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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 32, 97-02-14

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 32, 14 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BAKU.
  • [02] OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS AGAINST ARMENIA'S LOSS OF "REAL" INDEPENDENCE.
  • [03] CASPIAN UPDATE.
  • [04] CHRISTIANS REPRESSED IN UZBEKISTAN?
  • [05] EBRD LOAN TO UZBEKISTAN.
  • [06] MORE AGREEMENTS SIGNED BY TURKMENISTAN, IRAN.
  • [07] UN OBSERVER REPORTED EXECUTED IN TAJIKISTAN . . .
  • [08] . . .TAJIK AUTHORITIES MOVE TO AVOID FURTHER BLOODSHED. . .
  • [09] . . . AND RUSSIA HAS STRONG WORDS FOR TAJIK KIDNAPPERS.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] BRCKO DECISION PUT OFF . . .
  • [11] . . . AS SFOR PREPARES FOR THE WORST.
  • [12] MOSTAR REMAINS TENSE.
  • [13] SERBIAN OPPOSITION READY TO GOVERN LOCALLY?
  • [14] SERBS RALLY IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
  • [15] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES.
  • [16] LEADING ROMANIAN COLUMNIST RESIGNS.
  • [17] BULGARIAN PREMIER'S FIRST DAY ON THE JOB.
  • [18] LAWLESSNESS IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA . . .

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BAKU.

    Javier Solana arrived in Baku on 13 February for talks with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev, Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov, and President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. Aliev told Solana he is anxious that NATO "do everything possible" to guarantee Azerbaijan's security, according to Reuters. Aliev also said that he wants NATO to help secure a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but ITAR-TASS quoted Solana as stating that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue could be solved within the parameters of the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations. -- Liz Fuller

    [02] OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS AGAINST ARMENIA'S LOSS OF "REAL" INDEPENDENCE.

    Speaking at a meeting of some 700 ethnic Armenians in the Iranian city of Esfahan, former presidential candidate and National Democratic Union (AZhM) leader Vazgen Manukyan warned that Armenia may lose its "real political independence" because of the current regime, Noyan Tapan reported on 13 February. Manukyan alleged three clans led by President Levon Ter- Petrossyan's elder brother Telman, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan, and Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan control almost the entire Armenian economy. The AZhM leader said that the united opposition will exert "civilized" pressure on the government to secure early, free, and fair elections at all governmental levels. -- Emil Danielyan

    [03] CASPIAN UPDATE.

    Russia has weighed in on the tug-of-war pitting Turkmenistan against Azerbaijan over the Chirag and Guneshli offshore Caspian Sea oil fields, RFE/RL reported on 13 February. Citing Russian media sources, the agency noted that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said Moscow does not accept Turkmen claims and continues to view the Caspian Sea as the common property of the five littoral states. He also reiterated Russia's view that a temporary legal mechanism legitimizing offshore activity be put into effect until the sea's legal status is determined. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] CHRISTIANS REPRESSED IN UZBEKISTAN?

    An 11 February editorial in The New York Times listed Uzbekistan among 11 countries where Christians are "enduring great religious persecution." The commentary was based on research conducted by Nina Shea, director of the Puebla Program of Freedom House. The other countries on the list are China, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Egypt, Nigeria, Cuba, and Laos. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [05] EBRD LOAN TO UZBEKISTAN.

    The EBRD has granted a credit line of $120 million to Uzbekistan to develop the country's banking sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. The medium- term credit is expected to go to the National Bank of Uzbekistan and the Asaka-Bank financial company. The credit comes after Uzbekistan fully repaid its first three-year loan of $60 million, the agency reported. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [06] MORE AGREEMENTS SIGNED BY TURKMENISTAN, IRAN.

    Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov's two-day visit to Tehran yielded five agreements on cooperation in transport services, trade, railroad building, dam construction, and environmental protection, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. A joint communique issued by Niyazov and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani pointed to positive trends in bilateral relations, stressed the importance of promoting regional interaction within the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), urged the international community to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and acknowledged the need to continue the inter-Tajik talks. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [07] UN OBSERVER REPORTED EXECUTED IN TAJIKISTAN . . .

    An ITAR-TASS reporter being held hostage in Tajikistan by the Sadirov brothers was allowed to call her office in Moscow to report that one of the other hostages, a UN observer, was executed on 13 February, according to international media. Neither the UN nor Tajik authorities could confirm the report. The two brothers, Bahrom and Rezvon Sadirov, had demanded that 40 of their men in Afghanistan be granted free passage to Tajikistan. It is unclear whether the government fulfilled the demand. According to some reports, the men were flown by helicopter to the Kulyab area of Tajikistan on 13 February, but the Sadirov brothers say that no one was on board the helicopters. Other reports say that the men were attacked by troops loyal to Afghan Gen. Ahmed Shah Masoud as they attempted to board the helicopters in Afghanistan. Five of the Sadirovs' men and six of Masoud's men were reported to have been killed in an exchange of fire. -- Bruce Pannier

    [08] . . .TAJIK AUTHORITIES MOVE TO AVOID FURTHER BLOODSHED. . .

    Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has announced that he is prepared to go to the scene of the ongoing hostage crisis, now in its 10th day, according to international press. At the moment, Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Khairulloyev is in the area negotiating with hostage-taker Bahrom Sadirov. The Tajik government has announced that it is prepared to meet all of the Sadirov brothers' demands in order to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis. -- Bruce Pannier

    [09] . . . AND RUSSIA HAS STRONG WORDS FOR TAJIK KIDNAPPERS.

    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko urged Bahrom Sadirov in a phone conversation to "act like a man. You cannot hold women, journalists, and foreigners," Russian media reported. After speaking with President Rakhmonov, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he may send Defense Minister Igor Rodionov to Tajikistan. Russian Minister for the CIS Aman Tuleev, who just returned from a previously scheduled trip to Tajikistan, said: "The (Sadirov band) are all on drugs and their actions are unpredictable. They should be destroyed like mad dogs." -- Bruce Pannier

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] BRCKO DECISION PUT OFF . . .

    The international arbitration commission, meeting in Rome on 14 February, announced that it cannot yet rule on the fate of the strategic north Bosnian town, news agencies reported. Brcko will instead be placed until March 1998 under international supervision headed by an American, and the EU will oversee local elections that will be held "soon." More SFOR troops will be sent into the area to provide better security. The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt said: "We are not yet convinced that any of the candidates are sufficiently stabilized to take on the situation. It is very possible that the outcome could be that Brcko could become a special district of Bosnia-Herzegovina." In the days leading up to the announcement, there had been numerous leaks to the press suggesting that Brcko would be assigned to the Serbs. -- Patrick Moore

    [11] . . . AS SFOR PREPARES FOR THE WORST.

    Each side has threatened war should the other be granted control over Brcko, and Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic said on 13 February he will resign if Brcko goes to the Serbs, Oslobodjenje reported. U.S. SFOR troops cut off roads to the town, news agencies added. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tried to reassure the Croats and Muslims, who have recently staged anti-American protests. Brcko was the one territorial issue so sensitive that it was not resolved in the Dayton agreement at the end of 1995. Both the Serbs and the Croat-Muslim federation want it because it is a transportation hub, but it is vital for the Serbs since it and the narrow corridor around it connect the eastern and western halves of the Republika Srpska. The Muslims and Croats also want to reverse the wartime "ethnic cleansing." -- Patrick Moore

    [12] MOSTAR REMAINS TENSE.

    Herzegovina's principal town remained under tight control by peacekeepers on 13 February, following a series of incidents earlier in the week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February 1997). In keeping with the latest Croatian- Muslim agreement, telephone links between Croatian-controlled western Mostar and the Muslim-held eastern half of town were restored, international media reported. A fraction of the 100 Muslims expelled from their homes in the west began to return, although some reports suggest that evictions may not have stopped. NATO helicopters on 12 February hovered over the funeral of a 65-year-old Muslim killed by Croats on Monday. Croat and Muslim politicians continued to exchange recriminations, Onasa noted. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] SERBIAN OPPOSITION READY TO GOVERN LOCALLY?

    Belgrade's municipal election commission has once again recognized opposition Zajedno wins in the November municipal elections, Nasa Borba reported on 14 February. The decision follows in the wake of the Serbian parliament's passage of legislation ostensibly recognizing opposition wins, and may be the last legal barrier prior to the opposition's forming of municipal governments. But Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic may have an ulterior motive in tolerating opposition local governments, Reuters reported. Since local and regional governments depend on the central authorities for funding and "patronage," it may be Milosevic's aim to undermine Zajedno by making it look ineffectual, if not incompetent, ahead of the republican 1997 elections. Vuk Draskovic, a Zajedno leader and head of the Serbian Renewal Movement, commented that "the regime will introduce all forms of economic pressure and sanctions against us and highlight any failure." -- Stan Markotich

    [14] SERBS RALLY IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.

    Some 5,000 Serbian protesters marched through down-town Vukovar--the main town of the last Serb-held region, which is due to revert to Croatian rule-- in a bid to secure local autonomy, international media reported. The protesters were demanding that eastern Slavonia become a single county, that Croatia have an open border with neighboring Serbia, and that they be granted dual Croatian-Yugoslav citizenship. Such demands have been rejected in the past, with UN officials blaming the bid for autonomy on local Serbian nationalist leaders who have spread disinformation about the reintegration process. Most of the protesters in Vukovar said they would rather leave the area than stay under Croatian rule. Meanwhile, a Serbian leader in eastern Slavonia, Vojislav Stanimirovic, said Serbs fear they do not have enough time to prepare for local elections, AFP reported. The elections have been postponed from 16 March to 13 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February 1997). Stanimirovic said the Serbs have not yet decided whether they will take part in the polls. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [15] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER ACCESS TO SECURITATE FILES.

    The parliament is considering introducing legislation that would allow citizens who were under secret police surveillance during the Communist era to have access to their files, Romanian media reported. The opposition supports the move but opposes the proposal to disclose the files of public officials. Virgil Magureanu, head of the Romanian Information Service (SRI), said on 12 February that he favored the proposed legislation. He also suggested that the files, which are currently under SRI supervision, should be given to another institution. The issue of public access to Securitate files has been one of the most contested in post-Communist Romania. -- Zsolt Mato

    [16] LEADING ROMANIAN COLUMNIST RESIGNS.

    Ion Cristoiu, one of the founders of Romania's top-selling daily Evenimentul zilei, has resigned as head of that publication, Romanian media reported. Cristoiu, in an interview with Radio Bucharest, said he was responding to pressure from the readership following his criticism of the new government. He suggested that his "constructive" criticism was misunderstood by the public. Former President Ion Iliescu, who is the leader of the leftist Party of Social Democracy in Romania, seized the opportunity to attack the new administration for alleged "intolerance" against political opponents and for attempting to "purge" those who do not share their views. In an allusion to Eugen Ionesco's anti-totalitarian play The Rhinoceros, Iliescu spoke of an on-going "rhinocerization" of political life in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu

    [17] BULGARIAN PREMIER'S FIRST DAY ON THE JOB.

    Taking office on 13 February, Stefan Sofiyanski went about introducing sweeping change immediately by firing the board of directors of the country's main oil refinery, Neftochim, Bulgarian media reported. He also appointed himself head of a special working council that will undertake to stabilize the country's downward-spiraling economy. The council will negotiate with foreign states and international financial institutions in order "to obtain staples for the population and credits to stabilize Bulgaria's balance of payments," AFP reported. Finally, the parliament dissolved itself on 13 February, after approving the new premier and caretaker cabinet. -- Stan Markotich

    [18] LAWLESSNESS IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA . . .

    While protesters took to the streets for a ninth consecutive day in Vlora, the demonstrations claimed another victim--a 12-year-old child who died in the hospital on 13 February from injuries sustained after he was hit by a stone during the weekend clashes, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported. Reuters reported that Vlora has become an Eldorado for gangs, small-time criminals, and smugglers since police abandoned the city. A policeman's house was bombed there, although there were no injuries; and an 18-year-old girl was abducted from her home and her father injured by three shots. Police suspect a prostitution ring behind the kidnapping. Meanwhile, the food-shortage is becoming critical in Vlora. CNN on 13 February broadcast footage of people plundering market stands. Local Socialist Party leader Zabib Brocaj has been accused of "inciting violence." -- 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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