RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN REMOVING IRAQI EXPLOSIVES
Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov rejected a statement by U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security John Shaw, as quoted by "The Washington Times" on 28 October, that Russian special forces, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed 350 tons of high-explosive material from and Iraqi base weeks before the U.S.-led military operation in March 2003, mosnews.com and the other Russia media reported on 28 October. "Such reports cannot be called anything other than far-fetched and ridiculous, because all Russian military -- advisers and specialists -- had left Iraq long before the beginning of the U.S.-British operation" in Iraq, he added. U.S. Defense Department spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said on 28 October that Shaw's statement does not reflect the official U.S. position, as did State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. VY
FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS DUMA ON RUSSIAN POLICY IN CIS HOT SPOTS...
At a closed-door session on 27 October, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov briefed State Duma deputies on the situations in the self-declared republics of Abkhazia and Transdniester and relations with Georgia and Moldova, strana.ru and other Russian media reported. Lavrov said, "It is impossible to negotiate with [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili because his behavior is cynical and unruly." Saakashvili himself provokes conflicts in Georgia with his behavior, he added. Lavrov also accused the leadership of Moldova of a "reluctance to talk about the situation with Transdniester." Lavrov further criticized the Baltic states for their policy regarding the Russian populations in their countries and "discrimination" against the Russian language. He also said that Russia does not want to compete with the European Union in the CIS, but wants "its legal and historical rights in the region to be respected." VY
...AND ON CHINA, JAPAN
State Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) said that Lavrov presented "convincing arguments" in favor of the agreement to cede to China several islands in the Amur River signed by President Vladimir Putin during his recent visit to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2004). And Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said he supports the islands' return "for the sake of border settlement with China. And on the transferred islands there was no oil or gas." Lavrov also informed deputies that Russia is not holding talks on returning the disputed Kurile Islands to Japan and that the agreement with China is not a model for doing so, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 October. "Only after achieving a real partnership filled with concrete actions can an atmosphere be created in which it is realistic to sign a peace treaty," he said. Deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin (independent) criticized Lavrov's presentation, strana.ru reported on 28 October. "I have the impression that we have not been able to resolve the conflicts by force and are not attempting to do so in an alternative way," he said. VY
PUTIN ENDORSES NEW DRAFT ON NATURAL RESOURCES...
President Putin returned to Moscow on 28 October after a three-day visit to Ukraine and met with Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev in the Kremlin to hear his report about a new bill on natural resources prepared by his ministry, RTR and gzt.ru reported. Trutnev told Putin that the draft introduces "serious changes" to the law on natural resources and envisages the transition from a system of licenses to a contract-based system for exploiting natural resources The old licenses will be honored, but the users of natural resources will be encouraged to shift to the new system, which will provide them with more guarantees of their rights, he added. The draft has a provision allowing for revoking licenses if users do not comply with their obligations as far as natural-resource exploration is concerned, Trutnev noted. "This means that we will transfer relations between the state and users of natural resources from an administrative one to a clear legal area," Putin said. VY
...AS PRESIDENTIAL AIDE SAYS YUKOS EXPERIENCE MAY BE APPLIED TO OTHER COMPANIES...
Speaking in Germany on the sidelines of a Russian-German investment conference, presidential aide Igor Shuvalov said on 28 October that the administration's position toward embattled oil giant Yukos, which has been prosecuted for tax evasion, is also related to other big companies, NTV and other media reported. "Our position is unaltered and it is only beginning as far other [big business] taxpayers are concerned. All in Russia must learn to pay taxes -- both citizens and companies. And Yukos does not have any special status here," he said. Shuvalov also said he is confident that Yukos will pay its tax debt and that its assets will not be sold off, but if they are, then "these assets will be sold openly and publicly." VY
...WHILE ANOTHER OFFICIAL ADMITS NEGATIVE IMPACT OF YUKOS ON BUSINESS CLIMATE
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said at the same 28 October press conference in Germany that further developments in the Yukos case "will be determined in the courts and nothing can change that," but that the Yukos situation has had a negative influence on the investment climate, RIA-Novosti reported. "It would have been better if this situation had not arisen, but it would be even better if everybody paid taxes and did not have problems with the law enforcement authorities," Interfax quoted Gref as saying. Also speaking at the same conference, Prime Mister Mikhail Fradkov said that some aspects of the Yukos affair are linked with the lack of fair competition in Russia. "In this context, we see as our goal the improvement our antimonopoly legislation," he said, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 October. VY
PROSECUTOR PROPOSES NEW MEASURES TO COMBAT TERRORISM
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 29 October proposed that the government be allowed to detain the relatives of hostage takers during hostage crises and to use them in efforts to secure the release of hostages, RIA-Novosti reported. "The detention of the relatives of terrorists during the commission of a terrorist act will definitely help us protect and save people," Ustinov said. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told the news agency that the Duma would consider such a bill. Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev declined to express an opinion about the proposal but said the FSB will act within the framework of existing legislation. Ustinov said that his agency has prepared 44 initiatives relating to combating terrorism and they will be submitted to the Duma next month. RC
MOVE AFOOT TO ELIMINATE STUDENT DRAFT DEFERMENTS
Many within the government and the military are urging that all military-service deferments should be eliminated in order to overcome the demographic crisis facing the military, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 27 October. Under the proposed system, which reportedly was developed by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, every 18-year-old male would be required to serve two years in the military before being able to enter an institution of higher education. According to the daily, in 2003 1.3 million young men, about 36 percent of the available conscripts, had student deferments. "The conscription of students into the military will not be the undoing of Russian science," Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko was quoted as saying. "I know people who served in the military in wartime, returned [to civilian life], and went on to receive Nobel prizes." Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that the number of potential conscripts must be doubled if the military is to achieve its goal of reducing the conscription term from two years to one. RC
SUPREME COURT ASKS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO PROVE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
The Supreme Court intends to compel Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin to defend assertions he made in a 25 October "Izvestiya" interview, in which he said there is widespread corruption among judges, "Vremya novostei" reported on 28 October. The daily reported that a Supreme Court letter to Zorkin obligates him to "submit to the presidium of the Supreme Court studies that he cited during his interview and evidence about any known facts of corruption in specific courts and by specific judges." The daily commented that the Supreme Court's request is the latest development in a longstanding dispute between the two courts. In a commentary published in "Izvestiya" on 29 October, Zorkin wrote: "I am defending the public authority of the Russian judicial system. One can only defend that authority by acknowledging the truth and by asking the proper questions about the nature of the phenomenon." RC
DUMA STRIKES ANOTHER BLOW AGAINST BEER
The State Duma on 28 October passed in its third reading a bill that would ban the sale and consumption of beer on the street, in sports stadiums, in public transportation, and in other public places, "Gazeta" reported on 29 October. The vote was 414 in favor and one opposed. The law would also ban the sale of beer to minors. If passed by the Federation Council and signed by President Putin, the law would take effect on 1 April 2005. In August, the legislature banned beer advertising on television during daytime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2004). RC
STAVROPOL DEPUTY MAYOR REPORTEDLY TARGET OF ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
An explosion occurred on 29 October outside the home of Stavropol Deputy Mayor Andrei Utkin, TV-Inform reported. Utkin was not injured in the blast, but his driver, a local police officer, was slightly wounded. An unnamed police spokesman was quoted as saying the authorities so far believe the explosion was an attempt to assassinate Utkin. "The explosive device was, most likely, detonated by remote control. The explosion occurred just as the deputy mayor left the building and was getting into his car," the spokesman said. RC
TURNING GUNPOWDER INTO CASH
An unidentified resident of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug village of Mys Shmidta will receive 800,000 rubles ($26,600) for voluntarily turning into the authorities a cache of 1.5 tons of gunpowder, newsru.com reported on 29 October, citing the press service of the okrug administration. The cache reportedly was left behind after a local military base was disbanded and the man reportedly delivered it to the authorities in his own vehicle. According to the report, officials in the okrug have bought back more than 4,000 firearms and other weapons and 60 kilograms of explosives this year. RC
NATO SEMINAR OPENS IN ARMENIA
Representatives from over two dozen countries participated in the opening of a NATO conference on security in Yerevan on 28 October, Mediamax and Noyan Tapan reported. The two-day conference, organized by NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, seeks to promote greater dialogue between countries in the region and to develop mechanisms designed to forge public awareness of member states' participation in the NATO alliance. The conference chairman, NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Public Diplomacy Jean Fournet, urged the participants to recognize the importance of public opinion and called on them to focus on the need to involve civil society in the process of developing national security. The conference is also linked to the upcoming visit of NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to the region early next month. RG
ARMENIAN POLICE REPORT LOWER CRIME RATE
An Armenian police official announced on 28 October that the national crime rate had decreased by 4.4 percent decrease for the first nine months of 2004, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. Police Information Department head Sayat Shirinian added that the overall number of closed criminal cases had also improved and cited the contrast with a 4.5 percent increase in crime for the same period last year. He also noted that despite the statistical improvement, there were still more cases of theft, robbery, and illegal arms and drug possession reported than last year. RG
AZERBAIJAN CONCLUDES NEW MILITARY-COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH BULGARIA
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev signed a new bilateral agreement on military cooperation with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Svinarov during a visit to Sofia on 28 October, Turan reported. The new agreement calls for an expansion of the current training program for Azerbaijani military personnel in Bulgarian defense academies and increases the scope of technical cooperation between the two countries' military-industrial sectors. Abiev was in Bulgaria from 25-27 October and also met with a number of other Bulgarian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Plamen Panayotov and deputy parliamentary speaker Yunal Lutfi. RG
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VISITS UKRAINE
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev met with Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych on 27 October during a state visit to Kyiv, Turan reported. Aliyev discussed plans for expanding trade and energy ties between Azerbaijan and Ukraine and reviewed bilateral military relations. Yanukovych is the Ukrainian government's candidate to replace outgoing President Leonid Kuchma. RG
ABKHAZ SUPREME COURT ISSUES RULING ON DISPUTED ELECTION...
The Abkhaz Supreme Court issued a ruling on 28 October declaring opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the disputed 3 October presidential election in the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Civil Georgia and ITAR-TASS reported. The ruling, issued by Supreme Court judge Georgii Akaba, dismissed an appeal by presidential candidate and former Abkhaz Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba calling for the annulment of the Central Election Commission's certification of opposition candidate Bagapsh as the new Abkhaz president with 50.08 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 27 October 2004). RG
...SPURRING PROTESTERS TO STORM COURT, FORCE REVERSE OF RULING
Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, over a hundred supporters of Abkhaz presidential candidate Khadjimba stormed the Supreme Court building in Sukhum on 28 October, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court then reversed its ruling declaring Bagapsh the winner of the 3 October election and announced that a new election will be held in two months, international news agencies reported. Outgoing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba signed a decree on 29 October on holding a repeat presidential election as well, ITAR-TASS reported. Supreme Court judge Akaba said that the second ruling came under duress, while Bagapsh told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service: "We disagree categorically with this (second) court ruling, because it is the first ruling that was legal and this is the decision we will abide by." RG/DW
GEORGIAN PREMIER REPORTS ON PROGRESS IN AMNESTY PROGRAM
Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania announced on 27 October that the government has secured the return of over $500 million in property and assets from former state officials, ITAR-TASS reported. Prime Minister Zhvania explained that the return of the "illegally acquired property" consists of buildings, private homes, and enterprises acquired by several former state officials "who have made a fortune through drug business, arms trafficking," and other incidents of corruption. The return of the property and assets stems from the Georgian government's amnesty program, which has led to negotiated settlements with former ministers and officials of the government of former President Eduard Shevardnadze. Zhvania added that the $500 million amount is only for the first nine months of the year and he expects more property to be returned to the state. The most prominent cases include a payment of more than $3 million by former Georgian Railways Director Akaki Chkhaidze, who was released in March after his arrest in January for "large-scale tax evasion" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January and 1 April 2004). The immediate family of former President Shevardnadze has also been central to the amnesty plan, with Shevardnadze's son-in-law Gia Djokhtaberidze paying over $15 million for his release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004). RG
KAZAKH NEWS AGENCY SUES FORMER MINISTER FOR DEFAMATION
Khabar Agency has filed suit against former Information Minister Altynbek Sarsenbaev for defamation, "Kazakhstan Today" reported on 28 October. The suit alleges that Sarsenbaev defamed the company when he described it as part of a media holding monopolizing the Kazakh media market. A lawyer for Khabar explained that while the state-controlled company owns and operates a number of media outlets, it is not part of any larger holding company. The suit argues that Sarsenbaev, who was the minister of information when he made the comment, knew that he was making a false statement. The agency is asking for an apology and damages of 1 billion tenges ($7.5 million). DK
TATAR PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
Mintimer Shaimiev, president of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov in Astana on 28 October, Kazakh TV reported. Akhmetov commented: "Tatarstan has a great deal of experience and excellent economic potential. This is precisely what our country's economy can benefit from," "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Akhmetov said that he and Shaimiev discussed Kazakh purchases from the Kazan Helicopter Factory, and how Kazakhstan might put to use Tatarstan's experience in raising oil production. DK
KAZAKH OPPOSITION WANTS REFERENDUM TO NIX ELECTION RESULTS
Representatives of Ak Zhol announced at a press conference in Almaty on 27 October that the moderate opposition party is sponsoring a nationwide referendum to annul the results of the 19 September parliamentary elections, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. A demonstration on 30 October will put forward the initiative to hold the referendum, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The planned referendum will ask six questions: whether land sales should be halted until local administrative heads are elected, whether the direct election of administrative heads should be introduced in 2005, whether revenues from the sale of natural resources should be distributed directly and equally among all Kazakh citizens, whether half of parliament should be elected on the basis of party slates, whether 20 percent of voters should be able to initiate the recall of any elected official, and whether the results of the 19 September parliamentary elections should be invalidated. DK
KYRGYZ SECURITY HEAD WARNS OF EXTREMISM
Kalyk Imankulov, head of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service, told Interfax on 27 October that extremists could pose a threat to parliamentary elections planned for February 2005 and the presidential election planned for October 2005. Kyrgyzinfo quoted him as saying, "It cannot be ruled out that politicians with radical views might make contact with representatives of extremist movements in order to advance their personal interests during the election campaign." Imankulov specifically mentioned the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir. His concerns are not unique. On 22 October, the U.S. State Department issued a public announcement stating, "Extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization with ties to Al-Qaeda, may be planning terrorist acts targeting U.S. government facilities, Americans, or American interests in the Kyrgyz Republic." DK
KYRGYZ BORDER SERVICE HEAD WARY OF TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER HANDOVER
Kyrgyz Border Service head Kalmurat Sadiev said on 27 October that the situation along the Tajik-Afghan border could deteriorate with the withdrawal of Russian border guards, Kabar news agency reported. Noting that a single power should be responsible for border security, Sadiev expressed the hope that Tajikistan will be able to allocate forces to replace outgoing Russian guards. Russia is set to transfer jurisdiction over the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajikistan by 2006. DK
WORLD BANK ADDRESSES TAJIK POVERTY
Michael Mills, a World Bank economist for Central Asia, presented an updated assessment of poverty in Tajikistan at a conference in Dushanbe on 28 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Although poverty has fallen 17 percent since 1999, Tajikistan remains the poorest country in Central Asia, the report notes. In 2003, 64 percent of the population lived on no more than $2.15 a day. Mills said that labor migration, which has seen up to 1 million Tajiks, or 17 percent of the population, leave to seek higher wages in Russia, has somewhat alleviated poverty. But widespread corruption is a serious obstacle to reducing poverty, the report says. Fayzullo Kholboboev, an economic adviser to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, told the conference that the World Bank provides Tajikistan with $30 million-$40 million annually in infrastructure development funds. DK
GERMANY, TAJIKISTAN INK 2005-07 AID PROTOCOL
Tajik and German government representatives signed a protocol in Dushanbe on 27 October governing financial cooperation between the two countries in 2005-07, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. Germany will provide 20 million euros ($25.5 million) to construct a new transmission grid for the Nurek hydropower station, with 7 million coming as a grant and 13 million as a low-interest loan, a Tajik Economy Ministry spokesman told the news agency. Germany will also provide two grants totaling 14 million euros -- 6 million to rehabilitate social infrastructure and 8 million for postnatal care and tuberculosis prevention. DK
TAJIKISTAN GEARS UP TO ISSUE MORE PASSPORTS
A source in Tajikistan's Interior Ministry told Asia Plus-Blitz on 27 October that Tajik citizens who reside in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan will soon be able to obtain foreign passports there. More than 20 centers have been set up to issue passports in Tajikistan itself. The Interior Ministry has already used 42,600 of the 63,000 passport blanks it had on hand to issue passports; an additional 200,000 blanks have been ordered from Kazakhstan. Beginning on 1 January 2005, Tajik citizens will be required to have a valid foreign passport to travel within the Eurasian Economic Community (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan). DK
TURKMENISTAN CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE AS UZBEK TIES WARM
Local coverage of Turkmenistan's Independence Day festivities, which featured a military parade in Ashgabat on 27 October, pointed to improving relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. A report on Uzbek TV about the celebration across the border stressed that "good-neighborly relations between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have advanced recently." Islom Bobojonov, the governor of Uzbekistan's Khorezm Province, met with ethnic Turkmens to mark the Turkmen holiday, the Uzbek newspaper "Pravda Vostoka" reported. For his part, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov announced on state television that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will soon sign an agreement ensuring "eternal peace" along the border, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. After several years of chilly relations, the two countries' presidents are set to meet in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, on 19 November to settle a number of long-standing bilateral disputes. DK
UZBEK COURT LEAVES INTERNEWS SUSPENSION UNCHANGED
A court in Tashkent ruled on 26 October to leave in force an earlier court decision shutting down the Internews Tashkent NGO for six months, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. The initial decision in early September had suspended Internews Tashkent, which supports independent media, for charter violations that Internews lawyer Bakhtiyor Shohnazarov described as insignificant and easily remedied, fergana.ru reported on 27 October. USAID representative Richard Stoddard lamented the court ruling, saying, "As the grant giver for Internews Tashkent's main projects, I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this decision." Internews Tashkent will not be able to resume operation until 26 March 2005. DK
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO REPORT ITS TALLY OF THE REFERENDUM, PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Four opposition parties affiliated with the Five Plus coalition agreed on 27 October to launch a campaign to inform the public about what it calls the actual results of the 13-17 October referendum and parliamentary elections, Belapan reported. The leaders of the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, and the Belarusian Party of Communists intend to visit the country's provinces and hold public meetings in order to maintain a dialogue with those who supported opposition forces' parliamentary candidates. "There is the political will to continue the process of consolidating opponents of [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka's regime on the basis of the 'Five Steps Toward a Better Life' program," said United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka. AM
UKRAINE MARKS LIBERATION DAY WITH MILITARY PARADE
Ukraine marked the 60th anniversary of liberation from German occupation with a military parade on Kyiv's main street on 28 October, Interfax reported. Over 8,000 soldiers and veterans attended the parade, which was watched by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The parade stand also included Ukrainian Premier and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, war veterans, military officials, parliamentarians, ministers, and diplomats. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was also expected to watch the parade, ended his visit to Ukraine the previous day. AM
'OUR UKRAINE' ACCUSES RUSSIAN PRESIDENT OF INFLUENCING VOTERS AHEAD OF VOTE
Oleksandr Zinchenko, chief of opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko's election staff, said on 27 October that the Russian government and President Putin are engaged in a campaign to influence Ukrainian voters on the eve of the election, Interfax reported. Zinchenko said that nothing in Putin's 26 October live speech was worth broadcasting by the three main Ukrainian television channels. According to Zinchenko, the media was forced to replace news about Ukraine with news about Putin's visit to Ukraine, he added. AM
UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST AGAINST PRESSURE ON MEDIA...
Some 40 Ukrainian journalists signed a statement on 28 October protesting the pressure exerted on them during the presidential campaign, Interfax reported. "The authorities force TV channels and their owners to present events in a biased way or to hush socially important events," Serhiy Shvets, a journalist from ICTV Channel, announced on behalf of his colleagues from ICTV, New Channel, Tonis, Inter, NTN, and 1+1, the major Ukrainian channels. Their statement demands that "all information programs must report on all socially important events, all news programs must present all views on reported events, [and] all information broadcasted by the mass media must be checked and contain sources of information." The statement stresses the importance of professional coverage of the final phase of the election campaign and urges journalists take such a stance. The same day the number of journalists who had signed the statement increased to 89. AM
...WHILE OTHERS QUIT THEIR JOBS
Seven journalists from the news studio 1+1 have abandoned the channel to protest against censorship, Interfax reported on 28 October. "We refuse to take part in the information war. The authorities unleashed this war against its own people, trying to win the presidential race through intimidation and the use of force," the journalists said in a statement. "Our TV job has finally transformed into serving the interests of those to whom 1+1 was given for political use by its owners," they added. AM
SERBIAN PRESIDENT TAKES STOCK OF KOSOVA...
Serbian President Boris Tadic told a press conference in Berlin on 27 November that he strictly opposes the independence of Kosova, arguing that it could destabilize the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. During a speech at the Berlin headquarters of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Tadic also accused both KFOR and the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) of having failed to protect the Serbian minority in the internationally administered province, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 and 26 March 2004). Alluding to a plan by the international community to begin talks on the final status of Kosova in mid-2005, Tadic said the minimal condition for any such talks is the acceptance of the Serbian government's plan to grant territorial autonomy to the Kosovar Serbs. Both UNMIK and the Albanian majority in Kosova reject this plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March and 9 August 2004). UB
...AND BLAMES SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FOR KOSOVAR SERBS' ELECTION BOYCOTT
Responding to charges by the opposition Serbian Radical Party (SRS) that the Kosovar Serbs' election boycott was a defeat for him, President Tadic said in Berlin on 27 October that he never enjoyed much support in Kosova, RFE/RL reported (see End Note "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2004). In Tadic's view, the decisive factor for the boycott was the call by the Serbian Orthodox Church for the Kosovar Serbs to abstain from the vote. Tadic said the Serbian Orthodox Church is the only remaining authority recognized by the Serb minority in Kosova. UB
SERBIAN PREMIER: NEW SERBIAN MEMBERS OF KOSOVAR PARLIAMENT LACK LEGITIMACY
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who called on the Kosovar Serbs to boycott the 23 October parliamentary elections, said in Belgrade on 28 October that those Kosovar Serb politicians who participated in the elections cannot be the legitimate representatives of the Serbian minority in the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see End Note "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2004). He left the decision to accept their mandate, however, to the Kosovar Serb politicians who ran for parliament. Kostunica added that his government will initiate talks on the fate of the Kosovar Serbs with all sides involved. UB
MILOSEVIC LAWYERS GIVE UP
Steven Kay and his assistant -- who were appointed by the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal on 2 September as defense lawyers for former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic -- have officially asked the tribunal to allow them to resign, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 27 October. Kay said Milosevic will not cooperate with them (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 and 11 September 2004). UB
REPUBLIKA SRPSKA GOVERNMENT APPROVES SREBRENICA REPORT
The government of the Republika Srpska in Banja Luka approved during an extraordinary session on 27 October the final report of the commission that investigated the July 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim males in Srebrenica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004). The details of the report will not be made public until the Human Rights Commission of the Bosnian Constitutional Court approves the study. UB
MACEDONIAN CONSERVATIVES ON THE REBOUND
According to an opinion poll among 1,055 citizens carried out by the Institute for Solidarity, Democracy, and Civil Society (ISDCO) on 23-24 October, the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) would garner most of the votes if general elections were held today, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 29 October. However, 60 percent of the respondents either did not answer the question, were undecided, or responded that they would not vote at all. Of the remaining 40 percent of the respondents, 11.4 percent would vote for the VMRO-DPMNE, and 10.6 percent for the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM). All other ethnic Macedonian parties are below 2 percent. The governing Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) remains the strongest ethnic Albanian party with 6.8 percent, while the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) was favored by 4.7 percent. The main reason for the VMRO-DPMNE's current strength is that party's ongoing campaign ahead of the 7 November referendum against the government's controversial redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 27 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 October 2004). UB
ROMANIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF
The election campaign for the November presidential and parliamentary elections officially began on 28 October, one month before the elections, Mediafax reported. Ten presidential candidates are running, but observers believe the main race will be between Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu of the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party. All polls released thus far show the two are in a tight race and the outcome of the presidential election may well be decided in a runoff. Polls show the PSD has a slight advantage over the main opposition alliance in the legislative elections. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DELIVERS 'SWAN-SONG' STATE-OF-THE-NATION ADDRESS IN PARLIAMENT
In his last state-of-the-nation speech as Romania's president, Ion Iliescu told parliament on 27 October that he is ending his second term with "the satisfaction of having fulfilled my duty," Mediafax reported. Iliescu said that "the imperative" of the years following the 1989 anticommunist uprising has been democratization and national reconciliation. With regard to the latter, Iliescu mentioned his own personal relationship with former King Mihai I, the recent decision to mark Holocaust Day in Romania, and good relations with members of the Romanian diaspora and anticommunist dissidents, including "journalists who worked for Radio Free Europe." Iliescu said Romania still faces many problems and he assumes his share of responsibility for the still-existing "social weaknesses." However, he said, "Romania is a normal country, with a normal economy and normal values, with normal problems and normal citizens." Iliescu warned that the "time is not ripe for new shock-therapy experiments," triggering a protest from the opposition deputies, who protested against the "politicization" of the speech ahead of the elections. MS
UCM CANDIDATES RUNNING ON LISTS OF FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S PARTY
The parliamentary lists of the Popular Action party headed by former President Emil Constantinescu include candidates from the Hungarian Civic Union (UCM) in five counties with a substantial Hungarian minority population, Mediafax reported on 28 October. The UCM was recently barred from running in the parliamentary elections in a decision by the Electoral Bureau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2004). The five counties are Covasna, Harghita, Bihor, Mures, and Satu-Mare. In all five, UCM members figure exclusively on the Popular Action lists for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. UCM Sfantu-Gheorghe branch Chairman Zoltan Gazda said that Popular Action has agreed to include in its program the UCM's demand for the Hungarian minority's territorial autonomy. MS
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS NEW CHIEF OF STAFF'S RECORD
President Iliescu said on 27 October that he does not believe Lieutenant General Eugen Badalan was involved in attempts by the military to crush the 1989 anticommunist uprising in Arad, Mediafax and the daily "Romania libera" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2004). Iliescu said that before being appointed to high positions, all army staff members undergo rigorous screening. He added that there were no victims in Arad. Arad Mayor Gheorghe Falca promptly protested that, saying that in his town 24 people were shot dead and 64 wounded during the uprising. Falca called Iliescu's declaration "an insult" to Arad's citizens and called on Iliescu to "withdraw your grave statement...making the necessary corrections." Badalan denied the allegation on 27 October, saying he would not "be intimidated by this calumnious campaign." MS
CRISIS AT BUCHAREST DAILY OVER DISMISSAL OF CHAIRMAN OF BOARD
Journalists from the daily "Romania libera" on 28 October called the dismissal of Editor in Chief Petre Mihai Bacanu as chairman of the board a blatant violation of press freedom, international news agencies reported. Bacanu was removed from that position by the "R" company's board of directors, in which the German media concern Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) owns a 70 percent stake. The board appointed WAZ's Bucharest representative, Klaus Overbach, to replace Bacanu. Overbach pledged that the daily, which is often critical of the ruling PSD, would not change its line and denied the move was politically-motivated, AP reported. Bacanu, who has a minority stake, called the decision illegal. The company brought in a new team of journalists to produce the 29 October edition of the newspaper, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2004 and http://www.rferl.org/reports/mm/2004/10/19-111004.asp). MS
ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF SAYS ISLAMISTS EYEING TRANSDNIESTER
Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) Director Gheorghe Fulga said on 27 October that several Islamic fundamentalist groups are closely following developments in Transdniester and in other unstable regions such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, and Kurdistan, Mediafax reported. Fulga named Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Mujahedin Khalq among those groups. He said that the Transdniester region has become interesting for the Islamic fundamentalists and for organized criminal groups because any type of weaponry, including missiles and radioactive warheads, can be purchased in the region. MS
SOLANA TELLS VORONIN SSPM AGREEMENT IS FEASIBLE
EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana said on 28 October that there are sufficient conditions for the Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM) to be signed at the next OSCE ministerial slated for 6-7 December in Sofia, Flux and Infotag reported, citing the presidential press service. The SSPM initiative was launched by Voronin on 1 June. It envisages guaranteeing Moldova's territorial integrity and democratization process and respecting its ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Voronin proposed that the pact be signed by Moldova, Russia, the U.S., the EU, Romania, and Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Solana, who spoke with Voronin by telephone, also said that signing the SSPM would lead to resolving other issues related to regional security. MS
MAJOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ALL BUT IGNORE MEDIA ISSUES IN THEIR MANIFESTOS
Ukraine, along with Belarus, belongs among the harshest abusers of the freedom of expression not only in Europe, but also globally. Even if the situation of the media in Ukraine is incomparably better than that in Belarus, Ukraine invariably occupies a top place on all lists of suppressors and enemies of the media compiled by various media watchdogs.
Ukraine's significant input in the arsenal of means intended to muzzle the media and journalists is aptly reflected in the introduction of the Ukrainian coinage "temnyk" -- meaning "themes of the week" -- into international usage without translation. Temnyks are unsigned instructions sent on a daily basis from the Ukrainian presidential administration to major television and radio channels, both state-run and private, to tell journalists what news to cover and in what manner. Given that all Ukrainian media outlets must have their licenses renewed every five years, Ukrainian news editors usually follow prescriptions included in temnyks.
It is interesting and instructive in this context to look at how the problem of media freedom is perceived in manifestos of four major candidates in the ongoing presidential campaign in Ukraine: Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, and Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. One might expect that Ukraine's media sphere should be a major concern of presidential candidates, primarily those opposed to the government, since they do not have such media opportunities for promoting their candidacies as Prime Minister Yanukovych. The reality, however, is surprising and puzzling at the same time.
The first surprise is that, as regards mere wordage, it is Yanukovych who seems to be concerned about the media more than the other three candidates. Yanukovych declares: "State policy in the information sphere will ensure the implementation of constitutional rights to freedom of expression and information, the defense of national interests, and the development of independent media." The next paragraph in his manifesto can also be referred to generally defined freedom of expression: "The participation of broad circles of society in the formation and implementation of state policy and the legislative process, political pluralism, open dialogue, constructive cooperation, common responsibility -- this is how we will overcome the alienation of the state mechanism from the life needs of man." And that is all about media matters in the prime minister's presidential platform.
Yanukovych's manifesto, as regards both substance and style, is typical of all other presidential manifestos in Ukraine. In its substance, it tells what should be done but is dead silent on how it can be done and by what means. In its sloppy and blurred style, it is highly reminiscent of the Soviet-era journalistic lingo, which seemed to have been developed to conceal the truth rather than to reveal it.
Turning now to Yanukovych's main rival, Yushchenko declares in his presidential program "Ten Steps Toward the People": "In a renewed Ukraine, the freedom of expression, the vigorous activity of public organizations and political opposition will become a norm -- as a guarantee of state policy in the interests of the people." How Yushchenko intends to renew Ukraine and ensure the freedom of expression, as well as with what political and economic mechanisms, remains a mystery. True, Yushchenko's campaign team have promised to present a detailed plan for resolving major social and economic problems in Ukraine after his victory. One needs to wait patiently.
The biggest surprise awaits us in Moroz's presidential manifesto. Moroz is known as a fiery advocate of the freedom of expression on the Ukrainian political scene. It was Moroz who first publicized the so-called Melnychenko tapes, which suggested that President Kuchma and other top officials may have been involved in the kidnapping and slaying of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Therefore, it is extremely puzzling to find that the only reference to media in his presidential platform is a pledge to fight "for overcoming the moral-spiritual crisis in society -- one of the reasons of Ukraine's decline, [and] for the prohibition of the dissemination of violence and cruelty in the mass media." Unbelievable but true.
Now Petro Symonenko. His style seems to be the most colorful of all the manifestos cited above. "The state is undergoing self-destruction, its functions are being taken over by criminal oligarchs, regional and family clans," the chief Ukrainian communist asserts. "They have also captured the majority of media outlets, which are essentially used for demoralizing society, particularly young people. Information policy is being formed by political killers." However, Symonenko does not explain how, if at all, information policy in Ukraine can be formed by more constructive operators.
One of the easiest explanations of why Ukrainian major presidential candidates are so vague and unspecific about the freedom of expression in their manifestos is that they are equally vague and unspecific about almost all other issues they touch upon there. In Ukraine, as in other post-Soviet countries, presidential election campaign are primarily battles of personalities, not of political programs. Therefore, nobody apart from political analysts -- who constitute a negligible part of the electorates -- pays attention to what candidates say in their manifestos, which are usually loose compilations of political slogans and cliches.
It is also not unlikely that presidential candidates in the post-Soviet area, both from pro-government and opposition camps, believe that it is the presidency and the government alone that have the right to define the extent of media freedom, therefore they remain as vague and noncommittal on this issue as possible in order not to go back on their election promises when they win the election.
GUNMEN ABDUCT THREE FOREIGN ELECTION WORKERS IN AFGHANISTAN...
Unidentified gunmen in Kabul on 28 October abducted three foreign nationals working for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Hindukosh News Agency reported. The abductees included two women from Northern Ireland and Kosova and one Filipino. JEMB spokesman Sultan Ahmad Bahin told Hindukosh that the kidnappers have not contacted the election body. Five kidnappers, dressed in military uniforms, stopped the UN vehicle carrying the workers at mid-day and, after beating the driver, took the three with them, AP reported on 28 October. AT
...AS SPLINTER NEO-TALIBAN GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
Akbar Agha, claming to be the head of a group called the Muslim Army, said on 28 October that his fighters kidnapped the three foreign election workers because of their participation in organizing Afghanistan's 9 October presidential election, Al-Jazeera reported. According to the report, Agha did not make any demands for releasing the three workers during his interview. Ishaq Manzur, claiming to speak on behalf of Jami'at Jaish-e Mujahedin (Society of Mujahedin Army), said on 28 October that the kidnapped workers were transferred to a "safe place," AP reported. "We are checking their identities and we will demand that if their countries have forces in Afghanistan they should withdraw them," Manzur told AP. AT
MORE DETAILS ABOUT SPLINTER NEO-TALIBAN GROUPS
Information about the breakaway faction of the neo-Taliban called Taliban Jami'at Jaish-e Muslemin (Muslim Army of the Taliban Society), which is led by Mullah Sayyed Mohammad Akbar Agha, emerged in August (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 August 2004). Another group, using the Arabic name Jaysh al-Muslimin al-Afghani (Afghan Army of Muslims), in September claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Afghan Transitional Administration Deputy Chairman Ne'amatullah Shahrani in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 24 September 2004). Abdullah Laghmani, the intelligence chief in the southern city of Kandahar said, in confirming a split in the ranks of the Taliban, that "one is the group of Mullah [Mohammad] Omar and one group is the group of Sayyed Akbar Agha, the chief of Jaysh al-Muslimin," AFP reported on 28 October. According to Laghmani, Agha's men have been operating in southern Afghanistan in cells of two or three individuals. AT
NEO-TALIBAN WELCOMES THE ACTION
Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, on 28 October said that while his group had no information regarding the kidnapping in Kabul, it admired the action, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. When asked by AIP what the neo-Taliban would have done had they kidnapped the workers, Hakimi said that possibly they "would have demanded that their supporters be released from [the U.S. detention center in] Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba]...and would possibly have killed them [the hostages] once their demands had not been met." In another twist, Abdul Latif Hakimi, also claiming to speak for the neo-Taliban, told AFP on 28 October that he doubted that Jaysh al-Muslimin was responsible for the kidnapping "because they are a very limited number of people and they don't have access to Kabul to carry out operations." Commenting in August about Akbar Agha's group, Hamid Agha, also purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, had indicated that the organization was not "the Taliban" as all "Taliban commanders are united under the leadership" of Mullah Omar (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 August 2004). AT
FOUR SENTENCED FOR KILLING CHINESE WORKERS IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
The Afghan Supreme Court on 28 October handed down sentences for the killing of 11 Chinese road-construction workers in June in Konduz Province, Xinhua news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June 2004). Three of the men, including Mohammad Akbar, a former general for the 6th Military Corps in Konduz, were given death sentences while the fourth man received a two-year jail sentence for hiding information from the authorities. Afghan officials had initially blamed the murders on the neo-Taliban. AT
IRAN, EUROPE CONTINUE TALKS ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT...
Diplomats from Great Britain, France, and Germany failed at a 28 October meeting in Vienna to persuade Iran to indefinitely suspend uranium-enrichment activities, Radio Farda reported the same day. Iran may be referred to the UN Security Council for violating nuclear nonproliferation rules if it does not suspend those activities, but may receive trade and technology-related concessions if it does. The parties were concluding a second day of talks at the French Embassy in Vienna. Cyrus Naseri, an Iranian diplomat participating in the talks, said an "indefinite suspension is not acceptable under any condition," Radio Farda reported. Talks are to resume in Paris on 5 November, Reuters reported on 28 October. Separately, Hussein Musavian, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told the BBC on 28 October that Iran will only consider suspending uranium "for a few months." He said suspension for a decade would not work, and Iran will instead offer "objective guarantees and confidence-building measures" to assure the world it will not enrich uranium for a nuclear-bomb program. VS
...AND LEADER SAYS IRAN WILL NOT BE COWED
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in Tehran on 27 October that Western powers are provoking a "scandal" over Iran's nuclear program merely to disrupt Iran's good governance, and warned Iran will stop talking to them if it faces "threats" or irrational demands, ISNA reported. "They know Iran is not looking for nuclear weapons...but want to find repetitive pretexts" to disrupt the Iranian government's domestic administration. Iran "will abandon the talks," he told a gathering of top officials, including the president, if its diplomats conclude European states are being unreasonable. "Whenever there has been rational talk, like inspections by the [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency [IAEA], we have accepted, and every time they become forceful, we have stood and stand firm," ISNA quoted him as saying. Khamenei said long-term uranium suspension is "illogical." Where is the "logical link," he asked, between "greater transparency and long-term uranium suspension?" The IAEA is to consider Iran's program on 25 November, but Iran will have to stop enrichment by 15 November to allow a 10-day verification by IAEA inspectors, AFP cited an unnamed diplomat as saying in Vienna on 28 October. VS
IRAN TO EDUCATE CHILDREN ABOUT AIDS
Iran will to teach its teenagers "basic life skills" from April 2005 to help prevent the spread of AIDS in the country, Riaz Gheiratmand, head of health care and nutrition at the Education Ministry, said in Tehran on 28 October, Radio Farda and ISNA reported the same day. The UNICEF office in Tehran is to hold a two-day workshop on AIDS-prevention among older schoolchildren for Education Ministry officials, Radio Farda added. According to the latest Health Ministry figures, "about 200 schoolchildren" in Iran are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, Radio Farda reported. Gheiratmand said those children contracted the virus from their mothers before birth, or "because of the intravenous drug addiction of their fathers," without giving further details, Radio Farda reported. VS
JOURNALIST ARRESTED, EU ASSEMBLY URGES RESPECT FOR RIGHTS
Fereshteh Qazi, a journalist working for the Tehran daily "E'temad," was summoned to court by telephone on 27 October, then arrested on unspecified charges and sent to a Tehran police station on 28 October, her husband, Ahmad Beiglu, told ISNA the same day. Beiglu said he has "no information on [his] wife's situation or the charges" against her, though he went to see her at her presumed place of detention. Separately, the European Parliament condemned human-rights violations in Iran in a resolution issued on 28 October, and urged the Netherlands, the current rotating EU president, to push for a UN resolution against such violations, Radio Farda reported, citing Farah Karimi, a European parliamentarian from the Netherlands. Karimi said the EU and its parliament must increase diplomatic pressure on Iran, where "the human rights situation [is] far worse than last year." She added that Iran must be reminded that "if you wish to be a member of the international community, you must respect human rights." VS
ELEVEN IRAQI SOLDIERS KILLED BY INSURGENTS
The insurgent group Ansar Al-Sunnah Army posted video footage on its website of the killing of 11 kidnapped Iraqi troops, AP reported. According to an earlier posting, the troops were seized between Baghdad and the town of Al-Hillah to the south. The killings were explained as punishments for collaboration with U.S. forces. "We have repeatedly warned you and you refused but to support the Crusaders. Your weakness and love for the dollar drove you to this fate, which is incomparable to the torture God has for you," the statement added. The video warned Iraqis against cooperation with U.S. forces. "Abandon your weapons and go home and beware of supporting the apostate Crusaders or their followers, the Iraqi government, or you will find only death," the BBC reported. The deaths follow the killing of 49 Iraqi national guardsmen on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). EA
INSURGENT GROUP MAY HAVE MISSING IRAQI MUNITIONS
An insurgent group calling itself the Al-Islam Army Brigades -- Al-Karar Brigade released a video on 28 October claiming that it possesses weapons from the stockpile at Al-Qa'qa, AP reported. The tape, which could not be independently verified, featured a masked speaker who announced that "heroic mujahedin have managed by the grace of God and by coordinating with a...number of officers and soldiers of the U.S. intelligence to obtain a very huge amount of the explosives that were in the Al-Qa'qa facility, which was under the protection of the U.S. forces." EA
AL-RAMADI RESISTANCE THREATENS U.S. CONTROL
The turmoil in Al-Ramadi is increasing, "The New York Times" reported on 29 October. Al-Ramadi, the provincial capital of the Al-Anbar Governorate, which includes the insurgent-held Al-Fallujah, has suffered ongoing insurgent attacks. However, these attacks have peaked recently as guerrillas have stepped up operations such as assassinations of Iraqis working with U.S. troops. Sheikh Ali al-Dulaymi, head of an influential Sunni tribe in the region, said "the city is chaotic." He further explained that "there's no presence of the [interim Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi government." An attack on Al-Fallujah may be easier than reclaiming portions of Al-Ramadi due to the positioning of the insurgents. "It's difficult to describe 'sense of control' in terms of insurgent activity," Captain Eric Dougherty said. "The insurgent activity is everywhere. It's at our firm bases here. It's among women and children, those cowards." EA
REPORT ESTIMATES 100,000 IRAQI CASUALTIES
Over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to a 29 October study published in "The Lancet," a British medical journal (http://www.thelancet.com). The analysis was based on a survey of 998 Iraqi homes in 33 neighborhoods. The sample led the researchers to derive an increase in the death rate from 5 to 7.9 percent, which amounted to over 100,000 casualties. Les Roberts, a researcher with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who helped design the study, acknowledged the small sample size as a limitation. However, he affirmed the study's findings, saying, "We are quite confident that there's been somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 deaths, but it could be much higher," "The Washington Post" reported on 29 October. A Pentagon spokesperson said that "the loss of any innocent lives is a tragedy, something that Iraqi security forces and the multinational force painstakingly work to avoid." Previous independent estimates of civilian deaths have never exceeded 16,000, "The Washington Post" reported. EA
BA'ATH LEAFLETS ENCOURAGE INSURGENCY
Leaflets purportedly published by the banned Ba'ath Party have been found on the streets of southwest Baghdad, Reuters reported. The typed leaflets praise the insurgency and encourage further resistance, although their authenticity could not be verified. "Work with all means to step up the valiant resistance and make all types of political, financial, and military backing available to its brave heroes," the leaflets say. Calling for the return of the deposed dictator, the leaflets declare that "real legitimacy is the return of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the legitimate president of the republic, and his government." The Ba'ath Party was banned in Iraq following the fall of the Hussein regime on 9 April 2003. EA