FSB HEAD SAYS FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES WORKING TO TOPPLE CIS GOVERNMENTS...
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev told the State Duma on 12 May that his service has information that unspecified foreign intelligence services are more actively trying non-traditional methods for achieving their goals and working through international nongovernmental organizations to overthrow governments in CIS countries, RIA-Novosti and NTV reported. He said that there is evidence that these services are working with "orange functionaries" in Ukraine "to instruct Belarusian oppositionists." Patrushev added that the issue was discussed during a meeting of CIS intelligence-service directors last month. RC/JAC
...THROUGH NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS...
Among the organizations that the FSB has under special surveillance and that are being investigated, according to FSB Director Patrushev, are the U.S. Peace Corps; the U.K.'s Merlin, a British charity that provides health care to people in crisis; Saudi Arabia's Red Crescent Society, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross; and Kuwait's Social Reform Society, a Muslim charity. Patrushev also said that U.S. International Republic Institute held a meeting at its Bratislava branch in April at which the organization allegedly earmarked $5 million to finance opposition movements in Belarus, NTV reported, quoting Patrushev. "Certain political forces in the West have adopted a double standard with respect to Russia in the worst tradition of the Cold War and are trying to weaken Russia's influence in the post-Soviet space," Patrushev said, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC
...AND REPORTS PROGRESS IN HUNTING DOWN TERRORISTS
In his remarks to the State Duma on 12 May, Patrushev also reported that the FSB has liquidated several terrorist groups that organized explosions in Moscow metro stations, at bus stops in Voronezh and Krasnodar, and on a train in Mineralnyi Vody. Three people were arrested, while the other suspected terrorists are dead, gazeta.ru reported. Police on 8 May arrested a 28-year-old male suspect from Rostov Oblast on suspicion that he committed terrorist acts in Voronezh in 2004 and in January of this year, NTV reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2005). NTV showed police footage of the man showing them a strip of forest where he allegedly buried bomb-making supplies and kept a copy of the Koran. Voronezh Oblast Prosecutor Aleksandr Ponomarev told the station that the suspect was a convert to Islam, particularly the ideas of Wahhabism. Ponomarev said the suspect is a member of illegal armed formations centered in the North Caucasus. JAC
PUTIN WON'T ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE SUMMIT...
President Vladimir Putin will not attend the 16-17 May Council of Europe summit in Warsaw but will instead send a delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian media reported on 13 May. Some analysts speculated that Putin is sending a signal to the council that Russia continues to be dissatisfied with its work, while Ekho Moskvy speculated on 12 May that Putin wants to avoid questions about the Yukos affair and about the ongoing dispute with the Baltic states over the Soviet occupation of Eastern and Central Europe. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 May that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and French President Jacques Chirac will also skip the Warsaw summit. RC
...AS WAR OF WORDS WITH BALTIC STATES HEATS UP...
Foreign Minister Lavrov told the State Duma on 12 May that Moscow believes Latvia is making territorial claims against Russia, Interfax reported. On 26 April, the Latvian parliament adopted a unilateral declaration that Latvia retains the right to make territorial claims against Russia in the future even after it signs a pending border treaty with Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2005). "When news arrived from Riga about the unilateral declaration by the Latvian parliament, which basically contains territorial claims against the Russian Federation, we refused to sign the treaty," Lavrov said. RC
...WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIAL HINTING THAT LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT FOUGHT WITH NAZIS
During a 9 May interview with BBC television, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Cizov implied that Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus fought for Nazi Germany during World War II. "[In 1995] we had a big 50th anniversary celebration [of the victory over Nazi Germany], but none of the Baltic leaders came," Cizov said. "Today, as you know, one came and the other two declined. We understand the sensitivities of those countries and their leaders. One of them is the only living head of state who fought on the German side." Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said on 10 May that the remark was "inappropriate and cynical," "Lietuvos Rytas" reported on 11 May. "If he was talking about [Adamkus], we need to remind him that Adamkus was a Soviet occupation resistance fighter." RC
RUSSIA WORKING BACK CHANNELS TO SECURE FORMER MINISTER'S RELEASE...
Russia is working behind the scenes to secure the release from Swiss custody of former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, who was arrested on a U.S. warrant on 4 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005), RIA-Novosti reported, citing Foreign Minister Lavrov's 12 May comments to the State Duma. Lavrov refused to elaborate, saying that doing so "might harm the situation." Lavrov refuted assertions by some Duma deputies and other analysts that the charges against Adamov, who is accused of embezzling some $9 million in U.S. assistance funding to Russia's nuclear program, are a ploy to gain access by U.S. inspectors to secret Russian nuclear facilities. "We are not making any concession and there are no negotiations concerning access to our nuclear facilities," Lavrov said. On 11 May, Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev was quoted as saying that Russia will allow U.S. inspections of some facilities "so that they can see what their taxpayer funds are being spent on" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005). RC
...AS DUMA DEPUTY SAYS ADAMOV'S ARREST WAS A BLOW TO RUSSIA'S SECRET SERVICES
Duma Deputy Viktor Opekunov (Unified Russia), chairman of the Duma's Atomic Energy Committee, told Prime-TASS on 13 May that Former Atomic Energy Minister Adamov's arrest was "a serious failure for Russia's special services." "Undoubtedly, the former atomic energy minister has some very serious knowledge about the nuclear weaponry of the country that must not fall into the hands of the Americans," Opekunov said. On 13 May, the Duma declined to vote on a resolution submitted by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia urging the Kremlin to do whatever is necessary to prevent Adamov from entering U.S. custody, including kidnapping or assassinating him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005). Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the Security Committee, told RIA-Novosti on 13 May that the Americans "want to get from Adamov information about the poor security of Russian nuclear objects so that they can then raise the issue of establishing international control over them." Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov asked the relevant Duma committees to look into the situation and to make recommendations to the legislature and the government. RC
MOSCOW URGES IRAN TO CONTINUE NONPROLIFERATION TALKS WITH EUROPEANS
Foreign Minister Lavrov told journalists on 12 May that Moscow expects Iran to continue negotiations with the EU "troika" -- the United Kingdom, France, and Germany -- over Tehran's compliance with the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, the Military News Agency reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislak met in Tehran on 12 May with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hasan Rohani and told him that "negotiations with the EU troika can be expected to produce major positive results," RIA-Novosti reported. Kislyak informed Rohani that the EU is ready to support Russia's cooperation with Iran's civilian nuclear-power program if the troika talks succeed. An unnamed spokesman for Russia's Atomic Energy Agency told Interfax on 12 May that the agency does not support Iran's intention to return to enriching uranium but that decision will have no impact on Russia's nuclear cooperation with Tehran. "From the formal point of view, this is Iran's right and this is not a reason to stop cooperation in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy," the source said. RC
ANALYSTS PREDICT ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WILL BECOME MORE OVERTLY POLITICAL
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 May that many political analysts expect the ecological movement in Russia -- which comprises a disproportionately high number of young people -- will become more politicized. "[The] most recent, noticeable environmental actions have taken on a clear political character," said Aleksei Makarkin, deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies. "They have little relationship to purely environmental issues. Today young protestors are arranging pickets at nuclear power stations; tomorrow these same people will come out at a demonstration against government reforms." Aleksandr Tarasov of the Center for New Sociology told the daily that "environmentalists have made clear that it is senseless to seek the truth in our courts and have managed to understand that the environment is first of all a political issue." Sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii added: "Under the current system, there is zero chance of conducting any political lobbying. The new package of liberal economic laws are not only antisocial but also anti-environmental and practically guarantee an ecological catastrophe on a planetary scale. All attempts to stop this at the level of usual lobbying will lead -- at best -- to slowing down the process." JAC
YOUTH GROUP LABELS LIBERAL POLITICIANS 'FASCIST SYMPATHIZERS'
The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights has suggested providing legal support to all Russian politicians who were recently labeled "fascist sympathizers" in a brochure distributed by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, lenta.ru reported on 12 May, citing a press release from the bureau. The press release charged that Nashi, under the mantle of fighting fascism, is trying to discredit liberal-democratic forces in Russia. Lawyers are ready to file defamation lawsuits against Nashi on behalf of former presidential candidate and Our Choice leader Irina Khakamada, Yabloko youth movement head Ilya Yashin, former world chess champion and Committee-2008 co-Chairman Garri Kasparov, and independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov. Nashi distributed the booklet, called "Not Ordinary Fascism," on 11 May. Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko told reporters in Moscow, "So-called liberals sympathize with organizations that copy Nazi symbols, profess Nazism, and operate as sects. Today we are addressing parents -- save your children," Interfax reported. Yakemenko said his movement wants people "to stop pretending that nothing is happening in the country." JAC
PENZA GOVERNOR GETS NOD FROM PUTIN...
President Putin on 11 May nominated Penza Oblast Governor Vasilii Bochkarev for a third term, Russian media reported. A spokesman for the Penza Oblast legislature told "The Moscow Times" on 13 May that the body will likely confirm Bochkarev unanimously. Also on 11 May, Kostroma Oblast Governor Viktor Shershunov was sworn in for a third term following his nomination by Putin in April. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 May that public-opinion polls show that only 20 percent of Kostroma residents support Shershunov. "Vedomosti" reported on 12 May that Putin will next consider requests for reconfirmation from Orenburg Oblast Governor Aleksei Chernyshev and Kirov Oblast Governor Nikolai Shaklein. RC
...AS ALTAI GOVERNOR SACRIFICES DEPUTIES TO SAVE HIMSELF
Embattled Altai Krai Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov on 11 May asked all 12 of his deputies to resign in an effort to head off efforts to force his resignation, "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 May. According to krai administration spokeswoman Oksana Klipenshtein, Yevdokimov made the decision to sack his cabinet after consultations with the Kremlin, and he plans to consult the krai legislature -- which in March and April passed votes of no-confidence in him (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 1 and 29 April 2005) -- in forming a new one. "We hope that by involving local deputies in the nomination of the governor's team, we will be able to sort out all the disagreements we have had with them," Klipenshtein told the daily. RC
CHUKCHI WONDER: WILL GOVERNOR STAY OR WILL HE GO?
Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii announced on 11 May that his office will submit its candidates for the post of governor of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug by 25 September, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. According to the daily, sources in the office of incumbent Governor Roman Abramovich confirm that the oligarch-cum-governor plans to adhere to his plans announced in 2003 to step down. However, "Gazeta" reported the same day that, according to an unnamed source close to Pulikovskii's office, Abramovich's name is one of the candidates for the post, along with that of a member of Abramovich's team within the okrug administration. According to "Gazeta," Audit Chamber officials ascertained that Abramovich's company Sibneft has gotten substantial tax breaks from its location in the okrug. Initially, the company paid 4 percent tax on its profits although the law set the rate at 30 percent. Later in 2004, when Russia's internal offshore zones, such as Chukotka, were closed, Sibneft started paying at a rate of 25 percent. JAC
ARMENIAN PREMIER VOWS TO FORCE TURKEY TO REOPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA
Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on 12 May that Yerevan will exert diplomatic pressure on Ankara to reopen Turkey's border with Armenia by the end of the year, Arminfo reported. Speaking at a news conference marking his fifth year as prime minister, Markarian said the opening of the border will not result in any serious damage to the Armenian economy and asserted that Armenian goods are "quite competitive" with similar Iranian and Turkish products. He added that the establishment of bilateral trade is natural and cited the fact that Armenia is already engaged in indirect trade with Turkey, mainly through Georgia and other third countries. RG
ARMENIAN EDUCATION MINISTER REFUTES ALLEGATIONS OF WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION
Armenian Science and Education Minister Sergo Yeritsian on 12 April refuted recent allegations of widespread corruption within the country's educational system, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Referring to charges by activists of the junior coalition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), Yeritsian argued that the educational sector was no less corrupt under his predecessor, HHD parliamentary faction head Levon Mkrtchian, and stressed that the corruption is exaggerated and simply "mirrors the overall situation in the country." A youth group affiliated with the HHD launched a public campaign in November to expose bribery and corruption in state-run universities involving students routinely garnering high grades in exchange for bribes to teachers. RG
ARMENIAN OFFICIALS MEET WITH COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION
In a 12 May meeting in Yerevan with a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) Monitoring Committee, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian affirmed that constitutional reform is "the number one issue" for the Armenian government, Mediamax reported. The government plans to hold a national referendum on government-backed amendments to the constitution that parliament approved on 11 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005). The PACE delegation also met with Armenian parliamentary Chairman Artur Baghdasarian on 11 May and discussed the broader course of democratic reform, A1+ reported. In a separate meeting on 11 May, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian briefed PACE officials on the status of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and alternative military service, Arminfo reported. RG
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HAILS DECREASE IN POVERTY
Speaking at a Baku news conference on 12 May, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hailed the decrease in the national poverty rate, Turan reported. Citing the government's poverty-reduction plan, Aliyev said poverty has been reduced to 40 percent of the population and noted the creation of more than 200,000 new jobs. The president added that Azerbaijan has achieved "rapid economic growth" of 11 percent and a 15 percent rise in industrial production in the first four months of the year. He claimed the government has also increased spending on health care and education and is planning to raise the minimum wage and pension payments. RG
EU SPECIAL ENVOY MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION...
EU special envoy for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie met with representatives of several leading Azerbaijani opposition parties at the British Embassy in Baku on 12 May, Turan reported. Talvitie briefed them on his recent meeting with President Ilham Aliyev and said the EU remains committed to ensuring that the parliamentary elections set for November are free and fair. Participants included Popular Front leader Ali Kerimli, Musavat Party Deputy Chairman Sulhaddin Akper, Democratic Party of Azerbaijan leader Sardar Jalaloglu, and prominent opposition figures Lala Shovket Gadjieva and Eldar Namazov. Gadjieva and Namazov, both former presidential advisers, formed a new opposition electoral bloc last month known as Yeni Siyaset (New Policy) that advocates a "nonviolent transition from a corrupt, authoritarian clan-society to a democracy" and plans to field a number of candidates for parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 2005 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 April 2005). RG
...AS RULING-PARTY OFFICIAL MEETS WITH OSCE REPRESENTATIVE
The deputy chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP), Ali Ahmedov, met in Baku on 12 May with Maurizio Pavesi, the head of the OSCE's Baku office, Turan reported. Pavesi reportedly reaffirmed the need for a transparent and fair electoral process for the November parliamentary elections and urged the YAP to enhance its dialogue with the country's opposition parties. The YAP recently announced a new readiness for dialogue with the country's leading opposition parties, although opposition leaders maintain that fair election remain unlikely without reforming the current election law and altering the composition of the national and regional Central Election Commissions (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 5 May 2005). RG
AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS EU ENVOY ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH
Meeting in Baku on 12 May, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told visiting EU special envoy Talvitie in Baku on 12 May that while Azerbaijan remains committed to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, any resolution requires the return of Armenian-held areas of Azerbaijan beyond Nagorno-Karabakh and the "restoration of rights" for Azerbaijani displaced persons, according to the Trend news agency and ANS TV. Commenting on the approaching parliamentary elections, Mammadyarov insisted that the Azerbaijani government is working to ensure free and fair elections and stressed that it is in Azerbaijan's national interest to conduct elections that meet international standards. RG
GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR ENFORCEMENT OF PARLIAMENTARY RESOLUTION ON RUSSIAN BASES
Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said on 12 May that the Georgian government must enforce the recent parliamentary resolution on the status of Russian bases in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. While he said nothing should undermine Georgian-Russian negotiations, Okruashvili vowed to impose new restrictions on the deployment of Russian military equipment and personnel if the terms of the March resolution are not met. The Georgian parliament voted to set a 15 May deadline for Russia to formulate the terms of its withdrawal from Georgia by January 2006 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 11 March 2005). Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanadze recently criticized Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili for not finalizing an agreement on a timeframe for the Russian withdrawal during recent talks in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005). RG
KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT IMPASSE CONTINUES
Kyrgyz acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 12 May that Supreme Court head Kurmanbek Osmonov exacerbated the crisis surrounding the court with his recent decision to withdraw his resignation petition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2005). Beknazarov said that Osmonov, whose resignation is a key demand of protestors who have occupied the Supreme Court for more than two weeks, should have stood behind his original decision. Meanwhile, some of those occupying the court building told Interfax on 12 May that they are prepared to immolate themselves if their demands are not met. DK
NEW ESTIMATE PUTS KYRGYZ LOOTING DAMAGE AT $24 MILLION
Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry has announced that its preliminary estimates suggest that looting in Bishkek on the night of 24 March caused nearly 1 billion soms ($24 million) of damage, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 12 May. Earlier estimates had ranged as high as $100 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2005). The Interior Ministry has opened 188 criminal cases in connection with the looting and filed criminal charges against 87 individuals. Twelve of them are currently in jail, while an unspecified number of others are under house arrest. At present, only 3.3 million soms' worth of merchandise has been returned to merchants whose businesses suffered during the chaos. DK
KYRGYZ POLICE STOP HIZB UT-TAHRIR PRINTING PRESS
Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) has shut down an underground printing press in Jalalabad that produced materials for the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Bishkek Public Educational TV reported on 11 May. The two-month operation reportedly resulted in the confiscation of 300 leaflets, 400 magazines, and more than 1,000 brochures, most of them printed in Uzbek. Jalalabad SNB head Marat Imankulov told Bishkek Public Educational TV that an investigation is under way to determine who financed the press, which was located in a private apartment. Members of the family who occupied the residence are in custody and a criminal case has been opened. DK
GERMANY, TAJIKISTAN SIGN 27 MILLION-EURO AID PACKAGE
Representatives of the German and Tajik governments signed an agreement in Dushanbe on 12 May for Germany to provide 27 million euros ($33 million) in financial and technical assistance, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. "Under this agreement, on a cooperative basis, we have allocated 20 million euros for the modernization and reconstruction of the Norak hydropower station and facilities, 17 million in the form of a 10-year, interest-free loan, and 7 million in the form of a grant," Hubertus Klink, economic attache to the Germany Embassy in Tajikistan, told RFE/RL. Klink said the remaining funds will go to fight tuberculosis, support small and medium-sized businesses, and promote educational reform. DK
EU BEGINS TALKS IN TURKMENISTAN
The sixth annual meeting of the European Union-Turkmenistan commission began in Ashgabat on 12 May, turkmenistan.ru reported. Hugues Mingarelli, European Commission director for Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, and Central Asia, heads the EU delegation. Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and Deputy Prime Minister and Textile Industry Minister Dortkuli Aidogdyev represent Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan.ru reported that energy-sector cooperation will top the agenda. But Mingarelli noted in his opening remarks that there will be two meetings, one on economic cooperation and another on "issues of democracy and human rights," Interfax reported. "We expect there to be an open exchange of opinions on issues of mutual interest," Mingarelli commented. DK
REPORT OF 'A MASS OF DEAD' AS GOVERNMENT FORCES STORM PROTESTERS IN UZBEKISTAN...
A correspondent for London-based IWPR reported from Andijon, Uzbekistan, on 13 May that at least five people, and perhaps many more, have been killed as government forces opened fire on protesters. IWPR correspondent Galima Bukharbaeva spoke of "a mass of dead and wounded." "At first, one group of armored-personnel carriers approached the [city] square, and then another group appeared," she reported, continuing: "They opened fire without mercy on everyone indiscriminately, including women and children. The crowd began to run in all directions. We dove into a ditch and lay there for a while. I saw at least five bloody corpses. The rebels who are holding the provincial administration opened fire in response. They intend to stand to the end! When we got out of the ditch, we ran along the streets into the neighborhood and now we're looking to find a place where there's no shooting. But shots can be heard everywhere..." Uznews.net, an IWPR-sponsored site, reported that at that point they lost contact with the IWPR correspondent. DK
...AFTER REBELS STORM MILITARY GARRISON, PRISON, AND REGIONAL ADMINISTRATION IN UZBEK CITY...
Armed men stormed a military garrison and prison in Andijon on the night of 12 May, seizing weapons and freeing up to 4,000 prisoners, the BBC reported. A representative of the rebels later told fergana.ru that the operation was carried out by relatives and supporters of 23 businessmen on trial in Andijon for alleged involvement in an Islamic extremist organization called Akramiya. The trial had provoked peaceful protests in the city earlier in the week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 May 2005). By 13 May, fergana.ru, the BBC, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) reported that rebels, including the 23 defendants freed from jail, were holding the regional-administration building in Andijon. Fergana.ru reported that rebels tried and failed to seize the National Security Service headquarters in the city. DK
...AND DEMAND RELEASE OF 'AKRAMIYA' PRISONERS...
Sharipjon Shakirov, one of the protesters occupying the regional administrative building, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that their only demand is the release of all prisoners accused of involvement in the so-called Akramiya group. "[The authorities] should release those guys who were imprisoned under slander, including [Akramiya founder] Akram Yuldoshev," Shakirov said. The Uzbek government has described Akramiya as an extremist organization with links to the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, but relatives of the 23 defendants accused of involvement in the group deny any extremist ties and say the men were targeted simply because they are pious businessmen. Shakirov told RFE/RL that government negotiators led by Interior Minister Zakir Almatov have refused to meet their demand, offering them instead a chance to leave the country. Shakirov explicitly denied any connection to groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. A statement from the office of Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that "intensive negotiations" have thus far proved fruitless, RIA-Novosti reported. "The militants, taking cover behind women and children, are refusing any compromise," the statement said. DK
...AS STANDOFF FOLLOWS VIOLENCE IN ANDIJON WITH AT LEAST NINE DEAD...
At least nine people were killed in Andijon when security forces fired on demonstrators in the city center on 13 May during a protest that began after the night's events, the BBC reported. Uzbek television reported that at least nine people were killed when "extremists" attempted to seize government buildings in the city; RIA-Novosti put the number of dead at 20. Reports by fergana.ru indicated that protestors had seized a number of government forces hostage and taken up to three armored personnel carriers. IWPR reported that large numbers of government troops and military hardware had been brought in to surround the center of Andijon. DK
RUSSIAN WARNING ABOUT 'REVOLUTION' COMES AS NO SURPRISE TO BELARUSIAN KGB...
Viktor Vyahera, deputy chief of the Belarusian KGB, said on Belarusian Television on 12 May that his organization "confirms the information contained in the statement of the Russian Federal Security Service chief [Nikolai Patrushev] that foreign countries intend to allocate $5 million through nongovernmental organizations to finance a velvet revolution in the Republic of Belarus." Vyahera was referring to Patrushev's address to the Russian Duma earlier the same day, in which the security chief claimed that a recent conference of NGOs in Bratislava discussed plans for overthrowing the regime of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. According to Patrushev, one Western NGO earmarked $5 million to prepare such a revolt in Belarus. Patrushev added that there are also plans to involve Ukrainian "orange functionaries" in staging a revolution in Belarus. "Apart from [what Patrushev said], the KGB possesses other data that confirm the intention of foreign organizations, funds, and private individuals to spend significant sums to export the revolution," Vyahera noted. "These activities are under our control, and we have already thwarted concrete steps." JM
...BUT IS VIEWED SARCASTICALLY BY KYIV
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatol Buteyko on 12 May sarcastically dismissed Patrushev's statement that alleged plotters of a government overthrow in Belarus plans to use Ukraine's Orange Revolution experience and participants for that purpose, Interfax reported. "I would advise people who are looking for 'orange sources' of revolutions and national liberation movements to look for these sources in the uprisings of Bohdan Khmelnytskyy [in Ukraine in the 17th century] or of Spartacus [in Rome in the 1st century BC]," Buteyko told reporters in Kyiv. CTK quoted representatives of several Bratislava-based NGOs working with Belarus who said that they know nothing about the revolutionary plans purportedly disclosed by Patrushev. "No NGO can run a revolution," said Lenka Surotchak, head of the Pontis Foundation. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES PLEBISCITES ON EU, NATO
President Viktor Yushchenko on 12 May took part in a two-hour television call-in program broadcast by four nationwide channels -- ICTV, New Channel, STB, and Channel 5. Yushchenko said during the program that any bid by Ukraine to join the European Union or NATO will be put to a referendum. "Friends, I guarantee to you that the formulation of a national policy on the European Union and NATO will be decided exclusively by referendum," the Ukrainian leader said. According to Yushchenko, Ukraine needs to deepen its relations simultaneously with both Russia and the EU. "Up until now, the guiding principle of Ukrainian policy has been one or the other," he said. "We have proposed another principle -- both one and the other. We need strategic relations with both Russia and the European Union." JM
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT DRAWS SHORTLIST OF PRIVATIZATION REVIEWS
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, who heads a group charged with looking into objectionable past privatization deals, told journalists in Kyiv on 12 May that the government wants to review the privatizations of 29 companies, Interfax reported. Kinakh said the list is the group's final recommendation that will be submitted to the cabinet of ministers and subsequently made public. "Until the courts have made a ruling [on each of the cases], please don't draw any conclusions or make any forecasts," Kinakh added. JM
DONORS PROMISE MORE MONEY TO MAKE CHORNOBYL SAFE
Donor countries to the Chornobyl Shelter Fund, which is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), pledged at their meeting in London on 12 May to add some $200 million to the already promised $600 million for building an encasement over the Chornobyl nuclear reactor that exploded in April 1986, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported. "The largest contribution, of more than $185 million, was announced by the G-8/EU, with Russia for the first time contributing to the fund. The government of Ukraine pledged the equivalent of $22 million. Other members of the fund also increased their contributions," the EBRD press service said after the meeting. Managers of the Chornobyl Shelter Fund expect five or six more countries will soon come up with contributions to reach the $1 billion needed for completion of the encasement, which is due to replace the crumbling concrete and steel "sarcophagus" that was erected around the burning reactor shortly after the explosion. JM
UKRAINE, MOLDOVA AGREE ON SETTING JOINT BORDER CHECKPOINTS
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told journalists in Kyiv on 12 May that during a meeting earlier the same day with her Moldovan counterpart, Vasile Tarlev, both sides agreed on establishing joint checkpoints in order to counteract smuggling across the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, Interfax reported. "As regards commodities shipped from the Transdniester region, we also have discussed this problem and found several options for resolving it," Tymoshenko added. Tarlev reportedly urged the Ukrainian side to step up the ratification of a Ukrainian-Moldovan agreement on free trade. Tarlev also said Chisinau is interested in seeing the full version of Ukraine's draft plan for settling the Transdniester conflict, which Yushchenko announced at a GUUAM summit last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2005). JM
A BROADER-BASED COALITION GOVERNMENT FOR SERBIA?
Slobodan Gavrilovic, who is vice president of Serbia's Democratic Party, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Belgrade on 12 May that his party is willing to enter the government if there is a complete reconstruction of the cabinet. Speaking on behalf of the rival Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), Obren Joksimovic did not rule out the possibility of such a restructuring of the government or of the Democratic Party's joining the cabinet. Recent polls suggest that, of the several parties in the current minority government, only the DSS would meet the 5 percent hurdle if new elections were held. The most popular party overall is the hard-line Serbian Radical Party (SRS), followed by the Democratic Party, controversial businessman Bogoljub Karic's new Snaga Srbije (called after Italy's Forza Italia), and then the DSS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 July and 17 September 2004). Most Western governments have long advised the Democrats and DSS to overcome their largely personal animosities and work together lest the hard-liners return to power. The Democrats and DSS both belonged to the former broad-based coalition that toppled Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 5 October 2000, but the current DSS-led government relies on the parliamentary support of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). New elections are widely expected later in 2005. PM
MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS KOSOVA
Macedonian Defense Minister Jovan Manasievski met with high-ranking representatives of the Kosovar government and the international community in Prishtina on 12 May, MIA news agency reported. Manasievski informed Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), that the Macedonian government has formed a working group led by Deputy Prime Minister Minco Jordanov to resolve problems that recently arose between Skopje and Prishtina. Among those problems is an UNMIK regulation, which -- according to Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski -- amounts in practice to the introduction of a visa requirement for Macedonian citizens traveling to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 May 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 May 2005). Another point at issue are alleged plans of the Kosovar government to introduce seasonal customs tariffs on Macedonian agricultural products. Manasievski also met with Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova. The Macedonian minister dismissed Rugova's proposal to establish cooperation between the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK) and the Macedonian Army. Manasievski argued that the TMK is an institution tasked with civil protection, whereas the NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers are in charge of security in Kosova. The TMK grew out of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and is widely seen by Kosovars as the nucleus of their future army. UB
DUTCH OFFICER SAYS UN TROOPS WERE NOT READY FOR BOSNIAN SERB ATTACK
A civil suit brought against the Dutch government by survivors of the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at which up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, opened in The Hague on 12 May, international and regional media reported. The survivors say that the Netherlands owes them compensation for the failure of Dutch peacekeepers to protect the inhabitants of Srebrenica, which was a UN-declared "safe area" in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the trial, former Dutch personnel officer Berend Oosterveen said that his troops "hadn't considered" the possibility of a Serbian attack on the town, London's "The Independent" reported. He added, however, that once Serbian forces arrived, the Muslim fighters "knew what was going to happen to them." Oosterveen added that the Dutch felt "really defeated, frustrated, and powerless." Outside the courtroom, Dutch government lawyer Meine Dijkstra called on the survivors to take the Serbian authorities to court, not the Dutch. He stressed that Serbia "is the address where you should be, the people who committed the murders." In April 2002, the Dutch government resigned following the publication of an official report on the fall of Srebrenica and the massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2002). PM
CROATIAN OBJECTIONS STALL BOSNIAN MEDIA LAW
Croatian opposition in the parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the central government blocked passage on 11 May of a draft media law drawn up by a special commission, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Croatian leaders said that they want three channels for public television, one each in the "Croatian, Bosnian, and Serbian languages" so that each group can develop its culture and identity, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The draft law proposed having a single program which would be broadcast eight hours daily each from Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. Some media experts told RFE/RL that the principle of rotating broadcasts is, however, "formalism...and not a service to the public." Passing new media legislation is a prerequisite for Bosnia's concluding a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. Serbo-Croatian is a single language with dialect differences based on geography rather than ethnicity. Nationalists of each respective group have nonetheless sought to cultivate real or manufactured differences between the dialects as a badge of national identity, although nationalist leaders do not use translators when they speak to each other. There is also a movement in Montenegro for the recognition of a Montenegrin language. PM
MOLDOVA'S TRANSDNIESTER REGION AGREES TO PARTICIPATE IN FIVE-PARTY TALKS...
Moldova's separatist Transdniester region is ready to send a delegation to Vinnytsya in Ukraine for a 16-17 May meeting with representatives of the government in Chisinau as well as Ukrainian, Russian, and OSCE mediators, Infotag reported on 12 May. The initiative to organize a five-way meeting was proposed jointly by Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE last month. It is expected that the participants will discuss prospects for resuming the negotiation process between Chisinau and Tiraspol that was suspended in 2004. JM
...BUT REFUSES TO LET IN OSCE EXPERTS
William Hill, head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, expressed regret on 12 May that the previous day the Transdniester authorities refused to agree to a visit by OSCE experts to a Russian ammunition depot in Colbasna, Infotag reported. Hill said the visit, which was planned for 12 May, had been arranged with and approved by the Russian Ministry of Defense. JM
DID RUSSIA'S PUTIN COME OUT SHINING, OR WITH MOSCOW'S PRESTIGE WEAKENED?
Everyone who witnessed the lavish Red Square parade commemorating the victory over Nazism in World War II this week could not fail to be impressed.
U.S. President George W. Bush was among the more than 50 world leaders who attended. And he was moved by the event, as he told journalists on today: "Sitting in Red Square honoring the veterans of World War II was an amazing event. I remember as a kid watching the missiles parade through Red Square, and here I sat as the president of the United States in Red Square paying homage to people who died to defeat Nazism. And I was sitting beside a friend [Putin]."
For Sergei Markov, director of the Moscow-based Political Studies Institute, the commemorations reflected past glory -- as well as Russia's ability to present itself as a modern, powerful nation worthy of admiration and respect.
"I watched the parade from Ukraine," Markov said. "And I talked to people about it and for the absolute majority, there was an enormous feeling of respect at that moment for what Russia and Putin had done. Practically everyone was very impressed at how everything came off. And I think it's a reflection of the success of Russia and of Russian state power."
But not everyone agrees. Some commentators noted the "Soviet-style" tone of the events, with a French news anchor telling viewers "all that was missing from Red Square was Stalin himself."
For some, this week's events in Moscow elicited renewed pride in Russia's history and its current place in the world. But for others, it resuscitated bitter memories that might have been better left unstirred.
Controversy over Russia's interpretation of Soviet history, including the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, clouded some of the celebrations and spilled over into some of the diplomatic meetings, including the EU-Russia summit.
Andrew Kuchins, of the Carnegie Center in Moscow, called the end result of this week "very mixed" for Russia. He agrees with the assessment that the world came to pay tribute to the Soviet sacrifice and contribution to victory in World War II -- especially Russia's role. But the Kremlin's apparent drift toward Soviet nostalgia left many foreign leaders feeling uncomfortable.
"Frankly, I think [Putin] set himself up for that, with some of the comments that he made, particularly in his state-of-the nation address on 25 April in which he referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe for Russia -- a comment that raised a lot of the controversy around the history of the conclusion of World War II," Kuchins said.
Much of the Western world recognizes the injustice felt by the Baltics states and Eastern European countries over their postwar history under Soviet domination. Those countries are now members of NATO and the European Union. Kuchins says Putin's failure to acknowledge their grievances and his derogatory remarks addressed to the Baltics cost Russia diplomatic points.
"Sometimes Mr. Putin gets rather emotional when he speaks -- not too often, usually he's fairly controlled -- but in his press conference after the EU summit, he did get rather colorful in referring to the Baltic states and the 'idiotic' pretensions for reviewing territorial borders," Kuchins said. "That left a very, very sour note, I think, on the EU-Russian summit and with the Balts themselves."
Despite Bush's words of respect for Putin, the U.S. president's itinerary -- in which he sandwiched his visit to Moscow between trips to Latvia and Georgia -- illustrates the United States' diplomatic balancing act between Russia and countries that are seeking to loosen their ties with the Kremlin.
And Kuchins says this week's celebrations in Moscow did nothing to change that. "The [U.S.] administration is now making very clear to the Russians that further erosion of democratic institutions in the Russian Federation is going to be a problematic issue for the bilateral relationship," he said. "How you manage that and pursue the common interests is the trick that the administration is trying to achieve. Also, the administration has made it much clearer to the Russians that the states on its periphery -- those that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, that the Russians liked to call the 'near abroad,' especially in the 1990s -- those states are sovereign. And that has to absolutely be respected by the Russian Federation."
For some, this week's events in Moscow elicited renewed pride in Russia's history and its current place in the world. But for others, it resuscitated bitter memories that might have been better left unstirred.
In recent years, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has tried to build good relations with Moscow, all the while anchoring his country in the EU and the NATO alliance. But this week, he acknowledged that ties with Russia have suffered. Many Poles saw Russia's failure to apologize for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, as well as the Kremlin's move to honor former Polish communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski during the 9 May celebrations, as offensive.
AFGHAN PROTESTS LEAD TO MORE DEATHS...
At least four people were reported dead and more than 20 injured in clashes following Friday prayers in the Badakhshan and Paktiya provinces on 13 May, Radio Free Afghanistan (RFA) reported. The unrest follows demonstrations that began among university students in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of eastern Nangarhar Province, on 10 May and spread to at least eight other provinces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 May 2005). Some protests turned violent on 11 May, and seven people were dead and more than 80 injured in the first three days of the disturbances. Badakhshan Deputy Governor Shamsurahman Shams confirmed to RFA on 13 May that three people were dead and 21 injured as a result of clashes between police and protesters in the Baharak District. RFA reported one dead and five injured in Gardez, in Paktiya Province, on 13 May. The protests began after a report in U.S.-based "Newsweek" magazine alleging that copies of the Koran were desecrated at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. AH
...DESPITE OFFICIAL EFFORT TO HEAD OFF FURTHER UNREST
Afghan security forces had had braced for further protests across the country on 13 May, Cairo-based MENA reported. Afghan police were reportedly ordered onto full alert during Friday prayers in a number of Afghan cities. Nangarhar Province Governor Haji Din Mohammad, in whose province six people were killed, held talks on 12 May with religious and tribal leaders to urge them to clamp down on the demonstrators, AFP reported on 13 May. In neighboring Pakistan, police were also on high alert to ensure that protests there were safe. Police protection was beefed up around the Afghan consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, on 13 May, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. Afghan demonstrators attacked the Pakistani consulate during 11 May demonstrations in Jalalabad. AT
NEO-TALIBAN COMMENT ON AFGHAN PROTESTS
Abdul Hayy Motma'en, a neo-Taliban spokesman, in an interview described the student protests as a reaction of Afghans to the presence of U.S. forces in their country, the Islamabad daily "The News" reported on 13 May. The protests are "an eye opener for the U.S. forces," Motma'en told the daily in a telephone interview. The Afghans showed that the "would no longer tolerate the atrocities of the U.S. forces and the disrespect shown to the faith," he added. Motma'en said that while the neo-Taliban support the demonstrations, the militia has not instigated the events. Speaking with Kabul-based Tolu Television on 11 May, another neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, also had denied any involvement in the protests. AT
CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER KILLED IN SOUTH-CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN
Wakil Akhtar Mohammad Tolwak, a member of the Constitutional Loya Jirga that adopted Afghanistan's current constitution in January 2004, was killed in Ghazni Province on 11 May, state broadcaster Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Meanwhile, Ghani Governor Asadullah Khaled's driver was killed in what was described as an ambush, the broadcaster reported. Khaled said a neo-Taliban fighter was killed in the ambush and that seven people were subsequently arrested in connection with the incident. On 8 May, Afghan President Hamid Karzai consulted with delegates to that 2003-04 Constitutional Loya Jirga on the possibility of a long-term "strategic partnership" with the United States that might include U.S. military bases in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2005). It is unclear whether Tolwak was among those who traveled to Kabul for that meeting or what his position on the issue was. The neo-Taliban strongly oppose any U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. AT
COMMUNICATIONS FACILITY ATTACKED SOUTH OF KABUL
Unidentified armed attackers forced their way through security at a communications facility and damaged an antenna belonging to Afghan Wireless Communication Center, Radio Afghanistan reported on 12 May. The attackers beat the security guards before setting fire to a power generator and oil reservoir. The incident marks the first known case of an attack on the wireless communications network in Afghanistan. Most communications in Afghanistan are based on wireless technology, since landlines are scarce. AT
IRAN SEEMINGLY FIRM OVER NUCLEAR INTENTIONS...
Iranian envoy Sirous Nasseri on 13 May confirmed in Vienna that he has brought a letter from his government to the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concerning Tehran's nuclear program but gave no details, news agencies reported the same day. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani, who is Iran's top nuclear negotiator, repeated in Tehran on 12 May his country's determination to renew sensitive nuclear activities, in spite of the threat of possible UN sanctions for any violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), news agencies reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 11, and 12 May 2005). In a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, Rohani said that Iran "must" restart unspecified activities "in the near future," but that the "conditions and timing" of the resumption are still being discussed. The "unspecified activities" are likely linked to uranium enrichment, a key part of fuel-production cycles that can also be used in making atomic bombs. Rohani said Iran will not submit to force, and that its activities are legal under the tenets of the NPT. He added that if Iran "cannot exercise its rights within [the NPT], it will no longer have respect for this treaty," AFP reported. Reuters quoted an unnamed diplomat close to the IAEA as saying on 12 May that Iran is unlikely to resume such activities before the 17 June presidential vote. VS
...AS EUROPE STARTS TO TALK TOUGH
Great Britain, France and Germany, the three states negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program on behalf of the European Union, handed a letter to Rohani on 12 May warning of "consequences" if Iran renews "conversion activities," AFP cited an unnamed EU diplomat as saying the same day. The letter -- which was signed by the foreign ministers of the so-called EU-3, as well as by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana -- proposes "ministerial-level" talks between the EU and Iran to break the impasse, Reuters reported on 12 May. Failing that, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London on 12 May that Europe "certainly" will support referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions "if Iran breaches its undertaking and obligations," AP reported that day. Blair said "nobody is talking about invasions of Iran," but that every effort would be made to make sure the current "diplomatic process" works. He added there are "a lot of processes" for Western states to pursue before reaching a deadlock or referring the issue to the Security Council. The United States backed the EU on 12 May, with White House spokesman Scott McClellan urging Iran to "abide by its obligations," Reuters reported the same day. VS
NGO CONCERNED BY VIOLENCE AGAINST IRANIAN WORKERS...
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has written to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to express concern over recent violations of workers' rights, Radio Farda and the ICFTU website (www.icftu.org) stated on 12 May. The ICFTU in its letter expressed concern over the arrest and disappearance of a state car-factory worker, Parviz Salarvand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2005), his allegedly "brutal" interrogation in a factory basement, and the fact that he "has not been heard from for 25 days." The ICFTU has also asked Khatami to order an inquiry into an attack in Tehran on 9 May on a meeting of bus-company union activists. The assault was carried out by 300 members of a state-affiliated trade union, the House of the Worker, and others from the Vahed bus firm, ICFTU stated. They reportedly stormed the meeting place as state security agents watched and filmed their attack; one assailant attacked and nearly severed the tongue of of Mansur Ossanlu, one of the founding members of the bus firm's trade union, the ICFTU stated. VS
...AS PRESS GROUP DECRIES POSSIBLE ARREST OF IRANIAN WRITER
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed concern on its website (www.rsf.org) on 12 May at the possible arrest of writer Emadeddin Baqi, who was summoned on 8 May to appear before a Tehran court on 12 May to face unspecified charges. RSF urged the European Union to monitor the writer's case. Baqi's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told ISNA on 11 May that he had secured an agreement from Tehran's chief prosecutor not to send Baqi to prison, the daily "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 May. Separately, two students are to appear in courts in Tehran and Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, on charges of "acting against state security," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 May, without giving details of the alleged offenses. Tabriz University student Heidar Zahedi is due to appear in court on 21 May, followed by Tehran University student Khosrow Torkashvand on 16 June, the daily reported, citing ISNA. Another Tehran University student, Ali Shojai, has been given a four-month suspended jail term, also for "acting against state security," the daily reported on 12 May. VS
IRAQI GOVERNMENT REVEALS NAMES OF CAPTURED FOREIGN MILITANTS
Iraq's transitional government has released the names and nationalities of a large number of foreign detainees who entered the country illegally and have been linked to attacks against Iraqi forces and international troops, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) press monitor reported on 12 May, citing Iraq's "Al-Mada" daily. The group includes 26 Syrians, 14 Saudi Arabians, 14 Iranians, 12 Egyptians, nine Sudanese, eight Jordanians, and one detainee each from Tunisia, Palestine, Yemen, Morocco, Lebanon and Afghanistan. The militants are being held at the Umm Qasr jail in Al-Basrah and Abu Ghurayb Prison in Baghdad. BW
AL-SISTANI CALLS ON IRAQIS TO COOPERATE WITH GOVERNMENT AND FIGHT TERROR
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called on Iraqis to cooperate with their new government to build a law-governed state, the IWPR reported, citing the "Addustour" daily, which based its 11 May story on a statement released by the Shi'a cleric's office the same day. Al-Sistani said he is at the forefront of the war against terrorism, and is deeply concerned about the recent escalation of insurgent attacks. He called on Iraqis to help free the country from violence. BW
IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS INSURGENT VIOLENCE SIGNALS WEAKNESS
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the recent wave of insurgent violence is a sign of the militants' weakness and urged the media in his country not to portray insurgent fighters as heroes, AFP reported on 13 May. "The only recourse they have left are car bombs," Talabani said in an interview with the daily newspaper "Folha de Sao Paulo" while attending a summit in Brazil. "They have lost control of various cities and have been surrounded," he added. The death toll from insurgent attacks made since the new Iraqi government took office passed 400 on 12 May when a car bombing in a busy marketplace in Baghdad's Al-Jadidah district killed at least 15 and wounded more than 80 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2004). BW
IRAQI DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR FASTER TRIAL FOR SADDAM
Husayn al-Shahristani, the deputy speaker of Iraq's transitional National Assembly, said Saddam Hussein's trial should not be put off until a permanent government is in place, dpa reported on 13 May. In an interview with Al-Iraqiya national television, al-Shahristani said that since Hussein's trial is within the jurisdiction of the nation's courts, and not the government, there is no reason to wait until a permanent government is in place. "I don't think there is any reason to postpone the trial in that way," al-Shahristani said. "We are astonished and deplore the delay in putting Saddam on trial." BW
FIVE KILLED IN U.S. AIR RAID ON IRAQI VILLAGE NORTH OF BAGHDAD
Five people were killed and three injured in a U.S. air raid that destroyed four houses in the village of Al-Shirgat in the Al-Bu'aythah region north of Baghdad on 12 May, dpa reported the next day, citing a U.S. military statement. According to the statement, the attack targeted a number of houses in the search for insurgents involved in attacks on U.S. forces. In other insurgency-related violence, two Iraqi soldiers were killed and five injured when a car bomb exploded by remote control as their convoy was passing the northeastern city of Ba'qubah, international news agencies reported on 13 May, quoting police officials. BW
FORMER ABU GHURAYB COMMANDER BLAMES SUPERIORS FOR IRAQI PRISONER ABUSE
The former commander of the Abu Ghurayb Prison blamed a ranking officer for the abuse of Iraqi detainees there, Reuters reported on 12 May. Janis Karpinski, a former one-star Army Reserve general who was demoted to colonel due to the scandal, said she was unaware of what was going on at the prison and blamed General Geoffrey Miller for the methods used to humiliate detainees. "I believe that General Miller gave [the prison guards] the ideas, gave them the instruction on what techniques to use," she said in excerpts from an interview broadcast on the U.S. ABC News program "Nightline." "I can tell you with certainty that the MPs certainly did not design those techniques, they certainly did not come to Abu Ghurayb or to Iraq with dog collars and dog leashes." Miller, who formerly headed the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was sent to Iraq to improve intelligence-gathering operations there. BW