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RFE/RL Review June 17, 2005

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
June 11-17, 2005

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN AIRS TRUTH ABOUT CHOLERA EPIDEMIC RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan is airing daily reports on an outbreak of cholera in Kabul that initially was being disguised by local authorities variously as summer flu or simple diarrhea.
RFE/RL's Central News in Prague contacted the World Health Organization, which confirmed that more than 3,000 people are now reporting the symptoms of cholera and that at least eight people have died. The UN's health agency asserted that debate over the type of disease that has broken out in Kabul in recent weeks is irrelevant, and that Afghans need to know that the measures necessary to prevent and treat the illness, no matter what it is called, are the same as for cholera.
In Kabul, Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents went to hospitals to interview patients, doctors and nurses. The service also contacted the Ministry of Health and interviewed other officials to find out what measures the government is taking to contain the outbreak. The disease is water-borne and officials told Radio Free Afghanistan they have launched a project to chlorinate hundreds of drinking-water wells across the city.
Radio Free Afghanistan has broadcast interviews with doctors and experts, who have advised listeners of the dangers of poor hygiene and sanitation. Other Radio Free Afghanistan programs told listeners about appropriate treatment -- oral re-hydration with salts and fluids that are available in the region can dramatically improve chances of survival.
An article in English by Central News correspondent Ron Synovitz on the outbreak can be found on RFE/RL's website, at; Radio Free Afghanistan's Dari- and Pashto-language coverage may be sampled at the service's website, ** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ ON PROCEDURAL AGREEMENT WITH SUNNIS... Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad correspondent has been following weeks of political wrangling over the composition of the committee tasked with drafting a new constitution. RFI was present at the announcement of an agreement with Sunni representatives on participation on the panel June 16, and broadcast that same day agreement satisfies both sides. Speaking about the number of Sunnis on the comments by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, who told an RFI reporter that the constitution-drafting committee, Talabani said: "The number that has been agreed upon, as I heard, is 15 representatives and 10 consultants. But we have to underline one thing and that is the number is not very important, because the decisions are taken by consensus." Under the procedural rules of the Constitutional Committee, all decisions must be reached with the agreement of all committee members, not by majority vote.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Central News broadcast June 16, Baha Aldin al-Naqshabandi, a spokesperson of the largest Sunni political party -- the Iraqi Islamic Party -- explained the issue this way: "If there are one or two persons on this committee from the Sunni, they can not put in the viewpoint of the Sunni clearly. But if there are many members, they will give the viewpoint strength and clarity." He welcomed the latest compromise as clearing the way for now choosing Sunni representatives from a spectrum of Sunni Arab parties and groups that want to take part in writing the constitution. "The representatives will be chosen from all the Sunni sides, like the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Muslims of Scholarship [the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association], the Sunni al-Waqf [Sunni religious endowment body], and other sides of the Sunni forces, political forces I mean," al- Naqshabandi said, adding that the appointment of Sunni Arab representatives should be completed in a matter of days.
The Constitutional Committee, which was established following January parliamentary elections mostly boycotted by the Sunni Arab community, had included two Sunni Arabs. All sides have long agreed that was too few to assure the Sunni Arabs felt represented in Iraq's political process, which currently is dominated by Shi'a and Kurdish parties.
An article in English by Central News correspondent Charles Recknagel on the agreement can be found on RFE/RL's website, at; an analysis of the deal by OnLine journalist Kathleen Ridolfo is at ** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

...FIRST GRADUATION AT ASSYRIAN SCHOOL, NEW MULTI-LINGUAL IRAQI TV CHANNEL Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad correspondent visited the Ibn al-Haytham Elementary School to attend the June 9 graduating ceremony of the first class taught in the Syriac (also known as Assyrian) language. He interviewed one of the teachers, Ban Anwiye, who said: "This achievement is the first step in strengthening our Assyrian identity and language as the members of the Chaldeo-Assyrian-Syriac people in Iraq. This is the first step in our life and society. It is a new style in teaching and education. It gives us, of course, substantial optimism... This step will open new space also for other languages."
Immanuel Musa Shakwana, Syriac Teaching Director at Iraq's ministry of education, told RFI: "Having the first elementary class of pupils who have graduated in the Syriac language is important because it is the first experience in Baghdad. Last year, there was already the same experience in Kirkuk... We hope that in the next school year 2005/2006, this teaching will extend and that more parents will be interested in registering their children in Syriac classes or schools. This is very important because when the child learns all subjects in his or her mother tongue, he or she will grasp them better then if learning them in another language."
Following the theme of equality and self-expression through language, Radio Free Iraq's correspondent in Irbil interviewed George Mansour, director of the Iraqi Media Network after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and currently director of Ishtar satellite TV that is preparing a multi-lingual channel. Mansour told RFI on June 10: "The channel will broadcast in the Syriac, Kurdish, and Arabic languages. It will aim at acquainting various communities in Iraq with the heritage and culture of the Chaldeo-Assyrian-Syriac people... and at strengthening relations and a sense of community among the Iraqi people in general." He added: "I believe that now, in new Iraq we must all work together for its benefit, for the benefit of this Iraq that we were dreaming of and fighting for." Asked about the profile of the broadcast, Mansour described it as a "miscellaneous channel", elaborating: "there will be news; programs on arts, culture, and heritage; sports programs; family programs; emissions for children; as well as political programs."
Mansour highlighted the focus of Ishtar TV saying: "I think the main issue is that the Arab and partly also Iraqi media have been focusing on the negative events happening in Iraq, on explosions, killing, looting, and so on. But they have not paid attention so far to the positive events that are really going on today in Iraq." On the increasing number of satellite TV channels in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Mansour pointed out: "I believe it is a healthy phenomenon... The good [channels] will remain... In the first year after the fall of the regime [of Saddam Hussein], more than 100 newspapers appeared, and the number has now decreased. But the space is open for everyone... I think that it is good if someone can establish a satellite TV channel but, in the end, every channel must have its viewers. So programming must be structured to benefit the viewer." ** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

LUKASHENKA BIOGRAPHER DISCUSSES BOOK ON BELARUS SERVICE CHAT On June 15, RFE/RL's Belarus Service conducted its sixth on-line conference of the year. The special guest was Alyaksandr Fiaduta, a one-time supporter and now vocal critic of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Fiaduta is the author of a recently-published biography of Lukashenka, "Lukaszenko. Palitycznaj biagrafia".
In 1994, Fiaduta was one of the young politicians who supported Lukashenka in his bid for the presidency and was instrumental in bringing him to power. However, after only 6 months in the post of Chairman of the Information Office of the President's Administration, Fiaduta resigned. The biography -- which recounts Lukashenka' presidential campaigns in 1994 and 2001, the disappearances of well- known politicians, and Lukashenka's alleged ambitions for the top seat in the Kremlin -- was published in Russia but is unavailable in Belarusian bookstores.
Fiaduta answered over 80 questions from Belarusian Service listeners and visitors to its site (a transcript of the on-line conference, in Belarusian, is available on the service's website at He said he was pessimistic about a change in the country's leadership after next year's scheduled presidential election, as Lukashenka will never cede power willingly. He further views the opposition as weak and incapable of providing a charismatic alternative. ** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE FOLLOWS TOUR OF KREMLIN ENVOY... The North Caucasus Service this week covered a visit by Kremlin envoy Dmitry Kozak to two volatile Russian North Caucasus republics -- Ingushetia and Dagestan. Kozak was there to back the staunchly pro- Putin leaders of those republics, Murat Zyazikov and Magomedali Magomedov, respectively.
On June 12, Russian President Putin nominated Zyazikov, the incumbent president of the Republic of Ingushetia, as the candidate for another term in office. The People's Assembly of Ingushetia met three days later, on June 15 to approve presidential powers for Zyazikov, a former senior official of Russia's Federal Security Service (successor to the Soviet KGB). Thirty one deputies participated in the session, 30 voted for Zyazikov and one against.
The North Caucasus Service interviewed the only deputy who voted against the Zyazikov appointment. Musa Ozdoyev, leader of the local opposition, expressed profound concern over the reappointment of Zyazikov, who, Ozdoyev says, has been unable to eradicate corruption and poverty in the territory, or put an end to the "disappearances" of young men, many of which are blamed on pro-Russian security forces.
Kozak was also expected to attend a legislative session in neighboring Dagestan to consider the resignation of Dagestan's leader Magomedali Magomedov, who turned 75 on June 15. Regional lawmakers said the Kremlin had been pushing for Magomedov's resignation, amid continuing violence against police and government officials that has put the republic, which borders Chechnya, on edge.
But in a rare, exclusive interview with RFE/RL North Caucasus Service correspondent Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva shortly after his arrival in Dagestan, Kozak strongly backed Magomedov. He will remain in office, he said, until the end of his term in 2006. The interview aired June 15. Gadzhiyeva managed to get the interview with Kozak at the regional airport, as he was departing Dagestan.
With no accreditation possible from the Russian Federation, RFE/RL North Caucasus Service correspondents are effectively barred from attending official meetings and news conferences.
An analysis in English of Dmitry Kozak's work in the North Caucasus, by OnLine journalist Liz Fuller, is available on the RFE/RL website at ** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

...COVERS ONGOING HORROR IN CHECHNYA RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service carried a report June 16 showing that death and suffering are still a routine diet for many citizens of Chechnya.
In the town of Prigorodnoye on the southern outskirts of the Chechen capital of Grozny, pro-Russian law enforcement officers popularly known as "Kadyrovtsi" after their leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, carry out raids almost weekly. The last such operation took place June 14 and ended with separate incidents of a death, a beating, a stabbing and a fugitive.
Aslanbek Dadayev, a Chechnya-based correspondent for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service spoke by phone to a man who witnessed the events ( According to the eyewitness, identified only as "Islam", the problem started when members of the Chechen presidential security service arrived in Prigorodnoye to arrest a young man. They found he wasn't at home, tried to take his father instead and beat the old man savagely when he resisted being dragged off.
The women in the house and their neighbors came to the old man's aid and villagers gathered round. The security officers had come in two cars and called for two more to get control of the situation. In the fighting and shooting that ensued, one of the villagers had a heart attack and died on the spot. The security officers, unable to handcuff the father, hit him with a rifle butt. They were dragging him unconscious out of the house when his daughter caught up with them and stabbed one of the officers in the neck with a kitchen knife. She fled and could not be found, although the officers searched for her all day. The witness said, "In spite of the fact that they brought death to the village and aroused anger among the people here, they spent the whole day here looking for her. But apparently she managed to escape. Even the backup didn't help."
The heart attack victim was a 67-year-old man who, neighbors said, simply couldn't take anymore. According to the witness, villagers were so angry by his death that the security officers were afraid to remain and called off the search for the young woman and drove off with her father. He remains in detention, whereabouts unknown. His young daughter is a fugitive and may never be able to return home safely. According to unconfirmed reports, the man she stabbed in defense of her father died on the way to hospital. ** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

RUSSIAN SERVICE BRIDGES MEDIA GAP ON KHODORKOVSKY Russian media have largely ignored the Yukos/Khodorkovsky case since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted and sentenced May 31 to 9 years in prison. RFE/RL's Russian Service is bridging this information gap with daily reports on the consequences of the case for investment in Russia and the Russian economy, as well as the many questionable legal aspects of the case and strategies for appealing the verdict.
In a June 15 segment of the Russian Service's flagship "Time of Liberty" program (, the service's Berlin correspondent reported on a press conference given there by the visiting Robert Amsterdam, Khodorkovsky's Canadian lawyer. Amsterdam spoke about violations of the law during the trial, and how western democracies view the Russian government's ruin of the Yukos company and confiscation of its assets. ** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

UKRAINIAN SERVICE HOSTS OLIGARCH MEDVEDCHUK AT KYIV STUDIO RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service always seeks to find contrasting personalities from across the Ukrainian political spectrum to appear on its popular daily, one-hour live call-in show, "Evening Svoboda". On June 15, one of the guests in the service's Kyiv studio was Viktor Medvedchuk -- head of the United Social Democrat party (SDPU), former chief of the presidential administration under President Leonid Kuchma, and still one of the most influential politicians and richest "oligarchs" in Ukraine.
Medvedchuk has low popularity in Ukraine, but is still regarded as an important political player with strong ties to Russia. Since President Viktor Yushchenko took office, Medvedchuk has kept a low profile and given no interviews.
His participation on the RFE/RL Ukrainian talk show was Medvedchuk's first public appearance since the December election, and was widely covered by Ukrainian media on June 16. Medvedchuk talked about the Kuchma era and said unequivocally that the former president has retired from politics for good.
The program, moderated by RFE/RL's Vasyl Zilhalov also featured as Medvedchuk's political opponent leading Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo, a fellow at the Ukrainian World Economic and International Affairs Institute.
Archived audio and a transcript of the talk show in Ukrainian is available on the service's website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Olga Buriak, may be reached by email at <>.

BALKANS COMMISSIONER URGES ACTION IN RFE/RL INTERVIEW Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, a member of the independent International Commission on the Balkans, headed by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Language Service (SSALS). During the interview, she warned against "a sense of drift in the Balkans" and urged constructive action to get the region back on track.
In the program aired June 12, Neville-Jones said "the danger of neglect is very great, because that part of the world is not stable and if it is not moving forward it will move back into further economic distress, further political disorganization and disunity." Neville- Jones added that Commission members and the EU have "an obligation to ourselves, let alone an obligation to our neighbors, actually to pursue a proper program."
Neville-Jones noted that the Commission's findings are less positive than assessments by EU officials: "We did not expect before we went there to find quite as serious a situation as we found it, the sense of drift, the sense of danger of going backwards, the lack of hope and ambition for the future, and above all in Kosovo the real danger of renewed conflict and that worried us a greet deal. If you visit the region you come to the conclusion it is timely urgent to regroup policy," Neville-Jones said.
A transcript of the interview can be found on the South Slavic service's website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

DEFENSE MINISTER TELLS RFE/RL THAT MOLDOVA MAY JOIN NATO Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Plesca gave an exclusive interview to the RFE/RL Romania/Moldova Service's correspondent in Chisinau June 15, in which he said for the first time that Moldova is not ruling out the possibility that it may join NATO at some point. Plesca's statement follows a visit by President Vladimir Voronin to NATO headquarters in Brussels last month and is the most explicit statement to date on the issue of Moldovan membership in NATO. The interview was quoted by Flux news agency, websites and in Moldova and other media.
Archived audio of the interview can be heard on the service's website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

ROMANIAN SERVICE COMMEMORATES 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF MINER'S MARCH... RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service commemorated this week's 15th anniversary of the bloody events of 1990, when 20,000 coal miners marched on Bucharest and crushed pro-democracy demonstrations against the rule of then-president Ion Iliescu. The military prosecutor investigating the case has charged Iliescu with orchestrating the violence against students in Bucharest's University Square, June 13-15, 1990. According to official figures, six people died and 560 were wounded in the clashes. The Association of the Victims of Miners puts the figures at 100 deaths, 700 wounded and more than 1500 people illegally arrested and illegally investigated by the miners and solders afterwards.
In addition to reports on the investigation and analyses of the events, the Romanian Service broadcast an international press review from the period compiled from archive material, and aired on June 13 exclusive interviews with three young people involved in the events: a theatre critic who was one of the leaders of the Students' League, which organized a marathon pro-democracy meeting that was forcibly disrupted by the miners, a young woman who left the country after the riots and now lives in England (she had traveled to the Jiu Valley mining region one month after the bloody events to speak with the miners), and a set-designer who was severely beaten by the miners because he was wearing unconventional clothes and spent weeks in hospital. Archived audio of the three interviews can be heard at and
The programs got a lot of response from listeners in Romania and in the diaspora. One Romanian Service listener, now in the state of Maryland in the U.S. (name withheld) wrote: "I am living far away from my country and any connection with it is very welcomed. I discovered RFE on the Internet. I am too young to have listened to your programs before 1989... I am listening now to a program about the arrival of the miners in Bucharest and I could not stop myself from wanting to write to you and say THANK YOU, because you still exist and you are still fighting for us." ** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

...FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION On June 15, RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service broadcast an exclusive interview with U.S. State Department anti-corruption expert John Brandolino, who spoke about the need for Romanian authorities to engage with greater efficiency in the fight against corruption as a key factor for democratic development. Archived audio of the Brandolino interview can be found on the service's website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL SPOTLIGHTS INVOLVEMENT OF SERB EXTREMIST IN WAR CRIME RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) June 16 aired an exclusive interview with Natasa Kandic, director of the Belgrade- based Fund for Humanitarian Law about her allegation that Tomislav Nikolic, acting president of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, was involved in the murder of 50 elderly Croatian civilians in the village of Antin in 1991. Nikolic served as a volunteer in Serb paramilitary units that operated at that time in Croatia.
Participating in the SSALS show "Night Guest" Kandic said that she received the information from a number of sources: "I have information that the military counter intelligence service possesses a whole file on the atrocities, but it has hidden this evidence from the public." She said further that "if Serbia were a democratic state than the authorities would make public the file of military counter intelligence service on this issue. Unfortunately, the whole infrastructure of Milosevic's regime has remained almost intact, wielding clout from behind the scenes, and (President) Kostunica instead of dismantling, mostly continues the policy of his predecessor."
An SSALS correspondent in Serbia also spoke to the accused Nikolic and to a witness of the crime. Tomislav Nikolic in the RFE/RL interview denied the charges saying: "it's a totally groundless accusation. I asked her (Kandic) to prove it but she has failed so far. It's only true that I was in Antin but one month after the alleged crime occurred." The witness, one of the few survivors of the Antin killing, Rozalija Strinic, told RFE/RL about her horrible experience 14 years ago. In her words: "I found in a cellar my first neighbor Marica Mihalj murdered, covered in blood. I reported it to the Yugoslav army, but strangely, in the meantime, the corpse disappeared. This scenario was repeated in a few more cases. What I know directly is that 28 people from our village were murdered all together." Regarding the involvement of Tomislav Nikolic, Strinic said his name had been circulating around in the village but she could not confirm he was present. The program was broadcast on June 16.
An article on the war crimes accusations facing Tomislav Nikolic can be found on the SSALS website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL ON LOCATION AS KYRGYZ PROTESTERS STORM "WHITE HOUSE"... RFE/RL correspondent Amanbek Japarov of the Kyrgyz Service Radio Azattyk was at the scene of a major protest in Bishkek June 17, when hundreds of supporters of businessman Urmat Baryktabasov stormed the main government building to demand his registration as a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. Japarov recorded protesters shouting "people forward, people forward," and the sound of tear gas shots fired by Kyrgyz police. More than 1,000 Kyrgyz police and troops sealed off the area and eventually drove out the protesters.
The Central Election Commission denied Baryktabasov registration for the July 10 election because he is a citizen of neighboring Kazakhstan. RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondents were inside the building with the protesters and outside with the police.
Tursunbek Akun, the head of the Human Rights Commission under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's administration, who was also in front of the government building, said during a phone interview to RFE/RL that he opposes the use of force: "We intended to negotiate [with the protestors], but force was used [to disperse them]. There is no fighting, but the protestors were forced out of the [government building]... I am totally against using force."
In a later program, RFE/RL broadcast comments by Kyrgyzstan's acting Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov who said "They (the protesters) must know that we will not tolerate plundering taking place in Bishkek. We've taken steps in order to put the Interior Ministry personnel on alert. To assist the police, we will set up special groups that will patrol Bishkek all day long... These people congregated [near the government's headquarters] for money. They did not come to defend ideas. They were all bought. If they had come to defend ideas, they wouldn't have fled, true? No one will support these adventurous actions... We are ready to defend Bishkek any time, day or night."
Kyrgyz authorities and analysts said the riot was instigated by supporters of former president Askar Akayev and that the incident underscores continuing high tensions in the country with many Akayev appointees still holding positions of influence.
An analysis of the June 17 events in Bishkek, by Central News correspondent Gulnoza Saidazimova, can be found on the RFE/RL website at; Kyrgyz Service coverage of the events, in Kyrgyz and Russian, can be found on the service's website, ** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

....FOLLOWS FATE OF UZBEK ASYLUM SEEKERS... Baitemir Ibraev, a prosecutor in Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-Abad Oblast, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 16 June that 12 Uzbek asylum seekers have been transferred from a camp to a detention facility in Osh. According to information provided by Uzbek authorities, the twelve, who were part of a group of more than 400 asylum seekers currently housed in a camp in Jalal-Abad Oblast, had been serving prison terms in Andijon on charges of religious extremism, Ibraev said. They were freed during a prison break on the night of 12 May, and subsequently fled to Kyrgyzstan. Ibraev said that other asylum seekers suspected of playing a role in unrest in Andijon on 13 May will also be transferred to the detention facility in Osh for additional investigation.
A report on the repatriation of the twelve Uzbek asylum-speakers, in Russian, can be found on the Kyrgyz Service's website at ** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

...INTERVIEWS U.S. AMBASSADOR TO KYRGYZSTAN ON UZBEKS, ELECTIONS U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Stephen Young gave an interview on June 16 to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and two other Kyrgyz media on the upcoming elections and the issue of the Uzbek asylum seekers. Ambassador Young asserted that "Kyrgyzstan should not send any of the refugees back to Uzbekistan without having allowed them to be screened by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for possible acceptance of the status of a political refugee."
Regarding Kyrgyzstan's upcoming 10 July presidential election, Young said the U.S. does not endorse any single candidate "but what we support is the creation of a level playing field so that free, fair, and transparent elections are possible." Young added, "We are devoting $2.7 million specifically to elections as part of a $4 million fund that is going to developing associated institutional reforms here in Kyrgyzstan."
A report on Ambassador Young's interview with the Kyrgyz Service can be found on the service's website, at ** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

EXPERT ANALYZES SAAKASHVILI PRESIDENCY FOR GEORGIAN SERVICE RFE/RL's Georgian Service broadcast, in several parts, an extensive interview with Georgia's leading political scientist, Ghia Nodia. Nodia evaluated the success of President Mikheil Saakashvili's efforts over the past 18 months to transform Georgia from a corrupt "failed state" into a democracy with a market economy. Nodia gave the interview during a visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague.
According to Nodia, Saakashvili's election gave "a big boost, a very big impetus to Georgia's drive to democracy." But he said there were many problems in Saakashvili's presidency, including confusion about his agenda, stemming from the Georgian president's inconsistent and sometimes contradictory statements, particularly regarding solutions for the separatist aspirations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and relations with Russia. Nodia said "there is a continuing sense of uncertainty about Saakashvili's government, and its ability to keep its act together." He said Saakashvili's main task now is "to convince the Georgian people and the international community that he is a stable leader who can continue a comprehensive reform program for the long term."
A transcript in English of the Nodia interview, by Central News correspondent Robert Parsons, can be found on the RFE/RL website at ** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>.

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