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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

11 May 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (5/11/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

 

DAGESTAN POLICE OFFICE CHIEF KILLED

2 May

A police chief in the Russian North Caucasus republic of Dagestan was killed on Sunday, investigators reported.

"The chief of the police office in the Sergokala District, Nasrula Magomedov, was shot from unidentified automatic weapons in the yard of his house. He died of wounds," a spokesman for investigators said.

 

DAGESTAN POLICE OFFICE CHIEF KILLED

2 May

A police chief in the Russian North Caucasus republic of Dagestan was killed on Sunday, investigators reported.

"The chief of the police office in the Sergokala District, Nasrula Magomedov, was shot from unidentified automatic weapons in the yard of his house. He died of wounds," a spokesman for investigators said. Criminal proceedings have been launched. An investigation is underway. More that a decade after the end of a federal war against separatists in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, Russian security forces continue to fight militants in other regions in the area, including Dagestan, where attacks on security forces, police and civilians are frequent.  (RIA Novosti)

 

BAKU, ANKARA REACH DEAL ON NATURAL GAS

3 May

Turkey and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the price and quantity of natural gas from the giant offshore Shah Deniz field, a minister said. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz signed a gas deal with his Azeri counterpart Natiq Aliyev on the sidelines of a regional conference in Istanbul. Yildiz was quoted by Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman as saying both sides "reached an agreement over the price and quantity of gas to be exported from the Shah Deniz II project, which will go online in 2017, to Turkey." Turkey gets about 210 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year from Azerbaijan and some of that volume heads to Greek markets. Yildiz didn't give specifics on the deal other than to say some of it would be exported to European countries. Both countries are pivotal to European plans to build the Nabucco gas pipeline. That project is meant to break the Russian grip on the European energy sector, though the pipeline is slow to reach formal agreements with potential suppliers. (UPI)

 

UZBEK MEDIA IGNORE BIN LADEN’S DEATH

3 May

Despite the fact that the fight against terrorism is an issue of huge importance to Uzbekistan, the Uzbek media appear largely to have ignored the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on 2 May. The only outlet that has covered the news so far is the independent website 12.uz. Other media agencies have given different reasons for ignoring bin Laden’s demise. The deputy director of the UzA national news agency, Kulman Ochilov, told Uznews.net that his agency was working to publish an analytical piece about bin Laden tomorrow because its correspondents had not been able to reach local analysts quickly for their comments on the situation. The Pravda Vostoka newspaper, which is the government mouthpiece in Uzbekistan, said it had not heard about bin Laden’s death immediately after it happened because it did not have an Internet connection when the news broke. The newspaper added that bin Laden’s death was unlikely to be of interest to its readership. The uzreport.com website said it could not carry the story because it did not have correspondents in the region who could confirm the news. (uznews.net)

 

KAZAKH PRESIDENCY NOT INHERITED – NAZARBAYEV’S ADVISOR

4 May

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will have a successor only if there is genuine political competition, said his political advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev. "No staff reshuffles will be able to bring a successor to the main political scene. A successor can only emerge if there are new institutions, new and real political competition at the very top," Yertysbayev said in an interview with the Liter newspaper published on Wednesday. "Remember how Nazarbayev succeeded (Dinmukhamed) Kunayev [who led the Kazakh Soviet republic for 25 years)! It was the start of Gorbachev's perestroika, the start of the glasnost era, the country held the first democratic elections of deputies at every level," Yertysbayev said. There was a new atmosphere of cooperation and public debates both on the political arena across the Union and within Kazakhstan, he said. "Any successor to Nazarbayev must be prepared for a political fight in all its forms, particularly at elections," the advisor said. "You have to understand that Kazakhstan is not a monarchy, it is a republic. Presidency is not inherited," the president's advisor said. "It is clear that there will be no second Nazarbayev because in the next five or ten years it is under Nazarbayev that we must build a new state political structure, a new political culture, a new regime of cooperation between the parliament and the government," Yertysbayev said. Nazarbayev, who turned 70 last year, is the first president of an independent Kazakhstan. He has won several direct presidential elections since 1991, when the republic gained sovereignty, and in 1995 his presidential powers were extended in a nationwide referendum. In 2007, the parliament granted him the right to run for presidency an unlimited number of times. Nazarbayev also won the early presidential election on April 3, 2011, winning 95.55% of the vote. (Interfax)

 

CHINESE FM TO ATTEND SCO FM MEETING IN KAZAKHSTAN

5 May

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will attend a regular meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on May 14 in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu made the announcement in Beijing on Thursday. Attendees will exchange views on boosting practical cooperation among SCO member countries and major regional and international issues, and make preparation work for the upcoming SCO summit in June, Jiang said. Founded in Shanghai in 2001, SCO comprises six member countries: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. (People’s Daily online)

 

GEORGIA MUST VOUCH FOR BORJOMI’S SAFETY FOR ITS ADMISSION TO RUSSIAN MARKET – ONISHCHENKO

5 May

Borjomi mineral water will be admitted to the Russian market only if Georgia guarantees its high quality, Russian Chief Public Health official Gennady Onishchenko said on Thursday. "We have only one political demand, i.e. quality and safety of this product. If it has appropriate quality, we will admit it," he said. Onishchenko said there were a large number of fake products illegally sold under the Borjomi brand. "Borjomi was sold as a medicine only at pharmacies in the former Soviet Union. Now it is sold from Cape Schmidt to Kaliningrad. Where does it come from? Dealers at the Dorogomilovsky Market offer buyers any quantity of this product, up to a truck load. Is it possible to bring such quantities of really valuable mineral water?" he wondered. Russian sanitary authorities seized fake Borjomi mineral water at the Moscow Dorogomilovsky and Cheryomushkinsky Markets in April, Onishchenko told Interfax earlier. He said the illegal mineral water was supplied via Belarus. Supplies across Azerbaijan were also possible. Russia banned imports of Georgian mineral water and wine due to their inferior quality. (Interfax)

 

NABUCCO CONSORTIUM POSTPONES PROJECT START

6 May

The construction of the Nabucco pipeline designed has been postponed to 2013. "Given the timing of oil production in Central Asia and the MiddleEast , the Nabucco consortium changed the dates ," Nabucco Gas Pipeline International (NGPI) CEO Reinhard Mitschek said during a teleconference on Friday. "Construction was postponed to 2013 and first supplies to 2017." Mitschek said Nabucco itself is a fairly advanced project and its implementation could start earlier, but the more rational is to synchronize the start date of its implementation with the project activities of all those involved in the investment chain. Earlier, construction was planned to be launched in 2012 and first supplies in 2015. Maximal capacity of the pipeline will hit 31 billion cubic meters per year. Nabucco Gas Pipeline International shareholders will invest 30 percent of total cost of the project, the rest 70 percent will be paid owing to loans. Azerbaijan , Iraq and Turkmenistan are considered as the main suppliers for the project. (Trend)

 

OSCE PA PRESIDENT'S VISIT PROGRAM TO AZERBAIJAN PUBLICIZED

7 May

The OSCE PA International Secretariat announced that President Petros Efthymiou will visit the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan on May 9-13, OSCE PA press release says. President Efthymiou will meet with high level officials, including government and parliament leaders, members of opposition and coalition parties, as well as civil society. In both countries he will meet with the OSCE Offices. OSCE PA President Efthymiou will visit Azerbaijan in May 2011, member of Azerbaijani delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, MP Eldar Ibrahimov told Trend. "It is Efthymiou’s first visit to the region. He will visit Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan," Ibrahimov said. (Trend)

 

TWELVE OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN GEORGIA

8 May

Georgian opposition activists detained during a protest in the town of Rustavi have been charged with misconduct and disobedience to the police, the press service of the People's Assembly opposition organization told Interfax on Sunday. Twelve arrested activists of the Poplar Assembly and No movements faced trial in Rustavi. The court sentenced eight of them to arrest ranging from seven to 30 days and imposed a fine of 400 lari (equivalent to $240) on the rest. On Saturday the opposition activists staged a protest outside of the home of a high-ranking police official in Rustavi whom they accused of corruption. (Interfax)

 

KAZAKH ECOLOGISTS INVESTIGATE CAPSIAN SEAL DEATHS

9 May

Some 12-15 dead seals have washed up over the past week on the western Kazakh shore of the Caspian Sea, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Erik Utebaliev, a local resident, told RFE/RL he found 10-12 dead Caspian seals of all ages, from full-grown adults to pups, on May 3 and three more on May 8. Kirill Osin, director of the nongovernmental organization EKO Mangistau, told RFE/RL he and his colleagues planned to inspect the seals on May 10 and take tissue samples for analysis to try to determine whether they were poisoned. He said he had only seen photos of the dead animals and it was too early to speculate about the cause of death. Osin recalled that the local authorities attributed a mass death of seals in the region two years ago to a virus and inclement weather. He rejected that conclusion, noting that dead seals are found only in the vicinity of intensive exploitation of offshore oil deposits. Officials from Mangystau Oblast Governor Krymbek Kusherbaev's office told RFE/RL that he was attending the traditional Victory Day parade and was unavailable for comment. The first mass deaths of seals in Mangystau took place in 2000. Over 330 seals died in 2006, reportedly from a virus, then almost 1,000 in 2007 and over 350 in 2009. In March 2010, Kazakh Deputy Environment Protection Minister Eldana Sadbakasova told journalists that the seal population numbered some 8,000 but was rapidly falling due to intensive fishing that deprived the seals of their main source of food. The Caspian seal population is currently estimated to be around 100,000 -- less than 10 percent of what it was a century ago. The Caspian seal, which is spotted, is the Caspian's lone mammal species, and is not found anywhere else in the world. Among the smallest of the "true seals," most Caspian seals inhabit the southern Caspian Sea area from May to September. In the fall, they migrate northward to breed and bear pups. (RFE/RL)

 

NATO SAYS KANDAHAR ATTACKERS CAPTURED OR KILLED

9 May

NATO has said that all the insurgents involved in a coordinated weekend attack against key government buildings in the southern city of Kandahar have either been captured or killed. The violence began on May 7 when a group of Taliban fighters armed with suicide vests, guns, and rocket-propelled grenades launched an attack across the city.

Afghan officials said at least 25 insurgents and two members of the Afghan security forces and one civilian were killed. Some 40 people were wounded. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed five civilians and injured five others in an attack near a government office in eastern Afghanistan. Officials say that the blast took place close to the district government compound in Qarghayi, in eastern Laghman Province. (RFE/RL)

 

NO PLANS TO SCALE BACK NABUCCO

9 May

There aren't any plans to scale back the proposed Nabucco natural gas pipeline for Europe despite supply concerns from Azerbaijan, officials say. Nabucco is a proposed 2,400-mile natural gas line aimed at breaking the Russian grip on the European energy sector. The project consortium announced last week from Vienna that construction was delayed by one year to 2013 and gas deliveries weren't expected until 2017. Meanwhile, the consortium developing the second phase of the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan has adjusted some of its deadlines for supply contracts. Nabucco is designed for around 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas per year, which is three times as much as would be available from Shah Deniz by 2017. Nevertheless, Nabucco Managing Director Reinhard Mitschek tells the Financial Times there aren't any plans to scale the pipeline back. "We do not see any reason to limit or reduce the capacity of Nabucco," he was quoted as saying. The British newspaper notes there are no other current sources of natural gas along the planned route for Nabucco, which would stretch from Turkey to Austria. Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the pipeline consortium, told United Press International in response to e-mail questions that it "is our aim to have the pipeline in place when the gas is available." (UPI)

 

AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER HOLDS TALKS IN BEJING

10 May

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul has met in Beijing with Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi to discuss regional and bilateral economic issues, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports. Officials at the Afghan Embassy in Beijing said Chinese officials expressed support for deepening ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan and for the Afghan government's efforts to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban insurgents. Afghan Deputy Ambassador to China Haroon Najampoor told RFE/RL on May 10 that the two ministers discussed several topics, including China's greater political and economic presence in Afghanistan. "Foreign Minister [Rasoul] welcomed China's investments in Afghanistan and asked the Chinese government to further encourage companies to direct their investment programs at Afghanistan," Najampoor said. Najampoor also highlighted China's political support of Afghanistan in its struggle to end the insurgency through negotiations and enhanced relations with neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan shares a narrow border with China in its northern mountainous Pamir region. China's role in peace efforts in Afghanistan is seen as significant in light of Kabul's relationship with Pakistan. Historically, China and Pakistan take a tough political stance toward India, which is why China has always enjoyed the reputation of "an old friend" in Pakistan. China is also considered one of the major investors in Afghanistan's natural resources, especially copper mining. Najampoor said Chinese companies have invested at least $3 billion to explore one of the country's major copper deposits in the central Logar Province. "The government of Afghanistan hopes this figure will increase to at least $10 billion in the next few years," he added. According to official data, China has donated at least $200 million in aid to the Afghan government since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. China is also considered a major contributor to road-building projects in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)

 

GOLD MINER REJECTS TAX EVASION CHARGES

10 May

A lawyer for a British gold mining operating in authoritarian Uzbekistan lashed out Tuesday at what he described as unfounded allegations of tax evasion from the Central Asian nation's government. Robert Amsterdam, who is representing Oxus Gold PLC in an upcoming international arbitration case, said the Uzbek authorities' accusations are part of a government plot to steal the company's gold-mining assets. Uzbekistan's government looks set to gain complete control over the lucrative gold industry, which would further taint its poor investment reputation. News reports last week cited deputy foreign economic relations and trade minister Shavkat Tulyaganov as saying Uzbek tax authorities had revealed substantial non-payments by Oxus. The mining company enjoyed tax breaks for a number of years, but failed to pay its full dues once that period had expired, Tulyaganov said. Oxus denies those charges. The dispute between Oxus and Uzbekistan's government revolves around the Amantaytau Goldfields joint venture, where some of the world's most promising gold fields are being developed. Uzbekistan is the world's ninth largest producer of gold, which brings in some 20 percent of its export revenues, according to the U.S. State Department. Oxus Gold PLC holds a 50 percent stake in the AGF venture, while the Uzbek State Geology and Mineral Resources Committee owns 40 percent and a further 10 percent stake is held by the state-controlled Navoi Mining and Metals Combine. Oxus operations are focused on Uzbekistan, where it has been operating since the mid-1990s. Oxus estimates reserves at sites being developed by AGF at 2.8 million ounces of gold and 6.7 million ounces of silver. Earlier this year, the Uzbek Finance Ministry started an audit into the venture's financial and economic activities. Oxus responded by saying auditors were using the process to find reasons to justify putting AGF into liquidation and announced they would effectively terminate operations in Uzbekistan. The liquidation of partly foreign-owned ventures in Uzbekistan has in the past led to government buyouts at what market observers consider below-market rates. Oxus says its is seeking a fair settlement for relinquishing its stake in AGF, but that it has received no offers from Uzbekistan. Tulyaganov insisted last week that Oxus had spurned attempts by the Uzbek government to agree on amicable terms, a claim denied by Oxus' lawyer. "Let me make it very clear, the Uzbeks have offered nothing," Amsterdam said. It is unclear what period the alleged tax irregularities cover or what amount is due. The Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Ministry could not be reached for clarification. Amsterdam said Uzbek authorities were counting on their bad reputation to intimidate Oxus. "They think they can intimidate people into shutting up ... but the answer is that we are not going to allow them to trade on their horrific reputation, we are going to fight back," he said. (AP)

 

KYRGYZSTAN ENDORSES CHANGES IN KYRGYZ-TAJIK AGREEMENT ON BORDERLANDS MUTUAL ALLOTMENT

10 May

Parliamentary committee on Agricultural and Land Affairs, Water, Ecology, and Regional Development endorsed draft law on ratification of protocol between governments of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on introduction of amendments to the intergovernmental agreement "On mutual allotment of borderlands." According to secretary of Ministry of Transport and Communication of the Kyrgyz Republic Kubanychbek Mamaev, the agreement was signed in December 2009. "Nowadays, we introduce amendments, related to reconstruction of near-border roads between Sughd province of Tajikistan and Batken province of Kyrgyzstan. Besides, we need neighbors’ permission on construction of power line in near-border village," he said, news agency "24.kg" reported. (24.kg)

 

BP GETS APPROVAL TO EXPLORE NEW AZERBAIJANI BLOCK

10 May

Oil major BP said a contract with Azerbaijan's state oil firm to develop a deepwater gas field in the Caspian Sea had been approved by the Azerbaijani Parliament, enabling it to begin exploration. BP said on Tuesday the production sharing agreement (PSA) with the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) for the unexplored Shafag-Asiman structure was ratified by a unanimous vote in parliament. "This is a good demonstration of the country's acknowledgement of BP's track record here and trust in our long-term commitment to Azerbaijan," BP's regional president Rashid Javanshir said in a statement. BP is planning to start seismic exploration on the block in September, a spokesman told Reuters. The deal covers an area of around 1,100 square kilometers and is in sea which is between 650-800 metres deep, about half the depth BP was drilling when its Macondo well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP and SOCAR signed the PSA deal, which is for 30 years, in October 2010. (Reuters)

 

GEORGIAN PARTY PLANS PROTEST RALLY AT U.S. EMBASSY

10 May

The opposition Georgian Party will hold a rally on May 16 outside the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi from where "torrent, poisoning the Georgian society, is flowing," one of the leaders of the party and ex-defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, said on Tuesday. He said that the Georgian Party had "an elaborated plan of action" of future protest rallies, which should eventually lead to fall of "the Saakashvili's regime." One of those steps, he said, was planned on May 16 by "going to the source and closing the valve of that source." "That valve is located in Digomi in the U.S. embassy," Okruashvili continued, referring to a suburb of Tbilisi where the U.S. embassy is located. "That's the place from where torrent, which poisons the Georgian society, is flowing." "On May 16 we will mobilize our activists from Tbilisi at the U.S. embassy and we also call on the Tbilisites to come and express protest against direct or indirect support the U.S. is providing to the [Saakashvili's] regime," Okruashvili said. "We are going to tell them [referring to the U.S.] directly that by supporting this regime, they are burying democracy in this country. If Russians are seizing our territories, Americans are seizing our freedom; we won't be able to use territories if we have no freedom." "Once and forever it should be made clear for both the North [referring to Russia] and the West what is the goal of the Georgian nation. If we don't say it loudly, everyone, on the both sides, will try to manipulate us," Okruashvili added. The ex-defense minister was speaking to the Tbilisi-based Maestro TV's Straightforward Conversation through video link-up from Paris, where he is since November, 2007 and where he received political asylum. He was sentenced to 11-year prison term in Georgia in absentia in March, 2008. Okruashvili also said that the Georgian Party, which had completed building of its party infrastructure, "now moved on the second stage" involving "testing" of its capacity by holding series of protest rallies in the provinces. "The third stage will be hitting 'a deadly blow' to this regime; we will move on to this third stage in the nearest future," Okruashvili said. (Civil Georgia)

 

OPPOSITION PARTY URGES FAIRNESS FOR UZBEKS IN KYRGYZSTAN

10 May

Uzbekistan's opposition Birlik (Unity) party has called for the "fair treatment" of ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports. The call was made in a statement by Birlik at a Tashkent conference marking the party's 22nd anniversary on May 7. Although many of the unregistered party's members are living in exile, Birlik still operates in Uzbekistan despite harassment from officials. With a handful of Birlik activists still living in Uzbekistan in attendance and exiled party leader Abdurahim Polatov on the phone from the United States, a discussion was held about problems regarding human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan. Another main topic was the aftermath of the ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan, where nearly 500 people were killed in June during clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Birlik members discussed the recent report by the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), the independent international group that conducted an investigation into the ethnic unrest, which took place in the Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalalabad last summer. The conference participants adopted a statement calling on their "Kyrgyz brother nation" to stop persecuting ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. The statement noted the findings in the KIC report issued on May 3, in which it stated that some 75 percent of the casualties were suffered by ethnic Uzbeks but 80 percent of the criminal cases in connection with the June clashes are against Uzbeks. Vasila Inoyatova, Birlik's secretary-general in Tashkent, told RFE/RL that party members plan to hold a rally in front of the Kyrgyz Embassy to demand the fair and just treatment of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. "No one can guarantee that the violence will not occur again tomorrow," she said. "Because today in Kyrgyzstan activities are being held that have nationalist slogans. In the media and among people a message is being sent that Kyrgyzstan is only for Kyrgyz. This means that tomorrow, again, Uzbeks could be massacred, driven away from their homes. That's why, in order to try to prevent such events, we plan to conduct certain activities." Birlik was the first-ever opposition movement formed in Soviet Uzbekistan, being officially established in May 1989 by members of the Uzbek intelligentsia. (RFE/RL)

 

MEDIA: KYRGYZ POLICE DETAIN TURKISH JOURNALIST AS TERROR SUSPECT

11 May

Police in the Central Asian nation Kyrgyzstan have detained a Turkish journalist suspected of ties with Islamist terrorist groups, according to Wednesday news reports. Agents acting on orders from Kyrgyzstan's national security council arrested Turkish national Ali Osman Zor on May 2 in response to a request from Turkey's government, the Interfax news agency reported. Zor, 43, arrived in Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 and applied to receive political asylum there citing alleged long-term persecution by Turkish authorities, according to the report. Zor's criticism of Ankara and his calls for an overthrow of the Turkish government in personal blogs and news articles are the cause of the alleged political persecution, the independent Bishkek news website www.24.kg reported. By Kyrgyz law he may not be extradited from Kyrgyzstan as long as his request for political asylum is under review, said Cholpon Dzhakupova, Director of the Bishkek-based human rights protection group Adilet, according to the report.

Zor reportedly was a member of and frequent spokesman for the Great East Islamic Raiders Front (IBDA-C), a Turkish group calling for the replacement of most secular Middle Eastern governments with a Muslim Caliphate, DPA reported. Turkish authorities may also want Zor for questioning in connection with a November 15 2003 Istanbul bombing killing 22 and injuring 242, an attack IBDA-C later took credit for, the Kyrgyz newspaper DeloN reported. The Turkish government in 2007 listed the IBDA-C as a terrorist organization with probable ties to al-Qaeda. (Trend)

 

'SHANGHAI', IRAN NOT BELIEVING BLINDLY IN OSAMA'S DEATH

11 May

 The antiterrorism branch of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is unconvinced when it comes to the death of Osama bin Laden. "We need proof," Aleksei Kruglov, deputy head of the SCO's Regional Antiterrorism Structure, said this week. "No one has yet provided any real information about the elimination of bin Laden, Kruglov told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.  "So far it has been just words, which we cannot just blindly believe." Kruglov's comments came as the SCO, made up of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, prepares for a meeting of its Foreign Ministers' council in Almaty on May 13-14. Kruglov noted that "there will be no issues related to bin Laden's elimination on the meeting's agenda." Likewise, he predicts that the Al-Qaeda leader's death will not have any effect on the activities of his department. It is "business as usual" for us, Kruglov said. Kruglov, of course, is not the only official casting doubts over statements that bin Laden was killed on a U.S. raid in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2. Iran's intelligence minister, for example, has claimed that Tehran has "accurate information that bin Laden died of illness some time ago." Speaking on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on May 8, Heidar Moslehi accused the U.S. of releasing "false news" to divert attention from its "fragile" economy and other issues. It seems the saga of conspiracy theories regarding bin Laden's death will continue for some time and at all levels. (RFE/RL)

 

INDIA PM TO VISIT AFGHANISTAN AMID REGIONAL UNCERTAINTY

11 May

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Afghanistan for two days on Thursday to discuss security and development, the Prime Minister's office said Wednesday, amid regional uncertainty following the death of Osama bin Laden. Any quickening of the endgame in Afghanistan is a concern for India, which fears a U.S. withdrawal would leave it exposed to an unfriendly, Pakistan-dominated neighborhood and unfettered militancy in its backyard. The trip will be Singh's first visit to Afghanistan since 2005 and comes just over a week after bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan. Singh will be visiting Afghanistan from May 12-13, his office said on its website Wednesday. "If our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself," Singh said in a statement released by India's foreign ministry. "We will exchange views on developments in the region and our common fight against the scourge of terrorism. The quest of the Afghan people for peace, stability and reconciliation needs the full support of all countries in the region and the international community." A senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said India was interested in hearing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's views on the killing of bin Laden. "Obviously, the situation post the killing of bin Laden is of concern to all of us, and we would like to hear what Mr Karzai has to say," the official told reporters. "The Taliban groups which have sanctuary in Pakistan, I don't believe they stand diminished (by bin Laden's death). The groups seem as strong and virulent as ever. The threat has not gone away." Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, which have gone to war three times since 1947, have for decades sought to secure leverage in Afghanistan, which gained urgency after U.S. President Barack Obama announced a tentative timeline to start withdrawing military forces from July. India is Afghanistan's biggest regional aid donor and sixth largest overall. It has pledged $1.3 billion of projects, from building a parliament to a highway to Iran to establish what officials in New Delhi like to term "soft power." Pakistan derides those attempts to secure influence in what it considers its neighborhood, but Islamabad has been concerned by a succession of governments in Kabul that it sees as too cozy with New Delhi. India's embassy in Kabul was hit by two bomb attacks in 2008 and 2009, killing 75 people and wounding hundreds. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blasts, but India has blamed Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, for attacks on Indians in Afghanistan to undermine New Delhi's influence. India has named five Pakistani army officers in a list of 50 criminals it wants extradited to stand trial on terror charges, the first time India has directly accused serving Pakistani military officers of being involved with militancy. The "most-wanted list" was handed to Pakistan in March, but its contents have only just been released. The timing of the release coincides with increasing pressure on Pakistan over claims it harbored bin Laden. (Reuters)

 

VICTIMS OF ETHNIC CLASHES IN KYRGYZSTAN TO GET COMPENSATION

11 May

Relatives of those killed, missing, or severely injured in the ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan last year will receive financial compensation from the government, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The Kyrgyz cabinet's press service said on May 11 that Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev signed a decree on May 10 setting compensation of 1 million soms ($21,400) per family for relatives killed or still missing, 100,000 soms for those with severe injuries, and 50,000 soms for those who suffered minor injuries. More than 400 people died in the clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions, and dozens are still missing. Thousands of others were injured or lost their homes. (RFE/RL)

 

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