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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

20 January 2010 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (1/20/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

RUSSIA SEEKS TO DOUBLE AZERI GAS INTAKE 28 December Russia is planning to double its intake of natural gas from Azerbaijan in a potential challenge to European efforts to engage the Eurasian nation in the independent Nabucco gas pipeline network. The Russian Novosti news agency quoted senior Azerbaijan official Rovnag Abdullayev as saying supplies to Russia would double to 35.3 billion cubic feet from 2010.
RUSSIA SEEKS TO DOUBLE AZERI GAS INTAKE 28 December Russia is planning to double its intake of natural gas from Azerbaijan in a potential challenge to European efforts to engage the Eurasian nation in the independent Nabucco gas pipeline network. The Russian Novosti news agency quoted senior Azerbaijan official Rovnag Abdullayev as saying supplies to Russia would double to 35.3 billion cubic feet from 2010. It was unclear if a new deal had been signed in addition to contracts initialed in October. Abdullaev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil and gas company Socar, said: "We have held negotiations. Azerbaijan has a potential to increase gas supplies, we will supply Russia with 1 billion cubic meters (35.3 billion cubic feet) of gas in 2010." Azerbaijan and Russia signed contracts Oct. 14 for the supply of 17.65 billion cubic feet of Azerbaijan natural gas to Russia, with the option to increase the volume. The prospect of double the contracted quantity of natural gas ending up in Russia, along with Azeri contracts to supply gas to Iran, further whittles down supplies that may be available if and when the Nabucco pipeline to Europe goes on stream. The $11.3 billion Nabucco gas pipeline is intended to pool gas supplies from Central Asian and Middle Eastern supplies for transmission to Europe through Turkey. The pipeline is backed by the West as an alternative to European dependence on Russian gas. However, while Nabucco is still in a planning stage, China has opened a 1,138-mile pipeline to Turkmenistan and begun taking delivery of gas from that country, originally a potential participant in the Nabucco project. The pipeline has the capacity to pump about 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and has made China one of the largest consumers of gas from Central Asia. The China-Turkmenistan pipeline also signals a geopolitical shift in the region because, until recently, Turkmenistan supplied most of its gas to Russia. The Nabucco pipeline project likewise aims to wean suppliers from Russia and to bypass Russian territory, passing through Turkey instead. Nabucco would utilize gas supplies from Central Asia as well as the Middle East, except Iran, which is emerging as a major consumer of Azerbaijan gas. Earlier in December, Azerbaijan signed an agreement with Iran to deliver natural gas to the northern Iranian provinces through an existing 916-mile Kazi-Magomed-Astara gas pipeline. The deal involves export of 17.6 billion cubic feet a year of gas -- a fraction of the pipeline's capacity of 353 billion cubic feet per year. Both sides have discussed installing new compression stations on the pipeline to increase its throughput capacity. Mohammad Bagher Bahrami, the Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan, said his country plans to buy at least 175 billion cubic feet of Azeri gas in the future. If implemented the deal will further reduce gas supplies that may be available for the planned Nabucco pipeline. (UPI) ARMENIAN POLICEMEN CONVICTED FOR BEATING PROTESTER 29 December Two Armenian police officers have been convicted of using disproportionate force in breaking up protests following the February 2008 presidential election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. A Yerevan court sentenced Gegham Harutiunian and Hovannes Ghukasian to two years in prison on December 25 for beating a man shortly after the predawn break-up on March 1, 2008 of a tent camp set up by the opposition in the capital's Liberty Square. But both men qualify for a general amnesty declared in June and will not be imprisoned. They will, however, be banned for one year from working for law-enforcement or other state bodies. The ruling came just over a week after two other policemen received three-year prison sentences, also covered by the amnesty, for their harsh treatment of two people in Yerevan on March 2, 2009. In both trials the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying that they acted in self-defense. Harutiunian and Ghukasian insisted that they hit the unidentified opposition protester with truncheons because he threw stones and verbally abused them. Their lawyer, Arshak Tovmasian, said it is the protester and not his "innocent" clients who should have been prosecuted. State prosecutors said the use of force was illegal and unnecessary because the victim was lying on the ground and no longer resisted police during the incident, which was videotaped. The March 1-2, 2008 clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces left 10 people dead and more than 200 others injured. (RFE/RL) KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER CLAIMS GOVERNMENT ORDERED JOURNALIST’S DEATH 5 January The leading voice of Kyrgyzstan's opposition has alleged government involvement in a recent journalist's murder and claimed correspondence in the hands of investigators sheds light on the motive, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Journalist Gennady Pavlyuk, 51, died on December 22 of injuries suffered six days earlier when he was thrown from a building in Almaty, in neighboring Kazakhstan, with his hands and feet bound. The leader of Kyrgyz opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, Omurbek Tekebaev, told RFE/RL that he gave Kazakh investigators e-mails between himself and Pavlyuk that help explain why the current Kyrgyz government wanted Pavlyuk dead. Tekebaev said it is evident from the correspondence that Pavlyuk -- who was working on the creation of a website and a newspaper for Ata-Meken -- supported opposition parties and worked hard to change Kyrgyzstan's political leadership. Tekebaev said the messages reflect the slain journalist's views of the Kyrgyz government along with his civic values and ideals, and added that the e-mails should be a source of pride to Pavlyuk's family and friends. Tekebaev said Pavlyuk had recently been forging the information and ideological policies of Ata-Meken. He said those who allegedly ordered Pavlyuk's death were motivated by the knowledge that it would be hard for the opposition to find anyone who could complete his projects. Tekebaev said Pavlyuk's death should be seen as a warning not only to Ata-Meken but also to all opposition activists, rights defenders, and independent journalists in Kyrgyzstan. Pavlyuk was the founder of the "White Steamer" newspaper and website and had worked for the newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" (Evening Bishkek) and the Russian weekly "Argumenty i fakty." Kazakh media quoted police sources in that country saying over the weekend that there were indications that Kyrgyz secret service officers may have been involved in Pavlyuk's murder. Kyrgyz intelligence officials countered that Kazakh media were disseminating lies. The Kyrgyz opposition has called Pavlyuk's death an attack on press freedom and alleged it was part of the government's campaign to silence dissent. The killing was sharply condemned by international human rights organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Reporters Without Borders. (RFE/RL) RIGHTS GROUPS SAYS UZBEKS MOST-ATTACKED IN RUSSIA 5 January The Moscow-based Bureau on Human Rights says that Uzbeks were the ethnic minority most attacked by radical nationalist groups in Russia in 2009, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports. The report says that some 218 attacks were made in Russia on members of minorities on the basis of "aggressive xenophobia." It said that as a result there were 75 deaths and 284 injuries. According to the report, 14 Uzbeks were killed and 12 others were injured in 2009. The second-most attacked ethnic minority was Kyrgyz, with eight killed and 10 injured. Third was Tajiks, with seven killed and 18 injured. There are hundreds of thousands of Central Asians working in Russia. (RFE/RL) KYRGYZSTAN PLANS TO BUILD 12 SMALL HYDROPOWER STATIONS 6 January A Kyrgyz official says that country will build 12 small hydropower stations in 2010, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Valery Dil, head of Kyrgyzstan's office for small and medium-sized hydropower plants at the Development and Investment Agency, told RFE/RL today that small power plants with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 megawatts each will be built in nearly all parts of the country. He added that a government loan of some $150 million has been provided for the projects. Earlier this week, government officials said the first unit of the Kambarata-2 hydropower station will be operational by May. It is designed to have a capacity of 360 megawatts. Kyrgyz authorities hope to alleviate the country's electricity problems with the Kambarata-1 and Kambarata-2 power plants, which are on the Naryn River in north-central Kyrgyzstan. Much of Kyrgyzstan's energy is imported from Uzbekistan, which is dependent on Kyrgyz water resources. Uzbekistan has several times in recent years stopped exporting electricity to Kyrgyzstan during the winter, leading to energy shortages. The Uzbek government has complained that the additional hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan will reduce the amount of water Uzbekistan will receive from its neighbor to irrigate agricultural fields. (RFE/RL) AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS HELD BY POLICE IN EXCLAVE 7 January Residents of an Azerbaijani village say security forces have arrested scores of people after clashes between police and villagers, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. People in the village of Bananyar, in Azerbaijan's Naxcivan exclave, told RFE/RL that more than 100 people were arrested on January 5 by security forces. They said all the women who were originally detained have been released and only men are now being held. Naxcivan is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan. Rights activists say it is run like a personal fiefdom by regional head Vasif Talibov, who is a close relative of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Naxcivan's Interior Ministry has denied both that police attacked residents in Bananyar or that anyone from the village has been arrested. The action by security forces on January 5 followed an incident with police after the Ashura religious ceremony, which was celebrated on December 28. The day after Ashura, police detained several residents of Bananyar, allegedly because of their overly emotional mourning for Imam Husayn. The detained Bananyar residents were reportedly taken to the police station in the neighboring village of Abragunus and subjected to questioning and physical abuse. Villagers said abuse by police against Kamal Aliyev, 66, and his wife and daughters led to a strong protest from Aliyev's son, Yunis Aliyev, who threatened to set himself alight if police did not release his family. The police reportedly ignored Yunis Aliyev as he poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire. Witnesses said he was taken to the hospital and later over the border to Iran for medical treatment, as reported by Iranian television channel Sahar. Eight days later, security forces entered the village and began arresting people they said helped to organize the Ashura ceremonies. Vilayat Hadiyev, the head of the detention center, denied there are any people from Bananyar at the facility. Saadat Bananyarli, a human rights activist based in Baku, said that she and a group of human rights activists have requested a meeting with the interior minister to discuss the "negligence of police" in regards to the suicide attempt by Aliyev and the actions of the security forces in the village. Bananyarli met in Baku today with OSCE officials to discuss the situation. She said the police will fail in their attempt to hide the arrest of so many of the villagers. She added that there were "hundreds of witnesses" to the events. A group of Bananyar residents have also sent a request to the office of Ombudswoman Elmira Suleymanova for assistance in ending the attacks against people in the village. Adil Eyvazli, a lawyer in Suleymanova's office, said the application was received and will be processed urgently. He said the Ombudswoman's Office will investigate the whereabouts of the missing villagers as soon as possible. (RFE/RL) TURKMENISTAN LAUDS GAS DIVERSITY STRATEGY 8 January The launching of gas pipelines from Turkmenistan indicates the country has the potential to become a consistent supplier to foreign markets, officials said. Leaders of Iran and Turkmenistan this week launched a 16-mile pipeline from the Dauletabad gas field in Turkmenistan to deliver resources to northern Iran. Annamammad Mammadov, the Turkmen envoy to Azerbaijan, said the Iran-Turkmenistan pipeline was indicative of his country's policy of energy diversity, the Trend news agency reports. "The priority of Turkmenistan's policy is diversification of supplies of energy sources," he said. "Foreign countries are interested in energy projects and we are ready to cooperate." Beyond Dauletabad, he added, Ashgabat has several contracts with European and Asian countries to develop Yoloten-Osman natural gas deposits in the country. Ashgabat in December opened a 1,138-mile pipeline to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to China. The pipeline starts at the Turkmen border with Uzbekistan and then through Kazakhstan to the Xinjiang region in northwest China. A second leg of the pipeline goes into operation in this year. Russia was the primary export market for Turkmen resources prior to a 2009 gas pipeline rupture that Ashgabat blamed on Russian gas giant Gazprom. (UPI) ARMENIA TO REOPEN SCHOOLS AFTER SWINE FLU CLOSURES 8 January Schools across Armenia will reopen on January 11 after a one-month stoppage that health officials say helped contain swine flu in the country, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The Armenian government closed schools on December 7, citing an upsurge in "seasonal" infectious diseases such as influenza. The measure was attributed to the rapidly growing number of swine flu cases reported by the Health Ministry. Ara Asoyan, Armenia's chief epidemiologist, told RFE/RL that schools could reopen because the swine flu epidemic is easing. Health authorities have so far registered 111 cases of swine flu, which have resulted in at least three fatalities. Asoyan admitted that the real number of swine flu cases is much higher, but he insisted that the spread of the virus has slowed in recent weeks. He said Armenia "definitely had thousands of infected people in November and December. But whereas 25 to 30 people infected with flu were admitted into our hospitals each day then, now the number is between one and three." Lilya Poghosian, a senior doctor at the national ambulance service, gave similar assurances. Poghosian told RFE/RL that the number of daily ambulance calls for people with serious respiratory problems -- which can be caused by swine flu -- has thus far been cut in half this month. (RFE/RL) TURKMEN GAS FLOWING TO RUSSIA 11 January Turkmenistan restarted natural gas shipments to Russia during the weekend amid speculation Ashgabat was making strong moves away from Moscow, Gazprom said. Turkmen gas company Turkmengaz signed a December deal with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom for natural gas supplies. A Gazprom spokesman said gas supplies from Turkmenistan started up during the weekend, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reports. Russia was the primary importer of Turkmen gas. That relationship was strained, however, following a Turkmen pipeline explosion in April that the government in Ashgabat blamed on Gazprom. Energy analysts pointed to the launch of a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Turkmenistan last week as a sign Ashgabat was moving away from Moscow. In December, meanwhile, Chinese President Hu Jintao joined the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for the inauguration of a 1,138-mile pipeline to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to China. The route for that pipeline bypasses Russian territory. Igor Shuvalov, Russia's first deputy premier, said during a summit in Kazakhstan in December that Moscow viewed the Chinese project as a boost to regional energy security, however. (UPI) KYRGYZSTAN’S EX-DEFENSE MINISTER JAILED FOR EIGHT YEARS 11 January Kyrgyzstan's ex-defense minister Ismail Isakov was sentenced to eight years in a high security prison by the Bishkek Military Court on Monday after being found guilty of abuse of office during his tenure as defense minister. Isakov will also be stripped of his rank of lieutenant general. He was accused of illegally handing over an apartment that belonged to the defense ministry to his son, at a time when other servicemen were in dire need of better housing. But Isakov was acquitted on other counts, including misuse of budgetary funds and negligence. He was taken into custody in the courtroom. His supporters were chanting "shame" as he was being escorted out of the courtroom. Isakov rejected all charges and he told the media that "the trial was a political reprisal and an attempt to suppress dissent." He also claimed that he was being persecuted in connection with a statement he made when he was stepping down as the country's Security Council secretary in October 2008. He told President Kurmanbek Bakiyev then about the problems in his entourage and about errors in the country's domestic and foreign policies. Once Bakiyev's close associate and an active participant in the Revolution of Tulips in March 2005, Isakov ended up joining the opposition. Isakov's lawyer Azimbek Beknazarov told Interfax after the verdict was announced that it was politically motivated. "We were expecting this verdict and we will appeal," Beknazarov said. (Interfax) U.S., NORWEGIAN OFFICIALS KEPT FROM AZERBAIJANI VILLAGE 13 January Officials from the U.S. and Norwegian embassies in Azerbaijan were blocked today from entering a village in the exclave of Naxcivan, where clashes between police and locals occurred earlier last week, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. U.S. officials on the fact-finding trip told RFE/RL they were met by a large group of villagers before they could enter the village of Bananyar and were told to leave the area. The embassy officials included Joanna Ganson, the political adviser at the U.S. Embassy. People who live in Bananyar told RFE/RL that the group that blocked the delegation of embassy officials from entering their village were mainly from Abraqunus and other nearby villages and had been organized by government officials to deter the diplomats. Disturbances broke out between police and people in Bananyar first on December 28 -- the day after Ashura -- and again on January 5, with security forces beating and detaining more than 100 people. Most have since been released, although two villagers are known to be held in a mental institution and several others are still jailed, including local opposition leader Rza Nuriyev. Meanwhile, local human rights activists cancelled a planned visit to Naxcivan today. Activist Saadat Bananyarli told RFE/RL they were waiting for official permission from Naxcivan for the visit but received no reply from authorities. Naxcivan is an Azerbaijani exclave that is bordered by Iran, Armenia, and Turkey. (RFE/RL) U.S. INSTRUCTORS TO TRAIN GEORGIAN SERVICEMEN FOR AFGHANISTAN 13 January One hundred and eighty-five Georgian servicemen have flown out to Germany from Tbilisi to be trained by American instructors before going to Afghanistan. Defense Minister Batu Kutelia came to the Tbilisi airport to see the Georgian servicemen off, the Georgian Defense Ministry told Interfax. One hundred and seventy-three Georgian servicemen are currently involved in a peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. By March, the Georgian contingent will become about 1,000 strong, according to the Defense Ministry. (Interfax) RUSSIA, TURKEY PREPARING TO INTRODUCE VISA-FREE TRAVEL WITH DECISION DUE IN SPRING-SUMMER -- ERDOGAN 13 January Russia and Turkey have started working towards visa-free travel between the two countries, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan told a press conference after meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The decision could be made in spring-summer this year, by the time Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit Turkey, he said. Hopefully, switching to visa-free travel regime "will not take a lot of time," Putin said. (Interfax) RUSSIA’S TRADE WITH TURKEY BIGGER THAN WITH U.S. AND UK – PUTIN 13 January The volume of trade between Russia and Turkey declined 40% last year amid the global financial and economic crisis, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "The past few years have seen a very good and effective nature of the development of our business relations. We have managed to significantly strengthen relations between our states in recent years. However, the world financial crisis has affected the development of bilateral economic relations. Our trade reached $35 billion in 2008, but it dropped 40% in 2009," Putin said. Nevertheless, "Turkey remains one of Russia's biggest economic partners, outperforming the U.S. and the United Kingdom," the Russian prime minister said. The two countries need to diversify their business relations, he said. Erdogan, for his part, said that diversification efforts were under way in bilateral military, business and cultural cooperation, "enjoying the support of both sides' political will." The Turkish PM said he hoped that the two states would soon be able to bring back their trade to the previous level and to achieve the goal of raising the volume of bilateral trade to $100 billion within the next five years. Russia's exports to Turkey primarily consist of energy sources (70% of exports), metals, metal products and mineral fertilizers. Imports from Turkey are dominated by cars, equipment, transport means, consumer goods and food. Turkey is the second largest market for Russian natural gas. The two countries have been implementing a number of joint promising projects in the energy sector, telecommunications and industry. (Interfax) INTERIOR TROOPS DESTROY 120 MILITANT BASES, 230 MILITANTS IN N.CAUCASUS IN 2009 – GENERAL 13 January The situation remains complicated but under control in the North Caucasus, Deputy Interior Minister and Interior Troops Commander, General of the Army Nikolai Rogozhkin has said. "Interior troops killed 230 militants and destroyed 120 militant bases last year," Rogozhkin told the media on Wednesday at a meeting marking the Day of Russian Press. Seventy thousand interior troops assume duty each day in a vast territory from Vladivostok to the country's western borders, the general said. "Interior troops participated in joint exercises, organized by the federal Security Service and Interior Ministry more than 130 times last year," Rogozhkin said. Interior troops are also switching from heavy to light armor, he said. "Heavy armor is being handed over to the Defense Ministry," the general said. The troops have received more than 50% of the modern equipment they need, he said. (Interfax) RUSSIA SAYS ISLAMIC MILITANTS TRAINED IN GEORGIA 15 January Russia says Islamist rebels are being trained in neighboring Georgia to launch attacks in Chechnya and other nearby regions. Russian officials have previously said foreign training and funding has contributed to a surge in violence by Islamist insurgents in recent months in its volatile North Caucasus regions, including Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Daghestan. Now, the state-run Russian news agency RIA is quoting Russia's deputy interior minister, Arkady Yedelev, as saying these militants are being trained at military bases in Georgia. He is said to have made the comment in Vladikavkaz, a town in the Russian Caucasus. Yedelev didn't directly accuse the Georgian government of complicity, and did not identify the militants' instructors. Russia has previously accused Arab fighters of training Chechen rebels, though not in Georgia. (RFE/RL) AFGHAN DISTRICT CHIEF, FIVE POLICE DIE IN AMBUSH 17 January An Afghan district governor and five police were killed today in a Taliban ambush in the western province of Herat, the province's police chief said. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, said by telephone from an undisclosed location that Taliban fighters had carried out the attack. An unusually warm winter has allowed the Taliban to continue attacks in the normally quieter cold months in Afghanistan, where violence reached its worst levels of the 8-year-old war last year despite a rising number of foreign troops. The latest attack happened as the officials were driving in a vehicle on a road in the remote Chesht Sharif district of the province, the provincial police chief, Esmatullah Alizai, told Reuters by phone. "The district chief, a senior district police officer, and four other of his colleagues were killed in the ambush," Alizai said. One policeman was wounded, he said without giving further details. (Reuters) ENVOY: SOUTH STREAM, NABUCCO NOT ENOUGH 18 January The South Stream and Nabucco gas pipelines may not be enough to meet European energy demands, Russian officials said Monday in Azerbaijan. Moscow aims to diversify its energy transit options to Europe with its South Stream natural gas pipeline through the Black Sea to southern Europe. The European community, meanwhile, looks to Nabucco to bring non-Russian gas to its consumers through Turkey. Both sides looked for diversification options following a January 2009 row between Kiev and Moscow over gas debt and contracts. Around 80 percent of all Russian gas bound for Europe travels currently through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Vladimir Dorokhin, the Russian envoy to Azerbaijan, said Moscow does not support Nabucco, though European energy demands are greater than any single pipeline, Baku's News.Az reports. "Europe's need for gas is so great that even Nabucco, South Stream or any other gas pipeline will not be able to meet it," he said. South Stream is designed to carry 2.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Nabucco has a design capacity of 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Europe, however, might require an additional 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year by 2025, creating an urgent need for gas imports. (UPI) AFGHANISTAN TO REVIEW SECURITY PLAN FOR KABUL 19 January The Afghan government is to review its plan for securing Kabul a day after militants launched a series of commando-style attacks in the heart of the capital, the president's palace said today. Taliban gunmen launched a brazen assault on January 18 in the center of the capital, with suicide bombers blowing themselves up at several locations and militants battling security forces from inside a shopping centre engulfed in flames. It was the most high-profile attack inside the capital for almost a year and came as President Hamid Karzai was swearing in cabinet members at his palace only a few hundred meters away. Karzai met the ministers of interior, defense, and national security today to discuss the raids. "In this meeting...all parts of yesterday's events were studied and it was agreed that the plan for Kabul's security should be reviewed and submitted to the president for approval," Karzai's palace said in a statement. The palace did not provide any more details. While the raids were dramatic and well coordinated, casualty figures were relatively low. The NATO-led force in Afghanistan said it had troops on the ground during yesterday's raids but that the Afghan army and police had been leading the operation against the insurgents. Kabul's security was formally handed over to Afghans in August 2008 but many of the international forces have bases inside the city where they conduct frequent patrols. The NATO-led headquarters is also located in the capital. There are more than 110,000 foreign troops, including some 70,000 Americans, fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and Washington is sending 30,000 more to try and quell the violence. Other countries are sending some 7,000 more. But Washington has said it will begin to start scaling back troop numbers in 18 months and that it does not want to be in Afghanistan in another eight or nine years time. This has worried many Afghans who feel international troops are looking for a way out and that their own security forces will not be able to secure the country against the Taliban. Western leaders have said any drawdown of troops will be conditions based and security will only be handed over to the Afghans on a province by province basis. (Reuters) TAJIK PRESIDENT REPLACES ENERGY COMPANY CHIEF 19 January Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has signed a government decree on Tuesday, sacking Sanat Rakhimov, the director of public joint-stock company, Barki Tochik ("Tajikistan Energy"), and appointing ex-energy minister Abdullo Yerov to this position, the president's press office said. The reasons for the new appointment were not specified. Barki Tochik is fully state-owned. Rakhimov had spent just one year in this office, during which time the Tajik grid experienced the largest disruption in its history. On November 9, 2009, 75% of the population, and in particular aluminum company Talco, spent nearly four hours with no power supply. More than six-hour-long power outages at an aluminum factory can result in the hardening of metal in electrolytic baths and can therefore lead to great losses. Yerov served as Tajik Energy Minister in 2000-2004 and then in 2006. In recent years, he led the industry and energy department in the president's executive office. (Interfax) WHEAT FALLS AS KAZAKH EXPORT COMPETITION MAY WEIGH ON PRICES 19 January Wheat declined for a third day in Chicago as Kazakhstan’s plan to supply Egypt, the world’s biggest importer of the grain, threatened to fuel competition in the oversupplied world market and weigh on prices. Kazakhstan plans to sell as much as 1.5 million metric tons of grain to Egypt this year, state-owned AO National Holding KazAgro said yesterday. Egypt’s government-run grain-buying agency bought Kazakh and Russian wheat in its latest tender on Jan. 13 and has shunned U.S. imports since September. “International competition remains tough,” Paris-based farm adviser Agritel said in a market comment. “A new big player, Kazakhstan, could supply Egypt with a considerable volume of more than 1 million tons in coming months.” Wheat for March delivery slid 1.9 percent to $5.0025 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade at 2:14 p.m. Paris time. Milling wheat for March delivery traded on Liffe in Paris fell 0.4 percent to 125.50 euros ($179.28) a ton. Global stocks of the grain will rise to 195.6 million tons in the current season from 163.9 million tons at the end of the 2008-09 season as production exceeds consumption for a second year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Fundamentals remain heavy,” Agritel said. Chicago-traded wheat lost 10 percent last week, while March-delivery milling wheat slid 4.9 percent in Paris. (Bloomberg)
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