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Azerbaijan Report: November 19, 2002

19 November 2002
Opposition Papers Claim Governmentt Media-Loan Program Biased
A number of opposition newspapers are claiming that recently available financial assistance to media outlets excludes any media not favored by the government. On 5 September, President Heidar Aliyev signed a long-awaited decree granting loans to a number of newspapers, magazines, and news agencies. Under the decree, 3 billion manats (about $600,000) will be allocated from the state's Fund for Assistance to Entrepreneurs in order to develop independent media in Azerbaijan.

Thus far, the government has announced that it has awarded loans to six yet-to-be-identified media outlets and, according to unofficial information, more will follow in the near future

But Asif Merzili, editor in chief of the pro-opposition newspaper "Tezadlar," said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that after the presidential decree the newspaper applied to the state's Fund for Assistance to Entrepreneurs and submitted a business plan to "Ilkbank." But he says the bank refused to grant a loan to the newspaper, explaining that there was a shortage of funds on reserve.

Merzili said that the government would never give credits to opposition newspapers. "If the government had had such an intention, it would have publicized it more," Merzili said.

Asked whether the newspaper would apply to another bank for a loan, Merzili said that the banks had been given their orders from the top about who would receive the media credits, so he does not want to be engaged in meaningless work.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" also presented a business plan but the editorial staff of the newspaper told RFE/RL that it does not believe that the newspaper's application will be satisfied.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The independent newspaper "525" writes that Armenia is burying radioactive waste in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Under the headline "Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is an iron pipe that connects Azerbaijan to the world," the official newspaper "Azerbaycan" suggests that Azerbaijan and foreign oil companies are preparing a comprehensive work plan for 2002-07.

Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" said, regarding the recent journalists' protests, that journalists themselves don't know what they want. "All newsstands are working, newspapers are selling everywhere. If their newspapers are not bought, then it is their problem," he concluded.

Dunya Sakit in an article entitled "Collapse of the people" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" comments on Heidar Aliev's walk on Baku streets on 17 November, the Day of National Revival. Sakit writes that the president tries to look like a king, but he forgets that in the past when a sovereign wanted to get himself acquainted with the life of the people, he would disguise himself in dervish's clothing before mingling with the people. But Aliyev appears among the people with numerous officials, police, and armed guards. The times and places of the president's visits and walks are kept secret to everyone but the state television, which covers them in detail. The author notes that the president's walk in Baku was not to see how the people live. The purpose is different, Sakit concludes.

Russian oil giant LUKoil will sell its 10 percent share in the Azeri-Chiraq-Guneshli deposit to Japan's Itochu. According to the Russian media, during his recent visit to Baku on 16 November LUKoil President Vahid Alekberov agreed on the issue with SOCAR Vice President Ilham Aliev.

Turgut in the article "LUKoil will sell its fuel stations" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" discussed the reason for LUKoil's departure from Azerbaijan. One interesting point is that LUKoil is closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin. That means that LUKoil has most likely left Azerbaijan for political reasons. With such a step Moscow is indicating that it is not happy with Heidar Aliyev and his "successor plans." Turgut notes that LUKoil has already recouped its $400 million investment in the Azeri-Chiraq-Guneshli deposit and if the company had not left the project, it would have earned $9 billion-$10 billion within 30 years. In other words, LUKoil has no economic reason to sell its share in the project, the author concludes.

An author writing only as Ilgar in an article entitled "Armenians deceive Europe" published in the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" points out that Armenia continues to spread misinformation about Azerbaijan to hinder positive changes in favor of Azerbaijan in the international arena. Azerbaijan is now presented as a country that supports terrorism. Ilgar writes that after the 11 September terror attacks Armenia attempted to blacken Azerbaijan in order to prevent the possibility of a global anti-terror war against the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh in the future. The Armenian media quotes London's "The Times," saying that terrorists would get to Europe through Azerbaijan. The author acknowledges that Azerbaijan is one potential transit country for terrorists, but if some terror group wants to reach Europe, it must also pass some other countries before Azerbaijan. Therefore it is meaningless to accuse any country of supporting terrorists by being a transit country, the author concludes.

Kamal Yazichioglu, the chairman of the International Organization of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSIAB), in an interview with the official newspaper "Khalg," answered questions on economic relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Yazichioglu said that Turkish businessmen show great interest in the Azerbaijani economy, and their activity covers many sectors. Turkey as made the largest investment in the non-oil sector in Azerbaijan. Turkish firms have established the first insurance company, supermarket and five-star hotel in Azerbaijan. To date more than 50 Turkish companies have realized 126 projects at the cost of $1.4 billion. Business sectors where Turkish companies play a significant role are the: trade, 34 percent; service, 26 percent; industry, 19 percent; construction, 11 percent; and transport and media, 10 percent. Yazichioglu added that about 300 private and joint enterprises and companies, which belong to Turkish businessmen in Azerbaijan, employ some 30,000 Azerbaijani citizens.

Rafig Shamkhal, a lecturer at the Baku Technical University, in the article "A textbook problem at institutes of higher education" writes that after obtaining independence in 1991, a vacuum was created in the education sphere. Although new textbooks with the Azerbaijani Roman alphabet are published with the help of conscientious teaching staff, these books do not get into the libraries of institutes of higher education. Therefore teachers are forced to sell their books to students. Such a "book trade" between teachers and students leads to a fall in popularity of the teaching staff among students, Shamkhal says. The author acknowledges that some teachers attempt to benefit from the lack of textbook and get rich. Until the salaries of teaching staffs reach $200-300, such an unpleasant situation in educational bodies will continue, Shamkhal concludes.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)