|Wednesday, 5 August 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 159, 97-11-13
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 159, 13 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN CELEBRATES FIRST "EARLY OIL"...President Heidar Aliev on 12 November opened a valve on the Chirag 1 platform,120 km east of Baku, to allow the first "early oil" to flow into the underwater pipeline that will transport it to the Sangachala terminal. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, and international oil company officials were all present at the opening ceremony. Aliev said the beginning of production at Chirag "marks the beginning of a new era not only in our country but for the entire Caspian region," Turan reported. Nemtsov said the venture, in which Russia's LUKoil has a 10 percent stake, forms the basis for "integration and economic rapprochement between Russia and Azerbaijan." He thanked Aliev for helping resolve the dispute with Chechnya over oil tariffs, which had threatened to delay commissioning of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. LF
 ...AS COMPETITION FOR MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE INTENSIFIESMeanwhile, guests at the Baku ceremony lobbied for their respective proposed routes for the Main Export Pipeline, which will export the far larger volumes of Caspian oil that will come on stream in 2004. Nemtsov said there is a "100 percent chance" that the pipeline will run north through the Russian Federation to Novorossisk, which he said is the cheapest variant, Interfax reported. Yilmaz said Turkey "fully supports" the Baku-Ceyhan route, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Pena also expressed support for the Baku-Ceyhan route, hinting that the U.S. would welcome routing this pipeline via Armenia once the Karabakh conflict is resolved. But Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who met with Aliev in Baku on 12 November on his way home from Kazakhstan, told CAUCASUS PRESS he is sure the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be routed via Supsa. LF
 PROTEST AT IRANIAN EMBASSY IN BAKUPolice on 12 November quickly dispersed some 50 members of Azerbaijan's Turkish National Youth Movement who were staging a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Baku, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Azerbaijani capital reported. Vugar Beyturan, the movement's leader, said the demonstration was intended to protest Iranian President Mohammad Khattami's failure to fulfill his campaign promise to grant greater autonomy to all ethnic groups in Iran, including the estimated 25 million ethnic Azeris. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS REFERENDUM ON KARABAKH PEACE PLANSeveral dozen Armenian opposition parties and NGOs have demanded that the latest Karabakh peace plan proposed by the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe be submitted to a referendum in both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 12 November. They condemned President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's "defeatist" approach to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accusing him of trying to restore Azerbaijan's sovereignty over the disputed region. LF
 ARMENIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH KARABAKH WAR VETERANSRobert Kocharyan on 11 November met with members of the Yerkrapahner parliamentary faction to discuss recent developments over Nagorno-Karabakh, "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" reported. That faction is composed largely of Karabakh war veterans. The deputies urged Yerevan not to disregard the 1992 Armenian parliament decision that bars the government from signing any international treaty referring to Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. They also said the conflict is a "pan-national issue and should be settled by the whole nation." LF
 PHONE LINKS RESTORED BETWEEN ABKHAZIA, RUSSIAInternational telephone links between Sukhumi and Sochi have been restored, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 12 November. In mid-April, the Georgian authorities had re-routed all international telephone links from Abkhazia via Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997). Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Jinjolia told RIA-Novosti that agreement on the restoration of telephone lines to Russia was reached during bilateral talks in Tbilisi. LF
 PROSECUTOR ABDUCTED IN TSKHINVALIGuram Babutsidze, an ethnic Georgian who is prosecutor in the capital of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, was abducted by unidentified gunmen near Tskhinvali on 12 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian President Shevardnadze and his South Ossetian counterpart, Lyudwig Chibirov, are scheduled to meet on 14 November to assess the prospects for signing an accord formalizing relations between the former autonomous region and the Georgian government. LF
 PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE TAJIK PEACE PROCESSMore than 1,000 fighters belonging to United Tajik Opposition (UTO) were officially registered in the Garm and Tavil-Dara areas on 12 November, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. But those fighters have not yet been disarmed, a condition for their later integration into the regular Tajik armed forces. Nor has construction been completed on the barracks in the regions where they will be relocated. Another group of 400 UTO fighters is waiting to be transported out of Afghanistan, but there are reportedly no funds available for that operation. Meanwhile, the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission complains that the UTO has handed over more POWs (over 200) than the government (58). BP
 RFE/RL TURKMEN STRINGER FREEDYovshan Annakurbanov has been freed from police detention, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat on 12 November. Annakurbanov was taken into custody as he attempted to board a plane in Ashgabat bound for Prague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997). Police later claimed he was in possession of a computer disc with material from opposition groups in Turkmenistan. BP
 RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER PUTS DAMPER ON HILLARY CLINTON'S TRIPThe daily "Russkii Telegraf" on 12 November quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton's trip to Central Asia is a "subtle attempt...to infiltrate the zone of Russia's traditional interests." The article also questioned Clinton's message on women's rights given the area's "local traditions and peculiarities." Meanwhile, Clinton was in Bishkek on 12 November to opening the American University of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Clinton also announced a $2 million donation to Kyrgyzstan for medical purposes. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 U.S. SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS CANNOT JOIN PROGRAMThe Bosnian Serb army (VRS) is ineligible to participate in the U.S. sponsored "Train and Equip," a Pentagon spokesman said in Washington on 12 November. He said the leadership of the Republika Srpska has not shown itself sufficiently committed to the Dayton peace agreements to qualify for the program, in which the Croats and Muslims participate. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and some VRS commanders want to take part in the program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). PM
 MUSLIM WARLORDS COMMITTED WAR CRIMESThe Sarajevo gang led by Musan "Caco" Topalovic murdered dozens of civilians and members of the Bosnian army just because they were Serbs, the Sarajevo magazine "Dani" reported in its November issue. The magazine said that top Muslim civilian and military authorities knew of the atrocities but kept silent because Caco's gang and others like it led the fight against the Serbian besiegers of Sarajevo during 1992-1993. Government troops and police cracked down on the warlords in 1993 and killed Caco, who nonetheless received a hero's funeral after the war. In October, "Dani" reported on Muslim atrocities against Croats near Mostar. The magazine editors told Reuters on 12 November that all sides must admit their war crimes if there is ever to be peace and reconciliation in Bosnia. They added, however, that the Muslim leadership has not reacted to their reports. PM
 SERBIA'S SESELJ SLAMS U.S.Vojislav Seselj, the presidential candidate of the Serbian Radical Party and wartime paramilitary leader, said in Belgrade on 12 November that "it was not enough for the Americans to destroy former Yugoslavia. Now they have started to make Montenegro secede from Serbia." Many U.S. Congressmen have openly supported Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in his political fight with backers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Djukanovic, now president-elect of Montenegro, is slated to visit the U.S. soon. PM
 WOMAN CHARGED WITH SLANDERING MILOSEVICSnezana Velickovic from Nis appeared before magistrates in Belgrade on 12 November on charges of committing "gross slander" against Milosevic. She allegedly said in public and before police that he is a "thief and conman" who is responsible for Yugoslavia's poverty and corruption. Velickovic denies the charges. PM
 CROATIA PUT ON NOTICE OVER SLAVONIAWilliam Walker, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, said in Erdut on 12 November that "how Croatia...completes [its] reintegration process will most likely determine whether and how quickly it takes its rightful place in its European home and in the international community of nations." Eastern Slavonia is the last Croatian territory under rebel Serb control. The UN is slated to return the area to Croatia in January 1998. The UN began a transitional administration there under an agreement signed in Erdut on 12 November 1995. PM
 CROATIAN UPPER HOUSE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGESThe upper house of the Croatian parliament on 12 November endorsed a package of constitutional amendments recently proposed by President Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). A key provision prohibits any union with other states or the setting up of a new Yugoslavia. The lower house is to vote on the amendments within the next week, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM
 SLOVENIA TO BAN EX-COMMUNISTS FROM OFFICE?President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 12 November that a proposed law to ban former Communists from office is unnecessary. He said the names of those individuals who violated human rights under the old regime are well known and consequently there is no need to punish all former communist officials for the crimes of a few. Opposition leaders Janez Jansa and Lojze Peterle recently introduced the motion in the parliament. They said that Slovenia must break with its communist past. If passed, the bill would make Kucan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek ineligible to hold public office. The government has a parliamentary majority of only two votes. PM
 FREER TRAVEL BETWEEN HUNGARY, SLOVENIAInterior Ministers Mirko Bandelj of Slovenia and Gabor Kuncze of Hungary signed an agreement in Budapest on 12 November that will enable citizens of each country to visit the other with only their internal identity papers. The two ministers also agreed to better implement the rules set down in the EU's Schengen border control agreement along their common border. PM
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT CLASHThe Socialist Party's parliamentary majority on 12 November sharply criticized Socialist President Rexhep Meidani for returning a draft law that the legislature had approved two weeks earlier. The law sets up a commission to investigate the anarchy that gripped Albania between January and June. Meidani had argued that the legislation would give the commission too many powers, including some that legally belong to other government branches, "Koha Jone" reported. The parliament, nonetheless, reaffirmed the draft, albeit with an amendment stating that the commission does not have the right to order arrests. FS
 NO SOLUTION TO ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW...The Senate convenes on 13 November to debate government regulations issued earlier this year amending the 1996 education law. The regulations provided for teaching history and geography in the mother tongue, but a commission of the Senate headed by a National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) deputy overruled those provisions. The PNTCD leadership on 12 November endorsed the commission's changes, a move Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said is "unacceptable." Earlier, Marko had commented in an interview on state television that the UDMR would accept a compromise whereby only the teaching of history in Romanian would be compulsory. MS
 ....WHILE NATIONALISTS MOVE ANTI-HUNGARIAN MINORITY MOTION IN PARLIAMENTThe Party of Romanian National Unity on 12 November moved a motion to debate the situation of ethnic Romanians in Harghita and Covasna Counties, where Hungarians constitute a majority, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. The motion says Romanians in those counties are in danger of losing their national identity as a result of the policies pursued by the UDMR. In addition, it calls for launching a "national program" to prevent assimilation of the Romanians living there. The motion, which is also backed by the Greater Romania Party, the Alliance for Romania, and one deputy from the Ecologist Party, is to be debated on 17 November. MS
 ROMANIA TO SIGN CONVENTION ON LAND-MINE BANThe Supreme Council of National Defense, which is chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, has recommended that the government sign the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 12 November. The council said signing the convention "will be an important step toward the integration of our country in European and Euro-Atlantic communities." MS
 MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES SAY SALE OF FIGHTER PLANES 'ILLEGAL.'Nicolae Andronic, the deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, and deputies from the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo parliamentary faction, have said the sale of the Moldovan MiG-29C planes to the U.S. was "illegal," BASA-press and Reuters reported on 12 November. Andronic said the government broke the privatization law, which bars the sale of Defense Ministry property without the prior approval of the legislature. But Andrei Diaconu, the deputy chairman of the parliament, noted that the law came into force in September, while the MiG deal was signed in July. MS
 MOLDOVAN INFLATION RATE CONTINUES TO DROPInflation in October stood at 8.2 percent, Infotag reported, quoting National Bank chairman Leonid Talmaci on 12 November. The bank is now predicting a 1997 inflation rate of 13 percent, up 3 percent on its forecast in January, Infotag reported. Inflation dropped from 2,700 percent in 1993 to 104.5 percent in 1994, 23.8 percent in 1995, and 15.1 percent in 1996. MS
 BULGARIAN ARMY CONSCRIPTS TO SERVE FEWER MONTHSThe parliament on 12 November passed a law reducing the length of service for military conscripts from 18 to 12 months, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. University students will serve only nine months. In other news, President Petar Stoyanov on 12 November said the new currency board is "critical for ending postcommunist illusions." In an interview with the Japanese daily "Nikkei" ahead of his upcoming visit to Tokyo, Stoyanov said the currency board, set up in July, is a helpful instrument for stabilizing the country's finances and thereby allowing economic reform to be expedited. MS
[C] END NOTE
 END OF THE BEGINNING FOR POLAND'S NEW GOVERNMENTby Jan de Weydenthal
Seven weeks after winning the parliamentary elections, Poland's center- right parties have given a green light to their new government.
Voting on a 11 November confidence motion, the Sejm backed Jerzy Buzek's government by 260 to 173 with two abstentions. That vote largely reflected the political divisions within the lower house, where the coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) confronts the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party.
Before the vote, Buzek outlined the government program, promising to promote economic growth, combat inflation, and reduce the budget- and current-account deficit. Other government priorities are to complete privatization of state enterprises within four years, restitute property seized by Communist governments, overhaul the health and pension systems, and increase funding of educational institutions.
Commenting on the address, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that it contains an impressive list of promises but that they are no more than that. He noted that Buzek failed to explain how his government will pay for what it is pledging to accomplish.
Leszek Miller, the head of the postcommunist parliamentary opposition, was even more critical, saying Buzek's speech was "too general" and included "a lot of contradictions." Miller added that his group will closely watch the government's actions.
They will not be the only ones to do so. Dozens of AWS deputies have already indicated that they will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to support their own government (31 of them have even signed a statement to that effect). Most belong to small, but radical Christian parties that formed an alliance with the Solidarity trade union for electoral purposes. Moreover, several AWS nationalist deputies failed to show up for the confidence vote to protest their leadership's decision to give important government posts to the more liberal and secular UW.
There is little doubt that such dissent will continue, putting a strain on the AWS's political cohesion and testing the authority of its leaders. In particular, this may affect the role of Marian Krzaklewski, Solidarity's chairman and a leading figure in the AWS's electoral campaign. Krzaklewski declined any direct role in the government, opting for chairmanship of the AWS parliamentary caucus instead.
Krzaklewski told a new conference in Gdansk on 11 November that he is about to take steps to register the Solidarity-based AWS as a new political party rooted in Christian values. A few weeks earlier, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa also registered a new party with the same political profile.
It is generally assumed that Krzaklewski is already positioning himself for the 2000 presidential election. years time. Possible conflicts within the AWS itself and eventual tension between the AWS caucus and the government will challenge his leadership qualities. His failure to impose and maintain discipline could easily cripple any future presidential plans.
The parliamentary confidence vote completed the process of formally establishing the AWS-UW coalition government, which, owing to considerable program differences between the two partners, was both difficult and protracted. Those differences are unlikely to disappear. The key question for Polish politics now is how and when they could affect the operations of the government itself.
The 11 November vote marked merely the end of the beginning for the current coalition. Now a different, but also difficult, kind of business is about to start; namely, the business of governing.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty