- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

TURKMENISTAN

Ex-Soviet republic not safe for Russians

MOSCOW — In an unprecedented move, Turkmenistan has been added to the list of countries deemed unsafe for Russian citizens, the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament announced this week.

Relations between Moscow and its former satellite worsened suddenly after Turkmen President Nursultan Niyasov decreed an end to dual citizenship of some 100,000 ethnic Russians living in Turkmenistan, requiring them to choose one nationality or the another by yesterday. Those who stay Russian risk losing property and other rights.

SRI LANKA

Tamils rebels offered an ‘interim council’

COLOMBO — Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has offered Tamil Tiger rebels an “interim administrative council,” conceding their key demand for reviving stalled peace talks.

In an address to the nation on Thursday, he said the government hopes to establish the council in the island’s embattled northeast with the participation of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Norwegian-brokered talks remained deadlocked since April, following the LTTE’s demand of an interim council with political powers before a final settlement to the conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said he wants the active participation of the LTTE in carrying out reconstruction in the Tamil-inhabited northern and eastern regions.

KYRGYZSTAN

U.N. provides help to stem heroin flow

BISHKEK — The government has signed an agreement with a United Nations agency to establish a joint drug-control agency to counter increased flows of heroin from Afghanistan.

With an annual budget of more than $2 million, the agency will have a wide mandate, allowing it also to fight organized crime, money laundering and weapons smuggling, Deputy Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev said. Experts see Central Asia’s drug trade as closely connected to terrorist activity, and in some areas traffickers use guerrilla warfare tactics to cross borders.

Weekly notes …

International human rights and refugee groups called Thursday on donor organizations and governments in the Asia-Pacific region to increase pressure on Bhutan and Nepal to resolve their refugee crisis. “The announcement by the governments of Bhutan and Nepal that only a handful of Bhutanese refugees will be allowed to return to their country with full citizenship rights could render thousands of refugees stateless,” the groups said. … Police with batons and riot shields clashed with opposition demonstrators in Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea Wednesday and officers made 20 arrests. The demonstration in Baku was organized by two political groups demanding free and fair presidential elections Oct.15, when ailing President Heidar Aliyev is likely to run again.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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