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Turkmen Report: May 6, 2000

6 May 2000
Pakistani Leader To Discuss Regional Security, Afghanistan in Ashgabat
May 5, 2000

Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf will make his first visit to the former Soviet Union when he goes to Turkmenistan for two days on May 15.

In Ashgabat he is expected to discuss bilateral trade and economic relations, the situation in Afghanistan, regional security and the prospects of building a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, sources at the Turkmen Foreign Ministry told Interfax on Friday.

Meanwhile, on April 20 Pakistani Oil Minister Abddulah Yusuf told a conference on energy resources in Karachi that the Pakistani government is ready to drop projects of stretching gas pipelines from Qatar and Turkmenistan and increasingly favors the Iranian project. Islamabad believes the Qatar version is too expensive, while the construction of the pipeline from Turkmenistan is hindered by the developments in Afghanistan, which the 1,440 kilometer line would cross.

The U.S. company Unocal has withdrawn from the pipeline project for security reasons and the World Bank decided against providing loans for its construction. (Interfax)

Turkmen President Honors His Father, Other WWII Veterans
May 4, 2000

Turkmenistan's autocratic president signed a decree Thursday awarding his father the country's highest title for serving the Soviet army in World War II and ordered a monument built in his memory.

President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has built a vast cult of personality including numerous monuments to himself, claimed people had been begging him to sign such a decree, calling his father Atamurad Niyazov a "symbol of patriotism" for this impoverished Central Asian nation.

The president's father, who had not previously received any awards for his military service, was killed in 1942 in the Russian province of North Ossetia during the Nazi occupation. He will be given the title Hero of Turkmenistan, Niyazov's press service said.

Niyazov, Turkmenistan's Communist Party boss in the Soviet era, ordered a government commission to travel to his father's grave in North Ossetia and build a monument there.

Some dirt from his grave is to be brought back to his hometown of Kipchak in Turkmenistan, and buried there in a symbolic ceremony May 8, the day Turkmenistan celebrates the Soviet victory over the Nazis.

Niyazov also ordered payments of 1 million manat (dlrs 192) to be paid to each of the country's 9,000 World War II veterans in honor of the holiday. (AP)

Islamic Development Bank Lends To Turkmenistan
May 5, 2000

The Islamic Development Bank approved a $22 million loan for Turkmenistan to build diagnostic centers.

The centers are to be located in Ashgabat and the regional center of Dashoguz.

Eventually, such centers will be built in all Turkmen regions, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said at a ceremony in Ashgabat, during which he and Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank Osman Sek signed a loan deal.

In addition, a 13 project deal provides for irrigation works, construction of transport arteries, and purchase of medical equipment.

Ashgabat sources said the loan should plug the gap after one of Turkmenistan's biggest creditors last year - the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - suspended lending to the country's public sector. (Interfax)

Turkmen President, U.S. Adviser Discuss Trans-Caspian Project
May 2, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov discussed the reanimation of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project with Special Adviser for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on Trade and Energy Cooperation with the CIS Jan Kalicki, who came to Ashgabat yesterday.

Kalicki told correspondents after the meeting that he had informed Niyazov about efforts of the American administration to set in motion the project of transportation of Turkmen gas to Turkey and Europe. The project will open prospects for regional cooperation, create favorable climate for investments and business, he said.

Kalicki reaffirmed American support for Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey gas pipeline.

Turkmen and American sides are drafting a bilateral accord to for the construction of pipelines and investment. The process is being slowed down by a disagreement between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on gas transportation quotas.

Apart from the meeting with Niyazov, Kalicki also held talks with members of the Turkmen cabinet of ministers on trade and cooperation projects.

Kalicki will end his sixth trip to Turkmenistan on Tuesday after visiting the Turkmenbashi Caspian port. (Itar-Tass)

Nazarbayev Included In CPJ's "Ten Worst Enemies Of The Press" Report
May 3, 2000

Nursultan Nazarbayev is among ten leaders singled out for criticism of the press by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The New York-based non-profit organization annually compiles what it calls its "Ten Worst Enemies of the Press" report and publishes the list each May 3rd on World Press Freedom Day.

In a statement, CPJ said Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic and Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh head this year's list. Others mentioned are Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President Jiang Zemin of China, and President Fidel Castro of Cuba among others.

CPJ also placed on the list for the first time Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

According to CPJ report, "Although Nazarbayev promised press freedom when his country became independent in 1991, the president's stranglehold on information is now reminiscent of the days of Soviet rule. During Nazarbayev's 1999 re-election campaign, government authorities brought criminal cases against several independent media outlets, charging them with 'freedom of speech abuses.' After the election, private newspapers were fined on defamation charges, subjected to tax audits, and shut down. The opposition paper 21st Century, which was firebombed in September 1998, has now been forced underground, along with other papers unable to publish because of government control over printing presses. Nazarbayev claims credit for 'privatizing' formerly state-run media, but fails to mention that most privatized media were bought covertly by his close associates, including his daughter and son-in-law." (RFE/RL)

Kazakh, Russian Companies Need Integration To Be Competitive
May 6, 2000

Russian and Kazakh companies may become truly competitive on world markets only through integration, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov believes.

In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta published on Saturday, he said that by gradually integrating their power networks the two countries can develop a common wholesale electricity market.

Kazakhstan and the Russian Unified Energy Systems are forming a 50-50 joint venture on the basis of the Ekibastuz power plant in Kazakhstan.

In the oil industry Kazakhstan and Russia are working on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium project, he said. The pipeline is scheduled to be commissioned in June 2001. Akhmetov disclosed integration plans for the gas sector saying that talks to this end are conducted with the Russian Gazprom gas monopoly. (Interfax)

Putin Signs Decree On Taliban Movement
May 5, 2000

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has signed a decree implementing U.N. Security Council resolution #1267 of October 15, 1999 on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, the presidential press service told Interfax.

As of November 14, 1999, the decree bans all flights to and from Russia by any aircraft owned, rented, or used by Taliban, except flights authorized by a special Security Council committee for humanitarian reasons, including pilgrimages.

The decree freezes assets and financial resources linked to Taliban. Russian citizens and other persons in Russia are barred from offering financial resources to Taliban or any company owned or controlled by the movement. An exception is made in cases of special "humanitarian" concern. (Interfax)

Seals Dying In Kazakh Sector Of Caspian Sea
May 4, 2000

As many as 137 dead seals have been found in the last two days around the isles of Tyuleniy, Kulaly, Morskoi and Bautinskaya Kosa, an official in the Emergencies Agency told Interfax on Thursday.

About 200 dead seals had earlier been found off the coast of Atyrau region.

Kazakh scientists attribute the mass death of seals to pasteurellosis while their Russian colleagues ascribe the deaths to pestilence.

Research into the cause of the epidemic is continuing. (Interfax)

Jailed Kyrgyz Opposition Figure Requests New Legal Council
May 3, 2000

Kyrgyzstan's opposition party Ar-Narmys said today the party's jailed leader requested bringing in lawyers from St. Petersburg, Russia to defend him.

Ar-Narmys officials said Feliks Kulov had requested that two Russian lawyers defend him after his lawyer in Kyrgyzstan, Lyubov Ivanova, received threats. Kulov sent his request to the Prosecutor General's office and the National Security Ministry. A similar request was denied in April by a National Security Ministry investigator.

Some 100 people continued a protest in Bishkek to release Kulov and declare recent parliamentary elections void. Kulov ran in those elections and was jailed shortly after his surprising defeat. Tomorrow will be the 50th consecutive day protests have been held in Bishkek. (RFE/RL)

UN, Other Bodies Plan Food Aid To Afghanistan
May 2, 2000

The United Nations today launched an appeal for almost two million dollars worth of assistance to feed people in Afghanistan where drought has created famine-like conditions.

Speaking in Islamabad, program manager for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Terence Baker said that Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Hilmand, Zabul and Nimroz are the worst affected.

The UN appeal comes as the World Food Program today announced in Geneva plans to increase its food aid to Afghanistan.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said the group has already shipped food to 200,000 people in the region over the last two months, and plans to double its deliveries to a total of 30,000 tons over the next year. (RFE/RL - AFP - DPA)

Uzbekistan's Karimov Criticizes Afghanistan
May 2, 2000

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who is on an official visit to India, today criticized Afghanistan for fomenting international terrorism.

In a speech at a welcoming ceremony in New Delhi, Karimov praised India as a natural ally of Uzbekistan, and as a country which has opposed terrorism and extremism in all international forums.

He said Afghanistan has become what he called "a hotbed and training ground of international terrorism". He said such activities are absolutely unacceptable. And he said Uzbekistan cannot accept the policies of "certain countries", which he did not name, which he said supported Afghanistan's Taliban Islamic movement.

The Uzbek leader was to hold talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh on bilateral trade, and issues of mutual concern such as terrorism and religious fundamentalism. (RFE/RL - AFP)

Kazakhstan To Regain Control Over Gas Pipelines
May 2, 2000

Kazakhstan today said it succeeded in pushing the Belgian Tractebel company, which used to control some gas pipeline systems, out of the country.

Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev said at a government meeting in the capital Astana that the government is about to regain control over the gas pipelines.

Tokayev said that the government regards it as necessary to control gas and oil pipelines as well as electricity network.

Tokayev said the government and Tractebel will sign an agreement, in which the Belgians hand over controlling interests in gas pipelines to the state concern KazTransGaz in mid-May (May 15).

A Tractebel spokesman (unnamed) said the two sides reached an agreement but refused to comment on details. (RFE/RL - AFP)

Afghan Taliban Dismiss U.S. Allegations Over Terrorism
May 1, 2000

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban today dismissed a U.S. State Department report singling out Afghanistan and Pakistan as major terrorist hubs.

The Taliban Foreign Ministry said that the militia-ruled Afghanistan is not harboring terrorism and dubbed the report as allegations away from the realities of the Afghan society.

The ministry said in a statement that the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan emphatically stresses that Afghanistan is not a center of terrorism." (RFE/RL - AFP)

Azerbaijan Opposition Criticizes Protest Break-Up
April 30, 2000

Opposition parties in Azerbaijan today criticized the violent dispersal of yesterday's demonstration in the capital Baku.

The unauthorized rally by some 2,000 people was held to demand free and fair parliamentary elections this autumn. Today, the opposition Popular Front said the violence showed the authorities' promises about democratization are "mere words". It said the government really aims at crippling the opposition.

Another opposition party, Musavat, said the authorities are "prepared to spill blood to crush free thought".

A spokesman for President Heydar Aliyev's administration dismissed opposition allegations that the coming parliamentary elections could be rigged. Ali Hasanov said on state television that the opposition is only trying to "complicate Azerbaijan's admission to the Council of Europe."

Police say 45 protesters remain in detention after the rally, which ended with police chasing demonstrators through the streets, beating many with truncheons. Official statements said 34 policemen were hurt, but RFE/RL correspondents say some police were in civilian clothing and fought with uniformed police.

The Police are expected to launch criminal proceedings against the organizers. Among those held are the secretary of the Musavat Party Arif Gajiyev and former prime minister Panakh Huseinov. (RTR - RFE/RL - IFX - AFP)