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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 35, 97-02-19

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 35, 19 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 1997 BUDGET.
  • [02] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO FORM "UNITED FRONT."
  • [03] REGIONAL UZBEK BOSS ANSWERS TO POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE.
  • [04] UZBEKISTAN PROTESTS ATTACK ON CUSTOMS OFFICERS.
  • [05] TURKMEN UPDATE.
  • [06] TURGUNALIEV TRIAL UPDATE.
  • [07] TAJIKISTAN OPPOSITION ON HOSTAGE TAKING.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] REASSURING EASTERN SLAVONIA'S SERBS.
  • [09] BOSNIAN ROUNDUP.
  • [10] CROATIA REJECTS TRIBUNE'S REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE.
  • [11] LABOR UNREST ACROSS SERBIA.
  • [12] UPDATE ON SERBIA'S OPPOSITION.
  • [13] FUEL, OTHER PRICES SURGE IN ROMANIA.
  • [14] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON FIGHTING CRIME, CORRUPTION.
  • [15] MACEDONIA TO RECEIVE $46 MILLION FROM EU.
  • [16] REACTIONS TO BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S WISH TO JOIN NATO.
  • [17] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES CHANGES TO ELECTORAL LAW.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 1997 BUDGET.

    Following more than two months of debate, the Armenian National Assembly on 18 February adopted the 1997 budget, international media reported. The budget envisages expenditures of 151.9 billion drams ($325 million) with 30.5 billion drams to be spent on defense needs and 16.8 billion allocated for social welfare. According to Reuters, the budget projects a 10.5% inflation rate in 1997, and practically all of its 33.9 billion dram deficit will be covered by international financial institutions. Addressing the parliament, President Levon Ter-Petrossyan described it as a "budget of survival but not a budget of development." The Communist Party was the only faction that voted against the draft. The two other parliamentary opposition parties, the National Democratic Union and the National Self- Determination Union, have been boycotting the legislature since the 25 September post-election unrest. -- Emil Danielyan

    [02] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO FORM "UNITED FRONT."

    A round table discussion involving the main Armenian opposition parties decided on 17 February to form a "united front" against the current government and to convene the new movement's founding congress soon, Noyan Tapan reported. According to the opposition leaders, the movement's only goal is to "establish democracy in Armenia." In particular, this involves holding fresh presidential, parliamentary, and local elections and adopting a new constitution. David Vartanyan, a representative of the National Democratic Union, said that the new organization will include Armenian NGOs and distinguished individuals who are unhappy with the current regime. Meanwhile, during a mass rally in Yerevan on 18 February to mark the 76th anniversary of the 1921 anti-Bolshevik revolt, the opposition reiterated its claims that the "illegitimacy of the Armenian leadership" is hindering a solution to the country's pressing problems. -- Emil Danielyan

    [03] REGIONAL UZBEK BOSS ANSWERS TO POOR ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE.

    Mirzajon Islamov was removed from his post as administrative head of the Ferghana Wilayat on 14 February, Narodnoe slovo reported on 15 February. In a meeting chaired by Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Islamov was accused of "no longer answering the needs of the time," a charge levied against other regional hokims in 1996 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 December 1996). The president considered the pace of privatization and economic reform to have been too slow, noting that only 35 out of 73 registered joint ventures in the region were still in operation. In addition, light industries were operating at only 50% capacity and agricultural harvests for 1996 were a disappointing 77% of the required quota. His successor is Numonjon Mominov, a district head of administration from the same Ferghana apparatus as Islamov. -- Roger Kangas

    [04] UZBEKISTAN PROTESTS ATTACK ON CUSTOMS OFFICERS.

    The Uzbek Foreign Ministry protested to Dushanbe after three Uzbek customs officers were wounded in a 15 February attack on their outpost in Besharik, RFE/RL reported on 18 February. Uzbek authorities believe the assault from Tajik territory was well-planned and designed to aggravate tensions between the Leninabad region of Tajikistan and adjacent Uzbek areas. This is the second such incident to occur this year. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [05] TURKMEN UPDATE.

    Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Barnea Eli, president of the Dutch subsidiary of the Israeli concern Bateman, signed a $180 million deal to modernize Turkmenistan's aging pipeline system, RFE/RL reported on 19 February. The U.S. and South Africa are to provide capital for the undertaking. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [06] TURGUNALIEV TRIAL UPDATE.

    The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan changed the verdict handed down by a Bishkek municipal court to Topchubek Turgunaliev on embezzlement charges early last month, RFE/RL reported on 18 February. The Supreme Court reduced a 10-year prison term to a three-year suspended sentence and one year deportation to the Issyk-Kul region; the other defendant in the case, Timur Stamkulov, had his sentence reduced from six to three years. Turgunaliev's lawyers declared their intention to appeal the latest decision in Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court. In other news, the presidential administration of Kyrgyzstan was shrunk by a 14 February presidential decree from 127 to 89, RFE/RL reported the same day. -- Naryn Idinov

    [07] TAJIKISTAN OPPOSITION ON HOSTAGE TAKING.

    The Russian intelligence service and the Tajik government orchestrated the recently concluded hostage taking crisis in Tajikistan in an attempt to bring another group into the inter-Tajik talks and set it against the opposition, according to a clandestine Tajik opposition radio report by the BBC monitored 15 February Interfax report. According to a Russian media report issued immediately after the hostages were released, Tajik Presidential Press Secretary Zafar Saidov was quoted as saying the Sadirov brothers declared their "loyalty" to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and did not lay claim to the status of a "third force" in the Tajik peace talks. The next round of talks is scheduled to take place later this week in Meshed, Iran. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] REASSURING EASTERN SLAVONIA'S SERBS.

    The UN's special envoy for human rights, Elisabeth Rehn, said in Vukovar on 18 February that there must be a continued international presence in eastern Slavonia after the region reverts to Croatian control in July. The current UN military mandate expires in mid-year, but Rehn said that military observers must remain to reassure the area's 120,000 Serbs. She also called for civilian representatives of the EU, OSCE, and other bodies to be present, Novi List reported. The UN has been trying to convince the Serbs to stay and has obtained pledges from the Zagreb authorities of fair treatment for Serbs who did not commit war crimes (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 18 February 1997). Serbian nationalists have nonetheless urged people to leave, and the Association of Serbs Expelled from Croatia announced in Banja Luka that it expects up to 70,000 people to resettle in Bosnia's Republika Srpska. Eastern Slavonia is expected to top the agenda today when Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic visits Belgrade, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore

    [09] BOSNIAN ROUNDUP.

    Explosive devices were thrown by unknown persons at the homes of two UN policemen in Prijedor in the northwest corner of Bosnian Serb territory, the UN announced on 18 February. Violence seems to have abated in Mostar, however, although progress still needs to be made on enabling those expelled recently from their homes to return, Oslobodjenje wrote on 19 February. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the hunt is on for a successor to the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt. His term runs out in April, and he is believed to be anxious to leave, AFP wrote. But the job requires a former head of government--Bildt is a former prime minister of Sweden--and no such person seems interested. Names mentioned have included Spain's Felipe Gonzalez and Britain's Margaret Thatcher. -- Patrick Moore

    [10] CROATIA REJECTS TRIBUNE'S REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE.

    The Croatian government said it will not surrender to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia evidence against Tihomil Blaskic, a Bosnian Croat accused of commanding a massacre of Muslims during the Muslim-Croat war in 1993, Hina reported on 18 February. Tribunal Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald ordered that Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak and Bosnian Federation Defense Minister Ante Jelavic turn over transcripts, memos, and recordings of conversations dating four years back by 19 February; otherwise, the ministers must appear before the court and explain their refusal. The Croatian government said such demands were "inappropriate" and compliance with them could "jeopardize national security." A Croatian Defense Ministry spokesman said Susak would neither provide the requested documentation nor appear in court. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [11] LABOR UNREST ACROSS SERBIA.

    An estimated 90% of schools were shut down across Serbia as striking teachers and their unions demanded payment of salaries in arrears and pay increases. The government, meanwhile, said that an agreement on resolving the dispute has been reached but insisted that meeting teachers' demands would force the printing of more currency, cause inflation, and destabilize the dinar, Reuters reported on 18 February. Union officials have pledged to continue striking until their demands are met. -- Stan Markotich

    [12] UPDATE ON SERBIA'S OPPOSITION.

    Leader of the Democratic Party Zoran Djindjic is slated to become Belgrade's first non-communist mayor in over 50 years this week. But Danica Draskovic, wife of Serbian Renewal Movement head Vuk Draskovic, has signaled her intent to become the head of the greater Belgrade district government, an office that may rival the mayoralty for influence. Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic told Dnevni Telegraf he would neither support nor tolerate his wife's bid for the position, as such an arrangement would evoke Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his wife and main political ally, Mirjana Markovic. Draskovic added that Djindjic's succession to the mayor's post is not a foregone conclusion. -- Stan Markotich

    [13] FUEL, OTHER PRICES SURGE IN ROMANIA.

    The price of fuel, electricity, public transport, and telecommunications surged on 18 February, Romanian and Western media reported. The price hikes went into effect less than one day after Premier Victor Ciorbea announced a shock therapy package for the ailing Romanian economy. Gasoline and diesel prices, which had already doubled in early January, rose again by some 50%, the price of rail tickets by 80%, of telecommunications by 100%, and of electricity by up to 500%. The surge followed the government's decision to withdraw subsidies for those goods. A chain reaction is expected on the market, including the staples market. Long queues reportedly formed outside bread shops; some people bought up to 50 loaves. The IMF's chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, praised Ciorbea's proposal for reforms but warned against further subsidizing energy-intensive enterprises. -- Dan Ionescu

    [14] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON FIGHTING CRIME, CORRUPTION.

    Petru Lucinschi on 17 February said that the struggle against crime and corruption was a top priority for the current administration, along with paying pension and salaries arrears, BASA-press and Infotag reported the following day. Lucinschi announced that the Interior Ministry will soon set up a special department to deal with crime and corruption. He expressed confidence that, in a small country such as Moldova, order could be restored within six months. According to data released on 18 February by the Interior Ministry, organized crime is on the rise in Moldova, where 122 criminal groups operate. A ministry spokesman said that ties between the underworld and the state bodies are closest in the banking system and in the institutions in charge of privatizing industry and agriculture. -- Dan Ionescu

    [15] MACEDONIA TO RECEIVE $46 MILLION FROM EU.

    The council of EU finance and economy ministers agreed in Brussels on 18 February to lend Macedonia ECU 40 million ($46 million), Nova Makedonija reported the next day. Greece and Great Britain had on 27 January blocked such a decision, the former due to its objection to Macedonia's name and the latter on technical grounds (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997). Part of the money is the EU's contribution to the donors' conference on 25 and 26 February which will settle Macedonia's $30 million debt to the European Investment Bank; the failure to pay off that debt has held up the signing of the trade and cooperation agreement reached with the EU in June 1996. The EU's decision paves the way for additional contributions from the international financial institutions to cover a projected $85 million balance-of-payments shortfall this year. -- Michael Wyzan

    [16] REACTIONS TO BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S WISH TO JOIN NATO.

    The caretaker government's announcement that Bulgaria will apply for full NATO membership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 February 1997) met with mixed reactions. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 February said that only the parliament, not the government, has the right to decide on the issue, but it said it sees Sofia's move "as a declaration" rather than a concrete step toward membership, Kontinent reported on 19 February. Meeting with interim Bulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev, the ambassadors of the NATO members asked whether Sofia's new position will be permanent and what future relations with Moscow will be like. Turkish observers reacted favorably. Bulgarian Socialist Party Chairman Georgi Parvanov said his party is considering asking for a referendum on the issue alongside the 19 April parliamentary elections, Duma reported. -- Stefan Krause

    [17] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES CHANGES TO ELECTORAL LAW.

    Petar Stoyanov on 18 February vetoed changes in the electoral law, saying they could result in political instability, Reuters and Bulgarian media reported. The Socialist majority in the outgoing parliament last week lowered the threshold needed to gain parliamentary representation from 4% to 3%. A meeting of the parliamentary Judicial Commission was called by outgoing Parliamentary Speaker Blagovest Sendov for the same day but had to be canceled for lack of a quorum. Sendov then decided not to call a plenary meeting. He accused Stoyanov of humiliating the parliament. A presidential decree dissolved the parliament on 19 February, which some experts interpreted as midnight between 18 and 19 February. -- Stefan Krause

    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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