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Newsline - October 12, 2004

President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Viktor Yanukovych on 9 October that Moscow will respect whatever choice Ukraine makes in its 31 October presidential vote, "Komsomolskaya pravda" and other media reported. Russia "is not indifferent to the choice that the people of Ukraine will make in the presidential election," he said, according to ITAR-TASS, adding that "the fate of bilateral relations" hinges on developments in Ukraine. The Ukrainian leaders were in Moscow for talks and to attend a birthday celebration for Putin. VY

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych attended the opening of a national congress of Russian Ukrainians in the Kremlin's Hall of Columns on 8 October, RTR, NTV, and ORT reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and many prominent political and entertainment figures were also present at the event. NTV noted on 9 October that there are more than 3 million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia, 500,000 of whom are Ukrainian citizens and presumably potential voters. Yanukovych reiterated a pledge to introduce dual citizenship and to introduce Russian as a state language in Ukraine if he is elected president. NTV suggested that Yanukovych's popularity among Ukrainian voters in Russia has been enhanced by a "massive propaganda campaign" sponsored by the Kremlin. ORT showed billboards and banners in Moscow backing Yanukovych, while it noted that there are virtually no similar signs for his main rival in the presidential race, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko. VY

Visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi on 10 October that the two countries are close to finalizing a deal to allow for the return to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station, RIA-Novosti and Western news agencies reported. Moscow appears determined to press ahead with the project to provide nuclear fuel for the facility despite vehement opposition from Washington. Such a deal would pave the way for the start-up of the Russian-built nuclear power plant in southern Iran in 2006, news agencies reported. Lavrov announced that President Putin will soon visit the Iranian capital. Lavrov was in Tehran after an official visit to New Delhi, where he discussed bilateral cooperation and Putin's planned December visit to India, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 October. Lavrov called both India and Iran "very important partners" for Russia. VY

One Russian woman was killed and nine other Russians nationals are missing in the wake of the four suicide attacks on Egyptian Red Sea resorts on 7 October, RTR and ORT reported on 12 October. At least 38 people, most of them Israelis, are confirmed dead as a result of the attacks, which targeted resorts near the Israeli border. The government in Moscow sent two aircraft to the Red Sea region to evacuate more than 150 Russian nationals who were vacationing in the area, which is a popular Russian tourist destination. President Putin sent a letter of condolence to his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak saying that "the Russian people sincerely share your grief at this tragedy and strongly condemn this despicable crime," ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. The Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" suggested on 11 October that members of the Israeli cabinet were privately "angry" at Putin's reported "failure to mention Israel or its victims, who were the central target of the attacks." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered support and medical assistance to Russia following the Beslan school hostage tragedy, the Israeli daily noted. VY

More than 68 percent of Russians are convinced that their country has enemies abroad who could attack the country, while just 16 percent reject that view, according to a poll of 1,500 respondents conducted in early October by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) and cited by Interfax and other media on 11 October. One in four respondents believes the United States is the most likely to attack Russia, while 7 percent believe the greatest threat comes from Arab or Islamic states and the same number see that threat emanating from Chechnya, pollsters said. Five percent of respondents named Georgia and 3 percent China. Nearly half of respondents said they think Russia has a bad image abroad. VY

The main border crossing between Russia and Georgia was opened for five hours on 10 October, allowing some 600 trucks and other vehicles bound for Armenia to proceed on their journey, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 11 October. Armenian Transport Minister Andranik Markarian announced on 6 October that, following a telephone conversation the previous evening between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and President Putin, Moscow had agreed to open the Verkhnii Lars border crossing to Armenia-bound vehicles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2004). In mid-September, the Russian authorities imposed restrictions on passenger and freight transport between Azerbaijan and Georgia and the Russian Federation, ostensibly to preclude further acts of terrorism in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2004). LF

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 October that the presidential administration has a plan to disband the State Duma next summer and to hold new elections under legislation now under consideration that would introduce the proportional-representation system in the Duma and abolish the country's single-mandate districts. The newspaper, which is owned by self-exiled former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, cited anonymous sources with the Kremlin and within Unified Russia's apparatus at the Duma. The Duma could be disbanded by President Putin if it rejects the president's nominee for the post of prime minister three times or if the Duma twice adopts a motion of no confidence in the government. The Duma would also be disbanded if a majority of deputies resigned their seats. Unified Russia has enough seats in the Duma to carry out any of these tactics. The daily speculated that the Kremlin would like the 2008 presidential election to be carried out under a Duma that is elected by the new system, which is widely expected to increase the strength of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party even further. The paper's sources said the Kremlin believes it would be best to hold Duma elections now, while the opposition is demoralized and fragmented following its defeat in December 2003. RC

Deputy Duma Speaker Oleg Morozov (Unified Russia) denied the report of Kremlin plans to disband the Duma, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 October. "Such a version has not been discussed at the party level. In my opinion, disbanding the Duma makes no sense," Morozov said. "For one thing, Unified Russia already has a very strong position in the Duma and it would be absurd to turn away from it. Second, elections are always something of a lottery and there is no guarantee that our success will be repeated." Free Russia leader Irina Khakamada told the daily that if elections are rushed, very few parties will be able to compete adequately and the Kremlin's majority in the Duma will be even greater. "Thus it will be possible to create virtually a single-party legislature," Khakamada said. "It is possible that some people want to give the legislature different functions. It is possible that the constitution could be amended so that the legislature elects the president." RC

WEBSITE: STATE UNHAPPY WITH VALUATION OF YUGANSKNEFTEGAZ reported on 6 October that people within the government feel the value set on Yuganskneftegaz by independent auditors Dresdner Bank is too high and they are taking actions against the company to reduce its value. Yuganskneftegaz is the main production subsidiary of embattled oil giant Yukos, and it will likely be sold off by the government to repay Yukos's tax debts. According to leaked reports, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein has valued the company at $15.7 billion-$17.3 billion, "The Moscow Times" reported on 4 October. According to, the Natural Resources Ministry is pursuing two cases against the company for allegedly overproducing under the terms of its licensing agreements. A source at Yuganskneftegaz said the necessary documents for changing the license conditions were sent to the ministry in time but that the ministry did not react to them. During the two-year tenure of former Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov, very few license-related decisions were made, the website noted. The Federal Tax Service has also filed a number of tax claims against the company. An unidentified analyst told the website that if the Natural Resources Ministry revokes Yuganskneftegaz's licenses, the company's value could fall by 90 percent. RC

A court in Tolyatti on 11 October acquitted 29-year-old Yevgenii Maininger of murder in the 9 October 2003 death of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov, and other Russian media reported. According to media reports, police say that on the day he was killed, Sidorov had been drinking in public when he was approached by two men who asked him for a drink. When he refused, one of them pulled a knife and killed him. Terra, a local broadcasting company, reported that Maininger confessed to the crime shortly after it occurred but that the court threw out his confession, ruling that it had been extracted unlawfully. Sidorov's predecessor at the outspoken weekly was Valerii Ivanov, who was killed in April 2002. That case has not been solved, and many media advocates discount the official version of Sidorov's killing. Moscow human rights lawyer Karen Nersesyan told that he has called for both cases to be transferred to the control of the Prosecutor-General's Office. RC

Irkutsk and Sakhalin oblasts and the Republic of Marii-El elected new regional legislatures on 10 October, Ekho Moskvy and other Russian media reported. The elections were the first regional elections to be held under a new law that requires that such bodies comprise 50 percent party-list representatives and 50 percent deputies elected from single-mandate districts. The radio station noted that, according to preliminary results, support for the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party and for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) was relatively low in all three regions, while support for the leftist Motherland party seemed to have grown. In Irkutsk Oblast, Unified Russia received 30 percent of the vote, which was 5 percent less than it got in the oblast during the December 2003 Duma elections. In Sakhalin Oblast, the party polled just 18 percent, about half of what it got in December. In Sakhalin Oblast, a local coalition headed by Motherland polled 20 percent, about 2 1/2 times what it received in the December elections. In Irkutsk, the LDPR failed to overcome the 5 percent barrier for admission to the legislature, while in Marii-El it polled 6 percent and in Sakhalin Oblast, 7 percent. The Party of Pensioners managed to surmount the 5 percent barrier in all three regions. In Marii-El and Irkutsk Oblast, the Communist Party came in second, while it came in third in Sakhalin, Radio Rossii reported. RC

Vladimir Pechenyi, who had been serving as acting mayor of Magadan, was elected to that post on 10 October, according to preliminary results with 100 percent of the ballots counted, Interfax and other Russian media reported. He received 31.7 percent of the vote, followed by Magadan Oblast Deputy Governor Konstantin Chalov, who received 14.3 percent. Just over 10 percent voted "against all" candidates, which Novyi region on 11 October reported was the highest level of protest voting ever recorded in that oblast. In Belogorsk in Amur Oblast, voters reelected Mayor Aleksandr Khodunov to a second term. RC

The Arctic regional directorate of the FSB's border-defense force announced on 11 October that it has launched an ambitious project to deploy a unit and open a new border station on Franz Josef Land in the Arctic Ocean, and reported. The FSB's scheme includes plans for a new airport, residential homes, and a Russian consulate nearby. In addition to its military component, backers hope the project will attract adventurous tourists, who will be able to obtain visas on the spot, RosBalt reported. VY

Interior Ministry and FSB troops killed two suspected Chechen militants and detained a third during a shootout late on 10 October on the outskirts of Nazran, Russian media reported. Eight people, including members of the militants' families, were injured. Interfax quoted FSB spokesman Aleksei Baigushkin as identifying one of the two men killed as Magomed Khashiev, a close associate of radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev and one of the suspected organizers of the school hostage taking in Beslan in early September. LF

Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen in Yerevan on 11 October, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian criticized as unjustified the European Commission's recent decision to embark on accession talks with Turkey, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Pointing to Turkey's 10-year blockade of Armenia and the recent ruling criminalizing the use of the term "genocide" in connection with the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, Oskanian implied that the EU decision was prompted by "political expediency" and that Turkey does not meet EU standards. In one of three reports recommending accession talks with Turkey, the European Commission appealed to Ankara to establish formal diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia but did not designate those moves as formal preconditions for membership. A recent poll conducted in Yerevan showed that 43 percent of respondents oppose Turkey's accession to the EU, while only 17 percent approve that prospect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2004). LF

Prosecutor Nazir Bayramov asked Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes on 12 October to sentence seven leading oppositionists to prison terms ranging from four to six years for conspiring to provoke mass disorder with the aim of forcing a revision of the outcome of the 15 October presidential election, Turan reported. Bayramov demanded six years' imprisonment for "Yeni Musavat" Editor Rauf Arifoglu and Musavat party Deputy Chairman Arif Hadjili; five years for People's Party Chairman Panakh Huseynov and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Secretary-General Serdar Djalaloglu; and four years and three months for Umid party Chairman Igbal Agazade, Musavat party Deputy Chairman Ibrahim Ibrahimli, and Etimad Asadov, chairman of an organization representing veterans of the Karabakh war. During an eight-hour address on 11 October, Bayramov summarized testimony by witnesses and by the seven accused that, he said, proved their guilt. He also stressed that the trial, which lasted five months, was just and objective. The seven accused protested that he distorted their testimony; they have repeatedly protested procedural irregularities and glaring discrepancies in testimony for the prosecution. In an interview with Reuters on 5 October, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev affirmed that the crimes the seven men committed were filmed by television cameras, implying that their guilt is beyond doubt. LF

Speaking in Sukhum on 11 October, Abkhaz Central Election Commission Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Adleiba declared Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the unrecognized republic's 3 October presidential election, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. According to official returns, Bagapsh polled some 50.8 percent of the vote, receiving 43,336 votes compared with 30,815 for then Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba. CEC Chairman Sergei Smyr and two other commission members resigned later on 11 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier on 11 October, the Abkhaz Supreme Court postponed for two days consideration of an appeal by Khadjimba against the CEC's 6 October decision to schedule repeat voting on 17 October in three constituencies in Gali Raion where Khadjimba claimed on 5 October that voting was marred by irregularities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2004). Late on 3 October, a spokesman for Khadjimba told Caucasus Press that his observers had not registered any serious violations of election procedure. Khadjimba told ITAR-TASS on 11 October that he will appeal to the Supreme Court the CEC ruling that the elections were valid and that Bagapsh is the rightful winner. LF

At his regular Monday news conference, Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili claimed in Tbilisi on 11 October that the reservist battalions whose creation President Mikheil Saakashvili decreed two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 2004) are intended primarily for use in dispersing opposition rallies and protests, Caucasus Press and reported. Natelashvili compared those reservist units to Tsar Ivan the Terrible's oprichnina and to the Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation that engaged with impunity in murder and pillage in the early 1990s. Visiting a training camp for reservists in western Georgia on 10 October, Saakashvili said he will soon submit to parliament a draft bill barring any Georgian male who has not undergone training as a member of such a reservist force from holding any official position, Interfax reported on 11 October. The daily "Alia" on 12 October quoted National Democratic Party leader Bachuki Kardava as saying a member of his party who wanted to join the reservists was rejected on the grounds that he supports the opposition. LF

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev met on 11 October with the secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, in Almaty, Khabar TV and Interfax reported. President Nazarbaev and Rowhani discussed the details of a draft bilateral agreement to coordinate measures to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. The talks also included a focus on economic relations and environmental protection and the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The Iranian official affirmed Iran's opposition to any deployment of foreign troops or naval forces in the Caspian. RG

Units of the Kazakh military concluded a major counterterrorist exercise on 9 October, Khabar reported. The Zhetisu-2004 exercise involved the coordination of the Defense Ministry's central command with units of the Interior Troops and the Border Service in support of specific counterinsurgency operations by an elite Taldykorgan airborne assault brigade. The simulation, modeled on a staged infiltration by a small mobile force through a mountainous border region, comprised a coordinated military response involving a force of 50 armored vehicles and 70 tanks across a 350-kilometer area. The training exercise was held at the Koktal military training grounds outside the southern town of Zharkent. RG

Unnamed Kazakh officials disclosed plans to increase oil exports by one-third by 2008, the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency reported on 11 October. The officials were quoted as saying that the Kazakh "government hopes that oil and gas condensate exports will reach 59 million tons in 2007" in a steady annual increase form the 2003 production level of 51 million tons of oil and gas condensate. The planned increased in oil exports is to be matched by greater contributions to the state-run National Oil Fund, with a total of 244 billion tenges ($1.82 million) to be transferred into the fund in 2005-07, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan. RG

Kyrgyz Central Electoral Commission Chairman Sulayman Imanbaev reported on 10 October that slightly more than 61 percent of eligible voters turned out for local elections held on 10 October, Akipress reported. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev commended the elections as helping to "contribute to the decentralization of power and the development of democracy" and serving as "a good rehearsal for the presidential and parliamentary elections" scheduled for October 2005 and February 2005, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. With few reports of significant voting irregularities, the local election was monitored by more than 2,000 observers from foreign countries, international public organizations, and a coalition of local civic groups. More than 11,000 candidates are running for roughly 6,500 village and town council seats. RG

Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev issued an order on 11 October establishing a new commission to implement measures designed to gradually introduce the use of the Tajik language over Russian as the standard within the Tajik armed forces, Avesta and Asia-Plus reported. The order stipulates that all official communications within the Defense Ministry will be in Tajik by the end of this year. RG

A district court in Dushanbe ruled on 8 October that the Tajik Russian-language weekly "Vechernii Dushanbe" must pay "moral damages" for libeling a city-court official, the Asia-Plus news agency reported. The case stems from a March article that was critical of Dushanbe city court Deputy Chairman Namoz Amirov. RG

German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder arrived in the southern Uzbek border town of Termez on 11 October on a stopover during his return from Afghanistan, Interfax and Uzbek TV reported. Schroeder met with Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoev during the brief layover and commended Uzbekistan for "its role in the Afghan stabilization process and in the fight against international terrorism." RG

Belarus on 12 October opened 6,619 polling stations at home and 40 abroad for early voting in the 17 October legislative elections and referendum on lifting the two-term constitutional limit on the presidency, Belapan reported, citing the Central Election Commission. The Central Election Commission said "more than 400 candidates" are vying for 110 seats in the Chamber of Representatives in the 110 election districts with an average number of 64,500 voters each. JM

The Belarusian opposition called on voters at an authorized rally on the outskirts of Minsk on 10 October to refrain from early voting in the 17 October polls and to vote against the constitutional change proposed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the referendum, Belapan reported. The rally was reportedly attended by only several hundred people. The same day a group of opposition and human rights activists proposed a method they believe could detect and/or prevent voting fraud in the referendum. They called on voters to spoil the referendum ballot by tearing it in two, putting one part in the ballot box, and passing the other to the opposition for a parallel vote count. Any considerable difference between the number of invalid ballots declared by polling-station election commissions and those calculated by the opposition could serve, the opposition believes, as evidence of vote rigging in the referendum. JM

A district election commission in Minsk has canceled the registration as a parliamentary candidate of Alyaksandr Dabravolski, deputy chairman of the opposition United Civic Party, Belapan reported on 11 October. The commission annulled Dabravolski's registration on the grounds that he allegedly bribed voters, printed campaign leaflets with illegal funds, and distributed anonymous printed material. Dabravolski said the commission obeyed a "cynical order from the authorities," adding that he will appeal against the annulment to the Central Election Commission. JM

The OSCE Office of the Democratic Institution and Human Rights (ODIHR) has lately been subject to "unprecedented verbal attacks" from the Belarusian authorities, Belapan reported on 11 October, quoting ODIHR spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir. According to Gunnarsdottir, the authorities seek to damage the credibility of the ODIHR observation mission's assessment of the upcoming polls in the country. Earlier the same day, the ODIHR observation mission issued a statement in which it expressed concern over "sustained negative and aggressive comments in the Belarusian state media and from state officials." The mission also expressed concern about "repeated claims that the work of its long-term observers and core team analysts lacks transparency." "The visibility and frequency of these baseless allegations are unprecedented from the side of a host state towards an OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission," the statement said. JM

Leading opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko on 10 October returned to Ukraine from the Rudolfinerhaus hospital in Vienna, where he underwent additional treatment last week for a mysterious illness, Ukrainian media reported. Before continuing on to Kyiv, a sickly looking Yushchenko addressed a cheering crowd of supporters, estimated by some sources at 100,000, in the western-Ukrainian city of Lviv. "I am a healthy man, and everything I possess belongs to a free and democratic Ukraine," Yushchenko said in Lviv. In Kyiv, however, Yushchenko told journalists that his treatment will be continued. Austrian doctor Michael Zimpfer, who accompanied Yushchenko on his trip home, told journalists that the cause of Yushchenko's illness remains unclear. Zimpfer added that it will take medical experts some three weeks to determine whether Yushchenko was poisoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004). Interfax reported on 12 October that Yushchenko is planning to meet with a forum of Ukrainian students in Kyiv on 16 October. Yushchenko's associates from the Our Ukraine bloc and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc reportedly campaigned for him in the provinces last week while he was in Vienna. JM

Yushchenko said in an interview published in the 9-15 October issue of the "Zerkalo nedeli" weekly that the three worst failures of Leonid Kuchma's 10-year presidency are his lost battle against corruption and crime; the suppression of free speech and introduction of mechanisms for the censorship and deceit of his countrymen; and the glaring poverty of the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, particularly against the background of the huge fortunes accrued by a small number of oligarchs. Listing Kuchma's greatest achievements, Yushchenko named economic decrees issued shortly after the promulgation of the country's constitution in 1996; the conclusion of a treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia; and Kuchma's decision not to run for a third term. JM

Two Ukrainian printing houses have started printing a total of nearly 40 million ballots for the 31 October presidential vote, Ukrainian media reported last week. There will be 24 names on the ballot. The presidential race initially had 26 candidates, but two withdrew. JM

Serbian President Boris Tadic said in an interview with the private B92 TV on 10 October that his call for Kosovar Serbs to participate in province's parliamentary elections on 23 October contradicts neither the position of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica nor the Serbian government's plan for Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 7, and 8 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 September and 8 October 2004). Tadic said he and Kostunica merely have differences of opinion on the implementation of the Serbian government's plan for Kosova, adding that it will not affect their working relationship. The government plan provides for the formation of ethnic Serbian municipalities and units of local self-government in Kosova. Both Kosova's Albanian majority and the international community reject this plan as tantamount to an ethnically based partition of the province. Tadic, meanwhile, has rejected calls by Serbian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Pavle to boycott the elections in Kosova. Tadic said the church should not interfere in politics. UB

The leadership of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) decided on 10 October that it will call on the Serb minority in Kosova to participate in the 23 October parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The SPO leadership said such participation is in the national interest and that boycotting the election would essentially mean isolation from the United Nations and the international community, which could have "tragic consequences for our people and the territorial unity of Serbia." The SPO is a coalition partner in the Serbian government and is headed by Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic. UB

Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said on 11 October that Colonel Ljubisa Beara, the head of the security forces of the former Bosnian Serb Army's General Staff, was arrested in Serbia and transferred to The Hague on 9 October, "The Independent" reported. Beara, 65, is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. Hartmann contradicted the Serbian government's claim that Beara surrendered voluntarily. In September 2003, Momir Nikolic, the former security chief of the Bosnian Serb Army's Bratunac Brigade, told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal that Beara on 14 July 1995 ordered his subordinates to send "thousands" of Bosnian Muslim males to Zvornik to be executed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 24 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). UB

The foreign ministers of the EU member states, who met within the framework of a regular session of the Council of the European Union in Luxemburg on 11 October, adopted a common position and a regulation freezing all funds and economic resources belonging to individuals indicted by the ICTY, according to an EU press release. "The freezing of funds will apply to Ante Gotovina, Radovan Karadzic, and Ratko Mladic, all three indicted by [the] ICTY," the press release stated. "The common position and the regulation are aimed at implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1503 (2003) which calls on all states to intensify cooperation with and render all necessary assistance to ICTY" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September and 1 October 2004). UB

The Council of the European Union also approved an operational plan for the EU-led military mission Althea, which is to replace the NATO-led SFOR mission, according to the press release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 July and 5 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 and 23 July 2004). "This largest [EU-]led military operation so far will be part of the EU's comprehensive approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina," the press release stated. "It will sustain our long term objective of a stable, viable, peaceful and multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina, cooperating peacefully with its neighbors and irreversibly on track toward EU membership." The council also followed the invitation of Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov and extended the Proxima EU police mission in Macedonia by one year. The current mandate of the police mission expires on 15 December 2004. UB

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Skopje on 11 October for a one-day visit, where he met with President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Hari Kostov, and other political and military leaders, MIA news agency reported. Rumsfeld and his Macedonian counterpart Vlado Buckovski signed a bilateral agreement on the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. On the sidelines of his visit, Rumsfeld also decorated four members of the Macedonian Army's crack unit known as the Wolves for their merits during their service in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April and 25 May 2004). UB

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on 11 October visited naval, air force, and air-defense facilities in Dobrogea province, which borders the Black Sea, Mediafax reported. Romania offered to host U.S. military facilities following President George W. Bush's announcement in August of a military realignment that would include closing down many U.S. bases in Western Europe and setting up forward bases elsewhere. Chief of Staff Major General Mihail Popescu said Rumsfeld expressed interest in the facilities and their prospective future development and that discussions would continue on 12 October. Rumsfeld was expected to participate in an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Poiana-Brasov on 12 and 13 October -- the first such meeting to be hosted by Romania. Mediafax said special security measures were taken in the area. MS

Gigi Becali, the owner of the Steaua Bucharest soccer club, on 8 October announced his bid for the November presidential elections, Reuters and Mediafax reported. Becali, an eccentric shepherd-turned-property tycoon, took over the New Generation Party (PNG) last year. He also announced that soccer star Dorinel Munteanu will be among those on the PNL's list of candidates for parliament. Becali made the announcement after visiting the Romanian Patriarchy Palace in Bucharest, where he asked Patriarch Teoctist for his blessing. Becali has stressed that the PNG is a Christian Democratic movement, but observers believe he is attempting to lure votes from members of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM). Meanwhile, PRM Deputy Chairman Nicu Vasilescu said on 9 October that his formation intends to join the conservative European Popular Party (EPP) next year. Vasilescu said contacts with EPP members were established last year, but "at that time the PRM's international image suffered from distortion. Now, the PRM has become a viable alternative for representing Romanian Christian Democracy," he said. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic lost parliamentary representation in the 2000 elections. MS

Government Secretary Eugen Bejinariu announced on 8 October that a National Agency for the Roma (ANR) is to replace the former governmental Department for Romany Affairs, according to a government communique. He said the new ANR will be subordinate to the government and its main task will be to implement the government's strategy for improving the situation of the Roma. The ANR is to have eight regional offices, whose main task will be to significantly alleviate poverty among the minority. In its annual report, the European Commission recently criticized the Romanian government for failing to improve the economic situation of Roma and for failing to take adequate measures to prevent discrimination. MS

Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 8 October that his country welcomes and will respond "concretely and positively" to recent statements by Moldovan officials expressing their government's intention to improve relations with Bucharest, Mediafax reported. On 24 September, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin told RFE/RL that Chisinau is willing to "raise to the highest level" its relations with Romania. Geoana said Voronin's statement follows a tense period of bilateral relations, during which Bucharest witnessed "unjustified and counterproductive attacks" from Moldova that "highly disturbed us." Geoana said Romania is open to a dialogue with Moldova "at any level, on any subject, without any prejudice and without any preliminary conditions." MS

Ion Iovcev, director of the Lucian Blaga Moldovan lyceum in Tiraspol, said during an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 9 October that it might be six months before classes are resumed because the school building suffered extensive damage when it was occupied by separatist militiamen. Iovcev said the municipal authorities have conditioned the reopening on the approval of the health and fire departments, noting that it is unlikely such authorizations will be issued considering the current state of the school. Iovcev also characterized as a "propaganda show" the separatist authorities' announcement last month that they have registered the lyceums in Tiraspol and Ribnita for one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). The two schools teach Moldovan (Romanian) in the Latin script. On 11 October, teachers, parents, and students of the Tiraspol lyceum staged a demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau, Flux reported. They accused Russia of backing the separatist regime and of doing nothing to prevent the violation of children's rights in Transdniester's Moldovan schools. MS

Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sent a letter to the current UN Security Council President Sir Emyr Jones Parry last week expressing concern about the whereabouts of equipment from dismantled sites that formerly housed the Iraqi nuclear program, as well as other sites monitored by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the IAEA. The letter, posted to the IAEA website ( on 4 October, contends that an ongoing review of satellite imagery and follow up investigations has shown the "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program."

"The imagery shows in many instances the dismantlement of entire buildings that housed high precision equipment (such as flow forming, milling and turning machines; electron beam welders; coordinate measurement machines) formerly monitored and tagged with IAEA seals, as well as the removal of equipment and materials (such as high strength aluminum) from open storage areas," the letter noted.

More troubling is el-Baradei's statement that the IAEA "through visits to other countries, has been able to identify quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated, that had been transferred out of Iraq from sites monitored by the IAEA.... However, none of the high quality dual-use equipment or materials referred to above has been found." El-Baradei contended that some of the equipment and materials could aid in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Brigadier General Joseph J. McMenamin, commander of the Iraq Survey Group, told Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that the weapons sites remain largely unsecured by multinational forces. Kennedy asked: "Can you assure us that all these sites are tightly secured by U.S. forces and no weapons could fall into the hands of the insurgents?" McMenamin replied: "Sir, I can't assure you that that will happen. On the larger ones we have security forces, overhead imagery. There's an active program ongoing to destroy excess munitions around the country. On a regular basis we're destroying excess captured munitions to keep them out of the hands of the insurgency. As the Iraqi forces come on-line in their security efforts, they'll be able to take over and protect those assets to prevent them falling into the wrong hands."

Cairo's "Al-Sha'b" reported on 1 October that People's Assembly deputies have called on the Egyptian government to take steps to prevent the import of military equipment and scrap metal through the Egyptian-Jordanian border. The metal, coming from Iraq, is reportedly radioactive and includes "the machines, equipment, and residue of buildings." The deputies called for coordination with the Jordanian authorities to thwart the smuggling of scrap metal. The deputies reportedly quoted Jordanian expert Fu'ad al-Khalili as saying that Iraqi scrap metal contains a high rate of uranium, the report said. Perhaps more worrying is the possibility that dual-use equipment might be obtained by Iran, which is currently seeking to develop a nuclear weapons program.

In his letter to the Security Council, the IAEA chief said that Annex 3 of the IAEA's Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) Plan calls for both Iraq as the exporting state and the purchasing state to notify the IAEA when materials subject to inspection are sold or transferred. Iraq is also under obligation to file semi-annual reports noting changes that have occurred at sites subject to inspection. "The agency has received no such notifications or declarations from any states since the agency's inspectors were withdrawn in March 2003," despite the fact that some of the missing materials were subject to reporting. El-Baradei did say that the U.S. and Iraqi governments had informed the agency about the transfer of 1.8 tons of uranium and other radioactive materials to the United States earlier this year.

El-Baradei said that the Iraqi interim government has requested IAEA assistance in the sale of remaining nuclear material housed at the Al-Tuwaythah complex near Baghdad, as well as help in the dismantlement and decontamination of former nuclear sites. The IAEA is considering the request.

Mohammad Yunos Qanuni said on 11 October that he is backing away from his threats to challenge the veracity of the 9 October presidential election, according to international media. Qanuni and the majority of the other challengers to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai earlier threatened not to recognize the vote, saying the system to prevent multiple voting had failed. "We want to continue the election process," Reuters quoted Qanuni as saying. "We don't want to boycott it despite what we considered the irregularities in the election. We want to see this electoral process through. And we appreciate the honor and the will of the Afghans" (see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at AT

Presidential candidates Mohammad Mohaqeq and Mas'uda Jalal said on 11 October that they will accept the results of the election, Radio Afghanistan reported. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is trying to encourage Karzai's challengers to accept the veracity of the election, the report added. AT

The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) has stated that the vote-counting process to determine the results of Afghanistan's first direct popular election has been postponed to investigate allegations that illegal ballots were cast, Radio Afghanistan reported on 11 October. According to the JEMB, the UN is setting up an independent commission to investigate the charges of fraud made by most of the 16 presidential candidates, AFP reported on 12 October. The commission will include a former Canadian diplomat and an as-yet-unnamed Swedish electoral expert as a third member. Candidates who have questions about the election are required to submit their written complaints by 12 October. The charges of fraud, manly stemming from either the quality of the ink used to mark voters to prevent multiple voting or the use of the wrong pen, has placed the success of the election, which featured a large voter turnout and no large-scale violence, in doubt. AT

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has complained about a number of shortcomings in the 9 October election, Radio Afghanistan reported. According to a press release, AIHRC observers witnessed that the ink used for marking thumbnails of voters could be easily wiped off and that special permanent ink was not used at all polling stations. According to the AIHRC, election personnel were not well trained and not all polling stations were equipped with a sufficient number of ballots and ballot boxes. The AIHRC also complained about the lack of communication between central election offices and the polling stations. The AIHRC called on the JEMB, the UN, and the international community to set up a transparent panel to investigate the complaints made by the majority of the candidates and to inform the Afghan people of the results of their inquiry. AT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 11 October that Tehran views Afghanistan's first direct popular election as a "positive move," IRNA reported. Assefi said the all-inclusive nature of the 9 October election contributed to national solidarity, political stability, and economic development in Afghanistan. He expressed Iran's readiness to support Afghanistan's democratic efforts, and noted that Afghan refugees in Iran participated in the election. The International Organization for Migration, which organized refugee voting in Iran and Pakistan, said less than 40 percent of eligible refugees in Iran voted, the "Daily Times" reported on 12 October. Kabul's Radio Afghanistan reported on 11 October that Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami sent a letter to Afghan Transitional Chairman Hamid Karzai congratulating him, the election organizers, and the Afghan people on their election. "The successful arrangement for Afghanistan's first-ever direct presidential election was a long stride toward the establishment of a lasting peace, strengthening the foundations of stability, and paving the way for comprehensive development in Afghanistan," Bahrami's letter stated, IRNA reported. BS

A recent nationwide poll found that nearly 79 percent of respondents oppose complying with Western or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands that Iran restrain its nuclear pursuits, Mehr News Agency reported on 10 October. Sixty-seven percent said Iran should continue its nuclear pursuits under any circumstances, while 12.4 percent would favor halting nuclear activities in return for some concessions. Sixty-five percent of respondents said pledges made by European countries are not trustworthy, and 80 percent said the United States and other Western countries are pressuring the IAEA. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they support investment in Iran's nuclear-energy program. The poll's sample size was not mentioned. Meanwhile, in a letter to President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and speaker of parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, 1,375 university lecturers said that Iran must stand up to the "bullying" of the United States and some European powers, state television and Mehr News Agency reported on 10 October. The letter said every country has the right to enrich uranium and use nuclear energy peacefully, and characterized the recent IAEA resolution on Iran as a violation of national sovereignty. BS

Now that the conservative-controlled legislature has interpellated Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram, there is speculation about whom it will go after next. Rudsar parliamentary representative Asadollah Abbasi has warned that the agriculture jihad minister will face a no-confidence motion if he does not solve tea farmers' problems, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 April 2004). Parliamentarians are gathering signatures to interpellate Education and Training Minister Morteza Haji-Qaem, "Sharq" reported on 6 October. According to this report, Haji-Qaem is one of three ministers to whom the conservative Abadgaran coalition expressed opposition at the outset. There is less consensus on Haji-Qaem than there was on Khoram, according to the report, although Haji-Qaem did have to submit to legislative questioning under the previous parliament. Among the complaints about Haji-Qaem are incompetence, hiring incompetent administrators in Fars Province, bribery, and corruption, "Sharq" reported. BS

Following complaints from Baghdad and Tehran about porous frontiers, the two sides have signed a border-control agreement, ILNA reported on 11 October, citing the daily "Al-Sabah al-Jadid" and sources at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. More than 400 Iranians are being held in Abu Ghurayb, Al-Basrah, Al-Hillah, Al-Kut, and Al-Najaf, Iranian state television reported on 11 October, citing statistics provided by the Iranian Embassy. The Iranian charge d'affaires to Iraq, Mustafa Kazemi-Qomi, said 98 percent of those Iranians were arrested for illegal entry. On 11 October, an Iraqi police officer said that "78 Iranian, Syrian, and Jordanian citizens were arrested when the Iraqi city of Al-Yusifiyah came under attack," ILNA reported. Earlier in the day, the Iranian Embassy announced the release of 130 Iranians in Al-Kut, ILNA reported. BS

Police in Al-Najaf have reportedly arrested an Al-Qaeda operative in the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 12 October. Al-Najaf police Major General Ghanim al-Jaza'iri told RFI that the man was found in possession of a map detailing the border area between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as modern German-manufactured communications equipment. The individual, who is not Iraqi, was also carrying forged Iraqi identification documents. He allegedly identified himself to police as an Arab national and has reportedly confessed to having direct connections to Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, RFI reported. Al-Sharqiyah television quoted Jaza'iri as saying: "I cannot disclose the identity and nationality of this person because that could lead to a diplomatic crisis with his country." KR

The militant group Ansar Al-Sunnah Army beheaded a Turkish contractor and his translator in Iraq on 11 October, international media reported. The group said in a message posted to the Internet that the contractor and his Iraqi Kurdish translator "confessed" that they worked for U.S. forces in Iraq, AFP reported. A videotape depicting the beheadings was also reportedly posted on the Internet. The men were taken hostage between Mosul and Baghdad on 8 October. The Ansar Al-Sunnah Army is also responsible for the August killing of 12 Nepalese workers in Iraq. KR

U.S. forces arrested a Sunni cleric during a raid on his mosque in Al-Ramadi, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 October. The cleric, Abd al-Alim al-Sa'di, is the imam of the Abd al-Salam Mosque and head of the Al-Anbar Islamic Scholars League. His son Usama was also arrested in the raid. Reuters reported that six other people were detained in raids on other mosques in the area. Fighting broke out between U.S. forces and militants across the Al-Anbar governorate on 11 October, which includes the volatile towns of Al-Ramadi and Al-Fallujah. Reuters cited hospitals as reporting that three civilians and a police officer were killed in the clashes. Negotiations are currently taking place between representatives of Al-Fallujah and the interim government in an effort to restore calm to the area, which has been at the center of recent violence. KR

Sources close to the insurgency in Iraq have claimed that the body of British hostage Kenneth Bigley was dumped south of Baghdad last week, Reuters reported on 12 October. Bigley was beheaded by militants loyal to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi on 8 October. The sources said that Bigley was killed in Al-Latifiyah, located some 35 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. The news agency cited the British Embassy as saying that it has no information regarding the whereabouts of Bigley's body. KR

Ten Turkish contractors taken hostage in Iraq in September have been freed by their captors, Anatolia news agency reported on 12 October. The hostages were released after their employer pledged to halt its operations in Iraq, according to the report. Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul confirmed the men's release, saying they were taken to the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad. The militant group Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Salafist Brigades said they would release the men on 10 October, according to Al-Jazeera television. There is no word on what caused the delay in their release. KR

Militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began handing in medium and heavy weapons on 11 October as part of a negotiated settlement to the standoff between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and al-Sadr militiamen in the Al-Sadr City neighborhood named after the cleric's father, international media reported. Militiamen were given five days to hand in their weapons in exchange for cash. Reuters reported that an AK-47 assault rifle, rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, or mortar round can bring $50 each. One fighter reportedly walked off with $14,500 after turning in a stash of grenade launchers and mortars. However, militiamen were reportedly slow to hand over their weapons on 11 October. News agencies reported a higher turnout on 12 October. "It's going to be busier today. I don't care where the weapons are coming from. It's less bullets on the street to kill my men," Al-Sadr City National Guard Commander Colonel Mehdi Zayer told AFP. KR

Iraqi National Guard forces reportedly arrested 73 Afghan nationals who entered the country illegally on 11 October, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. National Guard spokesman Captain Furat al-Tamimi said the Afghans were arrested in Al-Amarah, located 265 kilometers southeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border. A large number of women and children were reportedly among the group. Meanwhile, Tehran's ILNA news agency cited an Iraqi police officer from Al-Yusifiyah as saying that Iranian, Syrian, and Jordanian citizens were among 78 people arrested on 11 October. Documents found among those arrested indicated that they had traveled to Iraq to carry out armed attacks, the news agency reported. Al-Yusifiyah is located some 15 kilometers south of Baghdad. KR