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RFE/RL Review February 11, 2006


The PDF version is available at http://www.rferl.org/reviews/

RFE/RL REVIEW
The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
-----------------
January 28-February 11, 2006


RFE/RL COVERS THE CARTOON CONTROVERSY All 18 RFE/RL language services covered the spreading protests and debate over the publication in a large Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. RFE/RL's focus, in deference to its large Muslim audience, was the interplay between the Muslim perspective and sensitivities and the western values of freedom of speech, multi- religious tolerance and peaceful protest without violence [to sample RFE/RL coverage of the cartoon controversy, please visit RFE/RL's special "Religion and Tolerance" webpage at http://www.rferl.org/specials/religion/].
Radio Free Afghanistan broadcasts included eyewitness reporting from on-the-scene correspondents of the wave of protests that swept the country as a result of the outrage over the Danish cartoons; appeals for calm by President Hamid Karzai and other members of his government; and several interviews with Islamic scholars, including an exclusive interview with Supreme Court Chief Malawi Fazel Hadi Shinwary, who said that the cartoon controversy was being exploited by enemies of the government pursuing a hidden political agenda.
As riots and demonstrations continued to spread through the Muslim world, the Central Newsroom reported the events and statements by the U.S. and other governments criticizing publication of the cartoons and calling for calm, issuing several news items daily. RFE/RL correspondents in Muslim countries interviewed local religious leaders and scholars, and young people in a sampling of views across the region. For example, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service covered a February 10 protest in front of the French Embassy in Bishkek (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/religion/ky/2006/02/2076C8ED-F216-4F7E-9DC8-97E145814E7E.asp). The crowd dispersed peacefully after their representatives met with officials of the embassy.
On January 31, RFE/RL Central News correspondent Jeremy Bransten interviewed Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Denmark's "Jyllands- Posten" who commissioned the cartoons and published them in September 2005 (http://www.rferl.org/features/features_Article.aspx?m=01&y=2006&id=D5D092EF-186A-47C0-A230-E3A901FA1915). Rose told RFE/RL that "I personally respect other people's religious beliefs, that I personally would never portray Muhammad, Jesus, or any other religious figures in any way that could offend other people. But we must insist that we have freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Denmark, which means that the daily 'Jyllands-Posten' just as any other media may publish the cartoons and articles they choose within the boundaries of the law."
For the same article, Bransten interviewed American University in Beirut Professor Hilal Khashan, who noted that "Muslim political socialization is extremely deep and religious inculcation is essential in the raising of Muslim kids. Religion in this part of the world remains central to life and belief systems are highly important. Even highly secular political orders in the Arab world never tried to mess with religion. They never contested Islam as a system of beliefs." Khashan also asserted that, in this era of globalization, newspaper editors can no longer expect to be speaking to just a local audience. "Since we live in a highly interactive world, characterized by rapid communication and access to information, it becomes extremely difficult to talk about targeting a specific audience," he said.
A number of services broadcast interviews done by RFE/RL's Tajik Service with leading Danish journalists February 6. Broadcaster Farangiz Najibullah spoke with two leading figures in Denmark -- Jorgen Bang, head of the department of media science at Aarhus University, and president of the Danish Union of Journalists -- to find out what prompted the publication of the cartoons and what other Danish journalists think about it (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/02/824A1528-271F-4D1F-9317-9DCB1B61C907.html).
RFE/RL's Russian Service aired daily reports and discussions on the impact of the issue inside Russia, and in other countries. On February 7, the service carried on its flagship "Time of Liberty" program an exclusive interview with a representative of the Danish Refugee Council, an aid group helping Chechen war victims (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/07/20060207233055327.html). The group suspended operations in Chechnya after Chechen officials banned all Danish organizations because of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. The next day, a report was aired on "Time of Liberty" on protests by Russian Moslem groups, as was an interview with Muslim theologian Ismail-Hazrat Shangareev of the Islamic Center in Moscow, who urged calm and noted the importance of respect for believers (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/07/20060207233055327.html). On February 9, the Russian Service aired an interview during "Time of Liberty" with Russian art collector and gallery owner Marat Gelman, who called for tolerance for different cultural traditions and stressed that the cartoons were published in Europe and were in keeping with European traditions (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/08/20060208180535100.html). The Russian Service broadcast an exclusive interview on February 10 with British writer Frederick Forsyth, who called for legislation to define what is a religious insult (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210202226483.html). On February 11, the Russian Service secured another interview with "Jyllands-Posten" editor Flemming Rose, in which he defended the right to publish the cartoons and noted the time lapse between the original publication of the cartoons in September and the current violent protests (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210202226483.html).

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <sewardd@rferl.org>; the Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <ayazia@rferl.org>; the Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>; the Acting Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Normahmad Kholov, may be reached by email at <kholovn@rferl.org>; the Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>.


RUSSIAN SERVICE BROADCASTS U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT VIEW ON NGOS... RFE/RL correspondent Julie Corwin gained an interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barry F. Lowenkron, head of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, to discuss a new Russian law that restricts the activities of domestic and international non-governmental organizations (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/2648B6DB-4E6D-469E-9BF6-EF11D893B295.html). In the interview, aired February 2, Lowenkron also refuted Russian allegations that western governments were using NGOs to finance spying and other nefarious activities, saying: "We have been above board in terms of helping Russians organize themselves in a whole range of activities, from helping the media, to the forming of political parties, to weighing in on their concerns," and that "this is what democracy is all about; this is what NGOs are all about."
Lowenkron told RFE/RL that there is a misunderstanding in Russia about the interaction between the United States and NGOs. Russian officials believe, he said, that the "U.S. government or the West directs the activities of NGOs in order to weaken Russia, or in order to advance, as one Russian said, 'your own geopolitical games in our neighborhood.' And nothing could be farther from the truth." Lowenkron said NGOs are integral to international politics. "NGOs can support governments, they can criticize governments, but they should never be viewed as enemies of governments."
Lowenkron also commented on the situation in Uzbekistan, and excerpts from the interview were broadcast by RFE/RL's Uzbek and other Central Asian services. He said: "on the issue of Uzbekistan, I think there was a miscalculation on their part. They thought that the "global war on terror" meant we would look the other way on the events in Andijon. And we have not. And so there were consequences in our relationship. In the context of NGOs, we're going to continue to press to support the work of NGOs as part of a broad dialogue with each of the leaders in the region, to talk about how they can foster democratic practices and rule of law--rule of law, and not rule by law.

...PUTIN PROPOSAL FOR HAMAS TALKS... President Putin's invitation to Hamas leaders to visit Moscow was a big story for the Russian Service. On February 9, during a visit to Spain, Putin said that Russia maintains contacts with Hamas and "intends to invite the leadership of that organization to Moscow in the near future to seek solutions" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/1A863DA5-8E0B-4074-A74D-5122A7009D25.html). The Russian Service reported the next day on the positive response from Hamas leaders and Israel's official condemnation of the proposal (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210202056323.html). The Russian Service's flagship "Time of Liberty" program also carried on February 10 an interview with American Foreign Policy Council vice-president Ilan Berman, who commented on the U.S. reaction to the proposal (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210202056323.html)

...ON THE SCENE OF STAVROPOL FIGHTING... A correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service was in Stavropol Krai, close to the Russian- Chechen border, to report on the fighting in a village there between Russian forces and militants. The shooting began on February 9 and escalated into an extended battle as Russians brought reinforcements of 300 police and special forces. RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent reported February 10 that "Eleven fighters have been killed. However, regional police believe several of them managed to escape. The operation began at about 16:00 on Thursday after information was received about a weapons and ammunition cache in a deserted bathhouse. An operational squad was sent to the place, but did not find any [weapons] cache. Instead, it came under militant fire" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/E14B9F7C-E094-4B9C-9403-AC68CB502BD6.html). Russia admitted to the loss of seven law enforcement officials and said eight militants had been killed.
According to Russian sources, two of the dead were Nogai Tatars, members of a Chechen resistance grouping based in Chechnya's northeastern Shelkovsky district that borders Daghestan. The Russian officials claim the militants whom they neutralized in the village of Tukui-Mekteb were planning a large-scale terrorist attack on an unidentified target. RFE/RL regional analysts prepared background materials concerning the Nogai ethnic group and their involvement in the Chechen wars (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/E142AF7A-A677-4531-ADAF-C13DEF192D02.html).

...AT G-8 MEETING IN MOSCOW Comprehensive Russian Service programming on the G-8 meeting in Moscow February 11-12 included a preview that was broadcast February 10 from a Moscow press conference, where Russian finance minister Aleksey Kudrin spoke about economic development in Russia (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210191406350.html). Coverage continued with a roundtable discussion featuring presidential adviser Arkady Dvorkovich on problems facing the Russian economy, despite favorable oil prices (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210191406350.html). In a separate interview that same night, Heritage Foundation analyst William Beach spoke about relations between Russia and other members of the G-8 group and how Russia uses oil and gas exports as a tool for exerting political pressure (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2006/02/10/20060210140027437.html).

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>. The Russian Service's website is at http://www.svobodanews.ru; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/russia.html


NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE EXCLUSIVE ON CHECHEN RESHUFFLE RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service aired an exclusive interview with Chechnya's London-based separatist envoy Akhmed Zakayev on February 6, shortly after Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Saidullayev announced a leadership reshuffle that targeted several senior rebel representatives living abroad (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/6FCEE1B2-EDEB-4017-BE15-FCF5448F83B8.html). During the interview, Zakayev said that that Saidullayev ordered most of his ministers to be based in Chechnya, because "the internal situation in the republic, political and military, has changed. So, the [current] decree is aimed at strengthening the role of ministries, ministers, and government officials working at home. This was the purpose of the decree." As part of the reshuffle, which was announced on Chechen separatist websites, Zakayev lost his portfolio as deputy prime minister, but retained his post as culture minister.
A February 7 article by RFE/RL Caucasus analyst Liz Fuller broke down the ideological splits within the Chechen separatist leadership that led to the reshuffle (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/F344F111-4F54-473B-B93A-466F78CB15FD.html). Carnegie Moscow Center Caucasus expert Aleksei Malashenko referred to these ideological rifts during a February 6 interview with RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent, when he suggested that Zakayev was dismissed because of his moderate views and readiness to negotiate with Moscow. During the interview, Malashenko said that Zakayev is seen as "a figure of the past," and that "new, more radical figures are emerging in Chechnya" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/02/B49D528B-97B1-41A3-9C43-21B424DE4849.html).

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <doukaeva@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in the North Caucasus region can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/subregion/northcaucasus.html


RADIO FREE IRAQ LOOKS AT CORRUPTION IN PARLIAMENT Radi al-Radi, the head of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, gave an interview to a Baghdad correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq about the corruption investigation involving Iraqi parliament member Mish'an al-Juburi. Al-Juburi has been charged with graft under suspicion that he siphoned off salaries for ghost employees of a pipeline-protection force he oversaw in the Salah Al-Din Governorate. His son, Yazin, has also been charged, as his company is accused of misusing funds earmarked for feeding the protection force. A warrant was issued for their arrest, but father and son have not been found. Al-Radi said "there is information that they are in Syria."
During the interview, broadcast February 7, 2006 (English transcript at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/2C06B573-E664-40BA-A0E4-99064FB55930.html), al-Radi explained that the al-Jubur tribes were to be put in charge of guarding an oil pipeline north of Baghdad. As a member of parliament, Mish'an al-Juburi was entrusted with the project and asked to form, supervise, and command armed guard units. But, as al-Radi put it, "the problem was that no matter how much was spent and how much was paid to these units, explosions on that pipeline continued. That prompted the government to investigate the matter."
According to al-Radi, wherever the government looked, it found evidence of malfeasance. He said al-Juburi presented a list of names of people hired as guards and got money to pay their salaries, but according to al-Radi, "we came to see that [the list] included numerous elements of corruption and embezzlement. It seems there were many fictitious names and that the funding was fabricated."
He rejected the idea that the case is politically motivated, repeating that "the problem completely falls under the issues of corruption and embezzlement." Al-Radi said in the RFE/RL interview that financial damages to the state are worth millions of U.S. dollars.

** The Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <danilochkins@rferl.org>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at http://www.iraqhurr.org/; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iraq.html


RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN AT LONDON CONFERENCE A correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan was at the London Conference and, with reports from RFE/RL's Central Newsroom team, was able to provide timely, comprehensive coverage to the service's large Afghan audience. In run-up coverage to the conference the week before its January 31 opening, Radio Free Afghanistan aired interviews with government officials such as Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Abdullah (transcript at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/01/77D6D8FE-8F4A-46CB-8448-BC9A1944AD19.html) and independent analysts including Barnett Rubin (transcript at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/1/515A6F03-FA6E-4269-89C6-565E6B5968DE.html), who gave background information on the preparations for the conference and main issues to be addressed during the event.
For the duration of the conference, from January 31-February 1, an RFA reporter filed live news reports in both Dari and Pashto every hour, as well as longer interviews with members of the country delegations, independent analysts and government officials. Those interviewed included Afghan parliamentarians, Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Said Tayeb Jawad, the Afghan ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Economics and Women Affairs, as well as the Afghan parliamentary speaker and a political adviser to president Karzai (many of these comments can be read at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/2DEDBAED-E90A-4561-9180-571942D632D6.html).

** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <ayazia@rferl.org>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at http://www.azadiradio.org/; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/afghanistan.html


BELARUSIAN SERVICE CRACKS PRE-ELECTION INFORMATION BLACKOUT RFE/RL's Belarusian Service is on the campaign trail of the pro- democratic opposition's unified candidate in the March 19 presidential election, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, who traveled to half a dozen European capitals in January and February to meet with European leaders and senior officials. The service broadcast daily reports on Milinkevich's meetings, penetrating a near total information blackout maintained by Belarusian state-controlled media. RFE/RL reporting on Milinkevich and other opposition politicians planning to run in the March 19 presidential election was the sole source of information for Belarusians about challengers to the incumbent President, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The service noted in a February 1 broadcast that Milinkevich met more European leaders in one week than Lukashenka has in 12 years as Belarusian president. RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent covered Milinkevich's trip there January 29 and his meeting with Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski. The next day, January 30, Milinkevich was in Strasbourg to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe before continuing on to Brussels for two days of meetings (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/1/4B5E00DF-C268-45BB-89DC-92D4A86DF4E9.html; http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/1/5F66B40B-E7A6-47D8-BDBC-629C71956DEE.html). RFE/RL covered his visit there, interviewing both Milinkevich and members of his staff, as well as the people with whom he had talks.
In a January 31 report, the Belarusian Service aired an interview with president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, who said Europeans are now more optimistic that, "perhaps even in the near future," Belarus might resume its path to democracy. Polish member of the European Parliament Bohdan Klich told RFE/RL that he was favorably impressed with Milinkevich, calling him "very open to dialogue... very committed and optimistic." The Belarus foreign ministry, contacted by RFE/RL for its response, said weakly that "Europe interprets the situation in Belarus very subjectively." RFE/RL's Belarusian Service also covered Milinkevich's journey to Berlin, where he met on February 2 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel was quoted by a Milinkevich staffer as expressing solidarity with Belarusian democratic opposition and support for its democratic goals.
In reports aired February 2 and 3, the service aired comments and reaction to the Milinkevich round of diplomacy. Former head of the OSCE mission in Belarus Hans-Georg Wieck told RFE/RL that the mostly favorable reception, especially the meeting with Merkel, is "a signal of political support for Milinkevich's candidacy." Elisabeth Schroder, Bundestag Green Party deputy and member of the Europarliament's international affairs committee, said: "Milinkevich made the best of impressions in Berlin, and also in Brussels and Strasbourg... Germany and Europe are setting on a path of more effective contacts with Belarus. A very good impression is left by the Belarusian opposition, which was able to unite around a single candidate."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <lukashuka@rferl.org>. The Belarusian Service's website is at http://www.svaboda.org/; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/belarus.html


RFE/RL GIVES UNIQUE JOINT PERSPECTIVE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH RFE/RL provided unique coverage to listeners in Armenia and in Azerbaijan of a presidential summit in France that was widely expected to end the 18-year-old dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Both services had correspondents in Paris and at the site of the summit in Rambouillet, filing live reports on the proceedings which did not result in the expected breakthrough for their respective broadcasts to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
RFE/RL was the only media to tell listeners in each country, in their own language, about the position, views and responses of both sides to the negotiations and the international mediators. Although both presidents -- Armenia's Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev -- traveled to Paris with sizeable contingents of journalists, members of the Armenian and Azerbaijani domestic press were not at the two-day summit in Rambouillet outside Paris. RFE/RL's Armenian and Azerbaijani services provided the only comprehensive coverage of the talks and their aftermath and served as a major news source for TV and print media in Baku as well as Yerevan.
In a preview of the summit that aired on February 1, RFE/RL Armenian Service Director Hrair Tamrazian and Kenan Aliyev of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service jointly interviewed Steven Mann, the American co- chair of the OSCE Minsk Group that is mediating the peace process (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/02/07dee29d-01e9-4a9d-8a90-6b22c558db1c.html). Mann emphasized hopes for progress, even agreement -- "I believe that with dedication, some flexibility, and political will, 2006 can be the year for a Karabakh agreement." He said international mediators have been working with the two sides for almost two years and the presidents have met several times: "I think all of us recognize that we are at the stage where we have to turn the corner from negotiation to decision. And speaking from the American perspective, we believe that the possibility for a deal exists in the months ahead." But when the talks ended February 11, Tamrazian and Aliyev were first in reporting that both leaders left Rambouillet castle without making any statement on the outcome of the talks (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/B446C254-96E2-4DD2-8649-A4D28A3E138B.html)

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <tamrazianh@rferl.org>. The Armenian Service's website is at http://www.azatutyun.am/; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/armenia.html
The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <djavadia@rferl.org>. The Azerbaijani Service's website is at http://www.azadses.org/; English-language news about events in Azerbaijan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/azerbaijan.html


TURKMEN SERVICE AIRS PROTESTS OVER PENSIONS RFE/RL's Turkmen Service is keeping the microphone open on the continuing controversy over pension reform in Turkmenistan. Debate on the issue has simmered since President Saparmurat Niyazov signed new pension regulations into law January 25, under which nearly a third of all retirees would lose their pensions, including 1000 ethnic Russian Turkmens with dual citizenship (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/19E42C20-D00F-477A-A712-B522C851BD5E.html). The Turkmen Service brought up-to-date news on the issue in daily reports, as well as round table discussions. On February 8, it broadcast an exclusive interview with Russian parliamentarian Dmitry Rogozin, leader of the "Rodina" party in the State Duma (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/3B191C4C-9868-47E4-B07E-E1E343B6AC1D.html). He called the Turkmen pension reform "a humanitarian catastrophe" man-made by Turkmen authorities. Rogozin told RFE/RL he was launching a campaign in the Duma to draw attention to the pension problem and make the Russian government, as well as the international community aware of the humanitarian and political deterioration in Turkmenistan.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <narodetskya@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/turkmenistan.html


UZBEK SERVICE FOLLOWS FALL-OUT FROM ANDIJON... RFE/RL's Uzbek Service continues to follow the fallout from last year's bloody protests in Andijon, reporting on the continuing trials of human rights activists and opposition members.
On January 30, the service reported on the opening session of the trial of activist, Mutabar Tojiboyeva (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/1/DD3FAEC7-A8F1-41ED-BADD-74EB7A99C106.html). An RFE/RL Central News correspondent managed to get an interview with the head of Tashkent's Center for Human Rights Initiatives, Surat Ikramov, who gave the following account of an abortive attempt to get in the courtroom: "At 8 a.m. we went to Quyi-chirchiq regional court in Soldatskoe town, some 70 kilometers from Tashkent, for Mutabar Tojiboyeva's trial. Police didn't let us in. We waited for some time and Tojiboyeva's lawyer arrived. The lawyer tried to talk to the judge and others to let us in but to no avail. We were not allowed to monitor the trial. We returned to Tashkent." Ikramov said Tojiboyeva faces charges ranging from slander and insult of a government official to damaging the environment.
The service covered two other trials in early February -- the on- going proceedings in Tashkent against Sunshine Coalition activist Nodira Khidoyatova (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/01/f38cb433-a424-48cf-9861-0b6a1dcacf7b.html), as well as the trial coalition chairman Sanjar Umarov, which started January 30 but was almost immediately adjourned to February 3 (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/1/DD3FAEC7-A8F1-41ED-BADD-74EB7A99C106.html). The two defendants are accused of economic crimes -- charges their supporters say are politically motivated.

...SWISS SANCTIONS AGAINST UZBEKISTAN Rita Baldegger, spokeswoman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, gave an interview by telephone to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service about sanctions imposed against the Uzbek government after the May events in Andijon (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/02/E7CD581C-C948-4767-9888-D4759189FB03.html). In the interview, aired February 1, she explained that "the European Union imposed sanctions in November 2005. And now, Switzerland is following these sanctions and thereby, Switzerland is strengthening its earlier position, which was... that Switzerland strongly opposed all the actions taken in Andijon in May 2005." Baldegger added that the sanctions mean "we really want to uphold the civil rights, human rights," and that Switzerland is joining similar action taken by the European Union: "the more countries that are involved in sanctions, the greater the effect will be." Baldegger stressed in the interview that Switzerland is "very strongly against internal repression, and this is a way of showing that and, of course, hopefully, a way of making the Uzbek government think about their actions." Baldegger noted that Switzerland has several agreements with Uzbekistan and exports goods worth 27 million Swiss francs to Uzbekistan ($13 million) annually. She said annual imports are valued at 1.6 million francs ($900,000). "We have some Swiss companies operating in Uzbekistan, but the business interests of Swiss companies in Uzbekistan is not extremely big," Baldegger said.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Sojida Djakhfarova, may be reached by email at <djakhfarovas@rferl.org>. The Uzbek Service's website is at http://www.ozodlik.org/; English-language news about events in Uzbekistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/uzbekistan.html


KYRGYZ SERVICE TALKS TO FOREIGN MINISTER ABOUT GANCI AIRBASE... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service interviewed senior Kyrgyz officials about the U.S.-Kyrgyz negotiations on renewing the U.S. lease of the Ganci airbase. Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov spoke to RFE/RL from London on February 2. In the interview broadcast that day, he said he raised the airbase issue with U.S. Under Secretary of State Josette Shiner on the sidelines of the London conference on Afghanistan they were both attending. "The U.S. leaders are interested in maintaining the Ganci airbase in Kyrgyzstan," Jekshenkulov said.
In earlier interviews, RFE/RL correspondents spoke with Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry and parliamentary officials (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/7805392F-0861-4AE2-884D-C0E8C707082A.html). Parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev told RFE/RL that Kyrgyzstan was seeking to increase to $50 million a year rent for Ganci airbase, which is used to support US military operations in Afghanistan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nurjigit Kadyrbekov said in an RFE/RL interview broadcast in late January that the Kyrgyz government also wants "compensation for ecological damage and landing and take-off fees for planes."

...RELATIONS WITH AFGHANISTAN... Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, during a February 2 interview, about his meeting the day before with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss bilateral relations. Yekshenkulov said they "had direct negotiations on further strengthening political, economic and humanitarian relations between Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan," adding that "President Karzai invited Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Salievich Bakiev to be his guest in Kabul." Jekshenkulov said that Kyrgyzstan will continue to contribute to the international campaign against terrorism and to Afghanistan's economic development.

...ASKS DEFENSE MINISTER ABOUT MILITARY APPOINTMENT... The RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service spoke to Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov February 1 about the appointment of Zamir Myrzabekoich Moldoshev as the new chief of general staff for Kyrgyzstan's armed forces. Isakov said Moldoshev will also serve as first deputy defense minister. Moldoshev previously led the Kyrgyz defense ministry's organization and mobilization department (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/7805392F-0861-4AE2-884D-C0E8C707082A.html).

...INTERVIEWS RESIGNING PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service closely followed the on-again, off-again resignation of parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebayev, who set off a furor in early February when he called Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev "a dog" and suggested he "hang himself from the nearest tree" (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2006/02/39D82EA1-25F6-48C4-A3C0-0F5EDDEEF479.asp). Bakiev responded saying members of parliament were fomenting "political hysteria."
The Kyrgyz Service February 5 aired an exclusive interview with speaker Tekebayev in his first public comment on the president's accusations (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2006/02/C8E2F51E-7093-4FDD-BBEC-B2DA7AEC9E75.asp). Tekebayev said parliament cannot remain indifferent to the way the executive branch is implementing laws passed by the legislature and urged a faster pace of constitutional reform in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz Service also broadcast several interviews with politicians from both sides, including deputy speaker of parliament Bolot Sherniyazov and education minister Dosbol Nur-Uulu, and independent experts on the relations between parliament and government. Most agreed, that in addition to the clash of colorful political personalities, the exchange reflects healthy tensions between president and parliament, as they seek to define respective limits in the separation of powers. On February 10, parliament rejected Tekebayev's resignation, but he resubmitted it a few days later.
For more Kyrgyz Service coverage of the Tekebaev resignation, see http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2006/02/16FD5E00-1B4F-4F59-8FD7-4A8EFE730A63.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2006/02/84C04677-18D1-47BE-B995-D958EBCBCE7D.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2006/02/2687605E-1FD5-41E0-A8BA-A8FD4CBD3FD.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/programs/round_table/ky/

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www. azattyk.org/; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kyrgyzstan.html


TAJIK SERVICE REPORTS ON MIGRANT DEATHS IN MOSCOW The Moscow correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported in the first week of February on three separate fires, all in the same area of Moscow's Dolgoprudniy region, in which only Tajik labor migrants died (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/C37880BE-1080-4242-85F7-5B117F60AEE3.html). His report on the first blaze, aired February 3, said two Tajik women and a child died because of what local police described as "carelessness of the inhabitants." Nine Tajik migrants died as a result of another fire on February 7, while police evicted some 300 Tajik migrant workers from their homes in Dolgoprudniy. A third fire broke out on February 8, in which four people were killed in almost identical circumstances (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/E2FBDEA7-9AC1-49DB-A485-EFDB79838009.html).
RFE/RL interviewed the head of the "Tajik Diaspora" group Karomatullo Sharipov, who said in the program broadcast February 10 that he had visited the site and that such incidents of death by fire in mysterious circumstances had happened before (http://www.ozodi.org/specialsarticle/2006/2/98887319-BA49-4C89-9F6B-EE3793F09FEC.html)

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Normahmad Kholov, may be reached by email at <kholovn@rferl.org>. The Tajik Service's website is at http://www.ozodi.org/; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/tajikistan.html


RFE/RL in the News

PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO RFE/RL Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili paid tribute to RFE/RL at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy, from February 3-5. Saakashvili was the keynote speaker at the dinner on the opening evening of the conference, which is attended by heads of state, defense ministers and other high-ranking officials (transcript at http://www.securityconference.de/konferenzen/rede.php?menu_2006=&menu_konferenzen=&sprache=en&id=163&).
Saakashvili began his remarks with a recollection of the role Radio Liberty played in his student years. He said: "Being in Munich today reminds me when I was a student in Ukraine in the 1980's, when I listened every day to Radio Liberty -- my only connection with freedom. I still remember the instant I heard the Berlin Wall had fallen -- and tears came to my eyes. At that moment I understood a breakthrough was taking place, one that began here in Germany -- and one I knew would have a profound effect on my life. Something new was dawning -- and for the first time, I felt hope. If Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe could be free -- I knew that one day, so would we. What I didn't know then was that it would take full 14 years before my country and Ukraine would be genuinely free. Fourteen years later, the people of Georgia showed tremendous dignity and unity when liberty finally reached our shore. Because during our Rose Revolution, when peaceful protestors occupied all our government buildings, not a window was broken or drop of blood spilled. Not a single piece of furniture was stolen. Freedom brings out the best in people. And when democracy is genuine -- it is the people who own it. For all those who have fought for our advanced freedom, we know the security that our democracies provide -- and we know that our democracies must always be protected".

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <kakabadzed@rferl.org>. The Georgian Service's website is at http://www.tavisupleba.org/; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/georgia.html


TURKMEN SERVICE LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM RFE/RL's Turkmen Service February 9 launched a new program on life and events inside Turkmenistan -- a repressive state and closed society which has not allowed RFE/RL to establish a news bureau in the country. The 5-minute weekly program, called "Inside View," is produced in cooperation with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting which has a center in Ashgabat. RFE/RL retains editorial control over material supplied by IWPR and the programs in Turkmen will be posted on IWPR's website, together with transcripts in Turkmen, Russian and English (IWPR's release about the program may be viewed at http://www.iwpr.net/?p=rca&s=f&o=259530&apc_state=henprca).
The first edition of "Inside View" included a report on the forced resettlement of inhabitants of a quarter in Ashgabat and demolition of homes there to make way for a new development. Another segment warned of the poor quality of widely used Russian-made gas stoves and provided recommendations for improving the safety of gas heating. In time, RFE/RL hopes to broadcast the program three times a week.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <narodetskya@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/turkmenistan.html


RFE/RL IRAN EXPERT PUBLISHED IN CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR... RFE/RL Regional Analysis Coordinator for Southwest Asia and the Middle East, Dr. A. William Samii published an op-ed piece in the February 2 Christian Science Monitor, entitled "In the Shadow of Iran's Nuclear Threat" The article assesses Iran's dual-track policy of supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East and developing a domestic nuclear weapons program. As Samii put it: "It is time to take a realistic look at the potential threat. At best, a nuclear armed Iran would undo the delicate balance of power in the Middle East. At worst, it could start a global Armageddon. The solutions being offered range from military action to continued negotiations and granting of more concessions. But the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran is some way off... Iranian- backed terrorism, on the other hand, is happening right now. Individuals are being killed almost every week as a result, and over the past two-and-a-half decades many people -- including Americans -- have died because of it."

...INTERVIEWED ON FOX NEWS Samii was also a guest on the February 2 "Fox News Live" program to speak about Iran, in the wake of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that reviewed Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability. He was asked to comment on the results of the IAEA meeting and reaction to President George Bush's statements on Iran in the State of the Union address. Samii said that the Iranian leadership has portrayed the nuclear issue in nationalistic terms, telling the country's people that the West wants to prevent Iran's scientific, cultural, and economic development. The real concern in the West, however, is that the Iranian leadership wants to develop a nuclear weapons capacity. Allegations of U.S. antipathy to the Iranian people, Samii said, are blatantly untrue.

** Dr. Samii may be reached at <samiia@rferl.org>.


RFE/RL AFGHAN EXPERT INTERVIEWED ON BBC NEWS RFE/RL Regional Analyst for Afghanistan, Dr. Amin Tarzi was interviewed by BBC News on February 7, where he discussed the upsurge of violence Afghanistan's southern regions. During the television interview, Tarzi discussed the implications of NATO's expansion to southern Afghanistan and the dangers which NATO troops might face in that region. Tarzi said that the recent escalation of violence, including an unprecedented number of suicide bombings, is likely an effort to discourage those NATO member states and Australia from sending their forces to Afghanistan. The bulk of the NATO's expansion will come from Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and non-NATO-member Australia.

** Dr. Tarzi may be reached at <tarzia@rferl.org>.

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Copyright (c) 2006. 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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