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Newsline - August 22, 2006

The explosive device that killed 10 people and injured about 55 at Moscow's Cherkizovsky market on August 21 comprised between 1 and 1.2 kilograms of TNT, reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 21, 2006). The dead include five people preliminarily identified as Chinese, and one from Vietnam; the other four carried no papers. Of the injured, 35 remain hospitalized, 15 of them in serious condition, the daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on August 22. The market offers many Asian goods, and the sellers are primarily from China, Vietnam, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Moscow prosecutor Yury Syomin initially said that he suspected the blast may have been connected to a commercial dispute or conflict among criminal groups. But on August 22, he and federal Prosecutor General Yury Chaika both said that "terrorist" as well as criminal motives are under consideration. PM

On August 22, unnamed sources in the police and Federal Security Service (FSB) told reporters that up to three people under 25 years of age are under arrest in connection with the explosion at Moscow's Cherkizovsky market, and that their possible accomplices are being sought, reported. At least one of those detained is reportedly a chemistry student. The sources added that they are now primarily treating the incident as a hate crime involving small groups or even individual xenophobes or racists who seek to "kill non-Russians," the daily "Kommersant" reported on August 22. An initial search of the suspects' homes confirmed this suspicion, the daily "Vremya novostei" noted. The daily "Novye izvestia" suggested that the incident might be linked to other racist attacks in Moscow in recent months, which were also carried out by individuals or small groups. On April 4, "Novye izvestia" commented that an official campaign against "fascism" and hate crimes is under way in order to channel political protests so that they do not focus on the authorities and to portray the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party in a favorable light (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," April 28, 2006). PM

The British Foreign Office alerted travelers on August 21 to the danger of terrorist bombings in Moscow after the incident at the Cherkizovsky market that morning, RIA Novosti reported. A statement said that "there is a high threat from terrorism in Russia, including suicide bombings in public places. The risk of terrorism in Moscow could rise quickly in relation to any escalation of violence in Chechnya." The Foreign Office has already issued advisories against travel to several regions of the North Caucasus. PM

On August 21, Russia paid off the last of the Soviet Union's debt to member countries of the Paris Club, which is an informal grouping of 19 governments that have large financial claims on various other governments, Russian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 27, June 26, and August 14, 2006). Russia and the Paris Club concluded a basic agreement on June 16 to enable Moscow to repay a total of about $23 billion to all creditor countries ahead of time, thereby saving Russia $7.7 billion in debt-service payments. In mid-August, Russian officials reached an agreement with Germany, which is Moscow's largest single creditor, and thereby took the first step to concluding similar pacts with other countries. Increased oil and gas revenues have made it possible for Russia to pay off its debts early, as President Vladimir Putin and other top officials have long said that they wanted to do. Huge gas and oil revenues mean that Russia expects to have a $56 billion budget surplus in 2007. Its foreign currency reserves stand at $277 billion, which are the third-largest in the world, London's "The Daily Telegraph" reported on August 22. PM

Sergei Grigoryev, who is the vice president of the pipeline monopoly Transneft, said in Moscow on August 21 that his company will rebuild the entire Druzhba-1 oil pipeline if "an independent study" currently under way recommends doing so, RIA Novosti reported. Controversy recently emerged as to whether Transneft is planning to shut down permanently a damaged section of the pipeline that provides crude to Lithuania's Mazeikiu oil refinery, which is the only refinery in the Baltic states and which a Polish firm is about to acquire at the expense of Russian interests. Lithuanian officials have repeatedly said that they suspect that Russia is using the pipeline to exert political pressure on them. Semyon Vainshtok, who heads Transneft, argued recently that the normal life of a pipeline is 30 years, whereas the Druzhba-1 line is 42 years old and made with metals that are now prohibited (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 16 and 17, 2006). PM

An unnamed military source told Interfax in Moscow on August 22 that the upcoming Rubezh-2006 exercises of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which will begin in western Kazakhstan on August 23, will "center on an operation to resist those who want to establish an Islamic caliphate run according to Shari'a law in Central Asia." The three sides in the games will be the "blue," or armed terrorist and extremist organizations; the "brown," or states that are not CSTO members; and the "red," or CSTO member states. The news agency added that "the the following: taking advantage of the local population's resentment over the results of a presidential election, terrorist and extremist organizations seize power in a Central Asian state and a neighboring nation's border districts in an attempt to create a caliphate and enlarge its territory by invading a neighboring country.... The Kazakh authorities then ask the CSTO to provide military assistance to defend the country's sovereignty." PM

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said in Kazan on August 22 that his "ministry, together with other law enforcement agencies, has stopped the operations of the clandestine terrorist group Islamic Jamaat, with cells functioning in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Ulyanovsk Oblast," Interfax reported. He added that "41 group members have been exposed as publicly calling for extremist activities, provoking hatred or enmity, and planning terrorist actions." He did not elaborate. Nurgaliyev noted that five people are under arrest, two have been placed on international wanted lists, and one on the federal wanted list. PM

In an undated e-mail posted on August 21 on the Chechen website, Daghestan's Shariat jamaat claimed responsibility for the August 8 attack that killed Buinaksk Raion prosecutor Bitar Bitarov and for wounding Interior Minister Adilgirey Magomedtagirov, who immediately traveled to Buinaksk to investigate the killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 9, 2006). The jamaat statement claimed that the attack was staged by the Riyadus Salikhiin special operations group and was intended as a formal response to Moscow's appeal to militants in the North Caucasus to lay down their arms. Riyadus Salikhiin was created and formerly led by radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, who died last month in circumstances that remain unclear (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 11 and 12, 2006). The jamaat expressed regret that Magomedtagirov, whom it claimed is hated by many of his subordinates, survived the attack, and pledged to kill him next time. The jamaat further rejected Russian Interior Minister Nurgaliyev's August 20 statement that militant groups in Daghestan have been "bled white" by a series of recent reprisals and arrests. LF

RUSSIAN NEWS AGENCY CHALLENGES INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT posted on August 21 an open letter to President Murat Zyazikov detailing the obstacles encountered by Zurab Markhiyev, its designated future correspondent in Magas, in obtaining accreditation from the Ingushetian government. The open letter quotes Zyazikov's press service head Isa Merzhoyev as having told Markhiyev that Zyazikov objects to his appointment, and as having said that "we don't need an additional information channel," and that "Regnum is only interested in negative [reporting.]" It asks Zyazikov to clarify whether he personally decides which correspondents should receive accreditation, or whether he delegates such decisions to his subordinate. LF

On the final leg of his tour of the South Caucasus, Antonio Guterres met in Yerevan on August 21 with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Guterres expressed the hope that a political solution to the Karabakh conflict can be reached that would encompass restoration of property rights on both sides. He explicitly disowned a statement attributed to him by Azerbaijani media to the effect that Azerbaijan's displaced persons problem is the most serious of any country in the world (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 18, 2006). "It is common knowledge that this problem is much bigger in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, or Colombia than in Azerbaijan," Guterres said. LF

Speaking in Yerevan on 21 August at a joint press conference after his talks with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres, Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian said that the OSCE Minsk Group is currently trying to schedule a further round of talks between himself and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, but that no specific date of venue has yet been agreed on, according to Radiolur and as cited by Groong. Oskanian also said that the Minsk Group co-chairs have not yet proposed any "new ideas," although such ideas "can be expected at any time." The Azerbaijani online daily predicted on August 16 that the co-chairs will make public unspecified new proposals next month. Oskanian reaffirmed Armenia's readiness to cooperate with Azerbaijan in extinguishing brush fires in districts bordering on the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic that are currently under Armenian control, according to Mediamax as cited by Groong. He recalled the conclusion -- hotly disputed by Azerbaijan -- by Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, the special representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office for the Karabakh conflict, that those fires were not started deliberately by the Armenian side (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 1 and 17, 2006). Oskanian described as "incomprehensible" Baku's stated intention of raising the brush fires issue with the UN General Assembly. LF

Visiting Baku on August 21, Senator Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana), who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and with parliament speaker Oktai Asadov to evaluate the development of bilateral relations since Aliyev's visit to Washington in April of this year, and reported on August 21 and 22 respectively. Both sides described those relations as "strategic." LF

In an August 18 press release, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) summarized the conclusions of a delegation that spent the previous week in Tbilisi consulting with the Georgian government and National Bank. That statement hailed Georgia's continuing "strong" economic performance, which is reflected in GDP growth of 8.4 percent in the first quarter of 2006. At the same time, it warned of "significant inflationary pressure," noting that annual inflation for the period to late April 2006 was about 6 percent, but by late July that indicator rose to 14.5 percent, an increase the IMF attributed to excess money supply and which it termed "a serious threat to macroeconomic stability." The IMF advised the Georgian government to tighten fiscal and monetary policy, and also to remain "mindful of the economic risks posed by strained economic relations with Russia." LF

Kazakh police arrested 17 participants in an unsanctioned demonstration in Aktau on August 20, "Kazakhstan Today" and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. There are conflicting reports about the demonstrators' intentions. "Kazakhstan Today," citing a press release from the mayor's office, reported that a crowd of up to 200 people gathered, with some people complaining about low wages at regional oil company Mangistaumunaigaz. But the same press release reportedly stated that people gathered "as a result of the activities of TV channel 31-Aktau correspondents, who were drunk and conducted themselves provocatively with respect to state bodies." Police moved in when protesters threatened to undertake destructive actions, the press release stated. But Viktor Klimov, a producer at Channel 31, denied that drunken journalists provoked the crowd, stating instead that 1,000 people gathered to demand the resignation of Aktau Mayor Viktor Kokh, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. A representative of the free speech NGO Adil Soz confirmed this version of events to "Kazakhstan Today," saying that the demonstrators wanted Kokh replaced by a person who was born in Mangistau Province, where Aktau is located. DK

Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) has warned that jaamats, or cells, of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are seeking to destabilize southern Kyrgyzstan, Kabar reported on August 21. The SNB statement suggested that IMU members may seek to commit violent acts in urban centers. The statement came in response to recent criticism by parliamentary deputy Azimbek Beknazarov of government counterterrorist operations in the south (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 8, 2006), which he said could spark hostility among the country's Uzbek minority, news agency reported. The SNB denied that it is targeting ethnic Uzbeks, rejected claims that Kyrgyz security forces have forged a tactical alliance with their Uzbek counterparts, and warned that militants linked to the IMU and Al-Qaeda are planning a campaign of asymmetric warfare. DK

The SNB has given militants until September 1 to disarm or face "severe punishment," reported. The statement noted that the appeal is directed primarily at members of the banned movement Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU. Kyrgyz officials have alleged IMU involvement in a number of recent violent incidents in the south of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 17 and July 11, 20, and 21, 2006). DK

Five bilateral agreements were signed between China and Turkmenistan on August 21 in the course of a meeting in Ashgabat between Yu Guang Zhou, Chinese deputy minister of commerce, and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, NewsCentralAsia reported. The agreements involve technical cooperation in various fields, Chinese loans on favorable conditions to Turkmenistan, and Chinese equipment for Turkmenistan's oil and gas industry. In his public remarks during the meeting, Niyazov reiterated Turkmenistan's desire to build a natural-gas export pipeline to China by January 2009 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 4, 2006). DK

Belarus's Supreme Court has liquidated the Belarusian Thought Factories (BFM), an independent think tank founded in 1997, which initially united 18 independent research centers, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on August 21. The court suspended the think tank on January 24 after a suit by the Justice Ministry, which said that the BFM did not have a registered legal address at an office building. According to BFM Coordinating Council Chairman Aleh Manayeu, the court's requirement that an organization may not have its legal address at a private apartment runs counter to the constitution. JM

Enira Branitskaya and Alyaksandr Shalayka, two independent election observers affiliated with an unregistered group called Partnyorstva (Partnership), were released on August 21 after six months in jail, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. On August 4, Shalayka and Branitskaya, as well as Mikalay Astreyka and Tsimafey Dranchuk -- who were arrested in February -- were found guilty of running an unregistered organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 7, 2006). Judge Leanid Yasinovich sentenced Astreyka to two years in jail, Dranchuk to one year, and Shalayka and Branitskaya to six months each. Amnesty International has designated the four prisoners of conscience. JM

Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko said in a television interview on August 21 that the state-run company Naftohaz Ukrayiny will repay by mid-October all it owns to the Swiss-based intermediary RosUkrEnergo for gas supplies to Ukraine this year, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Last week, Naftohaz Ukrayiny paid nearly $50 million of its $372 million gas debt to RosUkrEnergo. Boyko also pledged to repay "in the near future" Ukraine's gas debt to Turkmenistan, but failed to mention the sum involved. Boyko is to go to Moscow on August 22 for talks with Gazprom on gas supplies to Ukraine in 2007. In a press interview published on August 21, Boyko ruled out the possibility that Ukraine could cede control over its gas-transportation system to Russia in return for a preferential gas price in 2007. "Why should we rent anything as a concession? A key problem of Ukraine's gas-transport system is lack of financing. There are no other problems -- it is working to full capacity, the staff are well-qualified. We are able to manage it ourselves," Boyko noted. JM

Some 500 inhabitants of the village of Novobohdanivka in Zaporizhzhya Oblast have addressed local authorities with an appeal to give them the status of war veterans, declare their village a zone of environmental disaster, and pay them compensation for material and moral damages they suffered in recent years because of blasts at a local artillery-ammunition depot, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported on August 22. Because of fires at the depot, the ill-fated village was shelled in May 2004, July 2005, and last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 21, 2006). Five people were killed and a dozen injured in those incidents. JM

As seven Serbian paramilitary officers went on trial on August 21 at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said it is "inexcusable" that Ratko Mladic was not among them, AP reported the same day. The seven defendants are being tried in connection with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre. "Mladic should be on trial in this case," she said. The defendants -- Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Radivoje Miletic, Milan Vero, and Vinko Pandurevic -- face charges ranging from genocide to murder and persecution. "It is difficult, if not impossible to comprehend the horror inflicted on the inhabitants of the Srebrenica enclave," Del Ponte said at the start of the trial. "Defenseless men and boys [were] executed by firing squads, buried in mass graves, and then dug up and buried again in an attempt to conceal the truth from the world." BW

The "Financial Times" on August 21 quoted Mladjan Dinkic as saying that Serbia will be ready to join the European Union by 2012. "After one more term in government, we will be ready. By 2012 we will have fulfilled all the reforms," Dinkic said. The EU suspended talks with Belgrade for a Stabilization and Association Agreement in May over Serbia's failure to capture Mladic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4, 2006). Dinkic also said his liberal G17 Plus party would withdraw from Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government unless the EU restarted the talks. "The whole party decided that we could not stay in government if talks did not continue," he said. Dinkic also said Serbia is closing in on Mladic. "According to the information I receive, the circle around Mladic is very narrow. There are only very few people, and it is not as organized as it was before," he said. "We are confident that if we resolve this issue we can completely leave the past behind." BW

Rasim Ljajic, the head of Serbia's Hague Cooperation Council, said Serbia is not negotiating a surrender agreement with Mladic, B92 reported on August 20. "No one believes he will surrender," Ljajic said in an interview with the daily "Blic" the same day. Ljajic added that Belgrade will present a specific report on the hunt for Mladic by mid-September. "We will offer concrete evidence by mid-September and convince the Hague tribunal that the action plan is yielding results," Ljajic said. "Based on that, we will give an estimate on when we expect Mladic at the tribunal." Ljajic added that, according to the Serbian government's information, the number of men guarding Mladic has decreased significantly, the financial network aiding him has been exposed, and the money flow stopped. BW

In the same interview published by "Blic" on August 20, Ljajic said that Belgrade is also working on arresting other war crimes fugitives wanted by the ICTY, B92 reported the same day. Those being pursued include Goran Hadzic, Stojan Zupljanin, Zdravko Tolimir, and Vlastimir Djordjevic. "It is a public secret that Vlastimir Djordjevic is hiding in Russia. This leaves no one calm since the action plan pertains to all the fugitives, not just Mladic," Ljajic said. The ICTY has indicted Djordjevic for killing Kosovar Albanian civilians. Earlier this month, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor said he is also connected to the slayings of three U.S. citizens of Albanian decent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 4, 2006). BW

Following reports that two Uzbek asylum seekers who have been missing in Kyrgyzstan since last week are being detained in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon, Uzbek refugees in southern Kyrgyzstan are fearful that they will be forcibly repatriated. There are reportedly some 500 Andijon refugees still in Kyrgyzstan, according to human rights activists.

Valijon Bobojonov and Saidullo Shokirov fled their native Andijon after the May 2005 unrest and were subsequently granted asylum-seeker status. Bobojonov spoke to RFE/RL last month from the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, sharing his hopes for being resettled in Europe with the assistance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"I will get [refugee] status in a few days," Bobojonov said. "It's been a year. I want to go to Germany. Some women from my family -- my mother and my sisters -- are there. My family is [in Andijon]. Therefore I am trying to get [to Germany]."

Now there are reports that Bobojonov, who is 40 years old, and Saidullo Shokirov, 38, have been returned to Uzbekistan and are being held in Andijon. They have been missing since August 16 and August 17, respectively.

A friend of theirs from Osh, who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said he saw the two men before they disappeared. "Valijon disappeared first," the man said. "He was taken from his home. The next day, Saidullo was taken, also from his home. Since then, they have been missing. Nobody knows anything. Who took them and where? No one knows. We met and talked a day earlier. We went to the [immigration department] and [the human rights organization] Adilet. They told us that everything [regarding the refugee status] would be solved by September 6 or 7. The following day, Valijon was taken around 4 p.m."

It is not clear who took the two men and whether they were deported to Uzbekistan. But the Adilet (Justice) human rights organization says they were taken by men who said they were from the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry and are being held in Andijon.

"They are in a detention cell in Andijon," Adilet Chairwoman Cholpon Jakupova said. "This information was given to us by one of their friends, and he was called by [one detainee's] wife." Jakupova did not say whether it was Bobojonov's or Shokirov's wife who passed the information about their detention.

Izatulla Rakhmatullaev, the head of the Osh-based nongovernmental organization Zakon i Poryadok (Law and Order), said he has been in contact with Bobojonov and Shokirov since they came to Osh more than a year ago. He told RFE/RL that he inquired about the two asylum seekers immediately after hearing they were missing.

"I knew them both," Rakhmatullaev said. "Last year when Saidullo Shokirov came to me, I took him to UNHCR and registered him there. Then I helped him find shelter at my friends' home. When we heard that they had been handed over to Uzbekistan, we went to the UNHCR [and] to the immigration department. But they also said they did not know anything."

It is also unclear what charges, if any, have been brought against the men. Rakhmatullaev said Shokirov was not on the Uzbek authorities' list of wanted people. There has thus far been no comment from Kyrgyz authorities. Jakupova says law enforcement officials pledged that an investigation will be conducted.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyz human rights activists have stepped up criticism of the country's authorities for cooperating with Uzbek security services. On August 9, Kyrgyzstan deported five Uzbek nationals -- including four UN refugees and one asylum seeker -- who were wanted in their home country for the alleged participation in the 2005 Andijon uprising. The move has drawn harsh criticism from the international community.

Tursunbek Akun, who chairs the Human Rights Commission under Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, said Bobojonov and Shokirov should be found "quickly." "If they aren't found, there will be a big scandal," he said. "This will severely damage Kyrgyzstan's image. Therefore our law enforcement forces have to find them quickly."

Rakhmatullaev said numerous Uzbeks hiding in southern Kyrgyzstan also fear being forcibly returned. "Since the five were handed over, there is fear and hopelessness among refugees in Osh," he said. "They are leaving places where they have lived and going elsewhere. The other day, we counted [Uzbek refugees] here. There are 500 people with and without any status [in Osh]."

Rakhmatullaev also expressed concern over the returnees' fate. "Saidullo Shokirov is a sick man," he said. "He has had surgery on his stomach. His health is very bad. I am very worried about him. Wherever he is held, I wish he would be treated with compassion."

Western diplomats and international organizations, including the UN, have accused Uzbek authorities of regularly using torture against detainees.

(Gulnoza Saidazimova is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.)

Two pro-government militiamen were killed in an attack in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province, and a tribal leader named Mohammad Yunos was kidnapped, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on August 20. Provincial security chief Gholamullah Nuristani said the incident occurred when insurgents attacked Yuno's vehicle. Mohammad Hanif, speaking for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack and the kidnapping. Lately, Kabul has promoted the forging of alliances with existing tribes or establishing new tribal militias along the Afghan-Pakistani border to counter the increasing activities of the neo-Taliban and their allies (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," July 14, 2006). AT

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is visiting Afghanistan, toured the Kabul police academy with Afghan Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Moqbel on August 21, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Steinmeier advocated a longer commitment by his country to train Afghan security forces, the government-funded Deutschlandfunk radio reported on August 21. The deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan requires that Germany extend its training mandate beyond 2006, Steinmeier said. After the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Germany assumed responsibility for training the Afghan police force. The current Afghan police force suffers from low salaries, corruption, and inadequate training. AT

Mawlawi Mostafa Barakzai, the head of the Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs' commission addressing media law violations, has sent a warning to Kabul-based Tolu Television after complaints were lodged by Wolesi Jirga (People's Council) member Safia Sidiqi against the broadcaster, Tolu reported on August 17. Barakzai said that while he values freedom of speech and democracy, "a journalist has no right to create tension and violence." Sidiqi, a deputy from Nangarhar Province and a former journalist, walked out of parliament to protest Tolu's coverage of deputies filmed in embarrassing moments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 17, 2006). Sidiqi was reportedly filmed asleep during a session of parliament. Other deputies were shown yawning or picking their noses. "You broadcast footage of a [deputy apparently napping] once, but repeating that was not right. Besides, it was a woman. If it had been a man, perhaps we would not have had to follow this up," Barakzai said, adding that a warning was sent to Tolu not to broadcast footage of Sidiqi asleep as it would be "considered" stirring unrest. According to the report, Barakzai's commission passed judgment without any representation from Tolu, which "believes the commission's decision to be against freedom of speech and democracy." AT

Newly appointed Minister of Culture and Youth Affairs Abdul Karim Khorram asked private and state television officials in Kabul on August 20 to increase the frequency of domestic broadcasts, the official Afghan National Television reported. It was decided during the meeting that private television stations will work closely with the state-owned National Television to take advantage of the archives and other facilities which the national broadcaster has. There are currently six private television stations in the country: Afghan Television, Aina, Ariana, Shamshad, Tolu, and Lemar, which debuted on August 19 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 21, 2006). AT

Referring to the controversy over Iran's nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on August 21 that "arrogant powers, led by America" fear Islamic countries' progress and are trying to block Iran's scientific and technological development, state television reported. He said Iran cannot be deterred: "[Iran] has made its decision and as far as the nuclear issue and other issues it is faced with are concerned, it will continue its path powerfully, with resilience and by relying on devoted efforts and God. And it will receive the sweet fruits of its efforts." Iran has announced that it will respond on August 22 to an international proposal meant to resolve the nuclear controversy. Both that proposal and UN Security Council Resolution 1696 call on Iran to cease uranium-enrichment activities. Iranian officials have made clear that uranium enrichment will not stop. U.S. President George W. Bush reacted to these signs during an August 21 news conference in Washington, Radio Farda reported. "The UN resolution calls for us to come back together on the 31st of August," he said. "And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies [of] is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran." BS

Alaedin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian legislature's national security and foreign policy committee, suggested on August 21 that Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) compliance will no longer apply if international pressure on Iran continues, Radio Farda and IRNA reported. Borujerdi said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras at Iranian nuclear facilities will be removed if sanctions are imposed. Another legislator, Musa Qorbani from the northeastern city of Qaen, said Iran will respond to the international nuclear proposal rationally, IRNA reported. The Security Council's imposition of the August 31 deadline for halting uranium enrichment, he continued, shows that the United States and Europe merely want a pretext to act against Iran. BS

Brigadier General Mohammad Hussein Dadras, commander of the regular ground forces, said in Zahedan on August 21 that the war games that began three days earlier are going well, IRNA reported. Ground forces are engaging airplanes and helicopters, and unmanned aircraft have been used for this as well. Speaking in Sistan va Baluchistan Province, Dadras said other stages of the exercises will take place sequentially in 15 other provinces. Dadras went on to say that the Iranian military can assess the strengths and weaknesses of its opponents, and it can counter attacks with a variety of missiles. Turning to the nuclear issue and the possibility of sanctions, Dadras said Iran owes its current capabilities to the earlier imposition of sanctions. BS

Iranian Deputy Petroleum Minister Hadi Nejad-Husseinian met in Stavanger on August 21 with Norwegian Petroleum and Energy Minister Odd Roger Enoksen to discuss the possibility of Iranian involvement in Norway's oil and gas sector, IRNA reported. Enoksen reportedly expressed a similar interest in the Iranian energy sector. Norwegian firms such as Norsk Hydro and Statoil are already developing Iran's oil and gas fields, while Norwegian energy-services firms are heavily involved there, too. Helge Lund, Statoil's chief executive officer, said on August 21 that the South Pars gas field is his firm's main interest in Iran, Dow Jones Newswire reported. BS

Ali Mustafa Hama, an Iraqi Kurd and the first witness to testify in the Anfal trial against Saddam Hussein and his six co-defendants, told the court on August 22 of events that preceded the launch of the Anfal campaign in 1988, Reuters reported the same day. Hama recalled seeing eight to 12 jets patrolling the skies before chemical bombs were unleashed on Kurds on April 16, 1987. "People were vomiting...we were blinded. We were screaming. There was no one to save us, only God," he said. The Anfal (Spoils of War) campaign, which consisted of eight military operations against Iraq's Kurdish population, officially got under way in February 1988 and ended on September 6 that year. Human Rights Watch reported in 1993 that within weeks of Ali Hasan al-Majid's arrival in Kirkuk in March 1987, "it was apparent that the Iraqi government had decided to settle its Kurdish problem once and for all," adding: "A sustained pattern of decrees, directives, and actions by the security forces leaves no doubt" over the intent of the Iraqi government to destroy the Kurdish resistance and "eradicate all remaining human settlements" in disputed areas." KR

Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea before Chief Judge Abdallah Ali al-Allush during the opening session of the trial on August 21, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. When later asked to limit his comments to the issues at hand, Hussein defiantly told al-Allush: "Do not teach me how to speak. I taught all of you how to speak." As in the Al-Dujayl trial, Ja'far al-Musawi will serve as chief prosecutor in the Anfal trial. In addition to Hussein, the other former regime officials on trial are: Ali Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein and former secretary-general of the northern bureau of Iraq's Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, who has been accused of using chemical weapons against the Kurds; former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad; former intelligence chief Sabir Abd al-Aziz Husayn al-Duri; former Republican Guard commander Husayn Rashid al-Tikriti; former Ninawah Governor and member of the Ba'ath Party Regional Command Tahir Tawfiq al-Ani; and former top military commander Farhan Mutlaq Salih al-Juburi. KR

Newly appointed U.K. Ambassador to Iraq Dominic Asquith presented his credentials to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on August 21, the ministry's website announced the same day. Asquith previously served as director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Iraq from 2004. Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Asquith said: "My new post is a continuation of my previous work. We share the same goals with your government to build a democratic, unified, and stable Iraq. We will continue working with your government to attain these goals," Al-Sharqiyah television reported. President Jalal Talabani received the credentials of Jordan's new ambassador to Iraq, Ahmad al-Lawzi, and Germany's new ambassador to Iraq, Martin Kobler, on August 17, and the new EU ambassador to Iraq, Ilka Uusitalo, on August 9. Brazilian media reported on August 20 that Brazil's new ambassador to Iraq, Bernardo de Azevedo Brito, will present his credentials to Talabani in September. KR

Iraq's Public Integrity Commission has referred 30 cases to a U.S. inspector-general documenting administrative corruption and wasteful spending by former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) staffers, "Al-Hayat" reported on August 21. Commission spokesman Ali al-Shabut said the cases are against people who worked as CPA advisers to Iraqi ministries, and other CPA and military "officials." Regarding investigations into alleged administrative corruption on the part of Iraqi officials, al-Shabut said that the executive and legislative branches of government have refused to cooperate and enforce orders to arrest corrupt officials. The Interior Ministry also failed to enforce 164 arrest warrants issued by the High Criminal Court against ministry officials, as well as 200 summons for senior officials under investigation for financial and administrative corruption. KR