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OMRI: Daily Digest, Vol. 3, No. 36, 97-02-20

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

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

Vol. 3, No. 36, 20 February 1997


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SHEVARDNADZE IN BAKU.
  • [02] PRO-GOVERNMENT DAILY CLOSES DOWN IN ARMENIA.
  • [03] BOWING TO BEIJING OVER XINJIANG?
  • [04] CENTRAL ASIAN ECONOMIC UPDATE.
  • [05] TURKMENISTAN AIRLINES BANNED IN NETHERLANDS.
  • [06] ASSASSINATIONS, TYPHOID FEVER IN TAJIKISTAN.

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [07] U.S. PROPOSES 'SPECIAL' POLICE FORCE IN BRCKO.
  • [08] BOSNIANS GAVE WORLD BANK MONEY TO TOWN ON AID BLACK LIST.
  • [09] CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE.
  • [10] SERBIA'S HARDLINERS ON THE OFFENSIVE AGAIN?
  • [11] JAIL STRIKE BROADENS IN ROMANIA.
  • [12] MOLDOVA ATTACKS RUSSIAN DUMA'S DECISION TO SET UP DNIESTER PANEL.
  • [13] BULGARIAN ENERGY MINISTER ON DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER.
  • [14] BULGARIAN TRADE MINISTER TAKES STEPS TO BOOST EXPORTS.
  • [15] ALBANIAN UPDATE.

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SHEVARDNADZE IN BAKU.

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Baku on 18 February for a three-day visit intended to open what he termed a "new stage" in the "strategic partnership" between the two countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. Following a three-hour meeting during which Shevardnadze and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, signed more than 20 bilateral cooperation agreements, including one on the export of Caspian Sea oil and gas via Georgia, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution to all conflicts in the region, according to ITAR-TASS. Addressing Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis (parliament) on 19 February, Shevardnadze criticized the inability of the CIS to safeguard the territorial integrity of its member states, and argued that integration within the CIS should not impede the desire of some of its members to join unspecified "European structures." -- Liz Fuller

    [02] PRO-GOVERNMENT DAILY CLOSES DOWN IN ARMENIA.

    The editorial board of the Yerevan-based Aravot daily newspaper decided on 15 February to cease publication, Armenian media reported. The paper's editor-in-chief and former spokesman for President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Aram Abrahamyan, claimed that "the daily has fulfilled its mission as a free media outlet and exhausted its resources as such." He denied rumors in Yerevan that it was closed down for "political reasons." Nominally independent, Aravot largely supported the government's policies and is believed to have been heavily financed by former Interior Minister and current Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan and his associates. -- Emil Danielyan

    [03] BOWING TO BEIJING OVER XINJIANG?

    Kazakstan has officially stated its resolute opposition to any kind of separatism in China, according to a 19 February Xinhua report monitored by the BBC. The statement comes in the wake of Uighur protest rallies in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey following Beijing's suppression of violent riots staged in early February by the Uighur minority in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. On 18 February, the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan described a demonstration that took place outside its offices in Bishkek as an act of interference in China's domestic affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 February. On 17 February, Turkey officially apologized for the burning of Chinese flags by protesters but also declared its intention to "maintain an interest" in the people of the Xinjiang region, AFP reported. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [04] CENTRAL ASIAN ECONOMIC UPDATE.

    Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a $580 million agreement with three Japanese concerns -- Itochi, JGC, and Nissho Iwai -- to build Turkmenistan's first polypropylene plant in Turkmenbashy (formerly Krasnovodsk) on 18 February, RFE/RL reported the next day. The Japanese government will reportedly extend a $400 million credit to the plant which will produce 90,000 metric tons of polypropylene annually. The U.S. firm CCL has won a tender for a three-year concession to run the Pavoldar oil refinery in Kazakstan, RFE/RL reported the same day. The terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed; the idle plant previously produced more than half of Kazakstan's gasoline needs. Local officials in the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan are negotiating with China to open a border trading zone in the Mugab district, according to an 18 February Tajik Radio report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [05] TURKMENISTAN AIRLINES BANNED IN NETHERLANDS.

    Dutch Transport and Water Management Minister Annemarie Jorritsma-Lebbink has banned Turkmenistan Airlines (TA) from landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. The decision comes after a TA flight chartered in Dubai made an unauthorized landing at the airport on 17 February. The flight was carrying 173 Sri Lankan Tamils who asked for asylum in the Netherlands. No details on whether the Tamils will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands have been released. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [06] ASSASSINATIONS, TYPHOID FEVER IN TAJIKISTAN.

    Unidentified assailants killed seven people in different residential areas of Dushanbe within a 30-minute period on the evening of 18 February, Reuters reported on 19 February. Among those killed were two U.S. Embassy guards waiting at a bus stop, a Russian serviceman, and an ethnic Uzbek scientist. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the killings as anti- Russian; the U.S. called on the Tajik authorities to apprehend the perpetrators. One of the other victims was a Tajik policeman who worked at a psychiatric hospital; he was killed when a "patient," reputedly connected with the pro-opposition Sanginov brothers, was freed by his associates. In other news, international aid officials in Tajikistan say that at least 10 people have died and thousands have been infected in an outbreak of typhoid fever in the capital Dushanbe, RFE/RL reported on 20 February. Some 3,000 cases of typhoid fever have already been reported. -- Lowell Bezanis

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [07] U.S. PROPOSES 'SPECIAL' POLICE FORCE IN BRCKO.

    Washington will back an initiative to create a UN-mandated police force to help an international supervisor in the disputed Bosnian town until March 1998, when a final decision on Brcko will be made, AFP reported on 19 February. Arbitrators decided on 14 February to postpone for another year the decision on who should control the town claimed by both Serbs and Muslims. The U.S. is ready to contribute personnel to the police force, which would be separate from the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) but-- in contrast to the existing UN police force--would be armed and authorized to use force. The existing UN police could not cope with incidents that might occur if thousands of Muslims and Croats try to return to Brcko. In other news, James Pardew, a senior U.S. envoy in charge of the military aid program for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, said that efforts to merge the Bosnian Muslim and Croat armies are in danger due to the inter-ethnic clash in Mostar, Reuters reported on 19 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [08] BOSNIANS GAVE WORLD BANK MONEY TO TOWN ON AID BLACK LIST.

    The World Bank said on 19 February that Bosnian Muslim authorities illegally allocated some $200,000 to Bugojno, a town in central Bosnia that is under an aid embargo by the World Bank and the high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, AFP reported. Bugojno is embargoed for all but humanitarian aid because its Muslim authorities refuse to allow the minority Croat population representation on the local council. The money came from a $100 million loan from the Dutch government and the World Bank. The Dutch ambassador to Bosnia, Valerei Sluyter, said she did not know what the money was used for or whether the Bosnian government has fulfilled its promise to take the money back from Bugojno. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [09] CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELGRADE.

    Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart Milan Milutinovic met on 19 February to push ahead with normalizing relations between their countries, international and local media reported. While peaceful reintegration of the last Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia dominated their agenda, they reached agreement on nearly 18 other issues, including citizenship, frontier trade and traffic, border crossings, cooperation between interior ministries, and the rights of Croats in Yugoslavia and of Serbs in Croatia. The two are expected to sign agreements in a few months on transportation, succession talks, missing persons, and refugees and property issues. Meanwhile, Serb leaders in eastern Slavonia warned that 50% of Serbs in the area will leave by the end of the spring as they are being treated unfairly, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [10] SERBIA'S HARDLINERS ON THE OFFENSIVE AGAIN?

    Mirjana Markovic, wife and main political ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, on 19 February lambasted the opposition Zajedno coalition. In the state-run Borba, Markovic alleged that the opposition wants only to seize power and behaves like "diseased animals." In other news, Radio Index on 19 February reported that local Socialist Party officials in Leskovac are refusing to remove the local sacked party boss from his mayor's post, apparently in defiance of opposition wins in the locality following 17 November municipal runoff elections. Elsewhere on 19 February, protests by teachers and students continued and Zajedno formally agreed that Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, will stand as mayor of Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich

    [11] JAIL STRIKE BROADENS IN ROMANIA.

    Inmates in a Craiova prison launched a sympathy protest with fellow inmates of the Jilava prison in Bucharest who have been on a hunger strike since 17 February, Reuters reported on 19 February. The Jilava prisoners asked authorities to improve living conditions and speed up cases delayed in the courts. The prison holds 3,500 inmates, more than double its capacity. Chief Warden Ion Parjol said that while most of the prisoners' complaints were justified, conditions cannot be improved due to lack of funds. Gheorghe Lazaroiu, warden at the Craiova prison, warned of the possibility of a chain reaction. Romanian judicial sources reported that more than 45, 000 inmates are being held in 35 prisons, about three times the acceptable capacity. -- Zsolt Mato

    [12] MOLDOVA ATTACKS RUSSIAN DUMA'S DECISION TO SET UP DNIESTER PANEL.

    Members of the Moldovan parliament denounced as "interference in Moldova's domestic affairs" a decision of the Russian State Duma to set up a commission to deal with the Dniester region, BASA-press reported on 19 February. The newly created panel is to tackle the political and economic problems of Moldova's breakaway region as well as the issue of the presence of Russian troops there, Dniester media reported on 18 February. The 12- member board is headed by Adrian Puzanovski, an active supporter of Dniester interests in the Russian legislature. Deputies in the Dniester legislature welcomed the Duma panel as a step from "declarations to concrete actions." -- Dan Ionescu

    [13] BULGARIAN ENERGY MINISTER ON DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER.

    Georgi Stoilov on 19 February became the first Bulgarian top official to discuss safety lapses in the country's energy program, AFP reported. Stoilov, a member of Ecoglasnost who was appointed minister with the rest of the interim cabinet on 12 February, said on state radio that the country's controversial Kozlodui nuclear power plant is "very dangerous" and a serious public health threat. "In my opinion, the danger exceeds an acceptable level of risk," he said. -- Stan Markotich

    [14] BULGARIAN TRADE MINISTER TAKES STEPS TO BOOST EXPORTS.

    Daniela Bobeva, caretaker minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation, has created an off-budget Center for Encouraging Exports and begun talks with the EBRD for assistance in creating a facility to provide export credits, insurance, and guarantees, Pari reported on 20 February. Bobeva stressed the importance of signing agreements on the protection of investment and of joining CEFTA. Meanwhile, food prices have risen by 30% in the last week, with local economists predicting 100% inflation in February, 24 chasa wrote on 19 February. Those economists noted that the 1996 budget deficit was 11.2% of GDP--despite large cuts in spending on defense and social welfare--due to soaring interest expenditures. Finally, the Energy Ministry has proposed raising electricity and heating prices by 3.5 times effective 1 March. -- Michael Wyzan

    [15] ALBANIAN UPDATE.

    President Sali Berisha visited stricken towns on 19 February to shore up support for his administration and for his handling of the crisis triggered by the recent collapse of several pyramid investment schemes. Berisha told an estimated 1,500 "hand-picked supporters" in Elbasan: "We cannot pay their debts but we can intervene to speed up growth and ensure the economic recovery of the people," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Vehbi Alimucaj, director of VEFA Holding (one of the investment firms), said on 19 February that his company will reimburse investors. The company's repayment strategy will take about three months, Alimucaj said. -- Stan Markotich

    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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