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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 26, 97-02-06

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 26, 6 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SALARIES HIKED IN TURKMENISTAN . . .
  • [02] . . . AND ECONOMIC STATISTICS REPORTED.
  • [03] MORE UN WORKERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN . . .
  • [04] . . . AS ARE RED CROSS WORKERS AND RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS.
  • [05] CASPIAN OIL EXPORT PROBLEMS.
  • [06] IMF, AZERBAIJAN SIGN MEMORANDUM.
  • [07] MINSK GROUP IMPASSE CONTINUES.
  • [08] GEORGIA UPGRADES ITS MILITARY AIRCRAFT.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [09] BULGARIAN PROTESTS COME TO AN END.
  • [10] BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT.
  • [11] CONSULTATIONS ON BULGARIAN CARETAKER GOVERNMENT START.
  • [12] ROMANIAN JUDGES PROTEST LOW WAGES.
  • [13] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT GOES BACK ON ELECTORAL PROMISES.
  • [14] CONSTANTINESCU IN PARIS.
  • [15] SERBIAN SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS FOR KILLING ALBANIAN IN KOSOVO.
  • [16] SERBIA TAKES MOVES TO VALIDATE OPPOSITION VICTORIES . . .
  • [17] . . . BUT THE OPPOSITION REMAINS CAUTIOUS.
  • [18] CROATIA TO START PAYING PENSIONS BACKLOG AHEAD OF LOCAL POLLS.
  • [19] EXPERTS HAND OVER SREBRENICA BODIES TO BOSNIAN AUTHORITIES.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SALARIES HIKED IN TURKMENISTAN . . .

    In a television broadcast on 4 February, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov pledged to double the salaries of state employees and the military, Reuters reported the next day. Niyazov said the state had earmarked $92 million for this purpose and salaries will be raised effective 1 March. He said the increase is to be covered by fines imposed on Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan for overdue payments for Turkmen gas delivered from 1994 to 1996. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [02] . . . AND ECONOMIC STATISTICS REPORTED.

    The Turkmen Press News Agency, citing the State Statistics Committee, published official economic figures for 1996 on 4 February. According to the BBC-monitored report, inflation last year was 100.1%. In 1996, 4.4 million metric tons of oil and 35.2 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted. Over 90% of industrial production came from state enterprises but some 66% of retail trade is reportedly outside state control. The agency said GDP exceeded 6.6 billion manats ($1.6 billion) last year. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [03] MORE UN WORKERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN . . .

    Three UN workers described as "local staff" and a Nigerian national accompanying them disappeared in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 6 February, Reuters reported. The four were working for the refugee agency UNHCR. Four members of the UN military observer team and their interpreter were captured by a band loyal to renegade field commander Rezvon Sadirov on 4 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1997). They were allowed to contact UN offices in Dushanbe by radio and said they were not being mistreated but an Austrian member of the team was ill. Their captors are demanding safe passage for Sadirov and his group into Tajikistan from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

    [04] . . . AS ARE RED CROSS WORKERS AND RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS.

    A Red Cross worker and interpreter on 5 February were captured by the same group which took UN military observers hostage the previous day near the town of Obigarm, according to Russian and Western media. The same day five Russian journalists were also taken by the group. Reports indicate the Red Cross employees were returning from the Tavil-Dara area were they had been engaged in humanitarian works. The Russian journalists were en route to meet with the outlaw band which holds the UN observers and now the journalists as well. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is ordering his government to take whatever action necessary to secure the release of all the hostages. -- Bruce Pannier

    [05] CASPIAN OIL EXPORT PROBLEMS.

    Russia's pipeline concern Transneft has refused to pump Azerbaijani oil to the Black Sea in February and March, RFE/RL reported on 5 February. Transneft said it agreed with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's State oil concern SOCAR to transport oil from the Chirag and Gunesli offshore fields, but not from other Azerbaijani deposits. The present rumpus, which pits SOCAR and the AIOC against Transneft, disrupts plans to export an estimated 70,000 metric tons of oil in the next two months. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [06] IMF, AZERBAIJAN SIGN MEMORANDUM.

    Representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the government of Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding in Baku on 4 February, RFE/RL reported. Satisfied with Azerbaijan's macroeconomic stabilization program of the last two years, which brought inflation down to 6.8% in 1996, the IMF, in keeping with a decision reached last December, will offer Azerbaijan two loans totaling $219 million over the next three years. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [07] MINSK GROUP IMPASSE CONTINUES.

    Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and Denmark's representative in the OSCE Minsk Group, Susan Christiansen, held talks on resolving the impasse over which country will co-chair the stalled Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, RFE/RL reported on 4 February. Christiansen proposed the U.S. be added as co-chairman, creating a leadership troika that would also include recently nominated France and permanent co-chairman Russia. Aliev rejected the proposal and said the OSCE, in appointing France, had disregarded Baku's concerns. Aliev would prefer to see the U.S. or Germany co-chair the group with Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [08] GEORGIA UPGRADES ITS MILITARY AIRCRAFT.

    The Tbilisi aircraft plant has begun production of new Su-39 low-flying assault jets, Georgian and Russian media reported on 5 February. The Su-39 is an upgraded version of the older Soviet Su-25 plane with, according to military experts, increased firepower. Georgian newspapers quoted the plant's general director as saying that the Georgian Defense Ministry has ordered 50 Su-39s, which are due to be delivered over the next seven years. -- Emil Danielyan

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [09] BULGARIAN PROTESTS COME TO AN END.

    The united opposition and the trade unions on 5 February held "victory rallies" in towns throughout Bulgaria to celebrate the BSP's refusal to form a second government and the political forces' decision to call early elections in April, national media reported. "We won our greatest victory since the totalitarian regime's collapse," SDS parliamentary caucus Leader Yordan Sokolov told tens of thousands at the central Sofia rally, 24 chasa reported. While these rallies are supposed to be the last after one month of demonstrations, strikes over economic demands continued in several enterprises. State television journalists also continued their strike against censorship. In other news, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev said he will launch investigations against several ministers of the previous BSP cabinet for causing the current economic crisis. -- Maria Koinova

    [10] BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENT.

    The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 5 February decided to boycott all parliamentary sessions apart from those making changes to the electoral law, Standart reported. The BSP deputies started their boycott on 6 February, forcing one session to be called off. The boycott means that urgent legislation, including anti-crisis measures and the introduction of a currency board, cannot be passed. The decision was taken after sessions of the BSP Executive Bureau and the Socialist parliamentary caucus. The BSP asked that Stoyanov dissolve the parliament by 14 February. The orthodox Marxist platform within the BSP called for the expulsion from the BSP of Nikolay Dobrev, who, as premier-designate, returned the mandate and thus opened the way for early elections without consulting the party. The hardliners accused Dobrev of "violating party discipline and [of] national treason." Meanwhile, former President Zhelyu Zhelev called for the BSP's voluntary dissolution. -- Stefan Krause

    [11] CONSULTATIONS ON BULGARIAN CARETAKER GOVERNMENT START.

    Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski agreed to head the caretaker government which will conduct early parliamentary elections in April, Pari and Kontinent reported on 6 February. According to press reports, the government will include several top advisers of President Petar Stoyanov. Krasimir Angarski is slated to become deputy premier and finance minister and will be in charge of talks with international financial institutions, while Stoyanov's adviser on international economic affairs, Valentin Dobrev, will probably become foreign minister. The cabinet will also include opposition deputies; Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Aleksandar Bozhkov is expected to become deputy premier and economics minister. But opposition deputies said the cabinet lineup is not yet ready and only Stoyanov knows the names. Meanwhile, the IMF on 5 February announced it will resume talks with Bulgaria after the formation of the caretaker government. -- Stefan Krause

    [12] ROMANIAN JUDGES PROTEST LOW WAGES.

    Judges in some Bucharest districts refused to attend court sessions, Radio Bucharest reported on 4-5 February. While the protest is over low wages and poor working conditions, the action is not called a "strike," because the law prohibits magistrates to take labor action. After meeting with the judges, Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said no immediate measures were possible, and the magistrates would have to wait at least two months before any action would be taken. The judges decided to continue their protest. -- Dan Ionescu

    [13] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT GOES BACK ON ELECTORAL PROMISES.

    Minister of Labor Alexandru Athanasiu told a parliamentary commission on 5 February that the government will have to delay promises made during the electoral campaign to cut income taxes, Radio Bucharest reported on 5 February. He said the government cannot afford to do so now because of an expected rise in unemployment due to the planned closing or privatization of non-productive state enterprises. Athanasiu said salaries will be indexed only to 75% of the cost of living rise, but the minimum taxable salary will double from the present 97,000 lei (about $16). Meanwhile, trade union leaders said their members were losing patience and would not wait beyond 10 February for the government to announce how it intends to cover the social costs of reform. -- Dan Ionescu

    [14] CONSTANTINESCU IN PARIS.

    After meeting for an hour with visiting Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 5 February, French President Jaques Chirac said France will strongly plead Romania's case to its NATO allies, Romanian and international media reported. Chirac also said Paris will help Bucharest join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as its bid for membership in the European Union. Constantinescu also met with members of the Romanian emigre community there. Paris was the last stage of his tour, which included Brussels and Davos, Switzerland. Chirac is to visit Romania on 20-21 February, the first Western leader to do so after the change in government. -- Zsolt Mato

    [15] SERBIAN SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS FOR KILLING ALBANIAN IN KOSOVO.

    A court in Kosovo has sentenced Zlatibor Jovanovic to 11 years in prison for shooting dead the ethnic Albanian Armend Daci in Pristina last April, AFP reported on 5 February. According to defense lawyers, the verdict was the harshest ruling in six years against a Serbian national in Kosovo. The murder had sparked street protests and was followed by the killing of five Serbs by unidentified attackers. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [16] SERBIA TAKES MOVES TO VALIDATE OPPOSITION VICTORIES . . .

    The government of Serbia submitted to parliament on 5 February a draft of legislation which calls for the recognition of local runoff election wins by the opposition Zajedno coalition in 14 municipalities, Tanjug reported. The legislature is slated to discuss the legislative proposal on 11 February. These latest moves, however, may not signal that the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is interested in genuine compromise or turning over political authority at any level to the opposition. Representatives of Mirjana Markovic's Party, the Yugoslav United Left, publicly called on 5 February for an end to mass demonstrations, hinting that failure to do so may lead to renewed police aggression against peaceful protesters. Markovic is Milosevic's wife and political confidante. -- Stan Markotich

    [17] . . . BUT THE OPPOSITION REMAINS CAUTIOUS.

    For their part, leaders of the Zajedno coalition said that while Milosevic's latest moves may represent some grounds for optimism, they do not indicate government resolve to make fundamental political changes. The leader of the Serbian Civic Alliance, Vesna Pesic, struck a note of caution while addressing the Belgrade crowd on 5 February, saying, "This is just round one ... We must change the entire system, step by step. ... [and] demand economic reform, freedom, and life with dignity." Reaction from some quarters of the international community emphasized the optimistic. OSCE chair and Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen remarked that Milosevic's latest moves "hopefully [represent] a step toward positive democratic development in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The installation in office of the elected candidates is expected without delay," Reuters reported on 6 February. -- Stan Markotich

    [18] CROATIA TO START PAYING PENSIONS BACKLOG AHEAD OF LOCAL POLLS.

    The Croatian parliament's upper house on 4 February backed a bill to begin payment of pension arrears on 3 March, local and international media reported. The opposition parliament deputies accused the ruling party of using the bill as part of a preelection campaign; it comes only two weeks before Croatia's local elections scheduled for 16 March, Novi List reported. The bill envisages payments to cover the debt that had accrued since 1 February 1995. In other news, Zvonimir Markovic, the first Croatian ambassador to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on 5 February presented his credentials to Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. Upon arrival at the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade's Dedinje district, Markovic raised the Croatian flag outside the building, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [19] EXPERTS HAND OVER SREBRENICA BODIES TO BOSNIAN AUTHORITIES.

    Experts from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 5 February handed over to Bosnian authorities the remains of more than 300 bodies found in mass graves at Pilica and Lazete, international and local media reported. The bodies are linked to the massacre of Srebrenica Muslims by Serbs in summer 1995. Amor Masovic, head of the war crimes commission in the Bosnian Federation, said the victims were killed by gunshot. The tribunal's experts said that the bodies will provide evidence for the Hague-based tribunal prosecutions. Exhumations are also being carried out by the former warring parties themselves. Masovic said a total of 1,928 bodies had been recovered from 31 mass graves and hundreds of smaller graves throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina; 1,031 bodies had been identified. Meanwhile, in New York, a magistrate ordered indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to stand trial in New York in a lawsuit accusing him of crimes against humanity. The suit was filed by Bosnian women refugees, international agencies reported on 6 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic
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