GE CEO SAYS IT'S 'A VERY GOOD TIME TO INVEST IN RUSSIA'
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of U.S.-based General Electric (GE), met in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin on 21 October to discuss Russia's energy and transportation sectors, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 October. Immelt told Putin that GE is especially interested in electricity and railroads, adding, "this is a very good time to invest in Russia." For his part, Putin said that the government welcomes GE's interest because it is trying to diversify the economy and to develop the high-technology sector. Immelt said GE earned about $50 million to $100 million in Russia last year, primarily in the banking, health-care, oil, and transportation sectors. GE owns Russia's DeltaBank, which is the country's largest issuer of credit cards. RC
REGIONAL LEGISLATURE CALLS FOR REJECTION OF CHINA BORDER ACCORD
The Khabarovsk Krai legislature on 22 October unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the State Duma and the Federation Council not to ratify a border agreement with China that President Putin signed in Beijing on 14 October, the website of "Kommersant-Daily" reported (http://www.kommersant.ru). Under the agreement, portions of the Tarabarov and Bolshoi Ussuriiskii islands in the Amur River will be ceded to China. Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev reportedly supports the resolution, although he said he personally does not see anything wrong with the treaty. "By passing a resolution, the deputies acted correctly," Ishaev said. "They expressed their concerns so that Duma deputies, in making a decision about ratification, would know the entire situation." RC
UPPER CHAMBER HEAD LAUDS WORK OF BESLAN COMMISSION
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said that members of the intraparliamentary commission investigating last month's Beslan school hostage taking will be working in shifts in North Ossetia in order to complete their work, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that two-member teams from the commission will work continuously in the republic until everyone has been interviewed. Commission Chairman and Federation Council Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Torshin told the agency that about 30 officials in the republic still must be interviewed. Mironov said that a very large number of people in North Ossetia want to testify. "Veritable queues form of those wishing to be interviewed," he said. He also praised the commission, saying that in the four weeks it has been working it has proven that it "is striving to obtain true information." North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov told ITAR-TASS on 21 October that he considers it his duty to get answers to all the remaining questions about the Beslan tragedy, including "what happened inside the school and what preceded the terrorists' arrival in Beslan." RC
PUMANE'S EX-WIFE SAYS POLICE INTIMIDATED HER INTO NOT IDENTIFYING FORMER HUSBAND'S BODY
Natalya Pumane, the former wife of Aleksandr Pumane, who was allegedly beaten to death by police while being held on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist plot, told "Izvestiya" on 22 October that she refused to identify her husband's body on 22 September because of pressure from the police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 23, and 30 September and 7 October 2004). Pumane told the daily that before she was taken to the morgue, police officers who were involved in the interrogation came to her and told her not to cooperate with prosecutors investigating the case and not to identify the body. It was later identified using DNA testing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2004). The officers allegedly told her that if she identified the body, she and her children would forever be marked as the family of a terrorist. On 18 October, NTV broadcast an amateur video showing Pumane being carried on a stretcher the night of his killing, and he was immediately recognized in the video by his common-law wife. RC
OFFICIAL SAYS PRIVATIZATION CANNOT SAVE RUSSIA'S CULTURAL HERITAGE
Former Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, who now heads the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency within the Culture and Mass Communications Ministry, said on 21 October that privatization alone cannot save most Russian cultural monuments, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). "Privatization is a sweet word only in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and two or three other cities," Shvydkoi said, arguing that federal investment is required in other areas. He said the current state of Russia's cultural heritage is "a disaster." Only 5 percent of monuments, most of them in large cities, are currently undergoing restoration. Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Sokolov told the news agency the same day that the country is far from establishing a unified list of cultural objects. He said there are about 90,000 recognized historical objects in the country, about 30 percent of which are listed as being of federal significance. In 2002-03, the federal government spent 12 billion rubles ($40 million) on maintaining, restoring, and protecting these monuments. RC
ECONOMY MINISTER CLASHES WITH MOSCOW MAYOR...
On 21 October at a cabinet session, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref accused Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov of seizing more than 1,500 buildings in Moscow that are federal property, Ekho Moskvy and RIA-Novosti reported on 21 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). According to the agency, Gref's charge followed a declaration by Luzhkov that he wants monuments in the city that are federal property to either be handed over to municipal authorities or privatized. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov interrupted the two officials, advising them with a folksy metaphor not to quarrel. JAC
...AS MAYORS COMPLAIN SACKED FEDERAL OFFICIALS ARE SIMPLY MOVING TO REGIONAL LEVEL
According to TV-Tsentr and NTV, both Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko, who was also present at the cabinet session, commented that the number of federal officials located in regional directorates of federal entities is increasing because those federal officials who are being made redundant at the federal level are moving to the regional level. "Before the administrative reform, there were 15,000 civil servants at the federal level in St. Petersburg, and now their numbers are growing," Matvienko complained. Luzhkov agreed, adding that federal structures are being created that simply cannot replace functions that are already located at the regional level, such as the agency for land registry. JAC
ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR REPORTS ON FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE
President Putin met in the Kremlin on 21 October with St. Petersburg Governor Matvienko, ITAR-TASS reported. Matvienko told Putin that by the end of the year St. Petersburg will become the first region in Russia in which all state-sector workers are earning more than the official poverty level. Overall, she said, incomes in the city have risen 17 percent this year and the average wage is now 8,245 rubles ($275) a month. She said that city budget revenues will increase by 36 percent next year. However, she added that long-standing problematic projects such as the construction of a flood-protection barrier and a ring road around the city are stalled and might not be completed as scheduled. Putin congratulated Matvienko on the results of her first year in office and said, "If you continue to work as energetically, you will certainly complete the road." RC
PUTIN NAMES ST. PETERSBURGER TO HEAD BAILIFFS' SERVICE
President Putin on 22 October signed a decree dismissing Deputy Justice Minister Arkadii Melnikov, who oversaw the country's bailiff service, Russian media reported, citing the president's website (http://www.kremlin.ru). Putin also signed a decree naming former St. Petersburg prosecutor Nikolai Vinchenko to both posts. "Novye izvestiya" reported on 22 October that Vinchenko voluntarily stepped down from his post in St. Petersburg on 22 September. Vinchenko graduated from the law department of Leningrad State University in 1987, RosBalt reported on 22 October. RC
DAILY SAYS FSB TRYING TO CHANGE ITS IMAGE
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 October commented on the 20 October reburial in Moscow of the tsarist-era founder of Russian military counterintelligence, Lieutenant General Nikolai Batyushin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2004). The daily commented that the high-profile reburial ceremony was a public-relations event for the special services and that "virtually all the state media were activated" for it. The paper speculated that the event might have been staged to signal that the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other security organs are trying to shift their image away from such Soviet-era figures as Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii toward tsarist-era figures. The daily speculated that Batyushin's portrait will soon replace Dzerzhinskii's in offices on Lubyanka Square and that there might soon be a drive to erect a monument to Batyushin on the square where Dzerzhinskii's stood until 1991. RC
ONE POLL FINDS MORE OPTIMISM ABOUT ECONOMIC FUTURE...
In a poll conducted by ROMIR Monitoring in early August, 46 percent of 1,500 respondents said that Russia's younger generation will be richer than their parents, according to monitoring.ru on 21 October. Twenty-six percent thought the level of prosperity will be about the same, while 23 percent thought the younger generation will be worse off. When the survey question was first asked in 1999, only a third of respondents thought the younger generation will be more prosperous, according to lenta.ru. JAC
...AS ANOTHER FINDS PUBLIC UNAWARE OF RECENT NATIONWIDE PROTESTS
Meanwhile, the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) found in a survey conducted in July that 61 percent of respondents had not heard anything about the large demonstrations that had taken place in connection with the monetization of social benefits, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2004). FOM analyst Svetlana Klimova opined that the current administration does not react as quickly to protests as the Yeltsin administration did and does not fulfill protesters' demands immediately. Therefore, the value of future protests has fallen sharply, and the low level of attention they attract is explained not so much by an attitude of nonapproval but by the perception of their organizers, particularly trade unions, of their ineffectiveness, she said. JAC
ANOTHER FOREIGN STUDENT ATTACKED IN ST. PETERSBURG
Unknown assailants attacked an African student who is studying at the city's Polytechnical Institute outside one of the city's subway stations late on the night of 20 October, Interfax and lenta.ru reported the next day. The name of the student and his precise nationality were not available, according to the agency. The student is the third foreign student from the Polytechnical Institute to be attacked this month. Six young men were arrested in St. Petersburg on 14 October on suspicion of having murdered a 20-year-old Vietnamese student on the night of 13-14 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2004). JAC
KAMCHATKA POISED FOR TOUGH ELECTION BATTLE
Eighteen potential candidates submitted their documents to the Kamchatka Oblast Election Commission by the 20 October deadline to participate in the 5 December gubernatorial election, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. Among the 18 are incumbent Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev, oblast legislator Georgii Greshnykh, former Petropavlovsk Mayor Aleksandr Dudnikov, former Federation Council member (Primorskii Krai) Oleg Kozhemyako, Ust-Kamchatskii Raion head Boris Nevzorov, and the head of the regional directorate of the FSB, Yevgenii Laukhin. According to the daily, the campaign promises to be particularly harsh, since this might be the oblast's last election. Already, a "double" for Nevzorov has submitted his name: Aleksandr Nevzorov, "chief of administration for the OOO Ust-Kamchatka administration (Yekaterinburg)." Only the first initials of the two different Nevzorov's first names and the triple O's in front of the second Nevzorov's organization will appear differently on the ballot. JAC
RUSSIA OPENS BORDER CROSSING WITH GEORGIA...
Russia has reopened the Verkhnii Lars border crossing with Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 22 October, citing the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi. The crossing was closed to motor traffic one month ago in the wake of the Beslan hostage taking, ostensibly in order to prevent "terrorists" entering the Russian Federation from Georgian territory. It has since twice been opened for several hours to permit vehicles bound for Armenia to transit Georgia. LF
...AND HINTS IT WILL DO LIKEWISE FOR AZERBAIJAN
Speaking on 21 October in Baku, where he is participating in a session of the Russian-Azerbaijani interparliamentary commission, Federation Council CIS Affairs Committee First Deputy Chairman Konstantin Markelov said Russia will soon take measures that will make it possible to lift the restrictions imposed on crossing the border between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Those measures include installing "modern means of control" to prevent "undesired persons" entering Russia, Markelov said. LF
PROTESTERS CALL ON PRESIDENT OF KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA TO RESIGN
Several hundred people stormed the central government building in Cherkessk on 21 October, demanding the resignation of President Mustafa Batdyev, Ekho Moskvy reported, citing regnum.ru. The protesters met with unnamed republican leaders to discuss the investigation into the disappearance of seven young men following a shoot-out in Cherkessk during the night of 10-11 October. Interfax reported on 21 October that five people have been arrested in connection with the shoot-out. LF
FIRST INGUSHETIAN RAID PARTICIPANTS ON TRIAL
The trial opened in Nazran on 21 October of five young men accused of participating in the multiple raids on Interior Ministry facilities in Ingushetia during the night of 21-22 June, ingushetiya.ru reported. They are charged with banditry, terrorism, and the illegal possession of weapons. LF
A 21 October "RFE/RL Newsline" item entitled "Newspaper Says Number Of Beslan Victims Three Times Greater Than Official Figures" should have said that the morgue that has reportedly issued 648 Beslan-related death certificates is located in the city of Vladikavkaz.
ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS COMPROMISE OVER YEREVAN ORCHARD
Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakarian told journalists following a cabinet session on 21 October that the government will renew for a further 10 years the lease agreements for some 256 hectares of the 530-hectare Dalma gardens, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The government announced plans earlier this year to sell most of the land for development, a threat that triggered protests by members of the estimated 1,800 families whose livelihood depends on the sale of produce from the gardens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2004). Only some 850 families will have their leases renewed, however; it is not clear whether the others will be offered compensation. LF
AZERBAIJANI COURT UPHOLDS RULING ON OPPOSITION PARTY EVICTION
Azerbaijan's Court of Appeal upheld on 21 October the Economic Court's rejection of an appeal by the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) against the Economic Development Ministry's failure to provide the party with premises for its headquarters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2004). AMIP was evicted in 2001 from the premises that had served as its headquarters for the previous nine years, and the ministry has not yet offered alternative accommodation. LF
GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER COMMENTS ON NEW ARMS-THEFT SCANDAL
Georgian security and Interior Ministry forces launched a raid on 21 October on an artillery base in Dedoplistsqaro after police detained several trucks containing guns from that base that had been illegally sold for scrap metal, Georgian media reported. An investigation showed that arms have been stolen and sold from the base regularly in recent months. Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze told journalists later on 22 October that such thefts are tantamount to treason, Caucasus Press reported. Earlier this month a former department head with the Georgian armed forces General Staff was arrested and remanded in pretrial custody for three months in connection with the disappearance of an unspecified number of Strela-2 antiaircraft missiles (the Soviet counterpart to the U.S.-produced Stinger missile), Caucasus Press reported on 4 October. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MAKES USE OF LEGAL LOOPHOLE TO ENGAGE IN ELECTIONEERING
Speaking on 21 October at a ceremony to mark the formal opening of a park in Tbilisi named after the 19th-century poet and novelist Akaki Tsereteli, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili praised Temur Cheishvili, the candidate from his National Movement contesting a Tbilisi by-election on 24 October, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili said that Cheishvili seeks election to parliament in the hope of improving the legislative basis for local self-government in Georgia. On 22 October, the daily "Akhali taoba" cited election expert Kakha Sopromadze as pointing out that while the amended election law states that administrative resources may not be used for the benefit of any election candidate, the constitutional amendments enacted early this year permit the president to head a political party and thus to campaign on behalf of that party's candidates. The Tbilisi by-election is one of four scheduled for 24 October. LF
ABKHAZ SUPREME COURT REVIEWS ELECTION APPEAL
The Supreme Court of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia questioned on 21 October four members of the republic's Central Election Commission (CEC) in connection with appeals by former Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba against the CEC's rulings concerning the 3 October presidential election, Caucasus Press reported. Khadjimba alleges that the 6 October CEC decision to hold repeat voting in Gali Raion was unconstitutional; he also rejects as based on inaccurate vote tabulation the 11 October CEC announcement that Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh won the election with 50.08 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2004). The four CEC members who testified on 21 October said that although serious violations took place during the voting in Gali, they could not have impacted the overall result of the ballot. On 22 October, "Vremya novostei" quoted former Abkhaz Interior Minister Aleksandr Ankvab as saying he is "100 percent certain" that the Russian authorities consider Bagapsh an acceptable successor to outgoing President Vladislav Ardzinba. LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENT SHRUGS OFF ELECTION CRITICISM
In remarks at a meeting with intellectuals and artists on 21 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev shrugged off recent criticisms of the 19 September parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakh reported. He said: "There will be such criticism. We should take an understanding view of this." Noting that international observers, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), gave what Nazarbaev described as a positive assessment of the elections, he concluded, "Everyone has a right to hold his own views." The president did not directly address the recent decision by Zharmakhan Tuyakbai to give up his seat in parliament and leave the pro-presidential Otan party to protest violations in the course of the elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 20, and 21 October 2004). DK
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION GROUPS UNITE
The political bloc For Fair Elections and the People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan have decided to join forces, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 21 October. According to member of parliament Azimbek Beknazarov, a member of the People's Movement, the unified opposition bloc will include Legislative Assembly (lower chamber of parliament) deputies Alevtina Pronenko, Alisher Abdimomunov, and former Education Minister Ishengul Boljurova. The People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan, which brings together nine political parties, is led by former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev; the bloc For Fair Elections is led by former Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov. DK
TAJIK PARTY VOICES DOUBTS ON RUSSIA AGREEMENTS
Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda, spokesman for the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, expressed doubts to Asia Plus-Blitz on 21 October about Tajikistan's recent agreements with Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004). He said: "I'm unsure about the presence of foreign troops on our land. If this presence is not open and not temporary, it's not at all in Tajikistan's interest." Sayfullozoda added that Russia's offer to invest $200 million in the construction of the Sangtuda hydropower plant "at the precise moment when it seems that Iran already has a controlling stake in the hydropower plant is probably not devoid of a political motive. I don't understand why, at a time when relations between the three countries [Russia, Iran, and Tajikistan] are coming together nicely, Russia suddenly raised this issue and is trying to resolve it in its favor." Nevertheless, Sayfullozoda stressed that Tajikistan "cannot conceive of itself without Russia, because Russia and Tajikistan were always closely connected with each other." DK
EU REPRESENTATIVES MEET WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT
President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 21 October in Dushanbe with an EU delegation headed by Ambassador Alan Waddams, Avesta reported. The two men hailed an EU-Tajik cooperation agreement signed in Luxembourg on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2004) and held talks on expanding economic, cultural, and scientific ties. Security issues also received attention. Rakhmonov said that the stabilization of Afghanistan should be a priority for the international community, since mounting drug production there provides funds for terrorist organizations, Tajik television reported. The fourth meeting of a joint committee of the EU and Tajikistan will start on 22 October. DK
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 21 October in Ashgabat to discuss cooperation and regional security issues, turkmenistan.ru reported. The Turkmen president said, "Turkmenistan is not concerned and has never been concerned over the expansion of NATO." De Hoop Scheffer said that he discussed with the Turkmen president the possibility that NATO might receive air and land transit corridors through Turkmenistan for operations in Afghanistan. ITAR-TASS quoted de Hoop Scheffer as saying: "NATO plans to expand to the west of Afghanistan to Herat. We are getting support from many Central Asian countries and we also expect Turkmenistan's support." DK
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ASKS OSCE NOT TO SEND ELECTION OBSERVERS TO UZBEKISTAN...
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the OSCE to refrain from sending observers to monitor the 26 December Uzbek parliamentary elections because they fail to meet minimum democratic standards, the organization said in an 18 October letter published on 20 October on the HRW website. The letter states: "Without dramatic change in the coming months, Uzbekistan's parliamentary elections, scheduled for December, will not take place in a context of pluralism. For this reason, we ask the OSCE not to send an election observer mission to Uzbekistan." The letter notes that the government "has not registered a single opposition party" and that "sending any kind of observer mission to Uzbekistan under current conditions would send the mistaken message that its electoral system and the government's respect for civic freedoms meet OSCE standards." Signed by Holly Carter, the executive director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia division, the letter is addressed to OSCE Chairman in Office Solomon Pasi and Christian Strohal, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. DK
...AS ELECTION COMMISSION REGISTERS PARTIES
Uzbekistan's Central Election Commission announced on 21 October that it has registered five parties for participation in 26 December parliamentary elections, UzA reported. The parties are the ruling People's Democratic Party, the Fidokorlar National Democratic Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Adolat Social Democratic Party, and the National Democratic Reform Party. All of the parties are considered pro-presidential. DK
BELARUS ANNOUNCES FINAL RESULTS OF PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM
The Central Election Commission on 21 October released the final results of the 17 October referendum vote on lifting the constitutional two-term limit on the presidency in Belarus and giving President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the right to run for a third term in 2006, Belapan reported. According to the commission, 6.31 million people, or 90.28 percent of eligible voters, cast ballots in the referendum that lasted six days, including the early voting procedure. The commission reported that Lukashenka's proposal to open the path to a presidency-for-life was supported by 5.55 million people (79.4 percent of all eligible voters) and opposed by 692,000 people (9.9 percent of all eligible voters). Rasa Alisauskiene, director of the Baltic branch of the Gallup Organization, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on 21 October that, according to an exit poll conducted by her organization in Belarus, Lukashenka's proposal to lift the constitutional curb on the presidency was backed by just 48.7 percent of the entire electorate, thus failing to overcome the 50 percent threshold required for introducing constitutional amendments. JM
PACE PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'SELECTED SANCTIONS' AGAINST BELARUS OVER RECENT ARRESTS...
Peter Schieder, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has condemned the recent arrests of President Lukashenka's opponents in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 October 2004), PACE said in a press release on 21 October. "These arrests clearly illustrate that the 17 October elections, which fell significantly short of international commitments for democratic elections, and the illegal referendum, have taken Belarus yet further away from European standards," Schieder said. "I therefore call on all member and observer states of the Council of Europe to bring democracy to Belarus through selected sanctions against the regime and by stepping up cooperation with civil society in Belarus." JM
...AS BELARUSIANS CONTINUE TO PROTEST REFERENDUM RESULTS
Some 60 people gathered on a square in downtown Minsk on 21 October to protest the officially announced referendum results and the arrests of demonstrators by the authorities in the two past days, Belapan reported. Riot police pushed the demonstrators out of the square but did not make any further arrests. Meanwhile, a district court on 21 October sentenced two opposition activists to 15 and 10 days in jail for taking part in an unsanctioned protest the previous day. A total of 60 demonstrators were detained by the police in Minsk during the three evenings of protests. Most of them were punished with jail sentences ranging from three to 15 days. JM
BELARUSIAN REPORTER STABBED TO DEATH
Veranika Charkasova, a reporter with the private newspaper "Salidarnasts," was found stabbed to death in her home in Minsk on 21 October, Belarusian media reported. The journalist was reportedly found dead in her apartment with some 20 stab wounds after she failed to show up for work. Charkasova worked for the private newspapers "Belorusskaya gazeta" and "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" before joining the staff of "Salidarnasts." JM
BELARUSIAN EDITOR GOES ON HUNGER STRIKE OVER NEWSPAPER'S SUSPENSION
Andrey Shantarovich, chief editor and founder of the private newspaper "Mestnaya gazeta" in Vaukavysk, Hrodna Oblast, has begun a hunger strike protesting the suspension of his newspaper by the Information Ministry for a month, Belapan reported on 21 October. Shantarovich said he will continue the protest until the ministry reverses its decision and local governmental officials allow him to have an editorial office in Vaukavysk. He said the ministry's decision is another attack on the publication, which has already suffered from restrictions on its retail sale, as local stores were warned against selling his newspaper. "Mestnaya gazeta" is reportedly among the most popular newspapers in the area. Its print run of some 10,000 copies is almost twice as large as that of "Nash chas," a newspaper sponsored by the Vaukavysk district authorities. JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION WARNS AGAINST 'STRONG-ARM SCENARIO' IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Lawmaker Volodymyr Stretovych said in the Verkhovna Rada on 22 October that the Our Ukraine bloc of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has been informed about a secret conference of 140 pro-government legislators with President Leonid Kuchma devoted to discussing a "strong-arm scenario" in the ongoing presidential election campaign, the "Ukrayinska pravda" reported. "Under this scenario, there will be big mug shots [in English-flavored Ukrainian: bigmordy -- the campaign's common usage for large-format pictures of Premier Viktor Yanukovych] of the candidate from the authorities displayed in all shops throughout the country," Stretovych said. "After that, people dressed in sports shirts bearing the inscription 'Yes, Yushchenko!' will start smashing the windows in those shops," he predicted, "and after that the authorities will proclaim a state of emergency because of social unrest." JM
YUSHCHENKO OPPOSES ADOPTING 2005 BUDGET BEFORE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Opposition presidential candidate Yushchenko said at a meeting with some 15,000 voters in Kryvyy Rih on 21 October that the Verkhovna Rada should not adopt a national budget for 2005 before the presidential election, as this law will be implemented by a different cabinet and a different president, Interfax reported. The presidential ballot is slated for 31 October, while the runoff, if necessary, is scheduled for 21 November. The rally in Kryvyy Rih was opened by Yushchenko's ally Yuliya Tymoshenko because his arrival was delayed after the city airport barred his plane from landing, forcing him to travel by car. Streets lamps were reportedly switched off on the city's main thoroughfare as Yushchenko's car was approaching the rally. "[Your presence here] testifies that Ukraine lives not in the time of fear but in the time of courage," Yushchenko said in greeting the crowd. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAID TO BE 'CATEGORICALLY AGAINST' CLOSING PRO-YUSHCHENKO TV CHANNEL
President Kuchma is "categorically against" stripping the Channel 5 television station of its license, UNIAN reported on 22 October, quoting presidential administration deputy chief Vasyl Baziv. Channel 5 is the only station in Ukraine supporting opposition candidate Yushchenko's presidential bid. It is also widely praised for balanced coverage of the ongoing election campaign. A district court in Kyiv recently ruled to freeze Channel 5's bank accounts in a libel suit against the channel's owner, thus raising fears that the channel will soon be taken off the air (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). Lawmaker and oligarch Oleksandr Volkov warned deputies of the pro-government coalition from the Verkhovna Rada rostrum on 21 October that Channel 5's closure could backfire against Yanukovych's presidential bid. Volkov reminded them of the closure of the Gravis television channel during the 1994 presidential campaign, which in his opinion contributed to Kuchma's victory over incumbent President Leonid Kravchuk. "So you'd better think what the f**k you're doing," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted Volkov as saying. JM
CROATIA RELEASES SECRET WARTIME TRANSCRIPTS
The Croatian government agreed on 20 October to release the secret transcripts of a 31 July 1995 meeting between the late President Franjo Tudjman and his top advisers on the island of Brijuni, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Tudjman and his aides discussed Operation Storm, which took place the following month and led to the defeat of Serbian rebel forces and the flight of tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs from Croatia. President Stipe Mesic approved the government's decision, which came after several days of buck-passing between his office and the government as to who must release the transcripts to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, where the defense attorneys of some indictees have requested the documents. In agreeing to release the transcripts, the government also set up a commission to make a complete inventory of documents from Tudjman's office. PM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO TO INVESTIGATE ARMY DEATHS
The Supreme Defense Council of Serbia and Montenegro is scheduled to meet on 22 October to investigate the deaths of Dragan Jakovljevic and Drazen Milovanovic, two soldiers who were killed on 5 October under unclear circumstances at a guard post near Belgrade's Topcider barracks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Languages Service reported. On 21 October, Defense Minister Prvoslav Davinic dismissed Colonel Radomir Cosic as commander of the Guards Brigade, to which the two young recruits belonged. Abuse-related injuries and deaths in the Army of Serbia and Montenegro have been reported from time to time in the local media. PM
EU SAYS BOSNIAN SERB DIPLOMAT IS BLACKLISTED
A spokesman for the EU told the Croatian news agency Hina in Sarajevo on 21 October that Dragan Bozanic, who is Bosnia's newly appointed ambassador to the Council of Europe, is on a list of people banned from entering the EU because of his alleged ties to indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Bozanic had been nominated for the job by Borislav Paravac, who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency, with the support of the Croatian member, Dragan Covic. Their Muslim colleague, Sulejman Tihic, opposed the posting. The United States previously rejected the appointment of Bozanic as ambassador in Washington because of his reputed links to Karadzic, whom he served during the 1992-95 conflict as a media representative and information minister. Bozanic's more recent postings have been as ambassador to South Africa and Bosnian deputy foreign minister. PM
MACEDONIAN BORDER POLICE STOP SERBIAN BISHOP
Macedonian border police temporarily barred Serbian Orthodox Bishop Irinej of Nis from entering Macedonia on 21 October because he was wearing his ecclesiastical garb, "Dnevnik" reported. Irinej was traveling to a conference of Orthodox clerics and the European People's Party in the Greek port of Thessaloniki. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who was scheduled to attend the same conference, protested against the move by the border police, calling it an "unacceptable [case] of discrimination that does not contribute to promoting cooperation in the region." After having confirmed that Irinej will only transit Macedonia, the Macedonian authorities allowed him to enter the country. In late September, border police barred Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije and a Greek cleric from entering the country, citing a law according to which foreign clerics must be refused entry if they either wear or carry with them their ecclesiastical garb and are not invited by any state authority or officially registered Macedonian religious community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2004). The latest incident follows diplomatic tensions caused by a protest by Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic against the destruction of what Macedonian authorities called an illegally built monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Archbishopric of Ohrid on 16 October. The Archbishopric was founded by the Serbian Orthodox Church as a rival church to the Macedonian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January and 6 August 2004). UB
ROMANIAN PRIME-MINISTERIAL HOPEFULS CLASH IN TELEVISED DEBATE
Three prime-ministerial candidates and a representative of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 21 October began a series of televised debates hosted by the Romanian Press Club, Mediafax reported. The Social Democratic Party's (PSD) candidate, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, presented his party's program and said that the candidate of opposition National Liberal Party-Democratic Party, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, is personally responsible for the loss of more than 250,000 jobs during his 1997-2000 tenure as industry and trade minister. Geoana responded to Popescu-Tariceanu presentation of the PNL-Democratic Party alliance's program by calling it "fiscally irresponsible." Gyorgy Frunda, candidate of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) surprised his opponents by summarizing the debate in his native Hungarian. Representing the PRM was Daniel Ionescu, who has not been designated by his party as a prime-ministerial candidate in the November elections. MS
ROMANIA CALLS ON UKRAINE TO 'CLARIFY' REPORTS ON GRANTING DRILLING RIGHTS AROUND DISPUTED ISLAND
The Foreign Ministry on 21 October summoned a representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Romania, demanding that Kyiv "clarify" reports in the Romanian media the previous day that said Ukraine has granted drilling rights to foreign companies in the vicinity of Serpents Island in the Black Sea, Mediafax reported. The ministry stressed that under the 1997 basic treaty between the two states, the sides pledged to refrain from exploiting mineral resources around the island until they reach agreement on the delimitation of the continental shelf. The ministry also noted that the case is pending before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and that according to international practice the sides should refrain from drilling in the area until the court rules on the case. MS
INTERNAL STRIFE INTENSIFIES AMONG ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN MINORITY FORMATIONS
The Hungarian Civic Union (UCM) on 21 October protested against the Electoral Bureau's decision to ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to verify the authenticity of signatures the UCM submitted to be eligible to run in the November parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. The UCM said the verification process would constitute involvement by the Prosecutor-General's Office in politics, and that it intends to launch a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. A spokesman for the Electoral Bureau said the decision was made because many of the signatures submitted by the UCM sound Romanian and some of the names are also listed as supporters of UDMR. Meanwhile, Union of Szeklers in Romania Chairman Kalman Kiss announced on 21 October that he will run for parliament in Covasna County on the lists of the nationalist Party of New Generation (PNG). The announcement follows the Electoral Bureau's decision to refuse registration to the USR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). MS
ROMANIAN-RUSSIAN COMMISSION ON WORLD WAR I TREASURE HOLDS FIRST MEETING
The joint commission of Romanian and Russian experts tasked with examining the fate of the state treasure deposited in Russia during World War I has held its first three-day session in Bucharest, Mediafax reported on 21 October. The sides agreed to continue the verification of archival documents and other evidence. The commission was set up in 2003. Russia claims to have no knowledge of the fate of the treasure. MS
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS FORMER MONARCH COMPENSATION FOR NATIONALIZED CASTLE
The government decided on 21 October to offer former King Mihai I 30 million euros ($37.85 million) to settle the former monarch's claim for the royal Peles castle in Sinaia and adjacent historic property, Mediafax and Reuters reported. Michael claimed ownership of the castle in a lawsuit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August and 10 September 2001). The government said it will submit to parliament a special bill that will also allow Mihai to use the castle "for special occasions," and will return to him a small building on the castle grounds called "The Knight's House." In addition, the former monarch and his designated successor, Princess Margareta, are to be granted lifetime rights to reside in the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest. A lawyer representing Mihai welcomed the offer. MS
ROMANIAN GAS SUPPLIER PRIVATIZED
Ruhrgas, a subsidiary of Germany's E.ON power supplier, on 21 October acquired a majority stake in the state-owned Romanian gas supplier Distrigaz Nord for 303 million euros ($382 million), Mediafax and AFP reported. In a first step, Ruhrgas is to acquire a 30 percent stake in Distrigaz for 125 million euros. The stake will then be increased to 51 percent via a share emission by the Romanian company. Ruhrgas's will pay 178 million euros for the new shares, and 49 percent of the company would remain in public hands. MS
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2005 BUDGET
Parliament on 21 October approved in two consecutive readings the budget for the next year, Infotag and Flux reported. The budget envisages expenditures of 7.7 billion lei (some $598 million) and revenues of 7.4 billion, meaning there will be a deficit of 251 million lei. Gross domestic product for 2005 is projected to be 36.5 billion, compared to 31.9 billion in 2004. Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the implementation of the 2005 budget might be negatively affected by that year's parliamentary elections, Flux reported. Experience, he said, shows that deficits always grow in electoral years. MS
IS THE BALANCE OF POWER SHIFTING IN CHECHNYA?
Acting on a proposal from Alu Alkhanov, head of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Dmitrii Kozak, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin named last month as his envoy to the South Russia Federal District, named Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov on 19 October as his adviser on security issues.
While some Russian commentators have interpreted that appointment as strengthening Kadyrov's position vis-a-vis Alkhanov, others see it as a further move by Alkhanov to sideline his young rival, whose power derives in the first instance from his command of a "presidential security force" variously estimated to number between 2,000 and 8,000 men.
Immediately after the murder of Kadyrov's father, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, in a terrorist bombing in Grozny on 9 May, Russian television showed footage of Putin meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov in Moscow. Shortly afterwards, Kadyrov was named Chechen first deputy prime minister in what was widely perceived as a bid by the Kremlin to secure his loyalty and deter him from acting as a "loose cannon" during the campaign preceding elections on 29 August for his father's successor as head of the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership. Some Russian observers even predicted -- wrongly, as it turned out -- that Moscow would condone amending the Chechen Constitution adopted in March 2003 to remove the stipulation that candidates for that post must be over 30 years of age. When Russian officials stressed that the constitution would not be altered, it was suggested that then-Chechen Interior Minister Major General Alu Alkhanov, the candidate whom the Kremlin clearly favored, was intended purely as an interim leader, and that Alkhanov would step down in October 2006 when Ramzan Kadyrov turns 30, to permit him to succeed to the leadership.
Many observers both in Russia and abroad concluded that the death of the senior Kadyrov had dealt a severe blow to Putin's Chechen policy, and that whoever was elected to succeed the murdered leader could never command the same degree of respect. Those arguments were to some degree substantiated by the failure of an attempt in July to limit Ramzan Kadyrov's power by subsuming his security force into a new crack Interior Ministry regiment.
True, some experts warned against writing Alkhanov off as a nonentity bereft of real power. Former Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov characterized him as "able, reasonable, and loyal," "Izvestiya" reported on 31 August, while Federation Council Deputy Speaker Svetlana Orlova described him to Interfax on 30 August as giving the impression of "an educated and consistent man." Senior Communist Party official Ivan Melnikov said Alkhanov is "experienced" and "a man of principle," but at the same time expressed doubt that he will prove able to effect radical change in Chechnya as "there are too many people interested in destabilizing" the situation there.
As anticipated, Alkhanov won the 29 August ballot, allegedly garnering 73.48 percent of the vote. But Moscow's treatment of Alkhanov in the weeks that followed his election victory seemed to reflect a divided approach. His inauguration was scheduled for the last possible date -- 40 days after the ballot -- permitted by the Chechen Constitution, and was on a more modest scale than that of his predecessor. But the Russian authorities agreed to Alkhanov's request that all revenues from the extraction and sale of Chechen oil should be channeled into the republic's budget to help finance reconstruction -- a concession that Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov had lobbied for without success. Having hinted prior to his election that he would consider peace talks with representatives of the Chechen resistance, Alkhanov announced on 5 October -- the day of his inauguration -- and again the following day at the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, that he will never negotiate with Aslan Maskhadov, the resistance leader who was elected Chechen president in January 1997 in a ballot hailed by both Russia and the international community as free and fair.
On his return from Strasbourg to Grozny, Alkhanov named outgoing Prime Minister Sergei Abramov to head the new Chechen government, and reappointed Ramzan Kadyrov as first deputy prime minister with responsibility for security and law enforcement. But within days, Alkhanov issued what appeared to be a tacit warning to Kadyrov that he will not tolerate gratuitous abuses of human rights by the latter's security force. When Kadyrov's security guards cordoned off the village of Novye Atagi for three days last week to conduct a search for resistance sympathizers, searching every home and corralling all males between the ages of 14 -60 in a barbed-wire enclosure, Alkhanov dispatched officials to order Kadyrov to desist. Alkhanov subsequently warned that such egregious human-rights violations are likely to undercut the population's support for the pro-Russian Chechen leadership.
As indicated above, Russian commentators disagree over the implications of Kadyrov's appointment as Kozak's aide. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 October quoted Mercator group head Dmitrii Oreshkin as suggesting that the appointment underscores Kadyrov's "elevated status." But other experts noted that the new job will require Kadyrov to spend a certain amount of time outside Chechnya. (Kozak's headquarters are in Rostov-na-Donu). That, in turn, would provide Alkhanov with the opportunity to strengthen his position without the risk of being undercut by punitive actions by Kadyrov's security guard against the civilian population.
Kadyrov has hinted, however, that he will give priority to his duties in Chechnya, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 October. That statement suggests that he has no intention of leaving the republic, in which case the standoff between him and Alkhanov is likely to continue. The likely ultimate outcome was elegantly summarized on 30 August by the Council of Europe rapporteur for Chechnya, Tadeusz Iwinski, who told dpa "Nobody knows how long [Alkhanov] will be president. But the next president will definitely be Ramzan Kadyrov."
OSCE CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION ON UPCOMING AFGHAN ELECTIONS
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a 21 October press release that the Afghan authorities and UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) must take immediate action in order to meet the deadline for the country's parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2005. "There is no question that the parliamentary, provincial, and district elections scheduled for next spring will be much more difficult to administer than the presidential elections were," said Robert Barry, head of OSCE's Election Support Team for Afghanistan. Prior to Afghanistan's 9 October presidential election, Barry indicated that the OSCE would not supervise the poll and would not issue a statement about the fairness of the process, opting instead to provide a set of recommendations to the Afghan authorities for use in future elections (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 October 2004). The OSCE's recommendations have been published in a 17-page report dated 18 October that can be found on the organization's website (http://www.osce.org) (for more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/). AT
U.S. AIRMAN KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
A U.S. airman was killed and two others were wounded, one critically, on 20 October when their HH-60 helicopter crashed in Herat Province's Shindand District, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. The helicopter was reportedly attempting to land in order to pick up a wounded JEMB employee. Lieutenant Colonel Pam Keeton, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on 21 October that the helicopter crashed due to technical problems, not hostile fire, AP reported. The election worker was reportedly accidentally shot by a guard. Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said on 21 October that the militia fired on a U.S. helicopter in Ghor Province's Taywara District, "causing it to crash in Herat," Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Ghor lies east of Herat Province. AT
THREE U.S. SOLDIERS AND ONE AFGHAN INJURED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Three U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded on 20 October in Paktika Province's Nika District when their vehicle hit a land mine, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Paktika Governor Golab Mangal said that Afghan security forces have arrested a suspect in the case and have confiscated several land mines and bomb-making instructions in Arabic, AP reported on 21 October. Mangal did not identify the suspect but claimed that he is a deputy of a senior neo-Taliban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani. The purported neo-Taliban spokesman, Hakimi, has claimed that the militia is responsible for destroying two U.S. vehicles in Nika, AIP reported on 21 October. AT
LOCAL MILITIA COMMANDER AMONG NINE KILLED IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan police reported on 20 October that a commander identified as Aslam along with four of his men were killed in Jorm District of Badakhshan Province, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Unidentified gunmen then killed four other people in Aslam's home. AIP reported on 21 October that Aslam's supporters attacked the area in response to the commander's killing. Badakhshan is a province in which the neo-Taliban have no presence, but where drug barons are active. Most of Afghanistan's surging opium trade to Europe passes through Badakhshan. It is not clear if the incident in Jorm was related to drugs or not. AT
EU THREE MAKE OFFER TO IRAN
France, Germany, and Great Britain gave Iran a "last-chance offer" on 21 October to end its uranium-enrichment program in exchange for some concessions, dpa reported. The offer was presented to Iranian representatives at the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna. The concessions include assistance in constructing a light-water nuclear reactor, as well as improved trade relations. In addition to ending uranium enrichment, Iran would pledge not to engage in nuclear activities with military objectives. Dpa cited anonymous sources who said an Iranian response to the offer is likely before 2 November. Anonymous Western diplomats doubted that Iran will accept the European offer, AP reported on 21 October. BS
INDIANS FACE SANCTIONS OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEALINGS
Two former directors of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Shri Ch. Surendar and Y. Sivaraman Prasad, are among 14 entities named by the White House who will face sanctions for allegedly transferring nuclear-weapons-related technology to Iran, Reuters and "The Washington Times" reported on 22 October. The scientists are banned from doing business with the U.S. government or acquiring U.S. goods that require an export license. BS
IRANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST RECENT CRACKDOWN
About 150 people gathered at the Society of Professional Journalists' office in Tehran on 21 October to protest the arrests of Iranian journalists and Internet activists, ILNA and dpa reported. Those at the gathering decided to send a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asking that the judiciary cease its actions against journalists and the media. Among the prominent people in attendance were former parliamentarian Ahmad Burqani-Farahani, dissident cleric Hojatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar, journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Mustafa Tajzadeh of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization and the Islamic Iran Participation Party, and Ebrahim Yazdi of the Freedom Movement. Journalist Siamak Purzand was given an eight-year prison sentence in 2002, but he received temporary leave recently. Lily Purzand, Siamak Purzand's daughter, told Radio Farda that her father was operated on at Tus hospital on 18 October, and the several hours of surgery ended successfully. BS
MINISTER SAYS INSURGENCY COSTS IRAQ BILLIONS...
Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban said on 21 October that decreased production due to insurgent attacks on oil facilities has cost the country more than $7 billion since March 2003, AFP reported. Speaking to reporters, al-Ghadhban said he hopes that oil production in Iraq will reach 3 million barrels per day in 2005, of which 1.8 million barrels will be designated for export. According to al-Ghadhban, Iraq currently produces 2.8 million barrels per day. Oil production is also hampered by insecure refining facilities, Al-Ghadhban explained. "The current capacity of refineries is only 14 million liters (3.7 million gallons) per day in the best of scenarios and this could fall to nine million (2.4 million gallons) due to power cuts and sabotage," AFP quoted Al-Ghadhban as saying. Although Al-Ghadhban said that there are numerous programs to increase oil production, he clarified that "there is no decision now to enter into partnership with foreign companies," AP reported. EA
...AS NGO REPORT HIGHLIGHTS CORRUPTION
Transparency International listed Iraq as one of the world's most corrupt country's in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. Iraq's score of 2.1 on a 10-point scale earned it a ranking of 129 among the 146 countries surveyed (http://www.transparency.org/cpi/2004/cpi2004.en.html). Transparency International Chairman Peter Eigen said that numerous factors may have contributed to increased corruption in the country, including an oil industry with little accountability, armed conflict, hasty reconstruction, and a weak civil society, "The New York Times" reported on 21 October. Eigen explained that "all the elements for a corrupt brew are in place," "The New York Times" reported. EA
U.S. SOLDIER SENTENCED TO EIGHT YEARS FOR ABUSING IRAQI PRISONERS
U.S. Army reservist Ivan Frederick was sentenced on 21 October to eight years' imprisonment for abusing inmates at Baghdad's Abu Ghurayb prison, international media reported. The former staff sergeant previously pled guilty to five charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2004) and admitted to abuses such as connecting wires to prisoners and threatening electrocution. Frederick was also sentenced to a demotion to the rank of private, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge. Frederick's lawyer Gary Myers called the sentence "excessive" and said he will appeal, AP reported. Frederick faced a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison. EA
REPORTS SAY SHI'A MIGHT AGREE ON IRAQI CANDIDATE LIST
Iraq's disparate Shi'a groups might have reached an agreement to form a single slate of candidates for the elections scheduled for January, the "Financial Times" reported on 21 October. Although senior Shi'a cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has not voiced his approval, his representative in Lebanon Hamid al-Khaffaf said that "a committee has been formed. It already started its work, praised be God," the "Financial Times" reported, citing Lebanese TV. "The committee will try to ensure that all Iraqis -- be they parties, movements, currents, or independents -- will be represented on one list. This list will be open to all," al-Khaffaf said. However, al-Sistani's representative in Dubai, Murtadha al-Kashmiri, contradicted the reports, saying that al-Sistani "will not choose the candidates for the election. That is for the people to decide." A representative for the Al-Dawah party, Jawad al-Maliki, said "there is a preliminary agreement between the various groups," but he did not disclose details. The United States reportedly opposes a single Shi'a list, favoring a "consensus" list that is not sectarian. EA
BRITISH TROOPS TO BE POSITIONED NEAR BAGHDAD
A contingent of 850 British troops is to be redeployed from southern Iraq to a more hostile area near Baghdad, international media reported. The troops were positioned in Al-Basrah. British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon did not disclose the exact location where the troops will be redeployed, but said the contingent will remain there for only a few weeks, CNN reported. "This is a specific decision limited in time and space to deal with a particular problem arising out of potential operations in places like Fallujah," Hoon said. The brigade will consist of armored forces chosen for their expertise. "The armored battle group that will deploy brings important qualities of extensive training, experience, and hard-edge combat capability. It is not the case, as is often implied, that there are 130,000 U.S. troops [stationed in Iraq] that could take on this task," Hoon said. ERA
ATTACK KILLS FOUR OUTSIDE IRAQI CAPITAL
A bus carrying employees to work at Baghdad International Airport was attacked on 21 October, Reuters reported. Four civilians were killed and several others were wounded. Many of the 25 passengers were women, Reuters reported, citing and Iraqi Airways official. According to security sources, the attack began when two armed men stopped the bus on the highway. Two hand grenades were then thrown into the packed bus, and three armed men opened fire. The highway between central Baghdad and the airport has been the site of many insurgent attacks and is characterized as "particularly dangerous," by the U.S. State Department. The attack follows the death of eight Iraqi civilians by a double car bombing in Samarra on 20 October, the BBC reported. EA