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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 35, 99-02-22

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. 35, 22 February 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS ABOUT CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT
  • [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS...
  • [03] ...RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, GULF STATES
  • [04] GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS CONTINUE PROTEST
  • [05] GEORGIAN INSURGENCY LEDAER ISSUES NEW THREAT
  • [06] THREE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN ASTANA...
  • [07] ... TAJIK PRESIDENT STAYS AWAY...
  • [08] ...WHILE UZBEK PRESIDENT HOGS LIMELIGHT AT PRESS CONFERENCE
  • [09] IRAN UNHAPPY WITH TURKMEN TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE AGREEMENT
  • [10] STREET PATROLS IN ALMATY INCREASED
  • [11] BROTHER OF UZBEK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ARRESTED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] YUGOSLAV ARMY VOWS TO FIGHT...
  • [13] ŠINCLUDING IN MONTENEGRO
  • [14] ALBRIGHT RETURNS TO RAMBOUILLET
  • [15] DIFFERENCES IN EU OVER KOSOVA?
  • [16] ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS SERBS 'SABOTAGE' TALKS
  • [17] SERBIAN POLICE ASSAULT OSCE KOSOVA MONITORS
  • [18] NATO PREPARES FOR EVACUATION, AIR STRIKES
  • [19] WASHINGTON ISSUES WARNING FOR REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
  • [20] ALBANIAN MINISTER WANTS FOREIGN POLICE ON THE GROUND
  • [21] UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA
  • [22] KURDISH PROTESTERS CLASH WITH BUCHAREST POLICE
  • [23] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE OUTLINES PLANS
  • [24] BULGARIA INTRODUCES VISA REQUIREMENT
  • [25] BULGARIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE LEV REDENOMINATION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [26] BROKEN NUCLEAR PROMISES COULD JEOPARDIZE EU MEMBERSHIP CHANCES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS ABOUT CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT

    Opposition parties have reacted cautiously to the 17 February demand by parliamentary deputy and chairman of the National Democratic Party--21st Century Davit Shahnazarian, to form an interim parliamentary commission to consider impeaching President Robert Kocharian for violating the constitution, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 February. Albert Bazeyan of the majority Yerkrapah group said that the initiative is inadvisable in the current strained situation. Hrant Margarian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which like Yerkrapah supports the president, suggested the initiators of the proposal oppose Kocharian's anti-crime strategy. Nerses Zeynavaldian of the Self-Determination Union observed that Shahnazarian has not specified the grounds for impeaching Kocharian, while Mkrtich Gimshian of the Hayrenik group expressed support for Shahnazarian's proposal. Shavarsh Kocharian of the National Democratic Union said he believes that the proposal is correct, but he added that it could be interpreted as an act of revenge. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS...

    Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 19 February, Vartan Oskanian said that in Armenia's view the only option for the resumption of the deadlocked OSCE- mediated talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict lies in the plan proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman last year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Baku has rejected that plan, which envisaged the creation of a "common state" by Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic. Oskanian said that the Minsk Group has issued a statement saying that the co-chairmen are trying to find a mutually acceptable basis for the resumption of negotiations. LF

    [03] ...RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, GULF STATES

    Oskanian also rejected claims that Armenia's ongoing military cooperation with Russia is directed against other countries, such as Turkey and Azerbaijan. He said Armenian policy is purely defensive and directed not at polarizing, but at promoting rapprochement and peaceful coexistence between the states of the region, according to ITAR-TASS. Summarizing his visits to Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, Oskanian said Armenia will open an embassy in the UAE and hopes for intensified economic cooperation with the Persian Gulf states, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS CONTINUE PROTEST

    Several hundred Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia continue to block passage over the Inguri bridge linking Abkhazia with the rest of Georgia, Georgian media reported on 22 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). The Russian peacekeeping force deployed along each side of that internal border has condemned the protest as illegal. The Abkhaz Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning the protest as intended to prevent those displaced persons who wish to return to Abkhazia from doing so. It also asked the Georgian Foreign Ministry to halt such obstructions to the repatriation process, Caucasus Press reported on 20 February. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN INSURGENCY LEDAER ISSUES NEW THREAT

    Colonel Akaki Eliava, who led the failed one-day insurgency in western Georgia last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October 1999), has threatened to seize the strategic Black Sea port of Poti if 60 of his supporters arrested in the wake of that revolt are not released, Caucasus Press reported on 19 February, citing "Akhali taoba." Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze implicitly blamed the Georgian law enforcement organs for failing to apprehend Eliava. Interior Ministry representatives had held talks with Eliava in January in an attempt to persuade him to surrender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 22 January 1999). LF

    [06] THREE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN ASTANA...

    The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, taking part in a Central Asian Union summit in Astana on 19 February, signed a memorandum on coordinating efforts to cushion the impact of the global economic crisis and a protocol on implementing the January 1997 Eternal Friendship Treaty. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it is "important" for each country "not to take unilateral steps," and he called the Central Asian Union "more essential today than ever before" if economic problems are to be alleviated. The presidents established a working group of their countries' prime ministers to coordinate measures to combat the economic crisis. By mutual agreement, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev will continue to act as chairman of the union for another year. The next summit is scheduled to take place in Kyrgyzstan in June. BP

    [07] ... TAJIK PRESIDENT STAYS AWAY...

    Tajikistan, which is a candidate member of the Central Asian Union, was not represented at the 19 February summit in Kazakhstan's capital. In talks with RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe the previous day, several government officials were unaware of the meeting. There have been no reports that any invitation was extended to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. Tajikistan was expected to become a full member of the union at the first summit this year. BP

    [08] ...WHILE UZBEK PRESIDENT HOGS LIMELIGHT AT PRESS CONFERENCE

    At a press briefing in which he was the focus of attention, Islam Karimov called the CIS Collective Peace Treaty "ineffective" but said it is up to the nine participating countries to decide for themselves if they will extend their participation or withdraw from the treaty. Karimov also spoke about the 16 February bombings in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, confirming that security forces there are seeking "religious fanatics." Karimov said two men who had parked a car containing explosives near government buildings fled just before the car blew up, shouting "Allah Akbar." Karimov credits the commander of the presidential guards, Rustam Ajayev, with saving his life. Ajayev halted Karimov's car 150 meters from a car that exploded seconds later. BP

    [09] IRAN UNHAPPY WITH TURKMEN TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE AGREEMENT

    The Iranian Foreign Ministry on 20 February warned Turkmenistan about "any initiatives aimed at building oil and gas pipelines under the Caspian Sea," AP and dpa reported. Turkmenistan the previous day had named the U.S. companies Bechtel Corp. and General Electric as the leaders in a consortium to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline to bring Turkmen natural gas to Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999). The Iranian Foreign Ministry pointed out that treaties signed by Iran and the Soviet Union in 1921 and 1940 "are still in force" and that any action taken without the consent of all the littoral states will be considered "illegal." The Iranian Foreign Ministry said "the perpetrators of such action are held fully responsible for any harmful consequences to the Caspian Sea, such as environmental damage." BP

    [10] STREET PATROLS IN ALMATY INCREASED

    Following a violent demonstration by ethnic Kurds last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999), Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry said it has intensified police patrols until 26 February, Interfax reported. Viktor Khrapunov, the mayor of Almaty, has called on members of the Kurdish community to abide by Kazakhstan's laws and maintain ethnic and civil peace. Elders of the Kurdish community in Kazakhstan have apologized for not preventing the demonstration and have promised not to allow any further such protests. BP

    [11] BROTHER OF UZBEK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ARRESTED

    Muhammed Begjon, whose brother, Muhammad Solih, is the leader of the Uzbek opposition party Erk, was arrested in Khwarezm on 18 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Police came to Begjon's home and requested he drive his car to the police station. Once there, police searched Begjon's vehicle and reportedly discovered gun cartridges. Begjon remains in detention. BP

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] YUGOSLAV ARMY VOWS TO FIGHT...

    General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is chief of the General Staff, told officers in Belgrade on 21 February that "if we lose [Kosova], we'll lose Serbia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and our freedom, which is most sacred to us." He added that he hopes that negotiators can reach a "peaceful, political settlement" at the Rambouillet talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The general stressed, however, that the army is prepared to fight if unnamed foreign powers attach to any treaty what he called "unacceptable" conditions, such as the stationing of foreign troops in the province. Ojdanic pointed out that the army is prepared to "respond to force with force" if foreign troops arrive in Kosova. PM

    [13] ŠINCLUDING IN MONTENEGRO

    The Montenegrin government said in a statement on 20 February that it will not allow the Yugoslav military to use Montenegrin territory for "actions against the NATO alliance," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The statement added that the government's "duty is to protect its citizens." The following day, top officials of the Second Army Command and the Navy said in a statement in the Montenegrin capital that the government's decision is "unconstitutional and damaging to national defense." The statement added that "units of the Second Army and the Navy will decisively and professionally carry out all tasks in defense against aggression and in defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." PM

    [14] ALBRIGHT RETURNS TO RAMBOUILLET

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright again sought to break the deadlock in negotiations on a Kosova settlement at Rambouillet castle on 22 February. The previous day, she held talks with the Kosovar delegation and with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic. On 20 February, foreign ministers of the international Contact Group agreed to extend the deadline for concluding a settlement from that day until 3:00 p.m. local time on 23 February. The main obstacles are the Serbian refusal to accept NATO peacekeepers in the province and the Kosovar demand for a referendum on independence at the end of a three-year transition period. She has repeatedly warned the Serbs that they risk NATO air strikes if they do not accept peacekeepers. Albright has also told the Kosovars that NATO will not bomb the Serbs if the Kosovars do not sign the agreement. PM

    [15] DIFFERENCES IN EU OVER KOSOVA?

    German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Luxembourg on 21 February that "there will not be another extension" once the latest deadline for an agreement in Kosova runs out. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, however, noted that the Contact Group "is not setting ultimatums and deadlines." The previous day, Albright said that "it would be a grave mistake for [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to miscalculate our intentions, adding that "we're not into endless extensions" of deadlines for a settlement. PM

    [16] ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS SERBS 'SABOTAGE' TALKS

    Pandeli Majko told Reuters in Tirana on 19 February that Serbia is trying to "sabotage" the Rambouillet talks. He warned that failure to reach an agreement would destabilize the region. In an apparent reference to Russia, he added that "pro-Serbian international players" share responsibility for the deadlock in the negotiations. Majko noted that the Albanian delegation at Rambouillet has Tirana's full support, regardless of the outcome of the talks. He stressed that "whatever the stand of the [Kosovar delegation is], the Albanian government will be on its side." Elsewhere, Sabri Godo, who heads the parliament's foreign affairs committee, told VOA's Albanian Service on 21 February that "NATO deployment in Kosova is an absolute necessity" for any agreement between the Kosovars and Serbs. FS

    [17] SERBIAN POLICE ASSAULT OSCE KOSOVA MONITORS

    Two members of the Serbian security forces punched the driver of a clearly- marked orange OSCE vehicle near Podujeva on 21 February, Reuters reported. The policemen also pointed their weapons into the vehicle and prevented the driver and a second monitor in the vehicle from radioing for help. The policemen then ordered the monitors to leave the area. Local OSCE officials protested what they called the "aggressive behavior of the Serbian police." The previous day, Serbian forces fought the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in several places in the Podujeva region. Serbian forces also shelled a village near Suhareka, prompting "several hundred" Kosovar civilians to flee the area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [18] NATO PREPARES FOR EVACUATION, AIR STRIKES

    A British military spokesman said in Petrovec, Macedonia, on 20 February that the 1,800-strong NATO force based in that former Yugoslav republic is prepared to evacuate the 1,300 OSCE monitors in Kosova on short notice. He stressed that the evacuation force "doesn't have an anti-Serb agenda [or] an anti-Albanian agenda. We are here to take the peace monitors out if they are in trouble," AP quoted him as saying. And at Aviano air base in northern Italy, some 50 U.S. Stealth aircraft arrived the next day. The alliance has a total of 400 aircraft ready to take part in air strikes against Serbia, Reuters noted. PM

    [19] WASHINGTON ISSUES WARNING FOR REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

    The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo advised U.S. citizens and "U.S. government personnel" in the Republika Srpska on 19 February to be prepared to leave on short notice. Observers noted that Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj threatened in October 1998 to take unspecified actions against NATO troops in Bosnia in the event that the alliance launched air strikes against Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). PM

    [20] ALBANIAN MINISTER WANTS FOREIGN POLICE ON THE GROUND

    Petro Koci on 18 February suggested to the parliamentary committee that deals with public order and the secret services that Albania request active foreign support for the police in combating smuggling. Koci acknowledged that Albania's police force is too weak to deal with smugglers and organized criminals by itself, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Police from several EU member countries provide training and equipment to their Albanian counterparts but do not perform police duties. FS

    [21] UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA

    Borys Tarasyuk ended a three-day visit to Romania on 20 February by visiting areas inhabited by the Ukrainian minority in Maramures County, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. One day earlier, Tarasyuk and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, told journalists in Bucharest that they achieved a "significant breakthrough" over outstanding problems related to the 1997 bilateral treaty and that they are determined to reach a "compromise" without appealing to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. While refusing to elaborate, Tarasyuk said that "nobody challenges" the status of Serpent Island as "part of Ukrainian territory." (The treaty also delayed for two years delimiting the continental shelf and some border areas.) The two ministers agreed to submit proposals on meeting Romania's demand to set up a "multicultural university" in Cernivici (Cernauti). MS

    [22] KURDISH PROTESTERS CLASH WITH BUCHAREST POLICE

    Several people were injured on 19 February in clashes between the police and Kurdish demonstrators who tried to break into the Greek embassy in Bucharest to protest the detention of Abdullah Ocalan, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Earlier, the police had prohibited such a demonstration. Four Kurds detained for questioning were later freed. Prime Minister Radu Vasile said it had been "a mistake" to grant the Kurds political asylum and that the issue will be "re-examined" by the authorities. MS

    [23] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE OUTLINES PLANS

    Shortly after his nomination as premier-designate, Ion Sturdza said his government's structure will "reflect the expectations of the parliamentary majority" and that the outgoing cabinet "will not be radically changed," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Sturdza, who must form a cabinet within 15 days, said his government will concentrate on the "continuation of economic and democratic reforms," while taking into consideration "social aspects." He also said that both he and his cabinet will "stay away from politics" and will not participate in the campaign for the local elections. The parliament on 19 February scheduled that ballot for 23 May. MS

    [24] BULGARIA INTRODUCES VISA REQUIREMENT

    Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 18 February announced Bulgaria will impose visa requirements on citizens of 24 countries listed by the EU as a source of illegal emigration, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Among those affected are citizens of several former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. MS

    [25] BULGARIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE LEV REDENOMINATION

    The parliament on 19 February overwhelmingly approved the lev redenomination law , under which 1,000 old leva will equal 1 new lev. The new lev will have the same value as the German mark, BTA reported. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [26] BROKEN NUCLEAR PROMISES COULD JEOPARDIZE EU MEMBERSHIP CHANCES

    By Ron Synovitz

    Nuclear power plants in Lithuania and Bulgaria pose a dilemma for EU officials who want to shut down Eastern Europe's most dangerous reactors. Over-dependence on nuclear energy in those countries has made it impossible to close their aging Soviet-designed reactors and fuel the kind of economic growth needed to make market reforms successful.

    EU officials thought that in 1993 they had won promises from Bulgaria and Lithuania on early closures. In that year, grants totaling more than $50 million were awarded to improve nuclear safety. But EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek has become frustrated by Sofia's refusal to honor the promise and by threats from Vilnius to back out of its agreement. He us now telling prospective EU members they will not be invited into the union until they reach Western standards on nuclear safety.

    Some Eastern leaders are questioning which course is more feasible financially --improving their old Soviet-designed reactors or scrapping them altogether and building new types of power plants. At the same time, Brussels has made it clear that it cannot fund all the necessary improvements across Eastern Europe. But Eastern leaders say they must have aid to improve safety and reduce their dependence on nuclear energy.

    Van den Broek says Lithuania must set a definite timetable for closing its Ignalina plant if it wants to be invited to fast-track talks on EU membership. But early this month, when Lithuanian Economics Minister Vincas Babilius submitted the government's draft energy policy to parliament, he warned that Lithuania cannot specify shutdown dates without aid commitments.

    According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Lithuania is more dependent on nuclear power than any other country in the world. Two 1,500 megawatt RBMK reactors at Ignalina produce more than 80 percent of the country's electricity supply. The reactors are the same design as the unit that caused the Chornobyl disaster in 1986. When both are working, Lithuania can produce almost twice as much energy as its domestic demand. That allows Lithuania to export electricity--something increasingly important as the Baltic States unify their power grids.

    Shutting down one unit at Ignalina would not only reduce exports but also mean costly electricity imports. A study by the Swedish firm Grufman Reje found that early closure could cost Lithuania almost $4 billion.

    In 1993, Lithuania accepted about $30 million from the EBRD-administered Nuclear Safety Account in exchange for a promise not to replace Ignalina's fuel channels. Brussels has taken that promise to mean a shutdown early in the next century. But Lithuanian officials now say rechanneling may be the only affordable option. A study last October determined that Ignalina's oldest reactor can operate safely for only another three years without rechanneling.

    Babilius says EU funding would allow the oldest unit to be decommissioned as early as next year and the second reactor as soon as 2005. But without aid, the government says Ignalina will continue operating for at least 15 more years.

    Meanwhile in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov says it will cost more to decommission the four oldest reactors at the Kozloduy plant than it will to raise safety standards to Western levels. As pressure from Brussels for a shutdown increases, Kostov is asking the parliament to reach consensus on a new national energy policy.

    National Electricity Company managers say they will run Kozloduy's four VVER-440 megawatt reactors through the end of their design lives--from 2004 to 2012. The EU wants the oldest reactor shut down by 2002 and others soon after.

    Kozloduy produces more than 40 percent of the country's electricity. About 4 percent of electricity production is exported, mostly to Turkey. While decommissioning could put an end to those exports, the trade issues are not as vital to Sofia as they are for Lithuania.

    In 1991, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) labeled Kozloduy's oldest reactor as the most dangerous in Europe. Since then, vast improvements have been made in equipment, staff qualifications, and organization. According to Ivan Shilyashki, chairman of Bulgaria's National Energy Committee, a team of IAEA inspectors who visited Kozloduy this month praised the progress and said the plant is far safer than eight years ago.

    In 1993, about $22 million in equipment was delivered to Kozloduy through the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Account. In exchange, Sofia promised to shut the four VVER-440 reactors by 1998. But Kostov backed away from that pledge last year. National Electricity Company managers supported the move, saying shutdowns were impossible because expected replacement power never became available.

    Threats to block EU accession show how backtracking by Sofia, Vilnius, and others has forced the European Commission to rethink its approach. At the request of Van den Broek, a panel of senior EU officials late last year drafted a new strategy for improving nuclear safety in the East.

    One telling conclusion deals with Russia. The panel said a more "cooperative approach" is needed because senior officials in Moscow are rejecting what they see as "paternalistic assistance" from the EU. The panel also said it is pointless to demand reactor shutdowns as a precondition for aid because many countries stand to lose far more from energy cuts than the funds offered by the West.

    Significantly, the panel recommended continued pressure for early closures at Kozloduy and Ignalina.

    The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.

    22-02-99


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


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