|Sunday, 13 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 172, 98-09-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 172, 8 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TRACECA CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS CONVERGE ON BAKUThe presidents of Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan arrived in Baku on 7 September to attend an EU- sponsored conference that will discuss the creation of a road, rail, and ferry network linking Central Asia and Europe via the Transcaucasus. Representatives from a total of 38 countries and 16 international organizations are attending. The Russian delegation is headed by CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Iran is represented by a deputy transport minister. Earlier, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had said he would attend the meeting, according to Turan. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HOPES FOR PEACE WITH ARMENIAWelcoming fellow presidents at Baku airport, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev said the aim of the conference is to ensure peace, stability, and mutual understanding between the states of the region. He stressed that Armenia "has the right" to participate in the TRACECA project. Aliev added that it is time for Azerbaijan and Armenia to "move from an atmosphere of hostility to one of mutual trust," adding that without such an atmosphere, it will be impossible to restore peace, according to Interfax. An Armenian delegation headed by Prime Minister Armen Darpinian is due in Baku on 8 September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS ARMENIAN PARTICIPATION IN TRACECA CONFERENCENine leading opposition parties--Musavat, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Vahdat, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, the People's Democratic Party, Akhrar, Civic Solidarity, and the United Azerbaijan Union- -issued a joint statement on 7 September condemning the invitation to Armenia to participate in the TRACECA conference as "a betrayal of national interests" and an insult to the feelings of millions of people, Turan reported. The statement described Armenia as "the main factor hindering economic and cultural cooperation" in the Transcaucasus. And it added that cooperation with Armenia is inadmissible before Armenia withdraws its forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NEW CONSTITUTION NOT NECESSARYAt a 5 September session of the presidential commission tasked with revising the constitution, Robert Kocharian again rejected the demand by the opposition National Democratic Union that Armenia should have a new constitution rather than amend the existing one, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian reasoned that under present conditions, "it is better to have a bad constitution" than to act too hastily to replace it. He added that the electorate has not voted in favor of a new constitution, since that issue did not figure either in his election program or that of his rival in the runoff poll. Kocharian has advocated amending the constitution to curtail the powers of the president and increase those of the prime minister and the parliament. But he said he will not "impose" such amendments on the commission "no matter how important I consider them to be." LF
 ETHNIC ARMENIAN FARMERS FACED WITH GEORGIAN BOYCOTT?Local bakeries are refusing to buy high-quality wheat produced in the predominantly Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Djavakheti region of southern Georgia, even for dumping prices, Caucasus Press reported on 4 September. Instead, they are purchasing imported wheat. In related news, Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze, whose relations with the central Georgian authorities have long been tense, has denied establishing contact with members of the Djavakhk organization, which is demanding autonomous status for Samtskhe-Djavakheti. LF
 GEORGIAN CURRENCY REGAINS GROUNDThe lari was trading at 1.35 to the U.S. dollar on 7 September, after falling to 1.7 in street trading the previous day, AP and Caucasus Press reported. The official exchange rate set by Georgia's Central Bank remained stable at 1.35 to the U.S. dollar after the bank sold $2.9 million on the Tbilisi inter- bank currency exchange, which is three times the normal daily sum. Addressing the Tbilisi city council on 7 September, Mayor Ivane Zodelava said that "unfortunately Georgia cannot keep pace with economic processes and is unable to make the correct economic predictions." Zodelava instructed the heads of Tbilisi's 10 local councils to monitor local markets for the possible influx of cheap imported goods from Russia, which, he said, would harm local producers. LF
 GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS DENY EVICTING RUSSIAN COLLEAGUESIn a 7 September statement, the Georgian Border Guard Service denied Russian reports that Georgian border guards stationed at the Black Sea port of Poti had issued an ultimatum the previous day to their Russian counterparts to vacate their barracks immediately, Caucasus Press reported. The statement accused the Russian Federal Border Service of systematically violating a Russian-Georgian agreement on the schedule for Russian border guards in Georgia to hand over their duties to local border officials. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN TO EXPEL SIX WAHHABISAuthorities in Kazakhstan are preparing to expel six Pakistani citizens allegedly engaged in spreading Wahhabi propaganda, Interfax reported on 7 September. Acting on a tip-off that the Pakistanis would be at a conference of Muslims in the Jambyl Region, the Kazakh National Security Committee has detained the six. The Kazakh authorities had attempted to expel the Pakistani citizens from the country several months ago when their visas expired, but the six men apparently stayed on illegally. Investigators found Wahhabi literature and audio cassettes reportedly with information on dealing with "infidels" and creating an Islamic state. In late August, Tajikistan expelled four Pakistani citizens who according to the Tajik authorities were distributing extremist Islamic literature in Dushanbe's mosques. BP
 KAZAKH CITIZENS ARRESTED TRYING TO SELL URANIUM IN TURKEYTurkish police have taken eight men into custody for attempting to sell uranium, the Anatolia news agency reported on 7 September. The eight men--three from Kazakhstan, one from Azerbaijan, and four from Turkey-- tried to sell 4.5 kilograms of unprocessed uranium and six grams of plutonium to undercover Turkish police officers for $1 million. Turkish authorities are attempting to determine out of which country the uranium was smuggled. According to media reports, it came from somewhere in the CIS. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC REMAINS DEFIANTYugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said after a meeting with U.S. officials on 7 September that Serbian forces will continue battling ethnic Albanian forces in Kosova, AP reported. In a statement released after talks with Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck and former Senator Bob Dole, Milosevic said "terrorism in Kosova will be suppressed and eliminated." Shattuck and Dole had called for Serbian forces to pull back so that civilians could return to their homes. Shattuck said he will monitor closely Milosevic's promise to allow Red Cross officials to visit detained ethnic Albanians accused of being members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Shattuck said that Milosevic realizes he "has a very serious problem in Kosova" but "disagrees on the dimension of the problem." Dole warned that if Milosevic allows a "humanitarian catastrophe" to occur in Kosova, "the repercussions will be dramatic." PB
 MANY DETAINED ETHNIC ALBANIANS RELEASEDSerbian security forces released many of the some 450 ethnic Albanian men recently detained on suspicion of being involved in the UCK, AP reported on 8 September. Some of those released said they were beaten and not allowed to eat or drink for 24 hours. They added that they were interrogated and accused of being terrorists. Western officials estimate that at least 50,000 Kosovars are still living in the hills and forests after being driven out of their homes. PB
 SOLANA UPBEAT ON KOSOVA ACCORDNATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on 7 September that a proposed interim accord between Belgrade and Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova is a "good chance to start negotiations," AFP reported. Speaking in Brussels, Solana said that military intervention in Kosova is currently not being considered. He added that it is not yet clear if the accord--dubbed "Autonomy Plus"--has sufficient support from Belgrade and among ethnic Albanians. PB
 REFUGEES IN ALBANIA TO BE MOVED SOUTHAlbanian Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino said on 7 September that the government will move thousands of Kosovar refugees from the north to better- equipped areas in the south before the onset of winter, Reuters reported. Fino said the government is "very worried" about providing for the some 15, 000 refugees, the majority of whom are in the Tropoje district, which is Albania's poorest. Fino said 3,000 to 5,000 refugees will be moved to Diber and Shkoder and that more than $1 million will be spent to improve the infrastructure in Tropoje for those remaining. Small groups of 20 to 30 refugees continue to flee Kosova for Albania each day. PB
 ALBANIAN MINISTER URGES POLITICAL CALM TO HELP ECONOMYAlbanian Finance Minister Arben Malaj called for a truce between the government and opposition because political infighting could undermine modest economic gains, Reuters reported on 6 September. Malaj said the macroeconomic outlook for the country has improved in the first seven months, compared with last year's disastrous economic plunge. GDP, which shrank 7 percent in 1997, was expected to grow by 10 percent this year, he added. Finances, he continued, should "not feel the consequences of artificial political tension." PB
 OSCE STANDS FIRM ON CANDIDATE BANThe OSCE said on 7 September that it will not change its decision to ban Bosnian Croat candidates from participating in the 12-13 September elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998), Reuters reported. Nicole Szulc, an OSCE spokeswoman, dismissed a suggestion made by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman that the decision to ban the politicians will affect the peace process in Bosnia. The OSCE has asked the leadership of the Serbian Radical Party to ban the party's head, Vojislav Seselj (who is also a Serbian deputy premier), from participating in any election rallies because of his statements that all Serbian lands should be united. OSCE mission chief Robert Barry said such a statement violates the Dayton accords. In other news, posters of leading war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic appeared in the Serbian stronghold of Pale on 7 September. He has been banned from attending all political events, and posters depicting him are also prohibited. PB
 REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PRESIDENT COMPARES RIVAL TO HITLERBiljana Plavsic said during a campaign rally in Brcko that Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, committed numerous crimes and that she "would replace Adolf Hitler's figure at Madame Tussaud's [wax museum in London] with Krajisnik's," SRNA reported on 7 September. Republika Srpska Premier Milorad Dodik said at the same rally that people should vote for the Sloga [Accord] coalition because it is respected internationally. Dodik added that 1.3 million German marks will be used this week to repair the water system in Brcko and that some 200 plots of land will be made available to Serbs who want to stay in Brcko permanently. PB
 SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY MEMBERSMilan Kucan met with Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnian presidency, and Kresimir Zubak, the Croat member of the presidency on 7 September during a one-day visit to Sarajevo, Bosnian Radio reported. After inaugurating a pharmaceutical plant near Sarajevo built with Slovenian aid, Kucan told reporters that Slovenia considers Bosnia-Herzegovina to be a economic and political partner. He said Ljubljana supports the integrity of Bosnia and that Serbs, Croats, and Muslims must find "a formula ... by which to live together." PB
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. OFFICIALU.S. Ambassador to Croatia William Dale met with Franjo Tudjman on 7 September after the State Department criticized Zagreb for supporting hard- line Bosnian Croats in the Bosnian elections, AP reported. A statement released by the president's office said the two had agreed to "avoid unwise decisions that could lead to the deterioration of the situation in Bosnia and harm the elections there." The State Department said in Washington the same day that it is "extremely concerned" by the actions of the Bosnian branch of Tudjman's ruling party. PB
 BUCHAREST TRIBUNAL APPROVES PARTY MERGERSThe Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 7 September approved the merger of the New Romania Party and the Liberal Christian Party into the Democratic Agrarian Party. It also approved the new name of the formation, the Romanian National Party (PNR). National Peasant Party Christian Democratic deputy chairman Ion Ratiu, one of whose ancestors founded a PNR in Transylvania last century, has contested the use of that name. His appeal was initially supported by the tribunal but was later overruled by the Bucharest Court of Appeals in July. Ratiu said he is prepared to fight "right up to the International Court of Justice in the Hague." The Municipal Tribunal also approved the merger of the Liberal Party into the National Liberal Party. Former Liberal Party leader Nicolae Cerveni is appealing that decision, claiming his wing is the "genuine" Liberal Party. MS
 MOLDOVAN NATIONAL BANK CLAMPS DOWN ON EXCHANGE OFFICESThe National Bank has revoked the licenses of 27 currency exchange offices that it says contributed to the recent panic over the exchange rate. It also narrowed the margin between buying and selling rates from 10 to 1.5 percent, National Bank deputy chairwoman Veronica Bacalu told journalists on 7 September. She described the offices whose licenses were withdrawn as "fortune-seekers". Deputy Prime Minster Ion Sturdza accused the offices of seeking to "undermine the stability of the national currency." The exchange rate for the leu on 6 September was 4.85-5.00 to $1, while one day earlier some exchange offices were trading at 7 lei to the dollar, Infotag reported. MS
 BULGARIAN TURKISH MINORITY PROTESTS REMOVAL OF COMMEMORATION INSCRIPTIONS...Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), has protested the removal of three commemorative plaques from a fountain in the village of Trunak, BTA reported on 5 September. The inscriptions, which were removed on the orders of Burgas district prosecutor Emil Kristov, were in memory of three Turks who were executed in 1988 for their alleged involvement in a series of bombings that killed eight people in 1984- 1985. Dogan told a rally attended by some 10,000 Turks that the order to dismantle the inscriptions was an "act of vandalism" that displayed the incumbent government's "barbaric attitude" to the democratic system. He said there was "no compelling evidence" that the executed men had been involved in terrorist acts. MS
 ...AS BULGARIAN PREMIER STRESSES NEED TO INTEGRATE MINORITIESAddressing a forum of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) in Pamporovo, southern Bulgaria, on 6 September, Prime Minster Ivan Kostov said the SDS and local government authorities must give priority to the integration of national minorities into Bulgarian society. He said the Turkish minority was "alienated" mainly owing to the policies pursued by the DPS, which are "past-oriented" and based on "symbols that divide Bulgarian society." Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev told the forum that the Turkish minority "holds anti-communist views" and "massive efforts are being made" to stop members of that minority from supporting the SDS. Bakardzhiev said he was "surprised" by the timing of the Burgas prosecutor's decision to remove the commemorative plaques, which coincides with SDS forums on minorities that took place in both Pamporovo and Silistra. He added that "history will show if those people were terrorists or heroes." MS
 BULGARIAN JUDGE TO ISSUE WARRANT FOR MARKOV'S ALLEGED MURDERERA Bulgarian judge investigating the 1978 murder of dissident Georgi Markov has said he will issue an international warrant for the arrest of Francesco Gulino, a Dane of Italian origin who used to work as a Bulgarian agent. Gulino was recruited as an agent after being arrested in 1972 by the communist authorities for drug smuggling, AFP reported. Markov, who worked for the BBC and RFE/RL during the 1970s, died after an unknown man fired a poisoned pellet from an umbrella into his leg in central London. MS
[C] END NOTE
 DUMA REJECTS CHERNOMYRDIN IN SECOND VOTEby Floriana Fossato
As the ruble continued its dramatic collapse and panicking Russians were emptying the shelves of most food shops and markets in the capital, the State Duma on 7 September again overwhelmingly rejected the nomination of Prime Minister-designate Viktor Chernomyrdin. Only 138 members of the house voted in favor, while 273 voted against and one abstained. Chernomyrdin needed 226 votes to be approved.
The parliament had rejected Chernomyrdin one week earlier. President Boris Yeltsin now can either renominate him or choose another candidate for the third vote, which must take place within a week. Under the constitution, if the Duma rejects the president's candidate in the third vote, the president must dissolve the lower house and call new elections within three months.
Chernomyrdin, speaking on NTV the day before the vote, warned that further delay in forming a new government would exacerbate Russia's economic woes to such a degree that extreme nationalist forces might try to take advantage of the turmoil and seize power. Looking worried and confused, Chernomyrdin said that "when the boat is sinking, it is unacceptable to see the officers busy discussing, instead of saving the ship." And he warned that extremists "will not spare anyone. That would be a tragedy and catastrophe for Russia."
Just hours before the second vote on Chernomyrdin's candidacy, Yeltsin met with representatives of the legislative and executive branches in a last- hour attempt to convince them of the necessity of confirming Chernomyrdin. He warned that he was ready to name Chernomyrdin as his candidate for the third time, should the second vote also prove negative. Russian news agencies reported that Yeltsin also asked the Duma and regional leaders to give Chernomyrdin a chance to form a government now and to re-examine the issue within six months.
Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who usually take very different stances, both described the negotiations as "extremely tough." Zyuganov added that "it is a dangerous time and we should search for acceptable solutions."
At the roundtable meeting, a group of influential regional governors had suggested that Yeltsin nominate Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov for prime minister. Some regional leaders, including Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, said he could see either Luzhkov or Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev leading Russia out of the political and financial crisis, but not Chernomyrdin. Saratov governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said he favored only Luzhkov.
Communist Party leader Zyuganov said his party suggested several candidates for the job: Stroev, Luzhkov, acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, former Industry Minister Yurii Maslyukov, former Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashenko. But it did not propose Chernomyrdin, he stressed. The Communists and their allies control roughly half of the votes in the 450-strong Duma. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii also declared his faction's continued strong opposition to Chernomyrdin. Yavlinskii said that Russia " now needs a political prime minister, not an economic one...in order to avoid a permanent political crisis." He said he supported Primakov's candidacy.
Before the vote, it was clear that Chernomyrdin had the support only of his Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction, the ultra- nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and some of the Russian Regions factions. But at the very best, that support meant some 120-130 votes in Chernomyrdin's favor.
NDR leader Aleksandr Shokhin and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said Chernomyrdin had some chance of being approved "only in case of a secret ballot." In a heated discussion preceding the vote, Zhirinovsky had proposed an open ballot, but 289 deputies voted against the proposal in a first vote and 295 confirmed the decision in a second vote.
The Duma's negative disposition was not mitigated by the concessions Yeltsin had made during the roundtable discussions, despite the fact that, as radical Communist such as Aleksei Podberezkin told journalists, Yeltsin had agreed to expand the Duma's powers to select the cabinet and to approve changes in the lineup proposed by the president.
For the past two weeks, Russia has had an interim government and Chernomyrdin has been struggling to win confirmation, leaving little time to devote to the economic crisis. On the day of the second vote, the Central Bank canceled hard-currency trading because traders wanted only to buy dollars, not to sell them. Currency exchange booths remained open, and the ruble was quoted at 20 to the U.S. dollar. The ruble was trading at just over six to the dollar when the crisis erupted less than a month ago.
The same day, the Interfax news agency reported that people living on the current minimum monthly wage of 83 rubles can afford to buy only 1 liter of vegetable oil, two cans of meat, and one loaf of white bread. Since the crisis began, prices of imported foodstuffs have increased by 100-500 percent, while prices of Russian products have gone up by 50-100 percent.
With the ruble continuing its free fall, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin offered to resign, saying one of the reasons for his decision was the Duma's delay in passing a number of "vitally important" draft laws on banking. Yastrzhembskii said that Yeltsin had been informed of Dubinin's offer and had commented that "such a decision should have been taken earlier."
The author is a Moscow-based correspondent for RFE/RL.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty