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Newsline - October 6, 2004


FSB DIRECTOR SAYS AL-QAEDA OPERATIVES ON RUSSIAN TERRITORY...
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev said during an interview with NTV on 5 October that intelligence indicates that at least 10 Al-Qaeda operatives are working in the North Caucasus. "They all are foreign citizens, who are leaders of these gangs on Russian territory," Patrushev claimed. He cited the deaths of field commanders Khattab and Abu al-Walid in Chechnya as evidence of an Al-Qaeda presence, claiming that the two foreign-born terrorists were members of the terrorist network. He also mentioned the FSB's recent arrest Abu Muskhad (Kamil Rabat Bouralha) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004), who Patrushev said is an Algerian citizen holding a British residence permit who traveled to Russia to train fighters and to commit terrorist acts. He also said that his agency is cooperating with Western intelligence services and the security agencies of Georgia and Azerbaijan to combat terrorism, but he added that this cooperation is insufficient. VY

...AND DENIES AGENCY HAS FAILED TO PREVENT TERRORISM
When asked during his 5 October NTV interview whether the alarming upsurge in major terrorist acts in Russia can be construed as an FSB failure, Patrushev said that the issue must be placed in perspective. "Terrorist acts have also occurred in other countries," he noted. Patrushev claimed that the FSB has prevented more than 500 terrorist acts this year, 200 of which could have had "most serious consequences." He said that Russia's public enemy No. 1, radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, "has been sighted" in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, but said he has no information regarding media reports that Basaev was there for medical treatment. Patrushev said that not long ago the FSB compiled a list of "leaders of bandit formations" whom it targeted for extermination. "Now this list is nearly cleared," he said, adding that results regarding Basaev and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov "will appear soon." VY

POLLS FIND RUSSIANS PREPARED TO ACCEPT INCREASED RESTRICTIONS TO FIGHT TERRORISM
A poll conducted by the Levada Analytical Center from 24-27 September indicates that around 60 percent of Russians are prepared to accept the temporary restriction of some civil rights, including freedom of movement and travel abroad, if it would help prevent terrorism, strana.ru and polit.ru reported on 5 October. Thirty-three percent of respondents to the poll of 1,600 people in 128 cities are against such measures. Ninety-three percent of the poll's respondents believe that new terrorist acts are "very likely," and 76 percent do not believe the government can prevent them. Regarding possible methods of combating terrorism, 89 percent support implementing stricter procedures for document checks and searches of individuals; 82 percent support the elimination of terrorists both at home and abroad; 59 percent support expanding the activities of the country's security services, including controlling the Internet and monitoring telephone conversations; and 59 percent support placing restrictions on public organizations and media outlets that criticize the president's policies for combating terrorism. In listing what they believe to be the causes of terrorism, 34 percent of respondents cited the "machinations of enemy forces," 35 percent blamed the authorities' policies, and 24 percent cited a combination of the two factors. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 5 October published a similar VTsIOM poll that had comparable findings. According to the VTsIOM poll, 63 percent of respondents support the creation of a powerful unified security agency similar to that of the Soviet KGB. VY

PUTIN WARNS AGAINST PLAYING GAMES WITH TERRORISTS
Speaking during a reception of foreign ambassadors in the Kremlin on 5 October, President Vladimir Putin said that a "double standard in dealing with terrorists is intolerable" and called for a united front in combating terrorism, NTV and ORT reported. Putin said that history shows that no country is spared from the threat of terrorism, and that "one should not only neutralize terrorists, but also completely isolate their political lobbyists and ideological inspirators." VY

FINANCE MINISTER URGES INCREASED EFFORTS TO CUT OFF TERRORISTS' FUNDING
Addressing the opening in Moscow on 5 October of an international conference attended by the financial-intelligence services of 30 countries, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin called for the creation of a regional Eurasian group to stem the funding of international terrorism, polit.ru and strana.ru reported. Kudrin said that stopping the perpetrators of terrorist acts is less important than stopping the international terrorist groups that "order and organize terrorist acts." Kudrin said that Russian legislation is in the works that will introduce amendments allowing the freezing of bank accounts of organizations suspected of financing terrorism. However, he advised, "such amendments should not damage business and society." VY

RUSSIA CLASHES WITH PACE OVER DEFINITION OF TERRORISM
Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, who is heading the Russian delegation attending the 4-8 October session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, said on 5 October that a Russian draft resolution on terrorism was met with resistance by representatives of the European Union, RIA-Novosti reported. Kosachev said two ideas of what constitutes terrorism were prevalent at the session. The one adhered to by Russia is that terrorism has an international, but not a local, character and is in itself a threat to human rights, Kosachev said. The West -- and, in particular, according to Kosachev, by former PACE rapporteur on Chechnya Lord Frank Judd -- supports the idea that democratic principles have absolute supremacy over other considerations, even when combating terrorism. Kosachev complained that EU representatives at the session had managed to strike some paragraphs from the Russian-proposed resolution, and that further differences over the draft can be expected. Among the members of the Russian delegation are Ingush President Murat Zyazikov and Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii. VY

DUMA SPEAKER BACKS PUTIN'S POLITICAL REFORMS...
Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on 6 October endorsed President Putin's proposal to create a so-called public chamber to oversee the work of the legislature, RIA-Novosti reported. Gryzlov said that representatives of civil society should be included in such a body. He added that "the influence of society on the political processes in the country is inadequate" and lauded the proposed chamber as "a form of civil control over the work of the state apparatus." Gryzlov said that such a chamber might be created within the apparatus of the legislative branch and that "there is an idea that parties can propose a representative for this organ from among the public organizations with which they work," ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzlov also expressed support for Putin's proposal to replace the direct election of regional governors with a system under which local legislatures would approve candidates nominated by the president, but said that the proposal would undergo modifications before it is approved by the Duma. He said that the proposal would enhance the authority of local legislatures. "The legislative assembly will be the body to which the elected governor must answer," Gryzlov said. RC

...AS ELECTION OFFICIAL SAYS DIRECT ELECTION OF GOVERNORS SHOULD BE RESTORED AFTER 10 YEARS
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 5 October that President Putin's proposal to end the direct election of regional governors should limited to a period of 10 years, RBK and "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 6 October. He said the proposal is "a forced political measure" and should "bear a temporary character." He added that he believes the proposal is not unconstitutional and that it should be bolstered by specific anticorruption legislation. RC

NEW MOSCOW SCHOOL ID CARDS WILL CARRY UNIFIED RUSSIA LOGO
The identification cards that are to be issued to all Moscow schoolchildren as part of the city's new antiterrorism measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2004) will feature promotional information for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party on the reverse side, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 October. The front of the document will feature the student's photograph and biographical information, while the back will feature the logo of Unified Russia and "valuable information," Unified Russia Fund head Boris Meshcheryakov said. He said the fund is the "ideological sponsor" and the "financial mechanism" for distributing the cards, and that the fund intends to issue them nationally. "We have handed them out in the first three schools at our own expense and now we are looking for partners to help us further," Meshcheryakov said. Moscow has 1,700 schools. Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Mitrokhin said that the action violates the law on political parties, which prohibits parties from doing promotional work in educational facilities. RC

HIGHEST COURT BEGINS HEARING CYRILLIC-ALPHABET CASE
The Constitutional Court on 5 October began hearing a case involving a decision by the government of Tatarstan to switch the alphabet of the Tatar language from one based on the Cyrillic alphabet to one based on Latin letters, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 October. The court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of a federal law requiring that all official languages of constituents of the Russian Federation be based on the Cyrillic alphabet. The court will also consider a republican law requiring children to study both the Tatar and the Russian languages. The court rejected a motion by the Tatarstan government to postpone the hearing. The hearings are expected to last several weeks, the daily reported. RC

VOLGOGRAD GOVERNOR TO SEEK THIRD TERM
Volgograd Oblast Governor Nikolai Maksyuta on 5 October notified the regional election commission that he will be seeking a third term as governor in the oblast's 5 December gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported. The regional branch of Unified Russia is expected to nominate Duma Deputy Vladimir Goryunov in the race. In Saratov Oblast, Unified Russia has decided not to support incumbent Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov in that region's upcoming election, "Gazeta" reported on 5 October. The party will back Duma Deputy Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin for the post, party general council member Frants Klintsevich told journalists on 4 October. Volodin formerly served as deputy speaker of the Saratov Oblast legislature and as one of Ayatskov's deputy governors. RC

CHECHEN LEADER MAKES FIRST OFFICIAL TRIP ABROAD
Newly inaugurated pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov traveled to Strasbourg on 6 October where he is expected to address a PACE session, ITAR-TASS reported. "I'm planning to tell deputies of the Europarliament about the real situation in Chechnya and measure to counteract international terrorism," Alkhanov told the news agency. "The president of the Chechen Republic, the government, and other executive bodies intend resolutely to aid the observance of guarantees, human rights, and freedoms in Chechnya and to protect civil society from lawlessness." RC

CIS SECURITY OFFICIALS MEET IN ARMENIA
A three-day meeting of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly's Defense and Security Commission opened in Yerevan on 6 October, Noyan Tapan and Yerkir reported. The meeting is to focus on cooperative measures to strengthen security in the wake of last month's hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia. Participants are also planning on drafting specific proposals to be presented at an upcoming Moscow meeting of the CIS Council of Interior Ministers set for December. RG

ARMENIAN COMBAT VETERANS STAGE SIT-IN TO DEMAND INCREASED STATE BENEFITS
Representatives from 10 combat detachments that served in the Nagorno-Karabakh war threatened on 5 October to stage a sit-in the next day in front of the main building housing Armenian government offices, Caucasus Press and Noyan Tapan reported. The veterans are protesting what they called the Armenian government's failure to provide adequate assistance to disabled veterans. The expected sit-in was being organized by Armenian Aryan Unity group leader Armen Avetisian in response to the authorities' failure to respond to a petition of demands the veterans submitted three weeks ago. The veterans are specifically demanding greater state compensation, expanded pension payments, and housing assistance for disabled and the families of soldiers killed during the conflict. To date, the Armenian government has allocated 200 million drams (about $400,000) for veterans' benefits. RG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES VISITING BULGARIAN PRESIDENT...
Armenian President Robert Kocharian welcomed Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov to Yerevan on 5 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Arminfo reported. The Bulgarian president, on a two-day state visit to Armenia, met with President Kocharian and discussed measures to expand bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Parvanov stressed the need for an acceleration of the international mediation effort aimed at reaching a negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Bilateral trade has tripled in recent years, with a 100 percent increase in Armenian exports to Bulgaria since 2001, mainly due to the work of the Armenian-Bulgarian Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation. The presidents also reviewed a set of new proposals aimed at forging transport and trade links between the two countries, including plans for a direct air link from Sofia to Yerevan, and joint railway and ferry links to Georgia's Black Sea ports. Bulgaria is seen as a strategic partner for Armenia, due to its current position as OSCE chairman in office and due to its expected accession to the Europe Union by 2007. RG

...AS ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH VISITING FINNISH COUNTERPART
Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian met with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja in Yerevan on 5 October, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 5 October reporting that the two foreign ministers discussed "the process of reforms and democracy strengthening in the context of Armenia's European integration." Foreign Minister Tuomioja also signed a bilateral-investment treaty in a ceremony with Prime Minster Andranik Markarian. The Finnish foreign minister, on a tour of the region, also met with President Kocharian and spoke at the Yerevan-based Armenian Center for National and International Studies, a research institute founded by former Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian. In those remarks, Foreign Minister Tuomioja raised the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and stressed the European Union's unique role in "addressing the root causes of conflicts," adding that the EU "is not, and will not, become a great military power, but it can become an effective actor in conflict prevention and crisis management." RG

AZERBAIJANI DELEGATE SEEKS ARMENIAN DISMISSAL FROM COUNCIL OF EUROPE BODY
Parliamentarian Rafael Huseinov, a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), called on 5 October for the dismissal of Armenia from the organization, "Baku Today" reported. The Azerbaijani delegate asserted that Armenia must be sanctioned by the organization and criticize the Armenian president for "contradicting democracy and human rights." Huseinov further alleged that the Armenian government was engaged in narcotics trafficking in Nagorno-Karabakh and accused Armenia of being responsible for nuclear waste in areas of Azerbaijani occupied by Armenian forces. Although the delegate failed to present any evidence or documentation, the motion is being forwarded to PACE's Committee of Ministers. RG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMENDS AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENT
Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis commended the Azerbaijani government on 4 October for adopting "important" moves addressing the status of political prisoners, Turan reported. In response to questioning by the opposition media, however, Davis was unable to affirm that all political prisoners have been released and deferred to the Council of Europe's "rapporteurs' experience, as they know who best is a political prisoner," but stated that "some of the political prisoners recognized by the Council of Europe have already been released." The comments were made during a press conference in Baku in which the Council of Europe official also called on Baku to initiate measures seeking greater conformity with Council of Europe standards. RG

AZERBAIJANI COURT TO SEIZE PROPERTY OF OPPOSITION JOURNALIST'S FAMILY
An Azerbaijani district court in Baku announced on 5 October that it will confiscate the property of the parents of opposition journalist Eynulla Fatullaev, Turan reported. The case stems from Fatullaev's conviction two years ago for "libel and insulting the honor and dignity of Defense Ministry representatives" after he published an article on corruption within the military in the opposition "Monitor" publication. The conviction led to the imposition of a 150 million-manat fine (about $30,000). After failing to pay the fine, the journalist was summoned to the court and after arguing that he was unable to pay the fine, the court ruled that it would seize his parents' property. RG

ELECTION OFFICIALS REPORT ON RESULTS FROM ABKHAZ POLL
Abkhaz Central Election Commission Chairman Sergei Smyr reported on 5 October a preliminary count of votes from the 3 October presidential election has been completed in all districts except Gali, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Although none of the five candidates surpassed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, the preliminary results showed opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh with a significant lead over his closest challenger, Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba. Khadjimba was initially declared the winner of the election on 4 October in an announcement that was retracted soon thereafter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). Smyr added that the 15-member Central Election Commission will convene a special meeting with all candidates to discuss the vote in the Gali district, but he did not indicate when a second round election will be held. RG

ABKHAZ CANDIDATE CALLS FOR NEW PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Abkhaz Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba accused his main rival of election fraud on 5 October and called for an annulment of the election results, Civil Georgia and ITAR-TASS reported. Khadjimba demanded a new election, citing "widespread procedural violations" and problems with the vote count in the southern Gali region, and arguing that a sizable number of the district's ethnic Georgian residents were pressured to vote for opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh. Khadjimba supporters claim that their candidate holds a lead in the two main Abkhazian districts of Gagra and the capital Sukhum. RG

SEPARATIST SUMMIT HELD IN ABKHAZIA
Meeting in Sukhum on 5 October, the foreign ministers of the self-proclaimed breakaway republics of Transdniester, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia accused Moldova and Georgia of endangering international stability and security, Infotag reported. They accused the government in Chisinau of continuing to apply economic and political pressure on Tiraspol, thereby reducing the chances of resolving the conflict. The three ministers said Russia continues to be the most important guarantor of preserving peace and that "attempts to discredit Russia's peacekeeping mission [are]...fraught with unpredictable, dangerous consequences that extend far beyond regional limits." MS

REGIONAL OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN ADJARA
The chairman of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara's Council of Ministers, Levan Varshalomidze, announced on 5 October the arrests of district administrators Otar Tsetskhladze and Nodar Kartsivadze and their deputies on corruption and embezzlement charges, Caucasus Press and Rustavi-2 reported. The two officials, appointed four months ago, were implicated in illegal logging in the region. RG

GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF PROMOTED TO DEPUTY SECURITY MINISTER
The head of the Georgian Intelligence Department, Batu Kutelia, was appointed on 5 October to the post of deputy minister of state security, Imedi TV reported. Kutelia replaces Gigi Ugulava, who was recently named governor of the Samegrelo Region. The new deputy security minister will also retain control of the intelligence department. RG

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES DOMINATE KAZAKH ELECTIONS
Preliminary results released on 5 October by Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission for 19 September elections and 3 October runoffs indicate that pro-presidential parties have won an overwhelming majority in the lower chamber of parliament, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The final tally showed the pro-presidential Otan party with 43 delegates in the 77-seat Mazhilis; the pro-presidential AIST bloc of the Civic and Agrarian Parties with 11; the pro-presidential Asar party with four; the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan with one; the moderate opposition party Ak Zhol with one; and 17 independents. A number of the independents are also affiliated with political parties, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The first session of parliament is scheduled for 1 December. DK

TAJIK GOVERNMENT PLANS COMPUTER UPGRADE
Mahmudkhon Saraev, a senior expert in the presidential administration's Information and Analysis Department, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 5 October that Tajikistan's government is planning to integrate all of its ministries and departments into a single information network. "A single network will provide for better document management and information exchange between ministries and departments," he said. "The need for such a network arose a long time ago, but previously we did not have the technical and financial resources." Saraev also said that a website for the Tajik government is slated to be launched in the first quarter of 2005. DK

U.S. DELEGATION MEETS WITH UZBEK PRESIDENT, MINISTERS
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Andy Hoen held high-level meetings in Uzbekistan on 5 October, news agencies reported. They discussed bilateral military cooperation, security cooperation, and the situation in Afghanistan with Uzbek Defense Minister Qodir Ghulomov and Foreign Minister Sodiq Safoev, Uzbek TV reported. Uzbek President Islam Karimov also received at his residence Assistant Secretary of State Bloomfield, Uzbek TV reported. The meeting with Karimov had not been scheduled, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. A spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent told RFE/RL that the U.S. delegation visited "to discuss with Uzbek officials the issues regarding the status of U.S. troops abroad." Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry would not confirm for RFE/RL that this was the subject of talks, nor would it give a reason for the unexpected meeting with President Karimov. DK

ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK TO GIVE UZBEKISTAN $52.6 MILLION
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will provide $52.6 million to finance four projects in Uzbekistan, "Khalq Sozi" reported on 5 October. The IDB will allot $15 million to aid small business, $12.5 million to modernize an asphalt factory, $25 million to build a power grid from the Sirdaryo power station to the Soghdiyona substation, and a $143,000 grant to set up an investment company, UzA reported on 4 October. The IDB and Uzbekistan signed an agreement on the four projects at the bank's 29th annual forum in Tehran in September. DK

SOURCE SAYS UZBEK TELECOM PRIVATIZATION TO BE REDUCED
A source at Uzbekistan's Agency for Communications and Information Technology told Prime-TASS on 5 October that the government now plans to sell only 49 percent of national telecom Uzbektelecom instead of a planned 64.2 percent. Meanwhile, the government plans to increase its stake in the company from 30 percent to 45 percent. A spokesperson for Germany's Commerzbank, which is consulting the Uzbek government on the sale, told the news agency that the changes could jeopardize a successful privatization. DK

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PASSES BELARUS DEMOCRACY ACT
The U.S. House of Representatives on 4 October unanimously passed the Belarus Democracy Act, a bill designed to promote democratic development, human rights, and the rule of law in Belarus, as well as encourage the consolidation and strengthening of Belarus's sovereignty and independence, the U.S. Helsinki Commission reported on 5 October. The bill authorizes necessary assistance for democracy-building activities such as support for nongovernmental organizations, independent media, including radio and television broadcasting into Belarus, and international exchanges. "With important parliamentary elections and a questionable referendum to extend [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka's rule beyond his two-term tenure set to expire in 2006, the United States has demonstrated our unwavering support for pro-democracy forces in Belarus," said Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. "With passage of the Belarus Democracy Act, we send a strong signal that we stand firmly on the side of those who long for freedom." JM

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONIST JAILED FOR BREACH OF PUBLIC ORDER IN HIS OFFICE
A district court in Minsk has jailed Syarhey Antonchyk, leader of the Belarusian Free Trade Union, for 15 days, finding him guilty of organizing an unsanctioned meeting and breaching the public order, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 5 October. On 2 October, police conducted a raid on the offices of the Belarusian Free Trade Union, where some 100 people discussed the creation of a new opposition organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004). Antonchyk told RFE/RL that the court verdict is precedent setting, since it was the first time when a Belarusian citizen was punished by court for breaching the public order on private premises. Antonchyk added that under Belarus's law, he does not need any official sanction for holding a meeting in the office of his organization. JM

OUR UKRAINE DISCOVERS MORE DIRTY CAMPAIGN LEAFLETS
The Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus on 6 October called on the Interior Ministry to investigate and report on the finding of "millions" of leaflets and posters directed against Our Ukraine leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The previous day, a group of Our Ukraine deputies revealed "tens of millions" of anti-Yushchenko leaflets in the Ekspotsentr Ukrayiny storehouse in Kyiv, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported, quoting Our Ukraine lawmaker Mykhaylo Kosiv. Eight Our Ukraine deputies remained in the storehouse all night to keep an eye on the stock of dirty campaign materials. Police sealed up the storehouse on 6 October, UNIAN reported. Large stocks of anti-Yushchenko leaflets were also discovered a few days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). JM

POLLSTERS PREDICT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WILL BE CLOSE
According to a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute and Socis from 17-27 September among 11,000 Ukrainians, presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko would be supported by 31.5 percent of voters in the first round and 38.2 percent in the runoff, while his main rival, Prime Minister Yanukovych, would be backed by 30.6 percent and 37.5 percent of voters, respectively, Interfax reported on 5 October. SOCIS commented that the difference in the registered popularity ratings of both candidates is statistically insignificant. According to the poll, 69 percent of respondents firmly declared that they would take part in the 31 October presidential ballot. JM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON KOSOVA'S SERBS TO VOTE...
Serbian President Boris Tadic said in Belgrade on 5 October that members of Kosova's Serbian minority should take part in the province's 23 October parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 August 2004). "I appeal to the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija to take part in these elections. I appeal to the government of Serbia and its prime minister to obey the law and to allow all the refugees to use their basic human right, the right to vote," Tadic stressed. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and several other Serbian leaders support a boycott of the parliamentary elections on the grounds that there is not sufficient security for Serbs to go to the polls. Kosova's elected government notes that many Serbs in Kosova had no problem casting their ballots in the June Serbian presidential election. Albanian leaders charge that the real motive for the boycott is to pressure the UN to accept Belgrade's decentralization proposal, which the UN rejects and the ethnic Albanian majority regards as a first step toward partition. Western governments have repeatedly called on Kosova's Serbs to vote on 23 October. PM

...SETS CONDITIONS THAT KOSOVA'S PREMIER REJECTS...
Speaking in Belgrade on 5 October, Serbian President Boris Tadic argued that a condition for Serbian participation in the 23 October Kosova parliamentary elections is that internationally recognized Serbian local government bodies be set up there within three months of the vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In response, Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told RFE/RL in Prishtina that it is not acceptable that Kosova's Serbs take their political cues from Belgrade and do not make their own decisions. Rexhepi argued that the establishment of local government bodies would amount to recognition of current Serbian parallel structures, which "is unacceptable to us and to the international community." He said that the ongoing process of administrative decentralization in Kosova will give the Serbian minority better security and freedom of movement, as well as all rights within Kosova's constitutional framework. Rexhepi argued that Tadic's latest remarks are an attempt to distance himself from some of the positions of Prime Minister Kostunica, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Rexhepi added, however, that Tadic has not really distanced himself from the others very much. PM

...AND INSISTS THAT SERBIAN GOVERNMENT COOPERATE WITH THE HAGUE
Serbian President Tadic said in Belgrade on 5 October that "Serbia is at a crossroads. It will either move forward to development and to a better life, or it will stay where it is now forever because it is not capable of solving the problems that have been a burden and hindrance for too long." He argued that "citizens of Serbia and other individuals who are on the territory of Serbia who were indicted by the Hague [war crimes tribunal's] prosecutor must hand themselves over [to the tribunal] and face their indictment," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In another clear challenge to Prime Minister Kostunica, Tadic argued that "the Serbian government must obey the law. An executive power cannot interpret a judiciary decision." The president stressed that "politicians cannot relativize the court's verdicts by leaving it up to those indicted to decide what to do. I demand the government of Serbia fulfill its legal obligations in the interest of the stability and future of the state. If it is not able to do so, it should face the consequences." Kostunica has often used stability as an excuse for foot-dragging on cooperating with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 2004). PM

SERBIAN REFORMIST POLITICIAN SEEKS TO BRING DOWN GOVERNMENT
Cedomir Jovanovic, who is a prominent politician of Serbian President Tadic's Democratic Party, appealed to Tadic in an open letter on 5 October not to support Prime Minister Kostunica's government in the parliament in order to bring it down and force new elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Jovanovic charged that the government is leading Serbia back to traditional populist nationalism and away from Euro-Atlantic integration and reform. He wrote the letter to mark the fourth anniversary of the overthrow of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In view of the continuing strong showing by the Democrats and Radicals in elections and public opinion polls at the expense of the governing parties and Milosevic's Socialists, speculation is rife in Serbia that the government's days might be numbered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 27 September, and 4 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July 2004). PM

FRENCH TROOPS PARACHUTE INTO KOSOVA
Some 360 French paratroopers jumped from seven Transall C-160 transport planes into Kosova on 6 October in an exercise designed to show readiness to provide security for the 23 October parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers will receive a total of 2,000 reinforcements for the vote, mainly French, German, and Italian troops. An unnamed French officer told reporters that the parachute exercise "demonstrates that Kosovo is still an operational theater." PM

POLITICAL PARTIES IN MACEDONIA FACE LEADERSHIP PROBLEMS
Two potential leaders of the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM) -- Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and former parliamentary speaker Tito Petkovski -- clashed on 2 October over the SDSM's position on the upcoming referendum against the government's redistricting plans, "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 17 September 2004). Petkovski said that people should participate in the referendum, adding that he will vote to reject the government's plans. The SDSM's official position is to boycott the referendum in the hope of causing it to fail due to an insufficient turnout. Elsewhere, members of the leadership of the small opposition ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) demanded on 5 October that party Chairman Abdulmenaf Bexheti resign, "Dnevnik" reported. Bexheti's opponents argue that he has failed to reform the once-powerful party, which has lost much of its influence among ethnic Albanian voters in recent years. In other news, former Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska announced that she will form a new conservative party of her own since she cannot return to her former party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), because of differences with VMRO-DPMNE Chairman Nikola Gruevski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). UB

ROMANIA REPORTEDLY TO BE GRANTED 'FUNCTIONING MARKET ECONOMY' STATUS BY EU
Reports in the Western and Romanian media on 5-6 October said that, despite some criticism, the European Commission is to grant Romania the status of a "functioning market economy" in its annual report due on 6 October. The status is one of the conditions for the successful conclusion of accession negotiations and was denied to Bucharest last year. According to the "Financial Times" on 4 October, the report says that "Romania complies with the criterion of being a functional market economy." Reuters, which has gained partial access to the document ahead of its release, said on 5 October that it praises Romania for adapting its legislation to EU standards and stabilizing its economy, but criticizes Bucharest over graft, media freedoms, minority rights, and human trafficking. Citing AFP, Mediafax said the commission's report leaves in place the goal of having Romania and Bulgaria join the union together in 2007, but the "safeguard clause" that allows a one-year delay if the two countries fall behind schedule is to be maintained. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER HOPEFUL AHEAD OF REPORT RELEASE
In a 5 October statement, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said he hopes that the report will reflect last year's "efforts of Romania and of the whole Romanian society to finalize preparations for accession in 2007," Mediafax reported. President Ion Iliescu said he was confident Romania would be granted the status of a functioning market economy and added that criticism included in the report "must not give vent to emotion." Criticism, Iliescu said, should be viewed as "a point of departure for future improvement." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said Romanian leaders received assurances earlier this week in Brussels that the status of a functioning market economy would be granted in the report. He said negotiations on the remaining four chapters would be "complex" but would be successfully concluded by November in a joint effort of Romanian and EU experts. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SAYS OPPOSITION NOMINEE FOR PREMIER IS LIKELY TO BE LIBERAL
Traian Basescu, who replaced Theodor Stolojan as the presidential candidate of the opposition National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance, said on 5 October that if the alliance wins the November parliamentary elections, the next premier would be selected from among the National Liberal Party (PNL) ranks, Mediafax reported. Basescu stressed, however, that the two-party agreement stipulates that the alliance's co-chairmen must reach agreement on the person selected for that position. In an interview with the daily "Evenimentul zilei" on 6 October, interim PNL Chairman and alliance co-Chairman Calin Popescu-Tariceanu refused to speculate on whether he would accept the post of prime minister, saying that heads of government are appointed only after elections are won. However, he said that if the PNL would agree to a postelection coalition with the current ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), he would resign from any position in the PNL. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER CONSIDERING JOINING PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Petre Roman said in an interview with the daily "Jurnalul national" on 6 October that he is reconsidering the possibility of joining the presidential race after Basescu's designation as PNL-Democratic Party candidate for the post. Roman was replaced as Democratic Party chairman by Basescu in 2001 and set up a new party, named Democratic Force in February. He said last month that he would not run for president because his party lacks sufficient funding for the campaign. In the interview with "Jurnalul National," Roman said the financing problem "is about to be solved" and that he can provide solutions "different" from those PSD candidate Nastase or Basescu are capable of providing. "With Stolojan as candidate, the race would have been normal and more constructive. He is a person who would never engage in hazardous and nonsensical talk. The situation changes with Basescu's appearance," Roman said. The former prime minister (1990-2001) garnered 20.54 percent in the 1996 presidential race and scored a slim 2.99 percent in the 2000 race. MS

PACE WON'T CONSIDER SANCTIONS AGAINST CHISINAU AFTER TELERADIO MOLDOVA PROTESTS
Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said in Chisinau on 5 October that the council's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), which is currently meeting in Moldova's capital, would not consider sanctions against Moldova in the wake of recent protests against the alleged politicization of hiring procedures at Teleradio Moldova, Infotag reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August and 22 September 2004). Davis said he agrees with a recent assessment by Western ambassadors to Moldova concerning irregularities in the process of transforming the company from a state into a public entity, but added that the situation is gradually returning to normal. Most journalists, he said, have ended their strike, as the reform of Teleradio Moldova is nearly complete. Davis also called for the liberation of the remaining members of the Ilascu group imprisoned in Tiraspol. MS

THE KREMLIN VS. VALERII ZORKIN?
Ever since President Vladimir Putin, as a purported response to the horrific terrorist attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, proposed eliminating the direct election of most regional executive-branch heads and replacing them with a system under which local legislatures would approve candidates nominated by the president, opponents have been denouncing the plan as unconstitutional.

On 30 September, a group of 19 leading liberals, including six State Duma deputies and former Union of Rightist Forces co-leaders Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada, published an open letter to Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin asking him to weigh in on the constitutionality of the proposal. The letter was the initiative of independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, who has been the most vocal and articulate opponent of the measure.

Ryzhkov told gazeta.ru on 30 September that he addressed the appeal to Zorkin in the hope that he would make public his understanding of the proposal before the Duma adopts it. "In appealing to the Constitutional Court to review these anticonstitutional amendments, I am trying to forestall a situation. Specifically so that we deputies are not pushed into an obvious transgression of the constitution. The amendments are anticonstitutional in their concept, no matter what changes the deputies make to them prior to adoption," Ryzhkov said.

In a commentary published in "The Moscow Times" on 5 October, Ryzhkov outlines the provisions of the constitution that he believes are violated by Putin's proposal -- Articles 1, 3, 5, 10, 11, 32, 71, 72, 73, and 77. Primarily, opponents say the move will destroy the country's constitutionally mandated federative structure and replace it with a unitary state. Supporters of Putin's reform proposals note that Article 77 of the constitution specifies that the principles for organizing government organs in the federation subjects is established by federal law and specifies "a unified system of executive power in the Russian Federation."

Opponents of Putin's proposal frequently cite a 1996 Constitutional Court ruling regarding a case about the selection of the executive-branch head of Altai Krai. At that time, the court ruled that one branch of government could not play a role in the formation of another branch of government, specifically saying that it was unconstitutional for a regional legislature to select the head of the region's executive branch. Former Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 15 September, however, that the Altai ruling could be set aside in the interests of national security.

On 1 October, however, the court's press service issued a statement saying "members of the Constitutional Court do not have the right to react to this letter, but only to official complaints or queries from citizens regarding existing legislative acts," Russian media reported. This reaction was widely expected from the scrupulous Zorkin, although Khakamada continued to express the hope that Zorkin will respond to the letter "as a private individual." Despite headlines such as "Valerii Zorkin Will No Longer Save The Constitution," which appeared in "Vremya novostei" on 1 October, the court's reaction does not mean that the ultimate fate of the measure won't be decided within the chambers of the Constitutional Court. However, to file an official "deputies' inquiry" to the court, supporters of the appeal face the daunting task of gathering 90 signatures in the Duma, "Russkii kurer" reported on 4 October.

Ryzhkov pointed out to "Vremya novostei" that Article 100, Part 3, of the constitution authorizes the court -- and the president -- to send messages to the Federal Assembly and that, if Zorkin had wanted to, he could have used this provision to respond to the open letter. However, "in 11 years this provision has not been used even once," Ryzhkov noted, saying that "the Constitutional Court has interpreted its own authority as narrowly as possible" in this case. Some analysts have interpreted this as indicating that the court will attempt to sidestep efforts to force it to rule on the proposals. "Most likely, there will be attempts to pressure the Constitutional Court," Nemtsov told "Russkii kurer."

Zorkin's Constitutional Court, however, may well be the last bastion of independent political power in Putin's Russia. In October, the court struck down some highly controversial provisions of a Kremlin-backed law on guaranteeing the rights of voters that placed harsh restrictions on media coverage of election campaigns. The ruling came after weeks of posturing by Kremlin agents, including a statement by Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov "predicting" that the court would refuse to hear the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2003).

Zorkin was also in charge of the court on 21 September 1993, when it ruled that then President Boris Yeltsin's decree disbanding the Supreme Soviet was unconstitutional. That verdict sparked a standoff between the legislature and Yeltsin that ended when the president ordered tanks to fire on the White House. On 6 October 1993, Zorkin was forced to resign as chairman of the court.

Zorkin's reelection to the post on in February 2003 came as a surprise, as the Kremlin was widely reported to have been backing a third term for then court Chairman Marat Baglai. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 22 February that Zorkin had the support of presidential adviser and Petersburg chekist Viktor Ivanov, while Baglai was backed by deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov, who is believed to be the architect of Putin's proposal to end the direct election of governors (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 March 2003). According to the daily, the court judges who voted for Zorkin were put off by Surkov's arrogance, commenting sarcastically that the only forces higher than the Constitutional Court are "the Russian Constitution and Surkov." An unnamed senior Kremlin official told ITAR-TASS on 28 September that the court's 1996 decision in the Altai Krai case was most likely prompted by "a political situation" and that the court would most likely agree with the Kremlin that the proposal "does not restrict citizens' constitutional right to elect and to be elected." It seems quite possible that another major showdown between the court and the Kremlin is in the offing.

AFGHAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN ENDS WITH KARZAI'S RALLY IN KABUL...
Campaigning officially ended on 6 October for Afghanistan's first presidential election scheduled for 9 October, international news agencies reported. At an election rally held in Kabul on 6 October, frontrunner Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said that "the future of Afghanistan for centuries ahead will be determined" by the upcoming election, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. The rally held by Karzai was his second official election campaign gathering, while he also made a trip to northern Afghanistan to open a new road (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). Karzai's first campaign rally was held on 5 October in the south-central Ghazni Province, the BBC reported on 6 October. In Kabul, Karzai told a crowd estimated at 6,000 who had gathered at a stadium that he would "respect the vote of the nation" in the case that "someone else wins the polls," AFP reported on 6 October. Campaigning began on 7 September. AT

...AS TWO KILLED IN RALLY BY HIS FIRST RUNNING MATE
Two people were killed on the last day of Afghan election campaigning on 6 October in an apparent bomb blast in Fayzabad, provincial capital of the northwestern Badakhshan Province, AFP reported. The campaign rally featured Karzai's first running mate, Ahmad Zia Mas'ud (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 August 2004), who was not harmed in the incident. No one has taken responsibility for the attack. AT

PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER'S OFFICIAL KILLED IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN...
A district campaign official for Karzai's main rival, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, was killed in Shindand District of Herat Province, AFP reported on 5 October. "We condemn the killing of Abdul Aziz who was campaigning for us in Shindand," Qanuni told a gathering of his supporters in a rally held in Kabul on 5 October. Herat Province police chief Ziauddin Mahmudi said that Abdul Aziz's body was discovered in Shindand, however, it was not clear whether he was campaigning for Qanuni at the time of his death. AT

...AS HE CLAIMS HIS SUPPORTERS WERE JAILED
At a campaign rally in Kabul on 5 October, Qanuni accused supporters of his rival, Karzai, of jailing his supporters, the BBC reported. "They threw our supporters into jail," Qanuni said, referring to the unidentified supporters of Karzai. "We condemn this act and we ask the UN and the government to release those people who have been sent to jail for no reason but supporting us," Qanuni added. The alleged incarcerations occurred in northern Baghlan and Konduz provinces, AFP reported on 5 October. Supporters of Karzai and Qanuni, two main contenders in the election, reportedly clashed in Herat city in late September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). AT

SURVEY INDICATES MAJORITY OF AFGHAN REFUGEES IN PAKISTAN FAVOR KARZAI
A survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration shows that 97 percent of Afghan refugees in Pakistan favor Karzai as the next leader of their country, the Karachi-based daily "Dawn" reported on 6 October. An estimated 650,000 expatriate Afghans in Pakistan and an equal number in Iran, from around 2 million refugees in the two countries, have registered to vote in Afghanistan's presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). AT

DISSIDENT GROUP OF RADICAL ISLAMIC PARTY SUPPORTS KARZAI
A dissident group of Hizb-e Islami said it supports the candidacy of Karzai in the upcoming presidential election, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 5 October. Khaled Faruqi, chairman of the splinter Hizb-e Islami, said that Karzai was the most suitable person to run Afghanistan, adding that his party wants the future Afghan leader to bear in mind the objectives of the jihad and observe Islamic values. "All Afghans and especially the Hizb-e Islami party should vote for Hamid Karzai," Faruqi said, according to "The Christian Science Monitor" on 6 October. The main branch of Hizb-e Islami, led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is an ally of the neo-Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The splinter group of the party is an officially registered political party in Afghanistan (for a list of Afghan political parties, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/). AT

IRAN MISSILE PROGRAM WORRIES U.S.
"The United States has had and continues to have serious concerns about Iran's missile program," U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on 5 October according to dpa. "As you know, we view Iran's efforts to further develop its missile capabilities as a threat to the region and to the United States' interests, and all the more so in light of its ongoing nuclear program." Ereli was reacting to an Iranian statement earlier in the day about Iran's missile capabilities. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani had said, "Today, we have the capability to launch missiles with a range of up to 2000 kilometers," IRNA reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani was speaking at a conference on space and national security sponsored by the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics and the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology at the Aerospace Research Institute. He conceded that Iran lags "far behind" industrialized countries in terms of utilizing space, and he explained that Iran became interested in missiles because Iraq used them against Iran in their 1980-1988 war. "We thought of building missiles only after we were hit by them. We then started to build them from scratch," he said. BS

IRAN BEWILDERS U.S., CANADA, AND EU
Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian said on 6 October that Iran has converted raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, AP reported. The gas can be enriched in centrifuges and used either as fuel to generate power or in an atomic weapon. "We have converted part of the raw uranium we had and produced a few tons of uranium hexafluoride gas," said Musavian, who is Iran's spokesman at the International Atomic Energy Agency. The previous day, an anonymous U.S. official said that Washington believes it would be pointless to offer political and economic incentives to Iran to stop possible weapons-related activities, Reuters reported. "At this point a grand bargain is not where we are heading," the official said in Brussels, where U.S., EU, and Canadian officials are discussing Iran. The U.S. official said the United States and Europe need a common approach toward Iran but expressed bewilderment on how to achieve that. "How do you...elicit from Iran a readiness to engage? I don't know the answer and I don't think the Europeans do either," the anonymous official said. BS

IRANIAN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY MINISTRY MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY...
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 4 October praised the efforts of the Intelligence and Security Ministry as the organization marked its establishment 20 years earlier, IRNA reported. Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi said in a 4 October interview on state television that his priority has been winning public trust and eliminating fear. "An intelligence service should bring people peace of mind and tranquility rather than fear," he explained. Yunesi added that counterterrorism is the ministry's main duty, and because the armed opposition is concentrated in one organization this is relatively easy. He added that the ministry has assets in many of the overseas opposition groups and knows about their agents' coming to Iran beforehand. Dealing with social and financial corruption is more complicated because it occurs throughout society, he said. BS

...AND MAY REORGANIZE
First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi said on 5 October that the government is working on restructuring the Intelligence and Security Ministry's administrative structure, IRNA reported, and added that the ministry should consolidate and assume the appropriate position in the country's management system. Intelligence and Security Minister Yunesi said in a 4 October interview on state television that the actual structure is unimportant. He said the ministry needed restructuring after a number of crises (a reference to the 1998-99 serial killings of dissidents by alleged rogue elements within the ministry), and "the ministry made itself up to date." Yunesi said the experience of ministry specialists is being formalized in a way that can be passed on to future generations -- "We see this as part of the renovation of the ministry." A 1 October article about Iranian neoconservatives on the Eurasia Insight website (http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav100104.shtml) asserts that parliamentarians affiliated with the conservative Islamic Iran Developers Council (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami) are working on legislation that would place the ministry under the conservative-controlled judiciary. BS

IRAN ENCOURAGES EXPATRIATE INVESTMENT
Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Safdar Husseini said in a 4 October meeting in New York that Iranians would get priority and investment guarantees when investing in Iran, IRNA reported. Husseini made this statement during a meeting with Iranians living in the United States who have expressed an interest in the oil sector, stock exchange, animal husbandry, hospital construction, pistachio imports, and airport services. Intelligence and Security Minister Yunesi addressed this topic in a 4 October interview on state television. "Iranians living abroad possess a good wealth of wisdom and ideas as well as financial wealth," he said. "There are many billionaires among them." Yunesi said expatriate Iranians should be confident in the security of their investments. "We in fact prefer our compatriots to invest there," Yunesi said. "That security has already been established." BS

IRAQ'S MAJOR POLITICAL GROUPS TO FORM LIST FOR ELECTIONS
Iraq's six leading opposition-turned-political parties are reportedly working to compile a joint list of candidates to stand in the January 2005 elections, Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" reported on 5 October. The move is seen as a calculated step by the groups to retain a hold on power. The groups dominated the Iraqi Governing Council and were subsequently guaranteed seats on the interim National Assembly and interim cabinet. The groups are: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi National Accord, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Two other groups will also participate in the list: the Communist Party and the Iraqi Islamic Party, "Al-Zaman" reported. Opposition groups have said that the current political structure has made it nearly impossible for them to compete in the political arena, the daily reported. KR

TALKS UNDER WAY BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND AL-SADR CITY REPRESENTATIVES
The interim government reportedly entered into talks with representatives from Baghdad's Al-Sadr City neighborhood in an effort to bring an end to the fighting between Shi'ite militants loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S.-backed Iraqi national forces, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 5 October. Leaders from Al-Sadr City have apparently put forth an initiative that is similar in nature to the Al-Najaf settlement brokered by Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2004). It calls for the fighters to hand over their weapons within an allotted time frame. The Iraqi police will then assume the responsibility for security in the city. The National Guard will have the right to patrol the area accompanied by multinational forces, but the government must commit to not hunting down members of the al-Sadr militia. The initiative was reportedly submitted to the government in the name of a delegation of Al-Sadr City's tribal leaders, as well as an unnamed representative from al-Sadr's Baghdad office, Al-Arabiyah reported. KR

DEFENSE MINISTRY INVITES FORMER OFFICERS TO JOIN IRAQI ARMY
The interim Defense Ministry has issued a call for former officers with the rank of major and below to join the new Iraqi Army, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 5 October. The call is reportedly only addressed to the divisions of electrical and mechanical engineering, supplies, and transportation. A source at the ministry said that a joint committee comprised of Defense and Interior ministry officials will review the applications and history of prospective returnees before they are rehired, the television reported. KR

PRIME MINISTER ASKS UKRAINE NOT TO REDUCE TROOP SIZE
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi asked Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in a letter not to reduce its troop numbers in Iraq, Interfax news agency reported on 5 October. "I count on your personal understanding of the momentous task my government is facing in restoring the country. I am asking you to maintain the current number of troops in Iraq throughout next year, or until the time when the multinational forces are in [a] position to pull out their troops," the letter said in part. The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council supported a Defense Ministry proposal last week that calls for the gradual reduction of Ukraine's peacekeeping contingent in Iraq. Meanwhile, the two countries announced this week that they have drafted a defense cooperation agreement that calls for military-technical cooperation and military training and consultation. Under the agreement, which will reportedly be finalized on 8 October, Ukraine will train military specialists of the Iraqi armed forces at its colleges, and also provide training in the field, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. KR

CIA REPORT SAYS NO EVIDENCE LINKING TERRORIST TO HUSSEIN
A new report by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has said that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave safe haven to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, international media reported on 5 October. Al-Zarqawi is linked to Al-Qaeda. U.S. officials argued before the war that Hussein had sheltered members of Al-Qaeda and therefore was linked to the global war on terror. Reuters cited a U.S.-based ABC news report that quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that the CIA report raises "serious questions" about the administration's prewar assessments, adding that there is no direct evidence that Hussein knew that al-Zarqawi was even in Iraq. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on 5 October that al-Zarqawi "was in contact from Baghdad with Ansar Al-Islam in the northeastern part of Iraq. He had a cell operating from Baghdad during that period as well. So there are clearly ties between...Saddam Hussein's regime and Al-Qaeda." KR

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