|Saturday, 8 May 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 88, 98-05-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 88, 11 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIA TO BECOME 'ASYMMETRIC FEDERATION?'In his traditional weekly radio broadcast on 11 May, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that within the next few days, he plans to unveil a new proposal whereby Georgia will become an "asymmetric federal state," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze argued that this proposal demonstrates Georgia is seriously concerned about resolving the Abkhaz conflict. The Abkhaz government last week placed its armed forces on combat alert after some 300 fighters from the unofficial Georgian White Legion crossed into Abkhaz territory. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, warned on 6 May that support for the White Legion will grow if the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia is not expedited. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS CHARGED AFTER PROTESTPolice used force to disperse some 400 members of the Movement for Democratic Elections who staged an unsanctioned demonstration outside the parliament building in Baku on 8 May, Turan and Interfax reported. The demonstrators were protesting the new presidential election law, passed in the second reading on 6 May, which they say is undemocratic and renders free and fair elections impossible. Police arrested some 50 demonstrators, including former Prime Minister Panah Guseinov and former State Counselor Arif Gadzhiev. Some of the detainees have been charged with obstructing police or violating legislation on demonstrations. LF
 AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE DISCUSS OIL EXPORTSVisiting Baku to congratulate President Heidar Aliev on his 75th birthday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko met with both Aliev and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Artur Rasi-Zade, to discuss the transport of Azerbaijani oil by tanker from the Black Sea port of Supsa to Odessa. Some oil would be refined in Odessa for domestic use and the rest exported via the Odessa-Brody pipeline. In Washington, Ukrainian Ambassador Yuri Shcherbak discussed with U.S. trade and energy officials the Ukrainian option for exporting Azerbaijani oil, according to Interfax. The Turkish government may commission a private company to build the proposed Baku- Ceyhan oil export pipeline if the Azerbaijani International Operating Company that is exploiting three offshore Azerbaijani oil fields declines to make a firm commitment on that project, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 9 May. Royal Dutch Shell has expressed interest to the Turkish government in building that pipeline. LF
 AZERBAIJAN PROPOSES EXCHANGING POWSThe Azerbaijani State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Persons Missing in Action has proposed that Azerbaijan and Armenia exchange prisoners of war on an "all for all" basis, Turan reported on 7 May. Some 700 Armenians and 800 Azerbaijanis are currently listed as falling into those three categories. LF
 HEAVY FLOODING IN TAJIKISTANWhile the damage caused by the recent flooding in central Tajikistan's Garm region is still being assessed, reports from the country's southern Khatlon region show even greater damage following flooding there, ITAR-TASS and the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. At least 100 people are dead or missing and 4,000 homeless. More than 11,000 hectares of cultivated land are reported to have been ruined. Relief began arriving from neighboring Uzbekistan on 7 May, while northern Tajikistan's Leninabad Region and the Red Cross have sent supplies to the region. Tajik Prime Minister Yahye Azimov, who was in Khatlon to inspect the damage, described government relief efforts as "unsatisfactory." He said the disasters in Garm and Khatlon clearly show that ministries such as those for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense "are not ready to take necessary measures in an emergency." BP
 WAHHABI TRIALS BEGIN IN UZBEKISTANThe trials of 12 out of a total of 27 suspected Islamic militants began in the eastern city of Namangan on 7 May, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The men, who are allegedly Wahhabis, have been accused of planning the violence in Namangan last December. Four of the accused have pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to undermine the state. In an interview with Uzbek Television the next day, President Islam Karimov said the threat of fundamentalism and Wahhabism originates in Afghanistan. He added that those involved want to make Tajikistan an Islamic state and then import their "ideology" into Uzbekistan through the Fergana Valley. BP
 KYRGYZ MUFTIAT COMPLAINS ABOUT MEDIA COVERAGE OF MUSLIMSKyrgyzstan's Muftiat or Spiritual Directorate of Muslims has denounced the coverage of Islam by two of the country's newspapers, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported. The statement by the Muftiat said articles in "Utro Bishkeka" on 25 April and in "Vecherny Bishkek" on 1 May attached "labels of Wahhabites and fanatics to Muslims." Also, the statement said the articles created a "negative opinion and hatred toward practicing Muslims" and that authorities were responsible for permitting the media to "openly provoke" the population. The deputy editor-in-chief of "Vecherny Bishkek" responded that the Muftiat is trying to generate anti-Russian feelings by saying Russians do not respect Muslims. BP
 KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER IN CHINANurlan Balgimbayev told Chinese officials on 8 May that his country "does not have and will not have" groups supporting Muslim separatists in China's Xinjiang Province (the Uyghur Autonomous Region), ITAR-TASS and Xinhua news agency reported. Kazakhstan borders Xinjiang Province and has the largest population of Uyghurs in the CIS. Balgimbayev said after his meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji the previous day that both countries reaffirmed their commitment to the proposed $9 billion oil pipeline that will transport oil from western Kazakhstan to China. According to Balgimbayev, a feasibility study for the project will be completed this December. He also said China will extend a $100 million loan to small businesses in Kazakhstan and donate another $100,000 for Kazakhstan's census next year. Xinhua reported that trade between Kazakhstan and China totaled $101 million in the first quarter of 1998, up 19.1 percent on the same period last year. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVA 'EXTRAORDINARILY DANGEROUS'Former chief U.S. envoy to the former Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke said in Tirana on 10 May that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova, and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano all agree that the situation in Kosova is dangerous. The diplomat added, however, that the three do not agree on what to do next. Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard, who succeeded him at the State Department, obtained no concessions from Milosevic during talks in Belgrade on 9 May. The following day, the two diplomats visited Prishtina to "listen and learn" in talks with the Kosovar leadership. Holbrooke said: "I have no idea" how to solve the Kosovar problem. The envoy added that Milosevic made it clear that "he does not want an international negotiator." On 11 May, Holbrooke again met with Milosevic in Belgrade. PM
 MORE SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON SERBIAAt a meeting of foreign ministers of the G-8 countries in London on 9 May, the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Canada agreed to ban future foreign investments in Serbia. They also confirmed an earlier decision by the Contact Group to freeze Serbian and Yugoslav assets abroad. The Western foreign ministers issued a communique saying they "are deeply concerned by the increasing violence and growing polarization in Kosova and in particular the excessive use of force by the Serbian forces." They called on both sides to begin unconditional talks under international mediation. Russian envoys neither agreed to nor blocked the sanctions package. Japanese diplomats said they "will study" possible courses of action. PM
 MONTENEGRO UNAFFECTED BY SANCTIONS?In Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said that the sanctions will not affect his mountainous republic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 9 May. In Belgrade, a government spokesman argued that the sanctions "will only hurt the Serbian people." In Tirana, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for tougher measures than the sanctions. "Belgrade should be forced to stop the policy of war and bloodshed and sit at the negotiating table with ethnic Albanians in the presence of an international factor." The statement added that Kosova otherwise could become "a second Bosnia." The ministry also charged that the Serbian authorities are trying to create "a sanitary cordon" between Kosova and Albania (see "End Note" below). PM
 HYDROELECTRIC PLANT CLOSED IN KOSOVARadisav Vlahovic, the director of the Koznjar hydroelectric plant near Decan, told Beta on 10 May that he ordered the enterprise closed because "Albanian terrorists are everywhere in the area and the workers are afraid for their safety," "Nasa Borba" reported. Two days earlier, police closed the Prishtina-Peja road because of heavy fighting in the area. Serbian and Albanian sources in Prishtina each claimed in recent days that their respective sides suffered several deaths in various places in Kosova. PM
 GRANIC APOLOGIZES FOR PERSECUTION OF JEWSCroatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic apologized in Jerusalem on 11 May for the persecution that led to the deaths of thousands of Croatian Jews in the Holocaust. "Relying on its freedom-loving and anti-fascist roots, the modern democratic Croatia in the strongest possible terms condemns fascism, racial hatred, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. I express and testify to the deepest regret and condemnation of the persecution, suffering ,and the tragedy of the Jews on Croatian territory under the Ustasha regime." At the Yad Vashem Memorial, Granic said: "On behalf of the government of Croatia and with deepest respect for the victims of the Holocaust, I express eternal condemnation of the crime of genocide of 6 million Jews." Many observers in Israel, Croatia, and elsewhere have accused Croatian President Franjo Tudjman of playing down the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism in his historical writings. PM
 POPE TO RETURN TO CROATIASpokesmen for the Roman Catholic Church said in Zagreb on 8 May that Pope John Paul II will visit Croatia from 2-4 October to honor Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac on what would have been his 100th birthday. The Pope will proclaim Stepinac "blessed," which is the first step on the road to sainthood. Many Croats believe that Stepinac, whom the Communists imprisoned, was a martyr for his faith and country. Many Communists and Serbs regard him as an Axis- sympathizer. In Zagreb on 10 May, Archbishop Josip Bozanic warned that attempts to turn Roman Catholicism into a political ideology are doomed. And in Ljubljana, unnamed persons have opened a law suit against former Communist-era leader Mitja Ribicic for his role in the "genocide of the ethnic German minority" immediately after World War II, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 8 May. PM
 ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS DEMONSTRATE IN VLORADemocratic Party leaders arrived in Vlora on 9 May to take part in the first Democratic rally there since the unrest began in the town last February. Party deputy chairman Genc Pollo and legislator Azem Hajdari addressed the 2,500 demonstrators. Party leader Sali Berisha did not attend the rally owing to concerns for his safety. A group of women threw stones at the delegation's heavily guarded cars, but no other incidents were reported. Daan Everts, who is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's ambassador to Albania, accompanied the visitors, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS
 ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR INVESTMENTSDuring a visit to Thessaloniki on 8-9 May, Fatos Nano called on Greek businesses to increase investments in Albania, saying the period of instability is over. He told members of the Union of Northern Greek Industries that "I can guarantee that situations similar to last year's...will never arise again." Some 200 Greek companies have invested some $100 million in Albania. The following day, Greek Interior Minister Georgios Romeos pledged to provide assistance, including patrol cars and bullet-proof vests, to Albanian border guards to help them prevent illegal immigrants from entering Greece. FS
 MORE FALLOUT FROM ROMANIAN 'CIGARETTE AFFAIR'Another three persons, two of them officers and the third a woman, have been detained in connection with the "cigarette affair," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 10 May. This brings the total number of detainees in connection with the affair to 14. Two days earlier, the Supreme National Defense Council, chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, said that people "working in state institutions were directly involved" in smuggling "over the last six years." It said new legislation dealing with the status of foreigners in the country must be "urgently passed." Some detainees are Arabs resident in Romania. In a clear hint to the Greater Romania Party, the council also said the parliament must "analyze the existence" of "parallel [illegal] information structures." MS
 PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR SUES OPPOSITION LEADERDorin Marian on 8 May launched legal proceedings against Senator Radu Timofte for libel. Timofte, who represents the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, has accused Marian of involvement in the cigarette- smuggling scandal. MS
 BULGARIAN AIR COMPANY REJECTS ROMANIAN ACCUSATIONSRumen Draganov, the director-general of Air Sofia, on 8 May rejected Romanian accusations that one of his company's planes was involved in the cigarette affair. In an interview with Romanian Radio, Draganov said the allegations by Romanian Transportation Minister Traian Basescu that his company has not forwarded to Bucharest documentation on the plane's cargo are inaccurate. He added that the Romanian side "should have had copies" of the documents it is now requesting from Air Sofia. According to Basescu, Air Sofia has been "consistently involved in smuggling." He has said that Romania will deny the company the right to overfly its territory in the future. MS
 ROMANIAN DIPLOMATS DISMISSED OVER GERMAN 'CHILDREN THEFT RING'President Constantinescu on 10 May asked Prime Minister Radu Vasile to investigate the activities of all Romanian consular services abroad. His request follows the Foreign Ministry's 7 May decision to dismiss the Romanian consul in Bonn and his deputy and to launch legal proceedings against them. The ministry also announced it will replace the entire staff of the consulate. Last month, German prosecutors accused the staff of the Romanian embassy in Bonn of providing false identification papers to criminals who illegally brought children into the country and forced them to pickpocket. MS
 BEREZOVSKII, LUCINSCHI HAVE SAME VIEWS ON CIS'S FUTURECIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii told journalists in Chisinau on 7 May that in order to succeed in the future, the CIS must rid itself of the "Big Brother mentality" still prevailing among some of its members, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. President Petru Lucinschi said after his talks with Berezovskii that they share views on the future of the commonwealth. Lucinschi said Berezovskii's appointment is a sign of the changes ahead since the Russian businessman is better equipped to deal with a "changing situation" in which the private sector increasingly takes over from the state sector. The two men also discussed the conflict with the Transdniestrian separatists. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AGRICULTURAL REFORM POLICIESThe parliament on 9 May approved a law abolishing subsidies to agriculture, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Agricultural Commission chairman Vladislav Kostov said the only way to implement "free-market principles" is to "break the pattern of artificial price increases." In other news, the EU and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have set up a $40 million investment fund to assist medium- sized Bulgarian businesses. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ALTERNATIVES TO SANCTIONSby Patrick Moore
Meeting in London on 9 May, the foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Canada agreed to freeze Yugoslav and Serbian assets abroad and to ban further foreign investment in Serbia. The ministers' goal is to press Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his paramilitary special police forces from Kosova and launch a dialogue with representatives of the ethnic Albanian majority there about the province's future. Recent experience involving Belgrade and sanctions, however, suggests that the ministers' latest move may prove counterproductive.
The UN placed all of rump Yugoslavia under tough economic sanctions on 30 May 1992 because of Belgrade's involvement in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The sanctions remained in force until the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. According to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. diplomat who was the architect of the Dayton peace, the effects of the sanctions were one of the main reasons why Milosevic finally chose to seek peace.
There are three reasons, however, to suggest that the sanctions may have made it difficult to promote the cause of peace. First, the embargo was not selectively targeted at those in power but was rather a set of blanket measures that affected all Yugoslav citizens. The sanctions helped lower a standard of living --especially for the poor and the elderly--that was already bad enough thanks to Milosevic's neo-communist economic policies. They similarly hurt the struggling economies of neighboring Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, whose governments estimate their losses from the sanctions in the billions of dollars.
Second, the sanctions had only a slow effect on the Milosevic regime, which, in any event, did not decide to go to Dayton until after the Krajina and Bosnian Serb armies had been routed on the battlefield. In the meantime, the regime had more than three-and-a-half years to tell its citizens that the source of their growing poverty was the foreigners' sanctions. In doing so, Milosevic's media skillfully boosted his popularity by playing on a traditional Serbian belief that the Serbs are often the victims of foreign-led conspiracies.
Third, the sanctions gave rise to sanctions-busting on a massive scale both in rump Yugoslavia and in some neighboring countries. This phenomenon led to the growth of mafia-like structures, many of whose members enjoyed excellent political connections, particularly in Belgrade. The growth of the mafias--whose profits often came from the pockets of ordinary citizens-- also undermined all efforts aimed at promoting democratization and the rule of law.
In view of those experiences from 1992 to 1995, some Serbian opposition leaders and journalists as well as a number of prominent Kosovars have suggested that the international community should try to find alternatives to blanket economic sanctions. Speaking in Vienna on 6 May, reformist Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic warned that such sanctions will hit ordinary people as well as the regime and will make it easy for Milosevic to clamp down on the reformers and blame foreigners for his country's growing poverty.
One alternative to economic sanctions might be to maintain and intensify the existing international political pressure on Milosevic by continuing to bar his government from membership in international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The fact that Belgrade frequently complains about the ban suggests that the measure is having some effect. The ban need not mean, however, that all Yugoslav passport holders will be barred from international meetings and events. Serbian opposition spokesmen stress that, on the contrary, the international community should clearly differentiate between the regime and other Serbs, who will play a key role in establishing an eventual post- Milosevic order in the Balkans. Opposition spokesmen therefore urge the international community to make special efforts to involve non-regime Yugoslav citizens in European and international forums.
Another alternative to an economic embargo is to find ways of increasing military pressure on Milosevic, which Kosovar leaders and the Albanian government have repeatedly urged NATO to do. They argue that Serbia ceased its aggression during the Croatian and Bosnian wars only when it came up against the clear willingness of NATO to use superior force. The leaders in Prishtina and Tirana add that a strong NATO presence along Serbia's frontiers with Kosova and perhaps with Macedonia would consequently be much more effective than economic sanctions in sending the message to Milosevic that the international community will not tolerate armed repression in Kosova.
Serbian opposition spokesmen, such as Radio B-92 chief editor Veran Matic, have frequently urged the international community to develop a serious and comprehensive program to support democratization and a civil society in Serbia. Matic further asks foreign diplomats to be firm in their opposition to the regime and to avoid flattering Milosevic by treating him as a peacemaker or offering him positive incentives.
Matic also stresses that new economic sanctions could prove a boon to the mafias and undermine the efforts of many people since 1995 aimed at establishing democratization and the rule of law in Montenegro, Albania, and the Republika Srpska. Biljana Plavsic, the president of the Republika Srpska, said recently that the key to resolving the Kosova crisis is the democratization of Serbia.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty