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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 25, 97-02-05

Open Media Research Institute: Daily Digest Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <http://www.omri.cz>

Vol. 3, No. 25, 5 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TROUBLE AT ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.
  • [02] U.S. AID TO ARMENIA.
  • [03] STATUS OF AZERBAIJAN'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES TO CHANGE.
  • [04] UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN.
  • [05] KAZAKSTANI PARLIAMENT OPPOSED TO RUSSIAN TESTING.
  • [06] EARTHQUAKE HITS TURKMENISTAN.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] BULGARIAN POLITICIANS AGREE ON ELECTIONS IN APRIL . . .
  • [08] . . . WHILE BULGARIANS CELEBRATE VICTORY.
  • [09] SERBIAN PRESIDENT PREPARED TO RECOGNIZE OPPOSITION WINS?
  • [10] SERBIA'S OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS, SKEPTICAL.
  • [11] CLINTON PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BOSNIA.
  • [12] MORE VIOLENCE IN MOSTAR.
  • [13] TENSIONS ON THE RISE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
  • [14] THREE KILLED ALBANIANS WERE MEMBERS OF KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY.
  • [15] CONSTANTINESCU PUSHES ROMANIAN CASE FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP.
  • [16] ROMANIAN TELEVISION REPORTING ON POLL CREATES CONTROVERSY.
  • [17] MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC NEWS.
  • [18] REPAYMENT OF ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTMENTS GETS OFF TO SLOW START . . .
  • [19] . . . WHILE ANOTHER SCHEME COLLAPSES.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TROUBLE AT ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.

    Problems in the turbo-generator led to the shutdown of Armenia's only nuclear power plant for several hours on 4 February, according to AFP and ITAR-TASS. Faulty wiring was discovered but officials at the Metzamor plant stressed that there was no danger to workers or the environment. The plant resumed normal operations later the same day. -- Bruce Pannier

    [02] U.S. AID TO ARMENIA.

    U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Peter Thomsen reiterated Washington's policy of providing aid to Armenia to support its democratic reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. Thomsen told journalists the U.S. will provide $95 million in aid to Armenia in 1997, including a $30 million credit to buy natural gas and $6 million to increase safety at the Metzamor nuclear power plant. He noted that the U.S. provided $150 million in aid to Armenia in 1996. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [03] STATUS OF AZERBAIJAN'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES TO CHANGE.

    President Haidar Aliev on 2 February declared his intention to subordinate Azerbaijan's Academy of Sciences to the office of the president, Turan reported. The move effectively overturns a 1992 law making the academy an independent, if partially state-funded, body. In an address to an enlarged session of the academy's presidium, Aliev also said he accepted the resignation of Eldar Salayev, the body's chairman since the early 1980s, and appointed Farmaz Maksudov to replace him. The same day Aliev raised the salaries of academy members by 50%. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN.

    Four UN military observers and their translator were taken hostage on 4 February on a road 68 km from the Tajik capital Dushanbe, according to Western and Russian sources. The group, which includes two Swiss, one Austrian, one Ukrainian, and a Tajik interpreter, were stopped by a group loyal to renegade field commander Rezvon Sadirov. His group in late December held 23 people from the ceasefire monitoring committee, among them seven UN observers, and used the hostages to secure the release of two of their members from the Tajik opposition. However, a demand for Russian border guards to clear a corridor and allow more of their group passage from Afghanistan into Tajikistan was not met and appears to be the motive behind this latest action. Sadirov himself is rumored to be among those presently in Afghanistan. The UN is demanding the immediate release of the five captives. -- Bruce Pannier

    [05] KAZAKSTANI PARLIAMENT OPPOSED TO RUSSIAN TESTING.

    The Kazakstani parliament on 4 February refused to ratify an agreement signed by Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin last fall on Russian use of four weapons test centers in Kazakstan, RFE/RL and AFP reported. Deputy Sharip Omarov recalled that nuclear testing during the Soviet era had caused damage which has cost the Kazakstani government $115 million to alleviate since 1991. Omarov said Kazakstan had already become a non-nuclear state and the next step is to ban conventional weapons testing on the country's soil. The terms of the deal allow Russia to use the sites for a 10-year period at a cost of $26.5 million annually. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

    [06] EARTHQUAKE HITS TURKMENISTAN.

    Two earthquakes, 30 minutes apart, struck northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan on 4 February, Western sources reported. The quakes, which measured 5.6 and 6.1 on the Richter scale at their epicenters in Iran, caused extensive damage there, destroying 34 villages, but Turkmenistan is presently reporting no damage and no casualties. In Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, the two quakes were measured at 3.5 and 4.5, which normally indicates little damage. In rural areas, however, most houses are made of clay and many small villages are in remote desert regions where conditions are impossible to assess immediately. Turkmenistan has lived in fear of earthquakes for some time. In 1948 an earthquake nearly leveled Ashgabat; among the thousands killed were the parents of current President Saparmurad Niyazov. -- Bruce Pannier

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] BULGARIAN POLITICIANS AGREE ON ELECTIONS IN APRIL . . .

    President Petar Stoyanov and the major political parties have agreed on early parliamentary elections in April, Bulgarian media reported on 4 February. The agreement was reached "in the name of civil peace" at a four-hour meeting of the Consultative Council for National Security. According to 24 chasa, Stoyanov called that meeting after Bulgarian Social Party Chairman Georgi Parvanov and BSP premier-designate Nikolay Dobrev submitted to the president two folders--one containing the lineup of a new BSP-led government and the other giving notification that the BSP will not form a government --and Dobrev asked Stoyanov to pick one. Stoyanov said he will name a caretaker government within a week. Trud reported that Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski will head this government. -- Stefan Krause

    [08] . . . WHILE BULGARIANS CELEBRATE VICTORY.

    Tens of thousands of Bulgarians flooded the streets of Sofia and other cities on 4 February to celebrate the new agreement, RFE/RL and Bulgarian media reported. In Sofia alone, an estimated 100,000 gathered in front of the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, where opposition rallies have been held over the past 30 days. Opposition supporters lifted Stoyanov on their shoulders and carried him through the streets. Road blocks in Sofia and throughout the countries were lifted, and public transport in Sofia and other cities will resume operation on 5 February. -- Stefan Krause

    [09] SERBIAN PRESIDENT PREPARED TO RECOGNIZE OPPOSITION WINS?

    The daily Politika on 4 February published a letter sent from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to Premier Mirko Marjanovic asking the government to prepare draft legislation recognizing opposition wins in the November local elections. Milosevic proposed that the Serbian government "submit a draft of emergency legislation to the [republican] parliament that will declare final that part of the local elections in Serbia that are in keeping with the findings of the OSCE mission." An OSCE fact-finding mission concluded in late December that the opposition won in 14 localities. Also on 4 February, Marjanovic announced on state radio and TV that draft legislation recognizing local election returns would likely be presented to the parliament on 5 February. -- Stan Markotich

    [10] SERBIA'S OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS, SKEPTICAL.

    Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, addressing protesters in Belgrade on 4 February, said Milosevic's latest move may be just another ruse to deceive them. He vowed that "We will continue [the protests] until all [municipal] councilor mandates are verified, until freedom of the media is established, and until responsibility is established of all those who took part in the vote theft and brutal beating up of citizens," Reuters reported. For his part, Vuk Draskovic, Zajedno leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said Milosevic's move may be little more than "a trick" to buy time and undermine opposition resolve. Milosevic and his ruling Socialists have several times conceded opposition wins, only to have the state-controlled courts "legitimize" Milosevic's authoritarian regime, Nasa Borba reported on 5 February. -- Stan Markotich

    [11] CLINTON PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BOSNIA.

    U.S. President Bill Clinton said in his annual State-of-the-Union address on 4 February: "With American leadership, the killing has stopped in Bosnia. I ask Congress to continue its strong support of our troops there." He did not elaborate. SFOR's mandate runs through mid-1998. Meanwhile, in Bosnia, federal Defense Minister Ante Jelavic and other top defense officials met with diplomats from Turkey and from Egypt. Jelavic, a Croat, thanked the two countries for their support in the U.S.-sponsored "Train and Equip" program for the Bosnian military. He stressed the need to bolster defense links between Sarajevo and Ankara and between Sarajevo and Cairo. The Egyptian deputy defense minister is slated to arrive on 6 February, Onasa wrote. -- Patrick Moore

    [12] MORE VIOLENCE IN MOSTAR.

    News agencies on 4 February reported continuing violent incidents by Croats directed at Muslims and foreign aid workers. In one case, a rifle grenade was fired from the area of a Franciscan monastery in the direction of Muslim east Mostar. And in the latest chapter of a dispute in Herzegovinian Croat politics going back to the Middle Ages, Novi List suggested on 5 February that the Franciscan fathers and their conservative allies in the Croatian parliament may be holding up ratification of the treaty between Zagreb and the Vatican. The agreement was concluded in December and regulates the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatian public life. The Herzegovinian Franciscans, who are pillars of Croatian nationalism and regarded as close to the people, have a traditionally uneasy relationship with the regular clergy and with the Church hierarchy, who are often seen in Herzegovina as more alien and distant. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] TENSIONS ON THE RISE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.

    Representatives of the local Serb population announced on 4 February that they have temporarily suspended talks with the Croatian authorities and will discuss relations with Zagreb at a session of the Serbian "parliament" on 5 February. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held part of Croatia and is slated to return to full Croatian rule in July (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 4 February 1997). In the latest in a series of violent incidents against symbols of Croatian authority, an explosion rocked the office that distributes Croatian identity papers in Tenja on 3 February, news agencies reported. Meanwhile, some 47 more Serb families have left the region, adding to the total of 15,000 out of a wartime population of 130,000. Croatia has urged the Serbs to stay and to take part in the 16 March local elections. The big sticking point is the Serbian demand for local autonomy, which both Zagreb and the UN say is not acceptable. -- Patrick Moore

    [14] THREE KILLED ALBANIANS WERE MEMBERS OF KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY.

    The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has said that the three ethnic Albanians killed in a shoot-out with Serbian police last week were UCK members on an unspecified "special mission." Police said the men were killed when police returned fire after coming under attack. Three Serbian policemen were injured. The UCK, in a statement to ethnic Albanian media, pledged revenge for the death of its members. Meanwhile, Tirana denounced the arrests of more than 100 ethnic Albanians last week, saying that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic "is trying to distract domestic and international public opinion from Serbia to Kosovo and to terrorize Albanians in Kosovo," Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [15] CONSTANTINESCU PUSHES ROMANIAN CASE FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP.

    President Emil Constantinescu, at a meeting in Brussels with the NATO countries' ambassadors to the alliance, argued that Romania has achieved "political maturity" and is now ready for NATO membership. In his welcoming address, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana praised Romania for having tread "a long way" in a very short time but also noted the country's present economic difficulties. He hinted that Romania's increased involvement in NATO may come as a member of an enhanced Partnership for Peace Program rather than a full-fledged new member of the alliance, international media reported on 4 February. -- Zsolt Mato

    [16] ROMANIAN TELEVISION REPORTING ON POLL CREATES CONTROVERSY.

    Evenimentul zilei on 5 February harshly criticized Romanian Television for attempting to conceal "the dark side" of a poll conducted over the past two months by the Bucharest IMAS polling institute. Romanian TV had told its audience that according to the results of that poll, the presidency, the parliament, and the government enjoy the confidence of more than half the population for the first time in recent years. Cristoiu accuses the station of manipulating the poll results by failing to report that the poll also shows "great differences" in the results of polling conducted in the two months. The percentage of those who said they believed the new cabinet's performance will be worse than that of its predecessor increased from 6.7% in December to 14.3% to January. And while only 11% believed in December that "things were going in the wrong direction," that figure had doubled to 22.3% by January. The combined December and January results show Victor Ciorbea as the most popular leader (62% support) and the Democratic Convention of Romania as the most popular formation (58%). -- Dan Ionescu

    [17] MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC NEWS.

    The investment company Eurobonds Moldova is to issue bonds worth some $70 and to trade them on European and U.S. stock markets, Infotag and BASA press reported on 3 February. in accordance with an agreement reached with the London branch of Merrill Lynch, 85-90% of the bonds are to be introduced on European markets. Interest on the five-year maturity bonds will be 7-9%, depending on market demand. The earnings will be used to pay foreign debts as well as wage and pension arrears. -- Dan Ionescu

    [18] REPAYMENT OF ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTMENTS GETS OFF TO SLOW START . . .

    Only a handful of the 150,000 investors due to receive 60% of their deposits with the collapsed Populli scheme received hard cash on 4 February, Reuters reported. Half the potential claimants were in Tirana to collect their money, but some said they have been left off the lists. Most people insisted on cash, rather than government bonds. Others refused partial payouts, demanding their entire stake. Under a new law adopted last week, reimbursements are to be calculated on the basis of how much money was invested and how much remains as frozen assets. More than 200,000 people are scheduled today to receive 52% of their investments in the failed Xhaferri scheme. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [19] . . . WHILE ANOTHER SCHEME COLLAPSES.

    Fitim Gerxhalliu, owner of the Gjallica scheme in Vlora, went on local TV to tell investors that his company was bankrupt. He said all the company's assets--which include real estate and enterprises--would be made available to the investors, but he added that he could not say when that would take place. Police, fearing a repetition of riots, have set up roadblocks on the main road to Vlora and have refused entry to motorists with out-of-town registrations. VEFA, the country's largest investment company, reduced its monthly interest rates from 5% to 3% percent on 4 February. President Sali Berisha offered help to worst-hit depositors but warned that the government could not fuel inflation by promising more than it was able to provide. -- Fabian Schmidt

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to info@omri.cz.


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