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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 249, 99-01-04

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 2, No. 249, 4 January 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] UTO FIELD COMMANDERS SACKED AFTER SHOOT-OUT
  • [02] FORMER DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MURDERED IN TAJIKSTAN
  • [03] ELECTIONS, REFERENDUM PLANNED IN TAJIKISTAN IN 1999
  • [04] SIX KILLED ALONG UZBEK-TURKMEN BORDER
  • [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES NO SWIFT SOLUTION TO ABKHAZ CONFLICT
  • [06] GEORGIA HOPES TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE, WTO IN 1999
  • [07] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS 1998

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] UCK TO LAUNCH RADIO STATION
  • [09] CALM HOLIDAY PERIOD IN KOSOVA...
  • [10] ...BUT NOT ON ALBANIAN FRONTIER
  • [11] RUGOVA CALLS FOR NATO 'ATTENTION'
  • [12] UCK VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHT
  • [13] SERBIAN LEADER SAYS MILOSEVIC RESPONISBLE
  • [14] FRANCE ASSUMES CHAIR OF CONTACT GROUP
  • [15] FRENCH MINISTER BLAMES UCK
  • [16] MONTENEGRO TO KEEP CONTROL OVER OWN BORDERS
  • [17] POPLASEN FAILS IN BID TO OUST DODIK?
  • [18] ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR BERISHA
  • [19] VIOLENT CRIMES STILL RAMPANT IN ALBANIA
  • [20] ROMANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE
  • [21] MOLDOVAN PREMIER REFUSES TO DISCUSS STATUS OF BESSARABIAN CHURCH
  • [22] BULGARIAN CURRENCY PEGGED TO EURO

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [23] OIL AND GAS NO PANACEA FOR CASPIAN COUNTRIES' ECONOMIC WOES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] UTO FIELD COMMANDERS SACKED AFTER SHOOT-OUT

    The leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo Nuri, has dismissed Rahmon Sanginov and Khojali Pirmuhammadov as field commanders, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 December. The previous day, an argument between the two field commanders erupted into a gun battle outside the building where the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission meets, leaving several people dead and injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). Nuri also ordered the field commanders' units to surrender their arms. The UTO leadership released a statement on 31 December warning that those who oppose the peace process in Tajikistan will be severely punished, regardless of services previously rendered. BP

    [02] FORMER DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MURDERED IN TAJIKSTAN

    Tolib Boboyev, the former prosecutor-general of Leninabad Oblast, was killed by masked gunmen while visiting the home of his son on 2 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Boboyev was the only person killed in the attack. Police are investigating the incident. According to the news agency, Boboyev was a former member of the National Unity Party, which was earlier headed by former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov. Abdullojonov was implicated in the violence in northern Tajikistan in early November and is currently wanted by Tajik law enforcement agencies. BP

    [03] ELECTIONS, REFERENDUM PLANNED IN TAJIKISTAN IN 1999

    President Imomali Rakhmonov told journalists on 31 December that his country faces "a serious examination" in 1999, when, he said, parliamentary and presidential elections as well as a referendum on amendments to the constitution will take place, ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov added that the social, political and, moral maturity of the country depends on the people's participation in these events and on efforts at strengthening the peace process. BP

    [04] SIX KILLED ALONG UZBEK-TURKMEN BORDER

    Three men shot and killed three Uzbek policemen near the border with Turkmenistan on 29 December, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The three then attempted to cross over into Turkmenistan but were stopped at a border crossing. In the shoot-out that followed, two Turkmen policemen and a Turkmen customs official were killed. One of the attackers was eventually apprehended, but the other two remain unaccounted for. The identity of the two fugitives is reportedly known, but there are no details on the reason for the attack. BP

    [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES NO SWIFT SOLUTION TO ABKHAZ CONFLICT

    Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 December that he thinks a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict in 1999 is highly improbable, ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said that resolving the conflict will depend largely on whom is elected president of Georgia in the 2000 elections, adding that he will seek re-election. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told Interfax on 30 December that he too does not believe that a solution to the conflict will be reached this year. Predicting a "long and difficult" period of negotiations, he added that Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia should participate in the decision on Abkhazia's future. LF

    [06] GEORGIA HOPES TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE, WTO IN 1999

    Menagharishvili also said the process of Georgia's accession to full membership in the Council of Europe will begin late this month, according to ITAR-TASS. He added that a decision about Georgian membership in the World Trade Organization is expected in the second half of the year. LF

    [07] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS 1998

    In an interview with RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau, Vartan Oskanian characterized 1999 as "quite a positive year" for Armenian foreign policy, singling out the OSCE Minsk Group's new draft proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict and improved relations with all neighboring states, including Turkey. Oskanian also said there was a greater emphasis in 1998 on relations with Europe. He predicted that 1999 will mark the beginning of "a political dialogue" with the EU and that Armenia will "probably" be accepted as a full member of the Council of Europe in the course of the year. But that latter decision, he added, may be contingent on how the 1999 parliamentary elections are conducted. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] UCK TO LAUNCH RADIO STATION

    The Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) announced in a statement on 3 January that the guerrillas will begin broadcasts the following day aimed at promoting their views. The statement added that the station will be called "Free Kosova," but it did not indicate from where or on which frequencies it will broadcast. The statement noted that the UCK will also launch its own news agency on 4 January under the name of Kosova Press. Kosovars currently receive Albanian-language radio and television broadcasts from a small number of public or private stations located in Albania. VOA's Albanian- language Service also has a wide listenership. The Prishtina-based Kosova Information Center news agency reflects the views of the moderate shadow- state leadership. Several Albanian-language dailies and weeklies based inside or outside Kosova provide news services on their web sites. PM

    [09] CALM HOLIDAY PERIOD IN KOSOVA...

    A spokesman for OSCE monitors said in Prishtina on 3 January that the fragile cease-fire held throughout the long New Year's holiday weekend. He added that monitors will soon begin investigating reports supplied by the UCK that a grave near Ferizaj contains the bodies of 11 ethnic Albanian women and children. In other news, Serbian and Kosovar sources reported the deaths of three persons in two separate incidents, but the circumstances of their deaths are unclear, according to Reuters. PM

    [10] ...BUT NOT ON ALBANIAN FRONTIER

    Federal Yugoslav forces fired 13 mortar rounds 200 meters into Albanian territory, near Qafe e Morines, during the evening of 31 December and the early morning of 1 January, ATSH reported. A spokesman for the Albanian Interior Ministry said that there were no injuries or damage. FS

    [11] RUGOVA CALLS FOR NATO 'ATTENTION'

    Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in a New Year's statement issued in Prishtina on 1 January that "we are convinced that [only] the [monitoring] mission and permanent NATO attention can calm down tensions in Kosova. Only the deployment of NATO troops in Kosova can bring about greater security for all the people, which is a precondition for a political settlement of the Kosova problem." PM

    [12] UCK VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHT

    The UCK said in a statement issued in Prishtina on 3 January that "our people are awaiting a difficult and bloody fight with the barbaric enemyŠ. But [the new radio station, which is the] voice of freedom and independence, the voice of truth and justice, and the voice of the guns of freedom, will give us the force and courage to be even better mobilized, more organized, and more determined to carry out our duties for the cause of honor and sacrifice for freedom and fatherland." FS

    [13] SERBIAN LEADER SAYS MILOSEVIC RESPONISBLE

    Momcilo Trajkovic, who leads the Prishtina-based Resistance Movement of Serbs in Kosova, told the Podgorica-based independent daily "Danas" of 4 January that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his Serbian counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, and their respective aides bear full responsibility for the fate of Kosova's Serbian minority. Trajkovic stressed that the Serbs have found it necessary to take their defense into their own hands because the "Albanian terrorists have occupied most of the territory [of the province] and mercilessly and treacherously kill and drive out the Serbs." He added that the Belgrade authorities have ignored their duty to defend the Serbs of Kosova. Milosevic, for his part, said in his New Year's message that 1999 will bring a "political solution" for the province. He added that the year will require "courage, optimism, great patience, trustŠ, positive energy, good will, hope, and decisiveness." PM

    [14] FRANCE ASSUMES CHAIR OF CONTACT GROUP

    Representing Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, Ambassador to Macedonia Jacques Huntzinger said in Prishtina on 2 January that the first weeks of January will be important in preventing a resumption of the fighting in Kosova. He told Rugova and several other ethnic Albanian leaders that the Kosovars should adopt a common platform on a political settlement. Fehmi Agani, who heads Rugova's negotiating team, told the French diplomat that the Kosovars will have a new proposal by mid-January, but he did not elaborate. France assumed the chair of the international Contact Group at the end of 1998. Paris has long resented what it regards as a preponderance of U.S. influence in the Balkans and has sought to assert a stronger role for itself. PM

    [15] FRENCH MINISTER BLAMES UCK

    Defense Minister Alain Richard said in Prishtina on 1 January that "the main destabilizing factor [in Kosova] today] is the UCK and not the SerbsŠ. If the clashes continue to increase [the pact between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke] will no longer be valid and we will have to go back to threats of military pressure." Richard called for the UCK's financing from abroad to be cut off. PM

    [16] MONTENEGRO TO KEEP CONTROL OVER OWN BORDERS

    Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said in Podgorica that the Montenegrin--but not the federal Yugoslav--police will continue to control the republic's frontiers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 December. He added that the Montenegrin police will "carry out every assignment," which observers said was a warning to former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic not to provoke street violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). The Montenegrin authorities opened the border crossing with Croatia at Debeli Brijeg for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, despite the opposition of the Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 January. PM

    [17] POPLASEN FAILS IN BID TO OUST DODIK?

    Hard-line Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen on 31 December named Social Democrat Brane Miljus to form a government to replace that of moderate Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. Poplasen-backer Dragan Kalinic had earlier failed to gain a majority in the parliament to oust the incumbent. Miljus accepted the mandate and said he is confident that he can carry it out. Social Democratic spokesmen said that Miljus had not consulted his party, which responded by expelling him on 3 January. Former President Biljana Plavsic said she was "shocked" by the nomination of Miljus, "Danas" reported on 4 January. Other moderates said that Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj orchestrated the nomination from Belgrade. Muslim leader Safet Bico noted that deputies representing his Coalition for a United and Democratic Bosnia will not support Miljus's candidacy, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 January. PM

    [18] ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR BERISHA

    Spartak Braho, who is the deputy chairman of the parliament's Judiciary Committee, proposed on 30 December that lawmakers pass an amnesty for Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha. The move would halt investigations into Berisha's alleged involvement in a September coup attempt, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Braho told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that pardoning Berisha would reduce political tensions and open the way for the Democrats to end their parliamentary boycott. FS

    [19] VIOLENT CRIMES STILL RAMPANT IN ALBANIA

    An Interior Ministry spokesman on 30 December said that 548 people, including 19 policemen, were killed in violent crimes during 1998, dpa reported. He also reported 62 cases of kidnappings, 24 "terrorist acts," and the blowing up of more than 10 high-voltage power lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). A total of 5,562 acts of violent crimes were reported. Observers suggested that the real figures are higher because official statistics are neither complete nor reliable. FS

    [20] ROMANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE

    Miners in the Jiu valley went on strike on 4 January and said they will travel to Bucharest, in defiance of an order issued by the Mayor of Bucharest's office, unless Premier Radu Vasile or Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu travels to Petrosani to talk to them there, Romanian Radio reported. The miners are protesting plans to close unprofitable pits and are demanding wage increases, compensation for being laid off worth $10, 000, and two hectares of land for each miner who loses his job. They also want the state to reschedule their company's debt. MS

    [21] MOLDOVAN PREMIER REFUSES TO DISCUSS STATUS OF BESSARABIAN CHURCH

    Premier Ion Ciubuc on 30 December rejected a proposal by his deputy, Valentin Dolganiuc, that the cabinet debate the status of the Bessarabian Church. Ciubuc said he hopes Dolganiuc will prove "just as able to solve the country's agricultural problems and the problems of the industry as he is [proving in] solving religious problems," Flux reported. The Bessarabian Church, which is subordinate to the Bucharest Patriarchate, has appealed to President Petru Lucinschi over the government's refusal to discuss its status. In 1997, a court ruled that the government's refusal to register the church was unlawful. The ruling was later overturned on procedural grounds. MS

    [22] BULGARIAN CURRENCY PEGGED TO EURO

    The lev has been pegged to the euro at the permanent exchange rate of 1, 955.83, AP and BTA reported on 31 December and 1 January. Under the currency board system established in July 1997, the lev was pegged to the German mark. The pegging to the euro reflects the permanent conversion rate of the mark to the euro, announced on 31 December. In other news, as of 1 January 1999, customs were reduced on 80 percent of goods imported from Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries, of which Bulgaria became a full member in July 1998. Duties on CEFTA imports are to be eliminated on 1 January 2002, BTA reported. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [23] OIL AND GAS NO PANACEA FOR CASPIAN COUNTRIES' ECONOMIC WOES

    by Michael Wyzan

    Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan have large deposits of crude oil and natural gas, the exploitation of which plays a major role in their economies. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have been slow economic reformers, they, like Kazakhstan, have succeeded in attracting large volumes of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the fossil fuel sector.

    Kazakhstan received $3.2 billion in oil and gas-related FDI from 1993 through June 1998, while Azerbaijan's oil sector attracted $1.8 billion in FDI from 1994 through June 1998. This investment helped to make these countries the main recipients of such investment per capita in the CIS.

    Oil currently represents about 65 percent of Azerbaijani exports and more than 80 percent of the FDI that it has received, while in Kazakhstan the oil and gas sector accounts for about a quarter of exports and two-thirds of FDI (although the latter figure varies widely from year to year).

    Nonetheless, the production of oil and gas has not increased rapidly in any of the three countries; none is currently a major producer of these commodities on the world market. Pipeline routings remain a contentious issue, with economic and geopolitical considerations (especially the U.S.'s desire to minimize Russian and Iranian involvement) often conflicting. Accordingly, it is unlikely that fossil fuels will contribute substantially to economic growth in these countries over the next few years.

    International oil and gas companies are currently sending mixed signals about the prospects for oil and gas development in the Caspian region. A number of such companies have closed down their operations recently. For example, Unocal announced on 8 December that it was withdrawing from all Caspian projects except those based in Azerbaijan. The next day, Shell, Chevron, and Mobil signed a new agreement with Kazakhstan on oil exploration in the Caspian.

    Production data reveal largely declining trends, at least through the end of 1997. Azerbaijan produced 9 million tons of crude oil in 1997, down from 12.5 million in 1990, while Kazakhstan's oil production in 1997 was virtually unchanged from the 1990 level.

    The most striking case is Turkmen gas extraction, which plummeted from 88 billion cubic meters in 1990 to 17 billion in 1997. Since gas represents two-thirds of both GDP and exports in a "normal year" (for example, in 1994), this collapse in gas production has had dire consequences for the economy, with GDP declining by 25.9 percent in 1997.

    The decline in Turkmen gas production, which is all the more striking in a country with a good sectoral infrastructure and the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, occurred in two stages. At the beginning of 1994, a dispute with Gazprom resulted in the Russian gas giant's refusal to allow into its pipeline Turkmen gas bound for Europe. A visit to Ashgabat in late November 1998 by Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev failed to resolve the dispute. Earlier, in March 1997, the government halted gas exports to its CIS partners namely, Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine because those countries had built up large arrears to it for earlier deliveries. However, at the end of 1998, Turkmenistan and Ukraine signed an agreement that will allow the flow of Turkmen gas to resume to Ukraine.

    Although there are grounds for optimism that in the long run, fossil fuels will play a major role in the three countries' economic development, a lot of problems must be resolved between now and then. World economic conditions are unfavorable at present. Not only are prices low, but investors are leery of putting money into CIS countries after the collapse of the Russian economy. And a number of large oil and gas projects are coming on stream outside the region.

    Moreover, developing countries have rarely genuinely benefited from oil and gas booms. In what economists call the "Dutch disease," large inflows occurring in the sector contribute to strong exchange rates, which make it difficult to export other goods. In countries without transparent and efficient government sectors and with considerable regional or social inequality, revenues flowing into state coffers often benefit only tiny elites. Governments frequently spend oil money before it is earned and make commitments on which they cannot renege when oil prices fall.

    Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan seem likely to suffer from these problems. Only Kazakhstan has a diversified economy, although even in that country, there is concern that the government is counting excessively on oil and gas. One encouraging sign is Turkmenistan's attempt to diversify its economy by building 50 joint-venture textile plants. Another is Kazakhstan's pension reform, under which pensions are based on the retiree's contributions during his working life rather than paid out of a large state fund (a tempting target for government misuse) fueled by the contributions of current workers.

    The author is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

    04-01-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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