|Thursday, 9 April 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 179, 98-09-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 179, 16 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 SEVEN KILLED IN SHOOTINGS ON ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN BORDERSeven people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen and several more injured in the Abkhaz border village of Tagiloni on 15 September. Reuters and AP quoted Georgian security officials as saying that those killed were Abkhaz police officers, while Interfax and ITAR-TASS quoted Abkhaz sources that said they were civilian farmers. Abkhaz Interior Minister Aslanbek Kshach blamed the shootings on the Georgian guerrilla organization White Legion, which has vowed revenge for the bomb explosion in the Zugdidi administrative building on 24 August, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. White Legion leader Zurab Samushia has disclaimed any responsibility for the 15 September incident. LF
 GEORGIAN PROSECUTORS PROPOSE SENTENCES IN 'TRIAL OF CENTURY'Prosecutors on 15 September called for sentences of up to 15 years in the trial of Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani and 14 other men accused of involvement in the August 1995 assassination attempt against Eduard Shevardnadze and of planning a coup d'etat. The prosecutors demanded 15 years' imprisonment for Ioseliani, whose defense lawyer has protested that the case against his client is largely based on evidence by a co-defendant that the latter subsequently retracted. The trial, which opened last December, will resume on 28 September. LF
 GEORGIA'S ETHNIC ARMENIANS DRAFT OWN CONSTITUTIONCaucasus Press on 15 September reported that Djavakhk, the organization that is lobbying for autonomy for predominantly Armenian-populated districts in southern Georgia, has drafted a separate constitution for the region. That document has been sent to Tbilisi to be translated from Armenian into Georgian. LF
 ARMENIAN COGNAC ROW CONTINUESPresidential spokeswoman Gassia Apkarian told journalists on 15 September that President Robert Kocharian is not violating the constitution by delaying a response to the June request by 68 parliament deputies to convene a special parliamentary session to discuss the sale of the Yerevan cognac factory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. She rejected rumors that Kocharian has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Armen Darpinian. Also on 15 September, opposition deputies said they have collected the required number of signatures to refer Kocharian's alleged refusal to appeal to the Constitutional Court. Hayrenik faction chairman Eduard Yegorian said his group will try to collect the 96 signatures required to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. LF
 UZBEK PRESIDENT IN ISRAELMeeting on 15 September, Islam Karimov and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed regional security issues, including the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism, and signed a series of agreements on expanding bilateral trade and cooperation in agriculture, Reuters and AP reported. Karimov also met in the West Bank town of Ramallah with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, who described the Uzbek president as a close personal friend as well as a friend of the Palestinian people, according to dpa. Arafat assured Karimov that the U.S.-mediated Mid-East peace talks will continue. LF
 TAJIK-IRANIAN TALKS FOCUS ON AFGHANISTANOn a working visit to Dushanbe on 15 September, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Sarmadi handed Rakhmonov an invitation from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, which Rakhmonov accepted. The date of that visit will be determined later. LF
 KAZAKH PREMIER OUTLINES INDUSTRIAL REFORM PLANSIndustry, Energy and Trade Energy Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov told a cabinet session on 15 September that under a five-year reform program, the Kazakh government will create a number of state holding companies and bring the majority of the country's heavy industry under state control, with the aim of a 25 percent increase in industrial output by 2003 and a 50 percent rise in the number of people employed in the industrial sector, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He added that the Kazakh government will control foreign investment in the industrial sector. Abliyazov also announced that shuttle traders importing foreign goods will be required to pay a 25 percent value- added tax on those goods. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN GUNMEN LEAVE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HEADQUARTERSAlbanian opposition leader Sali Berisha led a march from Democratic Party headquarters in Tirana to Skanderbeg Square on 16 September. Earlier the same day, armed Democratic supporters left their positions around that building but did not surrender their arms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). The parliament the previous day had set a dawn deadline for the armed demonstrators to hand in weapons or face a police crackdown. Prime Minister Fatos Nano in a televised address offered an amnesty to the gunmen, but his spokesman told the BBC that the gunmen "will be shot" if they reject the offer. After Nano's address, the Democrats surrendered to the police two tanks that they had captured during riots on 14 September. But they removed a heavy machine gun and ammunition before handing over the vehicles. FS
 GOVERNMENT WANTS BERISHA INDICTEDThe cabinet issued a statement on 15 September charging that Berisha tried to stage a coup d'etat the previous day. The statement added that all those responsible for the violence will go on trial. Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi launched investigations on 15 September of several high- ranking Democratic Party officials. Those under investigation include Berisha, former Parliamentary President Pjeter Arbnori, and legislator Vili Minarolli. The parliament is slated to vote on lifting their legislative immunity on 16 September. Berisha told VOA's Albanian Service that the charges are typical for a "communist dictatorship" and that Albania now has "political prisoners and political killings." In the same broadcast Arbnori, a former political prisoner under communism, compared the current accusations against him and Berisha to his persecution under the communist regime. FS
 NANO REFUSES TO QUITNano told television viewers on 15 September that he will definitely not step down, as the Democrats have demanded. Nano said "the freely elected government does not accept ultimatums issued by an armed group of terrorists." He added that any "resignation would be a betrayal of the nation." But the same day, Finance Minister Arben Malaj resigned, saying that he does not have enough public support to continue in office. Meanwhile, the government issued a statement announcing a 50-100 percent increase in policemen's wages. The text also said that police will receive a one-time payment ranging from $200 to $330 "to increase their motivation." And the parliament has passed a law allowing the Interior Ministry to call in military police to preserve domestic peace. Some Socialist Party legislators criticized the decision on the grounds that it recalls Berisha's decision to call in the army during the 1997 unrest. FS
 EU NAMES SPECIAL ENVOY TO ALBANIAThe office of the EU Presidency, which is currently held by Austria, announced the appointment in Vienna on 16 September of Herbert Grubmayr as special envoy to Albania. The veteran diplomat's mission will be to promote domestic peace and reconciliation. The previous day, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, sent a joint statement to Austria's Wolfgang Schuessel proposing the deployment of an international police force in Albania. The two ministers added that the EU should earmark increased funds to promote Albania's stability, which, they stressed, is also threatened by the Kosova conflict. FS
 SERBIAN OFFENSIVE MOVES NORTHWARSerbian army and paramilitary police shelled 12 ethnic Albanian villages northwest of Prishtina on 16 September, AP reported. Observers noted that the assault marks the first time that the Serbian forces have extended the fighting to that region. PM
 REFUGEES PACK QIREZSeveral hundred displaced persons arrived in the village of Qirez, west of Prishtina, on 15 September following continuing Serbian assaults on the civilian population in the Drenica region. Some 10,000- 15,000 additional displaced persons have taken refuge in Qirez over the past month, AP reported. A spokesman for the World Food Program said that even under the best conditions, aid convoys provide food for only a few days. A doctor added that basic medicines are not available and that "at least 10 people died in Qirez last week from treatable illnesses." Meanwhile in Prishtina, Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that the guerrillas are "reorganizing" themselves despite the constant pressure from Serbian attacks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 CHIRAC CALLS FOR CONTACT GROUP MEETINGFrench President Jacques Chirac told his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, in a telephone conversation on 15 September that France wants the international Contact Group to meet in New York next week to discuss the situation in Kosova. Chirac made the same point in recent days in telephone conversations with U.S. President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The Contact Group consists of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. PM
 INDECISION ON KOSOVA CONTINUESIn Bonn, Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said on 15 September that "if the attacks against the civilian population [in Kosova] continue, then the West's readiness will grow to use military force to stop them in the course of next three to five weeks. No one has the right to shoot at their own civilian population with tanks and artillery," he added. And in Washington, an unnamed senior administration official told the "New York Times" of 16 September that "the situation [in Kosova] is awful and getting worse. If we don't want thousands of people to starve to death this winter, the White House will need to make a decision very quickly on whether to use firepower" to stop the Serbian assaults. PM
 U.S. CONGRESS WANTS MILOSEVIC INDICTEDThe House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution on 15 September urging the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take action against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on charges of "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. On 18 July, the Senate passed a similar resolution saying that Milosevic is the man most responsible for the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. PM
 OSCE POSTPONES RELEASING BOSNIAN ELECTION RESULTSOfficials of the OSCE, which supervised the 12- 13 September general elections in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 15 September that the OSCE will not release any vote tallies until the final results are available next week. OSCE representatives had said earlier that they would publish preliminary results on 15 September. Unnamed Western diplomats told AP that the reason for the delay is that hard-line nationalist candidates among the Serbs and Croats, in particular, received more votes that most observers had expected. The BBC's Serbian Service reported on 16 September that nationalist candidate Nikola Poplasen has a strong lead over moderate Biljana Plavsic in the contest for the presidency of the Republika Srpska. PM
 WESTENDORP EXTENDS DEADLINE ON APARTMENTSA spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 15 September that Westendorp has extended by six months until 4 April the deadline for those who fled their apartments in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation to reclaim their homes. Muslim officials charged that Westendorp has not been equally tough in protecting Muslim property rights on Serbian-held territory, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, spokesmen for the UN-supervised international police force demanded that Bosnian Serb authorities suspend Ljubisa Savic "Mauzer" as head of the Republika Srpska's special police forces. The spokesmen charged that Savic is responsible for the recent maltreatment in police custody of seven men, who had been arrested during the investigation of the murder of a top moderate police official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). PM
 MOODY'S LOWERS CREDIT RATING FOR ROMANIAThe international credit agency Moody's has lowered Romania's credit rating owing to the country's pressing foreign credit needs and the danger of a political crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romania's rating on Eurobonds was lowered from Ba3 to B1, while its rating on hard currency bank deposits dropped from B1 to B2. In other news, Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta on 15 September met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, Prime Minister Radu Vasile, Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, and President Emil Constantinescu. Andreatta repeated his country's support for Romania's NATO bid and said he hopes new Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov understands that his opposition to NATO's enlargement "cannot be the equivalent of a new doctrine of limited sovereignty for southeastern Europe." MS
 BELL HELICOPTERS TEXTRON AGREES TO PARTIAL PAYMENT IN ROMANIAN CURRENCYAt a meeting with Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 15 September, Fred Hubert, deputy chairman of the Bell Helicopters Textron board, agreed that the cost of producing 96 helicopters under license in Romania will be partly covered in Romanian currency. According to the compromise, Romania will have to pay in hard currency only for imported equipment and spare parts. Vasile said this would substantially reduce the burden of the $1.4 billion deal, under which Bell Helicopters Textron is also to acquire a majority stake in the Gimbav aerospace factory. They also agreed that several other Romanian enterprises will be involved in the production of Cobra helicopters that are to be named AH-1 RO-Dracula. MS
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS MOVE NO-CONFIDENCE RESOLUTIONThe Party of Moldovan Communists on 15 September submitted a no-confidence resolution in Ion Ciubuc's cabinet. In line with house regulations, the move must be debated within three days after its submission, Reuters reported. The Communists say the government's decision to cut social spending in order to reduce the budget deficit is unconstitutional. The draft resolution also says recently approved cabinet measures to stabilize the economy "are aimed at usurping state power and at limiting the people's national sovereignty." MS
 BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CANCELS TIRANA VISITNadezhda Mihailova on 15 September told BTA that she has "indefinitely postponed" a scheduled visit to Tirana. She said that Sofia is "particularly worried by the situation in Albania" and "categorically condemns the killing of opposition leader Azem Hadjari." And she noted that Bulgaria hopes the Albanian government will "take measures to find and punish the killers as well as the masterminds of this crime." Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 15 September warned that continued violence in Albania could result in civil war and threaten regional stability, AP reported. He also said that the Albanian crisis "limits the opportunities for peace" in Kosova. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ALBANIA PULLS BACK FROM THE BRINK?by Fabian Schmidt
When unrest broke out in Tirana on 13 September, many observers feared that Albania was about to face a repetition of the violence and anarchy that took hold of the country in 1997 after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. But two days later, both major political parties appeared willing to avoid violence.
As in March 1997, civilians seized tanks and roamed the streets, firing into the air with Kalashnikov machine guns and plundering shops. The clashes erupted during the funeral of controversial Democratic Party legislator and former anti-communist student movement leader Azem Hajdari, who was killed on 12 September by unidentified gunmen outside the party headquarters in Tirana. The opposition charged Prime Minister Fatos Nano with having organized the killing, an allegation Nano vehemently denied. Within a few hours, opposition protesters managed to seize the prime minister's offices, the state radio and television building, and the parliament building. At least three people were killed in clashes with police by the end of the day.
But in contrast to last year, special police forces were able to restore order quickly. Most protesters armed and otherwise, dispersed when police moved in, and only a small group of opposition supporters took shelter at the Democratic Party headquarters. They brought with them two tanks they had captured, and the next morning they entered into a stand-off with police . Elsewhere, normal life had returned to the city and shops opened again.
Moreover, the riots did not spread throughout the country. Observers noted that the northern city of Shkodra, which is a strong base of support for the Democrats, remained calm. Persistent but unconfirmed rumors from Shkodra had suggested that a shadowy opposition body calling itself the Albanian Liberation Army was allegedly preparing to bring down the current Socialist-dominated government. Such allegations were given credence by an incident on 20 January, when a group of armed men attacked and seized the local police station there. For one day, the group gained control over the city. On 21 January, special police forces entered the city and reestablished order.
But the latest Tirana riots did not see the disorder spilling over to areas outside the capital. The only exception was the town of Kavaja--a Democratic Party stronghold near Tirana--where some opposition supporters built barricades on the country's main north- south road and captured the local police station the day after Hajdari's murder.
The short time in which the government brought the revolt under control indicates that the government has managed to sufficiently rebuild its police forces since last year's anarchy to cope with major challenges. (Still, the security forces are not yet coordinated enough to react quickly enough and to prevent such riots in the first place.) More important, the quick end to the revolt shows that there is no willingness in the population as a whole to support the violent means of small groups wanting to bring down a democratically elected government.
And even within the Democratic Party--many of whose supporters have yet to explicitly renounce political violence--the tolerance for undemocratic political means seems to be declining. Party leader Sali Berisha used state television after it was captured by his supporters to broadcast a call to all Albanians to refrain from using violence, a move that probably made it easier for police to restore order.
The following day, Berisha strongly rejected accusations from Socialist Party and government officials that he had planned to stage a coup d'etat. Instead, he said, he remained committed to force the government to resign by means of peaceful protests. Despite a police ban and high tensions following the previous day's events, the Democrats staged a peaceful protest demonstration on 15 September. The police presence in the city was strong, but policemen remained in the background, apparently trying to avoid an open confrontation.
Even though the government has shown that it has been able to survive the strongest challenge to its authority to date, the deeply rooted political tensions remain. Nano is unlikely to give in to the opposition demand that he step down, which many would see as a sign of weakness. Indeed, his position has been not weakened but rather strengthened by the violent behavior of some opposition protesters. He may nonetheless come under pressure to change some of his government ministers. But such changes would be only cosmetic.
Many citizens may have come to perceive the Democrats as being bent on seizing power through violence. Berisha and his colleagues may now try to counteract this image in word and deed. As to the government, it will likely seek to follow up its success in maintaining control of Tirana's streets by ensuring that an investigation into the killing of Hajdari is launched and the killers arrested. That would show that the rule of law indeed functions in Albania and would give the lie to charges that the government was behind the murder.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty