DUMA SIGNS OFF ON KYOTO ACCORD...
The State Duma on 22 October voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that seeks to reduce the emissions of gases widely believed to contribute to global warming, Russian and international media reported. Deputies discussed the accord for two hours before voting by 334-73, with two abstentions, in favor of ratification, Interfax reported. Since the accord only comes into force if countries accounting for 55 percent of regulated emissions ratify it, Russia's accession, accounting for 17.5 percent of emissions, is viewed as crucial by supporters. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia) told ITAR-TASS that Russia will be in a position to sell its excess emissions quotas "for the next several years at least." The Federation Council is expected to vote on the accord on 27 October. The agreement will come into force 90 days after Russia submits its ratification documents to the United Nations, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 October. In a telephone conversation with President Putin on 23 October, French President Jacques Chirac said the ratification is an important step in Russian-EU relations, newsru.com reported. RC
...AND ON PROTOCOL TO EU PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT
The Duma on 22 October also approved a protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the European Union that extends the provisions of that accord to the 10 countries that joined the EU on 1 May, Russian and international media reported. The vote was 325 in favor and 88 opposed, with one abstention, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 October. RC
PUTIN TO VISIT KYIV ON EVE OF UKRAINIAN ELECTION...
President Vladimir Putin is planning to arrive on 26 October in Kyiv for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, ORT and other Russian and Ukrainian media reported on 24 October. Putin will arrive in Ukraine on the eve of the country's 31 October presidential election. On 28 October, Putin will take part in a military parade devoted to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kyiv from Nazi occupation. The parade will be the final main event in Yanukovych's election campaign and Putin's presence is considered by Russian and Ukrainian commentators as the culmination of the Kremlin's open support for Yanukovych (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June, 18 August, and 14 October 2004). Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, said on 24 October that Russia "is not intervening in Ukraine's elections, but only worries about its results," utro.ru reported. VY
...AS POLITICIANS SAY UKRAINE IN RUSSIA'S SPHERE OF INTERESTS...
Speaking on Vladimir Pozner's ORT talk show "Vremena" on 24 October, Duma CIS Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin (Unified Russia) said that Moscow is very interested in Ukraine's presidential election "because Russia's foreign policy doctrine defines the CIS and Ukraine as spheres of Russian strategic and vital interest in all areas: political, economic, and military." Another reason why Moscow would like to have a "friendly president" in Kyiv is the importance of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex for the development of Russia's own defense sector, especially the aerospace industry, Kokoshin added. Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii said on the same program that Russia's goal is to prevent a situation in which "Ukraine can be used by the West for an anti-Russian game or can block Russia's drive for integration into Europe." He added: "Since 1914 Europe is split and it cannot be reintegrated only from one end, Brussels. To be united, Europe should have at least two centers of unification -- Moscow and Brussels." Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov commented on the same program that there is nothing wrong with Russia openly backing Yanukovych. "The West no less actively supports [opposition leader] Viktor Yushchenko," he said. VY
...AND EXPERTS WARY OF 'CHESTNUT REVOLUTION'
On the same ORT program on 24 October, Pavlovskii said he believes that two options are most likely in Ukraine: a Yanukovych victory or a "chestnut revolution" by Viktor Yushchenko's supporters (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 20 October 2004). Yanukovych's supporters are "hypnotized" by their candidate's rising poll ratings, while the Ukrainian opposition is not inclined to trust the official electoral system and suspects the government will rig the election, he said. "I am afraid that events in Ukraine could go toward the Yugoslav variant [where President Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown by popular protests] or the Georgian 'Rose Revolution' that overthrew Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze," Pavlovskii said. Also speaking on "Vremena," Mykhaylo Pohrebynskyy, the director of the Kyiv Center for Political and Conflict Studies, said that he shares Pavlovskii's concern. However, Serhiy Tihipko, Yanukovych's campaign manager, said on the program that the situation in Ukraine is very different from that in Yugoslavia and Georgia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been a pocket of stability within the CIS, he said, with almost no social disturbances, riots, or terrorist acts. Also, unlike in Georgia and Yugoslavia, there is substantial economic growth and a rising standard of living in Ukraine. "Everything will go peacefully," he concluded. VY
LEADING SINOLOGIST SAYS RUSSIAN ECONOMY SHOULD BE COMPATIBLE WITH CHINA'S
Writing in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No.39, Andrei Devyatov, a veteran of Russian military intelligence (GRU) and a leading Russian expert on China, said the national community of sinologists is united in the opinion that the future goal of Chinese foreign policy will be "to shift China's strategic borders outside its national territory." Devyatov, who is the author of best-selling books on Chinese policy (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 October 2004), says Russia isn't strong enough to resist the growing economic and demographic pressure of China, but by making its economy compatible with the "powerful engine of the Chinese economy, Russia would gain some of the economic benefits that China now enjoys and would itself grow at a quicker rate," he writes. Devyatov adds that Moscow should warn Beijing that it understands the real goals of Chinese foreign policy and that it will defend Russian national interests. VY
ACCELERATED DEPOPULATION THREATENS RUSSIA'S EXISTENCE...
The State Statistics Committee (Goskomstat) announced on 21 October that in the first eight months of 2004, the population of Russia fell by 504,000 to 143.7 million, TV-Tsentr and other Russian media reported. The decrease was mainly the result of the difference between the birthrate (1.013 million) and mortality rate (1.533 million). Although the natural loss of population decreased slightly in comparison with the same period last year, Russia continues to lose population at a rate comparable with civilian casualties in the bloodiest months of World War II. If the trend continues, Russia's very existence will be put into question in a few decades, TV-Tsentr commented. Meanwhile, commenting on Goskomstat's figures, Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov said that Russia's current population is already "insufficient for a country with such territory and long borders." Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev added that the most acute threat of depopulation is in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, where the Russian population doesn't exceed 8 million, while 50 times that number of Chinese live on the other side of the Amur River. "One should understand that nature does not tolerate a vacuum. If one side doesn't fill it, the other will," TV-Tsentr quoted him as saying. VY
...AS SCIENTISTS SAY EVERYTHING, INCLUDING CLONING, SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN MAKING UP LOSSES
To compensate the drastic natural loss of population, Health Minister Zurabov and other officials suggested a radical increase in immigration from the CIS, including qualified workers and specialists from non-Slavic peoples, TV-Tsentr reported. But Russian demographers understand that even intensive immigration plus stimulation of the birthrate cannot compensate for the accelerating natural population loss. In searching for an answer to this problem, Russian scientists have suggested even such exotic solutions as cloning as a way to stop depopulation. They said that modern science already makes cloning humans possible, but moral, ethical, and religious norms prevent its use. However, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Vice President Nikolai Bochkov told TV-Tsentr that because of the Russian population's poor state of health, mass cloning could genetically reproduce many common ailments and diseases. VY
MUSCOVITES RALLY TO CALL FOR END TO WAR IN CHECHNYA
About 2,000 to 3,000 people gathered in downtown Moscow on 23 October in a demonstration calling for an end to the war in Chechnya, Russian media reported. The demonstration marked the second anniversary of the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage taking and was organized by several liberal political groups. Demonstrators carried signs criticizing other policies of President Putin as well, alleging that he is "killing our freedom" and running roughshod over the constitution, Ekho Moskvy reported. Duma Deputy Oleg Shein (Motherland) told the crowd that the administration is using the war against terrorism as cover to destroy civil rights. The Moscow prosecutor's office on 22 October issued a press release saying that it is investigating Prima Bank on suspicion of financial ties to the terrorists who organized the theater hostage taking, "Vremya novostei" reported on 25 October. The Central Bank revoked Prima Bank's license in June 2003 and declared the bank bankrupt in August 2003, accusing bank Chairman Musa Gatiev of massive embezzlement. RC
ADMINISTRATION INSIDER NAMED TO AEROFLOT BOARD
Aeroflot on 23 October selected a new board of directors, including presidential adviser and Putin insider Viktor Ivanov, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 25 October. The government controls 51.7 percent of the air carrier. The daily reported that Ivanov is considered the leading candidate to become chairman of the 11-member board, possibly as soon as 4 November, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 October. RC
TOP JUDGE COMMENTS ON PRESIDENT'S PROPOSED POLITICAL REFORMS...
Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin on 22 October told a Moscow conference that the court "of course interprets the spirit of the constitution in the context of the times," gazeta.ru reported. The media widely interpreted Zorkin's words as indicating that he opposes President Putin's proposal to replace the direct election of regional governors with a system under which regional legislators approve candidates nominated by the president. "This allows the court to change its legal positions," Zorkin said. "But there are definite limits. The Constitutional Court cannot be guided purely by the letter of the constitution, but must find its spirit." Many critics have argued that Putin's proposal does not violate the letter of the constitution, but that it does violate the document's spirit. Zorkin said the government has the right to organize the electoral system, but that it must do so on the basis of the public's right to democratic elections. However, he warned that politicians sometimes manipulate the electoral system. "Free elections can be used to confirm the unlimited freedom of the incumbent and the conduct of controlled, managed elections," Zorkin said. A demonstration against the reform proposal is being organized for 29 October outside the Duma building, Ekho Moskvy reported on 25 October. RC
...AND SAYS CORRUPTION THREATENING ALL THE COUNTRY'S REFORMS
Constitutional Court Chairman Zorkin on 24 October marked the 13th anniversary of Russia's judicial reform by saying that the country's judicial system is in many aspects worse now than it was in the Soviet era, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 October. He said that judges are often corrupt and that professional standards among them are low. "I am convinced that if we do not force through a legal reform in the country, then all the other reforms will almost certainly fail," Zorkin said. "And soon." He said that loopholes and exceptions in existing laws create opportunities for corruption and must be eliminated as much as possible. RC
UNIFIED RUSSIA MAKES SOLID SHOWING IN CHITA
The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party on 24 October received 36 percent of the vote in legislative elections in Chita Oblast, followed by the Communist Party with about 18 percent, polit.ru reported on 25 October. The Agrarian Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia also surpassed the 5 percent barrier for party-list seats. Yabloko picked up just over 3 percent of the vote, while 15 percent voted "against all" candidates. RC
NORTH OSSETIAN AUTHORITIES ACCUSED OF CONFISCATING CRITICAL LOCAL NEWSPAPER
Officials in Vladikavkaz have been seizing copies of a recent issue of "Ekran Vladikavkaza" because it contains an article critical of North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 October. Local acting raion head Alla Revazova denied confiscating the paper, telling the daily that she "simply wanted to read every copy of that paper" and that she "paid for all of the copies" with her own money. "I wanted to protect the Ossetian people from this verbal affliction," she said. The article, by local opposition politician and former North Ossetian Supreme Court Chairman Konstantin Chedzhemov, sharply criticizes Dzasokhov in connection with the Beslan school hostage taking. "Ekran Vladikavkaza" Editor in Chief Sergei Burnatsev said that he has also been informed by municipal authorities that the paper must vacate its offices as soon as possible. Burnatsev said that he has reported the incident to Federation Council Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Troshin, who heads the intraparliamentary commission investigating Beslan. RC
PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW IMPLICATED IN NORTH CAUCASUS KILLINGS
The seven people who disappeared during the night of 10-11 October after a shoot-out at the home of Ali Kaitov, Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia (KChR) President Mustafa Batdyev's son-in-law, were killed, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 October, citing an official from the KChR prosecutor's office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004). A search warrant has been issued for Kaitov, and Batdyev's daughter has begun divorce proceedings, according to Batdyev's press service. Government spokeswoman Fatima Chekunova told the Russian daily that the slayings of the seven men and of Deputy Prime Minister Ansar Tebuev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004) were part of a broader attempt to destabilize the situation in the republic on the eve of a planned meeting between Batdyev and President Putin. The families of the seven slain men have appealed to Putin to dismiss Batdyev. The KChR parliament has appealed to Putin and to presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak to fire the republic's interior minister, prosecutor, and the head of the local division of the Federal Security Service. LF
IS CHECHEN PRESIDENT READY TO SURRENDER?
Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on 22 October that resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected Chechen president in January 1997 in a ballot recognized by Russia and the international community as free and fair, is ready to surrender to the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, Russian media reported. "He will surrender to the authorities or we shall eliminate him," Interfax quoted Kadyrov as saying. Kadyrov has claimed twice in the past six months that his security guards had surrounded Maskhadov and were on the verge of capturing him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May and 29 and 30 September 2004). But pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov admitted during a 22 October meeting of the Interior Ministry leadership on 22 October that police losses in fighting with the Chechen resistance have increased this year, Russian media reported. Alkhanov said 532 police officers, 117 of them Chechens, were killed during the first nine months of 2004 compared with 414 during the same period in 2003. The question thus arises: If Maskhadov's men are registering increasing military successes, what motive could he possibly have to surrender? LF
SEVEN OPPOSITIONISTS SENTENCED IN AZERBAIJAN...
Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes passed sentence on 22 October on seven leading opposition politicians charged with inciting clashes between police and protesters in the wake of the 15 October 2003 presidential election, Turan reported. Opposition Musavat party Deputy Chairman Rauf Arifoglu, who is also the editor of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," and a second Musavat party deputy chairman, Arif Hadjili, were sentenced to five years' imprisonment; People's Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Panakh Huseinov and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Secretary-General Serdar Djalaloglu to 4 1/2 years; Musavat party Deputy Chairman Ibrahim Ibrahimli and Umid Party Chairman Igbal Agazade to three years; and Etimad Asadov, head of an organization representing veterans of the Karabakh war, to 2 1/2 years' imprisonment. All those terms were slightly less than the prosecution had requested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2004). LF
...WHICH OSCE, OTHER AZERBAIJANI POLITICIANS TERM 'SEVERE' AND 'BRUTAL'
In a statement released the same day (http://www.osce.org/news/generate.pf.php3?news_id=4471), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Baku expressed "deep concern" at the severity of the sentences. At the same time, it expressed the hope that the end of the six-month court proceedings will "be seen as an opportunity to move on towards the development of a political environment which supports pluralism, fair democratic competition, and dialogue between parties." Musavat party Chairman Isa Qambar branded the sentences "biased, unfounded, and unjust," while Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (progressive wing) Chairman Ali Kerimov termed them "brutal," Turan reported. LF
CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Li Zhiaoxing met in Baku on 23 October with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Economy Minister Farhkhad Aliev, and President Ilham Aliyev, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported on 23 and 25 October, respectively. Li stressed the atmosphere of trust and understanding that characterizes relations between the two countries and described the development of bilateral political ties as favorable. He also affirmed Beijing's hopes of expanding bilateral trade, which doubled in 2003 to $230 million. LF
NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER NAMED IN AZERBAIJAN
President Aliyev has issued a decree appointing Ismet Aliyev minister of agriculture, Turan reported on 25 October. Following Ilham Aliyev's election one year ago, Irshad Aliyev continued in the post of acting minister. Observers link his dismissal to the tensions in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations that resulted from the Agriculture Ministry's failure over a period of several years to repay debts it incurred to Turkish companies (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 6 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004). LF
FORMER GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ARRESTED
Koba Narchemashvili, who served from November 2001-November 2003 as Georgian interior minister, was arrested late on 24 October after attending the funeral in Tbilisi of former President Eduard Shevardnadze's wife Nanuli, rustavi2.com reported. He is accused of exceeding his authority and violating customs regulations by importing tear gas from Azerbaijan, allegedly for use against demonstrators who in November 2003 campaigned for Shevardnadze's resignation. The investigation into the case was apparently launched in early 2004 by then Prosecutor-General Irakli Okruashvili, according to an article published in "Rezonansi" on 28 April and summarized by Caucasus Press. Unlike many other senior government officials, Narchemashvili remained loyal to Shevardnadze until the latter stepped down on 23 November 2003. LF
PLANNED ASSASSINATION OF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY THWARTED
A sniper rifle and a submachine gun were found in a Tbilisi theater on 24 October one hour before a concert that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was scheduled to attend, Caucasus Press reported, citing the State Security Ministry. Also late on 24 October, State Security Ministry specialists disarmed an explosive device discovered near the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported on 25 October. On 22 October, Deputy State Security Minister Batu Kutelia told journalists that the letter discovered on 20 October close to the site of an explosion in Tbilisi was incomprehensible and must have been written "by a mental case," Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). LF
GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES
Zurab Zhvania told journalists on 22 October he was "pleased" by his meeting earlier that day with members of the parliamentary majority faction, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported on 22 and 23 October, respectively. Zhvania said that "almost all" deputies present reaffirmed their support for the government's reform program. On 23 October, parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanadze dismissed the heated disagreement between Zhvania and the legislature over the 2005 draft budget as "a storm in a teacup," Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 21 October 2004). LF
KAZAKHSTAN HOSTS ASIAN CONFIDENCE-BUILDING CONFERENCE...
Foreign ministers from the 17 member states of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) met in Almaty on 22 October to discuss regional cooperation and security, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Ministers approved a declaration, a "Catalogue of Confidence Measures," and rules of procedure for the organization, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The declaration struck a consensus-driven tone on regional issues, supporting the political process in Iraq, presidential elections in Afghanistan, the implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian "road map," and six-sided talks to disarm the Korean Peninsula. Noting that CICA includes representatives of both Israel and Palestine, Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev called the organization a "convenient location" for discussing regional conflicts, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Established in 2002, CICA today has 17 members: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Thailand, and Uzbekistan. DK
...AS KAZAKH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR BROADER UN SECURITY COUNCIL
Addressing the conference, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called for the expansion of the UN Security Council, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. He said, "We believe that the Security Council should be expanded and include states from Asia, Africa, and Latin America." Noting that the "whole system of relations between states" is undergoing a difficult period, Nazarbaev said that Security Council reform could exert a democratizing influence. For his part, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a welcome message to the conference, saying, "CICA plays an important role in defining the future structure of cooperation in Asia." DK
KAZAKH OPPOSITION CHARGES HARASSMENT OF JAILED LEADER
The opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan charged in a 21 October statement published by "Navigator" the next day that imprisoned party leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov is enduring rights violations while under house arrest in a "settlement colony." According to the statement, colony authorities have refused to let Zhaqiyanov work either for the regional branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights or as a guard in a local school. Instead, "they have given him an ultimatum demanding that he either work in a boiler room or do loading work in the steppe," even though Zhaqiyanov is in poor health. The statement concluded, "The obstacles to Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov's employment and the attempts to force him to perform menial labor that will be detrimental to his health represent a continuation of the politically motivated repressive campaign against the leader of an opposition party." Zhaqiyanov is currently serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges that his supporters believe were politically motivated. DK
TAJIK, RUSSIAN CRIME FIGHTERS MEET IN DUSHANBE
The joint collegium of Russia's and Tajikistan's interior ministries held its sixth session in Dushanbe on 22 October, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The issue of illegal migration dominated talks. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev noted that since the vast majority of the up to 800,000 Tajik migrant workers in Russia are there illegally, a database could help to reduce violations of law and exploitation of workers, ITAR-TASS reported. Nurgaliev also noted that the number of crimes committed by Tajik citizens in Russia has risen 63 percent in 2004. Commenting on a recent Russian-Tajik agreement on labor migration, Nurgaliev said, "This agreement will help to organize the flow of illegal migrants, and it will guarantee the social rights of migrants and ensure that they are engaged in employment activities," RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Tajik Interior Minister Humdin Sharifov said that Russian-Tajik law-enforcement cooperation has allowed Tajikistan to extradite 12 wanted criminals since 2001. But officials said that the extradition process must be simplified, Avesta reported. DK
RUSSIAN GENERAL COMMENTS ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER HANDOVER
Lieutenant General Aleksandr Manilov, deputy head of Russia's Federal Border Service, announced on 22 October in Moscow that Russia will transfer the Khorugh, Qalai Khum, and Ishkoshim sections of the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajik jurisdiction by the end of 2004, Interfax-AVN reported. The sections currently guarded by Russia's Moscow and Panj detachments will be put under Tajik control in 2005, with the remainder of the handover to be completed in 2006. Manilov noted, however, that Russian border guards will remain in Tajikistan in an advisory capacity, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. He stressed that Russian border guards will not leave Tajikistan. DK
ISLAMIC PARTY OPENS OWN PRINTING HOUSE IN DUSHANBE
The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) has opened its own printing house in Dushanbe to print party publications, Avesta reported on 22 October. Tajik tax authorities closed the Jiyonkhon printing house in August, leaving a number of independent publications without printing facilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2004). IRPT spokesman Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda said, "We decided to organize our own printing house to print party materials." He noted that on 22 October the printing house put out its first issue of the party newspaper "Najot" in a print run of 5,000 copies. DK
TURKMEN LEADER AMNESTIES 9,000, RAISES SALARIES, AND OPENS MOSQUE
President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a decree amnestying 9,000 prisoners, turkmenistan.ru reported on 24 October. The amnesty will take place on the Muslim holiday of Laylat al-Qadr, known in Turkmen as Gadyr Gijesi, which falls on 10 November. On 23 October, the president signed a decree raising salaries, pensions, and stipends 50 percent as of 1 January, RIA-Novosti reported. Niyazov also opened "the largest mosque in Central Asia" on 22 October in his native village of Kipchak, Turkmen TV reported. Niyazov said that his parents' remains will be moved to the mosque. He took the opportunity to comment on the separation of church and state, saying, "We keep religion pure and we will not use it for political purposes, nor will we allow anyone else to use religion for their personal ambition." Kazinform reported that the mosque, which can accommodate 10,000 worshippers and features four 90-meter-high minarets, cost $100 million to build. DK
UZBEK TERROR TRIAL ENDS
A court in Tashkent on 22 October sentenced 23 people to prison terms ranging from three to 18 years in prison for involvement in springtime violence in Tashkent and Bukhara, the BBC's Uzbek service reported. According to the report, at least one of the accused claimed to have signed a confession under torture, but officials dismissed the torture claims as "baseless." DK
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FORESEES MORE WORK FOR SECURITY SERVICE
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 22 October presented a banner to the Presidential Security Service to mark its 10th anniversary, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. Lukashenka said the service will be given new tasks in connection with the emergence of new threats and challenges, including those from the country's opposition. "Preparations for the [17 October] referendum showed once again that the radical opposition would stoop to anything to get what they want," Lukashenka said. "Among their arsenal are sophisticated frame-ups, open threats against government officials, and the use of funds and the service of experts from beyond the state to organize public disorder. The slogan of the dropouts, who are loudly calling themselves democrats, reads 'The Worse the Better!' There is only one step from this idea to a merger with centers of international terrorism." JM
POLAND CALLS ON BELARUS TO STOP AUTHORITARIAN PRACTICES...
The Polish Foreign Ministry on 22 October called on the Belarusian authorities "to drop authoritarian practices that are inconsistent with the main European values of all modern democratic countries," Belapan reported. The ministry said in a statement that the parliamentary campaign and the voting process earlier this month failed to comply with "elementary democratic principles, which Belarus accepted as part of its international commitments and which are stipulated by national laws." The ministry also expressed concern about the recent violent arrests and police beatings of opposition activists in Belarus, as well as measures taken by the country's authorities to restrict freedom of choice and assembly. JM
...AS RUSSIAN DUMA SAYS ALL IS FINE
The Russian State Duma voted overwhelmingly on 22 October to adopt a resolution saying that Belarus's 12-17 October parliamentary vote and the referendum on lifting the constitutional two-term limit on the presidency were "free, open, democratic, and legitimate," Belapan reported. The Duma also expressed concern about an "unprecedented campaign of external pressure" on Belarus in connection with the polls. "Strongly negative statements by government officials and political figures in a number of European countries and the United States with regard to the referendum announced in the Republic of Belarus, and threats to impose sanctions, can only be viewed as an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a violation of universally recognized standards of international law," the resolution reads. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES BELARUSIAN COUNTERPART ON REFERENDUM VICTORY
Leonid Kuchma called his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, on 22 October to congratulate him on his victory in the 17 October referendum, Belapan reported, quoting Belarusian presidential spokeswoman Natallya Pyatkevich. Kuchma invited Lukashenka to attend celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazi occupation, which are to be held in Kyiv later this week. JM
UKRAINIANS DEMAND HONEST ELECTIONS IN HUGE OPPOSITION RALLY
An estimated crowd of 100,000-150,000 people took part in a rally organized by People's Power, a coalition of forces backing the presidential bid of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, in Kyiv on 23 October, Ukrainian media reported. The demonstration, seemingly the largest in Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union, was held near the Central Election Commission headquarters under the general slogan "The People's Power Against Lies and Falsification." "We demand honest elections," Yushchenko told the crowd. "The people will force [the government] to recognize their choice.... The candidate of the authorities has no chance whatsoever for an honest victory [in the 31 October presidential ballot]." On 22 October, Yushchenko attended a 20,000-strong rally in Dnipropetrovsk, and on 24 October he met with 18,000 people in Simferopol. JM
UKRAINIAN ELECTION COMMISSION SETS UP 41 POLLING STATIONS IN RUSSIA...
The Central Election Commission held a meeting on 23 October devoted to creating 420 constituencies in Russia for the 31 October Ukrainian presidential election, in addition to the four that were set up earlier, Ukrainian media reported. The meeting was attended by opposition lawmakers and presidential candidate Yushchenko, who opposed the opening of additional polling stations in Russia, arguing that this move could be conducive to election falsifications since there would be no election observers in those constituencies. However, the following day the commission passed a resolution on opening 41 more polling stations in Russia. JM
...AS OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS ARE ATTACKED BY MOB INCLUDING POLICE OFFICERS
A group of some 100 Yushchenko supporters, who picketed the Central Election Commission headquarters on the evening of 23 October, were attacked by a mob of some 50 unidentified men, who were armed with flails and plastic bottles filled with some hard mixture, the Mass Information Institute website (http://www.imi.org.ua) and UNIAN reported. The picketers, along with opposition deputies, managed to detain three attackers -- two of them turned out to be police officers. The Interior Ministry has not yet commented on the attack. Twelve picketers were reportedly hospitalized following the attack. JM
UKRAINIAN TV JOURNALISTS BACK PRO-OPPOSITION CHANNEL
Some 100 Ukrainian television journalists took part in a march in Kyiv on 24 October in support of Channel 5, the private television channel that is supporting opposition candidate Yushchenko's presidential bid in the 31 October election, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Channel 5 is reportedly facing a threat of closure, following a court ruling in a defamation case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004). JM
U.S. DENIES VISA TO UKRAINIAN OLIGARCH
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said on 22 October that the U.S. authorities have denied a visa to Hryhoriy Surkis, head of Ukraine's football federation, the "Financial Times" reported on 23 October, quoting an embassy spokesman. Surkis is also a political and business partner of presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk. The embassy spokesman said Surkis was denied a visa under a U.S. presidential order that authorizes immigration officials to withhold visas from foreigners suspected of "corruption...that has or had serious effects on U.S. national interests." JM
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS POINT TO LDK VICTORY IN KOSOVA ELECTIONS...
According to the preliminary unofficial results provided by the Prishtina-based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) of Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova won the 23 October general elections in the internationally administered province, which is nominally part of Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and international media reported on 24 October. The LDK garnered about 47 percent of the vote, while the Democratic Party (PDK) of former rebel commander Hashim Thaci won about 27 percent. Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) came in third with about 9 percent and the newly founded ORA party led by publisher and journalist Veton Surroi garnered about 6 percent. Both the LDK and the PDK, however, have claimed higher results, while Surroi slammed the data as "unacceptable," according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." Rugova said his party managed to win a solid parliamentary majority. About 53 percent of the province's 1.6 million registered voters participated in the elections for the 120 seats in the parliament. Twenty seats are reserved for ethnic minorities, including 10 for Serbs. UB
...AS KOSOVA'S SERBIAN MINORITY LARGELY FOLLOWS BOYCOTT CALLS...
Only 0.3 percent of the Kosovar Serbs participated in the 23 October elections, following calls by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, the opposition Serbian Radical Party (SRS), and the Serbian Orthodox Church to boycott the vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 20, and 21 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 August, 17 September, and 8 October 2004). In a written statement issued by his office, Kostunica said the Serbian minority did not participate in the elections because it did not want to make use of the only right remaining for them, the right to vote. Kostunica added that the election results show how serious the situation in the province is. The SRS issued a statement saying that the Serbian population in Kosova showed in "a serious and responsible way" that it will not legitimize the Albanian administration in Kosova and will not allow the province to become independent, Tanjug reported. The SRS added that the boycott also showed the lack of support for the "regime of [Serbian President] Boris Tadic," who had called on the Kosovar Serbs to participate in the elections. UB
...AND SPECULATES ABOUT REASONS FOR BOYCOTT...
Oliver Ivanovic, who is a Serbian member of the Presidency of Kosova's parliament, said on 24 October the boycott is -- at least in part -- the result of an inadequate international policy toward the Serbian minority in Kosova, Tanjug reported. Ivanovic said that the Serbian minority lives in a pitiful situation and added that the Serbs abstained from the vote because the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) has failed to respond to the Serbian government's plans to grant autonomy to the Serbian communities in the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April and 6, 11, and 18 May and 9 August 2004). For Rada Trajkovic, who is a Serbian deputy in Kosova's parliament, the boycott is a victory for the Serbian Orthodox Church and shows that the voters do not support the Serbian politicians who ran for parliament, Tanjug reported. UB
...WHICH LEAVES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DISAPPOINTED
Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads UNMIK, said in Mitrovica on 23 October that the Serbian minority's low participation was in part the result of intimidation, "The New York Times" reported. "That is their right, their right not to vote, that I absolutely accept," the daily quoted Jessen-Petersen as saying. "Then there are others who have had their democratic right to vote hijacked, who may have wanted to go out to vote but who were afraid to go out and vote, because some of them may have felt intimidated." Jessen-Petersen has repeatedly called on the Kosovar Serbs to participate in the elections and rejected the boycott calls from Belgrade as "unacceptable" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2004). "We are disappointed," "The Washington Post" quoted Pascal Fieschi, who heads the Kosova mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as saying. UB
ROMANIA, UKRAINE TO NEGOTIATE AGREEMENT ON DANUBE RIVER BORDERS
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 22 October that Romanian and Ukrainian experts reached an agreement last week to negotiate a border delimitation agreement on the River Danube, Mediafax reported. Geoana said the agreement was reached on 21 October, at a meeting in Ismail, Ukraine. In the meantime, the sides agreed to take measures to prevent a repetition of the friction that occurred last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2004). Meanwhile, Traian Basescu, presidential candidate for the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance, on 24 October accused Geoana of artificially inflating the dispute with Kyiv on the construction of the Bystraya Canal, Mediafax reported. Basescu said Geoana "mixed up" the canal with the Chilia branch of the Danube delta. Basescu said nothing worth noting has taken place on the branch and the Bystraya, which would facilitate Ukrainian access to the branch, is within Ukraine's territory. MS
GOVERNMENT APPROVES BILL FOR HELPING ROMANIANS LIVING ABROAD
The cabinet on 22 October approved a bill under which ethnic Romanians living abroad will receive cultural and educational benefits in Romania and their own countries as of 1 January 2005, Mediafax reported. The bill is aimed at aiding Romanians living abroad and their descendants and preserving their cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious identity. The benefits would be extended also to members of national minorities who emigrated from Romania, such as Jews or ethnic Germans. The bill has yet to be debated and approved by parliament. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO PARTICIPATE IN RULING PARTY'S ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN
Ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) Executive Chairman Octav Cozmanca said on 22 October that President Ion Iliescu will take part in the electoral campaign of the PSD, Mediafax reported. Iliescu, whose mandate ends in December, is a candidate on the PSD lists for the Senate elections, slated for November. The constitution bans the head of state from participating in party politics. MS
ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SAYS PSD IS 'SERVILE' TO WEST
PNL-Democratic Party presidential candidate Basescu on 24 October said the government headed by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is displaying "servility" toward Western countries, Mediafax reported. Basescu reiterated accusations that a French company was awarded a contract to build part of a planned highway linking Bucharest and Brasov without a tender. He said that the U.S. Bechtel company was also selected without tender to build the highway between Brasov and Oradea. He also said that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's visit to Romania earlier this year led to the signing of a contract connected to securing Romania's border, also conducted without an international tender. Now, Basescu said, "a visit by Israeli officials is to cost us $0.5 billion, and this would be followed up by an Austrian visit at similar costs." He said that this was the "electoral price" the cabinet was paying to display at home a good international image, but, he added, servility can generate abroad "nothing but contempt" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 9 February, 13 August, 19 and 20 October 2004). MS
MOLDOVA GRANTED SEECP OBSERVER STATUS
Moldova has been granted observer status at a 22 October meeting in Bucharest of the South Eastern Cooperation Process (SEECP), Flux and international news agencies reported. Croatia was admitted at that meeting as a new member of the SEECP, which also includes Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, and Turkey. The meeting discussed regional cooperation, stability, energy needs, and ways of improving the region's corruption-tainted image. Romanian President Iliescu told the forum that "Balkan identity should become a reason for pride, while the pejorative notion of the term 'Balkan' should be replaced by a new image of the region," AP reported. Iliescu proposed that the SEECP's name be changed into Central-South European Cooperation Process, saying that the southeastern part of the continent is the Caucasus. Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan met in Bucharest with his Romanian counterpart Geoana, who told him that a solution to the Transdniester conflict requires "more energetic efforts and an ample political imagination." MS
U.S. NATO COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN EXPECTS TRANSDNIESTER ISSUE TO BE PLACED HIGHER ON NEXT ADMINISTRATION'S AGENDA
Bruce Jackson, head of the Democracies in Transition project and chairman of the U.S. NATO Committee, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 21 October that the Transdniester conflict is likely to be placed higher on the agenda of the next U.S. administration than was the case in 2000-2004. Jackson said an enlarged negotiation framework, with the participation of the United States and the EU, should replace the current "forgery" of the five-sided forum, in which Russia has "treble veto powers." He said Moscow enjoys veto powers as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as a source of influence on Ukraine, and as a mediator in the conflict alongside Ukraine and the OSCE. He also said Russia's refusal to abide by the 1999 and 2001 OSCE resolutions to withdraw its troops from Transdniester is redolent of 19th-century politics and called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's recent statement that Russian troops will remain in Transdniester "as long as necessary" a "primitive" declaration. MS
AFGHAN LEADER AWAITS OFFICIAL DECLARATION OF PRESIDENTIAL VICTORY
With over 90 percent of the vote counted by late last week, it appeared likely that Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai would become the country's first directly elected president. According to the latest statistics provided by the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Karzai had secured 55.3 percent of the vote, while his closest challenger, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, stood at about 17 percent, followed by Mohammad Mohaqeq and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, each with 10 percent of the vote (see http://www.afg-electionresults.org). Qanuni conceded defeat on 24 October, echoing Dostum's earlier concession.
The JEMB has said that it will not announce a victor until all the votes are counted and the UN panel of experts -- officially known as the Panel of Impartial Electoral Experts -- established to investigate complaints of irregularities during the election process, submits its findings.
On 20 October, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the special representative of the UN secretary-general to Afghanistan, said the JEMB has received 285 formal complaints. Without providing much detail, the spokesman said that around 180 of the complaints either "did not require action or action has been taken, or action is currently being taken." According to de Almeida e Silva, 45 percent of the complaints are about the application of what was supposed to be indelible ink to prevent multiple voting; he also described 13 percent of the complaints being "of a general nature" about the electoral process. The spokesman said that just 5 percent of complaints were about multiple voting or underage voters. While de Almeida e Silva did not make the connection, the issue of indelible ink and multiple voting are directly related.
It is likely that the allegations of improprieties will tarnish Karzai's expected victory and that the losers will cry foul. However, a genuine desire of the majority of Afghans to move toward a better future, as illustrated by the huge election-day turnout, coupled with the fact that the electoral process was relatively free of violence, will lend the new president legitimacy.
There seems to be a rush on the part of the JEMB and most international organizations dealing with Afghanistan to bring the country's presidential election to an end quickly and to avoid a runoff. A clean result would indeed be good for Afghanistan -- but to achieve that, serious time and effort should be invested to address all legitimate complaints with transparency and clarity.
Moreover, as long as dissenters refrain from resorting to violence to make their points, they will represent assets for Afghanistan's march toward democracy. Some of the losers of the presidential election will likely try their chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for April 2005, and will build on their experience gained in the presidential election.
Already there are candidates who are predicting the response of the panel of experts to the complaints. Homayun Shah Asefi said recently that the panel will "say that there are some technical mistakes" and "there was some limited fraud," but that "the extent of the fraud did not affect the legitimacy" of the election result.
If the finding of the panel concurs with Asefi's prediction, it ought to demonstrate this clearly. To do otherwise would put Afghanistan on the bumpy path toward a democratic society -- a distant and difficult task in itself given the realities in the country -- with a flat tire.
KARZAI CLAIMS VICTORY IN AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has claimed victory in his country's first popular presidential election, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 25 October. "I am feeling very good," Karzai told the London daily, adding: "What is good [is] that I won without a real campaign or using any money or the use of government machinery. It was a clear pure win and a vote of the people." The UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) has not officially announced a victor in order to get all of the votes counted and to complete the final report looking into allegations of electoral fraud. The report is expected to be completed by 28 October. According to the JEMB on 24 October, with 94.3 percent of the vote counted, Karzai was first with 55.3 percent of the vote, while his closest rival, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, was second with 16.2 percent of the vote (http://www.afg-electionresults.org). AT
...AS HIS MAIN RIVAL CONDITIONALLY CONCEDES...
Sayyed Hamid Nuri, a spokesman for Qanuni, said on 24 October that his side will "accept [the result of the election] in the interest of the nation" and to avoid "another crisis," Reuters reported. However, Qanuni's second vice-presidential running mate, Sayyed Hosayn Alemi-Balkhi, said on 23 October that Qanuni is not backing down from the complaints he has lodged about improprieties in the election process, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. "Fraud in the election is not something to be disregarded because this is about the right of the people," Alemi-Balkhi said. "I think the other candidates have all accepted the results" of the election, Karzai told "The Daily Telegraph" on 25 October. While Qanuni is waiting for the results of the UN panel, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who stands fourth with 10.3 percent of the vote, has accepted Karzai's victory (for more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website at http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/). AT
...BUT VOICES OF DISSENT REMAIN
Yassa, a representative of presidential candidate Mohammad Mohaqeq, said on 24 October that Karzai's victory is the result of fraud, "The New York Times" reported. "Definitely I should say there was a lot of cheating, and we want to congratulate Mr. Karzai on the election that he is winning as a result of large-scale fraud and cheating," Yassa told the New York-daily in a telephone interview. Presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram labeled the election "completely shameful," adding that "if Karzai or anybody else becomes the president of the country as a result of this election, he will be a false president." Mohaqeq stands third with 11.8 percent of the vote, while Pedram is fifth with 1.2 percent. AT
SUICIDE BLAST IN KABUL CLAIMS TWO LIVES...
A man blew himself up on 23 October in a busy Kabul street, killing two and injuring six, international news agencies reported. The man, "disguised as a beggar," approached a vehicle belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and blew himself up, Afghanistan Television reported on 23 October. In addition to the bomber, the blast killed a young Afghan girl and a U.S. woman. It also wounded three Icelandic soldiers belonging to ISAF and three Afghan civilians, AFP reported on 23 October. Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Poulain of ISAF said that there was "no evidence of a direct attack against ISAF." AT
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
Abdul Latif Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, on 23 October claimed that the militia was behind the attack in Kabul, AFP reported. "We claim responsibility for all attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan, as well as today's [23 October] attack in Kabul," Hakimi said in a telephone interview. According to Hakimi, the neo-Taliban will remain an enemy of the Afghan government and the group "doesn't care if it is elected or selected." AT
TWO FRENCH SOLDIERS KILLED IN ACCIDENT IN AFGHANISTAN
Two French soldiers serving with ISAF were killed on 21 October in a road accident, AFP reported on 22 October. A third soldier was injured in the incident. AT
IRAN REJECTS EU NUCLEAR PROPOSAL, BUT WILL KEEP NEGOTIATING
Iran rejected a proposal on 24 October, submitted by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, designed to wean it away from enriching uranium, international media reported. The EU countries submitted the proposal on 21 October. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi dismissed the offer -- which is reported to include a light-water reactor, trade concessions, and cooperation on counternarcotics and counterterrorism in exchange for an Iranian promise to never enrich uranium -- on 24 October as "preliminary" and "unbalanced," IRNA reported. He said the proposal should have "more positive tones and its negative points must be eliminated or reduced," and added that the Europeans should provide assurances that they can implement any agreement they reach with Iran. Assefi also said that Iran will not give up uranium enrichment permanently and that discussions with the Europeans will resume on 27 October. BS
IRANIAN URANIUM CONVERSION FACILITY ALMOST READY
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy chief Mohammad Ghanadi on 24 October told a visiting legislative delegation that the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan is nearing completion, Reuters reported. He said the facility is 70 percent complete and 21 out of 24 of its workshops are operational. The facility converts raw uranium (yellowcake) into uranium hexafluoride, which can be enriched in centrifuges. Iran previously announced that it intends to convert 37 tons of yellowcake (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 October 2003 and 6 September 2004). Kamal Daneshyar, one of the legislators who visited the facility in Isfahan, said afterwards that because of Iran's limited oil reserves the Iranian government should plan on building nine nuclear power plants, state radio reported. BS
NUCLEAR POWER WORKERS PROTEST UNPAID WAGES
Bushehr nuclear-power-plant security personnel broke up a gathering of workers demonstrating against unpaid wages, and then the provincial welfare council dismissed some workers and transferred others, ILNA reported on 22 October. Isa Kamali, secretary of the Bushehr Worker's House, said that a Labor Ministry arbitration council is being prevented from investigating the case on alleged security grounds. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN
The country's unemployment rate is down to 10.4 percent, President Mohammad Khatami said in Tehran on 24 October at a ceremony honoring statisticians, IRNA reported. Khatami said the drop is due to the government's job-creation efforts. Earlier in the month, the head of the National Youth Organization, Rahim Ebadi, said the unemployment rate stood at 27 percent, "Sharq" reported on 14 October. Two months before that Khatami said unemployment had fallen from 15 percent to 13 percent, IRNA reported on 25 August. The fact that at least five Iranian agencies provide unemployment statistics partially explains the confusing discrepancy in figures, Jahangir Amuzegar wrote in the 11 October issue of "Middle East Economic Survey." BS
GUARDIANS COUNCIL VOWS TO CHECK ELECTION LAW
Amid reports that the Iranian parliament might impose an age ceiling for presidential candidates, Guardians Council spokesman Gholam Hussein Elham said on 23 October that any changes to the election law will be reviewed by the council in light of constitutional Article 115, according to IRNA. According to Article 115, a presidential candidate must be of Iranian origin and have Iranian nationality, must be a resourceful administrator, must have a good record, must be trustworthy and pious, and must believe in the Islamic republican system and its fundamental principles. A more controversial aspect of the article on presidential qualifications is its assertion that the president must be a religious-political individual (rejal-i mazhabi-siasi). This vague sentence leads to discussions on whether or not the president should be a clergyman. Moreover, it is unclear as to whether or not a woman can be president. Elham seemed to answer that question when he said only a man could be president according to the constitution. BS
IRANIAN ACTIVISTS BARRED FROM INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
Attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who was scheduled to visit France with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, said on 22 October that the government has refused to issue him a passport, ILNA reported. Dadkhah represents the family of slain Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi. Reformist journalist Emadedin Baqi's efforts to reach the United States, where he was to receive an award, also failed when police at the airport detained him and seized his passport, Voice of America reported on 13 October. Baqi was scheduled to receive the Civil Courage Prize from the Northcote Parkinson Fund, which honors "steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk." Baqi's uncle, Heibatollah Baghi, accepted the prize on his nephew's behalf. There is hope that the political deadlock in Iran can be changed, Baqi wrote in "The Washington Post" on 25 October, because "society itself, not the government, creates change." "The state is facing powerful, irreversible social pressure for reform," he added. BS
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY APPOINTS SPECIAL IRAQI REPRESENTATIVE
A 24 October Foreign Ministry press release announced the appointment of Ali-Asghar Khaji as the foreign minister's special representative to Iraq and director of the Foreign Ministry's Special Office for Iraqi Affairs, Mehr News Agency reported. Khaji previously served as ambassador to Riyadh. The Iranian charge in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, is reportedly linked with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Appointment of the special representative may be connected with Iranian efforts to secure war reparations from Iraq. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on 20 October that Iran will do everything within its power to secure reparations for the 1980-1988 war between the two countries, IRNA reported. Kharrazi said there was an estimated $97.2 billion in nonmilitary damages, and he added that a 5 May 2003 letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requested payment of reparations. According to the Middle East News Agency on 23 October, Iran has submitted its request for reparations to the International Monetary Fund. BS
IAEA SAYS 350 TONS OF EXPLOSIVES MISSING IN IRAQ
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on 25 October that hundreds of tons of explosives are missing from Iraqi government installations, AP reported. "On 10 October, the IAEA received a declaration from the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology informing us that approximately 350 [metric] tons of high-explosive material had gone missing," IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming told AP. "The most immediate concern here is that these explosives could have fallen into the wrong hands." Iraqi officials told the IAEA that unknown parties were able to gain access to the explosive caches due to a lack of security at government installations, Fleming said. "We do not know what happened to the explosives or when they were looted." The explosives included HMX and RDX, which can be used to demolish buildings or to produce warheads for missiles and detonate nuclear weapons, AP reported. HMX and RDX are also the key ingredients used in plastic explosives such as C-4 and Semtex. The IAEA classified both types of explosives as "dual use" because they could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon. KR
FORTY-NINE IRAQI NATIONAL GUARDSMEN KILLED
Unidentified militants killed 49 newly trained Iraqi National Guardsmen on 23 October, international media reported. The attack took place near the town of Mandali, located some 120 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The guardsmen were traveling in a bus -- unarmed and dressed in civilian clothes -- when militants disguised as policemen stopped their vehicle at a makeshift checkpoint, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 24 October. The soldiers were taken down from the buses and lined up in four rows. They were then ordered to lie down, and were shot dead, the news channel reported. The bodies of other guardsmen were found shot dead on board the buses. "All of them were from the southern provinces," Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Adana Abd al-Rahman said of the victims, washingtonpost.com reported. "Most of them had their hands tied behind their back." Defense Minister Hazim al-Sha'lan said: "Once we identify and arrest the perpetrators, we will take tough measures against them.... When we arrest them, they will receive capital punishment. It will be the first in Iraq's modern history," Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 24 October. Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn claimed responsibility for the attack in a 24 October statement posted on an Islamic website (http://www.tajdeed.net). KR
SEVENTEEN IRAQI OFFICERS KILLED IN CAR-BOMB ATTACKS
At least 17 Iraqi security officers were killed on 23 October in two separate car bombings, washingtonpost.com reported on 24 October. The first attack occurred in the town of Baghdadi, located some 225 kilometers west of the Iraqi capital, when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside a U.S. base guarded by Iraqi police. Sixteen officers were killed in that attack. Forty people were injured, according to a U.S. military spokesman. The spokesman said none of the injured were U.S. citizens. The second attack took place at a checkpoint in the town of Ishaqi, located some 19 kilometers south of Samarra. Reuters cited police as saying that four guardsmen were killed in the attack, while washingtonpost.com said one officer was killed. KR
HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCHES BEGIN IN AL-SADR CITY
The Iraqi Army announced on 24 October that house-to-house searches have begun in the Al-Sadr City neighborhood in Baghdad, Al-Arabiyah reported the same day. Some 20 U.S. military vehicles, four National Guard vehicles, and 20 police cars reportedly entered the area to begin the operation. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih praised the government-initiated weapons buy-back program, telling a press conference broadcast on Al-Arabiyah on 23 October that some $5 million was paid out through the program. Salih said that more than 9,000 antitank mines, 2,000 antipersonnel mines, 200 heavy weapons, 2,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 1,000 rocket-propelled grenades, 2,000 rockets, 950 155-millimeter shells, 6,000 105-millimeter shells, and 575,000 bullets have been turned in. Salih said that a $365 million grant has been allocated to reconstruction projects in Al-Sadr City including electricity, telecommunications, water, sewage, and road-maintenance projects. Moreover, $50 million has been allocated to Al-Najaf for reconstruction and $25 million to Samarra following large-scale destruction after militants battled U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in those towns in recent months. KR
SCIRI ACCUSES IRAQI INTELLIGENCE OF TORTURE
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told Al-Jazeera television in a 23 October interview that he was surprised by accusations made by Iraqi intelligence that SCIRI is involved in the assassination of members of the intelligence community. "We know many of them. They are the remnants of the former regime who still employ the same old mentality and thus commit acts in violation of the endorsed State Administration Law," he said. Al-Hakim accused intelligence officers of "conducting raids and arresting, torturing, and imprisoning individuals." "If they maintain such conduct, then we will expose to Iraqis and to the entire world the true nature of the criminal acts being committed by these bodies," he said. SCIRI also posted a statement to its website (http://www.sciri.ws) on 23 October that cited a recent survey by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute (http://www.iri.org) that found that the majority of Iraqis polled would support an Islamic state. "The conflicting paths of these two arguments clearly demonstrate how distant those biased intelligence parties, which are trying to derail democracy in our new Iraq, are from the pulse of the Iraqi street," the statement said. KR
MUSLIM SCHOLARS ASSOCIATION THREATENS TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS
Sunni Muslim clerics from the Muslim Scholars Association threatened to boycott participation in January 2005 elections if U.S. forces launch a large-scale incursion into the volatile city of Al-Fallujah, Reuters reported on 24 October. A spokesman for the association told Reuters that should the city be "invaded" or the bombardment continues, the clerics will call on Sunni Iraqis to boycott the elections. UN officials in Iraq have said that they would be willing to provide negotiators in an effort to prevent an elections boycott. "We are ready to take [on] this role if asked," UN envoy Ashraf Qazi said. KR
DEATHS OF THREE MACEDONIAN HOSTAGES IN IRAQ CONFIRMED
Macedonian Deputy Foreign Minister Fuad Hasanovic told a press conference on 24 October that all three Macedonian hostages were slain by their kidnappers in Iraq, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Earlier that day, Hasanovic had returned from Doha, Qatar, where he and a Macedonian delegation visited the headquarters of Al-Jazeera. The TV station had first broadcast the video footage of two of the three Macedonian contract workers who were abducted near Baghdad on 21 August. Initial reports suggested that only two of the three hostages were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September, and 14, 19, 20, and 21 October 2004). Hasanovic said the videotape showed the last minutes in the lives of Dalibor Lazarevski and Zoran Naskovski as well as the body of another man, who was identified as the third missing worker, Dragan Markovic. UB