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
Six conflict situations around the world deteriorated in September 2005, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. Iraq is heading toward de facto partition and full-scale civil war. Daily violence intensified in southern Thailand. Mozambique saw deadly clashes between supporters of the ruling party and a former rebel movement. The International Atomic Energy Agency voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council for violating its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Tensions worsened in Kyrgyzstan as political groups and criminal elements competed for power. The situation also deteriorated in Cote d'Ivoire where the peace process is on the brink of collapse.
Four conflict situations showed improvement in September 2005. Six-party talks on North Korea ended with a surprise breakthrough as Pyongyang promised to give up nuclear weapons and programs in exchange for energy assistance and security guarantees. In the Philippines, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed on the major issue of "ancestral domain" in informal talks. There was a positive development in Liberia as the government approved a long-awaited Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme, following pressure from donor countries. And a general amnesty was announced for political crimes in Mauritania. Positive developments in the Aceh peace process in Indonesia were offset by bombs in Bali being reported 1 October as CrisisWatch went to press.
For October 2005, CrisisWatch identifies Iraq, Nepal and Somalia as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. Nepal is also a Conflict Resolution Opportunity.
Electoral process ended with successful elections for local heads of villages 23 September. Spokesman for last remaining rebel group, National Liberation Forces (FLN), stated armed conflict now over; denied initiating attacks against government that killed 1. FLN refused to recognise new government’s legitimacy; splinter group later called on FLN leader to accept President Nkurunziza’s offer of negotiations. UN Security Council pledged support for “Forum of Partners” to help consolidate peace and promote development in Burundi. South Africa to withdraw over 300 troops protecting political leaders following August elections.
Unidentified armed group attacked northern CAR village 27 September; up to 3,000 reportedly fleeing to Chad; UNHCR refugee camp in Chad reaching capacity; new camp to be constructed.
Sudanese Janjaweed militia attacked villages in eastern Chad, killing 36; 8 attackers, 2 Chadian soldiers killed in ensuing clash. Continuing insecurity in northern CAR prompted repatriation of 1,500 Chadian refugees.
Deadline for all foreign rebels to leave DRC voluntarily expired 30 September; army to begin using force but lacks capacity to do so. Crisis as DRC soldiers in east deserted posts; most soldiers reportedly tricked by leaders into deserting. UN Security Council authorised deployment of additional police personnel and equipment to MONUC for 2006 general elections; to decide on UNSG request for 2,580 more MONUC personnel end October. Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and deputy leader in DRC; MONUC and DRC army met LRA who refused to give up arms; Uganda threatened to invade to disarm rebels. Nigerian government ordered withdrawal of 120 Nigerian police after sex abuse accusations.
Hutu rebels (FDLR) delayed disarmament in DR Congo, provoking international calls for military solution. Local militia destroyed huts in Rwandan refugee camp in southwest Uganda over land disputes; 250 families homeless. Belgian priest Guy Theunis, first European arrested on genocide charges, pleaded innocent. Former media director of radio station notorious for anti-Tutsi broadcasts arrested in Gabon on genocide charges.
Eritrea warned would re-start war with Ethiopia if UN fails to resolve border dispute. UN Security Council extended mandate of UN mission until March 2006, expressing concern over high troop concentrations near border. Ethiopia’s election board confirmed PM Meles Zenawi’s coalition won clear victory in disputed May election; government rejected opposition proposal to form unity government. Zenawi instead announced willing to open talks with main Ethiopian guerrilla movement, Oromo Liberation Front. Police arrested over 40 opposition members prior to planned protests early October.
Near-daily clashes between “Yes” and “No” supporters ahead of 21 November constitutional referendum; 2 MPs arrested for inciting mayhem.
Tensions escalated as President Abdullahi Yusuf massed loyal militia at temporary base in Jowhar; opposition warlords in Mogadishu accused him of plotting military assault, debated whether to attack. UN’s Jowhar office temporarily occupied raising doubts president and PM could establish authority. Somaliland held parliamentary elections 29 September; authorities arrested 4 Somali militants, including al Qaeda member. Pirates who seized ship carrying UN food aid July refused to release hostages, hijacked second ship.
New national unity cabinet sworn in 22 September; President al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, fronting for Sudan’s hard-line Islamist movement, retained key ministries including defence and energy; former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement given foreign ministry. South’s legislature officially inaugurated 29 September. Sixth round of Darfur peace talks between Sudanese government and 2 Darfur rebel groups opened mid-month in Nigeria. But violence spreading and clashes between government forces and rebels could jeopardise talks: Arab militias killed 34 in attack on refugee camp North Darfur; government threatened retaliation after Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels overran South Darfur town of Sheiria 20 September; attack by Arab nomads killed 40 in retaliation for August SLA raid. NATO agreed to extend mission to airlift AU troops to Darfur by month. UN Security Council extended UNMIS mandate to March 2006.
Violent clashes between supporters of ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and opposition Civic United Front in Zanzibar ahead of 30 October elections. Concerns remain of backlash over fraudulent voter registration and accusations of rigged outcome. CCM party official and 4 family members killed in allegedly politically motivated arson attack. Pre-election violence reported in other Tanzanian districts.
In positive step for peace process, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony resumed contact with conflict mediators. But clashes continued between Ugandan army and LRA, killing 24 rebels. About 60 LRA fighters left northern Uganda, attacked villages in southern Sudan, before crossing into DR Congo 19 September; Uganda threatened to take action if DRC army/MONUC did not disarm rebels. 15 killed in inter-clan fighting in northeast, while 250 Rwandan families homeless after militia demolished huts in southwest refugee camp.
Concern over increasing incidents of politically- motivated violence between ruling MPLA and opposition UNITA parties as Angola prepares for first post-war poll; parties agreed to hold simultaneous presidential/legislative elections mid-2006.
Violent clashes between supporters of ruling FRELIMO Party and former rebel movement RENAMO over disputed municipal elections erupted 4/5 September: 12 reportedly killed, 47 injured. Wave of detentions in northern town of Mocimboa da Praia following unrest.
Government warned pro-democracy activists that security forces would block planned October march to protest new constitution that concentrates power in King Mswati III. Police disrupted student march 8 September, seriously injuring 10.
President Mugabe defended urban demolition to UN General Assembly as effort to boost law and order. Government paid IMF $120 million 1 September; IMF granted Zimbabwe 6 month reprieve from expulsion in exchange for implementation of broader economic reforms. Mugabe signed into law constitutional changes that create senate, allow nationalisation of land and empower state to withdraw passports as government considered regulation requiring Zimbabweans to have exit visas to leave country.
Peace process on brink of collapse as ex- rebel Forces Nouvelles rejected South African President Mbeki as AU mediator and UN accepted elections will not be held as planned 30 October. South Africa suggested FN main obstacle to peace; FN accused South Africa of bias towards Gbagbo and covert weapon sales to government, in breach of UN embargo. Nigerian President Obasanjo called for renewed engagement of Ecowas regional body; Gbagbo rejected suggestion and did not attend Ecowas talks held Abuja 30 September; Ecowas recommendations to be submitted to AU 6 October. Former Ivorian President Henri Konan Bedié - deposed in 1999 - returned to country 12 September.
Instability persisted as opposition Front Républicain pour l’Alternance Démocratique alliance called for President Conté’s resignation in favour of government of national unity.
UNSG Annan called for more international assistance to ease transition to presidency of “Nino” Vieira. Ruling PAIGC party accepted defeat in previously disputed July presidential election 27 September.
Positive development as government approved long- awaited Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme 14 September following pressure from donor countries. Last-minute Supreme Court ruling on registrations of 2 candidates put 11 October date for presidential elections into doubt. UN Security Council extended UNMIL mandate until 31 March 2006, rejecting UNSG Annan’s recommendation for 12-month extension. Presidential candidate George Weah said UN military presence needed until 2010.
Separatists threatened to sabotage oil installations should Mujahid Dokubu-Asari, head of Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, arrested Port Harcourt 20 September, not be released. Idama oil-flow station stormed by 100 separatists day of arrest; subsequently reopened under army protection. President Obasanjo agreed to anti-corruption investigation after accused of taking bribes. Governor of oil-rich Bayelsa state arrested in UK in money laundering investigation. Thousands marched in Lagos protesting 30% fuel price rise.
UN Security Council approved UN Integrated Office for Sierra Leone 31 August, due to replace existing UNAMSIL peacekeeping mission 1 January 2006.
Exiled World Uighur Congress warned Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang risks turning area into “time bomb”: China’s top security official reportedly warned of new crackdown on separatism in region.
Surprise development on last day of 6-party talks in Beijing as deadlock on text of joint statement of principles broken. Pyongyang promised to give up nuclear weapons and programs, in exchange other 5 parties expressed willingness to provide energy assistance and security guarantees. Washington and Tokyo agreed to work to normalise ties with Pyongyang, which also pledged to rejoin NPT. According to statement, North Korea has right to civilian nuclear program - main sticking point between Washington and Pyongyang - if it regains international trust. Lack of detail in agreement highlighted by next day NK demand for light- water reactor before dismantlement to start. Fifth round of talks due in November.
Beijing warned Washington against helping Taiwan protect itself from missile attack; also repeated commitment to “no first use” policy and pledged not to engage in nuclear arms race. Head of main opposition Kuomintang party promised to forge direct links with mainland if party returns to power in 2008.
Historic National Assembly lower house (Wolesi Jirga) and 34 provincial council elections held 18 September with almost 6,000 candidates including 582 women; final results expected 22 October. Voter turnout 8 million compared to 7.3 million in-country votes for presidential election. Concern single non-transferable voting system and framework hostile to political parties will produce fractured democratic bodies. Vote touted as end of Bonn process started November 2001: UN Security Council voted to extend NATO- led ISAF force for another year. Sporadic attacks in south and east preceding vote killed at least 12 but violence less than expected. Candidate killed 27 September in Balkh province; concern “assassination clause” in electoral law, giving seat to next on list, may prompt more violence. Suicide bomber killed 12 at Kabul military training centre 28 September. Afghan and U.S. security forces continued operations: 7 U.S. soldiers killed, 5 in helicopter crash 25 September; French soldier killed by land mine 18 September. Taliban claimed responsibility for deaths of UK security expert and 2 Japanese tourists. President Karzai called for shift in international counter- terrorism strategy from military operations inside Afghanistan to targeting guerrilla training camps and financial support outside country.
Investigations into 17 August bomb attacks continued; over 400, mostly Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh members, reportedly arrested. Police and protesters clashed in Dhaka during nationwide strike to protest rise in fuel prices and August blasts. Bomb injured 5 at Dhaka University.
Violence and demonstrations continued in northeast and Naxalite belt. Over 40 killed in various incidents in northeast involving separatist groups, students and security forces. Maoist attacks on security forces and civilians continued: 15 village security group members in Jharkhand state killed; landmine in neighbouring Chhattisgarh state claimed 23 police; 5 civilians later abducted and killed. Government announced plans to combat Maoist violence by improving development and security for 9 affected states.
Talks between Indian PM Singh and Pakistani President Musharraf on sidelines of UN General Assembly reaffirmed commitment to “peaceful settlement of all issues” but failed to advance stalled negotiations. Singh held talks with moderate faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference separatist alliance 5 September; vowed to reduce Indian troops if violence and infiltration end. Politicians from Indian- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir held direct talks: separatist leaders from both sides yet to be allowed to join official peace process. Deadly clashes continued between Indian security forces and militants in Indian-administered Kashmir. Foreign ministers of Pakistan and India to meet 3 October.
Situation in flux, with both resolution and escalation of conflict possible. Maoists announced 3-month ceasefire 3 September in bid to win support of mainstream political parties. National Human Rights Commission said violence reduced by 90% since ceasefire but government has not reciprocated. Pitched battles between pro- democracy protesters and police erupted almost daily throughout month: police detained hundreds protesting against King Gyanendra. UN accused authorities of violating international human rights standards. Over 20,000 marched for peace in Kathmandu 21 September. FM Ramesh Nath Pandey reassured UN General Assembly of Gyanendra’s “unflinching” commitment to democracy and intent to hold local elections in April 2005, national parliamentary elections by April 2008. King had cancelled proposed New York trip after strong international opposition, including U.S. pressure.
Bombs in Lahore 22 September killed 9. Continuing unrest in Balochistan including 2 blasts in Kalat targeting infrastructure. Security forces claimed 35 suspected al Qaeda-linked militants killed North Waziristan near Afghan border end September; operations increased after 2 officials killed in Miranshah 5 September. Provisional agreement on dispute with religious schools over registration after both sides accepted to place demand on non-disclosure of funding and non-interference in curricula before parliament. Musharraf assured government’s support to curb violence against women but denounced those who singled out Pakistan for criticism provoking reaction from rights groups.
Increased international attention on perilous ceasefire failed to halt violence in north and east. UNSG envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visited in attempt to keep peace process on track. LTTE rejected offer by Norwegian peace-brokers to hold talks at international airport. Government extended state of emergency for month. LTTE claimed 3 rebels killed in east by soldiers: army blamed LTTE faction. Military claimed LTTE shot dead Hindu priest in north 14 September; 2 ethnic Tamils, 1 Sinhalese killed in east 1 October. Presidential poll set for 17 November. Government/LTTE aid-sharing deal remained suspended by Supreme Court.
Positive developments in Aceh offset by bombings in Bali being reported 1 October as CrisisWatch going to press. Aceh peace process continued to unfold smoothly. First stage of disarmament and troop withdrawals ended: GAM turned in 25% of weapons, 6,000 troops and additional 1,300 paramilitary mobile brigade (Brimob) police reportedly withdrawn. Aceh Monitoring Mission made first ruling, saying GAM responsible for armed clash wounding 2 soldiers. 3 bombs detonated in Bali 1 October; early reports 22 dead, casualty figures expected to increase. Attacks against churches and Ahmadiyah sect in West Java raised concerns about growing Islamic radicalisation and police inaction. Military presence in Papua steadily growing. Long-awaited Papuan People’s Assembly to be established early October after key figures previously threatened to pull out. Navy fired on Chinese fishing vessel in Arafura Sea 19 September, killing 1; 10 crew remain in detention..
UN human rights expert submitted report to UNSG Annan calling for immediate democratic reforms. U.S. reportedly expected to raise Myanmar at UN Security Council in October; follows declaration by former Czech President Vaclav Havel, and Bishop Desmond Tutu calling for Security Council action. FM Nyan Win told UN General Assembly his country would achieve “new era” of democracy more quickly without outside pressure.
Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiators reported breakthrough on major issue of “ancestral domain” in informal talks, which resumed after Congress dismissed impeachment calls for President Arroyo on charges of election fraud. National Democratic Front (NDF), political wing of insurgent Communist Party (CPP), denied resumption of peace talks, citing government failure to compel U.S. and EU to remove CPP-NDF (and its military arm NPA), from terrorist organisation lists: NPA resumed attacks on economic targets.
Daily violence intensified in south, increasingly directed toward Muslim civilians. Fear generated by emergency decree resulted in confrontations between authorities and villagers caught between soldiers and insurgents 30 August and 23 September: 131 Narathiwat residents fled to neighbouring Malaysian state of Kelantan 30 August, reportedly fearing persecution by military after rumours of extra-judicial killings. 2 months after emergency decree, following 18 months of martial law, security agencies no closer to understanding who is responsible for violence.
New PM Sali Berisha sworn in 11 September; appointment welcomed by U.S. and EU. Tenth round of Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with EU started 29 September.
Bosnia missed chance to begin Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with EU due to obstruction from Republika Srpska on police reform. High Representative began to take measures aimed at weakening ruling Serbian Democratic Party.
Uncompromising, nervous mood among Kosovo Albanians as key status discussions approach. UNSG envoy Kai Eide’s assessment on whether progress in institution- building, rule of law, decentralisation, and treatment of minorities sufficient for start of final status negotiations expected early October. Eide hosted Vienna meeting between Kosovo and Serbian ministers to discuss decentralisation, 16 September. Final status talks expected by end of year; former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari tipped as status envoy. President Rugova diagnosed with lung cancer; launched proposal for composition of Kosovo status negotiating team. Opposition PDK demurred, proposed resolution for independence in parliament. New head of Serbia’s Kosovo co- ordination centre Sanda Raskovic-Ivic called on Serbs working in UNMIK institutions to return to Serbian state and structures. New Serb regional police commander of Gjilan/Gnjilane wounded in 28 September shooting. Gracanica Serbs held roadblock protest after 4 Serbs arrested for war crimes 18 September. International Telecommunications Union declined UNMIK’s request for separate Kosovo telephone code.
Government of PM Buckovski survived no confidence vote in parliament 23 September. Western Balkan countries signed declaration for regional strategy to fight organised and economic crime, including cooperation of police forces and intelligence.
PM Kostunica appointed hard-liner Sanda Raskovic-Ivic as new head of Kosovo coordination centre, who called for Serbs to leave UNMIK structures and provisional government. Belgrade began purge of “disloyal” Serbs from Serbian-controlled municipalities in Kosovo. Defence Minister Prvoslav Davinic offered resignation 8 September over high profile corruption scandal involving purchase of unnecessary equipment at inflated prices. Supreme Court Judge Ljubomir Vuckovic and Deputy Prosecutor Milan Radovanovic arrested 15 September in aggressive move against corruption in judiciary. Head of Montenegrin Interior Ministry’s General Criminal Division, Slavoljub Scekic, assassinated 30 August in Podgorica. U.S. told Serbia that Ratko Mladic must be transferred to Hague, while EU threatened to delay Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations.
Parliament adopted internationally-endorsed plan for constitutional changes; referendum date not yet finalised. Opposition groups rejected amendments as leaving too much power to presidency, but disagreed on whether to boycott referendum. Ardarutiun opposition bloc to continue selective parliamentary boycott. Joint Russian-Armenian military exercises based on invasion scenario ended 13 September.
Azadlyg opposition bloc claimed 20,000 took part in 10 September rally ahead of November parliamentary elections; opposition said 100 arrested and 50 wounded in clash with police at 25 September rally. Electoral commission chairman Panahov said electoral law changes suggested by Council of Europe Venice Commission impractical; 2,038 candidates registered for vote. Opposition groups claimed crackdown intensifying: U.S. criticised detention of Said Nuri - deputy chairperson of Yeni Fikir youth organisation linked to Azerbaijan Popular Front (APF) party; police claimed explosives seized in raid on APF Baku headquarters; Ukrainian Sergei Yevtushenko - advisor to Ukraine’s foreign minister and Pora activist - deported 17 September. President Aliyev announced plans to double military expenditure to $600m.
As part of restructuring of Chechen resistance movement, deputy PM Zakaev empowered as chief Chechen negotiator. At least 22 Russian and Russian-backed Chechen forces killed in separate incidents across Chechnya; rebel commander Akhmad Avdorkhanov killed 12 September.
President Saakashvili accused Russia of engaging in effective annexation of breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and called for greater UN involvement. Some Georgian MPs accused Russian peacekeepers of criminal activity. Russian and Georgian representatives held “constructive” talks on peacekeeping operation in Moscow, 28 September. South Ossetian officials said 10 wounded by shells fired at Tskhinvali 20 September during 15th anniversary celebrations of de facto independence also attended by Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh. Tbilisi rejected accusations of involvement and said South Ossetia in breach of demilitarisation agreements; South Ossetia suspended involvement in Joint Control Commission. Sporadic gunfire on Georgian villages reported 21 September. Government signed $300m Millennium Challenge Account aid deal with U.S.
Minsk Group Russian co-chair expressed concerns over arms race between Baku and Yerevan. Following January 2005 resolution, PACE held NK hearing 12 September. Situation in occupied territories included in 60th UN General Assembly; Armenia threatened withdrawal from OSCE mediated negotiations if any further UN discussions or votes on issue. On the ground, exchanges of fire increased and OSCE suspended monitoring after near shooting. Azerbaijani soldier reported killed 6 September.
Continued spill-over of violence from Chechnya: bomb derailed freight train North Ossetia; further bombs detonated in Nazran and Malgobek, Ingushetia. Violence worst in ethnically-fragmented Dagestan: 4 killed in explosion in capital Makhachkala 2 September; 6 policemen killed in separate incidents.
Bomb explosions in Vitebsk wounded 48: nationalist Belarus Popular Liberation Army claimed responsibility. EU parliament and Council of Europe separately condemned regime’s persecution its opponents, journalists and civil-society activists. Remaining independent newspaper Narodnaya volya to be closed in further crackdown.
Stalled talks on Transdniestria’s future to resume October, with U.S. and EU participation. President Vladimir Voronin met President Yushchenko to discuss Ukraine’s efforts to settle dispute. EU agreed to send monitors to secure Ukraine-Moldova border through Transdniestria in first EU deployment in former USSR. Moldova-Ukraine asked OSCE to oversee December Transdniestrian elections. Transdniestria celebrated 15 years of self-proclaimed independence 2 September.
Political turmoil deepened as President Viktor Yushchenko sacked PM Tymoshenko and cabinet 10 September amid infighting and accusations of corruption. Parliament approved president’s new candidate for prime minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov, 22 September, after initial rejection. Yushchenko named new cabinet primarily of technocrats. Investigations found no evidence supporting allegations of corruption against certain top officials. Parliamentary commission investigating murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze concluded former President Kuchma organised his abduction.
2 bombs in northern Spain blamed on ETA militants. ETA claimed responsibility for 5 bomb attacks in June-July 2005 in letter to Basque newspaper Gara.
Cyprus dismissed suggestions at UN summit reunification deal should be reached before scheduled start of EU membership talks with Turkey 3 October. EU resolved crisis stemming from Turkish refusal to recognise Cyprus with agreement that recognition required before end of accession negotiations.
Independent International Commission report confirmed IRA decommissioning completed 26 September. British government declared Ulster Volunteer Force’s (UVF) 1994 ceasefire invalid 13 September, following 3 nights of rioting blamed on UVF and Ulster Defence Association that injured 60 police officers; violence stemmed from re-routing of contentious Orange Order Whiterock parade 11 September. Dissident republicans blamed for attack 21 September on Police Board vice-chairman in Londonderry.
Tensions rising in Kurdish southeast despite Kurdish rebels’ (PKK) August call for ceasefire: army-PKK clashes killed at least 23; dozens arrested after police clashed with demonstrators demanding release of rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan. Turkish leaders accused PKK of causing unrest in order to influence EU accession talks. PKK extended ceasefire until talks’ scheduled start-date 3 October, calling PM Erdogan to follow up on promises for democratic reforms in Kurdish areas. Explosion on bus in southwest 19 September killed 2. 38 supporters of banned pan-Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir arrested while attempting to demonstrate outside mosque. EU failed to agree on terms for start of accession talks, as Austria demanded alternative to full membership; emergency meeting to be held 2 October.
President Nazarbayev, Senator Kaisarov, opposition candidate Tuyakbai and Ak Zhol party leader Baimenov announced would run in 4 December presidential elections. Nazarbayev warned foreign and Kazakh NGOs would be monitored during campaign and international financing of candidates not permitted; U.S. embassy agreed to inform authorities of electoral-support activities. Almaty housing protest broken up by riot police 18 September.
Tensions worsened as political groups and criminal elements competed for power. Dismissal of Prosecutor-General Beknazarov on 19 September sparked large demonstrations in his home Aksy region, with demands for President Bakiev’s resignation and threats to march on Bishkek; Beknazarov subsequently called for calm. MP and Osh businessman Bayaman Erkinbaev shot dead in Bishkek 21 September prompting MPs to demand right to bear arms and resignation of law-enforcement chiefs. Earlier in month, 100 protestors seized Prosecutor-General’s Karasuu office amidst allegations of foot-dragging in murder investigation of Erkinbaev business rival. Parliament overwhelmingly confirmed Feliks Kulov as PM 1 September and began reviewing ministerial nominations. Outside parliament, moves to trigger dissolution referendum continued; ex-PM Tanaev arrested attempting to leave country. Russian Defence Minister Ivanov announced military aid, joint 2006 anti-terrorism exercises and investment in Russia’s Kant airbase. Bakiev, while confirming U.S. would retain use of Manas airbase, said financial conditions of basing agreement would be reviewed.
Trial of opposition leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov continued; Supreme Court granted motion allowing Iskandarov to call further witnesses. Russia transferred full responsibility for security of Afghan border to Tajik forces 1 September; EU pledged assistance. Tajik authorities arrested dozen suspected members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sughd province and uncovered arms cache in eastern Jirgatol district.
Authorities strongly denied Russian media reports of U.S. plans to open military base. Major shake-up of oil and gas sector continued with reported sentencing of former executives Veliyev and Charyev on corruption charges.
Government account of May Andijon events claimed Islamist infiltration from bases in Kyrgyz territory, with intention to take control of Ferghana valley; disputed by rights groups and Kyrgyz authorities. Trial of 15 accused of instigating Andijon events - including 3 Kyrgyz citizens - began 20 September. EU set to agree 3 October arms embargo and visa restrictions on individuals it holds responsible for Andijon events. UNHCR airlifted 11 Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyz detention to Europe; 4 remain. 6 U.S. senators wrote to Sec. Defense Rumsfeld asking him to withhold $22m payments for use of Karshi-Khanabad airbase, until Uzbek cooperation with U.S. renewed. Uzbekistan ran joint anti-terrorist exercises with Russian forces. Tashkent court ordered shutdown of U.S.-run NGO Internews.
Student and opposition protests continued in build-up to December elections. Controversial court ruling redistributing parliament seats may delay poll and affect presidential favourite Evo Morales’ campaign, who earlier pledged to legalise coca cultivation. Police sent to remove Landless Campesinos Movement in Santa Cruz and Pando.
FARC rejected government’s latest proposal to negotiate hostage exchange citing lack of security for negotiators. Government accused France of meddling in internal affairs by hosting unauthorised hostage talks with FARC. Smaller leftist group ELN accepted Venezuelan offer to facilitate peace talks after government freed senior ELN leader for 3 months in peace gesture. 17 killed during combat between FARC and far-right paramilitaries in Putumayo province. FARC suspected of destroying electrical towers in south, leaving over 2.3 million without electricity; shot down plane spraying coca fields killing pilot.
Ousted President Lucio Gutierrez requested asylum in Colombia; granted 90-day safe conduct. Defence ministry acknowledged army destroyed Colombian rebel camp near border, despite denying Colombian armed groups operate in Ecuador.
President Hugo Chavez vowed to improve tense relations with Washington; prior to announcement, Chavez criticised President Bush at UN summit for Iraq war, applauded by General Assembly, and later claimed had evidence of U.S. plans to invade Venezuela.
Preparations for elections overshadowed by kidnappings and violence. Over 30 presidential candidates registered but provisional electoral council warned elections may be delayed without international help. Ousted President Aristide’s Lavalas party, with widespread support in Port-au- Prince slums, barred from registering jailed priest Gerard Jean- Juste. Jailed former PM Yvon Neptune formally charged 20 September with suspect evidence of masterminding killings of political opponents 2004. UN-based Core Group of foreign ministers and MINUSTAH expressed concern on electoral preparations, lack of police reform and disarmament of illegal groups, and prosecution of government opponents.
Palestinian celebrations and chaos followed withdrawal of last Israeli troops from Gaza Strip 12 September. Withdrawal from 4 West Bank settlements completed 21 September. Egypt and Palestinian Authority (PA) pledged to seal porous Gaza border. PM Ariel Sharon called on Palestinians to make next peace move; reiterated view of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided and eternal capital”. 5 Palestinians, including 2 children, died in West Bank raid against Islamic Jihad organisation near Tulkarm 16 September. 21 killed in explosion in Hamas rally same day; Israel and PA rejected Hamas suggestion of Israeli involvement. Subsequent escalation of violence: 40 rockets launched from Gaza against Israel; 6 known militants killed in Israeli air-raids which continued despite announcement from Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas leader in Gaza, rocket launches would be stopped. By month-end over 400 alleged Hamas and Islamic Jihad members arrested in Israeli “First Rain” operation in West Bank. Earlier in month, U.S. Sec. State Rice signalled U.S. accepted possible Hamas participation in planned January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, rejected by Israel. Israel’s Supreme Court ordered government to alter route of several portions of separation barrier while leaving it within West Bank; construction of wall around Jerusalem continued. Sharon narrowly fended off leadership challenge by Likud rival Binyamin Netanyahu 26 September.
Country consolidated realignment from Syrian to Franco-American axis with visit of U.S. Sec. State Rice to Beirut and growing isolation of pro-Syrian President Lahoud; Maronite Patriarch appeared to withdraw support from Lahoud, but president pledged to serve out term until 2007. Rice called for Hizbullah disarmament, but did not denounce integration into Lebanon’s cabinet, marking possible acceptance of Hizbullah transformation into political party. Investigation into murder of former PM Rafiq Hariri continued with UN investigator visiting Damascus at Syria’s invitation. 1 killed in Beirut explosion 16 September; 25 September bomb seriously injured anti-Syrian television journalist May Chidiac. Authorities foiled apparent car-bombing attempt 1 October.
U.S. air strikes 30 August against suspected militant targets on border with Iraq killed at least 47: U.S. believed al Qaeda operative Abu Islam also killed. Following deal with government, Detlev Mehlis, head of UN inquiry into death of former Lebanese PM Hariri, visited Damascus to question government officials.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to report Iran to UN Security Council for violating its obligations under Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). China and Russia abstained in vote, called for further diplomacy; Venezuela only country to vote in favour; India, in surprise move, voted against Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed “inalienable right” to produce nuclear energy in 17 September speech to UN. Iran warned may halt snap inspection access and consider withdrawing from NPT.
Situation heading toward de facto partition and full-scale civil war. Dramatic escalation in violence throughout country as parliament signed-off on final amendments to draft constitution after rushed process deepened rifts; referendum set for 15 October. Sunni militant group “al Qaeda in Iraq” claimed increased violence in retaliation for offensive on Syria/Iraq border that killed over 140 insurgents. Wave of violence began with death of 114 in Baghdad suicide bomb 14 September, culminated in coordinated blasts in Balad north of Baghdad killing over 100 29 September; at least 400 mostly Shiites killed in month. Large areas of northwest city of Qaim taken over by insurgents while further escalation around Basra in south; 16 killed in blast 8 September; 3 British soldiers killed by separate roadside bombs; UK army forced to rescue 2 soldiers working covertly in Basra further adding to tensions. 3 Iraqi journalists and 1 Kurdish MP also killed in violence. 1,516 Coalition soldiers, including 1,401 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat 1 May 2003.
Third most-wanted militant, Zaid Saad Zaid al-Samari, killed in clash with police in Dammam. U.S. allowed country 6-month extension to show improved treatment of religious minorities.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered amnesty for jailed Zaidi rebels and compensation for exiled Zaidi family.
Official results of 29 September referendum on Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation stated 97% voted in favour of measure put forward by President Bouteflika. Opposition groups disputed 79% turnout figure. In run-up to vote, Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) attacks killed at least 29 - including 19 soldiers. Madani Mezrag, former leader of Islamic Salvation Army said he expected most GSPC militants to surrender if charter passed. French police arrested 9 suspected GSPC-affiliated terrorists Paris 26 September.
President Mubarak pledged economic and political reform following re-election with 88.6% of vote in first multi-candidate presidential elections. Official figure for turnout remarkably low at 23%. Second place candidate Ayman Nour awarded 7.6% of vote, though al-Ghad party claimed he won 30%. Opposition candidates called for re-run claiming results rigged, media biased and pointing out ban on NGO monitoring of vote. U.S. Sec. State Rice welcomed poll as “one step…towards full democracy”. Israel’s unilateral pull-out from Gaza Strip caused thousands of Palestinians to enter Egyptian territory; border subsequently sealed by Egyptian forces.
Colonel Vall, head of governing military council, announced general amnesty for political crimes 2 September, excluding 20 alleged to have worked with Algerian Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat. Refugees from 1989 interracial violence between Arab and black Africans (estimated at 20,000 in Senegal and 7,000 in Mali) called on government to support structured return.
UN expressed concern over 35 Western Saharan prisoners on hunger strike in Moroccan custody; Polisario Front asked for UN intervention.