IRAN CROSSED WITH URANIUM

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IRAN CROSSED WITH URANIUM

Izvestia, February 13, 2003, p. 2 EV

Against the backdrop of the Iraq and North Korea crises, another international scandal is unfolding. Once again, there is a nuclear aspect. Even before it has dealt with Pyongyang and Baghdad, Washington has launched an offensive in the third direction of the “axis of evil” – Iran. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher has stated that the State Department has “serious doubts” whether Iran is developing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

The statement was made after Iranian President Mohammad Khatami publicly admitted that Iran has its own uranium reserves, which are already being mined to produce nuclear fuel. The uranium mine is in the Savand district, 200 kilometers from the town of Yazd. Khatami emphasized that mining is being done solely for the peaceful purposes of providing Iranian citizens with electricity.

A heated response from the Americans might have been expected. In the past, Washington has repeatedly accused Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. As evidence, the State Department produced satellite photos at the end of last year, which showed suspicious facilities that might be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. The Americans began to express their outrage loudly in December, when Tehran signed an agreement with Moscow on speeding up construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant – instead of 2005, as scheduled previously, it will be ready for use by as soon as the end of this year or early next year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was not surprised at Khatami’s statement. IAEA press secretary Melissa Fleming said: “We knew about the plan to develop those uranium deposits. As far back as September, Iran told us about its plans to create a nuclear program suggesting the full cycle of fuel production.”

Neither was this news to Moscow. Sergei Shishkarev, deputy chairman of the Duma international affairs committee, told us: “We have long known about those uranium deposits. However, so far we cannot imagine why they should be developed, as the contract with Russia for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant includes supplies of nuclear fuel from Russia. For Iran, it would be much easier to receive nuclear fuel from Russia than set up the technology-intensive production of it, practically from scratch. The statement of President Khatami arouses no concerns on our part. Statements are not yet the start of construction. We have an interest in seeing that the nonproliferation regime is maintained, especially by our closest neighbors, including Iran.”

CENTRISTS WANT TO UNTIE THE HANDS OF PROSECUTORS

Vedomosti, February 12, 2003, p. A2

Lawmakers intend to allow prosecutors arrest people without court-issued arrest warrants in the course of investigating terrorism cases. The Supreme Court may be permitted to transfer cases of terrorist suspects to any region. Thee measures are included in a package of anti-terrorism amendments submitted by leaders of centrist factions. The authors justify these amendments by the fact that there are not enough judges in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya. Besides, judges are often threatened and blackmailed. The future of the package will depend on the position taken by the Communist faction, whose leader Gennady Zyuganov has announced that he still does not know how his faction will vote. Leader of the Union of Right Forces Boris Nemtsov fears that the Communists support the spirit of these amendments.

MIKHAIL PRUSAK TRYING TO UNITE DEMOCRATIC FORCES

Kommersant, February 12, 2003, p. 4

Mikhail Prusak, Governor of the Novgorod Region and leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, has declared that it is necessary to unite democratic forces. He said: “We are concerned by the fact that only one party is dominant; this will not lead to anything good.” In his opinion, “there could be a congress of democratic forces, in which the Democratic Party of Russia might be included.” Prusak does not rule out that this congress might include representatives of United Russia, the Communist Party, the Union of Right Forces, and other political organizations.

ASLAN MASKHADOV TO HAVE A NEW REPRESENTATIVE

Kommersant, February 12, 2003, p. 4

Yesterday it was reported that Aslan Maskhadov has appointed Salambek Maigov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Eurasian Party, as his special envoy – instead of Ahmed Zakaev. Maigov has confirmed that he has been appointed as Maskhadov’s envoy, but said that he and Zakaev have different positions. He said that his position is Maskhadov’s envoy for the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation.

Zakaev has refused to comment on this report.

According to Maigov, his main task in this position is “seeking methods of regulation of the Chechen conflict, and contacts with Russian government agencies.”

THE YOUNGER THE VOTER, THE BETTER

Gazeta, February 12, 2003, p. 3

The Union of Right Forces (URF) has submitted some amendments to the law on electoral rights to the Duma. These amendments suggest that people aged 16-18 should be allowed to vote. If these people are given this right, the nation will have 4.9 million new voters.

According to the URF, their proposal is not aimed at increasing the electorate of the URF alone. This amendment was already considered by the Duma when deputies discussed the electoral law in general. The Unity, URF, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions almost entirely supported it. Another author of the draft law, Andrei Vulf, says the initiative to allow people to vote from the age of 16 “is the key idea of the youth policy of the URF, and is not out of the ordinary.”

DUMA TO VOTE ON ELECTRICITY SECTOR REFORMS

Gazeta, February 12, 2003, p. 3

On February 14, the Duma will consider a package of bills on reforms to the electrical nergy sector. Meanwhile, even Duma centrists cannot guarantee that the package will be passed, since only Unity and the Union of Right Forces (URF) are prepared to vote in favor. According to Oleg Morozov, leader of Russian Regions, the report of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov to the Duma on February 12 may influence the outcome of the vote on the electricity package.

After consultations with Economic Development and Trade Minister Herman Gref, Vyacheslav Volodin, leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, announced that the majority of his faction could support the electricity package only if the Duma supports an amendment assigning full responsibility for these reforms to the government.

Meanwhile, the Communists are also preparing for the vote: they intend to arrange a demonstration against the “anti-people reform” outside the Duma.

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