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Newsline - April 19, 2006


RUSSIA PROTESTS PRIVATE U.S. CONFERENCE...
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns on April 18 to protest a conference on the northern Caucasus held on April 14 by the Jamestown Foundation, a private Washington-based think tank, on the grounds that unnamed speakers allegedly called for new terrorist attacks against Russia, RIA Novosti reported. The Russian protest note said that "the organization of such events in the United States contradicts [that] country's international obligations in the sphere of counterterrorism.... Such concessions on the part of Washington to Chechen militants and separatists also run counter to the spirit of antiterrorist cooperation [on the basis of partnership] and damage bilateral cooperation." For its part, Jamestown replied on its website (http://www.jamestown.org) that the Russian Foreign Ministry's charges are a "complete distortion" of reality and recall Soviet-era practices and style. PM

...FOR REASONS THAT REMAIN UNCLEAR
The "Financial Times" reported on April 19 that the Russian protest of the previous day "highlighted the tensions between Moscow and Washington ahead of the summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations, to be hosted by Russia in St. Petersburg in July." It is not clear whether specific remarks made at the conference triggered the high-level diplomatic protest about a private gathering or whether Moscow was perhaps objecting to the presence of one or more specific Chechen political figures there, such as Mairbek Vachagayev, a former spokesman for the late Chechen President and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov. The protest coincided with a high-level diplomatic meeting on Iran was being held in Moscow. Russia's new legislation on non-governmental organizations also took effect on April 18 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3, 11, and 18, 2006). PM

MOSCOW TALKS ON IRAN DEADLOCKED
Political representatives of the foreign ministries of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States discussed the Iranian nuclear issue in Moscow on April 18 but failed to reach agreement, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said afterward that the participants recognized the "need for a stiff response to Iran's flagrant violation of its international responsibilities." The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "it is impossible to address the international community's concerns about Iran [by] using force or sanctions," Interfax reported. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on April 19 that the meeting produced no breakthrough. He repeated Russia's earlier call for Iran to observe a moratorium on uranium enrichment until April 28, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is slated to make a report to the Security Council. He noted that all participants in the April 18 talks called on Iran to make "urgent and constructive moves" aimed at complying with IAEA decisions, starting with stopping the enrichment work. PM

RUSSIA PLEDGES $10 MILLION TO THE PALESTINIANS
Konstantin Dolgov, who is Russia's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said in New York on April 18 that his country will soon provide $10 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority and will not will not follow the lead of Washington and Brussels and cut its aid to that body, which is now governed by the radical Hamas, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 12, 2006). Dolgov stressed that "differences in political priorities should not serve as a reason for refusing to help the Palestinians in resolving urgent social and humanitarian problems and lead to the destruction of Palestinian institutions.... The isolation of the legitimate Palestinian government" would hurt ordinary people and make their situation worse. PM

MIGHT PUTIN SERVE A THIRD TERM AFTER ALL?
A little-known North Ossetian nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Harmony and Stability sent a resolution the Federation Council on April 17 asking for a referendum to amend the federal constitution to enable President Vladimir Putin to run for a third term when his current mandate expires in 2008, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and kavkazweb.net reported on April 18. Valery Gizoyev, who heads the NGO, said that his group is not convinced that any possible successor would "have the same level of greatness" as Putin. Gizoyev stressed that "Putin should be able to seek a third term if the people of Russia say he can," adding that "nobody has hired us" to call for a referendum. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested that such appeals for changing the constitution have little chance of success. In Beslan, Anneta Gadiyeva of the Mothers of Beslan committee said that her group opposes amending the constitution on principle. Elsewhere, Ella Kesayeva of the Voice of Beslan, which is a separate organization of mothers there, stressed that her group holds Putin's policies responsible for the 2004 tragedy. On April 18, State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov said that he and Putin oppose any changes to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). PM

ANOTHER CHORNOBYL DISASTER 'OUT OF THE QUESTION'
Saratov Oblast Governor Pavel Ipatov, who is also the former head of the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant, told Interfax in Moscow on April 18 that "a repetition of the [Chornobyl] tragedy in Russia is out of the question." He stressed that Russia "is moving along the way of developing new reactors of the fourth generation with higher security standards.... There is currently no alternative to the development of atomic energy, because hydrocarbon reserves are not limitless and the promised thermonuclear technologies do not yet exist." Ipatov argued that Russia can now attain "the level of the best Soviet times in its production of nuclear energy." PM

EMBATTLED OLIGARCH PLACED IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
A spokesman for the Federal Corrections Service said in Moscow on April 19 that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the embattled former head of the Yukos oil company, has been moved to a "separate" cell in Krasnokamensk jail "to normalize the situation in the penitentiary following his argument with a young inmate, after which Khodorkovsky sustained slight injuries to his face," Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). PM

PROTEST IN KARACHAYEVO-CHERKESSIA OVER ANNULMENT OF LOCAL ELECTION
Some 500 residents of the Karachayevo-Cherkessia Republic district of Karachayevsk staged an unsanctioned demonstration on April 18 outside the Supreme Court building in Cherkessk to protest the court's decision to uphold the ruling of a lower court annulling the outcome of the December 25 local government election, regnum.ru reported. According to the preliminary election returns, incumbent district administrator Eldar Salpagarov, who enjoys the support of KChR President Mustafa Batdyev, was reelected with 53.7 percent of the vote, while opposition parliament deputy Islam Krymshamkhalov polled approximately 40 percent. Krymskhamkhalov challenged that data in the district court, which annulled the voting in two districts where only 5 percent of the voters cast their ballots, thereby reducing Salpagarov's share of the vote to 48 percent, or less than the 50-percent-plus-one-vote required for a first-round victory. The pro-presidential Council of KChR Municipal Formations has addressed an appeal to President Putin and to presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak protesting the Supreme Court's decision as "pressure and blatant interference" in the work of district-level courts and as "a cynical encroachment" on citizens' constitutional rights. LF

IS INGUSHETIA'S PRESIDENT PLANNING TO RESIGN?
Murat Zyazikov has begun secret talks with RussNeft CEO Mikhail Gutseriyev about the possibility of resigning to allow Gutseriyev's brother Khamzat to succeed him as president, ingushetiya.ru reported on April 19, citing what it termed "a reliable source who is a direct participant" in those talks. Khamzat Gutseriyev, a former Ingushetian interior minister, was barred from participating in the April 2002 presidential ballot in which Zyazikov won election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 8, 2002). LF

POLICE SUMMON ARMENIAN ELECTION OFFICIAL FOR QUESTIONING
Spartak Yeghiazarian, an election commission head from the village of Oshakan who last week described to journalists how he participated in falsifying the outcome of the 2003 presidential ballot, was summoned on April 18 for questioning by Interior Minister Colonel General Haik Harutiunian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Yeghiazarian also told journalists on April 14 that he has proposed to police that criminal proceedings should be opened against him, but was told to "Get lost!" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). Yeghiazarian told RFE/RL on April 18 that Harutiunian asked him whether he implicated Interior Ministry personnel in the vote-rigging, as the regional governor alleged. Yeghiazarian stressed that he received no such orders from police, the Prosecutor-General's Office, or the National Security Ministry to falsify the ballot, nor did police "meddle" in the election. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS IT IS 'TOO EARLY' TO DISCUSS RETURN OF OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on April 18 that discussion within the framework of the Karabakh peace process of the withdrawal of Armenian forces from seven districts they currently control is premature, Noyan Tapan reported. Oskanian said that the "issue of principle" today is the repatriation of both Armenian and Azerbaijani refugees and displaced persons. Echoing comments made in Yerevan last week by Bernard Fassier that the OSCE Minsk Group, of which Fassier is the French co-chairman, hopes it may prove possible to schedule a new meeting soon of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006), Oskanian said the issue is under discussion. He mentioned late May or early July as possible dates for such a meeting. LF

AZERBAIJANIS LAUNCH NEW CAMPAIGN FOR AUTONOMY WITHIN ARMENIA...
The political movement Azerbaijan's Way plans to appeal to international organizations on behalf of Azeris either deported from the then-Armenian SSR in the early 1950s or who fled that republic in 1988 when the campaign for the unification of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh gathered momentum, echo-az.com reported on April 18. Azerbaijan's Way will demand the right of those displaced persons to return to Armenia and the creation of an autonomous territorial formation encompassing those districts of Armenia where they used to live, and intends to collect signatures in support of that demand. Azerbaijan's Way head Ilqar Qasimov told journalists in Baku on April 18 that the organization has appealed to President Ilham Aliyev, parliament speaker Oktai Asadov, and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov for help and support, echo-az.com and day.az reported. The Western Azerbaijan Liberation Front and the NGO Return to Western Azerbaijan raised similar demands last year, according to zerkalo.az on March 29 and November 30 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 30, 2005). LF

...AND GEORGIA
The political party Umid (Hope), which is represented in parliament by a single deputy, party Chairman Iqbal Agazade, plans to raise in parliament the issue of demanding that Georgia grant territorial autonomy to the raions of Marneuli and Gardabani, the populations of which are overwhelmingly Azerbaijani, Caucasus Press reported on April 18. Agazade criticized both what he termed the discriminatory policies of the Georgian leadership with regard to the estimated 500,000-strong Azerbaijani minority and the Azerbaijani authorities' apparent reluctance to protest that alleged discrimination. He argued that the Azerbaijani leadership should have demanded better treatment for its co-nationals in return for the economic concessions it made to Georgia over the transportation of oil and gas across Georgian territory. LF

AZERBAIJANI FINANCE MINISTER REPLACED
President Aliyev dismissed Avez Alekperov on April 18 from the post of finance minister that he has held since 1999 and named State Oil Fund Executive Director Samir Sarifov to replace him, day.az and echo-az. com reported on April 18 and 19, respectively. Economist Inglab Akhmedov told day.az that Sarifov's appointment constitutes recognition of his professional expertise and management skills and of the increasing importance of the Finance Ministry as the state budget expands. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION BLOC PLANS TO LAUNCH OWN TV CHANNEL
The Azadliq election bloc plans to launch its own television channel and will shortly submit the requisite documentation to the corresponding state agency, echo-az.com and day.az reported on April 18, quoting Ali Kerimli, chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party progressive wing. Kerimli explained that at present the opposition has only very limited access to the electronic media. Asked how the new channel will be financed, Kerimli said he hopes individual citizens will make voluntary donations. The only TV channels whose broadcasts can be received throughout Azerbaijan are either state-controlled or privately owned by people connected with the incumbent leadership. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SOLICITS 'CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM'
During his meeting on April 17 with representatives of the parliament majority, Mikheil Saakashvili urged the opposition to engage in "constructive criticism" of the authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili said without such criticism the authorities risk becoming complacent, which in turn could have "ruinous consequences." On April 18, only the Industrialist faction responded to an invitation from parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze to participate in a discussion of planned amendments to the Tax Code; other opposition factions continue the boycott of parliamentary proceedings they declared on March 31 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,," April 11, 2006). LF

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST IMPLICATES GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN IN PLOT TO KILL BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Mikhail Leontiyev, anchorman of the Channel 1 program "Odnako," aired on April 17 what he claimed was a tape recording of a telephone conversation in which Givi Targamadze, chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, expressed disappointment with defeated Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich and declared his intention of paying his brother-in-law $10,000-$20,000 to kill him, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. Leontiyev claimed in the broadcast he was given the tape recording by someone with links to Georgian intelligence. Targamadze shrugged off Leontiyev's allegations on April 18, saying no normal person would take them seriously. Also on April 18, Davit Gamkrelidze, head of the opposition New Conservatives (aka New Rightists), argued that the tape recording should be examined by experts to determine beyond all doubt that it is indeed a Russian fabrication intended to discredit Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT WARNS OF 'OVERHEATED' ECONOMY
At a meeting with the heads of his cabinet and presidential administration on April 18, President Nursultan Nazarbaev warned that Kazakhstan is experiencing the symptoms of an "overheated" economy, Kazinform reported. Nazarbaev noted that rising budget revenues and expenditures in recent years have created inflationary pressures, with inflation increasing from 5.9 percent in 2002 to 7.6 percent in 2005. "In these conditions, I think that we have to pursue a moderate fiscal policy and a tough monetary policy," Nazarbaev concluded. Nazarbaev also advised deputies, governors, ministries, and government agencies to "curb their appetites" and limit expenditures. On April 17, Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov signed an anti-inflation resolution requiring local authorities to "step up efforts to prevent unjustified price growth for the main group of commodities and services, primarily meat, fruit and vegetables and other foodstuffs." DK

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS STATEMENTS BY U.S. ENVOY
The Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing dissatisfaction with recent statements by U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in favor of Kyrgyzstan's possible participation in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt initiative, Kabar reported on April 18. The ministry noted that the issue of whether or not the country should take part in HIPC has generated a lively discussion among Kyrgyz political figures. It described Yovanovitch's comments on the issue in Kyrgyz media as "interference in [Kyrgyzstan's] internal affairs and pressure on the Kyrgyz leadership." The statement concluded by asking Yovanovitch and the heads of other diplomatic missions to refrain from public statements "bordering on interference in Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs" not only on the issue of HIPC, but on "other current domestic issues of a political and economic nature." In interviews with Kyrgyz media, Yovanovitch expressed support for Kyrgyzstan's joining the initiative, which is administered by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Critics in Kyrgyzstan argue that HIPC's effectiveness is dubious and that the program grants international financial institutions excessive influence over domestic policies. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT FORMS 'STATE COUNCIL'
President Kurmanbek Bakiev signed a decree on April 17 creating a "State Council," gazeta.kg reported the next day. The new council will be a consultative body intended to help the president coordinate the functions of various government agencies. It will include the president, prime minister, speaker of parliament, chairpersons of the Constitutional and Supreme courts, state secretary, head of the presidential administration, prosecutor-general, defense minister, chairman of the National Security Service, and mayor of Bishkek. The president will chair the council, which will meet "when necessary." DK

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION UNVEILS RALLY DEMANDS
The organizers of a demonstration scheduled for April 29 held a news conference in Bishkek on April 18 to highlight their demands, akipress.org reported. They said that they are asking for immediate constitutional reform, less corruption, and a strong crime-fighting effort. They are also demanding the resignation of Usen Sydykov, head of the presidential administration; Prosecutor-General Kambaraly Kongantiev; State Secretary Dastan Sarygulov; and Tashtemir Aitbaev, head of the National Security Service. Omurbek Tekebaev, former speaker of parliament and the head of the organizing committee for the upcoming demonstration, said President Bakiev should heed the lessons that former President Askar Akaev failed to learn, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "Ordinary citizens say that Akaev had hundreds of opportunities to prevent the 24 March [2005] events from happening," Tekebaev said. "I think Bakiev has the same opportunity in full. This [upcoming rally] is not a wave of actions by foes. If [Bakiev] will say that he will fulfill the main demands -- I am not saying all of them -- if he will show that he is willing to carry out these initiatives, if he will explain explicitly why they have been postponed, if he will continue [the reforms people are asking for], then I think the demonstrators will applaud him." DK

GEORGIA REPAYS TURKMEN GAS DEBT WITH GOODS
Gia Macharadze, Georgia's ambassador to Turkmenistan, told ITAR-TASS on April 18 that Georgia's debt to Turkmenistan for gas shipments in the 1990s has been reduced from $500 million in the 1990s to $100 million in 2006. Macharadze said that dredgers supplied by Georgian shipyards and Turkmen railway cars repaired in Georgia have brought the debt down from $150 million in 2005 to the current total. "All of these projects are intended to pay off the debt by the end of 2006," Macharadze commented. "We are making every effort so that Turkmenistan views Georgia not as a bankrupt debtor but as a reliable and responsible partner." On April 17, Turkmenistan's state news service reported that Georgian goods shipments totaling $42 million are expected soon; their delivery will bring Georgia's debt down to $60 million. DK

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT WEEKLY FACES CLOSURE
The Minsk City Executive Committee has denied the "Nasha Niva" weekly permission to have a legally registered address in Minsk, which may lead to the closure of one of Belarus's very few surviving independent newspapers, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported on April 18. The Minsk authorities said in a letter to "Nasha Niva" that they do not "consider it expedient to have the newspaper based in Minsk," adding that the refusal to register the address of the weekly is the result of a 10-day jail sentence imposed on "Nasha Niva" Editor in Chief Andrey Dynko during the antigovernment protests in Minsk in March. Dynko told journalists that the official decision is a politically motivated "legal absurdity." In an appeal placed on its website (http://www.nn.by), the "Nasha Niva" editorial board asked the Lithuanian Culture Ministry to apply to UNESCO for including the newspaper into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and appealed to other organizations and governments to support this application. "Nasha Niva" is the first regular Belarusian-language newspaper, which was published in Vilnius in 1906-15 and resumed publication there in 1991. In 1996, "Nasha Niva" moved its office to Minsk. Like most Belarusian opposition-minded newspapers, "Nasha Niva" was denied the possibility to be disseminated in 2006 through the state-run network of kiosks and the state postal service. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST JAILED FOR ORGANIZING RALLY THAT IS YET TO TAKE PLACE
Uladzimir Katsora, head of the regional campaign office in Homel of opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich in the March 19 presidential election, was sentenced to 10 days in jail on April 18, Belapan reported. Katsora was reportedly arrested earlier the same day and found guilty of organizing an unsanctioned demonstration. "Katsora has filed an application with the Homel City Executive Committee for permission to stage a demonstration in the city on April 25 on the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl accident," Yury Zakharanka, Katsora's colleague, told the agency. "Although the demonstration is yet to be staged and the city authorities have not yet announced its decision on the application, he has already been convicted." JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DISMISSES RUSSIAN TV REPORT ON ALLEGED PLOT TO KILL HIM
Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the united opposition candidate in the March 19 presidential election, has dismissed a report about alleged preparations for his assassination as an attempt at intimidating President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's opponents, Belapan reported on April 18. Russia's government-controlled ORT channel on April 17 played an audiotape of alleged phone conversations between Georgian lawmaker Givi Targamadze and unnamed persons in Lithuania and Washington that focused on plans to murder the Belarusian opposition leader during his trip to Turin. In particular, the Georgian parliamentarian was allegedly dissatisfied that Milinkevich had refused to stage violent riots during a week-long wave of protests after the presidential election in Belarus. "I treat these allegations with a certain share of humor, although Lukashenka's political opponents disappear in Belarus and such statements cannot be ignored from this viewpoint," Milinkevich told the agency. "Maybe, in the next show they will accuse me of assassinating Mr. Kennedy and planning to dig a tunnel from Bombay to London," Targamadze commented on the ORT allegations on Georgia's Imedi television network. JM

GREENPEACE SAYS CHORNOBYL DEATH TOLL 'GROSSLY' UNDERESTIMATED
The global environmental group Greenpeace said in a report unveiled on April 18 that the health effects of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident have been "grossly" underestimated, international news agencies reported. According to Greenpeace, more than 93,000 people -- mostly in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia -- are likely to die from cancers caused by radiation connected with the accident. Last year's report by an expert panel comprising the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other UN groups said fewer than 50 deaths could be confirmed as being connected to Chornobyl, while the number of radiation-related deaths among the 600,000 people who participated in fighting the consequences of the accident would ultimately be around 4,000. The UN report also estimated that the increase in cancer deaths among the 5 million people exposed to lower levels of radiation would be around 5,000. JM

FORMER PRIME MINISTER ACCUSES PRESIDENTIAL AIDES OF THWARTING REBIRTH OF ORANGE COALITION...
Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous political bloc, accused Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, Petro Poroshenko, and Mykola Martynenko from the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc on April 18 of clinching a coalition deal with the Party of Regions led by President Viktor Yushchenko's political rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian media reported. "A program has been launched now to discredit talks among democratic forces and those same people are working now to lay the ground for the announcement of a so-called broad coalition between the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine," Tymoshenko said at a news conference in Kyiv. She demanded direct talks with Yushchenko to break the deadlock in negotiations between her bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party to restore the 2004 Orange Revolution coalition. The three groups signed a protocol to this effect last week, but Our Ukraine reportedly opposes Tymoshenko's desire to head a new cabinet. Tymoshenko confirmed on April 18 that she wants to be prime minister, adding that Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz should become speaker of the newly elected Verkhovna Rada. JM

...AS OUR UKRAINE URGES HER TO RETRACT CHARGES
Our Ukraine demanded in a statement on April 18 that Tymoshenko withdraw her allegations that some of its activists were involved in talks on forming a coalition with the Party of Regions, Ukrainian media reported. "The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc is continuing the list of lies that was started during the parliamentary elections. [The bloc] is doing everything possible and impossible to have a coalition with Our Ukraine broken up by reducing the negotiating process to granting the prime ministerial position to Yuliya Tymoshenko and the position of Verkhovna Rada chairman to the Socialist Party," the statement says. Meanwhile, the presidential press service said the same day that Yushchenko is concerned that potential members of a governing coalition "waste time and energy on mutual accusations and settling scores in the media." "The head of state urges politicians to cease engaging in blackmail and ultimatums and notes that such a tone damages relations of trust between participants of a future coalition," the press service added. JM

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SAYS BOSNIA MUST STAND ON ITS OWN SOON
High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling told the UN Security Council on April 18 that the time is approaching when the international community will need to allow Bosnia-Herzegovina to succeed or fail on its own, Reuters reported. "This may mean we have to stand back and allow the Bosnian authorities to take decisions, when previously we would have acted and directed the process," Schwarz-Schilling, Bosnia's fifth international overseer since the end of the 1992-95 war, said. "I look forward to assisting, advocating and advising the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but no longer doing their job for them." It was Schwarz-Schilling's first speech to the Security Council since taking office on January 31 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 1, 2006). BW

DETAILS EMERGE IN BOSNIA TERROR PLOT
Prosecutors in Bosnia-Herzegovina said on April 18 that three men arrested on October 19, 2005, purchased explosives and weapons for suicide attacks in Europe, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 21, 25, and November 7, 2005). According to an indictment made public on April 18, Swedish citizen Mirsad Bektasevic and Turkish citizen Cesur Abdulkadir arrived in Sarajevo in the fall of 2005 to plan an attack aimed at forcing an unspecified European government to withdraw forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bajro Ikanovic, a Bosnian citizen, helped the two buy 20 kilograms of explosives for a "suicide belt." The indictment said the group planned to inflict "serious damage" on Bosnia, but did not name the targets they allegedly planned to attack. BW

TRIAL BEGINS OF FOUR BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF ASSISTING KARADZIC
The trial of four former Bosnian Serb officials accused of embezzlement and providing support to war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic began on April 18, dpa reported the same day. The four are: former Republika Srpska Justice Minister Momcilo Mandic; Mirko Sarovic, a former member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency; and two other former senior officials, Milovan Bjelica and Milorad Govedarica. Mandic is accused of spending millions of dollars provided by the former Yugoslav government. The money was used to illegally fund the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and finance a support network for Karadzic. The other three officials are accused of abuse of office and of assisting Mandic. BW

KOSOVA NEGOTIATING TEAM TO PROPOSE FOUR NEW MUNICIPALITIES
Kosova's negotiating team said on April 18 that it plans to propose the formation of four new municipalities in areas populated predominantly by Serbs, dpa reported the sane day. The negotiating team will propose that the town of Kosovska Mitrovica be divided into two municipalities, "which should be ruled by an international administrator," said Jakup Krasniqi, a member of the negotiating team. Kosovska Mitrovica North, which is physically divided from the rest of the town by the Ibar River, is an ethnic Serbian enclave. According to the proposal, new municipalities should also be established in Gracanica, on the outskirts of Pristina; Ranilug, in eastern Kosova; and Novo Brdo in southeastern Kosova. At the next round of final-status talks in Kosova, scheduled for May 4, the Serbian negotiating team is expected to propose that 16 new municipalities be formed in the province. BW

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKS PROSECUTOR'S DISMISSAL
Albania's government on April 18 began procedures to sack Prosecutor-General Theodhori Sollaku, accusing him of incompetence and of hindering its fight against corruption, Reuters reported the same day. Prime Minister Sali Berisha accused Sollaku of being a "lawyer for crime" and a group of 28 members of the Democratic Party sent a request to the parliamentary speaker calling for his dismissal. "The essential point of the Democratic Party's request to sack the prosecutor-general consists in liberating the state from the claws of crime," Berisha said. Sollaku denied the allegations and said he will never resign under pressure. BW

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS WINE BAN WON'T HARM BILATERAL TIES, BUT LEAVES OPTIONS OPEN ON CIS
Vasile Tarlev said on April 18 that Chisinau will not allow Russia's ban on Moldovan wine imports to harm bilateral relations, Interfax reported the next day. "We'll hold talks and defend our national interests with arguments," he said on Chisinau's PRO-TV television on April 18. "I am certain [that] Moldovan wine lives up to all quality standards." Tarlev also said that Chisinau has not yet made a decision about leaving the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). "Moldova is holding consultations with Georgia. But all pros and cons must be weighed before a decision is made," he said. BW

U.S. MEDIA REPORT MULTIPRONGED OFFICIAL APPROACH TO IRAN
Iran's strong support for "rejectionist" Palestinian groups and the news that it will provide the Palestinian Authority's Hamas government with $50 million came on the heels of Iran's announcement that it has successfully enriched uranium. Such developments concern the United States and other countries over what they see as a growing Iranian threat.

An April 15 report in "The New York Times" discusses the "newly created office of Iranian affairs in the State Department" and notes the ongoing review of grant applications from groups seeking to change the Iranian political process. This project would expand if Congress approves the State Department's mid-February request for $85 million to fund scholarships and increase Persian-language broadcasting. An anonymous "State Department official" added that groups applying for grants are "squabbling" over who would most effectively promote reform in Iran, "The Washington Post" adds.

Also, the website of "The New Republic" on April 10 talks about the formation of the Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), which reportedly will form policy and bypass the Iran desk at the State Department, a significant development.

These institutional divisions are reflected in an April 13 report in "The New York Sun," which asserts that "the State Department has quietly explored funding for an Iranian student radio station." It appears from this report that some in the State Department have approached Congress to divert some of the funding to private broadcasters, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives' appropriations team that deals with foreign aid want the funding to go to Radio Farda (which is jointly run by RFE/RL and the Voice of America, or VOA) and VOA's television broadcasts.

There are suggestions, furthermore, that the Defense Department should be involved with broadcasting to Iran.

The military approach to the Iranian problem has received substantial attention lately. William M. Arkin, who specializes in National and Homeland Security for "The Washington Post," wrote on April 13 that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has been planning for the possibility of a full-scale war with Iran since at least May 2003. An analysis referred to as TIRANNT (Theater Iran Near Term) and an invasion scenario called Karona are just two related efforts, as is the Hotspur 2004 wargames of July 2004. The TOY Study (TIRANNT Out-Year) is based on a war between Iran and the United States in 2011, and it looks at the outcome of a conflict between U.S. Army division-sized formations and Iranian ground units. The Army Concepts Analysis Agency's BMD-I study, (Ballistic Missile Defense--Iran) studies the number of Iranian missiles that could penetrate a coalition missile defense.

The possibility of using military might to counter the danger of Iran's nuclear efforts caused a major news splash roughly one week ago. Reports in "The Forward" (April 7), "The New Yorker" (April 17), and "The Washington Post" (April 9) asserted that the United States is making preparations for a possible military attack on Iran in order to eliminate the potential nuclear threat. "The Washington Post" put the military plans in the context of "a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy," adding that options range from limited air strikes on nuclear facilities to bombs and cruise missiles that also target Intelligence and Security Ministry, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and other government facilities. The ultimate objective is "regime change," "The New Yorker" added, and U.S. special-operations forces are in contact with Iranian ethnic minorities that oppose the regime, it reported.

U.S. President George W. Bush on April 10 rejected the media reports. "I read the articles [about Iran] in the newspapers this weekend," Bush told an audience at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., according to Radio Farda. "It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you are reading is wild speculation, which...happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital." Bush stressed that the United States does not want Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons, Radio Farda reported, but he also insisted that this does not mean going to war. "The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon.... I know we hear in Washington [that], you know, prevention means force. It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy."

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in an April 10 interview with the Al-Jazeera TV network that news reports of U.S. contingency plans for attacking Iran with nuclear weapons represent "psychological warfare," Fars News Agency reported. "These [kinds of] threats are only expressed by parties who are totally incapable of acting on their promises," Larijani said.

Iranian state radio carried a commentary on April 10 that attributed the media reports -- particularly that in "The New Yorker" -- to psychological warfare. The commentary added that just a few of author Seymour Hersh's reports and analyses come true, and this specific one has been described as "idiotic" by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Such articles, the commentary continued, are meant to undermine calm in Iran. They also are meant to undermine the impressive accomplishments displayed at the previous week's naval exercises in the south, the broadcaster concluded.

It is not just Tehran that is talking about mind games. "The Forward" quotes former intelligence officers such as Graham Fuller of the CIA, who noted that this could be disinformation and psychological warfare.

AFGHAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES CABINET-CONFIRMATION HEARINGS
The People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) concluded confirmation hearings on President Hamid Karzai's proposed 25-member cabinet on April 18, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. The People's Council is expected to finish its deliberations by April 20 and its respective verdicts on Karzai's nominees. The process began on April 4 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 5, 2006 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," April 15, 2006). Karzai initially sought a single, up-or-down vote on the cabinet, but that proposal was rejected in favor of individual screening of the nominees. AT

PAKISTAN ARRESTS THREE FORMER TALIBAN LEADERS
Pakistani intelligence units arrested three former Taliban officials "some days back," the Islamabad-based daily "The Nation" reported on April 18. The three include Mawlawi Sayyed al-Rahman Haqqani, who was the Taliban regime's ambassador to Islamabad for several months. The Taliban-era posts of fellow detainees Qari Sebghatullah and Mawlawi Inqeyadi were not specified in the report. Pakistani sources have yet to confirm the report of those arrests. AT

GOVERNOR OF NORTHEASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE ACCUSES PAKISTAN
Konar Governor Asadullah Wafa on April 17 accused neighboring Pakistan of training terrorists and sending them to Afghanistan, the official Radio Afghanistan reported. Wafa said that Afghan security forces have arrested a number of Pakistani citizens, whom he alleged were sent to Afghanistan on the orders of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The governor also claimed the rocket that killed six students in Konar on April 11 was fired from Pakistani territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 12, 2006). AT

PAKISTAN REJECTS OVERLAND TRANSIT ROUTE FOR INDIAN GOODS TO AFGHANISTAN...
Islamabad on April 17 rejected requests from both Kabul and New Delhi to allow the transit of goods from India to Afghanistan, Kyodo news agency reported. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said her country has "already provided Afghanistan's global and transit trade via [the port of] Karachi," adding that Pakistan allows all countries, including India, to use Karachi for trade with Afghanistan. AT

...AND SO KABUL REITERATES REQUEST
On April 18, Kabul welcomed Pakistan's decision to allow Indian goods to be transported through Karachi but reiterated that overland transit would be more economical, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Abdul Azim Wardak, an Afghan Trade Ministry official, said that if Islamabad allows an overland transit route for Indian goods, ties between his country and India will improve significantly. "India is our closest friend and we have trade links, but it could not be strengthened due to the long distance between the two countries," Wardak added. Without elaborating, Wardak questioned Pakistan's sincerity, citing transit problems that Afghanistan faces in Karachi. During his recent visit to India, Karzai raised with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the issue of transit route through Pakistan, with Karzai expressing his hope that "Brother Musharraf" might grant such rights to India (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006). AT

FIRST ATTACK ON SPANISH TROOPS STATIONED IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
A Spanish foreign-legion reconnaissance patrol was attacked outside its base in Herat Province on April 15, the Madrid-based daily "El Pais" reported on April 18. While no Spaniards were injured and they were able to repel the attack, the incident marks the first time Spanish troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been targeted. AT

IRAN CELEBRATES 'ARMY DAY'
Iran marked Army Day on April 18 with parades in different cities of infantry, air force personnel, pro-revolutionary Basij members, commandos, as well as armored and naval units, state media reported. Missiles and tanks were also on display. The parade in Tehran was attended by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Yahya Rahim-Safavi, Defense Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Mohammad Najjar, and other officials. During the parade in Khuzestan Province, a provincial television correspondent reported, marines, commandos, engineer units, military police, and national police also participated. Speakers at that parade included Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Musavi-Jazayeri, the provincial representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as Amir Beyzavi, the senior armed forces commander in the south. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ARMY WILL DEFEND COUNTRY
Speaking at the Army Day parade in Tehran, President Ahmadinejad said the Islamic Republic is not a threat to any country, state television reported, and it seeks "peace, security, and progress for all other nations." Ahmadinejad said Iran's enemies are aware of the "courage, faith, devotion, and commitment to Islam" of the armed forces. The armed forces, he continued, can defend the country and "cut off the hand of any aggressor and brand their forehead with the stain of regret." BS

MOSCOW TALKS ON IRAN DEADLOCKED
Political representatives of the foreign ministries of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States discussed the Iranian nuclear issue in Moscow on April 18 but failed to reach agreement, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said afterward that the participants recognized the "need for a stiff response to Iran's flagrant violation of its international responsibilities." The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "it is impossible to address the international community's concerns about Iran [by] using force or sanctions," Interfax reported. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on April 19 that the meeting produced no breakthrough. He repeated Russia's earlier call for Iran to observe a moratorium on uranium enrichment until April 28, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is slated to make a report to the Security Council. He noted that all participants in the April 18 talks called on Iran to make "urgent and constructive moves" aimed at complying with IAEA decisions, starting with stopping the enrichment work. PM

IRANIAN STUDENT GROUP WANTS CHANGES IN NUCLEAR POLICY
The Office for Strengthening Unity (Daftar-i Tahkim-i Vahdat), Iran's largest pro-reform student organization, has issued a statement calling for a "temporary suspension of all nuclear activities" in the country, RFE/RL reported on April 18. The statement criticized negotiations that would locate the country's uranium enrichment and spent fuel storage in Russia. It said in the statement that the hard-line by Iranian officials on the nuclear issue has put the country in a dangerous situation. In a further slap at the confrontational diplomacy of the Ahmadinejad administration, it called for the restoration of international confidence and renewal of support for Tehran from international organizations. BS

RATE OF AIDS REPORTEDLY FALLING IN IRAN
Mohammad Mehdi Guya, who heads the Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Ministry's infectious disease department, said (on an unreported date) that as of March 21 there were some 13,040 Iranians with AIDS, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on April 17. The figure was at 12,557 as of November, he added. This marks an overall increase, he continued, but the infection rate actually has fallen compared to the previous year. Guya said being infected with AIDS can be attributed to individual behavior, so education and media outreach are important in combating the disease. BS

SUNNI LEADERS DECRY DELAY OVER FORMING NEXT IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Iraqi Front for National Dialogue head Salih al-Mutlaq criticized political parties at an April 18 press briefing in Baghdad for not moving fast enough to form the government, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. "I feel very sad when I see political leaders negotiating over posts and watching the innocent blood being shed on a daily basis," he said. "I demand that [political leaders] put an end to this farce and immediately form a government that is capable of rescuing this country, and not a government based on sectarian grounds and the distribution of posts among its members." Meanwhile, Iraqi Accordance Front spokesman Zafir al-Ani told Al-Jazeera television in an April 18 interview that while the front hopes that political groups will sit together and put "national interests before any other consideration...other sides seem to insist on the agendas of their parties." KR

IRAQI NATIONAL LIST CALLS FOR SEAT ON PRESIDENCY COUNCIL
Iraqi National List member Hamid Majid Musa called for his bloc to have a seat on the three-member Presidency Council in the incoming Iraqi government, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on April 18. Since the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdistan Coalition will fill the offices of prime minister and president, other prominent cabinet positions should be made available to the smaller lists, Musa told RFI in an exclusive interview. Meanwhile, Rasim al-Awadi, another member of the Iraqi National List, said on April 18 that the list wants to nominate its leader, Iyad Allawi, to the post of president, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. Al-Awadi said that the Iraqi National List has another candidate in mind for the post of prime minister, but that that person's name will not be announced for the time being. KR

ARAB LEAGUE REPRESENTATIVE ARRIVES IN IRAQ
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari received the Arab League's representative to Iraq, Mukhtar Lamani, in Baghdad on April 18, MENA reported. Lamani, who has served as Morocco's ambassador to the Arab League, is charged with opening the league's first post-Hussein mission in Baghdad. Lamani pledged that his mission will assist the Iraqi people in achieving national reconciliation, while Zebari called on Lamani to convey to the Arab states the real picture of the situation in Iraq and to engage in preparations for the June conference on national dialogue in Baghdad, according to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website (http://www.iraqmofa.net). KR

IRAQI DE-BA'ATHIFICATION COMMISSION DISMISSES DOZENS OF INTERIOR, DEFENSE COMMANDERS
The Iraqi de-Ba'athification Commission has dismissed dozens of senior commanders in the Interior and Defense ministries because of their connections to the former regime, London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on April 18. Commission Director-General Ali Faysal al-Lami told the daily that the dismissals were decided by review committees and coordinated with the interior and defense ministers. Among those dismissed were Major General Ali Ghalib, Interior Ministry undersecretary for police affairs; 10th Division commander Brigadier General Abd al-Latif Ta'ban; Mu'ayyid Abd al-Jallil, adviser to the defense minister; Mu'ayyid Khudayr al-Juburi, security adviser to the Defense Ministry; and Thamir Sa'dun al-Janabi, director of the major crimes department. Al-Lami told "Al-Hayat" that the commission believes that the "presence of these people at the top of local security formations is the reason why these formations are accused of carrying out operations undermining the citizens' security." He noted that the majority of those dismissed were Shi'ite Arabs, adding, "This process will continue." KR

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