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Turkmen Report: October 14, 2001


14 October 2001
NATIONAL NEWS
Niyazov Advises Youth To Study 'Rukhnama' 'With Pencil In Hand'


12 October 2001

Meeting in the presidential palace with members of the central council of the "Makhtymkuli" youth union, President Saparmurat Niyazov advised young Turkmenistan citizens to study the "Rukhnama" book -- which, as he said, "was created to become a guiding star for Turkmen people" -- "with pencil in hand."

Niyazov pointed out that one of his book's sections is directly addressed to youth. In this section the theme of duty of the Turkmens before society, state, and family is explained.

Speaking about his work, Saparmurat Niyazov said that "each reader of the book, probably, for the first time will follow the history of the Turkmen nation, will open for himself who are Turkmens, will find the analysis of tragic mistakes made once by ancestors, and entailed fatal changes in people's destiny, will learn, at last, the history of language, religion of the Turkmen people."

A significant part of the conversation was devoted to questions connected to further activity of the Makhtymkuli youth union. Niyazov said that so far the youth organization has not found its place in the life of the country. In his opinion, other public associations of Turkmenistan also deserve a similar reproach. Niyazov called for their management "to develop a strategic line of activity and carry it out consistently, not expecting instructions from above." At the meeting the youth union decided to hold its second congress in February of next year. (Turkmenistan.ru)

Does Bin Laden Wants To Reach Northern Caucasus Through Turkmenistan?


12 October 2001

Osama bin Laden is staying in one of the northern provinces of Afghanistan on the border with Turkmenistan, reported a correspondent of the Japanese "Sankei simbun" newspaper from Islamabad citing informed sources close to Talibs.

They said "terrorist number one" left Kandahar on 5 October together with his family and close associates and is now seeking shelter either in Fariab or Badgis provinces. As the sources confirm, bin Laden is waiting for an opportunity to reach Turkmen territory, and through it, get to the Chechnya or Dagestan, Itar-tass reported. This information has not been confirmed by official sources. (Strana.ru)

Olympic-Sponsored Games Canceled In Central Asia Due To U.S. Strikes


12 October 2001

The Olympic-sponsored Central Asian Games, scheduled for next month in Turkmenistan, have been canceled because of the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, organizers said on 12 October.

The games have been held every two years since 1995 among the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia and are sponsored by the International Olympic Committee. They were scheduled for 5-10 November in Ashgabat. (AP)

Niyazov Sets Preparations For 10th Anniversary Of Independence


11 October 2001

Turkmen President Niyazov chaired a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers which focused on the preparations for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence, a presidential administration source told Interfax on 10 October.

They discussed ribbon-cutting ceremonies at new facilities including chemical and machine-oil lines at the Turkmenbashinsky refinery, a medical center, a military hospital in Ashgabat, a new Defense Ministry building and a Palace of Justice.

Niyazov suggested that ministries and agencies should disburse additional financing to accelerate construction of modern high-rise residential buildings in Ashgabat.

Furthermore, Niyazov insisted that relevant organizations such as banks, and the Economy Ministry draft a document that would regulate extension of loans to commercial and state structures. Banks "conspire to raise interest rates on loans and channel the proceeds to various purposes," Niyazov pointed out. (Interfax)

Humanitarian Aid Transported To Afghanistan Through Turkmenistan


11 October 2001

Forty tons of humanitarian aid was delivered on 11 October from Brussels, Belgium, to the capital's airport by an aircraft of the Turkmenhovayollary (Turkmen airlines) national directorate. The consignment was delivered for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has arranged a constant flow of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

There is now about 300 tons of food stored in warehouses in Turkmenabat (former Chardzhou, in eastern Turkmenistan), the Turkmen State News Agency learned from the office of Medecins Sans Frontieres. Medicines, first aid kits, radios, and preparations for water purification are stored in Ashgabat. All these will soon be packed and transported by truck to the Afghan towns of Herat and Mazar-i Sharif.

Forty tons of foodstuffs were transported to these towns last week. The employees of the Ashgabat office of MSF expect two tons of medicines and sanitary supplies to arrive on 18 October. These will then be transported to the organization's Afghan office.

Another international organization, UNICEF, is also using the transit channels offered by Turkmenistan for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Forty tons of essential goods, which were delivered to Turkmenabat on 1 October, were transported to the Afghan town of Andkhoy (Fariab Province, northwestern Afghanistan) five days later. Forty tons of medicines, foodstuffs, and small power generators delivered to Turkmenabat warehouses now await further transportation. The formation of a humanitarian caravan will be completed in the next few days, and it will go to Afghanistan. In the morning of 12 October another 40 tons of humanitarian aid will be delivered to Turkmenabat by a Turkmenhovayollary charter flight, the UNICEF office said. (Turkmen State News Service)

Latest Aid Consignment To Afghanistan Sent Via Turkmenistan


11 October 2001

A convoy of trucks carrying wheat has been sent from Turkmenabat to Andkhoy, the head of the World Food Program mission in Turkmenistan, Anton Tonchev, told journalists in Ashgabat.

He said 30 trucks carrying 1,000 tons of grain worth about $350,000 will go by the route Turkmenabat-Atamurat (former Kerki, Turkmen town on the Afghan border)-Imam-Nazar-Andkhoy. The humanitarian cargo should reach its destination in some days.

Anton Tonchev also announced that about 5,000 tons of wheat, 200 tons of sugar, and about 15 tons of biscuits were stored at a warehouse in Turkmenabat rented by the WFP; over 4,000 tons of wheat is to be delivered there soon as well.

A total of 2,500 tons of food have been delivered to Afghanistan recently by the World Food Program. (Interfax, Turkmenistan.ru)

U.S. Embassy In Turkmenistan On Internet


9 October 2001

The U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan now has its site on the Internet. Information in English, Turkmen, and Russian on the embassy's activity in the country as well as the latest news on the U.S. and British operation in Afghanistan is can be found at www.usemb-ashgabat.rpo.at The site is updated regularly. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

Bahceli Praises 'Strong Turkmenistan'


6 October 2001

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Devlet Bahceli took part in consolidating Turkey's role and position in the global antiterror coalition, by stating that a strong Turkmenistan would contribute both to regional and global peace.

Bahceli spoke during the 10th anniversary of Turkmen independence ceremony, in the conference "10th year with independent Turkmenistan: the future prospects."

He stated that Turkmenistan had emerged as an independent state in world history, a position well deserved, in 1991, and underlined the improvements realized in the country during these 10 years.

Bahceli also stated that Turkmenistan, which was one of the poorest Central Asian countries, had attained great achievements in development and opening up to the world. "The 21st century will be the golden age of Turkmenistan," claimed Bahceli.

He also paid great tribute to Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov, noting that his efforts to enhance the national culture had been essential.

Bahceli also noted that more than 70 agreements had been signed, 80 visits had been made, and closer links had been established between the two countries in the 10-year period.

Bahceli also mentioned the antiterror coalition, saying that "a strong and powerful Turkmenistan will contribute to both regional and global peace and stability."

State Minister Abdulhaluk Cay claimed that the existence of Turkey in Eurasia is obvious, and expressed his hopes for the 21st century to be a "Turkish century." ("Turkish Daily News")

Turkmen-U.S. Project On Restoration Of Ancient Mosque Tiles To Start


9 October 2001

According to the Turkmen State News Agency, on 11 October the joint Turkmen-American project on preservation of unique tile images decorating the portal of the 15th-century Seit Jemmalatdin Mosque will begin on site of the ancient settlement at Annau, near Ashgabat. The mosque, unique in its beautiful tiles with images of fantastic dragons, collapsed in 1948 during the Ashgabat earthquake and was buried under ruins. For several months the Union of Architects of Turkmenistan together with the National Management of Preservation, Study, and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments worked on the composition of the project. The U.S. State Department has expressed its intention of rendering financial support, thereby emphasizing the huge importance of the creation of ancient Turkmen masters for all civilization.

Experts are in for very difficult work in clearing ruins and restoring panels consisting of fine particles on which the mosaic has crumbled. Laura Kennedy, recently appointed U.S. ambassador in Turkmenistan, will kick off the project. As noted by the embassy's public relations department, "this event, exactly one month after the United States faced terrorist attacks, symbolizes our respect for Islam, and also our adherence to reviving the culture of the Turkmen people". (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Turkmenistan.ru)

Turkmens Will See 300 Square Meters Of 'Golden Age' Soon


8 October 2001

Work on the 300-square-meter "Altyn Asyr" (Golden Age) carpet is to be completed soon in Turkmenistan.

This work of art of the Bakharden carpet factory commemorates the 10th jubilee of independent Turkmenistan, sources in the Turkmenkhaly (Turkmen Carpets) State Corporation have told Interfax. The carpet will be put on display on 27 October during the jubilee festivities.

The carpet depicts the presidential banner and writings from the "Rukhnama Code of Turkmens," which was written by Niyazov.

The best-known Turkmen carpet, "Turkmen Kalby" (the Soul of the Turkmen), was made for the Days of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in Moscow during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The 199-square-meter carpet was long kept in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater.

Another giant carpet was made 50 years later. A 266-square-meter carpet was named "Turkmenbashi" after President Niyazov. A 294-square- meter carpet, "The President," was made three years ago. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Interfax.ru)

Turkmen TV Reports Cover U.S. Strikes Against Afghanistan


8 October 2001

The foreign news program "Jahan yany" (World just now) on Turkmen TV Altyn asyr (Golden age) channel on 8 October started with a report on the antiterrorist alliance strike on Afghanistan the previous day.

It was mentioned in the program that the U.S. had begun a military strike against the Afghan Taliban. The aim of such an attack is to prevent the formation of a terrorist center in Afghanistan. France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Russia, and other countries are supporting the U.S. military attack. Countries neighboring Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, appealed to the U.S. to have mercy on the local people. This was followed by the U.S. president's address to the nation on the start of the attacks, and speeches by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Turkmen TV)

Turkmenistan Unaffected By U.S. Attacks On Afghanistan


8 October 2001

The initial stage of the antiterrorist operation carried out by the U.S. and its allies on the territory of Afghanistan have not yet affected the daily life of Turkmenistan.

According to information, which the Turkmenistan.ru Ashgabat correspondent received from reliable sources, no negative consequences from the overnight strikes by U.S. aircraft on Afghanistan were observed on the territory of Turkmenistan. The situation in the capital and regions is quiet, all enterprises and organization are operating, no unusual incidents on the Turkmen-Afghan border were observed. (Turkmenistan.ru)

NEWS FROM THE NEIGHBORS
Situation In Central Asia Affects Meeting Of Security Council Chiefs


8 October 2001

The aggravation of the situation in Central Asia caused by U.S. and British bombing of terrorist bases in Afghanistan has had a serious impact on the meeting of the heads of the Security Councils of the member states of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Valerii Nikolayenko, general secretary of the Collective Security Treaty, told reporters on 8 October.

In this situation, the question of reinforcing CIS borders in Central Asia has been discussed, Nikolayenko said. It is not only a matter of Russia and Tajikistan, he said.

Russian Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo told reporters that Kyrgyzstan had suggested considering returning to the old formula of defending the Tajik-Afghan border, by which it was protected by border guards from four countries: Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

This proposal "was supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin and is now being discussed with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev," Rushailo said.

He also said this question is being discussed with representatives of the border guard services of interested countries. (Interfax)

AFGHANISTAN
Iran's Foreign Minister Discusses Afghan Developments With Former Afghan President


11 October 2001

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and the president of the Afghan Islamic government, Burhanutdin Rabbani, on 11 October discussed by phone the latest developments in the war-torn country in the wake of the U.S.-led attacks.

Rabbani thanked Iran and the Organization of the Islamic Conference for bringing to light the Afghan issue in an emergency summit of the organization, held on 10 October in Doha and appealed for continued attention to the plight of the defenseless Afghan people.

Kharrazi outlined the results of the summit and reiterated the Islamic Republic's attention to the fate of Muslims, especially that of the deprived Afghan people. (IRNA news agency)

Pakistani Paper: Afghan Border Opened For Those Wishing To Fight For Taliban


10 October 2001

The Pakistan-Afghanistan Torkham border has been opened for those who want to go to Afghanistan. According to a report, nine (as published) persons have reached Afghanistan via Torkham to join the jihad against U.S. attacks. According to another report, more than 300 persons have reached Afghanistan via the Pakistan-Afghanistan border adjoining the Mohmand Agency. They will join jihadi commanders in Afghanistan.

According to reports received from the Afghan city of Jalalabad, thousands of Afghans are having their names registered for jihad. According to jihadi commander Abdollah Sultani, lists of 6,000 persons from various Afghan camps in Peshawar who are ready for jihad have been received so far. (Ausaf, Islamabad)

KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan Prepares For Possible Influx Of Afghan Refugees


10 October 2001

Kazakhstan has suspended railway and road links with Tajikistan. In order to prevent the entry of undesirable elements, Kazakhstan is also planning to take similar measures with regard to other states that are close to the conflict zone, the first deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan, Daniyal Akhmetov, told a video news conference in Astana on 10 October.

Moreover, the deputy prime minister recalled that the republic's government was considering a program for dealing with the possibility of refugees coming from Afghanistan to the country. Akhmetov noted that there is no inflow of refugees into the republic as yet. However, he did not rule out the possibility of its emergence, emphasizing that "things are changing dynamically."

Akhmetov said that he was sure that the republic would be ready to take refugees if need be.

An Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency correspondent has reported that the South Kazakhstan regional branch of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (the south Kazakhstan region borders on Uzbekistan) is preparing to take refugees.

In particular, the branch asked the organization's central office in the country to provide them with essential goods in the event that refugees appear in the region.

The staff members of the branch of the Red Cross and Red Crescent think that a "considerable" number of refugees might come to the region and that there might be people suffering from malaria, scabies, and tuberculosis among them.

The branch asked for medicines, blankets, tents, clothing, and foodstuffs. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

Kazakh Chief Banker Says Central Asia To 'Benefit' From Afghan Situation


10 October 2001

There are advantageous aspects of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan for the Kazakh economy, Kazakh National Bank Chairman Grigorii Marchenko said on 10 October. According to Marchenko, following the current events in the world, foreign investment in Kazakhstan will increase in the near future.

At a news conference held on 10 October, he came to the following conclusion: the Western coalition's air strikes on Afghanistan have had no significant impact on the world economy or the economies of individual countries.

According to Marchenko, there are two possible things that may constitute a threat to the Kazakh economy in this situation. These are a fall in the world oil prices and a slowdown in the Russian economy. The likelihood of these events depends entirely on the course of the military operation in Afghanistan.

A fall in the world stock market indices had no impact on the post-Soviet countries, which still depend on the situation on raw material markets. The country's chief banker thinks that the situation in the Central Asian region has deteriorated primarily because economic problems of these countries have not been solved in time. Understanding this, international financial institutions and Western financiers will resume their financial aid programs in Central Asian countries. And it is expected that investors' interest in the region's attractive countries, like Kazakhstan, will increase.

Thus, the worsening of the general situation will help to solve the region's social and economic problems, Marchenko concluded. (Khabar TV)

KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan Setting Up Camps For Possible Afghan Refugees


11 October 2001

A possible change in the situation in Kyrgyzstan following the events in the U.S. and in Afghanistan was discussed at a session of the main coordinating committee between the Kyrgyz government and the UN agencies during emergencies.

The current situation in the Central Asian region is described as unstable because of the well-known events in the U.S. and in Afghanistan. The relevant Kyrgyz structures are making every effort to tackle the problems related to the possible inflow of illegal refugees from Afghanistan, although such a threat does not exist at the moment, Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Sultan Zakirov said at the session on 11 October.

He said a second influx of refugees to Kyrgyzstan was possible in small groups through Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan with the onset of spring.

The relevant Kyrgyz governmental structures are planning to help in that respect. For example, the main coordination committee has been set up, and work on receiving and accommodating refugees is being carried out as part of the committee's activities. Places have been earmarked for the setting up of refugee camps in the republic's south. However, material assistance is needed. For its part, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry is making all the necessary efforts to prevent problems and it has appealed to a number of international organizations for help with accommodation in the event of an influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz Ecology and Emergencies Ministry needs 20 million soms (about $420,000) to accommodate the refugees. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said that refugee status was granted to 129 families -- of which 92 families were from Afghanistan and 68 were from Tajikistan -- in Kyrgyzstan in the first nine months of this year. At the moment, 94 people are in the detention center of the department of internal affairs in Bishkek. They are mostly citizens of Sri Lanka who have arrived in Kyrgyzstan illegally. (Kyrgyz Radio)

CIS Exercises To Be Held In Southern Kyrgyzstan On 11-13 October


10 October 2001

The final stage of the second command and staff exercises of the CIS Collective Rapid Reaction Force will be held in the Batken region in southern Kyrgyzstan from 11 to 13 October. The first two stages are now being held in Moscow. (Kyrgyz Radio)

Kyrgyz Agency: Taliban To Boost Drug Supplies To Buy Arms


9 October 2001

The spokesman of the governor of the southern Kyrgyz region of Osh said that tons of drugs go through Kyrgyzstan every year, just one-tenth of which is seized. For example, about 5 tons of drugs were seized in nine years.

Currently there are about 10,000 drug addicts in Osh region, the majority of which inject themselves with drugs. In the first nine months of this year, 65 people infected with AIDS were reported in the region.

Now that the Taliban movement is in danger, they will be forced to increase the drugs smuggled to other countries in order to buy arms and ammunition on the money earned from these sales.

In this connection, it is necessary to strengthen border posts and to provide the relevant services with sufficient equipment. Strict measures are also necessary to proceed against drugs dealers and their accomplices and organizers of criminal groups. (AKIpress website)

Kyrgyzstan Can Let In Up To 10,000 Afghan Refugees


8 October 2001

Kyrgyzstan is ready to admit refugees from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev told Interfax on 7 October.

However, no more than 10,000 refugees can be let in because of the economic and social capacities of Kyrgyzstan, he said.

About 1,500 Afghan refugees are in Kyrgyzstan already. Kyrgyzstan is closely watching the Afghan refugee situation, the minister said. Bishkek is holding permanent consultations with border countries, among them Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, about a possible exodus of Afghan refugees into Central Asia.

"The problem will be solved through common efforts," ImanAliyev said. (Interfax)

UZBEKISTAN
Situation On Uzbek-Afghan Border


12 October 2001

The Hayraton bridge spanning the Amudarya River, which is the only link between Uzbekistan and the Taliban-controlled territory of Afghanistan, has not been used for quite some time. Local Uzbeks testify that its two automobile lanes and the railway line between them are blocked by concrete slabs. Foreign journalists are not permitted to go there.

Today, the 158-kilometer-long Uzbek-Afghan border, running along the Amudarya River, is guarded only by Uzbek servicemen. However, other countries, including Russia, are interested in having the border well protected. Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the CIS Collective Security Treaty in 1999 did not make the two countries independent of each other in security matters. Since the borders between the CIS countries are "transparent," the frontier between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is practically the only obstacle for anybody wishing to get into Russia from the territory of Afghanistan.

Local people say that there are mine fields along the entire Uzbek-Afghan border and the border guards are always on the alert. Units of the Uzbek army, deployed nearby, are ready to help them at minute's notice.

There are rumors among the population of the border districts of Uzbekistan that the territory on the other side of the river was allegedly occupied by the Northern Alliance and that the Hayraton bridge would be shortly unblocked. But this seems to be wishful thinking for the time being. (ITAR-TASS)

Uzbek Paper Denies Reports About Arrival Of U.S. Troops


12 October 2001

An Uzbek commentator criticized foreign mass media, in particular Russian sources, for disseminating "slanderous and unreliable" reports about the developments in and around Afghanistan. The commentary published in the Uzbek newspaper "Khalq Sozi" on 12 October also denied reports about a massive build-up of armed forces on Uzbekistan's southern borders and the evacuation of civilians from border areas.

As regards information about the arrival of U.S. troops in the country, the commentary quotes the head of the Defense Ministry's press service, Lieutenant Colonel Komil Jabborov, as saying: "Reports about the arrival of the U.S. 10th Mountain Infantry Division in Uzbekistan are nothing but slander. It has been made clear in a statement announced by our president that no combat operations will be allowed from our soil against Afghanistan. Therefore, there should not be any discussions about the arrival of troops in Uzbekistan from outside." ("Khalq Sozi")

RUSSIA
Russia Not Ready To Receive Afghan refugees


9 October 2001

"Taking into account our limited resources, we are not ready to receive a large number of refugees," the head of the department for the affairs of refugees with the Russian Ministry of Federation Affairs, Ethnic and Migration Policy, Yuri Arkhipov, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

"We must take all necessary measures in order that Afghan refugees do not appear in Russia, because we have neither accommodation nor jobs for them," he said.

We should not forget about Chechen refugees and "the nearly 6 million of our former compatriots [ethnic Russians] living in Central Asia," he said.

Arkhipov was sure that there would be no significant influx of refugees from Afghanistan. "We are separated by thousands of kilometers and the territory of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan," he said.

Arkhipov has said that there are 50,000 to 100,000 Afghan citizens in Russia, and 600 of them have been officially recognized as refugees. (Ekho Moskvy radio)

Anti-Taliban Forces Expect To Boost Arsenal With Russian Weapons


8 October 2001

A successful Northern Alliance offensive against the Taliban is being held up largely by a shortage of military hardware and equipment. But the situation may soon change fundamentally. The Northern Alliance knows where it can get all it needs.

According to military experts, the weapons which Russia is most likely to send the Northern Alliance are T-55 and T-62 tanks, BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, and BTR-60 armored personnel carriers. As far as Russia's own arsenal is concerned, this hardware has long been considered obsolete. However, it is ideally suited for a theatre of military operations such as Afghanistan. It will not require much effort to master this equipment. The forces of the anti-Taliban coalition are already armed with similar models. The T-55 tank has a 100-mm rifled gun with an effective range of 1,000 meters. The T-62 has a 115-mm smooth-bore gun. The tank can hit a target at a range of 1,600 meters.

At the initial stage, experts reckon, the Northern Alliance may be supplied with up to 50 tanks and up to 80 infantry fighting vehicles. Because of the Northern Alliance's need to launch active offensive operations against the Taliban, Russia may supply the Alliance with up to 40 23-mm self-propelled antiaircraft guns, two batteries of 100-mm antitank cannon, six batteries of 122-mm howitzers, four batteries of 120-mm mortars, and two or three batteries of 82-mm automatic mortars. Up to 10 sets of Grad 122-mm multiple-launch rocket systems, a consignment of Grad-B mobile launchers, as well as Malyutka and Fagot antitank rocket systems may also be supplied.

In view of its need for grenade launchers and infantry weapons, the Northern Alliance may also receive up to 200 grenade launchers, a large consignment of automatic weapons, sniper's rifles and optical devices for scouting, observation, and range-finding. Russia may also supply the Northern Alliance with between four and six Mi-24 helicopters and the same number of Mi-8 helicopters. Military experts estimate Russia's total military-technical assistance to the Northern Alliance could come to roughly $40 million by the end of 2001. (ORT Russian TV)

AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan Ready To Consider Turkmen Proposal On Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline


11 October 2001

Azerbaijan is ready to consider Turkmenistan's proposal concerning the laying of a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, First vice president of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) Ilkham Aliyev told the press on 11 October.

It is precisely Turkmenistan, as a gas-producing country, that should hold negotiations, whereas Azerbaijan and Georgia should act only as transit states in this case, Aliyev said.

"We could allocate our territory to them on certain conditions, which Turkmenistan is informed of," he said, adding that Azerbaijan has always said it supports this project.

"We believe that the more oil and gas pipelines that run through Azerbaijani territory, the more advantageous it is for us, as Azerbaijan in this case would profit," the SOCAR vice president said, noting at the same time that Azerbaijan has naturally sought to transit its own gas through this pipeline as well.

Thus, with the projected pipeline's capacity of 16 billion cubic meters, Azerbaijan has the right to use 50 percent of its capacity for transiting its gas, according to the Energy Charter, Aliyev said.

However, Turkmenistan objected to the implementation of the project on these terms, Aliyev noted. "The negotiations pursued by Turkmenistan and its policy in general were probably just maneuvers, while its true desire was to sell gas to Russia and level accusations at Azerbaijan," he said.

"If we are offered acceptable terms, we are still willing to lay this pipeline, thus helping Turkmenistan to not depend only on Russia.

"If we again receive such a proposal, we are ready to consider it," Aliyev said. (Interfax)

FEATURES AND ANALYSIS
Terror: Afghan Ex-King Seeks to Build Broad Coalition Among Rivals


15 October 2001

By Charles Recknagel

Since U.S. military strikes began targeting Afghanistan's Taliban just over a week ago (October 7), the question of when the ruling militia might fall and what kind of government would replace it have become ever more pressing.

The answer to the first question -- how long the Taliban forces can retain their military effectiveness -- remains open. So far, the opposition Northern Alliance has made only cautious advances in the wake of the strikes and the Taliban remains in control of at least 90 percent of the country.

But the question of what kind of government will follow the Taliban is already under intense discussion. Much of that debate is taking place in Rome around the court of exiled Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah. The king, who turns 87 today and was deposed in 1973 after a 40-year reign, is widely regarded as the sole unifying force which could bind Afghanistan's disparate forces and ethnic groups into a cohesive administration.

Early this month, there were signs that the king and his circle were making fast progress in building a political coalition to succeed the Taliban.

The ex-king's spokesman, Abdul Sattar Sirat, announced in Rome on October 1 that Zahir Shah and the Northern Alliance had agreed to convene an emergency "Supreme Council for the National Unity of Afghanistan."

Speaking at a joint press conference with representatives of the Alliance, Sirat also said that within two weeks of its inception the Supreme Council would be the sole decision-making body for Afghanistan -- apart from the Taliban. Sirat's translator phrased it this way:

"This Supreme Council [will] act or serve as the representative of the entire people of Afghanistan [and] will be able to reflect the wishes and expectations and aspirations of the Afghan people. Within one or two weeks from its inception, this Supreme Council for the National Unity of Afghanistan will be the only legitimate institution to take decisions on important issues relevant to Afghanistan."

Under the plan, the Supreme Council is to be composed of 120 members named or agreed upon by the former king and the Northern Alliance. They will be tasked with convening a traditional national assembly -- or Loya Jirga -- of representatives of all Afghanistan's ethnic and tribal groupings. The Loya Jirga is to then elect an interim head of state and government from among the members of the Supreme Council to prepare for national elections.

The plan has attracted notice because it brings the former king, who is from Afghanistan's majority Pashtun group, into cooperation with the mostly minority ethnic groups which compose the Northern Alliance. This gives it the promise of winning broad popular backing from both the Pashtun -- who today are the Taliban's base of support -- as well as from ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Hazaras, and other groups which see the king as a neutral symbol of statehood.

But since the announcement of the Supreme Council's creation two weeks ago, any progress toward turning it into a working body has been rocky.

Representatives of the Northern Alliance were due in Rome over the weekend (Oct 13-14) to present their list of 50 nominees to the 120-member council, the number they are entitled to under the power-sharing agreement. The accord also provides for Zahir Shah to appoint 50 people and for both sides to agree upon the remaining 20 names.

But the Northern Alliance delegation has yet to arrive and reports from Rome indicate the reason is political tensions between the two sides. AFP yesterday quoted advisers (unidentified) to the ex-king as saying the Alliance has delayed sending its diplomats out of anger over Zahir Shah's unilaterally dispatching a delegation over the weekend to meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The delegation is reported to have met with Pakistani officials today to discuss post-Taliban Afghanistan. The meeting would upset the Alliance because it considers Islamabad a foe. Pakistan has formerly backed the Taliban against the Alliance and Islamabad has said the opposition group must not be allowed to take power.

Analysts say the reported row over the former king's delegation to Pakistan is just one of many divides that makes the nation-building efforts in Rome a complicated process.

Those divides include the agendas of numerous competing power figures within the Northern Alliance and -- beyond that -- within Afghanistan's Pashtun majority. Many of the Pashtun leaders -- warlords, politicians, tribal and religious figures -- also must be drawn into the former king's coalition if it is to succeed.

Fiona Hill, a regional expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, describes the challenges within just the Northern Alliance. Fiona Hill:

"Even the name is part of the problem, the Northern Alliance. This is not the Northern Group or the Northern Unity. You basically have already a coalition of forces there, many with their own competing agendas. Many of these groups are centered around an individual who has a local power base."

The alliance has been centered around the former Afghan government of president Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik ousted from Kabul by the Pashtun Taliban in 1996. Rabbani is still the UN-recognized head of Afghanistan but his allies in the Alliance are also former rivals, some of whom have even betrayed him on the battlefield.

Powerful Northern Alliance figures include Ismail Khan, former governor of the western city of Herat, and ethnic Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum. Rabbani's military leader, Ahmad Shah Masood, was assassinated last month by suicide bombers posing as journalists. It is believed that Osama bin Laden may have been behind the assassination.

The situation among ethnic Pashtuns, believed to comprise just less than half the Afghan population, is equally complex.

RFE/RL Turkmen Service Director Mohammad Nazar has been closely watching the coalition-building efforts in Rome. He says several key Pashtun figures who support Zahir Shah now are jockeying for influence:

"[There is] Adbul-Rab Rasul Sayaf, [who] was the leader of one of the Islamic parties in Afghanistan who joined the Northern Alliance. He is still with them and he is one of the important Pashtun leaders. A second one is Sebghatullah Mujadeddi, he [was] the first president of Afghanistan after the Soviets left Afghanistan (in 1989), he is also Pashtun and has a party. There also is Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, [one of Afghanistan's powerful former anti-Soviet resistance leaders]."

Gailani arrived in Rome today to discuss his plans for a meeting in Pakistan of Pashtun leaders living in exile. One of the powerful former anti-Soviet Pashtun commanders who has said he will attend the meeting in Pakistan on October 21 is Abdul Haq.

What these leaders will demand in the way of power-sharing for their cooperation remains to be seen. As just one example, former Afghan president Mujadeddi already has asked the ex-king to increase the number of members on the Supreme Council from 120 to 220. The suggestion is reported to be an effort to increase the Pashtun voice in the nation-building process.

Several powerful Pashtun figures remain outside the Rome process. One is the former anti-Soviet commander Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, now living in Tehran. A party around him has long sought to convene a Loya Jirga itself. RFE/RL Turkmen Service director Nazar:

"Their party members would like to call another Loya Jirga and they already started [that effort] a year or two ago, [with] the center of the effort in Cyprus. They have about 200 active members and they also would like to unite the [former anti-Soviet] commanders and they would like to compete with the Rome process."

Nazar, recently in Rome, says that those around the former king are hostile to Hekmatyar, making it unlikely -- at least in the short run -- that there will be any accommodation between them.

As Afghans opposed to the Taliban now try to nation-build, many Western observers say that the difficulty of the process is itself only a measure of greater challenges ahead. Those challenges will come when any new administration actually tries to rule a united Afghanistan again after so many years of warlordism and local rivalries.

Analyst Hill says the sole workable formula for Afghanistan may be a loose federation:

"The consensus among most of the [Western] experts who have looked at the Afghan situation very carefully is that when the state has been workable [in the past], it has been as a highly decentralized state, with a very weak central government and a great deal of regional autonomy."

That sentiment was expressed by one top U.S. diplomat last week. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters in Washington that Afghanistan "seems to work [best] with a very high degree of local autonomy."

U.S. and other Western diplomats are paying close attention to the Rome process but saying little publicly about their input, other than that they support a broad-based government representing all Afghans.

Earlier this month, U.S. State Department Policy Planning Director Richard Haas met with Zahir Shah in Rome. The foreign ministers of Italy and France held joint talks with the former king in Rome today. No details were immediately available.(RFE/RL)

Embassies See Calm in Central Asia


10 October 2001

By Megan Twohey

Even as their governments bomb Afghanistan, the hundreds of U.S. and British citizens living in neighboring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are remaining calm, according to embassies there.

Aside from a few Americans living in Turkmenistan who have called on their embassy to help them leave, most U.S. and British nationals are staying put. In fact, the number of British citizens in Uzbekistan is increasing, due to an influx of humanitarian aid workers.

"We're not sure of the exact number, but we know we have more people in Uzbekistan than we did two weeks ago," said a British Embassy spokeswoman. "We received a lot of phone calls after the 11 September attacks, but those have been dying down. Most of the calls now are from people in Britain...worried about relatives here. The British community here seems relatively calm and quiet." Americans in Uzbekistan seem to be equally relaxed. "There is not a sense of panic in this country," said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy there.

The British and U.S. embassies in Uzbekistan have been encouraging this sense of calm. Neither has recommended that its citizens leave. Instead, both have issued travel warnings, encouraging foreigners to take simple safety precautions, like maintaining a low profile. They are also hosting town hall meetings, where ambassadors brief concerned citizens.

"People are almost too comfortable here," said the spokesman for the British Embassy in Uzbekistan. "So we're trying to get them to take basic security measures, like locking car and home doors."

The British and U.S. embassies in Turkmenistan are issuing the same travel warnings, holding similar meetings and reporting similar levels of tranquility.

"We have received a few requests for help here and there from people who want to leave," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan. "But it's been nothing on a large scale."

The embassies say there are "hundreds" of U.S. citizens and close to 145 British citizens living in Uzbekistan, and 40 to 50 British and 20 to 25 American nationals living in Turkmenistan. ("The Moscow Times")

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