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RFE/RL Review May 31, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
May 15-31, 2006

RFE/RL TALKS TO ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE RICHARD BOUCHER RFE/RL's Central News correspondent in Washington, Andrew Tully, interviewed Richard Boucher, the U.S. State Department's former spokesman who was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, about U.S. policy in the region and his new responsibilities.
During the interview, aired May 20 by several RFE/RL language services, ( Boucher commented on negotiations with the Kyrgyz government to renew the U.S. lease of the Manas airfield, saying that the airfield is an important element in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, against drug-smuggling and supports humanitarian operations in the region. He is confident a friendly solution can be reached on the issue.
On rising violence in Afghanistan, Boucher said "the Afghan army, NATO, and coalition forces are extending the reach of government farther out into Afghanistan and to places where there's not been a lot of it before," adding "that's a fundamental process of building an Afghan nation, a sovereign Afghan nation, that is in everybody's interest." Boucher noted that Taliban elements go back and forth across the Afghan border with Pakistan and "these violent Taliban are a challenge to Pakistan as well as to Afghanistan. They undermine the Pakistani state." He said effectively extending government on both sides of the border in a coordinated fashion will ultimately end the threat to both nations.
Asked about the situation in Turkmenistan, Boucher said "there is little or no freedom in Turkmenistan in any political sense or economic sense, for that matter," and that the U.S. is doing what it can "to lay some of the foundations of education, of opportunity that can eventually lead to a better life for all the people of Turkmenistan." He was pessimistic about Uzbekistan, saying: "Uzbekistan is more and more closed off, its people are more and more deprived of the opportunity to trade, to meet, to talk with other people, its students are finding it harder and harder to go abroad for study or exchange programs. And frankly we are very dismayed that the government is closing off opportunity for its citizens. We would like to be able to help, but you can't do it unless the government's willing to provide its citizens with that opportunity." Boucher said there were such opportunities in Kazakhstan and that the U.S. has a number of joint projects there. The U.S. is also assisting Kazakhstan with democratization, according to Boucher: "Our relationship with Kazakhstan is that we want to move forward on all fronts: on political fronts, on economic fronts, on security fronts, including democracy. That's our goal."

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN COVERS KABUL RIOTING... RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan had two correspondents on the scene of a major riot in Kabul May 29, following a traffic accident in which a U.S. military truck reportedly collided with several civilian cars, leaving as many as five people dead. Afterwards, hundreds of Afghans went on a rampage, burning and looting. The protesters then marched to the city center, chanting anti-American and anti-Karzai slogans. By the end of the day, the death toll had reached 20 and more than 150 wounded. Radio Free Afghanistan reported on developments throughout the day, breaking live into regular newscasts. The news was updated with eyewitness interviews and statements by security officials every hour.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Josef Stanikzai gave an exclusive interview to a Kabul-based Radio Free Afghanistan reporter May 30 in which he rejected criticism of police effectiveness during the incident and spoke about immediate measures. Stanikzai said about 140 people had been arrested: "most of them young people. They are still under investigation. Some of those arrested have admitted that they were trying to take advantage of the situation to commit robberies. We will determine later what their real goal was and whether there was any political motivation behind the escalation of violence." Radio Free Afghanistan also carried the press conference of U.S.-led coalition forces on the accident, as well as President Hamid Karzai's televised message and a report on President George Bush's telephone call to Karzai, where Bush expressing regret and promised an investigation.

...FIGHTING IN SOUTH In a separate incident, fighting broke out overnight on May 31 in Afghanistan's southern province of Oruzgan. Rozi Khan, regional police chief in the Oruzgan Province, spoke by telephone to a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in Kandahar, saying "the Taliban attacked three places [in the Chora district of Oruzgan Province]. They burned the district administration building, the office of the security chief and a school" (

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN LOOKS AT REASONS FOR VIOLENCE... RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan spoke to a range of Afghan officials in late May, inquiring into reasons for the rising level of violence in the country.
A Kabul correspondent for Radio Free Afghanistan spoke with former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaieef. In the interview, aired May 21, Zaieef said that, in his view, the main reason is widespread disappointment over the central government's failure to keep promises to improve peoples' lives. In another interview broadcast May 26, parliamentarian Mohamad Mohaqiq, former Planning Minister, said that in southern Afghanistan, support for the warlords is growing as people turn away from the central government.
An interactive, live show on May 31 featured a four-member panel that included an Afghan expert; the head of the Psychologists Association of Afghanistan, a human rights activist and a member of the Independent Peace Commission at McMaster University in Canada. They discussed causes of anger and how to manage destructive emotion, as well as individual versus mob behavior. One listener called in to say he was in the stone-throwing mob that attacked buildings in Kabul May 29. He said he had not meant to throw stones, that he only wanted to express anger with President Hamid Karzai, that he got carried away and later very much regretted his conduct.

...CRITICISM OF FOREIGN POLICY... Radio Free Afghanistan's weekly live call in show May 25 was dedicated to issues of Afghan foreign policy and relations with its neighbors. Listeners called in with questions for a senior adviser to Foreign Minister Rangin Dadar Spanta, a deputy minister for Borders and Tribes and a parliament member of the international affairs commission. Most listeners wanted to know about relations with Pakistan and why Afghan government policy did not seem to be bearing any results. One panel participant said there is resolve to deal with foreign policy problems "very seriously," but that this is hampered by some members of government who have been in office for a long time and have ties to past regimes. The next day, the local newspapers "Armaghan" and "Arman e Mili" published excerpts of the discussion.

...REUNITES MOTHER AND DAUGHTER... Radio Free Afghanistan's weekly "Missing People" program chalked up another success in its May 27 broadcast, reuniting a mother and daughter who had lost contact 15 years ago. The daughter was studying in Russia in the early 1990s, when fighting resumed in Afghanistan. She lost track of her family and eventually moved to the Netherlands. She telephoned Radio Free Afghanistan for help, leaving a message on Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated line. "Missing People" connected her with her mother, enabling the two to speak together for the first time since 1991 on the May 27 broadcast.

...TELLS YOUNG PEOPLE HOW TO QUIT SMOKING Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast a special program on the hazards of smoking May 30, to mark World No Tobacco Day. A doctor from a local hospital and the head of the Health Ministry's Youth Department were in Radio Free Afghanistan's Kabul studio, answering questions from listeners with an Afghan physician on the line from Germany. The moderator in Prague said most of the questions were from young people wanting to know the best way to quit and where to get help.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at

RADIO FREE IRAQ SPEAKS TO ARAB LEAGUE ENVOY... Arab League envoy to Iraq Mukhtar Lamani gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) in Baghdad May 28, about plans for a League-sponsored Iraqi national accord conference in June (an English transcript of the interview can be found at Lamani said it will be held in Baghdad from June 20-22 and that, in addition to Iraqi delegates, the League is also inviting major international figures to participate. Lamani said, "The secretary- general [of the Arab League, Amr Musa] has personally invited the foreign ministers of all Arab countries as well as the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey, because their countries are Iraq's neighbors. We have likewise addressed invitations to U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan and to the secretary-generals of Arab and Middle Eastern regional organizations, such as the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Arab Maghreb Union, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The secretary-general has also addressed an invitation to the current president of the European Union [i.e. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission] to come to the conference. We have invited as well the foreign minister of Malaysia for his being the current president of the Non-Aligned Movement. Besides that, we have received requests from other countries that want to attend the opening [of the conference], such as Spain and Italy. There have been some invitations addressed by the General Secretariat [of the Arab League] to the foreign ministries of the five permanent member countries of the U.N. Security Council." Lamani said the aim of the conference is to achieve "an agreement to restore the trust between all Iraqi groups for building this country. Taken into account will be the historical role that the country has played not only in the region but also on the level of humanity, looking back to the ancient civilizations that have marked this country." Lamani said the Arab League also wants to see a fully independent Iraq in the family of Arab nations, saying "the time has come for Iraq to restore its communication with the Arab world."

