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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Politics, US Congress on Belarus, OSCE arrives, EurAsEC, Iran/Russia Nuclear talks, Skrabets in Jail, economics, Olympics

From the Top

Main political forces of Russia want Alexander Lukashenko to remain president of Belarus

Belta and the office of the president

Lukashenko during his trip to the Yelizovo glass plant
The main political forces of Belarus want Alexander Lukashenko to remain the president of Belarus, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Gennadiy Selezniov stated when answering questions of Belarusian reporters.

“There are political parties and organizations in Russia, first of all the Right, who do not want Alexander Lukashenko to remain the president of Belarus. They maintain relations with your right forces. However, today they do not exert influence on the public opinion in Russia, so have virtually lost all their seats in the Russian parliament. And I think in Belarus they are not powerful organizations as well”, Gennadiy Selezniov noted.

Not many people in Russia support the opinion of the Right that Belarus needs another president, he added.

“I think the main political forces of Russia have already made their choice”, Gennadiy Selezniov underlined.

Election campaigns run in a calmer manner in Belarus than in Russia, Gennadiy Selezniov underlined. “Last time I visited Belarus six months ago and I think nothing has changed in your republic. I know that the election campaign is running, several candidates have been nominated and their registration is coming to an end”, Gennadiy Selezniov underlined.

  • Politics

    No prerequisites for revolution in Belarus - Bordyuzha


    Nikolai Bordyuzha
    MOSCOW. -Secretary General of the Collective
    Security Treaty Organization Nikolai Bordyuzha has said there are no
    prerequisites for any revolution to take place in Belarus and has ruled
    out the possibility of an aggravation of the situation in Russia during
    presidential elections.

    "There are no prerequisites for revolution in Belarus," he told the
    Moscow press on Monday.

    The presidential elections in Belarus will proceed in a calm
    atmosphere even though attempts are being made to use them to undermine
    stability, in particular through foreign financial assistance to the
    opposition. "In spite of this there will be no serious events during the
    elections in Belarus," he said.

    Bordyuzha said that the situation in Belarus differs fundamentally
    from the one that emerged during the presidential elections in Ukraine.

    US Congress to Consider Resolution On Belarus

    Charter '97

    Nicholas Burns
    On Tuesday the US Congress is to start consideration of the resolution with a demand to the leadership of Belarus to ensure free and fair elections. The resolution also expresses support to the endeavours of the people of Belarus to instate full democracy and respect of human rights. The voting on the document is to take place in the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives.

    Yesterday the US State Department also informed that the Administration of George Bush is alarmed by Belarusian authorities’ preparations to the presidential elections in March.

    The United States remains deeply concerned about the Belarusian government`s conduct leading up to the election, harassment of civil society, and failure to investigate seriously the cases of the disappeared. It has been stated by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the Department of State Nicholas Burns on February 10 at the meeting with representatives of the Belarusian civil society.

    As said by the US Department of State, the parties discussed a situation with democracy and human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the presidential elections. The under secretary assured the Belarusian civil society representatives of the United States’ "deep and continuing interest in Belarus, both ahead of and after the March 19 election. As Under Secretary Burns underlined, “We want the people of Belarus to join the rest of the continent and help complete the transition to a Europe whole, free and at peace.”

  • Elections

    OSCE long-term observers to arrive in Minsk on Tuesday

    Charter '97

    ODIHR representitive Urdur Gunnarsdottir (l)
    Forty long-term observers representing the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) are expected to arrive in Minsk on Tuesday to monitor the ongoing presidential race.

    They will work in teams of two in 20 populated areas, Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, head of the ODIHR observation mission, said in an interview with the Belarusian Service of RFE/RL.

    About 400 short-term observers are expected to arrive in Belarus shortly before March 19, the main polling day in the first round. Mr. Ahrens said that there would be a little more short-term observers than during previous elections.

    The day after March 19, the ODIHR group is to issue a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions. A final report on the observation of the entire election process will be issued approximately eight weeks after the end of the mission. The group will also unveil some of its preliminary findings after February 17, the end of the candidate registration stage, and eight or nine days before the main polling day.

    The mission will assess the entire electoral process in terms of its compliance with OSCE requirements for democratic elections, other international standards, and national regulations. It will focus on the election campaign, the legal framework and its implementation, the media situation, the work of the election authorities and governmental agencies, and the settlement of election-related disputes.

    Mr. Ahrens said that he was planning a series of meetings with the campaign teams of presidential contenders, representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations. He also expressed an intention to meet with Valery Romashko, head of the foreign ministry’s Main Europe Office, and Lidiya Yermoshina, chairwoman of the central election commission, every week. He said that at the meetings with the officials, he would talk about the mission’s work and offer comments. This will ensure that the interim reports do not come as a surprise, he noted.

    According to him, the ODIHR regrets that its previous recommendations have not become the focus of contacts between the ODIHR and the Belarusian authorities.

    The ODIHR has observed a number of elections in Belarus, including the missions of various scale deployed to monitor parliamentary elections in 2000, a presidential election in 2001, and parliamentary elections in 2004.

  • International

    Belarus ratifies 75 EurAsEC agreements


    A meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community
    Belarus has ratified and fulfilled internal state procedures necessary for 75 out of 79 agreements signed within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) to come into force, chairperson of the Chamber of Representatives' CIS relations and international affairs commission Vadim Popov at a sitting on February 14.

    The MP said, so far Belarus has not accomplished procedures necessary for four agreements to come into force. One of these agreements is dealing with setting up an international automobile transport union. According to Vadim Popov, the economic advisability for Belarus to sign the agreement is discussed, as the agreement may entail "additional expenses for our haulers". Besides, an agreement related to Uzbekistan ascent to EurAsEC is not ratified either. According to Vadim Popov, Belarusian MPs "should assist their Uzbekistan colleagues in documenting Uzbekistan participation in all agreements for the country to become a full-fledged member of the Eurasian Economic Community".

    As of January 1, 2006 Belarus completed all the procedures necessary for 227 out of 241 (94.2 per cent) to come into force.

    Vadim Popov said, last year all Commonwealth states increased the rate of fulfilling internal state procedures, except for Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In particular, Georgia ratified only 18 per cent of the signed CIS agreements, Turkmenistan – 22.6 per cent, Uzbekistan – 58.5 per cent.

    The source also noted, besides ratifying new agreements, Belarus should withdraw from no longer sensible agreements. For example, Russia withdrew from 19 CIS agreements. The parliamentary commission suggested that the foreign ministry should study the opinion of government bodies on whether Belarus should withdraw from no significance agreements. At present the ministry is polling the government bodies over four agreements.

    The next sitting of the CIS foreign ministers council is scheduled to take place in St Petersburg on April 21.

    The FMC sitting agenda includes 25 issues related to CIS member-states' cooperation in military, cultural, information and educational fields. Some of the agreements and programmes will be submitted for consideration of the CIS state leaders after approval.

    Iran delegation to arrive in Moscow Feb. 20 for nuclear talks

    Ria Novosti

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, during his earlier career
    An Iranian delegation will arrive in Moscow on February 20 for nuclear talks, Javad Vaeedi, a senior Iranian security official, said Tuesday.

    Tehran had announced Monday that it was postponing talks, which had been scheduled to take place on February 16.

    Mikhail Kamynin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, confirmed that Iran had asked Russia for the talks to be postponed, due to technical reasons.

    "The Russian side is currently discussing the acceptability of this date via working channels," he said.

    Vaeedi also said that having received an order from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, work would now resume at Iran's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

    The United States, Israel and members of the European Union have repeatedly accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program. Iran denies this, insisting that its program's only aim is generation of electrical power.

    In a bid to allay Western nations' concerns that Iran may use enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb, Russia proposed taking Iranian uranium for enrichment on its soil and then returning it for electricity generation at the Russian-built Bushehr power station.

    The Russian offer has been seen as a compromise in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. It could remove the need for Iran to enrich uranium, which is the process that has aroused international concerns as it can be used to create nuclear weapons.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Russia's offer remained on Iran's agenda. "The Iranian leadership paid serious attention to Russia's proposal to enrich uranium on its territory. Talks with the Russian side remain on the agenda."

    China could join Russia-Iran nuclear talks - Russia expert

    Ria Novosti

    Iran had been planning to send technical experts to Moscow to discuss Russia's proposal to enrich uranium - a process that can be used both to generate energy and to create bomb-grade material
    The format of Russia-Iran negotiations on the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear research program could be expanded to include China, a Russian expert said Tuesday.

    According to Vladimir Yevseyev, coordinator of the nuclear non-proliferation program at the Carnegie Moscow Center political research institute, this possibility had apparently been behind the postponing of Iranian nuclear negotiators' visit to Moscow, which was rescheduled from February 16 to 20 at Iran's initiative.

    "In view of the time shortage, the status of the negotiations could also be raised," Yevseyev said.

    The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Board of Governors, is to hear a report on the issue from Director General Mohammed ElBaradei March 6, and then the Iranian file may be referred to the UN Security Council. The latter has the power to impose sanctions on Iran if it is found to be in breach of its international obligations to pursue no atomic weapons program.

    Yevseyev said Iran had been planning to send technical experts to Moscow to discuss Russia's proposal to enrich uranium - a process that can be used both to generate energy and to create bomb-grade material - for Iran's nuclear power plants as part of a joint venture. This proposal has been largely seen as a possible compromise capable of defusing international tensions surrounding Iran's resumption of its nuclear program.

    However, Yevseyev said Russia's offer had not received full support in Iran, leading Russia to propose China's involvement in the joint uranium enrichment venture.

    "If China is engaged in the negotiations with Iran, this could help alter the content of ElBaradei's report and modify the positions of Russia and China [on the issue]," Yevseyev said, adding that the opinions of the latter two would be essential, considering they had veto-welding power in the UN Security Council and could block international sanctions against Iran.

    "If Russia and China back Iran on the compromise option [the joint venture], then the issue will not be pushed on to the UN Security Council without consent from Moscow and Beijing," Yevseyev said.

    Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said China's possible participation in the Russia-Iran talks had not yet been discussed.

    According to Yevseyev, Iran is more concerned about its own security than guaranteed nuclear fuel supplies, which is why he proposed concluding a package agreement with the country.

    The expert also said Iran's security concerns could be allayed if the United States considered offering non-aggression guarantees to Iran. He said such a move would make Russia's uranium enrichment initiative more realizable, as it could not resolve the problem without security guarantees.

    "It is extremely difficult to address the problem in separate approaches because this could escalate the conflict and lead to political sanctions against Iran," Yevseyev said.

    (Editor's note: This situation could also lead to A-bombs being dropped on Israel)

  • Legal issues

    Belarus Court Sentences Leading Opposition Figure To Jail


    Opposition politician Syarhey Skrabets has been sentenced to jail
    The Belarus Supreme Court has sentenced opposition figure Syarhey Skrabets to 2 1/2 years in jail for misusing a state credit.

    The court handed down the verdict today in Minsk.

    Skrabets, a former member of parliament, was arrested in May 2005. He intended to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in next month's presidential election, but withdrew from the race.

    Human rights groups have said the charges against Skrabets are political in nature.

    Several opposition leaders have been jailed ahead of the election, which Lukashenka is widely expected to win. Lukashenka has said he will not tolerate a Georgian- or Ukrainian-style popular revolution.

    Belarus Comes up with Translucent System to Revitalise Unprofitable Enterprises


    New rules for bankruptcy handed down
    The government has developed measures for financial revival of unprofitable enterprises. The mechanism can remove enterprises, which are unable to function properly, from the economy.

    The measures are laid down in a draft government resolution "Measures to increase effectiveness of economy branches, which have insolvent companies". The draft document was discussed at a Council of Ministers board sitting chaired by Belarusian premier Sergei Sidorskiy on February 14.

    Economy minister Nikolai Zaychenko noted, the document lays down a clear scheme of actions for all bodies. The actions are meant to rehabilitate enterprises, in particular, by active application of economic insolvency laws.

    The minister stressed, the work is meant to divide all state-owned unprofitable enterprises according to their solvency and take corresponding decisions to revitalise the companies. The revival is expected to consist of two stages. First, financial status of an enterprise will be assessed to provide the basis for a decision – revival without court proceedings or filing an economic insolvency case with the court (bankruptcy). The enterprise will be given a range of preferences as soon as the case is filed.

    Pre-trial revival includes state support. "We use the method quite widely", noted Nikolai Zaychenko. The state support measures are defined by president decrees #88, 508 and 27. Besides, economy branch authorities reorganise enterprises by creating holding companies. The list of state support measures also includes expanding the industrial cooperation for more intensive use of the capacity of unprofitable companies.

    If pre-trial revival fails, a bankruptcy case is filed with the court. The minister noted.

    Belarus mulling amendments


    "The bill contains an amendment providing for criminal liability
    for illegal border-crossing by expelled foreigners,"
    MINSK. Feb 14 (Interfax-West) - A bill amending legislation on the
    stay of foreigners and persons without citizenship in Belarus has been
    submitted to the House of Representatives.

    "The bill contains an amendment providing for criminal liability
    for illegal border-crossing by expelled foreigners," a source on the
    house commission for international affairs told Interfax on Tuesday.

    Under another amendment, the police may file suit to invalidate a
    marriage involving a foreigner or a person without citizenship
    contracted with the purpose of getting a permanent residence status.

    The source said that under a recently enforced law on the legal
    status of foreigners and persons without citizenship, such persons might
    be deported or expelled from Belarus.

    "On the grounds of a deportation decision a foreigner is added to a
    list of persona non grata and barred from entering Belarus for one to
    ten years," the source said.

    Officials Explain State Policy to Editor of Non-state Newspaper


    State policy is aimed at "stability and unity of the society"
    On 9 February Barys Vyrvich, editor of the non-state newspaper Pahodnia (issued in the town of Bialynichy), had to spend almost half of the day in the office of police lieutenant-colonel V. Bizunou. However, Bizunou was not the main person to explain to Vyrvich the state policy. It was done by the chair of Bilanynichy District Executive Committee Aliaksandr Ilianau. Ilianau stated that state policy was aimed at "stability and unity of the society" and the newspaper (the circulation of which is 299 copies and only three numbers have been published so far) "interfered with this policy".

    The issue of this newspaper, which was very popular in the end of the 1990-ies became possible due to the cooperation of several democratic organizations. During the talk Bizunou and Ilianau tried to get any information about these organizations from the editor, but didn’t succeed. They also told him to remove the emblem of Bialynichy from the newspaper’s heading, saying it couldn’t be used without the official permission. Barys Vyrvich demanded from them to show the official decision of Bialynichy Town Executive Committee about this. They failed to do it and promised they would show the decision later.

    Base amount in Belarus to climb to Br31 thousand


    A thousand ruble note (about 48 cents)
    Resolution #189 of the Council of Ministers of February 11, 2006 administered the base amount at Br31 thousand ($14.42). The resolution validates from March 1.

    The Apparatus of the Council of Ministers has reported to BelTA that the resolution provides for a 1,07-time increase in unemployment doles and scholarships to those who undergo training courses spurred by the unemployment agencies. The amount of monthly compensation to these people will reach Br8,730. Government officials laid off in connection with winding up of the body or reduction of the staff make an exception to the regulation.

    Since November 1, 2005 the base amount has been Br29 thousand.

    In addition, Belarus has reset the first class tariff rate has been set at Br 62,000 in line with Council of Ministers resolution #188 of February 11, 2006 "Setting first class tariff rate for salaries of personnel of state-funded organisations". The resolution comes into force on February 1, 2006, informed representatives of the Council of Ministers administration.

    The measure will increase salaries of state employees by 9 per cent on average, chief advisor of the central economic department of the Council of Ministers administration Sergei Bolshakov told BelTA. He reminded, on October 1, 2005 the previous raise of the first class tariff rate was fixed at Br 58,000.

    The resolution defines coefficients to correct 1-11 class state employees' salaries, which are calculated in line with the single salary grid. The correction coefficients vary from 2.05 to 1.01. The labour and social protection ministry should introduce corrections of the salaries.

    Central and local administration bodies, directors of state-funded enterprises should re-calculate salaries of their employees in line with the new first class tariff rate and the correction coefficients of the single salary grid.

    The pay rise will be felt by around 800,000 Belarusian employees, head of the central labour and salary department of the labour and social protection ministry Gennadiy Prokhorchik said while commenting on government resolution #188. He noted, the document is the next step in the gradual salary rise of state employees and is meant to reach the corresponding goal in 2006.

    Gennadiy Prokhorchik emphasised, the resolution cancelled salary reduction coefficients for 12-27 class state employees. The measure will return an old difference of at least 7 per cent between salaries of these classes and will increase differentiation in the salaries of these classes of employees, said the source. The salaries of 1-4 class will be kept above the minimal living budget.

  • Sports

    2nd hemoglobin suspension goes to Belarus skier

    USA Today

    High hemoglobin levels has kept Belarussian Sergey Dolidovich from one event but he may still be able to compete in a Feb. 22 sprint
    PRAGELATO, Italy (AP) — Cross country skier Sergei Dolidovich of Belarus received a second five-day suspension Tuesday after testing positive for high levels of hemoglobin and wasn't able to start the inaugural men's team sprint event.

    His teammate, Aleksandr Latsukin, was one of four skiers — including a German gold medalist and two Americans — cleared Monday to compete, but Dolidovich's second failed test kept the tandem out of competition, according to International Ski Federation communications manager Riikka Rakic.

    Last week, a dozen skiers were given five-day suspensions for elevated levels of hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that can increase endurance. All of those scheduled to compete Tuesday had to be retested, but those two put off their tests because they weren't scheduled to compete in the men's and women's team sprint events Tuesday.

    Germany's Evi Sachenbacher and the two Americans — Kikkan Randall and Leif Zimmerman — were the other three cleared Monday.

    If Dolidovich is able to bring down his hemoglobin levels in the coming days, he could still be eligible for the individual sprint race Feb. 22.

    There is no proof that the athletes did anything wrong: Elevated hemoglobin can be caused by simple dehydration or by the body getting acclimated to higher elevations. The cross-country venue sits at more than 5,000 feet.

    But the test results raised the possibility of blood doping with synthetic hemoglobin or transfusions. As a precaution, FIS routinely suspends skiers who test high for hemoglobin.

    Hewitt likely to play in Davis Cup home tie against Belarus

    Daily Times

    Lleyton Hewitt
    SYDNEY: Lleyton Hewitt is expected to be available to play in Australia’s home Davis Cup quarter-final with Belarus after missing the weekend victory over Switzerland, reports said on Tuesday.

    The world number 11 missed the Geneva tie with an ankle injury amid reports that he was at odds with Australian Open organisers over the tournament’s hardcourt surface and ticketing issues for his ‘Fanatics’ supporters. But he flew to the United States Monday after practising for three days at Melbourne Park while Australia clinched a 3-2 victory over Switzerland, missing world number one Roger Federer. Still not 100 percent fit after straining ligaments in his left ankle, Hewitt has been given a Wednesday night start into the San Jose tournament in California this week.

    Australia will play Belarus on April 7-9 with Melbourne’s Kooyong Stadium emerging as the favourite to stage the tie along with Adelaide and Canberra. The Daily Telegraph said Tuesday that Hewitt’s coach Roger Rasheed and manager Rob Aivatoglou were optimistic that Hewitt will resume his Cup career after contesting ATP tournaments in San Jose, Las Vegas, Indian Wells and Miami. Australia captain John Fitzgerald is enthused over Hewitt’s re-inclusion as Australia’s draw opened invitingly with the possibility of three successive home matches, including the final against the United States.

    Belarusian women-skiers far from medals in Turin


    Kristina Smigun
    Belarusian women-skiers have come far behind their rivals in the ladies' 15km pursuit (7.5+7.5) (the skiers used classic technique in the first half of the race and skating – in the second). The best of the Belarusians was Yelena Sannikova who came 43 and Lyudmila Shablovskaya – 44. Olga Vasilionok and Yekaterina Bulavka hit the group of outsiders.

    The Belarusian mission in Turin has told BelTA that the Belarusian skiers had virtually no chances after the first half of the race when Sannikova and Shablovskaya where travailing in the 50s. The shift to skating technique gave no boost to the Belarusians who were still far in the rear of their rivals.

    It was the big time for Estonian Kristina Smigun who grasped gold – the first Olympic gold in her career. Katerina Neumannova from the Czech Republic came second to win silver and Russian skier Evgenia Medvedeva took bronze.

    Complete Belarus results through February 15

    Aidarov, Alexei Biathlon
    Ananko, Ludmilla Biathlon
    Anisimov, Maksim Ski Jumping
    ( 33rd place Men's NH Individual Final Rankings, 28th place Men's NH Individual Qualification Round)
    Chaadaev, Petr Ski Jumping
    (45th place Men's NH Individual Qualification Round)
    Dashinski, Dmitri Freestyle Skiing
    Davydov, Sergei Figure Skating
    (14th place Men Short Program)
    Dolidovich, Sergei Cross Country
    (disqualified for five days for high hemoglobin count)
    Dratchev, Vladimir Biathlon
    (43rd place Men's 20 km Individual, 63rd place Individual 10 Km)
    Elsakova, Julia Short Track
    ( 3rd in heat, did not qualify for Women's 500 )
    Grishin, Alexei Freestyle Skiing
    Ivanova, Ekaterina Biathlon
    (45th place Women's 15 km Individual)
    Khatylyov, Aleksey Speedskating
    Korolik Shablouskaya, Ludmila Cross Country
    (44th place Women's 15 km Pursuit
    Kotyuga, Anzhelika Speedskating
    Kushnir, Anton Freestyle Skiing
    Lasutkin, Alexander Cross Country
    (Disqualified from team sprint because of Dolidovich)
    Lopatina, Viktoria Cross Country
    Mikhailov, Vitaly Speedskating
    Nazarova, Olga Biathlon
    (8th place Women's 15 km Individual)
    Novikov, Sergei Biathlon
    (24th place Men's 20 km Individual, 32nd place Individual 10 Km )
    Radkevich, Svetlana Speedskating
    (27th place Women's 500 m)
    Rak, Dmitri Freestyle Skiing
    Rudakova Bulauka, Ekaterina Cross Country
    (49th place Women's 15 km Pursuit
    Ryzhenkov, Oleg Biathlon
    (30th Men's 10 km Sprint 28:15.9)
    Sannikova, Alena Cross Country
    (43rd Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5))
    Slivets, Oly Freestyle Skiing
    Slivets, Timofei Freestyle Skiing
    Syman, Alexandre Biathlon
    (72nd place Men's 20 km Individual)
    Tsuper, Alla Freestyle Skiing
    Valiullin, Rustam Biathlon
    (46th place Men's 20 km Individual, 25th place Individual 10 Km )
    Vasiljonok, Olga Cross Country
    (51st place Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5))
    Zikounkova, Ksenia Biathlon
    (77th place Women's 15 km Individual)
    Zubrilova, Olena Biathlon
    (15th place Women's 15 km Individual)