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Newsline - July 22, 2005


PUTIN, LUKASHENKA DISCUSS RELATIONS, CIVIL SOCIETY IN BELARUS
Speaking to journalists before his talks with visiting Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, President Vladimir Putin said on 21 July that they would discuss problems with establishing the Russia-Belarus Union and bilateral economic relations, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported. The day before, at a meeting with human rights activists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2005), Putin promised to discuss with Lukashenka the issues of human rights and civil society in Belarus, polit.ru reported. Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Chairman Sergei Karaganov told Putin that people are arrested in Belarus for nothing and that Radio Mayak and Radio Rossiya are not allowed to broadcast in Belarus. Putin promised to discuss these topics as well, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

GOVERNMENT APPROVES PROGRAM TO ELIMINATE CHEMICAL WEAPONS...
The government adopted at a 21 July cabinet meeting a draft program for the complete destruction of Russia's chemical-weapon arsenal by 2012, mosnews.ru, Interfax, and other media reported. According to Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, of the 40,000 tons of chemical weapons Russia has today, 20 percent will be destroyed by 2007, and another 45 percent by 2009. The rest should be eliminated by 2012. So far, Russia has one plant for destroying chemical weapons, but should bring six more plants into operation between 2005 and 2009, Khristenko said. VY

...AND NATIONAL ANTIDRUG PROGRAM
At the same cabinet meeting on 21 July, the government approved a program to fight drug addiction and illegal drug trafficking in 2005-09, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Federal Antinarcotics Service Deputy Director Aleksandr Fedorov, the main goal of the program is to reduce the number of drug addicts in the next five years by 20 percent of the 2004 figures, or about 950,000-1.2 million addicts, Fedorov added. The Health and Social Development Ministry said 493,647 drug addicts were registered in 2004, while experts estimate that number to be some 6 million. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov said that the federal program shouldn't only introduce tough criminal prosecution of drug dealers and criminal groups, but provide social and medical support for drug addicts as well. VY

RUSSIAN ANALYST SAYS LONDON BOMBINGS NOT LINKED TO TROOPS IN IRAQ
Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Chairman Karaganov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 22 July that the terrorist explosions in London the day before, just like the explosions on 7 July, have nothing to do with calls to withdraw British and other coalition forces from Iraq. The terrorists acts in London were intended "to show what terrorists are able to do, spread fear, and destabilize the situation," while the "demand for the withdrawal of the troops from Iraq is only a pretext and a formal justification." Besides, if the coalition actually decided to withdraw its troops, the thousands of terrorists now concentrated in Iraq would spill over the whole world and make the situation even worse, Karaganov concluded. VY

RUSSIA PLANS TO LAUNCH IRAN'S FIRST SATELLITE
Russia plans to launch Mesbah, the first Iranian communications satellite, by the end of this summer, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 July. The Mesbah satellite will be used to control power-supply systems and pipelines, as well as collect data on ground and water resources, RIA-Novosti reported, citing a source in Iran's presidential administration. According to an agreement signed in January, Russia will launch a second satellite for Iran in 2007. VY

ABOLITION OF GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS MAKES IT ON TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT AGENDA
The Constitutional Court agreed on 19 July to consider part of an appeal filed by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) challenging the new procedures for appointing regional governors, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 July. SPS Political Council Secretary Boris Nadezhdin told the daily that the court is willing to consider the constitutionality of whether the president has the right to appoint regional leaders. Court spokesperson Anna Malysheva told the newspaper that the case will be one of the first considered when the court's autumn session begins. She added that the court may also consider two other issues raised by SPS's appeal, that is, the president's right to dismiss governors and the power to disband legislatures if they vote against his choice twice in a row, but the judges have not yet decided. The court will consider SPS's brief at the same time as one filed by a Tyumen resident who is also challenging the practice of appointing governors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2005). JAC

BATTLE OVER NIZHNII NOVGOROD CONTINUES
President Putin has still not presented his nominees for the post of governor in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, although by law they should have been presented to the oblast legislature by 4 July, "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2005). The powers of current Governor Gennadii Khodyrev expire on 8 August. According to Valerii Khomyakov of the Agency for Applied and Regional Politics, the Kremlin is presently split between supporters of the two different candidates, Khodyrev and the speaker of the oblast legislature, Yevgenii Lyulin. Khomyakov said that the liberal part of the presidential administration along with presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko support Lyulin, while the siloviki support Khodyrev. Earlier, 36 of 43 deputies in the oblast legislature said that they would rather be dismissed from their posts than confirm Khodyrev. Under the current rules, the oblast legislature is disbanded if it rejects the president's nominee twice in a row. JAC

BIRD FLU ALIGHTS IN RUSSIA
Russia has discovered its first case of avian flu, newsru.com reported on 21 July, citing the Emergency Situations Ministry. The flu was found among poultry in the village of Suzdalka in Novosibirsk Oblast. No cases of the flu strain have been recorded among humans, according to Galina Lazikova, deputy head of the Epidemiological Monitoring administration of Rospotrebnadzor. According to Novyi region, some 200 geese and 100 chickens have died. Chief health inspector Gennadii Onishchenko confirmed on 21 July that cases of bird flu have been found, but claimed that "the situation is totally under control." Valerii Mikheev, the chief health inspector in Novosibirsk, said that a possible source of the virus could be migrating birds, as the affected village is located in the migration path of birds from South Asia, ITAR-TASS reported. Mikheev added that the strain of bird flu discovered is not the H5N1 strain that killed more than 50 people in Asia last year. JAC/VY

YELTSIN'S WOULD-BE SUCCESSOR PASSES AWAY
Former First Deputy Prime Minister and Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko has died at the age of 57 from leukemia, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vremya novostei" reported on 21 July. "Vremya novostei" reported that Aksenenko might have become president of Russia, since he was considered a possible successor to then President Boris Yeltsin. In his autobiography, Yeltsin wrote that he considered naming Aksenenko to the post of prime minister after Yevgenii Primakov resigned, but instead nominated Sergei Stepashin because he feared the Duma would object too strenuously to Aksenenko. Aksenenko had a reputation for being one of "Berezovskii's people." A criminal case on charges of exceeding his authority among other charges was launched against him in October 2001 and he resigned as minister in January 2002. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Aksenenko considered the criminal case against him "politically motivated." JAC

PUTIN NOMINATES ANOTHER INCUMBENT
President Putin has nominated Kaluga Oblast Governor Anatolii Artamonov for a third term in office, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 July, citing the presidential press service. Artamonov was elected to his second term with almost 70 percent of the vote in March 2004. JAC

FORMER FAR EASTERN TOP OFFICIAL GETS THREE YEARS FOR ENERGY SCAM
A court in Koryak Autonomous Okrug has sentenced former Deputy Governor Mikhail Sokolovskii to three years in a prison colony, RFE/RL's Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii correspondent reported on 21 July. Sokolovskii was a Moscow resident until he came to Koryak in the summer of 2004, when he was named deputy governor by then Governor Vladimir Loginov. President Putin dismissed Loginov in March of this year for his role in the region's energy crisis. Sokolovskii concluded a contract with a firm called Stroitek to supply fuel to the far northern region for 56 million rubles ($2 million). Sokolovskii used to work at the firm, and no competitive bids were sought from other vendors. No fuel was ever delivered. According to the correspondent, the winter of 2004-05 proved particularly difficult for Koryak residents, who spent several months without heat or light. The damage caused to pipes and infrastructure frozen over is estimated at several hundred million rubles. JAC

RUSSIA MAINTAINS PRESSURE FOR OSCE REFORM
On 20 July, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov told a conference in Vienna to mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Agreements that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should intensify its antiterrorist component, Interfax reported. He proposed specifically that all OSCE signatory states should either expel suspected terrorists or arrest them and put them on trial. Chizhov called on OSCE members to ratify without further delay the revised Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), arguing that failure to do so could render it obsolete. Chizhov claimed that the "imbalance" in OSCE operations between the political and human rights spheres on the one hand and security on the other have precipitated a "crisis of confidence" in the entire organization. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko echoed that line of argument an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 July, Interfax reported. Yakovenko said Moscow considers it essential to "rectify the topical and geographical imbalances in the OSCE's activities and adapt its political agenda to [meet] modern threats and challenges." He singled out as "an urgent necessity" improving the OSCE's approach to election monitoring, and implied that premature and subjective pronouncements by OSCE monitors contributed to the protests in Kyrgyzstan in the wake of the March parliamentary ballot that culminated in the ouster of President Askar Akaev. LF

PARLIAMENT INTERVENES IN NORTH CAUCASUS ENERGY CRISIS
Meeting in emergency session on 20 July, the parliament of the Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic accused the republic's energy distributor and Anatolii Chubais, chairman of the state-owned energy monopoly Unified Energy Systems (EES), of exacerbating political tensions by slashing energy supplies to three districts with a total population of some 100,000 people, regnum.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005). Deputies appealed to Chubais, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak to intervene and ensure the restoration of power supplies to the three raions in question. The republican energy distributor complied with that request on 21 July, after which the deputies recalled their appeal to Fradkov and Chubais. Also on 21 July, a senior official of Karachaevo-Cherkessenergo was arrested on charges of abuse of office, Interfax reported. LF

IMF LAUDS ARMENIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH
Speaking on 21 July at a press conference following two days of talks in Yerevan with Armenian government officials, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Deputy Managing Director Agustin Carstens praised Armenia's continuing high rate of GDP growth and progress in reducing poverty, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He noted that "very few countries...have achieved such important progress in such a short period of time," and said the IMF "stands ready to assist Armenia with policy and technical advice." GDP in Armenia grew on average by 11 percent in each of the past four years, and by a further 8 percent during the first six months of this year. At the same time, Carstens pointed out that tax revenues still account for only a small proportion of GDP, and he implied that some individuals or companies liable for large tax payments seek to withhold them. He said an increase in tax revenues would permit the government to increase spending on health care, education, and infrastructure development. LF

OFFICIAL DENIES KARABAKH REFERENDUM UNDER DISCUSSION
Arman Melikian, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), denied on 21 July that ongoing talks on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict include discussion of a possible future referendum among the enclave's population on its political status, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Senior officials told RFE/RL 10 days ago that agreement is close on the main points of a peace settlement, which would entail holding such a referendum in 10-15 years' time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). Melikian rejected suggestions that the NKR leadership has not been fully informed about the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani talks. He said "various options" for resolving the conflict are being discussed, but did not provide details. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RULES OUT INDEPENDENCE FOR KARABAKH...
President Ilham Aliyev told a cabinet session in Baku on 21 July that the independence of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic cannot be a subject of discussion "today, tomorrow, in 10 years, or in 100 years," day.az reported. He predicted that "the occupation of Azerbaijani territory will not last forever," but stressed that those territories will be liberated "peacefully, by means of negotiations." Aliyev again advocated a step-by-step approach to resolving the conflict, saying that the occupied territories should be liberated and the former residents of those districts repatriated prior to discussion of the future status of the NKR. He repeated his previous offer to grant the enclave "the highest degree of autonomy in the world" within the Azerbaijan Republic. LF

...LAUDS MEDIA FREEDOM
Addressing a ceremony in Baku on 21 July to mark the 130th anniversary of the publication of the first Azerbaijani newspaper, President Aliyev stressed the importance of independent media that are not the preserve of political parties, echo-az.com reported the following day. He noted that his father and predecessor as president, Heidar Aliev, abolished censorship in 1998, and he claimed that Azerbaijan today enjoys complete media freedom. Aliyev asked senior officials not to bring lawsuits against media outlets that publish articles criticizing them, and admitted that he sometimes learns of problems for the first time through the media. Aliyev also said he is sure that the slaying four months ago of opposition journalist Elmar Huseinov will soon be solved, branding that crime "a blow to Azerbaijan's democratic development," according to day.az on 21 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March and 13 July 2005). LF

U.S. CONGRESS CALLS FOR FAIR ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN
The House of Representatives adopted a resolution on 20 July calling on the Azerbaijani leadership to ensure that the parliamentary election scheduled for 6 November is free and fair, zerkalo.az reported on 22 July. Specifically, the resolution called on the Azerbaijani authorities to permit the total participation in the ballot of opposition parties, including those opposition activists jailed for their imputed role in the post-presidential-election unrest in October 2003. Those activists have since been released, but the criminal charges against some of them have not been annulled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 11 July 2005). The resolution called on all sides to desist from violence in the run-up to the ballot, and on the international community to deploy a large enough number of observers to monitor the vote. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER LAUD ARREST OF TERRORISM SUSPECT
Mikheil Saakashvili and Zurab Noghaideli both praised on 21 July the Georgian police operation that culminated in the arrest late the previous day of Vladimir Arutiunian, who is suspected of having thrown a hand grenade in the direction of Saakashvili and U.S. President George W. Bush during the latter's visit to Tbilisi two months ago, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May and 21 July 2005). Saakashvili said he believes Arutiunian intended to discredit Georgia, rather than to harm the U.S. president. The deputy commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus, Colonel General Vladimir Kuparadze, denied on 21 July that Arutiunian has any connection with the Russian military, ITAR-TASS reported. ITAR-TASS also quoted an unnamed Armenian government official as similarly denying that Arutiunian, a Tbilisi resident of Armenian origin, has any connection to the Republic of Armenia. LF

ABKHAZIA, RUSSIA OPT OUT OF UN-SPONSORED TALKS
Abkhaz and Russian representatives declined at the last minute to attend talks in Tbilisi under the UN aegis, scheduled to take place on 22-23 July and to address security measures to be implemented in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told the independent Georgian television station Rustavi-2 that Sukhum's decision not to attend the talks was made in response to Georgia's failure to hand over cargo confiscated from a Turkish vessel intercepted by the Georgian Navy last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2005). Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava rejected that argument as illogical, and accused Russia and Abkhazia of "boycotting" the UN-sponsored search for a settlement of the conflict, Caucasus Press reported on 22 July. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ASPIRES TO HOST 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS
Kazakhstan's National Olympic Committee issued a press release on 21 July stating that the country plans to compete for the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The press release noted that the idea of a Kazakh bid for the winter games arose "not as much among Kazakhstan's citizens as among our foreign colleagues in sports and the Olympic movement, who have an extremely high opinion of the unique natural conditions in the region around Almaty." The press release said that the formal application must be submitted by 28 July to the International Olympic Committee, which will announce the site of the 2014 winter games at a meeting in Guatemala in July 2007. DK

KYRGYZ SECURITY HEAD SAYS 'MANEUVERING' NECESSARY ON FOREIGN MILITARY PRESENCE
In an interview with the Kyrgyz newspaper "Litsa" published on 21 July, Kyrgyz National Security Secretary Miroslav Niyazov said that the withdrawal of the U.S. military base from Kyrgyzstan will be possible only when Afghanistan is completely stabilized. He continued, "In this, we must be guided by our national interests and the interests of Central Asia as a region. We will have to maneuver in this situation so that our country's security interests, as well as its national, territorial, and economic interests are not harmed." While noting that Russia remains Kyrgyzstan's traditional strategic partner, Niyazov stressed, "It is difficult today to imagine our society without the presence of the West and the United States. It would be desirable for us to build equal, businesslike relations with everyone based on goal of developing our country." The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) called in early July for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces from military facilities they are using in Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2005). U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to visit Kyrgyzstan on 25-26 July, reportedly to discuss U.S. military bases in Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2005). DK

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN INK GAS AGREEMENT
Igor Chudinov, the director of Kyrgyz gas company Kyrgyzgaz, told a press conference in Bishkek on 21 July that his company has signed a contract with Uzbekistan's Uztransgaz for Uzbekistan to ship natural gas to Kyrgyzstan up through the end of 2005, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Under the contract, Kyrgyzstan will receive 350 million cubic meters of gas in 2005 at a price of $42 per 1,000 cubic meters. Uzbekistan had refused to sign a new gas deal until Kyrgyzstan made good on a $13 million debt incurred in 2004. Chudinov said that Kyrgyzstan has now paid up on its arrears to Uztransgas. DK

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN RECEIVE CHINESE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
China has agreed to provide Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with roughly $60 million in grants and loans, Uzbekistan's "Biznes vestnik vostoka" and Interfax reported on 21 July. China's Eximbank signed four loan agreements totaling $40 million with Uzbekistan's National Bank for Foreign Economic Activities during Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi's recent visit to Uzbekistan, "Biznes vestnik vostoka" reported. The projects China will fund in Uzbekistan are in the areas of agriculture, communications, and computer equipment. In Tajikistan, China will provide two grants totaling $19.3 million, with the bulk of the funds ($18.7 million) going toward the construction of a tunnel, Interfax reported. The remainder will finance educational exchanges for Tajik students in China. DK

BELARUS BANS EUROPEAN FOUNDATION ON ESPIONAGE CHARGES
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has banned the Warsaw-based European Foundation Dialogue, saying the organization serves as a cover for gathering intelligence and recruiting secret agents, Belarusian Television reported on 21 July. "This foundation was registered in Warsaw with an aim of promoting cooperation between scientific circles in Central and Eastern Europe," the channel's main "Panarama" newscast reported. "Its main work was conducted in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. However, it turned out that under the cover of exclusively scientific interests, the foundation was actually created for conducting intelligence activities on CIS territory." According to the report, Belarusian scientists were recruited as agents while visiting Poland to give lectures or meet with Polish colleagues. "For the Polish Embassy in our country, this is not the first surprise of this kind," the report added. "In its espionage activities the Polish intelligence service does not limit itself to creating various foundations but uses career officers working under diplomatic cover." JM

POLICE DETAIN EIGHT BELARUSIAN YOUTH ACTIVISTS
Police arrested eight activists of the opposition youth organization Zubr during a demonstration in downtown Minsk on 21 July, the Charter-97 website (http://www.charter97.org) and Belapan reported. The demonstration, which demanded freedom for political prisoners in Belarus, was timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's election as the country's president. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT HOPES FOR $1 BILLION IN JAPANESE INVESTMENT
President Viktor Yushchenko said in Tokyo on 21 July that he expects that his ongoing five-day visit to Japan could result in attracting more than $1 billion worth of Japanese investment in Ukraine, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. In a joint statement with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Yushchenko pledged to improve the investment environment in Ukraine for Japanese businesses. For his part, Koizumi expressed support for Ukraine's "early accession" to the World Trade Organization. The statement also endorsed efforts to reform the UN into a more representative organization, including the expansion of the UN Security Council to provide a permanent seat for Japan and an additional nonpermanent seat for an Eastern European country, AP reported. JM

UKRAINIAN MINISTER CALLS FOR INCREASING LIVESTOCK
Agricultural Policy Minister Oleksandr Baranivskyy on 21 July called on regional governors to promote increasing the number of livestock in the country, with a view to addressing the current meat shortages, the Ukrayinska pravda website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) reported. "I beg you: Every single pig we have should not be killed [for meat] -- it should be mated," Baranivskyy said at a Cabinet of Ministers meeting. "Have you understood your task?" Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko asked the governors. JM

SERBIAN MINISTER DEFENDS NATO TRANSIT AGREEMENT
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 21 July that the agreement he signed with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer three days earlier is important for regional security, especially that of Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Draskovic noted that de Hoop Scheffer assured him that NATO will not allow a repeat of the March 2004 violence in the province. The pact provides for transit rights for NATO and KFOR troops across the territory of Serbia and Montenegro. The broadcast reported that the agreement has generated political controversy in Serbia. Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) described the pact as "treason." The Belgrade government wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but NATO insists that Belgrade first find and arrest fugitive war crimes indictee and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. PM

SERBIAN NGO LAWYER BEATEN
An unknown person beat up lawyer Tatomir Lekovic in Kragujevac on 21 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lekovic works for the NGO Humanitarian Law Fund (FHP), where his colleague Ranko Miloslavljevic told RFE/RL that Lekovic has received several threats since giving an interview to RFE/RL one month ago. The broadcast noted that the threats presumably come from a shadowy nationalist group called the Anti-Hague Lobby and that there is probably a link between the threats and the role of the FHP in publicizing videos showing members of an elite Serbian police unit taking part in war crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 June and 1 July 2005). On 22 July, the FHP said in a press release that Lekovic recently got his family out of Kragujevac after receiving threats from unnamed "criminal groups and policemen involved in war crimes." The NGO called on the authorities to launch "an urgent investigation into the attack" on the lawyer. PM

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE SAYS BOSNIA NOT YET READY FOR SOVEREIGNTY
The Foreign Affairs Committee of Bosnia-Herzegovina's parliament reported to the legislature on 19 July that the country is not yet ready to exercise full sovereignty over its affairs, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The report noted that the majority of citizens agree with that assessment, although there is vocal support for full independence from the international community (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 July 2005). High Representative Paddy Ashdown's mandate runs out later in 2005, and he is widely expected to be succeeded by an unnamed EU official with fewer powers than the high representative enjoys, such as the power to sack elected officials. PM

BOSNIAN SERB DEFENSE MINISTER SEES PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE ROLE IN FIVE YEARS
Republika Srpska Defense Minister Milovan Stankovic told the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" on 22 July that giving up the two entity Defense ministries in favor of a unified one is the price Bosnia must pay if it expects to join NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2005). "If we want to join NATO, we will have to go without a Defense Ministry." Bosnia must respect certain "standards and rules" in order to qualify for integration into the EU and NATO, he argued. Stankovic said that if the parliament approves the military reform package providing for the joint ministry, Bosnia can expect to join NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program "within the next five years." He added that Bosnia will need two years to implement the legal changes required by PfP, and an additional two years to bring the armed forces up to NATO standards. Stankovic argued that NATO rules are "no cause for fear" on the part of the Serbs. Many Bosnian Serbs are concerned that giving up their own Defense Ministry might prove to be a first step toward a loss of sovereignty for the Republika Srpska and the setting up of a unitary state with the Serbs in a minority. When the Dayton peace agreements were concluded in late 1995, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and other officials won support for the package by arguing that Dayton provides a firm legal basis for Bosnian Serb statehood. PM

MOSCOW ACCUSES MOLDOVANS OF PROVOKING SHOOTING INCIDENT
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said the shooting incident that occurred on 19 July in the security zone separating Transdniester from the rest of Moldova created "a serious threat to security in the region" and was provoked by Moldovan citizens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2005), Flux reported on 22 July. The ministry explained that a Russian officer fired two bursts into the air because of an "attempt by two Moldovan citizens, accompanied by a U.S. citizen, to take an unsanctioned picture of an object." A similar explanation was provided by Anatolii Zverev, commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Transdniester. "Taking photos and filming videos at outposts without special permission is restricted. The detainees should have complied with the request to stop filming, as the photos may have been used for intelligence purposes or to organize acts of sabotage. Instead, the two Moldovan citizens insisted on speaking their state language and provoked the Russian servicemen," Interfax quoted Zverev as saying. JM

IRAN FACES AGITATED KURDISH POPULATION
Unrest among Kurds living in western Iran, which has been continuing for several weeks, has prompted a government investigation that began on 20 July. This comes on the heels of low levels of Kurdish participation in the June presidential election, which may be indicative of their sense of exclusion from the country's politics. The Kurds are not promoting separatism, and the central government may find that meeting their demands will be more effective in settling the unrest than arrests and violence.

The most recent incident occurred when Kurds living in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province, clashed with police after a local activist was reported killed by state security agents, Radio Farda reported on 12 July, quoting local journalist Masud Kurdpur. Kurdpur told Radio Farda that "security agents" killed activist Seyyed Kamal Seyyed Qader (known as Shavaneh and identified elsewhere as Seyyed Kamal Astam), whose death provoked clashes on 11 July between police and Mahabad residents.

Kurdpur told Radio Farda that Qader was arrested for unspecified political activities, and the violent police response to the subsequent protest shows that the Iranian government is hardening its attitude to protests. "Unfortunately, now that the elections are over and [President Hojatoleslam Mohammad] Khatami's government is coming to an end, this is a new type of approach that has led to deaths," Kurdpur said. "Most gatherings so far were tolerated."

Kurdishmedia.com reported on 15 July that Shavaneh was a member of the Revolutionary Union of Kurdistan (Yeketi Shorishgerani Kurdistan).

Kurdpur told Radio Farda on 14 July that local Kurds' angry reaction to the killing of Shavaneh is continuing. Kurdpur said that the authorities asked storekeepers to reopen their businesses, but they have yet to comply with this request. Kurdpur said this is a particularly sensitive time because it coincides with the anniversary of the assassination of Kurdish leader Abdul Rahman Qassemlu (13 July 1989) by Iranian agents.

Kurdishmedia.com reported on 15 July that the unrest was continuing and the authorities arrested two people, Hussein Amanullah and Kamal Perwyiziyane (Parvizian), in the city of Bukan. A total of about 15 arrests were made. The authorities in Marivan reportedly instructed local telephone call centers, from which people make international calls, to provide them with names of everyone who calls overseas.

Seyyed Maruf Samadi, the governor of Mahabad, said the problems there began when the man known as Shavaneh resisted police, "Iran" reported on 19 July. They therefore shot him. Samadi said people who protested this incident were arrested, but he has no information on them. A police officer was stabbed to death, according to Samadi. Government offices, banks, and some homes were damaged, too.

Samadi acknowledged that these incidents have upset locals, and he said the Interior Ministry has agreed to his request to send a team to look into these events.

Federalism in Iraq has had an effect on Iran's Kurdish population, particularly the election of Masud Barzani as president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the election of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani as Iraq's president.

The unrest in Mahabad is the latest in a string of incidents focused on local Kurds' ethnic identity. In mid-June, security forces in Mahabad clashed with Kurds who were celebrating the election of Masud Barzani. On 6 June, joyful young Kurds in Mahabad and Piranshahr celebrated the election of Talabani as Iraq's president by setting off fireworks and displaying Kurdish flags. Fifteen police officers were injured in resulting clashes, and 40 demonstrators were arrested. According to unconfirmed reports from exile opposition groups, demonstrations and clashes also occurred in Baneh, Marivan, Saqez, and Sanandaj.

Kurds make up some 7 percent of Iran's population of 68 million, and have campaigned for greater attention from the central government, citing provincial underdevelopment, inadequate political representation, and inattention to their cultural needs. Before the June presidential election, Kurdish political activists' demands prompted threats from the Guardians Council. During the campaign, reformist candidates paid particular attention to the demands of Kurds and other minorities.

Tehran University's Professor Hamid Ahmadi accused the reformists of using ethnic issues as a campaign device, "Siyasat-i Ruz" reported on 7 July. He warned that doing this would not work.

Nevertheless, Kurds' dissatisfaction with and alienation from the central government was apparent in the Iranian presidential election. Second-round turnout in the predominantly Kurdish cities of West Azerbaijan was very low: Bukan (12 percent), Mahabad (15 percent), Piranshahr (15 percent), and Sardasht (16 percent). Turnout in Kurdistan Province was quite low -- about 25 percent -- compared to the national average of almost 60 percent. Turnout in some municipalities was remarkably bad: Baneh (17 percent), Divandareh (20 percent), Sarvabad (17 percent), Saqez (16 percent), and Sanandaj (20 percent).

Iran is not the only country dealing with a restive Kurdish population. Recent terrorist incidents in Turkey have been attributed to offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK or Kongra-Gel), and the Turkish military is active in the eastern parts of the country. Turkey even proposed at a 19 July meeting in Istanbul of foreign ministers from Iran, Syria, and Iraq that they join forces against the PKK. For the most part, the Kurds in Iran are not promoting separatism. Tehran might well find that meeting the Kurdish minority's demands -- which are based on its constitutional rights -- will have greater long-term success than repression.

VOTER REGISTRATION FOR AFGHAN ELECTIONS ENDS
Besmellah Besmel, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) head, announced on 21 July that the voter registration period for the parliamentary and provincial council elections scheduled for 18 September has ended, the Afghan Voice Agency reported. According to Besmel, women account for 40 percent of registered voters. The final number of registered voters has not yet been tallied. AT

VOTE COUNTING WILL TAKE PLACE IN PROVINCIAL CENTERS
The JEMB announced on 21 July that vote counting for parliamentary and provincial council elections will take place in a single counting center in each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, the official National Radio of Afghanistan reported. According to JEMB, both the international community and Afghan security officials have promised to provide security at these counting centers. However, ensuring security for counting at more than 6,000 polling stations will be difficult. The vote-counting process is to last about 20 days. Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, the main opposition leader in Afghanistan, has earlier told RFE/RL that his coalition would prefer that votes be counted at the polling stations in order to reduce the chances of fraud (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2005). Qanuni alleged that during the presidential election in October, many irregularities occurred during the transportation of ballot boxes. AT

ELECTION MEDIA COMMISSION ESTABLISHED IN AFGHANISTAN
According to a 20 July JEMB press release, the body has established a media commission for the upcoming elections in Afghanistan. The Media Commission is composed of three Afghan and two international commissioners who are tasked with monitoring the media coverage of the election campaign; addressing complaints of unfair reporting and coverage, or other violations of Afghan media law; and setting-up and overseeing a sponsored advertising program that will provide each candidate with equal radio and television air time during the campaign period (14 August to 15 September). AT

AFGHAN LEADER HINTS THAT PAKISTAN SHOULD CLOSE SOME ISLAMIC SEMINARY SCHOOLS
During his trip to London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 20 July hinted that Pakistan should close some madrassas to combat terrorism, London's "The Times" reported on 21 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005). "There are some places called madrassas that are not that. They are training camps for terrorists," Karzai said. These places "have to be closed down by all of us," the Afghan leader suggested. When pressed by reporters to say if some of these madrassas are in Pakistan, Karzai responded in the affirmative. Once the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, which Kabul believes originate and are supported in Pakistan, "stop, then our cooperation [with Islamabad] will be successful," Karzai told reporters. Meanwhile, the Afghan president arrived in Rome on 21 July for an official state visit. Italy is the second and final leg of Karzai's European tour. AT

DISTRICT CHIEF IN CENTRAL PROVINCE SAYS NEO-TALIBAN KILLED 15 PEOPLE
Qais Fasihi, the district chief of Kijran in Daykundi Province, has said that 15 Afghans have been killed by the neo-Taliban in recent days, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 21 July. According to Fasihi, the individuals were working for the U.S. military and were killed in a surprise attack, which he said was carried out by the neo-Taliban. According to Fasihi, around 80 militiamen entered his district from neighboring Helmand Province and, after carrying out the attack, left leaflets in the name of the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Emirate -- the official name for the former Taliban regime -- urging people to support the movement. Daykundi is a new province, carved up from Oruzgan in 2004. According to Hindukosh, the incident in Kirjan is the first reported attack by suspected neo-Taliban in the province. AT

OUTGOING IRANIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES HIS TENURE
As his second four-year term as chief executive comes to an end, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami held a final meeting with cabinet members and other officials on 21 July, IRNA reported. Khatami said his administration encountered a great deal of unfairness, but it refused to give in to calls for more radical action out of fear that violence and chaos will undermine Iran's sovereignty. Rather than changing the constitution, he said, all state institutions should be accountable for their actions. Khatami said reforms did occur, even though "Factionalism, simplemindedness, and tribalism inflicted serious losses against reforms and went so far as misinterpreting the nation's reform movement." In what could be a message to the incoming administration of President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Khatami said, "I pray to God that our friends would not make a mistake and misinterpret the people's choice as their intention to return to extremism." Khatami praised his subordinates and cited their achievements in the economic, scientific, and social spheres. Khatami urged his team to meet regularly in the future, so it can defend itself from the attacks that he predicts are forthcoming. BS

IRANIAN PRESS CONSIDERS NEW CABINET
Ahmadinejad's future cabinet was addressed in several Tehran newspapers on 21 July. The discussion was not so much about the actual choices, but rather about the selection process. Mardom Salari reported that the majority faction in the legislature objects to the team selecting the cabinet, and it put this argument in the context of disagreements between members of the Islamic Iran Developers Coalition in the legislature and in the Tehran municipal council. "Farhang-i Ashti" put the dispute in terms of the rivalry between the young right wing and the traditionalist right wing. Another report in the same daily quoted legislator Fatemeh Ajarlu as saying the president-elect wants to bring in new faces. "Aftab-i Yazd" advised Ahmadinejad to ignore calls for a bipartisan cabinet and to choose instead officials who can work together. This would preclude ministers attributing their shortcomings to politics or rivalries. BS

INDIA CONCERNED ABOUT PIPELINE FROM IRAN
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on 21 July in Washington that he is not sure if the natural gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India will get funding, PTI news agency reported from New Delhi. "But I am realistic enough to realize that there are many risks, because considering all the uncertainties of the situation there in Iran, I don't know if any international consortium of bankers would underwrite this," he said. Singh suggested that India could serve as a bridge for improving U.S.-Iranian relations. BS

CLASHES BREAK OUT IN SAMARRA
Insurgents clashed with an Iraqi Army patrol in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad on 22 July, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. The incident reportedly began when insurgents attacked the patrol with light weapons. Four civilians were injured. Clashes subsequently broke out in another area of the town between insurgents and police, and two civilians were killed and five injured, the news channel reported. KR

SYRIA SAYS IT HAS ARRESTED OVER 1,000 ARABS TRYING TO INFILTRATE IRAQ
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Mu'allim met on 21 July with a number of ambassadors accredited to Syria, SANA reported the same day. Al-Mu'allim contended that Syria has "a genuine interest in establishing security and stability in Iraq," and said that direct accusations from the United States and Iraq that blame neighboring countries for the insurgency "are not the remedy for the security situation in Iraq." The minister said that Syria has implemented all that was required of it according to two security agreements concluded with Iraq, and he accused Iraq of failing to implement its side of the plan. Al-Mu'allim said that U.S. and Iraqi forces have engaged in some 100 border clashes with insurgents leading to U.S. troops firing into Syrian territory "in an arbitrary way...due to losing their nerve," thereby endangering Syrian troops. He further contended that Syria has prevented 1,240 "fanatics from various nationalities" from entering Iraq; all but 69 of those arrested were turned over to their countries. Four thousand Syrians who "left or tried to leave" for Iraq are under investigation, he added. KR

FORMER IRAQI PRESIDENT APPEARS BEFORE TRIBUNAL...
Al-Arabiyah television broadcast on 21 July excerpts from a court appearance by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the Iraqi Special Tribunal. The date of the appearance was not released. Hussein was being questioned on the displacement and extermination of Shi'ite Fayli Kurds in the 1980s. Those displaced went to Iran. In one exchange, Judge Munir Haddad, who chaired the session, explains the neutrality of the court to Hussein, saying: "I want to say this for the historical record. We have been listening to you for 35 years. We are an independent court. We have not yielded to pressure from anyone." The former president replied: "It is being said -- and this is a game you will discover -- that I am imprisoned by the new Iraqi government, which the Americans appointed." The judge responded: "No, the people elected it," to which Hussein contended: "No, no. You are a man of the law and understand things." KR

...AND LECTURES JUDGE ON INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY
Hussein questioned the independence of the tribunal in exchanges with judge Munir Haddad during the hearing aired on Al-Arabiyah television on 21 July. At one point during the session, the judge told the former president: "Once I put on this gown, I forget the nationality and the sect to which I belong." At another point, Hussein told the judge: "When you wear that robe you should be independent, whether you are facing me, or the foreigners, or any Iraqi." The former president also argued with the judge, saying he had not had time to see his lawyer Khalil al-Dulaymi in private. "Is this the normal situation under the law? Why is it that a defendant can only see his lawyer during the session and that he does not know the investigation is being held except during the session?" Hussein asked. KR

ALGERIAN ENVOYS KIDNAPPED IN IRAQ
Two Algerian diplomats were kidnapped in Baghdad on 21 July, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. Izz al-Din bin Qadi and Ali bin Arusi were abducted some 100 meters from the embassy, located in the Al-Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad. According to Algerian state-owned television, bin Qadi recently took up his post at the embassy; bin Arusi, the charge d'affaires, was about to leave Iraq and retire. The two men were abducted after leaving the embassy in a Land Cruiser. Two cars carrying seven gunmen intercepted the Land Cruiser, witnesses said. The attack took place within sight of security officials from the Algerian and Omani embassies. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn claimed responsibility for the early July abduction and apparent killing of Egyptian envoy to Iraq, Ihab al-Sharif (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2005). KR

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