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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 228, 99-11-23

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. 228, 23 November 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] NEW APPOINTMENT FOR FORMER ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY
  • [02] ANOTHER BOMB SCARE IN ARMENIA
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL CALLS FOR NATO GUARD FOR OIL EXPORT
  • [04] GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DOUBT THAT KIDNAPPED RUSSIAN GENERAL IS IN
  • [05] MORE DETAILS EMERGE OF SEPARATIST MOVEMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF TO STAND TRIAL
  • [07] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ENHANCED DEFENSE POTENTIAL
  • [08] TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENT GREETED WITH OPTIMISM...
  • [09] ...AND SKEPTICISM
  • [10] OSCE NOT TO SEND FULL OBSERVER MISSION FOR UZBEK POLL

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] PERISIC: YUGOSLAV PARAMILITARIES IN MONTENEGRO
  • [12] WARM WELCOME FOR CLINTON IN KOSOVA
  • [13] KOSOVARS REMOVE RAHOVEC BARRICADES
  • [14] KOSOVA RAILWAY LINE REOPENED
  • [15] CALL FOR SUPPORT FOR SERBIAN OPPOSITION
  • [16] BELGRADE STUDENTS MARK PROTEST ANNIVERSARY
  • [17] SERBIAN POLICE BREAK UP COUNTERFEITING RING
  • [18] CROATIAN PARTIES REACH AGREEMENT ON PRESIDENCY
  • [19] BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS WARNED
  • [20] ELECTION TO BE REPEATED IN 31 MACEDONIAN POLLING PLACES
  • [21] THOUSANDS OF ROMANIAN WORKERS PROTEST POOR LIVING CONDITIONS
  • [22] ROMANIAN RULING PARTY SAYS VASILE TO REMAIN PREMIER
  • [23] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PREMIER-DESIGNATE
  • [24] CLINTON ADDRESSES TENS OF THOUSANDS IN SOFIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] COMPROMISE IN YEREVAN OVER NEW CABINET

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] NEW APPOINTMENT FOR FORMER ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY

    MINISTER

    President Robert Kocharian on 20 November named

    Serzh Sarkisian secretary of the National Security Council,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported two days later. Sarkisian,

    who resigned following the 27 October Armenian parliament

    shootings, was appointed last week to head Kocharian's

    presidential staff (see also "End Note"). LF

    [02] ANOTHER BOMB SCARE IN ARMENIA

    The staff of the Ministries of

    Privatization and Energy were evacuated on 22 November

    minutes after an anonymous caller warned that a bomb had been

    planted inside the building in central Yerevan where those

    two ministries are located, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian

    capital reported. But a police unit that immediately examined

    the building found no explosives. Following a similar

    anonymous warning last week, police discovered a package of

    low-grade explosives in the parliament building (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 16 November 1999). LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL CALLS FOR NATO GUARD FOR OIL EXPORT

    PIPELINE

    Rza Ibadov, who is chairman of the Azerbaijani

    parliamentary Foreign Affairs commission, proposed at a

    meeting last week that NATO form a special unit charged with

    protecting the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for

    Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Interfax reported on 22 November.

    LF

    [04] GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DOUBT THAT KIDNAPPED RUSSIAN GENERAL IS IN

    GEORGIA

    President Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgian

    Intelligence chief Avtandil Ioseliani both said on 22

    November they have no information that would shed light on

    Russian claims that Russian Interior Ministry Gennadii

    Shpigun is being held on Georgian territory, Caucasus Press

    reported. Shpigun was abducted from Grozny airport in March.

    An official from the North Caucasus Department for the

    Struggle with Organized Crime told ITAR-TASS earlier that day

    that Shpigun is being held in the Georgian village of Shatili

    close to the Georgian-Chechen frontier. A Russian army

    intelligence official similarly said he believes that Shpigun

    is being held on Georgian territory. But an Interior Ministry

    spokesman in Moscow told Interfax on 22 November he thinks it

    unlikely that Shpigun is in Georgia. LF

    [05] MORE DETAILS EMERGE OF SEPARATIST MOVEMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN

    The

    22 men arrested on 19 November in East Kazakhstan Oblast are

    ethnic Russians aged 20-35 and veterans of the Afghan and

    Chechen wars, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 23

    November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). Ten of

    the men are citizens of Kazakhstan and the remainder are

    Russian citizens. Kazakh security officials found huge

    quantities of ammunition at the Oskemen apartment of the

    group's leader, identified as Viktor Kazimirchik. The group

    reportedly planned to organize an armed rebellion in the

    towns of Pavlodar (North Kazakhstan Oblast), Oskemen, and

    Leninogorsk (both in East Kazakhstan Oblast) with the aim of

    establishing an "Independent Republic of Russian Altai." They

    had reportedly secured the support of an unspecified number

    of prominent local residents. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN'S CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF TO STAND TRIAL

    Bakhytzhan Ertaev and at least three other senior officials

    face criminal charges in connection with the illegal sale to

    North Korea of 40 MiG-21 fighter aircraft, Interfax reported

    on 22 November. Ertaev was named acting defense minister in

    August after President Nursultan Nazarbaev fired Defense

    Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev and National Security Committee

    Secretary Nurtay Abyqaev for their role in the sale of six of

    those aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). The

    sales came to light in March, when Azerbaijani authorities

    impounded a transport aircraft carrying the six disassembled

    MiG-21s at Baku airport. Also on 22 November, the U.S.

    imposed sanctions against one Kazakh and one Czech company

    involved in smuggling the aircraft to North Korea. U.S. State

    Department spokesman James Rubin said Washington imposed

    sanctions on Kazakhstan but then waived them in

    acknowledgement of the government's cooperation in

    investigating the illegal deal. LF

    [07] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ENHANCED DEFENSE POTENTIAL

    Speaking at an army conference in Bishkek on 22 November,

    Askar Akaev called for the strengthening of Kyrgzystan's

    border troops and reform of the armed forces in general,

    ITAR-TASS reported. He said combat readiness must be improved

    and materiel and technical support increased. Akaev argued

    that the August incursion into Kyrgyzstan by militants from

    Tajikistan demonstrate that the CIS Security Treaty is still

    needed. He also expressed appreciation for the help

    Kyrgyzstan received from Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and

    Uzbekistan in expelling the militants. LF

    [08] TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENT GREETED WITH OPTIMISM...

    Shell

    and the U.S. company PSG, which are partners in the

    consortium to build a Trans-Caspian pipeline to export

    natural gas from Turkmenistan, have welcomed the signing by

    the presidents of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and

    Turkey of a letter of intent pledging their support for that

    undertaking, Interfax reported on 22 November. The signing

    took place in Istanbul last week. PSG Executive Director

    Edward Smith said he is confident that a framework agreement

    incorporating the legal and commercial aspects of the project

    will be signed soon. But the failure of Turkmenistan and

    Azerbaijan to reach agreement on the amount of Azerbaijani

    gas to be exported via the pipeline may delay the signing of

    that framework agreement, Interfax noted. LF

    [09] ...AND SKEPTICISM

    Meanwhile former Russian Premier Viktor

    Chernomyrdin told journalists in St. Petersburg on 20

    November that the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline is not

    economical and will take 40 years to build, according to

    Interfax. As USSR minister of oil and gas in the early 1980s,

    Chernomyrdin evaluated plans for such a pipeline and rejected

    them as unworkable. LF

    [10] OSCE NOT TO SEND FULL OBSERVER MISSION FOR UZBEK POLL

    The

    OSCE will send only a limited number of monitors to

    Uzbekistan for the 5 December parliamentary elections,

    Interfax reported on 22 November, citing the OSCE office in

    Tashkent. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human

    Rights (ODIHR) said that Uzbekistan's electoral law falls far

    short of OSCE requirements and that conditions do not exist

    either for the emergence of a genuine opposition or for a

    free election campaign. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] PERISIC: YUGOSLAV PARAMILITARIES IN MONTENEGRO

    Former

    Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff General Momcilo Perisic said

    that pro-Milosevic Montenegrin politicians have organized

    "paramilitary units within the Yugoslav Army," Reuters

    reported on 23 November. He noted that a "military police

    battalion has been formed on the ideological principles of

    Federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic's Socialist People's

    Party. [The unit will] serve as a detonator for a conflict

    with Montenegrin police," who are loyal to President Milo

    Djukanovic. Perisic said that any use of the military to

    prevent Montenegro from seceding from the Yugoslav federation

    "would be completely illegal." He added that the existence of

    paramilitary units is "terrible because it opens the

    possibility of civil conflicts." Milosevic fired Perisic in

    1998 after the general criticized Belgrade's policies in

    Kosova. He now heads a small opposition party. PM

    [12] WARM WELCOME FOR CLINTON IN KOSOVA

    Some 2,000 mainly ethnic

    Albanians gave U.S. President Bill Clinton an enthusiastic

    welcome in Ferizaj on 23 November. Clinton told his listeners

    that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic wanted to "gain

    control of [Kosova] by getting rid of all of you, and we said

    no!" He added that "no one can force you to forgive what was

    done to you, but you must try.... The time for fighting is

    past... The international community will stand by you, but

    you must take the lead," Reuters reported. Clinton also said:

    "You cheered for us when we came in because, when you were

    being oppressed, we stood by you and we exercised military

    power to defeat the oppression of Mr. Milosevic.... We won

    the war, but only you can win the peace." PM

    [13] KOSOVARS REMOVE RAHOVEC BARRICADES

    Ethnic Albanians removed

    the barricades on roads leading into Rahovec on 22 November

    after reaching an agreement with KFOR. The Albanians put up

    the road blocks in mid-August to keep out Russian

    peacekeepers, whom the Kosovars accused of supporting Serbian

    forces in the recent conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23

    August 1999). It is unclear whether the latest agreement

    provides for a Russian presence in the area, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. In related news, KFOR strengthened

    its forces along the border between Kosova and Serbia

    following the death of two Serbian policemen in a landmine

    explosion on the Serbian side of the frontier (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 22 November 1999). PM

    [14] KOSOVA RAILWAY LINE REOPENED

    Italian KFOR engineers have

    completed work on the railway line running from Prishtina to

    Pec, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 23

    November. The line will enable KFOR to send goods from

    Macedonia to the western part of Kosova more quickly than has

    been the case. PM

    [15] CALL FOR SUPPORT FOR SERBIAN OPPOSITION

    Representatives of

    some 50 Serbian opposition parties, independent unions, NGOs,

    independent media, and the Montenegrin government have called

    on the international community to support democratic forces

    in Serbia. Meeting in Strasbourg on 21 and 22 November under

    the aegis of the Council of Europe and Prague's East-West

    Institute, the delegates appealed for an easing of sanctions

    on Yugoslavia and for early elections. Belgrade's "Danas"

    said that the meeting showed that the West regards the

    opposition as "equal partners." "Vesti" quoted Kosova Serb

    leader Momcilo Trajkovic as saying that the West is not

    concerned about the Serbs in Kosova but only about the ethnic

    Albanians. The daily added that what Serbia needs is

    "concrete assistance" and not promises. PM

    [16] BELGRADE STUDENTS MARK PROTEST ANNIVERSARY

    Some 2,000

    students attended a rock concert on 22 November to mark the

    third anniversary of protests that forced Milosevic to

    recognize opposition victories in Serbian local elections. PM

    [17] SERBIAN POLICE BREAK UP COUNTERFEITING RING

    Serbian police

    arrested 10 people in Belgrade on 22 November for having

    forged $1.5 million and 140,000 Bosnian convertible marks.

    One suspect is still at large. Police destroyed all of the

    currency except about $500,000, which the forgers had already

    put into circulation. Experts said that the technical quality

    of the forged bills was good. Ringleaders Dragan Raseta and

    Predrag Simic turned to counterfeiting to pay off debts,

    "Vesti" reported. PM

    [18] CROATIAN PARTIES REACH AGREEMENT ON PRESIDENCY

    Representatives of parties represented in the parliament

    agreed on 22 November on the basic points of a constitutional

    amendment that will enable legislators to declare President

    Franjo Tudjman temporarily incapacitated and choose a care-

    taker chief executive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November

    1999). On 23 November, the party representatives are expected

    to work out details of the measure, which the parliament will

    likely pass the following day, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. PM

    [19] BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS WARNED

    Ralph Johnson, who is a

    deputy to the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch,

    told local officials in Foca on 22 November that they will

    receive no foreign assistance unless they allow Muslim

    refugees to return home. Before the 1992-1995 conflict,

    Foca's population was 52 percent Muslim. Now it is almost

    completely Serbian, including many Serbs from other parts of

    Bosnia. Foca is known as a stronghold of hard-line

    politicians and is widely believed to shelter some indicted

    war criminals. The unemployment rate is over 60 percent. PM

    [20] ELECTION TO BE REPEATED IN 31 MACEDONIAN POLLING PLACES

    The

    central election commission announced in Skopje on 22

    November that the recent presidential ballot will have to

    take place again at 31 polling stations. The commission's

    investigations confirmed that significant irregularities had

    taken place during the voting at those polling stations.

    Defeated Social Democratic candidate Tito Petkovski has

    charged that massive fraud by ethnic Albanian politicians in

    western Macedonia resulted in his defeat by Boris Trajkovski

    of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. PM

    [21] THOUSANDS OF ROMANIAN WORKERS PROTEST POOR LIVING CONDITIONS

    An estimated 10,000 people demonstrated in the northern town

    of Iasi on 22 November to protest declining living standards,

    AP reported. The protest was organized by labor unions. Doru

    Alexandrescu, a leader of the National Trade Union Bloc, said

    "politicians do not respect anything and do not keep their

    promises." The average monthly wage in Romania is 1.4 million

    lei (about $80). PB

    [22] ROMANIAN RULING PARTY SAYS VASILE TO REMAIN PREMIER

    Ion

    Diaconescu, the head of the National Peasant Party, said on

    22 November that Romanian Premier Radu Vasile will not be

    sacked because such a move would hurt the country's image, AP

    reported. Diaconescu said dismissing Vasile would "give the

    image of political instability." Vasile had said at a youth

    party congress the previous day that "the government will

    continue the economic steps taken in 1999 irrespective of how

    unpopular it becomes," Mediafax reported. On 22 November, the

    National Bank announced that the country's medium- and long-

    term foreign debt increased in August for the second month in

    a row and now stands at $7.99 billion. PB

    [23] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PREMIER-DESIGNATE

    The parliament

    on 22 November rejected the government of Premier-designate

    Valeriu Bobutac, Reuters reported. Bobutac's proposed

    government received 48 votes in favor, just short of the

    necessary simple majority. Forty-two deputies abstained from

    voting. Bobutac was supported by the 40 members of the

    Communist Party and eight independent deputies. The

    constitution allows the president to dissolve the parliament

    if it fails "at least twice" to approve his candidate for the

    post. President Petru Lucinschi has not said who his next

    candidate for the post will be. PB

    [24] CLINTON ADDRESSES TENS OF THOUSANDS IN SOFIA

    U.S. President

    Bill Clinton, in an address on Sofia's Nevsky Square on 22

    November, praised Bulgaria as setting an example for

    neighboring Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Clinton told an

    estimated 30,000 people that he hopes "the people of Serbia

    can hear our voices when we say: If you choose as Buglaria

    has chosen, you will regain the rightful place in Europe that

    Mr. Milosevic has stolen from you." Clinton praised

    Bulgarians for their support for NATO during the air campaign

    against Yugoslavia. Clinton appeared in the square with

    Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, Premier Ivan Kostov, and

    several U.S. congressmen. Stoyanov and Clinton discussed

    Bulgaria's chances for joining NATO and the stability pact

    for the Balkans. Clinton also met with Kostov and promised to

    help Bulgaria recoup the millions of dollars it lost in trade

    because of the war in Yugoslavia. PB


    [C] END NOTE

    [25] COMPROMISE IN YEREVAN OVER NEW CABINET

    by Liz Fuller

    The agreement reached 10 days ago by President Robert

    Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian over the

    composition of the new cabinet defused tensions and ended

    speculation that the former would either resign or fire the

    latter. Since then, Kocharian has sought to strengthen his

    position by naming one of his closest allies, former National

    Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, to head the presidential

    administration.

    The weeklong crisis centered on the choice of candidates

    to head the National Security and Interior Ministries and the

    political future of Minister for Industrial Infrastructures

    Vahan Shirkhanian. Shirkhanian has admitted that he was

    behind a 28 October statement that senior Defense Ministry

    officials addressed to Kocharian calling for the firing of

    the two power ministers and the prosecutor-general for their

    failure to prevent the previous day's bloodbath in the

    Armenian parliament.

    In a one-hour interview broadcast on 16 November,

    Kocharian disclosed that just hours after the 27 October

    killings, a dozen close associates of the murdered premier,

    including the latter's security adviser Andranik Kocharian

    (no relation to the president), had presented him with a list

    of the names of people whom they wished to see appointed to

    key posts in the new government. In that list, Vahan

    Shirkhanian, a former deputy defense minister, was nominated

    for the post of premier.

    Kocharian and Sargsian apparently found it relatively

    easy to agree on the candidates to head the power ministries.

    The horse-trading over Shirkhanian, however, proved more

    difficult, but in talks that began on 12 November and

    continued into the early hours of the following day,

    Kocharian seemed to have agreed that Shirkhanian should

    retain his post in the new cabinet. Kocharian also agreed to

    the dismissal of Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian.

    Major General Haik Harutiunian and Major General Karlos

    Petrosian, the new interior and national security ministers,

    are both non-partisan career police officers. Harutiunian,

    44, has served in that ministry since 1981, most recently as

    first deputy minister and commander of the Interior Ministry

    troops. Petrosian, 49, is a graduate of the law faculty of

    Yerevan State University worked his way up through the ranks

    of the Interior Ministry to head its Investigation

    Department. Both men served under Serzh Sarkisian when the

    latter headed the combined Interior and National Security

    Ministry.

    Andranik Markarian, the leader of the majority

    Miasnutiun faction within the parliament, told RFE/RL on 13

    November that Miasnutiun, the president, and the premier had

    agreed on how to resolve the deadlock. He noted that "We have

    reached full understanding with the president," adding that

    there are no problems now and there will be none in the

    future. In his 16 November television address, Kocharian

    similarly affirmed that "I had no differences with the

    Miasnutiun bloc. Nor did I have differences with Aram

    Sargsian." He went on to describe the new premier as "a very

    sincere and honest person."

    Given those statements, the question arises of whether

    the press reports of deadlock and the president's possible

    resignation were exaggerated or even invented. The first to

    report that Kocharian had threatened to resign was a

    prominent member of Miasnutiun. Hmayak Hovannissian told

    RFE/RL on 10 November that "the president told us that either

    he must be able to perform his duties or he will have to

    quit." The next day, "Aravot" claimed that Kocharian had

    threatened to resign if the parliament majority sided with

    the prime minister over the government's composition. But on

    12 November, "Haykakan Zhamanak" reported that while the

    talks between Kocharian, Sarkisian, and parliamentary speaker

    Armen Khachatrian had failed to yield agreement, "this time

    Kocharian didn't speak about his possible resignation. On the

    contrary, he said it is his duty to stay on because he has a

    real chance to settle the Karabakh conflict."

    Kocharian's press spokesman, Vahe Gabrielian, told

    Interfax on 12 November, however, that "the president has

    neither prepared a letter of resignation nor taken up the

    matter with the parliament." OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman

    Jean-Jacques Gaillard, who met with Kocharian in Yerevan on

    11 November, told journalists after that meeting that the

    president did not give the impression of a man about to

    resign. And in an editorial published on 13 November,

    "Aravot" suggested that to step down would be totally

    contrary to Kocharian's nature.

    In short, there are only two possible explanations that

    accommodate all the above pieces of information: Either the

    steel nerves and sense of timing that Kocharian displayed in

    January 1998 prior to his predecessor's resignation failed

    him momentarily. Or in order to raise the stakes during his

    bargaining with parliamentary deputies, the president

    suggested a course of action that he had no intention of

    carrying out.

    Despite the 12-13 November agreement, some observers

    predict continuing tensions within the country's leadership.

    Those observers base that prediction on the perceived

    weakness of the president. They note that only a few

    political parties expressed unequivocal support for him in

    his standoff with Sargsian and the parliament, whereas most

    merely called on both protagonists to seek a compromise in

    the interest of restoring political stability.

    But other commentators suggest that even if many parties

    are ambivalent toward Kocharian, no political faction appears

    to have an interest in forcing the president to stand down at

    this juncture. Nor do there appear to be fundamental

    disagreements over policy between the parliamentary majority,

    government, and president that could precipitate a new

    standoff.

    23-11-99


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


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