|Monday, 15 October 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 120, 98-06-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 120, 25 June 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FINAL TRIAL AGAINST "WAHHABIS" OPENS IN UZBEKISTANThe fourth and last in a series of trials against alleged Wahhabis opened in Tashkent on 24 June, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Uzbekistan's state prosecutor demanded the death sentence for Talib Mamajanov, who has admitted to being a member of a criminal group responsible for killing 12 people, eight of them policemen, in the Fergana Valley between 1994 and 1997. Seven other men are charged with possession of weapons and harboring criminals. Sentencing is expected by 6 July. In the three earlier trials, all defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms. Alhough the state prosecutor demanded the death penalty for Mamajanov, Uzbek courts have been careful not to pass such a sentence at earlier trials in order to avoid making martyrs of the defendants. BP
 IRAN, KAZAKHSTAN HOLD TALKS ON GRAIN, OILThe Iranian Minister of Mines and Metals, Eshaq Jahangiri, met with Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on 24 June, Interfax and IRNA reported. Jahangiri advocated concluding a long-term contract for Iranian purchases of Kazakh grain, noting that "there is no need to bring grain from far away when one can buy it in neighboring Kazakhstan." Balgimbayev said he wanted to renew oil exports to Iran, which were suspended in May due to the refusal of the new management of Kazakhstan's Oil and Gas Company to honor a contract signed in 1996. Balgimbayev and Jahangiri also agreed to develop companies for shipping via the Caspian Sea. BP
 GEORGIA SLAMS DUMA RESOLUTION ON ABKHAZIAForeign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili on 24 June condemned as "gross interference in Georgia's internal affairs" a resolution passed by the Russian State Duma earlier the same day. The Duma approved a resolution calling for lifting the border and customs restrictions currently in force on the border between the Russian Federation and Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. Menagharishvili argued that the restrictions could be lifted only as part of a broader political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. LF
 AZERBAIJAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATEMeeting with a visiting European Parliament delegation on 24 June, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev said that he will not propose his own candidacy for the presidential elections due in October, but will run for a second term if asked by the Azerbaijani people to do so, Interfax reported. Aliev assured the delegation that the poll will be free and fair. Aliev has also invited opposition political parties to propose candidates to the new Central Electoral Commission (CEC), half of the 24 members of which are to be proposed by the president and the remainder by the parliament. CEC members may not be members of any political party. The Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform, which unites some 20 opposition parties, has proposed that half the members of the CEC be nominated by the Movement together with five potential opposition presidential candidates, Turan reported on 23 June. LF
 ECONOMIC UPSWING IN ARMENIAPrime Minister Armen Darpinian said on 24 June that Armenia registered 6.3 percent economic growth in the first five months of 1998, according to Noyan Tapan. Darpinian added that direct foreign investment in the Armenian economy reached $100 million during that time period, and is expected to total $250 million by the end of the year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Addressing an Armenian-Ukrainian business forum in Yerevan, Darpinian attributed the inflow of foreign capital to his government's emphasis on private enterprise and its commitment to privatizing large state enterprises. Darpinian also announced that the Armenian state airline company will soon be put on international tender. "Privatization is the only way to guarantee its efficient and competitive work," he argued. LF
 ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL BLOC MEETSThe leaders of four of the five parties aligned in the Justice and Unity bloc formed in March to back Robert Kocharian's presidential bid met behind closed doors on 24 June to discuss their recent meeting with the president and develop a joint plan of action, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Aleksandr Aghamalian of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union said the alliance reached an overall agreement regarding the bloc's position on Nagorno-Karabakh and finalized two documents assessing the current state of affairs in Armenia and containing concrete proposals on that score. A spokesman for the Dashnak party told RFE/RL the party did not send representatives to the meeting because it was not given advance notice that it would take place. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 HOLBROOKE SAYS SERBS SHOULD LEAVE DECAN...Richard Holbrooke, who is the U.S. ambassador-designate to the UN, said in the burned-out Kosovar town of Decan on 24 June that Decan recalls "the kind of action we saw earlier in this part of the world." He compared his impressions in the town to what he saw in western Bosnia in 1992. Holbrooke added that the destruction in Decan "was not fighting. This was the Yugoslav security forces driving people out. The Serbs should get out of here, and the original [ethnic Albanian] inhabitants should come back and rebuild their houses with government help." The diplomat said that "without the real possibility of NATO intervention, the chances of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs are significantly increased." Serbian forces have vigorously attacked the Decan area in recent weeks in an apparent effort to drive the ethnic Albanian population out of a corridor along the Albanian border. PM
 ...MEETS WITH UCK FIGHTERSIn Junik on 24 June, Holbrooke met with two uniformed fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), one of whom carried a Kalashnikov. Holbrooke called the situation in Kosova "explosive" and added that the Kosovars "are beleaguered and they don't have supplies. The Serb security forces are all over the place." The envoy stressed that he is on a fact-finding mission and denied that his meeting with the UCK representatives constituted an official contact between Washington and the guerrillas. Some Western and regional media nonetheless speculated that the meeting suggests that the U.S. has established contact with the UCK and may be seeking to draw it into the negotiating process. During Holbrooke's stay, there was fighting along the highway between Decan and Gjakova, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Elsewhere, UCK spokesmen said in Prishtina that the guerrillas now control much of the Fushe-Kosova (Kosovo Polje) region. PM
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE WANTS DEMOCRATIC CHANGEThe parliament of the Council of Europe passed a resolution on 24 June in which it blamed the Yugoslav government and President Slobodan Milosevic for the current escalation in the crisis in Kosova. The text added that no long-term solution is possible in the province without far-reaching democratic changes in Yugoslavia. Until that happens, the international community must keep all options open, including the military one. The parliament also called on Milosevic to launch a dialogue with the authorities in Montenegro. Also in Strasbourg, OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek called on Milosevic to set down a time- table for ending the Kosovar crisis. PM
 BLAIR SAYS MILITARY OPTION STILL STANDSBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London on 24 June that NATO retains the option to intervene militarily as long as Milosevic refuses to withdraw his special security forces from Kosova. Media reports from Brussels earlier that day suggested that NATO planners were moving away from a military option lest the alliance play into the hands of the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). "The New York Times" wrote that the UCK has begun targeting Serbian civilians in an ethnic cleansing campaign near Klina in recent days, which has in turn drawn Serbian paramilitaries into the region. The UCK's official position is that it fights only the Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians whom it regards as collaborators, and that Serbian civilians have nothing to fear from it. Serbian refugees have repeatedly charged that the UCK and other armed Albanians have told them to leave "and never come back." PM
 YUGOSLAV ARMY NOT TO SEND RAW RECRUITS TO KOSOVAThe General Staff agreed in Belgrade on 24 June not to send untrained recruits to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The move comes in apparent response to numerous protests from parents and opposition political leaders across the country against sending conscripts to the province. Elsewhere, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic called for NATO intervention -- against Albania -- to clear out "terrorist training camps" there, "Nasa Borba" wrote. His party said in a statement the next day that the Kosovar civilian leadership backs terrorism and that its claim to be devoted to non-violence is just a ruse. The Democratic Party said in a statement that Milosevic is unable to preserve order in Kosova and protect the lives "of citizens who live there." PM
 SILAJDZIC OFFERS BASES TO NATOBosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said in Tokyo that his government will offer military facilities to the Atlantic alliance should it decide to intervene in Kosova, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 25 June. It is not clear if Silajdzic has the authority to make such an offer without the approval of parliament or of Bosnian Serb leaders. In Sarajevo, the international community's Carlos Westendorp warned that Milosevic "will end up like [Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu" unless he ends the imbroglio in Kosova, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. Westendorp also cautioned that "if Kosova explodes, it could ignite extreme nationalism in Bosnia." Meanwhile in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb parliament voted on 24 June to move its seat officially from Pale to that western Bosnian city. PM
 CROATIA LAUNCHES REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAMGovernment authorities in Zagreb made public on 24 June a plan for a refugee return that guarantees "all citizens" the right to go home. The plan foresees that some 220,000 individuals will return to their former homes inside and outside of Croatia by 2003. Some 24,000 ethnic Serbs are expected to come back to Croatia in 1998 alone. Parliament votes on the measure on 26 June. Its passage is widely seen as crucial in determining the course of Zagreb's future relations with Western countries and for its integration in Euro-Atlantic structures. PM
 ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VOWS TO SACK CORRUPT POLICE CHIEFSPerikli Teta said on 24 June in Tirana that he has prepared a list of over 20 high-ranking police officers whom he suspects of corruption. Teta added that the cases involve a variety of crimes ranging from selling passports to smuggling cigarettes. He did not elaborate on individual cases but said he would file charges in the near future. FS
 ALBANIA STILL PLAGUED BY CUSTOMS EVASION"Shekulli" on 25 June quoted a recent secret government report as saying that customs evasion remains endemic. The report points out that taxed imports of six key goods have dropped by almost 50 percent in the first four months of 1998 as compared to the last four months of 1997. The report suggests that this drop indicates that the goods continued to be imported but were neither declared nor taxed. "Shekulli" estimates the loss at about $80 million. It adds that General Director of Customs Gezim Bleta told the paper that the report is accurate. FS
 RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER ON ROMANIAN TREASURYGennadii Seleznev told journalists in Bucharest on 24 June that the problem of the Romanian state treasury deposited in Moscow during World War I is "hopeless." He said Romania was raising this problem within the framework of the parleys on the basic treaty between the two countries. Seleznev replaced Romanian Senate chairman Petre Roman as chairman of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, whose 11th Parliamentary Assembly session ends on 25 June in Bucharest. His mandate is for six months. On the same day, the parliamentarians attending the session adopted a declaration expressing full support for close economic cooperation in the region, ITAR-TASS reported. The document also says a lasting peace and settlement of conflicts in the region are inseparable from strengthening economic cooperation. MS
 ARMENIA BACKS ROMANIAN OIL TRANSIT PLANSArmenian parliament chairman Khosrov Harutiunian, who attended the PABSEC session, told Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu in Bucharest on 23 June that his country backs Romanian plans for having pipe lines transporting Caspian oil transit Romanian territory, Romanian state radio reported. Harutiunian also said Armenia's position is that all states in the region must benefit from the new transit routes and "fulfill their interests." Plesu said Romania must "urgently open" an embassy in Yerevan. Plesu also met with Moldovan parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, with whom he discussed the "special" bilateral relations between their two states. Diacov and the chairmen of the two Romanian chambers of the parliament, Ion Diaconescu and Petre Roman, on 23 June signed an accord on cooperation between the two legislatures. MS
 UKRAINE TO SEND PEACE-KEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTERIgor Smirnov, leader of the separatist Transdniester region, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma agreed in Kyiv on 24 June that Ukraine will send ten peace-keepers to the security zone in the Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same day, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, in a telephone conversation with Kuchma, urged Ukraine to enhance its involvement in conflict resolution attempts and send peace-keepers to the zone. In other news, BASA-press reported on 24 June that OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that Moldova may "count on the support of international organizations" on the withdrawal of "all foreign troops" from its territory. Geremek also said Chisinau must "prove" its determination to solve the Transdniester conflict. MS
 BULGARIA WANTS INFORMATION ON MINORITY CONSCRIPTS IN KOSOVAForeign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 24 June said Bulgaria has requested official information from the Yugoslav authorities on conscripts from minority groups being dispatched to Kosova, BTA reported. Vlaikov said that if the information about an "imbalance" in selecting and including Bulgarian minority members in the contingents dispatched to Kosova turns out to be true, Sofia "will not pass over the matter in silence." Earlier this month, top Montenegrin officials and representatives of Vojvodina's Hungarian minority demanded that conscripts from Montenegro and Vojvodina, respectively, be stationed only outside Kosova. In other news, on 24 June visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov signed a treaty on friendly relations and cooperation between their countries, BTA reported. Stoyanov said Sofia will support Uzbekistan's application for membership in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. MS
[C] END NOTE
 AUSTERITY BATTLE MAY TRIGGER CONFRONTATION WITH DUMAby Floriana Fossato
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 24 June started consultations with parliamentary factions in a bid to ensure support for and swift approval of the government's anti-crisis program. That program was outlined at an expanded cabinet meeting the previous day.
The government also formally approved its austerity plan, including cuts in spending of 8 percent and revenue increases of about 4 percent. The plan aims to fill holes in the 1998 budget, restore calm to Russian financial markets, and convince the IMF that Russia is ready to implement the stringent fiscal-discipline measures considered a precondition for negotiations on additional financial support from the fund.
But the measures outlined in the plan cannot be implemented in their entirety without supporting legislation approved by the parliament. Only parts of the anti-crisis plan could be imposed by presidential decree. Most observers in Moscow are skeptical about whether the government will be able to persuade the State Duma to adopt 20 draft bills related to the plan before the lower house of the parliament adjourns for its summer recess on 16 July.
According to observers, the time frame set by the Kremlin could lead to a confrontation with the Duma and possibly to the dissolution of that body if lawmakers fail to give the cabinet the requested support.
President Boris Yeltsin on 23 June endorsed the government plan and told the expanded cabinet session, which included legislators as well as regional and business leaders, that "the economic crisis has become so acute that there are social and political dangers." Yeltsin called on the parliament to adopt the government's plan and vowed to take unspecified "other measures" if it did not. In 1993, Yeltsin had ordered tanks to shell the parliament building to dislodge rebellious members of the previous parliament, the Supreme Soviet.
The constitution, adopted after the shelling of the White House, gives the president powerful levers to force the Duma to comply with his plans. Yeltsin could dissolve the Duma or issue laws by decree if legislators block the government's plan. However, the constitution does not cite the refusal to pass legislation as grounds for dissolving the Duma.
But analysts say that a confrontation could easily be manufactured. Nikolai Petrov, a senior associate of the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, told RFE/RL that the time frame proposed by the government for the parliamentary passage of its plan is "not realistic." He added that Yeltsin's "thinly veiled threat to the Duma indicates that we may well be heading for a new fight."
Confrontation between the president and his foes in the opposition- dominated Duma is a habitual feature of Russia's political life. The Duma initially rejected the appointment of little-known Kirienko to the post of prime minister when Yeltsin sacked former Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin and his government three months ago. At that time, however, the economic and political situation had not reached what Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev on 23 June called the "boiling point," in a reference to the current situation.
Communist leaders in the Duma have already slammed Yeltsin's 23 June performance, while welcoming some of the points included in the government's austerity plan. Communist Party and parliamentary faction leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that Yeltsin "performed his usual repertoire. He opened the meeting, started threatening the Duma, was rude, insulted us, and left." And Anatolii Lukanov, an influential Communist member who heads the Duma's legislative committee, said "there was a time when such threats could have influenced the Duma, but not now."
Petrov of the Carnegie Centre says that "the Duma seems ready for dissolution." According to Petrov, "the situation of growing economic and political crisis now means that the Communists could benefit from the election, increasing their presence in the Duma, unlike in the spring, when economic forecasts were overall positive, and they would have been disadvantaged in an early election." Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 1999.
Petrov said that a possible dissolution could be set up "in a simple way. The government presents the draft bills. The Duma says it does not have enough time to consider, debate, and vote on them before the recess. Then the prime minister, arguing that the Duma is not acting in the requested cooperative way, calls for a confidence vote in the government. The Duma votes no confidence and, at this point, a constitutional scenario allowing the president to dissolve [the Duma] and call early elections is set up."
For the time being, however, deputies seem to have taken time out in order to clarify their positions. The leader of the pro- government Our Home Is Russia faction, Aleksandr Shokhin, has said the Duma will not start examining the government plan before 1 July. Shokhin and his faction, closely identified with Chernomyrdin, were scheduled to meet with Kirienko on 24 June. Shokhin told the Interfax news agency that "part of the government draft bills have a good chance of being approved...but not all the measures are likely to be."
The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty