|Sunday, 21 October 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, 03-06-10
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA, ISRAEL DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST PEACE PLAN...Foreign Minister Ivanov and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom met in Moscow on 9 June and discussed the "road map" for Middle East peace, Russian news agencies reported. Shalom, who is paying his first visit to Russia as foreign minister, stressed the key role Russia can play in reaching a settlement of the conflict. "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 9 June that Israel was traditionally against Russia playing a major role in resolving the crisis because of Russia's close ties with the Arab world. However, that changed when the Israeli government endorsed the road map, which Russia helped develop, according to the newspaper. It added that Israel now fears that the UN and the EU are being subjected to strong pro-Arab pressure and is prepared to give Moscow a greater role in the peace process. VY
 ...AS WELL AS IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAMIvanov and Shalom also conducted what Ivanov called "very frank and constructive talks" on Iran's nuclear ambitions, ORT reported. Shalom said Israel believes that Iran intends to use its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons and that such plans pose a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire global community, RIA-Novosti reported. Shalom also claimed that the Iranian regime supports extremist organizations and noted that it does not recognize the state of Israel. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Shalom sought to express his concerns over Iran to President Putin during his two-day trip to Moscow, but Putin declined to meet with him because he is already under intense pressure from the United States on this issue. VY
 FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN CONTRACTS IN IRAQ WILL BE HONOREDForeign Minister Igor Ivanov on 9 June told a meeting in Moscow of 60 managers of 40 Russian companies that prior to the passage of UN Resolution 1483 in May, Russia received assurances from the United States that the country's business interests in Iraq would be protected, strana.ru reported. Ivanov said Russia is currently "conducting an active dialogue with all parties to the process and hopes for the participation of Russian companies in the postwar reconstruction in Iraq." Russia has "ensured that none of the financed Russian contracts [in Iraq] will be annulled," Ivanov said. "At worst, some of them will be frozen pending discussion with the internationally recognized government of Iraq after its creation." He noted that the United States agreed to incorporate into UN Resolution 1483 a provision welcoming the Paris Club of creditor countries to help resolve the issue of Iraqi debts. VY
 SUSPECTED TERRORIST CELL BROKEN UP IN MOSCOWFederal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko announced on 9 June that the security service and the Interior Ministry conducted a joint operation in Moscow on 6 June in which 121 terrorist suspects were arrested, Russian and international media reported. Ignatchenko said the Hizb ut-Tahrir network, which was banned as a terrorist organization by Russia in February, "covers all regions of the Russian Federation" and was engaged in recruiting mercenaries and funding and arming armed gangs operating in the North Caucasus and CIS countries. Fifty-five of the individuals arrested are suspected of being active members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. In one raid, explosives, detonators, and extremist leaflets were confiscated from a Kyrgyz citizen who allegedly heads the cell, Alisher Musaev, and in another explosives and detonators were taken from a Tajik suspect, Akram Dzhalolov. He said most of the 121 suspects were from "Mediterranean countries," ITAR-TASS reported. According to Ignatchenko, Hizb ut-Tahrir received funds from a network of Uzbek eateries in Moscow. Hizb ut-Tahrir is active in Uzbekistan, where it has up to 10,000 members, as well as in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries of the region. VY
 COMMUNISTS, YABLOKO WIN THEIR FIRST BATTLE IN STATE DUMA CAMPAIGN...The 9 June initiative of the Communist and Yabloko factions to consider a vote of no confidence in the government won 103 votes -- 13 votes more than the minimum, Russian media reported. On 10 June the Duma Council will pick a date to hold the vote of no confidence. Under Duma regulations, the lower chamber should examine the question within two weeks of receiving the necessary documents, which would be before 13 June; however, 12-15 June are nonworking days, so the organizers of the initiative have suggested 18 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote is not expected to garner the 226 votes necessary to pass (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). JAC
 ...AS ANALYSTS SEE INITIATIVE AS KICKOFF OF ELECTION CAMPAIGNTV-Tsentr's analytical news program "25th Hour" commented on 9 June that Yabloko and the Communist Party have no hope of toppling Kasyanov's government, but that by calling for a no-confidence vote they have launched the campaign for the December parliamentary election. Yabloko needs a target for the election campaign, but President Vladimir Putin is currently enjoying a very high approval rating and is thus not a suitable candidate for criticism. On the other hand, Kasyanov's cabinet, which Putin frequently criticizes, is a convenient target. As for the Communists, their tactics are much more sophisticated, according to the program. By initiating a no-confidence vote in Kasyanov's cabinet, they are targeting their main competitor in the election, Unified Russia, whose leaders -- Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu -- are members of the cabinet. "Ekspert," No. 21, noted that Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who dislikes Kasyanov, has donated money to both Yabloko's and the Communist Party's election campaigns. VY
 DERIPASKA WINS CONTROL OF TVS...Aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska has effectively won control of TVS, "The Moscow Times" reported on 9 June. Igor Linshits and Oleg Kiselev, who were previously allied with Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, announced on 6 June that they will sell their 45 percent stake in TVS to a group of shareholders headed by Deripaska. Commenting on the developments, "Kukly" creator Viktor Shenderovich told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that TVS employees "are still sitting without their wages, and the workers' collective for technical services is already partially on strike." He continued, "If, in the near term, the backlog of unpaid wages is paid and real work is maintained, then we will stay at the station and work." JAC
 ...AND MEETS WITH PUTINMeanwhile, President Putin met with Deripaska on 9 June. Presidential press secretary Aleksei Gromov told ITAR-TASS that the meeting was part of the president's regular discussion with representatives of major Russian companies. According to Gromov, Deripaska told Putin about some large projects in Siberia and the Far East. In a listing of all of Putin's meetings with top business representatives in 2001 compiled by "Kommersant-Daily," Deripaska and Chubais were the president's most frequent guests (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 5 December 2001). JAC
 AUDIT CHAMBER MAKES GOOD ON PROMISE TO SEEK CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF ST. PETERSBURG OFFICIALS...Sergei Stepashin, chairman of the Audit Chamber, announced on 9 June that he is sending documents to the office of the Prosecutor-General on the misuse of funds earmarked for the celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, Russian media reported. According to Stepashin, some 1 billion rubles ($330 million) earmarked for landscaping and road repairs were misused by the city's administration, Interfax reported. Last March, the chamber accused St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev of "systematically ignoring Audit Chamber decisions" and warned that if Yakovlev did not take any measures in response to the chamber's earlier findings, then in April it would "take legal steps against the St. Petersburg administration" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 2003). On 6 June, a criminal case against the former chairman of the city's election commission, Aleksandr Garusov, was launched on suspicion of financial misdeeds by the commission from 2000 to 2002, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2003). JAC
 ...AS NEW DIRECTOR NAMED FOR FSB IN SECOND CITY...Aleksandr Bortnikov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, was named new director of that agency by presidential decree on 8 June, RosBalt reported. The previous director, Sergei Smirnov, is being transferred to the FSB's central apparatus in Moscow, where he will assume the post of deputy director. Bortnikov was in charge of counterterrorist operations. JAC
 ...AND TERRORIST PLOT ALLEGEDLY FOILEDMeanwhile, "The Observer" reported on 8 June that the FSB thwarted a terrorist attack on St. Petersburg planned to take place during the recent jubilee. An unidentified Russian security official told the London-based daily that a plot to drive trucks laden with explosives into the city had been planned by "Islamic fundamentalists." The source said that the perpetrators had been identified but were still at large. JAC
 UNIFIED RUSSIA DECLARES WAR ON 'RED' GOVERNORS...The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party held a meeting on 6 June in Ryazan at which party activists decided to form a special bureau to fight against eight "red" or Communist governors, "Vedomosti" reported on 9 June. Sergei Popov, a Federation Council representative from Ust-Ordynskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug, charged that these governors have sometimes subjected Unified Russia party members to political persecution. The "red" regions were identified as Stavropol Krai and Ryazan, Bryansk, Volgograd, Ivanovo, Kamchatka, Kirov, and Tula oblasts. Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technologies, told the daily that he believes that Unified Russia has had to "change its concept" and is reorienting its election message toward a fight against the Communists. According to "Gazeta," the excursion to Ryazan is the first public initiative organized by Leonid Ivlev, who was detailed to the party by the presidential administration last April (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 4 April 2003). JAC
 ...AS ELECTION COMMISSION SUGGESTS INCLUDING RUSSIAN EXPAT VOTES IN TULA TALLYA number of Communist State Duma deputies are upset by the introduction to the lower legislative chamber of a Central Election Commission (TsIK) proposal to include the almost 100,000 votes of Russian citizens living in Israel in the December State Duma election results for three districts in Tula Oblast, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 June. The leftists fear that the results of the regional election would be "severely distorted" by the votes of the Israeli Russians, who they expect to support more right-wing candidates. Communist Deputy Vasilii Shandybin charged that the TsIK is acting under the "order of the Kremlin." According to the daily, the office of TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov declined to comment on the matter. JAC
 PUTIN SENDS NEW MAN TO OTTAWAPresident Putin has issued a decree appointing Georgii Mamedov Russia's ambassador to Canada, transferring the current ambassador, Vitalii Churkin, to "other work," Interfax reported on 9 June. Mamedov most recently served as deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with the United States, Canada, and the G-8, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to the daily, likely candidates to replace Mamedov at the ministry are Sergei Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the UN, and Grigorii Karasin, Russian ambassador to Great Britain. JAC
 VLADIVOSTOK HOLDS SUCCESSFUL ELECTIONElections to the Vladivostok city duma held on 8 June were declared valid, Russian media reported the next day. Supporters of former Vladivostok Mayor and State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov won 14 of the 25 available seats. Cherepkov told reporters in Vladivostok that he is not excluding the possibility of running in the next mayoral elections, scheduled to take place next spring, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 June. Meanwhile, politcom.ru reported on 30 May that personal relations between Cherepkov and Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin are strained. Commenting on Cherepkov's desire to run for mayor, Darkin said, "His return will disturb the political peace and quiet." Cherepkov was eliminated from the second round of krai gubernatorial elections in 2001 just days before the vote. JAC
 FLOW OF CHINESE WORKERS INTO FAR EAST CONTINUES UNABATEDKrasnoyarsk Krai official Viktor Novikov said recently that the number of Chinese citizens arriving in the krai to search for work has not declined, regions.ru reported on 9 June, citing RIA Press-Line. According to Novikov, this is because labor contracts are concluded at the beginning of the year. However, he said that he believes the corps of Chinese workers will be reduced in the near future. Chinese workers make up 55 percent of the foreign workers in the krai -- the largest group from any country. Also on 9 June, the Federal Border Service announced that it had arrested more than 100 illegal immigrants from China on the Russian-Ukrainian border, regions.ru reported. JAC
 MOSCOW INCREASES TROOP PRESENCE IN CHECHNYADespite the amnesty for Chechen prisoners that was passed by the State Duma on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline " 9 June 2003), the Kremlin is increasing the number of Russian troops in the republic, RTR reported on 9 June. The Defense Ministry has announced that this week it will dispatch an additional 1,000 paratroopers to Chechnya. The paratroopers will join soldiers from the Airborne Forces, Army, Interior Ministry, Border Troops, FSB, and Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) who are already stationed in Chechnya. RTR commented that the fresh deployment is a reaction on the part of the Defense Ministry to the increased activity of Chechen fighters, and shows that the ministry does not place much faith in the effectiveness of the amnesty. VY
 THIRTY CHECHEN FIGHTERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AMNESTYBy the evening of 9 June, over 30 Chechen fighters, most of them from Achkhoi-Martan Raion, had laid down their weapons to qualify for the amnesty that went into effect two days earlier, Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax on 9 June. Dudaev predicted that the number of gunmen who surrender will grow from day to day. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Movsar Khamidov, who supervises the law enforcement sector, estimated the number of Chechen fighters eligible for amnesty at 1,500, Interfax reported. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES NEAR AGREEMENT ON COALITION GOVERNMENT?Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which is the largest faction in the parliament elected on 25 May with 39 of the 131 seats, has concluded an agreement with Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) that will give the latter the post of parliament speaker and three ministerial portfolios, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 June, citing unnamed sources with insight into the ongoing talks. The HHK has not, however, officially confirmed the deal with Orinats Yerkir. Markarian is reportedly personally spearheading the talks with Orinats Yerkir and with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), which has two portfolios in the outgoing government (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 9 June 2003). The HHD accused the Armenian leadership of manipulating the outcome of the 25 May parliamentary ballot, but at the same time signaled its readiness to remain in government providing its demands are met. Those demands reportedly include the post of mayor of Yerevan and the chairmanship of a new anticorruption body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). LF
 EMBATTLED ARMENIAN TV CHANNEL SUBMITS BID FOR NEW FREQUENCYMeltex, owner of the hard-hitting independent television channel A1+ that was constrained to cease broadcasting in April 2002 after losing a tender for the frequency on which it broadcast, is one of two companies that has submitted bids in a new frequency tender, according to the A1+ website on 7 June and Armenpress on 9 June as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). Meltex Director Bagrat Sargsian said the company plans to invest $5 million over the next seven years in A1+, which for the past year has been making programs for sale to other television stations and publishing a newspaper, "Ayb-Fe." Armenia's National Commission on TV and Radio is to announce the results of the tender on 11 June. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MULLS CEC CANDIDATESResponding to a written invitation from parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Azerbaijani opposition parties have begun selecting their respective representatives to the new Central Election Commission (CEC), zerkalo.az reported on 10 June. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, and the Civic Solidarity Party will each have one representative on the 15-member CEC. The Musavat Party, Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA), Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan National Independence Party, which all polled over 1 percent of the proportional vote in the 2000 parliamentary elections but less than the 6 percent required for parliamentary representation, have a total of three seats among them. But DPA General Secretary Sardar Djalaloglu told zerkalo.az he considers it inappropriate to nominate the three candidates before the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights give an official assessment of the final, amended version of the election law. Djalaloglu considers that law undemocratic, and declared that the opposition will continue to lobby for it to be amended. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FEARS BALLOT MIGHT BE POSTPONEDSpeaking to journalists in Baku on 9 June following a meeting of the Democratic Congress that he chairs, Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar drew attention to one amendment to the election law that he claimed was made only after the parliamentary debate, zerkalo.az reported on 10 June. According to Article 179.1, if the incumbent president steps down after the date for presidential elections has been announced, the ballot can be delayed for an unspecified time. (According to the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic, if the president steps down, new elections must be held within three months.) Last week the CEC scheduled the elections for 17 October. LF
 UN OBSERVERS RELEASED IN GEORGIAThe three UN observers and their interpreter who were taken hostage in the Georgian-controlled sector of the Kodori Gorge on 5 June have been released following negotiations on 9 and 10 June between the Georgian leadership and the kidnappers, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. The multimillion-dollar ransom the kidnappers reportedly demanded was not paid. As on three previous occasions, the Georgian authorities agreed not to make any attempt to apprehend the kidnappers, who have been given the chance to leave the gorge. All three previous abductions (in October 1999 and June and December 2000) likewise took place in the upper, Georgian-controlled sector of the gorge. But President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 9 June in his weekly radio address that he is certain the kidnappers were not residents of Kodori but "our enemies and those who betray us," Caucasus Press reported. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DENIES GAS COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA WILL THREATEN PIPELINE TO TURKEYIn his 9 June radio address, Shevardnadze also sought to dispel U.S. concern that Georgia's intention to sign a major agreement with Gazprom could jeopardize the planned export of Azerbaijani Caspian gas to Turkey via Georgia, Interfax reported. Following talks in Tbilisi last week, U.S. State Department special envoy for Caspian energy issues Steven Mann expressed reservations about the planned agreement with Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). Shevardnadze affirmed that Georgia plans to expand energy cooperation with Russia, but denied that doing so would negatively affect energy projects with other countries and international investors. LF
 KAZAKH POLICE ROUND UP ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN ALMATYIn two days of a special operation to detain illegal immigrants, immigration police in Almaty have rounded up more than 500 citizens of CIS countries who are in Kazakhstan illegally, khabar.kz reported on 10 June, quoting the press service of the Almaty internal affairs office. Law enforcement officials say that in the last six months, more than 70,000 illegal immigrants have arrived in Almaty, and the authorities blame the newcomers for almost half the crimes committed in the city, particularly burglaries, pickpocketing, confidence tricks, and prostitution. Kazakhstan has been active in developing ways to prevent illegal immigration into and across its territory; the system of immigration cards for foreigners introduced on 1 June is supposed to be a major step in solving the problem (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2003). Thousands of Tajiks reportedly enter Kazakhstan every spring, some of them without proper documentation, seeking work in Russia or in Kazakhstan itself. In 2003 there were at least two well-publicized cases in which groups of Tajiks were abandoned by their guides in southern Kazakh villages. At the recent OSCE Parliamentary Assembly trans-Asian Forum, Kazakh officials called for international help in dealing with the problem of illegal immigration throughout the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). BB
 OIL LEAKING FROM KAZAKH WELLS INTO CASPIANThree mothballed oil wells have begun leaking petroleum into the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan's Atyrau Oblast, khabar.kz reported on 9 June, and oblast authorities have asked specialists from an international oil firm operating in the region, AGIP Kazakhstan North Caspian Operations, to help stop the leaks. Environmentalists in Kazakhstan and other Caspian littoral states have questioned the intensive development of the Caspian Sea's oil fields that began in the early 1990s, fearing that spills such as the one now occurring in Atyrau would irreparably damage the unique ecology of the Caspian. According to khabar.kz, the leaks are believed to have resulted from a rise in the water level of the Caspian, which flooded the area where the wells are located. Oil slicks resulting from the leaks are reported to be up to a kilometer long and 10 to 20 meters wide. The report notes that this not the first incident of leaking wells on the Caspian: Two years ago, British specialists capped a similar leak at another Kazakh oil field on the Caspian coast. Oblast authorities expect that stopping the current leaks will cost around $1 million per well. BB
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WARNS WESTERN OIL COMPANIES AGAINST KASHAGAN DELAYNursultan Nazarbaev has warned the six Western oil companies that comprise the consortium formed to develop the gigantic Kashagan offshore Caspian oil field that they could face financial penalties if commercial extraction of oil from that field is delayed for two years, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 June. Nazarbaev wants commercial production to begin in 2005, but the consortium believes that in light of the technical difficulties involved in drilling in shallow waters, 2006 or 2007 is a more realistic date. The consortium has invested some $2 billion in Kashagan, which contains some 9 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. LF
 U.S. TO PROVIDE EMERGENCY AID TO TAJIKISTANFollowing talks in Dushanbe on 9 June with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe told journalists that Washington will provide Tajikistan with an additional $10 million in aid to offset the financial losses caused by recent natural catastrophes, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). Pascoe described Tajikistan as a partner and friend of the United States, but at the same time warned that Washington expects the 22 June referendum on broad constitutional amendments to be conducted in accordance with international standards, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 ROGOZIN MEETS MEMBERS OF TURKMEN OPPOSITION-IN-EXILEThe chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Dmitrii Rogozin, has met with members of the Turkmen opposition in exile in Russia to explain his committee's concerns about the situation in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 9 June. According to the report, the opposition members invited to the meeting included former Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Dodonov, former Oil and Gas Minister Nazar Soyunov, and Larisa Shikhmuradova, sister of former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, who is serving a life sentence in Turkmenistan for his alleged role in a purported assassination attempt against Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in November. Rogozin was quoted as telling the exiles that his committee is concerned with three main problems involving Turkmenistan. The first is the revocation of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship, which has resulted in ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan being denied the right to hold Russian citizenship if they want to continue living there. According to Rogozin, this means that Russia must prepare for a large influx of refugees or deportees from Turkmenistan. The second point of concern is the overall state of human rights in Turkmenistan, and the third point is possible threats to Russian national security that might originate in Central Asia, such as drug trafficking to Russia via Turkmenistan. The Russian media and some Russian political figures are investigating the relationship between that country and the Taliban and persistent rumors that the Turkmen leadership is involved in the international drug trade. The Duma Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold hearings on Turkmenistan later in the month. BB
 RUSSIANS SAY CONSULTATIONS WITH TURKMEN OVER DUAL CITIZENSHIP FAILED; TURKMEN DISAGREEConsultations on the problems arising from the revocation of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship were held in Ashgabat last week between Turkmen officials and a delegation from the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russian sources are emphasizing the wide differences between the two sides that remain -- ITAR-TASS on 9 June described the consultations as having failed -- while official Turkmen sources are generally upbeat about the outcome of the discussions, pointing particularly to the Turkmen proposal that a commission be formed to resolve the differences (see the 8 June statement of the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, reported by newsru.com the same day). The differences in the viewpoints of the two sides are illustrated by the Russian and Turkmen figures on the number of people holding dual citizenship: Russian sources say the number is at least 100,000, while Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry admits to 47. In its statement, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry also asserted that many people, some of them criminals, have illegally obtained Russian passports. BB
 RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN TURKMENISTAN BEGINS ISSUING ENTRY VISASThe consular section of the Russian Embassy in Ashgabat has started issuing entry visas to Russian passport holders living in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June. This action is intended to provide protection for Russian citizens, according to an unnamed source in the consular section. The Russian Foreign Ministry does not recognize the validity of a 22 April decree issued by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov that gave holders of dual citizenship until 22 June to decide which citizenship they want to retain. ITAR-TASS commented that the protocol that was signed in April terminating the 1993 agreement on dual citizenship has created a difficult legal situation that will require a long time to resolve. According to the report, several hundred Russian passport holders have lined up at the Russian consulate in Ashgabat in order to obtain the Russian entry visas. BB
 UZBEKISTAN CLOSES ANOTHER BORDER CROSSING TO TAJIKISTANUzbekistan has closed its border crossing to the Pendjikent region of Tajikistan in an attempt to prevent the possible spread of SARS, strana.ru reported on 7 June. Earlier, Uzbekistan closed the main border crossing between Tashkent and Khujand, describing the action as a measure against SARS. The report notes that no cases of SARS have been registered in Tajikistan, but the closing of the crossing point could prove dangerous if Tajik citizens choose to cross Uzbek minefields in order to enter Uzbekistan illegally. It could also complicate the delivery of international humanitarian aid to the Pendjikent region, which was devastated by a severe storm on the night of 6-7 June. While Pendjikent is accessible from the rest of Tajikistan in summer -- the roads cross high passes that are snowed in for part of the year -- the area is far more easily reached from Samarkand. BB
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUSIAN COURT SHUTS DOWN NGOThe Supreme Court on 9 June ordered the closure of the Youth Christian Social Union (MKhSS) after finding it guilty of a number of violations, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to the court, the group unlawfully housed its offices in a residential building and used an unregistered stamp. According to MKhSS deputy head Andrey Kazakevich, the crackdown stems from the group's participation in local elections earlier this year and its cooperation with the opposition United Civic Party (AHP). "Today, Belarus is witnessing a purposeful campaign, approved at the top level, for purging the nongovernmental sector of democratic organizations," AHP leader Anatol Lyabedzka told RFE/RL. Apart from the MKhSS, the Justice Ministry targeted two other NGOs, charging them with violations of the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2003). JM
 UKRAINE WANTS FORMER PREMIER BACK AFTER U.S. TRIALUkrainian authorities want to put former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko on trial, including on murder charges, after a U.S. court hands down its verdict in an ongoing money-laundering case against him, Interfax reported on 9 June, quoting Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun. "The Ukrainian side hopes that Lazarenko can be transferred to Ukraine," Piskun said. "The Lazarenko case is the biggest [criminal case] in the history of Ukraine's history and, perhaps, of the world. It [fills] 6,500 volumes." Lazarenko, Ukraine's premier in 1996-97, is in custody in California facing trial for laundering $114 million through U.S. banks. JM
 MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER VISITING ESTONIAMilo Djukanovic told his Estonian counterpart Juhan Parts in Tallinn on 9 June that the main aim of his two-day visit is to obtain a firsthand account of Estonia's reform experience, BNS reported. Noting that their countries have many common features, such as small population and limited natural resources, he expressed particular interest in economic reforms, privatization, and the creation of a favorable environment for foreign investment. Parts promised to share experience and help Montenegro develop contacts. Djukanovic is scheduled to meet with Economy and Communications Minister Meelis Atonen, parliamentary deputies, Bank of Estonia officials, and representatives of the Enterprise Estonia foundation before returning home on 10 June. SG
 LATVIAN GOVERNMENT PASSES DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO 2003 BUDGETAt an extraordinary meeting on 9 June, the cabinet decided how to allocate the additional 32.4 million lats ($58 million) in the 2003 budget projected by the Finance Ministry, LETA reported. The proposals were sent to the parliament, which is expected to vote on their adoption on 20 June. The new funds are to be distributed to a wide range of areas, with the largest sums going to the health-care system (12.6 million lats), local government (4.9 million lats), the state highway fund (4.6 million lats), agriculture (4.3 million lats), and higher salaries for teachers (3.5 million lats). Agriculture Minister Martins Roze said that he will still try to raise the funds for agriculture to 6.6 million lats. About 1 million lats in anticipated revenues were not allocated so as to help keep the budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP as required by the Maastricht criteria. SG
 LITHUANIA CONSIDERING MILITARY COOPERATION WITH ISRAELDefense Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters after a meeting with the visiting chief of Israeli Air Defense Forces, Brigadier General Yair Dori, in Vilnius on 9 June that agreements on military cooperation and the protection of classified information between their countries are in the final stages of preparation, BNS reported. Dori is heading a delegation of 200 military officers on a two-day visit to Lithuania as part of the "Witnesses in Uniform" program of the Israeli Defense Ministry, which each year sends troops to visit countries where Jewish communities were destroyed during the Nazi Holocaust. The officers toured the General Zemaitis Military Academy and visited locations related to Jewish history and Holocaust memorials. SG
 POLISH PREMIER WILL SEEK VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN HIS CABINETPremier Leszek Miller told a national conference of activists of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 9 June that he wants the Sejm to hold a vote of confidence in his minority cabinet this week, Polish media reported. Miller also abandoned his proposal to hold parliamentary elections in June 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2003), suggesting that they should be held closer to the spring of 2005. Moreover, he said, he is in favor of introducing a flat-rate income tax. Miller's initiatives appear to be an attempt to regain political initiative in the country following the emphatic "yes" vote in Poland's EU referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003). Meanwhile, the same day, President Aleksander Kwasniewski launched consultations with political parties in what is widely regarded as an attempt to pressure the SLD to form a majority cabinet under a new prime minister (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 June 2003). Following his meeting with Kwasniewski late on 9 June, Miller said the president approves of the idea of requesting that the Sejm hold a vote of confidence in the current cabinet. JM
 CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS ON CITIZENS TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM...Speaking on Czech Radio on 9 June, President Vaclav Klaus called on Czech citizens to participate in the 13-14 June referendum on EU membership, CTK reported. Klaus, who often calls himself a "Euro-realist," said the plebiscite will be a historic moment that will not repeat itself. He refrained from recommending how people should vote in the referendum, emphasizing that he is persuaded that ballots will be cast after well-considered decisions and that voters will be guided by common sense. "Each of you will participate in the decision on whether the Czech Republic should voluntarily transfer an important part of its sovereignty to a large transnational entity in exchange for the possibility to participate in its decisions and to be part of it," Klaus said in what observers regarded as a less-than-enthusiastic allusion to EU membership. MS
 ...AND SAYS GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESIGN IF TURNOUT IS LOWPresident Klaus said on the BBC's Czech Service on 9 June that the three-party, centrist government should consider tendering its resignation if turnout in this week's referendum is low, CTK reported. But he added that, "as president," he would not demand the cabinet's resignation. The Czech Republic, unlike neighboring Slovakia or Poland, has no minimum-turnout requirement for the referendum to be declared valid. Klaus also criticized the government's pro-EU campaign on Czech Television, saying it presents everything aspect of EU membership "through rose-colored glasses." Klaus said the information presented is "consciously misleading, marginal, avoiding the core of the matter, one-sided, [and] stressing only the positive [aspects of accession] and the benefits while neglecting the other side." Klaus added that he does not see why Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda should be in charge of EU-accession issues, because this "has nothing to do with foreign policy." MS
 CZECH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW DEFENSE MINISTERPresident Klaus officially appointed Miroslav Kostelka as the Czech Republic's new defense minister on 9 June, CTK reported. His predecessor, Jaroslav Tvrdik, resigned last month, saying planned cuts in the defense budget will negatively affect Czech military reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). Kostelka, a retired army general who served as Tvrdik's deputy, does not belong to any political party. Klaus said after the appointment that Kostelka "must be a minister not for soldiers alone, but for all the citizens of the Czech Republic." Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla expressed confidence that military reforms will continue despite proposed austerity measures. In his first press conference as defense minister, Kostelka told journalists on 9 June that compulsory military service will be abolished by the end of 2006, CTK reported. MS
 CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES EU ACCESSION IN SLOVAKIAForeign Minister Svoboda met with Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky in Bratislava on 9 June, with the topic of the Czech Republic's 13-14 June referendum high on the agenda, TASR reported. Dzurinda said he is confident that the outcome of the Czech vote will be just as successful as that held last week in Poland. Hrusovsky told Svoboda there was a broad consensus among Slovak political forces on the need for a high turnout ahead of his country's 16-17 May referendum, adding that he hopes the Czech referendum will be equally successful. Svoboda also discussed bilateral relations and cooperation within the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) after EU accession. MS
 SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER ACKNOWLEDGES 'MISTAKES' IN EU-REFERENDUM CAMPAIGNPal Csaky said after a meeting of the Slovak cabinet on 9 June that "specific mistakes" were made ahead of the country's EU referendum on 16-17 May, adding that the financial resources allocated for the campaign were insufficient, TASR reported. Csaky, who is in charge of EU accession, did not assume personal responsibility for those mistakes, and said the issue of personal responsibility did not come up during the cabinet meeting. Csaky said turnout was probably influenced by a number of factors, including ongoing debates on the government's planned price hikes and pension reforms, and a scandal that broke ahead of the referendum over the choice of a Hungarian campaign song without securing the composers' permission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2003). Csaky added that the biggest mistake was having begun the pro-EU campaign too late and with a "not particularly inspired" allocation of funds to some media outlets. MS
 JUNIOR SLOVAK COALITION PARTY DEFIANT ON ABORTION LEGISLATIONPavol Rusko, chairman of the junior governing Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO), cited his party's liberal credentials on 9 June in rejecting coalition pressure on ANO to withdraw a controversial proposed amendment to abortion legislation, TASR reported. The other three coalition partners oppose ANO's initiative on extending the period during which abortions may legally be performed on fetuses with genetic disorders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 29 April, 20 and 22 May, and 2 June 2003). Rusko said withdrawing the draft might endanger ANO unity. He added that if no consensus is reached within the ruling coalition, parliament should decide the issue. He also accused the coalition's most vocal opponent of the draft bill, the Christian Democratic Movement, of trying to force the views of the Catholic Church on others. MS
 FIDESZ URGES DISMISSAL OF HUNGARY'S EDUCATION MINISTEROpposition FIDESZ parliamentary-group leader Janos Ader sent an open letter to Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 6 June in which he suggests that retaining Education Minister Balint Magyar will put the cabinet's reputation at risk, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. In the letter, Ader charges that Magyar has repeatedly failed to tell the truth in response to allegations of corruption in public-procurement tenders at his ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May and 2 and 6 June 2003). Medgyessy responded later the same day that Magyar is guilty of no wrongdoing and will remain in his post. Medgyessy said certain staffers at the Education Ministry have been punished for their actions. Meanwhile, "Magyar Nemzet" claimed on 7 June that a recent government inquiry concluded that the Fund Management Directorate at the Education Ministry is unfit for its duties, as it is unable to manage public-procurement procedures. The daily reported that the same inquiry found that the directorate has repeatedly acted in contravention of the law. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER LOSES IN LAWSUIT BY FORMER PRIME MINISTERThe Buda Central District Court ruled on 6 June that statements by Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz on Info Radio in November created the impression that Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban is anti-Semitic, nationalist, and lacks credibility as a politician, "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. The court ordered Juhasz to refrain from such statements in the future, and obliged him to make the verdict public at his own cost within 15 days. Juhasz's lawyer would not say whether he will appeal the verdict. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN PUBLIC OPINION SPLIT ON NUCLEAR POWERA public-opinion poll by Median pollster in mid-May indicates that 46 percent of Hungarians are against nuclear-power plants in general, while 43 percent support them and 11 percent are uncertain, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 10 May. Roughly 22 percent of respondents said they would prefer that the Paks Nuclear-Power Plant be closed, but the majority, 68 percent, would not choose to close it. Of those who would like to see the plant closed, 46 percent would do so even if it caused substantial increases in electricity prices. The poll was carried out one month after a 10 April malfunction at the plant that caused leakage of radioactive gases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2003). The daily also reported that the plant's second block -- where the accident took place -- will not be restarted this year, resulting in a 9.5 billion-forint ($43 million) loss at the plant, instead of the previously expected 1.5 billion-forint profit. MSZ
 KOSOVAR PRESIDENT SAYS INDEPENDENCE IS KEY TO STABILITYPresident Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 9 June that the international community should recognize the independence of Kosova as the best way to provide stability for both the province and the region as a whole, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see End Note below). He was addressing a meeting to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the League of Prizren, which is widely regarded as the birth of the Albanian national movement. The league sought to prevent Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, or Bulgaria from annexing territories inhabited by Albanians. PM
 SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER BLAMES TRANSFER OF POWERS FROM UN TO KOSOVAR INSTITUTIONS FOR KILLINGS...Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade on 9 June that the gradual transfer of some powers from the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) to elected Kosovar officials is somehow responsible for the recent killing of three Serbs in Obilic, dpa reported (see "End Note" below and "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2003). "The transfer of authority to weak and undemocratic provisional institutions -- Albanian institutions, I can say openly -- was a move that left negative consequences," Zivkovic said. "The triple murder in Obilic is the result of such a policy." He did not elaborate. Elsewhere, Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic charged that "Albanian extremists are preparing a series of strikes in regions around Kosovo," including Macedonia and southern Serbia. He claimed that "Kosovo is the main base for terrorists in Balkans. It will take a regional approach to prevent or stop those attacks." It is not clear on what evidence he based his charges. PM
 ...AS CRITICS SUSPECT POLITICAL MOTIVESIn Prishtina, UNMIK spokesman Simon Haselock told the BBC's Serbian Service on 10 June that security forces in Kosova are doing their best but that there is "nowhere in the world" where security forces can provide complete protection to everyone. Several international and Kosovar commentators charged that various Serbian officials are exploiting the Obilic killings to improve their own nationalist credentials in the run-up to the Serbian general elections widely expected in 2003 or 2004. Other commentators noted that the heightened rhetoric from Belgrade comes on the eve of a UN Security Council session to discuss Kosova. The commentators added that Serbia's goals might be either to ensure a long-term role for Belgrade in the affairs of Kosova as a whole, or to shore up Belgrade's bargaining position in possible talks that could lead to an ethnically based partition of the province. PM
 NO BAIL FOR SERBIAN POP STARThe Belgrade District Court ruled on 9 June that Svetlana Raznatovic "Ceca" will have to await her trial on corruption charges in prison, "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 May 2003). The court said it fears she might try to influence investigations into her finances if she is granted bail. PM
 MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS AMNESTY FOR DRAFT EVADERSThe Macedonian government on 9 June adopted a draft law that, once approved by the parliament, would pardon almost 2,800 young men serving prison terms for not obeying their call-up orders, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The draft law exempts a further 12,400 men under 30 years of age from criminal prosecution for not showing up for military service. Justice Minister Ismet Dardishta said those draftees who fled the country will benefit most from the amnesty. A government spokesman called the amnesty a sign of the government's goodwill and humanity, but added that in the future, the government will not tolerate draft dodging (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 January 2003). In previous years, many who refused to serve were ethnic Albanians who regarded the army as an ethnic Macedonian nationalist institution. UB
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS BIGGER ROLE FOR THE BALKANS IN EUROPEAN AFFAIRSMacedonian President Boris Trajkovski told the "Financial Times" of 10 June that the government in Skopje might soon ask the EU to "transform" its Concordia peacekeeping mission into one of advising on border controls and police affairs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April and 30 May 2003). He stressed that "what is important is that we contribute to the creation of a common European foreign and security policy on our own soil," adding that "the whole European project will be of lesser historical importance if the Balkans are not included." Trajkovski also called on the EU to change "the language of stabilization and association...to the language of integration." PM
 REGIONAL FOREIGN MINISTERS GATHER IN BOSNIAN CAPITALBosnian Presidency members Borislav Paravac, Sulejman Tihic, and Dragan Covic hosted a 9 June meeting in Sarajevo of foreign ministers from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey to discuss regional cooperation in several fields as a vehicle for promoting European integration, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Among the specific topics on the agenda were combating organized crime and corruption, as well as endorsing a joint statement reminding the EU that a united Europe will not be complete without the Balkan countries. The meeting took place within the framework of the South-Eastern European Cooperation Process (SEECP). On the sidelines of the conference, Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic and his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta signed an agreement on preventing smuggling and human trafficking and a second agreement on cooperation in seeking European integration. NATO and the EU have long put the countries of the region on notice that they must improve cooperation among themselves, build democratic institutions, and combat crime and corruption if they intend to join Euro-Atlantic institutions (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). PM
 BOSNIAN MINERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKEOne week after downing their tools, an unspecified number of brown-coal miners in Zenica began a hunger strike on 10 June to draw the attention of management and the government to their demands for regular payment of wages, hot meals, and compensation for their transportation to and from work, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM
 WAR CRIMES TRIAL OPENS IN CROATIAThe trial opened in Osijek on 9 June of Nikola Ivankovic and Enes Viteskic, who are charged with killing 19 civilians from the ethnic Serb minority on 11 December 1991 in Paulin Dvor, Hina reported. The bodies were later discovered in Gospic, which is 400 kilometers away, after an apparent attempt to hide evidence of the revenge killings. PM
 CROATIAN WAR CRIMES FUGITIVE WANTS TO MEET WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE HAGUEFormer General Ante Gotovina, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted for the alleged killing of Serbian civilians in 1995, told the Zagreb weekly "Nacional" of 10 June that he wants to meet with representatives of the tribunal and will surrender to them if he cannot persuade them of his innocence, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April, and 13 and 23 May 2003). Gotovina, whose supporters regard him as a war hero, has been on the run for two years. It is not known where the interview -- the first he has given since going underground -- took place. Croatia's failure to find and arrest him has been a central point of contention between the government and the tribunal. He is one of the tribunal's most wanted individuals. PM
 DAUGHTER OF LATE CROATIAN PRESIDENT PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY' IN CORRUPTION TRIALNevenka Tudjman told a Zagreb court on 9 June that she is innocent of graft and corruption charges, Croatian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2003). Her trial has been postponed several times. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER BACKS 'FEDERAL' EUPrime Minister Adrian Nastase said in an interview with the German daily "Handelsblatt" that he believes only a federalized structure can provide a long-term solution to the problems faced by the EU, Mediafax reported on 9 June. "I am aware of the fact that the idea is generally rejected by smaller states and that my statement could produce an uproar in my own country," Nastase said. The premier added that he agrees with the election of an EU president for a mandate of "some three years" and with renouncing the system whereby the EU Presidency rotates every six months. He also said that, "in the future, not every EU member will have a commissioner" on the European Commission. Nastase also said Europe must consolidate its military capabilities, because only then will the continent be fully respected as a strategic partner by the United States. He added that Europe alone will not be capable of ensuring international security and counterbalancing Russia, and thus needs to continue close cooperation with the United States. MS
 WILL ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL TERM BE EXTENDED TO SIX YEARS?The ad hoc parliamentary commission that will submit proposals for amending the Romanian Constitution decided on 9 June to include a proposal by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) to extend the presidential term from the current four years to five or even six years, Mediafax reported. If the proposal is accepted, presidential and parliamentary elections will no longer be held at the same time. In related news, Premier Nastase said on 9 June that a PSD leadership meeting the same day did not discuss a proposal to have separate parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as 2004-05. The proposal was first made last month by PSD Executive Secretary and Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca. Nastase said he will discuss the proposal with President Ion Iliescu on 10 June. MS
 ROMANIAN SENATE REJECTS MOTION ALLEGING 'PSD DICTATORSHIP'The Senate rejected a motion on 9 June submitted by the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM) to debate "PSD dictatorship," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The motion claimed that Romania's Euro-Atlantic integration is threatened by the PSD's continuous undermining of democracy through its frequent use of emergency and other ordinances. The PSD is using such means to circumvent parliamentary debate, thus threatening democracy, the PRM charges. The motion was rejected by a vote of 75 against, 39 in favor, and 11 abstentions. Democratic Party senators supported the motion, while members of the other opposition party, the National Liberal Party, abstained. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania voted against the motion. MS
 GREATER ROMANIAN PARTY CHAIRMAN ORDERED TO PAY 'MORAL DAMAGES'The Supreme Court ruled on 9 June that PRM Chairman and Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor must pay "moral damages" of 300 million lei ($9,192) to former Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu and 75 million lei to National Peasant Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Constantin Ticu-Dumitrescu, Mediafax reported. The tribunal ruled that action against Tudor for "insulting" those two politician must be stopped due to the statute of limitations. Tudor told journalists in April 1998 that Dejeu had denounced his own brother to the communist-era secret police and thus prompted the latter's execution by firing squad. In an article published in 1997 in the weekly "Romania mare," Tudor referred to Ticu-Dumitrescu in particularly derogatory language. Last month, Tudor was similarly sentenced to pay moral damages to former President Emil Constantinescu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2003). MS
 BUCHAREST WORKERS PROTEST UNPAID WAGESThousands of workers from oil-drilling-equipment manufacturer Republica demonstrated in Bucharest on 9 June against the failure by Republica management to pay wages from April and against the management's decision to halt production in June-August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Unrest began last week at Republica, which was privatized in March; but workers on 9 June marched on the presidential office and the government building. The Romanian-Russian-U.S. consortium that acquired a 99.54 percent stake in Republica earlier this year for 1.9 million euros said it might walk away from the contract if the protest continues. The protests continued on 10 June, according the Romanian Radio. MS
 CHISINAU MAYOR WINS RE-ELECTIONChisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean has been elected to a third consecutive term, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported on 9 June. Central Elections Commission Chairman Dumitru Niedelcu said Urechean won the 8 June runoff with 54 percent of the vote, while his communist rival, Transportation Minister Vasile Zgardan, garnered 46 percent. The results are based on returns from 77 percent of polling stations. Niedelcu said the uncounted votes cannot significantly influence the outcome in the capital. Among the 893 mayors elected in the first round and the runoff (25 May and 8 June, respectively), the Party of Moldovan Communists won in 366 localities (41 percent), followed by the Social Democratic Liberal Bloc "Our Moldova" (21.4 percent), independent candidates (17.2 percent), the Democratic Party (8.3 percent), the Popular Party Christian Democratic (4.8 percent), and the Agrarian Democratic Party (2.2 percent). No other formation received more than 2 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. MS
 BULGARIA AND TURKEY HOLD TALKS OVER ELECTRICITY DELIVERIESEnergy Minister Milko Kovachev met with his Turkish counterpart Hilmi Guler in Ankara on 9 June to discuss future electricity deliveries to Turkey, novinite.bg reported. After the meeting, Guler said Turkey will resume purchasing Bulgarian electricity, but in smaller quantities and at lower prices. The state-owned Turkish electricity distributor suspended purchases of Bulgarian electricity in April, citing unfulfilled interstate agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 April and 14 May 2003). UB
 BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY CHALLENGES COURT RULING ON CONTROVERSIAL RUSSIAN BUSINESSMANInterior Minister Georgi Petkanov announced on 9 June that his ministry will challenge a decision by the Sofia City Court to lift a government order issued in 2000 that bars controversial Russian businessman Mikhail Chernyi from entering Bulgaria because of his alleged connection to organized crime, mediapool.bg reported. According to Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov, there is no new information that would justify lifting the travel ban on Chernyi. UB
 SPANISH KING VISITS BULGARIASpanish King Juan Carlos and his wife, Queen Sofia, arrived in Sofia on 8 June at the head of a delegation that included Foreign Minister Ana de Palacio, Bulgarian media reported. The official talks between Juan Carlos, President Georgi Parvanov, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, and parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov focused on Bulgaria's bid for membership of NATO and the EU. The king's program also included private meetings with Saxecoburggotski, who spent much of his life in exile in Madrid. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 EXPLOSIONS ROCK AMMUNITION-SUPPLY DEPOTS IN IRAQTwo separate explosions rocked ammunition-supply facilities in central Iraq on 9 June, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press releases (http://www.centcom.mil). Three Iraqis were killed and two more injured by an explosion at an Iraqi ammunition-supply facility in Al-Diwaniyah on the morning of 9 June, CENTCOM reported. An explosive-ordnance disposal team subsequently set up a buffer zone around the facility and is assessing the site, CENTCOM added. The cause of that explosion is under investigation. Later in the day, a fire set off a series of explosions at a coalition ammunition-supply point in Karbala. There were no reported casualties, and the incident is also under investigation. CENTCOM reported that the fire did not appear to be the result of hostile action. KR
 SUCCESSOR NAMED TO HEAD UN INSPECTIONS TEAMThe United Nations has named Demetrius Perricos as acting head of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Reuters reported on 9 June. Perricos will succeed Hans Blix, the current executive chairman of UNMOVIC, who is set to retire at the end of June. Perricos has served as UNMOVIC deputy executive chairman and director of planning and operations, heading UN inspections in Iraq from November until March. He previously spent 16 years as the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Reuters reported. It appears that the UN will not appoint a permanent successor to Blix until the future of UNMOVIC is made explicitly clear. The United States has objected to the return of UNMOVIC weapons inspectors to Iraq, and appears to have replaced it with its own Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to hunt for the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq is believed to possess (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 6 June 2003). KR
 IRAQI ROYAL RETURNS TO BAGHDAD...Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, the cousin of Iraq's last king, returned to Baghdad on 10 June after 45 years in exile, AP reported. Some 1,500 tribal shaykhs and monarchists turned out to welcome al-Husayn, who told the crowd, "After so many years outside Iraq, I have come home to my country." Al-Husayn is the cousin of the late King Faysal II, who was assassinated during the 1958 "Free Officers" coup in Iraq. A London investment banker by training, he is also the head of the opposition group-cum-political party, the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM). The group was active in U.S.-supported meetings among opposition groups before the war in Iraq. KR
 ...AND OFFERS VEILED CRITICISM OF U.S. ADMINISTRATIONAl-Husayn has long vowed that he would not seek to reinstate the monarchy in Iraq unless it were sanctioned by the Iraqi people. While he called for a dignified, free, and democratic Iraq in Baghdad on 10 June, he also appeared critical of the U.S. administration in Iraq, saying, "It is a shame that in a rich country like Iraq, people don't get their salaries." Al-Husayn's CMM backed Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaydi, the exile who returned to Iraq in mid-April and appointed himself mayor of Baghdad before being forcibly removed by coalition forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April and 2 May 2003). KR
 FORENSIC EXPERTS SAY MASS GRAVE IN IRAQ IS RECENTU.S. and British forensic experts have reportedly determined that a mass grave found near Salman Pak, located approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, contains the bodies of victims killed by the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein in the final days or weeks before it was toppled, "The Washington Post" reported on 10 June. "This is the first grave we've found of such recent vintage," U.S. Army Colonel Ed Burley told the daily. The site is located inside a former Iraqi security-forces compound outside the village. Burley said witnesses from the village said the grave contained around 100 bodies, some of which have already been removed by family members for burial. Two witnesses from Salman Pak told "The Washington Post" that they found 115 bodies in a ditch inside the compound on 10 April, one day after the Iraqi capital fell to coalition forces. Some of the victims were wearing military uniforms and are thought to be army deserters, while others were dressed in striped pajamas -- the "uniform" of prisoners. They were found with their hands bound behind their backs, and some had bags tied over their heads. All had been shot in the head, "The Washington Post" reported. KR
 U.S.-LED ECONOMIC COUNCIL FOR IRAQ HOLDS INAUGURAL MEETINGThe U.S.-led economic council that was established to pull Iraq out of its economic quagmire met for the first time on 9 June to discuss job creation and foreign investment, Reuters reported the same day. U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer oversaw the talks, attended by representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and some 30 members of the private sector and political parties in Iraq. Bremer reportedly told journalists following the meeting that several proposals were put forward, but he did not elaborate. Asked to name one project that has generated post-Hussein employment for Iraqis, Bremer said, "One of the things that is already creating jobs is the fact that we are paying salaries to almost 2 million civil servants.... We plan to finish the process of paying the back salaries from April this week, and then we will commence right away to pay the May and June salaries." Bremer noted that the payment of salaries has contributed almost $500 million to the Iraqi economy over the past three months. KR
 TEHRAN COURT SUSPENDS SUPREME LEADER'S DAILYA Tehran court on 9 June suspended the "Kayhan" daily newspaper for one day -- 10 June -- IRNA reported. Tehran Prosecutor Hojatoleslam Said Mortazavi complained that "Kayhan" -- which is affiliated with the supreme leader's office -- insulted the Iranian legislature when it recently reported that a raging bovine entered Yemen's legislature and injured several people. "This is not so strange, because in a country where candidates are not checked in any way, any cow can get into parliament," "Kayhan" wrote in the article in an apparent jibe about draft legislation that would modify the Guardians Council's power to vet candidates for elected office (see item below). "Kayhan" Managing Editor Hussein Shariatmadari told the Iranian Labor News Agency that he is rejecting the verdict because a newspaper should be allowed to continue publishing until the charges are explained to the accused and the investigation is concluded. "Moreover, we believe that we have not committed any offenses," Shariatmadari said. Some 80 publications have been closed since April 2000. BS
 IRANIAN PARLIAMENT, LEGISLATURE BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS ON BILLSThe Iranian parliament and the Guardians Council, which must vet all legislation on Islamic and constitutional grounds, have begun negotiations to resolve a dispute over two controversial bills submitted by the executive branch, IRNA reported on 9 June. One of these bills calls for a reduction in the Guardians Council's ability to "supervise" elections, a power that it uses to reject candidates. The other bill would increase presidential powers over other governmental institutions. Legislator Mohsen Tarkashvand said the Guardians Council is behaving in a cooperative manner. Tarkashvand said the Guardians Council has agreed to relinquish the extra powers granted by the fifth parliament for vetting candidates, and it will concentrate on supervising elections. Discussions on the presidential-powers bill, which would empower the executive branch to ignore judicial verdicts it finds unconstitutional, are scheduled for 10 June, according to Tarkashvand. Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati expressed the hope during the council's 7 June meeting that the legislators will eliminate the problems discovered by the council, so when it reviews the legislation again it will not have to find it incompatible with Islam and the constitution, Iranian state radio reported. BS
 AFGHAN LEADER BLAMES FOREIGN TERRORISTS FOR SUICIDE ATTACK...Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said that foreign terrorists backed by foreign countries, not the Taliban, were responsible for the 7 June suicide attack against German troops in Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003), "The New York Times" reported on 10 June. Karzai said that the Taliban movement is "finished," adding that the terrorism threat in Afghanistan is "mostly foreign." While Karzai did not name a country, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali blamed Pakistan, saying "terrorists and antigovernment elements cannot stay for long inside the country, so they take refuge in these areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border," the New York daily reported. AT
 ...AS CHIEF JUSTICE CALLS FOR MORE U.S. HELP IN FIGHTING TERRORISMMawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari in a speech on 8 June said that the United States trained Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviets in the 1980s and that Washington should today increase its efforts to eradicate the remnants of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network from Afghanistan, Hindukosh news agency reported. Speaking a day after the suicide attack against German troops in Kabul to an audience that included Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, Shinwari said that Afghanistan is incapable of fighting terrorism alone. AT
 GERMANS TAKE PREVENTIVE MEASURES FOLLOWING SUICIDE ATTACK IN KABULAs an immediate measure to safeguard German troops serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul after the 7 June suicide attack that killed four Germans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2003), the Budeswehr command has decided to no longer transport troops by bus, dpa reported on 9 June. Major Guenther Bender, spokesman for the German ISAF contingent, said that troops in busses could not be protected "when here or there a lone attacker with huge quantities of explosives blows himself up." The Germans are planning to use special armored jeeps to travel around Kabul. Bender added that German soldiers "will continue to go out on patrol and maintain a public presence." AT
 NEW ZEALAND TO SEND MILITARY UNIT TO AFGHANISTANPrime Minister Helen Clark has announced that New Zealand will send up to 100 troops to Afghanistan to support Karzai's Transitional Administration, dpa reported on 9 June. The New Zealand contingent will operate a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003) -- not as peacekeepers, but as facilitators of the civilian contribution to reconstruction. Clark said that her country views Afghanistan as "a high-threat area" and that New Zealand's decision was based on its desire to be "a good international citizen." New Zealand is scheduled to establish the PRT in September. The report did not indicate where the contingent will be based. PRTs are part of a U.S. plan to promote reconstruction projects in Afghanistan while safeguarding security. Some international aid agencies have criticized the plan for blurring the line between military units and aid personnel. AT
 AFGHAN OFFICIAL DENIES RIFT WITH PAKISTAN OVER CORPSESRahmatollah Musa Ghazi, an Afghan diplomat in Islamabad, denied reports that Pakistan has lodged a protest with Afghanistan over the transfer of 20 corpses to Chaman from Kandahar on 5 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2003), Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 9 June. Ghazi said that he and Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Nangialay Tarzi met on 9 June with Pakistani officials, who did not "mention or protest [the incident], nor were we handed any protest note." According to AIP, a report by Pakistan's official news agency, APP, indicated on 9 June that Tarzi had been summoned to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry to receive a strong protest over the transfer of dead bodies over the border. The disagreement began when Afghan authorities sent the bodies of 20 rebels killed on 5 June in fighting near Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province to Pakistan, claiming that they were not Afghans. Pakistan refused to accept the bodies. AT
 UN CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE REFORM OF AFGHAN MILITARYThe United Nations has strongly urged the Afghan authorities to reform the country's military structure to make it more representative, the BBC reported on 9 June. According to the report, key posts in the Defense Ministry are still controlled by ethnic Tajiks, "despite promises to make its staff more closely reflect the country as a whole." The UN warned that if the situation were not improved, efforts to disarm the warlords would be adversely affected. A Human Rights Watch report issued on 5 December 2002 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 December 2002) claimed that Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim "continues to command an army whose primary allegiance is to him." AT
 OFFICIALS SILENT ON DEADLY BOMBING IN KANDAHARSecurity officials in Kandahar Province have refrained from commenting on a bomb explosion that claimed the lives of three Afghans in Panjawi District, Radio Afghanistan reported on 9 June. The explosion occurred inside a bus on 2 June, "Erada" reported. According to Radio Afghanistan, the cause of the incident is not yet known. Not commenting on deadly attacks in key provinces may signify a new tactic by officials to understate the level of instability in the country. For now, the media in Afghanistan are keeping the pressure on the authorities to remain accountable to the public. AT
 THE STATUS OF KOSOVA REVISITEDBy Patrick Moore
The future status of Kosova has returned to the international political agenda. Some basic issues nonetheless remain unchanged since the province became an international protectorate in June 1999.
About two months before his 12 March assassination, the late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic broke with the play-for-time approach of most Serbian politicians and called for talks on the status of Kosova as soon as possible (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003). Most observers suggested that he did so in order to outflank other politicians in competition for nationalist support amid expectations that Serbian general elections will be called in 2003 or 2004.
Few other Serbian leaders have chosen to demand immediate talks, but many have repeatedly raised the question of Kosova. To name but three, they include Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, and Minister for Human and Minority Rights Rasim Ljajic, all of whom have high profiles in Serbian party politics.
The Belgrade politicians stress that any final settlement of Kosova's status must be based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which states that Kosova is part of Yugoslavia. Prior to the formal dissolution of that state in 2003, Belgrade and Podgorica agreed that Serbia should replace Yugoslavia in the wording.
This was done although all political parties representing Kosova's more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority oppose any link with Serbia -- or Serbia and Montenegro, for that matter. The Albanians -- and many foreign observers -- also argue that the reference in Resolution 1244 to Kosova being part of Yugoslavia was not intended by the international community to give Belgrade a right to reoccupy the province some day, but rather to provide a legal cover under which Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic could withdraw his forces from the province without a total loss of face after his military defeat by NATO.
Another point heard in Belgrade is that the status question requires a "regional" or "European" solution, aimed not at creating "new states" but at tackling regional issues such as "organized crime."
Kosovar opinion is wary of such ideas, sensing that they are a ploy to buy time until the EU can pressure Kosova into a political relationship with Serbia and Montenegro, much as Brussels forced those two republics in 2002 to set up a joint state. Kosovars also note that "combating organized crime" is a phrase often used by Serbian (and Macedonian) nationalists to mean "cracking down on Albanians" the same way that some Western politicians talk about "law and order" as a euphemism for cracking down on their own ethnic minorities.
Some Kosovar commentators argue that countries that start and lose wars can expect to lose territory, and that is the case where Serbia's relations with Kosova are concerned. Such Kosovars also caution that encouraging Belgrade to think that it has any role in the province would only cause its politicians' appetites to grow with the eating.
Kosovar fears have not been dispelled by the seemingly secretive way in which the outgoing head of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), Michael Steiner, and EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana have dealt with the composition of Kosova's delegation to the 21 June EU summit in Thessaloniki. After some reluctance, Steiner agreed to include unspecified elected Kosovar officials in his group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 6 June 2003). Speaking in Podgorica on 6 June, Solana said he "expects" that Prishtina and Belgrade will "begin a dialogue" at the summit. One observer remarked that the secretive approach recalls that of parents with their children on the eve of a trip to the dentist.
In the course of discussions on both sides of the Atlantic and across the Balkans in recent months, several observers have pointed out that the status question should be settled sooner rather than later in order to provide a clear perspective and hence a secure political framework for the province (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001).
According to this argument, the international community must continue to insist on standards of democracy, a market economy, and minority rights, while at the same time acknowledging that these standards are best achieved when the future status of Kosova is clear and fixed. Kosova's elected president, Ibrahim Rugova, explicitly supports this view.
And about the status itself, all Kosovar Albanian parties are unanimous: Independence is the only option. They stress that a joint polity involving Serbia is out of the question following Milosevic's crackdown of 1998-99, and that any attempts by the EU or anyone else to force such a solution on Kosova is likely to lead to renewed armed violence. Furthermore, vague talk about "European solutions" does not inspire much confidence on the ground in the Balkans, even if the speaker is someone like Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta.
Some Kosovar commentators also point out that independence for the province should not be seen as a generous gift by an all-powerful international community, but rather as the logical continuation of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia and the post-1945 worldwide trend toward decolonization based on self-determination and majority rule.
The international community has made it clear that the final status of Kosova -- whatever it may be -- must include guarantees for the Serbs and other minorities. These include freedom of movement, the right to return to one's former home, and the basic security enjoyed by all citizens in democratic countries. The Kosovars have been put on notice repeatedly that they must do more to ensure such rights for the Serbs and control ethnically motivated violence by ethnic Albanians.
But the Kosovars are unlikely to move beyond the dependency mentality that is often evident in Bosnia unless they are allowed to take more responsibility for their own affairs (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 May 2003). Steiner has, in fact, begun to devolve some -- but not all -- of UNMIK's powers to Kosova's elected institutions.
His insistence on maintaining control over the Thessaloniki delegation, however, as well as the seeming secrecy surrounding Brussels' plans for Kosova, have led more than a few Kosovars to feel they are still being treated like a colony.
Another concern in Prishtina is the foreigners' continuing attempts to involve Belgrade in talks regarding Kosova's future, even if it is clear that Kosova will not be returned to Serbian rule outright (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 May 2003). One school of thought in the international community argues that no solution regarding Kosova's status can be lasting if Serbia does not play a role (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002).
But while most Kosovar politicians are willing to discuss "technical issues" with Serbia -- and with all of Kosova's neighbors -- they make it clear that Serbia forfeited any political role there during the 1998-99 conflict.
Some observers argue that encouraging Serbia into thinking it has a future in Kosova is a bad idea for at least two reasons. First, it channels energies in Serbia away from that country's truly important concerns, which are crime, corruption, and poverty. The killing of Djindjic left no doubt as to how deeply rooted and serious these problems are (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May 2003).
Second, it encourages Kosova's Serbian minority to seek political solutions in Belgrade rather than in Prishtina, with the international institutions there and with their ethnic Albanian neighbors. In late December, Djindjic told a delegation of visiting Serbs from Kosova that they should look for answers to their problems in Prishtina, not just in Belgrade.