RUSSIA CALLS FOR RESTRAINT IN CARTOON CONTROVERSY
The Foreign Ministry appealed to the international community in a statement on 6 February to prevent the ongoing controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad published in some Western European newspapers from becoming a general conflict among religious groups, mosnews.com reported. The statement noted that the cartoons are "openly insulting to the religious feelings of Muslim believers." It stressed, however, that the acts of vandalism against foreign diplomatic missions in some Muslim countries cannot be justified. "The chain of events caused by [publishing the cartoons] is undoubtedly beneficial to those who would like to stir [up] hostility and distrust between nations for their political purposes," the statement noted. The ministry said that freedom of speech is an important democratic principle but should be exercised with respect for the religious feelings of others and to promote mutual religious understanding. PM
MINISTER WARNS AGAINST 'THREATENING' IRAN
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on a visit to Athens, Greece, on 6 February that "at the current stage, it is important not to make guesses about what will happen and even more important not to make threats" in the dispute regarding Iran's nuclear program, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2006). "What we must underline is that...the International Atomic Energy Agency [has made its decisions]. The UN Security Council has been informed, and it will not take any action in the immediate future," he added. PM
SPANISH LEADER SEEKS 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE EU
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told the Moscow daily "Kommersant" of 7 February that "Russia is a strategic partner of the European Union, and my government helps Russia and Europe draw closer together." He called for a "strategic alliance" to help "rebuff the serious challenges facing us in the international arena." Zapatero also said that he agrees with President Vladimir Putin that "one should not negotiate with terrorists." Putin is scheduled to begin an official visit to Spain on 8 February. PM
PUTIN WANTS TO 'KILL TERRORISTS LIKE RATS'
President Putin told members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow on 7 February that the way to conduct "the fight against terrorists is to launch pinpoint strikes at them, find them in all the caves where they are hiding, and kill them like rats," Russian news agencies reported. Referring to the recent Moscow spy scandal, Putin, himself a former KGB agent, said that the FSB's "work was professional as far as the recent exposure of foreign secret services agents and employees of certain field stations that worked in Moscow under the cover of diplomatic missions is concerned. One may only regret the fact that the scandal cast a shadow over nongovernmental organizations. But they have nothing to do with this. One should [nonetheless] be prudent as far as those who give monetary assistance are concerned" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January and 1 and 2 February 2006). PM
MORE THAN 2,600 CONVICTED IN HAZING INCIDENTS
Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov said in Moscow on 6 February that just over 2,600 military personnel were convicted of hazing in 2005, out of about 15,000 convictions in the military for all types of crimes, "The Moscow Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January and 3 and 7 February 2006). He added that more than 6,000 soldiers were injured in hazing incidents, which made up about one-fourth of 139,000 reported crimes in the military. Savenkov nonetheless maintained that such crimes are on the decrease because "today, in contrast to previous years, military personnel are held criminally responsible for any form of violence that violates military codes." He also noted that about 10,000 servicemen were detained for desertion in 2005, which is a slight drop over the previous year. Elsewhere, about 15 activists from the National Bolshevik Party briefly broke into an Army enlistment office to protest hazing and demand an end to conscription. PM
RUSSIA TO HAVE A 'UNIFIED' AIRCRAFT COMPANY
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed documents on 6 February to set up a single aircraft manufacturing company for domestic producers, the Unified Aircraft-Manufacturing Corporation, RIA Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2006). The state will have a majority holding in the new firm, although the present 25 percent limit on foreign participation might be eased on a case-by-case basis. PM
BAIKAL PIPELINE PROJECT ON HOLD
The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological, and Atomic Monitoring (Rostekhnadzor) has postponed a final decision on the route of the planed Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline, which critics charge threatens the ecology of Lake Baikal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 2006), "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 February. The state environmental agency opposes construction of a terminal at Perevoznaya Bay but will rule in about 30 days on the route of the segment that is slated to pass within 1 kilometer of Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake. Representatives of both the Transneft pipeline company and ecological groups told the Moscow-based daily that they are not sure whether the decision on Perevoznaya Bay is final. PM
RUSSIA TO TEST BIRD-FLU VACCINE FOR HUMANS
The Health Ministry's Mikrogen Company in Ufa, Bashkortostan, announced on 6 February that three versions of a bird-flu vaccine for humans have been developed and sent to the Volgograd region for tests, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2006). General Director Makhamat Aslynbayev told reporters that "20 volunteers will take part in tests this year. If the tests are successful, our plant can start mass production. If not, we will not lose heart but develop another vaccine." PM
RUSSIA'S SPOOKS TO HOLD AN ART CONTEST
The FSB announced in a statement on 6 February that it is holding a contest for the "best art depicting the life and work of law enforcers," RIA Novosti reported. The FSB wants to promote "a positive, more objective view of law enforcers by focusing on their typical day-to-day life involving work and family." Categories include best television or radio program, best literature, best film, and best work of art. Entries must be submitted by 1 October, and winners will be announced in December. PM
CHECHEN STRONGMAN SEEKS TO BAR DANISH NGOS' ACTIVITIES...
Acting Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists in Moscow on 6 February that in retaliation for the publication by a Danish newspaper -- and subsequently of some Western European newspapers -- of cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad, Danish NGOs will no longer be permitted to work in Chechnya, Interfax and Reuters reported. Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina told Reuters that the Danish Committee for Refugees runs numerous humanitarian projects in both Chechnya and Ingushetia. All foreign humanitarian organizations and NGOS evacuated their personnel from Chechnya years ago for security reasons. Over the past week, both Kadyrov and Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov have rejected as untrue persistent rumors that Abramov will not return to his post in Chechnya after he recovers from his November car accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2005), and that Kadyrov will be named to succeed him. LF
...BUT DUMA SPEAKER SAYS HE IS NOT EMPOWERED TO DO SO
State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov told journalists on 7 February that Kadyrov's call for banning the activities of Danish NGOs in Chechnya reflects his "personal opinion," and that the issue must be referred to the appropriate "bodies of power," ITAR-TASS reported. Pavel Krasheninnikov, who heads the Duma's committee on legislation, similarly condemned Kadyrov's statement as inappropriate, Interfax reported. LF
TWO MILITANTS KILLED IN SPECIAL OPERATION IN DAGHESTAN
Two members of the so-called Kaspiisk djamaat were killed and four of their supporters apprehended during a special operation in that city early on 7 February, Russian media reported, quoting a spokeswoman for Daghestan's Interior Ministry. The two dead men were identified as loyal residents; their surnames were given as Amirov and Veliyev. Police confiscated explosive devices, grenades and other weaponry from the house where the militants were hiding, and claimed that they were planning terrorist attacks in Makhachkala and on Daghestan's main railway link. Also on 6 February, police in Khasavyurt, Daghestan's second largest city, announced the detention of militant Isa Gamayev, ITAR-TASS reported. Gamayev was reportedly in possession of videotapes, including footage of earlier terrorist attacks and a purported appeal to militants by Chechen field commander Doku Umarov to attack and murder civilians. LF
ARMENIAN COALITION PARTNERS PLEDGE TO CONTINUE COOPERATION
The three parties aligned in Armenia's coalition government -- Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, Orinats Yerkir, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) -- issued a statement in Yerevan on 6 February reaffirming their shared determination to continue cooperation "at least until the start" of next year's parliamentary election campaign, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The statement highlighted as the coalition's most important objectives deepening democracy and consolidating an appropriate political culture and traditions. HHD parliament faction head Levon Mkrtchian told RFE/RL the statement was needed to allay recent speculation about rifts within the coalition (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 20 January 2006). LF
AZERBAIJANI CUSTOMS CHIEF NAMED EMERGENCY SITUATIONS MINISTER
State Customs Committee Chairman Colonel General Kyamaleddin Heydarov was dismissed from that post on 6 February and named to head the Emergency Situations Ministry that President Ilham Aliyev created in December, day.az and echo-az.com reported on 6 and 7 February, respectively. Heydarov's former first deputy, Lieutenant General Aydin Aliyev (no relation to the president), succeeds him as head of the Customs Committee. At a press conference in May 2005, Heydarov, who is reputed to be among the wealthiest men in Azerbaijan, rejected as inappropriate claims he is an "oligarch." He also rejected rumors he was engaged in a power struggle with then Health Minister Ali Insanov and Economic Development Minister Farkhad Aliyev (also no relation to the president), both of whom were fired in October and arrested on charges of plotting a coup d'etat. Reuters on 6 February quoted Baku analyst Leila Aliyeva as saying that "strong characters who create centers of power scare the president," and that "moving Heydarov weakens his influence on Azerbaijan's economy," but she predicted Heydarov will remain loyal to the president rather than defect to the opposition. LF
DIPLOMATS FOCUS ON TENSIONS IN RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN RELATIONS
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met in Moscow on 6 February with Georgian Ambassador Irakli Chubinashvili to discuss bilateral relations, according to a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website. In an interview published on 7 February in "Vremya novostei," Karasin accused Tbilisi of ingratitude for the efforts Moscow exerted to restore gas supplies following damage to the main pipeline (see below), and of deliberately fueling tensions in the South Ossetian conflict zone. In Tbilisi, Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili summoned Russian Ambassador Valery Chkhikvishvili to discuss the discovery in the South Ossetian conflict zone of an Igla portable ground-to-air missile that Georgian officials insist was brought to Georgia from Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2006). Also on 6 February, Georgian National Security Council Secretary Kote Kemularia told journalists after meeting with U.S. Ambassador John Tefft that Georgia must continue "constant dialogue" with Russia despite any "provocations" that may follow the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported. LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT GEARS UP FOR DEBATE ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS
The Georgian parliament's bureau was scheduled to discuss on 7 February a government assessment of the effectiveness of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone, ITAR-TASS reported. In October 2005, the parliament gave that force four months to demonstrate its effectiveness; the parliament is to vote on 10 February on whether to demand the force's withdrawal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2005). Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava said on 5 February that the Russian peacekeepers "are not fulfilling their mandate," but he added that they have not had enough time to meet the parliament's challenge, Civil Georgia reported on 6 February. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli told journalists in Tbilisi on 6 February that it is not in Georgia's interest to demand the peacekeepers' withdrawal, and that the Georgian leadership would prefer to see them comply more strictly with their mandate, Caucasus Press reported. But Givi Targamadze, who heads the parliament's Defense and Security Committee, told Caucasus Press on 6 February that Georgia will resort to force if necessary to expedite the peacekeepers' withdrawal. Meanwhile the peacekeepers' commander, Major General Marat Kulakhmetov, was quoted by Interfax on 6 February as arguing that the Russian peacekeepers' mandate can only be revoked on the basis of a decision by all four parties that contribute detachments to the mixed peacekeeping force. The others are Georgia, North Ossetia, and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia. LF
GEORGIA DENIES REGISTRATION TO FORMER MINISTER'S CHARITABLE FUND
The Justice Ministry rejected on 6 February an application for official registration by the Igor Giorgadze Charitable Fund, Caucasus Press reported. The ministry explained that the fund's charter violates Georgia's Civil Code, and that the registration application was not accompanied by a letter from Giorgadze authorizing the use of his name in the fund's official title. The fund is headed by former National Democratic Party of Georgia leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia. Giorgadze, a former national security minister, left Georgia in September 1995 after being accused of masterminding the car-bomb attack against then-Georgian parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze one month earlier. His current whereabouts remain a mystery. Also on 6 February, former Adjaran Interior Minister Djemal Gogitidze, who is a leading member of Giorgadze's Samartlianoba (Justice) party, was quoted by "Kommersant-Vlast" as claiming Samartlianoba enjoys support from both Georgian and Russian businessmen. Gogitidze predicted that the Georgian people will mount a rebellion against the country's current leadership as a result of which Samartlianoba will take power. LF
IRAN HALTS GAS SUPPLIES TO GEORGIA AS RUSSIAN SUPPLIES RESUME
Azerbaijan has stopped exporting gas to neighboring Georgia as Russian supplies have resumed following the completion of repairs to the main Russia-Georgia pipeline, which was damaged by sabotage on 22 January, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 6 February, quoting a spokesman for Azerigas. That spokesman added that Azerbaijan is no longer transporting Iranian gas to Georgia as Iran is no longer supplying any. Iran too offered to provide Georgia with gas to compensate for the shortfall caused by the hiatus in supplies from Russia; the price Georgia agreed to pay for the 30 million cubic meters of Iranian gas it has received was never disclosed. LF
KAZAKH INTERIOR MINISTRY AFFIRMS NO TERROR BASES IN COUNTRY
Interior Ministry spokesman Erzhan Ashikbaev told a briefing in Astana on 6 February that there are no terrorist training bases on Kazakh territory and that reports to the contrary are "groundless," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Responding to "periodic" reports suggesting the presence of terrorist training bases in Kazakhstan, Ashikbaev stated, "We once again stress our basic position: There are no bases on our country's territory." Kazakh National Security Committee Chairman Nartai Dutbaev said in August that international terror groups were trying to set up training centers in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2005), and Uzbek officials alleged in 2004 that the organizers of bombings in Uzbekistan trained in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004). DK
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT APPOINTS FOUR GOVERNORS
President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed decrees appointing four regional governors, ferghana.ru reported on 6 February, citing a press release from the presidential administration. Bakiev appointed Sultanbai Aijigitov governor of Batken Province, Jyrgalbek Azylov governor of Naryn Province, Adam Zakirov governor of Osh Province, and Esengul Omuraliev governor of Issyk-Kul Province. DK
SLAIN DEPUTY'S BROTHER AIMS FOR KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT
Ryspek Akmatbaev, the brother of slain parliamentary deputy Tynychbek Akmatbaev and a reputed organized crime boss, has submitted documents to run for parliament, ferghana.ru reported on 6 February. Akmatbaev, who was recently cleared of multiple murder charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2006), will run in a 9 April by-election to fill his brother's vacant seat. DK
KYRGYZ POLICE REESTABLISH ORDER AFTER ETHNIC FLARE-UP
Kyrgyz police restored order in the village of Iskra in northern Kyrgyzstan after clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Dungans on 4-5 February, akipress.org reported on 6 February. On 5 February, a crowd estimated at 250-300 people gathered to demand the expulsion of several Dungan families from the village after a 31 January incident in which Dungans allegedly assaulted and beat two ethnic Kyrgyz. Strife broke out at the 5 February meeting, with shots reportedly fired at the protesters from a car and Kyrgyz reportedly attacking Dungan homes. Police succeeded in reestablishing order with teargas. Four individuals have been detained in connection with the shooting from the car and an investigation of arson allegedly committed on 5 February is ongoing. According to akipress.org, the population of Iskra is 2,353, with Dungans totaling 1,403 and Kyrgyz 875. The Dungans are descendants of Chinese Muslims. DK
KYRGYZ PREMIER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT OVER ADDRESS
President Kurmanbek Bakiev met on 6 February with Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, who gave Bakiev an open letter responding to the latter's recent address to parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2006), akipress.org reported. In the letter, Kulov charged that organized criminal elements have high-level government sponsors and said that he has "repeatedly" given Bakiev "concrete information about several leading officials in the National Security Service." Kulov stated that his own recent remarks on the need to fight organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2006) did not violate the law and were not intended to undermine the president's authority. In closing, he asked Bakiev to view his comments as "an attempt to help you in removing shortcomings" in the work of law-enforcement authorities and the court system. DK
TAJIK PARTIES ACCUSE RUSSIAN ENVOY OF INTERFERING IN POLITICS
Tajikistan's Democratic Party, Socialist Party, and Social Democratic Party have issued a statement charging that Russian Ambassador Ramazan Abdulatipov interfered in Tajik internal affairs and calling on the Foreign Ministry to clarify its position on recent comments by Abdulatifov, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 6 February. In a news conference reported by "Millat" on 26 January, Abdulatipov said that there are no real opponents to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in the country's upcoming November presidential election, Avesta reported. Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy head of the Democratic Party, said that Abdulatifov's remarks exceeded the bounds of an ambassador's authority, RFE/RL reported. Valiev added that if Abdulatipov cares so deeply about the Tajik people, "It would have been better if he had discussed the hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrant workers in Russia who lack the most basic rights." DK
EU REPRESENTATIVE HOLDS ENERGY TALKS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT
Jan Kubis, EU special representative for Central Asia, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 6 February to discuss possible shipments of Turkmen energy resources to Europe, turkmenistan.ru reported. DK
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE WANTS RIVAL TO WITHDRAW
Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the presidential candidate of the united opposition forces, has failed to persuade Alyaksandr Kazulin to discuss the possible withdrawal of one of them from the presidential race, Belapan reported on 6 February. "We have a very simple proposal. It is that one should pull out in favor of the other before the registration of [incumbent President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka. Because we should not let the regime choose by itself opponents from among the contenders," Milinkevich told journalists on 4 February. Milinkevich reportedly proposed the following criteria for determining the stronger contender: the number of supporters among the delegates to the National Congress of Pro-democratic Forces in October 2005, the existence of campaign teams in the provinces, the quantity of ballot signatures, popularity rating, and recognition and support on the part of the international community. Kazulin, who is supported by the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), rejected the proposal on 6 February, describing it as an ultimatum. Instead, Kazulin suggested that his and Milinkevich's election teams should unite if one of them is denied access to the ballot. JM
OSCE OPENS ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION IN MINSK
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened its observation mission in Minsk on 6 January, Belapan reported. ODIHR spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir told the agency that an initial group of long-term election observers arrived in the Belarusian capital the same day. Another group, led by mission head Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, who headed the OSCE's observer mission for the Azerbaijani parliamentary elections in November 2005, is expected to arrive on 7 February. All the 40 long-term observers for the 19 March presidential vote are expected in Minsk before 15 February. JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SEES ECONOMIC SPACE AS SOLUTION TO GAS PROBLEM
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, head of the opposition Party of Regions, told journalists in Donetsk on 6 February that the creation of a Single Economic Space with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia is "the only realistic way for resolving the gas crisis," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported. According to Yanukovych, that conclusion was reached during recent talks between his party and the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia. "Our countries should have a single energy policy," Yanukovych noted. "Russia is vigorously integrating with the European economic space, and it is very important for Ukraine not to let this process bypass our state." JM
SERBIAN OFFICIAL SAYS WESTERN POWERS HAVE MADE UP MIND ABOUT KOSOVA...
Goran Bogdanovic, a member of Belgrade's negotiating team in Kosova's final-status talks, said on 7 February that the West has already decided that the province will be independent, B92 reported. Bogdanovic said that British Foreign Office Political Director John Sawers told him that the Contact Group -- which comprises the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia -- supports independence. "It was a fairly uncomfortable meeting because Sawers said that the Contact Group has made a decision that Kosovo should be independent and tried to convince us that we must accept this decision and that this is the best option for Serbs in Kosovo and those who want to return to the region," Bogdanovic said. "We are not satisfied with the stance of the Contact Group because that would mean that the status talks would not even be necessary. Why play a game if you already know the score before it begins?" he added. BW
...AS BRITISH DIPLOMAT SAYS KOSOVA CAN BE INDEPENDENT IF IT SHOWS POLITICAL MATURITY
British Foreign Office Political Director Sawers, meanwhile, said on 6 February that Kosova can win independence from Serbia if it demonstrates political maturity by reaching out to ethnic minorities, Reuters and dpa reported the same day. "The more the leaders of Kosovo can reach out to the other communities and show that Kosovo is a mature democracy, the more fully an independence can be delivered," Sawers said in Prishtina after meeting with Kosovar Albanian leaders. Sawers' comments reflect what appears to be a growing consensus among Western powers that a form of "conditional independence" -- in which the province accepts some international supervision and the ethnic Albanian majority makes concessions to the Serbian minority -- is almost a certainty for Kosova. The first round of UN-backed talks between ethnic Albanian and Serbian officials on Kosova's final status is scheduled for later this month in Vienna. The talks have been delayed for weeks due to the 21 January death of Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2006). BW
...AND OFFICIAL SAYS SERBS MORE WILLING TO PARTICIPATE IN KOSOVA POLITICAL PROCESS
Prominent Kosovar Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic said on 6 February that Serbian officials in the province are increasingly prepared to participate in political institutions, Beta and B92 reported the same day. Ivanovic said that in the past Kosovar Serb officials were reluctant to participate in the political process because it would have created the impression that "the situation is all right" in the process. But after meeting with Soeren Jessen-Petersen, head of the United Nations Mission in Kosova, Ivanovic said, "It is now apparent how the status discussions will be conducted, so we are now closer to entering the institutions." BW
SERBIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SAYS NEGOTIATIONS WITH EU MUST BE SALVAGED
Miroljub Labus said on 6 February that Belgrade must do everything possible to salvage negotiations with the European Union on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), B92 reported the same day. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is scheduled to visit Belgrade on 16 February, and his report on Serbia and Montenegro's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia is considered crucial when the EU Council of Ministers decides on 21 February whether to continue negotiating the SAA. Labus also said that Croatia's success in apprehending General Ante Gotovina has created a difficult standard for Belgrade to live up to (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2005). "After Gotovina's arrest, everything short of the same in the case of Ratko Mladic is not enough for the EU. Since we are juxtaposed to Croatia in that respect, everything that falls short of what Croatia has accomplished is not enough," Labus said. BW
HAGUE PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR MORE COOPERATION IN BELGRADE
Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, visited Belgrade on 6 February and said she expects Serbian authorities to provide her access to documents relevant to all fugitives sought by the tribunal, Hina reported the same day. Without naming Ratko Mladic specifically, Del Ponte said six Serbian war crimes fugitives are still at large. "We have presented to the chief prosecutor the results of our investigation of the network of people helping the fugitives, and I believe it gives hope that we will achieve satisfactory cooperation," Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Zoran Stankovic said. Del Ponte also met Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other officials. After her meetings in Belgrade, Del Ponte left for Bosnia-Herzegovina. BW
LAWYER SAYS KARIC DOES NOT PLAN TO RETURN TO SERBIA
Zdenko Tomanovic, the attorney representing businessman Bogoljub Karic, said his client will not be returning to Serbia because it is easier to prepare a defense as a free man than from prison, B92 reported on 6 February. Serbia's Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Karic on 4 February after he failed to show up for questioning the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 6 February 2006). Karic, the founder of the mobile-telephone operator Mobtel and one of Serbia's richest businessmen, and his brother Sretan Karic have been the subject of various criminal probes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 19, and 24 January and 3 February 2006). Citing anonymous law-enforcement sources, B92 reported on 6 February that Serbian authorities are preparing formal tax-evasion charges against Karic and will then issue an international arrest warrant. Karic announced he was traveling on business to Montenegro, Spain, England, and Cyprus, although there is widespread speculation that he is in Russia, B92 reported. BW
MOLDOVA SNUBS CIS ELECTION-MONITORING PROJECT
A senior Moldovan parliamentary official said on 7 February that Chisinau will not participate in an election-monitoring project of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), ITAR-TASS reported. Sergiu Stati, head of the Moldovan parliament's Foreign Policy and European Integration Committee, was speaking in response to the establishment of the CIS International Institute for the Monitoring of Democratic Development, Consolidation of Parliamentarism, and Observance of Citizen Rights. "We shall refrain from participation in this institution," Stati said. He added that sufficient institutions for election monitoring already exist in Europe, including the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Council of Europe. BW
DOES CHECHEN RESISTANCE LEADER ASPIRE TO BECOME IMAM OF THE CAUCASUS?
Chechen resistance leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev issued a decree on 5 February stripping Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakayev and Health Minister Umar Khanbiyev, both of whom currently represent the resistance in Europe, of those government posts, and ordering most Chechen ministers currently abroad (except Zakayev) to return to Chechnya.
Zakayev has recently engaged in a polemic with radical Chechen ideologues, including Press and Information Minister Movladi Udugov, who reject an independent Chechen state in favor of an Islamic state encompassing the entire North Caucasus and who argue that resistance fighters should not be constrained by the norms of international law.
Over the past two months, Zakayev has published two lengthy articles taking issue with what he terms the "musings" of Chechen "ideologues," including Udugov, and accusing them of being in cahoots with Moscow.
The first such article, posted on 19 December on the resistance website chechenpress.org, opens with the stated intention of setting out the official viewpoint of the resistance leadership with regard to the proposals of analysts who "are putting forward ideas that entail a radical revision of the ultimate goals and strategic tasks of the Chechen national liberation struggle."
Specifically, Zakayev continued, those writers argue that the resistance should not be constrained by international law or human rights norms, an argument that Zakayev claims is inconsistent with the Islamic concept of justice. Zakayev admits nonetheless that the conduct of many so-called democratic Western states in this respect is less than exemplary.
Zakayev reasons that Chechens cannot achieve the independent statehood they aspire to exclusively by military means, but need a "political voice" that can convince the international community that their desire for independence is valid. From that angle, eschewing human rights norms would therefore be counterproductive, Zakayev argues, as the international community would then write the Chechens off as "bandits, marauders, and murderers," which, he continues, is exactly what the Kremlin is hoping for.
Zakayev goes on to reject the argument that Chechnya does not need a constitution. He points out that not only does every independent sovereign state have a constitution, but that to denounce the 1992 constitution of Djokhar Dudayev's Chechen Republic Ichkeria would be to undercut the legal foundations of the sovereignty of that republic, and of all its institutions, including its government, parliament, and armed forces.Zakayev then targets his opponents' demands to bury the idea of Chechen independent statehood in the name of a Caucasus caliphate with Sadulayev as imam of the Caucasus.
Zakayev admits that the resistance forces battling Russian colonialism in the North Caucasus are no longer exclusively Chechen. But, he says, there is a "huge gap" between military cooperation against a common enemy and establishing a single unified North Caucasus state.
He insists "there is not, and cannot be, any national freedom without national sovereignty, without a national state," and that "national sovereignty is not an obstacle to various kinds of integration with other peoples and states but on contrary serves as the basis for such integration... It will only be possible to speak of real forms of unification of Chechens with other peoples of Caucasus only after the North Caucasus is liberated from the military-political presence of Russia."
It would, Zakayev continues, be "irresponsible, harmful, and a crime" to begin dismantling Chechen statehood at this juncture. After all, he reasons, "in 1990 the Chechens restored not an imamate but their national sovereignty, and in 1994 they went to war against the Russian aggressors not under the slogan of creating a Caucasus caliphate, but to free our country from Russian occupation."
Two weeks later, on 30 December, chechenpress.org posted what was billed as a statement from Sadulayev's administration expressing support for Zakayev. That statement said that the "Chechen leadership, among whom there are learned alims (scholars), does not see any contradiction between Islam and the doctrine of an independent Chechen state with all the appropriate official institutions." It followed with a thinly veiled warning to "ideologues occupying official positions in the Chechen government" not to mislead the Chechen people and international community on fundamental questions of domestic and foreign policy." The statement reaffirmed the imperative for Chechen resistance forces to abide by international law, even if Russia declines to do the same.
In his follow-up article on 14 January, Zakayev rejects the accusation leveled against him by his opponents that he, together with other unnamed ministers and deputies to the Chechen parliament elected under Maskhadov in 1997, fears Shari'a law, and that he gives precedence to democracy over Islam. (The article is entitled "I Am A Democrat Only To The Extent That Islam And The Traditions Of My People Permit.") Zakayev accuses his ideological opponents of being in cahoots with Kremlin, specifically of having plotted the ill-fated invasion of Daghestan in the summer of 1999 that furnished Russia with the pretext for a new incursion into Chechnya."
Zakayev repeats that Chechens are being killed not because they are Muslims, but because they want an independent state, and he warns that at crucial junctures in Chechnya's history Russia has invariably sought to defuse Chechen demands for an independent state by offering them the alternative of living under Shari'a law, but within Russia.
Zakayev goes on to claim that the opinions Udugov espouses are his personal opinions, and that "in all questions concerning the basic foundations of the Chechen state the leadership of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria adheres to a single, agreed position based on the Chechen constitution and taking into account the norms and principles of international law." But his demotion and the summons to return to Chechnya casts serious doubt on that affirmation.
Questioned on 6 February by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, both Zakayev and Udugov declined to comment on their ideological disagreement or on any possible link between that dispute and Sadulayev's decree reorganizing his government. Zakayev told RFE/RL's Russian Service later the same day that his polemic with Udugov has no relevance whatsoever to Sadulayev's government restructuring.
Zakayev did, however, admit that "the internal situation in the republic -- political and military -- has changed." Whether Sadulayev has agreed to what he envisages as a purely tactical concession, as his predecessor Aslan Maskhadov was constrained to do in early 1999 under pressure from Islamic radicals, or whether he does see himself as the imam of the Caucasus, remains as yet unclear. His decree of 22 January creating a Council of Alims of Peoples of the Caucasus to advise him would seem, however, to corroborate the latter hypothesis.
PROTESTS OVER CARICATURES OF PROPHET TURN VIOLENT IN AFGHANISTAN...
Continuing protests throughout Afghanistan against the publication by a Danish newspaper and other media of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad have claimed four lives in Afghanistan and left another 20 people injured, international news agencies reported on 6 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2006). Two people were killed when protesters who had gathered in front of the main U.S. air base in country in Bagram, north of Kabul, tried to storm the gates of the complex and were fired on by Afghan security troops, AP reported on 6 February. Another man was killed in Mehtarlam, the provincial capital of the eastern Laghman Province, when security forces fired on protesters who had turned violent and gone on a rampage, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 6 February. A fourth person was killed in Nangarhar Province, south of Laghman. Violent protests also took place in several other Afghan cities, including Kabul, in which injuries and property damage were reported but no one was killed. AT
...AND ANGRY MOB ATTACKS NATO FORCES
Conflicting reports have emerged from international news agencies concerning a clash between angry demonstrators and Afghan and international troops outside a base in Maymana, the capital of Faryab Province, on 7 February. Governor Mohammad Latif of the northern province was quoted as saying that Norwegian troops attached to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fired on hundreds of protesters outside their base in Maymana. Mohammad Latif said the incident occurred after demonstrators shot at the soldiers and threw grenades. He said one of the demonstrators was killed and two others were wounded. A subsequent dpa report said that four people were killed "when Afghan police opened fire after shots were fired from the crowd." An ISAF spokeswoman, Squadron Leader Annie Gibson-Sexton, was quoted as saying that international troops used tear gas against the protesters but she could not confirm that shots had been fired. AT
U.S. SOLDIER KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN
A U.S. serviceman was killed in an attack near Mehtarlam on 6 February, AP reported. According to a U.S. military statement, the incident was unrelated to the outcry over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that has rocked Mehtarlam. It was initially unclear who was responsible for the attack on the U.S. patrol. AT
SUSPECTED SUICIDE BOMBER ARRESTED IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Afghan security forces in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh Province, arrested a man on 6 February as he was trying to detonate explosives attached to his body using a mobile telephone, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. The suspect, identified as Croma Yahya, is reportedly a Malian national and was trying to enter the office of Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Nur when he was arrested. Nur told a news conference that Yahya had entered Afghanistan through Pakistan and was staying in Mazar-e Sharif, claiming to be teaching computer skills to Afghans. Yahya had requested an interview with Nur and waited days before his request had been granted. Nur linked the suspect, who he said was targeting him, to Al-Qaeda. Authorities in Mazar-e Sharif earlier arrested a Bangladeshi national on suspicion of having links to Al-Qaeda, Nur said, without elaborating on the circumstances of that case. AT
REPORT SUGGESTS ISRAELI, AFGHAN MET SECRETLY IN LONDON
The Israeli daily "Ma'ariv" reported on 6 February that "senior" diplomats from Afghanistan and Israel met recently in London, AP reported. The report suggests Afghan and Israeli diplomats discussed areas in which Israeli expertise and equipment might be of help to Afghanistan. According to "Ma'ariv," the Israeli delegation included Foreign Ministry director Ron Prosor and Yaakov Dayan, a senior aide to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev would not confirm the report but said there is "no reason Israel could not have more normal and cooperative relationships with countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia." Regev added that his country is "working toward that end." Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already expressed his country's desire to establish diplomatic ties with Jerusalem once a Palestinian state is established (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 November 2005). AT
IRANIAN MEDIA GIVEN GUIDANCE ON NUCLEAR COVERAGE
The Secretariat of Iran's Supreme National Security Council on 4 February issued an advisory on how the country's media should cover the nuclear issue, roozonline reported. Referring to the decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing board to report Iran to the UN Security Council, the advisory says the media must not portray the country's diplomatic efforts as unsuccessful or say that the country suffered a loss. The advisory warns against discouraging the Iranian people. It called for stories that do not cause fear or worry, avoid referring to a diplomatic failure, and avoid the suggestion that diplomacy has reached a dead end. BS
IRAN CALLS FOR EMERGENCY CARTOON SUMMIT
In a 6 February letter to Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, whose country currently chairs the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki has called for an emergency meeting to discuss alleged western Islamophobia, IRNA reported. Mottaki described insults to Muslim values as "a main challenge" confronting Islamic states. Iranian parliamentarian Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, who serves on the legislature's Culture Committee, said ambassadors of several European countries will be invited to hear the legislature's protest against the cartoons, Fars News Agency reported. He added that Iranian delegations might be sent to these countries to complain as well. Rahbar recommended trade restrictions, and then added that Saudi Arabia should "shoulder greater responsibility." BS
MOB ATTACKS AUSTRIAN EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
University students who are members of the Basij gathered in front of the Austrian Embassy in Tehran on 6 February to protest what they see as sacrilege towards the Prophet Muhammad, IRNA reported. The protest relates to a Danish newspaper's publication of images of the prophet; Austria currently holds the rotating European Union presidency. According to ILNA, the protestors also objected to the international community's decision to report Iran to the UN Security Council for its nuclear activities. The demonstration became violent, ILNA added, after the demonstrators attacked the embassy. Police reportedly intervened and dispersed the mob. In Vienna, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik advised Austrian embassies in countries -- including Iran -- that could experience heightened tensions over the cartoons to request enhanced security measures from their host governments, according to the official website of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union (http://www.eu2006.at). BS
MOB ATTACKS DANISH EMBASSY IN TEHRAN...
Some 200-400 people throwing rocks and incendiary devices attacked the Danish Embassy in Tehran on 6 February, Danmarks Radio P1 reported. Only one of the 20 "petrol bombs" reportedly cleared the embassy wall. BS
...AND TRADE BAN INTRODUCED
Also in Tehran, Commerce Minister Masud Mir-Kazemi said the government has decided to halt trade with Denmark, ISNA and IRNA reported. He said the trade balance is $280 million (per year, presumably), and only $4 million of that consists of Iranian exports to Denmark. "Denmark was the first country to publish the cartoons, but the Danish authorities exploited freedom of speech as an excuse to do nothing," Mir-Kazemi said. "President Ahmadinejad, therefore, issued instructions for setting up a special committee to decide how we should respond to these countries." He added that no more Danish goods will be ordered and the Iranian customs authorities will not release Danish goods that are already in ports. According to IRNA, furthermore, negotiations with Danish firms will be suspended and existing contracts will be reviewed. Fees on ships docking in Iran will be raised. IRNA added that Iranian firms have three months in which to find substitutes from other countries before the regulations will be enforced. BS
IRAN NOT PART OF NEW SHI'ITE-CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE IN LEBANON
Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun gave a joint press conference in Beirut on 6 February, Al-Manar television reported. Nasrallah said they discussed the possibility of cooperation between their two organizations. Asked if this is "an alliance" and if his organization is becoming part an "Iran-Syria alliance," Aoun said Lebanese Christians are mature and appreciate dialogue and understanding. He added that there is no "alliance with Syria and Iran," although "normal and sound relations with Syria" were addressed. Aoun is a possible candidate for the Lebanese presidency. BS
IRAN DISCOURAGES TRAVEL TO IRAQ
An Iranian Interior Ministry statement discourages would-be pilgrims from going to Iraq during the Ashura mourning period, Mehr News Agency reported on 6 February. The statement referred to unrest in Iraq and a warning from the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran that the border is closed. Ashura marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein on the plains of Karbala in 680 A.D., as he and his followers -- a total of 72 men -- confronted the massive army of Yazid in a fight over leadership of the Islamic community. BS
IRAQI SHI'ITE CLERIC MEETS SYRIAN OFFICIALS IN DAMASCUS...
Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr held separate meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a in Damascus on 6 February, Syrian state news agency SANA reported the same day. Al-Sadr praised Syria's support for the Iraqi people and its eagerness to help maintain Iraq's security; the meetings also addressed strengthening Syrian-Iraqi relations. Al-Sadr said his movement wants to bring stability to Iraq and will work with anyone who is interested in the construction and stability of Iraq, SANA reported. Reuters quoted al-Sadr as saying that both Syria and Iraq are under U.S. pressure. "We have good relations but our common enemies, Israel, the United States, and Britain, are trying to spread strife among us," he said. "I will help Syria in every way. We are witnessing Islamic solidarity." Meanwhile, some 2,000 al-Sadr loyalists demonstrated in Wasit Governorate on 6 February to protest the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad and called on senior clerics to issue a fatwa (religious edict) against the Danish cartoonists who drew the cartoons, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Al-Sadr's visit to Syria follows visits by the cleric last month to Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. KR
...AS FOLLOWERS REJECT KURDISH PROPOSAL FOR IRAQI CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
The supporters of Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr have rejected a proposal by Kurdistan Regional Government President Mas'ud Barzani that political parties form a high consultative council, karbalanews.net reported on 6 February. The proposal called for a council comprised of leaders from the political blocs that won seats in the parliamentary elections to work toward solutions to issues affecting political progress. It would include the participation of former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose participation has been opposed by Shi'ite parties. The website cited a 5 February statement by United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) member Baha' al-Araji, who said the Al-Sadrist movement rejects the proposal because it would take into account the outcome of the parliamentary elections and deprive the UIA of its plurality in parliament. KR
FORMER IRAQI DICTATOR'S COMPANY HELPED DISTRIBUTE AUSTRALIAN GRAIN
Former Australian Wheat Board (AWB) executive Dominic Hogan told an Australian inquiry on 7 February that his company exported wheat to Iraq under the UN's oil-for-food program through a Jordan-based company owned by Saddam Hussein, international media reported. Hogan said the Jordan-based Alia transport company, of which Hussein owned 49 percent, collected trucking fees from AWB that were channeled to Baghdad. Alia said in a written statement to the inquiry that it never transported any wheat for AWB, nytimes.com reported on 7 February. Alia General Manager Othman al-Absi said that AWB never asked if Alia was actually providing trucking services to Iraq, according to the website. A 2005 UN inquiry into the oil-for-food program said AWB inflated the cost of wheat it sold to Iraq between 1999 and 2003 from $12 to $46 a ton for transportation costs, paying an estimated $220 million in kickbacks to the regime through Alia. In his 7 February testimony, Hogan said Alia was "acting as the conduit to get the funds into Iraq," adding, "The money was always going into Iraq," AFP reported. He said an Alia agent openly admitted that the Iraqi government controlled the company's trucking services. KR
IRAQI COURT ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR LEGISLATOR
An Iraqi court has reportedly issued an arrest warrant for parliamentarian Mish'an al-Juburi and his son Yazin on corruption charges, "Al-Sabah" reported on 7 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2006). The report cited an official from Iraq's Integrity Commission as saying that international police have been informed of the warrant. A correspondent from RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq spoke with Yazin al-Juburi by telephone on 6 February. Al-Juburi declined to comment on the charges, saying they would have to be addressed by his father, who he said is in Syria. KR