|Monday, 26 September 2022|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 209, 98-10-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 209, 29 October 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION TO BE DELAYEDAzerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told journalists on 28 October that the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) will make its recommendation on the optimal route for the so-called Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil on 12 November, Interfax reported. That recommendation was to have been made public on 29 October. Following talks with AIOC head John Leggate on 27 October, Aliev had expressed concern that under the terms of the contract signed with the AIOC in September 1994, construction of the pipeline should have been completed within 54 months. Aliev reaffirmed his determination that the Baku-Ceyhan route should be chosen. Aliev's son Ilham, who is deputy president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR, denied on 28 October that Baku will endorse an alternative route for the MEP. LF
 ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION 'NOT A THREAT'Smbat Ayvazian, leader of the majority Yerkrapah group within the Armenian parliament, has rejected Azerbaijani President Aliev's claim that Russia is arming Armenia against NATO, Caucasus Press reported on 27 October. Ayvazian said that Aliev has emerged "weaker" and "more vulnerable" from the 11 October presidential elections, according to "Aravot." The Azerbaijani president had told visiting NATO officials in Baku on 23 October that they should make a serious effort to prevent the "militarization of Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, visiting Yerevan on 1 October, had said that Armenian-Russian defense cooperation is not an obstacle to closer NATO- Armenian cooperation. LF
 ARMENIAN, KARABAKH PRESIDENTS MEETKocharian met with the president and prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian and Zhirair Poghosian, on 27 October to discuss the economic and social situation in the enclave and the Armenian state budget for 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian had discussed economic issues with Armenian Prime Minister Darpinian in Yerevan on 23 October. LF
 FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER BLAMES UPHEAVALS ON CASH SHORTAGEDjemal Gakhokidze told Interfax on 27 October that budgetary constraints had precluded implementing what he considered essential changes in the country's security system. Those changes, he suggested, might have prevented the assassination attempt on President Shevardnadze in February and last week's mutiny in western Georgia. He also said that his resignation following the failed mutiny was voluntary, and he endorsed the nomination of Vakhtang Kutateladze, whom Shevardnadze has proposed as Gakhokidze's successor. Kutateladze, who is a 43-year-old KGB veteran and has been the head of Shevardnadze's bodyguard since 1994, told journalists on 28 October that he accepted the nomination as security minister reluctantly. Like his predecessor, he stressed that the Georgian security system needs reorganizing. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES AT AIRPORTNational Security Committee authorities at Almaty airport sought to prevent presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from boarding a Lufthansa plane bound for Germany on 27 October, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Officers confiscated Kazhegeldin's passport but returned it when they learned they were being videotaped. Kazhegeldin was allowed to depart but the flight was delayed 30 minutes. Also on 27 October, the court that found Kazhegeldin guilty of participating in "a session and mass gatherings of an unregistered organization" upheld its verdict, ordering Kazhegeldin to appear before the court. BP
 KAZAKH NEWSPAPER REPORTS ON NAZARBAYEV'S PROPERTY ABROADThe independent newspaper "DAT" reported in its 28 October edition that President Nursultan Nazarbayev owns a villa in Saint Tropez, France, worth $119 million, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty. The newspaper published a picture of the alleged Nazarbayev villa. BP
 AKAYEV ENDS JAPAN VISITKyrgyz President Askar Akayev wrapped up an unofficial three-day visit to Japan on 27 October, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Akayev and Japanese Prime Minister Keidzo Obuchi signed a document aimed at boosting economic, political and cultural ties. Interfax reported on 28 October that Japan will loan Kyrgyzstan $40 million to improve the Bishkek-Osh highway. BP
 UZBEKISTAN REPORTS GDP GROWTHAccording to a government report on 27 October, Uzbekistan's GDP increased by 4.4 percent in the first nine months of 1998, Interfax reported. Industrial output grew by 6.1 percent and agricultural output by 4.9 percent. Capital investment also increased by 13.1 percent and services by 12.4 percent. The budget deficit is on target, and less money was printed than planned. Some cabinet members criticized the delay in utilizing foreign credits for small and medium -sized businesses and the slow pace of agricultural reforms. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVARS RETURN AS SERBS LEAVEKosovars returned to their homes on 28 and 29 October following the withdrawal of most Serbian forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1998). Individual Kosovars told journalists on 28 October that they are happy to be going home before the winter sets in. They added, however, that they are concerned that the Serbs will return and harass them. In Prishtina, the pro-shadow state Kosova Information Center reported that Serbian forces have not withdrawn from several areas of Kosova, including Klina and Suhareka. There has been no independent confirmation of KIC's report. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the EU and U.S. warned the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) not to occupy checkpoints and fortified positions that the Serbs have abandoned. In Washington, a State Department spokesman added that the U.S. has told the UCK "very clearly that they have to abide by the cease-fire and meet their obligations." PM
 CLINTON URGES 'NO ILLUSION' OVER BALKAN PEACEU.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 27 October that the withdrawal of Serbian forces provides a "hopeful moment" for peace in Kosova. He added: "We should be under no illusion. There is still a lot of hard road to walk before hope can triumph over hatred in the Balkans." The next day, special envoy Richard Holbrooke said that there was a "60 percent chance ... of an air war" between NATO and Serbia before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew his troops at the beginning of the week. Holbrooke cautioned that "fighting could break out at any time [as the refugees return and that] is one of our main concerns." He maintained that the OSCE will be free to carry out its verification mission in Kosova with 2,000 unarmed civilians and with flights by unarmed aircraft. "We will fly there, when and where we want," Holbrooke added. PM
 NATO SUSPENDS THREAT TO BOMB SERBIANATO officials agreed in Brussels on 27 October that Milosevic had sufficiently complied with UN demands for him to withdraw his forces from Kosova. The alliance consequently agreed to "suspend indefinitely its threat to launch air strikes" against Serbia, the "International Herald Tribune" wrote. NATO had given Milosevic a deadline of 7 p.m. local time on 27 October to pull back his army and paramilitary police forces or face the possibility of air strikes. In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the following day that "we are maintaining our threat of force and not letting our guard down." She noted that 400 NATO aircraft will remain on indefinite alert for possible air strikes if the alliance concludes that Milosevic has sent his forces back into Kosova. Albright added that the allies are preparing to station a rapid-reaction force in Macedonia to assist the unarmed verification mission if those monitors find themselves in danger. PM
 'SERBIAN ADOLF' PLEADS GUILTY TO 12 MURDERSGoran Jelisic, who called himself "the Serbian Adolf" during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, told the Hague-based war crime tribunal on 29 October that he killed 12 Muslims and Croats near Brcko during a two-week period in 1992. He added: "It was my good will that I admitted the crime and cleanse my soul. There is no reason for me to keep it within myself." In January, he said that the murder charges and an additional charge of genocide are "all lies and fabrications." He must now face trial for genocide. PM
 THREE BOSNIAN SIDES UNITE AGAINST NATOMuslim, Croatian and Serbian civilian and military leaders said that they cannot accept a recent ruling by NATO-led peacekeepers that all generals on each of the three sides must be approved by SFOR before they take up their appointments, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 28 October. Leaders from all three sides added that the peacekeepers' ruling violates the Bosnian Constitution. A SFOR spokesman argued that vetting by the international community of all top military appointments is an essential step toward depoliticizing the three armies. PM
 GRANIC HAILS AGREEMENT WITH BOSNIA...Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 28 October that the new agreement between Croatia and Bosnia's mainly Muslim and Croatian federation will enable Zagreb to provide funds for Croats in the neighboring republic in a legal and transparent manner. This, he added, will mean that Croatia will "get support...[instead of] pressure" from the international community, which has been critical of Croatia's hitherto secret funding for the Croats in the neighboring republic. The agreement is part of a package that includes a document governing Bosnia's use of Croatia's Adriatic port at Ploce, which is Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea. Croatia wants the package in order to reaffirm its legal links to the Croats in the neighboring republic. Bosnia seeks affirmation of its right to use Ploce. PM
 ...BUT REGRETS 'MISS CROATIA' SCANDALGranic also said in Zagreb on 28 October that he regrets the recent public dispute over the winner of the Miss Croatia contest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). He denied that the government had played any role in the controversy and blamed the organizers of the contest for the negative publicity that Croatia received as a result. The dispute over whether to award the crown to an ethnic Muslim or an ethnic Croat ended on 28 October, when contest organizers ruled that the Muslim will represent Croatia in the Miss World pageant later this year and that the Croat will fill that role in 1999. PM
 TUDJMAN TO SUE FORMER AIDE FOR SLANDERA Zagreb district attorney asked a district court to begin an investigation of Slaven Letica on possible charges of slandering President Franjo Tudjman, AP reported on 28 October. If the investigation results in a trial, a jail sentence of up to three years could be imposed. Letica recently told the Slovenian weekly "Mladina" that "Tudjman loves deviant types. He feels a certain attraction to...criminals, paramilitary criminals, prostitutes. These people fascinate him, because they bring some fun into his boring, bureaucratic life." Letica is a professor of medicine and a prominent political analyst. He was Tudjman's chief aide in 1991 but subsequently broke with the president over Bosnian policy. PM
 ITALY DISPATCHES POLICE TO STOP ALBANIAN ILLEGAL MIGRATIONItalian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino told journalists in Tirana on 28 October that Italy will soon dispatch a police force to Vlora to clamp down on the smuggling of refugees. The force will help Albanian colleagues intercept refugees before they embark. Jervolino said that Albania and Italy "agreed to put up greater resistance to illegal immigration on the ground because it's easier to stop them on the ground than at sea." She added that Italy also plans to send a coast guard force to the island of Sazan, which overlooks the main route speedboats use to smuggle illegal migrants to Italy. Jervolino said she was prompted to visit Albania by the recent drowning of five Albanians as they attempted to cross the Otranto Straits (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 27 October). She held talks with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Interior Minister Petro Koci. FS
 PARTY QUITS RULING ROMANIAN COALITION, ALLIANCEThe Romanian Alternative Party (PAR) on 27 October announced it is leaving both the ruling coalition and the Democratic Convention for Romania (CDR). RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PAR chairman Varujan Vosganian said the decision was prompted by the country's worsening economic situation, the delay in reforms, and the lack of respect for election campaign promises. In the past few months, the PAR has sought to turn itself into the main representative of the right. It was also expected to lose one of its two ministerial posts in an envisaged government shuffle. Mediafax reported on 28 October that three of the PAR's six parliamentary deputies have said they will not quit the CDR. MS
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO MERGESpokesmen for the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and the extraparliamentary Romanian National Party have confirmed their intention to merge. Meanwhile, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 27 October ruled in favor of the PUNR, which had appealed against the registration of Gheorghe Funar's new Party of Romanian Unity Alliance. The tribunal had ruled against the party's registration in June, but Funar had contested that decision. Meanwhile, leader of the chauvinist Greater Romania Party (PRM) Corneliu Vadim Tudor repeated the invitation to Funar to join the PRM as secretary general, saying the offer will be "open till 31 December," Mediafax reported on 28 October. MS
 IMF TO EVALUATE MOLDOVAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCEAn IMF delegation headed by Richard Haas began a two-week visit to Moldova on 28 October aimed at evaluating the country's economic performance and the possibility of resuming loans to Chisinau. The same day, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu said Moldova is on the "brink of crisis" owing to lower than expected revenues. Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza warned that unless the government approves a "realistic budget," the cabinet will have to "announce Moldova's bankruptcy," Infotag reported. For the first time in its five- year history, the national currency has dropped below 6 lei to $1. MS
 BULGARIA HEADING TOWARD ECONOMIC STABILITYBulgaria currently has a budget surplus of 326 billion leva ($200 million), whereas last year it had a substantial deficit, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 28 October, citing officials in Sofia. Annual inflation is below 3 percent, compared with a monthly inflation rate of 2,000 percent during the 1996-1997 crisis. The IMF says it expects inflation this year to be about 9 percent. National Bank foreign-currency reserves have risen from $ 81 million in early 1997 to 2.9 billion in June 1998. On 26 October, the Bulgarian government approved a privatization program for 1999 envisaging $607 million in revenues, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT HEEDS PRESIDENTIAL VETOThe parliament on 28 October announced it will reconsider recent amendments to a law on the judicial system that President Petar Stoyanov vetoed earlier this month. it was the second time in a week that deputies agreed to heed Stoyanov's veto rather than overrule it, Reuters reported. Earlier, Stoyanov had vetoed a media law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). The amendments passed to the law on the judiciary aimed at making the struggle against corruption and crime more efficient. Stoyanov, however, opposed some of the changes, saying they infringed on the principle of the division of powers. MS
[C] END NOTE
 IS GEORGIA INHERENTLY UNSTABLE?by Liz Fuller
Georgia hit the headlines again last week, when an army lieutenant identified as a former supporter of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia apparently attempted to overthrow the country's leadership, only to abandon the undertaking later the same day.
The failed insurrection was the fourth major upheaval the country has experienced this year (following the botched assassination attempt on President Eduard Shevardnadze in February, the abduction 10 days later of four members of the UN observer force in western Georgia, and renewed hostilities in Abkhazia's Gali Raion in late May). The circumstances surrounding all four crises remain nebulous, and official explanations have generally been contradictory. That lack of clarity, in turn, creates the impression that the country is inherently unstable. Yet while that impression is accurate, the upheavals are not the cause of the malaise, rather merely a symptom of it.
Three factors make Georgia vulnerable to subversion. Two of those factors are internal: the domestic political power structure and centrifugal tendencies in regions on the periphery. The third is the vested interest of some circles in Russia in preventing the export of Caspian hydrocarbons to international markets.
Georgian domestic politics are dominated by Shevardnadze, who since his return from Moscow to Tbilisi in March 1992, following Gamsakhurdia's violent ouster has systematically neutralized almost all political figures who could pose a challenge to him. He has simultaneously crafted a personal power base in the form of the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), currently the largest parliamentary group, in which former nomenklatura apparatchiks with whom Shevardnadze worked in the 1970s and early 1980s vastly outnumber the energetic young reformers whom he has selected and promoted over the past few years.
As a result of that personnel policy, many people, both in Georgia and abroad, have come to perceive Shevardnadze as the embodiment and guarantee of a tenuous stability. But that stability is at the same time threatened by endemic corruption within the central government and at the local level, where councilors stubbornly resist any reform plans that might circumscribe their personal power.
This "crisis in the reform process" has, in turn, alienated many of the young reformers who last summer threatened to quit the SMK and form a "loyal opposition" within the parliament. Popular disillusion with the ruling SMK is so great that domestic observers believe the party's only hope of winning the majority of seats on local councils in 15 November elections lies in resorting to large-scale falsification.
The anticipated beneficiary of the erosion of support for the SMK is Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Supreme Council of the autonomous Republic of Adjaria on the Black Sea coast bordering Turkey. Abashidze's individualistic and autarkic policies (which many Tbilisi observers believe have Moscow's support) have resulted in a markedly higher degree of stability and economic prosperity than elsewhere in Georgia. A strong showing in the November local elections by Abashidze's All- Georgian Union of Revival, which is the second-largest parliamentary group, could lead to an open power struggle between Abashidze and Shevardnadze.
Nor is Adjaria the only region in Georgia over which the jurisdiction of the central government does not extend. Tbilisi effectively forfeited control of South Ossetia in 1992 and of Abkhazia a year later. The former is now financed almost solely by Moscow, which nonetheless refuses to condone its unification with the Republic of North Ossetia within the Russian Federation. As for Abkhazia, it is de facto an independent statelet.
Only minimal progress has been made at negotiations on formal agreements that would define the relationship between those former autonomies and the central government as well as pave the way for the return to their homes of those forced to flee during the hostilities. The estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia are increasingly exerting pressure on the Georgian government to secure an internationally guaranteed settlement that would enable them to return home and protect them from anticipated reprisals from the Abkhaz. The ethnic Armenian population of the southern region of Djavakheti, bordering on Armenia, is reportedly lobbying aggressively for autonomous status. And the population of the west Georgian region of Mingrelia, Gamsakhurdia's ancestral home, tends to regard Shevardnadze as a usurper.
This alienation of much of the periphery from the capital constitutes the ideal leverage with which to plunge Georgia into chaos, a fact of which the Georgian leadership is acutely aware. Who precisely would have a vested interest in doing so is less easy to say.
Several prominent Georgian politicians have hinted that last week's failed mutiny by Lieutenant Akaki Eliava (like the assassination attempt on Shevardnadze in February) may have been orchestrated in Moscow by individuals who recruited supporters of Gamsakhurdia who still refuse to acknowledge Shevardnadze's legitimacy. The identity of the instigators may be unknown, but most observers are convinced that they are motivated by the determination to contain the growing U.S. presence in the Transcaucasus and to prevent the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty