|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 93, 97-08-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 93, 12 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MOP-UP CONTINUES IN WEST TAJIKISTAN...Forces of the presidential guard are continuing to strengthen their positions in the western regions of Gissar, Shahkr-i Naw, and Tursunzade , according to RFE/RL correspondents. Troops under the command of the guard's commander, Sukhrob Kasymov, have forced armed units of Customs Minister Yakub Salimov and of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, commander of the army's rapid reaction force, into gorges of the nearby mountains and toward the Uzbek border. Uzbekistan has closed that frontier and strengthened its forces there. Tajik army troops loyal to the government have taken control of on the Tajik side of the border. There is still no official figure for the number of dead and wounded during this latest outbreak of fighting. The government claims to have taken full control of Tursunzade and the aluminum plant in the city. In Dushanbe, where the fighting started on 9 August, the head of the city's police has been fired for failing to take adequate measures to put down the conflict.
 ...WHILE FIGHTING DIMINISHES IN SOUTHTajik government reconnaissance planes show that forces loyal to Col. Khudaberdiyev, have pulled back from their positions in the Fakhrabad Pass, 35 kilometers south of Dushanbe, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Khudaberdiyev claims that those planes bombed positions in Kalininabad on 12 August, preventing the colonel from taking part in negotiations with the head of the CIS peacekeeping force. Russia's NTV on 12 August reported that he does not have sufficient forces left "to put up serious resistance." Commander of the presidential guard Sukhrob Kasymov told NTV that there was fighting in the city of Kurgan-Teppe, where Khudaberdiyev's headquarters is located, and that the city has been under artillery fire since the night of 11 August. He added that he expects to have order restored in "two or three days."
 RUSSIAN TROOPS, UTO PROMISE NEUTRALITYRussian officials in Moscow and a United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader say they will remain neutral in the current problems in Tajikistan. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told ITAR-TASS on 11 August that while the Russian military and border guards in Tajikistan "are taking measures to prevent casualties," the response of the Tajik government leads him to believe that the fighting there can be localized. Interfax quoted an unnamed "top" Russian official at the Defense Ministry as saying CIS peacekeepers are not interfering in the conflict. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, told Ekho Moskvy that Russian soldiers in Tajikistan have not been targeted in the latest outbreak of fighting but that participation in an "active fashion" might lead some forces to "immediately turn on us." UTO deputy leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda told Voice of Free Tajikistan that his forces will also remain neutral.
 KAZAKHSTAN COMPLAINS ABOUT RUSSIAN CUSTOMSThe chairman of Kazakhstan's State Custom's Committee, Gani Kasymov, has sent a letter of protest to Russian customs officials complaining about violations of trade agreements, RFE/RL correspondents in Kazakhstan reported on 12 August. Russian customs workers have been levying taxes on goods transported by trucks from Kazakhstan. Both countries are members of the four-country customs union (together with Kyrgyzstan and Belarus) and are freed from such taxation. Russia officials have said the practice will be stopped immediately.
 RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH KAZAKH DEMONSTRATORSRussian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Valerii Nikolaenko on 11 August met with Kazakh journalists demonstrating outside the Russian Embassy on 9 August, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The journalists wanted to show solidarity with Russian journalists currently detained in Belarus. They also demanded that their Russian colleagues be released immediately. Nikolaenko said he had been unable to meet with the journalists on 9 August because he had not been in the capital. He also said the Russian government is closely monitoring the situation.
 MORE KARABAKH PEACE TALKS SCHEDULED?The U.S. intends in the immediate future to intensify its efforts to achieve a political settlement of the Karabakh conflict, AFP reported on 11 August, citing an unnamed U.S. State Department source. He said that "very serious discussions" will be held following the presidential elections in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 1 September. An article in the Armenian state newspaper "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" on 6 August argued that Armenian society must accept that "mutual concessions on key issues" are necessary to resolve the conflict. The article sparked widespread speculation that the Armenian leadership is preparing to make substantive concessions. Writing in "Hayots ashkhar" on 7 August, Samvel Babayan, the commander-in-chief of the Karabakh Armenian armed forces, rejected such speculation. He asserted that "even if such a document is signed, it won't be implemented."
