|Sunday, 26 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 38, 98-02-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 38, 25 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ZVIADISTS RELEASE ANOTHER UN HOSTAGESupporters of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who abducted four UN observers in western Georgia on 19 February have released a second hostage, Swedish Major Maarten Moelgaard. The abductors said Moelgaard's release, which took place late on 24 February, was a "gesture of good will." Earlier that day in Moscow, meeting a demand by the kidnappers, Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze held talks with Nemo Burchuladze, who was deputy parliamentary speaker under Gamsakhurdia in 1990- 1991. Burchuladze stressed he has no links with the hostage-takers but agreed to their demand that he travel to Tbilisi on 25 February to continue talks on the remaining hostages' release under the aegis of the UN. Burchuladze said the abductors now demand a "halt to repression" in Georgia and international condemnation of Gamsakhurdia's violent ouster by two Georgian warlords in January 1992, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS GEORGIAN ALLEGATIONSForeign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 24 February said that recent statements by various Georgian officials claiming unnamed Russian circles were behind the failed 9 February attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze are "unacceptable" and "not conducive" to improving bilateral understanding. The previous day, Tarasov summoned Georgian ambassador Lortkipanidze to inform him that "excessively emotional statements by the Georgian side" are unhelpful. Addressing a congress of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia on 22 February, Shevardnadze implied there had been Russian participation in the attempt on his life, but he ruled out the involvement of President Yeltsin. Two days later, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's planned visit to Georgia on 27-28 February has been postponed, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 JAPAN TO PARTICIPATE IN ANOTHER CASPIAN OIL CONSORTIUMOn the first day of his official visit to Japan, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev met with representatives of the Mitsui Corporation, AFP and Turan reported on 24 February. An agreement was reached whereby Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR will cede to Mitsui a 15 percent share in the consortium that was set up last fall to exploit the Kyurdashi Caspian oil field. Under the original agreement, SOCAR and Italy's Agip originally each had a 50 percent stake in the consortium; later, SOCAR ceded 25 percent to Agip. Kyurdashi has estimated oil reserves totaling 350 million barrels. Japan's Itochu has shares in two other Azerbaijani Caspian oil consortia. LF
 IRANIAN 'SPIES' DETAINED IN KAZAKHSTANKazakh security services have detained three Iranian nationals and one Kazakh citizen, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 25 February. The Kazakh citizen was allegedly passing "secret information" to the Iranians when they were apprehended by the security agents. Kazakhstan's security service "had identified the Iranian spies long ago," according to Interfax. ITAR- TASS, meanwhile, reported that the Kazakh citizen had been passing information on political, economic, and social issues as well as "data on some people in power." BP
 TAJIK FIELD COMMANDER SEIZES HUMANITARIAN AIDThe Tajik Interior Ministry on 24 February confirmed that, three days earlier, a group loyal to field commander Mullo Abdullo hijacked two trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Dushanbe to Komsomolabad, Interfax reported. The group took control over a check point in an area some 90 kilometers east of Dushanbe, stopped the trucks, beat the police escort, took the policemen hostage and drove off in the trucks. They later released seven of the 10 policemen. They also returned one of the trucks after unloading its cargo. A unit of 40 troops from the Interior Ministry was sent to the area on 22 February. BP
 KYRGYZ, KAZAKH MUFTIS CALL FOR BAN ON "NEW ISLAMIC SECTS"Absatar Agy and Raatbek Agi have called on the presidents of the five Central Asian states to issue a ban on the activities of "new Islamic sects, " including Wahhabism, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two religious leaders convened an international conference in the Kyrgyz capital on 21 February entitled "Integration of the Central Asian Muslim Community." Participants debated restoring cooperation between Muslim religious communities in the CIS strengthening "inter-ethnic stability," and combatting "religious extremism." Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov, parliamentary speaker Andygany Erkebaev, and Pakistani ambassador Nazar Abbas attended the conference, together with religious leaders from the five Central Asian states, Russia, and Azerbaijan, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LF
 KYRGYZSTAN'S BID FOR WTO MEMBERSHIP STALLEDKyrgyzstan's membership in the CIS Customs Union is the main obstacle to that country joining the World Trade Organization, an unnamed Kyrgyz government official told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 23 February. President Akaev met with WTO officials at the Davos Economic Forum in January to discuss his country's bid for membership of that organization. He failed, however, to receive assurances that Kyrgyzstan would be invited to join. LF
 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA IMPROVINGOn the eve of his trip to Moscow, Leonid Kuchma said in an interview published by "Izvestiya" on 24 February that relations between Kyiv and Moscow have greatly improved but are only at "B-minus" level. Kuchma said that he recently would have rated relations as a "C" but now the "toughest knots" in bilateral relations have been "unraveled." He compared Russia and Ukraine to a divorced couple that "only remember problems." Kuchma complained of low Russian investment in Ukraine, saying that its total was equal to investment from Cyprus. Acknowledging the economic and social problems in his country, Kuchma said he hoped a more reform-minded parliament would be elected when legislative elections are held on 29 March. Kuchma meets with President Yeltsin in Moscow on 26 February. PB
 IS KUCHMA GETTING COLD FEET OVER GUAM?Asked by "Izvestiya" to elucidate his reservations over the CIS, Kuchma said Ukraine has not succeeded in resolving any of its major problems within the framework of the CIS, whose members, he added, have concluded numerous agreements that remain on paper. For that reason, Kuchma said, Ukraine considers bilateral ties more productive. He nonetheless said Kyiv believes the CIS should be preserved but "we are against groups of two or four inside the Commonwealth." It is unclear whether Kuchma was referring to the Russia-Belarus union, the CIS Customs Union between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, or the Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan- Moldova alignment that emerged last fall. LF
 RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN KYIVYakov Urinson and several prominent Russian businessmen held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko on 24 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Among those joining Urinson were Vladimir Gusinksii of the Media- Most conglomerate and Mikhail Khodorkovskii, head of the oil giant Yuksi. Urinson said he would discuss economic topics and issues related to President Kuchma's upcoming visit to Moscow. Pustovoytenko said before a gathering of Russian and Ukrainian businessmen that an economic agreement expected to be signed by the countries' presidents in Moscow would double trade between the two countries over the next several years. He also called on Russian companies to take part in the construction of additional nuclear reactors in Ukraine. PB
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR KOSOVO AUTONOMYMontenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told state television on 24 February that Kosovo must receive a "certain degree of autonomy." He added that the province also needs its own economic development program to give people the opportunity to build a better life, BETA quoted him as saying. Djukanovic also called for a Serbian-Albanian dialogue because "without a dialogue in Kosovo, Yugoslavia cannot return to membership in the international community." The Montenegrin president noted that Kosovo has long been under an especially repressive police regime but added that the state cannot politically or economically afford to maintain such a control structure in the long run. He called on the Belgrade authorities to prepare a comprehensive program dealing first and foremost with Kosovo and aimed at returning Yugoslavia to the international community. Those remarks may constitute Djukanovic's most direct challenge yet to the policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
 WESTENDORP APPEALS TO TUDJMANCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Zagreb on 24 February that President Franjo Tudjman and Foreign Minister Mate Granic have agreed to help secure the removal of Pero Raguz, the mayor of the Herzegovinian town of Stolac. Representatives of the international community hold Raguz partly responsible for a series of recent physical attacks on Muslim refugees attempting to return to Stolac (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 24 February 1998). According to Granic, however, Tudjman also told Westendorp that the main problem in Bosnia is the "legacy of history" and not the behavior of individuals. The Croatian president also urged Westendorp to address his complaints "primarily" to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves and not to Zagreb. PM
 THIRD BOSNIAN SERB TO HAGUESimo Zaric, one of six Bosnian Serbs from Bosanski Samac who is wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, turned himself in to the court's representatives on 24 February and was sent immediately to The Netherlands. Two other of the six men gave themselves up 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has been active behind the scenes in recent weeks to persuade indicted Bosnian Serbs to surrender to the court voluntarily. PM
 MORE AID MONEY FOR BOSNIAN SERBSWestendorp and Dodik signed an agreement in Banja Luka on 24 February on the allocation of $8.5 million in EU aid money to the Republika Srpska. The money will be used to pay the salaries of teachers, police, and customs officials as well as pensions. PM
 FAMILIAR FACES HEAD BOSNIAN SERB POLICERepublika Srpska Interior Minister Milovan Stankovic named well-known policemen from both reformist and hard-liner camps to senior positions on 24 February. The appointees include Ljubisa Savic-- better known as "Mauser" and as the wartime paramilitary leader in Bijeljina--and Slavko Paleksic, who served as police chief in the last government loyal to Radovan Karadzic. Stankovic was an officer during the recent war and was praised by Croats and Muslims for his humane treatment of prisoners. At the end of the war, he founded an independent newspaper that was sharply critical of the Karadzic faction. PM
 SARAJEVO CHANGES PROPERTY LAWThe mainly Muslim and Croatian federal government on 24 February approved and sent to the parliament a draft law that gives refugees six months to reclaim their homes, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The measure repeals a war-time law that confiscated the flats of people who fled their homes after April 1991. The international community has been urging the Muslim authorities to repeal that act to allow Serbs and Croats to return to Sarajevo. PM
 REFUGEE AGREEMENT FOR MOSTARMuslim Mostar Mayor Safet Orucevic, his Croat deputy Ivan Prskalo, and Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the joint presidency, agreed in Sarajevo on 24 February on a program to enable Mostar refugees to go home "immediately," Orucevic told Reuters. He provided no details. West Mostar is currently mainly Croatian, and east Mostar is almost entirely Muslim. In Mostar itself, federal police closed off the main street dividing the two halves of the town in the wake of a series of violent incidents. Martin Garrod, Westendorp's deputy in Mostar, called on Croatian and Muslim leaders to put an end to the violence. Orucevic urged SFOR to start regular patrols along the main street. PM
