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Newsline - June 9, 2006


LEADING RUSSIAN LEGISLATOR CALLS AL-QAEDA LEADER KILLING A 'TACTICAL' SUCCESS
Mikhail Margelov, who chairs the Federation Council's Committee on International Relations, said in Moscow on June 8 that the recent death of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who headed Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was a major victory for the U.S.-led coalition there, but will not have lasting consequences for the insurgency, RIA Novosti reported. "This elimination could be considered a big success, albeit a tactical one, for the coalition forces in Iraq," Margelov said. He stressed, however, that "the reason for the rampant terrorism in Iraq, a situation in which free travel around the capital of the country is impossible even for diplomats, is not down to the terrorist talents of one or another warlord" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 5 and 6, 2006). He argued that the ongoing imbroglio is the result of the coalition's failure to establish order following the ouster of the former regime. PM

BUSH TO MEET PUTIN BEFORE G8 MEETING
U.S. President George W. Bush will not only attend the July St. Petersburg summit of leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries but will also meet with President Vladimir Putin on July 14-15 prior to that gathering, dpa reported from Moscow on June 8, citing a Kremlin spokesman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3, May 10, and June 6, 2006). U.S. Senator John McCain and some other U.S. political figures have called on Bush to boycott the summit on the grounds that Russia is neither a democracy nor a major industrial country. Bush has stressed that he has "not given up" on Russia and seeks to engage its leadership. PM

GAZPROM REPORTEDLY MAKES DEAL WITH DUTCH FIRM
The "International Herald Tribune" reported on June 9 that Gazprom has concluded a deal with the Dutch gas trading company Gasunie "to exchange stakes in a move that would give Gazprom access to the British market." Gasunie will get more access to Russian gas supplies by acquiring a stake in the controversial Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) project that circumvents Poland and the Baltic states. The daily noted that "Gazprom, a traditional upstream, or production, company, is developing a strategy to enter the downstream market by piggy-backing on some of Europe's most sophisticated gas distribution companies, in return for giving these companies access to much-needed Russian gas." This arrangement does not require Gazprom to give up much control over its own assets, the paper added. The Russian firm will "gain access to the British market by taking a stake in Gasunie BBL, or Balgzand-Bacton Line, which is building a pipeline between the Netherlands and Britain." This will enable Gazprom to "get around any attempts by the British government to prevent the Russian company from buying into Centrica, a British gas company," the daily noted. Russia continues to reject EU demands that it ratify the "energy charter" it signed in 1994, which would end Gazprom's monopoly over Russia's pipeline system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30 and June 7, 2006). PM

'KOMMERSANT' NOT TO BE SOLD AFTER ALL?
Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili, who owns the Moscow daily "Kommersant" and is an associate of self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, denied on June 7 recent media reports that he has sold or will sell the paper to an oligarch close to the Kremlin, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 5 and June 8, 2006). "I don't want to and will not hide anything from anyone. If 'Kommersant' is ever sold, I will be the first one to announce it," he said. PM

ONE SUSPECT HELD IN BEATING OF TAJIK STUDENTS
On behalf of the Moscow prosecutor's office, staff member Sergei Marchenko told RFE/RL's Russian Service on June 8 that the previous day, "a man knocked on the door of a room at the student dormitory of the State University of Administration, at 99 Ryazansky Prospekt. A university student -- a citizen of Tajikistan -- opened the door. The visitor showed an official identification card and introduced himself as a policeman. Note that this was not a standard [police] ID card. After him, about six people barged into the room and began beating six Tajik university students, who were in the room, using a tire wrench, belts, and their feet." Marchenko said on June 9 that one policeman is in custody over the incident and that an "active investigation is under way now in order to locate and apprehend his accomplices." A spokesman for Tajikistan's embassy said on June 8 that his government strongly "demands an investigation and wants serious punishment for the culprits. The embassy of Tajikistan is very much concerned about this incident," Interfax reported. PM

KALMYKIA'S PARLIAMENT OUSTS SENATOR
Kalmykia's legislature voted 18-1 on June 9 to terminate the mandate of Levon Chakhmakhchyan, who represents the region in the Federation Council, lenta.ru reported. Federal Security Service (FSB) agents allegedly caught Chakhmakhchyan recently in a sting operation as he was accepting $300,000 in extorted money. There have been several high-placed sackings since President Putin's recent criticism of high-level corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 10 and June 2 and 6, 2006). Critics argue, however, that the entire system is thoroughly corrupt and that the campaign has tended to target individuals who have run afoul of Putin and the Kremlin politically, particularly in the regions. PM

TATARSTAN LEADER WANTS REGIONAL CONTROL OVER UPPER HOUSE APPOINTMENTS
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party said on June 8 that he wants to rid the Federation Council, or upper house of the parliament, of those who have bought their seats from the Kremlin and replace them with members of the regional governments or legislatures who are appointed by those bodies, "The Moscow Times" reported on June 9. In the State Duma, Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin said on June 8 that his party wants direct elections for the Federation Council. Both men noted that the present system has led to regions being nominally represented by people who have no connection to those regions. The going price for a seat in the upper house is reportedly $2 million. Shaimiyev said that it is no surprise that there are often scandals surrounding senators because so many of them are involved in questionable business activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 31, 2006). PM

DID CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER ESCAPE CAPTURE IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA?
Interior Ministry and FSB personnel launched a search operation on June 6 in the Tyrnyauz district of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) after receiving a telephone tipoff that a man resembling radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev had been seen there, kavkaz.memo.ru reported on June 8. On June 7, RIA Novosti quoted a spokesman for the KBR Interior Ministry as saying heightened security measures were needed due to the growing threat of religious extremism and acts of terrorism. But on June 8, the KBR Interior Ministry rejected the reported sighting of Basayev as "rumors" and suggested that those rumors were a reaction to, not the reason for, the search operation. In a 2004 interview with Toronto's "Globe and Mail", Basayev claimed to have spent some time the previous year in the KBR, where a local police colonel offered him shelter (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," November 5, 2004). LF

CHECHEN PROSECUTOR OPENS CRIMINAL CASE IN CONNECTION WITH SECRET PRISON
An aide to Chechnya's prosecutor has confirmed that a criminal case has been opened in connection with reports of a secret prison in the Grozny building that from December 1999 until spring 2003 housed a police unit from the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, regnum.ru reported on June 9. But prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov took issue with human rights activists' description of the prison as "secret," claiming that it had official status, kavkaz.memo.ru reported. The Russian Interior Ministry forces vacated the building in early 2003, after which it was used by a local Chechen police unit. A correspondent for regnum.ru confirmed earlier reports of inscriptions left by detainees on cell walls, adding that the most recent one was dated May 15, 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 8, 2006). LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL DENIES TALKS UNDER WAY WITH CHECHEN RESISTANCE
Fedor Shcherbakov, who heads the press service of presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak, was quoted on June 8 by the daily "Kommersant" as denying any knowledge of alleged contacts between the Russian leadership and the Chechen resistance, kavkaz.memo.ru reported. Shcherbakov added that he sees no need to comment on Internet reports of such contacts. In a recent interview with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, newly appointed Chechen Foreign Minister Akhmed Zakayev said that discussions are under way with unnamed members of the Russian leadership on how to resolve the Chechen conflict peacefully. Chechen parliament speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov immediately warned Moscow against beginning such talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30 and 31, 2006). LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS KARABAKH TALKS WILL CONTINUE
Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on June 8 that he is likely to meet "soon" with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov to resume talks on ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The timing of that meeting, Oskanian continued, will depend on the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. Oskanian also said that during the talks in Bucharest on June 4-5 between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, the co-chairmen proposed unspecified "new approaches," but he implied that neither side found them acceptable. LF

BAKU MAYOR BANS DEMONSTRATIONS OF SOLIDARITY WITH AZERIS IN IRAN
The Baku municipal authorities have turned down a request by the opposition Musavat party to hold a demonstration and march in the city during the late afternoon of June 10 in solidarity with the ethnic Azeri minority in Iran, day.az and zerkalo.az reported on June 9. Musavat leaders will decide on June 9 whether to defy that ban. A similar request by the World Congress of Azerbaijanis to hold such a protest on June 9 has also been rejected. Speaking at a news conference in Baku on June 8, Eldaniz Elgyun, chief editor of the newspaper "New Fact," blamed the Azerbaijani presidential apparatus and Iranian ambassador Afshar Suleymani for the criminal case brought against him by the Azerbaijani prosecutor-general for allegedly inciting ethnic and religious hatred, zerkalo.az reported on June 9. That charge derived from the publication on the same page of the June 1 issue of "New Fact" of photographs of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad and deceased Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini and a 1964 poem by an ethnic Azeri Iranian poet affirming that anyone who considers Iran's Azeri minority "donkeys" is himself a donkey. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS COMMITMENT TO JOIN BAKU-TBILISI-CEYHAN PIPELINE IMMINENT...
Nursultan Nazarbaev told the 3rd Kazakhstan Investment Summit in Almaty on June 8 that Kazakhstan plans to sign an agreement with Azerbaijan later this month providing Kazakhstan with access to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev said the signing will take place during a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia in Almaty on June 17, ITAR-TASS reported. A news bulletin on June 8 from the Kazakh Embassy in the United States stated that the access agreement "sets terms for shipping up to 25 million tons of Kazakh oil annually (approximately 500,000 barrels of oil a day), and provides for creating a transportation system for shipping Kazakh oil from Aktau to Baku. Initially 7.5 million tons of Kazakh oil are expected to be transported through BTC." DK

...LAUDS KAZAKHSTAN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES...
In an address to participants in the 3rd Kazakhstan Investment Summit on June 8, Nazarbaev touted Kazakhstan's investment achievements and opportunities, Kazinform reported. Nazarbaev said that more than 80 percent of foreign investments in Central Asia are in Kazakhstan, which has attracted nearly $50 billion in foreign direct investment since 1993. The top investors in Kazakhstan are the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy, and China. DK

...AND PRAISES TIES WITH CHINA, SCO
In an interview with Chinese media on the eve of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Shanghai on June 15, President Nazarbaev said that "economic cooperation is becoming the driving force of an all-around development of Kazakh-Chinese relations," Xinhua reported on June 8. Nazarbaev noted the recent launch of direct pipeline exports of Kazakh oil to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 26, 2006), adding that the two countries are examining the possibility of joint ventures in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector. "The SCO is neither a military bloc nor an exclusive alliance targeting [a] third party," Nazarbaev commented. While noting that the SCO's "principal task is still the fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration," Nazarbaev said that "we should pay attention to the development of trade and economic cooperation." The SCO comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. DK

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS MEETING WITH PRESIDENT PRODUCED NO RESULTS
Omurbek Tekebaev, former speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament and currently the co-chairman of the For Reforms opposition movement, told journalists in Bishkek on June 8 that the June 7 meeting between President Kurmanbek Bakiev and representatives of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 8, 2006) failed to produce results, akipress.org reported. "I feel that not one concrete idea was expressed," Tekebaev said. "No plans for a way out of the current situation were offered." Tekebaev said that Bakiev should have outlined a political program at the meeting. Members of the For Reforms movement boycotted the meeting with Bakiev. DK

KYRGYZ 'COAL KING' CHARGED WITH $1 MILLION IN DAMAGES
Nurlan Motuev, who was arrested in late May for illegally seizing a coalmine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 24, 2006), will face charges of causing approximately $1 million in damages to various coal-mining facilities, ferghana.ru reported on June 8. Also on June 8, a Bishkek court ruled that Motuev will remain in detention while the investigation of his case continues, akipress.org reported. DK

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR PUBLIC TELEVISION
Kyrgyzstan's parliament passed a bill on June 8 to transform the country's state-run television station, the only station that broadcasts to the entire country, into a public television station, ferghana.ru reported. Under the new legislation, which now awaits President Bakiev's signature, the public television station will be overseen by a council of which the president, parliament, and civil society will each name one-third of the members. The director of the reformed station, who is currently a presidential appointee, will be chosen on a competitive basis. DK

UZBEKISTAN CLOSES WESTERN NGO
A Tashkent court ruled on June 8 to shut down the Uzbek office of the U.S.-based NGO Global Involvement through Education for engaging in missionary activity, Interfax reported. UzReport.com reported that the court said foreign employees of Global Involvement were trying to convert Uzbek students to Protestantism. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES RUSSIA OVER GAS PRICE
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has accused Russia of jeopardizing an intergovernmental agreement on the creation of equal conditions for economic entities by threatening to raise the price of natural gas to a level 50 percent higher than Russian consumers pay, Belapan reported on June 8. Lukashenka told Russian Ambassador to Belarus Aleksandr Surikov that price increases for gas should be the same for all entities in the Belarusian-Russian union state. The president also told his visitor that Gazprom's claim for control of Beltranshaz, the Belarusian gas-transportation system, could only be accepted if Russia granted Belarus access to the exploitation of hydrocarbon fields. Belarus currently pays Gazprom $46.68 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas and charges Russia transit fees of $.75 per 1,000 cubic meters for gas transiting through its pipeline to Europe. Gazprom has threatened to raise the price of gas to European levels of about $230 per 1,000 cubic meters. RK

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICAL OF BELARUS TRAVEL BAN ON EU, U.S. OFFICIALS
Ambassador Surikov told reporters in Minsk on June 8 it was "erroneous" for the Belarusian government to bar European Union and U.S. officials from entering the country in retaliation for a similar ban on Belarusian officials by Western countries, Belapan reported. It is necessary to do the opposite, to "fight against double standards," the ambassador told reporters. The same day, Andrey Papow, a spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, revealed that Minsk has drawn up a list of unnamed Western officials who will be banned from entering the country. Surikov described the EU's sanctions as a "big mistake." On the one hand, the European Union advocates democratic values and human rights, on the other hand, it infringes on them, he said. "With combined Belarusian and Russian efforts, it is necessary to explain everything to the Council of Europe in response to this 'slithery' move," he stressed. RK

U.S. PRESIDENT CANCELS VISIT TO UKRAINE
George W. Bush has cancelled his planned visit to Ukraine, Reuters reported on June 8 quoting a White House press release. The "Ukrayinska pravda" website, quoting Reuters, wrote that the cancellation was due to the lack of a government in Ukraine and possible fears of angering Russia. White House spokesman Tony Snow was quoted as saying that a visit by Bush to Ukraine will take place at a later date. RK

CONTACT GROUP ASKS SERBIA TO DROP ITS NEGATIVE ATTITUDE IN KOSOVA
Western powers on June 8 urged Belgrade to stop exerting "negative" influence on the Serbian minority in Kosova, Reuters reported the same day. Specifically, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy -- collectively known as the Contact Group --requested in a letter that Belgrade encourage Kosova's Serbian minority to end its boycott of the province's political institutions. The West largely blames the Belgrade authorities for the Serb boycott of political life in the province. In the letter, the Contact Group also asked Belgrade to withdraw an order that Serb workers in Kosova's public sector should give up the salaries they receive from the Kosova budget. The Contact Group's letter to Serbia follows a similar one to ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosova asking them to take specific steps to improve the living conditions of the Serbian minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 8, 2006). BW

POLICE IN KOSOVA ARREST 36 PRO-INDEPENDENCE PROTESTORS
Police in Kosova on June 9 arrested 36 ethnic Albanian demonstrators who had blocked the entrance to the United Nations Mission in Kosova (UNMIK), Reuters reported the same day. The protestors, who demanded independence for Kosova and called for the UN to stop governing the province, erected tents on the road leading to UNMIK headquarters on June 8. The police cleared the road and arrested the protestors before dawn on June 9, police spokesman Veton Elshani said. Protest leader Albin Kurti, a former political prisoner who is becoming increasingly popular in Kosova, accused police of using heavy-handed tactics. "The police used violence. They stole our tents," Kurti said. Kosova Prime Minister Agim Ceku condemned the protest. "Let's work together and stop the kind of scenes that can only harm efforts to resolve Kosovo's status," he said. BW

RUSSIA TURNS WAR CRIMES SUSPECT OVER TO BOSNIA
Russia handed war crimes suspect Dragan Zelenovic to the Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities on June 8, dpa reported the same day. The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has indicted Zelenovic for crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Between April 1992 and February 1993, Zelenovic served as paramilitary leader in the town of Foca. During that time, according to the charges, thousands of Bosnian non-Serbs, mostly Muslims, were expelled from their homes and more than 400 Muslims were executed in detention facilities in the town. When Russian police detained Zelenovic in August 2005, he was working in construction, living under an assumed name and using a false passport, the Russian media reported. On June 7, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte criticized Russia for delays in turning over Zelenovic. BW

ICELAND FIRST TO RECOGNIZE MONTENEGRO
Iceland on June 8 became the first country to recognize Montenegro as an independent state, international news agencies reported the same day. "Iceland is ready to establish official diplomatic relations between our two countries as soon as possible," Icelandic Foreign Minister Geir Haarde said in a letter to his Montenegrin counterpart Miodrag Vlahovic. In the letter, Haarde also congratulated the leaders and citizens of Montenegro on winning independence. Montenegro voted on May 21 to dissolve its union with Serbia and declared independence on June 3 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 22 and June 5, 2006). BW

HOW ADVANCED IS IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?
The international community is pressing Iran to give up uranium enrichment - a technology that can produce fuel for peaceful nuclear reactors or, at high levels of enrichment, material for nuclear weapons. Central to the international community's position is the belief that Iran has not made great progress in mastering this difficult technology. But Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad announced on May 24 that "Iran possesses, from [start to finish], the nuclear-fuel cycle for peaceful uses" -- in other words, that it is now pointless to try to stop Tehran from acquiring skills it already has. RFE/RL spoke with nuclear expert Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden.

RFE/RL: There seem to be conflicting reports from international experts and the Iranian government regarding just how much progress Iranian engineers have made in mastering uranium enrichment. What is your opinion?

Shannon Kile: It appears that the enriched uranium that Iran produced and that was trumpeted by Ahmadinejad a few weeks ago was actually made from Chinese-supplied uranium hexafluoride. So I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that Iran is still probably having a lot of technical problems, and they're a long way away from having mastered the complete nuclear-fuel cycle as was claimed.

RFE/RL: One of the challenging stages of mastering this technology is, as you mentioned, domestically producing uranium hexaflouride. That is the precursor gas that must be spun at high speeds in centrifuge cascades to produce enriched uranium. How well is Iran doing in producing its own uranium hexaflouride, as opposed to working with an apparently limited amount of material from the outside?

Kile: In terms of the uranium-conversion process, they still seem to be having trouble producing uranium hexafluoride, and they are having trouble making that of a sufficient purity that they can run [it] in their machines.

RFE/RL: And how well are they doing in constructing their own centrifuge cascades?

Kile: My understanding is they're having a lot of trouble getting the cascades to operate, to get the machines to run together. The ones that they have gotten to operate have operated at a very low level of efficiency. This is technically quite difficult to master. It's not something that you can simply do overnight. But the Iranians do seem to be having more than the usual start-up problems.

RFE/RL: Iran initially conducted much of its uranium-enrichment program secretly at a facility in Natanz, south of Tehran. The international community learned of that facility in 2002 and today the Iranian government says it is the peaceful centerpiece of its plans to produce low-enriched uranium fuel for its planned nuclear energy reactors. What will the Natanz facility ultimately look like?

Kile: [The Iranian authorities] have actually supplied the design plans to the [UN's] International Atomic Energy Agency, as they're now required to do in fulfillment of their safeguards obligations [under international treaties]. It will be quite a large plant. There will be about 50,000 centrifuges and how much enriched uranium that can produce [is] hard to say because the efficiency of the centrifuges is not really known yet. But it would clearly be enough to be able to produce enough [highly enriched uranium] for a nuclear weapon in fairly short order, if that's the route that they chose to go.

RFE/RL: Iran has announced plans for a commercial nuclear-energy program that calls for multiple reactors generating up to 20,000 megawatts of electricity. Would the Natanz facility be able to produce enough uranium fuel for such a program? Or, as some Western experts say, are there inconsistencies in Iran's plan that continue to raise doubts about just what purpose Natanz serves?

Kile: The fuel facility at Natanz, the enrichment facility, would not be anywhere close to being able to supply enough fuel for a program that large. It could supply enough basically for [the current nuclear-reactor plant that Iran is building to generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity near] Bushehr. [Also], Iran does not have sufficiently large reserves of natural uranium. It would have to import it from the outside. So, when the Iranians talk about having an indigenous, independent nuclear-fuel-cycle capability, one really has to question that. Because there simply isn't going to be enough there to be able to make enough fuel for the program that they've put forward as what they're going to actually develop.

AFGHAN OFFICIALS WELCOME AL-ZARQAWI'S DEATH...
In a statement released in Kabul on June 8, Afghan President Hamid Karzai described the death of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq as a "severe blow" to global terrorism, the BBC reported. The elimination of al-Zarqawi "should encourage us all, both in the Muslim world and beyond, to continue and step up our common fight against terrorism," Karzai said. Al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq were "responsible for the killing of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and in Afghanistan," Karzai added. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Nawid Ahmad Moez termed the death "a big achievement" that Kabul believes can "help stabilize peace and security in Iraq," Xinhua reported on June 8. The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi spent time in Afghanistan during the resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and also during the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s. AT

...WHILE NEO-TALIBAN CALL IT A 'GREAT CALAMITY'
Purporting to speak for the Taliban movement, Mohammad Hanif said on June 8 that al-Zarqawi's "martyrdom" is "a great calamity to the Islamic nation," Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah Television reported. Mohammad Hanif claimed that al-Zarqawi's demise "will not cause the defeat of mujahedin and weakness of resistance in Iraq," and said that "God willing" it will not affect the "mujahedin in Afghanistan" -- the neo-Taliban frequently refer to themselves as the "mujahedin." AT

NEO-TALIBAN KILL DISTRICT INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN
General Mohammad Agha Saqeb, chief of security of Farah Province, said on June 8 that the intelligence chief of Farahrod district has been killed, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Purporting to speak for the Taliban, Qari Mohammad called AIP on June 8 and assumed responsibility for the killing, identifying the victim as Akhtar Mohammad. AT

ACCIDENT INVOLVING U.S. VEHICLE INJURES CIVILIANS
Six Afghan civilians were wounded in a traffic accident involving a U.S. military vehicle and a minibus in the Bagrami district of Kabul Province on June 8, Tolu Television reported. The driver of the minibus said that a "vehicle of foreigners" coming from the opposite direction "hit" his vehicle. Abdul Fatah, one of the injured Afghans, said that U.S. soldiers promised to compensate the victims of the accident, Xinhua reported on June 8. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military, told Xinhua that "there was an accident" in which some people were injured. A fatal accident involving a U.S. military truck and several civilian vehicles in Kabul on May 29 led to violent demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 30 and 31 and June 1 and 2, 2006). AT

ATTACKERS KILL TWO POLICEMEN IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN, THEN MUTILATE CORPSES
The security commander of the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province, Besmellah Kahn, said that two policemen were killed on June 7 by "armed men" who "placed mines around their bodies," AIP reported on June 8. Besmellah Khan is quoted in an AFP report of June 8 as saying that the killers transferred the bodies of the two policemen to a cemetery, where the corpses were placed "over pressure mines." The killers "later pulled a long rope tied" to the dead policemen's "feet and blew them up into pieces." Besmellah Khan blamed the Taliban for the killings, asking, "Who else can be so inhumane?" The desecration of remains is regarded as unlawful in Islamic teachings, although the former Taliban regime used the display of corpses in horrific states -- beginning with the body of the last Afghan communist president, Najibullah, when they captured Kabul in 1996 -- as a means to instill terror in the public. AT

IRAN RESUMES URANIUM ENRICHMENT
Two days after EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana submitted to Iranian officials a proposal that is intended to resolve the continuing crisis over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has resumed uranium enrichment, Reuters reported on June 8. According to a new report from the IAEA, Iran began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into its 164-centrifuge cascade on June 6. According to the IAEA report, work on two more 164-centrifuge cascades is continuing. BS

SOME IRANIAN LEGISLATORS UNHAPPY OVER NUCLEAR PROPOSAL
Some Iranian legislators are unenthusiastic about the package of incentives drawn up by the so-called 5+1 group (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) when its foreign ministers met in Vienna the previous week, "Kayhan" reported on 7 June. Hamid Reza Haji-Babai said that any call for the suspension of uranium enrichment is unacceptable. The only negotiable matter, he said, relates to allaying European concerns over the diversion of nuclear technology to military use. Another parliamentarian, Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh, said Iran rejects the suspension of its nuclear activities as a precondition to receipt of the proposed incentives. He said Europe's record on cooperation does not engender confidence. It is unclear whether the parliamentarians are familiar with the details of the 5+1 proposal. BS

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ALLOCATES FUNDS FOR SOUTHWESTERN PROVINCE...
Hojatoleslam Seyyed Ahmad Musavi, the vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs, announced on June 8 that the cabinet the previous day approved approximately $23 million for use in the southwestern Khuzestan Province, Ahvaz television reported. The money will be utilized to help development and strengthen links with the national economy, Musavi said. Also on June 8, Ahvaz television reported that locals are suffering from the 50-degree Celsius heat due to frequent power outages. "The electricity was cut off four times the day before yesterday," one local woman was quoted as saying. "When there is a blackout, we have neither electricity nor water, because our water reaches us through electric pumps." Several weeks earlier, the substitute Friday Prayer leader in Ahvaz, Hojatoleslam Mohsen Heidari, urged the legislature to approve the funds allocated to the province by the government, provincial television reported. Heidari described this as "a serious step toward solving the existing problems in Khuzestan." Southwestern Iran has seen unrest in the past year, partly in connection with ethnic grievances but also stemming from local anger over perceived underdevelopment. BS

...AS TRIBAL UNREST IS SETTLED
A three-year dispute between the Zargani and the Hamidi tribes of Ahvaz has been resolved, provincial radio reported on June 6. Originally a dispute over a fishpond, the situation deteriorated in September 2004, with the two tribes participating in sometimes fatal tit-for-tat shootings and beatings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 23, 2004). Participants in the arbitration council included Friday Prayer leader Heidari, Assembly of Experts representative Ayatollah Kabi, Ahvaz parliamentary representative Nasser Sudani, and tribal notables. BS

AL-QAEDA LEADER IN IRAQ KILLED
Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed late on June 7 when U.S. aircraft bombed a house near the city of Ba'qubah, international media agencies reported on June 8 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 8, 2006). The strikes killed at least five of his aides, as well as six other people, including two women "who were spying and gathering information for al-Zarqawi," Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki told Al-Arabiyah television on June 8. One of the two women may have been one al-Zarqawi's three wives, AFP reported. U.S. special forces located al-Zarqawi's location by tracking his spiritual leader, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, AP reported on June 8. In a June 8 statement, the Jordanian government gave credit to its security agencies for its "collaboration between all concerned parties," the BBC reported the same day. Al-Qaeda confirmed al-Zarqawi's death on a website posting on June 8. BAW

WORLD LEADERS HAIL AL-ZARQAWI'S DEATH...
U.S. President George W. Bush on June 8 called the death of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi "a severe blow to Al-Qaeda." However, he added that "we can expect the sectarian violence to continue," international news agencies reported the same day. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's response was similar. "The death of [al-]Zarqawi is a strike against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and therefore a strike against Al-Qaeda everywhere, but we should have no illusions...We know that there are many, many obstacles to overcome," the BBC quoted Blair as saying. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that "it is a relief that such a heinous and dangerous man...is no longer around to continue his work." BAW

...AND IRAQI PARLIAMENT APPLAUDS
Members of Iraq's parliament applauded and chanted on hearing the news of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's death. A member of parliament for the Shi'ite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, Baha al-Araji, predicted that "terrorist operations will decrease in the next few days," RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on June 8. Sunni legislator Khalaf al-Ulayyan downplayed the significance of al-Zarqawi's death, saying that new leaders will emerge to replace him. Mas'ud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, called al-Zarqawi's death a step toward ending foreign terrorism in Iraq, Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. BAW

IRAQI CABINET COMPLETED, PLANS OUTLINED
Iraq's parliament on June 8 approved the appointment of three ministers, completing the formation of the government, Western media reports. Jawad al-Bolani will be the new interior minister, General Abd al-Qadir Muhammad Jasim will serve as defense minister, and Sherwan al-Wa'ili will be the new minister of state for national security. The appointments followed months of disputes. In an opinion piece published by "The Times" of London on June 9, Prime Minister al-Maliki said his plans for reconciliation and improved security include developing infrastructure in the country's more secure regions; revamping Iraq's anticorruption watchdog body; and disbanding militias by incorporating their members into the national security services, but dispersing them to ensure that militias cannot reform. Al-Maliki also vowed to put an end to what he called "ethnic cleansing" in and around Baghdad. BAW

FIVE CAR BOMBS KILL 40 IN BAGHDAD
Five car bombs in Baghdad killed at least 40 people on June 8, AP reported the same day. Dozens were injured. Two of the car bombs were detonated in the Sunni-Shi'ite neighborhood of Al-Sha'ab and one in the Amin marketplace. In a separate incident on June 8, an Australian security guard was killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq, AP quoted Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as telling a journalist. BAW

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