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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 152, 98-08-10

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 2, No. 152, 10 August 1998


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN STRENGTHEN DEFENSES ALONG AFGHAN BORDER
  • [02] TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS ARRESTS
  • [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN CALLS FOR CONSENSUS ON ELECTION LAW
  • [04] MOTIVES FOR ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR'S MURDER STILL UNCLEAR
  • [05] AZERBAIJANIS COMMENT ON ABOLITION OF CENSORSHIP ...
  • [06] ... AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS RENEWED HARASSMENT
  • [07] FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS
  • [08] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOUR NEW MINISTERS
  • [09] THREE ABKHAZ POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN CLASH

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] WEU CALLS FOR INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA
  • [11] COOK: NO MILITARY VICTORY
  • [12] RUSSIAN VETO ON KOSOVA?
  • [13] EXIT GELBARD?
  • [14] DEADLY DANCING WITH WOLVES
  • [15] JOINT RETURN OF REFUGEES
  • [16] FIRES SWEEP DALMATIAN ISLANDS
  • [17] ALBANIA TO SCREEN ARABS
  • [18] POLL SHOWS ALBANIAN CORRUPTION WIDESPREAD
  • [19] ALBANIA TO PRODUCE AMMUNITION FOR TURKEY
  • [20] ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ATTACKS PARTY COLLEAGUES
  • [21] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WILL NOT INTERVENE OVER DISPUTED HUNGARIAN STATE UNIVERSITY
  • [22] MOLDOVAN-GAZPROM TALKS END IN CHISINAU
  • [23] ZHIVKOV FUNERAL ATTENDED BY SOME 10,000 IN SOFIA
  • [24] BULGARIA TO SLASH THREE ZEROS FROM CURRENCY

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] LANGUAGE ON TRIAL

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN STRENGTHEN DEFENSES ALONG AFGHAN BORDER

    The commander of the Russian border guards in Tajikistan, Nikolai Reznichenko, said on 8 August that "stand-by" rapid reaction forces are being formed in Tajikistan to bolster defenses along the Tajik border with Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Reznichenko's comments followed reports that troops of Afghanistan's Taliban movement had entered the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif the same day. Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Abdurakhmon Azimov told ITAR-TASS on 10 August that armed Taliban troops have been seen as close as 20 kilometers from the border with Tajikistan. The Russian Border Guard Service commander, Col-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, is expected in Tajikistan on 18 August. Uzbekistan is also taking extra precautions along its border with Afghanistan, but reports from Tashkent indicate there is no fighting near the Uzbek-Afghan border, though Mazar-i- Sharif is located 60 kilometers south. BP

    [02] TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS ARRESTS

    The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) released a statement to local and foreign media on 8 August protesting the arrests of several UTO members in northern Tajikistan's Leninabad Region, two days earlier, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Eight UTO members, including the chief cleric of the mosque in the city of Isfara, were arrested by police on 6 August for illegal possession of weapons. The statement from the UTO claims that even during the Tajik civil war UTO members in the Leninabad Region did not have weapons, and that the charges against the eight are "a pure lie." The statement demands the Tajik government release the eight men and "stop any steps aimed at undermining the peace process." BP

    [03] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN CALLS FOR CONSENSUS ON ELECTION LAW

    Addressing the presidential human rights commission on 7 August, Robert Kocharian again called on Armenia's political parties to overcome their differences over the new election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian declined to say whether he supports the preference of the Yerkrapah union of war veterans, the largest parliamentary group, for the majority of seats to be allocated in single-mandate constituencies, or that of most remaining parties for proportional representation. "I am ready to accept whatever political parties and the National Assembly agree upon," he said. But Kocharian warned that if a consensus is not reached in September, the government, which shares responsibility for ensuring that the 1999 parliamentary elections are free and fair, will propose an alternative draft in October or November. Kocharian again said that he would only consider dissolving parliament in the event of a "political crisis." LF

    [04] MOTIVES FOR ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR'S MURDER STILL UNCLEAR

    On 7 August the Armenian Prosecutor-General's office isisued a statement denying media speculation that a third person may have been present at the killing of Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian the pervious day. Khachatrian was apparently shot dead by his subordinate, former transport prosecutor Aram Karapetian, who then committed suicide. According to a second statement carried by Armenpress on 8 August, an investigation opened by the transport procuracy at the time it was headed by Karapetian was later inxplicably shelved. One of Khachatrian's predecessors, former procurator-general Vladimir Nazarian, told the daily "Aravot" on 8 August that relations between Khachatrian and Karapetian were "not tense." Nazarian added that Karapetian and Armenian railways director Arbartsum Ghandilian, whose murder in 1994 was never solved, witnessed largescale embezzlement in the rail sector in the early 1990s. LF

    [05] AZERBAIJANIS COMMENT ON ABOLITION OF CENSORSHIP ...

    Opposition party leaders and newspaper editors have greeted President Heidar Aliev's 6 August decree abolishing political censorship, Turan reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar termed the move "the result of joint efforts by democratic forces," while Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey says he believes it is irreversible. But Yashar Aliyev, assistant editor of "525 gazeti," wondered if the move is indeed permanent, and Democratic Party Secretary-General Sardar Djalaloglu expressed doubt that the abolition of censorship will resolve the problem of the lack of press freedom, given that "moral censorship still exists." LF

    [06] ... AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS RENEWED HARASSMENT

    The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party issued a statement on 7 August reporting the arrest of four of its activists in three rural districts for their refusal to endorse Heidar Aliev's presidential candidacy, Turan reported. The party's Ordubad branch was prevented by Nakhichevan police from holding a planned meeting on 7 August, after the chairman of the Nakhichevan branch was interrogated and physically attacked by a local police official the previous day. Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Elchibey told Turan in an interview that the necessary conditions for holding democratic elections still have not been created. Elchibey accused Aliev of insincerity in calling for dialogue with the opposition while condoning the arrest of its local representatives. LF

    [07] FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS

    In Moscow, former president Ayaz Mutalibov said President Aliev's abolition of media censorship is "a wise decision," adding that he would also have released political prisoners "in order to promote national unity." Mutalibov denied media reports that he either plans to contend the upcoming presidential election or that he has established contact with the five opposition leaders who intend to boycott the poll, Turan reported on 8 August. LF

    [08] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOUR NEW MINISTERS

    Meeting in emergency session on 8 August, the Georgian parliament confirmed four of five candidates nominated by President Eduard Shevardnadze for vacant cabinet posts, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Former First Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Ukleba was confirmed as State Property Minister, National Library Director Aleksandre Kartozia as Education Minister, law professor Lado Chanturia as minister of justice, and Tbilisi mayor and former Georgian Communist Party functionary Badri Shoshitaishvili, who served as first secretary of a Tbilisi raion party committee in the mid- 1980s, as industry minister. Deputies also approved the candidacy of Foreign Trade Minister Konstantine Zaldastanishvili as ambassador to the EU, but rejected Otar Zumburidze's candidacy for the post of communications minister.LF

    [09] THREE ABKHAZ POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN CLASH

    Three Abkhaz police officers were shot dead by Georgian police in Khurcha village in Georgia's Zugdidi raion on the evening of 8 August, Russian agencies reported. The Abkhaz had reportedly crossed the Inguri river, which marks the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, by car and opened fire at houses in Khurcha. On 7 August, General Sergei Korobko, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under CIS auspices in Abkhazia, called for that force to be doubled from its present strength of 1,500 to 3,000 men, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 7 August, the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry issued a statement querying why the Georgian authorities allow the leader of the "White Legion" guerrilla force, Zurab Samushia, to give interviews to local media instead of arresting him, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] WEU CALLS FOR INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA

    Fighting continued in western Kosova during the 7-9 August weekend, particularly along the Decan-Gjakova road. In Paris, the Western European Union's Presidency on 7 August called on NATO to intervene "immediately" to prevent the war from spreading throughout the region, Reuters reported. WEU president Luis Maria de Puig said in a statement headlined "Enough is Enough" that "it is now clear that the use of force is the only means of bringing about a political agreement, with which the parties must be forced to comply...The limits of what the international community can tolerate without intervening have been reached. We are in the midst of a catastrophe with more than 600 dead, over 5,000 taken prisoner, 200,000 refugees and 300 villages destroyed: This is Bosnia all over again...The international community has yet again been deceived by [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic...The time has come for military action." PM

    [11] COOK: NO MILITARY VICTORY

    British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that the plans for Kosova that British Ambassador Brian Donnelly gave to the Serbian and Kosovar leaderships over the weekend are aimed at establishing a wide autonomy for the Kosovars within Yugoslavia, the "Guardian" wrote on 10 August. Cook added that the international Contact Group's proposal would give the people of Kosova "control of their own internal affairs, control over their own security and real autonomy....We are making it plain to both sides that this is not a war that either side can win." The Kosovars have repeatedly made it plain that, in the wake of the crackdown Milosevic launched in February, the only options are full independence or an international protectorate. Meanwhile in Tirana, a Kosovar shadow-state spokesman told an RFE/RL correspondent on 7 August that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) is prepared to be a part of the Kosovar delegation in any future talks with the Belgrade authorities. PM

    [12] RUSSIAN VETO ON KOSOVA?

    "NATO has completed preparations for military intervention [in Kosova], but this seems increasingly likely to remain a paper exercise," the "Guardian" wrote on 10 August. The London daily noted that U.S. President Bill Clinton and France's Jacques Chirac agreed in a telephone call on 7 August that they will not undertake any action in Kosova without Russian approval. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii said in Belgrade on 8 August after several days of shuttle diplomacy in the region that "no one has yet explained what any foreign military interference would bring to [Kosova] and the people there." He added that the solution lies in preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia while ensuring "a high degree of autonomy" for Kosova, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported. PM

    [13] EXIT GELBARD?

    The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 7 August that U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard will no longer deal directly with the Kosova issue, at least not in Belgrade. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who has been active in Kosovar diplomacy in recent weeks, will now handle the issue on Washington's behalf. The German daily reported that Gelbard had made some unspecified remarks that offended Milosevic, who declined to deal with him any further. PM

    [14] DEADLY DANCING WITH WOLVES

    Serbian police in Kragujevac arrested an unnamed member of the State Security Service on 8 August after the man opened fire on the cafe "Kod Gileta," killing three people, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. There was no apparent motive for the gunman's action, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Among the dead was Slobodan Miljkovic "Lugar," whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal wants in conjunction with deaths of at least 19 persons in Bosnia, where he was an officer in the paramilitary Gray Wolves. Meanwhile in Pale, unidentified masked gunmen killed Srdjan Knezevic in front of his home. Knezevic headed the paramilitary White Wolves during the Bosnian conflict but subsequently became deputy chief of police for the Serbian part of the Sarajevo area. He was a supporter of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, who said in Banja Luka that Knezevic was "a hero" and a victim of mafia violence. PM

    [15] JOINT RETURN OF REFUGEES

    SFOR peacekeepers accompanied 700 Muslims who returned to their villages of Sovici and Doljani in Croatian-controlled Herzegovina on 8 August after an absence of five years. At the same time, an unspecified number of Croats returned to their homes in nearby Jablanica. The Croatian news agency HINA reported that five Muslims beat up two Croats, who are members of the Bosnian federal army, on the road linking Jablanica and Doljani. PM

    [16] FIRES SWEEP DALMATIAN ISLANDS

    Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa visited the island of Korcula on 9 August, where a fire destroyed large tracts of forests and olive groves in the course of the previous four days. Firefighters meanwhile succeeded in containing the blaze. Another fire engulfed about one-third of the surface of the neighboring island of Lastovo, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Korcula. PM

    [17] ALBANIA TO SCREEN ARABS

    In the wake of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 August, Deputy Minister for Public Order Ilir Cano told "Zeri i Popullit" of 9 August that the Office of Foreigners' Control has already begun to screen "all" Arabs living and working in Albania. Cano noted that there has been a large influx of Arabs in recent years but that the authorities have not checked on each individual's background or activities. Parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi said, however, that "there are no Islamic fundamentalists in Albania." The governing Socialists recently criticized former President Sali Berisha for joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference and for inviting in Islamic charities during his presidency from 1992-1997, dpa wrote. Many Arabs and Iranians work with charities or businesses in Albania. While a majority of Albanians are of Islamic heritage, religious life is only slowly reemerging. Prominent is the moderate Bektashi sect. PM

    [18] POLL SHOWS ALBANIAN CORRUPTION WIDESPREAD

    Almost 90 percent of those questioned in an opinion poll said that they believe there is massive corruption, ATSH news agency reported on 8 August. Some 45.7 percent said they feel that corruption has spread throughout the civil service. Some 21 percent identified the state administration as particularly corrupt, while 17.7 percent said that the judiciary is the worst. Furthermore, many respondents said that they had paid bribes to employees in the health system. According to a report by the Albanian Consumer Association (SHKSH) that included the poll results, a doctor's house visit costs between $1 and $2, while operations can run up to $70, which is the equivalent of one month's salary. An average citizen may pay about $1 as a bribe to obtain a birth certificate and between $50 and $200 to receive a business license. FS

    [19] ALBANIA TO PRODUCE AMMUNITION FOR TURKEY

    Albanian and Turkish defense ministry officials signed an agreement in Ankara on 3 August providing for the production of ammunition for Turkey in a factory in Polican. Turkey will assist the company by upgrading its machinery and technology. The deal will allow the metallurgical factory there to increase its number of employees from the current 300 to 800. Most Albanian factories of all sorts are have been gutted by looters or lie idle. FS

    [20] ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ATTACKS PARTY COLLEAGUES

    Defense Minister Victor Babiuc on 7 August said that those who suggest that "Romania should buy second-hand reconditioned helicopters are persuaded that a modern army can be equipped with weapons bought at the flea market." He reacted to declarations by fellow Democratic Party Transportation Minister Radu Berceanu and party vice chairman Bogdan Niculescu Duvaz, who said the deal with Bell Helicopters Textron for purchasing 96 helicopters under license with the US firm acquiring a 70 percent stake in the Gimbav Brasov factory that would produce the helicopters must be reviewed. Berceanu spoke after returning from Israel, where he accompanied premier Radu Vasile and where the hosts suggested that Romania might cut a better deal by buying U.S. helicopters reconditioned in Romania in a joint venture with Israel, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [21] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WILL NOT INTERVENE OVER DISPUTED HUNGARIAN STATE UNIVERSITY

    Presidential counselor Petru Berteanu on 7 August said President Emil Constantinescu will not attempt to "in any way influence" the decision on setting up a Hungarian state university, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said the decision belonged to the parliament and the government. Berteanu also denied that Constantinescu supports the dismissal of Education Minister Andrei Marga, as demanded by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) because of his opposition to the Hungarian state university. Spokesmen representing all of UDMR's partners in the ruling coalition said they oppose the project. Meanwhile, on 8 August, UDMR chairman Bela Marko again said that Marga's opposition makes his presence in the government "incompatible" with the agreement signed by UDMR's partners in the coalition. MS

    [22] MOLDOVAN-GAZPROM TALKS END IN CHISINAU

    Moldova's debt for Russian gas deliveries will be paid mostly in cash, with barter payments being reduced to a minimum, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August at the end of talks conducted in Chisinau by Vasilii Fadeev, a member of Gazprom Board of Directors. Moldova will transfer to Gazprom government bonds to the value of $90 million with an annual interest rate of 7.5 percent, as well as a controlling block of shares in the Gazsnabtransit joint enterprise, which will be set up with the participation of Russian gas producers. An agreement is to be signed in September. RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported the same day that Moldova pledged to pay $25 million by the end of the year, in monthly $5 million installments. The total Moldovan debt to Gazprom is $214 million, while the Transdniester, whose representatives attended the talks, owes $380 million. MS

    [23] ZHIVKOV FUNERAL ATTENDED BY SOME 10,000 IN SOFIA

    Todor Zhivkov was buried in Sofia on 9 August, with some 10,000 mourners attending the obsequies organized by the Socialist Party, Reuters and AFP reported. The ceremony was held in Sofia's main square and a smaller crowd followed the coffin to the cemetery, where the former communist dictator was buried near the grave of his wife, who died in 1972. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party's daily "Duma" on 8 August reappeared in tabloid format after failing to be published for four days. An editorial on the same day said the government has ordered the Rodina printing company to stop the publication of "Duma," and claimed that other periodicals with large debts to Rodina were not subjected to the same treatment. MS

    [24] BULGARIA TO SLASH THREE ZEROS FROM CURRENCY

    The government and the Currency Board on 6 August decided to drop three zeros from the Bulgarian national currency, the lev, as of 1 July 1999, BTA reported. National Bank governor Svetoslav Gavriiski said that as of that date, the lev will equal one German mark and that this will simplify financial transactions and reduced expenses for banks. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said the decision had been taken in coordination with the IMF and the World Bank and it symbolized the stability of the Bulgarian currency and financial system. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [25] LANGUAGE ON TRIAL

    by Jan Maksymiuk

    In 1997, the Belarusian National Assembly passed a law "On the Press and Other Media," which allowed the government in May 1998 to issue a warning against the biweekly "Nasha Niva." An independent newspaper published entirely in Belarusian and with a circulation of some 5,000, "Nasha Niva" was launched by its chief editor, Syarhey Dubavets, in Vilnius in 1991. The newspaper is printed in Minsk and distributed by the state network of kiosks and, to a lesser extent, by the editorial staff. It uses the traditional Belarusian orthography, which was changed by decree under Joseph Stalin's regime in 1933. The media law, passed by the National Assembly in 1997 and amended in January 1998, explicitly prohibits the press from "distorting the generally accepted norms" of the language in which it publishes.

    In a bid to forestall what seemed like preparations to close down his newspaper, Dubavets filed a lawsuit against the State Press Committee in June, demanding the warning be revoked as "groundless." He argued that the term "generally accepted norms" is void since there is no legally binding standards for spelling in Belarus. The case is to be heard at the Higher Economic Court on 12 August. If the newspaper loses the case and persists in using the pre- 1933 spelling, it can be banned after receiving another two warnings, according to the amended media law.

    The "Nasha Niva" case, which in most countries would doubtless be regarded as a bizarre example of overregulation by the state, strikes a very tragic note in today's Belarus. Belarusians are gradually losing their language and cultural identity. The number of Belarusian- language books and periodicals has plummeted to a very low level since the May 1995 referendum, which granted Russian the status of an official language, along with Belarusian. The state, which from 1991 to 1994 did a great deal to promote both the formerly neglected Belarusian culture and education in the Belarusian language, has practically ceased to support either under Lukashenka.

    For example, in 1994 there were 220 schools in Minsk whose language of instruction was Belarusian. Two years later, their number had shrunk to fewer than 20. Those students who want to receive a higher education in Belarusian will be hard put to achieve that aim, since Russian is the language of instruction in virtually all university departments in Belarus.

    Lukashenka has made a point of ostentatiously promoting Russian-language and Soviet culture in Belarus. In a widely quoted statement, he once asserted that "one cannot express anything deep in Belarusian." Non- Sovietized Belarusian culture and the Belarusian language are developed and supported mainly by non-governmental organizations and an ever dwindling number of intellectuals. "Nasha Niva" is one of the champions of that movement.

    Speaking Belarusian in Belarus is not only a means of communication but also a political declaration of loyalty to the country's indigenous cultural and historical heritage in defiance of the ruling regime. The fundamental dividing line in Belarus is not between "democrats in general" and the Lukashenka regime; rather, it is between democracy- supporting "Belarusian nationalists" and the Sovietized and Russianized segment of society led by former Communist Party functionaries.

    "Having forced the national symbols--the coat of arms [knight-in-pursuit] and the [white-red-white] flag--to go underground, the government of the Republic of Belarus has now declared war against the non-Soviet Belarusian orthography," Dubavets wrote in the 15 June 1998 issue of "Nasha Niva." He also expressed bitterness toward those Belarusian intellectuals who "have voluntarily remained in the Belarusian SSR in terms of spelling." The pre- 1933 orthography was used at schools among some 2 million Belarusians in pre-war Poland and has never been abandoned by the Belarusian Diaspora.

    Dubavets is not the only one to oppose the 1933 orthography reform. The "Belarusian Language Encyclopedia," published in Minsk in 1994, states that the 1933 reform focused "not so much on reflecting the specifically national character of the Belarusian language as on bringing its orthography in line with the Russian orthographic tradition." In a wider sense, the 1933 ban on the traditional Belarusian spelling reflected Stalin's idea of merging the globe's cultures into one with a single language. Presumably, that culture was to be Soviet and the language Russian. In this way, the Belarusian language became a victim of Stalin's futuristic vision.

    Some of the best-known Belarusian linguists have come out in support of the spelling used by "Nasha Niva." International human right organizations have protested, pointing that the State Press Committee's warning violates international law--in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a signatory. But such protests are unlikely to carry much weight with the court. Most "Nasha Niva" supporters fear that, as one columnist put it, "no linguistic or even legal arguments are of any importance" in this case. It is the language that is on trial, not the spelling.

    10-08-98


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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