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RFE/RL Review September 3, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of August 28 - September 3, 2004

RFE/RL's Russian Service devoted extra hours of original programming to bring listeners up to date on information and news from Beslan, where gunmen occupied a school on September 1, taking hundreds of hostages, most of them children. RFE/RL's Russian Service had two correspondents on the scene in Beslan and four others in Moscow, covering the story live every hour during the service's flagship "Time of Liberty" news program.
On the third day, September 3, the crisis took a dramatic turn when Russian forces stormed the building and engaged the gunmen in a protracted shoot-out, with hundreds of children and adult hostages evacuated and hundreds of others dead or injured. The Russian Service interrupted regular programming and was on the air live with the news one minute after the battle for the school began.
RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs department, working closely with the Russian Service, provided timely updates for all 18 broadcast services. At the Broadcast Operations Center in Prague, text and audio filed by the Russian Service from the scene of the hostage crisis were immediately translated and made available for use on other language broadcasts. RFE/RL services were thus among the first to bring news of developments in the hostage crisis to listeners in their own language throughout RFE/RL's broadcast region.
In addition to breaking news on the school seizure, interviews with children and their relatives, and with local law enforcement representatives, the service provided context and analysis that allowed listeners to make sense of the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Russia.
To view a sample of RFE/RL's coverage of the Beslan school hostage crisis, please visit our "Terror in Russia" portal page at and our Ossetia region news and features archive at Russian Service coverage of the tragedy can be viewed at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

Radio Free Iraq's correspondent in Baghdad Jumana Al-Obeidi got an exclusive interview, broadcast on August 29, with Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie on the interim government's plans for peace in the battle-scarred holy city of Najaf.
Rubaie told Radio Free Iraq that "The Iraqi government has a program of economic development and rebuilding of the holy city, training and assistance for the population and embracing the movement of Muqtada Al-Sadr in political life of the country. That means conversion of [Sadr's] armed militia into a political movement. This is necessary because in the new Iraq there should not be any armed groups or militias because there is no way to achieve democracy with the help of armed militias." He went on to say, "The biggest political parties in Iraq have subscribed to the law on disbanding and converting armed militias. It means that armed militias are disbanded and accepted in the civil society as well as converted into parts of Iraqi armed forces, police forces, Iraqi National Guard, border guard forces and other government forces."
Following Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani's intervention in Najaf, Radio Free Iraq continued to report on the situation there, talking to Sistani's representatives and others about efforts to disarm the Mehdi Army loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr and defuse hostilities between multinational and Iraqi government forces. RFI's reporters across Iraq and in the regional capitals polled prominent political, religious and intellectual figures, analysts and ordinary people in the streets, asking for their reaction to the situation around Najaf, possible ways to find a peaceful solution and the role of Shi'ite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in the stabilization process.
The Rubaie interview can be heard on the Radio Free Iraq website, at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

The Macedonian subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired, on August 29, an exclusive interview with President of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski about the current political crisis in Macedonia. Crvenkovski went into some detail about a controversial referendum on a proposed decentralization law that would give ethnic Albanians control in more than a dozen municipalities in Macedonia.
"Macedonia will not be divided if the referendum succeeds as some people say, nor will Macedonia enter into another civil war as the others claims," Crvenkovski stated in the interview with Macedonia subunit broadcaster Muhamed Zekiri. The president stressed that a referendum is one of the most democratic means of expressing the will of the people, adding that. "I support the referendum; however, I am not so enthusiastic about the political campaign that has begun in the run-up to the referendum. Instead of providing arguments for one or another solution, worst case scenarios are being touted." But President Crvenkovski ended on an optimistic note, saying: "I believe that our citizens are politically mature and they will make the right decision," and that "Macedonia has enough democratic capacity to rise to this challenge."
Crvenkovski also spoke about prospects for Kosovo, noting that once the region's final status has been decided, it should have no impact on the future of his country. He said that Macedonia supports the "standards before status" policy promoted by the international community. According to President Crvenkovski, "The key issue is whether Kosovo can arrive at a point where its institutions will be capable of enforcing law and order. If Kosovo goes in that direction, the risk of the Balkans sliding into a new cycle of turmoil will be reduced."
The interview with President Crvenkovski was widely quoted by domestic media in Macedonia, where it also was the subject of various commentaries and analyses.
A transcript of the interview can be read on the SSALS Macedonian subunit website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service was the only broadcaster to provide listeners in Kazakhstan a full report, with actualities, of the first press conference by opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, after he was released from prison and moved to a form of house arrest in a remote area of northern Kazakhstan.
Zhaqiyanov, the former governor of Semipalatinsk and later Pavlodar Region, said during his August 29 meeting with journalists that he intends to remain active in politics and shared ideas on possible solutions to major economic and political problems in Kazakhstan. Zhaqiyanov gave a separate interview to RFE/RL, aired in the same program, in which he called for an amendment to the Constitution of Kazakhstan to limit presidential power.
Zhaqiyanov was sacked as governor of Pavlodar region in northern Kazakhstan in 2001, after he and an associate, former Kazakh Minister of Trade and Industry Mukhtar Abliyazov, helped establish the opposition Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DCK) movement in November 2001. Subsequently, in the spring of 2002, both Zhaqiyanov and Abliyazov were sentenced to more than 6 years in prison after being convicted of abuse of public office and financial mismanagement. Abliyazov was pardoned by Nazarbayev and released from jail in 2003; the day he was released, Abliyazov announced that he was withdrawing from political life.
Zhaqiyanov remained imprisoned in Kushmurun, in the northern region of Kostanai, until late August, when he was moved to a minimum security facility at Shiderti, Pavlodar Region.
A report on the Kazakh Service's interview with Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov can be found on RFE/RL invites you to follow developments in Kazakhstan's parliamentary and presidential campaigns at our "Kazakh Elections 2004 website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merkhat Sharipzhanov, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Turkmen Service broadcast interviews with more than half a dozen former government officials, environmental experts and ordinary citizens, most of whom expressed support for President Saparmurat Niyazov's grandiose plan to build an artificial lake in the desert and a river through the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. The interviews aired in feature segments on the Turkmen Service's evening news show on August 30 and September 1.
By contrast, environmental experts and politicians in neighboring countries, chiefly Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, have criticized plans to divert water from the Amu Darya River for the project and expressed alarm that it will cause widespread environmental damage. Turkmenistan's earlier use of water from the Amu Darya is a primary reason behind the destruction of the Aral Sea, and it is argued that further diversion of the river's water may exacerbate the desiccation.
Uzbek ecologist Sadyq Muminov told RFE/RL that huge amounts of water would be needed to make a lake in the desert, because "a large amount of water will be lost in the sand." Another Uzbek environmentalist, Saidazim Mirzayev of Uzbekistan's Committee to Protect Nature, pointed out that a thick concrete and polyurethane lining will be needed to keep leakage down. "It will require huge amounts of money, and at the end of the day, will it be worth it from an economical point of view?" he asked.
But inside Turkmenistan, theater and film director Halmurat Gylychdurdiyev thinks it will be worth it, saying that with the proper concrete bed, the river will be an improvement: "Maybe it will be cooler in Ashgabat and the landscape also will look better."
A Turkmen living in exile, former water supply minister Aleksandr Dodonov, told the Turkmen Service that the lake and river project "will not have a negative impact on the ecology." On the contrary, he said "it will have to some extent a positive impact on the fields of Turkmenistan." Other Turkmens interviewed by RFE/RL expressed similar support for their government's plan to create a water storage zone, expand farmland and make the capital Ashgabat more attractive by having a man-made river run through it.
Rational use of water is a priority in the region, and many analysts cite disputes over water as being among the most likely causes of friction among central Asian states. The reports and interviews are available on the Turkmen Service's website at and; and English-language analysis of the issue, "A River Runs Through It" by Regional Analyst Daniel Kimmage, was published on the RFE/RL website on August 29 and may be viewed at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Naz Nazar, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

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For more information about any of the stories mentioned in "RFE/RL Review," or to learn more about RFE/RL, please contact Martins Zvaners at <> or by calling +1-202-457-6948.