|Monday, 27 March 2023|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 170, 97-12-02
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 170, 2 December 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIK OUTLAW LEADER KILLED IN SHOOT-OUTRezvon Sadirov, one of the leaders of a group that has taken several hostages since December 1996, was killed on 2 December, RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital reported. Sadirov and some 40 of his supporters were surrounded by Tajik government security forces in a Dushanbe suburb but refused to surrender. The total number of casualties in the shoot-out that followed has not yet been released. The Security Ministry said a large number of weapons and narcotics were found at the scene. Sadirov's gang kidnapped two French citizens on 18 November and demanded the release of Rezvon's brother, Bahrom, in exchange for the hostages. However, one of the hostages was killed on 30 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). BP
 TURKMENISTAN EXTENDS OIL, GAS TENDERThe Turkmen government has extended the date for bids to explore and develop hydrocarbons in the country's section of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 1 December. The deadline was originally the end of November, but owing to "large number of applicants," the authorities have decided to continue accepting proposals until 15 February 1998. BP
 GEORGIAN TERRORISM TRIAL SUSPENDEDThe trial of Jaba Ioseliani and 14 members of his Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation opened in Tbilisi on 1 December amid massive security precautions. The proceedings were suspended almost immediately after the defendants loudly protested having to sit in steel cages. The defendants face charges of organizing the August 1995 assassination attempt against then parliamentary chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, banditry, and the illegal possession of arms and drugs. Ioseliani denounced the proceedings as a "show trial", while Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio broadcast that he is sure all legal and democratic norms will be observed, according to ITAR- TASS. LF
 GEORGIA'S ARMENIAN POPULATION PLEDGES LOYALTYDzhavakhk, the organization representing Georgia's Armenian population, has issued a statement expressing its support for the Georgian government's planned measures to improve social and economic conditions in those areas of southern Georgia with a majority Armenian population, Caucasus Press reported on 1 December. Several Georgian politicians have accused Dzhavakhk of campaigning for territorial autonomy. LF
 AZERBAIJANI TERRORISM SUSPECT EXTRADITED TO BAKURussian law enforcement agencies on 29 November extradited to Azerbaijan 30- year-old Azer Aslanov, who is charged with planting a bomb that exploded in the Baku metro in July 1994 and killed 13 people. Aslanov, who was taken prisoner by Armenians in January 1994 while serving in the Azerbaijani army, was commissioned by the Armenian security service to plant the Baku bomb, according to Turan, citing the Azerbaijani Prosecutor- General's Office. In February 1997, Azerbaijani Security Minister Namik Abbasov announced that his ministry had arrested the man responsible for an earlier Baku metro bombing. That suspect was also said to have been recruited and trained by the Armenian secret service. Armenia denied those allegations. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON POLITICAL SITUATIONHeidar Aliev on 29 November said the political situation in Azerbaijan is "more stable than ever before" and affirmed that democratic processes "are irreversible and will continue to gather strength," Interfax and Turan reported. But Aliev also charged that unnamed members of the government are trying to distort the leadership's policies. Saying it is unacceptable for opposition parties to maintain armed formations, Aliev condemned unnamed opposition figures for supplying information about human rights violations and prison conditions in Azerbaijan to international organizations, many of which he claimed are "financed by Armenians." Aliev was speaking at a meeting to mark the fifth anniversary of the creation of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party. LF
 PLANS TO GUARD CAUCASUS RAILWAY, PIPELINEGeorgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan will create a joint battalion to protect the Transcaucasian transport corridor, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksandr Kuzmuk told journalists in Kyiv on 1 December. Kuzmuk and his Georgian counterpart, Vardiko Nadibaidze, had agreed on jointly protecting the railroad through Abkhazia during Kuzmuk's recent visit to Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). Caucasus Press on 1 December cited the independent Azerbaijani news agency ANS as reporting that if construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline proceeds, U.S. reconnaissance aircraft currently stationed at Turkey's Incirlik air base will be deployed to protect the pipeline under an agreement between Turkey, the U.S., and Britain. LF
 ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS HOLD CONGRESSAddressing the 33rd congress of the Armenian Communist Party in Yerevan on 29-30 November, party first secretary Sergei Badalyan argued that the "so- called reforms" conducted by the country's present leadership have led to deadlock, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 December. He predicted that "sooner or later" the Communists will return to power. Badalyan advocated resolving the Karabakh conflict within the framework of a revived union of former Soviet republics on the basis of the right of the region's Armenian population to self-determination. Badalyan and the other six communist parliamentary deputies had met on 27 November with Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan to discuss the country's social and economic situation and constitutional reform, ITAR-TASS reported. Five leading Communists were expelled from the party in November for having joined the Union of Socialist Forces. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CROATIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SCORE LOCAL ELECTION VICTORYA coalition led by the Social Democrats has swept the 30 November elections in Primorsko-Goranska County, which includes Rijeka. The coalition appears set to take 29 out of 41 seats in the county legislature, while supporters of President Franjo Tudjman are likely to receive eight and the Istrian Democratic Assembly three, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb on 1 December. The Social Democrats and their allies are also ahead in a number of municipal elections in the same region. Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan said in Rijeka that his party wants national parliamentary elections as soon as possible, "Novi List" reported. PM
 CROATIAN UNIFORMS FOR SLAVONIAN POLICELaw enforcement officers in eastern Slavonia began wearing Croatian police uniforms on 1 December, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. The Croatian Interior Ministry is slated to assume full control of security forces from the UN temporary administration in the region by 15 December. A two-year process of reintegrating the last Serb-held enclave of Croatia is slated to end in January. Meanwhile in Karlovac County in central Croatia, some 4,050 Serbs have returned to their homes from Serbia and eastern Slavonia since the end of the fighting in 1995, "Vjesnik" reported on 2 December. PM
 UNION LEADER BLASTS CROATIAN VATBoris Kunst, president of the 250,000-strong Workers Trade Union, said in Zagreb on 1 December that the value-added tax due to go into effect in January will raise food prices by almost 5 percent and widen the already pronounced gap between rich and poor. A group of independent trade unions concluded in a recent study that the average family's food costs will rise by 11 percent. Most Croats struggle to make ends meet on an average monthly income of $400. The economy is plagued by rampant corruption and a housing shortage. PM
 SOLANA WANTS "MORE MOBILE" PEACEKEEPERSNATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told the Paris daily "Le Monde" of 1 December that "after SFOR's [mandate runs out in June 1998], the presence of more mobile, flexible troops will still be necessary in Bosnia, but it is premature to speak in terms of numbers and duty." News agencies reported from Brussels on 2 December that NATO's 16 defense ministers have reached a consensus on options for a future peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Details are not yet available, however. PM
 NEW GOVERNMENT FOR MOSTAR COUNTYThe Mostar County assembly on 1 December elected Zeljko Obradovic of the Croatian Democratic Community county governor. Fatima Leho, who represents the Muslim-led Coalition for a United Bosnia and Herzegovina, is his deputy, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. The allocation of offices in county and municipal governmental institutions in Mostar is carefully balanced between Croats and Muslims. PM
 MAJOR EUROPEAN LOAN FOR BOSNIARepresentatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced in Sarajevo on 1 December that the EBRD has approved a $18 million loan to help rebuild Bosnia's power grid, much of which was destroyed in the war. Work is slated to be carried out both in the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation and in the Republika Srpska. Bosnia was a major producer of electric power in the former Yugoslavia. PM
 ALBANIA'S MILO SAYS KOSOVO AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUEAlbanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told the Pristina daily "Koha Ditore" of 1 December that "Kosovo has become an international problem whether Belgrade likes it or not." He added that Serbia could best demonstrate good will by implementing "a peaceful, political solution" to the Kosovo question. Serbia maintains that Kosovo is a purely domestic affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). The Albanian opposition and many Kosovars suspect that the Albanian government has agreed to accept the Serbian point of view in order to promote good relations between Tirana and Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 1997). Meanwhile in Brussels on 1 December, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova called for an international protectorate for Kosovo. Rugova added that the province must be completely demilitarized, "Nasa Borba" wrote. PM
 ALBANIANS RESIST DEPORTATION FROM ITALYMore than 100 Albanian refugees in Brindisi launched a hunger strike on 1 December to protest Italian plans to repatriate them over the next few weeks. Some 5,000 Albanians remain in camps in the Puglia region, which the Italian authorities say they will close as soon as possible. Up to 17,000 Albanians fled to Italy during the anarchy that gripped their country in the spring. Some have since returned home, and many more live illegally throughout Italy. PM
 UN WARNS ALBANIA ON AIDSThe UN sponsored a seminar in Tirana on 1 December to mark World AIDS Day and warn of the threat that AIDS poses to Europe's poorest country. Participants blamed the government and conservative social attitudes for widespread ignorance about AIDS and how it is spread. Prostitution, migration, and drugs are the main risk factors in Albania, participants added. The UN and the Albanian government are jointly sponsoring an AIDS- awareness program. The first case of AIDS was reported in 1993, and six people have died as a result of the immune deficiency syndrome. Some 32 people are registered as HIV-positive. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES SELF-TRUSTIn a speech delivered in Alba Iulia on Romanian National Day (1 December), Emil Constantinescu said the country is now democratic and hence "everything depends on ourselves." He said that if mistakes are made, "we must stop blaming them on the international situation, on geopolitics, or on the alleged [misunderstanding of others] due to a lack of communication." He said the battle against poverty depends on the success of the economic reforms and "now that we are again at a crossroads, we must trust in ourselves." For the first time since the overthrow of communism, a military parade was staged in Alba Iulia to mark National Day. MS
 MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST BUDGET PROVISIONSThe Constitutional Court on 1 December ruled that two provisions of the budget approved by the parliament on 25 November are illegal. One provision states that the government is to issue regulations establishing when judges are entitled to receive bank loans. According to the other provision, 50 percent of the fines imposed by courts will be used for court maintenance costs. The court ruled that both provisions contravened the law on the status of judges, which stipulates the state grant justices receive free housing for six months or interest-free loans for accommodation purposes, BASA-press reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON POLITICAL SYSTEMPetru Lucinschi on 1 December repeated his belief that Moldova must opt for a full presidential system or a full parliamentary system. He said the present, semi- presidential system hinders the promotion of reforms. He also noted that political struggles preceding the 1998 parliamentary elections "heat the atmosphere in our society and have a negative impact on the development of the spirit of entrepreneurship at the local level," BASA- press reported. MS
 BULGARIA TO TEAR DOWN RED ARMY MONUMENTS?Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev on 1 December told a conference that "monuments of the Soviet army in the center of [the capital] must be replaced by monuments commemorating the victims of communism, " an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. In other news, the government on 1 December announced that the Bulgarian ambassador to Canada will sign a new international convention banning landmines at a 3-4 December conference in Ottawa. Romania is sending Foreign Minister Adrian Severin to sign the convention. MS
[C] END NOTE
 THE FALL OF VACLAV KLAUSby Breffni O'Rourke
Months of political unease in the Czech Republic have ended dramatically with the resignation of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and his coalition government.
Klaus stepped down early on 30 November amid allegations that his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) improperly accepted more than $200,000 in donations that may have had an influence over privatization decisions.
The sudden fall of Klaus's long-troubled three-party coalition had an immediate impact on the financial markets. On 1 December, the Czech crown dropped sharply against the German mark, and analysts say they expect further losses during the week. The currency was already weakened as it became clear that strains inside the government were reaching breaking point. Similarly, the Prague stock market suffered heavy losses at the start of trading on 1 December.
The fall of Klaus, who is seen as the architect of his country's transition to free enterprise, was precipitated from within the ODS. Two senior members, Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and former Interior Minister Jan Ruml, chose a moment when Klaus was absent from Prague to demand his resignation. Supporters of Klaus accused Ruml and Pilip of plotting the premier's overthrow. President Vaclav Havel then called for Klaus to resign, saying the donation scandal was the straw that broke the camel's back. The president also argued that the Klaus government had exhausted its conceptual potential, alluding to the political and economic lethargy into which the Czech Republic has sunk following the crisis of confidence in the crown in last May.
Before then, the country was regarded as a model among the transition economies, and Klaus appeared to be successfully implementing broad economic restructuring without causing the pain common in other transition economies. But Klaus failed to realize the importance of creating a proper regulatory framework to govern the restructuring process. Corruption and mismanagement became widespread, large-scale privatization lost momentum, and foreign investment dried up. Analysts say that since May, the Klaus government has been living on borrowed time.
The leftist opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), who are riding high in public opinion polls, have called for new elections. But Havel has resisted that call, noting that he is not bound to call such a vote until other possibilities have been exhausted. Commenting that the country is already at a virtual standstill, he added that elections would hold it frozen for another six months.
The ruling coalition partners--the ODS, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Christian Democrats--have agreed with Havel that the present government will remain in power temporarily until the ODS holds a special congress to sort out its internal troubles. Scheduled to begin on 13 December, that gathering will determine whether the coalition partners can continue their cohabitation or will have to clear the way for early elections, which would likely result in the CSSD forming a new government, possibly in coalition with the Christian Democrats.
Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux has already said that if the ODS congress re-elects Klaus as party chairman, new elections will seem the only way out of the crisis. Klaus has already signaled that he may stand for re- election as party chairman, although he stressed he will not be a member of the next government.
Klaus has also said that the main job of the temporary government is to avoid economic chaos. All the major parties--government and opposition-- have agreed that the current uncertainty must not be allowed to undermine Czech efforts to enter the EU and NATO.
The crisis has already had an impact on the privatization process, however. The coalition says privatization will continue on track, but Finance Minister Pilip has announced that several privatization decisions will be reviewed in the light of the allegations of undue influence within the ODS on that process.
The CSSD, meanwhile, has called for a complete halt to privatization until a new government takes over. Analysts say that if the CSSD were to come to power through new elections, no dramatic reversals of present policies should be expected. But they worry that a leftist government would probably run a bigger budget deficit and soften the fight against inflation. The CSSD, which has accused the present center-right coalition of starving the state sector, would also be less likely to push hard on privatization.
Regardless of which government will be in power, it would be wrong to consider the fall of Klaus as a cataclysm for the Czech Republic. As Havel pointed out, the present government's resignation creates scope for Czechs to think about a different government, one with renewed energy and dynamism.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty