|Wednesday, 14 April 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, 06-08-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 ISRAEL REJECTS RUSSIAN PROPOSAL FOR CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTIONRussian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said in New York on August 10 that he plans to introduce to the Security Council soon a resolution calling for a 72-hour "humanitarian cease-fire" to allow aid shipments into southern Lebanon, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 9, 2006). He noted that the final wording of a proposed comprehensive resolution sponsored by the United States and France continues to be delayed, adding that "with [Russia's proposed] humanitarian cessation of hostilities, we'll have more of a chance accomplishing that task quickly than in a situation of continued fighting and continued human tragedy and escalation of military conflict." He stressed that "it is not Russia that poses difficulties for anybody. Russia is just helping." But U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton called the Russian proposal an "unhelpful diversion" from the work on the comprehensive resolution. His Israeli counterpart, Dan Gillerman, said that the kind of cease-fire proposed by Churkin "would serve only one purpose, namely to allow Hizballah to regroup and recover." PM
 RUSSIA DENIES ARMING HIZBALLAHForeign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on August 10 that Russia has not supplied any "modern antitank weapons" to Hizballah, RIA Novosti reported. He thereby denied a recent report in the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" that Israeli ground troop casualties in southern Lebanon are mainly the result of Hizballah firing Russian-made RPG-29 Vampyr antitank grenade launchers that Russia sold to Syria, which, in turn, allegedly supplied them to Hizballah. Kamynin called the charges "bewildering," adding that "no proof has been presented." He stressed that "our control system over weapons exports is one of the most reliable," including determining where those weapons eventually wind up. He argued that Russia observes its international obligations and "takes into consideration the military and political tensions in the Middle East" when selling arms. The Moscow daily "Vedomosti" wrote on August 11 that in Russia the Israeli suspicions are considered "groundless" and quoted one expert as saying that the leadership under President Vladimir Putin "would hardly permit any truly dangerous weapons to fall into the hands of Israel's enemies." Hamas and Hizballah do not appear on Russia's official list of terrorist organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 28, 2006, and "Russia: As Middle East Heats Up, Russia Maintains Balancing Act, rferl.org, August 10, 2006). PM
 RUSSIA STEPS UP AIRPORT SECURITY...A Transportation Ministry spokesman told Channel 1 television on August 10 that Russian authorities are increasing airport security following the apparent uncovering of a major terrorist plot in Britain directed against flights between the United Kingdom and the United States, mosnews.com reported. He said that "no restrictions will be introduced...but Russian airports will increase security during passport- and luggage-control procedures." The spokesman added that "as part of enhanced security, special inspectors will monitor the strict compliance of security procedures by the staff at international airports in the country, including three in Moscow." British Airways temporarily halted its flights between London and most European destinations, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, following the announcement of the terror alert. Spokesmen for the Russian carriers Transaero and Aeroflot said, however, that their flights between Britain and Russia have not been interrupted. PM
 ...AS SOME COMMENTATORS SEE A PARALLELOn August 11, the Moscow daily "Vedomosti" called the actions by the British security authorities the previous day "an important victory in the struggle against international terrorism." The daily "Kommersant," however, commented that it is odd that neither U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair nor U.S. President George W. Bush broke off their respective vacations, whereas French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy held a crisis meeting in Paris. The daily concluded that the reason is that Bush and Blair are nearing the end of their political careers, whereas Sarkozy intends to be the next president of France. "Kommersant" also noted that it is about six years since President Putin failed to break off his vacation in response to the sinking of the submarine "Kursk," for which he was widely criticized as being indifferent to the death of ordinary servicemen and the sufferings of their loved ones. PM
 BOEING SAYS U.S. SANCTIONS WILL NOT AFFECT IT...Sergei Kravchenko, who is Boeing's chief representative for Russia and CIS member states, told Interfax in Moscow on August 10 that his company is reviewing the possible impact of recently announced U.S. sanctions against Russia's main arms exporter, Rosoboroneksport, and the aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi for alleged violations of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, but doubts that Boeing will be affected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 7, 8, and 10, 2006). He said that "we do not think that these sanctions will influence Boeing's current and new plans to buy titanium and titanium products from our main Russian supplier, Avisma," which Rosoboroneksport seeks to acquire. Kravchenko added that "we do not think that the sanctions will hamper Boeing's participation in the Sukhoi Superjet 100 [regional jet] program. All Russian projects of Boeing comply with U.S. export requirements and Russian laws." PM
 ...AND SEEMS SET TO EXPAND IN RUSSIAN MARKETBoeing and Avisma agreed on August 11 to a 50-50 joint venture on titanium, which plays a key role in building lighter, more fuel-efficient planes, London's "Financial Times" and Bloomberg reported. The British daily added that President Putin, some top Boeing executives, and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering are expected to resume talks on the Russian purchase of more than 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The paper commented that the "deal would represent a blow to Airbus, the European manufacturer that has been competing head-to-head with Boeing to sign up with Aeroflot." Airbus has been hit recently by scandals and problems stemming from its failure to meet some delivery contracts. PM.
 PUTIN ORDERS INVENTORY OF ART TREASURES...First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in Moscow on August 10 that President Putin has ordered an inventory of artworks held in museums across the country, ITAR-TASS reported. Medvedev noted that Putin told ministers to set up a commission to start work on the audit by September 1. "He has given an instruction that the Interior Ministry, Culture Ministry, Federal Security Service, Prosecutor-General's Office, and other agencies should take part in the work of the commission," Medvedev added. The announcement comes in the wake of revelations of two high-profile art thefts from state institutions and a growing realization that pilfering by insiders may have been going on for decades (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 7 and 9, 2006). In related news, St. Petersburg police said on August 11 that they have detained an unidentified additional suspect, whom they regard as the "mastermind" of thefts at the Hermitage Museum, Interfax reported. PM
 ...BUT WILL HEADS ROLL AS A RESULT OF THEFTS?Mikhail Piotrovsky, who is director of the Hermitage Museum, said in St. Petersburg on August 10 that he has no intention of resigning in the wake of revelations of thefts worth up to $130 million, apparently involving museum staff, RIA Novosti reported. "Don't hold your breath. I will not resign voluntarily." His superior, Mikhail Shvydkoi, who heads the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinema, said of Piotrovsky: "I don't think he should go. Then all [museum or culture authorities] would have to resign. I myself would have to step down as well." PM
 SOLDIER DIES AFTER BEATING BY OFFICERColonel Vladimir Karpenko, who is a spokesman for the railroad troops, told Interfax in Moscow on August 11 that a soldier, Dmitry Panteleyev, was hit by Captain Vyacheslav Nikiforov on August 5 in Lukhovitsy near Moscow and died on August 10. Karpenko added that "there is no justification for what the officer did." A criminal case has been opened against Nikiforov, who was Panteleyev's commander and reportedly drunk at the time of the incident. Nikiforov is now in custody. The issue of hazing in the military has been in the forefront of media attention in 2006, following a particularly gruesome incident at the start of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 20, 22, and 29, and August 4, 2006). PM
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 CANADIAN FIRM TO INVEST $10 MILLION IN ARMENIAN MINEJonathan Goodman, the head of Canadian Dundee Precious Metals, announced in Yerevan on August 10 that the firm will invest $10 million after a planned takeover of an Armenian mine in Kapan, Interfax reported. Goodman stated that the Canadian firm intends to purchase an 80 percent controlling stake in the mine, with plans to invest $10 million in the modernization and expansion of the mining facility. The investment in the Kapan mine, which currently produces 300,000 tons of copper and zinc concentrates annually for export, aims to increase production to 1 million tons a year. RG
 CONSTRUCTION IN ARMENIA EXPANDS BY NEARLY ONE-THIRDArmenia's National Statistics Service reported on August 8 that building construction expanded by nearly one-third in the first six months of the year, Noyan Tapan reported on August 9. Construction rose to more than 165.6 billion drams (roughly $373.1 million), marking an increase of 31.8 percent over the same period last year. Some 271 new residential buildings were built and 18 schools underwent a comprehensive upgrade and modernization effort. Construction in Armenia has steadily expanded in recent years, with much of the new construction centered in the capital Yerevan. RG
 AZERBAIJANI EDITOR ARRESTEDSahin Agabayli, the editor of the "Milli Yol" newspaper, was arrested on August 9 in Baku by Azerbaijani police, according to ANS-TV. The editor, currently facing criminal charges related to a libel case brought by Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, was arrested after failing to adhere to a judge's order to appear before the Nasimi district court in Baku. In an interview on the case published on August 10, Interior Minister Usubov warned that the libel charges against the editor show that "we will fight" any journalist who "insults the honor and dignity of the police," Turan reported. RG
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CREATION OF 100,000-STRONG ARMY RESERVEIn an address to army reservists, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called on August 10 for the formation of a 100,000-strong reserve force, Rustavi-2 television and Civil Georgia reported. Saakashvili, who has been spending his vacation living and training with reservists since August 5 at a camp near the central Georgian village of Osiauri, proposed that "every Georgian citizen up to the age of 40 should feel obliged to spend even just two weeks training as a reservist for the defense of our country." He also vowed that "Georgia should be ready to use all means of defense and to mobilize at least 100,000 people within several months through its reserve troops system in case of need," Caucasus Press reported. RG
 ETHNIC AZERBAIJANIS THREATEN TO BLOCK STRATEGIC HIGHWAY THROUGH GEORGIAMeeting in Turkey, the National Assembly of Azerbaijanis of Georgia issued a statement on August 9 threatening to "stage mass rallies" and block the strategic Tbilisi-Yerevan and Tbilisi-Marneuli-Yerevan highways in southern Georgia, Caucasus Press and Regnum reported. The group explained that its threat was justified by "the growing wave of national discrimination in the country" and "the unconcealed oppression of Azerbaijanis by the Georgian police and special services." According to spokesman Abbas Muradkhanly, the group is calling attention to a wave of crimes and attacks targeting the ethnic Azerbaijanis in recent weeks and protesting a decision by the Georgian authorities to impose an official ban on the Azerbaijan-based "Hummet" newspaper in Georgia. The chairman of another ethnic Azerbaijani group, the Georgia Is My Motherland organization, Alec Babaev, released a similar statement on August 8 highlighting a wave of "violence, robbery, and murders" that have targeted their community and calling on the Georgian government to improve security in the southern Georgian region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 9, 2006). RG
 PROSECUTORS SEEK DEATH PENALTY IN TRIAL FOR MURDER OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERProsecutors have asked for the death penalty for Erzhan Utembaev, former head of the administration of Kazakhstan's Senate, and Rustam Ibragimov, a former law-enforcement officer, for their alleged roles in the murder of Kazakh opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaev and two aides, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on August 10. Utembaev is charged with paying Ibragimov to kill Sarsenbaev, his driver, and bodyguard. Recanting earlier confessions they say were coerced, the two have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Also on August 10, presiding judge Lukmat Merekenov rejected a request by lawyers representing the victims to question Utembaev and Ibragimov, Navigator reported, citing information from the opposition party Naghyz Ak Zhol. In response, all representatives of the victims left the courtroom in protest. DK
 KYRGYZ OFFICIALS JUSTIFY EXTRADITION OF UZBEK REFUGEES...Sumar Nasiza, head of the international-relations department in the Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office, announced on August 10 that prosecutors "carried out the transfer of five Uzbek citizens to Uzbekistan in conformity with national laws," Interfax reported. The statement appeared to confirm the refoulement of four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker from Kyrgyzstan a day after contradictory official statements on the reported forced return (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 10, 2006). "The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office gave us guarantees that they will protect all the rights of the extradited refugees during the investigation and trial," Nasiza also stated. Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov commented on the case on August 10, saying, "It is not worth turning the extradition of Uzbekistani refugees into a tragedy, and it is not worth panicking," news agency 24.kg reported. Jekshenkulov noted that Kyrgyz courts had concluded that the UN refugee convention did not apply to the five individuals. DK
 ...AMID WIDESPREAD CONDEMNATION...The United Nations, European Union, OSCE, and rights groups on August 9 and 10 condemned the Kyrgyz extradition, news agencies reported. In an August 9 press release, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called the move "an extremely serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention," as did the Finnish EU Presidency. The EU Presidency also expressed regret and urged "the Uzbek authorities to fully respect all human rights of the extradited refugees and asylum seeker," Reuters reported. And in an August 10 statement, OSCE Chairman in Office and Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said, "I deeply deplore Kyrgyzstan's decision to deport the four refugees and the asylum seeker to Uzbekistan, and am very concerned about their welfare and safety." And in an August 9 statement, Human Rights Watch said that "the Kyrgyz government today violated international law by forcibly returning four Uzbek refugees and one asylum seeker to Uzbekistan, putting their lives and well-being at risk." DK
 ...AS U.S. OFFICIAL VISITS KYRGYZSTANU.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher held talks in Bishkek on August 10 with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Jekshenkulov on cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. After the meeting, Jekshenkulov said that the countries have put behind them the recent tiff involving reciprocal expulsions of Kyrgyz and U.S. diplomats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 12 and August 3, 2006), news agency 24.kg reported. Kabar reported that Boucher pronounced himself satisfied with the outcome of talks on the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17, 2006). On the extradition of the Uzbek refugees, however, Boucher struck a different note, 24.kg reported. "The extradition of Uzbekistani refugees is not only Kyrgyzstan's affair," Boucher said. DK
 TAJIK ISLAMIC LEADER LAID TO RESTSeveral thousand people attended the funeral of Said Abdullo Nuri, leader of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), in Dushanbe on August 10, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Opposition and government representatives attending, including Dushanbe Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloev. IRP Deputy Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri told RFE/RL that Nuri was an "irreplaceable personality" who "led his own school [of thought] in Tajikistan and in the region, which consisted of peace, unity, and forgiveness and forgetting [grievances]." Nuri died on August 9 after a lengthy battle with cancer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 10, 2006). DK
 NETHERLANDS INVITES SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS FROM BELARUSIAN STUDENTSNuffic, the Netherlands' national organization for international cooperation in higher education, is launching a program that aims to help students from Belarus to take bachelor's and master's degree courses in the Netherlands, Belapan reported on August 10. The Dutch Education Ministry has made 1 million euros ($1.28 million) available for this purpose. Scholarships will cover a monthly allowance of 900 euros, tuition fees, visa fees, and travel expenses. There is no fixed number of available scholarships. In 2006 the scholarship program will be open exclusively to students from Belarus. But Nuffic's press office said that in the future the program may be opened to other students "who find it impossible or extremely difficult to study in their home country because of the political situation there." JM
 UKRAINE TO RESPECT CURRENT GAS DEAL WITH RUSSIAPrime Minister Viktor Yanukovych declared during a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that his government will abide by the gas deal concluded with Russia by the preceding cabinet of Yuriy Yekhanurov in January, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Kyiv agreed to an increase in the price of gas imports from $50 to $95 per 1,000 cubic meters after the Russian gas giant Gazprom briefly cut supplies to Ukraine and Europe. Critics of the gas deal, including former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, have repeatedly called for its review. "I have never said that we are going to change or review anything," Yanukovych said on August 10. "We are working to secure adequate gas supplies and optimal gas prices for our country. In the very near future I will visit Moscow and then I will be able to give a more concrete answer on gas issues." Yanukovych said at the same news conference that he will visit Russia on August 15-16. JM
 UKRAINIAN PREMIER BACKS DOWN ON FEDERALISM CLAIM...Prime Minister Yanukovych suggested at a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that his Party of Regions, which in 2004 called for federalization of Ukraine, may abandon this stance in favor of expanding the prerogatives of local self-governments, Ukrainian media reported. "The question of a federal system for our country arose on an emotional basis at the time of the elections in 2004," Yanukovych said. It was an answer to that part of the population that felt itself at some level to be either cheated or placed in discriminatory circumstances. That was a natural reaction. We, as politicians, were reacting to the wishes of our electorate. We did not put this question categorically. We invited society into a discussion. Today, at this point, the issue of reforming local rule is one that requires reform.... We should be taking steps to decentralize power and come to such a level where we will all feel that that local power will be strong enough to carry out governmental powers." JM
 ...AND SPEAKS FOR PROMOTION OF UKRAINIAN LANGUAGEPrime Minister Yanukovych told a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that "the language problem has been created artificially by politicians," thus echoing the opinion often voiced by President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych noted that "forcible Ukrainianization" produces "opposite results," but he simultaneously stressed the need for implementing a program of support for the Ukrainian language in Russian-speaking regions. "Today, the Ukrainian language needs to grow and those Russian-speaking regions need a program of Ukrainian-language development," Yanukovych said. "And, of course, we should not discriminate against the Russian language," he added. JM
 BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS FILE CHARGES AGAINST MUSLIM COMMANDERRepublika Srpska President Dragan Cavic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik on August 10 filed criminal charges against Bosnian Muslim commander Atif Dudakovic for alleged atrocities against Serbian civilians in 1995, AP reported the same day. The charges stem from a videotape shown last week on Serbian television purporting to show Croatian and Bosnian Muslim soldiers committing war crimes against Serbian civilians during Croatia's Operation Storm in July 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 8 and 9, 2006). The atrocities allegedly took place near Croatia's border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the video, a man the Serbian government in Belgrade says is Dudakovic, can be seen ordering the destruction of Serbian homes. Dudakovic said the footage was fabricated. Cavic and Dodik said they submitted the charges to prosecutors in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia-Herzegovina's central government and in Croatia. The chairman of Bosnia's three-member rotating presidency, Sulejman Tihic, who is a Muslim, has rejected accusations that Dudakovic committed atrocities against Serbs. Bosnia's state prosecutors office said it is examining the tape. BW
 WIESENTHAL CENTER URGES SERBIA TO PROSECUTE NAZI SUSPECTSEfraim Zuroff, director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, urged Serbia on August 9 to prosecute two Croatian-born men for committing atrocities against Jews, Serbs, and Roma during World War II, AP reported the next day. Zuroff made his request during a meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic and other officials in Belgrade. The two men, Ivo Rojnica and Milivoj Asner, served in Croatia's World War II pro-Nazi regime and allegedly took part in the deportations to death camps of hundreds of people. Rojnica currently lives in Argentina and Asner lives in Austria, Zuroff said. Although the men are not Serbian citizens and their alleged crimes were committed in the territory of present-day Croatia, the ethnicity of some of the victims "entitles Serbia to seek extradition," he added. "When it comes to [World War II] cases, in our attempts to see justice done it has always been important to consider the victims' origins and identity," Zuroff said. BW
 SERBIAN MILITARY TO SELL OFF $1.3 BILLION IN PROPERTYSerbian Defense Minister Zoran Stankovic said that the military plans to sell real estate used by the former Yugoslav armed forces worth an estimated $1.3 billion, UPI reported on August 9. The military plans to use the proceeds from the sales to improve military housing and purchase new equipment, Stankovic said. The government has already approved the sale of 13 military sites that should bring about $5.8 million, B92 reported. "A sale agreement is being worked out and it is in a final stage. We expect about $15 million from that sale," Stankovic said, although he provided no specific information about the identity of the buyers. BW
 SERBIAN PRESIDENT'S PARTY WILL NOT SUPPORT FOREIGN MINISTERBoris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) has announced that it will not support Vuk Draskovic continuing as foreign minister, B92 and Beta reported on August 10. Draskovic on July 31 said he will seek a confidence vote in parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 1, 2006). "We will not vote for Draskovic, and it's not personal," DS official Djordje Todorovic told the Novi Sad-based daily "Gradjanski list." Todorovic said the DS does not wish to support the government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica because it relies on tacit backing from the Socialist Party (SPS). Todorovic said the DS could back the government if Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) reaches an agreement with the DS on key national priorities and a date for parliamentary elections. "If we reach an agreement with the Democratic Party of Serbia for an election date, everything is possible, even support in the key national questions and support for the government," Todorovic said. BW
 LAWSUIT TO BAN SERBIAN RADICAL PARTY REJECTEDSerbian prosecutors on August 10 rejected a lawsuit seeking a ban on the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) for inciting ethnic hatred, B92 reported the same day. "There is no basis for recommending that the SRS be banned," B92 quoted a statement from Serbia's State Public Prosecutors Office as saying. The liberal G17 Plus party, part of Serbia's ruling coalition, filed the suit on July 28 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 29, 2006). The lawsuit was in response to an incident in which SRS lawmaker Zoran Krasic described then Agriculture Minister Ivana Dulic-Markovic and her family as "Ustasha," in reference to the pro-Nazi puppet regime in Croatia blamed for the killing of thousands of Serbs during World War II. G17 Plus official Cedomir Antic told B92 that he considers the prosecution's decision "shameful." BW
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS INSURGENTS EXPLOITING HANDOVER 'VACUUM' IN SOUTHInterior Minister Zarar Ahmad Moqbel said on August 9 that insurgents have capitalized on the recent assumption of command of international forces in southern Afghanistan by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Sheberghan-based Aina Television reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," August 1, 2006). Moqbel spoke with Aina after a visit to the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Zabul. He said the "handover of command from the [U.S.-led] international counterterrorism forces to NATO created a vacuum" from which the "enemies took advantage." Moqbel said the security situation should improve, noting that ISAF troops are "settling in" in southern Afghanistan. Moqbel blamed a deterioration of security in the south on the "presence of Pakistan-based insurgents," a shortage of Afghan police forces, narcotics trafficking, and unemployment. AT
 KABUL PREDICTS PAKISTAN WILL BE VICTIMIZED BY TERRORISMAfghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta told a news conference in Kabul on August 10 that Pakistan will become a victim of terrorism in the future, Herat-based Radio Sahar reported. Spanta said the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "showed that terrorism goes out of control" as "countries which previously controlled Al-Qaeda as a political tool against the Soviets became" victims of terrorism themselves, AFP reported on August 10. Spanta said Kabul expects its "brotherly and friendly neighbor," Pakistan, to cooperate more to counter terrorism. Afghanistan's new counterterrorism strategy calls for a focus on centers of training, support, and encouragement of terrorism, which Kabul maintains are mainly in Pakistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," July 14, 2006). AT
 AFGHAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH ROMANIAN COUNTERPARTAfghan President Hamid Karzai met with visiting Romanian President Traian Basescu in Kabul on August 10, Rompres reported. Besescu reportedly told Karzai that Romania will deploy an additional battalion of troops to Afghanistan. Basescu noted that his country currently has "over 680" troops in Afghanistan. AT
 DECREE TARGETS LUXURY PURCHASES WITHIN AFGHAN ADMINISTRATIONPresident Karzai has issued a decree ordering government departments to refrain from unnecessary expenditures, Kabul government-run "Hewad" reported on August 10. Luxury goods, pistachios and almonds, and other nonessential items should not be purchased for government departments, under the decree. Karzai has also ordered all departments to rely on domestic products whenever possible. Commenting on the decree, "Hewad" wrote that Afghan government officials "should keep in mind the poor condition of the war-struck nation, rather than imitate the officials...of developed countries." "Hewad" suggested that the step could save roughly $10 million in the coming year. AT
 REPORT CLAIMS AFGHAN MINISTER WANTS DOSTUM'S, MALIK'S POLITICAL PARTIES DISBANDEDPrivately operated Ariana Television quoted Interior Minister Moqbel on August 10 as saying his ministry has asked the Justice Ministry to seek the dissolution of the political parties of northern strongmen Abdul Rashid Dostum and General Abdul Malik. He reportedly said that recent armed clashes in the northern Faryab Province suggest that Malik's and Dostum's parties -- the Freedom Party of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Azadi-ye Afghanistan) and the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Junbish-e-Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan), respectively -- "have military branches." Such activities are banned under the constitution and the country's law on political parties. Moqbel suggested the Justice Ministry could pursue the ban through the country's recently appointed Supreme Court. Dostum handed over the leadership of his Junbish party to take up a largely ceremonial post under presidential authority in mid-2005, although the former presidential candidate is generally believed to have maintained considerable informal control. Ten days of clashes in Faryab had ceased by August 9, according to the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press. There were more than 70 registered political parties in Afghanistan by the time of the September 2005 parliamentary elections. AH
 IRAN PRESIDENT SEES CULTURAL TURNING POINT IN ISRAEL-LEBANON WAR...President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said at Tehran University on August 10 that the current war in Lebanon is "the start of the defeat of the colonialists and of a new path for humanity," ISNA reported the same day. "These events look like they are an aggression against regional states, but" they will yield "great results," ISNA quoted him as saying. "I think the events in Lebanon are the end of a...stage in history," Ahmadinejad told a meditation group at the university. He said Israel's attacks on Lebanon and what he described as Western and UN Security Council tolerance of civilian deaths have shown that Western claims to promote "humanism, human rights, freedom and democracy" are false. "You can see the reality of the freedom and democracy of these countries in Lebanon. Recent events are the end point of these slogans," he said. Iran is "very upset" by war in Lebanon, Ahmadinejad said, adding that "we thank God" that the conflict will lead to the "removal of imperialists," in part by showing people the wickedness of unnamed, presumably Western, powers. "If we had spoken to public opinion for years of the wickedness of the imperialists, they would not believe as today just how much these people are domineering and aggressive," ISNA reported. VS
 ...AND REJECTS WESTERN PRESSURES OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAMPresident Ahmadinejad told the Indian daily "The Hindu" in Tehran on August 8 that Iran has an entirely legal nuclear program and will talk with Western states concerned about the aims of the program. He warned, however, that Iran might review its options if the West pressures it. Ahmadinejad said the UN Security Council resolution urging Iran to end all uranium enrichment and related work by August 31 or face possible sanctions could prove to be a miscalculation. Iran's program is firmly within the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), he said, but added that if the West decides to pressure Iran to "limit" its activities or "take away or deny what is rightfully ours, and...distort our rights, obviously we are going to change our mind." Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran is studying a package of international proposals over its program, and will respond to them by August 22. He said he cannot understand why the Security Council issued a resolution while Iran was examining the proposals. His "only conclusion," Ahmadinejad said, is that "they are bullying us...[and] they really are not looking for a dialogue," hindu.com reported on August 10. VS
 IRAN REPORTEDLY ACTING AGAINST BIRD FLU, CHOLERAHoseyn Behbudi, the head of the Gilan Medical Science University in northern Iran, told Fars News Agency on August 9 that "about a month ago," local authorities detected bird flu among poultry on a farm near the town of Imamzadeh Hashem in the northern Gilan province, prompting officials to kill all domestic poultry within a 2-kilometer radius as a precautionary measure. He said the symptoms have not been seen among wild birds, but "there is still bird flu in Gilan." He added there are no cases so far in Iran of bird flu spreading to people. Police and local authorities have also killed 1,800 chickens, turkeys, and ducks suspected of having bird flu at an unspecified date in "villages around the town of Masal" in Gilan, the daily "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on August 10. Separately, Health Minister Kamran Baqeri-Lankarani said on August 9 that Iran is taking precautionary measures to prevent cholera entering into the country from neighboring states, IRNA reported. "Neighboring states are denying there is endemic cholera in their countries, but preventive measures are being carried out...in Iran," he said. Bageri-Lankarani added that Health Ministry officials are trying to obtain "clear information from these countries" on the disease. Preventive moves may include "quarantine" in frontier zones, especially on the eastern frontier, he said. VS
 AUTHORITIES ACCUSED OF HINDERING SERVICE FOR DEAD DISSIDENTThe family of a dissident who died in a Tehran prison in late July was reportedly determined to hold a commemorative service for him at a Tehran mosque on August 10 despite efforts by security forces to stop them, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported on August 10 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 1 and 2, 2006). Nasrin Mohammadi, sister of Akbar Mohammadi, who died in late July, told Radio Farda that security forces told a Tehran mosque not to allow the ceremony and were trying to stop Mohammadi's parents from traveling to Tehran from their home in Amol, in northern Iran. She said they were determined to hold a service, although it was not immediately clear if they were successful. Nasrin Mohammadi told Radio Farda that her parents told her "we will set fire to ourselves with a gallon of gasoline" if the "regime stops us." VS
 IRAQI CLERIC'S GROUP SAYS NO TALKS WITH U.S. UNLESS ITS MILITIA TOLERATEDNasir al-Sa'di, a member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives affiliated with Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told the "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" newspaper on August 10, "we will negotiate with the Americans if they close their eyes to the [Imam] Al-Mahdi Army." Al-Sa'di denied reports of ongoing talks between al-Sadr's group and the Americans mediated by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, adding that "we have no intention of dealing with the U.S. government." Al-Sa'di's statement comes as both Iraqi and U.S. officials seek to broaden support for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national reconciliation initiative. Meanwhile, Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir Muhammad al-Ubaydi said that government forces will have an arms monopoly and will not tolerate militias, and threatened to punish any group that defies this order, "Baghdad" newspaper reported on August 10. He added that the Iraqi army has hit militias in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Al-A'thamiyah, Al-Ghazaliyah and Al-Sadr City, accusing them of trying to destabilize Iraq. BAW
 IRAQI KURDISH LEADER RESPONDS TO DEMONSTRATIONSFollowing a series of demonstrations in Kurdish cities and towns demanding more services, electricity, and fuel, the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, Mas'ud Barzani, promised to meet the demonstrators' demands, Radio Nawa reported on August 10. He said that fuel and electricity distribution must be fair and that officials should not be privileged. He also called for establishing a committee to investigate inflation in the price of goods. Barzani spoke to a delegation from Chamchamal, one of the towns that witnessed public demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," August 11, 2006). Barzani acknowledged that Kurdish residents have the right to demonstrate peacefully make their voices and concerns heard. BAW
 SHI'ITE ARAB JUDGE TO PRESIDE OVER ANFAL TRIAL OF OUSTED IRAQI PRESIDENTJa'far al-Musawi, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants for genocide in the deaths of some 100,000 Kurds in the 1987-88 Anfal campaign, said that an Arab judge will preside over the trial, "Al-Adalah" reported on August 10 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 28, 2006). Zaman Abda, the head of a support group for victims of the Anfal operation, said that the judge will be Arif Shahin, a Shi'ite Arab, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on August 10. Abda added that 36 Kurdish lawyers will represent victims' families. BAW
 KYRGYZ, UZBEK SECURITY SERVICES TAKE ON RELIGIOUS DISSENTBy Gulnoza Saidazimova
Rafiq Qori Kamoluddin, the prominent ethnic Uzbek religious leader who was killed during a security raid in southern Kyrgyzstan on August 6, is not the first imam to have been targeted by law enforcement agencies in the region. Several other Uzbek imams have been persecuted before, but he is the first to have been targeted by both Kyrgyz and Uzbek security services.
Authorities in Bishkek said Kamoluddin, who was also known as Muhammadrafiq Kalamov, had ties to terrorists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). He was shot dead along with the two alleged IMU members in a joint raid by Uzbek and Kyrgyz security forces.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, dissident Uzbek imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov called the cleric's killing unprecedented. "This is a horrifying event. There has been no such case in recent history," Nazarov said. "There have been abductions of Muslims -- Abduvali Qori [Mirzaev] was abducted by the Uzbek secret service. Several other religious figures have also been abducted. [Uzbek authorities] have done lots of dirty deeds. But openly shooting someone hasn't happened in recent history."
Nazarov himself is charged with terrorism. Uzbek authorities accuse him of involvement in deadly bombings in Tashkent in February 1999. Nazarov fled Uzbekistan and found refuge in Europe in March after spending eight years in hiding in Kazakhstan.
Nazarov and Kamoluddin are by no means the only imams that officials in the region have labeled "terrorists." Another imam, Ruhitdin Fahrutdinov, is facing trial in Tashkent, charged with terrorism and extremist and anticonstitutional activities. Fahrutdinov, on the run since 1998, was detained in southern Kazakhstan in November and subsequently extradited to Uzbekistan.
Abduvali Qori Mirzaev, a prominent imam and one of Kamoluddin's close relatives, has been missing since 1995. He disappeared after clearing passport control at Tashkent's international airport. Mirzaev's relatives have alleged he was detained by Uzbek security service, secretly tried, and possibly executed.
Nazarov mentioned several other imams he said have been persecuted for their religious activities in Uzbekistan. But none of those cases featured the kind of cooperation between the security services of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan that Kamoluddin's case showed.
Uzbek opposition leaders have condemned Kyrgyz officials' dealings with the prominent imam. Abdurahim Polatov, the exiled leader of the opposition Birlik (Unity) party, called it a "shameful act."
"It is difficult to comprehend why the Kyrgyz government is cooperating with Uzbekistan [in counterterrorism] and even trying to win the sympathies of [President Islam] Karimov's regime," Polatov said. "Kyrgyzstan might be doing so because it is a small state. Unfortunately, in 1992-94, former Kyrgyz President [Askar] Akaev had a similar [policy] and assisted the Uzbek government in persecuting Uzbek opposition members and human rights activists on [the Kyrgyz] territory. Yet it is a shameful act by the new democratic Kyrgyz government."
The joint Uzbek-Kyrgyz raid came soon after the chiefs of those countries' security services agreed to conduct joint counterterrorism operations. The meeting followed talks between Kyrgyz and Uzbek presidents on combating what they called "international terrorism" and "religious extremism."
"From the very beginning of his rule, Bakiev and the Kyrgyz government in general have been under quite a strong pressure from the Uzbek side," said Michael Hall, the director of the International Crisis Group's (ICG) Central Asia Project. "I believe Kyrgyzstan counted on more assistance from Western countries [after its March 2005 revolution]. And I believe they were disappointed with what they've seen. Bakiev and his government feel they have no other option: Uzbekistan is next door. Uzbeks can create lots of problems for Kyrgyz in many spheres -- for instance, in the energy sector."
Hall said Bakiev has found an area where he can benefit from cooperation with Tashkent: counterterrorism -- by which both sides mean the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, among others. He suggested that Bakiev feels safe with the policy -- keeping Karimov pleased and also limiting Hizb ut-Tahrir's influence. That influence appears to have been growing, not only in Kyrgyzstan's ethnic Uzbek south, but also in the north of the country.
The Uzbek security service has been active in Kyrgyzstan's south for years, with occasional reports of abductions and forced repatriation with Kyrgyz officials' silent consent. Hall said that the Uzbeks now appear to have "carte blanche" in conducting operations on Kyrgyz soil.
Official Tashkent was quick to react to Kamoluddin's killing through the official website press-uz.info, highlighting alleged ties to Islamist radicals. The website published a long article just a few hours after the news broke of imam Kamoluddin's death. The article alleged links to Nazarov and "friendly" ties with IMU leaders. It also alleged that Nazarov and Kamoluddin were "the main organizers, inspirers, and ideologues" of "bandits" who planned terrorist acts in Uzbekistan.
Nazarov dismissed all of the allegations and said he had never met Kamoluddin in person.
Kamoluddin was known for allowing Islamic radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir to pray at his mosque although he was critical of the group's ideology. He also criticized the Central Asian governments' religions policies.
Muhammad Solih, the exiled leader of the Uzbek opposition party Erk (Freedom), called Kamoluddin a victim of the Karimov regime's pursuit of religious opponents. "It is an extension of the 15-year state terror of the Karimov regime across borders," Solih said. "Karimov has not been adequately punished for his terror conducted inside the country. Unfortunately, the world community has not raised its voice and has not responded adequately to this terror. Karimov -- inspired by this [impunity] -- started extending his terror to foreign lands."
Some in Kyrgyzstan have warned Bakiev against cooperation with Karimov. Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu said cooperation with the Uzbek regime is harming Kyrgyzstan's international image and affecting its democratic development. "I fear Kyrgyzstan is gradually becoming like Uzbekistan," he said. "First they fought with the political opposition and weakened it. Now they have turned against religious figures. It was the same in Uzbekistan: First they eliminated the political opposition, then [they] started eliminating religious figures."
It is remains to be seen how Tashkent and Bishkek might benefit from eliminating Kamoluddin in the longer term. He was a prominent religious figure, but a moderate. The International Crisis Group's Hall predicts that Kamoluddin's death could radicalize some of the imam's followers.
(Gulnoza Saidazimova is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report.)