PROMINENT RUSSIAN LEGISLATOR AGAIN PROPOSES CIS GAS CARTEL...
Valery Yazev, who heads the State Duma's Energy, Transport, and Communications Committee, told the board of the Russian Gas Association on October 30 that producers and transporters in CIS countries should form an International Alliance of National Nonprofit Gas Organizations (IANNGO), the daily "Kommersant" reported on October 31. Yazev, whom the daily describes as "Gazprom's chief lobbyist in the State Duma...[and] unofficial mouthpiece of the Russian authorities," suggested that President Vladimir Putin stands behind the idea, but that he placed it "on the back burner" at the time of the July St. Petersburg summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries. Yazev argued that the concept has become timely again because of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent appeal for a joint European energy market and calls by Merkel, French President Jacques Chirac, and the EU for Russia to ratify the Energy Charter, which it signed with the EU in 1994 and which would require Russia to open up access to its pipelines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 13, 20, 23, and 30, 2006). Yazev stressed that the EU is a "cartel of consumers" which regulates access to pipelines. He argued that Russia should take the lead in setting up the IANNGO, which would "shift the balance of forces" in favor of producers. PM
RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL HAS 'NO INFORMATION' ON IRANIAN NUKES
Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said in Moscow on October 31 that he considers Iran's nuclear program to be peaceful and that Russia continues to oppose any sanctions on Iran, news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 17, 19, and 23, 2006). He stressed that "we do not have information that would suggest Iran is carrying out a nonpeaceful [nuclear] program.... We believe that the possibilities for continuing political discussion around this [Iranian nuclear] problem have not been exhausted." He added that "sanctions should not be adopted for their own sake." Russia opposes serious sanctions on Iran and North Korea while maintaining tough sanctions, including a blockade, on Georgia. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke by telephone on October 30, kremlin.ru reported. Putin repeated "the principled position of Russia in favor of continuing the negotiating process." On November 1, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Oslo, Norway, that "we don't want another nuclear state on our southern borders," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov stressed that "any Iranian nuclear program should be implemented under strict and tough international control." He defended Russian arms sales to Iran, saying that they are for defensive purposes and that Iran is not one of Russia's major arms customers. PM
RUSSIA WINS TENDER FOR BULGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR
Bulgarian power company officials announced on October 31 that the Russian construction firm Atomstroieksport has won a contract worth almost $5 billion to build Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant, which will be located at Belene on the Danube, dpa reported. The Russian firm will enlist the help of Germany's Siemens and France's Areva, RIA Novosti reported. The Russian bid beat one by the Czech firm Skoda by about $1.26 billion, as well as a bid by Westinghouse. Bulgaria is obliged to decommission its Soviet-era plant at Kozloduy on the Danube when it joins the EU, which it expects to do on January 1, 2007. Atomstroieksport is currently building nuclear power plants in Iran, China, and India. PM
...TO STANDARDIZE PRICES, TARIFFS
Yazev said at the October 30 meeting of the Russian Gas Association's board that his proposed IANNGO would seek to coordinate legislation to standardize gas prices and transport tariffs between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as with "gas associations" in Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Moldova, the daily "Kommersant" reported on October 31. He argued that the proposal should be discussed at the November 20 Gas of Russia 2006 forum in Moscow. Gazprom spokesmen declined to comment on Yazev's proposal, which he first floated in late May in response to unnamed EU "officials' activities," but Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko criticized it. Other Russian officials have suggested forming a "gas alliance" with Iran or an "energy OPEC" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 20, 2006). Russia is the world's chief producer of natural gas and the second largest exporter of crude oil, but does not belong to OPEC. It is the G8 member with the largest energy resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 14, June 1 and 6, and August 10, 2006, and "Russia: Energy, Weapons Bring Moscow Closer To Algiers," rferl.org, March 10, 2006). PM
GERMAN LEADER FAILS TO EASE POLISH FEARS ABOUT RUSSIAN ENERGY
Chancellor Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski made visible efforts during Kaczynski's October 30 visit to Berlin to address long-standing strains in bilateral relations and project a friendly atmosphere, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on October 31. In response to Polish concerns about Europe's growing dependency on Russian energy supplies, Merkel stressed the importance of setting up a joint European gas market and added that Germany will work toward that goal during its EU chairmanship in the first half of 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 24 and October 20 and 24, 2006). She said that the common gas market will provide guarantees for Poland and the Baltic states, which fear that Moscow might use energy supplies as a political weapon against them, as it already has in 2006 against Ukraine and Lithuania. Merkel mentioned that gas supplies from Norway are a particular option in such a case. She nonetheless failed to allay Polish concerns about the proposed Russo-German North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP), which bypasses Poland. Kaczynski has been unwilling to accept her offer to include Poland in the project, because that would do nothing to ease Warsaw's main fear, which is that Europe has already become too dependent on Russia as a source of energy. During the January 2006 Ukrainian gas crisis, Polish leaders called on consumers to form an "energy NATO" to protect their interests. PM
U.S., RUSSIA SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
U.S. Marine Corps General Peter Pace, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Russian counterpart General Yury Baluyevsky signed a military cooperation agreement for 2007 in Moscow on October 30, but the details have not been made public, news agencies reported. Pace, who is on his first visit to Moscow as chairman, said that he "came to listen and learn about ways we can do good military-to-military for both Russia and the United States." Baluyevsky noted that the two sides' positions are "very close" on some issues and that there are other matters on which "we must find solutions and adopt these solutions as quickly as possible." Pace stressed that "together we can find proper solutions." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the two former Cold War adversaries have a "unique responsibility" in promoting international security. PM
RUSSIA HAILS PLANNED RESUMPTION OF SIX-PARTY KOREAN TALKS
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Alekseyev said in Moscow on October 31 that the recent informal agreement between Chinese, North Korean, and U.S. representatives in Beijing on relaunching the long-stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program is "exceedingly positive," Interfax reported. Alekseyev, who will represent Russia in the discussions that will also include Japan and South Korea, added that "the talks have been given a chance." Meanwhile in Oslo, Defense Minister Ivanov said that he expects the negotiations to start before the end of 2006, news.ru reported. PM
CONFUSION OVER RUSSIA'S WTO BID CONTINUES
U.S. and Russian negotiators "are close to a bilateral trade agreement that would remove a big hurdle to Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), but the self-imposed deadline [of October 31] will not be met," Britain's "Financial Times" reported on October 31, citing unnamed "U.S. trade officials." The daily noted, however, that unspecified Russian media reports are less optimistic. Recently, leaders of 13 major U.S. companies reportedly wrote to President George W. Bush to request Russia's speedy admission to the WTO, the Moscow daily "Kommersant" reported on October 30. The paper suggested that the businessmen apparently feel that bilateral talks are not succeeding and that intervention by the two countries' presidents is necessary to break the deadlock. The businessmen's letter was not published, but was reportedly given to the daily by Russian WTO negotiators. "Kommersant" wrote on October 26 that Russia might pull out of membership talks unless an agreement with the United States is reached soon. The paper added that President Putin made this point to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on October 21 in Moscow. Some other top Russian officials have, however, recently sent positive signals about their country's prospects for membership. German Gref, who is minister of economic development and trade, said in Moscow on October 31 that he expects WTO membership talks to be concluded "in a few days," RIA Novosti reported. Some observers suggest that Moscow is conducting a political or psychological campaign aimed at an early resolution of the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17 and 31, August 18, and October 26, 2006, and "Russia: WTO Becomes Long-Term Issue For Relations With U.S.," rferl.org, July 24, 2006). PM
EGYPTIAN LEADER WANTS THIRD TERM FOR PUTIN
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted by the daily "Vremya novostei" of October 30 as saying that Russians should change their constitution to enable President Putin to run for a third term when his current mandate runs out in 2008. Mubarak, who is slated to visit Russia soon, argued that "Russia needs Putin.... He knows well the situation in Russia and the world. He understands everything. Let him stay." Mubarak, whose country is one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign and military aid, chided Russians for limiting the president to two terms as an "imitation" of American practice. "You criticize the Americans but then you imitate what they do," he added. Mubarak is the first foreign leader to openly advocate that Putin serve a third presidential term, although several dozen Russian regional officials have called this year for a constitutional amendment to enable him to do so. Putin has opposed any such move on the grounds that he would have no legitimacy if he changed the laws to suit his own purposes. He has not been explicit, however, as to whether he would accede to a constitutional change if there were widespread popular "demand" for it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 16, July 18, and September 11 and 24, 2006). Mubarak, who has been his Egypt's president since 1981, received military training in the Soviet Union and headed an Egyptian military delegation to that country in 1964. PM
ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET
Robert Kocharian met with his Russian counterpart President Putin on October 30 during an official visit to Moscow, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Russian media reported the following day. The two men discussed regional issues, including the Karabakh conflict, cooperation within the CIS, the CIS Collective Security Treaty, and the Eurasian Economic Community, and various aspects of bilateral cooperation, including economic and trade ties. Putin was quoted as expressing regret that Russia occupies only third place in terms of foreign investment in Armenia. Kocharian for his part confirmed that the joint venture ArmRosGazprom will acquire for $118.8 million a further 13 percent stake in Armenia's natural-gas distribution network, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The daily "Kommersant" reported on October 31 that ArmRosGazprom will thus acquire control of the gas pipeline through which Armenia receives Iranian natural gas to fuel the Hrazdan thermal power plant, a deal it dubbed the Kremlin's "sole geopolitical victory" in the South Caucasus in recent years. But ArmRosGazprom Director-General Karen Karapetian said the same day that even though Gazprom has signaled its interest in acquiring that pipeline, the Armenian government has not yet made a firm decision to sell it. LF
MOSCOW MAYOR BANS FASCIST MARCH
Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced in a televised broadcast on October 31 that he has prohibited a planned march by rightists on November 4, which is celebrated in Russia as National Unity Day, Russian media reported. He stressed that he objects to the use of Nazi symbols by such groups and added that "if we allow our state to be split on ethnic or confessional grounds, if we allow religious wars, then I am afraid this will be the end of Russia." Critics charge, however, that Moscow authorities, including the police, have recently conducted a crackdown on Georgians living and doing business in the city. PM
MAYORAL ELECTION IN FAR EAST POSTPONED UNTIL SPRING
Federal election authorities announced on October 30 that the mayoral election in Dalnegorsk in Primorsky Krai will be held in March 2007, regions.ru reported. Electoral officials cancelled a runoff slated for October 22 after the candidates withdrew following the killing of former Mayor and prominent candidate Dmitry Fotyanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 19, 20, and 23, 2006). Fotyanov was one of at least two first-round candidates belonging to the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. Russian media reports on Dalnegorsk and nearby areas published in the aftermath of the killing have suggested that political and criminal circles there are frequently closely connected. Much money stands to be made in Primorsky Krai through largely illegal logging for sales to the Japanese market. PM
FORUM IN DAGHESTAN PROTESTS ABDUCTIONS
Some 1,000 people participated in a so-called people's forum in Khasavyurt on October 28 to protest the ongoing wave of abductions of local residents, chechenpress.org and kavkaz.memo.ru reported on October 30. Some 70 residents of Khasavyurt, the population of which is up to 30 percent Chechen, have been abducted over the past two years. Most participants in the forum, which was organized by Khasavyurt Mayor Saygidpasha Umakhanov with the approval of President Mukhu Aliyev, are convinced that security forces loyal to Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov are behind those kidnappings, but stopped short of accusing Kadyrov outright. LF
ARKHANGELSK MAYOR SAYS HE WILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Independent Mayor Aleksandr Donskoi announced on October 31 his intention to run for president of Russia in 2008, Russian media reported. He is the third candidate do so, after Mikhail Kasyanov of the People's Democratic Union and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. Donskoi was elected mayor of his native Arkhangelsk, where he has lived all his life, in 2005. He believes in conducting a war on poverty, but would scrap President Putin's "national projects" for agriculture, education, health, and housing as a "waste of time," the daily "Vremya novostei" reported on October 31. Donskoi says that people should not stay in politics for very long, adding that "any politician who hangs around on television for more than six or eight years is a political corpse." He stresses that "democracy means bread, butter, and sausages.... Stalin was a better democrat than our [Boris] Nemtsovs and [Irina] Khakamadas will ever be. He fed the country by the early 1950s." Donskoi told RFE/RL's Russian Service that his unconventional approach to politics makes him a good choice for president. PM
DEFENSE MINISTER DECLINES COMMENT ON 2008 ELECTION
Defense Minister Ivanov said in Oslo on October 31 that he is too preoccupied with the "many complex tasks in modernizing the armed forces" to have time to "think about the Russian presidential elections" scheduled for 2008, news.ru reported. Ivanov was on a visit to Sweden and Norway to discuss security issues regarding northern Europe. As a former KGB officer, Ivanov studied Swedish as part of his "work," but was recently quoted by Interfax as denying ever having acted "against the interests of Sweden and its citizens." PM
AIRPORT MANAGERS CHARGED WITH FRAUD
Federal prosecutors charged two top officials of Moscow's SB-120 Sheremetyevo Airport on October 31 with fraud, document forgery, and violating safety rules, news.ru and the daily "Kommersant" reported. Airport General Director Aleksei Surikov and Chief Engineer Viktor Gamayunov have been taken into custody on charges stemming from recent airplane crashes that are believed to have been caused at least in part by the use of faulty spare parts. Both men strongly deny any guilt. PM
OLIGARCH SAYS HE WON'T BE EXTRADITED TO RUSSIA
Self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky was quoted by the daily "Izvestia" on November 1 as saying that he will not be extradited from Britain to Russia despite claims by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office that he has called for the violent overthrow of the state, which would be a violation of the terms under which he received British asylum in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 27, 2006). Berezovsky stressed that he wants to end President Putin's rule in a manner similar to the "color revolutions" of Georgia and Ukraine, adding that "no authoritarian regime has ever surrendered power to a democratic regime voluntarily." PM
CHECHEN FORUM OPENS IN GROZNY
The first congress of the Assembly of Peoples of Chechnya opened in Grozny on October 31, Russian media reported. Addressing the approximately 300 delegates, who included representatives of other North Caucasus republics, pro-Moscow administration head Alu Alkhanov stressed Chechnya's economic achievements over the past two years, adding that the situation in the North Caucasus as a whole is no longer "complicated." Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov did not attend the congress as he was summoned urgently to Moscow, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on November 1. Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, speaker of the lower chamber of the Chechen parliament, told RIA Novosti before the congress opened that participants would not propose Kadyrov's candidacy to replace Alkhanov as republic head, as many observers had anticipated. At the same time, he added that "in the hearts of the population, Kadyrov is already" republic head. LF
INGUSH ACTIVISTS SENTENCED FOR HONORING POLITKOVSKAYA
Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the NGO Mashr that unites relatives of people who have been abducted and vanished without trace, and Albert Khantygov of the human rights center Memorial were tried and sentenced in Nazran on October 31 in connection with their efforts to stage a picket on October 16 in memory of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the independent website ingushetiya.ru reported, citing the "Kavkazsky uzel" website. Police intervened to prevent the picket, injuring Memorial staffer Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya and detaining several participants and two passersby (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 17, 2006). Mutsolgov was fined for violating legislation on organizing pickets, even though he had informed the city authorities in writing beforehand of his intention to stage the demonstration. LF
DAGHESTAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SURVIVES ATTACK
Shamil Chartayev escaped unscathed late on October 30 when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car, regnum.ru reported on October 31 citing Daghestan Interior Ministry sources. LF
KABARDINO-BALKARIA INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES MILITANTS SURRENDERED
Russian media reports that 12 participants of the October 2005 multiple attacks on police and security targets in Nazran recently turned themselves in and were granted amnesty are untrue, kavkaz.memo.ru reported on October 31, quoting Kabardino-Balkaria Interior Ministry official Aslan Kazdokhov. Several young militants arrested on suspicion of participating in those attacks have recently been released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 30, 2006). LF
EU CONTINUES TO INSIST ON CLOSURE OF ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Closer ties between Armenia and the EU within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy are contingent on the decommissioning of the Medzamor nuclear power station, Economic Development and Trade Minister Karen Chshmaritian announced in Yerevan on October 31, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The EU considers the plant, which produces up to 40 percent of Armenia's electricity, a major security risk, but the Armenian government believes it is safe and could function for another 10 years. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said in May 2006 that Medzamor will not be shut down until an alternative plant has been built. To date, neither U.S. nor European investors have offered to finance the costs of building a new nuclear power station. LF
ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR'S BROTHER ELECTED MAYOR OF YEREVAN DISTRICT
Ruben Hovsepian, whose brother Aghvan is Armenia's prosecutor-general, was elected mayor of Yerevan's Ajapniak district on October 29 with some 76 percent of the vote, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. His main challenger, Gagik Sargsian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, the junior partner in the Armenian coalition government, polled 13 percent and Ishkhan Arshakian, head of the Ajapniak branch of the Zhoghovrdavarakan Ughi (Democratic Path) party, 10 percent. Voter turnout was only 25 percent. Aghvan Hovsepian is believed to harbor political ambitions; the supposedly apolitical Nig-Aparan group he heads is the driving force behind a recently formed new political party named Association for Armenia that hopes to make a strong showing in the parliamentary ballot due in the spring of 2007. LF
ARMENIAN OUTMIGRATION QUANTIFIED
At least 900,000-1 million people have left Armenia since 1992 to seek employment abroad, primarily in Russia, Gagik Yeghanian, head of the Armenian government Migration Agency, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on October 30. The Armenian population at the time of the 1989 Soviet census was 3.28 million; as of July 1, 2006, it was 3.22 million, according to Noyan Tapan on August 24. LF
FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER SENTENCED
Azerbaijan's Court for Grave Crimes sentenced former presidential-administration official Akif Muradverdiyev on October 31 to six years' imprisonment on charges of large-scale embezzlement of state property, abuse of his official position, and receiving a bribe, day.az and zerkalo.az reported on October 31 and November 1, respectively. Muradverdiyev pled partially guilty to those charges, and his lawyer plans to appeal the sentence. He was arrested one year ago in connection with an alleged planned coup d'etat; the investigation into that conspiracy continues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 26, 2005, and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," October 31, 2005). LF
SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER SOLICITS SUPPORT IN NORTH CAUCASUS
Visiting Nalchik on October 31, Eduard Kokoity appealed to the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic parliament to support South Ossetia's appeal to the Russian State Duma to condemn Georgia's alleged genocide of Ossetians on its territory, regnum.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 30, 2006). Kokoity argued that the conflict between the central Georgian government and his breakaway republic is not interethnic but legal-political, given that Georgia, having espoused an unequivocally pro-Western orientation, seeks to impose "Western-style democracy" on South Ossetia. He said that new democracy will never prove more powerful than "our Caucasian traditions." LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LAUNCHES HUNGER STRIKE
Six members of political parties aligned in the Azadlyq bloc began a hunger strike in Baku on October 30 to protest the ongoing official crackdown on media freedom. zerkalo.az reported on October 31. The participants further demand that the legal proceedings aimed at evicting the editorial staff of the independent newspaper "Azadlyq" from the offices it currently occupies on the grounds that it allegedly owes $35,000 in back rent be dropped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 25, 2006). LF
GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES REPORTED CLASH IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Gela Bezhuashvili denied on October 31 Russian media reports that four armed Georgians were shot dead early that morning near the village of Kvaisa in the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported. South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity told Interfax the men were planning to stage a series of terrorist attacks on South Ossetian territory. But Bezhuashvili dismissed the reports as "disinformation" intended to fuel tensions in the region. On October 30, Kokoity told Interfax that he would accept Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's invitation to a face-to-face meeting only if Saakashvili agreed that the two sides sign a memorandum on the nonresumption of hostilities and abjuring the use of force, Caucasus Press reported. Also on October 30, members of the Joint Control Commission tasked with monitoring the situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone claimed that Georgia violated the existing agreements on the deployment of troops in that zone by exceeding the maximum number of servicemen who may be deployed there, lenta.ru reported. LF
DETAILS OF INCURSION INTO SOUTH OSSETIA REMAIN UNCLEAR
The Georgian Interior Ministry denied on October 31 that the four armed men whom South Ossetian security forces claimed to have killed earlier that day were either Kists (Georgian Chechens from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge) or among the surviving members of the Chechen militant group headed until his death in early 2004 by Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 31, 2006). Kokoity on October 31 accused Georgia of "state terrorism" that precludes his accepting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's recent offer of a face-to-face meeting. Speaking in Tbilisi the same day, outgoing EU representative Torben Holtze said a meeting between Saakashvili and Kokoity could expedite a solution to the South Ossetian conflict, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian parliament deputy Givi Targamadze said on October 31 that Georgia will not sign a memorandum on the nonresumption of hostilities with South Ossetia as it fears that South Ossetia would take advantage of any such pact to step up "provocations," Caucasus Press reported. Kokoity earlier said he would be prepared to met with Saakashivili to sign such a memorandum LF
GEORGIAN COUP SUSPECTS' PRETRIAL DETENTION PROLONGED
A Tbilisi court ruled on October 31 that 12 people arrested two months ago on suspicion of plotting with fugitive former National Security chief Igor Giorgadze to overthrow the present Georgian leadership and bring Giorgadze to power are to remain in pretrial detention for a further month, Caucasus Press reported the following day (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," September 7, 2006). The court also appointed new defense lawyers for the detainees without their consent, a move that they plan to appeal, Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, who heads the pro-Giorgadze party Imedi, told journalists in Tbilisi on November 1, Caucasus Press reported. LF
FORMER PUTIN ADVISER WILL NOT WORK FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT
The Georgian State Chancellory rejected on October 30 as untrue Russian media reports that Andrey Illarionov, a former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been offered a comparable position as adviser to President Saakashvili, gazeta.ru reported. Illarionov recently attended an economics conference in Tbilisi during which he met with Saakashvili, according to lenta.ru on October 30. Illarionov too told ITAR-TASS on October 30 that the rumors were unfounded. Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar, who was named an economic adviser to Saakashvili six months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 12, 2006), is to relinquish that post as he has been nominated again to serve as prime minister, according to the Russian daily "Kommersant" on October 30 as quoted by Caucasus Press. LF
GEORGIAN PRISON CHIEF REJECTS ALLEGATIONS OF TORTURE, MISTREATMENT
Bacho Akhalaya, who has overall responsibility for the Georgian penitentiary system, rejected on October 30 claims by ombudsman Sozar Subar that prisoners at Rustavi's Prison No. 6 are subjected to abuse and even torture, Caucasus Press reported. Subar called for an immediate investigation into allegations that prisoners are forced to strip naked in their cells. Akhalaya for his part rejected those allegations as untrue, and demands for his resignation as unfounded. Subar has repeatedly criticized Akhalaya, whose brutal treatment of prisoners at a Tbilisi jail is widely believed to have triggered a mass protest in March of this year in which at least six people died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 27 and 28 and June 6, 2006, and End Note, March 30, 2006). LF
GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Kazakhstan on October 31 and issued a call for faster reforms even as he praised the country's economic progress, news agencies reported. Steinmeier noted that greater economic openness and a stronger rule of law would draw more German investment, Deutschlandfunk reported. Steinmeier met with Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov and Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev in Astana, presenting the blueprint of a new EU strategy for relations with Central Asia that "prioritizes stability and security in the region, the economy, energy policy, and the further implementation of economic reforms," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported, citing a Kazakh Foreign Minister press release. Toqaev noted that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev plans to visit Germany in January. Akhmetov stated that Germany supports Kazakhstan's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and said that Kazakhstan has encountered "the understanding and support of the German side on Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the OSCE in 2009," Khabar reported. Germany is the fifth-largest investor in the Kazakh economy, with $1.8 billion invested as of June, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan. Bilateral trade volume in January-August was $1.54 billion. DK
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS
Talks between Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and opposition leaders in Bishkek on October 31 failed to produce an immediate compromise on opposition reform demands, ferghana.ru reported. Opposition lawmaker Temir Sariev described the talks as "very difficult," but a Bakiev spokesman said that the sides agreed to set up a joint task force on constitutional reform, RFE/RL reported. Edil Baisalov, a member of the For Reforms opposition movement, said that the sides agreed to meet again to "settle all outstanding questions," ITAR-TASS reported. Opposition leaders stressed that they plan to go ahead with a scheduled November 2 rally, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Commenting on the meeting, Omurbek Tekebaev, a former speaker of parliament, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service: "We did not achieve any results. The current government is not ready to carry out most of the demands put forward by the For Reforms movement." DK
KAZAKH TO HELP CHINA WITH 2008 OLYMPIC SECURITY
Amangeldy Shabdarbaev, the head of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), has reached an agreement with China's State Security Ministry for the KNB to assist in providing security for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on October 30. The agreement was reached during a recent visit by Shabdarbaev to Beijing, where he met with Luo Gan, a member of China's Political Bureau Standing Committee. A KNB press release stated, "Luo Gan noted a high level of cooperation between the two countries' special services in the fight against international terrorism and extremism, and expressed gratitude to the Kazakh side for specific and effective assistance provided to the State Security Ministry in these areas." DK
KAZAKH HEALTH MINISTER HOLDS MEETING ON HIV SCANDAL
Anatolii Dernovoi met in Astana on October 27 with U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan John Ordway; Mikhail Favorov, a representative of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; and Kerry Pelzman, a USAID representative, to discuss the recent infection of children with the HIV virus in the South Kazakhstan region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 11 and 25, 2006), Interfax reported. Nearly 80 children have thus far been found to have been infected with HIV while they were in hospital and a few have already died from AIDS. DK
KYRGYZ INDEPENDENT TV RESUMES BROADCASTS
The independent Kyrgyz television station Piramida resumed broadcasting on October 30, akipress.org reported the next day. Opposition member of parliament Kabai Karabekov told the news agency: "The authorities aren't asking why Piramida didn't broadcast for three months. They're asking why it's resumed broadcasting." The station recently suffered an break-in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 29, 2006), and station managers and civil-society activists have charged that the authorities have attempted to keep it off the air. DK
TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS BUNKERS BELONGED TO IMU
Colonel Eminjon Jalolov, deputy chief of police in Tajikistan's Soghd Province, told a news conference on October 31 that recently discovered bunkers in the northern province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 26, 2006) belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Varorud reported. "Media reports about the existence of some Islamist terrorist group called Bayat are baseless," Jalolov stated. He said that police have arrested 13 suspected IMU members, including a man named Anvar Boboyev from Isfara who was identified as their leader. Another 13 are being sought. Jalolov said that recent arrests point to heightened IMU activity in northern Tajikistan's Isfara district, which is close to neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. DK
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT
Kurmanbek Bakiev addressed parliament on October 30 as Kyrgyzstan's opposition continued preparations for a large rally in Bishkek on November 2, ferghana.ru reported. Bakiev focused on the slow pace of constitutional reform, allegations of personal corruption, and the upcoming opposition rally. Bakiev blamed parliament for delays in reviewing draft constitutions, promising to send his own version of a draft constitution to legislators by November 20, RFE/RL reported. Responding to opposition calls for a national unity government, Bakiev reminded lawmakers that they had approved the current cabinet, and that they can hold a "no confidence" vote if they wish. Bakiev said that he opposes the transformation of state television into a public broadcaster. And he rejected allegations that members of his family have profited from his office, asking accusers to present proof. DK
KYRGYZ LEGISLATORS RECEIVE RUSSIAN ANSWER ON ALLEGED OLIGARCH VISIT
Kyrgyz lawmakers have received a reply from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to their query about an alleged visit to Kyrgyzstan by out-of-favor Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, akipress.org reported on October 30. The response, dated October 20, was published by the news agency 24.kg. It stated that Russian prosecutors confirmed that Berezovsky visited Bishkek on July 29, leaving the next day, and noted that on September 18 the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office sent an official inquiry to Kyrgyz colleagues, asking why they failed to detain Berezovsky, who is wanted on a number of criminal charges in Russia. DK
CSTO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), visited Tashkent on October 31, meeting with Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov and Defense Minister Ruslan Mirzoev, press-uz.info reported. An Uzbek Foreign Ministry source told the news agency that the talks focused on the CSTO's general responsibilities and specific tasks in Central Asia. DK
SOURCE SAYS UZBEK GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE OVER MINING JOINT VENTURE
The Uzbek government may take control of Zarafshan-Newmont, a recently bankrupted gold-mining joint venture that was previously half-owned by U.S. company Newmont Mining, Reuters reported on October 31, citing an unidentified source involved in the proceedings. According to the source, the government will either sell Newmont's stake to a local investor or make the company 100 percent state-owned. Newmont pulled out of Uzbekistan after an Uzbek court declared the joint venture bankrupt in light of a $49 million claim for back taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 4 and October 3, 2006). Britain's Oxus Gold, which also owns a joint venture in Uzbekistan, recently received a $224 million claim for back taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 27, 2006). DK
TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER BLASTS UPCOMING ELECTION
Rahmatullo Zoirov, the head of Tajikistan's opposition Socialist Party, told Reuters in an October 30 interview that the country's November 6 presidential election is "just another declaration of totalitarianism." Zoirov continued, "[Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's] four rival candidates are there only to support one single candidate -- the incumbent president." Zoirov, whose party is boycotting the election, predicted turnout of only 30 percent but warned, "If people don't turn up, they [the authorities] will cast ballots in their names." Zoirov concluded, "Perhaps people today don't understand what is really going on in Tajikistan and why the authorities are abusing their power. Because what we see today is nothing more than the abuse of power, nothing more than grabbing power illegally." DK
BELARUSIAN YOUTH ACTIVIST GOES ON TRIAL
A district court in Minsk on October 30 began a trial behind closed doors of Zmitser Dashkevich, a leader of the opposition organization Youth Front, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. Dashkevich is charged with running an unregistered organization. He was remanded in a pretrial detention center on September 15. Several hundred associates of Dashkevich staged a protest outside the courthouse, walking around the building with their hands behind their heads. Journalists, opposition politicians, and foreign diplomats, including the United States and German ambassadors, who came to the courthouse, were not allowed to attend the hearing. Meanwhile, the same day a court in Hrodna sentenced Andrey Kusyalchuk, an aide to opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich, to three days in jail on charges of using obscene language in a public place. JM
BELARUS CUSTOMS CLAIMS TO FIND DRUGS ON LEADER OF ETHNIC POLES
Belarusian customs officers said on October 31 that they found heroin in a car in which Anzhelika Borys, a leader of the Polish ethnic community in Belarus, was driving from Poland to Belarus on October 29, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, according to Belapan, Andrzej Poczobut, an activist of the Polish ethnic community in Belarus, quoted one customs officer in Hrodna as saying that the powder found in Borys's car was amphetamine. The Belarusian customs have reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Borys said she believes the powder package was planted in her car to compromise her. "The border inspection took 10 hours. That's a long time spent looking for something. I am sure the package was planted," Borys told Reuters on October 31. "This incident, which bore all the signs of a setup, is clearly a continuation of actions aimed at limiting the freedom of action of members of the Polish Union in Belarus," Poland's Foreign Ministry said in a statement the same day. The Belarusian authorities ousted Borys from the post of head of the Union of Poles in Belarus in 2005, triggering a diplomatic row with Warsaw. Warsaw continues to recognize Borys as the legal head of the organization. JM
HUNGER-STRIKING BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST SAID TO BE HOSPITALIZED
Belarusian Prosecutor-General Pyotr Miklashevich told journalists in Minsk on October 31 that opposition politician Alyaksandr Kazulin, who is serving his prison term of 5 1/2 years in a correctional institution near Vitsebsk, was transferred to the facility's medical unit the previous day, Belapan reported. However, Vital Ahnistsikau, chief of the correctional institution, told Belapan that Kazulin is staying together with other inmates in his barrack, having been exempted from work because of his hunger strike. Kazulin, who was imprisoned for his role in street protests following the March presidential election in Belarus, went on a hunger strike on October 20, protesting against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's third term in power. His protest has been joined by another inmate of the correctional facility, former lawmaker Syarhey Skrabets. Ihar Rynkevich, Kazulin's lawyer, said on October 31 that Ahnistsikau has banned him from visiting his client. JM
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IDENTIFIES CUBA AS FOREIGN-POLICY PRIORITY
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Minsk on October 30 that Cuba is one of the priorities of Belarus's foreign policy, Belapan reported, quoting official sources. Lukashenka was meeting with Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, chairman of Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power. According to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, in 2005 trade between the two countries amounted to $18.9 million, which was a nearly 50-percent decrease from the level of 2004. Belarus's mostly exports trucks, tractors, and spare parts for them to Cuba, while purchasing Cuban raw sugar cane. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SUGGESTS PROLONGING DEPLOYMENT OF RUSSIAN FLEET IN CRIMEA...
Viktor Yanukovych told journalists in Kyiv on October 30 that the current Ukrainian-Russian agreement on the deployment of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Crimea until 2017 could be prolonged beyond that year, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yanukovych denied the allegations that the issue of the Black Sea Fleet was somehow linked to reaching last week's deal on gas deliveries to Ukraine in 2007 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 25, 2006). JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BOGGED DOWN IN PROCEDURAL ISSUES
The Verkhovna Rada on November 1 discussed the removal of four ministers designated to the cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych by the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc but failed to reach any conclusion during its morning sitting on how to do it, Ukrainian media reported. Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, Family and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko, Culture Minister Ihor Likhovyy, and Health Minister Yuriy Polyachenko tendered their resignations two weeks ago, after Our Ukraine announced that it was switching to the opposition to the ruling coalition led by the Party of Regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 19, 2006). Our Ukraine leader Roman Bezsmertnyy proposed to lawmakers to adopt a procedure for the dismissal of cabinet members by parliament before tacking the resignation of the four ministers. Additionally, the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus has demanded that the prime minister be present in the session hall during a parliamentary debate on the resignations. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yanukovych reportedly announced that he is currently ready to replace just Zvarych and Likhovyy. JM
...AND PREDICTS SENDING WTO-RELATED BILLS TO PARLIAMENT BY MID-DECEMBER
Prime Minister Yanukovych also told journalists in Kyiv on October 30 that the government is planning to submit to parliament by mid-December a dozen bills required for Ukraine's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO), RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. Yanukovych earlier predicted that his cabinet would send the required bills to the Verkhovna Rada by mid-November. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine lawmaker Ksenya Lyapkina said the same day that this year the Verkhovna Rada is unlikely to endorse all of the bills Ukraine needs to pass toward WTO membership. Lyapkina noted that Ukraine's accession to the WTO will be delayed by the government and the ruling coalition, which in her opinion do not want to move quickly on the issue. "This is a political will dictated from outside Ukraine," she added. JM
EU SAYS SERBIAN REFERENDUM NOT RELATED TO KOSOVA'S FINAL STATUS...
European Commission spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said on October 30 that Serbia's newly approved constitution is unrelated to a decision on Kosova's final status, B92, Beta, and AP reported the same day. In a referendum on October 28-29, Serbian voters passed a new constitution that claims Kosova as part of its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 30, 2006). "The issue of the future status of Kosovo is a separate matter," Nagy was quoted by AP as saying. She added that the voter list used in the two-day referendum was from 2001 and did not include most of Kosova's population. Likewise, Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku said the vote will not have "any impact at all" on the province's drive for independence, AP reported. "We consider it very irrelevant," he said, adding that it "does not deserve any comment from us." BW
SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO COMPROMISE ON ELECTIONS...
Boris Tadic said on October 31 that he will not compromise on an election date and insisted that the parliamentary and presidential elections take place simultaneously, B92 reported the same day. Tadic said the elections should be held on December 23. "Elections as soon as possible, by the end of the year, presidential and parliamentary, there is no talk of a compromise," he said. Tadic also dismissed Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Tomislav Nikolic's suggestion that he resign as president before new elections. "I am not resigning because I have no reason to resign," he said. "I want presidential elections, to check my mandate; I want to hear what the citizens say about how I am doing my job. I am not concerned with what Nikolic thinks about my presidency. I am only concerned with the citizens." On October 5, Tadic called for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held by the end of the year, but his proposal has met with opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 6, 19 and 25, 2006). BW
...AND ACCUSES OPPONENTS OF BLACKMAIL
Also on October 31, Tadic said that threats by the SRS and the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) to hold up parliament's implementation of the new constitution in order to get their way on an election date amount to "blackmail," B92 reported the same day. A two-thirds majority in parliament is required to adopt Serbia's new constitution, and the SRS and SPS -- both of whom want elections to take place next year -- have suggested they might hold up the vote. "We will see how they will behave. If it is a continuation of this political methodology [it would constitute] blackmailing," Tadic said. BW
...AS THINK TANK ALLEGES FRAUD
Also on October 30, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said the constitutional referendum was tainted by fraud, AP reported. "Witnesses and videotape evidence indicate that many voters were permitted not only to vote without providing photographic identification, but also to vote for persons other than themselves and to cast multiple ballots simultaneously," the group said in a statement. "The entire referendum process was deliberately skewed in advance by the authorities.... The number of independent observers was limited, so that effective monitoring was available at no more than 18 percent of the country's 8,375 polling places. Foreign observers were present in such small numbers that they could monitor fewer than 1 percent of the polling places," the statement added. BW
SERBIAN RADICAL PARTY LEADER WANTS COMPROMISE ON ELECTIONS...
Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Serbian Radical Party's (SRS) parliamentary caucus, said on October 30 that a law regulating the constitution's implementation may need to wait until a compromise can be reached on the date for new elections, B92 and Beta reported the same day. "I am not optimistic about this happening by the end of the year," Nikolic said. "I expect the elections to take place next year, and in succession." On October 5, President Boris Tadic called for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held by the end of the year, adding that he plans to seek reelection (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 6, 2006). Tadic's proposal has however met with opposition from the SRS and some members of the liberal G17 Plus party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 19 and 25, 2006). BW
KARADZIC'S BROTHER DETAINED OVER MONTENEGRO BAR BRAWL
Police in Montenegro have arrested Radislav Karadzic, the brother of war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic, for his alleged involvement in a bar fight in which a man was killed, B92 reported on October 31. Radislav Karadzic is suspected of involvement in the murder of Zlatko Bulatovic, who was stabbed to death in the Kula Karadzic Cafe. According to B92, a fight broke out in the cafe over a singer who was entertaining a group sitting in the cafe with Bulatovic. BW
RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS ATTACKED IN MACEDONIA
Russia has sent a formal protest note to Macedonia asking Skopje to conduct an investigation into an attack on four Russian diplomats, B92 and Reuters reported on October 31. According to a Russian television report, the diplomats were just about to leave a cafe in downtown Skopje late on October 28 when an unknown man approached them. "Soon afterwards, between 10 and 12 people were taking part in the attack on the four diplomats," Russia's Channel One reported. "The attackers used glass bottles and brass knuckles." Macedonian media speculated that the fight was over a young woman, while the Interior Ministry said it is doing all it can "to find and apprehend the attackers." Police spokesman Borce Pesevski said that "there was an argument between a dozen people at a bar, an argument that continued outside on the pavement. Then six to seven still unknown assailants physically attacked four others, all employees in the Russian Embassy. They were beaten up, sustained injuries, and after receiving medical treatment they were released home." BW
...AS OTHER SERBIAN PARTIES STAKE OUT POSITIONS
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said on October 30 that the DSS is willing to compromise to ensure elections take place soon, B92 and Beta reported the same day. "DSS is truly ready to reach any kind of agreement," Andreja Mladenovic said. "We all agree that we need elections, as soon as possible, and on all levels. We will see what the parties agree to." But Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) has insisted on simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year. "Not every topic in this country can be the subject of political, that is, party deals. We have all had enough of that," deputy parliament speaker and DS member Milan Markovic said. "Presidential and parliamentary elections [must take place] in December. That is the DS's demand," he added. BW
DAILY SAYS UN ENVOY PROPOSES CONDITIONAL 'INDEPENDENCE' FOR KOSOVA
The Prishtina-based daily newspaper "Ekspres" reported on October 30 that the draft status solution UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari has presented to the Contact Group proposes a form of conditional independence for Kosova, B92 and Beta reported the same day. "The word 'independence' does not appear in the document, but it is clear that the jurisdiction that is being given leads to independence with limited sovereignty," the daily quoted an unidentified diplomat from a Contact Group country as saying. "Nothing that was not already expected will happen, both sides already knew that it would end this way, more or less," the official added. Ahtisaari presented the 53-page document on October 21 to the Contact Group, which comprises Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United States. According to the diplomat quoted by "Ekspres," the international community will continue its presence in Kosova and the province will have neither a seat in the United Nations, a foreign minister, nor a military. BW
BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER SAYS NO TO POLICE REFORM
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said the Bosnian Serbs will not give up their own police force even if it means jeopardizing Bosnia-Herzegovina's potential membership in the European Union, AP reported on October 31. "If we have to choose between the European Union and the police of Republika Srpska, we will choose the police of Republika Srpska," Dodik, told the Sarajevo-based daily "Oslobodjenje." The EU is pushing Bosnia to unite its ethnically divided police force as a one of the conditions for signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling has urged Bosnia's politicians to move faster on police reform in order to present a new structure to EU officials in Brussels by November 20 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 23, 2006). BW
MOLDOVA'S UN REPRESENTATIVE COMPLAINS OF RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TRANSDNIESTER
In a speech on October 30, Alexei Tulbure, Moldova's permanent representative to the United Nations, called on the international community to fight human rights abuses in frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union, Moldpres reported the next day. Speaking at a session of the UN General Assembly on human rights, Tulbure said numerous violations are taking place in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region. He singled out the case of two members of the "Ilascu group," Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, who were sentenced in Transdniester in 1993 on terrorism charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 14, 2005). In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the two should be released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 19, 2004). Tulbure further stressed what he called "Russia's direct responsibility for the nonfulfillment of the ECHR decision in its capacity of a country that offers political, military, and financial support to the Tiraspol separatist regime." BW
GERMANY CONSIDERS TROOP REDUCTION IN BOSNIA
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said on October 29 that Berlin will seek to withdraw some of its 843 soldiers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, dpa and AP reported the next day. "We will want to speak in December about how the exit strategy...looks in concrete terms," Jung told ZDF television in an interview broadcast late on October 29. "A step-by-step plan is part of the view and that way too, we will achieve a reduction," he said. Jung's spokesman Thomas Raabe said on October 30 that any decision will be made in consultation with other European countries. "At the end of the year, we will sit down together and discuss this," Raabe said, adding that the reductions could begin in the first half of 2007. The European peacekeeping force EUFOR has 6,000 troops in Bosnia and has been considering reducing that number to 1,500. Meanwhile, the British daily "The Guardian" on October 30 quoted British Defense Secretary Des Browne as saying London is also considering drawing down its troops in Bosnia. BW
GERMANY SUSPENDS DIPLOMAT IN MOLDOVA OVER ALLEGED VISA FRAUD
Germany announced on October 30 that it has suspended one of its diplomats working in Chisinau on suspicion of taking bribes for entry visas, dpa reported the same day. An unidentified official told dpa that the German Foreign Ministry discovered that 70 visas were improperly issued in Moldova between November 2005 and September 2006. The official said the diplomat has been suspended pending an investigation and the case has been reported to German prosecutors. BW
IRAQ'S HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE
The working conditions of Iraqi doctors have become increasingly difficult as they toil in a health-care system on the brink of collapse and attempt to treat Iraqis injured by the ongoing violence. At the same time, Iraqi doctors have found themselves being targeted by both insurgents and Iraqi security forces.
Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's health-care system was already crippled by the eight-year war with Iran, the first Gulf War in 1991, and more than 12 years of UN sanctions from 1991-2003. The unrelenting violence since the invasion has now brought Iraq's health-care system to the brink of collapse. More troubling is the possibility that the system is in such dire condition that many of those who die from their injuries due to terrorist and sectarian violence could have been saved if Iraq's hospitals were functioning properly.
Iraqi hospitals lack basic medical supplies and many of them function without medicines, disinfectants, surgical instruments, clean bedding and anesthesia. As a result, Iraqis have had to rely on buying medical equipment such as oxygen supplies and medicines on the black market, where prices are often exorbitant.
Furthermore, emergency rooms in many Iraqi hospitals are unable to cope with the overwhelming demand due to the ongoing violence. Emergency rooms extend into overcrowded hallways with not much more than beds, oxygen bottles, and fluid-siphoning instruments. Radiology equipment and laboratory services are virtually nonexistent. These difficulties are further compounded by the lack of experienced medical personnel, many of whom have either fled or been killed.
Dr. Bassim al-Sheibani, an Iraqi physician, wrote in the "British Medical Journal" on October 20 that many Iraqi doctors lack the proper experience to deal with the influx of the wounded and many patients have died as a result of inexperienced staff.
"Emergency departments are staffed by doctors who do not have the proper experience or skills to manage emergency cases. Medical staff...admit that more than half of those killed could have been saved if trained and experienced staff were available," he said.
Efforts to rebuild Iraq's medical infrastructure have been placed on hold as more funds have been shifted to security. Meanwhile, Iraqi doctors and medical personnel have urged the international community to commit more resources to rebuilding the country's shattered hospitals and clinics.
In the first 14 months after the 2003 invasion, the United Kingdom and the United States spent almost $20 billion on reconstruction in Iraq, with hundreds of millions aimed at rebuilding the network of 180 hospitals and clinics. However, billions have been lost through a combination of corruption, criminal activity, mismanagement, and incompetence, the "Belfast Telegraph" reported on October 20.
In fact, the situation has become so bleak that, according Amar al-Saffar, an official in charge of construction at the Iraqi Health Ministry, not a single hospital has been built since the Al-Khadimiyah Hospital opened in 1986 in Baghdad, London's "The Times" reported on October 21. Al-Saffar noted that the much touted $50 million project to build a pediatric hospital in Al-Basrah has remained unfinished because of financial mismanagement.
A senior Health Ministry official told "The Times," "It is the worst situation that the Ministry of Health has been in in its entire history."
Iraqi doctors face challenges beyond the lack of resources, as they have increasingly become targets of insurgents, militias, and the Iraqi police. The security situation has deteriorated to such an extent that thousands of doctors have fled the country.
The nonprofit group Medact estimated in a report released in March that 120 doctors and 80 pharmacists have been killed and more than 18,000 physicians have fled Iraq since 2003. Doctors have also become frequent targets of kidnappings, because they are viewed as relatively prosperous and kidnappers believe their families can afford to pay the ransom.
An Iraqi doctor, Peter Kandela, interviewed Iraqi medical personnel in Syria and Jordan who fled the violence, and discovered that doctors are actively sought after by insurgents and kidnappers. "In the new Iraq, there is a price tag linked to your position and status. Those doctors who have stayed in the country know what they are worth in kidnapping terms, and ensure their relatives have easy access to the necessary funds to secure their speedy release if they are taken," "The Times" quoted him on October 20 as saying.
In addition, doctors have complained that Iraqi police have threatened and attacked medical personnel who have been less than attentive to the needs of the police. On September 28, doctors at the Al-Yarmuk Hospital in Baghdad went on strike after Iraqi police burst into the facility and forced doctors to treat a wounded colleague. The doctors demanded an apology from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, and called for a complete weapons ban in the hospital, the "San Francisco Chronicle" reported on September 30.
Health care is a basic and essential service and Iraq will continue to suffer needlessly if the system is not repaired. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, 70 percent of deaths among children result from easily treatable conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illness.
Furthermore, if basic services such as health care continue to be neglected, it may have serious repercussions for the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government continues to suffer from the perception of being weak in the eyes of some Iraqis -- incapable of reining in the militias, stopping the insurgency, stemming corruption, and providing basic services. If Iraqis are deprived of the most rudimentary services, such as basic health care, this can only reinforce this perception.
There have been signs of improvement in U.S. efforts to shore up Iraq's health-care system. According to a September report by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Agriculture Reconstruction and Development Program for Iraq, out of the more than $4 billion spent on reconstruction and emergency relief programs from 2003-06, $138 million was allocated to improve the health-care system.
In addition, USAID has provided skills training to more than 3,200 primary-care physicians and established training centers in five governorates to support local health-care training. USAID has also partnered with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization to assist the Iraqi Health Ministry to improve access to health care for all Iraqis.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT YIELDS TO NATIONALISTS OVER GEORGIA CONFLICT
In just the first week of October, more than 500 Georgians were deported from Russia. Many Georgian outlets shops, restaurants, and businesses were closed because of alleged tax violations. Even ethnic Georgians who are Russian citizens, such as the sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and the writer Boris Akunin, were reportedly harassed by the authorities.
Most observers related these events to Russia's conflict with Georgia and the efforts by the two enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to break away from Georgia. The Kremlin is also upset by Georgia's bid to join NATO, and by the fact that it has become a major route for oil pipelines that bypass Russia. All this certainly plays an important role in the Russian authorities' drive against Georgians.
But there is another -- possibly more important -- reason for Russia's harsh treatment of Georgians: the rising tide of Russian nationalism.
At the beginning of the post-Soviet period, the authorities dubbed all residents of the Russian Federation "rossiiane," as distinct from ethnic Russians or "russkiye." The notion of rossiiane evokes the spirit of Eurasianism, a quasi-political doctrine born among Russian emigres in the 1920s which has become quite popular in present-day Russia. Eurasianists hold that Russia is a unique blend of Russian people and various other ethnic groups.
Now, however, the assumption that citizens of post-Soviet Russia can blend into a new nation has apparently become unworkable. And one of the manifestations of this is the rise of Russian nationalism. This phenomenon is not so much a manifestation of the strength of Russia under President Vladimir Putin or of the assertiveness of the country's emerging middle class as it is a product of deep social divisions and rampant corruption.
The philosophy "Russia for Russians" has increasingly been used to assault what ethnic Russians call "people of Caucasian nationality," that is, people who come from the Caucasus region, both the Russian republics of the North Caucasus and the independent South Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Here, ethnic Russians see no difference between people who are citizens of the Russian Federation and those who are not.
Russian extremists have created problems for Putin in the past, but he has not been overly concerned with them. The September violence in the northern city of Kondopoga, however, might be seen as a watershed. Although targeting Caucasians is nothing new, the scale of the events -- involving several hundred, mostly ethnic Russians -- and the level of their political organization distinguishes this rioting.
Later, several thousand Kondopoga residents participated in a meeting in which there was an attempt to create an independent militia (druzhina) to defend ethnic Russian residents, and an independent committee was created as a parallel organ of power.
There is evidence that Kondopoga residents have a deep distrust of the regime and see Putin as concerned for minorities -- including Caucasians -- but not for Russians. The supposed anti-Russian nature of the regime is underlined by the belief that Putin does not trust the Russian Army to resolve the conflict in Chechnya, but is instead relying on forces controlled by Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.
Russian nationalism could be transformed into a viable political force that could exploit social grievances by wrapping them in a cloak of ethnic animus. Putin seems to think the conflict with Georgia has created an opportunity to incorporate ethnic nationalism into government policy and thereby control it. In a speech about the Georgian deportations, Putin said that Kondopoga residents had legitimate grievances and that the state should devote particular attention to the problems of the "korennoi" (native) population of the Russian Federation.
This statement can be interpreted as a necessity for the state to pay special attention to citizens of the Russian Federation as opposed to foreigners, but it can also be read as a call to support ethnic Russians. And this is how it has been taken by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, one of the most influential Russian nationalist parties. The movement has tried to use Kondopoga as a springboard for broad political action, with the ultimate goal of creating a society based on the principle "Russia for Russians."
Appeals to Russian nationalism are not, of course, a Putin invention. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin made such appeals, but Stalin enjoyed absolute power and was a charismatic leader. Putin's situation is entirely different, so playing with nationalism in a multiethnic state could be a dangerous enterprise. Such passions could easily get out of control. Putin understands this. However, the fact that he is engaging in such policies under the guise of the conflict with Georgia could mean that he is yielding to public pressure. That in itself could be an indication that Putin's system of managed democracy is not as stable or in control as many observers have come to believe.
Dmitry Shlapentokh is currently associate professor of history at the University of Indiana.
HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CALLS ON NATO TO TAKE GREATER PRECAUTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN...
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on October 30 for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to take greater care in its military operations in Afghanistan in order to avoid injuring or killing civilians. In a press statement, it said: "While NATO forces try to minimize harm to civilians, they obviously are not doing enough," Sam Zarifi, HRW's Asia research director, said. "NATO's tactics are increasingly endangering the civilians that they are supposed to be protecting, and turning the local population against them," he added. Most recently, dozens of civilians were reported to have been killed in ISAF bombing missions in southern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 27 and 30, 2006). ISAF has admitted that at least 12 civilians were killed in Kandahar Province. Many Afghans "looked forward to NATO's deployment because they thought the force would protect Afghan civilians and help with reconstruction," Zarifi said. He added, however, that "NATO won't win the trust of Afghans by showing disregard for civilian lives and property." The increase in civilian casualties has placed the administration of President Hamid Karzai in a dilemma and has provided the neo-Taliban with more political ammunition to portray the authorities in Kabul as supporting the killing of innocent civilians. AT
TWO ISAF SOLDIERS KILLED IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN...
Two soldiers serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed and two others were wounded in a roadside blast in the Waygal district of Nuristan Province on October 31, an ISAF press release reported. According to the standing policy of ISAF, the nationalities of dead soldiers are not revealed until the relevant national authority does so. AT
...AS 'ISLAMIC EMIRATE' TAKES RESPONSIBILITY
A website purporting to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- the name of the country under the Taliban -- in a posting on October 31 claimed that "heroic mujahedin of the Islamic Emirate" destroyed a main battle tank belonging to the "occupier American forces" using a remote-controlled mine, killing three soldiers. AT
...AND RECOMMENDS ESTABLISHMENT OF COMPENSATION PROGRAM
HRW called on NATO to establish a program to compensate Afghans who have lost family members, are injured, or suffer property damage due to ISAF military activities. Although an ISAF statement expressed regret about civilian casualties in the recent bombings, it denied any wrongdoing, the HRW statement said. While the Taliban and other insurgent forces have in the past placed civilians at risk by using populated areas to launch attacks on NATO and Afghan government forces, it is incumbent on NATO to take all feasible precautions when attacking areas in which civilians may be present, the statement added. HRW also expressed support for the call by the U.S.-based organization Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) that NATO should immediately create a program to provide monetary compensation for civilian death, injury, or property damage resulting from military operations. "Compensating injured civilians is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do," Zarifi said, pointing that this practice "has been U.S. policy, and there's no reason it shouldn't be NATO policy as well." AT
SLOVAKIA URGED TO MOVE FORCES TO SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in Bratislava on October 30 that Slovak troops in Kabul should be relocated to southern Afghanistan, the Czech news agency CTK reported. De Hoop Scheffer said that by moving its 57 soldiers to southern Afghanistan, Slovakia would show solidarity with other NATO members. He added, though, that the final decision is up to Bratislava. The "basic condition is the safety and protection of our people," Fico told de Hoop Scheffer, without giving a firm answer to de Hoop Scheffer's request. However, Fico made it clear that his country will not send more troops to Afghanistan. NATO has faced a shortage of troops for its Afghan mission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 20, 2006). AT
SUICIDE ATTACK LEAVES POLICEMAN DEAD IN SOUTH-CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN
One Afghan policeman was killed and another sustained injuries when a suicide bomber detonated explosives attached to his body near a police station in the Andar district of Ghazni Province on October 31, the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Two coalition soldiers also sustained minor injuries. A website purporting to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan claimed in an Internet posting the same day that "a heroic mujahed of the Islamic Emirate" named Mohammad Yusof, in a "martyrdom-seeking" operation in Ghazni, killed 11 "foreign occupiers" and injured eight soldiers. The website carried a picture of the purported suicide bomber reading from a sheet of paper. AT
RESIDENTS OF EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE THREATEN TO RESUME POPPY CULTIVATION
Elders in the Marakekhayl area of Nangarhar Province's Sherzad district have threatened to resume opium-poppy cultivation unless aid promised to them is delivered, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on October 31. Malik Rahmatullah, a local chief, told AIP that the Afghan government has not fulfilled "its promise" to the people of Sherzad. The aid money that foreign donors have provided to Afghanistan "for poor people is not distributed to them," he said. Rahamatullah also claimed that one in three local farmers has "already cultivated poppy plants and others are getting their land ready for poppy cultivation." While opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has reached record levels, Nangarhar has been regarded as one of the success stories in the past two years. AT
GERMANY HAS 20 SUSPECTS IN AFGHAN 'SKULL AFFAIR'
The German Defense Ministry has identified 20 suspects in the case of the suspected desecration of dead bodies by German soldiers serving with ISAF in Afghanistan, ddp reported on October 30. A Defense Ministry spokesman said that two active-duty soldiers have been suspended in the case. The affair, which began on October 24 when the mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper began publishing photos of German soldiers posing with a human skull and skeleton, has outraged Germans and sparked international condemnation of the conduct (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 27, 2006). AT
NUCLEAR WATCHDOG CRITICIZES IRAN OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAM
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in Vienna on October 30 that the agency cannot confirm that the Iranian nuclear program is solely peaceful, Reuters reported, and he noted Iran's failure to suspend uranium-enrichment activities or to act transparently. In the agency's annual report, el-Baradei said: "The IAEA continues, therefore, to be unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, which is a matter of serious concern," he said. On the same day in Tehran, Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Supreme National Security Council, told visiting German legislators that el-Baradei has said repeatedly that there is nothing "wayward" about the program, ISNA reported. Rohani said the current controversy over the nuclear program should be resolved through diplomacy, and he denounced perceived U.S. efforts to interfere with Iran-EU contacts. Rohani said a UN Security Council resolution on the Iranian nuclear program would have no legal standing. BS
RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL HAS 'NO INFORMATION' ON IRANIAN NUKES
Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said in Moscow on October 31 that he considers Iran's nuclear program to be peaceful and that Russia continues to oppose any sanctions on Iran, news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 17, 19, and 23, 2006). He stressed that "we do not have information that would suggest Iran is carrying out a non-peaceful [nuclear] program" and added, "We believe that the possibilities for continuing political discussion around this [Iranian nuclear] problem have not been exhausted." Ivanov warned that "sanctions should not be adopted for their own sake." Russia opposes serious sanctions on Iran and North Korea while maintaining tough sanctions, including a blockade, on Georgia. In related news, President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke by telephone on October 30, kremlin.ru reported. Putin repeated "the principled position of Russia in favor of continuing the negotiating process." Finally, on November 1, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Oslo, Norway, that "we don't want another nuclear state on our southern borders," ITAR-TASS reported. He stressed that "any Iranian nuclear program should be implemented under strict and tough international control." He defended Russian arms sales to Iran, saying that they are for defensive purposes and that Iran is not one of Russia's major arms customers. PM
IRANIAN EX-PRESIDENT SAYS 'GROUND PREPARED' FOR IRAN-U.S. TALKS ON IRAQ
During a visit to the United Kingdom, former Iranian President (1997-2005) Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said the "ground is prepared" for his country and the United States to hold direct talks about Iraq, AFP reported, citing the U.K.'s Channel 4. Khatami said such talks could take place under the auspices of the United Nations. Washington called for direct talks on Iraqi affairs in October 2005, and Tehran initially agreed to this in March before Iranian officials subsequently said there is no need to hold the talks. Khatami went on to say that he doubts Iran is militarily active in Iraq. "The security of Iraq is quite important to us, because anything that would contribute to security in Iraq or add to the violence among the Shi'a and Sunnis and instability, the first one that would lose would be Iran, of course," he added. BS
IRAN ANTICIPATES UN SANCTIONS
As the UN Security Council considers a draft resolution on the Iranian nuclear program, commentators in the country are looking on with interest. One such person, identified only as "Mr. Enadi," said on state television on October 30 that ratification of the resolution is likely, but Security Council members differ over the severity of sanctions. Enadi said Iranian compliance with international demands would lead to an immediate halt in the sanctions. By inaugurating its heavy-water project in August and starting a second cascade of centrifuges more recently, Enadi continued, Iran is sending a message that it has "reached the point of no return as far as the nuclear issue is concerned." An editorial in the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" daily on October 30 also examined the possibility of sanctions. It said the activation of the second cascade sends a message that Iran "makes use of such opportunities to advance its nuclear knowledge and has no fear of threats and intimidation." An additional 30-day extension of the deadline to halt its activities, the editorial added, gives Iran "a chance to take a few more steps ahead and get closer to the nuclear knowledge stipulated and provided by the IAEA regulations." BS
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT SEIZES FOUNDATION'S FARMLANDS
The Agriculture Jihad Ministry has taken possession of more than 400,000 hectares of farmland in Sarakhs, in northeastern Iran, Mashhad television reported on October 27. An unnamed farmers' representative said the land belonged to the Imam Reza Shrine Foundation (Astan-i Qods Razavi), and the deed now belongs to the ministry. No explanation for the seizure was reported. BS
IRANIAN OFFICIALS ENCOURAGE MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN ELECTIONS
Hojatoleslam Saidi, identified as the Iranian supreme leader's representative in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), told Basij officials recently that they and their families, as well as IRGC personnel and their families, are duty-bound to vote in December's Assembly of Experts and municipal-council elections, "Kayhan" reported on October 31. Saidi encouraged the officials to familiarize themselves with the candidates and the issues. He added that the IRGC and Basij have a duty to advise people on election-related issues, but "disparaging candidates or supporting individuals or organizations and presenting lists, in the sense of specifying who to vote for, are not permitted at all." The supreme leader's representative at the East Azerbaijan Province Basij unit, identified as Hojatoleslam Jalilzadeh, said on October 30 that "the IRGC and Basij forces must do their utmost to facilitate the participation of the majority of the population in the Assembly of Experts and municipal-council elections," ILNA reported. Jalilzadeh said military personnel should inform voters but not be involved with political movements themselves. BS
GUARDS CORPS ACTIVE IN IRAN'S NORTHWEST
At an October 31 ceremony at the Imam Ali Center in Maku, Hojatoleslam Arsalan Bordfar was introduced as the supreme leader's new representative in the IRGC's Hazrat-i Abolfazl Al-Abbas First Brigade, Urumiyeh television reported. Bordfar succeeds Hojatoleslam Akbar Mohammadi. The IRGC's Payqambar-i Azam (Great Prophet) war games got under way the same day in Urumiyeh, provincial television reported. The four-day exercises will focus on maneuver warfare. Colonel Rahim Aqa-Mohammadpur, the chief commander of the IRGC's Shahid Amini Tactical Military Base, said the exercises will evaluate the effectiveness of training, determine the Ashura Battalions' abilities, and improve existing war-fighting capabilities. Some 2,500 members of Ashura and al-Zahra Battalions are participating, Urumiyeh television added. BS
ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION MEETS IN TEHRAN
On the first day of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) meeting in Tehran on October 30, Iranian Interior Minister Mustafa Pur-Mohammadi called for cooperation among the members' provinces, IRNA reported. The meeting is for the interior ministers from ECO member states Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Working together in the political and security fields will contribute to economic development, he added. Organized crime, terrorism, and trafficking of arms, drugs, and humans are among the problems the region faces, Pur-Mohammadi said. Also on October 30, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told the ECO meeting that member states should have greater interaction with major regional institutions, IRNA reported. Mottaki called for equal economic growth throughout the region. He added that one of the member states should host a strategic studies center, and that Iran could help in the planning of such an entity. Mottaki added, "One of Iran's main foreign-policy strategies is based on cooperation with regional states to solve a major part of the problems facing the region and promote security, welfare, development, and the economic situation of the regional nations." BS
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS HAMAS, JIHAD CHIEFS IN DAMASCUS
During a brief visit to Damascus on October 28-29, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki met in the Iranian Embassy with Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishaal and deputy chief Musa Abu-Marzuk, as well Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary-General Ramadan Abdallah Shallah and his deputy Ziad Nikhalah, London's Arabic-language "Al-Hayah" newspaper reported on October 30. Also present was Iranian Ambassador to Syria Hassan Akhtari. Anonymous "Palestinian sources" quoted Mottaki as saying, "the Islamic and national forces [need to] strengthen their alliance to foil the American project." Mottaki reportedly said, "There is an American onslaught against the region.... The Americans are trying to create problems. We are trying our best to foil the American project, because the aim of this project is to destroy the region. This is an Israeli project. If disagreements intensify in the region, this would serve Israel." Mottaki also pledged continuing Iranian support for Hamas and the PIJ, which the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. Unnamed "Iranian diplomatic sources" also said Mottaki met with the Hamas and PIJ leaders, London's Arabic-language "Al-Qods al-Arabi" reported on October 30. BS
TEHRAN DENIES VIOLATING LEBANESE ARMS EMBARGO
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini denied on October 31 that his country has violated an arms embargo on Lebanon, ISNA and IRNA reported. John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, charged on October 30 that Syria and Iran are violating the arms embargo in order to undermine the Lebanese government, AP reported. "We continue to be concerned that Syria and Iran are actively trying to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon," Bolton was quoted as saying. "We call on Syria and Iran to abide by their obligations to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence." UN special rapporteur Terje Roed-Larsen said Lebanese officials told him and also said in public statements that arms are entering their country across the border, AP reported. However, he cautioned that the UN has been unable to confirm those claims. Bolton quoted Roed-Larsen as saying the Lebanese government does not provide details because it fears retaliation. Iranian spokesman Husseini said such comments are a diversion from Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace, and added that Bolton is trying to undermine Lebanese solidarity. BS
IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS IRANIAN AMBASSADOR
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi in Baghdad on October 31, according to a ministry press release. The diplomats discussed the political and security situation in Iraq and the need to strengthen bilateral relations, as well as the prospects for a normalization of Syrian-Iraqi relations. Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Mu'allim, is expected to visit Baghdad in November, according to the press release. KR
TEHRAN AND DAMASCUS AGREE TO SUPPORT BAGHDAD
Unnamed "Iranian diplomatic sources" said Tehran and Damascus have agreed to support the government in Iraq, London's Arabic-language "Al-Qods al-Arabi" reported on October 30. Tehran and Damascus are motivated by the hope that the existence of a stable government will hasten the departure of foreign forces from Iraq. At the end of his trip to Syria, Foreign Minister Mottaki said on October 29 that Tehran-Damascus ties benefit the region, IRNA reported. Mottaki arrived in Damascus on October 28, and that evening he submitted a letter from Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian Arab Television TV1 reported. Ahmadinejad's letter focused on Iraqi and Palestinian developments. BS
IRAQI PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST U.S. WITHDRAWAL...
Jalal Talabani warned against a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in an interview with Paris-based "Le Figaro" published on October 31. "Any decision on a withdrawal must be made on the basis of mutual interests. There is a consensus in Iraq among the political forces that an immediate withdrawal would have disastrous effects for our country, but also for the Middle East and for the entire world," he said. "There is agreement on this between Republicans and Democrats in the United States. I hope that there is a similar understanding of the problem in Europe." Talabani said multinational forces must remain in Iraq until Iraqi forces can take over responsibility for security. "Until then, talks must not focus on establishing a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but on the objectives to be set for Iraqi forces, so that they can continue to assume responsibility for security in the regions," he said. KR
KURDISH WITNESS DESCRIBES KILLINGS AT MASS GRAVE SITE IN IRAQ
A Kurdish witness testifying at the October 31 session of the Anfal trial told the court in testimony aired on state-run Al-Iraqiyah television that Iraqi soldiers lined up Kurdish men alongside a mass grave and shot them dead in spring 1988. The unidentified witness said he surrendered to an Iraqi national-defense unit near his village of Qadir Karam in April 1988. Another army unit called the Bariq Army photographed and recorded the names of detainees in Ali Awah, a camp housing between 3,000 and 4,000 detainees near Irbil, before transporting them to Chamchamal and later Tubzawah. From there, detainees were transported by bus to another location farther south. Detainees were offloaded, bound, and blindfolded and then told to lay down. Soldiers confiscated their money and identification cards and then opened fire on the detainees. The witness said he pretended to be dead as the soldiers threw his and other bodies into an open pit where he stayed until night fell. He walked until morning and said the first city he came to was Al-Ramadi. Four other Kurdish witnesses testified at the October 31 session about chemical bomb attacks on their villages. The trial then adjourned until November 7. KR
FINAL PREPARATORY MEETING HELD FOR INTERNATIONAL COMPACT WITH IRAQ
Representatives from 14 countries and seven international organizations attended the fifth and final preparatory meeting for the International Compact with Iraq in Kuwait on October 31, KUNA reported the same day. The compact aims to raise support for the rebuilding of Iraq among the international community and multilateral organizations, with participating members pledging to provide Iraq with financial, technical, and political support. The meeting was hosted by Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and UN special representative to Iraq Ashraf Qazi attended the one-day session. The formal adoption of the compact is expected to be held in the next six weeks, according to the meeting's final communique. The preparatory group includes representatives from the United Nations, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, as well as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Union, Arab Development Fund, and Islamic Development Bank. KR
...AND DISCUSSES FUTURE OF BA'ATH PARTY, AL-QAEDA
President Talabani told "Le Figaro" that the Ba'ath Party should remain banned in Iraq, the daily reported on October 31. "It seems right to ban the Ba'athists now. But individually, as party members, they are entitled to take part in their country's political life, as long as they have a clean criminal record," he said. Asked about the power of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Talabani said: "Al-Qaeda's influence is waning. Its strength stems from its alliance with the Saddamists and also from the financial help that it receives from abroad. But the Sunni [Arab] tribes of Al-Anbar [Governorate] have started combating Al-Qaeda.... They must be supported." KR
IRAQI NATIONAL RECONCILIATION CONFERENCE POSTPONED AGAIN
Iraqi officials have reportedly announced that a national reconciliation conference will be delayed for a second time, pending further negotiations between participants, dpa reported on October 31. The officials did not set a new date for the conference, which was first slated to be held in October and then delayed until November 4. According to the news agency, organizers are now planning a mid-November date. Iraqi officials are currently engaged in talks with members of the resistance in Amman, Jordan. "The postponement of the [reconciliation] meeting aims at giving more time for dialogue and consultation with all shades of the Iraqi political spectrum, both inside and outside Iraq," said Falih al-Fayyad, a legislator and the apparent head of the Iraqi government delegation to the talks. According to dpa, the delegation may meet with members of the resistance in Syria and the United Arab Emirates following the talks in Amman. Meanwhile, Mukhtar Lamani, the Arab League representative to Iraq, said on October 31 that the reconciliation conference's preparatory committee is planning to meet within days to finalize preparations for the conference, MENA reported. KR
IRAQI POLITICIAN SAYS NEW POLITICAL FRONT TO BE FORMED
Abd al-Sattar al-Jumayli, secretary-general of the Nasirite Vanguard Socialist Party, told Amman-based "Al-Ghadd" that Iraqi pan-Arab, Nasirist, national, and Islamic forces will soon announce the formation of a new political front, the daily reported on October 31. Al-Jumayli said the front will be formed in light of the progress made during talks between members of the resistance and Iraqi and U.S. officials in Amman, Jordan, this week. Members of the front believe in "the Arabism and independence of Iraq, reject sectarianism and ethnic distribution, and support the unity of Iraq's territory and people," he added. The daily quoted sources as saying the front is backed by the Islamic Army in Iraq and other resistance groups. "Al-Ghadd" quoted Islamic Army leader Abd al-Rahman al-Ansari as telling Iraq's government-sponsored "Al-Sabah" that 12 armed groups took part in talks with the United States in Amman this week. KR
ISLAMIC ARMY IN IRAQ CLAIMS TO HAVE PRODUCED MISSILE
The Islamic Army in Iraq has announced in a statement that it has developed a surface-to-surface missile for use in attacks against U.S. forces, Al-Jazeera television reported on October 30. The insurgent group released a video showing the missile under production. The missile is named Abir after the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped and killed by U.S. soldiers in Al-Mahmudiyah earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 5, 2006). It reportedly has a range of 20 kilometers and carries a 20-kilogram warhead, according to the news channel. KR
IRAQI KURDISH DEPUTIES CALL FOR PRISON INSPECTIONS
Several parliamentarians in the Kurdish regional parliament called for prison inspections during an October 30 debate on the prison system in the region, "Hawlati" reported the same day. The call follows reports by the parliament's Human Rights, Legal, and Health committees that followed visits to the prisons, parliament deputy Sozan Shahab said. The deputy said a general amnesty for prisoners has also been proposed in the parliament, but it is opposed by the region's justice and interior ministers. According to "Hawlati" there is an official prison in each of the region's three governorates -- Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk -- which together hold some 1,342 prisoners, including 29 women and 113 teenagers. So-called secret prisons also reportedly exist in the Kurdish region but the number of prisons and detainees held is not known. KR