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ΔΙΕΘΝΕΙΣ ΕΙΔΗΣΕΙΣ-07-04-03

Posted by satyrikon στο Απρίλιος 3, 2007

CONTENTS
[01] EU SAYS RUSSIA MUST OPEN ITS PIPELINES TO EUROPEAN FIRMS
[02] RUSSIA WANTS U.K.-IRANIAN DISPUTE REFERRED TO UN
[03] NEW LAW BANNING FOREIGN SALESPEOPLE IN MARKETS TAKES EFFECT
[04] THIRD TERM FOR PUTIN: SERIOUS DEBATE OR POLITICAL THEATER?
[05] PUBLIC CHAMBER ACKNOWLEDGES MEDIA PROBLEMS
[06] ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTY DISCLOSES NO ELECTION SPENDING
[07] ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTION FACES COURT CHALLENGE
[08] AZERBAIJAN WARNS AGAINST USE OF AIRSPACE FOR ATTACKS AGAINST
     ‘NEIGHBORS’
[09] AZERBAIJANI POLICE INVESTIGATE SUSPICIOUS EXPLOSION ON COMMUTER
     BUS
[10] AZERBAIJANI MINISTER CRITICIZES LOOMING RUSSIAN POWER CUTOFF
[11] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL GAS TO EUROPE
[12] FORMER GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REBURIED IN TBILISI
[13] BIOSECURITY LAB OPENS IN GEORGIA
[14] RUSSIAN PREMIER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN
[15] KAZAKH SECURITY CHIEF SAYS PEOPLE QUITTING EXTREMIST ORGANIZATION
[16] NEW KYRGYZ PREMIER CALLS FOR COMPROMISE…
[17] …AS OPPOSITION REJECTS COALITION
[18] EURASIAN ECONOMIC BLOC HEAD VISITS TAJIKISTAN
[19] TURKMEN PRESIDENT CHAIRS PEOPLE’S COUNCIL…
[20] …AND RAISES TEACHERS’ SALARIES
[21] BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EXTENDS GREETINGS ON ‘UNITY DAY’ WITH RUSSIA
[22] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REITERATES THREAT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT…
[23] …AND GATHERS PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS FOR CONSULTATIONS
[24] UKRAINIANS IN KYIV RALLY OVER POWER STANDOFF
[25] EU SPLIT OVER INDEPENDENCE PLAN FOR KOSOVA…
[26] …BUT READY TO SHOULDER BILL FOR INTERNATIONAL CIVILIAN PRESENCE
[27] SERBIAN MONASTERY IN KOSOVA HIT BY GRENADE
[28] BOSNIAN MUSLIMS, CROATS APPROVE NEW GOVERNMENT
[29] BOSNIAN ISLAMIST LEADER DIES IN CAR CRASH
[30] BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY HEAD CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL, POLICE REFORM
[31] SEVERE FLOODING IN AFGHANISTAN PROMPTS ‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS’
[32] AFGHAN CIVILIANS, POLICEMEN KILLED IN RECENT ATTACKS
[33] FORUMS AIM TO SET PRIORITIES FOR AFGHAN DEVELOPMENT
[34] CENTER SEEKS TO INCREASE AFGHAN TOURISM
[35] IRANIAN MILITANTS PROTEST OUTSIDE BRITISH EMBASSY
[36] IRANIAN DIPLOMAT SAYS TEHRAN’S POSITION LAWFUL
[37] ISRAELI GENERAL SAYS IRAN CONCERNED OVER SUMMER ATTACK
[38] ECONOMIST SEES POOR DISTRIBUTION IN IRANIAN ECONOMY
[39] SPOKESMAN DENIES IRAQI PRESIDENT INVOLVED IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH
     ARMED GROUPS
[40] IRAQI COMMISSION HEAD DISCUSSES DE-BA’ATHIFICATION WITH SHI’ITE
     GRAND AYATOLLAH
[41] IRAQI JUSTICE MINISTER RESIGNS
[42] ‘THOUSANDS’ OF SUNNI ARABS VOLUNTEER FOR ARMY AND POLICE
[43] HAS IMU REACHED THE END OF THE LINE?
—————————————————————————
Monday, April 2, 2007 Volume 11 Number 61

Russia

[01] EU SAYS RUSSIA MUST OPEN ITS PIPELINES TO EUROPEAN FIRMS

Neelie Kroes, who is the EU’s commissioner for competition, said in
Berlin on March 30 that Russia must give EU energy companies access to
its pipelines as part of a planned new EU-Russia comprehensive
cooperation agreement, which will replace the current Partnership and
Cooperation Agreement that runs out in 2007, the «International Herald
Tribune» reported on March 31. She stressed that «both sides [must]
have access to each other’s grids.» She noted that some large European
energy companies are reluctant to pressure Russia because they have
already struck lucrative deals with Gazprom, albeit without getting
access to its pipeline system. Kroes argued that «the energy market is
not transparent. It is blocked at the [Russian] border.» Russia has
repeatedly refused to ratify the EU’s Energy Charter, which Moscow
signed in 1994, and whose Transit Protocol would require Russia to open
up access to its pipelines (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» January 8 and 25,
and February 6, 2007). Gazprom now effectively controls them as a
monopoly, while seeking greater access to European markets for itself.
In Hungary, the opposition recently criticized the government for
signing a pipeline deal with Russia, which the opposition says works
against EU attempts to formulate a joint energy policy (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» March 13, 23, and 30, 2007). Referring to that deal, U.S.
energy expert Keith Smith told RFE/RL in Brussels on March 30 that the
Kremlin is sharply focused on energy matters, while the EU lacks an
organized approach. Smith said: «Who negotiates for Russia when it
comes to energy? The Hungarian prime minister, [Ferenc Gyurcsany], was
[in Moscow] a couple of days ago. Who is he negotiating with? [There’s]
only one person who negotiates on energy — [President Vladimir] Putin.
Why is the president of Russia negotiating on energy if it’s not part
of the political policies of the Russian government?» PM

[02] RUSSIA WANTS U.K.-IRANIAN DISPUTE REFERRED TO UN

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on March 31 that Iran
and Britain should let the United Nations deal with their dispute over
the 15 British sailors and marines that Iran detained recently, RIA
Novosti reported (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» March 30, 2007). Kamynin
called on the two sides to provide information to the United Nations so
that it could then prepare a report. He also denied recent media
reports that Russia is willing to work with the United States to
develop a joint missile defense against rogue states. PM

[03] NEW LAW BANNING FOREIGN SALESPEOPLE IN MARKETS TAKES EFFECT

On April 1, legislation came into full effect prohibiting citizens of
countries other than the Russian Federation from acting as salespeople
in markets and in the retail trade in general, Russian and
international media reported (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» January 16 and
March 27, 2007). The laws, which began to be implemented on January 15,
slap heavy fines on businesses that employ illegal workers and affect
primarily the millions of people who come especially from the Caucasus,
Central Asia, and China to work in markets and bazaars. The decree came
in the wake of disturbances in Kondopoga and elsewhere in 2006, which
appeared at least in part to be driven by resentment by ethnic Russians
over the highly visible role of migrants at markets. The impact of the
decree is not yet fully clear, but initial reports suggest that many
vendors have closed their stalls rather than try to continue business
by hiring Russian citizens to man their booths. Russians have generally
disdained such work, which requires long hours and is poorly paid. In
Ussuriysk near the Chinese border, the once-vast Chinese market
appeared to be deserted, Britain’s «The Independent» reported on April
2. There has been widespread speculation in the Russian press in recent
weeks that the new decree will lead to shortages of fruits, vegetables,
and consumer goods, and to higher prices. «The Moscow Times» reported
on April 2 that many Azeri traders in Moscow are selling off their last
vegetables and fruit and planning to leave for good. The daily added
that one-third of the booths in the capital’s clothes and food markets
have been empty since January 15. Reuters reported from Moscow,
however, that some traders think they will be able to get around the
new legislation by bribing the authorities or buying Russian
citizenship. PM

[04] THIRD TERM FOR PUTIN: SERIOUS DEBATE OR POLITICAL THEATER?

On March 30, Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov appeared to have
touched off a national debate on amending the constitution to enable
President Putin to seek a third term, which he is currently barred from
doing, Russian media reported on March 31 and April 1 (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» March 30, 2007). There have been many calls over the past
year for changing the constitution to allow Putin to run again, but
Mironov is a particularly prominent figure and appears to have broken
new ground by outlining in public and in detail how this could be done.
Also on March 30, Boris Gryzlov, who is a supporter of President Putin
and speaker of the State Duma, repeated his opposition to changing the
constitution. A spokesman for Putin said that the president also
continues to oppose any revision of the constitution to that end.
Opposition leader and former world chess champion Garri Kasparov told a
news conference that Mironov’s proposal reflects the nervousness of
many people who acquired office under Putin and who fear for their
futures, monsnews.com reported on April 2. PM

[05] PUBLIC CHAMBER ACKNOWLEDGES MEDIA PROBLEMS

Pavel Gusev, who heads the media committee of Russia’s Public Chamber,
acknowledged on March 29 that Russia has become the
second-most-dangerous country for journalists to work in after Iraq,
newsru.com reported.. Foreign NGOs have previously noted this fact, but
this appears to be the first time that a prominent Russian official has
called attention to it (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» March 8, 2007). The
daily «Kommersant» on March 29 quoted Gusev as also acknowledging that
the authorities are cracking down on independent media, which the daily
called the «first official acknowledgment of what rights activists and
journalists have been publicly concerned about in recent years.» Gusev
said that «independent mass media are under attack now. The press is
becoming increasingly state-controlled,» and businesses close to the
government are buying up media outlets. Gusev is also editor in chief
of the mass-circulation daily «Moskovsky komsomolets.» On April 2, the
daily «The Moscow Times» reported that «Kommersant» has received a
warning from the government’s new media watchdog agency not to mention
the small National Bolshevik Party because that party is not registered
(see «RFE/RL Newsline,» March 16, 2007). A government spokesman said
that «if there is no party, it’s impossible to write about it.» The
National Bolsheviks and their offshoots present a curious mixture of
communist and fascist ideas and trappings, reminiscent in some ways of
the left-wing currents in Nazism and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s,
which inspired Benito Mussolini’s short-lived fascist republic at the
end of World War II. PM

Transcaucasia And Central Asia

[06] ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTY DISCLOSES NO ELECTION SPENDING

In its annual financial report presented to the Armenian Justice
Ministry, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) claimed on March 30 to
have made no expenditures for 2006 despite having opened several
hundred offices and claiming to have recruited about 370,000 members,
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reported. The party, founded in late 2005 by
wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian, has launched an ambitious national
campaign for seats in the May 12 parliamentary elections and has the
largest number of official members (see «RFE/RL Caucasus Report,»
February 10, 2006). Attempting to explain the seeming inconsistency
between the party’s activities and opening of over 500 new offices
throughout the country, party spokesman Baghdasar Mherian claimed that
the party was able to forego all expenses because all of its offices
are owned by its members and «people close to the party» and contended
that the thousands of people working for the party «are volunteers.» In
a series of public events throughout 2006, BHK founder Tsarukian openly
donated several million dollars’ worth of agricultural aid, free
medical assistance, and other supposedly public services to a large
number of rural villagers through an obscure charity but reported in
the media as a party initiative. The financial report, detailing the
annual income and expenses for all officially registered political
parties, is required under Armenian law, although few parties regularly
comply with the requirement. RG

[07] ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTION FACES COURT CHALLENGE

The losing candidate in a recent Armenian local election, Arayik
Aghababian, formally submitted a petition on March 30 to a district
court challenging the election results, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service
reported. Aghababian, a regional leader of the BHK, lost the March 25
mayoral election in the southern town of Armavir to incumbent Mayor and
Republican Party (HHK) candidate Ruben Khlghatian (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» March 27, 2007). Aghababian refused to concede defeat and
argued that his loss was the result of widespread voting
irregularities, although he declined to file any formal complaint with
the local election commission. The contest was the first-ever election
face-off between the two largest pro-government parties and was seen as
an early indicator for the May 12 parliamentary contest. RG

[08] AZERBAIJAN WARNS AGAINST USE OF AIRSPACE FOR ATTACKS AGAINST
‘NEIGHBORS’

In a statement released in Baku, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry
warned on April 1 against the use of its territory or airspace for
attacks against «neighboring countries,» according to ANS-TV and
Interfax. The statement was issued in response to recent comments in
Tbilisi attributed to U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza saying that the United
States hopes to secure the use of airfields in Azerbaijan for military
purposes. Those comments, extensively covered in the Georgian and
Azerbaijani media, were widely seen as a reference to possible U.S.
military action against Iran. While the Defense Ministry statement
reiterated that «Azerbaijan, as a member of the antiterrorist
coalition, allows the use of its airspace for the purpose of conducting
antiterror operations in Afghanistan,» it also noted that «Azerbaijan
will not create opportunities or conditions allowing foreign countries
to use its territory against neighboring countries.» Azerbaijan has
consistently expressed its unwillingness to provide any assistance for
possible U.S. military action against neighboring Iran and this
position was clearly articulated in an April 2006 meeting between
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and U.S. President George W. Bush in
Washington (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» April 27, 2006). RG

[09] AZERBAIJANI POLICE INVESTIGATE SUSPICIOUS EXPLOSION ON COMMUTER
BUS

A hand grenade carried by a passenger in an Azerbaijani commuter bus
exploded on April 1 near the capital, Baku, ANS-TV reported. The
explosion killed one and injured several of the dozen passengers in the
bus. City police launched an immediate investigation and despite
initial fears of a terrorist incident, the explosion was characterized
as an accident, although it was unclear why the unnamed passenger was
carrying a grenade. RG

[10] AZERBAIJANI MINISTER CRITICIZES LOOMING RUSSIAN POWER CUTOFF

Azerbaijani Industry and Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev criticized on
March 31 the Russian authorities for threatening to suspend electricity
supplies to Azerbaijan on April 1 unless Baku accepts Moscow’s demand
for higher prices, according to ANS-TV. Aliyev explained that Baku
«does not agree» with the higher prices imposed for Russian electricity
and added that «Azerbaijan does not need electricity or gas supplies
from Russia.» Azerbaijan, which normally received electricity from
Russia’s Unified Energy Systems according to the terms of a contract
that expires on April 1, must now seek alternative supplies of
electricity as it faces a short-term disruption in domestic power and
possible power blackouts if Russian supplies are not resumed. RG

[11] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL GAS TO EUROPE

Speaking at a Baku press conference, Ilham Aliyev announced on March 30
plans to provide Europe with a significant level of natural gas by the
end of the year, ANS-TV reported. In comments following a meeting with
visiting Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Aliyev explained that
Azerbaijan will transport gas from its offshore Shah Deniz gas field to
the European market through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline. Arriving
in Azerbaijan after a visit to Kazakhstan, Kaczynski is planning to
convene an energy summit in Warsaw in May that will include the
presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in an
attempt to secure alternative energy supplies for Europe to offset its
high dependence on Russian gas imports. RG

[12] FORMER GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REBURIED IN TBILISI

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili led a special ceremony on March
31 to rebury the remains of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in a
Tbilisi cemetery, the Civil Georgia website and ITAR-TASS reported. As
some 35,000 people attended the funeral at a cathedral in Mtskheta,
Saakashvili was joined by Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav
Kovalenko and senior Georgian officials to honor Gamsakhurdia, who
served for less than a year in 1991-92 as the first president of
Georgia after it gained independence from the former Soviet Union. He
died in mysterious circumstances in December 1993, after fleeing
Georgia at the onset of a destructive civil war. His remains were moved
from Grozny, the capital of neighboring Chechnya, to Georgia on March
28 for the April 1 reburial (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» March 28, 2007). RG

[13] BIOSECURITY LAB OPENS IN GEORGIA

A second U.S.-funded biosecurity laboratory opened on March 31 in a
formal ceremony in Georgia’s second-largest city, Kutaisi, Caucasus
Press reported. In a ceremony with the visiting director of the
Pentagon’s Biodiversity Program, Sean Kelly, unnamed officials from the
Georgian Defense Ministry hailed the opening of the new biosecurity
facility and welcomed the U.S. support for counterproliferation efforts
in Georgia. The new facility, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense,
is to be operated by U.S. military experts until 2014 when it is to be
handed over to the Georgian military. The lab is similar to another
operational facility in Tbilisi and conducts tests and research in
biological hazards as part of a broader effort to monitor proliferation
in the region. RG

[14] RUSSIAN PREMIER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Mikhail Fradkov held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev
and Prime Minister Karim Masimov in Astana on March 30 to discuss
bilateral cooperation, primarily in the energy sector, news agencies
reported. Fradkov said Russia supports a Kazakh proposal to boost
transit shipments of Kazakh oil on the Atyrau-Samara pipeline from
current levels of 15 million tons a year to 25 million tons a year,
Interfax reported. Fradkov also said the two countries plan to
establish chemical and petrochemical joint ventures in Kazakhstan,
ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Masimov said, «We are going to
attract investment from Russian companies in the power sector on the
territory of Kazakhstan, which will permit deeper cooperation between
our countries.» Sergei Kirienko, head of Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency,
accompanied Fradkov on the visit. He told journalists that Kazakhstan
and Russia are considering the construction of a nuclear power plant in
Aqtau, «The Moscow Times» reported. According to ITAR-TASS, bilateral
trade was $13 billion in 2006, a 35 percent year-on-year increase. DK

[15] KAZAKH SECURITY CHIEF SAYS PEOPLE QUITTING EXTREMIST ORGANIZATION

Amangeldy Shabdarbaev, head of Kazakhstan’s National Security
Committee, told the newspaper «Liter» in an interview on March 30 that
100 members of the banned extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir have
voluntarily left the group. Shabdarbaev said their decisions came as a
result of «explanatory work in which members of the clergy played an
active role.» Nevertheless, Shabdarbaev said that «we cannot
underestimate the anticonstitutional activities of the forbidden
organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.» Hizb ut-Tahrir, which advocates the
restoration of an Islamic caliphate throughout Central Asia, is one of
14 terrorist and extremist organizations banned in Kazakhstan. DK

[16] NEW KYRGYZ PREMIER CALLS FOR COMPROMISE…

Almaz Atambaev told a news conference after his confirmation by
parliament on March 30 that «There should be a compromise and one
particular side must not be allowed to have everything,» 24.kg
reported. At his confirmation, Atambaev pronounced a harsh verdict on
the achievements of the past two years, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service
reported. «Over the last two years, necessary, cardinal steps were not
taken in the economy, corruption was not vanquished, and concrete
measures were not taken to raise the living standards of ordinary
citizens,» he said. For his part, President Kurmanbek Bakiev told
parliament that he is ready to discuss constitutional reform with the
opposition, but he suggested that the opposition is showing a «lack of
desire for real reform» by not responding to his offer to form a joint
task force on the issue. Atambaev’s appointment comes amid demands for
early presidential elections and constitutional reform from the For
Reforms and the United Front For a Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan (United
Front) opposition movements. DK

[17] …AS OPPOSITION REJECTS COALITION

A joint statement by For Reforms and the United Front on March 30
stressed that those opposition movements will not participate in a
coalition government headed by Prime Minister Atambaev, akipress.org
reported. The statement said the opposition movements will draft a new
constitution and plan to hold a planned demonstration on April 11.
Omurbek Subanaliev, former acting interior minister and a member of the
United Front, told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service on March 30: «Our
organization, the [United] Front, has put forward its main demand: to
hold an early presidential election. If [President Bakiev] won’t meet
this demand, then we cannot go into negotiations [with the
government].» DK

[18] EURASIAN ECONOMIC BLOC HEAD VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec; members are Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) Secretary-General Grigory
Rapota met with Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov in Dushanbe on March
30, the official news agency Khovar reported. The two discussed
preparations for the upcoming April 18 summit of Eurasec prime
ministers in the Kazakh capital, Astana. They also held talks on the
possible export of Turkmen electricity to Tajikistan through Uzbekistan
and explorations being carried out by Russia’s Gazprom at the Sargazon
gas field (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» January 3, 2007). DK

[19] TURKMEN PRESIDENT CHAIRS PEOPLE’S COUNCIL…

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was unanimously elected chairman of the
Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council) in Mary on March 30, Turkmenistan’s
Altyn Asyr television reported. The position had been vacant since the
death of President Saparmurat Niyazov on December 21, 2006 (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» December 21, 2006). In an address to the council,
Berdymukhammedov pledged to provide rural areas with Internet and
telephone services. The council also passed a number of changes to the
constitution that increase the power of the president, Deutsche Welle
reported on April 1. DK

[20] …AND RAISES TEACHERS’ SALARIES

Berdymukhammedov signed a decree on March 31 raising teachers’ salaries
by 40 percent starting September 1, turkmenistan.ru reported. Students’
stipends will also rise 40 percent. DK

Eastern Europe

[21] BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT EXTENDS GREETINGS ON ‘UNITY DAY’ WITH RUSSIA

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued greetings to the citizens of Belarus
and Russia on the occasion of Unity Day, which is observed in Belarus
on April 2, Belapan reported. «We have no right to decelerate the
creation of a common economic space, a customs union, a free labor
market, and common information, educational, and cultural
environments,» Lukashenka said in his message. «The objective need for
rapprochement between Belarus and Russia becomes increasingly tangible
with every year that passes. Humanitarian exchanges are expanding and
everyday contacts between Belarusians and Russians are becoming more
and more cordial,» Lukashenka added. The «Day of the Unity of the
Peoples of Belarus and Russia» commemorates the date of April 2, 1996,
when Lukashenka and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an
agreement on the formation of a Belarusian-Russian community. A year
later, on April 2, 1997, Lukashenka and Yeltsin signed an accord that
transformed the community into a union. On December 8, 1999, both
leaders signed the Treaty on the Formation of the Belarusian-Russian
Union State. JM

[22] UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REITERATES THREAT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT…

Viktor Yushchenko said at a congress of the Our Ukraine People’s Union
in Kyiv on March 31 that he will dissolve the Verkhovna Rada and call
new parliamentary elections if «the actions of the majority in
parliament do not return to a constitutional basis,» Ukrainian and
international news agencies reported. The president reiterated his
threat of March 29, when he accused the government of Prime Minister
Viktor Yanukovych of violating the constitution by forming a coalition
based on individuals rather than political factions. Yushchenko
essentially objects to increasing the ruling majority in the Verkhovna
Rada with defectors from the opposition Our Ukraine and Yuliya
Tymoshenko Bloc. But on March 31, Yushchenko made several other demands
of the government, calling on the ruling coalition to pass a law on the
introduction of an imperative mandate for parliamentarians, stop «the
politicization of law enforcement agencies,» set up a commission for
amending the constitution, and draft a new law on the Cabinet of
Ministers. JM

[23] …AND GATHERS PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS FOR CONSULTATIONS

President Yushchenko has invited the parliament’s speaker and other
parliamentary leaders for consultations to his office in Kyiv on April
2, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko said on March 31 that he will
decide on whether to dissolve parliament following consultations with
parliamentary factions, as required by the constitution. The
consultations will involve speaker Oleksandr Moroz; first deputy
speaker Adam Martyniuk; deputy speaker Mykola Tomenko; Party of Regions
caucus leader Raisa Bohatyryova; Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the
eponymous political bloc; Our Ukraine caucus leader Vyacheslav
Kyrylenko; Socialist Party caucus leader Ivan Bokiy; and Communist
Party caucus leader Petro Symonenko. It is not clear whether Prime
Minister Yanukovych, head of the ruling Party of Regions, will
participate in the consultations. JM

[24] UKRAINIANS IN KYIV RALLY OVER POWER STANDOFF

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians took part in two separate rallies in
Kyiv on March 31 to manifest their stance in the ongoing standoff
between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych, Ukrainian
media reported. At a rally organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our
Ukraine, and the People’s Self-Defense on Independence Square,
participants called on Yushchenko to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada. «It
is not just the president’s right to dissolve parliament. It is his
duty to dismiss this corrupt, treacherous assembly and go ahead with an
open, honest, early election in which there can be no doubt democratic
forces, those who defend and love Ukraine, will win,» Tymoshenko told
the crowd. A rally staged on European Square, some 300 meters away from
Independence Square, manifested support for Yanukovych’s ruling
coalition. «We will never accept ultimatums that are outside the realm
of law and the constitution,» Yanukovych told his supporters in what
appeared to be an indirect response to Yushchenko’s threats to dissolve
the Verkhovna Rada if the ruling coalition fails to heed his demands.
JM

Southeastern Europe

[25] EU SPLIT OVER INDEPENDENCE PLAN FOR KOSOVA…

After two days of informal talks in Bremen, Germany, EU foreign
ministers on March 31 failed to find a common position on a UN proposal
for an independent Kosova, international media reported the same day.
They did, however, agree to push for a rapid decision by the UN
Security Council, which is scheduled to start debating Kosova in the
presence of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Kosovar
President Fatmir Sejdiu on April 3. After the meeting, German Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that EU members «welcome» UN
special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s «efforts in the process of Kosovo’s
status settlement,» pointedly failing to endorse the plan that resulted
from Ahtisaari’s efforts. «It’s never the case that all European
partners have the same opinion in advance,» Steinmeier said, according
to Bloomberg. «That’s how it is in the Kosovo question.» A unified EU
stance is critical if Russia is to be dissuaded from using its veto in
the Security Council; Moscow opposes any solution imposed on Belgrade,
which rejects the Ahtisaari blueprint. «We’re talking to the Russians
without succeeding so far in bringing about a visible change in the
Russian position,» Steinmeier said, stressing that the Security Council
has to take the «legitimate interests» of both Belgrade and Prishtina
into account, a key formula used by Moscow. EU members Cyprus, Greece,
Romania, Slovakia, and Spain have all reportedly voiced reservations
about the UN plan. On March 29, the Slovak parliament passed a
resolution opposing Kosova’s «full independence,» though the Security
Council, of which Slovakia is currently a nonpermanent member, is only
asked to decide on supervised independence for Kosova. Deliberations in
the Security Council are expected to last several weeks. «Kosovo is
going to be the big topic in April at the Security Council,» a Western
diplomat told AFP. TV

[26] …BUT READY TO SHOULDER BILL FOR INTERNATIONAL CIVILIAN PRESENCE

The EU foreign ministers in Bremen also heard from Enlargement
Commissioner Olli Rehn, who put the price tag of the EU-run civilian
presence in post-independence Kosova at some 1.5 billion euros ($2
billion) for the first three years, international media reported on
April 1 (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» March 29, 2007). Rehn urged member
countries to make funds available as soon as Kosova’s status has been
settled, while the German government, which currently holds the
rotating EU Presidency, said in a statement after the Bremen meeting
that any Security Council resolution «must provide the framework for
the implementation of the status solution, in particular the civilian
and military international presence overseeing implementation,» dpa
reported. This indicates that the EU wants the outlines of its
poststatus presence in Kosova to be determined before the province is
granted independence. The EU has already spent some 2 billion euros
($2.6 billion) on Kosova since the Serbian province became a UN
protectorate in 1999, the «International Herald Tribune» reported on
April 1. While much of that money went toward rebuilding Kosova’s
infrastructure and housing, damaged in years of Serbian anti-insurgency
operations and NATO’s subsequent bombing, the new funds will mostly pay
for the EU’s mission to strengthen the judiciary and the police, the
promotion of economic development, and the protection of the Serbian
minority and its cultural monuments. TV

[27] SERBIAN MONASTERY IN KOSOVA HIT BY GRENADE

The medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery in Decan was hit by an antitank
grenade on March 30, local and international media reported the next
day. Decan was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004 and is
protected by NATO peacekeepers. No injuries were reported as the device
apparently failed to explode, but the roof of an outer wall was
damaged. A grenade launcher was later found in the vicinity. The Tanjug
news agency quoted the monastery’s abbot as saying the monastery has
been targeted by 23 grenades since 1999, but the latest came close to
hitting the church itself. In a statement released on April 1,
diplomats from the six-member Contact Group on Balkan policy said, «All
such violence against the Serb community or the Serbian Orthodox church
in Kosovo is absolutely impermissible and intolerable,» according to
B92. «The full security of the Serb community in Kosovo is of the
utmost importance, and any incidents of violence must be addressed
promptly and resolutely by Kosovo authorities and the international
community.» TV

[28] BOSNIAN MUSLIMS, CROATS APPROVE NEW GOVERNMENT

The parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Muslim-Croat Federation approved
a new government on March 30, local media reported the same day. Five
months after Bosnia’s general elections of October 1, 2006, a
five-party coalition was put together by Prime Minister Nedzad
Brankovic of the mainly Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and
includes the country’s main parties with the exception of the
multiethnic Social Democrats. A first attempt at forming a government
was blocked on March 23 by Bosnia’s top international official after
the candidate for interior minister, Fadil Jaganjac of the Party for
Bosnia-Herzegovina, failed the required vetting procedure (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» March 23, 2007). After the party replaced him with Amuhidin
Alic, a former interior minister of Zenica-Doboj Canton, the new
government was able to be confirmed by the federation’s parliament. It
is unclear why Jaganjac failed to pass, but a current-affairs program
on federation public television suggested it was linked to his wartime
role in the departure of ethnic Serbs from the central Bosnian town of
Zenica. Bosnia’s international overseer, the Office of the High
Representative, has the power to vet candidates for public office or to
remove elected officials, civil servants, and managers in public
companies from their jobs, an authority that is highly controversial
both domestically and internationally. The latest development means
that both the central level and Bosnia’s two entities now have
operational governments; the central government was formed in early
February 2007 and the government of the Bosnian Serb republic in
October 2006 (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» October 20, 2006, and February 12,
2007). TV

[29] BOSNIAN ISLAMIST LEADER DIES IN CAR CRASH

Jusuf Barcic, widely considered to be a top leader of Bosnia’s radical
Islamist movement, died in the night of March 30-31 at a hospital in
the northeastern Bosnian town of Tuzla after his car hit a traffic
light, local media reported on March 31. Barcic was at the center of
several recent incidents between a group of Islamic radicals, known
collectively as «Wahhabis,» and the established Islamic Community in
Bosnia. Barcic and his followers repeatedly held unauthorized meetings
in mosques, including Sarajevo’s Emperor’s Mosque, and refused to leave
when asked to do so. Some of these standoffs only ended when the police
intervened. His funeral in Tuzla was attended by several thousand of
his followers, Bosnian state television reported on April 1. TV

[30] BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY HEAD CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL, POLICE REFORM

Nebojsa Radmanovic, the chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three-member
Presidency, told Bosnian Serb public radio on March 30 that a package
of constitutional amendments that narrowly failed passage in parliament
in April 2006 is the only realistic solution to the country’s
constitutional crisis (see «RFE/RL Newsline,» April 27 and 28, 2006).
«If the April package cannot be passed, we will have to start the
constitutional changes talks from the beginning. That would mean at
least two to three years of talks on the issue,» he said. «I think that
the international community’s role should be to help and not to impose
views,» he added. In the same interview, he blamed the current
stalemate over police reform, a key precondition for closer ties with
the European Union, on certain politicians and international officials
who want, in his view, to push through changes that run counter to the
constitution, a reference to recent calls by Bosnian Muslim leaders for
the abolition of the Republika Srpska. Police reform is currently
stalled because the Bosnian Serbs insist on keeping the local police
under the control of their self-governing entity, while most other
politicians want the police to be controlled by Bosnia’s central
government. In an interview Radmanovic gave to the Serbian news agency
Tanjug, he said that police-reform talks are at an «impasse,» and
described the current tensions in Bosnia as «the greatest since the end
of the [1992-95] war,» the Italian news agency AKI reported on March
30. TV

Southwestern Asia And The Middle East

[31] SEVERE FLOODING IN AFGHANISTAN PROMPTS ‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS’

The heaviest rain in years has brought severe flooding across
drought-stricken Afghanistan, the Integrated Regional Information
Networks (IRIN) reported on April 1. Flashfloods, avalanches, and
landslides have killed as many as 80 people and destroyed thousands of
homes across several of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. «We are facing a
humanitarian crisis,» Haji Shalizai Deedar, governor of the eastern
Konar Province, told IRIN. «Hundreds of families need urgent
assistance.» The rain damaged farmland, killed hundreds of cattle, and
shut down bridges and highways across the country. The heavy rains have
been coupled with melting winter snow. Afghanistan’s second vice
president and head of the National Emergency Committee, Karim Khalili,
said, «the current scale of the disaster is beyond our capacity and we
face difficulty in providing assistance to the affected people.» The
Afghan government has declared emergencies in 13 provinces and has
requested international humanitarian assistance. CJ

[32] AFGHAN CIVILIANS, POLICEMEN KILLED IN RECENT ATTACKS

A suicide bomber attacked an army convoy in the Laghman Province
capital of Mehtarlam on April 1, Reuters reported the same day. Two
soldiers and seven civilians, including five children, were killed in
the blast and several other passersby were wounded. In a separate
attack on March 31, suspected Taliban militants ambushed two police
convoys in Kandahar Province, killing seven policemen, AP reported on
April 1. According to the provincial police chief, Esmatullah Alizai,
four other policemen were injured during the ambush, which occurred in
the border area between the Spin Boldak and Shorawak districts. CJ

[33] FORUMS AIM TO SET PRIORITIES FOR AFGHAN DEVELOPMENT

The Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce announced it will organize two
U.S. forums to prioritize and emphasize Afghanistan’s developmental
needs, the Bakhtar News Agency reported on April 1. The first forum,
«Reassessing Priorities for U.S. Funding in Afghanistan,» is scheduled
for April 14 in Washington and will be attended by key U.S.
policymakers, members of the Bush administration, and
business-community representatives. The second forum will focus on
«security and economic development» and will be held in May. Atiq
Panjshiri, president and CEO of the chamber, indicated recently that
the forums are needed because much of the U.S. funding for Afghanistan
is being spent on «security issues, while development comes second in
the list of priorities.» CJ

[34] CENTER SEEKS TO INCREASE AFGHAN TOURISM

Afghan Deputy Minister for Information and Culture Ghulam Nabi Farahi
has announced that a new tourist center will be established in Kabul to
support Afghanistan’s tourism industry, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on
April 1. Farahi said the center will teach students about tourism
promotion and will include courses on Afghan culture, customs, and
society. The center will also provide tourism information to foreign
visitors in Kabul. Pajhwak Afghan News reported that the number of
tourists visiting Afghanistan has increased by 25 percent over the past
two years. The Information and Culture Ministry has allocated $2
million to establish the center, although no anticipated completion
date has been announced. CJ

[35] IRANIAN MILITANTS PROTEST OUTSIDE BRITISH EMBASSY

Between 100 and 2,000 members of the Basij militia, a force affiliated
with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, demonstrated outside the
British Embassy in Tehran on April 1 to protest the alleged incursion
of British forces into Iranian waters near Iraq, Radio Farda reported.
The 15 sailors and marines were arrested by Iranian forces on March 23,
provoking a diplomatic dispute. Protesters threw stones and
firecrackers into the embassy compound, causing explosions but
reportedly no casualties or damage, Radio Farda and AFP reported. The
embassy told AFP that police controlled the protest. The British
Embassy is in a business district in downtown Tehran and occupies a
large compound surrounded by streets. Demonstrators carried placards
denouncing Great Britain and the United States, the EU’s support for
Britain in the dispute, and the March 24 UN Security Council resolution
issued against Iran because of continuing work on its nuclear program,
Radio Farda reported. Some placards called for the expulsion of the
«Old Fox’s» ambassador, a reference to the British ambassador, Radio
Farda reported. British Defense Secretary Des Browne told BBC
television in Afghanistan on April 1 that Britain and Iran are in
«direct bilateral communication» over the issue, news agencies
reported. VS

[36] IRANIAN DIPLOMAT SAYS TEHRAN’S POSITION LAWFUL

Tehran-based political observer and former diplomat Sabah Zanganeh told
ISNA on March 31 that Iran’s position on the illegal entry of British
sailors into its waters is legal and «in keeping with international
laws,» while the UN Security Council and the EU have merely given Great
Britain «moral» or «political support.» He said Iranian courts and
Iran’s laws are competent to prosecute the sailors. Zanganeh said that
the positions adopted by the EU are political and «they have no legal
value and are more a political position to comfort Britain, following
its many pressures. They will neither affect Iran’s political position
nor have any legal impact on Iran’s legal position.» The positions of
Iranian officials will become «more solid and serious» if Britain
increases its «political pressure,» Zanganeh said. He added that in
asking Britain to apologize for the alleged territorial violation, to
help resolve the matter, Iranian officials «merely tried…to show
their goodwill when they are not obliged to propose a solution to this
issue. It is the British who must look for a solution.» He said
Britain’s public protests and an «attack» on the Iranian Consulate in
the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah — allegedly by British troops —
showed the weakness in Britain’s legal position, ISNA reported (see
«RFE/RL Newsline,» March 30, 2007). VS

[37] ISRAELI GENERAL SAYS IRAN CONCERNED OVER SUMMER ATTACK

Major General Amos Yadlin, the head of Israel’s military intelligence,
said in Jerusalem on April 1 that Iran is making defensive preparations
for a possible «attack this summer» by the United States, Reuters
reported. He said Iranian allies Syria and the Hizballah in Lebanon are
also making defensive preparations, as they believe they may be
targeted as part of an attack on Iran. He said Israel is monitoring the
preparations as it thought the three parties might «misinterpret
various moves in the region.» The website worldnetdaily.com quoted
Yadlin as telling the Knesset the same day that Israel has been
observing the fortification of «military positions» by Tehran, «Syrian
military movements and indications of war preparation with the help of
Iran, and the large-scale smuggling of Iranian-supplied weapons to» the
Hizballah. Yadlin said Israel does not expect Iran or Syria to start
any war, but believes war might break out even without a U.S. attack,
because of the «involvement of many players,» worldnetdaily.com
reported. VS

[38] ECONOMIST SEES POOR DISTRIBUTION IN IRANIAN ECONOMY

Economist Ali Rashidi discussed some of the reasons for persistent
inflation in Iran in comments published by Radio Farda on March 31. He
said the limited number of distributors of such goods as food or
farming products, and the large number of small retail outlets with
relatively high costs, are two reasons why Iranian consumers pay high
prices for their purchases. Rashidi said prices might fall if Iran
liberalizes its economy and integrates it with the global economy.
Current imports, he said, are controlled by a small number of groups or
individuals who oversee the distribution of imported goods in the
domestic market through a network of middlemen or dealers. Customers
are paying for the inefficiency of the large number of shops and retail
outlets, he said, adding that shopkeepers shift their personal and
family expenses onto the price of goods paid by customers. Rashidi told
Radio Farda that Iran operates a «19th-century» distribution system. He
said Iranian officials have no understanding of «economic developments»
and believe it «economical» to allow the proliferation of shops while
opposing department stores or very large retail units. Rashidi urged
the development of a «systematic» distribution network with large
outlets and more direct links between producers and consumers as
antiinflationary measures. VS

[39] SPOKESMAN DENIES IRAQI PRESIDENT INVOLVED IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH
ARMED GROUPS

Iraqi presidential spokesman Kamran al-Karadaghi denied an April 1
report by the London-based «Al-Hayat» that President Jalal Talabani is
involved in negotiations with armed groups, Al-Sharqiyah television
reported the same day. The newspaper cited government sources reported
that a number of insurgent leaders are negotiating with the presidency,
which in turn informs Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office of the
talks. The Presidency Council consists of Talabani and his two vice
presidents, Shi’ite leader Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Sunni leader Tariq
al-Hashimi. «Al-Hayat» quoted sources as saying the Islamic Party,
which al-Hashimi leads, is playing a key role in talks with armed
groups. According to the report, the talks also seek to open dialogue
with former Ba’athists who fled Iraq in 2003. As for the armed groups,
channels of communication have been opened with the 1920 Revolution
Brigades, the Al-Rashidin Army, the Umar Brigades, and the Black Flags,
«Al-Hayat» reported (see «RFE/RL Iraq Report,» March 30, 2007). KR

[40] IRAQI COMMISSION HEAD DISCUSSES DE-BA’ATHIFICATION WITH SHI’ITE
GRAND AYATOLLAH

Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the de-Ba’athification Commission, met with
Shi’ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on April 1 to discuss President
Talabani and Prime Minister al-Maliki’s draft Law on Accountability and
Justice, which would essentially revise the de-Ba’athification law,
state-run Al-Iraqiyah television reported the same day (see «RFE/RL
Newsline,» March 27, 2007). «Iraqi politicians have expressed different
views over the intention of some armed groups to join the political
process. A number of politicians stressed the need to reveal the names
of these groups and the mechanisms through which these groups will join
the political process. Others have said this step is an important
factor in uniting Iraqi ranks and entrenching security in the country,»
Chalabi told reporters at a press conference following the meeting in
Al-Najaf. Chalabi is opposed to the draft law (see «RFE/RL Iraq
Report,» March 30, 2007). KR

[41] IRAQI JUSTICE MINISTER RESIGNS

Hashim al-Shibli has resigned as justice minister, reportedly after a
series of disputes with both the government and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi
National List, the London-based «Al-Sharq al-Awsat» reported on April
1. Al-Shibli, who is affiliated with the National Democratic Party, was
nominated to his post by the National List. Al-Shibli told the daily
that his positions «are different and distinct from those of the Iraqi
National List,» adding: «I have been in disagreement with them since I
took my post as justice minister. The [list] wanted to dictate certain
positions to me.» The National List has denied the claims. Regarding
the government, al-Shibli said he has a good relationship with Prime
Minister al-Maliki but «I also had objections to the government’s
performance in the political, security, and economic fields, and also
in the service sectors. I held different views regarding the efforts to
get a national-reconciliation process under way.» He also mentioned
«other reasons» related to the need to improve the ministry’s
performance. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh claimed that al-Shibli
resigned when he learned he was to be replaced under the coming cabinet
reshuffle. Al-Dabbagh said the ministry under al-Shibli failed to end
violations of prisoners’ rights in Iraqi prisons. KR

[42] ‘THOUSANDS’ OF SUNNI ARABS VOLUNTEER FOR ARMY AND POLICE

Thousands of Sunni Arab youths have flooded recruitment centers seeking
positions in the army and police after some tribes in Al-Anbar
announced their intention to fight armed groups affiliated with the
Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Arabiyah television reported on April 2. The
tribes are members of the Al-Anbar Awakening Council, which was formed
last year by tribesmen angry over Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks in the
restive western governorate. The report also noted that the council’s
tribes are fighting against local tribesmen who support Al-Qaeda.
Tribesmen from the council have already formed three battalions with
support from Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani, who supplied the tribes
with weapons and funding to fight the armed groups. According to
Al-Arabiyah, the tribes have managed to surround 1,000 Arab fighters in
Al-Ramadi. KR

End Note

[43] HAS IMU REACHED THE END OF THE LINE?

By Daniel Kimmage

Recent clashes between Uzbek and other militants and tribesman in
Pakistan’s southernmost tribal area have left scores dead. The Uzbek
militants are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU),
Central Asia’s most infamous terrorist organization, which decamped to
Afghanistan in the waning days of the Taliban regime to establish ties
with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

After a U.S.-led military operation sent the Taliban and Al-Qaeda
packing in 2001, the IMU fled with their hosts to the borderlands of
Pakistan. But with that frontier now a battleground, has the IMU
reached the end of the line?

The cause, death toll, and final outcome of the clashes involving
Uzbeks and tribesmen were all unclear more than a week after the
violence began. Accounts by international news agencies and Pakistani
media agreed that the fighting started on March 19 near Wana, the main
town in South Waziristan, the southernmost of the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas; it pitted a group composed largely of
IMU-affiliated Uzbek militants against local Pashtun tribesmen.

Most sources linked the outbreak of fighting to the death of an Arab
affiliated with a local Pashtun leader named Mawlawi Nazir. Pakistan’s
«Dawn» newspaper, for example, described Nazir as the leader of «local
Taliban» and painted a picture of mounting tension between pro-Taliban
local tribes and Uzbek militants after Uzbeks killed an
«Al-Qaeda-linked Arab» (identified as Saiful Adil). But AFP reported
that clashes broke out «after ex-Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, who
backs President Pervez Musharraf’s moves to expel foreigners from the
area, ordered followers of Uzbek militant [and IMU leader] Tahir
Yuldashev to disarm.»

Whatever lit the fuse, the official death toll continues to climb.
Reports this week suggested a local cease-fire, but at the same time
fierce fighting was reported just a few kilometers away. And reports
emerged of overnight fighting in South Waziristan on March 29-30.

A tribal elder and opponent of the Uzbek presence in the region, Haji
Khannan, has cautioned that «the only durable solution to the problem
is to ask Uzbeks to leave the area.» He claimed that Uzbeks’ «continued
presence would cause friction with the local tribes.»

The official death toll now stands at around 170, with most of the dead
ethnic Uzbeks affiliated with the IMU. Local sources told a Pakistani
newspaper, «The News,» that the fighting claimed far fewer lives, with
casualties split evenly between local tribes and Uzbeks.

A journalist in North Waziristan, Saylab Mas’ud, estimated to RFE/RL’s
Radio Free Afghanistan on March 21 that «there were «about 2,000 to
2,500 Uzbek militia in the [immediate] area.» The highest estimates to
have emerged are of more than 10,000 «foreign» fighters in the Tribal
Areas, although there is little evidence to support such claims.

The confused chain of events makes more sense if one considers in turn
the three groups of actors involved — Pakistan’s central authorities,
local tribesmen in South Waziristan, and the IMU — and the interests
they are pursuing.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been pressed by the United
States to do more to contain militant activity in the tribal provinces
bordering Afghanistan, and he has faced hostile demonstrations after
his suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Chaudhry. Against that backdrop, he is eager to claim success for his
policy of encouraging tribal leaders to deal with the problem of
foreign militants.

A Pakistani military spokesman recently described tribal leaders in
South Waziristan as «patriots» for their efforts to evict IMU fighters,
Pakistan’s «Daily Times» reported on March 27. As early as March 20,
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad called the
fighting «a success of the government tribesmen strategy,» Reuters
reported. The spokesman claimed «the tribesmen are fed up with [foreign
militants] because they and their activities adversely affect their
lives and business.»

Nevertheless, comments by the leader of a local family described by
«The News» as supporting the eviction of Uzbek fighters from South
Waziristan hardly inspired confidence that the central government’s
policy will do much to reduce the militancy that is fueling violence in
neighboring Afghanistan. Haji Sharif vowed that his people will
«continue [their] jihad [in Afghanistan] if that is against America,
the Russians, British, or India as long as [we] have souls in our
bodies.» Sharif shrugged off the fighting with the Uzbeks as a
distraction from the larger conflict in Afghanistan. He said his
group’s «activities across the border have been affected by [the]
crisis with the Uzbeks,» adding, «We have enemies in our home.»

What’s more, Pakistan’s army may have taken sides in the recent clashes
in South Waziristan, although Pakistani military spokesmen have
consistently denied any involvement in the fighting. «The Asia Times
Online» on March 28 quoted «independent sources» as saying that
Pakistani special forces aided Pashtun leader Nazir in clashes against
Uzbek forces and carried out raids in an attempt to arrest IMU leader
Tohir Yoldosh. Reuters reported on March 22 that local residents said
that «some shelling aimed at Uzbek positions appeared to be coming from
a military base.»

According to «The Asia Times Online,» the involvement of the Pakistani
military «pits the ‘coalition’ of Nazir’s Taliban and the Pakistani
military against the leaders of the ‘Islamic State of Waziristans.'»
The latter refers to leaders in North and South Waziristan who are
bitterly opposed to central government involvement in the tribal
regions and support the presence of foreign militants.

As for the local tribesmen, a former British military attache in
Islamabad, Brigadier Johnny Torrence-Spence, told a briefing in
Washington on March 26 that Pashtuns in Pakistan’s tribal regions are
not a «single, homogenous group because they are divided along distinct
tribal lines,» the «Daily Times» reported. Reports from the region
confirmed this, suggesting that some tribesmen object to the Uzbek
presence in South Waziristan and are amenable to central government
inducements to evict the Uzbeks, while others stand with the Uzbeks.
«The News International» noted, for example, that Haji Sharif supports
the eviction of the Uzbeks while his brothers, Haji Omar and Noor
Islam, have been fighting alongside the Uzbeks.

Where does this leave the IMU? Reports in Pakistan’s press indicate
that they have both supporters and enemies among local tribesmen.
Pakistan’s central authorities publicly oppose the Uzbeks’ presence.
Most estimates put the Uzbeks’ strength at around 1,000, although some,
such as the journalist quoted above, say they could number as high as
2,000, and a March 26 report in Britain’s «The Daily Telegraph» spoke
of 10,000 Uzbek fighters led by Yoldosh.

«The Daily Telegraph» reported that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have
offered the Uzbek force a way out of its problems in South Waziristan
in the form of «safe passage» to Konar, Paktiya, or Helmand Province in
Afghanistan to take part in a spring offensive against NATO troops. In
comments to RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, a spokesman for the U.S.-led
coalition in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Colonel Tom Collins, dismissed the
report as «Taliban propaganda» and said that there is no evidence the
IMU militants are headed for Afghanistan.

But experts queried by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service were less skeptical.
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who has written extensively on the
Taliban and IMU, told RFE/RL that the ongoing events are difficult to
interpret. But Rashid noted that «in order to deal with a difficult
situation in Waziristan, foreign fighters may go to the south, to
Afghanistan.» The editor in chief of Pakistan’s «Daily Mail,» Makhdoom
Babar, told RFE/RL that with conditions in Pakistan becoming less and
less hospitable, he thinks the Uzbek force «will leave for
Afghanistan.» But Robert Birsel, a Reuters correspondent in Pakistan,
suggested that Uzbek militants might be able to hammer out a truce with
the local tribesmen in whose midst they have now lived for years.

Interestingly, the fighting in South Waziristan also drew comment from
the global jihadist media apparatus. One group that regularly posts
statements from jihadist insurgent groups in Iraq to pro-Al-Qaeda
Internet forums, Al-Fajr Media Center, put out a press release in
Arabic on March 21 on «what is happening in Waziristan.» It claimed
dismissively that «the Pakistani Army, its crusader overlords, and
their apostate allies over the past five years have been unable to
stand up to the holy warriors, whether in North or South Waziristan.»
Charging that the recent clashes were inspired by Pakistani
intelligence agents, the Al-Fajr Media Center claimed that «the
fighting is taking place between exiled holy warriors and their allies
and some pro-government tribes, or the Pakistani Army and intelligence
services dressed as tribes.» It argued that the combat does not pit the
Uzbeks against «tribes,» as some are saying.

In sum, reports from Pakistan’s tribal areas indicate that while the
IMU retains some fighting strength, it is now a bit player in a complex
game far removed from the organization’s origins in Uzbekistan and its
onetime goal of unseating Uzbek President Islam Karimov and
establishing an Islamist state in Central Asia’s most populous country.
Trapped for now in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan,
the IMU is caught up in the shadowboxing between Pakistan’s central
authorities and the leaders of Waziristan’s various Pashtun tribes–
and in the larger efforts of global jihadists to continue their fight
in and around Afghanistan.

It may not be the end of the road for the IMU, but it is a road that
has led far from home, with few prospects for a return in the
foreseeable future.

ΠΗΓΗ : HR-Net News Distribution Manager

Ένα Σχόλιο to “ΔΙΕΘΝΕΙΣ ΕΙΔΗΣΕΙΣ-07-04-03”

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