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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 34, 97-02-18

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 34, 18 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS OVER, WITH APOLOGIES.
  • [02] MORE ON RUSSIAN ARMS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA.
  • [03] KAZAKSTANI UPDATE.
  • [04] MOBIL, MONUMENT IN TURKMENISTAN.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [05] MUSLIMS RETURN TO WEST MOSTAR, CROATS EVICTED FROM EAST MOSTAR.
  • [06] A NEW WAY TO GET BOSNIAN REFUGEES HOME?
  • [07] BOSNIAN ROUNDUP.
  • [08] CROATIA GUARANTEES SAFETY TO EASTERN SLAVONIA SERBS.
  • [09] ECONOMIC DEMANDS REPLACE POLITICAL ONES IN SERBIAN CAPITAL.
  • [10] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL?
  • [11] POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH ON SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCK.
  • [12] MACEDONIAN STUDENTS PROTEST AGAINST ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE EDUCATION.
  • [13] CIORBEA LAUNCHES "SHOCK THERAPY" PROGRAM.
  • [14] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENT STATE DESIRE TO JOIN NATO.
  • [15] NEW PRICE HIKES IN BULGARIA.
  • [16] ALBANIANS KEEP UP PROTESTS.
  • [17] INVESTMENT COMPANY OWNER TELLS ALBANIANS TO WORK.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS OVER, WITH APOLOGIES.

    The two-week Tajik hostage crisis ended without further incident on 17 February following high-level talks between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, representatives of hostage taker Bahrom Sadirov, and a Russian embassy official, Western and Russian media reported. No details on the agreements have been released. According to one Russian media report, Sadirov hopes to participate in the peace talks between the government and the opposition as a so-called third force. Before the drama ended, Sadirov's representative apologized to "Russia and the world community" for the hostage taking, explaining that he had no other means of bringing his fellow fighters back from Afghanistan. None of the hostages were hurt, contrary to earlier reports that one of them had been killed. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [02] MORE ON RUSSIAN ARMS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA.

    Russian Ambassador to Yerevan Andrei Urnov told Noyan Tapan on 17 February that the Russian arms being sent to Armenia are designated for use at Russia's military bases there in accordance with existing bilateral military agreements. Urnov said he does not know of any illegal arms transfers. On 14 February, Russian Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev claimed that Armenia has illegally received some 270 billion rubles ($50 million) worth of arms from Russia (not 270 million rubles as erroneously reported by Noyan Tapan on 15 February and OMRI Daily Digest on 17 February). The Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow issued a statement expressing concern at "the continuing practice of illegal arms shipments to Armenia" which it said "undermines efforts to settle the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan by peaceful means," according to a 16 February Interfax report monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller

    [03] KAZAKSTANI UPDATE.

    Kazakstani Transport and Communications Minister Yurii Lavrinenko signed an agreement on expanding economic cooperation with his Iranian counterpart during a visit to Tehran, according to a 17 February Iranian TV report monitored by the BBC. Lavrinenko described Iran as the "most important and most strategic country in the region." In other news, Kazakstani authorities are hunting down dozens of former prisoners amnestied in 1996 and imprisoning them without trial, AFP reported on 17 February. Officials claim some of the 19,000 prisoners released on 30 January 1996 were not meant to be freed. Jumabek Busurmanov, head of the governmental Human Rights Committee, has criticized the Western groups that protested the illegal, retroactive nature of the undertaking. Meanwhile, Russia remains in arrears with Kazakstan to the tune of $115 million over the use of the Baikanour space station, RFE/RL reported on 18 February. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan

    [04] MOBIL, MONUMENT IN TURKMENISTAN.

    Mobil Exploration and Producing Turkmenistan, Inc. have joined the UK-based Monument Oil and Gas in a production-sharing agreement with the government of Turkmenistan to explore and develop oil and gas opportunities in the Nebit-Dag license area, RFE/RL reported on 17 February. The two companies also reached an agreement with Ashgabat for the exclusive right to negotiate a production-sharing agreement covering most of the country's onshore oil-producing region, which is some 18,000 sq. km in size. The first deal applies to a 2,000 sq. km area. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [05] MUSLIMS RETURN TO WEST MOSTAR, CROATS EVICTED FROM EAST MOSTAR.

    UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said that 23 of 28 Muslim families expelled from Croat-held Mostar last week have returned to their homes, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 February. The other five families feared to return. He said the UN police were satisfied with the west Mostar police's help in bringing Muslim families back. Police and members of the Croat special forces are believed to have been directly involved in the evictions of Muslims. Ivanko said the UN was concerned, however, about reports of the first expulsion of a Croat family from Muslim-held east Mostar. Meanwhile, another grenade exploded in Mostar on 16 February; no one was injured. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [06] A NEW WAY TO GET BOSNIAN REFUGEES HOME?

    Michael Steiner, the deputy to the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt, said a new, radical approach may be needed to get Bosnian refugees home, Reuters reported. To date, practically no individuals have been able to return to territory under the control of another ethnic group, despite their right to do so under the Dayton accord. Steiner said on 17 February: "If as much energy were put into organizing the return of refugees [on a trade-off basis] as has been put by the OSCE into organizing elections, perhaps by having an R-Day or Return Day instead of an E-Day or Election Day, then we could achieve far more than we have with pilot projects which don't work because they lack internal balance." -- Patrick Moore

    [07] BOSNIAN ROUNDUP.

    The OSCE's top election official, Robert Frowick, talked with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka about problems in organizing local balloting in July in Brcko and Mostar, AFP reported on 17 February. In Sarajevo, the World Bank announced that the planned donors' conference has been postponed until April because the Bosnian government has yet to set up a basic economic reform package. Also in the capital, the leading Islamic religious body, the Rijaset, condemned the recent desecration of a Roman Catholic cemetery in Klopce near Zenica, Oslobodjenje wrote on 18 February. SFOR, for its part, denied Croatian charges that it had used excessive force in entering the Rama power plant near Prozor while searching for illegal weapons, Dnevni avaz reported. And Oslobodjenje noted that the respective police forces of the three main ethnic groups have been continuing the war among themselves and also terrorizing citizens. -- Patrick Moore

    [08] CROATIA GUARANTEES SAFETY TO EASTERN SLAVONIA SERBS.

    Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 17 February met with the head of the UN Transitional Authority for Eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, and a local Serbian leader, Vojislav Stanimirovic, to discuss the process of the peaceful reintegration of the region and an amnesty issue, Hina reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Kostovic said that Tudjman guaranteed Serbs there would be no revanchism. But Klein requested that a final list of war criminals be issued by the Croatian government so that people who were not on the list knew they could stay in the area. Last year Croatia issued an incomplete list of 811 accused war criminals. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [09] ECONOMIC DEMANDS REPLACE POLITICAL ONES IN SERBIAN CAPITAL.

    While the opposition Zajedno coalition has called off its mass demonstrations for three weeks to allow the ruling Socialists to make concessions such as freeing up the state media, protests continued in Belgrade on 17 February, Nasa Borba reported the following day. The demands, however, have shifted: independent professionals, notably teachers, were demanding their back wages. In addition, the city's transportation workers staged another warning strike on 17 February, cutting service on about a quarter of the city's bus lines and leaving thousands of commuters stranded. Transportation sector labor leaders have said they will back a full-scale shut down of the city's public transportation system on 18 February if there is no progress on salary demands. -- Stan Markotich

    [10] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL?

    Vuk Draskovic, a leader of the Zajedno coalition and head of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), told the Daily Telegraph that if he were elected president of Serbia, he would work for the restoration of the Karadjorevic dynasty, Nasa Borba reported on 18 February. Following the restoration of the monarchy, Draskovic would retire from politics and devote himself full- time to writing. So far, however, Draskovic has not been designated the united opposition's presidential candidate in the election slated for later this year. -- Stan Markotich

    [11] POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH ON SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCK.

    Premier Janez Drnovsek on 17 February announced he had reached an accord on forming a cabinet that would include members of his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), the right-wing Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and the small Democratic Pensioners' Party (DESUS), Radio Slovenija reported. Elections were held on 10 November, and an earlier proposal was rejected by parliament on 6 February. A rejection of this cabinet line-up may force early elections. -- Stan Markotich

    [12] MACEDONIAN STUDENTS PROTEST AGAINST ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE EDUCATION.

    About 3,000 Macedonian students demonstrated in Skopje on 17 February against a new law introducing teaching in the Albanian language at the teacher-training faculty. They chanted nationalist slogans, including "Gas chambers for Albanians," and threw eggs and stones at the government headquarters and the Education Ministry offices, the daily Dnevnik reported. The protesters called on Education Minister Sofija Todorova to resign, AFP said. In early February, the Macedonian parliament had voted for Albanian-language education. The opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization VMRO-DPMNE said it had appealed to the Constitutional Court over the law, arguing that the Macedonian constitution allows national minorities to be taught in their mother tongues only at primary- and secondary-school levels. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [13] CIORBEA LAUNCHES "SHOCK THERAPY" PROGRAM.

    After having concluded parleys with international financing institutions and the major trade unions, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 17 February presented the government's "shock therapy" program in a live televised speech. He said 3,600 state companies will be privatized in 1997; companies which are unprofitable will be closed or auctioned off. The government expects a rise in unemployment to about 8% from the current 6%. A social program negotiated with the International Monetary Fund will compensate those most affected by the measures--over 10% of the GDP will be channeled to this program. The IMF has agreed to lend Romania some $400 million for this purpose, but over the long term Romania is to receive $1 billion from international lenders. All prices, with the exception of bread, are to be immediately liberalized and the state budget will make only very limited provisions for subsidies--some of which will go to agriculture. State-owned agricultural land is also to be privatized. All banks are also to be gradually privatized. Ciorbea said he expects inflation to fall to 30% by the end of the year, down from the current 90%. -- Dan Ionescu

    [14] BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT, PRESIDENT STATE DESIRE TO JOIN NATO.

    Bulgaria's caretaker government on 17 February said Bulgaria will apply for full NATO membership, Trud and Demokratsiya reported. It was the first time a Bulgarian government unequivocally spoke in favor of NATO membership. President Petar Stoyanov endorsed the government's decision, calling NATO "the only serious guarantor of security." Vladimir Topencharov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party said the decision should have been made by a cabinet elected by the parliament rather than by a caretaker government. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid Kerestedzhiyants said "the decision cannot go down without any consequences, but we will try to keep them as small as possible." He said Moscow does not see an anti-Russian attitude behind the decision. -- Stefan Krause

    [15] NEW PRICE HIKES IN BULGARIA.

    Fuel prices almost tripled on 18 February, Pari and RFE/RL reported. The government made the move to bring prices closer to world market prices and cut down on the losses of Bulgaria's biggest oil refinery, Neftochim in Burgas. Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski said drastic hikes were the only way to stabilize the economy. Officially, fuel will sell for 850-1,130 leva per liter ($0.30-$0.40), while the black market price is 10%-30% higher. Another hike might come as early as next week, experts said. The fuel shortage continues to leave public transport and road traffic paralyzed in large parts of the country. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Rumen Hristov said grain supplies suffice for 20 days and bread prices may go up from 250 leva to 2,000 leva if grain must be imported at market conditions. -- Stefan Krause

    [16] ALBANIANS KEEP UP PROTESTS.

    About 5,000 Albanians protested for a 13th day in Vlora on 17 February and several hundred in Fier, demanding government compensation after the collapse of fraudulent investment schemes. Vlora students threatened to go on a hunger strike if the demands for compensation were not met. Local representatives of political parties, including the ruling Democrats, anti- communist dissidents, and protesters signed a charter demanding the government quit and hold general elections. Mayor Gezim Zile told the crowd from a balcony that he supported their demands. The local branch of the National Commercial Bank opened for the first time in 10 days to distribute some of the frozen assets of failed pyramid schemes. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [17] INVESTMENT COMPANY OWNER TELLS ALBANIANS TO WORK.

    In Tirana, Vehbi Alimucaj, head of the biggest investment holding firm, Vefa, said angry investors should "roll up their sleeves and get back to work" instead of protesting and burning down buildings, Reuters reported. Vefa froze the deposits of its 80,000 investors after five pyramids went bust last month, but Alimucaj continues to claim that his investors have nothing to fear and will get back their deposits in three or four months after the climate of insecurity has passed. Vefa continues to make interest payments. -- 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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