|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 61, 97-06-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 61, 26 June 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN GREET DENVER SUMMIT STATEMENT ON KARABAKHOfficials in Baku and Yerevan have expressed support for the statement on Nagorno-Karabakh released by the US, Russian, and French presidents during the recent Summit of Eight in Denver. The statement calls for a swift negotiated settlement of the conflict "taking into consideration the interests and concerns of all parties." Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade said the statement was "very important and timely" and conducive to "a just and peaceful solution," according to RIA Novosti and Turan. Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian said on 25 June that Armenia agrees with the Denver statement and that both Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have already given a formal response to the most recent peace proposals advanced by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Minsk Group, according to the Yerevan News Service on 25 June. The U.S., Russia, and France are co-chairmen of the group.
 IMF LOAN TO ARMENIAThe IMF on 23 June approved the second annual tranche of a three-year loan to Armenia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The first half of the $47 million tranche will be released on 30 June. The IMF noted Armenia's success in cutting inflation to below 6% in 1996. At the same time, it noted that "relaxed" fiscal policies during the presidential election campaign contributed to raising the budget deficit to 9.35% of GDP and that the situation this year remains "fragile." The IMF said Armenia needs to improve the targeting of social benefits in order to help the poorest strata of the population.
 EBRD LOAN TO AZERBAIJANThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has approved a loan of more than $21 million to upgrade Azerbaijan's hydro-electric capacity, RFE/RL reported. The loan is for a project, co-financed by the Islamic Development Bank and the EU, to replace three generators at the Mingechaur Hydroelectric plant and rebuild a back-up high voltage transmission line from the plant to Baku.
 GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN AZERBAIJANPresident Heidar Aliev issued a decree on 25 June merging the Ministries of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations into a new Ministry of Trade, Interfax and Western agencies reported. A state-owned company producing consumer goods was also abolished, and its director, Rafig Khalafov, promoted to the position of deputy prime minister, according to Reuters. Addressing a televised government session, Aliev said the reshuffle is part of an ongoing process intended to expedite the "lagging" economic reform process. Aliev also issued a second decree calling on the National Bank to draft a program for the reform of state commercial banks.
 CHECHNYA CRITICIZES AZERBAIJAN OVER OIL TRANSITKhozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, head of the Chechen national oil company Yunko, has harshly criticized unnamed forces in Azerbaijan who, he said, are trying to exclude Chechnya from negotiations on the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya, Interfax reported on 25 June. Yarikhanov said the Azerbaijani leadership wants a bilateral agreement with Russia but that this would lead to an "impasse." Both Azerbaijani President Aliev and Natik Aliev (no relation), the head of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), have said there is no need for a new agreement. Natik Aliev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 June that it is up to Russia to settle its differences with Chechnya. He said he told Chechen officials who visited Baku that "there is nothing to discuss." He stressed that it is "very important politically" for Azerbaijan to export oil via Russia.
 BUBONIC PLAGUE REPORTED IN KAZAKSTANA man in western Kazakstan has been diagnosed with bubonic plague, according to AFP. Health authorities in Kazakstan said on 25 June that both the man and his family have been quarantined, along with the doctors and nurses treating him. Faizullah Bismildin, the head of the Kazak Health Ministry's epidemiology department, said the man had probably been bitten by a flea carried by a rat and that he was likely to die from the disease. He added that the country is infested with rats.
 HEROIN FOUND IN CAR FROM TAJIK EMBASSY IN KAZAKSTANRFE/RL correspondents in Almaty report that the Procurator General's office released a statement on 26 June saying a large amount of heroin has been found in a car belonging to the Tajik Embassy in Kazakstan. The value of the haul was estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Law-enforcement officials are investigating the driver.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER REFUSES TO SIGN ANTI-PYRAMID DECREEArben Malaj on 25 June refused to countersign a presidential decree to regulate pyramid investment schemes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). The Socialist Party cabinet member said that while preparing the text, President Sali Berisha had altered several key aspects of an earlier draft presented by the multi-party government. Malaj added there is now little hope of ending the standoff before the 29 June elections. "Dita Informacion" charged on 26 June that Berisha issued the decree shortly before the vote to detract attention from political disputes surrounding the elections and to deny the government enough time to review the changes. The government had worked on legislation to make stable companies out of some of the pyramids that were also operating other businesses. The aim was to allow the pyramids to repay at least some of the investors' original outlays.
 VRANITZKY TRIES TO MEDIATE REMAINING ALBANIAN ELECTION CONFLICTSOSCE mediator Franz Vranitzky on 25 June met separately with Prime Minister Bashkim Fino and the Central Election Commission to solve the remaining disputes before the elections. Vranitzky made clear that it would be "a catastrophe for all sides" if the election results appeared dubious, "Koha Jone" reported. He announced a detailed plan for the election work of the OSCE monitors and the multinational forces. He also told Fino that the cooperation between both institutions is developing well, "Dita Informacion" wrote. He then held talks with Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano to discuss the dispute over the closing time of the polling stations.
 TENSIONS RISE IN VLORATwo members of the Democratic Party were killed in Vlora and one injured, according to "Albania" on 26 June. The circumstances of the killings are unclear, but "Albania" blamed the incident on "gangs of the Socialist Party." According to "Dita Informacion," the city is plagued by gang-wars. One group said it will actively fight Zani Caushi, who is a gang leader and independent candidate for the parliament, "Indipendent" wrote. Meanwhile, the 140th public meeting of the city's rebel committee turned into a massive anti-Berisha rally on 25 June, according to "Koha Jone." Luftar Petroshati, the head of the committee, claimed to have information that "polling stations in Vlora will be blown up on election day." He added that residents of entire districts have received anonymous threats not to leave their homes to vote.
 SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC PROMISES NOT TO YIELD ON KOSOVOPresident Slobodan Milosevic visited several towns in Kosovo on 25 June and told enthusiastic crowds of local Serbs that he will never give up "even a single piece" of the province. He also promised prosperity, saying that next year a highway will be built to connect Kosovo with Montenegro and the sea. It was his first visit in two years to the province, which has a 90% ethnic Albanian majority. Milosevic launched his political career roughly 10 years ago by portraying himself as the defender of Kosovo's Serbs. Local and foreign observers said his latest trip should be seen in connection with the presidential and parliamentary elections due later this year.
 SERBIAN WAR VETERANS LAUNCH PROTESTSeveral hundred veterans and invalids from Serbia's wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia launched a demonstration in Belgrade on 26 June, BETA reports. They want full recognition of their legal status as veterans and invalids and all the benefits to which that status entitles them. They also want full survivors' benefits for the widows and children of their dead comrades. Seven of the veterans began a hunger strike in Belgrade on 17 June. Veterans protesting in Nis criticized the new anti-Milosevic government in that city for also being insensitive to veterans' issues, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 26 June.
 SERBIAN UPDATEOutgoing federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic named Veljko Knezevic ambassador to Croatia on 25 June in Belgrade, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Knezevic is currently charge d'affaires in Zagreb. In Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Kostas Simitis called for the readmission of federal Yugoslavia into the international community. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Radoje Kontic was on a one-day visit to Greece aimed at bolstering economic links, including Yugoslav use of the port at Salonika. In London, Yugoslav negotiators said that Belgrade can repay only $480 million of the $2.4 billion it owes to foreign commercial banks as part of its share of former Yugoslavia's debt. And in Belgrade, the Democratic Party blasted the Socialists' proposal to increase the number of electoral districts from nine to 29. The Democrats charge that the proposal will give the Socialists more power at the expense of the smaller parties.
 ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIASlovenia on 25 June became a full member of the U.S.-sponsored program for economic development in southeastern Europe. It had earlier objected to the project, saying it wants integration with Central Europe and not with the Balkans. Croatia continues its opposition to what President Franjo Tudjman says is a veiled attempt to resurrect the former Yugoslavia. In Washington, the World Bank said it will delay a decision on a $30 million loan to Croatia until 1 July because of a request for the postponement by the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). And also in the U.S. capital, Congress voted on 24 June to end funding for the Bosnian peace mission on 30 June 1998.
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ON U.S. VISITOn his return from the U.S. on 25 June, Victor Ciorbea said the eight-day visit prevented a "serious risk of deterioration" in relations between Bucharest and Washington following the U.S. decision to exclude Romania from the first wave of NATO enlargement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said that the U.S. has already set up a team to conduct talks with Romania on the envisaged "strategic partnership" between the two countries, adding that the Romanian side will establish its team in the next days. Ciorbea also said his country will continue its drive to be admitted to NATO in the first wave.
 NEW ROMANIAN POLITICAL PARTY IN OFFINGTeodor Melescanu, who recently resigned from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), told a press conference in Bucharest on 25 June that the group that left the PDSR will establish a new political formation, called the Alliance for Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A committee has been set up to organize gathering the 10, 000 signatures required by law for the registration of a political party. Melescanu said the party will, above all, strive to advocate moral principles in politics and to fight corruption. It will be a center-left, Social-Democratic formation, he said.
 HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY THREATENS TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FROM ROMANIAN COALITIONBela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), says his party may withdraw its support for the ruling coalition in the parliament, Romanian media report. Marko says the coalition is procrastinating on passing amendments to the education law agreed on with the UDMR. The amendments provide for instruction in the mother tongue at all levels of education and do away with the obligation to have history and geography taught in the Romanian language. Unless the amendments are immediately passed, the law cannot apply in the school year beginning 1 September. A majority of senators representing the largest coalition party, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) opposes the cabinet's intention to have the amendments adopted by government ordinance (which ensures implementation before the parliament has approved the law).
 TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER ACCUSES CHISINAU OF INTRANSIGENCEIgor Smirnov on 25 June said the leadership in Chisinau was to blame for the lack of progress in the talks on defining the breakaway region's special status, ITAR-TASS and Infotag reported. Smirnov claimed the Moldovan leaders were adopting an "intransigent" position because of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in Moldova in 1998. Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan negotiating team, rejected the accusations, saying Chisinau has offered to meet more frequently with Tiraspol's negotiating team but that offer was rejected. He added it was to be expected that the talks would be a long and difficult process.
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT PASSES AMENDED PRIVATIZATION BILLThe parliament on 25 June approved the privatization program for 1997-1998, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. The passage of the bill required two rounds of voting because deputies representing parties that support the coalition refused to accept the draft submitted by the government. After negotiations, the government agreed to include changes proposed by the opposition Popular Front and Party of Revival and Accord. The amended bill was passed with their support. The Socialist Unity- Edinstvo party opposed the passage of the bill in both rounds of voting. The program envisages the privatization of 580 state enterprises.
[C] END NOTE
 HOLLOW VICTORY FOR MILOSEVIC IN MONTENEGROby Patrick Moore
Montenegro's ruling Socialists have endorsed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's candidacy for the federal Yugoslav presidency. They have not given him all the political concessions he wanted, however, suggesting that the conflict between Belgrade and Podgorica is far from over.
The governing body of Montenegro's Democratic Socialists Party (DPS) met in Podgorica on 23 June and endorsed Milosevic to become president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by a vote of 56 to 31 with 10 abstentions. All three deputy chairmen of the party, including Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, voted against Milosevic.
Barred by the Serbian constitution from a third term in office as republican president, Milosevic is trying to hold onto power by taking over the federal presidency instead. That largely ceremonial office has been held since 1993 by Zoran Lilic, who has faithfully done Milosevic's bidding throughout his tenure. Pundits have been speculating for months that Milosevic would try to take over from Lilic--who also cannot serve in that office again following the expiry of his current term on 25 June--and to expand the powers of the federal presidency, thereby turning that office into a real center of authority. Toward that end, Milosevic needs to make some changes in the constitution. The first is for the direct election of the federal president in order to give himself greater authority and legitimacy.
Under the current system, both houses of the parliament (Federal Assembly) would elect Lilic's replacement by a simple majority. This, in itself, is no problem for Milosevic, since he has a comfortable majority in both houses. But if he seeks to change the constitution to increase his legitimacy or powers, he will need to attract additional allies to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. It may prove difficult for him to do so and still hang on to all the parliamentary supporters he has now.
Moreover, if he seeks to weaken the parliament, he risks massive opposition from Montenegro In the lower house (Chamber of Citizens), each deputy represents 65,000 constituents. But in the upper house (Chamber of Republics), Serbia and Montenegro each have 20 representatives, even though Serbia's population is ten times that of Montenegro.
Many Montenegrin politicians thus fear that the proposed direct elections--or any other constitutional changes Milosevic may try to make--would greatly reduce their republic's influence in federal affairs by weakening the role of the parliament, in which Montenegro obviously plays a role much larger than its 600,000-strong population would justify. The Montenegrins' ultimate concern, moreover, is that the constitutional changes would be simply the first in a series of moves by Milosevic to eliminate the proud mountain republic's autonomy. It thus came as no surprise when, on 23 June, the same DPS body that endorsed Milosevic also decisively rejected his call for a constitutional change to permit direct presidential elections.
Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro are nothing new and have deep historical roots. What is new is that the DPS, which was long loyal to Milosevic and to his lieutenant, incumbent Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, has now split into two rival factions. Bulatovic remains the chief of the pro-Milosevic group. He has charged his critics with corruption, with neglect of northern Montenegro's development, and with misuse of the intelligence services. He has also sought a special party congress in the hope that he can use it to defeat the opposition once and for all.
The opposition is headed by Djukanovic, a flamboyant leader who is widely believed to have made his fortune as a war profiteer while federal Yugoslavia was under tight sanctions. Now, however, Djukanovic denies Bulatovic's accusations and argues that Montenegro needs all sanctions to be lifted in order to restore shipping and tourism, which are its prime sources of hard currency. He charges, moreover, that Milosevic's policies are responsible for some sanctions remaining in place. Djukanovic's ultimate argument is that Montenegro alone must be in charge of Montenegrin affairs and that Bulatovic is little more than a satrap of an arrogant Belgrade-based leadership.
The issues in the current dispute between Podgorica and Belgrade are serious and complex--and hardly likely to go away soon. When Lilic's term ran out on 25 June, upper house speaker Srdja Bozovic took over as interim president. The constitution says that elections must be held within one month, but so far Milosevic is the only candidate.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty