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Newsline - November 3, 2005


RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER DISCUSS GAS-PIPELINE PROJECT...
President Vladimir Putin said on 2 November that Moscow will consider a Dutch request to help build a pipeline from Russian gas fields to northern Europe, international news agencies reported the same day. Russia is "very interested in expanding the number of participants who will take part in laying the new gas pipeline in Europe," Putin said at the end of his two-day visit to the Netherlands, AP reported. In addition to the pipeline, the project includes building gas-storage facilities in several European countries and laying communications lines on the floor of the North Sea. "We know the discussion is over the involvement of Britain," Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said. "We are very interested in the developments and we will definitely push on with these talks." BW

...AND ARGUE ABOUT CHECHNYA
Accusing some European leaders of being "more Muslim than Muhammad," Putin publicly argued with Balkenende on 2 November over the war in Chechnya, Reuters reported the same day. Putin compared Moscow's troubles in the region with attacks by Islamic militants in Europe -- and mentioned the murder last year of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. "It was a terrible event [that] is of course a sign of a much broader problem called international terrorism," Putin told a televised joint news conference with Balkenende in The Hague. "We are fighting very cruel people, beasts in the guise of human beings who do not and do not want to understand in what time and world they live. Our response must be equal to the threat they present to modern civilization," he added. Balkenende took a more diplomatic stance, calling Chechnya "a very delicate" issue. "With this state visit we have to give attention to the fact that we are concerned about human rights and concerned about human-rights activists, and the way they are treated," he said. BW

EXPERTS SAY BIRD FLU COULD SPREAD TO ALL OF EUROPEAN RUSSIA
Experts say there is a serious risk that bird flu could spread throughout European Russia by next year, Russian news agencies reported on 2 November. "The possibility of the disease spreading throughout the European part of Russia will increase 100 times as compared to this year's level," Interfax quoted Nikolai Vlasov, a top Federal Veterinary Control Service official, as telling a meeting of agriculture, sanitary, and veterinary officials in Rostov-on-Don on 2 November. He added that the density of the population and farms in the European part of Russia is 10 times higher than that in Siberia and the Far East. An unidentified sanitary official at the meeting added that about 700,000 birds have died of avian influenza, and stressed the need for private farmers to vaccinate their fowl, RIA-Novosti reported. "It is unrealistic to destroy all wildfowl or prevent contact with domestic birds," the official said. "Vaccination is the right solution to prevent the spread of the virus in Russia." BW

PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL SAYS GAZPROM'S PURCHASE OF SIBNEFT WAS WRONG
Former Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Mikhail Kasyanov said on 2 November that natural-gas monopoly Gazprom's purchase of a majority stake in oil major Sibneft was wrong, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. "It is okay for Gazprom to buy into oil production, but it is wrong when a state-owned company seizes assets from viable private companies. I believe that the state must not place private companies under its control," Kasyanov told a news conference in Samara. Gazprom bought a 72.7 percent stake in Sibneft for $13.1 billion on 28 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005), which in addition to the 3 percent it earlier acquired on the open market gave it a blocking stake in the company. Kasyanov, who said on 1 November that he would like to be the presidential candidate of a unified democratic opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2005), is beginning a tour of Russia's regions. BW

RUSSIA OPPOSES NEW UN RESOLUTION ON SYRIA
Andrei Denisov, Russia's chief delegate to the United Nations, rejected U.S. calls for the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution further pressuring Syria, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. "We have already taken a resolution on Syria two days ago and shall definitely adopt another one in mid-December when the final report by the commission on investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is submitted," Denisov told a told a news conference on 2 November. "Therefore, it is probably senseless now to adopt one more resolution on this issue." U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on 2 November that Washington wants a new resolution pressuring Syria to withdraw all of its intelligence agents from Lebanon and to stop sending weapons to militias there. The Security Council voted unanimously on 31 October for a resolution ordering Syria to cooperate fully with a UN probe into the al-Hariri's assassination or face possible "further action" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 2 November 2005). BW

RUSSIA PLANS TO CONDUCT OWN OIL-FOR-FOOD INVESTIGATION
UN delegate Denisov also said that Russia plans to conduct its own investigation into alleged corruption regarding the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq, mosnews.com reported on 3 November. Russia was a key focus of a report by a UN committee led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The report accused more than 2,200 companies and prominent politicians of colluding with Saddam Hussein's regime to defraud the humanitarian operation of $1.8 billion in kickbacks. Denisov said Russia is not rejecting the report completely, but said some of the documents cited in the report, including allegations against former Kremlin chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin, "were forged, falsified -- signatures, numbers, and other things." Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also alleged that some of the sources in the Volcker report are flawed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2005). BW

RUSSIA REPORTEDLY SEEKS TO FORGE COMPROMISE PLAN ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Russia is considering hosting a joint fuel-production project with Iran that could break a long-standing deadlock over Tehran's nuclear program, Reuters reported on 2 November, citing unidentified diplomats. Under the plan, Iran would be allowed to conduct low-grade uranium-processing work at its Isfahan uranium-conversion plant. It would be permitted to produce uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), provided it agreed to fully suspend all other activities. The UF4 would then be shipped to Russia for conversion into UF6 and enrichment, an operation that would be a Russian-Iranian joint venture. "Uranium conversion may be the face-saving activity that Iran could be permitted to engage in," Reuters quoted an unidentified diplomat familiar with the plan as saying. The diplomat added that the issue of low-grade conversion is not overly sensitive. Neither Russian nor Iranian officials would comment on the plan. BW

