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Newsline - November 12, 2004

Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev told a cabinet meeting on 11 November that Russia's explored reserves of gold will run out by 2011, while reserves of oil, copper, and uranium could be exhausted by 2015, Russian media reported. He said neither the government nor business is investing sufficiently in geological prospecting and the exploitation of known reserves is inefficient and getting worse. He said the efficiency coefficient for oil exploration does not exceed 30-35 percent. Trutnev reported that Russia has 50 percent of the world's known reserves of diamonds, 30 percent of its natural gas, 25 percent of its nickel, 17 percent of its tin, and almost 10 percent of known global oil reserves, ITAR-TASS reported. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told the session that "the raw materials base of existing enterprises has been seriously depleted because new deposits have been brought into operation slowly and there has been a considerable reduction in the volume of geopolitical prospecting," NTV reported. RC

The Russia-European Union summit that was scheduled for 11 November and was postponed on 8 November will be held in The Hague on 25 November, Interfax reported on 11 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2004). President Vladimir Putin will participate in the meeting. "The Russia-EU summit in The Hague is aimed at securing progress toward the targets set at the previous meeting in Moscow," a Kremlin press service statement said. "[They are:] the creation of an economic space, a freedom space, a justice and security space, and an education and research space." The summit will also discuss continuing problems related to transit to and from Kaliningrad Oblast and issues related to Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states. RC

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov headed the Russian delegation to the funeral of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Cairo on 12 November, Russian media reported. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 11 November visited the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow to express his condolences at Arafat's death in Paris that day. "As a member of the quartet, Russia will do everything that depends on it to ensure that the aim [of the creation of the state of Palestine] is brought to life," Lavrov said. "This will be the best remembrance of Chairman Arafat and the best monument to him." Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, a Middle East specialist and longtime friend of Arafat's, told Interfax on 11 November that Arafat was "a realistic-minded politician who sought a peaceful compromise with Israel." "We must give him his due," Primakov said. "He didn't dress the Palestinian movement in religious clothes. Let those who criticize Arafat consider reality: Arafat never called for a jihad. He was never sidetracked from the secular nature of the liberation movement." Duma Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin (Motherland) said that "Israel must prepare itself for difficult times as radical movements take over the Palestinian Authority," RIA-Novosti reported on 11 November. RC

The government on 11 November approved the plan for merging state-owned Rosneft with Gazprom, Interfax reported, citing the Federal Property Management Agency. The spokesman said that the deal could be finalized by the end of this year. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov has ordered the Federal Property Fund and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry to organize an appraisal of the deal, the news agency reported. The Federal Property Management Agency has named Morgan Stanley as a consultant on the merger and Dresdener Kleinwort Wasserstein is acting as Gazprom's consultant. Ernst and Young is advising Rosneft. RC

Presidential economy adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 10 November that the government should not sell Yuganskneftegaz, the main production subsidiary of embattled oil giant Yukos, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 November. "I cannot see what problem is resolved by the sale of Yuganskneftegaz," Illarionov said. He said that the Yukos affair has had a negative effect on the Russian economy, with oil production declining in October. "I also view the Yukos affair as a vivid example of the destruction of one of Russia's most efficient oil companies," he said. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development chief economist Willem Buiter told ITAR-TASS on 11 November that the slowdown in Russian economic growth is not connected to Yukos. He said that the growth rate will fall in 2004 to 6.9 percent, as opposed to 7.3 percent in 2003, but that this is a normal fluctuation. He said that ongoing structural and regulatory reforms should help the economy to continue its expansion. RC

A Moscow district court on 11 November, responding to cases filed by the families of victims of the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, ruled that the Prosecutor-General's Office's investigation into the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage taking be made public, "Gazeta" reported on 12 November. The files, which were completed more than one year ago, had previously been sealed. According to the report, prosecutors found no one responsible for the 129 deaths incurred during the storming of the theater by law-enforcement authorities. Nonetheless, the investigation found that ambulances arrived at the scene more than two hours after police had released a sleeping gas into the building as part of the storming operation. The report does not identify the gas that was used, but does say officially that it was "among the many factors" contributing to the deaths of the hostages. RC

Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov said on 11 November that the case against Nur-Pashi Kulaev will be completed by the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported. Kulaev is the only one of the terrorists who took over a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September who has been officially acknowledged as having been captured alive. Kolesnikov, speaking at a closed session of the intraparliamentary commission investigating the Beslan events, also said "it goes without saying" that Beslan victims will be given access to the case materials. Kolesnikov also said that an unnamed "associate of [radical field commander Shamil] Basaev" helped the terrorists from outside the school and is currently being sought by the authorities, Ekho Moskvy reported. On 10 November, victims held a demonstration in Vladikavkaz to protest the fact that no official list of those killed during the incident has yet been published, the news agency reported. Demonstrators also charged that officials are concealing the findings of their investigation. According to official figures, 31 terrorists were killed during the storming of the school. More than 1,150 people were taken hostage, and 330 of them -- including 172 children -- were killed. RC

Viktor Loshak on 11 November resigned as editor in chief of the weekly "Ogonek" after little more than one year at the helm, reported. Loshak, one of the best-known figures in Russian journalism, was formerly editor in chief of "Moskovskie novosti." His deputy editor, Vladimir Umnov, was named to replace him. Umnov formerly served as editor in chief of "Vremya-MN." Leonid Bershidskii, formerly the publisher of "Forbes-Russia" and the Russian edition of "Newsweek," joined OVA-Press, which publishes "Ogonek" and other magazines, as publisher of all the company's periodicals. According to a press release, the changes were made in accordance with a decision by shareholders to change the "development strategy" of the magazine. RC

Askar Akaev met with President Vladimir Putin on 11 November at his private residence outside of Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin told journalists that bilateral relations "are developing dynamically and intensively in all fields," while Akaev noted that bilateral trade increased by 50 percent in the first nine months of this year. The two presidents discussed Russia's military base near Kant, Kyrgyzstan, and Akaev said, "Kyrgyzstan has no claims against the Russian military and is very grateful to them." Akaev will also visit St. Petersburg while he is in Russia. RC

Deputies also approved on 10 November in its first reading a bill amending the law on political parties that would increase the minimum number of members a political party must have to be registered from 10,000 to 50,000 members, Russian agencies reported. The vote was passed with 360 in favor, 62 against, and two abstentions, according to RIA-Novosti. Parties would also be required to have no less than 500 members in half of their regional branches and no less than 250 in the remainder. If parties fall short of these requirements, then they would either have to be re-registered as public associations or be liquidated. The Communist Party faction opposed the measure, with one faction member noting that in February 1917 the Communist Party consisted of only 40,000 members "despite [Vladimir] Lenin's tremendous mental capacity and organizational skills," RTR reported. "Gazeta" reported on 11 November that if the bill is adopted in its present form, the majority of parties currently registered will be able to take part in the 2007 State Duma elections. If adopted, the bill would come into effect in January 2006. JAC

Also on 10 November, Duma deputies voted to approve in its first reading an amendment to a law on mass media that would ban television programs showing violence and cruelty between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The vote was unanimous with 420 votes in favor. Deputies considered four alternative versions of the bill and chose to support the bill authored by Unified Russia Deputy Andrei Skoch. JAC

Twenty members of the Federation Council joined the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party on 11 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The new recruits mean that now 89 members of the upper chamber -- exactly one-half of the total -- are Unified Russia members. "Today the party can ensure a quorum on its own without outside help," Federation Council member and Unified Russia executive committee member Yurii Chaplin told the news agency. RC

In an interview with "Itogi," No. 45, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov suggested that legislation should be created that will set out rules for assessing a regional leader's performance. "On taking office, a regional leader would release a socioeconomic development plan: target figures for the average wage, housing construction, public-transport prices, and so on," he explained. Mironov also commented that under the current "reality" of direct election of regional leaders, voter turnout is only 20 percent and the winner only needs to get 50 percent of the vote. "So it often turns out that the real level of public support is 10-15 percent," he said. "After paying their debts [to their sponsors during the campaign], regional leaders relax for a year or two, then go into another election campaign. With enough political consultants and public relations, victory can be ensured even in apparently hopeless cases. And this is supposed to be the 'democratic process.'" JAC

The Federation Council voted on 10 November to reject a bill that would limit the sale and consumption of beer in public places such as educational and medical facilities and on streets and in parks, reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2004). The vote was 40 in favor, 73 against, and five abstentions. Presidential representative to the Federation Council Aleksandr Kotenkov suggested that the bill should be amended to include other alcoholic beverages. JAC

In a televised meeting with President Putin on 11 November, Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev said that there has been no "speculative activity in the sense of people coming and buying up land" in his region and that the process of land acquisition "is proceeding in a civilized manner under the supervision of the authorities," ITAR-TASS and TV-Tsentr reported. Putin noted that Tkachev had been one of the most vocal critics of the new Land Code, which allows the sale and purchase of land. In 2001, Tkachev said that Putin was leading the country to destruction and that he would lead a popular uprising if land reform were introduced in his region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001 and 20 February 2002). JAC

Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak met for four hours late on 10 November with some 35 of the protesters who one day earlier stormed and occupied the government building in Cherkessk to demand that Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia President Mustafa Batdyev resign, Russian media reported the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2004). The protesters hold Batdyev responsible for the death of seven young men reportedly murdered in mid-October at a dacha belonging to Batdyev's son-in-law Ali Kaitov. Batdyev also met with the protesters at Kozak's insistence, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 November. Kozak told the protesters that Batdyev's resignation would not defuse tensions, but could on the contrary spark a "civil war." He asked them to be patient and wait for the results of the investigation into the killings. Batdyev was quoted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" as saying that he will not step down, but also by Interfax as saying that he would do so if it is proven that he was responsible for the murders. Batdyev also hinted that he will accede to the protesters' demand that he fire top law enforcement officials, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal case into the storming of the government building, which caused material damage estimated at 5 million-10 million rubles ($174,400-$348,800), and during which numerous official documents and files were destroyed. LF

Daghestan's Supreme Court passed sentence on 11 November on eight Chechen militants from a detachment led by field commander Ruslan Gelaev, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 and 12 November, respectively. The men belonged to a 36-man detachment that was intercepted by Russian troops in December while heading for the border with Georgia; most of the remaining members were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, 17, and 22 December 2003). The eight accused were charged with attempting to kill a police officer, membership of an extremist organization, membership of an illegal armed group, and other less serious offenses. Two of them were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, one to 15 years, two to 7 1/2 years, and the remaining three to six years. Gelaev survived the December battle but was killed in a shoot-out in Daghestan in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 March 2004). LF

Samvel Balasanian, who heads the parliament faction of speaker Artur Baghdasarian's Orinats Yerkir party, told fellow legislators on 11 November that Orinats Yerkir "regards negatively" both the 3 November agreement under which the Armenian government made major concessions to the Greek-owned telecommunications operator Armentel and the haste with which the government conducted the tender for a second mobile telephone operator, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 2004). Also on 11 November, other companies offering Internet telephone services launched a 24-hour strike, which may be extended to protest the government's concessions to Armentel, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

The Council of Europe has issued a statement welcoming the publication of the law on public television passed in late September, Turan reported on 11 November. At the same time, the Council of Europe requested clarification as to whether the new public broadcaster will indeed be created on the basis of both existing channels of state television, in accordance with the commitment the Azerbaijani government made to the council, and reassurance that its programming will be independent, fair, and impartial. The council "is waiting" for President Ilham Aliyev to clarify the first of those points in a presidential decree, according to the statement. Experts in Baku believe that the Azerbaijani authorities intend to preserve Channel One of state television while creating the new public broadcaster on the basis of Channel Two, which shares premises and broadcasting equipment with Channel One (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Media Matters," 30 September 2004). LF

Azerbaijan's Court Of Appeal began hearing on 11 November the appeals of the seven Azerbaijani opposition politicians sentenced on 22 October to between 2 and 1/2 and 5 years' imprisonment for their imputed role in the clashes between police and opposition supporters in Baku in the wake of the disputed 15 October 2003 presidential election, Turan and reported on 11 and 12 November respectively (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). Three of the men and their lawyer said that the politicians' appeals to participants at a rally on 15 October 2003 in Baku not to resort to violence were cut from video footage produced as evidence by the prosecution, and that the prosecution failed to produce a letter allegedly sent by the Baku municipal authorities denying permission for that rally, but which the organizers of the rally never received. LF

In a statement released on 11 November, outgoing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba appealed to the population to show restraint and responsibility, ITAR-TASS and reported. He repeated that the only way to defuse the standoff resulting from the disputed 3 October ballot to elect his successor is to hold new elections. On 11 October, the Central Election Commission proclaimed Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh the winner with 50.08 percent of the vote. The Abkhaz Supreme Court upheld that ruling on 28 October then rescinded its decision less than 24 hours later under pressure from supporters of rival candidate and former Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba, who backs Ardzinba's 29 October statement that the 3 October ballot was invalid and new elections should be held. LF

Both Bagapsh and Khadjimba convened meetings of their supporters in Sukhum on 12 November, Russian media reported. Some 3,000 of Khadjimba's supporters gathered outside the government building at midday local time, while a similar number gathered for a "pan-national assembly" Bagapsh called on Liberty Square one hour later. Such assemblies were traditionally held in times of crisis at the sacred grove at Lykhny, and decisions reached at such meetings were considered to have the force of law (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 5 November 2004). Bagapsh argued on 11 November that if 20,000 people assemble to show they support him, they have the right to confirm that he is the legitimate president. The republic's population is variously estimated at between 170,000-300,000. Khadjimba for his part objects that the Abkhaz Constitution does not recognize the legitimacy of either a pan-national assembly or any decision adopted at such a gathering. Khadjimba and Bagapsh reportedly met on the morning of 12 November but failed to reach agreement, after which Bagapsh's supporters forced their way into the building housing the presidential offices, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

Despite the agreement reached in Sochi on 5 November on demilitarization of the South Ossetian conflict zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004), night-time exchanges of fire are reportedly continuing. Caucasus Press reported on 11 November that the Georgian-populated villages of Tamarasheni and Kurta were fired on the previous night, while South Ossetian government officials claimed that Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized republic, was subjected to artillery fire from those villages, ITAR-TASS reported. On 10 November, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said that Tbilisi will comply with the 20 November deadline for withdrawing from the conflict zone all but the 500 peacekeepers it is allowed to deploy there. But South Ossetian Minister Without Portfolio Boris Chochiev told Interfax on 11 November that Tbilisi has brought additional forces to the conflict zone since the Sochi demilitarization agreement was signed. Also on 11 November, South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity briefed government officials and legislators in Tskhinvali on his talks in Sochi with Zhvania and reaffirmed South Ossetia's commitment to resolving the conflict peacefully, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. LF

Vladimir Bozhko, first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), announced at a press conference in Astana on 11 November that Kazakh security forces have broken up a terrorist group in Kazakhstan with links to Al-Qaeda, Khabar news agency reported. The KNB has arrested nine Kazakh citizens and four Uzbek citizens, as well as four Kazakh women allegedly trained to be suicide bombers. The so-called Mujahidin of Central Asia Group was linked to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group with known Al-Qaeda ties, through one of its leaders, Zhakshybek Biimurzaev, a native of Kyrgyzstan and former IMU fighter. Bozhko said that the group had planned to assassinate a high-ranking Uzbek official. Vladimir Zhumakanov, head of the KNB's counterterrorism department, noted that the would-be female suicide bombers cooperated with the investigation. Kazakh officials said that the group managed to recruit 50 Uzbek citizens and 20 Kazakh citizens over the last two years. In the course of the arrests, police confiscated weapons, forged documents, and a large quantity of extremist propaganda, including videotapes of addresses by Osama Bin Laden. DK

KNB officials said that members of the group were involved in terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan in late March-early April and three suicide bombings in Tashkent on 30 July, Kazinform reported. Khabar news agency quoted Zhakshybek Biimurzaev, one of the group's leaders, as saying, "This year there were three terror attacks in Tashkent in July. I organized them on the instruction of my amir [commander] Usman. Three Kazakh citizens took part in them; I was opposed to this, but the amir ordered it." Bozhko said that the group's members, who were allegedly trained in Al-Qaeda and Taliban camps, targeted Uzbekistan "because [the Uzbek authorities] purportedly oppress Muslims," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Members also referred to the United States and Israel, the Tashkent embassies of which were attacked by suicide bombers on 30 July, as "enemies of Islam." Bozhko said that the Uzbek citizens will be extradited to Uzbekistan once Kazakh officials complete their investigation. DK

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev visited Kyrgyzstan on 10 November to congratulate Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev on the latter's birthday, Kyrgyz TV reported. Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov also participated in the celebration, reported. DK

Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev attended a ceremony in Bishkek on 11 November to mark the official opening of the Tajik Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz TV reported.

First Lieutenant. Aleksandr Konstantinov, deputy commander of the Sarigor border post on the Tajik-Afghan border, was killed in a clash on the border on 10 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. Three Afghan citizens attempting to cross into Tajikistan illegally from Afghanistan were also killed, the BBC's Persian Service reported. Russian border guards confiscated three automatic weapons at the site of the incident. DK

Senior Lieutenant General Lance Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, visited Tajikistan on 10 November, Avesta reported. Smith met with Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khayrulloev, Border Protection Committee head Lieutenant General Abdurahmon Azimov, and National Guard commander Rajabali Rahmonaliev. Their discussions focused on military and technical cooperation between the United States and Tajikistan, drug smuggling across the Tajik-Afghan border, and the transfer of jurisdiction over the border from Russia to Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported.

Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told the UN General Assembly on 10 November that a draft resolution on human rights violations in Turkmenistan is baseless, the UN News Service reported. Meredov denied that human rights violations take place in his country and charged that the resolution's authors have not visited Turkmenistan and are not familiar with the situation there. The draft resolution, which was sponsored by the United States, some EU member states, and other countries, expresses profound concern over unlawful arrests, limitations on freedom of expression, ethnic discrimination, and constraints on civil society in Turkmenistan. DK

A management mission of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights arrived in Tashkent on 10 November to review current programs in Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. The mission met with Uzbek human rights ombudsman Sayora Rashidova and Interior Ministry officials on 11 November to discuss human rights and conditions in prisons. Mission members may also meet with local human rights activists, RFE/RL reported. DK

A Tashkent criminal court on 10 November sentenced five individuals to prison terms ranging from 15 and 1/2 to 16 years for involvement in terrorist attacks in the spring, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported the next day. The five were convicted of homicide, extremism, weapons possession, and other charges. According to the report, a lawyer for one of the defendants said that his client was beaten during the investigation and that the trial was delayed for several months to allow scars from the beating to fade. DK

KGB investigators have concluded an investigation into the case of Mikhail Marynich, who has been in jail since the end of April, Belapan reported on 10 November. Marynich is charged with the theft of classified government documents, illegal possession of firearms, and the theft of office equipment from an organization of which he was chairman. Marynich's lawyers have dismissed the charges as unfounded. Marynich, who was Belarus's minister of foreign economic relations in 1994-98, resigned as the country's Riga-based ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland in the summer of 2001 to run against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in that fall's presidential race. In his resignation letter to Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou, Marynich said he planned to work against dictatorship and for democratic change. He failed to get on the ballot, however, when the Central Election Commission ruled that he had not collected the required 100,000 voter signatures to be registered as a candidate. Marynich insisted that he had gathered the necessary signatures and accused the Lukashenka government of improperly forcing him out of the race. JM

Belsayuzdruk, Belarus's state-owned retail sales network for printed publications, has canceled its contract with the private literary magazine "Arche," refusing to distribute that publication through its newsstands, Belapan reported on 11 November. "This unjustified decision has dealt a severe blow to the magazine, considering that 450 copies out of 'Arche's' total circulation of 1,100 were available from newsstands," "Arche" Editor in Chief Valery Bulhakau commented. Bulhakau added that Belkniha, a state-run network of bookstores, refused last month to distribute an "Arche" issue that featured information about President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decade in power. "However, this ban did not affect 'Arche' much, as we sold no more than 100 copies through Belkniha bookstores," Bulhakau noted. "Arche," launched in 1998 as a publishing initiative to counteract the Lukashenka regime's effect on intellectual life in Belarus, is the country's most acclaimed independent literary magazine. JM

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's campaign staff has expressed confidence that Yanukovych will win the runoff on 21 November by a 3-4 percent margin despite his defeat by opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the first round of voting on 31 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2004), Ukrainian media reported on 10 November. Yanukovych's campaign manager, Serhiy Tihipko, said he accepts the first-round results despite what he described as numerous examples of illegal voting in favor of Yushchenko in western Ukraine by voters for relatives who are working abroad. Meanwhile, Yushchenko's staff predicted that Yushchenko will win the runoff by a similar 3-4 percent margin. Yushchenko, too, has accepted the first-round results, although he charged that authorities rigged the ballot to improve Yanukovych's tally. "I'm thankful that in the first round, despite the government's brutal behavior toward voters, we have, together, with your help, achieved a victory," an RFE/RL correspondent quoted Yushchenko as saying after the announcement of official election results on 10 November. JM

Prime Minister Yanukovych has signed a resolution increasing the average salaries of civil servants, prosecutors, and judges by 28 percent as of November, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported on 11 November. In addition, speaking to a gathering of police inspectors in Kyiv on 11 November, Yanukovych pledged that the government will enhance their accrual of retirement benefits by granting 1 1/2 years toward their eligibility for benefits for every year they serve, UNIAN reported. Meanwhile, lawmaker Petro Poroshenko, who heads the parliamentary Budget Committee, said the state treasury's cash reserves have shrunk to 7 billion hryvnyas ($1.3 billion) from some 15-18 billion hryvnyas at the beginning of September due to generous government increases in pensions ahead of the presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2004). JM

Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma made a presentation in Kyiv on 11 November of a foundation he set up to occupy himself after he completes his second presidential term by early January, Interfax reported. Kuchma revealed that his charitable fund, called "Ukraine," will work to consolidate civil society and defend rights and liberties. Kuchma also presented his new book, titled "Following One's Own Way: Thoughts about Economic Reforms in Ukraine." It is Kuchma's fourth book in four years. Commenting on the official results of the 31 October presidential ballot, Kuchma said they testify that Ukraine is a democratic state. "Only under such circumstances [as a democratic state] was it possible to ripen such a powerful opposition force [as Yushchenko's Power of the People election coalition]," Kuchma added. JM

The 12 November issue of the daily "Silski visti" published advertisements for Yanukovych's presidential campaign on its first and second pages, the Obkom website ( reported. "Silski visti" Editor in Chief Vasyl Hruzin told Obkom that the Yanukovych materials were published as paid advertising, adding that the client also paid for an extra print run of 400,000 copies of the issue in addition to the daily's 600,000 regular copies. "Silski visti" targets primarily rural readers in Ukraine and is associated with the opposition Socialist Party led by Oleksandr Moroz. Moroz, who won 5.81 percent of the vote in 31 October presidential balloting, has urged his adherents to vote for Yushchenko in the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004). JM

The Bosnian Serb government announced on its website on 9 November that it "sympathizes with the pain of the relatives of Srebrenica victims, with sincere regret and apology for the tragedy that befell them" when up to 8,000, mainly Muslim, males were killed by Serbian forces following the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 ( This is the first time the Bosnian Serb government has apologized for the killings, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The statement appeared shortly after the release of parts of an official Bosnian Serb report prepared under international pressure acknowledging the truth about the massacre, which the Bosnian Serbs had long sought to deny or conceal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 29 October and 9 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2004). Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service noted that the statement nonetheless does not discuss several important issues, such as when or how the Republika Srpska authorities plan to bring people suspected of involvement in the massacre to justice, particularly government employees. It is also unclear why Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic did not personally announce the apology in public, or why the Bosnian Serb media have not reported or commented on the apology at length. PM

High Representative Paddy Ashdown said at the UN on 11 November that the Bosnian Serbs' failure to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is the "biggest stumbling block" to Bosnia-Herzegovina's membership of the EU and NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May and 17 September 2004). Ashdown stressed that Bosnians "need be in no doubt that when NATO and the European Union say that if [Bosnians] want to join those institutions, [Bosnians] must cooperate with [the tribunal], those are not empty words. They are deadly serious ones. [Bosnians] should be in no doubt that they cannot treat this solemn obligation, which they signed up to in [the 1995 Dayton peace agreement], as if it was written in invisible ink, when it's there in black and white." But Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic, who is a Serb, argued that "there is a firm political commitment [in Bosnia] to arrest the indicted war criminals, as well as an awareness [on the part of] the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina that full cooperation with the [tribunal] is a precondition for the country to be recognized as a democratic state." PM

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic and former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac suggested in Belgrade on 7 and 10 November, respectively, that two soldiers who were killed on 5 October under unclear circumstances near Belgrade's Topcider barracks were shot because they discovered the presence of one or more indicted war criminals at the facility, Reuters reported. Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, and many critics inside Serbia have long suggested that the Serbian military and some of the authorities are protecting former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and other indictees, a charge that the Serbian government denies. The government has not commented on the remarks by Korac and Draskovic, who charged that the authorities "are hiding the crime [of concealing indictees] with lies and new crimes." The foreign minister argued that "our soldiers are being killed outside the secret [tunnel] entrances of those [war criminals] whose hostages we are [in the eyes of the international community], and then [the authorities] say those young guards shot each other." An official independent commission is expected to release its findings regarding the incident soon. PM

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski hosted a meeting in Ohrid on 10 November of the leaders of the governing Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI); of the parties representing the smaller ethnic minorities; and of the ethnic Albanian opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), MIA news agency reported. During the meeting, the political leaders signed a declaration in support of Macedonia's strategic goals, including implementing the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement as precondition for stable interethnic relations, as well as joining NATO and the EU. In a clear allusion to the recent diplomatic protests by Greece against the United States' recent decision to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name, the document stresses the importance of good neighborly relations with Greece (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 November 2004). Opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) Chairman Nikola Gruevski declined to attend the meeting but signed the declaration in Skopje together with leaders of the Liberal Party and some other opposition parties. UB

A joint session of the Romanian parliament approved a national budget for 2005 on 10 November, local media reported. The budget passed with 239 votes for and 48 against, with one abstention. Parliament also approved a social-insurance budget, with 232 votes against 48 and two abstentions. Prime Minister and ruling Social Democratic Party presidential candidate Adrian Nastase said the budget represents an attempt to bring Romania more in line with the EU. He added that as Romania gets closer to EU membership, the budget will become an increasingly strong social instrument. Nastase said the approved 2005 budget projects 5.3 percent economic growth, 7 percent inflation, and 1.8 percent budget deficit. Opposition Democratic Party Deputy Alexandru Mocanu criticized the budget, calling it an electoral tool that contains "populist measures" based on electoral rather than economic or social criteria. ZsM

The International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, presented its final report to Romanian President Ion Iliescu in a special ceremony at the presidential palace on 11 November, Mediafax reported. The 400-page report details the history of the Holocaust in Romania as well as the commission's conclusions and recommendations on how the government can foster Holocaust awareness, remembrance, and education in Romania. The commission concluded that the Holocaust in Romania had deep roots in a century-long history of widespread anti-Semitism among the country's political and cultural elite. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or died at the hands of Romanian authorities, it estimated, while more than 25,000 Romanian Roma were also deported during the Holocaust and over 11,000 of them perished. Speaking at the event, Iliescu said Romania assumes responsibility for atrocities during World War II, adding that the report represents only the beginning of a long process aimed at changing general perceptions and fighting anti-Semitism, extremism, and xenophobia. (RFE/RL analyst Michael Shafir and Romania-Moldova Service member William Totok served on Wiesel's commission.) ZsM

Romanian President Iliescu asked parliament in a 10 November letter to approve the deployment of 100 troops to Iraq to protect the UN mission there, Mediafax reported. The same day, presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu said, "It is very important to show solidarity within the antiterrorist coalition." Two further Romanian Guard and Protection Service members are to protect UN officials in Sudan. Both missions are to be financially supported by the UN. ZsM

William Hill, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Moldova, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau on 10 November that the 8 and 9 November talks in the Bulgarian city of Varna on the Transdniester issue ended without any decisions. He added that mediators signed a short common declaration that states that the meeting took place and listed the subjects discussed. According to Flux, Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova, Transdniestrian chief negotiator Valerii Litskai, Hill, former Bulgarian President Petar Stoianov, and Russian and Ukrainian representatives attended the meeting. ZsM

The parliament in Chisinau on 10 November approved the country's budget for 2005, with all Party of Moldovan Communists and independent deputies voting in favor, Popular Party Christian-Democratic (PPCD) deputies against, and Braghis Alliance deputies abstaining, Flux reported. PPCD deputy Eugen Garla said the budget was elaborated for the state, and not the citizens, as it will neither ensure sustainable economic growth nor reduce the foreign-trade deficit. The legislature also approved its own budget for 2005. PPCD Deputy Stefan Secareanu warned the document is not transparent enough, as it only shows sums allocated for its respective chapters but does not indicate the purpose for which the funds are allocated. ZsM

On 4-5 November, a wave of panic, fueled apparently by false rumors, swept over the region around the Balakovo Nuclear Power Plant in Saratov Oblast, Russian media reported. The panic reached the cities of Saratov, Samara, Mari-El, Ulyanovsk, Tolyatti, and Penza, as well as many towns and villages in the region, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 November. At least 10 cases of iodine poisoning were registered, as panicked locals tried to protect themselves from the effects of radiation.As late as 10 November, official media in the effected cities were working to dispel the panic and reassure the public. "Mariiskaya pravda" in Mari-El reported on 10 November that unknown people were still calling around the city warning that a radioactive cloud was approaching and the people should be taking iodine.

Balakovo is a massive plant, generating 28 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. Its four reactors provide one-quarter of the energy needs of the Volga Federal District and supply electricity to the Urals and the North Caucasus as well. It generates one-fifth of all of Russia's nuclear power and the construction of two additional reactors at the plant is scheduled for the next five or 10 years, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 November.

Therefore, the appearance on 4 November of a website supposedly created by "independent journalists" that reported that "four workers have died and 18 others have received burns of various degrees" in an accident on the night of 3-4 November and that "the situation is critical" was enough to start something of a chain reaction of rumor. However, media reports from throughout the region indicate that anonymous telephone callers posing as Emergency Situations Ministry workers were calling schools and enterprises and "warning" them of the danger.

"People were terrified and thought it was the end of the world," Anna Vinogradova, head of a Saratov NGO, told "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 November. "The entire city went mad." The panic only abated late on 5 November when presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko was shown on local television touring all four Balakovo reactors.

The chain reaction did not end there, however. On 10 November, the Voronezh-based news agency Moe reported that someone in that city was spreading nearly identical rumors of an accident at the Novovornezhskaya Nuclear Power Plant. The Voronezh Oblast administration was compelled to issue a statement condemning the copycat rumormongers and assuring the public that all was normal at the plant.

Prosecutors quickly opened a criminal investigation into the matter and pledged to find the source of the rumors. But the scare set off another chain reaction, as officials and analysts sought to place the blame for the incident. Konstantin Bandorin, deputy chairman of the Saratov Oblast Public Chamber, told a roundtable in Perm on 10 November that the panic is a clear example of "informational terrorism," RosBalt reported. "I hope that the media that spread incorrect information will be held criminally liable," Bandorin said.

The government daily "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and other state media led the clamor of accusations against the media. On 9 November, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted Saratov Oblast Search and Rescue Service head Oleg Mostar as charging bluntly, "This hysteria was fueled by the media." "Some radio stations, without having any official information, broadcast reports of a radioactive cloud moving over the city," he said. The daily also reported that some media outlets were offering speculation on how long it would take the radioactive cloud to reach Samara.

Federal Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Nikolai Shingarev told ITAR-TASS on 9 November that the media "should have more responsibly handled the spread of information that can cause panic among the population and should have made sure 100 percent that it was professionally correct and corresponding to reality."

Shingarev further noted that the media "continued to report false information" even after official statements explained that there was no emergency, indicating the low level of public confidence in such government assurances. The K&M news agency titled its 9 November analysis of the events "a chain reaction of no confidence in the authorities," noting that officials were slow to issue statements, that the statements were formulaic and not reassuring, and that the public -- recalling Chornobyl and other cases -- is inclined to disregard such statements in any case. As recently as September, the government and state-controlled federal media admitted that official statements intentionally downplayed the number of hostages taken at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in order to avoid setting off panic and ethnic conflict in the region.

Some local officials also blamed environmentalists for sowing panic. The press center of the Balakovo plant on 10 November issued a statement saying that "some representatives of the 'greens' made their contribution to fuelling the panic by irresponsibly advising the public to take iodine." The statement continued by charging that after prosecutors opened their investigation, environmentalists began "taking steps to escape responsibility."

Commentator Aleksandr Yemelyanenkov, in a 9 November commentary in "Rossiiskaya gazeta," pinned the blame primarily on local officials, who suffer from the "old illness" of clamming up when the going gets tough. He argued that the initial announcements on 4 November demonstrated "formulaic wording and an obvious desire to allay fears" and that they were followed up by silence even as the rumors gained intensity. "How are [journalists] supposed to obtain official comments if the press services refuse to say anything or merely parrot the same phrases and if officials themselves lack detailed information about what has happened and avoid contacts with the media?" he wrote.

Moreover, Yemelyanenkov emphasized the general lack of public confidence in the truthfulness of government statements. "People have long since lost confidence in local bosses, who are accustomed to keeping malfunctions secret," he wrote.

On 10 November, the NGO Ekozashchita sent an open letter to the Federal Atomic Energy Agency arguing that only impartial, independent monitoring of nuclear power plants can prevent similar disinformation episodes, arguing that the authorities -- and especially nuclear-sector officials -- "do not have the trust of the people," reported. However, the overall trend in Russia and around the world since the launching of the war on international terrorism has been toward increased secrecy and decreased public access to information about potential targets such as nuclear power plants.

So how can this type of "information terrorism" be thwarted in Russia? Well, the Saratov branch of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) reported on 10 November that there was little panic in the town of Balakovo itself both because local media "quickly provided objective information" and because "most local residents have their own Geiger counters."

Afghanistan's Supreme Court on 10 November ordered a ban on the broadcast of cable-television programs, "The Daily Telegraph" reported the next day. An unidentified spokesman for the Supreme Court reportedly said the newly launched Tolo television channel "recently showed a film on the Prophet Moses which was criticized by the Ulema Council" of Afghanistan, prompting the court to issue the ban. A spokesman for Tolo argued that the broadcaster follows "all the regulations," adding that Tolo hopes "the government will stay [also] within the constitution and will respect the people's wishes." The Supreme Court issued a ban on cable television in 2003, but the ban was gradually ignored with the support of Afghan Minister of Information and Culture Sayyed Makhdum Rahin. More recently, however, Rahin has reversed course and joined with conservative elements in supporting the ban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 November 2004). AT

Sayyed Akbar Agha, the purported leader of Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims), told AP on 10 November that an agreement has been reached to end the hostage crisis that began when the group abducted three UN workers in late October. "We have been given signals that the prisoners whose release we demand will be freed," Akbar Agha said in a telephone interview. Army of the Muslims, a splinter group of the neo-Taliban, abducted three election workers on 28 October and has repeatedly changed its demands and deadlines for ending the hostage crisis (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 November 2004). Since 8 November the group has dropped many of its demands and has claimed it gave Afghan authorities a list of 25 or 26 individuals to be released in exchange for the UN employees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 November 2004). Akbar Agha said that 11 of the prisoners on the group's list are in Afghanistan, while the remainder are at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. AT

Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in Kabul that no prisoners will be released from U.S. custody in connection with the demands of Army of the Muslims, the Kabul-based daily "Islah" reported on 11 November. "It is the United States' view that negotiating with hostage takers, compromising with hostage takers, only encourages more [hostage taking]." Armitage said in Kabul on 10 November, Reuters reported. However Afghan and U.S. officials in Afghanistan decline to say whether any prisoners would be released to meet the demands of Army of the Muslims, AP reported on 10 November. The Muslim holiday Eid, which begins on 13 or 14 November, is traditionally a time when the Afghan government releases a number of prisoners as a goodwill gesture; it is plausible that some of those on the Army of the Muslims list might be released as part of that traditional amnesty. In 2003, neo-Taliban fighters abducted a Turkish engineer and demanded the release of a number of their comrades and later released their hostage, claiming the group had secured the release of two of its members (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November and 4 December 2004). That incident also coincided with Eid. AT

Officials in Islamabad have canceled a meeting of the steering committee for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan natural-gas-pipeline project that was planned for late this month, the Karachi-based daily "Dawn" reported on 9 November. "Dawn" claimed that authorities in Pakistan do not want a meeting on the pipeline -- which would transport natural gas from Turkmenistan's Daulatabad gas field to Pakistan via Afghanistan -- until Turkmenistan provides certified evidence of reserves at the site. According to the report, Islamabad has been demanding such verification since August 2003. Meanwhile, Pakistan has received reports that Turkmenistan might have signed a deal with a Russian company involving the same gas field, the report added. Leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan signed a deal in May 2002 to revive the idea of building the gas pipeline, which had been shelved under Taliban rule in Afghanistan (for more on the project, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 February 2003). AT

Officials in Tehran praised deceased Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, condemned Israel, and called for Palestinian unity against Israel following the announcement of Arafat's death on 11 November, according to a government statement cited by the official Islamic Republic News Agency on 11 November. Arafat's name and Palestine are permanently linked, the Iranian government said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said Iran offers its condolences to "the oppressed Palestinian people," IRNA reported, and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani also offered his condolences. "Israel, which only understands the language of force and violence, is incapable of confronting the intifada and the anger of Palestinians," the government statement concluded. It also demanded the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its headquarters, the return of Palestinian refugees, and an end to the occupation. Unity was a common thread in the other statements. "What is important now is that the Palestinian people understand the current sensitive situation and by maintaining unity, they defuse the plots of the Zionist regime," Assefi said, as he warned that Israel is trying to exploit the situation. Hashemi-Rafsanjani urged Palestinians to set aside their differences and practice unity considering the nature of the alleged threat facing them. BS

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, secretary-general of the Support for Palestinian Intifada conference series, will represent Iran at Arafat's funeral in Cairo on 12 November, ILNA reported the previous day. "Mohtashami-Pur is expected to hold talks with representatives of a number of Palestinian movements while in Cairo," ILNA added. Mohtashami-Pur made his mark as a founder of Lebanese Hizballah when he was ambassador to Damascus in the 1980s and has since maintained his relationship with Hizballah. Representatives of Hizballah, Hamas, the PIJ, the PFLP-GC, the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and Fatah Uprising met at his April 2001 and June 2002 "Support for the Palestinian Intifada" conferences. BS

The founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, declared that the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan (12 November this year) would be marked annually as Qods Day (Jerusalem Day), IRNA reported. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's cabinet on 10 November urged Iranians to participate in the rallies. In his 5 November Friday Prayers sermon, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also encouraged his compatriots to participate, state radio reported. He praised Palestinian "resistance" against Israel, and he criticized the international community's "silence." "America is an accomplice itself," Khamenei added. "The hands of American administrations are stained with the blood of Palestinians right up to their arms. If there was a court to rule in the Palestinian case, the accused would not be only [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and the Zionists. The Americans accused in this case are also people such as [President George W.] Bush, his gangs and American administrations." Khamenei then switched to Arabic, presumably so audiences in other countries would understand the sermon when it is rebroadcast by Iran's Arabic language media, and discussed Qods Day some more. He discussed "crimes committed by the usurping Zionist regime," the Islamic community's pride in Palestinians' courage, and the silence of regimes that claim to defend human rights. BS

Because U.S. relations with Iran have not yet "returned to normal," President Bush on 9 November authorized for another year the continuation of the "national emergency with respect to Iran," according to the State Department website ( President Jimmy Carter originally declared this national emergency on 14 November 1979 by Executive Order 12170, "to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the situation in Iran." BS

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at a 9 November news conference in Mexico City that he expects to meet Iranian officials at a conference on Iraq that will take place in Egypt later in the month, reported. Powell added that an agenda for specific meetings has not been set. Iranian legislator Alaedin Borujerdi on 10 November warned against reading too much into Powell's statement because the two countries' representatives have met at multilateral forums in the past, ISNA reported. This is distinct from bilateral talks, Borujerdi said, and it demonstrates U.S. concern that it is being left behind the Europeans in discussions about the nuclear issue. An Iranian international-relations expert, Morad Veysi, described Powell's statement as an effort to pressure Tehran and the Europeans in their nuclear negotiations. If the Americans only want to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan, Veysi added, that is of no benefit to Iran. BS

U.S. forces battling militants in the volatile city of Al-Fallujah have trapped militants in the southern section of the city, Reuters cited U.S. Marine officials as saying on 12 November. Military officials said some 600 militants have been killed in the past four days of fighting in the central Iraqi city, AP reported on 12 November. Eighteen American and five Iraqi troops have also died. Some 178 U.S. and 34 Iraqi soldiers have been wounded in the offensive. "They can't go north because that's where we are. They can't go west because of the Euphrates River, and they can't go east because we have a huge presence there. So they are cornered in the south," Marine Master Sergeant Roy Meek told Reuters. U.S. forces destroyed the Hajj Husayn Mosque in the city in overnight bombing, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. military source as saying that mosques are considered legitimate targets if militants use them for military purposes. The U.S. commander of the First Marine Division, Major General Richard Natonski, said troops have found arms caches in "almost every single mosque" in Al-Fallujah, AP reported. KR

U.S. Marines discovered what appeared to be a "slaughterhouse" in the northern Julan district of Al-Fallujah where hostages are thought to have been held and even killed by militants, AP reported on 12 November. Major General Natonski went to the site, telling reporters about a small room with no windows and one door. He said he saw two thin mattresses, straw mats covered in blood, and a wheelchair that was apparently used to transport captives, AP reported. The news agency also cited a Fox News report that said another Marine battalion found five bodies in a locked house in northwest Al-Fallujah on 10 November. The victims had been shot in the back of the head. Their identities were not known, but they appeared to be civilians, AP reported. U.S. Marines also found the Syrian driver taken hostage with two French reporters in late August in an undisclosed location in Al-Fallujah on 11 November, AP reported. The hostage reportedly told military officials that he was separated from the reporters about a month ago. KR

A U.S. soldier was killed in 11 November clashes in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Reuters reported on 12 November. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported on 11 November that militants were roaming the streets of the city. Six police stations were attacked and raided, and three were set on fire, Radio Free Iraq reported. The station reported on 28 October that fliers issued by more than a dozen militant groups could be seen pasted to walls throughout the city and distributed to drivers warning businessmen and citizens not to cooperate with multinational forces (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 November 2004). The Ninawah governor imposed a curfew on the city on 10 November, Reuters reported. U.S. Central Command issued a press release on 11 November that said U.S. forces had been called into the city after "anti-Iraqi forces exceeded the capabilities of the police on site" in clashes on 10-11 November. KR

U.S. forces stormed the Ibn Taymiyah Mosque in Baghdad on 11 November, Al-Jazeera television reported. Troops arrested Shaykh Mahdi al-Sumaydi'i, secretary-general of the Da'wah and Guidance Commission. The Karbala News Network reported on 11 November that al-Sumaydi'i, a Salafi leader, had accused Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of "launching a war on the Sunnis." Al-Sumaydi'i also criticized Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for remaining silent about the U.S.-led incursion on Al-Fallujah. The website quoted al-Sumaydi'i as accusing Shi'ite forces of "seeking and instigating the option of war against Al-Fallujah and other Sunni groups." He said the Shura Council of the Ahl Al-Jama'ah wa Al-Sunnah has decided that it will support the people of Al-Fallujah through military means, adding that practical steps would be taken in the coming days. Al-Sumaydi'i stressed "the right of Arab elements to come to Iraq and stand alongside its people in the resistance." KR

Kirkuk Governor Abd al-Rahman Mustafa escaped an apparent assassination attempt on 11 November KurdSat television reported. The incident occurred when Mustafa's convoy was the target of a car bomb on the Shahidan Bridge in the city. Fourteen people were killed in that incident, including six of the governor's bodyguards. KR

The Iraqi Police Service graduated some 2,500 officers from basic training courses this week, U.S. Central Command said in an 11 November press release. The recruits were graduated from training programs located in Sulaymaniyah, the Baghdad Public Safety Academy, and from the Jordan International Police Training Center in Amman, Jordan. Nearly 80 women graduated from the Baghdad training program. The recruits were trained on the basics of policing skills and techniques and the ideals of law enforcement in a free society, the press release stated. The graduates will be immediately assigned to duty at stations throughout Iraq. KR

A bomb exploded on 9 November close to a Armenian church in Baghdad, causing damage to the building but no casualties, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. LF