|Sunday, 25 August 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 189, 98-09-30
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 189, 30 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 SOLANA IN TBILISINATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze held talks in Tbilisi on 29 September on the Abkhaz conflict and on Georgia's participation in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Solana pledged that the current crisis in Russia will not adversely impact on NATO's plans for cooperation with Moscow. Speaking on Georgian Television shortly before Solana's arrival, Georgia's ambassador to the Benelux countries, Zurab Abashidze, said that it is premature to speak of Georgia's possible admission to the alliance, as state-building in that country has not yet reached the required level. Russia's opposition to NATO membership for the former Soviet republics would also have to be taken into consideration, Abashidze said. LF
 GEORGIA TO CUT POWER SUPPLIES TO DEBTOR DISTRICTSAs of 1 October, supplies of electricity to Samtredia, Borjomi, Chiatura, and other cities will be cut because of the population's failure to pay outstanding bills, Caucasus Press reported on 29 September. Supplies to Tbilisi will be considerably reduced. Those measures should benefit other districts, especilly since Armenia resumed regular supplies of electricity to Georgia on 25 September. Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosian told reporters that those supplies are part of a "long-term agreement" between the Armenian and Georgian governments. "This winter Georgia will have no energy shortages," he said. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CONDEMNS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULINGIn a statement released on 29 September, the Hanrapetutyun faction, which is the second-largest in the parliament, condemned the Constitutional Court's 26 September ruling. The court had said it has "no authority" to rule in the dispute over whether President Robert Kocharian violated the law when he failed to meet a demand by parliament deputies to convene an emergency debate on the controversial privatization of the Yerevan cognac factory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement charged that the ruling is itself a violation of the law and a "retreat" from democracy. Also on 29 September, the Hayrenik deputies' group demanded that Kocharian "apologize to the people" for his actions. It also called on him to renounce "pressure" on the Constitutional Court and to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition. LF
 AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER AT UNAddressing the UN General Assembly on 29 September, Tofiq Zulfugarov said that a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the key issue of his nation's foreign policy, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Zulfugarov repeated that Azerbaijan is willing to give the enclave a high level of autonomy within the Azerbaijani state. But he added that a just and lasting settlement cannot be achieved by what he termed Armenian military pressure on Azerbaijan. Interfax on 29 September quoted the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as claiming that two Armenian intelligence operatives were killed the previous day when a reconnaissance group up to 20-strong tried to infiltrate Azerbaijani army positions east of Nagorno-Karabakh. LF
 KAZAKH EX-PREMIER MOVES TO PROTECT BUSINESSMEN'S UNIONSpeaking at a press conference in Almaty on 29 September, Akezhan Kazhegeldin announced that he will step down as president of the Kazakh Businessmen's Union in the hope of precluding difficulties in renewing the union's registration, which is due next week, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Kazhegeldin, who founded the union, told Interfax in June he intended to transform it into a political party. Kazhegeldin is widely regarded as a possible challenger to incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the presidential poll in 2000, although he has not formally announced his candidacy. Kazhegeldin's press secretary, Amirjan Qosanov, was badly beaten in August, and his aide Mikhail Vasilenko was arrested and detained for several days earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 September 1998). LF
 KAZAKH NEWSPAPER PROTESTS CLOSUREThe editorial staff of the Russian-language newspaper "21-iy vek" have appealed to the Almaty City Court to overturn a ruling by the Almaty City Juridical Board closing down the publication, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 30 September. The newspaper's premises were bombed and burned out on 26 September. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PLEDGES NOT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENTIn his annual budget message to both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament on 29 September, President Askar Akaev told deputies that as the country is currently at a "difficult stage" in the process of implementing political and economic reforms, all branches of power should consolidate, according to Interfax. Therefore, Akaev reasoned, the next parliamentary elections should take place only in 2000, as prescribed by law. Explaining the rationale for the introduction of private land ownership, which much of the population opposes, Akaev said that farmers should feel themselves masters of the land they cultivate. Opposition parliamentary deputies picketed the session, demanding that the referendum on private land ownership and other constitutional changes, which is scheduled for mid-October, be canceled. LF
 TAJIKISTAN DENIES HOLDING TALIBAN PRISONERSThe Tajik Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 September denying Pakistani media reports that some 90 Taliban fighters taken prisoner by General Ahmed Shah Massood have been transferred from Afghanistan to the Tajik city of Kulyab, Russian agencies reported. Also on 29 September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin expressed satisfaction at the United Tajik Opposition's decision to resume cooperation with the Tajik government and National Reconciliation Commission, according to ITAR-TASS. LF
 TURKMENISTAN TO PURSUE "PERMANENT NEUTRALITY"Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told the UN General Assembly on 29 September that Ashgabat intends to pursue a policy of "permanent neutrality," seeking to maintain equal and equitable relations with all countries through economic cooperation and political impartiality, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Such a policy, Shikhmuradov continued, will allow Turkmenistan to exert an active influence on regional developments. Shikhmuradov also called for a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict and a "dialogue of civilizations" between the U.S. and Iran. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NEW MASSACRES IN KOSOVASerbian forces killed some 18 Kosovar civilians in Obrinje, west of Prishtina, on 26 September, several major British and U.S. dailies reported on 30 September. The ages of the dead ranged from 18 months to 95 years and included a young pregnant woman. Some of the victims had been shot at close range or killed with knives, and some had been mutilated, Western journalists and diplomats said in Obrinje, after speaking to survivors and viewing the victims' remains. Further massacres of Kosovar civilians took place elsewhere in the same area in recent days, the BBC and "The New York Times" reported. Serbian forces continue to surround some 700 civilians at another locality nearby, VOA reported. PM
 SHARP CONDEMNATION OF ATROCITIESThe killings at Obrinje provide "first-hand evidence ... that Serbian forces have been involved in killing civilians as well as in burning and looting," the BBC reported on 30 September. "The New York Times" wrote that the massacres "show as definitively as anything that the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have been conducting a campaign of terror and destruction against ethnic Albanian civilians, which is intended to intimidate them but which appears instead to be inspiring even stronger defiance." John Fox, a former State Department official turned critic of U.S. policy, told the BBC that the massacres provide evidence that Western powers have been pursuing "the most cynical policy possible" in the region by refusing to take military action against Serbian forces. A BBC correspondent in Belgrade added that "if the West is serious, the time for air strikes might be drawing close." PM
 HILL CALLS OBRINJE STORY 'DISTURBING'U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, who is the top U.S. envoy dealing with the crisis in Kosova, told CNN from Belgrade on 29 September that the accounts of the killings at Obrinje are "disturbing." He added that "there have been a number of these reports.... It's one more reason why we need to get international forensic experts in there" to establish the causes of the deaths. Hill also said that the reports also highlight the "need to get the political process going" in ending the crisis. Hill earlier spoke with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who stressed the need for the Serbs and Kosovars to begin negotiations. PM
 ASHDOWN SLAMS 'SCORCHED EARTH' POLICIESAfter speaking to Milosevic in Belgrade on 29 September, British Liberal Democratic leader Paddy Ashdown said that Serbian policies have led to "villages in flames [and] destroyed and plundered homes." He argued that Belgrade is conducting a "scorched earth policy" and "total war" that goes well beyond what "civilized nations" regard as an acceptable response to terrorism. Ashdown added that Milosevic promised him to "personally see to it that security forces end their operation" in the province. The British political leader spent three days in Kosova before his talks with the Yugoslav president. PM
 UCK REMAINS DEFIANTThe Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Prishtina on 29 September calling on the international community to act "more justly, swiftly, and energetically [to end the Serbian crackdown] lest the consequences of the war in Kosova have an impact throughout the Balkans and beyond." The guerrillas added that their own policies include taking reprisals against "treacherous elements," by which they mean their political enemies among the Kosovars (see also "End Note" below). PM
 SESELJ THREATENS TO TAKE SERBIAN OPPOSITION HOSTAGESerbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told the parliament that "the Americans have found their fifth column here. It is composed of politically irrelevant parties and independent media." He added that if NATO launches air strikes against Serbia, the U.S. should first "withdraw its agents, such as [the prominent opposition groups] the Helsinki Committee, the Women in Black and the Belgrade Circle. We can't shoot down each and every NATO plane, but we can grab those agents who are at hand," independent Belgrade Radio B-92 reported on 30 September. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic charged that the "so-called independent media" are not interested in the truth but "serve up lies [and messages of] defeatism, fear, and hopelessness." Pro-government legislator Zeljko Simic added that some independent media are guilty of "high treason" for having aided "Albanian separatism." PM
 PLAVSIC BACKERS CALL FOR ALL-SERBIAN GOVERNMENTA spokesman for outgoing Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's Serbian People's Alliance said in Banja Luka on 29 September that his party wants the new government to include representatives of all ethnic Serbian parties in the legislature. Leaders of the hard- line parties recently said that they would welcome such a broadly based government. PM
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS MAJKO TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT...Rexhep Meidani on 29 September asked the 30-year-old Socialist Party Secretary-General Pandeli Majko to form a new government. Earlier that day, Majko defeated Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Integration Ilir Meta and Deputy Prime Minister Kastriot Islami to win his party's nomination for the top government post. Observers noted that Majko lacks ministerial experience but that he heads the Socialists' parliamentary faction and worked closely with outgoing Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Majko played a role in the 1990 student movement that brought about the end of communism and has mediated disputes between the Socialists and the opposition. Majko told Reuters on 29 September that he will not call new elections. The next day, he began negotiations aimed at forming a coalition. He offered "dialogue" to Democratic Party leaders and stressed that "we must return the country to normal and not be guided by the psychology of revenge." FS
 ...WHILE BERISHA CALLS FOR 'CONSTRUCTIVE SPIRIT'Opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha on 29 September repeated his demand for new elections but urged his supporters to show a "constructive spirit and sense of compromise in [a] dialogue that...could lead to an [interim] government with a broad base." He added that the Democratic Party will not participate in the new government but will support its anti-crisis package including the "restoration of public order [and] disarmament of the population." Berisha also expressed his willingness to cooperate in drafting a new constitution. Majko responded that the Democrats should follow the Socialist's example and remove politicians who belonged to the communist-era establishment. He said that "the best support Berisha could give to the new government would be to make positions in his own party available to the generation of young politicians." FS
 WESTERN DIPLOMATS WELCOME NEW LEADERSHIPUnnamed Western diplomats in Tirana told Reuters on 29 September that they hope that Majko's nomination will put an end to Albania's highly polarized political climate. One diplomat stressed that Majko is untainted by past association with the communist regime. He added that Majko "is very open, very well disposed towards the outside world...[and] doesn't have the [political and intellectual] baggage that people in their 50's and 60's have." A second diplomat said that "I'm sure [Majko] has enemies but it's not nearly as long a list of enemies as the average Albanian politician has." In Brussels, a third diplomat stressed that the government change is not "a victory for Berisha [but] a tactical move by the Socialists to keep their government intact. The government has not fallen and that is important." FS
 ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY TO LEAVE COALITION?Citing procedural grounds, the Bureau of the Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission on 29 September refused to discuss the amendment, submitted by the coalition party leaders, revoking the stipulation that prohibits the setting up of state universities teaching in national minority languages. A meeting of the coalition leaders on 29 September failed to resolve the situation, and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said after the meeting that the UDMR's coalition partners are now backing the "multicultural university" solution, which the UDMR rejects. Marko added that the UDMR demands the dismissal of Education Minister Andrei Marga and that it will leave the coalition in accordance with the decision of its Council of Representatives if the UDMR's demands are not satisfied by 30 September. MS
 BULGARIA SAYS IT'S 'READY' FOR NATO MEMBERSHIPBulgarian ambassador to the U.S. Philip Dimitrov on 29 September told journalists in Washington that his country is "an economic success story" among the states of the former communist bloc and is "rapidly meeting all requirements for entrance into NATO," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Dimitrov said that over the past two years, inflation has dropped from 1, 000 percent to 6 percent and that by the end of 1999, some 70 percent of the state assets would be privatized. In other news, the government on 28 September issued a decree setting up a 10-member Security Council headed by Premier Ivan Kostov, BTA reported. MS
 BULGARIA, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIMEInterior Minister Bogomil Bonev and his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, met in Sofia on 29 September and signed an agreement on cooperation in fighting organized crime, dpa reported. They told journalists that the goal is to improve communications between their ministries in order to curb drug smuggling, car theft, and economic crime. Stepashin singled out the need to protect "honest business" and said that Russia, hit by an economic crisis, needs cheap Bulgarian food imports. MS
[C] END NOTE
 THE CONFLICTS AMONG THE KOSOVARSby Tim Judah
The war in Kosova has taken a deadly new twist. Just when a united front is needed to respond to the Serbs in order to avert a humanitarian disaster, Kosova's Albanian politicians are at one another's throats as never before. Skeptics say that a fiendishly clever Serbian "divide-and-rule" policy is at work, but the facts suggest otherwise. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be pleased that Kosovars seem to have begun to shoot one another.
In June, at the height of its fortunes, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not only controlled large swaths of territory but appeared to have consigned Ibrahim Rugova, Kosova's pacifist leader, to the dustbin of history. That was not the case. Down, but not out, Rugova and his colleagues in the government-in-exile began to fight back.
The mastermind behind that government's attempt to seize control of the UCK was Xhafer Shatri, Rugova's minister of information, based in Geneva. Working with Bujar Bukoshi, the head of the government, who lives in Bonn, he dispatched 14 military officers to Albania and Kosova. The two cabinet members also activated the dormant Ministry of Defense, appointing Ahmet Krasniqi as minister.
The 14 officers, although formally operating under the aegis of their own Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK), had as their goal the takeover of the UCK. The idea was that once this had been achieved, Rugova could proceed to the negotiating table in a position of strength--with a government, a parliament, and an army.
Perhaps the U.S. unwittingly exercised some influence over the FARK's ambitions. On 4 July, Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the Balkans, told a meeting in London that in his view, a good compromise for Kosova would be the so-called "three republic solution." This envisaged a Yugoslavia in which Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosova would not only be self- governing within the country's present borders but also would each have its own army.
The FARK plan has ended in disaster because of deeply rooted antagonisms on both sides. The UCK was founded in 1993. The driving force behind its creation was Popular Movement for Kosova (LPK), a clandestine fringe group that, since its foundation in 1982, had consistently called for an uprising against the Serbs. Many of its members were, and are, former political prisoners who despise Rugova and his inner circle. They point out that while they, as radicals, were in prison in the 1980s, many of those who now surround Rugova were at the time politicians and functionaries of the then autonomous Kosova.
Moreover, some members of Rugova's inner circle, such as Xhafer Shatri, used to be LPK members. Sabri Hamiti, Rugova's closest adviser, is also a former hardliner now reviled as a defector, traitor, and political opportunist. The UCK also regarded Ahmet Krasniqi as a traitor because when he was captured as a former Yugoslav Army officer by the Croats in Gospic in 1991, he was duly returned to Belgrade. Others who met a similar fate defected to fight the Serbs.
On 21 September, unknown persons murdered Krasniqi in Tirana. Three days earlier, the UCK had virtually pronounced a death sentence on him after it denounced another FARK commander as a traitor. A UCK communique said: "One day these kind of people will pay for the damage they have caused to our nation." Sources close to the UCK have hardly bothered to disguise the fact that Krasniqi's death was the UCK's handiwork.
The UCK's military capacity has been devastated by the Serbian offensive. But Rugova has hardly been coy about showing his satisfaction. As he has not been able to take over the UCK, his power and influence now depend on its being eliminated as a credible rival.
The UCK then is down but, like Rugova several months ago, is far from out. In the spring, a commander named Qazim declared that anyone who dared sign a compromise deal with the Serbs would be "executed." In mid-September, 13 Prishtina politicians were detained by the UCK for two days. The UCK's aim was not just to show those politicians that it still existed but to instill fear into them. On 24 September, Sabri Hamiti was shot but not killed.
So far, Rugova has not backed off from his demand for independence but has agreed to the so-called "interim solution," whereby Kosova's final status would not be decided until three years after a preliminary agreement was reached. In view of the catastrophe now facing Kosovars, Rugova's star is back in the ascendant. If he could halt the war, win an acceptable measure of autonomy for Kosova, and offer the prospect of independence, he would have the backing of the vast majority of Kosovars.
It is precisely this possibility that the UCK wants to forestall. Its objective is to regroup during the winter so as to emerge in the spring as a rejuvenated but slimmed-down guerrilla organization whose aim would be to wear down the Serbs in a war of attrition.
The author is a British journalist whose writings include "The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia" (Yale University Press, 1997).
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty