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Newsline - October 7, 2004


IRAQI GOVERNMENT REPORT IMPLICATES VOLOSHIN IN OIL DEALS...
The former Putin administration official who was accused of accepting illegal payments from the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a secret Iraqi interim-government report has been identified as former presidential-administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 October, citing a leaked copy of the report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2004). Voloshin, who was chief of staff under former President Boris Yeltsin as well as under President Vladimir Putin, stepped down in October 2003 following the arrest of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsii, and he is now board chairman of Unified Energy Systems (EES). The report charges that Voloshin received about $638,000 from allocations of 3.9 million barrels of Iraqi oil exported through the UN's oil-for-food program. Neither Voloshin nor Kremlin officials were available to comment on "The Moscow Times" report. RC

...AS POLITICAL PARTIES ARE ALSO SAID TO HAVE PROFITED
Several Russian political parties and 20 Russian oil companies also profited from Iraqi oil allocations under the Hussein regime, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 October, citing the interim Iraqi government's report. The Communist Party reportedly was allocated 142 million barrels of oil and made a profit of $16.4 million, while the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) allegedly was allocated 75.8 million barrels and earned $8.7 million. Emercom, a commercial arm of the Emergency Situations Ministry, received allocations of 73.5 million barrels, earning $7.6 million, according to the report. At the time, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu was the head of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party and its predecessor, Unity. Both the Communist Party and the LDPR have denied the allegations. Although earlier media reports have charged that the Russian Orthodox Church received oil allocations, the Iraqi government's report said the church received no allocations and made no profits from the oil-sales program. RC

PUTIN SIGNS CHURCH RESTITUTION BILL INTO LAW...
President Putin announced on 6 October that he signed a bill into law on the return of lands confiscated after 1917 from the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). Putin was speaking following a meeting at the Kremlin with church representatives. "The state repays its historical debts to the church," Putin said in an address to more than 160 senior church leaders, according to ORT, RTR, and NTV. Putin also called on church leaders to help "consolidate nations," solve social problems, and aid in the fight against terrorism. "Throughout Russian history, the state and the church have always stood side-by-side," Putin said. VY

...AND VOWS TO IMPROVE CHURCH RELATIONS WITH CHINA AND UKRAINE
During a 6 October meeting between President Putin and senior representatives of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Baikal and Chita Archbishop Evlampii reportedly complained that Chinese immigrants are depriving local residents of work and income in Russia's Far East, ORT and RTR reported. "The Chinese are good people, but there are too many of them and they are depriving Russians of their livelihood," Evlampii said. Putin asked whether there were efforts to convert such immigrants to Russian Orthodoxy. Evlampii responded by saying that the church has opened a parish on Chinese territory but he accused Chinese customs officials of blocking the import of a church iconostasis. Putin said he would broach the issue with the Chinese leadership during his visit to China later this month. In a response to Russian Orthodox Church clerics in Ukraine complaining of similar obstacles there, Putin said he will discuss the matter with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Viktor Yanukovych in an "informal atmosphere." Putin said he has invited both Ukrainian politicians to his 52nd birthday celebration on 7 October. VY

RUSSIA TO FACE TOUGH PACE SCRUTINY OVER CHECHNYA...
Ekho Moskvy and polit.ru suggested on 6 October that Russia can expect a difficult time at the current session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as the organization discusses the situation in Chechnya. Three reports are at the heart of the debate -- one each by PACE commissions dealing with the political, refugee, and human rights situations in Chechnya. A preliminarily approved PACE resolution stresses the lack of rule of law in the war-torn republic, adding that "brute force" has become a determining factor in the lives of a whole generation of Chechens, Interfax reported on 6 October. The head of Moscow's PACE delegation, Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia), said Russia will demand amendments to the PACE motions on Chechnya. VY

...AS ASSEMBLY REJECTS MOSCOW'S BROAD INTERPRETATION OF TERRORISM
PACE delegates have excluded a clause on the "misuse of the right to political asylum" and another on the "facilitation of extradition of individuals suspected of complicity to terrorism" from a Russian-backed resolution on international terrorism, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 October. Russian and European delegates also failed to reach agreement on an acceptable definition for either a "terrorist" or an "accomplice to a terrorist," according to the same source. PACE delegates meanwhile dismissed Russian objections to back a French proposal to include a provision on the "right to legally resist violence," Ekho Moskvy reported. VY

NEW CHECHEN LEADER RULES OUT TALKS WITH RESISTANCE FIGURES
Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Alu Alkhanov told a hearing on Chechnya organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 6 October in Strasbourg that he does not advocate peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov or other Chechen resistance figures, ITAR-TASS reported. "There will be no negotiations with militants, including Maskhadov," Alkhanov said, adding that the situation in the republic is complex but under control. "I can state that the level of crime in the republic is falling on the whole. This is concrete proof of the fact that lilfe in the republic is taking on a normal outline, although we are still far from full normalization," Alkhanov said, according to RIA-Novosti. RC

DUMA TO CONSIDER BILL ON PAYING PEOPLE TO REPORT ON ILLEGAL RESIDENTS
A new bill is being prepared in the Duma under which residents of large cities would be offered cash payments for reporting on the presence of unregistered people living or working near them, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 7 October. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Vladimir Pligin (Unified Russia) told the daily that the new law would not infringe the rights of Russians to move about the territory of the Russian Federation. "It is time to move away from the vulgar term 'snitch,'" Pligin said, adding that paying for information about illegal residents "is not the worst part of our present circumstances." The Duma last week adopted legislation that would increase the fines for renting apartments or hiring unregistered people. RC

ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL CALLS FOR LAW ON CENSORSHIP
Presidential representative in the Federation Council Aleksandr Kotenkov said on 6 October that the state must introduce "legally defined censorship," Ekho Moskvy reported. "We must give a precise legal definition of what must not be published by the media," Kotenkov said. "We are unconditionally in favor of strengthening the independence of the media, but this must not infringe the interests of the state." Federation Council member Lyudmila Narusova told Ekho Moskvy that the country's media law should be strengthened to protect individual privacy. She said that political censorship already exists in Russia but "it takes the form of self-censorship by journalists. RC

OFFICIAL SAYS CORRUPTION TO BE VIEWED AS ABETTING TERRORISM
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak said on 6 October that unemployment and a poor investment environment are the main problems facing his district, ITAR-TASS reported. He also called for a crackdown on corruption. "Any bribe taking, [or] any misuse of budgetary funds will be considered as abetting terrorism, banditry, and other criminal activity," Kozak said. He said the region's problems cannot be solved merely by additional infusions of cash from the federal budget but by the proper exploitation of its own human and economic resources. RC

PROSECUTORS SAY BODY IDENTIFIED IN PUMANE CASE
The body of a man who was beaten to death by security agents while being questioned in connection with a purported plot to explode one or more car bombs in downtown Moscow has been identified as that of St. Petersburg submariner Aleksandr Pumane, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004). Prosecutors reportedly identified the body using dental records. Pumane was beaten to death during a three-hour interrogation by as many as 150 security officers on the night of 17-18 September after reportedly having been arrested in a car laden with explosives. Police say he confessed that he had been paid $1,000 to park the car near a Moscow museum. "Gazeta" reported on 7 October that Pumane's former wife, Natalya Pumane, is "not convinced" that the body that she was asked to identify earlier was the same one that prosecutors identified using the dental records. RC

VNESHTORGBANK CONSIDERING MOVE TO ST. PETERSBURG
State-owned Vneshtorgbank is expected to change its formal registration from Moscow to St. Petersburg, "Vedomosti" reported on 6 October. The move is expected to be endorsed by the bank's oversight board at its 21 October meeting and would mean that the bank's tax registration and payments would move from Moscow to St. Petersburg. A spokesman for the bank said that some of the bank's management, including possibly the president of the bank, will also likely be transferred to St. Petersburg. "Just as Washington is the capital of the United States and New York is its financial capital, in this case there is a desire to reanimate the development of St. Petersburg," an unidentified member of the bank's oversight board told the daily. Bank spokesman Vadim Levin said, "I think that part of the bank's clientele will also move to St. Petersburg." The bank last year paid $81 million in profit taxes, three-quarters of which went to the Moscow city budget. RC

SUBMARINE-RESCUE EXERCISE DECLARED A FAILURE
The Baltic Fleet on 5 October failed to complete an exercise designed to simulate the rescue of five crewmen of a sunken diesel submarine, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 October. An SS-750 rescue vessel was dispatched to rescue the imaginary crew from a submarine that was stranded 53 meters below the surface, but a pump on the AS-26 submersible failed to work and it was unable to dock with the submarine. RC

FSB OFFICER SUSPECTED IN KIDNAPPING CASE
Federal Security Service (FSB) Captain Roman Slivkin has been detained by investigators probing the June killing of Russian "Forbes" Editor in Chief Paul Klebnikov, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russan media reported on 7 October. According to the report, Slivkin is suspected of having kidnapped a former business partner named Akhmed-Pasha Aliev and having tried to secure a $300,000 ransom. Aliev was freed during a police operation and reportedly identified Slivkin as one of his kidnappers. The authorities are also searching for two officers from the FSB's military counterintelligence branch who were identified as Oleg Sachkov and Dmitrii Frolov in connection with the kidnapping case. No charges have been filed against Slivkin yet. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 October that the Prosecutor-General's Office has appealed to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev asking him to discipline Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin for making unauthorized public statements about the Klebnikov case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). RC

RUSSIA PLEDGES TO REOPEN FREIGHT TRANSIT TO ARMENIA
Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian announced on 6 October that Russia has pledged to reopen a key border-crossing point to allow freight traffic to resume to Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. Armenian officials protested the Russian closure of its border with Georgia that cut off a key trade route between Russia and Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004). The Russian pledge to reopen the mountainous Verkhny Lars border crossing point followed a personal appeal by Armenian president Robert Kocharian to Russian President Vladimir Putin late on 5 October. Armenian officials have initiated talks with Georgian customs officials to allow for the speedy release of more than 1,000 vehicles and about 250 heavy trucks and freight carriers destined for Armenia but stranded along the Russian-Georgian border for nearly a month. RG

AZERBAIJANI DISTRICT COURT IMPOSES FINE ON OPPOSITION JOURNALISTS
An Azerbaijani district court in Baku on 6 October imposed fines on two opposition journalists for "insulting the honor and dignity" of a regional government official, Turan reported. The sentences followed a lawsuit filed by Lachin district official Muradcan Cabbarov against Ruslan Basirli of the opposition "Azadliq" newspaper and Ali Orudzhev, the deputy editor of the opposition "Millet" newspaper. The journalists were fined 30 million manats (roughly $6,000) each and ordered to publish formal apologies to the defendant. Orudzhev was beaten by police in October 2003 while he was covering an opposition rally in the town of Saatly (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 10 October 2003). RG

REPEAT ELECTION TO BE HELD IN KEY ABKHAZ DISTRICT...
Abkhaz Central Electoral Commission member Razhden Khikuba announced on 6 October that a repeat election will be held in the Gali district after serious problems with the vote count and allegations of widespread voting fraud disrupted the 3 October presidential election in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS and the Caucasus Press reported. The two leading candidates, Abkhaz Prime Mister Raul Khadjimba and opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh, agreed to the new vote although each continued to accuse the other of voting irregularities. The repeat election is set for 17 October and, if no candidate garners over 50 percent of the vote, a second-round runoff is required. Official results have revealed a close race between the two candidates, suggesting that the voting in the mainly ethnic-Georgian Gali district will likely determine the outcome of the presidential contest. RG

...AFTER DEMONSTRATORS PRESSURE ELECTORAL OFFICIALS OVER ABKHAZ VOTE
More than 300 demonstrators staged a protest in front of the offices of the Abkhaz Central Electoral Commission in Sukhum on 6 October demanding the release of election results from the Gali district, the Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Results from the 3 October Abkhaz presidential election show a lead of fewer than 5,000 votes for opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh over his main challenger, Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba. Results from the Gali district have been withheld after numerous reports of voter intimidation, fraud, and procedural irregularities. RG

ABKHAZ LEADER APPOINTS NEW PRIME MINISTER...
The president of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, issued a decree on 6 October replacing Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba with former Sukhum Mayor Nodar Khashba, Interfax reported. Khashba, currently a deputy departmental chief in the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, defended his appointment as a necessary measure to ensure stability and explained that "the decree does not annul either the election or its results. The main aim is to eliminate the power vacuum and create normal conditions for the lawful completion of the election process." Khashba added that a new Abkhaz government will not be formed until a new president is installed. RG

...AND SUGGESTS DECISION PROVOKES 'REAL THREAT OF CIVIL WAR'
Abkhaz leader Ardzinba also issued a statement on 6 October criticizing the decision of the Abkhaz Central Electoral Commission to schedule a revote of the 3 October presidential election in the Gali district, Interfax reported. The statement added that the electoral officials were "coerced" by supporters of opposition presidential candidate Sergei Bagapsh and argued that "any decisions which are extracted as a result of coercion cannot be regarded as lawful" and "does not comply" with the Abkhaz election law. Ardzinba's statement concluded that the election has led to "a real threat of civil war." RG

GEORGIAN DISTRICT OFFICIAL ARRESTED FOR ABUSE OF OFFICE
The former head of the district government in Ninotsminda, Rafik Arzumanian, was arrested for abuse of office, the Caucasus Press reported on 6 October. Samtskhe-Javakheti regional Prosecutor-General David Narimanidze reported that Arzumanian, a district official since 1993, was dismissed from his post last week. Narimanidze added that the case rests on charges from the illegal use of state-owned land for the construction of a power-transmission line connecting the region to Armenia. Following news of the arrest, a number of local residents demonstrated outside the Prosecutor-General's Office demanding Arzumanian's release. The arrest is part of a broader Georgian crackdown on corruption within local government and follows the arrest of two regional officials in Adjara the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004). RG

CONSORTIUM MOVES AGAINST POSSIBLE KAZAKH TAX CLAIM
BG Group announced on 6 October that it and other members of the international consortium developing the Karachaganak oil and gas field have filed an appeal to counter a possible claim by Kazakh authorities for tax arrears, Prime-TASS reported. Kazakh Deputy Energy Minister Lyazzat Kiinov had said earlier that the consortium faces "a very large sum" in arrears, Dow Jones reported on 6 October. "It's a very large sum, but less than $1 billion," Kiinov added. Prime-TASS quoted BG spokesman Jonathan Miller as saying, "We are confident there is no basis for the claim, and we have formally responded to the tax issues raised." Miller would not comment on exact amounts, however. The consortium consists of Britain's BG Group, Italy's Eni SpA, Russia's LUKoil Holdings, and U.S.-based ChevronTexaco. DK

RUSSIA TO UP PERSONNEL LEVELS AT KYRGYZ BASE
Lieutenant-General Yevgenii Yurev, commander of Russia's 5th Air and Air Defense Army, told reporters on 6 October that Russia will raise personnel numbers at its Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan to 1,000 by the end of 2004, ITAR-TASS reported. Yurev's remarks came during a visit to the base. The lieutenant general also said the base will get more fighter aircraft and helicopters. On regional issues, Yurev cited Afghanistan as the primary locus of concern and said that military exercises will be held in Tajikistan in early 2005. DK

RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PROTEST DECISION ON KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER
Kyrgyz NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society issued a statement on 6 October to protest the Antimonopoly Department's recent finding against the newspaper "MSN," akipress.org reported. On 27 September, the department had asked the newspaper to end a policy of "limiting competition by selling the newspaper 'MSN' below cost." The statement quoted coalition head Edil Baisalov as saying, "The department's resolution...is absurd in both essence and form." The statement concludes, "Although the coalition feels that this decision by the department has no hope of succeeding in court, as it clearly contradicts Kyrgyz legislation and the principles of a market economy, it is for civil society a dangerous signal of a possible new series of attacks and court cases against independent media." DK

TAJIKISTAN TO INTRODUCE TRANSPARENT BALLOT BOXES...
Tajik Central Election Commission head Mirzoali Boltuev said on 6 October in Dushanbe that parliamentary elections in Tajikistan in February will employ transparent ballot boxes, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Boltuev said ballots will be printed on special paper with a watermark to prevent forgery. He also addressed the issue of political-party representation on local-election commissions, saying, "If political parties submit lists of their members and say in which of the electoral commissions they want to be included, they will not be refused." DK

...AS RULING PARTY HOPES FOR '70 PERCENT' OF VOTE
Davlatali Davlatov, deputy chairman of the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan, told Iranian Mashhad radio on 5 October that the party hopes to win 70 percent of the votes in February's parliamentary elections. "The overwhelming majority of the people of Tajikistan, that is to say more than 70 percent of them, are now ready to vote for our party," Davlatov said. Davlatov charged that other political parties are spending too much time on "various seminars and roundtable meetings" in the capital when they should be canvassing voters throughout the country. He also warned against pernicious foreign influences, saying, "There are newspapers that are being financed by various states and some international organizations that have various goals, including geopolitical, political, and other goals, and look on every event taking place in Tajikistan with hostile eyes." DK

TAJIKISTAN BECOMES 182ND MEMBER OF INTERPOL
The General Assembly of Interpol voted in Mexico on 5 October to accept Tajikistan as the organization's 182nd member state, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. The vote followed an agreement reached in Paris in the spring between Interpol management and Tajik Interior Minister Humdin Sharipov. First Deputy Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahhorov commented, "Today it is impossible to fight crime effectively on one's own without international cooperation, and [Tajikistan's] admission to Interpol will broaden our potential," according to ITAR-TASS. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS BELARUS DEMOCRACY ACT...
Alyaksandr Lukashenka commented on 6 October that the Belarus Democracy Act, which was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004), is a "step of foolish pressure on our country," Belapan reported, quoting official Belarusian sources. "The authorities could not wish for a better gift," Lukashenka said. "If you [the U.S. lawmakers] scold me for seeking internal and external enemies, why are you giving me a pretext for finding such an enemy outside the country? Why are you supplying me with such a chance?" Lukashenka satirized the U.S. indirect election system as "the most archaic" in the world. "As a result, the incumbent [U.S.] president obtained fewer votes than the one who took second place," Lukashenka noted. "Is it normal? And such people are concerned about the situation in Belarus!" JM

...URGES DEVASTATION OF OPPOSITION IN UPCOMING POLLS...
President Lukashenka told the government on 6 October that the authorities should win not only the presidential referendum on 17 October but also should fill all the 110 seats in the Chamber of Representatives in the first round of the legislative elections that will be held on the same day, Belapan reported. "We should show who is the master of the house," Lukashenka said. "We should leave no stone unturned [in crushing] the domestic and external opposition to make the Americans know that their opus [the 2004 Belarus Democracy Act]...adds 10 percent to the [Belarusian] authorities' score. One should be able to stay in power and defend it. This is grandpa Lenin's saying, not mine. We have enough power and techniques to win these elections and referendum overwhelmingly." JM

...AND VOWS TO SPEND $1 BILLION ON SOCIAL SECURITY IN 2005
President Lukashenka promised at a conference on social-security issues on 6 October that the government will allocate $1 billion for a raise in stipends, pensions, and other allowances next year, Belapan reported. "This is an unprecedented step," he added. At the same time, the Belarusian president expressed concern that the increased social-security spending will not help the government to increase the average monthly wage by the end of 2005 to the planned target of $250. "So extra expenditures will certainly be necessary," Lukashenka said. "As for the future, we'll spend still more funds. We won't stop at an average pay of $250 after all -- we need a minimum of $500 after five years, and we were thinking about $750." JM

TWO BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES REMOVED FROM BALLOT FOR 'BAREFACED LIES'
The Central Election Commission on 6 October upheld the decision of a district election commission in Vitsebsk to cancel the registration of two opposition candidates, Belapan reported. Pavel Sevyarynets, a leader of the Young Belarus coalition, and Uladzislau Tokarau of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) were removed from the ballot for allegedly using radio airtime to deliver defamatory messages targeting the country's officials. In particular, Sevyarynets was found guilty of saying that "corruption and red tape" has permeated "all levels of the government." Ales Byalatski, who represents the BNF on the Central Election Commission with the right of a "consultative voice," argued that the messages in question contained nothing but a general criticism of the political system and should be regarded as political debate. However, Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik condemned the pronouncements of Sevyarynets and Tokarau as "barefaced lies" that, he added, were intended to mislead the voters. JM

WASHINGTON PROTESTS USE OF BUSH IMAGES, U.S. FLAG IN UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has said the use of images of U.S. politicians and the American flag on political posters in Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable, Interfax reported on 7 October, quoting the embassy's press service. The embassy was referring to large stocks of campaign leaflets and posters caricaturizing opposition presidential candidate and Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko as a figurehead of the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 October 2004). The "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua/) on 6 October posted reproductions of a dozen anti-Yushchenko campaign materials found by Yushchenko supporters at storehouses of the Ekspotsentr exhibition center in Kyiv. The Yushchenko campaign staff estimates that there may be up to 500 million copies of anti-Yushchenko leaflets at the Ekspotsentr storehouses. Some of them depict U.S. President George Bush and the U.S. flag with slogans reading "We are for Our Ukraine," "Yes! Yushchenko Is Our President," and "Yes! For Bushchenko." One of the posters depicts Taras Shevchenko, a Ukrainian national poet of the 19th century, and a slogan reading "Yankee! Go Home!" JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON LAND SALES UNTIL 2008
The Verkhovna Rada on 6 October passed a new version of amendments to the Land Code, thereby extending the moratorium on the sale of farmland by individuals and legal entities in Ukraine from 1 January 2005 to 1 January 2008, Interfax reported. In June, the parliament adopted the bill that extended this moratorium to 1 January 2007, but President Leonid Kuchma vetoed it the following month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2004). JM

CORRECTION:
"RFE/RL Newsline" on 4 October inadvertently misidentified Kateryna Chumachenko, the wife of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, as the spouse of his main rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Our sincere apologies to all concerned.

SERBIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVA
Serbian President Boris Tadic said in Brussels on 6 October that independence for Kosova is "completely unacceptable," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. He added that anyone who seeks independence for the province thereby undermines any hope for the lasting stabilization of the Balkan region and encourages radical, anti-democratic trends in Serbia. Tadic called for a decentralization of governmental functions in Kosova. His comments are similar to ones made by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in recent months, which the political leaders of Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority have rejected. The Albanians insist on independence based on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. The UN has ruled out Kostunica's call for a "cantonization" of Kosova, which the ethnic Albanian leaders regard as a first step toward an ethnically based partition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August, and 10 and 17 September 2004). PM

SERBIAN RADICALS TO LAUNCH A RECALL DRIVE AGAINST SERBIAN PRESIDENT
Responding to Serbian President Tadic's recent appeal to Kosova's Serbian minority to vote in the province's 23 October parliamentary elections, Serbian Radical Party (SRS) parliamentary leaders told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Belgrade on 6 October that they will launch a drive to recall him. The SRS leaders said that Tadic's statement was in violation of the constitution. Ivica Dacic, who heads former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), said that his party will support the recall effort, adding, however, that he is not optimistic that it will succeed. A spokesman for Tadic's Democratic Party said that the Radicals' recall proposal stems from their frustration at not having done as well as they would have liked in the recent Serbian local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004). The question occupying the attention of many Belgrade pundits is whether it will be possible for Tadic to continue "cohabitating" with Prime Minister Kostunica's government following the president's recent direct criticism of the prime minister's position on the Kosova election and on cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004). In Brussels, Tadic's election appeal to Kosova's Serbs was praised on 7 October by leading EU officials, Reuters reported. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER WARNS AGAINST NATIONALIST SELF-ISOLATION...
In an exclusive online interview with users of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service website on 7 October, former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who heads the nonnationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), said that Kosova's Serbs should take part in the 23 October parliamentary elections there. He argued that the Bosnian Serbs have learned the hard way that boycotting elections is a "crude mistake" that only harms the interests of those conducting the boycott. Dodik also slammed the ultranationalist idea of setting up an exclusively Serbian national state, arguing that such suggestions are "anti-European" and bound to halt the development and progress of those who, in effect, isolate themselves. Regarding former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, Dodik said that "he must go to The Hague. It doesn't matter whether he goes voluntarily or is arrested." Dodik argued that all individuals responsible for war crimes must be punished, and that it is wrong to blame an entire nation -- any nation -- for atrocities. PM

...AND STRESSES ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dodik also told users of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service website on 7 October that there is no sound political life without a good economy, and that the best political approach is one of economic development. "I support economic projects just as I know that there cannot be economic development without the right political conditions." Asked about a possible volunteer army, Dodik replied: "I have no vision for a future army. I think that the army has to be abolished in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have always advocated the demilitarization of Bosnia." The SNSD was the only nonnationalist party to make clear gains at the expense of the nationalists in the 2 October local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 September 2004). PM

WAR CRIMES TRIAL OF BOSNIAN MUSLIM COMMANDER BEGINS
Former Bosnian Muslim military commander Naser Oric went on trial before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 6 October for what prosecutor Jan Wubben called "crimes of murder, wanton destruction, and plunder [that] were committed under his command," Reuters reported. Oric was in charge of the defense of Srebrenica prior to its fall in July 1995. Many Muslims still regard him as a hero, but critics charge that Oric became a warlord whose forces tortured Serbian prisoners and whose raiding parties torched neighboring Serbian villages. "He did not enforce the laws when his soldiers destroyed, looted, and burned villages. He ignored the Geneva Conventions and allowed his soldiers to brutalize Serbian male prisoners," Wubben said. Oric escaped from Srebrenica shortly before its fall in a move that is still the subject of controversy in Bosnia. PM

EU DIPLOMAT REPORTEDLY INVOLVED IN QUESTIONABLE DRIVING ACCIDENT IN KOSOVA...
The Prishtina-based daily "Koha Ditore" reported on 6 October that EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana's personal representative and troubleshooter in Kosova, Italy's Fernando Gentilini, recently "was in the company of two women and a bottle of alcohol when his car came off the road [in the vicinity of] Kershi i Dudes near Mitrovica." The paper quoted unnamed "reliable sources" as saying that Gentilini at first did not admit to police he was driving at the time of the accident, but that later police established that he had indeed been at the wheel. The other passengers were a French man, an Austrian woman, and a Swedish woman, "Koha Ditore" reported. One of the sources told the daily that "it is suspected that all in the car were drunk because they smelled of alcohol. There was also a bottle of alcohol in the vehicle." Three passengers were treated for unspecified injuries in a nearby French military hospital, while the unspecified fourth passenger was taken to the hospital in northern Mitrovica, the paper reported. International police are investigating. PM

...AS CONTROVERSY ENSUES
The Prishtina-based daily "Koha" on 7 October quoted EU spokeswoman Christina Gallach as saying that the "Koha Ditore" article on Gentilini's accident contained unspecified inaccuracies and had an "unacceptable" tone. The spokeswoman noted that the article referred to the two women allegedly in the car without mentioning that they are EU officials. Also on 7 October, the Prishtina daily "Bota Sot" quoted Italian diplomat Pasquale Salzano as saying: "I think that what is written [in "Koha Ditore"] is completely indecent and an unfounded personal attack against one of our best diplomats, who is working hard on building a European perspective for Kosova. This is an unacceptable, shameful, act and we expect the paper to [retract] it," Salzano argued, adding that with such journalism, Kosova will never reach Europe. The controversy comes at a time when the EU is seeking to expand its presence in Kosova, and Germany's opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) has called for making the province an EU protectorate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 29 July, and 20 August 2004). PM

MACEDONIAN IMAMS HOLD THEIR LEADER HOSTAGE
Seven imams took Reisu-l-ulema Hadzi Arif Efendi Emini, who heads the Islamic Religious Community in Macedonia, hostage early on 6 October, the private A1 TV reported. The imams demanded that Emini pay their salaries, which their immediate superior, Skopje Mufti Hadzi Zeni Efendi Berisha, has failed to pay for months on end. The imams claim that Berisha pays salaries only to those imams loyal to him. The hostage takers accused Emini of being responsible for allowing Berisha to serve a second term as Skopje's mufti although he allegedly lacks the necessary qualifications. The hostage takers released Emini in the evening after he promised to call a meeting of the leaders of the Islamic Religious Community to consider sacking Berisha as mufti of Skopje. In September, unspecified "armed men" entered Emini's offices, demanding that the Islamic Religious Community employ what Macedonian media described as "known Islamist extremists" or "Talibans" as imams. UB

ROMANIAN OFFICIALS SATISFIED WITH EC REPORT
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 6 October that criticism included in the annual report released by the European Commission earlier that day, as well as the "safeguard clause" that allows a one-year delay if the two countries fall behind schedule, are aimed at aiding Romania join the EU, Mediafax reported. Outgoing Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told journalists, "After the conclusion of the negotiations, we will have two years of monitoring and in those two years Bulgaria and Romania must fulfill all the obligations and commitments...accepted during the negotiations," according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels. The report granted Romania the status of a functional market economy but said it must improve its performance in the spheres of judiciary, public administration, and media freedom, as well as to intensify its fight against graft, in order to be able to join the EU together with Bulgaria in 2007. President Ion Iliescu said the report is "balanced and objective" and added that the government, parliament, and other state institutions must pay special attention to the weaknesses signaled in the document. MS

OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CANDIDATE WANTS TO BE A 'PLAYER' AS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT...
Traian Basescu, who earlier this week replaced Theodor Stolojan as presidential candidate of the National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance, told journalists on 6 October that if he is elected in November or early December he intends to be a "player" rather than a "spectator" in Romania's political game, Mediafax reported. He said he wants to radically change the presidential institution, ensuring that "government and parliament do their job," and safeguarding the judiciary's independence and the respect for individual rights and freedoms. MS

...AS COURT RULES HE WASN'T SLANDERED
A Bucharest court on 6 October acquitted Popular Alliance party officials Mugur Ciuvica and Max Badin of slandering Bucharest Mayor and presidential candidate Basescu but ruled that Ciuvica and Badin must pay Basescu a symbolic compensation of 500 lei ($0.02) and cover his lawyer's 15 million lei honorarium and the state costs of the trial, Mediafax reported. The court ruled that Ciuvica and Badin were unable to prove that Basescu worked as an informer for the Securitate, but at the same time the allegation was not made with the intention of slandering him. Both sides have appealed the sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February, 27 May, and 1 October 2004). MS

LOCAL UDMR LEADER ATTACKED IN ROMANIA
Eugen Koncz, the chairman of the local branch of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) in Jimbor, Bistrita-Nasaud County, was physically attacked last week in his home, in the presence of his wife and his two-year-old daughter, Mediafax reported on 6 October. Three people carrying pitchforks and axes burst into Koncz's home, hit him on the head, and broke one of his arms. They warned him to stop gathering signatures supporting the presidential candidacy of UDMR Chairman Bela Marko and took with them a list including some 40-50 signatures of Marko's supporters. Police have opened an investigation and identified the assailants, who are from the town of Bistrita. In a statement released on 6 October, the UDMR said it was "surprised" by and "indignant" of the "outstandingly grave" incident. MS

TRANSDNIESTER TO HOLD INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM?
The Foreign Affairs Committee of Transdniester's Supreme Soviet on 6 October decided to start preparations for a referendum where citizens would decide between continuing negotiations with Moldova on federalization or declaring the region's independence, AP reported. Committee Chairman Yevgenii Sevchuk was cited by the agency as saying: "Moldova and Transdniester are going in different and opposite directions of development. Political negotiations have had no result." ITAR-TASS cited Supreme Soviet member Piotr Pasat as saying that many Transdniestrian citizens have asked for a referendum. There was no mention as to when the referendum might be held. MS

PACE MONITORING COMMISSION CHASTISES TIRASPOL OVER SCHOOLS CLOSURE
The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 6 October approved a resolution criticizing Tiraspol for the closure of schools "teaching Moldovan with Latin script," Infotag reported. The resolution says the closures have "blatantly violated the right to education" stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights and should be immediately stopped. PACE is currently meeting in Chisinau. The committee also said Tiraspol should unconditionally cease the "harassment of children, teachers, and parents" and that alternatives for teaching must be provided, until the schools damaged by the July intervention of Transdniestrian militiamen are reconstructed. MS

RUSSIAN RUMINATIONS ON THE PROSPECT OF A NUCLEAR IRAN
While some Russian observers maintain stoutly that there is no evidence that Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, others privately indicate that Moscow recognizes this is exactly what Tehran is trying to do. Furthermore, the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly concerned about the implications of a nuclear-armed Iran for Russia. Moscow, though, does not see itself as able to stop this from happening. But others may be able to.

During a recent conversation in Moscow, one Russian scholar with close ties to the Kremlin stated that Putin sees himself as being in a dilemma regarding Iran. On the one hand, he does not want to see Tehran acquire nuclear weapons both because of the threat from Iran this might pose to Russia, and because this could encourage proliferation of nuclear weapons to other Middle Eastern countries that have -- or may eventually have -- governments more hostile to Moscow.

On the other hand, the source said, while Putin realizes that the nuclear reactor Russia is building for Iran in Bushehr will help Tehran acquire nuclear weapons, he does not want Russia to stop work on it. To do so would be seen as Moscow backing down to U.S. pressure. Further, those in the Russian nuclear industry and others who want to continue building the reactors are arguing that if Russia stops work at Bushehr, U.S. or other Western firms might step in to finish the reactor and build others if, say, there is an Iranian-U.S. rapprochement similar to the recent Libyan-American one. The source also said that statements by prominent U.S.-based organizations such as the independent Council on Foreign Relations calling for an Iranian-American rapprochement are viewed by the Kremlin as evidence that such a rapprochement might soon occur. According to him, Putin does not understand that such statements have little influence over U.S. foreign policy, and that even if the U.S. president wanted to change course on Iran, getting Congress to lift U.S. sanctions against Tehran would be extremely difficult -- and without such a move, an Iranian-American rapprochement is unlikely.

Another Russian observer, a specialist on nuclear issues, said that Moscow should never have signed the deal with Iran to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor, but since it did so, the Putin administration feels that it must finish the job. But Moscow, he too argued, is increasingly nervous about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The best solution to this problem, according to him, would be for what has already been built at Bushehr to be destroyed either by the United States or Israel.

The Putin administration, the observer predicted, would publicly denounce such a move in the strongest terms, but would actually be relieved. For this would both end the Iranian nuclear weapons program and forestall any unwelcome -- from the Russian perspective -- U.S.-Iranian rapprochement. Russia would offer to rebuild Bushehr -- if Iran would pay for it again. Even if Tehran did, this project would take years and years to complete.

When asked about reports that Tehran has hidden, hardened facilities that would enable the Iranian nuclear program to survive even the destruction of Bushehr, the nuclear specialist responded that while he believes Iran does have other facilities where it is working on nuclear weapons, the spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor would still be needed to fabricate them. Thus, without Bushehr, there can be no Iranian nuclear weapons. Iranian statements that it has hardened facilities elsewhere are apparently intended to convince the United States that an attack on Bushehr would not end the Iranian nuclear program even though it actually would.

But it would be better for Moscow, he said, if Bushehr were to be destroyed by Israel and not the United States. A U.S. attack on Iran would whip up anti-American hysteria in Europe and elsewhere that would be difficult for Moscow not to go along with without appearing acquiescent or even complicit in the destruction of Bushehr. An attack on Iran by Israel, by contrast, would allow Moscow to condemn Tel Aviv while maintaining reasonably cooperative relations with Washington.

Such sentiments by observers, of course, do not necessarily reflect a desire on the part of the Putin administration to encourage the destruction of Bushehr. Indeed, when a Russian Foreign Ministry official was asked whether it would better for Moscow if this were undertaken by the U.S. or by Israel, he pointedly responded, "By neither!" What these statements do reflect, though, is a growing Russian unease about the prospects of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons as well as the sense (whether accurate or not) that Moscow cannot do much to prevent this.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University. This piece is based on conversations he had in Moscow in September with several Russian scholars.

AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DROPS OUT OF RACE IN FAVOR OF KARZAI...
Sayyed Ishaq Gailani, presidential candidate for the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, terminated his candidacy on 6 October in favor of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan Television reported. "In order to strengthen peace and national unity and to preserve the interests of Afghanistan, we held talks and reached agreement with Hamid Karzai...about our joint cooperation in serving the noble people of Afghanistan," Gailani told a news conference in Kabul. Gailani asked supporters of his party to join the "national movement" during the 9 October presidential election. The details of the agreement reached between Gailani and Karzai were not disclosed. Gailani, a member of one of Afghanistan's most influential religious families, has considerable backing in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan -- Pashtun areas where Karzai is not seen as being widely popular (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

...AS DOES ANOTHER INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE
Abdul Hasib Aryan, an independent candidate, withdrew his candidacy on 6 October in favor of Karzai, Afghanistan Television reported. After discussions within his team, Aryan said that it was decided in order to "save Afghanistan from violence and tragedy." "Therefore, I withdrew my presidential candidacy and I officially announce by support for Mr. Karzai," Aryan told a news conference in Kabul. Aryan, who was not regarded as one of the major candidates, asked his followers to cast their votes "solely" for Karzai. Karzai told reporters on 6 October that he was "very grateful" for Aryan's announcement of support, adding that "he's done the right thing," RFE/RL reported. "And if any other candidate would come and back me, I would be happy and appreciate that," Karzai added. Frontrunner Karzai hopes to secure at least 51 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. AT

NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATTEMPTING TO KILL KARZAI'S RUNNING MATE...
Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said on 6 October that his militia tried to assassinate Ahmad Zia Mas'ud on the road after he had attended an election rally, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. "The explosion in [northeastern] Badakhshan [Province] was aimed at killing Ahmad Zia Mas'ud," Hakimi told AIP in a telephone conversation. "As a first step, we are targeting the candidates and their running mates. We will employ all means to disrupt the election," Hakimi added. Mas'ud, the first running mate of frontrunner Karzai, was campaigning in Fayzabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan on 6 October when a bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring four (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004). The blast hit as Mas'ud's car passed by, ABC Radio Australia News reported on 7 October. AT

...WHILE AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTER BLAMES THE 'DRUG MAFIA'
Ali Ahmad Jalali said on 7 October that "initial investigation shows that they [those behind the attack against Mas'ud] were drug mafia," AFP reported. According to the Afghan Interior Minister, the "drug mafia," supported by militant neo-Taliban and foreign "terrorists" -- a term used for Al-Qaeda -- are trying to derail Afghanistan's first presidential election. Afghanistan's growing drug problem is being characterized as a major security challenge by the Afghan administration and some foreign countries. However, those responsible for Afghan security, namely the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, has consistently maintained that counternarcotics is not part of its mandate. By blaming the attempt on Mas'ud's life on the drug lords, Jalali is turning attention to the link between militants, terrorists, and drug cartels in his country -- elements which he referred to as "the enemies of peace and stability" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003; 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). AT

IRAN PLEDGES TO CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE MISSILE FLEET
Nasser Maleki, deputy chief of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics' Aerospace Industries Organization, said on 6 October that the range of the Shihab-3 missile has been upgraded to 2,000 kilometers, state television and ILNA reported. Maleki added that such improvements are part of a continuous process. "Upgrading of Shihab-3 and other rockets will endlessly continue in Iran's aerospace industries," he said. "Management standards will not remain still and as a leading organization in modern technologies we will always have an upgrade plan on our agenda." In Moscow, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker said on 6 October that sanctions against Russian firms suspected of assisting the Iranian missile program will continue, Interfax reported. Rademaker added that the Russian government denies having knowledge of or consenting with such activities, and Washington believes that Russia is doing all it can to stop such activities. BS

PERSONNEL CHANGES IN IRANIAN ARMED FORCES
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier-General Karim Qavami as commander of the conventional air force, IRNA reported on 5 October. Qavami replaces Reza Pardis. In another important appointment, Brigadier-General Hessam Hashemi succeeds Abdullah Najafi as conventional armed forces intelligence chief. BS

IRAN CONDEMNS ISRAELI ACTIVITIES IN GAZA STRIP
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations, on 4 October condemned Israeli military activities in the Gaza Strip, IRNA reported. Zarif described Israeli actions as "war crimes" and said the only solution is the withdrawal of Israelis from Palestinian lands and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Current Israeli Defense Forces operations in the northern Gaza Strip are part of Operation Days of Repentance and commenced on 30 September, "The Jerusalem Post" reported on 3 October. Activities initially focused on the Jabalya refugee camp and are intended to eliminate Qassam rocket attacks. On 5 October, a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft killed two members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and wounded eight others, witnesses and Palestinian security forces said according to "The Jerusalem Post." Later, IDF missiles killed Islamic Jihad's Bashir Dabash and Zarees Alareer as they rode in an automobile. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS OMANI SULTAN
On the third leg of a trip that has taken in Algeria and Sudan, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami arrived in Muscat, Oman, on 6 October, IRNA reported. Khatami met with Sultan Qabus bin-Said al-Said that evening and pledged that Iran will do all it can to promote stability in Iraq. They also discussed Palestinian affairs. Also in attendance were Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani, and Industries and Mines Minister Ishaq Jahangiri, IRNA reported. Jahangiri and Oman's Commerce, Industry, and Minerals Minister Maqbul bin Ali bin-Sultan signed an agreement on eliminating double taxation and a letter of understanding on tourism. In a last-minute development, Iranian state television reported on 6 October that Khatami will visit Damascus on 7 October. Ambassador to Damascus Mohammad Reza Baqeri said Khatami and President Bashir al-Assad will discuss regional developments, IRNA reported. This is Khatami's third visit to Syria since taking office, and the visit is probably connected with UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign (Syrian) forces from Lebanon and the disarming of militias there (Hizballah is backed by Syria and Iran). BS

IRAN PLEDGES TO RESOLVE DARFUR CRISIS
Before leaving Khartoum, President Khatami told the Sudanese legislature that Iran is committed to a peaceful solution in Darfur, IRNA reported. "In addition to providing humanitarian aid to Darfur," he said, Iran is ready to "help the Sudanese government and people in ending the crisis and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the people in the region." An Iranian aircraft carrying 43 tons of medicine and other relief materials arrived at Khartoum Airport on 5 October, Suna news agency reported. On the same day, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Darfur and met with Governor General Osman Youssef, IRNA reported. Kharrazi said Iran is ready to send more humanitarian aid and added that African and Islamic countries must do more to help the people of Darfur. Kharrazi visited Sudan in July. BS

IRAQ SURVEY GROUP SAYS NO WEAPONS FOUND...
Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group searching for evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq, told two Congressional committees in Washington on 6 October that the group has not uncovered evidence that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S.-led invasion last year, international media reported. The investigation determined, however, that Hussein "aspired to develop a nuclear capability" and planned to resume nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs if sanctions had been lifted. The investigation uncovered a worldwide network of companies and countries, some of them U.S. allies, that secretly helped Iraq generate $11 billion in illegal income, washingtonpost.com reported. The network also helped Hussein locate, finance, and import banned technologies and services. The countries included Belarus, China, Lebanon, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Excerpts from the report can be found on the washingtonpost.com website. KR

...AND U.S. WAS NEVER A TARGET
Hussein and other high-ranking regime officials said in interviews with the Iraq Survey Group that the United States was never a target of Iraq's weapons program. Duelfer told members of Congress that Hussein's goal was to use weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against Iran, thereby elevating his status in the Middle East. The investigation also determined that Iraq's nuclear program was not close to being months away from building a weapon, and that there was no evidence that Iraq possessed or was working on a mobile biological weapons production system. Nor was any evidence found to indicate Hussein attempted to buy uranium from Africa in the early 1990s, as the Bush administration, based on British intelligence, had claimed before the war. The investigation also did not uncover evidence of stocks of the smallpox virus. The report also concluded that no chemical weapons existed and that there were no attempts to produce chemical weapons over the past 12 years. Iraq did possess dual-use equipment, however, and thus was capable of producing chemical weapons. The investigation did find designs for three long-range ballistic missiles with proscribed ranges up to 1,000 kilometers, but determined that none of the missiles had reached the production phase. KR

SOURCES SAY GRAND AYATOLLAH HOLDING MEETINGS WITH POLITICAL PARTIES ON ELECTIONS
Sources in Al-Najaf told Baghdad's "Al-Furat" that Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has been holding meetings with political parties and figures in the holy city of Al-Najaf in order to formulate a united front for the elections, the daily reported on 5 October. The source said that al-Sistani wants the parties to reach some kind of consensus that will "give them more force in the political arena." The daily reported that the ayatollah has met with representatives of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has told him to decide who will represent his movement in the elections. Al-Sistani reportedly said that he will give his support to the chosen candidate. The ayatollah has also reportedly held meetings with Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad in order to adopt a common viewpoint, "Al-Furat" reported. Al-Sistani has stayed out of the political arena up to this point, but has been vocal in his call for elections and a withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq. Political parties will be required to form lists for the January 2005 elections; voters will then vote for the lists, rather than for individual candidates. KR

UN UNIONS ASK SECRETARY-GENERAL TO KEEP STAFF OUT OF IRAQ
Two unions supporting some 60,000 United Nations employees sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 6 October asking him to keep UN staff out of Iraq due to security concerns, nytimes.com reported. The letter also asked that Annan pull some 35 staff members currently based in Baghdad to help prepare for elections out of Iraq as soon as possible. "While [we] are cognizant of the extreme political pressures that you face regarding the role of the UN in Iraq, and while we understand that the people of Iraq deserve the support and assistance of the international community, we cannot condone the deployment of UN staff to Iraq in view of the unprecedented high level of risk to the safety and security of staff," the letter said. Annan has asked UN member states on several occasions to send troops to Iraq with the sole purpose of providing protection for UN staffers. No state has yet to volunteer troops, and UN staffers remain based within the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad. KR

LIBYAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR RELEASE OF BRITISH HOSTAGE
Libyan President Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi appealed for the release of British hostage Kenneth Bigley in Iraq, Libya's JANA news agency reported on 6 October. Militants have been holding Bigley for some three weeks. "We ask that they free this poor Briton since his family asked for our help. They should let us know by any means possible if they have any conditions," al-Qadhafi said. Bigley's family sought the Libyan leader's help this week. Al-Qadhafi criticized the Iraqi "resistance" for being weak from an organizational standpoint, but said it is the "legitimate right" to fight the occupation, adding: "The U.S. president himself said 'If I were an Iraqi and foreign troops entered my country I would fight them.' These were his exact words." Al-Qadhafi also asserted that the Iraqi "resistance" should not hide behind slogans or names such as "Muhammad's Army," "Al-Mahdi's Army" and so forth, but rather should unite. "All resistance movements in history have a leadership and a title, and negotiations are held with them eventually," he said. KR

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