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Newsline - September 12, 2005


DUMA SPEAKER SAYS NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS WILL PASS
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov announced on 11 September that the Unified Russia faction will not allow the Russian constitution to be amended before the end of the current Duma's term, Russian news agencies reported, citing comments Gryzlov made on RTR's "Vesti nedeli." Asked about proposals initiated by some regional legislators to change the constitution to allow President Putin to seek a third term, Gryzlov said that the Duma will consider initiatives that are lawfully submitted to it. However, the speaker noted that the Unified Russia faction has a "constitutional majority" (of over 300 members) in the lower house of the parliament, and he pledged that the faction will not support changes in the constitution as long as the Duma elected in 2003 remains in office. LB

KHODORKOVSKII SAYS JAIL HAS MADE HIM FREE...
Jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii said that losing his wealth and spending time in prison has made him spiritually free, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 September. "Having lost my property and external freedom, I have entered an entirely new level of spiritual freedom, become independent from everything apart from my conscience and beliefs," Khodorkovskii said. "I think that my life has only just started," he added. Khodorkovskii's remarks were from an interview in the nationalist newspaper "Zavtra," that is to be published on 14 September. Ekho Moskvy broadcast excerpts from the interview on 10 September. "I was largely naive, and that's why I've been victimized. I don't regret what has happened. Every day I spend behind bars is a political act in itself," Khodorkovskii said. "I am convinced that I was jailed not because of politics but because [the Kremlin's wish] to take Yukos away. Politics was just an excuse." BW

...AND PREDICTS REGIME'S FALL FROM POWER
In an interview with the German newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" on 10 September, Khodorkovskii predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin's fall from power, dpa reported the same day. The former Yukos CEO said that with his support, a liberal opposition will win power in the 2008 presidential elections. "I have millions of supporters across Russia and there will be umpteen million tomorrow," Khodorkovskii said. Khodorkovskii has announced plans to run for a seat in the State Duma in a by-election in southern Moscow in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). BW

PUTIN MAKES PILGRIMAGE TO ORTHODOX HOLY SITE IN GREECE
On the second day of his two-day visit to Greece, President Putin on 9 September made a private pilgrimage to the monastic community of Mt. Athos, one of the foundations of Orthodox Christianity, international media reported. Putin told monks at the 10th century Iviron Monastery that Russia's main strength "is its spirituality," RIA-Novosti reported on 10 September. "The main difference between Russia and the other world powers it is that Russia has not only material, but also spiritual wealth," Putin said. Putin, who has cultivated his image as a devout Russian Orthodox believer, canceled planned trips to Mt. Athos during visits to Greece in 2001 and 2004 because of bad weather. VY

MOSCOW DENIES PERMIT FOR ANTI-PUTIN RALLY
Moscow officials have denied the youth organization We permission to hold a rally in the Russian capital to call for Putin's resignation, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 September. "The prefecture of the Moscow Central Administrative Area has officially refused to authorize the picketing we intended to hold on 11 September together with democratic movements from Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan," said We leader Roman Dobrokhotov. "The most interesting thing is that the refusal was based on the evaluation made by some legal experts, according to whom calls for Putin's resignation should be regarded as extremism," Dobrokhotov added. BW

NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK LEADER APPEALS TO PUTIN ABOUT ATTACKS
National Bolshevik Party (NBP) leader Eduard Limonov has sent an open letter to President Putin accusing Russian authorities of using repressive measures against his party, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 11 September. As an example, he cited an incident in which members of the pro-Putin movement Nashi beat up NBP members. "I do not believe the president will meet with me, but I need to voice my position," Limonov said. "A state criminal organization has been created. Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of this organization. Then it beat people up with baseball bats and used firearms," Limonov said, referring to Nashi. The National Bolshevik Party numbers about 17,500 activists with an average age of 20. Limonov himself was detained in 2001 on charges of planning terrorist acts and establishing armed units. He spent several months in prison in 2003. BW

SPS WILLING TO CAMPAIGN WITH YABLOKO FOR MOSCOW DUMA
The Moscow branch of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has agreed to form a joint list of candidates with Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party for the upcoming elections to the Moscow City Duma, SPS political council secretary Ivan Starikov told Ekho Moskvy on 10 September. Starikov said that a joint list will campaign under the Yabloko name, adding that the SPS will seek to have two of its members among the top three candidates as compensation. Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Mitrokhin expressed optimism, but cautioned that the SPS may change its decision at a party congress planned for 24 September, gazeta.ru reported on 10 September. Yabloko's Moscow branch will consider the matter at a 25 September conference, Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Ivanenko told Interfax on 10 September. The new Moscow city election law creates a strong incentive for the SPS and Yabloko to campaign under one banner, because each party would likely have trouble clearing the 10 percent threshold for seats allocated according to proportional representation. In addition, Yabloko's ranks in the capital were weakened recently by the defection of two Moscow Duma deputies to Unified Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2005). LB

MOSCOW REITERATES OPPOSITION TO UN REVIEW OF IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia's permanent mission to the United Nations, on 10 September reiterated Russia's opposition to a possible UN Security Council review of Iran's nuclear program, international media reported. Zakharova said Russia "does not see grounds for turning the issue over to the UN Security Council," ITAR-TASS reported. The statement came in response to a suggestion by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 9 September that the Iranian nuclear dossier be handed over to the UN Security Council. Russia's point of view is that "it is necessary to act without hasty steps and to continue work within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Zakharova said. VY

PUTIN, GREEK PRIME MINISTER DISCUSS SOUTHERN EUROPEAN OIL PIPELINE
Putin met on 8 September with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss ways of improving bilateral economic cooperation, particularly regarding the transport of oil, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 September. "We need to push construction of the pipeline, " said Putin, referring to a proposed Balkan oil pipeline that would transport Russian oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to the Greek city of Alexandroupoli, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 September. The proposal calls for Russian oil to be delivered to Burgas by tanker. "For us this transport corridor is strategically important, as Russia will gain the opportunity to export its oil via the Black Sea, instead of the troublesome Turkish Bosporus Strait," the daily quoted Putin as saying. Putin arrived in Greece from Germany, where he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder signed an agreement on the construction of the Northern European gas pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2005). VY

