PUTIN, AL-ASAD DISCUSS UN INVESTIGATION ON SYRIA'S ROLE IN HARIRI ASSASSINATION
The Kremlin press service announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad telephoned President Vladimir Putin on 25 October and told him that Damascus is "ready for the broadest cooperation" with the UN commission to investigate the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, RTR reported. Putin urged cooperation and said Moscow supports "cautious actions on the part of the international community on this issue in order to avoid new sources of tension in the region," according to the press release. The same day, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing about the situation in Lebanon and Syria in the context of the UN investigation, RTR reported. RTR reported that veto-wielding members Russia and China have already indicated they would oppose UN sanctions on Syria. The United Kingdom, France, and the United States are reportedly planning to propose such sanctions in the coming days. VY
PUTIN DISCUSSES IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM WITH PRESIDENT
President Putin spoke by telephone with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on 25 October about Iran's nuclear program in the context of possible action by the UN Security Council, NTV, RBK-TV, and other Russian media reported. Putin reiterated Moscow's position that the standoff over Iranian nuclear activities should be resolved "by political means within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]," RIA-Novosti reported. Putin also reportedly told Ahmadinejad that Russia favors broader Iranian cooperation with the IAEA and a resumption of Tehran's talks with the so-called EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany). Diplomatic sources within the United States and the EU were quoted by AFP as suggesting on 25 October that the West will refrain from referring the issue to the Security Council unless it can get Russian backing. Russia is reportedly working on a compromise under which Iran could process uranium ore but not enrich uranium or produce nuclear fuel, AFP reported. VY
PUTIN WELCOMES SHANGHAI DELEGATIONS, SAYS GROUP HAS OUTGROWN ORIGINAL DESIGNS
Prime Ministers from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) convened in Moscow on 26 October and agreed at their one-day meeting on a "road map" that will include agreements on mutual cooperation in emergency situations and several economic accords, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported. Receiving the visiting heads of government at the Kremlin, President Putin said the group -- which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- has "outgrown its original goal." Observers to the SCO Mongolia, Pakistan, India, and Iran all sent their most senior representatives to date to the meeting -- including Mongolian Prime Minister Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorzh, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, and Iranian First Vice President Parviz Davudi. Putin also held a separate meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, RIA-Novosti reported. "The Christian Science Monitor" asked on 25 October whether Russia and China are seeking to create a "NATO of the East" through the Shanghai group. VY
SWISS COURT OPENS TRIAL OF RUSSIAN DEFENDANT IN AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLER'S KILLING
A Zurich court on 25 October opened the trial of Russian defendant Vitalii Kaloev for the stabbing death of the Swiss air-traffic controller who was on duty when two planes collided over Lake Constance in July 2002, killing Kaloev's wife and two children along with 68 other people, RTR and Channel One reported. Kaloev testified that he does not remember the February 2004 stabbing but that "judging by the evidence presented to me, it turns out that I killed him," according to ITAR-TASS. He asked the children of the slain man, Peter Nielsen, for forgiveness. Prosecutors are seeking a 16-year prison sentence for Kaloev, while defense attorney Markus Hug has cited the mitigating circumstances of his family's death and is requesting a three-year jail term, according to RTR. Witnesses testified that the engineer and North Ossetia native was especially frustrated that a probe into the tragedy failed to assign specific responsibility. Kaloev reportedly cited a "Caucasus notion of justice" and traveled to Zurich, where he was arrested two days after the discovery of Nielsen's body. North Ossetian President Teimuraz Mamsurov traveled to Zurich in a private capacity, as he described it, to show sympathy for Kaloev, RTR reported. Mamsurov stressed his faith in the Swiss court's objectivity. VY
RUSSIA CONCEDES TRAWLERS VIOLATED NORWEGIAN REGULATIONS...
The Russian consulate in Oslo conceded in a press release on 25 October that two Russian trawlers at the heart of a dramatic international confrontation at sea last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," DATE) violated Norwegian fishing regulations, Channel One reported on 26 October. However, the consulate also described Norwegian authorities' actions as "incommensurate with the ships' actions," according to ITAR-TASS. Norwegian inspectors reportedly ordered the Russian trawlers to pay an $800,000 fine for violating Norway's disputed 12-mile (19 kilometer) coastal zone. Norwegian authorities have since detained two other Russian vessels -- the "Kapitan Gorbachev" trawler and the refrigeration craft the "Dmitrii Pokramovich" -- and ordered them to pay some $330,000 in penalties for alleged violations (see next item and "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2005). VY
...AS NEW FISHING INCIDENT CONTINUES
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on 26 October that Norwegian authorities' actions in the more recent fishing dispute "look excessive, and the announced fines do not correspond to the circumstances," ITAR-TASS reported. "We are conducting a probe together with the Russian departments and organizations concerned," Kamynin said. The head of the Arkhangelsk Trawler Fleet fishing company, Yurii Nikulin, has urged Russian officials to suspend the activities of a joint Russian-Norwegian fishery commission in Kaliningrad until the dispute is resolved, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October. AH
TOP JUDGE CALLS FOR REINSTITUTION OF PROPERTY CONFISCATION
Speaking at a conference on 25 October on the role of the law in the provision of national interests, Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin said he opposes canceling the state's right to confiscate property as a form of punishment, Russian news agencies reported. He explained that he believes that such an abolition would play into the hands of criminals, whose money continues to work for them when they are serving their sentences, NTV reported. The government, according to strana.ru, is already working on a package of amendments that would restore such punishment to the Criminal Code. Confiscation of property was removed from the Criminal Code at the end of 2003, according to the website. In a comment to gazeta.ru, Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technology opined, "After such activities, Western investors will think seriously about the financial security of doing business in Russia." JAC
COMMUNIST PARTY SAYS FINANCIAL SUPPORTERS ARE BEING HARASSED...
Ekho Moskvy on 25 October quoted Vadim Solovev, head of the Communist Party's legal service, as saying that tax inspectors have been showing an interest in individuals who are donating money to the Communist Party. Solovev told the station that people who have transferred sums of 50,000-100,000 rubles ($1,754-3,500) have been summoned to the offices of the tax inspectorate. Solovev predicted that "following multiple summons, people will think twice before making a donation to any political party." JAC
...AS JUSTICE MINISTRY PICKS NEW SIDE IN PARTY FEUD
Also on 25 October, former Pensioners Party head Sergei Atroshenko told RIA-Novosti that the Justice Ministry has given his party a new registration certificate that names him as the leader of the Pensioners Party and not independent State Duma Deputy Valerii Gartung. Gartung alleged last week that the Kremlin is seeking to dislodge him from his leadership of the Pensioners Party, which performed well in regional elections recently relative to other political parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005). JAC
SENATOR LINKS BIRD-FLU OUTBREAK WITH INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE...
One of the Federation Council representatives for the agricultural Kurgan Oblast, Sergei Lisovskii, told reporters in Kurgan on 25 October that foreign poultry importers are deliberately dramatizing the situation with regard to bird flu in Russia, Interfax reported. "It all looks like a planned sabotage operation," said Lisovskii, who is also vice chairman of the Russian Poultry Union. "I think it is easy to chart the routes of birds' migration. One could use that for sabotage, or one could infect the Chinese lake from which the birds migrated to Russia. Technically, it would not be expensive or complicated." According to Ekho Moskvy, Lisovskii said on 24 October that the "United States is the largest producer of chicken meat and if it destroys regional producers it can supply poultry to the whole world." He suggested that there is silence about the alleged existence of bird flu in the United States. Lisovskii said birds die of flu every year, and the rate of death of domestic birds is "currently approximately the same as in previous years." JAC
...WHILE SECTOR REPRESENTATIVE SAYS U.S. SEEKS WORLD POULTRY DOMINATION
Vladimir Fisinin, president of the Russian Poultry Union, suggested on RTV on 20 October that "certain people have an interest in fueling the [bird-flu] crisis." In a presumed reference to U.S. chicken products, Fisinin alleged that the "people who export Bush legs...and Brazil" want to see the crisis grow. JAC
SAMARA RESIDENTS PROTEST CANCELLATION OF MAYORAL ELECTIONS
An estimated 20,000 people participated in a rally in the city of Samara on 25 October to protest a new city charter whereby the city's mayor will be elected by the local duma from among its ranks and not directly by the city voters, VolgaInform reported. The city duma adopted a new charter in March that calls for the new mayoral selection process to begin after July 2006, when the current mayor's term expires, according to ITAR-TASS. The news agency reported that a group of activists who oppose the new city charter prepared an alternative one that has been signed by more than 350,000 city residents. JAC
KABARDINO-BALKAR PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP
At a closed session on 20 October, the parliament of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) adopted a resolution that was subsequently published on 25 October in which it appeals to President Putin to "endorse the state concept on nationality policy" and impose temporary restrictions on travel between North Caucasus republics, given that "criminal tendencies in the North Caucasus pose a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation," regnum.ru reported on 25 October. The same resolution includes an appeal to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to help attract investment in the republican economy in order to create new jobs, as well as to raise the salaries of local police and security personnel, taking into account the uniquely dangerous conditions they face. In an article published in the October issue of "Kompaniya," commentator Mikhail Leontiev argues that job creation and accelerated economic development are essential preconditions for combating religious extremism in Kabardino-Balkaria and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS
The opposition Hanrapetutiun party headed by former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian held its fifth congress in Yerevan on 25 October, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Sargsian appealed to supporters and to the entire electorate to vote against the constitutional amendments that are the subject of a national referendum on 27 November. He said a "no" vote means "saying 'no' to criminals, lies, rigging, murders, provincialism, poverty, and injustice." Sargsian added that any attempt by the authorities to falsify the outcome of the plebiscite will inevitably trigger a revolution. Sargsian chose to hold the congress outdoors in central Yerevan after his request to convene it on government premises was turned down. The congress was attended by leaders of several other opposition parties, including Vazgen Manukian (National Democratic Union), Aram Karapetian (New Times), and Stepan Demirchian (People's Party of Armenia) but not National Accord Party leader Artashes Geghamian. Albert Bazeyan, a long-time ally of Sargsian who recently quit Hanrapetutiun to protest Sargsian's increasingly pro-Western orientation, also failed to attend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ADVOCATES MEASURES TO PRECLUDE ELECTION FALSIFICATION...
President Ilham Aliyev convened a meeting of national and local government officials and members of the Central Election Commission (MSK) on 25 October to review preparations for the 6 November parliamentary election, Azerbaijani media reported. Aliyev gave an overall positive assessment to the election campaign to date and said that all candidates regardless of their political affinity have had access to be both free and paid airtime. He admitted, however, that problems have dogged the issuing of voter-identification documents. LF
...INCLUDING INDELIBLE INK
President Aliyev on 25 October ordered the Central Election Commission to make immediate arrangements for the marking of voters' fingers with indelible ink to preclude multiple voting, and he recommended that parliament consider abolishing the restrictions on allowing local NGOs to monitor the ballot, Azerbaijani media reported. International human rights organizations and opposition parties have been lobbying for months for those concessions, but some experts have suggested that it may be too late to implement them. Election expert Anar Mamedli told echo-az.com that special training is required in the use of the devices to detect the indelible ink used to mark voters' fingers. Mamedli also pointed out that according to the election law, 26 October is the last day on which local NGOs may register with the Central Election Commission to monitor the ballot. The online daily zerkalo.az pointed out that the use of indelible ink proved to be less than infallible in preventing fraud when used in previous elections in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, and it referred to Georgian media reports that local election officials had emptied the bottles containing indelible ink and refilled them with water. LF
MORE FORMER OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJAN
The Azerbaijani Interior and National Security ministries and the Prosecutor General's Office issued a statement on 25 October alleging that former presidential-administration official Akif Muradverdiev and Azerkhimiya head Fikret Sadykhov conspired with former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev in plotting a coup d'etat, day.az and other Azerbaijani media reported. The statement claimed that Sadykhov met with former Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov, who faces similar charges of conspiring with Guliev, to discuss financing the conspiracy. Muradverdiev was dismissed on 20 October and taken into custody on 24 October; Sadykhov was fired on 24 October. Nadjafgulu Guliev, a former local government official identified as an accomplice in the plot, has also been arrested and reportedly admitted to having met at his dacha with Muradverdiev and another prominent coup suspect, former Health Minister Ali Insanov, both of whom, according to Guliev, repeatedly denounced the country's leadership and advocated seizing power, echo-az.com reported on 26 October. The same online daily also reported that two officials from the Economic Development Ministry, Aligusein Shaliev and Gadir Guseinov, were arrested on 25 October. Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliev was dismissed last week and arrested on charges of involvement in the alleged coup (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2005). LF
COMMITTEE FORMED IN SUPPORT OF DISGRACED AZERBAIJANI EX-MINISTER
Unidentified members of the so-called Yeraz community comprising Azerbaijanis whose families were resettled to Azerbaijan from Armenia in the 1950s, together with unnamed members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, have appealed to President Aliyev to release former Health Minister Insanov on bail, Turan reported on 26 October. Insanov has been formally charged with abuse of his official position, preparing mass disturbances, seeking to seize power by force, and large-scale misappropriation of state property; he has been remanded in pretrial custody for three months. He has denied all the charges against him and refused to testify, Turan reported. LF
GEORGIA SEEKS GREATER U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN RESOLVING CONFLICT WITH SOUTH OSSETIA
Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said in Moscow on 25 October at the end of a two-day session of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone that Tbilisi considers further meetings of that body in its current composition pointless, rustavi2.com reported. He argued that none of the 16 written agreements signed at past JCC meetings, including 10 on demilitarization, has ever been implemented, Caucasus Press reported. Khaindrava also implicitly protested the representation on the JCC of the Republic of North Ossetia, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 October. Instead, Khaindrava argued that the EU, the OSCE, and the United States should play a greater role in mediating a solution of the conflict, Interfax reported. Participants in the JCC session agreed nonetheless to accept an invitation from OSCE Chairman in Office and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel to meet in Ljubljana for further talks, Interfax reported. They also agreed that the long-planned meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli and South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity should take place "soon," Interfax reported. LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENT TOUTS ACHIEVEMENTS, PROMISES FURTHER ECONOMIC PROGRESS
President Nursultan Nazarbaev vaunted Kazakhstan's achievements in an address in Astana on 25 October, the Day of the Republic, Kazinform reported. "In history, there are few states that have managed under today's conditions to preserve their unity, trust, love, equality, brotherhood, and faith," Nazarbaev said. Nazarbaev vowed to make Kazakhstan one of the world's most developed countries. "Over the next 10 years, we want to triple the size of the economy, [and] double the standard of living, salaries, and pensions," he said. DK
FIVE CANDIDATES TO VIE FOR KAZAKH PRESIDENCY
October 25 marked the first day of campaigning for Kazakhstan's presidency that will see five candidates competing for the post, Khabar reported. The five officially registered candidates are incumbent President Nazarbaev; Alikhan Baimenov, a candidate from the Ak Zhol opposition party; Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, head of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan; Erasyl Abilkasymov, a candidate from the Communist People's Party; and Mels Eleusizov, the head of an environmental movement. The campaign period will last until 2 December, with voting to take place on 4 December. DK
KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CREATES COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE MURDER OF DEPUTY
Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 25 October created a seven-member commission headed by deputy Alisher Sabirov to investigate the recent death of legislator Tynychbek Akmatbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The commission should complete its investigation by 15 November. The session took place as demonstrators led by the murdered deputy's brother demanded the removal of Prime Minister Feliks Kulov. But parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebaev told the session, "We have no proposal to examine the issue of Feliks Kulov's removal," akipress.org reported. Tekebaev termed the calls for Kulov's removal "a proposal from the street." Neither President Kurmanbek Bakiev nor Prime Minister Kulov attended the legislative session due to security risks, ferghana.ru reported. DK
TAJIK PARTY OUTLINES PRESIDENTIAL HOPES
Rahmatullo Zoirov, leader of Tajikistan's Social Democratic Party, told a news conference in Dushanbe on 25 October that his party plans to field a candidate in Tajikistan's November 2006 presidential election, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Zoirov said that Tajikistan's constitution does not give incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov the right to seek another term. Zoirov also commented on international relations, the BBC's Persian Service reported. Queried about U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to Tajikistan, he said: "I think that for Condoleezza Rice, the issue of expanding the activities of political parties and human rights in Tajikistan is not important. It was important for Rice to solve her country's geopolitical problems in the region. I believe that there is an oral agreement between America and Russia under which Tajikistan is considered part of Russia's political priorities and Kyrgyzstan [is] part of America's political priorities." DK
TURKMEN COUNCIL BANS WMD AIR TRANSPORTS
The People's Council (Halk Maslahaty) of Turkmenistan passed an initiative on 25 October banning the use of Turkmen airspace for the transportation of "weapons of mass destruction and related materials, missiles, and missile technology," turkmenistan.ru reported. The council described the decision as part of Turkmenistan's policy of neutrality. DK
DETAINED UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER REPORTEDLY SENDS NOTE TO SUPPORTERS
Tribune.uz on 25 October published an appeal it attributed to jailed opposition leader Sanjar Umarov in which he calls the charges against him "ridiculous" and looks forward to an early release. Umarov, who heads the Sunshine Coalition, allegedly smuggled the note out of jail. "They are putting psychological pressure on me, trying to intimidate me, and threatening to inject me with psychotropic substances," he alleges. Sunshine Coalition coordinator Nodira Hidoyatova later told ferghana.ru that when Vitalii Krasilovskii, Umarov's lawyer, visited his client in jail, he found him to be "out of his senses." According to Hidoyatova, Krasilovskii said that Umarov was unable to communicate, "tearing his clothes and throwing everything around." Krasilovskii asked that Umarov be given medical assistance. Umarov was arrested on 23 October and faces charges of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 October 2005). DK
PRESS-FREEDOM GROUP CONDEMNS KILLINGS OF JOURNALISTS IN BELARUS
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) said it is "deeply concerned" about the killing of journalist Vasil Hrodnikau in Belarus last week, dpa reported on 25 October. Hrodnikau, a freelance correspondent for the newspaper "Narodnaya volya," was found dead with a head wound at his home near Minsk on 18 October. The killing comes almost exactly one year after the killing of journalist Veranika Charkasava, who was stabbed to death in her Minsk apartment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005). "We are very concerned that this murder, like the murder of Veranika Charkasava and the 2000 murder of Dzmitry Zavadski, will remain unsolved," IPI Director Johann Fritz said. "I call on the Belarusian authorities to ensure that there is an immediate and thorough investigation into this murder, and that those responsible are brought to justice. I further urge the Belarusian authorities to take all possible steps to stop attacks on journalists, and the alarming impunity which accompanies these crimes," he said. BW
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES PROPERTY FUND CHIEF'S RESIGNATION
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has refused to accept the resignation of State Property Fund Chairwoman Valentyna Semenyuk, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 25 October. "I will not accept Valentyna Semenyuk's resignation," Yushchenko said at a press conference in Kharkiv the same day. "I appreciate her professionally. That is why I did not accept her resignation statement," he said, adding that the State Property Fund is performing well, "from preserving vacancies, paying off social debts, increasing capacities and occupying new markets to basic principles of object privatization." Semenyuk tendered her resignation on 24 October after the Socialist Party, of which she is a member, asked her to step down in connection with the privatization of the Kryvorizhstal steel mill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 October 2005). BW
SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY SHOULD PREPARE FOR POSSIBILITY OF LOSING KOSOVA
Serbian President Boris Tadic told his country on 25 October to prepare for the potential loss of Kosova, Reuters reported the same day. Speaking a day after the UN Security Council endorsed talks on Kosova's final status, Tadic said Belgrade's arguments for keeping the province were hindered by the legacy of former President Slobodan Milosevic. "We inherited a difficult legacy," he said. "The citizens of Serbia should have no illusion that it is impossible for a solution to be imposed on us," he continued. "This is something I am not ready for, but it could happen." Tadic added, however, that Serbia's case is strengthened by the fact that it is now a democratic country and thus should not have its borders altered. "Our position is very difficult, but not hopeless, which is why we shall strive to realize our interests," he said. BW
UN ADMINISTRATOR SAYS KOSOVA TALKS CAN BEGIN NEXT WEEK
Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian mission in Kosova (UNMIK), has said he expects a UN envoy for Kosova to be named by the end of this week and for final-status talks to begin next week, B-92 reported on 25 October. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the envoy will likely be former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2005). Petersen said the talks will open possibilities for progress in areas including free movement and the return of refugees, but added that there are risks. "It is clear that there are people on both sides who do not wish to see us make progress with these talks," he said. "Such individuals think that they can stop our discussion with violence. It is our obligation to have these talks work as a democratic process based on dialogue, as this is the only option for progress." BW
SERBS TESTIFY ABOUT TORTURE IN CROATIAN WARTIME PRISON
Two Serbs testified on 25 October to being tortured and beaten in the Lora prison in southern Croatia in the retrial of eight former Croatian military policemen, AP reported the same day. Milence Tosic and Nenad Filipovic were held in the notorious wartime prison in Split during the 1991-92 war. Tosic, a former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) soldier, said that during four months of imprisonment he suffered "horrible torture of abuse and maltreatment," including electrical shocks and being burned with cigarettes. Filipovic, another former JNA soldier who was imprisoned at Lora for 24 hours, said he was beaten with a baseball bat and police baton for three hours. "I then fell on the floor and begged them to stop," he said. The eight military policemen were originally acquitted in 2002, but Croatia's Supreme Court overturned the verdicts and ordered a retrial. Four of the suspects, including top suspect Tomislav Duic, have evaded arrest and are being tried in absentia. BW
BOSNIAN CROAT MILITARY COMMANDER PLEA BARGAINS WITH WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
Former Bosnian Croat militia (HVO) commander Ivica Rajic has reached a plea bargain with prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Hina reported on 25 October. The details of the plea are not yet available, but according to the agreement Rajic will be arraigned on 26 October. Rajic is charged with 10 counts of violating the laws and customs of war for the killings of some 30 Muslims in Stupni Do on 23 October 1993 and for the unlawful detention and torture of civilians in Vares in September 1993. Rajic was first indicted in 1995, was arrested in Split, Croatia, on 5 April 2003, and extradited to The Hague on 24 June 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2003). BW
MOLDOVAN COURT DENIES EX-DEFENSE MINISTER'S GERMAN LAWYER ACCESS TO TRIAL
The court trying the case of former Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat has denied permission for the defendant's German lawyer to attend the hearings, Flux and ITAR-TASS reported on 25 October. Pasat's principal defense attorney, Gheorghe Amihalachioae, had petitioned the court to allow Corneliu Hotlmayr, who represents Pasat in the United States, to attend the proceedings. The court ruled that since Hotlmayr is a foreign citizen, Moldovan state secrets could be compromised. Amihalachioae called the ruling illegal. Pasat is on trial for abuse of office in connection with the sale of 21 MiG-29 fighters to the United States in 1997. The prosecution maintains that Pasat inflicted a loss of more than $50 million on the state through that deal (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Poland, and Moldova Report," 8 July 2005). BW
AFGHAN AUTHORITIES PLAY DOWN DRUGS EXTRADITION
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on 24 October announced the extradition of alleged drug kingpin Baz Mohammad from Afghanistan to the United States on charges of heroin trafficking.
Baz Mohammad is suspected of having manufactured and distributed some $25 million worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as arranging for the drug to be imported into the United States and other countries. Earlier this year, his name was included by the Bush administration in the so-called Foreign Narcotic Kingpin Designation Act.
"We've made history today," a DEA statement quotes agency administrator Karen Tandy as having said in New York on 24 October, while being flanked by Major General Sayyed Kamal Sadat, the director-general of Afghanistan's Counternarcotics Police.
The Afghan authorities, however, were less upbeat. On 25 October, Afghan presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi told a news conference in Kabul that Baz Mohammad's extradition was a routine issue involving a person who was on "the international criminal list." Rahimi did not discuss details of the case or whether the decision by his government to extradite one individual reflected a change in the policy that has so far not allowed the extradition of Afghan citizens. Article 28 of the Afghan Constitution that was approved in January 2004 states, "No citizen of Afghanistan accused of a crime can be extradited to a foreign state unless according to mutual agreements and international conventions that Afghanistan has joined."
Baz Mohammad's is not the only case involving an Afghan citizen with narcotics-related charges pending in the United States in which Afghan authorities have either chosen to stay on the sidelines or tried hard to disassociate their country from involvement in the case.
In the DEA's case against Baz Mohammad, Bashir Rahmani is mentioned as someone who was "among other things" responsible for distribution of heroin produced by Baz Mohammad's organization. According to the DEA, Rahmani was arrested in New York in July and "remains in custody awaiting trail."
The Afghan authorities have made little mention of Rahmani's arrest; nor has the DEA detailed the way Rahmani ended up in New York or whether Afghan authorities have provided any assistance in the case.
When the United States announced in April that it had arrested Bashir Nurzai, who has been on the U.S. kingpin list since 2004, in New York, the Afghan Counternarcotics Ministry issued a statement that emphasized that the arrest was made on U.S. territory and did not indicate Afghan involvement in the case. At the time, the case marked the most significant arrest to date of a major player in Afghanistan's growing narcotics industry.
After welcoming Nurzai's arrest, the Counternarcotics Ministry, in its April statement, noted that Kabul "with support of the international community, is committed to the fight against narcotics, and is working hard to reform law enforcement, the judicial sector, and prisons to ensure more and more people like Bashir Nurzai are arrested, prosecuted, and [imprisoned] here in Afghanistan."
The ineffectiveness of the Afghan counternarcotics police -- in a country plagued by inadequate law enforcement -- is unsurprising. And Afghanistan's judicial sector is arguably in worse shape. But despite such shortcomings, Afghanistan could do more to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate major drug lords on its own. While trying to avoid the perception that they are totally dependent on foreign countries to rein in drug lords, Afghan officials have shied away from taking such steps.
Perhaps Afghanistan's counternarcotics efforts were instrumental in both Nurzai's and Rahmani's cases, but Kabul apparently chose not to take credit for political reasons. It is possible -- and seemingly more plausible -- that these two men did not fly to New York to be arrested but rather were extradited (like Baz Mohammad) or arrested in or around Afghanistan by Afghan or foreign law-enforcement agents.
The fact that the current Afghan administration has decided publicly to extradite Baz Mohammad to the United States is unprecedented. The true test, however, will be whether representatives in the new Afghan National Assembly will be prepared to name and prosecute major drug kingpins -- even if some of those individuals have links to, or are part of, the very institutions that should by trying to put them out of business.
AFGHAN PRESIDENT'S OFFICE DOWNPLAYS EXTRADITION OF DRUG LORD
In a press statement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on 24 October announced the extradition of Haji Baz Mohammad, an alleged drug kingpin, from Afghanistan to the United States on charges of manufacturing and distributing more than $25 million worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for allegedly arranging for the heroin to be imported into the United States and other countries (see End Note). DEA administrator Karen Tandy said: "We've made history today," as Major General Sayyed Kamal Sadat, director-general of Afghanistan's Counternarcotics Police, stood beside her. Afghan presidential spokesman Mohammad Karim Rahimi told a press conference on 25 October in Kabul that Baz Mohammad's extradition was a routine issue involving a person who was on "the international criminal list," Pajhwak Afghan News reported. AT
ROCKET ATTACK LEAVES SIX AFGHAN CIVILIANS DEAD SOUTH OF KABUL
A rocket targeting a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) convoy in Logar Province missed its target and hit a civilian vehicle, killing at least six people and injuring three, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 25 October. A purported neo-Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, said on 25 October: "We attacked a U.S. convoy in Logar. There was an exchange of fire -- we retreated," AFP reported. Mohammad Hanif did not comment on casualties. AT
POLICE INSTRUCTOR KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
A spokesman for the Nangarhar Province police, Colonel Abdul Ghafur, said on 25 October that unidentified "armed men" fired at a police-academy vehicle the same day, killing an instructor and injuring two in Fateh Abad, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mohammad Hanif called AIP on 25 October and claimed responsibility for an "ambush in Fateh Abad" on an Afghan National Army vehicle. According to Hanif, four soldiers were killed and six others were injured in the attack. Some in Afghanistan do not distinguish between the military and the national police force, which wears similar uniforms and often is involved in activities similar to that of the military. AT
GERMAN FORCES ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL EXCAVATION IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
A number of officials and some local people in Farkhar District of Takhar Province have accused German soldiers attached to the PRT commanded by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force of conducting unauthorized excavations in the area, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 25 October. Farkhar police chief Abdul Ali said on 25 October that he had visited the site, a historical fort known as Takht-e Solaiman, and noticed the evidence of some recent excavations. Abdul Ali did not say whether any artifacts had been removed from the site. German forces in Takhar are part of a PRT based in neighboring Konduz Province. A spokesman for the German forces in Konduz rejected the charges, saying that the allegations might have been made by people unhappy about the PRT's presence in the area. AT
IRAN HOPES TO SELL DISCOUNTED NUCLEAR FUEL
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad announced during a 25 October speech at the Narmak Mosque in Tehran that Iran will sell the nuclear fuel it eventually produces, state television reported. "We will produce nuclear fuel and sell it to other countries with a 30 percent discount," he said. He also spoke dismissively of Western promises to provide Iran with nuclear fuel. This is not the first time Tehran has expressed an interest in the opportunities of the nuclear marketplace. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 13 February 2004, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has achieved major success in the technology of nuclear fuel centrifuge and...is ready to play its role within the context of an international cooperation in the market that supplies fuel for nuclear reactors," ISNA reported. Then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the next day, "The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a country which has potentials for producing nuclear fuel, is ready to offer its produced fuel to international markets." BS
IRANIANS URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN QODS DAY
Former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 25 October speech in Tehran at the shrine of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that Palestinians are the biggest victims of state-sponsored terrorism at the hands of Israel, Mehr News Agency reported. Khatami urged his compatriots to participate in Qods Day (Jerusalem Day) rallies to show their solidarity with the Palestinians and to protest what Mehr News Agency described as "the great oppression of our time." Khomeini declared that the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan (28 October this year) will be marked annually as Qods Day. Also on 25 October, the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of 86 clerics, encouraged Muslims to participate in the Qods Day events and show their adherence to the ideals of Ayatollah Khomeini. The Assembly of Experts statement discouraged Muslim states from normalizing relations with Israel. BS
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT ALLEGEDLY TRYING TO SILENCE STUDENTS
Ardeshir Zarehzadeh, spokesman of the student committee for the defense of political prisoners, told Radio Farda on 25 October that political prisoners, as well as jailed students, are being held in solitary confinement or with ordinary criminals, and some have not been allowed to see their families for months at a time. The problems faced by these students and other prisoners are getting worse, he said, adding that the judiciary, the Intelligence and Security Ministry, and the Science, Research, and Technology Ministry are coordinating their efforts to silence these people. Zarehzadeh provided detailed information on prisoners such as Behruz Javid-Tehrani and Bina Darabzadeh. He said the prison leaves of Mehrdad Heidarpur, Behnam Vafa-Sarshat, and Mehran Kosari were blocked, and the furloughs of other prisoners are likely to be rescinded. He said the number of political prisoners and student prisoners is increasing every day. BS
IRAN-PAKISTAN-INDIA PIPELINE TALKS CONTINUE IN TEHRAN
Deputy Petroleum Minister Hadi Nejad-Husseinian said on 25 October in Tehran that officials from New Delhi want to finalize the deal on the Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline as soon as possible, state television reported. He was speaking at the end of the second meeting of the pipeline working group. Nejad-Husseinian said the Indians at the meeting reported on the progress of their negotiations with Islamabad, and they mentioned a new agreement on gas prices. Resolution of transit fees remains outstanding, he said. The next working-group meeting is scheduled for early December, he said. BS
IRAQI ISLAMIC PARTY QUESTIONS REFERENDUM RESULTS...
The Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement on 25 October saying it does not consider the Iraqi Independent Election Commission's announcement of the results in the referendum on the draft constitution "final," because it doubts the integrity of the referendum, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2005). The party said reports of a 95 to 99 percent "yes" vote from some governorates were "unrealistic." The Islamic Party criticized those Sunni Arab groups that called for a boycott of the referendum, saying that had more voters gone to the polls, the constitution might have been defeated in Ninawah Governorate. The party said it supported a "yes" vote in the referendum on the draft constitution as an initiative to help prevent civil war and to "bridge rifts among the sons of the Iraqi people." KR
...AS SUNNI LEADER CALLS FOR NEW VOTE
Meanwhile, National Dialogue Council spokesman Salih al-Mutlaq told Al-Jazeera television on 25 October that the Iraqi referendum results are meaningless to his party. Al-Mutlaq accused "state agencies" of stealing ballot boxes in front of the election commission, and said that ballot boxes were taken from Mosul before all the ballots were counted. "We believe that the results were rigged in Mosul, Diyala, and in most of the southern governorates," he said. He called for a new referendum to be held in Al-Diwaniyah, Samawah, Mosul, and Diyala. KR
IRAQI KURDISH NEWSPAPER SAYS ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR FORMER DIYALA GOVERNOR
The Interior Ministry has reportedly issued an arrest warrant for former Diyala Governor Abdallah al-Juburi, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 25 October. The warrant was issued following a report by the Integrity Committee accusing al-Juburi of "corruption, stealing government funds, and manipulating [reconstruction] projects implemented in the region" the daily reported. A police source in Diyala Governorate told "Kurdistani Nuwe" that al-Juburi is also wanted on charges of aiding terrorism. Al-Juburi's whereabouts are unknown and he is thought to be outside Iraq. KR
IRAQI KURDISH REGION'S PRESIDENT VISITS WHITE HOUSE
Kurdistan Regional Government President Mas'ud Barzani met with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on 25 October, according to the White House website. Bush praised Barzani's leadership, saying he was "very helpful with the constitution." Bush added, "I assured [Barzani] that America will stand with the people that desire a free and democratic Iraq." Meanwhile, Barzani expressed condolences to Bush and the American people for sacrificing the lives of U.S. soldiers in order to help bring democracy to Iraq. Barzani added that should those working for a free Iraq back down even a bit, "rest assured that the terrorists will come to the gates of you and us and they will fight us." Barzani said that he is confident that Iraq will achieve peace and democracy with the help and support of the U.S. people. KR
AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ CLAIMS TO BE HOLDING MOROCCAN EMBASSY STAFF CAPTIVE...
Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn has reportedly claimed responsibility for the abduction of two Moroccan Embassy staffers in an Internet statement, Reuters reported on 25 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2005). "Your brothers in the military wing of Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq have captured the two Moroccans working at the Moroccan government's embassy in Baghdad. Their interrogation is continuing," Reuters quoted the statement as saying. KR
...AND CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR BAGHDAD HOTEL BOMBING
Al-Zarqawi's group also claimed responsibility for the 24 October bombing of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in a statement posted to the Internet on 25 October. The statement said that the attacks were carried out in cooperation with the Bara bin Malik Brigade and the Al-Sawarikh (Missiles) Brigade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2005). "The lions of monotheism set out toward the heart of the 'security ring' that the Crusaders and their [lackeys] had built in a group of hotels in the center of Baghdad that the infidels made into a 'safe' refuge and a filthy hotbed of the intelligence rings and of private American, British, and Australian security companies and thieves of the wealth of the nation, foreign contractors, war merchants, guests of the Crusaders, and the sons of al-Alqami [the Shi'a]," the statement said. "Despite all measures the infidels had taken to improve the location and its security," they were unable to "defend themselves from God," the statement said. KR