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Azerbaijan Report: November 3, 2003

3 November 2003
President Ilham Aliyev Sworn In
On 31 October Ilham Aliyev was inaugurated as Azerbaijan's new president, succeeding his ailing father, Heidar Aliyev. Acording to the official results of the 15 October presidential elections, Ilham Aliyev won 76,84 percent of the vote.

At his speech after the inaugural ceremony, Aliyev pledged to uphold his father's policies and promote more active participation by Azerbaijan in international and regional policy. Touching on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, President Aliyev said that he is for a peaceful solution to the conflict with Armenia. Although the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group's attempts have not produced results to date, the hope for peaceful negotiations still remains.

Among those attending the inauguration ceremony were Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Turkish State Minister Abdullatif Shener, and Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

Local experts find it difficult to determine which way President-elect Ilham Aliyev will eventually go. Aliyev is a new politician, therefore, it is difficult to talk about his capabilities and skills, according to them. Rauf Mirgadirov of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" suggested that Aliyev is now confronted with a serious dilemma: whether to continue his father's political course or launch serious political and economic reforms. If Aliyev follows the old way, in other words, if he sticks to Heidar Aliyev's political line, this could escalate the situation within the country.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

U.S. Calls For Investigation Of Presidential Elections
The U.S. administration has called on Baku to conduct an independent and transparent investigation of offenses observed during the presidential elections on 15 October.

At a 27 October press briefing where he answered questions concerning the U.S. administration's position on the elections, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Baucher said: "There were some violent clashes, I think, that have taken place since the election. We understand now that those might have ended. Obviously, we urge all the parties to exercise maximum restraint, and restrain from further violence.... The U.S. concurs with the OSCE assessment that the voting was 'generally orderly but the election process still fell short of international standards.' So we would call for an immediate, independent, thorough, and transparent investigation of all the violations."

Commenting on the U.S. statement, political scientist Eldar Namazov pointed out that the administration's statements regarding the presidential elections have had a certain impact. As a result of the administration's 21 October statement, most of those arrested in the post-election riots have been released. But all this should not give the mistaken impression that the government has softened its position, since the arrest of opposition activists continues. Moreover, Namazov expressed doubt that Baku would take a positive approach to the U.S. administration's recommendation to launch a fair and unbiased investigation of election irregularities.

Namazov said that by smearing the presidential elections with numerous offenses and falsifications, the local authorities have placed themselves in a difficult situation on the international arena. The upcoming debates about the elections and political prisoners at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe bode nothing good for the incumbent government.

According to Mubariz Ahmedoglu, head of the Center for Political Innovations and Technologies, Baku is forced to comply withWashington's call in certain issues. At the same time, the government will not take serious steps toward the cancellation of the elections results.

(Babek Bekir)

Human Rights Groups Claim Post-Election Detainees Tortured
"Since the elections, every day we receive reports about torture and other unacceptable treatment against detainees. Nevertheless, if the number of those addressing us at first ranged from 20 to 30 every day, now this number has fallen to 12-13 people," said Leila Yunus, head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy.

Murad Sadeddinov, chairman of the Fund for the Development of Democracy and Protection of Human Rights, claimed that he has met with some detainees who were subjected to torture. Sadeddinov recalled that Azerbaijan has undertaken certain obligations before the United Nations and the Council of Europe regarding human rights. The latest events have showed that these commitments are not being met.

But Abutalib Samadov, head of the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, said that he could not prove the reliability of the allegations regarding torture, since the committee does not possess such information.

Bahar Muradova, deputy secretary-general, of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, said that allegations that prisoners undergo severe torture do not correspond to reality. According to Muradova, the dissemination of such contradictory reports is intended to discredit the government and law-enforcement bodies.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

Armenia Endorses Further Negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia is interested in continuing the dialogue over the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, according to Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Ruben Shugarian, head of the Armenian delegation to the session of Black Sea Economic Cooperation foreign ministers held on 31 October in Baku. Shugharian said that the negotiations on a solution to the conflict had been frozen for some time during the presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan. But Armenia is for the continuation and intensification of the dialogue.

"I think the dialogue will be continued at the level of the presidents' representatives and the presidents. It is still difficult to point to a concrete date and other details of the next meetings. But at the same time, some international forums are expected to be held in the near future. These questions will probably be clarified during these forums," Shugarian concluded.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)