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Newsline - September 15, 2005

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Ekho Moskvy on 14 September that he will run for president in 2008. Kasyanov said he intends to change the "mistaken" political course the country has taken under President Vladimir Putin. Kasyanov said he supported Putin during his first term, but that the president's policies took a turn for the worse two years ago. Kasyanov said he envisions himself heading a large coalition uniting all of the opposition -- from the Union of Rightist Forces to the communists. "The alliance of rightist and leftist parties is not only possible, but necessary, especially [considering that] Russia's Communists are presently, in fact, more like Social Democrats," he said. Kasyanov added that he would not describe this future coalition as an "anti-Putin" grouping. "Putin has done a lot of positive things for the country and he committed a lot of mistakes," Kasyanov said, adding that the country should move forward to correct the mistakes. He said the possibility of holding the 2007 Duma elections earlier than scheduled is more than realistic. VY

In the same interview, Kasyanov refuted accusations that he is backed by oligarchs (or former oligarchs), such as Boris Berezovskii. "I have not seen Berezovskii since 1997," he said. He also took umbrage to his nickname "Two Percent" given for his alleged engagement in corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2005). Kasyanov said this nickname is the result of a smear campaign organized by businessmen who are disgruntled because he refused to authorize illegal deals. "In any case, this nickname did not prevent Vladimir Putin from appointing me as prime minister and Unified Russia from backing this move in the Duma," he added. Kasyanov said he is concerned about his own fate and freedom, but believes the authorities will not repeat the "tragic mistake" they made in jailing former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii and his partner, former Menatep head Platon Lebedev, Ekho Moskvy reported. VY

The Moscow City Court, which began reviewing appeals by Khodorkovskii and Lebedev against their nine-year prison sentences on 14 September, adjourned the hearing until 19 September due to the hospitalization of the head of Khodorkovskii's defense team, Genrikh Padva, and other media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005). State prosecutor Dmitrii Shokhin accused Khodorkovskii's lawyers of intentionally delaying the appeals process and demanded that the review continue without Padva, but the court rejected the request. The situation leaves open the possibility of Khodorkovskii registering in a 4 December parliamentary by-election, in which he plans to run in a Moscow university constituency where Putin is registered to vote. Candidates are to register on 19 September, the same date that his appeal will be revisited, according to This is Khodorkovskii's final opportunity to challenge his conviction, and failure would mean his disqualification as a possible Duma candidate. VY

Vladimir Kvachkov, a colonel of the Russian Army's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) who is being held on suspicion of trying to assassinate United Energy Systems CEO Anatolii Chubais (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 29 March, and 9 April 2005), has submitted a petition to prison authorities asking to be allowed to run in the 4 December by-election, TV-Tsentr reported on 14 September. He reportedly plans to run in the same constituency that Khodorkovskii plans to run in. However, Kvachkov, who shared a cell with Khodorkovskii in June and July, has denied the reports. Khodorkovskii recently praised his former cellmate's integrity in an interview published in "Zavtra," No. 37. Most viewers polled by TV-Tsentr after the report said they would not vote for Khodorkovskii, with one commenting that he would never vote for Kvachkov either. "He is a bad shooter. He missed Chubais," the man was quoted as saying. VY

In comments to reporters on the occasion of the beginning of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly, President Putin on 14 September called on the international community to turn the UN and its Security Council into "a staff of the international antiterrorism front," reported. Putin also called on UN members to sign the "Universal Convention On Combating Terrorism" and for incitement of terrorism to be considered a crime. Putin met the same day in New York with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. After his talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Putin said that Russian oil companies will return to Iraq, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin was scheduled to meet with the family of Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of "Forbes " magazine who was gunned down in Moscow in 2004, and with the publisher of the monthly, Steve Forbes, reported. VY

Federal Corrections Service head Yurii Kalinin told Radio Mayak on 14 September that there are "too many" human-rights organizations and committees, and accused member of those entities of not working in their professions and of receiving money from dubious sources. "We know that money comes to them from thieves' slush funds," Kalinin claimed. Some human-rights organizations rely on foreign funding and do not defend human rights, he added, saying they "take a destructive position, trying to press and blackmail." In response to Kalinin's accusations, Lev Ponamarev, who heads the group Human Rights, said that his organization and others receive a large number of complaints regarding the abuse of prisoners' rights, reported. He added that the claims are scrutinized for to ensure they are valid. VY

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told the State Duma on 14 September that President Putin's goal of doubling the country's gross domestic product by 2010 is unrealistic, reported. Gref said that the dynamics of Russia's economic growth over the past few years indicate that to reach Putin's goal by 2015, Russia's economy would have to grow by 7.2 percent a year. Russia's growth rate over the first seven months of this year is 5.8 percent. Gref's economic policies have been sharply criticized by some Duma deputies following the recent upsurge in gasoline prices. Motherland leader Dmitrii Rogozin challenged Gref during the session, asking: "If the price of bananas rises on the global market, does it mean that it will also rise in banana-producers' domestic markets -- or do they have better economy ministers than we do?" VY

State Duma deputies rejected on 14 September a proposal by Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov to establish a special fund to help U.S. citizens affected by Hurricane Katrina, Ekho Moskvy and RosBalt reported. The initiative received just 41 of the 226 votes needed to pass. Mitrofanov said that controls would have to be established over the distribution of the humanitarian assistance, "otherwise the poor blacks will never get it." According to RosBalt, the authors of the initiative said that bureaucratic U.S. officials behaved in the recent crisis like Soviet authorities after the Chornobyl accident. Interfax reported on 14 September that two transport planes airlifted 44 tons of relief to the disaster area last week and an additional planeload organized by the Emergency Situations Ministry left Moscow in the morning. State Duma deputies also rejected a bill proposed by the Motherland faction that would have given the State Duma the power to remove individual cabinet ministers from their posts through a vote of no confidence, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 97 in favor to nine against. JAC

Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has replaced the head of the group of investigators looking into last year's Beslan school tragedy as well as the chief prosecutor for the Southern Federal District, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 September. Valerii Maksimenko is the new head of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office main directorate for the Southern Federal District. Igor Tkachev, a former section head from the directorate's office, will now head the investigation into the tragedy. Ustinov's announcement followed the return of Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov's commission, which was sent to Beslan after President Putin met with the members of the Beslan Mothers Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 2005), According to Kolesnikov, investigators failed to find the cause of fire in the school, which killed many hostages. On 13 September, Susanna Dudieva, head of the Beslan Mothers Committee called for Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel to be relieved of his involvement in the case. JAC

A 29-year-old Congolese student studying at the St. Petersburg Forestry Academy was recently beaten to death by an unknown group of assailants, Russian news agencies reported on 14 September. A hospital official told NTV that the student suffered various knife wounds and that his posterior muscles were cut and one of his ears was cut off. The attack occurred sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on the night of 9 September, reported. According to the website, St. Petersburg remains one of the most dangerous cities in Russia for foreigners: In January of this year alone four foreign students were attacked in separate incidents. A group of African students gathered near the Forestry Academy on 14 September to protest the killing, Interfax reported. JAC

WEBSITE ALLEGES LINK BETWEEN KREMLIN AND ATTACKS ON NBP, LEFTIST ORGANIZATIONS reported on 14 September, citing an anonymous source within the Interior Ministry, that a young man who works at the Kremlin took part in the 29 August attacks on members of opposition political parties in central Moscow. About 30-40 masked men armed with baseball bats and some wearing symbols of the Nashi youth organization attacked members of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), Avant-Garde Red Youth, and youth organizations from the Motherland and Communist parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 and 30 August 2005). According to the website, Nikita Ivanov, 29, deputy head of the administration for interregional and cultural relations with foreign countries at the presidential administration, was part of this group, which was detained and for "unknown reasons" quickly let go. Ivanov previously worked for Gleb Pavlovskii's Foundation for Effective Politics, and now reports to Modest Kolerov, the head of the presidential administration's department for regional and cultural relations with foreign countries. Ivanov's office refused to confirm or deny the report, citing a long-standing Kremlin rule not to communicate with journalists. JAC

A Voronezh Oblast court refused on 14 September to allow a couple from the United States, Karl and Martha Chapman, to adopt four sisters, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported. From 2002-04, the Chapmans adopted eight children, in addition to their nine offspring. The Prosecutor-General's Office said that the couple lacked the necessary documents from U.S. agencies supporting the adoption of the four siblings. The office also claimed that the children the Chapmans adopted earlier do not attend school and are not fluent in English. The children reportedly study via special computer programs. The court also established that the Chapmans are Mormons, while the four sisters they want to adopt are Russian Orthodox. According to the agency, the court agreed with the finding of the Prosecutor-General's Office and refused to let the adoption go forward. JAC

Two prominent Armenian opposition figures who recently defected from the opposition Hanrapetutiun (Republic) party, vowed on 14 September to form their own opposition party, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and Albert Bazeyan, a former Hanrapetutiun senior leader and founding member of the Yerkrapah group led by former Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, added that their new, as yet unnamed party will hold a founding meeting next month. The two resigned from the Hanrapetutiun party earlier this month after arguing with the Hanrapetutiun leader, former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, over its increasingly pro-Western orientation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). RG

The Armenian State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition issued a ruling on 14 September finding the Greek-owned Coca-Cola Bottlers Armenia SA (CCBA) company in violation of antitrust regulations, according to RFE/RL's Armenian Service. The ruling found the company guilty of abusing its still "dominant position" in the market to ward off competition from the rival Jermuk Group, the country's biggest mineral-water bottler, which began importing Pepsi products last year. The ruling against the Coca-Cola bottling company further imposed a fine equivalent to one percent of its 2004 sales, a figure of roughly $100,000, Noyan Tapan reported. The CCBA company accounts for almost 75 percent of nonalcoholic beverages sales and has a bottling plant and a distribution center in Yerevan. The Jermuk Group, owned by parliamentarian Ashot Arsenian, closely aligned with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, began selling Pepsi Cola products in Armenia after importing them from neighboring Georgia last year. RG

Azerbaijani authorities arrested a third opposition youth activist on 14 September, charging him with activities against the state, Turan and RFE/RL reported. According to Murad Gasanly, a spokesman for the opposition Azadlyg bloc, Azerbaijani security forces arrested Ramin Tagiev, one of the leaders of the opposition youth organization Yeni Fikir (New Thinking). The arrest is the latest in a series of moves by the authorities against the leadership of the group, and Tagiev joins Said Nuriev and Ruslan Bashirli -- Yeni Fikir's deputy chairman and chairman, respectively. Since his arrest, Nuriev has been hospitalized for anemia and other health problems and his condition remains undisclosed. Bashirli was arrested last month on charges of treason and accepting money from Armenian intelligence agents, and Nuriev was arrested on 12 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August and 13 September 2005, and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 August 2005). RG

The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission ruled on 14 September that Islamic Party leader Hajiaga Nuriev will not be allowed to run as a candidate in the country's November parliamentary elections, RFE/RL and AP reported. Although Nuriev was seeking to run as a member of an opposition bloc, the decision was justified by the fact that his candidacy also listed his position as leader of the unregistered Islamic Party of Azerbaijan. Nuriev assumed the leadership of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan after Alikram Aliev resigned in July 2004 after suffering from diabetes and near blindness (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2004). The former Islamic Party leader was arrested in June 2002 in connection with clashes between police and residents of the village of Nardaran, and received a nine-year prison sentence in April 2001 that was later suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April, 9 June, and 18 November 2003). RG

The European Union's special representative for the South Caucasus, Heikki Talvitie, met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on 14 September during a visit to Baku, Turan and ANS-TV reported. The EU envoy reiterated the need for Azerbaijan to meet all demands for a free and fair parliamentary election in November and called on Azerbaijan to continue its support for the international mediation of the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Talvitie held a separate meeting on 14 September with the leaders of the opposition Azadlyg and Yeni Siyaset (YeS) (New Policy) electoral alliances. The opposition Azadlyg (Freedom) electoral bloc is composed of the Musavat party, the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA). The Yeni Siyaset (New Policy) bloc was formed in April 2005 by prominent opposition figures Lala Shovket Gadjieva and Eldar Namazov, both former presidential advisers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 2005 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 April 2005). RG

Azerbaijani Academy of Science official Adil Garibov revealed on 14 September that Azerbaijan has decided to construct a nuclear power plant in "the near future," the Caucasus Press reported. Garibov stated that the decision to pursue nuclear power was necessitated by projections that estimate the depletion of Azerbaijan's oil reserves within 3-4 decades. The scientist added that initial preparations for a nuclear facility were fist made in 1980, and included the construction of a foundation for a nuclear power plant in the village of Navai. RG

Senior members of Georgia's ruling National Movement party agreed on 14 September to the formation of a new parliamentary investigatory commission to probe corruption charges against Deputy Koba Bekauri, Civil Georgia and Rustavi-2 reported. The leadership of the National Movement reaffirmed their support for Bekauri but the deputies were pressured to agree to the investigation after the corruption allegations were aired in an investigative television report broadcast on 13 September by 202 TV. Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze explained on September 14 that the parliamentary commission will be composed of deputies from both the ruling National Movement party and opposition parties. The proposal to form a new commission was raised in the wake of corruption charges against Bekauri lodged by opposition deputy Davit Gamkrelidze, charging that Bekauri illegally exerts control over the Opiza customs terminal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2005). RG

National Movement Party Deputy Koba Bekauri convened a sudden press conference on 14 September to announce his resignation as deputy chairman of the ruling National Movement parliamentary faction, Rustavi-2 reported. The move is an attempt to distance the ruling party from the mounting scandal stemming from Bekauri's corruption charges. The case has grown into a political scandal after being linked to a widening extortion scandal after 202 television channel founder Shalva Ramishvili was arrested on 27 August and charged with extorting a $30,000 bribe from Bekauri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 August and 1 September 2005). RG

According to government figures reported on 14 September by the Caucasus Press, foreign investment in Georgia last year increased by nearly 47 percent. The statistics revealed that foreign investment in 2004 reached almost $498 million, up from $339 million in 2003. The United Kingdom and the United States were the largest investors in Georgia in 2004, accounting for 17.7 and 16 percent, respectively, of overall foreign investment. Russia was third, having invested some $77 million in Georgia last year. Almost 87 percent of foreign investment was concentrated in Georgia's service sector, with the industry and agriculture trailing in a distant second and third place. RG

Georgia regained its voting rights at the United Nations on 14 September, Rustavi-2 and Civil Georgia reported. The restoration of Georgia's voting privileges, announced during the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, follows the payment of nearly $6 million to cover the country's UN membership dues that accumulated over the past four years, Caucasus Press reported. RG

In comments to journalists in Astana on 14 September, President Nursultan Nazarbaev warned foreign and local NGOs that their activities in the lead-up to the 4 December presidential election must not violate national security legislation, Kazinform reported. "This includes not interfering in the country's internal affairs by financing political parties and social movements and supporting this or that candidate on behalf of international and Kazakh NGOs, since that is forbidden by the constitution and laws of the land," he said. Nazarbaev's remarks came after he passed a mandatory language exam to take part in the presidential election. Also on 14 September, the Asar Party endorsed Nazarbaev's candidacy, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Asar is led by Darigha Nazarbaeva, the president's daughter. DK

Salim Oten, a businessman from Almaty, has nominated himself as a candidate in the 4 December presidential election, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 14 September, citing a press release from the Central Election Commission. Oten's self-nomination brings the number of declared candidates to five (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2005). DK

Zafar Khakimov, head of the migration department in Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry, announced on 14 September that 11 Uzbek detainees will soon be transferred to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for subsequent evacuation to a third country, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "These 11 people have received refugee status from the UNHCR and in about two or three days they will be taken to a third country," he said. Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov made the final decision on 13 September, Reuters reported. Although Khakimov did not reveal the refugees' final destination, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden have all expressed a willingness to accept the refugees. The fate of four Uzbek detainees remains to be decided. "With regards to the four [remaining Uzbek citizens] who have been denied refugee status, we continue conducting the necessary procedures required by our law," Khakimov said. The 15 Uzbek detainees were part of a larger group that fled Uzbekistan after violence in Andijon on 12-13 May. In late July, 439 Uzbek refugees were airlifted from Kyrgyzstan to Romania. DK

As Kyrgyz lawmakers struggled in the wake of a presidential veto to arrive at a compromise on a bill to restructure the country's government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2005), parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebaev warned of a political crisis, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and reported on 14 September. As RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service noted, parliamentary procedures require that the government restructuring bill, which would reduce the number of ministries, be reintroduced only after six months. Meanwhile, newly elected President Kurmanbek Bakiev has yet to present the members of his cabinet. For his part, Tekebaev said that a referendum to dismiss parliament could take place in December, reported. Topchubek Turgunaliev, leader of the Erkindik Party, has collected 200,000 signatures of the 300,000 needed to trigger a referendum to dissolve the legislature, which was elected in a disputed poll in the spring. Demonstrations that began over alleged election violations eventually toppled then-President Askar Akaev on 24 March. DK

Former Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev was released from detention at the National Security Service on 14 September and transferred to house arrest, reported, citing Maksim Maksimovich, a lawyer representing Tanaev. Tanaev, who returned to Kyrgyzstan from Russia to face corruption charges, was arrested on 6 September when he attempted to leave the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2005). DK

In the course of a visit to the Turkmenbashi oil refinery on 13 September, President Saparmurat Niyazov made a number of personnel changes, reported on 14 September. Niyazov removed Guichmurad Esenov as head of the Turkmenbashi refinery, accusing him of corruption and drunkenness. The president ordered Esenov, who now faces criminal charges, to return more than $2 million to the state treasury. Niyazov replaced Esenov with Amangeldi Pudakov, who had been minister of the oil and gas industry and mineral resources. Niyazov appointed Deputy Prime Minister Guichnazar Tachnazarov to replace Pudakov as minister. Recent energy-sector dismissals have seen the downfall of Deputy Prime Minster Yolly Gurbanmuradov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May and 25 July 2005) and national oil company head Saparmemed Valiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2005). DK

President Islam Karimov issued a decree on 14 September ordering a 20-percent increase in state-sector wages, pensions, stipends, and other social-benefit payments as of 1 October, UzA reported. The decree increase the minimum monthly wage, a unit used to calculate benefit payments in other areas, to 9,400 soms ($9). The minimum monthly pension will be set at 18,605 soms as of 1 October. DK

Members of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 13 September discussed the European Commission's $2.5 million tender to organize independent broadcasting to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 12, and 13 September 2005), RFE/RL's Belarus Service and an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. Some parliamentarians from Poland and the Baltic states attacked the project for its emphasis on the use of the Russian language in the broadcasts and the tendering rules that they see as discriminatory against countries bordering Belarus and smaller broadcasters. "[It] all shows that the organizers of the tender, perhaps unintentionally, actually did everything to let Deutsche Welle win it," European Parliament deputy speaker Janusz Onyszkiewicz told RFE/RL's Belarus Service. "[The] BBC, which has more experience and more listeners, will not be able to participate in the tender, because its charter does not allow it to obtain such grants. Radio France International does not have the required number of listeners in former Soviet countries [1 million], let alone Euronews. So there is Deutsche Welle with its medium and short waves, and it is not known whether it will be listened to in Belarus on these waves." JM

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, a lawmaker of the Social Democratic Party-united, charged on 14 September that exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovskii financed the presidential election campaign of Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian and international media reported. If found to be true, Ukrainian lawmakers would have the right to impeach Yushchenko, Kravchuk said. Kravchuk told journalists in Kyiv that, in a telephone conversation with him, Berezovskii confirmed the authenticity of recently published copies of bank transfers worth $15 million from Berezovskii-owned businesses to firms financing Yushchenko's campaign. According to Kravchuk, Berezovskii told him that Yushchenko's emissaries -- David Zhvaniya, Roman Bezsmertnyy, and Oleksandr Tretyakov -- visited Berezovskii in London to arrange issues connected with the campaign funding. Meanwhile, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted Berezovskii as saying on 14 September that he did not tell Kravchuk that the transfers were made specifically for Yushchenko's presidential campaign. The same day, acting Emergency Minister Zhvaniya denied that Berezovskii financed Yushchenko's campaign, adding that the Russian oligarch "gave money to [Yuliya] Tymoshenko, and there is no need to push Zhvaniya into this clique." JM

Former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was sacked by Yushchenko last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2005), told Reuters on 14 September that Yushchenko could "recognize his mistake" and rejoin forces for the parliamentary elections in 2006. "Despite the fact that the president has accused me of various acts against the national interest, I believe he can always take the road back," Tymoshenko said. "We do have different visions on moral aspects of wielding power. And this is a fundamental difference. I proposed to the president not to wage war with political forces occupying a single ideological niche, but rather to support them all." Commenting on a new cabinet to be formed by Yuriy Yekhanurov, Tymoshenko said it will be "very temporary." JM

On 14 September, the EU and Office of the High Representative criticized the recent rejection by the Republika Srpska parliament of the police reform package backed by the EU and the central authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2005). EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement in Brussels that he is disappointed that the [parliament] rejected the latest proposal for police reform, which is in line with the required EU principles." He added that "in the light of the latest developments, it is now clear that Bosnia will not be able to start negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union this year." In Sarajevo, High Representative Paddy Ashdown expressed similar views in a statement, adding that there is no point in continuing talks on police reform and singling out the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) as the main obstacle to change. He has previously hinted at taking unspecified steps against the SDS. Some observers suggested that he might ban the party, but others have noted that Bosnians before and after communist rule generally cast their ballots along ethnic lines and that one could expect a banned SDS to reemerge under a new name. PM

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Pero Bukejlovic said in Banja Luka on 14 September that he does not expect sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs over police reform because the international community has already criticized them over the issue, "Nezavisne novine" reported. He added that he hopes that "reason will prevail" and that talks will indeed continue. Elsewhere, Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic criticized the parliament's decision, saying that talks cannot continue so long as Banja Luka rejects the EU's basic demands. He called on the international community to take unspecified measures to prevent "the majority of Bosnian citizens being held hostage by a minority." Bosnia was obliged to present a plan for police reform to Brussels by 15 September or at least have an agreement on the matter signed and ready if it expected to start SAA talks. Failure to reform the police along nonethnic administrative lines is the main obstacle to Bosnia's integration into the EU. The Bosnian Serbs consider the proposed police reform unconstitutional and a threat to the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska because the proposed police administrative boundaries will cross entity lines and deny each entity control of its own security forces. PM

Mira Markovic, the wife of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, failed to appear in the Belgrade District Court on 15 September to face a preliminary hearing on corruption charges. Zdenko Tomanovic, who is her lawyer, told the court that she cannot come to Serbia because a domestic arrest warrant is still out for her, even though the authorities lifted an international warrant against her in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 June 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 August 2005). The court lifted the international warrant after receiving assurances from her lawyers that she would appear at her trial in September. Markovic has been on the run since early 2003, at which time some Serbian media reported that she was seen in Russia in the company of her son and brother-in-law. It is widely believed that the decision to lift the international warrant was politically motivated. It theoretically would enable her to visit her husband in The Hague, although she has not gone there. PM

Parents of about 250 Serbian elementary school pupils and high school students of the St. Sava School in Fushe Kosova announced on 14 September that their children will no longer attend classes there, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The parents said that the children fear for their safety following the recent ruling by Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), to allow about 400 ethnic Albanian pupils and students to attend the school starting in the fall semester (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 April 2004 and 20 May 2005). PM

Serafim Urechean, leader of the opposition Moldova Noastra Alliance, said on the ProTV channel on 13 September that the ruling coalition of the Moldovan Communist Party, the Christian Democratic Popular Party (CDPP), the Democratic Party, and the Social Liberal Party has "gone bankrupt," Infotag reported on 14 September. "Nothing positive took place in this republic in the past six months," Urechean asserted. "CDPP leader Iurie Rosca and President Vladimir Voronin struck a deal proceeding from their personal interests. European integration and support of Vladimir Voronin's candidacy for the post of president by some parties are two incompatible things." Rosca retorted in the same program that his party was right in voting in parliament on 4 April for Voronin to reelect him as Moldova's president. "We agreed to this partnership in a period when a maximum responsibility for this republic was needed," Rosca said. "We have certain commitments before the Council of Europe, the European Union, and we are supposed to implement the EU-Moldova Action Plan. That was why we [struck a coalition deal] with the party that won the [2005 parliamentary] elections." Meanwhile, Democratic Party Chairman Dumitru Diacov asserted that there is no ruling coalition in Moldova whatsoever, adding that the country is run single-handedly by the Communist Party. JM

Immediately after dismissing the government of Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on 8 September, President Viktor Yushchenko announced that he wanted Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Yuriy Yekhanurov to form a new cabinet. On 13 September, Yushchenko submitted the candidacy of Yekhanurov for the Verkhovna Rada's approval, stressing that he wants to have a "pragmatic government." Yekhanurov needs at least 226 votes to obtain the job.

Most political observers in Ukraine do not foresee any problems in Yekhanurov's approval, particularly after Yushchenko and Yekhanurov on 13 September signed a Declaration of Unity and Cooperation for the Future with leaders of parliamentary factions comprising nearly 240 deputies. The signatories pledged to pool their efforts "to secure the interests of the Ukrainian people, improve their welfare, consolidate society, and boost Ukraine's authority in the world." Making a new cabinet get down to work without delay is no doubt a priority in this endeavor.

Yekhanurov is widely seen in Ukraine as an experienced and efficient administrator without political ambitions. Therefore, many assert, he is the best choice Yushchenko could made for the six months that remain until the parliamentary elections in March, when the political scene in Ukraine may undergo a considerable rearrangement. In other words, Yekhanurov is seen as a "stopgap" prime minister whose main concerns will be to draft a 2006 budget, secure a tolerable price for Russian gas supplies next year, and push through the parliament what remains of the previous cabinet's package of bills intended to facilitate Ukraine's access to the World Trade Organization by the end of this year.

Yekhanurov, an ethnic Buryat, was born in a village in Sakha (Yakutia) in 1948. His family moved to Ukraine in 1963. In Kyiv, Yekhanurov graduated from a construction school in 1967 and from the Institute of People's Economy in 1973. He climbed the career ladder in the construction industry to the post of deputy director for economic issues of Kyiv's main construction directorate.

After Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Yekhanurov moved to the Cabinet of Ministers, where he initially served as a departmental director and then was promoted to the post of deputy economy minister.

In 1994-97 he oversaw the initial stage of Ukraine's privatization as head of the State Property Fund. Subsequently he served as economy minister and deputy head of the presidential administration. At that time he belonged to the People's Democratic Party, a "party of power" that provided political support to President Leonid Kuchma.

In 1998 Yekhanurov was elected to the Verkhovna Rada from a one-seat constituency in Zhytomyr Oblast. From 1999 to 2001 he worked as first deputy prime minister in a cabinet headed by Viktor Yushchenko. When Yushchenko's was dismissed as premier in 2001, Kuchma employed Yekhanurov as first deputy head of the presidential administration.

In November 2001, Yekhanurov left Kuchma for good and tied his political fate closely to that of Yushchenko. He became deputy chief of the election campaign of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc and was elected to parliament in March 2002 from Our Ukraine's list. In 2004, Yekhanurov became deputy chief of Yushchenko's presidential election campaign. In March 2005, he was elected head of the executive committee of the Our Ukraine People's Union, Yushchenko's "party of power." In April, Yushchenko appointed Yekhanurov governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast after his predecessor was accused of having backed Yushchenko's rival in the presidential election.

Perhaps it is also not without significance for Yushchenko in his current situation that Yekhanurov is one of the very few in the Ukrainian president's entourage who back Ukraine's membership in the Single Economic Space with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. "This is a businesslike man, a man who deeply understands economics and economic relations, including those between states," Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin praised Yekhanurov earlier this week.

In other words, Yekhanurov appears to be the opposite of the politically overambitious and charismatic Tymoshenko, whom Yushchenko accused of focusing on "PR activities" rather than on the presidential election program. Yekhanurov seems to be the man that will easily accept his place in the shadow of Yushchenko. But this may have drawbacks for the Ukrainian president as well, because now voters will be more likely to see Yushchenko -- not Yekhanurov -- as the real leader of the government. If things in Ukraine continue to go poorly, Yushchenko will not be able to lay all of the blame on Yekhanurov and fire him as the main culprit, as he did with Tymoshenko.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 14 September that the U.S. military "will continue to play a strong role" in Afghanistan even after NATO troops take on a bigger role in peacekeeping operations, AP reported. Rumsfeld made the comment at the conclusion of a meeting of NATO members in Berlin, after "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" reported the previous day that the United States was considering reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan next year by 20 percent. Rumsfeld did not provide specifics about troop numbers, but he also said that NATO must continue to take on more responsibilities "at a good clip" in order to fight terrorism. CP

The United Nations and the Afghan government have launched a joint program to eradicate intestinal parasites in 6 million children, IRIN reported on 14 September. The program will be implemented in 8,800 educational institutions across the country, including orphanages and informal and religious schools. Children will receive hygiene education in addition to treatment. "It is tragic that children in this country are suffering because of worms when they can be so easily treated," said Charles Vincent, head of the World Food Program in Afghanistan. The parasites can be easily eradicated with one tablet of Mebendazol, according to health experts. In children, intestinal parasites can stunt physical growth, cause dysentery, learning problems, and anemia. CP

Taliban militants shot and killed seven civilians on 13 September after finding a registration paper for the upcoming election in their car, AFP reported. "They searched everybody and found an official document, a car registration for election day, on one of them. Then the Taliban killed the seven people," said Jan Mohammad Khan, governor of Uruzgan Province, where the attack took place. Khan also said that three civilians were killed by a land mine on 14 September in the same province. He blamed the deaths on militants. Elsewhere, in the southeastern province of Zabul, police said Taliban members kidnapped and hanged an intelligence officer. CP

Thousands of Afghan Army and police personnel may not be able to vote in the upcoming elections, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 14 September. Under the electoral law, voters must cast their ballots in the provinces where they are registered, but security officials who are deployed in other areas of the country may not be able to travel home to vote, according to a spokesman for the Defense and Interior ministries. Sultan Ahmad Bahin, spokesman for the Joint Electoral Management Body, told Pajhwak News Agency that while voting rights were important for all Afghan citizens, some security personnel will not be able to vote because of the nature of their duty. CP

In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on 14 September, Mahmud Ahmadinejad criticized the United States, saying the host of the event should not have special privileges. Two channels of Iranian state television, as well as Iranian satellite television and state radio, broadcast the speech live. Ahmadinejad complained that neither an Islamic nor an African state has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. He also expressed concern about a breakdown in spirituality and morality, and described unilateralism as a "vicious malady." "Unilateralism, production and use of weapons of mass destruction, intimidations, resort to the threat or use of force, and imposition of destructive wars on peoples for the sake of security and prosperity of a few powers" mean that the UN must try to institutionalize justice, Ahmadinejad said. BS

A number of expatriate Iranians protested outside the UN building on 14 September against Ahmadinejad's presence, Radio Farda reported. Approximately 1,500 people from various exile opposition groups -- royalists, constitutionalists, the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, the Green Party of Iran -- waved placards and chanted different slogans. The protestors expressed opposition to the Iranian nuclear program and the country's purported support for international terrorism, and they called for political prisoners' freedom. Their overriding sentiment was that they do not accept Ahmadinejad as Iran's representative, Radio Farda reported. BS

Iranshahr parliamentary representative Golmohammad Bameri said on 14 September that he has resigned from the legislature, ILNA reported. Bameri said he is protesting the failure of Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi to coordinate his appointment of new governors general with the legislature. Zahedan parliamentary representative Peyman Foruzesh resigned on the same day to protest Purmohammadi's appointment of a new governor for Sistan va Baluchistan Province. The legislature must approve the resignations before they go into effect. BS

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a 14 September speech in Tehran to Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) commanders that everybody is expected to be pious and patient when confronted by hardship, IRNA reported. He added that one must resist temptation and show restraint when one is trying to fulfill the obligations defined by God. The country's officials, he continued, must be spiritually pure and morally upright. IRGC commander Yahya Rahim-Safavi told the audience beforehand that the June 2005 presidential election showed that the nation supports revolutionary values, state television reported. Discussing Iraq and regional developments, Rahim-Safavi said, "America's incompetence in crisis management in the region has become more obvious recently." He described the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a defeat for the United States. Speaker of Parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel spoke on the afternoon of 14 July, IRNA reported, saying U.S. policy is demagogic and hypocritical. Its hidden objective is to control world oil resources, he said, and its strategic aim is world domination. Talk of spreading democracy is just a cover for these goals. He said the United States uses cultural tools -- books, films, NGOs, satellite television -- as well as economic and military ones to influence other countries. BS

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shallah met in Tehran on 13 September with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Mehr News Agency reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani told his guest that the provision of spiritual and political support is part of Iranian policy. He added that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is a sign of Israeli weakness when confronted by Palestinian resistance, and warned of anti-Islamic U.S. and Israeli conspiracies. Shallah said resistance will continue. Shallah met with Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran on 9 September, IRNA reported on 10 September. Khomeini said the Palestinian issue was a major concern of his grandfather's. BS

Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi declared war on Iraqi Shi'a in a 14 September Internet statement ( "Battles intensify and names change but the goal remains the same: a crusader's [and] 'rejectionists'' [Shi'a] war against the Sunnis," the statement read. "Now that the government...and the servant of the cross, [Iraqi Prime Minister] Ibrahim al-Ja'fari , has declared an all-out war against the Sunnis in Tal Afar...under the pretexts of restoring law and eliminating the terrorists, the organization [Al-Qaeda] has decided to declare an all-out war against the 'rejectionist' Shi'a everywhere in Iraq," al-Zarqawi said. Addressing the Shi'a, he added: "You were the first to show hostility, so be warned: for by God, we will not have mercy on you, nor will we show you any sympathy." Al-Zarqawi also issued a warning to all Iraqis saying: "Any group that wants to be spared the blows of the mujahedin must quickly denounce the al-Ja'fari government and its crimes." He added that any police, army, national guardsman, or "spy for the crusaders" will be killed by Al-Qaeda, "and his house will also be destroyed or burned down...for punishment for his treason to his religion and nation." KR

Al-Zarqawi shamed the Iraqi tribes for not taking up the sword against the government and multinational force in defense of Islam and Iraq in his 14 September statement. Calling the sons of the tribes "among the most important pillars of jihad," he said: "We warn all the tribes that any tribe, party, or association whose involvement and collaboration with the crusaders and their apostate [followers] is proved, I swear by God, will be targeted exactly as we will target the crusaders, and we will eliminate its members.... You must choose in which [camp] you want to be in." Addressing the Sunni scholars, he said: "Your chaste and pure Sunni sisters in Tal Afar have been violated and their chastity has been slaughtered and their wombs have been filled with the bastards of the crusaders and their malicious [Shi'a] brothers. Where is your religion?" He later added: "Now is the time for [Sunni tribes] to rise up...the wheels of war to annihilate the Sunni tribes have not and will not stop; they are coming your way...unless you take the initiative and join the mujahedin to defend your religion and protect your honor, you will most certainly regret [it]." KR

A suicide car bomb targeted a convoy transporting Iraqi police commandos in Al-Durah, in southern Baghdad, on 15 September, killing 15 policemen and wounding 21 others, Reuters reported. Two more car bombs subsequently detonated in Al-Durah. In Mosul, a Shi'ite imam was killed and three others wounded when a bomb detonated outside a mosque. Separately, a Shi'ite sheikh kidnapped two days ago was found dead in Al-Latifiyah. In Kirkuk, two policemen were killed and four injured in a roadside bomb attack. Police reported that three people were found dead in the Al-Shu'lah area of Baghdad; three other bodies were found shot dead in the Baghdad Al-Jadid area of the city. Three Shi'ite pilgrims en route to Karbala for a religious festival were killed by gunmen in northern Baghdad, Reuters cited police as saying. KR

With President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister al-Ja'fari both in the United States attending the UN General Assembly meeting, the Iraqi National Security Council held an emergency session on 14 September to discuss the recent surge in violence, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways and attended by Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, as well as National Security Minister Abd al-Karim al-Anzi, and National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i. The Presidency Council also issued a statement condemning the 14 September attacks and said terrorists were attempting to carry out a war of genocide against Iraqi Shi'ites. In an interview with Al-Arabiyah on 14 September, Shi'ite parliamentarian Fattah al-Shaykh accused the government and U.S. forces of not taking decisive action against the terrorists. The satellite news channel cited an unidentified Iraqi commander as saying that the Tal Afar operation is "almost finished." KR

In a 14 September interview with Al-Arabiyah, Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi, spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Association, condemned al-Zarqawi's actions on the grounds that they sow sectarian insurrection, which he believes benefits the United States in Iraq. "On what basis does this man allow himself to declare a war on millions and to turn this into vengeance?" he asked of al-Zarqawi. "This position sows sectarian and ethnic sedition and this is what the occupiers want. In fact, this position supports what [U.S.] President [George W.] Bush said in his speech [on 14 September at the UN] when he called on the world to fight terrorism." According to Al-Arabiyah television on 15 September, the Muslim Scholars Association also said that the 14 September Baghdad attacks violate Islamic laws and it is "the perpetrators...who should be punished" -- a reference to the U.S. and multinational force in Tal Afar. Meanwhile, the Sunni Al-Waqf Office expressed regret that innocent people were killed in Al-Kadhimiyah and called on Iraqis to maintain unity, the news channel reported. KR