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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 191, 98-01-08

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 191, 8 January 1998


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TENSIONS IN DUSHANBE
  • [02] RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DELEGATION IN GEORGIA
  • [03] HOSTAGE-TAKING IN ABKHAZIA

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [04] KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY ACTIVE IN MACEDONIA?
  • [05] SKOPJE, TIRANA DOUBT UCK'S CLAIM
  • [06] U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVO, MONTENEGRO
  • [07] NATO DISCUSSES KOSOVO, BOSNIA
  • [08] CALL FOR SERB-SERB DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO
  • [09] DRASKOVIC READY TO ENTER SERBIAN GOVERNMENT?
  • [10] NEW TV STATION FOR BOSNIAN SERBS HARD-LINERS?
  • [11] CROATIAN UNIONS SLAM VAT
  • [12] GERMANY SAYS SLOVENIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP CERTAIN
  • [13] ALBANIA'S NANO SEEKS TO TACKLE CRIME
  • [14] ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CHARGES DEMOCRATS WITH COUP ATTEMPT
  • [15] SOCIALISTS SET TO LIFT BERISHA'S IMMUNITY?
  • [16] ANOTHER COALITION CRISIS IN ROMANIA
  • [17] ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER EXPECTS "ZERO GROWTH."
  • [18] BULGARIA CRACKS DOWN ON MARIJUANA GROWERS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [19] A DEFINING ELECTION

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TENSIONS IN DUSHANBE

    RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital report that on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 6 January, members of the militia sought to detain an armed oppositionist who refused to give up his weapon. He was subsequently disarmed by a larger group of militia and detained until an armed oppositionist group appeared at the militia station and successfully demanded his release. On 7 January, a similar incident occurred at a bazaar, also on the outskirts of the capital, when two opposition members refused to hand over their weapons. A brief skirmish broke out, and shots were fired. The militia left the scene and returned with tanks and armored vehicles. Correspondents report that the standoff continued on 8 January. BP

    [02] RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DELEGATION IN GEORGIA

    Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense, held talks with ranking Georgian defense officials in Tbilisi on 5-8 January. Topics discussed included the possible transfer to Georgia of former Soviet military property in that country and of several vessels from the Black Sea fleet. Last month, Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze demanded that Russia pay Georgia compensation for weaponry worth $10 billion that had been illegally removed from Georgia in 1992-1993. Ivashov told Interfax that his demand is "unreasonable." He also inspected the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, which he called a key link in the CIS air defense system, according to Turan. On 7 January, Nadibaidze and Ivashov signed an agreement on military cooperation in 1998, but no details were released, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [03] HOSTAGE-TAKING IN ABKHAZIA

    Unidentified gunmen abducted some 30 ethnic Georgians from a bus in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 7 January, ITAR- TASS and AFP reported. The gunmen subsequently released all female passengers. The Georgian government has asked the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia to help locate the hostages, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. Also on 7 January, Abkhaz security officials defused a 10 kilogram bomb at a power station in Gulripsh Raion, according to Interfax. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [04] KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY ACTIVE IN MACEDONIA?

    A statement bearing the name of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has claimed responsibility for recent acts of violence in Podujevo in Kosovo and in Gostivar, Prilep, and Kumanovo in Macedonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina on 7 January. If the statement is authentic and the claim true, the three incidents in Macedonia would constitute the UCK's first acts of violence outside Kosovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 January 1998). Western Macedonia has a large ethnic Albanian population who enjoy more cultural and political rights than the Kosovars but whose political organizations want increased autonomy and Albanian-language education. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said last August that the Macedonian Albanian politicians want to secede from his republic. Tensions were high in Gostivar and Tetovo for much of last year because of a dispute over the ethnic Albanians' right to fly the Albanian flag. PM

    [05] SKOPJE, TIRANA DOUBT UCK'S CLAIM

    Macedonian officials told state-run television in Skopje on 7 January that the UCK is not active in Macedonia and that the statement is a propaganda ploy aimed at making the UCK seem more powerful than it is. Macedonian Albanian political leaders said that they have no ties to the UCK. Albanian state television reported from Tirana that there are illegal organizations among the Macedonian Albanians but that the UCK is not one of them. PM

    [06] U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVO, MONTENEGRO

    Robert Gelbard, President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington that the U.S. is greatly concerned that tensions in Kosovo and in Montenegro could lead to violence. He added that Washington may find it necessary to formally declare the UCK a terrorist organization. Gelbard said he will underscore U.S. concerns in person when he visits Podgorica, Belgrade, and Pristina within the next week. He also warned Croatia to dismantle the remaining institutions of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, which was supposed to have been abolished under the Dayton agreement. PM

    [07] NATO DISCUSSES KOSOVO, BOSNIA

    General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, told NATO ambassadors in Brussels on 7 January that Bosnia needs more democracy and less corruption. He particularly condemned the continuing influence of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, "Nasa Borba" reported. In a declaration, the ambassadors expressed "great concern" about the situation in Kosovo. Representatives of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary took part in the weekly gathering of ambassadors for the first time. PM

    [08] CALL FOR SERB-SERB DIALOGUE ON KOSOVO

    Vladika Artemije, a Serbian Orthodox Church leader, and Momcilo Trajkovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement said in Pristina on 7 January that representatives of all Serbian political parties should meet in the Serbian capital on 16 January to discuss Kosovo, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. PM

    [09] DRASKOVIC READY TO ENTER SERBIAN GOVERNMENT?

    Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), is negotiating with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia about SPO participation in the new Serbian government, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 8 January. Draskovic's former allies in the Zajedno (Together) coalition have accused him of participating in last year's Serbian elections in return for some seats in the government. PM

    [10] NEW TV STATION FOR BOSNIAN SERBS HARD-LINERS?

    The Pale-based hard-line faction has given up hopes of regaining control of Bosnian Serb state-run television (RTS) and plans to launch a private station called S Channel, the Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" wrote on 7 January. NATO forces took control of the hard-liners' RTS transmitters last fall after Pale-based RTS continued to air programs that NATO said propagated ethnic hatred in violation of the Dayton agreement. PM

    [11] CROATIAN UNIONS SLAM VAT

    The League of Independent Labor Unions said in a statement on 7 January that the new 22 percent valued-added tax, which came into force on 1 January, has already forced up the cost of living by 7-8 percent in its first week of existence, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM

    [12] GERMANY SAYS SLOVENIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP CERTAIN

    German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe told top Slovenian officials in Ljubljana on 7 January that they can count on NATO membership as soon as possible. He added that Germany will train Slovenian officers and help modernize the Slovenian military. PM

    [13] ALBANIA'S NANO SEEKS TO TACKLE CRIME

    Prime Minister Fatos Nano sacked Tirana police chief Pashk Tusha on 7 January and replaced him with Fadil Canaj, a former top Justice Ministry official. Nano also demoted deputy Interior Minister Sokol Bare to the rank of national police chief and appointed Fatmir Hakani, the head of the national criminal police, to the crime-ridden town of Fier to replace local police chief Agron Rodha. The appointments are an attempt to deal with rising crime and a large number of recent incidents in which gangsters have killed policemen, "Koha Jone" reported. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana that there is a growing impatience in Tirana and other parts of Albania over the continued widespread lawlessness. Fier, Saranda, and Vlora are the main crime centers, and gangsters control many roads throughout southern Albania at night, the "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 8 January. FS

    [14] ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT CHARGES DEMOCRATS WITH COUP ATTEMPT

    Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 7 January that the current crime wave is part of former President Sali Berisha's strategy for a coup d'etat, "Shekulli" reported. Social Democratic Party Secretary- General Dhori Kule charged that the Democratic Party is trying to "create a fictitious state- within-a-state" by calling on Democratic mayors to organize "general elections on the basis of communities and municipalities." The Democrats are demanding new general elections to oust the governing coalition, which was elected last June. FS

    [15] SOCIALISTS SET TO LIFT BERISHA'S IMMUNITY?

    Socialist Party legislators, meeting on 7 January in Tirana, clashed over whether to take steps leading to the arrest of former President Berisha, who is also the leader of the Democratic Party. Legislator Spartak Braho said that Berisha is behind a "politically motivated crime wave" and that "without Berisha's arrest nothing will be regulated in this country," "Koha Jone" reported. The daily added that no decision was taken but commented that the debate "recalled meetings of [Democratic] legislators in 1993, when they prepared for the arrest of [current Premier and then opposition leader] Fatos Nano." FS

    [16] ANOTHER COALITION CRISIS IN ROMANIA

    Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 7 January rejected a call by the Standing Bureau of the Democratic Party to reinstate Transportation Minister Traian Basescu. Ciorbea was backed by all other coalition members, except the Democrats. Basescu had been forced to tender his resignation on 29 December after refusing to retract criticism of what he called the government's inability to reach decisions after "useless 18-hours discussions." Ciorbea said it would be "illegal...and morally and politically wrong" to reinstate Basescu. He called on the Democrats to nominate another candidate for the portfolio. The Standing Bureau also said the government had been distracted from its main task of reform by engaging in disputes over issues of minor importance and warned that Romania may miss its chance to become a viable NATO candidate for the "second wave" of membership if reform is not implemented, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [17] ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER EXPECTS "ZERO GROWTH."

    Daniel Daianu on 7 January told journalists that the hardships triggered by the country's economic reform are not over and that Romanians would still have to "tighten their belts" in 1998. Daianu said GDP had decreased in 1996 by 6 percent and that the economy could "at best" achieve "zero growth" in 1998. He noted that inflation last year reached some 150 percent, partly owing to compensation for those laid off and the losses to the state budget caused by "the rotten Romanian banking system." Daianu predicted that the budget deficit this year will not exceed 4.5 percent of GDP, in accordance with the recommendations of international financial institutions, and that inflation will be around 30 percent. MS

    [18] BULGARIA CRACKS DOWN ON MARIJUANA GROWERS

    Bulgarian police are cracking down on farmers who grow marijuana instead of other cash crops. A senior police officer quoted by Reuters on 7 January said more and more hemp is being grown around the country. He added that drug barons encourage the farmers to plant the crop, telling them they use the fiber for canvas or rope. In 1997, police burned some 20 hectares of land planted with cannabis, which had been intended for local consumption. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [19] A DEFINING ELECTION

    by Paul Goble

    The victory of Valdas Adamkus over Arturas Paulauskas in the 4 January runoff of the Lithuanian presidential election is likely to help define the future not only of that country but of other former communist states as well.

    Such a conclusion has relatively little to do with the biographical differences of the two, which have drawn so much media comment: a Lithuanian who spent much of his life as an American official and one who was the scion of the Soviet-era nomenklatura. Rather, it reflects three, possibly less obvious factors that seem certain to become more important both in Lithuania and in other countries across this region.

    First, this election was in many ways the first genuinely post-independence vote in Lithuania. The electorate voted not out of concern over whether Lithuania would continue to exist but rather to determine what kind of country it would be. Both Lithuania media commentary and the pattern of voting testifies to this.

    Vytautas Landsbergis, the man who led Lithuania to the recovery of independence, finished third in the first round and thus was shut out from the runoff. Part of the reason for his poor showing was that he continued to cast the issue in terms of Lithuania's survival rather than Lithuania's future development. Unfortunately for him, at least this time around, ever more Lithuanians appear to have decided that they now have the unaccustomed luxury to think about what kind of country Lithuania will be rather than whether it will survive.

    Second, the voting demonstrated that in Lithuania, the old communist party and state nomenklatura have the power to mobilize a significant portion of the population in elections but an even greater power to alienate voters. In the first round, Paulauskas led with 45 percent of the vote, far ahead of Adamkus and Landsbergis. But in the second round, Paulauskas was unable to pick up the five additional percentage points that he needed to win.

    Throughout the campaign, Paulauskas cast himself as a youthful man of the future. But public opinion polls and the actual voting suggest that most Lithuanians were more impressed by the people he had around him-namely, individuals associated with Lithuania's Soviet-era past. Part of the reason for this was a poster put up during the closing days of the campaign. It showed Paulauskas with some of those officials standing behind him, directly asking whether he was a man of the future or one of the past.

    Not surprisingly, those former officials did all they could to elect Paulauskas, a man far more familiar to them than Adamkus. In the first round, they were able to deliver an impressive plurality for him. But their success led to their defeat in the second, as ever more people reached the conclusion that they did not want to take the chance that voting for Paulauskas might entail.

    The Paulauskas campaign only increased that feeling when his campaign manager used the same word to describe Lithuanian Americans, such as Adamkus, that Lithuanians have used in the past to describe the Soviet occupiers. That, too, backfired, probably less because it offended the way in which Lithuanians think about the West than because it recalled an ideological style that they have sought so hard to escape.

    Third, the election gives Lithuania five more years to escape from its communist past, to develop under the leadership of someone steeped in democracy and free markets and committed to broadening and deepening its ties to the West. Unless something untoward happens, the next presidential vote in Lithuania will not take place until 2003. By that time, Lithuania will have had 12 years of post-communist independence, a period that should allow the country to turn the corner.

    This is not to say that everything is now settled and over in Lithuania. Many problems remain. Some are hangovers from the past; others may be self- inflicted, even by the new president-elect.

    Indeed, his relative lack of experience in Lithuania may make it difficult for him to understand everything going on there and thus make it easier for some to avoid changing the ways in which they do business. But the presidential vote was a defining election, one that seems certain to lead Lithuania in a new direction. Moreover, it may even become a bellwether for similar elections across the former communist world.

    08-01-98


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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