|Monday, 9 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 9, 99-01-15
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 9, 15 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES NOT TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCEThe seven Armenian political parties that in March 1998 formed the Justice and Unity bloc to back Robert Kocharian's presidential candidacy are unlikely to set up an electoral alliance for the May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 January. Aleksandr Aghamalian, one of the leaders of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM), told RFE/RL that the seven parties have "rather different approaches" and that while some still support the present Armenian leadership, others, including the GAKM, are more critical. He predicted that Justice and Unity will split into "two or three" electoral alliances to contend the May poll. The Yerkrapah Union, seen as the main pro- government force in Armenia, has already said it will not form such an alliance. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation is also likely to field its own list of candidates. LF
 U.S. AMBASSADOR ASSESSES ARMENIA'S ECONOMIC POTENTIAL...Michael Lemmon told journalists in Yerevan on 14 January that he believes Armenia can become the "economic engine of the Caucasus" if it proceeds with economic and political reform and establishes closer ties with neighboring countries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lemmon said that the economic reform process is probably more advanced in Armenia than elsewhere in the region, adding that "I believe there is incredible wealth of human talent in this country that is not being fully utilized." But he also warned that "halting or reversing the reform process is...no solution" to the country's current economic difficulties. Lemmon emphasized the importance of economic integration in the South Caucasus and praised the expanding cooperation between Armenia and Georgia as a first step in this direction. He added that the U.S. has a "strong interest" in opening a commercial route linking Azerbaijan to Turkey via Armenia, which, he said, would bring "very, very real economic benefits." LF
 ...CALLS FOR FREE, FAIR ELECTIONSLemmon also urged the Armenian authorities to ensure that the May parliamentary elections are free and fair, which, he said "Armenia needs more than anything elseŠ. It is absolutely necessary for the [electoral] process to be free, fair, transparent, and acceptable in its conduct to all the parties and voting public." International observers termed the 1995 parliamentary elections "free but not fair" and registered shortcomings in the conduct of the 1996 and 1998 presidential polls. LF
 AZERBAIJAN POSTS RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998Azerbaijani state counselor for economics Vakhid Akhundov told a press conference in Baku on 14 January that Azerbaijan's 10 percent GDP growth in 1998 was the highest in the CIS and Eastern Europe, Interfax reported. Akhundov said that industrial production increased by 22 percent, agricultural output by 4 percent, and trade turnover by 12 percent. LF
 TURKMENISTAN TEXTILE SECTOR STRENGTHENSPresident Saparmurat Niyazov told a recent government session that Turkmenistan registered more than 5 percent GDP growth in 1998, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 January. Industrial production increased by 15 percent, primarily in those sectors not related to oil and gas, and agricultural output by 20 percent. Niyazov expressed particular satisfaction at progress in the textile industry, noting that the country now processes 35 percent of its cotton, compared with only 3 percent in the early 1990s. Interfax reported on 13 January that Niyazov has approved a program for the phased privatization of agricultural, construction, and processing enterprises in the agro-industrial complex. Meanwhile, the Turkmenbashi Blue Jeans Plant has been awarded an international certificate in recognition of the outstanding quality of its output. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN DENIES INTEREST IN JOINING RUSSIAN-BELARUS UNIONKazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqayev has issued a statement saying that while Kazakhstan respects the decision by the presidents of the Russian Federation and Belarus to create a union with a joint currency, parliament, army, and citizenship, Kazakhstan will never join such a union in view of its geopolitical location and the present level of integration with other CIS states, Interfax and RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Toqayev dismissed as groundless rumors that Kazakhstan is planning to join the Russia-Belarus Union. In his weekly radio broadcast on 11 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze likewise denied that Georgia would join that union, according to Interfax. LF
 ALMATY OBLAST GOVERNOR ISSUES DEBT ULTIMATUMZamanbek Nurkadilov, governor of Kazakhstan's Almaty Oblast, has warned local administration heads that failure to pay overdue wages and pensions will be construed as actions aimed at undermining recently re-elected President Nursultan Nazarbayev, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15 January. Nurkadilov said that about 20 percent of the electorate in Almaty Oblast did not vote for Nazarbayev in the 10 January presidential election because of wage and pension arrears. LF
 KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER REPORTS ON MOSCOW VISITAddressing a press conference in Bishkek on 14 January, Jumabek Ibraimov assessed his visit to Moscow on 12-13 January as "very successful," Interfax reported. Three inter-governmental agreements were signed during that visit: on sharing information, cooperation in developing small, and medium businesses, and avoiding dual taxation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two sides also agreed that the conditions for repaying Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Russia will be discussed in 2000 and that Bishkek will pay no interest on that loan this year. Russia will give Kyrgyzstan new IL-76 and AN-12 aircraft to replace 12 aircraft donated in 1992. The Kyrgyz delegation also reached an agreement with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov whereby Kyrgyzstan will supply Moscow with ecologically pure foods (including grain and honey). LF
 KYRGYZSTAN INTENSIFIES CONTROL OVER DANGEROUS CHEMICALSThe Ministry for Emergency Situations is to assume control over the transportation of poisonous chemicals on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 14 January, quoting Deputy Minister Tilekbay Kyshtobaev. The Interior Ministry had previously been responsible for that task. Kyshtobaev said that an average of 16 tons of poisonous chemicals are imported daily from China. Four people died and some 5,000 were hospitalized last summer after the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company spilled 2 tons of natrium cyanide near Barskoon village in the region of Issyk-Kul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1998). LF
 UZBEKISTAN REFORMS MILITARY, UPGRADES BORDER GUARDSUzbekistan has launched the restructuring of its armed forces in a bid to create a mobile, well-equipped, and well-trained army capable of defending the country's independence, Interfax reported on 13 January, quoting Defense Minister General Khikmatulla Tursunov. The reform foresees cuts in personnel and improved training of reservists. On 14 January, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov issued a decree creating a new border defense unit, Reuters reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SHOOTING REPORTED ALONG PRISHTINA-PRIZREN ROADPolice on 15 January prevented a Reuters reporter from leaving Prishtina on the road south to Prizren. The police told the journalist that the road is "unsafeŠbecause of the shooting [by] terrorists," which is the Serbian term for the Kosovar guerrillas. Later, Reuters quoted unnamed "eyewitnesses" as reporting "heavy fighting" in the Shtima area. An OSCE spokesman added that monitors are trying to verify reports of shooting in the Suhareka and Shtima areas along the Prishtina-Prizren road. In Prizren the previous day, unidentified gunmen killed two ethnic Albanians, who the state-run Tanjug news agency said were loyal to Serbia. PM
 UNEXPLAINED MILITARY MOVEMENT IN KOSOVAOSCE monitors told AFP on 14 January that Yugoslav security forces carried out "significant" but unexplained troop movements in the Podujeva area in northern Kosova. A spokesman for the monitors said that tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, and jeeps were involved. The vehicles traveled northward from Podujeva early in the day but later returned. The spokesman added that "it is too early to tell" what the purpose of the movements is but that he is "perplexed" by them. PM
 NATO'S CLARK PESSIMISTIC ON KOSOVAGeneral Wesley Clark, who is the Atlantic alliance's supreme commander in Europe, said in Sarajevo on 15 January that "both sides [in Kosova] are preparing for a conflict should negotiations fail. There is a strong possibility, absent diplomatic agreement or some implicit understanding in the next six to eight weeks, that we will see resumption of very wide-scale fighting," Reuters quoted him as saying. PM
 UCK THREATENS TO 'CLOSE DOOR'Bardhyl Mahmuti, who is a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told reporters in Geneva on 14 January that the guerrillas expect the Serbian authorities to free nine Kosovar prisoners following the UCK's recent hand-over of eight Serbian soldiers to the OSCE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). Mahmuti added that "if the Belgrade authorities refuse to free them, it will be the last time the international community or the people who come from the international community knock on our door. Our doors will be closed," AP reported. UCK officials maintain that the guerrillas freed the eight soldiers as part of a deal that the OSCE negotiated with the Serbs. Serbian spokesmen insist that Belgrade will never deal with the UCK, whom the Serbian authorities refer to as "terrorists." PM
 OSCE SAYS MILOSEVIC 'NOT COOPERATING'Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who holds the rotating OSCE chair, said in Vienna on 14 January that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his government "do not provide the [OSCE verification] mission with all the information, access and support it needs" in Kosova. Referring to the mission's problems, Vollebaek stressed that "not only have the practical challenges been tremendous, but the political obstacles are serious" as well. The Norwegian minister added that he recently told Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic that Belgrade faces "continued isolation" if it fails to cooperate fully with the OSCE in Kosova. For several years, Milosevic has been seeking membership for Yugoslavia in the OSCE. That body has barred Belgrade because of its role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. PM
 VOLLEBAEK INVITES KOSOVARS TO VIENNAVollebaek also said in Vienna on 14 January that he wants representatives of all the main Kosovar factions to come to the Austrian capital for talks "very soon." He stressed that "the first and crucial step [in obtaining a political settlement in Kosova] is to bring the [ethnic] Albanians together in one unified negotiating approach." The Albanian government has invited the Kosovar leaders to Tirana for the same purpose (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1999). PM
 SIMITIS SAYS EUROPE HAS NO POLICY ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIAGreek Foreign Minister Kostas Simitis told the Madrid daily "El Pais" of 14 January that the fact that the U.S. has assumed the leading diplomatic role in the former Yugoslavia is "proof that Europe has yet to develop a common foreign policy," independent Belgrade Radio B-92 reported. Simitis added that "conflicting [national] interests" between individual EU member states are responsible for the lack of a unified policy. He pointed to the joint action of Greece and Italy in helping Albania overcome its security and other problems in 1997 and 1998 as an example of what EU countries are able to achieve in the Balkans if they put their minds to it. PM
 'FERAL TRIBUNE' CLAIMS AUTHORITIES TRYING TO SHUT IT DOWNThe editors of the independent Split-based weekly "Feral Tribune" said in a statement on 14 January that the authorities are seeking to force the newspaper out of business by barring the state-run newspaper distributor, Tisak, from paying its debts to the weekly. The statement added that the debts for November and December alone amount to nearly $200, 000. It concluded that "independent media in Croatia have been in an extremely difficult situation in the past--exposed to numerous lawsuits and police surveillance of journalists. Now their destruction is being prepared through the state's monopoly over newspaper distribution." Reuters quoted a spokesman for Tisak as saying that all the distributor's accounts "have been blocked" and that it is not able to pay its debts to all its clients, including some to whom it owes more than it does "Feral." PM
 ALBANIAN POLICE INCREASE SECURITY AROUND U.S. EMBASSYAn Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters on 14 January that the Albanian police have stepped up their guard around the U.S. embassy in Tirana. The spokesman said that "there have been security problems," but he did not elaborate. "Shekulli" reported the previous day that the U.S. embassy "suspended operations" temporarily after receiving unspecified reports that it had been under "threat of attack" over the past week or so. According to "Albanian Daily News" of 14 January, however, an embassy spokesman has denied that report. The embassy has been closed to the public since shortly after the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Some observers have linked those bombings to the prior arrest in Albania of agents of suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). FS
 UN DISARMAMENT PROGRAM READY TO START IN GRAMSHBashkim Kozi, who is the chairman of the Gramsh district council, told ATSH on 14 January that a UN-sponsored disarmament program is ready to start in the second half of January. In cooperation with the OSCE, the UN plans to invest $500,000 in local infrastructure, employment, and telephone lines. In exchange, the government "hopes" that most local people will voluntarily surrender illegally held weapons. Gramsh is one of the most heavily armed towns in Albania because its citizens plundered a large arms arsenal there in early 1997. FS
 ROMANIAN MINERS SUSPEND STRIKEMiners in the Jiu Valley have announced that they are suspending their strike until 18 January and that negotiations in Bucharest are to be resumed later on 15 January, Romanian Radio reported. The previous day, strikers dismantled two barricades set up by police on the road between Petrosani and Bucharest. Police left without opposing the miners, who then returned to Petrosani. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu said the strikers are "testing" the police and denied that he ordered opening fire on the miners. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), who accused Dejeu of giving such an order, is demanding that the minister's parliamentary immunity be lifted. Strike leader Miron Cozma said that more than 11,000 strikers have agreed in writing to march on Bucharest and that Oltenia region miners have pledged to travel to the valley in support of the strikers. MS
 LIBERAL PARTY SUSPENDS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OVER STRIKE NEGOTIATIONSLiberal Party chairman Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said on 14 January that the party's Central Standing Bureau, meeting two days previously, announced it is "suspending for one year" deputy chairman Viorel Catarama for having conducted negotiations with the striking miners in Petrosani last week. Ionescu-Quintus said Catarama "had no mandate" to do so. The government, too, has said that Catarama, who is chairman of the Senate's Economic Committee, was not empowered to negotiate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). Observers say the move may have more to do with the struggle in the Liberal leadership over Ionescu-Quintus' succession than with the strike. According to party statutes, the National Council must still approve the bureau's decision, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. MS
 MAVERICK ROMANIAN SENATOR TO JOIN NATIONALIST PARTY?The anti- Hungarian Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) has officially invited maverick Senator George Pruteanu to join it, saying that Pruteanu may be nominated as its candidate in the 2000 presidential elections. Elected to the Senate on the list of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) in 1996, Pruteanu spearheaded efforts to hinder the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's demands for amending the education law in 1997. He was expelled from the PNTCD in March 1998 for "lack of discipline." Pruteanu told Mediafax he has also received offers to join the junior coalition Democratic Party, the opposition PDSR, and the Alliance for Romania, but he added that he has made no decision so far. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN SWITZERLANDPetru Lucinschi and his Swiss counterpart, Ruth Dreifuss, met in Bern on 14 January and signed an accord on avoiding double taxation. Lucinschi also met with Foreign Minister Flavio Coti, Flux and ITAR-TASS reported. A Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman said Bern will encourage investments in Moldova. Lucinschi then traveled to Geneva to meet with World Trade Organization (WTO) chairman Denis Belisle. Chisinau Radio said the purpose of the meetings is to accelerate the process of Moldova's European integration and its adherence to WTO principles. In other news, AP reported that the Moldovan government on 13 January decided to reform the debt- ridden energy sector to attract foreign investment. To this end, it froze the state electricity company's 1. 3 billion lei ($152 million) debt to the state budget in order to make it more attractive to prospective investors. MS
 OIL SLICK BY-PASSES KOZLODUYA spokesman for the Kozloduy nuclear plant on 14 January said the oil slick moving along the Danube river has passed Bulgaria's nuclear plant at Kozloduy without affecting its safety, Reuters reported. The Bulgarian authorities have requested that Yugoslavia provide information on the spill. They were told that its cause will be clarified by 15 January. MS
[C] END NOTE
 CROATIAN HARD-LINERS SEEK TO EXPLOIT HAGUE TRIBUNAL AS POLITICAL ISSUEby Andrej Krickovic
In recent weeks, relations between the Croatian government and the Hague- based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have dramatically worsened. Croatia's political leadership has claimed that the ICTY discriminates against Croatians and has called into question its further cooperation with the tribunal. The ICTY has criticized the Croatian media for its "aggressive rhetoric" and has dismissed Croatian criticisms as baseless. Yet the ICTY's inability to bringing certain suspects to justice may be playing into the hands of hard-line forces in Croatia that are looking to make the "anti-Croatian bias" of the ICTY an issue in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Tudjman triggered the anti-Hague debate during a speech to Croatian generals at the opening of the Croatian Military Academy in December. He claimed that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is preparing to issue warrants for the arrest of "five or six" Croatian generals who headed the 1995 offensive to retake territory seized by Serbian forces in 1991 and whom many Croats regard as heroes.
Anti-ICTY feeling has also been bolstered by various subsequent events, to which Croatian state-run media have given an anti-Croatian spin. Bosnian Croat Anto Furundzija received a 10-year sentence for his role in the rape of a Muslim woman in 1993, and indictments have been issued against other Bosnian Croats, Mladen Naletilic "Tuta" and Vinko Martinovic "Stela", for crimes committed against Muslims in Mostar. Meanwhile Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin, and Miroslav Radic, the three Yugoslav generals indicted by the court on charges of committing war crimes against Croatians during the Serbian siege of the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991, were recently cleared of all criminal charges by a Belgrade Military court and live freely in the Serbian capital.
In a recent interview in "Jutarnji List," Ivic Pasalic, President Franjo Tudjman's hard-line adviser on domestic politics and one of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community's (HDZ) leading politicians, said that an indictment of the Croatian generals would raise questions about Croatia's cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal. Pasalic pointed out that while 12 of the 26 suspects held in custody by the tribunal are Croats, none of those 26 suspects are charged with crimes against Croats. He went on to say that the tribunal is trying to relativize Serbian crimes and present Croatia as the worst aggressor in the war in order to force Croatia into future political associations with its Serbian and Bosnian neighbors. And he also announced that the issue of Croatia's cooperation with the court will soon be reviewed by the Croatian parliament.
For her part, Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor of the ICTY, has been quick to defend the record of the tribunal and has criticized the Croatian media for its "aggressive rhetoric" and for publicizing "pathetic inaccuracies about the court." She has said that it would be highly cynical of the Croatian leadership to cooperate with the court over indictments that do not threaten those in power and to withhold such cooperation over indictments of high-ranking Croatian officials. She has pointed out that Croatia has not fulfilled its obligations to provide the court with evidence and has claimed that the ICTY has done everything within its power to make Yugoslavia surrender suspects to the court.
Yet, the ICTY has not been successful in this endeavor. Yugoslavia is an international pariah state subject to a host of sanctions by the international community The threat of further economic and diplomatic sanctions seems to have little influence on a leadership that is already isolated. It has been much easier for the ICTY and the international community to exert pressure on Croatia, which has much more to lose from sanctions and worsening relations with the international community.
The ICTY has no police force of its own and depends on the international community to bring suspects indicted by the court to justice. In many cases, the political will on the part of the international community has been lacking, even when the tribunal has been eager to go after certain suspects. So far, the international community has been unwilling to turn up the pressure on Yugoslavia in order to bring its war criminals to justice.
Tudjman has been looking to rattle his nationalist saber as Croatia gears up for parliamentary elections. In recent speeches, he has railed against internal enemies, threatened to use force against SFOR during the border dispute with neighboring Bosnia at Martin Brod, and praised the balancing role Russia plays in international politics. Croatian cooperation with the ICTY has become a convenient issue for Tudjman and his nationalist cronies to exploit for their own political purposes.
The Court's failure to arrest anyone for crimes against Croatians has played into the hands of its pro-Tudjman critics. As long as the international community is unwilling to put pressure on Yugoslavia to extradite suspects indicted for war crimes in Croatia, the ICTY will be an attractive target for Tudjman's nationalist outpourings.
The author is a freelance journalist based in Zagreb.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty