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Newsline - October 11, 2005


KHODORKOVSKII REPORTEDLY SENT FROM MOSCOW TO LABOR CAMP...
Yevgenii Baru, the lawyer for jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, said on 10 October that his client, along with Khodorkovskii's business partner Platon Lebedev, has been transferred from Moscow to an undisclosed location "where they will serve their prison terms." "The relatives of Khodorkovskii and Lebedev will be informed by mail," a prison spokesman said. Meanwhile, a source from the Prosecutor-General's Office told "Zhin" on 10 October that both men have been sent to a labor camp dubbed "Red Duck" near Nizhnii Tagil. But utro.ru reported on 10 October that Khodorkovskii and Lebedev were seen in a train bound for Syktyvkar, in the Komi Republic. VY

...AFTER HE SENDS PUTIN BIRTHDAY WISHES
From his prison cell, Khodorkovskii congratulated President Vladimir Putin on his birthday on 7 October, "Kommersant" reported. In his letter, Khodorkovskii said that Putin was a "very successful man, who has managed to save and preserve the main achievement of modern Russia -- high oil prices." He continued: "You are also an excellent friend and partner and have made all efforts to destroy the country's biggest oil company in the interests of your friends. I would like to wish you the two things you don't have: freedom and rest. I hope you will get them if, in accordance with the constitution, you leave your presidential office." VY

OBSERVERS EXPECT NO CHANGE IN RUSSIAN-GERMAN RELATIONS
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia) said on 10 October that Russia's relations with Germany under new chancellor Angela Merkel will remain the same as under outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 October. "Good Russian-German relations meet Germany's strategic interests," Kosachev noted. He also said that the possible appointment of a Social Democrat as foreign minister would mean the continuation of the current course in German foreign policy. However, Politika foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov argued that Merkel will lean closer to Washington than to Moscow. "Merkel has repeatedly said closer ties with the United States will be her priority," Nikonov said, according to RIA-Novosti. Vyacheslav Belov, the director of the German studies center at the Academy of Sciences Europe Institute, said that Merkel will not seek to revise an agreement signed between Schroeder and Putin on the North European Gas Pipeline. He also speculated that Schroeder might take a position in Gazprom. VY

RUSSIA, INDIA BEGIN JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES
Russian Air Forces Commander General Vladimir Mikhailov announced on 9 October that three transport aircraft with soldiers from the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division arrived in India for joint antiterrorist military exercises, which started on 10 October and will last until 20 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The exercises, which are being held in the Bay of Bengal, will also involve ships from Russia's Pacific Fleet. Meanwhile, speaking to journalists in Lisbon, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the recent South Asia earthquake has not affected the area where the exercises will take place and they will be held as planned, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

LIBERAL WRITER SAYS KREMLIN WANTS DEMOCRATS AND LIBERALS TO CLASH OVER LENIN'S BODY
Speaking on 8 October on the Ren-TV political show "Nedelya," the liberal author Victor Yerofeev said that although he supports the idea of removing Lenin's body from Red Square, he and many other democrats think now is not the best time to do so. Yerofeev said he believes the Kremlin has launched such a campaign now (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September and 3 October 2005) in order to divide Communists and democratic political forces in order to prevent them forming a united front against Kremlin policy. "Now is not the time for quarreling," Yerofeev said. On the same program, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the Kremlin needs this campaign as it is hurrying to launch early Duma elections next year. Zyuganov said that if the Kremlin decides to go ahead and remove Lenin's body, the response will be "very tough." He added that he will unite with those liberals who support "freedom of the press, free elections, and the democratic process." VY

FOREIGN STUDENT BEATEN TO DEATH IN VORONEZH...
A Peruvian student died and two Spanish students were injured after they were attacked on 9 October in the center of Voronezh by a group of approximately 15 young people, Russian and international media reported. The Peruvian national died of knife wounds and the two Spanish citizens are in the hospital with serious head injuries, RIA-Novosti reported. Deputy Interior Minister Andrei Novikov said the investigators are looking into all possibilities "including killing on the grounds of nationalism and racial hatred," RTR reported on 9 October. Interfax on 10 October quoted an unidentified law-enforcement official as saying that arrests were imminent. "We are quite optimistic. We need some time, and probably several participants in the Sunday assault on foreigners will be detained," the official said. In a statement, local civil and human rights groups said that in the last two years many foreigners studying in Voronezh have become the victims of racist attacks, smi.ru reported. The groups blamed this situation on Voronezh Oblast Governor Vladimir Kulakov (Unified Russia), a former Federal Security Service major general, whose responsibilities include combating extremism. Meanwhile, speaking in Madrid, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov publicly apologized to the governments of Peru and Spain, RTR reported. "The Russian government is taking measures to combat extremism and xenophobia just like other European countries and views such actions as crime," Lavrov said. VY/BW

...AS PRO-KREMLIN VOICES BLAME POLITICAL OPPONENTS
Dmitrii Kiselev, the host of the RTR prime-time news program "Vesti +," said on 10 October that, while the "incident in Voronezh is shameful for Russia," extremist organizations like the "Russian National Unity [RNE party] and National-Bolshevik Party [NBP]" bear some of the responsibility. There must be a decisive fight against extremism until it is destroyed, he said. On the same program, Ella Panfilova, the chairwoman of the presidential Council for Promoting Civil Society and Human Rights, partially blamed the Motherland faction, which she said promotes such incidents with its extremist rhetoric against illegal immigrants. But Motherland leader and Voronezh Oblast Duma Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin said that calls to limit illegal immigration have nothing to do with xenophobia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 October. He said that the Motherland faction in the Voronezh city duma will demand the impeachment of Governor Kulakov "for [his] inability to find and punish the organizers of previous hate crimes and for leaving the city [in the hands of] bandits." VY

PERM KRAI GOVERNOR CONFIRMED
Oleg Chirkunov was confirmed as acting governor of the newly created Perm Krai on 10 October, Russian news agencies reported the same day. The Perm Krai, which will unify Perm Oblast and the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, will formally come into existence on 1 December, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 October. It will encompass more than 160,000 square kilometers and have a population of approximately 3 million people. President Putin nominated Chirkunov in early October and he was approved by both the Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug legislatures on 10 October. Perm Krai is scheduled to elect a single legislature in 2006 and will have a unified budget in 2007, RIA-Novosti reported citing local media. BW

PENSIONERS PARTY VICTORIOUS IN TOMSK DUMA ELECTIONS
In a blow to the Kremlin, the populist Pensioners Party edged out Unified Russia in legislative elections in Tomsk on 9 October, Russian news agencies reported the same day. According to preliminary results cited by Interfax, the Pensioners Party won 19.42 percent of the vote followed by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia, which took 17.85 percent. Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia took 14.67 percent, the Communist Party won 9.95 percent, and an alliance of Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces took 8.57 percent. The Pensioners Party is headed by Valerii Gartung, a State Duma deputy from Chelyabinsk who was once a member of Unified Russia. BW

SCORES HOSPITALIZED WITH HEPATITIS A IN CENTRAL RUSSIA
Sixty-three people, including 11 children, were hospitalized over the weekend of 8-9 October in central Russia with suspected Hepatitis A, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 October. According to officials in the Nizhnii Novgorod governor's office cited by RIA-Novosti, 1,700 cases of Hepatitis A have been registered in the region since an outbreak in early September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005). Additionally, more than 65,000 people have been vaccinated and more than 9,000 city residents have been treated with immunoglobulin, the governor's spokesman said. According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, a total of 542 people with hepatitis are still in hospitals in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. BW

ST. PETERSBURG TO ESTABLISH 'TOURIST POLICE' FORCE BY 2006
St. Petersburg plans to establish a special "tourist police" force to assist foreign visitors to the city, Interfax reported on 10 October citing local officials. According to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, chairman of the city's committee for external relations and tourism, the force will be set up by the summer of 2006 and will be manned mostly by students. The "police" will wear uniforms, possess "special communications devices," and earn approximately 500 rubles ($18) per shift. Foreign tourists, according to the plan, will be able to address them for information and report any crimes. BW

FOREIGN MINISTER: MOSCOW NOT OPPOSED TO U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE'S CENTRAL ASIA VISIT
Foreign Minister Lavrov said on 11 October that Moscow does not object to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's tour of Central Asia, Russian news agencies reported the same day. "There is no conflict of interests," Lavrov said in remarks reported by RIA-Novosti. He also said Russia favors cooperation with the United States and the West to fight terrorism in the former Soviet region, which Moscow has long viewed as its sphere of influence. Lavrov added, however, that these relations should be transparent. Rice's tour of Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan began on 10 October. BW

REPORT: DEMOCRACY REGRESSES IN RUSSIAN LEGISLATURE
According to a report by the advocacy group Public Expertise, Russia has regressed from a "partly free" country and has become a "non-free" state, "Izvestiya" reported on 11 October. The group based its conclusions on a study of the State Duma. According to the report, the Duma has changed from a genuine legislature to a de facto agent of the executive branch that simply rubber stamps the decisions of the Kremlin and government. It also notes that popular representation in the lower house is skewed. For example, the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party won 37.6 percent of the vote in the 2003 parliamentary elections and controls 67.6 percent of the seats in the Duma. "This is a violation of one of the basic principles of democracy," Igor Yakovenko, director of Public Expertise, told "Izvestiya." He added that, "This is an infringement on the political rights of two-thirds of Russian citizens who did not vote for United Russia." BW

TRIAL OF SLAIN CHECHEN LEADER'S COMRADES-IN-ARMS OPENS, ADJOURNS
The trial began on 10 October in Chechnya's Supreme Court, and was immediately adjourned until 18 October, of four men apprehended in the house in Tolstoi-Yurt where the Russian military claims Chechen resistance leader and President Aslan Maskhadov was killed on 8 March, gazeta.ru reported. The four men include the owner of the house, Skanderbek Yusupov, and Maskhadov's nephew and bodyguard, Viskhan Khadjimuradov. They face charges ranging from unlawful possession of weapons and membership in illegal armed formations to organizing an armed insurrection. In a statement posted on 10 October on chechenpress.org, Isa Akhyadov, who is coordinator of the World Chechen Congress, linked Maskhadov's murder to his renewed offer several weeks earlier to begin negotiations on ending the war peacefully (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2005). Akhyadov further predicted that the trial is intended to substantiate official claims that Maskhadov was shot by his bodyguards rather than risk capture and trial. He implied that, broken by torture, the four defendants will confirm that scenario. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE HOPES FOR PASSAGE OF ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...
Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Chairman and Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral called on Armenians in a 10 October statement to approve the constitutional amendments to be put to a "vital" nationwide referendum on 27 November, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He termed the changes of "fundamental importance," adding that they would strengthen the judiciary and create "a more balanced distribution of power" between the executive and the legislative branches. The chairman of Armenia's Union of Judges, Hovannes Manukian, similarly lauded the proposed amendments on 10 October, saying the "constitutional draft is close to being a perfect legal document." Also on 10 October, the Central Election Commission approved the schedule of preparations for the referendum, Noyan Tapan reported. The complete text of the amendments must be published in state-controlled media no later than 28 October. LF

...AS ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR BOYCOTT
Meeting in Yerevan on 8 October, the heads of regional organizations of veteran oppositionist Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union (AzhM) voted to call for a boycott of the 27 November referendum, Noyan Tapan reported on 10 October. The AZhM will field observers to monitor the voting process. LF

ARMENIAN MURDER SUSPECT REELECTED MAYOR
According to preliminary returns, Armen Keshishian was reelected on 9 October as mayor of the town of Nor Hajn with almost 50 percent of the vote, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Keshishian was taken into custody two weeks ago after shooting a rival candidate dead in a dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 7 October 2005). LF

POLICE AGAIN USE FORCE TO DISPERSE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS
Riot police intervened on 9 October to prevent supporters of the opposition Azadlyq bloc, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, and the National Unity movement gathering for pre-election rallies at several venues in Baku, Reuters and Azerbaijani media reported. The Baku municipal authorities withheld permission for the rallies, proposing that the opposition gather instead at alternative venues farther from the city center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2005). Observers say the police acted with greater brutality on 9 October than when dispersing earlier opposition attempts to assemble on 25 September and 1 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September and 3 October 2005). Dozens of people were injured, including up to 10 journalists; the online daily zerkalo.az noted on 11 October that police violated the Law on Police, which expressly prohibits hitting people on the head. The U.S. Embassy in Baku issued a statement deploring the police violence and appealed to Azadlyq members to "show restraint," zerkalo.az reported. The statement also called on opposition and authorities to resume the dialogue that began earlier this summer. Veteran human rights activist Eldar Zeynalov told day.az on 10 October the absence of such a dialogue contributes to further destabilization of the political situation in the runup to the 6 November parliamentary elections. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST ANNOUNCES RETURN FROM EXILE
Former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, who is chairman of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA), one of the three parties aligned in the Azadlyq election bloc, will return to Baku on 17 October, day.az reported on 11 October quoting DPA First Deputy Chairman Serdar Djalaloglu. Djalaloglu said earlier that Guliev purchased an air ticket for 16 October. Guliev left Azerbaijan in the summer of 1996 following a disagreement with then President Heidar Aliyev, and settled in the United States. Guliev has registered as a candidate for the 6 November ballot but has been stripped of his immunity from prosecution and faces charges of large-scale embezzlement dating from his tenure as head of the country's largest oil refinery in the early 1990s. He announced two years ago that he planned to return to Azerbaijan on 15 October, the date of the presidential election, but failed to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER CUTS SHORT VISIT TO TURKEY
Zurab Noghaideli returned to Tbilisi from Ankara on 8 October to coordinate emergency measures to counter the damage inflicted by heavy rain, floods, and mudslides in western Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. (At a cabinet meeting late on 10 October, President Mikheil Saakashvili gave ministers three days to organize the transport of emergency aid to families left homeless by the disaster, Caucasus Press reported.) During talks on 7 October, Noghadeli and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached preliminary agreement on relaxing customs procedures at the Sarpi border crossing between the two countries, and discussed the possibility of establishing a free economic zone on that border. The two prime ministers also discussed bilateral relations, cooperation in the transport of Caspian oil and gas, regional conflicts, and cooperation with NATO. At a separate meeting, Noghaideli sought to encourage Turkish businessmen to participate in the upcoming privatization of Georgian energy facilities. LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA DISCUSS REPATRIATION
Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations met in Sochi on 6-7 October under the aegis of the UN to discuss the return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion of Georgians who fled their homes there during the 1992-1993 civil war, Georgian media reported. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, who headed the Abkhaz delegation to the talks, told journalists that the UN will conduct a census of Georgian displaced persons -- both those who have already returned to Gali and those who wish to do so -- beginning in early 2006. Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava was quoted on 7 October by RIA-Novosti as saying the Abkhaz show little understanding for the Georgian position. He noted with disapproval the Abkhaz authorities' reluctance to allow Georgian schoolchildren in Abkhazia to use Georgian-language textbooks. LF

AZERBAIJANIS DESERT FROM GEORGIAN ARMY
Georgian military police are investigating the circumstances that impelled 10 Azerbaijanis to desert from a Georgian military base at Dedoplistsqaro on 9 October, Georgian media reported on 10 October. The Azerbaijanis demanded a meeting with ombudsman Sozar Subar, and told him that they were routinely insulted by senior officers because they do not speak either Georgian or Russian. The Azerbaijanis further complained of poor food and said they have not been issued with warm winter uniforms. An army spokesman denied that the 10 men were subjected to physical violence. LF

NEW U.S. PROJECT TO ELIMINATE KAZAKH NUCLEAR FUEL
The U.S. nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) finalized an agreement with Kazakhstan on 8 October for the disposal of nearly three tons of weapons-grade nuclear fuel, RFE/RL reported. The $2 million project will eliminate 2.9 tons of nuclear fuel containing highly enriched uranium from the Soviet-era Mangyshlak nuclear reactor in western Kazakhstan and will be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. RG

FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIER TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT
The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission announced on 10 October that former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev has applied for registration as a candidate for a seat in Tunduk district in an upcoming by-election, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Election Commission has 10 days to make a ruling on his candidacy. Tanaev initially fled the country following the ouster of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in March and was placed under house arrest following his return to Bishkek last month (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 23 September 2005). He was released from detention after securing the backing of several Kyrgyz parliamentarians but may still face criminal charges for abuse of power and corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2005). The election is scheduled for 27 November. RG

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IDENTIFIES PRIORITIES IN RELATIONS WITH UZBEKISTAN
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev stated on 10 October that economic relations with Uzbekistan remain a priority, ITAR-TASS reported. The Kyrgyz president added that his country supports the Uzbek view "that it is necessary to step up joint efforts in the fight against international terrorism and religious extremism, which are posing threats to security and stability in the region." Bakiev also reaffirmed Kyrgyz support for continued U.S.-led coalition operations "to fully stabilize the military and political situation in Afghanistan." But he noted that "expansion of trade and economic relations" is the priority, promising "to continue intensifying bilateral cooperation" with Uzbekistan. The statement follows an agreement for "additional joint measures" on border security reached in talks with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in St. Petersburg last week, Akipress reported. RG

KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DENIES UZBEK CLAIMS OF INSURGENT TRAINING
In a televised interview, senior Kyrgyz National Security Service official Azamat Shopokov strongly denied on 7 October recent Uzbek reports that "insurgents" responsible for the violent clashes in Andijon in May were trained in Kyrgyzstan, Osh TV reported. Shopokov also refuted allegations that arms were sent to the eastern Uzbek town of Andijon from Kyrgyzstan. RG

U.S. OFFICIAL MEETS WITH KYRGYZ PRESIDENT
Arriving in Bishkek as part of a regional tour, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph met on 7 October with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Kabar TV reported. Joseph discussed plans to further expand bilateral relations and briefed Kulov on weapons export controls and border security. Kulov vowed to "take all measures to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction" and said the United States can "fully rely on" Kyrgyzstan, according to Akipress. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Kyrgyzstan on 10 October on a tour that will also take her to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. RG

SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION SUMMIT OPENS IN TAJIK CAPITAL
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) convened an economic and trade summit on 10 October in Dushanbe, Avesta reported. Attending the SCO summit, economy ministers from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan focused on five specific mechanisms aimed at implementing economic, trade, and banking cooperation among the SCO member states. The ministerial summit also completed preparations for a larger SCO summit scheduled to convene at the end of the month in Moscow, with observers invited from India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan, Asia-Plus reported. RG

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH EU OFFICIAL IN PARIS
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 9 October with Jan Kubis, EU special representative for Central Asia, RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Asia-Plus reported. The Tajik president briefed the EU official on the course of Tajik economic and political reform and discussed measures to address regional security and combat the proliferation of narcotics. Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Kubis said he is "satisfied with the level of expansion bilateral cooperation between the European Union and Tajikistan." RG

U.S. EMBASSY EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER PRISON SENTENCE FOR TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER...
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, John Larson, stated on 7 October that the United States is concerned over the harsh prison sentence recently imposed on Tajik opposition leader Makhmadruzi Iskandarov, RFE/RL and Asia-Plus reported. The statement added that "although we cannot evaluate the merits of the charges against Iskandarov, we are concerned about the circumstances surrounding his arrest, trial, and verdict," explaining that "troubling aspects of the case include his extralegal return from Russia in April, his allegations that he was abused in detention, and the difficulties his family and lawyers experienced at times gaining access to him while he was in pretrial detention." The 5 October sentence followed Iskandarov's conviction for terrorism, the embezzlement of state funds, and the illegal storage of weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). RG

...AS TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY VOWS TO RAISE ISSUE WITH U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
Tajik opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan Deputy Chairman Rahmatullo Valiyev vowed on 7 October to protest the sentencing of their leader Iskandarov to 23 years in prison, Asia-Plus reported. Valiyev added that his party will personally appeal to Secretary of State Rice during her upcoming visit to Tajikistan. RG

UZBEKISTAN CONSIDERS NEW AIRCRAFT ALLIANCE WITH RUSSIA
The Uzbekistan government is considering a Russian offer to forge a strategic bilateral alliance in the aircraft industry, Interfax reported on 10 October. The Russian Federal Agency for Industry (Rosprom) proposed to establish a new joint United Aircraft Company (UAC) with Uzbekistan. The plan would incorporate the assets of the Tashkent-based Chkalov aircraft plant and would focus on the specialized production of several types of the IL-76 heavy transport plane, the IL-114 passenger jet and wings for the AN-70 aircraft. The proposal is also tied to the Russian effort to secure Uzbekistan's membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Nikolai Bordyuzha, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, stated on 10 October that Uzbek membership is important because "it is impossible to maintain security in Central Asia without Uzbekistan," ITAR-TASS reported. Uzbekistan quit the CSTO in 1999. RG

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TOUTS AGRICULTURAL ACHIEVEMENTS...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a harvest festival in Slutsk, Minsk Oblast, on 8 October that Belarus has created a fundamentally new agricultural sector over the last decade, Belapan reported. Lukashenka said that despite this year's violent windstorms and heavy rains, which damaged more than 70 percent of grain and other crops, Belarus managed to save the harvest and preserve the past few years' upward trend in agricultural output. This year's grain crop exceeded 7 million tons, he said, with an average yield of 3.1 tons per hectare. "We don't have to panhandle around the world for food to import," Lukashenka added. JM

...AND CASTS DOUBT ON JOINT OPPOSITION CANDIDATE
President Lukashenka also said in Slutsk on 8 October that he very much doubts whether Alyaksandr Milinkevich, who was selected to be the opposition's joint presidential candidate on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2005), will truly be the opposition's lone contender to challenge him in the 2006 presidential election, Belapan reported. "There will be at least 10 or 12 other such single candidates," Lukashenka asserted. "Some people, authorized by nobody knows whom, gathered together and selected a person. They had hardly dispersed when those who contended [with Milinkevich for the nomination] but failed also developed an urge to run in the election," Lukashenka commented at the 2 October congress. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS OPEN CASE INTO PRESIDENTIAL ALLY
The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office opened an investigation on 10 October into a case of possible abuse of power involving Ukrainian oligarch Petro Poroshenko, former head of the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) and one of the staunchest allies of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Poroshenko is officially suspected of "hampering the legitimate business activity of two companies constructing a building" in Kyiv's historic center. Poroshenko is suspected of having sought a bribe from the companies for a permit to continue construction, according to Reuters. He has denied the allegations, saying a businessman representing the companies offered him a bribe in return for helping resolve legal difficulties with the project. Yushchenko sacked Poroshenko from the post of RNBO head a month ago in a shakeup that included the dismissal of former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and her cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS MAKE NEW ALLEGATIONS OF BEREZOVSKII FUNDING FOR YUSHCHENKO CAMPAIGN
The Ukrainian Communist Party claimed in a statement on 7 October that Russian financial tycoon Boris Berezovskii has confirmed that he funded President Viktor Yushchenko's election campaign, Interfax-Ukraine reported. The statement also demanded Yushchenko's resignation and urged the Central Election Commission to annul the results of last year's presidential vote and call a new election. The Communists referred to a meeting between Berezovskii and an investigative commission of Ukrainian lawmakers in London on 6 October, when he purportedly said that he had transferred $15 million to support Yushchenko's presidential bid. Berezovskii countered on 7 October by saying the Communists' statement is utterly false. "There was an explicit understanding not to comment on our meeting before the publication of the official full text of my statement to commission members," Berezovskii told Interfax-Ukraine, stressing his readiness to come to Ukraine to testify before the commission. Meanwhile, Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Shurma, who met with Berezovskii on 6 October, told journalists that the self-exiled Russian oligarch admitted to having financed the development of civil-society institutions in Ukraine prior to the 2004 presidential election. JM

UKRAINE'S NEW JUSTICE MINISTER WANTS PROGRESS IN GONGADZE CASE
Serhiy Holovatyy, whom President Yushchenko appointed as justice minister on 6 October, told Channel 5 on 8 October that Ukraine should replace Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun if it wants to see "real" progress in the investigation into the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "[The Gongadze investigation] will depend on who holds this post [Prosecutor-General] and whether a new holder will not prove to be another scoundrel," Holovatyy added. Meanwhile, Piskun reiterated to journalists on 10 October the allegation that Gongadze's murder was organized by former Interior Ministry General Oleksiy Pukach. Pukach was briefly arrested in 2003, but has not been seen in Ukraine since his release on a bail order in November 2003. JM

UN CHIEF GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO KOSOVA STATUS TALKS...
On 7 October, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed a report by his special envoy for Kosova, Kai Eide, recommending that talks on Kosova's final status begin soon even though the international community's standards have not been completely met, international and regional media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 6 October 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). The study stated that "there will not be any good moment for addressing Kosovo's future status. It will continue to be a highly sensitive political issue. [But] it is unlikely that postponing the future status process will lead to further tangible results." Annan said that "while standards implementation in Kosovo has been uneven, the time has come to move to the next phase of the political process." Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), told reporters that he expects the talks to begin before the end of 2005. The Security Council will discuss Eide's report on 24 October, and Russia or any other permanent member has the power to block the start of talks. In his report, Eide called the present status untenable, but expressed understanding for Serbian demands for decentralization and parallel administrative structures. He urged a strong role for the EU, which might name a high representative for Kosova, and for a continuing U.S. military presence through KFOR. PM

...TRIGGERING PREDICTABLE REACTIONS IN THE REGION...
Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi warmly endorsed UN Secretary-General Annan's statement on Eide's report on 7 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kosumi called it the start "of the most important phase in Kosova's history...[and] of a process that opens a perspective for establishing a state of Kosova." In Kosovska Mitrovica, local Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic said that Belgrade has not prepared for status talks even though it was clear that negotiations were in the offing. In Paris, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic told RFE/RL that Annan's decision came as no surprise. In Belgrade, Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica cautioned against starting status talks before the standards are met. PM

...AS THE U.S. PREPARES FOR A STRONGER ROLE
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said in Washington that the United States plans to be "centrally involved" in the upcoming Kosova status talks, adding that he will soon visit the region, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 10 October. Burns stressed that it is ultimately up to the residents of Kosova and not to outsiders to determine its future. Burns promised that the United States will "block any move" to bring Croatia or Serbia closer to NATO, including joining the alliance, until those two countries arrest and extradite their remaining prominent fugitive war crimes indictees. PM

EU WARNS SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO ON WAR CRIMES...
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn opened Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) talks with Serbia and Montenegro in Belgrade on 10 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2005). Rehn warned, however, that the EU will break off talks at any time if it is convinced that Belgrade is not cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic stressed that fugitive indictees must be extradited and not allowed to stand in their countrymen's way to a better future. In related news, the NGO Human Rights Watch said in a statement in Budapest that Serbia must take steps to prevent attacks on Hungarian and other minorities before it can move closer to the EU, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August and 4 October 2005). PM

...AS IT CAUTIONS CROATIA AS WELL
EU Enlargement Commissioner Rehn said in Zagreb on 9 October that the EU will break off membership talks with Croatia at any time if Brussels concludes that Zagreb is not cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Reuters reported. He also called on Croatia to pay more attention to matters linked to "the burden of the past, such as refugee return [and] the rights of minorities. These issues, together with the rule of law, will be part of our regular report concerning progress Croatia made in meeting the Copenhagen criteria" for EU membership. PM

CROATIAN LEADER CALLS ON EU TO HELP FIND FUGITIVE WAR CRIMES INDICTEE
On a visit to the Czech Republic to discuss EU integration, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 10 October that leading war crimes fugitive and former General Ante Gotovina is not in Croatia. He appealed to EU member states to help find his country's best-known indictee. "Every indictee should be brought to justice," Sanader said. "There is no exception. Nobody can be above the law or beyond the law, neither Gotovina nor anyone else. Until we solve that issue, the action plan [to find him] remains in operation. But since our information indicates that Gotovina is not hiding in Croatia, we must seek help from EU member countries. We should ask them to help in this matter, because he obviously is not in Croatia." The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted Gotovina for alleged crimes against Serbian civilians in August 1995, when Croatian forces under his command ended the Serbs' four-year revolt. Failure to arrest Gotovina has been holding up his country's plans to join the EU, which is the government's top foreign policy priority, although final membership talks are expected to begin soon. The Zagreb authorities maintain that Gotovina is not in Croatia and has probably fled by using a French or other foreign passport dating from his years in the French Foreign Legion. PM

SERBIA INDICTS KILLERS SHOWN IN VIDEO
Serbian prosecutors on 7 October issued arrest warrants for five men shown in a video apparently depicting them torturing and killing six Bosnian Muslims in 1995, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 June and 1 July 2005). Slobodan Medic, Pera Petrasevic, Aleksandar Medic, Aleksandar Vukov, and Branislav Medic allegedly belonged to the paramilitary group known as the Scorpions. Two other men will be tried separately in the case. Milorad Momic is on the run, and Slobodan Davidovic is on trial in a different case in Croatia. PM

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH EASES STANCE ON PAPAL VISIT
Less than two weeks after Serbian President Tadic invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit his country, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle discussed the matter with the president in Belgrade on 10 October, RFFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. After the meeting, Pavle said that relations between the Serbian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches "have taken on greater significance" for both parties recently and require a "joint response." Pavle did not explicitly endorse a papal visit to Serbia, but his remarks are a clear departure from his stance during the lifetime of Pope John Paul II, when Pavle's view was that the "time was not yet ripe" for such a visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 April 2005). PM

CROAT LEADER FLEES FROM HERZEGOVINA TO CROATIA
Ante Jelavic, who is an ethnic Croat former member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency, has fled to Croatia to escape a 10-year prison sentence for embezzlement from a Sarajevo court, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2005). Bosnian prosecutor John McNair said in Sarajevo on 10 October that his office does not plan to refer any part of the Jelavic case to a Croatian court, adding, however, that the incident shows the necessity of an extradition agreement between the two countries. PM

TIRANA'S MAYOR TO LEAD ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS
Albania's opposition Socialist Party delegates voted on 9 October in Tirana to elect that city's mayor, Edi Rama, their new chairman, dpa reported. Rama narrowly defeated former President Rexhep Meidani for the post. Rama is credited with giving Tirana a major face-lift in recent years. PM

BIG FORGERY RACKET UNCOVERED AT ALBANIAN AIRPORT
Albanian police on 7 October arrested 10 people for running a ring for forging passports and visas out of a travel agency called "Go West" centered on Tirana's Rinas airport, Reuters reported. Those arrested include four police officers, including the airport's security chief, its money-laundering inspector, and a passport controller. Prosecutor Adnan Kosova said that his people found a "mega-laboratory" for making fake foreign documents by scanning originals and then adding the security features. Prices for the documents ranged from $1,800 to nearly $20,000. PM

EU LAUNCHES MONITORING MISSION ON MOLDOVAN-UKRAINIAN BORDER
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrey Stratan, and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner signed a memorandum on 7 October on the launch of a two-year mission by European Commission monitors on the Ukrainian-Moldovan border beginning on 1 December, RFE/RL and Ukrainian and Moldovan news agencies reported. "What we will do is deploy a number of mobile teams, consisting of approximately 50 border guards and customs officials from EU member states, to the most relevant locations along the entire border, including the Transdniestrian segment," Ferrero-Waldner said at the Palanca checkpoint on the Ukrainian-Moldovan border on 7 October. The EU teams will not operate on Transdniestrian territory. "We are sure this will make it possible to stop all smuggling activities, including trafficking in human beings, drugs, and arms, which take place along the Transdniestrian segment of the Moldova-Ukraine border," Stratan commented on the mission. Brussels will support the mission with 7 million euros ($8.4 million). JM

NEW IRANIAN PRESIDENT'S DIPLOMACY SPARKS CONTROVERSY
On the sidelines of a pro-nuclear-power rally in Tehran on 7 October, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said all the country's officials agree with Tehran's conduct of nuclear negotiations and its general interaction with other countries, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. "With the exception of those who disagree with the Islamic system in principle," Elham added, "there is no disagreement among political parties or groups that conduct their activities within the law and believe in the principle of the Islamic system in Iran." However, the general lack of diplomatic finesse displayed by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his new administration has caught observers by surprise, and the Iranians' actions and comments on the nuclear issue have alienated foreign capitals that previously were positively disposed toward Tehran.

Observers in Iran are expressing concern about this turn of events. On the one hand, the Iranian decision-making apparatus is not closed, so these concerns could have an impact on governmental actions. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad's actions appear to have Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's approval, so anticipation of a reversal may be unrealistic.

Ahmadinejad's style has been evident since August, when Tehran first rejected a European Union proposal on the nuclear issue. The EU proposal ruled out Iran's enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium, recommended allowing Iran to purchase nuclear fuel and send it elsewhere for disposal, and called for a continuation of Iran's voluntary suspension of uranium-conversion activities. Other aspects of the proposal focused on industrial and technological cooperation, energy issues, and intellectual property rights.

The international community was eager to hear Ahmadinejad's counterproposal when he addressed the UN General Assembly on 17 September. However, rather than moving the negotiations forward, Ahmadinejad aired grievances relating to events that took place more than half a century ago. He also discussed his conspiracy theory about the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and accused the United States of creating and supporting Al Qaeda. Ahmadinejad called for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East and expressed concern about "nuclear apartheid." He offered a "serious partnership" with other countries' private and public sectors implementing uranium-enrichment programs. Ahmadinejad was adamant about Iran's intention to master the nuclear-fuel cycle.

One week later, the IAEA governing board issued a resolution calling on Tehran to be more cooperative and transparent, and hinting that referral to the UN Security Council could be next.

In a purported interview that appeared in the 1 October "Khaleej Times" newspaper, based in the United Arab Emirates, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that Iran has the right to use nuclear energy peacefully, and the production or use of nuclear weapons is forbidden by Islam. He purportedly stressed that Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA. "But if Iran's case is sent to the Security Council," he was quoted as saying, "we will respond by many ways for example by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities."

The same day, however, the presidential office rejected the authenticity of the interview, IRNA reported. The presidential office said Ahmadinejad never gave an oral or written interview to the newspaper. "Such a claim is nothing more than a mere fabrication, so we call all domestic media to be aware and show vigilance in dealing with propaganda plots hatched by foreign media," the statement from Ahmadinejad's office said.

Ahmadinejad's foreign-policy team -- Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Mustafa Mottaki -- has been unfavorably compared with the intellectual but feckless team assembled by former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. The latter team included experienced individuals such as Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani. These officials stressed perceived national interests rather than ideology and nationalism when conducting business, therefore conveying the impression that they were rational actors with whom others could do business.

Iranian observers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact of Ahmadinejad's actions, and they are criticizing his diplomatic efforts.

Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai told reporters on 1 October that Ahmadinejad's 17 September proposal at the UN was inadvisable and unnecessary, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. "When Iran didn't accept the Europeans' proposal, the latter should have amended it," Rezai said. "There was no need for Iran to make a proposal to the Europeans." Rezai said this might have been a diplomatic mistake, but if the issue is managed well, then "America and Europe will be the main losers if our case is referred to the Security Council."

The chairman of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, said in his 30 September sermon at the Tehran Friday prayers that Iran is determined to defend its right to use nuclear technology and it will not be intimidated into surrendering, state radio reported. He said Iran should talk with its opponents -- which he identified as "America, Europe, and others" -- and achieve trust. "I would like to let the [Iranian] managers in this sector know that here you need diplomacy and not slogans," he said. Hashemi-Rafsanjani called for prudence, patience, and wisdom, while avoiding provocations. He said this issue must be resolved while protecting Iran's rights.

Criticism from Rezai and Hashemi-Rafsanjani is not altogether unexpected. They were Ahmadinejad's rivals in the presidential election. Rezai may have expected a cabinet post or Supreme National Security Council position in exchange for his stepping out of the presidential race at the last minute. Furthermore, the 49- year-old Ahmadinejad's blunt, confrontational style is very unlike that of the much older and more pragmatic Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

But there has been criticism from other corners as well. Tabriz parliamentary representative Akbar Alami, who serves on the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said of the Supreme National Security Committee: "People who until very recently did not have any knowledge about the nuclear dossier and did not even know what nuclear energy was have now become high-ranking experts in the nuclear dossier of the Islamic Republic of Iran." He also criticized some of his colleagues in the legislature, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 29 September. He accused some parliamentarians of trying to block discussion of the nuclear issue, saying they are acting on behalf of the Supreme National Security Council.

A commentary in the pro-reform "Sharq" on 2 October noted that Iran is facing an "atmosphere of distrust" in the international arena. The Ahmadinejad administration's eastward-oriented foreign policy has proven to be ineffective in the nuclear case, the daily continued, so "the diplomatic apparatus should understand international realities and distance itself from the Security Council tsunami." The commentary also recommended the creation of a "crisis-diplomacy team."

An editorial in the hard-line "Resalat" daily on 29 September also commented on the needs of the foreign policy team. It noted that the diplomats need a "guidance council" or a "thinking room" (presumably, a foreign policy think tank). "Resalat" said diplomats and politicians do not have the time to study the issues they must deal with because of their workloads, while researchers and scholars are somewhat out of touch with the realities of diplomacy. "The establishment of a thinking room can bring the areas of operations and research closer together and create balance and equilibrium and make up for the research shortcomings and weaknesses in the area of foreign policy."

Ahmadinejad has evidently not been touched by such criticism. In a 5 October speech he said Iran is not opposed to negotiations on the nuclear issue, state television reported. But he added that Iran will not accept negotiations that are meant to deprive Iranians of their rights. Ahmadinejad said European countries other than the so-called 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.

Iran's current position on the nuclear issue should not be attributed to Ahmadinejad alone. Even before his inauguration Tehran made it clear that all the regime's leaders have a common view on nuclear policy. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad is not the only decision maker on the nuclear issue. Other top officials of the regime -- including Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Rohani -- contribute to the process and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has veto authority over his actions. Finally, Tehran has been fairly forthright for some time on what it sees as its right to master the complete nuclear-fuel cycle.

18 AFGHAN POLICEMEN AMBUSHED, KILLED IN SOUTHERN PROVINCE
An Afghan National Police convoy was ambushed by unidentified attackers in Helmand Province on 10 October, resulting in the death of 18 officers, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammad Yosuf Astanikzai told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on 11 October. Helmand's deputy police chief, Amanullah Khan, was among those killed, Astanikzai added. Helmand is a hotbed of neo-Taliban activity. AT

AFGHANISTAN RESPONDS TO SOUTH ASIAN EARTHQUAKE
The earthquake that devastated parts of Pakistani- and Indian-controlled Kashmir and is estimated to have killed upwards of 25,000 people in those countries was felt in much of eastern and northeastern Afghanistan, international news agencies reported. A young girl was killed in the eastern city of Jalalabad, while houses collapsed in other parts of Nangarhar Province, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 8 October. Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 9 October called his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf and told him that Afghans are feeling the pain of their Pakistani brethren, adding that his country would send four MI-17 helicopters to participate in relief operations and bring a consignment of dried fruits, Islamabad daily "The Nation" reported on 10 October. Meanwhile, the United States dispatched five CH-47 Chinook and three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters based in Afghanistan to Pakistan as part of U.S. effort to assist Pakistan, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 10 October. As part of its aid to Pakistan, Germany has also deployed three CH-53 helicopters based in Afghanistan to help the earthquake relief effort, Associated Press of Pakistan reported on 10 October. AT

ATTACK ON PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE INJURES MORE THAN A DOZEN IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
An explosive device injured 13 people in a private clinic of Saleh Mohammad Saljuqi in Herat city on 10 October, AFP reported. Saljuqi, who is a candidate for the lower house of the Afghan parliament, the People's Council, escaped unhurt. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. AT

HEAD OF REGIONAL ELECTION OFFICE IN SOUTHEASTERN PROVINCE DISMISSED
The local head of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) in Paktika Province was dismissed along with three of his staffers on suspicion of having committed fraud during vote counting, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 9 October. The four allegedly tried to inflate the figures for a particular candidate, an unidentified JEMB official told Pajhwak. AT

NEO-TALIBAN APPOINT NEW SPOKESMAN
Salimullah Mojahed has been appointed as the new spokesman for the neo-Taliban, AIP reported on 8 October. "On the order of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, I have been appointed as the main Taliban spokesman," Mojahed told AIP in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location. Prior to Mojahed's call, a man identifying himself as Dadullah telephoned AIP to report that Mojahed has been "appointed as the new spokesman of the Taliban and [that] he will keep in touch with the press." Former neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi was arrested in early October in Pakistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6, and 7 October 2005). AT

SUICIDE BOMBER WOUNDS FOUR BRITONS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Four British customs officials were injured when a suicide bomber crashed his vehicle into theirs in Kandahar Province, AFP reported on 9 October. Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khaled told AFP that the attack was "the work of the enemies of Afghanistan." The neo-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the British workers, AIP reported on 9 October. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mojahed told AIP that Mawlawi Akramuddin, a resident of the Arghandab district of Kandahar, carried out the suicide attack on behalf of the neo-Taliban. AT

PRO-GOVERNMENT COMMANDER AMONG FOUR KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Aqil Shah and three others died in an explosion in Kandahar on 10 October, AIP reported. Aqil Shah was an ally of the former Kandahar Governor Gol Agha Sherzai, who is currently the governor of Nangarhar Province. The neo-Taliban claimed responsibility for having killed Aqil Shah, AIP reported on 10 October. Mojahed told AIP that the "Taliban carried out" the explosion in Kandahar in order to kill Aqil Shah because he "was a pro-government commander." AT

SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS TWO IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
A man blew himself up on 10 October in Kandahar, killing at least two other people, AFP reported. The bomber "who had explosives on his body exploded himself when police ordered him to stop," Kandahar Governor Khaled told reporters. According to Khaled, the remains of the attacker have indicated that he was not an Afghan. AT

IRANIAN OFFICIAL BACKS TALKS TO 'CLARIFY' NUCLEAR PROGRAM...
Supreme National Security Council spokesman Ali Aqamohammadi said in Tehran on 10 October that Iran stands by its "legal and natural rights" in its contested nuclear program but backs talks with Western powers and "will respond positively to any new proposal," ISNA and AFP reported the same day. Iran's intention, he said, is "clarification." But he said that "the entirety" of a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution condemning aspects of Iran's nuclear activities "is neither acceptable nor feasible, in our view," ISNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 October 2005). Iran wants what it describes as its right to master the nuclear fuel-production cycle recognized, but Western powers have expressed concern over its potential ability to make nuclear bombs. Aqamohammadi said that Iran supports the "strategy of talks" and would talk "rationally, and without preconditions" with the EU-3 (Great Britain, France and Germany). "Our direction in the nuclear issue is that we should be able to use our rights -- but we are not using these rights presently -- to open the way for talks," he said in a reference to Iran's wish to develop nuclear technology and master the fuel-production cycle. "We do not intend to make all our fuel, but we shall not lose the ability to do that," ISNA quoted Aqamohammadi as saying. "That ability is...not something we are seeking outside legal bounds." Receiving fuel from abroad "is impossible," he added. VS

...WHILE CHIEF NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR IS DEFIANT
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani vowed in Tehran on 9 October that "if they want to speak in threatening language, we will resist," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October. "We will not leave the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], but we do not accept [its] Additional Protocol," he said. The protocol allows for closer checks of Iran's installations. He said Iran will not be cowed into stopping work at a uranium-conversion plant near Isfahan, in central Iran. But, he added: "It should not be inferred that Iran's dossier is going to the Security Council. The [IAEA] resolution has certain elements that are feasible for Iran, and others that are not." Separately, he told a gathering of students in Tehran on 9 October that "a legal anarchism" is taking over the world, the daily reported. While North Korea "has no problem at the [IAEA] when it is ahead of us in terms of nuclear technology and Uranium enrichment, every day they have to create a problem for Iran." He told the students: "You are living in a world where there is American fascism. The various curtains of American fascism have been laid out across the world, and you can see some of its layers.... They believe that only they must consider everything legitimate." VS

REFORMERS CRITICIZE IRAN'S APPROACH ON NUCLEAR ISSUE
Some reformist parliamentarians have said Iran must avoid any confrontation over the nuclear dossier, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on 10 October. Mohammad Reza Tabesh said in parliament on 9 October that no "intelligent person" would force a conflict between Iran's "right to attain peaceful nuclear energy" with "the nation's great right to exist," Radio Farda and "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October. Tabesh said the government of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has so far failed to adequately prosecute talks with the EU-3, and he urged the return of Iran's former negotiators. There has been no "whiff of an improvement in conditions" since the last IAEA meeting, he said, and "the young negotiating team has shown that it needs the help of its former colleagues." Another legislator, Hussein Afarideh, deplored the government's "mistaken measure" of a "hasty" reshuffle of Iran's negotiating team, Radio Farda reported. Mehdi Karrubi, the former parliamentary speaker, separately urged the government on 9 October to ensure Iran is not referred to the UN Security Council, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. VS

IRAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS BORDERS SEALED...
Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi told ISNA in northeastern Iran on 10 October that a "national movement" is necessary to "close, control, and guard" Iran's borders. He made the comments after visiting a segment of the border with Afghanistan, where Iran is struggling to block the trafficking of drugs and migrants. Iran, he said, must have "suitable control" of its frontier, and while there could be no "100 percent" promises over security, "one can raise indices, and I hope we will reach an entirely satisfactory figure." He accused the United States of boosting drug traffickers in Afghanistan, and said U.S. forces "have come to the region to fight terrorism and drugs, but in the shadow of this presence, these two factors have come to threaten the security and culture of the region." Unfortunately, "with the presence of the Americans in the region, both terrorism and drugs have become more extended," he said. VS

...AS OFFICIAL CLAIMS MORE AFGHANS ARE ENTERING IRAN
Ahmad Husseini, the head of the immigration department at the Interior Ministry, expressed concern in Tehran on 9 October over the rising number of Afghans illegally entering Iran and said the country will carry out a headcount of Afghans in Iran after 6 November to determine how many are there illegally, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 10 October, citing ISNA. He said that "4,500 illegal Afghans" have "in recent months" been detained in the northwestern West Azerbaijan province, adding that Pakistanis and nationals of former Soviet republics are increasingly smuggling people through Iran to other countries. "He did not say whether the detained Afghans were illegally staying or passing through Iran. In the year to March 2005, he said, Iran arrested 180,000 Afghans without permits, "and the number has reached 150,000" in the six-month period from March 2005, which "shows we face an increase in the illegal entry of Afghans into the country." He blamed this on the difficulty of controlling Iran's eastern border, "insufficient efforts" by the Afghan government, and the use of illegal labor by Iranian firms, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. VS

IRAQI GROUPS CONTINUE TALKS ON DRAFT CONSTITUTION...
Iraqi leaders continued talks on 11 October in an effort to elicit Sunni Arab support for the draft constitution, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. President Jalal Talabani told reporters in Baghdad on 10 October that the Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic Party has proposed three demands for changes to the draft. He did not elaborate on those demands but said he found them reasonable. If an agreement is not reached, Talabani said, the National Assembly will take up the issue on 11 October and a final decision on the draft -- including any possible changes -- will be announced following that meeting. Talabani added that if the demands are accepted by all political parties and coalitions, it seems as though the Islamic Party will support the draft constitution and encourage its members to vote "yes" on 15 October. KR

...AFTER SUNNI ARAB, TURKOMAN GROUPS CALL FOR 'NO' VOTE
In an interview with Al-Jazeera television on 10 October, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Dialogue Council called on Iraqis to vote "no" in the 15 October referendum on the draft constitution. Salih al-Mutlaq warned Iraqis not to avoid voting on referendum day, saying: "I believe that sitting at home at this stage will be considered a failure to perform a national duty. The citizen who stays at home will then be like the one who says 'yes' to the constitution although he is against it. Therefore, I hope that all Iraqis will go to the ballot boxes and say 'no' to this constitution." Al-Mutlaq contended that copies of the draft have not reached all parts of the country and called on the Independent Electoral Commission to distribute copies so that people have time to review the document before the vote. The influential Sunni group Muslim Scholars Association has also called on Iraqis to vote "no" in the referendum. Meanwhile, Sa'd al-Din Arkaj, head of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, also called on supporters to vote "no" in the referendum, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 9 October. Arkaj contended that the draft deprives Turkomans of their rights. KR

IRAQIS AWAIT COPIES OF DRAFT CONSTITUTION
With the 15 October referendum just days away, many Iraqis were still awaiting copies of the draft constitution, international media reported on 10 October. Just 2,000 of some 200,000 copies had been delivered to Dahuk, RFI reported. Meanwhile, "Khabat" reported that the Independent Electoral Commission inadvertently sent 100,000 copies of the draft -- intended for Kirkuk -- to Tikrit. Of that number, 8,400 copies were loaded into an asphalt truck in Tikrit and sent to Kirkuk but, according the newspaper, the copies arrived smeared with asphalt and are now unreadable. KR

IRAQI GOVERNMENT ISSUES SLEW OF WARRANTS FOR ALLEGED CORRUPTION
The Iraqi government issued arrest warrants for 27 high-level members of the former interim administration of Iyad Allawi -- including former Defense Minister Hazim al-Sha'lan -- for suspected involvement in the embezzlement of more than $1 billion, bbc.co.uk reported on 11 October. Adil al-Lami, who chairs the current government's transparency commission, said warrants have also been issued for the former ministers of transportation, electricity, labor, and housing, Al-Jazeera reported on 11 October. The National Assembly met on 10 October to discuss the lifting of al-Sha'lan's immunity from prosecution so that he might be extradited from Jordan, but no decision was reached, according to Al-Jazeera. London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 10 October that Jordanian authorities have banned al-Sha'lan from any political or media activities on Jordanian territory in light of the corruption scandal. Al-Sha'lan was expected to announce the establishment of a new political party this week, which he has reportedly named "The Parliament." Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told the daily that Jordan has not yet received an official Iraqi request for al-Sha'lan's extradition. KR

ARAB LEAGUE DELEGATION ATTACKED, TWO KILLED
A security delegation from the Arab League was attacked in Baghdad on 10 October while en route to Iftar at the Muslim Scholars Association, RFI reported. Two security officers were killed and seven others injured in the attack. Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Ahmad bin Hilli told Al-Arabiyah television that he did not feel that Iraqis had objected to the league's presence, saying, "Our impression is that many sides have welcomed us. However, there were some individuals who expressed their opinions about this, but their leaders said that this is not an official stand" of any group. The delegation is in Baghdad to prepare for an upcoming visit by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa to Iraq later this month. KR

GOVERNMENT DECLARES NATIONAL HOLIDAY
The Iraqi government declared a national holiday from 13-16 October as part of a security lockdown in connection with the constitutional referendum, RFI reported on 10 October. The holiday will be much like that imposed during the January elections; border crossings will be shut down, and airports will be closed to commercial passenger flights. Ministries and government offices will be closed, and extended curfew hours will be in place. KR

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