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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 27, 97-02-07

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 27, 7 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SOME HOSTAGES RELEASED . . .
  • [02] . . . BUT RED CROSS PULLS OUT OF TAJIKISTAN.
  • [03] RAPHAEL IN TASHKENT.
  • [04] STRIKES AND THREATS IN KAZAKSTAN.
  • [05] SHEVARDNADZE: EU'S EASTWARD EXPANSION MORE PREFERABLE FOR GEORGIA.
  • [06] TRIAL ON POST-ELECTION UNREST BEGINS IN ARMENIA.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] WILL TURKEY BLOCK NATO EXPANSION?
  • [08] SERBIAN OPPOSITION CRITICAL OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION . . .
  • [09] . . . BUT SAYS DIALOGUE IS POSSIBLE.
  • [10] FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO.
  • [11] EXPLOSIONS IN BOSNIAN BORDER AREA.
  • [12] BOSNIA, WORLD BANK SIGN $32 MILLION CREDIT.
  • [13] ALL-LEVEL GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN BOSNIA.
  • [14] INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATS APPEAL TO SLAVONIAN SERBS.
  • [15] SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS GOVERNMENT LINE-UP.
  • [16] ROMANIA'S CURRENCY CONTINUES TO FALL.
  • [17] DNIESTER PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE.
  • [18] BULGARIA'S MARKET CONTINUES TO COLLAPSE.
  • [19] BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP.
  • [20] DAILY PROTESTS IN VLORA.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SOME HOSTAGES RELEASED . . .

    Two Red Cross workers captured by supporters of renegade field commander Rezvon Sadirov on 5 February near the town of Obigarm were freed on 7 February, Western media reported. The two were among 16 taken hostage by Saidirov's men in a 48-hour period. Sadirov's brother Bahrom said the Red Cross workers were only siezed in order to render medical aid to an Austrian UN military observer, who was abducted along with four colleauges on 4 February. One of the five Russian journalists also taken hostage by the group, Galina Gridneva of ITAR-TASS, was allowed to phone the agency's headquarters in Moscow. She said the group was in no danger. Her abductors claim the journalists are being held to cover negotiations with the government team sent to the area by President Imomali Rakhmonov. The group is demanding a corridor be created to permit Sadirov to return from Afghanistan. They also said they had planted 100 mines in Dushanbe and would explode them if their demands were not met. -- Bruce Pannier

    [02] . . . BUT RED CROSS PULLS OUT OF TAJIKISTAN.

    The Red Cross in Tajikistan announced on 6 February it was removing the bulk of its personnel to neighboring Uzbekistan and had sent local staff home, according to RFE/RL and AFP. The Red Cross described the move, which came in response to the abduction of two of its workers, as "temporary." In a related story, the four UNHCR workers who were reported missing on 6 February are indeed captives of the same group which took the Red Cross workers hostage. Though a government negotiating team has been sent to the area, officials in Dushanbe call the kidnappers' demand for the safe passage of the outlaw group into Tajikistan from Afghanistan "unrealistic" and say "it would set an undesirable precedent." -- Bruce Pannier

    [03] RAPHAEL IN TASHKENT.

    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Robin Raphael held talks with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, Russian media reported on 6 February. During a press conference Raphael was quoted as saying Washington and Tashkent have similar views on Afghanistan and both sides continue to support Uzbekistan's proposal to impose an embargo on arms exports on the war-torn country. Raphael also reportedly discussed the impact of the civil war in Afghanistan on Tajikistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] STRIKES AND THREATS IN KAZAKSTAN.

    With more than 250 miners already on strike in northern Kazakstan because of unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February that 1,500 teachers in the Semipalatinsk region also carried out their threat to strike. The teachers are demanding payment in full of 400 million tenge (about $5.3 million) in wage arrears. Unpaid wages and pensions in Kazakstan are now approaching the $1 billion mark, causing significant social tension. According to Reuters, on 6 February a bomb hoax nearly forced the evacuation of the northerneastern town of Pavlodar. The fake bomb, attached to a 50-ton chorine container, had a note attached, which read: "Pay me my salary!" -- Bruce Pannier

    [05] SHEVARDNADZE: EU'S EASTWARD EXPANSION MORE PREFERABLE FOR GEORGIA.

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the European Union's eastward expansion is "much more important for Georgia and, maybe, for the other Transcaucasian states" than NATO's enlargement, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. Commenting on NATO's possible enlargement, Shevardnadze said that the "situation should not be dramatized" as any country is free to decide its strategic priorities. Shevardnadze denied that the upcoming visit to Georgia by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is aimed at "pushing Georgia into NATO." -- Emil Danielyan

    [06] TRIAL ON POST-ELECTION UNREST BEGINS IN ARMENIA.

    The trial of five men who took part in mass protests following the disputed 22 September presidential election has begun in Yerevan, Armenian and international media reported on 6 February. The five are charged with inciting mass disorders and attempting to seize the parliament building. Seven others are awaiting a separate trial on the same charges. The protests broke out and turned violent after the opposition accused the authorities of falsifying the vote. Several international election observer groups questioned the official results that secured a second five-year term for incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Key opposition figures, including Vazgen Manukyan, the leader of the National Democratic Union and defeated presidential candidate, attended the trial. No opposition leaders are on trial, and all the defendants are rank-and-file opposition activists. Earlier, Manukyan said that he is ready to take "responsibility, but not guilt" for the post-election unrest. -- Emil Danielyan

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] WILL TURKEY BLOCK NATO EXPANSION?

    After a trip to Ankara on 6 February, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana seemed less optimistic that Turkey would not block the organization's planned eastward expansion, Hungarian media reported. During a short meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs at the Budapest airport on his way back from Turkey, Solana said he could not work wonders in only 12 hours. But he confirmed that the countries most likely to join NATO during the first round of enlargement will be invited to attend NATO's July summit in Madrid. In Ankara, Solana met with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller and President Suleyman Demirel. Demirel told Solana that Turkey would veto NATO's expansion if its endeavors to join the EU are not taken seriously. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

    [08] SERBIAN OPPOSITION CRITICAL OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION . . .

    Slobodan Vuksanovic, a representative of the Democratic Party (DS), has strongly criticized a proposed bill by the ruling Socialists that would allegedly recognize opposition wins from the 17 November runoff municipal elections. According to Vuksanovic, the introduction of the bill, slated for discussion in the Serbian legislature on 11 February, is little more than a ploy by the government "to deceive the international community and the citizens of Serbia once again," Beta reported. The legislation contains a list of districts where the authorities are prepared to recognize opposition wins, but fails to specify key areas won by the Zajedno opposition coalition, such as the districts of Novi Beograd in Belgrade and the Mladenovac area, observed Vuksanovic, hinting that such signs point to the government's lack of sincerity in recognizing opposition victories. -- Stan Markotich

    [09] . . . BUT SAYS DIALOGUE IS POSSIBLE.

    Leaders of the Zajedno coalition met with French officials in Paris on 6 February, including Foreign Minister Herve de Charette. For his part, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, said ongoing mass protests in Serbia would be called to a halt when the Serbian legislature passes a bill recognizing opposition wins in local run-off elections and open dialogue with the government. But Draskovic said ending the protests and entering talks would be contingent on the government's recognition of all opposition wins. Meanwhile, Vesna Pesic, head of the Serbian Civic Alliance, said entering talks with the government did not mean the opposition would stop pressing for reforms. "The moment we get all our mandates back, we shall launch our struggle for free media," Reuters reported her saying. -- Stan Markotich

    [10] FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO.

    Zoran Lilic has called on the Kosovo Albanians to enter into talks with Belgrade, Nasa Borba reported on 7 February. Lilic, who visited the army corps in Pristina together with General Chief of Staff Momcilo Perisic, criticized "extremist nationalism" and said "our aim must be a strong civic state with a high degree of human and democratic rights, and not the unrealistic wishes of all peoples on the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to get their own state." Elsewhere, the OSCE appointed the High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, to a special mission to Kosovo. That would include investigating the possibility of launching a constructive dialogue between Belgrade and the Albanians in Kosovo, AFP reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [11] EXPLOSIONS IN BOSNIAN BORDER AREA.

    Two explosions on the evening of 6 February rocked the village of Gajevi, situated just inside Serbian territory in northeastern Bosnia. One prefabricated house was destroyed and three others were damaged, Reuters reported. Muslims in Gajevi are rebuilding in keeping with their right under the Dayton agreement to go home. Their efforts began last August; since then the Muslims have completed a complicated UN-sponsored procedure to verify that they are indeed civilians from the area. The Republika Srpska authorities have pledged to find out who is responsible for repeated violent incidents against the refugees, but the problems continue. U.S. troops have surprised Bosnian Serb police setting explosive devices, and the Muslims maintain that Russian SFOR troops are aiding the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore

    [12] BOSNIA, WORLD BANK SIGN $32 MILLION CREDIT.

    After a 50-day delay caused by disagreements within Bosnia's three-men presidency over who should sign international aid contracts, Presidency Chairman Alija Izetbegovic on 6 February signed three credit arrangements for the country's reconstruction, local and international media reported. The three loans include $7 million for local projects, $10 million for an emergency industrial restart project, and $15 million for hospital services, Onasa reported. Those credits for the first time allocate substantial reconstruction funds to the Bosnian Serb entity. Under the current deal, the Serbs, who had received thus far only two percent of international aid because of their leadership's boycott of a donors conference last year, will receive about one-third of the total. But an upcoming donors conference scheduled for 5 March might be postponed if the interethnic government fails to approve draft laws proposed by the IMF on a single central bank, a single currency, and a government budget, Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [13] ALL-LEVEL GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN BOSNIA.

    Bosnia's Council of Ministers failed on 6 February to adopt rules of procedure, because its Bosnian Serb member and co-premier, Boro Bosic, requested that deputy ministers be able to vote alongside the ministers on government actions, international media reported. Other council members argued that that would violate the country's new constitution. The other co-premier, Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim, said the government should resign if it is not able to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the same day, Bosnian Croat representatives left the Muslim-Croat federation government session in a protest against Muslims' refusal to allow the establishment of several new municipalities with a Croat majority. Muslim officials fear further ethnic and territorial divisions if the ethnic criterion is adopted as the only one. Yet another session was disrupted that same day: the cantonal government in the southern city of Mostar was broken up, because the delegates could not agree over having one joint bank account. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [14] INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATS APPEAL TO SLAVONIAN SERBS.

    Ambassadors of the Contact Group and EU countries posted to Croatia continued their diplomatic offensive to smooth the transition in eastern Slavonia from local Serb control to that of the Zagreb authorities, news agencies reported on 6 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 February 1997). The diplomats met with local Serb leaders Vojislav Stanimirovic and Goran Hadzic and told them that the Serbs should take out Croatian citizenship and participate in the 16 March elections. The Serbs were also informed that Croatia has guaranteed them sufficient rights and that the international community will continue to monitor the situation. There has been a series of violent incidents recently in which hard-line Serbs have apparently tried to thwart the reintegration process, which is due for completion in July. -- Patrick Moore

    [15] SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS GOVERNMENT LINE-UP.

    Slovenia's legislature on 6 February split down the middle, with 45 members voting for and 45 against Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's proposed cabinet, Reuters reported. The prime minister, who must obtain at least a simple majority for parliamentary ratification, had formed a coalition including his own Liberal Democratic Party, the former communists or United List of Social Democrats, the pensioners' party, Desus, and the Nationalist Party. Drnovsek has ten days to present a new line-up. Parliamentary elections were held on 10 November. -- Stan Markotich

    [16] ROMANIA'S CURRENCY CONTINUES TO FALL.

    The leu's exchange rate on 6 February dropped to 6,069 to the dollar, thus surpassing another "psychological threshold," Romanian media reported. Over the last years the leu has fallen steadily: in October 1993, it reached 1,000 lei to the dollar; in July 1995, 2,000; in June 1996, 3,000; in late December 1996, 4,000; and it hit 5,000 on 20 January 1997. The Romanian currency has depreciated slightly over 50% since the beginning of the year. Former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu criticized a recent statement by Labor Minister Alexandru Athanasiu disclosing that the country's budget was calculated at $1 to 7,500 lei. According to Vacaroiu, such indiscretion smacked of a lack of professionalism. He predicted that the minister's disclosure would lead to big difficulties on the local currency markets. -- Dan Ionescu

    [17] DNIESTER PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE.

    After weeks of heated debates, the Supreme Soviet of the self-declared Dniester Moldovan Republic on 4 February approved the new government structure proposed by its president and prime minister, Igor Smirnov, BASA-press reported on 6 February. The structure provides for 10 ministries, 10 state committees, four departments, and a state service. The former government comprised 17 portfolios. Sources in Tiraspol said the staff was cut by 30%. Smirnov is expected to renounce the prime minister post as soon as the constitution is changed. The most probable candidate for premier is the person who will take over the newly created post of cabinet's first deputy chairman in charge of the economy. Smirnov was re-elected president of the breakaway region last December. -- Dan Ionescu

    [18] BULGARIA'S MARKET CONTINUES TO COLLAPSE.

    The lev continued its free fall as the Bulgarian National Bank set the exchange rate for 7 February to 2,608 leva to the dollar, up from 1,638, Pari reported. In early January, the exchange rate was around 500 leva to the dollar. Basic staples have disappeared from store shelves. Only "two of every 10 stores are still working," 24 chasa cited Deputy Director of the State Price Commission Stefko Popov as saying. Restaurants, shops, and wholesale suppliers still in business prefer payments in dollars, despite the official ban of trading in hard currency. "The only thing that could be done now is to lift price controls and remove administrative trade restrictions in foreign currency," said Krassen Stanchev, director of the independent Institute for Market Economy. -- Maria Koinova

    [19] BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP.

    In a letter to the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) Control Commission, former BSP leader Zhan Videnov on 6 February demanded that Nikolay Dobrev be expelled from the party's ranks at the plenary meeting scheduled for 7 February for returning the mandate to form a new BSP-led government, Kontinent reported. Videnov accused Dobrev and BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov of "betrayal and treason." Parvanov will ask for a confidence vote at that plenary meeting. If the delegates vote against him, a party congress must elect a new leader, according to BSP statutes. The Socialists continued their parliamentary boycott on 7 February, forcing a second session to be called off because the necessary quorum was not reached. Meanwhile, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski confirmed that he was asked unofficially by President Petar Stoyanov to head the caretaker government, which will conduct the early parliamentary elections set for April. -- Stefan Krause

    [20] DAILY PROTESTS IN VLORA.

    Some 15,000 protesters gathered in Vlora on 7 February, the third day of anti-government protests following the collapse of the Gjallica pyramid scheme, Reuters reported. The previous day, up to 30,000 demonstrated there, laying siege to a police station, jostling police forces, and hurling stones at riot police. The protesters demanded the release of some 30 people arrested late on 5 February after battles with police in which gunfire was exchanged and about ten people were injured. The situation in Vlora remained tense during the night. The interior ministry vowed that any attacks on official buildings would be met with force. Port authorities ordered all docked boats--four foreign vessels and six Albanian--to move out to sea, fearing protesters might try to storm them. Police gave up unsuccessful attempts to contain and disperse demonstrators. -- Fabian Schmidt
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