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Newsline - October 6, 2006


FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NEW SOLUTIONS ON IRAN NEEDED FOLLOWING U.S. SANCTIONS
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 6 that following the United States' decision to impose sanctions on countries cooperating with Iran, new solutions for the Iranian nuclear problem will have to be worked out, RIA Novosti reported. On October 1, President George W. Bush signed the Iran Freedom Support Act, stipulating sanctions against countries that maintain energy cooperation with Iran and supply weapons to the country. Lavrov, returning from a visit to Poland, said that "the U.S. unilateral law on sanctions has complicated the collective work of the Iran-6." The five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, which are mediating the Iran nuclear issue, have been trying to persuade Iran to accept a package of incentives and to suspend uranium enrichment, which many countries believe is the beginning of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Lavrov said that "we agreed to do everything together, including analyzing the situation, and formulating measures to influence [Iran]. But what has happened has happened. Let us see what we can do in this situation." Lavrov said an upcoming meeting in London will be guided by agreements reached within the group of six mediators. "We will also look for additional opportunities to continue multilateral diplomatic efforts," he said, adding that Russia "concedes the possibility of additional pressure on Iran." FF

PUTIN INSTRUCTS CABINET TO REGULATE FLOW OF MIGRANTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 5 reiterated his demand that the government regulate the flow of migrants and the labor market, Russian news agencies reported. At a cabinet meeting, Putin ordered Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to take steps mirroring those proposed earlier by the Federal Migration Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). Putin's proposals include setting quotas for migrants that would depend, in part, on their country of origin, and halving uninterrupted visits to 90 days from 180 days, "The Moscow Times" reported. Putin set a November 15 deadline for the government to take action. He appeared to target Georgians in particular, saying groups with mafia ties and an "ethnic hue" should be barred from outdoor markets, Interfax reported. The president said that these groups "are the bosses at markets. That rightly evokes resentment among citizens." "The Moscow Times" noted that Putin's remark about questionable groups with an "ethnic hue" -- reported by Interfax-- was replaced by "semi-criminal groups" -- without any specified ethnicity -- in the version of the speech posted later on the Kremlin website. The newspaper report quoted an expert with a firm specializing in visa and work-regulation issues that the changes being proposed by Putin and immigration officials have been under consideration for some time. "It looks as if the Georgia dispute was a catalyst," Sergei Melnikov said. FF

MOSCOW POLICE SEEKING ILLEGAL MIGRANTS FROM GEORGIA IN SCHOOLS
Moscow police intend to trace illegal immigrants from Georgia with the help of the lists of children studying in the capital's schools, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on October 6, also citing a report in the daily "Kommersant." The reports said several schools in Moscow have received requests from security authorities to inform on the presence of students of Georgian origin. Ekho Moskvy quoted Valery Gribakin, the head of the information department of Russia's Interior Ministry, as denying that such requests may have been circulated. However, the head of Moscow's Education Department, Lyubov Kezina, said she is aware of the request. Kezina said she will not allow ethnic discrimination in Moscow schools, Ekho Moskvy reported, adding that Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential Council for the Support and Development of Civil Society, also opposes the measure. Duma Deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, meanwhile, told the radio station that the police are "overshooting" and parents should go to court if their children are targeted. FF

PUTIN DISMISSES SECURITY OFFICIALS IN KARELIA
President Putin on October 5 dismissed the Republic of Karelia's interior minister, Dmitry Mikhailov, and Aleksei Dorofeyev, the head of the republic's Federal Security Service. And later in the day, Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika fired Karelia's chief prosecutor, Vladimir Panasenko, ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing a cabinet meeting the same day, Putin mentioned the ethnic violence in the Karelian town of Kondopoga last month. Two ethnic Russians were killed in a fight with natives of the Caucasus. Their deaths prompted widespread looting and demonstrations. Putin said the events in Kondopoga were "the result of the inability of the state, regional, and municipal authorities to handle the situation. There is pervasive corruption in these administrations and in law enforcement institutions," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying. FF

RUSSIANS EVACUATED FROM GEORGIA
Russian charge d'affaires to Georgia Ivan Volynkin told Interfax on October 6 that two airplanes belonging to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry will evacuate some 180 Russian citizens from Georgia the same day. Volynkin said that more Russians will be evacuated within the next few days. He added that the Russian Embassy has received more than 300 requests for assistance to return to Russia, and that some people have already returned via Kyiv, Yerevan, and Baku, Meanwhile, Volynkin said that most Russian officers in Georgia have been instructed to avoid leaving their military units, as "they do not have Georgian visas." FF

VOTERS IN NINE REGIONS TO ELECT REPRESENTATIVES
Voters in nine Russian regions will go the polls on October 8 to elect representatives to their regional legislatures, Russian news agencies reported. Voting will take place in the republics of Chuvashia, Karelia, and Tuva, in the Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Novgorod, Primorye, and Sverdlovsk oblasts, and in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. The weekly "Kommerstant-Vlast" says the results of the vote will give an indication of whether the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party will be able to hold on to its constitutional majority in the State Duma next year, under new election rules that eliminate single-mandate districts. Only Unified Russia, the Communist Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party have been able to present party lists in all nine regions. "Kommersant-Vlast" reported that the leaders of several regions, including the president of Tuva and the governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, have promised that Unified Russia will obtain well over its target of 45 percent of the vote. FF

PUTIN NOMINATES BASHKORTOSTAN'S RAKHIMOV FOR ANOTHER TERM
President Putin on October 5 nominated the long-serving president of Bashkortostan, Murtaza Rakhimov, for another five-year term in office, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Rakhimov has been president of the resource-rich republic since 1993. The Bashkir opposition and Russian and international human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Rakhimov of rights violations in Bashkortostan. The opposition also says economic policies in the republic are designed to benefit the president and members of his family. FF

CHECHEN PREMIER'S BIRTHDAY WIDELY CELEBRATED
The 30th birthday of Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov on October 5 was marked in Chechnya by the ceremonial opening of the newly rebuilt Grozny airport, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The planned opening of a new state publishing house was, however, postponed for reasons that remain unclear, according to kavkaz.memo.ru as reposted by kavkazweb.net. All schools in Chechnya organized sports competitions to mark the occasion. Kadyrov planned to invite friends and colleagues to a private celebration and concert at his home in Gudermes, but a source within his entourage said that Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov would not be present "as he is unwell." Alkhanov did, however, preside on October 5 over the formal inauguration of a new gateway to Grozny on the city's eastern outskirts, regnum.ru reported, and in his speech he paid tribute to Kadyrov's leading role in rebuilding the republic's shattered infrastructure. Kadyrov did not participate in that ceremony "as he is on vacation," according to the project's architect, but his paternal uncle Magomed Kadyrov, together with the entire cabinet and the chairmen of both chambers of parliament, were all present. Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov traveled to Gudermes to attend the birthday party, the independent website ingushetiya.ru reported. LF

FOUR MILITANTS APPREHENDED IN DAGHESTAN
One police officer died late on October 4 in a shoot-out near the village of Maka-Kazmalyar in Daghestan's Magaramkent Raion with members of an illegal armed formation, RIA Novosti and regnum.ru reported on October 5. A second police officer was hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Four militants, three of them local residents and one from Chechnya's Vedeno Raion, were apprehended. LF

MONITORS CRITICIZE CONDITIONS IN ARMENIAN PRISONS
A special monitoring group consisting of representatives from a dozen civil society representatives released on October 5 a report said living conditions in Armenian prisons remain harsh and in some cases, "inhumane," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The group, which conducts regular annual inspections of prison facilities, also noted that despite some improvement since Armenia's membership in the Council of Europe, conditions in the four largest prisons do not meet international standards and must be relocated to new buildings, and concluded that most inmates are poorly fed and denied adequate healthcare. The penitentiary system was transferred from police jurisdiction to the Justice Ministry in 2002 under pressure from the Council of Europe and was followed by the adoption of a more lenient Criminal Code that led to the early release of most of the 3,600-strong prison population. RG

SENIOR ARMENIAN POLICE OFFICIAL SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
The head of the state security department of the Armenian police, Major General Aram Zakaryan, survived an assassination attempt on October 4, Armenian Public Television reported the same day. An unknown assailant wounded Zakaryan in a shooting as the police official was exiting his vehicle in the garage of his home in Yerevan. Although a police investigation was immediately launched, little information was released and the motives for the attack remain unclear. The shooting is the latest in a series of violent incidents in Armenia over the past few months, including the car-bomb assassination of a senior state tax official last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 7, 2006). RG

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REVIEWS COOPERATION WITH GREEK MILITARY OFFICIALS
Following his arrival in Athens on an official visit, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met on October 4 with Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and other senior officials to discuss bilateral military cooperation, Mediamax reported. The ministers reviewed prospects for developing deeper military cooperation and signed a set of new agreements expanding and enhancing bilateral cooperation, including military education for Armenian officers at Greek military academies and specific Greek assistance in peacekeeping training and operational readiness. During his visit to Greece, Sarkisian also attended the opening of an international arms exhibition and visited the Military Academy of Land Forces of Greece and the military museum of the Greek Defense Ministry. RG

EU ENVOY CRITICIZES AZERBAIJAN FOR ITS 'LACK OF URGENCY' IN RESOLVING THE NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT
In a report to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on his recent visit to the region, EU special representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby on October 5 criticized Azerbaijan for a lack of serious commitment to the peace process aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Semneby specifically criticized Azerbaijan for a strategy that appears to be planning to leverage the wealth it expects from energy exports to make itself progressively "richer and militarily stronger," warning that Azerbaijan's military "rearmament is a serious issue" that "has contributed to a lack of urgency" to seek a resolution to the conflict. But he also criticized Armenia for apparently "playing for time" in the peace talks, although he did note that the peace process is "not completely hopeless," pointing to the resumption of direct talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. RG

AZERBAIJAN OPENS CIS SECURITY MEETING IN BAKU
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev opened on October 5 a meeting in Baku of the Council of Security and Secret Services of the CIS states, Turan reported. The meeting, which was also attended by representatives from France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, included a review by participants of efforts at forging greater cooperation to combat terrorism, organized crime, and "biological security," with some discussion of adopting new technology to prevent the rise of new crimes such as cyberterrorism and computer-related financial fraud. RG

GEORGIA HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS...
Local elections opened on October 5 throughout Georgia as an estimated 40 percent of the country's 3.2 million registered voters cast ballots in more than 3,000 voting stations throughout much of the day, Civil Georgia and Rustavi-2 television reported. The ruling National Movement party of President Mikheil Saakashvili is competing against five parties and electoral blocs for seats in local government. Although official results were not expected to be released for at least one day, preliminary estimates showed a sweeping victory for the ruling United National Movement party in the capital Tbilisi, with some 56.4 percent of the vote, according to exit polls released by Georgia's Business Consulting Group; followed by 8.1 percent for the opposition Davitashvili-Khidasheli-Berdzenishvili bloc (an alliance of the Conservative and Republican parties); 5.2 percent for the opposition Labor Party; 4.3 percent for the Industry Will Save Georgia party; and 1.9 percent of the vote for the opposition Georgia's Way party led by former Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, Imedi television reported. The Tbilisi city council has 37 seats, 25 of which are allocated in a first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all basis, with the remaining 12 seats allocated on a proportional basis to parties garnering at least 4 percent of the total vote. RG

...THAT GEORGIAN PRESIDENT HAILS AS 'CONVINCING VICTORY'
After the opening of local elections widely held as a test for the popularity of the Georgian leadership, President Saakashvili heralded on October 5 the contest as a means to "transform the country into a fully-fledged, European-style democracy," according to Imedi television. In a speech to party activists, Saakashvili hailed the "very convincing victory" for his governing National Movement, which he said secured more votes than the last parliamentary election, when it won 67 percent of the vote, Rustavi-2 television reported. The election is marked by a recent confrontation with Russia over the arrest by Georgian police of several Russian military officers and Georgian citizens for alleged espionage activities. The incident sparked a mounting clash between the Georgian and Russian governments and led to Russia's suspension of all trade, transport and postal links with Georgia despite the release of the Russian suspects. The Russian authorities have also stopped issuing visas to Georgians, raided several Georgian-owned businesses in Russia, and threatened to prevent the flow of remittances to Georgia. RG

EU ENVOY CRITICIZES GEORGIA FOR 'RHETORIC'
Reporting to the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee following his recent visit to the region, EU special representative for the South Caucasus Semneby criticized Georgia on October 5 for "rhetoric that has been at some points fairly sharp" and which "will have to be toned down" and replaced by "confidence-building measures of various kinds to create the conditions for a real dialogue" on the conflicts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, RFE/RL reported. He added that in the wake of the recent tension between Tbilisi and Moscow, EU officials in Brussels are taking a markedly critical line toward Georgia, noting that although the EU has urged Russia to lift its blockade of Georgia, the current crisis is the "culmination" of a long process of escalation. Semneby further stated that while the EU "keeps sending messages" to Georgia stressing that the Abkhaz and Ossetian conflicts can only be resolved peacefully, Tbilisi appears to be paying little heed when it comes to creating the necessary conditions for moving forward. Criticizing Georgian diplomacy for being "unnecessarily provocative" and beset by "serious weaknesses," Semneby said Georgia must address the need to "build confidence" and commit to not using force to deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. RG

KAZAKH MINISTER MEETS WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev met with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels on October 5 to discuss ways to bolster bilateral cooperation, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. A Foreign Ministry press release said the discussion focused on "regional problems, in particular, the future of joint efforts in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, countering terrorism, extremism, and the drug trade." Toqaev also met with EU High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. DK

KAZAKH MINERS RETURN TO WORK
Union leader Vyacheslav Sidorov told a news conference in Shakhtinsk on October 5 that miners who had been striking at eight mines owned by Mittal Steel Temirtau have returned to work, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The miners recently won a pay raise (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). Sidorov noted that not all miners have gone back to work because some of them "do not understand the agreement that was signed." DK

KYRGYZ-RUSSIAN WAR GAMES END
The South-2006 Kyrgyz-Russian military exercise ended on October 5, Kabar reported. The October 3-5 war games were held in Osh, with 350 Kyrgyz and Russian soldiers fighting off a simulated incursion by 150 militants, Interfax-AVN reported. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov observed. "I feel that the South-2006 joint exercises came off at the highest level," Kulov commented, according to news agency 24.kg. DK

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FAILS IN CALL FOR DEFENSE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION
Kyrgyz lawmakers failed to pass a resolution on October 5 calling for the resignation of Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, ferghana.ru reported. The resolution garnered only 35 votes, with 38 needed to pass, ITAR-TASS reported. However, legislators approved a resolution calling on President Kurmanbek Bakiev to dismiss First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Zamir Moldoshev, Interfax reported. The resolutions stemmed from an incident over the summer in which 100 special forces troops attempted to enter parliament but were prevented from doing so by lawmakers and police. DK

TAJIK BORDER GUARDS GET JAIL TERMS FOR ALLOWING INCURSION
Four Tajik border guards received prison terms of eight to 10 years on October 5 for failing to prevent an armed incursion from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 15, 2006). A military court in Khujand ruled that the border guards had left their posts without due cause on the night of the incursion. DK

TAJIK OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER HALTS PUBLICATION
The newspaper "Adolat" has ceased publication after the Shafei publishing house refused to print it, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on October 5. The newspaper is published by the Democratic Party led by Muhammadruzi Iskandarov, who is currently serving a 23-year prison term. Editor in Chief Rajab Mirzo said the publishing house said that it was acting on instructions from the Culture Ministry. For its part, the ministry told RFE/RL that it acted in accordance with a recent government decision to recognize Masud Sobirov as the head of the Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 2006). "Adolat" had resumed publication only a month earlier after similar problems in the past (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 7, 2006). DK

DISSIDENT UZBEK JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS
A court in Jizzakh on October 5 sentenced Uzbek journalist Ulughbek Haydarov to a six-year prison term for extortion, uznews.net reported. Jizzakh-based human rights activist Bakhtiyor Hamroev commented that "the authorities have destroyed the last bastion of free thought in Jizzakh." Haydarov, who was arrested on September 14, was formerly a correspondent for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. His family said that they intend to appeal the verdict. DK

BELARUSIAN YOUTH ACTIVIST ARRESTED OVER LAST YEAR'S BLASTS
Pavel Krasouski, an activist of the unregistered opposition organization Youth Front, was put in custody on October 5 on suspicion of being involved in two explosions that injured some 40 people in September 2005 in Vitsebsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 23, 2005), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported, quoting Krasouski's lawyer Pavel Sapelka. Sapelka said Krasouski was not in Belarus when the explosions in Vitebsk occurred, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, last month police arrested Youth Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich on charges of running an unregistered organization. Two other Youth Front activists, Barys Haretski and Aleh Korban, are facing the same charge. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER, PRESIDENT URGE RESUMPTION OF COALITION TALKS
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said in Mykolayiv on October 5 that despite Our Ukraine's declared intention to withdraw its ministers from the government and join the opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006), his Party of Regions insist on the need to create a broad coalition with the pro-presidential bloc, Ukrainian media reported. "I'm sure that we have not yet completed this process [of building a broader coalition] and that President [Viktor] Yushchenko, with whom we reached agreements, remains and will continue to be Our Ukraine's leader, and that the de facto representatives of Our Ukraine in the government are working in accordance with our agreements," Yanukovych said. In turn, President Yushchenko said in a press release later the same day that participants in the failed coalition talks "still have the chance to reach agreement on key issues." "I do not consider the negotiating process to be exhausted," Yushchenko stressed, adding that a potential agreement between Our Ukraine and the ruling coalition should be based on the declaration of national unity signed by Ukraine's major political forces in August. JM

POLL SAYS YANUKOVYCH IS UKRAINE'S MOST INFLUENTIAL POLITICIAN
According to a poll held in late September, 44 percent of respondents said Prime Minister Yanukovych is the most influential political figure in Ukraine, while 19 percent credited President Yushchenko with this position, Interfax-Ukraine reported on October 5. Three-fourths of respondents stated that Yanukovych and Yushchenko pursue policies that are at variance with each other, while just 13 percent said their policies are coordinated. The poll was conducted by the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies among 2,005 adult Ukrainians. JM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PROMISE OF OCTOBER 2000 REVOLUTION UNFULFILLED
Speaking on the sixth anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from power on October 5, President Boris Tadic said Serbia's 2000 revolution has not lived up to its promise, AP reported the same day. Speaking to reporters, Tadic said the "democratic revolution did not achieve full expectations." He added, however, that "no one should denigrate" the uprising's success in overthrowing Milosevic and that "Serbia still has a chance, a big chance, to come closer to Europe." Tadic also said Serbia needs to elect democrats in new elections, likely to take place in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2 and 4, 2006). "We need political change and a new, democratic government," he said. As part of official commemorations, government officials laid flowers at a monument to Jasmina Jovanovic, who was crushed under a bulldozer six years before -- the day when hundreds of thousands of protesters took to Belgrade's streets to demand Milosevic's ouster after a rigged election. BW

SERBIAN PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR REELECTION IN EARLY VOTE...
Also on October 5, President Tadic called for both presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year, adding that he plans to seek reelection, AP reported the same day. "I want the citizens to say what they think of my presidency," said Tadic, who was elected in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 28, 2004). Serbia's parliament passed a new constitution on September 30 and scheduled a referendum on it for October 28-29. Parliamentary elections must follow, most likely in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 2006). "But it would be grossly unfair to call people to the referendum without also asking them to say what they think of my presidency in a vote," Tadic said. BW

...TELLS SERBS THAT 2007 WILL BE THE YEAR THEY TURN THE CORNER
Speaking at a press conference at the presidency building in Belgrade on October 5, Tadic also said Serbs can look forward to next year as a turning point when the country can put its tumultuous past behind it, B92 reported the same day. "The year of 2007 has a lot of political importance for Serbia," he said. "By solving the Kosovo status question and finishing cooperation with the Hague tribunal, Serbia can become a nation that is a lot closer to the EU, and that means more investments and the solving of our biggest problem -- poverty." BW

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH URGES CONSTITUTION'S PASSAGE...
The Serbia Orthodox Church released a statement on October 5 urging citizens to vote in favor of the new constitution, AP reported the same day. "This is a referendum for the state of Serbia, as a joint home for all ethnic groups, churches, religious communities, and its citizens," the statement issued by church leader Patriarch Pavle read. The patriarch also said the constitution's passage is crucial because it makes explicit Serbia's opposition to Kosovo becoming independent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 3, and 4, 2006). "Need we remind that this is not just a territory, but the heart and soul of the Serbian people?" the statement added. BW

...AS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER URGES BOYCOTT OF REFERENDUM
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Ivana Dulic-Markovic on October 5 called for a boycott of Serbia's constitutional referendum, B92 and Beta reported the same day. Dulic-Markovic said that she will propose the boycott at the next meeting of her G17 Plus party's executive council. G17 Plus pulled out of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government on October 1 to protest Serbia's failure to restart premembership talks with the European Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 2, 2006). Dulic-Markovic said the draft constitution was never discussed publicly, does not offer a satisfactory level of autonomy for Vojvodina, and does not include the automatic acceptance of EU legislation. "My stance is that we should not participate in a referendum for such a constitution," she said. G17 Plus head and outgoing Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said on October 4, however, that the party plans to urge citizens to vote for the constitution's passage. BW

RULING MONTENEGRIN PARTY NOMINATES JUSTICE MINISTER FOR PREMIER
Montenegro's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) nominated Justice Minister Zeljko Sturanovic as its choice for prime minister on October 4, international news agencies reported the same day. President Filip Vujanovic announced on October 3 that Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic resigned "for personal reasons," but would remain as DPS head (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). Sturanovic, a close Djukanovic ally, must be approved by the DPS governing board and by Montenegro's parliament. Both are widely considered to be formalities, since the DPS holds a strong majority in parliament. BW

NATO'S AFGHAN EXPANSION DEMANDS COMMON APPROACH
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command of 14 eastern and central provinces on October 5, slightly ahead of the schedule it set for itself in July. The unification of command of the majority of military forces stationed in Afghanistan has been hailed as a sign of NATO's commitment.

When NATO expanded ISAF's area of operation to southern Afghanistan in July, it also announced its intention to assume full command of virtually all international troops there by the end of 2006 -- dubbed "Stage 4 expansion." The early implementation of ISAF's Stage 4 expansion is related to the unexpected resilience of the neo-Taliban and fellow guerrillas opposing ISAF in the south and the U.S.-led coalition forces in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan.

The neo-Taliban resurgence can be partly attributed to a perception that NATO's Stage 3 expansion signaled a reduction of the military commitment by the United States to Afghanistan. That assumption was coupled with the notion that NATO was a weaker and wider target that -- if threatened -- would find some members inclining toward withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The neo-Taliban and, ironically, some European voices have spoken of the United States and NATO as distinct entities. The perception is perhaps based in part on Washington's hesitation to unite the commands of the coalition forces and of ISAF -- a result of long-standing U.S. reluctance to place its troops under foreign command. As part of the Stage 4 expansion, NATO-ISAF has taken command of around 10,000 U.S. troops.

The commander of coalition forces, U.S. Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, has said a "key point to remember" about the ISAF's expansion "is that the United States maintains its full commitment to Afghanistan." Seemingly to dispel doubts about U.S.-NATO relations or his country's role in Afghanistan, Eikenberry added that as "a NATO member, the United States will remain by far the single-largest contributor of troops and military capability" within ISAF.

With this latest expansion, ISAF finds itself in charge of approximately 31,000 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO states. In addition to ISAF forces, the United States will continue to have around 8,000 troops conducting counterterrorism operations and providing support for the formation, training, and equipping of the Afghan National Army.

Washington's decision to leave nearly half of its forces stationed in Afghanistan outside ISAF command is arguably illustrative of some of the contradictions in strategic views among some NATO member states regarding their forces' mandates.

British Lieutenant General David Richards currently commands ISAF forces in Afghanistan. During the ceremonies in Kabul marking the ISAF expansion on October 5, Richards called it "a historic day for both Afghanistan and NATO." He added that it "illustrates the enduring commitment of NATO and its international partners to the future of [a] great country."

The fact that ISAF is NATO's largest ground operation since the alliance was established in 1949 lends weight to Richards' comments. But the ultimate goal of NATO's commitment could remain elusive unless member states -- particularly the economic and military powerhouses -- share a common view on the nature of the mission.

NATO ASSUMES EXPANDED AREA OF OPERATION IN AFGHANISTAN
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command of military operations in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan at a ceremony in Kabul on October 5, international news agencies reported. The ceremony was attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, NATO's civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan, and U.S.-led coalition-forces commander Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry. British Lieutenant General David Richards, who commands NATO-ISAF, said at the ceremonies: "This is a historic day for both Afghanistan and NATO, and illustrates the enduring commitment of NATO and its international partners" to Afghanistan, an October 5 ISAF press release reported. As part of expansion, ISAF is taking command of 10,000 U.S. troops currently part of the coalition forces, increasing ISAF troop strength to approximately 31,000 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO member states. The United States will maintain 8,000 troops under its own command to conduct counterterrorism operations, reconstruction projects, and to train and equip the Afghan National Army. "A key point to remember in this transition is that the United States maintains its full commitment to Afghanistan," Eikenberry said. AT

AFGHAN AUTHORITIES CLAIM TO HAVE THWARTED ATTACKS WITH CAPTURE OF AFGHAN, FOREIGN SUSPECTS
The Afghan Security Department announced in Kabul on October 4 its arrest of 17 Afghan, Pakistani, and Chechen nationals suspected of planning suicide attacks against foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan, private Tolu Television reported. Afghan security officials said the suspects admitted to having undergone training in the Mir Ali, Daka Khail, Shamshato, and Teya areas of Pakistan. The suspects reportedly also indicated that they were trained by Chechens, Pakistanis, and Uzbeks. Kabul routinely blames elements in Pakistan for supporting insurgents and terrorists operating in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," July 14, 2006). AT

AFGHAN LOWER HOUSE PURSUES 'NAME-AND-SHAME' APPROACH TO BOOST ATTENDANCE
The Afghan National Assembly's lower house, the Wolesi Jirga (People's Council), has identified parliamentarians with the worst attendance records during the last week in an effort to combat absenteeism, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported on October 5. The Wolesi Jirga's leadership, frustrated by low turnout, proposed in September tallying and publicly announcing the names of parliamentarians who fail to turn up for debates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 6, 2006). An anonymous Wolesi Jirga source quoted by Bakhtar said many parliamentarians missed voting sessions last week. The list of 18 offenders includes Hazrat Ali and Khaled Pashtun, formerly governors of the Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces, and Fawzia Gailani from Herat Province, the only female candidate to have led a vote count in Afghanistan's 2005 parliamentary elections. AT

OFFICIALS' ARRESTS IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN SPARK CONTROVERSY
The manner of arrest of several officials in Herat Province has been criticized by Governor Sayyed Hosayn Anwari, Herat-based Radio Sahar reported on October 5. Afghanistan's chief prosecutor ordered the arrests of officials -- including Ahmad Jan Kakar, the head of the Herat Oil Department -- on suspicion of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 5, 2006). "There is no doubt that the fight against administrative corruption must be serious," Anwari told a news conference in Herat. But he added that he objects to the manner in which the news was presented to the public, which he said falsely suggested that the alleged corruption occurred under his governorship. "And now, I am surprised that I am asked to provide answers to questions which refer to the past dossiers of these people," Anwari said. Radio Sahar reported that Herat's mayor is under investigation for alleged corruption; he denies any wrongdoing and has not been taken into custody. AT

IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ENEMIES FEAR COUNTRY'S PROGRESS
Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in an October 5 speech in the town of Firuzkuh, Tehran Province, that the people of Iran seek peace, and he hopes Europe will revise its policies towards the Islamic republic, IRNA reported. Iranians, he said, will not be bullied. In an October 4 speech in the town of Savojbolagh, Tehran Province, Ahmadinejad dismissed Western claims that it is opposed to nuclear weapons, state television reported, citing the existence of nuclear weapon stockpiles in other countries and their testing of these weapons. He said the Western countries' claims to back nonproliferation are lies and they actually only oppose Iran's progress. "If [they] were against nuclear weapons, [they] would not have armed some fake and rootless regimes in our region with such weapons," he added. Unnamed representatives of the "great powers," Ahmadinejad claimed, told him that Iran would become a "role model for other nations" if it progresses. "They explicitly said that if the Iranian nation acquires developed technologies and sciences it will become the greatest world power very quickly," he said. BS

PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES BEGIN REGISTERING FOR IRANIAN ELECTION
Prospective candidates for the Assembly of Experts election, which is scheduled for December 15, began registering on October 5, IRNA reported. Registration will continue until October 11. Just one person signed up in Khuzestan Province, Ahvaz Governor Abdul Aziz Fadami said, before adding that this is normal because most people wait until the last day, provincial television reported. Nationally, 25 people had registered by the end of the first day, state television reported. In a related development, Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi appointed the new deputy interior minister for political affairs, Mujtaba Samareh-Hashemi, as head of the election headquarters, and Deputy Interior Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Hussein Musapur as head of the Elections Supervision Headquarters. BS

ISFAHAN: CSI HELPS REDUCE CRIME RATE
Colonel Abbas Ali Mohammadian, deputy chief of police in the city of Isfahan, announced on October 5 that the city enjoyed a 17 percent reduction in crime over the first five months of the Iranian year, which began on March 21, compared to the same time frame the year before, provincial television reported. The number of illegal goods seized increased by 18 percent, he added. The deputy police chief said using a crime lab contributed to these developments. BS

EU PRESIDENCY CRITICAL OF IRANIAN MEDIA ENVIRONMENT
An October 5 press release from the European Union's Finnish presidency has expressed "grave concern" about press freedom in Iran, noting specifically the closure of "Sharq" and other publications in September (http://www.eu2006.fi/news_and_documents/cfsp_statements/vko40/en_GB/1160042302794/?u4.highlight=Iran). The statement also decried the "continued harassment of journalists." BS

KURDISH LAWMAKER ASSASSINATED IN IRAQ
Iraqi parliamentarian Muhammad Rida Muhammad Mahmud was assassinated in Baghdad on October 5, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. Muhammad was a member of the Kurdistan Coalition. The attack took place as he left a meeting at the Sunni Waqf (Endowments) Office. Witnesses said four vehicles surrounded his car and opened fire, killing Muhammad and his driver. The parliamentarian was not traveling with bodyguards, deputy parliament speaker Arif Tayfur said, "The New York Times" reported on October 6. KR

ISLAMIC ARMY IN IRAQ SPOKESMAN SAYS WILLING TO NEGOTIATE WITH U.S...
. In an interview posted to the Internet on October 5, the alleged spokesman for the Islamic Army in Iraq detailed the insurgent group's conditions for entering into negotiations with the U.S. government. Ibrahim al-Shammari said that negotiations with the enemy and the establishment of a cease-fire are "permissible," adding: "In principle, we are not against negotiating with enemies if the other party is serious." Al-Shammari said his group's first condition is that the U.S. Congress "should issue a bill obligating the U.S. administration to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq." He claimed that only the Congress is capable of forcing a pullout, since the UN is now considered a "servicing agency" attached to the State Department. "We should not forget the U.S. Congress issued the bill for liberating Iraq in 1998," he said, noting efforts by congressmen "to prevent President [George W.] Bush from establishing permanent bases in Iraq," which he called "another step in the right direction." KR

...AS LONG AS CONDITIONS RIGHT
The alleged spokesman for the Islamic Army in Iraq set down a second condition for the U.S. government in the October 5 recording, saying the United States must "recognize the Iraqi resistance as the sole legitimate representative of the Iraqi people." Al-Shammari added, "It is natural that the Iraqi resistance is the best to represent the Iraqi people." He also called for an official apology for the occupation, restitution for the destruction of private and public properties, and the freeing of all detainees. Al-Shammari said his group is ready to hold overt or covert negotiations, saying the only criteria is credibility. "We do not object to intermediaries with international credibility in this regard," he added. KR

IRAQI PREMIER UPBEAT ON SECURITY PROCESS
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a delegation of notables and chieftains from Baghdad's Al-Sadr City that Iraq is in the last phase of confronting security challenges and security can be restored in the next two to three months, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on October 5. Al-Maliki made similar remarks to AP the same day, noting that he still intends to dissolve the militias. "The political parties must obey the decisions of the government or else get out of the political process," he said. "I don't believe there is any power that wants to leave the political process." He said that militias cannot be dissolved by force, saying it is more realistic to persuade militias to dissolve themselves. KR

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE VISITS NORTHERN IRAQ...
Condoleezza Rice met with Kurdish regional President Mas'ud Barzani on October 6, international media reported. Rice told reporters en route to Iraq on October 5 that the United States is concerned about the sharing of oil revenues between the regions and the center. Asked if the U.S. administration agreed with the regional government's view that oil prospected in the Kurdish territories ought to be the property of the regional government, she said: "We believe that oil has to be a resource for the Iraqi people as a whole and it has to benefit the Iraqi people as a whole. The relationship between the regions, the localities, and the center on how exploration is done, how decisions are made, I think that's what the hydrocarbon law has to address." She added, "But our only view, which we've communicated to the Iraqis and which I think most Iraqis agree, is that oil needs to be a unifying factor and not one that will help to make the country less unified." KR

...AFTER VISITING PREMIER, PRESIDENT IN BAGHDAD
Rice met with Prime Minister al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad on October 5, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. Rice told reporters en route to Iraq that the purpose of her trip it to show U.S. support for the government, according to a State Department transcript of the briefing. She praised efforts by al-Maliki to move the political and security process forward, calling him "a very good and strong prime minister." She said she hopes Iraq's political leaders will do more to support the process as well. "Iraqis as a whole, all of the government, all of the leaders, really have got to be committed to moving this process forward. They don't have time for endless debate of these issues. They've really got to move it forward and that's one of the messages that I'll take. But it will also be a message of support and what can we do to help that process to move forward, including working with their neighbors who have influence in different parts of the country," Rice said. KR

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