...REPORTS REACTION TO SHOCKING VIOLENCE... Inured though Iraqis are to daily reports of death and violence, the gruesome discovery May 26 of five headless corpses -- all of one family -- was especially shocking and was debated during a session of the Iraqi parliament May 29. RFI reported on a speech by Jalal al-Din al- Saghir, speaking for the United Iraqi Alliance party, who said that the corpses were the family of a man in Al-Miqdadiyah, whose house was stormed during his wedding ceremony, adding "we are daily stricken with such horrible news coming from the Diyala governate... there is a war with clearly sectarian features and clearly pursuing demographic change in the Diyala governate."
Radio Free Iraq asked the governor of Diyala to comment on the allegation in the May 29 broadcast. The governor, Ra'd Rashid al-Mulla Jawad, said security forces have failed in the area and the "terrorists continuously perform their acts of organized crime without any fear and obstacles." Jawad added that, "today (May 29), we in the [Diyala Governorate] Council have agreed on freezing the Council sessions. This should be a message to the central government, [calling on it] for an improvement of the security in Diyala and sending human and material reinforcements to the police and the army." In a separate statement to the press that day, the Diyala governor said terrorists pushed out of other regions "fled to remote areas... and have now launched systemic operations within the Diyala governorate that consist of planting roadside bombs, kidnappings, and daily cases of murders." He said the latest terrorist tactic is to expel people from their homes "especially targeting ordinary poor families."

...LOOKS AT SUPREME COUNCIL REFORM Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad correspondent spoke to a representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Rida Jawad Taqi, May 24 about plans to reform the party. Taqi said, "The SCIRI has been studying for months the possibility of implementing changes in its party rules, including the name and the structure binding the branches and offices of the SCIRI and specifying the rules of action. That also includes the political discourse of the SCIRI. An in-depth study has been conducted on changing and developing the SCIRI, as far as its name, structure, and political program and discourse are concerned. We are dedicated to that [change] in the SCIRI. Soon, a conference of the SCIRI will decide on these issues."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at

RUSSIAN SERVICE INTERVIEWS RICHARD PIPES... RFE/RL's Russian Service aired an exclusive interview May 23 with Richard Pipes on the state of U.S.-Russian relations, Russia's role in the "clash of civilizations," and the possibility of Vladimir Putin running for a third term as president (an English-language transcript of the interview can be read at
Pipes, a Harvard University professor emeritus, author of numerous books on Russia, and member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said he is not happy about the current situation in Russia, noting that: "the regime seems to be pushing Russia back towards an authoritarian regime in which it essentially disposes of the country's policies; in which the people have less and less to say; in which the competition is gradually eliminated. It's not anything like the Soviet regime, but it's not the type of regime we hope to have, and I'm very disappointed in what's happening." He said inconsistency in Russian foreign policy reflects indecision about Russia's place in the world: "I think you have to realize that they [the Russians] are in a very confusing situation. They can't make up their minds where they belong - - whether they belong to the West, to the East... So one day they say one thing, and the next they say another thing... They are very unreliable, and I think that is the result of their own confusion." Asked about Putin continuing in office beyond his current term, Pipes said "the Russian people, I think, would want Putin to continue, which gives him a strong stimulus to run again... The Duma, I think, is prepared to vote him powers, or to make an amendment to the constitution to enable him to rule again."

...EXAMINES IMPACT OF FALLING DOLLAR RFE/RL's Russian Service and other RFE/RL language broadcasters aired on May 19 an interview about prospects for the U.S. dollar and the consequences of a cheaper dollar for the countries of the former Soviet Union.
RFE/RL Central News Washington correspondent Julie Corwin spoke to Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics. He said the 8 percent slide in the dollar's value against the Euro since April "means that Russia receives comparatively less for its commodity exports than otherwise would be the case," and that "this somewhat reduces the enormous windfall gain of Russia" from oil and gas deliveries priced in dollars. Aslund said, "The second effect (in post- Soviet states) is that people have their savings in dollars, and this is hurting the middle class. So the middle class feels very upset about their savings being undermined not only by high inflation but also by the falling dollar... And the third thing is that quite a few salaries are fixed in dollars. Those need to be changed. These are private sector salaries, so people are suffering. So the middle class is being hurt. I think that is the biggest effect by losing savings and by losing wages" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

CHECHEN LEADER TELLS RFE/RL OF POLITICAL CHANGE... Chechnya's separatist leadership announced changes to its political structure May 29, naming Akhmed Zakayev as the underground government's new foreign minister. Shortly before the announcement, Zakayev, a former culture minister for the separatist government living in exile in Britain, gave an exclusive telephone interview to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service on May 28, outlining his political views. He said: "I am deeply convinced that the Chechen conflict, and conflict in the northern Caucasus overall, can be solved only through peaceful negotiations. We will continue to seek peace and I am sure there is no other way out. I think the Russian authorities also clearly understand this and that there are more and more people in Russia who seek a peaceful solution. I know that officials of the Russian government discuss this problem, not to mention nongovernmental organizations" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

...SECRET PRISON VICTIM RECALLS ORDEAL A new report, issued in May by the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) says Russian security services and their Chechen allies are operating clandestine prisons where civilians are held and tortured in the breakaway province. In an interview with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, one victim of this illicit practice talked about his experience in 2004 (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at In the interview, aired May 16, he asked that he not be identified for reasons of safety.
The man said he was taken from his home in Chechnya's Shali Raion one morning by men wearing Russian uniforms, who blindfolded and beat him, gave him electric shocks, and tossed him in a pit. "The holes were 8 to 10 meters deep with rope ladders," the victim said. "Every 10 or 15 minutes they pulled me out to interrogate and torture me. When they put me in the hole the first time, I was blindfolded... The last time, I was put in the hole without the blindfold and saw the names of people -- men and women -- who had been there before..."
"They asked me where the Chechen rebel bases were, who is selling narcotics, and where the weapons were being stored," he said. "I told them that I didn't know this information and they told me they would help me remember. During one of the interrogations, they asked if I could at least name people who fired guns in the air at weddings." The man was then subjected to electric shocks, which continued until he lost consciousness. In the evening, the man was set free, left on the side of the road with his hands bound behind his back, a belt tightened around his neck, and a backpack wrapped over his head like a makeshift hood.
According to the May 2006 IHF report, "Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2006" (, extrajudicial detentions, interrogations, torture, and executions have become the norm as Russian federal forces and their Chechen allies try to gain control of the rebel region. Earth pits, metal storage containers, and underground pedestrian street crossings have all been put to use as part of an ever-expanding makeshift, secret gulag used to extract intelligence and systematically intimidate a civilian population already weary from Russia's two wars in the republic. The RFE/RL program also quoted IHF Director Aaron Rhodes who said "there is evidence that more and more illegal prisons have been functioning," and that "there's quite a variety of types of illegal prisons used in Chechnya."

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in the North Caucasus region can be found at

GEORGIAN SERVICE EXCLUSIVE WITH PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI... RFE/RL's Georgian Service secured an exclusive interview with President Mikheil Saakashvili at the GUAM summit in Kyiv May 23. Saakashvili said participants had agreed on establishing a free trade regime among GUAM member states. He said it didn't function among the members of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and that "it would be good if Russia was included" in the GUAM group.
GUAM is a regional grouping of Georgia, Ukraine Azerbaijan and Moldova, set up in 1997. Uzbekistan became a member in 1999 but left in 2002. Saakashvili, along with the other participants in the meeting -- Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, and Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin - -signed a declaration in which they pledged to work together to build up democracy, stability, and security. They also decided at the Kyiv summit to transform GUAM into a new international group to be called the Organization for Democratic and Economic Development.

...DISCUSSES ABKHAZ PEACE PLAN... RFE/RL's Georgian Service May 25 aired an interview with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza about a new peace initiative for the breakaway Abkhaz region. RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Nino Gelashvili met Bryza in Tbilisi and asked him whether the deadlock has been broken on the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue. Bryza said there has been progress and that "the two sides are talking to each other directly and really are expressing good will." He said some ideas were exchanged and the two parties are "really examining them in detail... in a very professional way that was not possible in the past" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

...NATO MEMBERSHIP TIMELINE A Tbilisi correspondent for RFE/RL's Georgian Service gained an exclusive interview with visiting NATO Secretary-General Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons about Georgia's prospects for joining NATO. In the interview that aired May 26, Simmons said "Georgia has made significant progress on the road to reforming defense and security but added that this process is a "difficult" one. He said the country now needs to move from commitment and legislation to implementation -- "moving those steps forward to actually carry them out in the practice of the Defense Ministry, but also the elections process, the reform of the judiciary and other activities." Simmons said if Georgia moves on implementation as actively in the next six months as in the past six months "its record will be clear and good" (an English-language transcript of the interview can be found at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>. The Georgian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at

UKRAINE, TATAR-BASHKIR SERVICES MARK DEPORTATION ANNIVERSARY RFE/RL's Ukrainian and Tatar-Bashkir language services in May 18 programs marked the 62nd anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. RFE/RL correspondents attended a major rally in Simferopol and wreath-laying ceremonies in the Crimea and Kyiv, reporting Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko's statement promising to resolve grievances of Crimean Tatars who say they face discrimination in employment and difficulties in getting their land back and obtaining citizenship. Mustafa Djemilev, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, a body representing the Crimean Tatar community on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, said at the Simferopol rally: "Ninety percent of our children do not have the opportunity to be educated in their native language. An assimilation policy of Russification continues here, and no conditions have been created in this country (Ukraine) for Crimean Tatars to preserve their ethnic identity" (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Olga Buriak, may be reached by email at <>; the Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <>. The Ukrainian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Ukraine can be found at

KYRGYZ SERVICE AT PROTEST RALLY Correspondents for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service were on the scene May 27, when an estimated 5,000 people demonstrated in Bishkek to demand constitutional reform. The rally ended peacefully, with the adoption of a 10-point resolution calling for stronger action against corruption and criminality and faster economic reform. In the aftermath of the protest, the Kyrgyz Service aired interviews and comment by Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, Justice Minister Marat Kaiypov, parliamentarian Kubatbek Baibolov and leaders of the opposition bloc.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www.; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at

RFE/RL VISITS DISTANT NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN An RFE/RL Central News correspondent reporting from Tajikistan in mid- May visited the town of Chorkuh, near the border with Kyrgyzstan in the north. Chorkuh is home to 32,000 people who have collectively opted to live by Shari'a, Islamic law. RFE/RL correspondent Bruce Pannier spoke to the city's mayor and several residents to find out what life is like in a city that mixes post-Soviet and Islamic traditions. Chorkuh mayor Abdukhalil Sharipov said there are 25 mosques in the town, including the mosque of Hazrati Shoh, built in the 9th century. The pious community allows no sale of alcohol and two years ago burned the local liquor store to the ground. Sharipov said there are no political extremists in Chorkuh, but admitted that the town's reputation for religious zeal has made the Tajik government nervous and that the security services keep a close eye on events in Chorkuh. RFE/RL's Tajik and other Central Asian services aired the story May 16 (

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

RFE/RL REPORTS LIVE ON MONTENEGRO'S INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM... RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired extensive live coverage of the May 21 independence referendum in Montenegro and was able to broadcast almost immediately unofficial preliminary results, released by the independent Center for Free Elections and Democracy shortly before 10 PM. The prediction that 56.3 percent of voters had opted for independence aired on SSALS's 10 PM regional show, followed by a live report from the Center's offices in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.
During the hour-long program, SSALS Podgorica correspondents continued live coverage of spontaneous street demonstrations. Supporters of independence rushed out into the streets of Podgorica and other major Montenegrin towns and began celebrating. Outside the government building, thousands of supporters set off fireworks and fired guns in the air.
RFE/RL also covered a press conference called by opposition leader Predrag Bulatovic, who accused the government of organizing "aggressive and arrogant" celebrations based on, what he said were, unofficial announcements by an NGO. Serbian government officials said the Montenegrin government tried to pre-empt the referendum result with premature celebrations.
SSALS continued coverage in its one hour Midnight program with more live reports from Podgorica as well as from Belgrade, including first reactions of pro-independent and pro-union politicians and views of analysts. Five minutes before the program ended, at 12:55 AM, a SSALS correspondent at the headquarters of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy called in a live report on the just-released final referendum figures.
Local Serbian and Montenegrin state televisions also covered the referendum live, but were criticized later for biased, one-sided coverage. RFE/RL's broadcasting to the Balkans provided balanced and equitable reporting of a dramatic night that marked the final breakup of former Yugoslavia, following the bloody Balkan wars of the 1990s which led to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia leaving the Yugoslav federation.

...AIRS INTERVIEW WITH KOSOVO'S PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) gained a rare interview with Kosovo parliamentary speaker Kole Berisha, who is known for his reluctance to speak to the media. The interview, conducted by SSALS Kosovo Bureau chief Arbana Vidishiqi, was aired May 27 and covered issues including inter-ethnic relations, negotiations on independence for Kosovo and prospects for agreement with Belgrade (
Asked about the Kosovo side's response to appeals by the international community for more flexibility, particularly on the issue of decentralization, Berisha said it wasn't possible to make more concessions: "anything further in this regard may provoke a revolt amongst the population, especially amongst the most radical elements."
Berisha was pessimistic about prospects for agreement between Prishtina and Belgrade, recalling the failure of past efforts. Berisha said Serbia is continuing to delay the start of negotiations and that, if it doesn't change its approach, the only option open to the international community will be to unilaterally declare Kosovo a sovereign and independent state.
Berisha's interview for the SSALS was picked up by news agencies throughout the region, including Serbia and quoted extensively in Kosovo's four leading daily newspapers -- "Bota Sot," "Express," "Zeri" and "Epoka e Re" -- as well as broadcast on the radio stations "Beta" and "B92".

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at, in Albanian at and in Macedonian at; English-language news about events in Bosnia- Herzegovina can be found at, in Macedonia at, in Serbia and Montenegro at and in Kosovo at

RFE/RL CENTRAL NEWS REVIEWS AIDS PANDEMIC... RFE/RL Central News New York correspondent Nikola Krastev spoke with Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Peter Piot on May 27, in an exclusive interview about the spread of AIDS in Russia and Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. Piot said the Ukrainian and Russian governments have made progress in slowing the spread of the virus in their countries, but remain on the verge of a major AIDS pandemic that could hit the youngest strata of their populations. In Central Asia, Piot said religious conservatism has caused these predominantly Muslim countries to shun people infected with the AIDS virus, preventing patients from receiving proper care. Piot noted that these and other issues were to be discussed at a high- level UN meeting on AIDS in New York from May 31 to June 2 (a transcript of Krastev's interview with Peter Piot may be read at

...INTERVIEWS BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER Prague-based RFE/RL Central News correspondent Brian Whitmore had an exclusive interview May 23 with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's chairman-in-office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, who was visiting Prague for the OSCE's 14th Economic Forum. De Gucht talked about Montenegro's independence referendum, "frozen conflicts" in the South Caucasus and Moldova, and the political importance of securing the free movement of goods across borders with Ukraine and other countries in the region (a transcript of Whitmore's interview with Foreign Minister De Gucht can be read at

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

RFE/RL in the News

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE DIRECTOR'S OP/ED PUBLISHED BY IHT... Aslan Doukaev, the director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, wrote an op-ed piece that was published May 30 in the "International Herald Tribune." Entitled "Beslan's Unanswered Questions," the article addressed whether justice was done in the May 26 sentencing of the sole captured terrorist, Nurpasha Kulayev, to life in prison for the hostage-taking shootout in a local school in Beslan in 2004. Three hundred thirty-one adults and children died in the three-day crisis that began when the school building with over 1,100 students, staff and parents inside was seized on Sept. 1, the first day of the school year (the op/ed may be read at

...QUOTED IN "THE NEW YORK TIMES" Doukaev was also quoted in the May 25 edition of "The New York Times," in an article titled "Grozny Journal: A Whirling Sufi Revival with Unclear Implications" by C.J. Chivers. The article discussed the growing influence of Islam in Chechnya and how this has affected Chechen-Russian relations. Doukaev, described as a native of Chechnya and director of RFE/ RL's North Caucasus Service, was quoted as saying, "Kadyrov wants to show that he is a supporter of Chechen traditional Islam... But Sufis always wanted Chechen independence, and that signal is being sent here, too."

RFE/RL REGIONAL ANALYST PUBLISHED IN "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR" RFE/RL Iran Regional Analyst Bill Samii published an op-ed May 30 in the "Christian Science Monitor," entitled "Ethnic Tensions Could Crack Iran's Firm Resolve Against The World." Referring to recent unrest in the Azeri province of northern Iran, Samii wrote: "When minorities protest they are not making unreasonable demands, they are just insisting on their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Such rights include use of their languages in local media, as well as the absence of discrimination. They also object to levels of unemployment and underdevelopment that affect their regions more severely than other parts of the country. The Iranian regime ignores minority rights and dismisses their concerns at its peril" (

RFE/RL AFGHAN EXPERT ON TELEVISION RFE/RL Afghanistan Regional Analyst Amin Tarzi appeared on CNN International on May 20, in a live, 6-minute segment discussing the rising level of violence in Afghanistan. He also appeared the following day, May 21 on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program, discussing the same subject during a 30-minute live call-in segment. Tarzi discussed the response by U.S., NATO and Afghan forces and President Hamid Karzai's statements about the influence of religious extremists in Pakistan.

RUSSIAN SERVICE CORRESPONDENT GETS RUSSIAN "EMMY"... RFE/RL Russian Service Tomsk correspondent Melanie Bachina has won the prestigious Russian television award, the "TEFFI-region" for her program "Chas Pik" (Peak Hour) on the Tomsk TV station. The TEFFI, awarded by the Academy of Russian Television, is regarded as the equivalent to the Emmy award in the United States.

...ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD RFE/RL Russian Service Magadan correspondent Mikhail Gorbunov was awarded the Nikolai Rerikh Medal for his work to improve environmental safety in Russia. Gorbunov is the first journalist to receive the medal, which is awarded by the International Academy of Ecological Safety.

RFE/RL BROADCASTER ON CZECH TELEVISION Srdjan Kusovac, veteran broadcaster of RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) was a guest on Czech Television's satellite CT24 all news channel May 28. He was a guest on CT24's "Vedlejsi Efekty" (Side-Effects) program, a live debate on the impact in Serbia of Montenegro's May 21 independence referendum.

CZECHS CONTRIBUTE TO RFE/RL MOVE Czech and international media gave broad coverage to a ceremony at the U.S. State Department May 16, in which Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda presented a check for more than one million dollars to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and RFE/RL to help defray the costs of moving RFE/RL's broadcasting center in Prague to another location in the city. Svoboda called the donation a symbol of the Czech Republic's "moral and political duty to support RFE/RL," which he said "has played an irreplaceable role in the life of my country by transmitting the values of democracy, human rights and good governance." Under-Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, representing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the relationship between RFE/RL and the Czech Republic is "an invaluable contribution to promoting liberty and freedom of speech around the globe." BBG Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, joined by BBG Governor Steve Simmons, accepted the contribution and paid tribute to the Czech government for its support of RFE/RL.
RFE/RL was invited by the Czech government to relocate its broadcast center from Munich to Prague and moved there in 1995, to the building of the former communist federal parliament just off Wenceslas Square in the center of the city. Simmons said the new location, in a Prague suburb, will improve the security of RFE/RL and its surroundings.

KYRGYZ SERVICE MOURNS PASSING OF ORIGINAL BROADCASTER Members of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service were saddened to hear of the death on May 23 of Radio Liberty's first Kyrgyz broadcaster, Azamat Altay, in New York. Altay, age 86, was the first person to speak in Kyrgyz for the Radio on March 18, 1953 and served as director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service from 1984 to 1988. In all, he devoted some 40 years of his life to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz broadcasts and continued through the years to give interviews to the service, that were often republished in local Kyrgyz newspapers because of his expertise and personal popularity.
Altay was a well-known public figure in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, widely respected as a journalist, writer and scholar. He endowed scholarships for students at two universities in Kyrgyzstan and donated part of his large archive to Columbia University in New York, as well as Jalalabad University in Kyrgyzstan.
Because of his close ties with RFE/RL, RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev was asked to draft Altay's obituary for Kyrgyz media. Public condolences signed by a long list of current and former government ministers and parliamentary leaders, politicians, human rights activists and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Mary Jovanovich were received by the service's Bishkek Bureau.
Fittingly, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service was the first media in Kyrgyzstan to break the news of Altay's death and commemorate his life with a series of special programs. On May 24, the Kyrgyz Service aired first reaction and comments by Kyrgyz writers and intellectuals, while on May 29 the radio broadcast a report from a commemoration in Bishkek that also featured readings from the Koran.

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