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Turkmen Report: August 9, 2004

9 August 2004
Turkmenistan Celebrates 'Melon Day'
The annual "Melon Day" holiday celebration was held in Turkmenistan on 8 August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who was also the Communist Party first secretary when Turkmenistan was a Soviet republic, thanked "all-powerful Allah" for blessing Turkmen soil with an abundance of wealth, particularly the Turkmen melon "grown through the hard work of Turkmen farmers with an incomparable taste that remains one of the bounties of heaven."

Turkmenistan has some 800 different types of melon whose roots back to ancient Arabic and Persian sources.

Turkmen media cited the "harvest of the sun" as a source of pride for Turkmen horsemen for centuries.

The first time the country marked Melon Day was in 1994. (ITAR-TASS)

New Plan Approved For Turkmen Natural Gas Exports To Ukraine
President Niyazov approved a new plan for Turkmen natural-gas exports to Ukraine on 6 August, Interfax reported the same day, quoting the presidential press service.

Niyazov issued his approval during a meeting with Yury Boiko, the chief executive of the Ukrainian national oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrayiny. "A satisfactory plan for cooperation and accurate fulfillment by both parties of their commitments" were stressed at the meeting, the source said.

Niyazov and Boiko also reportedly discussed "aspects of further strategic cooperation that are related to current agreements between Russia and Ukraine and to Turkmenistan's participation in this serious, large-scale work."

They also outlined "practical prospects for long-term cooperation," the source said.

Late last month, fully owned subsidiaries of Russian natural-gas monopoly Gazprom and Austrian Raiffeisenbank set up a company to buy Turkmen gas for Ukraine, act as the operator for this gas, and invest in the development of the transit infrastructure.

The new company, RusUkrEnergoprom, in which each party holds a 50 percent interest, will be registered in Switzerland and managed by a coordinating committee to comprise top executives of Gazprom, Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Raiffeisenbank, and Gazprombank, which is the authorized bank of Gazprom. (Interfax)

Turkmen State Airlines Launches New Direct Flights To China
The flight of a commercial Turkmen Airlines Boeing-757 on 4 August marked the start of new direct service between Ashgabat and Beijing, reported. (

Rights Group Voices Concern About Uzbek Citizen Jailed In Turkmenistan
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights on 3 August urged Turkmen President Niyazov to pardon an Uzbek man jailed in connection with an alleged assassination plot against Niyazov, AP reported the same day. The executive director of the Vienna-based rights group, Aaron Rhodes, said Uzbek citizen Khonsaid Safarov was captured by Turkmen security agents on Uzbek territory on 14 December 2002. Safarov was later sentenced to 20 years in a Turkmen jail for his alleged complicity in the purported 25 November 2002 attempt on the Turkmen president's life.

Safarov allegedly was a driver for one of the organizers of the assassination attempt and several others involved in the plot while they were in Uzbekistan.

Rhodes said Safarov never crossed the border into Turkmenistan. He added that there is no justification for imprisoning someone simply because he drove for someone who was later convicted of a crime in another country in the days before the alleged assassination attempt. (AP)

Turkmen Lawmakers Propose New Criminal Code That Includes Bail
Lawmakers in Turkmenistan have proposed a new criminal code that would introduce the possibility of bail for suspects awaiting trial, AP reported on 3 August. The new code was published in Turkmen state media on 3 August and marks the first significant changes to the country's current laws, which date back to 1961, when Turkmenistan was part of the Soviet Union.

Under the proposal, suspects could pay the equivalent of $2,400, or the equivalent of that sum in goods, and be released until their trial date.

If the suspect is found innocent, the money or goods would be returned.

Previously suspects were either jailed or signed statements promising not to leave the country.

The code will be reviewed for 30 days before parliament starts debate on it. (AP)

Turkmen Drivers Required To Know President's Book To Get License
Drivers in Turkmenistan will now be required to pass a test on their knowledge of President Niyazov's book "Rukhnama" before they may receive their licenses, RTR reported on 2 August. A Niyazov decree published in state media on 2 August specifies that all drivers first complete a 16-hour course on "Rukhnama."

State news quoted Niyazov as saying the move is aimed at "ensur[ing] that future drivers are educated in the spirit of high moral values of Turkmenistan's society."

Niyazov's "Rukhnama" is already required course material in Turkmenistan's schools, from elementary to university levels, and is kept in state-controlled mosques alongside copies of the Koran.

"Rukhnama" is the Turkmen president's spiritual guide for proper behavior by the Turkmen people. (Reuters)