|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 141, 98-07-27
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 141, 27 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN STATE MINISTER RESIGNSNiko Lekishvili tendered his resignation to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 26 July, one day after calling on the entire cabinet to resign. Lekishvili, who had coordinated the activities of the government, argued that the ministers' voluntary resignation would enable the president to undertake urgently needed personnel changes. In his traditional weekly radio address the following day, Shevardnadze admitted that some cabinet members will lose their jobs but said this is a "normal" occurrence that proves Georgia is becoming a democratic country, according to Caucasus Press. Shevardnadze said Lekishvili's resignation does not mean his departure from national politics, but he declined to comment on Lekishvili's chances--or those of Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze--of heading the new government. Shevardnadze said he is skeptical about the 300-day program drafted by parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania for overcoming the country's problems. He said that program reminds him of "perestroika." LF
 NO PROGRESS AT GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKSMeeting in Geneva under UN auspices on 23-25 July, Georgian and Abkhaz representatives failed to reach agreement on a draft document detailing measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Those measures entailed strengthening the existing cease-fire in order to preclude further terrorist activity, expediting the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons, and social and economic reconstruction. Reuters quoted unspecified diplomats as saying that the talks were "stormy" and that the Abkhaz and Georgians exchanged accusations over the current situation in Abkhazia's Gali Raion. A final communique issued by the UN registered concern that the two sides remain "far from agreement on the key aspects of a settlement" and that the situation continues to deteriorate, dpa reported. LF
 CHAIRMAN OF FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY INTERROGATEDVano Siradeghian, formerly interior minister and currently chairman of the board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 22 July and interrogated by police two days later, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 24 July. Siradeghian was questioned in connection with testimony given by former Interior Ministry troops commander Vahan Harutiunian, who was arrested in June on charges of corruption and suspected murder. Speaking at a press conference, Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian declined to confirm a direct connection between the investigation into Harutiunian's case and the arrest in February of a gang led by former police officer and Siradeghian associate Armen Ter-Sahakian. Sahakian's gang has been charged with the murder of several prominent political figures. On 25 July, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian met with Siradeghian at the HHSh's headquarters in Yerevan. LF
 FORMER KARABAKH PREMIER GIVEN NEW JOBLeonard Petrossian, who stepped down last month as prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has been appointed as adviser to Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 24 July. Petrosian's economic policies had been criticized by Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT TAKES MEASURES TO ENSURE ORDERTajik President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a decree on 24 July designed to improve discipline within the armed forces, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The decree broadens the powers of a special military inspection unit and calls for an evaluation of all units and their needs. It also prohibits members of the armed forces from wearing beards, a move that is unlikely to be popular among fighters from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), who are currently being absorbed into the regular Tajik army. The next day Rakhmonov ordered the Defense, Interior, and Security Ministries to review and improve discipline at roadside checkpoints throughout the country. BP
 LOYALTY OATH IN TAJIKISTAN MEETS WITH MIXED SUCCESSWhile 48 fighters of the UTO based near the city of Nurek have taken the oath of allegiance to the government, more than 600 in the Karategin region, east of Dushanbe, refused to do so, Interfax reported on 24 July. The oath, which is provided for by the 1997 Tajik peace accord, is a requirement for UTO members who wish to continue military service a soldier in the regular Tajik army. Those who did not take the oath cited the government's failure to honor all its commitments to the accord, including allotting 30 percent of the cabinet posts to UTO representatives. They also said they are "offended" by thinly veiled statements from the government that they were involved in the 20 July murder of four UN employees working in Tajikistan. BP
 UZBEK GDP GROWS IN FIRST HALF OF 1998Uzbek President Islam Karimov told a 23 July session of the cabinet that GDP rose by 4 percent in the first six months of 1998, compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported. According to Karimov, industrial output was up 5.5 percent, agricultural production 7.4 percent, production of consumer goods 6.5 percent, and construction 3.5 percent. He said monthly inflation has shrunk to 1.5 percent, adding that this helped ensure that "salaries, pensions, benefits, and grants were paid on time." Karimov also noted that investments in the economy have grown by 12 percent and now account for one-third of GDP. And he noted that the country's trade balance is "positive," exceeding $200 million. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBS LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVASerbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav troops backed by tanks and artillery began an offensive in several places in Kosova on 24 July. Serbian and Kosovar sources alike reported casualties on both sides, although there was no independent confirmation of the number of casualties or the extent of the fighting. The Serbian attacks appear aimed at taking control of the Prishtina-Peja and Prishtina- Prizren roads, as well as the region along the Albanian border. In so doing, Serbian forces would also cut into several pieces the main swath of territory controlled by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Observers said that the Serbian forces seek to maintain their momentum in the wake of their victories the previous week, when they blocked attempts by the UCK to take the town of Rahovec and to infiltrate up to 1,000 men into Kosova from Albania on two separate occasions. PM
 ALBANIAN BORDER POST UNDER FIRESerbian forces fired machine guns at the border post and village of Morina on the Albanian side of the border along the Prizren-Kukes road on 26 July. The police chief of the Kukes region told Radio Tirana that the attack was unprovoked. Yugoslav army spokesmen in Nis said that security forces clashed with groups of armed Albanians attempting to cross into Kosova. This is the latest in a series of incidents in which Albania has charged Yugoslavia with firing on Albanian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1998). In Skopje, spokesmen for the Defense Ministry said on 26 July that Macedonian border guards the previous day exchanged fire with "large armed groups" of Albanians trying to cross into Macedonia in the Mount Korab area, where Kosova, Albania, and Macedonia meet. PM
 KOSOVARS APPEAL TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITYKosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said on 24 July in Prishtina that an international protectorate over Kosova is the only way to stop what he called "the massacres by Serbian military and police forces of the [ethnic] Albanian population." The next day, his Democratic League of Kosova appealed in a statement to the U.S., NATO, the UN, and the EU to exert pressure on Belgrade to end the military offensive. In other news, Belgrade's Tanjug news agency reported on 26 July that Serbian forces have recaptured the Zociste monastery, which the UCK took control of the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 1998). PM
 ALBANIAN PREMIER AGAIN CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTIONFatos Nano has repeated calls for a peaceful settlement of the Kosova conflict. During a meeting with German Interior Ministry State Secretary Kurt Schelter in Tirana on 24 July, Nano said that "the Albanian government insists that the crisis in Kosova be solved by political means," adding that "it is important that [all Kosovar political forces] speak with one voice to the international community." Nano promised to curb arms smuggling into Kosova, while Schelter pledged assistance for Kosovar refugees in Albania and help in training Albanian police. Germany has provided aid in setting up a police academy in Albania and given vehicles to the Albanian police. The two countries recently agreed on a three-year plan for cooperation between their police forces. FS
 ALBANIA'S BERISHA UNDER PRESSURE TO END PARLIAMENT BOYCOTTFormer Democratic Party leader Tritan Shehu in an article in "Gazeta Shqiptare" on 25 July criticized the Democrats' recent decision to boycott the parliament and have no dealings with Tirana-appointed local government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 23 July 1998). Shehu stressed that "democracy means the broad participation of everybody, and to exclude someone from that participation is a crime. To exclude yourself from it [brings you] misfortune." He added that "unfortunately..., we are far from [having] a truly democratic outlook." OSCE ambassador Daan Everts, in an interview published the following day in "Koha Jone," said that Democratic leader and former President Sali Berisha, who proposed the boycott, should not ignore the advice he has since received from the international community to reverse his decision. FS
 HAS U.S. DROPPED PLANS TO CATCH KARADZIC, MLADIC?The "New York Times" wrote on 26 July that "after spending more than two years and tens of millions of dollars preparing missions, training commandos and gathering intelligence, the U.S. has dropped its secret plans to arrest Bosnia's two most wanted men accused of war crimes, senior administration officials say." The daily added that the administration has shelved the plans to capture Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic because of French opposition and out of fears of causing "a blood bath" and provoking fresh Serbian aggression. Observers noted, however, that the myth of Serbian invincibility was shattered by the Croatian-Muslim offensive of 1995 and that a more plausible reason for Washington's decision might be so as not to create political difficulties for the current Bosnian Serb leadership, which the international community supports. PM
 ARBOUR BLASTS BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIESLouise Arbour, who is the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in The Hague on 24 July that the Bosnian Serb authorities are not only avoiding their obligations under the Dayton agreement to help bring indicted war criminals to justice, but they have "also been engaged in deliberately frustrating the tribunal's work by issuing false identification papers to those persons indicted by the tribunal in an attempt to shield them from the tribunal's jurisdiction." She was referring to an incident the previous week in which British SAS commandos captured two indicted war criminals and sent them to The Hague, only to find out soon afterward that they had arrested the wrong men (see "RFE./RL Newsline," 24 July 1998). PM
 INTERPOL ARRESTS NADA SAKICOfficials of Interpol placed Nada Sakic under house arrest in Santa Teresita, Argentina, on 24 July. Spokesmen for the Croatian Justice Ministry said in Zagreb two days later that they will seek her extradition from the South American country, where she has lived since the end of World War II with her husband, Dinko Sakic, who is on trial in Zagreb for war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1998). Nada Sakic was a commander at a concentration camp for women under the pro-Axis Ustasha regime. Her husband was a commander at Jasenovac, which was Croatia's largest concentration camp, at which tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition Croats died. Yugoslav authorities have already said they will seek Nada Sakic's extradition. PM
 HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN ROMANIAViktor Orban, during a private visit to Romania on 25 July, met with Prime Minister Radu Vasile and President Emil Constantinescu to discuss bilateral relations and minority problems. Orban said after meeting with Vasile that "protocol has been replaced by friendship and sincerity." He said he is convinced that "both sides are ready for a dialogue" but rather than building future relations on "illusions and hopes," they must be forged on the basis of "concrete results." Vasile informed Orban about the setting up of a government commission to study the feasibility of a Hungarian-language university in Cluj, saying the commission must be "allowed to work without stirring up emotions." Orban also expressed support for the ethnic Hungarians' demands to set up the university. MS
 ROMANIAN 'CIGARETTE AFFAIR' LINKED TO INTERNATIONAL TERRORISMNineteen people were indicted on 24 July in connection with the cigarette smuggling affair uncovered in April, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. A military prosecutor in Bucharest said the smuggling affair had been headed by Arab nationals who had managed to flee the country and that the money derived from the smuggling operations "was reaching certain terrorist groups." He declined to provide further details, saying they would "affect national security." In other news, the controversial Mayor of Cluj Gheorghe Funar said after a meeting of his supporters in the newly- founded Party of Romanian Unity Alliance that the party will start a campaign for gathering signatures in favor of requesting that its registration application be re- examined. He added that for now, the party will not join the Greater Romania Party. MS
 BESSARABIAN METROPOLITAN CHURCH APPEALS AGAIN TO TRIBUNALThe Bessarabian Metropolitan Church on 24 July again appealed to the Chisinau Court of Appeals against the government's refusal to register it, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Church was re- established six years ago and is subordinated to the Bucharest Patriarchate. In September 1997, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Church's complaint against the government, but the ruling was later annulled by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds. The Bessarabian Church has also complained to the European Court for Human Rights. The Moldovan government recognizes the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS IMF LOAN PLANThe parliament on 24 July approved a resolution backing the government's efforts to obtain a three-year loan from the IMF as well as loans from other global lenders, Reuters reported. Both the Bulgarian government and the IMF said they hope the deal will be approved by the IMF board in September. The IMF wants Bulgaria to toughen economic policies, including curbs on pay rises, hikes in energy- related prices, stricter financial discipline and transparency, more structural reforms and better conditions for the private sector. In other news, Georgi Kaschiev, chairman of the Atomic Energy Committee, told Reuters on 24 July that the committee has ordered checks into safety qualifications of staff at the Kozloduy nuclear plant following operational mishaps earlier this year. Those mishaps did not affect radiation levels. MS
[C] END NOTE
 NEW RULING PARTY IN ARMENIA?by Emil Danielyan
On 20 July, the most influential political group in Armenia announced its transformation into a political party. The Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh Veterans' merger with, or more accurately takeover of, the nationalist Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) signals a significant change in the country's political landscape.
That union is intended to reinforce and give a clear organizational form to Yerkrapah, which is represented in the cabinet by two ministers and controls most local authorities. The takeover will be completed next fall, when the new party convenes for its first congress.
Numerous members of Armenia's "power class" are likely to join the new party. Most representatives of that class have nothing to do with the 1991- 1994 war with Azerbaijan. Having no specific ideology of their own, they tend to lend support to leaders who wield the real levers of power and can protect their interests. Yerkrapah's parliamentary group, for example, is mostly composed of defectors from the former majority Hanrapetutiun faction, which supported former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. The HHK's ideological core will now be the Yerkrapah elite, which has a growing number of representatives in the government. As in the past, the majority of rank-and-file war veterans are unlikely to gain any government posts and therefore will barely benefit from their organization's growing strength.
Nationalism is the only certain element to be included in the republicans' ideological platform. More precisely, that means a hard line on the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. Yerkrapah leaders' declared support for democracy, the rule of law, and economic reform sheds little light on the HHK's position on other issues. Populist slogans will probably feature large in its political program.
But defending an ideology does not figure high among the priorities of the man who initiated Yerkrapah's transformation. The increasingly ambitious defense minister, Vazgen Sarkisian, seems to be consolidating his control over the executive branch. Given the way elections were handled in Armenia in recent years, this control may be decisive. Local bosses will now receive a clear message about whom to "work for" in the parliamentary elections scheduled for summer 1999. A similar tactic by President Ter-Petrossian in 1995 earned his supporters more than 80 percent of parliamentary seats.
But election fraud next year would pit Yerkrapah against other parties, especially the Dashnak party (HHD), which like Yerkrapah supports President Robert Kocharian. Tensions may grow as soon as this fall, since Yerkrapah is keen to push through its own draft election law, which provides for most seats in the new parliament to be allocated in single-member constituencies. Other parties fear that this system would be encourage procedural violations, including intimidation of voters. They advocate allocating the majority of seats under a majority system.
Such a disagreement could prove a major source of trouble for Kocharian. Confrontation between the Dashnaks and Yerkrapah would mean the collapse of the Justice and Unity coalition, which was created last March to support his presidential bid and which forms his power base. On the other hand, election cooperation between the two groups is unlikely as the Dashnaks believe they will beat Yerkrapah (and most other parties) in a free-and- fair ballot. It is very difficult to imagine the HHD staying in government if there is election fraud next year. On the other hand, democratic elections may mean defeat for Yerkrapah, leaving Sarkisian vulnerable in the face of a hostile majority in the parliament.
One option for the Armenian president is to rely solely on Sarkisian's loyal supporters. Unlike his predecessor, Kocharian has no party of his own. The new political group will unite mostly influential individuals who do not demand sweeping political reforms. The question is whether the growing influence of the defense minister will ultimately make Kocharian dependent on him. The president is already being criticized by the opposition and his supporters for not cracking down on local mafia groups associated with Yerkrapah. If Kocharian, who came to power vowing to promote national accord, alienates the public he will find himself alone with the new power class. Ter- Petrossian's excessive reliance on the latter eventually cost him the presidency.
To avoid that fate, Kocharian will have to press ahead with democratization, which, above all, requires free elections. Such a vote, however, would endanger the privileged status of the new power class., and there are few indications that the new Yerkrapah party has been set up to ensure fair political competition. If Kocharian seeks to contain the influence of the party, a clash with Sarkisian will be inevitable. If he chooses it as his main support base, he risks being held hostage to the defense minister's demands. So far, the Armenian president has been able to avoid choosing between those two options. But recent developments suggest it will become more and more difficult for him to continue to do so.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty