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RFE/RL Newsline, 04-02-05

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>


CONTENTS

  • [01] RUSSIA EXPECTS AS MUCH AS $1 BILLION FOR SAKHALIN-3 OIL LICENSE
  • [02] RUSSIA SEEKS LARGER PRESENCE FOR ITS OIL COMPANIES IN IRAQ
  • [03] LDPR DEPUTY CLAIMS U.S. USED SMALL NUKES IN IRAQ
  • [04] ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL DENIES REPORTS OF 'RADICAL CHANGES' IN GENERAL STAFF
  • [05] COMMUNISTS, UNIFIED RUSSIA CRITICIZE PROPOSED BAN ON COMMUNISTS IN EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS...
  • [06] ...WHILE IT GETS CHEERS FROM THE LDPR
  • [07] COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER ISSUES ANOTHER ULTIMATUM...
  • [08] ...AND CONTINUES TO RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT FRAUD DURING DECEMBER ELECTIONS
  • [09] SOLDIERS' MOTHERS NGO TO BECOME POLITICAL PARTY
  • [10] DEPUTIES ASK PRIME MINISTER TO ADJUST LAW ON CAR INSURANCE
  • [11] ST. PETERSBURG TO MAKE PRIVATE PARKING LOTS CITY PROPERTY
  • [12] NO COMPLAINTS SO FAR FROM THE CITY OF VLADIMIR
  • [13] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES BACK INTERNATIONAL ADMINISTRATION IN CHECHNYA
  • [14] ARMENIAN PREMIER PLAYS DOWN OPPOSITION PARLIAMENT BOYCOTT
  • [15] ARMENIAN LIFERS BEGIN NEW HUNGER STRIKE
  • [16] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN DEPLORES OSCE FAILURE TO RESOLVE KARABAKH CONFLICT...
  • [17] ...AND DECREES NEW HOUSING FOR DISPLACED PERSONS
  • [18] ABKHAZ OFFICIALS WELCOME GEORGIAN CRACKDOWN ON CRIMINAL GANG...
  • [19] ...WHILE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING COMMANDER SAYS IT WAS UNJUSTIFIED
  • [20] CONTROVERSIAL GEORGIAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS
  • [21] GEORGIAN NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER RESIGNS
  • [22] KAZAKH INTERIOR MINISTER ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF JOURNALIST'S BEATING
  • [23] KAZAKH INFORMATION MINISTER SAYS MEDIA MORE LAW-ABIDING IN 2003
  • [24] MEDIA CENTER ATTACKED IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN
  • [25] INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST MEETS WITH IMPRISONED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER
  • [26] RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR ACCUSES TAJIK PUBLICATIONS OF DISTORTIONS
  • [27] BELARUSIAN POLITICIANS DENY ALLEGED OIL DEALS WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN
  • [28] KYIV PLANS TO PUMP OIL TO EUROPE VIA ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE
  • [29] UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EUROPEAN OIL TRANSPORT ACCORD, KYOTO PROTOCOL
  • [30] KUCHMA PLANS TO SET UP UKRAINIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE AFTER PRESIDENCY
  • [31] LATVIAN LEADERS CONDEMN RUSSIAN DUMA'S STATEMENT ON EDUCATION REFORM
  • [32] LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS WASHINGTON
  • [33] POLISH, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS IRAQ, ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE
  • [34] CZECH CABINET APPROVES APPOINTMENT OF EU COMMISSIONER
  • [35] SLOVAK ELECTORATE FACES DUAL VOTE IN APRIL...
  • [36] ...PROMPTING CRITICISM FROM COALITION LEADERS
  • [37] SLOVAKIA DECIDES AGAINST PURCHASING SUPERSONIC FIGHTER JETS
  • [38] TILOS RADIO SPARKS NEW HUNGARIAN SCANDAL
  • [39] WHAT WILL THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF SERBIA BE...
  • [40] ...AND WHAT COMES NEXT FOR SERBIA?
  • [41] KOSOVA'S PRIME MINISTER SAYS THE UN SHOULD LEAVE
  • [42] MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW ARMY CHIEF
  • [43] BOSNIA PREPARES FOR SMALLER PROFESSIONAL ARMY
  • [44] HAGUE PROSECUTOR SAYS INDICTED BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL ELUDED ARREST
  • [45] EUROPEAN COMMISSION WARNS ROMANIA OVER INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS
  • [46] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH U.S. COUNTERPART
  • [47] ROMANIA STICKS TO PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
  • [48] MOLDOVA GETS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER
  • [49] IMF SAYS MOLDOVA FAILED TO SERVICE $26 MILLION IN FOREIGN DEBT
  • [50] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED IRAQI OIL PAYMENTS...
  • [51] ...BUT NOT THE PRIME MINISTER'S PROPERTY HOLDINGS
  • [52] AFGHAN LEADER DISMISSES INTELLIGENCE CHIEF
  • [53] ISLAMABAD HANDS OVER AFGHAN WARLORD TO KABUL
  • [54] COALITION SPOKESMAN URGES LOW-RANKING AFGHAN MILITANTS TO ABANDON THE FIGHT
  • [55] FORMER AFGHAN MONARCH IN INDIA FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT
  • [56] JAILED IRANIAN JOURNALIST HOSPITALIZED
  • [57] IRANIAN GUIDANCE MINISTRY DEFENDS PUBLICATIONS
  • [58] IRANIAN GRAIN IMPORTS ON UPSWING
  • [59] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES IN LEBANON
  • [60] JAPANESE MILITARY EQUIPMENT ON WAY TO IRAQ
  • [61] YEMENI WITH POSSIBLE LINKS TO IRBIL BOMBING DETAINED IN IRAQ
  • [62] RUSSIA SEEKS LARGER PRESENCE FOR ITS OIL COMPANIES IN IRAQ
  • [63] RUSSIAN DUMA DEPUTY CLAIMS U.S. USED SMALL NUKES IN IRAQ
  • [64] LARGEST UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CLOSED ON CHARGES OF ANTI-SEMITISM Volume 8 Number 23 Thursday, 5 February 2004 Russia

  • [01] RUSSIA EXPECTS AS MUCH AS $1 BILLION FOR SAKHALIN-3 OIL LICENSE

    Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said on 4 February that the state should be able to get up to $1 billion in a new tender for the license to develop the Kirinskii block of the Sakhalin-3 oil fields, Prime-TASS reported on 4 February. A consortium of two U.S companies -- ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco -- and Russia's state-owned Rosneft won a 1993 tender to develop the field, but Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 29 January that the government has canceled the results of that 11-year-old tender. He noted that no license for the field was ever issued because of the absence of legal guarantees, and said the government will hold another tender if it is deemed expedient. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Aleksandr Vershbow told an American Chamber of Commerce investment conference in Moscow on 4 February that he is "very concerned" that the Russian government's decision not to issue the license to the U.S.-led consortium "could set back our bilateral energy cooperation," "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 February. American Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Somers said the decision "gets close to...expropriation." JB

    [02] RUSSIA SEEKS LARGER PRESENCE FOR ITS OIL COMPANIES IN IRAQ

    Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 4 February that Russia "plans to expand the presence of Russian oil companies in Iraq," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov said the government is currently involved in "intensive" discussions with the Iraqi Governing Council on the issue. He dismissed recent media reports that Russian oil companies received bribes from the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein as "absurd and aimed at preventing our companies from building their businesses in the region." Meanwhile, a high-level source in Iraq's Oil Ministry confirmed that the 270 entities and individuals from nearly 50 countries that were named last week by a Baghdad newspaper did indeed have dealings with Hussein's regime, newsru.com reported on 4 February, citing Reuters. However, the source said the contracts were not given as bribes in return for political support, but rather were legal contracts distributed on the basis of the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January and 3 February 2004). JB

    [03] LDPR DEPUTY CLAIMS U.S. USED SMALL NUKES IN IRAQ

    State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, or LDPR) claimed on 4 February that the United States used low-yield nuclear weapons during last year's war in Iraq, citing "information received from my sources, among them Iraqi sources," Interfax reported on 4 February. According to Mitrofanov, small nuclear weapons were used at Baghdad's international airport, as a result of which "people were evaporated, turned into shadows, and the airport's buildings destroyed." Afterward, the airport was sealed off, Mitrofanov alleged. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, he said, should be invited to the Duma to be asked whether the United States used such weapons in Iraq and what Russia is doing "to create appropriate combat effectiveness." State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), however, said Ivanov should not be asked to appear before the Duma, given that Mitrofanov's Iraqi sources "look insufficiently convincing." LDPR leader and Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii backed Mitrofanov's assertions, claiming that the United States has been using low-yield nuclear weapons for 10 years. Only 114 deputies voted to invite Ivanov, well short of the 226 needed. JB

    [04] ANONYMOUS OFFICIAL DENIES REPORTS OF 'RADICAL CHANGES' IN GENERAL STAFF

    A high-level defense establishment source has said that no radical changes will be made in the Russian Armed Forces General Staff in the near future, Interfax reported on 4 February. The Defense Ministry and General Staff agree on the armed forces' priorities and tasks, which include introducing precision weapons and improving force mobility, the source said. However, the armed forces' management structure should be changed to facilitate improving the mobility and combat readiness of military units, the source added. Defense Minister Ivanov's recent comments that the General Staff's role needs "overall strengthening" sparked rumors that its chief, General Anatolii Kvashnin, could lose his job (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2004). The weekly "Profil" suggested on 2 February that Ivanov is keeping Kvashnin on as a "scapegoat" for incidents like the one that took place in December, in which more than 100 recruits were forced to stand for hours in subzero temperatures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 January 2004). JB

    [05] COMMUNISTS, UNIFIED RUSSIA CRITICIZE PROPOSED BAN ON COMMUNISTS IN EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS...

    Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 4 February denounced an initiative by the European People's Party (EPP) to ban former communists from posts in European institutions as "idiotic," Ekho Moskvy reported. Zyuganov told the station the initiative is evidence of an "alarming tendency," but added that there are many "intelligent" Europeans who understand that it is a "witch-hunt." Unified Russia first deputy faction head Valerii Bogomolov told Ekho Moskvy that a ban on communists running for seats in European parliaments would be "a violation of the rights of the population." Bogomolov, who will head Unified Russia's delegation to the EPP's 16th congress in Brussels on 4-5 February, said the issue must be approached in a "carefully thought-out" manner and that communist voters must be treated "properly." "There shouldn't be a command here," Bogomolov said. "That is a Bolshevik approach, and it is unacceptable from either the right or the left." JB

    [06] ...WHILE IT GETS CHEERS FROM THE LDPR

    LDPR leader and Deputy Duma Speaker Zhirinovskii called the EPP initiative to ban former communists from posts in European institutions "correct and timely," adding that he has long called for a ban on communist organizations in Russia but the issue remains in a "frozen state." Zhirinovskii said a compromise solution is possible, under which communists who have reached pension age would be removed from "senior posts." "This is necessary to do, and we must keep in step with Europe," Zhirinovskii told Ekho Moskvy on 4 February. JB

    [07] COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER ISSUES ANOTHER ULTIMATUM...

    In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 4 February, Communist Party leader Zyuganov said that if President Vladimir Putin refuses to participate in a televised campaign debate with party candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, then Kharitonov will withdraw from 14 March presidential election. Zyuganov also predicted that voters who supported the Motherland bloc in the 7 December State Duma elections, will now vote for the Communist Party candidate because the past two months have shown that Motherland is a Kremlin creation. In December, Zyuganov threatened that his party might urge a boycott of the presidential elections, if the votes in the December Duma races were not recounted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2003). JAC

    [08] ...AND CONTINUES TO RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT FRAUD DURING DECEMBER ELECTIONS

    Zyuganov also charged on Ekho Moskvy on 4 February that some 60,000 to 85,000 protocols from local precinct stations for the 7 December Duma elections were falsified. The Communist Party has been conducting a check of the official results. Zyuganov said the party has again appealed to Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov to direct his team to conduct a recount. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office is overseeing a criminal investigation into the preparation of counterfeit ballots for the 7 December republican presidential election in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported on 4 February, citing For Human Rights official Vladimir Stepanov. The NGO has been seeking information about the investigation and has been informed that the case has been transferred from Ufa to Moscow. On 4 December, a large number of false ballots were discovered at a local printing house controlled by the administration of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2004). JAC

    [09] SOLDIERS' MOTHERS NGO TO BECOME POLITICAL PARTY

    The Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees announced on 4 February that its members intend to create a political party, gazeta.ru reported. The organization's chairwoman, Valentina Melnikova, said the necessary legal procedures got under way last month. She added that the party's main goal will be to defend the rights of conscripts and their families. The party is also interested in military reform as a whole and in the establishment of civilian controls over military expenditures. According to Melnikova, it is not yet clear how the party will be financed, but she noted that the organization "has experience surviving." "Although we have no permanent sponsors, local businesspeople help our regional organizations," she said. A founding congress has been tentatively scheduled for 6 March. "Novye izvestiya" described the group as one of Russia's "most influential civil rights groups." The Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees was formed 15 years ago, according to the daily. JAC

    [10] DEPUTIES ASK PRIME MINISTER TO ADJUST LAW ON CAR INSURANCE

    Duma deputies rejected on 4 February amendments to the Land Code that would have required that the sale and/or leasing of land take place only at market prices, RBK reported. The amendments were introduced during the last Duma by former Deputy Vladimir Koptev-Dvornikov (Fatherland-Unified Russia), who was not re-elected in the 7 December elections. Duma Property Committee Chairman Viktor Pleskacheksii (Unified Russia) urged deputies not to vote for the bill because it would lead to the rapid privatization of land plots by industrial enterprises, which are better capitalized and more creditworthy than other potential buyers. Only six deputies voted for the bill, according to RosBalt. Deputies also issued an appeal to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov asking him to introduce changes to the law requiring car owners to carry automobile insurance, RIA-Novosti reported. Legislators want pensioners and certain categories of handicapped people exempted from the requirement. JAC

    [11] ST. PETERSBURG TO MAKE PRIVATE PARKING LOTS CITY PROPERTY

    St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko has pledged to turn commercial parking lots in the city into municipal property, "Gazeta" reported on 4 February. As a result, city coffers could take in $125,000-$140,000 a day. According to the daily, Matvienko made the pledge during a discussion of the city government's street-management program for 2004-08. She said parking lots are shadow businesses that should be legalized, and that the city government might ban private parking lots as of 1 March. According to the daily, city hall is engaged in a broad effort to increase revenues from real estate in the city's historic center. JAC

    [12] NO COMPLAINTS SO FAR FROM THE CITY OF VLADIMIR

    Residents of the village called Putino in Perm Oblast are bracing themselves for another media onslaught, as journalists looking for political material are expected to visit the town during the run-up to the 14 March presidential election, regions.ru reported on 4 February, citing Novyi Region. Journalists from throughout Perm Oblast -- as well as from other parts of Russia, France, and the Netherlands -- have visited the town in recent years, and members of the village council believe that life in the village has been depicted exclusively negatively. The head of the village council said no family by the name of Putin lives in Putino, and villagers have paid the president no special attention, nor apparently has he them. JAC

    [13] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES BACK INTERNATIONAL ADMINISTRATION IN CHECHNYA

    On 4 February, 145 of the 624 deputies to the European parliament signed a statement of support for the proposal by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to establish an interim UN administration in Chechnya, Turan and Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March and 25 September 2003). Maskhadov's plan calls for the establishment of a provisional government in Chechnya under UN auspices and for the disarming of the Chechen armed resistance. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 February quoted an unnamed organizer of the European Parliament campaign to collect signatures in support of the proposal as saying, "I believe that this is the only way of resolving the Russian-Chechen problem." LF

    Transcaucasia And Central Asia

    [14] ARMENIAN PREMIER PLAYS DOWN OPPOSITION PARLIAMENT BOYCOTT

    Andranik Markarian, whose Republican Party of Armenia has a majority in parliament, expressed regret on 4 February at the decision taken by opposition deputies the previous day to boycott future sessions of the legislature, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2004). But at the same time, Markarian downplayed the claim by opposition National Accord Party (AMK) Chairman Artashes Geghamian that the boycott heralds a new "political crisis." Also on 4 February, Stepan Demirchian, who heads the opposition Artarutiun parliament faction, ruled out any alliance with the AMK, but reaffirmed Artarutiun's readiness to cooperate with other opposition forces. LF

    [15] ARMENIAN LIFERS BEGIN NEW HUNGER STRIKE

    Some 40 Armenians sentenced to life imprisonment launched a new hunger strike on 4 February to demand either new trials or the opportunity to petition for release after 15 years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Most of the men were originally sentenced to death, but had their sentences commuted after Armenia abolished capital punishment in 2003. Under the Criminal Code adopted last year, people sentenced to life imprisonment are eligible for release only after serving 20 years, rather than after 15 years as stipulated in the old Soviet-era Criminal Code. Several of the prisoners affected staged a hunger strike last summer to protest that change (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 7, 11, and 26 August 2003). LF

    [16] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN DEPLORES OSCE FAILURE TO RESOLVE KARABAKH CONFLICT...

    Meeting on 4 February in Baku with an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation headed by Goran Lennmarker, Ilham Aliyev expressed regret that the OSCE Minsk Group has not succeeded in proposing an acceptable solution to the Karabakh conflict, according to Turan and to ANS TV, as cited by Groong. In a lengthy interview with "Izvestiya" published the same day, Aliyev similarly said he hopes the Minsk Group "will adopt constructive decisions" and will not become "a group of observers." He stressed that any solution to the conflict must provide for the liberation of territory currently occupied by Armenian forces and preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Speaking in Moscow on 4 February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko reaffirmed Russia's readiness to help resolve the Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. "Moscow believes it is necessary to convince the parties to the conflict that they are capable of reaching a mutually acceptable understanding," Yakovenko said. LF

    [17] ...AND DECREES NEW HOUSING FOR DISPLACED PERSONS

    President Aliyev signed a decree on 4 February on the construction of new settlements to house some 4,000 families of displaced persons from Armenian-occupied districts of Azerbaijan adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh who have been living in tent camps and railroad cars for the past decade, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. The settlements will be provided with water mains, electricity, schools, and medical facilities and will be financed from the State Oil Fund. LF

    [18] ABKHAZ OFFICIALS WELCOME GEORGIAN CRACKDOWN ON CRIMINAL GANG...

    Givi Agrba, who is chairman of the National Security Service of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, on 4 February, expressed approval of the Georgian police operation launched earlier that day allegedly to apprehend members of a Georgian gang that engaged in criminal activities in southern Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba expressed satisfaction that some members of Georgian guerrilla formations that targeted Abkhaz officials and members of the Russian peacekeeping force were also among the 35 people apprehended during the operation, Caucasus Press reported. He said that if the guerrillas are brought to trial, Abkhazia might withdraw the special detachments it has deployed in the unrecognized republic's southernmost Gali Raion. But Dato Shengelia, leader of the Forest Brothers guerrilla formation, protested the detention of two of his men, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze, who supervised the 4 February operation, said his troops will not pursue any members of the gang who fled into Abkhaz territory, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [19] ...WHILE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING COMMANDER SAYS IT WAS UNJUSTIFIED

    Lieutenant General Aleksandr Yevteev, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone, told Interfax on 4 February that the Georgian operation violated agreements signed in Moscow on stabilizing the situation in the conflict zone. He said Moscow will respond soon to Interior Minister Baramidze's recent allegation that members of the Russian peacekeeping force collaborate with Abkhaz and Georgian gangs engaged in smuggling goods across the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2004). LF

    [20] CONTROVERSIAL GEORGIAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS

    Petre Tsiskarishvili, whom President Mikheil Saakashvili named deputy interior minister on 2 February, stepped down from that post on 4 February following a verbal dispute with parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. Tsiskarishvili accused Burdjanadze of acting at the instigation of her husband, former Deputy Prosecutor-General Badri Bitsadze, when she refused in December to confirm his appointment as deputy minister. Burdjanadze rejected that allegation, and demanded that the National Movement, of which Tsiskarishvili is a member, issue a formal condemnation. Interior Minister Baramidze said on 4 February that Tsiskarishvili's accusation against Burdjanadze was "incorrect" and that he did right to resign, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [21] GEORGIAN NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER RESIGNS

    President Saakashvili accepted on 4 February a letter of resignation submitted two days earlier by National Guard commander Major General Koba Kobaladze, Caucasus Press reported. No official explanation has been given for Kobaladze's decision, but Caucasus Press noted "unofficial reports" that he might be investigated in connection with reports of corruption within the National Guard. LF

    [22] KAZAKH INTERIOR MINISTER ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF JOURNALIST'S BEATING

    Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry issued a statement on 4 February saying that Interior Minister Zautbek Turisbekov has ordered an official investigation of the recent beating of a journalist from the opposition weekly "Respublika Assandi Times," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Journalist Svetlana Rychkova said she and two friends were accosted in an Almaty street on the night of 2-3 February and beaten by three men in police uniform who later detained the women at a police station for several hours (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2004). The ministry press service declined to comment on the case, but said a high-ranking ministry official has been sent to Almaty to take over the investigation. BB

    [23] KAZAKH INFORMATION MINISTER SAYS MEDIA MORE LAW-ABIDING IN 2003

    Kazakh Information Minister Sauytbek Abrakhmanov told a meeting of the ministry's top officials on 4 February that violations of various media laws were down by 24 percent in 2003 compared to 2002, Kazinform reported. Abdrakhmonov said that as of the beginning of this year, all television and radio broadcasters have observed the rule that no more than 20 percent of their broadcast time be used for rebroadcasting foreign programs, and 95 percent of broadcasters are broadcasting 50 percent of their programming in the Kazakh language. He noted, however, that much of the programming in Kazakh, which is the official state language, is broadcast late at night. A new draft law on the media that is currently making its way through parliament requires that information be made available equally in both Russian and Kazakh, but Abdrakhmonov insisted that this would not mean that all prime-time programming would be in Kazakh. BB

    [24] MEDIA CENTER ATTACKED IN SOUTH KYRGYZSTAN

    The internationally funded Osh Media Resource Center in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh was attacked by two unidentified masked men in the early morning hours of 4 February, akipress.org and Interfax reported. After assaulting a security guard and making verbal threats against journalists, the attackers stole computers, disk drives and hard disks, a digital camera, and a multimedia projector, but failed to get into a secure room where the center's documentation is stored. Center Director Ernis Mamyrkanov told Interfax that the men were apparently looking for specific data. The UNESCO- and U.S.-funded center provides technical support, including Internet access, to journalists and students in southern Kyrgyzstan. More than 120 local journalists are members of the center. BB

    [25] INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST MEETS WITH IMPRISONED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER

    International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Vice President Ulrich Fischer was allowed by Kyrgyz authorities to meet with the country's most prominent political prisoner, Feliks Kulov, on 4 February, Interfax reported. Kulov -- who formerly served as former National Security chief, vice president of Kyrgyzstan, and mayor of Bishkek -- is serving a 10-year sentence for abuse of office. The Kyrgyz opposition says the charges against him were politically motivated to remove President Askar Akaev's most-credible rival from the political arena. Kulov has indicated that he intends to run for president in the 2005 election. International human rights groups, the European Parliament, the OSCE, and U.S. State Department have appealed repeatedly to the Kyrgyz authorities to release Kulov. BB

    [26] RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR ACCUSES TAJIK PUBLICATIONS OF DISTORTIONS

    Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Maksim Peshkov told a press conference in Dushanbe on 4 February that some recent articles in the independent Tajik publications "Asia Plus" and "Ruz-i nav" about Russian-Tajik relations have distorted facts and demonstrated ignorance of the real situation, RIA-Novosti reported. Peshkov said he is bothered by reports on Tajik labor migrants in Russia and on the strategic relationship between the two countries, but he was particularly annoyed by an assertion that Tajikistan's debt to Russia is $300 million, rather than the $400 million that Peshkov says is the correct figure. The Tajik media has sometimes been critical of the treatment of Tajik job seekers in the Russian Federation. Such articles tend to appear whenever a group of Tajiks is deported for allegedly violating Russian residence rules. "Ruz-i nav" has reported extensively on the number of Tajiks who have died in Russia and has even implied that they were victims of genocide. BB

    Central And Eastern Europe

    [27] BELARUSIAN POLITICIANS DENY ALLEGED OIL DEALS WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN

    Syarhey Haydukevich, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, and Syarhey Kalyakin, chairman of the Belarusian Party of Communists, have denied allegations of involvement in illegal oil deals with the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, Belapan reported on 4 February. Last week, the Iraqi daily "Al-Mada" published a list of 270 companies and organizations from 50 countries that allegedly received "oil certificates" from Hussein worth millions of U.S. dollars. According to "Al-Mada," two parties identified in Arabic as the "Belarusian Liberal Party" and the "Belarusian Communist Party" received certificates for 1 million barrels of oil and one ton of oil, respectively. The daily also alleged that a certificate for 1 million barrels of oil was given to the head of the Belarusian presidential administration. Kalyakin said his party, together with Russia's Communist Party, sought oil buyers under the "oil-for-food" program but had not engaged in any commercial activity. JM

    [28] KYIV PLANS TO PUMP OIL TO EUROPE VIA ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE

    The Ukrainian government decided on 4 February that the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline will be used to transport Caspian oil to Europe, as originally planned, despite mostly Russian pressure to pump oil in the opposite direction, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Energy Minister Serhiy Yermylov said the pipeline, which has been idle since 2002, can transport 4 million-5 million tons of Caspian oil as early as this year. The pipeline has been the focus of a political tug-of-war, with the European Union and the United States pushing for its originally designed use and Moscow proposing a reversal of its flow (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 July 2003). "This will enhance the energy independence of Ukraine, and we believe that it will be a big long-term and even short-term advantage for Ukraine's oil industry," U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said of the decision, according to Interfax. JM

    [29] UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EUROPEAN OIL TRANSPORT ACCORD, KYOTO PROTOCOL

    The Verkhovna Rada on 4 February ratified an agreement on cooperation in integrating the Druzhba and Adria oil pipelines, Interfax reported. The agreement was signed by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia in December 2002. It allows for the transport of an additional 15 million tons of oil annually to world markets via these countries' pipeline systems, with reloading to tankers at the Croatian port of Omisalj. The same day, the Ukrainian legislature also voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which obliges signatories to limit carbon-dioxide emissions and take measures toward eliminating the negative consequences of such emissions on the environment. JM

    [30] KUCHMA PLANS TO SET UP UKRAINIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE AFTER PRESIDENCY

    Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 4 February that after leaving office he will establish a nongovernmental strategic-research institute together with Anatoliy Halchynskyy, director of the National Institute of Strategic Research, Interfax reported. The presidential press service announced that the institute would engage in "fundamental research on the Ukrainian model of economic policy." JM

    [31] LATVIAN LEADERS CONDEMN RUSSIAN DUMA'S STATEMENT ON EDUCATION REFORM

    Prime Minister Einars Repse on 4 February said the Russian State Duma's approval of a statement saying Latvia's planned educational reform will negatively effect the countries' relations grossly interfered in Latvia's domestic affairs, BNS reported. The reform, which will require minority schools to teach a mostly Latvian-language curriculum, will largely affect Latvia's Russian minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2003). Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete described the statement, in BNS's words, as weird and unacceptable, adding that it is unusual for one country's parliament to comment on another's draft legislation. She said Latvia's Foreign Ministry will not send any official response to Russia because "we can't help them if Russia is unable to understand where foreign policy ends and domestic policy begins." She said she believes the Duma statement is merely rhetoric, noting that bilateral economic cooperation is increasing. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said she is not surprised by the Duma's statement, adding that such announcements from various Russian institutions have already "become daily routine," therefore "this is no better than any other" announcement. SG

    [32] LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS WASHINGTON

    Linas Linkevicius on 3 February met with U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld as part of his five-day visit to Washington that began on 1 February, ELTA and BNS reported on 4 February. Rumsfeld thanked Lithuania for contributing troops to stabilize Iraq and welcomed its upcoming membership in NATO and the EU. They agreed that the two organizations should not compete with each other, but seek the same goal of global security. Rumsfeld also praised the assistance Lithuania has provided in the Caucasus, particularly Georgia. Linkevicius also attended the 52nd National Prayer Breakfast that day. On 2 February he visited the Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based U.S. Army War College to participate in a roundtable on security relations between NATO and the EU organized by the Strategic Studies Institute. SG

    [33] POLISH, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS IRAQ, ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE

    Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and his Ukrainian counterpart Kostyantyn Hryshchenko met in Warsaw on 4 December to discuss cooperation among Polish and Ukrainian companies in the reconstruction of Iraq and joint ventures in the energy sector, including the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline, PAP reported. Cimoszewicz said at a news conference that, following the Ukrainian government's decision to use the Odesa-Brody pipeline for transporting Caspian oil to Europe (see above), both countries must now take practical steps for oil to flow through the pipeline and launch talks with the EU on support for the project. Last month, both governments signed an accord on extending the Odesa-Brody pipeline to Plock in northern Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2004). JM

    [34] CZECH CABINET APPROVES APPOINTMENT OF EU COMMISSIONER

    The government approved the designation of former Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart on 4 February as the Czech Republic's future appointee to the European Commission, CTK and international news agencies reported. Kuzvart's candidacy, which was proposed by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, was backed by all 11 ministers from the senior ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD). The five ministers representing the junior coalition Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) voted against Kuzvart but said they would not block his selection in order to avoid a cabinet crisis (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 23 January 2004). MS

    [35] SLOVAK ELECTORATE FACES DUAL VOTE IN APRIL...

    President Rudolf Schuster announced on 4 February that a nonbiding plebiscite on early elections will be held on 3 April, the same day that Slovak voters cast their ballots in the first round of presidential elections, TASR and CTK reported. Schuster said his decision was prompted by the need "to create the best possible conditions for the broadest possible turnout in both constitutional acts, which are so important for the Slovak Republic," according to CTK. At least 50 percent of eligible voters must approve the calling of early elections in order for parliament to consider the initiative. Most commentators do not expect the legislature to approve early elections with the required three-fifths majority, since the four-party, center-right coalition's 68 seats are enough to block parliament's dissolution. They also point out that all of Slovakia's postcommunist plebiscites except the referendum on EU accession have failed due to low turnout. The drive for early elections was initiated in November by the Trade Union Confederation (KOZ), which collected the signatures of more than 550,000 backers. Only 350,000 signatures were required under Slovak law. The petition was also supported by the opposition Smer (Direction) party and by the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS). MS

    [36] ...PROMPTING CRITICISM FROM COALITION LEADERS

    Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 4 February called Schuster's decision to call the plebiscite "politically unfair and incorrect," CTK reported. "The rules of the game state that the mandate of each government lasts four years," Dzurinda, who heads the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, said. Parliamentary speaker and Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky predicted the same day that turnout in the plebiscite will be low and that Schuster will fail in his bid for a second term as president, according to TASR. Hrusovsky denounced as "manipulation" the calling of the two ballots on the same day, adding that he thinks it is an attempt by Schuster to boost his chances of re-election. He said it was "typical" of Schuster "to have joined the efforts of the communists, Smer, and KOZ" to oust the government. Hrusovsky said Schuster has thus turned the presidential palace "into a KOZ branch" and "once again undermined the office of head of state." Similarly, Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar said Schuster's decision stems from his hope of "securing the support in the presidential election of those grateful to him for having called the referendum." MS

    [37] SLOVAKIA DECIDES AGAINST PURCHASING SUPERSONIC FIGHTER JETS

    Defense Minister Juraj Liska told journalists after a cabinet meeting on 4 February that Slovakia will not purchase supersonic fighters for its air force, CTK reported. Instead, Liska said, Slovakia will modernize its fleet of 12 Soviet-era MiG-29s. Liska said the modernization should cost roughly 500 million crowns ($15.4 million) and extend the jets' useful lives by three to 10 years. Liska said negotiations with Russia on the modernization project will start soon. MS

    [38] TILOS RADIO SPARKS NEW HUNGARIAN SCANDAL

    The opposition FIDESZ party has asked the National Radio and Television Authority (ORTT) to launch a new investigation into Budapest's controversial Tilos Radio after an employee read out a purported text message on the air on 4 February that called FIDESZ Chairman and former Prime Minister Viktor Orban a "fascist," "Nepszabadsag" reported. The on-air message also included a plea to "let the churches be destroyed" and a reference to Zoltan Bajtai, the former Tilos Radio host who on 24 December told listeners that he would like to exterminate Christians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 29 January 2004). A statement on FIDESZ's website (http://www.fidesz.hu) alleged that Tilos Radio is deliberately provoking the Christian community and supporters of right-wing civic circles to boost the Socialist-led governing coalition's electoral chances. MSZ

    Southeastern Europe

    [39] WHAT WILL THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF SERBIA BE...

    Serbian parliament speaker Dragan Marsicanin said in Belgrade on 4 February that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) "asked for nothing in return" for its support in electing him speaker, the "Financial Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 February 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 December 2003 and 9 January 2004). The London-based daily quoted unnamed leaders of the Democratic Party as saying that they cannot cooperate with a coalition government backed by the SPS. Democratic Party Vice Chairman Boris Tadic said that Marsicanin's election with SPS support paves the way for that party's return to a role in political decision-making, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. SPS leader Ivica Dacic noted that it was important to his party that "those who have been in the government until now leave," meaning the Democratic Party. Dacic added that the SPS will soon begin talks with the governing coalition led by the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) about whether the SPS will support the government in the parliament. PM

    [40] ...AND WHAT COMES NEXT FOR SERBIA?

    Predrag Markovic of the G-17 Plus party that belongs to the DSS-led coalition said in Belgrade on 4 February that his party wants a majority government consisting of parties with sound democratic credentials, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) argued that Marsicanin's election is contrary to the will of the voters, who gave the SRS the most seats in the parliament in the 28 December election. Marsicanin defeated the SRS candidate, Gordana Pop Lazic, with 128 votes to 81. The DSS-led coalition with SPS support controls 131 of 250 legislative seats, leaving 119 seats for the SRS and Democratic Party. PM

    [41] KOSOVA'S PRIME MINISTER SAYS THE UN SHOULD LEAVE

    Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told the "Washington Times" of 5 February that the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) has overstayed its welcome, adding that UNMIK's presence has become counterproductive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January and 4 February 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 September and 19 December 2003). Rexhepi charged that the international community has failed to provide Kosova with an "ultimate vision, [which] has prolonged the uncertainty about what we can do and where we are heading." He stressed that a U.S. security presence will be necessary in Kosova for at least 10 years, adding that the province "is perhaps the one part of Europe where Americans right now are most popular." PM

    [42] MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW ARMY CHIEF

    On 4 February, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski named 54-year-old Brigadier General Gjorgji Bojadziev as the new chief of the Army's General Staff, thus ending a weeklong dispute with the government over the successor to outgoing army chief Metodij Stamboliski, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Bojadziev graduated from the military academy in Belgrade in 1973, and in 2001 he received a diploma from the Paris-based Institute for Higher National Defense Studies (IHEDN). The government reportedly preferred the younger Major General Miroslav Stojanovski as Stamboliski's successor. The daily notes that Stamboliski and Trajkovski hail from neighboring villages near Strumica in southeast Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2004). UB

    [43] BOSNIA PREPARES FOR SMALLER PROFESSIONAL ARMY

    Bosnia's military leaders agreed in Sarajevo on 3 February to replace the current 22,000-strong military with a 12,000-strong professional army by early March, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The new army will have three 4,000-member brigades -- one each for Muslims, Serbs, and Croats -- under a single defense minister. The supreme commander will be the three-member Bosnian Presidency. General Atif Dudakovic, who heads the general staff of the Muslim-Croat federation, said that the biggest problem is finding new jobs for the several thousand soldiers and officers who will be discharged. His counterpart in Army of the Republika Srpska, General Svetko Cavic, said the Bosnian Serb government is determined to implement the new structure by 1 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2004). It is unclear who the new defense minister will be, but several Croatian politicians have already argued that the post should go to a Croat. Some Serbian politicians have similarly claimed the job for a Serb. The three conditions Bosnia must meet for admission to NATO's Partnership for Peace program are military reform, the arrest of indicted war criminals, and establishing a unified intelligence agency. PM

    [44] HAGUE PROSECUTOR SAYS INDICTED BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMINAL ELUDED ARREST

    Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, told Bosnian federal television on 4 February that indicted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic fled the area around Pale recently just two hours before SFOR troops arrived to arrest him, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She said it appears that unnamed Bosnian intelligence officials tipped him off (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004). In related news, police arrested Asim Fazlic, who is the deputy director of Bosnian Interpol, in Sarajevo on 4 February on the suspicion that he abused his position to supply confidential police information to the criminal underworld. PM

    [45] EUROPEAN COMMISSION WARNS ROMANIA OVER INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS

    Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 4 February that EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has written an "unprecedented letter" warning Prime Minister Adrian Nastase that Bucharest is failing to meet the EU's "political criteria." The letter was triggered by the sending to Italy last December of 105 children for adoption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2004). Recent media reports said that Romanian children illegally sent abroad on the pretext of adoption have instead been sold to pedophiles or have otherwise been abused. Verheugen threatened that the EU could not only cut off all aid to Romania, but also demand that Bucharest return some $77.1 million in aid granted for coping with the problem of orphan children if the accusations are not appropriately addressed. The European Parliament's rapporteur for Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, said that Romania has continued "exporting" children since 2001 despite imposing a moratorium on international adoptions at the EU's request. Nicholson, who recently supported calls for the EU to halt its accession negotiations with Romania, accused the government of turning a blind eye to racketeering by adoption agencies and corrupt officials, including judges she said rubber-stamp hundreds of adoption approvals. Mediafax on 4 February quoted Prime Minister Nastase as saying he replied to Verheugen's letter "five to six days ago," but he refrained from publicizing his answer without the commissioner's approval. MS

    [46] ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH U.S. COUNTERPART

    Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana met on 3 February in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mediafax reported the next day. Among other things, they discussed the more than $1 billion owed to Romania by Iraq and the possibilities of recouping it. Powell and Geoana also discussed the NATO Istanbul summit in June, at which Romania is to become a full-fledged member of the organization. They also discussed the role Romania can play in the political development and democratization of its region. Particular attention was paid to developments in Georgia. The two foreign ministers agreed to hold further consultations on ways to resolve the Transdniester crisis. MS

    [47] ROMANIA STICKS TO PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

    The ad-hoc parliamentary commission in charge of preparing legislation for the 2004 local, parliamentary, and presidential elections decided on 4 February that the current system of proportional representation will not be changed into single-constituency representation, Mediafax reported. The commission rejected a proposal by the ruling Social Democratic Party to introduce single-constituency representation for the Senate elections, and a proposal by the National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance to introduce that system for elections to both chambers of the parliament. The commission also decided that the current electoral threshold of 5 percent for parliamentary representation will be maintained. MS

    [48] MOLDOVA GETS NEW FOREIGN MINISTER

    President Vladimir Voronin on 4 February released Foreign Minister Vasile Dudau and replaced him with Andrei Stratan, one of Dudau's deputies, Moldovan and international news agencies reported. Dudau has reportedly been appointed Moldova's ambassador to Italy. Stratan, born in 1966, holds a doctorate in economics and worked in the Customs Department from 1991-97. In 2002, Stratan was appointed national coordinator in charge of relations with the Balkan Stability Pact, and in 2003 he was named a deputy foreign minister in charge of European integration. MS

    [49] IMF SAYS MOLDOVA FAILED TO SERVICE $26 MILLION IN FOREIGN DEBT

    Eduardo Ruggiero, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission in Chisinau, said on 4 February that Moldova failed to meet payments on $26 million in foreign debt, Infotag reported. Ruggiero noted that the IMF Executive Board recently recommended that the Moldovan government exercise strict budgetary discipline, seek to obtain new loans on preferential terms, and restructure the country's current foreign debt. However, Ruggiero said there is little chance that the Paris Club of investors will agree to Moldova's request for debt restructuring and that the government should instead enter negotiations with creditors to reschedule repayment deadlines. MS

    [50] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED IRAQI OIL PAYMENTS...

    Parliament on 4 February decided to form a temporary commission of inquiry to investigate payments the former Iraq regime allegedly made to Bulgarian companies and the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), vsekiden.com reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 30 January and 3 and 4 February 2004). The governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the conservative opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS) voted in favor of the commission, most deputies of the BSP voted against, and most legislators of the governing Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) abstained. UB

    [51] ...BUT NOT THE PRIME MINISTER'S PROPERTY HOLDINGS

    The governing NDSV and DPS after two votes on 4 February succeeded in rejecting a proposal by the BSP to form a temporary commission to investigate Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's property holdings, mediapool.bg reported. The motion initially passed on 4 February, but the NDSV requested a second poll that resulted in the governing coalition successfully voting down the proposal. The BSP and its coalition partners claim that the restitution of property to former monarch Saxecoburggotski was unlawful. Saxecoburggotski was dethroned in 1946 after a referendum organized by the Communist Party, the predecessor of today's BSP. UB

    Southwestern Asia And The Middle East

    [52] AFGHAN LEADER DISMISSES INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

    Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai dismissed the head of the country's intelligence service, known as the National Security Directorate, on 4 February, "The New York Times" reported the next day. No replacement has been announced. The dismissal of Mohammad Aref Sarwari, who directed intelligence for the United Front (Northern Alliance) prior to the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001, is viewed as a sign of Karzai's confidence, the New York daily commented. UN and human rights officials have been calling for Sarwari's removal for allegedly spying on citizens and safeguarding the interests of his own faction rather than serving the interests of the state in general, as well as purported human rights abuses, the report added. Karzai has appointed Sarwari as a ministerial-level adviser to the head of state, Radio Afghanistan reported on 4 February. AT

    [53] ISLAMABAD HANDS OVER AFGHAN WARLORD TO KABUL

    Pakistan has handed over a rogue military commander from the eastern Paktiya Province, Pacha Khan Zadran, to Afghan authorities, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 4 February. Zadran had been in detention in Pakistan since early December. According to Zadran's two sons, their father is now in Kabul. Abdul Wali, one of Zadran's sons, told AIP that he is "not saying anything more" about the case, but added that he would "like to say that reconciliation is something good. As to what will happen in the future, it is something that we will all witness." Unnamed officials in Kabul have said that Zadran was arrested in Pakistan with their involvement, AP reported on 4 February. Zadran was a signatory of the 2001 Bonn agreement and an ally of both Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai and the United States before he went into armed opposition to the government in Kabul the following year. Zadran recently pledged full cooperation with the Transitional Administration (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 January 2004). AT

    [54] COALITION SPOKESMAN URGES LOW-RANKING AFGHAN MILITANTS TO ABANDON THE FIGHT

    A spokesman for the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan has said those forces expect militants who oppose the Afghan Transitional Administration to realize their mistakes and begin cooperating with the central government, Hindukosh news agency reported on 4 February. U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty added that the demand to cooperate with the state does not extend to opposition leaders such as Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar or Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The statement roughly coincides with the announcement by coalition forces that they are planning new military operations aimed at capturing Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders by the end of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 February 2004). AT

    [55] FORMER AFGHAN MONARCH IN INDIA FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT

    Mohammad Zaher, the former Afghan king, left Kabul on 3 February for medical treatment in New Delhi, the official Afghan Bakhtar News Agency reported the next day. Mohammad Zaher, who is described as the "Father of the Nation" in the new Afghan Constitution, is 88 years old. The report did not specify the nature of Mohammad Zaher's illness, saying only that he "has not been feeling well recently." Afghan National Security Council adviser Zalmay Rasul is accompanying the former king on the trip. An Afghan government spokesman, Hamid Helmi, said Mohammad Zaher's illness is "not very serious," AP reported on 4 February. AT

    [56] JAILED IRANIAN JOURNALIST HOSPITALIZED

    "Asia" newspaper's editor in chief, Iraj Jamshid, was taken to the Evin prison infirmary on 3 February, ILNA reported, citing Jamshidi's wife. Saqi Baqernia added that her husband has a heart condition. Jamshidi was arrested on 6 July, and he has been imprisoned ever since. Jamshidi was being held on a temporary detention order, lawyer Nasser Chubdar told ILNA on 28 January, and his confinement continues even though that order expired on 6 December. Chubdar added at the time that Jamshidi was in acceptable physical health but his psychological condition was worrisome. Baqernia said on 8 December that her husband has spent much of his time in solitary confinement. BS

    [57] IRANIAN GUIDANCE MINISTRY DEFENDS PUBLICATIONS

    Mohammad Sahfi, the deputy minister for press affairs at the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, on 3 February dismissed a letter from Prosecutor-General Said Mortazavi that complained about the reporting in several newspapers, IRNA reported. In a letter to the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, Mortazavi wrote that "Aftab-i Yazd," "Etemad," "Hambastegi," "Mardom Salari," "Nasim-i Saba," "Sharq," 'Toseh," and "Yas-i No" should be cautioned on their election reporting. Sahfi said Mortazavi was informed that the Interior Ministry executes the election law and it is up to the Interior Ministry to decide on electoral offenses. Mortazavi also was told that the newspapers have been doing their job of informing the public, according to IRNA. "If it becomes necessary to impose special limitations on newspapers' work of providing information," Sahfi added, "the criteria have to be promulgated by the Supreme National Security Council, and no such thing has been promulgated so far." Turning to Mortazavi's claim that the newspapers are sowing dissent, Sahfi reportedly told him to take it up with the Press Supervisory Board. BS

    [58] IRANIAN GRAIN IMPORTS ON UPSWING

    Iranian Chamber of Commerce Vice-Chairman Mir-Mohammad Sadeqi referred on 2 February to Iran's "wheat shortage" and said Iran will purchase 1 million tons of Canadian wheat, "Iran Daily" reported on 3 February. Deputy Agricultural Jihad Minister Abdol Mehdi Bakhshandeh said in November that Iran is self-sufficient in wheat production, "Iran News" reported on 22 December. "Given the considerable growth in the area under wheat cultivation, Iran will not need to import the product next year -- for the first time in decades," he said. Deputy Agricultural Jihad Minister Mohammad Reza Eskandari said on 2 November that Iran had reduced its wheat imports by 4.8 million tons for the year, "Iran Daily" reported on 3 November. Eskandari noted that global wheat yield is 2.6 tons per hectare but Iran produces just 1.6 tons per hectare. India sold 15,000 tons of corn to Iran for shipment in late January-February, the "Hindustan Times" reported on 19 January. The Iranian Customs Administration reported on 4 January that corn imports in the year starting 21 March 2003 were 140 percent higher than in the previous year, according to IRNA. Iran imported $327 million worth of corn. BS

    [59] IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES IN LEBANON

    Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Lebanon on 5 February for a two-day visit, IRNA reported. During his stay, he will follow up on the fate of four Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Lebanon in 1982 and he will discuss bilateral ties and regional developments. Discussions about the missing diplomats are an aspect of the second part of the Hizballah-Israeli prisoner swap that took place last week (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 2 February 2004). Tehran holds Israel responsible for the diplomats, while Israel asserts that they were last in Phalangist (Al-Kataeb Party) custody. "The Daily Star" on 5 February quoted the late Phalangist Elie Hobeika, who at the time led the security unit (jihaz al-amin) of the Christian Lebanese Forces and was the principal military liaison with Israel's forces in the country, as saying that the diplomats were killed a few days after being captured. Lebanese Minister of Administrative Development and Al-Kataeb head Karim Pakradouni said on 4 February that he will inform Kharrazi about the diplomats' fates, IRNA reported. "We gained the sensitive information in this regard following the return of Kataeb Party's delegation from Tehran [in summer 2003]," he said. BS

    [60] JAPANESE MILITARY EQUIPMENT ON WAY TO IRAQ

    The first of six chartered Russian transport aircraft carrying equipment for the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) contingent arrived at Kuwait's Abdullah al-Mubarak air base on 5 February, Kyodo News Agency reported, and additional aircraft will continue arriving through 6 February. The aircraft are loaded with artillery pieces, armored vehicles, and materials to build a GSDF camp in Al-Samawah. Ninety GSDF members left Japan for Kuwait on 3 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2004), arrived the next day, and checked in at the U.S. Army's Camp Virginia, which is about 45 kilometers northwest of the air base. The arriving equipment will be inspected at the base before being transported to Al-Samawah in a convoy that is scheduled to leave on 7 February at the earliest. BS

    [61] YEMENI WITH POSSIBLE LINKS TO IRBIL BOMBING DETAINED IN IRAQ

    Acting on a tip from a taxi driver, security and police forces on 4 February stormed Kirkuk's Al-Zahra Hotel and captured a Yemeni national and seized bombs and ammunition, KurdSat television reported. The taxi driver led authorities to the hotel after they circulated a photo of the man believed to have detonated himself at the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Irbil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 2004). The Yemeni national remains in detention and is under investigation, according to the report. Nechirvan Barzani, who is identified with the KDP-led Kurdistan Regional Government, said in a 3 February statement that was reproduced in the Kurdish-language "Khabat" newspaper on 4 February that "extremist organizations" dispatch "suicidal youths from far-away Arab countries to blow themselves up." Barzani described the bombings as "one in a series of heinous crimes that have been committed against the Kurdistan people and their movement for decades." "It is also a great crime against the Iraqi people, at a time they make efforts to reestablish peace and security in the country," he added. BS

    [62] RUSSIA SEEKS LARGER PRESENCE FOR ITS OIL COMPANIES IN IRAQ

    Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 4 February his country "plans to expand the presence of Russian oil companies in Iraq," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov said the government is currently involved in "intensive" discussions with the Iraqi Governing Council on expanding the activities of Russian oil companies there. He dismissed recent media reports that Russian oil companies received bribes from the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein as "absurd and aimed at preventing our companies from building their businesses in the region." Meanwhile, a high-level source in Iraq's Oil Ministry confirmed that the 270 entities and individuals from nearly countries that were named last week by a Baghdad newspaper did indeed have dealings with Hussein's regime, newsru.com reported on 4 February, citing Reuters. However, the source said the contracts were not given as bribes in return for political support, but rather were legal contracts distributed on the basis of the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January and 3 February 2004). JB

    [63] RUSSIAN DUMA DEPUTY CLAIMS U.S. USED SMALL NUKES IN IRAQ

    Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov claimed on 4 February that the United States used low-yield nuclear weapons during last year's war in Iraq, citing "information received from my sources, among them Iraqi sources," Interfax reported on 4 February. According to Mitrofanov, small nuclear weapons were used at Baghdad's international airport, as a result of which "people were evaporated, turned into shadows, and the airport's buildings destroyed." Afterward, the airport was sealed off, Mitrofanov alleged. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, he said, should be invited to the Duma to be asked whether the United States used such weapons in Iraq and what Russia is doing "to create appropriate combat effectiveness." State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), however, said Ivanov should not be asked to appear before the Duma, given that Mitrofanov's Iraqi sources "look insufficiently convincing." LDPR leader and Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii backed Mitrofanov's assertions, claiming that the United States has been using low-yield nuclear weapons for 10 years. Only 114 deputies voted to invite Ivanov, well short of the 226 needed. JB

    End Note

    [64] LARGEST UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CLOSED ON CHARGES OF ANTI-SEMITISM

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    Judge Iryna Saprykina of the Shevchenkivskyy District Court in Kyiv on 28 January ordered the closure of the opposition newspaper "Silski visti" after finding it guilty of fomenting interethnic strife in an article last year on Jews in Ukraine. The article, titled "Jews in Ukraine Today: Reality Without Myths," was penned by Vasyl Yaremenko, whom Ukrainian media identify as a professor of the Interregional Academy for Personnel Management.

    The court's ruling has prompted an outcry of indignation on the part of the opposition -- Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- which believes the presidential administration was behind the closure of the largest opposition newspaper, which has a circulation of some 520,000, in the presidential-election year. While not denying that the closure might play into the hands of the government, many Ukrainian observers agree that the court's decision is fully supportable. Yaremenko's article, which was published by "Silski visti" on 30 November, can doubtless be categorized even by non-jurists as rabidly anti-Semitic.

    Yaremenko's lengthy piece of writing is in fact a follow-up to another that he published in "Silski visti" on 15 November 2002 -- "The Myth of Ukrainian Anti-Semitism." Yaremenko quotes copiously from letters from those readers of his first article who supported his point of view. His main thesis is that Jews in Ukraine are a privileged national minority and actually run the country by controlling its mass media, finances, and key economic sectors. Any attempts to oppose this situation or even to point out that such a state of affairs exists, Yaremenko argues, are presented without delay in the media controlled and/or owned by Jewish oligarchs as manifestations of Ukrainian anti-Semitism and Judophobia. All television channels in Ukraine, Yaremenko says, are in the hands of "Zionists," and Ukrainians are forced to feed on "informational and spiritual products of the Jewish ideological kitchen." He includes oligarchs Viktor Medvedchuk, Hryhoriy Surkis, Viktor Pinchuk, Vadym Rabynovych, and Yukhym Zvyahilskyy in a much longer list of "Zionists" in Ukraine. According to Yaremenko, "nearly one-third" of the Verkhovna Rada deputies are Jews. He satirizes the Ukrainian parliament by saying that it is now in the process of transforming itself into an "Israeli Knesset" or Ukraine's "central synagogue."

    Yaremenko's "historical" excursions are much more aggressive. He claims that Jews "organized" the tragic 1932-33 famine in Ukraine to take "revenge" on millions of Ukrainians. Moreover, Yaremenko asserts that millions of Ukrainians were killed in 1937-38 by the NKVD, which he claims was run by "leaders of Zionism" and comprised 99 percent Jews. He also says that Ukraine was invaded during World War II by German fascists along with a 400,000-strong "horde of Jewish SS men."

    A lawsuit against "Silski visti" was brought by an organization called the International Antifascist Committee. The newspaper argued in court that Yaremenko's article -- which was excerpted from his previously published book -- was printed as a separate leaflet in addition to the main issue to advertise the book. Under the press law, the editors claimed, newspapers are not responsible for the content of advertisements they print. But Judge Saprykina told the 31 January-6 February issue of "Zerkalo nedeli" that there was no mention whatsoever in the 30 November issue of "Silski visti" of Yaremenko's text being an advertisement. Saprykina added that Ukraine's press law unambiguously stipulates the closure of publications that foment racial, ethnic, or religious antagonisms. Saprykina also said her ruling does not mean that "Silski visti" will cease to appear immediately -- appeals against her verdict might prolong the life of the newspaper for at least a year, if not overturn it altogether.

    The "Silski visti" case -- apart from the issues of anti-Semitism and of restrictions on the freedom of expression in Ukraine's public life -- has also brought to the fore the issue of the democratic credentials of the Ukrainian opposition. It has not passed unnoticed by Ukrainian observers that the opposition, while protesting the closure of "Silski visti," did not touch upon the content of Yaremenko's outpourings. A statement signed by Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko says the closure is a "manifestation of totalitarian policy" of the government vis-a-vis undesirable media and accuses the court of following instructions of the authorities to eliminate the opposition media outlet. "We condemn the cynical reprisal against the opposition newspaper and express our support for the 'Silski visti' editors," reads the concluding phrase of Our Ukraine's statement. The statement does not include a single word of reference to, let alone condemnation of, Yaremenko's shameful article.

    It is not difficult to guess that if Yushchenko remains silent on Yaremenko's anti-Semitic escapade in "Silski visti," he will risk -- at best -- a loss of the sympathy and support of many circles in the West that see him as a Ukrainian exponent of Western democratic values and principles. At worst, he might be accused of harboring anti-Semitism and trying to exploit it for his political purposes. In a situation where the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians live in glaring poverty and some of the country's most notable and fabulously rich oligarchs are of Jewish origin, it cannot be ruled out that anti-Semitism might become a political tool for mobilizing support in the presidential election for some parties in the Our Ukraine bloc. Then, the image of Yushchenko as a rabid nationalist -- which is being laboriously presented to the electorate by the Communists and pro-government forces alike -- might also be supplemented with anti-Semitic features.


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