|Thursday, 23 May 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 168, 98-09-02
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 168, 2 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 SUSPECTS IN UN MURDERS ARRIVE IN DUSHANBEThree men suspected of murdering four UN employees in central Tajikistan in July were taken by helicopter to Dushanbe on 1 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The three were taken into custody by forces of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and are reportedly former members of the UTO. A fourth suspect remains at large. The three men are being questioned, and formal charges are expected to be filed in the next 10 days. The UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Jan Kubis, has expressed his satisfaction at the arrest of the three men. On 2 September, he said he has begun working on plans to repatriate some 200 UTO fighters currently in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). BP
 SUSPECTS IN TURSUNZADE SHOOTING IDENTIFIEDTajik police have identified most of those involved in the 27 August attack on the mayor's office in the western Tajik town of Tursunzade, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September. Police took three residents of that town into custody and learned from them the names of several others. Tajik authorities claim many have fled to another country and that a request has been made to law enforcement authorities in that country to apprehend the suspects. Tajik officials refused to name the country, but immediately after the shootings in Tursunzade, the Tajik government had said many of the culprits had escaped to Uzbekistan. Five people, including the mayor, were killed in that attack. BP
 CRIME STILL A PROBLEM IN TAJIK CAPITALRFE/RL correspondents have confirmed reports by the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran that the home of UTO deputy leader Muhammadsharif Himmatzoda came under fire from a grenade launcher on 31 August. Three people were wounded in that attack. The Dushanbe home of the head doctor of the government's medical clinic also came under fire on 30 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, a Russian border guard officer was shot in the back in downtown Dushanbe and remains in a critical condition. On 1 September, an automobile driven by a Russian journalist was carjacked in downtown Dushanbe. The journalist was held in a basement on the outskirts of the capital but managed to escape after several hours. So far, no suspects have been apprehended for any of these crimes. BP
 RUSSIAN DAILY PUBLISHES LIST OF POTENTIAL TROUBLE-MAKERS IN UZBEKISTAN"Vremya MN" on 1 September published a list of potential trouble-makers that the Uzbek government has allegedly distributed to leaders in villages and city districts. Those leaders are to keep track of residents between 16- 32 years of age who have left the city and to find out what they are doing now and how their families are supported. Others who are to be kept an eye on include shuttle traders traveling to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, or Iran; those who call upon women and girls to adhere to Islamic codes of conduct; anyone who has links with Wahhabis; anyone who has ever grown a beard; any man who has more than one wife; any family members of known Wahhabis who have reached 18 years of age and are not serving in the armed forces; and any girls who were married off before they turned 16. BP
 TURKMEN "DISSIDENT" ARRESTEDThe former spokesman for Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was arrested on 1 September in Ashgabat on charges of embezzlement, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Durdumuhammed Gurbanov, who served as presidential spokesman from 1991-1994, is accused of mismanagement of funds and misuse of state property. Gurbanov, who has criticized the Turkmen government in the international media this year, has been branded a dissident by the Turkmen government. BP
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TO GO AHEAD WITH BANNED RALLYThe Movement for Democratic Elections and Democratic Reforms, which unites some two dozen opposition parties and NGOs, voted on 1 September to go ahead with plans to hold a demonstration on Baku's central Freedom Square on 5 September, despite the ban imposed by Baku Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev, Turan reported. Allakhverdiev has also written to the leadership of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party rejecting their request that the party be allowed to retake possession of its headquarters in central Baku. Allakhverdiev claimed that large quantities of arms and ammunition were found in the basement of the building, which, he said, proved that the premises were not used for purely political purposes. The party was evicted from the building in early 1994. LF
 GEORGIA TAKES MEASURES TO PREVENT DYSENTERY EPIDEMICThe Georgian Ministry of Health has advised residents of Tbilisi to boil all drinking water as a precautionary measure following 84 cases of amebic dysentery in Tbilisi last month, Caucasus Press reported. Two people died of the disease and another 30 were hospitalized. Investigations established that the disease is not being spread by drinking water but that salad herbs cultivated in southern Georgia were washed in contaminated water. Health Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze told journalists on 1 September that additional measures to monitor the quality of food on sale in Tbilisi will be introduced. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CLINTON, YELTSIN APPEAL TO BELGRADEU.S. President Bill Clinton said in Moscow on 2 September that he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agree that the Serbian authorities must end repressive measures in Kosova. Clinton added that the two leaders also call on Belgrade to allow relief agencies greater access to the province and to pursue an "interim settlement" on Kosova's status. PM
 MILOSEVIC PRAISES ARMED FORCESIn a statement in Belgrade on 1 September, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic thanked the federal army and the Serbian special police for their "courage and patriotic sense of duty in crippling and bringing to a halt the activities of terrorist bandit groups" in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. After Milosevic met with U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, the Yugoslav leader's office issued a statement in which Milosevic called for urgent talks between Serbian and Kosovar delegations. Hill told reporters that "there is a possibility that the international community will send a forensic team to help with the identification of the remains" of 22 persons, which the Serbian authorities say they found in Klecka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). Hill added that whoever carried out the killings must be "caught, tried, and punished." PM
 ALBANIA CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION IN KOSOVAThe Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 1 September calling for international intervention in Kosova to halt the bloodshed. The statement says that "developments in Kosova are becoming more complex and more alarming every day" and that "intervention by the international community, in all [possible] forms, should be fast and prompt to save the life of tens of thousands of innocent people endangered on a large scale by the flames of war and facing a humanitarian catastrophe." The statement accuses Serbian forces of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and stresses that "hundreds of thousands" of displaced people face food shortages, the threat of Serbian attacks, and the imminent onset of winter. The ministry also rejected Yugoslav charges that Albania supports "terrorism" in Kosova, saying the international community is aware who is "the aggressor and who is the victim in need of protection." FS
 DJUKANOVIC WARNS OF YUGOSLAVIA'S 'DARK FUTURE'Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia may split up if the Belgrade authorities do not treat Montenegro as Serbia's equal, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 2 September. He added that "the federal state will not break up because of Montenegrin separatism, but because [the federation has become] politically and economically rotten and because of the autocratic rule of one man," by which he meant Milosevic. Djukanovic warned that the federation faces a "dark future" unless Belgrade changes its policies to Podgorica's liking and that Montenegro's patience is running out. Djukanovic wants a greater say for his republic in federal affairs and the introduction of policies aimed at promoting market reforms, free trade, and open borders. He has also been critical of Milosevic's policies in Kosova. PM
 EXPLOSION IN BOSNIAN ARSENALNATO and Bosnian spokesmen said in Sarajevo on 2 September that an explosion killed at least one soldier of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federal army and wounded several others. NATO and federal military officials are investigating the blast, which took place in an arsenal at Vrela, northwest of Sarajevo. AP reported that the investigators believe the explosion was an accident. PM
 INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ACTS TOUGH WITH NATIONALISTSRepresentatives of the OSCE, which is supervising the 12-13 September elections in Bosnia, removed the names of two candidates for the Republika Srpska parliament from the ballot on 1 September. The candidates, who belong to the Serbian Democratic Party, had displayed pictures of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic at a recent rally. Also in Sarajevo, the international community's Carlos Westendorp fired Mark Benkovic as mayor of Orasje because he tried to prevent the return of non-Croatian refugees to that town. Westendorp told Ante Jelavic, who heads the Croatian Democratic Community, to select a new mayor within two weeks. Elsewhere, U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard told Jelavic to stop "involving" uniformed soldiers and officers at his election rallies. Gelbard called the involvement of the military in politics "a fundamental violation of all laws." PM
 BOSNIA GETS UNIFIED CUSTOMS LAWThe joint parliament passed a law in Sarajevo on 1 September, according to which identical customs regulations will come into effect in January 1999 in both the Republika Srpska and the federation. In unrelated news, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that some 1,649 persons from Kosova have applied for political asylum in Bosnia since the crackdown began in that Serbian province February. The spokesman added that the total number of refugees from Kosova in Bosnia is "significantly higher," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 POLICE BATTLE GUNMEN IN SOUTHERN ALBANIAOn 2 September in Lazarat, near Gjirokastra, "several hundreds" of special troops from Tirana cleared the main highway connecting Albania with Greece of a roadblock that heavily armed peasants had set up the previous day. Seven policemen were injured, and their colleagues are continuing to pursue some of the gunmen in the mountains. The peasants sought the release of three villagers arrested on 31 August for committing a range of crimes, including murder during the unrest in 1997, Reuters reported. Local police chief Islam Qebini said the suspects have since been released. Qebini charged that the latest incident is "a continuation of attempts [by the political opposition] to destabilize this area." Lazarat is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party, which gained the majority there in the June local elections. Villagers have repeatedly blocked the highway in the past, prompting the authorities in Tirana to send in special police forces. FS
 POLICE FILE CHARGES AGAINST ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LEADERSOn 1 September, Tirana police filed charges against Democratic Party leaders Sali Berisha and Genc Pollo for organizing a demonstration in Tirana the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1998). Police had banned the rally, saying they feared "terrorist attacks." The Democrats are seeking the release from prison of six former government officials for alleged crimes against humanity during the 1997 unrest. FS
 CONFLICTING REPORTS ON POPE'S PROSPECTIVE ROMANIA VISITReuters reported on 1 September that in a message addressed to an ecumenical meeting in Bucharest, Pope John Paul II said he thanked the Romanian president and its government" for the invitation extended in July to visit Romania and "I hope to be able to accept." The last part of the statement was not reported in the Romanian media. Romanian Orthodox Church Patriarch Teoctist told Rompres that a visit by the pope must be "well prepared" and that its timing is "a matter for the Holy Spirit." Also on 1 September, the Ministry of Education announced that Romanian pupils will have one hour of compulsory religious instruction a week. Parents will have to say in writing in which confession they want their children to receive instruction, Mediafax reported. MS
 VAN DER STOEL MEETS ROMANIAN, ETHNIC HUNGARIAN POLITICIANSOSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel, who attended the ecumenical gathering in Bucharest on 1-2 September, met with Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, Education Minister Andrei Marga, and chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Bela Marko, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. After the meeting with Marko, Van der Stoel said he "needs more time for reflection" before he makes a statement on the controversy over the setting up of a Hungarian state university. Marko said the commissioner told him he "very much hopes" that the amendments to the education law will be passed by the parliament "in the form originally submitted." He also said that Van der Stoel is "well informed" and knows that the UDMR demands have been accepted and included in the ruling coalition agreement. MS
 TIRASPOL MARKS 'INDEPENDENCE DAY'Speaking to journalists on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of Transdniester's "declaration of independence," separatist leader Igor Smirnov said he is not concerned about the fact that Transdniester's "statehood" has not been recognized by other countries. Smirnov said that this constituted "no hindrance" because the Transdniester "has achieved the main thing--economic independence." Therefore, Smirnov said, "political issues are of secondary importance, and their solution is only a matter of time." Smirnov said the Transdniester "has all the attributes of statehood, including regular armed forces." He accused the Moldovan leadership of being reluctant to and incapable of solving the conflict, saying that the present Moldovan government is trying to achieve "an internationalization of the conflict- -[the] Bosnian way," Infotag reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 LITHUANIA FINDS MAINTAINING FIXED EXCHANGE RATE INCREASINGLY DIFFICULTMichael Wyzan
Lithuania's economy generally receives less attention from foreign observers than its two Baltic neighbors. It is often seen as less reformed than Estonia and Latvia, although since last year its macroeconomic performance has been at least as strong as theirs.
A continuing distinction between Lithuania and the other two Baltic States is that it remains more dependent on trade with Russia: 22 percent of its exports went to that country during January-April, while the corresponding figure for imports was 24.4 percent. The corresponding figures for Latvian trade with Russia during the same period were 17.4 percent for exports and 13.6 percent for imports. Some 8.3 percent of Estonia's exports went to Russia, while 8.5 percent of its imports came from there.
Most Lithuanian macroeconomic indicators are highly favorable. GDP in the first quarter of 1998 was 6.9 percent higher than in the same period last year, reflecting an acceleration of economic growth from 1997's figure of 5.7 percent. Sales of industrial production were up by 9.4 percent during the first six months, almost double last year's 5.0 percent.
While production has boomed, consumer price inflation has subsided, reaching 6.1 percent in the 12 months to June, compared with 8.4 percent in the year to December 1997. Another favorable macroeconomic indicator is the budget deficit, which as of May was on target to meet the goal of 1 percent of GDP, which was agreed to with the IMF. That deficit fell from 4.5 percent in 1996 to 1.8 percent last year.
Wages have been booming, along with the economy: the average gross monthly wage reached $249 in May, compared with $199 a year earlier. This may explain why the unemployment rate has been higher during every month this year than in the corresponding month in 1997. However, by June the difference was negligible, with the rate that month of 5.5 percent only slightly above June 1997's 5.3 percent.
Large current account deficits have been a hallmark of the Lithuanian economy. As economic growth turned positive in 1995, the current account imbalance rose from $94 million (2.2 percent of GDP) in 1994 to $981 million in 1997 (a high 10.3 percent). This trend continued into the first quarter of 1998, when the deficit was $514 million, up $118 million on the same period last year.
Such deficits have been commonplace in rapidly growing transition economies, especially ones with fixed exchange rates; the litas has been pegged at four to the dollar under the currency board introduced in April 1994.
The Bank of Lithuania is currently undergoing a transition to a normal central bank, a three-stage process scheduled to be completed next year. For example, under the currency board, the bank is not allowed to provide overnight loans to commercial banks. In April, as part of the transition to central banking, it set the interest rate it will charge on such loans.
To retain confidence in monetary policy, the fixed rate for the litas against the dollar is to remain valid at least until 1999, when the currency will be tied partly to EU currencies; by the end of 2000, the litas will be pegged to the Euro.
Although the current account deficit is high, the Bank of Lithuania's foreign reserves have risen steadily, reaching $1.2 billion in June (further augmented by privatization proceeds in July), compared with $939.6 million in June 1997. Another encouraging sign is the rapid rise in foreign direct investment, which was a cumulative $1.1 billion at the end of June, compared with. $727.6 million in June 1997.
The IMF's Executive Board in July praised the government for increasing excise taxes, improving tax collection and the budget process, privatization successes in banking and telecommunications; and creating an Energy Pricing Commission. The board called for further fiscal tightening to limit the growth of expenditures and to put the Social Security Agency on a firmer footing, especially by raising the retirement age.
These are the standard recommendations that the fund would make to any successful economy in transition. A more interesting question is how vulnerable Lithuania will prove to contagion from the financial turbulence in East Asia and especially Russia. Large current account deficits under fixed exchange regimes are often an indication of such vulnerability.
The key issue is whether Lithuania will be able to manage the transition to central banking under a fixed exchange rate or whether it will be forced to allow its currency to weaken, as the Czech Republic did in spring 1997 and Russia on 17 August 1998. In this context, Lithuania's high trade dependence on Russia is worrisome, since the weaker ruble will probably further increase the Baltic State's already large trade deficit with that country.
The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty