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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 33, 97-02-17

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 33, 17 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] RULING PARTY LEADER ON ARMENIA'S 1997 BUDGET.
  • [02] ARMENIA DENIES RECEIVING ILLEGAL ARMS SHIPMENTS FROM RUSSIA.
  • [03] NATO COMMANDER IN BISHKEK DISCUSSES CENTRASBAT '97.
  • [04] REACTIONS TO EVENTS ON CHINESE BORDER WITH KAZAKSTAN.
  • [05] TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS WINDING DOWN?

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [06] EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE IN MOSTAR.
  • [07] DUBIOUS SETTLEMENT OF THE BRCKO DISPUTE.
  • [08] MIXED RECEPTION OF BRCKO DECISION.
  • [09] KLEIN SAYS MOST SERBS WILL STAY IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
  • [10] SERBIAN POLITICAL OPPOSITION CALLS HALT TO DEMONSTRATIONS.
  • [11] STUDENTS, TRADE UNIONISTS CONTINUE TO DEMONSTRATE.
  • [12] AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNS TORTURE IN KOSOVO.
  • [13] ROMANIAN COALITION PARTY SPLITS.
  • [14] MOLDOVA RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO BONN.
  • [15] BULGARIAN UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES BECOMES PARTY.
  • [16] BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS FACE DISASTER IN APRIL ELECTIONS.
  • [17] ALBANIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] RULING PARTY LEADER ON ARMENIA'S 1997 BUDGET.

    The chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), Ter-Husik Lazaryan, said the government's 1997 draft budget has placed the HHSh-led Hanrapetutyun (Republic) bloc--which holds an overwhelming parliamentary majority--in a "difficult situation," Noyan Tapan reported on 14 February. Lazaryan said that several provisions in the proposed budget contradict the electoral platforms of both the Hanrapetutyun bloc and President Levon Ter- Petrossyan. He called on the government to "either come up with a new platform...or stick to the existing one." Lazaryan added that Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan has agreed to attend a 17 February meeting of the bloc's parliamentary faction. He also admitted that the bloc's electoral promises to establish two electrical power plants in the country are "impossible to fulfill." -- Emil Danielyan

    [02] ARMENIA DENIES RECEIVING ILLEGAL ARMS SHIPMENTS FROM RUSSIA.

    The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 15 February issued a statement refuting a claim made at a press conference in Moscow on 14 February by Russian Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev that over the past year Russia has illegally supplied Armenia with 270 million rubles ($50,000) worth of weapons, Noyan Tapan reported. Tuleev said that he had asked Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the secretaries of the Russian Security and Defense councils, Ivan Rybkin and Yurii Baturin, to investigate the shipments, but Baturin reportedly told Interfax that he had received no such request from Tuleev. Moskovskii komsomolets similarly claimed on 14 February that in 1995-1996 Russia had supplied Armenia with 84 T-72 tanks, 50 armored combat vehicles, and spare parts worth 7 billion rubles. -- Liz Fuller

    [03] NATO COMMANDER IN BISHKEK DISCUSSES CENTRASBAT '97.

    A NATO delegation headed by Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan arrived in Bishkek on 15 February for talks with the defense ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan, RFE/RL reported. The discussions focused on preparations for military excercises slated to take place in September to improve interaction between the 1996-established Central Asian Battalion, Centrasbat, NATO units, and PfP member countries in carrying out peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] REACTIONS TO EVENTS ON CHINESE BORDER WITH KAZAKSTAN.

    Ethnic Uighurs residing in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey have harshly condemned Beijing's crack down on violent separatist riots among Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province in early February, according to Western media. Three Uighur exile groups based in Kazakstan, the United Association of Uighurs, the United National Revolutionary Front, and the Organization for Freedom of Uighuristan, have declared their intention to unite and form the Uighuristan movement. The groups also said on 14 February that contrary to official Chinese statements, the riots in Xinjiang have spread from the city of Yining to Kucha, Shaghiar, and Khotan. Three Uighur protest marches have taken place in Turkey over the past week, according to Turkish media reports. On 17 February, some 300 people, mainly ethnic Uighurs, picketed the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, RFE/RL reported. An estimated 200,000 Uighurs reside in Kazakstan and 50,000 live in Kyrgyzstan. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [05] TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS WINDING DOWN?

    Face to face talks between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and representatives of hostage-taker Bakhrom Sadirov aimed at resolving the Tajik hostage crisis began in Obi Garm on 17 February, RFE/RL reported the same day. On 16 February, the crisis appeared to be winding down as the kidnappers released five hostages: a Swiss UN military observer, a UNHCR worker of unknown nationality, a Tajik interpreter, and two Russian journalists. Another of the hostages, Tajik Security Minister Saidamir Zukhurov, is to be released during the talks. The other five remaining hostages, including UN workers, are to be released "no matter what the outcome of the talks," Russian media sources reported. The reports seem to indicate that future guarantees for the safety of the hostage-takers are being discussed at Obi Garm. The rebels explained that the reason they had reneged on the all-for-all deal late last week was that the Tajik government had only granted free passage from Afghanistan to Tajikistan to 35 of their supporters rather than the 40 they were supposed to have delivered. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [06] EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE IN MOSTAR.

    Seven explosions rocked the Croat-controlled part of the divided Herzegovinian city on 14 February in a terror campaign against minority Muslims, AFP reported citing SFOR. The next morning, two mortar rounds were fired at the Muslim half of the city but injured no one. Use of mortars represents a serious escalation of violence in the unstable Muslim-Croat federation, which has recently been shaken by serious conflicts between the two peoples. Of 35 Muslim families that were expelled from their homes in Croat-held west Mostar last week, only 16 have returned with the help of SFOR and the UN police, a UN spokesman said on 15 February. In other news, the overnight curfew in the federation was abolished on 14 February after more than four years, Oslobodjenje reported. But federal Interior Minister Mehmed Zilic said a curfew will remain in effect in Mostar "until the tensions calm down." -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [07] DUBIOUS SETTLEMENT OF THE BRCKO DISPUTE.

    International mediator Roberts Owen on 14 February put off a settlement of the thorny Brcko issue until 15 March 1998 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 February 1997), news agencies reported. His interim solution is to leave the Serbs in charge of the river port while creating the office of "international supervisor" to monitor the return of Croat and Muslim refugees and economic reconstruction. It is not clear exactly what powers this new official will have or how he or she will enforce compliance. Owen's program guarantees freedom of movement and the right of refugees to go home, but those provisions are already included in the Dayton agreement and have been neither respected nor enforced. -- Patrick Moore

    [08] MIXED RECEPTION OF BRCKO DECISION.

    U.S. special envoy John Kornblum said that Owen's package was "definitely enough" to prevent fighting from starting again, news agencies reported on 14 February. The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt warned, however, that "it is sometimes easier to write a thing in a Washington law firm than to do it on the ground" and added that the reconstruction of Brcko will cost at least $200 million. The Bosnian Serb member of the joint Bosnian presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, was skeptical of Owen's plan, but Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic was more upbeat, saying the decision opens the way to investment and prosperity. Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic said Owen's announcement "is not justice, but a step toward justice." Other Muslims and Croats were more optimistic, saying the plan gives them direct access to what had been Serb-held territory. In short, persons on both sides of the former front line could view the glass as half empty or half full. -- Patrick Moore

    [09] KLEIN SAYS MOST SERBS WILL STAY IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.

    The UN administrator for eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, said only about 15,000-20,000 of the 120,000 Croatian Serbs living in eastern Slavonia would leave for neighboring Serbia, Reuters reported on 16 February. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held region slated to revert to the Croatian government's control. "[Those who will leave] are Serb nationalists who simply cannot live in a Croatian Catholic state -- and they include war criminals, people with guilty consciences," Klein said. The UN Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia said some 650 Serb households have left the area since June 1996, 450 of them in the first half of February alone, following the UN Security Council's backing of the Croatian government's letter of intent for peaceful reintegration. But more than 40,000 Serbs have meanwhile obtained Croatian citizenship papers in order to vote and keep their property and jobs. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [10] SERBIAN POLITICAL OPPOSITION CALLS HALT TO DEMONSTRATIONS.

    Leaders of the Zajedno coalition on 15 February said they will suspend the marathon mass demonstrations for three weeks to allow the ruling Socialists time to ease restrictions on state media, international media reported. The decision followed the government's recognition of opposition wins in the 17 November municipal elections. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, addressing some 10,000 people in downtown Belgrade on 15 February, said: "Our three goals were getting back our election victory, achieving a freeing-up of the media, and fair electoral conditions prior to the next voting. We achieved the first, but not the other two. ... We'll give [the Socialists] three weeks, until March 9, and see what happens." Zajedno has said that it will call for renewed demonstrations should the government continue to conduct itself in bad faith. In other news, on 16 February, UN human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn met with Serbian opposition leader Vesna Pesic and with peaceful protesters beaten by police. -- Stan Markotich

    [11] STUDENTS, TRADE UNIONISTS CONTINUE TO DEMONSTRATE.

