|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 192, 98-01-09
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 192, 9 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ABKHAZIA DENIES TAKING GEORGIANS HOSTAGEAbkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Adleiba on 8 January said that reports of some 30 ethnic Georgians having been taken hostage in Abkhazia's Gali Raion the previous day are an "invention by Georgian journalists." Adleiba said that 30 Georgian bus passengers were detained by Abkhaz police conducting a routine passport check and that nine men who did not have adequate identification were taken into custody. He said the men would be released on 8 January after paying a fine, but it is unclear whether they have been freed. Also on 8 January, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba criticized his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, for a statement in his New Year's address. Ardzinba said Shevardnadze's espousal of a Bosnian-style operation to impose peace in Abkhazia "is an attempt to erode the negotiating process," Interfax reported. LF
 ARMENIAN SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES KARABAKHThe Armenian Security Council convened on 7-8 January to discuss the ongoing Karabakh peace process, Armen Press reported. President Levon Ter- Petrossyan chaired the meeting, which was also attended by the president, parliamentary speaker, prime minister, and defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF
 ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST ARRESTEDThe Committee to Protect Journalists on 8 January wrote to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressing concern at the arrest on 22 December of Savalan Mamedov, the editor of the weekly newspaper "Istintag." Mamedov has been charged with libel for allegedly making "false and dishonoring comments" about a former local prosecutor, Nazim Tagiev. Mamedov had claimed that Tagiev had cooperated with Alikram Gumbatov, who was sentenced to death in February 1996 on charges of treason and attempting to stage a coup d'etat. LF
 LAWYERS IN AZERBAIJANI POLITICAL TRIAL THREATENEDTwo lawyers representing Rasim Agaev, former press secretary to ex- President Ayaz Mutalibov, told journalists in Baku on 8 January that they have been charged by the Ministry of National Security with violating the confidentiality of the investigation into their client's case. The two lawyers denied the charge, which is based on an article by Social Democratic Party leader Zardusht Ali- Zade published in the opposition newspaper "Istiqlal." The lawyers claimed that a Security Ministry official had threatened them with imprisonment in the hope of pressuring them to abandon their defense of Agaev, who was arrested in November 1996 on charges of treason. LF
 IRANIAN OFFICIAL ISSUES WARNING ON CASPIANDeputy Oil Minister Ali Majidi on 8 January cautioned against the construction of under-water Caspian oil and gas pipelines before a new agreement is reached among the five littoral states on the status of the Caspian, according to IRNA, as monitored by the BBC. Majidi predicted that it will take a "long time" to reach such an agreement. LF
 STAND OFF CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTANThe situation remains tense on the outskirts of Dushanbe as an unregistered opposition force loyal to Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov continues to demand that the police release three of their members who were detained on 7 January, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the Tajik capital. Sanginov's group has established a checkpoint on the road outside eastern Dushanbe, and the government has moved armored vehicles into the area. The government and the United Tajik Opposition, with which Sanginov's group is not affiliated, are attempting to resolve the conflict peacefully. BP
 RUSSIAN-TAJIK TRADE GROWS IN 1997Trade between Russia and Tajikistan more than doubled in 1997, compared with the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. Last year's figure was put at $324.5 million, compared with $153.4 million in 1996. Tajikistan exports to Russia were mainly agricultural produce but also cotton, tobacco, and aluminum. Russian exports to the Central Asian state include mineral fertilizers and energy supplies. BP
 KAZAKH PARTIES TO COOPERATE TO PROMOTE REFORMSeventeen parties and movements in favor of reform have signed a memorandum on cooperation with the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. That move is seen as a response to opposition groups that do not support Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his reforms. Among the 17 groups are Democratic and People's Cooperative Parties, the Russian Community, the Federation Union Council, and the Muslim Women's Union. The opposition movement AZAT criticized the memorandum as containing leftist slogans and commented that the signatory parties and movements are in any case known to be loyal to Nazarbayev, according to RFE/RL correspondents. BP
 KAZAKHS RESPOND TO CHINESE COMPLAINTSKazakh border guard officials said recent complaints by the Chinese Embassy in Almaty that Chinese citizens are targeted by criminals and are even victims of illegal actions by the militia and border guards are "groundless" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1997), RFE/RL correspondents reported. The Border Guard Service referred to one instance, cited by the Chinese Embassy, in which a Chinese citizen on the Almaty-Urumqi train was allegedly attacked by a Kazakh border guard. According to the service, the border guard was attacked by Chinese conductors aboard the train. BP
 TURKMENISTAN RECEIVES CREDIT RATINGThe London- based rating agency "Fitch Ibca" has given Turkmenistan a B credit rating for long- and short-term hard-currency loans, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. The rating was based on Turkmenistan's hard-currency reserves of $1 billion and the $1.5 billion owed to the country by CIS states, mainly Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. The rating is sufficient for further loans to Turkmenistan from international organizations to develop the nation's industries, notably the development and export of natural gas deposits. BP
 FORMER KYRGYZ SECURITY MINISTER DIESAnarbek Bakayev, who held the security portfolio from 1991 to 1996, died on 8 January after failing to regain consciousness following an October 1996 automobile crash. Bakayev was appointed security minister immediately after the August 1991 attempted coup in Moscow. He was 48 years old. BP
 UKRAINE PROHIBITS RUSSIAN FLIGHT TO TRANSDNIESTERThe Ukrainian authorities prohibited on 8 January a military transport plane to overfly Ukrainian territory between the Russian Federation and Tiraspol because Moscow has not paid for the use of the air corridor, the Russian command in Moldova's Transdniester region told ITAR-TASS on 8 January. Russian military flights have been using this route on a daily basis for some time, but the Russian authorities have indicated they would use regular commercial flights in the future. PG
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY WARNS MACEDONIASpokesmen for the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) told the Pristina daily "Koha Ditore" of 9 January that the UCK carried out three recent bombings in Macedonia. The spokesmen said the bombings were a warning to the Macedonian police not to cooperate with their Serbian counterparts in a joint crackdown against the UCK. Macedonian, Kosovar, and Albanian officials have expressed doubt about the validity of a statement by the UCK on 7 January claiming responsibility for the Macedonian bombings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1998). PM
 ARMY TO STAY OUT OF MONTENEGRIN IMBROGLIO?Montenegrin government officials told Reuters on 8 January that Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic "exchanged New Year greetings with...[reform-minded President-elect Milo] Djukanovic [and that] the general also exchanged cards with [representatives of the pro-Djukanovic] Montenegrin police. This formality indicates that the army is not willing to back Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in pressuring Montenegro" (see also "End Note" below). PM
 SUPPORT FOR SERBIAN TEACHERS IN KOSOVOSerbian Education Minister Jovo Todorovic said in Belgrade on 8 January that he will increase Serbian teachers' salaries in Kosovo by 20 percent in recognition of the "difficult conditions under which the teachers work." He added, however, that the resumption of Albanian-language education there is a "political question on which I have no authority to act," "Nasa Borba" reported. PM
 CONTACT GROUP TELLS BELGRADE TO ACT ON KOSOVO...Representatives of the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Russia urged the Serbian authorities in a statement released in Washington on 8 January to "make concrete progress" in improving the political and human rights situations in Kosovo. The statement said that such progress is a prerequisite for federal Yugoslavia's return to active participation in the international community. The Contact Group said that it favors neither independence for Kosovo nor a continuation of the status quo but rather an improvement in Kosovo's status within Yugoslavia. PM
 ...AND ISSUES WARNING ON BOSNIAIn another statement issued in Washington on 8 January, the Contact Group told the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats that "further temporizing will not be tolerated." The representatives of the five countries urged the Bosnian Serbs to form a new government quickly and to broadcast parliamentary sessions live. The text called for an end to delays in appointing joint ambassadors and in implementing the results of last year's local elections, in which refugees were able to elect officials for towns from which they had been "ethnically cleansed." PM
 KLEIN BACKS PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTERJacques Klein, one of the international community's chief representatives in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 8 January that the international community urges the Bosnian Serbs to support Mladen Ivanic, who is Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's nominee for prime minister (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 7 January 1998). Klein added that the international community "considers Ivanic as an exceptional character.... In this critical time for the Serbian people, those of good will who are real patriots have to step forward and assume their historic role." Hard-line supporters of Radovan Karadzic have rejected Ivanic's proposed national unity government of technocrats. PM
 PEACEKEEPERS TO ENFORCE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT?A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 8 January that peacekeepers and international police will block any attempts to interfere with public transportation across the border between the Republika Srpska and the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation. The announcement follows a recent incident in which Bosnian Serb officials arrested two bus drivers from Sarajevo who were driving on a scheduled trip to Banja Luka, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. The spokesman added that Klein has sent a letter to the federal and Bosnian Serb transportation ministers to demand the restoration of a regular bus service between the two cities. PM
 SARAJEVO GETS NEW MAYORThe Sarajevo City Council elected Rasim Gacanovic of the leading Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) mayor on 8 January. The council also chose Ante Zelic of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) as his deputy. The elections end a 22 month-long stalemate caused by the SDA's refusal to share power with several other parties. The opposition parties finally agreed to support Gacanovic because of his reputation as a pragmatist. PM
 TUDJMAN PLEDGES MORE DEMOCRACYCroatian President Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 8 January that the return of eastern Slavonia to full Croatian control on 15 January will mean Croatia can concentrate its efforts on building democracy and improving its economy. He was speaking at a ceremony to honor William Dale Montgomery, the new U.S. ambassador to Croatia, who said that Croatia must become fully democratic. Montgomery added that "Croatia is absolutely critical for two of the major foreign policy objectives of the United States--firstly, the full implementation of the Dayton agreement and secondly, the establishment of long-term peace and stability in this region." PM
 THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR ALBANIAN DEMOCRAT'S FUNERALSome 5,000 people on 8 January attended the funeral in central Tirana of Abdyl Matoshi, a policeman and former deputy national customs chief, who was recently killed in Tropoja by unknown gunmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998). The funeral took on the aspect of a Democratic Party political rally, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The Democrats blame the Socialist Party and the government for the killing of Matoshi. Two other Democrats who were killed the same day in Tropoja were buried in their respective hometowns. FS
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION ANNOUNCES "ANTI-CRIME PACT."The five-party governing coalition announced on 8 January a number of measures to combat the growing crime wave, "Dita Informacion" reported. The parties pledged to pass new laws giving the judiciary and police greater powers to fight organized crime and terrorism. They also agreed to develop a strategy to disarm the civilian population, which is still in possession of an estimated 600,000-800,000 illegal weapons. The parties promised to form a permanent parliamentary commission to fight organized crime. Further measures are designed to help families of policemen who lost their lives in duty and to combat corruption within the judiciary and police. FS
 ROMANIAN COALITION'S FUTURE HANGS IN BALANCEIn a televised address on 8 January, Petre Roman, the leader of the Democratic Party, warned his coalition partners "not to play with fire," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Roman said his party wants neither the dismemberment of the coalition nor early elections, but he reproached his allies for treating the Democrats as an "annex" of the other parties. The coalition, Roman said, "will either be one of equal partners or will not be at all." Roman said the main differences go far beyond the "particular case of [dismissed Transportation Minister Traian] Basescu" and that the discussions scheduled to take place "in the next days" will show whether the partnership is still possible. In response, government spokesman Eugen Serbanescu said Premier Victor Ciorbea believes it is Roman, rather than the government, who "is playing with fire." MS
 EBRD PROVIDES LOAN FOR ROMANIAN PORTThe European Bank for Construction and Development on 8 January announced it will provide a $13 million loan for new grain-handling and storage facilities at Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported. The loan will be used for the construction of a sea-port terminal that will have a grain storage capacity of 100,000 tons and facilities for handling road and rail freight. MS
 MOLDOVA'S INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CREDIBILITY DWINDLESMoldova received international credits worth $227 million last year, according to a report by the Economy and Reform Ministry, cited by Radio Bucharest on 8 January. The World Bank lent Chisinau $129 million and the IMF $20 million. The fund's loans for 1997 were only one- quarter of the amount it granted Moldova in 1994. The reason for the reduced credit is Chisinau's failure to meet the fund's conditions on monetary, budgetary, and fiscal policies as well as on the country's external debt. Last year, Moldova also received international technical assistance worth $104 million. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER RELEASES TAPES ON 1997 CRISISIvan Kostov on 8 January released transcripts documenting a meeting of the former socialist government following the January 1997 mass demonstrations and the storming of the parliament by protesters. The transcripts reveal that former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov advocated the use of police force to break up the protests on 10 January. Videnov also discussed how reports by state and private media can be silenced and how the media was to be later blamed for instigating the protests. More than 300 people were hospitalized on the night of 10 January 1997, when police attacked the protesters demanding the resignation of the government. The release of the tapes comes two days ahead of a Socialist rally marking what the main opposition party says was a "black day for Bulgarian democracy", an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. MS
 BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN PARLEYS ON GAS DELIVERIESA delegation of the state-owned gas company Bulgargas began talks in Moscow on 8 January with Gazprom officials on energy imports for households and on the transit of Russian gas deliveries through Bulgaria to Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Vassil Filipov, the head of the Bulgarian delegation, said Gazprom's foreign trade subsidiary, Gazexport, has indicated its readiness to sign two contracts on 9 January. But Kiril Gegov, the deputy chairman of Bulgaria's State Energy Committee, refused to comment on that statement. MS
[C] END NOTE
 TENSIONS RISE IN MONTENEGRO AND KOSOVOby Patrick Moore
Policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have recently led to a dramatic rise in tensions in Montenegro and Kosovo. The question is whether the outcome will be violent.
Milosevic enters 1998 with a major political difficulty in Serbia out of the way. The victory of his ally Milan Milutinovic in last month's Serbian presidential vote ensures that the Serbian government will do Milosevic's bidding for the next several years. Although Milutinovic's ultra- nationalist opponent, Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, will continue to be a major figure in Serbian politics, the levers of power will be well out of his reach.
Three other potential sources of trouble for Milosevic nonetheless remain, beginning with the power struggle among the Bosnian Serbs. The hard-liners loyal to Radovan Karadzic are blocking attempts by Prime Minister- designate Mladen Ivanic--the nominee of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic -- to form a government of technocrats with all-party support.
It seems clear, however, that neither Bosnian Serb faction is strong enough to decisively defeat the other. The stalemate is likely to continue for some time, which will enable Milosevic to use the divide-and-rule tactics he has often applied with quarrelsome Serbian politicians in Croatia and Bosnia. Ivanic told RFE/RL recently that the current political in-fighting among the Bosnian Serbs reminds him very much of the debilitating political struggle among the Croatian Serbs shortly before the fall of the Republika Srpska Krajina in 1995.
The Yugoslav president faces a situation in his second trouble spot, Montenegro, that could pose a more direct threat to his power than does the imbroglio among the Bosnian Serbs. Montenegro and Serbia form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and an independent-minded Montenegrin government could undermine his plans to strengthen his presidential powers at the expense of the individual republics.
His ally in Podgorica, President Momir Bulatovic, lost the 19 October presidential vote to Milo Djukanovic. The new head of state wants autonomy from Belgrade and an end to international sanctions, which have crippled the tiny mountain republic's tourist and shipping industries. Djukanovic argues that Milosevic wants to run Montenegro like a colony and that his policies are responsible for the hated sanctions.
Milosevic seems unwilling to accept the result of the Montenegrin vote and has turned up the pressure on Djukanovic in the runup to the 15 January Montenegrin presidential inauguration. The pro-Milosevic media have sought to intimidate Djukanovic, whom they wrongly accuse of seeking outright independence for Montenegro. The Belgrade courts, for their part, have questioned the validity of the October vote.
More seriously, there have been strong suggestions from the Bulatovic camp that the former president's supporters may resort to violence rather than yield power to their rivals. Djukanovic and the pro-reform Montenegrin government expect Milosevic to use his time-honored tactic of bussing in well-paid, armed demonstrators from outside Montenegro to intimidate the new government or even to prevent it from taking office.
It is unclear, however, whether Milosevic is prepared to use violence to keep Bulatovic in office or whether he is simply trying to bully Djukanovic. The Belgrade daily "Nasa Borba" wrote on 7 January that Milosevic has accepted defeat and plans to name Bulatovic as Yugoslav foreign minister. But Djukanovic's allies in the Montenegrin government are taking the hard-liners' threats of violence seriously. The reformers have also promised to stage a referendum on independence if Milosevic tries to end Montenegro's constitutional equality with Serbia in the federation.
The third problem confronting Milosevic is Kosovo. He has kept the restive mainly ethnic Albanian province under tight police control since he abolished its autonomy in 1989. The moderate Albanian leadership under shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova, for its part, continues to advocate non-violence and seeks foreign support. Rugova, however, has achieved nothing in his quest to restore Kosovo's autonomy.
Over the past year, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), has become bolder in its attacks on government and police buildings, Serbian officials, and ethnic Albanians whom the UCK considers collaborators. Many observers report that the UCK has captured the imagination of many young Kosovars, who regard Rugova's policies as having reached a dead end.
The UCK, moreover, may have won political and military as well as psychological victories. On 28 November, some of its uniformed, armed members felt confident enough to deliver a political speech in public. On 4 January, the UCK issued a declaration saying that the armed struggle for the liberation of Kosovo and its unification with Albania has begun. And Belgrade's BETA news agency reported this week that the town of Srbica and some other areas are now firmly in UCK hands, at least under the cover of darkness.
There may be signs, however, that Milosevic is planning to intervene in Kosovo with massive force, as he did in Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia the following year. Some media reports suggest that the departure of Serbian police from Srbica and several other communities in Kosovo could be a prelude to an intervention by the Yugoslav army or by paramilitaries like Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as "Arkan." The military or Arkan might claim real or imagined UCK violence as a pretext for waging war on the local Albanian population and for conducting a policy of "ethnic cleansing."
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty