|Friday, 24 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 10, 99-01-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 10, 18 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED IN TURKEYHeidar Aliev was flown to Ankara on 17 January and taken to a military hospital to be treated for bronchitis and a respiratory infection. Azerbaijani government officials denied rumors that Aliev, who is 75, is also suffering from cardiac problems. LF
 FORMER TOP ARMENIAN OFFICIALS SET UP NEW ORGANIZATIONSeveral former leading members of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), including former deputy parliamentary speakers Ara Sahakian and Karapet Rubinian, have formed what they say is a non-political organization named "EuroWay" to promote Western- style democracy in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 January. LF
 PROMINENT ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ASSESSES ELECTION CHANCESInterviewed by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 16 January, HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian predicted that the movement will gain popularity in the runup to the May parliamentary elections. He added that the party may poll more than 10 percent of the vote. But Siradeghian predicted that no single party will have an absolute majority in the new parliament. He said the Republican Party, created on the basis of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, would be lucky to receive 25 percent of the vote. The Yerkrapah are currently the largest group within the parliament. Siradeghian also forecast that tensions between President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian will inevitably increase. LF
 FINAL ELECTION RESULTS RELEASED IN KAZAKHSTANAccording to data released by the Central Electoral Commission on 16 January, incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev polled 79.78 percent of the vote in the 10 January presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin received 11.7 percent, Customs Committee chairman Gani Kasymov 4.61 percent, and Senator Engels Gabbasov 0.76 percent. LF
 RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF IN KYRGYZSTANMeeting in Bishkek on 15 January, General Konstantin Totskii and Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev discussed how to implement the agreement concluded last summer whereby Russian border guards will gradually be withdrawn from Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz border guards will take over their duties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. That agreement was due to take effect on 1 January 1999, according to RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau. But Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister Marat Subanov told journalists after the talks that a timetable for the Russian withdrawal still has to be drafted. He added that Russia will transfer some military equipment to Kyrgyzstan. LF
 PREMIER SAYS ECONOMIC SITUATION IN KYRGYZSTAN 'SERIOUS'...Addressing parliament on 15 January, Jumabek Ibraimov expressed concern at the economic situation in Kyrgyzstan and pledged "strong measures" to improve it, including tighter fiscal discipline and a crackdown on smuggling, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 15 January, "Vremya- MN" reported that GDP growth in Kyrgyzstan totaled only 2.2 percent compared with the projected 4.6 percent. Industrial output in 1998 was only one third of the 1991 level, the news paper reported. Last year, wages and pension arrears skyrocketed from almost nil to 720 million som (about $24 million). LF
 ...AS FINANCE MINISTER ASSESSES BUDGET, FOREIGN LOANSIn an interview with "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" published on 15 January, Finance Minister and former Central Bank chairman Marat Sultanov said that the 1999 draft budget, approved by the upper but not the lower chamber of parliament, requires "serious amendments." Sultanov said that the Russian financial crisis has had little impact on Kyrgyzstan, noting that foreign currency reserves fell in 1998 from $195 million to $189 million. He said that the problems involved in rescheduling Kyrgzystan's foreign debt are not insoluble but warned that more "bad loans" could seriously complicate the situation. The National Bank announced on 16 January that it has reached agreement with Turkey's Ex-Im Bank on postponing repayment of a $75 million credit. In Moscow last week, Ibraimov and his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, agreed on postponing repayment of Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Russia. Sultanov said that the Kyrgyz government has offered to purchase some of Russia's foreign debt. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT WARNS OF DRUGS THREATImomali Rakhmonov told an international conference in Dushanbe on 15 January that drugs are being smuggled into his country from neighboring Afghanistan at the rate of 1 ton per day, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. He said the number of addicts in Tajikistan is increasing, and he pleaded for additional international aid to halt drug trafficking through Tajikistan to third countries. The following day, the German government donated several thousand dollars' worth of computers and other equipment to the Tajik anti-narcotics commission, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax reported on 15 January that Uzbekistan registered an 11 percent increase in drug trafficking during the first 10 months of 1998. LF
 U.S. EMBASSY IN TAJIKISTAN RESUMES NORMAL OPERATIONSU.S. Ambassador Robert Finn told journalists in Dushanbe on 15 January that the embassy has returned to normal operations, which were suspended in September 1998 following the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa one month earlier. At that time, embassy staff were evacuated from Dushanbe to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But he added that the embassy is currently looking for a site on which to build a more secure building, according to Asia-Plus. Finn also said that the U.S. will grant Tajikistan assistance worth some $47 million in aid in 1999, including $30 million in food aid, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE FOLLOWING MASSACRESerbian forces killed some 45 Kosovar civilians in the village of Recak near Shtima in central Kosova on 15 January. The victims ranged from age 12 to 80 and included women. William Walker, who heads the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosova, said the next day that many of the Kosovars had been killed "execution-style" at close range. AP added that many bodies had been mutilated or decapitated. Serbian security forces fired on the village again on 17 and 18 January, using mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Reuters quoted unnamed OSCE monitors on 18 January as saying that the Serbs are shelling several other villages in the area as well. PM
 SERBS SAY KILLINGS RESULT OF 'COMBAT'Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in a statement in Belgrade on 17 January that the killings in Recak were the result of fighting between Serbian forces and "terrorists," by which Serbian officials mean the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He added that Walker's comments were the result of "false and personal assessments that are totally baseless[and] an obvious attempt to divert attention from the terrorists, murderers, and kidnappers." Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia issued a declaration calling Walker's comments "brazen lies." Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj charged that the UCK mutilated corpses and killed children in Recak in order to discredit the Serbian forces. He added that U.S. and British monitors are helping the UCK and that Walker is a CIA agent aiding the guerrillas, AP reported. Seselj's Radical Party said in a statement that Walker is the "patron of terrorist gangs." PM
 RUGOVA URGES NATO INTERVENTIONKosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 16 January that only an "energetic and decisive" intervention by NATO can stop "the Serbian military-police machine" and create a situation conducive to reaching a political settlement in the province. He urged the Atlantic alliance to launch air strikes against Serbian military positions. PM
 SHADOW-STATE REPRESENTATIVE CALLS FOR 'FORCE'Isa Zymberi, who is the Kosovar shadow state's representative in London, told the BBC on 17 January that he sees "no purpose" in recent Western appeals to Milosevic to bring the killers to justice. "Asking Milosevic to bring his own henchmen to justice for carrying out his own orders" is ridiculous, Zymberi stressed. He added that "the only thing that Milosevic understands is force" and that time has come for the international community to use force against him. The shadow-state representative added that the Serbian authorities have not respected the cease-fire or the October agreement between Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Zymberi called that agreement "a mistake" because the Serbs have not observed it. PM
 NATO SENDS TWO GENERALS TO BELGRADEMeeting in emergency session in Brussels on 17 January, NATO ambassadors agreed to send the alliance's two top generals, Wesley Clark and Klaus Naumann, to Belgrade the following day "to impress upon the Yugoslav authorities the gravity of the situation." Secretary-General Javier Solana condemned "all acts of violence [and called] on both sides to cease hostilities immediately and to begin negotiations toward a lasting political solution." The previous day, Clark said that he believes Milosevic may be preparing a "new, all-out offensive" that could soon lead to a renewal in large-scale fighting. PM
 ALBANIA URGES UN INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA...Prime Minister Pandeli Majko sent a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 17 January urging intervention in Kosova, Reuters reported. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement the same day saying only through intervention can tensions be defused and the crisis resolved. The document called for an urgent UN Security Council debate, saying that "the Recak massacre shows once again that Belgrade is increasingly sinking into the mire of a deep crisis, is committing the most atrocious crimes, and using neo-fascist methods for the mass extermination of the [Kosova] Albanians." The statement added that "this crime of Serbian chauvinism is also a great challenge to the international organizations that are trying to find a peaceful solution" to the problems of the troubled province. FS
 ...SEEKS OSCE ACTION...In a separate statement, the Albanian Foreign Ministry called for an urgent OSCE meeting in Vienna. A ministry official told dpa that Albania wants the OSCE to immediately deploy all 2,000 verifiers, as provided for in the October Milosevic-Holbrooke pact. Only some 600 monitors are in place because of the difficulties in finding qualified people willing to travel to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). FS
 ...PUTS ITS FORCES ON ALERTThe Albanian Defense Ministry on 15 January put its forces on alert and sent tanks to the border with Kosova. The move came in response to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic's statement two days earlier in Madrid that Albania is a "haven for international terrorism," dpa reported. Also on 15 January, the Foreign Ministry handed a note of protest to the Yugoslav charge d'affaires describing Jovanovic's remarks as "war-mongering declarations [and] an open provocation." The same day, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Belgrade told Reuters that Jovanovic's statement "was no threat of war to Albania. But we do have every right to condemn their inappropriate policies." FS
 BERISHA CALLS ON ALBANIANS TO PREPARE FOR 'WAR'Former Albanian President and current opposition leader Sali Berisha wrote in an editorial in "Albania" on 17 January that Albanians should prepare for a "life-or-death war[for the] survival of the Albanian people." He stressed that "it's time to stand as a nation," adding that "Albanians should understand they are at war...and they have every right to resist by all means." Berisha said that the crisis in Kosova is the result of "clashes of interests [within] the international community, which has lost its effectiveness...and left the initiative in Milosevic's hands," AP reported. FS
 CLINTON SLAMS 'MURDER'U.S. President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 16 January that the Recak killings were "a deliberate and indiscriminate act of murder designed to sow fear among the people [of Kosova]. It is a clear violation of the commitments the Serbian authorities have made to NATO." Elsewhere, a State Department spokesman said that the U.S. wants NATO to make a "clear response" to the latest developments in Kosova. He added that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is monitoring events there closely, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 COOK SAYS 'ATROCITY' NOT RESULT OF BATTLEBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 17 January that there could be "no possible," justifiable claim by the Serbian authorities that the killings were the result of a battle. "It plainly was not a battle, they were shot in the head at close range. Observers saw absolutely no evidence of fighting." He added that "this atrocity is appalling and although we have become wearily familiar with ethnic atrocities from the former Yugoslavia, nevertheless, this one is of such a character that it still has the capacity to leave you deeply shocked and distressed." In Paris, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called the killings "barbarous acts." He added that "there are no words that can describe this horror. We are filled with revulsion and disgust." PM
 ROMANIAN MINERS BEGIN MARCH ON BUCHARESTSome 10,000 striking miners from the Jiu Valley have begun a march on the capital, Mediafax reported on 18 January. Following an emergency cabinet meeting the previous day, Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu announced that the government has sealed off road and rail links to the valley. Prime Minister Radu Vasile has rejected the miners' demand to meet with them "on neutral territory" in Targu Jiu. On 15 January, a court declared their strike illegal on grounds of endangering the safety of the mines and because the miners had increased their earlier demands from four to 30. When the miners declared they will not abide by the court's decision, the management of the Jiu Valley company submitted its collective resignation MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIRFor the first time, Emil Constantinescu has publicly denied having had an extra-marital affair with actress Rona Hartner, saying he only met her "in public places," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 16 January. He told journalists an allegation that he had an affair with a female officer from the Service for Guard and Protection is also unfounded. He added that he had not known the officer even existed "until last week." Constantinescu also called on the Jiu Valley miners to keep away from Bucharest, saying violent labor unrest "will not be tolerated." MS
 RUSSIAN, ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES FAIL TO AGREE ON BESSARABIAN CHURCHRepresentatives of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches, meeting in Chisinau on 15-16 January, failed to reach an understanding over the status of the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, Mediafax reported. This was the fourth meeting held to discuss the conflict, but the first one to be held in Moldova itself. Earlier talks took place in Switzerland and Austria. Sources close to the Bessarabian Church cited by Mediafax on 17 January said the Russian delegation, headed by Smolensk and Kaliningrad Metropolitan Kiril, has proposed that the Bessarabian Church be subordinated to Moscow, like the Moldovan Orthodox Church. The Romanian delegation, led by Metropolitan Daniel, rejected that proposal. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL NOMINEEPetar Stoyanov on 15 January announced that he has rejected the nomination of Boyko Rashkov, former head of the National Investigation Service, as prosecutor-general. The former Supreme Judiciary Council had nominated Rashkov to that position in November 1998 to replace Ivan Tatarchev, whose term expires on 18 February. The new Supreme Judiciary Council, however, has appealed to Stoyanov to reject that nomination. Stoyanov said he accepts the argument of the council that it must be allowed to make its own choice. He added that he is rejecting the nomination not only on legal grounds but also by taking into consideration "motives" advanced "by the public in the last couple of months." In other news, the parliament on 15 January passed an amendment to the penal code making it possible to prosecute people who attempt to bribe foreign public officials in connection with international financial transactions, BTA reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS THIS YEARby Jan Maksymiuk
The Belarusian opposition does not want to wait until 2001 for presidential elections, as stipulated by the constitution adopted in the November 1996 referendum. Rather, it wants to elect a new president on 16 May 1999. A resolution to that effect was passed on 10 January by 44 deputies of the Supreme Soviet, which was disbanded by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka following the 1996 referendum. That body, however, is recognized as Belarus's legitimate legislature by all European parliaments except the Russian State Duma.
On 16 January, the opposition Central Election Commission, which was set up by the Supreme Soviet on 10 January, held its first meeting and approved an election schedule. It also decided to set up a fund for the election campaign and to open a bank account for that fund in Moscow.
The Belarusian opposition has provided ample evidence that there were gross violations of democratic procedures in the 1996 referendum. Moreover, the plebiscite was to have been of a non- binding nature, as stated on each ballot. However, Lukashenka decreed the referendum results binding and has put them into effect.
First, in accordance with the new constitution, Lukashenka replaced the Supreme Soviet with a bicameral legislature--the National Assembly. Members of the lower house--the 110-seat Chamber of Representatives--were hand- picked by Lukashenka from among those deputies who gave up their mandates in the Supreme Soviet and sought membership in the new legislature. The upper house--the 64-seat Council of the Republic--is populated with "senators" proposed by local soviets and by the president himself.
Second, Lukashenka extended his presidential term to 2001. A provision in the constitution draft that was put to the November 1996 referendum stipulated that the executive authorities' term in office was to be considered to have begun on the day of the referendum. Thus, Lukashenka-- who was elected president on 14 July 1994 for five years--extended his own term in office by two- and-a-half years.
Some 50 Supreme Soviet deputies have refused to recognize Lukashenka's post- referendum decisions, claiming that he committed a "constitutional coup d'etat." They have remained loyal to the 1994 constitution and continued to hold parliamentary sessions, even though they lack a quorum and the power to implement their resolutions. But both the OSCE and the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly recognize the Supreme Soviet as Belarus's legitimate legislative representation, if not its full-fledged parliament. The Lukashenka regime has persistently sought official recognition for the National Assembly among European nations and organizations, but to no avail.
The Supreme Soviet decision to hold presidential elections in accordance with the 1994 constitution may have significant repercussions. It remains unclear whether voters will cast their ballots. However, the opposition's launching of an election campaign--which involves collecting signatures among the electorate and setting up local election commissions around the country--creates a new political climate in Belarus.
First, the 1999 presidential election campaign offers the Belarusian opposition the clear-cut political goal it has seemingly lacked over the past two years. All the major opposition parties--including the mildly nationalist Popular Front (BNF), which has no deputy in the Supreme Soviet-- have pledged coordinating efforts to make the elections happen.
Second, the campaign puts Lukashenka's authoritarian regime under the international spotlight and offers a political challenge to European democracies. Belarusian opposition activists believe that since European countries recognize the Supreme Soviet, they must be consistent and also recognize the Supreme Soviet's decision to hold presidential elections in May.
At the very least, Belarus's opposition expects that Europe will begin publicly recognizing Lukashenka as a political usurper when his five years in office expire in July 1999. Analysts note that the Belarusian president is clearly eager to avoid such a development. They argue that he is under pressure owing to Belarus's current economic difficulties and wants to improve political and economic relations with Europe, not to mention his desire to remain Belarus's legitimate leader.
The stance adopted by European countries vis-ą-vis the Belarusian opposition's election initiative will be of utmost importance for both the Belarusian opposition and the future of democracy in Belarus. On 17 January, five EU ambassadors returned to Minsk after they had been recalled over the diplomatic housing scandal last year. The same day, an OSCE group arrived in Minsk to bolster the OSCE's mission there ahead of local elections on 4 April, the opposition presidential elections on 16 May, and the signing of a Belarusian-Russian union state treaty scheduled for mid-1999.
In the past, Lukashenka has dealt harshly with any manifestations of political dissent, and it is unlikely that he will respond differently this time. The Prosecutor-General's Office has already warned the opposition that the May elections are unconstitutional. However, as BNF deputy head Yury Khadyka recently put it, from a legal point of view Belarus has a "dyarchy." The opposition expects its election initiative to prompt the Belarusian people to seek other ways of overcoming their social and economic plight than continuing to rely on authoritarian rule.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty