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Kazakh Report: August 13, 1999


13 August 1999

KAZAKHSTAN STARTED DRILLING FOR OIL IN CASPIAN.
Correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty report that the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) started drilling for oil in the Caspian Sea on August 12. The Kazakh government estimates the oil under Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea to be as much as 4,000 million tons. Despite objections from different environmental organizations, the government gave the "green light" for OKIOC to start drilling under the sea.

KAZAKHSTAN OPENS A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION ON ILLEGAL ARMS EXPORTS.
According to correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty, on August 12 the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) opened a criminal investigation on illegal arms exports. This is the first criminal case involving the questioning of a high ranking former official. On August 11, the US State Department expressed "serious concern" over reports that Kazakhstan sold a dozen MiG-21 jet fighters to North Korea. The US State Department spokesman said that the US will continue to monitor this case "very, very closely".

KAZAKH-US JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES IN QAPSHAGHAY HAVE ENDED.
Kazakh and US army units finished joint military exercises in Qapshaghay region of Almaty oblast on 12 August. According to correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty, the American participants were represented by a military unit from Kentucky and were led by Major Elliot. The Kazakh side consisted of the Kazakh Army's marines from the 35th Special Brigade. The main task of the maneuvers was to train the Kazakh peacekeepers to operate in conflict areas. The joint military exercises lasted for one month. Acting Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff Bakhytzhan Ertayev participated in the closing ceremonies.

INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS IN ALMATY.
The international foundation "Support for Glasnost", based in Moscow, organized a seminar on freedom of the press in Kazakhstan. Correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty report that during the three-day international seminar, participants discussed the current situation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the country. As a result, they have sent an open letter to President Nazarbayev. Participants of the seminar made a proposal to the leader of Kazakhstan to delay the current media law.

AZAMAT PARTY HELD CONGRESS ON AUGUST 13.
Correspondents of RFE/RL in Almaty report that the Azamat party held a congress in Almaty on August 13. The main topic was preparations for coming Parliamentary elections. Participants of the congress discussed the list of Azamat members who will run in the elections.

CHAIRWOMAN OF THE KAZAKH CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION SAYS FORMER PM AKEZHAN KAZHEGELDIN MIGHT RUN IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS THIS FALL.
Chairwoman of the Kazakh Central Electoral Commission Zaghipa Baliyeva, who held several press conferences and meetings with representatives of the mass media in Almaty this week, said on 11 August that former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin might run in the Parliamentary elections. During a meeting with foreign journalists, Mrs. Baliyeva said that according to the most recent amendments to Kazakhstan's Administrative Code (namely the abolition of Chapter 188.2), a person, who committed an administrative offense, like being involved in theactivities of an unregistered political movement, will be allowed to run in elections. And only those who committed a criminal offense, such as corruption or tax evasion, will not be allowed to run for office.

According to the Chairwoman of the Kazakh Central Electoral Commission, a criminal investigation against Kazhegeldin is no reason to ban the former PM from running in theParliamentary elections. The former PM, who is abroad currently, is being accused of tax evasion. Despite this statement by the election official, Kazhegeldin's lawyer Vitaly Voronov said that the former PM would return to Kazakhstan only if President Nazarbayev would guarantee his personal security and only after being officially registered as a candidate.

RUSSIA PAID PART OF ITS DEBT FOR THE RENT OF THE BAIQONUR SPACE LAUNCH SITE.
According to correspondents of RFE/RL in Astana, Vice Premier and Finance Minister Oraz Zhandosov said that Russia paid $12.5 million to Kazakhstan as part of the rent for the Baikonur space launch site. The announcement was made during a press conference on August 11. According to the Finance Minister, Russia made this first payment by August 10, and the rest of the 1$65 million debt is to be paid off by this November. During the press conference, the Finance Minister informed journalists about the visit of an IMF delegation to Kazakhstan next month. Negotiations on the three-year IMF program will be discussed, said Oraz Zhandosov. According to this official, the IMF blocked a loan to Kazakhstan because of the state budget shortage, which is -3.7 per cent.

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY ON MATERIAL ABOUT KAZAKHSTAN PUBLISHED IN THE WASHINGTON TIMES.
The Press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued an announcement about an article on Kazakhstan by Sarah Minz, published in The Washington Times. A translation of the article was published in some local newspapers as well. In the announcement, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry quotes a letter from the President of the International Center for Tax and Investments and the chief adviser of the Center. According to the Ministry's announcement, the above two people criticized the material about Kazakhstan in the Washington Times as being "far from the truth".

KAZAKH AMBASSADOR TO U.S. MET WITH U.S. CONGRESSMAN JOHN PORTER IN WASHINGTON.
According to information provided by the press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Kazakh Ambassador to the US Bolat NurgAliyev recently met US Congressman John Porter (Rep.) in Washington. John Porter is co-chairman of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights, chairman of the sub-committee on Foreign operations, employment, health and education, and deputy chairman of the sub-committee on Assignations. According to reports from the press service, during the meeting the two officials discussed the main directions Kazakh-American cooperationis taking. The Kazakh ambassador asked for questions from the congressman about relations between Kazakhstan and its neighboring states, the current situation in the Kazakh economy, as well as about chances for democracy in Kazakhstan and situation of human rights in the country.

KAZAKH FM MET WITH INDIAN AMBASSADOR TO KAZAKHSTAN.
Correspondents of RFE/RL in Astana report that Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqayev has met with the Indian ambassador to Kazakhstan Rajiv Sikri. The Kazakh FM and the Indian ambassador discussed bilateral relations on the eve of Toqayev's visit to India later in this month. Currently Kazakhstan cooperates with India in the oil-gas sector, the defense industry and tourism.

CHAIRMAN OF RUSSIAN-SLAVS AND RUSSIAN-COSSACKS UNION DENY SPECULATIONS ON MASS EXODUS.
The Chairman of Russian-Slavs and Russian-Cossacks Union Gennady Beliyakov during a meeting with journalists on August 10 denied reports of a possible mass exodus of Cossacks from Kazakhstan. Last week rival leaders of the Zhetysu Cossacks held a press conference in Almaty at which they warned that all 140,000 Zhetysu Cossacks might start a mass exodus from the country. According to Gennady Beliyakov, that rival Cossack organization does not have 140,000 members. He also denied a statement by Vladimir Ovsiyannikov - leader of the Zhetysu Cossacks - on a possible mass exodus.

CHAIRWOMAN OF THE KAZAKH CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMITTEE MET WITH CHIEF EDITORS OF SOME KAZAKH PERIODICALS.
The day after the press conference on the beginning of official registrations of candidates for the Parliamentary elections, Chairwoman of the Kazakh Central Electoral Committee Zaghipa Balieva met with editors-in-chief of several Kazakh periodicals. According to RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty, she could not answer the question as to whether there is any limitation on the candidates' use of the independent mass media in their pre-election campaigns. agitation. According to current rules, during a pre-election campaign candidates may publish only two articles at state-managed newspapers, and are entitled to 15 free access on state TV and radio.

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