|Tuesday, 11 August 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 23, 99-02-03
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 23, 3 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION UNCONVINCED BY FAIR ELECTION PLEDGESeveral prominent Armenian politicians have responded with skepticism to Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian's pledge to ensure that this summer's parliamentary elections will be free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 February. Speaking at the founding congress of the Republican Party on 30 January, Sargsian had invited other political parties to hold discussions to ensure such elections. Democratic Fatherland Party leader Eduard Yegorian suggested that Sargsian prevail upon the majority Yerkrapah group in the parliament to amend the election law currently under discussion, which the opposition perceives as encouraging election fraud. Shavarsh Kocharian of the National Democratic Union said that as nominal head of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, Sargsian bears a share of responsibility for election violations committed by Yerkrapah members during the 1996 and 1998 presidential elections. LF
 TRIAL OF AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT AGAIN POSTPONEDA Baku district court has again postponed the trial of Azerbaijani Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey on charges of insulting President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported on 2 February. No reason for the postponement was given. The trial was originally scheduled to begin on 25 January but was adjourned at the request of Elchibey's defense lawyers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 January 1999). LF
 BP SHOWS INTEREST IN UKRAINIAN OIL EXPORT ROUTEBritish Petroleum/Amoco is considering the feasibility of exporting Caspian oil from Baku via Ukraine's Odessa-Brody pipeline as an alternative to the proposed Baku-Ceyhan route, Interfax reported on 2 February, quoting Vladislav Tarashevsky, chairman of the Ukrainian state committee for oil and gas. Interfax also quoted the oil company's vice president, Richard Nilton, as saying that the company is considering alternatives in view of the "political pressure" to opt for the Baku-Ceyhan route. The U.S. government is actively lobbying in favor of that route. In other news, on 29 January Canada's Alberta Energy Co. acquired a 5 percent stake in a consortium created by BP/Amoco, Norway's Statoil, a Turkish company, and the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR to exploit the Alov, Araz, and Sharg off-shore oil fields, UPI reported. LF
 TURKS INTERCEPT ENRICHED URANIUM FROM AZERBAIJANTurkish intelligence agents have arrested four people in the city of Bursa who attempted to sell 100 grams of enriched uranium from Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. The four, whose nationality is unknown, wanted $700,000 for the uranium. LF
 WILL GEORGIA DEMAND ABKHAZ LEADER'S INDICTMENT FOR WAR CRIMES?"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 February cited unnamed Georgian sources close to the Abkhaz peace talks as hinting that Tbilisi may ask the UN Security Council to demand that Vladislav Ardzinba be brought to trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1992-1993 Abkhaz war. Those sources noted that the council has already called for the arrest of former Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic on similar charges. The previous day, Caucasus Press reported that the Opposition Committee of Abkhazia, which represents the Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the fighting, intends to appeal to the International Court at The Hague to indict Ardzinba for ethnic cleansing. The committee argued that it would thereby expedite the restoration of friendly relations between the Georgian and Abkhaz peoples. LF
 UZBEKISTAN TO LEAVE CIS DEFENSE PACTThe Uzbek Foreign Ministry on 2 February confirmed that Uzbekistan will not extend its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported. The Russian daily "Vremya MN" reported the same day that the reasons for Tashkent's move are dissatisfaction with Moscow's policies in the Caucasus, namely supplying Armenia with the S-300 air-defense missile system and modern fighter aircraft. According to the article, Tashkent believes such policies create instability in the region. It also objects to Russia's expected signing of a similar deal with Tajikistan when the Tajik president visits Moscow in April and to the continued presence in Tajikistan of the CIS peacekeeping force, which is composed mainly of Russian troops. "In the Uzbek government, they question [the need for that force when] the Mujaheddin of the Islamic opposition are no longer in Afghanistan and are almost all incorporated into the Tajik national army," the daily commented. BP
 UZBEK PRESIDENT WANTS DEMOCRATIC PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONSIn an interview published in the daily "Turkiston" on 2 February, Islam Karimov said the key task for his country this year will be conducting honest and democratic parliamentary elections in December, Interfax reported. Noting that his country has already held free elections, he argued that its experience in this area is "insufficient" as other countries "have many centuries of experience of elections." He encouraged Uzbek political parties to "make an all-round analysis of reality and the social situation" and express views that are objective and well thought- out. Karimov welcomed international monitoring of the elections, saying he hopes it will contribute to the spirit of objectivity, democracy, and openness. BP
 KYRGYZSTAN SETS DATES FOR ELECTIONSThe Central Election Commission on 2 February announced that elections to the parliament will be held in February 2000, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Elections to regional and district assemblies will be held at the same time. Municipal elections are scheduled for October 1999. The parliament's press service reported that the Legislative Assembly rejected a provision in the election code, drawn up by the government and presidential administration, that 15 members of the 60-seat Legislative Assembly will be elected on party lists. Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the Ata-Meken Party, told RFE/RL correspondents that current members of the assembly will never allow such a system of representation. BP
 CONCERN OVER CONTINUED VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTANAt a 2 February meeting in Dushanbe chaired by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, representatives of the government, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), and the UN observer mission to Tajikistan all expressed their concern over continued violations of the 1997 peace accord, ITAR-TASS reported. The meeting followed a raid on the Faizabad police station last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999), but speakers at the meeting pointed to several other violations by UTO fighters since the beginning of 1999. President Rakhmonov said all means must be taken to implement the peace accord even if that entails "disarming the armed groups." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 HILL SAYS BELGRADE MUST ACCEPT SELF-RULE FOR KOSOVAU.S. envoy Chris Hill told the BBC on 3 February that the Serbian authorities "have got to accept the idea that there will be self- rule [in Kosova].... They've tried to rule it directly from Belgrade. It doesn't work. They're going to have to accept [autonomy]." Hill added: "We do not have independence on the table. What this is, is an interim accord.... It talks about a status for...the next three years. It talks about building institutions that are essential to people's lives and it doesn't prejudice what might be done...after the three years.... Frankly speaking we would be giving [the people of Kosova] a lot of autonomy and a lot of ability to run their own lives," which would include broad rights for all ethnic minorities. Observers noted that the ethnic Albanians are unlikely to approve any agreement that does not include the option of independence at some point in the future. PM
 REFUGEE WAVE IN KOSOVASome 45,000 persons fled their homes in the troubled province during January 1999, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva on 2 February. He added that all together there are 210,000 displaced persons within Kosova, 60,000 refugees from Kosova in neighboring regions including Albania, and 100,000 in Western Europe. The spokesman added that some 20 percent of Kosova's prewar population have become displaced persons or refugees since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown in early 1998. PM
 UCK AGREES TO TALKS?Jakup Krasniqi, who is a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 2 February that the guerrillas are "certainly ready to go to [peace talks at] Rambouillet" on 6 February, as demanded by the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). He stressed, however, that only the UCK has the right to speak for the Kosovars because the guerrillas "fight and make sacrifices for Kosova." Elsewhere, Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the UCK, said that he will not attend the talks and advised the UCK general staff to do likewise. He stressed that the talks will amount to "capitulation" because independence will not be on the agenda. Demaci added, however, that this is his personal opinion and that others should go if they wish, "Shekulli" quoted him as saying. PM/FS
 ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON UCK TO JOIN TALKSAt a meeting in Tirana on 2 February with his Belgian counterpart, Eric Deryche, Paskal Milo called on the UCK to attend talks at Rambouillet. Milo stressed that "all ethnic Albanian [political groups] must take part in the meeting...not only to express their views, but also to show that the Albanians are not against dialogue." Deryche argued that any failure of UCK representatives to attend the talks would be a "fatal mistake." He stressed that Milosevic would exploit such a mistake at the negotiations, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS
 WASHINGTON WARNS BELGRADEState Department spokesman James Rubin on 2 February welcomed Krasniqi's announcement that the UCK will go to Rambouillet. Rubin added that "we are awaiting the decision of the Serb side as to whether to attend these talks. NATO has indicated there will be swift and serious consequences if the Serbs do not make that decision." Elsewhere, CIA chief George Tenet said that the situation on the ground in Kosova is "near collapse." He added that "a NATO force would be an indispensable component in trying to bring some solution" in the troubled province. He cautioned, however, that the task of peacekeeping would be more difficult than in Bosnia. "There's a real threat out there and we'll have to be very careful," he commented. PM
 MONTENEGRO TO BACK NATOPresident Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 2 February that his republic will "provide support" for NATO should it eventually station troops in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that Montenegro will not take part in the Rambouillet meetings unless its interests become adversely affected by the course of the discussions. In that case, he added, Montenegro would be ready to "go to New York and claim its seat in the United Nations." Djukanovic has repeatedly said that Montenegro favors broad autonomy for Kosova but cannot accept that it become a third republic equal to Montenegro within the Yugoslav federation. PM
 CHINA TO BLOCK PEACE-KEEPING MISSION?A Chinese diplomat told the UN Security Council on 2 February that Beijing "cannot be responsible" for any diplomatic consequences if Macedonia goes ahead with plans to establish full relations with Taiwan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 February 1999). Observers suggested that Beijing may be planning to block the continuation of the UN peace-keeping mission in Macedonia, known as UNPREDEP, AP reported. PM
 WIESENTHAL CENTER CALLS FOR PROSECUTION OF NADA SAKICEfraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office told RFE/RL on 2 February that Belgrade should press charges against Nada Sakic for atrocities she allegedly committed at a Croatian concentration camp during World War II. He criticized a Croatian decision to drop charges against Sakic and free her from prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). PM
 OSCE, COUNCIL OF EUROPE CAUTION ALBANIA OVER HAJDARI LAWLegal experts of the OSCE and the Council of Europe issued a joint declaration in Tirana on 2 February warning that a draft law providing for an "independent investigation" into the killing of opposition legislator Azem Hajdari violates Albania's constitution and penal code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). The OSCE offered to send a group of foreign prosecutors to Albania to assist current Albanian investigators and monitor their work, "Shekulli" reported on 3 February. Democratic Party experts prepared the draft in January following an earlier agreement between Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha. Meanwhile, Berisha said that the government must stop what he called "violations of democracy..., political killings, and cooperation with organized crime" before the Democrats agree to end their boycott of the parliament. FS
 ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ORDERS NEW INQUIRY INTO MINERS' MARCHAt his first press conference since taking office, newly appointed Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said he has ordered another inquiry to determine who was responsible for the failure of police to halt the coal miners' march last month. According to Romanian Radio, Ionescu described a preliminary report on the events as "insufficient." He also said that there is no evidence so far to substantiate claims that the five-day march constituted an "attempted coup." Ionescu replaced Gavril Dejeu, who resigned over his failure to prevent the march from taking place. DI
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ASKS FOR MORE POWERS TO RESOLVE GOVERNMENT CRISISAddressing the opening of the parliament's spring session, Petru Lucinschi on 3 February asked that his prerogatives be extended to enable him to resolve the current government crisis, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Lucinschi criticized the idea of another coalition cabinet based on the loose Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR). The same day, the parliament unanimously accepted the resignation of Premier Ion Ciubuc and his government, and the ADR failed to agree on designating Nicolae Andronic to take over from Ciubuc. Andronic's candidature was proposed by the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), despite the opposition of one of its members, the pro-Romanian Christian Democratic Popular Front. CDM co- chairman Mircea Snegur responded by announcing his resignation as ADR leader. DI
 BULGARIAN MINORITIES CALL FOR RATIFICATION OF FRAMEWORK CONVENTIONSome 40 NGOs have addressed an appeal to Bulgarian parliament speaker Yordan Sokolov calling for the National Assembly to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Groong reported on 2 February. The appeal was issued on 28 January and signed by representatives of Bulgaria's Roma, Armenian, Macedonian, and Wallachian minorities as well as religious organizations and civic NGOs. LF
[C] END NOTE
 MILOSEVIC'S CRACKDOWN ON UNIVERSITIESby Andrej Krickovic
In the past few months, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his political allies have organized a crackdown on the Serbian university system. That move has gone hand in hand with Milosevic's campaign against the independent media, although it has received far less attention in the international press. Both moves are related to Milosevic's Kosova policy and are intended to stifle even the smallest voice of dissent in the country. While the international community is shifting its policy toward removing Milosevic, and while he again faces the threat of NATO air strikes, his grip on power in Serbia may be stronger than ever.
The crackdown on the Serbian university system began in June with the introduction of a new university law giving the minister of education the power to appoint and dismiss deans and professors as well as to dictate faculty policy. The new law was pushed through Serbia's legislature by the so called ruling coalition of "national reconciliation," which brings together Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), the ultra leftist Yugoslav United Left (JUL) of Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, and the ultra nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) of Vojislav Seselj The law was ostensibly designed to de- politicize academic life at the universities. But in reality, it has stripped the university system of any autonomy it once had.
Professors who refuse to take a loyalty oath, which is provided for in the new law, or who belonged to opposition political parties have been fired and replaced by unqualified SPS, SRS, and JUL loyalists. The curriculum has been changed to conform with the ruling parties' anti-Western world view. Russian is again the chief language at the linguistics faculty, while Croatian and Bosnian authors have been dropped from the teaching timetables of the literature faculty. Shakespeare has been relegated to the Germanic languages faculty, and Albanian has been classified a Romance language.
Initial resistance to the new law has met with intensified repression. Private security guards have been hired by the administration to terrorize recalcitrant students and faculty members. Student protesters have been arrested, and Boris Karajic, the leader of the student resistance organization movement Otpor [Resistance], was badly beaten by unidentified assailants last month after giving testimony to the Helsinki Committee.
In the past, university students and professors have been in the vanguard of opposition to Milosevic's regime. During the winter of 1996-1997, students at Belgrade University led the protest movement that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Belgrade each day and threatened to shake the very foundations of the Milosevic regime. As a result of those protests, Milosevic was forced to hand over power in Serbia's largest cities to the opposition.
The crackdown on the university system has been accompanied the draconian restrictions on the free press. Both intensified in the wake of the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement on Kosova in October 1998, which many saw as a defeat for Serbian interests and which may have cost Milosevic his most ardent nationalist supporters. The economy is also on the verge of collapse, and a showdown with separatist politicians in Montenegro looms. Faced with increasing international pressure and with the complete economic, political, and moral bankruptcy of his Kosova policy, Milosevic is determined to ensure that there is no repeat of the 1996-1997 events.
Professors are organizing an Alternative Academic Education Network (AAOM) as an independent alternative to the deteriorating state higher education institutions. Otpor has also intensified its activities in recent weeks; and a new wave of protest actions is planned for this month.
So far such protests have failed to draw the kind of support that they did several years ago. Most faculties have accepted the new law, while resistance has been shown mainly by the Philosophy and Electrical Engineering faculties in Belgrade. Throughout the country there is a general apathy toward politics; moreover, the organized opposition is weak and regarded by many as opportunistic. Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), a longtime Milosevic opponent and one of the leaders of the 1996-1997 protests, has recently formed a coalition with Milosevic's SPS in the federal parliament and joined the federal government. The handful of liberal parties, which are not ready to cut deals with Milosevic, remain divided and small.
As fighting in Kosova intensifies and as grisly incidents such as the massacre at Recak come to light, the international community has begun to single out the Milosevic regime as the main obstacle to peace and stability in the region. Working toward the overthrow of that regime may be on the new agenda of at least some in the international community. But with an impotent opposition, an apathetic and disillusioned population, and growing pressure on the most die-hard opponents of the regime--namely the universities and the independent press--the Milosevic regime may be able to withstand even the most intense pressure the international community can muster.
The author is a freelance journalist based in Zagreb.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty