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Newsline - August 15, 2005

The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 12 August expressing support for the UN nuclear watchdog's call the previous day for Iran to restore its moratorium on nuclear-fuel production, RIA-Novosti reported. At the same time, however, Moscow urges a solution that "in the end meets Iranian interests." "Having supported this resolution [by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors], we believe it is crucial to create conditions for a de-escalation of the situation and a return to the path of negotiation," the statement says. Strategic Analysis Center Director Sergei Oznobishchev warned that the "Iranian nuclear problem cannot be resolved through force," according to on 10 August, adding that Tehran should be granted security "from the leading powers, foremost the U.S., and a chance to be incorporated into the international security system." also reprinted an 11 August contribution to the "Tehran Times" in which the writer, Khasan Knanizade, urges Iranian officials to respond to the IAEA's "nuclear resolution through an oil embargo." VY

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski telephoned Vladimir Putin on 12 August to talk about the rise in tension between the two countries stemming from recent attacks in Warsaw and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 8, 9, 10, and 12 August 2005), according to the Kremlin press service as quoted by RTR. The two leaders reportedly agreed that while the incidents took place in a "clearly criminal context, they cannot be viewed in isolation from the unfavorable mutual political atmosphere between the two countries," RTR reported. Kwasniewski and Putin agreed that all branches of government and of public opinion should do more to help improve the situation, RTR reported. Meanwhile, Polish Ambassador Stefan Meller told Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin on 12 August that Polish authorities have arrested two men suspected of robbing Russian teenagers in Warsaw on 31 July, Ekho Moskvy and other media reported. Meller expressed the hope that Russian authorities would track down those who carried out three separate attacks on Polish nationals in Moscow "very soon too," adding that Loshchinin pledged full protection for Poles living in Russia. Moscow city police announced the creation of a special team to investigate the recent assaults on Poles, while police will patrol the area around the Polish Embassy around the clock, RTR reported. VY

An NTV newscaster said in the context of the Kwasniewski-Putin conversation on 12 August that "the score is 3:3 and it is time to finish," going on to suggest that both sides should drop what it called a "tit-for-tat" approach. The website claimed the same day that President Putin has harbored negative feelings about Poland and Kwasniewski since last winter, when the Polish president actively encouraged Ukraine's Orange Revolution. "Putin during those days played the role of a jester, constantly congratulating the defeated Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych on his 'glorious victory,'" argued, adding that Putin has not forgotten the humiliation and uses any opportunity to avenge himself on Poland. Putin neglected to mention Poles among the victors over Nazism during a recent ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, noted. VY

Fleet Admiral Vladimir Masorgin, the chief of staff of the Russian Navy, told reporters on 12 August that the Navy's own sloppiness and broken-down rescue equipment rendered it incapable of rescuing the trapped AS-28 submersible eventually freed by the British Royal Navy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2005), RIA-Novosti reported. The Russian Navy had a more advanced rescue sub than the British Scorpio in the area at the time of the accident but negligence in handling it made the craft inoperable, Masorgin claimed. "The fear of assuming responsibility is the main problem in the Russian [military]," Masorgin said. Russian media have described Masorgin as the "interim acting commander of the Russian Navy" since the incident off Kamchatka without detailing the fate of incumbent fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, who was likely suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. VY

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 12 August, Motherland party and State Duma faction leader Dmitrii Rogozin said he opposes government plans to amend legislation to allow a limited amnesty for repatriating undeclared funds held by Russians abroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 11, and 12 August 2005). Rogozin said his opposition is based not on ideology but rather common sense. Rogozin used the example of a thief stealing a person's wallet and offering to pay 13 kopecks in income tax on every ruble he took, leaving him with 87 kopecks. "What kind of an amnesty is this? It is a theft amnesty," he said. Rogozin said he also objects to the efforts to reduce the income tax on previously unreported income from 13 to 9 percent, saying it gives preference to tax evaders. Rogozin said that, in general, he opposes the amnesty efforts because it suggests to people that it pays to cheat. VY

A June poll conducted by All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that 16 percent of respondents believe that "Russia is for Russians," up from 11 percent the previous June, while pollsters at Levada Analytical Center concluded that 58 percent of Russians believe the same slogan to be true, according to Ekho Moskvy,, and other media reports. Director Yurii Levada added that the majority of respondents who backed that slogan in his group's poll were youths. The (VTsIOM) study suggested that more than 40 percent of Russians believe relations among ethnic groups in the country are strained, and that more than half of Russians disagree with nationality-based preferences, Ekho Moskvy reported. VY

The Finance Ministry submitted its final draft of the 2006 federal budget to the government that foresees an 18 percent surplus of 776 billion rubles ($27.1 billion), Russian news agencies reported on 13 August. The budget outlines 5.46 trillion rubles ($193 billion) in revenues and 4.27 trillion rubles in spending. The ministry assumes 5.9 percent economic growth in 2006, an annual inflation rate of 7.5-8 percent, an average exchange rate of 28.6 rubles to the dollar, and average oil prices of $40 per barrel (far below current levels). Oil revenues above $27 per barrel will go to the Stabilization Fund, which is expected to bring in 2.13 trillion rubles in 2006. Unified Russia leaders in the State Duma, backed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, objected to the Finance Ministry's first draft, saying the budget underestimated revenues and called for an excessive surplus and inadequate spending on investment projects (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July and 10 August 2005). The Finance Ministry increased the estimated revenues, planned spending and oil prices, cut the planned surplus, and allocated 700 billion rubles to a special Investment Fund to be overseen by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. LB

President Putin on 13 August nominated Aleksandr Tishanin, the 39-year-old head of the East-Siberian Railroad, for governor of Irkutsk Oblast, Russian news agencies reported. Uncertainty reportedly delayed Putin's choice; the president was legally obliged to submit a candidate to the region's Legislative Assembly by 3 August, 35 days before the end of Governor Boris Govorin's term. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 August, the final decision was between Tishanin and Federation Council member Valentin Mezhevich, the more experienced former first deputy governor under Govorin. A source within the Irkutsk leadership of Unified Russia told the newspaper that Mezhevich was passed over because both of his daughters are married to U.S. citizens. The Irkutsk legislature is likely to confirm Tishanin easily, deputies interviewed by "Kommersant-Daily" unanimously agreed. The newspaper commented that Tishanin is the third gubernatorial candidate chosen by Putin whose career is that of a "manager" rather than politician. The others were Pavel Ipatov, who was director of a nuclear power plant before becoming governor of Saratov Oblast, and Vyacheslav Dudka, who became governor of Tula Oblast after serving as chief engineer of a defense-industry enterprise. LB

A correspondent for state-run television in Novosibirsk Oblast was hospitalized on 12 August with a severe viral respiratory illness that doctors fear might be the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu, reported. Mariya Pashkova had recently returned to Novosibirsk after filming reports from one of the areas where H5N1 had infected domestic birds. As of 14 August, her condition had somewhat improved; however, laboratory tests to determine the cause of her illness will not be complete until 16 or 17 August, reported. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 13 August that a poultry-processing factory in Mamontov Raion of Altai Krai is under investigation for possibly concealing information about bird flu from the authorities. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 August that many regions of the Russian Federation have banned imports of poultry and eggs from regions where bird flu has been identified. Ulyanovsk Oblast and the Republic of Tatarstan have gone further, banning such products from all neighboring regions, and Lipetsk Oblast Governor Oleg Korolev has imposed a three-month ban on all poultry and eggs from anywhere outside Lipetsk. These more extreme measures have prompted accusations of protectionism and threats of lawsuits from some Russian companies affected by the restrictions. LB

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has decided to create a youth-oriented cable-television network, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 August. A working group within the city government has been developing plans for the station since late June. By the end of October, they are supposed to have a detailed plan ready so that the Young Moscow network can begin broadcasting in January 2006. The network would include entertainment and music programming as well as news. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the network is part of a broad "youth campaign" conceived by Luzhkov following the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. The mayor recently allocated 3 million rubles ($106,000) from the city budget to establish Civic Transition, a patriotic movement for students (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2005). "Kommersant-Daily" said it has obtained a draft program on working with young people that the Moscow government will discuss in September. "The participation of young students in the colored revolutions of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan attests to the fact that lack of attention to youth and the student population on the part of the authorities was used by destructive forces with the goal of disrupting the public peace and order," the paper quotes the program as saying. LB

Igor Rimmer, a deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, has initiated a draft amendment to the Russian Constitution that would allow a president to serve three consecutive terms, Interfax reported on 12 August. The amendment would change Section 3 of Article 81 of the constitution, which currently limits a president to two terms. reported that an explanatory note attached to Rimmer's draft amendment justifies the proposal on the grounds that it will preserve current trends in economic and social policy while protecting "the basic principles of civil society, the formation of a democratic law-governed social state, and the continuation of reforms that have begun." A similar measure proposed in Primorskii Krai would remove any limit on the number of consecutive terms a president could serve (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 2005). The legislatures of St. Petersburg and Primorskii Krai are expected to consider the amendments in September, but experts cited by predicted they will be rejected. Boris Makarenko, deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies, speculated that such proposals are aimed primarily at raising the profile of otherwise unknown regional politicians. LB

Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev, who was named in March to succeed slain President and resistance commander Aslan Maskhadov, issued decrees on 11 August sacking the government and disbanding a network of presidential envoys, reported on 14 August. The first decree dismisses the entire government in line with the state of emergency in force since 1999 and tasks the State Defense Council with selecting a new cabinet, and the second abolishes the post of presidential representatives abroad, according to Those representatives are to report on their activities within one week. In a third decree, dated 4 August, Sadullaev named Idris Khasanov to head his administration. LF

An ongoing investigation by the Military Prosecutor's Office has confirmed that members of Sulim Yamadaev's Vostok battalion were responsible for the 4 June sweep in the Avar-populated village of Borozdinovskaya in which one man was killed, four homes burned, and 11 people abducted, Alu Alkhanov announced in Grozny on 13 August, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 August. Alkhanov said an unspecified number of suspects have been arrested; one Vostok unit commander was arrested and charged several weeks ago, according to Interfax on 2 August. Yamadaev's brother Ruslan, who represents Chechnya in the State Duma, said that Sulim Yamadaev did not authorize the Borozdinovskaya operation and that it would be wrong to hold the entire battalion responsible. Ruslan Yamadaev added that unidentified armed men entered Borozdinovskaya on 4 June after the Vostok personnel left the village. Meanwhile, former residents of Borozdinovskaya who quit the village a second time in late July and moved to neighboring Daghestan are negotiating with the Russian authorities to resettle in Penza Oblast, Interfax reported on 12 August. The 640 villagers say conditions in their makeshift camp are appalling and they have received no humanitarian assistance. LF

Turkish scholar Yektan Turkyilmaz told a Yerevan district court on 12 August that he did not deliberately try to smuggle valuable antique books out of Armenia, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2005). Turkyilmaz, who spent two months in Armenia earlier this summer conducting research into the 1915 genocide, was apprehended on 17 June at Yerevan's Zvartnots Airport. He had 89 rare books, some dating from the 17th century, in his luggage when he was detained. Turkyilmaz said in court on 12 August, that he was unaware of the legal requirement to obtain official permission to export any books published more than 50 years ago. The prosecution claims that he was informed of that requirement by a Yerevan bookseller who sold him some of the volumes in question. Also on 12 August, U.S.-born opposition politician and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian deplored the prosecution of Turkyilmaz, arguing that "it is hard to imagine a more powerful blow to international affirmation of the Armenian genocide than this trial," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. LF

Visiting the industrial city of Sumgait on 12 August, President Ilham Aliyev again warned local officials against any attempts to rig the outcome of the 6 November parliamentary elections, Azerbaijani media reported. Aliyev said he is certain local officials will implement his 11 May decree on measures to ensure the balloting is free and democratic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2005), and that voters will support "the most worthy" candidates, those who were successful in earlier elections and who have since "made a major contribution" to Azerbaijani's independence, rather than forces "that plundered the country and dragged it into a civil war." The former, positive formulations are a clear allusion to candidates from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party who dominated the outgoing parliament. Aliyev also instructed local officials not to obstruct pre-election meetings by opposition parties, affirming that equal conditions must be created for pro-government and opposition political forces. LF

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko arrived in Tbilisi on 12 August for an unofficial three-day visit, Georgian media reported. Visiting the resort region of Borzhomi the same day, Yushchenko and his Georgian host and counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili signed a declaration advocating the creation of a "commonwealth of democracies of the Baltic, Black Sea, and Caspian regions" with the aim of putting an end to human rights violations and unresolved conflicts across the region and ushering in "a new era of democracy, security, stability, and peace throughout Europe, from the Atlantic to the Caspian." The two presidents told journalists they hope the new body can be formally inaugurated at a conference in Ukraine later this fall to which the United States, Russia, and EU member states would be invited as guests. Some Russian newspapers, including "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 August, construed the two presidents' proposal as an attempt to undermine the Commonwealth of Independent States. But Yushchenko stressed on 12 August that both Ukraine and Georgia seek to establish "a dialogue and honest relations" with Russia, however difficult that might prove to be, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava condemned the military maneuvers that commenced in Abkhazia's Ochamchira Raion on 15 August as a gross violation of existing agreements, and he appealed to the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the conflict zone to intervene to stop them, Caucasus Press reported on 15 August. Some 6,000 army, navy, and air-force personnel and reservists are taking part in the exercises, which according to Republic of Abkhazia Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sultan Sosnaliev are intended to demonstrate how prepared the unrecognized republic is to repel any aggression. In an interview in the June, No.23, issue of the newspaper "Severnyi Kavkaz," published in Nalchik, Sosnaliev stressed that Abkhazia is systematically strengthening its armed forces purely for defensive purposes, and he expressed concern at Georgia's ongoing military buildup (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 22 July 2005). Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh, who left on a working visit to Moscow on 14 August, according to ITAR-TASS, will return on 17 August and assess the maneuvers, which end on 19 August. LF

Kazakhstan's Agriculture Ministry has banned the sale of live poultry and eggs in all regions of the country where bird flu has been discovered, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Bird flu has been reported in at least four provinces, with the H5N1 strain, which has been responsible for human infections in other countries, confirmed in Pavlodar Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 August 2005). Asylbek Kazhmuratov, head of the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary department, told a news conference in Astana on 12 August that further outbreaks of bird flu cannot be ruled out "because the wild birds that spread the infection can settle anywhere," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. He noted that more than 5,000 birds have been culled in infected areas. The Agriculture Ministry also stated in a 12 August press release that authorities in affected areas have in some cases failed to implement effective measures to deal with outbreaks. DK

Kurmanbek Bakiev was sworn in as Kyrgyzstan's president in a ceremony before 10,000 people in central Bishkek on 14 August, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. "Wise governance, care for the people, and not for oneself, honesty and justice -- this is all that Kyrgyz citizens now expect from the authorities," Bakiev stated in his inaugural address. Noting that Kyrgyzstan's people have fallen victim to impoverishment, Bakiev stressed: "We must and will implement an economic and social policy that will ensure the well-being of every family and every person. We will uproot corruption and bring the economy out of the shadows. The fruits of economic growth will be available to all in accordance with the work they do, and in all regions of the country, even the most distant, people can and must have equal chances to acquire social benefits and realize their potential." Bakiev was elected president in a 10 July election that followed demonstrations in Bishkek on 24 March that brought down the administration of then President Askar Akaev. DK

Police sources in Tajikistan say the planner and organizer of explosions in Dushanbe on 31 January and 13 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February and 14 June 2005) has been arrested, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 12 August. ITAR-TASS reported, quoting an anonymous high-ranking official in the Interior Ministry, that the search continues for the direct perpetrators of the blasts. The source said the explosions, which took place near the Emergency Situations Ministry in Dushanbe and killed one person, were intended to sow panic and fear. DK

A court in Dushanbe has sentenced nine members of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir to prison terms ranging from three to 13 years for conducting extremist activities, Avesta reported on 12 August. The group comprises eight Tajik citizens and one Uzbek citizen, Umar Umarov. The defendants were arrested in the Tajik capital in March-April. DK

Mahmadruzi Iskandarov, the head of Tajikistan's Democratic Party, has said that he will not respond to any questions in the course of court proceedings until the issue of his extradition from Russia to Tajikistan in April is clarified, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 13 August. Iskandarov, who is currently on trial on corruption and terrorism charges, was arrested in Dushanbe in April after he was transferred from Russia to Tajikistan under mysterious circumstances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2005). Iskandarov claims that he was abducted by Tajik security forces. A court official said the court would examine the issue once Iskandarov's trial resumed on 15 August. DK

President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a decree removing Saparmamed Valiev from his ministerial post as head of Turkmenneft, the state oil company, reported on 13 August. The report stated that Valiev was removed for "serious deficiencies in his work and abuse of office." The president charged that a preliminary investigation has revealed evidence of Valiev's involvement in corrupt practices and ordered law-enforcement officials to complete a full investigation in 20 days. Niyazov appointed Karyagdy Tashliev, first deputy director of Turkmenneft, acting director and oil minister. Valiev, who had headed Turkmenneft since 1997, asked Niyazov to forgive him but the president declined, Reuters reported. "I won't forgive you anything," Niyazov reportedly said. "Go and work as a manual laborer." DK

Uzbek authorities on 13 August deported Igor Rotar, a correspondent for Forum 18, the Norway-based religious-freedom organization reported on its website ( the same day. The report noted that Uzbek authorities, who had detained Rotar upon his arrival at Tashkent airport on 11 August, officially deported Rotar only after unsuccessful attempts to force him "to buy his own ticket [out of Uzbekistan] and claim that he was not deported." Forum 18 noted, "Uzbekistan's unjustified detention and formal deportation of a widely respected religious freedom reporter, along with the continued crackdown on the independent media, raises many serious issues of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to defend human rights and the safety of journalists carrying out their legitimate work." In an interview with on 14 August, Rotar, a Russian citizen who works as a correspondent for Forum 18 and is a contributor to the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation, said that Uzbek security personnel told him: "How long are you going to get on our nerves? Buy a ticket wherever you want, or else we'll beat you up." Rotar said the security officers who detained him did not use force against him, however. The correspondent, who has written extensively about issues of religious freedom in Uzbekistan for Forum 18, planned to investigate alleged repression against Protestants in northern Karakalpakistan; Rotar told that he did not link his detention and deportation to this specific issue, but rather to a general crackdown on media in Uzbekistan in the wake of violence in Andijon on 13 May. DK

Tadusz Gawin, former chairman (1988-2000) of the Union of Poles in Belarus (SPB), was sentenced on 12 August to 15 days in jail in addition to the 15-day sentence he is currently serving in a Hrodna jail, Belapan reported. SPB press secretary Andrzej Pisalnik told Belapan that the additional sentence is punishment for Gawin's involvement in a fight with a cellmate. Pisalnik added that Gawin described the incident as a provocation against him. "It was clear to all those present in the court that this [second] sentence was a political order, as representatives of the prosecution did not even attend the court hearings," Pisalnik said. "Gavin's lawyer said that he had nobody to debate with during the case hearing." Gawin was sentenced to 15 days of arrest on 2 August, after the court found him guilty of organizing an unauthorized picket near the SPB office in Hrodna on 1 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2005). Gawin will begin serving his second term on 17 August, when his first sentence expires. JM

Opposition youth leader Pavel Sevyarynets, who was sentenced along with Mikalay Statkevich in May to three years in a low-security penal facility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 2005), has been ordered to serve two years in a similar correctional facility in Vetryna, a small town in Vitsebsk Oblast, Belapan reported on 12 August. Sevyarynets and Statkevich were punished for staging a series of unauthorized demonstrations in Minsk against the official results of last October's parliamentary elections and national referendum. Their sentences were each subsequently reduced by one year under an amnesty law. Sevyarynets will have to live at the facility as of 15 August, find a job in a designated area, and report to the prison administration at an appointed time every day. "I'll hardly find anything to use my education as a geological engineer," Sevyarynets told Belapan. "I would be happy to serve as a state ideologist, but I will hardly be given this job," he added. JM

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made a number of political statements while visiting farms in Minsk Oblast on 12 August, Belarusian Television reported. In particular, Lukashenka said he expects that opposition to his rule will cease to exist following next year's presidential election. "Half of them [oppositionists] have already left the country," Lukashenka said. "Half of them own villas in the Czech Republic, Poland, the Baltic states, and Germany. Their interests are already there. They will struggle for a year and lose, and you will see that there won't be this half-dead opposition in our country any longer." Lukashenka also explained why he travels abroad so seldom. "On the whole, Belarusians take it badly when I leave the country," he said. "I feel it and therefore I do it rarely." JM

Ukrainian Deputy State Secretary Markiyan Lubkivskyy told journalists in Kyiv on 12 August that the production of a Russian film about a hypothetical love affair between Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is a "provocation," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and dpa reported. According to Russian media, Russian parliamentarian Aleksei Mitrofanov, a member for the Liberal Democrat Party of Russia, is financing the project and wrote most of the script for the film "Yuliya." It is reportedly not clear whether the film, once completed, will be erotic or pornographic in nature. "I think that this shooting, or the film, in no way pertains to our relations with the Russian Federation," Lubkivskyy said. "The idea to shoot such a film is a clear provocation." JM

Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Kosova, said in Prishtina on 14 August that the decentralization plan put forward by Kosova's government is a significant step forward, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 August 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 August and 17 December 2004). He said that he was recently very disappointed by some unspecified developments in Kosova but now feels more encouraged. He stressed that he will not discuss plans for Kosova's final status during his current visit to the Balkans, adding that the status issue is completely in the hands of Annan. PM

Slobodan Samardzic, an adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, said in Belgrade on 13 August that the current decentralization "Plan B" offers "nothing to the Serbs" because they will be in the minority in the two districts assigned to them, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He called on the Kosovar Albanians to make more concessions to the Serbian minority before Eide's upcoming visit to Belgrade. But Oliver Ivanovic, a leading Serbian politician in Kosova, said in Mitrovica that Belgrade is responsible for the "difficult situation" in which Kosova's Serbian minority now finds itself. Ivanovic stressed that Belgrade has taken a negative approach to decentralization and prevented local Serbs from getting involved on the ground (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 February 2005). PM

Former General Radosav Martinovic told the Podgorica daily "Pobjeda" of 15 August that Montenegro must have its own army, even if it remains within a joint state with Serbia ( Martinovic stressed that reforms are not proceeding fast enough in the Army of Serbia and Montenegro, adding that Montenegro could make more progress with its own separate military, whose members should serve exclusively within Montenegro. He proposed a structure consisting of 400 officers, 900 noncommissioned officers, 200 civilian employees, 1,200 soldiers and sailors serving on contract, and 400 short-term conscripts. Once a professional army is established, probably in 2007, all soldiers and sailors will be contract personnel. Until then, the conscripts will serve for two-month stints. One of the arguments used by Montenegrins favoring independence is that Montenegro is being held back in Euro-Atlantic integration by Serbia, which has been slower to institute important reforms. It is not clear, however, whether Montenegro will have its own army even if voters decide for independence in a proposed referendum. One model for independent Montenegro envisions some joint institutions with Serbia, including the military. PM

A Moldovan delegation is in Moscow to discuss the lifting of a ban on Moldovan horticultural imports to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 August. Russia banned imports of Moldovan fruits and vegetables in mid-May, claiming that Moldovan crop-protection measures were insufficient. Russia is Moldova's largest trade partner and accounts for 35.2 percent of Moldovan exports and 11.8 percent of imports, according to official Moldovan sources. In 2004, Moldova exported 180,000 tons of fruits and 9,600 tons of vegetables, 70 percent of which were shipped to the Russian Federation. JM

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on 14 August submitted a list of 21 proposed cabinet members to the legislature for approval. Parliament has until 21 August to hold its vote.

Ahmadinejad is 48, and the average age of the proposed ministers is 48 1/2, with the youngest aged 40 and the oldest aged 59. By contrast, former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami is in his early 60s. Ahmadinejad's cabinet selections further demonstrate the ascendancy of a new generation in the country's politics.

Five proposed ministers served with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), as did the president, and several others are veterans of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

Conservatives now dominate the parliament, but the approval of Ahmadinejad's list is not a certainty. On one hand, the legislature may grant the new president a "honeymoon" of sorts, but, on the other, this could be an instance in which age-cohort divisions come into play. Even within the Developers Coalition (Abadgaran), which backed Ahmadinejad's presidential bid, there are differences -- individuals connected with the Tehran municipal council versus legislators -- that could affect the approval process. There is already controversy about the nominees.

Given heightened international concern about Iran's nuclear activities, the country's proposed new foreign minister, defense minister, and Supreme National Security Council secretary will be of greatest interest. Two of these individuals have demonstrated nationalistic and hard-line stances on foreign-policy issues, while the third has kept out of the limelight.

Manuchehr Mottaki has been selected as foreign minister. Born in 1953, he joined the Foreign Ministry in 1984 and has had ambassadorships in Turkey and Japan. Mottaki is a serving parliamentarian and a member of the Abadgaran coalition. He currently heads the legislature's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, and he has used this platform to demand greater legislative involvement in Iran's nuclear negotiations.

Mottaki has criticized the United States for purportedly exerting excessive influence on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), "Tehran Times" reported on 14 June 2004, adding that the United States openly opposes Iran's gaining a civilian nuclear capability. Mottaki went on to say that Iran can resume uranium-enrichment activities whenever it wants, and it will not forgo this right. He took a more assertive stance on 2 April 2005, saying that "the Islamic Republic of Iran must give an ultimatum to Europe and resume its uranium-enrichment program," Fars News Agency reported. He warned that failure to do so would lead to irreparable but unspecified damages.

Mustafa Mohammad Najjar, who was born in 1956 and educated as a mechanical engineer, has been named minister of defense and armed forces logistics. A member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps since its creation in May 1979, he participated in suppression of a Kurdish insurgency in 1978-79. He appears to have had mostly administrative and logistical responsibilities since that time, including the establishment of medical facilities and hospitals. He has been involved with defense industries during much of his career, and he is on the board of directors of the Defense Industries Organization. Since 1982, according to, a website that is reportedly associated with Ahmadinejad, Najjar was responsible for the Middle East -- Lebanon, Palestine, and the Persian Gulf -- and has made frequent visits to Lebanon.

Another important position on the foreign-affairs team is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, which does not require parliamentary approval. The council's public-relations chief, Ali Aqamohammadi, said on 8 August that Ali Larijani's appointment as Supreme National Security Council secretary will come "soon," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Aqamohammadi added that the current secretary, Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, will stay on as the supreme leader's representative to the council. Larijani is already the supreme leader's representative to the council. Larijani is noted for his disapproval of Iran's nuclear negotiations with the European Union, saying at one time that Iran has traded "pearls for bonbons."

From the perspective of international observers, several other ministries bear watching. The American-educated Ali Saidlu was named as oil minister. He has served as Tehran's mayor since Ahmadinejad won the presidential election in June. Prospective Energy Minister Parviz Fattah was born in 1961 and has served with the IRGC, but he appears to have limited practical experience in the relevant areas. Ali-Reza Tahmasbi was proposed as industries and mines minister. Born in 1961, he earned a doctorate in Canada, performed military research for the IRGC (1985-87), and has worked for the legislative research center.

Three individuals who will have a significant impact on domestic policies are the ministers of intelligence and security, of interior, and of Islamic culture and guidance. Two of these individuals are alumni of the Haqqani school, an especially hard-line seminary.

The nominee for the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MIS) is Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei, a Haqqani alumnus who was born in 1956. He has a long background with the MIS, dating to its creation in the mid-1980s. He served with the MIS until 1990, then served with the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, then returned to the MIS as the judiciary's representative until the mid-1990s. Mohseni-Ejei served with the Special Court for the Clergy from 1995 until 2002-03, first as a prosecutor and then as its head.

Mohseni-Ejei is associated with Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri, the first intelligence and security minister, and their careers have paralleled one another. Reyshahri served as chief judge of the Military Revolutionary Tribunal in the immediate post-revolutionary period, headed the Intelligence and Security Ministry from 1984 until 1989, and later served as prosecutor of the Special Court for the Clergy.

Hussein Safar-Harandi, who was born in 1953, has been named as Islamic culture and guidance minister. With a degree in civil engineering, he served with the IRGC from 1980-94. From 1993-97 served with the Islamic Republic News Agency's strategy council. From 1994-2005, Safar-Harandi served as deputy managing director and editor in chief of "Kayhan," a hard-line daily associated with the Supreme Leader's Office.

Ahmadinejad submitted Haqqani school alumnus Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi, who was born in 1959, as his interior minister. From 1979-86 Purmohammadi served as a revolutionary prosecutor in Bandar Abbas, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Mashhad, and in 1986 he took over as military prosecutor in western Iran. According to and IRNA, he headed "foreign intelligence" (it is not clear for which organization, but presumably with the MIS) in 1990-99, and in 1987-99, he was a deputy intelligence minister. Purmohammadi also has served as an adviser to the Supreme Leader's Office since 2002 and is a member of the board of trustees of the Islamic Revolution Documents Center. This latter institution is run by another Haqqani alumnus, Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Husseinian.

Other positions of domestic relevance are education minister (Ali Akbar Ashari); health, treatment and medical-education minister (Kamran Baqeri Lankarani); and science, research, and technology minister (Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi). Individuals who could have an impact on business affairs are the economy minister (Davud Danesh-Jafari) and commerce minister (Masud Mir-Kazemi).

Proposed Transportation Minister Mohammad Rahmati is a member of former President Khatami's cabinet. Mohammad Saidi-Kia was nominated as housing and urban development minister. Born in 1946, he served as roads and transportation minister in 1985-93 in the cabinets of Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Musavi and President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. In 1997-2000, he served a construction jihad minister in Khatami's cabinet.

Other officials whose positions have a domestic impact are the cooperatives minister (Ali Reza Ali-Ahmadi), agriculture jihad minister (Mohammad-Reza Eskandari), and labor and social affairs minister (Mohammad Jahromi). Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad was nominated as justice minister. Mehdi hashemi was nominated as welfare and social security minister.

Ahmadinejad's list has met with criticism for a number of reasons. Pro-reform legislator Hadi Haqshenas stressed regionalism in his comments, which appeared in the 14 August "Etemad." He complained that half the proposed cabinet members are from Isfahan and very few are from the northern part of Iran.

Gender is an issue as well. Maryam Behruzi, political secretary of the Followers of the Imam and Leadership Front, predicted that Ahmadinejad would not have any women in his cabinet, "Mardom Salari" reported on 6 August. Behruzi, who also serves as secretary of the conservative women's party called the Zeynab Society, added that Ahmadinejad has yet to respond to the request of 10 women's parties and groups for a meeting.

After the cabinet was introduced, Fatemeh Rakei, a female member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party, said the list contradicts Ahmadinejad's early promises of inclusiveness, the Iranian Students News Agency reported on 14 August. "There is no mention of women on Mr. Ahmadinejad's proposed list," she said. "We thought that even if for appearances' sake, the names of one or two women would be on the list, but it did not happen." Rakei went on to say that several of the individuals tapped by the president are relatively unknown, while others have a distinct ideological tendency.

Rakei noted that the president's choices could have an international impact. "In today's world that is moving toward democracy, such decisions will have immediate global repercussions and will encounter political and international pressure," she said.

Mujtaba Shakeri, a member of the hard-line Islamic Revolution Devotees Society, told the Iranian Labor News Agency on 14 August that Ahmadinejad could have made better choices. However, he approved of the president's choice of relative unknowns. "The price of rotating the elite is that well-known faces will have to be put aside to make room for the younger players," he said. "The parliament should take the trouble of learning about the new faces and vote for them so that the president's ideals will be realized."

Afghan security forces and U.S. troops captured a key neo-Taliban commander in southeastern Afghanistan on 13 August, AFP reported. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara said the joint raid led to the arrest of Qari Baba, who served as governor of Ghazni Province during the Taliban's rule. Baba is believed to be responsible for attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in the province. O'Hara said Baba was captured in his home in Andar district, where a cache of machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, cell phones, and ammunition was also found. MR

Foreign fighters and funding for insurgents are flowing into Afghanistan ahead of the run-up to September's parliamentary elections, AP reported 14 August. "This area is full of foreigners -- Pakistanis, Chechens, Arabs," said Kirimat Tanhah, an Afghan Special Forces commander in Kunar Province. "Weapons caches have been hidden and the local villagers are being paid to fight." Lieutenant Colonel Peter Munster, a U.S. Army commander in Kunar, said the increased militant activity in the area seems to be intended to ramp up insurgent operations aimed at derailing the country's 18 September parliamentary elections. "They are coming in with money and throwing it around," Munster said. "This is a poor area. People can be bought." He added: "I [sic] got them all: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hig [fighters loyal to renegade former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar], foreign fighters, smugglers, and other criminals.... They are like the mafia." MR

U.S. and Afghan military forces launched a joint counterinsurgency offensive in Kunar Province on 13 August, AP reported the next day. The offensive initially targeted the Korengal Valley near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. The new campaign is the largest operation against neo-Taliban fighters in the area since June, when twin insurgent attacks left 19 U.S. soldiers dead. U.S. and Afghan commanders believe the valley is home to hundreds of Afghan rebels, as well as guerilla fighters from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Chechnya who are intent on disrupting the 18 September parliamentary elections. "We want them running for their lives way up in the hills where they can't attack polling stations," said U.S. Marine Captain John Moshane. "We want to isolate them from the community." Moshane said the offensive will probably last for at least two weeks. MR

Ten Afghans accused of abducting three UN election workers following October's presidential election appeared in a Kabul court on 13 August, "The New York Times" reported. Among the 10 suspects are three alleged leaders of criminal organizations. The three UN election experts were released three weeks after their abduction and just days after the presidential election. MR

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad submitted his list of prospective cabinet members to the legislature on 14 August, international news agencies reported. Each minister must secure a vote of confidence from the legislature. Female politicians are reportedly complaining that none of the nominees are women, according to ISNA. Other complaints are that several of the nominees have little experience and are relatively unknown, the news agency reported. Two of the nominees have served in previous cabinets. Proposed transportation minister Mohammad Rahmati is a member of former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's cabinet. Mohammad Saidi-Kia, who has been nominated as housing and urban-development minister, served from 1985-93 as roads and transport minister in the cabinets of Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Musavi and President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. From 1997-2000 he served as construction jihad minister in Khatami's cabinet. Five prospective cabinet members have a background in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and several others served in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. BS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 14 August that the United Kingdom is behind recent unrest in the southwestern Khuzestan Province, IRNA and Fars News Agency reported. Assefi said those responsible for the unrest trained at British bases in southeastern Iraq. Fars News Agency reported on 13 August that Iranian security forces recently arrested two Arabs from a country bordering Iraq who reportedly infiltrated Iran from an area controlled by the United Kingdom. There is evidence that these individuals are connected with Al-Qaeda, according to Fars. Moreover, the two reportedly were present during recent unrest in Iran's Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces. The Iranian accusations could be a tit-for-tat response to British complaints to the Foreign Ministry regarding the capture of Iranian-made explosives in Iraq, as reported by "The Guardian" on 11 August. BS

Attorney Nemat Ahmadi, who represents detained blogger Afshin Zarei, said on 14 August that his client has been detained for more than eight months, ILNA reported. Ahmadi said this continuing detention is illegal. Zarei is charged with "insulting the [supreme] leader and sanctities." BS

The Iraqi National Assembly is to hold an extraordinary session at 6 p.m. local time on 15 August in expectation that the constitutional committee will submit a draft constitution, international media reported on 15 August. Members of the drafting committee remain optimistic that they will meet the 15 August deadline. President Jalal Talabani met late into the night of 14-15 August together with Shi'ite leaders, Sunni Arabs, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and UN envoy Ashraf Qazi, reported on 15 August. However, Shi'ite heavyweight Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim failed to appear for a late-night meeting with Kurdish officials at Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's headquarters, reported on 15 August. Some media outlets are suggesting that the National Assembly may consider immediately amending the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) if a completed draft is not submitted. Under the terms of the TAL, should the drafting committee fail to submit a draft by the 15 August deadline, the National Assembly will be dissolved, and elections for a new assembly will be held no later than 15 December. The subsequent National Assembly will then have up to one year to draw up a new draft constitution. KR

An Internet statement attributed to fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn on 13 August warned Sunni Arab imams against encouraging Iraqis to participate in a referendum on the constitution ( The statement says that jihadist fighters expect Sunni imams to be "war advocates" who help guide youth to jihad, and are disappointed to find that some imams fail to "recognize the value of their position." The statement accuses these imams of disrupting the march of jihad either knowingly or unknowingly "through their enthusiastic call for the participation in drafting the constitution and joining the ranks of the infidels." The statement asks Sunni imams: "Are you satisfied with the legislation offered by Talabani, Barzani, and al-Sistani? Are you satisfied with forsaking the rule of Shari'a [law]?" KR

Police in Al-Hillah have uncovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 30 people, including two women, near the town of Uwayrij, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 14 July. Police believe the victims were tortured before being shot and buried about six months ago. "The Washington Post" reported on 15 July that the victims were police officers and government workers, many of whom were bludgeoned beyond recognition. KR

Gunmen killed three Iraqi soldiers and wounded two others in a dawn attack on a checkpoint south of Ba'qubah on 15 August, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. A military spokesman said that the gunmen attacked soldiers manning the checkpoint with grenades and machine-gun fire. The television channel reported that the area where the attack took place has witnessed several clashes and confrontations between security forces and insurgents. The two injured soldiers are reportedly in serious condition at Ba'qubah General Hospital. Meanwhile, police tracked but failed to capture a suicide bomber in Al-Mahawil, south of Baghdad, on 14 August, Al-Sharqiyah reported on 15 August. An Interior Ministry spokesman said police reportedly chased the suspected bomber through an open market and shot him. The bomber then blew himself up, killing himself and a bystander, and wounding four. KR