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Newsline - August 31, 2005


MILLENNIUM CELEBRATIONS END IN TATAR CAPITAL...
Celebrations to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the Tatar capital Kazan culminated on 30 August, which has also been a state holiday since Tatarstan's sovereignty was proclaimed by the republican Supreme Soviet in 1990, tatar.ru, TNV, and Tatarinform reported. Addressing attendees on 29 August, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said preparations for the millennial celebrations restored self-confidence to Tatars and taught them to "fear nothing," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 August. "We deserve the respect of the whole world; we can do anything," Shaimiev said, adding that the republic should make the phrase its motto. Some 1,200 representatives from more than 630 Tatar communities around Russia and 26 foreign countries attended the festivities. The festivities concluded with a 1,000-gun salute to Kazan. VY

...AS WORLD TATAR CONGRESS CRITICIZES MOSCOW...
Addressing the World Tatar Congress (BTK) in Kazan, Executive Committee Chairman Renat Zakirov accused Moscow of neglecting the interests of national minorities as it strengthens the so-called power vertical in the country, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 August. "It seems that the federal authorities who concentrated all the financial resources didn't think about the preservation and development of nationalities," Zakirov said. "It turns out that Tatarstan alone is to look after it." Zakirov singled out the ethnic Tatar community in neighboring Bashkortostan as victimized by current policies. "Their willingness to preserve their language is nearly considered extremism by Bashkir authorities, while federal authorities could pressure Bashkir authorities," Zakirov said. "The Tatar language is disappearing in Russia's regions in a catastrophic manner, as it is practically impossible to open national schools in big cities." Radical nationalist and former Ittifaq party leader Feuzie Beiremova called the celebration "a holiday in a cage," presumably suggesting that Russia represents a cage, and urged Tatars to restore full statehood. " The Chinese empire is pressing on us from the Urals, and the Christians are pushing us and would like to suppress us from the west," Beiremova said. GK/VY

...AND REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES REGIONAL MERGERS
President Shaimiev told RTR on 28 August that he opposes the Kremlin's scheme to merge federal subjects into larger administrative entities. "I feel that even small [ethnic], subsidized republics will hardly agree to that," Shaimiev predicted. "National feelings don't disappear with the development of democracy and integration into the civilized world." Shaimiev advised the Kremlin to "take this into account." Talk of such enlargement efforts "do not jeopardize us," Shaimiev added. VY

MINISTER SAYS ADDITIONAL MILITARY SPENDING TO BOOST AIR DEFENSES
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced on 30 August that most of the 20 percent increase in planned defense spending in 2006 is intended to help bolster the country's air defenses, "Vremya novostei" reported the same day. Speaking during CIS exercises at Astrakhan Oblast's Ashuluk testing grounds, Ivanov said Russia will modernize and reintegrate a joint air-defense system with CIS allies Belarus, Armenia, and Tajikistan, RTR reported. United air-defenses could be stationed in any region in the CIS, Ivanov said, but will probably be positioned so as to focus on three areas under possible threat: the Caucasus, with a center in Rostov; Eastern Europe, with a center in Minsk; and Central Asia, with a center in Astana," "Vremya novostei" reported. Ivanov said Russia will supply Belarus with an S-300 air-defense missile system, among the most advanced in the world. Ivanov added that Russia has proposed the creation of a joint, non-strategic air-defense shield with Europe and contribute its missile technology to the project, the paper reported. VY

NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK LEADER ACCUSES PRO-KREMLIN ELEMENTS OF FOMENTING 'CIVIL WAR'
Eduard Limonov, the leader of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), on 30 August accused the pro-Kremlin youth group, Nashi, of being behind the attacks by dozens of masked men on members of his party and other opposition youth groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2005), calling such actions "manifestations of civil war," RosBalt reported. Nashi spokesman Ivan Mostovich dismissed the accusation and stressed the group's policy of nonviolence, strana.ru reported. Mostovich said the incident was the result of the "criminal underground budgeting of NBP and other radical leftist organizations." Motherland leader Dmitrii Rogozin, whose youth group For the Motherland was among those attacked, charged on 30 August that the incident was a provocation by pro-Kremlin groups hoping to destabilize the country and thus provide a rationale for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power beyond his current term. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, whose supporters were also attacked, said he has demanded that the Interior Ministry investigate the incident, lenta.ru reported. Stanislav Yakovlev, coordinator for the opposition youth movement Pora, charged that the attack was "ordered" and that soccer hooligans recruited into Nashi's ranks were behind it, apn.ru reported. VY

FORMER ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTER'S COUNSEL EXPECTS BATTLE OVER U.S. EXTRADITION REQUEST
Timofei Gridnev, a lawyer for Russia's ex-Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, said on 30 August that the defense expects the United States to insist on his client's extradition to that country despite a purported agreement on his extradition to Russia, Channel One reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2005). U.S. officials initiated Adamov's detention in Switzerland over allegations that he embezzled millions of dollars in U.S. funds earmarked for Russian nuclear safety projects. Russia subsequently filed its own extradition request. Gridnev suggested that Swiss authorities should take into account that Adamov is a Russian citizen and faces a possible 60 years in prison on the U.S. charges but 10 years on the Russian ones. Channel One quoted an expert on international law, Khristofor Ivakyan, as saying Russia and Switzerland have a valid preferred-extradition agreement signed by Tsar Aleksandr II in the 19th century; but the United States has an equally valid extradition treaty with Switzerland, he added. Adamov could also simply face trial in Switzerland, Ivakyan said, if prosecutors alleged that he laundered money through Swiss accounts. VY

KHODORKOVSKII'S CANDIDACY MOVES FORWARD, AS DOES HIS LEGAL APPEAL
Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Political Council member Ivan Starikov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 30 August that an initiative group to support the candidacy of imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskii for a State Duma seat has been created (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2005). The election for the seat in a single-mandate district in the city of Moscow will take place on 4 December. Members of the initiative group reportedly include SPS Political Council member Boris Nadezhdin, former presidential candidate Irina Khakamada, Globalization Institute Director Mikhail Delyagin, National Bolshevik Party leader/author Limonov, and former television personality Sergei Dorenko. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported that judicial authorities are speeding up their consideration of the appeal filed in Khodorkovskii's criminal case. One of Khodorkovskii's attorneys told the newspaper that the Moscow court set a date of 14 September, giving it just two weeks to study 450 volumes in the Yukos case. "Izvestiya" concluded that the "authorities" are trying to deprive former Yukos head Khodorkovskii of the opportunity to run for the Duma, since Khodorkovskii only retains the right to run while his case is under appeal. JAC

PUTIN TAPS NASHI MEMBER FOR NEW GOVERNMENT ORGAN
President Putin has invited a member of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi to participate in the Public Chamber, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 August. Yuliya Gorodnicheva, 19, is a student at Tula State University, where the docent of her department said she receives modest marks and is a "completely ordinary" young woman. Gorodnicheva participated in a recent televised meeting between President Putin and about 40 members of Nashi at the presidential residence in Krasnodar Krai and asked a question about church-state relations. Mark Urnov, chairman of Ekspertiza, said that judging by the new members of the Public Chamber, many of whom are athletes and actresses, "the chamber is turning into an organ that will demonstrate the unity of the people with the authorities." Urnov added, "The president's [original] idea about civil control over the government is being perverted right before our eyes" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2005). The Public Chamber's first session is scheduled for November. JAC

IS SVERDLOVSK OBLAST TRYING TO HOLD ONTO TAJIK CITIZENS?
Some residents of Tajikistan traveling through Yekaterinburg's Koltsovo airport are encountering problems returning to their homeland, Uralinformbyuro reported on 30 August. Eight Tajiks were taken off a flight to Tajikistan for not having a foreign-travel passport, the agency reported. On 29 August, a new Migration Service regulation requiring citizens of Tajikistan to have passports for travel in and outside Russia came into force. The change in the regulation was reportedly announced three months ago, but some Tajiks already in Russia obtained tickets without having such documents. JAC

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ENCOUNTER CRITICISM IN ANOTHER REGION
The missionary department of the Yekaterinburg Eparchy has started collecting evidence for a legal appeal to ban the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Sverdlovsk Oblast, uralpolit.ru reported on 30 August. The eparchy considers the group a sect, and the head of the missionary department, Father Vladimir Zaitsev, told the agency that a Moscow court decision last year banning the group from the city created a precedent for a similar action in his oblast. Zaitsev complained about sick people being pressured not to receive medical treatment for religions reasons and predicted that he will have enough materials for the legal case by December. Earlier in the month, some 500 protesters in Saransk from various youth organizations, including the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, called on Mordovian authorities to ban Jehovah's Witnesses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2005). JAC

REGIONAL LABOR PROTEST TAKES ON NEW FORM
Coal miners in Sakalin Oblast are staging an underground protest over a backlog of unpaid wages worth some 30 million rubles ($1 million), Russian news agencies reported on 30 August. According to NTV, 13 miners descended into a mine shaft owned by the private coal company Shakhterskoe, taking with them only drinking water. They say that they will come up again only once the wages are paid. Sakhalin Oblast Deputy Governor Sergei Sheredekin told Regnum that the situation at the present time is a matter for law-enforcement officials. JAC

RADICAL FIELD COMMANDER SAYS BESLAN WAS RESPONSE TO FSB STING
The catalyst for the Beslan hostage taking on 1 September 2004 was an attempt by the Federal Security Service (FSB) to infiltrate the Chechen resistance and provoke it to try to seize the parliament building in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, according to a 30 August statement by radical field commander Shamil Basaev posted on the resistance websites kavkaz-tsentr and chechenpress.org. The statement said the special services in North Ossetia infiltrated an agent into Basaev's ranks and, after winning Basaev's trust, he proposed seizing the parliament and government buildings in Vladikavkaz. Shortly afterward, the agent purportedly confessed to Basaev his relations with the FSB and agreed to function as a double agent. Basaev said preparations for the operation in Vladikavkaz got under way in the spring of 2004. That operation was scheduled for 6 September, when the FSB planned to intercept and neutralize Basaev's men on the outskirts of the North Ossetian capital. The FSB reportedly created a safe corridor that Basaev's men took advantage of to reach Beslan without being intercepted. Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel promptly rejected Basaev's claim as the "delirium of a terrorist murderer of children," AFP reported on 31 August quoting Interfax. LF

OFFICIALS DENY MILITANTS ATTACKED CHECHEN GOVERNMENT BUILDING
Chechen military commandant General Grigorii Fomenko and Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev both denied on 30 August that Chechen militants launched a mortar attack the previous day on the government building in Grozny, killing and wounding an unspecified number of people, Interfax reported. The website chechenpress.org reported on 30 August that a band of 17 militants launched a mortar attack on the government complex early on 29 August. It said that, judging by radio intercepts, the attackers inflicted a significant number of casualties without incurring any losses. LF

RUSSIAN COURT QUASHES SERVICEMEN'S ACQUITTAL IN CHECHEN KILLINGS
The Military Board of the Russian Supreme Court overturned on 30 August the acquittal three months ago by the North Caucasus Military District Court of four Russian servicemen charged with the deliberate killing in January 2002 of six Chechen civilians, Interfax reported. The Supreme Court ordered a retrial -- the second in this case. Pro-Moscow Chechen officials and relatives of the victims appealed the May acquittal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 23 May 2005). Interfax on 30 August quoted Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Djabrailov as saying "we hope that now justice will triumph after all." LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PRESIDENTS' KARABAKH TALKS 'POSITIVE'
Vartan Oskanian told a press briefing in Yerevan on 30 August that the meeting in Kazan three days earlier between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev constituted a positive step in the ongoing search for a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, even though "no breakthrough was achieved," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian said that on instructions from Kocharian and Aliyev, he and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov are likely to meet in the near future to try to build on the progress already achieved. At the same time, Oskanian warned that "we are simply not close to putting anything on paper." Oskanian further told journalists that Yerevan does not share the widely held perception that the CIS is on the verge of disintegration, ITAR-TASS reported. And he expressed relief at the release of Turkish scholar Yektan Turkyilmaz after a Yerevan court found him guilty of trying to smuggle valuable antiquarian books out of Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 15, and 17 August 2005). Oskanian admitted that jailing Turkyilmaz would have reflected badly on Armenia's international reputation. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADERS MEET IN W ARSAW
The chairmen of the three opposition parties aligned in the Azadlyg (Liberty) election bloc -- Isa Gambar (Musavat party), Ali Kerimli (Azerbaijan Popular Front Party progressive wing), and Rasul Guliev (Democratic Party of Azerbaijan) -- met in Warsaw on 30 August to discuss tactics and strategy in the run-up to the 6 November parliamentary ballot, day.az reported on 31 August. All three men have been registered as candidates, but Guliev, who left Azerbaijan nine years ago, has been stripped of his immunity from prosecution and faces arrest on embezzlement charges if he returns to Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2005). The three leaders pledged to do everything in their power to strengthen their alliance, which they see as the nucleus for a future government. Also on 31 August, day.az quoted Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davies as saying that "there is no alternative" to free and fair elections in Azerbaijan. Davies added that he hopes the assistance provided by the Council of Europe will help to ensure a free and fair process. LF

AZERBAIJANI YOUTH-MOVEMENT MEMBERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE
Four members of the opposition youth movement Yeni Fikir have launched a hunger strike to protest reprisals against their members following the arrest four weeks ago of Yeni Fikir Chairman Ruslan Bashirli, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 31 August. Bashirli is accused of accepting money from Armenian intelligence to foment unrest in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 August 2005). LF

AZERBAIJANI MINISTER DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN INTER-CLAN STRUGGLE
Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliyev told journalists in Baku on 30 August that he "does not represent any clan" and seeks only to work in the interests of the Azerbaijani people, Turan reported. Aliyev was quoted last week as saying he fears for his life; media reports have hinted at a covert feud between him and State Customs Committee Chairman Kemaladdin Heydarov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2005). LF

GEORGIAN ARMY SERVICEMEN ENGAGE IN MASS BRAWL
Up to 100 servicemen from the Georgian Defense Ministry's Gori-based Third Brigade were drawn into a massive fistfight late on 29 August, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported the following day. Several servicemen were subsequently hospitalized with injuries. The Georgian Defense Ministry has declined to comment on the incident and, according to a journalist for the daily "Alia," it pressured unnamed television stations not to report the incident. LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER BLAMES ABDUCTIONS ON GEORGIAN SPECIAL SERVICES
Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, told the Russian news agency regnum.ru on 31 August that he has proof that Georgian special services have been involved in the kidnapping of residents in the South Ossetian conflict zone, including an 11-year-old Georgian boy abducted 10 days ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2005). Kokoity further accused Tbilisi of doing everything possible to discredit South Ossetia internationally, and he said the OSCE and individual countries that support Georgia share the blame for the recent escalation of tension in the conflict zone. Kokoity specifically accused the United States of providing Georgia with a type of land mine banned under the 1997 Ottawa Convention. According to regnum.ru on 30 August, two such land mines were discovered on a road near Tskhinvali leading to the predominantly Georgian-populated village of Kekhvi. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT TOUTS CONSTITUTION, NOTES POSSIBILITY OF CHANGES
As Kazakhstan marked the 10th anniversary of its constitution on 30 August, President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a conference on the constitution in Astana that while changes to the document are possible, they should be undertaken with care, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Nazarbaev said that "amendments may be required to the basic law" and "the constitution is not something frozen." But he cautioned, "We should cherish the principles contained in the constitution," adding that amendments require "a balanced approach." Nazarbaev also counseled a gradualist approach to political reforms, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. "Since our economy is not yet competitive enough and our civil society is still at a nascent stage, any hasty -- which means unprepared -- radical political reforms may destabilize social life in the country, cause its people to reject liberal values and curtail democratic processes, which we are now witnessing in certain former Soviet republics." DK

KYRGYZSTAN TO RECEIVE SOME UZBEK, AS WELL AS KAZAKH GAS
Kubanychbek Jusupov, deputy head of the Kyrgyz gas company Kyrgyzgaz, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 30 August that while Kyrgyzstan will receive one-third of the natural gas it had hoped to get from Uzbekistan in 2005, it will make up the shortfall with gas shipments from Kazakhstan. Jusupov said that Uzbekistan will supply Kyrgyzstan with 103 million cubic meters of gas at $42 per 1,000 cubic meters by yearend, enough to satisfy demand in the country's south. Kazakh gas company Kaztransgaz will cover the rest of Kyrgyzstan's gas needs at a price of $43 per 1,000 cubic meters; Kyrgyzstan will also have to pay $17.5 million in arrears owed to Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan was forced to renegotiate its gas-supply contracts when Uzbekistan unilaterally withdrew from a previous agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2005) after the Kyrgyz authorities allowed 439 Uzbek refugees to leave Kyrgyzstan for Romania on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2005). DK

KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DISAGREE ON UZBEK DETAINEES
Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu told a news conference in Bishkek on 30 August that he advocates the transfer of all 15 Uzbek citizens currently being detained in Osh to third countries, while Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov would like to deport five of them to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Bakir uulu said that when he met with Beknazarov last week, the prosecutor-general said he supports the deportation of five of the detained Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, where they are accused of committing serious and violent crimes, but is ready to hand the other 10 over to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Bakir uulu added that he has met with the detainees, who say they were falsely accused and do not want to return to Uzbekistan. A number of Scandinavian countries are reportedly willing to accept at least some of the Uzbek detainees, who fled Uzbekistan after violence in Andijon on 12-13 May. Kyrgyz authorities later detained the Uzbeks on the basis of materials provided by Uzbek law-enforcement authorities. DK

UZBEK RIGHTS ACTIVIST DETAINED IN PSYCHIATRIC WARD
Elena Urlaeva, a human rights advocate and activist for the unregistered opposition party Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Farmers), is currently being held in a mental hospital, Arena (http://www.freeuz.org) reported on 30 August, quoting Interior Ministry official Shakir Yakubov. Yakubov said that Urlaeva faces criminal charges of defacing state symbols in connection with leaflets she had been handing out. Vitalii Krasilovskii, a lawyer representing Urlaeva, told Arena that he has confirmed his client is being held in a mental hospital. "They did not allow me to meet with her. The doctor in the ward where Urlaeva is being held said that the rights advocate is undergoing compulsory treatment on the basis of a court order," Krasilovskii said. Uzbek police detained Urlaeva on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2005). DK

BELARUSIAN CHILDREN TO RECEIVE STATE-IDEOLOGY PRIMERS AS PRESIDENTIAL GIFT
Belarus's first-grade pupils will be given state-ideology textbooks titled "My Motherland Belarus" on 1 September as a present from the president, Belapan reported on 30 August, citing Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou. Radzkou described the textbook as "an easy-to-read, quality product" created at President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's order. As many as 100,000 copies of the textbook have been printed. Lukashenka wants similar textbooks to be prepared for older secondary-school and university students. Authors from several universities are expected to present several versions of an ideology textbook to Lukashenka before the end of the year. "We will have a choice, therefore we will be able to make the textbook more interesting to the public," Radzkou said. JM

BRUSSELS TO SEND ENVOY TO MINSK TO MONITOR HUMAN RIGHTS
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in Budapest on 30 August that the commission is planning to send a charge d'affaires to Minsk to monitor the human rights situation in Belarus, Reuters reported. JM

IS FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER HIDING FROM ARREST?
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the opposition Party of Regions, is staying abroad following a warning that he may be arrested, Ukrainian media reported on 30 August, citing lawmaker Taras Chornovil from the Party of Regions parliamentary caucus. Chornovil added that fearing arrest, Yanukovych did not take part in recent celebrations of Miners' Day in Ukraine, as was his custom in the past. Earlier this month, the Party of Regions press service said Yanukovych would go to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic for a short vacation. Meanwhile, Yanukovych's press secretary Hanna Herman suggested to "Ukrayinska pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua) on 30 August that Yanukovych may currently be in Ukraine. "I don't know [where Yanukovych is], I only know that, according to what I've heard, today in the morning he bought flowers for his teacher, and these flowers are to be sent to her on his behalf," Herman said. On 29 August Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists that Yanukovych may be involved in the misuse of budget funds. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF ARMS SMUGGLING FROM TRANSDNIESTER
National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) Secretary Petro Poroshenko told journalists in Kyiv on 30 August that media reports alleging that weapons are smuggled from Transdniester to the Ukrainian port of Illichivsk are not true, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "As the RNBO secretary, I personally refute [those reports] and state that there have not been any similar facts [of smuggling]," Poroshenko said. He added that he has requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Ukrainian Security Service check those reports. "If they are confirmed, [the guilty parties] must be held accountable. If they are not, [I want to know] who made those allegations, since they discredit our borders," Poroshenko added. JM

POLL SHOWS DROP IN POPULARITY OF UKRAINE'S RULING PARTIES
The Razumkov Center polling agency found in a survey conducted from 5-12 August that six political parties would have been able at that time to overcome the 3 percent voting threshold to qualify for parliamentary representation, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 30 August. The Our Ukraine People's Union was supported by 20 percent of those polled, the Party of Regions by 14.2 percent, the Fatherland party by 10.5 percent, the Communist Party by 5.5 percent, the Socialist Party by 4.2 percent, and the People's Party by 4.1 percent. In a similar poll conducted in May, the ruling Our Ukraine People's Union and Fatherland were backed by 31.6 percent and 15.5 percent of voters, respectively. JM

BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT APPROVES JOINT MILITARY...
Following a stormy debate, the Republika Srpska parliament agreed on 30 August to endorse the formation of a joint army and Defense Ministry for all three ethnic groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is a prerequisite if that country wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and Bosnian Serb television reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 July 2005). President Dragan Cavic called the reform that would abolish the Bosnian Serb Defense Ministry "painful...but a contribution to the future." He stressed that the Bosnian Serbs need NATO because of the "general security situation of this country." The Croat-Muslim federation's parliament is expected to pass similar legislation on 6 September. PM

...BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN
Outgoing NATO commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina U.S. General Steven Schook told Reuters in Banja Luka on 30 August that "from now on, the armed forces can be a source of stability and confidence" for Bosnia, adding that cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is all that stands between Bosnia and admission to the Partnership for Peace. 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. Other critics across Bosnia say the reform does not go far enough because it will allow each ethnic group to have a veto over the affairs of the joint military through the joint Presidency, which acts as supreme commander. Critics also note that there will be three separate brigades and command centers, one each based in Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian areas. Each brigade will be divided into three ethnically based battalions, each of which will in turn be linked to its ethnic counterparts in the other brigades under the name of regiment, which is supposed to be of a symbolic nature. The new army will be a volunteer force 10,000-strong, and its structures are scheduled to be in place by July 2007. PM

RUSSIA HOLDING BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES INDICTEE
The deputy chief prosecutor of Russia's Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug in western Siberia, Vladimir Tyulkov, was quoted by Interfax on 30 August as saying there that "the necessary documents for the extradition [of Bosnian Serb war crimes indictee Dragan Zelenovic] have already been prepared and will be sent to the Russian prosecutor-general on 31 August," Reuters reported. Russian and Bosnian Serb media have noted in recent days that Zelenovic was arrested on 25 August in the oil town of Khanty-Mansiisk after working as a construction worker under the assumed name of Petrovic for several years. Of eight men from Foca indicted in 1996 by the Hague-based tribunal for crimes there during the 1992-95 conflict, Zelenovic is the last man still at large. Three have been tried and convicted, two are awaiting trial, and two were killed while trying to avoid arrest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002 and 18 May 2005). The indictment against the eight says that they held women as captives and that "many of the detained women were subjected to humiliating and degrading conditions of life, to brutal beatings and to sexual assaults, including rapes." PM

VOJVODINA HUNGARIAN LEADER SAYS GRENADE ATTACK IS AIMED AT DRIVING OUT HUNGARIANS
Jozef Kasza, who heads the League of Vojvodina Hungarians, told the Novi Sad daily "Gradjanski List" on 30 August that the grenade attack on his house by unknown persons earlier that day is but the latest in a series of incidents aimed at forcing the Hungarian minority out of Vojvodina, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2005). He added that sometimes he wonders if Hungarians should continue living "under such pressure, in a country like this." Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic visited Kasza and condemned the attack as an effort aimed at destabilizing interethnic relations. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic were also quick to condemn the incident as an attack on Serbia itself. Elsewhere, Andras Agoston, who heads the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, told RFE/RL that such incidents upset not only the Hungarians but also the population in general. He stressed that this is why it is important that the security services explain as soon as possible exactly what happened. PM

KOSOVA'S PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY SERIOUSLY ILL
Reuters reported from Prishtina on 31 August that an unnamed "senior foreign diplomat" told the news agency that Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova is "seriously ill" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 August 2005). An unnamed official spokesman refused to comment to Reuters about the condition of Rugova, who recently flew in a U.S. military aircraft to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, after reportedly suffering from a flu. Rugova is Kosova's first elected president, having first won the office in 2002 and then again in 2004. PM

CROATS COOLING TOWARD EU
The Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" published a poll on 30 August suggesting that an anti-EU trend is continuing in Croatia following Brussels' decision earlier this year to postpone accession talks with that country, dpa reported. The poll of 900 people showed 44 percent of the respondents opposed to joining the EU, with 39 percent in favor and 16 percent undecided (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 17 June 2005). PM

MOLDOVA OFFERS CITIZENSHIP CONFIRMATION FOR TRANSDNIESTRIANS
The Moldovan government decided on 30 August that all residents of the breakaway region of Transdniester will be given the possibility to confirm their Moldovan citizenship under a simplified procedure from 10 September to 31 December, Infotag and BASA reported. Under the resolution, Transdniestrians can confirm their Moldovan citizenship at any Center for the Documentation of the Population in districts on the right bank of the Dniester River. To do this, they must produce their Soviet-era passports, where a special stamp confirming citizenship will be placed. Those Transdniestrians who do not possess passports will be given identity cards of the Republic of Moldova -- so-called domestic passports -- free of charge. According to Moldova's Information Ministry, more than 270,000 Transdniestrians have Moldovan citizenship, at least 80,000 possess Russian citizenship, and approximately the same number have Ukrainian citizenship. According to the website of the Tiraspol-based Olviya-Press news agency (http://www.olvia.idknet.com/newwebru.htm), Transdniester is inhabited by 750,000 people. JM

IRAQ'S SUNNIS WEIGH IN ON DRAFT CONSTITUTION
Iraq's Sunni Arab leaders have expressed varying levels of opposition to the draft constitution since it was unveiled on 28 August. As with other turning points in Iraq's post-Hussein political development, it is clear now that Sunnis do not have a united stance on the draft. However, a number of Sunni groups have given the draft a lukewarm reception, indicating that they could be swayed to support the draft in the national referendum set for 15 October.

Media reports indicate that at least one Sunni group remains engaged in negotiations with government officials over the draft, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at a 30 August press briefing that he does not believe a "final, final, draft" has been presented, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported.

Iraqi Islamic Party Secretary-General Tariq al-Hashimi told reporters at a 29 August press briefing in Baghdad that Sunni leaders felt slighted by the drafting committee when the draft was released on 28 August despite a lack of consensus on its content.

Al-Hashimi said his party took an advisory role in the negotiations on the draft only after Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders vowed the draft would be written under the "principle of agreement," RFI reported. "Regretfully, this draft constitution does not reflect our aspirations, concerns of Iraqi, nor fulfills our legitimate and national principles as much as we had hoped it would," he said.

"Not the entire draft is bad," al-Hashimi conceded. "It includes good and bad elements.... The Islamic Party contests this draft constitution, but does not reject it part and parcel."

Sunni and Shi'ite leaders confirmed that behind-the-scenes negotiations are continuing with al-Hashimi, who is trying to "make amendments" to the articles his group opposes, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 30 August.

Likewise, Sunni tribal leader and Vice President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir told reporters at a 29 August press briefing that although he is not satisfied with some aspects of the draft, he might encourage Sunni Arabs to vote for it in the hopes that Sunnis could better influence contentious issues -- such as federalism -- once the draft is approved and National Assembly elections are held in December, bringing more Sunni Arabs into parliament.

Al-Yawir contended that Sunni Arabs might not be able to vote down the referendum in three governorates in October. "I think it will be extremely hard to defeat. That's why I think we have to aim at the next elections.... Whoever feels grievance now has to work harder in order to be in the next [government]," he said, washingtonpost.com reported on 30 August.

Meanwhile, Faysal Jarullah al-Shammari, deputy head of the Sunni Al-Waqf Council in the Dhi Qar Governorate, told RFI on 30 August: "We can say in general that the positive spirit dominating the constitutional drafting committee, where discussions have been held and opinions shared openly and without fanaticism for a certain ideology or orientation, is a step in the right direction. As far as the draft in general is concerned, it includes some unclear points that offer several likely eventualities. These could lead Iraq, God forbid, to disintegration and weakness. All of us, without any exception, want a strong and united Iraq. All of us: Sunnis and Shi'a, Kurds and Arabs, and other members of the Iraqi people."

Al-Shammari's take on the constitution is somewhat more restrained than Al-Waqf Council Chairman Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarra'i, who told reporters at a 29 August press briefing that unnamed groups are attempting to intimidate Sunnis in an effort at keeping them away from the ballot box during the referendum, RFI reported the same day.

Al-Samarra'i pointed to the discovery of the bodies of 36 Sunni Arabs in Wasit this week, saying: "These incidents and crimes are only aimed at stopping us before the elections. We are resolute by the will of God and decided by the power of God to enter the elections with full power. These acts of mob will not divert us from the participation in this process."

Al-Samarra'i also spoke about allegations he made last week against the Interior Ministry in which he claimed security forces working under the ministry had arrested Sunnis in Al-Mada'in and Salman Pak after imams encouraged worshippers to register to vote. "The arrests in Al-Mada'in are the strongest evidence that the arrests were deliberate," he said. "I can see that these killings happen at the same time when the constitution draft is presented and when people approach to registering in the lists of voters."

Other Sunni leaders are taking a more hard-line approach to the draft, including Salih al-Mutlaq, head of the National Dialogue Council and a member of the drafting committee. According to Al-Sharqiyah television, al-Mutlaq told reporters at a 28 August press briefing in Baghdad that the draft constitution "must either be accepted or rejected as a whole. If a single point in the constitution is unacceptable, voters would reject the constitution altogether."

Al-Mutlaq told Al-Jazeera television in a 29 August interview that the council is weighing its options, and is considering contesting the legitimacy of the draft constitution through lawsuits in Iraqi and international courts. Al-Mutlaq contended that the National Assembly should be considered dissolved. "The principle according to which the constitution is approved is not the vote but the principle of accord," he said. "Since [Sunnis] did not agree on this constitution, this constitution should not have been passed."

He contended that several other groups stand opposed to the constitution, including the followers of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; the Democratic Trend (which comprises about a dozen political parties and groups); and a bloc of Arab tribes in the National Assembly. Al-Mutlaq has said he will work with other opposition groups to organize a national conference on the constitution in the coming days.

The Muslim Scholars Association appears to have not officially weighed in on the draft but is thought to have been a key organizer in the 29 August demonstrations in Tikrit against the draft. Protesters at the event carried posters of Saddam Hussein, along with Iraqi flags and banners claiming the constitution will divide Iraq. Supporters of Shi'ite clerics Muqtada al-Sadr and Jawad al-Khalisi reportedly also took part in the demonstration, AP reported on 30 August. Khalisi heads the Iraqi National Founding Conference, which consists of dozens of Shi'ite and Sunni groups and parties, including the Muslim Scholars Association and followers of al-Sadr.

So do the Sunni oppositionists to the draft stand a chance of voting down the referendum? Despite al-Yawir's contention that Sunni Arabs might sway just one governorate against the draft, Sunnis opposed to the document -- if united with the likes of Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr and other hard-liners -- might rally enough supporters in three governorates to vote down the draft, but it will be an uphill battle. They will need to set aside other differences and present a united stance, something they may not, in the end, be able to do. At this point -- despite the recent show of force through demonstrations and speeches -- they are far from mobilized.

In the end, the determining factor may be terrorism. Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has already vowed to target polling centers on voting day and to kill all those supporting the political process.

Sunni leaders, including al-Mutlaq, have also contended that they are ill-prepared to run a "no" campaign, citing a lack of financial resources. And unlike Iraq's leading political parties, they lack their own television and radio stations needed to spread their message.

Voter registration is also a factor. Sunni leaders this week said that citizens -- particularly in Al-Anbar -- could not register to vote because only some of the registration centers opened. The Independent Election Commission has responded by extending the registration period, which was due to end on 31 August, for an additional week.

OSCE SENDS ELECTION SUPPORT TEAM TO AFGHANISTAN
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has dispatched an election-support team to Afghanistan for the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on 18 September, according to a 30 August press release. The OSCE team of 32 election experts, drawn from 16 states, is headed by Craig Jenness of Canada. The OSCE is "confident that successful elections...in Afghanistan will help to boost stability and security in the country, as well as beyond its borders," Jenness is quoted in the press release as saying. AT

NATO SUPREME COMMANDER MEETS WITH AFGHAN LEADER
General James Jones met on 30 August with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Jones and Karzai discussed security issues connected with the upcoming Afghan elections and the further expansion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. NATO officials are planning to complete the expansion of ISAF to all parts of Afghanistan and to unify the command of the U.S.-led coalition forces and NATO's forces by 2006, AP reported on 30 August. AT

PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN, UN TO EXTEND AGREEMENT ON AFGHAN REFUGEE REPATRIATION
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on 30 August that it, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have extended their three-way agreement on facilitating the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, international news agencies reported. The agreement, signed in March 2003, was due to expire in March 2006. Under the agreement, some 280,000 Afghans have returned home from Pakistan in 2005. A census jointly conducted by the Pakistani government and the UNHCR early this year showed that more than 3 million refugees remain in Pakistan. The three parties also discussed a recent decision by Pakistan to close refugee camps in the tribal region along the Afghan border by 31 August for "security reasons." In Kabul on 30 August, a spokesman for President Karzai said the government opposes placing any pressure on Afghans to return to Afghanistan. He said repatriation should be strictly voluntary. AT

CONFLICTING REPORTS REGARDING ATTACK ON AFGHAN JUDGE
Unidentified gunmen attacked Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari in Kabul's Ninth District on 30 August, Tolu Television reported. According to the report, Kabul security officials indicated that Shinwari was unharmed in the attack while the assailants managed to escape. According to Bakhtar News Agency, Kabul police sources denied the reports of an attack on Shinwari, saying what had occurred was an argument between two soldiers. AT

PAKISTANI MEMBER OF NEO-TALIBAN KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan security forces in Helmand Province on 29 August killed a Pakistani citizen fighting with the neo-Taliban, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 30 August. Helmand security commander Amanullah told AIP that during an attack by the neo-Taliban on a security post, the "Pakistani Talib" was captured, but he later died as a result of his injuries. During interrogation the injured fighter admitted that "he was from Pishin, Baluchistan, in Pakistan. Besides, some documents were also recovered from him," proving his Pakistani citizenship, Amanullah added. AT

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAKES APPOINTMENTS
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has appointed Seyyed Ahmad Musavi as vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs and Hojatoleslam Ali Akbari as a vice president and head of the National Youth Organization, IRNA reported on 30 August. Ahmadinejad selected Seyyed Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh as interim oil minister, because his nominee for the post failed to win a parliamentary confidence vote. On 27 August, Ahmadinejad introduced Farhad Rahbar as vice president and head of the Management and Planning Organization, IRNA reported. Rahbar was appointed on 19 August. BS

IRANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DENOUNCES NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Mustafa Mohammad Najjar said on 30 August in Tehran that Iran has a right to use nuclear energy, Mehr News Agency and ISNA reported. He said, "Access to nuclear energy is an inalienable right of Iran and we shall safeguard it by our presence at international organizations and through diplomacy and confidence-building measures." However, he emphasized the inadmissibility of using nuclear weapons, saying, "From an Islamic viewpoint, military and nonpeaceful use of nuclear technology is haram [religiously forbidden] and prohibited." Najjar also said the defense budget should increase. Najjar was speaking at a farewell ceremony for his predecessor, Admiral Ali Shamkhani. Speaking at the same event, Chief of the Joint Staff General Hassan Firuzabadi said the United States, which he said symbolizes tyranny, corruption, and Satan, is trying to extinguish the torch of religion. BS

NOT ALL IRANIAN JUDGES TO BE ARMED
Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad said on 30 August that judges will not be armed, Fars News Agency reported. Earlier in the week, following the shooting of a judge in Tehran, a judiciary official announced that judges will be armed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2005). Karimirad said only judges in the criminal office will be armed, and furthermore, attempted assassinations will not discourage members of the judiciary. BS

IRANIAN CITY HOSTS NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY EXHIBITION
A three-day exhibition on nuclear technology opened in Hamedan on 29 August, IRNA reported. Exhibits by Atomic Energy Organization institutions based in Arak, Bonab, Isfahan, Karaj, Natanz, and Tehran feature nuclear electronics, biotechnology, and nanoagriculture. Speaking at the Imam Khomeini Husseinieh in Hamedan on 29 August, Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility chief Hussein Faqihian said the United States is trying to hold back Iran's scientific and technological proficiency, IRNA reported. The head of the Arak heavy-water nuclear complex, Manuchehr Madadi, said his facility's products have medical, sanitary, and pharmaceutical uses. Hamedan parliamentary representative Ebrahim Karkhanei said at the same event, "If Iran didn't take serious steps aimed at setting the foundations of an indigenous nuclear technology today, it would face very miserable conditions tomorrow when it would be deprived of it nonrenewable oil and gas resorts." BS

IRAN CLAIMS NUCLEAR BREAKTHROUGH USING BIOTECHNOLOGY
Iranian state television reported on 29 August that the country's nuclear scientists have discovered a way to use biotechnology to separate uranium from uranium ore to make yellowcake. An unidentified "project manager" said, "The new technique used for the production of yellowcake will reduce costs and efficiency will increase a hundredfold as well. Moreover, this will also prevent environmental pollution." BS

TEHRAN EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES OVER HURRICANE KATRINA
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 30 August expressed condolences for the deaths in the United States resulting from Hurricane Katrina, IRNA reported. Assefi said the Iranian people and government sympathize with the American people and grieving families, and hope that the situation will return to normal soon. BS

MORE THAN 600 IRAQIS DEAD IN BAGHDAD STAMPEDE
A stampede broke out during a Shi'ite procession to the Al-Kadhimiyah Mosque in Baghdad, killing hundreds in the crowd, international media reported on 31 August. Early reports estimate some 647 dead, and 255 wounded, the Interior Ministry said. Those numbers are expected to rise. A police source said that it appears people in the crowd had yelled there was a suicide bomber among them, sparking the stampede. Some jumped and others fell from the A'imma Bridge into the Tigris River and many drowned, international media reported. "The fence of the bridge was [broken] from the pressure of the masses of the people and dozens or hundreds of them fell in the river, in the water, some of them crushed between each other," RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. The Shi'a were commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, considered by Shi'a to be the seventh successor to the Prophet Muhammad. He was imprisoned for 14 years under Abbasid ruler Harun al-Rashid and eventually killed in prison by poisoning. Imam Musa is buried on the mosque grounds. KR

FORMER IRAQI SUNNI AL-WAQF HEAD MEETS U.S. AMBASSADOR, VOWS TO FIGHT CONSTITUTION
Adnan al-Dulaymi, the former head of the Sunni Al-Waqf (religious endowments) Office, met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad on 30 August, RFI reported on 31 August. Al-Dulaymi told reporters at a press briefing following the meeting that Sunnis will reject the draft. He proposed that the draft be referred to the next National Assembly -- which will likely have more Sunni Arab representatives -- for review and revision, adding, "Submitting it now is not in the Iraqi people's interest." Khalilzad suggested to reporters that negotiations remained ongoing and said he believes that "a final, final draft has not yet been, or the edits have not been, presented yet." Al-Dulaymi also addressed the kidnapping and killing of Sunnis. "One hundred-sixty detainees were taken from Al-Mada'in. Taken from the streets, from cafes, from shops," he said. "Their only crime is that they were Sunni. Is this democracy?" KR

IRAQI JUSTICE MINISTER HOLDS LOCAL, FOREIGN GROUPS RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING SUNNIS...
Abd al-Husayn Shandal accused "local and foreign groups" of carrying out massacres against the Sunnis in Iraq, "Al-Hayat" reported on 31 August. Shandal said the existence of detention camps that are outside the control of the ministry is one of the reasons for human rights violations against the Sunnis. He said he is willing to appear before a committee investigating the kidnapping and execution of Sunnis to discuss this. Meanwhile, Sunni parliamentarian Mish'an al-Juburi told "Al-Hayat": "An official figure from the [Shi'ite] 'Alliance' list heads a special assassination department and we know him very well. He supervises the kidnapping and execution of the Sunnis." A former leader of the Shi'ite Badr forces of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abu Akbar al-Sa'idi, denied that they have had any role in the kidnappings and assassinations of Sunnis, and pointed out that "hundreds" of Badr members' identity cards were lost in attacks on Badr offices, suggesting that they might have been used by the real perpetrators of the attacks on Sunnis. He added that Ba'athists, supporters of Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, and extremists on both sides are trying to provoke Muslim infighting. KR

...AS NATIONAL DIALOGUE COUNCIL CLAIMS 76 SUNNIS ARRESTED, KILLED BY SECURITY FORCES
Iraqi National Dialogue Council Secretary-General Khalaf al-Ulayyan claimed in a 30 August statement that 76 Sunnis were arrested and later killed by Interior Ministry forces, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Al-Ulayyan said that the Volcano Brigade carried out a raid in the Al-Hurriyah area of the capital despite a ministry ban on nighttime raids. "Seventy-six people were arrested without being guilty of anything or committing any crime. They were taken to an unknown destination. Later on, it turned out that they all were shot in the head after their hands and feet were tied. They suffered the harshest forms of torture, deformation, and burning to such an extent that it was difficult to identify them," he said. Thirty-six of the arrested were found dead in Al-Kut, while the other 40 bodies were thrown in a canal, al-Ulayyan said. KR

UN TO RETURN $40 MILLION IN SURPLUS REVENUES TO IRAQ
Nine UN agencies involved in the now defunct oil-for-food program will return $40 million they received but never spent from Iraq's sale of oil under the program, UN officials said on 31 August, AP reported. The money was reportedly allotted to help the UN agencies wrap up their work in Iraq. UN Controller Warren Sach had notified the agencies of the surplus, and all reportedly agreed to pay back any surplus, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. The money was identified during former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker's investigation into allegations of corruption in the program. World Food Program spokesman Neil Gallagher told AP that his agency has already sent its surplus -- some $10 million -- to the UN-administered Development Fund for Iraq. KR

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