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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 5, 2003

5 September 2003
Mufti Unhappy With Lack Of Attention To Muslims During Saudi Crown Prince's Visit
Interviewed by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 4 September, the chairman of Russia's Council of Muftis, Rawil Gainetdin, sharply criticized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Moscow for its failure to include a meeting with Russia's Muslim leaders on the agenda of the 2 September visit by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Moscow. Gainetdin said he personally only had a chance to meet with Abdullah during his meeting with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. "The fact that our meeting was not included in the protocol of the visit is a shortcoming in the activity of the Saudis' Moscow Embassy," Gainetdin said. He said the embassies of other Islamic countries always include visits to Russia's Council of Muftis and meetings with its leaders, while the Saudi Embassy has not done this. In the past year, the Saudi Embassy has been evading contact with Russia's Islamic organizations, he said, adding that he complained about this "to the Saudi ambassador's face" during Luzhkov's meeting with Abdullah. Muftis from Mordovia, Karelia, Tatarstan, and the Asian part of Russia, who traveled to Moscow to meet with Abdullah, were unable to see him. Gainetdin said that during his talks with Abdullah he was interested in the number of Muslims and mosques in Moscow. Luzhkov informed the visitor that four mosques were recently built and that the Moscow Islamic University was established.

Gainetdin also said that Russia's intention to join the Organization of Islamic Conference opens new prospects, not only for Russian Muslims but also for Russia as a whole. He said the move marks a turning-point in Russia's attitude toward Islam. Russia has a millennium of experience in the coexistence of Muslims and Christians and provides proof that they can live in peace, Gainetdin added.

KamAZ Seeks Controlling Interest In NefAZ
KamAZ plans to increase its stake in the NefAZ bus plant to 51 percent from the current 36 percent by 2004, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 4 September. KamAZ General Director Sergei Kogogin told the daily that the company's board and shareholders have approved the increase by KamAZ through the purchase of shares, on which it plans to spend 18 million rubles. NefAZ's capital is expected to increase from 6 to 7 billion rubles after the share emission under registration. NefAZ, constructed in 1977 in Bashkortostan's Neftekamsk as a branch of KamAZ, was turned over in 1993 to Bashkortostan, which took over some 40.1 percent of shares. In 1996, the Russian Arbitration Court annulled that decision and restored control of more than 36 percent of NefAZ shares back to KamAZ, leaving the Bashkir government with 37 percent. The sides further agreed that KamAZ's share in NefAZ will be increased to 51 percent, while that of the Bashkir government will be reduced to 25 percent.

VGTRK Head Promises Money To GTRK Tatarstan
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov met on 4 September with Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) Deputy Chairman Petr Zemtsov, reported the same day. Zemtsov told reporters following the meeting that talks were devoted to the development of State Television and Radio Company Tatarstan (GTRK Tatarstan). Zemtsov said good working conditions have been established at GTRK Tatarstan, to a level that many VGTRK regional subdivisions would envy. Zemtsov said GTRK Tatarstan may be included in VGTRK's 2004 budget, and "there are no reasons to doubt that the company will get money, since 88 other regional companies are financed by VGTRK." GTRK Tatarstan, which used to be republic-owned, joined the federal television and radio broadcaster VGTRK in 2002 but was not allocated money from the federal budget (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 11 October 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Parliament To Set Date Of Presidential Vote
The date of Bashkortostan's presidential election will be determined during the next session of the republican parliament on 17 September, Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev told Interfax on 3 September. He stated that, "most obviously it will be set to 7 December." If so, the date of the republic's presidential vote will coincide with the date for nationwide elections to the Russian State Duma.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission, Bariy Kinzyagulov, told Interfax that all six single-mandate election districts for the Russian State Duma are prepared for the election. He said that in addition to the six deputies representing single-mandate districts there will be six Duma deputies elected in Bashkortostan representing political parties.

A candidate for a Duma seat from Bashkortostan is required to submit 5,000 signatures in his support, which is not less than 1 percent of the number of voters in each voting district or a deposit of 900,000 rubles ($29,400), which represents 15 percent of the maximum election funds allowed each candidate.

Veremeenko Still Undecided On Whether To Run For Bashkir Presidency
Sergei Veremeenko, a member of the board of directors for Mezhprombank (International Industrial Bank) and its former top manager, arrived in Ufa on 4 September to campaign for the Unified Russia party, of which he is an active member, Rosbalt reported on 4 September. He said that Ufa is the first stop on his tour of the Volga Federal District. Veremeenko is to meet with other local leaders of Unified Russia and prospective voters in the region.

Veremeenko emphasized that he still has not decided whether to run for the post of Bashkortostan's president. He added that "everything is possible" and that "the situation is being studied." Veremeenko did not exclude the possibility of standing as a candidate for the Russian Duma nominated by Bashkortostan's branch of Unified Russia. Nevertheless, he outlined that "the Bashkir presidential elections of 2003 will vary significantly from the elections of 1998" because President Murtaza Rakhimov will have many rivals and new voting methods will be utilized that exclude the possibility of manipulating the results of the vote.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi