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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 244, 99-12-17

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. 244, 17 December 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA, WORLD BANK CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON FINAL 1999 TRANCHE
  • [02] KARABAKH ARMY COMMANDER FIRED
  • [03] MORE CRITICISM EXPRESSED OF AZERBAIJAN'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
  • [04] GEORGIA COMPLAINS TO UN OVER RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION...
  • [05] ...OFFERS TO HOST OSCE CHECHEN TALKS
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN FEARS EXCLUSION FROM BAKU-CEYHAN PROJECT
  • [07] TWO FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIERS IMPLICATED IN CORRUPTION CASE

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] SERBIAN COMMANDER REBUKES MONTENEGRO
  • [09] THACI SAYS SERBS HAVE PLACE IN POWER-SHARING
  • [10] KOSOVAR LAWYER RELEASED AFTER RANSOM PAID
  • [11] KFOR STEPS UP PATROLS
  • [12] EU OIL REACHES SERBIAN CITIES
  • [13] HAGUE INVESTIGATORS INTERVIEW SREBRENICA SUSPECTS
  • [14] WINTER WEATHER CAUSES HAVOC IN BOSNIA
  • [15] HATS IN THE RING IN CROATIA
  • [16] CROATIAN NEWS DISTRIBUTION WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE
  • [17] ISARESCU OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED ROMANIA'S PREMIER...
  • [18] ... AND NEW CABINET TO BE RESTRUCTURED
  • [19] CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS OVER IN ROMANIA?
  • [20] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE ON GOVERNMENT LINE-UP
  • [21] BULGARIAN SCHOOLS TO OFFER CLASSES ON ISLAM

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [22] RUSSIA GOES TO THE POLLS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA, WORLD BANK CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON FINAL 1999 TRANCHE

    Senior World Bank official Judy O'Connor told journalists in

    Yerevan on 16 December after talks with government ministers

    the previous day that the final $25 million tranche of a $65

    million World Bank credit could be released within a couple

    of weeks provided that problems with the fulfillment of the

    1999 budget are resolved, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    That tranche is needed to cover the 1999 budget deficit. The

    delay in releasing it is believed to be due to the failure to

    meet the fourth-quarter target for revenue collection. LF

    [02] KARABAKH ARMY COMMANDER FIRED

    Arkadii Ghukasian, president

    of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, fired Samvel

    Babayan, commander of the Karabakh Defense Army, on 17

    December, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Two

    days earlier, a group of senior generals of the Defense Army

    of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic issued a

    statement accusing Ghukasian of exacerbating political

    tensions, and calling on both the president and Babayan to

    resign, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent

    reported. Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian,

    who traveled to Karabakh on 15 December, pledged support for

    Ghukasian the following day (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,"

    Vol. 2, No. 50, 17 December 1999). An unknown number of

    Karabakh parliamentary deputies and the heads of the

    enclave's administrative districts issued similar statements

    on 17 December, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

    [03] MORE CRITICISM EXPRESSED OF AZERBAIJAN'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

    The Sumgait branch of the opposition Musavat Party on 16

    December called for the results of the 12 December municipal

    elections in the city's constituencies to be annulled because

    of irregularities in the vote count, Turan reported. The same

    day, the party's newspaper, "Yeni Musavat," reported that

    more than 5,000 voters in one constituency in Yasamal Raion

    have asked President Heidar Aliev and Azerbaijan's

    Constitutional Court to investigate irregularities during the

    voting. "Hurriyet" on 16 December reported that a group of

    residents of Belakan Raion staged a demonstration to protest

    the abduction by members of the executive branch of the

    chairman of the local electoral commission. And in

    Washington, the National Democratic Institute characterized

    the poll as "quite poor," adding that turnout was lower than

    the 25 percent minimum required by the election law for the

    poll to be valid, Turan reported. LF

    [04] GEORGIA COMPLAINS TO UN OVER RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION...

    In a

    letter to the UN Security Council, Georgian Foreign Minister

    Irakli Menagharishvili expressed the Georgian government's

    concern over continuing claims in the Russian media that

    Georgia is abetting the Chechen resistance, Caucasus Press

    reported on 17 December. Menagharishvili said those

    allegations are directed at drawing Georgia into the

    conflict. He again affirmed that as a sovereign country,

    Georgia will not allow anyone to use its territory to launch

    aggression against a neighboring state. He added that

    monitoring by OSCE observers of the Georgian-Chechen border

    should preclude any further escalation of the situation. LF

    [05] ...OFFERS TO HOST OSCE CHECHEN TALKS

    Speaking at a news

    conference in Tbilisi on 16 December, Georgian presidential

    spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze said Tbilisi is ready to host a

    meeting between Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian

    Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and OSCE

    Chairman In Office Knut Vollebaek, Caucasus Press reported.

    Abashidze explained Georgia's interest in resolving the

    Chechen conflict in terms of expediting the repatriation of

    several thousand Chechen refugees. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN FEARS EXCLUSION FROM BAKU-CEYHAN PROJECT

    Kazakhstan's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Rashid Ibraev, told

    journalists in Baku on 16 December that Azerbaijan's state

    oil company SOCAR has ignored Kazakhstan's request to be

    acquainted with the content of framework agreements signed on

    the sidelines of the OSCE Istanbul summit that deal with the

    use of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian

    oil. Kazakhstan signed another document in Istanbul

    confirming its interest in exporting some crude via that

    pipeline. The Georgian government has already called for at

    least one of the framework documents to be amended (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1999). LF

    [07] TWO FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIERS IMPLICATED IN CORRUPTION CASE

    Following a two-day debate, the upper house of the Kyrgyz

    parliament voted on 16 December to ask the government to

    begin an investigation into the possible involvement of

    former Prime Ministers Apas Jumagulov and Kubanychbek

    Jumaliev in a major embezzlement case, RFE/RL's Bishkek

    bureau reported. The case in question is that of Shalkar

    Jaisanbaev, former head of the state company

    Kyrgyzgasmunaizat, who fled Kyrgyzstan in December 1998 after

    embezzling some 4.8 billion soms (then worth approximately

    $200 million). Jumagulov served as premier from December 1993

    until March 1998 and is currently Kyrgyz ambassador to

    Germany, while Jumaliev, who was premier from March to

    December 1998, is governor of Jalal-Abad Oblast. Former

    Finance Ministers Marat Sultanov and Taalai Koichumanov are

    also suspected of involvement in the case. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] SERBIAN COMMANDER REBUKES MONTENEGRO

    General Dragoljub

    Ojdanic, who heads the Yugoslav army general staff and is an

    indicted war criminal, said in an open letter to Montenegrin

    Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic on 16 December that the

    military will do whatever is necessary to defend the country

    and its territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1999).

    He urged Vujanovic to order the Montenegrin police "to return

    to their normal activities" ahead of a possible joint

    inspection by the federal and Montenegrin authorities of "the

    situation in the field" at Podgorica airport, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. In Belgrade, Serbian Deputy Prime

    Minister Vojislav Seselj accused Montenegrin President Milo

    Djukanovic of trying to provoke a "civil war" through what

    Seselj called "separatist activities." PM

    [09] THACI SAYS SERBS HAVE PLACE IN POWER-SHARING

    Hashim Thaci,

    who headed the former Kosova Liberation Army and is now a

    member of the UN's new power-sharing council, said in

    Sarajevo that Serbs and other minorities have their place in

    Kosova's new political structure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15

    December 1999). He urged Serbian leaders to end their boycott

    of the body. In Belgrade, a spokesman for Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party said that UN's Bernard

    Kouchner should be replaced because his council constitutes

    "collaboration with Albanian terrorists." PM

    [10] KOSOVAR LAWYER RELEASED AFTER RANSOM PAID

    Unidentified

    kidnappers freed Kosovar human rights lawyer Teki Bokshi on

    16 December after his family paid a ransom (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 6 December 1999). It is unknown how much money

    changed hands, but the kidnappers had sought $60,000, AP

    reported. Leading Serbian human rights activist Natasa Kandic

    said the kidnappers could have been former policemen who are

    no longer in service. She said the official police had

    nothing to do with Bokshi's disappearance. Jiri Dienstbier,

    who is the UN's special rapporteur for human rights in the

    former Yugoslavia, wants an explanation from the authorities

    about Bokshi's disappearance. PM

    [11] KFOR STEPS UP PATROLS

    British peacekeepers in Prishtina

    "stepped up" patrols in that city on 16 December with the aim

    of protecting teenagers of either sex from being abducted by

    prostitution rings. The criminals then take the young people

    to Germany or Italy. A KFOR spokesman told Reuters that the

    abductions are currently "the biggest problem we have." The

    "Frankfurter Rundschau" wrote that "gangsters and mobsters

    run the province under the UN's nose." PM

    [12] EU OIL REACHES SERBIAN CITIES

    Four trucks carrying heating

    oil supplied by the EU reached the opposition-run towns of

    Nis and Pirot on 16 December (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 15

    December 1999). An EU spokesman told Reuters that "everything

    went smoothly." PM

    [13] HAGUE INVESTIGATORS INTERVIEW SREBRENICA SUSPECTS

    An unnamed

    Bosnian Serb government spokesman confirmed in Banja Luka on

    16 December that a team of experts from the Hague-based war

    crimes tribunal is in the Bosnian Serb capital (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 16 December 1999). The spokesman told Reuters that

    "the tribunal's investigators held talks in Banja Luka with

    two Bosnian Serb army officers suspected of having been

    involved in Srebrenica." Serbian forces are believed to have

    killed at least 6,000 mainly Muslim males from Srebrenica

    after taking that Bosnian town in 1995. It is believed to be

    the largest single massacre in Europe since World War II. PM

    [14] WINTER WEATHER CAUSES HAVOC IN BOSNIA

    Heavy snowfalls

    continue to cover large areas of Bosnia, forcing school and

    airport closings, blocking roads, and knocking down power

    lines. The authorities in the mainly Muslim and Croat

    federation may call a state of emergency later in the day, AP

    reported from Sarajevo on 17 December. In Herzegovina, heavy

    rains caused the Neretva River to flood its banks, and

    several pedestrian foot-bridges near the former Ottoman stone

    bridge were washed away. Some 400 persons were evacuated to

    nearby Medjugorje. PM

    [15] HATS IN THE RING IN CROATIA

    Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa

    said in Rijeka on 16 December that he wants presidential

    elections to take place on 23 January, "Jutarnji list"

    reported. Foreign Minister Mate Granic of the governing

    Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) told "Vecernji list" that

    he is willing to run for the presidency, (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 15 December 1999). He added that he believes that

    the intelligence services should be accountable to the

    parliament and not to the president. Public opinion polls

    suggest that Granic is the only possible HDZ candidate who

    could easily defeat any challenger from the opposition.

    Elsewhere, Jadranko Crnic, who is a former president of the

    Constitutional Court, said he is willing to stand for the

    presidency if all six opposition parties agree to back him,

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [16] CROATIAN NEWS DISTRIBUTION WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE

    Some

    2,800 employees of the state-run Tisak company staged a two-

    hour warning strike on 16 December to demand that the

    government bail out the debt-ridden firm. Tisak is the

    country's major distributor of newspapers and magazines. PM

    [17] ISARESCU OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED ROMANIA'S PREMIER...

    In a

    televised speech on 16 December, President Emil

    Constantinescu announced he has officially designated

    National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu as Romania's next

    premier. Constantinescu said he is doing so "in response to

    the wish of many citizens" and because Romania needs "a

    good negotiator" and an economic expert to achieve EU

    accession. That task, he said, would be best undertaken by

    a premier who has no party affiliation, particularly in

    electoral year 2000. He said Isarescu will present his team

    to parliamentary commissions beginning on 20 December and

    expressed the hope that parliament will vote confidence in

    it later next week. MS

    [18] ... AND NEW CABINET TO BE RESTRUCTURED

    Constantinescu said

    the government will have an Economic Council to coordinate

    the activities all economic ministries and a new Ministry

    of Public Administration will be set up to coordinate

    legislation in this sphere and "overcome bureaucracy."

    Constantinescu also announced the Department for European

    Integration will be abolished and its functions transferred

    to the Foreign Ministry to ensure that Romania "speaks in

    one voice." MS

    [19] CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS OVER IN ROMANIA?

    The parliamentary

    groups of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic

    (PNTCD) on 16 December decided to "partly lift" the

    punishment handed down two days earlier on outgoing Premier

    Radu Vasile. While it was not explained what is meant by

    "partly," National Peasant Party Christian Democratic

    Chairman Ion Diaconescu said Vasile could resume his party

    functions "if he so wishes." According to as yet

    unconfirmed reports, Senate Chairman Petre Roman has

    mediated an agreement whereby Vasile would return to his

    position as PNTCD secretary-general in return for resigning

    as premier, thereby resolving the country's constitutional

    crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Vasile opponent

    and PNTCD Deputy Chairman Nicolae Ionescu-Galbeni

    indirectly confirmed that deal when he said he has resigned

    to protest "the triumph of hooligans." MS

    [20] MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE ON GOVERNMENT LINE-UP

    Dumitru

    Braghis told journalists on 16 December that in order to

    prevent the legislature interfering in the process of

    forming the government and later in the cabinet's

    activities, he will not appoint parliamentary deputies as

    ministers. He said the cabinet will consist of "competent

    people, selected on the basis of professionalism," Infotag

    reported. He also said he will not change the program of

    Ion Sturza's outgoing cabinet, in whose drafting he has

    participated. Bragis said his cabinet will continue to

    implement reform and pursue integration into European

    structures. MS

    [21] BULGARIAN SCHOOLS TO OFFER CLASSES ON ISLAM

    The Education

    Ministry on 16 December announced that Bulgarian schools will

    begin offering classes on Islam next year in areas where

    there is a strong Muslim minority, AFP reported. Since 1997,

    classes on the Bible have been available to pupils whose

    parents wish them to have such instruction. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [22] RUSSIA GOES TO THE POLLS

    By Donald Jensen

    When Russians vote for a new State Duma on 19

    December, the fate of various parties and movements will

    be less important than whether the process can begin to

    change the rules by which Russian politics is played.

    During the campaign, there has been little

    discussion of the serious issues facing the country.

    Instead, the central drama has been the competition

    between two elite coalitions of politicians, oligarchs,

    and regional leaders. One of those coalitions, Unity

    (Edinstvo), has the backing of the Kremlin. The other,

    Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), is led by former Prime

    Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii

    Luzhkov. At stake are vast financial resources,

    political power, and, ultimately, the Russian presidency

    when Boris Yeltsin's term expires next year.

    That elections in Russia are now routine is a

    healthy sign. Unfortunately, the campaign has witnessed

    the same unsavory characteristics that marred earlier

    electoral contests and, indeed, Russian politics as a

    whole for much of the Yeltsin era.

    Among those characteristics is the criminalization

    of the political process. A large number of candidates

    who allegedly have committed illegal acts or have ties

    to organized crime are seeking election. Victory will

    ensure their immunity from prosecution. In addition, the

    federal law governing election finances requires

    candidates for the Duma to report their annual income,

    its sources, and the total value of their possessions.

    In fact, many wealthy candidates vastly understated

    their income, without fear of punishment. Even when the

    government has tried to enforce election laws, it has

    done so inconsistently, disqualifying some candidates on

    technicalities while allowing other apparent violators

    to remain on the ballot.

    Another characteristic is the weakness of political

    parties. Most parties sponsoring candidates are little

    more than clubs clustered around leading politicians,

    with little large-scale organization. Only the Communist

    Party, which has several hundred thousand members, most

    of whom are pensioners, has strong grass-roots support.

    And then there is the heavy politicization of the

    media. The print and electronic media have largely

    reflected the political views of the coalitions who

    control them. Muck-raking by the Kremlin-controlled

    Russian Public Television (ORT) network and the pro-OVR

    station NTV has done little to enlighten the voters,

    although attacks by ORT anchor Sergei Dorenko on the

    Moscow mayor have almost single-handedly caused a

    significant drop in support for Primakov and Luzhkov's

    movement in recent weeks.

    Despite all this, there are signs that the election

    may mark a turning point in Russian politics. More than

    at any time in the past decade, voters and their leaders

    support a uniquely Russian path of development. Other

    than a rejection of the extreme right or left and

    agreement on the need for a strong leader, however,

    there is little consensus on what that course might be.

    Although the Communist Party is by far the largest

    party and likely to have the biggest representation in

    the new Duma, it has been unable to expand its core

    constituency significantly since the last national

    election. In an effort to court voters, the party has

    finally accepted some aspects of reform, such as

    privatization and democratization. However, its leader,

    Gennadii Zyuganov, has limited appeal and little hope of

    succeeding Yeltsin. Indeed, the Kremlin has targeted

    Primakov and Luzhkov, not Zyuganov, as the real threat

    to Russia's future.

    The shift in public opinion toward the center has

    also resulted in declining support for parties

    advocating Western political and economic models. Boris

    Nemtsov's Union of Right Forces may not receive the 5

    percent of the vote its needs to gain entry to the

    parliament. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko--the party

    voicing the most reservations about the war in Chechnya-

    -will have trouble making gains.

    More than ever before, regional governors, without

    whose support no president can govern effectively, are

    critical to the outcome of the Duma contests. Governors

    form the backbone of both the OVR and Edinstvo

    coalitions and are expected to deliver the vote in their

    jurisdictions.

    Finally, the fact that Unity floundered in the

    polls until Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that

    he will vote for it demonstrates Putin's increasingly

    independent political base. In the past, Yeltsin has

    been unwilling to cohabit with politicians he cannot

    control. For now, at least, he must do so, since popular

    support for Putin and the war in Chechnya is virtually

    all that unites the country.

    The 19 December vote will probably result in an

    anti-Yeltsin majority of the Communists, the OVR and

    independent deputies. When the Duma focuses on

    legislative work, it will likely be at least moderately

    hostile to the West. Moreover, a broad sense among the

    anti-Kremlin forces of the need to amend the

    constitution to reduce the powers of the president is

    likely to result in that issue being put high on the

    lower house's agenda.

    At the same time, the Duma sessions will be

    dominated by the question of who succeeds Yeltsin. The

    legislature may try to weaken Putin--who remains

    vulnerable to Yeltsin's jealousy and the negative impact

    of setbacks in the Chechnya war--by voting no confidence

    in the government. The Kremlin may be able to take

    advantage of the tensions between the Primakov and

    Luzhkov wings of the OVR; on the other hand, a

    reconciliation between Yeltsin and Primakov is not out

    of the question, either. And the appearance of an

    entirely new contender, such as Interior Minister

    Vladimir Rushailo, is also possible.

    Alas, a consensus that Yeltsin should leave the

    scene and Russia should find its own way does not mean

    there will be an imminent agreement on a viable approach

    to slowing the country's decline. Overwhelming support

    for bringing Chechnya to heel is no substitute for the

    unifying national idea for which many Russians have

    yearned since the collapse of Soviet rule.

    The author is associate director of broadcasting at

    RFE/RL.

    17-12-99


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


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