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Mayor arrested on charges of taking bribe to provide false documents.

A mayor has been charged with providing false documents for more than 30 Moldovans planning to travel to other European countries to work illegally, the government said September 18. Victor Grosu, mayor of the village of Mereni near the capital, allegedly received USD 5,000 and EUR 500 in exchange for writing letters declaring that 33 Moldovans were public employees wanting to attend an international conference on agriculture. The letters were sent to the Belgian Embassy in Russia, Interior Ministry said in a statement, and the visas were issued. The 33 planned to work illegally in Italy. The Moldovans were stopped while traveling on a bus in Romania when a regional anti-trafficking police contingent discovered the bus's destination did not match the one in their visas. The mayor was arrested and could face up to 25 years in jail for issuing false documents. Police said he had handed in the money he received and pleaded guilty to the charges.


Rumsfeld Thanks Moldova For Support in Terror War (American Forces Press Service)

Rumsfeld urges Russia to remove troops from Moldova (NEW YORK TIMES)

June 29, 2004

Rumsfeld Thanks Moldova For Support in Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CHISINAU, Moldova, June 26, 2004 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today became the highest-level U.S. official to visit Moldova, thanking members of this former Soviet state for their support for Operation Iraqi Freedom and encouraging continued participation in the Partnership for Peace program.

Rumsfeld made a brief stop here today en route to the NATO Istanbul Summit to praise Moldova, the poorest nation in Europe, and to thank President Vladimir Voronin and the Moldovan people for their role in maintaining stability in the region.

Rumsfeld expressed appreciation for Moldova's support for the war on terror. Moldova sent 45 troops to Iraq from September 2003 through March. There, as members of the Polish-led Multinational Division, they applied de-mining and explosive ordnance skills honed in Moldova, which was officially declared mine- free just two years ago.

Moldova plans to send a second contingent of about 12 de-miners to Iraq soon, although the specific timetable was not announced.

At the Moldovan Army's 2nd Brigade headquarters here, Rumsfeld walked among the assembled troops, shaking hands and thanking the soldiers for their service. After viewing static displays of trucks, armored vehicles and de-mining equipment, the secretary posed for a photograph with the Moldovan troops, applauding the soldiers and flashing a "thumbs-up" sign.

Among the soldiers Rumsfeld thanked was Maj. Alexander Thoric, a combat engineer who said he applied his de-mining experience to destroy munitions and armaments in Iraq. Thoric said he was proud of his service in Iraq and will be happy to represent his country again if called on to return. "I saved the lives of people, not only the U.S. military, but also the Iraqi people," he said. "It felt really good to have the Iraqi people come up to us and thank us for what we did for them."

Rumsfeld said the Moldovan people, who gained their independence from the Soviet Union just over a decade ago, "understand the importance of what's happening in places like Afghanistan and Iraq."

"I'm pleased to be able to personally thank the people of Moldova for their support in the global war on terrorism, and particularly for the role being played in the stabilization of Iraq," the secretary said during a joint news conference with Moldovan Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc.

"The first Moldovan contingency served your country very well, both with respect to their impressive de-mining experience as well as the humanitarian assistance operations," Rumsfeld told Gaiciuc. "And we are so pleased that the second group of Moldovans is scheduled to leave for Iraq shortly."

Rumsfeld lauded Moldova for its role in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program, which it joined in 1994. Gaiciuc said the program enhances the Moldovan military through exposure to myriad training opportunities and military sessions.

Gaiciuc told Rumsfeld fighting terrorism and other security threats around the world demands commitment by the full international community.

Rumsfeld addressed the most pressing threat facing Moldova: the presence of Russian troops, weapons and munitions in the eastern Transnistria region. Russia pledged to pull out of the region by 2001 at the 1999 Istanbul Accord, but has not kept that promise.

"The United States remains committed to a political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and a reintegrated, sovereign Moldova," Rumsfeld said. "It is certainly the belief of NATO and the countries of the (Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe) that commitments made in Istanbul some five years ago need to be fulfilled."


Rumsfeld urges Russia to remove troops from Moldova


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called on Russia on Saturday to fulfill a 5-year-old pledge to withdraw 1,400 Russian troops and a huge stockpile of ammunition from a separatist region of this former Soviet republic.

Stopping here for a three-hour visit en route to the NATO summit meeting, which begins Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey, Rumsfeld thanked this country's Communist government for dispatching small teams of land-mine demolition experts to Iraq, to help the American-led military operation.

Moldova's soldiers are a tiny portion of the 25,000 allied forces now working alongside 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. About 40 Moldovan military specialists returned home in March from a six-month tour in northern Iraq, and a second group of 12 mine-clearing experts is to leave for Iraq soon for a similar deployment.

But the presence of the Russian troops in Moldova, and Moscow's role in the lingering aftermath of a brief civil war here in the early 1990s, has become a steady irritant in NATO-Russia relations, and was clearly on Rumsfeld's mind Saturday.

Rumsfeld said the United States and NATO stood by their insistence that Russia honor a pledge it made at regional talks in 1999 in Istanbul to withdraw its remaining forces and arms from Moldova and other former Soviet republics.

"Certainly the obligations that were undertaken at Istanbul some five years ago need to be fulfilled," Rumsfeld said at a news conference with the Moldovan defense minister, Victor Gaiciuc.

Rumsfeld held discussions earlier here in the Moldovan capital with President Vladimir Voronin and other Moldovan officials.

At first glance, Moldova would seem an unlikely candidate for attention from the Bush administration. It is the poorest country in Europe, landlocked between Ukraine to the east and Romania to the west. As many as a quarter of the 4.3 million people officially listed as living here actually work in Western Europe, including many young women working as prostitutes. Remittances sent home from Moldovans abroad make up 82 percent of the country's national budget, an American Embassy spokeswoman said.

But the fact that Moldova, which gained independence in 1991 after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has no control over about 11 percent of the country, the whole of which is the size of Maryland, disturbs Western officials who fear that that splinter, along the Ukraine border called Transdnestr, has become a haven for arms trafficking, drug smuggling and other illegal activity.

"It's an unstable situation that could rapidly deteriorate," said a U.S. defense official who accompanied Rumsfeld.

Transdnestr declared its independence from Moldova in 1991, when people who wanted to remain part of Russia fomented a brief civil war to set up a self-declared republic backed by Russian soldiers. The issue is all the more important because there is a Soviet-era ammunition stockpile that may contain as much as 40,000 tons of ammunition, Western officials say.

Over the years, various diplomatic initiatives, have failed to reunite Moldova and get the Russian ammunition removed. Most of those initiatives were headed mainly by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a group of 55 countries including the United States and Russia.

Last fall, an agreement between Moscow and Voronin's government collapsed at the last minute, in part from pressure from American and European officials who expressed fear that the deal would have given Russia undue influence over Moldovan affairs, left the Russian troops in place and provided support for the separatists.

Earlier this month, Voronin proposed that a five-party working group -- consisting of the United States, Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and Romania -- try to negotiate a lasting settlement. Rumsfeld signaled tentative support for the proposal on Saturday but said it remained under consideration by the Bush administration.