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Kazakh Report: March 13, 2002


13 March 2002

U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CASPIAN ISSUES HOLDS TALKS WITH KAZAKH PRESIDENT
Steven Mann, who is U.S. presidential envoy for Caspian issues held talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana late on 12 March. U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper also took part in the talks. At a press conference held shortly afterwards, Mann told journalists: "...The President re-affirmed his support for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and for the future participation of Kazakh producers in that export route."

He added that possible U.S. assistance in building a new pipeline to transport Kazakhstan's natural gas was also discussed. U.S. Ambassador to Napper said that Mann conveyed to Nazarbayev greetings from U.S. President George Bush. Napper added that Bush expressed his gratitude to Nazarbayev for his and his country's readiness to support the U.S.-led efforts against international terrorism.

INITIATIVE GROUP FOR ELECTION OF REGIONAL GOVERNORS HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
A new Initiative Group for the Election of Regional Governors held a press conference at the National Press Club in Almaty on March 13. One of the group's leading members, Petr Svoik, told journalists that the recent decision by Kazakhstan's Supreme Court not to register the group as an official organization was politically motivated. Svoik said his group has right to exist, and its main goal is to establish the basic principles of democratic society in Kazakhstan.

One of the leaders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK), Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, who is also a member of the Initiative Group, said that DVK will continue fighting for official registration of the Initiative Group. He added that in 10 years of independence, the Kazakh government has done nothing to improve the social and economic conditions in which Kazakhstan's ordinary citizens live.

CHAIRMAN OF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT'S UPPER CHAMBER MEETS WITH UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR
Oralbay Abdikarimov, who is chairman of the Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament), discussed Kazakh-Ukrainian bilateral economic cooperation with Ukrainian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Vasiliy Tsybenko on March 13. They noted that Kazakhstan has become one of Ukraine's main partners in the oil and gas production, transportation and development sectors.

Also discussed were the parliamentary elections to be held in Ukraine on 31 March. Ambassador Tsybenko said that over 30 political parties will participate in the ballot. He invited Kazakh parliamentarians to be election observers.

WOMEN PROTESTERS FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM ASTANA'S CENTRAL SQUARE
Serik Abdrakhmanov, who is a member of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's Parliament), told fellow deputies on 13 March that the previous day several women from Baidibek Raion in South Kazkahstan Oblast were detained by police on the Central Square in Astana, where they had staged a protest action. The women from Baidibek have been striking since January 2001 to demand payment of their overdue social allowances dating back to 1995 (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 29 November 2001 and 9 January 2002).

The women said they were taken to a police station where six of them were freed after a while, and two of them were fined. They say that they may have been removed from the square due to the First Congress of Kazakh Journalists held in the Parliament building on 12 March. According to the women, Astana officials did not want President Nazarbayev to see the protesting women on his way to the parliament building to participate in the Congress.

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