RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: MOSCOW TO BE GUIDED BY UN REPORT ON SYRIAN ROLE IN KILLING...
Sergei Lavrov said in Tashkent on 21 October that Russia will take not of the conclusions of the United Nations commission investigating the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, RIA-Novosti reported. The commission report released on 20 October implicated Syrian security officials in Hariri's killing, international media reported. U.S. President George W. Bush called the report "deeply disturbing" and instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "call upon the United Nations to convene a session" to address the issue, CNN reported. Lavrov added that UN Security Council decisions on this issue "should not destabilize the situation in the Middle East." "Russia, as a member of the Security Council, will be ready to review the necessary steps within the framework of the Security Council," he added. Rice reportedly discussed Syria with Lavrov during her unplanned visit to Moscow on 15 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005). Russia, which considers Syria a major ally in the Middle East, hopes with France's help to prevent the passing of a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Damascus, "Kommersant" reported on 24 October. Such a resolution is reportedly supported by the United States and Britain, the daily noted. VY
...AS U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ARRIVES IN MOSCOW
Stephen Hadley arrived in Moscow on 24 October for a two-day visit during which he will meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss U.S.-Russian security cooperation, the situation in Iraq, and Syria-Lebanon, RIA-Novosti and other agencies reported. Iranian Foreign Minister Manucher Mottaki also arrived in Moscow on 24 October. Russian officials hope to convince him to make serious concessions on Iran's nuclear program in order to neutralize U.S. arguments against Iran's nuclear program in the UN, the daily "Kommersant" noted. Moscow will also send a mission headed by Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov to Tehran next week with the same goal, "Kommersant" reported. VY
LAVROV: RUSSIA DOESN'T RECOGNIZE NORWEGIAN ECONOMIC ZONE NEAR SPITZBERGEN
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, commenting on the Russian trawler that violated Norwegian fishing waters near Spitzbergen and spent four days evading the Norwegian coast guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005), said on 23 October that Russia does not believe that Norway had a right to pursue the ship, RTR reported. "Russia never agreed with the parameters of the Norwegian economic zone in the Barents Sea," Lavrov said in Moscow. In 1977, Norway extended its economic zone near its island of Spitzbergen from 45 to 200 miles. Stanislav Iliyasov, the head of State Fisheries Committee, said the actions of the Norwegian side "were wrong" and that "Norway wants to squeeze Russian fishermen from the region," Channel One reported. Finally, Andrei Sosov, the chief of the Federal Security Service Border Guard Directorate in Murmansk Oblast, said an investigation has been delayed because the captain of the trawler has been hospitalized with cardiac problems. In addtion, Norway has failed to present proof of violations of its fishing waters. VY
KREMLIN INSIDER SAYS WOMEN AND YOUTH WILL ELECT NEXT RUSSIAN PRESIDENT
Speaking on his NTV political talk show "Realnaya politika," Gleb Pavlovskii, adviser to the chief of the presidential administration and the head of the Foundation for Effective Politics, said on 22 October that women and youth will be the key sectors of the national electorate in the 2008 Russian presidential election. Pavlovskii said the female electorate outnumbers the male electorate by some 11 million voters and said that this proportion will rise because women have a much higher life expectancy. Pavlovskii said that women in Russia are more conservative politically and currently the most pro-Putin. As for the youth, those voting in 2008 will be the first generation born in the post-Soviet era and that is why political groups are competing so aggressively for their support. VY
PUTIN CONVENES SECURITY COUNCIL ON NORTH CAUCASUS...
President Putin held a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 22 October devoted to the situation in the North Caucasus and relations within CIS countries, polit.ru reported. In addition to the usual narrow circle of security officials at the council meetings, also invited were the speakers and deputy speakers of both chambers of parliament, the Duma faction heads, the heads of the main Duma committees, and key government ministers. Details of the meeting were not available. VY
...CREATES A PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL PROJECTS
President Putin ordered on 21 October the founding of a council for national projects to improve housing, health care, education, and agriculture, as he had announced in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2005). Putin will chair the council. Among the 43 members of the council are Putin administration chief Dmitrii Medvedev; presidential advisers Igor Shuvalov and Anatolii Beglov; presidential envoys in the federal districts; several governors; the mayors of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yakutsk, and Yaroslavl; and key economic and social sector ministers. Gleb Pavlovskii noted on NTV on 23 October that Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov is not on the council although former Prime Minister and chairman of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Yevgenii Primakov is on it. He added that there are no "siloviki" ministers (chiefs from the security ministries), but the rectors of two of Russia's most prestigious universities -- Moscow State University and St. Petersburg University -- are on it. VY
PRELIMINARY RESULTS SHOW FAR EAST REGIONS VOTING TO UNIFY
Voters in the Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug overwhelmingly voted on 23 October to unify the two regions, RIA-Novosti reported the same day citing preliminary referendum results. Anatoly Gasiatulin, deputy chairman of the Kamchatka Oblast Electoral Commission, said that with 77.84 percent of the ballots counted in Kamchatka Oblast, 84.15 percent voted for unification and 15.12 voted against. In Koryak Autonomous Okrug, with 20 out of 30 electoral precincts reporting, 88.85 percent voted for unification and 10.08 percent against. Turnout was 77.75 percent in Koryak Autonomous Okrug and 52.2 percent in Kamchatka Oblast. Konstantin Pulikovsky, President Putin's envoy in the Far East, has said he favors wealthy businessman Viktor Vekselberg to be the new region's governor, Russian and international news agencies reported on 23 October. BW
STUDENT GROUP IN VORONEZH DEFIES AUTHORITIES WITH ANTIRACISM RALLY
More than 1,000 students in Voronezh defied local authorities on 23 October and held a rally protesting the murder of a Peruvian student, Interfax reported the same day. The demonstration, organized by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, was originally scheduled for 22 October along the city's central streets, but authorities withdrew permission for the demonstration, organizers said. "The authorities have once again tried to prevent us from holding an antifascist march against the murder of foreign students, but still it will be held," Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko said. Yakemenko said the massive rally would be staged in the city's University Square, where supporters will be able to sign a large poster protesting the murder of foreign students in Voronezh. The Peruvian was killed and two Spanish students injured in an attack on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Newlsine," 11 October 2005), and an Albanian student was attacked in the city on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2005). BW
TWO MORE REGIONS REPORT BIRD FLU CASES
Russian authorities have confirmed the presence of bird flu in Tambov Oblast, 250 miles south of Moscow, Reuters reported on 24 October. "Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the H5N1 strain (of bird flu)...in some dead fowl tissue samples," Reuters quoted an unidentified official as saying. The official said the disease killed 12 hens at a private dacha in the Morshansk Raion of Tambov Oblast last week. Veterinary authorities subsequently destroyed 53 ducks and hens remaining in the area and imposed a quarantine, the official said. The Tambov case marked the second region in European Russia in one week announcing an outbreak of bird flu. On 19 October, it was revealed that birds in the Yefremovskii Raion in Tula Oblast, south of Moscow, were infected with bird flu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2005). Russian authorities also announced that bird flu has been discovered in the village of Sunaly in the Troitsk Raion of Chelyabinsk Oblast, Interfax reported on 22 October. BW
REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS OFFICIAL EXPLAINS RUSSIA'S LOW RANKING
Pascal Bonnamour, the head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) European department, defended Russia's low ranking in the NGO's annual freedom of the press rankings on 21 October. In an interview with the daily "Kommersant," Bonnamour said Russia's ranking of 138 of 167 countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005) was due to controls on the media, curbs on different viewpoints, and biased coverage of the war in Chechnya. "These trends are increasingly evident in Russia from year to year. Russia is still an uncomfortable place to work and is dangerous for journalists to live in. The pressure of the state on the Russian mass media is mounting," Bonnamour said. "Kommersant" noted that in the four years RSF has conducted the survey, "Russia has never even entered the top 100." BW
SIBERIAN VILLAGE ERECTS LENIN STATUE IN CENTRAL SQUARE
Villagers in Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast have unveiled a statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin in the town's central square, 18 years after it was originally commissioned, Interfax reported on 24 October. "The monument was ordered by the Ust-Kut Raion [Communist] Party Committee and Culture Department back in 1987. It was made in Moscow, was brought to Ust-Kut in the 1990s, and placed in the Culture Department's storehouse," First Secretary of the Ust-Kut Committee of the Russian Communist Party Viktor Shpak told Interfax. About 500 people came to see the statue unveiled, Shpak said. The monument is three meters tall and rests on a black marble pedestal with the inscription, "Statesman Vladimir Lenin," he said. BW
MORE SUSPECTED MILITANTS ARRESTED IN NALCHIK
Two suspected participants in the 13 October multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik were apprehended on 21 October, Interfax reported. A third person, identified as Rasul Kudaev, who was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, was arrested on 23 October. Kudaev was returned last year to Russia because the evidence against him proved inconclusive and he was subsequently released, according to RIA Novosti as cited by kavkazweb.net. Observers in Nalchik have informed RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that Kulaev is an invalid, and could not therefore have participated in the 13 October attack. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Anzor Astemirov, who is believed to have helped organize the 13 October attacks, lenta.ru reported. Speaking at a press conference in Nalchik on 21 October, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel said 42 of the 87 militants killed during the raid have been identified, Interfax reported. Radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev has estimated the attackers' total losses at 42 killed, injured, and missing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005). LF
REGISTRATION ENDS FOR CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
Registration ended on 22 October for the 27 November election to a new bicameral Chechen Parliament, Russian media reported. Eight political parties will participate in the ballot, according to Central Election Commission Chairman Ismail Baykhanov. They are Unified Russia; Yabloko; Rodina (Motherland); the Union of Rightist Forces; the Communist Party of the Russian Federation; the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; the Eurasian Union; and Narodnaya Volya (People's Will). The Republican Party was disqualified as over 10 percent of the signatures collected in its support were ruled to be false. Ninety candidates will compete in single-mandate constituencies for the 18 seats in the upper chamber, the Council of the Republic. A total of 161 candidates will compete for the 20 seats in the lower chamber, the People's Assembly, that are to be allocated in single-mandate constituencies, and a further 106 for the remaining 20 seats in the People's Assembly allocated on the basis of party lists, according to kommersant.ru on 24 October. LF
ARMENIA, RUSSIA REVIEW MILITARY COOPERATION
During a visit to Yerevan on 19-21 October, Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to discuss bilateral cooperation, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. Noyan Tapan quoted Baluevskii as telling journalists on 19 October that Armenia and Russia are "the closest allies" among the member states of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. The independent Armenian daily "Golos Armenii" quoted him as telling a press conference on 21 October that he does not consider it necessary or expedient to increase the number of military personnel deployed at the Russian military base in Armenia. But, Baluevskii said, the military hardware at that base will be upgraded. LF
FORMER KARABAKH MINISTER PREPARES TO PARTICIPATE IN REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN
Samvel Babayan, a former Defense Minister of the Nagorno-Karbakh Republic (NKR), told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 21 October that once his political party Dashink is formally registered next month it will announce its stance with regard to the controversial constitutional amendments to be submitted to a nationwide referendum on 27 November. Babayan also said Dashink candidates have won election as mayors or municipal council members in the recent local elections, but did not identify those candidates. Babayan was sentenced in 2001 to 14 years in jail on charges of attempting to assassinate NKR President Arkadii Ghukasian in 2000. He was released from jail in September 2004 and has since settled in Yerevan, announcing his intention to engage in Armenian politics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2001 and 18 March and 8 July 2005). LF
POLICE AGAIN DISPERSE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION RALLY
Police intervened on 23 October to prevent Azerbaijani opposition supporters from congregating in Baku, Azerbaijani media reported. Municipal council officials warned the leaders of the Azadlyq opposition bloc on 22 October against assembling at venues in the capital where rallies are not permitted. Turan and ITAR-TASS quoted oppositionists as saying "dozens" of people were detained, possibly as many as 100, while day.az quoted Baku deputy police chief Yashar Aliyev as saying 15 of some 100-150 would-be particiants were detained. Day.az estimate the number of potential participants as slightly higher, between 200-250. Aliyev denied that the police resorted to violence, while Turan reported that they beat demonstrators at two locations in the city center. LF
ALLEGED MASTERMINDS DENY AZERBAIJANI COUP CHARGES
Former Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliyev and former Health Minister Ali Insanov, both of whom were dismissed last week and subsequently arrested on charges of channelling funds to the opposition with the aim of staging a coup d'etat, were expelled on 21 October from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, of which Insanov was one of the founding members, day.az reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 October 2005). Both men have been remanded in pretrial custody for three months but have refused to give evidence, according to day.az. Turan on 24 October quoted Insanov lawyer Togrul Babaev as saying that Insanov insists he is innocent of the charges brought against him. Meanwhile, former presidential administration official Akif Muraverdiev, who was similarly dismissed on 20 October, has also been taken into custody, day.az reported on 22 October. LF
GEORGIAN POLICE ARREST, THEN RELEASE RUSSIAN OFFICER
Georgian Interior Ministry special forces arrested Lieutenant-Colonel Roman Boyko, a military observer with the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone, in the Georgian town of Gori on 21 October on charges of instigating a terrorist attack, Georgian and Russian media reported. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov telephoned his Georgian counterpart Gela Bezhuashvili on 22 October to demand Boyko's immediate and unconditional release, and the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Georgian Ambassador to Russia Irakli Chubinashvili to protest Boyko's detention, Interfax reported. Boyko was released on 23 October and was handed over to the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, rustavi2.com reported. LF
RESTRICTIONS ON FREE SPEECH APPLIED IN LEAD-UP TO KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION...
As Kazakhstan's 4 December presidential election nears, issues of free speech and media access are garnering increasing attention. In a 20 October statement published by Navigator, an independent website that was recently forced to change domains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2005), the editors of "Svoboda Slova" (Freedom of Speech) condemned the authorities' 19 October confiscation of the newspaper's print run (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2005) as a "demonstrative violation of Kazakh law" intended to block information about opposition presidential candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai. And on 21 October, Interfax-Kazakhstan issued a rebuttal to charges by the editors of the independent Kazakh weeklies "Soz" and "Respublika," calling "baseless" their allegations that Interfax-Kazakhstan avoids covering opposition-related stories. DK
...AS OSCE READIES OBSERVER MISSION
The OSCE announced in an 18 October press release that it has deployed an observation mission to monitor the presidential election in Kazakhstan with 13 experts, 30 long-term observers and, eventually, 400 short-term observers. Mission head Audrey Glover met on 21 October with Bulat Abilov, a representative of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Abilov told Glover that opposition members are not represented on election commissions. He also criticized campaign spending rules, pointing out, "Each candidate can spend about $2 million on the election campaign. If we spend $1 million on TV ads, we'll have our candidate on the screen for only 80 minutes. Every day we will be able to broadcast spots promoting our candidate for only two minutes. We believe this is wrong." DK
CALLS FOR PREMIER'S OUSTER FOLLOW MURDER OF KYRGYZ DEPUTY...
The brother of Tynychbek Akmatbaev, a deputy in Kyrgyzstan's Parliament who was killed during a visit to a prison last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005), led approximately 400 people in a protest in Bishkek on 22-23 October calling on parliament to remove Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. In an interview with akipress.org on 22 October, Ryspek Akmatbaev, the murdered deputy's brother, said, "Feliks Kulov is guilty. He set this up together with Aziz Batukaev." Aziz Batukaev is a well-known criminal kingpin who was an inmate in the prison where Tynychbek Akmatbaev was killed. But as ferghana.ru reported, Batukaev is said to be involved in a feud with Ryspek Akmatbaev, whom numerous reports have linked to the criminal underworld. Ferghana.ru quoted Bolot Sherniyazov, deputy speaker of parliament, as saying, "We all know that the criminal kingpin Aziz Batukaev is imprisoned [in the facility where Akmatbaev was killed]. We all know who Ryspek Akmatbaev is and what his relations with Batukaev are like." DK
...AS PRIME MINISTER ASKS FOR OFFICIAL DECISION...
For his part, Kulov told a press conference on 21 October that he will step down if parliament and President Kurmanbek Bakiev find the protestors' demands justified, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kulov denied, however, any ties to Batukaev, ferghana.ru reported. The demonstrators in Bishkek vowed to continue their protest, which they relocated to Alatoo Square in front of parliament on 23 October in anticipation of a parliamentary session on 24 October, Kabar and akipress.org reported. Meanwhile, a demonstration of 500 people demanding Kulov's removal took place in the southern city of Osh on 23 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK
...AND PRESIDENT CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION, PUBLIC ORDER
Dosaly Esenaliev, a spokesman for President Bakiev, told akipress.org on 22 October that he has been briefed on the situation surrounding the death of Akmatbaev, akipress.org reported. Esenaliev said, "The head of state has charged the Prosecutor-General's Office with carrying out a thorough investigation of the critical situation that took place in Penal Colony No. 31 and led to the fatalities." Esenaliev added that the president has ordered law-enforcement officials to maintain order in the country. DK
SUPPORTERS SAY UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED
Nigora Hidoyatova, coordinator of the Uzbek opposition group Sunshine Coalition, told ferghana.ru on 23 October that businessman Sanjar Umarov, the group's chairman, was arrested in Tashkent on 22 October. A 23 October press release on the coalition's website, (http://www.sunshineuzbekistan.org) said that Umarov has not been seen since 10 p.m. on 22 October. Hidoyatova said that sources in the Prosecutor-General's Office told her that Umarov has been arrested in connection with charges that he committed economic crimes. She linked Umarov's arrest to an 18 October call that he issued for political dialogue as well as to a recent appeal by Umarov to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who visited Uzbekistan on 21 October. DK
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH UZBEK PRESIDENT
Sergei Lavrov met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 21 October, UzA reported. The report quoted Karimov as saying, "There is every reason to state that Uzbekistan and Russia are carrying out in full their obligations under the strategic partnership treaty." Lavrov also stressed that Russian-Uzbek relations are developing dynamically on the basis of the strategic partnership. DK
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 'DEPLORES' FORCIBLE TREATMENT OF UZBEK DISSIDENT
The State Department announced in a 21 October statement on its website that the United States "deplores the forcible psychiatric treatment of human rights activist Elena [Urlaeva] by the Government of Uzbekistan." Noting that "treating political dissidents as victims of psychosis has long been a tactic used by repressive regimes," the State Department called on the Uzbek authorities to "stop any ordered treatment until an independent assessment of Ms. [Urlaeva's] health can be conducted." Human Rights Watch also protested the forcible psychiatric treatment of Urlaeva in a 20 October press release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005). DK
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL ONLY DROP OUT OF ELECTION IF NATION ASKS HIM TO QUIT
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 21 October that he will only consider not seeking a third presidential term if the people of Belarus ask him not to participate in the country's 2006 presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "I'll never take my candidacy off the race on my own unless the people tell me, 'Lukashenka, that's enough,'" he said at a meeting with residents of the town of Loyev in the southeast Gomel region. Lukashenka also said he will not pander or plead with voters to support him. "I won't make supernatural promises, and I'll only do what I'm supposed to do as president," Lukashenka said. BW
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PUSHES FOR BETTER TIES WITH VENEZUELA
After meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque on 22 October, President Lukashenka said economic interests and common political views make the two countries natural allies, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "We have all chances to provide a good foundation for cooperation," Lukashenka said, adding that trade between the two countries could potentially reach $50 million. Lukashenka also offered to promote Venezuela's interests in Europe and to "strike against resistance of the great powers," an apparent jab at Washington. Araque said Venezuela and Belarus share common interests on international issues. "This is, primarily, related to searching for a new balance system in world problems, because the situation became very serious after the collapse of the USSR," he said. BW
MITTAL WINS UKRAINIAN STEEL AUCTION WITH $4.8 BILLION BID...
The German branch of the Netherlands-based consortium Mittal Steel purchased a controlling stake in Ukraine's Kryvorizhstal steelworks for $4.8 billion on 24 October, international news agencies reported the same day. The price was a record for a privatization auction in Ukraine, dpa reported. In the 45-minute auction, which was televised live, the German branch of Mittal Steel, Mittal Steel Germany GmbH, won 93 percent of Kryvorizhstal with a bid of 24.2 billion hryvnya ($4.8 billion). Two Ukrainian consortiums also participated in the auction: Kyiv-based Smart Group and Donetsk-based Industrial Group. Kryvorizhstal accounts for 20 percent of total steel output in Ukraine, which is the seventh-largest steel exporter in the world. BW
...AS HEAD OF PROPERTY FUND FALLS ILL FOLLOWING POLITICAL BATTLE
Valentyna Semenyuk, the head of the Ukrainian State Property Fund, has been hospitalized with high blood pressure, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. She reportedly became ill after the Political Council of Ukraine's Socialist Party, of which she is a member, asked her to resign over the Krivorizhstal privatization. The Socialist Party sought to have the steel giant turned over to the state. Ukrainian State Property Fund Deputy Chairman Oleksandr Bondar said that "there was no political implication behind Semenyuk's illness. Her health has really worsened." BW
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY GIVES SUPPORT TO UKRAINE AT NATO CONFERENCE...
Speaking at a NATO conference in Vilnius on 23 October, Donald Rumsfeld highlighted Washington's support for Ukraine's bid to join, international news agencies reported the same day. In his remarks, Rumsfeld stressed Kyiv's progress on political and military reform. "Progress [on reform] has been made and we encourage it and are available to be of assistance in various ways," Reuters quoted Rumsfeld as saying at a press conference in Vilnius. Reuters quoted an unidentified senior U.S. official as saying that Rumsfeld arrived in Lithuania on 22 October -- one day earlier than scheduled -- to stress Washington's support for Ukraine with the European defense ministers who have been more cautious about Ukraine joining the alliance. Ukraine has said it hopes to join the alliance in 2008, during a tentatively scheduled NATO summit. BW
...AS UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA SHOULD NOT SUFFER
Anatoliy Gritsenko said on 23 October that Kyiv's future integration with NATO should not harm relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "Russia and many wise Russians think that Poland and Baltic countries, which are NATO members, do not endanger Russia. Ukraine has normal relations with Russia and does not infringe its interests in any way," Gritsenko said after meeting with Rumsfeld. ITAR-TASS quoted a source in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry as saying that Gritsenko and Rumsfeld discussed bilateral U.S.-Ukrainian relations, a "cooperation plan" for 2006, and the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Iraq after the December parliamentary elections there. BW
KOSOVA'S PRIME MINISTER SAYS NOTHING SHORT OF FULL INDEPENDENCE WILL SUFFICE...
Bajram Kosumi said that the province will accept nothing less than full independence after the completion of UN-sponsored final-status talks, Reuters reported on 23 October. "There definitely cannot be any conditions or new interim phases, since they are obstructing economic progress," Bajram Kosumi told Reuters in an interview. Kosumi added that Kosova expects that following talks an international "observation or advisory" mission will be set up as "a psychological and practical guarantee for ethnic groups that their rights are observed." However, he added, "Kosova must be an independent and sovereign state." Kosumi also dismissed Serbia's ruling out Kosova's independence. "Belgrade will never have the right to decide Kosova's future," he said. "If Belgrade was asked, Kosova might not even exist today." The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet on 24 October to set Kosova's final status talks. BW
...AS DIPLOMATS FLOAT ALTERNATIVE PLANS
Quoting unidentified diplomats, Reuters reported on 23 October that the West is considering a form of "conditional independence" for Kosova that would involve broad international oversight. According to the Reuters report, the plan would involve "an independent Kosova without full sovereignty, where the international community would reserve certain powers for years to come, particularly over human rights and minority protection." Reuters also quoted UN officials as saying that Kosova's institutions are incapable of guaranteeing the rights of the province's Serb population, and that any final solution must devolve power to the Serb minority in areas such as justice, education, culture, media, and economic development. However, Kosumi insists that Kosova will offer equal rights to all its citizens, and added that "division of territory or any autonomy based on ethnicity is wrong and has resulted in war." BW
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO APPOINTS DEFENSE MINISTER WITH TIES TO WAR-CRIMES FUGITIVE
A retired general with links to war-crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic was appointed Serbia and Montenegro's new defense minister on 21 October, international news agencies reported. Zoran Stankovic, the former head of a Belgrade military hospital, was confirmed with 72 votes in the 126-member federal parliament, AP reported. He replaces Prvoslav Davinic, who resigned after a scandal involving the alleged purchase of unnecessary equipment for the army at inflated prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2005). Stankovic is a pathologist who says he developed a "special relationship" with Mladic after carrying out an autopsy on his daughter when she killed herself in 1994, the BBC reported on 22 October. Some media have speculated that Stankovic was appointed in hopes that he would persuade Mladic to surrender. Speaking on the B-92 television channel, Stankovic pledged to keep up the hunt for the accused war criminal, but added: "It is not realistic to think that a defense minister will run after Mladic through the mountains." BW
GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER REPORTEDLY CRITICIZES BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, ANNOUNCES TROOP REDUCTION
Peter Struck announced on 22 October that his country will withdraw up to 300 troops from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported the same day. In an interview with the German weekly "Welt am Sonntag" quoted by Reuters, Struck accused Bosnian leaders of letting the West "do all the work" and suggested that the country's leaders take their destiny into their own hands. "My impression is that there's a tendency there to lie back and leave all the work to us," Stuck said. He added that Germany will withdraw between 200 and 300 of Germany's 1,000-strong EUFOR contingent. Reuters quoted Lieutenant Jem Thomas, a spokesman for EUFOR, as saying he is unaware of any German troop reduction plan. Struck's comments came as the European Union approved talks with Bosnia-Herzegovina on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step toward EU membership. BW
SPEAKER OF TRANSDNIESTER PARLIAMENT SLAMS OSCE OVER ELECTIONS...
Grigorii Marakutsa has accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of double standards in refusing to monitor the 11 December parliamentary elections in the breakaway region, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. "This decision benefits some countries and turns the legal problem of elections in the Dniester Republic into a political issue," Marakuca told reporters in Tiraspol on 24 October. "Due to this, the population of the Dniester Region has nothing else to do but to stop looking back on others and to strive for independence," he added. The OSCE has said that elections in Transdniester will require at least eight months of preparation and should be postponed until next year, ITAR-TASS reported. BW
...AS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RUSSIAN PROPOSALS ON REGION
Vladimir Voronin said on 23 October that Russian proposals for a settlement in Transdniester are unacceptable, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. "These proposals repeat the plan...offered more than 10 years ago and [which] envisaged the formation of a federation by Moldova and the Dniester region," Voronin said, adding that "the authorities and people of Moldova will not agree with the disintegration of the country" and are ready for difficulties in the struggle for its territorial integrity. "We are afraid of neither Russian gas-price hikes nor the restrictions on Moldovan supplies on the Russian market. We will not give away our country over this," Voronin said. BW
DUTCH VERDICTS ON AFGHAN WAR CRIMES COULD REOPEN OLD WOUNDS
The Court of Law in The Hague on 14 October sentenced two former Afghan generals to imprisonment for war crimes committed in Afghanistan and violating the Torture Act and the Dutch War Crimes Act. The case can be a prelude to more arrests and could have an unintended influence on the soon-to-be convened National Assembly of Afghanistan.
According to a press release on 17 October from the National Policy Agency of the Netherlands, the two men -- Hesamuddin Hesam and Habibullah Jalalzoy -- had applied for asylum in the Netherlands, where they have been residing since 1992 and 1996, respectively. Both men were sentenced for involvement in torture while working for military intelligence when Afghanistan was ruled by the Soviet-backed communist regime.
Hesam, who was the director of the Military KhAD, or Khad-e Nezami (KhAD was the acronym for State Intelligence Service) from 1982 until 1990 and also served as the deputy intelligence minister was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Jalalzoy was head of the interrogations department of the Military KhAD from 1979 until 1990 and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
According to the Dutch court, Hesam had knowledge of the practice of torture, was involved in torture, and did not act to prevent the torture, while Jalalzoy was actively involved in torture.
Criminal investigations involving the two Afghans began in 2003 leading to the arrest of Hesam a year later. According to the press release, during the investigation the Dutch National Crimes Squad spoke with witnesses in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Norway, and Afghanistan.
The sentencing of the two former Afghan communist generals in the Netherlands follows sentencing of a former Afghan warlord to 20 years imprisonment by a British court in London in July on charges of torture and hostage taking.
Zardad Sarwar Faryadi, a former member of the radical Hizb-e Islami party, was convicted of crimes he committed while in the Sarubi area along the road from Kabul to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996. After the fall of the communist government in 1992, former mujahedin resistance groups turned their guns against one another in a bloody fight for power, plunging Afghanistan into civil war and chaos.
In Faryadi's case, which was tried based on the UN Convention on Torture, witnesses testified via a video link from the British Embassy in Kabul. Following Faryadi's conviction, Nader Naderi, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) told RFE/RL that he welcomed the British action as a positive step "toward increasing [the Afghan] people's trust in the peace process in Afghanistan and ending impunity."
The conviction of two communist generals and a mujahedin commander on torture charges in two European countries could have consequences inside Afghanistan, and even in the National Assembly which was elected on 18 September and is due to begin its work soon.
While Afghan and international human rights organizations have called for a mechanism under which those who are accused of committing crimes against humanity on a mass scale during 25 years can be brought to trial, the Afghan authorities have taken no organized steps to address this issue. The cases in the Netherlands and in Britain could make it more difficult for Kabul to avoid acting on this potentially divisive issue much longer.
Moreover, and perhaps more challenging, is the fact that among the representatives who will be sitting in the People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) of the country's National Assembly, there are a few who have records that seem to link them directly with torture and other crimes against the Afghan people. If Afghanistan is ever to heal the wounds of its past, the legislative assembly that must lead such an effort could have to begin by examining its own members. Alternatively, these few members of the People's Council may become a factor in convincing their colleagues to let bygones be bygones. Under such a scenario, those who were victims of such crimes must either forgive their tormentors and move on or try to raise their cases in foreign countries in their quest for some measure of justice.
EDITOR OF AFGHAN WOMEN'S MAGAZINE SENTENCED
The Kabul Appellate Court on 22 October sentenced Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, editor in chief of "Hoquq-e Zan" (Women's Rights) magazine, to two years in prison on charges of blasphemy, official Afghanistan Television reported. Nasab characterized the judgment as unfair and rejected all of the charges. A court official read a decree issued by the Ulema Council of Afghanistan that accused Nasab of publishing an article that opposed the Koran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, and demanded "serious punishment" for the accused. Nasab was arrested in early October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2005). AT
BLAST INJURES AFGHAN SOLDIERS IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
An explosive device placed on a motorcycle detonated on 23 October in Kandahar province's Maywand district as a bus carrying Afghan National Army soldiers was passing by, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Military Corps 205 commander Lieutenant General Mohammad Moslem Hamed claimed that three soldiers were injured in the blast. An unidentified doctor in Maywand told journalists that he provided medical assistance to 10 people after the explosion. Neo-Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusof claimed responsibility for the blast, adding that 15 Afghan National Army soldiers were killed, AIP reported on 23 October. AT
TWO DEMINERS KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
A remote-controlled explosive device on 23 October killed two and injured six demining personnel in Kandahar, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. The victims, who worked for Halo Trust Demining Agency, were traveling when their vehicle was targeted near an Afghan National Army base. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. AT
CHINA TO PROVIDE AFGHANISTAN WITH MILITARY EQUIPMENT
The People's Republic of China will provide $2 million worth of military equipment to Afghanistan, Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Homayun Fawzi told a news conference in Kabul on 23 October, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. According to Fawzi, Kabul will provide Beijing with a list of equipment the Afghan National Army needs. Fawzi recently returned from an official visit to China. Afghanistan and China share a 95-kilometer border. AT
IRANIAN OFFICIALS CONTRADICT EACH OTHER ON AHVAZ BOMBINGS
Iraj Amirkhani, the General and Revolutionary Courts prosecutor in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, said on 23 October that some 25 people have been arrested in connection with bombings that took place there in June, Fars News Agency. He said no one has been arrested in connection with the 15 October bombings in Ahvaz. Amirkhani went on to say that the people arrested in connection with the June bombings have admitted that "they were supported by some of the devotees of the previous regime who live in Britain and that they acted as a team." Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad said on 22 and 23 October that some 30 people have been arrested in connection with the 15 October bombings, state media reported. He said the arrests helped foil other plots, state television reported on 22 October. He also connected the detainees with foreign powers, saying: "As for the countries that were somehow involved in the bombings, as we have said, the countries that occupied Iraq and committed all those crimes in that country had somehow supported them," state radio reported on 23 October. Karimirad said a special judge and an inspector will investigate the recent events in Ahvaz, IRNA reported. BS
TEHRAN APPEARS TO CONFIRM RETALIATORY TRADE RESTRICTIONS
Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi said on 22 October that the government is considering imposing trade restrictions against South Korea and the United Kingdom, Fars News Agency reported. There are reports from the U.K. and South Korea, as well as the Czech Republic and Argentina, that their exports to Iran are encountering various barriers, and it is believed that this is in retaliation for these countries voting against Iran in a September International Atomic Energy Agency governing-board resolution. "Well, we cannot separate our economic ties from our political stances and national interests," Purmohammadi said. "If a country does not take our national interests into consideration, we see no reason to help it on the economic side." "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 19 October that the Foreign Ministry has submitted a Commerce Ministry directive banning imports from Argentina, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Israel, and South Korea. Officials cited by the daily did not confirm the specifics of the directive, and Commerce Minister Masud Mir-Kazemi denied that such a directive exists. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ECONOMIC PLANS
Mahmud Ahmadinejad said during a 22 October speech to university students and professors in Tehran that he will do his utmost to fight corruption and to prevent the embezzlement of public funds, IRNA reported. He added that the banking system and state-owned enterprises will be reformed, and national wealth will be redistributed to the neediest parts of the country. Ahmadinejad criticized the transfer of state enterprises to the private sector over the last 16 years. In another part of his speech, Ahmadinejad said he will address the issue of high tuition fees at institutions of higher education. BS
IRAN PREPARES FOR ANTI-ISRAEL COMMEMORATION
Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, secretary-general of the International Conference to Support the Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) series, said in a 22 October interview in Tehran that Islamic countries' establishment of links with "the Zionist regime" (presumably Israel) is a crime, Mehr News Agency reported. He referred specifically to Bahrain, Pakistan, Qatar, and Turkey as being in the process of normalizing their relations with Israel. He said Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque are under threat, and Islamic countries should be holding a summit on this issue. Mohtashami-Pur encouraged Muslims to participate in Qods Day (Jerusalem Day), an event created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 that is celebrated on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. Qods Day falls on 28 October this year. A founder of Lebanese Hizballah, Mohtashami-Pur, has served as ambassador to Syria, interior minister, and a member of parliament. BS
LABOR ACTION IN IRANIAN KURDISTAN
Mohammad Sadiq Karimi, a labor representative in Kurdistan Province, said on 22 October that a three-week labor action is under way at the Kurdistan Textile Company, ILNA reported. Karimi said the 407 workers go to the textile factory but do not do any work. The textile company belongs to the Oppressed and Disabled Foundation, Karimi said, and the workers are reacting to the employers' refusal to repay funds the company withdrew from the company cooperative. Karimi added that the workers go to the factory because they are being paid on time and there are no problems with their health insurance. BS
ARAB LEAGUE CHIEF LEAVES IRAQ WITH PLAN FOR RECONCILIATION CONFERENCE
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa left Iraq on 24 October after reportedly garnering support for a league-sponsored reconciliation conference on Iraq next month, MENA reported on 24 October. Musa met with representatives of Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Shi'ite Arabs during his five-day visit to Iraq, and won the support of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for the conference, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on 22 October. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said he supports the conference, as long as it does not include terrorists or former Ba'athists. "If someone says he does not want the multinational forces in Iraq, I will allow him to say that on television and even protect him," al-Ja'fari said. "However, I do not believe they should leave now. I believe that when I rehabilitate my security organs, I will tell [multinational forces] to leave." Shi'ite leader Husayn al-Shahristani, while supporting dialogue with legitimate Sunni Arab groups, rejected the notion of holding the conference outside Iraq, "Al-Hayat" reported on 21 October. KR
IECI ANNOUNCES INITIAL RESULTS ON REFERENDUM IN SOME GOVERNORATES
The Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission (IECI) announced on 24 October that voters in the Al-Anbar Governorate voted down the referendum on the draft constitution, RFI reported. The IECI announced results for 13 governorates on 22 October, saying that the referendum was also voted down in the Salah Al-Din Governorate, RFI reported on the same day. Results are still not available for the Ninawah Governorate (Mosul), where Sunni Arabs claim that the majority of voters voted "no" in the referendum. If three or more governorates vote down the referendum, the draft constitution will be considered failed. IECI Director-General Adil al-Lami said the vote in Salah Al-Din Governorate was 81.15 percent against the constitution and 18.85 percent voting for it. More than 90 percent of voters voted "yes" in the following governorates: Dahuk, Karbala, Maysan, Al-Muthanna, Al-Najaf, Al-Qadisiyah, Al-Sulaymaniyah, Dhi Qar, and Wasit. IECI member Sawfat Rashid told reporters on 22 October that the IECI "did not discover any considerable violations, such as rigging...during the referendum process and it did not receive any complaints or contests from political entities or the observers in this regard." KR
AL-DUJAYL DEFENSE LAWYERS REFUSE TO ATTEND COURT SESSION...
Defense attorneys for deposed President Saddam Hussein and seven others accused of taking part in the Al-Dujayl massacre refused to attend a special court session on 23 October in which prosecutors interviewed an ailing former intelligence officer in a Baghdad hospital, citing security reasons, international media reported on 24 October. The prosecution interviewed Wadah Isma'il Shaykh, a former high-ranking intelligence official who is suffering from cancer. The interview was conducted in the presence of an investigative judge, latimes.com reported. Defense attorneys were given four options to attend the session, including the opportunity to attend via videoconference or the use of a U.S. military escort to the hospital, lead prosecutor Ja'far Musawi said. One defense attorney, Khamis Ubaydi, told latimes.com that defense lawyers do not know or trust the Interior Ministry, which is tasked with security. The defense would prefer to have local tribesmen protecting them. "We want our relatives to protect us. We want the people in charge to issue licenses for them to carry weapons," Ubaydi said. Attorney Sa'dun Antar al-Janabi was kidnapped and killed by unidentified gunmen last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005). KR
...AS GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN SAYS DEFENSE WARNED ABOUT SECURITY
Laith Kubba told reporters during a 23 October press briefing in Baghdad that the trial of Hussein and his codefendants will not be paralyzed by the killing of defense attorney al-Janabi, RFI reported the same day. Kubba said that defense attorneys were warned to take precautions for their safety ahead of the start of the trial. He added that the government offered security protection to the defense team, but the offer was declined. The defense panel also rejected an offer to have their faces obscured by the cameras inside the courtroom, and to have their names publicly withheld. He said that should defense attorneys request that the government provide security, it will do so. Kubba added that the trial cannot be delayed. "If we obstruct the court or if the courts are unsuccessful, very slow, or not transparent in giving people their rights, then this undermines the sovereignty of the law and security, and takes us from legitimate laws to the laws of the jungle," Kubba said. KR
HUSSEIN'S ATTORNEY SAYS DEFENSE HAS NOT ASKED TO MOVE TRIAL OUTSIDE IRAQ
Hussein's attorney Khalil al-Dulaymi told Al-Jazeera television in a 22 October interview that the defense has not requested that the trial be moved outside Iraq. "We have not, thus far, asked for the trial to be moved outside Iraq, because we do not recognize the so-called criminal court [Iraqi Special Tribunal] and do not recognize the legitimacy of the aggression," al-Dulaymi said. "If we ask for moving the trial outside, this means that we recognize the court and its proceedings," he added. Al-Dulaymi said the defense panel is made up of more than 2,000 Iraqi lawyers, and is part of an international defense panel that includes thousands of Arab and international lawyers. KR