|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 35, 97-05-21
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 35, 21 May 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIKISTAN WORRIED ABOUT AFGHAN BORDERAlarmed by reports of a mutiny in the ranks of Afghan General Rashid Dostum's forces and apparent successes by the Taliban militia in their drive northward, the Tajik government's power ministries met yesterday in Dushanbe to discuss ways to increase security along the border, RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan reported. But presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov later downplayed those concerns, saying measures on reinforcing the border with Afghanistan had already been taken when Andrei Nikolayev, the director of the Russian Federal Border Services, visited Tajikistan late last month. A "scheduled" training exercise is under way near the Tajik-Afghan border, involving Tajik border units, Security Ministry troops, the presidential guard, and other units of the Tajik army.
 KAZAKSTAN TO RECEIVE LOAN FROM ADBKazakstan will receive a $100 million loan from the Asian Development Bank, Russian media report. The funds are to be used to reform the pension system and could be augmented if Japan agrees to join the project. The loan will have an annual interest rate of 7% with a two-year grace period. Earlier this year, the ADB granted Kazakstan loans worth $85 million.
 KYRGYZSTAN TO STOP STATE SUBSIDIES FOR AGRICULTUREPresident Askar Akayev has said that beginning next year, the state will cease to provide financial support to the agricultural sector, according to yesterday's Pravda-5 . Akayev cited misuse and non- payment of loans . He said it is time that farmers and herders sought financial aid from the country's banks.
 TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE IN THE OFFING?The presidents of Azerbaijan and Kazakstan may sign an agreement in Almaty next month on construction of a pipeline on the bed of the Caspian Sea to link up with the Baku-Supsa export pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. After meeting in Baku on 19 May with President Heidar Aliev, Nick Zana, director-general of Tengiz- Chevroil (the U.S.-Kazak company developing Kazakstan's giant Tengiz field), said his company is prepared to invest in Azerbaijan to increase oil exports. Small amounts of Tengiz oil are currently exported via Russia. Earlier this year, a trial shipment was sent by barge across the Caspian to Baku and from there by rail through Georgia to Batumi. Last month, Delovoy mir quoted Zana as saying that completion in late 1999 of the Caspian pipeline from Tengiz to Novorossiisk would resolve the transportation problem.
 ARMENIAN INDUSTRIALIST UNEASY ABOUT IMF PROPOSALOne week before his death yesterday of a heart attack, Telman Ter- Petrossyan, elder brother of the Armenian president and director of one of Armenia's largest industrial plants, expressed concern at IMF representative Tanos Katsambas's proposal that Armenia seek new ways of utilizing its work force, particularly in small enterprises in the service sector, an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan reported. Katsambas made the proposal at a press conference last week. The IMF and the Armenian government have reached agreement on reform targets for this year, including banking reform and tax collection. The government will order firms to sell part of their assets if they are unable to pay tax arrears. This is the second year of a three-year ESAF loan to Armenia totaling approximately $138 million.
 NEW ARMENIAN FINANCE MINISTER APPOINTEDPresident Levon Ter-Petrossyan has issued decrees dismissing Levon Barkhudaryan as minister of finance and appointing former Central Bank Deputy Chairman Armen Darbinyan as his successor, ARMENPRESS reported on 19 and 20 May. Introducing Darbinyan to ministry staff, Ter- Petrossyan thanked Barkhudaryan for his contribution to Armenia's "clear and consistent" economic policy.
 GEORGIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH QUITS WCCThe Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Autocephalous Church voted yesterday in favor of leaving the largely protestant World Council of Churches, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. The priors of four monasteries had threatened to split from the Georgian church if it did not quit the council. The Synod dismissed the priors in question for "the most grievous sin of attempting to divide the church" and barred them from practicing as priests.
 GEORGIAN-CHECHEN TENSIONSRuslan Kutaev, special emissary of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, is currently in Georgia trying to defuse tensions among the Chechen population of Georgia's Akhmeta Raion, Nezavisimaya gazeta reports today. The tensions arose after the Georgian government established a road police checkpoint outside a village where some 1,000 ethnic Chechen families live.
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTIsa Gambar and Vagif Kerimov, leaders of the Musavat and National Democratic Independence Parties, yesterday signed an agreement on regular consultations and cooperation in the forthcoming local election campaign and in combating separatism and bribery, Turan reported. The agreement is the latest of several cooperation accords between opposition parties, which have only seven seats in the parliament.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN LEADERS REACH ELECTION AGREEMENTPresident Sali Berisha and Prime Minister Bashkim Fino made a deal in Tirana last night that could allow the 29 June elections to go ahead if the political parties agree. Details of the agreement have not been made public, but it appears that Fino's government will select the electoral commission and invite foreign observers. News agencies report from Tirana this morning that international pressure was crucial in convincing Berisha to compromise. Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi said, however, that his party will insist the government also control the secret police and the electronic media. He noted that the question of gerrymandering electoral districts in favor of Berisha's Democratic Party has not been solved.
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KILLINGThe Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) issued a press statement in Pristina yesterday saying it was behind two recent violent incidents that left one ethnic Albanian dead and two Serbian policemen wounded (see RFE/RL Newsline,. 19 May 1997). The UCK said it killed the man as part of a campaign against Albanians it considers to be collaborators with the Serbian authorities. The statement also slammed the mainstream Kosovar leadership, calling its policy of non-violence "ineffective" and saying it gives the Albanian people "false hope."
 HAGUE COURT LOOKS INTO LEAKThe International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has interrupted for two days the trial of three Muslims and one Croat in connection with atrocities against Serbs at the Celebici concentration camp. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from The Hague yesterday that the court authorities have stopped work in order to investigate how a Bosnian newspaper obtained and published a list of 70 witnesses in the case. Some of the witnesses wanted their names kept confidential. Prominent Croatian politician Stipe Mesic told RFE/RL from Zagreb recently that someone at the tribunal leaked his interview with court officials (see "End Note," RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). Meanwhile, the UN Security Council yesterday elected to the tribunal 11 judges, none of whom comes from Eastern Europe.
 U.S., UN BLAST CROATIAU.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith told a press conference in Zagreb yesterday that "Croatia will go no further in the process of integration into Western institutions unless and until all Croatian Serbs who wish to return to Croatia are able to do this." He added that Washington is "appalled" at recent attacks on ethnic Serbs who tried to return to their homes in the Banija region. This is reported to be the toughest language Galbraith has used in public. Meanwhile, UN human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn wrote Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb yesterday to express "serious concern" about the treatment of Croatia's ethnic Serbs. She warned that failure to remedy the situation could lead to "a tragedy for the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia." The Croatian authorities told Rehn that the Serbs are looting homes, churches, and museums in that region.
 MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT PASSES SECURITY LAWThe legislature approved a new security law yesterday, Belgrade media report. Opposition deputies walked out before the vote, saying the bill reflects an internal dispute within the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) and does not involve other parties. Novak Kilibarda, a prominent politician of the Popular Concord opposition group, said the DPS wants changes in the security apparatus in time to secure President Momir Bulatovic's re-election later this year.
 SLOVENIAN RAILWAY WORKERS STAGE TEN-DAY STRIKEMore than 2,500 of the 9,655 employees of Slovenian state railways walked off the job yesterday in a pay dispute. The government had made an offer, but union spokesmen said it was too low, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Ljubljana. In Budapest, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said his government will be "firm" in dealing with the strike, lest labor unrest spread to other sectors. The minimum wage for a railway worker is currently about $240 per month. Meanwhile in Serbia, the health workers' strike continues. The Kragujevac arms factory, the Jugopetrol-Kosovo enterprise, and some textile workers are also striking over back pay.
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN NETHERLANDSVictor Ciorbea paid a one-day visit to The Hague yesterday and met with Prime Minister Wim Kok, who said his country has not yet made a decision on which states it will support to join an enlarged NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. He also told Ciorbea that The Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, welcomes Bucharest's reform efforts. Kok said he is sure Romania will be among the countries with which the union will start membership negotiations next year. Those negotiations, he added, will be based on "strict objective, economic criteria."
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTIONThe Chamber of Deputies yesterday rejected a motion by the opposition criticizing what it regards as an infringement of the Law on Local Administration. The opposition says the law prohibits Ciorbea from holding the posts of Bucharest mayor and premier simultaneously. It is demanding that he resign from the mayoralty. The government responded that Ciorbea is not breaking the law because he has not fulfilled his mayoral duties since an acting mayor replaced him, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government intends to amend the law to allow mayors to retain their position while serving in government, although they would have to "suspend activity" while holding an executive position. The opposition also objects to the procedure chosen by the government to pass the amendment. Called "urgent government ordinance," this procedure does away with debate in the parliament and requires only the legislature's approval.
 OMBUDSMAN ELECTED IN ROMANIAThe Senate yesterday elected Paul Mitroi as Romania's first ombudsman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The institution was first introduced in the constitution approved in 1991, but the law defining the ombudsman's role was approved only this year. Mitroi, who was nominated by the governing National Liberal Party, defeated the candidate of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Rodica Stanoiu. Mitroi, aged 60, is a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. He was expelled from the Faculty of Law in 1956 and was imprisoned for eight months for "propaganda against the [communist] state."
 PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE IN MOLDOVAThe first Partnership for Peace exercise to take place in Moldova and the first ever on the territory of a former Soviet republic began this week in Balti, in the northern part of the country. BASA-press reported that the exercise, called Medceur '97, involves about 80 U.S. medical troops and some 250 Moldovan troops, who will simulate emergency rescue operations.
 OUTGOING BULGARIAN PREMIER PRESENTS FINAL REPORT TO PRESIDENTStefan Sofiyanski yesterday presented to President Petar Stoyanov the final report on his government's activity and noted he was proud of having helped Bulgaria survive its worst economic crisis. He said he hoped the new government will have the same public support as his cabinet has enjoyed during its three months in office, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported.
 BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES TO MONITOR CORRUPTION IN MASS PRIVATIZATIONThe Interior Ministry says it has uncovered economic crimes amounting to $19 million since the caretaker government replaced the former Socialist government in February. Mincho Yashev, head of the ministry's economic police department, said his investigators will closely monitor all voucher funds set up under the mass privatization program, Reuters reported yesterday. The funds are to pool share vouchers issued to individuals. Yashev also said 200,000 illegally pirated audio compact discs have been seized in Bulgaria since February, and that the new government is determined to change Bulgaria's reputation as the biggest producer of pirate CDs after China. Industry officials say state and private plants in Bulgaria illegally copied more than 20 million CDs last year.
[C] END NOTE
 The Internet in Central Asiaby Julie Moffett
The five Central Asian states are only just getting onto the information superhighway, but progress is being made with the help of Western nations and organizations. Currently, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have limited computer networking capabilities. However, three of those five countries have established permanent Internet access and all have e-mail capability.
Kazakstan and Uzbekistan were the first of the Central Asian states to establish a permanent Internet connection in 1994. Kyrgyzstan followed in 1995. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have not yet established permanent Internet access. However, the two nations, like all the countries of the former USSR since the early 1990s, have dial-up, non- permanent access to the Internet.
Like most other countries in the region, the Central Asian states are hindered by an antiquated and technically deficient telecommunications infrastructure. There are currently no digital lines (designed to quickly exchange data) in Central Asia; all of the telephone lines are analog (designed to support voice).
One Western organization actively involved in the process is the Eurasia Foundation, a U.S.-based, privately managed grant-making organization. Established in 1993 with a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the foundation has since awarded more than 70 grants totaling $1.7 million to help establish or improve Internet capability across the former Soviet Union.
In 1994, the Foundation provided a substantial grant of $85,000 to the Project for Economic Reform and Development in Central Asia (PERDCA). PERDCA used the money to help establish the Silknet network, which has since provided e-mail service to subscribers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The region has also received substantial support from, among others, the Open Society Institute (OSI)--a private grant-making foundation funded by Hungarian-U.S. multi- millionaire George Soros, the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX), ISAR (formerly known as the Institute on Soviet- American Relations), Chemonics International, and the Sacred Earth Network, a U.S.-based international non-profit environmental organization.
However, there are still several major obstacles to improved Internet connectivity in Central Asia: poor telecommunications infrastructure; civil and political unrest in many areas, which impedes infrastructure reform and intimidates potential donors; the high cost of telephone lines; the inability of Central Asian governments to match funds with Western donors; and a dependence on international funding that makes it difficult for long- range planning.
In 1995 in Kazakstan, a Soros program called the Open Society Institute -- Regional Internet Program (OSI-RIP), provided 30 secondary schools with the means to use e- mail and the Internet, purchased additional computer equipment, and supplemented the wages of local teachers participating in the project. IREX has set up four public access sites in Almaty, developed a strong user base, and trained local staff. Experts estimate Internet users in Kazakstan to total some 500, and e-mail users some 25,000.
In Kyrgyzstan in 1995 and 1996, OSI-RIP provided 50 schools, one university, three medical institutions and several other organizations with computer equipment and access to e-mail. Also in 1996, the Eurasia Foundation awarded grants, intended mostly for information networking purposes and totaling nearly $61,000, to a variety of organizations. Experts estimate Internet users in Kyrgyzstan to total some 500 and e-mail users some 5,000.
In 1995, OSI-RIP, in coordination with PERDCA and the Eurasia Foundation, installed the first e-mail system in Tajikistan. By July 1995, the system was fully operational with about 60 users. The following year, OSI-RIP expanded the project to about 700 users. Experts estimate the number of e- mail users at between 800 and 1,000.
In Turkmenistan the Ashgabad-based Catena Ecological Club, in cooperation with Sacred Earth Network, established a network called CAT-Net. The network currently serves several environmental groups, individuals, scientists, and journalists in Turkmenistan--all of whom use the network free of charge. Experts estimate the number of e-mail users at between 200 and 500.
In Uzbekistan, the government has allowed the state- owned telecommunications company Uztelekom to enter into a number of foreign joint-ventures to work toward the completion of the ambitious "Program for the Modernization and Development of the Telecommunications Networks by the Year 2010." The goal of that program is to increase the number of installed telephone lines and reach complete digitalization by the year 2010. Last November, the Uzbek Ministry of Communications named Daewoo Telecom, a South Korean firm, and Korea Telecom as partners in a project to replace 350,000 analog telephone lines in the country and add approximately 100,000 digital lines within three years. Experts estimate the number of Internet users in Uzbekistan to be between 250 and 1,000 and e-mail users at some 5,000.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty