PUTIN PREDICTS ACCEPTABLE SOLUTION TO DISPUTE OVER KURILES...
Speaking in a major teleconference on 27 September in which he took questions from all over Russia and from ethnic Russians outside the country, President Vladimir Putin said residents of the Kuriles can be certain that those islands will remain under Russian jurisdiction, RTR reported. "The Kurile Islands are under Russian sovereignty as a result of World War II and that status is recognized under international law," Putin said, adding, "This is the position from which we are negotiating, but we think it is possible to find a solution to this problem that suits both Russia and Japan, as well as the residents of the islands." VY
...AND WARNS OF THREAT FROM INFLATION, GAS PRICES
President Putin told members of the cabinet on 26 September that he is unhappy over the recent growth in inflation and in domestic gasoline prices, Russian news agencies reported. Inflation could top 10 percent, while rapid fuel price increases are damaging the agricultural, law-enforcement, and defense sectors -- which all consume considerable amounts of diesel fuel -- Putin warned. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov reportedly assured Putin that annual inflation will not exceed 10 percent, Channel One reported. Zhukov also said the government is prepared to allocate a further 15 billion rubles ($530 million) in the budget for fuel subsidies for regions and sectors suffering under the price rises. Gazeta.ru reported on 26 September that the government misinformed Putin over inflation developments, adding that the Trade and Economic Development Ministry estimates that inflation might reach 11-11.5 percent for the year. VY
RUSSIAN AIR COMMANDER LASHES OUT AT LITHUANIAN COUNTERPARTS
Army General Vladimir Mikhailov, who commands Russian air forces, said in Pskov on 26 September that the recent crash of a Russian aircraft in Lithuania is a "shameful case" that demonstrates the "complete uselessness of the Lithuanian air force and air defenses," RTR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 September 2005). "They lost a large aircraft in a small republic," Mikhailov said. "Their interceptors went off 20 minutes after our aircraft had crashed." Lithuanian Defense Minister Gedimanis Karkalas has since discharged the commander of Lithuania's air force, Colonel Ionas Marcinkus, for "indecent behavior," international media reported. In an interview with NTV, Marcinkus admitted drinking gin at the site of the Russian crash. Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika foundation, said on RTR on 25 September that Russia and NATO should elaborate "measures of trust" at their common border. "If Lithuanian forces were more seriously prepared and had shot down a Russian aircraft, all of this could lead to a conflict between Russia and NATO, not [between] Russia and Lithuania," Nikonov said. Lithuanian air forces presently comprise four U.S.-manufactured F-4 Phantom jets from the Vietnam era piloted by German pilots, RTR reported. VY
PROSECUTORS HALT INVESTIGATION OF FORMER UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER AFTER MOSCOW VISIT
Russian military prosecutors announced on 26 September that they are no longer seeking the arrest of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on suspicion of fraud and bribery, gazeta.ru and other media reported. The investigators reportedly said an international arrest warrant is also being rescinded. Tymoshenko voluntarily came to the military prosecutors' offices in Moscow on 24 September, provided adequate explanations, and agreed to cooperate in the investigation, prosecutors said. Tymoshenko's Moscow visit was kept quiet but coordinated with Russian authorities, as she passed through customs and border checkpoints, gazeta.ru reported. The Ukrainian Embassy in Russia declined to comment on the visit, noting that it was a private affair. But Tymoshenko adviser Dmitrii Vydrin suggested to gazeta.ru that the recently dismissed prime minister might have met with President Putin while in the Russian capital. "I cannot exclude that she met with Putin; in any case, such a meeting could have happened," Vydrin said. Moscow has long regarded Tymoshenko as an anti-Russian politician, but her new role as a possible counterweight to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko "is a very valuable quality" in Moscow's eyes, NTV commented on 26 September. In an interview with the Ukrainian television station 1+1 on 26 September, Tymoshenko said she intentionally came to Moscow to protest her innocence now that she no longer enjoys diplomatic immunity, adding that she did not see any other officials than investigators. VY
PROBE INTO ALLEGED CHUBAIS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT COMPLETED
The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 26 September that it has brought indictments against suspects in connection with its investigation into the apparent attempt on the life of former Finance Minister and current Unified Energy Systems (EEF) head Anatolii Chubais in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 29 March, 21 and 22 April, and 3 May 2005), rbk.ru reported. Investigators named as suspected participants in a criminal assault: Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, a veteran of the military intelligence, and his son Aleksandr; former paratroopers Robert Yashin, Aleksandr Naidenov, and Ivan Mironov. Mironov is the son of former Yeltsin-era Press Minister Boris Mironov. The crime was committed on the basis of "extremist convictions and personal hostility toward Chubais," according to the indictment as quoted by rbk.ru. Kvachkov allegedly prepared an explosive device and detonated it, while the others sprayed Chubais's motorcade with machine-gun fire. Kvachkov and the others have categorically denied any involvement in the incident. VY
OPPOSITION YOUTH GROUPS CREATE UNITED YOUTH LEAGUE
Sergei Shergunov, the leader of the Motherland youth organization, announced on 26 September that his association has signed an accord to create an umbrella organization along with the Left Radical Avant-Garde of Red Youth (AKM) youth group, elements of the National Bolshevik Party, and the Yabloko youth movement Oborona, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2005). The new organization is called the League of United Youth (LOM). Shergunov said the project is aimed at "fighting the alliance of oligarchs and bureaucrats in the hope of a change of power and a change of [political] generations," RFE/RL reported. Shergunov added that LOM, which means "crowbar" in Russian, was created ahead of the Moscow Duma elections of 4 December and that the organization's first act will probably be the "public alternate vote count at a Moscow square." "We are against Orange Revolutions, but we will use their methods," Shergunov said, according to RFE/RL. VY
ANALYST CALLS SPS/YABLOKO ALLIANCE A GAMBLE
The alliance between Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) for the December elections to the Moscow City Duma might help Russia's "democrats," but it could backfire by alienating core supporters of both parties, according to political analyst Dmitrii Oreshkin, head of the Merkator group. The failure of either Yabloko or the SPS to win 5 percent in the 2003 State Duma elections, combined with the 10 percent threshold for winning proportional-representation seats in the Moscow Duma, trumped a long history of discord between Yavlinskii and prominent politicians who are associated with the SPS. As a result, the parties formed a joint party list and coordinated candidates in Moscow's single-mandate districts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). Speaking to polit.ru on 24 September, Oreshkin suggested two possible outcomes: If Yabloko and SPS supporters act on deep-seated policy differences -- relating to privatization, economics, and the exercise of presidential power in the 1990s -- the alliance will receive just 5-8 percent of the vote in the Moscow Duma race; alternatively, if voters react primarily to shrinking freedom in the Putin era, the alliance will pay off, yielding more than 10 percent of the vote. LB
UNIFIED RUSSIA'S 'LIBERAL-CONSERVATIVE' WING DRAFTS ECONOMIC POLICY
Duma Constitutional Legislation Committee Chairman Vladimir Pligin and Valerii Fadeev, editor in chief of the weekly magazine "Ekspert," are spearheading an effort to draft a new economic doctrine for adoption by the Unified Russia party, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 September. Some 150 people, including economic specialists and representatives of the business community as well as politicians, will help prepare the document, which organizers hope will be ready for discussion at the Unified Russia congress scheduled for late November in Krasnoyarsk. Pligin told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the doctrine will flesh out a "liberal-conservative idea" for economic development. Speaking to journalists on 26 September, Fadeev characterized the current economic approach of the country's leaders as a doctrine of "postponed decisions," polit.ru reported. Pligin declined to name those who will help draft the policy blueprint, but he confirmed rumors that new Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Georgii Boos is interested in the work. "Vedomosti" on 26 September summarized the main points of an early draft of the new doctrine, which lays out ambitious goals for the Russian economy over the next 20 years and calls for more state investment, particularly in the energy sector, and reduced taxes. LB
STAVROPOL GOVERNOR ASKS PUTIN FOR EARLY EXPRESSION OF CONFIDENCE
Stavropol Krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov has notified President Putin that he is giving up his authority before the end of his term and is seeking a vote of confidence from the president, Interfax reported on 26 September. Chernogorov defeated the incumbent governor of Stavropol in 1996 with Communist backing. He won reelection in 2000, and his second term expires in December of this year. Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitrii Kozak, was due to submit a list of candidates for Stavropol governor to Putin by 29 September. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 September, representatives of Unified Russia in Stavropol have sharply criticized Chernogorov, and the governor was rumored to have slim chances of landing on Kozak's list of candidates. "Kommersant-Daily" also reported that Chernogorov has been planning to ask Putin for an early indication of confidence since the spring but was unable to schedule a face-to-face meeting until 12 September, when the two men met during the president's vacation in Sochi. To date, Putin has renominated all of the governors who resigned their offices early and sought an expression of confidence from the president. LB
RYZHKOV AND KHAKAMADA DENIED FORUM TO SPEAK IN TOMSK
State Duma Deputies Vladimir Ryzhkov and Irina Khakamada were unable to hold planned meetings with voters in Tomsk on 26 September, Interfax reported. Ryzhkov, the leader of the Republican Party of Russia, and Khakamada, who heads the Our Choice party, have formed an electoral bloc called Our Choice Is Tomsk to compete in the 9 October elections to the city legislature. Khakamada's press secretary, Konstantin Lazarev, told Interfax that three universities in Tomsk refused to allow Khakamada and Ryzhkov to meet with students and teachers on their premises despite the fact that the politicians had previously received permission to hold the events. Ryzhkov told Interfax that the members of the regional branch exerted pressure on rectors at the universities. He added that Our Choice Is Tomsk is campaigning on a platform of improving living standards, not political slogans. LB
KIROV PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER FOUND DEAD
Valerii Kaisin, the chairman of the Kirov Oblast Legislative Assembly, was found dead on the morning of 25 September, Russian news agencies reported. The cause of death was a shot in the head fired from a hunting rifle, which lay next to his body in a garage that Kaisin owned. Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the shooting. RIA-Novosti on 26 September cited a source in Kirov law-enforcement agencies as saying that investigators are considering several possible causes of death, including suicide and an accident caused by careless handling of a firearm. Suggesting a possible motive for suicide, the Regnum news agency reported that Kaisin was suffering from cancer, according to newsru.com on 26 September. Kaisin had served as speaker of the Kirov legislature since December 2003; before that he was deputy speaker of that body for nine years. LB
"RFE/RL Newsline" on 26 September incorrectly reported the composition of the Yabloko party list for the Moscow City Duma elections. According to gazeta.ru and newsru.com on 26 September, the list contains 28 candidates, of whom 20 are Yabloko members, six are SPS members, one is a Green Party member, and one represents the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee.
ARMENIAN ELECTION DISPUTE ENDS IN KILLING
Armen Keshishian, mayor of the small town of Nor Hajn near Yerevan, was taken into custody on 24 September on suspicion of having fatally shot a rival candidate in the mayoral elections scheduled for 9 October, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Keshishian, who enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, reportedly tried to halt the construction of a children's playground that his rival, Armen Mkhitarian, began without first obtaining official permission from Keshishian's office. Mkhitarian was reportedly an associate of oligarch Gagik Tsarukian. Meanwhile, according to preliminary returns, independent incumbent acting Mayor Gagik Beglarian won the 25 September mayoral election in Yerevan's largest and wealthiest district, Kentron, with 86 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 26 September. Ruzanna Khachatrian, a rival candidate from the opposition Artarutiun alliance, won just 12 percent; voter turnout was 43 percent, according to Noyan Tapan. Observers from the Council of Europe said they witnessed no violations, but Khachatrian claimed that Beglarian supporters were allowed to vote four or five times. Beglarian's campaign manager rejected as untrue earlier allegations by Khachatrian that Beglarian sought to bribe her representatives. LF
ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER AWARDED EUROPEAN PRIZE
Vartan Oskanian was presented with the Grosso d'Oro Veneziano prize in Verona on 26 September in recognition of his services in promoting Armenian-Italian ties and Armenia's European integration, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Oskanian is only the second non-Italian to have received the award after former Slovenian President Milan Kucan. LF
ARMENIA ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF FIGHTER AIRCRAFT
Armenia purchased 10 Soviet-made Su-25 fighter jets from Slovakia in 2004, Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekian told journalists on 24 September, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Aghabekian did not disclose the cost of the aircraft, which he said are combat-ready and "are being constantly upgraded." The Su-25, codenamed Frogfoot, is primarily designed to attack ground forces with air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided and cluster bombs. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' compilation "The Military Balance, 2003-04," Armenia had eight combat aircraft and 10 combat helicopters in 2003. LF
AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON PUBLIC RALLIES
Representatives of the opposition Azadlyq election bloc and the presidential administration resumed talks on 26 September that they began the previous day at the suggestion of U.S. Ambassador Reno Harnish on a compromise venue for opposition campaign rallies but failed to reach agreement on the issue, Turan reported. Police resorted to violence on 25 September to break up an unauthorized campaign rally in central Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). The opposition on 26 September again proposed six alternative venues, all but one of which are smaller, but closer to the city center, than the three sites suggested by the authorities, echo-az.com reported on 27 September. The talks will continue on 29 September. The presidential-administration representatives agreed on 26 September to expedite the release of several dozen rally participants detained on 25 September. LF
GEORGIA DELAYS ULTIMATUM TO RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS
The Georgian parliamentary bureau decided on 26 September to delay by several days the planned debate on a draft resolution calling for the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force from the South Ossetian conflict zone, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported. Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanadze said Tbilisi will give the peacekeepers two to three months to demonstrate their ability to implement their mandate. Parliamentarian Elena Tevdoradze told Caucasus Press on 26 September that Georgia will raise with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) the possibility of replacing the Russian peacekeeping contingent with an international force. LF
GEORGIA REJECTS SOUTH OSSETIAN SHOOTING ALLEGATION
The Georgian Defense Ministry rejected on 26 September a statement earlier that day by the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia claiming that shots were fired on 20 September on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali from Georgian-populated villages using U.S.-made M-16 rifles, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian Defense Ministry denied that the Georgian armed forces have any such weapons. LF
GEORGIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS REMANDED IN CONNECTION WITH FAULTY EQUIPMENT
Three former members of the Georgian armed forces' general staff were sentenced on 23 September to three-months pretrial detention, ITAR-TASS reported. The three are suspected of involvement in the procurement from Ukraine last year of 40 armored personnel carriers that broke down the first time they were used in maneuvers. The Defense Ministry claims the APCs were inoperational when they were purchased, but kavkazweb.net on 26 September quoted Georgian defense expert Irakli Aladashvili as saying they might have been damaged by inappropriate use. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PRESENTS NEW GOVERNMENT TO PARLIAMENT
President Kurmanbek Bakiev presented Kyrgyzstan's parliament with the structure and personnel makeup of his new government on 26 September, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Akipress.org reported the proposed cabinet as follows: Daniyar Usenov, first deputy prime minister; Adakhan Madumarov, deputy prime minister; Ismail Isakov, defense minister; Murat Sutalinov, interior minister; Roza Otunbaeva, foreign minister; Marat Kayipov, justice minister; Akylbek Japarov, economics and finance minister; Almazbek Atambaev, minister of industry, commerce, and tourism; Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, transportation and communications minister; Abdimalik Anarbaev, minister of agriculture, water, and processing industry; Janysh Rustenbekov, emergency situations minister; Shailoobek Niyazov, health minister; Nur uluu Dosbol, minister of education, science, and youth policy; Toktokan Borombaeva, culture minister; and Alevtina Pronenko, minister of labor and social welfare. DK
FORMER KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PLANS PUBLIC STATEMENT ON DISMISSAL
Former Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov has sent a letter to President Bakiev informing him that he plans to address the issue of his recent dismissal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2005) at a public rally in Bishkek's central square on 28 September, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 26 September. A committee formed in Beknazarov's defense claimed that thousands of his supporters will gather to hear him speak. A large number of Beknazarov's supporters demonstrated on 25 September in his native Aksy District to voice their displeasure over his dismissal and demand his reinstatement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). DK
RISING GAS PRICES HAVE RIPPLE EFFECT IN TAJIKISTAN
A sudden spike in gas prices has led to a 10 percent increase in the price of basic food products in Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 26 September. The price of one liter of 96-octane gasoline in Dushanbe has risen from 1.8 somonis on 22 September to 3 somonis ($1), with similar price rises in other parts of the country. Officials at the state-run Naftrason gas company said that the price hike has resulted from the rising cost of petroleum products in Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, which provide the bulk of Tajikistan's fuel imports. Moreover, those countries have limited sales in connection with harvest season. DK
DEFENDANT IN UZBEK TERROR TRIAL SUGGESTS U.S. EMBASSY FINANCED ANDIJON UNREST
A defendant in the ongoing trial of the alleged organizers of the violence in Andijon in May testified on 26 September that the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent might have financed it, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Tavakkal Hojiev told the court that he heard from Qobil Parpiev, who has been identified by Uzbek authorities as one of the masterminds behind the violence, that the U.S. Embassy provided funds for the uprising in Andijon. Queried by a lawyer for additional details, Hojiev said: "A big sum went for weapons and cars. They held a demonstration in front of the court in Andijon. There were a lot of expenses for food and clothes for the people who showed up there over the course of three months.... It was clear to everyone that the funds came from the foreign ringleaders." AP quoted Hojiev as saying, "I was told that our people received money from the American Embassy." The news agency reported that a U.S. Embassy official who attended the trial, Alexander Schrank, would not comment on the allegations. President Islam Karimov is due to meet with a high-level U.S. delegation in Tashkent, the "Washington Post" reported on 24 September. That delegation, which should include Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Daniel Fried, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense James McDougall, and National Security Council senior staff member David Merkel, is set to voice concerns about human rights violations in Uzbekistan and discuss regional security issues. The report said that the delegation would not seek a reversal of Uzbekistan's 29 July request that the United States vacate the Karshi-Khanabad air base in Uzbekistan in 180 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2005). DK
BELARUSIAN COURT FINES TWO NEWSPAPER EDITORS
A district court in Minsk on 23 September fined Alyaksey Karol, editor in chief of the newspaper "Zhoda," and his deputy Alyaksandr Zdvizhkou, 2.55 million rubles ($1,300) each, finding them guilty of disseminating "deliberately false information," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 26 September. Karol told journalists on 26 September that they were fined for publishing composite photographs in the paper. "We pasted images of prominent political figures, who were not necessarily government officials, into classic paintings," Karol explained. Established in 1992, the weekly has a print run of 5,000 copies. Meanwhile, Iosif Syaredzich -- editor in chief of "Narodnaya volya," Belarus's only independent daily -- told Belapan on 27 September that his newspaper may cease to appear in the coming days. Syaredzich said the authorities have frozen the daily's banking account and seized a large batch of newsprint following a fine of 100 million rubles ($46,500) imposed on the newspaper in a defamation suit in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REPORTEDLY MAKES NEW CABINET APPOINTMENTS
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has appointed a dozen ministers to Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov's cabinet, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported on 27 September, quoting "informed sources" in the government. There are reportedly seven new faces in the current cabinet, compared with the previous one led by Yuliya Tymoshenko. They are: First Deputy Prime Minister Stanislav Stashevskyy, Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Issues Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, Deputy Prime Minister for Regional Policy Roman Bezsmertnyy, Economy Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloha, Construction Minister Pavlo Kachur, and Labor Minister Ivan Sakhan. Former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh became secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko retained their posts in the new government. JM
SACKED UKRAINIAN PREMIER DISCLOSES POLITICAL PLANS
Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was dismissed as prime minister by President Yushchenko on 8 September, said on the 1+1 television channel on 26 September that she is planning to regain her post after the 2006 parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Answering a question about her political allies in the elections, Tymoshenko said they will include -- apart from members of her eponymous bloc -- former State Secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko, ex-Security Service chief Oleksandr Turchynov, and ex-Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko. She added that she will also hold talks on forging an election coalition with the Reforms and Order Party, the Pora movement, and other forces that "will help fulfill the tasks set by the Maydan [Kyiv's Independent Square as the main rostrum of the Orange Revolution]." Tymoshenko stressed that she is not going to form an election alliance with the Regions of Ukraine Party of ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych or the Social Democratic Party-united of former presidential-administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk. JM
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS KYIV MEDIATION OFFER
Ukrainian Acting Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau in Kyiv on 26 September, Ukrainian and Belarusian media reported. "We are ready to act as a friendly side, a friendly partner regarding the problems Belarus has with the Council of Europe and the European Union," Tarasyuk said at a joint news conference later the same day. "[Belarus], as a sovereign state, will make its own decisions about processes taking place in its society and it does not need outside help, with all respect to brotherly Ukraine," Martynau said, answering a journalist's question about Ukraine's potential role in democratizing Belarus. It was agreed, however, that next month Ukrainian Premier Yekhanurov will visit Minsk and President Yushchenko will meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka either in the southeastern Belarusian town Homel or at a location near the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, which is in northern Ukraine. JM
BOSNIAN SERBS TO SUE HIGH REPRESENTATIVE
Bosnia-Herzegovina's governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) leadership agreed late on 26 September to sue High Representative Paddy Ashdown in the United Kingdom or in another EU country because the economic measures he recently announced against the party are likely to lead to what the SDS called its "complete financial collapse," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The SDS expects to receive within two days the support of the other governing parties, namely the Croatian Democratic Community and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action. If those parties do not back the SDS, it will call for a vote of confidence in the Bosnian central government and withdraw from the governing majority in the parliament. Republika Srpska and SDS President Dragan Cavic said that the party has become "radicalized." Ashdown has repeatedly warned the Bosnian Serb leadership to accept the EU's proposed police reform but has stopped short of issuing a widely-expected ban on the uncooperative SDS (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 September 2005). PM
SERBIA PROPOSES EX-GENERAL WITH TIES TO WAR CRIMES FUGITIVE AS DEFENSE MINISTER
The Serbian government backs former General Zoran Stankovic to replace Serbia and Montenegro's outgoing defense minister, Prvoslav Davinic, who has offered his resignation, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 27 September. Montenegro, which has sought the post for one of its own citizens, must first approve the choice along with Serbia, which pays about 95 percent of the ministry's budget. Serbian President Boris Tadic has already criticized the possible appointment, saying recently that he knows "no other country seeking EU and NATO membership that has a former general as defense minister." Stankovic, who is a pathologist and former director of Belgrade's military hospital, reportedly developed a close friendship with fugitive war crimes indictee and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic after performing an autopsy on Mladic's daughter, who committed suicide in March 1994. Some Belgrade media report that the Serbian authorities hope that Stankovic could persuade Mladic to surrender voluntarily to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Stankovic has denied that he is willing or able to help deliver Mladic, with whom he says he has lost contact (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 July and 9 September 2005). PM
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT TAKES INDEPENDENCE BEFORE THE EU
Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 26 September that independence takes precedence over quick EU membership for him, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Meanwhile in Vienna, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic rejected Serbian President Tadic's recent statement that Montenegro cannot become independent without a prior agreement with Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). PM
FOUR DEAD IN MONTENEGRIN HELICOPTER CRASH INVOLVING CONTROVERSIAL ARMS FIRM
A helicopter belonging to the Mile Dragic military equipment company, which is at the center of the scandal that forced Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Davinic to quit, crashed on 26 September near Zabljak in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Montenegrin police said that four people were killed, including one U.S. and one French citizen, and that the probable cause of the crash was contact between the propeller and a power line. An investigation is under way. PM
EU REPRESENTATIVE SAYS KOSOVA STATUS TALKS LIKELY IN 2005
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said in Paris on 26 September that talks on Kosova's final status are likely to begin before the end of 2005, after Norway's Kai Eide presents his long-awaited report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Reuters reported. "To say this will be a delicate [negotiating] process is an understatement," Solana argued. He added that "not only do Belgrade and Prishtina hold diametrically opposing views, but both also lack a stable political leadership [that is] able to take tough decisions." Without mentioning the United States or NATO, Solana also called for a strong EU role in Kosova. "The importance of continued EU engagement [in Kosova] cannot be overstated. More than any other region in the world, this is a European responsibility. Simply put, we cannot afford to fail." In related news, Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina that Kosova's current status is "unsustainable," adding that he expects Annan to call a Security Council meeting to discuss Kosova's final status in mid-October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June, 23 August, and 22 September 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 21 January 2005). PM
MACEDONIA STILL HOPEFUL ON EU ADMISSION
Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said in Vienna on 26 September that he hopes that the European Commission will give his country the green light to start admission talks in November so that Macedonia can begin negotiations as a candidate for membership in 2006 and join the Brussels-based bloc by 2010, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 February, 17 June, and 1 July 2005). He said that it is important for Macedonia that Kosova be an "orderly territory," adding that his government will accept any settlement there agreeable to Prishtina, Belgrade, and the international community. PM
TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIAL SUGGESTS LEGITIMIZATION OF SECESSONIST REGIME VIA PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT
Transdniester Supreme Soviet speaker Grigorii Marakutsa told the Tiraspol-based Olvia-Press news agency on 26 September that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's plan calling for democratic parliamentary elections in Transdniester under international monitoring this year might be tied to a presidential ballot planned in the region next year. "There are precedents in the world when the legitimization of a state or its authorities was started not from parliament," Marakutsa said. "The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it needs 240 days to technically prepare elections under international monitoring. Today we have not 240 but 440 days until the presidential election [in Transdniester].... Let [the OSCE] join us, and we will hold legitimate, democratic, internationally observed elections of the president of the Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic." On 11 December, Transdniester will hold legislative elections, which will not be monitored by the OSCE. JM
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT REACTS TO IAEA NUCLEAR RESOLUTION
As the Iranian government tries to come to grips with what could be the most harshly worded international statement on its nuclear program to date, the country's legislature is preparing a bill that would suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted on 24 September a tough resolution that says the nuclear watchdog, "after two and a half years of intensive inspections," remains unclear on "some important outstanding issues." "Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue," it continues, adding that the agency questions Iran's motives for not declaring certain factors and "pursuing a policy of containment." The resolution does not refer Iran to the UN Security Council, but it does hint at this possibility by noting that some of the outstanding questions are "within the competence of the Security Council."
The resolution was approved by a vote of 22 in favor, 1 against (Venezuela), and 12 abstentions.
Iranian officials initially tried to put a positive spin on this development. Javad Vaidi, spokesman for the Iranian delegation in Vienna, said on 24 September, "America and Britain have failed in their plan to refer Iran's nuclear case to the Security Council," Fars News Agency reported. Vaidi rejected the idea that the resolution expressed the concerns of the international community as a whole. "Today's decision at the Board of Governors against Iran's nuclear file was adopted under pressures exerted by America and Britain," he said.
The reaction in Tehran was slightly different. "In our view, this resolution is illegal and unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said, according to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on 24 September. The fact that the resolution went to a vote, Assefi said approvingly, is a sign of the lack of consensus in the board.
Speaking at Mehrabad airport after his trip to New York, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki was more reserved. "The Islamic republic will announce its stance on the resolution adopted by the governing board Saturday night within a few days," he said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. This stance will undoubtedly reflect the foreign minister's consultations with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Supreme National Security Council. "We insist on our sovereign rights and will use all diplomatic channels to defend these rights," Mottaki said. "But the resolution has no legal basis and is completely unacceptable."
The loudest expression of outrage came from the legislature. Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel thanked Venezuela for its vote against the resolution and the other 12 countries for their abstentions, Iranian state radio reported. But he questioned how the resolution could ask Iran to ratify the Additional Protocol of the NPT, saying the legislature would never ratify an agreement that is contrary to Iran's rights. "[Iran] will not submit to bullying and irrational demands which are nothing but hostile excuses," Haddad-Adel said.
A statement from the legislature denounced the IAEA resolution as "unfair and dictatorial," state television reported, and said that Iran's "positive and transparent measures" had been ignored. The statement said the inspection privileges given to the IAEA went beyond what is legally required. The statement called on Ahmadinejad to hasten his implementation of the legislature's demand for the generation of 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power. The legislature also summoned Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani to discuss the issue.
Earlier in the day, the hard-line parliamentary representative from Tabriz, Hojatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Reza Mir-Tajedini, said a bill to suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol has been prepared, Fars News Agency reported. One hundred parliamentarians have signed the bill already, he said, and more signatures are being collected.
The bill says the government must suspend its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol within a week of the country's nuclear file being referred to "any other organization of international center" -- the UN Security Council, in other words. Subsequently, Iran would only comply with the NPT and related safeguards agreements.
The legislature's action is not, in practical terms, of overwhelming significance. The government adopted the Additional Protocol unilaterally in October 2003. When asked if parliamentary ratification was not required, government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said at the time that the Supreme Leader had approved all the negotiations related to the Additional Protocol. "Given the fact that what has been accomplished so far has been approved by the highest authority in the land, it is not likely to face any difficulty," Ramezanzadeh said, IRNA reported on 22 October 2003.
The greater relevance of the legislature's action is that, as the "house of the nation," it is supposed to represent Iranians. Just as the legislators are portraying the IAEA governing board resolution as an insult and a violation of the country's sovereignty and rights, this is the impression that will be conveyed to the Iranian people. They are not likely to realize that international concern over the Iranian nuclear program relates to their government's two decades of deception and obfuscation, as well as to doubts about why a country that is so rich in oil and gas resources would need nuclear power.
PAKISTANI ARMY SEIZES HEAVY WEAPONS ALONG AFGHAN BORDER
Pakistani forces have seized a large cache of weapons from the Mohmand Agency near the border with Afghanistan, Dubai-based Geo TV reported on 26 September. The weapons include 450 surface-to-air missiles, 350 mortar shells, four antiaircraft guns and a large quantity of antipersonnel mines. The weapons reportedly were taken from Taj Mohammad, who has been arrested. Mohammad apparently acquired those weapons in the 1980s and 1990s, when Afghan mujahedin fought Soviet forces. Pakistani Major General Tariq Masud told reporters on 26 September that "Pakistani paramilitary forces have recovered six [U.S.-made] Stinger missiles," AFP reported. All of the weapons that have been recovered are "usable," Masud told reporters. Shoulder-fried Stinger missiles were supplied to the Afghan mujahedin and were very affective against the Soviet Air Force. Recently the neo-Taliban have claimed that they are in possession of new antiaircraft weapons which they have used against coalition helicopters in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2005). AT
U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER MEETS HIS AFGHAN COUNTERPART
Stephen Hadley met in Kabul on 25 September with the Afghan presidential adviser on national security, Zalmay Rasul, the official Radio Afghanistan reported. Hadley also met with some members of the Afghan Ulema Council and Afghan Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari. The discussions revolved around the restoration of security and counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. According to a press release by the Afghan Interior Ministry on 25 September, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali also met with Hadley, telling him that Afghanistan's police force faces "two big challenges, terrorism and drugs." AT
FARMERS IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN THREATEN TO GROW POPPIES AGAIN...
With the opium cultivation season approaching, farmers in Balkh Province have threatened to grow poppies if the government does not honor its promise to provide them with opportunities to produce other crops, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 25 September. The Afghan Agriculture Ministry has been distributing fertilizer, wheat, and seed potato to the farmers at a discounted price, payable after the harvest. AT
...AS KABUL SAYS LEGALIZATION OF OPIUM CURRENTLY IMPOSSIBLE
Discussing a report released in Kabul on 26 September by the Senlis Council, a French nongovernmental organization, Afghan Counternarcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi said that the legal cultivation of opium poppies will not be possible for the time being, a press release by the ministry indicated. The Afghan government welcomed the report by Senlis, which recommends that Afghanistan establish a licensing system for the licit production of opium-based medicines. Qaderi said that while his country must consider all options in dealing with the narcotics problem, the "poor security situation" in Afghanistan "means there can simply be no guarantee that opium" will not be illegally exported. AT
TEHRAN GIVES EUROPE ANOTHER CHANCE
Gholam Reza Aqazadeh-Khoi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said at the 26 September meeting of the general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that Iran has lost confidence in the European Union, Mehr News Agency and IRNA reported. Aqazadeh added that the IAEA governing board's 24 September resolution on Iran was politically motivated and therefore invalid. He warned against referring Iran to the UN Security Council, saying, "There is no doubt that a report to the Security Council initiates a chain of events, of actions and reactions, that breed tension and add volatility to an already vulnerable political situation in the region," Mehr reported. He said Iran no longer believes in the goodwill of its interlocutors, before adding that "we need to be convinced of Europe's intention to reverse the dangerous path of confrontation," IRNA reported. BS
IRANIAN LEADER MAKES MILITARY, LEGAL APPOINTMENTS
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 26 September appointed former Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Admiral Ali Shamkhani as the head of the Research Center for Strategic Defense, state television reported. Other appointments made by Khamenei are: Brigadier General Abdul Ali Purshasb as deputy inspector of the regular armed forces general staff, succeeding Major General Ataollah Salehi; Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Qarai-Ashtiani as deputy commander of the regular ground forces, succeeding Brigadier General Hussein Baqai; Brigadier General Seyyed Abdorrahim Musavi as chief of the army's general staff, succeeding Purshasb; and Brigadier General Mohammad Hussein Dadras as commander of the regular ground forces, succeeding Brigadier General Nasser Mohammadi-Far. Rear-Admiral Sajjad Kucheki -Badlani succeeds Rear-Admiral Abbas Mohtaj as commander of the regular navy. On 25 September, Khamenei appointed Hojatoleslam Mohammad Salimi to succeed Hojatoleslam Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei as prosecutor of the Special Court for the Clergy, IRNA reported. Mohseni-Ejei now serves as minister of intelligence and security. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW VICE PRESIDENT AND ADVISER
Mahmud Ahmadinejad on 25 September appointed Nasrin Soltankhah as his women's affairs adviser and head of the Center for Women's Participation, IRNA reported. On the same day, Ahmadinejad appointed Mohammad Aliabadi as vice president for physical training and chairman of the Physical Education Organization, Fars News Agency reported. One day earlier, a statement from the Interior Ministry announced the appointment of Ali Jannati as the ministry's political deputy, Fars News Agency reported. He succeeds Morteza Moballeq, who headed the State Election Headquarters. Moreover, Mahmud Saidi was selected to head the ministerial branch and Shahab Gudarzi was selected to head the security headquarters (Hesarat). BS
IRAN'S BASIJ SEEKS EXPANSION
General Mirahmadi, first deputy commander of the Basij, has announced that the creation of 2,000 Ashura battalions within the Basij will enhance Iran's defensive capabilities, the daily "Iran" reported on 25 September. Ashura units have riot control responsibilities. Mirahmadi was speaking at the Basij's urban defense exercises in Tehran's Malek Ashtar District. Basij commander Mohammad Hejazi said on 14 September that the Basij has more than 11 million members across the country, Fars News Agency reported. He added, "Among the most important tasks of the Basij are boosting everlasting security, strengthening development infrastructures, equipping resistance bases, [and] increasing employment." He described the prohibition of vice and the promotion of virtue in society as the "divine policy" of the Basij. A ceremony making General Ahmad Zolqadr the deputy Basij commander for Tehran took place on 5 September, ISNA reported. The Tehran commander is Seyyed Mohammad Haj Aqamir. A ceremony for Mirahmadi's appointment as first deputy commander of the Basij took place on 4 September, ISNA reported. Mohammad Baqer Zolfaqar, commander of the Basij, and other officers participated in this event. BS
U.S. FORCES KILL SECOND IN COMMAND TO AL-ZARQAWI
U.S.-led forces have shot and killed Abu Azzam, a financier and religious aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, international news agencies reported on 27 September. The U.S. military said Azzam, believed to be second in command in al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq, was shot and killed on 25 September while hiding out in an apartment building in Baghdad. "We had a tip from an Iraqi citizen that led us to him," said a U.S. military spokesman. "It was a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation. We've been tracking him for a while." A $50,000 reward had been offered for information leading to Azzam's death or capture. BW
U.S. AND IRAQI FORCES GO TO ANBAR PROVINCE TO FIGHT INSURGENTS
The United States and Iraq are deploying additional forces to the Anbar Province to quell an insurgency there, CNN reported on 26 September, citing a U.S. Marine commander. "The buildup is driven by the fact that intelligence pulls us where the threat is," said Colonel Stephen Davis, commander of the Marines Regimental Combat Team 2. "We always go where the [intelligence] drives us." According to military estimates there are more than 1,000 insurgents -- including local and foreign fighters -- in the region, which borders Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Euphrates River, Davis said. American and Iraqi authorities believe Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, operates from the province. BW
SUNNIS RALLY AGAINST DRAFT IRAQI CONSTITUTION
Clerics and tribal leaders from Iraq's Sunni minority say they can mobilize their communities to reject the country's draft constitution, Al-Jazeera reported on 24 September. Following a three-day meeting in Amman, Jordan, cleric Sheikh Abd al-Latif Himayim said he expects 51 percent of Iraqis to reject the constitution in the 15 October referendum. "We are calling on all leaders, clergymen, tribal chiefs, and university professors to mobilize their constituents to go to the polls and vote no to the constitution," Himayim said. "We have also prepared a petition and we expect to gather support from about 5 million people from all over Iraq to say no to the constitution," he added. According to Iraqi law, if two-thirds of voters in three Iraqi provinces vote no, the constitution is defeated. BW
INFAMOUS ARMY RESERVIST FOUND GUILTY IN ABU GHURAYB CASE
A court martial on 26 September found U.S. soldier Lynndie England guilty on six of seven counts of abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghurayb Prison, international news agencies reported the same day. England, a 22-year-old Army reservist, faces up to nine years in prison. England's attorneys said she was following orders and she took part in the abuse -- which caused international outrage -- because of an overly compliant personality. Prosecutors said she humiliated prisoners because she enjoyed it and had a sick sense of humor. BW
MILITANTS EXECUTE SCHOOLTEACHERS IN VILLAGE SOUTH OF BAGHDAD
Insurgents disguised as policemen executed five Shi'ite schoolteachers and their driver at a primary school south of Baghdad on 26 September, international news agencies reported the same day. The teachers were leaving the elementary school in the village of Muwalha, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, when gunmen seized them and their driver from a minibus, AP reported, citing a policeman. The six were taken to a classroom, lined up against a wall, and shot dead. Also on 26 September, gunmen kidnapped an Egyptian telecom engineer working for the Iraqna mobile phone company, taking him from his car in Baghdad's Al-Hamra District, AFP reported the same day. The U.S. military also announced on 26 September that three American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs, two in western Baghdad and one southeast of the capital, AFP reported the same day. BW
SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS AT LEAST 10 POLICE RECRUITS
A suicide bomber killed at least 10 police recruits and injured at least 26 in the town of Baquba, south of Baghdad, on 27 September, international news agencies reported the same day. The bomber approached a Rapid Reaction Force recruitment center on foot and did not attempt to conceal his suicide vest, a U.S. soldier told Reuters. Also on 27 September, a car bomb exploded in a market in Iskandariya, 60 kilometers south of Baghdad, injuring six civilians, dpa reported the same day, citing police officials. BW
ICG REPORT MAKES GLOOMY PREDICTIONS ABOUT IRAQ
The rushed drafting of Iraq's constitution has deepened ethnic and sectarian rifts, will intensify the insurgency, and could lead to the country's violent breakup, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report released on 26 September. Titled "Unmaking Iraq: A Constitutional Process Gone Awry," the report is posted on the ICG website (www.crisisgroup.org). "Instead of healing the growing divisions between Iraq's three principal communities -- Shi'ites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs -- a rushed constitution process has deepened rifts and hardened feelings," the report said. "Without a strong U.S.-led initiative to assuage Sunni Arab concerns, the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent breakup," the report said. The report predicted the constitution's passage in the 15 October referendum would leave the Sunnis excluded and the country deeply divided. "The situation appears headed toward de facto partition and full-scale civil war," the report said. BW