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Azerbaijan Report: October 3, 2003


3 October 2003
NEWS BRIEFS
Heidar Aliyev Withdraws From Presidential Elections
With two weeks to go before the presidential election scheduled for 15 October, incumbent President Heidar Aliev, who has been undergoing medical treatment abroad for some three months, has withdrawn his candidacy, calling on his supporters to vote for his son Ilham Aliev. Both Alievs were running as candidates for the ruling government.

The president's appeal to the people, which was read on state television on 2 October, reads: "I have spent 60 years of my life with one meaning: the today and tomorrow of my people. For 10 years...I have served the independent state of Azerbaijan. You are aware of the accomplishments I have made during this time, but I have some very perspective plans still to be completed. Recently I have had problems with my health that do not allow me to complete those tasks that I have started or reach the conclusions which I see clearly. Despite this, I was nominated as a candidate for the 15 October 2003 presidential elections and my candidacy was registered.... I hope that I will soon recover and return to my homeland, and again be with my people. Now, I withdraw my candidacy in favor of Ilham Aliev...."

"I call on you, my fellow countrymen, in the upcoming presidential elections, to vote for my political successor, the first deputy chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party, Ilham Aliev. He is highly intellectual, pragmatic, and well-aware of modern world policy and economy. He possesses a strong and initiative personality," the statement concludes.

(RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service)

OSCE Mission Expresses Concern Regarding Citizens Abroad
"It is necessary to make certain that the names of those Azerbaijani citizens living abroad are included on the voting lists. These voting papers have the possibility of being falsified," said Peter Eicher, head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission monitoring the upcoming 15 October presidential elections. But Eicher acknowledged that it is difficult for foreign observers to determine who is in the country and who is not.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Eicher pointed out that the election campaign is proceeding normally. The presidential candidates are being provided with opportunities to openly express their opinions. At the same time, complicated technical preparation is being conducted in accordance with the program. Nevertheless, Eicher expressed concern that peaceful protests are being dispersed.

There are fears that on election day, people who are working in state-financed institutions will be given ballots with the name of the ruling team's candidate already marked. These ballots will be cast, and the ballots given in polling stations will be submitted unmarked to the institutions' leadership. Eicher pointed out that its mission was aware of such allegations, but added that he has no concrete fact regarding this.

One of the troubling issues is ensuring the participation in the election of Azerbaijani citizens now living abroad. There is no concrete figure as to how many are not in the country, but some people claim that in previous elections, the government took advantage of these names to falsify the election outcome.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

Concern About Historical Site In Occupied Territory
"Archeological excavations in the Azokh Cave of Nagorno-Karabakh are ongoing. Negotiations concerning the involvement of foreign specialists in the excavations are now under way," Armenia's Arminfo news agency reported. On 30 September, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement concerning the cave, one of the most ancient places of civilization, saying: "The cave, which Armenian specialists call Azokh is, in fact, the Azikh historical site owned by Azerbaijan. It is situated in the former Hadrut district, which is now occupied by Armenia. Archaeologists from Azerbaijan, along with specialists from the United States, France, and other countries have carried out research in the cave and confirmed that the cave does, in fact, belong to Azerbaijan." The ministry suggested that by carrying out archeological excavations in the occupied territories, the Armenian specialists have violated a number of international conventions and legal norms.

Archaeologist Nesimi Guliev, a specialist at Baku State University's Department of Archeology, who has participated in excavations in the Azikh Cave, pointed out that until the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, scientists from Azerbaijan had conducted excavations in the cave's eight strata, discovering cultural monuments and writings referring to Azerbaijan.

Intigam Humbetov, spokesman for Azerbaijan's Culture Ministry, noted that the issue of the historical site has been repeatedly raised with international organizations. Culture Minister Polad Bulbuloglu touched on this matter again during UNESCO Deputy General Director Munir Bouchenaki's recent visit to Baku. But Bouchenaki responded that UNESCO has no the right to interfere in unresolved conflicts.

Humbetov said that 22 museums, four art galleries, 927 libraries, 85 music schools, and 762 architectural and archaeological monuments owned by Azerbaijan are situated in the occupied areas. Twelve out of these 762 monuments are of world importance.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

PRESS REVIEW
Local newspapers take a look at clashes prior to the National Independence (AMIP) and People's Front (AXCP) parties' leaders visit to meet with voters in Saatli district, in addition to President Heidar Aliev's withdrawal of his candidacy in favor of his son Ilham Aliev.

In an interview with the independent newspaper "Baki-Kheber," Eldar Namazov, former head of the presidential administration, says none of the previous elections have caused as much concern as the upcoming one. According to Namazov, although this points to the serious struggle towards changing the processes occurring in the country, there are dangerous moments as well. Namazov suggests that the regime created by Heidar Aliyev for himself will collapse after he retires from power. Touching on Ilham Aliev's candidacy, Namazov notes that he will not be able to succeed Heidar Aliev.

Discussing how Azerbaijan will establish its relations with neighboring countries if Ilham Aliyev comes to power, Rasim Bairamov in "Baki-Kheber" writes that one of the countries of great importance to the country is the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the author, during the last 10 years, Baku has not been in a position to build normal relations with this country. Ilham Aliev, who could not enlist support from Western countries regarding his succession, has now turned his face to Iran and Russia. Bairamov recalls that Heidar Aliyev also used the same tactic to seize power and afterward established relations with the West.

The independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" ran an interview with former presidential candidate Abutalib Semedov. Touching on his withdrawal from the presidential marathon, Semedov says that he has made this step because of his dissatisfaction with the election campaign. He noted that the government has allocated him 60 million manats ($12,281) for organizing the election campaign, adding that he would return this sum.

Mushfig writes in "Uch Nogta" that rifts have been observed within ex-speaker Rasul Guliev's Democratic Party (ADP). One group in the ADP intends to support Etibar Mamedov of the AMIP for president, while the others are veering toward the Musavat chairman, Isa Gambar. The author suggests that if events continue developing along this course, it can put an end to ADP's monolithic character.

Ilgar Altai, chairman of the Amal Intellectual Movement, says in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" that the opposition's participation in the presidential elections with a single candidate is needed. According to him, choosing a single candidate for the opposition depends on Isa Gambar and Etibar Mamedov.

In the newspaper "Azadlig," Serdar Hasanov comments on Ankara's demands to Baku regarding activists from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The author points to growing activities of PKK supporters in Azerbaijan since 1998. The Turkish government has demanded several times that Baku extradite people connected with the PKK. Hasanov concludes that Baku's patronage of PKK activists can damage the relationship between the two countries in the long term.

Elgun Araz says in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that Heidar Aliev's 2 October statement regarding his withdrawal from the presidential elections in Ilham Aliev's favor showed his incapacity to rule the country any longer. According to Araz, although Ilham Aliyev is now presented as a person who is trained to obey Heidar Aliev's command, he will not able to cope with this task. "Young Aliyev is a person far from politics. His speeches during his meetings with voters prove this once again," Araz concludes.

The pro-government newspaper "525" carries an interview with parliament deputy Semed Seidov, a member of Azerbaijan's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Seidov talks about the issues regarding Azerbaijan, which were raised for discussion in the PACE fall session. He noted that the PACE has involved unbiased persons in the monitoring of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. Seidov added that such issues as the attitude toward other countries' historical monuments in Azerbaijan, as well as Armenia's behavior toward Azerbaijani historical sites in the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh was also among the topics discussed.

Ittifaq Mirzebeili writes in the government newspaper "Azerbaycan" that during the next five years following the presidential elections, the number of jobs will increase in Azerbaijan. The author points to certain trends in this direction in the Neftchala, Khachmaz, and Bulasuvar districts. Mirzebeili adds that all this will lead to eliminating the unemployment problem in the country, as well as promoting the return of citizens who have temporarily left the country due to unemployment.

"Azerbaycan" also includes an article about Education Minister Misir Mardanov, where he talks about development in the education sphere. He notes that despite certain progress, numerous problems remain unsolved, the most urgent of which is the lack of a law on education in the country.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)

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