DUMA ASKS GOVERNMENT TO FREEZE FUEL PRICES...
The Duma on 9 September unanimously adopted a resolution asking Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to freeze prices for fuel for agricultural enterprises at August levels, Russian media reported. The resolution asks the government to act within seven days. According to REN-TV, in the past year the government failed to take action on three previous appeals from the Duma regarding fuel. It passed following a week in which the cost of gasoline rose by 7 to 12 percent across Russia, according to Interfax. In comments broadcast by every major Russian television network, Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) warned that if steps are not taken to control fuel costs, the autumn harvest and later planting could be threatened. Duma Deputy Nikolai Kharitonov (Communist Party) complained that the "oil barons" will not stop raising prices, even though higher costs for diesel, gasoline, and other fuel products will raise the cost of basic necessities like bread, transport, and utility payments, REN-TV reported. "Novye izvestiya" argued on 9 September that such pronouncements by the Duma are primarily public-relations stunts and that the government lacks the tools to forcibly keep down fuel prices. NTV reported the same day that sources in the oil industry say at least 1 1/2 years would be needed to implement an economic program to reduce fuel prices; price controls would simply lead to massive shortages and even higher prices. LB

...AS GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS CHANGING OIL TAXES
The Economic Development and Trade Ministry on 9 September held a closed session to discuss ways to stabilize oil prices on Russian markets, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 September. The most likely change would be a reduction in the tax on extraction of fossil fuels, which may be implemented later this year. Another step under consideration would tax the extraction of lower-quality oil at a lower rate, creating an incentive for some companies to increase production. (According to "Kommersant-Daily," more than a third of Russian oil fields, mostly in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, contain reserves of lower quality. Higher-quality oil is found in western or central Siberia, and the oil on the Arctic Sea shelf is of the highest quality.) Alternatively, the government may seek to levy lower excise taxes on high-quality oil, which would spur companies to invest more in refineries and produce higher-quality gasoline. Commenting on the Duma's resolution on fuel prices, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told ORT on 9 September that tax policies, not negotiations between the government and oil companies, are the key to halting price rises for petroleum products. LB

LUKOIL HEAD PROPOSES WAYS TO BOOST VALUE OF URALS OIL
Vagit Alikperov, head of the Russian oil major LUKoil, said on RTR on 11 September that he knows how to raise the price of the oil classification Urals, which Russia exports and which is cheaper than the standard Western Brent Sweet Light Crude. Because Urals is a mixture of high-quality light oil from Siberia and a heavy sulfate-rich oil from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, Alikperov proposes separating them. "It is necessary to create a special oil-quality bank, where every major producer can deposit its oil depending on its quality," RTR quoted him as saying. Moreover, he suggested that Russia switch to measuring oil by volume instead of by weight. Meanwhile, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, whose republic could stand to lose money if Alikperov's proposals were adopted, suggested that the focus should turn to exporting more costly products, like gasoline and diesel fuel. VY

CHINA TO BUY 40 RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT
Russian and Chinese representatives announced after the meeting on 9 September of the Russian-Chinese military-technical commission in Sochi that Beijing will buy 40 Il-76 military-transport aircraft from Russia, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. The value and details of the deal were not disclosed, but it could be worth some $1 billion, according to the daily. The aircraft will be assembled at Uzbekistan's Tashkent Aviation Works, but 90 percent of the parts will be manufactured in Russia. VY

RUSSIA FALLS IN ECONOMIC FREEDOM INDEX
Russia has fallen to 115th place out of 127 countries in a key world index of "economic freedom," mosnews.com reported on 12 September. The report, prepared for the Canadian Fraser Institute, defines economic freedom as personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately owned property. It measures economic freedom in five areas: size of government; legal structure and protection of property rights; access to sound money; international exchange; and regulation. Hong Kong was rated the most economically free, followed by Singapore. New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States shared third place. Russia shared 115th place with Rwanda and Togo. In last year's report, Russia was placed 114th. BW

WESTERN BANKS GRANT $7.5 BILLION LOAN TO ROSNEFT
Rosneft announced on 9 September that it inked a deal during President Putin's visit to Germany under which Western banks agreed to grant the Russian oil major and its daughter company Rosneftegaz a $7.5 billion loan, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2005). ABN Amro Bank, Drezdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley are the creditor banks for the deal. The deal was signed by Igor Sechin, who is deputy chief of the presidential administration and also the chairman of Rosneftegaz, and Rosneft head Sergei Bogdanchikov. Bogdanchikov said it is the largest line of credit ever extended to a Russian company. VY

DUMA SEEKS GOVERNMENT ACTION ON FOREIGN ADOPTIONS
The Duma on 9 September asked Prime Minister Fradkov to take urgent steps to protect some 64,000 Russian orphans who have been adopted by foreigners, Russian Television (RTR) and Radio Mayak reported. State Duma Women, Family, and Youth Committee Chairwoman Yekaterina Lakhova (Unified Russia), who has advocated imposing a moratorium on foreign adoptions, told Radio Mayak that Russian authorities are able to keep track of adoptions within Russia and intervene if the children are being treated poorly, but they have no methods to monitor and terminate foreign adoptions. Lakhova also called for prioritizing placing children in Russian families, saying that some Russian parents who want to adopt are barred from doing so for unfounded reasons, so that people who can pay more (presumably from abroad) are able to adopt. RTR quoted Lakhova as saying that she has received letters from former Russian citizens living in the United States attesting that they have witnessed brutal treatment of adopted children from Russia. LB

TWO INJURED IN INGUSHETIA BLASTS
Two land mines exploded on the morning of 10 September near the Malgobek district police station, injuring two police officers, ingushetiya.ru reported. Rustam Archakov, leader of the Youth Movement of Ingushetia, told the website that such terrorist acts are the logical consequence of the Ingushetian authorities' systematic crackdown on peaceful protests. Also on 10 September, police in the village of Surkhakhi discovered a grave containing the bodies of three suspected participants in the attack on police targets across Ingushetia in June 2004, ingushetiya.ru reported. LF

DISAGREEMENTS SURFACE OVER PACE ROUNDTABLE ON CHECHNYA
Two prominent Russian human-rights activists told Interfax separately on 9 September they believe the second roundtable discussion of the situation in Chechnya to be convened by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be held outside Russia. They argued that if it were held in Russia, "moderate" Chechen separatists would be unable to attend, which would render the entire discussion pointless. But Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, who heads Russia's delegation to the PACE, told Interfax on 9 September he thinks the roundtable should be held in Grozny. He also proposed scheduling it for late October or early November in order to focus on the elections for a new Chechen parliament on 27 November. The first roundtable took place in Strasbourg in March (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 April 2005). LF

MILITANTS CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATTACKS IN DAGHESTAN
In a statement posted on 10 September on the website Kavkaz-Tsentr, the Shariat Djamaat claimed responsibility for three separate attacks in Daghestan in recent days -- in Kayankent, Khasavyurt, and Makhachkala -- in which its members claim to have killed 17 Russian servicemen and local police, chechenpress.org reported. The statement admitted that three civilians were also killed during the attack in Makhachkala, and warned the people of Daghestan to keep their distance from police and local security offices. LF

DEPUTY PROSECUTOR CRITICIZED FOR BESLAN COMMENTS
An organization uniting mothers of victims of last September's Beslan hostage taking plans to lobby for the dismissal of Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel, regnum.ru reported on 12 September. The women are outraged by Shepel's 11 September statement to ITAR-TASS that the Beslan hostage takers were "international terrorists" acting at the joint instigation of Arab mercenary Abu Dzeit and radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. Ella Kesaeva, one of the "Beslan Mothers," told Ekho Moskvy on 11 September that Shepel's words are "one more link in a chain of lies," and demonstrate that "the official investigation is desperately trying to cover up the crimes" committed by Russian special forces, including the use of flamethrowers by special forces during the storm of the school on 3 September. LF

NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZATION FOUNDED IN NORTH CAUCASUS
Some 620 representatives of NGOs from Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Daghestan, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, and Adygeya, and of the Kuban Cossacks and 18 organizations representing Russian communities in the North Caucasus attended the founding congress in Cherkessk on 9-10 September of the Public Council of Peoples of the North Caucasus, according to regnum.ru, as cited by kavkazweb.net. The Public Council expressed support for the campaign launched by the Adygeya-based Cherkess Congress to ensure Adygeya keeps its status as a republic rather than be subsumed into the surrounding Krasnodar Krai (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 7 January 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 28 April 2005). LF

VETERAN ARMENIAN OPPOSITIONIST CALLS FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 9 September, former Prime Minister and National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian argued that the opposition should try to persuade the electorate to boycott the planned November referendum on a package of draft constitutional amendments rather than vote against them, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. A minimum of one-third of the country's estimated 2.4 million voters must approve the amendments for them to pass, and Manukian argued that a low voter turnout would make it more difficult for the authorities to falsify the outcome. Manukian further called for a unified opposition front to the present regime, Noyan Tapan reported. To that end, he appealed to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and Orinats Yerkir, the two junior partners in the three-party governing coalition, to quit the coalition, give up their ministerial portfolios, and "join the people" in their campaign to bring about a regime change. The daily "Azg" on 10 September quoted HHD leader Vahan Hovannisian as excluding his party's leaving the government. LF

SENIOR ARMENIAN OFFICIAL DEFENDS CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM
Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian rejected on 9 September mounting criticism of an urban-development project that has necessitated the demolition of homes in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods to make way for up-market office and apartment buildings, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Zakharian told journalists that "with a rundown center full of ramshackle houses with people living in unsanitary conditions, we cannot match all those states that are now members of European structures." He dismissed human-rights ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian's statement on 8 September that the ongoing demolition constitutes a violation of citizens' constitutionally guaranteed property rights. Many residents constructed barriers earlier this month in a bid to block access to bulldozers, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 2 September. Some families who have already vacated their old homes claim that they have received less than the promised $1,000 compensation per square meter of living space, or that the sum they received is inadequate to purchase a new apartment in the same district of Yerevan. But a senior government official claimed on 6 September that only some 5 percent of the families affected are not satisfied with the compensation they have received. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU
The opposition Azadlyg (Freedom) election bloc comprising the Musavat party, the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) convened a march and rally in Baku on 10 September, Azerbaijani media reported. Participants, many of them carrying orange banners or wearing orange clothing, demanded guarantees that the 6 November parliamentary election will be free and fair and the resignation of the present Azerbaijani leadership. They also demanded that DPA Chairman Rasul Guliev, who faces arrest on embezzlement charges, be permitted to return to Azerbaijan. Reuters estimated participation at 20,000; opposition representatives claimed up to 40,000 people were present. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS STATE 'TERROR'
The opposition New Conservatives (aka the New Right Wing) have addressed an appeal to the OSCE, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. government protesting what they term state-sponsored "terror" against the Georgian media, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported on 9 September. Such reprisals constitute a threat to democracy in Georgia, the statement argues, and it calls on the international community to protect opposition views and the democratic media from "government violence." Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 9 September, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili denied that the authorities seek to control the media, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. He argued that the greater the number of newspapers and television channels in Georgia, the better the population will be informed about the work of the government. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER RULES OUT MILITARY ACTION AGAINST SOUTH OSSETIA...
Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava told journalists in Moscow on 10 September that Tbilisi has no intention of trying to bring the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia back under the control of the central government by force, rustavi2.com reported on 11 September. Any such attempt "would be a catastrophe" for Georgia as a developing state, Khaindrava said. Khaindrava met in Moscow on 10 September with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin to discuss escalating tensions in the South Ossetian conflict zone and Russia's role in maintaining the peace there. He told Interfax after the talks, which he said were "really productive," that Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli may travel to Tskhinvali in late September to meet with South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity. On 7 September, South Ossetian Minister for Special Assignments Boris Chochiev told journalists that any such meeting would require lengthy and careful preparation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). And on 9 September, Kokoity's representative Dmitrii Medoev said the presidential administration has not received any formal communication from the Georgian government concerning such a meeting, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AS DOES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT
President Saakashvili told a youth forum in Tbilisi on 11 September that Georgia should regain control of its "sacred territory" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia "by peaceful means, through our belief in justice and our unity, our patience and our care for our citizens, whatever their ethnicity," Russian media reported. At the same time, Saakashvili rejected as uncalled for the proposal by some Georgian politicians that the Georgian leadership should apologize to Abkhazia for the Georgian military invasion in 1992, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili told the same youth forum on 11 September that together with unnamed companions he recently entered Abkhazia covertly and spent several days there, Caucasus Press reported on 12 September. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE SECURE HOSTAGES' RELEASE IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Georgian police intervened on 9 September to secure the release of two civilians, an Ossetian and an Armenian, and three peacekeepers taken hostage earlier that day, reportedly by relatives of four Georgians who vanished after being abducted in the conflict zone three months ago, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). LF

IAEA EXPERTS VISIT ABKHAZIA
A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Sukhum on 7-10 September to investigate reports that bomb-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium may have gone missing from a nuclear-research institute there, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 June 2005). The experts met with Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh and with Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Lakerbaya. ITAR-TASS quoted the inspectors as saying the background radiation in Abkhazia is "normal"; Lakerbaya told Reuters they will issue a full report on their findings only in several months. LF

THREE CANDIDATES NOMINATED FOR KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL POLL...
With Kazakhstan's presidential election set for 4 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2005), early nominations point to a contest between President Nursultan Nazarbaev; Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, leader of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan; and Ualikhan Kaisarov, a deputy of the upper house of parliament, news agencies reported on 9-10 September. The Otan Party nominated Nazarbaev by unanimous vote at a congress in Almaty on 9 September, Kazinform reported. Kaisarov told a press conference in Almaty the same day that he has nominated himself, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Stressing that he is "not a man of the system," Kaisarov told journalists that while he respects Nazarbaev, corruption in the president's entourage prevents the country from moving forward, Navigator reported. The opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan nominated Zharmakhan Tuyakbai at a meeting in Almaty on 10 September, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Tuyakbai commented, "I am ready for the fight!" DK

...AS PRESIDENT LAYS OUT SEVEN-YEAR PROGRAM, PROMISES FAIR ELECTION
Addressing the Otan Party congress, Nazarbaev laid out a number of goals for the seven-year term he hopes to win in the 4 December election, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 9 September. By 2012, Nazarbaev said, he plans to boost per capita GDP 250 percent to $8,000-$9,000 a year, bringing the average monthly salary to 70,000 tenges ($500). Other goals included doubling oil production and industrial production by 2012, and boosting annual funding for science and research from current levels of 12.5 billion tenges to 350 billion tenges. Nazarbaev also said that small and medium business should form the basis of the economy, making up 40 percent of GDP by 2012. Also on 9 September, Nazarbaev signed a decree he said would ensure a fair election and equal access to media for all candidates, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Dosym Satpaev, director of the Risk Assessment Group, told Russia's gazeta.ru that while the decree reflects Nazarbaev's desire to achieve internationally recognized legitimacy, the situation is more complex. "The election is unlikely to meet democratic standards," he said. "It's not that the authorities don't want this; that's not the case. But Nazarbaev has constructed a system in which this is simply impossible." DK

KYRGYZSTAN REJECTS UZBEK CHARGES ON MILITANT BASES...
The Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 9 September that two investigative operations conducted with the participation of Uzbek authorities failed to uncover evidence that militants used bases in Kyrgyzstan to prepare for violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan, in May, Kabar reported on 9 September. Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) also denied that any terrorist bases were located on Kyrgyz territory, fergana.ru reported on 10 September. The report quoted the SNB's press office as stating, "We do not know what sources the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office draws on for these insinuations." The denials follow Uzbek charges that militants trained by foreign instructors at bases in Kyrgyzstan were responsible for violence in Uzbekistan in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). DK

...BUT CHARGES THREE OVER ANDIJON VIOLENCE
In a press release on 8 September, the Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office said that three Kyrgyz citizens have been detained and charged in connection with unrest in Andijon, Uzbekistan, akipress.org reported the next day. The three were charged on the basis of materials provided by Uzbek authorities in summer 2005 on 39 Kyrgyz citizens. "Additional work is being carried out in order to establish whether the remaining [36] Kyrgyz citizens were involved in these crimes," the statement noted. In a separate development, a Kyrgyz court has overturned an earlier ruling by Kyrgyz immigration authorities denying an Uzbek citizen asylum-seeker status, fergana.ru reported on 10 September. The Uzbek citizen is one of a group of 15 Uzbek citizens detained in Osh. Of those 15, four were initially denied the status of asylum seekers; Kyrgyz courts have now overruled two of those decisions, with hearings pending on the remaining two. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CREATES FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed a decree creating a Financial Intelligence Service (SFR), Kabar reported on 10 September. The SFR will combat the financing of terrorism and money laundering. The presidential administration has been given one month to determine the SFR's future structure and organization. Bakiev also issued a number of personnel decrees on 11 September, Kabar reported. Bakiev dismissed Zarylbek Kudabaev as chairman of the National Statistics Committee, replacing him with Orozmat Abdykalykov. He also dismissed Temir Atashev as director of the Agency for Bank Reorganization and Debt Restructuring, replacing him with Ernis Stanbekov. DK

UZBEK COURT EXPELS U.S.-BASED MEDIA ORGANIZATION
In a decision on 9 September, a civil court in Tashkent ordered the U.S.-based media organization Internews to close its office in Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. The ruling was based on a recent criminal conviction against two Internews employees for operating without a license (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2005), Arena reported. In a 9 September press release posted on Internews' website (www.internews.org), Catherine Eldridge, country director for Internews Network in Uzbekistan, stated: "They gave us one day's notice about the hearing and then sped through the proceedings at an incredible rate. The judge refused our request to call witnesses, denied all our petitions, and was blatantly biased. This is obviously a politically motivated case." She said that the expulsion of Internews is part of a larger campaign: "The closure of Internews Network sets a precedent for the Uzbek government to liquidate other foreign NGOs on the basis of biased court cases and trumped-up or trivial charges. This case and the criminal case against our two employees last month were a terrible loss for independent media and human rights in Uzbekistan." DK

EU REPRESENTATIVE MEETS WITH UZBEK PRESIDENT
Jan Kubis, EU special representative for Central Asia, met with President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 9 September, UzA reported. The meeting focused on trade ties and shared security concerns. EU-Uzbekistan trade volume grew 10.6 percent in 2004 to reach $1.429 billion, and trade volume in January-July 2005 has notched an 8 percent increase, the report said. On the security front, Uzbekistan has proposed to the EU that it include Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned as an extremist organization in Uzbekistan, on its list of international terrorist organizations. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS OPPOSITION TO HOLD CONGRESS AT HOME
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 9 September that he has advised the authorities in Minsk to assist the opposition in organizing a congress to nominate a presidential candidate for the 2006 presidential election, Belapan reported, quoting official sources. Lukashenka's announcement came in the wake of the opposition's complaints that it cannot find a venue in Belarus for holding such a convention and is considering the possibility of holding it abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). "I have been informed that our opposition wants to be denied a place for holding the gathering in Belarus," Lukashenka said. "It is better for them to conduct it somewhere in Ukraine or Russia. The Russians have expressly refused, that is why they wanted to hold the congress in Ukraine. Kyiv agreed to host the gathering. As soon as I received the information, I recommended that our authorities offer them assistance in conducting the event, so that they will not make fuss abroad, in Ukraine, or Lithuania, or Poland that they are stifled here [and] not allowed to hold [the congress]." JM

BRUSSELS ANNOUNCES TENDER FOR INDEPENDENT BROADCASTING TO BELARUS
The European Commission on 9 September officially announced a tender for organizing independent broadcasting to Belarus as of 1 January 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2005). According to the EU's official website (http://europa.eu.int), interested broadcasters are required by 11 October "to signal their interest in a new contract for co-production and broadcasting on television and radio in Belarusian and Russian over a period of two years starting on 1 January 2006." The commission offers to support the project with 2 million euros ($2.5 million). "I am deeply committed to helping the people of Belarus. The human rights situation in Belarus is deteriorating, and if the country is to find its way onto the path to democracy, the people need access to free media," EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on 9 September. "We have taken a very simple decision to deal with the project that will be covering broadcasting in the two national languages of Belarus and, whether you like it or not, there are two national languages in Belarus," EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin commented on the tender the same day. Brussels has earmarked a total of 8.7 million euros to support democracy and human rights in Belarus in 2006. JM

BELARUS TO OBTAIN RUSSIAN AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS
Minsk and Moscow on 10 September signed a deal on the supply of an undisclosed number of Russia's S-300PS surface-to-air missile systems to Belarus, Belapan reported, quoting the Belarusian Defense Ministry. JM

DISMISSED UKRAINIAN PREMIER BREAKS WITH PRESIDENT...
Speaking on Inter television on 9 September, Yuliya Tymoshenko said her dismissal by President Viktor Yushchenko the previous day was "deeply unfair" and provoked by members of the president's inner circle. In particular, Tymoshenko blamed National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko for creating a "parallel government" and meddling in her cabinet's work. She confirmed allegations voiced publicly during the past week that Poroshenko and some other presidential aides have been involved in corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 September 2005). Tymoshenko said she will run in the 2006 parliamentary elections, but not in the pro-Yushchenko camp. "I can firmly say that Viktor Yushchenko and I will run in the election by parallel paths," she said. "It does not mean we are at war. But we have two different teams, two very different sets of people. Our teams are different, and I will not go to the elections together with the people who have so discredited Ukraine. I do not mean the president, I mean his entourage." JM

...ACCUSES UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT OF 'DESTROYING UNITY'
Tymoshenko said on Inter on 9 September that she refused to follow Yushchenko's "set of conditions," one of which was to make peace with his team. "The first condition [was that I had] to extend my hand not to the president but to his team -- Poroshenko, Martynenko, Tretyakov, Bezsmertnyy, that I should give them a hand," Tymoshenko said. "By how could I extend my hand to them if their hands are constantly busy stealing something?" According to Tymoshenko, minutes before the announcement of the cabinet's dismissal by Yushchenko she was trying to convince the president not to make that step. "At that moment Poroshenko stormed into the president's office," Tymoshenko said. "He was covered, excuse me, in tears and snot, and he started yelling that he had just been stripped of his parliament seat and that the decision had been backed by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc.... So the president looked, stood up, turned his back to me and said that the conversation was over. He went on, having practically destroyed our unity, our future, and the future of our country." JM

...INTENDS TO BE BACK IN JOB AFTER PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS...
Tymoshenko said on Inter on 9 September that her bloc will not take part in the formation of a new cabinet of Yuriy Yekhanurov, who was appointed by Yushchenko as caretaker prime minister last week. "Of course I will work in the new government, but after the parliamentary elections in a few months' time," Tymoshenko asserted. "We will take part in the elections as a separate and very powerful political force, and I think the result we will obtain will be very good. Then we will decide who to form a coalition with in the new parliament, and on what principles." JM

...AND SIGNALS TURNAROUND ON POLITICAL REFORM
Tymoshenko also said on Inter on 9 September that she has to reconsider her position on the political reform that is to take effect on 1 January 2006 and give more powers to the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the president. "I have always said that this reform is not a good thing for Ukraine," Tymoshenko said. "Back at that time I really hoped that the arrival of the new president, of the new team will be able to give the country a new impetus without changes to the constitution. Now I just see what is happening, and to be honest, all of this reminds me of the old days which it seems are returning now. So we just have to choose now between the bad -- the constitutional reform -- and the very bad, the things that are now happening under this administration. So we will think about it, and our party will define its position on this." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO PURSUE DEMOCRATIC PATH
Yushchenko said on 11 September that his decision last week to dismiss the government was "absolutely correct," Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. "Ukraine has been pushed to the verge of a serious conflict. I put an end to it," Reuters quoted him as saying. Yushchenko stressed that he appointed Yekhanurov as acting prime minister to form a "pragmatic government." "I became the president to ensure welfare, freedom, and development. We will have the rule of law, media freedom. We will not have a shadow economy," Yushchenko pledged. JM

MORE VIOLENT INCIDENTS IN KOSOVA
Unknown assailants ambushed and opened fire on a patrol car of Kosova's police force on 9 September on the Ferizaj-Shterpce road, slightly injuring one of the three ethnic Serbian policemen inside, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and Prishtina dailies reported. The incident took place near a site where unknown persons blew up a monument to heroes of Kosova's former ethnic-Albanian Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) about 24 hours earlier. In late August, two Serbian men in their 20s were killed in a still unexplained drive-by shooting on the same road, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 August 2005). Sasa Durlevic, who is the wounded Serbian policeman, said that he suspects his attackers were "Albanians who do not wish Kosova well." UN police chief Kai Vittrup and Kosovar police Colonel Sheremet Ahmeti on 11 September "inspected...the troubled" Serbian enclave of Shterpce to look for bullets and grenades, the Prishtina-based daily "Koha Ditore" reported. Investigations into all three incidents are continuing Vittrup said that he does not think that there is any evidence to link the three cases of violence. PM

NATO GIVES THREE WEST BALKAN STATES A COLD SHOWER
U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Kurt Volker said in Brussels on 8 September that NATO should hold off on any further expansion until at least 2008, the "International Herald Tribune" reported. He added that he does not think any of the current candidates, which include Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia, "are ready yet." His statement is a disappointment to the three countries, which have not proceeded as quickly as they had hoped in their respective quests for EU membership and were hoping for admission to NATO in any case. NATO did not promise the three any firm date for membership at its June 2004 Istanbul summit (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002, and 28 May and 22 July 2004). PM

BOSNIA'S HIGH REPRESENTATIVE APPOINTS BORDER GUARD CHIEF
The High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown appointed Vinko Dumancic as director of the country's State Border Service (DGS) on 9 September, international news agencies reported the same day. In making the appointment, Ashdown bypassed Bosnia-Herzegovina's government, which was unable to reach agreement on the position. Ashdown criticized Council of Ministers, Bosnia's central government, saying "the current lack of leadership is seriously undermining the ability of the (DGS) to function," dpa reported on 9 September. He added that a functioning DGS is "a key part" of Bosnia forming closer ties with NATO and the European Union. BW

BOSNIAN MAN DETAINED FOR THREATENING U.S. EMBASSY
A Bosnian Muslim was arrested on 9 September near Travnik in central Bosnia on suspicion of threatening the security of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Hina reported on 11 September. The police did reveal the suspect's identity, but the daily newspaper "Dnevni Avaz" reported that his name was Kenan Devric. According to "Dnevni Avaz," Devric sent threatening messages to the U.S. embassy using his mobile phone. The embassy was placed under heightened security on 29 August due to threats, Hina reported on 11 September. BW

NEW ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN INTO OFFICE
The new Albanian government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was sworn into office on 11 September, international news agencies reported the same day. Berisha's government, which won power in elections on 3 July, was approved on 10 September in a confidence vote of 84 to 53 in the 140-seat parliament. "Holding the political rotation in a calm and peaceful manner is a great step forward for Albania," President Alfred Moisiu said at the swearing-in ceremony, AP reported on 11 September. "Albanians deserve a capable, honest, and fair government," Moisiu added. Berisha, whose Democratic Party leads a governing coalition and won 80 out of 140 parliamentary seats, said his government will focus on consolidating democratic institutions, combating corruption, and improving the rule of law. He pledged to cut taxes for small businesses and fight organized crime. BW

WAR CRIMES RETRIAL FOR EIGHT CROATIAN MILITARY POLICE BEGINS
Croatia reopened a war crimes trial against eight former military policemen accused of torturing and killing Serbian prisoners in 1992, international news agencies reported on 12 September. The eight were acquitted by a county court in the city of Split in 2002, although human rights groups alleged the trial was marred by bias, mishandling of evidence, and harassment of witnesses, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court overturned their acquittal in September 2004 and ordered a retrial. The eight policemen are accused of beating and torturing soldiers and civilians at the Lora military prison near Split in 1992. Some of the prisoners died. Only four of the defendants appeared in the Split court on 12 September. The other four went into hiding after their acquittal was overturned, Reuters reported. BW

GAZPROM SUGGESTS DOUBLING GAS PRICE FOR MOLDOVA IN 2006
Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom is considering increasing the price for gas supplies to Moldova in 2006, Infotag reported on 9 September. Gazprom Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov reportedly said the previous day that Moldova "will most probably have to get morally prepared" to paying the rate that will soon be imposed on Ukraine, that is, $180 per 1000 cubic meters of gas. Speaking in Chisinau in July, Ryazanov said the current price Moldova was paying -- $80 per 1,000 cubic meters -- is disadvantageous for Gazprom, which according to him suffered a loss of $5 million in 2004 alone. JM

IRAQ: OPERATION IN TAL AFAR A SUCCESS, BUT FOR HOW LONG?
After months of preparation, some 5,000 Iraqi security forces backed by 3,500 U.S. troops launched a major push into the northwestern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on 10 September in an effort to drive out terrorists based there once and for all.

Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi said the operation is the first to be led by Iraqis, and told reporters on 10 September that other cities have requested help from the government. Addressing the citizens of Al-Ramadi, Al-Rawah, Al-Qa'im, and Samarra during a Baghdad press briefing, he said, "We are coming," RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported.

Al-Dulaymi told reporters that the offensive was planned some three months ago, but not carried out until now because Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari had requested that the government first attempt to find a "peaceful solution" to the situation in Tal Afar.

In preparation for the operation, the U.S. military began construction of a wall around Tal Afar in July in an effort to keep insurgents and weapons from streaming into the town, similar to the 64-kilometer dirt berm earlier constructed around Mosul by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the same purpose. It is unclear whether or not the wall aided this week's operation -- and now that insurgents are gone, whether it will be able to keep them out in the future.

While both the Iraqi and U.S. military are calling the operation a success, the dust will have to settle before a final verdict is issued on Tal Afar. Much of the insurgency's strength remains its ability to travel relatively unobstructed and undetected -- when multinational forces converge on one city, the insurgents pick up and relocate to another one.

Defense Minister Al-Dulaymi said that Iraqi and U.S. forces had killed 141 insurgents and arrested some 200 more between 9 and 10 September. But media reports from embedded journalists indicated that the streets of Tal Afar were more or less empty when troops entered the town on 10 September, suggesting, as in earlier operations such as the major offensive into Al-Fallujah in November 2004, that the insurgents had fled the city in previous days along with local residents. There, insurgents left ahead of the major offensive, and established new bases in areas south and north of Baghdad.

Moreover, the number of insurgents in the town was unknown. Major General Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff for Multinational Force Iraq, was asked by reporters at an 8 September Baghdad press briefing about the estimated number of insurgents in the city. "We believe that the insurgency inside of Tal Afar is comprised of terrorists and foreign fighters and local insurgents. And the magnitude of the insurgency is something that we are working through now, and I'm not at liberty to discuss [it]," Lynch said. He later estimated that about 20 percent of the insurgents were foreign fighters. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army announced that 75 percent of the 200 insurgents arrested were foreign fighters, RFI reported on 8 September.

Glimpses of what the insurgents left behind are just beginning to come to light. State-owned Al-Iraqiyah television broadcast grim footage on 9 September of residents slaughtered by terrorists in Tal Afar -- mutilated bodies, eyes gauged out, limbs missing. Also left behind were military handbooks with diagrams on how to conduct ambushes and guides on making explosives, washingtonpost.com reported on 11 September.

So, will this operation produce a better outcome? If media reports are correct and insurgents have already fled the city, then the success will be relative. However, in an effort to stave off an insurgent reentry into Tal Afar, Iraqi forces from the 3rd Iraqi Army Division will remain there after the majority of troops pull out. Iraqi security forces have also closed down the border crossing with Syria indefinitely, allowing only vehicles authorized by the Interior Ministry to enter and leave Iraq. That decision appears to be an indefinite one at best, however.

The Muslim Scholars Association criticized the operation in a 10 September statement posted to their website (http://www.iraq-amsi.org). The group accused the al-Ja'fari government of accepting the shedding of Iraqi blood and of asking "the occupiers and invaders to shed it." The association claimed that al-Ja'fari is doing what former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi did in Al-Fallujah, "slaughtering and destroying" the town. "What is happening in Tal Afar is an attempt to give vent to a deep-seated sectarian grudge, from which a ruler should disassociate himself," the association claimed, referring to the Shi'ite prime minister. In an attempt to incite violence, the association called on "anyone who can [to] stop" the operation.

Muhammad Rashid, the Sunni mayor of Tal Afar, reportedly resigned on 10 September to protest the operation's targeting of Sunni neighborhoods, AP reported. Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi forces have said Sunni and Turkoman tribal leaders worked with the Iraqi and U.S. forces to evacuate residents from the city in the days leading up to the operation.

Haydar al-Abadi, the prime minister's special coordinator for Tal Afar, responded to the Muslim Scholars Association's allegations, telling Al-Arabiyah television on 10 September: "The talk about a massacre in Tal Afar is far from true and accurate.... It unfortunately aims again and again to fan the flames of a fire that do not exist in Iraq. There are terrorist criminals who try to sow sedition among the sons of the one country, the one homeland, and the one city."

AFGHAN FIGHTERS FIRE ON DEFENSE MINISTER'S CAR
Gunmen opened fire on the car of Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on 10 September at Kabul airport, but he had already left the vehicle and was unharmed, Voice of America reported on 11 September. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, General Mohammed Zahir Azimi, originally called it an assassination attempt, but later revised that assessment and said Wardak's car was caught in the crossfire between two groups of warring Afghan soldiers. No one was hurt in the attack, and nine soldiers were arrested. CP

SUSPECTED MILITANTS KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan officials have said they have killed or arrested dozens of suspected militants in the latest attempt to crack down on insurgents in advance of the country's legislative elections, Voice of America reported on 11 September. In recent days, the Afghan Army and U.S.-led coalition forces killed 30 enemy fighters, wounded three, and arrested 45 other people in southern Helmand Province. Fifteen of those arrested were released after it was determined that they were not Taliban or enemy forces, Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammed Zahir Azimi told reporters. CP

UN ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN WARNS OF CONTINUING VIOLENCE
Jean Arnault, the top UN envoy to Afghanistan, warned on 9 September that rebel violence in Afghanistan may continue for at least another two years unless other governments do more to stop it, AP reported on 10 September. In an interview with reporters, Arnault urged Pakistan to clamp down on aid being funneled across its borders to insurgents in Afghanistan, and said the international community must take steps after the elections to quell violence. "We must use all our resources...to deny the extremists the opportunity to make 2006 and 2007 again years of violence," he said. "Those who have an extremist agenda, dragging Afghanistan back into the Taliban years, they will not stop just because of the parliamentary elections have taken place." Arnault also warned of the potential for large-scale attacks during the elections, although he said he is still optimistic the vote will be a success. CP

AFGHANS CITE DILAPIDATED ROADS AS MAJOR PROBLEM
According to a new survey released by the Center for International Journalism, Afghans rate poor road quality as their third most significant national problem after security and the economy, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 11 September. Of more than 2,550 people surveyed, the vast majority said that dilapidated roads should be a top priority for the government, but that the government's rebuilding efforts thus far have been unsatisfactory. In a similar survey conducted last year, Afghans described improving the country's roads as their fourth biggest problem. CP

MINISTER SAYS IRAN FIRM ON URANIUM CONVERSION...
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told the press in Tehran on 11 September that Iran will not reseal a uranium ore conversion plant in Isfahan, central Iran, in response to Western demands to halt all fuel production and related activities, and he warned nobody will win if Iran's dossier is referred to the UN Security Council, agencies reported the same day. Given Iran's "transparent activities and clear cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said, "we see no juridical or legal reasons" for a UN referral, and "our positions will be clear in that regard," ISNA reported. Going to the UN Security Council would be "political," he said, and would initiate "a lose-lose game, and we prefer this not to happen." He described a "win-win" situation as an international community assured of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, and Iran being able to exercise what it says is the right to make nuclear fuel for power stations it has yet to build. Iran, he said, welcomes the "unconditional" resumption of talks on its dossier, ISNA reported. VS

...BUT FRANCE URGES IRAN TO TAKE CONFIDENCE-BUILDING STEPS
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy urged Iran in Paris on 9 September to "take measures necessary to restore confidence" in its program, and halt conversion activities in Isfahan before the 19 September meeting of the IAEA governing board, AFP reported the same day. Otherwise, he said, "we shall have no choice but to support" Iran's referral to the Security Council, "but that is not our preferred route." He urged Iran to return "to the framework of the Paris Accord" wherein Iran suspends "sensitive nuclear activities." But an unnamed European diplomat told Reuters in Berlin on 11 September that the EU and United States will find it hard to win the support of about "half a dozen" IAEA governing board members for a Security Council referral. Those, the diplomat said, include Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Pakistan. In Tehran on 11 September, Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told South Africa's ambassador Yusuf Saloojee that at this "sensitive" stage for Iran's dossier, "I hope nonaligned states will not allow the violation of the rights" of a fellow state, ISNA reported. He said, nevertheless, that "we shall make every effort to win the world's confidence." Saloojee said his country will continue to support Iran, and voice its "concern" over "illegal actions" against Tehran. VS

IRANIAN MINISTRY TO INCREASE DOMESTIC SECURITY...
Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi said in Tehran on 11 September that Iran is "one of the safest countries in the world," but his ministry intends to further raise security levels and also promote decent social behaviour, Radio Farda and ILNA reported the same day. Radio Farda added that the renewed formation of judicial police units heralds a return to tighter social controls and street patrols, which were lessened during the eight-year presidency of the reformist Mohammad Khatami. On 10 September, Mahmud Mirkuhi, a deputy head of the Tehran judiciary, said that once the judicial police is equipped, financed, and ready to work, it will be charged with maintaining public security in Tehran, Radio Farda reported, adding that the force enjoys greater powers than the ordinary police force. Judicial police patrols include a judge who can convict and sentence a person on the spot, and oversee his or her punishment, Radio Farda reported. VS

...AS POLICE VOW TO STAMP OUT STREET CELEBRATIONS
Police chief Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam has ordered police to dissuade verbally, or act against "joy caravans" -- cars filled with celebrating relatives driving behind a newly wed couple -- and termed the celebrants "louts" and a traffic nuisance, Radio Farda reported on 11 September. It cited Moqaddam as telling the daily "Jomhuri-ye Islami" that such celebrations block Tehran traffic and lead to acts of "moral corruption" like dancing and alcohol consumption. Separately, Musa Al-Reza Servati, a member of parliament's social-affairs committee, has urged Iranians to show a certain "balance" when celebrating, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 September. "Unfortunately in Iran people go beyond accepted norms for the slightest celebration," he said, adding that the Culture Ministry should define what type of celebrations are acceptable. But social-affairs committee head Abdulreza Mesri said "it is much more necessary" for police to deal with armed criminals that block city streets than with "joy caravans." People can wait a little for a street celebration, and "share in the joy of people around them, but waiting in traffic for hours because a man with a knife has blocked the street is impossible," "Aftab-i Yazd" quoted him as saying. VS

IRAQI GROUP THREATENS CHEMICAL ATTACK UNLESS TROOPS LEAVE TAL AFAR...
The Victorious Sect Army said in an 11 September Internet statement (http://www.al-farouq.com) that it will launch a chemical weapons attack within 24 hours unless U.S. and Iraqi forces withdraw from Tal Afar. The statement made reference to remarks made by Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi on 10 September about future planned operations in other cities affected by the insurgency (see http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/09/4d0a347e-104a-4e1c-b3be-a9a1020eb16d.html). "The military bureau of the Victorious Sect Army has decided to respond and to attack strategic and sensitive targets for the occupation, the infidels, and the insurgents [referring to the Iraqi government] in Baghdad with unconventional and chemical weapons that were developed by the mujahedin...if the armed attack on the valiant city of jihad -- Tal Afar -- is not stopped within 24 hours," the statement said. The National Islamic Resistance Group-the 1920 Revolution Brigades warned in an email last week to Al-Arabiyah television that it was planning to use a chemical bomb against the Green Zone within a week, the channel reported on 8 September. KR

...AS WANTED TERRORIST ACCUSES U.S. FORCES OF USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN TOWN
Another website on 11 September carried an audiotaped speech by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi in which al-Zarqawi accused U.S. forces of using chemical weapons against Iraqis in Al-Qa'im and Tal Afar (http://www.muslm.net). He claimed that the mujahedin nevertheless drove U.S. forces from Al-Qa'im, and they will soon be driven from Tal Afar. The Al-Qaeda leader also accused the al-Ja'fari government of denying Sunni Arabs their rights. Claiming "the final battle is close," al-Zarqawi called on the mujahedin to fight in Iraq, telling those outside Iraq to support the mujahedin as much as they can. "Victory belongs to this religion no matter how long the night of the unjust is. Night is about to end and dawn is about to break. The banner of monotheism will be raised and the banner of infidelity will be humiliated," he said. Meanwhile, the Islamic Army in Iraq announced a reward for any fighter who assassinates Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, or Defense Minister al-Dulaymi in revenge for the operation in Tal Afar, Al-Manar television announced on 12 September. KR

TERRORIST EXPERT SAYS THREAT IS REAL
Mustafa Alani, director of the Dubai-based Security and Terror Affairs Department at the Gulf Research Center, told Al-Arabiyah television in an 11 September interview that he believes the threat of chemical attack is real. "I believe that the [Al-Qaeda] group acting in Iraq possesses or has produced chemical weapons. The problem lies in how these weapons are used and the targets they are used for. If chemical weapons are used in the open, they must be quite extensive to bring about any effect, but they can be used in closed [spaces] too," Alani said, adding: "We must take the threat seriously." He noted that conventional weapons often are more destructive than chemical weapons, but said the "psychological effect" of chemical weapons is far greater. Asked about the strength of Al-Qaeda today as compared to four years ago, he said: "The organization has reorganized itself completely," adding that the group has widened its geographical scope of attacks, and is capable of carrying out "multi-target operations" such as the July London bomb attacks. KR

CABINET MEMBERS BRIEF PRESS ON TAL AFAR...
Prime Minister al-Ja'fari, along with the defense, interior, health, and trade ministers, briefed the press on 10 September about the situation in Tal Afar, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on the same day. Al-Ja'fari stressed that it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens, adding that the operation in Tal Afar was launched following a written request from the people of Tal Afar. He said that in addition to the military preparations, the government planned humanitarian and medical assistance for the residents of Tal Afar before launching the operation. Defense Minister al-Dulaymi told reporters that as of that morning, 121 terrorists had been killed and 197 arrested. Thirteen arms caches were found. Five Iraqi soldiers were killed in the fighting, and three wounded, he added. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told reporters that he plans to base 1,700 police officers in the city after the operation ends. "Now we have 700 policemen in the city and we are taking measures to recruit another 1,000 from among the people of the city," he said, adding that tribal and religious leaders will play a role in the recruitment of new officers. KR

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER CRITICIZES ARAB STATES FOR ALLOWING FIGHTERS TO ATTACK IRAQIS
Defense Minister al-Dulaymi told reporters at the 11 September press briefing that foreign fighters are killing Iraqis, "sabotaging their interests," and perpetuating chaos, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. Asked about the identity of the foreign fighters, al-Dulaymi said that there are Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Saudis, Sudanese, Algerians, Tunisians, and Moroccans among them. "I regret to say that instead of sending us aid and assistance to redress our wounds, Arab brothers are sending us terrorists, whether through official channels or not," al-Dulaymi said. He added that the situation is much the same as in other Iraqi cities. Addressing the citizens of Al-Ramadi, Al-Rawah, Al-Qa'im, and Samarra, he said: "We are coming...there will be no hideout for the terrorists, killers, and bloodsuckers." KR

JORDANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS IRAQ
Adnan Badran visited Iraq on 10-11 September to discuss a number of initiatives with Iraqi officials, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Badran told reporters at a joint press briefing with Ibrahim al-Ja'fari on 10 September that border security is a priority for Jordan. "Now our borders with Iraq are secure and are...very well controlled. There are no infiltrations," he said, adding that the Jordanian government is taking measures to help facilitate the transit of goods across the border "but not at the expense of security." Badran also mentioned a plan to expand the capacity of Al-Aqabah port to facilitate the loading and unloading of goods, and plans to build a high-speed rail link between Al-Aqabah and Baghdad. "In the future, this railway could reach Al-Basrah, thus linking the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea," he said. Al-Ja'fari said the visit demonstrated Jordan's good intentions towards Iraq, and he praised Jordan's decision to send an ambassador back to Baghdad soon. Badran also held meetings with Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, RFI reported on 11 September. "The Jordan Times" reported on 12 September that al-Ja'fari has pledged to visit Jordan by the end of the month. KR

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