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Newsline - November 8, 2005


PUTIN CALLS FOR END TO KALININGRAD'S ISOLATION FROM MAINLAND RUSSIA
President Vladimir Putin has called for an end to travel restrictions between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad exclave, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 November. "We often say Kaliningrad is Russia's outpost in Europe and that it should be up to its title on all counts," Putin said during a meeting at the Kremlin with Kalingrad Governor Georgii Boos. "I'm referring here both to the infrastructure and to the people's standard of living. But most importantly, we need to finally resolve all the problems related to the region's links with the rest of the Russian Federation." Kaliningrad has been a point of contention between Moscow and the European Union, especially since Lithuania -- which separates the exclave from mainland Russia -- joined the EU in May 2004. Russian officials have regularly protested what they call Lithuanian attempts to hinder the transit of Russian passengers and cargos between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia. BW

AGRICULTURE MINISTRY SAYS BIRD FLU CONTAINED IN RUSSIA
The Agriculture Ministry announced on 7 November that the country's bird-flu outbreak has been confined to 12 communities, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The ministry said that there have been unconfirmed reports of avian flu in nine other locales. Towns and villages affected by the outbreak are located in the Tula and Tambov oblasts in European Russia; the Novosibirsk, Altai, and Kurgan oblasts in Siberia; and Chelyabinsk Oblast in the Ural Mountains, the ministry said. All domestic poultry have been culled at the site of the latest outbreak of the H5N1 strain, in Siberia's Omsk Oblast, and the quarantine there will be lifted shortly, according to the ministry. BW

COURT UPHOLDS PRETRIAL DETENTION OF SUSPECT IN 'FORBES' EDITOR'S KILLING
The Moscow Municipal Court on 7 November upheld a lower court's decision to extend the custody of Fail Sadretdinov, a key suspect in the 2004 slaying of the editor of the Russian edition of "Forbes" magazine, Paul Klebnikov, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. A Moscow district court earlier extended Sadretdinov's custody until 9 December. Sadretdinov's lawyer, Ruslan Koblev, argued that his client should be released pending trial on health grounds. "His epileptic fits have become more frequent. He needs permanent medical supervision," Koblev said. "The Moscow City Court refused to grant our appeal." Klebnikov was killed in Moscow on 9 July 2004. Sadretdinov is accused of masterminding the killing. Four other suspects remain at large (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 June 2005). BW

DUMA SPEAKER CALLS FOR OSCE INTERVENTION IN FRANCE...
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on 8 November called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to intervene in the riots sweeping France, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The OSCE "may discuss democracy in post-Soviet countries, but it should also tackle security in the middle of Europe," Gryzlov said, warning that rioting in France could spread to neighboring counties. "We are seeing how peace is fragile even in a prosperous European country," Gryzlov said. BW

...AS LEADING LAWMAKERS SAY FRANCE IS TO BLAME FOR RIOTS
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, said French leaders are to blame for the riots that are spreading across the country because they have failed to integrate immigrants, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 November. "Nobody welcomes them there," he said. "They are low-skilled, they are subject to discrimination by employers and they respond with an unwillingness to adjust, turning to drug trafficking, larceny, and banditry," he said. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev shared Margelov's assessment. "The situation in France is undoubtedly of a system-defined nature," he said. "The French have failed to ensure the necessary conditions for the social integration of national minorities." BW

STATE DUMA SPEAKER CONDEMNS NATIONALIST MARCH
State Duma Speaker Gryzlov said on 8 November that a nationalist march that took place in Moscow on People's Unity Day should not have been allowed, Russian news agencies reported. "The statements made during this march...were inadmissible on that day," RIA-Novosti quoted Gryzlov as saying. During a march on the 4 November holiday, some 3,000 demonstrators chanted slogans such as: "Russia for Russians!" and "Long Live the Empire!" Two leaders of the radical Eurasian Youth Union were detained. BW

RIGHTS GROUP SAYS MORE THAN HALF OF RUSSIA'S POPULATION IS XENOPHOBIC
The director of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, Aleksandr Brod, has claimed that more than half of Russia's population harbors xenophobic beliefs, Interfax reported on 7 November. "Public-opinion polls have shown that xenophobic slogans are supported by as many as 60 percent of residents," Brod said. "Xenophobia isn't a localized problem, but a disease gripping the entire country." The group's research showed that Russians tend to be xenophobic regarding other ethnic groups, and ethnic minorities in the country are xenophobic toward Russians. "Unfortunately, it permeates the whole of our society. There is the xenophobia of the ethnic majority and the xenophobia of the ethnic minority," Brod said. He added that Russian authorities need to be more effective in countering the activities of radical nationalist groups, or risk the kind of upheaval now sweeping France. BW

ORGANIZERS OF NEO-FASCIST MARCH TO FORM LARGER POLITICAL ENTITY...
Organizers of the March of the Right that took place in Moscow on 4 November are discussing unification of their groups with Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, Ekho Moskvy reported on 7 November. These organizers included Aleksandr Belov of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and Yurii Gorskii of the Eurasian Youth Union. According to gazeta.ru on 4 November, other organizers of the march were Pamyat, the Russian National Union, and the National Power Party of Russia. Participants in the march carried signs reading "Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscovites," and "Sieg Heil." Some 3,000 people participated in the march, many of them males under the age of 20, according to "The Moscow Times" on 7 November. In an interview with the daily, Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technology commented that nationalism has become more politically mainstream as major political parties compete for votes in the 4 December Moscow City Duma election. JAC

...AS ANALYST SAYS GOAL IS TO TAKE VOTES AWAY FROM COMMUNISTS, MOTHERLAND
Meanwhile, "Gazeta" reported on 8 November that Zhirinovskii has created an organizing committee for unifying some two dozen left-patriotic parties and movements under LDPR's flag. Zhirinovskii told party leaders gathered at LDPR's conference hall in Moscow that enforcement of the law on political parties will inevitably reduce the number of registered political parties from 38 to a maximum of 10. Under these conditions, "small parties will not survive," Zhirinovskii said, declaring that the LDPR is ready to extend the hand of friendship. Markarkin told "Gazeta" that the national-patriotic parties and LDPR are "allies of the authorities and therefore it will be easy to agree among themselves in order to take away votes from the unconstructive opposition: the Communist Party and Motherland." JAC

PUTIN APPOINTS LOYALIST UNFAMILIAR WITH CONSTITUTIONAL LAW...
President Putin has appointed Mikhail Krotov as his representative to the Constitutional Court, replacing Mikhail Mityukov, Interfax reported on 7 November citing the presidential press service. Krotov, 43, graduated from President Putin's alma mater, the law school at Leningrad State University. From February 2005, Krotov served as first deputy general director of Gazprom Media. JAC

...JUST BEFORE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONSIDERS LAW ON ABOLISHING GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS
According to gazeta.ru, Krotov has no previous professional experience in the sphere of constitutional law. Boris Nadezhdin, who is a specialist on constitutional law and serves as the secretary for the political council of the Union of Rightist Forces, said that he was disturbed by the fact that the president signed this decree a week before the court is to consider a law suit on the legality of abolishing gubernatorial elections. Sergei Shakhrai, an author of the Russian Constitution and former presidential representative to the Constitutional Court, was also surprised by the timing of the announcement, according to the website. Aleksei Mukhin of the Center for Political Information told gazeta.ru that he is certain the appointment is political: "The Kremlin needs to put its own people in the capacity of watchers in such very important spheres as the courts." JAC

POPULAR WEBSITE SHIFTS OWNERSHIP
Popular news website, gazeta.ru, has changed ownership, Russian news agencies reported on 7 November. Vladislav Borodulin, editor in chief of the Kommersant publishing house, confirmed that he has sold his 100 percent interest in the website to the Sekret Firm publishing house. According to smi.ru, news of the sale was not surprising since rumors of it had been circulating since the summer. An anonymous source told "Vedomosti" that Sekret Firm was founded with money from Yukos. The current general director of Sekret Firm is Aleksandr Loktev, who served as Yukos's head of public relations from 1997-2004, according to smi.ru. Prior to the sale, some news outlets had reported that former Yukos executive Leonid Nezvlin and/or structures close to Yukos owned gazeta.ru. The website's editor in chief, Aleksandr Pisarev, told Interfax that the change in ownership will not lead to a change in editorial policy nor have there been any changes in personnel. JAC

PUTIN TAPS REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT FOR FOURTH TERM
President Putin has nominated incumbent Mordovian President Nikolai Merkushin for another term, Russian news agencies reported on 7 November. Merkushin has been officially running Mordovia since 1995, when he was first elected. In 1990, Merkushin was the second secretary of Mordovia's Communist Party. Merkushin's current term was not due to expire until 2008; however, he asked Putin for an expression of confidence last month, according to lenta.ru. In the region's last election in 2003, Merkushin finished with more than 87 percent of the votes. JAC

HAVE RUSSIANS LOST THEIR LOVE OF READING?
"Gazeta" reported on 8 November that Russia is no longer the country that reads the most. According to research conducted by the Federal Agency for Publishing and Mass Communication together with VTsIOM and the Pushkin Library, more than half of Russians no longer buy books, and more than a third (37 percent) do not read them. One problem is the number of bookstores. On average, one Russian bookstore serves 60,000 customers, compared with the European average of 10,000-15,000 customers per book store. Libraries have also ceased to be as popular, with less than one-fifth of the population visiting them. Other factors are the rapid development of the entertainment industry and rising price of books. JAC

SCHOOLTEACHERS TOLD TO PROMOTE ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Schoolteachers in Yerevan have been issued instructions to engage together with students in an "objective and impartial" comparison of the existing constitution and the amendments to it that are to be the subject of a nationwide referendum on 27 November, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 7 November. Onik Vatian, who heads the Yerevan City Council's education department, argued that it "is normal" for teachers to discuss such issues, including with students' parents. He denied that the government has issued orders to municipalities to co-opt teachers to promote a "yes" vote in the referendum. A minimum of one-third of Armenia's 2.4 million registered voters must approve the amendments for them to pass. LF

U.S., EU DISAPPOINTED BY AZERBAIJANI ELECTION
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told a briefing in Washington on 7 November that the previous day's parliamentary election in Azerbaijan was accompanied by "major irregularities and fraud that are of immediate concern." He said the United States will urge the Azerbaijani government to investigate those irregularities. In Brussels, EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said it is "disappointing that there appear to have been significant shortcomings on election day," Reuters reported on 7 November. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HAILS 'DEMOCRATIC' BALLOT, SAYS VIOLATIONS WILL BE INVESTIGATED
Ilham Aliyev told Azerbaijani State Television late on 7 November that the previous day's ballot took place in a "transparent and free" atmosphere, "fairly and democratically," day.az reported. He expressed satisfaction at the strong showing made by the Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP), which won 63 of the 125 parliament mandates. (Aliyev's wife Mehriban was elected as a YAP candidate in a Baku constituency with over 90 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results cited by day.az on 7 November.) At the same time, Aliyev acknowledged that there were some shortcomings, including violations of the law in seven or eight constituencies. He said those violations will be probed and anyone found to have committed a criminal offense will be punished. LF

AZERBAIJANI ELECTION OFFICIAL SAYS RESULTS COULD BE ANNULLED IN 10 CONSTITUENCIES
Central Election Commission (MSK) Chairman Mazahir Panahov told journalists in 7 November that the MSK has received 116 complaints of election irregularities, which will be investigated, Turan and day.az reported. He did not rule out the possibility that the ballot could be annulled in 10 constituencies, but did not name them. Panahov said that on the whole, the election was "transparent and democratic," and he advised against "exaggerating" the significance of preliminary criticisms voiced by the International Election Observation Mission headed by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2005). LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION POSTPONES POSTELECTION PROTEST
The Azadlyq opposition bloc, which according to preliminary returns won only six seats in the 6 November ballot, released a report on 7 November detailing alleged procedural violations during the voting. Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 7 November, Musavat party Chairman Isa Qambar said Azadlyq will convene a peaceful protest in Baku on 9 November to demand the election results be annulled, day.az reported. Azadlyq announced last week that in the event of massive vote rigging it would stage protest demonstrations in Baku on 8, 9, and 10 November, but the municipal authorities gave permission only for a three-hour gathering on 9 November. Also on 7 November, Yaqub Mamedov, a leading member of the opposition bloc Yeni Siyaset (YeS), said YeS does not consider the election valid either and will join with Azadlyq in demanding its annulment, zerkalo.az reported on 9 November. LF

GEORGIAN COURT REJECTS JAILED FORMER OFFICIAL'S APPEAL
The Georgian Appeals Court upheld on 7 November the Tbilisi's City Court sentence of nine years' imprisonment handed down two months ago to former Audit Chamber head Sulkhan Molashvili, Georgian media reported. Molashvili was found guilty of large-scale embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2005). His lawyer, Shalva Shavgulidze, accused the Georgian authorities of refusing to allow independent medical and psychiatric experts to examine Molashvili, who has appealed his mistreatment during pretrial custody to the European Court for Human Rights. LF

ABKHAZ OFFICIALS DENY GEORGIAN CONSCRIPT BEATEN TO DEATH
Sultan Sosnaliev, who is the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia's defense minister, told apsny.ru on 7 November that reports that young Georgian men in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion have been forcibly conscripted into the Abkhaz armed forces are untrue. He specifically denied that one such conscript, named by Georgian media as Daniel Tsurtsumia, died on 4 November as a result of a beating after he refused to take the oath of allegiance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2005). Abkhaz Interior Minister Otar Khetsia for his part told apsny.ru that Tsurtsumia, whose age Khetsia gave as 39, died in a hospital in Sukhum on 4 November of injuries received while resisting arrest in Gali. According to Khetsia, Tsurtsumia had "terrorized" the local population and was suspected of a 31 October mortar attack on the home of a Gali police officer. In a separate statement, the Abkhaz Defense Ministry accused the Russian news agency regnum.ru of fuelling interethnic enmity by circulating the initial erroneous report of the circumstances of Tsurtsumia's death, apsny.ru reported. LF

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCE DENIES NEGLIGENCE IN CONNECTION WITH GEORGIAN'S DEATH
The Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone rejected on 7 November criticism from the Georgian Foreign Ministry in connection with Tsurtsumia's death, Caucasus Press reported. A statement released on 7 November affirmed that the peacekeepers are fulfilling their mandate by preventing a resumption of hostilities between the conflicting sides. It pointed out that the terms of the peacekeepers' mandate do not require them to act as police. LF

UN GEORGIA MISSION CALLS FOR MEETING ON SECURITY ISSUES
The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) released a statement on 7 November expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Gali and calling for a high-level meeting to be convened as soon as possible to address security concerns. On 8 November, Zurab Samushia, commander of the now disbanded White Legion guerrilla group that operated in Gali in the late 1990s, told Caucasus Press that he is considering remobilizing his men and resuming their activities. He said he is disappointed in the new Georgian leadership headed by President Mikheil Saakshvili, which, he claimed, has failed to deliver on its promise to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. LF

FUEL PRICES AN ISSUE IN KAZAKH BUDGET DISCUSSION...
As legislators in the lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament passed the 2006 budget on the first reading on 7 November, discussion touched on measures to contain rising fuel prices, Khabar and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told lawmakers that for 2006 the government will try to reach a deal with fuel producers to set aside sufficient supplies for the domestic market's year-long demand, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Shkolnik noted that a failure to reach such an agreement this year forced the government in October to extend a ban on diesel fuel exports and ban regular fuel exports until the end of the year. Elsewhere, high oil prices underpin a forecasted 17-percent increase in 2006 budget revenues, Khabar reported. The 2006 budget currently under discussion forecasts revenues of 1.47 trillion tenges ($10.96 billion), or 18.2 percent of GDP, expenditures of 1.58 trillion tenges, or 19.6 percent of GDP, and a 1.4-percent deficit, Kazinform reports. The Economics Ministry forecasts 8.3-percent GDP growth in 2006, an average annual exchange rate of 127 tenges to the dollar (the rate as of 8 November is 134.16 tenges to the dollar), average world oil price of $47 per barrel, and an average export price of $35.3 per barrel. DK

...AS PRICES RISE IN TAJIKISTAN
Gasoline prices are continuing to rise in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 7 November. About one month ago the price of gasoline, which had averaged 1.8 somonis ($0.57) a liter, rose to 2.5-2.8 somonis. The price in Dushanbe is now 2.8-3 somonis, with prices as high as 3 somonis in Khujand and 3.5 somonis in Jomi District. The report quoted businesspeople and officials as saying that the price hikes are a result of Kazakhstan's export ban and a 70-percent price increase in neighboring Uzbekistan. Domullojon Jabborov, deputy head of Sughd Province, told RFE/RL that "Fuel prices are rising all over the world. Naturally, the effects of this are felt everywhere." Rising fuel prices have led to a 10-percent increase in the prices of foodstuffs in Tajikistan. Local specialists expect the high prices to remain in effect at least through the end of the year, the report noted. DK

ADB HEAD MEETS WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT
Haruhiko Kuroda, president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 7 November, the BBC reported. Kuroda said that the ADB plans to allocate $150 million to Tajikistan over the next three years for projects in the agricultural, energy, road-building, and social sectors. DK

TASHKENT GOVERNOR REPLACED
Tashkent Governor Kozim Tolaganov was removed from his position at an extraordinary meeting of Tashkent's Assembly of People's Deputies on 7 November, UzA reported. President Islam Karimov, who addressed the meeting, charged that Tolaganov had failed to meet cotton production quotas and improve production figures at a number of enterprises in the province. At the president's recommendation, Tolaganov was replaced by Mirzamashrap Kuchhiev, previously the head of Bekobod District. DK

EU THREATENS FURTHER SANCTIONS IF BELARUS'S 2006 ELECTION NOT FAIR
EU foreign ministers at their meeting in Brussels on 7 November expressed concern about the "deteriorating situation of human rights and political freedom" in Belarus, Belapan reported. The ministers called on the Belarusian authorities to issue a timely invitation to a "full" observation mission from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for the country's 2006 presidential election and called on Minsk to fully implement the OSCE recommendations given after the 2004 parliamentary elections and referendum, which they said were not conducted in a free manner. The ministers also noted their readiness to "take further appropriate restrictive measures against the responsible individuals in the event of failure to uphold international standards, in particular commitments made in the OSCE context." "In the event of failure to uphold international standards, the draft conclusions [of the EU foreign ministers' meeting] make it clear that measures such as asset freezes or visa bans could be taken against those responsible," Reuters quoted British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying after the meeting. The EU currently imposes visa restrictions against several Belarusian officials, banning them from entering the EU. JM

BELARUSIAN COMMUNISTS MARK OCTOBER REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY
Some 200 people took part in three separate flower-laying ceremonies at the statue of Vladimir Lenin on Independence Square in Minsk on 7 November to mark the 88th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, Belapan reported. In Belarus, this date continues to be observed as a state holiday. The first to lay flowers were representatives the pro-government Communist Party of Belarus. They were followed by those from the unregistered All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and the opposition Belarusian Party of Communists (PKB). The Minsk city authorities, as in previous years, denied the PKB permission to stage a march in the city on that day. JM

UKRAINIAN LEFTISTS COMMEMORATE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION WITH ANTIGOVERNMENT RALLIES
Up to 10,000 people participated in a rally and a picket in front of the government headquarters organized by the Communist Party and other leftist groups in Kyiv on 7 November to observe the 88th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The events were held under antigovernment slogans, including "Away With Yushchenko!"; "The True Revolution Is Still To Come"; and "Ukraine Is Not for Sale." Other antigovernment, leftist rallies with slogans condemning Ukraine's official goals to join the World Trade Organization, NATO, and the EU were held in Mykolayiv (5,000 people), Kirovohrad (1,000), Simferopol (1,000), Odesa (1,000), and other Ukrainian cities. Demonstrators in Kyiv demanded that the government restore Revolution Day as an official holiday. The 7 November holiday was abolished in 2000. JM

UKRAINE CONCERNED ABOUR RUSSIAN STORES OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has urged Russia to make sure that it observes environmental security standards in storing chemical weapons near the Ukrainian border, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 8 November. According to Kyiv, some 6,000 tons of chemical weapons are being stored in dangerous conditions in the town of Pochep in Bryansk Oblast, which is just 70 kilometers away from Sumy and Chernihiv Oblasts of Ukraine. Kyiv asserts that the time for which the storage facilities in Pochep were designed to be safely used has almost expired. The Moscow-based "Komsomolskaya pravda" charged last month that Kyiv uses abandoned mines in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to store spent nuclear fuel and chemicals, thus reportedly threatening the environmental security of six Russian regions. JM

EU SET TO GRANT UKRAINE MARKET ECONOMY STATUS
The "Financial Times" on 8 November quoted a European Commission document as saying that Brussels has decided to grant Ukraine market-economy status by the end of this year or early next year. The move, sought by Kyiv as one of its main political objectives this year, would reduce the EU's scope for imposing antidumping duties on Ukrainian imports. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said last week that Ukraine's losses in trade because of antidumping investigations amount to some $8 billion annually (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2005). The EU is Ukraine's largest trading partner, with annual trade turnover standing at $22 billion. JM

MONTENEGRO WARNS THE EU AGAINST MOVING GOALPOSTS
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Vienna on 7 November that the EU should not "invent new rules" aimed at preventing his country from holding a long-awaited referendum on independence in 2006, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2005). "In some European quarters, there is an opinion that...we need to prescribe more stringent conditions in terms of the majority required for a 'yes' vote," he noted. Referring to the EU-backed Venice Commission that will set rules for the referendum, the prime minister said that his government is "prepared to accept all that the Venice Commission recommends and all that is based on recognized European standards or recognized European practice. We believe there is no need to invent new rules just for Montenegro." In response to the failure of the EC to prevent the breakup of former Yugoslavia in 1991, the EU seeks to prevent any further separation of the remaining components of that moribund state. Brussels pressured Montenegro and Serbia into maintaining a joint state under a 2003 charter. PM

EU GIVES BOSNIA GREEN LIGHT FOR TALKS
EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 7 November to open Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) talks with Bosnia-Herzegovina, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 October 2005). High Representative Paddy Ashdown said in a statement in Sarajevo that "every citizen" of that country will benefit from the SAA process. He stressed that the Bosnian authorities should approach the talks "with seriousness" and not delay the process with "interparty or interethnic squabbling." The negotiation team is expected to include up to 18 members and be backed by over 100 experts as advisers. The main hope of most ordinary Bosnians regarding the SAA process and European integration centers on obtaining visa-free travel and foreign investments that will generate employment. In related news, Reuters quoted unnamed EU sources in Brussels as saying that the European Commission will soon recommend declaring Macedonia a candidate for membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). PM

BALKAN GOVERNMENT LEADERS FAIL TO REACH CONSENSUS
President Stipe Mesic of Croatia, Sulejman Tihic of the Bosnian Presidency, and President Svetozar Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro did not sign a planned declaration on the 1995 Dayton peace agreement in Sarajevo on 7 November because of a lack of agreement within the Bosnian Presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Borislav Paravac, who is the Serbian member of that body, reportedly opposed any reference in the document to the possible revision of Dayton lest such a move threaten the status of the Republika Srpska as a political entity. Miro Jovic, who is the Croatian member of the presidency, reportedly objected to Tihic's plans to delete references to ethnic identity and national values within Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 July and 23 September 2005). PM

SERBIAN MINISTER DENIES INTENTION TO 'RULE' KOSOVA
Vuk Draskovic, who is the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, told his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Belgrade on 7 November that his government has no wish to reimpose direct rule over Kosova, Reuters reported. "It is neither Serbia's intention nor wish to rule over the Albanian majority in Kosovo, and we emphasize the right of the Albanian people to organize their own life there," he stressed. Draskovic added, however, that Albanian rights do not include what he called "terrorizing" Serbs or "changing the internationally recognized borders of our state" by declaring independence of Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2, and 3 November 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). For his part, Lavrov warned against what he called an "imposed" solution and called for "direct talks" between Belgrade and Prishtina, Interfax reported. Political leaders of Kosova's ethnic Albanian majority believe that independence is their right on the basis of the UN-backed principles of self-determination and majority rule. They also hold that Serbia lost any claim to the province by its conduct there in 1998-99. PM

IMF OPENS NEW TALKS WITH ALBANIA
Istvan Szekely, who heads the IMF mission to Albania, began talks with Finance Ministry officials on 7 November aimed at launching a new program to support that Balkan country's economic development, RFE/RL reported. Unnamed ministry officials said that the negotiations are likely to be wrapped up in two weeks, at which time Finance Minister Ridvan Bode will go to Washington to sign the pact. An earlier deal worth $43 million expires later in November. The IMF called on Albanian authorities to fight corruption and improve governance while praising their achievements in maintaining stable growth rates and keeping inflation down. PM

NEW MOLDOVAN ORGANIZATION SEEKS UNION WITH ROMANIA
The founding conference of a new political movement dedicated to unifying Moldova with Romania was held in Chisinau on 7 November, Interfax reported the same day. Some 170 people attended the Moldova Unionist Movement's conference, which passed the organization's charter and elected its leadership. The movement said it seeks to change Moldova's political and legal status through peaceful and democratic means. "Campaigning for unification with motherland Romania, the movement offers Moldovans the only possible solution -- to integrate European and Euro-Atlantic institutions," a resolution passed at the conference says. BW

PASAT'S LAWYER SAYS ALL ARMS SALES APPROVED BY MOLDOVAN LEADERSHIP
The lawyer for former Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat said that all his client's actions regarding weapons sales were sanctioned at the highest levels of the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 November. "The six volumes of the criminal case contain numerous notes on preparing the transactions, which Pasat sent to the president, the parliament speaker, and the prime minister," Pasat lawyer Gheorghe Amihalachioae said. "All these notes begin with the phrase 'per your instruction,' which indicates that Pasat has not made a single move on his own. All his actions received approved from Moldova's top officials," Amihalachioae said. Pasat is on trial for abuse of office in connection with the sale of 21 MiG-29 fighters to the United States in 1997. The prosecution maintains that Pasat inflicted a loss of more than $50 million on the state through that deal (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Poland, and Moldova Report," 8 July 2005 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2005). Pasat's trial resumes on 11 November and a verdict is expected by the middle of this month. BW

Tatarstan: Moscow, Kazan Agree To Share Power -- Again
Last week, Tatarstan's legislative assembly, the State Council, approved a new draft power-sharing treaty between the republic and the Russian Federation. Tatarstan is unique among Russian regions because of its continuing emphasis on a 1994 power-sharing treaty.Such treaties were among the first casualties of President Vladimir Putin's push during his first term to strengthen "vertical power" by harmonizing Russian laws at all levels -- federal, regional, and local.Under Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin a kind of asymmetrical federalism flourished, where one region could do what another could not. It was this that Putin declared that he would eradicate.

However, Tatarstan ignored the June 2002 deadline to annul treaties that violated federal legislation. It also missed a September 2001 deadline to bring Tatarstan's Constitution and laws into conformity with the Russian Constitution and federal legislation. And in another example of its independence, Tatarstan's Constitution refers to the republic as an international subject.When the possibility of annulling the treaties was first raised back in 2001, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev noted that unless the treaty remains in force, Tatarstan's relationship with Russia will be undefined. Like Chechnya, he said, Tatarstan did not sign the federation treaty.Shaimiev mentioned this fact again on 29 October when the State Council considered the new agreement. The Tatar president said the 1994 power-sharing treaty was "the most important political act for [Tatarstan] and, as time has shown, for the country as a whole."Shaimiev explained that it was necessary to amend the agreement in keeping with the July 2003 law, which provided for a two-year period to call for bringing various laws into harmony.Of course, July 2005 has come and gone, but negotiations over the agreement may have required more time, since, according to "Izvestiya" on 31 October, they became quite heated.According to the daily, citing an anonymous source close to talks over the agreement, Tatar officials initially wanted recognition that the republic is a "sovereign state." The officials reportedly proposed wording that the republic has "limited sovereignty" within the Russian Federation.The presidential administration, however, opposed this language. As a result, the word "sovereignty" does not even appear in the agreement. Instead, the treaty acknowledges only that Tatarstan has "full state...power in areas outside the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.""Kommersant-Daily" on 31 October echoed "Izvestiya's" conclusion that the new agreement trims back some of the special status Tatarstan gained within the Russian Federation under Yeltsin. The daily suggested that the agreement appeared to limit only Tatarstan's power, not the Russian Federation's.

However, there were some victories for Tatarstan. Tatar residents retain the right to hold a passport that bears Tatarstan's state symbol. However, this symbol will appear only as an insert and not as part of the standard passport itself.

In the previous agreement, the president of the republic was required to know both state languages, Russian and Tatar -- a requirement that aroused some controversy. In the current draft treaty, it is "suggested" that the president of the republic knows both the Tatar and Russian languages, according to TatarInform.

The treaty also grants Tatarstan the right to establish international contacts, but only "with the agreement of the [Russian] Foreign Ministry." While Tatarstan has lost some of its status under the new draft agreement, it is perhaps important to note that it has kept the right to have a power-sharing treaty govern its relationship with Moscow.

So why is Putin, who made the "dictatorship of law" one of his rallying cries during his first term, willing to accept the new treaty? Why are his officials seeking to draft one with Chechnya? In the case of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, it is likely that political expediency is at work. In comments to "Izvestiya," Maksim Dianov, a long-time expert on Russian regional politics, noted that Tatarstan, like its neighbor Bashkortostan, are frequently "decisive" regions at election time. In the last presidential election, both Shaimiev and Murtaza Rakhimov, president of Bashkortostan, managed to produce an impressive percentage of voters in support of President Putin.

While that is only a partial explanation, a fuller answer must take into account the limited ability of the Putin regime to project its power beyond Moscow.

Putin has, at times, imposed a new governor on regions, but usually in cases where the local elite was divided and could not present a united opposition. In Tatarstan, the politically astute Shaimiev has ruled for over a decade, maintaining political stability and a steady flow of tax revenues to federal coffers.

It is perhaps not a stretch to conclude that Moscow needs Shaimiev as much, if not more, than he needs Moscow. Denying Kazan a power-sharing treaty without at least some face-saving features would undermine Shaimiev. While the Putin regime is no doubt stronger than Yeltsin's, it is a mistake to confuse its desire to control the regions with its capability.

SOUTHERN PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR SURVIVES SUICIDE ATTACK
Helmand Governor Sher Mohammad survived a suicide car-bomb attack on 7 November in the provincial capital Lashkargah, international news agencies reported. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Yusof Stanakzai said the only casualty in the attack was the driver of the explosive-laden vehicle, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 7 November. Qari Mohammad Yusof, purporting to speak for the neo-Taliban, called AIP on 7 November and claimed responsibility for the attack. He said a "55-year-old Taliban [mujahid]" named Salahuddin carried out the attack. The attacker suffered serious injuries and died shortly thereafter. Mohammad Wali, the spokesman for the Helmand Governor, said on 7 November that based on the features of the attacker, "we can say that he was from Pakistan's Punjab Province," AFP reported. Stanakzai also claimed that the bomber was a foreigner but did not speculate on his country of origin. After most of the suicide attacks in Afghanistan, official Afghan sources have claimed that those carrying out the attacks are non-Afghans. In this case, Mohammad Yusof did not mention the attacker's country of origin. AT

DELAYED FINAL RESULTS OF AFGHAN ELECTIONS EXPECTED IN 'DAYS'
After certifying the results of a further six provinces on 6 November, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) said in a 7 November press release that the body "expects to certify results in the coming days" for the five remaining provinces of Kabul, Kandahar, Paktiya, Paktika, and Nangarhar (http://www.jemb.org). According to JEMB's schedule, the final results for the 18 September People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) and Provincial Council elections should have been announced by 21 October. Allegation of fraud and misconduct have hampered the counting process, which some observers note has been largely conducted without transparency. AT

ELECTORAL BODY OUTLINES PROCEDURES FOR UPPER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT
The JEMB outlined in a 6 November press release the election process for the Elders Council (Meshrano Jirga) of the Afghan National Assembly. According to the Afghan Constitution, the 102-member Elders Council should consist of one member from each Provincial Council and one member from the District Council of each of the 34 provinces plus 34 members selected by the president. Since district council elections were postponed indefinitely, the Afghan cabinet recently decided to temporarily fill the seats designated for district council representatives with members of the provincial councils (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2005). According to the JEMB release, one member of the Provincial Council will be elected for the full four-year term and another "transitional member" will be replaced by a District Council representative once those councils are formed. The member elected for the full term in the Elders' Council will lose his or her seat at the Provincial Council and will be replaced by the next most-voted candidate of the same gender. The transitional member will temporary lose his or her seat in the Provincial Council and will be replaced by the next most-voted candidate until he/she returns to the Provincial Council, at which time their replacements lose their membership. AT

LOSING CANDIDATES IN KABUL THREATEN VIOLENCE
Several candidates in the September polls blocked the doors of the Electoral Complaints Commission in Kabul on 7 November alleging that while they have submitted their complaints several times, their problems have not been addressed, Tolu Television reported. A number of protesting candidates threatened to resort to violence if the votes are not recounted. AT

IAEA WRAPS UP INSPECTION VISIT IN IRAN
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said on 7 November in Washington, after inspectors from the agency visited a military site in Iran, that there is only a little more to be done, RFE/RL reported. He said, "Today, we only have one remaining site we would like to visit in Iran. We've visited all the [other] sites that we wanted to visit in Iran, so we are making progress. I would hope, as you mentioned, Lavizan, we should be able to go there." UN inspectors visited the Parchin military site last week, but analysis of samples from the site will not be complete in time for the 24-25 November IAEA governing board meeting, AFP reported on 4 November. BS

TEHRAN REJECTS U.S. INTEREST IN JOURNALIST'S CASE
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi dismissed on 6 November Washington's expression of concern three days earlier for the welfare of imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji, IRNA reported. Assefi said the Ganji case is an internal Iranian affair and the U.S. should attend to its own business. Assefi's statement came shortly after he had issued a call advising the French police to have an "appropriate attitude" towards rioting Muslims. He expressed hope that the French government will resolve the issue peacefully. BS

MORE PROVINCIAL GOVERNORS APPOINTED IN IRAN
Iran's executive branch appointed Ali Mohammad Shaeri governor-general of Gulistan Province on 7 November, Fars News Agency reported. Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi introduced Rear Admiral Abbas Mohtaj, former commander of the Iranian navy, as governor-general of Qom Province on 5 November, Fars News Agency reported. The appointment of individuals with backgrounds in the security services and the miliatry for such positions has caused controversy, but Gorgan legislator Mohammad Abbasi described Shaeri as a local, Fars reported. Meanwhile, Abbas Kadkhodai, a lawyer who is a member of the Guardians Council, was appointed as that body's spokesman, Fars News Agency reported on 5 November. BS

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR COUNTERNARCOTICS ASSISTANCE
Manuchehr Mopttaki said on 7 November in Tehran at a conference on Central Asia and the Caucasus that narcotics-related activities threaten society and they also fund terrorists and criminals, IRNA reported. Mottakli noted the danger this poses to regional security and stability. Mottaki urged European states, which he described as the ultimate destination of the drugs, to do more to help Iranian counternarcotics efforts. BS

DUTCH AUTHOR CALLS IRANIAN OPPOSITION 'DANGEROUS'
Judit Neurink was interviewed about her book "Misleide Martelaren" (Misled Martyrs), which covers the 40-year history of the Iranian opposition group known as the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MEK), Radio Farda reported on 7 November. Neurink told Radio Farda she got interested in the subject about two years earlier, when MEK members immolated themselves after their leader, Maryam Rajavi, was arrested in France. Neurink asked herself why people would do such a thing, and said "My book tells a story that many don't know -- about brainwashing, about the imprisonment of friends and comrades, about torture, and about persuading people to go to Iran and kill civilians." Neurink said she interviewed MEK members, but experience showed her that this is like listening to a recorded message when the needle is stuck. Neurink described MEK as "dangerous." Radio Farda said Neurink's book will be translated into English and Persian. BS

LAWYERS FOR HUSSEIN CO-DEFENDANTS SHOT IN BAGHDAD
Two lawyers representing co-defendants of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were shot on 8 November in Baghdad. Adil al-Zubaydi was killed, while Thamir Hamud Hadi al-Khuza'i was wounded; both men are listed on the Iraq Special Tribunal website as lawyers for former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan (http://www.iraq-ist.org/en/defense/counsel.htm). The attack comes less than three weeks after defense attorney Sa'dun Antar al-Janabi was kidnapped from his office and later found dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005). Hussein and seven members of his regime are on trial for war crimes related to the 1982 massacre of Shi'ite Arabs living in the town of Al-Dujayl. KR

SUNNI ARAB LEADER EXPRESSES OPTIMISM OVER UPCOMING IRAQ CONFERENCE
Adnan al-Dulaymi, head of the Sunni People's Conference, said on 7 November in Baghdad that he is optimistic that the upcoming Arab League-sponsored reconciliation conference on Iraq will help foster improved dialogue among Iraq's disparate groups, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Al-Dulaymi likened the upcoming conference to the 1989 Al-Ta'if conference that led to the end of Lebanon's civil war. "All Iraqi political shades responded favorably to the Arab League's invitation. This conference will be supported by the United Nations, the [UN] Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and neighboring countries" to Iraq, al-Dulaymi said, adding: "I believe this support can ensure the success of the conference." Iraqi media reported on 7 November that the conference, which will be held in Cairo, will take place on 19 November. KR

IRAQI PRESIDENT VISITS ITALY, ASKS ITALIAN TROOPS TO STAY IN IRAQ
President Jalal Talabani arrived in Rome on 7 November for a weeklong visit that includes meetings with senior Italian officials and Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, international media reported the same day. In an open letter to the Italian people published in "La Stampa" on 7 November, Talabani called for the continued presence of multinational forces in Iraq. "Your country's commitment to the cause of democracy in Iraq and your contribution to the training of our security forces is helping us to do things by ourselves and to govern our country. A premature withdrawal would be a catastrophe for the people for Iraq and a victory for terrorism," Talabani wrote. He added that those who believe that terrorism in Iraq exists because of the presence of multinational forces there are mistaken. The president told Italian television on 7 November that it is important that Iraqis don't see only American and British soldiers in Iraq, but soldiers from other European countries as well, AP reported. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been under public pressure to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq. KR

IRAQI, U.S. FORCES CLAIM PROGRESS IN OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN...
Iraqi and U.S. forces said on 7 November that operations were proceeding to rid the western Iraqi town of Husaybah from insurgents, according to coalition press releases (http://www.centcom.mil) and media reports. Al-Iraqiyah television reported that security forces killed "scores of terrorists and arrested hundreds" in western areas of Iraq. Meanwhile, Defense Ministry media adviser Brigadier General Muhammad al-Askari told Al-Jazeera television on 7 November that the Iraqi army has improved its capacity to fight insurgents. "In the past, the American [soldiers] used to put the Iraqi army in the rear line as backup to their forces and to observe [U.S. military operations]. Now, the situation is different. The Iraqi army is leading these operations and the U.S. army is in the backup position as a result of the Iraqi soldiers' skills and knowledge." Asked why U.S. forces will remain in Husaybah after the operation rather than Iraqi forces, al-Askari said that Iraqi forces do not have the proper weapons to protect the area. "They neither have helicopters, nor tanks and artillery. Because these are border areas, these operations need advanced technology, which the Iraqi army does not have," he said. KR

...AS AL-ZARQAWI GIVES IRAQI GOVERNMENT 24 HOURS TO END OPERATION
The Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers (Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn) posted a statement on the Internet (http://www.world-news-network.net) on 7 November giving the Iraqi government 24 hours to end Operation Steel Curtain or else the group said it will retaliate fiercely against the Iraqi military. The statement added that the group has decided to respond to threats by Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2005) by demolishing the homes of soldiers and collaborators. "Let it be known to these people that any [Iraqi] region that supports the government and its campaigns against the Muslims, in any way, will be a legitimate target for the lions of monotheism. They will see death come to them and rob them of their children. And, in the same way the Sunni Muslim cities fighting the infidels and the apostates are being punished, we will punish the cities that are exporting the armies of unbelief and treason to us," the statement said. KR

IRAQ'S BA'ATH PARTY WEIGHS IN ON OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN
The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party said in a 5 November statement posted to the Internet (http://www.albasrah.net) that Operation Steel Curtain, "like all previous operations," will fail. The statement further claimed that all those "who agreed to work with and accepted the plans of the occupation...would bear the responsibility for the Iraqi blood spilled," in a threat aimed both at residents in the western Al-Anbar Governorate and members of the Iraqi military. The Ba'ath Party statement also contended that Operation Steel Curtain is aimed to send the message to other countries that Syria "is within [U.S.] territory." KR

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