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Turkmen Report: February 4, 2004

4 February 2004
Turkmen Muslims Celebrate Eid Al-Adha
Turkmenistan is celebrating Eid Al-Adha, or Kurban Bayram -- the festival of sacrifice marking the end of the hajj pilgrimage, on 2, 3, and 4 February, reported on 2 February. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a resolution declaring these days to be public holidays. (

Huge Mosque Gets Go-Ahead
President Niyazov has signed a decree to spend $113 million on the construction of a huge mosque, AP reported on 31 January, citing Turkmen state television. State television says the mosque will be built in the village of Kipchak, where Niyazov's family has its roots. The report says the mosque will be the largest in the region, able to accommodate 20,000 worshippers. State television says the structure will be dedicated on 6 October, the anniversary of a 1948 earthquake in Turkmenistan. The quake killed 160,000 people, including Niyazov's mother and two brothers, leaving him an orphan after the earlier death of his father in World War II. The date was declared a national day of mourning in 1995. Niyazov has ruled Turkmenistan since 1985. He prefers to be called "Turkmenbashi," or "Father of all Turkmen." (AP)

Stalemate At Turkmen-Azerbaijani Talks On Caspian Sea
Representatives of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan ended their talks on disputed areas of the Caspian Sea on 30 January without reaching any agreements, AFP reported the same day. Both countries claim several oil fields in the Caspian as theirs and have been unable to agree on a dividing line to separate their sectors. Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Halaf Halafov were present at the meeting in Ashgabat. Turkmen state news reported that the talks ended "without any substantial results." Despite the absence of a clear agreement on the legal status of the sea, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan signed an agreement last year dividing the northern part of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan and Iran, the other two Caspian littoral states, have continued to argue that there should be no development of the sea's resources until all five states agree on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake. In the latter case, the profits of the Caspian would be divided equally among the five. (AFP)

Turkmen Newspapers To Go Color
All black and white newspapers will be phased out by the end of February in Turkmenistan, reported on 29 January, citing the Turkmen state printing house. According to the state printing house, all four regional printing houses will receive new equipment from the German company Heidelberg, which they will use to increase the quality of mass printing. New printing house buildings have been constructed in Balkanabat and Turkmenabat and old ones repaired in Dashoguz and Mary for the arrival of German specialists who will install state-of-the-art printing equipment. The move is part of a presidential program. (

Niyazov, Kuchma Again Postpone Conclusion Of Gas Contract
President Niyazov and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma have for a second time postponed the conclusion of a 25-year contract on Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Originally the Ukrainian president's visit to Ashgabat and the conclusion of the contract were scheduled for October 2003, when Turkmenistan marked the 12th anniversary of its independence. The signing was then postponed until February to coincide with Niyazov's birthday. In a telephone conversation on 28 January, Niyazov and Kuchma agreed to move the date of the Ukrainian president's visit from February to April, the Turkmen presidential press service reported. "Some details of a future gas pipeline system to be used under the project have failed to be finalized by the deadline. Proposals still being drafted must take into account the participation in the project of the two countries of transit: Russia and Kazakhstan," the press service said in an official statement. Ukraine has been the biggest consumer of Turkmen gas for the past three years. Last year it imported 36 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas and it has declared its intention to import as much this year. (ITAR-TASS)

Niyazov Congratulates Army On 12th Anniversary
President Niyazov congratulated the national armed forces on their anniversary, Interfax reported on 27 January. "The state will always keep the national army in the focus of attention, create conditions for enhancing its combat readiness, supply it with modern equipment, build military colleges, and provide servicemen with housing," Niyazov said in a statement circulated on 27 January. Attention to the armed forces and servicemen's living conditions is a priority in state policy, he said. In 2003, Turkmenistan spent $200 million on buying military hardware and weapons. Last year, it imported two Kolchuga radars from Ukraine. One of them was showcased at a military parade in Ashgabat in October 2003. In May 2002, the first Balkan-M patrol boats were supplied to Turkmenistan. In total, 10 patrol boats of this kind and 10 Grif multipurpose boats are expected to be obtained by the republic for use in the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is upgrading its air defense system, and its planes are being repaired in Georgia and Ukraine. More than 300 warplanes, including 24 MIG-29, 46 Su-25, and 172 MIG-23 aircraft, about 600 T-72 tanks, and 1,500 armored vehicles remained in Turkmenistan after the Soviet Union's breakup. In 2004, Turkmenistan will continue to purchase new armaments in order to enhance its defense capabilities. The government has allocated $80 million for this purpose. (Interfax)