|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 112, 97-09-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 112, 8 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN TO DELAY DECISION ON MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE?President Heidar Aliev has created a working group to assess the relative merits of alternative routes for the main export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Turan reported on 6 September. The group -- which includes a deputy premier, the president and vice president of the state oil company SOCAR, and three top officials of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company -- is to hold talks in Turkey, Russia, and Georgia and to present its recommendations within the next two years. The AIOC was originally scheduled to decide on the route for the main export pipeline this year but announced in June that the decision would be postponed until October 1998. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem arrived in Baku on 7 September to discuss "all bilateral issues," including the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route for which Turkey is lobbying, the "Turkish Daily News" reported.
 OPPOSITION DEPUTY DETAINED IN NAKHICHEVANMirmahmud Fattaev, the deputy chairman of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front, and three other people were detained by police at Nakhichevan airport on 6 September, Turan reported. The four men, who intended to travel to the village of Keleki to visit former President Abulfaz Elchibey, were accused of "violating the passport regime" and ordered to return to Baku.
 WORLD BANK GRANTS LOANS TO GEORGIAThe World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) has approved two loans totaling $65 million to Georgia to help consolidate progress toward stabilizing the economy and to push ahead on key reforms, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 5 September. The larger, $60 million loan will be used to help the Georgian government improve tax collections, restructure its public spending, accelerate privatization, improve financial discipline in the energy sector, and restructure the banking sector, among others. The IDA says the credit will also be used to help Georgia improve the targeting of social benefits, including introducing private pensions and reforming health care. The second loan, worth $5 million, is to finance structural reforms, including in the judiciary and social assistance sector.
 GEORGIAN STATE TREASURY ROBBEDThieves recently broke into the national treasury and stole 160 kilos of gold ingots, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development reported on 5 September, citing "Kavkasioni." The newspaper said that Minister of State Niko Lekishvili accused the treasury administration of failing to take adequate security measures. but "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 September reported that officials have declined to comment on the incident.
 SUPPORT GROWS IN ARMENIA FOR JOINING RUSSIA-BELARUS UNIONAghasi Arshakyan, one of the leaders of the left-wing Armenian People's Initiative (HZhN), told reporters on 5 September that the group has collected more than 1 million signatures in support of Armenia joining the Russia-Belarus union, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Arshakyan said that joining a "new union" of former Soviet republics will promote "very rapid economic growth" in Armenia and thus help the country overcome its economic crisis. He said some 100,000 Armenian nationals currently residing in Russia also support the union. Telman Gdlyan, a prominent Russian politician of Armenian origin, predicted that other unspecified former Soviet republics will follow Armenia's example. The Communist Party of Armenia likewise claims to have collected 800,000 signatures in support of Armenia's joining the Russia-Belarus union. It will raise the issue at the fall session of the Armenian parliament.
 BOMB GOES OFF IN DUSHANBEA bomb exploded in a Dushanbe hotel early on 6 September, according to RFE/RL correspondents The bomb had been placed in a refrigerator in the dining hall of the Hotel Vakhsh, where fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and their leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, are scheduled to stay. The hotel is guarded by "bodyguards" from the UTO and government troops. So far, no one has been detained in connection with the bombing. Nuri, who was due in the Tajik capital on 8 September to participate in Independence Day celebrations the next day, has now postponed his arrival. The delay is due to a government request to limit the number of the UTO delegation. ITAR-TASS on 8 September noted that the government list of UTO delegates coming to Dushanbe does not include UTO deputy leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda.
 BORDER GUARD HEADS MEET IN KYRGYZSTANHeads of border guards from the CIS countries, excluding Azerbaijan and Moldova, met in Kyrgyzstan on 5-6 September for the 26th session of border guard commanders, ITAR-TASS reported. The commanders reviewed 33 documents, including those on exchanges of information between CIS border guards and on customs procedures within the CIS and along the borders with other countries. Addressing the session, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev called the guards "one of the more effective structures" within the CIS.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH MEDIATES BETWEEN PLAVSIC, KRAJISNIKPatriarch Pavle mediated between Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the spokesman for hard-line leader Radovan Karadzic, in Banja Luka on 8 September. The outcome of the talks is not known. Earlier, five buses left the hard-liners' stronghold of Pale carrying Karadzic supporters from eastern Herzegovina. They plan to hold a rally in Banja Luka, where Plavsic's headquarters is located. On 7 September, Banja Luka police banned rallies in that town lest they lead to violence between Plavsic's supporters and her opponents. Police spokesmen told BETA news agency that the hard-liners from the Serbian Democratic Party have not asked for permission to hold a rally. A spokesman for Plavsic said that the rally is one more attempt by her enemies to oppose her with street actions rather than by political means.
 PLAVSIC WANTS U.S. HELP FOR BOSNIAN SERB ARMYA military affairs spokesman for Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 6 September that she wants the U.S. to help train the Bosnian Serb army (VRS), just as Washington has already done for the Croatian-Muslim federation's military. She made the request to a visiting delegation from the U.S. Defense Department, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Plavsic's spokesman added that U.S. assistance to the VRS would convince Bosnian Serbs that the international community is treating both sides in Bosnia equally. Observers noted that such aid would further link the international community to Plavsic and promote her program to help the Bosnian Serbs overcome international isolation. U.S. involvement with the VRS would also make the VRS a more professional organization and weaken the lasting grip on it of warlords and indicted war criminals opposed to Plavsic.
 IZETBEGOVIC REELECTED HEAD OF MUSLIM PARTYDelegates to the 6-7 September convention of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Sarajevo reelected Alija Izetbegovic chair of the leading Bosnian Muslim political organization on 8 September. The 72-year-old chairman, who ran unopposed, told the convention that the party needs younger leaders. Izetbegovic added that the SDA must devote more time to social issues and transform itself "into a Bosnian variant of a Social Democratic party," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Izetbegovic also said that Bosnia needs more tolerance and less nationalism. Observers noted, however, that, since the end of the war, his SDA-led government has removed from office Serbs, Croats, and moderate Muslims who remained loyal to Izetbegovic's government throughout the conflict. The convention is part of the campaign for the 13-14 September local elections.
 ACCUSED CROATIAN WAR CRIMINAL WANTS TO DEFEND HIMSELFNationalist politician Tomislav Mercep said on 5 September that he is willing to appear before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to deny charges by a former subordinate that Mercep was involved in war crimes against ethnic Serb civilians in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997). In other news, the government announced that the 60,000 citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina living in Croatia can cast their votes in the upcoming local elections at 80 locations across Croatia.
 MACEDONIA ARRESTS TWO ALBANIANS FOR KILLING POLICEMENThe Interior Ministry announced on 7 September that police have arrested two ethnic Albanians in the Tetovo area for murder. Police spokesmen said the brothers Agim and Besnik Alili had gunned down two Macedonian policemen in the village of Dolno Palciste Tetovsko. The two policemen were attempting to search the home of one of the Albanians when the other Albanian opened fire with an automatic weapon. Macedonian TV said that the brothers were illegal immigrants from Albania. Armed gangs and smugglers have frequently crossed from Albania into Kosovo and Macedonia since early this year, when law and order collapsed in much of Albania.
 ALBANIA MOURNS MOTHER TERESAPrime Minister Fatos Nano on 6 September announced that Albania will observe three days of mourning for the nun, who died in Calcutta the previous day. He also said a square in Tirana will be named after her. President Rexhep Meidani said she will remain a symbol of unity and humanity for Albania, which is deeply divided along religious, regional, and political lines. Mother Theresa was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, to an ethnic Albanian merchant family. She is known in Albania as "the world's most famous Albanian" and was a welcome visitor even in late communist times. In Skopje, Mayor Risto Penov said on 6 September that the city is proud to have been her birthplace and will "preserve her spiritual heritage and transmit it to future generations." In Pristina, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova called her death a "painful loss" for Albanians throughout the world.
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT FIRES 17 GENERALSPresident Meidani signed an order on 6 September sacking 17 generals but allowing them to keep their rank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997). A Defense Ministry spokesman denied that the sackings are politically motivated. He charged that the 17 men had "destroyed the Albanian army" during the anarchy that gripped the country early this year. The spokesman said the generals are to blame for the collapse of military discipline and for the theft of many weapons and much equipment by looters. In other news, Meidani announced on 7 September that a "national assembly" of ethnic Albanians from Albania and abroad will discuss the Kosovo question. Observers said that the new Socialist government is likely to continue its predecessor's moderate line on Kosovo.
 ROMANIAN POLICE CHIEF FIREDThe government on 6 September fired Gen. Pavel Abraham from his post as head of the state police force, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu accused Abraham of showing a "lack of interest in solving cases whose perpetrator was unknown." Other reasons cited for the firing include "inefficiency" and "poor results in combating crime." Abraham was appointed to the post earlier this year.. The dailies "Ziua" and "Romania Libera" have reported that Abraham received preferential loans from the state-owned foreign trade bank Bancorex. That bank is at the center of an ongoing scandal linked to the previous former communist government.
 DEMOCRACY CONFERENCE ENDS IN BUCHARESTA UN conference in Bucharest on "New or Restored Democracies" ended on 5 September with a call for continued assistance for social and economic reforms, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported. In a final communique, conference participants urged the World Bank and the IMF to remain active where reforms are helping to establish democracy and free market economics. The communique was forwarded to the UN General Assembly. UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan said in a video-taped message to conference participants that the UN has every interest in strengthening democracies and safeguarding peace.
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SAYS MINE MANAGERS 'CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT'A government commission on 8 September published a report saying "criminal negligence" resulted in the deaths of 10 coal miners in a recent explosion, RFE/RL's Bulgarian service reported. The commission implicated 24 to 30 managers in the 2 September blast at the Bobov Dol coal mine, about 70 kilometers southwest of Sofia. No formal charges have been filed. Seven miners were killed instantly and three more have since died from their injuries. About 20 others were injured. RFE/RL reports that miners told investigators they were sent to work near the explosion site before a gas- filled chamber had been properly ventilated. The methane gas is thought to have built up in the chamber during a one-month holiday recess. President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's government reportedly are considering the closure of the mine.
 LUKANOV'S ASSASSINATION ORDERED FROM WITHIN BULGARIABozhidar Popov, the chief secretary of the Bulgarian Interior ministry says that former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov was killed on the order of someone within Bulgaria. On 7 September, the Sofia daily "24 Hours" quoted Popov as saying that the investigation into Lukanov's 2 October1996 assassination has uncovered evidence about who commissioned the killing. He added that investigators think there was no involvement or influence from forces outside Bulgaria. Lukanov, a former Communist Party Central Committee member who helped orchestrate the 1989 coup that ousted dictator Todor Zhivkov, had been involved in business deals with Russia's Gazprom and Bulgaria's powerful conglomerate Multigroup. As the leader of a faction within the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Lukanov was also engaged in an open feud with another BSP member--former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.
[C] END NOTE
 "THE SPIRIT OF VILNIUS"by Paul Goble
For the first time, the countries between the Baltic and the Black Seas have found a common voice, one that will help them to integrate into the West, even as they smooth their relations with one another and with Moscow. At a meeting in Vilnius on 5 and 6 September, the presidents of 10 countries in the region sharply criticized the retreat from democratic reforms in Belarus. They stressed they want to work with both Russia and the West. And they committed themselves to broader regional cooperation.
As a result, a summit originally convened to help overcome bilateral conflicts among those states was transformed into something much bigger. That development would appear to justify the claims of some of the leaders present that they will be guided by the "spirit of Vilnius" in the future.
The meeting, organized by the leaders of Poland and Lithuania, attracted the presidents of Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, as well as the prime minister of the Russian Federation. The outcome of the meeting was defined less by the individual positions that each of those leaders took than by the collective spirit they displayed on three key issues.
First, virtually all the presidents were sharply critical of the increasingly anti-democratic behavior of one of their numbers, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Their outspokenness violated the usual diplomatic niceties of such sessions and indicated that the countries of the region are at least prepared to take a hard line against those who retreat from democracy and a free market economy. It also largely dispelled the fears of those who had thought Lukashenka might be able to exploit the Vilnius summit to escape his regime's current isolation on the international scene.
Instead, the Vilnius meeting underlined Lukashenka's isolation from his own people, from neighboring states, and from both Moscow and the West. Not only did the leaders of the other countries speak out, but representatives of Belarusian society directly challenged Lukashenka's claims.
Second, the 10 presidents indicated they want to cooperate with both East and West rather than being forced to choose between one or the other. Part of the reasoning behind that position was clearly tactical. Several leaders said they are interested in improved relations with Russia in order to improve their standing with Western governments that have made good relations with Moscow a virtual requirement for inclusion in Western institutions.
But at the Vilnius meeting, there were also strategic considerations. The Baltic presidents, for example, did not react as sharply as they have in the past to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's latest elaboration of Russian suggestions that the three rely on Moscow rather than NATO. Each calmly reiterated the desire of his country to join the Western alliance, but each equally calmly said that his country did not want involvement with the West to preclude good relations with Moscow.
This approach led to a remarkable breakthrough. Following bilateral meetings with the Russian premier, each of the Baltic presidents was able to announce that he would soon be signing a border agreement with the Russian Federation, thus laying to rest a long-standing sore point in relations with Moscow.
Third, the 10 presidents asserted that they want to work together precisely so that they can take responsibility for themselves rather than waiting for one or the other outside power to decide their fate, as has happened so often in the past.
Two countries -- Poland and Ukraine -- offered to host a follow-up regional summit in 1999. And the representatives of several other presidents indicated they were interested in much closer consultations across the region.
In the past, efforts to promote such cooperation have foundered on tensions among those countries and on the fears in both Moscow and the West that such arrangements might become a barrier to the inclusion of Russia into European institutions. But precisely because the Vilnius summit was called to avoid setting up such a barrier, this latest drive toward cooperation among the countries of the region may be more successful than its predecessors before World War Two and in the early 1990s.
It has already attracted less opposition and more support from outside. Not only did Moscow not denounce it, but U.S. President Bill Clinton said it could play a useful role in "erasing the old dividing lines in Europe." To the extent that the countries of the region continue to act as they did in the Lithuanian capital, the "spirit of Vilnius" may prove a turning point not only for them but for Europe as a whole.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty