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Newsline - October 7, 2005


PUTIN LINES UP CENTRAL ASIAN ALLIES...
President Vladimir Putin began on 6 October in St. Petersburg a closed-door summit with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Russian media reported. Putin announced that the Central Asian members of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) -- which is comprised of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- decided to merge the Central Asian Cooperation Organization -- which also includes Russia and Uzbekistan -- with the EEC and that Russia approved of this decision, RTR reported. Commenting on the decision, Andrei Grozin, the head of the CIS Institute's Central Asia department, said that behind the reorganization stands the desire of Moscow and its Central Asian allies to support Uzbek President Karimov in his confrontation with the West after the suppression of unrest in Andijon in May, infonews.ru reported on 6 October. Grozin noted that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will arrive in Central Asia on 10 October and that this visit "casts an invisible shadow on all decisions made at the summit in St. Petersburg." VY

...AS EXPERT CALLS FOR SUPPORTING UZBEK PRESIDENT
CIS Institute Deputy Director Vladimir Zharikhin said on 6 October that Russia should back Uzbek President Karimov in light of his decision to evict the United States from the Karshi-Khanabad air base, TV-Tsentr reported on 6 October. Zharikhin also expressed support for Gazprom's plans to invest about $1 billion in Uzbekistan's economy and said that China also extended $800 million in economic aid to Tashkent. In this context, the recent decision by the U.S. Congress to suspend payments for the U.S. base in Uzbekistan is not so painful, Zharikhin noted. Meanwhile, President Putin tried to convince Tajik President Rakhmonov during the meeting in Moscow on 6 October to not allow U.S. bases in his country, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 October. VY

U.S. ATTORNEY IN MOSCOW TO DISCUSS FATE OF FORMER MINISTER
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan arrived in Moscow with a small team of FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents on 4 October for confidential talks with their Russian counterparts on the case of former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" reported on 5 October and Russian media on 6 October. "We are discussing various aspects of the case, but cannot disclose the specific nature of the meeting," Buchanan told the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." The Prosecutor-General's Office also declined comment, Interfax reported. On 5 October, Buchanan discussed the Adamov case with Foreign Ministry officials, RIA-Novosti reported. The Foreign Ministry informed Buchanan about Russia's position that Adamov should be extradited as soon as possible to Russia. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn rejected speculation in the Russian media that the United States is seeking Adamov's extradition to learn about Russian nuclear technology transfers to other countries, "The Moscow Times" reported on 6 October. "It is a criminal, not an intelligence, matter and it is very important that there is no spillover to intelligence," Nunn said. VY

POLICE SEARCH KHODORKOVSKII'S NGO
Aleksandr Osovtsev, the director of the Open Russia foundation, which is sponsored by jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii, said on 6 October that earlier that day officers of the Prosecutor-General's Office searched his organization's offices and confiscated documents, Ekho Moskvy reported. Osovtsev said that he believes the search is linked to the desire to put a stop to his organization's functioning and Khodorkovskii's charity activity. Meanwhile, on 6 October officers of the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office continued searches of offices and banks linked to Yukos, RTR reported. According to Sergei Meshcheryakov, the head of the Interior Ministry's Economic Security Department, it is planning probes of companies suspected of laundering of illegally acquired funds, RTR reported. VY

LITHUANIA RELEASES RUSSIAN PILOT
Valerii Troyanov, the pilot of the Russian Su-27 that crashed on 15 September near Kaunas, was returned to Russia on 6 October after Russian diplomats in Vilnius completed with Lithuanian authorities all formalities linked to Troyanov's "illegal entrance" into Lithuania, RosBalt and other media reported. The aircraft wreckage will stay in Lithuania for now as material evidence, RosBalt reported. Speaking at a press conference in Vilnius, Troyanov said that Lithuania treated him correctly. The main question, however, remains the fate of the top-secret "friend or foe" recognition code, RosBalt noted. While the Lithuanian military have said they found it, Russian officials categorically deny the possibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). VY

GOVERNOR SAYS MOSCOW WITHHOLDS FEDERAL MONEY FROM DISLOYAL REGIONS
"Vedomosti" reported on 6 October that Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn convinced deputies in the oblast legislature to cancel an inquiry to the Constitutional Court by arguing that federal authorities threatened to punish the region by withholding funds for projects. The deputies had voted recently to send an inquiry to the court challenging the constitutionality of the law abolishing gubernatorial elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). Lisitsyn made the comments in an interview with Yaroslavl State Television and Radio Company. The daily commented that "judging by Lisitsyn's words, it is possible to complain [to the court] only if one is not counting on any financial help from the center." It also noted that for many years the Finance Ministry worked on special methods of calculating financial assistance that would fully avoid any interference in the process of the so-called "human factor." But now a significant amount of money is distributed not through government methods but, for example, through special presidential programs, connected to "priority national projects." JAC

LATVIAN CONSULATE IN ST. PETERSBURG EXPERIENCES THIRD ATTACK THIS YEAR
Unknown persons threw paint at the consulate buildings of Latvia and Lithuania in St. Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported on 6 October. According to Regnum, bottles with green paint and pamphlets with anti-Latvian statements were found on the scene. According to NTV, the Lithuanian Consulate experienced a similar attack. A 14-year-old boy has been detained on suspicion of involvement in the incidents. Latvia's Foreign Ministry has said that it intends to raise at the international level Russia's inability to guarantee the security of foreign diplomatic missions. According to fontanka.ru, this is not the first incident involving the Latvian Consulate. On 22 June, two unknown people fired paintballs at the building in the middle of the night, and on 5 March, two bottles with paint were again thrown at the building. JAC

FEMALE LAWYER WITH NO JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE PICKED FOR TOP COURT SPOT
The Federation Council confirmed on 5 October Yelena Valyavina for the post of first deputy chairman of the Higher Arbitration Court, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 October. According to the daily, Valyavina graduated from President Putin's alma mater, the law school at Leningrad State University, and in 1994 she was a specialist for the housing committee of the St. Petersburg mayoral administration, where Putin was also working at the time. Valyavina is also a classmate of presidential-administration head Dmitrii Medvedev and worked with the current chairman of the court, Anton Ivanov, in St. Petersburg's Justice Department at the end of the 1990s. Like Ivanov, Valyavina also had no prior experience as a judge before being appointed to the Higher Arbitration Court. Dmitrii Fursov, deputy chairman of Moscow Oblast's Arbitration Court, is challenging Valyavina's appointment in court, arguing that he won a competition for the position. Fursov has 10 years' experience on the court and a Ph.D. in jurisprudence. JAC

PRESSURE ON NGOS IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD RATCHETS UP
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's prosecutor has sent a criminal case against Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship Director Stanislav Dmitrevskii on suspicion of enflaming nationalistic enmity and nonpayment of taxes, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 6 October. The same day, human rights activists from the Civil Assistance Committee organized a picket in support of Dmitrevskii's organization in front of the Federal Tax Service building in Moscow. Organizers believe that authorities in Nizhnii Novgorod are conducting a deliberate campaign against nongovernmental organizations. In an interview with gazeta.ru in June, Nizhnii Novgorod Human Rights Society Chairman Viktor Gurskii charged that after enjoying good relations with local authorities for the past 12 years, his organization and his group's sister organization, the Society for Russian-Chechen Friendship, has been experiencing problems and that the local branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has been conducting operations against them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBER SWITCHES SEATS
Sakhalin Oblast's legislative assembly voted on 6 October to confirm Boris Agapov as the oblast governor's representative to the Federation Council, strana.ru reported. Agapov most recently served as the representative for Altai Republic Governor Mikhail Lapshin, who recently learned that he will not be reappointed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2005). Agapov is from Turkmenistan and worked for the KGB for 30 years before serving as vice president of Ingushetia in the mid-1990s. JAC

CHECHEN OFFICIAL DEPLORES ACQUITTAL OF RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN
In a repeat trial, the North Caucasus Military District Court acquitted on 6 October two Russian servicemen accused of murdering three Chechen construction workers in January 2003, Interfax reported. The jury accepted the evidence that the three Chechens were murdered, but concluded that the presence of the accused at the scene of the killings was not proven. The two Russians were acquitted in a jury trial in June 2004, but the Military Panel of the Russian Supreme Court overturned that verdict and ordered a retrial. In Grozny, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov criticized the acquittal and suggested that the accused may have succeeded in suborning witnesses, Interfax reported. Kadyrov said he hopes the verdict will be reversed. LF

ARMENIAN COALITION SEEKS TO MUSTER SUPPORT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
The three parties aligned in the ruling coalition have established a headquarters to coordinate the campaign to persuade voters to approve its constitutional amendments in the 27 November nationwide referendum, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. It is not clear, however, whether one individual will be named to head that campaign, or whether all three parties will do so collectively. Levon Mkrtchian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun said the coalition will co-opt prominent intellectuals to explain the importance of the proposed changes to the electorate in the hope of overcoming voter apathy. To pass, the changes must be approved by no less than one-third of Armenia's 2.4 million registered voters. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES TIGHTER GUN-CONTROL SCREENING
Andranik Markarian told journalists on 6 October that he has asked police to screen more stringently government officials to whom he plans to present firearms as gifts in recognition of their services, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Markarian is believed to have presented guns to up to 500 people, one of whom, Nor Hajn Mayor Armen Keshishian, used the weapon in question to shoot dead a rival candidate in the 9 October mayoral election in that town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2005). Markarian defended the practice of awarding handguns, saying, "I don't give anyone such presents until the police check the origin of a weapon and the identity and credibility of the recipient." LF

EU WARNS AZERBAIJAN
Addressing the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on 5 October, European Union Foreign Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner warned that unless the Azerbaijani government abandons its policy of cultivating ties with the unrecognized Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, it risks being excluded from the imminent talks with South Caucasus states on closer cooperation within the EU's European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), an RFE/RL correspondent and the online daily zerkalo.az reported on 5 and 7 October, respectively. Ferrero-Waldner expressed the hope that Azerbaijan will "find a solution" to the problem, but admitted that doing so may take several weeks and that "I cannot let [Armenia and Georgia] wait" until Azerbaijan takes action. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry official Tahir Tagizade told zerkalo.az that Baku has not yet received any official communication from Brussels regarding its participation in the ENP. He added that the decision to schedule flights between Baku and northern Cyprus is a purely commercial one. LF

BAKU AUTHORITIES WITHHOLD PERMISSION FOR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION RALLIES...
The Baku municipal authorities have rejected a request from the opposition Azadlyq election bloc to hold election rallies at several venues in the city center on 9 October, echo-az.com reported on 7 October. Municipal official Zaur Ramazanov said the opposition has been given a choice of five venues to hold a rally. He implied that Azadlyq is acting irrationally in rejecting those venues and insisting on the right to rally on a central square that accommodates fewer people. Azadlyq argues that the venues offered are too distant from the city center. Presidential-administration official Ali Hasanov for his part told APA news agency that the Azerbaijani leadership "honors" the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of assembly, day.az reported on 7 October. Azadlyq election campaign manager Panah Huseinov said on 6 October that the bloc will make a final decision on 7 October on the route for the 9 October march and subsequent rally. LF

...AS AZERBAIJANI LEADERSHIP SETS CONDITIONS FOR RESUMPTION OF DIALOGUE
Presidential-administration official Hasanov issued a statement on 6 October in response to a U.S. State Department communique the previous day urging the resumption of dialogue between the Azerbaijani authorities and the opposition, zerkalo.az reported on 7 October. Hasanov said the authorities "have never refused" to engage in dialogue, and are prepared to embark on such a dialogue today. Any dialogue is impossible, however, if the opposition insists on going ahead with "unauthorized meetings," Hasanov added. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS SOUTH OSSETIA WITH OSCE
Former Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairman in office's special representative for Georgia, met in Tbilisi on 6 October with senior Georgian officials to discuss the tensions generated by the 20 September mortar attack on Tskhinvali, capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Georgian media reported. Geoana expressed support for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's proposals for resolving the decade-old conflict (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 24 September 2004 and 28 January 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005), and he advocated joint monitoring of the Roki tunnel linking South Ossetia with the Russian Federation. Such monitoring would preclude Russian shipments of weaponry to South Ossetia. Georgian parliamentary deputy speaker Mikheil Machavariani said that Russia should officially respond to Saakashvili's peace initiative, Caucasus Press reported. Meanwhile, Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili told the Georgian parliament on 6 October that the Georgian leadership is working on, and will unveil by the end of this year, a "road map" for resolving the conflict by the end of 2006, kavkazweb.net reported, citing segodnia.ru. Zourabichvili also told parliamentary deputies that her talks with Russian officials have left her with the impression that Moscow "is not ready to play a positive role" with regard to resolving conflicts in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES POLICE VIOLENCE
President Saakashvili told journalists on 6 October he believes the police acted appropriately when they resorted to violence and fired shots into the air on 6 October to disperse Armenian protesters in the southern town of Akhalkalaki, rustavi2.com reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). Saakashvili said, "our police operate well wherever they are needed," and he accused unnamed "forces" of trying to escalate tensions. Goga Khachidze, governor of the Samtskhe-Djavakheti region that includes Akhalkalaki, attributed the protest to popular indignation at a tax inspection of Armenian-owned stores. He said due to tax evasion, the town has failed to meet tax-revenue targets for the past three years. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO SELL URANIUM TO JAPAN
A spokesman for Japan's Itochu Corporation, Yasuhiko Takahashi, announced on 5 October that the company concluded a deal for the purchase of 3,000 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan's national nuclear group, Interfax reported. The deal with the Kazakh state-owned Kazatomprom group will cover a 10-year period, although details of the price were not released. The agreement follows the July 2004 announcement by Kazatomprom that it plans to triple uranium production to 10,000 tons annually by 2010 (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 13 July 2004). Kazatomprom was founded in 1997 and holds the monopoly on the handling, management, and sale of all uranium in Kazakhstan. RG

FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIER TO FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES
The Kyrgyz Prosecutor General's Office announced on 6 October that criminal charges are to be brought against former Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev for abuse of power and corruption, AKIpress reported. Tanaev is to be formally charged with using his official position to create a virtual monopoly on building and renovation work for a construction firm owned by his son. He will also face additional charges of corruption, stemming from allegations that he embezzled $35,000 from the state budget and misused another $120,000 in state funds. Prosecutors further contend that Tanaev diverted $200,000 from the accounts of the Kyrgyz Embassy in Beijing to a prime minister's reserve fund, from where they were transferred to accounts of a charity, headed by Mayram Akaeva, the wife of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. Tanaev initially fled the country following Akaev's March ouster, but remains under house arrest in Bishkek following his recent return to Kyrgyzstan to face the pending criminal charges (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 23 September 2005). RG

FORMER KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OPENS POLITICAL CONGRESS
Azimbek Beknazarov addressed on 6 October an opening party congress of the "Kyrgyzstan" political movement in Bishkek, AKIpress reported. The presence of Beknazarov at the Kyrgyzstan movement party congress, formerly known as the National Movement of Kyrgyzstan, suggests that he may agree to become the party's candidate for a seat in the parliamentary elections representing his native Aksy District. President Kurmanbek Bakiev dismissed Beknazarov as prosecutor-general for incompetence, though he suggested that there might still be a place in government for Beknazarov (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 30 September 2005). In the wake of his dismissal, a large number of demonstrators staged rallies in September in support of him in Aksy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 September 2005). RG

SECURITY FORCES ARREST 'EXTREMIST GROUP' IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN
Tajik security forces arrested a "large extremist group" on 6 October in northern Tajikistan, Asia-Plus and ITAR-TASS reported. According to Asadullo Urunov, a senior official with the Tajik Prosecutor's Office in Sogdi, the seven-member group is led by Sayedmashkhud Ikromov, a television newscaster suspected of having close links to Murod Rustamov, a prominent activist of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Ikromov is also accused of leading a secret cell of the Hizb ut-Tahrir group. The eight detainees are accused of "organizing a criminal community" and planning the "forcible overthrow of state power." Urunov added that the security forces also seized several hundred copies of antigovernment proclamations, Islamist audio- and videocassettes, and various equipment and supplies from the Middle East. A special task force comprised of officers from the Interior and Defense ministries is leading the investigation in the region. RG

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES REGIONAL GOVERNORS...
During a cabinet meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov dismissed two regional governors on 6 October for "abuse of power" and for the slow pace of the cotton harvest, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov fired the governors of the Lebap and Mary regions, Geday Ahmedow and Annaguly Jumagylyjow, but appointed Ahmedow as the new governor for the Altyn Asyr district, describing it as a "chance for him to correct his mistakes." Niyazov further named Owezdurdy Casayew as the new governor of the Lebap region, and promoted Hojaberdi Basimow, the mayor of Mary, to the post of governor of the Mary region. Both appointments were provisional, and limited to a six-month probation period. Niyazov also dismissed dozens of unnamed local district governors for "poor management" and other alleged crimes including embezzlement and bribery, according to Turkmen TV. The dismissals come in the wake of Niyazov's recent criticism of the regional officials for problems with the cotton harvest, and follow the firing of Akhal Governor Murad Atagarriev for "nepotism, bribery, polygamy, and drug addiction" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 September 2005). RG

...AND ANNOUNCES SWEEPING AMNESTY FOR CONVICTS
After a series of dismissals of regional officials during an Ashgabat cabinet meeting on 6 October, Turkmen President Niyazov announced a sudden amnesty for roughly two-thirds of the country's prisoners, Turkmen TV reported. Explaining his sweeping amnesty, Niyazov said that "at present, there are 12,282 convicts serving their terms in our prisons and 8,145 of them, who have repented, will be freed." He added that the pardon would "mean that only 4,200 of them will remain in prison cells" and called on his ministers "not to increase their numbers any more." Closing the cabinet meeting, Niyazov praised recent figures showing a sizable increase in gross domestic product and reporting an influx of $1 billion in new revenue from oil and natural gas exports. RG

U.S. OFFICIAL MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT
Arriving in Ashgabat from Tajikistan, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph met on 5 October with Turkmen President Niyazov, Turkmen TV reported. Following the meeting, Joseph told Turkmen journalists that he "had a very good discussion" with Niyazov on "a wide range of issues," but cited the need for progress in "human rights and democracy, as well as market reforms." Joseph further reiterated Washington's recognition of Turkmenistan's cooperative role in the global war on terror and cited bilateral cooperation in the areas of border security and counterproliferation. RG

UZBEK PRESIDENT CRITICIZES REGIONAL LEADERS FOR LACK OF COOPERATION
Uzbek President Islam Karimov criticized other Central Asian leaders on 6 October for the lack of regional cooperation, Uzbek TV reported. Speaking prior to his departure for a Moscow summit meeting of the Central Asian Cooperation Organization, Karimov said that although "some work is being done" to strengthen regional cooperation, "it is a great pity" that "we fail to achieve our goals and expectations." RG

MINSK WARNS BRUSSELS AGAINST IMPOSING ECONOMIC SANCTIONS
Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau told journalists in Minsk on 6 October that the imposition by the EU of economic sanctions against Belarus would tarnish the union's image in the eyes of Belarusians, Belapan reported. "[The EU leaders] should seriously consider whether they are interested in causing damage to the general public in Belarus with their activities and what impact it would have on attitudes toward the European Union," Martynau added. Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that calls for expanding the visa-ban list of Belarusian officials and for the freezing of assets of Belarusian authorities abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005). In August, the European Commission launched a procedure for suspending Belarus's benefits under the EU's Generalized System of Preferences (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2005). According to official Belarusian data, Belarus's exports to EU countries in 2004 amounted to $5 billion, or 37.6 percent of their total volume that year. JM

BRUSSELS URGES KYIV TO PUSH AHEAD WITH REFORMS
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov in Brussels on 6 October that Ukraine should stop talking about joining the EU and focus on pushing the political and economic reforms needed to bring itself closer to Europe, Reuters reported. "Our door remains open," Barroso said. "The future of Ukraine is in Europe. The best way to achieve it is not to discuss all the time European Union membership but to achieve concrete results, pragmatic results." Barroso added that the March 2006 parliamentary elections will be a "very important test for the credibility of all the democratic processes in Ukraine." Speaking at an investment forum in Brussels later the same day, Yekhanurov promised to create favorable conditions for foreign investors in Ukraine. Yekhanurov stressed that "speculations about reprivatization in Ukraine have been brought to an end," adding that dubious privatization deals will be viewed exclusively by courts, according to ITAR-TASS. "The state will be paid the real price for the underestimated facilities through amicable deals, but not a single effective holder will be harmed," Yekhanurov said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ABOUT WTO MEMBERSHIP
Speaking to an investment forum in Lviv in western Ukraine on 6 October, President Viktor Yushchenko said he believes Ukraine will win market-economy status from the European Union by the end of the year and join the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. "The simplest of objectives in the months to come must be securing market-economy status and doing away with antidumping legal cases which have closed off markets to us," Reuters quoted Yushchenko as saying. "This is our first task and it must be accomplished this year no matter what. The second task is the World Trade Organization. I will do everything to complete this second step so that Ukraine joins the WTO in December." Speaking to a rally of some 20,000 in front of the opera theater in Lviv later the same day, Yushchenko said the dismissal of Yuliya Tymoshenko's cabinet and National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko on 8 September was the only decision he could make under the circumstances "with a clear conscience," Interfax-Ukraine reported. JM

UKRAINIAN MINISTER THREATENS RESIGNATION OVER IMMUNITY LAW FOR LOCAL DEPUTIES
Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told Ukrainian journalists on 6 October that he may step down if the Constitutional Court fails to cancel the law granting immunity from prosecution to local-council deputies, Interfax-Ukraine reported. President Viktor Yushchenko signed the relevant bill on 5 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2006), but simultaneously declared that he will ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the law is in line with the country's constitution. JM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO REPORTEDLY SACKS CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF
Serbia and Montenegro's Supreme Defense Council decided in Belgrade on 6 October to retire General Dragan Paskas as chief of the army's General Staff and replace him with General Ljubisa Jokic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported, citing Beta. The Montenegrin authorities demanded Paskas's removal because of his role in the recent use of a military helicopter on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which is seek as a bitter foe of Montenegrin independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 August 2005). PM

HAGUE FREES SERBIAN GENERAL PENDING TRIAL
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 6 October allowed former Serbian police General Sreten Lukic to go home pending his trial for atrocities in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Lukic went to The Hague voluntarily in April 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 April 2005). PM

MONTENEGRIN POLICE REJECT CHARGE OF INVOLVEMENT IN KILLING
Zoran Scekic, who is the brother of recently slain top police official Slavoljub Scekic, said in Podgorica on 6 October that he has proof that unnamed individuals from the secret police were involved in his brother's killing, Beta reported. He added that the Scekic family is angry that the killers have not been found and has given the authorities a deadline of 15 October by which to find them. It is not clear what Scekic intends to do if they do not. On 7 October, Montenegro's National Security Agency (ANB) announced that it will file legal charges against Scekic for slander. PM

EU DIPLOMAT DEFENDS ROLE FOR SERBIA IN KOSOVA SETTLEMENT
Austria's Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 7 October that the situation regarding the final status of Kosova remains problematic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 June 2004 and 21 January 2005). "There is no clear position on the side of EU about what to do with Kosovo. I think there is also a problem...in Belgrade because...[the] kind of autonomy [they offer] is not enough. [Similarly], the Kosovars are convinced that they are already independent, but that also will not be possible," Busek said. He stressed that the international community must bring the two sides to a compromise and called for the "Europeanization" of the province, meaning a greater role for the EU. Busek noted nonetheless that Washington has a better idea of what it wants for Kosova than Brussels does. Although most Kosovar Albanians feel that Belgrade lost all claim to Kosova because of its "ethnic cleansing" campaign in 1998-99, Busek says that Serbia must be involved in a settlement. "Belgrade has a key role because [the eventual solution] should be more or less acceptable to Belgrade. The problem is that the [Serbian] government is not the [most stable] and the political parties are trying to [exploit the issue of Kosova for political gain]...in a very brutal way." PM

BOSNIA HONORS ITS FIRST PRESIDENT
Sulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency, announced in Sarajevo on 6 October that the authorities will mark the upcoming second anniversary of the death of President Alija Izetbegovic by naming Sarajevo airport after him, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Sarajevo's central Liberation Square will be renamed Liberation Square -- Alija Izetbegovic, Tihic added. Izetbegovic was Bosnia's first president and the founder of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), to which Tihic also belongs (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 November 2003). Under communist rule, he spent several years in prison on questionable charges of "Islamic fundamentalism." PM

CROATIA ARRESTS JOURNALIST WANTED BY HAGUE TRIBUNAL
Croatian police arrested journalist Josip Jovic at his flat in Split on 6 October as he was giving an interview to Croatian Television, Hina reported. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal had issued an arrest warrant for Jovic of the daily "Slobodna Dalmacija" and Marijan Krizic of the weekly "Hrvatsko slovo" because they published the name of a witness in the case against Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic for war crimes in central Bosnia's Lasva Valley between 1992 and 1994 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 August 2004, and 13 September 2005). Jovic told journalists at the time of his arrest that he fears he will be sent to The Hague. "Based on what is happening to me, I can only conclude that we do not live in a democratic but in a Stalinist state, which has the laws of the Inquisition and allows for the persecution of uncomfortable journalists," he said. PM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT VOWS NOT TO 'SURRENDER' TO RUSSIA
President Vladimir Voronin said in an interview with the BBC on 4 October that Moldova will not "surrender" to Russia despite all the economic blockades Moscow may impose on the country. "I officially declare that Moldova is prepared to survive without our wine exports to Russia," the BBC website in Romanian quoted Voronin as saying. "This will be difficult [but] we are prepared to live in cold, to freeze without gas from Russia, if they increase its price or disconnect it completely. We will not surrender anything of our motherland's territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence, no matter what this would cost us." JM

IS BOSNIA FINALLY ON THE PATH TO THE EU?
The Bosnian Serb legislature has finally removed the last serious obstacle to Bosnia-Herzegovina's building formal ties to the EU. Problems and ambiguities nonetheless remain, and the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

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. 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 (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 nonethnic lines and without regard for entity boundaries. 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.

Following the Bosnian Serbs' decision on police reform, 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." 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. EU diplomats in Sarajevo nonetheless hinted that a recommendation on talks could come from Brussels before the end of 2005. 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."

Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic was quick to take credit for the parliamentary vote, saying that his entity can no longer be called a "factor...obstructing Bosnia's path to Europe." But 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.

The parliamentary vote may still not mean smooth sailing for police reform or Bosnia's integration with the EU, however. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service said in a commentary that the country's leaders already missed the boat for SAA talks earlier in the week by not passing reform legislation before then. By this is meant not only a decision on police reform by the parliament in Banja Luka, but also a vote by the central legislature on public broadcasting (see below) and on military reform, even though the latter was already considered a done deal before both measures were approved on 6 October. As a result, Bosnia will remain in a gray zone in terms of its relations with the EU for the immediate future, unlike all the other countries of the region. Above all, ordinary Bosnian citizens will not be able to enjoy the visa-free travel they want, at least not in the medium term, and foreign investors could well remain hesitant about coming to Bosnia.

Nor is delay the only potential problem for bringing Bosnia closer to the EU. RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service quoted Cavic as saying 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.

Indeed, the devil generally does lie in the details where negotiating in the Balkans is concerned, and the Bosnian Serbs in particular have shown themselves to be adept at ferreting out the last possible advantage. This was noticeably the case in negotiations during the 1992-95 conflict, especially regarding what former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic called "the map" or "tidying up the map." In short, the upcoming "experts' commission" and its discussions on administrative boundaries might prove more problematic than at first meets the eye.

Meanwhile, the central parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina voted on 5 October to remove another important obstacle to SAS talks by approving a law on reforming public broadcasting (PBS). 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."

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.

PROVISIONAL ELECTION RESULTS FOR THREE AFGHAN PROVINCES ANNOUNCED
The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) on 6 October announced the provisional results from the 18 September parliamentary and provincial elections in Farah, Nimroz, and Samangan provinces (http://results.jemb.org). JEMB spokesman Alim Siddiq told RFE/RL on 6 October that "we expect to be able to announce all provisional results [34 Afghan provinces] within the next seven days." He said citizens of each province will have five days to challenge the results, "and if no complaints are received, then the provisional result will be certified by the UN-Afghan electoral body." Vote counting is reportedly complete, save for ballot boxes from about 1,000 polling stations that were quarantined pending investigation of suspected electoral fraud. Final results of the polls for the 249-member Wolesi Jirga national assembly and provincial councils are due by 22 October. Warlords and opponents of President Hamid Karzai are among the front-runners in partial provisional results made available thus far. However, Malalai Joya, a female activist who gained international attention when she criticized the participation of Afghan mujahedin leaders in the Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003, has been elected to represent her province in parliament Farah Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2003). AT

PROTESTING CANDIDATES AND THEIR SUPPORTERS RANSACK ELECTION OFFICE IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
More than 100 candidates and around 500 of their supporters attacked a local election office in the city of Konduz on 6 October, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 6 October. The protestors, who were seeking a recount of ballots cast in the 18 September elections, were reportedly chanting: "Death to traitors and death to the corrupt." Employees of the JEMB were evacuated from the office before it was ransacked. "We have closed down the electoral office. As long as the votes are not recounted, we will continue to demonstrate and keep the office closed," provincial council candidate Abdul Salam Samadi told Pajhwak. Samadi alleged that there was widespread electoral fraud. JEMB spokesman Sultan Ahmad Bahin said that there will be "more than 50,000 losers" in the elections, and "it will be good for all to acknowledge the results." AT

PAKISTAN OPEN TO CONSIDERING EXTRADITION OF NEO-TALIBAN SPOKESMAN TO AFGHANISTAN...
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Tasnim Aslam said on 6 October that Islamabad is prepared to consider extraditing purported neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi if the Afghan government makes such a request, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 6 October. "So far, the Afghan government has not contacted us regarding the handover of Hakimi," Aslam said. Afghan President Karzai said on 5 October that his country will ask Pakistan to extradite Hakimi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). AT

...WHO SAYS FORMER TALIBAN LEADER HIDING IN AFGHANISTAN
Hakimi has reportedly told his Pakistani interrogators that Mullah Mohammad Omar is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan and maintains contact with neo-Taliban commanders, "The News" reported on 6 October. A Pakistani intelligence officer told the Islamabad-based daily on condition of anonymity that Hakimi was arrested on 2 October but it was announced only on 4 October because he was being interrogated about other Taliban leaders. Pakistani officials announced Hakimi's arrest on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). AT

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONTINUES GULF TOUR...
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki met in Al-Ain on 5 October with senior United Arab Emirates officials, including UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan, to discuss Iranian-UAE ties and regional politics, ISNA reported the next day. Mottaki expressed Iran's support for the "political process in Iraq" involving its "ethnic and religious groups," adding that "Iraq's problems" should be resolved "with the help and collective consensus of all Iraq's neighbors," ISNA reported. Regarding the occupied territories, he said Israel has evacuated "a negligible part of Palestine's territories" in order to "win great prizes [amid] normalized relations with Muslim states." But those states, he said, "can by their vigilance counter Israel's deceit." He also defended Iran's "legitimate rights" to pursue its nuclear program, and said Iranian scientists have attained "peaceful nuclear science and technology" to bring "prosperity" to Iran. VS

...AFTER TRIP TO SAUDI ARABIA IS PUT ON HOLD
Mottaki's was expected to visit Saudi Arabia on 5 October, but the visit was postponed -- officially due to conflicting timetables, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on 6 October, citing the daily "Al-Riyadh." An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that "no solid timetable was set for this trip. Mottaki will visit Saudi Arabia as part of his regional trip," Reuters reported. However, the postponement came after the two states publicly feuded over Iran's role in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). Mottaki reportedly asked to visit Saudi Arabia on 6 October, but this was rejected by Saudi officials who have yet to offer a date for a visit, Radio Farda stated, citing "Al-Riyadh." Mottaki was in Qatar on 6 October on the fifth leg of his Gulf tour. An unidentified Iranian Foreign Ministry official said Mottaki's visit to Saudi Arabia may take place "next week," Mehr reported on 6 October. VS

IRANIAN MINISTER CONSIDERS GRANTING MORE POWERS TO PROVINCES
Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi said in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, on 5 October that "certain powers" may be delegated to the provinces, ISNA reported. He said that the government might "increase the decision-making power of provincial administrators, and give part of the country's budgets to provinces to downsize government." Other, unspecified, ministry tasks would go to municipalities, under the supervision of city councils, he said. He added that more "independent planning" in the provinces, and greater coordination between provincial agencies will bring "serious changes to planning and the focus on programs" in the provinces, ISNA reported. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad mentioned government downsizing among his electoral programs, but Purmohammadi has been criticized by some legislators for appointing provincial governors without consulting them. On 5 October, conservative legislator Muhammad Khoshchehreh advised Purmohammadi that he had "better consider the opinions of legislators," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. "There is an increasing current of opposition" to the minister, he said, "which is not to his advantage." Khoshchehreh warned that this may "become a negative current that may lead" parliament to interrogate or sack Purmohammadi. Many lawmakers, Khoshchehreh said, are dissatisfied with the provincial appointments. He added that his comments should be taken as "friendly advice," not a "threat." VS

IRANIAN CONSERVATIVES SEEK PARTY, REFORMERS A COALITION
The Coordinating Council of Revolutionary Forces, an umbrella group of 15 conservative groups, is to be forged into a party supporting President Ahmadinejad, "Sharq" reported on 6 October, adding that the party leader is Ali Larijani, currently Iran's ranking nuclear diplomat. Larijani was the council's chosen candidate for the June presidential elections. He is to succeed Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri as the Coordinating Council's head, "Sharq" reported, citing conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqqi. Nateq Nuri, a former parliamentary speaker, has difficult relations with certain council members, and has ceased to attend its gatherings, "Sharq" added. Deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar is to assist Larijani with the new party. Meanwhile, the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front is working to form a broad-based reformist front, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 6 October, citing member Said Hajjarian. He said party members have held talks with centrist or reform politicians like Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Mehdi Karrubi, and Ghulamhussein Karbaschi, a former Tehran mayor and member of the Executives of Construction -- a party close to Rafsanjani, but not to the right-wing Islamic Coalition Party. A wide reformist front is "necessary," Hajjarian said, but the likelihood of "solidarity" between divergent politicians is "very weak," unless "political pressures on them increase." VS

U.K. PRIME MINISTER TOUTS EVIDENCE OF GROWING IRANIAN INFLUENCE IN IRAQ...
U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said at a press conference in London with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on 6 October that there is mounting evidence that either "Iranian elements" or Hizbollah are assisting insurgent elements in Iraq, international news agencies reported. Blair's comments echoed those made earlier by unidentified U.K. officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, and 6 October 2005). Blair said that although "we cannot be sure" about Iran's role, new explosive devices used against coalition forces in Iraq "lead us either to Iranian elements or to [Hizbollah]," AP reported. Blair also linked the issue to a diplomatic confrontation between Tehran and Western countries over Iran's alleged nuclear program. "There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq," Blair said. "Neither will we be subject to any intimidation in raising the necessary and live issues to do with the nuclear weapons obligations of Iran under the (International) Atomic Energy Agency treaty." Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi on 6 October denied Blair's charges, saying "Iran has no motivation for any sort of interference in Iraq's internal affairs," dpa reported, citing Iranian state radio. BW

IRAQI PRESIDENT WARNS OF DANGERS OF WITHDRAWAL
Speaking at the same press conference with Prime Minister Blair, President Talabani warned on 6 October against an early withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq, international news agencies reported. "If they pull out it would be catastrophic for the people of Iraq and the cause of democracy and it would be a win for terrorists," Talabani said. Blair said that the roughly 8,000 British troops will remain in Iraq. "We intend to stay with you for as long as you need us and as long as you want us," he said. Meanwhile, in Italy, opposition leader Romano Prodi described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "colossal error" and promised to bring his country's troops home if he is elected next year, AFP reported on 6 October. "The day after I'll win elections, I'll set a detailed calendar for troop withdrawal. Italy's sole commitment will be for reconstruction and aid." Prodi told the daily newspaper "Corriere della Sera." BW

OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. STRIKES IN WESTERN IRAQ WILL CONTINUE UNTIL ELECTIONS
American military strikes in western Iraq will continue until at least December in an effort to prevent insurgents from entering the country before its general election, Reuters reported on 6 October, citing the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. "We're going to fight our way to the referendum, and we're going to fight our way to the election," Major General Rick Lynch told a news conference, referring to the 15 October constitutional referendum and the parliamentary election in December. U.S. forces launched strikes in Iraq's Euphrates Valley in late September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 September and 4 October 2005). Sunni leaders in Iraq have threatened to boycott the constitutional referendum if the U.S. strikes continue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). "Operations continue and operations will continue through to the election," Lynch said. BW

IRAQI PRIME MINISTER CONFIDENT OF HIGH TURNOUT IN REFERENDUM
Iraqi transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim Ja'fari said that despite the threat of violence to disrupt the vote, he is confident of a high turnout in Iraq's constitutional referendum, AFP reported on 6 October. "The experience of 30 January showed that attacks, even in the heart of Baghdad, have no effect on the running of the polls," he said, referring to the first general elections in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq last year. "In some countries, even rain can cause abstentions. But the Iraqis have shown they can vote under gunfire and under attack," Ja'fari told a news conference on 6 October. "The readiness of our people to make sacrifices does not mean we are going to neglect their security. We will make every possible effort on the day of the referendum, whether it be in the [Sunni] west or any other region," he added. BW

U.S. PRESIDENT DENIES THAT IRAQ WAR HAS SPARKED TERRORISM
In a speech before the National Endowment of Democracy on 6 October, U.S. President George W. Bush refuted allegations that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has inflamed radical Islamic terrorism, international news agencies reported. "Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals." Bush said. "I'll remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001, and Al-Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse." Bush called Iraq a central front in the war on terrorism and rejected calls for a U.S. pullout. "We will never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory," Bush said. BW

MILITANTS KILL AT LEAST 21 IN BOMB ATTACKS
Insurgents in Iraq killed at least 21 people with car and suicide bombs on 6 October, international news agencies reported. In Baghdad, a man detonated an explosives belt on a minibus carrying 14 people, including students, workers, and police officers heading to the police academy, AP reported, citing Police Captain Abbas Ali. The bomber struck as the bus passed a police patrol at the intersection where the academy is located, about 400 meters from the Oil Ministry. At least nine people were killed in the blast. In eastern Baghdad, a suicide car bomb exploded near a convoy of private security contractors, killing three bystanders and wounding six others, AP reported, citing police Major Mohammed Yunis. In northern Baghdad, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. Army patrol, killing one soldier, according to military spokesman Sergeant 1st Class David Abrams. A roadside bomb south of Baghdad killed five policemen, police Captain Talib Thamir said. In addition, a shooting and roadside bomb in the towns of Taji and Udaim, north of Baghdad, killed two Iraqi soldiers and a policeman. BW

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