CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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Six conflict situations around the world deteriorated in January 2006, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. Nepal’s political turmoil continued ahead of planned 8 February municipal elections and amid a major escalation in violence between security forces and Maoists. The situation in Sri Lanka is approaching outright civil war: January was the deadliest month since the signing of the 2002 ceasefire. Côte d’Ivoire was shaken by four days of violent rioting. Security deteriorated in Nigeria with a series of apparently politically motivated attacks on oil production in the Delta region. Kyrgyzstan’s breakdown gathered force as a string of political murders continued. Tensions over Iran’s nuclear program increased with Tehran’s breaking of UN seals on three nuclear research facilities and subsequent international efforts to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
Three conflict situations showed improvement in January 2006. Somalia’s peace process saw a breakthrough with the signing of the Aden declaration in Yemen on 5 January uniting rival factions of the transitional government. There was cautious optimism for Liberia after the inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president. And Kuwait became the first Gulf state to democratically replace a leader using a constitutional process.
For February 2006, CrisisWatch identifies Nepal and Sri Lanka as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. Conflict Resolution Opportunities are identified in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.
UNITA president, Isaias Samakuva, told European Parliament human rights abuses in Angola now routine and troubled Cabinda province merits special attention.
Government negotiations with last remaining rebel group Front National de Libération (FNL) remained stalled by internal FNL divisions. In northwest, security forces killed 10 FNL in clashes; 5 civilians died in attacks blamed on rebels. Government provisionally freed 700 political prisoners involved in 1993 assassination of President Ndadaye and resulting ethnic reprisals; those released to face questioning by truth and reconciliation commission and possible reincarceration.
Security situation remained “precarious”, according to January report by UNSG Annan. Security forces backed by French army launched operation against armed gangs in north who have displaced thousands. Civil servant strike ended after President Bozize promised to pay 3 months’ salary arrears.
Relations with Sudan remained tense over Khartoum’s alleged support to Chadian rebels operating in Darfur. Chad offered to talk if Khartoum agreed to disarm rebels. Leader of United Front for Change and Democracy, alliance formed by 8 Chadian rebel groups in December, admitted to “friendly” relations with Sudan, but denied receiving assistance; later arrested in Khartoum by Sudanese authorities. Deteriorating security situation in eastern Chad prompted UN to reduce staff after armed men attacked town of Guereda and kidnapped 5 local officials. World Bank suspended loans to Chad and froze bank account used to collect oil revenues in response to new law granting government access to oil profits allocated to fight long-term poverty.
Situation grew extremely volatile after 4 days of widespread rioting by pro-President Gbagbo youths 16-19 January, which reportedly left 11 dead. Protesters demanded UN leave after foreign mediators announced National Assembly’s expired mandate should not be extended. Opponents accused president of complicity in unrest while UN said protests “orchestrated”. UN troops and agencies withdrew from Guiglo after peacekeepers killed 4 protesters who attacked UN base 18 January. Same evening Nigerian President Obasanjo held emergency talks with Gbagbo, releasing joint statement that National Assembly not dissolved. Security situation calmed 19-20 January and FPI announced return to peace process 23 January (reversing 17 January withdrawal). UN infrastructure damaged in west and nearly 400 workers evacuated, disrupting aid operations, ahead of possible imposition of targeted sanctions by UN. UN Security Council extended peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) until December 2006. Opposition leader and former PM Alassane Ouattara returned from 3 years exile 25 January.
Government set first multi-party parliamentary and first round presidential elections for 29 April. Main opposition party UDPS to participate in polls, despite calling for boycott of December 2005 referendum. UN and DRC troops continued operations against militants in east: 8 Guatemalan UN peacekeepers killed in clashes in Garamba National Park 23 January while searching for Ugandan LRA rebels. 55,000 civilians reportedly fled homes after 4-day offensive by fighters led by renegade former general Laurent Nkunda in North Kivu. Fighting between government forces and Mai Mai militias increasingly destructive in Katanga region. European leaders discussed UN call for EU rapid reaction force to assist over-stretched mission.
New constitution, maintaining absolute powers of King Mswati III, theoretically came into effect 26 January after statutory 6-month period after ratification; no official confirmation given. Arrests of pro-democracy campaigners continued. 16 members of banned People’s United Democratic Movement appeared in court on charges of high treason; seen as attempt to silence critics of monarchy.
UK suspended $88 million in direct aid over human rights concerns following November 2005 unrest related to disputed May 2005 elections; called for independent investigation into abuses in Oromia region. Government freed another 3,000 prisoners jailed during violent November election protests, after earlier release of 9,000. 129 opposition members facing charges including treason and genocide denied bail; defence lawyers boycotted proceedings, claiming government preventing them from meeting clients. 6 soldiers killed in clashes with Oromo Liberation Army.
Tensions along disputed border eased as Ethiopia reduced force levels, but Eritrean restrictions on movement of UN peacekeepers remained in place. High- level U.S. mediation team arrived Ethiopia 19 January in effort to move border dispute forward; visit to Eritrea cancelled after access to border area refused. Eritrea accused U.S. of bias towards Ethiopia; agreed early January to accept December Claims Commission ruling that blamed it for starting 1998-2000 war.
Union of Progress and Renewal, only opposition party in parliament, announced withdrawal from legislature in protest of December municipal elections it described as “electoral robbery”.
Supreme Court approved PM Aristides Gomes, appointed by presidential decree in November 2005. PAIGC, main party in parliament that had challenged constitutionality of appointment, denounced court decision.
Cautious optimism after inauguration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her appointment of first 9 of 22 new ministers 16 January. New legislature elected Edwin Snowe, former son-in-law of Charles Taylor, as speaker of House of Representatives. Snowe and 3 other parliamentarians blocked from leaving country earlier in month in enforcement of UN travel ban on those with ongoing ties with Taylor. Parliament approved measures for audit of transitional government andtravel block on senior officials until audit completed. Recruitment drive for new national army began 18 January.
Security deteriorated with series of apparently politically motivated attacks on oil production in Delta region. Several attacks on foreign companies and oil infrastructure while 4 foreign workers held hostage 11-30 January; at least 30 reported dead and oil output cut amidst threats of further assaults. Previously unknown Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for 11 January attacks, made political demands including release of Niger Delta leaders Mujahid Dokusu Asari and Diepreye Alamieyaseigha. Army deployed extra troops as oil company Shell evacuated workers from 4 sites and unions threatened withdrawal.
African heads of state chose ROC as 2006 African Union chair following controversy over Sudan’s bid for leadership. Security situation in Pool region worsened due to spate of attacks by “Ninja” rebels, forcing Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières to suspend operations.
5 new multi-ethnic provinces replaced previous 12 as part of government decentralisation plan to weaken ethnic divisions. Elections for governor of Kigali province to be held February; other 4 appointed by government. National Electoral Commission sworn in to oversee 6 February local elections.
UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone began mandate 1 January to help consolidate peace and prepare for elections, after UNAMSIL departure. Former rebel Revolutionary United Front spokesman Omrie Golley arrested and charged with treason; case adjourned to 7 February.
Breakthrough for peace process as President Abdullahi Yusuf and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan signed Aden declaration in Yemen 5 January to unite Jowhar and Mogadishu-based rival factions of transitional government; later agreed parliament should meet in Baidoa 26 February. Mogadishu MPs endorsed deal but PM Geedi continued to favour Jowhar. AU urged UN to make exception in arms embargo to allow foreign peacekeepers to help interim government following foreign minister’s request at Khartoum AU summit. 2 former colonels and senior police officer killed in separate Mogadishu attacks, raising fears of new wave of assassinations. Various clashes between rival clans in Galguduud and Jubbada Hoose districts killed 34.
Somaliland formally applied for AU membership. Parliament approved agenda for first session and established subcommittees including anti-corruption.
Continuing insecurity in Darfur threatened peace talks while UN announced probable re-hatting of AU mission. African leaders said would welcome UN support if mission African-led. UN-appointed expert panel recommended Security Council impose sanctions on those accused of blocking Darfur peace process. 2 main Darfur rebel groups, SLA faction led by Minni Minawi and JEM, agreed 20 January to combine political and military forces in joint “Allied Revolutionary Forces of Western Sudan”. Security situation in Darfur remained volatile: UNSG Annan condemned major fighting in Jebel Marra region, including SLA attack on Golo. UN reduced staff near Chadian border, following buildup of forces in region and rising tensions between Sudan and Chad. In East, crisis temporarily averted as government forces withdrew after clashing with Eastern Front troops in SPLA and Eastern Front-held Hamashkoreb; talks to resolve situation to be held in February. Khartoum hosted AU summit dominated by controversy over 2006 chair: Republic of Congo president chosen over Sudan’s due to fears of human rights record harming AU credibility.
Campaigning underway in run-up to 23 February presidential election. Supreme Court ruled President Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye, cannot be tried for terrorism by military but still faces rape and treason charges in civilian court; earlier ruled his continued detention illegal and Besigye released on bail. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels killed 4 in attack in Adjumani District 10 January. Museveni repeated offer that Ugandan military ready to “deal with” LRA in DR Congo if invited by UN and DRC government.
Internal split in opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) now permanent: Gibson Sibanda, who led “pro-Senate group”, declared himself leader in opposition to current MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai ahead of February MDC leadership congress. Both factions appealed increasingly to ethnic loyalties rather than political principles. Desertions of mid-ranking army and police officers added to overall political and economic crisis. Government harassment of media continued with arrest of banned Daily News journalist. Report by AU’s Human Rights Commission criticised government for abuses.
5-year “Compact for Afghanistan” focusing on security, governance, development and counter narcotics due for signature by donors and Afghan government at London conference 1 February. Violence continued to escalate, with suicide attacks in south and east: victims included senior Canadian diplomat in Kandahar and 23 Afghans in Spin Boldak near Pakistani border. Additional 3,300 UK troops to be sent for NATO-led ISAF force expansion to south ahead of limited U.S. withdrawal: possible deployment of Dutch contingent delayed by domestic debate. Total export of opium in 2005 estimated at U.S. $2.7 billion (52% of GDP), down from $2.8 billion in 2004.
Leader of banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group, Shayek Abdur Rahman, accused of orchestrating wave of bomb attacks since August 2005, reportedly arrested in India. Clashes erupted in northwest between security forces and villagers protesting arrest of leaders accused of attacking local power installations due to failing supplies, 6 killed. Nationwide strike organised by opposition Awami League held 22 January protesting election commission’s lack of impartiality. EU delegation on 2-day visit discussed election issues, extremism and corruption.
Fears of return to authoritarian rule as PM Hun Sen continued to target political opponents with defamation lawsuits. Charges dropped against 4, but exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy still faces 18-month prison sentence.
Beijing admitted policy of land seizures is “historic error” that led to increased rural unrest. Community in Guangdong Province claimed 2 killed by police during protest.
Fears faded after army chief Bainimarama backed down from coup threat. Bainimarama opposes controversial bill giving amnesty to perpetrators of 2000 coup.
Instability in northeast continued. National Democratic Front of Bodoland rebels called on government to hold peace talks or risk end of ceasefire. 8 National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) K faction rebels killed in attack by Indian and Myanmar forces along border; NSCN I-M faction extended ceasefire with government for 6 months. United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), suspected of series of bombings 22 January that killed 2 policemen and destruction of oil pipelines, to hold peace talks with government 7 February. ULFA and other northeast separatist groups called general strike to boycott Republic Day 26 January. Attacks by Maoists in eastern Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states 26 January killed 2. Highway blockade followed police killing of 12 tribe members in Orissa state during 2 January land protest.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and Pakistani counterpart, Riaz Mohammad Khan, met in Delhi for third round of bilateral normalisation dialogue 17 January and agreed to sustain process. Cross-border travel links increased with additional bus and truck services; further bus link between Sikh holy cities of Amritsar and Nankana Sahib, and rail link between Rajasthan state and Sindh province to start in February. Indian troops reportedly shot dead senior leader of militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba responsible for series of blasts in New Delhi in October 2005. Clashes between Indian security forces and militants crossing Line of Control into Indian-controlled territory killed 14.
Peace process entering difficult phase after smooth GAM decommissioning and withdrawal of “non-organic” security forces. Divisions appeared in GAM over reintegration funds not reaching lower ranks. Government submitted draft of new Aceh governance law to parliament on 26 January: degree to which final law adheres to Helsinki agreement will be crucial test of good faith. Vice President Kalla met GAM leadership in Finland to evaluate implementation of peace process. EU announced extension of Aceh Monitoring Mission until 15 June 2006. Police arrested 10 suspected of assisting terrorist mastermind Noordin M. Top; 6 formally charged. Apparent failed assassination attempt against Poso police chief second direct attack on police in Poso since October. 8 suspects arrested 11 January in Timika, Papua, for involvement in August 2002 fatal attack on convoy of American-owned mining company. Security forces fired on civilians in Paniai, Papua, killing 1, 20 January; National Human Rights Commission conducting investigation.
Kim Jong-il’s China visit 10-18 January led to speculation North interested in emulating Chinese economic reforms. South President Roh Moo-hyun appointed Lee Jong- seok, strong supporter of engagement with North, as new minister for unification.
UN special representative Razali Ismail resigned, after his entry to Myanmar refused for 2 years. Convention to draft constitution adjourned till end 2006.
Political turmoil continued ahead of planned 8 February municipal elections. Major escalation in violence between security forces and Maoists left at least 90 dead. Royal government insisted vote will go ahead despite widespread resistance. Maoists and mainstream parties continued boycott call. EU called planned elections “another step backwards for democracy”, while former PM K.P. Bhattarai urged King Gyanendra to relinquish power and cooperate with parties. Assassination of royalist mayoral candidate Bijay Lal Das 23 January blamed on Maoists. Despite restrictions and house arrest of senior political leaders, mass protests held in Kathmandu 21 January, resulting in several hundred arrests. In significant move, China, having not previously engaged publicly, issued statement of concern over recent political developments and called for dialogue.
Major military operations and militant activity continued in Waziristan tribal region and Balochistan province. Clashes in North Waziristan killed at least 37. Government claimed 12 militants killed in attack on Balochistan gas field 11 January. Baloch opposition claimed 12 custodial deaths by Frontier Constabulary. U.S. air strike killed at least 18 villagers in Bajaur tribal agency bordering Afghanistan, prompting widespread protests.
Optimism surrounded talks with Muslim groups while army chief vowed not to negotiate with communists. Military and Moro National Liberation Front, based on southern island of Jolo, agreed to truce 21 January. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said confident of agreement for ancestral homeland on Mindanao within first 6 months of 2006. Next round of informal peace talks between MILF and government to start 6 February in Malaysia despite reported clashes between MILF and government troops in south. Internal MILF dispute led to factional fighting 25 January. Clashes reported between Communist New People’s Army and soldiers in northern Tarlac province 31 January.
Situation approaching outright civil war after deadliest month since 2002 ceasefire. Attacks on military killed at least 80; LTTE supporters claimed over 40 Tamils killed by security forces or gunmen since early December. Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim arrived 23 January in last-ditch effort to avert full-scale conflict: LTTE and government agreed to talks in Switzerland early February but killing of senior LTTE officer and abduction of 5 Tamil aid workers end January dampened optimism. Norway-led Monitoring Mission temporarily suspended in Trincomalee after grenade attack amidst escalation of violence.
President Chen Shui-bian appointed Su Tseng-chang as prime minister, replacing Frank Hsieh, who resigned following ruling DPP’s December defeat in local elections. Hsieh warned Chen’s hardline stance on China alienating DPP voters. Taiwan’s latest bid for observer status at World Health Organisation blocked by China.
Emergency decree extended until 19 April amid sustained militant attacks in south. Forced surrenders and arbitrary arrests continued to alienate locals. Insurgents torched over 100 phone installations across 4 southern provinces 18 January, contradicting government claims situation under control. Train station in Narathiwat province attacked by insurgents 29 January leaving 2 dead, same day as Muslim preacher in Yala and employee of National Reconciliation Commission in Pattani killed. Court sentenced police officer to 3 years for illegal detention of Muslim human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit, before he disappeared March 2004. PM Thaksin Shinawatra announced government officials involved in Somchai’s death; called for further enquiry.
Border patrol shot dead 3 Indonesians, reportedly former militia members, sparking protests. President Gusmao presented report on Indonesian occupation to UNSG Annan, which attributes 183,000 civilian deaths to Jakarta.
World Bank and IMF announced new 3-year deals; former urged Tirana to manage aid better.
Unexplained explosions on Russian gas pipeline to Armenia and Georgia 22 January cut supplies from Russia. Negotiations with Russia on price for gas continued without agreement; PM Margarian hinted Russia’s demand for price increase could affect strategic relations.
Council of Europe Assembly conditionally ratified credentials of Azerbaijani delegation; called for improvements in May 2006 parliamentary election re-runs. Court extended pre-trial detention of 3 former senior officials accused of attempted coup; all reported to have health problems. Shootout in religious Nardaran Baku suburb left 2 police, 1 civilian dead 25 January, with conflicting accounts of who instigated clash.
Supreme Court ordered retrial of Arnaldo Ortegi, leader of outlawed Batasuna party and convicted in 2004 for promoting terrorism. Local court banned party’s rally planned for 21 January; Otegi addressed “impromptu gathering” held same day. Bombs exploded at hotel in Zaragoza province 5 January and in 2 Basque towns 26 January after ETA warnings. Bomb in Bilbao injured policeman 29 January.
Increasingly restrictive and intimidating climate for opposition presidential candidates in run-up to 19 March election. Candidate Sergei Skrebets, on trial for fraud, withdrew from election claiming would not be free and fair. Opposition leader and candidate Alexandr Milinkevich met with EU foreign ministers in Brussels, who warned Belarus of possible sanctions if election rigged. Government invited international observers to monitor poll; OSCE agreed, said sending team of experts for preliminary inspection of pre-election conditions.
Leading parties failed to agree on new constitution in final round of U.S.-sponsored talks. First round of negotiations with EU on Stabilisation and Association Agreement started 25 January. Republika Srpska government fell after no-confidence vote in Parliament: Milorad Dodik of SNSD to try to form new government. High Rep. Paddy Ashdown confiscated funds from Serbian Democratic Party for failure to locate former leader and war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. Former German minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling succeeded Ashdown 31 January. EUFOR shot dead wife of Serb war crimes suspect during arrest. Argentine judge ordered extradition of Milan Lukic to ICTY.
At least 16 soldiers and several militants, including senior rebel commander Supian Abdulayev, reported killed in clashes and landmine explosions.
Turkish FM Gul announced 10-point action plan 24 January: proposes opening of Turkish ports and airspace to Greek Cypriots, end to international blockade on traffic to Turkish Cypriot ports and airport, “practical inclusion” of Turkish Cypriots in EU Customs Union, and high-level meeting under UN auspices to finalise plan by June 2006. Proposal dismissed by Greek Cypriots and Greeks, welcomed by U.S., UK and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn. Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos refused to meet UK FM Jack Straw 25 January, objecting his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in his office promoted “symbols” of North. Talat accused Greek Cypriots of “escalation of intransigence”. UNDP established fund to aid Turkish Cypriots.
Unexplained explosions on Russian gas pipeline and electricity line 22 January sparked major energy crisis: power restricted to essential services, though situation returned to near normal at month-end. Georgian government suggested Moscow masterminding crisis for political aims; Moscow accused Tbilisi of “hysteria”. Security situation in Gali region of Abkhazia remained tense as Georgian media reported kidnappings, death of power plant worker, while Abkhaz media reported renewed Georgian guerrilla activity. Tbilisi and Abkhaz authorities continued negotiations on security guarantees, agreed to intensify crime prevention cooperation in conflict zone. Joint Control Commission meeting on South Ossetian conflict cancelled after disagreement on location. UN Security Council extended mandate of UNOMIG peacekeeping force in Abkhazia until 31 March, but Russia withdrew support for plan based on greater Abkhaz autonomy within Georgia.
Prominent dissident Galymzhan Zhakiyanov released from prison 14 January. President Nazarbayev sworn in for new 7-year term.
President Ibrahim Rugova, longstanding advocate of Kosovo independence, died 21 January. Rugova’s party, Democratic League of Kosovo, moved quickly to fill vacuum, indicating it will nominate party stalwart Fatmir Sejdiu for president, to be elected by Assembly after mourning period. First round of status discussions covering decentralisation in Kosovo postponed to February. Contact Group met at ministerial level in London 31 January; agreed negotiated settlement to be reached in 2006 must be acceptable to people of Kosovo - a nod toward independence.
Political breakdown gathered momentum. Sports hero and leading contender for head of National Olympic Committee shot dead, latest in string of political murders: previous head killed September 2005. Interior Ministry detained operative of National Security Service (NSS) in connection with killing and accused NSS of links with organised crime. Ryspek Akmatbayev, organiser of October Bishkek protests demanding PM Kulov’s dismissal, acquitted of murder after prosecution dropped charges. PM Kulov publicly blamed Akmatbayev and NSS chief Aybayev for rise in criminality, as parliament demanded Aybayev’s resignation. President announced governors of Jalalabad and Talas provinces to trade places, after attempt to sack Jalalabad governor - key figure in March 2005 “tulip revolution” - led to protests in both provinces.
Deal reached with Russia over gas prices 16 January after supply cut 1 January. No progress in multilateral talks on Transdniestria in Chisinau 26-27 January.
EU warned association talks could be suspended if fugitive war crime suspects Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic not caught. Albanians in southern Serbia issued “Presevo Declaration” calling for inclusion of Presevo in Kosovo future status talks. EU envoy for Montenegro Miroslav Lajcak visited Podgorica for series of talks between officials and opposition on referendum; fourth round began 31 January.
Hopes raised of possible signing of “framework agreement” at 10-11 February Paris meeting between Azeri and Armenian Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian. OSCE High-Level Planning Group toured areas under NK occupation 21-28 January. OSCE chairman in office held NK talks in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia; said ready to aid potential peacekeeper deployment.
EU suggested Macedonia not ready for full membership negotiations, warning process may take years.
Hopes raised of substantial progress in 6 February planned resumption of talks with political parties; talks announced after British and Irish PMs Blair and Ahern met in Dublin 26 January. Independent Monitoring Commission Report due to be published 1 February. Earlier in month, Northern Ireland Sec. Peter Hain announced dropping controversial fugitive amnesty bill after Sinn Fein rejection. Dublin also suspended plan to pardon IRA fugitives wanted in south. Police Historical Enquiries Team began re-examination of 3,268 unsolved murders committed 1968-1998, process expected to take 5-7 years.
Security forces launched operations against Daghestan militants: at least 3 police and 9 rebels reported killed including 2 senior rebel commanders. Further rebel killed in operation in Ingushetia. Ingush Supreme Court banned 2 European NGOs working with Chechen refugees for operating without authorisation.
President Rakhmonov fired 20 top government officials in major reshuffle 30 January. Head of Defence Ministry’s Military Institute shot dead days earlier in Dushanbe. Armed men attacked prison in north killing 1 and freeing suspected member of banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Supreme Court upheld conviction of opposition Democratic Party head Mahmadruzi Iskandarov on terrorism and corruption charges. Closed trial began of Ghaffor Mirzoyev, former head of Presidential Guard and counter-narcotics agency. Meanwhile, prosecutors said police had arrested 99 alleged members of banned Hizb ut- Tahrir extremist group in 2005.