|Saturday, 11 July 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 16, 98-01-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 16, 26 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP RIFT DEEPENSDefense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian has again pledged support for Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan and his government, saying that Kocharyan's resignation is "impossible," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 January. Sarkisian charged that the Armenian Pan-National Movement stage- managed three recent attacks on senior officials as a pretext for demanding the government's resignation. He added that the three officials targeted had been warned in advance. But Deputy Interior Minister Major-General Artsrun Markaryan, who was wounded in a shooting on 21 January, refused to comment on Sarkisian's allegations, saying he does not want the attack on him to be exploited for political ends. National Security and Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian told the newspaper "02" on 24 January that the APNM's reaction to the shootings is aimed at destabilizing Armenia. LF
 ARMENIAN RULING PARTY MOVES TO STRENGTHEN ITS POSITIONAlso on 23 January, Defense Minister Sarkisian said the "Armenian armed forces will not intervene in the political struggle," ITAR- TASS and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The defense minister claimed that people whom he refused to identify had sought unsuccessfully to recruit the support of senior army commanders against the government. "Golos Armenii" quoted Khachik Stamboltsian, a former prominent APNM member, as claiming that the APNM is creating its own armed units to counter those loyal to Vazgen and Serzh Sarkisian. The newspaper added that weapons are being distributed to the movement's Yerevan branches. "Azg" reported that Mesrop Harutyunian, the editor of the official daily "Hayastani Hanrapetutytun," resigned on 23 January at the request of the National Assembly. LF
 NAGORNO-KARABAKH OFFICIALS RESPOND TO YEREVANZhanna Krikoryan, a spokeswoman for the government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has rejected criticism by Armenian Presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian as "unfounded," RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 23 January. Zurabian had told RFE/RL three days earlier that statements by Karabakh president Arkadii Ghukasyan in support of Armenian Premier Kocharyan constitute interference in Armenia's internal political affairs. Krikorian argued that neither Stepanakert nor Yerevan can be considered to have a monopoly on the unresolved Karabakh conflict. On 24 January, the NKR government issued an official statement condemning "irresponsible leaders" of the APNM for linking the recent shootings in Armenia to disagreement over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. The statement said the charges were "provocative" and intended to destabilize Armenia. It called on all Armenian politicians to be "guided by pan- national rather than parochial interests." LF
 STROEV IN YEREVAN...Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev met with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsian in Yerevan on 23 January, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Stroev later told journalists that talks focused on Nagorno- Karabakh and that Ter-Petrossyan had made proposals for gradually resolving the conflict, which the Armenian leader had asked to be passed on to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. Stroev expressed support for Ter- Petrossyan's insistence on resolving the Karabakh conflict through concessions. But he noted that rejection of such an approach by hard-liners within the Armenian leadership would not impact on Russian-Armenian relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter- Petrossyan affirmed that there are no outstanding problems in Russian- Armenian relations, but Stroev noted mutual concern that economic cooperation accords are not being fully implemented. LF
 ...AND BAKUKarabakh also figured prominently in Stroev's talks with President Aliev and parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov in Baku on 23- 24 January. Stroev said that Moscow continues to support a peaceful solution to the conflict and Azerbaijan's territorial integrity but warned against pressuring the conflict sides to take "hasty decisions." Stroev affirmed that Russian relations with all three Transcaucasian states are improving, but Aliev stressed that Russia's deliveries of arms to Armenia and the presence of Russian military bases in Armenia and Georgia are hindering an improvement in bilateral relations. Stroev assured Aliev that those bases "are not directed against Azerbaijan." Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma on 23 January voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying the Russian- Azerbaijani and Russian-Armenian treaties on friendship and cooperation, signed last July and August, respectively. LF
 KAZAKH UNIONS SAY GOVERNMENT FIGURES ARE WRONGThe Federation of Trade Unions claims the government's figures on unemployment and migration are grossly inaccurate, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. The official unemployment figure is 4 percent but the unions say 25-28 percent is more realistic. Despite government claims that emigration has slowed and is offset by immigration, the unions say that in the last nine months of 1997, 230,000 people left Kazakhstan while only 28,000 moved to the country, of whom most are ethnic Kazakhs. The unions have sent a letter to President Nazarbayev asking him to seek to rectify the social situation in the country. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MORE VIOLENT INCIDENTS IN KOSOVOTwo Serbian policemen were wounded when unidentified persons attacked their car in the Kosovar town of Malisevo on 24 January. Some 150 Serbian police then entered Malisevo, hitting passers-by and attacking some private homes belonging to Albanians. Four Albanians were wounded, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina on 25 January. Meanwhile in Grabanica on 24 January, unidentified persons threw a hand grenade at a policeman's home. On 22 January, masked gunmen killed Serbian local politician Desimir Vasic on the Srbica-Klina road. The gunmen prevented police from retrieving his body for some time, and the police were finally able to do so only with the help of helicopters and armored vehicles. The incidents appear to be part of a growing spiral of violence involving the Serbian police and the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army in areas west of Pristina. PM
 SERBIAN IMPATIENCE GROWSMayor of Zvecan Desko Petkovic told several thousand Serbs at Vasic's funeral on 25 January that "state agencies should take all legal measures to eradicate Albanian terrorism in Kosovo as soon as possible and to guarantee peace and safety to Serbs and Montenegrins." Meanwhile in Pristina, Serbian intellectuals, opposition politicians, and Orthodox Church leaders called for an end to violence and for an urgent dialogue between Serbs and Albanians. Speakers criticized Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, saying he has proved incapable of leading Serbia or solving any of its problems. And in Belgrade, the opposition Citizens' League of Serbia issued a declaration condemning the spread of "terrorism" in Kosovo. The league charged that the Milosevic leadership is fomenting "chaos" in Serbia in order to maintain its grip on power. PM
 ALBANIA CONCERNED OVER KOSOVOThe Albanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 23 January condemning police repression and the use of force by the Serbian authorities in Kosovo. The statement added that Serbian behavior violates internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights, state-run television reported. And in Pristina, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova called for international "intervention" and unspecified measures to prevent an escalation in Kosovo. PM
 MORE POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN MONTENEGRO?A bomb destroyed the car of the commander of special police forces in Podgorica on 24 January, and a second bomb blew up the car of a private individual. A police official told the daily "Pobjeda" that "there are indications that the two blasts might be the beginning of acts of sabotage as a continuation of the political conflict in Montenegro." The special police recently helped put down violent street protests on behalf of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998). PM
 KARADZIC BACKERS CLIMB DOWNRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and parliamentary speaker Dragan Kalinic, who represents Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), agreed in Banja Luka on 24 January to hold the next legislative session on 31 January in Teslic, north-central Bosnia. Each of the two rival factions in the Bosnian Serb parliament had planned to hold its own session on 24 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). The Plavsic-Kalinic agreement appears to rule out the possibility that in the near future, the SDS and its allies will set up their own break-away legislature. PM
 OBSTACLE REMOVED TO BOSNIAN FREEDOM OF MOVEMENTRepresentatives of the new Bosnian Serb government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik on 23 January reached agreement with their counterparts from the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation on a joint design for automobile license plates. Many observers feel that there can be no freedom of movement in Bosnia as long as each ethnic group has its own license plates, which makes it easy for nationalists to spot and intimidate people of other ethnic groups. PM
 PETITION DRIVE AGAINST CROATIAN VATSome 6,000 persons signed a petition to Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa in Split on 25 January demanding that the new value-added tax be reduced from 22 percent to 18 percent. The Croatian People's Party and the independent trade unions are sponsoring the petition drive, which is to be extended throughout Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Dalmatia's largest city. The previous day, President Franjo Tudjman visited the Finance Ministry, which the unions and opposition parties have sharply criticized in conjunction with the VAT. Tudjman, however, praised the ministry, saying its work is as important to Croatia now as was the work of the Defense Ministry during the 1991-1995 war, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM
 CROATIAN LIBERAL PARTY FOUNDEDVlado Gotovac and some 800 supporters launched the Liberal Party in Zagreb on 24 January. Gotovac is the former presidential candidate of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), which he and his followers quit late last year after losing a power struggle to Drazen Budisa, Gotovac's long-time rival. In 1997, the Social Democrats replaced the HSLS as the main vote-getter among the opposition parties. PM
 EUROPEAN OFFICIALS ASK ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS TO END BOYCOTTHigh-ranking representatives of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Tirana on 23 January that the Albanian parliament should step up work toward completing the text of a new constitution. They also asked the opposition Democratic Party to end its boycott of the parliament and participate in the drafting of the new constitution, "Dita Informacion" reported. But Democratic leader Sali Berisha told a rally of some 3,000 supporters in central Tirana the following day that he will continue to demand the resignation of the government and new elections, "Koha Jone" reported. FS
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT USES STOLEN CARSOfficials of a special police unit currently investigating car theft told "Koha Jone" of 25 January that "dozens" of luxury cars used by high-ranking Albanian government officials were stolen in Italy or Germany. Police said they will ask the anti-corruption agency to investigate all state institutions to find out the origins of cars currently used by officials. Investigators suspect that government officials in recent years have often made requests to buy cars from legal importers at market prices but have then bought cheaper, stolen cars on the used car market in Durres, pocketing the difference. FS
 LULL IN ROMANIAN COALITION TENSIONSNational Peasant Party Christian Democratic chairman Ion Diaconescu and Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman have agreed that their parties will refrain from making statements to the press while they seek to find a solution to the coalition crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 23 January. Two days later, National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu- Quintus, who is mediating the conflict, said the Democrats may decide to withdraw their cabinet ministers but remain in the coalition while supporting a minority government of the Democratic Convention and the Hungarian Democratic Federation. Minister of Research and Technology Bogdan Teodoriu, a Democrat, said that postponing the party's decision to withdraw from the government is "possible," depending on the negotiations. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REFUTES ANTI-HUNGARIAN ALLEGATIONSAndrei Plesu, in an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" cited by Mediafax on 25 January, refuted recent allegations in the Romanian media that Hungarian investments in Romania are very large and prove there is a plan to take over Transylvania. Plesu, who is accompanying President Emil Constantinescu on an official two-day visit to Hungary from 25-26 January, said that at the end of 1997, total Hungarian investments in Romania amounted to only $38 million or 1.1 percent of total foreign investments. Plesu also said he saw no reason why a Hungarian university should not be set up in Romania , which, he said, would help the ethnic Hungarian minority "preserve its identity." He added that the "joint enemy" of both countries is "extreme nationalism." MS
 ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS ALLEGE ATTACKSGheorghe Funar, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, has claimed that a stone was thrown at him while he sat in a restaurant in the town center and that it barely missed its target. Local police investigating the incident said the stone was probably thrown by children, Mediafax reported on 25 January. The same day, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), accused President Constantinescu of "complicity in an assassination attempt." The PRM press office said a leaflet saying "I was looking for you" and signed by Laszlo Toekes, the honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, was found on the windshield of his car. In December 1997, the special guards provided for Tudor were withdrawn. Tudor had protested that move, claiming he is the target of an assassination plot. MS
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER RUNS ON PRO-PRESIDENTIAL TICKETPrime Minister Ion Ciubuc is listed second on the list of the pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc for the March parliamentary elections. On 23 January, the Central Electoral Commission registered the bloc, which is composed of the Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, the People's Democratic Party, the Civil Party, and the New Force Movement, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Also on 23 January, Infotag reported that the leaders of the Jewish community in Chisinau are asking police and prosecutors to investigate the case of Maricica Livitski, the leader of the Party of Socio-Economic Justice, whom they accuse of having misappropriated donations from U.S. Jewish groups. They allege that Livitski channeled those donations to a charity fund headed by her for use in enlisting support for her election campaign. MS
 BULGARIA SENDS DOCUMENTS ON 1968 INVASION TO PRAGUEFormer Bulgarian President Zhelu Zhelev on 23 January said he will send Czech President Vaclav Havel declassified documents on Sofia's involvement in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Zhelev said the documents include conversations between Bulgarian communist leader Teodor Zhivkov and Moscow's ambassador to Sofia. He said he received the documents from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and was giving them to Havel to mark his re-election as Czech president, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. He added that it was "shocking" to see "how excited" Zhivkov and his aides had been about the use of military force against civilians. MS
 BULGARIA TO RECEIVE WORLD BANK LOANWorld Bank director for southeast Europe Kenneth Lay on 23 January confirmed that the bank will loan Bulgaria $400-600 million over the next three years to help the country's reform program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1997). Also on 23 January, several hundred pensioners demonstrated in Sofia protesting against low pensions and rising prices, Reuters reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 POLITICALLY MOTIVATED UNREST IN NORTHERN ALBANIAby Fabian Schmidt
Recent unrest sparked by local policemen in the northern city of Shkoder highlights the continued weakness of government institutions in Albania. Control over the police is a sensitive issue for a cabinet trying to establish public order and confidence following last year's widespread public disorder. Observers fear that the country may once again experience a vicious circle of lawlessness and violence if the government is unable to crack down on organized crime. To achieve that goal, it needs a reliable police force that is immune to corruption and capable of maintaining political neutrality.
The Shkoder uprising, in which local policemen staged an armed rebellion against the Tirana-appointed police chief, proves that achieving that goal will be no easy task. The government has repeatedly accused the opposition of seeking to jeopardize efforts to establish public order by using its strong influence in the provinces and by creating separate power centers in some parts of the country. While local governments dominated by the opposition Democratic Party (PD) have in the past staged protests against Tirana (for example, one-day strikes by municipal workers), Shkoder was the first city in which policemen took up arms to protest an Interior Ministry order. Moreover, the Shkoder unrest came only weeks after Interior Minister Neritan Ceka had claimed the Democrats are deliberately promoting violence to destabilize the country and press for new elections.
Each rival political bloc has long accused the other of using politically motivated violence. But following a series of 15 bomb attacks in Gjirokaster since mid-December, each of those blocs has employed harsher language. During the same period, a large number of policemen were killed or wounded in separate incidents throughout the country. Ceka blamed the attacks on the opposition, saying it is "pursuing a policy of banditry and inciting the population to keep weapons and set off explosive devices."
The opposition, for its part, has tried to portray those incidents as acts of political terrorism, despite being unable to name a convincing motive for some of the killings. For example, the Democratic Party claimed that three people killed in the northern city of Tropoja in early January were murdered for political reasons by government-hired killers. Several days later, the party staged a large protest rally in Tirana to demand the resignation of the government. Following that demonstration, however, prosecutors presented evidence pointing to blood feuds between local families.
Nonetheless, the Shkoder incident proves that mutual recriminations between the Socialists and the Democrats are accelerating the rise of political violence. Various factors contributed to that incident. First, there is an ongoing rivalry between center-leftist Tirana and the center-rightist local government in Shkoder. Second, the central government distrusts the local police force, which has been largely loyal to the Democrats in the past. And third, Tirana suspects that Shkoder officials were involved in smuggling oil to Montenegro during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1995. It argues that the Shkoder police force must either have turned a blind eye or was itself involved.
On 5 January, the central government appointed Mithat Havari as Shkoder police chief to strengthen central control over the local force. Havari, who comes from the southern city of Vlora, previously worked was previously police chief in the southern city of Berat, which has been plagued by crime since the unrest last March. In Berat, he was successful in reestablishing order and gained a reputation of a tough police chief. But he also became unpopular for firing suspected corrupt colleagues and keeping other crime suspects in prison, despite protest rallies by up to 300 locals demanding their release.
The conflict that broke out over Havari's appointment suggests the government's suspicions about the local police were justified. Ceka said that the surrender of the rebel policemen was a "victory for rule of law." But the more difficult task at hand is now to continue building a police force that the population can trust. There is a real danger that the Shkoder incident was an overture for another armed political conflict that would halt Albania's recovery if the country's rival political blocs were to fail to find a common language.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty