Browse through our Interesting Nodes on Cyprus A)? GHT="50">
Compact version
Today's Suggestion
Read The "Macedonian Question" (by Maria Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou)
HomeAbout HR-NetNewsWeb SitesDocumentsOnline HelpUsage InformationContact us
Saturday, 7 December 2019
 
News
  Latest News (All)
     From Greece
     From Cyprus
     From Europe
     From Balkans
     From Turkey
     From USA
  Announcements
  World Press
  News Archives
Web Sites
  Hosted
  Mirrored
  Interesting Nodes
Documents
  Special Topics
  Treaties, Conventions
  Constitutions
  U.S. Agencies
  Cyprus Problem
  Other
Services
  Personal NewsPaper
  Greek Fonts
  Tools
  F.A.Q.
 

RFE/RL Newsline, 05-01-31

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>


CONTENTS

  • [01] PENSIONERS AGAIN TAKE TO THE STREETS...
  • [02] ...AS WIFE OF EMBATTLED HEALTH MINISTER ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL LAND DEAL
  • [03] PALESTINIAN LEADER VISITS MOSCOW
  • [04] MINISTER DEFENDS RUSSIA AT DAVOS FORUM...
  • [05] ...AS EXPERTS DISCUSS RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD
  • [06] FOREIGN MINISTER ASSAILS U.S. FOR 'DOUBLE STANDARDS' IN THE CIS
  • [07] DUMA HUNGER STRIKE CONTINUES, DEPUTY HOSPITALIZED
  • [08] PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN STATE INSTITUTIONS CONTINUES TO DECLINE
  • [09] BUSINESS DAILY PAYS LIBEL DAMAGES TO ALFA BANK
  • [10] BEREZOVSKII ANNOUNCES PLANS TO MOVE TO UKRAINE
  • [11] PREMIER SEEKS FSB HELP IN DEVELOPING ECONOMY
  • [12] RACE TO HEAD RIGHTIST PARTY GETS UNDER WAY
  • [13] NEW PREMIER APPOINTED IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA
  • [14] ANOTHER ARMENIAN POLITICIAN CRITICIZES PACE RESOLUTION ON KARABAKH
  • [15] OSCE FACT-FINDING MISSION VISITS AZERBAIJAN
  • [16] ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI BLOC LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR ELECTION-LAW REFORM
  • [17] GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER THREATENS BREAKAWAY REGIONS...
  • [18] ...AS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AFFIRMS READINESS FOR TALKS WITH ABKHAZIA
  • [19] UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF ABKHAZ OBSERVER FORCE
  • [20] KAZAKH OPPOSITION MEMBERS JAILED, FINED AFTER UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION
  • [21] KAZAKH GOVERNMENT BUYS INTO MAJOR OIL PROJECT
  • [22] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADERS FINED FOR UNSANCTIONED RALLY
  • [23] INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS DENY 'INTERFERENCE' IN KYRGYZ ELECTIONS
  • [24] OSCE ELECTION-OBSERVER MISSION OPENS IN TAJIKISTAN
  • [25] TAJIK PRESIDENT REMOVES GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
  • [26] TURKMENISTAN HOSTS NEW ROUND OF CASPIAN TALKS
  • [27] UZBEK PRESIDENT OUTLINES POLICY PRIORITIES IN ADDRESS...
  • [28] ...CAUTIONS WESTERN ENVOYS ON INTERFERENCE...
  • [29] ...AND SUGGESTS THAT UKRAINE EVENTS COULD LEAD UZBEKISTAN TO LEAVE GUUAM
  • [30] BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FORCES HOLD RALLY, CONFERENCE
  • [31] BELARUSIAN MINISTER PROMISES TO TIGHTEN MEDIA REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS
  • [32] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SETS DEADLINE FOR MEETING WTO REQUIREMENTS...
  • [33] ...AND PROMISES FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION WILL BE HIGH PRIORITY
  • [34] UKRAINIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT DECLARES NEW CAMPAIGN
  • [35] PRESIDENT TAPS ANOTHER LAWMAKER FOR TOP POST
  • [36] PROMINENT BOSNIAN MUSLIM COMMANDER'S TRIAL OPENS IN THE HAGUE
  • [37] MOVEMENT FOR INDEPENDENT MONTENEGRO ESTABLISHED
  • [38] PROTESTERS BLOCK MAJOR THOROUGHFARE IN MACEDONIA
  • [39] ROMANIAN PREMIER BACKS INQUIRY INTO SUSPECTED VOTE FRAUD
  • [40] ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS SPEAKERS' COMPLAINT AGAINST PRESIDENT
  • [41] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ANNULS DECISION ON BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTIONS
  • [42] ROMANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT SHUT DOWN
  • [43] UKRAINE NOT AGAINST ENLARGING TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT FRAMEWORK...
  • [44] ...ANNOUNCES TOUGHENING OF TRANSIT CONTROLS FOR TRANSDNIESTER IMPORTS
  • [45] MOLDOVAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PROTEST DETENTION OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE
  • [46] EPP RALLIES BEHIND MOLDOVAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS
  • [47] AFGHAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR VIOLATORS
  • [48] AFGHAN AUTHORITIES OPEN NEW DRIVE TO COLLECT MISSILES
  • [49] FIVE KILLED IN AFGHAN MINE EXPLOSION
  • [50] UN SAYS OPIUM PRODUCTION COULD FALL IN AFGHANISTAN
  • [51] U.S. COMPANY TO PULL SUBSIDIARY OUT OF IRAN
  • [52] IRANIAN LEADER DENOUNCES GLOBAL 'ARROGANCE'...
  • [53] ...AND REJECTS TERRORISM ALLEGATIONS
  • [54] LEBANESE DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS IRAN
  • [55] LEADER OF IRANIAN HAJJ PILGRIMS COMES HOME
  • [56] IRAQI ELECTIONS CARRIED OUT WITH FEWER ATTACKS THAN EXPECTED
  • [57] IRAQI ELECTION OFFICIALS SAY RESULTS IN 10 DAYS
  • [58] OFFICIALS EXPRESS FEELINGS ON IRAQI ELECTIONS
  • [59] SUNNI OPPOSITION SAYS ELECTION NONPARTICIPATION NO GREAT LOSS
  • [60] BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL SAYS IRAN POISED TO EXTEND INFLUENCE IN SOUTHERN IRAQ
  • [61] IRANIAN PRESS REACTION TO IRAQI ELECTIONS Volume 9 Number 19 Monday, 31 January 2005 NOTE TO READERS: IRAQ VOTES 2005 -- See RFE/RL's new webpage for in-depth daily coverage and analysis of the 30 January elections in Iraq. Go to: http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraqelections/ Russia

  • [01] PENSIONERS AGAIN TAKE TO THE STREETS...

    Protests against the government's reform that has replaced most in-kind social benefits with cash payments continued around the country on 29 and 30 January, Russian and international media reported. Major demonstrations were held in St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Kostroma, Ulan-Ude, Astrakhan, Kazan, and other cities, Interfax and NTV reported. About 800 people protested in the Primorskii Krai town of Kavalerovo, and a similar demonstration was held in the Bashkortostan town of Kumertau, Interfax reported on 30 January. According to the reports, most demonstrations were organized by the Communist Party, Yabloko, and the National Bolshevik Party. In St. Petersburg, demonstrators carried signs with slogans opposing the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, NTV reported on 29 January. "Vedomosti" reported on 31 January that as a result of the protests, the government has increased projected spending on benefits compensation from 301 billion rubles ($10 billion) to 509 billion. RC

    [02] ...AS WIFE OF EMBATTLED HEALTH MINISTER ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL LAND DEAL

    A Moscow Oblast court on 31 January began hearing a criminal case against Yulia Zurabova, the wife of Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, newsru.com and other Russian media reported. Zurabov has come under intense pressure in recent weeks for his handling of the implementation of the government's social-benefits reform. Prosecutors charge that on 25 October 2002, the head of the oblast's Istrinskii Raion illegally transferred to Zurabova the right to use 41,500 square meters of land for 25 years and the right to purchase it. The land is in a protected wilderness area that is part of the water-supply system for Moscow, according to the report. An unnamed official of the Natural Resource Ministry told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 31 January that "the land was acquired for kopeks compared to its real value. Such a plot should cost somewhere around $4 million." The case has already been postponed four times because Zurabova has repeatedly checked herself into a hospital, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 31 January. Health and Social Development Ministry spokesperson Yelena Volokhova told RIA-Novosti that "those lots have already been sold." "This is some sort of strange story," she added. "The minister laughed when I told him about it." The case is part of a Natural Resources Ministry effort to eliminate illegal construction near the sources of Moscow's drinking water (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2004). RC

    [03] PALESTINIAN LEADER VISITS MOSCOW

    Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas met in Moscow with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 31 January and requested Russia's help in regulating the peace process in the Middle East, RIA-Novosti reported. "We place great hopes on Russia's role," Abbas was quoted as saying. "The Palestinian people need various types of help from the Russians." He noted that his trip to Moscow was his first official visit since winning election on 9 January. "This speaks of the respect of the Palestinian people for the people of Russia, who have done so much for our cause," he said. Abbas is expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin and Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov during his three-day visit, which began on 30 January. RC

    [04] MINISTER DEFENDS RUSSIA AT DAVOS FORUM...

    Deputy Prime Minister Akeksandr Zhukov defended Russia at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 29 January against charges of increasing authoritarianism, Russian and Western media reported. Zhukov claimed that most Western businesses doing business in Russia "assess the situation in the country as positive," ITAR-TASS reported. Summing up his experience at the forum, Zhukov told the news agency that "we gave our view of the situation and explained that Russia is not diverting from its path aimed at building a democratic society and a market economy." He added that Russia must do more "to dispel the myths about our country that prevail in the world but have nothing to do with reality." Zhukov particularly lauded the country's 2004 economic results, saying, "We saw a positive tendency in changes to the quality and structure of economic growth." He added that foreign investors should be able to purchase Gazprom shares before the end of this year. Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent), a staunch Kremlin critic, appeared at Davos in a panel with Zhukov and conceded that some economic progress has been made. "The result is a Russian paradox," Ryzhkov said, according to AP on 29 January. "The quantitative indicators are better, but the qualitative indicators are worse." RC

    [05] ...AS EXPERTS DISCUSS RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD

    ORT's analytical program "Vremena" on 30 January was devoted to a roundtable discussion of Russia's image featuring members of Russia's delegation to the Davos forum. "Russia's image in the Western media has become substantially worse," Unified Energy System (EES) head Anatolii Chubais said. "There is at best one neutral article for every 10 negative ones and no positive coverage to speak of." Chubais said that because of the government's handling of the Yukos affair, Russia experienced a net outflow of capital of $4 billion in 2004 instead of its projected first-ever net inflow. David Yakobashvili, CEO of food giant Vimm-Bill-Dann, said that the Russian media depicts Russian business in a poor light and this is affecting Western opinions. RC

    [06] FOREIGN MINISTER ASSAILS U.S. FOR 'DOUBLE STANDARDS' IN THE CIS

    Sergei Lavrov on 29 January accused the United States of applying "double standards" to elections in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Interfax reported. "We are still facing recurrences of the past and attempts to act according to zero-sum-game principles," Lavrov said. "This concerns, in particular, some aspects of U.S. activity in the former Soviet republics and its application of double standards to electoral processes, in which the compliance of voting outcomes with the principles of openness and democracy is defined depending on political expediency." He added, however, that he is sure the two countries will be able to solve any issues "through goodwill, openness, predictability, mutual trust, and respect for each other's interests." "Our countries cannot allow themselves to ignore their relations of partnership for the sake of someone's ideological prejudices or narrow mercenary interests," Lavrov said. RC

    [07] DUMA HUNGER STRIKE CONTINUES, DEPUTY HOSPITALIZED

    One of the five State Duma deputies from the Motherland faction who have been on a hunger strike in the Duma building since 21 January to protest the government's benefits reform was hospitalized on 29 January, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2005). Deputy Andrei Savelev was hospitalized with low blood sugar, but is continuing his hunger strike under medical supervision, the news agency reported. The other four hunger strikers, including Motherland faction leader Dmitrii Rogozin, are continuing their protest despite a 28 January decision by the presidium of Motherland's political council calling on them to end the action. According to gzt.ru on 31 January, protesting Deputy Mikhail Markelov said that the deputies might end the action on 3 February if the presidium votes formally to order them to do so at its meeting on that date. Markelov added that he thinks it is time for the party to move from "passive protest actions to more radical forms, such as mass demonstrations across the country." RC

    [08] PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN STATE INSTITUTIONS CONTINUES TO DECLINE

    Fifty-two percent of Russians rate the work of the current Duma as "poor" or "very poor," according to a new poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, lenta.ru reported on 31 January. Public confidence in the government also declined slightly since December, but remained higher than faith in the Duma. Twenty-eight percent of respondents rated the government "poor" or "very poor," while 28 percent said it was "satisfactory." Just 14 percent expressed satisfaction with their local officials. Asked which politician they would vote for if elections were held now, 42 percent named President Putin, down from 65 percent a year ago. Twenty-four percent of survey respondents said they trust the president, down from 41 percent a year ago. RC

    [09] BUSINESS DAILY PAYS LIBEL DAMAGES TO ALFA BANK

    The Kommersant publishing house has paid Alfa Bank some 321 million rubles ($11.7 million) in damages following a court finding that the newspaper "Kommersant-Daily" harmed the bank's business reputation, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported on 31 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2004). The daily on 31 January published four articles about the case, including an official court-ordered retraction, which it printed twice -- one time upside down. "This issue of the newspaper is dedicated exclusively to Alfa Bank and personally to Mikhail Fridman," the newspaper wrote, referring to the Alfa Group chairman and Kremlin-connected oligarch. The daily explained that the law requires that a retraction be printed on the same pages of the paper as the original story, so "Kommersant-Daily" printed the retraction on pages one and seven. Throughout the case, the daily maintained that there were no errors in the article in question. RC

    [10] BEREZOVSKII ANNOUNCES PLANS TO MOVE TO UKRAINE

    Former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, who has been living in exile in London since 2000, told gazeta.ru on 28 January that he plans to move to Ukraine within a few months. Berezovskii explained that he wants "to be closer to Moscow and to the culture in which I grew up." He added that although he hasn't spoken with Ukrainian President Yushchenko or acting Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, he is confident that the new Ukrainian authorities will not hand him over to Russian law-enforcement agencies. Asked about Berezovskii at a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, Yushchenko said it was too early to comment but that he is sure Ukraine will "act in strict accordance with domestic and international laws" if Berezovskii's plans are realized, korrespondent.net and "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 30 January. JAC

    [11] PREMIER SEEKS FSB HELP IN DEVELOPING ECONOMY

    Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said on 28 January that the government has asked the Federal Security Service (FSB) for assistance in developing the economy, Prime-TASS and other Russian media reported. "We need information from within the country and from abroad in order to develop the economy and not to erect barriers to the development of business," Fradkov told a meeting of FSB officials. He urged the FSB not to create barriers to business development through its efforts to fight economic crime. Kremlin-connected political analyst Sergei Markov told "The Moscow Times" on 31 January that "there is nothing scary in this notion apart from the fact that it further increases the role of the security agencies.... And their participation in everything is already excessive. RC

    [12] RACE TO HEAD RIGHTIST PARTY GETS UNDER WAY

    Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) political council member Boris Nadezhdin has become the first to declare that he is seeking the post of SPS chairman, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported on 29 January. A party congress will elect a new chairman in April or May, ITAR-TASS reported. SPS political council member Leonid Gozman told RIA-Novosti that the election will not solve the crisis of leadership that the party has undergone since the December 2003 State Duma elections. "Electing a leader now will not help us," Gozman said. "A leader is not elected; a leader just exists." RC

    [13] NEW PREMIER APPOINTED IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA

    The parliament of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia (RKCh) formally approved on 28 January the nomination of Alik Kardanov as the republic's new prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2005). Kardanov, is an agronomist who headed the RKCh government in 2000-03 under President Vladimir Semenov, the predecessor of current President Mustafa Batdyev. His most recent position was administrative head of the Adyge-Khabl district. Also on 28 January, Batdyev issued a decree reducing the presidential administration by 35 percent and abolishing the government administration, the functions of which have been transferred to its presidential counterpart, www.kavkazweb.net reported. LF

    Transcaucasia And Central Asia

    [14] ANOTHER ARMENIAN POLITICIAN CRITICIZES PACE RESOLUTION ON KARABAKH

    Vahan Hovannisian, deputy parliament speaker and a leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), one of the two junior partners in the three-party ruling coalition, told journalists in Yerevan on 28 January that the Armenian leadership failed to heed the HHD's warnings about Azerbaijan's efforts to induce international organizations to exert pressure on Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Hovannisian termed the resolution adopted last week by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which criticized the expulsion of the Azerbaijani population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) and called for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from districts bordering on it, the direct consequence of that failure. He said parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian has agreed to an HHD request to establish an ad hoc commission that will coordinate the work of Armenian delegations to various interparliamentary organizations. LF

    [15] OSCE FACT-FINDING MISSION VISITS AZERBAIJAN

    An Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) delegation tasked with analyzing the situation in the seven districts of Azerbaijan bordering on Nagorno-Karabakh that are currently under Armenian control met in Baku on 28 January with President Ilham Aliyev and with Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry officials, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told journalists after the meeting that the mission members were given maps, documentation, and audio and video materials showing that the Armenian government has settled some 23,000 ethnic Armenians on those territories, and proving that those areas are used for the illegal cultivation of drugs. The OSCE mission traveled on 30 January to Stepanakert, where they met with NKR President Arkadii Ghukasian and with Foreign Minister Armen Melikian, regnum.ru reported. An Azerbaijani request to accompany the mission on its weeklong tour of the occupied territories was rejected, according to echo-az.com on 28 January. LF

    [16] ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI BLOC LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR ELECTION-LAW REFORM

    The so-called Forum of Democratic Forces convened a meeting in Baku on 27 January to discuss proposed amendments to the election law, Turan and echo-az.com reported on 27 and 28 January, respectively. Participants reached preliminary agreement on the need to restore the mixed proportional-majoritarian system and to expand from 15 to 18 the membership of the Central Election Commission, seven each nominated by the authorities and the opposition together with four independent legal experts. The forum further advocated setting a deadline of 1 May for revising electoral rolls. Parliamentary elections are due in November. Three major opposition parties called on 14 January for similar amendments to the election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2005); two of those parties did not send representatives to the 27 January discussion. LF

    [17] GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER THREATENS BREAKAWAY REGIONS...

    Zurab Zhvania told the privately owned Imedi television station on 27 January that Tbilisi might send its armed forces to restore the central government's control over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if talks fail on resolving those conflicts peacefully, Reuters reported. But he also said that talks with the Abkhaz leadership cannot begin until the latter acknowledge the "genocide" against the region's Georgian population during the 1992-93 war, according to Caucasus Press on 28 January. Also on 28 January, Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili said Tbilisi is willing to discuss with the Russian leadership details of the offer of autonomy President Mikheil Saakashvili made to the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia during his address on 26 January to the PACE (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 28 January 2005). Meanwhile, the South Ossetian government has invited the Council of Europe and other European organizations to send an independent fact-finding mission to evaluate the situation in the disputed republic, rustavi2.com reported on 31 January. LF

    [18] ...AS GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AFFIRMS READINESS FOR TALKS WITH ABKHAZIA

    President Saakashvili issued a statement on 30 January protesting Abkhaz President-elect Sergei Bagapsh's rejection last week of the return at this stage of Georgian displaced persons to any regions of Abkhazia except Gali (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2005). Tbilisi "will never accept the legalization of ethnic cleansing," AP quoted the statement as saying. At the same time, Saakashvili reaffirmed Tbilisi's readiness "to resume peace negotiations and resolve the question of the return of displaced persons to Abkhazia," AFP reported. He also repeated that Tbilisi "has always offered Abkhazia expanded autonomy." LF

    [19] UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF ABKHAZ OBSERVER FORCE

    The UN Security Council voted on 28 January to extend for a further six months the mandate of its observer force deployed in Abkhazia (UNOMIG), AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, it condemned as unacceptable the lack of progress toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict and deplored Abkhazia's consistent refusal to accept as a basis for such a negotiated settlement the UN-drafted "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies Between Tbilisi and Sukhumi." Also on 28 January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko rejected the accusation by Georgia's Ambassador to the UN Revaz Adamia that Russia was responsible for his exclusion from a 26 January UN Security Council discussion of the situation in Abkhazia, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2005). LF

    [20] KAZAKH OPPOSITION MEMBERS JAILED, FINED AFTER UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION

    Seven members of the opposition party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) were arrested on 29 January at an unsanctioned demonstration in Almaty and sentenced to short prison terms and fines on 30 January, "Kazakhstan Today" and Interfax reported. Opposition parties Ak Zhol, DVK, and the Communist Party went ahead with the rally, which drew 1,000-2,000 people, after officials rejected their 19 January application to hold a demonstration. At the rally, leading opposition figures denounced a recent court decision to liquidate the DVK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2005) and spoke out against the government of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. In a 30 January press release, the DVK said that on 30 January five party activists received jail terms ranging from two to seven days; two others were fined. All were charged with failing to comply with the demands of Interior Ministry officials. A DVK lawyer told "Kazakhstan Today" that the party plans to appeal the sentences on 31 January. DK

    [21] KAZAKH GOVERNMENT BUYS INTO MAJOR OIL PROJECT

    Following months of negotiations, the international consortium formed in 1997 to exploit Kazakhstan's Kashagan oil field, which has estimated reserves of between 7 billion and 9 billion tons, has agreed to sell half of British Gas's (BG) 16.67 percent stake to the Kazakh government, international media reported on 28 and 31 January. That stake is valued at $1.23 billion, according to "The Wall Street Journal" on 31 January. The sale is to be finalized on 2 February; it is not clear who will acquire the other half of BG's stake. BG announced in late 2002 its intention to sell its stake in Kashagan, but the remaining shareholders in the consortium -- operator ENI (16.67 percent), ExxonMobil (16.67 percent), TotalFinaElf (16.67 percent), Royal Dutch-Shell (16.67 percent), ConocoPhillips (8.33 percent), and Japan's INPEX (8.33 percent) -- blocked BG's plans to sell that stake to two Chinese companies in the hope of dividing it among themselves. Then the Kazakh government insisted that under Kazakh law it has first refusal. Production at Kashagan was originally scheduled to begin in late 2005; the consortium paid $150 million in compensation last year to the Kazakh government when it became clear that it would not be possible to begin production before 2007-08. LF

    [22] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADERS FINED FOR UNSANCTIONED RALLY

    A court in Bishkek on 28 January fined Roza Otunbaeva, cochair of the opposition bloc Ata-Jurt, and Topchubek Turgunaliev, leader of the party Erkindik, 1,000 soms ($24) for organizing an unauthorized protest in the Kyrgyz capital on 19 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 2005), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Turgunaliev that the opposition is ready for a lengthy legal struggle. "This [ruling] is a politically motivated order [by the Kyrgyz government]," Turgunaliev told RFE/RL. "We will definitely appeal to the Bishkek city court, then to the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and then to an international court." A number of Kyrgyz NGOs reacted to the fines with an indignant appeal on 29 January to President Askar Akaev, describing the accusations as "fabricated" and calling the court decisions "further illegal and unconstitutional actions by the authorities," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK

    [23] INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS DENY 'INTERFERENCE' IN KYRGYZ ELECTIONS

    Representatives of media NGO Internews, the OSCE center in Bishkek, and CIMERA-Kyrgyzstan (a Geneva-based organization that focuses on governance issues) held a news conference in Bishkek on 28 January to deny recent official allegations that international organizations are interfering in the run-up to Kyrgyzstan's 27 February parliamentary elections, akipress.org reported. "CIMERA-Kyrgyzstan is assisting in raising journalistic skills, but it does not interfere in internal affairs and is not involved in politics," said CIMERA-Kyrgyzstan spokesperson Vasilina Brazhko. Held amid rising domestic political tensions, the news conference follows comments Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aimatov made on 14 January to "Slovo Kyrgyzstan" in which he warned that "direct financial support of opposition parties and movements" would be "a direct violation of our internal legislation." DK

    [24] OSCE ELECTION-OBSERVER MISSION OPENS IN TAJIKISTAN

    The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on 28 January officially opened its observer mission to Tajikistan's 27 February parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Mission head Peter Eicher said that monitors will assess the elections' adherence to international standards in terms of preparedness, observance of law, and media coverage. Eicher noted that while Tajikistan's election law ensures the overall transparency of the electoral process, it does not provide for sufficient balance in the composition of local election commissions. According to Tajikistan's Central Election Commission, the OSCE's long-term observer team will consist of 27 monitors from 16 different countries, with 10 monitors in Dushanbe and 17 in other regions of the country. DK

    [25] TAJIK PRESIDENT REMOVES GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

    President Imomali Rakhmonov at a 29 January cabinet meeting removed a number of high-ranking government officials from their posts, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Removed by presidential decree were Abduahad Normatov, first deputy minister of industry; Iskandar Davlatov, head of Tajik Savings Bank; three deputy directors of the Savings Bank; and the heads of the Vahdat, Fayzobod, Jabbor Rasulov, and Hamadoni districts. "Jumhuriyat" newspaper Editor in Chief Subhon Koshonov was also relieved of his duties. DK

    [26] TURKMENISTAN HOSTS NEW ROUND OF CASPIAN TALKS

    Representatives of the Caspian littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan) met in Ashgabat on 28-29 January for the 16th session of the working group charged with settling the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported. The meeting ended in a neutral communique and an agreement to continue talks at a subsequent session in Tehran, Turkmen Television reported. But as ITAR-TASS noted on 30 January, the closed-door negotiations may have helped to ease recent tensions between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 25 January criticizing certain participants in negotiations over the Caspian and hinting at an appeal to international bodies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2005). Yet even as the latest session opened, a 28 January article in Turkmenistan's government-controlled newspaper "Neitralnyi Turkmenistan" charged that, on some Caspian-related issues, the "Azerbaijani side does not take into account certain generally accepted international criteria." DK

    [27] UZBEK PRESIDENT OUTLINES POLICY PRIORITIES IN ADDRESS...

    President Islam Karimov addressed a joint session of parliament in Tashkent on 28 January, laying out his vision of the tasks that stand before the country, UzA reported. Calling the December parliamentary elections a "good school for us," he said that the primary task is "to follow our chosen path of democratic construction and the formation of civil society, the deepening of market reforms, and the strengthening of democratic values in people's consciousness." His address then went point by point, highlighting the need "to strengthen the role and influence of the legislature," liberalize the legal system, inculcate "democratic standards in the development of media," follow a foreign policy that puts Uzbekistan's interests first, and pursue economic reforms. The joint session also confirmed current Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoev and tasked him with forming a new government. DK

    [28] ...CAUTIONS WESTERN ENVOYS ON INTERFERENCE...

    President Karimov has sent a clear signal that he intends to keep a close eye on the activities of foreign-funded NGOs in Uzbekistan in light of recent events in Georgia and Ukraine. Warning that the activities of some NGOs "go far beyond what is declared in their charters and programs," Karimov said that "such projects, which contradict our legislation, have no future in Uzbekistan," UzA reported. "We will bring to heel those who go beyond the law," uzland.uz quoted Karimov as saying. "We have the capability to do that." Karimov then directly addressed Western ambassadors, saying: "I don't want to delve too deeply into this matter. But those sitting up there in the balcony ought to understand that better," Reuters reported. The remark was not included in the transcript posted on the site of official news agency UzA (http://www.uza.uz). DK

    [29] ...AND SUGGESTS THAT UKRAINE EVENTS COULD LEAD UZBEKISTAN TO LEAVE GUUAM

    Speaking at a news conference after his address to parliament on 28 January, President Karimov said that events in Georgia and Ukraine could lead Uzbekistan to pull out of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova), Uzbek Television First Channel reported. "The tendencies that are taking place now in Ukraine and Georgia -- and also in Moldova, which is a member of GUUAM -- make us reconsider our relations again and again: whether or not we should continue participating in GUUAM in the future," Karimov said. "We have not yet adopted any decision on this account. However, I think we will solve this issue in the near future." Karimov also lambasted the Commonwealth of Independent States for its ineffectiveness and stressed that U.S. troops will leave Uzbekistan once the U.S. contingent leaves Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has previously suspended and then reaffirmed its membership in GUUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2003 and 26 June 2004). DK

    Eastern Europe

    [30] BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FORCES HOLD RALLY, CONFERENCE

    About 190 people formed a human chain in central Minsk on 30 January to express their support for opposition politician Mikhail Marynich, a former foreign trade minister and ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, who was sentenced to five years in prison on 30 December, Belapan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). According to Belapan, similar events were expected to take place in other cities, such as Vitsebsk, the same day. Meanwhile, around 40 representatives of Belarusian pro-democracy political parties and NGOs attended a conference on 28-29 January in Vilnius to discuss a plan to select a common opposition candidate for the next presidential election, Belapan reported. Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, said that the Lithuanian capital had been picked as the venue to avoid interference by Belarus's security services. JAC

    [31] BELARUSIAN MINISTER PROMISES TO TIGHTEN MEDIA REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

    Belarusian Information Minister Uladzimir Rusakevich told the ministry's board on 28 January that the ministry will tighten requirements for print and electronic media outlets, Belapan reported on 29 January. Rusakevich also vowed to "take specific steps" with regard to nonstate press-retail networks, which the agency described as a signal that the government wants to bring this sphere under its control. Rusakevich called on state-controlled media outlets to improve their efforts to counter "anti-Belarusian activities planned both inside the country and abroad." In 2004, 81 print outlets in Belarus received written warnings, while 25 media outlets were suspended altogether, Belapan reported on 28 January, citing Rusakevich. JAC

    [32] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SETS DEADLINE FOR MEETING WTO REQUIREMENTS...

    In Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, Viktor Yushchenko said at a meeting with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi on 28 January that Ukraine "hopes to meet all requirements necessary for joining the WTO by November," Interfax reported. Yushchenko also announced the creation of a new post of deputy prime minister for European integration in the new government, which will be filled by Our Ukraine legislator Oleh Rybachuk. According to the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) on 30 January, Rybachuk attended a lunch hosted by Interpipe owner and former President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, at which he answered questions from businessmen and Western journalists about European integration. JAC

    [33] ...AND PROMISES FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION WILL BE HIGH PRIORITY

    At a meeting with representatives of major multinational corporations in Davos on 30 January, President Yushchenko said that if any businessmen enter the government they will have to declare not only their own income and expenditures but also that of their close relatives, UNIAN and the presidential press service reported. They will also have to refrain from any entrepreneurial activities during their government service. Yushchenko assured world business leaders that his administration's top priorities will be the battle with corruption and separating business from politics. He also announced that he will create an investment council that will begin a fresh dialogue between businesses and the new government. JAC

    [34] UKRAINIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT DECLARES NEW CAMPAIGN

    The youth organization Pora held a ceremony in Kyiv on 30 January to mark its transition from a civic campaign to a public organization and analytical center, "Ukrayinska pravda" and Ukrayinski novini reported. At the ceremony, State Secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko read a letter of thanks and congratulations from President Yushchenko. According to a 27 January press release, Pora's next stage of activities will be devoted to the "de-Kuchma-ization of Ukraine," the goal of which will be a "cardinal renewal of the authorities," the lustration of cadres and the increase of the authorities' transparency. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Television reported on 28 January that Pora activists threw eggs at the Uzhhorod mayor, who ambulance doctors said sustained a facial injury. JAC

    [35] PRESIDENT TAPS ANOTHER LAWMAKER FOR TOP POST

    President Yushchenko has appointed Oleksandr Tretyakov, a lawmaker from the Our Ukraine faction, as his first aide, UNIAN reported on 28 January. Tretyakov, 35, is member of the Fuel and Energy Committee of the Verkhovna Rada. He also served as a treasurer for Yushchenko's election campaign. JAC

    Southeastern Europe

    [36] PROMINENT BOSNIAN MUSLIM COMMANDER'S TRIAL OPENS IN THE HAGUE

    Prosecutors at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal began presenting their case on 31 January against Sefer Halilovic, a former commander in the mainly Muslim Bosnian Army, Reuters reported. Halilovic is charged with failing to prevent the killing of 62 ethnic Croat civilians by his troops in Grabovica and Uzdol in September 1993 during the brief Muslim-Croat conflict. Halilovic, who turned himself in to the tribunal in 2001, is a former chief of staff and the highest-ranking Muslim former official to face war crimes charges in The Hague. Prosecutor Sureta Chana told the court that Halilovic, who helped plan the operation, subsequently "was in the area and visited [Grabovica just after the killings]. He could not have failed to notice the bodies when they were strewn all around." The prosecutor also charged Halilovic with "contemptuously ripping up" an order from his superior, General Rasim Delic, calling on him to investigate the crime and prevent such incidents in the future. Many Muslims still regard Halilovic as a hero for his exploits in 1992 and early 1993. He left the army about one month after the Grabovica killings and entered politics after the 1992-95 conflict ended. PM

    [37] MOVEMENT FOR INDEPENDENT MONTENEGRO ESTABLISHED

    About 130 politicians and other public figures on 30 January founded the Movement For Independent Montenegro in Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. It will seek to promote Montenegrin independence, organize a referendum to that end, obtain EU membership, establish good relations with Serbia, support regional stability and prosperity, and join international organizations and forums. Serbia and Montenegro's Ambassador to Italy Branko Lukovac will head the council. Representatives of several political parties took part in the meeting, including officials of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), parliamentary speaker Ranko Krivokapic's Social Democratic Party (SDP), and representatives of some ethnic Albanian parties and the Croatian Civic Initiative. The previous day, representatives of opposition parties met in Budva to form a movement to preserve the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro. The leading opposition party, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), nonetheless distanced itself from the Budva gathering. There has never been a clear consensus among Montenegrins as to whether they are a distinct people or a special branch of the Serbian nation. Recent polls suggest a slight majority favors independence. PM

    [38] PROTESTERS BLOCK MAJOR THOROUGHFARE IN MACEDONIA

    Inhabitants of the eastern Macedonian village of Cesinovo are continuing to block a major thoroughfare linking Skopje with the western Bulgarian town of Blagoevgrad to protest a government decision to merge the administrative district of their village with the neighboring administrative district of Oblesevo, "Vreme" reported on 31 January. The villagers set up the roadblock on 27 January, paralyzing traffic in much of the area. Under the government plans, the two districts will soon merge into one district called Cesinovo-Oblesevo, with the administration based in Oblesevo. Cesinovo's inhabitants insist that the administration of the joint district be based in their village. Both villages are governed by the conservative opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and have close family as well as political ties. The merger is part of the government's plans to reduce the number of districts from 123 to 80 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 July and 12 November 2004). UB

    [39] ROMANIAN PREMIER BACKS INQUIRY INTO SUSPECTED VOTE FRAUD

    Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on 28 January told journalists he backs the setting up of an ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate suspicions of vote fraud in the 28 November parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. The possibility was first raised by President Traian Basescu in a 10 January interview with Realitatea TV. According to a postelection analysis published last week by IMAS polling institute Director Mircea Kivu, there is "circumstantial evidence" that the former ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) manipulated the vote on the so-called special lists of people voting outside their place of residence and spoiled ballots. Kivu's analysis was published in the weekly "Dilema veche" and shows that at polling stations where a very large proportion of the vote was cast on special lists or where an unusually large proportion of the votes were invalid, the PSD won by a margin of some 20 percentage points; conversely, where there was a low proportion of special-list votes or of spoiled ballots, victory went to the Justice and Truth alliance by a margin of some 3 percentage points. MS

    [40] ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS SPEAKERS' COMPLAINT AGAINST PRESIDENT

    The Constitutional Court ruled on 28 January that there are no grounds for the complaint launched by the speakers of the lower and upper houses of parliament, Adrian Nastase and Nicolae Vacaroiu, respectively, against President Basescu, Mediafax reported. In their complaint, the two speakers describe Basescu's statement in a 10 January interview with the daily "Adevarul" that they should be removed from office as having created a "legal conflict of constitutional essence" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 January 2005). MS

    [41] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ANNULS DECISION ON BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTIONS

    The government on 28 January annulled a decision by the former cabinet to hold mayoral elections in Bucharest on 10 April, Mediafax reported. That decision followed the election of Basescu as president on 6 December last year. According to media reports, the current ruling Justice and Truth alliance wants the vote to be held earlier, in order to capitalize on the alliance's current popularity. An opinion poll is to determine whether the alliance's mayoral candidate will be National Liberal Party member Ludovic Orban or Democratic Party member and current Deputy Prime Minister Adriean Videanu. MS

    [42] ROMANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT SHUT DOWN

    Romania's only nuclear plant was shut down on 30 January for what the Energy Ministry described as "minor repairs," Mediafax and AP reported. The Cernavoda nuclear plant was stopped after a valve malfunctioned during a routine check. The ministry said the plant will be restarted on 4 February. This was the second time this month that the Canadian-designed nuclear reactor has been turned off due to the same malfunction. MS

    [43] UKRAINE NOT AGAINST ENLARGING TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT FRAMEWORK...

    Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Mostak on 28 January told a Chisinau meeting of the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) National Coordinators Committee that his country wants the five-sided format of negotiations on a Transdniester settlement to continue, but will not raise objections to having the European Union and the United States included in the negotiation framework, Infotag and Flux reported. Mostak said his country is interested in seeing the conflict solved as soon as possible. The GUUAM meeting was also attended by representatives of the United States, Hungarian border troops, and the Romania-based Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative Center, according to BASA-press. MS

    [44] ...ANNOUNCES TOUGHENING OF TRANSIT CONTROLS FOR TRANSDNIESTER IMPORTS

    The Ukrainian customs service announced on 21 January that Transdniester-bound imports transiting Ukrainian territory must carry Moldovan-issued import certificates, Infotag and Flux reported on 28 January. The step is in line with a decision of the Moldovan government issued last year, which the previous Ukrainian government criticized and refused to implement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2004). Transdniester's deputy industry minister, Yurii Ganin, said the step was in breach of the Ukrainian Customs Code and international law. Ganin added that Transdniester's exports via Ukraine are allowed to transit that country without problems. MS

    [45] MOLDOVAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS PROTEST DETENTION OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE

    The Social Democratic Party (PSDM) on 28 January protested against the detention of one of its candidates in the parliamentary elections slated for 6 March, Flux reported. The PSDM said Arcadie Covaliov, a member of the party's National Council, was detained by representatives of the Center for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption and was taken handcuffed to a police station. The PSDM said Covaliov, who is a medical doctor, has often protested against corruption in the Moldovan health-care system. MS

    [46] EPP RALLIES BEHIND MOLDOVAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS

    The European People's Party (EPP) approved in Brussels on 28 January a resolution criticizing the Moldovan authorities for "harassment of the opposition" in general and of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) in particular, Flux reported. The resolution calls on the Moldovan authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that the 6 March parliamentary elections are free, fair, and transparent, and to stop manipulating the media against the opposition. The EPP decided to grant the PPCD the status of associate member and to examine within one month extending that status to full membership. MS

    Southwestern Asia And The Middle East

    [47] AFGHAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR VIOLATORS

    Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission has issued a report calling for a special court to prosecute those who carried out rights abuses in Afghanistan in recent decades, Radio Afghanistan reported on 30 January. Commission head Sima Samar unveiled the report at a press conference in Kabul alongside UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. "After having conducted a questionnaire-based survey in various parts of the country, the [commission] came to the conclusion that a special and powerful court should be established in order to assess the cases of war crimes and human rights violations in this war-torn country," Samar said. "The government should draft a list of perpetrators." Samar added: "It is the duty of the Afghan government and the international community to bring to court those who violate human rights. The commission has passed the message and proposals of the people to President Hamid Karzai." MR

    [48] AFGHAN AUTHORITIES OPEN NEW DRIVE TO COLLECT MISSILES

    Afghan authorities have renewed efforts to collect shoulder-launched Stinger antiaircraft missiles in Afghanistan, AP reported on 30 January. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided some 2,000 Stingers to Afghan guerrillas fighting Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s but has tried to buy them back in recent years in the hopes of keeping them out of the hands of terrorists in the region or Iran. The Afghan intelligence service is offering to buy Stingers, but the price remains undisclosed. Hussein Fakhri, a senior intelligence official, confirmed a report of the offer on Afghan state television but refused to offer further details about the effort. How many Stingers remain in Afghanistan is unclear. The going price for one is reportedly as high $150,000. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi acknowledged that many would hesitate to sell Stingers even with prices high. "Stingers are valuable and important weapons," he said. "Nobody gives up such a weapon easily." MR

    [49] FIVE KILLED IN AFGHAN MINE EXPLOSION

    Five people were killed in a land-mine explosion in southern Afghanistan, AFP reported on 30 January. Nine others were injured in the blast, which happened when a vehicle drove over a mine apparently laid by neo-Taliban insurgents outside Kandahar. "Fourteen kilometers north of Kandahar city a pickup truck ran over a mine," provincial spokesman Khaleeq Pashtun said. "It was a new mine placed in the road. It was put there by the Taliban." U.S.-led coalition military officials confirmed the attack as well. MR

    [50] UN SAYS OPIUM PRODUCTION COULD FALL IN AFGHANISTAN

    The UN's top antidrug official said opium production will likely fall soon in Afghanistan, AP reported 30 January. "After a few years of bad news, I believe that 2005 may finally deliver some good news," said Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Costa said counternarcotics efforts carried out by the Afghan government and backed by the UN seem to be gaining ground. "The information we have from different sources... shows that the effort is significant and the impact on the actual surface under cultivation could be important." Costa refused to predict how much opium production might fall in Afghanistan, which is the source of about 90 percent of the world's heroin. Some farmers in opium-poppy-growing areas like northeastern Afghanistan have recently planted wheat instead of poppies, prompting Afghan and Western officials in Kabul to estimate that cultivation could fall by 30 percent from a record 323,700 acres (130,997 hectares) in 2004. Costa acknowledged, however, that some farmers may have held off planting opium poppies this season because of lower opium prices rather than pressure from counternarcotics authorities. MR

    [51] U.S. COMPANY TO PULL SUBSIDIARY OUT OF IRAN

    Just weeks after U.S. oil-services company Halliburton won a tender to drill in an Iranian gas field, CEO Dave Lesar announced that it will not pursue any new contracts there, the "Financial Times" reported on 28 January (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 January 2005). Lesar described the company's contracts in Iran as comparatively "miniscule," while they attracted a disproportionate amount of bad publicity. Lesar added that the pullout is temporary, and the company will return if the U.S. sanctions against Iran are lifted, Reuters reported. Halliburton's work in Iran is conducted through a subsidiary based in the Cayman Islands, and Lesar's announcement comes as Congress is preparing legislation that would eliminate the loophole that allows U.S. firms' foreign subsidiaries to work in Iran, the "Financial Times" reported. BS

    [52] IRANIAN LEADER DENOUNCES GLOBAL 'ARROGANCE'...

    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a 29 January speech in Tehran that Iran is not afraid of the United States, Iranian state radio reported. He described the U.S. leadership as "the ugliest manifestation of world arrogance." "They imagine that the Iranian nation will abandon the scene because of their threats and bullying or that it will surrender and kneel in front of them." Khamenei said the United States is hostile to Iran because its system and officials will not surrender to it. The United States is friendly, he said, "with any government, in any country, which is prepared to commit an act of treason against its own nation and surrender its own nation to America." Khamenei concluded: "Where there is popular will, the sword of arrogance is blunt. The arrogance cannot do a damn thing." BS

    [53] ...AND REJECTS TERRORISM ALLEGATIONS

    After accusing the United States of human rights violations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei discussed terrorism in his 29 January speech. "They accuse other countries of supporting terrorism," Khamenei said. "The terrorists were grown under the wings of the Americans themselves. The Taliban in Afghanistan came into existence and expanded with the help of the Americans." He added: "By terrorism they mean the brave and self-sacrificing struggle of the people of Palestine. They expect the Iranian nation to share in the oppression of the Palestinian nation. This is another one of their foolish expectations." The U.S. State Department asserts that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and refers specifically to its involvement with Hamas, Hizballah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command. BS

    [54] LEBANESE DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS IRAN

    Lebanese Defense Minister Abd-al-Rahim Murad arrived in Tehran on 29 January, Iranian state radio reported. He is scheduled to spend four days in Iran. He met with Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani, who announced on 30 January that Iran is ready to "renovate and strengthen" Lebanon's defense industries, IRNA reported. Shamkhani toured the region in February 2004, and during that trip he stopped in Beirut. BS

    [55] LEADER OF IRANIAN HAJJ PILGRIMS COMES HOME

    Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri, the supreme leader's representative to the hajj pilgrimage, returned to Iran from Saudi Arabia on 30 January, "Iran" reported. Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohammadi-Golpayegani, head of the supreme leader's office, and Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari greeted him at the airport. Reyshahri told reporters that approximately 100,000 Iranians participated in this year's pilgrimage, and 3,000 of whom were based in other countries. BS

    [56] IRAQI ELECTIONS CARRIED OUT WITH FEWER ATTACKS THAN EXPECTED

    Nationwide elections took place across Iraq on 30 January with relatively few terrorist attacks, international media reported. At least 27 people were killed in eight attacks in Baghdad carried out by foreign suicide bombers, including at least one bomber from Syria and another from Chechnya, Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told Reuters on 30 January. Attacks were also carried out in Samarra, Balad, Kirkuk, and Al-Basrah, with few casualties, according to media reports. Al-Naqib told the media in a 31 January press briefing broadcast live on CNN that police and National Guardsmen arrested 39 suspected terrorists attempting to carry out attacks on polling stations. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told reporters on 31 January that Iraqis defeated the terrorists by going to the polls, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported. KR

    [57] IRAQI ELECTION OFFICIALS SAY RESULTS IN 10 DAYS

    Election officials announced two hours before the polls closed that voter turnout was estimated to have reached 72 percent. They backtracked on that statement about an hour later, saying that based on the information they had from polling centers, turnout was about 60 percent nationwide. The vote was not without problems, however. Election workers failed to show up to work at some polling centers in the Sunni-populated towns of Bayji and Ba'qubah, according to media reports. In Al-Najaf, at least one party protested the local election after its name failed to appear on the ballot, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. Some political parties also violated a ban on campaigning during the 48 hours leading up to the vote, including Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqi List, Independent Election Commission officials said on 30 January. Violators will be fined $1,600, the commission said. Officials declined to announce the number of votes cast in the volatile Al-Anbar Governorate, saying that the numbers would be released later. They did say, however, that turnout there was better than expected. Polling centers across Iraq began tallying the votes after the close of polls; final results are not expected for seven to 10 days. KR

    [58] OFFICIALS EXPRESS FEELINGS ON IRAQI ELECTIONS

    RFI interviewed a number of Iraqi officials on 30 January to ask what the elections meant to them. President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir said: "I am proud, happy, and in euphoria in this blessed morning. I congratulate Iraqis.... God willing, this challenge will be a victory for the will of the Iraqi people and a defeat for terrorism." Prime Minister Allawi's spokesman Tha'ir al-Naqib told RFI: "These are indescribable feelings. We were waiting for this moment.... We had fought for nearly 30 years to get rid of Saddam Hussein's regime. Thanks and praise be to God, the wish has been fulfilled. The elections are a historic day for Iraq and also for the whole region." Vice President Ibrahim al-Ja'fari pointed to "the strong will of the people to write their history themselves and on their determination to hold the elections," adding that Iraqis "have a conscious and responsible attitude to the elections. They are brave to demonstrate to the world that they mean what they say and that they will do what they believe in. When these two essential qualities are present, the truth is going to prevail over the [grim] reality and the will is going to reach what it believes in." KR

    [59] SUNNI OPPOSITION SAYS ELECTION NONPARTICIPATION NO GREAT LOSS

    Sunni opposition members told London's "Al-Hayat" that they have no regrets about not participating in Iraq's national elections, the daily reported on 31 January. "The past few months saw the neutralization of much of our capability, which meant that we would have a small representation in the [transitional] National Assembly and therefore decided [not] to take part" in the elections, Iraqi Islamic Party member Ammar Wajih said. He added that his party maintained its stand unlike other Sunni parties that participated in the election. Wajih concluded that one day the government would need his party, and at that point the party will make its vision known. Umar Sa'id, a Muslim Scholars Association official in Al-Fallujah, accused the interim government of paying off citizens to vote in the city. "As long as the occupation is here, the elections will not be fair in any way whatsoever," he claimed. Meanwhile, a spokesman for radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr contended that the assembly would not be representative of the Iraqi people, and claimed that the majority of the members of the new transitional National Assembly "will be members of the present Iraqi government that killed the Iraqi people, both Sunnis and Shi'ites." KR

    [60] BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL SAYS IRAN POISED TO EXTEND INFLUENCE IN SOUTHERN IRAQ

    London's "The Sunday Times" on 30 January cited a U.K. intelligence official as saying that Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is developing an extensive spy network in southern Iraq in order to further exert its influence over the country's political process. The official, identified only as a senior adviser to Major General Jonathan Riley, the British commander in southern Iraq, said that Iranian influence is so well-rooted already in southern Iraq that it will be able to take control of groups there "quite rapidly." "Iran is also secretly funding individuals and smaller groups in Iraq and trains them for their purposes," he claimed. He cited Muqtada al-Sadr's Al-Sadr II Movement as one example. "According to our intelligence assessments, during the Al-Najaf uprising last April, he was being given money by the Iranians to cause trouble," the official said. He added that intelligence indicates that al-Sadr has undercover militiamen in various political parties as part of a plan to eventually seize power in southern Iraq. KR

    End Note

    [61] IRANIAN PRESS REACTION TO IRAQI ELECTIONS

    By Bill Samii

    Iraqis in Iran began voting in their country's first democratic elections for a National Assembly on 28 January and, according to Iranian state radio and television, the turnout was impressively high. Indeed, more than 60,000 people living in Iran registered to participate in the elections, more than any other Iraqi expatriate population.

    Voting in Iraq itself took place on 30 January, although the results probably will not be known for up to 10 days. Voter participation, particularly in the north and south of the country, reportedly was very high. Radio Farda correspondent Ahmad Rafat reported on 31 January that more than 8 million of Iraq's 16 million eligible voters turned out the previous day.

    However, despite the relevance to Iran of the elections in Iraq, domestic events are overshadowing them. Iran commemorates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution starting on 31 January. Called the Ten Days of Dawn, this is a celebration of the achievements of 26 years of theocratic rule.

    Iranian state television reported on 30 January that the elections were "welcomed overwhelmingly by the people of different Iraqi cities, especially Baghdad," and it added, "the elections have been extraordinarily welcome in northern and southern Iraq." A correspondent in the south reported that the "cities of Al-Imarah, Al-Nasiriyah, Samawa, Umm Qasr, and Al-Basrah witnessed the extensive presence of people at polling stations today." A correspondent in the north reported that "people of Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, and Dahuk provinces took part in the elections with particular enthusiasm."

    Iranian newspapers did not appear to have correspondents in Iraq and relied instead on the Iranian Students News Agency, Fars News Agency, and Mehr News Agency, BBC Monitoring noted on 30 January.

    Newspaper commentary on the elections varied across the political spectrum. The hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami," for example, hinted that the United States would stay in Iraq regardless of the election results. More conservative newspapers, such as "Hamshahri," were generally factual. "Iran," which is the state news agency's daily, ran an analysis of the Iraqi candidates and voters. The reformist "Sharq" daily had eight pages of coverage about the Iraqi elections -- this included historical pieces about Iraq, analysis of the parties, and a discussion of U.S. organizations' involvement in the elections.

    A postelection report in the 31 January "Iran Daily," which is IRNA's English-language daily, was factual in nature. On the same day, the English-language "Tehran Times" used a Mehr News Agency dispatch that cited Reuters. An editorial in the daily referred to the "new era in Iraq" and "massive voter turnout." "A show of strength by the people of Iraq," was the headline on the front page of "Iran" on 31 January. The story described public participation and incidents of terrorist violence.

    "Hamshahri" reported on 31 January that the Iraqi people ignored the terrorists. The top item on the front page of "Khorasan" announced that 72 percent of the Iraqi people voted in the elections. "Gilan-i Imruz," from the northern part of the country, focused instead on the pending visit of the Iranian judiciary chief.


    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
    Back to Top
    Copyright 1995-2016 HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network). An HRI Project.
    All Rights Reserved.

    HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
    rferl2html v1.01 run on Monday, 31 January 2005 - 14:33:03 UTC