|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 48, 99-03-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 48, 11 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN, KARABAKH OFFICIALS COMMENT ON PEACE PROCESSIn a telephone interview with RFE/RL on 10 March, Naira Melkumian, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said recent meetings between the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, and U.S. officials testify to a shift in the U.S.'s attitude toward the Karabakh conflict. Melkumian, who is accompanying Ghukasian on his U.S. tour, said that Donald Kaiser, U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, had said that the most recent Minsk Group Karabakh peace proposal remains in force and that no amendments to it should be expected. Azerbaijan has rejected that proposal, which calls for Azerbaijan and Nagorno- Karabakh to form a "common state." Also on 10 March, Armenian presidential foreign policy adviser Aram Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan that Armenia intends to make new proposals "soon" to give fresh impetus to the deadlocked Karabakh peace process. But he declined to outline what those proposals entail, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
 ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ASSESSES AZERBAIJANI THREATAddressing students at Yerevan State University on 10 March, Vazgen Sargsian said that Armenia's military advantage over Azerbaijan has increased in recent years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he warned that both Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic must continue to build up their armed forces to enable them to counter any possible attempt by Azerbaijan to solve the Karabakh conflict by military means. He predicted that if Azerbaijan launched a new offensive, "we will make more serious gains." "We are ready for peace [with Azerbaijan], but not at any cost," he said. Sargsian also reiterated that he will spare no effort to prevent fraud and malpractice in the 30 May parliamentary elections, adding that "I don't care what the correlation of forces will be in the next parliament." Opposition parties claim the present election law favors Sargsian's Republican Party. LF
 FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY DENIES SPLITArarat Zurabian, a leading member of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 March that rumors of an imminent split in the party are exaggerated. He predicted that no more than 1 percent of the party's members are likely to resign. Two leading HHSh members announced on 9 March that they intend to quit the party's ruling board following that body's reelection the previous day of fugitive former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian as its chairman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 March 1999). On 9 March, the HHSh board issued a statement expressing its concern at the death in a hit-and-run car accident of opposition journalist Tigran Hayrapetian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1999). The statement said Hayrapetian had recently received threatening anonymous phone calls. It commented that the manner of his death "is clearly reminiscent of the style employed by 'special services,'" Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON CIS, RELATIONS WITH RUSSIAEduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 March that he believes the CIS has "good prospects" provided that it gives priority to expanding economic cooperation among its member states, ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said he does not think President Yeltsin's firing of Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary will have a negative impact either on Georgian-Russian relations or on relations between CIS states. He said he considers it unlikely that either Nikolai Ryzhkov, former chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, or a Georgian candidate will be named as Berezovskii's permanent successor. Shevardnadze and Yeltsin discussed bilateral relations and CIS reform in a telephone conversation later the same day. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN RATIFIES BORDER TREATY WITH CHINAKazakhstan's Senate on 10 March ratified a border treaty with China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999), Interfax reported. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev told the Senate "in the context of the current geopolitical situation, the Kazakh-Chinese border treaty is very favorable for Kazakhstan and gives us additional security guarantees." Kazakhstan is to receives 56.9 percent of a disputed area totaling 944 square kilometers. BP
 TRIAL OPENS IN KYRGYZSTAN OVER CYANIDE SPILLThe trial of Murat Murtazin and Viktor Perminov began in an Issyk-Kul district court on 11 March, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Murtazin was the driver of the truck that overturned last May and spilled 1.5 tons of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). Perminov is the chief of security at a warehouse in Balykchy, where the sodium cyanide is stored. Both are accused of "ecocide." The spill is blamed for the deaths of four people and the hospitalization of more than 1,000. The cyanide affected a wide area adjoining the river. As a result, local villages, which are dependent on agriculture, were unable to sell their produce last year. BP
 KYRGYZSTAN CREATES OIL MONOPOLYKyrgyz President Askar Akayev has signed a decree forming the Munai Oil Company and charging the new company with providing petroleum products to various sectors of the economy, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 9 March. The primary goal of Munai, which replaces Kyrgyzgazmunaizat, is to ensure the agricultural sector has the fuel it needs to start spring planting. Agriculture requires 30,000 tons of oil for spring planting but currently has only 18,000 tons. BP
 TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGHTERS INTEGRATED INTO ARMY, POLICETwenty fighters of the United Tajik Opposition have reinstated in the posts they held in law enforcement and defense agencies before the outbreak of civil war in Tajikistan in 1992, Interfax reported on 10 March. The head of the UTO press center, Sultan Khamadov, said that 450 UTO fighters have been integrated into five units of the Interior Ministry. That move follows a 2 March presidential decree that ordered the integration of UTO fighters into regular army and law enforcement structures. The UN and countries that are guarantors of the Tajik Peace Accord have complained about the lack of progress in recent months in implementing that integration, which is one of the terms of the accord. BP
 AFGHAN TALKS OPEN IN TURKMEN CAPITALRepresentatives of the Taliban and Northern Alliance began negotiations in Ashgabat on 11 March. The talks were delayed because of the late arrival of delegates from the Northern Alliance owing to bad weather. BP
 TURKMENISTAN SAYS IT CAN SATISFY ALL NATURAL GAS CONSUMERSAt the opening of the fourth Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan exhibition in Ashgabat on 10 March, Turkmen Minister of Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Rejepbai Arazov said the country's gas industry is able to produce as much as 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, ITAR- TASS and Interfax reported. Arazov said once new fields are open, that figure will rise to 100 billion cubic meters annually. He noted that this year Turkmenistan will ship 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine and 4 billion cubic meters to Iran. But Arazov added that Iran is not prepared to pay for all those supplies, in which case deliveries may be smaller. The Turkmen minister said his country "can provide consumers with any amount of natural gas required. The question is whether they have the money to pay for it." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC STANDS FIRM AFTER HOLBROOKE MEETING...After more than eight hours of talks with U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke on 10 March, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic continued to insist he will not accept the deployment of NATO-led peace-keeping troops in Kosova to enforce a proposed peace plan for the province, Tanjug reported. In a statement, Milosevic said the U.S.-sponsored peace accord is "a good basis" for a political settlement of the conflict but "foreign troops have no business in our country." He added that attempts "to precondition the political settlement with the acceptance of foreign troops is unacceptable." PB
 ...WHILE HOLBROOKE ADVISES TO WAIT FOR RESULTS OF TALKSHolbrooke confirmed that he failed to convince Milosevic to accept the deal but said the importance of the meeting "won't be clear until later." Holbrooke said he "clearly and unequivocally" stated the U.S. position. British Defense Secretary George Robertson said in London on 10 March that NATO "will not hesitate" to use force against Serbian military sites if Belgrade fails to sign the peace plan. He added that some 12,000 NATO troops are already in Macedonia and are ready to enter Kosova. In other news, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a warning to ethnic Albanians in Kosova on 10 March not to cooperate with Serbian officials, otherwise they will be considered "traitors" and receive "the punishment they deserve." PB
 DOLE FRUSTRATED BY KOSOVAR ALBANIANSFormer U.S. Senator Bob Dole told a television audience in Kosova on 10 March that he is "a little disgusted" with the attitude of ethnic Albanian officials in Kosova, Reuters reported. Dole made his comments in an appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on a television broadcast by TV Tirana and beamed to Kosova. He said if the Kosovar Albanians had signed the peace plan on 7 March, as they promised him they would do, Holbrooke "would have been in a much better position to put pressure on Milosevic." Dole blamed the failure on UCK political leader Hashim Thaqi. U.S. envoy Chris Hill said he still believes the Kosovar Albanians will sign the accord before peace talks reconvene in Rambouillet, France, on 15 March. A UCK representative in London said the ethnic Albanians will "not sign up while the war is going on in Kosova." PB
 BELGRADE SNUBS PEACE MISSION FROM NEIGHBORING COUNTRIESA peace mission that included parliamentary deputies from Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, and Hungary was called off on 11 March owing to Belgrade's opposition to the trip, Reuters reported. Assen Agov, the chairman of the Bulgarian assembly's Foreign Policy Committee, said Serbian officials described a planned stop in Prishtina "a very hostile act." Agov accused Belgrade of hostility toward its neighbors. In other news, Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Papandreou visited Skopje, Tirana, and Sofia to discuss the Kosova crisis with government officials. He said Greece has agreed to a Macedonian proposal for Balkan foreign ministers to meet in Skopje next week. PB
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE HIGHLY STRAINEDMilo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 10 March that relations between Serbia and Montenegro are strained to a "critical point," AP reported. Djukanovic accused Yugoslav President Milosevic of trying to destabilize the Montenegrin government by "manipulating patriotic feelings" among Montenegrins. He said "the authoritarian regime in Belgrade is maintaining the climate of hostility against the whole democratic world." And he added that such hostility would lead not only to the loss of Kosova but also to the "perishing of Yugoslavia." Djukanovic and Milosevic have been at odds over several economic and political issues, and the Montenegrin government often defies Belgrade's policies. PB
 RADISIC SAYS SLOGA TO STAY 'UNITED'...Zivko Radisic, the Serbian chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's collective presidency, said on 10 March that the moderate Bosnian Serb coalition Sloga [Unity] will remain together, Reuters reported. Radisic is the head of the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska, considered by many to be the weakest link in the pro-Western Sloga. He stressed that Sloga "is absolutely united." The coalition has been racked by infighting between moderates and hard-liners over responsibility for the sacking of Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen and the international arbitrator's decision to make the town of Brcko a neutral district. PB
 ...BUT POINTS OUT GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN SRPSKARadisic emphasized, however, that Milorad Dodik, the caretaker premier of the Republika Srpska, does not have a mandate to form a new government because he was not nominated by the republic's president. Poplasen was in a power struggle with the moderate Dodik and refused to nominate him as premier. Poplasen is no longer in power, although he refuses to leave office. His vice president, hard-liner Mirko Sarovic, has so far refused to recognize Poplasen's sacking. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Brussels on 10 March that he backs last week's sacking of Poplasen. He said Carlos Westendorp, the high representative in Bosnia, has the power to forcibly remove Poplasen from office if he continues to ignore the dismissal order. PB
 CROATIA MAY REOPEN CASE AGAINST SAKIC'S WIFEA Croatian prosecutor said on 10 March that the case against Nada Sakic, the wife of concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic, may be reopened after the presentation of evidence from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hina reported. The Sakics were extradited from Argentina last year on suspicion of committing war crimes. Nada Sakic was a commander of a female camp and her husband headed the Jasenovac camp, where tens of thousands of people were killed. Nada Sakic was released in February, after her case was dismissed owing to a lack of evidence. The Wiesenthal Center submitted statements from four new witnesses in Yugoslavia that may provide grounds for pressing charges against Nada Sakic. PB
 ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE CONTINUES TO WORSENData release by the National Statistics Commission on 10 March show that last year the economy not only continued the decline noted the previous year but fared even worse than in 1997, Romanian media reported. GDP declined by 7.3 percent (compared with 6. 6 percent in 1997), the sharpest drops being registered in industrial production and constructions. Agricultural output was down by 8.5 percent. The balance of trade was the worst registered in the last nine years, with a deficit of $3.52 billion ($2.84 billion in 1997). Investments dropped by 18.6 percent compared with the previous year. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ADDRESSES NATO CONFERENCEForeign Minister Andrei Plesu told a NATO conference in London on 10 March that his country expects the April summit in Washington to approve a timetable for further enlargement and a list of criteria to be met by aspirants to the second wave of enlargement, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Plesu also said communist propaganda against NATO in Washington has failed and that most of his countrymen are "worshipping NATO as a utopia of salvation." He added that Romania is aware that it must still make progress in many areas, but he noted that joining NATO will help guarantee reforms and stability. MS
 BISHOP'S SUPPORTERS COMPLAIN ABOUT 'HARASSMENT' IN ROMANIABishop Laszlo Tokes, the honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), and other participants in the September 1998 meeting in Cernat of the Szeklers' Forum for Renewal of the UDMR issued a statement on 10 March saying that their "harassment" by the Prosecutor- General's office is an attempt to intimidate "the whole Magyar community" of Romania. They added that they will not agree to testify in the investigation launched following a complaint by the nationalist mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). The signatories also said that the investigation is "a diversion" provoked by their political adversaries within the UDM. The sixth congress of the UDMR is scheduled for later this year. Tokes's "radicals" have succeeded in ousting several "moderates" from party positions ahead of that meeting. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT CLOSES DOWN PRIVATE UNIVERSITYThe parliament on 10 March voted to close down the Slavic University in Sofia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia and AP reported. The legislature said the curriculum of the university does not meet national standards and that an audit found some 900 million leva ($500,000) missing from its funds. The private Slavic University was founded in 1995 and was sponsored by businessmen linked to the Socialist Party, whose deputies voted against the resolution. Police cordoned off the parliament's building as some hundred Slavic University students booed deputies. The students pitched several tents near the parliament building and threatened to block highways and railroads across the country. MS
[C] END NOTE
 BULGARIA RECEIVES PRAISE FROM IMF DIRECTORSby Robert Lyle
Bulgaria has received new praise for its economic and financial policies.
The IMF Executive Directors, in their annual review of Bulgaria's economy, said that last year, Sofia continued to follow prudent policies that underpinned generally favorable economic developments and kept the worst effects of the Russian and Asian financial crises from hitting too hard. The review was conducted on 19 February and the results released this week.
In a background report, prepared by the IMF staff, it was noted that Bulgaria has suffered from reduced foreign demand, lower prices for key exports--such as chemicals, fertilizers, and metals--and waning investor interest in emerging markets generally. However, it said, Bulgaria's "highly open economy" has benefited from lower import prices, particularly for energy, and lower interest rates on external debt.
The IMF noted that even with these problems, Bulgaria's economy is expected to have grown by 4-5 percent in 1998, although foreign investment inflows declined during the year because of the slowdown in privatization.
Unemployment in Bulgaria declined steadily through last September, but began edging up toward the end of the year, reflecting seasonal factors and a quicker pace of restructuring. The fund also noted that wages in state- owned enterprises regained much of the ground lost since 1995.
All these developments are the result of "prudent fiscal policies, continuing structural reform, and the beneficial effects of Bulgaria's reorientation toward Western Europe," said the fund in its report.
The 24 Executive Directors, who represent all of the fund's 182 member nations either individually or in groups in running the daily operations of the fund, agreed with the IMF staff assessment. They added, however, that for Bulgaria to achieve its goals of establishing a full-fledged market economy and gaining accession to the EU, "continued efforts" will be needed to preserve the benefits of the current financial stabilization as well as the "steadfast" implementation of broad structural reforms.
The IMF directors said that to reduce the risks from Bulgaria's still limited access to international private capital and reduced investor interest, the government should accelerate and deepen its broad program of structural reforms. They urged Sofia to especially speed up privatization of public enterprises, to further strengthen the financial sector, to improve the efficiency and equity of the tax system, and to push ahead with reform of the pension and health care systems.
The IMF directors said overall, the government must work to create a more favorable environment for new private firms. They also they were concerned by the slow pace of privatization, which they said could further delay much- needed foreign investment. They warned that with still-weak enterprise financial discipline among those not yet privatized enterprises and soft budget constraints, there could be excessive wage increases, which would erode enterprise profitability and competitiveness.
They urged Sofia to complete its enterprise isolation program (removing state enterprises from direct connection with the government's budget) by June or July, while improving the quality and process of privatizing those enterprises.
The directors called continuation of the currency board "critical" and urged Sofia to push ahead on civil service and legal reforms, improved bankruptcy procedures, and fighting corruption.
Bulgaria has a three-year extended loan arrangement with the fund, and only last month it received a tranche of about $72 million from the loan. The total credit, of around $867 million, was approved last September. Bulgaria has drawn around $216 million so far.
The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty