|Friday, 18 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 139, 98-07-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 139, 22 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 UN OBSERVERS MURDERED IN TAJIKISTANFour members of the UN observers mission in Tajikistan have been found murdered in a mountainous area about 170 kilometers from Dushanbe, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 21 July. The two military observers (from Poland and Uruguay), one civilian affairs officer (from Japan), and their Tajik driver/translator had last been heard from the previous day. Their car was found overturned in a gorge, which prompted initial reports saying that they died in an accident. However, an examination of their bodies revealed gunshot wounds. Authorities have launched a search for the perpetrators of the crime. All UN personnel in Tajikistan have been recalled to Dushanbe. BP
 REACTION TO MURDERSBoth Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and the United Tajik Opposition branded the killing of the four UN employees as "an act of terrorism," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 July. Rakhmonov said those responsible are "traitors." UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis said the murders are "a tragedy which is unmatched in the UN annals." In New York, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan said the four "were ambushed and ruthlessly executed" in what he called a "cold-blooded murder." Meanwhile, Rakhmonov has fired Deputy Defense Ministers Abdullo Habibov and Sodik Bobojanov in the wake of the murders. Abdurakhmon Azimov, who heads the government's power structures, and Defense Minister Sherali Khairulloyev were reprimanded. Following the murders, both the UN and the Japanese government have complained about security for UN employees. BP
 DRIVER IN KYRGYZ CYANIDE SPILL CHARGEDThe driver of the truck that spilled sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River on 20 May has been charged with violating rules for transporting chemicals, Interfax reported on 22 July. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if found guilty. All other drivers who transported that chemical the same day as the accident have been fired. The Kyrgyz parliamentary commission investigating the spill reports that the management of the Kumtor Gold Mining project has not repaired bridges leading to the mining site, which were built 20 years ago and are not intended for cargoes exceeding 13 tons. The company's trucks regularly transport 40 ton cargoes across such bridges. BP
 AZERBAIJAN SIGNS NEW OIL CONTRACTSAzerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who is on an official visit to Britain, has signed exploration and production-sharing agreements worth $5 billion with three British oil companies to develop separate Caspian oil fields. The companies in question are British Petroleum, Ramco, and Monument Oil and Gas. Aliev also signed an agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which will provide $20 million for the development of Azerbaijan's banking sector and private businesses, according to ITAR-TASS on 21 July. LF
 ALIEV'S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY PROPOSEDThe Central Electoral Committee has registered an initiative group composed of voters from four cities and seven raions, which has proposed Aliev as a candidate for the 11 October presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported on 22 July, citing ANS. The previous day, Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar said that he and the other four opposition candidates who have vowed to boycott the poll might reconsider that decision if the opposition were allowed to nominate six of the 24 members of the Central Electoral Commission, Turan reported. Also on 21 July, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that exiled former Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, who arrived in Istanbul on 13 July, has been asked to leave Turkey. LF
 ARMENIA, IRAN SIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION AGREEMENTIranian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Hussein Namazi and Armenian Chief of Government Staff Shahen Karamanoukian signed an economic cooperation agreement in Tehran on 20 July, IRNA reported. The agreement includes a $5 million credit from Iran's Export Promotion Bank for the purchase of Iranian consumer goods and cooperation on expanding transport arteries linking Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia. Iran also expressed an interest in purchasing molybdenum and copper concentrate from Armenia. On 18 July, Karamanoukian met with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, to whom he delivered a message from Armenian President Robert Kocharian. LF
 NEW ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTY CREATES INFRASTRUCTUREThe People's Party of Armenia, founded by former Communist Party First Secretary and defeated presidential challenger Karen Demirchian, has almost completed setting up branches throughout the country, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 21 July. A spokesman for the party said local "organizing committees" have already received thousands of membership applications. The party will hold its founding congress in the fall. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 UN RENEWS MANDATE FOR MACEDONIAN PEACEKEEPERSThe Security Council voted unanimously in New York on 21 July to extend the mandate of UNPREDEP until 28 February 1999. The leading UN body also agreed to add about 350 soldiers to the current nearly 750-strong mainly U.S. and Scandinavian contingent. Norway will supply most of the additional troops. The vote came hours after three bombs exploded in three different locations in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). On 16 July, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York that UNPREDEP is stretched too thin to be able to monitor effectively Macedonia's borders with Albania and Yugoslavia. UNPREDEP is the first mission in UN history that seeks to prevent a conflict from spreading rather than keep the peace in a war-torn area. PM
 MACEDONIA TIGHTENS BORDER SECURITYDefense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said in Debar on 21 July that the government is closely monitoring events in Kosova and that "because of possible movements of groups from Albania into Macedonia, we will additionally reinforce" troops along the Albanian border. Debar is near one of the main border crossings between the two countries. In Skopje, Kitanovski's spokesman told Reuters that "there have been 30 armed incidents along the border with Albania in the past three months, in which Albanians tried to enter Macedonian territory to smuggle weapons" bound for Kosova. "So far there have been no casualties on the Macedonian side but two Albanians were killed and over 10 wounded in these incidents," he added. Ethnic tensions run high in Macedonia between the Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanian minority. PM
 FIGHTING CONTINUES IN RAHOVECSerbian forces clashed with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in Rahovec on 21 July for the fourth straight day. The town was "in flames and smoke" and the fighting left a total of 36 ethnic Albanians dead, the Kosovar KIC news agency. In a statement, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) criticized "violence and massacres by Serbian forces in Rahovec" and urged the international community to react "forcefully." The LDK called on foreign governments to bring the Belgrade authorities before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal because of what Serbian forces have done in Kosova. Rugova discussed the situation in the province with Christopher Hill, who is U.S. ambassador to Macedonia and who met the previous day in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
 SERBIAN PRIEST COMFORTS KOSOVARS, SERBSA humanitarian aid worker from Kosova told Reuters on 21 July in Prishtina that fighting in western Kosova near the Albanian border has left great material destruction. He added that in many places quantities of human and animal remains lie unburied. The aid worker said that his work is difficult because "the Serbs hate us, and the Albanians are very disappointed in us." He noted that "there is a Serbian Orthodox priest there, a remarkable man called Sava, who is doing all he can to help the Albanians against the odds." Father Sava is a deputy of Bishop Artemije. Both men are committed to the welfare of ordinary Serbs and to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians. The two men blame Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the current conflict. PM
 UNHCR COMPLAINS ABOUT ALBANIAN ORGANIZED CRIMEA representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told journalists in Tirana on 20 July that local gunmen in northern Albania continue to hamper aid efforts. He said that thefts of cars and aid supplies by "organized local criminal groups are a major problem" and that criminals are trying to make money from the crisis situation. He noted that they "steal aid shipments and even pressure us to employ them." The spokesman pointed out that there is a constant risk of UNHCR personnel being caught in crossfire in random shooting. Another aid worker stressed that "people are armed and police are reluctant to intervene and restore law." Northeastern Albania has traditionally been considered lawless. Tirana has been unable to fully restore law and order there since the country succumbed to anarchy in early 1997. FS
 OSCE OPENS NEW FIELD OFFICE IN NORTHERN ALBANIAThe OSCE opened a field office in Koplik on 21 July, its fifth such office in the north. The bureau is part of an effort to expand monitoring of the border region. Meanwhile in Tirana, Socialist Party legislator Spartak Braho told "Koha Jone" that he will go to Kosova later this week to join the UCK. Braho said he wants to help the guerrillas with logistics, but he did not rule out eventually taking part in military operations. Braho also called on legislators, "intellectuals, and [former] soldiers to make their contribution to Kosova." He criticized Albanian politicians for what he called their "idleness" with regard to the conflict. FS
 ALBANIA DEPORTS REPUTED TERRORISTThe authorities on 21 July deported suspected Egyptian terrorist Muhamed Hasan Mahmud to the U.S. Mahmud had worked as director of the Islamic Revival charity organization in Tirana until his arrest on 17 July. The FBI helped Albanian police identify Mahmud, whom the U.S. suspects of being behind the 1990 murder of Egyptian parliament speaker Rifaat el Mahgoub in Cairo as well as attacks on an aircraft and a supermarket in the U.S. Albanian authorities expelled two other suspected Egyptian terrorists to the U.S. last month. FS
 BOSNIAN POLITICIANS DECLARE ASSETSCandidates in the September general elections have filed declarations of their assets with the election commission. That move is in keeping with a ruling by the OSCE, which is supervising the vote, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 20 and 21 July. The wealthiest politician is Fikret Abdic, the controversial kingpin of the Bihac pocket, who declared property worth $250,000. Kresimir Zubak, who is the Croatian member of the joint presidency, and his Serbian counterpart, Momcilo Krajisnik, both own what the paper called "an impressive amount of real estate." Alija Izetbegovic, their Muslim opposite number, declared savings of $50,000. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic reported her salary of $200 per month plus two garages in Sarajevo, although the newspaper states that she also owns an apartment in the Muslim-controlled capital. Observers say that many politicians on all sides amassed great wealth during the 1992-1995 war. PM
 ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER THREATENS TO RESIGNDaniel Daianu on 21 July told journalists in Bucharest that he will resign if his proposal to raise taxes in August is rejected or if the government upholds the controversial deal to purchase 96 helicopters. Under the proposed deal, Bell Helicopters Textron is to purchase a majority stake in the Gimbav aircraft company, which would produce the helicopters. The deal involves a $1.45 billion loan, which Daianu says would increase budget expenditures by more than $ 150 million annually. He also said the envisaged property tax cannot be applied before 1999 for logistical reasons. MS
 MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER SUMMIT FAILS TO BRIDGE MAIN DIFFERENCESPresident Petru Lucinschi and Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov, meeting in Chisinau on 21 July, failed to reach an agreement on the "common state" envisaged in the memorandum signed in May 1997 in Moscow, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The two leaders did, however, reach an understanding on the continuation of energy deliveries from the Cuciurgan (Dnestrovsk) power plant in the Transdniester. Lucinschi acknowledged that Moldova owes Tiraspol $21 million, but he said the debt cannot be settled for the time being. The two leaders also agreed that the bridge over the Dniester at Dubasari, which has been reconstructed following its destruction in 1992, will be reopened on 3 August. The Transdniester authorities previously opposed the recommissioning of the bridge, citing security reasons. MS
 ROMANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVARazvan Ungureanu, on a two-day visit to Chisinau, told journalists on 21 July that the pending Romanian-Moldovan basic treaty has been "finalized in great part" and that only the preamble to the treaty and its concluding articles remain to be negotiated. Ungureanu conducted talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Ceslav Ciobanu, the independent Flux agency reported. Before departing from Bucharest, Ungureanu said he would raise during the talks the problem of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which Chisinau refuses to recognize. MS
 SPANISH PREMIER IN BULGARIAJose Maria Aznar and his host, Ivan Kostov, on 21 July told journalists in Sofia at the end of the Spanish premier's two-day visit that the two countries have signed accords on cooperation in tourism and on combating organized crime, BTA reported. They also reached an agreement to work for the settling of Bulgaria's $30 million debt to Spain by giving Spanish companies stakes in Bulgarian enterprises. Aznar praised Bulgaria's economic and social reforms but said the country still has a long way to go before being able to join the EU, adding that this goal must be achieved by consensus in Bulgarian society. At a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov, Aznar said Spain will continue to support Bulgarian efforts to join the EU and NATO. MS
 BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO BACK IMF DEALRumen Ovcharov, a leading member of the opposition Socialist Party, told Reuters on 21 July that his party will support a three-year loan now being negotiated with the IMF on condition that the deal secures "stable economic growth, employment, and development." Ovcharov spoke after meeting with the chief IMF representative in Bulgaria, Anne McGuirk. The government supported that meeting in a bid to soften resistance to painful restructuring and expected lay-offs under the program coordinated with the IMF. MS
[C] END NOTE
 EU PUNISHES BELARUSIAN LEADERSHIPby Jan Maksymiuk
The EU Council on 13 July formally approved a decision to ban EU visas for Belarusian government officials. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka topped a list of 130 Belarusian cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, presidential administration officials, and state committee heads, all of whom are now prohibited from traveling to the EU's 15 member states.
The decision was communicated to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry by charges d'affaires of five EU states-- France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the U.K.- -on 10 July, the fourth anniversary of Lukashenka's presidency. A Russian newspaper reported that Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich was shocked to receive such a note and tried to dismiss it on the pretext that it was poorly prepared--the names of some officials were misspelled or their official positions incorrectly identified. Four days later, the US State Department followed suit, imposing similar restrictions on Belarusian senior officials wanting to travel to the U.S., except those visiting the UN headquarters. Ten non-EU states in Europe have also joined the visa ban.
Minsk obviously did not expect such a turn of events in the ongoing diplomatic scandal over the eviction of Western ambassadors from the Drazdy residential compound, near Minsk. In fact, Deputy Foreign Minister Uladzimir Herasimovich, appointed by Lukashenka to negotiate a solution to the conflict with Western diplomats, announced on 9 July that Belarus had reached some kind of arrangement with Germany and France on moving their ambassadors to other accommodation. He also said Minsk had backed off from its ultimatum ordering Western diplomats to remove their belongings from Drazdy.
But the West seemed finally to realize that whatever the Belarusian Foreign Ministry says need not correspond to what Lukashenka does or intends to do. The EU visa ban was the first serious setback suffered by Lukashenka in his six-week battle to empty the diplomatic compound and to have it for himself alone. The recalling of Western ambassadors for consultations was not enough to shake Belarus's authoritarian leader. "Let them know that they may return to Belarus only following our permission," Lukashenka commented on the withdrawal of Western diplomats. But the visa restrictions have hit hard, for three reasons.
First, by imposing the ban on Lukashenka and his administration officials, the EU and the U.S. have unmistakably demonstrated who is really responsible for the infamous "sewer war." Belarus has been generally portrayed by international media as a country trying to find its way "back to the USSR." Lukashenka's views of various economic and political issues are presented as reflecting "the people's will" or, at least, enjoying immense popular support.
The Drazdy conflict, however, shows this is not necessarily the case. Protesting declining living standards in Minsk on 15 July, some 5,000 workers adopted a resolution saying that Lukashenka's policy "threatens the country with political and economic isolation." The West appears to have realized that it would be counterproductive to punish the Belarusian people for the actions taken by its government.
Second, the visa ban may help the fragmented and weak Belarusian opposition to consolidate itself, assuming that it is willing and able to do so. Lukashenka is vulnerable: that is the main lesson that the opposition can learn from the current diplomatic standoff. And his regime will become more vulnerable as Russia--Minsk's closest ally among the former Soviet republics--continues to press for the repayment of outstanding debts for gas and oil.
Russia under Sergei Kirienko's government is becoming more and more reluctant to provide its "sisterly republic" with energy resources free of charge or in exchange for Belarusian antiquated tractors and television sets. With no international financial aid in sight, Lukashenka will find it very hard to cope with mounting problems in the virtually unreformed Soviet economy he controls. He will be forced to make political concessions if his is not a suicidal case. And it will be up to the Belarusian opposition to decide whether and how to take advantage of that vulnerability.
Third, by imposing visa restrictions and not severing diplomatic relations with Belarus, the West has prudently left room for diplomatic maneuvering. It has also confirmed that it still sees Belarus as a sovereign country and wants it to retain that status. With NATO's eastern border flanking Belarus in six months or so, it is doubtless preferable to have a stretch of non-Russian territory between NATO and Russian tanks. No European government, including the Kremlin, wants to recreate the barbed-wire dividing line that characterized Cold-War Europe.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty