Thursday, 12 July 2007

11 July 2007 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (7/12/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)

U.S. CHEVRON TO OPEN OFFICE IN TURKMEN CAPITAL 29 June Turkmenistan's official TDH news agency on June 28 reported that the U.

U.S. CHEVRON TO OPEN OFFICE IN TURKMEN CAPITAL 29 June Turkmenistan's official TDH news agency on June 28 reported that the U.S. oil major Chevron has decided to open an office in Ashgabat. TDH said the announcement was made the same day at a meeting between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov; Jay Prior, Chevron's vice president for business development; and Ian MacDonald, the head of Chevron's operations in Russia. Early last month, Berdymukhammedov invited Chevron to prospect and develop oil fields in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea shelf. The invitation was seen as a sign of Berdymukhammedov's willingness to open Turkmenistan to Western investment. Also on June 28, Berdymukhammedov authorized the government to sign a $42 million drilling contract with the state-controlled China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and another deal for the construction of a $53 million polypropylene-film plant with France's Darlet Marchante Technologies. (RFE/RL)

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN EMBARK ON LANDMARK VISITS 29 June The ambassadors to Russia of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armen Smbatian and Polad Byulbyulogly, together with a group of cultural figures and academics from both countries, traveled on June 28 to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and thence to Yerevan, Azerbaijani media reported. In Stepanakert, the group met with Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian, who was quoted as saying that all disputed issues should be resolved at the negotiating table, and nothing can be resolved by a new war. The group then traveled to Yerevan where they met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian who, like Ghukasian, welcomed the initiative as contributing to an "atmosphere of mutual trust" between the conflict sides. Then in Baku, the group met with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who reaffirmed that any solution to the Karabakh conflict must respect Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, day.az reported. Nizami Bakhmanov, head of Karabakh's small Azerbaijani community that fled the enclave in the late 1980s, hailed the group's visit to the town of Shusha (Armenian Shushi), where many Azerbaijanis lived. But Akif Nagi, chairman of the radical Karabakh Liberation Organization, denounced the trip as an insult to the Azerbaijani people and argued that by meeting with the leadership of the unrecognized republic, the Azerbaijanis recognized their legitimacy. Nagi called for Byulbyulogly to be stripped of the post of ambassador. (RFE/RL)

SUPREME COURT RULES ON TERRORISM SUSPECTS' BURIALS 29 June The Russian Federation Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that legislation stipulating that the bodies of "terrorists" should be buried in an unmarked grave rather than handed over to their families does not violate the constitution, the "Kommersant" daily reported on June 29. But the court also ruled that the bodies should not be buried until an investigation has proven that the participation of the dead in terrorist acts, and that the burial should be undertaken in accordance with the customs and religious traditions of the dead person. The former conclusion highlights a legal discrepancy insofar as such investigations are automatically closed on the suspected person's death. The court ruling was handed down in response to a formal appeal by the mothers of two men killed during the October 2005 multiple attacks by militants on police and security facilities in Nalchik, capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. Tatyana Psomiadi, a lawyer representing the families of some of the approximately 80 men killed, was quoted by kavkaz-uzel.ru as saying that the Supreme Court's ruling is tantamount to an admission that the cremation in June 2006 of the bodies was illegal. Relatives learned of the cremation only a few weeks ago from a response the European Court for Human Rights received from the Russian authorities. (RFE/RL)

Ilham Aliyev: “We are getting closer to liberation of Karabakh” 2 July “We are getting closer to liberation of Karabakh. We have enough power for defending our territories. Azerbaijan’s position regarding the conflict settlement is supported globally,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyevannounced today, speaking at a meeting with graduates of the Police Academy, a REGNUM correspondent informs. “The Karabakh territories will be liberated sooner or later. From the military point of view, Azerbaijan is the most powerful country in the region. Nobody wants a war or new suicide bombers. However, Azerbaijan is ready to launch any operation at any moment. The sooner Armenia recognizes it and liberates our territories the better,” Aliyev stressed. (Regnum.ru)

China denies involvement in spy scandal in Kyrgyzstan 3 July China’s Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Jian Jichen “was surprised to hear that one of Kyrgyz parliament employees is allegedly a Chinese spy.” Speaker of the Kyrgyz parliament Marat Sultanov informed reporters on it today, a REGNUM correspondent reports. The Chinese ambassador and the parliamentary speaker discussed the fact of detaining a female employee of the Kyrgyz parliament and a foreign citizen. According to Jian Jichen, cited by Marat Sultanov, “Kyrgyzstan is quite a transparent and open country, and in this connection, there is no need for spying.” The chair of the parliament supported the ambassador: “There are no grounds for espionage. Any information China might need, they could have asked through an official inquiry.” “The detained Zhyparkul Arykova had no access to classified documents, as there are no such documents at the parliament,” Marat Sultanov noted. Earlier, employee of the Kyrgyz parliamentary press office, Zhyparkul Arykova and a foreign citizen were detained by security officers at the moment, as the Kyrgyz State National Security Committee press office said, at the time they were handing over classified materials to each other. Now, Zhyparkul Arykova is in custody; she is charged with high treason. Under the charge, she faces from 12 to 20 years sentence with expropriation. (Regnum.ru)

Baku hopes talks on Karabakh will continue in previous format

3 July Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov hopes talks with Armenia on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh problem will be continued in the framework of the Prague process. "We've been in talks within the framework of the Prague process for three years now and would be disappointed if it came to a halt," Mamedyarov told the press. He said talks with Armenia would hopefully continue in this format.

"But the choice of the format also largely depends on the co- chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group," Mamedyarov said. (Interfax-Azerbaijan)

 

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR IN GEORGIA DOES NOT SUPPORT TBILISI’S INITIATIVE TO INVOLVE “PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT” OF SOUTH OSSETIA IN SETTLEMENT PROCESS 5 July Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko finds ungrounded an initiative of the Georgian side to engage head of the South Ossetian “provisional government” Dmitry Sanakoyev into the process of settling the Georgian-Ossetian crisis. “The only way to resolve South Ossetia’s problems is a negotiation process between two internationally recognized parties – Georgia and South Ossetia. There is no other way here. No new parties, no new actors must be engaged in the process,” Vyacheslav Kovalenko is quoted as saying by a REGNUM correspondent. The South Ossetian provisional government was established under a law that was passed by the Georgian parliament on April 13, 2007, and came into force on April 16. Dmitry Sanakoyev was appointed head of the provisional government by a Georgian presidential decree of May 10. (Regnum.ru)

“Baku will rise, but Yerevan will go down” – Armenian politician on possible Russian-US exploitation of Gabala radar station 6  July If an agreement is reached on joint Russian-American exploitation of the Gabala radar station, Azerbaijan will climb another stage in the eyes of the United States, and Armenia will go down, deputy chair of the Armenian National Movement Party Aram Manukyan announced at a news conference in Yerevan. As a REGNUM correspondent informs, according to Manukyan, if the United States does not give up the idea of deploying its missile defense in Czechia and Poland, it will affect Russia negatively. “Taking into consideration that Moscow is Armenia’s major strategic partner, it will have the same effect for Armenia,” he said.  As Manukyan noted, as for other neighbors, Georgia and Turkey, their alliance with Baku in projects isolating Armenia today is the main foreign policy challenge in Yerevan.  Moreover, according to Manukyan, if Turkey and Azerbaijan’s actions against Armenia are understandable, it is evident in Georgia that Armenia is not treated as a friendly nation. This, according to him, is stipulated by a recent statement by Robert Kocharyan that Armenia’s joining NATO will be a step backwards for its sovereignty. The international community believes that negative attitude of one of South Caucasian countries towards joining European institutions hampers tehprocess of uniting the whole region with Europe. Manukyan also believes that such pro-Russian direction of Armenia’s foreign policy is not justified. Russia “caused damage” to Armenia, and withdrawal of Russian military bases for the territory of Samtskhe-Javakheti, mostly populated by Armenians and the base was practically the only working place for them. At the same time, he noted that Moscow even paid to Tbilisi for deploying its forces in the Georgian territory. “Why is Russia not paying to Armenia for its military base in Gyumri?” asked Aram Manukyan.

TRIAL OF ALLEGED COUP PLOTTERS OPENS IN ARMENIA 3 July The trial began on July 2 at a district court in Yerevan of two Karabakh war veterans and one of their former comrades in arms charged with plotting to overthrow the Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Lebanese-born Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian were arrested in December, shortly after presiding over the founding conference of an organization that opposes the return of occupied Armenian territory to Azerbaijan as part of any Karabakh peace deal. They have both rejected the charges against them as politically motivated. Their colleague Vahan Aroyan was arrested in late December after the National Security Service claimed to have found a huge cache of arms at his home in the southern village of Lusarat. (RFE/RL)

Protesters demand coalition airbase be removed from Bishkek airport

7 July About thirty people held a picket at the international antiterrorist coalition's Ganci airbase at Bishkek's Manas Airport on Saturday. The protesters arrived at the base on three buses and held a Soviet flag and red banners saying "Americans, Get Off of Kyrgyz Soil!", "Hands Off Iraq!", "Manas Airport is For Civilian Aircraft", "We Want Peaceful Skies Above Our Heads", and others. The demonstrators chanted anti-NATO and anti-American slogans and played the Soviet national anthem. Alexander Tiperov, a coordinator of the movement for the airbase's withdrawal, said at the demonstration that "the participants demand the immediate withdrawal of the airbase from Kyrgyz territory, the severance of the Kyrgyz-American intergovernmental agreement on deploying the base, concluded in December 2001, and the extradition U.S. Air Force serviceman Zachary Hatfield, who shot Kyrgyz citizen Alexander Ivanov, a fuel truck driver, dead at a Manas airport checkpoint on December 6, 2006." Ivanov's widow and their two sons also took part in the protest. (Interfax)

Ossetian peacekeepers to set up checkpoint near Georgian positions – Chochiyev 8 July South Ossetia plans to set up an Ossetian peacekeeping battalion in the area, where the movement of Georgian special police forces was reported, Boris Chochiyev, the chairman of the Mixed Control Commission for Georgian-Ossetian settlement, said. "We'll set up an Ossetian peacekeeping checkpoint in this area, but the attitude of the Georgian side has been negative thus far," Chochiyev told Interfax from Tskhinvali on Sunday. The situation remains tense in the conflict zone, he said. "The Georgian side has declined to attend a meeting of the Mixed Control Commission co-chairmen in Tskhinvali, and offered to meet in Tbilisi in late July without a prior discussion of the agenda, which is unacceptable," he said. "Reports were circulated on Sunday morning, citing a Georgian deputy minister for conflict resolution, as saying that Cossack troops and military hardware had entered the conflict zone. This is not true," Chochiyev said. "Should tensions arise, not only Cossacks will assist us, but other aid wil come, as well. But there are no formations other than those already in place right now," he said. South Ossetia's spokesperson Irina Gagloyeva earlier said that all of the South Ossetian armed forces were alerted on Saturday evening on reports about the movement of Georgian special police forces outside the Ossetian village of Khod. "Leaving their positions near Khod, Georgian special police forces moved towards the Dzhava road and stopped at a distance of 70 meters from our police checkpoint," Gagloyeva told Interfax from Tskhinvali. Ossetian authorities got in touch with Georgian officials and delivered an ultimatum. "We warned that if the Georgian special police force does not move back to its positions before 6 a.m., July 8, it will be destroyed," she said. The Georgian side claimed, meanwhile, that a South Ossetian armed contingent of about 200 men assumed positions on Friday near the Nikozi -Avnevi road under construction, which Tbilisi thinks could seriously worsen the situation. Georgia placed responsibility for further tensions in the conflict zone near Tskhinvali entirely on the Russian peacekeepers who, it said, have been declining to fulfill the duties documented in the peacekeeping mandate. Dmitry Madzhavidze, Georgia's deputy minister for conflict resolution, told the press on Saturday that, "the situation in the conflict zone is extremely serious and even explosive." (Interfax)

 

AZERBAIJAN MOVES TO CURTAIL RUSSIAN, TURKISH TV BROADCASTS

9 July

As of July 11, the Russian television channel ORT will no longer to permitted to use a local frequency to broadcast to Azerbaijan, National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council Chairman Nushirevan Magerramli told journalists in Baku on July 9. ORT's agreement on rebroadcasting to Azerbaijan expired in January, and talks on renewing it failed to yield an agreement on the terms whereby ORT would continue rebroadcasting to Azerbaijan and the state-run AzTV would be broadcast in Russia. Magerramli said talks will continue with a second Russian television company, RTR-Planeta, and if no agreement is forthcoming within the next month, it too will no longer be allowed to rebroadcast to Azerbaijan. Similarly affected is the Turkish channel Samanyolu, whose frequency will be offered for tender on July 17, and which will have to cease broadcasting by September 17. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ali Abbasov told day.az on July 9 that the technical problems involved in making Iranian television broadcasts available to the population of Azerbaijan's southernmost districts will be solved "very soon." (day.az)

 

Suspects established in attack on Abkhaz prime minister - prosecutor

9 July A number of people suspected of involvement in an attempt to assassinate Abkhaz Prime Minister Alexander Ankvaba have been identified, the breakaway province's Prosecutor General Safarbei Mikanba told journalists on Monday. "We know a number of people who could be involved in the assassination attempt," he said. The owner of the car the attackers are believed to have used to escape has already been identified, Mikanba said, refusing to provide further details. (Interfax)

 

Abkhaz president: Attack on Ankvab is a political order from neighboring country 9 July Abkhaz President Sergey Bagapsh expressed serious concern about an attempt on life of Abkhaz Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab today, reports a REGNUM correspondent. “Repeated attempts to liquidate the prime minister prove only one thing: some groups are trying actively to hamper the changes started in the republic and activity of the presidential team, aimed at economic reforms and fighting organized crime, is on their way. Probably, those people are trying to destabilize the domestic situation in Abkhazia. No matter was it deliberate or not, they are implementing order of our opponents, the country with which our country is in a state of war,” the republican president believes. Sergey Bagapsh thinks that finding and punishing the attackers is a task of the law enforcement authorities, but Abkhaz society must assist governmental institutions in this matter. A 500,000-ruble reward ($20,000) is announced for those who will assist in investigating the attack. The president finds inadmissible any action that can destabilize the situation in the republic and paralyze activities of the government. “Policy of the government will not change and such acts of pressure will not make the republican leadership to turn off the road we have chosen,” Bagapsh announced. The prime minister’s jeep was fired upon by unknown gunmen earlier today. His life is not under threat. It was not the first time Alexander Ankvab was attacked. In February and April 2005, soon after the presidential election, his car was twice fired at from a machine gun. (Regnum.ru)

Russia, China, other SCO countries fit to counter terror - Putin 17 August Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is confident that Russia and China, as well as other SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) countries, are capable of a worthy contribution to the fight against terrorism, a view Chinese leader Hu Jintao seconded, highly praising the completed Peaceful Mission-2007 exercises in the process. "I am confident that by cooperating with other countries in world, Russia and China, as well as other SCO countries, will make a worthy contribution to the cause of fighting terror," Putin said at a meeting with the Chinese leader on Friday after the completion of the Peaceful Mission-2007 exercises. (Interfax)

 

RUSSIA BLOCKS UN VOTE ON GEORGIAN MISSILE INCIDENT

17 August

Russia vetoed on August 16 a UN Security Council vote on two drafted statements submitted by the United

States concerning the August 6 incident in which an unidentified aircraft entered Georgian airspace and dropped or jettisoned a missile. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that any discussion of the drafts would be premature as Russian experts arrived in Georgia to participate in the investigation into the incident only on August 16. In Tbilisi, Russian ambassador-at-large Valery Kenyaikin told journalists late on August 16 that the Russian experts have provided their Georgian colleagues with Russian radar records that prove Russia was not responsible for the incident. In a statement summarized by Caucasus Press on August 17, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi called attention to what it termed the "credible" preliminary conclusion by an international group of experts probing the incident. That report failed to identify the type or origin of the aircraft in question, but said that it entered Georgian airspace from Russia, and noted that the Georgian armed forces do not have missiles of the type dropped. The statement further urged the international community to support confidence-building measures in South Ossetia; international monitoring of the Roki Tunnel linking South Ossetia with the Russian Federation; the deployment of OSCE observers throughout South Ossetia; and to intensify efforts to promote a peaceful solution of the South Ossetian conflict. The U.S. State Department similarly released a brief statement on August 16 saying, "we believe the report accurately summarizes the available evidence," "The New York Times" reported on

August 17. (RFE/RL)

 

Kazakh-Chinese trade turnover will reach $1 Bln per day – Nazarbayev 18 August Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev hopes that Kazakh-Chinese trade turnover will reach $12 billion in 2008. "I hope that the trade turnover will be $12 billion. This means that our economy will have $1 billion every month," Nazarbayev said at a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday in Astana. "Of course, it is great to reach the level of the U.S.-Canadian trade turnover - $1 billion every day. I am convinced that we will do this," the president said. "The fact that we will secure $10 billion in the bilateral trade turnover this year instead of 2010 as it was planned earlier proves that our trade and economic relations are successful," Nazarbayev said. "A large number of interaction issues" was discussed at a meeting with the Chinese leader, Nazarbayev said, adding that "the key topic was, of course, trade, economic, and investment cooperation." "We discussed such cooperation areas as energy, oil and gas industry, petrochemicals, oil processing, tourism, transport, and communications, in details today," Nazarbayev said. According to the Kazakh presidential press service, the total amount of Chinese investments in the Kazakh economy stays at $8 billion. According to Chinese statistical data, the Chinese-Kazakh trade turnover grew 22% in 2006 year-on-year and totaled $8.3 billion. The bilateral trade turnover reached $4.7 billion in January-May 2007, a 59.4% increase compared with the same period in 2006. (Interfax)

 

Kazakhstan opposition doesn’t recognize election returns 19 August Kazakhstan's opposition parties Ak Zhol (Bright Path) and Nationwide Social-Democratic Party do not recognize preliminary returns of Saturday's parliamentary elections, announced by the Central Elections Commission. "We don't recognize the outcome of the elections. They absolutely do not reflect the actual alignment of political forces or the social support they draw. These elections are neither a step forward, nor even remaining at standstill," a leader of the Ak Zhol Party, Burikhan Nurmukhamedov told Interfax on Sunday in Astana, while commenting on the results announced. He said, citing his own figures, that Ak Zhol had mustered about 12% of the vote. "We have definitely won these votes," he said. "We were shocked [by the figures announced by the Central Elections Commission,]" Nurmukhamedov said, adding that, "reports on irregularities are being processed and will be submitted to the Central Elections Commission, to the Prosecutor General's Office and other law enforcement agencies." Ualikhan Kaisarov, the Nationwide Social-Democratic Party's representative in the Central Elections Commission described the elections as "utter profanation." "The elections have been utterly profaned," he told the press. "Only one party - Nur Otan - is represented in the parliament! What democracy can one talk about?" Kaisarov said. Central Elections Commission Chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov said at a press conference in Astana on Sunday that the governing party, Nur Otan, had won a confident victory in the elections, mustering 88.05% of the vote. The Nationwide Social-Democratic Party came in second with 4.62% and Ak Zhol third with 3.27% of the vote. According to preliminary reports, none of the parties, except Nur Otan, has won seats in the lower house of parliament.  Seven parties ran in the elections. The threshold required for parliamentary representation is 7%. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

Ahmadinejad seeks to counter US clout in Azerbaijan

20 August Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due Tuesday to begin an official visit to neighboring Azerbaijan, seeking to counter US influence in the oil-rich, fellow Shiite Muslim country. Officials said a number of bilateral agreements would be signed with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during the two-day visit, including cooperation deals on energy and transportation. Although Ahmadinejad has visited Baku before to attend international events, the trip will be his first official visit to the country, said Mahjid Feizullan, the spokesman for the Iranian embassy.  Azerbaijan has close diplomatic and trade relations with Iran, with which it shares strong historical and religious ties. Northern Iran is also home to 16 million to 30 million ethnic Azeris, according to varying estimates, easily outnumbering the 8 million in Azerbaijan itself. But the country is also a key US ally in the strategic Caucasus region, wedged between Iran and Russia. The US has strongly backed a corridor of pipelines to deliver Azerbaijani oil and gas through Turkey to Western markets. Washington has also provided military assistance and held joint exercises with Azerbaijan, which, in turn, allows its airspace to be used by North Atlantic Treaty Organization planes for crucial access to Central Asia and Afghanistan. Analysts said Ahmadinejad would be looking to address Tehran's concerns about Azerbaijan's pro-Western course.  "The president of Iran will be interested, first of all, with the question of the possible use by the US of Azerbaijani territory against Iran," said Vafa Guluzade, a one-time foreign policy adviser to former Azerbaijani president Heidar Aliyev. Washington has expressed interest in obtaining the use of airfields in Azerbaijan for military purposes, and analysts speculate that the US has studied using Azerbaijan as a potential launchpad for attacking Iran. Azerbaijan has categorically rejected rumours that it would let US troops use its territory to attack neighboring countries. Analysts said the two presidents were also likely to discuss Russia's proposal to use the Soviet-built Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan as part of a missile-defense system the US is proposing to counter potential threats from Iran and North Korea.  Iranian officials have said they are not concerned by the proposal, which, experts say, is unlikely to be accepted by the US.  The two leaders were also expected to discuss a long-running dispute over maritime borders in the Caspian Sea. Iran and Azerbaijan, along with the other states with Caspian shorelines, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, have been unable to agree on how to divide up the sea. Despite cultural and religious links between the two countries, many Azerbaijanis mistrust the authorities in Tehran, accusing Iran of denying the rights of ethnic Azeris across the border, and of trying to spread Islamic fundamentalism to their secular ex-Soviet state. (AFP)

 

RUSSIA TO EXPAND MILITARY BASE IN KYRGYZSTAN

21 August

Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Valentin Vlasov announced on August 20 that Russia intends to expand its military presence at the Kant air base outside Bishkek. Vlasov said that the number of Russian servicemen and maintenance personnel will be increased, reflecting the significance of the Kant air base as both "the face of Russia's military presence in Kyrgyzstan" and as "a very important part of the system of ensuring stability in Central Asia in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization." The Russian Air Force commander of the Kant base, Colonel Vladimir Nosov, also revealed that the overall number of servicemen stationed at Kant has already been increased by 50 percent this year. Nosov also hailed the combat readiness of the Russian flight crews under his command, adding that "since the air base was founded nearly four years ago, it has evolved from forward headquarters to a combat aviation group capable of operating in drills and in a combat environment," Interfax reported. Following a meeting in Bishkek in June between Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Ismail Isakov, the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry announced it expects to receive military equipment worth $2.5 million from Russia this year, compared to $2 million in 2006, largely intended as compensation for the use of the Kant base by the Russian Air Force. As of June, 250 Russian Air Force officers and 150 personnel are stationed at the air base, which is equipped with five Su-25 attack aircraft and two Mi-8 helicopters. (RFE/RL)

 

KYRGYZSTAN ALLOWS HEAD SCARVES IN PASSPORT PHOTOS

21 August

Jyldyz Akmatbekova, a lawyer at the State Agency for Information Resources and Technology, announced on August 20 that Kyrgyz women will be allowed to wear Islamic head scarves while being photographed for their official passports, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and AKIpress reported. Akmatbekova added that the Justice Ministry is currently drafting new regulations reversing an earlier ban on head scarves in official identification photos. According to Jamal Frontbek-kyzy, the leader of an Islamic women's nongovernmental organization, the decision to overturn the ban was made by a special interagency commission set up earlier this year to consider the issue. Frontbek-kyzy also said that 45,000 signatures have been collected nationwide in support of the initiative. The wearing of head scarves, or hijab, is a traditional Islamic practice associated with a woman's modesty and piety. In February, the Kazakh Justice Ministry similarly abolished a ban on women photographed wearing head scarves for identification documents. (RFE/RL)

 

JAPANESE COMPANY ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF STAKE IN KAZAKH URANIUM MINING

21 August

According to a corporate press release issued in Tokyo, unnamed officials of the Japanese Toshiba Corporation announced on August 20 the acquisition of a stake in a uranium mine in southern Kazakhstan. The acquisition gives Toshiba the right to mine up to 600 metric tons of uranium annually from the Kharasan deposit. The specific financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the announcement follows a recent deal whereby Toshiba agreed to sell a 10 percent stake in the U.S. nuclear-power-plant maker Westinghouse to the Kazakh state-run energy company Kazatomprom for $540 million. That deal was part of a larger agreement between Toshiba and Kazatomprom for joint nuclear-plant construction projects involving the transfer of uranium-processing technology from Toshiba and Westinghouse to Kazakhstan. In May, Japanese Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari announced during a visit to Kazakhstan that Japan plans to import up to 40 percent of the uranium it uses from Kazakhstan. (RFE/RL) Uzbeks unveil 2 new oil wells 21 August Uzbekistan's Neft Va Gaz Quduqlarini Sinash has handed over two oil wells in the south to Muborakneftgaz and Shortonneftgaz unitary subsidiary companies. Pravda Vostoka newspaper reported Tuesday that the wells were in the southern Qashqadaryo region. "The wells daily produce 15 and 30 tons respectively. Horizontal tests were carried out in other 76 wells in the past seven months," Azamat Ergashev, deputy chairman of the joint-stock company's board of directors, told the newspaper. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Uzbekistan has 594 million barrels of proven oil reserves, with 171 discovered oil and natural gas fields. Most of the oil fields are in the Bukhara-Khiva region, including Kokdumalak, which makes up 70 percent of production, according to the Energy Information Administration, the data arm of the U.S. Department of Energy. Oil fields are also present in Fergana, the Ustyurt plateau and the Aral Sea. (UPI)

 

Wave of violence in Afghanistan kills 23 21 August At least 23 people including two police officers were killed in clashes as fresh violence swept insurgency-hit Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. Eight Taliban militants and two policemen were killed in fighting which erupted late Monday in the southern province of Ghazni where the Taliban have been holding 19 South Korean aid workers hostage for the past month, police said. The fighting in the province's Qara Bagh -- where the Korean aid workers were kidnapped on July 19 -- and Ander districts was still ongoing Tuesday, provincial police chief Alishah Ahmadzai told AFP. Two other police were seriously wounded, he said. Elsewhere in Ghazni, two Afghan civilians were killed and two injured when a landmine apparently intended for the security forces went off under their vehicle on Tuesday, Ahmadzai said. "The Taliban had planted the mine, aimed at us," the police commander said. In separate clashes between Taliban and security forces, seven militants were killed in an operation by Afghan and coalition forces in neighbouring Helmand province Monday, the defence ministry said in a statement. "Seven terrorists who had infiltrated the area to destabilise the area were killed during an operation by Afghan and coalition forces," the statement said, refering to a 10,000-strong US-led force based in the province. The operation took place in Helmand's troubled Sangin district, which has been badly hit by the insurgency. Also in Sangin, four Afghan army soldiers were injured the same day after their checkpost came under Taliban rocket fire. Four other Taliban guerrillas were killed late Monday in the southwestern province of Farah, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang told AFP. The unrest has so far claimed the lives of 136 soldiers from the NATO-led international force this year. (AFP)
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