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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 81, 00-04-25

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. 4, No. 81, 25 April 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA COMMEMORATES GENOCIDE ANNIVERSARY
  • [02] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS DEMAND FOR INTERIOR MINISTER'S
  • [03] ARMENIAN DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR ACCESSION TO RUSSIA-BELARUS
  • [04] GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS WITHDRAWAL OF BASES
  • [05] ABKHAZIA PROTESTS POLICE KILLINGS...
  • [06] ...ACCUSES UKRAINE OF BIAS
  • [07] MAN WHO FEIGNED ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DIAGNOSED AS
  • [08] GEORGIAN PENSIONERS DEMAND OVERDUE ALLOWANCES
  • [09] RUSSIAN ROCKET CRASHES IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MARKS 10 YEARS IN OFFICE
  • [11] KAZAKHSTAN, UZBEKISTAN PLEDGE TO RESOLVE BORDER DISPUTES
  • [12] KAZAKHSTAN HOPES FOR FURTHER COOPERATION WITH GAZPROM
  • [13] CHINESE DELEGATION VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
  • [14] UZBEK SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS SIGN ANTI-TERRORISM TREATY

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [15] KFOR DETAINS MITROVICA SERB LEADER
  • [16] IVANOVIC ANNOUNCES FIRST PLANNED RETURN OF SERBS
  • [17] KURTI, BROVINA PROTEST IMPRISONMENT
  • [18] KOUCHNER HAS NO ANSWER FROM MILOSEVIC
  • [19] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SETS UP COUNCIL
  • [20] SHOW TRIAL IN SERBIA
  • [21] MONTENEGRO DEVALUES DINAR
  • [22] ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO DEEPEN TIES
  • [23] TOP ALBANIAN AWARD FOR CLARK
  • [24] KFOR SEND INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL TO HAGUE
  • [25] 'CREEPING PARTITION' IN BRCKO?
  • [26] KUCAN WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS
  • [27] FRENCH EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER IN ROMANIA
  • [28] NATO SPOKESMAN ON POSSIBLE POLITICAL CHANGE IN ROMANIA
  • [29] ROMANIA, MOLDOVA, AGREE ON BASIC TREATY
  • [30] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT, STUDENTS, REACH AGREEMENT
  • [31] CIS COMMISSION VISITS MOLDOVA
  • [32] BULGARIAN PREMIER REJECTS DEMANDS THAT HE STEP DOWN...
  • [33] ...PLEDGES TO INCREASE POLITICAL ACCOUNTABILITY,
  • [34] ...GETS WORLD BANK FUNDS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [35] Energy Disputes May Mar Russian-Armenian Partnership

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA COMMEMORATES GENOCIDE ANNIVERSARY

    Tens of thousands

    of Armenians, including the country's entire leadership,

    marched in silence on 24 April to the Yerevan monument to an

    estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed in Ottoman Turkey in

    1915, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a televised

    address to the Armenian people, President Robert Kocharian

    said that Armenia will continue to try to persuade the

    international community to formally acknowldge the killings

    as genocide. At the same time, he called for reconciliation

    and for "a new kind" of relationship between Armenia and

    Turkey which, he said, is crucial to maintaining stability

    and developing regional cooperation. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS DEMAND FOR INTERIOR MINISTER'S

    DISMISSAL

    President Kocharian on 22 April rejected a call by

    Prime Minister Aram Sargsian the previous day for the firing

    of Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Sargsian argued that Harutiunian is

    responsible for the escape from justice of his one of his

    predecessors, Vano Siradeghian, who is currently on trial on

    charges of ordering a series of contract killings. Kocharian

    had suggested on 19 April that some members of the Interior

    Ministry staff had helped Siradeghian flee the country after

    parliament deputies voted to lift his immunity from detention

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 11 April 2000). But a

    presidential spokesman quoted Kocharian on 22 April as noting

    that Harutiunian was not in Armenia on 3 April, the date of

    Siradeghian's disappearance. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR ACCESSION TO RUSSIA-BELARUS

    UNION

    Some 10,000 mostly elderly people participated in a 21

    April demonstration in Yerevan to demand that Armenia join

    the Union of Belarus and Russia, RFE/RL's bureau in the

    Armenian capital reported. Armenian Communist Party leader

    Vladimir Darpinian argued that joining the union would

    resolve Armenia's economic problems, according to AP. Right

    and Accord bloc parliament deputy Aghasi Arshakian said that

    38 out of a total of 131 parliament deputies support Armenian

    membership in the union (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol.

    3, No. 16, 21 April 2000). LF

    [04] GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS WITHDRAWAL OF BASES

    Following talks

    in Moscow on 20-21 April, Georgian and Russian government

    delegations signed a protocol under which Moscow agreed to

    reduce the amount of equipment at its military bases in

    Georgia by the end of 2000 and to close the bases in Vaziani,

    near Tbilisi, and Gudauta, in Abkhazia, by 30 June 2001,

    Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The Georgian

    delegation reportedly proposed that all four bases be closed

    within three years, while the Russians advocate abiding by

    the bilateral agreement signed in November 1999, which left

    open the date for closure of the two remaining bases (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 1999). The two delegations

    also agreed to draft a program of bilateral military

    cooperation, according to Caucasus Press. Moscow further

    returned to Georgia military equipment and uniforms

    confiscated in Moscow last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15

    and 24 November 1999). LF chancellery

    [05] ABKHAZIA PROTESTS POLICE KILLINGS...

    The Foreign Ministry of

    the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia on 22 April issued a

    statement condemning the shooting four days earlier of seven

    Abkhaz police officers and calling on the CIS peacekeeping

    force and UN Observer mission in Abkhazia to require Georgia

    to abide by earlier agreements on a cessation of hostilities,

    Caucasus Press reported. The Abkhaz statement accused Tbilisi

    of failing to curtail guerrilla activities in Abkhazia. On 24

    April, UN Observer Mission head General Anis Ahmed Baiwa said

    that the situation on the border between Abkhazia and the

    rest of Georgia has deteriorated as a result of the

    shootings. He expressed regret that "political

    considerations" frequently hinder the investigation by a

    joint Abkhaz-Georgian-Russian-UN working group of such

    killings. LF

    [06] ...ACCUSES UKRAINE OF BIAS

    Also on 22 April, Ukraine's

    ambassador to Georgia, Stepan Volkhovetskii, told Caucasus

    Press that during talks with Abkhaz President Vladislav

    Ardzinba, the latter had accused Ukraine of favoring Georgia.

    Ardzinba also again expressed his opposition to the inclusion

    of Ukraine in the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group

    that is trying to mediate a solution of the Abkhaz conflict

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2000). LF

    [07] MAN WHO FEIGNED ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DIAGNOSED AS

    PARANOID

    Artem Bagdiev, who was briefly taken into custody

    on 20 April after throwing a bag of knitted woolen hats at

    President Eduard Shevardnadze's limousine, has been diagnosed

    as "paranoid" and will be held for two weeks observation in a

    psychiatric hospital, Caucasus Press reported on 25 April.

    Bagdiev had said after the incident that his sole objective

    had been to draw attention to his hat-making skills, and

    promised to refrain from similar actions in future. LF

    [08] GEORGIAN PENSIONERS DEMAND OVERDUE ALLOWANCES

    Some 150

    pensioners and former Interior Ministry personnel staged a

    demonstration outside the Georgian parliament building in

    Tbilisi on 24 April to demand their allowances for the past

    11 months, Caucasus Press reported. The following day, a

    group of mothers of large families demonstrated outside the

    state chancellery to demand that child allowances be raised

    from the present 12 lari ($6) per month. As Georgian

    Communist Party first s ecretary in the early 1980s,

    Shevardnadze had promoted a policy of encouraging women to

    bear 4-6 children. LF

    [09] RUSSIAN ROCKET CRASHES IN KAZAKHSTAN

    A Russian test missile

    fired from the Ashuluk military testing range in Astrakhan

    Oblast went out of control and crashed on 21 April near the

    village of Primore in western Kazakhstan, Reuters and ITAR-

    TASS reported. Although no one was injured by the crash,

    Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov summoned Russia's

    ambassador, Yuri Merzlyakov, on 24 April and demanded an

    explanation of the accident. Idrisov told journalists the

    same day that the Kazakh government will ask Moscow to

    suspend rocket tests at the Ashaluk range. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MARKS 10 YEARS IN OFFICE

    In a 24

    April address marking the 10th anniversary of his election as

    president, Nursultan Nazarbaev stressed that his country had

    succeeded in avoiding political instability and interethnic

    tensions following the collapse of the USSR and that his

    economic reforms are already bearing fruit, Reuters reported.

    He said the country's priorities for the immediate future are

    to strengthen independence, to preserve political stability,

    and to encourage economic growth. At the same time, Nazarbaev

    warned journalists against abusing press freedom and

    criticized unnamed foreign states for attempting to sow

    tensions between Kazakhstan and neighboring Russia and

    Uzbekistan. LF

    [11] KAZAKHSTAN, UZBEKISTAN PLEDGE TO RESOLVE BORDER DISPUTES

    Also on 24 April, Kazakh Foreign Minister Idrisov and

    Uzbekistan's ambassador to Kazakhstan, Turdykul Butayarov,

    told journalists in Almaty that working groups from the two

    countries will meet next week to begin demarcating their

    2,150 km common border, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital

    reported. Unilateral attempts by Uzbekistan to do so earlier

    this year gave rise to protests and tensions in southern

    Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January and 8 March

    2000). LF

    [12] KAZAKHSTAN HOPES FOR FURTHER COOPERATION WITH GAZPROM

    Kazakhstan's prime minister, Qasymzhomart Toqaev, told

    visiting State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev in Astana on 21

    April that increased economic cooperation between Russia and

    Kazakhstan, including the possible creation of a common

    economic space, could contribute to resolving problems in

    bilateral relations and does not necessarily entail

    Kazakhstan's loss of statehood and independence, RFE/RL's

    Kazakh Service reported. Toqaev reportedly also said that

    Kazakhstan would welcome the return of Gazprom to Kazakhstan

    following the withdrawal of the Belgian company Tractebel,

    which in 1997 acquired a 20 year concession to manage

    Kazakhstan's gas distribution network. LF

    [13] CHINESE DELEGATION VISITS KYRGYZSTAN

    Following talks in

    Bishkek on 21 April between Kyrgyz Prime Minister Amangeldi

    Muraliev and a 17-person Chinese delegation headed by Deputy

    Minister of Foreign Trade Jiang Syang, it was announced that

    Beijing will give Bishkek 5 million yuan ($600,000) in aid

    towards implementing economic reforms, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported. LF

    [14] UZBEK SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS SIGN ANTI-TERRORISM TREATY

    Meeting

    in Tashkent on 21 April, the presidents of Kazakhstan,

    Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed a 10-year

    treaty on joint efforts to combat terrorism, political and

    religious extremism, transnational organized crime, and other

    threats to security and stability, Interfax reported.

    Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov and Tajikistan's Imomali Rakhmonov

    told journalists after the signing that one of the main

    threats to regional stability is the war in Afghanistan.

    Meeting in Moscow the same day, the interior ministers of the

    so-called Bishkek group comprising the five signatory states

    to the Shanghai Agreement (Russia, China, Kazakhstan,

    Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) adopted an appeal to their

    respective heads of state containing specific proposals on

    cooperation in combatting crime, Interfax reported. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [15] KFOR DETAINS MITROVICA SERB LEADER

    NATO peacekeepers

    detained Oliver Ivanovic for two hours on 24 April as he was

    heading to Leposaviq. That town is to the north of the

    divided city of Mitrovica, where he is the hard-line

    political leader of local Serbs. Peacekeepers said that

    Ivanovic's documents had expired and that they "wanted to

    take a picture to renew his papers." Ivanovic insisted that

    his papers were still valid, and showed Reuters a KFOR pass

    good until the end of June. Some 200 Serbs gathered to

    protest the detention of Ivanovic and dispersed only when a

    Belgian peacekeeper fired a warning shot. Previous to his

    detention, Ivanovic met with his counterpart in southern

    Mitrovica, Bajram Rexhepi, and with the international

    community's negotiator for the divided city, William Nash. PM

    [16] IVANOVIC ANNOUNCES FIRST PLANNED RETURN OF SERBS

    Ivanovic

    told Reuters in Mitrovica on 25 April that he is planning the

    organized return of up to 1,500 Serbs to Kosova. He stressed

    that he will need the support of the UN civil administration,

    KFOR, and the UNCHR. "We have to [first] get insurance [sic]

    from KFOR that everything will be safe. We will need

    supplies. The Albanians cut the water, electrical, [and]

    telephone supplies in the area. They have to be repaired by

    KFOR before we send in the first group. If they do that and

    secure the area, it's enough for the start. It will be the

    first organized return of Serbs" to Kosova, he said. PM

    [17] KURTI, BROVINA PROTEST IMPRISONMENT

    Student leader Albin

    Kurti and human rights activist Flora Brovina told

    journalists at Pozarevac prison on 22 April that they are

    being "unjustly held behind bars," RFE/RL's South Slavic

    Service reported. Kurti stressed that he had been sentenced

    "simply because I am an [ethnic] Albanian" (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 14 March 2000). PM

    [18] KOUCHNER HAS NO ANSWER FROM MILOSEVIC

    Bernard Kouchner, who

    heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said on 22

    April that he has not had an answer from the Belgrade

    authorities about his proposal for ethnic Serbian refugees

    from Kosova to participate in the local elections expected

    later this year. Kouchner had suggested that Serbian refugees

    could vote where they are currently living, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. PM

    [19] SERBIAN OPPOSITION SETS UP COUNCIL

    Some 100 delegates

    representing the Serbian opposition as well as Serbs in

    Kosova, Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro met on 21 and 22

    April in Athens under the sponsorship of Crown Prince

    Aleksandar Karadjordjevic. Participants agreed to form a

    Council of Democratic Forces of Serbia under the leadership

    of Aleksandar and Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, "Vesti"

    reported on 25 April. After the session, opposition leaders

    met with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who said

    that from them he "heard a different vision of Serbia,

    [namely] a democratic one open to the broader European

    family" of nations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

    PM

    [20] SHOW TRIAL IN SERBIA

    The trial began in Nis on 24 April of

    three men from Krusevac, who are charged with plotting the

    assassination of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and

    army chief-of-staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic. The military

    court heard the men confirm that they are members of the

    shadowy "Serbian Liberation Army (OSA)." Some observers have

    suggested that OSA and other alleged conspiratorial groups

    with names such as Spider are really the invention of

    Milosevic's intelligence services. The regime seeks to divert

    attention, sow confusion, create an atmosphere of

    uncertainty, and supply pretexts for future crackdowns, the

    observers conclude. PM

    [21] MONTENEGRO DEVALUES DINAR

    Beginning 21 April, the National

    Bank of Montenegro devalued the Yugoslav dinar by 15 percent

    against the German mark. The government introduced the mark

    on its own initiative as a parallel currency to the dinar in

    November 1999 in an effort to ensure stability and insulate

    Montenegro from inflationary trends in Serbia. The Belgrade

    authorities subsequently declared this move illegal but have

    not regarded it as a reason to consider the Montenegrin

    government in open rebellion. This is partly because the

    German mark has been the unofficial second currency

    throughout the former Yugoslavia for decades. PM

    [22] ALBANIA, MONTENEGRO DEEPEN TIES

    Albanian Foreign Minister

    Paskal Milo arrived in Podgorica on 24 April in the latest of

    a series of moves by Albania and Montenegro to promote closer

    relations despite Montenegro's continued membership in

    Milosevic's Yugoslav federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14

    April 2000). Milo met with Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and

    Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac to discuss joint initiatives

    under the EU's Stability Pact (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25

    April 2000). PM

    [23] TOP ALBANIAN AWARD FOR CLARK

    President Rexhep Meidani gave

    General Clark, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, the Order

    of Skanderbeg, which is the highest Albanian award that a

    foreigner can receive. Meidani said at the ceremony in Tirana

    on 24 April that Clark played a key role in the "triumph of

    humanism and democracy, the protection of human lives, and

    the restoration of dignity and human rights of oppressed

    people in Kosova." PM

    [24] KFOR SEND INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL TO HAGUE

    NATO peacekeepers

    seized Dragan Nikolic on 21 April on Bosnian Serb territory

    and sent him the next day to The Hague. The tribunal has

    indicted him on more than 80 counts, including several of

    murder, stemming from his time as commander of a Serbian

    prison camp at Susica, near Vlasenica, in 1992. Nikolic was

    indicted in 1994 in the first Bosnian war crimes indictment.

    PM

    [25] 'CREEPING PARTITION' IN BRCKO?

    Muslim politician Mirsad

    Djapo, who is president of the Brcko district legislature,

    told "Dnevni avaz" of 25 April that the area is in danger of

    undergoing a de facto partition. He said that the widespread

    view that the city proper is Serbian while the surrounding

    district is Muslim is helping hold up the return of many

    refugees. Djapo called for a strong role for the

    international community to offset the influence of

    nationalists. PM

    [26] KUCAN WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS

    Slovenian President Milan Kucan

    said on television in Ljubljana on 21 April that early

    elections are necessary to ensure the formation of a credible

    government. He stressed that it is not possible to put

    together a broadly-based government in the current parliament

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 2000). PM

    [27] FRENCH EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER IN ROMANIA

    Pierre

    Moscovici, on a two-day visit to Romania, on 24 April met

    with President Emil Constantinescu, Premier Mugur Isarescu,

    Foreign Minister Petre Roman and other officials, RFE/RL's

    Bucharest bureau reported. He stressed that France continues

    to support Romania's integration into the EU and NATO and

    said that when his country takes over the EU rotating

    presidency from Portugal, it will act to bring about the

    abolition of visa requirements for Romanian citizens

    traveling within the EU. Moscovici also said Paris will

    support opening negotiations with Romania on more chapters of

    the aquis communautaire and announced that it will grant

    Romania aid aimed at extending help to people affected by the

    recent floods in Transylvania. MS

    [28] NATO SPOKESMAN ON POSSIBLE POLITICAL CHANGE IN ROMANIA

    NATO

    spokesman Jamie Shea on 24 April said all states admitted to

    NATO "must be democratic countries" and in a democracy "the

    change of government means a change of internal, not foreign

    policy," Romanian radio reported on 25 April. Shea was

    answering a journalist's question, who asked if "the possible

    return to power of [the opposition] Party of Social Democracy

    in Romania (PDSR) would pose obstacles to the development of

    NATO-Romanian relations." The spokesman added that PDSR

    leader Ion Iliescu has "emphasized in clear terms that his

    political orientation favors Romania's integration into

    NATO." MS

    [29] ROMANIA, MOLDOVA, AGREE ON BASIC TREATY

    Roman is meeting on

    25 April with leaders of parties represented in the

    parliament to brief them on the basic treaty with Moldova,

    RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The document describes

    the relations between the two states as a "privileged

    partnership." Moldovan Deputy Premier Andrei Cucu and Roman

    on 24 April signed in Bucharest an agreement for

    collaboration between the two governments. Roman said that

    Romania will continue to aid Moldova in its quest for

    European integration. But Cucu was unsuccessful in convincing

    his partners in Bucharest to renew electricity deliveries.

    Premier Isarescu said that the resumption of deliveries

    depends on signing a commercial accord and Industry Minister

    Radu Berceanu rejected a Moldovan proposal that Romania take

    over shares in Moldova's electricity grid about to be

    privatized as "insufficient" to cover Moldova's debt to

    Romania. MS

    [30] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT, STUDENTS, REACH AGREEMENT

    Representatives of the students who rioted for four days in

    Chisinau and representatives of the government on 21 April

    reached an agreement that will end the conflict, RFE/RL's

    bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. The agreement

    stipulates that students will be entitled to two cross-

    country yearly trips on state-owned transportation at half

    price and that the proportion of students entitled to a

    scholarship will rise from 25 to 35 percent. Due to the food

    penury and the high prices, many students bring foodstuff

    from their villages and cannot afford the travel costs. MS

    [31] CIS COMMISSION VISITS MOLDOVA

    A peacemaking commission of

    the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly headed by State Duma

    deputy chairman Boris Pastukhov on 24 April met with

    President Petru Lucinschi, Premier Dumitru Braghis, and

    parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, discussing ways of

    solving the conflict with the Transdniester separatists,

    Infotag and Flux reported. Lucinschi welcomed the CIS

    initiative to mediate in the conflict and said Moldova is

    ready to accept a "reasonable compromise" provided its

    territorial integrity is respected. Diacov said that Moldova

    is ready to grant Tiraspol broad autonomy provided that the

    sovereignty and indivisibility of Moldovan territory is

    recognized by the separatists. The commission is to travel to

    Tiraspol for talks with Igor Smirnov and other Transdniester

    separatist leaders. MS

    [32] BULGARIAN PREMIER REJECTS DEMANDS THAT HE STEP DOWN...

    Prime

    Minister Ivan Kostov, speaking in parliament on 21 April,

    rejected opposition demands that he resign in view of the

    large-scale corruption scandal in the country (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 21 April 2000). He told Socialist Party leader

    Georgi Parvanov, who said the country is being ruled by "the

    most corrupt government in its history," that "nothing you

    want to happen will happen." Kostov said he will "continue to

    sack from office immediately people against whom there are

    solid and proved suspicions of breaching the law." In an

    allusion to former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, whom

    Kostov sacked from the cabinet in December 1999 and who has

    called for the premier's resignation, Kostov said that "the

    only development that can be described as dangerous is the

    attempt to attain political goals by discrediting opponents,"

    Reuters and AP reported.

    [33] ...PLEDGES TO INCREASE POLITICAL ACCOUNTABILITY,

    TRANSPARENCY...

    Kostov said in an interview on 23 April with

    Bulgarian Radio that he intends to "remove or reduce the

    [parliamentary] immunity of lawmakers" and possibly also the

    immunity of magistrates, in an effort to increase the fight

    against corruption, AP reported. Kostov said he believes

    lawmakers must enjoy immunity only for statements made in the

    parliament. He also said his Union of Democratic Forces (FDS)

    will introduce a bill obliging state officials to declare

    their wealth at the start and end of political office.

    Reuters reported on 21 April that former President Zhelu

    Zhelev, in an interview with "24 Chasa," accused the FDS of

    being "fraught with mega-corruption." Zhelev defended Bonev

    as being "the only person brave enough to tell Kostov the

    truth" and said the FDS had "blackmailed" business to finance

    its local elections campaign in 1999, "while incumbents took

    part in privatization through stooges." MS

    [34] ...GETS WORLD BANK FUNDS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION

    The World

    Bank's director for Bulgaria and Romania, Andrew Vorkink,

    announced on 21 April in Sofia that the bank is providing a

    $7.5 million loan for Bulgaria to fight corruption and

    improve customs operations, DPA reported. On 23 April,

    Orthodox Patriarch Maxim, speaking at the Palm Sunday mass in

    the Saint Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, called on the

    government to introduce mandatory religion classes in schools

    to protect youth from "sinful temptations," AP reported.

    Maxim said that "in order to grow honest, fair, affectionate,

    and compassionate," young people need religious instruction,

    which must be taught "at equal footing with other school

    subjects." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [35] Energy Disputes May Mar Russian-Armenian Partnership

    By Emil Danielyan

    A dispute over energy issues is threatening to

    jeopardize the generally cordial relationship between Armenia

    and Russia. Russia's Gazprom monopoly is threatening to halt

    natural gas deliveries to Armenia if Yerevan fails to repay

    debts it has accumulated over the last few years. The threats

    coincided with the exclusion of a Gazprom-controlled company

    from the ongoing international bidding for Armenia's

    electricity distribution network, a move that Russian

    diplomats have warned may adversely affect bilateral economic

    cooperation.

    Armenian Energy Minister David Zadoyan flew to Moscow on

    21 April to try to win a reprieve for his country, which

    would face a crippling energy crisis should the Russians shut

    the tap on the pipeline running through Georgia. Thermal

    power stations, which primarily use Russian gas, account for

    a large part of the power generated in Armenia. Gazprom has

    already cut its supplies from the usual 3.5 million to 1.3

    million cubic meters a day. It gave the Armenian government

    until 24 April to clear $16 million in unpaid bills.

    That debt was rescheduled last August, but officials in

    the Armrosgaz venture, which handles gas imports, complain

    that Armenian consumers still fail to pay up. Gazprom,

    together with its subsidiary, ITERA, effectively controls

    Armenia's natural gas infrastructure through a 55 percent

    stake in Armrosgaz.

    The prospect of a gas cut-off rekindles Armenians'

    memories of the dark days of the early 1990s when they had

    just a few hours of electricity a day amid severe energy

    shortages.

    Gazprom's deadline for Armenia raises a number of

    questions among local observers. The size of the debt, they

    say, is fairly large but other former Soviet republics owe

    much more to the Russians. And Armenia is not the worst

    defaulter. As gas-rich Turkmenistan's ambassador in Yerevan

    noted on 20 April, Armenia (which still owes his country $14

    million for earlier fuel deliveries) meets its payment

    obligations far better than other ex-Soviet states.

    Ambassador Toyli Kurbanov told reporters: "It is important to

    note that of all our debtor-states the Republic of Armenia

    was and is the most diligent and punctual payer."

    The Gazprom demands came as ITERA was left out of a

    short-list of foreign companies participating in an

    international tender for four Armenian electricity companies.

    Deputy Energy Minister Karen Galustian announced on 18 April

    that ITERA does not qualify because it failed to submit

    findings of an internationally certified audit that would

    show its financial situation. A government commission

    handling the tender left four bidders in the race: the

    Electricite de France giant, Swiss-Swedish group ABB, Spain's

    Union Feroza, and the U.S. operator AES Silk Road.

    Earlier this year, Armenian press reports said Yerevan

    was under Russian pressure to declare a consortium of the

    Gazprom subsidiary and the Rosenergoatom concern winner of

    the tender. Although Armenian officials denied those claims,

    the World Bank urged them last February to ensure the

    fairness and transparency of the process. Furthermore, senior

    World Bank executives argued strongly against giving ITERA,

    which is registered in the U.S., ownership rights, citing its

    financial inadequacy. ITERA has never been engaged in energy

    distribution and was repeatedly accused by some Russian media

    of serving as a tool for Gazprom to channel its huge revenues

    to offshore accounts.

    Pressure from the World Bank, Armenia's leading

    creditor, and from other Western agencies may have been

    instrumental in ITERA's exclusion from the tender, which

    Russia's ambassador to Armenia, Anatolii Dryukov, promptly

    deplored. Dryukov was quoted by local news agencies as saying

    on 20 April that the decision to reject the Russian bid runs

    counter to Russian-Armenian agreements on deepening economic

    cooperation.

    In a statement released on 21 April, Rosenergoatom

    accused the Armenian government of taking a discriminatory

    approach toward the Russian firms. It said the U.S.

    government is lobbying hard for the interests of America's

    AES, which already owns the power grid in the Georgian

    capital Tbilisi.

    With ITERA officials unavailable for comment, it is not

    clear whether the drastic reduction of Russian gas supplies

    is related to the Armenian energy sector privatization. But

    it appears that the latest development in the bidding will

    complicate Yerevan's efforts to keep the vital fuel streaming

    in. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 April noted that

    Yerevan may be subject to new pressure from Rosenergoatom,

    which is the sole supplier of fuel for Armenia's nuclear

    power station.

    25-04-00


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


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