Thursday, 13 November 2008

12 November 2008 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (11/13/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Officials deny Chechen-Ingushetia merger 30 October Rumors of a merger between the Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia are unfounded, regional and federal officials said Wednesday.  Oleg Govorun, head of the domestic policy department, called the rumors "groundless," ITAR-TASS reported. "Neither the presidential administration nor the leaders of these republics have such plans," he said.

Officials deny Chechen-Ingushetia merger 30 October Rumors of a merger between the Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia are unfounded, regional and federal officials said Wednesday.  Oleg Govorun, head of the domestic policy department, called the rumors "groundless," ITAR-TASS reported. "Neither the presidential administration nor the leaders of these republics have such plans," he said. "There are no consultations on the issue, these allegations are full gossip." The two republics were joined under the Soviet Union into a single autonomous area. Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, said he would oppose any plan to merge Ingushetia into Chechnya. He said Chechnya is in a phase of "active reconstruction" and should not be burdened with Ingushetia's problems, RIA Novosti reported. Kadyrov heads a pro-Russian government installed after two wars waged by separatist Chechens. Violence in Ingushetia has been increasing recently, and human rights groups warn of a full-scale civil war. (UPI)

 

7 Russian police officers hurt in blasts 2 November Two bombs went off back to back in a town in Russia's North Caucacus region Sunday, leaving seven police officers injured, a police source said. No one was hurt when the first homemade explosive device went off near a home in Ordzhonikidzevskaya but the officers were hurt when the second device was detonated when they showed up, RIA Novosti reported. The police source told the Russian news agency the officers suffered shell-shock.The region has had an increase in violence in recent months that authorities link to separatists in neighboring Chechnya as well as internal power struggles, RIA Novosti said. (UPI)

 

Kazakhstan starts transporting oil by Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline 3 November Kazakhstan has started transporting oil by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, BP Azerbaijan, the pipeline’s operator, said on Monday.  BP Azerbaijan spokeswoman Tamam Bayatly said Kazakhstani oil is transported by the pipeline in accordance with the agreement reached by Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Company and Tengiz Chevron. Up to 300,000 tonnes of Kazakhstani oil are expected to be transported by the pipeline by the end of 2008.  The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, designed to bring Caspian crude to the Mediterranean coast, went operational in the summer of 2006. The 1767-kilometer-long pipeline runs through Azerbaijan (443 kilometers), Georgia (248 kilometers) and Turkey (1,076 kilometers). From the Turkish port of Ceyhan tankers carry oil to Europe. The pipeline's throughput is 50 million tonnes a year. If necessary, it can be increased to 75 million tonnes.  Most of the oil filling it is produced at Azerbaijan's Azeri, Chirag and Guneshli blocks. It was decided to draw crude from Kazakhstan to make the BTC more effective. The State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic and Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGaz national company have negotiated an inter-government agreement to export part of Kazakhstan's crude through the BTC since November 2002. On June 16, Kazakhstan formalised its participation in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project by signing an agreement with Azerbaijan on the promotion of oil traffic from Kazakhstan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and, eventually, to international markets through the pipeline system. When the oil-rich Kashagan field is tapped, the amount of oil traffic along this route may go up to 25 million tonnes a year. (Itar-Tass)

 

Some 20 Kyrgyz opposition parties, movements sign memorandum of unification

4 November Several opposition political parties in Kyrgyzstan, as well as public organizations and political figures have united around the idea of reforming the country's political system. Part of the Kyrgyz opposition, which calls itself "the progressive public forces," signed on Monday a memorandum of unification around the Path of Justice Concept replacing the government system in the country and transforming it from the presidential into the parliamentary republic. The Concept was developed by several Kyrgyz opposition politicians. The memorandum was signed by about 20 political parties, movements and non-governmental organizations, including the Ata-Meken Socialist party led by former parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebayev; the Ak-Shumkar party led by former MP Temir Sariyev, as well as the Social-Democratic Party led by former prime minister Almazbek Atambayev. "In order to preserve its nationhood Kyrgyzia needs radical and profound changes of its entire public and political system and of all authorities in the country," the memorandum said. "It is the first time that opposition parties have united around the idea of the need to change the political system in the country, which shows that they share vision of the country's future development," leader of the Kyrgyz Social-Democratic Party Atambayev told journalists. The Ak-Shumkar party leader told journalists that the provisions of the opposition's Concept of Kyrgyzstan's further development, as well as the opposition's plans will be submitted and discussed "at the big forum of the opposition forces due on November 25." The opposition demands, in particular, that the authorities disband the parliament and call early parliamentary elections, as well as make changes to the Constitution, Sariyev added. (Interfax)

 

U.S. ambassador hopes Kazakhstan will adhere to the earlier concluded contracts

6 November U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland is sure that the Kazakh government will stay committed to the contracts earlier concluded with foreign investors, including the oil contracts. The ambassador told a Thursday press conference in Almaty that Kazakhstan's stable economic situation and contracts had once attracted the American investors. Hoagland expects that the Kazakh government might apply more severe requirements to new contracts. According to the ambassador, up to now the American companies have invested $15 billion in Kazakhstan and $11 out of this has been invested in the oil sector. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

Kazakh president defines ethical norms for civil servants

6 November

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev defined a number of ethical norms for civil servants at the Thursday anti-corruption forum of the ruling party Nur Otan. First of all, "a civil servant must learn how to use his authority and to remain honest," the president said. "A civil servant must work for the benefit of the country, not for his own benefit, and never mistake state funds for his own," he said. Thirdly, a civil servant must give an honest answer to the question about the source of his income or quit civil service, the president said. "It is important for any civil servant to fully comply with the law," he said. "Any civil servant regardless of his rank and position must justify the confidence of citizens," the president said. A Kazakh civil servant must show an example of justice, modesty and

civilian conduct, he said. "Measures must be taken immediately if any actions damage the country or a case of corruption occurs," the president concluded. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

Governmental agencies must promptly respond to any published articles about corruption - Kazakh president

6 November

The heads of the governmental agencies and the state employees should be obliged to promptly respond to any published articles containing criticism, believes President Nursultan Nazarbaev. "We should develop and introduce a mechanism to oblige all state employees to promptly respond to any published articles containing criticism or information about corruption," he told an anticorruption forum, which was held by the ruling Nur Otan Party, in Astana on Thursday. According to the president "this is one of the methods to fight corruption." "We should make it a rule. If some of the state employees from a regional and national government is said to have committed an offense, this employee should immediately reply in writing in the same newspaper on the same page. Or the law enforcement agencies should verify the information," Nazarbaev said. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

No Kazakh citizens at Guantanamo base - U.S. ambassador

6 November

Not a single Kazakh citizen is currently being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, U.S. Ambassador to

Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland said at a press conference on Thursday. It was reported earlier that four Kazakh citizens suspected of fighting against the U.S. in Afghanistan had earlier been held as prisoners of war at the Guantanamo base. Hoagland said all of them had been released. Asked by journalists if former Kazakh Ambassador to Austria and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's former son-in-law Rakhat Aliev could have been placed under a U.S. witness protection program, Hoagland said he did not have any information related to Aliev, including whether he was under a witness protection program. A number of foreign media reported earlier that Aliev had testified as a witness on the so-called Kazakhgate criminal case being investigated in the U.S. and that he was therefore placed under a witness protection program and was being guarded by U.S. special services. Kazakh courts sentenced Aliev in absentia to a total of 40 years of prison for a number of serious crimes earlier this year. Aliev and a number of other people figuring in criminal cases against him were believed to be staying in Vienna until recently. Kazakh authorities were seeking their extradition from Austria but were denied. A number of Austrian media outlets reported in October that Aliev had left Austria, and his current whereabouts is unknown. (Interfax)

 

President calls for adopting lobbying bill

6 November Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbaev believes the country needs the lobbying law. "An antidote to corruption is the law on lobbyist activities," he said at the anticorruption forum of Nur Otan party on Thursday in Astana.

The president advised the parliament to adopt the lobbying bill to get rid of the corrupt schemes of promoting corporate inertest to the determent of state and society." "Parliament members and parliament chairmen told me that they are stalked by the herds of lobbyists, though we have neither law nor order in dealing with this matter," Nazarbaev said. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

Iran wary of border activity 7 November Iranian authorities Friday issued warnings urging citizens to avoid crossing the border with Iraq, saying border police were harassing pilgrims. Hossein Akbari, the deputy head of the Iranian pilgrimage organization, said Iraqi border officials lacked the experience and professional constraints their predecessors under the Saddam Hussein regime displayed, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. "Iraqi police's behavior has dramatically changed compared to the past. Apparently, they (police) have beaten up Iranian pilgrims on a premeditated plan to make them fearful and horrified," he said. He expressed concern over reports Iraqi border officials had beaten pilgrims and clerical elites traveling to the holy city of Karbala as officials note a dramatic decline in the number of Iranian pilgrims entering Iraq. A statement from the Iranian Interior Ministry earlier this week banned pilgrims from crossing into Iraq along two border points in Ilam and Khuzestan province amid reports U.S. military forces had increased their patrols along the border. Iraqi military leaders also reported increased encounters with Iranian fighters thought to be linked to the elite Quds Force. Iraqi Maj. Aziz Latief said in October two Iranians were killed in clashes in Wasit province along the Iranian border. Meanwhile, Iranian military officials issued warnings to U.S. forces in Iraq, saying they would respond "forcefully" to any violation of Iranian airspace, noting U.S. helicopters were seen flying near the Iranian border. (UPI)

 

Georgian opposition marches down to presidential residence, no incidents occur 7 November Georgian opposition held an authorized rally in front of the parliament house and marched down to the presidential residence in Tbilisi on Friday. According to various sources, the rally involvement from 10,000 to 12,000 people and about 7,000 people took part in the march. Another rally was held in front of the presidential residence, and opposition leaders took the floor. They criticized the official policy and demanded to hold early parliamentary and presidential election next spring. The rally lasted for about one hour and ended without incidents. The Labor Party, the Conservative Party, the People’s Party, the movement For United Georgia and some other organizations organized the event to mark the first anniversary of the November 7, 2007, rally dispersed by the Georgian police. The opposition “will start a new series of protests against the official policy,” former presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze told the rally. A number of opposition organizations refused to take part in the rally. In their opinion, “early elections will lead the country into a deadlock.” The organizations suggested demanding reforms and preparations for regular election. (Itar-Tass)

 

Turkey cannot mediate in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - Serzh Sargsyan 7 November Turkey's membership in the Organization for Security  and  Cooperation  in  Europe  (OSCE)  Minsk Group does not provide  for  Turkey  to be a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said. "Turkey cannot mediate in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Although Turkey is an OSCE Minsk  Group  member,  it  is not its co-chairman," Sargsyan told a press conference held jointly with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Sargsyan  recalled  that  he  signed  with  the  Russian  and Azeri presidents a  joint declaration on the conflict settlement in Moscow on November 2. "One of  the provisions of this declaration said that the Nagorno-Karabakh solution was expected in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen," he said. On Friday,  a Turkish newspaper, Today's Zaman, reported referring to diplomatic  sources  that  Turkish President Adbullah Gul intended to organize  a  tripartite  summit  including  the  heads  of  Armenia  and Azerbaijan  which would discuss Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and Turkish-Armenian relations. Gul  informed  Azeri  President  Ilham Aliyev on his initiative and

Aliyev reacted  positively,  the  paper said. Given Armenian consent the date and the place of the summit will be decided, it said. Since  1992,  the OSCE Minsk Group has been a major forum seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The  Minsk Group includes twelve nations [Russia, the U.S., France, Belarus,   Germany,  Italy,  Finland,  Sweden,  Turkey  and  three  OSCE countries, currently Spain, Finland and Greece]. The  negotiating  process  is  conducted under the aegis of the co- chairmen  of  the  Minsk  Group holding agreed positions. From 1992, the U.S. and France have become co-chairmen jointly with Russia. (Interfax)

 

Tbilisi regrets French presidENCY proposal to resume EU-Russia talks 9 November Tbilisi regrets that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stated the need to continue the EU-Russia talks on strategic partnership, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said here on Saturday. According to her, Russia “is openly violating the ceasefire agreement” signed in August with France’s mediation. Tkeshelashvili claimed that “Russian troops continue to stay in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” Sarkozy said at a EU summit in Brussels on Friday that the EU has not frozen talks with Russia, they were just postponed and the time has come to continue them. (Itar-Tass)

 

Kazakhstan to slash export duties 10 November The government of Kazakhstan said Monday it plans to cut its crude oil export duties by 45 percent in an effort to reduce the impact of falling prices. The global financial crisis has trickled over to the energy markets as crude was trading at roughly 40 percent below its July highs of $147 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. "The Ministry of Industry and Trade has already drawn up draft regulations, which propose cutting export duty on crude oil to $139 a ton and export duty on fuel oil ... from $130 to $95 per ton," said Energy Minister Sauat Mynbayev in the Russian RIA Novosti news agency. Kazakhstan and several international oil majors reached an agreement in October to develop the Kashagan oil field in the Caspian Sea, which is expected to hold some 12.5 billion barrels of oil. Last week, Kazakhstan said it would transport some 120 million barrels of oil per year through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, marking the first time oil from outside Azerbaijan will ship through the artery. Mynbayev did not reveal when the cuts in the export duty would commence. (UPI)

 

Kazakh-Russian Baikonur sub-commission to convene on Nov 13-14

10 November

The Baikonur sub-commission of the Kazakh-Russian  Intergovernmental  Cooperation  Commission will hold the 11th meeting in Astana on November 13-14. "The  sides  will  discuss further cooperation in space exploration

and efficient use of the Baikonur space center," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev told a press briefing in Astana on Monday. Russia  has been renting Baikonur since 1994. The lease will expire

in 2050  by  the  latest  agreement.  The  town of Baikonur, which has a population of approximately 70,000, has a Kazakh-Russian administration. (Interfax)

 

Lavrov Wants ‘Equal Status’ for Sokhumi, Tskhinvali at Geneva Talks 10 November Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that representatives from South Ossetian and Abkhazia should participate in the Geneva talks, planned for November 18, as equals with all the rest. “The Geneva meeting, envisaged by the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement, is dedicated to ensuring security in the region and without equal participation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, these talks cannot be fruitful,” Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on November 9. Tbilisi, however, claims that only the Georgian, Russian and U.S. representatives should participate in the official part of talks, while the separatists can participate in informal meetings of working groups over security and return of internally displaced persons. The Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Sergey Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Sharm El-Sheikh on November 8 and along with other issues discussed the current situation in Georgia. “The sides stressed the necessity for preventing further aggravation of the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. In Sharm El-Sheikh Lavrov also held talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and discussed future activities of the UN observers in Abkhazia. (Civil Georgia)

 

'Huge' Afghanistan drugs seizure 11 November Officials in southern Afghanistan say they have seized almost 18 tonnes of poppy seed - potentially enough to produce 30 tonnes of heroin. The seizure in Gereshk in Helmand province has been described as the biggest of its kind to date. The operation was part of an aggressive counter-narcotics strategy launched by Helmand's new governor, Gulab Mangal. If cultivated, the seeds would have produced enough opium for heroin with a street value in Europe of $1.5bn. It was enough seed to plant 7,000 hectares of poppies - by comparison last year law enforcement teams here eradicated less than 3,000 hectares. This is the first time counter-narcotics police have carried out a search outside the main provincial town, Lashkar Gah. It is also the first time they have searched for seeds in an attempt to pre-empt the planting season which is just beginning. Helmand governor Gulab Mangal took office earlier this year. He is trying to increase public education, describing poppies as a product which is both damaging to local populations and which raises funds for the Taleban. He has just launched a massive programme to distribute free wheat in Helmand to encourage farmers to switch from poppies. But some farmers say they have to grow poppies to survive, because other options like wheat simply do not bring enough income. (BBC)

 

Iran, Turkey gas deal may help Nabucco 11 November Turkish energy officials said they planned a November meeting in Iran to finalize a gas deal that may prove promising to the Nabucco pipeline, officials said. Both countries in 2007 moved on a preliminary $3.5 billion agreement to develop the Iranian South Pars gas field. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August visited Istanbul to negotiate the final stages of the deal, but left without a formal arrangement. The deal is likely to hurt Turkish relations with the United States. But Mete Goknel, former director of the Turkish state-owned pipeline firm, BOTAS, said Washington's concerns should not trump moves to ease regional dependency on Russian natural resources, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Tuesday. "Turkey's stable relations with its neighbors Russia and Iran should not be deemed unfavorable by the West," he said. "On the contrary, this offers a suitable basis for the resolution of challenging conflicts." Any deal with Iran and Turkey is likely to accelerate plans for the development of the Nabucco pipeline from Turkey, said Goknel, noting some analysts have expressed concerns over sufficient supply for the route intended to bring gas to European markets. (UPI)

 

Burjanadze: Authorities Losing Western Partners’ Confidence 11 November Recent statement by European leaders indicate that assessments in respect of the August war is changing and not in Georgia’s favor, Nino Burjanadze, the former parliamentary speaker, said on November 11. She was referring mainly to a recent statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said that Russia was in compliance with its ceasefire agreement and it was time to resume partnership talks with Moscow. “There are of course many reasons behind this trend, including the one involving Russia’s active work in this direction,” Burjanadze said while speaking at a daily program of Tbilisi-based FM radio station, Ucnobi, which is simulcast by the Kavkasia TV. “But at the same time the Georgian authorities have lost confidence of our western partners; our major goal now should be to restore this confidence,” she said and added she doubted the current authorities are capable of doing that. On November 11, the Guardian reported quoting Estonian Defense Minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, as saying: "We have to admit that the trustworthiness of Tbilisi has suffered. Some countries clearly see that Georgia acted in an unpredictable way.” (Civil Georgia)

 

Iran test-fires missile, reports say 12 November The Iranian military Wednesday test-fired surface-to-air missiles designed for defensive purposes, the country's state-sanctioned media reported. The test-firing involved the next-generation missile called the Sejil and used solid-fuel propellants, the government's English-language Press TV said on its Web site. Reports on Press TV and state television provided no details about the missile's range. News of the Sejil test-firing came a day after Iranian media said the Revolutionary Guard had test-fired another new missile, called a Samen, Monday near the Iraqi border, The New York Times reported. The Iranian reports came after Tehran said last week U.S. helicopters were observed flying close to Iran's airspace. In July, Iran's Revolutionary Guard test-fired nine missiles during war game, including at least one Iranian officials said was capable of reaching Israel. (UPI)

 

Suspected bomb wounds 15 in south Afghanistan 12 November At least 15 people were wounded in a suspected suicide bomb attack near two government buildings in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar on Wednesday, police and a government official said. The blast hit between Kandahar's main intelligence office and a compound used by the provincial government council, said Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for Kandahar's governor. A provincial police officer said the blast was caused by a suspected suicide bomber and that at least 15 people were wounded, although few other details were immediately available. Violence has escalated sharply this year in Afghanistan , where the resurgent Taliban have stepped up their attacks against government and foreign forces. (Reuters)

 

Uzbekistan Withdraws From Russia-led Economic Group – Reports 12 November Uzbekistan has withdrawn from a Russia-led group of former Soviet states, the Eurasian Economic Community, Russian media reported Wednesday, interpreting the move as a symbolic rebuff to Moscow. "A high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed...Uzebekistan's suspension of its membership," the newspaper Kommersant said in a report later confirmed by Russian news agencies. Kommersant said the the decision by President Islam Karimov was linked to a move by the European Union to cancel sanctions against Tashkent and signaled a rapprochement with the West. Besides Russia, the other members of the Eurasian Economic Community, intended to facilitate trade and other ties, are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In power since Soviet times, Karimov has long weaved a diplomatic path between powerful outside powers. He cut many ties with the U.S. after the Andijan uprising of 2005 in which Uzbekistan was sharply criticised by the West for a crackdown said by rights campaigners to have left hundreds dead. Kommersant said the Uzbek withdrawal was "extremely symbolic," noting Tashkent hadn't voiced any intention to withdraw from a parallel security group, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. In Tashkent, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry declined to comment. (AFP)
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