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Turkmen Report: November 10, 2003

10 November 2003
Turkmenistan Finally Signs On To Caspian Sea Environmental Accord
9 November 2003

Iranian officials said on 9 November that Turkmenistan has added its signature to an environmental accord signed in Tehran last week by the four other Caspian littoral states, AFP reported the same day.

Turkmenistan last week requested more time before signing the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea. Iranian officials say Turkmen Environment Minister Matkarim Rajapov returned to Tehran on 8 November to sign the convention.

The convention now becomes the first legally binding treaty on any subject signed by the five Caspian Sea states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.

The aim of the UN Environment Program is to halt mounting damage to the world's largest freshwater lake from industrial pollution, sewage inflows and leaks from oil extraction and refining. Ratification of the treaty by each government might take several years. (AFP)

Construction Of Orthodox Church Begins In Dashoguz
8 November 2003

The construction of an Orthodox church of the Icon of the Mother of God has begun in the regional center of Dashoguz, northern Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 8 November, citing the Turkmen presidential council. Over 6,000 square meters have been allotted for the church's construction, the council said.

Father Alvian, who will be dean of the church, said the site is "very conveniently located for parishioners and there are gardens and a river nearby."

The main building of the church, where services will be held, will be 24 meters high. It is also planned to build a Sunday school and a 6-meter-tall bell tower.

The church is being built with money donated by parishioners and financial support from several organizations and enterprises. Turkmenistan currently has 13 Orthodox churches. (Interfax)

Gas Explosion In Ashgabat Kills Seven, Scores Injured
5 November 2003

Seven people were killed and scores more injured after an apparent gas explosion in a residential area of the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 5 November, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service and AFP reported the next day.

Igor Shilov, a senior member of Turkmenistan's Civil Defense Department, said a preliminary investigation showed that a gas leak was the cause of the explosion.

Residents of the affected area said at least 30 people were injured in the explosion. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, AFP)

Turkmen Traffic Police Impose New Fine On Drivers
9 November 2003

A Moscow-based human rights organization says Turkmen police are imposing a new penalty on drivers who cannot pay fines for traffic violations on the spot, AFP reported on 5 November.

The Memorial Society said that drivers in northern Turkmenistan who are unable to immediately pay their fine are sent to the fields to pick cotton. Memorial said drivers are stopped on various pretexts and if they cannot pay the fine their licenses are confiscated and returned only when they have proof of working 10 days in the cotton fields.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov recently criticized agricultural officials for gathering less than 25 percent of the target figure for cotton production this year. (AFP)

CIS Border-Guard Commanders Meet In Almaty To Discuss Cooperation
9 November 2003

The CIS council of border-guard commanders met in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 5 November to discuss cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Participating in the meeting were the Azerbaijani, Armenian, Belarusian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Moldovan, Russian, Tajik, Turkmen, and Ukrainian border-guard chiefs.

They are expected to continue the work on draft documents on common border policy reform, including on a common system to register foreigners and people without citizenship who enter CIS countries and on cooperation to deal with emergencies on borders. (ITAR-TASS)

Ukraine Wants To Develop Satellite System With Turkmenistan
5 November 2003

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Hryshchenko, on an official visit to Ashgabat, told his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov on 5 November that Ukraine would like to work with Turkmenistan on developing a satellite-communications and radio-broadcasting system, Interfax-Ukraine reported.

Meredov replied that Ashgabat is interested in involving Ukrainian firms in large-scale projects in Turkmenistan. Ukraine is already involved in various natural-gas projects in Turkmenistan as partial payment for annual gas supplies. (Interfax-Ukraine)