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Newsline - June 27, 2005

President Vladimir Putin received at his residence in St. Petersburg on 25 June 11 of the heads of some of the largest U.S. corporations -- including Citigroup, United Technologies, ConocoPhillips, IBM, and Intel -- and told them about his commitment to enhancing the business climate in Russia in an effort to attract U.S. investment, international media reported. Putin said Russia has had robust economic growth for five consecutive years and his administration is looking for ways to facilitate greater returns on foreign investment. Putin emphasized Russian efforts to increase the extraction of Russian oil and gas and to expand exports of those commodities to the United States. He said that by the end of June the energy agencies of Russia and the United States will present a joint report that will name specific projects aimed at supplying the United States with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia, increasing oil exports, and modernizing the delivery infrastructure for oil and LNG. As result of these measures "the United States can import up to 50 million tons [or 300 million barrels] of Russian oil per year without any extra investment, [which will be a] serious factor in securing the global and the U.S. economy, " noted Putin, RTR reported. Putin already announced this month plans to supply 37 million tons of LNG over the next 20 years to North America (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 2005). VY

President Putin met on 26 June in St. Petersburg with a group of leading German companies to urge them too to be more active investing in the Russian economy, Russian media reported. Germany is a key economic partner for Russia and is responsible for 10 percent of its foreign trade, totaling some $27 billion. Putin said that although there are currently some 3,500 joint Russian-German enterprises, economic indicators suggest there should be an expansion of economic ties. Putin said that Russia's gold and currency reserves this month reached $150 billion, foreign debt has decreased over the last six years from 60 to 18 percent of gross national product, and by 2007 Russia will have complete currency liberalization, without restrictions on the movement of capital. On energy cooperation, Putin mentioned joint construction of the Northern European pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 2005), which envisages "an unprecedented swap of assets between Gazprom and Germany's BASF." There are also talks about a joint project involving the biggest German gas concern, Ruhrgas. Putin added that he has high hopes for German-Russian cooperation in the aerospace industry, especially in creating a major aviation company based on the Airbus and Irkut companies. Such a company could produce both civil and military planes and be a major player on the international market, Putin said. VY

Speaking to reporters after Putin's meetings with German business leaders, Trade and Economic Development Minister German Gref said on 26 June that Russia would not oppose the purchase by the German company Siemens of a stake in power plant producer Silovye Mashiny, the only Russian maker of power units that are also used in nuclear submarines, Russian media reported. Silovye Mashiny is part of the industrial-financial group Interros, which is controlled by oligarch Vladimir Potanin. In April, the Federal Antimonopoly Service vetoed a proposal by Siemens to purchase a majority stake in Silovye Mashiny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2005), following harsh protests within the Duma and from national-patriotic groups. According to Gref, Russia can sell shares in Silovye Mashiny to Siemens, but not a controlling block of shares. Meanwhile, Putin told German businessmen that Russia will formulate clear rules for foreign investors in areas where there are restrictions related to national security, RBK reported. VY

In a congratulatory message sent by President Putin on 26 June to newly elected Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Putin said Russia will continue its nuclear cooperation with Tehran while observing international nonproliferation accords, Russian news agencies reported. Putin wrote that "the construction of a nuclear-power plant in Bushehr is close to being completed, and we are prepared to continue cooperation with Iran in the nuclear-energy sector," RIA-Novosti reported. Putin also praised "the durable and multifaceted partnership" between the two countries. Meanwhile, at the meeting with U.S. business leaders on 25 June, Putin complained that U.S. sanctions against some Russian companies trading with Iran hinder bilateral economic cooperation, reported. "Our programs with Iran are absolutely transparent, open, and controlled by the [United Nations'] International Atomic Energy Agency." VY

Dmitrii Medvedev, the head of the presidential administration and chairman of the board of natural-gas giant Gazprom, said in an interview with RTR on 26 June that a general assembly of company shareholders on 24 June approved increases in the state's stake in Gazprom to just over 50 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2005). Medvedev said many people thought Gazprom was already a state company but that was not the case, as the government controlled Gazprom only politically, i.e., through a majority on the board of directors. "Now we control the company economically, as well," he said. "By so doing we can block decisions that put the economic interests of the country at risk." With the state owning a controlling stake in the company, Gazprom could begin liberalizing the domestic and foreign market of its shares in order to merge them, Medvedev said. Consolidating both markets would allow for raising the capitalization of Gazprom and, therefore, increasing the capitalization of the Russian stock market and, eventually of Russia, Medvedev concluded. VY

Speaking at the general assembly of Gazprom shareholders, CEO Aleksei Miller said on 24 June that by the fall a joint commission of Gazprom representatives and the government will launch a liberalization of the market "which help to fairly evaluate the real capitalization of Gazprom," reported. The company plans to improve its transparency and raise the share of oil assets in the structure of the company to 55 percent so that the Gazprom structure will look similar to the composition of world oil giants ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell reported. To this end, Miller, the company plans to buy new oil deposits in Russia and abroad. In 2006, Gazprom will increase the price of Russian gas exported to former Soviet republics and will do business with them only on a market basis, eliminating barter deals, Miller said. Finally, Miller said that Gazprom will not increase the price of gas in Russia. According to the energy strategy, the domestic gas price will not exceed $60-65 for 1,000 cubic meters, Miller said. VY

According to a new decree by President Putin, people from the North Caucasus who are jailed for terrorism will serve their terms in Siberia, RTR reported on 26 June. RTR did not provide the date of the decree or say whether it is classified or not, but mentions that under jurisdiction of the edict are people who are sentenced for "terror, diversion, rebellion, assault of state bodies, participation in illegal armed formations, hostage taking, and human trafficking." RTR commented that "prisoners accused [or convicted] of terrorism and their accomplices should be separated by thousands of kilometers." VY

Unified Energy Systems (EES) board chairman Anatolii Chubais announced on 25 June that the 25 May power outage in Moscow was due to "extremely obsolete equipment" and "an unequivocal strategic mistake on the part of the management of EES and, first of all, the chairman of the board of the EES," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June. Chubais added that assertions that the outage resulted from ongoing reforms of the electricity system are unfounded. Chubais also said that he does not intend to resign: "As for my resignation or any other political ousters, whether anyone likes it or not I will have to upset those who are waiting for them [because] they won't live to see them." JAC

Meanwhile, the acting director of the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological, and Atomic Monitoring (Rostekhnadzor), Andrei Malyshev, told the newspaper that a commission investigating the outage believes it was due to errors on the parts of personnel in the office of the regional dispatcher directorate. Malyshev said he does not agree with Chubais that the obsolescence of the equipment contributed to the outage. Malyshev insisted that the primary cause was human error. Speaking at a conference in Moscow on 24 June, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the 25 May blackout was a severe technical accident that grew into an emergency due to the officials' technical incompetence. JAC

State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Moskalets (Unified Russia) has submitted an amendment to election laws that would allow a president who resigns before his term is over to take part in a repeat early election if the first early election is declared invalid, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 24 June. Under current law, a president who resigns before his term is over has no right to run again, but Moskalets' proposal gives a president who has already served one term and is finishing up his second the theoretical possibility to run again. According to "Vedomosti" on the same day, Central Electoral Committee Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov agrees with the logic of the bill, noting "if an early election is invalid, the rule of two terms in office ceased to apply." The Duma's Constitutional Law Committee has approved Mosklalets' amendment. According to on 24 June, the majority of deputies from opposition parties believe that of all of the recently proposed amendments to Russia's election legislation, Moskalets' represents the most "dangerous" innovation. Igor Bunin of the Center for Political Technologies told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that he does not believe that Putin himself supports Moskalets' amendment, but instead it was the "project of some groups within the Kremlin, first of all the siloviki." JAC

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, which is headed by Berl Lazar, sent a letter on 23 June to the Socialist International asking it to refrain from granting membership to the "anti-Semitic" Motherland party, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 June. The federation noted as evidence of the party's anti-Semitism the infamous letter to the Prosecutor-General's Office asking that some Jewish organizations be banned. It was signed by 14 members of Motherland's Duma faction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February and 25 March 2005). On 24 June, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, speaking at the opening of the new Qol Sharif Mosque in Kazan, expressed his support for the federation's statement, NTV reported. "Any leader of any party that harms the interests of other ethnic groups in one way or another, such a party, I have to say, should not have support in Tatarstan," Shamiev said. Shamiev is a member of Unified Russia. According to "Izvestiya," Motherland leader Dmitrii Rogozin's attempt to join his party with the "club of leftist European organizations" is likely to fail. JAC

Municipal elections were held on 26 June in Bashkortostan and the NGO Golos reported that several polling stations denied access to journalists and election observers, Regnum reported on 26 June. Golos regional head Aleksandr Berelekhis said that parties such as Yabloko and the Communist Party also faced numerous bureaucratic barriers during the lead-up to the election. REN-TV reported on 10 June that about one-third of those who intended to run in the elections had not been registered as candidates on a variety of pretexts. In one case, a would-be candidate was denied because his children's names were entered into his passport by hand, which is not an uncommon practice, rather than typed. So the local election commission declared the passport invalid and refused his registration. Last month, Bashkortostan's opposition coalition led by Ramil Bignov announced that it would not participate in the local elections because the 26 June ballot would be a mere formality (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2005). JAC

The first representative office of a China-based law firm on Russian territory has opened in Blagoveshchensk, the capitol of Amur Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 June. According to the agency, the firm will represent the legal interests of Chinese citizens working and living in Russia. The Russian Justice Ministry sanctioned the opening of the office. REN-TV reported on 2 June that local farmers in Volgograd Oblast have been unhappy about Chinese farm workers opening up their own farms in Volgograd. According to the station, some 1,000-1,500 Chinese workers come every year, but some of them lease land themselves. The local private farmers complain that they don't pay either taxes or any duties for the right to work in Russia. JAC

Pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov and Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov traveled on 26 June to Daghestan's Kizlar district to met with several hundred Avar families who fled their homes in the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya following a sweep operation in which one villager was killed and 11 abducted, Russian media reported. Alkhanov pleaded with the villagers to return to their homes, but they refused, and demanded the return of the 11 abducted persons, or their bodies, if they are no longer alive. Russian Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General Arkadii Yedelev, who heads the Russian "antiterrorism" operation in the North Caucasus and who accompanied Alkhanov and Kadyrov to Kizlar, told ITAR-TASS on 26 June that his official permission is needed for all "sweep" operations, but that he did not give the green light for the one in Borozdinovskaya. Yedelev said prosecutors have removed all written records pertaining to the Eastern Batallion, which is suspected of carrying out the Borozdinovskaya sweep, and those documents do not contain any order to mount that operation. LF

Addressing the 16th congress of his National Democratic Union (AZhM) on 24 June, Vazgen Manukian urged Armenian opposition parties to unite, saying no single opposition force is capable of single-handedly forcing the present leadership, whom he branded "plunderers" at war with the population, to cede power, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Manukian said "a fierce struggle" is currently under way between "two human types," the entrenched leadership whom Manukian accused of leading the country to ruin, and "people like us." He called for the mobilization of the latter camp, arguing that without such mobilization, the political situation could remain the same for decades. Fellow opposition leaders who attended the congress, including Ashot Manucharian (Union of Socialist Forces) and Aram Sargsian (Hanrapetutiun), concurred with Manukian's arguments. Representatives of the two junior partners in the ruling three-party coalition, Orinats Yerkir and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), praised Manukian and the role played by the AZhM since its founding in 1991. LF

Senior Armenian officials assured the Council of Europe's Venice Commission on 24 June that the proposed constitutional amendments approved by parliament in the first reading six weeks ago will be revised to incorporate crucial changes demanded by that commission, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Those changes focus on curtailing the powers of the president to appoint and dismiss the government and to appoint senior judges, and introducing elections for the post of mayor of Yerevan. A resolution adopted on 23 June at the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed "deep concern" that Armenia has steadfastly declined to act on the Venice Commission's recommendations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2005). Lawyer Vartan Poghosian, who accompanied the Armenian delegation to Strasbourg, told RFE/RL on 24 June that Yerevan will revise the amendments and resubmit them to the Venice Commission by 7 July. LF

Four opposition parties -- the HHD-Movement 88 bloc, the Communist Party, and Our Home is Armenia -- have issued a statement condemning the beating by senior military officials of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic of HHD parliamentary candidate Pavel Manukian (no relation to Vazgen) on 21 June, according to ARKA on 24 June as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 June 2005). The four parties appealed to the unrecognized republic's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, to take measures to prevent political destabilization. In an interview published on 22 June in the Armenian daily "Haykakan zhamanak," Ghukasian denied that his preelection statement accusing unnamed political forces of having alleged that the incumbent leadership planned to falsify the outcome of the 19 June poll to its advantage was directed against the HHD. He reaffirmed his readiness to cooperate with the HHD, listen to its leaders, and accept any constructive proposals they make. LF

Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov met on 25 June for the second time within eight days to discuss approaches to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani media reported. The talks, on the sidelines of an international conference in Brussels on Iraq, lasted for several hours. The independent Azerbaijani newspaper "Azadlyg" on 26 June quoted Mammadyarov as telling journalists that during their talks in Warsaw in mid-May, the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev, respectively, defined the principles for resolving the conflict, and that the two sides now have "similar views" on two of those principles. On 24 June, the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Steven Mann, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that there was "a good atmosphere" at the 17 June talks in Paris between Oskanian and Mammadyarov, and that "each side was highly professional in the way that it approached the talks." At the same time, Mann cautioned that a peace settlement is not imminent but can ultimately be achieved given "the political will" to do so. LF

Speaking on 25 June at a graduation ceremony for Azerbaijani military cadets, President Aliyev claimed Azerbaijan has the strongest army of any South Caucasus state, Turan reported. He said defense spending has grown from $135 million in 2003 to $175 million in 2004 and $300 million in 2005. Aliyev attributed the most recent sharp increase to the need to counter the transfer to Armenia of Russian armaments from bases in Georgia that are to be closed. The agreement on closing those bases was, however, signed only in late May, months after the Azerbaijani parliament adopted the 2005 budget. LF

A group of opposition parties including the National Democratic Party of former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov, the Vahdat party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Movement in the Name of Azerbaijan, convened a meeting in Baku on 25 June to demand free and fair elections and an end to official corruption, Turan and reported. Addressing the participants, estimated at between several hundred and several thousand, Hamidov declared that "no one will make us a gift of freedom," and he called for an armed struggle for freedom and to return to Azerbaijani control the territories currently occupied by Armenian forces. On the eve of the demonstration, Hamidov appealed to other opposition parties to participate, but most, including the Liberty opposition election bloc, declined to do so, reported. LF

Former senior Georgian Interior Ministry official Bato Saginadze has filed a claim against the Georgian government with the European Court of Human Rights, Caucasus Press reported on 25 June. Saginadze accused Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who in early 2004 held the post of prosecutor-general, of removing from the records evidence Saginadze discovered about the abduction in 2001 of Levan Kaladze, brother of international soccer player Kakha Kaladze. Saginadze reportedly uncovered evidence of the involvement in the kidnapping of international criminal groupings that have links to unnamed, highly-placed Georgian government officials. Acting on Saginadze's findings, then Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze launched a raid in March 2004 on the headquarters in Svaneti of a criminal mafia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2004). Saginadze was dismissed from his post shortly after that raid. It is still unclear whether the bodies discovered at that location two months ago include that of Levan Kaladze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 11 May 2005). LF

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov and First Deputy Foreign Minister Taalai Kydyrov announced on 24 June that Kyrgyzstan will not extradite any asylum seekers to Uzbekistan without first consulting with international organizations, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kydyrov said, "The decision about granting [the Uzbeks] refugee status or rejecting this status for them will be taken only after consultations with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This is the Foreign Ministry's position in accordance with the international convention on refugees and our own legislation concerning refugees." Uzbekistan has requested the extradition of asylum seekers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2005) and acting Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov has said that Kyrgyzstan was preparing to return 29 asylum seekers to Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2005). Beknazarov's statement drew harsh criticism from rights groups and a warning from the United Nations. More than 400 asylum seekers are currently housed in a camp in Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad Province, while 29 have been detained in Osh. The asylum seekers fled Uzbekistan after violence in nearby Andijon on 13 May. DK

In a 25 June press release reported by the UN News Service, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted Kyrgyzstan's "forced return of Uzbek asylum seekers" and "asked the country's president to stop the practice and pledged the world body's support in addressing their plight." Annan was apparently referring to the earlier return of four Uzbek asylum seekers to Uzbekistan from a camp in Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). Annan went on to remind acting Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev of "his country's international obligations with respect to the asylum-seekers." In closing, Annan "pledged the UN's assistance in resolving the problem and asked [Bakiev] to fully support the work of Assistant UN High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane, who will arrive in Kyrgyzstan this weekend." DK

President Imomali Rakhmonov told a meeting of the CIS Defense Ministers Council in Dushanbe on 24 June that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO; China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) should create rapid-deployment forces, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Rakhmonov said that the SCO needs "strong collective rapid-deployment forces to counter international terrorism and religious extremism," ITAR-TASS reported. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO; Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) has already set up rapid-deployment forces in the region. The meeting in Dushanbe was attended by defense ministers from all CIS countries except Georgia, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. DK

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov met on 24 June with President Rakhmonov and Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khayrulloev in connection with the formal opening of a Russian military base in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Ivanov said that Russia's 201st Motorized Infantry Division, which has been deployed in Tajikistan since the break-up of the Soviet Union, will gain de jure status of a military base in September, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a source in the Russian delegation. Ivanov and Khayrulloev signed documents on the transfer of excess property to the Tajik side in the course of the overall agreement, which President Rakhmonov and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, reached in October 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004). Ivanov commented, "Russia is putting large financial resources into this base and its capital construction and modernization, being well aware in what region it is located and what tasks it will have to accomplish, including jointly with the Tajik Defense Ministry and border service," Interfax-AVN reported. Rakhmonov's meeting with Ivanov focused on increasing Tajik-Russian military cooperation, Avesta reported. The two also discussed the problem of drug trafficking in Central Asia, with Ivanov stressing that the collective efforts of the CIS, NATO, CSTO, and SCO are needed "to fight this evil," ITAR-TASS reported. DK

Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Khayrulloev and Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko met in Dushanbe on 24 June and signed a military cooperation agreement, Interfax-AVN reported. Hrytsenko invited Tajik military representatives to participate in multinational peacekeeping exercises held in Ukraine. DK

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of Ukrainian oil and gas monopoly Naftohaz Ukrayiny, reached an agreement in Ashgabat on 24 June to settle a dispute over Ukraine's payments for Turkmen gas shipments, reported. Beginning on 1 July, Ukraine will pay $44 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, all in cash. Ukraine had previously paid half in cash and half in kind at an overall rate of $58 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2005. Ukraine also agreed to pay its accrued debt on payments in kind with goods shipments "at average world prices," Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry said. The dispute began last week when Niyazov charged that Ukraine has run up nearly $600 million in debts on shipments of goods in payment for gas deliveries in 2004 and 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2005). Turkmenistan is contracted to sell 36 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine in 2005. DK

Uzbekistan's National Security Service destroyed 596 kilograms of confiscated narcotics on 24 June, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Uzbek officials said that the country faces a growing drug problem because of burgeoning opium cultivation in neighboring Afghanistan. Kamol Dustmetov, the head of Uzbekistan's drug control center, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that Afghanistan currently has 131,000 hectares of land sown with poppies, paving the way for heroin production of 500 tons in 2005. Drug trafficking has led to addiction within Uzbekistan, which has 22,000 officially registered addicts, although specialists say the total could be five times higher. Jamol Kholmirzaev, a counternarcotics official in Uzbekistan's Interior Ministry, said that 1,153 people faced drug-related criminal charges in the first quarter of 2005. DK

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Russia's Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) plan to invest a total of $80 million into Uzbekistan's cellular phone industry, "Biznes Vestnik Vostoka" and reported on 23 June. The EBRD has signed an agreement to provide Greece's Germanos SA, the owner of second-place Uzbek cellular provider Unitel, with a $30 million loan, "Biznes Vestnik Vostoka" reported. The EBRD owns a 7-percent stake in Unitel, which has 106,000 subscribers, or roughly 25 percent of the market in Uzbekistan. And quoted Vasilii Sidorov, the president of Russian cellular provider MTS, as saying that MTS plans to invest $50 million into extending networks and improving service in Uzbekistan. MTS purchased a controlling stake in leading Uzbek operator Uzdunrobita in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2004). DK

Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian State Duma, told journalists on 24 June that a draft constitutional act of the Russia-Belarus Union may be put on the agenda of the union's Supreme State Council before the end of this year, Belapan reported. Gryzlov was speaking following a session of the Russia-Belarus Union's Parliamentary Assembly in Homel, southeastern Belarus. Gryzlov said he and Belarusian Chamber of Representatives speaker Uladzimir Kanaplyou have been named co-chairmen of a joint task force for drawing up the constitutional act. The group is expected to meet in late September and hold another meeting before December. "I believe that the two meetings may be enough for preparing a document that could be submitted to the Supreme State Council," Gryzlov noted. Earlier last week, Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin said in Moscow that Russian President Vladimir Putin could become president of the Russia-Belarus Union. According to Borodin, the election of the union president could be held as soon as in 2006. JM

The New Democracy party is going to initiate the creation of a coalition of opposition forces for the 2006 parliamentary elections, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 26 June, quoting New Democracy leader Yevhen Kushnaryov, who was Kharkiv Oblast governor during the premiership of Viktor Yanukovych. Kushnaryov, who was speaking to a New Democracy congress in Kyiv on that day, did not rule out that his party may also join a bloc or participate on its own in next year's elections. Earlier last week, the Prosecutor-General's Office said Kushnaryov has been accused of endangering Ukraine's territorial integrity. A similar charge has also been brought against Luhansk Oblast Council head Viktor Tykhonov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2005). Kushnyarov and Tykhonov participated in a convention of Ukrainian councilors in November 2004, at which separatist ideas were voiced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004). JM

Naftohaz Ukrainy head Oleksiy Ivchenko told journalists in Kyiv on 24 June that earlier the same day he signed a contract with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine for the second half of 2005 and the entire 2006, Interfax-Ukraine and ITAR-TASS reported. Under the contract, as of 1 July Kyiv will have to pay fully in cash $44 for 1,000 cubic meters of Turkmen gas, buying 15.5 billion cubic meters in July-December 2005 ($682 million) and 33 billion cubic meters in 2006 ($1.45 billion). Under the previous contract that was valid for 2002-2006, Ukraine obtained Turkmen gas for $58 per 1,000 cubic meters, paying 50 percent in cash and the other 50 percent in commodities. Ivchenko said both sides also signed three other agreements relating to a Ukrainian debt for Turkmen gas deliveries and the supply of the so-called "investment" Turkmen gas in 2005-06. Ivchenko said on the 1+1 television channel on 26 June that the new Turkmen gas contract is very favorable for Ukraine, as it allows a saving of some $20-$22 on the purchase and transit costs of each 1,000 meters of Turkmen gas in comparison with the previous contract. JM

More than 500 priests of the Polish Roman Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church participated in a ceremonial liturgy in Lviv on 26 June, at which they appealed to Ukrainians and Poles for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, Polish Radio reported. The bishops of the two churches made a similar call in Warsaw a week earlier. JM

Several other Serbian NGOs announced in Belgrade on 24 June that they back the recent call of the Humanitarian Law Fund (FHP) for an investigation by Serbian prosecutors into alleged atrocities committed in August 1991 in the Croatian village of Antin by paramilitaries linked to Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Among those said to be involved in the incidents was Tomislav Nikolic, who is vice-president of the SRS and its former presidential candidate. The NGOs noted that Nikolic has "on several occasions boasted of his involvement" in the Croatian war. Natasa Kandic, who heads the FHP, has publicly accused Nikolic of involvement in the atrocities in which over 30 villagers lost their lives. In response, he has said he will file a lawsuit against her (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 22 June 2005). Seselj is in the prison of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which has indicted him on several charges. On 26 June, Kandic visited Kikinda in Vojvodina and appeared on local television without any serious incident despite previous threats against her safety by local SRS leader Branislav Blazic. PM

In response to the appeal by the NGOs, members of the Serbian parliament from the SRS, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) criticized the NGOs for waging what the three parties called "an anti-Serbian campaign," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The parties called on the parliament to take a stand on the matter. Aleksandar Vucic, who is deputy chief of the parliamentary faction of the SRS, appealed to Serbian President Boris Tadic, who is planning to visit Srebrenica for the 11 July commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the massacre, not to apologize to anyone in the name of the Serbian state lest the impression be given that "in so doing he accepts that Serbia committed genocide, which really was not the case." PM

Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica and his Bosnian Serb counterpart Pero Bukejlovic said in a declaration in Belgrade on 24 June that they condemn the "large-scale war crime in Srebrenica" as well as "all war crimes committed against the Serbian people," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see http://WWW.RFERL.ORG/featuresarticle/2005/6/959F25BA-49D5-4750-90B8-7AF53250ABF9.html and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 June 2005). In July 1995, Bosnian Serb and Serbian forces killed about 8,000 mainly Muslim males in what is generally regarded as the single largest atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II. PM

Bardhyl Ajeti, who is a journalist for the Prishtina Albanian-language daily "Bota Sot," died on 25 June in an Italian hospital as a result of injuries he sustained in a 3 June assassination attempt near Gjilan in Kosova, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005). The reason behind the killing remains unclear. "Bota Sot" has repeatedly argued that the assassination was politically motivated, noting that its editor Bekim Kastrati was the victim of a political killing four years ago. PM

Kosova's Minister of Returns Slavisa Petkovic and about 100 of his supporters founded the Serbian Democratic Party -- Kosovo and Metohija (SDS-KiM) in Brezovica on 25 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The new party's main principle is that Kosova's Serbs must take responsibility for their own future and not rely on Belgrade, which has interests different from those of Kosova's Serbs. Petkovic told the delegates that by depending on Belgrade to solve their problems, Kosova's Serbs have not achieved a single one of their main aims since the end of the conflict in 1999. He is the only Serb who was willing to serve in the current government of Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 February 2005). PM

The administration of the secessionist region of Transdniester has demanded that the Moldovan National Railroad Company pay fees for its cargoes shipped in transit across Transdniester, BASA reported on 24 June. "At present, Chisinau does not pay anything for cargo transit and use of railroads in the region," Transdniester Industry Minister Anatolii Blascu said, adding that Moldova shipped $5.1 million worth of goods through Transdniester from August 2004 through May 2005 without contributing anything to the Tiraspol budget. "It is weird for Moldova to pay money for the use of its own railroads," an official from Chisinau reportedly responded to the demand. Last year, the Tiraspol authorities took possession of all transport facilities and infrastructure of the Moldovan National Railroad Company on their territory, that is, primarily 160 kilometers of railroad tracks and three railroad stations -- in Tiraspol, Tigina, and Ribnita. JM

Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasile Sova said on 23 June that the government is planning to build a floating bridge over the Dniester River at the settlement of Malovata Noua in Dubasari District in Transdniester, BASA and Flux reported. According to Sova, the bridge could ensure free movement of people, goods, and services in Transdniester's security zone in compliance with the 1992 accord on the principles of the peaceful settlement of the Transdniester conflict. Oleg Belyakov, Transdniester's representative in the Joint Constitutional Commission, reacted negatively to the bridge construction idea, saying it would mean an aggression by Chisinau, as the bridge "could be used for transportation of military hardware." JM

The victory of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Iran's 24 June presidential election represents the ascendance of the country's second postrevolution generation and the return of the common man to the country's politics. Although it is irrelevant now, because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has congratulated the winner and effectively endorsed his mandate, Interior Ministry data raises questions about the election. Furthermore, there were complaints of fraud and interference.

It does not really matter how Ahmadinejad came to power, he will be the next president. Supreme Leader Khamenei congratulated Ahmadinejad in a message broadcast on state television on 25 June. Khamenei also said that by voting the Iranian people "showed, once again, your greatness to the people of the world, and your power to your bitter and malicious enemies."

The regime is less concerned with the outcome of the election than it is with the fact that it holds them on a fairly regular basis. Thus, it can claim public support and therefore legitimacy. As the case of President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami shows, furthermore, powerful unelected institutions can counter elected officials when their interests are threatened or when it appears that the system will be undermined.

The 48-year-old Ahmadinejad is a former member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and his victory represents the ascendance of the Islamic Revolution's second generation, and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's loss represents the twilight of the first generation. The Iran-Iraq War shaped the second generation, while opposition to the monarchy and trying to establish an Islamic state shaped the first one. Ahmadinejad's generation sacrificed a great deal in the war, and now it wants something in return. It worked up to this election victory slowly and subtly, emerging from nowhere to win the 2003 municipal-council elections and then building on that to win the 2004 parliamentary elections.

Ahmadinejad's victory also represents the return of the common man to Iranian politics. Parties in postrevolutionary Iran are elite institutions, and at election time they only present voters with a list of recommended candidates. The reformist parties and the 2nd of Khordad Front promoted important issues -- civil society, press freedom, and dialogue -- but they forgot about the basics -- employment, a living wage, and shelter. Ahmadinejad therefore stressed the themes that resonated -- such as job creation when there is double-digit unemployment, and the elimination of corruption. Although some people may worry about Ahmadinejad's conservative stance on cultural and social issues, that is probably irrelevant to the average citizen.

Ahmadinejad's victory is part of the rightward drift that started a few years ago. But the Revolutionary Guards Corp were quick to remind Ahmadinejad that there are limits to how far he can go. In a 25 June statement it told him to stay true to his campaign promises, the Iranian Labor News Agency reported. This could be a reminder that he is indebted to the Guards Corps for his victory and should not threaten its economic interests, or it could be a reminder that the corps has a constitutionally defined political role.

Analysis of Interior Ministry data suggests that something is amiss in the Ahmadinejad victory. There were 46,786,418 eligible voters, and 27,959,253 of them voted on 24 June, for a total turnout of almost 60 percent. The previous week, 29,439,982 people voted, for a turnout of almost 63 percent.

In the second round of the election, Ahmadinejad received 17,248,782 votes, while in the first round he got 5,710,354 votes. How did he gather an additional 11.5 million votes in one week? Even if voter participation remained the same, and if Ahmadinejad received the 5,815,352 votes that went to the other hard-line candidates in the first round -- Ali Larijani and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf -- that would only amount to 11,525,706. It defies logic that under circumstances where there were fewer people voting, support for Ahmadinejad almost tripled.

Hashemi-Rafsanjani received 10,046,701 votes on 24 June, while he got 6,159,453 votes the previous week. Obviously, not all Iranians who backed reformist candidates in the first round (Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, and Mustafa Moin) backed Hashemi-Rafsanjani, or he would have received their 10,409,943 votes, for a total of 16,569,396. This would indicate that approximately 6 million voters stayed home, yet according to the official turnout figures, there were only 1.5 million fewer voters on 24 June.

In the second round of the election, 663,770 ballots were spoiled (approximately 2 percent), compared to 1,221,940 spoiled ballots the previous week (approximately 4 percent). Apparently, people were much more careful and wanted to be sure their votes counted.

This kind of quantitative analysis is useful, but in the Iranian case it has serious limitations. The greatest shortcoming is that the Iranian government does not give access to independent foreign observers. They cannot visit polling places to observe voter behavior, and there is no telling what happens to the ballot boxes when they are transferred from the polling station to the counting area. One is therefore dependent on whatever figures the regime chooses to provide, and in the absence of direct evidence to the contrary, it is purely speculative to say there was fraud.

Some untoward incidents during election day could encourage questions about the final result. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), security personnel arrested an Interior Ministry official who was trying to inspect a polling station, and in northern Tehran members of the semi-official Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice unit (Amr be Maruf va Nahi az Monker) prevented people from voting. The interference got so bad that the Interior Ministry tried unsuccessfully to close some polling stations. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani added, "Reporting of violations of the Election Law at such a broad level is quite unprecedented and according to the latest reports, the violations are no longer limited to trivial illegal affairs."

After his release from police custody, Interior Ministry director of parliamentary affairs Ali Mirbaqeri said he witnessed Guardians Council interference at all the polling stations he visited, IRNA reported. "The monitors of the Guardians Council were not only filling out the tariffs and controlling the voters' IDs, but also constantly issuing orders for everyone," he said. Mirbaqeri said council officials confined him to a room for two hours and then turned him over to the police, who held him for another 2 1/2 hours.

Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the losing candidate, congratulated his rival on 25 June, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. But he too referred to foul play by his opponents and noted the pointlessness of complaining to the body charged with supervising elections, the Guardians Council. "I do not intend to take my complaint about the elections to those arbitrators who have proved that they do not want, or cannot, do anything," he said. "I only seek my right in the court of divine justice...." His rivals, Hashemi-Rafsanjani noted, "have interfered in the elections by utilizing the facilities of the [Islamic] system in an organized and illegitimate manner."

Foreign and local reporting on Iranian affairs focuses on Tehran, the capital, so little is known about voter behavior in the provinces. As of 25 June, furthermore, the Interior Ministry website had not updated its provincial data. From an analytical perspective, this data could be interesting if it is not manipulated by the regime first. For Iranians and the rest of the world, however, learning to live with a new Iranian paradigm will be more important.

Afghan authorities said on 26 June that 178 neo-Taliban insurgents were killed in last week's fighting in southern Afghanistan, AFP reported the same day. "The total figures of Taliban militants dead in the Mian Nisheen operation since the beginning of the operations up to now is 178 Taliban killed," said Colonel Ishaq Paiman, a Defense Ministry spokesman. As of 23 June, Afghan authorities said three days of fighting in the Kandahar area left 132 insurgents dead. Three Afghan police were killed in the ground fighting, which was supported by U.S. air strikes. U.S. military officials put the death toll among insurgents for the battle at 54 with 22 suspected militants captured. U.S. officials said they could neither confirm nor deny Afghan estimates of battle dead. MR

Afghan officials on 26 June rejected allegations from Moscow that Afghanistan is home to terrorist training camps, AFP reported the same day. "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan strongly rejects claims regarding the presence of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and considers such allegations as totally baseless," an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said. Russian President Vladimir Putin on 23 June said Kabul is failing to fight terrorists effectively on its territory. "We are seriously concerned that terrorist training camps continue to function on Afghan territory, including through the direct involvement of some special services," Putin was quoted as saying by the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency. The statement from the Afghan Foreign Ministry said the government in Kabul is doing all it can to fight terrorist elements in Afghanistan. "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a victim of terrorism itself, is on the frontline of the war against terrorism and is committed to continue the fight to remove this international menace," said the statement, which appealed for added support from neighboring countries. MR

Afghan officials said 26 June that an explosion in northern Afghanistan killed five Afghans and two German soldiers, AP reported the same day. The explosion, which occurred at a weapons depot in Takhar Province on 25 June, was thought to be an accident. Arms from the weapons depot were being moved so they could be destroyed as part of an ongoing disarmament campaign throughout the country. Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal said the five Afghans who were killed were serving as porters loading weapons onto trucks. German military officials confirmed that two German soldiers working at the site were also killed, though their identities were withheld. MR

Afghan authorities on 26 June torched more than 30 tons of illegal drugs in Kabul, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported the same day. Burned at a ceremony commemorating the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the torched drugs included 2.1 tons of heroin, 13.4 tons of opium, 9.1 tons of hashish, and six tons of other drugs including cocaine, morphine, and various chemicals used to make opium and heroin. "These destroyed drugs will never be injected into the arms of the children on our streets or on the streets of Europe," said Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali in a statement. "These destroyed drugs will not be responsible for ruining the homes and lives of the users and their families. These destroyed drugs will never be sold to profit drug traffickers. And these destroyed drugs will not undermine the security of our country." MR

Mahmud Ahmadinejad won the runoff Iranian presidential election on 24 June. There were 46,786,418 eligible voters, and according to the Interior Ministry's website ( on 25 June, 27,959,253 of them voted, for a total turnout of almost 60 percent. Ahmadinejad earned 17,248,782 votes, while his competitor Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, earned 10,046,701 votes. In the second round of the election, 663,770 ballots were spoiled. The swearing-in ceremony probably will take place in August. BS

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Ahmadinejad on 26 March, IRNA reported, and gave him his "necessary guidelines." The news agency did not describe the guidelines. The previous day, Khamenei congratulated Ahmadinejad in a message broadcast on state television. Khamenei also said that, by voting, the Iranian people "showed, once again, your greatness to the people of the world, and your power to your bitter and malicious enemies." BS

Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the losing candidate, congratulated his rival on 25 June, ISNA reported. But he referred to foul play by his opponents and noted the pointlessness of complaining to the body charged with supervising elections, the Guardians Council. "I do not intend to take my complaint about the elections to those arbitrators who have proved that they do not want, or cannot, do anything," he said. "I only seek my right in the court of divine justice." His rivals, Hashemi-Rafsanjani noted, "have interfered in the elections by utilizing the facilities of the [Islamic] system in an organized and illegitimate manner." BS

As Ahmadinejad will be busy preparing for his August swearing-in, he will no longer be able to fulfill his duties as mayor of Tehran. The municipal council, therefore, on 26 June appointed Ali Saidlu at the city's caretaker, IRNA reported. Saidlu previously served as deputy for financial and administrative affairs in the municipality. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, must begin selecting a cabinet. Shokrollah Atarzadeh, a hard-line legislator from Bushehr, said on 26 June that Ahmadinejad will look to the parliamentarians who backed him, ILNA reported, and he will include two hard-line presidential candidates: Ali Larijani and Mohsen Rezai. According to the "International Herald Tribune" website on 26 June, Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel will be in the cabinet, and there is speculation that hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi will be minister of Islamic culture and guidance. BS

A 26 June commentary on Iranian state radio said that it is normal for capital markets to fluctuate after an election. The commentary went on to predict growth in the capital market and said the new government is likely to "support the capital market; expand the market by attracting small and large investments to the stock exchange, provide the necessary laws; and thus help Iran's capital market to grow further." The new president, it said, wants to give away shares in state enterprises and encourage private shareholders. Mr. Khoshchehreh, the president-elect's representative for economic affairs, said on 26 June that Ahmadinejad will take steps to promote investment, state television reported. Ahmadinejad's policies aim for wealth creation and "the just distribution of wealth." Khoshchehreh said "certain investors," who he did not identify, are behind current stock market fluctuations, and he called on the Ministry of Intelligence and Security to take action. The Baztab website reported on 25 June that in the space of a few hours the Tehran stock market index fell precipitously and many people started to dump shares. AFP reported on 22 June that uncertainty over Ahmadinejad's economic plans were undermining market confidence. BS

Iran has provided North Korea with cruise missile technology, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported on 26 June, citing Japan's "Sankei Shimbun" newspaper. "North Korea and Iran have maintained a secret network for the development of weapons of mass destruction," an unnamed Japanese defense official said. Iran reportedly acquired the technology when it purchased Kh-55 cruise missiles from Ukraine in 2001. The missile reportedly has a 3,000 kilometer range. BS

London's "The Sunday Times" reported on 26 June that two meetings have been held this month between U.S. and insurgent leaders near Balad. The meetings were reportedly arranged by tribal leaders and attended by representatives of the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Iraqi Liberation Army, Jaysh Muhammad, Thawra Al-Isrin, and the Shura Council of Mujahedin. The insurgent leaders reportedly agreed before the first meeting on 3 May to seek "a guaranteed timetable of American withdrawal from Iraq," the newspaper reported. "We told them it did not matter whether we are talking about one year or a five-year plan, but that we insisted on having a timetable nonetheless," one Iraqi source who attended the meetings said. U.S. officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said last week that no timetable will be set for a withdrawal of multinational forces. The insurgent representatives have reportedly asked for a UN representative to take part in the next round of meetings. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged to Fox News on 26 June that the talks took place, saying "there have probably been many more" than the two meetings with insurgents. KR

The Ansar Al-Sunnah Army "categorically" denied in a 26 June Internet statement ( that any talks have taken place with U.S. officials. "These lies are a clear sign of the situation of loss and confusion the crusaders are currently experiencing after the increase of losses and defeats inflicted on them," the statement said. Meanwhile, Sheikh Majid al-Ka'ud, a representative of the Higher Committee of the National Forces Rejecting the Occupation denied that "any honest resistance group" has entered into negotiations with the United States," "Al-Hayat" reported on 26 June. Muslim Scholars Association member Abd al-Salam al-Kubaysi told "Al-Hayat" in a separate report published on 26 June that talks with the United States have been "cut off," saying, "The previous dialogue between the two sides was very ambiguous, as we did not know if it was tactical or strategic." He said that an ongoing dialogue between the dissolved Ba'ath Party and the Americans "seems to be different," saying that the association seeks to force a withdrawal of U.S. forces while the Ba'ath Party seeks a return to power. KR

Political personalities gathered in Baghdad on 26 June to demand that a timetable be set for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. Abd al-Hadi Al-Darraji, a spokesman for Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, criticized the transitional cabinet for not consulting the National Assembly on the issue of extending the stay of U.S. and multinational forces in Iraq, calling the decision a "flagrant violation" of the Transitional Administrative Law drafted by the Coalition Provisional Authority before the transfer of power to Iraqis last year. Participants in the conference, National Assembly member Fattah al-Sheikh, Muslim Scholars Association member Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarra'i, and al-Darraji, also voiced their opposition to the government's decision in interviews with RFI. Assembly member Mudar Shawkat threatened during the conference to give up his seat in the assembly unless the transitional government retracts its decision to allow multinational forces to stay. "If the National Assembly rejects this issue and the government insists on its decision, we will call for a comprehensive popular mutiny all over Iraq and we believe that Iraqis will support us in this position," said Shawkat, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 26 June. KR

Mufid al-Jaza'iri, a parliamentarian and a member of the constitutional drafting committee, told "Al-Zaman" in an interview published on 25 June that the drafters may be on the "brink of the abyss" because they are running out of time and public opinion will not support a delay in the drafting of the document. The drafting committee's deadline under the Transitional Administrative Law is 15 August. Al-Jaza'iri called on Iraqi intellectuals both inside and outside the country to contribute to the process, saying the committee had considered the convening of a conference to that end, but found it unfeasible due to the shortage of time. "In the available time that we have, interested people should meet in the cultural and intellectual fields and prepare a draft memorandum to be submitted in the name of intellectuals to the constitutional drafting committee at the National Assembly," he said, adding that a media campaign is needed to elicit greater participation from parties outside the committee. KR

Al-Jaza'iri spoke with "Al-Zaman" about the role of the Transitional Administrative Law, noting that much of the law was formulated by Iraqis during the opposition years in exile. He said that while it will be difficult for parties to now abandon those principles, they must also reconcile with differences of opinion over the definition of democracy as well as viewpoints concerning the role of Islam. He pointed to the United Iraqi Alliance as an example, saying there are divergent opinions within the coalition itself regarding the role of Islam in the constitution. Thus far, the committee agrees that Islam should be a source of legislation "and that there should be no legislation that contradicts Islam," he said. Al-Jaza'iri also sided with parliamentarians who have criticized the government's decision to extend the stay of multinational forces in Iraq, saying the cabinet should have sought the approval of the National Assembly before making its decision. Meanwhile, KUNA reported on 25 June that Sa'dun al-Zubaydi, Saddam Hussein's former personal interpreter, is one of three new Sunni members to the drafting committee. The other two members are Suha Azzawi, a human rights activist, and Khalid al-Mashhadani, a legal advisor. KR

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told Al-Arabiyah television in a 25 June interview that 80 percent of the security forces used in Operation Lightning were Iraqi. The operation was launched in the capital on 26 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2005). Jabr contended that the percentage of terrorist operations in Baghdad has dropped by 90 percent since the start of the operation. He said some 1,400 persons were detained in the operation. Five hundred and forty-three of the detainees have been released for insufficient evidence, he said. "Frankly speaking, there was evidence, but we did not use the methods the former Iraqi regime used to extract information from the suspects," Jabr said, adding that the Interior Ministry treats prisoners according to human rights laws. He noted that the ministry has established a database system that includes photographs and fingerprints of all detainees, saying: "This is the first time the ministry works on the basis of scientific security standards." Jabr denied that former Ba'athists have been removed from their positions in the ministry, and said he has no plans to dismiss anyone from his position. He also cited the number of Sunni commanders that took part in Operation Lightning. KR

Jihadists are not only recruiting Syrians to fight in Iraq, they are also training them in Syria before their departure, London's "The Times" reported on 25 June. Former fighters interviewed by the daily in Damascus said that "volunteers" are given a crash course in using remote detonators, Kalashnikov assault rifles, and firing rocket-propelled grenades. The training is carried out at secret camps in the Syrian desert, near the Iraqi border. Guides then lead teams of fighters across the border into Iraq. Those interviewed also said that some Iraq attacks are planned in Damascus and Aleppo. KR

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 26 June that the insurgency in Iraq could last as many as 12 years, and can only be defeated by Iraqi security forces, Reuters reported on the same day. "Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years. Foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency," he said, adding, "We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency." Meanwhile, CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid told a U.S. television interviewer: "It's clear to me that by the...early part of next spring next year to the summer of next year, you'll see Iraqi security forces move into the lead in the counterinsurgency fight." He cautioned however, that it does not mean U.S. forces will begin withdrawing at that time. KR