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Kazakh Report: January 18, 2002


18 January 2002

FORUM OF KAZAKHSTAN'S DEMOCRATIC FORCES PLANS TO HOLD MASS GATHERING
Leaders of the so-called Forum of Kazakhstan's Democratic Forces, which unites a number of Kazakhstan's opposition parties and movements, announced on 18 January that they will convene a mass gathering of some 800 political activists at the Mukhtar Auezov Drama Theater in Almaty on January 19. According to Rozlana Taukina, a member of the Forum's Coordination Council who is also a well known Kazakh journalist, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Premier Qasymzhomart Toqayev have been invited to take part in the gathering. The main issue to be discussed will be about the need for cardinal changes and reforms in Kazakhstan's major laws.

Taukina said that in the event that the Kazakh law on elections is changed, all other major laws of the country, including Kazakh Constitution will have to be changed. She added that about 30-40 delegates from every Oblast of the country will travel to Almaty to participate in the gathering. The leaders of the new opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan will also attend.

The leaders of Alash party expressed their negative attitude to the idea on January 17. On January 18, Arsentiy Apolimov, who is Chairman of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan's branch in Almaty, also criticized the Forum of Kazakhstan's Democratic Forces for failing to invite the Communists to the gathering

Meanwhile representatives of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan told RFE/RL that the party's delegates face numerous problems in trying to reach Almaty in order to take part in the mass gathering. There have been instances in which members of Republican People's Party were threatened with dismissal from their jobs if they went to the gathering. Some delegates were refused train tickets at railway stations.

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES REPORTS THAT U.S. WILL HAVE MILITARY BASES IN KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry issued an official statement on 18 January dismissing as "groundless" all reports that the U.S. intends to open a military base on the territory of Kazakhstan. Foreign Ministry official Iliyas Qozybayev told RFE/RL that KTK-TV channel in Almaty andthe radio station Russkoye Radio have reported several times that the U.S. authorities plan to set up several military bases in Kazakhstan. According to Qozybayev, those reports were based upon rumors, and no requests for explanation have ever been sent to Foreign Ministry. Some Kazakh media have reported that a large group of U.S. officials is expected to visit Kazakhstan next week. President Nazarbayev announced in September and again last month that his country is ready to allow American troops to use Kazakh territory for the anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan.

PAVLODAR CITY COURT FINDS IRBIS TV CHANNEL GUILTY
The Pavlodar City Court announced on 18 January that the city's Irbis TV Channel has been found guilty of "hurting honor and dignity of the leaders of Pavlodar Aluminium Joint Stock Company." Irbis TV journalists channel extensively covered the rival demonstrations in Pavlodar last November in which thousands of workers from the Pavlodar Aluminium Producing Plant gathered in the city center trying to overshadow hundreds of elderly citizens of Pavlodar who tried to express their support for former Pavlodar Oblast governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov. The Aluminium Producing Plant workers expressed their support for the newly appointed governor of the Oblast, Danial Akhmetov.

Nazarbayev fired Zhaqiyanov and named Akhmetov to replace him following the stand-off between Nazarbayev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, then Vice Chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, and a group of young Kazakh politicians led by Zhaqiyanov who established the movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan.

Amangeldy Zhaqsybayev of Irbis TV-Channel told RFE/RL that according to the verdict handed down by Pavlodar City Court, Irbis TV Company must pay 2 million Tenges ($13,400) to the Pavlodar Aluminium Joint Stock Company. He also said that the verdict was politically motivated, adding that the TV channel's correspondents had merely reported that the November demonstration had taken place.

TRAIN TICKETS BECAME MORE EXPENSIVE
Starting this week passengers aboard Astana-Almaty train began paying higher fares. A compartment ticket which used to cost 2,400 Tenges ($16) now costs 3,422 Tenges. The economy class ticket has risen from 1,200 Tenges to 2,200 Tenges. Correspondents of RFE/RL report that neither the service aboard the train nor the conditions in the train cars have improved after the fares went up.

NEW YOUTH ORGANIZATION IN SHYMKENT PLANS TO STRUGGLE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Young residents of the city of Shymkent have formed a new association which has announcd its intention to combat corruption. Members' primary target will be lecturers at local universities who routinely demand bribes from ther students.

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