RUSSIAN CIVIL SERVANTS SEE THEMSELVES AS FAVORED CASTE...
Russian bureaucrats openly acknowledge that they are interested in increasing their own wealth and the influence of their "caste," according to a study conducted in July throughout Russia by the Sociology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences together with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, gazeta.ru reported on 1 November. Sociologists interviewed around 1,500 people in 11 different population groups. A second survey was conducted of 300 civil servants of various ranks. Sociology Institute Director Mikhail Gorshkov noted that a significant segment of the community of state officials "feel they are above the rest of society, not part of its structure," "Gazeta" reported on 2 November. "And they strive to retain their power, shaping a class consciousness in which their own interests are placed ahead of the public interest," he continued. JAC

...AS PUBLIC PERCEIVES THE CASTE POORLY
Citizens of Russia seem to share Sociology Institute Director Gorshkov's perception that many state officials put their interests above the public's, according to "Gazeta" on 2 November. More than 48 percent of respondents complained that most bureaucrats do not serve the public interest, while 47.6 percent said bureaucrats often act dishonestly and improperly. In terms of life satisfaction, public-servant respondents are "entirely satisfied with their food quality, housing conditions, and recreation," while the majority of non-civil-servant respondents rated their lives as "poor" regarding all of these indicators. Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya commented to gazeta.ru that "a serious, class-based opposition" against the present political class is likely in the future, and that "the stronger the civil servants become as a closed caste, the weaker the state." JAC

MOSCOW, ST. PETERSBURG UNIVERSITIES PRODUCE MOST OF NATIONAL ELITE
The independent rating agency ReutOR has produced a new report summarizing its research to determine which institutions of higher education in Russia produce the most representatives of executive power in Russia, from heads of departments to heads of government, gazeta.ru reported on 2 November. In a study of 247 institutions of higher learning, Moscow State University leads in the production of state leaders. St. Petersburg State University, IMEMO, Plekhanov Economic Academy, Moscow State Law Academy, Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance, Moscow Energy Institute, Urals Law Institute in Yekaterinburg, and Perm State University round out the top 10. Kazan State University produced the most graduates occupying high-level posts in regional governments. Asked to comment on the dominance of institutes in the central- and northern-European parts of Russia, ReutOR Deputy Director Yekaterina Stepanyuk commented that for most regional residents it is "simpler to make a career through Moscow," where a social echelon that is close to the ruling elite is already being educated. JAC

DUMA FROWNS ON BEER DRINKING IN PUBLIC...
State Duma deputies approved on 2 November a bill in its second reading that would increase fines for drinking beer in public places, such as medical establishments, city transport, or educational or sports facilities, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 392 in favor, with none against and one abstention, lenta.ru reported. According to Radio Mayak, the fine for drinking beer would be raised from 100 rubles ($3.50) to 300 rubles. Shops that sell beer to minors could face fines of up to 3,000 rubles. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told RIA-Novosti that the bill covers all spirits with an alcoholic content of less than 12 percent. JAC

...AND POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF CONTROVERSIAL ENERGY LAW
State Duma deputies also voted on 2 November to postpone discussion of the first reading of the draft law on subsurface natural resources until the second half of this month, Russian media reported. "Vremya novostei" on 3 November cited an anonymous source as saying that Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev was not sure he had sufficient political support from the leadership of the country for the bill and didn't want to risk exposing it to the Duma. The previous day, Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute and a longtime friend of President Putin, criticized the initiative. One controversial feature of the proposed legislation is that it would violate the "two keys" principle, under which both federal and regional authorities have the right to decide on the exploitation of underground natural resources. Under the current draft, such development decisions would be the sole prerogative of the federal center, the daily reported. JAC

CHECHEN LEADER THREATENS TO BROADEN HOSTILITIES...
In an address to the Chechen people on the occasion of the end of Ramadan, which was posted on chechenpress.org on 3 November, Chechen President and resistance leader Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev said that Russia's policy of "terror" is impelling all the peoples of the North Caucasus to rise up against it. He noted the resistance has launched "large-scale" military operations not only in Chechnya but in Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria, and he warned that "in future, with the help of almighty Allah, we shall stage [such attacks] in other locations as well." He did not elaborate. LF

...AND RULES OUT NEW PEACE PROPOSALS
In the same 3 November address to the Chechen people, Sadullaev recalled that his predecessor as president, Aslan Maskhadov, repeatedly proposed beginning peace talks with Russia, and he claimed that Maskhadov was "lured" into such talks and then killed. He said the Chechen side will not propose further peace talks, but continue fighting "until the Caucasus is freed from the boot of the Russian occupiers." Testifying before the Chechen Supreme Court on 18 October, Vakhit Murdashev, who was with Maskhadov when he was killed during an attack on his hideout in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt on 8 March, similarly said that Maskhadov was preparing for peace talks with Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 October. Murdashev said Maskhadov had named him as his envoy for those talks. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR REFERENDUM 'NO' VOTE
Artashes Geghamian, chairman of the National Accord Party, the second largest opposition parliament faction, began campaigning on 2 November in the northern town of Lori to persuade voters to reject the package of constitutional amendments to be put to a nationwide referendum on 27 November, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Geghamian described the amendments as "really bad," and criticized the Armenian authorities for repeatedly stressing the fact that the Council of Europe and other international organizations have endorsed them. Geghamian said he would have backed the constitutional changes if the Armenian leadership had agreed to hold new parliamentary elections in the wake of the referendum. LF

ARMENIA REGISTERS INCREASE IN CORRUPTION-RELATED CRIME
The number of corruption-related crimes registered and solved in Armenia during the first six months of 2005 rose to 227, compared to 198 during the corresponding period in 2004, presidential adviser Bagrat Yesayan told journalists in Yerevan on 2 November. He added that most of those cases involved embezzlement of government resources, and that two people involved have already been tried and sentenced to unspecified prison terms. Yesayan also said five people have been prosecuted for accepting bribes, but he did not mention any prosecutions for offering bribes. Yesayan said he considers the rise in the number of corruption cases that have come to light as a positive phenomenon that reflects more effective work by law-enforcement agencies. He questioned the accuracy of the recent annual survey released by Transparency International, in which Armenia was downgraded from 82nd to 88th place among 146 states ranked according to perceptions of the prevalence of corruption. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST QUESTIONS AUTHORITIES' COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS...
Ali Kerimli, chairman of the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, which is one of the three members of the Azadlyq bloc, told a press conference in Baku on 3 November that the Azerbaijani authorities have failed to comply with their international obligations to ensure that the 6 November parliamentary election is free and fair, Turan reported. Nor, Kerimli continued, have they systematically implemented President Ilham Aliyev's decrees of 11 May and 25 October detailing measures to ensure a fair and transparent ballot. Kerimli appealed to the authorities to abandon their purported plans to falsify the outcome of the ballot, and predicted that in the event that the election is indeed fair, Azadlyq will win no fewer than 75 of the 125 parliament mandates. Ali Ahmedov, executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP), similarly told ITAR-TASS on 2 November that YAP hopes to win a minimum of 74 parliament mandates. LF

...AS DOES INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released on 3 November an update to its overview of the election campaign, which was completed before the promulgation of President Aliyev's 25 October decree. The HRW update termed "very important" the measures outlined in that decree, including the lifting of restrictions on NGOs wishing to monitor the ballot and the use of indelible ink to mark voters' fingers to preclude multiple voting. At the same time, it expressed concern that the limited time remaining before the ballot may preclude the implementation of those measures across the entire country. It also repeated earlier concerns over the intimidation and harassment of opposition candidates. Speaking in Baku on 2 November, U.S. Ambassador Reno Harnish expressed concern regarding continued reports that local government officials are openly intervening in the election process, echo-az.com reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI BUSINESSMEN EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT'S POLICIES
The heads of 15 Azerbaijani organizations representing the business and banking communities met in Baku on 2 November and adopted a statement, in English, addressed to President Aliyev, day.az and echo-az.com reported on 2 and 3 November, respectively. The signatories, who collectively employ more than 100,000 people, positively assessed Azerbaijan's economic and social development and expressed appreciation of "stability in all spheres of public life." They requested a meeting with the president to discuss unspecified issues of concern. LF

UN 'DOES NOT PLAN' TO EXPAND ABKHAZ MISSION
The UN Security Council is not currently considering changing the format of the UN mission in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS quoted Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representatives for the Abkhaz conflict, as telling journalists in Tbilisi on 2 November. She said the members of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) "cooperate constructively" with the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, and that the UN will not become involved in the ongoing discussion -- triggered by a Georgian parliament resolution of 11 October -- on their withdrawal. Georgian Ambassador to the UN Revaz Adamia reportedly wrote last month to the UN Security Council requesting a full-fledged UN peacekeeping mission for Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2005), where UNOMIG currently has 121 military observers. Meanwhile, regnum.ru on 2 November quoted Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh as telling "Vremya novostei" that if the Russian peacekeepers are withdrawn from the conflict zone, Abkhaz troops will replace them. He warned the Georgian authorities that the situation would inevitably deteriorate as a result. LF

LOSER IN GEORGIAN PRIVATIZATION TENDER PROTESTS OUTCOME
A lawyer for the Georgian company Energy and Industry Complex plans to contest in court the outcome of a tender for the sale of the government's 97.25 percent stake in the Madneuli mining complex, rustavi2.com reported on 1 November. The tender was won by the British Stanton Equities Corporation, which offered $55.1 million for Madneuli, $35.1 million for the actual complex, and an additional $20 million to cover its debts to the state, Caucasus Press reported on 1 November, citing Economy Minister Irakli Chogovadze. The Georgian company, which recently acquired the Rustavi Metallurgical Plant, bid $40.6 million. Madneuli mines and refines gold and copper ore. LF

DAUGHTER OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION SUPPORTER MISSING
A campaign official associated with Kazakh opposition presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who heads the For a Just Kazakhstan opposition bloc, reported on 2 November that her daughter has been missing since 31 October, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The official, Yelena Nikitina, explained that her daughter Oksanna disappeared after a series of "phone calls and visits from police" who attempted to coerce her into cooperating with police by passing on "all the information" regarding campaign activities and planning. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 2 November, Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, a leader of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan opposition party, announced a 1 million-tenge ($7,500) reward for any help or information resulting in locating the missing girl. RG

PAROLE BOARD APPROVES RELEASE OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION FIGURE
A parole board in Kazakhstan has recommended the early release of jailed opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, Interfax-Kazakhstan and "Kazakhstan Today" reported on 2 November. Senator Zauresh Battalov told the Interfax-Kazakhstan that a final decision on Zhaqiyanov's release could come soon. "Within one or two days, the documents should be presented to the Ekibastuz city court [in Pavlodar Oblast], which is the only body that can make a final decision on Zhaqiyanov's early release," she said. Battalov said that in light of the commission's decision, the final ruling "should be positive." Zhaqiyanov, the former governor of Pavlodar Oblast, received a seven-year prison term in 2002 for abuse of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002). Kazakhstan's opposition has always considered him a political prisoner who was jailed for his opposition to President Nursultan Nazarbaev. DK

KYRGYZ LEADERS REPORT ON PRISON REVOLT...
Speaking at a Bishkek press conference on 2 November, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov reported that security forces have fully restored order in the wake of a series of deadly riots in six prisons, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The previous day, Kyrgyz ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu criticized the government's use of force as excessive. Noting the death of a Kyrgyz parliamentarian and three other officials who were killed when they tried to negotiate with rioting inmates in October, Bakiev warned that he will not hesitate to use force again in the event of any renewed prison violence. Kyrgyz police used force to quell unrest in a number of prisons on 1 November, killing at least four inmates, after an attempt to move an imprisoned criminal kingpin set off a general uprising (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2005). RG

...AND COMMENT ON U.S. BASING AGREEMENT
President Bakiev reaffirmed on 2 November that his government will ask the United States to pay more for the use of the Ganci military air base, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. Bakiev added that a special U.S. military delegation is scheduled to arrive in Bishkek on 4 November to negotiate the terms of a new basing agreement. The announcement follows the recent visit to Kyrgyzstan by General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2005). The U.S. military has been using the base near Bishkek since 2001 to conduct security and stabilization operations in Afghanistan. RG

TURKMEN, IRANIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad discussed bilateral ties on 1 November during a telephone conversation, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. Turkmen state television also reported on 2 November that the two leaders reviewed plans to expand cooperation in the oil and gas sectors and discussed cooperation among Turkmenistan, Iran, and Russia on developing the Caspian Sea. Niyazov invited Ahmadinejad to visit Turkmenistan, and Ahmadinejad extended a reciprocal invitation to Niyazov. RG

UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS ON RUSSIA TO OPPOSE UZBEK GOVERNMENT
In comments during a 2 November press conference in Moscow, Nigara Khidoyatova, a leader of Uzbekistan's Sunshine opposition group, called on Russia to end its support for the Uzbek government, Reuters reported. She further demanded that Russia criticize Uzbek President Islam Karimov for suppressing the opposition and publicly denounce the Uzbek government for human rights abuses. RG

BELARUSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER HAS NO UNEASE REGARDING POSSIBILITY OF UKRAINE JOINING NATO...
Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau said on 2 November that Belarus "feels easy" regarding Ukraine's efforts to join NATO, Belapan reported. "There will be no sharp movements on our part," he said, adding that the Belarusian government correctly forecast in 2001 the possible consequences of the accession of its Baltic neighbors to NATO, and adjusted its military reform and development plans accordingly. Maltsau also said that Belarus, owing to its involvement the Partnership for Peace program and its partnership program with NATO, is ready to reach "a new level of relations" with the alliance, but he excluded the possibility of joining NATO itself. AM

...GIVES ASSURANCES THAT BELARUS WILL BE PEACEFUL NEIGHBOR...
Defense Minister Maltsau on 2 November characterized as strange Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus' recent statement that Belarus might attack toward Lithuania, Belapan reported. "Probably, [the statement] came from complete ignorance of the current situation," Maltsau said. He said Belarus has never done anything that would provide grounds for suspecting it would not uphold its international commitments. He noted that Belarus is a party to a number of European security treaties and has an interstate agreement with Lithuania on confidence-building measures. According to Maltsau, Belarus reduced its armed forces in recent years from 83,000 to 50,000, and the government's priority in military reform is air and territorial defense and is no way aimed at offensive actions. AM

...AND EXCLUDES THE FORMATION OF BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES
Defense Minister Maltsau said on 2 November that the formation of common Belarusian-Russian armed forces is out of the question as long as there are no legal grounds for it, Belapan reported. "It is politicians who set boundaries" for the military cooperation between Belarus and Russia, Maltsau said, adding that this cooperation is currently based on more than 30 international accords. Belarus and Russia have agreements on defense cooperation and in the training of military personnel -- 100 officers and 235 cadets study at 19 Russian military schools, Maltsau noted. The two countries have formed a joint Regional Group of Forces, which will take part in military exercises in Belarus next summer, he announced. AM

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS U.S. MIGHT GRANT UKRAINE MARKET-ECONOMY STATUS IN JANUARY...
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said on 2 November after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States might grant Ukraine market-economy status in January 2006, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified government source. Yekhanurov described his meeting with Rice as "intensive," adding that their talks focused on bilateral relations, Ukraine's efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the possibility of the U.S. granting Ukraine market-economy status. According to Yekhanurov, Rice stressed the necessity of transparent governing in Ukraine, further democratization, and fighting corruption. Rice reportedly called Ukraine a country of strategic importance to the United States. AM

...AND SAYS WTO ACCESSION IMPOSSIBLE IF RUSSIA JOINS FIRST
Prime Minister Yekhanurov said on 2 November in Washington that Ukrainian accession to the WTO will be "virtually impossible" if Russia joins the organization ahead of Ukraine, Interfax reported. Russia has set a target of 2006 for accession to the WTO, while Ukraine hopes to join this year. AM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE REPORTEDLY STUDIES ORIGINAL MELNYCHENKO TAPES
U.S. citizen Yury Felshtinsky, a witness in the trial of the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has passed the original tape recordings purportedly made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko to the Prosecutor-General's Office, Interfax reported on 2 November. The recordings consist of "10 CDs that I received from Melnychenko," Felshtinsky told the agency, adding that the discs "are believed to carry [Melnychenko's] fingerprints." Melnychenko made public in November 2000 recordings allegedly made in the office of former President Leonid Kuchma. The recordings suggest Kuchma's and several other senior officials' involvement in pressuring journalists, parliamentary deputies, and judges over Gongadze's killing, and the sale of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq. AM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS AGREEMENT WITH NATO ON AVIATION USE
The Verkhovna Rada did not ratify on 2 November an agreement between Ukraine and NATO regarding the use of Ukrainian strategic aircraft in NATO operations and exercises, Interfax reported. The agreement, signed on 7 June in Warsaw, provided for the creation of legal grounds for the use of Ukrainian aircraft in such situations, and was intended to be a step toward active cooperation between Ukraine and NATO in the context of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. AM

SERBS AND MONTENEGRINS AGREE ON APPROACH TO KOSOVA TALKS...
Leaders of Serbia, Montenegro, and their joint state agreed in Belgrade on 2 November that "there must be a compromise without any imposed solutions" in the upcoming talks on Kosova's final status, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 November 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic, Serbian President Boris Tadic, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic endorsed the principles that Kostunica recently outlined in a presentation for the UN Security Council on Kosova. PM

...AS HARD-LINERS DIG IN
Aleksandar Vucic of the hard-line Serbian Radical Party (SRS) said on 2 November that Belgrade should not accept independence for Kosova if the Western powers try to impose it, Reuters reported. He argued that if Serbia declared Kosova "unlawfully occupied," it would create unspecified problems for any country recognizing the new state. Vucic added that such a declaration would enable Serbia to "preserve the chances of having the status of Kosovo discussed in five, 20, or 30 years, in different and more favorable circumstances" for Serbia. SRS leader Tomislav Nikolic said recently that there will be "mayhem" in Serbia if Kosova is declared independent, adding that he will personally lead street protests. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL DECIDES NOT TO RELEASE FORMER SERBIAN GENERAL
The appeals court of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal ruled on 2 November that former Serbian General Nebojsa Pavkovic must remain in custody and cannot be sent home pending his trial, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The appeals court thereby upheld an objection by the prosecutor's office against a recent decision by the tribunal to release Pavkovic. The prosecutors argued that the decision failed to take into account earlier statements by Pavkovic that he would not go voluntarily to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004 and 25 April 2005). PM

KORAN PUBLISHED IN ROMANY IN BOSNIA
Muharem Serbezovski, who is a Bosnian Rom singer of Macedonian origin, presented his translation of the Koran from Arabic into Romany in Sarajevo on 2 November, dpa reported. This is the first-ever printed copy of the Koran in that language. Serbezovski took seven years to complete his translation, and its presentation was timed to coincide with the Eid Al-Fitr holiday -- known locally as Ramazanski Bajram -- that marks the end of Ramadan. He said he will soon begin promoting his translation throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina and distribute free copies to local Roma. His next project is to translate the Bible into Romany, since many Roma in former Yugoslavia are Christians. That country had a large Romany population, although their exact numbers are difficult to determine despite the fact a census was taken there every 10 years. Many Roma either declared themselves to be members of another ethnic group to avoid discrimination or had no contact with census takers because of their lifestyle as travelers. Estimates of Bosnia's Romany population range from 10,000 to 40,000. Serbia, Kosova, and Macedonia also have large numbers of Roma. PM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TRANSDNIESTER TALKS SHOULD NOT HARM RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
Vladimir Voronin said he does not want talks on the future of the breakaway Transdniester region to harm relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. "We were with Russia in most serious situations," Voronin said, adding that he hopes relations with Moscow would prosper. "Our main formula for resolving the problem is to settle the conflict entirely by peaceful means," he added. "We conduct our monitoring of the situation; we know what is happening there." Talks along an expanded "five plus two" format -- with Ukraine, Moldova, Transdniester, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as full participants and the United States and European Union as observers -- resumed in Chisinau on 28 October. BW

ESCAPE FROM AFGHAN PRISON BY HIGH-LEVEL AL-QAEDA MEMBER CAUSES CONCERN
A request by a lawyer of a U.S. soldier led to the identification of Omar al-Faruq as one of the four suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists who managed to escape in July from the U.S. detention facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, leading to calls for better security at Bagram and leaving a sense of unease in Indonesia.

On 11 July, the four escaped from Bagram, the main base for more than 18,000 U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan and also the detention center for most of 500 or so terror suspects held in Afghanistan by U.S. forces.

The four escapees were identified as threats to Afghan and international security by the United States, which conducted a massive but unsuccessful manhunt to recapture them. The subsequent arrests made in an attempt to recapture the four apparently led to large protests on 26 July at the gates of Bagram Air Base by locals protesting the detention of a number of people, including a local commander.

Three days after their escape Mullah Mahmud, who identified himself as the neo-Taliban's commander in southern Afghanistan, claimed that the four were in good health and were with Afghan militants.

The four escapees were identified as Muhammad Ja'far Jamal (al-Misradi) al-Qahtani (also known as Abu-Nasir al-Qahtani), from Saudi Arabia; Abdullah al-Hashemi (or Abu-Abdullah al-Shami) from Syria; Mahmud Ahmad Muhammad (or Al-Faruq al-Iraqi) from Kuwait; and Muhammad Hasan (also known as Abu-Yahya) from Libya.

In October, a jihadist website showcased al-Qahtani, who is supposed to have participated in two beheadings in Iraq and also operated against U.S. forces in the eastern Afghan province of Khost with the Taliban, among other activities. Also in October, Doha-based Al-Jazeera television broadcast a videotape showing all four of the Bagram escapees discussing their breakout.

In August, the U.S. military blamed failings by guards and their supervisors to follow standard operating procedures for the escape from Bagram.

Several months after the Bagram jailbreak, a military lawyer defending a U.S. serviceman accused of abusing prisoners in Bagram requested on 1 November the presence of al-Faruq as part of his client's defense.

It was at this point that Omar al-Faruq's full identity became known. Al-Faruq was born to Iraqi parents in Kuwait and known to be Al-Qaeda's main representative in Southeast Asia. He was arrested by the Indonesian government in June 2002 and almost immediately transferred to U.S. custody, which took him to Bagram. While in Indonesia, al-Faruq allegedly liaised between Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda sympathizers in Southeast Asia and reportedly was able to unite several militant Islamist groups in that region. While in U.S. custody, al-Faruq apparently cooperated with his interrogators, providing them with information about possible attacks in Southeast Asia and the United States coinciding with the first anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. His information prompted the United States to issue its first code-orange terror alert.

Information that al-Faruq was among the four who escaped from Bagram has worried Indonesia, which has asked Washington why it did not inform Jakarta that al-Faruq was on the loose. The revelation about al-Faruq has also prompted U.S. authorities to discuss the jailbreak in Bagram and talk about improvements in securing the detention facility.

While the possibility of al-Faruq making his way back to Indonesia remains a dangerous possibility, it is more conceivable that he may have joined the remnants of Al-Qaeda in or around Afghanistan or has returned to his country of heritage, Iraq. Wherever he is, the jailbreak at Bagram could become a very costly incident.

FORMER TALIBAN LEADER REITERATES CALL FOR AFGHAN JIHAD AGAINST FOREIGN FORCES...
In a message dated 1 November published by the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), the former leader of the Taliban regime, Mullah Mohammad Omar, calls on Afghans to wage jihad against the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The message, sent as a congratulatory note to mark the end of Ramadan, warns Afghans that "jihad against the current infidel aggressor is an obligation" and lack of participation in it is "a major sin." Omar calls on his compatriots to join him in the jihad that he says is for Afghan "independence" and the "protection of Islamic laws" with their lives, property, and pens. The ousted Taliban leader says that "some newspapers and magazines in Kabul openly make fun of Islam," and those writing such articles are showered with money by Western embassies. In his message, Omar also congratulates "the heroic and mujahedin and freedom-loving nation of Iraq." Omar also expresses sympathy to Pakistan in connection with the October earthquake. AT

...AS RENEGADE FORMER PRIME MINISTER ASSURES VICTORY
In a message commemorating the end of Ramadan dated 2 November and published by AIP, former Afghan Prime Minister and Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar assures Afghans that "victory and the day of the defeat of the enemy is near." Hekmatyar compares the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to the occupation of the country by the former Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989, adding that the behavior of "the Americans and the British" is "more abominable than the Russians'." Listing the insecurities in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar writes that the "only solution" for peace in Afghanistan is for the foreign forces to leave the country and an "interim Afghan government to the liking of the Afghans" to be formed, leading to free elections and the formation of an "elected Islamic government." Since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001, there have been numerous rumors of an alliance between the neo-Taliban and Hekmatyar, though in their messages neither Omar nor Hekmatyar refer to any such arrangement. AT

NETHERLANDS TO INCREASE ITS MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN
The number of Dutch forces in Afghanistan is to increase from the current 950 to 1,300, National Television of Afghanistan reported on 2 November. The announcement came during a meeting in Kabul on 2 November between Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp and Afghan First Deputy Defense Minister Mohammad Yusof Nurestani. The majority of Dutch troops, under NATO command, are to be stationed in the restive southern Afghan province of Oruzgan and in some parts of Kandahar. Nurestani pledged that Afghanistan will also dispatch a number of forces to the same areas where the Dutch forces will be responsible for maintaining security. Kamp and Nurestani also signed an agreement regulating the fate of prisoners of war captured by Dutch forces. AT

FIVE POLICEMEN KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Yusof Stanakzai on 2 November confirmed the killing of five Afghan policemen on 1 November in Helmand Province, AIP reported. Stanakzai attributed the attack in which the officers were killed to the neo-Taliban. Hajji Mohammad Rahim, head of Deshu District where the incident occurred, told AIP on 2 November that five militants were also killed in the incident. AT

AFGHAN AUTHORITIES CAUTION POPULATION ABOUT BIRD FLU
The Public Health Ministry issued an announcement on 2 November cautioning people about avian influenza (bird flu), Radio Afghanistan reported. According to the announcement, 15 types of chicken influenza have been discovered including the H5N1 strain that can infect humans. As a precautionary measure, the ministry advises Afghans to report chicken illnesses to agricultural officials, prevent children from touching chickens, and avoid eating imported chickens. AT

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES AMBASSADORS DISMISSED
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told reporters on 2 November that he has reinstated the country's representative to the United Nations in New York, Mohammad Javad Zarif, IRNA and Fars News Agency reported. Earlier, Mottaki told the legislature, "the missions of more than 40 ambassadors and heads of Iranian diplomatic missions abroad will expire by the end of the year," the "International Herald Tribune" reported. Reacting to Western news reports that this is a purge of the ambassadorial corps, Mottaki said a number of these officials had reached retirement age or had requested early retirement, and this is a natural process, according to Iranian news agencies. Mottaki also rejected speculation that the Foreign Ministry has been put in charge of the nuclear account. BS

IRAN WANTS GREATER NUCLEAR COOPERATION
In a related event, Hamid Baeidinejad, head of the Foreign Ministry's International Security and Disarmament Department, told the UN General Assembly in New York on 2 November that Iran is intent on using nuclear energy peacefully, IRNA reported. He said Iran sees this as its right on the basis of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). He said Iran is willing to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Baeidinejad called for NPT member states to increase cooperation, and he expressed disappointment at the level of cooperation between developed and developing countries. He said non-NPT members get more help from Western states than members do. BS

IRANIANS CELEBRATE HOSTAGE TAKING
Thousands of Iranians participated in the "anti-global arrogance" event in Tehran on 2 November, international news agencies reported. This is the annual commemoration of militants' 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the subsequent holding of 52 American citizens hostage for 444 days, which is known as 13 Aban after its date in the Iranian calendar. It also marks the day Father of the Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was exiled to Turkey in 1964 and university students were killed by the shah's troops in 1978. Demonstrators gathered at the site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, shouted anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, and chanted slogans about the peaceful use of nuclear energy. BS

IAEA CHIEF ADVOCATES PATIENCE ON IRAN
An anonymous diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Ollie Heinonen, the agency's deputy director-general for safeguards, and two other IAEA inspectors went to the Parchin military site on 1 November, AFP reported the same day. Parchin is a high-explosives facility about 30 kilometers southwest of Tehran, and inspectors were allowed in March to visit one of the four sites they wanted to see there. There is suspicion that conventional explosives that can be used to detonate nuclear weapons were tested at Parchin. In comments in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 1 November, IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said there is progress on the investigation into the Iranian nuclear program, Reuters reported. He called on the international community to be patient, and he urged Iran to behave transparently and reassure other countries about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. "As long as we are making progress and as long as we don't see clear and present danger, let us continue at it...before we take escalated measures," el-Baradei said. BS

FOUR NEW MINISTERS PROPOSED IN IRAN
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad submitted the names of four prospective cabinet members to parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel on 2 November, IRNA reported. The legislature rejected in August the nominees for petroleum minister, education minister, welfare and social security minister, and cooperatives minister. The new nominees are, respectively, Sadeq Mahsuli, Mahmud Farshidi, Parviz Kazemi, and Mohammad Nazemi-Ardakani. The legislature will consider the new names for up to one week. All of them are relative unknowns. Mahsuli has served as a provincial governor, an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander, and a deputy defense minister, according to biographies from ISNA and Mehr News Agency. BS

IRAQ'S FOUR SHI'ITE AYATOLLAHS VOW NOT TO INTERFERE IN ELECTION
Iraq's four Shi'ite grand ayatollahs said in a 1 November statement that they have agreed that they will not intervene in political affairs in the future, nor will they lend their support to any particular party list for December's parliamentary elections, Iraqi media reported on 2 November. Muhammad Husayn al-Hakim, the son and spokesman of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, said that the ayatollahs only lent their support to the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance in January's elections because they wanted to ensure the constitution-drafting process proceeded smoothly. Since the constitution was drafted and endorsed through the 15 October referendum, the ayatollahs have decided not to involve themselves further in politics, "Al-Zawra" quoted al-Hakim as saying. He added that Iraqis are free to elected the most qualified, suitable leaders in government, adding that the ayatollahs will, however, continue to urge Iraqi citizens to cast their ballots in the elections as a means of ensuring political progress. KR

MOSUL POLICE CHIEF FIRED AS LOCAL IRAQI TRIBES PROTEST
Representatives of 51 Arab tribes demonstrated in Mosul on 2 November to protest an Interior Ministry decision to fire Mosul police chief Ahmad Muhammad Khalaf al-Juburi, "Azzaman" reported the same day. The ministry accused al-Juburi of involvement in corruption, but the protesters claimed no investigation was carried out to verify the allegations. Tribal representatives protested the pending dismissal on 30 October, and sent a letter to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari declaring: "If you intend to approve this dismissal, you can expect to hear that the province has fallen into our hands within 24 hours," Reuters reported the same day. Sunni Arabs in Mosul contend that al-Juburi has brought relative stability to the city during his tenure. Al-Juburi claims that the charges against him were cooked up by Kurds trying to gain control of the city, which has been wracked by tension between the two groups since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. Many Kurdish families have been forced at gunpoint by Sunni Arab insurgents to abandon their homes, according to Radio Free Iraq reports in recent months. KR

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NEW SECURITY OPERATIONS COMING...
Sa'dun al-Dulaymi told reporters at a 2 November press briefing in Baghdad that new security operations will begin after the three-day Eid Al-Fitr holiday to purge Iraqi towns and villages of terrorists, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Al-Dulaymi said all citizens who shelter terrorists in their homes will suffer the same fate as the terrorists. "This is an announcement and a warning at the same time to all those harboring terrorists in their houses that they must drive them out, or else we will demolish their houses over them, their children, and the terrorists sheltered inside. Those who do not drive terrorists out of their houses [now] will have the same fate of those people you see on television every day," al-Dulaymi said, referring to previous operations that leveled the homes where terrorists were based. He praised the residents of Samarra and Al-Mahmudiyah for heeding earlier Defense Ministry warnings not to harbor terrorists, saying the residents played an "honorable role." "As for other parties...we tell them that as long as they behave in this manner, we have no other choice but to come and liberate them from the terrorists and the illusions that they believe in." KR

...AND SAYS IRAQI ARMY PERSONNEL SHOULD REMAIN NEUTRAL TOWARD ELECTION CAMPAIGNS...
Defense Minister al-Dulaymi also called in a 2 November statement for ministry civilian and military personnel to remain neutral during the election season and particularly on election day, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. The minister reportedly sent a statement to all Defense Ministry workers calling on them to refrain from eliciting support for any particular candidate or election list ahead of the election. He also called on employees not to disparage candidates or lists, and not to provide moral or financial support to any candidate over other candidates in the course of their duties, Al-Sharqiyah reported. KR

...AS MINISTRY CALLS ON FORMER IRAQI SOLDIERS TO RETURN TO ARMY
The Defense Ministry called on former Iraqi soldiers who served under the Hussein regime to reenlist in the army on 2 November, Iraqi media reported. A ministry statement urged former soldiers to register at enlistment centers for a medical exam and interview. It added that those who reenlist will be awarded ranks up to major. Former Brigadier General Najib al-Salihi, who now heads the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, told Al-Jazeera television in a 2 November interview that the call -- like earlier calls to reenlist -- is not serious. "We heard similar calls during the past year. However, they were useless. The calls did not include any details showing seriousness about implementing them. The dissolution of the Iraqi Army -- which was a U.S. decision in which the Iraqi parties that now hold official positions had a hand -- was a major blow to the Iraqi military personnel and Iraqi patriotism in general," al-Salihi said. He told Al-Jazeera that many former army personnel are ready to rejoin the army, but maintained that the Defense Ministry should first show that it is serious in its call for reenlistment. KR

IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DISCUSSES ELECTION PLATFORM
Ahmad Chalabi said during a 2 November press briefing in Baghdad that his National Congress Coalition aims to achieve national unity and security, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. The coalition's platform calls for strengthening the oil sector through foreign investment and selling Iraqi oil at world-market prices, which will enable citizens to receive a monthly stipend from the government as their share of the country's oil revenues. The coalition also wants to help provide a home to each Iraqi family by distributing land to citizens and establishing a loan department where families could borrow money to build homes. Chalabi also called for giving women "the position they deserve in the new Iraq and granting them political and social rights." Asked to elaborate on the coalition's platform, he said, "We are presenting this list to the faithful Iraqi nationalists from the various sectors [of society] who believe in the rule of the homeland and who do not approve of the ideology of Islamic rule as it is [currently] manifested in the Islamic political thinking in Iraq." Chalabi added, "We reiterate our full adherence to the authority of His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani." KR

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