PUTIN SAYS DOUBLE STANDARDS ON HUMAN RIGHTS 'NOT ACCEPTABLE'
Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told reporters in Moscow on 10 February that President Vladimir Putin and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour discussed the issue of double standards in assessing human and minority rights during a meeting that day, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Lukin added that Russia "is no less concerned about human rights in Chechnya than our foreign partners. But those who put an equal sign between terrorists in Chechnya and our servicemen are wrong." NTV reported on 10 February that Putin told Arbour that Russia is ready for "constructive dialog on human rights" but will not tolerate the issue being used as a political lever. "Of course we need the opinions of qualified specialists," Putin said. "But it is not acceptable for anyone to use the topic of human rights to achieve political or, even, economic aims." Putin also told Arbour that Russia has different views on the human-rights situations in Iraq and Syria from the United States. Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said the same day, following his own talks with Arbour, that Russia will call for a major overhaul of UN human-rights agencies, RIA-Novosti reported. JAC/VY
FORMER PRIME MINISTER SLAMS U.S., ISRAEL FOR POSITIONS ON SYRIA
Speaking to journalists in Damascus on 10 February, former Prime Minister and Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Yevgenii Primakov harshly criticized the United States and Israel for their statements regarding Syria, RIA-Novosti reported. "The accusations that Syria supports terrorists and is blocking a peaceful settlement in the Middle East are groundless," Primakov said. He added that it is clear the Syria is ready to begin talks with Israel at any time without preconditions, as was made clear in a joint Russia-Syria communique issued during the 25 January Moscow summit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2005). "We were under pressure to cancel this visit, but we ignored this pressure because Syria is a crucial player in the Middle East," Primakov said. After Syria, Primakov will go to Jordan and on 12-14 February he will visit Iran. VY
WESTERN FIRMS TO BE CUT OUT OF RESOURCES BIDDING
Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev said on 10 February that foreign companies will not be allowed to participate in bidding this year to develop major Russian mineral deposits, AP and RBK reported. Only companies with at least 51 percent Russian ownership will be eligible to bid for such projects, including the rights to develop lucrative oil and gas fields near Sakhalin Island, in the Barents Sea, and in the Russian Arctic region. The same rule will apply to metals deposits, including Sukhoi Log, Russia's largest gold deposit, and the Udokan copper deposit in eastern Siberia. VY
MOSCOW URGES NORTH KOREA TO RETURN TO SIX-NATION TALKS...
Commenting on the 10 February announcement that North Korea is withdrawing from the six-nation talks about its nuclear program, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said "Moscow respects and understands Pyongyang's concerns about its security," but nonetheless wants the country to return to the negotiations, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. "Despite the firm tone of the North Korean statement, Moscow still hopes that there is the possibility of a quick resumption of negotiations and of the search for a mutually acceptable compromise," Yakovenko said. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, speaking on the sidelines of a NATO-Russia Council meeting in Nice on 10 February, said that Pyongyang's decision is "a step in the wrong direction," RTR reported. Ivanov added that he has "no reliable data about [possible] North Korean nuclear weapons" and that he is "very cautious" about reports on this topic. VY
...AS ANALYST WORRIES ABOUT FAR EASTERN NUCLEAR-ARMS RACE
Aleksei Arbatov, director of the International Security Center of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), said on 10 February that he "is inclined to think that North Korea's statements that it possesses nuclear weapons are a bluff dictated by Pyongyang's desperate economic situation and its desire to wring more economic concessions from its negotiating partners," TV-Tsentr reported. "The only real criterion for the presence of nuclear weapons is a successful test, which has never occurred [in North Korea]," Arbatov said. However, even if Pyongyang is only on the verge of building a nuclear weapon, it can be very dangerous, he added, since "such an odious regime could transfer nuclear technology to anyone." He added that North Korean nuclear weapons could push Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to create their own nuclear arsenals and spark a nuclear arms race on Russia's Far Eastern borders. VY
MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR SITES ARE SECURE
At the same 10 February news conference in Nice, Defense Minister Ivanov said he has cautioned Western countries not to try "to cast doubt on the reliability of the security of Russia's nuclear arsenal," RIA-Novosti reported. "We have registered cases on the black market in Afghanistan when sellers offer containers with Russian-language markings purporting to contain weapons-grade uranium," Ivanov said. "But both the containers and the markings were faked." Ivanov did not say who was responsible for such counterfeiting. In Moscow, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has signed a directive authorizing the military, including air-defense units, to reinforce Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) forces protecting Russian nuclear installations, "Trud" reported on 9 February. Under the directive, military units will take part in the protection of 31 nuclear-power plants, 20 research reactors, 58 nuclear submarines, and 40 naval surface ships with nuclear reactors, as well as nuclear-weapons installations. Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Antipov said the measure is designed to counter the rising threat of international terrorism. VY
MAJOR CITIES EXPERIENCE WAVE OF PROTESTS OVER RISING GASOLINE PRICES
Protests against higher gasoline prices were held in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Nizhnii Novgorod, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, Petrozavodsk, Kursk, and Arkhangelsk on 10 February, NTV, ITAR-TASS, and gazeta.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2005). According to gazeta.ru, the organizers of the protests, representatives of public associations of car owners, expected around 500,000 people to participate nationally. In the city of Moscow, about 400 people demonstrated, carrying signs reading "Expensive oil, poor people" and "No to gasoline price hikes," according to RBK-TV and Interfax. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov met with representatives of a transport-workers union and promised that their representatives will take party in the drafting of relevant amendments to antimonopoly legislation. State Duma Deputy and leader of the Movement of Russian Motorists Viktor Pokhmelkin (independent) issued a press release charging that gasoline prices in Russia have surpassed those in the United States and are rapidly approaching those of Europe. At the same time, Pokhmelkin noted, Russia is a major energy exporter and average incomes are incomparably lower than those in the United States and Europe. Gasoline prices in Vladivostok have almost doubled over the past two years, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC
DEFENSE MINISTRY WORKERS MAN THE PROTEST BARRICADES
Some 150-300 civilian employees of the Defense Ministry on 10 February picketed in front of the ministry and 500 gathered near the government building in central Moscow to demand a 20 percent hike in their wages, Russian news agencies reported. This was the second consecutive day of such protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2005). Sergei Kosarev, deputy chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions for Armed Forces Workers and Employees, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 February that if the Defense Ministry does not meet protestors' demands, then "in March we will hold nationwide protests across all of Russia." According to the daily, there are about 800,000 civilian personnel working for the Defense Ministry. The 20 percent hike would bring the workers' wages on a par with country's state-funded employees, whose salaries were raised by 20 percent as of 1 January according to a decree signed by Prime Minister Fradkov on 31 December. JAC
BASHKORTOSTAN POLICE TO DEFEND THEIR REPUTATION IN COURT
Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry has prepared nine lawsuits against the weekly "Novaya gazeta" regarding its issue detailing the police raids in the city of Blagoveshchensk of December 2004, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2005). Interior Ministry officials contend that the newspaper's journalists, together with various human rights activists, tried publicly to discredit law enforcement officials. At an extraordinary session of the republican parliament on 10 February, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov advised the ministry's leadership to seek legal restitution. Rakhimov believes that the mass media engaged in disinformation about the events in Blagoveshchensk, although he did not specify a particular publication or media outlet, according to ITAR-TASS. According to RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Rakhimov added: "Our press makes heroes out of those who oppose police and other representatives of authorities. That is why we shouldn't be surprised that we have such a high crime rate in our country." Two years ago, Rakhimov won a defamation suit against Yabloko party leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who was ordered to publish a statement in the regional newspaper renouncing his assertion that Rakhimov is ruling a "feudal, patronage-based regime" characterized by "lying, stealing, and making concessions to bandits" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2002). JAC
KARELIA TO UPGRADE TEACHING OF FINNISH
A new joint Russian-Finnish project, financed largely by the EU, is to be launched to improve the teaching of Finnish in Karelian schools, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February, quoting the Karelian Education Development Fund. Over a period of 2 1/2 years, it is planned to train more specialists and prepare new teaching materials. While the Finnish minority in Karelia is declining, the demand for a knowledge of Finnish is growing as a result of expanding ties with neighboring Finland. According to the website of the government of Karelia (http://www.gov.karelia.ru), 73.6 percent of the republic's 716,000 people are Russians, 10 percent Karelians, 2.3 percent Finns, and 0.8 percent Veps. Finnish and Veps (a related Finno-Ugric language) are currently taught in Karelian schools. LF
RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CALL FOR TALKS WITH CHECHEN PRESIDENT...
Prominent Russian human rights activists issued a statement in Moscow on 10 February calling on the Russian authorities to begin peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. The statement argued that "negotiations are the only way to achieve by political methods what is difficult to achieve by military methods" and "one of the very few ways to prevent Chechnya turning into another front in the battle between Islamic radicalism and Western civilization." Maskhadov has announced a unilateral cease-fire for the month of February that he said is intended to pave the way for unconditional peace talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4 and 7 February 2005). LF
...BUT CHECHEN OFFICIALS STILL REFUSE
Ziyad Sabsabi, who is Chechen Deputy Prime Minister and permanent representative in Moscow, rejected on 10 February the human rights activists' call for talks with Maskhadov, saying that "there is nothing to negotiate about" and asking rhetorically why the human rights campaigners have never "appealed to Maskhadov and [radical field commander Shamil] Basaev to stop terrorist attacks and murders," Interfax reported. Maskhadov insists that his fighters should strictly observe the Geneva Conventions and has distanced himself from the terrorist acts for which Basaev has claimed responsibility. In Grozny, pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov similarly argued on 10 February that "there is absolutely no need to negotiate with Maskhadov in order to establish peace in Chechnya," Interfax reported. Alkhanov said that if Maskhadov wants peace in Chechnya, he should surrender. LF
LEADER SEEKS TO FORESTALL DEFECTIONS FROM ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BLOC
People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian, who heads the opposition Artarutiun alliance, warned its members at a meeting in Artashat on 10 February against breaking away to form a rival opposition alliance, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Anyone who quits Artarutiun will lose out, Demirchian warned, in a clear allusion to the leadership of the Hanrapetutiun party led by former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian. Hanrapetutiun for several months has been conducting talks on establishing a new, more pro-Western alliance (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 17 December 2004). Demirchian argued that instead of leaving Artarutiun, members should help him to make it more effective. LF
ARMENIAN CITIZEN ARRESTED FOR SPYING FOR AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan's National Security Service has recently arrested an Armenian citizen on suspicion of working for Azerbaijani intelligence, according to Noyan Tapan and Arminfo on 9 February, as cited by Groong. The suspected agent's identity has not been divulged, and there has been no official reaction from Baku to those reports. LF
EU ENVOY VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Ambassador Heikki Talvitie, who is the EU special envoy for the South Caucasus, met in Baku on 9 February with President Ilham Aliyev, Turan reported. At a press conference the following day, Talvitie stressed that the parliamentary elections due this fall should be "as free and fair as is possible given conditions in Azerbaijan," zerkalo.az reported on 11 February. He said the EU is concerned by, and will shortly issue an official statement regarding, gross procedural violations during the trials of persons arrested in the wake of the October 2003 presidential election. Those violations are listed in a recent report compiled by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2005). Talvitie also said that he sees no need for the EU to assume a formal role in mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict, as the OSCE Minsk Group is already engaged in doing so. He added that he is doing everything he can to effect a rapprochement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, day.az reported on 11 February. LF
AZERBAIJANI RESERVISTS SEEK TO INFLUENCE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE MILITARY
An NGO representing reservists has established a media club named Friends of the Army in the hope of instilling in young people a sense of patriotism and deterring journalists from negative coverage of defense-related issues, zerkalo.az reported on 11 February. Friends of the Army will monitor the content of the Azerbaijani media on a monthly basis and will publicly condemn journalists whose articles show the military in a negative light. Friends of the Army will also conduct seminars to teach journalists the "correct" approach to writing on defense-related issues. LF
MORE DETAILS EMERGE OF SCANDAL WITHIN AZERBAIJANI PENITENTIARY SYSTEM
Reputed criminal kingpin Nadir Salifov, who was sentenced in 1996 for unspecified serious crimes, allegedly managed to commit further criminal offenses between 2001-04 while serving his sentence in the notorious Gobustan jail, Turan reported on 9 February, quoting a joint statement by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office. Specifically, Salifov allegedly managed with the help of the prison administration to procure eight women, who alleged after visiting him in jail that they had been raped. Salifov also allegedly used four cellular telephones to extort money from wealthy businessmen. It is not clear whether the joint statement implicated former Deputy Justice Minister Aydyn Gasymov and two other senior justice ministry officials who have recently been dismissed for condoning abuses within the prison system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 2005). LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DELIVERS ANNUAL ADDRESS...
Mikheil Saakashvili delivered a one-hour state of the nation address to the Georgian parliament on 10 February, Georgian media reported. Saakashvili said that over the past 12 months Georgia has become a viable state for the first time in modern history. He termed that and the ouster in May 2004 of Aslan Abashidze, the authoritarian leader of the Adjar Republic, as his most significant accomplishments. Among other achievements, Saakashvili listed increased budget revenues, a decline in smuggling, the new tax code, the financial amnesty declared last year, the 100 percent increase in pensions, and the fact that "this is the first Parliament, which has worked for a year without a fistfight, without MPs smashing each others' noses." Saakashvili praised the government; expressed support for making the office of mayor elective; and called for reducing the number of parliament deputies from 235 to 150 in line with the results of the referendum conducted in November 2003. He also proposed that all political parties that do not support Georgia's unequivocally pro-Western foreign-policy orientation should be banned, Caucasus Press reported. LF
...ELICITING MIXED RESPONSE
Maya Nadiradze, who heads the United Democrats-National Movement parliament faction, termed Saakashvili's address "clear and impressive," Interfax reported on 10 February. By contrast, New Rightists (AM) leader David Gamqrelidze dismissed it as a cheap imitation of the U.S. president's state of the nation address, according to www.rustavi2.com, while Zviad Dzidziguri (Conservative) pointed out that Saakashvili failed to mention energy problems, unemployment, and other basic problems. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT FORMALLY PRESENTS CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER
President Saakashvili formally presented to parliament on 10 February former Finance Minister Zurab Noghaideli, his choice to succeed deceased Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, Georgian media reported. On 11 February, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze said that parliament will confirm the new prime minister and cabinet by 17-18 February, Caucasus Press reported. Valeri Chechelashvili, currently Georgian ambassador to Moscow , is slated to take Noghaideli's place as finance minister, Supreme Court Chairman Kote Kemularia will become justice minister and deputy prime minister, and Giorgi Papuashvili will replace Tamar Lebanidze as environment minister, Caucasus Press quoted Burdjanadze as saying. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT PROBE INTO PRIME MINISTER'S DEATH
Addressing parliament on 10 February, AM faction leader Gamqrelidze said many Georgians do not trust official reports that Zhvania died of natural-gas poisoning, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. He demanded that the government should state unequivocally that Zhvania was not assassinated, and proposed that an ad hoc parliament commission be established to evaluate the circumstances of Zhvania's death. Speaker Burdjanadze assured Gamqrelidze that "the government and the parliament are interested in clarifying all circumstances of Zurab Zhvania's death. We will do everything possible to learn the truth." LF
KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY BRANDS RUSSIAN POLITICIAN 'UNDESIRABLE'
Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release on 10 February declaring any travel by Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii to Kazakhstan "undesirable," Kabar reported. The action, under which Kazakh border officials could refuse Zhirinovskii entry should he try to enter the country, comes in response to disparaging comments about Kazakhstan that Zhirinovskii made in a January interview with radio station Ekho Moskvy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2005). A Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Kazinform that the move is a "final diplomatic warning" that is tantamount to declaring the scandal-ridden Zhirinovskii persona non grata in Kazakhstan. DK
KAZAKH COURT UPHOLDS DISSOLUTION OF OPPOSITION PARTY
A court in Almaty on 9 February upheld an earlier court decision dissolving the opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, a former prosecutor-general of Kazakhstan who now heads the opposition Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces, told the court that prosecutors are no longer upholding justice and objectivity, but rather pursuing political aims, "Navigator" reported on 10 February. DVK members said that they are now preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court. DK
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION OPENS WEBSITE
The People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan has opened a new website (http://www.unitedcoalition.org), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 10 February. The website is intended to provide Kyrgyz voters with as much information as possible in the run-up to the 27 February parliamentary elections, with a focus on updates about alleged violations of election law and official responses to them. DK
GAZPROM HEAD MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT OVER PRICE TIFF
Gazprom head Aleksei Miller met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 10 February for talks on a price dispute between the state-controlled Russian gas company and Turkmenistan, Turkmen Television reported. A 10 February Gazprom press release noted only that "both sides are satisfied with the results of cooperation; the intention has been confirmed to follow existing agreements and contracts strictly in the future." Under the current contract, Russia was to buy 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan in 2005 for $44 per 1,000 cubic meters, paid half in cash and half in kind. Emboldened by recent price concessions by Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005), however, Turkmenistan now wants $58 per 1,000 cubic meters from Russia as well. A source at the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow told "The Moscow Times" on 9 February that Turkmenistan halted natural-gas supplies to Russia in January. Official Turkmen reports of the Miller-Niyazov meeting said the sides are confident negotiations can break the deadlock, but stressed that the current price is "unacceptable." The Turkmen Embassy source told "The Moscow Times" that Turkmenistan is ready to sit tight until its conditions are met. But "Vremya novostei" reported on 11 February that Gazprom negotiators will soon make another attempt to resolve the price dispute within the framework of the existing contract. DK
TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN ACCORDS
Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov met with Shavkat Mirziyoev, his Uzbek counterpart, in Tashkent on 10 February, Uzbek Television First Channel reported. They signed two agreements, one on settling accounts for cargo transport and Tajikistan's sovereign debt in 2005, and another on cooperation in the use of water and energy resources. The talks focused on trade, with the participants noting that trade volume between the two countries registered a 27 percent year-on-year increase in 2004. RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported that, according to unofficial sources, the two sides also discussed easing travel between and through the two countries in the Ferghana Valley region, where in some cases the shortest route between Uzbek cities runs through Tajik territory. DK
BELARUSIAN VENDORS PROTEST OVER VAT ON RUSSIAN IMPORTS
Some 3,000 operators of kiosks and other small retail outlets gathered in front of the government building in Minsk on 10 February to protest the introduction of an 18-percent valued-added tax (VAT) on imports from Russia, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Vendors throughout the country appear to have supported the protest, affecting some 85 percent of Belarus's markets, according to RFE/RL. The Minsk picket was organized by the Perspektyva business association, whose leader Anatol Shumchanka was jailed for 10 days earlier the same day on charges of inciting vendors to an unsanctioned street protest. The vendors claimed to have collected more than 30,000 signatures on a petition asking that the government exempt them from paying VAT. Deputy Prime Minister Anatol Kabyakou told the Minsk rally that the Belarusian-Russian interstate agreement on switching to the collection of VAT under the country-of-destination rule as of 1 January has priority over the country's national regulations. The government reportedly pledged to set up a working group and find a solution to the VAT problem by 20 February. JM
BELARUSIAN BANKS ORDERED TO ATTRACT $1 BILLION IN FOREIGN LOANS IN 2005
The Belarusian government has tasked the country's state-controlled banks with attracting $1 billion in foreign loans and drawing $120 million in equity investment in 2005, Belapan reported on 10 February, quoting an unidentified banker. In particular, the top six banks authorized to service governmental programs -- Belarusbank, Belprambudbank, Belahraprambank, Belinvestbank, Belzneshekanambank, and Pryyorbank -- must attract $835 million in foreign loans and $96 million in equity investment. "Our [banking] system has been rapidly developing, but it lacks resources for faster economic growth," National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich told journalists earlier this month, according to Belapan. Prakapovich revealed that in 2004 foreign investment, which primarily came from Cyprus, Latvia, Russia, and the United Kingdom, was inconsiderable, and totaled some $12.5 million. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS DONETSK OFFICIALS AGAINST CORRUPTION, SEPARATISM...
President Viktor Yushchenko presented newly appointed Donetsk Governor Vadym Chuprun to the regional-administration's staff on 10 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2005), Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Donetsk was one of the several regions that overwhelmingly supported Yushchenko's rival, Viktor Yanukovych, in the 2004 presidential election and threatened to seek a federal status in response to the pro-Yushchenko Orange Revolution. Yushchenko warned Donetsk political leaders against tolerating or engaging in corruption. Yushchenko pledged to work toward bringing what he estimates to be two-thirds of Donetsk's economy out of the shadow economy. He also pledged to punish any attempts at regional separatism. "There will be no further talk of separatism or federalism," Reuters quoted him as saying. "The people who proposed this absurdity to Ukraine's people will have to answer for it in a court of law." JM
...AND DEMANDS APOLOGY FOR SLANDEROUS POSTERS IN 2003
During his meeting with the Donetsk Oblast administration staff on 10 February, President Yushchenko recalled his visit to Donetsk in October 2003, when local authorities prevented his Our Ukraine bloc from holding a forum of democratic forces there and they allowed the dissemination of placards depicting Yushchenko in an SS uniform (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 November 2003), the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua/) reported. "I ask the oblast leadership: Who ordered the printing of those posters, who disseminated them?" Yushchenko said. "If you are convinced that I am really such a man, then prove it publicly. But if you cannot prove it, I'll make you apologize. I don't want to forgive you for that." JM
FORMER RIVAL WANTS TO BE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S 'ALLY'
Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the presidential election to Yushchenko, said in a television interview on 10 February that he wants to cooperate with the new authorities in Ukraine, "Ukrayinska pravda" reported. "I'm planning to meet with the new authorities and discuss how we are going to cooperate," Yanukovych said. "We will be allies." Yanukovych revealed that he spent the past two weeks in a sanatorium near Moscow. He said he has not met with Russian President Vladimir Putin but had a short telephone conversation with him. "I communicated [to Putin] that I lost," Yanukovych added. JM
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE CALLS FOR WINDING DOWN INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE IN BOSNIA...
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told Reuters in Sarajevo on 10 February that the time has come for the foreigners to start scaling back their presence there. "I won't hide from you that I'm arguing with my international colleagues, 'Be brave, we should be making a clear break, this is the moment to hand over [authority] to Bosnians,'" he said. He claimed that he has cut back on using his considerable powers to sack officials and impose legislation, adding that his successor might lack such authority altogether. Ashdown argued that Bosnians should be able to take full control of their affairs between November, when Ashdown plans to leave, and the general elections due in 2006. He said he is optimistic that the Bosnian Serbs will eventually accept the police reform they have so far rejected because the reform is essential for Bosnia's progress toward joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Ashdown added that "it's perfectly possible that by May this year this country is through that gate to Europe [by starting talks about a Stabilization and Association Agreement] and is engaged in a process that leads it through to NATO" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 8 February 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 September and 22 October 2004). PM
...AND WARNS THE BOSNIAN SERBS
The office of High Representative Ashdown issued a statement on 10 February saying that sovereignty by definition is an attribute of states and not entities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The statement called on the authorities of the Republika Srpska to accept that point and stop behaving as though the Bosnian Serb entity were a state. In late 1995, then President Biljana Plavsic and other Bosnian Serb leaders persuaded their supporters to accept the Dayton peace agreement on the grounds that it confirmed the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska. PM
WIFE OF BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES INDICTEE SAYS HE'LL NEVER SURRENDER
Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, who is the wife of indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, told the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" of 11 February that her husband probably "will never surrender." She stressed, however, that the decision is his alone to make "and nobody in the family can decide [for him] and tell him to get ready to go to The Hague." Zelen-Karadzic denied charges recently made by former President Plavsic in her memoirs that Zelen-Karadzic meddled in political affairs during the 1992-95 war and sought to play a behind-the-scenes role similar to that of Mira Markovic, the wife of former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2005). Zelen-Karadzic added: "politics doesn't interest me." PM
GOVERNING PARTY IN MACEDONIA DENIES SUPPORTING NEW LEVEL IN STATE ADMINISTRATION
The governing ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration's (BDI) leadership denied recent reports on 10 February that it supports a proposal by the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) to introduce a regional level in the state administration, "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 February 2005). BDI spokeswoman Ermira Mehmeti said if Rafiz Aliti -- who coordinates the BDI's parliamentary group -- said he supports the proposal, then it is his personal opinion, not the official position of the BDI. A spokesman for the EU said in Skopje that the EU does not see how a new level in the state administration could be introduced now that the country has just undergone a painful administrative reform. UB
ROMANIAN LEADERS SIGN POLITICAL ACCORD ON EU ACCESSION TREATY
President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu signed a political accord in Bucharest on 10 February whereby Romania agrees with the English-language version of the EU Accession Treaty for Romania, "Jurnalul national" and RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported. Tariceanu said the accord was yet another step toward concluding the accession treaty, which is widely expected to be signed by the EU and the Romanian government in Luxemburg on 25 April. Romania would be a full EU member once it came into force in January 2007. Former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who now heads the Romanian Senate's Foreign Policy Committee, called on the government to submit the treaty project to the parliament for review. UB
DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES TO STEP UP ROMANIAN MILITARY CONTINGENT IN IRAQ
Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu has agreed to increase the Romanian military contingent in Iraq by 100 troops, the BBC's Romanian Service reported on 10 February. The additional troops could leave for Iraq as soon as March. Atanasiu's announcement came after discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the sidelines of an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Nice on 9-10 February. Romania had already stepped up its 1,500-strong military presence in Iraq by 100 troops ahead of that country's 30 January elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2005). UB
EU CALLS ON MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO ENSURE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS...
In a declaration issued on 9 February, Luxembourg's rotating EU Presidency called on the authorities in Moldova to guarantee free and fair elections, according to the EU's official website (http://www.europa.eu.int). Stressing that the EU "attaches considerable importance to its relations with the Republic of Moldova," the declaration states that the level of the relations between Moldova and the EU "will depend on Moldova's commitment to shared values." The EU therefore "appeals to the Moldovan authorities for the parliamentary elections in March 2005 to be held openly and fairly, with unbiased, pluralist media coverage of the campaign and with even-handedness shown by the state administration towards all candidates and their supporters." The statement also added that "the EU hopes that the Moldovan authorities will also give a favorable response to the wish of Moldovan civil society to assist in observing the elections" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 February 2005). UB
...AND ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT
Cristina Gallach, the spokeswoman for EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, announced in Brussels that the EU will appoint a special representative to Moldova to help settle the conflict between Moldova and the separatist region of Transdniester, Infotag reported on 10 February. The new EU representative is expected to arrive in Chisinau shortly after the 6 March parliamentary elections. The EU decision reportedly reflects its desire to end Russia's military presence in Moldova prior to the expected EU accession of Romania in 2007. UB
IMF ASSESSES MOLDOVAN ECONOMY
The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) resident representative to Moldova, Edgardo Ruggiero, told a news conference on 10 February that his institution is concerned over the country's inflation rate and the fact that the Moldovan currency, the leu, can be consolidated only with the aid of remittances from Moldovans living and working abroad, Infotag reported. The IMF recommended that the Moldovan government actively continue structural reforms, improve the investment environment, and avoid direct and indirect interference into the economy. Commenting on recently adopted antibureaucracy legislation known as the Guillotine Law, Ruggiero said it was a good idea. He added, however, that the law will be difficult to implement. Ruggiero also said the Moldovan government's intention to raise customs tariffs is the wrong approach to protecting domestic markets. UB
FROM CENSORSHIP TO CONTENT FILTERING IN RUSSIA
Last month, the management of a poetry website based in Russia (http://www.stihi.ru) instructed authors to observe certain political censorship requirements, REN-TV reported on 26 January.
Authors were forbidden to write about the war in Chechnya or the ongoing protests over the reform of social benefits. They were admonished not to criticize President Vladimir Putin, the government, members of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, or the pro-Putin youth movement Moving Together. Poet Vladislav Sergeev predicted that no one would publish on the site anymore because of the restrictions.
Stihi.ru project manager Dmitrii Kravchuk told REN-TV that "since the [subjects are] rather sensitive, it is easier to limit publications of such works than to try and guess what the president may or may not like." Kravchuk added that politicians have been speaking about the lack of control on the web for a long time. "We wanted to take preemptive steps before the issue of state and legal regulation is raised and certain conclusions are drawn," he said. Less than a week later, in response to the "negative reaction from the literary community," the directive to authors on the poetry website was taken down, "Russkii zhurnal" reported on 31 January.
Kravchuk is correct that politicians have been discussing the lack of control on the Internet for a long time. Last summer, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Tarachev (Unified Russia) and Federation Council members Lyudmila Narusova and Dmitrii Mezentsev revealed that they were members of a two separate working groups drafting regulations for the Internet.
More recently, discussion of actual legislation has died down but not calls for controls over Internet content. In an article on politcom.ru on 31 January, analyst Mikhail Sergeev argues that policymakers have substituted the more sophisticated term "content filtering" for the unpleasant word "censorship." In December, Federal Press and Mass Communications Agency Director Mikhail Seslavinskii, speaking at a press conference devoted to the 10th anniversary of runet.ru, declared that the Internet has become a basic information resource. However, he added, it had become "polluted," "Izvestiya nauki" reported on 27 January. Therefore, Seslavinskii said, the government should support the "creation of special programs for limiting access to sites that undermine moral values."
Speaking at a conference on "Information Security in Russia in a Global Information Society" on 26 January, Seslavinskii's deputy, Andrei Romanchenko, called for the introduction of content filters on certain segments of the Internet. Romanchenko said that a government policy on filtering would provide society and individual citizens a "defense against harmful and illegal content." He added that content filters are a programming capability for maintaining the "personal hygiene" of the Internet.
So far, the ministers with real possibilities of regulating the Internet, Information Technologies and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman and Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Sokolov, have spoken out against new legislation or establishing any special kind of Internet regime. In December, however, Sokolov called the Internet a "multiheaded hydra" and advised that the Internet was spinning "out of control." But he added that it is too early to formulate a state policy regarding the Internet and banning certain content from the Internet is not practical. "Anyone who wants to can move from one domain to another, crossing borders, without even leaving their apartment," he explained.
Reiman, by contrast, seems not to even consider regulating the Internet desirable, even if it were possible. In an online interview with gazeta.ru and its readers on 2 February, Reiman said that he opposes the introduction of content filters. "The Internet is developing well, and our task [is to see] that this continues," Reiman said. He added that any legal issues stemming from incorrect information spread on the web are already covered by the law on the mass media: "This is not a technical issue but a legal one," he concluded. Of course, Reiman's enthusiasm may have been tailored for gazeta.ru's Internet-savvy audience, but speaking at a meeting of the Federation Council's Information Policy Committee on 2 November, Reiman expressed the same sentiments. He said that there is no need for a law on the Internet.
According to "Novye izvestiya" on 3 November, members of the commission's working group for developing legislation on the Internet agreed for the most part with Reiman. "Trying to create a separate law on the Internet is like trying to create a law regulating the solar system," Federation Council representative from Chelyabinsk Yevgenii Yeliseev said. "This is obvious to any sane person who understands what the Internet is." However, the daily reported, some senators believe that the new version of the law on mass media should contain specific articles on the Internet, while other senators support the development of a special code for users and providers, the norms of which would put in order information flows on the Internet.
Obstacles to filtering Internet content exist not only from a legal point of view, but from the technical side as well. For example, some experts question whether even content filters deployed on a national basis could really do the job. Igor Ashmanov, general director of Ashmanov and Partners, which specializes in developing programs to combat spam, told gazeta.ru on 26 January that certain large companies have been using filters for years to prevent employees from accessing certain websites. But implementing such a system for the entire Russian Internet, as has been done in China, would be impossible. All Internet service providers (ISPs) would have to route their traffic to a single server. And if state officials tried to implement such a program, private ISPs would drag the responsible government agency through the courts. Even Romanchenko admitted that content filters do not always work. He noted that banned sites inevitably slip through and for the filtering programs to work, "their databases have to be updated continuously."
Meanwhile, Internet users in Belarus have been advised that it is easy to bypass blocks on certain Russian gay and lesbian websites that were instituted in January by that country's state-controlled telecommunications monopoly, Beltelekam. According to korrespondent.net on 2 February, users can simply use a proxy server or an "anonymizer," a third-party website that would retrieve material from the blocked sites. Should Russian legislators ever decide to follow in the footsteps of Belarus, Russian Internet users will not have to go far to seek advice on how to bypass government controls.
NATO ANNOUNCES ISAF EXPANSION TO WESTERN AFGHANISTAN...
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced in a 10 February press release that the organization will "proceed to further expand the International Security Assistance Force" (ISAF) into the western parts of Afghanistan, according to a copy of the release posted on the alliance's website (http://www.nato.int). The move effectively extends ISAF responsibilities to cover roughly half of Afghanistan's roughly 650,000 square kilometers of territory (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 June and 1 July 2004). The expansion will establish a permanent ISAF presence with four Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and one forward support base. Two existing PRTs in Herat and Farah provinces that are currently led by the United States would be subsumed under ISAF command. Two new PRTs will be also established: in Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor Province, under Lithuanian leadership; and in Qalah-ye Naw, capital of Badghis, with Spain in the lead role. Italy and Spain, with "substantial support from other contributors," will provide the forward support base in Herat. The date of the expansion of ISAF is unclear, but Scheffer said it will happen "as soon as possible," AFP reported on 10 February. The Lithuanian troops are scheduled to be in Ghor between August and September, BNS reported on 10 February. AT
...AND PONDERS JOINT COMMAND WITH COALITION FORCES
NATO defense ministers meeting in Nice on 10 February agreed to discuss the formation of a unified command between ISAF and the U.S.-led coalition forces, AFP reported. German Defense Minister Peter Struck suggested that Berlin is softening its opposition to the idea of merging of the two commands. According to aspects of the country's constitution applicable to its Afghan deployment, German combat troops must not be deployed outside of its territory while the coalition forces are engaged in sporadic battles with the neo-Taliban and other militants. Germany leads all contributors to ISAF with 2,250 troops stationed in Afghanistan, both in Kabul and in the northeastern part of the country. AT
CZECH REPUBLIC WILL SEND ADDITIONAL TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN
Czech Defense Minister Karel Kuehnl said on 10 February that his country will send 40 additional troops to serve in the German-led PRT based in Fayzabad, capital of the northeastern Badakhshan Province, CTK reported. The Czech Republic currently maintains only a team of 15 explosives experts in Afghanistan. Regarding joining the commands of ISAF and the coalition forces, Kuehnl said that while not all NATO members "share this view,... in the end the forces will have to have a joint command." AT
FARMERS IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN THREATEN TO RETURN TO POPPY GROWING
Elders and tribal leaders from Bakwa District of Farah Province warned representatives from Kabul in a meeting on 10 February that they will resume the cultivation of opium poppies if pledges made to them are not honored, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. An unidentified participant in the meeting was quoted as saying the Afghan government has not acted on promises made to farmers on stopping opium-poppy cultivation. The report does not elaborate on the nature of Kabul's pledges. AT
IRAN COMMEMORATES REVOLUTION'S ANNIVERSARY
Tehran and other Iranian cities hosted rallies on 10 February to mark the anniversary of the day in 1979 that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran, international news agencies reported. In Tehran, people carried effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Uncle Sam, according to Reuters. Participants in the Tehran rally issued a resolution accusing Israel of causing regional instability, expressing support for the Palestinian people, and, in IRNA's words, "saying the Zionist threats stem from the U.S. support for the Israeli crimes." Participants also emphasized what they regard as Iran's legitimate right to use nuclear energy. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES EXTREMISTS
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said at a 10 February rally in Tehran that Iran's revolution is the "target of aggression" by Islamic reactionaries and bigots who decapitate hostages and assassinate their opponents, state television reported. It is also falsely invoked, he suggested, by "those who wage war under the pretext of defending freedom, supporting human rights, and fighting terrorism." Superficially, it appears that these two currents -- "one in America and the other in the [Middle] East" -- oppose each other, Khatami said. However, he charged, the United States nurtured the reactionary terrorists and now they are a tool in its hands. The current hue-and-cry over Iran is psychological warfare meant to cover up past failures, Khatami alleged. Iran is ready to defend itself, he added, "Should they dare to attack, Iran will turn into a burning hell for aggressors." BS
HIZBALLAH OFFICIAL CONGRATULATES IRAN ON ANNIVERSARY OF REVOLUTION
Naim Qasem, deputy secretary-general of Lebanese Hizballah, on 10 February congratulated Iran on the 26th anniversary of its Islamic revolution, IRNA reported. He said the revolution was rooted in Islamic values and justice, and movements relying on these factors are invincible. BS
TEHRAN COMPLAINS OF U.S.-EU NUCLEAR APPROACH...
Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani said in a 10 February speech in the central Iranian city of Yazd that Europe and the United States are using a "good cop, bad cop" approach in dealing with Iran's nuclear program, IRNA reported. Two days earlier, negotiators from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran began closed-door discussions in Geneva on the nuclear issue, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 February. Those talks were scheduled to last three days. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani said on 9 February in Mashhad that Tehran will decide whether continuing the discussions is worthwhile after it has determined the Europeans' commitment, IRNA reported. Rohani also said Washington is trying to make the Iran-EU talks fail, IRNA reported. BS
...AS WASHINGTON SOUNDS OPTIMISTIC
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Brussels on 9 February that Tehran must comply with international obligations, and she stressed trans-Atlantic cooperation with respect to Iran, RFE/RL reported. "The Iranians have to be held to their international obligations," Rice said, according to RFE/RL. "We haven't set any timetables. We continue to be in completely close consultation with the Europeans about how it is going, about whether progress is being made." Rice told a news conference in Paris on 8 February, "The Iranians know precisely what they need to do, and I do want to say we are appreciative of the efforts that the EU-3 are making with the Iranians to give them a path back to the international community because they clearly are engaged in activities that make everyone suspicious about what they are doing." President Bush sounded a similar note, saying on 9 February in Washington: "I look forward to going over to Europe to continue discussing this issue [Iran's nuclear program] with our allies. It's important we speak with one voice." Bush also said, "The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message, you know: Don't develop a nuclear weapon. And the reason we're sending that message is because Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a very destabilizing force in the world." BS
NORWEGIAN BUSINESSMEN TO BUCK TREND WITH IRANIAN VISIT
Representatives from 24 Norwegian businesses will accompany Norwegian Interior Minister Borge Brende when he visits Iran in the second week of February, "Aftenposten" reported on 8 February. So far, almost 50 Norwegian firms have done preliminary studies on working in Iran or are already active there. According to the Norwegian daily, the delegation will include firms involved in shipping, energy, law, and education. The visit comes as many other European firms are reconsidering their activities in Iran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 and 7 February 2005). Companies that have opted to forego future business with Iran include BP, Thyssen-Krupp, and General Electric. The assumption has been that firms are giving in to U.S. pressure, but "The Wall Street Journal" of 8 February reported that the business climate in Iran is uninviting, citing the legislature's recent revision of a contract with a Turkish mobile-phone company and its intervention in a contract on a Turkish-Austrian consortium's operation of a new airport. BS
IRAN'S NEW AIRPORT TO REOPEN IN APRIL
Roads and Transport Minister Mohammad Rahmati said on 8 February that Imam Khomeini International Airport will be opened in April, IRNA reported. He said the airport will initially have one foreign flight a day but that figure will gradually increase. Keeping the airport closed is not economical, Rahmati said. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps personnel closed the airport on its first day of operation last spring on the grounds that a Turkish firm's role in operating the facility posed a security risk (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 April and 17 May 2004). The legislature interpellated Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram after the airport's closure for giving the contract to the Turkish company, and the legislature is considering scrapping the contract altogether, IRNA reported on 23 January. No decisions have apparently been made on who will operate the airport. BS
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY MAKES SURPRISE VISIT TO IRAQ
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq on 11 February to inspect U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, international news agencies reported the same day. Arriving before dawn at an airfield outside Mosul in northern Iraq, Rumsfeld reportedly told the Iraqi forces that they must eventually accept responsibility for battling the country's insurgency. "The task ahead for us is to continue to help the Iraqi security forces to get on the job. That will take some time," Rumsfeld told U.S. soldiers, Reuters reported. "Many should not be expected to behave and operate as if they were battle-hardened veterans. But one day soon, they will be. They'll have to be because it is the Iraqis that are going to have to, over time, defeat the insurgency," he said. "It's their country. It's their responsibility. And they're the ones who have that obligation." The Iraq trip was Rumsfeld's first since a Christmas Eve visit to U.S. troops. BW
MILITANTS ATTACK IRAQI POLICE STATION, KILLING AT LEAST 10...
Insurgents attacked a police station in the central Iraqi city of Salman Pak on 10 February, killing at least 10 police officers and wounding at least 50 more, international news agencies reported on 11 February. In the ensuing firefight with U.S. forces, 20 militants were killed. The rebels launched antitank rockets at the building in Salman Pak, which is approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, before overrunning the police station. The U.S. military then sent in helicopters and regained control of the building, AFP reported. "The insurgents did assume control of the police station temporarily," AFP quoted an unidentified U.S. military spokesman as saying. "We attacked them with helicopters, which fired missiles, and the insurgents fled." BW
...AS GUNMEN OPEN FIRE ON BAGHDAD BAKERY
Gunmen fired on customers in a bakery in eastern Baghdad on 11 February, killing nine people, Reuters reported the same day, quoting police. After driving up in two cars, masked gunmen burst into the bakery, located in eastern Baghdad, and opened fire, the BBC reported. The motive for the attack was not known, police said. CNN quoted an unidentified police official as saying the attack could have been part of a plan to pit Sunni Muslims against Shi'ite Muslims, possibly provoking a civil war. "Inside the bakeries there are posters and pictures for [Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] and election posters," CNN quoted the official as saying, "so terrorists attacked them knowing they are Shi'ites. They want to create sedition between Sunnis and Shi'ites." The neighborhood where the attack occurred is mixed, although predominantly Shi'ite, BBC reported. BW
MILITANTS DEMAND ITALIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL IN EXCHANGE FOR HOSTAGE
A militant group claimed on 10 February that it will release an abducted Italian journalist if Rome announces a troop withdrawal from Iraq within 48 hours, international news agencies reported the same day. The Italian government said it does not believe that the statement, the latest in a series posted on the Internet, is authentic. "We give the Italian government 48 hours to announce its withdrawal from Iraq as a condition for the release of the Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena," the Islamic Jihad Organization said in an Internet posting quoted by Reuters. The group's claim to be holding Sgrena was not accompanied by a picture or video of the captive or any identification papers. After militants seized Sgrena on 4 February, various statements from the Islamic Jihad Organization that refer to the abductee have appeared on the Internet. One threatened to kill her and another said she will be released. A statement by another group, calling itself the Mujahedin Brigade, said she was executed after being found guilty of spying on "holy fighters" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8 and 9 February 2005). BW
AL-ZARQAWI GROUP CLAIMS TO BE HOLDING SENIOR IRAQI OFFICIAL
A militant group with self-described connections to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a senior Interior Ministry, according to a statement posted on the Internet on 11 February, international news agencies reported the same day. The Al-Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq, which is led by Jordanian-born militant Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, said it seized Colonel Riyadh Katei Aliwi on 9 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2005). "We will soon issue a tape of his confessions, so that he can serve as an example for all the enemies of God, who will be severely punished in the afterlife," the group said, according to Reuters. BW