|Wednesday, 19 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 06-05-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 ECHOING PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSMEN AND BUREAUCRATSRussian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on May 11 urged business leaders to act in a socially responsible way, and he instructed the bureaucracy to create better conditions for business, Interfax reported. "The business community must be made to understand that they will feel comfortable working in this country for years ahead," Fradkov said at a cabinet meeting. "Pay taxes, create jobs, and invest, and the government will provide normal conditions for business. We'll be removing everything that impedes this as swiftly as we are [identifying] these problems," Fradkov added. On May 10, President Vladimir Putin called in his state-of-the-nation speech for more social responsibility on the part of bureaucrats and entrepreneurs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 10, 2006). BW
 RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS BIG ARMY IS NECESSARYSergei Ivanov said on May 11 that because of its size and position in the world, Russia needs a large army, Interfax reported. President Putin called in his state-of-the-nation speech the previous day for the modernization of the Russian armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 10, 2006). "We are destined to have a strong army. Strong and quite large compared to countries with smaller territories," Ivanov said in an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" and cited by Interfax. "We are too big a country, and we have too many unpredictable neighbors. Besides, we are a nuclear power. Some like to compare us with other countries: for instance, with the German army. But they live in one time zone and we in 10," he added. BW
 RUSSIA'S UN ENVOY HAILS 'NEW MOOD' AT IRAN TALKSRussia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said on May 10 that the "mood" has changed in the international community's efforts to curtail Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, mosnews.com reported the next day. Churkin said the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany are focusing on putting together a package of incentives to try to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis. This contrasts sharply with recent talk about how many days Iran should be given to halt uranium enrichment or face possible sanctions. "The mood has changed completely," Churkin said, adding that the shift occurred following meetings on May 8 and 9. "We are quite pleased that what started basically as something which could be seen as trying to dictate matters has turned into a process of dialogue," Churkin said. Russia and China have resisted calls from the United States and European allies for sanctions against Iran. BW
 FORMER YUKOS HEAD MOVED BACK INTO GENERAL PRISON POPULATION...Federal Penitentiary Service head Yury Kalinin said on May 11 that jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been moved out of solitary confinement and back into the general prison population, Interfax reported. In April, another convict allegedly slashed Khodorkovsky's face, requiring stitches, after which he was placed in isolation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 18, 2006). "Following a well-publicized incident, Khodorkovsky was placed in a separate cell for security reasons. He has now been moved back into common barracks," Kalinin said. BW
 ...AS LAWYERS, PRISON OFFICIALS DIFFER ABOUT THREAT TO HIS LIFEAlso on May 11, Kalinin dismissed claims by defense lawyers that Khodorkovsky's life is in danger following the stabbing incident, Interfax reported. "We see these statements as a publicity stunt," he said. Kalinin also seemed to imply that Khodorkovsky was himself to blame for the stabbing. "It was an ordinary argument -- people have arguments sometimes, don't they?" Kalinin said. "One should be more scrupulous in choosing company." BW
 FIRST GROUP OF AMNESTIED PRISONERS RELEASEDFederal Penitentiary Service head Kalinin also announced on May 11 that the first group of prisoners freed under a special amnesty to mark the 100th anniversary of the State Duma have been released, Interfax reported. "The release of the first prisoners has begun and the exact figures will become known by the end of May," Kalinin said. He said that approximately 14,000 people were covered by the amnesty, 11,000 of whom had suspended sentences and 3,000 who were serving prison terms. BW
 BESLAN MOTHERS ACCUSED OF HARASSING INGUSH TRAVELERSA group of Ossetian women whose family members died during the Beslan hostage taking in September 2004 staged a protest at Vladikavkaz airport on May 10 and prevented 17 Ingush from boarding a flight to Moscow, the independent website ingushetiya.ru reported on May 11, citing newsru.com. The women have asked North Ossetian President Taymuraz Mamsurov to make arrangements for Ingush to be barred from traveling from Vladikavkaz and to use the airports in Mineralnye Vody and Nalchik instead. The website commented that the Beslan Mothers' action constitutes a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of all citizens to travel freely within the Russian Federation, and argues that the Ingush authorities should ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to bring criminal charges against them under Articles 136, 280, and 282 of the Criminal Code. The latter two articles deal with calls for "extremist activity" and fomenting animosity or hatred. LF
 CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD, PREMIER INCREASINGLY AT ODDSThe Chechen Ministry for Nationality Policy, Media, and Information has had printed and distributed to regional administrations 5,000 copies of a questionnaire formulated in such a way that every possible response reflects unequivocal public approval for Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, kavkaz.memo.ru and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on May 10 and 11, respectively. The questionnaire was reportedly distributed without the knowledge of pro-Moscow administration head Alu Alkhanov, whom many observers believe Kadyrov seeks to oust and replace. Following the April 26 shoot-out between Alkhanov's and Kadyrov's bodyguards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 2, 2006), President Putin summoned the two officials on May 5 and warned Kadyrov not to seek to undermine Alkhanov, the daily "Kommersant" reported on May 6, without naming its sources. "Kommersant" also reported that Alkhanov has held talks with former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantamirov, who was fired as Chechen media minister in 2003 following repeated disputes with Kadyrov's father and Alkhanov's predecessor, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 4, 2003). LF
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 PRESSURE ON ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER GROWSA fifth member has quit the parliament faction of speaker Artur Baghdasarian's Orinats Yerkir (OY) party, reducing its numbers to 14, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on May 10. Four OY deputies quit the faction last week, without explaining their motives for doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 9, 2006). Baghdasarian last month incurred President Robert Kocharian's displeasure by publicly advocating Armenia's accession to NATO and the EU (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," May 5, 2006). Some observers believe Kocharian ordered the four OY faction members to withdraw their support for Baghdasarian, and a senior member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that the defections were intended to pressure Baghdasarian to step down as parliament speaker. But Galust Sahakian, who heads the HHK parliament faction, told Noyan Tapan on May 10 that his party will not demand Baghdasarian's resignation as speaker or a vote of no confidence in him. LF
 OSCE MEDIATORS WAIT FOR RESPONSE TO NEW KARABAKH INITIATIVESYury Merzlyakov, the Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group that seeks to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict, told Azerbaijan Press Agency that "there will never be a more opportune moment" for resolving the conflict than the present, Azerbaijani media reported on May 10 and 11. Merzlyakov said the Minsk Group is awaiting a response from both Armenia and Azerbaijan to "new details" intended to flesh out existing points of agreement presented during his visit to Baku and Yerevan last week by French Minsk Group co-Chairman Bernard Fassier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4 and 9, 2006), but he declined to say what those new details are. The co-chairs are to meet in Strasbourg next week with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who will then decide whether the two countries' presidents should also meet to discuss the peace process. LF
 GEORGIA CRACKS DOWN ON ADULTERATED WINESPolice on May 10 closed down seven workshops in western Georgia that engaged in producing adulterated wine and brought criminal proceedings against the owners, Caucasus Press reported. Russia imposed a total ban in late March on the import of wine from Georgia on the grounds that such adulterated wines are harmful to human health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 28 and April 25, 2006). Also on May 10, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili produced at a cabinet session bottles of fake Georgian wine purchased in Spain, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states, and he lambasted the Agriculture and Justice Ministries for failing to prevent the production and export of such products, the independent station television Rustavi-2 reported. LF
 ESTONIAN PRESIDENT URGES GEORGIA TO INTENSIFY REFORMS, PROTECT FOREIGN INVESTORSSpeaking on May 11 on a state visit to Tbilisi, Arnold Ruutel urged the Georgian government to speed up reforms, Caucasus Press reported. He also urged the Georgian government to introduce additional measures to protect foreign investors' interests and preclude double taxation. On May 10, it was announced that former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar will become an adviser to Saakashvili, Caucasus Press reported. Laar told journalists he will coordinate the work of various government ministries in implementing reforms. His salary will be paid by the United Nations. Former Polish National Bank Chairman Leszek Balcerowicz similarly served from 2000-03 as an adviser to Saakashvili's predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze. LF
 U.S. AMBASSADOR PRAISES KAZAKH PIPELINE TO CHINA...Speaking at a press conference in Astana on May 10, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan John Ordway praised the planned oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China as "a good idea" and affirmed U.S. support for the project, Interfax reported. The ambassador also suggested that "there is much advantage in having multiple export routes" and added that a potential gas pipeline to China would also be "a good idea." The ambassador's press conference follows a recent visit to Astana by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, during which the possibility of a gas pipeline beneath the Caspian Sea connecting Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan was also discussed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 9, 2006). RG
 ...AND OFFERS U.S. SUPPORT FOR PLANNED KAZAKH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTIn comments during the same Astana press conference on May 10, Ambassador Ordway declared that the United States does "not have any objections to the construction of a nuclear power plant by Kazakhstan" and pledged that "we have already offered our assistance if Kazakhstan makes such a decision," according to Interfax. Ordway added that, given U.S. experience with nuclear energy, "we could ensure a very good exchange of experts" on environmental and safety matters. Kazakhstan first raised the possibility of building a new nuclear power plant in 1998 and the proposal was aired again by Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov in January 2006. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs also raised the issue during a recent visit to Astana, urging Kazakh officials to sign an agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) about its use of nuclear power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 5, 2006). RG
 REPUTED KYRGYZ CRIME BOSS KILLED IN SHOOTINGRysbek Akmatbaev, a reputed crime boss, was killed on May 10 in a shooting by unknown assailants, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and AKIpress reported. Akmatbaev was shot in broad daylight in the village of Kokjar, just outside the capital Bishkek. Akmatbaev had recently won a parliamentary by-election in his hometown district of Balykchy, but the Central Election Commission refused to endorse his victory as Akmatbaev's acquittal in January 2006 on murder charges was due to go to appeal. Akmatbaev was accused of murdering the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry's chief anticorruption investigator, Chynybek Aliev. He had previously been acquitted of charges related to the 2003 murder of Khavaji Zaurbekov, the brother-in-law of an ethnic Chechen crime boss (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 1, 2005). RG
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES SWEEPING CABINET RESHUFFLEKyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev on May 10 announced a reshuffle of his cabinet ministers, AKIpress and Kabar reported. The changes included the appointments of former Prosecutor-General Busurmankul Tabaldiev to replace the recently resigned Tashtemir Aitbaev as head of the National Security Service, and Deputy Prime Minister Adakham Madumarov to replace outgoing State Secretary Dastan Sarygulov, who on May 10 submitted a letter of resignation to Bakiev "for the sake of the country's stability." Bakiev also appointed Daniyar Usenov to replace Medetbek Kerimkulov, as first deputy prime minister. Kerimkulov was named the new minister for industry, trade, and tourism. The opposition Union of Democratic Forces had repeatedly demanded the removal of Aitbaev and Sarygulov and a number of other key Kyrgyz officials (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," April 28, 2006). Additional changes included the transfer of Usen Sydykov from his post as head of the Kyrgyz presidential administration to a position as adviser to the president and the appointment of Ishengul Boljurova as a new deputy prime minister, AKIpress reported. RG
 TAJIK POLICE ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF OPPOSITION ACTIVISTAn unidentified official in the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office in Dushanbe said on May 10 that three police officers have been arrested in connection with the death of an opposition party activist, Avesta and Asia-Plus reported. Sadullo Marufov, a member of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, fell to his death from the third floor of a police station in the northern town of Isfara on May 4 after being detained by police on May 3 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 5, 2006). RG
 TAJIKISTAN REACHES NEW ENERGY AGREEMENT WITH PAKISTANA Tajik delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Asadullo Ghulomov concluded a set of new agreements on energy cooperation with Pakistan during a May 8-9 visit to Islamabad, Asia-Plus reported. The negotiations included an agreement to build an electricity power line to Pakistan and a commitment by Pakistan to import some 4 billion kWh of electricity annually from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The agreements follow an earlier memorandum of understanding about electricity exports to Pakistan signed in Dushanbe in March 2005. RG
 RUSSIAN FIRM AGREES TO BUY 30 PLANES FROM UZBEKISTANOfficials of the Russian engineering firm Tekhnospetsstal signed a contract with Uzbekistan's Chkalov Tashkent Aviation Production Association to purchase 30 aircraft by 2008, ITAR-TASS reported on May 10. The director of the Uzbek company, Vadim Kucherov, hailed the sale of the IL-114 planes as one of the country's largest in recent years and as an important entry into the Russian market. The Uzbek plant also produces IL-76 cargo planes and wing parts for giant Antonov AN-70 cargo planes. RG
 UZBEK SCHOLAR WARNS OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISMTashkent Islamic University professor Nurliman Abdulhasan warned on May 10 of the growing threat from Islamist extremism throughout Central Asia, according to Interfax. Speaking at an academic conference in Tashkent, the scholar added that although these groups are increasingly diverse, they are actively engaged in efforts "to initiate strong ties with religious extremist organizations abroad and to involve the latter in the training of militant groups and providing material and technical support for their activities." He also estimated that there are more than 5,000 members of the outlawed Hizb ut-Tahrir organization currently operating in Kyrgyzstan. Abdulhasan bemoaned a lack of regional cooperation in combating these groups and specifically criticized Kyrgyzstan for "failing to take serious measures against religious extremist organizations." RG
 BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION GRAFFITIST GETS TWO-YEAR SENTENCEA district court in Minsk on May 10 sentenced opposition youth activist Artur Finkevich to two years of enforced labor, finding him guilty of spraying antipresidential graffiti on walls in the Belarusian capital, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. Finkevich was initially charged with malicious hooliganism and causing the state an estimated $16,000 in material damage, which could have entailed a sentence of seven to 12 years in prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4 and 5, 2006). Finkevich was held in custody between February 1 and May 10. Since each day spent in pretrial detention by a person sentenced to enforced labor counts as two, Finkevich's remaining term will be less than 18 months. "The conditions in jail were, of course, inhuman. There were 17 people in a cell intended for 10. We lacked air all the time," Finkevich told journalists after the verdict. "I disagree with the verdict but I see no sense in appealing it," he added. JM
 BELARUSIAN POLICE DISPERSE DEMONSTRATION FOR MISSING OPPOSITIONISTSRiot police broke up a demonstration held by several dozen young people in downtown Minsk on May 10, Belapan reported. Demonstrators formed a "chain of concerned people" on October Square at 6 p.m. local time, while displaying images of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka and former Central Election Commission Chairman Viktar Hanchar, who mysteriously disappeared in 1999. Police reportedly detained United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka for a short time as he headed for the demonstration. "I was seized by seven or eight plainclothesmen," Lyabedzka told Belapan. "They used force and tore my clothes. I resisted as I could." The officers subsequently took him to a police station. "I was told there: 'Anatol Uladzimiravich [Lyabedzka], we will be keeping you here for three hours to verify your identity,'" Lyabedzka claimed. JM
 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REDUCES MILITARY-SERVICE TERMPresident Viktor Yushchenko has signed a decree under which the terms of compulsory military service for several categories of draftees will be lowered, Interfax-Ukraine reported on May 10. In particular, the term of service for the Ground Forces was cut from 18 to 12 months and for the Navy from 24 to 18 months. Conscripts with university diplomas will now have to serve nine months instead of 12. The decree also raises the age limit for contract servicemen from 30 to 40 years. JM
 POLL FINDS UKRAINIANS PREFER COALITION WITH PARTY OF REGIONSA recent poll has found that 42 percent of Ukrainians favor the participation of the Party of Regions led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in a future governing coalition, while 35 percent of Ukrainians say such a coalition should be a replica of the Orange Revolution alliance and include just the Our Ukraine bloc, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party, Interfax-Ukraine reported on May 10. The poll was conducted from April 14-30 among 2,038 respondents by the Kyiv Center of Political Studies and Conflict Studies jointly with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. JM
 SUSPECTED KOSOVAR ALBANIAN WAR CRIMINAL ARRESTED IN GERMANYPolice in Germany announced on May 10 that they have arrested an ethnic Albanian man suspected of committing war crimes in Kosova, Reuters reported. The police declined to identify the 38-year-old man, but Reuters quoted an unidentified UN official as saying he is Xhemail Gashi. Prosecutors in Germany say the suspect oversaw a prison camp run by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) between June and October 1998. "He is accused of abducting numerous people in 1998 to a prison camp in Drenovac, Prizren, and to have tortured, abused, and, in some cases, killed them," the prosecutors said in a statement. "There has been no trace since that time of the victims, kidnapped at various times from their home or workplace. They are believed to be dead," the statement continued. The UN Mission in Kosova has requested that Germany extradite the man to Kosova to face charges there. BW
 SERBIAN POLICE ARREST MLADIC'S FORMER DRIVERSerbian police on May 9 arrested a retired army officer who worked as a driver for war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, dpa and AFP reported the next day, citing local media reports. Blagoje Govedarica is the sixth person suspected of helping Mladic arrested this year. Govedarica is a noncommissioned officer in Serbia and Montenegro's army, AFP reported, citing B92 radio. Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador in Belgrade, Michael Polt, said Washington is considering joining Brussels in punishing Serbia, AFP reported on May 10. The EU broke off talks with Belgrade on a Stabilization and Association Agreement on May 3 after Serbia failed to arrest Mladic by an April 30 deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4, 2006). "At the end of this month the secretary of state [Condoleezza Rice] will have to make a decision in terms of Serbia-Montenegro's cooperation with the international tribunal in The Hague," he said. "That may very well have an effect on some of our assistance to the central government of Serbia." BW
 NATO CHANGES COMMAND STRUCTURE FOR KFOR FORCESNATO announced on May 10 that it has streamlined its decision-making and command structure in Kosova in order to respond more quickly to outbreaks of ethnic violence, Reuters reported the same day. Spokesman Colonel Pio Sabetta said the KFOR peacekeeping force will complete a change from four brigades to five "task forces" within the next five days. The switch began in late 2005. Under the new structure, the KFOR commander "can quickly move forces from one place to another in response to any threat while NATO and contributing nations are able to reinforce their troops quickly," Sabetta said. NATO implemented the changes after facing criticism that it was slow to respond to riots in March 2004, when Albanian mobs attacked Serbian enclaves. Nineteen people died in the violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 17, 18, 19 and 22, 2004). BW
 IMF APPROVES $118 MILLION LOAN TO MOLDOVAThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on May 10 that it will provide Chisinau with a three-year, $118.2 million loan to support the country's currency reserves and provide protection from foreign financial upheavals, Interfax reported the same day. Johann Matissen, the IMF permanent representative in Chisinau, said the fund's board of directors approved a three-year agreement with Moldova under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program. "The program is a discount mechanism to provide loans to low-income countries," he said. "The loan is being provided at an annual interest rate of 0.5 percent for 10 years with a grace period of 5 1/2 years." BW
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 NEO-TALIBAN SPOKESMAN DISCUSSES STRATEGY, ALLIANCES WITH ITALIAN DAILYIn a lengthy interview published in the Rome-based daily "La Repubblica" on May 10, purported Taliban spokesman Mohammad Hanif said the movement has "no specific strategy" but adopts "different tactics," depending on operational circumstances. Mohammad Hanif described suicide operations as part of the "various techniques in a war of liberation." When volunteers seek to conduct suicide missions, he said, "we support them...[and] view them as martyrs." Asked about the burning of schools and killing of employees of nongovernmental organizations, Mohammad Hanif responded that the Taliban has its "principles," and added that the movement fights "against everything that is a clear expression of" the government of President Hamid Karzai. While the Taliban oppose the cultivation of opium poppies, Mohammad Hanif said, his movement is "happy with any means of combating Western societies" who "seek death" by using opium and heroin. He also said the Taliban have had no "operational ties" with Al-Qaeda, but added that the two movements have "tactical alliances based on given circumstances and territorial situations." Mohammad Hanif referred to Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as "a great fighter" but did not confirm the existence of any alliance between his movement and Hekmatyar. The ranks of the Taliban include combatants from "different [Muslim] countries," Mohammad Hanif added. AT
 GOVERNOR OF EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE CHALLENGES TALIBAN IDEOLOGYAt a gathering in Gardez on May 10 to encourage students to support the central government, Paktiya Province Governor Hakim Taniwal said the burden of proof is on "opponents of the government" to prove that Afghanistan is outside the realm of Islam -- in which case "we would also join them in jihad," Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Otherwise, Taniwal said, "they have to stop their disruptive activities." Referring to the neo-Taliban as "opponents of government," Taniwal invited them to "come and talk about a logic-based Shari'a [Islamic jurisprudence]." In classical Islamic theory, a jihad can only be waged in non-Islamic lands, or "dar al-harb" (abode of war). During the ceremony, Taniwal accused neighboring Pakistan of trying to weaken Afghanistan. AT
 FARMERS KILLED IN COUNTERNARCOTICS OPERATION IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTANTwo farmers were killed and three policemen sustained serious injuries in an armed clash between security forces and opium-poppy farmers in Sar-e Pol Province on May 9, Herat-based Sada-ye Jawan Radio reported on May 10. General Nader Fahimi, security commander in Sar-e Pol, blamed the farmers for starting the shooting during a poppy-eradication effort. Provincial security headquarters and prosecutors have launched an investigative commission to look into the incident. Sar-e Pol Governor Iqbal Monib accused the farmers of having "attacked police with guns," AFP reported on May 10. AT
 AFGHAN WARLORD WHO ALLEGEDLY HELPED BIN LADEN ESCAPE ARRESTEDPakistani intelligence units arrested commander Ilyaskhayl on May 8 as he was traveling between Barra and Peshawar, the Peshawar-based daily "Wahdat" reported on May 9. Ilyaskhayl was sought by authorities for allegedly helping Osama bin Laden escape from the Tora Bora mountains as U.S. forces were approaching in late 2001. Ilyaskhayl has been taken to an undisclosed location, the report added. Ilyaskhayl worked for Hazrat Ali, a local Afghan warlord recruited by the United States to help in the fight against Al-Qaeda. Hazrat Ali reportedly paid Ilyaskhayl to try to block bin Laden's escape route from Tora Bora to Pakistan. The Arabs allegedly paid a higher sum to Ilyaskhayl, prompting him to allow passage to the Al-Qaeda chief and his entourage. AT
 IRANIAN NUCLEAR OFFICIALS IN MOSCOW FOR TALKSA deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saidi, and another official, Mahmud Jannatian, went to Moscow on May 10 for talks with Russia's Atomic Energy Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko, the "Aftab-i Yazd" daily reported on 11 May. Saidi told the Mehr news agency on May 10 that he will discuss the completion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, which Russia is helping build, and future fuel supplies to the plant. He said Russia is interested in taking part in a tender to build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear plants for Iran. The tender is currently being drafted and the documents will be presented "in the coming months," Saidi said. The same day, during a visit to Indonesia, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad dismissed Western doubts over the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program as a "big lie," and said Western states merely wish to monopolize the market for nuclear technology, AP reported. Western states are to present Iran with new incentives to encourage it to abandon activities viewed as suspect, such as fuel production, agencies reported. Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are to meet in London on May 19 to discuss the package, AFP reported on May 10, citing unidentified diplomats. VS
 U.S. ANALYSTS SAY OIL, DIVISIONS IN UN HELPING IRANJohn Calabrese, an analyst at Washington's Middle East Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on May 10 that Iran's considerable oil revenues and international fears that oil prices could rise if the UN imposes sanctions on Iran over its nuclear dossier are helping Iran in the current diplomatic crisis. Fragile relations between the United States and Russia have also helped Iran conclude that this is a good time to push its positions over the dossier, Calabrese said. Another observer, James Phillips of the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, concurred that Iran has ample oil revenues, but said its economy remains corrupt and inefficient, and offers young Iranians only limited prospects. Separately, at a security conference in Geneva, the permanent U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Gregory Schulte, questioned why Iran has not disclosed all its nuclear activities if its program is peaceful, as it states, Radio Farda reported on May 10. He also asked how it is possible to negotiate with an Iranian leadership that believes Israel should not exist. VS
 IRANIAN POLITICIANS COMMENT ON PRESIDENT'S LETTER TO WASHINGTONParliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said in parliament on May 10 that President Ahmadinejad's recent letter to U.S. President George W. Bush should not be seen as a move to renew relations with the United States, the news agency ISNA reported. Ties between the two countries were severed after the 1979 revolution. "Some inside and outside the country have interpreted this letter as if [Ahmadinejad] wanted to end the absence of relations over 27 years," he said. The letter, Hadded-Adel said, showed the United States that Iranians are a cultured, peaceful, and religious nation. Former President Mohammad Khatami told the press on May 10 that diplomatic initiatives "should be done with a strategic view and with due attention" to Iran's "interests and overall policies," ISNA reported. "I am not really informed of the system's present strategy" for contacts with the United States, he said, but "the president must follow the system's overall policies." Legislator Ismail Gerami-Moqaddam told ISNA on May 10 that the letter mostly contains "historical subjects" and makes no "specific request of Bush about the present situation and the [nuclear] dossier." VS
 IRANIAN POLICE CHIEF SAYS U.S. POSES THREAT TO EASTERN FRONTIERThe national chief of police, Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, said on May 10 that U.S. troops in Afghanistan constitute "the greatest source of threat to the country's eastern borders," and that "destabilizing [Iran] is the first stage of their sinister aims" against Islam, ISNA reported. He said Iran's enemies "have begun a Cold War against us," though they "are not visibly mobilizing any armies." This war, he said, includes the activities of bandits in eastern Iran that are "backed by foreign forces." He included satellite broadcasting and the Internet, which "are all guided from across the frontier," in this "cold, psychological war," and urged the government, as a security measure, to create jobs for people living near the country's borders, ISNA reported. Separately, Javad Jafari, the head of security affairs in the western province of Kermanshah, told IRNA on May 10 that police and security forces have obtained "clues" about two recent explosions in the city of Kermanshah (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 9, 2006). He said that, while nobody claimed responsibility for the bombs, it is clear to "relevant forces that the [culprits] were guided from across the border," IRNA reported. VS
 IRAN APPOINTS FIRST AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ IN 25 YEARSIranian envoy Hasan Kazemi-Qomi presented his credentials to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on May 9 as the first Iranian ambassador to Iraq in more than 25 years, according to a May 10 press release on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry website (http://www.iraqmofa.net). Kazemi-Qomi, previously Iran's highest-ranking official in Iraq, said after the meeting that providing help to Iraq is Iran's sole duty to its eastern neighbor, the press release noted. "Upgrading the level of relations between the two countries will open a new page in the history of ties between the two countries," Talabani told Kazemi-Qomi, IRNA reported on May 10. KR
 IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS MORE THAN 1,000 CITIZENS KILLED LAST MONTHJalal Talabani said in a May 10 statement that 1,091 citizens were killed in Baghdad in April, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported the same day. "We feel shocked, sad, and angry when we receive almost daily reports of finding unidentified bodies and others who were killed on the basis of their identity," he said. "If we add to that the number of bodies that were not found, or similar crimes in other governorates, then the total number calls for deep concern and rage." Talabani said that sectarian attacks are adding to an atmosphere of distrust among various communities, noting, "Each drop of blood spilt is watering the fields of evil and is growing the seeds of division." KR
 IRAQI SECURITY FORCES IN BAGHDAD TO BE RESTRUCTUREDSecurity forces operating in Baghdad will be restructured to fall under the control of one commander, "The New York Times" reported on May 11. According to senior Iraqi leaders, all police officers and paramilitary soldiers will fall under a single commander and wear the same uniform. "No one knows who is who right now -- we have tens of thousands of forces," Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi said. "We need a unified force to secure Baghdad: same uniform, same patrol car, one commander." Iraqi militias and people wearing the uniforms of security forces have been blamed for sectarian abductions and killings in the capital. Part of the problem stems from the ability to purchase police uniforms and other equipment at open markets. President Talabani confirmed the plan to "The New York Times," saying that if it is implemented, "Baghdad can be secured in one month." KR
 IRAQI PARTY OFFICIALS REVEAL NOMINATIONS FOR KEY MINISTERIAL POSTSAl-Sharqiyah television on May 10 cited Iraqi officials as identifying some ministerial nominations, though it reported that the key posts of oil and defense have yet to be settled. Iraqi National List member Wa'il Abd al-Latif told the news channel that his bloc expects to fill the post of defense minister, along with the Planning, Education, and Governorate Affairs ministries, which will be headed by Mahdi al-Hafiz, Mufid al-Jaza'iri, and Abd al-Latif, respectively. United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) member Baha al-Araji told Al-Sharqiyah that Iraqi Accordance Front member Salam al-Zawba'i and Kurdistan Coalition member Barham Salih have been nominated as deputy prime ministers. He added that outgoing Central Bank Governor Sinan al-Shibibi has been nominated as finance minister. Al-Araji also claimed that UIA member Husayn al-Shahristani has been nominated as oil minister. Al-Sharqiyah reported that competing blocs have argued that an oil expert, such as former Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadban, be assigned to the post. KR
 FIVE IRAQIS ESCAPE FROM U.S. MILITARY PRISONFive suspected insurgents escaped from a U.S. military prison near Al-Sulaymaniyah on May 9, a U.S. military spokesman announced on May 10, Reuters reported the same day. The spokesman said the escape was considered an isolated incident, adding that the remaining 1,300 inmates were accounted for. A Kurdish security official told Reuters that the men escaped through a window. KR
 THE RECURRING FEAR OF RUSSIAN GAS DEPENDENCYBy Roman Kupchinsky
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's recent criticism of Russia for using natural gas as a political weapon is by no means new. Similar charges leveled 24 years ago during the Cold War resulted in an embargo on the sale of gas-extracting equipment to the Soviet Union and to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) purported destruction of a Soviet gas pipeline.
In 1982, as the Soviet Union was beginning construction of a $22 billion, 4,650-kilometer gas pipeline from Urengoi in northwest Siberia to Uzhhorod in Ukraine with the intention of supplying Western Europe, the CIA issued a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) titled "The Soviet Gas Pipeline in Perspective."
The NIE, regarded as the definitive product of the U.S. intelligence community, reached several conclusions, among them that the Soviet Union "calculates that the increased future dependence of the West Europeans on Soviet gas deliveries will make them more vulnerable to Soviet coercion and will become a permanent factor in their decision making on East-West issues."
In addition, according to the NIE, the Soviets "have used the pipeline issue to create and exploit divisions between Western Europe and the United States. In the past, the Soviets have used West European interest in expanding East-West commerce to undercut U.S. sanctions, and they believe successful pipeline deals will reduce European willingness to support future U.S. economic actions against the USSR."
The Urengoi gas field, located in northwest Siberia's Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, was one of the largest Soviet gas fields. The main customers for Urengoi gas were West Germany, France, and Italy.
The initial volume of the pipeline was to be 40 billion cubic meters per year, which would mean that Soviet gas could account for 30 percent of German and French gas imports, and 40 percent of Italy's. Such figures were approaching a dependency level too great for the White House to accept.
Washington apparently dealt with these concerns in a direct manner initially. In January 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan purportedly approved a CIA plan to sabotage a second, unidentified gas pipeline in Siberia by turning the Soviet Union's desire for Western technology against it. The operation was first disclosed in the memoirs of Thomas C. Reed, a former Air Force secretary who was serving in the National Security Council at the time. In "At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War," Reed wrote:
"In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard-currency earnings from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines, and valves was programmed to go haywire, after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds.
"The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space," he recalled, adding that U.S. satellites picked up the explosion. Reed said in an interview that the blast occurred in the summer of 1982.
The sabotage operation, however, did not halt the construction of the Urengoi pipeline. The CIA was forced to revise its tactics.
Responding to the Soviet leadership's support for the 1981 crackdown on Poland's Solidarity movement, Reagan announced a program of sanctions on companies selling gas-drilling equipment and turbines for gas-compressor stations to the Soviet Union while urging European states not to buy Soviet gas.
Officially it was declared that this was in retaliation for Soviet support for martial law in Poland. But it is also plausible that the strategy was meant to ease U.S. concerns about the construction of the Urengoi-Uzhhorod gas pipeline.
The embargo, however, was easier to declare than to implement. Norwegian scholar Ole Gunnar Austvik wrote in an article titled "The U.S. Embargo of Soviet Gas in 1982" that a delegation under the auspices of the U.S. State Department sought to induce the Western Europeans not to buy Soviet gas and to choose alternative sources of energy.
"The arguments in favor of such diversion were close to our notion of economic warfare, even though the whole range of arguments was actually used. An economically strong Soviet Union is more dangerous than a weak one," Austvik wrote. "The U.S. compensation package contained two main components; American coal and Norwegian gas were presented as alternatives to Soviet gas."
Neither alternative, however, existed. The United States did not produce enough coal to meet Europe's needs and even if it did, the logistics of transporting it there were overwhelming. Furthermore, at the time Norway's gas production was not sufficient to replace Soviet gas. By November 1982, after the United States increased its grain sales to the USSR, the gas sanctions were terminated.
Originally, the Urengoi pipeline was projected to go through East Germany, but the West German government protested and it was rerouted through Ukraine. The West Germans were concerned that in the event of a crisis, the East Germans could turn off the valves and stop supplies. Ukraine was seen as the more reliable transit route.
The 1982 NIE states that the West Europeans' prime energy goal at the time was to "reduce their dependence on OPEC," at the time a significant Western concern arising from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil boycott of 1973. The oil crisis that ensued from that boycott may have fueled U.S. concerns regarding Soviet gas, lest the Soviet Union someday copy OPEC's tactic.
In November 1983, the CIA issued another NIE, titled "Soviet Energy Prospects Into the 1990s," which, in many ways, foresaw the current predicament.
"If Moscow lands contracts to supply even half of the West European gas-demand gap now foreseen for the 1990s, an additional pipeline...would be required...and dependence on Soviet gas could approach 50 percent of gas consumption for major West European countries, far in excess of the 30 percent share that we and some West European governments regard as a critical threshold for political risk" the NIE stated.