    Student and independent labor leaders have continued with street protests despite the Zajedno announcement, Nasa Borba reported on 17 February. An estimated 5,000 students gathered in downtown Belgrade the previous day to demand the sacking of the pro-government, hard-line rector of Belgrade university and the indictment of those responsible for the electoral fraud. Meanwhile, Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic has met with the leaders of state unions, notably those representing elementary and secondary teachers, over demands for increased pay. But independent labor leaders such as Jagos Bulatovic have said that the government negotiations will not be binding on independent teachers, who reserve the right to continue with their protests and job action, Radio Index reported. -- Stan Markotich

    [12] AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNS TORTURE IN KOSOVO.

    Amnesty International on 16 February called for an end to the torture and abuse of political detainees in Kosovo. The human rights organization mentioned one case of a prisoner who had recently disappeared in police custody and said it was "concerned that courts in Kosovo province frequently have based their verdicts against ethnic Albanians ... on statements which defendants have retracted in court, claiming they had been obtained by force." Police say they are holding 66 people accused or suspected of terrorist attacks in Kosovo this year. Kosovo Albanian officials said they have a record of 55 held in custody after police operations against the Kosovo Liberation Army. Several released prisoners said they had been beaten and tortured with electric shocks. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [13] ROMANIAN COALITION PARTY SPLITS.

    A dissenting wing of the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL- CD), which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) and of the ruling coalition, on 15 February suspended party chairman Nicolae Cerveni, Romanian television reported. The dissidents oppose a protocol on unification Cerveni signed with several liberal parties that are not members of the CDR. They also reproach Cerveni with having failed to forcefully promote members of the PNL-CD for ministerial posts. In response, Cerveni said the 14 dissidents will be expelled from the party at a meeting of its National Council, scheduled for 22 February. Among the dissidents is Sorin Stanescu, minister of youth and sports. -- Dan Ionescu.

    [14] MOLDOVA RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO BONN.

    President Petru Lucinschi recalled Moldova's ambassador to Germany, Infotag reported on 14 February. The decree had already been signed in January but was only recently published. Ambassador Alexandru Burian was involved in a conflict with the leadership of the Foreign Ministry in the second half of 1996, when he alleged that there were violations linked to the opening of a consular office in Frankfurt. Tapes of telephone conversations between the ambassador and the presidential office in Chisinau were leaked and broadcast in what some observers considered to be an attempt to embarrass former President Mircea Snegur. A special commission set up to investigate the affair recommended sacking Burian but Snegur did not follow the commission's recommendations. -- Dan Ionescu

    [15] BULGARIAN UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES BECOMES PARTY.

    The Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), during its ninth National Conference on 15 and 16 February, decided to turn the SDS into a single party rather than an alliance of so far 15 member organizations in light of the upcoming elections and a likely SDS-led government, Kontinent and Duma reported. The parties making up the SDS will be transformed into associated organizations within the new party. In addition, SDS Chairman Ivan Kostov was re-elected by a near-unanimous vote, and an 11-member National Executive Council was elected to run the SDS. Candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections will be elected in U.S.-style primaries. The SDS will propose common candidates with other opposition parties. -- Stefan Krause

    [16] BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS FACE DISASTER IN APRIL ELECTIONS.

    A poll published in the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) daily Duma on 17 February suggests that the Socialists could suffer a humiliating defeat in the 19 April elections. According to the nationwide poll conducted in late January, the BSP would garner only 12% as opposed to 43% for the SDS. The People's Union would get 2%, well under the 4% threshold needed to gain parliamentary representation. The mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom would get 4%, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc 7%. Just 7% would go to all other parties. Some 23% of respondents said they will not vote. Meanwhile, the BSP Supreme Council elected party leader Georgi Parvanov as head of the party's election campaign center. Former Interior Minister Nikolay Kamov, former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, and former parliamentary Economics Commission Chairman Nikola Koychev will be his deputies. -- Stefan Krause

    [17] ALBANIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE.

    Sporadic violence and anti-government demonstrations continued throughout the weekend in Vlora, Fier, and Saranda but were quieter than in previous weeks, Reuters and AFP reported. No riot police were seen, in a new strategy by the government not to oppose marches outside the capital. In Tirana, however, police put on a show of force to prevent a rally called by the opposition Forum for Democracy on 16 February from taking place. Meanwhile, Vlora Mayor Gezim Zile called on the government to resign, the first Democrat leader to do so. President Sali Berisha acknowledged that the government had committed errors and had warned the public too late about the dangers of pyramid investment schemes. But he said responsibility also lies with the investors. He stressed that the state has no intention of taking the debt on its shoulders. -- 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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