|Wednesday, 25 November 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 86, 98-05-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 86, 6 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 THIRD ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATEDSecurity measures in Tbilisi have been intensified to counter a possible third attempt to assassinate Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax reported on 5 May, quoting security service head Vakhtang Kutateladze. Mamuka Areshidze, chairman of the Georgian parliament commission for relations with Caucasian peoples, said last month that the Georgian Ministry of National Security is aware that preparations are being made in the North Caucasus for a further attempt on Shevardnadze's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April, 1998). Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Demuri Mikadze and several other senior ministry officials were fired on 5 May for alleged incompetence in reacting to and investigating the 9 February mortarbomb attack on Shevardnadze's motorcade, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 SOUTH OSSETIA CONCERNED AT SLOW PACE OF RECONSTRUCTIONIn a statement addressed to the Georgian and Russian leaderships and to international organizations, the Ministry for Foreign Relations of Georgia's unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia complains that the central Georgian government is not complying with agreements it signed in 1993 and 1997 on providing funding for the reconstruction of buildings devastated during the 1990-1992 war, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 May. The ministry statement argues that the delay in reconstruction is holding up the repatriation of tens of thousands of displaced persons who fled during the fighting, and consequently undermines the entire peace process. The ministry calls on Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to accelerate that process, which it denies is Georgia's exclusive prerogative. The Georgian government has suspended free bread supplies to some displaced persons from South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 6 May. LF
 CONTROVERSY OVER DRAFT AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW CONTINUESThe 13 Azerbaijani opposition parties that make up the Round Table union are demanding that parliament debate an alternative draft law on presidential elections prepared by the Azerbaijan Popular Front, Turan reported. In a statement, the Round Table charged that the official draft law, which has been widely criticized by opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4-5 May 1998), "is aimed against the state system, territorial integrity and political stability of Azerbaijan." That version was adopted on first reading last week. On 5 May, the parliament briefly debated the law but failed to adopt it on second reading. LF
 LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER VISITS ARMENIARafik Hariri paid a one-day visit to Yerevan on 5 May to present his congratulations to newly elected President Robert Kocharian and meet with the new government, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hariri denied that his visit had been prompted by criticism from the Lebanese Armenian community of his February visit to Baku. Hariri's talks with Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian focused on expanding economic cooperation; the two sides reached agreement on creating a joint commission on banking, energy and telecommunications. During a previous visit to Armenia in October, 1997, Hariri and then Prime Minister Kocharian signed a friendship and cooperation agreement and an agreement on creating an Armenian-Lebanese bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1997). LF
 LACK OF FUNDING HURTS TB CLINIC IN KAZAKHSTANA tuberculosis clinic in the northern Kazakh region of Kustanai has temporarily discharged 300 patients due to lack of funding, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Another 200 patients are receiving only part-time care. The clinic's management said it has received only 10 percent of the money it was promised. In the country of 16 million, 53,000 people are registered as suffering from tuberculosis and the death rate among them has reached 50 percent. BP
 TAJIK PRESIDENT IN KYRGYZSTANImomali Rakhmonov paid a visit to neighboring Kyrgyzstan on 6 May, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Rakhmonov met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev. Akayev and Rakhmonov signed documents on deepening bilateral relations and cooperation in law enforcement. An additional 15 agreements were signed on such matters as refugees, customs, and mining. Rakhmonov's delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda and two other members of the United Tajik Opposition. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC TO ACCEPT GONZALEZ?Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Belgrade on 5 May that international mediation will be needed to launch a dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosova leadership because there is no trust between the two sides. Ivanov told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of President Boris Yeltsin's wish that Serbian-Kosova talks begin as soon as possible, Reuters reported. The news agency quoted Ivanov as saying that a foreign mediator would not be interfering in Serbia's affairs but simply providing "a helping hand." Euro News reported the next day that Ivanov's visit may lead to Milosevic's accepting former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez as international mediator for Kosova. Milosevic has opposed foreign mediation, but he may now be seeking a face-saving way to accept Gonzalez in hopes of avoiding new sanctions. Milosevic accepted and then ignored numerous international mediators during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. PM
 PRIMAKOV STICKS TO TOUGH LINERussian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said in Strasbourg on 5 May that "home rule, autonomy of Kosova must come about but in the framework of Serbia, otherwise a great war will start, and we want no part in pushing the events towards this. Even making Kosova a [distinct federal] entity within Yugoslavia, which would then consist of three republics, would lead to war, but we will never agree to this," Interfax reported. Primakov chided "certain Western countries" for dividing terrorists in Kosova "into goodies and baddies," by which he presumably meant that some Westerners are more critical of the Serbian paramilitary police than they are of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Primakov praised German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel for taking a tough line against "Albanian terrorism." PM
 MONTENEGRO SLAMS MILITARY ACTION IN KOSOVAPresident Milo Djukanovic told reporters in Podgorica on 5 May that "if there is no dialogue in Kosova, the situation will get more complicated, and the alternative to such dialogue is war, which does not suit anyone intelligent in the country and abroad." He stressed that Montenegro "will do all it can to prevent conflicts and find a peaceful solution." Djukanovic warned that if the Yugoslav army becomes "involved in the conflict in any way, Montenegro will demand that soldiers from Montenegro not be sent to the province." PM
 ALBANIA SAYS SERBIA CONDUCTING 'ETHNIC CLEANSING'The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 5 May that "even in the past few days, Serbian police forces backed by the army and, what is worse, by radical ultra- nationalist paramilitary troops, are continuing their military operations of ethnic cleansing in Kosova. The violence by police and the military is accompanied by massive bombings and destruction of population centers, applying in Kosova the Serbian scorched-earth strategy" that Milosevic's forces used in the Croatian and Bosnian wars. Tirana also condemned the Yugoslav military buildup along the Serbian border with Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 HAGUE COURT MONITORING KOSOVAGraham Blewitt, who is a deputy prosecutor at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 5 May that the court is "continuing to monitor what is happening" in Kosova. British Attorney General John Morris added that London is "of course impressed and grateful for the prosecutor's ready acceptance of the new challenge of investigating the recent events in Kosova. The U.K. hopes to be able to provide at least one member of the new investigating team that you are setting up to meet that challenge." Tribunal officials formally opened that body's second courtroom, which was constructed with U.S. assistance. PM
 PROTEST MARCH IN SKOPJESeveral thousand ethnic Albanians staged a protest in the Macedonian capital on 5 May to demand the release from prison of Rufi Osmani, the mayor of Gostivar, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is serving a sentence for failing to obey a court order to take down an Albanian flag during the riots on 9 July and also for inciting national, racial, and religious hatred (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). PM
 UN POLICE WARN OF NEW VIOLENCEA spokesman for the UN police said in Mostar on 5 May that violent ethnically-motivated incidents have been on the rise recently in the Croatian-held Herzegovinian town of Capljina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The spokesman added that, in the past week alone, three Muslim homes have been damaged by explosions and fires, and that Croatian crowds stoned a bus carrying Muslims returning to their former homes. In Sarajevo, a UN spokesman said on 5 May that a Muslim home was torched in the Croatian-controlled Herzegovinian town of Stolac, where there has been much ethnic violence against Muslims in recent months. PM
 BOSNIAN ELECTION RULES TO STAYA spokesman for the OSCE, which is supervising the September general elections, said in Sarajevo that only the new parliament will be able to change the rules for the election of the three-member joint presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several NGOs and representatives of non-nationalist parties have suggested that the OSCE change the rules now so that each of the three is elected at large and not just by one ethnic constituency. Recent polls suggest that such a change would sweep the current three members of the presidency from office and replace them with three non-nationalists. PM
 ALBANIAN SOCIALIST DEMANDS PARTY REFERENDUM AGAINST PREMIERSenior Socialist Party (PS) leader Servet Pellumbi said on 6 May in Tirana that he aims to collect 100,000 signatures for a referendum of PS members against what he called the "rightist line" of Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Pellumbi is a former PS deputy chairman and represents the party's hard-line wing. He told "Koha Jone" that a recent statement by Pandeli Majko, who is the head of the PS parliamentarian group, sparked his campaign. Majko proposed to compensate pre-communist- era large land owners for property that the Communists redistributed. Pellumbi pointed out that such a policy, which Nano has endorsed, contradicts the most basic principles of the party. He warned that "Nano is pushing the PS towards becoming a liberal democratic party." FS
 WORLD BANK TO HELP TRAIN ALBANIAN LAWYERSEducation Minister Ethem Ruka said on 5 May in Tirana that the World Bank will give a grant of $200,000 for the university training of future lawyers, judges and state prosecutors, ATSH news agency reported. Ruka's deputy, Vaso Qano, said the ministry will also request advice from the World Bank on preventing corruption from playing a role in law school admissions. The Albanian judicial system has serious problems because it is highly politicized and often of low professional quality. Many of its members are either communist-era holdovers or loyalists of the conservative Democratic Party. FS
 SACKINGS FROM SCANDAL CONTINUE IN ROMANIAEight Romanian army officers were fired on 5 May for allowing a cigarette smuggling ring to operate out of the Bucharest airport, Reuters reported. The Defense Ministry said the officers were dismissed for failing to prevent illicit activities. It was also announced that a six-person committee will investigate the cause of the scandal: shipment of 30 million cigarettes from Greece to Bucharest aboard an Air Sofia plane on 16 April. The scandal has led to numerous arrests, resignations, and dismissals. Air Sofia rejected charges made by Romanian Transport Minister Traian Basescu that it was obstructing an inquiry into the airline's role in the scandal. PB
 ROMANIAN PREMIER FOR HUNGARIAN CULTURAL AUTONOMYRadu Vasile said on 5 May that he backs native-language education for the ethnic Hungarian population in Romania, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Vasile said in an interview that while he supported cultural autonomy, he strictly ruled out territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians. Vasile said the fact that 100,000 Hungarians had left Romania in the last five years was unacceptable for a minority that strives to preserve its identity. Vasile also said he supports the founding of an autonomous university for ethnic Hungarians. PB
 INCUMBENT OFFICIALLY PROPOSED AS MOLDOVAN PREMIERMoldovan President Petru Lucinschi said on 5 May that the center-right coalition has decided to nominate Ion Ciubuc as prime minister, Reuters reported. Ciubuc, who served for a year as the previous prime minister, is now acting premier. Lucinschi, speaking on television, said that, upon official approval of his candidacy and his proposed cabinet by the parliament, "we must give him the ability to strengthen the reforms he began last year." The Communist Party said it would vote for Ciubuc if Lucinschi supported him. Moldova's gross domestic product grew last year under Ciubuc, the first time it had done so in seven years. PB
[C] END NOTE
 THE DILEMMA OF THE CZECH PRESIDENCYby Victor Gomez
Czech President Vaclav Havel may be on the road to recovery from his colostomy operation in Innsbruck, but questions about his future in office remain. The questions are related to two basic issues concerning Havel's health and the Czech political transition -- one of them short- term and the other long-term.
While the president seems to be over the worst of the problems associated with his operation, things did not look as rosy a few weeks ago. In April, the Czech president's vacation in Austria was abruptly interrupted when he had to undergo an emergency operation due to a perforated colon -- an operation that carries a 30 percent death rate.
The operation marks the second time in less than a year and a half that Havel has undergone surgery during which his life has hung in the balance. In December 1996, Havel had part of his left lung removed due to cancer. His lung condition also served as a dangerous complication during his recent colon surgery.
Havel's second brush with death caused many people in the Czech Republic to publicly ask questions which were previously considered to be taboo. While it is still widely considered bad taste to publicly speculate as to who might succeed the president, some observers have started to wonder out loud whether Havel should not step down. The deputy chairman of the lower house of the Czech parliament, Jaroslav Zverina, caused a stir when he said the president should consider resigning in the interests of his own health. While Zverina's own party, the formerly governing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), distanced itself from his remarks, his comments reflected a question that is gathering urgency in many Czechs' minds: What would happen if Havel were too ill to complete his second term in office as Czech president?
First off, there are important short-term considerations associated with Havel's recovery. While doctors in Innsbruck seem optimistic about his recovery, some say there is still the possibility that he may not be in good enough health carry out his constitutional role and name a prime minister to form a government after the elections scheduled for 19-20 June. The president will have to undergo another operation during which doctors will close his large intestine. That operation is supposed to come in May, but according to some doctors it could be put off until later due to complications associated with Havel's lungs.
With the current Czech political scene as fragmented and divisive as it is, Havel will be required to play a much- needed balancing role during the post-election negotiations to form a new government. Public opinion polls indicate that no potential governing coalition of parties is likely to secure a majority in the lower house of the Czech parliament. Havel already has proven capable of urging quick and effective solutions on political party leaders. He did this after the 1996 elections which ended in a political stalemate and after the collapse of Vaclav Klaus's government last fall.
However, if Havel were unable to perform his constitutional role for health reasons, the post-election period of instability could drag on longer and be perceived as more threatening by both domestic and foreign observers. Furthermore, if a minority government is formed after the elections -- which is the most likely scenario -- the possibility of more crises and instability in the near future cannot be discounted. During such problems, Havel could act as an important guarantor of political, and therefore economic, stability in the Czech Republic -- providing he is fit.
The long-term considerations related to Havel's role as president have less to do with short-term political considerations and more to do with the manner in which his own person has become intertwined with the presidency, and by extension, with democracy in this country. While the Czech presidency is a relatively weak position on paper, it bears significant symbolic and moral authority in this country both for historical reasons and for reasons associated with Havel himself.
Czechs tend to associate the office of the presidency with the person of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1935 and a towering figure in Czech history. A professor, philosopher, and the man most credited with achieving Czechoslovak independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Masaryk has become the ideal against which all subsequent presidents have been measured. Havel is widely perceived as having come closer than any other Czechoslovak head of state to that ideal.
Many Czechs still find it impossible to imagine anyone other than Havel in the Prague Castle. In fact, many observers consider Havel's presence to be a virtual necessity in the current climate of political and economic uncertainty. Such observers argue that the task of entrenching democracy and the rule of law in the Czech Republic is not completely finished, and that the country still needs Havel to play an important role in that regard. They worry that parliament will elect a successor who will be either too weak to act as the moral arbiter Czechs still seem to think they need or, even worse, who will be a tool of one or another of the political forces in the country.
Obviously, both scenarios are realistic, especially considering the currently fragmented state of the Czech political scene. Certainly it would be better if Havel manages to stay fit until his current term in office ends in 2003. By that time, perhaps the political scene will be calm enough to permit a smooth succession at the castle. Then again, perhaps it will not.
In any event, the manner in which many Czechs have associated Havel's person with democracy in this country poses problems. No one need be reminded that he would not be the first "irreplaceable" political leader to be replaced. There is no reason why a changing of the guard in the Czech Republic, either presidential or governmental, should fare any worse than the relatively smooth changes that have already taken place in neighboring Poland or Hungary, or, for that matter, in Bulgaria, where veteran dissident Zhelyu Zhelev was unceremoniously unseated by his own former supporters. In that sense, this country will have taken another important step in the development of its political culture the day a standard succession takes place and a new president steps into the Prague Castle.
Victor Gomez is the managing editor of the Prague-based monthly journal "New Presence."
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty