Thursday, 20 September 2007

19 September 2007 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (9/20/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Turkmen schoolchildren banned from cotton harvesting 10 September

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has banned sending schoolchildren to work as cotton pickers. Schoolchildren should not be involved in field harvesting, the Turkmen president said in his speech at a meeting of the Turkmen government that discussed the situation in respect to cotton harvesting. The president's speech has been published by Turkmen newspapers on Monday.

Turkmen schoolchildren banned from cotton harvesting 10 September

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has banned sending schoolchildren to work as cotton pickers. Schoolchildren should not be involved in field harvesting, the Turkmen president said in his speech at a meeting of the Turkmen government that discussed the situation in respect to cotton harvesting. The president's speech has been published by Turkmen newspapers on Monday. Turkmen law and the international conventions prohibit use of adolescents' labour, the Turkmen president declared in connection with a harvesting campaign that began in Turkmenistan. The former Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov, also banned schoolchildren from harvesting cotton, but local administrations did use children's labour. Workers of regional enterprises and servicemen have been regularly sent to cotton harvesting fields. The Turkmen president underlined that beginning from 2008 servicemen and workers of law enforcement bodies would be doing agricultural work on their own farms only. According to official statistics, a total of 152,000 tons of cotton have been harvested in Turkmenistan. By September 9, 2007 the cotton harvest has grown by 14, 600 tons, including 728 tons harvested by agricultural machinery.  (Itar-Tass)


Turkmen pres announces transition to market relations 10 September President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan has announced a transition of the country’ s economy to market relations. “During this period, we should create a stable macroeconomic system of regulation, reduce the load on the state budget,” he said at a meeting of the government devoted to the results of eight months of the year. The president’s speech was published in all newspapers.

The head of state urged “to more effectively use state property, financial resources, raise the educational level of leaders and office employees.” The president announced a decision to create a scientific and research institute of strategic planning, as well as a higher school of state management with the attraction of leading scientists and world level specialists. “We’ll have a transition to international standards of financial account that will enable us to ensure the transparency of the holding of financial operations, improve investment possibilities for foreign investors,” Berdymukhammedov said. “Reforming and restructuring of state enterprises will make it possible to improve the management of the state sector of economy,” the president stressed. (Itar-Tass)


Armenian TV station to broadcast in Armenian only 10 September Armenia's Public Television Channel is to broadcast in Armenian only, the channel's Executive Director Armen Arzumanian said.  "There will be no return to the Russian language on air of the Public Television of Armenia," following the introduction of the laws "On language" and "On television and broadcasting". "I have not seen a national TV channel broadcasting in several languages," he said.  Meanwhile, all Russian films are broadcast in Russian with Armenian subtitles, he said.  "We do not exclude that we will make satellite broadcasts in Russian, English and French," he said. (Interfax)



11 September

Azerbaijani presidential-administration official Novruz Mamedov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service on September 10 that he cannot comprehend why the international community is reluctant to take "concrete political steps" towards Armenia, which he accused of backtracking every time negotiations on resolving the Karabakh conflict reach a decisive moment. Mamedov also said there are no obstacles to a further meeting between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to discuss a settlement of the conflict. The two presidents have met only once this year, on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June, and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said last week that a further meeting would make sense only if the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen make progress during their September 15-17 visit to the region in narrowing the remaining differences between the two sides. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was quoted by the Azerbaijani Press Agency on September 10 as saying that he sees no point in trying to negotiate a new Karabakh cease-fire agreement, rather than a political solution to the conflict. Mammadyarov further expressed approval for arranging further meetings between representatives of the Armenian and former Azerbaijani communities of the NKR. (RFE/RL)


GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS WASHINGTON 11 September Gela Bezhuashvili met in Washington on September 11 with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss U.S.-Georgian relations, the process of Georgia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, and the situation in Iraq, where Georgia has some 2,000 peacekeeping troops. Bezhuashvili met later the same day with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who affirmed Washington's support for Georgia's hopes to progress from Intensified Dialogue with NATO to a Membership Action Plan, which constitutes the final phase before an official invitation is extended to join the Alliance. (Caucasus Press)


TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING KAZAKH LEADER 13 September Tajik President Emomali Rahmon met on September 12 with visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who arrived in Dushanbe at the start of an official state visit, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The leaders on September 13 are due to formally sign a new bilateral agreement on the creation of a $100 million state investment fund aimed at promoting greater Kazakh investment in Tajikistan. The presidents also discussed Kazakhstan's plan to construct a $60 million hydroelectric power plant on the Khingob River in eastern Tajikistan. Nazarbaev arrived in Tajikistan after concluding a similar state visit to Turkmenistan, where he discussed energy issues with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. (RFE/RL)


KAZAKH INVESTIGATION REVEALS ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE FROM RECENT ROCKET CRASH 13 September An official study conducted by a special Kazakh state working group, released on September 12, revealed that the recent crash of a Russian Proton-M rocket resulted in a serious toxic fuel spill far "exceeding the maximum permissible level." The study was conducted by a working group of specialists from the Kazakh ministries of health, environment, agriculture, and emergency situations, with support from the National Space Agency. It recommended "the application of temporary technological regulations for the detoxification of contaminated soil." The crash of the unmanned Proton-M rocket occurred on September 6 after its launch from the Baikonur Space Center. No one was injured in the incident, but debris from the rocket was spread over a small contained area in the more remote central Karaganda region, including some of the rocket's fuel payload of more than 200 tons of heptyl, a highly toxic rocket fuel. Kazakh Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Khrapunov also reported that "elements" of the Japanese satellite that was on board the rocket were found and turned over to Russian officials on September 11 "for storage." After the crash, an immediate ban on launches from the Baikonur Space Center was imposed, although it was later

lifted. Two similar Proton rockets crashed at Baikonur in July and October 1999, leading to a similar suspension. More recently, the crash of a Russian RS-20 "Dnepr" rocket in July 2006 caused environmental damage estimated at over $1 million. The Baikonur Space Center is one of the world's leading space facilities and is regularly used to launch commercial and military satellites, as well as missions to supply the International Space Station. (RFE/RL)


Azerbaijan inflation to be at least 15% in 2007 14 September

Inflation in Azerbaijan will be at least 15% in 2007, said Christian Petersen, a senior economist for the World Bank. The World Bank has its own forecasts for inflation in Azerbaijan, he said.  We think that inflation will be at least 15% by the end of the year, Petersen said at a press conference on Friday. Inflation in Azerbaijan  hit its peak of 17% in annual terms last January, Petersen said. Azerbaijan   inflation   was   8.3% in 2006.  The government is forecasting inflation at 9% in 2007. Azerbaijan’s inflation was 9.7% in January-August 2007 and 15% in August in annual  terms, the  country's Federal Statistics Committee reported. (Interfax)


Two versions of Kyrgyz Constitution adopted in late 2006 declared illegal 14 September The Constitutional Court in Kyrgyzstan has declared the national Constitution adopted by the parliament in December 2006 illegitimate and invalid. The Constitutional Court in Kyrgyzstan has ruled on a petition filed by two opposition parliamentarians, Kabai Karabekov and Melis Eshimkanov, who asked the court to declare the parliamentary regulation that enabled parliamentarians to adopt two new versions of the Fundamental Law in November and December 2006 unconstitutional. The parliamentarians demanded that the Constitution of December 30, 2006, be declared illegitimate and invalid.  (Interfax)



14 September

Dooronbek Sadyrbaev initiated a petition drive on September 12 to demand the dissolution of the Kyrgyz parliament, according to Kyrgyz television. Sadyrbaev said the drive is an attempt to combat the "immorality" of the parliament and a demonstration of the need to enforce the rules of the legislature. Deputy parliament speaker Erkinbek Alymbekov strongly opposed the petition, warning that it threatens stability and stressing that "although the parliament is not ideal, it is doing its job" and "needs to serve out its constitutional term and pass the necessary laws on improving the electoral system in order to hold elections by party lists in 2010." Another deputy, Karganbek Samakov, also criticized the initiative and defended the parliament for having "passed more than 500 laws" that he defined as critical "for the good of the country." Sadyrbaev has long been an outspoken, although sometimes erratic critic of many of the government's policies. Earlier this month, he claimed that an attempt was made to kill him by an unnamed "criminal authority." (RFE/RL)


Russia to boost investment in Armenia 14 September Russian investment in Armenia's economy is expected to reach $500m by the end of 2007, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who is also the co-chairman of the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental economic cooperation commission, told a press conference in Yerevan today. Levitin noted that Russia and Armenia had established a good partnership and friendly relations, but there was still room to increase investment. He also noted that transportation problems still hampered developing economic ties between the two countries. In turn, Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsian added that this year had seen improvement in the economic relations between the two countries thanks to governmental efforts and expressed hope for even greater success for years to come. According to Armenia's National Statistics Service, Russia's total investment in the country stood at $74m in H1 2007, $38m of which were direct investment. (RosBaltConsulting)



14 September

Unidentified gunmen opened fire from mortars during the night of September 13-14 on the Nazran city police headquarters, Russian media reported. Police pursued the gunmen as they retreated and a shoot-out ensued, but no casualties have been reported on either side. On September 13, Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General Arkady Yedelev, and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak attended a meeting in Nazran to discuss the recent upsurge in violence and how to counter it. Echoing his superior, Rashid Nurgaliyev, Yedelev said that there are enough Interior Ministry troops in Ingushetia to "restore order." Kozak for his part subjected harshly criticized the Ingushetian Interior Ministry, accusing its officers of corruption, failing to take timely action, not coordinating their activities with the federal Interior Ministry contingent deployed to Ingushetia in July, and collaborating with the armed resistance, the daily "Kommersant" reported on September 14. (RFE/RL)


RUSSIA AGAIN DEMANDS GEORGIA RELEASE ARRESTED PEACEKEEPERS 14 September The Russian Foreign Ministry posted on its website ( on September 13 a statement condemning what it termed the illegal detention by Georgia of Tariel Khachirov and Vitaly Valiyev, two Russian members of the North Ossetian contingent deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone. Georgian police detained the two men late last month, and they were sentenced to two months' pretrial detention on charges of having abducted seven Georgians, all of whom were subsequently released. The Russian statement noted that Georgia has denied the men access to a Russian consular official and has not produced any evidence that they committed any crime. (RFE/RL)


Criminal Case Against Daughter of Kyrgyz ex-president dropped 17 August The Kyrgyz National Security Committee has dropped a criminal case against the daughter of the ex-president of Kyrgyzyzstan, Bermet Akayeva. Kyrgyz law enforcement bodies had accused the ex-president's daughter on three counts of the Criminal Code - obstructing justice, theft, concealment and destruction of documents and contempt of court. In April, 2007 the daughter of the ex-president put forward her candidacy for the post of deputy from the Keminsky constituency- her father's birthplace. Akayeva's rivals filed a lawsuit against Akayeva for violating the election rules. At first, a local court passed a resolution in Akayeva’s favor, but in a few hours overruled its own resolution. Finally, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court confirmed that Akayeva was expelled from the election campaign legitimately. Ikramilin Aitkulov, lawyer for Bermet Akayeva, said Monday that several weeks ago he filed an appeal, asking to drop a criminal case against Akayeva on the grounds of absence of evidence of Akayeva's guilt. Investigators of the Kyrgyz National Security Committee satisfied the appeal. While an investigation continued Akayeva had been kept under house arrest. She was banned from leaving Bishkek and going out of her apartment after 10.00 p.m. (Itar-Tass)

UN expected to extenD Afghanistan force 18 September The U.N. Security Council is expected to extend the authorization of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan ahead of a high-level meeting on Sunday to focus on promoting national reconciliation in the country. The final draft of a resolution extending the mandate for a year, which was circulated late Tuesday by France, reiterates the U.N.'s concern about "the increased violent and terrorist activities by the Taliban, al-Qaida, illegally armed groups and those involved in the narcotics trade." The NATO-led alliance has raised its troop level to almost 40,000 in the face of an emboldened insurgency led by the country's former Taliban rulers that has demonstrated the fragility of Afghanistan's fledgling Western-style democracy. The United States maintains about 13,000 troops in a separate counterinsurgency force. The violence, centered in the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan, is the deadliest since a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban's hard-line regime after Sept. 11, 2001 for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. More than 4,300 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Western and Afghan officials. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are co-chairing a high-level meeting at U.N. headquarters on Afghanistan on Sunday. The U.N. chief said Tuesday it would focus on increasing the U.N. role in the country, improving coordination of different political entities, helping promote an Afghan national dialogue and reconciliation, and encouraging a regional dialogue. (AP)

Yerevan’s recognition of NKR will allow Baku to brand Armenia aggressor 18 September Heritage party’s initiative on NKR recognition by Armenia is nothing but a populist move, Armenian political scientist Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan told a news conference in Yerevan.  “The party leader, Raffi Hovannisian did not make statements of the kind at the post of Foreign Minister in 1991. Armenia’s recognition Nagorno Karabakh’s independence will allow Azerbaijan to brand Armenia as aggressor,” he said. Armenia and Karabakh should jointly work for recognition of NKR by third states, according to him. As to the terms of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement, Mr Melik-Shahnazaryan said, “In 10-15 years Europe will lose interest in Azerbaijan as a supplier of energy sources and then strong Armenia can make the international community reckon with it,” he underscored. On 28 August Heritage party leader Raffi Hovannisian introduced in the Armenian National Assembly a draft bill “On recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.” (


Pan-Ossetian congress held in Tskhinvali 18 September A congress of the Ossetian people opened in South Ossetia’s first city Tskhinvali on Tuesday. Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settlement David Bakradze called it a “Soviet-type theatrical.” He told reporters on Tuesday that “holding such artificial congresses one more shows a very serious crisis that Tskhinvali authorities are having in terms of support from the local population.”  The fact that South Ossetian authorities pin hopes on the visit of “politically motivated people shows in what difficult situation the Tskhinvali authorities are because of a lack of support from the local population,” Bakradze said. He added that the “more people visit Tskhinvali the quicker they will make sure in what critical condition the government of Eduard Kokoity is.”  An ITAR-TASS correspondent in Tskhinvali said the congress of Ossetians from different parts of the world was for the first time held in South Ossetia.  A main event of today is to be a political report by Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Ruslan Bzarov from (Russia’s) North Ossetia on Independence of South Ossetia: A Guarantee of Security and Reliable Future of the Ossetian People, forum organizers told ITAR-TASS.  “About 500 delegates and 200 guests from more than 60 Ossetian diasporas and communities have come to the republic, including from Morocco, Brazil, the US, Canada, France, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, China and Estonia,” an organizing committee member said. Presidents of South and North Ossetia, elders and representatives of Ossetian diasporas were elected to the congress’ presidium. The congress will continue for two days. The first pan-Ossetian congress took place in 1992. It was later held once in three years. (Itar-Tass)

Chechen top warlord killed in special operation in Daghestan 18 September A top Chechen warlord, Rappani Khalilov, has been killed in south Daghestan, Russia's troubled North Caucasus region, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. The leader of the Shariat Jamaat Islamist group, Khalilov was believed to have been behind two bomb attacks in Daghestan, in Kaspiysk (2002) and in Buynaksk (1999). The bombings claimed the lives of over 100 policemen and military personnel. Khalilov and another member of the group, Nabi Nabiyev, from Azerbaijan, were killed in a 12-hour operation carried out on Monday by Russian special forces in the town of Novy Sulak, in the Kizilyurt district of the republic. The battle started at 6.30 a.m. local time (2.30 a.m. GMT), when the two gunmen, holed up in a local residence, began to offer "armed resistance," a Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman said. The house the Islamists were sheltering in was subsequently destroyed by armored military vehicles during the battle, and Khalilov's death was later confirmed by the FSB. "While searching through the rubble, the bodies of two gunmen, one of them identified as Rappani Khalilov, were found," the spokesman said. He added that two members of the Russian special forces had been slightly wounded in the operation. The Federal Security Service also said that Khalilov had had close ties with international terrorist organizations. Although the active phase of the North Caucasus anti-terrorism campaign officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between gunmen and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, including Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Circassia. (RIA Novosti)

Suicide attacker wounds eight Afghan police 19 September A suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his body attacked a police patrol in southern Afghanistan, wounding eight policemen, officials said. The incident took place in the Garmsir district of Helmand province, one of the country's most insurgency-hit regions and its main opium-producing area, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal told AFP on Wednesday. "Eight police were wounded in the suicide blast, three of them are in critical condition," Andiwal said. The blast tore the attacker's body apart and pieces of flesh littered the gravel road where the bombing occurred, witnesses said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Islamic extremist Taliban movement, ousted from government by US-led forces in 2001, regularly uses suicide and roadside bomb attacks. Separately Afghan soldiers killed three militants and wounded two others in a "clean-up" operation in the central province of Wardak, a defense ministry press statement said. (AFP)

Kyrgyz leader signs decree on Constitutional referendum 19 September Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a decree calling a referendum on a draft of the republic's new Constitutional.  Bakiyev, in an address to the nation, said the proposed Fundamental law was based on recommendations of various working groups, including the Opposition's suggestions. He underlined that the formation of parliament by Party lists was the major feature of the document. The referendum also includes a draft of the new Election Code, as previous parliaments were formed by single-mandate constituencies.  Bakiyev stated he was a supporter of strong political parties, but that the existing parties in the republic did not bear responsibility for the situation. The president announced his intention to create a new party, to which he would lend his support - the party of Creativeness and Responsibility. (Itar-Tass)

U.S. officers inspect Russia's radar station 19 September A team of U.S. military experts was on Tuesday inspecting a Russian-operated radar that Moscow has proposed as an alternative to Washington's plans for a missile defence shield in Europe. Russian opposition to the U.S. missile shield plan has soured the countries' relations. Moscow says joint use of the Qabala radar in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan is a way out of the dispute, but Washington has treated the offer with caution. Russian officers were giving a U.S. delegation led by Army Brigadier General Patrick O'Reilly a guided tour of the radar site, a giant concrete block with a sloping face that stands on a hillside overlooking rolling countryside. O'Reilly is deputy director of the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency. "It is a tour of the facilities and a briefing by the Russians about their capabilities," a U.S. official told Reuters. It was the first time U.S. military experts are known to have visited the 20-year-old radar. Washington is in talks with the Czech Republic and Poland to locate radars and interceptor missiles on their soil. It says the system will protect against missile attacks from what U.S. officials call "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea. Russia says the U.S. plan is a threat to its security. In language some observers said was reminiscent of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin said if the plan goes ahead Russia will once again aim its missiles at European targets. Qabala, among the world's biggest radars, has a 6,000 km (3,750 mile) range and scans the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and most of North Africa. Russia pays Azerbaijan $7 million a year to rent the station 230 km (144 miles) north of Baku. Russian officials say the station can give early warning of any missile attacks, particularly from the Middle East and that the data can be shared in real time with the United States. U.S. President George W. Bush said the Qabala offer was "innovative", but his officials have made clear it could not be a substitute for the missile shield in Europe. (Reuters)

Rebuilding of historic Asia trade route agreed 19 September China and seven countries in and around central Asia have reached a preliminary agreement to build a $19.2bn modern-day equivalent to the historic ‘Silk Road’ trade route between China and Europe. The plan was agreed by senior officials in Manila this month and is expected to receive formal endorsement at a November ministerial meeting in Tajikistan. It is backed by the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. The ADB says less than 1 per cent of the more than $1,000bn (€721bn, £500bn) of trade between Europe and Asia is now transported through central Asia, a region that used to be at the heart of the trade route. "This is a region that is at the geographic centre but has been totally overlooked as a viable overland route by some of the new powerhouses of world trade," said Xianbin Yao, deputy director general of the ADB's central and west Asia department. The road and rail investments agreed to by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are to begin next year, for completion in 2018. The plan is not to follow the exact routes taken by the Silk Road, which was a series of roads and trails. Instead, the hope is to develop six corridors combining rail and road services from China to Europe, as well as from Russia to southern Asia and the Middle East. On the European side, the corridors will end in Turkey in the south and in Russia in the north. Russia has been invited to join the project but has yet to do so. Almost a third of the investment is expected to take place on Chinese soil and is therefore likely to involve funding from Beijing, which has been allocating growing resources to its remote western regions. Kazakhstan, central Asia's fastest-growing economy, is also expected to be an active participant as it tries to become a hub for container traffic between China, Asia, the Gulf states and Europe. Kazakhstan already has plans to spend $26bn on transport infrastructure by 2015 as it tries to modernise its 14,000km railway network and expand the Caspian port of Aktau.  (The Financial Times Limited)

Caspian Pipeline Shareholders Agree to Hike Transport Tariffs 19 September Shareholders in the only oil pipeline on Russian territory not controlled by the Russian government agreed to increase transport tariffs and restructure the operation's debt, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium said Wednesday. The agreement appeared to settle a long-running dispute over the financing and operation of the 940-mile pipeline connecting major oil fields in western Kazakhstan with the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk pipeline. The pipeline is the only one to run through Russia that is not controlled by the state-controlled monopoly OAO Transneft.  CPC shareholders voted to approve an increase in crude transportation tariffs for the Russian stretch of the pipeline to $38 a ton -- the equivalent of $5.18 a barrel -- from $30.24, as of Oct 1.  As well, interest rates on loans to the consortium will be reduced to 6 percent from 12.66 percent at present.  The U.S. Chevron Corp. is the biggest oil company involved in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, with a 15 percent stake. The governments of Russia and Kazakhstan have the largest interest with 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Other shareholders include Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and Russia's OAO Lukoil. Russia and Kazakhstan -- and its Western partners -- have long been at loggerheads over plans to double the pipeline's capacity to 1.34 million barrels per day. The expansion is vital for Kazakhstan to increase its oil exports to some 3 million barrels per day in the next decade. Russia, however, has resisted the move, which would put millions of tons of oil in competition with its oil for the limited number of tankers allowed from Novorossiisk through Turkey's overcrowded Bosporus. Russia controls nearly all export routes for Central Asia's substantial oil and gas reserves, and has maneuvered to keep U.S. and European government from laying the groundwork for new export pipelines, such as a Western-backed pipeline under the Caspian Sea. (AP)
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