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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 238, 99-12-09

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. 238, 9 December 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PREMIER WINDS UP RUSSIAN VISIT
  • [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TEHRAN
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NEW MEDIA LAW
  • [04] IMF WARNS GEORGIA
  • [05] GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CHALLENGES MILITARY
  • [06] GEORGIA DEPORTS PUTATIVE MERCENARIES
  • [07] OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER IN KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS
  • [08] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN PREDICTS
  • [09] KYRGYZ CABINET MULLS SOCIAL SPENDING SHORTFALL
  • [10] REGIONAL MOVEMENT QUITS UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] STANDOFF ENDS AT MONTENEGRIN AIRPORT
  • [12] 'WHO WILL CONTROL THE SKIES OVER MONTENEGRO?'
  • [13] NATO WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER MONTENEGRO
  • [14] MONTENEGRO OPENS INVESTIGATION OF WAR CRIMES
  • [15] MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO
  • [16] CHINESE AID FOR SERBIA
  • [17] SERBIAN COURT FINES INDEPENDENT MEDIA
  • [18] MACEDONIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ADMIT DEFEAT
  • [19] CROATIAN MINISTER: SOMEONE WILL PAY FOR BUGGING
  • [20] BOSNIAN SERB POLICE FOR UN PEACEKEEPING ABROAD
  • [21] ROMANIAN RAILWAY STRIKE CONTINUES
  • [22] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SEARCHES FOR NEW PREMIER
  • [23] LUCINSCHI CALLS FOR URGENT RESOLUTION TO
  • [24] COUNCIL OF EUROPE ISSUES CRITICAL REPORT ON
  • [25] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [26] AN OMINOUS ACCORD

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PREMIER WINDS UP RUSSIAN VISIT

    Aram

    Sargsian returned to Yerevan on 8 December after a two-day

    working visit, his first foreign trip since his appointment as

    premier last month. Sargsian met with his Russian

    counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and

    Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Their talks focused on

    settling mutual debts, defense industry cooperation, and the

    energy sector including operation of the Medzamor nuclear

    power station. Both before and after the visit Sargsian

    affirmed Armenia's unswerving commitment to strategic

    cooperation with Russia. He also expressed the hope that

    Putin will become the next Russian president, according to

    ITAR-TASS. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TEHRAN

    Vartan Oskanian

    held talks in Tehran on 8 December with his Iranian

    counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, and with Majlis speaker Ali-Akbar

    Nateq-Nouri, IRNA reported. Oskanian briefed Kharrazi on the

    ongoing search for a political solution to the Karabakh

    conflict, including the direct talks in recent months between

    Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani

    counterpart, Heidar Aliev. Kharrazi argued that the shared

    interests of the South Caucasus states are an adequate

    basis for the creation of a united security strategy. Both

    Kharrazi and Nateq-Nouri noted Iran's readiness to expand

    economic cooperation with Armenia. Kharrazi noted in this

    context joint ventures to build highways and tunnels and the

    project to build a pipeline to supply Armenia with natural gas

    from Iran. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NEW MEDIA LAW

    Lawmakers adopted a new media law in the third and final

    reading on 7 December, Turan reported. The law prohibits

    censorship but contains other provisions that Azerbaijani

    journalists fear may be applied to restrict the free flow of

    information. Specifically, it requires all media outlets to re-

    register with the Ministry of Justice, empowers the

    government selectively to grant accreditation to cover

    official events; and provides for legal proceedings to be

    taken against media outlets that "insult the honor and dignity

    of the state and Azerbaijani people" or publish materials

    "contrary to the national interest." LF

    [04] IMF WARNS GEORGIA

    John Odling-Smee, who heads the

    Southern Division of the IMF's Second European Department,

    told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 December that it is "senseless"

    to raise the possibility of a new loan to Georgia as long as

    the country fails to comply with the fund's demands that it

    improve tax collection and crack down on corruption,

    Caucasus Press reported. Characterizing the economic

    situation in Georgia as "extremely difficult," Odling-Smee said

    that in order to qualify for a new tranche, Georgia needs "a

    targeted economic policy" that, among other things, will

    provide for implementation of the budget. The budget deficit

    for 1999 is estimated at 200-220 million lari ($100-110

    million), Caucasus Press reported on 30 November quoting

    the chairman of the parliamentary budget office, Roman

    Gotsiridze. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CHALLENGES MILITARY

    PROCURATOR

    The Georgian Defense Ministry has issued a

    statement accusing Military Prosecutor Badri Bitsadze of

    making "populist statements" that violate the presumption of

    innocence, Caucasus Press reported on 8 December. In an

    interview with the newspaper "Alia," Bitsadze had described

    the unsanctioned diversion of funds by the ministry to the

    Society for the Support of the Georgian Army as "an

    administrative crime" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December

    1999). LF

    [06] GEORGIA DEPORTS PUTATIVE MERCENARIES

    Georgia has

    deported 12 men apprehended trying to cross its border

    into Chechnya on 6 December, Caucasus Press reported on 8

    December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1999). The

    men, who were unarmed, said they had planned to join the

    Chechen resistance against Russia. Also on 8 December,

    Georgian Border Guard Commander Valerii Chkheidze said

    Tbilisi does not plan to lift the restrictions it imposed on the

    entry into Georgia of fleeing Chechen civilians. LF

    [07] OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER IN KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS

    PUBLICATION

    The editors of "XXI vek" announced that they

    have to suspend publication as no publishing house in Almaty

    will print the newspaper, RFE/RL's correspondent in the

    former capital reported on 9 December. Several dozen

    prominent intellectuals and politicians appealed last week to

    President Nursultan Nazarbaev to intervene to enable the

    newspaper to be printed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2

    December 1999). Nazarbaev has not yet responded to that

    appeal. LF

    [08] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN PREDICTS

    PARLIAMENTARY POLL WILL NOT BE FAIR

    Speaking at a

    press briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office on 8 December,

    former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov said his Ar-Namys party

    has been barred from contesting the Kyrgyz parliamentary

    elections next February as it was formally registered less

    than one year before the poll date, an RFE/RL correspondent

    reported. Kulov said he will attempt to register as an

    independent candidate, but is doubtful whether he will

    succeed in doing so. He said that Ar-Namys is the third-

    largest political party in Kyrgyzstan, with 11,000 members.

    He characterized the political system as "soft totalitarianism."

    Fifteen parties have been registered to contest the

    parliamentary election, while another four have been denied

    registration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1999). LF

    [09] KYRGYZ CABINET MULLS SOCIAL SPENDING SHORTFALL

    Ministers told an 8 December cabinet meeting chaired by

    Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev that the government

    currently owes some 112 million soms (about $2.5 million) in

    pension arrears, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital

    reported. The government also owes 54 million soms to the

    health care sector and a similar sum for education. The

    cabinet is to bring bankruptcy proceedings against

    enterprises that fail to make payments to the social fund. LF

    [10] REGIONAL MOVEMENT QUITS UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION

    The Lali Badakhshon movement that represents the

    population of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous

    Oblast has left the umbrella United Tajik Opposition (UTO)

    because of disagreements over the policies of the UTO

    leadership, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 December,

    quoting Lali Badakhshon's chairman, Atobek Amirbekov. Lali

    Badakhshon will independently contest the parliamentary

    elections that are to be held next February, Amirbekov said.

    LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] STANDOFF ENDS AT MONTENEGRIN AIRPORT

    Montenegrin Transport Minister Jusuf Kalamperovic said in

    Podgorica on 9 December that the capital's airport reopened

    at 8:00 a.m. local time after an overnight standoff between

    Yugoslav army troops and Montenegrin police. He added that

    all problems have been ironed out, Montenegrin Television

    reported. Immediately after the airport reopened, a

    Montenegrin Airlines flight took off for Budapest. At 6:00 p.m.

    local time the previous evening, federal troops occupied the

    airport and blocked the runway with trucks, citing unspecified

    "security reasons." They surrounded a hangar that

    Montenegrin police are building for their helicopters, saying

    the police have no right to construct such a facility without

    army permission. Montenegrin police remained in the main

    building of the airport. The Montenegrin authorities sought to

    play down the incident, which they described as a

    "misunderstanding." PM

    [12] 'WHO WILL CONTROL THE SKIES OVER MONTENEGRO?'

    This is how Montenegrin Television on 9 December described

    the real issue behind the incident at the airport. On that

    date, a recent decision by the Montenegrin government was

    slated to come into effect, whereby Montenegrin authorities

    would take control of the civilian airports at Podgorica and

    Tivat. To date, the civilian areas of the airports have been

    under the control of Yugoslav state airlines, JAT, while the

    military areas have been run by the Yugoslav army.

    Montenegrin Deputy Information Minister Abaz Dzafic told AP

    on 8 December that Montenegro wants "to control its own

    airports, like every other country in the world." Reuters

    described the incident as "the gravest sign yet of tensions

    between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the

    government of Montenegro" under President Milo Djukanovic.

    PM

    [13] NATO WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER MONTENEGRO

    NATO

    Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in Rome on 9

    December that "President Milosevic should be well warned

    that he should not start the 21st century fomenting more

    trouble in the Balkans. We watch with concern and with great

    attention what is happening in Montenegro and to President

    Djukanovic in that part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,

    who has a democratic mandate from his people," Reuters

    reported. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema added: "We

    are not advocating independence for Montenegro or the

    disintegration of Yugoslavia, but we warn Milosevic that there

    should be no military action for control of the region," AP

    reported. PM

    [14] MONTENEGRO OPENS INVESTIGATION OF WAR CRIMES

    SUSPECT

    State prosecutor Bozidar Vukcevic said in

    Podgorica on 8 December that the authorities have begun

    investigating whether Montenegro's Veselin Vlahovic

    committed war crimes while serving with Bosnian Serb forces

    during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. The Bosnian

    authorities recently sent documents to Podgorica to show

    that Vlahovic--also known as "Batko"--raped, robbed, and

    killed an unspecified number of people during the Bosnian

    war. Vukcevic said that, if indicted, Vlahovic could stand trial

    in Montenegro or be extradited to the war crimes tribunal in

    The Hague. His name does not appear among those of

    people publicly indicted by the tribunal. Vlahovic is currently

    serving a prison sentence in Montenegro on an unrelated

    charge. The Montenegrin authorities have repeatedly

    pledged to cooperate with The Hague but have not yet

    extradited anyone who has been indicted. PM

    [15] MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO

    QUIT

    Predrag Bulatovic, who is deputy leader of the pro-

    Milosevic Socialist People's Party (SNP), said that Djukanovic

    and his government should resign following the indictment of

    Foreign Minister Branko Perovic by an Italian court on

    smuggling charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December

    1999). Bulatovic added that Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir

    Bulatovic, who was Montenegrin president at the time of

    Perovic's alleged crimes, bears no responsibility in the case.

    The court in Naples indicted 26 people in addition to Perovic.

    The SNP frequently calls for new elections in Montenegro.

    The Djukanovic government, for its part, recognizes neither

    Momir Bulatovic as federal prime minister nor the authority of

    his Belgrade-based government. PM

    [16] CHINESE AID FOR SERBIA

    Speaking in Peking on 9

    December, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue

    confirmed media reports from Belgrade that China will supply

    reconstruction aid to Serbia. She added, however, that she

    cannot yet confirm media reports that the value of the gift

    will be $300 million, Reuters reported. In Belgrade, opposition

    economist Mladjan Dinkic said the Chinese aid could help the

    government manipulate the economy to its own political

    advantage, Montenegrin Television reported. He stressed,

    however, that the government is printing money so fast that

    the dinar will continue to decline in value against the German

    mark. PM

    [17] SERBIAN COURT FINES INDEPENDENT MEDIA

    A Belgrade

    court on 8 December fined the dailies "Danas" and "Blic" and

    the television station Studio B some $35,000 for reporting

    statements by opposition politicians critical of the nationalist

    Serbian Radical Party. The Radicals called the statements

    slanderous. Serbia's draconian 1998 media law holds media

    responsible for the content of stories they report, even if

    they are reporting statements by public figures. Elsewhere, a

    Belgrade court ruled that Bozidar Spasic, whom police

    recently arrested for "spreading false information," must stay

    in custody for at least another 30 days. Spasic is a former

    member of the security services, who charged that those

    services have sought to kill Serbian opposition figures

    abroad both now and in the past. PM

    [18] MACEDONIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ADMIT DEFEAT

    Opposition Social Democratic presidential candidate Tito

    Petkovski said in Skopje on 8 December that he concedes

    the recent election to Boris Trajkovski, who is close to the

    governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December

    1999). Petkovski nonetheless added that "the conditions of

    chaos and terror in western Macedonia, where violence took

    over instead of democracy, have compelled me to make this

    decision," AP reported. Western Macedonia is inhabited

    primarily by ethnic Albanians, who voted overwhelmingly for

    Trajkovski. PM

    [19] CROATIAN MINISTER: SOMEONE WILL PAY FOR BUGGING

    Interior Minister Ivan Penic said that whoever is responsible

    for bugging the office of parliamentary speaker Vlatko

    Pavletic "will have to go to jail," "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported

    on 9 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1999).

    Pavletic is also carrying out the duties of ailing President

    Franjo Tudjman. Observers suggest that the bugging, which

    has deeply angered Pavletic, is connected with a power

    struggle within the governing Croatian Democratic Community

    over the succession to Tudjman. Also on 9 December,

    "Vecernji list" reported that Tudjman's heart has failed and

    that doctors are keeping him alive only with great difficulty.

    PM

    [20] BOSNIAN SERB POLICE FOR UN PEACEKEEPING ABROAD

    The UN's Jacques Klein and Republika Srpska Prime Minister

    Milorad Dodik agreed in Banja Luka on 8 December that 11

    Bosnian Serb police will soon take part in UN peacekeeping

    operations in East Timor and Sierra Leone. Klein told

    reporters that the men will represent Bosnia-Herzegovina,

    not one of its two entities. Observers have long suggested

    that the UN might seek to use some of the large number of

    unemployed Bosnian young men with military training for

    peacekeeping in other parts of the world. PM

    [21] ROMANIAN RAILWAY STRIKE CONTINUES

    Romania's railway

    strike on 8 December entered its third consecutive day as

    union representatives failed to come to an agreement with

    railway management, Rompres reported. Prime Minister Radu

    Vasile told union leaders on 8 December that he will

    intervene to resolve the dispute. At the same time, he noted

    that railway workers are required by law to ensure that one-

    third of normal railway service is maintained during the strike.

    The Transport Ministry warned that disciplinary measures will

    be taken against individual workers who violate the law

    during the strike. VG

    [22] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SEARCHES FOR NEW PREMIER

    Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi on 8 December said

    almost all the country's parliamentary parties have agreed to

    set up a "government of technocrats," BASA-Press reported.

    Lucinschi, who was speaking after meeting the leaders of the

    parliamentary parties, said he will soon call on a new prime

    minister-designate to form a government. In other news, the

    Molodaya Gvardia, a political group in the breakaway

    Transdniester region, announced that it strongly opposes an

    agreement signed by Russia at the recent OSCE summit to

    withdraw its troops from the region by 2002, AP reported.

    "The OSCE and the U.S. want to disarm us and then

    exterminate us," said a statement by the group published in

    "Moldavskie vedomosti." VG

    [23] LUCINSCHI CALLS FOR URGENT RESOLUTION TO

    GAZPROM DEBT

    Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi on 8

    December called for urgent measures to reduce the

    country's debts to the Russian supplier Gazprom, Infotag

    reported. Lucinschi was responding to a threat from Gazprom

    to reduce gas supplies if Moldova does not deal with its debt

    problem. Moldova owes Gazprom some $183.6 million. The

    acting Moldovan government announced after meeting with

    Lucinschi that gas deliveries to debtor consumers in the

    country will be cut to a minimum. VG

    [24] COUNCIL OF EUROPE ISSUES CRITICAL REPORT ON

    BULGARIA

    Two rapporteurs for the Council of Europe on 8

    December praised Bulgaria's progress in some areas but

    expressed concern over the amount of corruption in the

    country. British parliamentary member David Atkinson and

    Danish legislator Henning Gjellerod praised Bulgaria's

    introduction of alternative military service, its abolition of the

    death penalty, and the ratification of the Framework

    Convention on National Minorities. However, Atkinson

    expressed concern at the "widespread corruption"

    associated with privatization and licensing practices. He also

    noted "very real concerns" among the country's 800,000

    ethnic Turks about "the lack of rights concerning their

    language, their education, [and] their access to television.

    They feel insufficiently represented in police and public

    bodies." The rapporteurs also recommended that the

    country's libel laws should be "decriminalized," saying those

    found guilty of libel should be fined rather than imprisoned.

    VG

    [25] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET

    The Bulgarian

    National Assembly on 8 December passed the government's

    draft budget by a vote of 134 to 80 in its first reading,

    according to a Bulgarian Radio report cited by the BBC. In

    other news, Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev met

    with his visiting Polish counterpart, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, in

    Sofia on 8 December, BTA reported. Onyszkiewicz said his

    country will help Bulgaria in its preparations for NATO

    membership. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [26] AN OMINOUS ACCORD

    By Paul Goble

    A new "union treaty" signed on 8 December by Belarus

    and the Russian Federation threatens the prospects for

    democracy in both countries, stability across the post-Soviet

    region, and relations between Moscow and the West.

    The agreement, sought since 1996 by Belarusian leader

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin,

    allows each country to retain its sovereignty. But it calls for

    the establishment of a confederal government consisting of a

    supranational Supreme State Council and having a common

    currency, tax, and customs and border procedures.

    While the two sides continue to disagree on the scope

    and speed of integration, there appears in both Minsk and

    Moscow to be more willingness now than at any time in the

    past to pursue the new union treaty. And that in turn

    suggests the new union could take on a life of its own even if

    not all its provisions are implemented.

    On the one hand, both Belarusians and Russians are

    likely to continue to struggle over the possibility of any

    integration of their two countries, a fight that is increasingly

    likely to define politics in these two countries. And on the

    other, leaders in other post-Soviet states as well as in the

    West seem certain to have to deal with the implications of

    this first step toward the tighter reintegration of some or all

    of the 12 former Soviet republics.

    Regardless of how that debate develops over the

    coming months, three things are already evident. First, this

    union accord in itself undermines the prospects for

    democracy in both Belarus and the Russian Federation. Not

    only is Yeltsin likely to use it to keep himself in office beyond

    the year 2000, but the increasing authoritarianism of Belarus

    seems certain to spread eastward, a development that

    concerns at least some Russians.

    Stanislau Shushkevich, the former chairman of the

    Belarusian parliament, said recently that Russia is the "main

    guilty party" for the difficulties facing Belarus at present.

    Shushkevich says Russia's "imperial way of thinking" has

    united practically all political parties. And he says its drive for

    integration with Belarus has enabled Belarusian authorities to

    "fool the voters."

    Even more, the drive for reintegration has prompted

    Moscow to defend Lukashenka's authoritarian actions. For

    example, Russia's human rights commissioner, Oleg Mironov,

    visited Minsk recently to contest Western findings of massive

    violations of human and civil rights in that country.

    Mironov said his visit was intended to "dispel the myth"

    that Belarus violates human rights. He failed to acknowledge

    the Lukashenka regime's use of force to disperse anti-regime

    demonstrations, the disappearance of several leading

    opposition figures, and the regime's denouncement of

    Western institutions for criticizing what Minsk is doing.

    As it defends Belarusian behavior against the West,

    Moscow will find it ever easier to sanction such behavior at

    home, particularly in the context of its own massive violation

    of human rights in the Chechen war and the Western criticism

    it has received for such violations.

    Second, the new union treaty in itself destabilizes the

    post-Soviet region. This pact is openly revisionist in its

    treatment of the disintegration of the USSR in 1991,

    suggesting, as both Lukashenka and some Russian leaders

    have argued, that other former Soviet republics should join

    either a Slavic Union or something even broader.

    Some leaders may be attracted to this idea, others may

    be repelled, but all are certain to adjust their policies in

    response to this new treaty. That is especially true if

    Western governments take the position that this accord

    could be ratified "democratically." Up to now, Western

    countries have said that is a requirement, but they have not

    made clear how such a poll could take place under

    Lukashenka's rule.

    But there is another way in which this accord might

    destabilize the region. Several Russian analysts have already

    suggested that some regions within Russia--including

    Tatarstan--might ask to join the new union in order to get out

    from under Moscow's tutelage and boost their own status.

    Such a move could further threaten the integrity of the

    Russian Federation itself and would certainly elicit a sharp

    response from Moscow.

    And third, not only the ways in which this accord will

    reduce the prospects for democracy in both Belarus and the

    Russian Federation but also the likelihood that it will

    exacerbate tensions across the former Soviet space will

    almost certainly contribute to increasing tensions between

    Moscow and the West--tensions that as a result of Moscow's

    campaign in Chechnya already are higher than at any point

    since the collapse of the USSR.

    Consequently, this latest Lukashenka-Yeltsin agreement,

    even if it is never fully implemented, may mark a turning point

    in the history of the entire international system. That may be

    what the two signatories want, but it is certainly something

    that many others, including a large number of Belarusians and

    Russians, clearly fear.

    09-12-99


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


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