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Newsline - October 6, 2005


PUTIN, BLAIR PRAISE JOINT ANTITERRORIST EFFORTS...
President Vladimir Putin and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair wrapped up bilateral talks in London on 5 October by releasing a joint statement in which they hailed the joint fight against terrorism and pledged to strengthen partnership between their intelligence services, international media reported. Blair also showed Putin Britain's top-secret crisis center, known as Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, where Putin was briefed by officers of the MI-6 foreign intelligence service, MI-5 counterintelligence service, and Scotland Yard, NTV reported. Earlier the same day, Putin and Blair discussed such issues as Iran's nuclear program, and the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, according to Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, NTV reported. VY

...TALKS ABOUT EXTENSION OF TRADE AND ENERGY COOPERATION
Another topic of the 5 October Putin-Blair talks was the boosting of Russia's oil and gas exports to the European Union. Putin said that there are no obstacles to the construction of the North European gas pipeline. All of Europe is interested and it is not directed against third countries, Putin said. "One should not politicize economic projects," he added, referring to objections from the Baltic states and Poland to the pipeline, RTR reported. Putin also said that he hopes that Gazprom shares will soon be liberalized and become available to Western investors. While in London, Putin also met with leading British businessmen and awarded Russian medals to the British Royal Navy team who rescued the Russian submarine in the Far East in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 8 August 2005). VY

LITHUANIA SAYS IT HAS SECRET CODES FROM CRASHED RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT...
Speaking on local television, Lithuanian Defense Ministry chief of staff Brigadier General Vitalijus Vaiksnoras said on 5 October that his country has the secret "friend or foe" recognition code from the Russian Su-27 that crashed on 15 September near Kaunas, NTV and other media reported on 5 October. Vaiksnoras also said the investigative commission that he heads has found that the flight was not an intentional provocation, and that pilot Valerii Troyanov is now awaiting a decision on his case by prosecutors. Earlier, Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said the incident was a combination of a malfunction of the aircraft's navigation system, the negligence of Russian flight dispatchers, and the pilot's poor training. Meanwhile, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said on 5 October that he has asked NATO to raise with Russia the issue of the "flights of its obsolete, but over-armed aircraft in international air space," RIA-Novosti reported. VY

...AND RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REPLIES: 'IT CAN'T BE SO'
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected the Lithuanian statement that Russia's secret code-recognition unit could be compromised, saying that it is technically impossible, RTR reported. Russian experts have said with 100 percent certainty that the software for the unit has a triple self-destruct mechanism, which is activated both after the pilot's ejection and the aircraft's impact with the ground. "Therefore, this statement is pure speculation and, simply, a lot of hot air," Ivanov said. Meanwhile, Major General Sergei Bainetov, who heads the Russian investigation, said that the conclusions drawn by the Lithuanian commission about the incident are "nothing more than [the commission's] version," Radio Mayak reported on 5 October. VY

RUSSIAN POLITICIANS SEE NO THREAT IN CHINESE POWER
Security Council Deputy Secretary Nikolai Spasskii said in an interview in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 5 October that Russia faces no "demographic threat" from China. "According to our experts, the number of Chinese citizens in the Far East Federal District does not exceed 100,000," he said. In the same way, the rising economic might of China is not a problem for Russia, but rather an opportunity, he added. Spasskii's statement was echoed by Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko in an interview published by "Izvestiya" the same day, in which he said he has "no fears concerning China." Yakovenko also rejected concerns that Russia could become an energy appendage to China. He noted that no one calls Norway, which also exports oil, anyone's appendage. Russia simply has resources and China needs them, he said. Yakovenko also said that the construction of a new Eastern pipeline to Nakhodka on the Pacific coast is not linked to the state of relations with Japan. "At any rate, we have enough resources to build the pipeline independently [without Japanese investment], but if our resources are not enough, we will attract them from outside," he said. Yakovenko also mentioned that no treaty will be signed during President Putin's November visit to Tokyo but that negotiations will continue. Russia and Japan never officially ended World War II hostilities due primarily to a dispute over control of the Kuriles. VY

POLICE CARRY OUT MASSIVE SEARCHES OF YUKOS OFFICES IN MOSCOW, HOLLAND
Over 20 busloads of Prosecutor-General's Office and Interior Ministry officers took part on 5 October in searches of Moscow banks, lawyers' offices, and private apartments of people linked to the case against the Yukos oil company, international media reported. The office of Yukos subsidiary Yukos Finance in the Netherlands was also searched. According to Prosecutor-General's Office spokeswoman Nataliya Veshnyakova, investigators have "obtained information that some Yukos managers illegally transferred abroad and laundered $7 billion in 2002-03 stolen from oil revenues," NTV reported. To this end, Yukos's management used lawyers and staffers of different banks and commercial companies, while laundered funds were later legalized through company dividends, Veshnyakova said. Anton Drel, the lawyer of jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, said that his private apartment was searched for six hours, but the documents seized had no relation to the Yukos case, newsru.com reported. The new wave of searches is linked to the decision to bring new accusations against Khodorkovskii and his partner, Platon Lebedev, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 October. In the past year, a second case was opened against both men with the same formulation used for the current searches, "laundering of criminally obtained funds," the newspaper noted. This means that Khodorkovskii and Lebedev will not be sent to labor camp, but stay where they are to face the new indictment, it added. VY

COMMUNISTS WOULD PROTEST LENIN'S BURIAL WITH MASS DISOBEDIENCE
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Communist Party head Gennadii Zyuganov said on 5 October that if the decision is made to remove Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin from his mausoleum on Red Square and bury him, his party will organize actions of civil disobedience all over the country and stop it, grani.ru reported. The proposal to bury Lenin came from presidential envoy to the Central Federal District and former KGB General Georgii Poltavchenko, and was supported by other political and public figures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 3 and 4 October 2005). Zyuganov added that he sees the Kremlin's plan for Lenin as "mental pathology." "This is another sign of the amorality and cynicism of the Russian government. The massacre in Chechnya with 120,000 killed might not be enough, and the Beslan tragedy likewise. How about the explosions and endless funerals?" Zyuganov said. VY

UPPER CHAMBER APPROVES LAWS AIMED AT REGIONS
Federation Council members voted on 5 October to approve amendments to the law on local self-rule, RTR reported. The bill establishes a longer period of three years for the gradual introduction of reforms of municipal governments, RosBalt reported. At the same time, municipal governments that are ready to launch the reforms can begin immediately. The same day, senators approved a federal constitutional law establishing the formation of a new federation subject made up of Krasnoyarsk Krai and Taimyr and Evenk autonomous okrugs. The new entity, to be called Krasnoyarsk Krai, would come into existence on 1 January 2007. JAC

SUPREME COURT PRESIDIUM REINSTATES BAN ON NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY
The presidium of the Supreme Court annulled on 5 October a Supreme Court ruling that refused to abolish the National Bolshevik Party, Russian news agencies reported. In August, the Supreme Court rejected a Moscow Oblast court ruling banning the party for its violation of the law on political parties, ITAR- TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2005). The presidium returned the matter to the Supreme Court to reconsider. Lawyer Vitalii Barivoda said that the party will appeal the decision to the European Court for Human Rights. Party leader Eduard Limonov called the decision "ordered from above," according to RosBalt. The party's website (http://www.nbp-info.ru) declared that the party "will continue its activities independent of the desires of Mr. Putin, [deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav] Surkov, and other Kremlin oligarchs." JAC

SUPREME COURT JUDGE DIES
Supreme Court Judge Yurii Savich was found dead in his car on 5 October in central Moscow near the State Duma building, lenta.ru reported. Savich died of a heart attack after a collision with another car. Police are not considering undertaking a criminal investigation of what happened, according to ITAR-TASS. Savich was born in 1963, according to RIA-Novosti, and joined the court in November 2002. JAC

MOTHERLAND DEPUTY CALLS FEDERALISM AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS PASSED
Speaking in the State Duma on 5 October, Committee for CIS Affairs Deputy Chairman Andrei Savelev (Motherland) said that the principle of federalism is unacceptable for Russia, RosBalt reported. "Russia has always been a unitary country with a state formed of the Russian nation," he said. "The word 'rossyanin' already became antiquated in the 19th century. A Russian is not a 'rossiyanin.'" Savelev added that current budget policy, which finances national autonomies, "generates ethnic separatism and extremism," and Russophobia in the media "demoralizes the nation." Savelev said he supports LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, who has said that "within 50 years, when there are [only] 30 million Russians remaining, they will say, 'You are a minority -- get out of Russia!'" JAC

DUMA REJECTS ENERGY-DRINK BILL
State Duma deputies rejected on 5 October a bill that would have banned energy drinks, RosBalt reported. The bill, which was sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), got 120 votes in favor; 226 were needed. LDPR Deputy Aleksei Ostrovskii said that energy drinks have a negative influence on the health of children, pregnant women and women who are breast feeding, and elderly people, although Ostrovskii noted that a normal dose of the elements contained in the energy drinks do not pose a danger, lenta.ru reported. The Economic Policy Committee recommended rejecting the bill, noting that following the logic of the author's bill the majority of drinks would be banned because if consumed excessively lead to negative consequences. JAC

SOME OF THE DEPUTY MAYOR'S BEST FRIENDS ARE GAY?
Perm Deputy Mayor Valerii Starikov has established a policy that artists who openly declare themselves to be gay will have to pay a higher fee to rent out the city's main concert venue, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 5 October. Perm Culture Department press secretary Tatyana Korovina told "Kommersant-Daily" that the increase in the fee has not yet been determined and will likely be set by a normative document to be confirmed by the Perm City Duma. Starikov explained that he personally does not have anything against gays, but "the people do not appreciate them." According to utro.ru, the financial sanctions are being introduced with regard to the soloist for the group Night Snipers, Diana Arbenina; Surganova and Orchestra leader Svetlana Surganova; and Zemfira. The director of the group Night Snipers, which is going to play a concert in Perm on 7 October, has said he plans to file a lawsuit against the deputy mayor. According to the website, the musicians may not find the end result of the legal process satisfactory, since, according to legal specialists, it is very complicated to prove that a violation occurred. JAC

RUSSIAN MINISTER DENIES DRAFT TREATY WITH CHECHNYA NEAR COMPLETION
Addressing the Russian State Duma on 5 October, Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev said that a definitive draft of the long-awaited treaty on the division of powers between the Chechen and Russian governments does not officially exist, Interfax reported. Yakovlev said numerous proposals concerning the precise terms of that pact have been made that require discussion. Yakovlev was responding to a statement by opposition Deputy Viktor Alksnis (Motherland), who claimed to have seen the final draft of the treaty which, according to Alksnis, lays the ground for Chechnya's secession from the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov told journalists in Grozny on 5 October, the first anniversary of his inauguration, that the main provisions of the draft treaty have been agreed with presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak, Interfax reported. Alkhanov said the draft is almost ready, but its signing is being delayed for unspecified "objective reasons." He predicted that it could be signed early in 2006, according to rian.ru as cited by kavkazweb.net on 5 October. During the early months of this year, Alkhanov repeatedly said the treaty would be signed by the end of June (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 30 June 2005). LF

ENVOY CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON ECONOMIC CRIME, TAX EVASION IN SOUTH RUSSIA
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Kozak told participants at a 5 October conference in Rostov-na-Donu that it is imperative to crack down on tax evasion and the shadow economy and render more efficient and cost effective the work of the Interior Ministry and Tax Directorate in combating such crimes, according to regnum.ru as cited by ingushetiya.ru. Kozak estimated that the so-called shadow economy accounts for up to 50 percent of all economic activity in southern Russia. LF

OFFICIALS SAY FAILURE OF ARMENIAN REFERENDUM WOULD NOT CONSTRAIN CABINET
Senior Armenian officials, including Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, denied on 5 October that the government will be constrained to resign if voters fail to endorse its proposed constitutional amendments in a nationwide referendum on 27 November, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian told RFE/RL that "nothing will happen if we fail to...ensure the [necessary] turnout. If there are people who think that the authorities must resign if the referendum fails, they are badly wrong." A minimum of one-third of Armenia's 2.4 million registered voters must approve the amendments for them to pass. Abrahamian said the authorities will work hard to ensure a positive outcome, but that they "cannot force" the electorate to participate in the referendum. Parliamentary speaker Artur Baghdasarian for his part said on 4 October he considers talk of a postreferendum regime change "inappropriate." LF

ARMENIA, GREECE TO STRENGTHEN MILITARY COOPERATION
Visiting Yerevan on 5 October, Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos met with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Markarian, and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to discuss military cooperation within both bilateral and NATO formats, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 6 October. The presidential press service quoted Spiliotopoulos as saying that proceeding from "common strategic interests," Greece will continue its cooperation with and material support for the Armenian armed forces. LF

KARABAKH DENIES AZERBAIJANI SERVICEMAN KILLED IN CEASE-FIRE VIOLATION
The press service of the Defense Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) has denied Azerbaijani media reports that an Azerbaijani serviceman was killed on 1 October during an exchange of fire with Armenian forces on the northern sector of the Line of Contact, according to Arminfo as cited on 5 October by kazkazweb.net. The NKR Defense Ministry termed the Azerbaijani allegations an attempt to deceive world public opinion, and he reaffirmed the unrecognized republic's continued commitment to observing the cease-fire signed in 1994. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REVIEWS PRE-ELECTION PLEDGES
On a tour of the Kyurdamir and Sabirabad districts on 6 October, Ilham Aliyev said that 300,000 new jobs have been created in Azerbaijan in the two years since his election as president, in line with his pre-election pledge to create 600,000 new jobs in five years, day.az reported. Aliyev said the campaign for the 6 November parliamentary elections is "proceeding successfully," and that the amended election law and his 11 May decree have created ideal conditions for holding democratic elections. At the same time, he stressed that Azerbaijan is a presidential republic, and that opposition vows to come to power as a result of parliamentary elections lack credibility. He said the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party is the strongest in the country and enjoys the support of the Azerbaijani people. LF

POLICE QUASH ARMENIAN PROTEST IN SOUTHERN GEORGIA
Georgian police resorted to violence on 5 October to break up a protest demonstration by some 300 people in the predominantly Armenian-populated town of Akhalkalaki, Caucasus Press reported. The demonstrators, some of whom converged on Akhalkalaki from outlying villages, were protesting the closure by Tax Police of 10 local stores, which local activists interpreted as retaliation for the formal demand by the regions Armenians last month for autonomous status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). Several demonstration participants have been hospitalized after being beaten by police. LF

RUSSIA CONDEMNS 'DESTRUCTIVE' GEORGIAN MOVES ON SOUTH OSSETIA
South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity met in Moscow on 4 October with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin to discuss the circumstances and consequences of the 20 September mortar attack on Tskhinvali, capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, according to a 5 October statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry website (http://www.ln.mid.ru). The statement criticized as "destructive" Georgia's attempts to "wreck the existing format" for peace talks, and stressed that a military solution to the conflict is "unacceptable." Both the Russian side and Kokoity affirmed their readiness to resume talks within the framework of the Joint Control Commission, which comprises representatives from Russia, Georgia, and North and South Ossetia. Russia proposed setting up a joint group of experts, including Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers, to complete the investigation launched by the peacekeeping force in the contact zone into the 20 September attack. LF

NATO OFFICIAL NAMES NEW LIAISON TO CENTRAL ASIA...
Following a meeting in Almaty with Kazakh Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev on 4 October, visiting NATO special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons announced the appointment of a new NATO liaison to coordinate relations with Central Asia, Interfax reported. Simmons added that the appointment of Tugay Tuncer as NATO's special representative on communication and cooperation with Central Asian countries represents the alliance's recognition of the strategic importance of the region. The new NATO liaison is to be based in Almaty and will supervise NATO relations with all countries in the region except Uzbekistan. RG

...BUT DENIES PLANS FOR BASES IN KAZAKHSTAN
NATO envoy Simmons denied on 5 October any NATO plans to establish military bases in Kazakhstan, according to AKIpress. The comments came during the second day of a three-day visit to Kazakhstan aimed at bolstering NATO ties with the country and follow an inspection of an elite Kazakh military unit the day before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). Rumors of the possible use of Kazakh military facilities or the establishment of a new NATO base in the country follow the loss of access to bases in Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005). RG

KYRGYZ PREMIER REFUTES RUMORED DISPUTE WITH PRESIDENT
In comments during his new cabinet's first meeting in Bishkek, Prime Minister Feliks Kulov refuted on 5 October recent reports of a dispute with President Kurmanbek Bakiev, ITAR-TASS reported. Kulov added that although "there are issues" and a "need to adjust some opinions on certain issues" with Bakiev, "there has been no disagreement." Kulov affirmed that "our primary task is to help people feel secure again, and to restore law and order and the people's confidence in the future," and he vowed not to reopen any past privatization deals. He also instructed his cabinet to abide by the law on civil service and refrain from "accepting gifts" and urged the ministers to "go on business trips on a monthly basis in order to know about the problems in regions." RG

VISITING RUSSIAN OFFICIAL MEETS WITH KYRGYZ PREMIER...
Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Yurii Zubkhov met on 5 October with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kulov in Bishkek to finalize several new bilateral agreements, the Kabar news agency reported. Zubkhov led a Russian delegation dispatched to follow up on accords reached during the recent meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kyrgyz President Bakiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2005). RG

...AND REVEALS SOFTENING OF RUSSIAN POSITION ON U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN REGION
Speaking in Bishkek on 5 October, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Zubkhov said that the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from an air base in Kyrgyzstan may be open to a new compromise, according to the Kabar news agency. Zubkhov explained that despite the demand by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- which comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- for a complete U.S. withdrawal from bases in the region, Russia recognizes that the United States is "currently in a very difficult situation" in Afghanistan and Iraq and recommended that "it is necessary to find a reasonable and compromise solution to the question of withdrawing" from the coalition air base in Kyrgyzstan. RG

U.S. EXTENDS AID TO REVAMP KYRGYZ TRAFFIC POLICE
Kyrgyz Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov announced on 5 October that the United States is extending a new $1.5 million aid package to finance police reform in Kyrgyzstan, AKIpress reported. The U.S. aid is to fund a reform program modeled after the effective overhaul of the Georgian police and will focus on rooting out corruption within the Kyrgyz State Traffic Inspectorate. Similar to the Georgian model, the reform will start only after the dismissal of the entire 995-member Traffic Inspectorate staff, but who will then be eligible to apply for their old jobs. The aid is also to be used to purchase a significant amount of new equipment, including vehicles, uniforms, and communications gear. RG

U.S. OFFICIAL MEETS WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT
After arriving in Dushanbe on an official visit, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph met on 5 October with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Asia-Plus reported. Joseph briefed Rakhmonov and senior officials on the regional security situation and discussed measures aimed at strengthening counterproliferation efforts in the region. Joseph further warned the Tajik leadership of the "threat to peace and security" posed by Iran's nuclear program, Avesta reported. He also reviewed preparations for the upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to tour the region on 10-13 October, visiting Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. RG

TAJIK SUPREME COURT SENTENCES OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER TO 23-YEAR PRISON TERM...
The Supreme Court sentenced Democratic Party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov to 23 years in prison on 5 October, Asia-Plus reported. The sentence followed his conviction on charges of terrorism, the embezzlement of state funds, and the illegal storage of weapons. The court also imposed a 1.5 million-somoni ($470,000) fine and stripped Iskandarov of all previous state honors and awards, including revoking his rank of major general. The court's ruling was nearly identical to the prosecution's earlier demand for a 25-year prison term and fine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005). RG

...AS TAJIK DISTRICT COURT SENTENCES ISLAMIC PARTY ACTIVIST
A Tajik district court sentenced an Islamic party activist on 5 October to four years in prison, Avesta reported. The Bokhtar district court in southern Tajikistan sentenced Sayfiddin Fayzov, a local activist of the Islamic Rebirth Party of Tajikistan, after his conviction on charges of "stirring up religious, interethnic, racial, and regional enmity, insulting state officials, and hooliganism." RG

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION HOPEFUL BEGINS ASSEMBLING CAMPAIGN TEAM
Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the presidential candidate nominated by an opposition congress last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 October 2005), has offered the post of campaign manager to Belarusian Party of Communists leader Syarhey Kalyakin, Belapan reported on 5 October. Kalyakin said he will accept the offer if Milinkevich "fulfills other agreements" reached among major opposition leaders. Milinkevich narrowly defeated United Civic Party (AHP) leader Anatol Lyabedzka in the second round of voting at the nominating congress, while Kalyakin dropped out in the first round. Lyabedzka told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that Milinkevich offered him leadership of the National Committee -- essentially a shadow cabinet -- that will work out a national development strategy and other program documents for the 2006 presidential campaign. Lyabedzka tendered his resignation as AHP leader on 5 October, but the AHP political council unanimously rejected it. JM

BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOREIGN, DOMESTIC POLICY GUIDELINES
The Chamber of Representatives on 5 October passed a bill outlining the guidelines of Belarus's foreign and domestic policies, Belapan reported. The bill stipulates that the country's foreign policy is based on the principle of the "proportionality of foreign policy purposes to the political, diplomatic, economic, and strategic national resources" and "the adequacy of these purposes to their actual contribution to the strengthening of the international position of the Republic of Belarus." The declared strategic goals of the country's domestic policy are to "raise the people's living standards, develop a democratic social law-ruled state, and form a socially oriented efficient market economy." Lawmakers rejected an amendment proposing to include "the development of strategic partnership with the Russian Federation" among Belarus's foreign policy goals, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DAILY REMAINS AFLOAT DESPITE OFFICIAL PRESSURE
Belarus's only opposition daily, "Narodnaya volya," which was rejected last week by a state-run printing house and the monopoly press distributor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005), is sticking to its usual publication schedule of five issues a week, Belapan reported on 5 October, quoting Editor Svyatlana Kalinkina. The newspaper is currently printed in Smolensk, a Russian provincial capital near the Belarusian border, and distributed through the national postal service Belposhta, which has not canceled its contract with "Narodnaya volya." The daily was recently ordered to pay libel damages of $46,700. "The EU regrets that the media space is increasingly controlled by the government and is concerned that this latest development will further limit the access of the Belarusian people to free and objective reporting of events," the U.K. EU Presidency said in a 5 October statement condemning authorities' targeting of "Narodnaya volya." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW GRANTING IMMUNITY TO LOCAL DEPUTIES...
President Viktor Yushchenko on 5 October signed a controversial bill into law that grants immunity from prosecution to local-council deputies, Ukrainian media reported. Under the legislation, a local councilor may be arrested or criminally prosecuted only after approval is given by his or her respective council. The law, which the Verkhovna Rada passed on 8 September, extends such immunity to some 200,000 regional legislators. The bill was supported by a broad range of deputies, including Communists, Socialists, and members of factions loyal to former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. Most deputies in Yushchenko's Our Ukraine People's Union group did not support it. In a television appearance on 4 October, Yushchenko said he "in principle" opposes granting immunity from prosecution to all deputies in Ukraine. On the other hand, in a memorandum signed with former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on 22 September, Yushchenko pledged to provide such immunity to local-council members (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 4 October 2005). JM

...AND APPOINTS TWO MORE CABINET MEMBERS
President Yuschenko has appointed Yuriy Melnyk as deputy prime minister in Yuriy Yekhanurov's cabinet, Ukrainian media reported on 5 October. Melnyk was deputy minister for agro-industrial complex in Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet from July 2003 to July 2005. Yushchenko has also appointed Ihor Lykhovyy as minister of culture and tourism. The posts of health minister and justice minister remain vacant. JM

PACE URGES KYIV TO KEEP 'STEADFAST RESOLVE' IN IMPLEMENTING REFORMS
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a report concerning Ukraine on 5 October urging that country's leaders to preserve "their steadfast resolve" in carrying out necessary reforms, the PACE website (http://assembly.coe.int) reported. In particular, PACE called on Ukraine to bring to justice the masterminds behind the 2004 election fraud; adopt laws on the functioning of the branches of power, and guarantee the conditions for the functioning of the parliamentary opposition; transform state broadcasters into public service channels; bring to justice those who ordered, organized, and executed the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze; and investigate other high-profile cases allegedly documented on the so-called Melnychenko tapes. PACE decided to continue monitoring Ukraine and to make a further assessment of progress after the March 2006 parliamentary and local elections. JM

BOSNIAN SERBS ACCEPT POLICE REFORM...
The parliament of the Republika Srpska voted 55 to five, with 15 abstentions, on 5 October to accept the EU's proposed police-reform package, thereby removing the last major obstacle to Bosnia-Herzegovina's integration with the Brussels-based bloc, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Bosnian Serbs have repeatedly rejected the proposal but seem to have had a change of heart after the EU's recent decision to launch admission talks with Zagreb and Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations with Belgrade, which leaves Bosnia as the only country in the region without a formal relationship to the EU or prospect of membership. The Croat-Muslim federation has endorsed the police reform, which will reorganize the police and their administrative boundaries along non-ethnic lines and without regard for entity boundaries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 3 and 4 October 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). Many Bosnian Serbs consider this unconstitutional. Foreign and non-Serb critics of Banja Luka say that the Bosnian Serbs want to keep control over their police because those security forces are the bedrock of support for political, business, and possibly criminal structures. PM

...TO THE RELIEF OF MANY...
Following the Bosnian Serbs' decision to accept the EU's police reform on 5 October, the U.S. State Department said in a statement that Banja Luka's move is the "most significant step towards Euro-Atlantic integration taken by [Bosnia-Herzegovina] since the signing of the Dayton peace accords 10 years ago," Reuters reported. The European Commission called the decision a "crucial step" toward the start of SAA talks between the EU and Bosnia but did not say when those negotiations could start. A spokesman for High Representative Paddy Ashdown hailed the parliament's move, adding that "within five years, Bosnia will have a single integrated police service at the state level, and local police areas which will cross the inter-entity border line in the limited areas where it is technically necessary." Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service said in a commentary, however, that Bosnia's leaders already missed the boat for SAA talks earlier in the week by not passing reform legislation before then (see below). As a result, ordinary citizens will not be able to enjoy the visa-free travel they want, at least not in the medium term (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). PM

...BUT NOT ALL...
Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic said in Banja Luka on 5 October that his entity can no longer be called a "factor...obstructing Bosnia's path to Europe," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He also noted that the EU has accepted his proposal included in the new legislation that an "expert commission" from various levels of government in Bosnia decide by 30 September 2006 on the boundaries of the new police districts and other concrete aspects of the reform. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Pero Bukejlovic said that the devil will lie precisely in such details as far as the Bosnian Serbs are concerned. Milan Lazic of the Serbian Radical Party argued that the police reform "is a prelude to the abolition of the Republika Srpska, the Republika Srpska police, and all elements of statehood that we have in Dayton." At the time the peace agreement was concluded 10 years ago, then President Biljana Plavsic and other Bosnian Serb leaders presented it to their voters as a confirmation of statehood for the Republika Srpska. PM

...AS ANOTHER OBSTACLE IS EASED OUT OF THE WAY
The parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina voted on 5 October to approve a law on reforming public broadcasting (PBS), which is another precondition for starting SAA talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Office of the High Representative said in a statement that the move constitutes "significant progress...on PBS reform," adding that "now the respective state and entity governments and parliaments must adopt harmonized legislation regulating one state and two entity broadcasters within the 60 days deadline defined by law." The main obstacle to PBS reform has been the Herzegovinian Croats, who want their own channel in the "Croatian language" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2005). Serbo-Croatian is a single language with dialect differences based on geography rather than ethnicity. Nationalists of each respective group have nonetheless sought to cultivate real or manufactured differences between the dialects. As the smallest of Bosnia's three main ethnic groups, many Croats fear a loss of control over their lives unless they have a legal entity of their own instead of being included in a federation with the Muslims. PM

EX-LEADER OF CROATS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLEMENT
International judges in Sarajevo sentenced Ante Jelavic, who is an ethnic Croat and former member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency, on 6 October to 10 years in prison for embezzling funds sent by Croatia, Hina reported. Judge Malcolm Simmons said that Jelavic will begin serving his sentence at once, with credit for the time he spent in jail from January 2004 to May 2005. Prosecutor John McNair ordered Jelavic's immediate arrest because he failed to appear in court for his sentencing. PM

CROATIAN POLL SHOWS RENEWED SUPPORT FOR EU
Following the recent decision by the EU to start membership talks with Croatia, a poll published in the Zagreb daily "Jutarnji List" on 6 October shows a resurgence of backing for Croatian membership in the Brussels-based block, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). Support for membership rose from around 40 percent before the EU decision to about 63 percent. The daily concluded that "this poll confirms the belief that [earlier] low support for the EU accession was merely a reaction to problems with the Hague war crimes tribunal and to an earlier rebuff by the EU." PM

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL REPORTEDLY SET TO LAUNCH KOSOVA TALKS
Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in Belgrade on 5 October that UN special envoy Kai Eide has submitted his report on possible Kosova status talks to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and that the Security Council is expected to make a decision about it on 24 October, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). Annan said in New York that he is "likely to indicate that we proceed with the status talks," Reuters reported. The study reportedly acknowledges progress made by Kosova's elected institutions in implementing democratic standards while calling on them to do more to protect Serbian and other minorities. In Brussels, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said that the EU should consider taking over responsibility for police affairs in Kosova from the UN (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 16 September 2005). PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTY TO LEAVE PARLIAMENT
The Steering Committee of Serbian President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party announced in Belgrade on 5 October that deputies belonging to that party will not take part in the legislature's work until further notice, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The move follows a decision by the parliament's administrative body to allow two members of the legislature to keep their seats after they left the Democratic Party to join the List For Sandzak, which belongs to the governing coalition. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who is a rival of Tadic, said he regrets the Democrats' decision and urged them to reconsider. Tadic has repeatedly called for new elections on the grounds that polls show that the minority governing coalition has the backing of only 15 percent of the electorate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). PM

EUROPEAN COMMISSION APPOINTS ENVOY TO MOLDOVA
The Moldovan Foreign Ministry on 5 October accredited Cesare De Montis as ambassador and head of the European Commission's delegation to Moldova, BASA reported. De Montis had headed the European Commission country office in Venezuela since 2001. Brussels also has another representative in Chisinau, European Union Special Representative for Moldova Adriaan Jacobovits de Szeged. JM

SYSTEMIC CHANGES IN IRAN COULD WEAKEN ELECTED OFFICIALS, BALANCE GOVERNMENT
The formal decision-making apparatus in the Iranian government has undergone a significant change in the last few days. This change, which gives the unelected Expediency Council supervisory powers over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, has been met with criticism from members of parliament. This development reduces the power of elected officials, but it could also reflect an attempt to restore balance to a system heavily dominated by younger hard-liners.

Mohsen Rezai, secretary of the Expediency Council, was quoted on 2 October by "Sharq" -- as well as "Aftab-i Yazd," "Etemad," "Farhang-i Ashti," and "Hemayat" -- as saying that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently approved the council's oversight of the system's policies. In other words, he said, the council will supervise the three branches of government and report on their performance to the supreme leader.

Rezai said Khamenei wanted the council to perform this function some eight years earlier, but the necessary laws did not exist. About one year ago the council began work on the required statute, under which the heads of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches must comply with whatever the Expediency Council says. Khamenei signed off on this about two months ago, according to Rezai.

"Sharq" cited Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani as saying previously that the Supreme Leader can delegate some of his responsibilities to others (per Article 110 of the constitution), and Rezai said this is what is taking place. Rezai referred specifically to oversight of the system's general policies, the fourth economic-development plan, and the 20-year plan.

This appears to be a significant enhancement of the Expediency Council's powers. When the council was created in February 1988, its primary purpose was to adjudicate in disputes over legislation between the Guardians Council and the parliament. Soon after its creation, it began to frame legislation -- something that ended only after 100 parliamentarians complained to the supreme leader. According to Article 112 of the Iranian Constitution, the council advises the supreme leader, and he consults with it when he wants to revise the constitution.

Some members of parliament were quick to criticize the granting of new powers to the Expediency Council. Tabriz parliamentary representative Akbar Alami warned against making the council a fourth branch of government, "Etemad" and "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 3 October. Alami said the legislature has the lead in national affairs. He cited Articles 6, 56, and 62, which say, respectively, that national affairs must be administered on the basis of elections; the people exercise sovereignty based on the separation of powers; and the people's representatives are elected directly by secret ballot. Alami also cited Articles 71 and 76, which say the legislature can establish laws and the legislature has the right to examine and investigate national affairs. Alami referred to Article 90, which states that an individual can forward a complaint about one of the branches of government to the legislature, and the legislature must investigate this complaint.

On the basis of the constitution, therefore, only the legislature can supervise the legislature, Alami said. "If this process continues, the principle of national sovereignty and its representation through the parliament will be exposed to serious danger," he said.

Another legislator, Reza Talai-Nik of Bahar and Kabudarahang, said that Article 110 only applies to supervision over the system's macro-policies, "Etemad" reported. "It is the responsibility of the Expediency Council to decide to what extent the country is moving within the context of the macro-policies of the system and evaluating those policies," he explained. "However, this does not mean supervision over executive affairs. Supervising the executive affairs is part of the responsibilities of the legislative power."

The Expediency Council, which Hashemi-Rafsanjani has chaired for approximately 15 years, is a vehicle for his political influence and power. But some observers believe that Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khamenei are political competitors, and that Khamenei threw his weight behind Hashemi-Rafsanjani's adversary in the June 2005 presidential race. This most recent development argues against this interpretation of power relationships in Iran. Nor is this the first time Khamenei has granted significant power to the Expediency Council. In August 2001, for example, Khamenei had the Expediency Council determine the circumstances under which President Mohammad Khatami could be inaugurated.

Perhaps the greater significance of the Expediency Council's new powers is that it is another case in which an unelected institution has been given power over elected ones. Moreover, it could reflect an effort to restore some sort of balance to the country's politics, in which hard-liners have come to dominate the executive and legislative branches.

AFGHAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS KABUL WANTS NEO-TALIBAN SPOKESMAN EXTRADITED
In an interview with Paris-based LCI TV on 5 October, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country will ask Pakistan to extradite purported neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi (also known as Abdul Latif Hakimi) to Afghanistan. Karzai said Afghanistan wants to try Hakimi, adding that his government is "very happy to see that Pakistani authorities have arrested" the neo-Taliban's main spokesman "who is responsible for so many atrocities in Afghanistan." Karzai was in Paris as part of an official visit to France (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2005). AT

NEO-TALIBAN SOURCE DOWNPLAYS ARREST OF SPOKESMAN IN PAKISTAN...
A senior neo-Taliban representative said on 5 October that the arrest of spokesman Hakimi is not important to the movement, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. "Yes, with sadness I should say that Hakimi has been arrested," the source said, speaking from an undisclosed location. "However, you know that he was the Taliban's civilian spokesman. The news is not as important as the press has made it out to be. We can easily find someone else to replace him." On 4 October, Pakistan arrested the main public voice of the neo-Taliban since 2004 in a move that has been lauded by Kabul and Islamabad as a prelude to more arrests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). AT

...WHILE NEWS AGENCY LAMENTS LOSS OF ACCESS TO NEO-TALIBAN...
Commenting on Hakimi's arrest, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) wrote on 5 October that while the arrest is part of "the war against the Taliban, there is no doubt that" Hakimi "had been regularly providing journalists with information." After Hakimi's arrest, "journalists will face difficulties" and the public will remain uniformed about the activities of the neo-Taliban, AIP added. With the absence of Hakimi from the scene, AIP predicted, there "will be no official Taliban stance regarding developments" and information on their activities will be available only "from Afghan and American sources." Evidently confident of Hakimi's credentials, the AIP predicted that "unknown people, calling themselves Taliban spokesmen, will now contact the media," leading to "questions and doubt among journalists." AIP expressed doubt that the neo-Taliban will be able to appoint any credible spokesman soon. Prior to becoming bolder and speaking to many news agencies, Hakimi first came to the media scene mainly by providing interviews with AIP (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 15 August 2005). AT

SUICIDE ATTACKER TARGETS CANADIAN TROOPS, KILLS AFGHAN CHILD
A suicide bomber in a pickup truck apparently targeting a convoy of Canadian troops in Kandahar Province blew up near a tractor, injuring its driver and killing a young Afghan boy, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 5 October, quoting Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khaled. Several Canadian troops sustained minor injuries, Canadian Colonel Steve Bowes said, according to a 5 October report by Canadian Press. The pickup truck was passing the Canadian military convoy when it made a sudden U-turn and detonated an explosive, Bowes added. The attacker died. Khaled said he suspects that either the neo-Taliban or Al-Qaeda was behind the attack, which he said is under investigation. Canada recently took command of a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Kandahar. The suicide attack in Kandahar follows another suicide attack in Kabul in late September in which at least nine Afghan National Army (ANA) recruits were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). AT

JUDGE IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN REPORTEDLY ASSAULTS TWO WOMEN
A judge in the Rustaq district of Takhar Province reportedly beat up two women who appeared before him to demand their inheritance rights, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 5 October. The women, identified as residents of Tolki village, claimed that they appealed to a local court to seek inheritance rights that had been taken away from them by "powerful people" in the area. They claimed the judge insulted them and then beat them up. The women have claimed that the judge favors the same people who have seized their inheritance rights. AT

U.S. REITERATES CONCERN ABOUT IRANIAN PURSUIT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack said at a 4 October press briefing that Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, Radio Farda reported. McCormack dismissed Tehran's claims that it only seeks the peaceful use of nuclear energy, saying its "objective is to pursue nuclear weapons." BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE IS OPEN TO NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS...
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in a 5 October assessment of the first 38 days of his presidency that Iran is not opposed to negotiations on the nuclear issue, state television reported. However, he added, Iran will not accept negotiations that are meant to deprive Iranians of their rights. Ahmadinejad said European countries other than the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) have shown an interest in discussing the nuclear issue with Iran, and these proposals are under review. Turning to the country's foreign policy in general, Ahmadinejad said Iranian diplomats defend the country's rights confidently. BS

...AND DISMISSES STOCK-MARKET FLUCTUATIONS
Turning to economic affairs and the stock market, President Ahmadinejad said market fluctuations can be controlled because 80 percent of the issues belong to state entities, state television reported on 5 October. Hussein Abdoh-Tabrizi, secretary-general of the stock exchange, referred to a crisis in the market, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 5 October. Abdoh-Tabrizi said uncertainty over the nuclear issue undermines investor confidence. He also said the government and the exchange are trying to determine how to support the stock market, and added that offering shares in state enterprises is one way to motivate prospective investors. Moderation and Progress Party Secretary-General Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said problems in the stock market are connected with an unclear economic future, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 5 October. The government should stop repeating slogans and offer a solution, Nobakht said. In the 2 October legislative session, Lahijan representative Iraj Nadimi called on the economy minister to explore the political roots of the stock-market slump and take action, "Resalat" reported on 3 October. BS

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS SOUTHERN NEIGHBORS
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki is visiting Iran's southern Persian Gulf neighbors, regional news agencies reported on 3-5 October. He arrived in Kuwait City on 3 October and was received by Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah. He also met with National Assembly speaker Jasim al-Kharafi. On 4 October, Mottaki arrived in Manama, Bahrain, and was greeted at the airport by his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khalifa. He later met with King Hamad Bin Issa al-Khalifa, Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa. On 5 October, Mottaki arrived in Muscat, Oman, and was greeted by Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi. Mottaki arrived in the city of Al-Ain, which is 140 kilometers from the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, on the evening of 5 October. The main topic of discussion during all the visits was the nuclear issue, as well as Iraq and Palestine. Mottaki was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, but an anonymous Iranian Foreign Ministry official told IRNA on 5 October the trip has been postponed, although he did not give a reason. BS

IRAQI PRESIDENT: NO IRANIAN INTERFERENCE
In an RFE/RL interview in Prague on 5 October, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani dismissed the possibility of Iraqi Shi'a Muslims being loyal to Iran, Radio Farda reported. Talabani said the Shi'a brethren are Iraqi and Arab, and the Shi'a "Vatican" is in Al-Najaf and Karbala. From the day Saddam Hussein was deposed, Talabani said, no hostility or interference on the part of Iran has been seen. Turning to the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), an armed Iranian opposition group identified as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Talabani said the MKO is the only Iranian group that cooperated with Hussein's regime against the Iraqi people, Radio Farda reported. However, he added, the MKO's current situation is not problematic. BS

SUICIDE CAR BOMBER STRIKES IRAQI MOSQUE DURING RAMADAN PRAYERS
A suicide car bomber attacked a mosque in central Iraq on 5 October, killing at least 26 worshipers and wounding 87 others, international news agencies reported the same day. The attack in Al-Hillah, a predominantly Shi'ite town 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, took place at dusk at the start of the holy month of Ramadan as Shi'ite faithful gathered for prayers. The incident also came less than a week after a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Al-Hillah (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005). BW

IRAQI PARLIAMENT REVERSES CONTROVERSIAL REFERENDUM CHANGES
The Shi'a- and Kurd-dominated National Assembly on 5 October reversed controversial changes the parliament made recently to the Transitional Administrative Law that would have made it more difficult for voters in the mid-October referendum to reject the draft constitution, international news agencies reported the same day. The initial changes would have meant the draft constitution could only be defeated if two-thirds of all registered voters -- rather than two-thirds of those casting ballots -- in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces opposed it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 October 2005). The reversal by the National Assembly came following pressure from the United Nations and the United States, and amid threats of a Sunni boycott. Rejection will now require opposition by more than half of those who vote in the 15 October referendum or "no" votes from two-thirds of participating voters in at least three provinces. BW

SUNNIS THREATEN BOYCOTT IF U.S. OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN WESTERN IRAQ
Sunni leaders have threatened to boycott this month's constitutional referendum unless U.S. troops halt their offensive in western Iraq, Reuters reported on 5 October. "If U.S. forces keep attacking Sunni cities, then in three or four days' time, we will announce a boycott of the referendum," said Saleh al-Mutlak of the Sunni National Dialogue Council. American forces have been targeting Al-Qaeda militants in Qaim, Al-Haditha, and other predominantly Sunni towns in western Iraq's Anbar province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 September and 4 October 2005). People from the area have complained that civilians are suffering as a result of the U.S. bombings. "We are comfortable with parliament's decision [on the referendum], but if the Americans keep carrying out their offensives in these cities and attacking civilians then we will boycott the referendum," said Hussein al-Falluji, a Sunni politician. BW

VIDEO SHOWS INSURGENTS BEHEADING IRAQI 'SPIES'
An Iraqi insurgent group on 5 October posted video of the beheading of two Iraqis whom it accused of being spies for the United States, Reuters reported the same day. The footage, issued by the Army of Ansar Al-Sunna, was dated 12 September and was the first to show a beheading since January, Reuters reported. "I work with American and Jewish spies against the mujahedin and today I fell into the hands of the mujahedin," one of the captives, identified as Shakir Mahmud Jassim, is shown saying. "Everyone who works with the Americans and Jews should leave their job. I advise everyone to join the jihad," he adds. The second man, identified as Riyadh Najm Abdalla, is shown saying he worked as a security guard and informed on Saudi insurgents in the Baghdad area. After being questioned, the men are taken outdoors and beheaded. BW

U.K. OFFICIAL ACCUSES IRAN OF SUPPORTING MILITANTS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ
An unnamed U.K. official accused Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) of supplying weapons to Shi'ite militias in Iraq, international news agencies reported on 5 October. Reuters quoted an unidentified U.K. official as saying that recent attacks on British troops in southern Iraq appear to have been carried out by a splinter group of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. The militants "were using technically advanced equipment that had previously been used by Lebanese Hizballah, and they are linked with Iran," the official said. "Therefore there was some indication that Iran was linked to those attacks." The source cited armor-piercing explosives and infrared control mechanisms as examples of the advanced equipment. "Iranian links to militant groups are unacceptable and undermine Iran's long-term interest in a secure, stable, and democratic Iraq," Reuters quoted an unidentified British Foreign Office spokesman as saying. Tehran subsequently denied the allegations. "This is a lie. The British are the cause of instability and crisis in Iraq. By drafting such scenarios they are trying to find a partner in their crimes," Hamid Reza-Asefi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on Iranian television in remarks reported by the BBC on 5 October. "From the very beginning, we have stated our position very clearly - a stable Iraq is in our interests and that is what the Iraqi authorities have said themselves on many occasions," he added. BW

U.S. PRESIDENT PRAISES IRAQI FORCES
U.S. President George W. Bush on 5 October praised what he called the growing role of Iraqi troops in fighting insurgents, international news agencies reported the same day. "Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations. We've got troops embedded with them, and that's an important part of the training mission. But nevertheless, the Iraqis are showing more and more capability to take the fight to the enemy," Bush said. "And as they become more capable, we'll be able to bring folks home with the honor they've earned." On 29 September, General George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, and General John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, told the U.S. Senate that just one of Iraq's 120 police and army battalions is able to operate without help from U.S. forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005). Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus said that more than 36 of these units can take a lead role in battling insurgents, with Americans assisting, Reuters reported on 5 October. BW

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