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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 3, 2004

3 February 2004
Russian Official Discusses Relations With OIC With Indonesian Leaders
The first bilateral consultations between Indonesia and Russia on the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) took place in Jakarta, RIA-Novosti reported on 2 February. Russian special ambassador Veniamin Popov met with Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz, gave Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda a personal message of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and had negotiations with Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary-General Feisal Ismail. Popov also met with the leadership of the world's largest Muslim organization, Nadhatul ulama, which has 40 million members, and visited the headquarters of Indonesia's second-largest organization, Muhammadia. Popov told the news agency that the purpose of the trip was to express gratitude for the favorable attitude of Indonesia's leaders toward Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative on joining the OIC. Popov said an agreement was reached during the negotiations on bilateral relations in different sectors, and that Russia will actively participate in a conference of leading Islamic theologians in Indonesia in late February.

KamAZ Exports Buses To Iraq
KamAZ sent five city buses to Iraq on 2 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The buses, after they reach Novorossiisk, will be delivered to Iraq by ship by 20 February. Under a contract signed by KamAZ and the Iraqi temporary government, the auto company will sell 200 buses to Iraq this year. From 1997, KamAZ sold Iraq over 4,000 heavy trucks under the "oil-for-food" program.

Japan Interested In Tatarstan's Petrochemical Industry
A delegation of the Japanese Organization for Development of Foreign Trade visited Tatarstan, reported on 31 January, citing the Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry press service. The visit came in the wake of agreements reached during the October visit of Japanese Ambassador to Russia Iseiya Nomura to Tatarstan. The Japanese officials held talks in the Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry and visited Tatneft, Tuben Kama Oil Refinery, and Tatneftekhiminvest holding to discuss cooperation between Tatarstan and Japan in developing Tatarstan's petrochemical industry.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Presidential Staff Official: Media Ministry Blamed For Rakhimov's Poor Presidential Campaign
President Murtaza Rakhimov's decision to abolish the republican Ministry of Press and Mass Media was the result of an ongoing discussion within the presidential staff on who is responsible for the failure of the republican media to oppose criticism from opposition media, according to Rakhimov's rivals, presidential candidates Sergei Veremeenko and Relif Safin, an unnamed official on the Bashkir presidential staff told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent on 2 February. According to the official, who worked on Rakhimov's political campaign, the Bashkir elite "chose" the journalists of state-owned media "to bear the blame for the loss in the information war." After the election, most of the Bashkir press was criticized by the government for publishing so few articles in Rakhimov's favor, having instead reprinted articles from the state Bashinform agency. "On the other hand," the official said, "one can see that Bashkortostan decided to follow the example of Tatarstan, which had already abolished its Media Ministry, thus demonstrating that the government is loosening its grip on the mass media." Bashkortostan's Ministry of Press and Media will soon undergo major cuts and be transformed into a board on media and publishing (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 February).

RFE/RL Ufa Correspondent 'Invited' For An Interview With FSB
An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent was contacted by a local Federal Security Service (FSB) officer on 2 February who invited him "to discuss" the reporter's coverage of the December 2003 presidential elections in Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The correspondent reportedly used his constitutional right to turn down the invitation. Before and after the elections, RFE/RL freelancers in Bashkortostan have covered the campaigns of incumbent President Rakhimov and his opponents, reporting on developments and statements by him and the opposition candidates.

Eurocom Experts Visit Ufa
Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev met with the director of the European Commission's office in Russia, Keith Little, and commission experts Uha Keranen and Garry Van Boxmeyer on 2 February to show them Bashkortostan's achievements on the bilateral project "Perfecting the Organization and Coverage of the Anticorruption Effort" in the republic, Bashinform reported the same day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi