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Newsline - October 13, 2004

President Vladimir Putin on 13 October, the end of the 40-day mourning period following the tragic school hostage taking in Beslan, North Ossetia, called on the international community to cooperate in combating terrorism, Interfax and other Russian media reported. "Terrorism is delivering strikes not only at Russia, but also at many other countries. It is our common global threat," Putin said. "In order to combat this evil effectively, we must join our efforts, we must learn to find a common language." Putin made the statements in an interview with Chinese reporters on the eve of his state visit to Beijing. "We must understand that terrorists can be identified by the methods they are using, not by their goals," Putin said. "The key issue here is the use of violence against innocent people. This is the main thing that distinguishes terrorists." RC

In the same 13 October interview, President Putin said he will wait for the report of the Federal Assembly's commission on Beslan and the results of criminal cases being investigated before drawing any conclusions about the incident, ITAR-TASS reported. "First of all, this concerns the necessity of strengthening the political structures of the state," Putin said. "This concerns the improvement of the activities of law enforcement agencies and bodies fighting against this very dangerous type of crime." State Duma Deputy Yurii Savelev (Motherland), who is a member of the Beslan commission, told reporters in St. Petersburg on 12 October that some of the commission's findings might be withheld from the public. "The truth concerning the true organizers of the terrorist attack might be so horrible that making it public could cause new bloody conflicts," he said. The commission plans to question former Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, who successfully negotiated the release of 26 hostages during the crisis, on 14 October. "So far we have more questions than answers," Savelev said. RC

In the same interview with Chinese journalists on 13 October, President Putin said that Moscow will consider China's interests as it develops the energy infrastructure of the Far East but that decisions will be based primarily on Russia's interests, ITAR-TASS reported. "We must proceed from our own national interests," Putin said. "But we also take the interests of our partners into account. We shall discuss all this in an absolutely frank manner with our Chinese friends. I am confident that we will find solutions that will be acceptable both to ourselves and to our partners." Putin also said that Russia and China must continue to work together "to make the rules of international economic exchanges fair and democratic," the news agency reported. "The world should be multipolar both in the political and the security spheres, and it should be just and democratic in the economic sphere as well," he said. He said that Russia's eventual membership of the World Trade Organization will be in China's interests. Putin will be in China from 14-16 October. RC

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II said on 12 October that Russia must strengthen its national unity in order to combat terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. "Terrorists want to sow seeds of hatred among the people and to undermine their confidence in the future," the patriarch said. "To stand up to that challenge, we must strengthen our fatherland and repel attempts to implant panic and fright in the hearts and minds of our compatriots." Aleksii also called on the mass media to foster "peace, concord, and understanding in society." "Our whole nation pins its hopes on you journalists," the patriarch said. RC

A Federal Security Service (FSB) agent on 1 October carried fake explosives onto a passenger aircraft in Voronezh in a test of the new airport security measures that have been put into place since the recent spate of terrorist attacks, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 October. The agent reportedly took the "explosives" through security controls and boarded a Moscow-bound flight. At the same time, a second agent entered the airport through the perimeter fence and wandered through a secure area for more than an hour. A third agent reportedly gave a baggage handler 500 rubles ($17) to place an unmarked package aboard a flight and the baggage handler reportedly paid 100 rubles to a pilot who actually took the package. A spokesman for the airport blamed the security failures on the police. RC

The Justice Ministry on 12 October announced that it will sell an unspecified stake in Yuganskneftegaz, the main production subsidiary of embattled oil giant Yukos, in order to pay off Yukos's tax arrears, Russian and international media reported. The ministry said the government is "not satisfied" with the rate at which Yukos is paying its debts, Interfax reported, and the State Property Fund said that the Yuganskneftegaz sale could take place as soon as next month. The Justice Ministry has received an independent valuation of Yuganskneftegaz from Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, but the bank's report has not been made public. Media speculation has put Dresdner's valuation at $10.4 billion-$18 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). Aleksandr Buksman, head of the Justice Ministry's Moscow directorate, told journalists that the auditor valued Yuganskneftegaz at $10.4 billion, which is believed to be based on the most conservative possible interpretation of the Dresdner report. A spokesman for Yukos told "The Moscow Times" on 13 October that the company does not accept the Justice Ministry's evaluation and will pursue the matter in the courts. "Whoever buys Yuganskneftegaz is going to be buying themselves a lifetime of litigation," Menatep Director Tim Osbourne told the daily. RC

The United States and Russia have reportedly resolved a long-running conflict concerning the rent of the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow, Russian media reported on 13 October. The United States had been paying just $2.50 a year for Spasso House, a historic mansion in downtown Moscow, because of an agreement signed before the demise of the Soviet Union and the subsequent collapse of the value of the ruble. Moscow has refused to accept rent on the property since 1994 and has demanded that the United States pay $9 million in back rent. The two countries have now signed a new 49-year deal for the property, although they did not divulge financial details. "We are pleased that the resolution of this issue allow us to focus exclusively on the many important challenges that require our mutual attention and cooperation," a U.S. Embassy spokesman was quoted by "The Moscow Times" on 13 October as saying. RC

In an interview with "Novaya gazeta," No. 75, Svetlana Gannushkina, head of Civic Assistance and co-chairwoman of Memorial, she said that the human rights movement in Russia is "in a crisis." The movement can continue to help individuals, Gannushkina said, but "our daily work will not affect the situation in the country, which is getting worse and worse." "We see some horrendous processes taking hold," she continued, noting that corruption is growing and citing a "wild wave of xenophobia." "We, human rights workers, cannot come up with any new methods. We could create a political party, but I don't think that we command the necessary level of trust among society," she said. According to the weekly, Gannushkina and 71 other human rights activists signed a statement condemning President Putin's plans to "use the tragedy in Beslan to unveil a program for radical changes in the government structure of the Russian Federation" and "to abandon the last democratic accomplishments." Signatories included Lyudmila Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Yelena Bonner of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation; Sergei Kovalev, a former State Duma deputy and chairman of Memorial; Aleksei Yablokov, a Yeltsin-era presidential adviser and head of the Center for Ecological Policies; and Aleksei Simonov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. JAC

Omsk Oblast's legislative assembly adopted an appeal to the State Duma on 12 October urging that the "vertical of executive power be extended to the municipal level" so that the elections of the heads of municipalities can also be canceled, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. President Putin recently proposed that gubernatorial elections be canceled and regional legislatures confirm appointees nominated by the president (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 16 September 2004). Speaking before the Omsk legislature, Omsk Oblast Governor Leonid Polezhaev said that he not only supports Putin's proposal but he also believes that the federal center should appoint mayors as well. He said that in 13 years as the head of Omsk Oblast, he has not been satisfied with the work of a single mayor in the region. According to the daily, only three deputies, all members of the Communist Party faction, voted against the appeal. JAC

Aleksandr Pochinok, former labor minister and aide to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, told an international conference in Moscow on 12 October that earlier projections of a rapidly diminishing workforce in Russia might not have been pessimistic enough, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Pochinok, Russia could have as many pensioners as workers by 2010 -- rather than by 2030, as had been predicted. The news agency also quoted Pochinok as saying that the United States will have one pensioner for every two workers by 2028. reported on 18 August that experts on the Russian pension system believe the government will have to raise the retirement age, which is currently 55 for women and 60 for men. The website quoted Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, who said that within 20 years, if not earlier, the Russian pension system will be unable to provide a livelihood for pensioners. JAC

State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia) denied on 12 October a report in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the previous day that the presidential administration plans to disband the State Duma next summer and to hold new elections under a new proportional-representation system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2004). Gryzlov said that "there is no need at the present time to talk of dissolving the Duma for the purpose of introducing a proportional system ahead of schedule," NTV reported. According to Gryzlov, this Duma is "working quite effectively" passing important and much-needed laws. A Duma under new electoral laws proposed by President Putin in September will be introduced in 2007, he predicted. JAC

"Izvestiya" reported on 12 October that teenagers in Voronezh beat up 19-year-old Kenyan student Asin Abdul Salim on 10 October. Two of his attackers have been detained on charges of hooliganism, and some 17 others are being sought. The attackers were said to resemble skinheads. Salim had recently arrived in Voronezh, and unidentified friends told the daily that he plans to return to Kenya in the near future. Salim was attacked some 300 meters from the spot where a 24-year-old African student was killed on 21 February. Last month, his killers received sentences of between nine and 17 years in prison, only the second time that anyone has been convicted under Russia's law against racially motivated crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2004). JAC

President Putin has appointed Anatolii Safonov presidential envoy for international cooperation in the battle against terrorism and international organized crime, Interfax reported on 12 October, citing the presidential press service. Safonov previously served as a deputy foreign minister in charge of overseeing international cooperation in counterterrorism. In August, he was given the rank of ambassador at large. At the time, the Foreign Ministry needed to reduce the number of deputy ministers in keeping with an administrative reform, "Vremya novostei" reported on 13 October. According to the daily, Colonel General Safonov is a "pure silovik" whose career has always been tied to either the KGB or its successor organization, the FSB. From 1994-97, Safonov served as first deputy director of the FSB with responsibilities in domestic security. JAC

Deputies to Ingushetia's National Assembly adopted a formal appeal on 6 October to their North Ossetian counterparts in the aftermath of last month's hostage taking in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, reported on 12 September. The appeal warns of a perceived concerted campaign by unidentified alien forces intent for various reasons on sowing interethnic discord across the North Caucasus. It calls for measures to promote tolerance and mutual understanding and to quash rumors intended to fuel mutual enmity or calls for revenge, or to brand an entire ethnic group responsible for crimes committed by a handful of its members. It also urges cooperation between the legislatures of the two republics in an attempt to resolve "all disputed issues," presumably meaning Ingushetia's territorial claim to North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion and the fate of tens of thousands of Ingush who fled that district during the interethnic clashes in October 1992. LF

Igor Dzantiev, who is North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov's press secretary, told Interfax on 12 October that Dzasokhov has no plans to issue a joint statement with his Ingushetian counterpart Murat Zyazikov warning against attempts to fuel interethnic tensions in the North Caucasus, reported. Speaking on 11 October at a Moscow news conference convened by "Argumenty i fakty," Zyazikov said he has submitted a written proposal to the Russian presidential administration concerning such a joint statement. Zyazikov dismissed as unfounded fears that residents of North Ossetia might target Ingush in retaliation for the Beslan hostage taking after the traditional 40-day period of mourning for the victims expires. LF

Gagik Stepanian, who is believed to be one of a pro-government parliament deputy's bodyguards, was sentenced on 11 October in Hrazdan to six months in prison for attacking a photographer, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 12 October. Stepanian was found guilty of hooliganism and obstruction of journalists' work for having attacked photographer Mkhitar Khachatrian, who sought to photograph lavish villas in the resort of Tsaghkadzor belonging to senior government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2004). LF

Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian hailed on 12 October as "unprecedented" the positive evaluation of developments in Armenia adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) during its fall session in Strasbourg last week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. That evaluation noted that Armenian authorities have complied with the requirements of a resolution adopted by the PACE in late April, including releasing all individuals detained for their participation in antigovernment demonstrations and lifting restrictions on such protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 2004). Torosian also thanked opposition parliamentarians in the PACE delegation for refraining from publicly denouncing the Armenian authorities' human rights record. LF

The Armenian Justice Ministry has legally registered the Jehovah's Witnesses as a religious organization, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 12 October. Previous requests for registration were rejected on the grounds that the sect's statutes and "forms of proselytizing" were not in accordance with Armenian law. LF

A movement has been established in Azerbaijan to lobby for the closure of the Gabala radar station, Turan and reported on 12 and 13 October, respectively. The movement has appealed to Azerbaijan's intelligentsia for support, arguing that the Azerbaijani Constitution precludes the location on Azerbaijani territory of foreign military bases and that Azerbaijan should refrain from defense cooperation with a country that is an ally of Armenia. The statement also reaffirms that the radar station poses an ecological threat and has triggered a steep rise in cancer and cardiac and dermatological diseases among the population of neighboring districts. Russian military spokesmen have repeatedly rejected such allegations. Russia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement in January 2002 permitting Russia to lease the facility for 10 years at an annual fee of $7 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). LF

Deputies signed a parliamentary code of ethics on 12 October under which they pledge to refrain from physical violence and the use of insulting language and to dress respectably, Caucasus Press reported. Some deputies argued that such a document is superfluous given that they are "honest and polite." In related news, two unnamed parliamentarians were among some 80 people who recently surrendered forged identification cards falsely identifying them as veterans of the 1992-93 war in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 12 October. LF

Outgoing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba criticized on 12 October as "illegal and absurd" the ruling handed down the previous day by the unrecognized republic's Central Election Commission (CEC) that the 3 October ballot to elect Ardzinba's successor was valid and that Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh won that ballot with 50.8 percent of the vote, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). Ardzinba said the CEC acted illegally in declaring Bagapsh the winner before the Supreme Court considered an appeal by former Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba against the CEC's decision to schedule repeat voting on 17 October in Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion. Khadjimba's successor as prime minister, Nodar Khashba, similarly told some 2,500 Khadjimba supporters who convened in Sukhum on 12 October that "the legal procedure of the residential is not over yet, and we must wait for a ruling by the Supreme Court." Khadjimba for his part has appealed to the Supreme Court the CEC ruling naming Bagapsh the winner, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax on 12 October quoted Bagapsh as saying that "we won the election in an honest battle." He stressed that he does not oppose the campaign for Abkhazia's international recognition as an independent state, but that "there is opposition to the system of authority that has taken shape in Abkhazia." LF

One Ossetian peacekeeper died and two were wounded on 12 October when unidentified assailants opened fire on their car near the village of Medjvriskhevi, Reuters and Russian and Georgian agencies reported. The attackers reportedly dragged one of the men from the vehicle; his body was later found in a hospital in the Georgian town of Gori, while his two injured colleagues are still missing, according to Caucasus Press. Also on 12 October, some 550 Georgian Interior Ministry forces began practice maneuvers in the Gori and neighboring Kaspi raions in preparation for their deployment as peacekeepers to the South Ossetian conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. Andrei Kokoshin, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs, told RIA Novosti that the participation of aviation and artillery units in those maneuvers suggests that the Georgian Interior Ministry troops are preparing not for routine peacekeeping but for a new offensive to restore Tbilisi's control over the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Grigorii Marchenko told a news conference on 12 October in Almaty that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has accepted his resignation from the position of presidential aide, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Marchenko, who headed the National Bank of Kazakhstan from October 1999 to January 2004, said he intends to act as a consultant for potential partners and foreign investors to set up a large financial institution on the Kazakh market, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Marchenko also offered critical observations. He called the appointment of Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov "a mistake," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The sooner the mistake is corrected, "the better it will be," he said. Marchenko also said he takes a negative view of recent parliamentary elections, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. "They are calling the [parliamentary] elections a rehearsal for upcoming presidential elections," Marchenko said. "I feel that this was a very unsuccessful rehearsal." Claiming that serious violations marred the elections, Marchenko said he would have voted "against all." Marchenko will continue to advise President Nazarbaev in a freelance capacity. DK

Xu Yongyue, China's minister of state security, met with Nartai Dutbaev, chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), in Astana on 12 October to discuss bilateral security cooperation, Kazinform reported. A KNB statement said, "The sides reaffirmed their intention to raise interaction in fighting international terrorism, extremism, organized crime, and the drug business to a qualitatively new level," Interfax-AVN reported. Xu Yongyue also met with Kazakh State Secretary Oralbai Abdykarimov. DK

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, and Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov in Bishkek on 12 October, agencies reported. Debt forgiveness was a prominent theme. Tanaev asked Russia to help with Kyrgyzstan's Paris Club debt, saying, "If you forgave Mongolia $13 billion and African countries $35 billion, what's our $170 million?" reported. Lavrov replied that Russia has provided a list of Kyrgyz enterprises in which it would consider accepting a stake in exchange for debt relief. Aitmatov said Russia is ready to support Kyrgyzstan's initiative for a UN resolution in support of debt relief for poor mountainous countries if Kyrgyzstan supports a Russian move for the United Nations to hold a "Day of Remembrance and Conciliation" on 9 May, Kyrgyzinfo reported. Talks between Lavrov and Akaev focused on political and economic cooperation, Kyrgyz TV reported. DK

Tajikistan and the European Union signed an agreement on partnership and cooperation on 11 October in Luxembourg, RIA-Novosti reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov signed for his country, while Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot signed for the EU. Abdufattoh Sharipov, spokesman for the Tajik president, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 12 October, "The signing of the partnership and cooperation agreement between Tajikistan and the European Union has opened a new page in the development of commercial and economic relations and in bringing foreign investment to the Tajik economy," Sharipov said. DK

The trial of 16 people charged with involvement in March-April violence in Uzbekistan ended in Bukhara on 12 October, the BBC's Uzbek Service reported. The court handed down sentences of up to 18 years in jail for attempts to overthrow Uzbekistan's constitutional system, membership in a religious extremist organization, terrorism, and possession of explosives. The defendants admitted their guilt and asked for leniency. The report noted that the trial took place under heavy security and that most of the defendants' relatives, as well as human rights activists, were denied entry to the courtroom. DK

Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said on 12 October that there are 6.97 million voters registered for the 17 October legislative ballot and the presidential referendum, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. According to Yarmoshyna, the number of currently eligible voters decreased by some 130,000 compared with the 2 March 2003 local elections. She explained the decrease in the electoral rolls by a population decline and the removal from the rolls of Russian nationals with Belarusian permanent-residence permits who were allowed to vote in last year's election. There were some 7.1 million voters officially registered for the 2003 local elections and some 7.5 million for the 1995 referendum in Belarus. "The list of eligible voters directly determines the number of votes President Alyaksandr Lukashenka needs to win the referendum," opposition leader Vintsuk Vyachorka commented on the shrunken electorate in Belarus. "Therefore, to decrease this number is the simplest administrative method [to help Lukashenka win the referendum]." The 17 October referendum will give Lukashenka the right to run for the presidency for a third time only if it is backed by more than 50 percent of all eligible voters. JM

Christian Strohal, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), has expressed deep concern over the Belarusian authorities' denial of visas to election observers from the Czech Republic and Greece, Belapan reported on 12 October. "An OSCE country cannot pick and choose which observers they admit," Strohal said. "This is an unprecedented breach of the principle that an invitation to observe an election is understood as an invitation to all OSCE participating states." Strohal said the Belarusian Foreign Ministry informed the ODIHR mission on 11 October that all short-term observers for the 17 October legislative election from the Czech Republic and Greece will be denied visas or entry to Belarus, explaining the decision by the "history" of bilateral relations between Belarus and those countries. The Czech Republic denied a visa to President Lukashenka to come to the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002, citing human rights abuses in Belarus. Greece denied a visa to Belarusian Sports Minister Yury Sivakou to come to the Summer Olympics in Athens in August, citing Sivakou's alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of opposition figures in Belarus. JM

Opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko on 12 October informed journalists about his first five decrees he intends to issue after he is elected president of Ukraine, Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the first decree will establish the subsistence minimum for 2005 at 423 hryvnyas ($80) per month. The edict will also stipulate that the minimum monthly wage and pension should not be lower than the subsistence minimum. The current subsistence minimum in Ukraine is 362 hryvnyas, while the minimum monthly wage is 237 hryvnyas. A month ago, Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych decided to double the minimum monthly pension from 137 hryvnyas to 284.6 hryvnyas, which is the country's subsistence minimum for disabled persons, as of September. JM

Following an order from the Ukrainian Security Service, border guards at Kyiv's Boryspil Airport on 12 October denied entry to Serbian national Aleksandar Maric, a volunteer at the U.S.-based Freedom House human rights organization's Kyiv office, Interfax and UNIAN reported. According to a co-worker, Maric has a one-year multientry Ukrainian visa and had been in Ukraine for two months before going to Budapest for a few days. After spending the night at the airport, Maric was sent back on a flight to Belgrade. Maric reportedly was one of the leaders of the Serbian youth organization Otpor, which was instrumental in toppling the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Yugoslavia in 1999. JM

The "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on 12 October that a website presenting anecdotes about Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Yanukovych ( has been blocked for surfers using the connection supplied by the Ukrainian companies Ukrtelekom and Ukrsat. Ukrtelekom is a state-run telecommunications giant in Ukraine, while Ukrsat is described by "Ukrayinska pravda" as a company "close to the authorities." Jokes about Yanukovych began to circulate on the Internet shortly after an egg attack on him in Ivano-Frankivsk on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). JM

In an exclusive online interview with users of the RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service website on 12 October, Haris Silajdzic, who was Bosnia-Herzegovina's foreign minister and prime minister at different times during the 1992-95 conflict, said that any new Bosnian census should include people "who were forced to flee their homes" during the war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2004, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 16, 23, and 30 September 2004). PM

Referring to the current domestic political situation, Silajdzic also told users of the RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service website on 12 October that Bosnia does not need a Presidency but did not propose an alternative. Silajdzic said that he is not in a position to be "completely objective" about High Representative Paddy Ashdown, "because we walked together under shellfire in Sarajevo" during the war. Silajdzic added nonetheless that Ashdown "has good intentions but has not made the [kind of decisive] moves that could significantly change the current situation in Bosnia." The former minister argued, however, that Ashdown's "presence has been positive" on the balance. When asked about the involvement of clerics in politics, Silajdzic replied that "everybody should deal with his own profession" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 September 2004). He admitted that his own small Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina (SBiH) did not manage to improve its performance in the recent local elections, saying that it could have campaigned harder, particularly in Sarajevo. Silajdzic noted that he is engaged in consulting work, frequently attends international conferences, and is reading avidly to catch up with all he missed out on during his years of active political engagement. PM

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told his visiting counterpart from Serbia and Montenegro, Vuk Draskovic, in Berlin on 12 October that the main obstacle to Belgrade's integration into the EU is its lack of cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, German media reported. Draskovic replied that cooperation with The Hague is his country's "international duty and duty to our nation," adding that his policy toward cooperation is "yes, yes, and yes." Draskovic has repeatedly warned his countrymen that they risk a return to international isolation if they do not cooperate with the tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 5 and 12 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 September 2004). PM

Former Colonel Ljubisa Beara, the wartime head of the security forces of the Bosnian Serb Army's General Staff, said in The Hague on 12 October that all his fellow indictees should follow his recent example and surrender to the war crimes tribunal voluntarily for the good of their country, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "My wartime comrades who have been indicted [for war crimes] and who are fugitives...[should] voluntarily surrender as soon as possible in order to remove the stone that [weighs heavily on] our country" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). PM

Croatian President Stipe Mesic, who has repeatedly called on indicted war criminals to surrender, said in Zagreb on 12 October that "according to all available information, [leading indictee and former General Ante] Gotovina is not in Croatia," Reuters reported. "Our police and intelligence services have taken all measures to locate him, but all tips and leads so far have proved wrong," the president added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 24, and 30 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 September 2004). Meanwhile in Brussels, Croatian Foreign Minister Miomir Zuzul said that he doubts the reliability of recent reports by some individuals claiming to have seen Gotovina at various places in Croatia. Zuzul argued that many people would have reported seeing Gotovina had the well-known general actually been in the country. The minister added that he is not trying to make excuses and will do his best to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The failure to find and arrest Gotovina is probably the biggest single stumbling block to Croatia's obtaining EU membership, which is its top foreign-policy goal. PM

On 12 October, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) discussed its strategy for a new round of talks with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on the MPC's legal status, "Dnevnik" and other Macedonian media reported. The MPC, which unilaterally declared its autocephalous status from the SPC in 1967 with the help of the communist authorities, is not recognized by other Orthodox churches. The Russian Orthodox Church has reportedly mediated a compromise that aims at ending the long-standing feud between the MPC and SPC. According to the proposal, the MPC would give up its claim to autocephalous status and become an independent church instead, retaining its present name. However, neither the Serbian nor the Greek Orthodox Church seems to be ready to accept this arrangement, demanding instead that the MPC be renamed the Archbishopric of Ohrid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2003, and 6 and 15 January, 20 August, and 24 and 27 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2002, and 23 January and 6 August 2004). UB

A new report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization says that more than one-half of Albania's population lives on less than $2 per day, and one-quarter of the population lives on less than $1 per day, which is the level of "absolute poverty," dpa reported from Tirana on 13 October, citing unidentified local media. The study urged the authorities to concentrate on development projects, infrastructure investments, and reducing the large informal economy rather than on poverty relief. Unnamed Albanian authorities challenged the report's findings, saying that only 30 percent of the population lives on $2 per day and 17 percent on $1 per day. PM

Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined on 12 October to give a specific timetable for the possible establishment of a U.S. military base in Romania, Mediafax and dpa reported. Rumsfeld said the decision on the redeployment of troops in Europe would be taken "on a step-by-step basis over a four, five, or six-year period." In August, President George W. Bush announced a military realignment that would include closing down many U.S. bases in Western Europe and setting up forward bases elsewhere. Rumsfeld spoke after a meeting with his Romanian counterpart Ioan Mircea Pascu. Earlier on 12 October, he met with Romanian President Ion Iliescu. Following that meeting, he told journalists he had used the opportunity "to tell the president how much we value the stalwart support of our strategic partner and ally [Romania] in our global-war-on-terror efforts," RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service reported. MS

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Bucharest on 11 October with President Iliescu, discussing bilateral, particularly economic, relations, Mediafax reported. They focused on joint projects on energy transportation and on the European-Caucasus Transport Corridor (TRACECA) project initiated by former Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev. The two presidents signed a declaration calling for a political solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, based on respect of Azerbaijan's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and border inviolability. The sides signed 11 cooperation documents, among them agreements on cooperation between the Romanian Intelligence Service and the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry. The two-day visit ended on 12 October after a ceremony at which a statue of late President Heidar Aliyev was unveiled in a Bucharest park, in the presence of President Iliescu and former President Emil Constantinescu. MS

The Social Democratic Party (PSD)-Humanist Party (PUR) electoral alliance published its electoral lists on 12 October for the November parliamentary elections. Most incumbent officials, including presidential advisers, have secured for themselves a "safe" seat on the list. The Bucharest lists for the upper house are headed by President Iliescu and the lists for the lower house by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who is also the PSD's presidential candidate. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who will become prime minister if the PSD-PUR alliance wins the parliamentary elections, heads the lists for the Senate in Dolj County. Chief of Staff Major General Mihail Popescu heads the Senate lists in Valcea County. Popescu announced last month that he would leave the army and enter politics. MS

Petre Roman, who earlier this year broke from the Democratic Party he chaired till 2001 and formed his own Democratic Force party, officially announced on 12 October that he will run for president in the November elections, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2004). MS

On 12 October Romania marked Holocaust Day for the first time, Mediafax reported. The main event was a speech delivered by President Iliescu at a public gathering organized at the parliament building. In his speech, Iliescu assumed full responsibility for the Romanian authorities' wartime persecution, deportation, and extermination of Romanian Jews (see End Note). Holocaust Day in Romania will be marked on 9 October, when deportations to Transnistria of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina started. Because of the Sabbath, the memorial day was marked on 12 October this year. MS

The Hungarian parliament's Environment Committee on 12 October called on Romania to halt the controversial Rosia Montana gold and silver mine project, AP reported. The joint Canadian-Romanian venture was launched more than three years ago but still needs approval by Romanian authorities before it can start production (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June and 23 September 2004). Mining would involve the use of cyanide-laced water, and Budapest fears an environmental accident might affect the Tisa (Tisza) River. Last month, Hungarian Environment Minister Miklos Persanyi said after visiting the proposed mining site that Hungary will do "everything possible" to prevent the development of the project. Romanian European Integration Minister Alexandru Farcas said in apparent reaction to the Hungarian statement that environmental problems ought to be treated "seriously" by his country, which has yet to close the environment chapter in its accession negotiations with the EU, Mediafax reported. MS

Romanian President Ion Iliescu delivered an historic speech on 12 October at the parliament building in Bucharest when, for the first time, a Romanian head of state acknowledged in no ambiguous terms and with no "ifs and buts" his country's participation in, and responsibility for, the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Romania has come a long way since the days of May 1991, when legislators observed a minute of silence on the anniversary of the 1946 execution of Romania's wartime, Nazi-allied leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu, for war crimes. Such a shameful performance was repeated in June 1999.

The presidential address was given to mark -- for the first time in Romania -- Holocaust Day. In May, a government decision established that the day would be marked on 9 October, but commemoration was postponed this year to avoid violating the Jewish Sabbath.

Iliescu, as well as former President Emil Constantinescu, has on several occasions come close to acknowledging this shameful period in Romanian history, whether it was on International Holocaust Day (27 January, the day of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp) or on other occasions. Yet previous presidential addresses had always distorted the significance of the day, if only by emphasizing "rescue" rather than "perpetration" in a chronological aberration aimed at stressing the alleged "Romanian exceptionalism" among Nazi Germany's wartime allies.

But not so this time. Iliescu told the audience that this "shameful chapter in our recent past...must be neither forgotten nor minimized." Furthermore, he pointed out that such soul-searching self-examination is needed in order for Romanians to put the past behind them and to allow them to march on the road to "building a future and building ourselves." This, he said, is never possible, if "tragic events, on which a long and unjustified silence had been cast," are not recalled and properly commemorated.

What was truly remarkable in the president's speech was how he distanced himself from the dominating trends in Romanian historiography that tend to place the blame for the Holocaust on Nazi Germany or, at best, on alleged fringe elements in Romanian society such as the Iron Guard. Under the apparent influence of some of his advisers, Iliescu himself has done exactly that in the past. This time he bluntly acknowledged that anti-Semitic legislation in Romania dated back to 1937 and that even before the war began Jews were subjected to severe policies of discrimination and exclusion from Romanian society, as well as to forced labor.

The president went on to describe the January 1941 pogrom in Bucharest and the June 1941 pogrom in Iasi, dwelling at length on the deportation of Bessarabian and Bukovinian Jews to Transnistria, which began on 9 October 1941. This is actually the reason why, at the insistence of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and international Jewish organizations, the day selected to mark Holocaust Day is 9 October. The day thus symbolizes the state-organized Romanian participation in the perpetration of the Holocaust and not, as some had proposed in Romania, days marking pogroms or other dark events in which the role of state institutions is more difficult to establish precisely. It is for this reason that Romania will observe a day different from International Holocaust day, since Jews exterminated by Romanian authorities were not deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. That fate was met only by northern Transylvanian Jews, who at that time were under Hungarian rule.

Iliescu remarkably distanced himself from another self-exculpatory trend in modern Romanian historiography, one that emphasizes the second phase of the war, beginning in October 1942, when Antonescu gradually began to rescind the deportations and finally allowed those Jews who had survived the ordeals to return to Romania. He insisted that the change was not one of heart, but one reflecting developments on the battlefield: Antonescu began realizing that his country might lose the war and was hoping to thus hide the true dimension of the massacre. Yet, as Iliescu mentioned, over 250,000 Jews and more than 12,000 Roma had perished during the Holocaust. Here the president chose to stick to the lowest estimates of scholars, some of which (as an official 11 October statement from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest chose to use) assess the total to be more than 400,000, including Ukrainian Jews who perished at the hands of Romanian police and the military. The change in the tide of the war, he showed, explains the paradox of survival in Romania of a significant part of its Jewish population (some 400,000), whom Antonescu had originally decided to exterminate.

The speech also marks a great change for Iliescu, who has come a long way himself in his thinking. A rather careless remark he made in an interview with the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" in July 2003 created an international uproar, with the Romanian president perceived as indulging in comparative trivialization of the Holocaust. Being at the end of his presidential mandate, Iliescu was apparently sensitive as to how he will enter history, including international history. In an effort to mend his image, he established an international commission on the Holocaust in Romania, headed by Elie Wiesel. The commission's conclusions are to be handed to the president next month. Earlier, the Romanian government had agreed with international Jewish organizations to establish a day for commemorating the Holocaust and to introduce into the school curriculum optional courses on the Holocaust. Indeed, according to Romanian media reports, the day was marked on 12 October in many Romanian schools. This, in fact, might be the most important aspect of the change -- educating people about and giving them an awareness of the past.

Could Iliescu's speech and other increased attention to anti-Semitic episodes in the country's past uproot Holocaust denial in Romania? Uprooting might be too strong a word. There are Holocaust "negationists" (particularly among the elder generation) who did not and will not give up their effort to deny the obvious. And they direct their effort with tenacity at the young generation. On the eve of the Holocaust Day commemoration, one of those deniers, university professor Ion Coja, organized a "countermanifestation" in Bucharest, where he launched a new book publicizing his well-known contentions. According to a government ordinance from March 2002, Holocaust denial is now a crime in Romania. Perhaps now acts should follow Iliescu's remarkable 12 October speech.

All 16 candidates in Afghanistan's first-ever direct presidential election on 9 October filed complaints regarding irregularities to the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), "The New York Times" reported on 13 October. Most of the complaints among the field of 15 rivals of presumed front-runner Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai involved the failure to prevent multiple voting, as the supposedly indelible ink used to mark the thumbs of voters could be washed off soon after its application (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). Abdul Bashir Bezhan, a deputy to candidate Latif Pedram's National Congress Party of Afghanistan, has charged that some people voted as many as 15 times, according to "The New York Times." An aide to ethnic-Hazara candidate Mohammad Mohaqeq said ballots were missing from boxes from districts with Hazara majorities, the daily reported. Another candidate, Homayun Shah Asefi, alleged that a police official from south-central Ghazni Province reported that the manager of a polling station took two empty ballot boxes and brought them back full of ballots. Asefi claimed the manager in question was briefly detained by local police but was released after saying the ballots were for Karzai, the daily reported. In Spinboldak in the southern Kandahar Province, an election official wishing to remain anonymous claimed that poll officers were ordered to fill out 700 ballots in favor of Karzai. Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai's campaign, said his office is also submitting complaints involving other candidates' supporters. (For more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at AT

Abdul Latif Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said his group decided not to launch attacks on the day of the presidential election in order to avoid killing innocent Muslims, AFP reported on 12 October. "In order to avoid bloodshed of innocent Muslims, we did not target the polling station," Hakimi told AFP in a telephone interview. Hakimi said neo-Taliban insurgents will continue their struggle beyond the elections and that the movement is gaining popularity, a claim rejected by Colonel Dick Pedersen, commander of U.S.-led forces in southern Afghanistan. Kandahar Province Governor Mohammad Yusof Pashtun said that while neo-Taliban elements are not totally destroyed, the successful election "will demoralize them." In the months and weeks prior to Afghanistan's presidential election, there was much talk of likely attacks by neo-Taliban and other militant groups before or on election day. It is still unclear whether security measures that were put in place ahead of the vote were responsible for the essentially bloodless election day, or whether militants made a conscious decision not to launch attacks on that day. AT

The United States is expected to pressure its NATO allies to assume overall responsibility for peacekeeping and reconstruction in Afghanistan, the BBC reported on 13 October. The U.S. request is expected to come during informal NATO talks in Romania on 13 October. "Obviously we hope to see, at some point, integration of the NATO effort and Operation Enduring Freedom [the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign]" in Afghanistan, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns said. NATO currently commands the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is based in Kabul and runs several Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June 2004). The ISAF currently has about 9,000 troops, but expectations are that the number will be reduced after the conclusion of Afghan parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2005. The U.S.-led force numbers around 19,000 and is mainly responsible for fighting militant groups or pressuring warlords. The ISAF has not seen any combat in Afghanistan and, in the event of hostilities, has either remained in its barracks or evacuated areas in which fighting has occurred. Burns was cautious over the possibility of integrating the two forces, saying, "It's a very complicated issue." AT

In a 12 October interview with U.S.-funded Alhurra television, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Afghanistan's presidential election illustrates Iraq's potential to follow suit, the State Department spokesman's office said in a press release ( "I believe the people of Iraq want the same thing the people of Afghanistan and people in so many nations want: the opportunities to step forward and decide who will be their future leaders and to decide that by a vote," the statement quoted Powell as saying. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said while visiting Macedonia on 11 October: "The great sweep of human history is for freedom.... We see that in this region [the Balkans], we have seen it in Afghanistan, and let there be no doubt we are going to see it in Iraq," "The Washington Post" reported on 12 October. Iraqi elections are scheduled for January. AT

The Iranian government officially welcomed Afghanistan's first election, but Iranian state radio's Dari-language service, which is based in the northeastern city of Mashhad, has denounced it. In an 11 October broadcast, Mashhad radio announced: "America is throwing its absolute weight behind the president of Afghanistan, and [U.S. Ambassador] Zalmay Khalilzad is making his utmost efforts in Kabul to secure his [Hamid Karzai's] victory. And Karzai's personal use of all government facilities to get rid of rivals and to stay in power for longer were the other factors which made it clear to the people that nobody else but Karzai is the winner." Mashhad radio went on to describe the issue as a choice between Western democracy and Islamic values, and it suggested that the election is meant to legitimize "an occupation and the appointment of the occupiers' favorite government." It concluded, "It is indisputable that the occupiers, who have not spared a crime to achieve their goals in Afghanistan, will take out from people's ballot boxes the name of the person whom they have already appointed." BS

Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian on 10 October denied a Reuters report that he welcomes U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry's proposal on the Iranian nuclear program, IRNA reported. The Kerry campaign website says, "a nuclear armed Iran is an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and our allies in the region," and it says the United States must work with its European allies in making sure Iran does not acquire the technology to develop weapons ( It proposes offering nuclear fuel to Iran and taking back the spent fuel, and if Iran declines this offer it will demonstrate the country's true intentions. The Kerry campaign also backs International Atomic Energy Agency investigation of the Iranian program, and it says it would encourage Iran to "agree to a verifiable and permanent suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing programs." The matter should be referred to the UN Security Council if Iran does not cooperate. Musavian said Iran is not interested in being drawn into what he characterized as campaign-related issues. In a fax to IRNA, Musavian added, "We are rejecting direct negotiations with Washington about Iran's nuclear program due to the United States' antagonistic policies." BS

Anonymous "European and American diplomats" say that the White House and European powers are discussing offering Iran a package of incentives in exchange for suspending its uranium-enrichment activities, as well as sanctions if Iran rejects the Europeans' incentives, "The New York Times" reported on 12 October. These alleged incentives would include access to nuclear fuel from Russia for the Bushehr nuclear reactor, as well as parts for Iran's aging civilian aircraft fleet. The spent fuel would be shipped back to Russia for reprocessing. A possible sanction, if Iran rejects the offer, is the imposition of economic penalties by France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Later on 12 October, State Department officials said that representatives from the Group of Eight industrialized countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States) will meet in Washington to discuss the possible incentives, AFP and CNN reported. BS

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed on 12 October that Iran will guarantee that it will never produce a nuclear weapon if Europe recognizes Iran's right to enrich uranium, Radio Farda reported ( He said Iran will not forego enrichment activities indefinitely, and added that confidence building now is in Europe's hands. BS

The EU's stance on human rights is coming in for criticism from the Iranian government. The EU's External Relations Council met on 11 October and announced afterward, "The council remains deeply concerned that despite this commitment [to strengthen respect for human rights and promote the rule of law], serious violations of human rights are continuing to occur in Iran," according to a press release ( The council noted that UN human rights inspectors have visited Iran several times but their recommendations have not been implemented, and the situation has deteriorated since February. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 12 October dismissed the EU statement as inaccurate, Fars News Agency reported. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has institutionalized the improvement of human rights in its political and social progress based on its religious teachings and beliefs, indigenous cultures, and national strategies," Assefi said. "It has made great achievements in that regard." Assefi accused the EU of "double standards" and bemoaned the state of Muslims in Europe. Assefi failed to contrast the number of Muslims who seek refuge in Europe with the number of Muslims who seek refuge in Iran. BS

President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami has accepted the resignation of Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi, ILNA and Radio Farda reported ( Abtahi, who tried to quit in February after the Guardians Council rejected the candidacy of many incumbent legislators and thousands of others, reiterated his desire to resign in early October, after the legislature interpellated the roads and transport minister (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 11 October 2004). Former Tehran parliamentarian Majid Ansari succeeds Abtahi, according to IRNA. BS

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani arrived in Astana on 11 October for a two-day visit, IRNA reported, and met with Kazakh Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev the same day. During the meeting, Rohani expressed his objection to the presence of foreign forces in the Caspian Sea region and said littoral states should prevent the sea's militarization. Earlier, Rohani met with President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Almaty's Khabar Television reported. They reportedly discussed counterterrorism and counternarcotics and are reportedly considering an agreement on these topics. The two sides also discussed economic cooperation, the Caspian Sea legal regime, and the environment. BS

An Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih asked some 55 countries attending the first session of a two-day donor conference in Tokyo on 13 October for support through debt reduction and reconstruction efforts, international media reported. The conference is the first donor meeting to take place since the transfer of power to the interim government on 28 June. Salih told conference participants that the "development and stability of Iraq cannot be driven forward through the barrels of guns. Assistance and aid in the short term is the key to destroying the causes of terrorism," AFP reported. The interim government also asked the international community to contribute troops to provide security for the United Nations in Iraq. "We need more UN support and we need it now. Please don't let the Iraqi people down," Salih said. Host country Japan vowed to provide $40 million to support January's parliamentary elections, Kyodo World Service reported. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura called on other states to also "contribute toward the smooth running of the elections." KR

An American national working as a photographer in Baghdad was released from captivity on 13 October, Al-Arabiyah television reported. Paul Taggart was kidnapped by an armed group on 10 October while driving in Baghdad. He was on his way to Al-Sadr City to begin a 10-day filming project, Reuters reported on 13 October. "They fed me well, gave me water, and did not do me any harm or mistreat me. I did not know what their political or financial goals were, and I did not know who they were," Taggart told Al-Arabiyah. Taggart said that he did not communicate with his captors, because he speaks little Arabic, while they spoke no English. Ali Sumaysim, the spokesman for Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told Al-Arabiyah that his office helped search for Taggart after al-Sadr militiamen were accused of kidnapping the photographer. Sumaysim located the kidnappers, and told Al-Arabiyah that they were not affiliated with al-Sadr or his Imam Al-Mahdi Army. He declined to give details about the identity of the hostage takers. KR

The military wing of the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army posted a videotape and statement to an Islamic website ( on 12 October claiming to have captured and beheaded an Iraqi Shi'ite working for multinational forces. The man, Ala' al-Maliki, "confessed" in the videotape to having worked in the "Citizens Claims Office" established by U.S. forces to collect and buy weapons from Iraqis. Al-Maliki said he was a follower of deceased Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr and claimed to have close ties to al-Sadr organizations. The Ansar Al-Sunnah Army said in a statement: "The lions of monotheism and protectors of the faith captured one of the most dangerous spies named Ala' al-Maliki.... He collected weapons and ammunition and handed them over to the Crusader U.S. forces with the intent to deplete the market." The group also accused al-Maliki of "liquidating" many Sunnis. "He confessed that an undisclosed relationship exists between al-Sadr's movement and the U.S. forces." "After completing his interrogation...the mujahedin implemented the verdict of God and beheaded him to make him an example to others," the statement said. The militant group said it beheaded a Turkish contractor and his Iraqi Kurdish translator on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). KR

Science and Technology Minister Rashad Umar Mandan disputed claims by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 8 October 2004) that entire sites housing Iraq's nuclear complex have been dismantled and dual-use equipment has disappeared, AP reported on 13 October. The minister told AP that all sites under Iraqi control are secure, and invited IAEA inspectors to return to Iraq to verify the presence of all equipment. "The locations under my control are very well protected. Not even a single screw is being taken away without my knowledge," he said. Mandan did concede, however, that the missing equipment, including milling machines and electron-beam welders, could have been taken in the looting spree that broke out following the U.S.-led invasion, AP reported. KR