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Newsline - July 11, 2007

Britain's Foreign Office said on July 10 that Russia's recent refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the 2006 London poisoning death of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, is "unacceptable," British media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 4, 6, and 11, 2007, and "Russia: Chances Of Litvinenko Suspect's Extradition 'Hypothetical,'", May 25, 2007). A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Russian response is "extremely disappointing." The spokesman added that "we are reviewing the situation and considering what further steps we can take. We consider this a serious matter...[and] a range of options" is under consideration. He argued that "Russia is an important partner on many issues, and we continue to seek a constructive relationship with them, but given their refusal to cooperate on this matter, we need to carefully consider our range of cooperation on a range of issues." "The Times" wrote on July 11 that the Foreign Office is expected to submit a report to Parliament on policy options "next week." The BBC noted on July 10 that relations between London and Moscow have reached their lowest point "in living memory." The "Financial Times" wrote on July 11 that the Lugovoi case amounts to Brown's "first serious diplomatic test." President Vladimir Putin has called the British demand for Lugovoi's extradition "politically motivated." The Russian Constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens, but Moscow has offered to hold Lugovoi's trial in Russia. British authorities, however, maintain that since the "extraordinarily grave crime" was committed in London against a British citizen, the "appropriate" venue for the trial is London. They have also said that any trial of Lugovoi in Russia would not be "fair." Lugovoi said in Moscow on July 11 that the British authorities' "turbulent reaction" to the Russian refusal to extradite him is aimed at "distracting domestic attention from the not very professional work of British detectives in handling the case," Russian media reported. PM

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on July 10 that he "wouldn't make any complaints" about North Korea's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interfax reported. He called on the other participants in the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program "to strictly abide by our joint plan of seeking a settlement and not to bring into it issues relating to the bilateral relations of any of the states with Pyongyang." Radio Japan, which is the international service of Japanese national broadcaster NHK, said on July 11 that Lavrov was alluding to Japan's policy of pressing North Korea to provide full information on the fate of at least 13 Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s to train North Korean agents in the Japanese language and customs. Pyongyang has provided some information, but Tokyo considers its response inadequate. Lavrov stressed on July 10 that he has "heard no complaints that Pyongyang is failing to meet its commitments" to the IAEA. He added, "I don't think that at this moment we should have any suspicions, or any complacency for that matter." He described as "interesting" a recent EU proposal to deploy an international peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories. Lavrov said that "we will study the [EU's] ideas with interest, but...we want to know in more specific terms [if the proposal is more than] a slogan and how it is meant to be put into practice and what it implies." PM

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who heads the United Civil Front, which is part of the Other Russia opposition movement, said in a broadcast on RFE/RL's Russian Service on July 9 that emerging differences within that broad-based movement are natural in the run-up to the 2007 legislative and 2008 presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). The movement intends to take part in the presidential vote but has not decided on a course of action for the parliamentary one. Kasparov argued on July 9 that "we should move on from words to deeds, and it is perfectly obvious that some people are not yet ready" to do so. He stressed that "it is necessary to seek new forms of action in the regions. And we believe regional conferences will let people begin a new stage of interaction, which certainly should include not only discussions inside conference halls, but also mass actions." He called for the holding of "45 [regional] conferences in August and September which will be followed by a [federal] congress." Kasparov added that "Marches of Dissent will resume in the fall, but we believe they should now pursue a concrete goal. For instance, one of the marches we're definitely planning to hold will be a march toward the Central Election Commission, demanding the registration of the list [of election candidates] that will be drawn up following a congress of Other Russia." PM

Russian People's Democratic Union leader and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on Ekho Moskvy radio on July 10 that he will support a single opposition candidate in the 2008 presidential elections, including Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov, if the opposition agrees on him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). Kasyanov, who has presidential ambitions of his own, said that he will work with "Eduard Limonov's and...Kasparov's Other Russia, Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko, and...Zyuganov's Communist Party in order to form a new consensus." Kasyanov also mentioned the Union of Right Forces (SPS) as another political group with which he is willing to reach an agreement on the 2008 race. He ruled out participating in the 2007 parliamentary vote, saying that "in the current situation, it makes no sense to run in these elections" unless the opposition agrees on a unified slate under the name of a single party. He argued that "if you make up a single ticket for the State Duma elections and make a serious showing by getting 25 percent of the vote, then the authorities will be unable to rig the election. But if you totter on the verge of the 7 percent [threshold], then you shouldn't bother running." PM

Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said in Novorossiisk on July 11 that a base for the Black Sea Fleet will be completed there by 2012 to accommodate up to 100 warships, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 8, 2007). He told visiting First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov that the estimated cost of the project will be about $482 million. Masorin said that by 2027, the navy will have capabilities superior to those of the Soviet Navy at its peak in the 1980s, reported. The Russian Navy will consist of six "attack groups," each of which will include one aircraft carrier in addition to other unspecified warships. Three of the groups will be based with the Pacific Fleet, and the other three with the Northern Fleet. PM

Residents of the village of Chermen in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodny Raion who launched a demonstration on July 8 to protest the disappearance of two elderly Ingush men, Mukhazhir Gaisanov and Magomed Torshkhoyev, in Vladikavkaz the previous day have addressed a written appeal to Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika, reported on July 10. The two men's car, together with their documents, was found close to the headquarters of the North Ossetian Interior Ministry. The villagers complained that police in North Ossetia do nothing either to locate and release Ingush who have been abducted over the past few years, or to prevent a recurrence of such abductions, and they asked that Chaika order an immediate search for Gaisanov and Torshkhoyev. On July 9, the interior ministers of both North Ossetia and Ingushetia, Lieutenant General Sergei Arenin and Lieutenant Colonel Musa Medov, met with the demonstrators and assured them they will investigate the case. LF

The Daghestan office of the Federal Security Service (FSB), working with FSB colleagues and police from Tatarstan, has identified and broken up a gang of counterfeiters believed to have links with five other such groups in Moscow, Krasnodar, and Rostov-na-Donu whose members were arrested last year, reported on July 10. At five of seven addresses searched in Makhachkala and Karabudakhkent Raion, just south of the capital, the FSB found and confiscated counterfeiting equipment for the production of 100- and 1,000-ruble banknotes, and false 1,000-ruble bills with a nominal value of 3 million rubles ($117,452). Three people were taken into custody. LF

Dozens of opposition politicians and members of the Armenian intelligentsia disrupted proceedings in the trial at a Yerevan district court of Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian on July 10, which was Sefilian's 40th birthday, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The two men, both former participants in the Karabakh war, were arrested in December 2006 shortly after establishing a new organization that opposes returning to Azerbaijani control any of the seven Azerbaijani districts currently occupied by Armenian forces, and face charges, which they have rejected as politically motivated, of planning to overthrow the Armenian leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 11, 12, and 20, 2006 and July 3, 2007). The two men's supporters sang "Happy Birthday" to Sefilian and ignored demands by the presiding judge to vacate the courtroom, after which he adjourned the trial until July 11. LF

A building in central Yerevan that houses several government ministries was evacuated on July 10 after Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian received a letter warning that a bomb had been planted there, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Police with sniffer dogs searched the premises but failed to locate any bomb. Police detained the presumed author of the letter later the same day; he is reportedly in his 70s, with a history of mental illness. LF

An Azerbaijani delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov, the government's point man for the Nagorno-Karabakh talks and who has been identified as a possible future defense minister, concluded two days of talks in Washington on July 10. Issues discussed ranged from Azerbaijan's ongoing cooperation with NATO to democracy and human-rights issues, the emergence in Azerbaijan of "many different interpretations of Islam," Caspian oil and gas, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal that the U.S. and Russia should make joint use of the Qabala over-the-horizon radar station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 5, 13, 14, 15, and 18, 2007), according to a U.S. State Department transcript of a July 9 press conference in which Azimov and U.S. officials participated. LF

During talks in Moscow with Ambassador Yury Popov and Vladislav Chernov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's chief negotiators for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, respectively, Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze accused the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in both conflict zones of "criminal inactivity," specifically, of failing to take action against illegal armed groups, Caucasus Press reported on July 10. Meanwhile in Tbilisi, Antadze's ministry issued a statement on July 10 claiming that two drunken Russian peacekeepers in the Abkhaz conflict zone stopped and searched, without authorization, the car of a Georgian parliament deputy, Caucasus Press reported. According to, however, Georgian police in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi detained two Russian peacekeepers by force late on July 9, and released them only after a senior officer intervened. LF

Also on July 10, the Georgian Ministry for Conflict Resolution issued a statement condemning bellicose statements allegedly made on July 2 by Eduard Kokoity, de facto president of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia, and calling on the international community to do likewise, Caucasus Press reported. The statement quoted Kokoity as threatening to stage terrorist attacks in Georgian cities. It said his regime is incapable "of acting in a constructive and peaceful manner," and that Kokoity resorts to "the only means at his disposal to achieve his political goals and to save himself -- aggression and terrorism." The summary of Kokoity's July 2 press conference posted on the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee website did not include any comparable threat. Instead, it quoted Kokoity as stressing the need to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement on defusing tensions in the conflict zone. Specifically, he called for the signing by the two sides of a memorandum on the non-use of force or the threat of force, which, he said, would serve as "the first major step on the path toward restoring mutual trust." LF

Speaking at a press conference in the northern Kyrgyz resort of Cholponata after meeting with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on July 10 that Russia will increase its investment in the Kyrgyz economy, AKIpress and ITAR-TASS reported. The foreign ministers discussed expanding bilateral relations, with a special focus on the energy and transport sectors. During an official visit to Bishkek to attend the ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Lavrov also met on July 9 in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and discussed regional security, energy development, and bilateral trade. RG

In comments during a press conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz deputy parliament speaker Kubanychbek Isabekov warned on July 10 that Russia and China "will exert pressure on the Kyrgyz leadership" to force them "to evict" the United States from its military base in Kyrgyzstan, AKIpress reported. Isabekov explained that the Russian and Chinese pressure will come during the August SCO summit, but asserted that "Kyrgyzstan, as a sovereign state, has the right to determine its foreign and domestic policies on its own." He further defended the U.S. use of the Manas air base, located just outside Bishkek, as essential for stability operations in Afghanistan and argued that the base "must remain in Kyrgyzstan." Isabekov recently returned from the United States, where he held several meetings with U.S. officials and members of Congress. RG

In his opening address to the SCO foreign-ministerial meeting in Bishkek on July 9, President Bakiev hailed the SCO as an "important foreign-policy priority" for Kyrgyzstan, according to AKIpress. Bakiev added that over the six years of its activity, the SCO has become an "effective tool for ensuring security and stability" and noted its expanded mandate, which now includes "active cooperation" with Afghanistan. The SCO meeting was convened in Bishkek to prepare for the organization's summit, set for August 16 in the Kyrgyz capital. It was attended by ministers from China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. RG

After meeting with visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin in Ashgabat on July 10, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov announced that an agreement on the construction of a new Caspian natural-gas pipeline will be ready by September, according to ITAR-TASS and Turkmen TV. The statement is tied to an agreement reached in May in which Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan agreed to build a pipeline along the Caspian Sea coast to transport Turkmen natural gas to Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 14, 2007). Naryshkin was visiting Ashgabat at the head of a large Russian delegation to attend a session of the Russian-Turkmen intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation. It was the first meeting of the bilateral commission in five years, signaling an attempt to improve relations between Ashgabat and Moscow. RG

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on July 10 said that NATO enlargement and the planned deployment of elements of a U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic constitute a much greater security threat to other European countries than to Belarus, Belapan reported. "The U.S. is increasing its presence in the region without consulting its European partners," Lukashenka said. "The Europeans are pretending not to notice this and are keeping mum about it, but we know what such silence can lead to." Lukashenka also said he ranks energy cooperation as a top priority in dialogue between Belarus and the EU, and accused European politicians of laxness in dealing with energy security. "The Europeans should have addressed this problem long ago, rather than waiting until the [gas] crisis in the relationship between Belarus and Russia, which badly hit the EU." AM

Mikhail Orda, a lawmaker in Belarus's House of Representatives, has criticized the resolution on Belarus adopted on July 9 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 10, 2007), Belapan reported on July 10. Orda told the agency, "The ugliest thing is that the resolution begins with [a suggestion that] Belarus -- a country that has never threatened to anyone, that was among the first to adopt measures to fight terrorism, and that does not have drug trafficking despite being a transit route -- constitutes a threat to Europe!" He continued, "On the contrary, we are contributors to European security today. And it is not clear where we will end up if we now start manipulating the concept of 'security.'" Orda also said that France, with its "Muslim affairs and riots," is a greater threat to European security than Belarus. AM

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Solyom, have signed a declaration on joint memorials for victims of earlier regimes, Interfax reported on July 10. During an official visit to Hungary, Yushchenko presented Solyom with a list of Hungarian citizens arrested during the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and deported to Soviet prisons in Ukraine. Yushchenko also gave Solyom declassified documents on the grave sites of prisoners of war, foreigners interned in Ukraine, and slain soldiers. The documents contain data on 18 grave sites and the names of 1,184 deceased. Yushchenko described the signing of the agreement as "another page in joint [Ukrainian-Hungarian] history," adding that the next step should be the construction of a monument on the grave site of 277 Hungarians in Bryanka, in Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast. AM

President Yushchenko has said that the rent paid by the Russian Black Sea Fleet deployed in Ukraine's Crimea region will gradually be reviewed, Interfax reported on July 10. "There is no doubt that the cost of the fleet's presence will change, because it is connected with other factors influencing the final price," Yushchenko said. He added that Ukrainian policy regarding the Russian fleet's presence in Crimea should be addressed soon. "The goal of a specially created commission is to start talks and draw up an action plan for this and next year. This topic is delicate, but it should be settled," Yushchenko said, but provided no details on possible new conditions of the fleet deployment. Under the terms of a 1997 Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia pays $97 million annually for the naval base in Crimea. AM

Ukraine's Security Service and Foreign Ministry announced on July 6 that Ukraine has lifted a travel ban on a number of Russian citizens "whose activity was associated with encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine and incitement of ethnic enmity," Interfax reported on July 9. The Russian Foreign Ministry on July 10 took a similar step, lifting a travel ban for Ukrainian citizens earlier declared personae non grata. Both countries' decisions do not apply to people suspected of terrorism or criminal offenses. In January 2006, Ukrainian border guards expelled Russian political analyst Kiryll Frolov from Crimea, and in February 2007, the Russian border service at the St. Petersburg airport barred Ukrainian lawmaker Petro Poroshenko from entering Russia. The incidents have prompted speculation that both Ukraine and Russia maintain lists of unwanted foreigners. AM

The head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Joachim Ruecker, on July 9 asked the UN Security Council to provide "a roadmap, a timetable, to assure Kosovo's 2 million inhabitants of where they are headed," the UNMIK press office reported on July 9. Ruecker was speaking at a closed session of the UN Security Council at the same time that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon unveiled a regular report in which he warned that "any further delay will have a very negative impact on peace and security, not only in Kosovo" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). Ruecker stressed the "considerable" progress that UNMIK has "put in place very firmly" since entering the "complete security vacuum" left by the 1998-99 conflict, and he argued that "we have reached a critical point where further progress on the ground depends on ensuring clarity on Kosovo's status." As in previous reports to the Security Council, Ruecker said the foundations are in place for "a functioning democracy, a functioning rule-of-law sector and a functioning market economy" in Kosova. Ruecker praised the Kosovars as "remarkably patient" but said that "they fear that the status process is losing momentum and what had appeared to have been an imminent resolution of Kosovo's status will unravel." Ban too expressed the fear that the progress in Kosova could "unravel" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). Ban underscored the point at a news conference in Brussels on July 10, where he met with Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu. AG

Ethnic-Albanian veterans of the 2001 conflict in Macedonia have joined Kosovar Albanian veterans in stating that they are prepared to fight for Kosova's independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 10, 2007). The Macedonian daily "Dnevik" on July 10 quoted Fazli Veliu, the head of a veterans' association and a member of parliament, as saying that he is prepared to lead 10,000 men. Veliu said that former guerrillas in Kosova and Macedonia maintain close contact and will soon hold a joint meeting. "If the [UN] resolution on Kosova's status continues to be delayed, it will be in all Albanians' interest that we should help them," Veliu said, stressing that "if necessary, we are prepared to fight with weapons for Kosova's independence." AG

The international community's new high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak, on July 10 fired 36 ethnic-Serbian policemen for their involvement in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, international and local media reported the same day. This is the first high-profile step taken by Lajcak, who took up his position on July 2. Lajcak also ordered the confiscation of passports belonging to 93 men suspected of having participated in the Srebrenica massacre, including the 36 sacked police officers. The most senior figure to be expelled, Dragomir Andan, is a former head of the Bosnian Serb police. He was sacked by one of Lajcak's predecessors, Paddy Ashdown, but moved into the position of deputy director for training. The Bosnian Serb-dominated region of Republika Srpska two years ago compiled a list of 810 serving officials suspected of involvement in the atrocity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 25 and June 20, 2007). On July 11, Bosnian Muslims mark the 12th anniversary of the massacre. AG

Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of the Republika Srpska, on July 10 withdrew for a month from further talks on the future of Bosnia's constitution and its police forces, local media reported the same day. Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serbian member of Bosnia's three-member Presidency, will represent Dodik's party in talks on the constitution, while Milan Jelic, the president of the Republika Srpska, will negotiate on police reforms. A letter that Dodik addressed to the leaders of other political parties and the Office of the High Representative has not been published, but another leader of Dodik's Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Rajko Vasic, said the party concluded, based on "thorough analysis" of talks on reforms, that a break was the "best" option. Vasic added, in comments published by the daily "Oslobodenje" on July 10, that Dodik's decision stems from a need to take a "rest from the unproductive talks on the constitution and the police and to get involved in earnest in the economic development of the Republika Srpska." Questions about the constitution have acquired a sharper edge since February, when the UN's top court ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica was an act of genocide, with the most senior Bosnian Muslim politician, Haris Silajdzic, arguing that the creation of the Republika Srpska was itself the product of genocide and that it should therefore be dissolved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 27 and 28, 2007). Dodik has accepted the court's assessment of the massacre, unlike some Serbian politicians, but rejects the idea of collective guilt and the possibility of the Bosnian Serbs' autonomous region being dissolved. Dodik himself will not attend the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre; the most senior ethnic Serb at the ceremony will be Dodik's deputy, Jasna Brkic, the news agency FENA reported on July 10. Dodik and Silajdzic have also clashed repeatedly over police reform, with Dodik rejecting Silajdzic's demand that the Republika Srpska police should be disbanded. Dodik's office on July 10 dismissed speculation that Dodik's decision to withdraw from talks is the result of ill health. In comments carried by the daily "Glas Srpske" on July 10, Vasic predicted that the Bosnian Muslims will soon "be crying out for Dodik." "When they heard about this letter, they were happy, because they thought that they would find it easier to cope with Jelic and Radmanovic, but I think that they have been thrown off in their calculations." AG

The Greek government on July 10 recalled its ambassador to Macedonia, Dora Grosomanidou, the Macedonian news agency Makfax reported the same day. Makfax quoted the online Greek publication "Ta Nea" as saying that Grosomanidou will be replaced by Greek Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Alexandra Papadopoulou. According to "Ta Nea," Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was angered at a decision by Grosomanidou to give an interview to the "Financial Times" without asking the government for permission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). The report does not indicate the government's stance on Grosomanidou's actual comments, in which she said that "Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been recognized under its constitutional name by more than half of the members of the United Nations." Grosomanidou was summoned on July 6 to Athens to explain her comments. At the time, a spokesman said that there was no immediate question that she might be recalled. Greece insists that Macedonia should adopt a different name in order to differentiate it from the Greek province of Macedonia. AG

If partitioning Iraq is inevitable, then don't waste time resisting it. That's the conclusion of Edward Joseph of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. However, both Joseph and O'Hanlon say partitioning Iraq was far from their first choice of how to set up the country politically following the removal of Saddam Hussein.

But if it's happening, O'Hanlon said, they propose trying to make it happen well.

They call their proposal "soft partitioning" -- keeping Iraq as a single, sovereign country, but with three distinct regions, each responsible for its own security and governing institutions.

"Whether you like the idea of soft partition or not -- and frankly most of us don't, and it wouldn't be a first choice for very many people at all -- it's happening in Iraq," O'Hanlon said during a July 5 presentation at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. "Up to 100,000 people a month are being violently displaced from their homes. It is being ethnically segregated. It is becoming Bosnia, in some ways. And we would rather talk about how you might manage that process rather than have the death squads and the militias do the separation for us."

Joseph and O'Hanlon said there is no reason why Baghdad couldn't be a kind of capital, but it shouldn't be the country's power center. In fact, as Joseph argued, the existence of a power center in Iraq is what's causing the sectarian violence.

"The more power is concentrated in Baghdad, the more Shi'ites will have to dominate it," he said. "That's the fundamental fact, and it's basically an axiom of reality in today's Iraq. And as we show in the paper, marshalling the evidence, the so-called security dilemma that this produces infects government from the highest levels and helps propel the sectarian conflict. And so it would appear at this point, given Iraq's political realities, that it's self-defeating to insist on a centralized structure for Iraq."

Even a soft partitioning, Joseph and O'Hanlon concede, would require some displacements. But they believe such migrations can be managed in order to avoid the sort of ethnic cleansing that is occurring now.

Under a soft-partitioning program, some populations would be asked to relocate in order to help keep each region ethnically coherent. But Joseph and O'Hanlon said it would not be necessary to force anyone to move.

Joseph said mandatory relocation would be morally little better than ethnic cleansing. But, he added, there's another way to look at the situation.

"There's a flip side to the moral question, which is: of course it's wrong to forcibly uproot people from their homes," he said. "But is it morally correct to insist -- as is the current policy -- to insist that people remain where they're living when you can't protect them?"

What about neighboring Iran? O'Hanlon says he doesn't believe the current government of Iran wants to help Iraq, even though both countries are predominantly Shi'ite.

O'Hanlon said he believes the United States should talk with Iran, but not to expect any positive response.

"Implicitly -- and now I'll make it explicit -- what we're saying is, Iraqis matter more than Iran," O'Hanlon said. "I don't expect any favors from Iran. I think Iran -- as our intelligence agencies have been concluding -- is in a proxy war against the United States. I think Iran would be willing to risk a destabilized Iraq to see us defeated. I expect no goodwill from them. I still think we should talk to them, partly to put pressure on them and to embarrass them in the eyes of the world and present the evidence we've got in front of as many other countries as possible."

The idea of partitioning Iraq isn't new. It was first proposed by a group including U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware), a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The White House has rejected the proposal. Instead, it's working to build up a strong central government and parliament in Baghdad.

O'Hanlon said he, too, once rejected the idea, but now it seems to him the only sensible way to pacify Iraq.

"This is very hard to do. I'm sure, frankly, it's impossible to do with complete robustness, which is why [Joseph] and I waited until 2007 to propose this plan -- or actually late 2006, which was the first time we went into print with this," O'Hanlon explained. "Because at that point it just seemed that there had been enough civil war, enough ethnic cleansing, enough violence -- that frankly holding on to the idea of an integrated Iraq the way it used to be was no longer viable and the risks of implementing soft partition were no longer greater than the risks of what we already were trying."

(Andrew Tully is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington.)

Afghanistan's efforts to improve its economy have helped to qualify it for debt relief, said the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on July 9, the BBC reported the next day. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) enables poorer countries with a proven record of implementing economic-governance reforms to receive provisional debt cancellation from certain creditors, Reuters reported on July 9. IMF Deputy Managing Director Murilo Portugal commended Afghanistan for its progress in stabilizing its economy and advancing structural reform, "despite a difficult security environment and persistent expenditure pressures." World Bank Director for Afghanistan Alastair McKechnie noted that the relief would free up resources for essential services like health care and education. Afghanistan's total foreign debt stood at $11.9 billion in 2006. Afghanistan is the 31st country to quality for the HIPC. JC

A suicide blast targeting a NATO patrol in a crowded marketplace on July 10 left 19 people dead, including 13 school-aged children, AP reported. Reports on the bomb and the number of casualties vary. Deputy district police chief Jahih Kawi Khan said the bombing wounded at least 35 Afghan citizens and eight Dutch soldiers, while the Interior Ministry said 17 people were killed and the head of the provincial health department said 51 were injured. Afghan officials report the bomber was on foot, although NATO stated it was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. All officials agreed that the victims included schoolchildren, provoking a response from top UN representative in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs. "Such utter disregard for innocent lives is staggering, and those behind this must be held responsible," Koenigs said. Purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yusof Ahmadi said one of the group's members conducted the attack. JC

Despite a lack of resources and the daily threat of bombs and suicide attacks, Afghanistan's young musicians are fighting to revive the centuries-old tradition of classical Hindustani music in Kabul, the Inter Press Service news agency reported on July 10. Prior to the factional wars of the 1990s and bans on music under the Taliban, the Kharabat, one of the oldest sections of Kabul, was known for maintaining the musical traditions of Afghanistan. The years of war and oppression saw musical instruments destroyed and most musicians imprisoned, killed, or exiled. Young artists like sitarist Nassir Aziz are working to revive the classical Hindustani music, characterized by Indian and Afghan influences, and to introduce new forms of the tradition in spite of the violence raging around them. "Despite difficult conditions, we are trying our best to practice music," said Aziz. "We know full well that we have a very long way to go." JC

Despite advances in women's rights and education, girls are still bartered like commodities in Afghanistan in order to settle family debts and disputes, AP reported on July 9. Outdated tribal laws authorize a practice known in the Dari language as "bad," under which girls are traded to repay personal loans and as restitution for murder. Afghan farmer Nazir Ahmad sold his 16-year-old daughter, Malia, for nine sheep in order to settle a $165 debt. Forced marriage is also common -- accounting for approximately 40 percent of Afghan nuptials, according to the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Such exchanges can be made in place of a traditional betrothal, which can cost more than $1,000. However, the Shinwaris, a deeply conservative tribe in eastern Afghanistan, signed a resolution this year outlawing several practices that harm girls and women, including blood feuds in which a male murderer offers his daughter or sister as a bride for a man in his victim's family. Although violence against women remains prevalent, Afghanistan has made significant advances in women's rights since the years of Taliban rule, during which women were banned from attending school, seeking employment, or leaving home unaccompanied by a male relative. JC

Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by Olli Heinonen, a deputy head of the IAEA and the head of its Department of Safeguards, arrived in Tehran on July 11 to address outstanding questions about aspects of Iran's nuclear activities. According to Iran's IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Heinonen is leading a team of technical specialists, diplomats, and jurists who will discuss the details of Iran's cooperation with the UN agency, but will not visit installations on this trip. The delegation is also expected to meet with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani and unspecified deputies, Soltanieh said. VS

A spokesman for Iran's judiciary, Alireza Jamshidi, on July 10 confirmed reports that a man was stoned to death for adultery on July 5, Radio Farda reported. The stoning took place in a village near Takestan, a district of Qazvin Province, west of Tehran. Jafar Kiani was convicted and sentenced to death 11 years ago alongside his partner, Mokarameh Ebrahimi, whose death sentence is presently suspended, Jamshidi told a Tehran press conference. Iran's judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi ordered the suspension of both sentences days ago, apparently after news of the sentences prompted protests by rights activists. It was not immediately clear why the suspension order was reversed in Kiani's case, but Jamshidi said stoning for adultery is an Islamic penalty, and that the sentence is "definitive" and thus had to be carried out. He said "the intention of the judiciary was not to have sentences like this implemented in this way." VS

Judiciary spokesman Jamshidi told the press that 20 death sentences have been issued in Tehran for "louts" and other criminals charged with "violating" families or women. It was not immediately clear if he meant people convicted on charges of rape or attempted rape, or for harassment. He said "the death sentences for this group will be implemented in the coming days," Radio Farda reported. Jamshidi said 15 other criminals are being charged, and public prosecutors are also seeking their execution. An unspecified number of "louts" may face execution in provincial towns, Jamshidi added. Asked if some of those were arrested in a recent police drive to clear the streets of criminals and violent delinquents, as well as people suspected of indecent public conduct and appearance, Jamshidi merely said that "these are people with the charges I have stated, and their sentences have been finalized and will be implemented." VS

The Intelligence Ministry chief in Iran's southwestern province of Kermanshah has reported the discovery of "five spy networks" in the province and the arrest of 20 suspected spies, IRNA reported on July 9, identifying the official only as Karimi. He said some of the suspected spies are Iranians and others are foreigners, although he did not specify nationalities. Karimi said they had been recruited and trained "by the enemy's intelligence services" for "economic, military, political, cultural, and social goals" in Iran. Karimi said intelligence agents have also arrested three members of PJAK, a Kurdish militant group apparently related to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, for their alleged role in bombings in the city of Kermanshah on May 8. The bombings damaged the offices of the district governorate and the Trade Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 9, 2007). Karimi said the three people arrested were found with 10 kilograms of explosives, Radio Farda reported. VS

The Interior Ministry stated on July 10 that senior officials and civil servants must resign from their posts no later than July 12 if they wish to run for parliament in elections scheduled for next March, in line with election laws, IRNA reported. The ministry said officials such as the president, vice presidents, Expediency Council secretary and his deputies, ministers, deputy ministers, and acting ministers can only run for elected office if they resign six months before the formal registration date for candidates. Other officials subject to these rules range from the most senior officials of all government branches to district governors and armed forces personnel, IRNA quoted the ministry's public relations department as saying. VS

In a July 10 interview with "The New York Times", U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker warned that a U.S. troop pullout or a significant troop reduction in Iraq would lead to a sharp increase in violence. "You have to look at what the consequences would be, and you look at those who say we could have bases elsewhere in the country. Well yes, we could, but we would have the prospect of American forces looking on while civilians by the thousands were slaughtered. Not a pretty prospect," Crocker said. He also warned that a troop pullout could lead to a reemergence of the Al-Qaeda in Iraq militant faction, which has been "pretty hard-pressed of late" because of the troop surge. Crocker also stressed that sectarian pressures and a security vacuum caused by the absence of U.S. forces might lead to the collapse of Iraq's security forces, leading them to split up into militias. On July 9, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said a quick U.S. troop pullout from Iraq would lead to civil war and the collapse of the Iraqi state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). Zebari was reacting to a July 9 report in "The New York Times" indicating that some U.S. administration officials, fearing the loss of more Republican support, are considering a gradual pullout of U.S. troops from "high-casualty areas." SS

General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, said in a July 9 interview with the BBC that counterinsurgency operations in Iraq will be a "long-term endeavor," and could take decades. "I don't know whether this will be decades, but the average counterinsurgency is somewhere around a nine- or ten-year endeavor," Petraeus said. He stressed that the recent troop surge has had positive effects in stabilizing the region, reducing sectarian violence, and rooting out Al-Qaeda-linked militants. For example, he noted that "June was the lowest month for sectarian deaths in a year." However, he cautioned that the true effectiveness of the troop surge will not be known until September. "I think again we need to see where we are in September when we'll have had a couple of months of all of our forces [deployed]. We are still in the first month of the surge of operations that is following now the surge of forces," he said. SS

Major General Abd al-Aziz Muhammad Jasim, the director of operations at the Iraqi Defense Ministry, told "Al-Hayat" on July 10 that ongoing military operations in Diyala Governorate have severely weakened Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He said the organization is so disorganized that it is incapable of carrying out any serious operations, and most of its threats are solely propaganda. "Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq are on their way to disappearing in Iraq, particularly after the blows to the organization last year," Jasim said. "It has become an exhausted and fragmented organization, but it still has large media resources that have backing, and this is blowing Al-Qaeda out of proportion to cover up its losses," he added. SS

Baghdad's Green Zone came under heavy attack on July 10, when dozens of mortar shells fell on the heavily fortified area, international media reported. A U.S. Embassy spokesman initially reported no casualties, but Reuters reported that three people were killed and at least 25 were wounded. There were differing accounts as to how many mortar shells landed in the Green Zone. The BBC reported 12; AP said 23; KUNA reported that as many as 40 explosions were heard; and the Iraqi daily "Al-Melaf" said an eyewitness inside the Green Zone saw dozens of Katyusha rockets being fired into the area. KUNA described the attack as the biggest on the Green Zone in four years. SS

The Jihad and Reform Front, a coalition of armed Sunni groups, issued a statement on July 9 condemning the massive suicide truck bombing in the northern town of Tuz Khurmato on July 7 that killed 150 people and wounded more than 250, AP reported. "These acts are in breach of the Koran," the statement said. "The deliberate killing of one believer has enormous consequences, so how can you kill tens or hundreds!" It also called on all armed groups to "disavow such criminal acts, condemn and denounce those who commit them, and expose those who stand behind them." The authenticity of the statement could not be verified. The Jihad and Reform Front includes the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Islamic Army, Ansar Al-Sunnah, and the Army of the Mujahedin. It was formed in May as a counterweight to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has angered many armed Sunni groups for its indiscriminate attacks on civilians. SS

The Japanese cabinet announced on July 10 that it will extend its air-transport mission to Iraq for another year to July 31, 2008, the Kyodo news service reported. "The government has decided to extend the mission to demonstrate our commitment to the reconstruction efforts for Iraq and to continue the stable transport support by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. "The government will continue to work with the United Nations and other nations concerned to proactively engage in the Iraq reconstruction efforts," he added. Japan has approximately 210 ASDF personnel and three C-130 transport planes based in Kuwait. Their mission mainly entails transporting UN personnel and supplies to Iraq. SS