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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 29, 97-02-11

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 29, 11 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION.
  • [02] TURKMENISTAN, IRAN COORDINATE CUSTOMS, BORDER PROCEDURES.
  • [03] NEW DEVELOPMENT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS . . .
  • [04] . . . BUT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE . . .
  • [05] . . . AND TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [06] RIOTS IN VLORA CLAIM TWO MORE LIVES . . .
  • [07] . . . WHILE PARLIAMENT PREPARES TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY.
  • [08] U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE URGES MILOSEVIC TO RECOGNIZE ELECTION RETURNS.
  • [09] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SEES "HOT" TIMES AHEAD.
  • [10] MUSLIMS, SERBS STEP UP MILITARY PRESSURE ON BRCKO.
  • [11] VIOLENT MUSLIM-CROAT CLASHES IN MOSTAR.
  • [12] CROATIA TO RECONSIDER DATE FOR LOCAL VOTE.
  • [13] MACEDONIAN, GREEK HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE LAW DISCRIMINATING AGAINST NON-GREEKS.
  • [14] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO INDEX SALARIES.
  • [15] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOLDOVA.
  • [16] BULGARIAN POLITICAL PARTIES REACH CONSENSUS . . .
  • [17] . . . BUT FUEL CRISIS DEEPENS, HYPERINFLATION THREATENS.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION.

    Foreign Ministers and other high-ranking officials from the 11 member-states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization met in Istanbul on 7 February to discuss the creation of a free trade zone, AFP reported. The group includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller used the meeting to announce that the planned Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, to be based in Thessaloniki, will have $300 million in contributions from member-states at its disposal. She also expressed her hope that in the future the BSEC will be "integrated into Europe." -- Lowell Bezanis

    [02] TURKMENISTAN, IRAN COORDINATE CUSTOMS, BORDER PROCEDURES.

    An agreement coordinating customs and border procedures for cargoes moving through Sarakhs railway station has been reached by Turkmen and Iranian railway officials, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The Sarakhs station, which is being expanded to increase its capacity, opened in May 1996. It is the only rail link between the two countries, and is Iran's solitary connection to the larger Central Asian rail network. According to Turkmen Railway Minister Mered Kutliev, more than 123 million metric tons of cargo has passed through the station to date. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [03] NEW DEVELOPMENT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS . . .

    Outlaw Tajik field commander Rezvon Sadirov, the subject of an ongoing hostage-taking crisis, has reportedly arrived in the Obigarm region of Tajikistan where the hostages are being held, international media reported. His brother, Bahrom Sadirov, is holding several hostages--including nine UN workers, five Russian journalists, and the Tajik security minister--and demanding that Rezvon Sadirov be granted free passage from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. It is not clear what Rezvon Sadirov's arrival in Obigarm means for the crisis, as negotiations appeared to continue on 10 February. Bahrom Sadirov has changed his demands several times, at one point insisting that his group be allowed to participate in the peace talks between the government and the opposition. The kidnapping has been condemned throughout the international community. -- Bruce Pannier

    [04] . . . BUT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE . . .

    Meanwhile, Russian Minster for the CIS Aman Tuleev arrived in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on a visit that will focus on the hostage crisis, rather than his originally scheduled series of meetings and visits, international media reported. Also, the commander of the Tajik presidential guard, Gafar Mirzoyev, held talks with Bahrom Sadirov over the release of the hostages. Earlier reports had indicated that Rezvon Sadirov was fighting alongside Afghan field commander Ahmed Shah Masoud against the Taliban movement and that he had no desire to return to Tajikistan. The hostages have been allowed to contact officials in Dushanbe and Moscow via satellite telephone. All of them say they are in good condition. -- Bruce Pannier

    [05] . . . AND TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS.

    The United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which is currently involved in peace talks with the government, has complained that the authorities violated the ceasefire agreement when they allowed outlaw Tajik field commander Rezvon Sadirov and an armed band to enter the Obigarm region. The UTO is unofficially in control of the region. -- Bruce Pannier

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [06] RIOTS IN VLORA CLAIM TWO MORE LIVES . . .

    In clashes with police that left about 81 people injured--many seriously--30-year-old Arthur Rustemi died after being shot in the back, international media reported on 10 February. Rustemi's assailant was not identified. Another victim was the 51-year-old Maliq Banushi--the second person to die of a heart attack during demonstrations since 9 February. Vlora residents beat police officers and burned their uniforms, guns, and shields in a display of uncontrolled rage against the authorities. Some 20,000 people accompanied Rustemi's coffin today to a local cemetery, shouting anti- government slogans and setting fire to the local headquarters of the Democratic Party. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [07] . . . WHILE PARLIAMENT PREPARES TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY.

    The Albanian government is to submit legislation to the parliament imposing a state of emergency there. In late January, the legislature passed a law allowing for the use of the military to protect public buildings and roads, but the government has pledged not to use soldiers against protesters. Troops, however, are reported to have arrived in Vlora. According to newspaper reports on 11 February, the Interior Ministry has also mobilized about 1,000 students and peasants from northern Albanian and sent them to join anti-riot police in Vlora. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has called for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [08] U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE URGES MILOSEVIC TO RECOGNIZE ELECTION RETURNS.

    Madeleine Albright, in a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic dated 8 February, has appealed to the Serbian authorities to recognize municipal returns and to enter into dialogues with the opposition parties, Reuters reported on 10 February. Washington is concerned that the legislation would limit the authority of local councils by stripping them of revenue sources. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns commented that "the only result that will satisfy the United States is if the people who won the November 17 elections actually take their seats and have sufficient powers to do their job--meaning the powers haven't been stripped away in some back room deal, which is another option that we've heard about, another option available to the anti- democrats in Belgrade." -- Stan Markotich

    [09] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SEES "HOT" TIMES AHEAD.

    A parliamentary legislative committee on 10 February ratified a draft law allegedly recognizing opposition wins in the November municipal runoffs, Tanjug reported. The legislation is slated to be discussed in the parliament today. Leaders of the opposition Zajedno coalition responded by warning that the bill's passage will not signal the end of demands for reform. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, speaking to demonstrators in Belgrade on 10 February, said that "ahead of us is a long hot spring and summer, not to mention a fight against those who have not surrendered and who view their own people as dupes of foreign [powers]." Zajedno leaders also vowed they would continue the mass demonstrations at least until opposition municipal mandates are recognized. -- Stan Markotich

    [10] MUSLIMS, SERBS STEP UP MILITARY PRESSURE ON BRCKO.

    SFOR officials said that the armies of both the Federation and the Republika Srpska have made additional requests recently to hold exercises near Brcko, AFP reported on 10 February. SFOR called for calm and pointed out that neither side will be allowed to bring big guns into the area. The fate of the strategic region will be announced by a U.S. mediator later this week. The Brcko issue was the only one that proved too thorny to be resolved at Dayton, and both sides have said that its loss would mean war. The Serbs want to keep it to provide a link between the eastern and western halves of their territory. For the Muslims and Croats, its return to them is a crucial symbol of the need to reverse the effects of ethnic cleansing. -- Patrick Moore

    [11] VIOLENT MUSLIM-CROAT CLASHES IN MOSTAR.

    Some 500 Muslims who were headed for the cemetery in the Croatian half of Mostar on 10 February to mourn their dead were attacked by some 700 Croats taking part in a Roman Catholic carnival parade, Reuters reported. Major Tony White, spokesman for the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia, said there were 22 injured, two seriously, and one dead. All casualties were Muslims who had wanted to visit their family graves on the second day of the Islamic religious holiday of Bajram. Mike Fabbro, SFOR spokesman in Mostar, said that Croats, including policemen, had opened fire on the crowd. But Mostar Mayor Ivica Prskalo, a Croat, blamed Muslim extremists, saying the visit to the graveyard was a "provocation." A curfew was imposed on both halves of the city. But according to Reuters on 11 February, a new wave of evictions of Muslims from the Croatian half followed during the night. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [12] CROATIA TO RECONSIDER DATE FOR LOCAL VOTE.

    The Croatian authorities have announced that they will either confirm or postpone the date of the local elections by Wednesday, according to Vjesnik on 11 February. The vote has been slated for 16 March, but the government may move the date into April so that balloting can go ahead smoothly everywhere. The problem is that voting will also take place in eastern Slavonia, which is still in Serb hands, and that distribution of citizenship papers there is proceeding slowly. The Croatian government is determined to have eastern Slavonia vote at the same time as the rest of the country to underscore its reintegration. The UN's administrator for the region, Jacques Klein, met with President Franjo Tudjman on 10 February and will speak today to Serbian President Milosevic about the elections. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] MACEDONIAN, GREEK HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CRITICIZE LAW DISCRIMINATING AGAINST NON-GREEKS.

    Eleven Greek and Macedonian human rights and refugee groups issued a statement in Skopje on 9 February urging Athens to repeal a law that prevents non-Greeks who fled the country 50 years ago from returning, AFP reported. Greece passed a law in 1982 welcoming back citizens who fled after the civil war in 1946-49 but excluding those who were not of Greek origin. The law, in effect, discriminated against people of Macedonian-Slav origin in the north of the country. Athens does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian-Slav minority. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [14] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO INDEX SALARIES.

    The cabinet on 10 February has proposed to the trade unions to index salaries, Radio Bucharest reported. The average monthly wage would increase by more than 30%, from 329,000 lei ($53) to 430,000 lei ($70). The offer came after several rounds of talks with union leaders amid growing popular dissatisfaction over recent price hikes. The new cabinet has launched radical reformist policies leading to a drastic devaluation of the national currency and increases in prices. It hopes that the wage increase will compensate for some 75% of the price hikes. In a first reaction, a union leader was quoted as saying that the proposals could be a basis for further negotiations. -- Dan Ionescu

    [15] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOLDOVA.

    Javier Solana, on the first day of his fact-finding visit to Chisinau, met with President Petru Lucinschi, Premier Ion Ciubuc, Foreign Minister Mihai Popov, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, and parliamentary leaders. Moldovan and Western media reported. The hosts seized the opportunity to re-affirm Moldova's neutrality--as stipulated in the constitution--stressing that the country does not intend to join any military alliance. Chisinau, however, is seeking closer cooperation with NATO and is eager to serve as a bridge between the alliance and Russia, which remains opposed to NATO enlargement. Solana told journalists that NATO wants to build "solid bilateral relations with Russia and a special relation to Ukraine." He suggested that Moldova could serve as an intermediary in those efforts. -- Dan Ionescu

    [16] BULGARIAN POLITICAL PARTIES REACH CONSENSUS . . .

    At a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov on 10 February, consensus was reached among all parties represented in the parliament on how to resolve the country's economic crisis, international media reported. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on 19 April, and the current parliament is to be dissolved in the coming days. Until the next parliament has been installed, the Consultative Council for National Security, which is headed by Stoyanov, will oversee all talks on national security. Privatization is to be speeded up and insolvent enterprises liquidated. In addition, measures are to be taken to fight corruption and accountability demanded from those responsible for the current economic crisis. Meanwhile, Stoyanov wrote IMF Director-General Michel Camdessus that both still to be named interim government and the national bank will be willing to meet with high-level IMF officials immediately. -- Maria Koinova

    [17] . . . BUT FUEL CRISIS DEEPENS, HYPERINFLATION THREATENS.

    Neftochim, the country's main oil refinery, is experiencing its most serious crisis in seven years, Bulgarian media reported on 8 February. Because of high inflation, the company cannot make a profit and thus is unable to buy crude. Almost all of Sofia's gas stations are closed, and public transport services were significantly reduced last weekend in both Sofia and Plovdiv. The authorities on 10 February released 150 metric tons of diesel fuel from reserves to secure Sofia's public transport until the end of this week. Meanwhile, Pari reported on 11 February that Bulgarian consumer prices rose by 43.8% in January, the highest rate since February 1991 and just under the 50% barrier for hyperinflation. High inflation has been caused largely by the collapse of the lev. The Bulgarian National Bank has intervened to try to stabilize the national currency, reducing its foreign reserves to $415 million. Foreign-debt servicing for 1997 alone totals some $857 million. -- Maria Koinova and Michael Wyzan

    [As of 12:00 CET]

    Compiled by Jan Cleave


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