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Newsline - August 3, 2005

The Foreign Ministry announced on 2 August that ABC Television journalists' contacts are unwelcome among Russian government organizations and agencies and that officials will not renew press accreditation for ABC News in the country following the U.S. network's broadcast interview with radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005), ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry called the interview a "clear instance of support for the propaganda of terrorism," the news agency reported. ABC News President David Westin responded on 2 August by saying that he regrets Russia's decision and is hopeful that the government will reconsider, AP reported. Russian citizens have suffered greatly as a result of terrorism, Westin said, but he added that "the mission of a free press is to cover news events -- even those involving illegal acts." U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey suggested that any action limiting ABC's operations in Russia would be regrettable, according to the State Department's official website ( "We believe that ABC, as well as other members of the media, should have the opportunity for freedom of expression and have the right to report as they see fit," Casey said. ABC closed its permanent bureau in Moscow several months ago to cut costs and currently has minimal representation in the Russian capital, Interfax reported. ABC's current accreditation expires in early 2006. VY

Pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov called the official decision to block ABC News operations in Russia the "right step" in light of the network's having "crossed the line," reported on 2 August. However, he cautioned that it would not be desirable for Russia to embark on a prolonged "war" with one of the United States' most powerful media groups. "Along with the ban, Russian officials should continue to contact ABC and seek compromise," Markov said, according to, "whereas the first step toward [compromise] should be taken by ABC." Igor Yakovenko, the secretary-general of the Russian Journalists Union, suggested that "our American colleagues," in defending the values of freedom of information, ignore other values in the battle against the common threat of terrorism, according to But Yakovenko said the Foreign and Defense ministries made an even bigger mistake: "By denying our U.S. colleagues access to information, we are relegating them to one-sided coverage of developments. Moreover, the Russian law on mass media does not include such sanctions as boycotts of the mass media." VY

The Culture and Trade and Economic Development ministries are jointly drafting legislation on "public television and radio" that envisages the transformation of state stations into new public entities, reported on 2 August. The draft reportedly sets out "strict obligations as far as objectivity and pluralism of information is concerned," reported. Meanwhile, the government is purportedly preparing amendments to the Criminal and Administrative codes that will prescribe punishments for denying access to information or hampering the work of journalists, reported. VY

Prosecutors summoned former Federation Council speaker Vladimir Shumeiko and interrogated him on 2 August in connection with the sale of a state-owned mansion known as "Sosnovka-3" to Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman, according to Ekho Moskvy and other Russian media. Shumeiko resided at Sosnovka-3 prior to the 2003 sale. Shumeiko was Federation Council speaker in 1994-96. Fridman was interrogated in late July, although prosecutors announced that questioning on 2 August. Prosecutors recently launched a case into former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's role in the sales of Sosnovka-3 and the adjacent Sosnovka-1, in the latter case purportedly to entities that he controls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). Kasyanov and his family left Russia for an extended summer holiday on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005). VY

Both China and France have made overtures to Russia over the creation of shared special economic zones that would be run jointly by the participating states, according to Yurii Zhdanov, who heads a new Russian agency to supervise the operation of special economic zones, reported. Beijing proposed two such zones, he said, and Paris made what Zhdanov described as a similar offer. Russian authorities are "still not ready" to set up areas of that kind, Zhdanov said, adding, however, that Russia welcomes Chinese capital into traditional economic zones like industrial zones and technology parks. Zhdanov said his agency has received 30 requests to found economic zones but is considering just 10 of those proposals. VY

Health officials reported on 2 August that avian flu (aka bird flu) has been discovered at two large poultry farms in Tyumen Oblast, Ekho Moskvy and ITAR-TASS reported. Tyumen Oblast's veterinary directorate announced that it has ordered a "large-scale check of all poultry farms." According to, 90 percent of all wild and domestic birds have died in the village of Peganovo and at a nearby lake. All poultry-processing plants in the oblast have been closed to visitors, and doctors are monitoring the health of workers there. Inspections were also being carried out on 2 August in Irkutsk and Kurgan oblasts, and cases of wild and domestic birds dying have also been reported in Tomsk Oblast, according to ITAR-TASS. So far, confirmed cases of avian flu have been reported in Novosibirsk and Altai Krai (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2005). Earlier reports of avian flu in Omsk Oblast appear to have been incorrect, as subsequent testing of dead birds has not uncovered the virus, reported. A regional veterinary spokesman told ITAR-TASS that a large group of wild birds were "poisoned by something." JAC

Nearly one-third of the political parties once registered by the Justice Ministry under the law on political parties that came into force in 2001 have now been de-registered, and more de-registrations are expected, "Vedomosti" reported on 2 August. The Justice Ministry decided on 28 July to de-register the breakaway Communist Party headed by Ivanovo Governor Vladimir Tikhonov because the party missed the deadline for establishing at least 45 regional branches, "Vedomosti" reported. The party reportedly has not yet been informed of its new status. JAC

Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies identified 10 parties that that do not face possible de-registration in 2006, according to "Vedomosti" on 2 August. They are: Unified Russia; the Communist Party, Motherland; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; Union of Rightist Forces; Yabloko; the Agrarian Party; the Party of Pensioners; the Party of Life; and the People's Party. National Strategy Institute Director Stanislav Belkovskii predicted that the Kremlin will leave a few minor center-left and center-right parties to carry out tactical political tasks. For example, according to Belkovskii as quoted by "Vedomosti," "the Social Democrat Party will prevent Dmitrii Rogozin's Motherland from joining the Socialist International, and [Gennadii Semigin's] Russian Patriots will prevent [former presidential candidate] Sergei Glazev from registering a political party of his own." Semigin's party was registered on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2005). JAC

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov recently signed a decree forming a new patriotic student movement in Moscow called Civic Transition (Grazhdanskaya smena), "Izvestiya" reported on 2 August. The seriousness of the new movement is confirmed by the composition of its council, which includes city-government officials and deputy mayors. The first gathering of the new movement was held last week in Moscow Oblast, when some 150 students from various Moscow educational institutions heard patriotic lectures and participated in games and brainstorming. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, analyst Belkovskii attributed the mayor's new venture to the December 2005 Moscow Duma elections, in which Luzhkov's supporters are likely to face strong pressure from the Kremlin. "That is why [Luzhkov] is in a hurry to build a defense and create his own resources for direct action," he said. JAC

Journalists in Finland asked President Putin to expand on his earlier comment that he does not support foreign financing of the political activities of Russian NGOs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2005), NTV and Interfax reported. "I am positive about [foreign financing for environmental and cultural NGOs], especially when the [donors'] money is spent on the goals declared by the organization," Putin told reporters. "I do mind political activities in Russia being financed by any channel. This has nothing to do with the environment or culture." In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty," No. 30, Lyudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said she fears that "Putin might view the protection of political rights of citizens as political activity, too. For example, there is the right to fair elections." JAC

Rupert Murdoch's U.S.-based multimedia group News Corp. is reportedly looking into the possibility of acquiring a stake in Ren TV from Severstal, Interfax reported on 1 August, quoting an anonymous source close to purported talks between the two companies. the same day reported that its sources in Severstal confirmed ongoing negotiations between the two companies. But Russian media experts told "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 August that they believe Severstal is trying to accelerate the sale of a 19 percent stake to Germany's RTL by leaking reports of News Corp. interest. News reports after it obtained shares in Ren TV in July suggested that Severstal was ready to sell a 19 percent stake. Reports suggest News Corp. is interested in a 35 percent stake, which would make both Severstal and News Corp. blocking-minority shareholders. Konstantin Isakov, general director for MediaMark agency, told that a controlling stake in Ren TV is not so important to Severstal: "What kind of influence can [Severstal] have on the channel, if they and all channels are in principle pro-government?" JAC

Don-TR reported on 2 August that the number of illegal late-term abortions in Rostov Oblast has increased so far in 2005 by an amount that they did not specify. Doctors have been ignoring the ban on terminating pregnancies after the first trimester, the report alleged. Two women have died in the oblast after trying to perform abortions on themselves. Five would-be mothers required hospitalization, and doctors were able to save them, but three of them will never have children again. Don-TR reported in April that 56 percent of children in the oblast are unhealthy and 92 percent of pregnant women experience complications. JAC

Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov on 2 August temporarily assumed the responsibilities of his superior, Prime Minister Sergei Abramov, who traveled to Sakhalin to attend the departure of a Friendship Train bound for St. Petersburg, and of pro-Moscow administration head Alu Alkhanov, who is taking a "short vacation," according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 August. Under normal circumstances, Alkhanov's duties would have devolved on Abramov, who returns to Grozny late on 4 August. On 2 August, Kadyrov issued a decree outlawing gaming salons in Chechnya on the grounds that gambling is prohibited under Islam and "perverts the younger generation," reported, quoting Kadyrov gave owners of such establishments a one-week grace period to close them. LF

Right-wing Russian parties including Vladimir Ryzhkov's Republican Party and Irina Khakamada's as yet unregistered movement Our Choice will compile a joint list of candidates to participate in the 27 November elections for a new Chechen parliament under the aegis of the Republican Party, RIA Novosti and Interfax reported on 2 August. Ryzhkov and Khakamada told journalists in Moscow on 2 August that they have established a Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces of the Chechen Republic that is headed by Musa Sadaev and that unites Chechnya's approximately 1,500 Republican Party members together with other right-wing political forces and local NGOs, but not the Chechen branch of Yabloko, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 August. The democrats' election program will focus on demolishing the widely held perception of Chechens as "terrorists," and on promoting democratization and reducing crime and unemployment. LF

Iry Nyfs, a youth movement based in the Republic of North Ossetia, has appealed to the Ingush people to try to persuade local activists to abandon their territorial claims on Prigorodnyi Raion, which was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR until that republic was abolished in 1944. The appeal, posted on 3 August by the Ingush opposition website, blames Ingush militants for the fighting that erupted in Prigorodnyi Raion in November 1992 and claims that more Ingush have since settled in Prigorodnyi Raion than were registered as living there prior to the mass exodus of Ingush during the fighting. The appeal also blames Ingush militants for the attacks on markets in Vladikavkaz in March 1999 and April 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 1999 and 29 April 2002), but not that in July 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 July 2000). LF

Gagik Harutiunian told journalists in Yerevan on 2 August that he largely approves of the most recent government-proposed draft of a package of constitutional amendments but believes "more work needs to be done in terms of guaranteeing the systemic integrity" of that draft, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He did not elaborate. Harutiunian said that voters risk plunging the country into "a serious constitutional crisis" if they fail to approve the package in a referendum to be held this fall. LF

Also on 2 August, Arshak Sadoyan, who heads the opposition Alliance of National Democrats, dismissed the government's proposed constitutional amendments as "an imitation of change" and announced that his party will insist on 11 further changes to the current draft, Noyan Tapan reported. He claimed the leadership system in Armenia is constructed in such a way as to permit the authorities to violate the constitution. Sadoyan said his party will convene a protest demonstration against the planned amendments on 26 August, three days before parliament is scheduled to meet in emergency session to approve them in the final reading. LF

Azerbaijan's Appeals Court ruled on 2 August to rescind the guilty verdict handed down in October to Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Turan reported. Arifoglu was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for his imputed role in the clashes between police and opposition supporters in Baku in the wake of the disputed October 2003 presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004). Arifoglu is the last of seven leading oppositionists sentenced in connection with those clashes to have had his sentence annulled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 July and 2 August 2005). LF

The Nadjaf Nadjafov Fund, named after a respected deceased journalist, has addressed an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev urging him to take action to curtail the use by pro-government media outlets of "black PR" against opposition political activists, Turan reported on 2 August. The appeal conceded that some opposition and independent media outlets also engage in vilification of political opponents. Also on 2 August, Muslim clergymen issued a similar condemnation of the recourse to "black PR" in the run-up to the 6 November parliamentary elections, Turan reported. The clergymen argued that it is in the country's interests that the ballot be "transparent and democratic." On 30 July, published a commentary that similarly appealed to journalists to refrain from vilification of public figures, which it implied might have been the motive for the 2 March slaying of opposition journalist Elmar Huseinov. LF

Elmar Mammadyarov met in Washington on 2 August -- the second day of his five-day working visit to the United States -- with his counterpart Condoleezza Rice, Azerbaijani media reported. Issues discussed reportedly included bilateral relations, the role of the U.S. in seeking to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Caspian energy projects, and preparations for the 6 November Azerbaijani parliamentary elections, according to That agency also quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that the recent high-level visits to Baku by senior U.S. officials were not prompted by Washington's stated insistence that the ballot be free, fair, and democratic, but by U.S. hopes to secure Baku's consent to the deployment in Azerbaijan of the U.S. forces that are to be withdrawn from Uzbekistan at the insistence of President Islam Karimov. LF

Georgia's Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected on 3 August an application by a group of voters for permission to collect the 200,000 signatures required to initiate a referendum, Caucasus Press reported. The three issues it hoped to put to a referendum were the perceived need to remove leading political figures allegedly imposed on the Georgian people by "foreign forces," meaning the U.S. and financier George Soros; ensuring full employment and the payment of a minimum wage; and reducing the number of parliament deputies from the present 235 to 61. The CEC ruled those issues inappropriate. LF

Police used force in Almaty on 2 August to disperse around 100 demonstrators protesting plans to demolish apartment buildings and resettle residents in dormitories, Interfax reported. Protesters had hoped to meet with Almaty Mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov. Police detained several dozen protestors, including Marzhan Aspandiyarova, a member of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan. DK

Amanzhol Temerbaev, chief epidemiologist in Kazakhstan's Pavlodar Province, told a news conference on 2 August that a 20-year-old man recently hospitalized during an avian flu outbreak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 August 2005) has tested negative for the disease, Interfax reported. Temerbaev said that, "according to preliminary results, the young man...tested negative for bird flu." DK

In a statement dated 1 August and published by the Navigator website ( on 2 August, Kazakhstan's pro-presidential Asar Party urged President Nursultan Nazarbaev to veto draft laws that would tighten government control over NGOs. "In our view, certain provisions of the amended legislation contradict the Kazakh constitution and the president's address of 18 February 2005, which stresses the needed to develop the institutions of civil society," the statement noted. Asar is headed by Darigha Nazarbaeva, President Nazarbaev's daughter. DK

Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Feliks Kulov has signed a resolution creating a state commission to examine the concerns of protesters in the Jeti-Oguz District of Issyk-Kul Province, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 2 August. The protesters have blocked a key road in the province for several days in hopes of getting compensation from Canada's Centerra Gold and the Kyrgyz government for a cyanide spill in 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2005). Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Medetbek Kerimkulov will head the commission. DK

The trial of Democratic Party head Mahmadruzi Iskandarov began in Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 2 August, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Proceedings started with the reading of the indictment, which charges Iskandarov with terrorism, weapons possession, embezzlement of state funds, abuse of office, and other crimes. Iskandarov was returned to Tajikistan under suspicious circumstances in April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2005) to face trial. Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy head of the Democratic Party, noted that prosecutors outside Moscow have opened a criminal case on Iskandarov's abduction, Avesta reported. Valiev suggested that the criminal proceedings in Russia could affect the outcome of Iskandarov's trial in Tajikistan. DK

Alyaksandr Talstashou, a senior official in the Belarusian KGB, said on Belarusian Television on 2 August that the previous day's visit by Polish Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Donald Tusk to Hrodna was an attempt to provoke interethnic conflicts in Belarus. "We have information that, unfortunately, there are politicians in Poland who want to raise their low political rating on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Poland by visiting the Republic of Belarus," Talstashou said. "In connection with this, I have been authorized to state that the Committee for State Security will exercise stringent control over visits by the aforementioned individuals and take specific measures to suppress their illegal activities in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Belarus." Commenting on Tusk's visit, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maryya Vanshyna also said that Belarus will clamp down on foreigners' trips aimed at "inciting national enmity," Belapan reported. Tusk visited Belarus to support the leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB), which has been beleaguered by the authorities claiming that its election was flawed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2005). JM

A court in Hrodna on 3 August jailed Wieslaw Kiewlak, deputy chairman of the SPB, for 15 days, finding him guilty of addressing an unsanctioned demonstration during Tusk's visit to Hrodna on 1 August, PAP reported. The previous day, Tadeusz Gawin, leader of the SPB from 1988-2000, was also jailed for 15 days. The court found him guilty of writing an appeal to Poles in Belarus to boycott an SPB congress that the authorities want to stage on 27 August. Another SPB activist, Andrzej Pisalnik, was detained by police on 1 August and is to stand trial on 4 August. JM

The Kyiv Appellate Court on 2 August released Donetsk Oblast Council head Borys Kolesnykov from custody on his own recognizance, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Kolesnykov was arrested in April on charges of extortion. The Prosecutor-General's Office subsequently charged Kolesnykov with abuse of office and threatening murder. The arrest of Kolesnykov -- a close political ally and business partner of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych -- sparked a number of protests by opponents of President Viktor Yushchenko in Kyiv and Donetsk. The opposition believes the persecution of Kolesnykov is part of the authorities' revenge campaign against officials who supported Yanukovych during the 2004 presidential campaign. JM

Serbian President Boris Tadic sent greetings to his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski for Macedonia's national holiday on 2 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The two men also agreed to make special efforts to improve relations, which have been soured over Macedonia's recent jailing of Serbian Orthodox Bishop Jovan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 August 2005). The presidents also decided that problems between the two countries' rival Orthodox churches should be dealt with by the churches themselves. Serbia's JAT airways nonetheless went ahead with plans recently announced by Minister for Capital Investments Velimir Ilic to recall two airplanes that JAT leased to Macedonia's MAT airliner, which has large debts to JAT. Ilic had made it clear that there was a link between the Jovan affair and the recall of the planes, which arrived at the Belgrade airport on 2 August. PM

Several hundred trucks and buses blocked the main highway connecting Skopje with Belgrade and Thessaloniki for one hour in the morning of 3 August to protest what transport companies call high taxes and tolls, which they must pay for their vehicles, dpa reported. Representatives of the transportation companies said the drivers will continue to block Macedonia's most important highway for one hour every morning until their demands are met. There is a lot of traffic on that road at this time of the year as European vacationers travel to Greece and Turkish workers in Western Europe go home for visits. PM

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and speaker of the parliament Ranko Krivokapic announced in Podgorica on 2 August that they will seek to determine who in the Army of Serbia and Montenegro is responsible for the recent use of military helicopters to transport a prefabricated metal church belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church to Mt. Rumija, near Bar, without the permission of the Montenegrin authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Speaking on Serbian television on 2 August, Chief of the General Staff General Dragan Paskas said that high-ranking clerics of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Podgorica asked the army for the helicopters to transport the small building. Paskas argued that the army's agreement did not constitute an "abuse of its authority [because] the army in this case was [simply] helping like [it has] in many [other] previous situations." PM

Former teenage prostitute Joana Dudushi (aka Stela) was found stabbed to death on 1 August, Reuters reported from Tirana. She attracted national attention in April when she appeared on a television program that exposes cases of Albania's rampant corruption. Stela told viewers that police in Vlora repeatedly pressured her to accuse clients of rape so that police could collect bribes from the clients for letting them off. Filip Cakuli, who hosts the television program, blamed the state authorities for failing to protect Stela, who feared retribution. The daily "Shekulli" wrote that the authorities ignored her concerns even though she received unspecified death threats. PM

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 2 August that it regrets "the attempts to attach official importance to the opinions of high-ranking Russian officials [who] overstep boundaries and inflict damage on the good relationship between the two countries," Interfax and Infotag reported. The statement was referring to remarks last week by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov about Russian peacekeeping troops in Transdniester. Ivanov said Moscow is not going to withdraw its force from Transdniester as long as Russian depots with weapons and ammunition remain in the region. Ivanov also noted that the Russian troops are staying there under Moldovan and Transdniestrian mandates. "Chisinau's position regarding the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops and weapons from Moldovan territory in strict accordance with the Istanbul agreements remains as firm as it has been over the years since the summit," the Moldovan Foreign Ministry said. In 1999, at an OSCE summit in Istanbul, Russia pledged to withdraw its troops and military equipment from Transdniester by 2002. JM

In his first major speech since assuming his diplomatic post two weeks ago, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad announced that a seven-point plan has been reached with Iraqi leaders to address "common efforts" toward building a democratic, secure Iraq, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 1 August.

Khalilzad said that he and Iraqi leaders discussed "a set of ideas about what's needed to set Iraq on the right trajectory." The plan calls for a national compact enshrined in the constitution; the isolation and defeat of terrorists and hardcore Ba'athists; encouraging the region's leaders to address problems in a cooperative spirit and to pressure those who continue to foment instability; improving the capacity of Iraqi ministries; increasing economic opportunities; the carrying out of successful elections; and mobilizing greater international support for Iraq.

"We have already launched five major task forces [with the Iraqi government] to move forward on key issues. These include efforts to implement joint plans on overall security, coordinating reconstruction, managing fiscal demands, infrastructure security, and resolving the [unclear] issues," Khalilzad said.

One of the biggest challenges facing Iraqis is overcoming the loss of trust among the communities, the ambassador observed, adding: "This underlies current political and sectarian tensions. In part, it also underlies the insurgency." In order to overcome this legacy, Iraqis would need to build trust across communities, including the building of "truly national institutions" that are "not instruments of revenge or fiefdom of patronage of one group or another."

On the issue of terrorism, Khalilzad said that Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated group and former Ba'athists are "seeking to pull more Iraqis into their terrorist networks." Khalilzad said: "Choosing this path would be fatal.... Protracted violence would lead their most talented people to go abroad, destroy educational opportunities for their children as schools close or do not operate in ways that they should. Reconstruction would become difficult and these circumstances would create fertile ground for the growth of extremism that would further impoverish the region. I warn Iraqis in central and western Iraq to avoid falling in the trap laid by their enemies," he said.

Offering a "legitimate alternative," Khalilzad challenged Iraqis in these areas to join in a national compact "enshrined in the constitution that protects the rights of all communities," adding that the United States is "committed to supporting Iraqis who seek to realize this vision." Khalilzad noted the predicament of Iraqis in these Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq who want to have a voice and place in the new Iraq and are seeking a political role in the face of intimidation and great risk to themselves. To this end, he pledged to "work to provide security" for those who seek to join the national compact.

The ambassador said that the plan to build up the Iraqi security forces is a "strategy first to win over the people and then to isolate and destroy the enemy." As an essential part of the plan, the ambassador announced the intention of multinational forces to hand over control of specific areas of Iraq to Iraqi security forces and withdraw coalition troops.

RFI asked Khalilzad for more specifics on the plan, but he declined to identify what cities and towns would be handed over first. "We are working to build up Iraqi capabilities so that the security that is needed to be provided, is provided by the Iraqi forces as soon as possible. But we know that that takes time. Therefore we're working through this joint committee that I talked about as to how this transition from the coalition...could take place, that Iraqis take more and more responsibility for security in those areas. And we're going to develop an integrated, agreed upon, prudent plan of action on how to move forward and this is the work of this joint committee that I talked about."

Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told reporters in Baghdad on 1 August that Al-Diwaniyah, Karbala, Al-Najaf, Al-Nasiriyah, and Al-Samawah will likely be among the first cities in southern Iraq to be handed over. Al-Rubay'i added that he and Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi will represent Iraq in joint committee meetings with the United States.

The ambassador singled out Iran and Syria as states that are "engaged in unhelpful activities" and are not doing enough to contribute to the security of Iraq, adding that the United States intends to help shape a more favorable regional environment.

Regarding Syria, he said: "Terrorists are moving into Iraq through Syria. Leaders of hardcore Ba'athist insurgents reside there. Terrorists and insurgents are trained in Syria and funding goes through Syria. Syrian government media are broadcasting anti-Iraq propaganda. The Syrian government must take action to halt these activities or risk new pressures."

Iran, he said, is working along two contradictory tracks. "On the one hand, Tehran works with the new Iraq; on the other there is movement across its borders of people and material used in violent acts against Iraq. We welcome good relations between Iraq and all its neighbors. But activities inconsistent with such relations must stop."

Khalilzad also stressed the U.S. government's intention to build up the capabilities of Iraqi ministries. In addition to improving the capacity to operate and manage projects, the ambassador said the United States would decentralize part of the reconstruction process by working with provincial governments to fund projects that meet local needs.

The ambassador also stressed the need to expand private-sector opportunities, saying: "I will work with Iraqi political and business leaders to do more, including expansion of credit, increasing the use of Iraqi contractors in reconstruction, and opposing corruption."

As part of this plan, Khalilzad vowed to do more to encourage the international community to become more involved in Iraq. "Iraqis need help in this period, just as other great nations in Europe and Asia have needed it after the end of major wars or the fall of totalitarian regimes," he said.

Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi on 2 August expressed his organization's "pain and sadness" over the death of Fahd, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. "We share the pain of the Saudi nation over this great loss," Hakimi told AIP in a telephone interview. Hakimi said that the neo-Taliban "applauds the services" which Fahd provided to the Afghans. The new Saudi king, Abdullah, "should support our rightful jihad and struggle," Hakimi added. If given permission to attend the monarch's funeral, the neo-Taliban would have sent a delegation, Hakimi told AIP. Under Fahd's rule Saudi Arabia channeled large amounts of money and supported the introduction of the puritanical form of Islam to the Afghan mujahedin fighting against the Soviet Union. When the Taliban took control of most of Afghanistan in 1996, Saudi Arabia became one of only three countries -- with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates -- to recognize the government. AT

In a commentary published on 2 August, the government daily "Anis" questioned the relative ease with which Hakimi is able to communicate on behalf of the neo-Taliban. Since the defeat of the Taliban regime in late 2001, former members of this regime and terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda have gone into hiding and are fearful of being discovered by counterterrorist operations by U.S. forces, however "Hakimi without any fear from the U.S. or Pakistan declares himself the Taliban spokesman from his office in Quetta" while using specific telephone numbers, "Anis" wrote. With the technology available to pinpoint phone signals, the "freedom of action accredited to Hakimi is a controversial matter," the daily commented. If neo-Taliban members are truly being hunted, then why is Hakimi allowed to operate with so much ease, "Anis" questioned in conclusion. AT

Two police officers were killed and six others were wounded in a clash and an explosion on 2 August in Nuristan Province, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Three policemen were injured when unidentified assailants attacked their checkpoint. One insurgent was killed in the firefight. After the skirmish the vehicle carrying police officers leaving the scene hit an explosive device, killing two and injuring another three. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack or for planting the explosive device, Nuristan and its neighboring Konar Province are considered the stronghold of support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the fugitive former Afghan prime minister, Pajhwak commented. AT

Afghan government security forces on 30 July captured two commanders of the neo-Taliban in Helmand Province, the Hindukosh News Agency reported on 1 August. Hajji Mohammad Wali, spokesman for the governor of Helmand, said that Mullah Gol Mohammad and Mullah Asadullah along with four other neo-Taliban were apprehended in the province's Nawzad District. Wali described the two as "known" commanders of the militia. AT

Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono indicated on 1 August that his country's armed forces will remain in Afghanistan for at least eight years in order to guarantee stability and facilitate reconstruction efforts in that country, the Madrid daily "El Mundo" reported on 2 August. Bono made his comments during a visit to the western Afghan province of Herat, where Spanish troops are deployed at a logistical base for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Spain currently leads one of ISAF-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Qala-e Naw, Badghis Province, situated east of Herat. AT

Deputy Prosecutor-General Masud Moqaddas, who also worked as a judge, was shot dead on 2 August by one or two men on a motorcycle as he crossed Ahmadi Avenue in Tehran. Tehran Police Chief General Morteza Talai said there was no known motive for the killing, but did not rule out that the crime may have been politically motivated. Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad said Moqaddas -- who was known as a hard-liner -- headed the Tehran judiciary complex and focused on social vice cases. He also handled the trial of journalist Akbar Ganji, who is currently on a hunger strike, AP reported. Tehran Prosecutor's Office official Abbas-Ali Alizadeh said the killing has nothing to do with Ganji's case and will have no effect upon it, the Fars News Agency reported. BS

Also on 2 August, a small explosion occurred in Tehran near the building housing the offices of British Airways (BA) and British Petroleum. Ambassador John Dalton told reporters that "We do not know who the target of the explosion was. The Iranian authorities responded very quickly and I'm grateful for that. I will be consulting them about additional precautions which may be necessary for British companies," RFE/RL reported. Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi denied that the BA office was the target, reported, and he would not dismiss the possibility that the same group responsible for explosions in Tehran in early June could be responsible for this incident. Meanwhile, the Hadian-i Aftab Association plans a demonstration outside the British Embassy on 3 August, ILNA reported on 2 August. The association's secretary, Vahid Mahabadi, said this is to protest the burning of an Iranian flag when the country's national soccer team was in the United Kingdom. BS

The "Financial Times" reported on 2 August that Tehran decided late on 1 August to extend by 48 hours its deadline for the resumption of activities at the Isfahan Uranium Enrichment Facility. Supreme National Security Council official Ali Aqamohammadi stressed in an interview on 1 August that the decision to resume nuclear activities at this facility involved the country's top officials as well as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, IRNA reported. He said the officials at that "sensitive decision-making session" included President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and former prime minister and Expediency Council member Mir-Hussein Musavi. "The heads of the system unanimously declared at that meeting that August 1st would be Iran's unchangeable deadline, deciding that the current trend of nuclear talks is against the country's national interests and that a solid response was needed against the continuation of that sick trend." BS

The spokesman for the Russian firm building the nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr said on 2 August that the company is rushing to overcome delays, ITAR-TASS reported. Irina Yesipova, spokesman for Atomstroiexport, said they are three months behind schedule. "Under the working schedule the reactor's physical launch is due in the fourth quarter of 2006," she said, adding that 4,000 Russian specialists and Iranian builders are working there and the number will increase to 5,000 by year's end. She added: "the Iranian side has arranged for round-the-clock work without any days off, [not] even religious holidays." BS

In a 1 August speech in Baghdad, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad referred to Iran's mixed record on relations with Iraq, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. "Iran is working along two contradictory tracks," he said. "On the one hand, Tehran works with the new Iraq; on the other there is movement across its borders of people and material used in violent acts against Iraq." Khalilzad noted that Iraq is pursuing diplomatic relations with all its neighbors but stressed that activities that run counter to this principle must end. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hushyar Zebari struck a similar note in an interview that appeared in "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" on 1 August. He agreed that foreign gunmen are entering his country and added: "Terrorist elements are infiltrating from neighboring countries, particularly from Iran and Syria. We have asked these countries' authorities to control their borders and stop the infiltrations." He said Syria and Iran could stop the infiltrations but they are not doing so. BS

Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who arrived in Iran on 31 July, met with Supreme Leader Khamenei, Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, and Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani on 2 August, Iranian news agencies reported. Khamenei advised his guest that "America has truly become weak in the region and its defeat in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran are all signs of this very fact," state radio reported. Nasrallah responded: "The most important objective pursued by America, Israel, and some European countries regarding Lebanon's recent events is to disarm Hizballah and to implement [UN Security Council] resolution 1959. But the massive participation of the Lebanese people in the elections, the unity among different groups and the insight of the Muslims, the outcome of the elections was against America's expectation and in addition to its presence in the parliament the Lebanese Hizballah took seats in the cabinet as well." Haddad-Adel told his guest that Iran is interested in the reconstruction of Lebanon, IRNA reported. "The U.S. always supports despotic regimes and for the time being they have changed their policy by taking up the banner of democracy.... The conspiracy was defused in Lebanon," he said. BS

An unknown number of people violated a ban on demonstrations and gatherings and rioted in the city of Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province, on the evening of 1 August, IRNA reported the next day. Before police quelled the unrest, rioters set four autos alight and broke the windows at a bank. BS

Lieutenant General Nuri Nuri, the Interior Ministry's inspector general, has said that detention centers in several Iraqi cities are violating the rights of detainees through inhumane treatment and denial of their right to defense, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 2 August. A number of officers have been referred to court for violating the rights of detainees, he added. "We have information that some people try to force detainees to provide information and make confessions through savage and harsh methods," including beatings and electrical shock. Corruption is also widespread at detention facilities, leading administrators to extort money from detainees, he said, and detainees have also paid investigators to change statements and information collected in security files in order to throw investigations off course. Nuri cited 440 cases related to administrative corruption in detention facilities. The facilities identified are in Baghdad, Ba'qubah, Al-Kut, and Mosul. Public Prosecutor Ghadanfar Humud al-Jasim told Al-Sharqiyah that the Supreme Judicial Council has formed three committees to investigate the situation and supervise legal proceedings against detainees. The committees will also investigate complaints of misconduct. KR

Militants detonated a bomb inside a Baghdad bookstore on 2 August, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. The attack occurred on Al-Mutannabi Street, where there are several bookstores. Eyewitnesses reported seeing an undisclosed number of men walk into the Al-Sadim Bookshop, where they left a suitcase near the store entrance on their way out. The suitcase exploded moments later. The store's owner and his son were reportedly inside the shop at the time of the explosion. KR

Fourteen Marines were killed on 3 August in the western Al-Anbar Governorate in an early morning attack, the U.S. military announced ( The statement said the Marines' amphibious assault vehicle was attacked south of Hadithah "by an improvised explosive device." One Marine was wounded in the attack. Six U.S. Marines were killed in an insurgent ambush outside Hadithah on 1 August, reported citing a 2 August military statement on 3 August. The six were killed during a "dismount" operation -- patrolling outside their armed vehicles -- at the time of the attack. Five were killed --apparently by gunfire at one site -- and the body of the sixth Marine was discovered about two kilometers away, the statement said. The website cited news agencies as saying the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army claimed responsibility for the attack. The seventh Marine was killed on the same day in Hit when a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy on a bridge, an eyewitness told the website. A local mosque reportedly posted a statement attributing the attack to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn. KR

Unidentified U.S. military officials told the that the U.S. military is concerned about the operational capacity of Iraq's Defense Ministry, the website reported on 3 August. "What we are lacking are the systems that pay people, that supply people, that recruit people, that replace the wounded and AWOL, and systems that promote people and provide spare parts," said a U.S. commander in Iraq who asked not to be identified. Iraqi soldiers in the field lack even basic equipment, and supply requests tend to go unanswered for months because there are not enough people within the ministry to handle the job or procedures in place to ensure that requests are fulfilled. The army's ground forces headquarters opened in May, but as of July its operations center was still not operational. Soldiers are often not paid on schedule, and food deliveries to bases come late. Iraqi officials have blamed the use of contractors, but contractors have said they have not been paid by the ministry. The ministry is also investigating widespread corruption through procurement procedures, including allegations that a U.S.-hired official, Ziad Tariq Cattan, took kickbacks on major weapons contracts. KR

Seventeen women's organizations in the Al-Najaf governorate demonstrated on 1 August for the inclusion of their rights in the permanent constitution, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 2 August. The strike came after Baghdad's "Al-Sabah" newspaper published a version of the draft constitution last week that signaled women would lose many of the rights currently afforded to them (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 August 2005). The three-hour demonstration took place in front of the Human Rights Organization in Al-Najaf after the 17 organizations asked the organization to deliver a letter addressed to the constitution drafting committee demanding justice, equality, and freedom for women under the constitution. Intisar al-Mayali, of the Iraqi Women's League's Al-Najaf office, told RFI that women are very concerned that the new constitution will take away women's rights rather than protect them. She likened the draft published in "Al-Sabah" to Iraqi Governing Council Decision 137 imposed under the leadership of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq head Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, which sought to replace civil law with Islamic Shari'a law with regard to family issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2004), saying it was a bad decision that attempted to sweep away women's rights. KR