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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 31, 2002

31 July 2002
Tatar Leaders Discuss Politics, Relations With Moscow
A number of government officials, including President Mintimer Shaimiev, held a closed-door meeting in Kazan on 30 July with leaders of Tatar civic and political organizations to discuss the current political situation in the republic, as well as recent trends in relations with Moscow, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 July.

The leader of the Tatar Public Center, Rashit Yagafarov, told reporters following the meeting that those present had discussed possible cooperation between the Tatar government and Tatar political groups to preserve the republic's statehood. He added that he also told President Shaimiev about his organization's plans to file a suit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, with respect to the 40 provisions of the Tatar Constitution that are currently being protested by Russian prosecutors on the grounds that they violate federal law.

Iraq, Tatarstan Discuss Prospects For Increased Cooperation
Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf was in Kazan on 30 July for a meeting with President Shaimiev on expanding cooperation between Iraq and Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 July. Shaimiev said that the ambassador's visit, which came soon after his appointment on 1 July, showed Iraq's interest in, and respect toward, Tatarstan. Khalaf responded by saying that his goal was to bring relations to "a new level." According to Tatarstan's statistics on foreign trade in 2001, Iraq was the republic's 61st-largest trading partner with turnover of about $800,000.

Before their Kazan meeting, Shaimiev and Khalaf visited the KamAZ automotive concern in Chally, where the ambassador offered to allow the company to use Baghdad as a go-between in promoting the company's trucks in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Syria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Lebanon.

KamAZ has been supplying trucks to Iraq since 1998, while Tatneft oil company is also prospecting for oil there, as well as organizing shipments of tires from the Tuben Kama tire plant.

Shaimiev told a press briefing following the meeting that Tatarstan is "very interested" in Iraqi oil.

Khalaf is a graduate of the Journalism Faculty at Moscow State University and has been Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's personal interpreter since 1986.

Minister Suggests Police Get Paid For Refusing Bribes
Tatar Interior Minister Asgat Safarov verbally ordered his ministry on 30 July to begin giving monetary rewards to police officers who refuse to accept bribes, reported the same day. A few days earlier, Safarov awarded a police officer working at KamAZ in Chally 10,000 rubles ($320) for detaining a suspect who attempted to pay him off in order to steal a crane from the company.

Kazan Announces Plans To Renovate City For Millennium Celebration
Boris Petrov, chairman of the Economy and Industry Committee of the Kazan city administration, told a press conference on 30 July that the city plans to spend 64 billion rubles ($2.06 billion) to renovate the downtown section of the Tatar capital in preparation for the city's millennium anniversary in 2005, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Under a federal program on preparing the city for the jubilee, the federal budget is to provide one-third of the funds needed for renovations, with another third to come from the republican budget, and the rest to be provided by credits from Western banks that are to be guaranteed by the federal government and private investors.

Petrov said that the preparations will include the construction of ring roads in Kazan based on those in Moscow, as well as the rebuilding of the city's central market, and the construction of a shopping center, an entertainment center, and two new hotels.

Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing Mars Gizatullin told the same press conference that financing for the renovations has been delayed because of a lack of documentation for proposed projects, including missing information about their estimated cost.

Zhirinovskii Shares Wealth With Citizens Of Bogelme
Russian State Duma Deputy Chairman and leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskii made a one-hour stop in Bogelme on 30 July as part of his current tour through Russia's regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 July.

Hundreds of local residents, most of them elderly, met Zhirinovskii at the Bogelme station to ask him about a number of issues, including increased housing costs, small pensions, the abolition of Soviet-era social security, and the increased cost of medicine.

Before leaving the town, Zhirinovskii distributed LDPR T-shirts and dozens of 10-ruble ($0.32) bills, saying that they were for the people "to buy cookies and ice cream." People in the crowd reportedly scrambled and pushed one another to get their hands on Zhirinovskii's gifts.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Minister Points Out Improvement In Agriculture Industry
Bashkir Agriculture Minister Grigorii Gorobets told the weekly "Izvestiya v Bashkortostane" on 30 July that there were positive changes in the industry in the previous year, which saw a slight decrease in the number of unprofitable farms in comparison with the previous year. In 2000, there were 1,000 farms in the republic, of which 313 were unprofitable, whereas this figure dropped to 300 of 1,074 in 2001. The minister also added that debts were inevitable in the agriculture industry. He cited several regions where unprofitable farms were separated from profitable ones in order to ensure the efficient operation of the latter.

Bashneft Goes Prospecting In Eastern Urals
Bashneft oil company has sent a prospecting team to the Zaurale region of Bashkortostan to look for oil and gas deposits, Bashinform reported on 31 July. The agency quoted Rasikh Khamitov, head of the governmental department of geology and use of mineral resources, as saying that the results of the prospecting mission will be made public in late 2002 or early 2003.

Agrarian Faction Opens Branch In Ufa
The Russian Agrarian faction established a branch in Bashkortostan on 30 July, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Vakhitov was elected chairman of the faction's council in Ufa. A congress will be held in August for the Bashkir branch to elect delegates to the upcoming national Agrarian congress.

Constitutional Assembly Discusses Financial Provisions
The Bashkir Constitutional Assembly gathered on 30 July to discuss future constitutional provisions on financial and budgetary affairs, the presidential press service reported the same day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi