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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Azerbaijani oil fund up $237mln since January

BAKU, November 9 (RIA Novosti, Gerai Dadashev) - The State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan has grown almost $237 million this year, aggregating about $1.273 billion October 1, the Fund said in a press release. Revenues and expenses were $481 million and $145 million respectively in January-September. The fund made $389 million in revenue from the implementation of oil contracts, $13 million from tariffs on the transit of oil via the Baku-Supsa pipeline and $21 million from the management of its appropriations. Allocations from the Fund to the improve living standards of refugees and forced migrants were $35 million, while $10.7 million was earmarked for Azerbaijan's share in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline construction project. The state budget got $99 million. The Fund lost $88 million in the reporting period due to exchange rate fluctuations. The Fund is an off-budget organization that accumulates revenues from oil contracts, tariffs on transiting fuels, the lease of state property and the management of appropriations. It is accountable to the head of state.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Elections in Azerbaijan with revolution

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Arseny Palievsky) - Dire warnings of a "velvet revolution" in Azerbaijan during the recent parliamentary elections were issued in vain. This is confirmed by a weak response from the opposition leaders. Although they differ in their rating of the elections as democratic, they have not urged their supporters to take to the streets and show disobedience. Sergei Markedonov, an expert at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, says that "the opposition is not strong enough to stage a revolution. Otherwise we would have seen a replica of events that occurred in Ukraine or Georgia. Such things are never postponed." According to the unanimous view of all experts polled by RIA Novosti, the sweeping victory by the ruling party Yeni Azerbaijan has shown Ilham Aliyev "as a politician who is capable of winning." In the uncertain situation ahead of the ballot, Aliyev managed to prevent a split in his camp. Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, thinks that "one of the main problems for authorities organizing elections in the post-Soviet space is that in most cases, officials have different interests, and put their eggs in different baskets. This paves the way for 'orange revolutions,' because authorities face the elections when they are weakened on the inside, and many players engage in double game. Aliyev wiped out the opposition within the government by arresting its main members and discrediting them in the eyes of the Azeri population. They were accused of a plot and economic irregularities on a grand scale." The situation suits the West and Russia to a tee. The U.S. wanted Baku to stage competitive and relatively transparent elections. This condition was fulfilled. The opposition, incidentally, has won a good slice of the vote. Besides, it is generally believed that America has changed its mind on the issue of "velvet revolutions." Makarkin says that "the West has corrected its attitude to 'orange revolutions.' A major factor was the situation in Kyrgyzstan where the West wanted to modify the Akayev regime by reinforcing the opposition and creating a counterweight to it, but the outcome was a general collapse and a chaotic situation largely influenced by criminal elements and one which the West still cannot make head or tail of. Such events have no place in Azerbaijan, which is an oil producing country of strategic interest to the U.S. because of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline." Sergei Markedonov agrees. He thinks Moscow and Washington have identical interests in Baku, because "a destabilized Azerbaijan, as it was under Elchibey and during the Popular Front, frightens both Russia and the West. This is one of the reasons why western nations refused to support the opposition. But the authorities should not feel reassured. In Azeri society there are serious underlying opposition currents and there is the risk of the opposition becoming overtly Islamic if problems facing society and the state are not solved." Why is the present scenario acceptable to Russia? Aliyev, unlike the uniformly anti-Russian opposition, will do a balancing act with the interests of Moscow, Washington and Tehran. And although there is nothing to suggest Aliyev's policy will be pro-Russian, some important Russian interests will be respected: Baku will not deploy American military facilities on its territory, because this will erode its relations with two neighbors at once - Russia and Iran, and secular authorities will oppose the spread of radical Islam and international terrorism.

Contradictory news from Azerbaijan #2

US cites 'major irregularities and fraud' in Azerbaijan vote

AFP 07/11/2005 23:39 WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (AFP) - The United States on Monday sharply criticized the parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, saying they were marked by "major irregularities and fraud" requiring investigation. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli reported "some improvements" in Sunday's balloting, which Azerbaijan officials said produced an absolute majority for the ruling party of President Ilham Aliyev. "But at the same time there were major irregularities and fraud that are of serious concern," Ereli told reporters at the State Department briefing. "We will urge the government of Azerbaijan to take immediate investigations into these irregularities and fraud, consistent with Azerbaijan's laws, institutions and election legislation," Ereli said.

Azeri poll 'totally' reflects people's will: president

AFP 08/11/2005 02:04 BAKU, Nov 7 (AFP) - Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Monday hailed weekend parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic officially won by his Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party. "The elections were held in a free and democratic atmosphere," Aliyev said in an interview on state television. "The results of the election reflect totally the will of the people," Aliyev said. The ex-Soviet republic's election commission earlier said that Yeni Azerbaijan had won 63 out of the 125 seats in Azerbaijan's national assembly. A number of nominally independent candidates who won seats were also thought likely to support the government. Western observers led by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticised the poll, however, saying it "did not meet international standards despite some improvements."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Azeri Opposition Calls for Street Protests Against 'Election Violations'

Photo from www.azerphoto.com07.11.2005 15:39 MSK MosNews - Azerbaijan's opposition has dismissed claims by President Ilham Aliyev that Sunday's elections had gone smoothly and promised to organize large public rallies. According to official data, with just over 90 percent of votes counted, the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party had won over 50 percent of the seats in the 125-seat parliament, while the main Azadlyq opposition bloc had only two seats. The opposition said it had evidence of 21,104 voting irregularities in 113 of the country's 125 constituencies. One of Azadlyq's leaders, head of the Popular Front party, Ali Kerimli, quoted by The Independent, said, "this election did not reflect the will of the Azeri people. It was totally falsified. Now we will start the constitutional non-violent struggle for the invalidation of these elections." Azadlyq said a 21,000-strong army of observers had witnessed more than 1,500 instances of local authorities instructing voters to support pro-government candidates and almost 1,300 examples of ballot stuffing and claimed that a new anti-fraud system to ink voters' thumbs with ultra-violet markings had been abused on more than 1,700 occasions. "These were the most falsified elections in Azeri history," the bloc's campaign manager, Panakh Guseinov, said. The opposition has planned a rally in the Azeri capital of Baku on Wednesday. It demands that new elections be held. Kerimli also said he wanted all parties and candidates whose rights had been violated during the elections to unite.

Azerbaijan's opposition calls for new elections

BAKU, November 7(RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan's opposition parties have called for new parliamentary elections, Chairman of the Popular Front Party Ali Kerimli said Monday. "The opposition demands new parliamentary elections," Kerimli said. "The opposition has not cancelled the rallies set for November 8 but has postponed them until November 9... We urge journalists to come to the protest rally." A protest rally of the Azadyg (Freedom) bloc comprised of three main opposition parties - the Popular Front Party (PFPA), the Musavat Party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) - was initially set for November 8. The ruling party, Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan), is the frontrunner in Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections with 91.39% of the votes counted as of 8.00 a.m. GMT, the Central Election Commission said Monday. According to preliminary results from Sunday's vote, with 91.39% of the votes counted, the Yeni Azerbaijan has already taken 64 of 125 seats in the Milli Majlis, and independent candidates have taken 40 seats. The oppositionist Musavat Party has taken four seats, and the Civil Solidarity and Ana Vatan (Motherland) parties have two seats each. The Popular Front Party, which claims observers have collated more than 27,000 electoral violations, the Umid (Hope) Party, and four other parties have one seat each. The Commonwealth of Independent States' observer mission said there had been no major violations at the polls.

Azerbaijan Vote Failed to Meet International Standards - OSCE

07.11.2005 15:53 MSK MosNews - The International Election Observation Mission of the OSCE said the elections in Azerbaijan did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards for democratic elections. While there were improvements in some respects during the pre-election period, uncertainty was evident with regard to key aspects of the process such as voter registration, and continued restrictions on the freedom of assembly, a fundamental right, marred the campaign period, the OSCE said in a press release published on its official website Monday. The OSCE observers noted that "voting was generally calm, but the election day process deteriorated progressively during the counting and, in particular, the tabulation of the votes. The mission deployed 665 observers from 42 countries for the election, visiting more than half of all polling stations in the country." "The shortcomings that were observed, particularly during election day, have led us to conclude that the elections did not meet Azerbaijan's international commitments on elections. It pains me to report that progress noted in the pre-election period was undermined by significant deficiencies in the count," said Alcee L. Hastings, president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the special co-ordinator for the short-term observers. Despite an inclusive candidate registration, which provided for a competitive election in most constituencies and enhanced voter choice, interference from executive authorities and media bias favoring incumbents resulted in a failure to provide equitable conditions for all candidates during the campaign period. At times, civil and political rights were infringed upon and there was harassment and intimidation of some candidates and their supporters. The complaints and appeals process overall did not provide redress for these shortcomings. The head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Leo Platvoet, said: "The Council of Europe is the guardian par excellence of democratic principles. These were not fully respected in this election." The shortcomings included interference by local authorities, disproportionate use of force to thwart rallies, arbitrary detentions, restrictive interpretations of campaign provisions, unbalanced composition of election commissions and the failure of those commissions to effectively address a number of issues.

Contradictory News from Azerbaijan #1

URGENT: Azerbaijan elections failed to meet international norms - OSCE

BAKU, November 7 (RIA Novosti) - Parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan Sunday failed to meet international norms and democratic standards, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring group said Monday.

European observers positive about Azerbaijani vote

BAKU. Nov 7 (Interfax) - European Parliament observer mission head Anne Isler Beguin said the November 6 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan have made a good impression on her team. "It was the first election in Azerbaijan we monitored. On the whole, we have a positive impression of the election, despite reports on violations during the pre-election period, particularly due to a ban on rallies," Beguin told a news conference in Baku on Monday. International observers found the voting process at 87% of the polling stations they visited satisfactory, she said. Violations such as steps by the authorities to intervene in the voting process were registered as well, she said. "The elections proceeded normally, except for the vote counting. We call on the Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan to move rapidly to begin looking into complaints related to reported violations," Beguin said.

CIS observers: No huge violations in Azerbaijani elections

BAKU, November 7(RIA Novosti) - The head of the Commonwealth of Independent States' (CIS) observer mission to Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections said Monday there were no major violations at the polls. Vladimir Rushailo, head of the CIS Executive Committee, told a news conference that alleged violations of the election law during the elections were "the card played by losers." Rushailo called exit polls "a form of sociological survey," but said some of those who conducted exit polls were not competent enough, leading to several infringements, including conducting exit polls inside polling stations and using additional feedback forms, something the observers noticed at several polls he said. ''This means there were some attempts to rig the elections," Rushailo said, adding that the CIS observer mission reported on those cases. The opposition used the U.S.-funded exit poll to call the vote into dispute, since it gave win to opposition candidates at several polls while the Central Election Commission announced other winners. Rushailo called charges that the CIS observer mission is politically motivated, voiced ahead of the elections, groundless. "We have no personal contacts, links or sympathy [with candidates or parties]. We reported what we saw. When we saw falsification we reported it," he said. Early Monday, Ali Kerimli, the chairman of the Popular Front Party, called the vote into dispute and urged the international community to support the opposition. In a move reminiscent of the Orange revolution in Ukraine, he said "peaceful, constitutional resistance to this falsification" would begin November 8.

Eni Azerbaijan leading in parliament elections - Elections Commission

BAKU. Nov 7 (Interfax) - Eni Azerbaijan is showing a clear lead in Azeri parliamentary elections, with 92.08% of ballots cast having been counted, the Central Elections Commission information center said on Monday. Candidates of the ruling party lead in 63 districts, while opposition candidates from the Musavat Party are ahead in four districts, the information center said. The Ana Veten Party, the Civic Solidarity and the People's Front, which are components of the Azadlyg opposition bloc, lead in two constituencies apiece. A further six parties are each ahead in one district each. Independent candidates lead in 41 districts, with the Central Elections Commission still waiting on information from a futher two districts. Results from 4,730 of a total 5,137 polling stations have been processed so far.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Azerbaijan votes amid fears

06-11-2005 BAKU Reuters - By Margarita Antidze  - Azerbaijan was voting on Sunday in a parliamentary election expected to give the ruling party a big majority, with Western governments hungry for the country's oil hoping vote fraud and violence would not wreck the ballot. Opposition parties promised rallies this week in protest against what they predicted would be widespread election fraud, although analysts say there is unlikely to be a repeat of the popular revolts that followed disputed polls in fellow ex-Soviet states Ukraine and Georgia. The threat of violence hung over the election, with the interior minister saying radical elements in the opposition might try to provoke the police and warning any illegal protests would be stamped out. "The campaign was successful. Equal conditions were created for all candidates and that gives me hope the election will be democratic and transparent," President Ilham Aliyev said as he voted at a polling station in Baku's School No. 6. "The will of the people will be expressed in these elections," he said. Azerbaijan is in a South Caucasus region criss-crossed with smoldering separatist conflicts. Western governments are anxious for stability, especially with a pipeline expected to begin delivering oil to world markets from next year. Aliyev -- who succeeded his father as head of state -- runs a country of 8 million Muslims wedged between Russia and Iran. Corruption is endemic and the country has yet to hold an election judged free and fair by the West. For the first time, election officials in the 5,000 polling stations were spraying indelible ink on voters' thumbs to stop them voting twice. It was part of a package of anti-fraud measures adopted days before the vote. Western officials said the measures gave them some hope 43-year-old Aliyev was at least attempting to reform his administration and the vote would be cleaner than in the past. However, they said Aliyev was still struggling to stamp his authority on an old guard in his ruling elite which does not want to loosen its grip on power and may try to use strong-arm tactics in the election. The arrests late last month of two ministers and several other senior officials on charges of plotting a coup underlined the tensions inside Aliyev's team. "Ilham Aliyev is being pulled in two ways," said a Western diplomat. "He does want to move forward with managed reform and doing so with the party he has got and with the interests he has got is not that straightforward." Police released a campaign manager with the Azadlyq bloc, the main opposition force, after holding him for three days on disorder charges, his party said. The opposition said the arrest was the latest in a campaign of official harassment and interference that made a fair vote impossible. "In the event of mass falsification, we will definitely call on the people of Azerbaijan to protest against the unjust result," Ali Kerimli, one of a trio of Azadlyq bloc leaders, said as he cast his ballot. "But (the protests) will not be violent. We ... will do everything we can so the authorities do not have the slightest excuse to use force against the people." The last nationwide election, in 2003, was followed by violent clashes between police and opposition supporters. At least one man was killed. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov told Reuters police will intervene if the opposition tries to hold protests without first getting official approval -- which is often withheld. "We have information the opposition ... is preparing provocations," said Usubov. "We will intervene decisively to stop all attempts to disrupt public order. Opinion polls show most voters support the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party. Though many people complain of official corruption, they fear handing power to the opposition will jeopardize economic stability. Polling stations close at 7 p.m. (1500 GMT) with first results expected early on Monday. There is no minimum turnout.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

President Comments on Arrests of Former Azeri Officials

Baku Today 01/11/2005 - "If anyone takes unlawful actions in Azerbaijan, they will be undoubtedly prevented. Everyone is equal before the law," said President Ilham Aliyev commenting on the recent arrests of several cabinet ministers and high-ranking officials on charges of involvement in a coup plot. "The rule of law is a key condition in Azerbaijan. We are building a legal state and the law should be equal for everyone, including rank-and-file citizens, ministers and politicians. All these issues should be therefore addressed from this standpoint", the President told reporters, Assa-Irada reported today. Aliyev said that the processes planned shortly before the November parliament elections could have complicated the situation in the country. "Stand-off could have taken place in the country. This was prevented," said the President. Opposition supporters took to the streets on October 17, just hours ahead of the anticipated arrival to the country of ex-speaker Rasul Guliyev living abroad. Prosecutors have established a link between the arrested officials and Guliyev's plans to stage a forceful change of power by organizing massive public riots. The ex-speaker faces long-standing charges of embezzling large quantities of state funds while in office in the early 1990s. President Aliyev said that the November 6 poll will be held in a suitable environment. "There is every ground for a fair and democratic conduct of the elections and the election campaigns are successfully underway. I hope the election day will also pass normally and the will of the people will be reflected in the polling results." The President said that the ruling New Azerbaijan party stands the greatest chance at the polls. He also dismissed reports suggesting that the opposition is funded from foreign sources. "To raise its rating, the opposition is spreading erroneous information that is supported by someone from the outside. First of all, our policy should be and is made in Azerbaijan. It is a fully independent policy."

Azerbaijan posseses 6,5-7 billions tons of oil in its sector of the Caspian Sea

02 November 2005 [15:49] Today.Az- The Association of Geophysics and Engineering Geology of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan published results of its recent researches. According to the estimations by researches at the Association of Geophysics and Engineering Geology of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, the total volume of oil reserves in the Caspian Sea is 15-20 billions tons, including 6,5-7 billions in its Azerbaijani sector, with gas reserves here making up 10 trillions cubic meters.

Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli has more oil than it was believed it has

02 November 2005 [15:22] Today.Az - Oil reserves at Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli are bigger than they were predicted by earlier explorations. Over 40 millions tons of oil and 8 billions cubic meters of natural gas have been extracted from Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli since the beginning of the project in 1997. The latest geological exploration discovered the volume of oil reserves in this filed is over 730 millions tons against 511 millions tons forecasted earlier.

Russian company cuts down gas delivery to Azerbaijan

02 November 2005 [15:14] Today.Az -  In the period from January to October 2005 Gasexport ltd, a branch company of Gasprom, has delivered 3.78 billions cubic meters of gas to Azerbaijan against 3.93 billion cubic meters over 10 month of 2004, Azeriqaz JSC told Trend. According to an official at Azeriqaz, in October 2005 Gasexport delivered to Azerbaijan 293.6 million cubic meters of gas, or 53.6 millions cubic meters more than in September 2005 and 151.4 million cubic meters more than in October 2004. This year the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan plans to purchase 4.5-5 billion cubic meters of gas from Gasexport at $60 per 1000 cubic meters. The natural gas is transported to Azerbaijan via the Shirvanovka-Gazimahommad pipeline. "In compliance with the schedule, we were to receive 279 million cubic meters of gas in October, while the company received only 293.6 million cubic meters," informed Azeriqaz.

The US Department of State closely watches the Elections in Azerbaijan

03 November 2005 [14:39] Today.Az - The spokesman of the US State Department Sean McCormack: "We put out a statement on October 26 concerning our hopes for the elections. We are watching the elections in Azerbaijan closely. It is something that our Embassy monitors on a daily basis". "I know that they [elections] have the attention of Assistant Secretary Fried and Secretary Rice who is also interested in how these elections unfold. At this point I think that we are not going to make any pronouncements. We are not going to prejudge how an election that has not happened yet has turned out and I think that it is fair," stated the spokesman of the US State Department Sean McCormack at a daily press-conference. He made this statement in a response on a question on whether USA agrees with the last report of the Human Rights Watch saying that the tactics of the Azerbaijani Government preclude the possibility of free and fair elections. S. McCormack saying that they have noticed some positive developments in Azerbaijan also mentioned that previous negative developments had already been spoken about: "I think at this point we would encourage the Government of Azerbaijan to follow on through the pledges that it has made, including having accurate voter lists, having reliable voter identification documents and then finger-inking to eliminate multiple voting. Once the election takes place we will have some final opinion not only about the run-up to the election but also Election Day". It should be noted that the US State Department welcomed and supported the decree "On urgent measures concerning preparation and holding elections to Milli Majlis" issued by the president Ilham Aliyev on October 26.

Conspiracy Confessions in Azerbaijan

Photo: AFP11-03-2005 - Azeri authorities confirmed yesterday that new arrests were made in the planned coup d'etat. This time the presidential administration was swept. Representatives of the Ministries of National Security and the Interior and the Prosecutor General's Office did not specify the names of the arrestees, or their number. Official information is that 12 people had been arrested prior to them. The Azeri media mentions 30 people, however. Local television channels are full of the confessions of ex-Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov, ex-Health Minister Ali Insanov, former head of the presidential staff Akif Muradverdiev and former head of the state-owned Azerkhimia Co. Fikret Sadykhov. They were all arrested last month and have confessed giving financial support to the election campaign of emigrant former speaker of the parliament and leader of the opposition Azadlyg (Freedom) bloc Rasul Guliev and aiding his return to Azerbaijan. Two other arrestees, former Minister of Economic Development and influential oligarch Farkhad Aliev and 72-year-old former head of the Academy of Sciences Eldar Salaev have not been heard in public yet. According to the investigation, Yusifov received $305,000 from Insanov and Sadykhov to finance a coup d'etat in favor of Guliev. He gave the money to Salaev, who also took part in secret meetings on financing and organizing the revolt. Former police chief of the city of Gyandzha Natig Efendiev has also been arrested. A large amount of weapons was found in his home. Guliev daily declares the case fabricated and disavows any involvement in it. He made an unsuccessful attempt to return to Azerbaijan on October 17. His plane was detained in Ukraine, while armored vehicles and special forces took to the streets of Baku and mass arrests were made. It now seems unlikely that Guliev will return to the obviously dangerous situation. Local analysts say, however, that his unwillingness to do so is harming the democratic opposition's image. While the opposition is characterizing the wave of arrests as simple infighting amongst the government elite, its members of kept a low profile, in spite of the approaching parliamentary elections. The opposition's general mood is deeply pessimistic. Observers are predicting that they will take 20percent of the parliamentary seats, with international observers closing their eyes to "minor irregularities" in the elections and making the usual statements about "Azerbaijan's latest step toward democracy." The Azerbaijani government is receiving the support of Moscow and the West in return for its partial fulfillment of various demands, and Azeri President Ilham Aliev has obvious defeated the opposition for now in this oil-rich country.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

3.5 millions barrels of oil are already loaded into BTC

01 November 2005 [15:10] - Today.Az - More than 3.5 millions barrels of oil were loaded into the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and one third of it has been filled with oil. It must be note that the BTC needs 10 millions barrels of oil to be filled completely.The loading of the Turkish section of the pipeline with oil will start by next month and will be over within 3 months. The first tanker from Ceyhan port will depart in the first quarter of next year.

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