MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 108, Part I, 9 June 2004

RUSSIA TOPS IN ASYLUM SEEKERS. Russia has the highest number of
citizens seeking political asylum abroad, "Novye Izvestiya" reported
on 8 June, citing data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
According to the daily, 7,508 Russian citizens applied for political
asylum abroad during the first quarter of this year. Most were former
residents of Chechnya, according the United Nations. Asylum
applications from Russians fell by 26 percent during the past six
months, but Russia remains the country with the highest number of
asylum seekers. JAC

CHECHEN REFUGEES IN GEORGIA UNWILLING TO RETURN HOME. Some 50 of the
Chechen refugees who have settled in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge met on 8
June with a Russian delegation led by Federal Migration Service
deputy head Igor Yunash, Georgian and Russian media reported. A
spokesman for the Chechens said that the overwhelming majority of
them are reluctant to return to Chechnya because they fear for their
safety, but they welcomed the Russian government's offer to pay
compensation for their destroyed property. Some refugees also voiced
an interest in receiving humanitarian aid sent last year by the
Russian government and which they initially rejected. Most of the
Chechens still hope to be granted political asylum in a third
country. LF

RABBI, MAYOR REACH AGREEMENT ON SYNAGOGUE IN TAJIKISTAN. Abe David
Gurevich, chief rabbi of Central Asia, reached an agreement on 8 June
with Dushanbe Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev on a location for the
construction of a new synagogue in the Tajik capital, RIA-Novosti
reported. Pronouncing himself satisfied with his visit to Tajikistan,
Gurevich explained that the Jewish community selected a site close to
the embankment of the Dushanbinka River. "The construction of a new
synagogue may take place with the help of funds from sponsors,"
Gurevich said. He noted that Dushanbe's impoverished Jewish community
today numbers approximately 200 people. City authorities have asked
the community to vacate its current synagogue to make way for a new
presidential palace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2004). DK


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 109, Part II, 10 June 2004

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER UPBEAT ON REFORMS. In an interview with
Radio Skopje's Albanian-language program, Ali Ahmeti, the chairman of
the governing ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI),
said on 8 June that one of his party's aims is to achieve equal
representation of the Albanians in the state administration and the
government, MIA news agency reported. Ahmeti said his party holds
four of the 14 ministries, has five deputy ministers, and four
secretaries of state. He added that about 600 persons are currently
attending an EU-sponsored training course as administrative
officials. With the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace accord,
more young and well-educated people have the opportunity to find jobs
in the state administration, Ahmeti said. Ethnic Albanians make up
about 23 percent of Macedonia's population but have long been
underrepresented in government jobs, which are highly prized. UB


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 110, Part I, 11 June 2004

DUMA KEEPS SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER AT ARM'S LENGTH. Eduard Kokoity,
president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, was not
admitted on 10 June to a joint meeting of three Duma committees (on
CIS affairs, security issues, and international affairs) that was to
discuss an appeal by the South Ossetian parliament to the Duma to
recognize the republic as an independent state and incorporate it
into the Russian Federation, the independent Georgian television
station Rustavi-2 reported on its website (www.rustavi2.com).
ITAR-TASS on 10 June quoted CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei
Kokoshin as saying that while the Duma is aware of the content of the
South Ossetian appeal, it has not yet received it. Kokoity for his
part told journalists in Moscow that the request is valid on historic
and legal grounds. Kokoity further accused the Georgian authorities
of failing to fulfill the commitment they made last week to withdraw
additional Interior Ministry forces  sent to South Ossetia in late
May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 3 June 2004). LF

LAST DISPLACED-PERSONS CAMP IN INGUSHETIA CLOSED. The Satsita camp
for displaced persons was formally closed on 10 June, Russian media
reported. It is not clear how many of the residents, of whom there
were reportedly 960 as recently as 27 May, have returned to Chechnya
and how many have found alternative private accommodation in
Ingushetia. Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov stressed on 9 June
that no one is being forced to return to Chechnya, Interfax reported.
At the same time, he appealed to international organizations to
continue to provide humanitarian aid for both Chechnya and
Ingushetia. LF

ABKHAZIA REJECTS NEW GEORGIAN SETTLEMENT PLAN. Sergei Shamba, foreign
minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, has rejected the
offer of "a state entity within Georgia with maximum powers"
contained in a new proposal for resolving the conflict drafted by
Georgian experts, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. Shamba stressed
that the people of Abkhazia have opted for independence and are
prepared to tolerate economic hardship in the hope that the
international community will one day grant formal recognition to
Abkhazia. The peace plan, which was published in the Georgian daily
"24 saati" on 9 June, comprises two documents, "Vremya novostei"
reported on 10 June: an "Agreement on Resolving the Conflict" and a
"Constitutional Law -- Federal Agreement on the Special Status of
Abkhazia" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 10 June 2004). "Vremya
novostei" quoted Georgian legal expert Paata Zakareishvili, one of
the co-authors of the draft, as saying that its definition of the
relations between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government is
similar to that between Catalonia and the central Spanish government.
He predicted that Russia would not object to such a constitutional
arrangement even though it offers more extensive powers than Moscow
has granted to any of the subjects of the Russian Federation. LF


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 110, Part II, 11 June 2004

TALKS ON DECENTRALIZATION DEADLOCKED IN MACEDONIA. Talks between the
partners in Macedonia's governing coalition -- the Social Democratic
Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian
Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) -- on the decentralization of
the state administration and the government's plans to draw up new
district borders are deadlocked, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 11
June. The sticking points are the administrative borders of the
Skopje, Kicevo, and Struga districts. The BDI demands that these
districts be redrawn so that Albanians make up more than 20 percent
of the population; according to the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, this
threshold is required for the Albanian language to become the second
official language in the local administration. Defense Minister Vlado
Buckovski, a member of the SDSM, said his party has proposed a
compromise for Skopje but sees no way for Kicevo and Struga to become
bilingual. Buckovski said he fears a political crisis should the
problem remain unsolved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April and 20 May
2004). UB

TRANSDNIESTER TELLS OSCE IT MADE MAJOR CONCESSION TO MOLDOVA.
Transdniester Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa told a
delegation of ambassadors from the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that Tiraspol has renounced its earlier
position and now agrees to a "real federation" with Moldova instead
of a confederation, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The OSCE
delegation is visiting Tiraspol and Chisinau to assess progress in
the negotiations between the two sides. Marakutsa said Tiraspol wants
a "federation of full equals of Moldova and Transdniester, possibly
also including Gagauz-Yeri as a third subject of the federation." He
said that by dropping the confederation idea, Tiraspol has made a
major concession, but added that this has not been reciprocated by
Chisinau. The Moldovan side is insisting on an "asymmetric"
federation, while Tiraspol wants the federation to be a symmetric
one. MS