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Newsline - October 20, 2005


WOLFOWITZ URGES GREATER REFORMS FOR RUSSIA
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said in Moscow after talks with Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on 18 October that he has noticed considerable economic advances in Russia over the past 10 years, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported on 19 October. Wolfowitz said that if in the mid-1990s Russia's future looked bleak, there now are no doubts about its economic prospects. But Russia should do much more in solving problems such as corruption, transparency in the judicial system, administrative reform, and inadequate health care and more funding for education, Wolfowitz said. Gref told reporters that the World Bank has agreed to give Russia a $100 million loan for judicial reform and the creation of special economic zones, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 October. Gref added that the World Bank is prepared to help Russia battle corruption by providing Moscow with information and statistics. VY

RUSSIA MISSES GOAL OF WTO MEMBERSHIP THIS YEAR
Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maksim Medvedkov said on 19 October that Russia will not meet its goal of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of this year because of problems it still must solve with its WTO-talks partners, AP reported. These problems include state subsidies for energy prices and levies on some industrial imports, including aircraft. At the same time, Russia is making progress in solving such problems as agricultural trade barriers and fighting intellectual-property piracy, as demanded by the United States, Medvedkov added. VY

INVESTIGATION INTO $1 MILLION BRIBE CASE CONTINUES
Moscow's Zamoskvaretskii District Court issued a warrant on 19 October for the arrest of Oleg Alekseev, a senior official in the Federal Tax Service allegedly caught red-handed by the Federal Security Service (FSB) the previous day receiving a $1 million bribe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2005), newsinfo.ru reported. Along with Alekseev -- who allegedly extorted the bribe from the chairman of the board of Russian Kapital bank, Aleksei Ivashchenko -- a lawyer for the Central Bank's Moscow subsidiary, Aleksei Mishin, was also arrested. According to Ivashchenko, Alekseev -- with Mishin's mediation -- offered to end a tax investigation of Russian Kapital bank if Ivashchenko paid him 10 percent of the taxes the bank is purported to have not paid. Alekseev calculated that 10 percent of the unpaid taxes would amount to some $5.3 million. Ivashchenko agreed to pay an advance of $1 million in cash, but alerted the FSB to the request. VY

RUSSIAN SEAMEN ARRESTED IN SPAIN FOR SMUGGLING COCAINE
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on 19 October that Spain has informed it about the 14 October arrest on the Canary Islands of five Russian sailors accused of smuggling 3 tons of cocaine into Spain, RIA-Novosti reported. The arrested Russian sailors were members of the crew of a Panamanian ship that also included Spaniards and Latin Americans. According to Spanish police, the Canary Islands is a favorite route of drug traffickers smuggling cocaine from Latin America to Europe, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER INTERVENES IN RUSSIAN TRAWLER SCANDAL
Sergei Ivanov said on 19 October that Russia is not going to war with Norway over the incident with the Russian trawler "Elektron," which is accused by Norwegian authorities of illegal fishing near Spitzbergen, Russian and international media reported. The trawler, with two Norwegian fishing inspectors on board, evaded the Norwegian Coast Guard for four days until it reached Russian waters on 19 October. Ivanov said that Norwegian ships will be allowed to enter Russia waters to pick up their inspectors and to deliver claims concerning illegal fishing by the "Elektron," RTR reported. The ship and crew of the trawler will be probed by the Russian FSB's Border Guard Service in Murmansk and, if Norwegian claims are confirmed, the Russian side will pay compensation. VY

LAWMAKER CRITICIZES SECURITY AGENCIES ABOUT NALCHIK...
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, and Southern Federal District presidential envoy Dmitrii Kozak gave reports at a closed-door hearing in the Duma about the raid on Nalchik on 13 October and its consequences, Russian news agencies reported 19 October. Speaking after the hearing, Duma Security Committee member Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist), who initiated the hearings, said there was nothing secretive about the meeting as security chiefs said nothing new, TV-Tsentr reported. He said the events in Nalchik cannot be classified as a "terrorist act" because it was a full-format, two-day combat operation. "It was more like a mutiny, an attempt to seize power in the city, and we should label it properly." Ilyukhin added that the Russian security agencies cannot guarantee that there won't be a repetition of the Nalchik events somewhere else in the North Caucasus and that the situation in the region, in his opinion, has no military solution. VY

...AS SOME COLLEAGUES SUPPORT HIM
Aleksandr Torshin, the deputy chairman of the Federation Council, said he is concerned that gunmen in Nalchik were very well equipped and had the most advanced infantry weapons, RTR reported. "These weapons are not produced underground but by state enterprises, and they have serial numbers. We should investigate," he added. Torshin also said that the security agencies want to create an inventory of all weapons in the Russian Federation and asked for this funding equal to 50 percent of the Defense Ministry budget of $20 billion. The government has no thoughtful policy concept in the North Caucasus, he said after listening to Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 19 October. And Dmitrii Rogozin, the Motherland party leader, said that the security chiefs simply have nothing to say and they classified the hearing to conceal their big secret, which is corruption, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. "The position of traffic policeman in Daghestan costs $10,000, and the position of republican interior minister costs millions," he claimed. VY

BIRD FLU DISCOVERED SOUTH OF MOSCOW
Lab results confirmed on 19 October that birds in the Yefremovskii Raion in Tula Oblast are infected with bird flu, Russian news agencies reported. According to Channel One television (CK) and NTV, 270 birds have been destroyed in the village of Yankovka in this raion, and a quarantine has been introduced there. According to gazeta.ru, Yankovka is located 360 kilometers from Moscow. Tula Oblast's poultry farms supply a "fairly large" quantity of poultry to Moscow, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. According to gazeta.ru, the oblast produces 35,000 tons of poultry meat annually. Asked to comment on the situation, Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev said: "There is no point in dramatizing the situation. As for Russia, the spread of bird flu has been contained." JAC

PUTIN TAPS REPRESSIVE REGIONAL LEADER FOR THIRD TERM IN OFFICE
President Putin has submitted the name of Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyuzhinov for confirmation for another term as president of the republic, Russian news agencies reported on 19 October, citing the presidential press service. Ilyumzhinov has headed Kalymkia since 1993. Presidential envoy for the Southern Federal District Kozak announced earlier in the month that the majority of the members of the regional political elite supported another term for Ilyumzhinov during consultations Kozak had with those politicians. Gazeta.ru commented earlier that "in terms of the number of accusations of violating democratic principles, he surpasses even such overlords as [Bashkir President] Murtaza Rakhimov and [Daghestan's State Council Chairman] Magomedali Magomedov" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2005). JAC

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER YOUTH GROUP EMERGES
Moscow Oblast authorities are forming their own youth organization, "Gazeta" reported on 20 October. The group will be called Mestnye (Locals). The authorities made the announcement on 19 October to a group of around 10,000 activists at a concert. Unlike the pro-Kremlin group Nashi, which call themselves antifascists, Mestnye consider themselves "political ecologists." "We are against any appearance of fascism and extremism; in particular, we are against the National Bolsheviks," Mestnye leader Igor Panin said. "But in contrast to Nashi, we engage not in politics in the pure sense but in ecology with a political bent," Sergei Fateev, another leader added. Mestnye leaders said that the group will struggle "against several federal bureaucrats in the president's circle" but declined to provide the names of their enemies in the Kremlin. However, Panin said: "You will soon find out that [our foes] are not the leaders of Unified Russia or civil servants. We are planning a series of actions against them." JAC

RESURRECTION OF BESLAN CHILDREN DELAYED UNTIL NEXT YEAR
"Gazeta" reported on 19 October that the self-declared "new Christ," Grigorii Grabovoi, failed to resurrect the child victims of last year's Beslan school siege on 15 October as he had promised. However, his supporters are giving him another year to perform the miracle. According to the daily, one of the followers, who was not named, said: "On October 15, we phoned him but he told us that we were not ready yet and had to work on ourselves further." The Beslan Mothers Committee split over the fact that some of its members, including former leader Susanna Dudieva, support Grabovoi. The members of the committee who oppose him changed the organizations by-laws and elected a new chairperson, Anna Totrova. According to the daily, despite news stories calling Grabovoi a "charlatan," the number of his supporters continues to grow. Totrova explained: "Even the strongest of us start listening to miraculous stories." According to earlier news reports, Grabovoi was asking for 1,000 euros ($1,195) per resurrected victim. JAC

ETHNIC CHINESE DEMAND PROTECTION FROM VIOLENCE IN FAR EASTERN CITY
Some 200 ethnic Chinese residents of Khabarovsk gathered outside the city's mortuary on 19 October to make public their concerns about their safety and the 18 October murder of a Chinese businessman, REN-TV reported on 19 October. According to the station, the Chinese marched from the mortuary to China's consulate building in Khabarovsk. An attache with the consulate told the station that this is the second murder of a Chinese national in 2005, and another Chinese person was killed in late 2004. At the end of last week, a Chinese businessman was robbed and chained to a tree. Law enforcement officials said that there was no reason to suspect that the incident was ethnically motivated. JAC

ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Twenty-one Armenian political parties plus the pro-government People's Deputy parliament faction signed a statement on 18 October affirming their support for the constitutional amendments to be put to a nationwide referendum on 27 November, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 October. The parties in question include the extraparliamentary Christian-Democratic Union of Armenia, the Democratic-Liberal Union of Armenia, and both the United and the Progressive Communist parties. The Artarutiun opposition parliament bloc and the National Accord Party announced one week ago that they will campaign to persuade voters to reject the amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2005). A minimum of one-third of Armenia's registered 2.4 million voters must approve the amendments for them to pass. LF

COUP RUMORS SURFACE FOLLOWING ARREST OF AZERBAIJANI EX-MINISTER AND HIS BROTHER
Farkhad Aliev, whom President Ilham Aliyev dismissed on 19 October as economic development minister, was arrested later that day by National Security Ministry staff, echo-az.com reported on 20 October. His brother Rafik, whose company Azerpetrol reportedly controls the majority of the country's gas stations, has also been arrested, according to zerkalo.az on 20 October. Both online sites quoted unconfirmed speculation that the two men were implicated by former Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov in a plot to overthrow the current leadership. Yusifov was detained during the night of 16-17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005) and, under interrogation, is believed to have said that Farkhad Aliev provided funds to the political opposition, according to unconfirmed reports cited by zerkalo.az. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) and former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev were also mentioned in connection with the purported conspiracy, but Eurasia View on 19 October quoted AHCP Deputy Chairman Fuad Mustafaev as rejecting such allegations as "idiocy." Mustafaev attributed Farkhad Aliev's arrest to his defeat in a power struggle between rival factions within the country's leadership. Aliev, who had the reputation of a reformer, has publicly crossed swords with Customs Committee Chairman Kemaleddin Heydarov over economic monopolies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2005). LF

DETAINED AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST RELEASED IN UKRAINE
Former Azerbaijan parliament speaker and opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) Chairman Guliev has been released from detention in Ukraine, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported on 20 October. Guliev was detained in Simferopol on 17 October after his chartered plane landed for refueling en route to Baku. A judge in Simferopol rejected both a request by local authorities to prolong his detention and an extradition request from the Azerbaijani authorities. Guliev, who left Azerbaijan in 1996 but has registered as a candidate in the 6 November parliamentary election, faces charges of large-scale embezzlement dating from the early 1990s, when he headed Azerbaijan's largest oil refinery. DPA First Deputy Chairman Sardar Djalaloglu told journalists in Baku on 20 October that Guliev has been invited to visit Kyiv, where he will hold "a series of meetings." Djalalologu declined to specify if and when Guliev might make a second attempt to return to Baku. In an 18 October interview with foreign journalists, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev branded Guliev "the head of an international mafia" and said Baku will continue to seek his extradition, according to "The New York Times" on 19 October and ITAR-TASS on 20 October. LF

GEORGIAN PREMIER REPLACES FOREIGN MINISTER...
Zurab Noghaideli announced late on 19 October after consultations with parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, President Mikheil Saakashvili, and Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili that he has dismissed Zourabichvili, Georgian media reported. Noghaideli subsequently told journalists that the parliament has voiced repeated criticism of Zourabichvili, whose tone in talking to deputies he described as "inadmissible in a democratic society," rustavi2.com reported on 20 October. Noghaideli attributed what he termed Georgia's "successful" foreign policy to the joint work of "the president, the government, the parliament, our entire political team." On 20 October, Noghaideli named National Security Council Secretary Gela Bezhuashvili to succeed Zourabichvili, rustavi2.com reported. Bezhuashvili, who is 39, studied at U.S. universities and is a former Georgian ambassador to Kazakhstan. He served from 1997-2000 as head of the International Law Department at the Georgian Foreign Ministry, and then as deputy defense minister (2000-2003) and defense minister (February-June 2004). LF

...WHO ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO ENGAGE IN DOMESTIC POLITICS
Zourabichvili, who has French and Georgian citizenship and joined the Georgian government early last year at President Saakashvili's personal request, told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 19 October she has submitted her resignation from the French diplomatic service, Caucasus Press reported. Zourabichvili said she intends to remain in Georgia and enter politics in the hope of defeating what she termed forces that support Russia and neo-communism. She said an ideological struggle is under way in Georgia between "the old and the new," and she appealed to her supporters to rally at Tbilisi's horse racing track on 20 October. She argued that the present parliament should be dissolved and new elections in which all deputies would be elected from single-mandate constituencies. LF

ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN SECURITY TALKS POSTPONED
The fifth round of talks, scheduled for 20-21 October, between Abkhaz and Georgian government delegations and members of the Friends of the UN Secretary-General on security guarantees for Georgian displaced persons wishing to return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion has been postponed provisionally until next month, according to a 19 October press release posted on the website of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (http://www.unomig.org). On 20 October, rustavi2.com quoted the Georgian Ministry for Conflict Resolution as saying that the two sides cannot agree on some aspects of the wording of a document on repatriation that is on the agenda of those talks. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT OFFICIAL SAYS BASE-CLOSURE AGREEMENT IS LEGAL
Konstantine Gabashvili, who chairs the Georgian Parliament's committee on foreign relations, rejected on 19 October as misplaced the demand adopted the previous day by two committees of the Russian State Duma to investigate whether the agreement negotiated earlier this year by the two countries' respective foreign ministers on the closure of Russia's two remaining military bases in Georgia is legally binding, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2005). An unnamed Duma deputy reportedly quoted Russian diplomat Igor Savolskii, who participated in the negotiations, as saying that the agreement in question was neither formally signed nor initialed. Gabashvili argued that the agreement is legally binding because the two countries' presidents tasked their foreign ministers with reaching an agreement on the issue. LF

KAZAKH, CHINESE OIL COMPANIES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON PETROKAZAKHSTAN ACQUISITION
In a joint statement published on 19 October on the web sites of Kazakh oil-and-gas company KazMunaiGaz (www.kmg.kz) and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC; www.cnpc.com.cn), the two state-owned companies announced that they signed a memorandum of understanding on 15 October "with an aim to clear issues regarding KazMunaiGaz 's involvement" in CNPC's $4.2 billion buyout of Canadian-registered PetroKazakhstan. According to the English text of the announcement provided by CNPN, "KazMunaiGaz will obtain a certain amount of [PetroKazakhstan] shares enough to have strategic control over the development of the country's mineral resources, and obtain the equal right for joint management over Shymkent refinery and its products." The statement did not specify the size of the stake KazMunaiGaz will acquire, but recent reports have indicated that KazMunaiGaz will pay $1.4 billion for roughly one third of PetroKazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2005). PetroKazakhstan shareholders approved the CNPC buyout bid at a meeting on 18 September, but a Canadian judge will rule on 26 October on an objection to the acquisition filed by Russia's LUKoil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2005). DK

KAZAKH POLICE CONFISCATE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER
Police in Almaty on 19 October confiscated the print run of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda Slova" (Freedom of Speech), Interfax and Navigator reported. Daulet Baideldinov, the head of Almaty's Election Commission, told Interfax that the newspaper violated administrative regulations in the lead-up to the 4 December presidential election. Baideldinov noted that during the pre-campaign period -- campaigning officially begins on 25 October -- "it is forbidden to campaign for anybody, not to mention publish materials of a slanderous nature or those that call for the overthrow of the constitutional system." But "Svoboda Slova" editor in chief Gulzhan Ergalieva told a press conference that the newspaper will contest the confiscation in court, Interfax reported. "Svoboda Slova" observer Ayan Sharipbaev told Navigator, "Law enforcement officers arrived and without a court decision, without any kind of legal documents, basing their actions on some kind of resolution by the local election commission, confiscated the entire print run." DK

RUSSIA MARKS OFFICIAL DEPARTURE FROM TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Vladimir Pronichev, deputy head of Russia's Federal Security Service, attended a ceremony in Dushanbe on 19 October to mark the departure of Russian guards from the Tajik-Afghan border, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Pronichev, who commands Russia's border guard service, said that Russia will continue to assist Tajikistan, Rossiya TV reported. He said, "We will jointly train personnel, continue with the gradual execution of the tasks we were carrying out earlier, and render active assistance as regards aviation if a situation emerges or intensifies." Rakhmonov took the opportunity to comment on Tajik-Russian relations, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. He said, "The expansion of relations with Russia as a strategic partner occupies a special place in Tajikistan's foreign policy, and the border guards played a valuable role in strengthening those relations." DK

TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTER REPORTS ON OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH CRIMES...
Interior Minister Humdin Sharipov told a press conference in Dushanbe on 19 October that criminal charges have been filed against 81 law-enforcement officials in 2005, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Another 300 employees have been fired for incompetence and negligence. Sharipov noted that 18 passport registration officials face criminal charges for trying to recruit people to work in the sex industry, Avesta reported. The minister stressed that a commission set up to bring back individuals recruited into the sex trade has returned 26 people, including three Uzbek citizens, from the United Arab Emirates. In total, 58 cases involving recruitment of individuals into the sex industry were solved in 2005, according to Sharipov. DK

...AND WARNS BAYAT EXTREMIST GROUP STILL ACTIVE
Sharipov told journalists that the extremist group Bayat "remains active," Interfax reported. Sharipov said, "Last year we detained 12 Bayat members, all of whom were convicted." He said that 16 members of Bayat, which he described as similar to the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir in its goals, are currently being sought. DK

ALLEGED EXTREMIST LEADER 'TESTIFIES' BY VIDEO AT UZBEK TERROR TRIAL
Akram Yoldoshev, the imprisoned leader of the so-called Akramiya extremist group, "testified" by videotape on 19 October at the Tashkent trial of 15 alleged organizers of 12-13 May violence in Andijon, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and the BBC Uzbek Service reported. Judge Bakhtiyor Jamolov explained that Yoldoshev could not testify in person because he has tuberculosis; the testimony played before the court was recorded in July. In his taped remarks, Yoldoshev said that he instructed Qobil Parpiev, a fugitive whom Uzbek authorities have identified as a leader in the Andijon violence, by telephone on 12 May to begin a "jihad." Yoldoshev, who is currently serving a 17-year sentence on terrorism charges, said that he maintained contact with the leaders of the Andijon violence by means of a mobile phone that was smuggled into the prison hospital where he is confined. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT RAISES STUDENT STIPENDS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decreed that all types of student allowances be raised by 20 percent as of September in order to "increase the social protection" of students, Belapan reported on 19 October, citing the presidential press office. Prior to this increase, monthly student stipends varied from 61,400-98,300 rubles ($28-$46), depending on the type of educational institutions and student performance. JM

BELARUS EXPECTS 7-8 PERCENT ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2006
Economy Minister Mikalay Zaychanka said at a government conference in Minsk on 19 October that the country's economy is expected to grow by 7-8 percent next year, Belapan reported. The government also estimates that the average monthly wage will increase to the equivalent of $300 by the end of 2006. Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut said the government plans to reduce the overall tax burden by 0.8 percent and to simplify the tax system in 2006. A study titled "Doing Business in 2006 -- Creating Jobs," released by the World Bank and the International Financial Corporation in September, ranked Belarus 154th among 155 countries regarding ease of paying taxes. According to the study, the effective tax that a medium-sized company in Belarus has to pay within a year is equal to 121.8 percent of its gross profit, while entrepreneurs in Belarus must make 113 tax payments and spend 50 days regulating their tax obligations to the state. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FILLS POSITIONS IN ELECTION-CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT
The Belarusian opposition has filled key positions in the central campaign headquarters of Alyaksandr Milinkevich, its candidate for the 2006 presidential election, Belapan reported on 19 October. Campaign chief Syarhey Kalyakin told journalists that the opposition agreed on his three deputies and the headquarters' business manager. Viktar Karniyenka, a member of the United Civic Party, will coordinate the activities of provincial campaign headquarters and take responsibility for the distribution of campaign materials and the organization of various mass events. United Civic Party Deputy Chairman Alyaksandr Dabravolski will be in charge of information support and public relations for Milinkevich's campaign. Belarusian Popular Front Chairman Vintsuk Vyachorka will be responsible for Milinkevich's foreign contacts. Valery Ukhnalyou, secretary the Belarusian Party of Communists, was confirmed as the headquarters' business manager. According to Kalyakin, the opposition's central election headquarters will consist of 30 people. "This is only the main body," he noted. More than 10,000 people "will be involved in the candidate's election campaign," he added. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS EURO-ATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS
President Viktor Yushchenko assured NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Kyiv on 19 October that Ukraine will diverge from its course toward Euro-Atlantic integration and sees NATO membership as a strategic foreign-policy goal, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. In his turn, de Hoop Scheffer said staging free and fair parliamentary elections in March will be "a very important milestone" in judging Ukraine's progress toward NATO membership. He also cited the need for judicial reform, rule of law, and the fight to eliminate corruption. "NATO's door was, is, and remains open," he noted. "Because NATO is a performance-based organization, these reforms...are essential, and they have to be done by Ukraine, and NATO will help." JM

UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT GRINDS TO A HALT
Nine judges of Ukraine's Constitutional Court retired on 18 October, bringing the number of vacancies in this body to 13, "The Kyiv Post" reported on 20 October. The Constitutional Court, which is made up of 18 judges appointed to nine-year terms -- six chosen by the president, six by parliament, and six by the Congress of Judges -- determines whether laws and acts of the president and Cabinet of Ministers and international treaties conform with the constitution. Parliament now needs to appoint four judges and the president needs to appoint three, with the remainder chosen by the Congress of Judges. JM

EU LAUDS BOSNIA ON POLICE REFORM, RECOMMENDS START OF TALKS
The European Union lauded Bosnia-Herzegovina on 19 October for passing key police-reform legislation, but warned that the changes must be implemented fully, Reuters reported the same day. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the European Commission will recommend starting negotiations with Bosnia on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step toward EU membership. However, failure to fully implement police reform will mean delays in the SAA negotiations. "The commission will continue to monitor the police reform closely and we will want to see progress in the implementation during the SAA negotiations and further on," Rehn said. The upper house of Bosnia-Herzegovina's parliament passed the police-reform bill on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2005). It creates a multiethnic police force to replace the separate, ethnically based forces in the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. BW

UN AND NATO CONFIRM EXISTENCE OF ARMED GROUPS IN KOSOVA
Both the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR and the United Nations Mission in Kosova (UNMIK) confirmed on 19 October that armed groups have been active in the province, international news agencies reported the same day. "Masked men in black clothing" stopped and checked vehicles on the road between Pec and Djakovica in recent days, prompting an increased alert for international police, dpa quoted UNMIK police head Kai Wittrup as saying. KFOR spokesman Pio Sabetta said the groups set up "illegal checkpoints," but so far no incidents have been reported. Local media were reporting that a group calling itself "The Army for Kosova's Independence" was setting up checkpoints in western Kosova, and threatening United Nations and Kosovar officials with death or kidnapping if they tried to block the province's independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2005). Wittrup said the situation in the province is stable, and declined to discuss the identity of the armed groups, saying only that they are criminal gangs. BW

INDEPENDENCE DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED IN FRONT OF UN MISSION
Anti-riot police in Kosova arrested dozens of pro-independence demonstrators protesting in front of the United Nations mission on 19 October, international news agencies reported the same day. In the latest tension ahead of Kosova's final status talks, some 100 ethnic Albanian activists demonstrated in front of the UN mission in Prishtina, spraying vehicles with graffiti and calling for the UN to leave the province, Reuters reported. "The UN regime imposed against the will of the people represents a denial of freedom," read a flyer handed out during the protest. The UN Security Council is expected to endorse the start of final-status talks for Kosova at a session on 24 October. But many of Kosova's 1.9 million ethnic Albanians see the UN-backed talks as an attempt to delay full independence. BW

U.S. OFFICIAL: STATUS QUO IN KOSOVA NOT TENABLE
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said that the status quo in Kosova is no longer tenable and that the situation must be resolved in negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina, international news agencies reported on 20 October. "We don't know where this process will lead, but it has to be better than the status quo, which has brought neither peace nor stability to Kosovo in the past years," Burns said, speaking to reporters in Paris. Burns added that final status talks must begin by the end of November, and that he will most likely represent the United States. Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, meanwhile, said that the makeup of Serbia's negotiating team will be announced after the 24 October meeting of the Security Council endorses the start of negotiations, B-92 reported on 20 October. BW

FORMER MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO REMAIN IN CUSTODY
A court in Chisinau on 19 October rejected an appeal from former Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat to change his current detention in custody to house arrest, Moldovan news agencies reported. The court heeded a prosecutor who had argued that Pasat, as an adviser to Russia's Unified Energy Systems, could flee to Moscow. Pasat is now on trial for abuse of office in connection with the sale of 21 MiG-29 fighters to the United States in 1997, when he was Moldova's defense minister. The prosecution maintains that Pasat inflicted a loss of more than $50 million on the state by that deal (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Poland, and Moldova Report," 8 July 2005). Earlier this week, the prosecution brought a new charge against Pasat, accusing him of a similar offense by selling allegedly undervalued multiple-launch-rocket systems and missiles to a Slovak firm, ITAR-TASS reported. JM

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT BRINGS ABOUT FOREIGN MINISTER'S DISMISSAL
In a move that the opposition New Rightist parliament faction believes heralds Georgia's "return to the Russian orbit," Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghadeli dismissed Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili on 19 October. In announcing that decision to journalists, Noghaideli repeated -- and implicitly gave credence to -- criticisms of Zourabichvili expressed by parliament in recent days. Zourabichvili, who was born in Paris into an emigre family and made a successful career in the French diplomatic service before joining the Georgian government early last year at Saakashvili's personal request, has announced that she intends to remain in Georgia and enter politics in the hope of defeating what she termed forces that support Russia and neocommunism.

Zourabichvili's dismissal marks the culmination of a week of mounting criticism of her by parliament deputies. During a protracted discussion on 11-12 October, several parliament deputies lambasted Zourabichvili for her ministry's tardiness in submitting to the legislature for ratification the European Convention on National Minorities. Georgia pledged to ratify that convention when it joined the Council of Europe six years ago, and legislators duly did so on 13 October, Caucasus Press reported. The Foreign Ministry rejected the personal criticism of Zourabichvili, who was visiting the United Kingdom and Ireland, as "groundless" and "unsubstantiated," and protested the "insulting" tone adopted during the debate by parliamentarian David Kirkitadze of the majority United National Movement (GEM), Caucasus Press reported on 14 October. On 17 October, deputies representing the GEM took issue with the Foreign Ministry riposte, and demanded that whichever official drafted it be reprimanded; speaker Burdjanadze commented that even former Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze "never dared" to criticize the parliament in such terms.

Then on 18 October, the Georgian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee decided after a two-hour meeting with Zourabichvili to ask Noghaideli to dismiss her, Caucasus Press reported. They said that if Noghaideli refused to do so, they would raise the issue of impeaching Zourabichvili. Judging by comments from parliament deputy speaker Mikhail Machavariani, the catalyst for that demand was a written complaint addressed to parliament by three senior Georgian ambassadors accusing Zourabichvili of protectionism; nepotism; ignoring subordinates' requests to contact them; and ordering ambassadors to report directly to her, rather than to the parliament. Parliament speaker Burdjanadze accused Zourabichvili of "disrespect" for the parliament and characterized her behavior as "unprofessional"; she said the parliament "cannot continue" to work with Zourabichvili, Caucasus Press reported.

The tensions between Zourabichvili and the parliament date back more than a year. In September 2004, Burdjanadze raised at a session of the parliament bureau Zourabichvili's imputed responsibility for the likelihood that Georgia would be stripped of its voting rights at the UN for its failure over a period of many years to pay its membership dues. The bureau on that occasion considered, but then abandoned, the idea of seeking Zourabichvili's impeachment. And in June, the opposition Conservative parliament faction demanded that Zourabichvili should personally appear before parliament and explain to deputies why she continues to draw a monthly salary of 15,000 euros ($17,900) as a French diplomat in addition to the 3,000 laris ($1,700) she receives from the Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported on 11 June.

Elena Tevdoradze, who chairs the parliament's committee on human rights and has been one of Zourabichvili's most outspoken critics, explicitly denied on 17 October that personal animosity played any role in deputies' repeated criticisms of Zourabichvili. In a poll conducted by the weekly "Kviris palitra" and summarized on 9 August by Caucasus Press, 70 percent of the 500 respondents identified Zourabichvili as the most intelligent member of the government. In another poll two months earlier, she was rated by 46 percent of respondents as the most popular among the government ministers, Caucasus Press reported on 6 June.

DISTRICT HEAD IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN ASSASSINATED
Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammad Yusof Stanakzai said that Ahmadullah, head of Arghandab district in Kandahar Province, was killed on 19 October, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. "A number of assailants entered the mosque and open[ed] fire" on Ahmadullah as he was saying his prayers, Stanakzai told AIP. Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khaled claimed that the neo-Taliban is responsible for Ahmadullah's death, AFP reported on 19 October. Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, the head of the Panjwai district in which Ahmadullah was killed, said that seven suspects have been detained in Panjwai and are "being interrogated by the police," AIP reported on 19 October. "The enemies of the country were behind this attack," Sarhadi told AIP. "The Taliban have always carried out such attacks." No one has taken responsibility for the apparent assassination. AT

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Local school headmaster Abdul Wali was killed at his home on 18 October in Kandahar Province's Panjwai district, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 19 October. AFP offered a different version of Wali's killing on 19 October, reporting that he was kidnapped from his home and later found dead. An unidentified official from the Interior Ministry told Pajhwak that "the enemies of the country" carried out the attack, a phrase the Afghan government commonly uses to refer to the neo-Taliban. AT

ISAF PERSONNEL INJURED IN KABUL BLAST
Two French soldiers attached to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were injured on 19 October when an improvised explosive device hit their lightly armored vehicle in Shamali plain in northwestern Kabul Province, according to a NATO press release (http://www.afnorth.nato.int/ISAF/). The soldiers' injuries are not life-threatening. France has approximately 600 troops serving with ISAF. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT

KABUL DAILY WARNS OF TWO THREATS TO AFGHAN SECURITY
In a 17 October commentary titled "Security Problems are Worsening," "Erada" discussed the increase in some Afghan provinces of explosions, suicide attacks, the spread of antigovernment propaganda, and armed robberies. Such incidents are continuing and are, in fact, becoming more frequent despite the efforts of the coalition forces and ISAF to prevent them, according to the commentary. The article singled out Kandahar and Helmand provinces as places where antigovernment forces are carrying out their activities "boldly, using new tactics." Questioning the tactics used by the government and its foreign allies in opposing the militant groups, and the competence of government officials in some of the Afghan provinces, the commentary warned that the security strategies in Afghanistan "have two Achilles' heels." First, the strength of the neo-Taliban and other antigovernment forces are being underestimated; and second, "Pakistan's indirect interference [in the internal affairs of Afghanistan] is intentionally [being] ignored." AT

FORMER GOVERNOR LINKED TO DESTRUCTION OF BAMIYAN BUDDHAS ENTERS PARLIAMENT
A former governor of central Afghanistan's Bamiyan Province who oversaw the destruction of two giant Buddha statues in 2001 has been elected to the People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) of the National Assembly, AP reported on 19 October. Mawlawi Mohammad Islam Mohammadi's election to the assembly from Samangan Province, north of Bamiyan, has been certified by Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) (http://www.results.jemb.org). AT

IRAN FARES POORLY ON PRESS FREEDOM LIST
Reporters Without Borders' fourth annual World "Press Freedom Index," which was released on 20 October, gave Iran the worst record of press freedom in the Middle East and among the worst among all 167 countries with a ranking of 164th. The press watchdog noted the high number of Iranian journalists who are jailed or face a return to jail. BS

THEMATIC ART CONTEST TO TAKE PLACE IN IRAN
Iran's House of Cartoons and the Union of Islamic Students Associations are sponsoring an "A World Without Zionism" art competition in Tehran, IRNA reported on 19 October. The main themes of the competition are: "A World Without America," "A Mirage Named Zionism," "The Wishes Of A Palestinian Student," and "The Intifada." The contest is open to students aged seven-18, and they have until 21 November to send their submissions to info@zionot.ir. BS

INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION CRITICIZES IRAN
Radio Farda reported on 19 October that the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has just released its annual survey (http://www.icftu.org/survey2005.asp?language=EN). In its section on Iran, the survey notes many violations of workers rights, including the killing of four strikers, the closed trials of seven labor leaders, and the arrest and harassment of trade unionists. Mansur Asanlu, who heads the Tehran bus-drivers syndicate, told Radio Farda that "we want freedom for the syndicates." He said it is not enough for the government to sign some international agreements and then tell the world that Iran is upholding international standards. Asanlu and several colleagues were arrested in September as they protested against unpaid wages. BS

BRITAIN STILL BLAMED FOR IRAN BOMBINGS
An Iranian state-television announcer commented on 19 October that it is increasingly evident that Great Britain is connected with the fatal bombings in the southwestern city of Ahvaz four days earlier. "There is no strong evidence showing that Britain had not been involved in the blasts," the announcer said. The announcer connected the bombings with British and U.S. concern over Iran's nuclear pursuits, and explained: "To achieve their goals, they apparently intend to hatch certain plots -- including plots to cause insecurity and fan the flames of ethnic differences." The same day, Alaedin Borujerdi of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee told reporters in Tehran that all the explosives used in Ahvaz originated in British-controlled areas of Iraq, Mehr News Agency reported. He said an occupier is responsible for security in the occupied state; therefore, the British military is responsible for the explosives. BS

TEHRAN LEVELS OTHER ACCUSATIONS AT U.K.
Meanwhile, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad dismissed London's accusation of Iranian interference in Iraq, state television reported. "It is also absurd because those who have come from thousands of kilometers away, occupying the land [Iraq] and bullying people, are now accusing others of interfering in the domestic affairs of that land," he added. "Well, you [the British] are carrying out the highest level of interference." BS

TEHRAN DEMANDS JUSTICE IN SADDAM HUSSEIN TRIAL
Iranian judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad announced on 19 October that Tehran has submitted a criminal complaint to the court that is trying former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, IRNA reported. He said the indictment relates to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, the abuse of Iranian prisoners of war, and the use of unconventional and chemical weapons against Iranian troops. Karimirad described Hussein as a war criminal who must be brought to justice for his crimes against Iranians. An "expert on Iraqi issues," identified only as "Mr. Jaafari," told Iranian state radio on 19 October that the United States might kill Hussein in prison and claim that he committed suicide or became sick. According to Jaafari, this is so the trial does not go on too long and issues relating to Iraq's wars on Iran and on Kuwait do not come to light. BS

IRAQI SPECIAL TRIBUNAL SPOKESMAN DISCUSSES OPENING OF AL-DUJAYL TRIAL
Judge Ra'id al-Juhi told reporters at a 19 October press briefing in Baghdad that the Special Tribunal decided to adjourn the Al-Dujayl trial until 28 November in order to allow the defense more time to prepare its case, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 20 October. The adjournment will also allow the prosecution to re-notify witnesses about their upcoming court testimonies. Al-Juhi said that the investigations into other alleged crimes carried out by Hussein's regime are nearly complete, including the Al-Anfal campaign (in which some 180,000 Kurds were killed) and the deportation of Fayli Kurds. Asked about Hussein's refusal to identify himself (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2005) to the tribunal during the 19 October session, al-Juhi said: "The defendant has the legal right to remain silent and has the legal right to defend himself and to say whatever he wants." Al-Juhi described the Iraqi judicial system as "well-based and solid." KR

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S DAUGHTER SAYS FATHER WAS 'LIKE A LION' IN THE COURTROOM
Raghad Hussein told Al-Jazeera television in a 19 October interview aired after the trial ended that her father acted in the courtroom "like a lion, with the same known prestige and courage about which we have no doubt." Asked to gauge her father's morale, she said: "You know him. He is strong and brave." Asked if she intends to attend the Al-Dujayl trial in person, she said "no," adding: "I made a request to visit my father in his prison through the International Committee of the Red Cross. I have obtained an approval, but my father categorically rejected my visit out of fear [of] unexpected developments." In a separate interview with Al-Arabiyah television on 19 October, Raghad Hussein called the tribunal a "farce." KR

HUSSEIN'S NEPHEW ARRESTED FOR INCITING VIOLENCE
National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Al-Arabiyah television on 20 October that Iraqi security forces arrested Saddam Hussein's nephew Yasir Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Hasan on 19 October. Al-Hasan is the son of Hussein's half-brother; he was arrested during demonstrations in support of Saddam Hussein "while handing out money to people and encouraging them to demonstrate and commit acts of violence and crimes," al-Rubay'i said. Asked if the arrest will contribute to the quelling of the insurgency, al-Rubay'i told Al-Arabiyah: "[al-Hasan] is one of those who finance terrorism. We believe that there is hard evidence against [al-Hasan] that establishes him as one of the channels through which foreign and domestic funds flow to finance terrorist operations and acts of violence in northern and northwestern Iraq." KR

IRISH JOURNALIST KIDNAPPED IN IRAQ
Rory Carroll, an Irish journalist working for Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper, was kidnapped in the Al-Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad on 19 October, international media reported. Carroll was reportedly trying to gauge Iraqi reactions to Hussein's trial when he was abducted. Iraqi fixers who were with Carroll at the time of the incident either escaped or were released, washingtonpost.com reported on 20 October. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on Iraqi reporters and foreign correspondents to support efforts to find Carroll (http://www.ifj.org). "Iraqi reporters and foreign correspondents have suffered heavily in this conflict and we need the maximum of professional solidarity to get the message out that journalists should not be targeted," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. Meanwhile, 26 Iraqis, five U.S. soldiers, and one U.K. soldier were killed in attacks on 19-20 October, nytimes.com reported. In one incident, gunmen lined up six Shi'ite Arab workers in front of their colleagues at a factory in Al-Iskandariyah and shot them dead, AP reported. KR

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