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Newsline - October 18, 2005

Speaking in New Delhi on 17 October, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov denounced the publication in the 16 October "Sunday Telegraph" of an article alleging that former members of the Russian military covertly helped Iran obtain technology to build missiles capable of reaching European capitals, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. According to the newspaper, Russian officers worked as middlemen in transferring the missile technology from North Korea to Iran. Ivanov called this report "nonsense and ravings," and added that "nobody has ever registered attempts by Russia to violate her international obligations," RIA-Novosti reported. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow the same day that he is "bewildered" by the report, RIA-Novosti reported. Such reports actually appeared about 10 years ago and the Russian government probes after each allegation found no such violations, Lavrov said. VY

Talking about the results of his visit to India (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 17 October 2005), Ivanov announced at a press conference that Indian military and political leaders have agreed to hold joint antiterrorism games in Russia next year, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov added that special forces from the United States, Great Britain, and France are also invited to take part in these games. He also said that the joint Russian military exercises Indra-2005, which he watched in Rajasthan during his visit, were successful, but that he cut short his four-day visit to India because the naval portion of the exercises in the Bay of Bengal was canceled due to bad weather. VY

Colonel General Vladimir Vasiliev (Unified Russia), the chairman of the Duma Security Committee, said on 16 October on the NTV show "Voskresnyi vecher" that during the recent attacks by insurgents in Nalchik the federal troops reacted better than they had in previous attacks. Army General Nikolai Kovalev, the chairman of the Duma Veterans Committee (Unified Russia), said that it is difficult to fight underground urban guerilla warfare. "During the day these people are normal citizens, but at night they change clothes, take up hidden arms, form small mobile groups, hit their targets, and then transform into civilians," he said. Major General Aleksei Sigutkin (Unified Russia), the first deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said Russia has a history of failing to stop urban terrorist tactics. He said that "in the 19th century the Tsarist secret police failed for a long time to suppress the revolutionary organization People's Will" and, in the 20th century, the Tsarist police lost the fight to the Bolsheviks, which used the same tactics. VY

Vladimir Solovev, the host of the NTV show "Voskresnyi vecher," said that whatever security experts say, the U.S., British, and Spanish special services managed -- after terrorist attacks in their countries -- to prevent a repetition of them, though their Russian counterparts have been unable to prevent them from occurring. Most terrifying is that in Nalchik the attackers had a chance to seize planes at the airport, to load them with explosives, and take control of the "friend and foe" system which would lead them to their targets, he said. VY

Vladimir Kvachkov, the jailed former colonel of military intelligence (GRU), charged in the March assassination attempt on the head of Unified Energy Systems, Anatolii Chubais (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 29 March; 21 and 22 April; and 3 May 2005), reportedly said in an interview on on 17 October that he never denied he was involved in the incident because he does not consider killing Chubais a crime. He said he considers Chubais "one of the main organizers of occupation regime" and that the "liquidation of occupiers is the duty and obligation of every defender of the Motherland who is loyal to his military oath." Kvachkov also made comments echoing his earlier anti-Semitic opinion of Russian leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2005): "The failure of a diversion guerrilla action against the most odious figure of Russian democracy shows that the Lord will not allow a quick and painless death for Chubais but is preparing a more grave punishment for him and his gang." VY

Speaking on the NTV talk show "Voskresnyi vecher," Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov said that the main social problem in Russia is the demographic crisis it is experiencing and said that if Russia does not solve it, Russia will cease to exist as a nation. "The problem is called the 'Russian Cross' because the crossing at one point of the falling curve of the birthrate and the rising curve of mortality. If the present trend is not reversed, in 75 years the population of Russia will fall to 45 million [from the present 143.5]. It is clear in the tough competition of the 21st century that it is impossible to hold such a huge territory with such a small number of people. So Russia will disintegrate into smaller states," Mironov said. He rejected the suggestion that Russia's demographic situation can be saved by intensive immigration, as it was in the United States and other countries. "Then we will lose our identity -- it is not our way," Mironov said. He suggested that population growth can be stimulated by encouraging childbirth and increasing the prestige of being a parent. He added that those are the ideas formulated by President Putin in his annual address to the country. Meanwhile, while speaking at a government meeting on 17 October, Putin called for a radical improvement in pre-natal care in Russia. VY

Independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said parliamentarism has failed to develop in Russia and the country's legislature is following a pattern similar to pre-1917 legislatures, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 17 October. The first prerevolutionary Duma, elected in 1906, dubbed "the Duma of public outrage," strongly opposed Tsar Nicholas II and was dissolved three months after its election. The second Duma was also oppositionist and was dissolved. But the third and fourth Dumas were more compliant. The history of the four post-Soviet Dumas follows the same pattern, Ryzhkov said. The Dumas elected in 1993 and 1995 were oppositionist in nature, Ryzhkov said. But "in the third and fourth Dumas, the president and the government joined forces, ensured the victory of the pro-presidential party, and gained full control of the parliament," he added. "We still cannot create a parliament that would be independent of the supreme authorities and pursue a policy of its own," Ryzhkov said. BW

The Moscow city government plans to double the gambling tax on slot machines and to increase the taxes on gambling tables and bookmaking offices by 25 percent, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 October. "Gambling taxes will be raised to the highest level determined by the Tax Code," said Valerii Zhukov, deputy head of the department for Moscow's economic policy and development. Zhukov said the monthly tax rate for slot machines will be raised from $131 to $262, and for other types of gambling, from $3,498 to $4,373 per unit. There are 56 casinos and 63,000 slot machines in Moscow, and the tax increase could add an additional $69.96 million to the city budget, Zhukov said. BW

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has called on Russia to take stronger measures to fight the spread of HIV, RIA-Novosti reported on 17 October, citing a UNDP report released the same day. The report, titled "Russia in 2015: The Goals and Priorities of Development," said tuberculosis and HIV combined with other sexually transmitted diseases threaten the country's security. As of May 2005, the official number of registered HIV cases in Russia is 313,000, but independent estimates put the number much higher. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, about 860,000 people are believed to have various stages of the infection. "Timely and adequate measures can considerably improve the situation in the country," the UNDP report said. It called on Russian authorities to create a single government body or interdepartmental committee for HIV/AIDS with the power to implement strategies to combat the disease at federal, regional, and local levels. BW

Valentina Matvienko has ruled out a run for president when Vladimir Putin's term expires in 2008, Interfax reported on 17 October. "I could not imagine running for president, even in a nightmare. I am happy working in St. Petersburg, so there should not be any speculation of this kind. I will continue working in St. Petersburg," Matvienko said at a press conference on 17 October. A close ally of Putin's, Matvienko also joined the chorus of officials calling for the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin to be removed from its Red Square mausoleum and buried. "In my view, it's completely obvious," she said in remarks reported by ITAR-TASS. She added that the issue should be handled "delicately and carefully." BW

The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia won 53 percent of the vote in elections to the Belgorod Oblast legislature on 16 October, Russian news agencies reported on 18 October. The Communist Party (KPRF) came in second with 18.5 percent of the vote and Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) placed third with 6.75 percent. Some 7.1 percent voted "against all." In remarks reported by Interfax, Zhirinovsky said the vote was falsified, claiming "These were not elections but a comedy, a farce." According to Interfax, Unified Russia will hold approximately 70 seats, the KPRF would have four seats, and the LDPR would get two seats. In other elections on 16 October, Nizhnii Novgorod's incumbent Mayor Vadim Bulavinov took more than 70 percent of the vote in winning a new term. Vladimir Mayor Aleksandr Rybakov also won reelection with approximately 60 percent of the vote. BW

Cases of bird flu have been confirmed in two Siberian villages, while 19 others are being kept under close observation following reports of suspected cases, reported on 18 October. The two villages where infections were discovered are located in the Kurgan Oblast in western Siberia. Those under observation are in Novosibirsk Oblast and Altai Krai, Russian news agencies quoted the country's Agriculture Ministry as saying on 17 October. Three other regions where bird flu had previously been detected, the Chelyabinsk, Omsk and Tyumen oblasts, are now free of the virus, the statement said. It is unclear whether the new infections in Siberia involve the deadly H5N1 strain, which has killed dozens of people in Asia. BW

Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev, the successor to slain Chechen President and resistance leader Aslan Maskhadov, has released a statement, which was posted on 18 October on, expressing "great regret" that some civilians died during the 13 October attack on Nalchik by fighters of the Kabadino-Balkar sector of the Caucasus Front. At the same time, Sadullaev stressed that the Chechen militants directed their fire exclusively at military facilities, and that the "absolute majority" of the civilian casualties died as a result of indiscriminate return fire by Russian and local police and security personnel. Sadullaev affirmed that the fighters who participated in the Nalchik raid "fulfilled all the tasks" set by their commander. He concluded: "May Almighty Allah help us liberate and unite the entire Caucasus!" LF

Citing the 2002 law on terrorism, police in Nalchik continue to refuse to give relatives the bodies of many young men killed in the 13 October raid on Nalchik, claiming the men in question were active participants, not innocent victims, Russian media reported on 17 October. While radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev said on 17 October that 42 of the 217 participants are dead or missing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005), Interfax the same day said some 50 bodies of "militants" remain unidentified. Some 30 women gathered on 17 October outside the government building in Nalchik but were prevented from approaching the president's office, Interfax reported. Relatives quoted by said that the authorities placed guns and grenades next to the bodies of young men who were not practicing Muslims but who were caught in the cross-fire and photographed them as "evidence" that the dead men were militants. The same agency claimed that an unspecified number of the alleged dead militants were shot in the back of the head. "Moscow News" on 18 October quoted Kabardino-Balkaria President Arsen Kanokov as suggesting that the bodies of "people who were used as cannon fodder" should be handed over to their relatives as "an act of humanity, so that cruelty does not engender further cruelty." LF

Candidates who are members of, or supported by, the Republican Party of Armenia won mayoral elections on 16 October in the towns of Vanadzor, Berd, Stepanavan, and Noyemberian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 17 October. In Echmiadzin, preliminary returns indicated that independent candidate Gagik Avakian defeated three rivals to win election, but numerous residents of the town told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that the ballot outcome was openly rigged. Avakian is reportedly backed by the deputy defense minister, Major General Manvel Grigorian, whom Avakian's main rival, Yervand Aghvanian, implicated on 14 October in the abduction the previous day during a campaign rally of at least nine of his supporters, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Speaking to journalists at a parliament session on 18 October, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian denied that Grigorian intervened in any way in the Echmiadzin election, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

On the basis of an erroneous Noyan Tapan report, "RFE/RL Newsline" on 17 October incorrectly identified the outgoing mayor of Nor Hajn. He is Armen Keshishian.

Former parliament speaker and opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) Chairman Rasul Quliyev was detained on 17 October by police when his chartered plane landed in Simferopol en route to Baku, Azerbaijani media reported. Quliyev told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service earlier on 17 October he was determined to return to Azerbaijan after a nine-year exile in the United States in order to participate in the 6 November parliamentary elections. He dismissed as politically motivated the charges of large-scale embezzlement brought against him by the Prosecutor-General's Office. A spokesman for Azerbaijan State Airlines told journalists on 17 October that Quliyev's aircraft was given clearance to enter Azerbaijani airspace, but DPA First Deputy Chairman Serdar Djalaloglu, who previously informed journalists that Quliyev had purchased a ticket to return to Baku on a British Airways flight from London, said on 17 October the plane was denied permission to enter Azerbaijani airspace and was forced to land in Simferopol, reported on 18 October. LF

In Baku, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov predicted that the Ukrainian authorities will agree to Azerbaijan's request to extradite Quliev, reported. But Djalaloglu claimed that Quliyev's arrest was illegal as he has been granted political asylum in the U.S. and he cannot, therefore, be extradited. Crimean police official Oleksandr Dombrovsky told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 18 October that the Ukrainian authorities have 40 days to decide whether or not to extradite Quliyev to Baku. Meanwhile, some 301 parliamentary election candidates have signed a statement in support of Quliyev and protesting the Azerbaijani authorities' stated intention of arresting him as illegal, reported. LF

Local Georgian police chief Vladimir Djugheli denied on 18 October that two mortar rounds were fired at Tskhinvali, capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, from the Georgian-populated village of Kheiti on 16 October, Caucasus Press reported. Djugheli said that a local resident accidentally detonated an explosive device. LF

Dmitrij Rupel, who is Slovenian Foreign Minister and chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, met at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on 17 October with South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, Georgian media reported on 18 October. The two men reportedly discussed the prospects for resolving the conflict between the Georgian central government and the breakaway republic. Rupel also discussed South Ossetia with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to a 17 October statement posted on the OSCE website ( That statement said the two ministers expressed support for the work of the Joint Consultative Commission, on which the OSCE is represented together with South and North Ossetia, Georgia, and Russia. Visiting Georgia last week, Rupel's special representative, former Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, called on both sides to resume talks and for South Ossetia to cooperate in implementing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's proposals for resolving the conflict, Caucasus Press reported on 15 October. LF

A meeting in Tbilisi of the Russian-Georgian intergovernmental economic commission and a Russian-Georgian business forum, originally scheduled for 17-18 October, have been cancelled, Caucasus Press reported on 17 October. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi said the Russian government would not send a delegation to the planned events in light of the "provocative" resolution adopted by the Georgian Parliament on 11 October threatening to demand the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 2005). Kote Gabashvili, who chairs the Georgian parliament committee on international relations, responded by announcing on 17 October that he will not travel to Moscow to participate in a conference on combating terrorism, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Bulat Abilov, a leader in the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan, was arrested in Almaty on 17 October for his involvement in an unsanctioned demonstration on 8 October, Navigator and Kazinform reported. Police detained Abilov outside the National Press Club in Almaty and forcibly brought him to court, Navigator reported. The court subsequently found Abilov guilty of an administrative infraction for his role in organizing an unsanctioned rally in Almaty on 8 October and fined him approximately $350, Kazinform reported. Abilov received a 1 1/2 year sentence for defamation in July 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2004), later commuted by the court to a two-year probation period. Kazinform noted that Abilov's latest legal troubles could lead to an extension of his probation period or even a reinstatement of the original sentence. DK

Kazakhstan's government is attempting to secure a large stake in PetroKazakhstan as state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) stands poised to buy out the Canadian-registered oil company for $4.18 billion, Reuters reported on 17 October. The report said that CNPC has offered a 30-33 percent stake in PetroKazakhstan to the Kazakh government, but it noted that the government may hope to secure up to 50 percent of the company. UPI reported on 17 October that CNPC had agreed to sell one-third of PetroKazakhstan to state-owned Kazakh oil-and-gas company KazMunaiGaz for $1.4 billion. Meanwhile, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a law on 15 October amending energy-sector legislation, Kazinform reported; Reuters noted that the amendments give the state added powers to step in and take action on the CNPC bid for PetroKazakhstan. PetroKazakhstan shareholders are set to vote on the buyout bid on 18 October. DK

President Kurmanbek Bakiev has accepted the resignation of acting Prosecutor-General Busurmankul Tabaldiev and appointed Kambaraly Kongantiev to replace him, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 17 October. Tabaldiev, who submitted his resignation last week for reasons not made public, was reappointed to his former position at the helm of the department of defense, security, and law enforcement in the presidential administration. Kongantiev is a former prosecutor and current parliamentary deputy. DK

Former acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva has applied to run in a 27 November by-election to Kyrgyzstan's parliament, Interfax reported on 17 October. The election, which will take place in a district of Bishkek, is intended to fill a seat left vacant after the killing of lawmaker Jyrgalbek Surabaldiev in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2005). Former Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, who is currently the subject of a criminal investigation, also plans to contest the seat. Otunbaeva, a prominent member of the opposition to former President Askar Akaev who played a key role in the events that led to Akaev's ouster on 24 March, recently failed to gain parliamentary approval as foreign minister in Kyrgyzstan's new government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2005). DK

Frederic Peroni, the military attache at the French Embassy in Tajikistan, said on 17 October that France will reduce its military presence in Tajikistan, AFP reported. Peroni said that six Mirage jets and 250 military personnel will leave Tajikistan in early November, reducing the number of French military personnel in Dushanbe to 150. Peroni commented that the departing aircraft "fulfilled their task by carrying out daily missions in Afghanistan." DK

The Political Council of Pro-democratic Forces, a coordinating body of the Belarusian opposition, on 17 October adopted the structure of the campaign headquarters of Alyaksandr Milinkevich, an opposition candidate in the 2006 presidential election, Belapan reported. Syarhey Kalyakin, manager of Milinkevich's presidential campaign, is to have three deputies. One of them will coordinate the activities of provincial campaign headquarters and take responsibility for the distribution of campaign materials and the organization of various mass events. Another will be in charge of information support to the candidate and his public relations strategy. The third will be responsible for Milinkevich's foreign contacts. JM

The Verkhovna Rada on 18 October passed in the first reading two resolutions that prohibit the government from selling its stake in the metallurgical giant Kryvorizhstal, Ukrainian media reported. A bill proposing to include Kryvorizhstal in the list of state facilities than cannot be sold was backed by 256 deputies. The other, stipulating the introduction of a moratorium on the sale of the state stake in Kryvorizhstal, was supported by 255 deputies. It is not clear from reports whether the resolutions are binding or when they may be endorsed in their final versions. A presidential veto on a parliamentary bill can be overridden by no fewer than 300 votes. Earlier this year the government canceled the controversial privatization of Kryvorizhstal in 2004 and proposed a 93.02 percent stake in the enterprise for a new tender that must be concluded by 24 October. JM

President Viktor Yushchenko said in London on 17 October that his government's primary task next year is to hold honest and democratic parliamentary elections, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "This is a test that the previous authorities have not passed," Yushchenko said. "As the president I declare that no administrative resource will work in these elections." He was speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, where England's Queen Elizabeth II presented him with an award for what was officially described as a substantial contribution to improvement of international relations last year. JM

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko said on Channel 5 on 17 October that President Yushchenko dismissed Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2005) due to investigative ineffectiveness. "Following our motions, prosecutors have launched more than 1,000 investigations involving officials of various categories, but none of them has been brought to court," Lutsenko said. "You should agree that this looks like a system, not some odd errors. It is necessary to change the system. The president examined the situation and made the right decision." Meanwhile, Piskun said in an interview with the newspaper "Svoboda" on 17 October that his dismissal resulted from his resistance to pressure from the president. Piskun also suggested that Yushchenko harbors a grievance against him for the fact that the Prosecutor-General's Office had closed a criminal case against Yuliya Tymoshenko while she was prime minister. JM

Soeren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the United Nations civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has said he would not oppose a declaration of independence by the province's parliament, B-92 reported on 17 October. In comments reported by the KosovaLive news agency, Jessen-Petersen said parliament has the right and responsibility to guide the status process and the province's negotiators. "That is the parliament's responsibility and, as I said the other day, I trust that the president, the presidency, and the parliament will give proper guidance to the team," he said. "We...have to see the text first, with a decision by the parliament to give guidance to the status team, but I don't see why I should oppose it. There is no reason for that," he added. Kosova's parliament has not yet formally included an independence resolution on its agenda. BW

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has called on Serbia to complete the democratic and reforms that were begun by the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, B-92 reported on 17 October. Burns said that Serbia has made great progress since President Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in October 2000, and that Djindjic, who was assassinated in 2003, deserved much of the credit. "You have good leaders now too, and many that we respect greatly, but the challenge now is to implement a complete democracy and weed out corruption, implement democratic order and elections, and arrest war criminals. These are the obligations of a democratic nation." Burns said. He added that Belgrade's goals should include greater integration with Europe and a stronger relationship with the United States. BW

Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic called on 17 October for a new code of ethics for lawyers and judges, B-92 reported the same day. Stojkovic said that new laws aimed at minimizing the opportunities for corruption in the justice system will be introduced by the end of this year. "If we want to have clean, quality, and moral courts which will be able to deal with corruption, it is necessary to have such [honest] lawyers. I fear that some of our colleagues have forgotten about our code of ethics and it is very important to have the issue taken care of." Stojkovic said. Laws governing ethics in Serbia's legal system have not been updated for seven years, B-92 reported. BW

The Moldovan parliament on 17 October passed amendments to the current tax legislation that will free Moldovan farmers from paying taxes on income and real estate as well as other dues for five years beginning in 2006, ITAR-TASS reported. Instead, farmers will have to pay a fixed-rate tax of 1.5 lei ($0.12) per rated hectare. Finance Minister Mihai Pop said the measure will result in state-budget losses of some 30 million lei ($2.4 million) annually. JM

Preliminary results from the 15 October referendum on the Iraqi draft constitution point to a defeat for Sunni Arabs who sought to vote down the draft. While the release of final tally has been delayed, local electoral officials have told journalists that it appears the draft received a "yes" vote in two Sunni Arab-populated governorates: Diyala and Ninawah. It appears that a "no" vote won out only in the Sunni Arab-populated governorates of Salah Al-Din and Al-Anbar. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) stipulates that the draft will fail only if three or more governorates reject it.

In light of their apparent defeat, it is unclear what position those Sunni Arab groups that stood opposed to the referendum might adopt after the referendum results are certified. Some leaders, such as Salih al-Mutlaq, have already claimed that the preliminary results are fraudulent. But the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) has said it received no complaints of impropriety from observer groups or citizens on the day of the referendum.

Sunni Arab groups are now focusing on upcoming national elections in December as their best chance of influencing the political process, and many groups have already begun low-level campaigning in an effort to gain support for those elections.

The ability of such groups to gain parliamentary seats will depend largely on their ability to present coherent platforms and visions to their constituencies. So far, Sunni Arabs have largely failed because they lack a solid political program. Moreover, Sunni Arab parties possess no cohesive vision or platform under which they could unite, as Kurdish and Shi'ite parties did ahead of parliamentary elections in January. A number of Sunni Arab groups have noted the benefits of working together as part of a coalition, but many leaders have said such a coalition would have to wait until after the election. It remains unlikely, however, that a Sunni Arab coalition could be formed in just a few short months, given the ideological gaps that exist among Sunni Arab groups.

Adil al-Lami, director-general of the electoral commission, cautioned media outlets, saying the commission has not released any official figures on the referendum and media reports thus remain speculative, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 October. But a number of local electoral officials have commented on the referendum to media outlets, providing some insight into the final vote count.

Farid Ayar, spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission, told reporters at a 15 October press briefing after polls closed that turnout across Iraq's 18 governorates was medium (33-66 percent) to high (more than 66 percent). The proportion of eligible voters who went to the polls in the volatile Al-Anbar Governorate was not released, while there was low voter turnout (under 33 percent) in the Al-Qadisiyah Governorate in south-central Iraq.

"The [final] results have not come out yet but the [preliminary data] are promising," Manaf Hasan, an Independent Electoral Commission member in the Ninawah Governorate (Mosul), told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 16 October. "So far, we have gathered data from 419,804 out of the total number of voters in Mosul. [The number of] those who have voted 'yes' is 326,774...while [the number of] those who have voted 'no' is 90,065 and 2,965 votes were invalid. In Mosul city, there were 95 polling stations, 52 of which were on the left bank [Kurdish-populated area, east of the Tigris River] and 43 on the right bank [Sunni Arab-populated area, west of the Tigris]."

Mahmud Abdullah, who is a representative of the Kurdistan Islamic Union and a commission member in the Ninawah Governorate, told RFI: "I believe that the positive participation of the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Sunni Al-Waqf Council in the referendum has contributed a lot to a positive outcome of the Iraqi referendum in Mosul.... We are optimistic that the [security] situation in the restive areas of Iraq will become more stabilized after...large numbers [of people] took part in the referendum."

Turnout was also high in Al-Ta'mim Governorate (which includes the capital of Kirkuk and is a mixture of Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans), where Farhad Talabani, head of the Kirkuk branch of the electoral commission told RFI on 16 October, "We expect that turnout will be over 60 percent." Reuters reported on 17 October only a 40 percent turnout in the governorate, adding that 60 percent of voters voted "yes" and 40 percent voted "no" in the referendum.

In Salah Al-Din, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 October that 71 percent of voters voted "no" in the referendum. Sa'd al-Rawi, spokesman for the Al-Anbar branch of the electoral commission, said that 90 percent of voters went to the polls in Al-Anbar, 99 percent of whom voted "no," Reuters reported on 17 October. Al-Rawi said just 50 people voted to back the constitution.

In Diyala, Amir Latif al-Yahya, the head of Independent Electoral Commission's Diyala Governorate branch, told RFI on 16 October: "The turnout has been very high. I personally had been expecting a high turnout but not as high as it came to be, in fact."

Asked about complaints by citizens about the long distances (vehicular traffic was banned on 15 October) between their homes and polling stations, he said: "Within the security plan, we were agreed that buses would be provided for the transport of voters from their places of residence to polling centers. The long distance to some areas and the small number of buses may have deprived some from getting to the [polling] centers. We will do our best to manage this issue in the next elections."

Al-Yahya said that he was also present during the detainee voting at Camp War Horse, located on the grounds of Ba'qubah Airport. "There were 39 inmates from prisons of the Multinational Force, 36 of whom have publicly expressed their 'yes' to the constitution while the other three voted 'no.'"

In the Shi'ite-populated areas of central and southern Iraq, turnout was strong in some areas but lower than expected in other towns. RFI reported from Al-Najaf on 16 October that unofficial estimates put turnout at around 40 percent, adding that the turnout was much lower than that for January elections.

Local residents interviewed by RFI expressed apathy over political progress and many complained over the poor state of services in the governorate, which they said has deteriorated since January. Others cited the long distances from their homes to polling centers, saying no transportation was provided by the governorate.

Local residents in Al-Najaf told RFI that disputes between the religious leadership and political parties in the governorate played a role in upsetting citizens, who, as a result, opted to stay away from the polls. Others cited the influence of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the political process. Al-Sadr supporters demonstrated against the constitution in nearby Al-Hillah last week.

Voter turnout was unexpectedly low in the Shi'ite-populated Al-Qadisiyah Governorate, the Independent Electoral Commission said on 16 October. As in Al-Najaf, local residents interviewed by RFI on 17 October pointed to frustration over deteriorating services and their discontent with the local and central government as their reason for staying away from the polls. An RFI correspondent confirmed firsthand that the state of roads and civil services in general was indeed poor. He said, however, that the security situation in Al-Qadisiyah Governorate was very good.

Al-Qadisiyah Governor Idris Khalil Hamza denied that the low turnout was related to voter discontent with the government, saying no direct link should be drawn between the state of services and the constitution -- which he said is intended to benefit all Iraqis. He admitted, however, that he was surprised by the low turnout.

RFI's correspondent quoted sources as saying that voter turnout in Al-Qadisiyah was 40-45 percent. Sa'd al-Abdali, head of the Independent Electoral Commission's Al-Qadisiyah branch, told RFI that he estimated 50-55 percent of voters came to the polls. That figure seems high, given that Independent Electoral Commission official Hamdiyah al-Husayni called turnout in Al-Qadisiyah "low" -- meaning less than 33 percent -- in a 15 October press briefing in Baghdad.

According to local election chief al-Abdali, voter lists arrived late and were incomplete. Also, an unspecified foreign company in charge of "securing some administrative aspects of the ballot" worked "without proper coordination with the [Independent Electoral Commission] office in [the Al-Qadisiyah Governorate capital] Al-Diwaniyah," RFI quoted al-Abdali as saying.

In Babil, Qays al-Hasnawi, spokesman for the Babil branch of the electoral commission, told RFI on 16 October that participation was very high, with 96 percent turnout in the Al-Hashimiyah district of the city. "We can estimate the turnout at 70 percent" overall, he said.

The process was not flawless, however. Al-Hasnawi said that badges to be worn by commission staffers arrived late, and some voters were unable to reach polling centers because of long distances and the absence of transport. "There were also difficulties in checking the register of voters," al-Hasnawi said. "The register of voters was difficult to print.... There were many misprints and errors and some data were incomplete. Many people had to return without casting their votes in the referendum because their names were not included [in the register]. Although they had voted in the previous [general] elections and [recorded] their names in the register of voters, these names did not appear in the newly printed voters register."

The Independent Electoral Commission said that voter turnout was "high" in the Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate and "medium" in the Irbil and Dahuk governorates, while early speculation in the media suggested that the referendum will pass overwhelmingly in the Kurdistan region. Kurdish support for the referendum is unsurprising; Kurdish officials have said the draft constitution affords them more rights than they had under any previous Iraqi regime. Moreover, Kurds typically follow the "party line" and both the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the region's two largest parties, called on Kurds to vote "yes" in the referendum. The television channels and newspapers of both parties also encouraged a "yes" vote.

The Independent Electoral Commission acknowledged that other transgressions took place on referendum day, RFI reported on 15 October. Hamdiyah al-Husayni told reporters on 15 October that troops stationed in camps and military barracks were denied participation in the referendum. "As a result, security troops and army personnel expressed objections in some areas because they were denied participation in this process," al-Husayni said. "Pressure was brought to bear on some centers.... When the [Independent Electoral Commission] was informed of this matter, the relevant authorities were contacted. The army and security personnel were told that the [Independent Electoral Commission] will consider the possible adoption of special arrangements for voting by the security personnel stationed in military camps and barracks in the future."

Al-Husayni added that there were some reported incidents of ballot boxes, papers, or envelopes being stolen, but said those incidents did not affect the voting process because the commission had anticipated such events and provided extra ballots to voting centers. She added that one news channel, which she did not identify, gave $5 bills to people to vote "no" in the referendum. Ten polling-station workers were abducted by terrorists in two polling centers in the Al-Jazirah and Al-Khalidiyah neighborhoods of Baghdad.

A court in The Hague on 14 October sentenced two former Afghan generals to prison terms of 12 and nine years for committing war crimes in Afghanistan and violating the Torture Act of the Dutch War Crimes Act, according to a 17 October press release by the National Policy Agency of the Netherlands. The two men, identified only as "Hesamuddin H." and "Habibullah J.," applied for asylum in the Netherlands and have lived there since 1992 and 1996, respectively (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2004 and 21 January 2005). Hesamuddin H. served as director of the Military Khad (military intelligence) from 1982-90 and also held the position of vice minister of the Intelligence Ministry during communist rule in Afghanistan. Habibullah J. headed the interrogation department of the Military Khad in Kabul from 1979-90. The sentencing of the two former communists could lead to legal action against other Afghan officials accused of crimes against humanity, many of whom live freely in the West or have returned to Afghanistan, where some of them are seeking office. AT

Mawlawi Nur Ahmad Jan was killed on 16 October in Konar Province, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 17 October. Konar Governor Asadullah Wafa told AIP that the cleric was "martyred" in his home by a "number of unidentified armed people." Wafa added that it is not clear whether Nur Ahmad's killing had a political motive or whether he was killed "as a result of personal enmity." An unidentified source told AIP that the neo-Taliban had distributed leaflets in the area threatening Nur Ahmad. AT

Unidentified gunmen on 16 October killed Mawlawi Mohammad Gol, a member of the provincial clerical council of Helmand Province, AFP reported on 17 October. A unidentified man claiming to represent the neo-Taliban told AFP that the movement was responsible for the killing. Mullah Mohammad, another pro-government cleric in Khost Province, was killed in a bomb attack on 14 October. AT

Brigadier General Mohammad Daud, chief of the intelligence chief of Helmand Province's Sangin district, was killed on 17 October along with one of his bodyguards, AIP reported, quoting provincial security commander Abdul Rahman. The assailants have not been identified. AT

Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam satellite television channel reported on 17 October that security forces foiled a bombing attempt in Ahvaz. Bombings in Ahvaz two days earlier killed six people and wounded another 90 people. BS

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad claimed on 16 October and again on 17 October that Great Britain was involved in the 15 October bombings in Ahvaz. In his second statement, he said that the "presence of British troops in southern Iraq alongside Iranian borders is the root cause of insecurity for Iraqi and Iranian people, and intelligence traced down Britons to have been involved in hiring terrorists for sabotage in Khuzestan Province," IRNA reported. In his earlier statement, he said: "Intelligence and security officers have comes across traces of British involvement in such plots in the past," ISNA reported. "We are very suspicious of British forces' involvement in terrorist activities." The British charge d'affaires in Tehran, Kate Smith, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on 17 October to receive a protest note, state television reported. The previous day, the British Embassy denied any involvement in the bombings. BS

Students at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University on the evening of 16 October staged a protest against the shutoff of hot water in the women's dormitory, Radio Farda reported. The protestors reportedly set part of the men's dormitory alight. Although the new academic year has just begun, according to Radio Farda, students appear more disgruntled than in previous years. Paris-based professor Said Peyvandi, a specialist in sociology and pedagogy, told Radio Farda that a major frustration for students is that they have few opportunities available to them after graduation. The dormitories accommodate just one fifth of them, he said, so their actions there are particularly noteworthy. Peyvandi quoted the Iranian education minister as saying the country's academic budget has a 2 trillion rial (approximately $232 million) shortfall. Peyvandi criticized this budgetary problem, saying this amount of money equals 1 1/2 days' worth of oil sales. The students recognize that although the new government said it would attend to people's welfare, it is not doing so, Peyvandi told Radio Farda. BS

Fifteen Iranians were arrested in the Turkish mountains along Iran's western border for smuggling gasoline on 14 October, Radio Farda reported on 17 October. They allegedly entered Turkey from Iran's West Azerbaijan Province, and reportedly had more than 20,000 liters of gasoline and diesel fuel with them. A fuel smuggler by the name of Vahid told Radio Farda he has four children and there is widespread unemployment in his locality. Smuggling is the only way he can earn an income and provide for his family, Vahid told Radio Farda. He said he buys a liter of gasoline for 800 rials (approximately $.09) and sells it on the other side of the border for 8,000 rials (approximately $.90). BS

The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission (IECI) announced on 17 October that it will investigate the "unusually high" vote counts in 12 Shi'ite and Kurdish-majority governorates, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 18 October. Ninety-nine percent of the voters in some of the 12 governorates reportedly cast "yes" votes in support of Iraq's draft constitution in the 15 October referendum. The IECI said in a 17 October statement that election workers will "recheck, compare, and audit" the results to rule out any possibility of fraud. The investigation will include the "examining [of] random samples from ballot boxes." Planning Minister Barham Salih told reporters on 17 October that some 10 million Iraqis (64 percent of registered voters) voted in the referendum. As a result of the investigation, the IECI said it expects the final results of the referendum to be released in a few days' time. KR

Sunni Arab leaders claimed on 17 October that the preliminary results released by the IECI -- which appeared to indicate that the referendum will be approved -- are fraudulent, international media reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005). Abd al-Razzaq al-Juburi, secretary-general of the Independent Iraqi Front, told Al-Jazeera television in a 17 October interview that electoral officials told his party that the majority of Iraqi voters cast "no" ballots in the referendum. "We have figures and official statistics from observers in the polling centers that indicate that between 75 to 80 percent of the voters voted against the constitution," he said. "We talked directly to many IECI employees and they gave us figures." Al-Juburi said that if the true results were released in Mosul (Ninawah Governorate), "without any rigging and without fabrication, then the matter will be decided in favor of rejecting the constitution." KR

Iraqi parliamentarian Mish'an al-Juburi, who heads the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, claimed in a 17 October interview with Al-Jazeera television that four governorates voted down the draft constitution. "I believe that [Iraqi government leaders] are facing a real dilemma, because admitting the real results will mean bringing the political process back to square one," al-Juburi said. "After admitting that the governorates of Salah Al-Din and Al-Anbar clearly voted against the [draft] constitution, they sought to change facts in the governorates of Diyala and Mosul." Al-Juburi said his claims are based on observers from his party who were in polling centers "in all these governorates." "When you hear that 95 percent of voters in a certain governorate voted [in favor of the constitution], then this figure is unreasonable and unacceptable," he added. Al-Juburi also claimed that he has information that some Shi'ite religious parties voted on behalf of voters who did not come to the polls. Al-Juburi said the IECI did try to adhere to international standards during the vote, and his party's observers did not personally witness any attempts by polling workers to rig the vote at polling centers. KR

Political parties in the Ninawah Governorate met at the office of the Independent National Council in the Ninawah Governorate on 17 October and threatened civil disobedience if the referendum is proven to have been rigged, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. The parties called on the United Nations to intervene and oversee the vote counting in the governorate, which has a strong Sunni Arab population. Manaf Hasan, an IECI representative in the Ninawah Governorate, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 16 October: "The [final] results have not come out yet, but the [preliminary data] are promising. Until now, we have gathered data from 419, 804 out of the total number of voters in Mosul. Those who have voted 'yes' are 326,774 [until] now, while those who have voted 'no' are 90,065, and 2,965 votes were invalid." KR

The bodies of 500 members of the Barzani tribe who were discovered in a mass grave in southern Iraq have been reburied in Irbil, RFI reported on 17 October. The dead were victims of the Al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2005). The victims were laid to rest in a ceremony attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Kurdistan Regional Government President Mas'ud Barzani, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and other dignitaries. KR

Ayad Abd al-Ghani, an adviser to Industry Minister Usamah al-Najafi, was gunned down by armed men in Baghdad on 17 October, AP reported the same day. Police Major Falah al-Muhammadawi told reporters that Abd al-Ghani was gunned down earlier in the day en route to work. Insurgents either drove up alongside Abd al-Ghani's vehicle and opened fire, or blocked the vehicle and then opened fire on it, al-Muhammadawi said. KR