|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 111, 97-09-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 111, 5 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN CONDEMNS TURKMEN OIL TENDERPresident Heidar Aliev on 4 September said the tender launched by Turkmenistan for several Caspian oil fields is "illegal", Interfax reported. The tender covers the Kyapaz field (Serdar in Turkmen), which Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR had intended to develop jointly with two Russian companies. Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade similarly termed the tender "still-born" and predicted that no "serious" Western company would bid. Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov suggested that Turkmenistan was instigated to declare the tender either by Armenia or by some other country interested in preventing Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan from exploiting their Caspian oil.
 U.S.-ARMENIAN RELATIONS "DEVELOPING RAPIDLY"Recently appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Bayburtyan told journalists in Yerevan on 4 September that the U.S. has become "one of Armenia's most important partners", RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bayburtyan cited the "unprecedented" fact that four U.S. Congressional delegations have visited Armenia in recent weeks. At the same time, he noted that the so-called Azerbaijani oil factor "affects" U.S.-Armenian bilateral ties. Bayburtyan said the World Bank's recent evaluation of Armenia as "a solvent country" is expected to stimulate U.S. investment in that country, according to Interfax.
 ARMENIAN ECONOMIC ADVISER ON 1997 BUDGETImplementation of the1997 Armenian budget is "unsatisfactory," presidential economic adviser Vahan Khachatryan told the Armenpress state news agency in an interview published in the 4 September issue of "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun." Khachatryan said budget revenues are being collected only with great difficulty and that recent changes in Armenia's tax legislation have led many small and medium-sized businesses to stop their activities. "Taxes must not be collected at any cost, because in the end there will be no one to pay them. We are now very close to such a situation," Khachatryan argued. He said that "businessmen are now forced to pay in advance value- added tax for October and November." He also expressed concern that the privatization process is losing momentum.
 RUSSIA CRACKS DOWN ON ARMENIAN EMIGRANTSThe Russian Federal Migration Service is seeking to halt emigration from Armenia to Russia and will refuse entry to Russia to people who lack the necessary documents, "Segodnya" reported on 1 September. Estimates of the number of Armenians who in recent years have emigrated to Russia in search of employment range from 400,000 to 700,000. Armenia has a total population of 3.5 million. Noyan Tapan on 3 September quoted an Armenian Ministry of Social Welfare official as staying that national employment agencies have helped 40 Armenians find employment in Russia over the past year. He said the ministry had concluded agreements with several unspecified CIS states on unrestricted migration.
 TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGHTERS EN ROUTE TO DUSHANBEThe first group of fighters from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) left central Tajikistan for the capital on 5 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Under the June peace agreement, the fighters are to act as bodyguards for UTO leaders who are scheduled to return to Dushanbe on 8 September to take up their duties as members of the National Reconciliation Council. Overseeing the movement of the fighters are the CIS peacekeeping force as well as representatives from the government, the UTO, and the UN observer mission to Tajikistan. Another 200 UTO fighters will arrive in Dushanbe later and will also serve as bodyguards.
 WILD FIRES THREATEN KAZAKH CITYWild fires have reached the outskirts of Karaganda, in north-central Kazakhstan, AFP reported on 5 September. The fires have already swept across more than 75,000 hectares of land, aided by high winds. At least one firefighter is reported dead in efforts to keep the fires from reaching Karaganda. A mild winter and a hot summer combined to devastate large tracts of steppe and forest in the northern regions of Kazakhstan.
 "NO RUSSIAN TROOPS" IN UZBEKISTANThe Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement rejecting as untrue an article published in August by "Moskovskii Komsomolets" claiming that a Russian division is currently deployed in Uzbekistan, "Segodnya" reported on 4 September, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov. Tarasov said the article has generated embarrassment within informed circles and alarm among the uninformed.
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT RECUPERATES IN GERMANYSaparmurat Niyazov will remain in a German hospital until at least mid- September to recover from his 1 September heart surgery, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 4 September. Doctors say Niyazov is making progress, but they have advised him to remain in Germany for the standard two-week recovery period.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO COMMANDER WARNS MILOSEVICGen. Wesley Clark told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic in Belgrade on 4 September that SFOR has the right to use force if deemed necessary. Milosevic and Perisic denied charges that Yugoslav special police participated in recent Bosnian Serb mob violence against NATO troops. Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman said that the U.S. will transfer six F-16 aircraft from Germany to Italy to support SFOR in preparation for the 14 September Bosnian local elections. And in Brussels, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said on 5 September that those elections will go ahead even if the Bosnian Serbs decide to boycott them. Gelbard also urged European states to be tougher on Milosevic and insist that he stop backing Bosnian Serb hard-liners.
 CROATIA, ISRAEL ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC TIESCroatian and Israeli diplomats signed documents in New York on 4 September to set up diplomatic relations. Israeli press reports have suggested that Jerusalem agreed to recognize Zagreb in the hope of selling arms to Croatia and despite some Israeli misgivings about Croatia's fascist legacy from World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). Meanwhile in Split, former Interior Minister Ivan Vekic denied charges by former special police agent Miro Bajramovic that Croatian police committed atrocities against Serbs when Vekic was in office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997). Vekic called Bajramovic a "liar" and added that "the thing to know is whether his lies are the consequence of his psychological state...or whether he has been asked to take this role by world powers in order to discredit Croatia."
 MONTENEGRO TO KEEP OWN SECRET POLICEMontenegrin Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 5 September that he hopes the federal Interior Ministry will abandon plans to abolish the republican secret services. Vujanovic said he will ask Montenegrin deputies in the federal parliament to vote down the measure if the Interior Ministry goes ahead with it. Vujanovic insisted that Montenegro must maintain its own intelligence service independent of Belgrade. Also in Podgorica, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on 4 September that the 5 October presidential elections will be a referendum on whether Montenegrins want to retain their autonomy vis-a-vis Belgrade.
 POLICE STATION ATTACKED IN KOSOVOPolice spokesmen said in Pristina on 4 September that unidentified persons attacked a police station in a nearby town with a hand grenade and automatic rifles the previous night. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, but observers say it has the hallmarks of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army. Meanwhile in Nis, Serbian presidential candidate Vuk Draskovic said on 4 September that his victory in the 21 September elections "will put an end to the [ethnic Albanians'] dream of an independent Kosovo." He urged "our dear Albanian neighbors" to accept that Kosovo will always be part of Serbia. Ethnic Albanian political parties are boycotting the election. Their spokesmen say that no Serbian party has a platform on Kosovo that the Albanians can accept. Meanwhile in Novi Pazar, the Muslim-led List for Sandzak coalition announced that Sulejman Ugljanin will head its slate in the legislative elections.
 TIRANA POLICE CHIEFS CHARGED WITH DISTRIBUTING ARMSMost Tirana district police chiefs face charges for distributing about 300 arms to civilian supporters of the Democratic Party during the unrest in March, "Dita Informacion" reported on 5 September. The State Prosecutor's Office said that handing out the weapons constituted a violation of police regulations and that only one district chief did not take part in arming Democrats. In some cases, police failed to register the addresses of those who received the weapons. Those civilians who kept their arms after the 31 August deadline will also face charges.
 SHAKEUP IN ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRYSix of the seven directors of Foreign Ministry departments were replaced on 4 September, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo asked all Albanian ambassadors abroad to resign because, he said, an ambassador's job is essentially political in nature and the new government wants its own appointees to represent it. The Socialist Bashkim Zeneli, the deputy head of parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, will resign his legislative seat to become ambassador to Germany. His colleague in Paris will be Luan Rama, who was sacked two years ago as press attache to France. Servet Pellumbi, a former Socialist Party secretary-general from the party's conservative wing, will go to Russia. It is unclear who will serve in Washington. In other news, the government on 3 September invalidated most diplomatic passports. Spokesmen said the former government issued some 700 such documents to political favorites.
 ALBANIAN DOCTORS SAY LEGISLATOR'S LIFE IS IN DANGERDoctors in Tirana on 4 September urged Democratic Party member and former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori to end his hunger strike, which he launched two weeks ago to protest the allegedly biased reporting of state television news. It is unclear whether he has taken the doctors' advice. French President Jacques Chirac and other top French officials have expressed their concern for Arbnori's health. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha earlier asked Arbnori to stop his hunger strike, but Arbnori refused. In Durres, prosecutors on 5 September concluded their investigations into the 4 June assassination attempt against Berisha (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1997). The trial of assailant Ilir Ceta will begin shortly.
 OPENING OF ROMANIAN SECRET POLICE FILES DISCUSSEDThe National Peasant Party (PNTCD), the senior ruling coalition party, is debating whether communist-era secret police files should be opened to the public, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 5 September. Ion Diaconescu, president of the PNTCD and chairman of the lower house of the parliament, said access to secret police files should be controlled by a parliamentary commission. Otherwise, he said, a national controversy is likely to result. But PNTCD member Tichu Dumitrescu is demanding that all secret police files be opened for public review, RFE/RL reported. Discussion of the bill, drafted by Dumitrescu, has been repeatedly postponed for three years. Both Diaconescu and Dumitrescu spent years in communist jails as political prisoners.
 BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC DISBANDS PARLIAMENTARY GROUPThe Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB), the smallest party in the National Assembly, was forced to disband its parliamentary group on 5 September, RFE/RL's Sofia Bureau reported. The departure of Georgy Agofonov had reduced the size of the group to nine deputies (a minimum of 10 deputies are needed for a parliamentary group to exist). Twelve BBB candidates were elected to the parliament in April. Agofonov's resignation from the party comes after BBB leader George Ganchev on 4 September expelled two other deputies who had publicly criticized Ganchev.
[C] END NOTE
 MONGOLIA BEGINS TO FIND ITS WAYby Robert Lyle
Overshadowed by its two giant neighbors, Mongolia often seems forgotten by the rest of the world. While Russia and China have kept the world's attention with their different approaches to transforming from central planning to market economies, Ulaanbaatar has quietly bounced from one side to another.
But in its first review of Mongolia's economy to be released publicly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concludes that while major weaknesses remain, Mongolian authorities are now on the right track and have been taking the tough steps necessary to put the country's economy on a path of sustained growth and development. A program of transition and reform launched in the early 1990s had been derailed by 1995. Extensive central bank credit fueled inflation and the budget deficit, and trade barriers on both exports and imports caused the Asian Development Bank and the U.S. to suspend assistance programs.
But the IMF said that in the second half of 1996, Mongolian authorities began implementing a wide-ranging program of monetary, fiscal, and structural reforms designed to reduce the public sector and promote rapid development of the private sector. Most important, the fund argued, authorities launched a major bank restructuring program, which included the immediate closure of two large insolvent banks and the clearing of nonperforming loans that had been made by the banks at the government's direction. Along with a significant tightening of monetary policy by the central bank, those measures helped curtail inflation, stabilize the exchange rate, and halt the decline in bank deposits.
The fund particularly praised what it called the authorities' "bold and ambitious approach to reforms." That approach included programs aimed at streamlining government operations and reducing distortions in the tax system. As a major first step in straightening out twists in the tax system, the 1997 budget eliminated virtually all import duties, "making Mongolia one of the most open trade regimes in the world." In addition, the government reduced direct taxes, extended the base of the sale taxes, and raised excise taxes on alcohol, automobiles, and petroleum.
The IMF said the willingness of Mongolian leaders to take "politically difficult steps at an early stage" provided "convincing evidence of their strong commitment to the reform process." But it noted that Mongolia still has a long way to go. The country's economic situation remains difficult, and current economic policy does carry risks, particularly in getting the government's fiscal situation in order. Mongolia has a weak banking system, a distorted tax system, a large and inefficient public sector, and an inadequate legal infrastructure.
The IMF urged the Mongolian government to renew its attack on inflation, push ahead on tax reforms -- including imposition of a broad-based value- added tax -- and put new emphasis on privatization. The fund said this would require "early sales of large profitable [state] enterprises and the restructuring of some loss-making enterprises." It estimated that in 1997, Mongolia will record a real growth in gross domestic product of 3 percent and annual inflation of 31 percent.
With a population of fewer than 2.5 million people and a land area of more than 1.5 million square kilometers, Mongolia had a 1995 GDP of $767 million $310 per capita, according to the World Bank. Its per capita GDP was lower than any recorded by a former Soviet republic, putting Mongolia among the poorest nations of Africa and southern Asia.
The author is a Washington-based correspondent for RFE/RL.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty