|Thursday, 29 October 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 17, 99-01-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 17, 26 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DECLINES TO LIFT FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER'S IMMUNITY...By a vote of 65 to 56 with 25 abstentions, the National Assembly on 26 January turned down a request by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian to lift Vano Siradeghian's immunity to allow his arrest on suspicion of ordering two murders, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Hovsepian had told deputies the previous day that there is "sufficient evidence" to claim that Siradeghian ordered the murder in January 1994 of two Armenian police officers who had bungled the assassination one month earlier in Moscow of Armenian-born Russian businessman, Serge Jilavian. Jilavian was at odds with the former Armenian authorities. Siradeghian, who is chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, has denied the charges and accused the country's present leadership of leading Armenia to "civil war." LF
 ...POSTPONES VOTE ON ELECTION LAWDeputies on 25 January voted to postpone until 1 February the final vote on the new election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The opposition objects that the bill allows the government to control electoral commissions and provides for the allocation of 75 seats in single-mandate constituencies. LF
 ARMENIA, KARABAKH AGAIN DENY SHELTERING OCALANA spokeswoman for Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent on 25 January that Azerbaijan is behind Russian and Turkish media reports that Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan has arrived in the enclave after leaving Italy on 16 January. She added that those reports are aimed at providing a pretext for a Turkish military presence in the region. On 23 January, Turkey's Anatolia News Agency carried a written denial by Armenian Foreign Ministry acting spokesman Ara Papyan that Ocalan has been or is currently in Armenia. But Mahir Valat, who heads the Kurdish National Liberation Movement office in Moscow, told Interfax on 25 January that Ocalan entered Russia from Italy en route to a third country, which he declined to name. LF
 FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON TRIALThe trial of former president and opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey opened in Baku on 25 January and was adjourned until the following day. Elchibey is charged with insulting the honor and dignity of his successor, President Heidar Aliev, by claiming in November 1998 that the latter, together with Yevgenii Primakov, then head of Russian foreign intelligence, was instrumental in founding the Kurdistan Workers' Party in the 1980s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998). LF
 GEORGIA DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ABKHAZ DEATHSTwo Abkhaz police officers were killed and three wounded on 25 January in an ambush by Georgian guerrillas in Gali Raion, Interfax reported, quoting Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Valerii Lagvilava. But Temur Khevsuriani, deputy security minister of the self-styled Abkhaz government in exile, told Caucasus Press that the Abkhaz were killed by members of the Russian peacekeeping force in retaliation for an earlier attack on them. Also on 25 January, President Eduard Shevardnadze criticized Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba for going back on an earlier agreement on the return to Gali of ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting there in 1992-1993 and 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. It is unclear whether Shevardnadze was referring to the protocol prepared for signing at a planned meeting between himself and Ardzinba. Each side has blamed the other for sabotaging that meeting by backtracking on earlier agreements. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN ARRESTS TWO SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALSTwo former generals of the Kazakh National Security Committee have been arrested, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported on 26 January. One has been charged with illegal operations involving the sale of alcohol. The other is suspected of having provided classified information on the current economic and political situation in Kazakhstan, especially Kazakhstan's relations with Russia, to an unnamed country, possibly in Asia. LF
 RUSSIA GIVES KAZAKHSTAN FIGHTER AIRCRAFTRussia on 25 January delivered four SU-27 military jets to Kazakhstan in part payment for the lease of the Baikonur space complex, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. According to Interfax, Russia will also provide Kazakhstan with another 12 such aircraft and with S-300 anti- aircraft systems to upgrade the security of the new capital. LF
 DISAFFECTION IN KYRGYZSTANParliamentary deputy and respected film director Dooronbek Sadyrbayev told journalists in Bishkek on 25 January that he will forego his deputy's salary and official car until "order is restored" in the country, ITAR-TASS reported. Seven deputies had made a similar announcement the previous day. Sadyrbayev criticized press censorship, inadequate pensions, and what he termed "the practice of appointing persons with a criminal record to high state posts." On 22 January, summarizing the findings of a poll conducted by the Association of Kyrgyz Sociologists among 100 scientists, journalists, and public figures, Interfax reported that the Communist Party is the most popular of Kyrgyzstan's 22 registered political parties and movements. Absamat Masaliev, who headed the Communist Party from 1985-1991 and re- elected to that post in 1994, was named the best-known political leader in Kyrgyzstan. LF
 TAJIK OPPOSITION PROPOSES MORE GOVERNMENT MEMBERSThe United Tajik Opposition on 21 January agreed on another eight candidates for government posts, including nominees for the positions of first deputy interior, foreign, and security minister, Asia-Plus- Blitz reported on 25 January. The Committee for National Reconciliation has endorsed those candidacies, which must now be approved by President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF
 TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER IN PAKISTANArriving in Islamabad on 25 January, Boris Shikhmuradov told journalists that his country still intends to proceed with construction of a gas export pipeline to Pakistan via Afghanistan, dpa reported. The U.S. company UNOCAL, which had a 46 percent stake in the consortium created in 1997 to build that pipeline, announced last month that it was withdrawing from the project because of the instability in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). Shikhmuradov is to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. He is also scheduled to meet with Taliban representatives. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 FIVE MORE BODIES FOUND IN KOSOVAOSCE monitors on 25 January found the bullet-ridden bodies of five ethnic Albanians--a married couple and a father and his two sons--on a tractor near Rakovina, on the Gjakova-Klina road. All five were wearing civilian clothes. The faces of the father and his two sons, who were aged 10 and 12, were "disfigured," AP reported. Monitors said that all five were shot at close range. Kosovar spokesmen said that the five were victims of Serbian security forces. Serbian officials argued that the killings took place in an area that is firmly under the control of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Observers noted that the murders are likely to further complicate efforts by the international community directed at finding an interim political solution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Meanwhile in Prishtina, U.S. special envoy Chris Hill discussed possible political formulas with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. PM
 NATO READY TO ACT...General Klaus Naumann, the head of NATO's military committee, told Germany's ZDF television on 26 January that the Atlantic alliance has completed its military preparations for possible intervention in the Kosova crisis. He stressed that both sides must understand that NATO's patience with the continued violence has reached its limits and that the alliance will launch "military action" if the violence continues. In Moenchengladbach, a spokesman for the U.K.'s Royal Air Force said that four Harrier vertical take-off planes have flown from their air base in Germany to one in southern Italy in conjunction with NATO preparations for possible air strikes in the Balkans. PM
 ...AGAINST EITHER SIDEOfficials of the Atlantic alliance agreed in Brussels on 25 January that NATO "cannot put physical pressure on one side [the Serbs] and just rhetorical pressure on the other [the UCK]," AP quoted an unnamed alliance official as saying. Reuters quoted another official as noting that NATO is "looking at various possible ways of restraining" the UCK. He did not provide details but added that "we certainly want to do something to clearly demonstrate that we recognize that the problem is not uniquely on one side." The official also noted that the alliance seeks "to work as long and as far as possible with the Russians on this." Unnamed Western diplomats said in London on 26 January that NATO ground troops will occupy ports and airports in Albania to stem the flow of weapons to the UCK if the guerrillas do not support peace efforts. NATO ground troops will be sent to Kosova to guarantee any agreement on autonomy, the diplomats added. PM
 EU SEEKS 'POLITICAL PLAN'EU foreign ministers decided in Brussels on 25 January to increase diplomatic pressure on Belgrade, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The ministers demanded that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic work with Kosovar leaders to find a political settlement for the troubled province and that he enable the OSCE monitors to carry out their duties unhindered. The ministers also called on Milosevic to allow the Hague tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour to investigate the recent massacre at Recak and to bring to justice those responsible for the killings. The ministers recommended that the EU tighten economic sanctions if Milosevic does not comply. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jacques Poos said that possible NATO "military action needs a political plan, and it's up to the EU together with others to find the political plan." British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that the compromise plan will offer the Kosovars autonomy and the Serbs an opportunity to end international isolation. PM
 CONTACT GROUP TO ISSUE ULTIMATUM?Unnamed Western diplomats told Reuters in London on 26 January that the international Contact Group will meet in Paris on 29 January to demand that the Serbs and Kosovars attend peace talks within 10 days or face NATO military action. The diplomats added that the U.S., however, wants NATO to take the lead by issuing a declaration on Kosova before the meeting of the Contact Group, which includes Russia. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 25 January that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright feels that any meeting of foreign ministers of the Contact Group would require "careful preparation" and that this week would be "too early" for such a gathering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). PM
 KOSOVAR LEGISLATORS IN TIRANAA delegation of Kosovar shadow- state legislators met with representatives of the Albanian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and with Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on 25 January. The delegation is headed by Fehmi Agani, who is a senior leader of Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. The Albanian government regards the visit as a first step toward coordinating the policies of rival political groups inside Kosova among themselves and with the policies of Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 19 January 1999). On 26 January, the legislators are scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and President Rexhep Meidani, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Observers have suggested that Agani is also likely to meet with representatives of the UCK during his visit to Tirana. FS
 U.S. HAILS CROATIAN-MONTENEGRIN AGREEMENTThe State Department said in a statement on 25 January that the recent agreement by Croatia and Montenegro to reopen the border crossings at Debeli Brijeg and Vitaljina "represents an important confidence-building measure" and will help restore "economic and cultural ties that were broken by the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia." Belgrade has opposed reopening the border, which has been closed since 1991, except for some brief openings at the time of religious holidays. PM
 CROATIA ARRESTS THREE SERBS FOR WAR CRIMESPolice in Dalj recently arrested three members of a 20-strong Serbian paramilitary group that allegedly attacked a police station and committed crimes against Croatian civilians during the 1991 war, a police spokesman said in Zagreb on 25 January. The other members of the group remain at large. In Sarajevo, a court sentenced a Bosnian Serb to 13 years in prison for allegedly torturing Muslim civilians in Pale in 1992. Five of his victims eventually died from their injuries. PM
 MILJUS FAILS TO WIN LEGISLATIVE BACKINGThe Bosnian Serb parliament on 25 January voted 46 to 29 against the election as prime minister of Brano Miljus, who had been nominated by nationalist President Nikola Poplasen. Miljus is the second of Poplasen's candidates to fail to win sufficient backing of legislators, gaining support primarily from hard-line Serbs. Muslim, Croatian, and most moderate Serbian legislators continue to support incumbent Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who enjoys the support of the international community. PM
 ITALIAN POLICE CATCH 88 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM ALBANIA...Italian police detained 88 illegal immigrants from Albania on 25 January, including three suspected smugglers, AP reported. The arrests reflect an increase in smuggling only two days after smugglers forced Vlora police to return impounded speedboats by kidnapping the local police chief (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). FS
 ...WHILE ALBANIAN PROSECUTOR PLEDGES ANTI MAFIA LAWSenior prosecutor Bujar Himci told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 23 January that the government is preparing a draft anti-mafia law in a renewed effort to combat organized crime. The law will provide for setting up a special team of anti-mafia prosecutors. The government had planned to present the draft to the parliament in fall 1998, but legislators were too busy at the time debating the new draft constitution, "Albanian Daily News" reported. The draft was approved in a referendum last November. FS
 ANOTHER ROMANIAN OFFICIAL RESIGNS IN WAKE OF MINERS' STRIKEGeneral Teodor Zaharia resigned as deputy interior minister on 25 January as criticism mounted over the failure of the police to contain striking miners marching on Bucharest, Reuters reported. Zaharia said poor communications and bad equipment were to blame for the failure to halt the miners. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu resigned on 21 January and three Interior Ministry generals were sacked later. President Emil Constantinescu ordered the Supreme Defense Council, which is made up of top ministers and security chiefs, to submit a preliminary report on the crisis by 26 January. Roman Petre, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said that shortcomings in the social provisions of the government's reform program are to blame for the miners' strike. PB
 MINERS' LEADER CONFIDENT GOVERNMENT WILL ABIDE BY DEALMiron Cozma, the head of the striking miners, said on 25 January in Petrosani that the strike and protest march achieved their goals, Radio Timosoara reported. Cozma, who received a hero's welcome upon returning to the Jiu Valley, said he believes Premier Radu Vasile will not break the agreement ending the strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999 and "End Note" below). He said if the government does not abide by the agreement, the miners "are ready to start all over again." He said the violence was a result of the government's refusal to conduct a dialogue with the miners. PB
 BULGARIANS IN MOLDOVA HOLD PROTEST POLLThe Bulgarian community in Moldova voted in an illegal referendum to express their opposition to a proposed administrative reform that they fear will dilute their identity, AP reported on 24 January. Community leader Chiril Darmanchev said Bulgarians will lose subsidies for Bulgarian- language schools under the proposed nationwide consolidation of counties. Some 48,000 ethnic Bulgarians live in the Moldovan county of Taraclia, which is to be incorporated into another county. Bulgarians currently make up some two-thirds of the county's population but will constitute just 16 percent in the new entity. PB
 BULGARIA LAUNCHES SECOND WAVE OF PRIVATIZATIONBulgarians began using vouchers on 25 January to buy shares in 31 companies included in the country's second wave of mass privatization, BTA reported. Some 560,000 people with voucher books valued at 250,000 leva ($148) each are able to participate in the purchase of shares. The assets of more than 1,000 firms were sold in the first wave of privatization in 1996-1997. PB
[C] END NOTE
 PEACE OR TRUCE IN ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S CONFLICT WITH MINERS?by Michael Shafir
In many ways, the agreement reached by Prime Minister Radu Vasile and the leader of the striking miners, Miron Cozma, at the Cozia monastery on 22 January is as mysterious as the shrine in the village where the two sides met. Only the participants in the discussions seem to have seen the document, which government sources claim exists "in a single copy." With no duplicates available, both sides can for the time being offer their own version of the accord. It is encouraging that after reaching an agreement, the two sides prayed together and lit candles. Everything else about that document, however, is less heartening.
According to Cozma, the government has agreed to a 10 percent wage hike. He claims the government has agreed to revoke the planned closure of two loss- making pits and to channel $200 million to the valley from EU funds allocated to help Romania cover the social costs of reform. He also says that a joint commission is to study ways of canceling over five years all losses of the state company managing the valley's mines. That commission is to reach an agreement by 15 February.
"Not so," Nicole Stoiculescu, deputy industry and trade minister and a leading participant in the talks with the miners, told RFE/RL the next day. Wage increases will paid for by the company, not from the state budget--an assertion that would make sense if a profit-making enterprise, rather than one that is supposed to cut losses, were involved. Furthermore, while Cozma claims the cabinet has agreed to increase the amount paid for coal extracted by the company, Stoiculescu's version of "zero- costs" to the budget again contradicts Cozma's. And these are not the only discrepancies. According to Stoiculescu, the closure of the two loss-making pits has not been revoked; rather, it has been postponed and is to be discussed by the joint commission.
Stoiculescu is clearly not telling the whole truth. The government concessions must be larger than he claims, since he admits that the "cost of saved lives" is smaller than the financial cost forced on the cabinet. Just what those concessions are, however, unclear. At least one was, above all, symbolic. Having refused to meet with Cozma either in Bucharest or in the Jiu Valley, the premier was finally compelled to do so in Cozia. This, in itself, speaks volumes about the cabinet's crisis management: if such a meeting could have averted the clashes in the valley and at the village of Costesti, it should have taken place sooner, rather than later.
But the cabinet in general and the Ministry of Interior in particular seemed unaware of either the miners' strategy or their logistic capability to deal with the police forces sent to oppose them. The miners outwitted police officers by using such medieval tactics as rolling down huge stones from the surrounding hills, which inexplicably had been ignored by those responsible for police deployment. In a country where conspiracy theories are one of the media's favorite past time, this has led to speculation that the forces of law and order were "betrayed from within."
But on this occasion, there seems to have been at least a grain of truth to such speculation. Deputy Interior Minister Viorel Oancea confirmed that the miners appeared to have inside information. Two officials at the ministry, both with the rank of general, have been dismissed, and, according to some press reports, at least one is related to a leader of the Greater Romania Party. Oancea also noted that some high-ranking Interior Ministry officials were known to harbor sympathies for Corneliu Vadim Tudor's party, which had co-opted Cozma when he was serving a prison sentence for his role in the miners' descent on Bucharest in September 1991 and which was the only political formation that openly incited the miners in their latest protest action. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu had to pay the price for the failings within his ministry: he tendered his resignation and was replaced by Constantin Dudu Ionescu on the eve of the Cozia agreement.
But does that document constitute a genuine agreement or merely a truce intended to give both sides a breathing space? Unless some serious questions are asked in the Ministry of Interior by 15 February, the answer to that question may come too late. Furthermore, if the miners prove to have had the upper hand in the parleys, other trade unions are likely to be encouraged to follow their example. The Fratia trade union confederation, for example, has already announced its plans to go on strike next month, and the National Syndicate Bloc has said it may follow suit.
This is hardly a good omen for the forthcoming talks with the IMF, which were postponed--apparently at the government's request--from 25 January to 10 February. Romania's ability to service its foreign debt is dependent on the results of those talks, and the government would have to convince the fund that it can reduce its deficit from 3.6 percent of GDP in 1998 to 2 percent this year. That will be a difficult task, not only because of the concessions to the miners and other strata of the population affected by the reform but also because of the worrying signs that the authority of the state is about to collapse, as witnessed by the way police behaved when they came face to face with the miners.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty