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Kazakh Report: November 10, 2000

10 November 2000

Qasymzhomart Toqaev held talks with the Vice President of Exxon Mobil, Garry Longwill, in Astana on November 10. Longwill said at a press conference after those talks "...The developments here [in Kazakhstan] are very high cost, they are very difficult from a technology standpoint, but we are confident that we have all the capability that is necessary to develop this... in an efficient way, but obviously it will take time, a lot of money, and a lot of expertise required." Asked about the possible impact of the U.S. Presidential election outcome on American oil companies' operations in Kazakhstan, Mr. Longwill answered: "Well, is difficult to speculate on... Obviously having strong America-based companies participating internationally in oil development is very important to the U.S. interest around the world and I am sure whatever administration comes into... or is finally selected,.... elected, this country will continue to have good relationship and support from the U.S. government."

An international seminar on Human Rights in Central Asian states was held in Almaty's National Press Club on 10 November within the framework of the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation's project on Analytical Journalism. Mikhail Ardzinov, a human rights activist from Uzbekistaan, said that the level of human rights and freedom of speech in that country is critical. He said hundreds of "innocent persons are kept in labour camps situated in the deserts of Uzbekistan's Karakalpakistan Autonomous Region." Ardzinov also said that mainly political prisoners and those found guilty of being members of alleged radical Islamic movements are kept in such labour camps. He added that Uzbek President Islam Karimov should stop oppressive measures against Uzbek Muslims and that it is necessary for the Uzbek government to hold negotiations with opposition parties and movements. Lidia Isamova of Tajikistan's Asia Plus News Agency said the human rights situation in Tajikistan has improved since the end of the civil war in1996. She said that during the four-year conflict about 20,000 civilians were killed, including 57 journalists, while 10,000 Tajik citizens had to leave for neighbouring Afghanistan and about 15,000 Tajiks moved to other CIS states.

The Lebanese CCC company held a special exhibition devoted to its operations in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in the world in the town of Aqsay in Western Kazakhstan Oblast on 10 November. CCC representative Akhmed Alifai told RFE/RL that the main aim of the exhibition was to attract private and state oil companies into partnership with CCC. CCC is working in the Qarashyghanaq natural gas field in Western Kazakhstan.

The price of natural gas in South Kazakhstan is getting higher as a result of a reduction in natural gas supplies from neighbouring Uzbekistan and also of the suspension of natural gas production activities at Shymkent Refinery. South Kazakhstan owes Uzbekistani natural gas suppliers about $846,000. Baltabay Zharylqasyn, the Chief of South Kazakhstan's Energy Department, told RFE/RL that the situation is under control and that the problem will be solved in the nearest future.

Speaking on 9 November at a joint session of the government, the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecutor's Office, President Nursultan Nazarbaev harshly criticised the activities the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's office. Nazarbaev said police officers commit numerous human rights abuses during investigations, on occasion even torturing suspects or staging mock executions. He warned Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin and Interior Minister Qairbek Suleymenov that they will be fired if the situation does not improve.

Four members of the Strike Committee established by several political parties and movements in Kazakhstan (Alash, the Republican People's Party, the Turkic Union, Zher-Ana, Zhangyru, Zheltoqsan) started a hunger strike at Democracy House in Almaty on 9 November to demand the suspension of Senate hearings on the draft Law on Land. That law was adopted by the Lower Chamber of Parliament, the Mazhilis, late last month. The Strike Committee demands the text of the draft law be published in mass media for nation-wide discussion, adding that an alternative draft law outlined by opposition parties and movements should also be taken into account during the hearings. The hunger strikers are: Gulshat Orynbaeva (Zher-Ana movement), Umit Basmanova (Zheltoqsan Movement), Seiyttay Abdenov (Alash Party), Tursyngul Orynbaeva (Attan Movement).

Valerii Serikbaev, the Chief of the License Department at Kazakh Minister of Education and Science, told journalists in Almaty on 9 November that in the last 20 days 60 Universities and 43 branches of different schools and Universities have been deprived their licenses. Only in the Atyrau and Aqtau cities of Western Kazakhstan alone, 10 schools and 13 universities were closed. He also said that in Pavlodar Oblast of Northern Kazakhstan more than 150 branches of Russian Universities have been functioning illegally without any licenses. Some 6,500 Kazakh students were affected by the closures.

Experts from the Russian Federation and Central Asian countries took part in an international seminar in Almaty on 9 November devoted to regional security in Central Asia. The seminar was organised by UK-based Institute War and Peace. Muqymzhan Qyrghyzbaev of the Statehood and Society Department aof the Uzbek Presidential Office told participants that social stability and security in Uzbekistan is threatened by "outside forces, namely Islamic radicals and wahabbites." Mikhail Ardzinov, a human rights activist from Uzbekistan, said that the drastic situation in Uzbekistan is caused by oppressive regime of President Islam Karimov. Vitaliy Ponomarev of the Moscow-based human rights organisation Memorial said that in 1999 alone the number of persons arrested in Uzbekistan for alleged participation in the activities of the Hezb-ut-Tahrir party was about 4,500. He said that thousands of Muslims are jailed and tortured just for their faith. Ponomarev said the situation in Uzbekistan is an example of "a situation created by interior policy in a single country which might possibly damage the security of the whole region."

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Mustafa Mujbeer held talks in Astana on November 8 with Kazakh Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev. The two men told a press conference after those talks that they discussed the further development of Kazakh-Libyan economic and agreed to establish a special Kazakh-Libyan economic committee. They also noted that Libya is interested in Kazakhstan's oil sector. Later on 8 November Mujbeer was scheduled to hold talks with President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Mujbeer told correspondents that one of the issues to be discussed was a possible official visit by Libyan President Muammar Kaddafi to Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan's Central Asian Political Research Agency presented a new journal called "Central Asia: Economy and Politics" on 8 November. The Agency's analyst, Erlan Qarin, told RFE/RL that the new magazine's main aim is to give analytical information on the current situation in Central Asia. It will publish popularity ratings of leading politicians of the regions, interviews with domestic and international experts, as well as analysis of the situation in the region.

Also profiled was a new book entitled "Political and Armed Clashes in Central Asia," which is devoted to the recent events in Kyrgyzstan's Batken and Uzbekistan's Surkhandariya regions. Anti-Karimov armed groups entered those regions earlier this year with the stated intention of overthrowing Islam Karimov's regime in Uzbekistan, but had to retreat to Afghanistan via Tajikistan after clashes with the Uzbek and Kyrgyz armed forces.

Kazakhstan's National Bank chairman Grigorii Marchenko told a press conference on 7 November that the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, has approved five draft laws on banks and banking operations prepared by the National Bank. One of those draft laws will be discussed in the Upper Chamber of the Parliament. Marchenko also said that in October, the inflation rate in the country rose by1.2 per cent, while food prices increased by 1.6 per cent and the average price of other goods rose by 0.7 per cent. Prices for services rose by 0.9 per cent.

Two new newspapers, "MEGAPOLIS" (in Russian) and a bi-lingual weekly "BUGIN-SEGODNYA," began publication in Almaty on 7 November. "Megapolis" is owned by the Chief Editor of the TV channel 31 Kanal, Armanzhan Baitasov, which suggests that 31 Kanal is going to turn into a bigger media corporation. Well-known political figure Peter Svoik, a co-chairman of AZAMAT movement, is a member of Megapolis's editorial board. As for "Bugin-Segodnya," it is headed by Nurzhan Mautov, a former member of the editorial board of "Sol-Dat." Mautov told RFE/RL that the main aim of the new newspaper is to give unbiased and independent information to Kazakhstan's population.

Another bi-lingual newspaper, "PRAVDA KAZAKHSTANA" began publishing in Astana on November 7. The newspaper was established by the Communist Party of Kazakhstan whose leader, Serikbolsyn Abdildin told RFE/RL that the first issue was devoted to the 83rd anniversary of "the Great October Revolution."

General Parvez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, arrived in Kazakhstan on 6 November for a two-day working visit which focused on bilateral economic cooperation and regional security. Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov welcomed Musharraf at Astana airport. Musharraf arrived in Astana later than expected because of his short stopover in Ashgabad. Musharraf held talks on 6 November with President Nursultan Nazarbaev, after which the foreign ministers of both countries, Abdul Sattar and Idrisov, told a press conference that the two presidents discussed ways of broadening bilateral cooperation. They also discussed the planned summit in Qatar on 12-14 November of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the situation in Afghanistan.

During the press conference the ministers were asked if Pakistan succeeded in persuading Kazakhstan to recognize the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Sattar said that while Pakistan recognizes the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan, it also recognize the right of any government to determine its own foreign policy. Kazakh Foreign Minister Idrisov said that Kazakhstan will determine its own foreign policy, but added that "Kazakhstan has no allergy against any group in Afghanistan."

On November 7, Musharraf met with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev. Musharraf told a press conference after that meeting "...First of all, I would like to reciprocate that we have been received so warmly. I have been seeing that the cold weather has been compensated by warmth of feelings, and thank you very much for that. We have reached some balance. I am extremely pleased with the interaction I had with President in the spirit of brotherly co-operation because we all know that we have cultural, religious, historic ties which bind us together. This region has ties with Pakistan. Therefore we have no doubt,... I have no doubt, that Pakistan must go for unity with Kazakhstan in all possible manners. So I have come here in that spirit of co-operation with Kazakhstan on all affairs,... of basis being political of course, ...and arrangement of co-operation and understandings on political compulsion of the region. And then, of course, cementing these ties further to economic co-operation. That is the only way I followed, and I look forward to understanding in both areas, political understanding in the region, as well as economic collaboration."

The Pakistani leader explained the reason for his stopover of in Ashgabat en route for Astana: " Our stop (in Ashgabat) was more compulsion than a plan, because the aircraft in which I travelled had certain technical compulsions of not coming directly to Kazakhstan. So we had to come via Ashgabat, and the stop was a refuelling stop. My discussions with the President there (in Turkmenistan) related to bilateral issues between Pakistan and Turkmenistan."

Toqaev for his part told journalists: "There were no bilateral documents signed. We have just exchanged opinions on the possible deepening of co-operation between our states, for instance, the issue of wider joint use of Kara-Korum highway was discussed. The corresponding document on that issue had been signed by officials of four countries earlier. We expressed our ideas on possible widening of an exchange of people between Kazakhstan and Pakistan, we understand that we have to co-operate in the most varied spheres, such as trade or defence sectors. All the necessary documents were signed earlier. We think that the world's powers should not interfere the situation in Afghanistan. The conflicting sides [in Afghanistan] have to be given an opportunity to hold talks and to reach a peaceful agreement. We hope that in future, Afghanistan will have a responsible government. We consider the Taleban movement as a dominating political force in Afghanistan. Last year in March, due to our President's order, I was in Islamabad where I met with Taleban officials. I said then that we considered the Taleban movement as a dominating and serious political force in Afghanistan, from both the political and military points of view. We are sure that establishing a coalition government in Afghanistan would be a key way for normalise the situation in that country."