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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 21, 99-02-01

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. 3, No. 21, 1 February 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER FLEES COUNTRY TO AVOID INDICTMENT
  • [02] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ADDRESSES REPUBLICANS' FOUNDING CONGRESS...
  • [03] ...DENIES PRESIDENTAL AMBITIONS
  • [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM TURKEY
  • [05] DEBATE OVER NATO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES
  • [06] AZERBAIJAN DEMANDS EXTRADITION OF ALLEGED COUP PARTICIPANT
  • [07] UTO MEMBERS USE FORCE TO FREE COMRADES
  • [08] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO STAY IN TAJIKISTAN
  • [09] TAJIK PROSECUTOR WINDS UP CASES AGAINST MUTINEERS
  • [10] KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER FAVORS AMNESTY FOR MONEY SMUGGLERS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] UN, NATO BACK CONTACT GROUP ON KOSOVA
  • [12] WESTERN LEADERS ISSUE WARNINGS
  • [13] MILOSEVIC NON-COMMITTAL ON ULTIMATUM
  • [14] MIXED SIGNALS FROM KOSOVARS
  • [15] WHAT HAPPENED AT ROGOVA?
  • [16] MACEDONIA MAY HOST ADDITIONAL NATO TROOPS
  • [17] ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS ON ARMY TO DEFEND SOVEREIGNTY...
  • [18] ...WANTS NATO TO USE FORCE
  • [19] NO EARLY ELECTIONS IN CROATIA
  • [20] CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS REPLACED
  • [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER, PRESIDENT BACK FROM GERMANY
  • [22] MOLDOVAN CABINET STEPS DOWN
  • [23] BULGARIA 'WILL SUPPORT NATO STRIKES' IN KOSOVA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [24] SLOVENIA'S ECONOMY PERFORMS SOLIDLY, DESPITE EU CRITICISM

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER FLEES COUNTRY TO AVOID INDICTMENT

    Vano Siradeghian on 29 January left Yerevan on a plane bound for the United Arab Emirates, reportedly to seek medical treatment, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the following day. Earlier on 29 January, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told journalists that he will again ask the parliament to lift Siradeghian's immunity and sanction his arrest on charges of incitement to murder. Parliamentary deputies rejected Hovsepian's first such request last week (see "RFE/RL "Newsline," 26 January 1999). Hovsepian rejected allegations that the attempt to indict Siradeghian, a key supporter of former President Levon Ter- Petrossian, was politically motivated. On 28 January, presidential adviser and Union for Self-Determination chairman Paruyr Hairikian had told journalists that he was prepared to act as Siradeghian's defense lawyer in the interests of ensuring a fair trial, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ADDRESSES REPUBLICANS' FOUNDING CONGRESS...

    The Republican Party of Armenia, held its inaugural congress in Yerevan on 29-30 January, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The new group was formed when the original party of that name merged with the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war and the affiliated Yerkrapah group of parliamentary deputies. Yerkrapah leader and deputy parliament speaker Albert Bazeyan called for "resolute steps to ensure law and order and combat corruption." He also stressed the Republicans' commitment to "free economic competition" and the creation of a middle class. Noting the party's role in "maintaining stability in the country," its leading members tried to allay widespread fears that its primary objective is to ensure its own victory in the parliamentary elections in May. Addressing the congress on 30 January, Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, Yerkapah's unofficial leader, said there is "no reason to mistrust us." He advocated a debate on how to ensure that the poll is free and fair. LF

    [03] ...DENIES PRESIDENTAL AMBITIONS

    Sargsian also denied persistent rumors of tensions between himself and President Robert Kocharian, saying the latter is "a good friend" whom he will never turn against. Sargsian added that he does not aspire to the post of either president or prime minister, adding that he wants to remain defense minister as "there is a lot of work to be done." He defined his role in recent years as "standing between the army and society" in order to prevent the former's involvement in politics "on the Turkish variant." Sargsian further denied having played the key role in forcing Ter- Petrossian's resignation in February, 1998. LF

    [04] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RETURNS FROM TURKEY

    Heidar Aliev was discharged from hospital in Ankara on 29 January and flew back to Baku the following day. Aliev told the several thousand people, including government ministers and school children, who greeted him on his arrival that his health is fine. He rejected persistent media speculation that he had been treated for cardiac problems, in addition to influenza. More than 50 sheep were sacrificed in honor of the president's return. LF

    [05] DEBATE OVER NATO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES

    The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a six-page statement on 29 January warning that Azerbaijan will be "compelled" to take unspecified "adequate measures to ensure the security of the country and the defense of its independence" if Russia continues its policy of military cooperation with Armenia, Turan reported. The same day, members of the parties aligned in the pro-government Democratic Alliance picketed the Russian embassy in Baku to protest Russian arms supplies to Armenia and Armenia's alleged support for the PKK. Ikhtiyar Shirinov, chairman of the pro-government National Congress, told Turan on 29 January that Baku should ask either Turkey or NATO to station in Azerbaijan weapons capable of destroying the fighter aircraft and S-300 air defense missiles that Russia is supplying to Armenia. But the Unified Communist Party of Azerbaijan protested that deploying NATO troops in Azerbaijan would violate the country's constitution. LF

    [06] AZERBAIJAN DEMANDS EXTRADITION OF ALLEGED COUP PARTICIPANT

    Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov and Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov have presented Iran's ambassador in Azerbaijan, Alirza Bikdeli, with a written demand for the extradition of Mahir Javadov, Turan reported on 29 January. Javadov participated in an armed standoff in March 1995 between members of the OPON special police, led by his brother Rovshan, and the Azerbaijani authorities. Mahir Javadov then fled to Austria, where he was granted political asylum. In December 1998, he traveled to Iran, where the Azerbaijani officials claim he is currently "engaging in subversive political activity" with the aim of overthrowing the present Azerbaijani leadership. An Iranian embassy official told Turan on 27 January that Javadov is engaged in business activities in Tehran. But the same day, the independent newspaper "Yeni Musavat" quoted Javadov as appealing to Azerbaijanis to send their sons to help him launch a military campaign to "liberate" Nagorno-Karabakh. LF

    [07] UTO MEMBERS USE FORCE TO FREE COMRADES

    The Tajik Interior Ministry has demanded that United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri punish UTO members who used force to free eight of their friends from a police station in Faizabad on 31 January, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Some 200 UTO fighters surrounded the police station demanding the release of the eight men inside. When police refused, the UTO fighters forcibly disarmed police officers, took several of them hostage, and freed the eight men. Local authorities persuaded the UTO fighters to free the policemen and return their weapons, but an unnamed spokesman for the Interior Ministry later said this was not an isolated incident. Tajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission is expected to discuss the incident on 1 February. BP

    [08] RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO STAY IN TAJIKISTAN

    The director of Russia's Federal Border Service, Colonel-General Konstantin Totskii, says his service does not envisage the "possibility of handing over control of the state border with Afghanistan to Tajikistan," Russia's "Segodnya" reported on 30 January. Totskii, who was speaking in Moscow, said that relinquishing control over the Tajik-Afghan border "would not meet the interests of Russia or of other CIS countries." Totskii cited fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban movement near the border with Tajikistan, saying that "if the Taliban approaches the border with the CIS, a serious threat will arise for the entire region," Interfax reported on 29 January. Totskii acknowledged that border guards will leave Kyrgyzstan beginning in May but that 130 officers and officials will stay on as advisers. BP

    [09] TAJIK PROSECUTOR WINDS UP CASES AGAINST MUTINEERS

    The Prosecutor-General's Office in the northern Tajik region of Leninabad says that 197 people have been prosecuted for their role in last November's mutiny there , Interfax reported on 29 January. Of the 197 prosecuted, 162 remain in custody, of whom some 70 are local residents suspected of aiding renegade former Tajik Army Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, who led the failed mutiny. Another 70 of Khudaberdiyev's fighters are scheduled to appear in court soon. BP

    [10] KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER FAVORS AMNESTY FOR MONEY SMUGGLERS

    At an expanded cabinet session on 29 January, Jumabek Ibraimov recommended an amnesty, given to those who have taken money out of the country provided they voluntarily return the funds, Interfax reported. Ibraimov estimated such funds amount to tens of millions of dollars and said that the passage of legislation granting amnesty could stimulate investment in Kyrgyzstan if the program were successful. The government also approved increasing the output of hydro-electricity and agricultural products, RFE/RL correspondents reported. And, as expected, it announced stricter controls over the use of government-guaranteed foreign loans and recommended full state control over the alcohol industry. BP

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] UN, NATO BACK CONTACT GROUP ON KOSOVA

    Meeting in London on 29 January, the foreign ministers of the international Contact Group approved an ultimatum to the Belgrade authorities and the Kosovar leadership to agree to attend talks in Rambouillet, France, by 6 February. The two sides would then have up to two weeks to reach a political agreement on the province's future. The Contact Group threatened military action against those who reject the ultimatum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1999). On 30 January in Brussels, the NATO Council authorized Secretary-General Javier Solana to issue orders for air strikes should either side not comply. In New York, the UN Security Council endorsed the Contact Group's statement. PM

    [12] WESTERN LEADERS ISSUE WARNINGS

    In Washington on 29 January, U.S. President Bill Clinton urged the Serbs and Kosovars to accept the Contact Group's terms, which, he said, are the best alternative to a war that neither side can win. Two days later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright added that "our strategy of diplomacy backed by the threat of force is the only way to ensure that both sides halt the violence and come immediately to the negotiating table." In London, Vice President Al Gore noted that Washington has not yet made a decision on whether to commit ground troops to help enforce an eventual settlement. He nonetheless added that "the central pointŠis that NATO will back up its demand with force if [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic does not keep the agreement." British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the Contact Group's statement reflects "a new momentum in [the] process" of reaching a settlement. PM

    [13] MILOSEVIC NON-COMMITTAL ON ULTIMATUM

    Milosevic told Cook in Belgrade on 30 January that he needs "several days" to consider his reply to the Contact Group. The state-run Tanjug news agency quoted Milosevic as saying that the problem "must be solved peacefully, within Serbia and with the participation of representatives of all ethnic groups" in the province. Belgrade has long insisted that any conference on Kosova must take place in Serbia because Kosova "is an internal part of Serbia." The Serbian authorities have also insisted that any talks include representatives of often tiny ethnic minorities, which, observers suggest, is aimed at diluting the political power of the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority. On 31 January, the pro- Milosevic daily "Politika" published the Contact Group's statement, which some observers argued was a sign that Milosevic intends to agree to the Rambouillet talks. PM

    [14] MIXED SIGNALS FROM KOSOVARS

    Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and leading journalist Veton Surroi told Cook in Skopje on 30 January that they will attend the talks. Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army, and Rexhep Qosja, who is a prominent nationalist leader, said that they need more time to study the proposal. Demaci and other UCK representatives stressed that talks "organized in a rush" could lead nowhere. Meanwhile in Prishtina, spokesmen for students on a hunger strike appealed on 31 January to all Kosovar political leaders to sink their differences and adopt a united stand. PM

    [15] WHAT HAPPENED AT ROGOVA?

    British General John Drewienkiewicz, who is deputy head of the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 30 January that at least five of the 24 Kosovars killed at Rogova between Prizren and Gjakova the previous day were elderly peasants in civilian clothes. OSCE monitors noted that only three of the victims wore UCK uniforms. The monitors called on Finnish pathologists already in Prishtina to examine bodies from the Recak massacre to investigate the deaths in Rogova. Serbian spokesmen charged that the 24 Kosovars were "terrorists" killed in battle. PM

    [16] MACEDONIA MAY HOST ADDITIONAL NATO TROOPS

    Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov told Cook in Skopje on 30 January that his country is ready to provide support not only for the NATO force already stationed in that country but also "for the possible second arrival of forces," AP reported. Dimitrov noted that additional troops could not only assist in any evacuation of OSCE civilian monitors from Kosova but also "serve some other possible solutions if there's no peaceful solution and the Contact Group plan fails." Serbia has repeatedly threatened Macedonia with unspecified consequences for hosting the NATO troops, even though Milosevic approved their presence near Serbia's borders in his agreement with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October. Macedonia sees close cooperation with NATO as a means to anchor itself in Euro- Atlantic structures. PM

    [17] ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS ON ARMY TO DEFEND SOVEREIGNTY...

    Pandeli Majko told troops near Kukes on 29 January that they should be prepared to defend Albania's sovereignty, Reuters reported. Majko, who was accompanied by Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga and U.S. Ambassador Marisa Lino, stressed that "we must be prepared to defend what is most sacred to us, our sovereignty." FS

    [18] ...WANTS NATO TO USE FORCE

    The Albanian government issued a statement on 30 January saying that "no one must nurse illusions [that] the Yugoslav authorities will respect the decisions of the international community unless force is used." The statement stressed that without force Milosevic will ignore the Contact Group's initiative. Meanwhile, in an interview with "Zeri i Popullit," Foreign Minister Paskal Milo welcomed the Contact Group's call for negotiations. Milo called it "necessary" that Kosovar leaders join the talks, dpa reported. FS

    [19] NO EARLY ELECTIONS IN CROATIA

    Nikica Valentic, who is an aide to President Franjo Tudjman, said in Zagreb on 30 January that parliamentary elections will take place at some point during the last three months of 1999. Elections are due in January 2000. There has been much speculation that the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) would call an early vote, even though it is not doing well in public opinion polls. "Jutarnji list" wrote on 1 February that the HDZ hopes to deepen rifts within the six-party opposition coalition by prolonging the pre-election campaign throughout much of 1999. Several opposition leaders said their parties "will not allow" the HDZ to use its dominant role in the government and the media to set down rules for the elections that are detrimental to the opposition. PM

    [20] CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS REPLACED

    Tudjman on 29 January sacked General Markica Rebic as deputy defense minister with responsibility for intelligence work. The opposition has charged HDZ hard-liner Rebic with abusing his position to spy on opposition politicians and independent journalists. Tudjman accepted the resignation of Miroslav Separovic as head of one of the country's several intelligence bodies and from all his posts in the HDZ. Separovic charged that he has never received enough authority to combat the misuse of intelligence agencies for political purposes. Also on 29 January, Interior Minister Ivan Penic charged that public discussion of the role of the intelligence services is part of an unspecified "campaign to destabilize the state," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER, PRESIDENT BACK FROM GERMANY

    Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 30 January concluded a four-day working visit to Germany, Romanian Radio reported. Vasile headed a delegation that included Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu, and Labor and Social Protection Minister Alexandru Athanasiu. Vasile held talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Topping the agenda were reforms in Romania and the country's efforts to join European and Euro-Atlantic structures. The Romanian side expressed particular interest in boosting economic cooperation and attracting more German investments. On 31 January, Romanian President Emil Constantinescu met with Hungarian President Arpad Goncz in Germany to discuss bilateral relations. DI

    [22] MOLDOVAN CABINET STEPS DOWN

    Premier Ion Ciubuc on 1 February submitted his resignation to President Petru Lucinschi, dpa reported. His center-right government was sworn in last May but proved unable to cope with the economic difficulties provoked by the impact of the Russian crisis. On 29 January, Ciubuc denied persistent rumors that he is contemplating handing in his resignation. "There will be no resignation even though the press is looking forward to it," the Flux agency quoted him as saying. DI

    [23] BULGARIA 'WILL SUPPORT NATO STRIKES' IN KOSOVA

    In an interview published in the "Berliner Morgenpost" on 1 February, President Petar Stoyanov said his country "would pursue a policy of Euro- Atlantic solidarity" in the event of NATO strikes to end the fighting in Kosova, dpa reported. But Stoyanov added that he is sure that "the international community will use every means to find a peaceful solution to the conflict." He said he hopes that Bulgaria will be admitted to NATO as soon as it meets the criteria for membership, arguing that admitting Romania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria to NATO would contribute to "stabilizing" the situation in the former Yugoslavia. LF

    [C] END NOTE

    [24] SLOVENIA'S ECONOMY PERFORMS SOLIDLY, DESPITE EU CRITICISM

    by Michael Wyzan

    Last year, Slovenia saw some improvement over its respectable, if unspectacular economic performance in previous years. With its minimal trade dependence on the former Soviet Union (which accounted for only 3.9 percent of exports in January-October 1998), and low level of capital inflows, Slovenia is arguably the least vulnerable of all Central European countries to the shocks emanating from the Russian financial crisis.

    Slovenia's GDP grew by 4.8 percent in January-June 1998 and is estimated to have risen by 4 percent for the whole year, up from 3.8 percent in 1997. The acceleration in industrial production was more dramatic: having grown by only 1.0 percent in 1996 and 1997, it was up by 3.8 percent in January- October 1998 over the same period in 1997.

    Especially encouraging is the fact that output growth has been driven by exports, which in dollar terms rose by 6.8 percent during January-August, compared with 0.7 percent for all of 1997. Last year's export growth was largely due to faster economic growth in the country's main EU trading partners (the EU bought 65 percent of Slovenia's exports in January- October), especially early in the year.

    Another boost to exports came from improved efforts at keeping labor costs under control, following the passage of legislation in July 1997 that replaced full indexation of wages to prices on a quarterly basis with partial indexation on an annual one. During January-September 1998, real gross wages rose by only 1.3 percent compared with the same period in 1997, whereas they rose by 3.4 percent last year in comparison with 1996.

    Monthly gross dollar wages ($704 in July 1998) remain the highest among transition countries, although they are down from their peak of $755 in November 1996. Despite slower wage growth and faster production rises, the official unemployment rate remains virtually unchanged (14.5 percent in October 1997 and 14.6 percent a year later).

    There was concern early in 1998 about higher inflation, given the government's commitment to liberalizing prices in preparation for acceding to the EU. In 1997, 28 percent of the goods in the retail price index had administered prices. Indeed, the 12-month rate of consumer price inflation rose to 9.4 percent in March 1998. Inflation sank to 6.4 percent from November 1997 to November 1998, the lowest rate since independence.

    Slow inflation is partly due to tight fiscal policy, with the general government budget deficit in 1998 expected to have been about 1 percent of GDP for the second year running. This is another result of the stable exchange rate. The tolar, after weakening from 169 to the dollar at the end of 1997 to 173 on 31 March 1998, strengthened to under 163 on 21 January.

    The foreign trade deficit during January-October 1998 was $601 million, down from $692 million during the same period in 1997. All other current account balances are positive, with the total such balance at $39 million during the first 10 months, nearly identical to the whole-year figures for 1996 and 1997.

    The Bank of Slovenia's foreign reserves reached $3.7 billion in November 1998, up from $3.3 billion a year earlier. In contrast to these favorable indicators, foreign direct investment fell to $130 million during January- October 1998 from $248 million in the first 10 months of 1997.

    The hallmark of Slovenia's macroeconomic policy has been caution. There has been a hesitancy toward foreign investment, approaches toward fiscal imbalances and foreign and public debt have been conservative, and the pace of enterprise restructuring and pension and tax reform leisurely.

    For example, a value-added tax is not scheduled for introduction until July 1999, long after all nine other EU candidate countries and Croatia have taken this step. The trade unions succeeded in blocking a pension reform whereby workers would have had to make mandatory contributions to pension funds. Those funds would have invested the money on financial markets.

    Slovenia's cautious approach to reform has not found favor with the European Commission, whose November 1998 report on Slovenia's progress toward accession was critical in several respects. The commission pointed to a poorly supervised, cartel- like banking sector unprepared for international competition, slow liberalization of the capital account, incomplete tax reform; inefficient bankruptcy procedures; and slow structural reforms at state enterprises and utilities.

    These criticisms may be merited, but one should not lose sight of the fact that Slovenia is better prepared to bear the costs of accession than other candidate countries. It has a high GDP per capita (just below $10,000 last year), low foreign debt (less than $5 billion, most of which is long-term, compared with a $20 billion GDP), and the region's best international credit ratings. It would have no trouble borrowing money to cover, for example, the costs of meeting the EU's environmental standards.

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

    01-02-99


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


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