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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 15, 2003

15 April 2003
Pope Expected To Visit Kazan In August
During his visit to Russia in July, Pope John Paul II is expected to visit Kazan and for returning the Mother of God of Kazan icon, Tatar-inform reported yesterday citing Reuters. The icon was stolen in 1904 and is currently kept by the Vatican.

Muslim Women Resume Headscarves' Case
According to the "Vremya i Dengi" daily on 15 April, a group of Muslim women from Tuben Kama in Tatarstan have appealed to the Appeals Board of the Russian Supreme Court to demand the right to wear traditional headscarves in their passport photos. The Supreme Court had previously turned down a similar appeal from the group (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 March), but they still refuse to have their passport photos made with uncovered heads, which goes against their religious beliefs. The new appeal states that if they do not obtain new passports Muslim women face difficulties in obtaining insurance policies, getting married, or changing their residential registration.

Tatneft Takes Over Oil Company In Kalmykiya
Tatneft oil company became the full-fledged owned of the KalmTatneft oil company, which had been jointly established by the Tatar company and the Kalmneft oil company of Kalmykiya in 2000, Intertat reported yesterday. Tatneft reportedly purchased the 50 percent share in KalmTatneft, which possesses the license for oil extraction in southern Kalmykiya with an estimated oil reserve of 70 million tons. After the takeover Tatneft will provide KalmTatneft with its own equipment, though previously the stable oil production was compromised by the technical difficulties at Kalmneft. Having produced 3,200 tons of oil in 2002, KalmTatneft plans to extract some 6,000 tons in 2003 and export it via the Caspian pipeline consortium. In its home republic, Tatneft annually extracts some 24 million tons of oil.

Sudan's Ambassador Confirms Interest In Cooperating With Tatarstan
The Sudanese ambassador to Russia, Ibrahim al-Bashir Osman al-Kabbashi, told Tatar First Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov on 14 April that he would like Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company to participate in oil extraction in his country.

In 2001, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov visited Sudan to sign agreements on joint oil extraction and in the same year a Sudanese government delegation made a reciprocal visit to Tatarstan. Al-Kabbashi also expressed interest in importing Tatarstan-produced KamAZ trucks and aircraft though Sudan's offshore zones to avoid taxation. On 15 April, the ambassador will meet with President Mintimer Shaimiev. The annual trade turnover between Sudan and Tatarstan reached $765,000 in 2002 and was dominated by Tatar-produced transport, machinery, and optics.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian Supreme Mufti Calls On World's Muslims To Elect Common Leader...
Russian Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (TsDUM) Chairman Telget Tajetdin on 14 April called on the world's Muslims to elect a common leader, Shaykh al-Islam, Halif, RosBalt reported the same day. TsDUM issued an appeal to the heads of Muslim countries, Muslim communities, and muftis of Russian entities, saying the appearance of a single leader in the Islamic world would let Muslims "jointly resolve issues of peace and war, relations between peoples and civilizations, especially in the period when the world is on the threshold of a new war." Tajetdin suggested that a united Muslim leader of the world could be a "more terrible weapon than dollars and pounds." Tajetdin said such an election could be held in Bolgar (where the Tatars adopted Islam), Baghdad, Mecca, Medina, Moscow, or Cairo.

...As Council Of Muftis Of Russia Condemns Tajetdin
The Council of Muftis on 14 April condemned Tajetdin for his 3 April declaration of a jihad against the United States, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. The council decided that Tajetdin's "emotional declaration in the name of all Muslims in Russia...cannot be considered a private mistake," according to Interfax. The council also stated that Tajetdin's declaration caused great damage to the authority of Russian Muslims and that he has no right to lead an Islamic organization. Ravil Gainutdin, who heads the Council of Muftis, is a long-time rival of Tajetdin's. Commenting on the council's declaration, Muhammad Gali Khuzin, mufti for Perm Oblast, said, "According to our charter, only a congress of Muslims of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Russia can make a decision about stopping the activities of Telget Tajetdin," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 April. According to the daily, Tajetdin's organization is the largest and most influential Islamic organization in Russia, with 49 regional spiritual administrations compared to only 15 belonging to Gainutdin's group.

New Downhill-Skiing Facility To Be Built In Bashkortostan
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Magnitogorsk Metallurgy Plant (MMK) General Director Viktor Rashnikov signed in Ufa a protocol on the construction of a downhill-skiing facility in Bashkortostan's Ebjelil Raion on 14 April, Interfax reported the same day. Rashnikov told reporters that a 2-kilometer-long run is to be constructed within a year in the first stage of the project. MMK will finance the project, the first stage of which will cost $15 million.

Under the agreement, MMK will also connect all residential areas of the raion with gas pipelines and will construct and repair together with Bashkir authorities highways connecting the raion with Magnitogorsk. Both sides will allocate 100 million rubles ($3.2 million) each for the road construction and repair.

Rakhimov said Bashkortostan leased to the Russian metallurgy giant land in Ebjelil Raion for the skiing facility for 49 years. He also said the two agreed on jointly developing iron-ore deposits in Bashkortostan's Uchaly and Beloretsk raions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova