|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 127, 97-09-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 127, 29 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIK RECONCILIATION COMMISSION MEETSThe Tajik National Reconciliation Commission concluded its second session in Dushanbe on 26 September, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported. A representative of the commission, Latifi Otakhon, said the commission would have a document with proposed changes to the constitution ready at the beginning of November. October will be spent discussing such changes at a "round table" where representatives of the Tajik government, United Tajik Opposition (UTO), the UN, OSCE and other international organizations will take part. The commission also released two addresses, one asking for nationwide support in returning and aiding Tajik refugees as they come back from Afghanistan. The other was a warning to armed groups to hand over their weapons by 16 November. Those who do not comply face forced disarmament by forces of the Tajik government and UTO.
 TAJIK OFFICIAL'S SON MURDERED IN DUSHANBEBakhtiyar Sharipov, the 31-year old son of Tajikistan's Procurator General Solomiddin Sharipov, was killed In Dushanbe in a drive-by shooting on 26 September, according to RFE/RL correspondents. The driver of Sharipov's car was wounded and is in the hospital. Authorities are investigating and have not said yet whether the attack was connected to the younger Sharipov's business or his father.
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON KARABAKH ...At his first press conference in five years, Levon Ter-Petrossyan said on 26 September that the co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group that is mediating a solution of the Karabakh conflict proposed on 21 September postponing a formal decision on Karabakh's future status until other issues, including the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied Azerbaijani territory and repatriation of refugees, have been resolved, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia has consistently espoused a "phased" resolution of the conflict but the Karabakh Armenians want all contentious issues resolved simultaneously. Ter- Petrossyan called for a compromise settlement, arguing that neither continuation of the conflict nor "forced capitulation" are realistic options for Armenia. He said that the conflict parties are to submit a written response to the Minsk Group's most recent proposals within 2-3 weeks.
 ... AND TURKEY, AND HIS POLITICAL FUTUREAsked about Armenian-Turkish relations, Ter-Petrossyan said Turkey will be unable to influence the outcome of the Karabakh conflict unless it normalizes relations with Armenia. Ankara says it will not open a border gate with Armenia until Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. Ter-Petrossyan predicted that Turkey will fail in "its efforts to become a regional leader" because it has too many unsolved problems with neighboring states. Ter-Petrossyan also said that he would run for reelection in the year 2001 "if the people ask me to." He was first elected president in 1991, and reelected in 1996. The Constitution adopted in 1995 bars any one individual from serving more than two consecutive terms. In April 1997, Ter-Petrossyan said he would not seek a third term even if the constitution were amended to enable him to do so.
 KAZAKH PM IN SWITZERLAND FOR MEDICAL TREATMENTKazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, in Switzerland while being treated for a blood clot in his lungs, said reforms in Kazakhstan will continue even "in the case of my resignation," Reuters reported on 28 September. Kazhegeldin's hasty departure to "Europe" for medical treatment on 22 September was announced after the Prime Minister had already departed Kazakhstan. That and a series of reports criticizing Kazhegeldin in Kazakh and international press led to speculation he would soon be sacked. One of the most vocal critics of Kazhegeldin, parliamentary deputy Zamanbek Nurkadilov, said "He's destroyed Kazakhstan. He's done this (privatization) for the West - not for Kazakhs." However, western businessmen in Kazakhstan are already expressing doubts about the future of reforms in Kazakhstan if Kazhegeldin should lose his office.
 IL TURCO IN ITALIADuring his three-day state visit to Italy on 25-27 September, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev met with his Italian counterpart Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and with Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Talks focused on European and regional security, including the Karabakh conflict, economic cooperation and the oil sector. Aliev and Scalfaro signed a joint declaration of political cooperation that notes Azerbaijan's role in promoting regional stability in the Caucasus; Aliev and Prodi signed an agreement on economic cooperation and policy, according to ITAR-TASS. Further agreements on avoiding dual taxation and on the mutual protection of investments also were signed. On 26 September, Aliev held talks with the energy concern ENI, which includes AGIP. The president of AGIP and the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR signed a protocol on cooperation whereby AGIP will participate in exploration and development in the Kyurdash sector of the Caspian.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO AND RUSSIA DISCUSS PEACEKEEPING IN BOSNIANATO Secretary General Javier Solana and the 16 foreign ministers of the NATO member states agreed during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov of the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council at the United Nations in New York on 26 September to form a working group to elaborate principles and tasks in peacekeeping, including in Bosnia. Primakov reiterated Russia's position that the UN Security Council must be asked for advance approval for the use of force in peacekeeping operations. Moscow is concerned that NATO may try to detain indicted war criminals in Bosnia without prior approval from the Kremlin. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council participants expressed satisfaction with the way municipal elections were carried out in Bosnia earlier this month and reiterated their determination to help bring peace and security to Bosnia through the Dayton peace accords.
 PLAVSIC POSTPONES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ...Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said 27 September that parliamentary elections in Republika Srpska have been postponed eight days until 23 November due to what she called technical reasons. Elections for the presidency of the Serb republic and for the Serb representative in Bosnia's tripartite presidency are set for 7 December. In an interview on Bosnian Serb TV, Plavsic accused former Bosnian Serb president and indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic of having withdrawn DM 49 million from Banja Luka banks last year. Plavsic rejected suggestions that the international community is hostile toward Republika Srpska, saying the NATO- led Stabilization Force "is not an occupier, it protects our borders, repairs our houses and schools, and defends peace".
 . . . WHILE SDS CHIDES HERThe ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Pale has so far ignored Plavsic's comments on Karadzic. But it objected to other remarks in her interview as "misleading", "unfair" and "arbitrary". SDS dismissed her accusations of corruption in the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry and denied her allegation that SDS had negotiated with the ruling Bosnian Croat party (HDZ) about exchanging territory between Republika Srpska and the Muslim- Croat Federation. SDS said "such statements are not naive insinuations but a criminal act of spreading untrue reports."
 EXPLOSION WRECKS INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OFFICEA nightime explosion on 27 September ripped through the offices of "Alternativa", the only opposition newspaper in the Bosnian Serb town of Doboj. The blast damaged several apartments and sparked a fire. There were no injuries. This was the second attack in recent weeks on the paper, which is owned and edited by retired Bosnian Serb army colonel Milovan Stankovic, an open supporter of Plavsic in her power struggle with pro-Kradzic hardliners.
 KOSOVARS DEMONSTRATE FOR RETURN OF SCHOOLSMore than 1,000 ethnic Albanian students and residents of the Kosovo towns of Pristina, Mitrovica, Pec, Prizren and Gnjilane demonstrated on 28 September to protest the intolerable situation in education in the province and demand the return of their school buildings. Serbian authorities shut down Albanian schools six years ago. Last year, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reached agreement with Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to reopen the schools but the accord was never implemented. The Students Union of the University of Pristina plans to launch peaceful protests in seven towns 1 October to force the reopening of the university. But Rugova told reporters that the protests should be postponed to a later date and staged only in Pristina. He called on Belgrade to show good will and implement the education agreement.
 FINANCE MINISTER INSISTS PYRAMID SCHEMES MUST BE CLOSEDAlbanian Finance Minister Arben Malaj said on his return from the IMF-World Bank meeting in Hong Kong that the extent of western aid to Albania depends on the elimination of pyramid schemes. He says international bankers criticized Albania at the Hong Kong meeting for tardiness in closing down the pyramid schemes. He added that Albania can expect "all necessary funds" for the country's reconstruction and development once the schemes have been eliminated. Meanwhile, former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky is to step down at the end of October as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's envoy for Albania. Vranitzky said 28. September he believed his task had been completed following elections in Albania in June and July.
 FORMER ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ENTERS POLITICSVirgil Magureanu, the former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, on 28 September said that "within two months" he will set up a "centrist" political party. In an interview with the private Pro FM radio, Magureanu said he hopes other centrist formations in the opposition will collaborate with his party with the purpose of taking over political power, the daily "Libertatea" reports on 29 September.
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CALLED OFFThe leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), Corneliu Vadim Tudor, on 26 September called off the planned alliance of his party with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). In response to PDSR leader Ion Iliescu's statement on Romanian television one day earlier, who called on Tudor and Socialist Labor Party vice-chairman Adrian Paunescu to "temperate" their extreme nationalist postures, Tudor said the PRM rejected Iliescu's "attempt to use the unification of the opposition to return at the head of the state." The PRM leader said that a "genuine national opposition" can only be formed around himself, Paunescu and Cluj mayor Gheorghe Funar, Radio Bucharest reported. The PDSR on 28 September signed an agreement with the anti-Hungarian "Vatra romaneasca" organization and several other small parties and organizations for setting up an anti-government alliance.
 WORLD BANK OFFICIAL ASSESSES ROMANIAN PERFORMANCEKenneth Lay, director of the World Bank's Southeastern Europe department, told a press conference in Bucharest on 26 September that the bank agrees with the "general line" of the policies pursued by the government, but "rigorous discussions" are going on concerning "detail implementation." He said that the pace of privatization in the banking and agricultural sectors is unsatisfactory and that corruption remains a serious problem. Lay also said there are doubts concerning the state budget's capability of supporting the costs arising from a draft law which grants foreign and local investors equal taxation cut benefits. The bank is to discuss the approval of two new installments of a $630 million loan, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, the government on 27 September approved a draft law extending the powers of local government to collect taxes for the purpose of self-administration.
 WORLD BANK LOAN TO BULGARIAWorld Bank officials and representatives of the Bulgarian government on 26 September initialled in Sofia an agreement for a $100 million loan to further support the country's economic reforms, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The agreement must be approved by the bank's board at its meeting on 30 October.
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON CIVIL SERVICEA draft law on public administration approved by the government on 27 September stipulates that former members of the communist nomenklatura will be prohibited from filling high positions in the civil service for a period of five years, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The interdiction will apply down to the level of former county party secretary. The draft also stipulates that one year after the law comes into effect, civil servants can no longer be dismissed following a change of government. In other news, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior on 26 September said that files of the former East German Stasi recently handed over to Bulgaria appear to contain no evidence that Bulgaria's secret service was involved in the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, Reuters reported.
[C] END NOTE
 RUSSIAN GOLD TO FEED KREMLIN POTTED PLANTSby John Helmer
The latest report from Russia's independent state auditor reveals the Kremlin has been busier selling gold abroad than it has told parliament. One reason for the sales also has been revealed. Kremlin officials have had urgent needs for holiday homes, German limousines, dishes to eat off, and potted plants for their offices.
According to details just released by the Accounting Chamber, Russian gold sales in 1995 and 1996 included sales of approximately 800,000 million rubles (160 million dollars) that were not covered by legislative authority.
The Chamber also has reported to the Duma that the state agency for trading precious metals, Almazjuvelirexport (Almaz), and the former State Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones (Komdragmet), unlawfully retained 99.2 million dollars in commissions on foreign sales. The money should have been returned to the federal treasury, the Chamber's report claims.
According to this audit, one-third of the cash generated by unauthorized sales of state gold was spent on perquisites for high officials. Among the items of government spending from gold sales uncovered in the Account Chamber report were: imported tableware and porcelain services for the Kremlin and White House (4 million dollars); purchase of homes for senior government officials (2 million dollars); reconstruction of the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theater, the Duma dacha at the Moscow lakeside resort of Serebryany Bor, and a presidential dacha outside Moscow (30 million dollars); and decoration of the Kremlin's winter garden (550,000 dollars). In addition, there was renovation of the presidential aircraft (2 million dollars), purchase of two VIP cars from Germany (1 million dollars); and computer and communication technologies for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2 million dollars).
The Accounting Chamber audit also calls into question official claims about the size and movement of state gold reserves, apart from the so-called monetary reserves which are held by Russia's Central Bank, and their level regularly monitored by the International Monetary Fund.
According to the government version, in January 1995 the state gold reserve amounted to 300 tons. However, according to the latest audited figures, actual reserves at the time amounted to 78.4 tons of gold, including 14 tons of ingots. In 1994, it is now reported, 140 tons of gold ingots were sold out of state stocks, while another 120 tons were swapped for short- term loans from Swiss banks. By January 1, 1997, the state precious metals fund (Goskhran) held 84 tons of gold, including 75 tons delivered from the mines, and nine tons smelted from the other gold objects.
In response to criticism of laxness in the government's gold stocking and trading policies, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree in March this year, ordering: "The money received for the sales of gold is to be used to finance the spending of the federal budget, first of all; to pay the gold- extracting organizations; and to pay for the precious metals and gemstones for the State fund of precious metals and gemstones."
Although not yet accounted for by the auditors, government spending this year has required an increase in planned gold sales. It is now reported -- without official confirmation -- that 45 tons of gold will be sold abroad by the end of 1997. Deputy Minister of Finance, Alexei Kudrin, has told a Moscow newspaper that 31 tons of gold have already been sold.
This compares with the government's original gold sale plan for the year, authorized in Yeltsin's March decree. That document authorized the sale of 31.2 tons of gold to the Bank for Foreign Trade to be sold for export. Another 54.8 tons of gold was ordered to the Central Bank for adding to monetary reserves.
John Helmer is a free-lance contributor to RFE/RL, based in Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty