH PRO-KREMLIN ANALYST BLAMES U.S.
Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies, which is closely linked to the Kremlin, said that the latest Iranian statements about having joined the group of countries with nuclear technology show that Tehran is ready to scrap the results of all previous talks with the international community and indicate Iran's readiness to provoke a dispute regardless of the consequences, Interfax reported. Markov added that Tehran's moves are the result of "a total inconsistency in U.S. policies.... The crisis suggests that the United States' power has failed to evolve into a leadership capable of uniting the largest countries in an effort to solve global problems." He added that Washington's foreign-policy mistakes include unspecified differences with Russia over the "post-Soviet space." He stressed that "since the world community will not be able to shape any pertinent policy [on Iran because of the United States]...the crisis, by all accounts, will linger on, culminating in the emergence of one more nuclear power, then another one, and then more in a chain reaction." PM
IS RUSSIA UPBEAT ON WTO...
Maksim Medvedkov, who is Russia's chief trade negotiator, said in Moscow on April 11 that his country intends to pursue membership talks for the World Trade Organization (WTO), Reuters reported. In previous days, the Russian authorities gave several signals to the effect that Moscow is prepared to put off seeking admission until it can negotiate better terms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006). Medvedkov, however, stressed that he is optimistic about the admission "process, and I personally think [it will be finished] in weeks, or in about two months. It will certainly not be years." He noted nonetheless that "there is a certain delay in completing these talks..., but that does not mean that we will break them off. They will carry on for as long as necessary." He added that "the Americans promised us they would [agree to Russia's admission] before the [Group of Eight industrialized countries July] summit. They have said that openly." Some recent high-placed leaks suggested that Washington is obstructing Moscow's WTO membership bid. PM
Institute of Political Studies Director Markov told Interfax on April 12 that Moscow will not agree to join the WTO on the terms the organization has proposed. "I believe it is unlikely, because the current [Russian leadership] is firmly oriented toward sovereignty," he said. He argued that Russia's "first problem [with the WTO admission terms] is the problem of access of [foreign] insurance companies to the Russian market." He believes that if these companies gain such access, Russian banks "will be drained [of assets], and the Russian banking system will lose its sovereignty." PM
RUSSIA TO CONTINUE AID TO PALESTINIANS
Foreign Minister Lavrov confirmed in Moscow on April 11 that his government will not follow the lead of Washington and Brussels and cut its aid to the Palestinian Authority, which is now governed by the radical Hamas, RIA Novosti reported. Lavrov said that "we should [instead] look for options to provide aid for the Palestinians in a transparent, verifiable way, and such options can be found without exacerbating the situation in Palestine. Russia plans to provide such aid and in such a form." Lavrov also said that "Hamas must recognize Israel and sit down at the negotiating table in keeping with the [international community's] terms." A Hamas delegation visited Moscow in March but did not show signs of willingness to revise that group's hard-line stance toward Israel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 6, 8, and 15, 2006). PM
NEW DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TO DEAL WITH CIS
Recently appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov was quoted by "Izvestia" on April 12 as saying that his new duties will center on relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 10, 2006). PM
COURT THROWS OUT SUIT AGAINST NGO
Moscow's Basmany Court refused on April 11 to hear a case against the Research Center on Human Rights brought by the Federal Registration Service (FRS), the website of the Moscow daily "Kommersant" (http://www.kommersant.com) reported. The authorities claim that the NGO has not provided them with the required information on its activities for the past five years. The center denies the charge. After the court's ruling, center Director Lyubov Vinogradova said that she fears that this is not the end of the NGO's troubles because the FRS refuses to accept the registration documents the center has attempted to file and thereby prevents the NGO from being legally registered. The NGO is an umbrella organization bringing together 13 human groups and was founded in 1992. It includes the Union of Committees of Soldiers Mothers as well as the Moscow Helsinki Group led by Lyudmila Alekseyeva, a frequent RFE/RL contributor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 29 and 30, and February 1, 2006). PM
DE FACTO COALITIONS TO BE BANNED FROM ELECTIONS?
The State Duma Council, which sets the legislative agenda, discussed on April 11 proposed legislation that will ban parties from including members of other parties on their electoral lists, "The Moscow Times" reported. Deputy Aleksandr Kharitonov, who is a co-author of the draft and a member of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, called the proposal a way to "bring order into the ranks of the parties" and prevent "people from running from one party to another." He argued that "people should decide which party they belong to, and if they want to change parties, they should make a written request" to that effect. The Moscow-based daily wrote that "the amendments, if passed into law, would slam shut the last door allowing small parties to join forces and compete against Unified Russia in Duma elections [in 2007]. The liberals have used this approach to win seats, most significantly during Moscow City Duma elections last December, when politicians from the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and other liberal parties placed their names on Yabloko's ticket to collect enough votes to overcome the 10 percent barrier." Sergei Mitrokhin of Yabloko called the latest legislative proposal "barbaric." In 2005, the State Duma enacted Kremlin-backed legislation forbidding the forming of electoral blocs or coalitions of more than one party. Many members of Unified Russia's current faction were elected in 2003 as independents. PM
BUREAUCRACY GROWS UNDER PUTIN
The Federal Statistics Service released figures on April 11 showing that the number of state officials grew by 10 percent in 2005, the daily "Kommersant" reported. The paper added that this increase is a direct reflection of President Vladimir Putin's concentration of authority in his "power vertical." PM
ST. PETERSBURG RESIDENTS PROTEST AGAINST HATE CRIMES
About 1,000 people demonstrated in St. Petersburg on April 11 against a recent wave of racist attacks there, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Protesters held pictures of foreigners who were killed in the city in recent years and chanted "End fascism!" One banner read "Saint Petersburg is a cemetery for foreigners." Georges Nounga, a friend of the African student killed on April 7, called on the protesters to join forces against xenophobia: "I don't think there is a single country in Africa or in Latin America where Russians are killed simply because they are Russian. This doesn't happen anywhere. What should be done? We must answer, we must have a dialogue" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006). PM
ADYGEYA PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION ASSAIL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY
In separate statements on April 10 and 11, Republic of Adygeya President Khazret Sovmen and two public organizations representing Adygeya's small Adyg/Cherkess minority condemned the continuing support by presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak for the merger of Adygeya with the surrounding Krasnodar Krai, regnum.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 2, 2006, and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," March 10, 2006). In an interview published in the daily "Kommersant," Sovmen said it was that pressure from Kozak that impelled him to offer on April 4 to step down as president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 5, 2006). Sovmen was scheduled to meet late on April 11 with Russian presidential-administration official Sergei Sobyanin to discuss his future, lenta.ru reported; no details of those talks have been made public. LF
UN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING LAW AND ORDER IN CHECHNYA
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres briefed journalists in Moscow on April 11 on his visit to Chechnya and Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Noting with approval the pace of reconstruction in Chechnya and ongoing efforts to restore law and order, he said he hopes the security situation will improve to the point that the UN agency will be able to open an office in Chechnya. Guterres said that of the $88 million his agency provides annually for relief in the North Caucasus, 80 percent goes to Chechnya, but he added that those funds are no substitute for a large-scale Russian government development program for the region. LF
CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER URGES COOPERATION BETWEEN POLITICAL FORCES
Speaking in Gudermes at a gathering of representatives of various political parties, Ramzan Kadyrov urged them to work together more closely to rebuild political and economic stability, according to RIA Novosti as cited on April 11 by kavkazweb.net. He proposed creating a special body to coordinate the drafting and implementation of a single development strategy. Kadyrov noted that there are "dozens" of political parties in Chechnya of whose existence people are unaware, and he proposed creating an umbrella organization -- the Union of Political Forces of the Chechen Republic -- to coordinate the work of political organizations and the regional branches of national political parties. LF
ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISMISSES CRITICISM OF GAS DEAL WITH RUSSIA...
Serzh Sarkisian, who is also co-chairman of the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, told journalists on April 11 that the agreement under which Armenia will sell to Russia's Gazprom the still incomplete fifth unit of the Hrazdan thermal power plant is more advantageous than a deal planned earlier under which Iran would have acquired that facility, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 7 and 11, 2006). Sarkisian said Russia will pay more and complete construction faster than Iran would have done. LF
...DECLINES TO COMMENT ON PLANS FOR 2007 ELECTION
Sarkisian dismissed on April 11 as "not particularly pressing" journalists' questions about his plans for the parliamentary elections due in May 2007, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Three months ago, Sarkisian promised to specify in February whether or not he would contest that ballot as a candidate for the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 17, 2006). Armenian media have speculated about a putative election alliance between Sarkisian and prominent businessman Gagik Tsarukian, who recently established his own political party, Prosperous Armenia, reportedly with the blessing of President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," February 10, 2006). LF
JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER CRITICIZES ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT'S PRIVATIZATION POLICY
Hovannes Markarian, a senior lawmaker representing the Orinats Yerkir party of which parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian is chairman, deplored on April 11 as legally null and void the privatization of dozens of state-owned enterprises between 2001-04, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Baghdasarian endorsed that criticism, claiming that 48 of the 69 properties in question were sold off without a tender. Opposition lawmaker Viktor Dallakian said the enterprises in question were sold for a total of 976 million drams ($2.2 million), far less than their market value of 5 billion drams. But Karine Kirakosian, head of the government State Property Management Department, said the government was not at fault given that the legislature approved the privatization program. Galust Sahakian of Prime Minister Markarian's HHK said privatization "is the most controllable process" in Armenia. LF
AZERBAIJAN WANTS OSCE MINSK GROUP TO PRESSURE ARMENIA
In an April 11 interview with Trend news agency, Azerbaijani presidential-administration official Ali Gasanov argued that unless the OSCE Minsk Group is prepared to exert pressure on Armenia to agree to a settlement of the Karabakh conflict on terms acceptable to Baku, there is no point in it continuing its efforts to mediate a settlement, day.az reported. Also on April 11, Minsk Group French co-Chairman Bernard Fassier advised Azerbaijan to stop looking backward to the past and focus instead on reenergizing the flagging peace process. Fassier expressed concern at the upsurge in cease-fire violations since the inconclusive meeting outside Paris in February between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, and at the use by both sides of belligerent rhetoric. He advised Azerbaijani journalists to refrain from using the terms "aggressor" and "victim" to denote Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively. Fassier also divulged that following a visit to Baku and Yerevan next week by the U.S. and Russian Minsk Group co-chairs, the three co-chairs will meet in early May in Moscow, where they hope to finalize the "fundamental principles of a basic agreement" on resolving the conflict, echo-az.com reported on April 12. LF
ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH PLOTTING COUP
Ismail Mansimov, who served as an aide to former Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliyev, has been charged with planning a coup d'etat, mass unrest, and the seizure of power by force, day.az reported on April 12. Aliyev was dismissed and arrested in October on similar charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 19 and 20, 2005). Also on April 12, presidential-administration official Gasanov rejected the claim by Aliyev and former Health Minister Ali Insanov that they are political prisoners, day.az reported. LF
PREMIER REJECTS CALL FOR GEORGIA TO QUIT CIS
Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze reacted emotionally on April 11 to Russian officials' refusal to begin talks with Tbilisi on the recently imposed ban on imports of Georgian wine, and to statements by Tajik officials who see the ban as an opportunity to increase exports of Tajik wine to Russia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006). Burdjanadze proposed that Georgia withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in protest. But Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, who on April 10 postponed a planned visit to Moscow in light of the Russian refusal to discuss the wine ban, said a withdrawal from the CIS is not currently on the agenda, Caucasus Press reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry has formally apologized to Tbilisi, saying individual officials' statements about Tajikistan filling the gap left by Georgia on the Russian wine market do not reflect the Tajik government's position, Caucasus Press reported on April 12. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PROPOSES 'CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE' WITH OPPOSITION
Burdjanadze said on April 11 that the parliamentary majority is ready for "a constructive dialogue" with those opposition deputies who have launched a boycott of parliament proceedings to protest the suspending of Valeri Gelashvili's deputy's mandate, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3, 2006, and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," April 11, 2006). Also on April 11, two nonaligned parliament deputies, Lasha Narchemashvili and Gocha Pipia, added their signatures to those of 36 opposition parliamentarians on a formal list of conditions for suspending their boycott, Caucasus Press reported. Those conditions include equal representation for the opposition on election commissions, the introduction of elections for the post of mayor of Tbilisi and other cities, and the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. LF
KAZAKH SPEAKER MEETS WITH RUSSIAN COUNCIL HEAD
Sergei Mironov, chairman of Russia's Federation Council, met with Kazakh Senate speaker Nurtai Abykaev on April 11, Khabar reported. Their discussion focused on cooperation between the two countries' parliaments and the upcoming May 30 meeting of parliamentary leaders from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan). Mironov said that the May meeting will concentrate on ensuring the legislative basis for implementing SCO accords in order to reduce obstacles to business cooperation between SCO member states. DK
CONTROVERSIAL CANDIDATE WINS KYRGYZ BY-ELECTION...
According to preliminary results announced on April 10, Ryspek Akmatbaev won a seat in parliament in a by-election in Balykchi district, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Tuigunaly Abdraimov, chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission, announced that Akmatbaev received 79.22 percent of the vote. Akmatbaev, who has been frequently linked in news reports to organized crime, was running to occupy a seat left vacant when his brother, Tynychbek Akmatbaev, was killed during a visit to a prison in October 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 21, 2005). Akmatbaev's candidacy was recently suspended, prompting his supporters to demonstrate in Bishkek, where President Kurmanbek Bakiev met with them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 31 and April 3, 2006). A court subsequently reinstated Akmatbaev's candidacy. DK
...BUT ELECTION COMMISSION DECLINES TO REGISTER HIM...
Abdraimov told a press conference in Bishkek on April 11 that the Central Election Commission has suspended Akmatbaev's registration as a member of parliament in light of an ongoing investigation of murder charges against him, akipress.org reported. Abdraimov said that the commission has asked a Bishkek court to rule first on the criminal case against Akmatbaev, after which the Central Election Commission will make a decision on whether or not to register Akmatbaev as a member of parliament. DK
...AND REFERS TO THREATS
Abdraimov told journalists that he believes Akmatbaev called him and threatened his life on April 10 after learning that his registration has been suspended, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "Akmatbaev called my [mobile] phone and threatened to kill and destroy me," he said. "I recognized him by his voice." Abdraimov said that Akmatbaev also threatened several other members of the Central Election Commission, akipress.org reported. Abdraimov said that he will ask Prosecutor-General Kambaraly Kongantiev and Deputy Interior Minister and Bishkek police chief Omurbek Suvanaliev to ensure that commission members receive protection. Abdraimov said the commission "will act within the framework of the law" despite those threats, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Taalaibek Kurmanaliev, a lawyer representing Akmatbaev, told Reuters, "This looks like a game by the [Central Election Commission] to stop Akmatbaev from getting into parliament." DK
U.S. DIPLOMAT OFFERS KYRGYZSTAN GUARDED ENCOURAGEMENT...
Richard Boucher, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, met with Kyrgyz President Bakiev, Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov, and representatives of civil society in Bishkek on April 11, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "I think that Kyrgyzstan has managed to achieve a certain amount of progress since March of last year," Kabar quoted Boucher as saying. He noted, however, the lagging pace of constitutional and judicial reform and of the fight against corruption, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "I know there is a lot of disappointment in some of those areas," Boucher said. "People think it hasn't moved as fast as it should have, and I think we are, frankly, very interested in regaining the momentum on those issues." He further commented, "I think everyone agrees that Kyrgyzstan needs a new constitution." In an apparent reference to the controversy over Ryspek Akmatbaev's run for parliament, Boucher said, "If a criminal can enter parliament, that's going to raise a lot of concerns about the investment environment and the political environment in Kyrgyzstan." DK
...AND SPEAKS OUT ON DIFFICULTIES IN UZBEK RELATIONS
In an interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Kyrgyz State Television, Boucher addressed the difficulties the United States is currently experiencing in its relations with Uzbekistan. "Coming after the massacre in Andijon, where such horrible abuses occurred from the [Uzbek] government, we find that there is very little that we can do," he said. "We are not going to support a government that would act that way to its own citizens, and we are not going to be able to work with the citizens if the government keeps acting this way. So, it is getting more and more difficult." DK
KYRGYZ MINISTER DISPUTES PRESIDENT'S REQUEST TO STOP PARTY ACTIVITIES
Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism issued a statement on April 11 disputing President Bakiev's recent request that all ministers suspend their membership in political parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006), akipress.org reported. The ministry stated that Kyrgyz law on state employment limits officials' ability to engage in political-party activities, but does not forbid it entirely. Industry Minister Almazbek Atambaev is the head of Kyrgyzstan's Social Democratic Party. Bakiev has given ministers until April 13 to end their political-party activities or resign their posts. DK
TURKMEN PRESIDENT CREATES COMMITTEE ON CHINA PIPELINE DEAL
President Saparmurat Niyazov has created a committee to supervise the implementation of economic accords signed during his recent visit to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 4, 2006), turkmenistan.ru reported on April 11. Niyazov told a cabinet meeting on April 10 that the most important agreement involved the construction of a natural-gas pipeline for exports to China, Turkmen television reported. He said that construction should begin in January 2007. Niyazov himself will head the implementation supervision committee, which he said will meet once a month. DK
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO STAGE MARCH ON CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY
The Belarusian opposition is planning to stage a march in Minsk on April 26 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl catastrophe with or without official permission from the city authorities, Belapan reported on April 11, citing opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich. Milinkevich noted that the march will be a politically charged event, and the release of political prisoners will be high on its agenda. "[The march] should show the Belarusians that there are increasingly more people who are not indifferent, who are able to defend their dignity," he said. "We're beginning a siege of the fortress, an information and mobilization siege. And it is very important for us to know to what extent our civil society is ready to stand up against the regime." In the official application for permission to hold the march, Viktar Ivashkevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front, asked the Minsk City Executive Committee to allow some 1,000 demonstrators to gather on October Square at 6 p.m. on April 26, march along Independence Avenue to the National Academy of Sciences, and hold a rally there. JM
FIVE PROTESTERS JAILED IN MINSK
A court in Minsk sentenced five activists of the opposition Conservative Christian Party to jail on April 11 for their participation in an April 7 demonstration in downtown Minsk against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's reelection for a third term, Belapan reported. Party Deputy Chairman Yury Belenki was sentenced to 15 days as protest organizer. Ilya Shymanski and Uladzimir Mikalayeu also received 15 days each, while Eduard Bokiy and Uladzimir Bahach were given 10 days each. Some 30 people demonstrated on October Square the day before Lukashenka's official inauguration to protest election fraud. They displayed placards proclaiming "No to Fascism" and waved white-red-white flags, which were banned in the wake of the 1995 referendum on integration with Russia, granting the Russian language official status, and new state symbols. JM
BELARUSIAN TRADE-UNION BOSS TO INQUIRE ABOUT EU VISA BAN
Leanid Kozik, chairman of the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, told journalists in Minsk on April 11 that the EU decision the previous day to ban him from entering any EU member state was unlawful, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. The EU imposed a visa ban on 31 Belarusian officials, including President Lukashenka, to punish them for their role in the flawed March 19 presidential election and the subsequent crackdown on opposition protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 10 and 11, 2006). "I am more European than they [EU foreign ministers] are and can trace my family tree back to the 15th century," Kozik said. "I will be writing letters and asking, 'Sir, why have you made that decision?'" JM
WILL UKRAINE HAVE AN 'ORANGE,' 'GRAND,' OR SOME OTHER COALITION?
President Viktor Yushchenko met on April 11 with leaders of the five political forces that won parliamentary mandates in the March 26 elections to discuss the formation of a governing coalition, Ukrainian media reported. "We are standing at the starting line. We have time, several weeks, to walk this road with dignity," Yushchenko said at the meeting. Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous political bloc, told journalists after the meeting that a coalition agreement between her bloc and two other allies in the 2004 Orange Revolution, Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party, may be ready by April 13. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov from Our Ukraine refused on April 11 to rule out a deal with the Party of Regions led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, nor did he reject the idea of a possible "grand" coalition incorporating the Orange Revolution allies and the Party of Regions. But the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc press service ruled out that latter option, affirming in a press release later the same day: "Our position is clear -- the cooperation of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and the Party of Regions within a single parliamentary coalition is impossible." JM
UKRAINIAN COURT BANS PUBLISHING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS
The Supreme Administrative Court has prohibited publication in the newspapers "Holos Ukrayiny" and "Uryadovyy kurer" of the results of the March 26 parliamentary elections released by the Central Election Commission (TsVK) earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006), Ukrainian news agencies reported, quoting TsVK member Serhiy Dubovyk. The election results acquire legal force only after publication. The court decision follows an appeal by the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc, which charged that the TsVK violated the procedure for publicizing the election results. According to the TsVK, the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc obtained 2.93 percent of the vote, thus narrowly failing to overcome the 3 percent barrier for parliamentary representation. JM
SERBIAN OFFICIAL ASSAILS BOSNIA'S GENOCIDE LAWSUIT
Dragoljub Micunovic, an official from the Democratic Party and the former speaker of Serbia and Montenegro's parliament, said on April 10 that Bosnia-Herzegovina's genocide lawsuit against Belgrade could destabilize the region, FoNet and B92 reported the same day. Micunovic, who recently testified in the civil trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, called the suit a propaganda tool for the Bosnian government. He said, however, that Bosnia's chances are "50-50" for a genocide conviction against Serbia, because "one-sided arguments are being presented to prove Serbian war crimes, despite the fact that there are Muslims who are being prosecuted in front of the tribunal as well." The court is scheduled to hear testimony in the case until May 9 and a binding ruling is expected in July. BW
SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS MLADIC ARREST IMMINENT
Vojislav Kostunica said on April 12 that Belgrade will arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic in the near future, international news agencies reported. "We are now very, very close to responding to this obligation so as to be able to accelerate our path toward Europe," Reuters quoted Kostunica as telling reporters after a meeting in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac. "We will do everything to cooperate. Serbia will do all it can, right to the end, to achieve this," he added. The European Union has extended deadlines for Serbia to arrest Mladic twice this year. The latest EU deadline for arresting and extraditing Mladic expires at the end of April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 27 and April 3, 2006). BW
EU PRAISES MACEDONIA'S ELECTORAL REFORM, LAMENTS DELAYS ON RESTRUCTURING POLICE
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana on April 11 praised Macedonia's reform efforts but lamented delays in implementing a restructuring of the police, Reuters reported the same day. In a meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Illinka Mitreva in Brussels, Solana lauded Skopje's recent adoption of electoral reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 31, 2006) and its plans to adopt judicial reform. But Solana "regretted the government's intention not to proceed with the parliamentary adoption of the police law prior to parliamentary elections," Reuters quoted a statement from Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach as saying. "As a candidate country, more than before, it is expected from Macedonia that no time should be lost in order to identify the priority areas," the statement continued. Macedonia officially became a candidate for EU membership in December. BW
DUTCH CONTRIBUTE 2 MILLION EUROS TO IDENTIFY BOSNIAN WAR DEAD
The Dutch government has donated 2 million euros ($2.42 million) to the Sarajevo-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to help identify victims from the wars in former Yugoslavia, dpa reported on April 11. According to the ICMP, the Dutch government requested that "the funding be used to assist in the identification of victims of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in particular of the 1995 fall of Srebrenica." Of the estimated 8,000 Muslims killed by Serbian paramilitaries in Srebrenica in July 1995, only 2,100 bodies have been identified. BW
MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS CHISINAU SUPPORTS RUSSIA'S WTO BID
A leading Moldovan trade official said on April 11 that Chisinau favors Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) because it would mean the establishment of clearer rules governing bilateral trade, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "From the time Moldova entered the WTO in 2001, it was put on the working group for Russia's accession...and [has been] maintaining a permanent dialogue with Moscow," Oktavian Kalmik, chief of trade policy in Moldova's Economy and Trade Ministry, said at a news conference in Chisinau. Russia and Moldova have been locked in a trade dispute since Moscow, citing safety considerations, banned the import of Moldovan and Georgian wines on March 27 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 28, 2006) "We discussed the arising problems during the talks and tried to solve them in accordance with the WTO norms," Kalmik said. BW
WHY RUSSIAN NATIONALISM NOW THREATENS RUSSIA'S FUTURE
Russian ethno-nationalism, which arose in response to the nationalism of non-Russian groups, now represents a threat not only to the rights and freedoms of all citizens of the Russian Federation but also to the territorial integrity and even future of that country, according to a Moscow commentator on ethnic issues.
In an essay posted on politicom.ru on April 11, Sergei Markedonov, a senior specialist on ethnic relations at the Moscow Institute of Political and Military Analysis, argues that there are three interrelated reasons behind the rise of Russian nationalism and the dangers it poses for all concerned.
First, he points out, never before in Russian history have ethnic Russians formed such a large percentage of the population of the state that bears their name. According to the 2002 census, Russians now make up more than 80 percent of the population of the Russian Federation, far more than in the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire.
As a result and in response to the rise of nationalism among both the peoples of the now-independent former Soviet republics and the non-Russians within the Russian Federation, ever more ethnic Russians -- some polls suggest more than 60 percent, Markedonov says -- now support the slogan "Russia for the Russians."
That approach not only contributes to the exacerbation of tensions between ethnic Russians and other groups like the Chechens with whom the Russians have been locked in conflict, but also dramatically increases the number of groups that Russians now view as their "ethnic opponents," thus setting the stage for more clashes.
Second, Russian ethno-nationalism has become the province of extremist groups because neither liberal human rights activists nor the Russian government itself have been either willing or perhaps able to speak up on behalf of ethnic Russians in many cases.
On the one hand, many liberal democratic leaders typically have felt that they must "give preference to" non-Russians' claims as against those of ethnic Russians. And on the other, the Russian government has acted more like an wicked "stepmother" than a loving "mother" in its relations with ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics.
As a result, Russian nationalism has most often been defined not by moderates but by extremists whose hostility and violence toward minorities and whose statism, anti-Westernism, and isolationism combine to undermine the future of Russians and non-Russians alike -- and even that country as such.
And third, instead of offering a moderate variant of Russian nationalism, one consistent with the country's constitutional freedoms and developmental requirements, he argues, the Russian government has alternated between ignoring or condemning Russian nationalism as such or seeking to exploit it for its own political goals.
By failing to address Russian nationalism head-on during most of the 1990s, Markedonov says, the Russian government has allowed it to grow to its current dimensions and in a way in which its most extreme and violent forms have increasingly assumed center stage.
And by playing with Russian nationalism, by viewing it as a potential ally to fight the ethno-nationalism of non-Russian groups, the Moscow analyst continues, the Russian authorities are seeking to "put out a fire with gasoline" and thereby creating a situation with "a domino effect" they are unlikely to be able to control.
By approaching Russian nationalism in this way, Markedonov points out, the Russian authorities have simultaneously encouraged the national extremists themselves and cowed many more moderate Russians into thinking that the government in fact supports what the radicals do.
At present, the Moscow commentator concludes, many people in Russia are comforting themselves by noting that extremist Russian nationalism is not a single thing but rather a congeries of various ideas and factions. But that situation may not long continue, if the Russian government and Russian moderates do not act soon.
(Paul Goble is the former publisher of "RFE/RL Newsline" and a longtime Soviet nationalities expert with the U.S. government. He is currently a research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia.)
SIX STUDENTS KILLED IN SCHOOL ATTACK IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Six students were killed and 24 students and teachers injured when two rockets hit a mosque that was also being used as a school near Asadabad, the capital of Konar Province, on April 11, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. Asadabad deputy police chief Mohammad Hasan Farahi blamed the "enemies of Afghanistan" -- a term used by Afghan authorities for the neo-Taliban -- for the attack, AFP reported on April 11. The dead children were between the ages of 7 and 10, Farahi said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT
AFGHAN PRESIDENT URGES INDIA AND PAKISTAN TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS...
On an official visit to India on April 11, Afghan President Hamid Karzai supported New Delhi's position by urging India and Pakistan to address other regional and bilateral issues even if the Kashmir dispute is not resolved, PTI News Agency reported. When reminded that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has linked other outstanding issues between his country and India to the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, Karzai was reportedly evasive, saying that the people of Afghanistan "desire that the two countries get over their problems." Karzai reiterated his preference for a tripolar structure between his country, India, and Pakistan for the development of the region. Karzai arrived in New Delhi on April 9 for his fourth official visit to India (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 10 and 11, 2006). AT
...AND UNDERGOES MEDICAL CHECKUP
President Karzai underwent a medical checkup at an Indian military hospital on April 9, the New Delhi daily "The Indian Express" reported on April 11. Karzai also reportedly underwent minor surgery on April 10. The hospital did not disclose the nature of Karzai's aliment, while the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi only disclosed that Karzai complained of some discomfort. The 49-year-old Karzai is reported to be in good health. AT
OUTGOING AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES HIS REPLACEMENT, FUTURE PLANS
In an interview with Kabul-based Tolu Television on April 10, outgoing Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said that he was surprised by President Karzai's decision to remove him from his post. On March 22, Karzai approved a list of names for his new cabinet, from which Abdullah was dropped in favor of Karzai's international-affairs adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, as the next foreign minister (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," April 3, 2006). Abdullah said that there were no disputes between him and Karzai, but in "working relations...everyone has his own comments and opinions." Abdullah dismissed the notion that he was a member of the opposition while serving as Karzai's foreign minister since late 2001. Abdullah said that the question of why he was replaced should be put to Karzai. Abdullah promised to "enlighten the people" in "the coming days" on the process that led to the December 2001 Bonn agreement establishing the interim administration in the country. Abdullah told Tolu that he doesn't think that Karzai was pressured by any foreign country to remove him, and that he does not have any interests in becoming president. AT
CANADIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS AFGHAN DEPLOYMENT
All four political parties represented in the Canadian Parliament backed the country's military deployment in Afghanistan in a special debate on April 10, Toronto's daily "National Post" reported on April 11. "Our security begins very far from our borders," Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor said, adding that Canada should not "wait for terrorists to appear" in its cities. The current Conservative-led government in Ottawa received unwavering support from the Liberals, under whose government Canada committed the 2,300 troops to Kandahar Province in restive southern Afghanistan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that his government in "the very near future" will consider whether to extend the current mandate of Canadian military commitment beyond February 2007. However, Harper said that Canada is in Afghanistan "for the long term." Canada took over responsibility for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar from the United States in June 2005 and in February 2006 began replacing U.S. combat forces deployed in Kandahar. AT
TEHRAN CLAIMS TO MAKE LOW-ENRICHED URANIUM
Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced on April 11 in Mashhad that Iran has enriched uranium, state television reported. He said, "Praise be to God, the start of the operation and achieving results from the pilot and testing process of this complex and the establishment of its technical and operational knowledge, which is considered as the frontier of passing this progressive knowledge...were successfully passed by enriching uranium at 3.5 percent on 20/01/85 [April 9, 2006]." Aqazadeh predicted bigger things in the future, saying, "This has paved the way for starting [the process] at industrial-scale in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And in order to enter this phase, we are trying to operate a complete 3,000 [-centrifuge] complex by the end of this year." Speaking afterward, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said, "we have completed the nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level and our young people enriched uranium to the enrichment level required by nuclear power plants on 20 Farvardin [9 April] of the current year, 1385," state television reported. The level mentioned by Aqazadeh, 3.5 percent, is considered low-enriched uranium and is appropriate for a light-water reactor. BS
POLITICS PRECEDES IRAN'S URANIUM ANNOUNCEMENT
President Ahmadinejad hinted in speeches the preceding day that he had major nuclear news (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006), but Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani stole his thunder. Rafsanjani told the Kuwait News Agency on April 11 that the 164 centrifuges at Natanz were put into operation and produced enriched uranium. He noted that many more units must be made operational in order to attain an industrial level of production. Hashemi-Rafsanjani's suggestion that Iran is far from industrial production of enriched uranium may be intended as a reassurance to the international community. It also could represent an effort to undermine Ahmadinejad politically. BS
HAMAS DELEGATION SEEKS FUNDING IN TEHRAN
A delegation of officials from Hamas left for Tehran on April 11 in an effort to secure funding, Reuters reported. Hamas hopes that Iran will make up for the decision by Israel, the United States, and the European Union to halt direct aid to the Palestinian government as long as Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel. The March salaries of many Palestinian government employees have not been paid, Reuters reported. The Hamas delegation also will attend the "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conference in Tehran from April 14-16. In an April 11 interview with IRNA about the conference, Mohammad Dehqan, the parliamentary representative from Chenaran and Torqabeh, said that the Islamic community must be vigilant in order to prevent the spread of Zionism. Such vigilance, he continued, is behind the success of "Palestinian fighters" against Israel. Dehqan said Israel intends to occupy "Middle East lands as well as big chunks of Asian states." BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM
President Ahmadinejad has discussed the issue of unemployment -- estimated to be at least 11 percent and closer to 20 percent -- in several recent speeches, hinting at his recognition that he must satisfy voters' most immediate concerns. He announced in the northeastern town of Quchan on April 11 that 180 trillion rials (approximately $200 million) will be distributed in the provinces for job creation, IRNA reported. In a speech in Mashhad on April 10, he said, "Employment is one of the most important issues to be tackled by the nation and the government," state television reported. "There are so many young people who have a specialization. They have learned and studied but there is no employment opportunity for them." BS
ARAB FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING SET TO OPEN IN CAIRO WITHOUT IRAQ
A meeting of Arab foreign ministers on the subject of Iraq was set to open in Cairo on April 12 without Iraq's participation, international media reported. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari announced on April 11 that Iraq will boycott the meeting to protest remarks about Shi'ite Muslims made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 10, 2006). While stressing that Mubarak offended all Iraqis with his remarks, al-Ja'fari said he doesn't believe the slur will affect relations between Iraq and Egypt or Iraq and the Arab world in the long term. "We view what happened as urgent, but we do not wish to pin our relations with the Arab League and all Arab countries, even Egypt, on certain remarks. We took a position and we will note the reactions. We hope that the other side reconsiders their remarks and acts wisely so that we may pick up from where we last left off," RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq quoted him as saying. KR
IRAQ'S AL-DUJAYL TRIAL RESUMES BRIEFLY
The Al-Dujayl trial resumed briefly on April 12, only to be postponed for another five days, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. Judge Ra'uf Rashid Abd al-Rahman opened the session by asking defense lawyers to remember to notify the prosecutor of the names and titles of their witnesses 15 days prior to their appearance in court. Abd al-Rahman then asked the prosecution to call their expert witnesses, but the prosecution asked for more time because the experts have not finished analyzing the handwriting samples of the eight former regime officials on trial. Abd al-Rahman pointed out that Saddam Hussein and his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti refused to provide the court with handwriting samples. The judge then ended the session, saying the trial will resume on April 17. KR
DATE FOR NEXT IRAQI PARLIAMENT SESSION ANNOUNCED
Adnan Pachachi, acting speaker of parliament, told reporters on April 12 that the next session of parliament will convene on April 17, Reuters reported. "I spoke to the heads of all the political blocs and I sensed a true intent from all to push the political process forward," Pachachi said. He noted that the upcoming session will focus on the formation of a national-unity government. Asked if he thought the parliament would need to address the deadlock over the nomination of prime minister, Pachachi said: "From now until [April 17], we believe there will be an agreement on some of the problems." KR
IRAQI PRESIDENT DISCUSSES PLAN TO DEFEAT TERRORISM
President Jalal Talabani said on April 11 that he believes terrorism in Iraq can be defeated this year if Iraq succeeds in forming a national-unity government, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. Speaking at a reception at the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, Talabani said that he believes the "honorable resistance" can be brought into the political process. Those "who call themselves the honorable national resistance have begun to understand that democratic political work is the way to go, especially now that Iraqis are enjoying full democratic liberties and are free to speak their minds and express their views and principles," he said. "I think these citizens are now seeing the truth and we hope to reach a solution that ends violent armed action [by them] sometime soon." Talabani said the followers of Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and other foreign terrorists will be dealt with militarily. He added that the government will confront terrorists through a comprehensive political, media, economic, and military plan. KR
FORMER PRIME MINISTER WARNS AGAINST DELAYING FORMATION OF IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has urged the United Iraqi Alliance to end the standoff over the nomination of a candidate for prime minister in order to save Iraq from what he called a growing power vacuum, Al-Jazeera television reported on April 12. Allawi said he fears the security situation in Iraq could deteriorate even further if a government is not formed quickly. "The ethnic and sectarian tensions and the lawlessness in Iraq are one stage of civil conflict. I warn that we should not let things reach the point of no return," said Allawi, who now heads the secular party Iraqi National List. He added that Iraq is now faced with two options: either form a government from the members of the Council of Representatives based on the results of the December elections, or form a government "to save the country from the tragedy it is facing." KR
SUNNI ARAB POLITICIAN SAYS IRAQ COULD DROWN IN 'RIVER OF BLOOD'
Salih al-Mutlaq, head of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, told London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an April 10 interview that a government needs to be formed this week or else "Iraq will drown in a river of blood," the daily reported on April 11. Al-Mutlaq claimed that the behavior of some Iraqi politicians is tantamount to some sort of sadism, that "People are being slaughtered in the streets while politicians are busy looking for posts." On the issue of choosing a candidate for prime minister, al-Mutlaq said that politicians should choose a candidate from outside the political blocs, "a technocrat who would be chosen by consensus. Otherwise, the circle of fighting and violence will continue, and grow wider." KR