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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 62, 00-03-28

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. 62, 28 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SOUTH CAUCASUS LEADERS COMMENT ON PUTIN'S ELECTION...
  • [02] ...WHILE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS OFFER CONGRATULATIONS
  • [03] WAR VETERANS CONDEMN ATTACK ON KARABAKH PRESIDENT
  • [04] ALLIES DEMAND RELEASE OF DETAINED KARABAKH EX-DEFENSE
  • [05] ARMENIAN PEOPLE'S PARTY CHAIRMAN NOT TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT
  • [06] OIL COMPANIES IMPLICATED IN 1993 OUSTER OF AZERBAIJANI
  • [07] AZERBAIJAN HOLDS REPEAT LOCAL ELECTIONS
  • [08] AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REPORT OF ATTACK,
  • [09] CIA DIRECTOR DISCUSSES TERRORISM THREAT IN GEORGIA
  • [10] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY DENIES FOREKNOWLEDGE OF BID TO
  • [11] UN ENVOY HOLDS TALKS IN ABKHAZIA
  • [12] KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY RECEIVES PERMISSION TO STAGE
  • [13] KYRGYZ PROTESTS CONTINUE
  • [14] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CHAIRS SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION
  • [15] NEW TAJIK PARLIAMENT CONVENES
  • [16] TURKMEN PRESIDENT ORDERS DESTRUCTION OF TRANSLATION OF KORAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [17] ETHNIC ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS STILL ACTIVE
  • [18] MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS MILOSEVIC TRYING TO OUST HIM
  • [19] MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SAYS PODGORICA NEEDS OWN POLICE
  • [20] 'SERBIAN ROBIN HOOD' EMERGES IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
  • [21] DODIK SAYS HE SAVED BRIDGES, REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
  • [22] BRCKO REFUGEES CRITICIZE DELAYED RETURNS
  • [23] BANK SCANDAL HITS CROATIAN COALITION
  • [24] IMF APPROVES ROMANIA'S EXTENSION REQUEST
  • [25] FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES INSULTING U.S.
  • [26] ROMANIAN 'HOT LINE AFFAIR' PROBED BY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
  • [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REJECTS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN
  • [28] BULGARIA, ROMANIA SIGN DANUBE BRIDGE AGREEEMENT
  • [29] TURKISH PRESIDENT PRAISES RELATIONS WITH BULGARIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] A REPUTATION DESTROYED

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SOUTH CAUCASUS LEADERS COMMENT ON PUTIN'S ELECTION...

    Armenian President Robert Kocharian, in a statement issued on

    27 March, characterized Russian President-elect Vladimir

    Putin as "a dignified leader" and expressed the hope that his

    election will reinforce the "strategic partnership" between

    Armenia and Russia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Nino

    Burdjanidze, who chairs the Georgian parliament's commission

    for international relations, told Caucasus Press that Putin's

    election does not automatically mean that bilateral relations

    will improve, but she expressed the hope that they will. In

    Baku, Novruz Mamedov, head of the international relations

    division within the presidential administration, told Turan

    that the Azerbaijani leadership hopes Putin will take steps

    to strengthen and broaden Russia's relations with Azerbaijan.

    LF

    [02] ...WHILE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS OFFER CONGRATULATIONS

    The

    presidents of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev

    and Askar Akaev, both sent congratulatory telegrams to Putin

    on 27 March, Interfax reported. In a telephone conversation

    the same day, Nazarbaev also wished Putin success, adding

    that "democratic presidential elections on an alternative

    basis are a historic event in the life of the Russian

    people," according to ITAR-TASS. Tajik President Imomali

    Rakhmonov congratulated Putin by telephone on his "impressive

    and unequivocal success," while in a telephone conversation,

    Uzbek President Islam Karimov stressed the significance of

    Putin's election victory not only for Russia but for the

    entire international community, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [03] WAR VETERANS CONDEMN ATTACK ON KARABAKH PRESIDENT

    In a

    statement issued in Yerevan on 27 March, the Yerkrapah Union

    of veterans of the Karabakh war condemned the 22 March

    attempt to assassinate Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the

    unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as "a crime against

    national interests," Noyan Tapan reported. The statement

    registered concern at attempts by unnamed public figures and

    organizations to divert public attention from the need to

    solve the 27 October parliament shootings by focusing on

    "protecting defendants' rights." The presidential commission

    on human rights, which is chaired by former dissident Paruyr

    Hairikian, last week issued a report noting the mistreatment

    of suspects by the military investigators and calling for the

    investigation to be transferred to the Prosecutor-General's

    Office. The Yerkrapah statement vowed to "make every effort"

    to prevent political tension and destabilization and

    expressed support for the Armenian government. LF

    [04] ALLIES DEMAND RELEASE OF DETAINED KARABAKH EX-DEFENSE

    MINISTER

    A group of Armenian parliamentary deputies were in

    Stepanakert on 26 March to meet with Anoushavan Danielian,

    prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,

    in an attempt to secure the release from custody of former

    Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan, according to Snark

    on 27 March as cited by Groong. Babayan was taken into

    custody on 22 March on suspicion of involvement in the attack

    on Ghukasian earlier that day. Danielian and Nagorno-Karabakh

    Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian both characterized the

    situation in the enclave on 27 March as calm, ITAR-TASS

    reported. LF

    [05] ARMENIAN PEOPLE'S PARTY CHAIRMAN NOT TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT

    Stepan Demirchian, son of parliamentary speaker Karen

    Demirchian, who was killed in the 27 October parliament

    shootings, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 27 March that he

    has no intention of standing in the 21 May by-elections in

    three Yerevan constituencies. Observers had speculated that

    Stepan Demirchian aspires to the post of parliament speaker.

    He had been named in January as interim leader of the

    People's Party of Armenia, which his father had founded in

    1998. Demirchian said he intends to concentrate on the

    "enormous work" to be done to strengthen the party's

    structures. LF

    [06] OIL COMPANIES IMPLICATED IN 1993 OUSTER OF AZERBAIJANI

    PRESIDENT

    British Petroleum and Amoco were instrumental in

    instigating the June 1993 insurrection that resulted in the

    flight from Baku of Azerbaijan's President Abulfaz Elchibey

    and the return to power of former Azerbaijan Communist Party

    First Secretary Heidar Aliev, the "Sunday Times" reported on

    26 March citing Turkish intelligence sources. Those sources

    say the purpose of the intervention was to prevent the

    imminent signing of a deal with Azerbaijan on the

    exploitation of Caspian oil fields in order to renegotiate

    more favorable terms. The British weekly also reported that

    those oil companies, together with Mobil, Exxon and Turkey's

    TPAO, had subsequently offered to supply Aliev with arms and

    mercenaries in the war with Armenia for control of Nagorno-

    Karabakh. LF

    [07] AZERBAIJAN HOLDS REPEAT LOCAL ELECTIONS

    Repeat elections

    took place on 26 March in 75 municipalities where voting in

    the 12 December municipal elections was annulled or

    invalidated owing to procedural violations, Turan and ITAR-

    TASS reported. Some 1,300 candidates contested the repeat

    vote, which according to the Central Electoral Commission was

    valid in 74 municipalities. In the remaining district, voter

    participation was below the minimum 25 percent. The

    opposition Musavat Party issued a statement on 27 March

    condemning what it termed numerous violations during the

    previous day's vote. The CEC press office said the same day

    no reports had been received of procedural violations.

    Council of Europe observers noted "great changes" in the

    conduct of the poll and vote count compared with December,

    Turan reported on 28 March. LF

    [08] AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REPORT OF ATTACK,

    LOSSES

    The Press Service of the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry

    has denied an Armenian news agency report that Azerbaijan

    lost 10 men in a 21 March attempt to cross the northern

    sector of the Line of Contact between Armenian- and

    Azerbaijani-controlled territory, Turan reported on 27 March

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March 2000). Press Ministry head

    Ramiz Melikov had told MPA news agency three days earlier

    that on 21 March Armenian forces had opened fire on the

    Kedabek district using large-caliber machine-guns and

    grenade-launchers. LF

    [09] CIA DIRECTOR DISCUSSES TERRORISM THREAT IN GEORGIA

    George

    Tenet met in Tbilisi on 27 March with Georgian President

    Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgian National Security Minister

    Vakhtang Kutateladze to discuss regional security issues and

    joint measures to counter the threat of international

    terrorism, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

    [10] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY DENIES FOREKNOWLEDGE OF BID TO

    KILL PRESIDENT

    Opposition Batumi Alliance member Vakhtang

    Bochorishvili told Caucasus Press on 27 March that there is

    no truth to claims by captured Chechen field commander Salman

    Raduev that Bochorishvili attended a session of the Congress

    of Peoples of the Caucasus at which plans were discussed to

    assassinate President Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27

    March 2000). Bochorishvili added that Raduev "is mad" and his

    statements should not be taken seriously. LF

    [11] UN ENVOY HOLDS TALKS IN ABKHAZIA

    Dieter Boden, who is the UN

    Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Abkhazia, met in Sukhum

    on 27 March with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba,

    Caucasus Press reported. In a subsequent interview with ITAR-

    TASS, Boden expressed regret that the protocol on exchanging

    prisoners signed on 3 February by the premiers and power

    ministers of Georgia and Abkhazia has not been implemented

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 21 February 2000). Also on 27

    March, the newly appointed head of the UN Observer Mission to

    Abkhazia, Akhmed Anis Bajwa, met with Abkhaz Defense Minister

    Vladimir Mikanba, who accused the UN of "double standards" in

    failing to take action to curtail the activities of Georgian

    guerrillas operating in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [12] KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY RECEIVES PERMISSION TO STAGE

    DEMONSTRATION

    Representatives of the Republican People's

    Party of Kazakhstan (RNPK) told RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent

    on 28 March that the city authorities have for the first time

    granted them permission to hold a demonstration. The aim of

    the gathering, scheduled for 30 March, is to repeat the

    demand first advanced by RNPK chairman Akehan Kazhegeldin

    last year for a dialogue between the opposition and the

    country's authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November and

    7 December 1999). Participants will also lobby for amendments

    to the election law and constitution and for oblast governors

    to be elected by popular ballot, rather than appointed by the

    president. LF

    [13] KYRGYZ PROTESTS CONTINUE

    Some150 people continued the

    ongoing picket in Bishkek on 27 March to demand the annulment

    of the results of the 12 March parliamentary runoff, RFE/RL's

    bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. A total of nine people

    have now embarked on a hunger strike to press for that and

    related demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000).

    Arrested opposition Ar-Namys Party chairman Feliks Kulov, who

    is also on hunger strike to protest his detention, was

    refused a meeting with his lawyer on 27 March. An Interior

    Ministry official told RFE/RL the same day that Kulov's

    brother Marsel, who was deputy head of Interpol's Kyrgyzstan

    office, had been pressured into submitting his resignation.

    LF

    [14] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CHAIRS SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION

    Askar Akaev

    chaired a session of the Security Council on 25 March, two

    days after visiting the Kyrgyz-Tajik frontier to assess the

    situation there, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital

    reported. Representatives of the Defense, Interior, and

    National Security Ministries briefed participants on

    preparations to repel an anticipated cross-border attack on

    Kyrgyz territory this spring. Akaev warned that mercenaries

    from Chechnya could join forces with radical Islamists in

    Afghanistan and Tajikistan for that purpose, Interfax

    reported. Security Council secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov

    said that an estimated 5,000 "terrorists" close to the banned

    Islamic Hizbut Tahir party could attempt to invade Kyrgyzstan

    this summer with the aim of flooding Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan,

    and Tajikistan with drugs produced in Afghanistan. LF

    [15] NEW TAJIK PARLIAMENT CONVENES

    Meeting for its first session

    on 27 March, the lower house of the Tajik parliament elected

    engineer Saidullo Khairullaev as its chairman, ITAR-TASS

    reported. Deputies also elected the chairs of nine parliament

    committees and commissions, according to Asia Plus-Blitz.

    Addressing the session, President Rakhmonov expressed the

    hope that the parliament will become "one of the basic

    foundations of our society," Reuters reported. A joint

    session of both chambers of the new parliament is scheduled

    for next month. LF

    [16] TURKMEN PRESIDENT ORDERS DESTRUCTION OF TRANSLATION OF KORAN

    Saparmurat Niyazov has decreed that a translation of the

    Koran into the vernacular is "evil" and should be burned,

    Keston News Service reported on 27 March. The translation was

    originally undertaken at the request of the Turkmen

    government by Mullah Hodja Ahmed Orazgylych and writer

    Atamyrat Atabaev, and the completed work was approved by

    Turkmenistan's chief mufti, Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah, and

    published in 1995. Orazgylych was arrested in February 2000

    after criticizing the Niyazov's decree on New Year

    celebrations and accused of "swindling." He was released and

    sent into internal exile earlier this month after asking

    Niyazov's "forgiveness." LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [17] ETHNIC ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS STILL ACTIVE

    Members of the

    Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB)

    continue to wear uniforms and carry out training exercises,

    despite a recent pledge by their political leaders that they

    will conduct their struggle by political means only (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2000). Members of the UCPMB also

    continue to cross the border between Kosova and Serbia as

    well as use the "neutral zone" between KFOR and Serbian

    forces for their own military purposes, "The Washington Post"

    reported on 28 March. Political representatives of the UCPMB

    told journalists that it will take time before they can

    persuade militants to respect the political leaders' pledge

    to U.S. diplomats to end the armed struggle. Some militants

    published a letter in "Koha Ditore" saying they will not give

    up their fight, the Washington daily continued. An unnamed

    U.S. official stressed that his government is determined to

    see that the UCPMB lives up to the agreement. PM

    [18] MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SAYS MILOSEVIC TRYING TO OUST HIM

    Milo

    Djukanovic told the Sarajevo Muslim daily "Avaz" of 27 March

    that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has only two

    options in his struggle against the Montenegrin leaders:

    Milosevic must either oust the Djukanovic leadership by force

    and replace it with his own allies or he must "exclude"

    Montenegro from the Yugoslav federation. "The New York Times"

    on 28 March quoted Djukanovic as saying that Milosevic has

    set up a 1,000-strong special police unit within the

    Montenegro-based Second Army of the Yugoslav Army. Those

    police are in fact a paramilitary unit" loyal to Milosevic.

    The Montenegrin president added that "over 50 percent of them

    have criminal records. They are not being [kept] to protect

    the country but to overthrow the [Montenegrin] government."

    PM

    [19] MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SAYS PODGORICA NEEDS OWN POLICE

    Predrag Bulatovic, who is a leading official of the pro-

    Milosevic Socialist People's Party of Montenegro, told "The

    New York Times" of 28 March that Djukanovic "has 20,000

    police, [which are] 10,000 more than he should have. The

    danger is that this guy [might use] these people to create a

    conflict" with Milosevic's supporters or the army.

    Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic replied, however,

    that the government needs a strong police force of its own to

    deter armed provocations by Milosevic or his Montenegrin

    supporters. Vujanovic added that Montenegro's government must

    defend itself in the absence of "security guarantees" from

    NATO. PM

    [20] 'SERBIAN ROBIN HOOD' EMERGES IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

    Bogoljub

    Arsenijevic "Maki" told Bosnian Serb television in Banja Luka

    that "Milosevic's regime is like a house of cards which would

    crumble in a couple of days if Serbs rebel" against him, AP

    reported on 28 March. Maki also described his recent escape

    from Serbian police, during which he "was so well disguised

    that not even my wife recognized me," he said. The flamboyant

    painter led violent anti-government protests in Valjevo in

    1999, for which he was imprisoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12

    January 2000). His recent escape has captured public

    imagination, prompting the independent weekly "Vreme" of 18

    March to dub him the "Serbian Robin Hood." Maki's interview

    in Banja Luka was his first public appearance since his

    escape from a Belgrade hospital. PM

    [21] DODIK SAYS HE SAVED BRIDGES, REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

    Republika

    Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Visegrad that he

    successfully appealed to NATO leaders during the 1999 bombing

    campaign not to attack bridges on the Drina River linking

    Bosnia and Serbia. He added that he had refused appeals by

    Milosevic to mobilize the Bosnian Serb army and attack NATO

    peacekeepers, "Vesti" reported on 28 March. Dodik also told

    "Avaz" that he and his supporters recently resisted moves by

    Milosevic to undermine his government by prompting members of

    the Socialist Party to leave the coalition. Dodik added that

    his government will soon prepare legal documents governing

    the upcoming appointment of Muslims as "advisers" to

    unspecified ministries. The Muslims will work on "practical

    questions," the prime minister added. PM

    [22] BRCKO REFUGEES CRITICIZE DELAYED RETURNS

    Members of Return,

    which is an association of primarily Muslim and Croatian

    refugees from Brcko, have complained to Ambassador Robert

    Farrand, the international community's representative for

    Brcko, that few Muslims and Croats have been allowed to go

    home in recent months, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 28 March.

    Brcko was under Serbian control from 1992 until 1999, when

    the international community placed it under joint authority

    of the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim

    federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). PM

    [23] BANK SCANDAL HITS CROATIAN COALITION

    Istrian political

    leader Ivan Jakovcic said that his Istrian Democratic League

    (IDS) may leave the governing coalition if the government

    lets Istarska Banka go under, AP reported on 27 March.

    National Bank Governor Marko Skreb recently decided to

    appoint a "temporary administrator" for prosperous Istria's

    leading bank, citing "significant irregularities" in its

    activities. Skreb's move led depositors to stage a run on the

    Istarska Banka's offices, in which they withdrew $6 million.

    Skreb is under pressure from the IDS and its supporters to

    resign, but he refuses to do so, "Novi List" reported on 28

    March. The IDS wants the government to support the bank.

    Before they came to power in January, Prime Minister Ivica

    Racan and most of the governing parties often criticized the

    government of the late President Franjo Tudjman for its

    "political meddling" in the banking sector. "Slobodna

    Dalmacija" wrote on 28 March that Racan may have to "show

    Jakovcic the door" if he wants to appear true to his

    principles. PM

    [24] IMF APPROVES ROMANIA'S EXTENSION REQUEST

    The IMF Executive

    Board on 27 March approved the Romanian government's request

    for a 60-day "technical extension" of the stand-by agreement

    concluded in August 1999, Romanian Radio reported on 28

    March. Under that agreement, the fund was to grant a $547

    million loan, but only the first $73 million tranche of that

    loan has been released because of Romania's failure to

    implement the agreement. Mugur Isarescu's cabinet requested

    the extension after debates in the parliament on the 2000

    budget were postponed. An IMF team visited Bucharest last

    week to discuss the budget with Isarescu. The fund is

    insisting that the budget deficit does not exceed 3 percent

    of GDP. The cabinet is also requesting that the stand-by

    agreement, which was due to expire in 2000, be extended to

    February 2001. MS

    [25] FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES INSULTING U.S.

    CONGRESSMEN

    Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR)

    leader Ion Iliescu has denied a report by a BBC

    correspondent in Chisinau that he insulted U.S. Congressmen

    Frank Wolf and Christopher Smith following their criticism

    of Iliescu and his party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March

    2000), Romanian media reported on 27 March. He said the

    report, which quoted him as saying that the two congressmen

    must be "hit in the mouth" and "put in their place," was a

    "lie." Iliescu visited Chisinau last weekend. Earlier on 27

    March, presidential spokesman Razvan Popescu said Emil

    Constantinescu is "concerned" that Iliescu's and the PDSR's

    "aggressiveness" may harm the "strategic partnership with

    the U.S." and Washington's support for Romania's bid to

    join NATO. MS

    [26] ROMANIAN 'HOT LINE AFFAIR' PROBED BY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

    The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an

    investigation into the disappearance from the Foreign

    Ministry's archives of secret documents and "confidential

    information" used by the Russian publication "Zavtra" in

    the article that triggered the "hot line controversy" in

    Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000), RFE/RL's

    Bucharest bureau reported. The investigation has been

    launched at the request of the ministry. In other news, the

    Supreme Court on 27 March rejected an appeal by General

    Victor Stanculescu against the 15-year sentence handed down

    to him for his involvement in the quashing of the 1989

    uprising in Timisoara (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February

    2000). Stanculescu, who is in London for medical treatment,

    claims he did not received a summons to attend the trial.

    MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REJECTS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN

    TRANSDNIESTER

    Petru Lucinschi will "never" recognize the

    results of local elections conducted on 26 March in the

    breakaway Transdniester region because they do not respect

    international legal norms and territorial administrative

    reform in Moldova, his spokesman Anatol Golea told BASA-

    Press. In other news, the Moldovan parliament passed the

    government's budget in the second reading on 24 March. The

    Communists, who had orginally opposed the budget, ended up

    voting for it. The third reading is expected this week. The

    budget's passage is an important condition for the country

    to receive funding from the IMF. VG

    [28] BULGARIA, ROMANIA SIGN DANUBE BRIDGE AGREEEMENT

    Bulgarian

    Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Romanian counterpart,

    Isarescu, signed an agreement on 27 March to build a second

    bridge across the Danube River. The signing ceremony took

    place in Bucharest on the eve of a Stability Pact donors'

    conference. Bodo Hombach, the coordinator of that Pact,

    said the bridge agreement is "a sign of the new spirit in

    Southeastern Europe," Reuters reported. Bulgaria is to pay

    for the construction of the bridge with a loan of 175

    million euros ($169 million). VG

    [29] TURKISH PRESIDENT PRAISES RELATIONS WITH BULGARIA

    Suleyman

    Demirel on 27 March praised his country's relations with

    Bulgaria as well as that country's "positive treatment" of

    its Turkish minority, the Anatolia news agency reported.

    Demirel was speaking after a meeting with Bulgarian

    parliamentary speaker Yordan Sokolov. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] A REPUTATION DESTROYED

    By Paul Goble

    Bishkek's arrest of opposition leader Felix Kulov

    further undermines Kyrgyzstan's earlier reputation as

    the one Central Asian country that had been making some

    progress toward democracy.

    But the consequences of this action may be even

    greater. Kulov's arrest appears likely to lead some to

    excuse the behavior of other authoritarian regimes in

    the region or even to write off the future prospects of

    Central Asia as a whole. Such an approach could

    effectively condemn the region to chaos, foreign

    domination, or some combination of the two.

    Last week, officials of Kyrgyzstan's National

    Security Ministry arrested Kulov, the leader of the

    opposition, while he was in a hospital being treated for

    high blood pressure. As he was being led away, Kulov

    said "As a man, I am not used to hiding," adding that "I

    expected this."

    A National Security Ministry spokesman said that

    Kulov has been charged with abuse of power during the

    time he served as minister of national security and

    governor of Chu Oblast. But so far, the ministry has not

    allowed Kulov's lawyer to have any contact with him, a

    violation of Kyrgyzstan's constitution and laws.

    Kulov led in the 20 February first round of

    parliamentary elections in the Talas Oblast villiage of

    Kara-Buura, but he lost by a suspiciously large margin

    in a runoff with the man who had placed second in that

    round. OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis said in Bishkek

    earlier this month that the results of that ballot were

    "a blemish on the president's prestige and that of the

    government."

    Since 12 March, opposition groups have mounted

    protests in Kyzyl-Adyr, a village in Kulov's electoral

    district, to condemn what they call widespread electoral

    fraud. Following Kulov's arrest, the Bishkek authorities

    arrested some 100 demonstrators, destroyed the yurts

    where they had been living, and burned their posters and

    signs.

    Kulov's arrest is only the latest indication of

    Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev's drift toward

    authoritarianism. Despite his earlier reputation as a

    democrat--former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker

    once described him as his "favorite" Central Asian--

    Akaev ever since has been moving against personal

    opponents and the institutions of civil society.

    In every case, Akaev has justified his behavior by

    pointing to threats of instability arising from Islamic

    fundamentalism or cross-border challenges, arguments

    that have led some, if not all, Western governments to

    excuse his behavior.

    But at the same time, his democratic rhetoric

    allowed those Western governments to have some

    confidence that Akaev would return to the democratic

    fold and to use his example to put pressure on other

    Central Asian leaders, who have been considerably less

    democratic in both rhetoric and practice.

    Now, by arresting Kulov as part of a sweeping

    crackdown against the opposition, Akaev has opened the

    door not only to an ever more authoritarian Kyrgyzstan

    but to three other and even more serious developments.

    First, Akaev's shift will lead ever more people to

    conclude that Central Asia is not ready for democracy

    and that the international community must accept more

    authoritarian rule there for the immediate future. Such

    a conclusion is likely to reduce still further the

    willingness of Western countries to put pressure on all

    Central Asian governments to move toward democracy and

    greater openness or even to get involved with these

    states on other issues.

    Second, by tolerating or even tacitly supporting

    such authoritarianism, the West is likely to create what

    it says it fears most: the rise to power of Islamic

    fundamentalism throughout the region. In all too many

    ways, Akaev and the other Central Asian leaders are

    acting like the shah of Iran, creating a fragile

    stability that will end with their departure from

    office. Indeed, these leaders are likely to continue to

    play on that fear to garner support for their own

    authoritarianism.

    And third, as that prospect becomes more likely,

    the West may come to view the restoration of Russian

    domination of this region either indirectly, through a

    revamped Commonwealth of Independent States, or more

    directly, through a new union as a price worth paying

    for stability and the containment of Islamist politics.

    That attitude is likely to further reduce the

    West's ability to promote democracy and freedom not only

    in Central Asia but elsewhere as well.

    None of this appears to have been on the minds of those

    who ordered the arrest of Kulov last week, but all of it

    becomes far more likely because of this undemocratic act.

    28-03-00


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


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