DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MOST MILITARY DEPARTMENTS AT UNIVERSITIES WILL CLOSE BY 2008...
Sergei Ivanov said on 13 November that most of the 229 military faculties at Russian universities will be abolished by 2008, Russian news agencies reported the same day. Ivanov said that just 35 military faculties at civilian universities will remain open and an additional 33 will be transformed into military training centers. The remainder will be closed, but not until all students currently enrolled in them graduate. "Military faculties will not be closed tomorrow," Ivanov said in an interview with Channel One television and reported by RIA-Novosti. "They will keep working until the last graduate leaves the premises." Approximately 170,000 students are taking military training programs at 229 civilian universities in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said on 9 November that military conscription will be reduced from two years to one by 2008 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). BW
...AND SAYS THAT SOME DEFERMENTS WILL BE ABOLISHED
In the same interview with Channel One television, Ivanov said several deferments will be abolished in order to facilitate the one-year draft in 2008, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 November. "Only 9 percent of young people are currently drafted," Ivanov said, adding that only 140,000 Russian draftees will join the military this fall. "However, when we make the transition to a 12-month draft, we will need twice as many soldiers, which means about 400,000 draftees, counting two drafts per year. Therefore, we will definitely have to abolish some of the deferments," he added. "I would like to reiterate that students will not be drafted during their studies, although graduates of many universities will have to serve one year in the military." BW
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REGRETS DENIAL OF VISA TO ESTONIAN COUNTERPART
Sergei Lavrov called his Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet to express regret that the Estonian foreign minister was denied a visa to attend a conference in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported on 12 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). According to a statement from the Estonian Foreign Ministry's press service, Lavrov said "the misunderstanding...occurred because of domestic paperwork procedures" and that "the matter is technical and not political." Paet said he regretted missing the roundtable on Russian-EU border cooperation in St. Petersburg. "It is a pity that a good chance to discuss matters important to the European Union and Russia was missed," he said. Lavrov suggested that the two ministers may hold a bilateral meeting during an OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 5-6 December. BW
RIGHTS ACTIVIST ACCUSES RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES OF TOLERATING RACISM
A leading Russian human rights activist said on 11 November that the Russian government and judiciary are turning a blind eye to xenophobia and racism, Interfax reported the same day. "Unfortunately, the reason why this hooliganism [assaulting foreigners] has become widespread is that, for many years, law-enforcement agencies and the judiciary have been doing everything to protect those hooligans," Lyudmila Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said at a press conference in Moscow. She also blamed the Russian media for playing "a serious role in the terribly rapid spread of xenophobia in the country." Earlier this month, Aleksandr Brod, the head of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, said more than half of Russia's population harbors xenophobic beliefs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2005). BW
KHODORKOVSKII PUBLISHES POLITICAL MANIFESTO IN 'KOMMERSANT DAILY' NEWSPAPER
Jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii published a blueprint for modernizing and democratizing Russia in "Kommersant-Daily," on 11 November. In the article, titled "Left Turn 2," Khodorkovskii calls for combining democratic methods of government with a form of state paternalism. He harshly criticizes what he calls "the Putin system" in which "absolutely everything, from the railroad police to days off in the prisons, depends on the tastes, moods, and whims of one man." The former Yukos boss is equally critical of Russia's opposition. "The opposition parties are headed not by statesmen but by people whom I would call businessmen from politics," he said, adding that they seek to "trade political claims" for the "goodwill of the Kremlin." Predicting a social and political crisis by 2008, Khodorkovskii wrote that a true opposition will emerge on what he calls "the left flank" of Russian politics, headed by people who are economic liberals and socially to the left. BW
JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER HOPES FOR PROGRESS ON TERRITORIAL DISPUTE
Speaking on Russian television on 13 November, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said resolving the 60-year-old dispute over the Kurile Islands would "open the way to a tremendous strengthening of relations" between Tokyo and Moscow. "In principle, I am optimistic, but not to the extent of hoping to solve this question during a single meeting," Koizumi said in an interview on Rossiya television's "Vesti Nedeli" program. President Putin will visit Tokyo on 20 November. "Obviously, one would like this meeting [with Putin] to allow things to move forward a step or two. I am not saying that we should not develop bilateral relations before the territorial problem is sorted out." The Soviet Army seized the Kurile Islands -- called the Northern Territories by Japan -- after Tokyo's surrender in World War II. The dispute has prevented Russia and Japan signing a peace treaty formally ending hostilities. BW
SERBIAN PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN MOSCOW
Serbian President Boris Tadic arrived in Moscow on 13 November for a three-day visit to discuss the future of Kosova, Russian news agencies reported the same day. "The visit [comes] at a very important time for Serbia -- ahead of negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and relations in the state union with Montenegro," Serbia and Montenegro's Ambassador to Russia Milan Rocen told ITAR-TASS. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said on 7 November that Kosova's final status should be determined by direct talks between Belgrade and Prishtina, and not through international organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2005). BW
MOSCOW CITY COURT TO HEAR LAWSUIT AGAINST U.S. CARTOON
The Moscow City Court has agreed to hear the case of a man who is suing a television station over the airing of the popular American cartoon "The Simpsons," RIA-Novosti reported on 14 November. Three years ago, Igor Smykov claimed that RenTV, an independent Moscow-based television station, was promoting drugs, violence, and homosexuality by showing "The Simpsons." Smykov filed suit in the Khamovniki District Court, asking for $10,000 in moral damages for the alleged unwholesome effect the show had on his son. The Khamovniki District Court rejected Smykov's suit, but the Moscow City Court has agreed to hear the appeal on 1 December. BW
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT UPHOLDS RIGHT TO CAMPAIGN 'AGAINST ALL' IN ELECTIONS
Russia's Constitutional Court ruled on 14 November that individual citizens have the right to campaign against all candidates in elections, Russian news agencies reported the same day. Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin filed the appeal to the court on behalf of a resident of the city of Kursk, who was fined for distributing leaflets urging voters there to cast their ballots "against all" in elections to the State Duma, Interfax reported. The court ruled that laws forbidding such campaigning are unconstitutional, and directed lawmakers to draft legislation regulating the procedure, RIA-Novosti reported. There have been several attempts recently to remove the "against all" option on the ballot in Russian elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November and 21 December 2004 and 16 March, 22 and 30 June, and 10 August 2005). BW
RUSSIAN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS MINISTRY SAYS BIRD FLU OUTBREAK STABILIZING
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said on 14 November that outbreaks of bird flu in the country's regions have stabilized and are now under control, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. According to the ministry, quarantines have been lifted in three settlements in the Tambov and Chelyabinsk oblasts and the Altai Krai. RIA-Novosti, meanwhile, quoted an unidentified official from the Emergency Situations Ministry as saying that approximately 7,500 fowl have either died or were culled in Russia since mid-October. The official said that cases of the deadly H5N1 strain have been reported in the Tula, Tambov, Chelyabinsk, and Omsk oblasts. BW
ANOTHER ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY JOINS CAMPAIGN FOR REFERENDUM BOYCOTT
The Zharangutiun (Heritage) party founded by former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian announced on 11 November that it will join the opposition coalition canvassing for a boycott of the 27 November referendum on a package of constitutional amendments, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Meanwhile, on 10 November, Spartak Seyranian, who is the spokesman for the government-backed campaign to persuade voters to endorse the proposed changes, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that TV companies do not charge for televised advertisements urging a "Yes" vote. Opposition politicians campaigning against the proposed changes have formally complained that they are denied access to electronic media to publicize their counterarguments. In an assessment released on 10 November (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2005/11/16947_en.pdf), the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted that "the legislative framework for referenda does not ensure access of political parties to free campaign-time on public media, and the decision to provide access to various parties rests with the management of media outlets, including public TV channels," and that the regulations governing the financing of referendum campaigns remain unclear. LF
NEW ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS
Several former prominent members of the opposition Hanrapetutiun party, including former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan and former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian, convened on 11 November the founding congress of their new party, National Revival (AV), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Bazeyan and Harutiunian quit Hanrapetutiun two months ago to protest its increasingly pro-Western orientation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005), but Bazeyan declined to specify on 11 November in what way AV's platform will differ from that of Hanrapetutiun. He told journalists on 11 November that AV already has over 2,000 members. Bazeyan also said on 11 November that AV will urge voters to reject the proposed constitutional amendments as they include provisions that threaten Armenia's security and territorial integrity, Noyan Tapan reported on 11 November. LF
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2006 BUDGET
Deputies approved the 2006 budget on 11 November in the third and final reading by a vote of 86 in favor with two abstentions, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The final version envisages expenditures of 482.2 billion drams ($1.1 billion), which is almost 7 percent higher than the original figure of 450.2 billion drams (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September and 1 November 2005). It further envisages GDP growth of 7.5 percent, a 22 percent increase in public spending, and a 21 percent increase in defense spending. The minimum monthly wage for public-sector employees is raised from 10,000 drams to 15,000 drams. LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ENVISAGES PROGRESS ON KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IN 2006
Meeting in Athens during an official visit to Greece with members of that country's Armenian community, Robert Kocharian said that the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen are urging a meeting in January 2006 between himself and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kocharian said now the Azerbaijani parliamentary elections are over, the co-chairs perceive a window of opportunity for resolving the Karabakh conflict, a window that will again close in 2007-2008 when parliamentary and presidential elections are due in Armenia. He referred to a "favorable option for the conflict settlement," but did not elaborate. U.S. Minsk Group co-Chairman Ambassador Steven Mann met on 8 November in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to discuss how Turkey could contribute to the Karabakh peace process, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 10 November as cited by Groong. Mann too spoke of a "window of opportunity," noting that the settlement process is "moving in the right direction." LF
ARMENIAN PREMIER SKEPTICAL OVER DEPLOYMENT OF NATO PEACEKEEPERS
Andranik Markarian said on 11 November that he thinks any discussion of the deployment of NATO peacekeepers to conflict zones in the South Caucasus is premature, according to Arminfo and Mediamax as cited by Groong. Speaking at a conference in Yerevan two days earlier, Romualds Razukas, who is NATO's Communications Officer in the South Caucasus, said the alliance "is ready to deploy its peacekeeping forces in the South Caucasus," and that in that context, cooperation between NATO and the OSCE is "very important," according to Mediamax as cited by Groong. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ALIGNS TO PROTEST ALLEGED ELECTION FRAUD...
Representatives of the opposition Azadlyg and Yeni Siyaset blocs, the National Unity movement, and the Azerbaijan National Independence Party met in Baku on 10 November to discuss creating a democratic front comprising parliamentary candidates whose rights were allegedly violated during the 6 November parliamentary elections, Turan day.az reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). The movement will campaign for the annulment of the election results and the holding of new elections. Also on 10 November, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov called on the opposition to "put an end to disagreements" and begin a "dialogue," day.az reported. Opposition leaders met on 11 November at the British Embassy in Baku with the British, U.S., French, German, and Polish ambassadors to discuss the postelection situation and their efforts to annul the outcome in those constituencies where they claim the result was rigged in favor of a member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, zerkalo.az reported on 12 November. LF
...CONVENES RALLY IN BAKU
Up to 20,000 people attended a peaceful demonstration in Baku on 13 November to protest the alleged falsification of the 6 November elections, international media reported. Isa Qambar, chairman of the Musavat party, one of three aligned in the Azadlyq bloc, called for the annulment of the ballot and holding new elections. Ali Kerimli, chairman of the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (also a member of Azadlyq), demanded that the Azerbaijani leadership resign. Demonstrators dispersed after the meeting despite calls by some youth activists to set up a tent camp on the square where the rally took place. Further protest rallies are planned for 18, 19, and 20 November. LF
SOUTH OSSETIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF INFORMATION WAR
The press service of the government of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia issued a statement on 11 November accusing the Georgian authorities of beginning a campaign of "psychological warfare" with the help of unnamed Western intelligence services, Caucasus Press reported. The statement accused the Georgian authorities of using a television channel called Alania to propagate "ethnic hatred, sex, and violence." It further accused that channel of insulting the population of South Ossetia and of undermining efforts to build confidence between conflicting sides in order to expedite a peaceful settlement. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 12 November, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused Moscow of sabotaging his efforts to persuade the leadership of South Ossetia to accept his successive proposals for resolving the conflict, Caucasus Press reported. LF
ONE GEORGIAN KILLED, ANOTHER WOUNDED IN CONFLICT ZONE
One Georgian resident of the village of Chuburkhindji was killed and a second wounded in a 13 November attack by several dozen armed Abkhaz and members of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Caucasus Press and rustavi2.com reported. The attackers reportedly said they sought to punish those Georgian residents of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion who declined Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh's ultimatum to accept citizenship of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia or leave Gali for Georgia. On 14 November, Georgian media reported that two Georgian brothers have disappeared while returning home after attending the funeral of their uncle in the village of Pichora in Gali Raion. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION FIGURE FOUND DEAD
Former Emergency Situations Agency head Zamanbek Nurkadilov was found dead in his home in Almaty on 12 November, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. The body was discovered by Nurkadilov's wife, Makpal Zhunusova, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Serikkali Musin, a lawyer representing Nurkadilov's wife, told journalists in Almaty on 13 November that Nurkadilov died as a result of three bullet wounds, two to the chest and one to the head, Kazinform reported. Referring to a 12 November Interfax report that cited an anonymous source as saying that Nurkadilov's death might have been a suicide, Musin stressed that the three gunshot wounds rendered such an interpretation "highly problematic." Major General Moldiyar Orazaliev, head of the Interior Ministry for Almaty, told reporters on 13 November that Nurkadilov's home was protected by an extensive video surveillance system, Kazinform reported. Orazaliev said the system was functioning at the time of Nurkadilov's death. He added that police are questioning everyone who was present in the house. A onetime ally of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Nurkadilov joined the opposition in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2004). For his part, Nazarbaev expressed his condolences to Nurkadilov's family and called for a thorough investigation, Kazinform reported. DK
CHINESE OIL COMPANY SAYS KAZAKH LEADER APPROVES PETROKAZAKHSTAN PURCHASE
China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) stated in an 11 November press release on the company's website (http://www.cnpc.com.cn/english) that Kazakh President Nazarbaev "gave his strong support to CNPC's successful acquisition" of Canadian-registered PetroKazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2005). Nazarbaev reportedly expressed this view during a 10 November meeting with CNPC President Chen Geng. According to the press release, the CNPC head said that his company "shall expand the scale and sector of its investment into Kazakhstan as the cooperation principles and objectives proposed by the presidents of both countries, for an increased oil and gas production and reserves, and a greater contribution to the economic development of both countries." DK
RELATIVE OF SLAIN KYRGYZ LEGISLATOR SETS SELF ON FIRE
Asan Erkinbaev, the elder brother of murdered deputy Bayaman Erkinbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005), set himself on fire in Jalalabad on 11 November to protest what the slain legislator's relatives have termed a lax investigation, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Firemen managed to douse the flames, but Erkinbaev was hospitalized with burns. Acting Jalalabad Governor Jusup Jeenbekov arrived on the scene, and Murat Jusupov, Asan Erkinbaev's nephew, reiterated the protestors' demands: the release of Bayaman Erkinbaev's bodyguards and relatives from detention by evening, the arrest of those responsible for Erkinbaev's death within three days, and the return of the slain deputy's property to his relatives. Erkinbaev's relatives said that they will set themselves on fire if their demands are not met by 15 November, Kyrgyz Television 1 reported. Also on 11 November, Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) announced that five people have been charged in connection with Erkinbaev's death, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Four of them are currently in custody; a fifth is in hiding in a neighboring country, the SNB said. The preliminary investigation has reportedly revealed that the suspects are members of an organized-crime group and that the murder was not committed for political reasons. DK
KYRGYZSTAN BECOMES 'THRESHOLD' MILLENNIUM COUNTRY
Marie L. Yovanovitch, U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, congratulated Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev at an 11 November meeting in Bishkek on Kyrgyzstan's entrance into the Threshold Program of the Millennium Challenge Corporation for fiscal year 2006, Kyrgyz Television 1 reported. "We will do our utmost to fulfill all the necessary conditions for Kyrgyzstan to participate in this program because this will be a great help in resolving the economic issuing currently facing us," Bakiev commented. According to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) website (http://www.mca.gov), the Threshold Program is designed for countries that "have not yet qualified for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funding assistance; but have demonstrated a significant commitment to improve their performance on the MCA eligibility criteria." DK
KYRGYZ EX-FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS U.S. ASKED TO PUT SPY PLANES IN KYRGYZSTAN
Former Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov told a news conference in Bishkek on 11 November that the United States and NATO previously requested permission from the Kyrgyz government to station AWACS reconnaissance aircraft in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The Kyrgyz government rejected the request, Aitmatov said. Aitmatov made a similar statement in February during his tenure as minister. At the time, then U.S. Ambassador Stephen Young denied that the United States made such a request (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 2005). DK
TURKMEN MINISTER SAYS GAS PRICE RISES AHEAD
Atamurat Berdiev, deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan and minister of oil and gas, told a conference in Ashgabat that his country intends to raise the price of the natural gas it sells to Russia and Ukraine, turkmenistan.ru reported on 10 November. "Today, Turkmen gas is sold at a lower fixed price to accommodate the market means of importers," Berdiev said. "But the sharp rise in prices on the market for oil-industry equipment has led to an increase in the cost of drilling, production, and transportation of natural gas. Taking into account the overall increase in energy prices, we intend to raise the price of gas beginning next year." DK
UZBEK MOBILE-PHONE USE TOPS 1 MILLION
Uzbekistan's Agency for Telecommunications and Information Technology held a ceremony in Tashkent on 10 November to mark the fact that Uzbekistan now has 1 million mobile-phone users, Uzbek Television Second Channel reported. The bulk of Uzbekistan's cell-phone users are customers of Uzdunrobita and Unitel, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Uzbekistan has a population of about 25 million. DK
BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT TIGHTENS CONTROLS ON PUBLIC OPINION POLLS
Last week the Belarusian government issued a directive requiring that all pollsters that plan to conduct surveys concerning national referendums, presidential and parliamentary elections, and the political situation in the country, and then make public their results through mass media, should apply for accreditation to a special panel under the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences, Belapan reported on 13 November. The directive authorizes the panel to "exercise control over the activity of an accredited legal entity at any stage of taking a public opinion poll." The panel also has the right to revoke accreditation if it detects irregularities in the activities of a pollster, or if released poll results are regarded as "biased and unreliable." Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna welcomed the directive as instrumental in clamping down on surveys aimed at what she termed as "manipulating public sentiments." The panel, established by the government in May 2002, consists of 15 experts representing the Central Election Commission, the Information and Justice ministries, and the Belarusian Association of Sociologists. JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL COURTS RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN, LAWMAKERS
Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the Belarusian opposition's choice to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 2006 presidential election, met with Russian businessmen and lawmakers in Moscow on 10 November, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported, quoting Milinkevich's spokesman Syarhey Vaznyak. "It was noted during the meeting [with Russian businessmen] that Russia is interested in large investments in the Belarusian economy, but this will become possible only after the political regime in the country changes," Vaznyak said. Later the same day, Milinkevich and his election staff manager, Syarhey Kalyakin, met with leaders of the State Duma's Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots. According to Vaznyak, Milinkevich and Kalyakin told Russian lawmakers that the Belarusian-Russian relationship should be based on pragmatic approaches aimed at ensuring the well-being and equal rights of the population in the two countries. Vaznyak also said that while commenting on the possibility of a referendum on the Belarusian-Russian Union State's Constitutional Act, Milinkevich and Kalyakin stressed that given Belarus's practice of conducting referendums and elections, the free expression of the Belarusian people's will is out of the question and that is why the outcome of such a referendum will hardly be recognized as legitimate both within Belarus and abroad. JM
UN ENVOY URGES BELARUS TO PROBE MURDER OF TWO JOURNALISTS
Adrian Severin, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, urged the Belarusian authorities on 11 November to solve the murders of journalists Veranika Charkasava and Vasil Hrodnikau as well as end "systematic harassment and persecution" of nonstate media, Reuters and Belapan reported. Charkasava was stabbed to death on 20 October 2004. She worked for the Minsk-based opposition weekly "Salidarnasts." Shortly before her death she had been investigating the possibility that the Belarusian government sold arms to Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in power. There is an ongoing criminal investigation into her death. Hrodnikau, a freelancer for the opposition daily "Narodnaya volya," was found dead in his home on 18 October 2005. Severin said Hrodnikau died of a brain injury and quoted Hrodnikau's brother as saying that the journalist had survived an attack in January. An investigator from the Minsk District Prosecutor's Office told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on 20 October that evidence and expert examinations did not warrant a criminal probe into Hrodnikau's death. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PUSHES FOR DEMOCRATIC COALITION FOR 2006...
Viktor Yushchenko called on a congress of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People's Union (NSNU) in Kyiv on 12 November to initiate the creation of a coalition of democratic forces for the 2006 parliamentary elections, Ukrainian media reported. "I am sure we must be the first to show that the authorities mustn't use administrative resources [in the elections]. I will dismiss any representative of the authorities for attempting to use administrative resources in the campaign, even before an investigation," Interfax-Ukraine quoted Yushchenko as saying. The congress reelected Deputy Prime Minister Roman Bezsmertnyy as NSNU head. Bezsmertnyy told journalists on 13 November that he would like to see Yushchenko as No. 1 on the party's parliamentary election list. Meanwhile, Yushchenko said last week that he would want Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov to top this list. JM
...AND SUBMITS BLOOD SAMPLES FOR TESTS
President Yushchenko has submitted samples of his blood for tests by domestic and foreign specialists to pursue the criminal case into the alleged poisoning that left his face pockmarked during last year's presidential election campaign, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 10 November, quoting presidential spokeswoman Iryna Herashchenko. An international team of doctors determined during the election campaign that Yushchenko was poisoned with a dose of dioxin. "I believe that one day I'll wake up as a totally healthy man and the terrible traces of dioxin will disappear from my face," Yushchenko said in a radio address to the nation on 12 November. JM
UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR BEATEN, HOSPITALIZED
Heorhiy Popov, editor in chief of the "Kommunist Donbassa" newspaper, was badly beaten in a stairwell of his apartment building in Donetsk on 10 November, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 11 November. "The entire stairwell was covered with blood; he has been hospitalized with a brain injury," Serhiy Ilyin, head of the Donetsk Oblast branch of the Communist Party, told the agency. According to Ilyin, the attack on Popov could be politically motivated. "He made a very impressive speech at the 7 November rally [to mark the Bolshevik Revolution anniversary] and criticized the authorities," Ilyin added. According to dpa, Popov's newspaper in recent months accused the Donetsk regional authorities of corruption and incompetence. JM
NO BREAKTHROUGH IN BOSNIAN CONSTITUTIONAL TALKS
Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina's eight main political parties ended three days of talks in Brussels on 14 November without any breakthrough on the thorny issue of constitutional reform, Western news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 10 November 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 July and 14 October 2005). U.S. diplomat Donald Hays said he hopes an agreement can still be reached by the spring of 2006 so that constitutional changes could take effect in time for elections due in October. The constitution set down in the Dayton peace agreements, which were concluded 10 years ago, has widely come to be seen as dysfunctional. Many U.S. and EU diplomats sought to use the Brussels talks to nudge Bosnian leaders into accepting a more centralized and unified state model, with the possibility of EU membership talks as an incentive to reform. Many Serbs and Croats, however, fear that a centralized state would be dominated by the Muslims, who are the single largest ethnic group. Serbian political leaders are also reluctant to accept any changes that would weaken what they regard as the sovereignty of the Republika Srpska. PM
SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HIS PLAN WILL WORK FOR KOSOVA
Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek said in Prishtina on 12 November that the final political status of Kosova is likely to look very much like the program set down in his nine-point plan, which he announced in October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 May 2005). The plan calls for a transfer of power from international to Kosovar authorities in about 18 months and the holding of new elections. Full sovereignty would come in approximately five years if the international community agreed that basic standards had been met. Drnovsek argues that Serbia has already lost Kosova and a return to Serbian rule is not a realistic option. He adds, however, that the Serbian minority should be guaranteed parliamentary representation, as is already the case, and that the most important Serbian cultural sites should be granted extraterritorial status under Belgrade's control. The plan has not been endorsed by the EU or even by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, but many Kosovars believe it is a trial balloon that Drnovsek launched with the support of the international community. The Serbian authorities recently canceled a planned visit by Drnovsek to protest his recommendations. PM
FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT CALLS FOR COOPERATION IN KOSOVA
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told RFE/RL in Prague on 11 November that the people of Kosova should put their conflicts behind them and work together for a better future. "I supported your freedom and I still do," he said. Clinton added that "it's very important now that we maintain both order in Kosovo and respect for the legitimate rights of all people including the minorities. What the Serbs did to the Kosovar Albanians was terrible, but the Kosovar Albanians should not now respond in kind. We should all find a way to live together, work together, and go forward together." PM
SERBIAN POLICE ARREST FASCIST TOUGHS
Police in Novi Sad have arrested 14 members of a fascist organization who violently disrupted a recent academic discussion on nationalist extremism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 14 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). PM
RUSSIAN PATRIARCH VISITS MOLDOVA, OFFERS AID IN RECONCILIATION WITH TRANSDNIESTER
President Vladimir Voronin pledged to strengthen the influence of the Orthodox faith in Moldova during a visit by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. "We cannot build our common home without faith," Voronin said. During his first pastoral visit to an independent Moldova, Aleksii awarded Voronin with the First Degree Order of Blessed Prince Dmitrii Donskoii, citing Voronin's "efforts aimed at the country's spiritual rebirth....[and efforts] to rebuild Moldova spiritually by restoring sacred places that had been destroyed in the past." Aleksii also said the Russia Orthodox Church is prepared to "facilitate reconciliation" between Moldova and the breakaway Transdniester region, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. "The Orthodox Church must act as the force of reconciliation under any circumstances," Aleksii said on 12 November. "We will try to help the reconciliation of the single people that lives in Moldova or the Dniester region because both are a multinational people." Voronin awarded Aleksii with Moldova's highest honor, the Order of the Republic, in "recognition of your outstanding service in promoting the values of human unity, solidarity and tolerance, your relentless spiritual work to glorify the moral victory of the forces of good and truth, and your unwavering commitment to the ideals of centuries-old friendship between the peoples of Moldova and Russia." BW
TAKING RUSSIA'S YOUTH POLICY TO THE NEXT LEVEL
The Russian government will soon consider the adoption of a 10-year youth policy. The unofficial goal of this and other efforts is to prevent Russian youth from joining political opposition movements. The plans are unprecedented in scale and critics have questioned whether the money will be well spent.
The State Duma's public youth chamber recently approved a new Education and Science Ministry program, "Strategy for the State's Youth Policy in the Russian Federation from 2006-16." Speaking to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 November, Education Ministry adviser Anton Lopukhin said the cabinet will consider the program over the next month, and it will become the government's official policy only if ministers approve it. He added that he does not doubt that the program will win their approval.
The main complication, according to Lopukhin, is how to arrange financing, since the 2006 federal budget has already been formulated. Lopukhin and other authors of the strategy have shied away from giving an exact cost for the programs outlined in the strategy, but "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an anonymous ministry source who suggested that "such an ambitious program will cost no less than 30 billion rubles [$1 billion] a year." In September, "Izvestiya" offered a similar figure of $1.2 billion based on the projected cost per participant in the program.
What might Russian youth get for all this money? There would be four main projects, according to "Kommersant-Daily":
One, a Russian Information Network would be created. The network would consist of websites and television and radio programming.
Two, an advertising campaign called New View would be launched to publicize universal human values such as "health, labor, tolerance, love for the Motherland, etc."
Three, the "Youth in Action" program would involve young people in civil-society institutions and in the "development of functioning youth clubs and affordable places to spend free time."
Four, the All-Russian Construction Brigade -- perhaps the most reminiscent of the Soviet Komsomol -- would draw youth into work on labor brigades and associations.
"Izvestiya" offered a similar list of projects supplemented with five additional programs.
If the reports are accurate, $1 billion a year would represent a considerable jump over previous official federal spending on youth. According to "Izvestiya" on 15 September, 815 million rubles ($28 million) was earmarked in 2005 for the Youth of Russia federal program, and more than 80 percent of that sum went for the construction of sports facilities.
"Izvestiya" quoted an Education Ministry official, Sergei Gril, who was pessimistic about financing this much more ambitious program. Gril said there is "an extremely unfavorable perception [among federal officials] of youth policies."
Gril's colleague, Lopukhin, explained to "Kommersant-Daily" two months later that the federal budget will contribute only one-fifth of the expenditures for the strategy -- the rest of the money will come from the regions and "sponsors."
If that is indeed the case, then such a youth program has a precedent in practice if not in scale. The Kremlin has been dabbling unofficially in youth politics since 2000. The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi and its predecessor, Walking Together, have been financed through a similar combination of revenue streams -- all unofficially, of course.
In November 2001, Vasilii Yakemenko, leader of Nashi and founder of Walking Together, told NTV that Energomash, Russkii Aktseptnyi Dom, and other companies were Walking Together's financial backers. And, at a press conference last spring, Yakemenko stated "categorically" that he was "certain that the fatherland's large companies will support [Nashi]," "Novaya gazeta," No. 28, reported.
Nashi has also reportedly gotten generous support, financial and otherwise, from the state. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 April that Tver Oblast Governor Dmitrii Zelenin has funneled support to Nashi, which held a training camp in the oblast in July. According to the daily, Nashi activists were trained at a police facility in the oblast. And Nashi held its founding congress in a facility owned by the Academy of Sciences. Both Zelenin and Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko spoke at a Nashi inaugural congress.
By enacting a federal program, Moscow would not only be enlarging the scope of its activities in the youth sphere, it would also be empowering bureaucrats at the federal and regional levels to monitor these larger financial flows. The question remains whether Fursenko's politically weak Education Ministry -- despite its contacts with Nashi -- is in the best position for receiving such a plum assignment.
In a recent interview with "Kommersant-Daily," political analyst Stanislav Belkovskii questioned whether the money spent on the program would provide results that are visible enough. "The goal of this program is understandable to me, and it consists of keeping youth from joining radical opposition groups," he said. "But I don't value the effectiveness of this program highly. It is too artificial, and youth needs something real and tangible."
Mariya Gaidar of the youth movement DA! agreed. She suggested that the money might be better spent on solving long-term problems, such as the lack of affordable housing and problems with the educational system.
If the practices of Nashi and Walking Together provided any guide to the future proposed youth programs, then participants may get housing subsidies in the form of direct cash payments. The Russian media is replete with accounts of participants in these groups' activities being paid just to show up.
ELECTION BODY CERTIFIES FINAL AFGHAN VOTE RESULTS
The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced in a press release on 12 November its completion of the certification of all final results from the 18 September elections for the Afghan National Assembly's People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) and 34 Provincial Councils. JEMB Chairman Besmellah Besmel called the finalization "an important milestone in Afghanistan's transition to a stable and strong democracy." Four hundred and twenty members of the Provincial Councils began the process to elect two-thirds of the prescribed 102 members of the Council of Elders (Meshrano Jirga), the upper chamber of the National Assembly. District-council elections were postponed indefinitely because of disputes in the district boundaries and population and, as a temporary measure, the Afghan government decreed that one-third of the membership of the Council of Elders should be filled from the ranks of the Provincial Councils (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2005). Two representatives from each Provincial Council will be named to the Council of Elders, for a total of 68 members, half of whom will serve as transitional members until district-council elections can be held to fill those 34 seats in the upper house. Afghan President Hamid Karzai should appoint the final 34 members. AT
AFGHAN PRESIDENT REITERATES CALL FOR NEO-TALIBAN TO MAKE PEACE...
President Karzai has again called on the armed insurgency to join the national-reconciliation program, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on 12 November. Karzai made his plea during a meeting of the Commission for Strengthening Peace and Stability in Kabul on 12 November. Since the commission started its work "a few months ago,... a lot of our brothers, who were in foreign countries, have returned to Afghanistan," Karzai said. Without naming any countries, Karzai added that "interfering foreign hands should be cut. The hand which carries out destruction [in Afghanistan] should be cut off." A former Afghan president and the current head of the commission for national reconciliation, Sebghatullah Mojaddedi, told the meeting on 13 November that some Pakistani Army officers and that country's Inter-Services Intelligence might be assisting the neo-Taliban, Reuters reported. The current commission was established in May to coordinate efforts of the Afghan government's reconciliation program aimed at offering amnesty to most members of the former regime and the neo-Taliban (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003; 28 April, 25 October, and 8 and 17 December 2004; and 11 March and 17 May 2005). AT
...BUT MILITANTS REJECT THE OVERTURE
Abdul Hay Motma'en, identified by Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) as the "Taliban's chief spokesman," told the news agency on 13 November that talks with Karzai's government are impossible, AIP reported on 13 November. "There are a number of factors behind the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, and one of the major factors behind their resistance is the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Talks with the present Afghan government are impossible while foreign forces are present in the country," Motma'en said. Motma'en attributed the current reconciliation offer from Kabul to increased activities by the militants. "Muslims in the world are weak and have no other option than to continue their resistance," Motma'en told AIP. According to Motma'en, those former members of the Taliban regime who have accepted the peace offer from the Afghan government are "not Taliban" since they have deviated from "Talib...system and ideology." AT
NEO-TALIBAN REJECT LINKS WITH AL-QAEDA
Purported Taliban spokesman Motma'en told AIP on 13 November that his movement has no links with Al-Qaeda and said recent reports that Al-Qaeda has appointed new commanders in Afghanistan is "just propaganda." Motma'en added: "Taliban resistance is purely Afghan. It does not have any links with Al-Qaeda or any other organization." A recent report suggested that Al-Qaeda has appointed two Arab commanders in southeastern and southwestern provinces of Afghanistan to lead the terrorist organization's activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). AT
SAARC INVITES AFGHANISTAN TO JOIN
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) decided during its 13th summit, held in Dhaka on 13 November, to welcome Afghanistan as a member, the Dhaka daily "The New Nation" reported. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on 13 November in Dhaka that the group is "delighted to welcome Afghanistan." Singh called the inclusion of Afghanistan into SAARC "an appropriate recognition of the long-standing ties of culture and history" between the group's members and Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan had previously supported Afghanistan's bid for membership of SAARC (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 10 November 2005). SAARC was established in 1985 and includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka as its members. AT
TEHRAN REJECTS REPORT ON STOLEN LAPTOP WITH NUCLEAR INFO
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has rejected a 13 November report in "The New York Times" suggesting that U.S. officials possess a stolen Iranian laptop computer that contains what they claim is compelling evidence of an Iranian nuclear-weapons program. "This is a worthless attempt to fabricate a scenario," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said, according to state television. "We don't use laptops to carry out our confidential work.... [The report] caused amusement at the Foreign Ministry." According to "The New York Times," U.S. officials showed voluminous data on the laptop to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials -- including Director-General Mohammad El-Baradei -- in mid-July in Vienna. U.S. officials declined to discuss the source of the computer, which they said was obtained in mid-2004 from a longtime contact in Iran, other than to deny that it came from any Iranian opposition group. BS
IRAN HAS LIMITED INTEREST IN FOREIGN NUCLEAR FUEL
Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholam Reza Aqazadeh announced after a meeting with Russian National Security Council Secretary Ivan Ivanov in Tehran on 12 November that Iran wants uranium-enrichment activities to take place on its own territory, Mehr News Agency reported. "Iran's nuclear fuel will be produced inside Iran," Aqazadeh said. "At the same time, we want to provide part of our fuel from abroad." Aqazadeh said Iran is willing to consider cooperating with other countries' nuclear activities. Two days earlier, "The New York Times" reported that the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and Washington have approved a proposal that would allow some nuclear activities on Iranian territory but move all enrichment activities to Russia. The paper quoted anonymous European and U.S. officials as saying that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei discussed the issue on 8 November and that el-Baradei is scheduled to submit the proposal to Tehran. Rice later said the United States is not party to the negotiations and there is no such proposal, "The New York Times" reported on 11 November. BS
IRAN DECLARES OPENNESS TO NEW NUCLEAR PROPOSALS
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on 12 November and said afterward that a change in attitudes on the nuclear issue would be more constructive than making new proposals, IRNA and state television reported. Larijani dismissed the possibility of moving uranium-enrichment activities to Russia, saying, "The Iranian nation will never rely on other factors except its own potentials." Stressing the need for independent capabilities, he added, "What is important to Iran is that the nuclear technology of Iranians is safeguarded because such capacity and capability are regarded as part of national strength." Larijani said Iran is willing to consider any proposals that might resolve the dispute over the country's nuclear program. BS
IRANIAN CLERICS COMMENT ON FRENCH UNREST
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said during his sermon at Tehran Friday prayers on 11 November that the reason for continuing unrest in France is that the country has "failed to meet the needs and problems of its minority population," state radio reported. "Instead, they have always been quick to admonish us for punishing a few hireling Baha'is," Jannati continued. "They suddenly accuse us of discriminating against minorities and violating their rights." He said French Muslims face "the worst kind of treatment" and "they have to live under martial law." Jannati added, "It is the same in America. There is blatant racial discrimination in that country." The Friday prayer leader in Tabriz, Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed-Shabestari, said in his 11 November sermon that the French ban on the Islamic head scarf for females is a reason for the unrest, IRNA reported. He said Western governments promote secularism because they fear Muslim power, and the events in France could affect Muslim communities in Belgium, Germany, and Portugal. In Qom, Ayatollah Abdullah Javadi-Amoli said the riots spread from France to other countries in Europe, state television reported. BS
IRAN AGAIN ACCUSES U.K. IN AHVAZ BOMBINGS
Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei said on 11 November that British involvement in the 15 October bombings in Ahvaz has been proven, Mehr News Agency reported. However, "Siyasat-i Ruz" daily reported on 9 November that Mohseni-Ejei has failed to provide the documented proof he promised almost two months ago. Fifty-six days earlier, the daily reported, Mohseni-Ejei came to the legislature and said, "When the documents are given to the media, you will realize that it is true." Meanwhile, "Siyasat-i Ruz" continued, the United Kingdom has accused Iran of interfering in Iraqi affairs. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAKES PROVINCIAL TOUR
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and a group of his cabinet ministers returned on 11 November from a three-day trip to South Khorasan Province, news agencies reported. Prior to leaving the city of Birjand, Ahmadinejad told reporters that he has four reasons for visiting the provinces, state television reported. These are: understanding local conditions and peoples' problems; reviewing the impact of central government decisions; getting information directly from the people about the performance of government bodies; and reassuring people. Ahmadinejad said such trips will reduce corruption. He noted that South Khorasan Province is one of the least developed in the country and suffers from problems in agriculture, development, education, and industry. Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Davud Danesh-Jaafari said on 11 November that a greater proportion of state-bank funds will be made available to the province, IRNA reported the next day. He noted the province's mineral resources, as well as the fact that the province produces 30 percent of the country's saffron supply. BS
JORDAN BLAMES AMMAN SUICIDE BOMBINGS ON IRAQI NATIONALS...
Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters at a 13 November press briefing in Amman that the four suicide bombers who targeted three Western hotels in Amman on 9 November were Iraqi nationals, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005). One of the suspected bombers, a woman, apparently failed to detonate her explosives-packed belt and was later captured (see next item). The bombers were identified as Ali Husayn Ali al-Shammari, from Al-Anbar Governorate; Rawad Jasim Muhammad Abd; and Safa Muhammad Ali. Al-Shammari's wife, Sajidah Mubarak Atrus al-Rishawi, told Jordanian authorities that she is also the sister of the late Al-Qaeda leader Thamir Mubarak Atrus al-Rishawi. Muasher said the four bombers entered Jordan on 5 November through the Al-Karamah border crossing. He said there was no evidence that any Jordanian national was linked to the attacks, and that explosives belts used by the bombers -- made up of 5-10 kilograms of RDX explosives and metal balls to inflict maximum damage -- were either brought to Jordan or bought locally. KR
...AS WOULD-BE IRAQI BOMBER'S CONFESSION IS AIRED ON TELEVISION
Jordanian state television aired the confession of would-be suicide bomber Sajidah Mubarak Atrus al-Rishawi on 13 November. She admitted to entering Jordan on a fake passport but said her husband had made the arrangements for the trip and she did not know the details. She also said her husband, who authorities said died in the attacks, taught her how to detonate her explosives belt. "We entered the hotel, me and my husband. He stood at one corner [of the room] and I at another. There was a wedding party...my husband carried out [the bombing]. I tried to carry out [the bombing] but it [the explosives belt] did not go off. I left. People started running and I ran with them," al-Rishawi said. KR
IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER BLAMES SYRIA FOR TERRORISM
Defense Minister Sa'dun al-Dulaymi traveled to Jordan on 13 November to meet with senior Jordanian officials about the 9 November terrorist attacks in Amman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2005), RFI reported on 13 November. Speaking to Al-Jazeera television, Al-Dulaymi said that Syria is "almost the only outlet" for foreign fighters to enter Iraq. "We have a 620-kilometer long border with Syria. I say that there are 620 problems between us and Syria. We have more than 450 detainees, who all came from various Arab and Islamic countries to receive training in Syria and enter Iraq in their booby-trapped cars, bringing destruction, death, and murder with them," al-Dulaymi said. Addressing Syria, he added, "If the Iraqi volcano explodes, none of the capitals neighboring Iraq will be spared." KR
STATEMENT ATTRIBUTED TO IRAQ'S BA'ATH PARTY CLAIMS FORMER LEADER AL-DURI DEAD...
The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party of Iraq issued a statement posted to albasrah.net on 12 November claiming that Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, former Iraqi vice president and senior Ba'ath Party member, is dead. The statement claimed that al-Duri, considered the head of Ba'athist resistance in Iraq since the fall of the Hussein regime, died on 11 November. "The late comrade Izzat Ibrahim embodied, in spirit and deed, all the traits of confident believers and mujahedin," the statement said. "He had undertaken party, official, and jihadist responsibilities throughout his committed, eventful march in the party, the state, and the resistance." Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 12 November that former Ba'ath Party Bureau Command member Abd al-Qadir al-Duri succeeds Izzat Ibrahim as head of the resistance. London's Quds Press agency quoted sources on 13 November as saying that al-Duri might have died in Ba'qubah, and that a funeral was held for him in Diyala. Quds also reported that al-Duri had married an Iraqi woman from Diyala two years before the fall of the Hussein regime, and that the woman had borne him children. The reports on al-Duri's death have not been substantiated. KR
...BUT ARAB BROADCASTER SAYS NEW STATEMENT DISMISSES THAT REPORT
Al-Arabiyah television cited a Ba'ath Party statement issued on 14 November that reportedly says al-Duri is alive and continues to lead the resistance in Iraq. The statement also reportedly calls Abd al-Qadir al-Duri, the purported new leader of the Ba'ath, an unexceptional person who is no longer involved in the army or the party. Hisham al-Najdawi, a member of Jordan's Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, told Al-Arabiyah that the reports of al-Duri's death were "fabricated and false." Al-Najdawi claimed that "The Americans" wrote the statement in an attempt to gain intelligence information about al-Duri. KR
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS IRAQ...
Kofi Annan made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on 12 November for meetings with senior Iraqi officials, RFI reported the same day. Annan called on Iraqi leaders to work toward reconciliation ahead of the 19 November Arab League-sponsored Cairo conference that seeks to bring disparate political groups together. Annan told reporters at a press briefing with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari that the conference "aims at building a new future for the Iraqi people." Al-Ja'fari told reporters that his government expects the UN to continue to support the political process in Iraq. "We also talked about how the Iraqi forces' performance, numbers, and equipment should be further enhanced" until they are capable of assuming security responsibilities from multinational forces, the prime minister said. KR
...AS IRAQI SUNNI ARAB LEADER SAYS ANNAN VOWED TO LOOK INTO CONCERNS
Salih al-Mutlaq told Al-Sharqiyah television on 13 November that he and other Sunni Arab leaders raised a number of concerns over the political process in Iraq with Secretary-General Annan on 12 November. "The secretary-general promised us that the UN will help in reviewing the constitution in the coming phase," al-Mutlaq said. "We also informed him that the Iraqis are very worried over...the possibility of seeing the same thing happen again during the upcoming elections, meaning that they will be rigged. We demanded international supervision as well as judicial supervision over the elections. Moreover, we called for injecting fresh blood into the IECI [Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission] and replacing the heads of ballot centers in the governorates." KR