|Saturday, 14 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 121, 97-09-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 121, 19 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ROCKETS FROM AFGHANISTAN HIT UZBEK CITYDuring a battle for control of the northern Afghan town of Khairaton, 10 rockets struck the Uzbek border city of Termez, seriously wounding three people, RFE/RL correspondents in Uzbekistan reported Khairaton and Termez are located on opposite banks of the Amu-Darya, which divides Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Uzbek security forces are positioning themselves to ensure there is "no repetition of the incident."
 TRIAL OF KYRGYZ JOURNALIST RESUMESThe trial of Yrysbek Omurzakov resumed in Bishkek on 18 September, following a three-month pause, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Omurzakov, who is accused of libel by the manager of a Bishkek factory, told RFE/RL that the court claims to have lost documents on his case, particularly witness testimony in his favor. Two other people are also on trial for allegedly giving Omurzakov false information about conditions at the factory. The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter of appeal to President Askar Akayev asking him to intervene in the case.
 NIYAZOV RETURNS TO TURKMENISTANTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov returned to Ashgabat from Germany on 19 September, RFE/RL correspondents in Turkmenistan reported. Niyazov underwent heart surgery in Germany at the start of September, following an official visit to that country.
 AZERBAIJAN COOL ON PROPOSED TREATY WITH RUSSIAAzerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade told Interfax on 18 September that the Azerbaijani leadership is not convinced by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's statement that the Russian-Armenian treaty signed on 29 August is not directed against Azerbaijan or another third country. The previous day, Primakov proposed that Russia and Azerbaijan sign a treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance similar to the Russian-Armenian accord. Gulu-Zade pointed out that the agreement between Moscow and Yerevan focuses on military cooperation, specifically the Russian military base in Armenia. Russia has no bases in Azerbaijan. Yeltsin and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation in Moscow in early July.
 RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN ON KARABAKHGennadii Tarasov told journalists on 18 September that unnamed leaders of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are seeking to "frustrate the ongoing negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the conflict" by allegedly making statements on the need for a new war, ITAR-TASS reported. Although no Karabakh official has advocated a resumption of hostilities, Defense Minister Samvel Babayan has argued in several recent interviews that another war may be inevitable unless Azerbaijan makes compromises and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group proposes a peace plan acceptable to Karabakh. Asked by an Armenian journalist to comment on Babayan's statements, Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan on 17 September said the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh should "be ready to face the worst. But this does not mean that war is inevitable," ARMENPRESS reported.
 NO ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI COOPERATION TO COMBAT CRIMEThe Department of Public Relations of the Armenian Interior Ministry has issued a denial that Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives have discussed joint efforts to combat crime in the area of their common frontier, ARMENPRESS reported on 18 September. Both the Armenian agency and Turan had earlier reported that such a discussion took place during the 11- 12 September meeting of CIS interior ministers in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).
 AZERBAIJAN SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON PRESS CENSORSHIPPresident Aliev on 17 September issued a decree prohibiting military censorship of the media, Turan reported . Abulfaz Elchibey, Aliev's predecessor, imposed such censorship in January1993, after Azerbaijan had experienced major military defeats in Nagorno-Karabakh. Aliev imposed political censorship on the media in late 1994. Military censorship will continue to be applied pending the enactment of a law on state secrets, Jahangir Ildrym-zade, the head of the department for the Protection of State Secrets, told Turan on 18 September. Meanwhile, Minister of Information Sirus Tebrizli has informed the editor of the newly established weekly "Forum" that its second issue will not be published because the paper propagates opposition views, according to Turan. The first issue was published on 12 September, but all copies were withdrawn on Tebrizli's orders two days later.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTS DELAYEDDavid Foley, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on 19 September that the results of the 13-14 September Bosnian municipal elections will not be announced, as scheduled, on 20-21 September. Foley said the delay was caused by the need to open a second vote-counting center in Serb-held territory. He estimated that it may be possible to begin announcing results "in the middle of next week." The counting of votes was suspended temporarily in a suburb of Sarajevo on 18 September because of Serbian complaints about absentee voting.
 SOLANA ON NATO'S ROLE IN BOSNIASpeaking at a news conference in Washington on 18 September, NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said the alliance must concentrate on implementing the Bosnian peace accords now and must not be distracted by questions about what will happen after the scheduled departure of NATO troops next June, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. Solana said NATO's Bosnia Stabilization Force (SFOR) will not continue in its present form. But he stressed that the international community must not abandon Bosnia.
 CAR BOMB EXPLODES IN MOSTARSeveral dozen people were injured, some seriously, when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the Croat-controlled western half of Mostar on 18 September. A police official told Reuters the explosion was the worst in Mostar to date.
 UN CRITICIZES CROATIAThe UN Security Council on 18 September expressed concern at the Croatian government's "lack of substantial progress" toward creating conditions for the repatriation of Serbian and other refugees to Eastern Slavonia and the devolution of executive authority to the region. The Security Council called on Zagreb to remove administrative and legal obstacles to repatriation and take measures to integrate repatriates into economic and social life. The statement also called on Croatia "to cooperate fully" with the international tribunal investigating war crimes in former Yugoslavia.
 ALBANIAN PARTY DEPUTY INJURED IN SHOOTINGControversial Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari was hospitalized with serious injuries on 18 September after being shot several times by Socialist deputy Gafur Mazreku during an argument inside the parliament building. Hajdari and Mazreku had quarreled and engaged in a fist fight during a 16 September parliamentary debate on value-added tax but apparently had since been reconciled. President Rexhep Meidani denounced the shooting as a "primitive" incident that had "destroyed the climate of peace and tolerance we are trying to build," Reuters reported. Prime Minister Fatos Nano argued it was criminal and not political in nature. Former President and Socialist Party leader Sali Berisha, however, termed the shooting an attempted political killing by Meidani. Some 2,000 Democratic Party supporters convened a rally in central Tirana to protest the shooting. A U.S. government spokesman condemned the incident and endorsed Meidani's appeal for calm.
 BLAST DESTROYS SOCIALIST PARTY HEADQUARTERSJust hours after the shooting of Hajdari, the Socialist Party headquarters in the northern city of Shkodra was destroyed by an explosion. No one was injured in the blast. Police officials said they suspected a link between the two incidents. Shkodra is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party.
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN MOSCOWIon Diaconescu, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, and the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin in Moscow on 18 September, Radio Bucharest and Mediafax reported. Primakov said there are "good grounds" to believe the pending basic treaty between the two countries could be signed next year if both "make the last necessary efforts." He also expressed "surprise" at Romania's "lack of interest" in the Russian market, saying bilateral trade could and should be improved. During his meetings with Seleznev and Lukin, Diaconescu raised the issue of the Romanian state treasure unreturned since World War One as well as the situation in the Republic of Moldova. Romanian media reported that the positions of the two sides differed significantly over those issues.
 MOLDOVA, RUSSIA AGREE ON GAS SUPPLIESDuring a two-day visit to Moscow, Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Valeriu Bulgari reached an agreement with his Russian hosts on gas deliveries to Moldova during the coming fall and winter, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 18 September. A communique issued by the Moldovan embassy in Moscow does not specify the quantities of gas to be delivered. As of 1 September, Moldova owed Russia's Gazprom company $238.7 million, while the breakaway Transdniester region owed $241.3 million. Moldova pledged to pay $68 million of its debt for supplies delivered in 1997. The embassy said that Bulgari also met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov to discuss, among other things, boosting economic cooperation between the two countries.
 MOLDOVAN POLICE WITHOUT TELEPHONE LINESThe lines of several Moldovan police stations in Chisinau have been cut because the Interior Ministry has not paid its debts to the Ministry of Telecommunications for the use of the phones, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported on 18 September. The phones of about one-third of the stations in the Moldovan capital were disconnected several days ago. Interior Minister Mihai Plamadeala said the police's work is seriously affected. He added that the Ministry of Finance, rather than the Ministry of Telecommunications, is to be blamed for the situation.
 ZHIVKOV RELEASED FROM HOUSE ARRESTFormer Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov was released from house arrest on 18 September, BTA reported. A military prosecutor said Zhivkov will have to report daily to the local police and notify them when traveling elsewhere in Bulgaria. He will not be allowed to leave the country. The 86-year-old Zhivkov is under investigation for channeling funds to procommunist groups in the Third World and for forcing Bulgarians of Turkish origin to change their names in 1984-1985. In September 1992, Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of embezzling public funds. His sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court in February 1996, however. The release from house arrest follows a recent amendment to the Penal Code stipulating that a defendant cannot be held in any kind of detention for more than two years without trial.
[C] END NOTE
 ON THE EVE OF POLISH ELECTIONSby Jan de Weydenthal
Poles will cast their ballots on 21 September in a parliamentary election that is likely to prove a political watershed.
The contest involves two large electoral alliances, the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the anti-communist Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). Several smaller parties are also taking part in the vote, the most prominent being the centrist Freedom Union, the non-communist leftist Labor Union, the Peasant Party, the nationalist Movement for the Renovation of Poland, and the newly formed Party of Pensioners and Retirees.
There is a 5 percent threshold for entry into the parliament. At stake are 460 seats in the Sejm (the lower chamber) and 100 seats in the Senate. There are more than 6,600 candidates running for the Sejm and 519 for the Senate.
The electoral campaign has been relatively peaceful, as most groups have basically similar views on several important issues. There is also general agreement that Poland should make major efforts to join such Western institutions as the EU and NATO and that the country should move more resolutely toward market economy. Some parties, however, favor a more gradual transition to the market, while others are pressing for a speedy resolution to such issues as privatization of state assets and modernization of enterprises.
At the same time, there is little doubt about the major differences between the contenders. Those differences are largely over two issues: the Roman Catholic Church, its mission, and its teachings; and past political developments, in particular the communist experience.
The right-wing AWS--an umbrella group of some 30 small nationalist and Christian parties, led by the increasingly populist Solidarity labor union-- has closely identified with the Church. Its leaders have consistently supported views expressed by Church officials, particularly on the politically explosive issue of abortion. Moreover, the AWS also has received the unequivocal and public support of the Church hierarchy in the run-up to the elections. The Peasant Party and the Movement for the Renovation of Poland have also identified with the Church.
The Freedom Union, for its part, has expressed some reservations about the Church's teachings. Many of its leaders and activists have also supported the liberalization of abortion regulations. Meanwhile, the SLD and the Labor Union have insisted on the separation of Church and state, opting for the primacy of lay institutions in the judiciary and the executive.
More important and of greater political significance is the division between those groups that have a communist past and those that have always been anti-communist.
The former communists can be found among a variety of groups, including regional and trade unionists, state bureaucrats, and newly rich entrepreneurs. During four years of government dominated by the post- Communists, most posts in the administration, the judiciary, the armed forces and the security services have been filled by the followers of the SLD and its allies. Likewise, the SLD-led government has granted its supporters licenses for television networks and provided them with opportunities to profit from the privatization of state companies.
But such practices have only reinforced longstanding anti-communist tendencies among large sectors of the population and have turned the country's communist past into a major election issue.
Recent opinion polls show the SLD and the AWS running neck and neck, with the former Communists having a slight edge (32 percent, compared with 29 percent for the AWS). They are followed by the Freedom Union (about 12 percent), the Movement for the Renovation of Poland the Peasant Party (7-9 percent), the Labor Union (5 percent), and the Retirees (also 5 percent). If those percentages do not change, Poland's new parliament will be hopelessly divided, making the formation of a stable government exceedingly difficult.
The author is a senior RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty