F18News: Turkmenistan – Religious persecution’s latest disguises


The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief


Thursday 13 May 2004

In his latest attempt to disguise Turkmenistan’s de facto criminalisation
of religious belief, President Saparmurat Niyazov has today (13 May)
revoked the de jure criminalisation of unregistered religious activity.
Believers were, before the de jure criminalization, treated as de facto
criminals and fined, detained, beaten, threatened, sacked from their jobs,
had their homes confiscated, banished to remote parts of the country or
deported in retaliation for unregistered religious activity. Niyazov has
also cancelled a secret decree requiring registered religious communities
to subject themselves to tight financial regulation by the state –
but has imposed tight financial regulation in a different way, through an
official model statute for religious communities. Forum 18 News Service has
obtained a copy of this, and religious leaders in Turkmenistan have told
Forum 18 that they find these restrictions unacceptable. Many prefer to
continue to exist in the underground.


By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

Under intense international pressure over its repression of religious life,
Turkmenistan’s president Saparmurat Niyazov has today (13 May) revoked the
punishments introduced into the Criminal Code last year on those involved
in unregistered religious activity. Before these punishments were
introduced, Turkmenistan already had tight controls -which it still
maintains – on unregistered religious activity. All Shia Muslim, Baptist,
Pentecostal, Adventist, Armenian Apostolic, Lutheran, Hare Krishna,
Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i and Jewish activity was de facto if not de jure
treated as illegal. Believers were, even before the de jure criminalization
of unregistered activity, fined, detained, beaten, threatened, sacked from
their jobs, had their homes confiscated, banished to remote parts of the
country or deported in retaliation for involvement in unregistered
religious activity. De jure decriminalisation is not expected to change the
established pattern of de facto criminalisation.

President Niyazov also cancelled a secret decree he had issued on 23 March
which required registered religious communities to subject themselves to
tight financial regulation by the state. However, Forum 18 News Service has
also received a copy of the six-page model statute handed out to religious
communities by the Adalat (Fairness or Justice) Ministry which requires all
religious communities to pay 20 per cent of their income to the
government’s Gengeshi (Council) for Religious Affairs and imposes other
tight controls. This imposes tight financial regulation in a different way,
as well as forcing registered communities to provide the state with
information helpful to its continued persecution of religious believers
(see F18News 10 May ).

The pro-government website turkmenistan.ru claimed that the president
cancelled the criminal penalties and the secret decree “with the aim
of creating the necessary legal guarantees to secure freedom of religion
and belief, as well as to complete the laws of the country on religious
organisations”. Turkmenistan has for the last seven years refused to
register all communities of the Shia Muslims, Armenian Apostolic Church,
all Protestants (including Pentecostals, Lutherans and Baptists), Jews,
Baha’is, the Hare Krishna community and the New Apostolic Church.

The president’s moves are the latest in an embarrassing series of
conflicting legal moves designed to head off international criticism
sparked by last October’s amendments to the religion law and the criminal
code which tightened even further restrictions on registered religious
communities and criminalized unregistered religious activity.

In March this year, the president also announced an apparent paper
relaxation of persecution, apparently allowing religious communities to
gain official registration regardless of how many members they have or what
faith they belong to (see F18News 12 March
). However, it became
clear that this apparent relaxation masked moves to impose stringent
controls on any community that registered, such as a requirement that any
worship service or other event needs state permission to take place (see
F18News 10 May ).

The change in bureaucratic requirements also did not signal any respite in
persecution, being apparently intended to allow religious communities to
exist in theory but be persecuted in practice. Secret police raids
continued and on the same day the March announcement was made, a Jehovah’s
Witness was arrested and pressured by officials, including a Mullah, to
renounce his faith and then fired from his job (see F18News
). As Forum 18 has
documented, persecution continued since then unabated, Muslims, for
example, being barred from building new mosques on 29 March (see F18News 30
March ). It is highly
unlikely that today’s announcement marks any actual relaxation in

The registration regulations issued by the Adalat Ministry on 10 March,
which appear still to be in force despite the latest legal moves, come in
the form of a model statute which religious communities appear required to
follow very closely if they are to get registration. Article 13 defines the
first aim of a religious organization, ahead even of “jointly
confessing and spreading their faith”, as “respecting the
Constitution and laws of Turkmenistan”.

Services would be allowed in property owned by religious organisations and
in private homes “in cases of ritual necessity”. It remains
unclear if regular services in private homes or elsewhere would be

Only adults citizens of Turkmenistan would be allowed to belong to
religious organizations, according to Article 16, leaving it unclear
whether foreign citizens living in the country would even be allowed to
attend religious services of registered organizations.

Although registered religious communities would be able to teach children
on their own premises, teachers would have to be approved in advance by the

Article 15 of the statute requires the payment of 20 per cent of income to
the Gengeshi every quarter, while all donations from abroad have to be
registered at the Adalat Ministry.

Leaders of religious organizations have to be Turkmen citizens, making it
difficult for faiths like the Catholics or the Armenians which do not have
native clergy. The model statute also defines how the administration of
each faith must work and how often its governing body must meet.

The model statute also states that leaders of religious organizations are
also expected to have higher religious education, a concept which is not
defined. This concept may be a further restriction on the clergy who can be
appointed, possibly related to Niyazov’s decree dismissing from state
employment, with effect from 1 June, anyone who holds higher education
decrees awarded outside Turkmenistan since 1993.

Article 38 allows courts to liquidate religious organizations for
“repeated or gross violations” of the country’s laws, while the
Adalat Ministry can also terminate an organisation’s registration (for
which the statute gives no further explanation).

Religious leaders in Turkmenistan have already told Forum 18 that they find
the restrictions in the model statute unacceptable. Many prefer to continue
to exist in the underground, as the latest apparent relaxations mark no
change in the continued de facto criminalisation and persecution of
religious believers.

For more background see Forum 18’s latest religious freedom survey at

A printer-friendly map of Turkmenistan is available at

© Forum 18 News Service. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce or quote this article provided that credit is given to

Past and current Forum 18 information can be found at



Azerbaijan Ready To Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan Ready To Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
May 12 2004

12 May 2004 — Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev today marked the 10th
anniversary of the end of fighting with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh
by saying Azerbaijan was trying to settle the still-unresolved dispute
by peaceful means, but if that failed, Azerbaijan was ready to go to
war “at any moment” over the territory.

Aliyev said Azerbaijan needs to increase its military potential in
order to “restore its territorial integrity.”

More than 30,000 people were killed and 1 million were left homeless
during five years of war over the territory. The 1994 cease-fire left
ethnic Armenian forces in control of Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan
still wants control of the territory.

Internationally mediated talks have so far failed to convert the
cease-fire into a permanent political settlement.

Ecology Problems Endanger Security Of Armenia

A1 Plus | 14:38:46 | 10-05-2004 | Social |


The ecology crisis may abet the political instability. Settlement of
ecological problems helps to lessen the political tension. There are
numerous unsolved issues in the ecology sphere of Armenia, which may
endanger safety of the country.

The members of OSCE and UNEP told this during the discussion over
“Assessment of “Hot Spots” in Ecology and Security Spheres of Armenia”.

The aim of this program is to find the reasons of deterioration of
the environment in South Caucasus states and to apply measures to
prevent them.

According to OSCE Economy and Ecology Councilor Gianluca Rampolla,
drinking water pollution, the waste, the old industrial establishments,
which may cause accidents during natural disasters are the problems
endangering Armenia.

Mr. Gianluca informed that program would be introduced in Azerbaijan
the following week. “We are aware of Azerbaijan attitude towards
Armenia. But we do hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will combine over
the ecological problems”, he added.

By the way, a representative from Azerbaijan was invited for this
discussion but he didn’t come.

Damascus: Abu Mousa Meeting with Kohar Mirakian

Syrian Arab News Agency
May 9 2004

Abu Mousa Meeting with Kohar Mirakian

Damascus, May 9 (SANA)-

Chairman of Al-Baath Vanguards Organization Dr. Ahmad Abu Mousa on
Sunday met Mrs. Kouhar Mirakian, Head of the Armenian delegation of
children who participate in the activities of the Regional Vanguards
Festival .

Dr. Abu Mousa expressed pleasure over participation of Armenian
children with their Syrian counterparts in the Festival. He pointed
out to the patronage given by President Bashar al-Assad to the
Children, particularly his Excellency’s keen on enhancing children’
spirit of renovation and innovation.

For its part, Mrs. Mirakian highly praised the Syrian experience in
field of Youth education, expressing pleasure over several
distinguish activities in Syria regarding the educational and
technical establishments, particularly in qualifying teachers to
enable them to perform their moral and educational duties in
discovering and developing children creativity.

Nawal/ Zahra.

BAKU: Returning Occupied Districts To Be Debated In Strasbourg

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
May 7 2004

Armenia’s Returning Occupied Districts To Be Debated In Strasbourg

Yerevan’s releasing seven occupied Azerbaijani districts in return
for the latter’s opening communication links to Armenia will be
discussed during the foreign ministers Elmar Mammadyarov and Vardan
Oskanian’s upcoming meeting.
The meeting planned to be held in Strasbourg on May 12, the 525th
newspaper reported on Friday, citing Mammadyarov.
Mammadyarov said that the peace nogotiations would not be continued
unless they yield tangible results.

`We should not hold meetings just for the sake of meetings,’
Mammadyarov said, adding that the sides would define directions for
future negotiations in Strasbourg.

The Azeri foreign minister said the Strasbourg meeting would be
attended also by the OSCE Minsk group’s co-chairs, and special
representatives of the both conflicting countries.

President Ilham Aliyev also stated on Wednesday that his government
hopes for finding a peaceful solution to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The president said if there were no hope, he wouldn’t keep supporting
the talks.

Armenia occupied Azerbaijan’s former autonomous region of
Nagorno-Karabakh and also seven districts surrounding it in 1991-94
war. Despite a shaky seace-fire signed between the two countries on
12 May 1994, the peace talks mediated by OSCE’s Minsk group have
failed to find a settlement to the conflict.

ARKA News Agency – 05/06/2004

ARKA News Agency
May 6 2004

Parliament factions of Armenia agreed on continuation of political

Real estate market and availability of hypothec workshop to promote
introduction of more efficient mechanisms in Armenia

The second annual competition for journalists working in
Nagono-Karabakh Republic held in NKR

OSCE to conduct its regular monitoring on Armenian and Azerbaijani
armies contact line

High school of judges to be established in Armenia

RA State Register Agency to switch to on-line registration of legal



YEREVAN, May, 6. /ARKA/. Parliament factions of Armenia agreed on
continuation of political consultations and developed the agenda of
discussed issues, says the statement of parliament factions and
deputy group People’s Deputy made today after 5-hour consultations
initiated by the Speaker of the Parliament. The participants of the
consultations noted the necessity of creation of new political
situation in the country, taking the statements of coalition members
and joint statement or opposition as of May 4 as the base. The
statement is signed by all Parliament factions and deputy group
People’s Deputy. L.D. –0–



YEEVAN, May 6. /ARKA/. Armenia’s experience in the cadastre system as
well as in hypothec will promote not only introducing of more
efficient mechanisms for the development of the property circulation,
but also to further strengthening of formed partnership in favor of
interests of the country’s sustainable development, as it is
mentioned in the welcome statement by Manuk Vardanyan, Head of the RA
State Cadastre Committee to the participants of Real Estate Market
and Availability of Hypothec workshop held by UN European Economic
Commission on land administration. In his message Manuk Vardanyan
wished an efficient meeting and business cooperation to the
participants of the workshop.
On 6-7 May `Real Estate Market and Availability of Hypothec’ workshop
organized by UN European Economic Commission on land administration
will be held in Armenia. During the workshop the participants will
discuss Armenia’s experience in reforming the cadastre system as well
as the issues on hypothec crediting necessary for the development of
the real estate market. The workshop will be attended by the
representative of eth state structures, commercial banks, private
companies, Secretariat of UN European Economic Commission as well as
other international organizations. T.M. -0–



STEPANAKERT, May 6. /ARKA/. The second annual competition for
journalists working in Nagono-Karabakh Republic( NKR) was held in
NKR. According to the ARKA’s reporter in Stepanakert, one more
nomination called The Best Publication on Military added this year to
the previous three ones: `Golden Feather, the Beast Journalist
Investigation and the Best Political Analysis. A journalist with best
professional skills and the best materials published to be awarded
Golden Feather, a special diploma and a prize at AMD 50 thsd. the
winners in other nominations to be awarded diplomas and monetary
rewards at AMD 25 thsd. ($1 ÑØÀ = AMD 548.81). A.H. –0–



YEREVAN, May 5. /ARKA/. OSCE plans to conduct its regular monitoring
on the contact line of the Armenian and Azerbaijani armies on 6 May.
As Trend agency reports with reference to Azerbaijan Defense
Ministry, the monitoring is planned on the area of village of Kapanly
of Terter region. From Armenian line the monitoring will be conducted
by OSCE Chairman-in-Office’s Personal Representative Andrzej
Kasprzik, its field assistants Yu. Schmidt, M. Vymetal and
Representatives of High Planning Groups. From Azerbaijani line, the
monitoring will be attended by field assistants of OSCE
Chairman-in-Office’s Personal Representative I. Palatinus, K. Pikles,
representatives of High Planning Group. T.M. -0–



YEREVAN, May 5. /ARKA/. Two year high school of judges will be
established in Armenia, as Davit Harutyunyan, RA Justice Minister
told at his briefing. In his words, currently the procedure of
appointment of judges cannot be considered perfect. As earlier
reported by the Minister, the School is aimed at providing a higher
level of Armenian judges. It will be possible to enter the school on
competitive base, while the candidates must already have a certain
experience of activity. The first academic year will be devoted to
theoretic knowledge and the second to practical courses. `Only the
graduates of the School will be able to work as judges in the
future’, the Minister said. T.M. -0–



YEREVAN, May, 5. /ARKA/. RA State Register Agency will switch to
on-line registration of legal entities, RA Minister of Justice David
Harutyunian stated today at the briefing. According to him, with this
goal 10 regional divisions of the Agency were equipped with the
computers connected to Internet and another 8 divisions will be
connected by the end of the year. L.D. –0–

BAKU: OSCE not to force Azeri authorities to fulfil commitments

OSCE not to force Azeri authorities to fulfil commitments, British MP says

Turan news agency, Baku
27 Apr 04

The Council of Europe and the OSCE will not force Azerbaijan to fulfil
its commitments to the organizations, President of the OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly Bruce George has told the Azerbaijani news
agency Turan. Decisions on democracy must be made by the Azerbaijani
people and the traditions of Western democracies may appear alien to
the South Caucasus countries, George said. He added that the
counterterrorism contribution of Azerbaijan played a decisive role in
its relations with the USA and the UK but should not overshadow
development of the rule of law. The following is the text of report by
Azerbaijani news agency Turan; subheadings inserted editorially:

Baku, 27 April: The president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and
head of the British-Azerbaijani parliamentary group, Bruce George, has
answered some questions concerning bilateral relations and commented
on domestic political developments in Azerbaijan in the course of his
conversation with the head of the Vatan society, Murad Hasanli.

The OSCE’s view on 2003 presidential election

Asked about the OSCE’s assessment of the 2003 presidential election in
Azerbaijan, George said that the reports of the short-term and
long-term missions point to the presence of several “areas” which must
be “strongly” criticized. They were followed by an OSCE BDIHR [Bureau
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] mission which had
numerous meetings with the leadership of Azerbaijan. During the
meetings the delegation expressed their concern about “weakness” of
the laws during the election and about the way the election was
conducted. The people of Azerbaijan have to decide themselves how to
conduct the next election and one can only hope that they will conform
to international standards.

Does the international community recognize the incumbent government of
Azerbaijan in the light of the opposition’s statements about the
government being illegitimate because of falsifications?

George replied that the election did have some “deficiencies”, but it
is up to the Azerbaijani political system to decide whether it wants
democratic elections. As for the BDIHR, OSCE, Council of Europe,
individual governments and organizations, they “may only play their
role in carrying out some changes. However, demands of those changes
have to come from within Azerbaijan,” he said. The West cannot
“impose” its standards on others and each country has to make its own

Considerable differences between Azerbaijan and Georgia

Some observers reckon that the West displayed double standards when
assessing the elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia. What can be said in
this regard?

There is a considerable difference between Georgia and Azerbaijan,
George said. Although there were irregularities in each of the two
countries, the parliamentary election in Georgia was more “deficient”
than the presidential election in Azerbaijan. There was an appropriate
response from the population. Moreover, many international
organizations and NGOs had worked well in Georgia in order to form the
basis of the civil society.

Describing his view of the present political situation in Azerbaijan
in the light of repression against the opposition and stifling the
independent mass media, and speaking of possible ways of involvement
of the international community, George said that he would not
intervene in the domestic affairs of Azerbaijan at this juncture. As a
president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, “my role is very limited
and I do not want to be viewed as an instrument of this or that
group”, he said.

OSCE will not force Azerbaijan to fulfil commitments

Asked whether the OSCE will “force” Azerbaijan to fulfill its
commitments to the Council of Europe and the OSCE, George said that
these organizations do not practise forcing anyone. In his words, the
Council of Europe and the OSCE are more inclined to assist through
education and recommendations. It is up to the countries themselves,
as to how useful these methods will prove for them. “I do not intend
to intervene in the confrontation between the Azerbaijani authorities
and the opposition for the decision has to be taken within the

In his opinion, many standards of the European Union and NATO may seem
too harsh and yet the countries of Eastern and Central Europe have
decided to comply with them. The situation in the South Caucasus
countries is somewhat different and the traditions of Western
democracies appear alien to them. “We can assist only provided that
the country is willing to come nearer to democratic standards,” he

Asked whether the election in Azerbaijan has affected the talks on the
Nagornyy-Karabakh conflict, George did not give an unambiguous
answer. He reckons that in both countries the people who can settle
the conflict must win the elections. Further, he talked about his
intention to visit Azerbaijan and Armenia. He wished that a mutually
acceptable resolution be found and that the OSCE Minsk Group become
more active.

Counterterrorism contribution of Azerbaijan

Speaking about Azerbaijan’s contribution to the fight against
international terrorism, Bruce George said that this contribution has
played a decisive role in relations of Azerbaijan with the USA and the
UK. Still, this contribution should not “overshadow” development of
constitutionalism and rule of law in the South Caucasus countries.

AAA: Armenia This Week – 04/30/2004

Friday, April 30, 2004

The United States and Armenian militaries this week took another step in an
expanding partnership by signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing
Agreement (ACSA). Deputy Commander of the U.S. forces in Europe General
Charles Wald was in Armenia for a second visit in recent months to sign the
agreement with the Chief of Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, General
Mikael Harutiunian. ACSA will facilitate logistics and purchases between the
two militaries during joint deployments, such as the one Armenia is
currently planning in Iraq. Earlier this year, U.S. and Armenia signed a
reciprocal Article 98 agreement to prevent their troops from prosecution at
the International Criminal Court, eliminating a potential hindrance to U.S.
military assistance to Armenia.

Harutiunian said that the agreement is part of the legal framework needed
for the establishment of “allied partnership” between the two countries.
Wald said that the agreement is evidence that “we are increasing and
cementing our relationship and that Armenia is a participant of the war on
terrorism.” In his annual April 24 message released earlier this week,
President George W. Bush noted that the United States “is grateful for
Armenia’s continuing cooperation in the war on terror.” Bush also reaffirmed
U.S. commitment to assist Armenia in expanding “strategic relations” with
the West. According to a report last week, the Bush Administration is
planning to commit about $660 million in the next five years to train and
equip foreign forces to be used in peace operations around the world.

While in Armenia, Wald again denied persistent media reports that the U.S.
is planning to station forces at bases in either Armenia or Azerbaijan.
Armenia’s Ambassador Arman Kirakossian suggested last week that the U.S.
would instead focus on upgrading military installations in the region for
possible future deployments. Commenting on the Administration’s request for
higher military assistance to Azerbaijan than to Armenia, Kirakossian
stressed that the U.S. policy of parity should continue so as not to alter
the regional balance of forces.

Meanwhile, Wald noted that Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has made a
commitment to the U.S. not to hinder Armenia’s participation in the upcoming
NATO exercises in Azerbaijan. Last January, Armenian officers were not
allowed to attend a planning conference for the exercises. Azeri reaction to
the brutal murder of an Armenian officer by an Azeri serviceman at a NATO
course in February further strained bilateral tensions. This week, Azeri
officials pledged to provide security to Armenian participants. (Sources:
Arm. This Week 4-2; Mediamax 4-16; Washington Post 4-19; The White House
4-24; AP 4-26; RFE/RL Arm. Report 4-26)

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this week adopted
a resolution on the political standoff in Armenia calling for dialogue
between the Armenian government and the opposition. While noting that last
year’s electoral irregularities were not substantial enough to affect the
outcome of the vote, in which President Robert Kocharian was reelected, the
PACE resolution criticized the Armenian government for its heavy-handed
response to protests by the Armenian opposition, which is calling for
Kocharian’s resignation.

PACE also refused to endorse the Armenian opposition delegates’ calls for
the so-called “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian. The resolution
further called on the Armenian government to guarantee opposition supporters
the freedom of assembly and movement, to investigate alleged violations of
human rights during recent meetings and to reform the Code of Administrative
Violations that allows it to detain opposition supporters during
unsanctioned rallies. The Armenian government is expected to issue a
preliminary report to PACE by June, and complete the necessary reforms by
September. (Source: PACE resolution 4-28)

Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 7.5 percent in the first
three months of 2004, compared to the first quarter of last year, the
National Statistics Agency reported this week. As anticipated earlier,
following completion of major construction projects funded by the U.S.-based
Lincy Foundation, the growth was slower than the double-digit increases
registered between 2001-2003. The industrial growth was under 3 percent, due
largely to lower output in the diamond-processing sector and stoppage of a
major aluminum plant for modernization. Previously struggling chemical and
light industry sectors reported the strongest rebounds and electricity
generation grew by 7 percent. Agricultural output grew by 6 percent.

The first quarter exports were up by 14 percent to $152 million. Major
export destinations included Belgium (19 percent of all exports), United
States (12), Russia (11), Israel (11), Germany (9), Italy (7) and
Switzerland (4). Imports were up 9.5 percent to $281 million, with Russia
(23), Belgium (11), Israel (10), the United States (8), United Arab Emirates
(6) and Iran (5) as major sources of Armenia-bound goods.

The government’s internal and custom revenue agencies reported first quarter
growth in incomes above budget targets. Customs Director Armen Avetisian
suggested that political tensions resulting from the opposition’s drive for
power have so far had no major impact on business activity in Armenia. The
agencies brought in $51 and $45 million in tax and tariff duties,
respectively, and are on track to meet the annual plan of $460 million in
state revenues. Major businesses paid more profit taxes following the
introduction of stiffer penalties for non-payment last year.

According to Tigran Jrbashian, director of the Sed Marsed consulting firm,
higher state revenues have also contributed to strengthening Armenia’s
national currency. This week, the Dram traded at under 550 to $1, its
highest exchange rate since October 2000. (Sources: Armenia This Week 2-6;
Arminfo 4-20, 21; Noyan Tapan 4-20, 21; RFE/RL Armenia Report 4-20, 28)

122 C Street, N.W., Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 393-3434 FAX
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Landmark agreement on Asian Highway Network signed in Shanghai

Daily Times
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Landmark agreement on Asian Highway Network signed in Shanghai

SHANGHAI: Asian governments on Monday signed a landmark UN-brokered
agreement to complete a massive international highway network that officials
hope will rival the ancient Silk Road.

Twenty-three nations signed the agreement to set up a highway network that
will link Tokyo with Singapore, Istanbul and St Petersburg in some 140,000
kilometres of routes stretching across the Asian continent.

The agreement was signed at the ongoing meeting of the United Nations
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and will go
into effect 90 days after eight countries ratify the pact.

`This 140,000-kilometre highway will contribute tremendously to regional
economic integration,’ ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su told reporters.
`All 32 countries have agreed in principle to sign but it will depend on
passing this agreement internally through each country, so not everyone
(was) ready to sign.’

The agreement is necessary partly to determine the details of the network,
from their precise routes to ensuring that each one of the 55 approved
routes meet standards and that road signs are regularized.

ESCAP said it anticipated that Asian landlocked countries, including Bhutan,
Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Uzbekistan, would benefit
most from the new roads by gaining better access to ports.

`For landlocked countries, the highway portends a revival of the
cross-continent access that the legendary Silk Route provided in the early
part of the first millennium,’ it said in a press release.

The agreement in Shanghai will outline roads to be built and upgraded and
establish minimum standards for the highway routes, while an overall budget
and time-frame for completion are expected to be announced in 2006.

The main route Asian Highway 1 is expected to start in Tokyo and terminate
in Istanbul, passing though North and South Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia,
Thailand, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Armenia along the
way. A trunk route will extend through St Petersburg to Russia’s border with
Finland. – AFP



A1+ web site
27 Apr 04

Despite the fact that law-enforcement agencies were again seriously
prepared for today’s opposition rally and lined up a reinforced police
squad along Bagramyan Avenue, the opposition limited itself to a

The rally on Freedom Square all in all continued three hours. During
this time, the rally organizers, political figures and representatives
of the intelligentsia informed people of the latest developments
regarding the situation in Armenia, including the outcome of
opposition-authorities talks.

It was noted that no agreement had been achieved in the negotiations
and that the opposition demands remained unchanged. Taking the
opportunity, a member of the Justice bloc and leader of the Democratic
Party of Armenia, Aram Gasparovich Sarkisyan, commented publicly on
(Armenian President) Robert Kocharyan’s statement that the
opposition’s actions “reek of treachery” because while he was going to
meet the Azerbaijani president, the Armenian opposition was calling
for the change of the authorities.

“First, the meeting with the Azerbaijani president is simply a regular
meeting, which is of no particular significance. The Karabakh issue
will be resolved only when people begin to trust their president,”
Sarkisyan said.

The leader of the Justice bloc, Stepan Demirchyan, told the
demonstrators that the authorities had breached one of the opposition
conditions. The opposition demanded that the discussion of the draft
law “On the conduct of rallies, protest actions and marches” be
postponed for a while so that the opposition had an opportunity to
submit its proposals. As is known, the authorities did not meet the
opposition halfway and the draft law was put to vote in the National
Assembly and approved in its first reading.

(Passage omitted: minor details)

As for the opposition’s next steps, the authorities have to fulfil its
demands by 4 May. In the course of the rally, scheduled to start at
1800 (1100 gmt), the opposition will take a decision on their future

Opposition leaders are also planning to take an active part in
festivities on the occasion of 1 May.