Wednesday, 06 February 2008

6 February 2008 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (2/6/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)


24 January

Fathiddin Mukhsiddinov, a senior official of Tajikistan's state-owned natural gas distributor TojikGaz, said on January 24 in Dushanbe that Uzbekistan has cut its supplies of natural gas by one-third. Mukhsiddinov explained that the Uzbek decision to cut off gas supplies was due to the roughly $7 million in arrears that TojikGaz owes Uzbekistan. But he noted that the arrears arose from the fact that TojikGaz is owed some $5 million by the Tajik state-owned Barqi Tojik energy company, another $2.


24 January

Fathiddin Mukhsiddinov, a senior official of Tajikistan's state-owned natural gas distributor TojikGaz, said on January 24 in Dushanbe that Uzbekistan has cut its supplies of natural gas by one-third. Mukhsiddinov explained that the Uzbek decision to cut off gas supplies was due to the roughly $7 million in arrears that TojikGaz owes Uzbekistan. But he noted that the arrears arose from the fact that TojikGaz is owed some $5 million by the Tajik state-owned Barqi Tojik energy company, another $2.5 million by the Dushanbe cement factory, one of the country's largest industrial factories, and an estimated 144 million somonis ($41.5 million) in outstanding debt from domestic consumers. The Uzbek cutoff effectively reduces the daily supply of natural gas to Tajikistan from 3 million to 2 million cubic meters. The move will only exacerbate an already serious energy crisis in Tajikistan, and comes only days after an announcement that an electricity shortage has forced the closure of many of the country's largest industrial plants. (Asia-Plus)



24 January

The Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office announced on January 23 the creation of an ad hoc unit tasked with preventing election fraud and reacting swiftly to any reports of irregularities during the February 19 presidential ballot, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The unit will be headed by Deputy Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian, who told journalists on January 23 that so far he has not seen any evidence of serious violations. Harutiun Hambartsumian, who heads the NGO It's Your Choice, which plans to deploy observers at each of Armenia's almost 2,000 polling stations, told RFE/RL that his organization has registered only minor violations to date, and no allegations of the vote buying that was widely reported during the May 2007 parliamentary ballot. Meeting on January 22 with Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, the head of the OSCE Election Observation Mission, outgoing President Robert Kocharian affirmed that the Armenian authorities will take all available organizational measures to ensure that the conduct of the ballot meets international standards for free and fair elections, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. (RFE/RL)



25 January

Mikheil Saakashvili told the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on January 24 that the January 5 preterm presidential election, in which according to official returns he won 53.47 percent of the vote, was "successful" and demonstrates the existence of democracy in Georgia. Opposition parties, including the nine aligned in the National Council, claim the outcome was rigged to preclude a runoff between Saakashvili and National Council candidate Levan Gachechiladze, and refuse to acknowledge Saakashvili as Georgia's legitimate president.

Saakashvili also said that despite the ban imposed by Russia on imports of Georgian produce, Georgia registered 12 percent GDP growth in 2007. He reaffirmed Georgia's commitment to further Euro-Atlantic integration, noting that in a plebiscite held concurrently with the presidential ballot, 77 percent of those who cast ballots registered approval of Georgia joining NATO. As during his inauguration speech on January 20, Saakashvili again affirmed his hopes for an improvement in strained relations with Russia, saying he is "always ready" to travel to Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership. (Caucasus Press)



27 January

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov on January 26 concluded an official two-day visit to Russia, after participating in a Moscow summit meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec). Chudinov joined his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus on January 25 to discuss the terms of a draft agreement to create a new customs union agreement. The customs agreement, which follows a series of negotiations between the presidents of the Eurasec member states in 2006, is to "abolish artificial obstacles" to the movement of "people and goods" and seeks to foster eased transit and migration. Following an initial agreement among Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia to sign the agreement, the organization now plans on launching talks with the three remaining Eurasec members -- Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- for their subsequent ratification. (AKIpress)


Tajikistan asks Turkmenistan to raise electricity supplies 28 January Tajikistan has asked Turkmenistan to increase electricity supplies. This issue was in the focus of attention during Monday’s telephone conversation between the Tajikistani and Turkmenistani presidents, Emomali Rakhmov and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the Turkmenistani president’s press service said.

Rakhmon and Berdymukhammedov stressed that the energy link between the two countries was operating smoothly and in accordance with bilateral agreements, the press service said.  President Rakhmov asked his Turkmenistani counterpart to increase the amount of electricity supplied to his country due to an abnormally cold winter, the press service said.  Berdymukhammedov met this request with understanding and support, saying, “The amount of electricity supplies will increase proceeding from the possibilities of our country and the technical condition of power transmitting lines.”  The resumption of Turkmenistan-generated electricity to Tajikistan after a four-year-long pause was in the focus of numerous reciprocal visits between the presidents of the two countries in 2007. The Uzbekistani president’s visit was also dedicated to this matter, the press service said.  The three countries agreed on the delivery of one billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to Tajikistan in the autumn-winter period of 2007-2008, the press service said. At the first stage, the price is 2.1 cents per one kilowatt-hour, the press service said.  Turkmenistan will receive aluminium for its electricity supplies to Tajikistan, the press service said. (Itar-Tass)




28 January

Meeting in Tashkent, the Uzbek State Committee for Demonopolization and the Support of Competition and Entrepreneurship on January 28 approved the Russian acquisition of a major Uzbek telecommunications firm. The deal involves the purchase of 100 percent of the shares in Uzbekistan's Golden Telecom by Vimpelcom, Russia's second-largest mobile phone operator, for an undisclosed amount. In 2006, Vimpelcom took over Uzbek mobile operators Buztel and Unitel for $200 million

and $60 million respectively. (Interfax)



28 January

Speaking to the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, or Majlis, in Astana, Health Minister Anatoly

Dernovoi announced on January 28 that the total number of registered HIV cases in Kazakhstan reached 9,378 by the end of 2007, including 223 children and minors. Dernovoi noted that although new cases were reported throughout the country, the most significant increases were reported in four key regions: Karaganda, South Kazakhstan, Pavlodar, and Kostanay, as well as in the city of Almaty. He added that according to official estimates, about 74 percent of all registered HIV cases resulted from intravenous drug use. Last September, the Kazakh State Statistics Agency reported a sharp rise in the number of HIV cases since 2006, which was attributed at that time to unsanitary blood transfusions performed by medical workers who reused disposable syringes. In June 2007, a district court in Shymkent sentenced 16 doctors and medical workers to prison terms on charges of negligence for administering tainted blood transfusions to some 120 children, 10 of whom have subsequently died of AIDS. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



28 January

Police on January 26 resorted to force to disperse demonstrators who converged on Nazran to participate in a planned demonstration in support of President Putin's antiterrorism policies and to demand an end to endemic corruption among the republic's leadership. Thousands of people from all over the republic reportedly headed for Nazran to join the protest, but only between 200-300 managed to reach the designated venue. The protesters reportedly threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who retaliated by beating them and opening fire over their heads, wounding one of them. Russian media reported that the Hotel Assa and the editorial office of the government daily "Serdalo" were set ablaze, but failed to explain by whom and in what circumstances. Rather than risk a major confrontation, the organizers of the protest called on participants to disperse and scheduled a further protest for February 23. Police detained over 40 participants, most of them aged between 18-30; two human-rights activists; and several Russian journalists. The demonstrators were released late on January 26 after the parents of many of them gathered outside the Nazran police headquarters, except for four who were sentenced to three days' administrative arrest. The two human-right activists were also released, while the journalists were taken to Vladikavkaz in neighboring North Ossetia before being allowed to go free. Police thwarted a similar planned protest in Nazran two months ago. (RFE/RL)


AZERBAIJAN RELEASES CAPTURED ARMENIAN SERVICEMAN 28 January The Azerbaijani authorities handed over to Armenian military police on January 25 an Armenian serviceman, Hambartsum Asatrian, who was taken prisoner by Azerbaijani forces in August 2007, reportedly after deserting from his unit just days after beginning his compulsory military service, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Asatrian told RFE/RL after being repatriated that he strayed on to Azerbaijani territory by mistake. He also said he wanted to escape to Russia to rejoin his parents there. Asatrian claimed he was subjected to torture by Azerbaijani interrogators who sought to persuade him to testify that he deserted to avoid hazing at the hands of fellow servicemen. (RFE/RL)



29 January

The Georgian government has submitted to parliament three draft laws and 22 draft amendments to existing legislation that together are intended to transform Georgia into a global financial center and attract up to $10-12 billion in investment. The proposals include liberalization of the tax code and of customs regulations with regard to the planned Poti free economic zone; reducing income tax from 25 percent to 15 percent over the next five years; and establishing funds for the accumulation of the annual budget surplus and income from privatization. The measures are part of a broader government program for the period 2008-10 entitled "Georgia Without Poverty," according to Prime News-Business on January 28. (RFE/RL)


TAJIKISTAN REGISTERS STEEP INCREASE IN FOREIGN DEBT 30 January Tajikistan's foreign debt rose by over 29 percent in 2007 to reach $1.12 billion, according to the Tajik Finance Ministry. That sum is the equivalent of 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The ministry said the steep rise is the consequence of 11 separate loan agreements totaling $154.3 million signed in 2007. Tajikistan's largest creditors are the World Bank ($400 million), the Asian Development Bank ($300 million), and China ($216 million), which is engaged in several major highway and power-line construction projects in Tajikistan. (RFE/RL)



31 January

The campaign staff of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian have released an evaluation of the first 40 days of the campaign leading up to the February 19 presidential election, in which Ter-Petrossian is widely regarded as the most serious challenger to the government's candidate, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. That evaluation noted "many" violations on the basis of which it concluded that the ongoing campaign represents "a step backward" in comparison with previous elections. It accused Sarkisian of abusing his official position, and government media of "unprecedented" attacks on Ter-Petrossian. That latter accusation has been partly corroborated by the findings of monitoring of the Armenian media conducted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on January 30. The OSCE registered disproportionate coverage by most major television channels of Sarkisian's campaign activities compared with only minimal coverage of the other eight candidates, and noted that Ter-Petrossian "was regularly portrayed in a negative light." (RFE/RL)


Uzbekistan Restores Gas Supplies To Tajikistan 1 February Uzbekistan has restored full gas supplies to neighboring Tajikistan after Tajikgas repaid a $7 million debt, a pro-government Web site said Friday, citing a gas company executive. After the payment of the debt "the gas supply to Tajikistan has increased to 3 million cubic meters a day," Internet site quoted an official from the Uzbek company Uztransgas as saying. Uzbek gas supplies to Tajikistan were cut by a third earlier this year because of debts, causing blackouts amid freezing winter weather in the mountainous Central Asian state. Uzbekistan raised the price of gas to Tajikistan from $100 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 to $145 for 2008. Tajikistan depends almost entirely on energy imports from Uzbekistan. (AFP)


Severe weather knocks out water and power in Tajikistan 1 February Extreme cold and power cuts have left large numbers of people without water or light in Tajikistan in Central Asia, the UN children's charity, UNICEF, said Friday. A major hydro-electric power plant had been affected by falling water levels as rivers froze, threatening production, while energy supplies from neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan had also been reduced. Frozen wells and disrupted pipe supplies had left many families relying on melted snow for drinking water. The price of wood as fuel had doubled to 20 dollars, out of range of many people. At least two newborn babies had died in maternity hospitals due to electricity shortages the UN organization said in a statement. Up to 60 per cent of maternity units had no access to safe water. Children in all 3,800 schools across the country were exposed to extreme cold with many forced to stay at home. The extreme cold was set to continue throughout February, said UNICEF, which has launched an appeal for 720,000 US dollars, in response to an appeal by the Tajikistan Health Ministry, to help fund emergency generators, soap and baby blankets. (


Tajikistan seizes 500 kilograms of Afghan narcotics and arrests eight smugglers 1 February Authorities in Tajikistan claimed a rare victory against the drug smugglers working along the country's border with Afghanistan Thursday when security officers seized one of their largest hauls of illicit narcotics in years. Special service officers in the Central Asian nation late last week seized about 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs) of illegal narcotics, including 73 kilograms (160 lbs) of heroin, and detained eight smugglers, said Nozirdzhon Buriyev, a spokesman for the state security service. The impoverished former Soviet republic is a major route for trafficking illegal drugs from Afghanistan but it struggles to police the largely unmanned 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) border. Around one-fifth of Afghan opium and heroin is smuggled through Central Asia, mostly through Tajikistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The U.N. says Afghan farmers grow most of the world's illegal opium, the raw ingredient in heroin, in a trade worth more than US$3 billion. "This special operation has uncovered a transport route for contraband narcotics from Afghanistan and identified a number of Afghan citizens connected with the trade," Buriyev said. Investigators are conducting further work to establish the name and citizenship of the eight drug mules, or carriers, he said. More than 5,200 kilograms (11,500 lbs) of illegal drugs were seized in Tajikistan in 2007, a 10 percent increase on the previous year. Over 4,000 kilograms (8,800 lbs) of the seized narcotics were opium or heroin. (AP)


U.S. and Kazakhstan snub Russia with new military deal 2 February The United States promised Kazakhstan on Friday to help it bring its armed forces up to NATO standards in a new military cooperation pact certain to irritate Russia, Kazakhstan's former Soviet overlord. Kazakhstan's ties with Moscow have cooled over the past year as the energy-rich Central Asian state -- the biggest economy in the region and home to some of the world's largest oil fields -- seeks to pursue a more independent diplomacy. On a visit to Kazakhstan, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Mitchell Shivers signed a new five-year cooperation plan with Kazakhstan envisaging fresh U.S. assistance in matters ranging from military reform and equipment to education. "This is a building block in the expanding partnership between our two nations," Shivers said in remarks sent to Reuters by the U.S. embassy. "As a member of NATO, the U.S. is committed to helping Kazakhstan in improving its inter-operability with equipment and training to U.S. and NATO standards." Kazakhstan inherited its military force from Russia and it relies on Moscow for most of its defense contracts. Any deviation from this tradition annoys Russia which sees Central Asia as part of its sphere of interest. Russia has long criticized NATO's military expansion towards Russia as a throwback to the Cold War and expressed displeasure when ex-Soviet Ukraine applied to NATO to take the first steps towards membership this month. In a symbolic gesture of support for the West, Kazakhstan has sent a contingent of military engineers to assist U.S. military efforts in Iraq. Kazakhstan has, however, stressed it would continue buying hardware from Russia. Washington has also shown interest in Kazakh plans to build up its naval force on the Caspian Sea to guard its offshore oilfields and diversify arms imports. "We declare our intention to strengthen our security relationship through increased dialogue and defense military cooperation," the two sides said in a joint statement. Shivers added: "We are very excited about this expanding partnership with the Kazakhstan ministry of defense, its armed forces and the people of Kazakhstan." (Reuters)


Kazakhstan raises Central Asian gas transit fee 4 February Kazakhstan has raised its fee for the transit of Turkmen and Uzbek gas to Russia to $1.4 per 1,000 cubic metres across 100 km from $1.1, the state gas pipeline company said on Monday. Russia's Gazprom buys about 55 billion cubic metres of Central Asian gas annually and resells it mostly to Ukraine. KazTransGas, the Kazakh state gas pipeline company, said in a statement the new fee would remain in place for at least one year. Reuters had reported the increase on Jan.  25, citing a source in state oil and gas company KazMunaiGas [KMG.UL]. Gas supplies from Central Asia help Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, cover demand in the former Soviet world as well as Europe to offset stagnant output in Siberia. Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have raised prices for their gas this year. A spike in Turkmen gas prices has already led to a 38 percent price rise for Kiev, which is paying $179.50 per 1,000 cubic metres from the New Year. (Reuters)


EU to open its offices in Azerbaijan, Armenia 1 February The European Union (EU) intends to open its permanent offices in Azerbaijan and Armenia next week. They will be inaugurated during visits to the South Caucasus countries due on February 4-6 by the EU Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency. During the trips to Armenia and Azerbaijan the officials intend to meet with national leaders and discuss prospects for the intensification of economic cooperation and ways in which the EU can help resolve frozen conflicts in their territories. (Itar-Tass)


EU Officials Seek Better Ties With Azerbaijan 4 February The European Union wants to boost ties with energy- rich Azerbaijan and supports plans to ship gas from Central Asia across the Caspian Sea for delivery to Europe, senior E.U. officials said Monday. The E.U. opened its first diplomatic mission in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan Monday during a high-level visit by officials including External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel. "We are designing new plans and also new projects to encourage more cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan," said Rupel, whose country currently holds the E.U.'s rotating presidency. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov praised the opening of the new diplomatic mission as "a very important step in the development of our relations." Ferrero-Waldner said "energy is very high on our mutual agenda" and pledged support for a proposed pipeline to ship gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, bypassing Russia to feed European markets. She also encouraged Azerbaijani participation in the E.U.'s Nabucco project, a 3,300 kilometer pipeline to transport gas from the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe. The flagship pipeline is scheduled for completion in 2012. "The trans-Caspian pipeline and also the Nabucco pipeline are of high interest to the European side and indeed we will work closely with our Azeri friends in order to make things happen," she said. Both officials said they hoped to see further democratic development in Azerbaijan, where critics accuse President Ilham Aliyev of persecuting opponents and muzzling the media. Presidential elections due in late 2008 "will be an opportunity to demonstrate the attachment of Azerbaijan to European values and to further cooperation with the European Union," Rupel said. Azerbaijan, a U.S.-friendly Muslim state wedged between Russia and Iran, is a key partner in a Western-backed corridor of oil and gas pipelines built in recent years to deliver Caspian energy resources to the West. (AFP)


Haddad Adel: Iran's scientific developments belong to world Muslims, friends 5 February Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said on Tuesday that the remarkable achievements of Iranian scientists in launching Explorer-1 into space as well as construction its launch pad were dedicated to world Muslims. Iran is ready to fully cooperate with Muslim countries in various scientific fields, Haddad Adel said. According to the Information and Press Bureau of Majlis, Haddad Adel made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Azeri deputy head of Iran-Azerbaijan parliamentary friendship group Addar Ibrahimov. "World Muslims should not be dependent on the West forever and give them permission to do whatever they wish with Muslim nations," he said. He voiced Iran's readiness to broaden all-out ties and cooperation with Azerbaijan. Given the historical, cultural and religious commonalties, he said these relations enable the two sides to deepen ties more than before, he said. Iran is determined to bolster and expand cooperation with Azerbaijan, he said adding that the two sides should be watchful not to harm the ties. Iran was among the first to recognize independent Azerbaijan, he said adding that from the early years of Azerbaijan's independence, Iranian people and government have always backed Azeri nation through hardship. The Azeri official, for his part, said his country's high ranking officials are determined to broaden all-out ties with Iran. The Azeri people never forget Iran's kindness and support, he said. Iranian companies play a much active role in implementing various infrastructure projects in Azerbaijan, he underlined. He thanked Iran for supporting his country's territorial integrity. (IRNA)


GUAM to mull cooperation with U.S., Japan, Poland – govt 5 February

GUAM, an association bringing together Georgia,  Ukraine,  Azerbaijan  and  Moldova,  will  hold  a  meeting on February  12-13  to  consider guidelines for cooperation with the United States,  Japan  and  Poland,  among  other issues, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.The  meeting,  which  will  be held in Kyiv and at which the member states will be represented by their national GUAM coordinators for GUAM, will also  consider  interaction  between member countries in seeking to settle conflicts  under  the UN aegis, ministry spokesman Vasyl Kyrylych told a briefing in Kyiv. The  meeting's  agenda  includes  preparations  for  a planned GUAM summit in   Tbilisi   and  aspects  of  cooperation  between  individual industries of GUAM member states. The  meeting would also work on protocols to an agreement to set up a GUAM virtual  center  for  fighting  terrorism, organized crime, drug- trafficking  and  other  particularly dangerous forms of crime and to an agreement to set up a GUAM information and analysis system. The  coordinators  would  examine  documents  on  an  intellectual property agreement as well. Ukraine  has  proposed  that  the  meeting  consider more extensive cooperation  in  the energy and transportation industries, the country's Foreign Ministry said. The  meeting  would  also  deal with organizational aspects of GUAM activities and the operation of its secretariat in Kyiv. (Interfax)


Putin makes surprise visit to mountains 5 February President Vladimir Putin on Monday visited a military unit in an area of the North Caucasus where fighting in 1999 led to the Chechen war that first propelled him to popularity. Putin made the surprise trip to the mountains of violence-plagued Dagestan province, adjacent to Chechnya, at a time when he is maneuvering to retain power after next month's presidential elections. He is barred from running for a third consecutive term, but said he would become prime minister if his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, is elected president. State-run television showed Putin speaking to soldiers in one of two brigades of mountain troops deployed last year in Russia's North Caucasus, near the country's southern border, under a decree he signed in 2006. The brigade is based in Dagestan's Botlikh district, the site of armed incursions by Islamic militants from Chechnya in August 1999, the month President Boris Yeltsin named the relatively little-known Putin as his prime minister. Russian forces entered Chechnya weeks after the attacks, starting the second of two post-Soviet wars in the mostly Muslim region and driving its separatist leadership from power. The new war was popular among Russians, in part because it followed deadly apartment-building bombings blamed on Chechen rebels, and Putin's tough stance boosted his image. Yeltsin stepped down in December 1999 and ceded the presidency to Putin, who was elected the following March. Putin also visited Botlikh in 1999. On Monday, accompanied by several Cabinet ministers, he met with local officials there and discussed economic issues of interest in Dagestan. The poor province is troubled by violence linked to the conflict in Chechnya, a police crackdown on Islamic militancy and internal disputes and power struggles.While major fighting died down in Chechnya years ago and the region is controlled by a Kremlin-backed government, militant attacks and alleged abuses of civilians by government forces have increased in surrounding provinces in the North Caucasus. (AP)


U.S. Administration proposes $24 million aid for Armenia in FY 2008 5 February

Given Armenia’s support in the global war against terrorism as well as the ongoing attempts by Turkey and Azerbaijan to isolate Armenia, the Armenian Assembly of America today expressed its opposition to the Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Budget. As in years past, the Budget proposal calls for asymmetrical military assistance to Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Administration’s spending plan recommends $3 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to both countries, but Azerbaijan is slated to receive $600,000 more than Armenia ($300,000) in Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev recently proclaimed that "Armenia did not win the war. The war is not over. Only the first stage of the war has been completed." He added that Nagorno Karabakh will never be independent. "Given Azerbaijan’s increased war rhetoric, I have strong concerns with giving any military aid to Azerbaijan, and we definitely should not give them more than we’re providing Armenia," stated Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI). "I will work with my colleagues to ensure that Armenia has the resources needed to continue to strengthen its democracy as well as ensure its security," continued Knollenberg. The FY 2009 Budget also calls for $24 million in economic assistance to Armenia, the lowest request to date made by the Administration. The figure represents $34 million less than what Congress approved last year, and $11 million less than the Administration’s request in FY 2008. Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny echoed Congressman Knollenberg’s concerns, stating: "President Bush missed an important opportunity to demonstrate that his Administration is serious about a policy of regional cooperation and economic integration in the region." "Azerbaijan’s continued threats to resume war, undermines U.S. objectives in the region and I am confident that Congress will reject this approach," Ardouny added. "In a budget that calls for over $39 billion in the International Affairs account, $24 million for Armenia is woefully inadequate. Rather than reduce funding to Armenia, we urge the Administration to work with Congress to end the dual blockades imposed upon her by Turkey and Azerbaijan." The announcement is the first step in a lengthy budget process. The next step is for the House and Senate to review the Administration’s request through committee hearings. (


Uzbekistan suspends electric power supplies to Tajikistan 6 February Uzbekistan has suspended electric power supplies to neighbouring Tajikistan that is experiencing global energy crisis, the deputy head of the Tajik state-run electricity provider Barki Tojik, Rashid Gulov, said on Wednesday. This is a short-term suspension caused by Uzbekistan’s domestic difficulties, including the lack of fuel for electric power generation, he said. Within days Uzbekistan will resume electric power supplies of 2.2 million kilowatt-hours. At the request of the Tajik government and President Emomali Rakhmon Turkmenistan doubled electric power export to Tajikistan to 6.6 million kilowatt-hours per day, Gulov said. In compliance with an intergovernmental agreement Ashgabat will supply 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours to Tajikistan in winter/spring. Although electric power supplies were increased, Tajik population’s electricity consumption is restricted to two-three hours per day. This restriction is linked with lower electric power generation at the republic’ s largest Nurek hydropower plant over water level reduction in the water storage reservoir. Meanwhile, Tajikistan has unusually cold winter for the first time over the past 25 years. Tajik weather forecasters warn over the Siberian anti-cyclone that will bring cold weather with 15 degrees below zero after February 7. (Itar-Tass)


Kazakhstan practices own political state system model-president 6 February Kazakhstan will be improving its model of political state system combining the generally recognised regularities of democratic development and traditions of the society, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in his annual address to the nation on Wednesday.  “Over 16 years of independence we have materialised our own model of ensuring public stability, the formation of Kazakh identity, nationwide patriotism of Kazakhstan. It is our Kazakh know how and we are rightfully proud of it and must carefully safeguard it,” the president stressed.  “No matter what they say, we are following our own path, we are not behind anybody regarding freedoms and human rights, but all our actions on further steps in this sphere as well we will correlate with stability in our country,” Nazarbayev emphasised.  The president of Kazakhstan noted once again that for “the further strengthening of the state, its security and sustainable development of the economy it is necessary to have long-term stability, peace and accord.” (Itar-Tass)
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