Thursday, 19 April 2007

18 April 2007 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (4/19/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Tajikistan works to repatriate cultural valuables from Britain 6 April Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov has called for studying the chances of repatriating the Oxus treasure, also known as the Amu-Darya treasure, his press secretary Abdufattokh Sharipov told Interfax on Friday. "During his visit to the site of the ancient town of Takhti-Sangin in Khatlon region President Emomali Rahmon called for taking measures to organize an exhibition of findings of the Amu-Darya treasure and their subsequent repatriation," Sharipov said using the non-Slavic version of the president's name, in line with a recent presidential decree. "Meanwhile the Academy of Sciences and museums of Tajikistan have been invited to make their relevant proposals," he said. He found it difficult to say whether Tajikistan will insist on the free return of the exhibits from the British Museum or if it plans to buy them back. The Amu-Darya treasure discovered in 1877 comprises over 1,300 coins and pieces of jewelry dating back to the IV-II centuries B.C. when the ancient state of Bactriana existed in the territory of modern Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. British representatives in India bought the treasure by installments from several merchants. "The question of repatriation is always complex and delicate. It is extremely difficult to prove that the artifacts had been smuggled from Tajikistan after so many years but we will study all the documents related to the Amu-Darya treasure," Rahim Masov, director of the Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan told Interfax. (Interfax)

Russian Duma ratifies protocols on Kazakh test sites 6 April The lower house of parliament Friday ratified protocols on changes to agreements between Russia and Kazakhstan on the lease of four military test sites in the Central Asian state. Russia and Kazakhstan signed additional protocols to 1996 bilateral treaties on the lease of the 4th and 929th testing ranges of the Russian Defense Ministry, and testing ranges at Sary-Shagan and Emba on November 25, 2005. "The ratification of the protocols meets the national interests of the Russian Federation and will promote the maintenance and further development of Russia's facilities aimed at testing new weaponry and military equipment, including missile defense systems, which will ensure the strengthening of the country's defense potential," the State Duma said in a statement. According to the protocols, Russia is required to pay an annual sum of about $24.8 million for the lease of four testing grounds and related research facilities totaling 10 million hectares on the territory of the former Soviet republic as of January 1, 2005. Twenty-three percent of Russia's 4th state firing range at Kapustin Yar is located in Kazakhstan. In recent years, Kapustin Yar has been the site of the official trials of the Iskander-M missile system, as well as tests of the S-400 (SA-20 Triumf) surface-to-air missile system. The 929th State Test Flight Center, also known as Taysoygan or Vladimirovka, is comprised of three sections in Atyrau, Mangystau, and Western Kazakhstan regions. The territory is used to test combat aircraft and various types of weapons for all branches of the military. The Sary-Shagan test site was established in 1956 as the 10th State Scientific Research Testing Range of the former Soviet Union where anti-ballistic missile defense systems, air defenses, and laser weapons were tested. It was the only Soviet ABM test site permitted under the 1972 ABM Treaty. The Emba testing grounds, subordinated to Kapustin Yar in 1998, is where the F300, Buk, Tor and Tunguzka air defense systems have been tested. (RIA Novosti)

Released Iranian diplomat accuses CIA of torture - news agency 7 April An Iranian diplomat abducted in Baghdad in early February and released earlier this week claims he has been interrogated and tortured by the CIA agents, an Iran's news agency reported Saturday. Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, was released and repatriated on Tuesday following what he claims an abduction by Iraqi special services working under U.S. control. In an interview with the Fars news agency, the diplomat said he was brought to a military base near the Baghdad airport and interrogated in Arabic and English languages. "The CIA agents asked me questions about Iran's presence and influence in Iraq, and Tehran's assistance to the Iraqi government, the Shiite, Sunnite and Kurd factions," Sharafi said. He also claimed the interrogators tortured him after they had become dissatisfied with his answers. He showed the signs of torture on his body to journalists, the news agency said. "They used different torture techniques during the interrogation, day and night for a long time," the diplomat, who is currently under medical examination, told the reporters. Tehran has already called the abduction an act of aggression, and blamed U.S. intelligence agents in Baghdad. (RIA Novosti)

Berlin Bashes U.S. Afghanistan Strategy 15 May Germany is making its objections clear to the U.S. military strategy for Afghanistan after an anti-terror operation killed civilians. "We need to make sure that future operations don't take place in this way," German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Monday in Brussels at a meeting with his European Union counterparts, according to German online daily Netzeitung. Jung was referencing a bombing of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom, which fights the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan; the air raid was directed against the Taliban but killed at least 21 civilians in the Helmand province. Jung warned that OEF would undermine the goal of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which is tasked with reconstruction efforts.  "We don't want the population against us," Jung said. "We have to prevent that." Jung has in the past lobbied to win over the hearts and minds of the Afghan population, and pair security missions with an increasing number of civilian reconstruction efforts. The death of civilians was "just the wrong tactic," he said, adding that he had discussed the unfortunate incident with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Meanwhile, EU defense ministers agreed to send some 160 police to Afghanistan to provide training for the domestic police force. "This mission represents a major contribution to establishing a professional police sector in Afghanistan," Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in a statement. (UPI)


Air Strikes Kill 60 Taliban in Afghanistan: Police 15 May Sixty Taliban fighters including three commanders were killed in overnight air strikes on two rebel bases in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, a provincial police chief said on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry gave a lower death toll. "I can confirm only 11 dead, including a Taliban commander," Zahir Azimi said. The joint operation involving foreign and Afghan security forces took place in the Zharai district of Kandahar, police chief Esmatullah Alizai told Reuters. He said there were no casualties among the foreign or Afghan forces. A U.S. military spokesman said he was aware of the reports and was checking them. NATO said it was not aware of any involvement in such an operation. Violence has surged in Afghanistan in recent weeks after the traditional winter lull. Hundreds have been killed already this year after more than 4,000 people died last year. In the latest attack, a roadside bomb killed seven Afghan soldiers in the eastern province of Nuristan on Monday, the defense ministry said. Four soldiers were missing after the blast. The Taliban, who lost their top field commander in a clash at the weekend, could not be contacted immediately for comment about their reported losses in Kandahar. Mullah Dadullah was killed in a battle with U.S.-led forces in what was seen as the most serious blow to the Taliban since the insurgency began. Afghans have protested the deaths of civilians in air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition. (Reuters)


Kazakhstan long-time leader proposes cutting term after 2012 -1 16 May Kazakhstan's president, who has led the Central Asian state for 18 years, proposed cutting a presidential term from seven to five years after 2012 as a "democratic" measure. In a speech to parliament Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose term is due to expire in 2012, also proposed a series of constitutional amendments which he said were aimed at transforming the energy rich Central Asian state from a presidential republic into a presidential-parliamentary one. "We want to emphasize our democratic commitments," said the president of the former Soviet republic, which has posted high economic growth and relative stability stemming from vast oil and gas reserves. The country's GDP grew 10.6% last year and 9.4% in 2005. Nazarbayev also said parliament should be given the right to control the government, which will be accountable both to the president and the legislature. "A simple majority rather than two thirds of votes should be enough for the lower house to pass a vote of no-confidence in the government," the president said. Nazarbayev's initiatives also included giving the parliament wider rights in forming bodies of the Central Election Commission and the committee auditing the implementation of the budget. The president also called for lifting the ban on state funding for public organizations. "A plan must be developed to provide partial financing of political parties from the state budget," he said. (RIA Novosti)




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