 CROATIAN SERBS THREATEN TO QUIT JOINT BODIESMilorad Pupovac, Vojislav Stanimirovic and Milos Vojnovic, who are leaders of Croatia's Serbian minority, said in statement in Zagreb on 24 February that they will leave joint bodies aimed at promoting the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia unless Serbs stop fleeing the region and unless incidents that the Serbs regard as provocative cease. PM
 BELGRADE, PODGORICA DENY ROLE IN ALBANIAN UNRESTThe Yugoslav Foreign Ministry issued a statement in Belgrade on 24 February denying claims by Albanian Interior Minister Neritan Ceka two days earlier that Yugoslav secret service agents played a role in the recent unrest in Shkoder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 February 1998). The Belgrade statement noted that "Yugoslavia strongly rejects these false and spiteful allegations aimed at diverting attention from the real causes of Albania's internal problems." Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 25 February that Ceta's allegations are "baseless." In Tirana, Albanian National Police Chief Sokol Bare said he has no evidence of any Montenegrin involvement in the unrest, "Shekulli" reported. PM/FS
 POLICE SACKINGS AFTER SHKODER UNREST...National deputy police chief Ilir Cano said in Tirana on 24 February that more than 150 policemen in Shkoder will be fired as a result of the unrest in the northern city, "Koha Jone" reported. He said that about one-third of the city's policemen did not return to work on 23 February, after special forces retook control of the city from an armed gang. He added that the policemen's behavior constituted desertion. Meanwhile, a special team appointed by Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi has opened investigations into the unrest, "Republika" reported on 25 February. The daily quotes unnamed sources within the prosecutor's office as saying the investigations focus on the role of organized crime in the disturbances but will also examine the possibility that political rivalries played a part. FS
 ...WHILE CRIMINALS TRY TO FLEE WITH LOOTThe Albanian and Italian coast guard have stopped a speedboat with 10 escaped criminals trying to flee Shkoder, "Shekulli" reported on 25 February. The daily quotes Albanian police as saying the criminals were heavily armed and were in possession of some $350,000 believed stolen from a bank in Shkoder during the night of 22-23 February. A total of 22 people have been arrested in connection with the riots. A spokesman for the Prefecture of Shkoder said that the material damage from the unrest amounts to $1 million, "Koha Jone" reported on 25 February. FS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER OFFERS ALTERNATIVESPrime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 24 February said that either the ruling coalition accepts his repeated offer to resign or the Democratic Party stops its continued attacks on him. Ciorbea was speaking before a meeting of the coalition's Political Council, at which party leaders discussed the ongoing negotiations with the IMF over the 1998 budget. While the Democrats pledged to back the budget in the parliament, they are still insisting that a new premier be appointed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 25 February, Ciorbea met with IMF chief negotiator Poul Thompsen, saying later the positions of the two sides are drawing closer. He noted that the budget will provide for a deficit of 3.6 percent of GDP. The fund still considers the government's projection of privatization revenues to be overly optimistic. MS
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CRITICIZES PRESIDENTAdrian Nastase, the deputy chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said on 24 February that President Emil Constantinescu has met with PDSR members of the parliament's economic commissions on the 1998 budget without informing the PDSR leadership of his intention to do so. Nastase said this is a "flagrant infringement of the principle of division of powers" between the executive and the legislative and an "attempt to side-step the process of the rule of the law." MS
 ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST GOVERNMENTThe Supreme Court on 24 February ruled that amending the education law and the law on public administration by government regulation is unconstitutional, Romanian radio reported. The ruling followed an appeal by the Party of Romanian National Unity, which pointed out that both laws are so-called "organic laws" and therefore cannot be changed by government regulation. That category of legislation requires the approval of an absolute majority of all deputies and senators in order to be passed or changed. The court ruling may trigger a new government crisis, since the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania has made its participation in the coalition conditional on amending the education and public administration laws. MS
 ITALIAN PREMIER IN BULGARIARomano Prodi on 24 February met with President Petar Stoyanov, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, and other Bulgarian officials. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia, Rome is interested in participating in the construction of a trans-Balkan highway linking the Black Sea port of Burgas with Albania's Adriatic port of Durres. It would also like to take part in building an oil pipeline between Burgas and the Albanian port of Vlora. MS
 BULGARIAN PATRIARCH REFUSES TO STEP DOWNPatriarch Maxim on 24 February told President Petar Stoyanov that he will not step down "for the good of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church" and that the president must stop interfering in the internal affairs of the Church, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Stoyanov has called on both Maxim, who was appointed patriarch by the communist regime, and his rival, Patriarch Pymen, who set up another synod in 1991, to resign in order to bring about an end to the split in the Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998). MS
[C] END NOTE
 ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER COMPLAINS OF DISCRIMINATION IN MACEDONIAby Anthony Georgieff
Arber Xhaferi, the leader of the Albanian Democratic Party (PDSA), which has its stronghold in the Macedonian region of Tetovo, says that ethnic Albanians are bracing for trouble in the former Yugoslav republic.
According to official estimates, between 400,000 and 500,000 ethnic Albanians live in Macedonia. But Xhaferi says they number at least 800 000, although virtually all decided not to participate in the only census to have taken place in the country since independence. In the western regions of Tetovo and Gostivar, ethnic Albanians make up the majority.
Xhaferi, an independent deputy in Macedonia's parliament who founded the PDSA eight months ago, .recently told RFE/RL that his party is demanding the formal recognition of the right to use the Albanian language in schools and in dealings with official bodies. Xhaferi said that ethnic Albanians will not settle for a minority status because they constitute up to 80 percent of the local population in areas such as Tetovo and Gostivar. Instead, he says, they would like to be considered a constituent nation in Macedonia or a "people of the state" coequal to Macedonians.
The Macedonian Constitution of 1991 describes the state as "Macedonian" and gives "minority status" to some ethnic groups. The Albanian language is not banned in Macedonia and is even taught in some primary schools. But the authorities request all official documents to be in Macedonian. Moreover, the public hoisting of the Albanian flag is banned, except at sports and cultural events.
"Skopje uses the so-called international factor in order not to give us what we want," Xhaferi said. He was alluding to the widespread belief among ethnic Macedonians, including moderate President Kiro Gligorov, that the Albanians' real goal is union with Albania.
"There is a lot of confusion. The majority [of Macedonian citizens] want to be Slavs and call themselves Macedonian but that is not acceptable to either Greece, Bulgaria, or Serbia, with which the former Yugoslav republic has no final border. This makes for a potentially lethal cocktail, " according to Xhaferi.
Xhaferi said his party will accept Macedonia's borders if the Skopje government recognizes what he calls the "political realities," namely, that one-third of the country's total population is ethnic Albanian. "Macedonia is a multi- ethnic state, like Bosnia, but the Slavic politicians will not admit this," he noted.
"We must have an agreement with the ethnic Macedonian community to define our rights and obligations," Xhaferi said.. "We must re-write the constitution, and we must ensure that all citizens are loyal to the state."
Xhaferi complained that the current constitution defines Macedonia as a Slavic state. "They ask us to be loyal to a state that does not protect us, " he commented. "But this is a vicious circle, as they want dialogue within a system that is governed by a law that we object to."
Xhaferi cited various international documents and agreements concluded during and/or after the Yugoslav wars that secure the protection of ethnic communities living outside their "mother states." But he argued that the government in Skopje refuses to implement those accords.
. The Macedonian authorities have refused to register Xhaferi's PDSA on the grounds that its basic principles are unconstitutional. "We want the law changed but how can we change it peacefully if we are not allowed to form a political party?" Xhaferi asked. Currently, seven parliamentary deputies belong to the party but because the PDSA is not registered, they present themselves as independents. Xhaferi says that 11 local mayors also belong to the party and the organization has a considerable following among ethnic Albanians.
Xhaferi confirmed he has close connections with Kosovo, with Albania proper, and with the Albanian diaspora.
"Everyone [ in the international community] says it's better to have bad peace than a good war. They tell us we must be calm and patient. But we are losing ground step by step because this is a repressive system that uses the police and the military against us. We live under occupation," Xhaferi said, referring to the bloody riots in Gostivar last summer. During that unrest, ethnic Albanians clashed with police while protesting a new law on the display of minorities' flags and other national symbols.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent who specializes in Balkan affairs.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty