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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 5, 2005

5 April 2005
Tatar Muslim Leaders Condole Over Pope's Death
The chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gosman Iskhaqov, has expressed his condolences over the death of Pope John Paul II.

Tatarinform reported on 4 April that Iskhaqov emphasized the pope's tolerance in relations with Muslims. "The head of the Catholic Church aspired to a peace between believers of different faiths. He strongly sympathized with Islam and was the first among Roman [Catholic] popes who visited Muslim countries and held a dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. [He] publicly apologized for crusades conducted by the Catholics in the Middle Ages. He even observed the Muslim fast during one day of the holy month of Ramadan as a sign of solidarity," Ishaqov said.

The mufti, who spoke on 3 April, also said that the Catholic Church's return of the 'Our Lady of Kazan' icon to Russia was an example of the Pope's efforts to overcome controversies between Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In other reaction, the Council of Muftis of Russia, the Central Muslim Religious Board and the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus said on 4 April that they hope the next pontiff will continue the inter-faith tolerance initiatives of John Paul II.

Shaimiev Opposes Federal Law On Natural Resources
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev says Tatarstan will maintain its oil production at the level of 30 million tons a year. He made the statement in an interview with Interfax-Povolzhe on 4 April.

Shaimiev also spoke critically in the interview about the draft federal law on natural resources. He said the draft's proposal to pass powers regarding the use of natural resources to federal authorities could make local authorities less interested in developing oil production in their territories.

Shaimiev also said he opposes the abolishment of payments on reproduction of mineral-raw resources, introduction of non-differentiated tax on the use of natural resources, and high oil export customs. He said those measures would obstruct plans to reach production of 500-550 million tons of oil a year, as called for in Russia's power production strategy. He said the measures could even hinder maintaining the current level of extraction of 480 million tons a year.

Shaimiev charged that issues of natural resource management are now decided by government experts who do not have access to adequate information.

Chally Deputy Mayor Under Criminal Investigation
Tatarinform reported on 4 April that the Chally prosecutor's office filed criminal charges last week against Chally Deputy Mayor Fenis Nejmetdinov over allegations of abuse of power. Nejmetdinov also heads the housing and municipal service department.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Opposition Prepares Moscow Protest
Opposition leaders from Bashkortostan say they are preparing a Moscow protest against the current republican government to be held at Lubyanka Square in Moscow on 7 April, Ufaweb reported on 4 April. Ramil Bignov, chairman of the coordinating board of an umbrella Bashkir opposition group, made the announcement. Participants in the meeting, which has been authorized by Moscow city officials, will reportedly call for Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's retirement. Oppositionists also plan to submit a petition demanding Rakhimov's departure to the Russian Federal presidential staff. Bignov reportedly claimed that as many as 100,000 signatures had been collected in the petition drive.

Republican Lawmaker Seeks Gay Rights Group
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Edvard Murtzin intends to create a public organization called Minority's Right to protect the rights of homosexuals in Bashkortostan, Regnum reported on 4 April. Murzin previously advocated the legalization of gay marriage. A Moscow city court is expected to consider on 14 April his appeal against a ruling by an Ostankino district court that rejected the right of a same-sex couple to register its marriage.

HSBC Extends $25 Million Loan To Bashkortostan
HSBC Chairman Jeffrey Asseltine and Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov signed an agreement on a $25 million loan to the Bashkortostan Republic on 4 April, a RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. After the meeting with Asseltine, President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters that the credit is the fourth loan to be granted to Bashkortostan by HSBC on what he described as favorable conditions. The one-year loan is reportedly to be transferred to UralSib bank of Bashkortostan by 9 April. Bashkortostan has taken out and repaid three loans from HSBC totaling $55 million since 1997.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi