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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 31, 97-02-13

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 31, 13 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SOLANA MEETS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP.
  • [02] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS OUST TURKISH VESSELS FROM GEORGIAN WATERS.
  • [03] NIYAZOV SACKS SOLTANOV. . .
  • [04] . . . AND HEADS FOR TEHRAN.
  • [05] HOSTAGE EXCHANGE DELAYED IN TAJIKISTAN.
  • [06] DENUNCIATION, DOUBT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] ALBANIAN POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN VLORA.
  • [08] ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RULES OUT GOVERNMENT CHANGES.
  • [09] BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE.
  • [10] SERBIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE?
  • [11] CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH DEAL ON MOSTAR.
  • [12] SFOR BRACES FOR BRCKO DEADLINE.
  • [13] CROATIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED.
  • [14] ROMANIA TO RESTORE CITIZENSHIP TO EXILED KING.
  • [15] RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN MOLDOVA TO BE DOWN-SIZED.
  • [16] NEW BULGARIAN PREMIER, CABINET SWORN IN.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SOLANA MEETS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP.

    Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan told visiting NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 12 February that maintaining "normal relationships" with neighboring countries is the most reliable guarantee of Armenia's national security, ITAR-TASS reported. Both Ter-Petrossyan and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan assured Solana that cooperation with NATO under the Partnership for Peace Program is important for Armenia. Acknowledging "some progress" in his country's relations with NATO, Sarkisyan said that Armenia will get more actively involved in the program in 1997, adding that the Armenian armed forces may take part in military exercises. Sarkisyan added that Armenia is pursuing a "balanced policy" between the CIS collective security treaty and the Partnership for Peace program. Earlier, during his visit to Georgia, Solana argued that a European security system would be incomplete without the Transcaucasian states. -- Emil Danielyan

    [02] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS OUST TURKISH VESSELS FROM GEORGIAN WATERS.

    Russian border guards patrolling Georgia's territorial waters on 11 February spotted and ousted 16 Turkish vessels engaged in illegal fishing, Russian media reported. A spokesman for the Russian Federal Border Service claimed that the Turkish boats ignored orders to stop and one of them rammed a Russian boat as the latter tried to approach it. In response, the border guards "had to open fire" on the Turkish vessels. No casualties were reported. Meanwhile, Turkey has informed the Russian border officials that all of the poachers have been arrested. -- Emil Danielyan

    [03] NIYAZOV SACKS SOLTANOV. . .

    Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov appointed Akmurad Mulkamanov to the post of first deputy defense minister and chief of the Armed Forces General Staff on 12 February, RFE/RL reported the same day. Mulkamanov, who earlier headed an unnamed body that coordinated the country's national security agencies, replaced Annamurad Soltanov in both positions. The same day, Niyazov issued a decree effectively abolishing what was described as the government Press Committee and created a state-run publishing house called Turkmenpishit that will be subordinated to the cabinet. No explanation for the changes was given. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] . . . AND HEADS FOR TEHRAN.

    Also on 12 February, Niyazov arrived in Tehran for two days of official talks focusing on regional problems, specifically Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as enhancing cooperation in several areas, notably in the transport, oil, and gas sectors as well as in trade, RFE/RL reported the same day. Over the past six years, Niyazov has visited Tehran some 16 times; 116 bilateral agreements have been reached since 1992 and bilateral trade stands at an estimated $100 million, according to AFP. Turkmen sources note that Iran has invested $250 million in Turkmenistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [05] HOSTAGE EXCHANGE DELAYED IN TAJIKISTAN.

    The scheduled exchange of hostages held by the Bahrom and Rezvon Sadirov for members of the brothers' gang was delayed for technical reasons on 12 February, according to international media. The 40 members of the Sadirov gang were picked up in Afghanistan and flown by helicopter to the Kulyab area of southern Tajikistan, but the helicopters which were to take them to the exchange site were unable to leave. The Sadirovs have extended the deadline after which they had threatened to start executing their 14 hostages, who include UN workers, Russian journalists, and the Tajik security minister. As a sign of their good faith, they plan to release the five Russian journalists they hold and one of the UN observers. They also say that if there are more delays, they will ask that an additional 95 members of their gang be brought from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

    [06] DENUNCIATION, DOUBT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS.

    The hostage crisis in Tajikistan has prompted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri to draft a joint statement condemning terrorism in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. The current crisis was threatening to derail the peace process in Tajikistan. The commander of the Russian border guards in Tajikistan, Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, absolutely ruled out creating a corridor to allow more of the Sadirov gang into Tajikistan--the key demand of the hostage takers. They were brought by helicopter instead. Russian Minister for the CIS Aman Tuleev, who is in Tajikistan on a previously scheduled visit, commented: "A civilized exchange is beginning. The bandits come here (to Tajikistan)--some hostages are released. The bandits are brought to the mountains--more hostages are released." -- Bruce Pannier

    [As of 12:00 CET]

    Compiled by Victor Gomez


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] ALBANIAN POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN VLORA.

    A policeman, identified as Shezai Zani, was killed by automatic gunfire on 12 February near his home in Vlora, Reuters reported. Police said Zani was guarding "places of special importance" and had not taken part in this week's clashes between police and rioters. It remains unclear if he was killed in revenge for the death of three anti-government protesters last weekend. Earlier the same day, some 5,000 people staged peaceful protests and set up barricades in all the main streets. Police have kept away from the city, and the local police station has reportedly been abandoned. More than 20 speedboats confiscated on charges of smuggling last year were reclaimed by their owners, with no resistance from the police. Meanwhile, international criticism of the government's handling of the crisis has intensified. The OSCE has said it is "deeply worried" about the on-going violence. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [08] ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RULES OUT GOVERNMENT CHANGES.

    Democratic Party leader and Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu, following a day-long meeting with senior party officials, again blamed the current violence on "leftist extremists," Reuters reported. He also ruled out the possibility of any cabinet changes. Some news agencies, however, quoted party sources as saying the possible resignation of the government was high on the agenda of the meeting. Meanwhile, riot police in Tirana prevented the opposition from holding a protest rally and also broke up small gatherings of people. The Socialist Party said police have arrested a member of its presidency and many of its supporters. The Forum for Democracy pledged more protests and demanded the resignation of the government. It also called on all members of the armed forces, policemen, soldiers, and officers, "to join with the people." -- Fabian Schmidt

    [09] BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE.

    An estimated 20,000 students turned out on the Serbian capital's streets on 12 February to press their demands for political reform. A group of teachers who have not received wages in months formed a ring around the legislature, international media reported. Nasa Borba on 13 February carries a statement by Ivan Kovacevic of the Serbian Renewal Movement pointing out that the 11 February passage of special legislation recognizing opposition wins in the November elections is only a first step toward securing electoral victories. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic ought not to be trusted to allow the opposition to take office until at least local councils are convened and municipal governments formed, Kovacevic commented. -- Stan Markotich

    [10] SERBIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE?

    Only days after the passage of the legislation recognizing opposition elections wins, the ruling Socialists appear to be waging a new media campaign against the Zajedno coalition. An editorial in the 12 February issue of Politika Ekspres, which was also read out during state television newscasts the same evening, suggested that Zajedno leaders were "conniving" and deliberately reneging on promises. "From the moment...that a favorable solution for Zajedno was absolutely certain, it became clear that the promise made by [Zajedno leader] Vuk Draskovic...that mass demonstrations would stop as soon as parliament recognized the election results would come to nothing," the editorial claimed. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic told state radio that the protests were "horrible...[and] a threat to citizens who don't think the same way" as the protesters. -- Stan Markotich

    [11] CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH DEAL ON MOSTAR.

    SFOR stepped up its patrols in the divided Herzegovinian city on 12 February in an effort to put a stop to a fresh outbreak of violence that threatens the future of the Croatian- Muslim federation, international news agencies reported. They dismantled illegal checkpoints and confiscated weapons. Overnight, there were nonetheless three explosions--one in Muslim-dominated east Mostar and two in the Croat-controlled western half of the town. International mediator Michael Steiner and the UN police (IPTF) met late into the night with Croatian leader Kresimir Zubak and with Muslim leaders Alija Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic. They agreed on a 12-point program that gives the IPTF increased powers to control the town and detain those responsible for the shooting earlier this week in which Croats killed one Muslim and wounded 22 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 February 1997). Telephone contacts between the two parts of the town will be restored and SFOR's presence strengthened. The curfew will stay in effect and persons evicted from their flats will be allowed to go home. -- Patrick Moore

    [12] SFOR BRACES FOR BRCKO DEADLINE.

    Peacekeepers have ordered Muslim and Serbian soldiers near the strategic northern Bosnian town to return to their barracks as the 14 February deadline approaches for the U.S. arbitrator's decision on Brcko's fate. SFOR troops on 12 February confiscated and intend to destroy a Serbian T-55 tank that was spotted outside its authorized storage place, Oslobodjenje wrote. Brcko was the one territorial issue that it proved impossible to resolve in the Dayton peace accord. The Serbs need it to connect the eastern and western halves of their territory, while the Muslims and Croats demand that the "ethnic cleansing" there be reversed. Both sides have threatened war if the other is assigned the town. The most likely outcome is probably a complicated scheme of shared authority and international supervision, which, as demonstrated by Mostar, is unlikely to work. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] CROATIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED.

    President Franjo Tudjman on 12 February announced that the vote for the upper house of the parliament and local government offices has been postponed until 13 April, Hina reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February 1997). Voting had been slated for 16 March, but the UN administrator for Serb-held eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, said conditions there would not be ready for the March deadline. He urged the Croats to speed up the distribution of citizenship papers, and the Serbs to respect the April election date, Novi List wrote. The Croatian government wants eastern Slavonia to vote at the same time as the rest of the country to underscore that it is again part of Croatia. -- Patrick Moore

    [14] ROMANIA TO RESTORE CITIZENSHIP TO EXILED KING.

    The Romanian government on 12 February announced it will take immediate measures to restore citizenship to exiled King Michael, Romanian media reported. The move is in response to a letter, signed by 21 leading intellectuals, appealing to Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea to redress the injustice done to Michael in 1948 by the Communists. Seventy-five-year-old Michael, who was dethroned and forced into exile in late December 1947, now lives in Versoix, Switzerland. He welcomed Ciorbea's decision as "an act of justice" and also responded positively to an invitation from the mayor of Iasi to visit the city in the near future. According to Adevarul, Michael wants to re-settle in Romania. -- Zsolt Mato

    [15] RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN MOLDOVA TO BE DOWN-SIZED.

    Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin on 12 February said Russian troops in eastern Moldova will be considerably reduced in number by the fall, BASA-press reported. Baturin promised that Russia will act in the spirit of the October 1994 Russian-Moldovan agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Dniester region. That accord has never gone into effect owing to the Russian State Duma's refusal to ratify it. Baturin also said he believed that "historical ties between Moldova and Russia are strong enough to prevent the former from moving closer to NATO." His comments came one day after he had rejected NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's appeal for the complete withdrawal of the 6,500-strong Russian contingent in Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu

    [16] NEW BULGARIAN PREMIER, CABINET SWORN IN.

    Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on 12 February swore in a caretaker cabinet headed by Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski, international media reported. There are no Socialist ministers in the reduced, interim government. Sofiyanski is an economist who was elected mayor of Sofia in October 1995. Stoyanov urged him to make one of his government's top priorities fighting crime and "purging the administration of corrupt officials." The parliamentary parties have agreed to dissolve the legislature today, and the new government has been granted the authority to tackle the country's ongoing economic crisis. Also, the date for new parliamentary elections has been set for 19 April, Demokratsiya reported on 13 February. -- Stan Markotich

    [As of 12:00 CET]

    Compiled by Jan Cleave


    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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