|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 150, 97-10-31
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 150, 31 October 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT RETURNS TO BAKUAbulfaz Elchibey, who fled Baku during the June 1993 insurrection, returned to the Azerbaijani capital on 30 October from his native village of Keleki in Nakhichevan. Elchibey, who is head of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front, told journalists he plans to unite the opposition and to "restore and develop" democracy. Popular Front Deputy Chairman Asim Molla-Zade said in an interview with Reuters that Elchibey plans to contend the October 1998 presidential elections. Turan reported that the Azerbaijani authorities approved Elchibey's return and provided a plane for him to fly from Nakhichevan to Baku. The 1993 insurrection paved the way for the return to power of former Communist Party First Secretary Heidar Aliev.
 ARMENIA DENIES PKK OFFICE OPENED IN YEREVANArmenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 30 October denied a Turkish press report that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has opened an information office in Yerevan. Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the Armenian authorities have never cooperated with the PKK. He said the Turkish report is "groundless and provocative and does not help the establishment of cooperation in our region." The "Turkish Daily News" on 30 October cited the Anatolia news agency as reporting that the PKK has opened an office in Yerevan after the Georgian government refused to allow it to open one in Tbilisi
 TURKISH PRESIDENT STRESSES NO OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIASpeaking in Kars on 30 October at a ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the city's capture by Kemalist Turkish forces, Suleyman Demirel again said Turkey will not open a frontier crossing with Armenia until the Karabakh conflict is resolved, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 31 October. (Under the Treaty of Sevres of August 1920, Van, Mush, Bitlis, Erzrum, Kars, and Ardahan were formally ceded to Armenia.) Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" that Turkey should open a frontier crossing with Armenia. He also argued that as a member of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, Turkey should establish diplomatic relations with Armenia without stipulating conditions in order to expedite a solution to the Karabakh conflict.
 DASHNAK MEMBERS TO MEET ARMENIAN PRESIDENTApo Boghikian , a senior member of the banned Dashnak party (HHD), told journalists in Yerevan on 30 October that HHD representatives will meet with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in early November. Ter- Petrossyan issued a decree in December 1994 suspending the HHD's Armenia organization on the grounds that it sponsored a secret terrorist organization. On 29 October, the HHD was allowed to retake control of its offices in Yerevan and other towns, fueling hopes that the ban on its operations will soon be lifted. But on 29 October, parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan told visiting Russian journalists that political parties financed from abroad should be banned in Armenia, according to ARMENPRESS. The HHD falls into that category.
 PROTESTS IN KAZAKHSTANThe opposition movement Azat began picketing the Kazakh parliament on 31 October in solidarity with the Achisay Polymetal plant workers who are still prevented by police from continuing their protest march to Almaty, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kazakh capital reported. Parliamentary deputy Esenbay Belgibayev told RFE/RL that the government has allocated 150 million tenges ($2 million) to the Achisay plant to pay the wage arrears that the protest marchers are demanding. Employees of the Balhash-Stroy State Construction company also started demanding back wages since1995. In Janatas (Taraz Oblast), workers from the Karatau Plant pitched tents in the central square to express solidarity with the Achisay workers and to demand a total of 515 million tenges in wage arrears. Meanwhile workers at the Aqtau Nuclear Power station in Western Kazakhstan requested permission from the local administration to organize a protest in Aqtau to demand their overdue salaries, which have not been paid since 1994.
 RUSSIAN-KAZAKH DEFENSE AGREEMENT SIGNEDRussian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Kazakh counterpart, Muhtar Altynbaev, signed agreements in Almaty on 30 October on Russian compensation to Kazakhstan for leasing defense facilities and on the removal of toxic missile fuel from the Sary Shagan testing site, ITAR-TASS reported. Sergeev later told journalists that Moscow may give Kazakhstan additional weaponry, including two mine-sweepers and two patrol boats. It has already agreed to hand over 73 military aircraft. In response to an RFE/RL correspondent's question, Sergeev said Russia is reducing the number of its bases in Kazakhstan but will not leave that country, which he said is Russia's most reliable partner in the region.
 UZBEK-TAJIK STANDOFF CONTINUESAs talks between Uzbek and Tajik government representatives continued in Tashkent, Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 30 October denied charges by Gaffar Mirzoyev, the head of the Tajik presidential guard, that Uzbekistan is aiding and abetting anti-government forces in Tajikistan, Interfax reported. Karimov termed the current fighting in Tajikistan "not just a political struggle for power but a struggle between rival clans" to shore up President Imomali Rakhmonov's hold on power. Karimov further affirmed that "Uzbeks will never fight against Tajiks." Also on 30 October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said Russia is concerned by the recent reported clashes on the Tajik-Uzbek frontier. He reaffirmed Moscow's readiness to contribute to the implementation of the May Tajik peace agreement.
 REBEL COLONEL VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHTINGColonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev on 30 October denied claims by Mirzoyev that his forces were routed after attacking the presidential guard near Tursunzade, 75 kilometers west of Dushanbe. Khudoiberdiev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 31 October that his men have repelled an attack by government forces. He added that he is prepared to continue fighting for 10 years, if necessary, to put an end to the killings of his supporters in Tajikistan and to win the right to return and live peacefully. The Russian newspaper also reported growing disagreement between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition over the ongoing repatriation from Afghanistan of UTO fighters.
 TURKMEN-UKRAINIAN GAS AGREEMENTMeeting in Ashgabat on 30 October, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Holubchenko and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov agreed that Turkmenistan will supply Ukraine with 3 billion cubic meters of gas next year and 20 billion cubic meters in 1998, Interfax reported. In exchange, Ukraine will help Turkmenistan build chemical plants and a bridge across the Amudarya River. The estimated cost of the latter project is $80 million. The question of how Ukraine will settle its outstanding $1.5 billion debts for earlier gas deliveries was not resolved.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CLINTON WEIGHS OPTIONS ON BOSNIADeputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in Seattle on 30 October that President Bill Clinton is carefully considering whether to retain a military presence in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate expires in June 1998. He argued that Washington will do whatever is necessary to ensure the success of the Dayton agreements. Talbott stressed that peace in Bosnia is in the "vital interests of the United States" and that the international community will keep a civilian presence there in any case. Meanwhile in the U.S. capital, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and a high-level NATO delegation discussed Bosnian policy options with Clinton's advisers.
 WESTENDORP THREATENS: "BYE-BYE MR. KRAJISNIK."Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 30 October that he will fire Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, unless Krajisnik becomes more cooperative within two months. Westendorp called Krajisnik one of the biggest obstacles to the peace process and to reaching agreements on joint documents, symbols, and institutions. "If Krajisnik doesn't deliver [agreements on those issues], then I will say bye-bye Mr. Krajisnik."
 BOSNIA'S ELECTRICITY PROBLEMS MOUNTZaim Karamehmedovic, the head of Bosnia's main power company, told "Oslobodjenje" of 30 October that there was a blackout the previous day at a thermoelectric plant in Tuzla. He added that Bosnia cannot produce enough power to meet its winter needs and called upon citizens to save energy. Karamehmedovic said power deliveries to Croatia and Slovenia have been suspended. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said Bosnia's trade imbalance with Slovenia is "disturbing" and must be remedied. In the first eight months of 1997, Bosnia exported $17 million worth of goods to Slovenia but imported $181 million worth.
 BULATOVIC FACTION TO BOYCOTT MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT?Supporters of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic told an RFE/RL correspondent in Cetinje on 30 October that their faction in parliament may boycott future sessions of the legislature following a decision by parliamentary committees to validate the recent presidential election results and dismiss Bulatovic's charges of electoral fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). Some opposition party spokesmen, for their part, said they want the parliament to investigate Bulatovic's responsibility for the current political instability.
 SERBIAN POLICE BEAT KOSOVAR STUDENTSA spokesman for ethnic Albanian student protesters said on 30 October that demonstrations will continue the next week. He charged that Serbian police beat 16 students in Pec alone during the 29 October protests. Local Albanian-language media noted other incidents of police violence against demonstrators across the province, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina.
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION TRIES TO FIND JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATEOpposition leaders continued discussions on 30 October in an effort to find a joint candidate for the 7 December Serbian presidential elections. Names most frequently mentioned include banker Dragoslav Avramovic, former communist party chief Ivan Stambolic, and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic, "Danas" reported from Belgrade on 31 October.
 SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT EXPECTED TO BEAT SEVEN CHALLENGERSThe Constitutional Court ruled in Ljubljana on 30 October that Milan Kucan can run for a third term in the 23 November presidential elections. Public opinion polls suggest that none of his seven challengers constitutes a serious challenge and that the president will receive at least 50 percent of the votes in the first round of balloting.
 SLAVONIAN BORDER TO OPEN FOR ALL SAINTS' DAYWilliam Walker, the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, said in Zagreb on 30 October that the borders of the last Serb-held enclave in Croatia will be open on 1 November. Visits to graves of family and friends on All Saints' Day is an important Roman Catholic custom in much of Central Europe. During the war, Croats were unable to visit graves in Serb- controlled areas. Also in Zagreb, the government announced that progress is being made on the reintegration of eastern Slavonia. The statement added there are more Serbs returning to their old homes outside eastern Slavonia than there are Croats going back to their former residences inside the enclave.
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT RESTORES COMMUNIST-ERA HOLIDAYThe legislature on 30 October reinstated 29 November as Albania's Liberation Day to mark the end of the German occupation during World War II, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The previous Democratic-dominated government had changed the date of the holiday to 28 November, arguing that the last German soldier left Shkoder on 28 November 1944 and that former communist dictator Enver Hoxha had chosen the 29th simply because Yugoslavia, which was his wartime patron, also marked 29 November.
 ITALIAN, ALBANIAN PROSECUTORS TO OPEN JOINT OFFICESItalian senior anti-mafia prosecutor Pierre Luigi Vigna and Albanian Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi agreed in Tirana on 29 October to open joint offices in their capital cities to coordinate the fight against organized crime, ATSH reported. In other news, Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe envoy Franz Vranitzky opened an OSCE office in Shkoder on 30 October, "Shekulli" reported. It is the organization's first permanent office in Albania outside Tirana.
 ROMANIAN 'REVOLUTIONARIES' END HUNGER STRIKEThe 1989 "revolutionaries" who began a hunger strike in Bucharest 23 days ago have ended their fast, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 30 October. The move follows a government proposal that the parliament will not start debating amendments to the law on benefits to the "revolutionaries" until a special commission has reviewed the cases of all 9,000 who enjoyed those benefits until recently. The "revolutionaries" will be represented on that commission, which will also include a deputy, a senator, a member of the Prosecutor-General's Office, and a high Interior Ministry official. In other news, some 5,000 members of the National Syndicate Bloc demonstrated in Bucharest against the government's economic policies.
 BUCHAREST STOCK EXCHANGE LIMITS FLUCTUATIONSThe Bucharest Stock Exchange on 30 October narrowed the limits within which stock prices can fluctuate on a single day. The move came after the shares of six firms fell by more than 20 percent amidst the turmoil on the world equity markets. For companies on the exchange's first tier, trading in futures will be suspended if prices rise or fall by more than 20 percent. For those on the second tier, the limit is 35 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, opposition senators on 30 October introduced a motion criticizing the government's policies in the agricultural sector. If the motion is approved by the parliament, the government must implement its recommendations.
 IMF CONCERNED ABOUT MOLDOVAN REFORMSDavid Owen, currently in charge of Moldovan affairs within the IMF, and Mark Horton, the permanent IMF representative in Moldova, met with President Petru Lucinschi and parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan on 30 October. A statement issued later said Horton expressed concern about "the parliament's tendency to revise some provisions in the memoranda signed between Moldova and international finance organizations." He referred specifically to the parliament's 24 October decision to suspend raising energy prices" which, he said, may negatively impact the budget, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. An IMF fact-finding mission has been in Moldova over the past two weeks.
 CIUBUC SAYS 'GOVERNMENT CRISIS NOT IMMINENT.'In an interview with BASA-press on 30 October, Moldovan Premier Ion Ciubuc said a government crisis is "not imminent," provided the parliament " lets the cabinet take care of the country's urgent problems." Ciubuc was responding to an initiative by Socialist Unity-Edinstvo deputies to collect signatures in favor of a government reshuffle. The premier said such a move would only lead to "destabilization." He added that the government has to fulfill its international obligations, saying it is "inconceivable" that the first installment of an IMF $35 million credit was accepted and then the agreed raising of energy prices suspended. Ciubuc commented the parliament is playing a "populist game" that may deprive Moldova of energy resources.
 WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN FOR BULGARIAThe World Bank on 30 October approved a $100 million loan to Bulgaria to help cover Sofia's balance of payments shortfall, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. World Bank project manager Hans Moritz said Bulgaria has paid "a high price for the slow implementation of structural reforms" in the past. He added that the government must now act decisively to "restore confidence and promote economic stability." The loan will be used to reduce losses of and improve financial discipline in state-owned enterprises and to accelerate privatization of the public sector and of banks.
[C] END NOTE
 RUSSIAN DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET DEBATEby Floriana Fossato
Despite a plea by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia's State Duma decided not to debate the 1998 budget by 1 November. Analysts say the move suggests the Duma, in which Communists and their allies have a virtual majority, may be seeking more concessions from the Kremlin and the government. President Boris Yeltsin recently promised regular consultations and roundtable discussions with parliamentary and opposition figures. In return, the Communists withdrew a vote of no confidence from the Duma's agenda.
Some of the Communists' political opponents believe other motives lay behind the Duma's decision to delay the budget vote. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-government "Our Home is Russia" faction, commented that the Communist leadership "did not want to show to its electorate that it is voting in favor of the budget ahead of the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution [on 7 November]."
On 28 October, the Duma Council scheduled the 1998 budget debate for 12-14 November. The same day, the government approved the guidelines of a compromise 1998 draft budget drawn up by a trilateral commission of government, Duma, and Federation Council representatives. The revised budget meets deputies' demands for increased funding of the military, agriculture, and social programs by raising estimated revenues by some 6 percent to more than 360 billion new rubles (some $62 billion) from the original projection of $340 billion rubles. Projected expenditures are also increased.
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais commented that the new revenues projection "strains the limits of common sense" and cannot be increased further. Despite the government's poor performance in improving tax collection, the main source of additional revenues is expected to come from taxes and the rescheduling of tax arrears.
Also on 28 October, the government approved 10 draft taxation laws, which, according to Chernomyrdin "will ensure the fulfillment of the revenue part of the 1998 budget." The debate in November will begin with consideration of the new draft tax legislation.
Yeltsin's concessions to the opposition included regular, high-level roundtable talks on political, economic, and social issues as well as Duma supervisory boards on two nationwide television channels and two hours of programs weekly on Russian Television devoted to parliamentary procedures. Yeltsin and other top Russian politicians, both from the government and the opposition, have said the roundtable talks, which are scheduled to begin in November, will signal a new era of cooperation, rather than confrontation, between the Duma and the government.
But analysts say those talks are mainly a public relations exercise and will be equally advantageous both for the Kremlin and the Communist opposition. Accused by many critics in Russia and abroad of being unable to work with the Duma in a productive way, Yeltsin obviously stands to gain by showing his ability to draw the Communists to the negotiating table. And for Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, the roundtable is important because it displays his party's "political weight."
Visiting St. Petersburg recently to mark the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, Zyuganov told a group of supporters that "today is a new era, and we must avoid such revolutionary uprisings." That message appeared to be directed mainly at critics within his own party and its allies, including Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, the co-leader of the Popular Power faction. Baburin has accused the Communist leadership of giving in to the Kremlin. He commented that by failing to carry out the "no- confidence threat," the Communist opposition "lost political initiative" and showed "it is now in deep crisis." Baburin has also suggested that the Communists may begin to lose popularity in the regions.
The results of recent gubernatorial elections suggest that good relations with the Kremlin can be advantageous for some regional candidates. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev--a former top Communist Party member, turned Yeltsin ally--was recently re-elected as governor of Orel Oblast with more than 94 percent of the vote.
Stroev, who ruled Orel in Soviet times, was one of the first conservative regional bosses to choose cooperation with Yeltsin, instead of confrontation. He formally quit the Communist Party after he was elected Orel governor for the first time in 1993. According to RFE/RL correspondents in the oblast, local media displayed a strong pro-Stroev bias during the election campaign. Mostly subsidized by the regional administration, local media outlets publicized numerous appeals from citizens to vote for Stroev.
Stroev's landslide victory came one week after Aman Tuleev, one of Yeltsin's prominent former foes, was elected governor of Kemerovo Oblast. As chairman of Kemerovo's legislature, and later as a presidential candidate, Tuleev often strongly criticized Yeltsin and members of the government. He softened his criticism when Yeltsin appointed him to the cabinet in August 1996.
After the president appointed Tuleev governor of Kemerovo in July 1997, some observers expected Tuleev to become an opposition voice in the Federation Council. But in televised comments broadcast during a visit to Paris on 28 October, Tuleev argued that Russia's political situation has "stabilized" and that "more cooperation" is needed between Moscow and the regions "in order to attract much needed investment" in regional economies.
The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty