Accessibility links

Newsline - October 4, 2006


GEORGIAN BUSINESSES TARGETED IN MOSCOW RAIDS
Police officials from the economic-crimes unit in Moscow took a number of retaliatory steps against Georgia and Georgian economic interests on October 3, Ekho Moskvy radio and Western news agencies reported the same day. Police raided the Georgian Embassy's guest house in the city center, claiming that it was being run illegally and that the building in fact belonged to the state-owned Melodia music company. Moscow city authorities said they confiscated 500,000 bottles of Georgian wine that managed to evade a Russian import ban imposed earlier this year. Two popular Georgian restaurants in Moscow could be closed for irregularities concerning the wine they serve to customers, ITAR-TASS reported. Police also closed a casino, Krystall, claiming that it was controlled by Georgian criminals and could not provide clear documentation for its gambling tables and slot machines, newsru.com reported. FF

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CONCERNED ABOUT HARASSMENT OF GEORGIANS IN RUSSIA...
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, president of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, told Ekho Moskvy on October 4 that police are arresting members of several Georgian families from their Moscow homes "simply on nationality grounds." There is no official confirmation of the report. The people targeted, Alekseyeva said, are members of families that fled the bloody conflict in Abkhazia at the beginning of the 1990s and have lived in the same building in Moscow since. Since the start of the current crisis between Russia and Georgia last week, there has been a flood of Russian media reports about Georgian criminality. Roin Konjaria, vice president of the Moscow Georgian Community, a social and educational organization, told "The Moscow Times" on October 3 that between 150,000 to 200,000 Georgians currently live in Moscow and some 500,000 throughout Russia. FF

...AS GEORGIAN COMMUNITY WAITS OUT CRISIS
Georgian citizens in Russia have expressed concern over the worsening tension between the two countries. "The Moscow Times" quoted Georgian social activist Joni Kvaratskhelia, head of the Lazare youth organization in Moscow, as saying that "this affects every Georgian. We're having unfriendly relations with Russia, yet we have a lot of Russian friends. It's uncomfortable to view one another as enemies." Kvaratskhelia said the organization has received numerous calls from Georgians in Moscow looking for advice. Interfax on October 3 quoted State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov as saying that the Russian parliament is taking steps to block bank transfers between Russia and Georgia. The sanctions could severely disrupt trade between Georgia and its biggest trading partner and create enormous hardship for the families of Georgian and Russian citizens who regularly send money to their relatives in Georgia. FF

FOREIGN MINISTER RULES OUT SWIFT END TO SANCTIONS ON GEORGIA...
Sergei Lavrov on October 3 ruled out a rapid end to the sanctions Russia has implemented against Georgia, RIA Novosti reported. Lavrov said the suspension of transport and mail links was aimed in part at preventing money flows from Russia being used to fund a Georgian military buildup, according to the news agency. Lavrov said Georgia is expanding its military so it can forcibly regain control of its two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which receive significant support from Russia, "The New York Times" reported. Lavrov said Georgia's seizure of the four Russian officers last week was only "one episode in an anti-Russian campaign" pursued by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and that simply handing back the officers was not sufficient to change Moscow's mind about sanctions, the "Financial Times" reported. Lavrov was quoted as saying that "we don't want everything to be as it was before, because everything was very bad." He added that money being sent from Russia to Georgia included the proceeds of organized crime, and had been used to fund arms purchases and pay for the call-up of military reservists. FF

...AND SUGGESTS U.S., NATO BACKED GEORGIA
Foreign Minister Lavrov on October 4 also suggested that Georgia arrested the Russian officers with the tacit encouragement of the United States and NATO, which agreed last month on a schedule for negotiations on Georgia's potential membership in the military alliance, "The New York Times" reported. Russian and Western news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying that "the seizure of our officers immediately followed, I repeat, NATO's decision to grant Georgia an intense cooperation plan, 'Intensified Dialogue.'" Lavrov added that NATO's step followed a recent visit to Washington by Georgian President Saakashvili. Lavrov was quoted as saying that the Russian leadership "certainly makes note of the assurances of our American colleagues that they have constantly tried to keep the Georgian leadership from [committing] abrupt acts, but the chronology was the way I have just explained: A visit to Washington, NATO's decision, the taking of hostages." FF

PRESIDENT THANKS HEADS OF DUMA FACTIONS FOR SUPPORT ON GEORGIA
Speaking during a Kremlin meeting with the heads of political factions in the lower house of parliament on October 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked the State Duma for its support of the government's line in the worsening political crisis with Georgia, Interfax news agency reported. Putin said he "wouldn't advise anyone to talk to Russia using the language of provocation and blackmail," adding that he was speaking about Georgia in particular. FF

RUSSIA ASKS BELARUS TO INTRODUCE VISA REGIME FOR GEORGIANS
The deputy director of Russia's Federal Migration Service, Mikhail Tyurkin, said his country has asked the Belarusian authorities to introduce a visa regime for Georgian citizens wishing to travel to Belarus, Ekho Moskvy reported on October 3. The report said Belarus's Migration Service confirmed that Russia's request is being discussed. Since Russia enforced a transport blockade with Georgia earlier this week, Georgian citizens wishing to travel to Russia have had to do so via a third country, usually Belarus or Ukraine. The establishment of a visa regime with Belarus would further complicate travel. FF

RUSSIA WARNS NORTH KOREA AGAINST NUCLEAR TESTING
Russia on October 3 expressed "deep concern" over a statement issued by North Korea the same day that it plans to conduct its first-ever nuclear test and urged Pyongyang to show "restraint," Interfax reported the same day. The Foreign Ministry said in a note that the move "would lead to nothing but an even greater aggravation of the military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and around it and to the further erosion of the international system of nuclear nonproliferation." FF

SEVEN CANDIDATES NAMED FOR ADYGEYA PRESIDENT
Following consultations in Maykop, capital of the Republic of Adygeya, on October 2-3, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak drew up a shortlist of seven possible candidates to head the republic when incumbent Khazret Sovmen's presidential term expires, according to kommersant.ru and kavkaz.memo.ru as reposted by kavkazweb.net (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 3, 2006). The most likely candidate, and the one favored by Kozak, is reportedly Aslancheryy Tkhakushinov, rector of the Maykop State Technical University. The others are parliament speaker Ruslan Khadjibiyokov, a key member of the Adygeya chapter of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party; former Adygeya parliament speaker Mukharbiy Tkharkhakov; Russian Air Force deputy commander in chief Lieutenant General Aytech Bizhev; Adam Tleuzh, Adygeya's outgoing representative on the Federation Council, and his successor, Ruslan Khashir; and Sovmen himself. Sovmen is reported to have rejected Kozak's suggestion that he step down immediately rather than serve out his term, which expires in January 2007. All seven candidates will be required to present to Kozak a five-year presidential program, on the basis of which Kozak will compile a shortlist of candidates to submit to President Putin. LF

OSSETIAN YOUTH LEADER REJECTS ESPIONAGE ALLEGATIONS
Chermen Tedeyev, leader of the Ossetian youth organization Sons of Ossetia, who was detained by police on October 1, was released two hours later after being accused of being an Ingush spy and purportedly warned that if he continues his political activities, he could be framed for illegal possession of drugs or arms, ingushetiya.ru reported on October 3 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 2006). Tedeyev rejected the espionage accusations in a telephone interview with that website. He explained that he wants to help both the leadership and the people of North Ossetia "to think in a new way" about how to resolve the conflict between the two republics over the disputed territories in Prigorodny and Malgobek raions. Tedeyev argues that returning those territories to Ingush jurisdiction would remove the grounds for tensions and violence between the Ossetians and Ingush. LF

OSCE MEDIATORS ANNOUNCE RESUMPTION OF ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI PEACE TALKS
Speaking at a joint news conference in Yerevan with Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian, the senior French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group announced on October 3 that both Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to resume peace talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Mediamax reported. The OSCE mediators, arriving in Yerevan after meeting with senior Azerbaijani leaders in Baku, added that the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers will meet in Moscow on October 5 in a new round of talks that may include a subsequent presidential summit on the conflict. Commenting on the planned meeting between Foreign Ministers Vardan Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, U.S. Ambassador and OSCE Minsk Group co-Chairman Matthew Bryza said that although the mediators can not say that the talks represent a "grand breakthrough or that the difficult problems have gotten any easier," the resumption of the peace process stems from "a willingness by the sides to think in a deeper way and to look for a way to move ahead." The foreign ministers recently canceled a planned meeting and, in dueling speeches before the UN General Assembly session in New York, traded accusations of rejecting the OSCE's peace proposals and of failing to fully pursue peace talks over the Karabakh conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 27, 2006). RG

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT BLOCKS GOVERNMENT BILL ON TV REGULATION
The Armenian parliament voted on October 2 to reject a controversial government bill that sought to reform a powerful state body regulating television and radio broadcasts in the country, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In a vote of 131-46, the bill was soundly defeated after being strongly criticized by Armenia's leading media associations. The bill sought to transform the National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH) into a more independent body in accordance of one of the provisions of the recently enacted amendments to the Armenian Constitution. Under existing law, President Kocharian holds the power to appoint all nine of the commission's members. Aligned in opposition to the bill, the Yerevan Press Club, the Armenian Union of Journalists, and three other media groups argued that the legislation's proposed changes failed to adequately ensure the commission's independence and said the time frame for their implementation was too long. RG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT WELCOMES FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE TO IT EXHIBITION IN BAKU...
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev welcomed on October 3 a visiting delegation led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, Turan reported. The delegation, consisting of members of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce that Baker co-chairs, was in Baku to attend the 12th International Telecommunications and Information Technology Exhibition "BakuTel 2006." In a meeting with Baker, Aliyev briefed him on the progress of information technology (IT) in Azerbaijan and noted that the country has "entered a new stage of development" in the field. In turn, Baker thanked Aliyev for his government's support to the U.S.-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce and noted the participation of a number of leading U.S. companies in the exhibition. With the support of the Azerbaijani government, the exhibition includes participants from 110 companies from some 23 countries. According to a welcoming speech by Communications and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov, the IT field is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, with foreign direct investment totaling between $130-$150 million. RG

...AFTER U.S. AMBASSADOR SIGNS NEW IT AGREEMENT WITH AZERBAIJANI MINISTER
In a special ceremony in Baku, U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse and Azerbaijani Communications and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov signed on October 2 a new bilateral memorandum on understanding on the development of information technology, Turan reported. The agreement seeks to facilitate greater U.S. investment in the Azerbaijani IT sector and follows an earlier visit to Baku by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Information and Communication Policy David Gross to unveil a new U.S. program on information technology intended to modernize and upgrade several computerized systems for various Azerbaijani government ministries and departments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 22, 2006). RG

AZERBAIJAN SIGNS STATEMENT ON COOPERATION WITH EU
Speaking during a press conference in Baku, Foreign Minister Mammadyarov announced on October 3 the signing of a new statement on Azerbaijan's commitment to the European Union's Action Plan for the country, ANS-TV reported. The statement, which was formally signed during a meeting with visiting Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, representing Finland as the current EU president, is linked to the action plan guiding Azerbaijan's place within the EU's Neighborhood Policy that is due to be signed by the Azerbaijani government on November 14 in Brussels. Mammadyarov hailed the statement as affirmation that "Azerbaijan's foreign policy priority is to closely cooperate with the EU" and stressed that it "meets Azerbaijan's interests." EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner also said that, in addition to the Action Plan, a new memorandum on energy cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan will also be signed, Turan reported. The EU signed a similar statement with the Armenian foreign minister the day before during a visit to Yerevan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 3, 2006). RG

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS RUSSIA TO 'THINK CAREFULLY'
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Gori, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili warned Russia on October 3 to "think carefully" about maintaining sanctions against Georgia, Rustavi-2 television reported. Okruashvili added that the Georgian Defense Ministry has prepared new guidelines governing the transit of Russian military forces through Georgian territory and noted that Moscow will now have to seek Georgian permission for the movement of all military personnel and equipment passing though Georgia to and from the 102nd Russian military base in neighboring Armenia. Okruashvili added that "those who think they can make life difficult for Georgia's people should think very carefully about similar levers that we have." Okruashvili was in Gori to inaugurate the opening of a new military hospital. RG

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN...
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Uralsk, Kazakhstan, on October 3, AP reported. The visit produced six accords, including a five-year agreement that will allow Kazakh and Russian residents along the border to travel freely between the two countries for up to three days, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin told a press conference that Nazarbaev "has decided to hook Kazakhstan to the Russian initiative to set up an international center that would provide a nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, in Russia under the International Atomic Energy Agency's control," Interfax reported. The two men spoke optimistically of their countries' ties, and Nazarbaev noted that bilateral trade volume will reach $11 billion in 2006, AP reported. DK

...AS THEIR COUNTRIES INK GAS AGREEMENT
The highlight of the Russian-Kazakh meeting in Uralsk on October 3 was an agreement to create a parity joint venture to process gas from Kazakhstan's Karachaganak field at Russia's Orenburg gas-processing plant, Reuters reported. The two sides will invest a total of $1.5 billion to expand the plant, which should process 15 billion cubic meters of gas a year by 2012. Sergei Ivanov, head of Orenburggazprom, an affiliate of Russia's Gazprom, told ITAR-TASS that 7 billion of the 15 billion cubic meters of gas processed in Orenburg will be returned to Kazakhstan. "The remaining gas will be supplied to consumers in Russia, but export is also possible," Ivanov said. No price details were announced, although Nazarbaev said, "We have settled the question on the price of gas which will be sold from this deposit." DK

HEAD OF KAZAKH PARTY TO ASSUME SEAT IN PARLIAMENT
Alikhan Baimenov, head of the moderate opposition party Ak Zhol, will occupy the seat that party won in Kazakhstan's September 2004 parliamentary elections, Kazinform reported on October 3. Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission adopted a resolution in Astana on October 3 allowing Baimenov to take his seat in the Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament). Ak Zhol had previously refused to occupy the seat to protest alleged violations during the elections. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on October 3, official Uzbek news agency UzA reported. Bakiev and Karimov issued a joint declaration and signed a treaty and program of economic, scientific, technical, and humanitarian cooperation for 2007-11. Bakiev said that the two leaders agreed to increase military and police cooperation with an emphasis on border controls, AP reported. An official Uzbek report noted that the two men "share the same view on the issue of the need for combining efforts...in the fight against international terrorism and religious extremist movements." Interfax noted that this is the first official visit between the two countries in 10 years, marking an apparent thaw in cool relations after 439 Uzbek refugees were airlifted from Kyrgyzstan to third countries in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 28, 2006). DK

UZBEKISTAN MOVES AGAINST U.S.-BASED NGO
The Uzbek Justice Ministry filed a request with a court in Tashkent on October 3 to liquidate the U.S.-based NGO Joint Development Association International, ferghana.ru reported. The ministry accused the nonprofit group of numerous violations, including unauthorized missionary work. Similar charges have led to the expulsion of the bulk of U.S.- and Western-funded NGOs from Uzbekistan in recent years. DK

BELARUS CONCLUDES BORDER DEMARCATION WITH EU
Belarus and Latvia on October 3 put up the last pole at their common border, thus completing the demarcation of the frontier between Belarus and its Baltic neighbors and, effectively, between Belarus and the EU, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. The demarcation of Belarus's borders with the two Baltic states started in 1998. A total of $13.5 million was reportedly spent on the project, including $8.84 million by Belarus and $4.66 million by the EU. The length of Belarus's border with Lithuania is 680 kilometers, with Latvia 170 kilometers, and with Poland 400 kilometers. The Polish-Belarusian border was demarcated during the Soviet era. The demarcation of the 1,100-kilometer Belarusian-Ukrainian border has not yet begun since Minsk is refusing to ratify a border treaty with Kyiv, making the ratification conditional on the repayment of Ukraine's debt to Belarus. The 1,300-kilometer Belarusian-Russian border has not yet been delineated. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT EXPECTS GAS PRICE IN 2007 AT $130 PER 1,000 CUBIC METERS...
Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko said at a government meeting in Kyiv on October 4 that the price of gas imported by Ukraine in 2007 will be known later this month, Ukrainian media reported. "But we have grounds to consider that the price will be $130 [per 1,000 cubic meters]," Yanukovych noted, adding that the Finance Ministry has been instructed to draft a 2007 budget proceeding from this figure. Ukraine now pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters of an imported Russian-Turkmen gas mix. JM

...AND GAS FROM THREE CENTRAL ASIAN COUNTRIES
Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko told journalists in Kyiv on October 4 that the Swiss-based gas trader RosUkrEnergo will provide Ukraine in 2007 with gas produced in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. "We've already signed contracts to supply Ukraine with 7 billion cubic meters of Uzbek gas per year, a contract with Kazakhstan to supply 8.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, and one for 42 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas. In other words, we'll be receiving gas from three Central Asian republics," Boyko said. He did not specify whether RosUkrEnergo will supply Ukraine with gas produced in Russia next year. JM

OUR UKRAINE STILL UNDECIDED ABOUT RULING COALITION
Roman Bezsmertnyy, head of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People's Union (NSNU), told journalists on October 3 that his party will decide on October 4 whether to enter into a ruling coalition with the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party or switch to the opposition, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "If we become an opposition party we'll ask all of our ministers to quit the government and urge the president to recall his ministers," Bezsmertnyy said. The NSNU Political Council on October 3 obliged Bezsmertnyy to sign only a coalition deal that will include all provisions of the declaration of national unity adopted by President Viktor Yushchenko and major political parties on August 3. JM

DEFEATED BOSNIAN CROAT PRESIDENCY MEMBER REFUSES TO STEP DOWN...
Bosnia-Herzegovina's nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ-BiH) has refused to recognize the victory of Zeljko Komsic in the October 1 election for the Croatian representative on the tripartite presidency, international news agencies reported on October 3. Incumbent HDZ-BiH Croatian presidency candidate Ivo Miro Jovic said he will not relinquish his post. Jovic and the HDZ-BiH claimed Komsic, a member of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party, was elected with the votes of Muslims and thus could not represent Croats. "Komsic will not take up this post, he did not get a single vote from a true Croat," AP quoted Jovic as saying. "I am the Croatian member of the Bosnian presidency, according to the will of Bosnian Croats. If this will is not respected something tragic could happen in this country. Anything is possible, including that Croats might want out of such a Bosnia." Komsic received 40.83 percent of the vote while Jovic received 25.11 percent. BW

...AS CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR BOSNIA'S ELECTION RULES BE FOLLOWED
Stipe Mesic said that Jovic and the HDZ-BiH should abide by Bosnia's election rules, AP reported on October 3. "If someone participates in the election based on certain rules, then that one should accept those rules after the election," AP quoted Mesic as saying, apparently implying that Jovic should accept defeat. According to Bosnia's elections laws, residents of the Muslim-Croat Federation can choose whether to vote in the election for the Muslim or the Croatian member of the presidency. Residents of Republika Srpska can only vote in the election for the Serbian representative on the presidency. Komsic belittled Jovic's refusal to accept the election results. "The man is obviously a sore loser and cannot accept defeat," AP quoted him as saying. Haris Silajdzic won the Muslim seat on the presidency and Nebojsa Radmanovic was elected as the Serbian member (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2 and 3, 2006). BW

ICTY PROSECUTOR SAYS SHE IS NOT PLEASED WITH SERBIA'S PROGRESS
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said on October 3 that she is not satisfied with Serbia's efforts to capture war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, Reuters reported the same day. "I must tell you I am not satisfied about the implementation of the action plan," she said. Del Ponte said she will not be giving Serbia a positive assessment when she briefs EU officials. "Not now. Let's see in the next weeks, maybe. I hope, because I am still an optimist," she said. The EU suspended talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Belgrade in May due to Serbia's failure to capture Mladic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4, 2006). "I want to have Mladic in The Hague," Del Ponte added. "It is a question of technicalities, but also of political will." The trip to Serbia was Del Ponte's fourth this year and included meetings with President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and other officials responsible for cooperation with the ICTY (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 3, 2006). BW

U.S., EU OFFICIALS DISMISS SERBIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIM TO KOSOVA
Officials from the United States and the European Union have said Serbia's new constitution will have no bearing on Kosova's final status, euobserver.com reported on October 3. Serbia's parliament passed the constitution, which places Kosova under its jurisdiction, unanimously in a special session on September 30 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 2006). "We are aware of the references on Kosovo that the constitution makes, but this is an issue which has to be clarified with the UN security council," a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, told dtt-net.com on October 2. Likewise, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptise Mattei said that "the mentioning of Kosovo in the constitution doesn't put in question the current process led by [UN envoy] Martti Ahtisaari." U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said on October 2 that "neither party is going to unilaterally decide this. This is going to be something that's going to have to be worked out among them through this negotiated process that was mandated under the original UN Security Council resolution." BW

EU PLANS POLICE MISSION FOR KOSOVA AFTER STATUS SETTLED
The European Union plans to send as many as 1,000 law-enforcement personnel, including police officers and judges, to Kosova after the province's status is decided, Reuters reported on October 3, citing an unidentified EU official. At a meeting of EU defense ministers in the northern Finnish town of Levi, France proposed using the European gendarmerie, a six-country corps based in Italy, for the operation. "It will be a big mission. They will be armed and have powers to arrest," the EU official said of the force, which would take over from the existing UN police force in Kosova. The official added that a group of EU officials are in the region to assess how the police mission could work, but added that "nothing will be launched until the final status is settled." BW

ALBANIAN PREMIER TELLS COUNCIL OF EUROPE THAT KOSOVA MUST BE INDEPENDENT
In a speech to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, France, on October 3, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha argued for Kosova's independence, Reuters reported the same day. "We think that Kosova's final status...should respect the wish for independence expressed by the people of Kosova," Berisha said. "I think that independence for Kosova is essential for its economic development and crucial for both its stability and that of the region," he added. Berisha also told European lawmakers that he thinks it is unlikely that Serbs and Kosovar Albanians will reach a consensus agreement -- and that an imposed solution is becoming more likely. "The only possibility that remains is an imposed agreement as has been the case with all the important accords in the history of the Balkans in the last 150 years," he said. BW

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS EU ENERGY LINKS, PROMOTES OSCE AMBITIONS
In an address to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on October 3, Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev called for closer energy links between Kazakhstan and the EU. On a two-day visit to EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels, Toqaev also lobbied for EU support to Kazakhstan's bid to chair the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) in 2009, promising democratic reforms and arguing that the OSCE -- which he described as a "Eurasian" body -- could benefit from some Central Asian leadership.

Toqaev's visit to Brussels serves further notice of Kazakhstan's intent to convert its vast energy resources into greater regional and global influence.

The origins to Toqaev's address to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on October 3 can be found in the EU's increased unease about its energy security. He noted the increasing "fierce" competition for energy among major industrial powers such as the EU, but also China and India. He pointed to instability in many major oil-producing regions and limited capacities to increase production.

Toqaev went on to note that none of these problems affects Kazakhstan. "In such circumstances, Kazakhstan appears to be one of the very few countries capable of boosting its oil production and thus becoming an important alternative energy supplier to global and European markets," he said.

Citing the EU's own estimates, Toqaev said the wider Caspian region could provide up to 25 percent of Europe's energy needs.

Toqaev said Kazakhstan is interested in greater access to energy infrastructure and assets in Central Europe. He said Astana is "closely examining" the Burgas-Alexandropoulos and Odesa-Brody-Gdansk pipeline projects. He sharply criticized Lithuania for rejecting a Kazakh-supported Russian bid for its Mazheikiai oil refinery.

Kazakhstan, in turn, is seeking $80 billion in investments over the next 15 years. Toqaev appealed to Europe to become "engaged."

Toqaev said he told European Commission officials on October 3 that Kazakhstan wants to join the EU's Neighborhood Policy. He stressed that Astana has no ambitions to join the EU. However, Neighborhood Policy membership would facilitate EU investments.

Toqaev was less willing to accommodate EU preferences for transit routes. He said Kazakhstan will choose transit routes based on economic considerations. He indicated the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline to Azerbaijan -- sought by the EU -- is unlikely, as it would be "controversial" for other Caspian littoral countries whose consent is needed.

Kazakhstan's ambitions are well-placed to advance with Germany's assumption of the EU's rotating presidency in January. Germany is the EU's largest member state and the only one to have embassies in all five Central Asian capitals.

German Foreign Ministry official Gernot Erler told the "Handelsblatt" newspaper on October 4 that Germany is working on an "EU strategy for Central Asia" and that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit all of the Central Asian countries later this month.

Toqaev's other main goal on October 3 was to canvass EU support for Kazakhstan's bid to lead the OSCE in 2009. Erler added that Berlin supports Kazakhstan's OSCE bid, saying it could give impetus to reforms. And the EU has indicated it is not opposed; on October 3 the larger political groups within the European Parliament gave Toqaev a relatively uncritical reception.

It was left to Portuguese socialist Deputy Ana Gomes to point out that the OSCE itself has been very critical of Kazakhstan's record. "Minister, you're bidding for the presidency of the OSCE. Yet, the OSCE gave a report on your last elections, on the observation of the elections, which said they failed to meet international standards for genuine elections in many important points," she said. "And we hear about political dissent being crushed, we hear even about religious groups being crushed."

Toqaev rejected all of the charges. He said the Kazakh opposition remains weak and therefore "cannot challenge the government." He added that the Kazakh people have no indigenous tradition of democracy and need to be "educated" before they can fully embrace it. The Kazakh foreign minister said religious tolerance is a priority for his government.

Toqaev blamed the OSCE's election report for "technical irregularities" and said the organization appeared "biased," as other observers had found no fault with the poll. Toqaev appealed for greater "mutual understanding."

This appeal for diversity formed the centerpiece of Toqaev's argument for Kazakhstan's qualifications to chair the OSCE. "We strongly believe we could contribute a lot as a representative, as a country which is located in Central Asia," he said. "The geographical dimension of the OSCE has changed [since Kazakhstan joined in 1992], this is a unique Eurasian, as well as pan-American organization. So, the leadership, the presidency of this organization also must reflect this unique character, [this] unique dimension of the organization."

Toqaev said Kazakhstan acknowledges the need to meet OSCE standards. With this in mind, he said, the Kazakh government has launched a "special program" to modernize the country's political system. Toqaev said a crucial element of the reforms was the revamping of the Kazakh parliament along multiparty lines.

"Now we are talking about another step of introducing political values in our system," he said. "It means that the parliament in the future will be established on the party dominance, it means that those parties [that] win the parliamentary elections, obtain [a] majority in the parliament, they will be able to establish their own governments. And it's a huge step forward in the process of democratization of my country."

Toqaev blamed "geopolitical" circumstances for the weakness of democracy in Kazakhstan. He repeatedly introduced comparisons with the Baltic countries -- also ex-Soviet republics, but all now members of the EU -- saying Kazakhstan lacks their democratic traditions.

(Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels.)

MOTORCYCLIST ATTACKS NATO CONVOY IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a NATO convoy near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on October 3, wounding four Afghan civilians, according to a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) quoted by AFP. Purported Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the group: "It was a suicide attack carried out by one of our loyalists named Abdullah." The United Nations counts more than 90 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2006, a tactic that was virtually nonexistent there prior to 2004. RR

NATO SOLDIER KILLED, ANOTHER MISSING AFTER 'SUSTAINED' ATTACK IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
One NATO soldier was killed and another is missing and presumed dead after coming under "sustained" attack by militants in southern Afghanistan on October 3, a spokesman for ISAF said, Reuters reported. Eight other NATO soldiers, whose nationalities were not released, were injured in the attack. The attack occurred in the volatile Zhari district of Kandahar Province. "One ISAF soldier was killed, one is presumed dead, and eight were injured when their patrol came under sustained mortar and small-arms fire," NATO spokesman Major Daryl Morrell said. The attack occurred in an area where NATO forces carried out a two-week campaign to clear militants in September. RR

IRANIAN, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS NUCLEAR TOPIC IN TEHRAN
Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov arrived in Tehran on October 3 and met with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani, ITAR-TASS reported. Larijani said afterward that he informed Ivanov about his recent meetings with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Iranian state television reported. Solana and Larijani held two days of talks in Berlin on September 27-28 on Iran's disputed nuclear program. BS

TEHRAN PROPOSES FRENCH SUPERVISION OF ITS URANIUM ENRICHMENT
Mohammad Saidi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said on October 3 that his country has proposed French participation in its uranium-enrichment program, France Info radio reported. Saidi said the participation of France's Areva nuclear company -- through subsidiary Eurodif -- would enable French monitoring of Iranian enrichment activities. Eurodif enriches uranium for use in roughly 100 reactors in France and other countries. Moscow has offered to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory, and the international community as a whole wants Iran to cease domestic enrichment activities. Paris appeared to dismiss the Iranian proposal, with French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei saying on October 3 that dialogue on this subject must go through the European Union, AFP reported. "The Iranians must suspend their enrichment activities, it is on this point that we await an Iranian response," Mattei said. "If there is a positive response from them on that issue, there could be negotiations where each party will be free to bring to the table the proposals they want." BS

TEHRAN VOWS TO FOCUS ON COUNTERING FOREIGN PROPAGANDA
Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Mustafa Pur-Mohammadi announced on October 3 that his ministry intends to give greater attention to countering counterrevolutionary media propaganda, Mehr News Agency reported. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative in Kurdistan Province, identified only as Hojatoleslam Musavi, noted recently that an increasing number of satellite-television programs are being broadcast into the province from abroad, alborznews.net reported on October 3. Musavi reportedly attributed the development to an absence from the airwaves of Iranian state-television programs. Many provincial residents have installed satellite dishes to receive Iranian television shows, and, according to alborznews.net, 550 provincial villages cannot receive state television. BS

BANNED IRANIAN NEWSPAPER'S REPLACEMENT ANNOUNCED
A new daily called "Ruzegar" will replace "Sharq," the newspaper banned by the Iranian government in mid-September, alborznews.net reported on October 3. The new publication allegedly will have a different editorial and journalistic perspective, according to the website, and it will focus more closely on popular politics than on elite politics. Although "Ruzegar" will pursue a different approach, the editorial staff is largely the same as "Sharq," including Editor in Chief Mohammad Quchani. The first issue is scheduled for October 7. BS

IRAN APPOINTS NEW VETERINARY HEAD
Apparently as part of the shakeup in the leadership of governmental bodies (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 October 2006), President Mahmud Ahmadinejad appointed Seyyed Mohammad Aqamiri on October 3 to head the country's Veterinary Organization, which is part of the Agriculture Jihad Ministry, IRNA reported. The Veterinary Organization is the state entity contending with a bird-flu outbreak in parts of Iran. BS

IRAQI TRIBUNAL JUDGE SAYS NO VERDICT NEXT WEEK
Ra'id al-Juhi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Special Tribunal, told AP that the October 16 resumption of the Al-Dujayl trial of Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants will not bring a verdict as expected, the news agency reported on October 3. The trial adjourned for judicial deliberation on July 27 with the court saying it would issue a verdict on October 16. According to al-Juhi, the court will reconvene on that date but it "will not be for the verdict. It's for the judges' review of the evidence." He added that the judges may decide to recall some witnesses or seek new testimony. Court observers have speculated on how the issuing of a verdict will play out. Under Iraqi law, a sentencing needs to be carried out within 30 days, which would ultimately affect other pending legal action against Hussein and members of his regime. Meanwhile, Al-Dujayl Mayor Muhammad Hasan al-Zubaydi has said that some 180 people have been killed in the town, allegedly at the hands of Hussein supporters, since the trial began in October 2005, "Time" magazine reported on October 1. Another 80 people vanished on the road between Al-Dujayl and Baghdad. It appears that the majority of those targeted either testified at the trial or had relatives who testified. KR

NUMBER OF DISPLACED IRAQIS SAID TO HAVE REACHED 9,000 PER WEEK
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on October 3 that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes to escape sectarian violence has reached 9,000 per week. Violence since February has pushed the number of internal refugees in central and southern Iraq to 190,000, the organization said. The displacement increasingly looks like permanent settlement and there is urgent need for shelter and employment solutions for these families, it added. "The vast majority of those displaced this year are not planning to return to their former homes. If this is not to become a chronic humanitarian crisis, we need to put in place livelihood and integration programs in addition to providing emergency assistance such as food and water," IOM Chief of Mission for Iraq Rafiq Tschannen said. Movement in Iraq's 15 central and southern governorates has taken place largely along sectarian lines, with Shi'a moving to the south and Sunnis to the center, the IOM added. KR

NEW RAILWAY LINE PLANNED IN SOUTHERN IRAQ
The Transportation Ministry has announced plans to construct a railway line between Al-Ghubayshah, located on Al-Hammar Marsh, and the Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr, "Al-Sabah" reported on October 3. The 138-kilometer-long line will cost 56 billion dinars (about $38 million) and support 25-ton loads. KR

UNHCR WARNS OF PLIGHT OF PALESTINIANS IN IRAQ...
In an October 3 press release, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned of the dangers faced by Palestinian refugees living in Iraq. The security situation for Palestinians living in Iraq has steadily deteriorated since 2003, but the UNHCR notes a marked deterioration since the February 22 bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Samarra. Palestinians in Iraq are alleged to have had close ties to the Hussein regime. "Palestinians in Iraq lack protection, have serious problems obtaining identity cards, and have been the target of continuing harassment, threats, kidnapping, and killings. In late September, armed men in Baghdad hand-delivered written death threats to several Palestinians," the release said. It noted only modest results in its attempts to enlist help from the Iraqi government and multinational forces. UNHCR said it believes some 20,000 Palestinians remain in Iraq out of an estimated 34,000 living there in 2003. KR

...AS WELL AS THOSE STUCK IN BORDER AREAS
The UNHCR also expressed concern over the welfare of Palestinian refugees who fled violence in Baghdad and are now stuck in the border area between Iraq, Jordan, and Syria in its October 3 press release. Some 330 Palestinians have been stuck at the Al-Tanf border crossing with Syria for the past four months. The refugee agency said the upcoming rainy season might flood tented areas that currently house 250 refugees. Seventy-five others live in "unacceptable conditions in a crowded building nearby," the release added. Some 300 refugees admitted into Syria in May are facing difficult conditions there, where their status is listed as temporary. They have no freedom of movement or future prospects. One hundred and fifty Palestinians who fled Iraq for Jordan will face "another harsh winter in the scorpion-infested desert as all efforts to find solutions for them have been unsuccessful," the UNHCR said. The agency called for international support and goodwill to bring a resolution to the crisis. KR

XS
SM
MD
LG