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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 58, 00-03-22

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. 58, 22 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] U.S., ARMENIA DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION
  • [02] KARABAKH PRESIDENT WOUNDED IN ASSASSINATION BID
  • [03] OSCE SECRETARY GENERAL VISITS GEORGIA
  • [04] GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL
  • [05] MORE REVELATIONS OF POLL FALSIFICATION IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [06] KYRGYZ JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT
  • [07] UN TO WITHDRAW MILITARY OBSERVERS FROM TAJIKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [08] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS KOSOVARS TO END HATRED
  • [09] PEACEKEEPERS EXTEND 'CONFIDENCE ZONE' IN KOSOVA DIVIDED CITY
  • [10] HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ACCUSES SERBS OF ORGANIZED RAPE
  • [11] MINISTER SAYS YUGOSLAV ARMY READY TO RETURN TO KOSOVA
  • [12] SERBIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS TO AGREE ON DATE FOR RALLY
  • [13] UN REFUGEE CHIEF ENCOURAGED BY BOSNIAN RETURNS
  • [14] OSCE MISSION HEAD IN BOSNIA TRIES TO LOCALIZE ELECTION FOCUS
  • [15] GERMANY, ALBANIA PLEDGE COOPERATION
  • [16] ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR CLARIFIES DISPUTE OVER 'HOT
  • [17] EU WELCOMES ROMANIAN ECONOMIC STRATEGY
  • [18] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR APPROVAL OF BUDGET
  • [19] BULGARIA INTRODUCES ISLAMIC CLASSES IN REGIONAL SCHOOLS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [20] DEMONIZING THE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] U.S., ARMENIA DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION

    Deputy Commander-

    in-Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe Admiral Charles Abbot met

    with President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Vagharshak

    Harutiunian, and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in Yerevan

    on 21 March to discuss regional security and the prospects

    for expanding bilateral military cooperation, Noyan Tapan and

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a statement released

    after those talks, Kocharian said "favorable conditions"

    exist for the creation of a regional security system. He

    expressed the hope that the present "low level" of military

    ties between Armenia and the U.S. will be improved. LF

    [02] KARABAKH PRESIDENT WOUNDED IN ASSASSINATION BID

    Arkadii

    Ghukasian received serious leg wounds when unidentified

    attackers opened fire on his car in Stepanakert during the

    night of 21-22 March, but his life is not in danger, Noyan

    Tapan and RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. His

    bodyguards and driver were also badly injured. Some 20

    people, including the unrecognized republic's former Defense

    Minister Samvel Babayan and his brother Karen, have been

    arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack. The

    enclave's government issued a statement characterizing the

    assassination attempt as intended to undermine Karabakh's

    statehood and the leadership's policy of political reform.

    Armenian President Kocharian on 22 March condemned the attack

    on Ghukasian, for whom he pledged his "absolute support,"

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

    [03] OSCE SECRETARY GENERAL VISITS GEORGIA

    Jan Kubis discussed

    the Abkhaz conflict, the situation on the Georgian-Chechen

    border, and cooperation between Georgia and the OSCE with

    Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and

    President Eduard Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 21 March,

    Caucasus Press reported. Also discussed was the role of the

    OSCE in mediating a political solution to the South Ossetian

    conflict. Kubis met with Georgian deputy parliamentary

    speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya, who represents the Georgian

    displaced persons from Abkhazia. Kolbaya criticized what he

    termed the ineffectiveness of the OSCE observer mission in

    Sukhum and proposed that it be relocated in Gali Raion, which

    is the scene of repeated killings and abductions. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL

    The National Center for Georgia's Freedom and Democracy, a

    loose alignment created two months ago by some 25 extra-

    parliamentary opposition parties, distributed leaflets in

    Tbilisi on 21 March calling on voters to boycott the 9 April

    presidential poll "in order to save Georgia from Eduard

    Shevardnadze's destructive anti-national regime," Caucasus

    Press reported. The previous day, opposition presidential

    candidate and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze

    told journalists in Batumi that Georgian media are

    deliberately exaggerating Shevardnadze's popularity rating,

    which is estimated at 80 percent, Interfax reported.

    Abashidze said that figure is closer to 10 percent. He hinted

    that he may withdraw his candidacy in favor of former

    Communist Party First Secretary Djumber Patiashvili. LF

    [05] MORE REVELATIONS OF POLL FALSIFICATION IN KYRGYZSTAN

    A

    second local election official in the town of Kara-Buura

    confirmed on 21 March a colleague's admission of how

    administrators pressured and bribed local election officials

    to ensure the defeat in the 12 March runoff election of Ar-

    Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000). Meanwhile some 2,000

    people continued to picket the local administration building

    in Kara-Buura for the 10th day. In Bishkek, some 200

    demonstrators were prevented from gathering on the city's

    central square and relocated their ongoing protest to outside

    the Ministry of Agriculture. LF

    [06] KYRGYZ JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT

    Roza Kachieva,

    founder of the semi-private Shade TV station, has been

    charged with embezzlement, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported

    on 21 March. Kachieva was detained in mid-January. She

    attributes her arrest to her stated intention to prepare a

    series of programs on opposition politicians. LF

    [07] UN TO WITHDRAW MILITARY OBSERVERS FROM TAJIKISTAN

    In a

    statement released on 21 March, the UN Security Council

    announced its decision to withdraw the UN observer mission

    from Tajikistan when its mandate expires on 15 May, AP

    reported. In a written report to the council the previous

    day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he is holding

    consultations with the Tajik government on opening a smaller

    UN office in Dushanbe "in the period of post-conflict peace-

    building and consolidation." Noting observers' criticisms

    that the parliamentary elections in Tajikistan in February

    and March failed to meet minimum standards of fairness, Annan

    nonetheless characterized the poll as "a significant

    achievement on the path to national reconciliation." LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [08] NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS KOSOVARS TO END HATRED

    Lord

    Robertson said on 21 March that the people of Kosova risk

    losing international support if they do not set aside their

    ethnic hatreds, Reuters reported. Robertson wrote in a report

    to NATO titled "Kosovo One Year On" that "hard-won success

    could drift away" if Western countries do not continue their

    commitment to building democracy in the Serbian province.

    Robertson called the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia a

    success. He said "Serb forces are out, KFOR is in, and the

    refugees are home." But he said ethnic Albanians must

    demonstrate "that they, too, are committed to a democratic

    and multiethnic Kosovo." Robertson's full report is available

    at: http://www.nato.int. Robertson also confirmed that U.S.

    jets used depleted uranium rounds during the air campaign

    last year when firing at Yugoslav armored vehicles. He said

    the rounds were non-critical byproducts of the uranium

    refining process. Some experts say uranium-tipped shells are

    harmful to the environment. PB

    [09] PEACEKEEPERS EXTEND 'CONFIDENCE ZONE' IN KOSOVA DIVIDED CITY

    French-led peacekeepers (KFOR) extended a security zone in

    the violence-plagued town of Mitrovica on 22 March, AP

    reported. KFOR troops posted maps in which all residents of

    the town--divided between Serbs and ethnic Albanians--can

    move freely. The maps list forbidden activities such as

    demonstrations, the carrying of weapons, and the use by Serbs

    of two-way radios to report on the movement of ethnic

    Albanians. In other news, a bomb blast damaged a bridge on a

    key road in northern Kosova near Laziste. The damage stopped

    traffic. The perpetrators are unknown. PB

    [10] HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ACCUSES SERBS OF ORGANIZED RAPE

    The

    international human rights organization Human Rights Watch

    (HRW) said on 21 March that Serbian and Yugoslav military

    officers are responsible for organized rapes of ethnic

    Albanian women during NATO's bombing of the province last

    year, AFP reported. HRW said in a report that it has recorded

    96 rapes committed by Serbian security forces immediately

    before and during the 11-week bombing campaign. It said the

    number of sex crimes is much higher but that most victims

    decided not to report what happened to them. The report says

    the rapes were not isolated incidents but were used to

    deliberately torment the civilian population, extort money,

    and cause people to flee their homes. In other news,

    international officials in Kosova said that the trials of

    three Serbs accused of murder and of committing war crimes

    has been postponed owing to fear of Serb protests, Reuters

    reported. PB

    [11] MINISTER SAYS YUGOSLAV ARMY READY TO RETURN TO KOSOVA

    Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanice said on 21 March

    that the failure of the international peacekeeping force in

    Kosova (KFOR) justifies Yugoslav troops' resuming control

    over the province, AP reported. General Ojdanic said on state

    television that Serbia "has the right to thank the

    peacekeepers, say goodbye, and take over the responsibility

    for Kosovo's future." Ojdanic was the commander of Yugoslav

    forces during NATO's 78-day air bombardment of Yugoslavia and

    has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague for

    war crimes. He said KFOR troops failed "to fulfill the

    provisions of the Security Council resolution" and his army's

    return is justified by "continued terrorist attacks and

    ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians in the very presence [of

    KFOR]." He said a return by the Yugoslav army would guarantee

    the "preservation of national values, the constitution, and

    territorial integrity." PB

    [12] SERBIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS TO AGREE ON DATE FOR RALLY

    The

    opposition Serbian Renewal Movement of Vuk Draskovic said on

    21 March that it expects to reach an agreement with other

    opposition parties on a date for a mass demonstration against

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, dpa reported. Party

    spokesman Ivan Kovacevic said the rally will be held in

    Belgrade's Republic Square under the slogan "Stop the

    Terror." He said it could take place later this month. In

    other news, about 5,000 people demonstrated for the fourth

    straight day in Kraljevo on 21 March. They are protesting the

    authorities' crackdown on opposition media. PB

    [13] UN REFUGEE CHIEF ENCOURAGED BY BOSNIAN RETURNS

    Sadako Ogata,

    the UN high commissioner for refugees, said in Sarajevo on 21

    March that the international community must continue to aid

    the return of displaced people to their pre-war homes in

    Bosnia-Herzegovina, AP reported. Ogata made her comments

    after touring various parts of the country. She said that

    although progress is still small, she is encouraged by the

    recent return of some 2,000 Muslims to villages around

    Prijedor in Republika Srpska, more than 4,000 Serbs to the

    Bosnian-Croat controlled town of Drvar, and nearly 20,000

    Bosnian Serbs and Croats to Sarajevo. Ogata said these

    "attempts have to be encouraged." The UNHCR says there are

    still some 836,000 displaced people living within Bosnia and

    some 330,000 living abroad. PB

    [14] OSCE MISSION HEAD IN BOSNIA TRIES TO LOCALIZE ELECTION FOCUS

    Robert Barry said on 21 March in Sarajevo that the OSCE is

    trying to focus the upcoming elections on local issues,

    Reuters reported. Barry said "this is not an election about

    the Dayton agreement...this is an election about who

    represents you at the local level." He said people have to

    ask themselves if they are "satisfied with the education

    system, housing, or municipal services." The 8 April election

    will cost some $12 million and is being paid for and

    organized by the OSCE. Some 21,000 people representing 67

    parties are running for posts in 146 municipalities. Barry

    said about 2.5 million people are expected to vote. PB

    [15] GERMANY, ALBANIA PLEDGE COOPERATION

    German Foreign Minister

    Joschka Fischer told his Albanian counterpart, Paskal Milo,

    that Berlin will provide further aid to strengthen democracy

    and stability in Albania, AP reported. Fischer said after a

    meeting in Berlin with Milo that the two countries will work

    together to create "stability and democracy" in the Serbian

    province of Kosova. Milo said he assured EU Commissioner for

    Foreign Policy Javier Solana in Tirana last week that Albania

    is working to "discourage every extremist element that could

    damage the already difficult peace process in Kosova." He

    added that the Albanian government opposes all forms of

    extremism as well as the idea of creating a Greater Albania.

    PB

    [16] ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR CLARIFIES DISPUTE OVER 'HOT

    LINE' WITH KREMLIN

    Constantin Degeratu, who recently ended

    his term as army chief of staff, confirmed on 21 March that

    during former President Ion Iliescu's tenure (1990-1996),

    the "hot line" with the Kremlin and other members of the

    former Warsaw Pact had not been disconnected and that talks

    had been under way with Russia on modernizing the line.

    Degeratu said that the National Security Council, chaired

    by then-President Iliescu, had ordered such talks, and he

    added that Moscow delivered free of charge updated

    equipment in May 1995. The talks were interrupted when Emil

    Constantinescu became president in November 1996, but the

    line was disconnected only three days ago. Degeratu said

    Romania had notified Russia in September 1999 of its

    intention to disconnect the line but had received no reply.

    MS

    [17] EU WELCOMES ROMANIAN ECONOMIC STRATEGY

    The European

    Commission's Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 21

    March welcomed Romania's medium-term economic strategy as a

    guarantee that the country's efforts to meet EU membership

    criteria will continue even if the government changes hands

    after elections, Rompres reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21

    March 2000). He said the strategy's objectives and the

    proposed means to achieve them are "satisfactory." He added

    that the EU is prepared to help Romania close down

    environmentally risky mines but added that the clean-up of

    the Tisza River must be paid for by those who caused the

    recent environmental damage. Verheugen also urged Romanian

    authorities to "pay special attention" to child-care

    facilities. VG

    [18] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR APPROVAL OF BUDGET

    Petru

    Lucinschi on 21 March called on the Alliance for Democracy

    and Reforms "not to destabilize" the country's political

    situation and ensure that the 2000 budget is passed by the

    parliament, BASA-Press reported. The president was responding

    to the ADR's accusations that he has caused disarray in the

    country's political life. VG

    [19] BULGARIA INTRODUCES ISLAMIC CLASSES IN REGIONAL SCHOOLS

    The

    Bulgarian government has introduced elective classes in Islam

    at elementary schools in 22 cities with large ethnic Turkish

    populations, AP reported on 20 March, citing Bulgarian Radio.

    VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [20] DEMONIZING THE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    The Freedom March-2, staged by the Belarusian opposition

    in Minsk on 15 March, attracted an estimated 20,000

    protesters and, as its organizers unanimously agreed, was a

    success. Compared with the Freedom March-1, which took place

    on 17 October 1999, the protest ended without incident. There

    were no clashes with riot police; though heavily present in

    the city on that day, police troops were not deployed along

    the march route. After adopting a resolution calling for

    political talks between the regime and the opposition, the

    marchers dispersed peacefully, while the younger ones

    attended an open air rock concert. Thus, it seems that the

    opposition scored a considerable propaganda victory in its

    fight against the government's extremely biased electronic

    media.

    Minsk City Deputy Mayor Viktar Chykin--who is also

    leader of one of Belarus's two Communist Parties--commented

    that the march took place with virtually no breach of the

    law. According to Chykin, the march organizers fulfilled all

    promises made to the city authorities regarding the conduct

    of the event. However, in an overtly Orwellian twist of

    reasoning, Chykin the next day accused the march organizers

    of blocking traffic, disrupting public transportation, and

    preventing people from getting home on time. And he announced

    that the authorities will no longer grant permission for

    marches to be held in the city. Belarusian Television, for

    its part, ensured that the 16 March main newscast included

    opinions of Minsk residents who were unhappy about the march.

    According to Belarusian opposition parties, the Minsk

    authorities imposed a ban on marches under pressure from the

    presidential administration and President Alyaksandr

    Lukashenka, who, they argue, was annoyed by the success of

    the opposition event. Lukashenka told Belarusian Television

    that the Freedom March-2 brought together up to 7,500 people.

    A majority of the protesters, he said, were rich people in

    "mink coats" who are "offended" by his "unpopular" economic

    decisions that have diminished their wealth.

    It is hard to say how many Belarusians believed this

    statement. On the other hand, the regime has consistently

    presented Belarus's political opposition as a group of people

    devoid of broader popular support. Lukashenka himself has not

    lost an opportunity to portray his political foes as the

    country's "scum," "dregs," or "drop-outs." "Political

    analysts" in Belarusian Television's main newscast readily

    transmit such designations to the entire country.

    It seems that this time, however, the regime has sensed

    it is in danger of losing control over the opposition's media

    image. The Freedom March-1, which ended in violent clashes

    between young protesters and riot police, provided a good

    opportunity for the state-controlled media to portray the

    opposition as a destructive and demoniac force that wants

    only destabilization and bloodshed. Some commentators also

    noted that the October march, during which protesters burned

    a draft copy of the Russia-Belarus Union treaty, offended

    many in Russia and diminished the readiness of Russian

    television channels to objectively cover the Belarusian

    regime-opposition standoff. The Freedom-2 March has done much

    to counter the opposition's negative media image, as has the

    confession by a defector from the Belarusian Interior

    Ministry saying that last year's clashes were deliberately

    provoked by the police.

    Some Belarusian commentators say the ban on marches in

    downtown Minsk is aimed at provoking more clashes during the

    various protest actions that the Belarusian opposition is

    planning for the spring. In this way, they argue, the

    authorities will sustain the popular portrayal of Belarusian

    oppositionists as trouble-makers and social outcasts. The

    commentators add that it would be no problem for the regime

    to arrest several dozen protest organizers and do away with

    the "opposition problem" for a long time. The regime,

    however, will not do this because it appears to need a

    bugbear to frighten the population and persuade Belarusians

    that there are people in Belarus even more unpredictable and

    harmful than Lukashenka.

    Whatever the true reason for the ban on marches, it is

    clear that Lukashenka will not comply with the international

    community's appeal to sit at the negotiation table with the

    opposition and resolve Belarus's political standoff in a

    peaceful way. It seems that permanent and controlled

    confrontation in Belarus suits Lukashenka's authoritarian

    rule as the country and its people sink deeper into economic

    poverty and political isolation.

    No one should expect the opposition protests to change

    the political climate in Belarus any time soon. Indeed, as

    last year's massive protests in Serbia showed, they may not

    change anything at all. The Belarusian opposition must still

    find a way to augment its political demands with economic

    proposals that could elicit broader public sympathy and build

    a social force able to confront the regime. For the time

    being, Belarus's opposition parties seem unable to mobilize

    support among the country's industrial workers or peasants.

    At the same time, those parties have virtually no option

    but to practice street democracy. "Demonstrations can be

    avoided when a country guarantees free access to the media,

    when it holds free and democratic elections. When all this is

    non-existent, the authorities should allow street

    demonstrations," opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich

    commented. It seems that the Lukashenka regime is bent on

    denying its opponents even that possibility.

    22-03-00


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


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