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Azerbaijan Report: February 5, 2002

5 February 2002
Azerbaijani Parliament Members Propose Extending Presidential Term
The Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament) began its spring session on 1 February. Eldar Ibrahimov (Yeni Azerbaycan Party) suggested making changes to the Constitution and increasing the presidential term from five to seven years. Ibrahimov referred to international practice, pointing out that the term of authorities of the presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has been extended. He said conditions must be created for the president to protect stability in Azerbaijan. Ibrahimov stressed that the extension of the president's term of authority is needed to resolve Azerbaijan's most pressing problems, in the first instance that of Nagorno Karabakh. He pointed out that the term of authority of the French president is also seven years.

Azerbaijan Parliament chairman Murtuz Alasgarov called the proposal "very significant" and said it should be debated, taking into consideration the president's many-sided activity, the essence of the reforms he implements and the significance of the stability established in the republic.

But opposition parties rejected the proposal, pointing out that Azerbaijani is a member to the Council of Europe and progresses in a democratic way. According to them, Azerbaijan is not like Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan and no changes should be made to the Constitution. Such voting can be held through a referendum. But Adalat Party Chairman Ilyas Ismailov says that even if such a referendum is held, the people are on the whole against the government.

Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar was more explicit, dismissing the proposal as nothing but nonsense.

According to Vahdat Party Chairman Tahir Kerimli, the Uzbekistan variant cannot be implemented in Azerbaijan, which is a member of the Council of Europe. Kerimli says that apparently, Heydar Aliyev cannot implement his plan to ensure that his son will succeed him as president and for that reason Aliyev's entourage have proposed extending his presidential term.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

President Aliyev Against Extention Of His Term
Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliyev has spoken against the parliament debating an extension of his presidential term. Aliyev, who is taking part in the Davos Economic Forum in New York, was informed about lawmakers' proposal to extend his term from five to seven years, till the year 2005. According to news agencies, Aliyev believes that "there is no need to introduce constitutional changes concerning the term of office of the president of Azerbaijan." Aliyev was reelected for his second term in October 1998. His term of office ends in the autumn of 2003.

Youth Day Celebrated In Azerbaijan
On 2 February, the Day of Azerbaijani Youth was celebrated in Azerbaijan. The Ministry for Youth, Sports and Tourism held a press conference at which Minister for Youth, Sports and Tourism Abulfaz Garayev said that they try to use all the opportunities created by the government and they have undertaken funding some of the projects realised by youth organisations. But the ministry's activity is limited here. According to Garayev, they are working together with the Ministries for Defence, Internal Affairs and Culture because youth policy is not a problem today.

Garayev said they are conducting serious work in secondary schools through the Ministry of Education. According to him, the vast majority of the Azerbaijani students are faced with social economic problems which the Ministry for Education should take serious measures to solve.

Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister for Social Welfare Tahir Budagov said although his ministry has provided some 19,000 young persons with jobs to date, the problem of youth unemployment still remains acute.

The leadership of the Ministries for Internal Affairs and Culture and of the State Commission for Admittance of Students also took part in the press conference.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Ganimet Zahidov in the newspaper "Azadlig" comments on Iran and Russia's attitude to Azerbaijan, noting that after Putin came to power in Russia, the economic benefits were brought to the forefront in the relationships with Azerbaijan and it resulted in the neutralisation of Russia to a certain extent. But Iran is retaining its harsh political approach towards Azerbaijan. The author explains Iran's attitude by two factors: firstly, it wants to prevent national self-recognition in Southern Azerbaijan, secondly, to hinder Turkey's becoming active in the Caucasus and its strengthening positions on Iran's Northern border. The author concludes that because of these two factors, Iran does not want a strengthening of political stability and the economy or the formation of a strong society in Azerbaijan, and therefore it pursues its regional policy in compliance with this wish.

Gabil Abbasoglu in a commentary entitled "The destroyers of wealth" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that it is impossible to say anything concrete about the foreign policy course of Heydar Aliev, who has been in power since 1993. This course is not based on one-direction conception carrying certain historical-ideological principles. According to the author, Azerbaijan has no ally to rely on in difficult moments. Turkey is generally regarded as such an ally. But Turkey also sees what kind of government is in power in Azerbaijan and recognises that it is impossible or dangerous to establish a permanent and natural alliance between the two states. The author writes that the West considers Heydar Aliyev and his government unreliable partners, noting that the government, which has stolen oil and other material wealth, is ruining the country's political legacy as well.

Tural in an article entitled "Naradaran-like settlement of Azerbaijan's problems" carried by the newspaper "Tezadlar" writes that the residents of the Nardaran settlement decided mid-last year to stage protest actions, but the president of the country responded to these protests by claiming that they were part of a fight for power within the leadership. According to the author, the opposition has pursued an open struggle since 1993 but Heydar Aliyev has not demonstrated any reaction. The author notes that there are some villages in Yevlakh, Kurdemir, Zerdab, Sheki districts of Azerbaijan where conditions are even worse than in Nardaran, but nobody feels pity for their inhabitants. According to the author, two conditions are required to this end. First, each village in Azerbaijan must resort to protest action, second, every protest action must aim at fighting for power.

Kerimli in the newspaper "Khalg" comments on developments in the opposition camp noting that the Musavat party has made another dangerous mistake in its relations with the People's Front. According to the author, Isa Gambar refused to concede the post of chairman of the Democratic Congress to Mirmahmud Mirelioglu and demonstrated his weakness in this context. The author thinks that such a trend could put an end to the APFP-Musavat alliance, which is becoming fragile. Taking into consideration that the pro-Musavat Democratic Congress is founded on this alliance, one can state that the alliance will soon be consigned to history. Thus, it appears that Isa Gambar, who aspires to become the single candidate of the opposition for president, cannot become even the single candidate of the Democratic Congress.

Aslan Khalidi in an article "The Iranian regime and human rights" carried by the newspaper "525" notes that the rights of the peoples living in Iran, as well as the Southern Azerbaijani Turks have been exposed to pressure by different regimes since centuries.At present, the Mullah regime, which is in power in Iran under the veil of religion, does not reject human rights but violates the rights of ethnic groups and exposes them to moral and physical pressure. The author recalls that the Southern Azerbaijani Turks living under the yoke of the Iranian regime have an ancient history and rich culture, which have been denied and concealed by successive Iranian regimes. The author notes in conclusion that now, the Southern Azerbaijani Turks want to determine their rights in compliance with the Human Rights Declaration. The Mullah regime must be confident that the Southern Azerbaijani Turks with deep wisdom, clear thinking and internal culture will regain their rights which have been violated for centuries.

Emin Huseynzadeh in a commentary "We repeat others' mistakes" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that the oil policy Azerbaijan is implementing now was once pursued in Nigeria. It became known after long years that irreversible changes have taken place in society. They are the major scale of corruption, the degradation in production, its remaining in the state property and the private owners' gaining grounds in the commercial and service spheres. As the state has been exposed to monopoly, the social state of the people is improving gradually and the development in figures is not reflected at all in reality. According to the author, world practice tries to teach us something but we do not want to learn from it. Briefly, Azerbaijan must learn from Nigeria.

Veli Ismailov in the newspaper "Azerbaijan" recalls developments in Azerbaijan in 1991-92, noting that when the Soviet army left Azerbaijan it gave back its arsenal. Then some forces tried to ensure that separate groups, not the state, obtained these weapons and could achieve their goal. The author writes that the then-government could not collect the weapons. Even the political parties-APFP-Musavat pair, the Azerbaijan National Liberation Party, the Bozgurd Party and others began to arm. According to the author, bargaining for weapons was underway in a country in the state of anarchy. Persons carrying illegal arms walked the streets of Baku and it was dangerous to go out into the streets in the evenings.

Azerbaijan Democrat Party member Nureddin Mammadli in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that the ADP will not join any political bloc. He also noted that the model of their cooperation will emerge when there is a need to focus on a concrete issue. Mammadli says that they support the consolidation of real opposition forces and will not compromise their interests for the interests of some other party.

According to the newspaper "Ekho," Ministry for National Security employees have confiscated lamps with radioactive substances from an Iranian citizen. Novruz Kerimov, chief investigator for especially important affairs of the Ministry for National Security, said the lamps were imported to Azerbaijan by an Iranian citizen named Alirza. The radiation emitted by the radioactive metallic net can cause various diseases.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)