The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
President & CEO
Eleven conflict situations around the world deteriorated in August 2005, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. Iraq's divisions deepened as Kurdish and Shiite representatives submitted a draft constitution to parliament over the objections of Sunni Arab leaders. Coordinated detonation of over 400 small bombs caused widespread turmoil in Bangladesh. Haiti saw further violence and lawlessness. Iran's resumption of uranium conversion activities brought new tensions to its nuclear stand-off with the U.S. and the European Union. In Ecuador, the government imposed a state of emergency after mass protests over the distribution of oil revenues brought production to a halt. And the ex-rebel Forces Nouvelles withdrew from Cote d'Ivoire's peace process, saying they would not take part in 30 October elections. The situations in the Maldives, North Caucasus (Russia), Serbia & Montenegro, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka also deteriorated last month.
Five conflict situations showed improvement in August 2005. Indonesia welcomed a historic peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the government. Israel's unilateral pull-out from Gaza was marked by less than expected resistance from settlers, and restraint from Palestinian militant groups. In Chad, the government and the Northern Movement for Democracy and Justice rebels agreed to end seven-year hostilities. The situations also improved in Liberia and Western Sahara.
For September 2005, CrisisWatch identifies Afghanistan and Iraq as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. No new Conflict Resolution Opportunities were identified for September.
Côte d’IvoireSierra LeoneBangladeshMaldivesSri LankaMontenegroSerbiaRussia/North CaucasusEcuadorHaitiIranIraq
Important milestone in peace process as parliament elected as president Pierre Nkurunziza, head of former Hutu rebel group CNDD-FDD; inaugurated 26 August, formed government 31 August with 60/40 Hutu-Tutsi ratio in accordance with constitution. Local elections to be held 19 and 23 September. National Liberation Forces (FNL) intensified attacks, putting pressure on new government: Bujumbara shelled with mortars 18 August, while military positions in west and north attacked, killing 3 soldiers and 10 rebels. Former FDD rebels handed in weapons to UN 12 August, symbolically renouncing war. Rwanda, Burundi and UNHCR signed repatriation agreement for Burundian refugees.
4,000 CAR refugees fled to Chad after unidentified armed groups attacked villages in northern Paoua region 7 and 9 August.
Northern Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) and government agreed end to 7-year hostilities. Accord open to other rebel groups for 3 months; rebels to be integrated into national army. Private media went on strike, accusing President Déby of “creeping dictatorship”.
Voter registration moved forward with massive turnout in Kivus; ended in Orientale and Bas-Congo provinces after extension due to transport and security difficulties; 2.9 million voters registered in Kinshasa. UN sent 700 troops to Ituri region after militia attacked registration centres 22 August, killing 1. Médecins Sans Frontières closed all but 1 base in Ituri for staff safety. During 25 August tripartite meeting, DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda gave Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR) until 30 September to disarm or face consequences. Rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda threatened to overthrow President Kabila 29 August. FDLR and Mai Mai militias killed 4 Congolese soldiers in North Kivu 12 August. In southern Katanga province, displaced slowly began returning home, despite continued fear of militia attacks; 4,000 gunmen disarmed in Katanga through local program to trade weapons for bicycles. DR Congo and Tanzania agreed to repatriate 152,000 Congolese refugees to South Kivu despite UNHCR security concerns.
Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR) in DR Congo given until 30 September to disarm or face consequences during U.S.-sponsored tripartite meeting in Kigali between DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda; FDLR free to return to Rwanda if denounce rebellion. Survivors complained to government over July release of thousands of genocide suspects. Kigali and Bujumbura signed refugee framework agreement with UNHCR on repatriation of Burundian refugees.
UN Special Humanitarian Envoy Martti Ahtisaari began trip to region 23 August; called for more flexible delivery of aid. Eritrean Foreign Minister Ali Said died of heart attack 28 August.
President Abdillahi Yusuf visited Ethiopia, prompting treason accusations by Mogadishu-based MPs claiming he sought military assistance. UN envoy François Fall presented leaders of both factions with “agenda for dialogue” following meetings with parties early August. PM Ghedi said 29 August that national disarmament operation would begin; declared would take control of Mogadishu within 3 months.
Despite untimely death of John Garang - leader of southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement and new Sudanese first vice-president - country’s fragile peace held. At least 130 killed in 3 days of violence in Khartoum and Juba beginning of month; thousands arrested. In relatively smooth succession, Salva Kiir, Garang’s long-time deputy, sworn in as new vice-president 11 August; pledged national unity and full implementation of North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Riek Machar, member of Nuer ethnic group, made vice-president of southern administration, raising hopes for agreement with government-aligned South Sudan Defence Force militia. Full new government to be announced early September. In Darfur, Sudan Liberation Movement rebel group called off AU-backed peace talks planned for late August; rescheduled for mid-September. AU warned of $173m funding shortfall for Darfur mission; UN Sec. Gen. urged mission be rapidly brought to full strength.
Campaign for 30 October elections officially began 21 August. Fears of further politically motivated violence after rioting on Zanzibar and Pemba injured 10. President Mkapa called for international donors not to interfere in polls.
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) responded poorly to new radio initiative inviting rebels to re-establish contact with mediators. Ugandan troops killed 26 rebels in clashes on both sides of Sudan border, including senior LRA officer Lt.-Col. Lobul. After critics questioned flight safety conditions following death of Sudanese rebel leader John Garang in crash of Ugandan helicopter, President Museveni said maybe not accident, promised full investigation. Journalist charged with sedition and radio station closed for week after hosting discussion about Garang’s death; government said debate could have sparked genocide.
National Electoral Commission took office 19 August; initial task to register voters for first post-war elections in 2006. Opposition party UNITA accused government of using position to campaign unfairly ahead of time. First repatriation in 2 years of Angolan refugees to northern Cabinda enclave began.
Parliament passed constitutional amendments 30 August strengthening President Mugabe’s hold on power; included clause removing right of appeal for victims of government land seizures. Mugabe rejected attempt by AU envoy, former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, to foster dialogue between government and opposition MDC. UN and Mugabe government unable to reach agreement on aid delivery to displaced victims of government’s Operation Murambatsvina. IMF held week-long meetings in Harare over state’s $300m debt.
Forces Nouvelles withdrew from peace process 25 August, saying would not take part in 30 October elections. Ex-rebels said reforms passed last month in accordance with Pretoria agreement inadequate; SA President Thabo Mbeki met with ex-rebel leaders, warned of UN sanctions if peace obstructed. At month-end South Africa denied earlier reports it was ending mediation role. Continued hindrance to UN peacekeeping efforts as angry mobs impeded UN troop movement in Gagnoa and Agboville; in separate incident, Moroccan peacekeeper killed in Bouake. Former army head Mathias Doue threatened to overthrow President Gbagbo.
Former PM Lamine Sidime named president of Supreme Court. President Conte finally signed law opening radio and television to private stations.
National Electoral Commission confirmed “Nino” Vieira won July presidential elections, defeating Malam Sanha, candidate of ruling PAIGC party. Supreme Court rejected last-ditch PAIGC attempt to have results invalidated on basis of alleged irregularities; UN Security Council and Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan urged acceptance of ruling. PM Gomes Junior, president of PAIGC party, refused to recognise Vieira as president or give up his position as vice-president; Gomes travelled with defeated candidate Sanha to meet Nigerian President Obasanjo.
Campaign for 11 October elections launched 15 August after National Electoral Commission cleared several candidates to stand. Authorities banned public demonstrations and UNMIL reinforced security measures. Alan Doss installed as UN Sec.-Gen.’s Special Representative in Monrovia.
President Obasanjo acknowledged widespread extrajudicial killings and torture by police in unprecedented statement 18 August, promising action. 32 people killed by detention in poorly ventilated cell by vigilante group, sparking riot in southern town of Aba. 700 Nigerian soldiers airlifted to Sudan's Darfur region to strengthen African Union force.
Ruling SLPP party leadership convention, scheduled 19-20 August, postponed by Supreme Court after detained war crimes indictee and aspiring candidate Chief Sam Hinga Norman filed injunction against party members for illegally holding political office while running for leadership; convention contentious as victor perceived likely 2007 SLPP presidential candidate and next SL president. Opposition All Peoples Congress convention to be held 1-4 September.
Faure Gnassingbé’s government marked first 100 days in office. President urged up to 40,000 refugees in neighbouring Benin and Ghana to return.
Special riot police units planned for 36 cities in response to various incidents of civil unrest, including “illegal mining” riots in Guangxi province and burning of factories and police cars in protests against toxic waste in Zhejiang province. Germany-based World Uighur Congress said authorities in Xinjiang province arrested 38 for studying Koran.
Pyongyang delayed scheduled 29 August resumption of nuclear talks by 2 weeks, citing U.S-South Korean military exercises. Earlier talks ended 7 August without agreement, despite reported increased civility and bilateral contact between U.S. and North Korean negotiators. North’s insistence on retaining peaceful nuclear capability - supported by South Korea, China and Russia - key sticking point with U.S. North launched 4-day goodwill tour of South in effort to win further support.
Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou sworn in as chairman of opposition Kuomintang party 19 August. Chinese President Hu Jintao offered unprecedented congratulatory message. Ma pledged to continue efforts to build cross-Strait ties. President Chen Shui-bian said Taiwan to cut $4 billion off proposed $15 billion purchase of U.S. arms to increase parliamentary support for deal.
Security fears as month-long campaign got underway for 18 September National Assembly and Provincial Council elections. At least 4 candidates and 4 election workers killed. Anti-government forces warned against participation although purported Taliban spokesperson said polling centres will not be targeted. UN complained of $19m election funding shortfall. U.S. and Afghan forces launched large-scale military operations in south and east: announced had killed over 100 suspected militants in Kunar and Zabul provinces. 7 U.S. soldiers killed in separate incidents in Zabul and Kandahar provinces. 17 Spanish soldiers died in helicopter crash 16 August; cause unknown. UN drugs agency reported 20% drop in area under opium cultivation but virtually no change in production - totalling 87% of world opium. Continuing concern over influence of drug revenues on upcoming elections.
Coordinated detonation of over 400 small bombs caused widespread turmoil 17 August, killing 2 and wounding 100: banned Islamic group, Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, claimed responsibility. Main opposition party, Awami League, called general strike in protest, blaming coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party for not preventing blasts. Dozens of suspects arrested by police. Border skirmishes with India continued, killing 4.
Government of Andhra Pradesh state re-imposed ban on Communist Party of India (Maoist) amid continuing violence: 10 killed, including Congress party legislator, by suspected Maoist rebels 15 August. Several prominent writers with alleged ties to rebels arrested. Separatist Naga tribesmen lifted month-long blockade of national highway in north-eastern state of Manipur. United Liberation Front of Assam admitted attacking Assam state oil infrastructure but denied responsibility for 7 August bombing of market near state capital Guwahati, which killed 4.
India and Pakistan agreed to swap hundreds of prisoners after 2-day talks as part of ongoing peace process. Indian PM Singh and Pakistani President Musharraf to meet 14 September on sidelines of UN summit in New York in first face- to-face talks since April. Singh announced would meet with moderate faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference for first time 5 September in Delhi. Pakistan tested cruise missile with 500 km range 11 August; did not notify Indian officials, claiming test notification agreement with India signed days earlier did not cover cruise missiles. Series of grenade attacks on Indian security forces in Sopor, north of Srinagar, wounded 14.
Riot police arrested dozens of protesters in heated anti-government demonstration calling for President Gayoom’s resignation; 7 injured. Opposition party leader Mohammed Nasheed charged with terrorism for alleged threats of “violent overthrow” if president does not step down or hold elections.
Large-scale Maoist attack on Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) base in western Kalikot district 7 August killed over 50 soldiers; 60 being held as POWs. RNA alleged Maoists tortured, mutilated and executed soldiers in cold blood. Maoist attacks, including bombing and assassination, also carried out inside Kathmandu valley. 7-party opposition alliance agreed to formalise dialogue with Maoists so long as rebels adhere to promises not to attack civilians, NGO staff or political party workers in areas they control. Maoists accused by newspaper of raping 25 women at gunpoint in Saptari district 18 August. King Gyanendra visited eastern and western districts in first trip out of capital since February 2005 coup. Central committee of CPN-UML, largest mainstream leftist party, decided to drop constitutional monarchy platform in favour of democratic republicanism; similar debate intensifying within Nepali Congress in run-up to its general convention.
Facing concerted opposition from religious allies, General Musharraf backtracked on promises to clamp down on home-grown extremists and reform madrasas. Musharraf watered down pledge to introduce new law to regulate seminaries that would include mandatory registration, financial oversight, and curriculum reform. Meanwhile, many extremists arrested under Maintenance of Public Order Act released. More than 40 killed and hundreds wounded in clashes during first 2 phases of local body elections. Opposition complained of widespread rigging and intimidation - echoed by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Ruling party and allies led in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh; opposition parties made limited gains in North West Frontier Province.
In major setback to peace process, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, outspoken critic of Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE), assassinated 12 August. Government declared state of emergency and launched massive manhunt for assassin. LTTE denied government accusations of involvement; agreed to hold first high-level talks with government since 2003 on implementation of stalled 2002 ceasefire agreement; sides yet to decide venue. Supreme Court declared second and final term of President Kumaratunga ends December, setting stage for new elections: PM Anura Bandaranaike to be candidate for ruling party - will face United National Party leader Ranil Wickramasinghe.
Historic peace agreement signed between Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and government in Helsinki 15 August. GAM and Indonesian military met 22 August to decide on new security arrangements: meeting described as positive by EU and ASEAN monitors. All military movements of more than platoon size to require prior notification of head of monitoring mission. Government released over 1,400 prisoners 31 August as part of agreement. Elsewhere, 2 Muslim men shot dead in Poso suburb 3-4 August in suspected reprisal attacks for giving information to police about other recent incidents in area. Papua saw one of its largest demonstrations ever over slow implementation of Special Autonomy: 10,000 marched to provincial parliament in Jayapura 12 August demanding law be reviewed. Supreme Court rejected radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s final appeal 6 August but sentence reduced by 4.5 months under annual Independence Day remission. Australian Embassy bomber Achmad Hassan received life sentence 23 August. 9 injured by small bomb 25 August at market in Ambon in first incident there since May.
UN-led Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria said would withdraw from Myanmar, citing obstruction of activities. UN special envoy, former Indonesian FM Ali Alatas, visited Yangon 18-20 August; met with Foreign Minister U Nyan Win and Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe, reportedly to discuss reform of UN. Minister of information denied rumours of military coup 28 August, saying Than Shwe in good health and in control of government.
Violence continued in south: 26 wounded in 2 bomb attacks in Zamboanga City 10 August; 30 wounded in ferry bombing 28 August. Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf suspected. Peace negotiations between government and National Democratic Front (NDF - political arm of Communist Party) broke down 4 August as government withdrew immunity from rebel delegation and security forces threatened arrest. Allegations of corruption and fraud continued to hound President Gloria Arroyo; House of Representatives considered impeachment motion. Arroyo ally Zaldy Ampatuan elected governor of Mindanao region in 8 August poll.
Daily attacks continued in 3 southern provinces as government reverted to hardline approach. Emergency decree approved by ruling party-dominated parliament, despite protest from opposition and government-appointed National Reconciliation Commission. 7 killed in 2 days by suspected separatist militants 20-21 August: surge of violence followed visit of PM Thaksin Shinawatra to south to encourage locals to defy extremists’ threats. At least 3 killed in further bombings 31 August. Only 4 months into new term, PM reshuffled cabinet, appointing former air force commander Kongsak Wantana as new interior minister, fourth appointment to post in 2 years.
Australian police to return to PNG as part of revived aid package, but will not have frontline duties, avoiding immunity issue that stalled program in May. Opposition leader Peter O’Neill arrested on charges of conspiracy an misappropriation connected to alleged involvement in defrauding investment fund.
Former President Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party won all 3 constituencies where elections re-run due to irregularities in 3 July parliamentary elections. Coalition led by Berisha to hold 81 seats in 140-seat legislature (Socialist-dominated coalition led by outgoing PM Fatos Nano to hold remaining 59). OSCE said election procedures improved, but still not up to international standards.
Senior BiH officials failed to reach agreement on police reform in 23 August meeting in Mostar. Issue remains last outstanding obstacle before negotiations with EU on Stabilisation and Association Agreement can commence.
UN special envoy Kai Eide visited Pristina and Belgrade in third visit to region since appointment - expected to submit recommendations in September on whether to start final status talks. Kosovo Serb politicians rejected provisional government’s so-called “Plan B” for decentralisation pilot projects, although endorsed by UNMIK: plan’s enlargement of pilot project territories reduced local Serb majorities over Albanians to bare minimum. Serbs preparing “Plan C”. Albanian politicians displeased by UNMIK chief Jessen- Petersen’s call for “compromise” over final status; meanwhile, their efforts to agree format of final status working groups bogged down. KFOR launched TV advert campaign warning that in case of new riots it would use lethal force to defend sensitive sites. 2 Serbs killed and 2 wounded in 27 August car shooting. President Rugova seriously ill; flown to U.S. military hospital in Germany.
Relations with Serbia continued to deteriorate after Macedonian bishop who aligned himself with Serbian Orthodox Church sentenced to prison term late July (see Serbia & Montenegro below). Court dropped arrest warrant for Agim Krasniqi, leader of paramilitary formations in Kndovo village near Skopje, who appeared voluntarily before court 18 August.
Provocations by Serbian Orthodox Church led to sharp deterioration in relations with Macedonia and Montenegro. Belgrade seized aircraft from Macedonian Airlines and shut border crossing to prevent Macedonians celebrating national day at Prohor Pcinjski monastery. Army airlifted aluminium Serbian Orthodox church to site at top of Mt. Rumija holy to Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims, causing sharp Montenegrin government response. Belgrade accused of planning Serbian Autonomous Region in northern Montenegro reminiscent of similar regions created as precursors to war in Croatia and Bosnia. Hague Tribunal fugitives Milan Lukic and Dragan Zelenovic arrested in Argentina and Russia respectively. U.S. presented draft agreement to move troops across Serbia-Montenegro in case of emergency in Kosovo; signed but unlikely to be ratified by parliament. Government dropped criminal charges against son and wife of Slobodan Milosevic. Bomb thrown at home of Hungarian minority politician in Vojvodina.
Opposition rejected draft constitutional amendments proposed by ruling coalition and backed by Council of Europe, U.S. and EU; demanded more limits on presidential power, and elected provincial governors. President Kocharian vowed to mobilise all political and administrative resources to ensure positive referendum outcome on amendments in November.
Registration of candidates for November parliamentary elections ended 28 August with over 2,000 applications submitted for 124 parliamentary seats. Rasul Guliev - exiled former parliamentary speaker and head of Azerbaijan Democratic Party - registered. Opposition bloc Azadlig submitted united candidate list in 115 districts. Ruslan Bashirli, leader of opposition Yeni Fikir youth group associated with Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, arrested 4 August on charges of Armenian-sponsored destabilisation. 15 youths detained ahead of large Azadlig rally 27 August in Baku. 30 arrested in crackdown on radical Islamists.
Local pro-Russian security forces continued to be primary target of attacks by separatist rebels and criminal gangs: 19 soldiers, 3 police killed in various incidents. Explosion at Chechen government official’s home injured 6, while car bomb outside Grozny government compound killed 2. Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev appointed radical Chechen terrorist Shamil Basaev, purported mastermind of Beslan siege, as deputy PM in Chechen rebel leadership.
Tensions in South Ossetia conflict zone remained high as reciprocal kidnappings and random shootings continued; main roads closed. UN-mediated talks in Tbilisi with Abkhazia deemed “constructive” by all parties, but no significant progress. De facto Abkhaz President Sergey Bagapsh reiterated aspiration for associate membership of Russian Federation; stated all Abkhaz will hold Russian citizenship within year. Abkhazia held major military exercises 15 August. Russia began withdrawing military hardware from remaining Batumi and Akhalkalaki bases.
Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents met at Kazan CIS summit 27 August; encouraged foreign ministers to continue dialogue within OSCE-mediated Prague Process. OSCE Minsk Group co- chairs reportedly presented peace proposals; earlier, U.S. Sec. State Rice telephoned both leaders. Foreign Minister Oskanian and Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mamedvarov met 24 August in Moscow. Same day, Azeri serviceman previously detained in Armenia repatriated by ICRC.
Increasing attacks targeting police and government officials in Ingushetia and Dagestan. Ingush PM Maltasov severely wounded after motorcade bombed 25 August. Ingush police chief target of similar attack; 3 officers killed. In Makhachkala, Dagestan, bus carrying policemen blown up injuring 4; while bomb 20 August killed 3 police on patrol. Separate bombing derailed train 27 August; police arriving on scene reported coming under fire from unknown gunmen.
Minsk banned foreign assistance to local political parties and organisations, cutting funding of many opposition groups. Despite U.S. and EU statements - backed by Ukraine - condemning Belarus’ actions against its Polish community, crackdown continued: minority leader jailed for arranging meeting with Polish MP; Polish-language newspaper editor jailed 10 days for unlicensed demonstration; 2 journalists arrested. New Union of Poles leader chosen under pressure from President Lukashenko, month after police removed previous administration; Poland refused to recognise leader. Police dispersed opposition rally outside Polish embassy; rival anti-Polish demonstration organised by Lukashenko supporters. European Parliament delegation denied entry to investigate human rights standards. EU agreed 24 August to fund pro-democracy radio broadcasts to Belarus.
EU sent fact-finding mission to Moldova-Ukraine border 23-29 August to prepare further EU assistance in monitoring Transdniestrian sector of border. Transdniestrian authorities announced December parliamentary elections.
Basque separatists clashed with riot police in San Sebastian 14 August during banned rally by nationalist party Batasuna.
France said Turkish recognition of Greek Cyprus should be prerequisite for EU accession talks; German opposition leader Angela Merkel called for partnership short of membership. Turkey rejected any attempt to push back 3 October start date. EU said talks would begin on time.
Series of sectarian attacks on Catholic buildings in County Antrim: 40 police officers injured in clashes with loyalists Belfast after police raided homes linked to loyalist feud. Sinn Fein listed 85 loyalist attacks since June. UK army to disband Royal Irish Regiment in response to IRA ending armed campaign July.
Kurdish separatist group PKK declared ceasefire until 20 September following Turkish PM Erdogan’s pledge for democratic reforms in Kurdish southeast. Day later PKK- Turkish army clash left 2 PKK dead. Turkish security forces launched operation in Batman province 25 August killing 7 PKK. 6 separate bombings, including in Istanbul, killed 2; 5 soldiers killed in attack Hakkari province by suspected Kurdish rebels. Police arrested 5 in connection with Mersin resort bomb plot. Syrian with alleged links to al Qaeda charged with plotting attack on Israeli cruise ships off Turkish coast.
In surprise move, Constitutional Council announced 4 December 2005 date for presidential election; President Nazarbaev expected to stand. Opposition umbrella group ‘For a Just Kazakhstan’ registered 3 August.
President Bakiyev sworn in 14 August; appointed erstwhile political rival Feliks Kulov as PM and consolidated power by installing ally Jumadyl Isakov as mayor of Osh despite challenge from powerful local businessman. Bakiyev decision to reject Uzbekistan threats and allow UNHCR to transport Andijon refugees to safe haven in Romania applauded; estimated 1,000 unofficial Uzbek refugees still believed hiding in southern Kyrgyzstan. Corruption probes against former political leaders continued with ex-PM Tanayev denying allegations; Prosecutor-General Beknazarov warned investigations could be compromised by August amnesty law.
Trial of Democratic Party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov on embezzlement and terrorism charges began. He retracted earlier confession, said made under duress; defence witnesses claimed having incriminated him only after torture. Police arrested alleged planners of January and June Dushanbe bombings. 9 Hizb ut-Tahrir members sentenced Dushanbe; Sughd province religious institutions purged. Mukhtor Boqizoda, editor of outspoken Nerui sukhan newspaper, sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for stealing electricity.
Major reshuffle in oil and gas sector with dismissals of state oil company head Saparmamed Valiev on corruption charges and Orazmuhammet Atageliyew, chairman of Turkmen Geology State Corporation, resulting in postponement of Trans-Afghan gas pipeline talks. Former bodyguard of President Niyazov appointed deputy PM. Turkmenistan downgraded its involvement in CIS to “associate membership”.
Government deported Igor Rotar, Russian journalist for Forum 18 rights organisation, amid continuing crackdown on independent media. Human rights activist Yelena Urlayeva arrested at month-end. Demonstration in Samarkand against house demolitions first since May Andijon events. Government accused UNHCR of protecting criminals following airlift of Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan to Romania; estimated 1,000 unofficial Uzbek refugees remain in Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek senate officially passed measure calling for U.S. to close Karshi-Khanabad airbase.
Finance Minister Luis Carlos Jemio resigned over comments he made in Washington linking top opposition figure Evo Morales to Cuban and Venezuelan leaders. U.S. Sec. Defense Donald Rumsfeld made similar comments, saying Castro and Chavez involved in Bolivia in “unhelpful ways”. Morales candidate in 4 December presidential election and played key role in indigenous protests that led to July resignation of President Carlos Mesa. Yungas coca farmers opposing establishment of police post controlling coca trade announced new round of road blockades.
Conflict between government and insurgent groups continued: FARC killed 12 coca farmers in effort to assert control in northwest, while 11 police killed in roadside bomb near town of Patillal. Government accepted church mediation after FARC rejected offer to negotiate hostage swap. Demobilisation of 2,000 AUC militia began near Medellin; AUC leaders formally handed back control of 368-sq km safe haven around town of Santa Fe de Ralito to government forces as part of demobilisation process. Constitutional Court likely to rule by end September 2005 whether president can stand for re-election.
Mass protests in Amazon provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana over distribution of oil revenues brought production to halt and led government to impose state of emergency. Protesters demanding greater spending of oil revenue on job creation and infrastructure took control of oil installations, sabotaged equipment and blocked highways; government troops used tear gas to retake control. Sides reached truce after government and oil companies offered concessions, but fears over stability of government remained as protesters threatened further demonstrations. Venezuela agreed to loan oil until local industry stabilises. Defence Minister Solon Espinosa resigned 19 August; replaced by retired general Oswaldo Jarrin.
Tense relations with U.S. continued as Washington revoked visas of 6 Venezuelan officials; Caracas retaliated by withdrawing diplomatic immunity of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials 12 August. President Chavez accused DEA of spying, suspended cooperation, opened investigation into its activities and threatened to seek extradition of far right religious maverick Pat Robertson, who had publicly called for his assassination on radio show.
At least 15 alleged criminals killed by machete-wielding residents in Bel-Air and Solino slums; police allegedly did nothing to prevent. In separate incident, police and individuals with machetes attacked so-called "bandits" during USAID- funded soccer match 28 August, killing at least 20. U.S. ambassador criticised Haiti’s justice system following release of former death squad leader and continued detention of former PM Neptune; new justice minister called for release or trial without delay of hundreds of prisoners held without charge. Local government elections due to be held 9 October postponed; legislative and presidential elections still slated for November, despite ongoing insecurity and resulting registration problems: 2 million of 4.2 million eligible voters reported registered, but none received digitised ID card. In positive step, moderate faction of Aristide’s Lavalas party registered for election and expected to participate. First “core group” meeting of donors, regional organisations, and IFIs held; no clear plan to overcome electoral council stalling tactics, security obstacles or political polarisation.
Unilateral Israeli pull-out from 21 settlements in Gaza Strip and 4 in West Bank completed ahead of schedule 23 August; marked by less than expected resistance from settlers, and restraint from Palestinian militant groups. Negotiations concluded with Egypt over disposition of Egyptian forces along Gaza-Egyptian border. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - political rival to PM Ariel Sharon - resigned ahead of pull-out, widening split in ruling Likud party, and later announced leadership bid. Half of 8,500 Gaza settlers left before 15 August deadline; remainder, supported by 5,000 Israeli nationalists, evicted by Israeli security forces. 4 Palestinians shot dead by settler in West Bank; Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas appealed for calm. Following pull-out, Israel began construction on E1 settlement east of Jerusalem, threatening to bisect West Bank. Israeli troops killed 5 Palestinian militants Tulkarm 25 August; 48 wounded in bomb attack on Beersheba bus, southern Israel, 28 August.
3 former pro-Syrian security chiefs and head of Republican Guard detained for questioning at request of UN officials investigating murder of former PM Rafik Hariri. At least 5 wounded in Beirut shopping centre explosion 22 August; motivation unknown. PM Fuad Siniora held talks with Syrian officials in Damascus; both sides declared future relationship to be built on “mutual respect”. Despite Syrian agreement to lift roadblocks at border, flow of Lebanese goods still delayed. UN envoy Geir Pedersen urged Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh to deploy forces in south, where Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli forces exchanged fire.
Police made several arrests after violent clashes with Syrian Kurd supporters of banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hold-up of Lebanese goods continued at border checkpoints. President Assad reinforced bilateral ties and cooperation with Iran during state visit. Ahead of release of UN investigation findings, he also denied Syrian role in assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri earlier in year. 4 police killed in shootout with Islamist militant group Tanzim Jund ash-Sham outside Damascus.
Opposition groups weighed response to new law regulating political societies; main Shiite organisation al-Wifaq reportedly considered closing. Unemployed activists reduced anti-government criticism, but promised more public protests should regime not address social issues.
Tehran resumed uranium conversion activities, rejecting EU proposals for halt to program in exchange for economic incentives. U.S. responded with warning of impending consequences, not ruling out use of force, while IAEA called for immediate stop to conversion activities. Iran to present new plan for talks with EU in September. Meanwhile, new president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad appointed hardliners to key cabinet positions. UN Sec.-Gen. Annan called for release of dissident Akbar Ganji, whose imprisonment sparked July clashes between protesters and police. Bomb exploded in Western office building Tehran; no claims of responsibility.
Kurdish and Shiite leaders agreed draft constitution and submitted it to parliament 28 August over objections of Sunni Arab leaders, who said could provoke civil war. Contentious issues include provisions for federal system of government and exclusion of former Baath party officials from public office. Sunni Arabs fear possible creation of Shiite super-region in oil-rich south. Referendum on constitution scheduled 15 October. 100,000 supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched in 8 cities protesting constitution, while Sunnis protested in Baquba. Violent infighting between Sadr’s followers and rival Shiites 24 August killed 8. 3 Sunni political party members shot dead while putting up posters urging Sunnis to vote in October referendum. Intense violence continued across much of Iraq, targeting Iraqi police in particular. 965 Shiite pilgrims died 31 August after rumours of suicide bomber sparked stampede. U.S. launched anti-insurgent operations near Syrian border, including reported air strikes 30 August. Deadly month for U.S. military, with over 70 soldiers killed. 1,471 Coalition soldiers, including 1,359 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat 1 May 2003.
Security forces killed al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, Saleh Awfi, in Medina clash. Saudi police killed 3 others, arrested 41 in series of raids in Riyadh and Medina. U.S. briefly closed embassy and consulates in response to terror threat: UK, Australia warned of possible attacks. New King Abdullah assumed crown following 1 August death of King Fahd; pardoned 5 political activists jailed for demanding democratic reforms and agreed to free 1,200 Yemenis imprisoned on various charges.
Editor-in-chief of independent newspaper kidnapped and beaten by assailants for slandering government officials. Trial began of 36 suspected Zaidi rebels accused of attacks against security forces. In separate trial, 6 al Qaeda suspects jailed for plotting attacks on Western targets.
President Bouteflika announced 29 September referendum on Draft Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation. Human rights groups expressed fears endorsement of plan would prevent investigations into human rights abuses committed by armed groups and state authorities since 1992; plan would compensate families of 6,146 disappeared individuals. 6 civilians killed by Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat in Batna province 19 August; 3 government guards killed near Skikda 10 August. Security forces said 11 militants killed in Medea province operations.
10 candidates - including President Mubarak, al Ghad party leader Ayman Nour and Wafd party candidate Nomaan Gomaa - officially launched campaigns ahead of 7 September presidential elections amidst claims of media bias for incumbent. Muslim Brotherhood opposition organisation called for participation but did not endorse any candidate. Ongoing security sweeps across Bedouin areas of Sinai in connection with July Sharm el-Sheik bombings; 2 policemen killed in spate of Sinai landmine bombings at month-end.
Dramatically changed but, on balance, not deteriorated situation as unpopular President Taya overthrown in 3 August coup by 17-member Council for Justice and Democracy led by Colonel Vall, director of national security since 1987. U.S., UN and AU initially condemned coup, but subsequent criticism muted. AU referred to Vall as “president” during mission to Nouakchott; suspension from AU maintained. U.S. reassured by appointment as foreign minister of Ahmed Ould Sid'Ahmed, responsible for Mauritania’s 1999 diplomatic recognition of Israel. Vall said multi-party elections would be held following 2-year transition period; no junta members to stand. Several Islamist leaders, accused of links to Salafi terrorism by Taya, released from detention.
In potential peace move following U.S. mediation, Polisario Front fulfilled July pledge to release 404 remaining Moroccan POWs held near Tindouf, Algeria. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, overseeing release, called for UN- sponsored peace talks..