 TURKEY WANTS A STAKE IN RECENT US-AZERBAIJAN OIL AGREEMENTSThe Turkish state oil company TPAO is lobbying to be included in at least one of the four new agreements signed by Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and major U.S. oil companies earlier this month, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 12 August, quoting a statement released by the Turkish energy ministry. Turkey is a participant in only one of the five international consortiums created to date to exploit Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. TPAO has a 6.75 percent stake in the consortium developing the Azeri, Chirag, and Gyuneshli fields.
 ETHNIC GEORGIAN REFUGEES FROM ABKHAZIA ISSUE NEW ULTIMATUM...Representatives of the ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war held a congress in Tbilisi on 8-9 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 August. The participants adopted a 16-point resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia "annexed territories" and the Russian peacekeeping forces currently deployed there "an army of occupation." They also called for the annulment of the treaty permitting Russia to maintain military bases in Georgia and for Tbilisi to quit the CIS, according to Interfax. The congress participants threatened a "confrontation" with the Georgian authorities if those demands are not met within one month. On 11 August, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze assured the fugitives in his weekly radio address that "until we return Abkhazia [to Georgian jurisdiction], we are all refugees."
 ...WHILE SHEVARDNADZE QUERIES POINT OF PLANNED MEETING WITH YELTSINShevardnadze has warned that the withdrawal from Abkhazia of the Russian peacekeeping force, whose mandate expired on 31 July, "would inevitably lead to a new conflict." He also said that he would meet in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba only in order to sign a document on resolving the conflict that is acceptable to both sides. Shevardnadze has approved Yeltsin's still unpublished proposals, while Ardzinba wants to use an earlier protocol drafted by the Russian Foreign Ministry as a basis for further negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with Ardzinba for several hours in the Black Sea coast resort of Sochi on 9 August, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 August. No details of their talks have been released, however.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN POLICE ROUND UP GANG IN VLORAThe Interior Ministry on 11 August announced that special police units arrested at least three members of the Zani Gang in Vlora. All three men have criminal records. One gang member was wounded, and gunfire could be heard near the home of gang leader Zani Caushi. Some news agency reports said that other gang members later attacked the police. The gang has had a high profile in Vlora during the recent months of anarchy. The 11 August raid was the first such police dragnet in that troubled port town since the new government began its crackdown on lawbreakers in July. Meanwhile in Shkodra in the north, the authorities called on citizens to hand in their illegally-owned weapons voluntarily before the police begin confiscating them.
 LAST ITALIAN TROOPS LEAVE ALBANIASome 60 Italian soldiers flew out of Albania on 11 August, one day before the official end of the mandate of Operation Alba. Italy launched that project, together with other European countries, in April in order to provide some security for the 29 June elections. Nine Italian military advisers and several dozen Greek troops remain in Albania to help reorganize and train the police and the army. Those remaining foreign troops are not part of a multinational operation but are serving under bilateral agreements between Albania and the respective countries. Both Italy and Greece fear another influx of refugees and criminals unless order returns to Albania. Bedri Soku, the deputy director of the Albanian prison authorities, told AFP on 11 August that Italian aid to reequip six vandalized prisons has begun to arrive.
 MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTY HAS TWO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATESThe Electoral Commission in Podgorica on 11 August confirmed the presidential candidacy of incumbent President Momir Bulatovic on the ticket of Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) in the 5 October elections. The commission has, however, already accepted the presidential candidacy of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic for the DPS. The two men lead rival factions of the party, which has yet to formally split. Each man and his respective backers claim to be the sole legitimate DPS candidate. Blagota Mitric, the president of the Constitutional Court, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Podgorica that he finds the commission's ruling "amazing," since Montenegrin law clearly limits each party to one candidate. Mitric said the court could rule on the matter within 48 hours of receiving a request to do so. News agencies reported that commission members felt that the DPS has become two parties and that both candidates should be on the ballot.
 BOSNIAN CENTRAL BANK STARTS OPERATIONSSerge Robert, the French banker who heads the Bosnian Central Bank, said in Sarajevo on 11 August that the bank has begun operations. Transactions will be electronic only until the three sides can agree on a design for a common currency. The new bills are expected to go into circulation three months after the design is approved. The new monetary unit will be called the "convertible mark" and pegged on a one-to-one basis to the German mark, which has long served as the unofficial second currency throughout the former Yugoslavia. Current Bosnian dinars can be exchanged at the rate of 100 dinars for one convertible mark. International aid donors have warned the three sides that they stand to lose reconstruction assistance unless they cooperate with Central Bank. Joint Bosnian institutions now function poorly, if at all.
 PLAVSIC TO HEAD OWN PARTY IN BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONSRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 11 August that she will head a new political party in the elections she has called for 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Criticizing the faction in the Bosnian Serb leadership loyal to Radovan Karadzic, she added that one cannot promote Serbian interests by undemocratic means, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Plavsic regards the Karadzic group as a mafia. She added that "it is irrational to confront the international community when the consequences of such behavior can be fatal for the Republika Srpska."
 NON-NATIONALIST APPEALS FOR SUPPORT IN BOSNIAN VOTEOpposition politician Stjepan Kljuic said on 11 August in Sarajevo that his non-nationalist Joint List for Bosnia-Herzegovina 97 remains open to all parties who want a democratic and united Bosnia. He accused the three governing nationalist parties of manipulating voter registration for the September local elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. In Zepce, officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported threats and attempts at intimidation made by unnamed persons against the OSCE's local staff. The OSCE has had problems in the past with attempts by local Muslim politicians to manipulate voter registration.
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO LIQUIDATE FURTHER LOSS-MAKING ENTERPRISESSorin Dimitriu, the chairman of the State Property Fund, said on 11 August that the list of loss-making enterprises slated for liquidation contains the names of 222 companies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He added that at least five of those companies are large and that Romvag, one of the 17 companies included on the list announced recently, may be saved from liquidation and privatized if it manages to pay off its debts to the state budget by 25 August. Also on 11 August, representatives of the management and the trade unions from two Ploiesti refineries slated for liquidation held talks in Bucharest with government officials. Minister of Reforms Ulm Spineanu said after the talks that small components of the two refineries may survive if private investors express interest in buying them.
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES TENSIONS WITH HUNGARYA spokesman for the Romanian Ministry of Defense has said that Minister of Defense Victor Babiuc's visit to Budapest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997) was postponed due to "technical reasons," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He stressed that the postponement had nothing to do with interethnic tensions in Transylvania over bilingual street signs, adding that a letter will soon be sent to "Evenimentul zilei" in response to the daily's recent claim that tensions in Transylvania are endangering Romanian- Hungarian relations. But Gyorgy Tokay, the minister in charge of ethnic minorities affairs in the Romanian government, on 11 August deplored the tensions over the posting of the bilingual signs. He said those tensions were "artificial" and could have "damaging effects." He also noted that it was "strange" that supporters of European integration fail to see that the bilingual signs meet international standards for dealing with minority affairs.
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SPLINTER-PARTY OFFICIALLY REGISTERS AT TRIBUNALThe Alliance for Romania (APR), which split from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania in June, officially registered as an independent political formation on 11 August. The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal is to rule on the party's legal status on 4 September. APR leader Teodor Melescanu said the party is now represented in the parliament by 13 deputies and two senators and that seven more deputies and three more senators will join the formation in the fall. He added that the party will elect its leadership at an October congress. Until then, Melescanu remains acting chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
 STALLED CHISINAU-TIRASPOL TALKSAnatol Taranu, the chief negotiator for Moldova in parleys with the breakaway Transdniester region, told BASA-press on 11 August that Tiraspol's stance does not tally with the viewpoint of the three mediators - - Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. He said Tiraspol does not accept the principle of Moldovan territorial integrity. Transdniestrian intransigence, Taranu added, can be explained only by the fact that Tiraspol is supported from the "outside." Vladimir Atamanyuk, the deputy chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, told BASA-press that Tiraspol accepts the principle of the "common state" but wants that state to be a confederation of equal partners. Atamanyuk added that if Moldova is not ready to accept this position "there are other countries we could build a common state with -- look at the example of the Russia-Belarus union."
 LYNCHING IN TRANSDNIESTERCiting ITAR-TASS, Reuters reported on 11 August that an unemployed man was found hanged on a tree, with a cucumber stuck in his mouth, near the town of Dubasari. He was apparently killed by vegetable producers angry at the widespread theft of their produce. Earlier this summer, an angry mob caught several thieves near Chisinau, beat them up, removed their clothes, smeared them with mud, and led them through the neighborhood to humiliate them.
 BULGARIA HAS LOWEST BIRTHRATE IN EUROPEThe National Institute for Statistics on 11 August said Bulgarians, weighed down by the ongoing economic crisis, have the lowest birthrate in Europe, AFP reported. With 7.79 newborns per 1,000 inhabitants, Bulgaria's birthrate in has dropped behind that of Latvia (8.5 per 1,000 in 1996).
[C] END NOTE
 IS ALBANIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT CARRYING OUT PURGES OR REFORMS?by Fabian Schmidt Albania's new government, composed of Socialists and their coalition allies, has a highly ambitious program. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo of the Social Democratic Party has announced that his long-term goals are joining the EU and NATO. Earlier, Prime Minister Fatos Nano stressed that good relations with the U.S. and the EU are of primary importance to Albania.
But Albania has a long way to go to reach those ambitious goals. After months of unrest and anarchy, the challenges facing the politicians are huge. Most important, they have to crack down on the gangs that are still controlling large areas, especially in the south, and continuing to wage gang wars that cost dozens of lives each week. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka from the Democratic Alliance Party has pledged to secure all roads in the country within the next two months. But in order to do so, he will have to reform the police to make it a more professional body. Delegates to a recent international conference in Rome have promised broad assistance, including equipping and training police officers.
Rome will also keep 500 soldiers in the country after the multinational forces withdraw at the end of August. Those troops will help rebuild the army, which fell apart shortly after the unrest started in February. The government will also need to reform the judiciary, which is regarded as a political tool of past governments and presidents.
But the necessary reforms can do more harm than good if they are not carried out carefully. The police, the courts, and the state media were highly politicized institutions under the previous Democratic government. The new ministers have indicated that they plan to sack a large number of high-ranking officials, and they have already started appointing successors. But they seem bent on continuing to appoint officials for their loyalty to the political party in power rather than for their independence and professional qualities. The appointees may thus prove loyal servants of a party rather than of a democratic state, thereby impeding the reform progress.
There are already clear indications that the new government wants to make radical personnel changes in the administration, contributing to the public perception that government employees will again be primarily political appointees. Both Justice Minister Thimio Kondi and Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj have told directors of departments within their ministries and top officers that they should resign voluntarily or expect to be sacked. Brokaj even indicated that some top-ranking officers may be put on trial for what he called "violating the constitution" by sending troops against protesters earlier this year or by abandoning arms depots to looters. Although there have been only a few dismissals to date, the Democratic Party has opened an office giving legal advise to those affected by what the Democrats call "political purges."
But not everyone who was in opposition under the Democrats is happy with the new government's appointments. Frrok Cupi, a well-known and respected journalist of the independent daily "Koha Jone," has refused to accept the post of head of the state news agency, ATA. His predecessor, Ilir Zhilla, was an appointee of the Democratic Party, which, after winning the 1992 elections, exercised strict control over agency policy.
Cupi's refusal to accept the post highlights the dilemma of the new government. It desperately needs qualified personnel to help overcome the politicization of the administration. But many of the people with the professional qualities and integrity to change the country's political culture do not want to become the next generation of officials who are under pressure to carry out their jobs and, at the same time, remain loyal to the governing political party.
The author is a Balkan analyst specializing in Albanian, Kosovar, and Macedonian affairs.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty