|Sunday, 26 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 207, 00-10-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 207, 25 October 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT TAKES ACTION AGAINST FUGITIVE DEPUTYThe parliamentary Committee for State and Legal Affairs ruled on 24 October that the protracted absence of deputy Vano Siradeghian is "unacceptable," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A former interior minister, Siradeghian went on trial in October 1999 on charges of having ordered a series of contract killings. He fled Armenia in April after fellow deputies voted to lift his immunity to allow him to be taken into custody for the duration of the trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 7 April 2000). LF
 AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS ARGUE COUNCIL OF EUROPE RECOMMENDATIONS NOT BINDINGTwo members of the Azerbaijani presidential administration have sought to prove that the Council of Europe's recommendations on democratization are not legally binding, Turan reported. On 21 October, presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev said those recommendations are "long- term," adding that Azerbaijan will not let any foreign organization dictate to it and will not accept any restrictions on its sovereignty. On 24 October, presidential administration official Shahin Aliev described the recommendations as "moral in nature." He added that under the Vienna Convention on international treaties, only such treaties that have been signed and ratified are legally binding. LF
 REJECTED AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES STAGE PROTESTRepresentatives of the several hundred people who were refused registration to contest the 5 November Azerbaijani parliamentary election staged a protest outside the OSCE office in Baku on 24 October, Turan reported. Azerbaijan Human Rights Committee Chairman Chingiz Ganizade said the rejected candidates consider the OSCE partly responsible for their predicament insofar as the organization allowed the Azerbaijani authorities to adopt "undemocratic" election legislation. The Azerbaijani parliament rejected several key amendments to the laws proposed by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. LF
 AZERBAIJANI COUP TRIAL OPENS, ADJOURNSThe trial of eight men accused of having plotted to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership last year opened at a Baku military court on 24 October but was postponed until 26 October owing to the absence of six of the defendants, Turan reported. The eight men are said to have acted on behalf of former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September and 10 October 2000). LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET FOR 2001Deputies adopted the 2001 budget on 24 October by a vote of 90 in favor with three abstentions, Turan and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). LF
 GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA ASSESS SECURITY SITUATIONAbkhaz and Georgian government delegations, together with representatives of the UN and the CIS peacekeeping force, attended a meeting in Tbilisi on 24 October of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council for resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported. The meeting focused on implementation of the protocol signed in July on stabilizing the situation along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2000). The leaders of the two delegations, Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba and Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, termed the meeting "a step forward in stabilization," as did UN representative Dieter Boden. LF
 ABKHAZ PREMIER LAYS CLAIM TO SHARE OF RUSSIAN MILITARY HARDWARETsugba told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 October that Abkhazia has no objections to the closure of the Russian military base at Gudauta and its transformation into a facility for the CIS peacekeeping force, ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that Sukhum will not permit the withdrawal from that base of all Russian military hardware, part of which it considers Abkhaz property. LF
 CHECHEN FIGHTERS SAID TO HAVE LEFT GEORGIA...Those of the Chechen fighters intercepted in northern Georgia on 21 October who refused to surrender to the Georgian authorities have returned to Ingushetia after the failure of negotiations on allowing them to transit Georgian territory to Azerbaijan or Turkey, Caucasus Press reported on 25 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2000). It is still unclear whether the men are part of field commander Ruslan Gelaev's force, as suggested by Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii. LF
 ...AS RUSSIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF AVOIDING 'COOPERATION'In a statement issued on 24 October, The Russian Foreign Ministry argued that the Chechen fighters' incursion into Georgia testifies to the Georgian authorities' inability to guard its border. The statement rejected as "a provocation" Georgian media reports that quoted Georgian officials as suggesting that Russian security services may have helped the Chechens cross into Georgian territory. The Russian statement also called on Georgia "to show real readiness for full-scale cooperation with Russia in the field of preventing terrorist activities." LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SPEEDING UP LEGAL REFORM...In his annual address to the parliament, President Nursultan Nazarbaev admitted on 24 October that the implementation of political reforms lags behind the country's economic transformation, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbaev argued that Kazakhstan needs to create a truly law- based state where laws are obeyed and "pseudo-democratic slogans" extraneous. He noted that control of the judicial system has recently been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Supreme Court and that the next stage of legal reform will encompass a bill on the status of courts and judges. Nazarbaev also noted the need for new legislation on local self- government, again hinting that regional administrators will be elected, rather than appointed by the president, in the future. LF
 ...PERFECTING NATIONAL SECURITY SYSTEMNazarbaev also said in his annual address that Kazakhstan needs to upgrade its security system in response to the growth in instability and terrorism in Central Asia over the past decade, Interfax reported. He characterized Afghanistan as "a particular regional problem," saying that the rise in consumption of drugs produced in that country is "seriously damaging the gene pool" of the peoples of Central Asia. He warned of the possibility of a "humanitarian catastrophe" if hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan flee north into Central Asia. LF
 KAZAKH OPPOSITIONISTS' PASSPORTS CONFISCATEDPolice in Almaty visited opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan deputy chairman Amirzhan Qosanov and Ermurat Bapi, editor of the independent newspaper "SolDat," at their homes on 24 October to demand that they surrender their passports for foreign travel, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WINS LAW SUIT AGAINST STATE MEDIAA Bishkek district court on 24 October ruled that the KOORT TV station had no right to suspend broadcasting presidential election propaganda by opposition Ata-Meken party chairman Omurbek Tekebaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Tekebaev has brought an analogous suit against Kyrgyz state television and radio. International experts monitoring media coverage of the election campaign say that incumbent President Askar Akaev has received the lion's share of air time to date. LF
 TAJIK INSURGENCY PARTICIPANTS SENTENCEDTajikistan's Supreme Court on 24 October handed down the death sentence to four men accused of taking part in the November 1998 uprising led by Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, ITAR-TASS reported Another 59 men received prison terms of between eight and 15 years, according to dpa. More than 100 people were killed in the course of the uprising in Leninabad Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 9 November 1998). LF
 RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS SEE AFGHAN THREAT RECEDINGA senior member of the Federal Border Guard Service said on 24 October that the situation on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan is stabilizing and that the danger that Taliban forces may cross into Tajikistan is receding, Interfax reported. Also on 24 October, Tajik Defense Minister Colonel-General Sherali Khairulloev said that the recent escalation of fighting in northern Afghanistan between the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces demonstrates the need for coordinated joint counter measures not only on the part of CIS Collective Security signatory states but of other CIS countries, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BALKAN SUMMIT TO OPEN IN MACEDONIA...Leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia are slated to meet in Skopje on 25 October to discuss Balkan issues in the wake of the recent changes in Yugoslavia. The previous day, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said that "it's time that we start working for the welfare of our region, to work together as good neighbors, instead of waiting for others to do it for us," dpa reported. In Prishtina, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke told Reuters that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica "has just contacted us and suggested we meet in Skopje, where he is going for a meeting of regional leaders... I am very pleased he will take the time to meet with me... I've already expressed my profound admiration for the way he conducted a campaign in favor of democracy and summoned the will and intent of the Serb people to bring about peaceful change in the leadership in Belgrade." PM
 ...AMID SKEPTICISM BY SOME REGIONAL LEADERSHolbrooke also told Reuters in Prishtina on 24 October that he is "well aware [Kostunica's] positions do not make all people in Kosovo happy, but we have to begin with facts. The situation is more hopeful for peace in the region than in the past." He was referring to fears of many Kosovars that the West will now force them to return to a joint state with Serbia, which all Kosovar parties reject. Kostunica told Macedonian reporters on 24 October that he wants the Yugoslav army to return to Kosova as soon as the situation allows. Croatian President Stipe Mesic and the Albanian parliament have recently expressed skepticism regarding how profound a change Kostunica will bring about in Belgrade's relations with its neighbors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 October 2000). PM
 HOLBROOKE CALLS FOR EARLY GENERAL ELECTIONS IN KOSOVA...Holbrooke said in Prishtina on 24 October that the international community should begin planning for general elections in Kosova in the first months of 2001 if the 28 October local elections prove free and fair, AP reported. Russian, Yugoslav, and some Western officials have said repeatedly, however, that law and order in the province is not strong enough for elections to be held at present, particularly with regard to the safety of Serbian voters. No Serbian parties and only a few Serbian voters are registered to take part in the 28 October ballot. Kosovars may be increasingly tempted to give their votes to hard-line candidates out of fear that the West will force them back into a joint state with Serbia. Until Kostunica's victory on 5 October, voter sympathies in Kosova had favored moderate politicians around Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova and not the various fractious, militant parties that emerged from the Kosova Liberation Army. PM
 ... AND RESOLUTION OF KOSOVA'S STATUSHolbrooke added in Prishtina on 24 October that time has also come for the international community to deal with the question of Kosova's long-term political status, AP reported. He argued that "the status quo right now may be stable thanks to NATO and [the UN], but it's not going to be stable indefinitely. We will have to address this question." In Prizren, Rugova made it clear that independence is the only option: "We're de facto independent. We just have to work so that it's achieved formally as well." PM
 SERBIA FINALLY GETS A GOVERNMENTThe Serbian parliament on 24 October approved a power-sharing government and early elections slated for 23 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). Milomir Minic, who is a moderate member of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), will become prime minister. He will govern by consensus with one deputy from Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and one from Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. Minic said that "the duration of this government is limited and so are its tasks. Its two main missions are to stabilize economic policy and urgently address the economic needs of the citizens," Reuters reported. The three parties will also share control of the four most important ministries: interior, justice, information, and finance. The government will soon ask President Milan Milutinovic to dissolve the parliament and call elections for December. PM
 MONTENEGRO ASKS BELGRADE TO WAIT ON UNMontenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said in Podgorica on 24 October that he hopes Belgrade will hold off on applying for membership in the UN and other international organizations until the legal status of relations between Serbia and Montenegro is settled, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrin authorities have repeatedly said that they want their own seat in the UN and other international bodies. Montenegrin officials frequently recall that for centuries Montenegro retained its own government at a time when the rest of the Balkans was part of the Ottoman Empire. PM
 CROATIA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BOSNIAN VOTING RULESIn a rare display of support for the political concerns of the ethnic Croats in Bosnia, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic expressed doubts regarding a recent OSCE decision on rules governing the 11 November Bosnian legislative elections, Reuters reported from Zagreb (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). Granic said that he fears that the changes might endanger the equal legal status of Croats, Muslims, and Serbs in the neighboring republic. Granic added that by speaking out, "the government wants to show that it supports both the Dayton [peace agreement of 1995] and Croats in Bosnia." Previously, Croats and Muslims in the federation could vote only for members of their respective ethnic groups in elections to the upper house of the parliament. Under the new ruling, anyone can vote for any candidate. The OSCE feels that the change is necessary to reduce the power of ethnically-based parties. But many Croats feel that they will now be outvoted by the much more numerous Muslims. PM
 SLOVENIAN COALITION TALKS BEGIN IN EARNESTOn 24 October, election officials in Ljubljana released the final official results of the 15 October vote for the 90-seat parliament. Voter turnout was 70 percent, Radio 24-UR reported. The largest party is former Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats with 34 seats. Second place goes to Janez Jansa's conservative Social Democrats with 14 seats. The former Communists have 11 mandates, followed by nine seats for a coalition of two Christian Democratic parties. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk's New Slovenia won eight mandates. The nationalist and youth parties won four seats each. One mandate each went to representatives of the Italian and Hungarian minorities. Drnovsek is widely expected to put together a coalition of his party, the former Communists, and the pensioners' party, which has four seats. He and Jansa have ruled out a coalition of the two largest but ideologically opposed parties. Several political combinations are now widely considered possible, including a minority government. The parliament opens on 27 October and has until the end of December to elect a new prime minister. PM
 ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS PROTESTS AGAINST ILIESCUThe Constitutional Court on 24 October rejected two protests against former President Ion Iliescu's bid to run for re-election, Romanian media reported. According to those protests, Iliescu, who was president from 1990 to 1996, has already served two terms and is now running for a third, which is prohibited by the constitution. Iliescu's candidacy was also contested in 1996. In related news, four other presidential candidates formally registered their candidacies: Democratic Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Petre Roman, Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania Senator Gyorgy Frunda, Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, and Romanian Liberal Democrat Party Chairman Niculae Cerveni. National Alliance candidate Marian Munteanu has announced his withdrawal from the ballot. ZsM
 TRIAL OF ROMANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA PRISON HEAD POSTPONEDA Bucharest judge has rescheduled the trial of Colonel Gheorghe Craciun, who is charged in connection with the deaths of 216 political prisoners, after the defendant failed to show up in court, AP reported on 24 October. Cracium, 87, is the first senior communist official from the 1950s to be tried for crimes against political prisoners. He headed the infamous Aiud prison camp from 1958 to 1964. Craciun denies the charges. In an act of solidarity, his former deputy, Mihai Blajut, has asked the court to charge him with the same crimes. PB
 SUPREME COURT ANNULS PRIVATIZATION OF ROMANIAN TOBACCO COMPANYThe Romanian Supreme Court on 24 October annulled the privatization of the Romanian Tobacco company, Romanian media reported. An Agriculture Ministry decision last May awarded the company to Interagro, but a loser in the tender, Leaf Tobacco A Michailidis, appealed that decision, claiming procedural irregularities. The ministry will now have to restart the privatization process of the company, which has a 42 percent market share in Romania. ZsM
 WORLD BANK TO RESUME LOANS TO MOLDOVA?Roger Grove, a regional director of the World Bank, arrived in Chisinau on 25 October for talks with the government on resuming credits to Moldova, ITAR-TASS reported. The bank and the IMF suspended all loans to Moldova last year after the parliament refused to approve legislation privatizing the wine and tobacco industries. That legislation has now been passed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2000). John Odling-Smee, director of the IMF's Second European Department, said a resumption of loans could begin this year if the parliament passes a budget by 1 December. PB
[C] END NOTE
 KOSTUNICA VISITS MONTENEGRO AND BOSNIABy Jolyon Naegele
Vojislav Kostunica, hailed by the West as the savior of democracy in Serbia, wants to preserve the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, although he concedes that the name "Yugoslavia" may have to be sacrificed.
Certain problems need to be resolved first, however. The Yugoslav Constitution requires the federal prime minister to be a Montenegrin in the event that the president is a Serb. But the Montenegrin government, led by President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, boycotted last month's federal presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Djukanovic government claimed that those ballots were unlawful because the constitutional changes that enabled the elections to be held and diminished Montenegro's role in the federal parliament were enacted without the participation of Montenegro. For this reason, it does not consider Kostunica to be the legitimate president of Yugoslavia. Djukanovic and his party also object to serving together with pro-Milosevic politicians.
Montenegro's main opposition party, the pro-Milosevic Socialist People's Party, won the parliamentary elections in Montenegro and has agreed to participate in forming a coalition government. Their nominee, Zoran Zizic, is slated to become federal prime minister.
Kostunica agrees to Zizic's appointment and says he is making every effort to ensure that the federal government will be composed of experts representing as many parties as possible. Nonetheless, the government's core structure will comprise two parties, his Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and Zizic's party. Kostunica believes that the cabinet will be approved by the Yugoslav parliament by the beginning of next week at the latest.
Noting the absence of the Montenegrin ruling parties in the government, Kostunica said that "at the moment we are forging a government out of the parties that took part in the federal elections." But he added that both the DOS and Zizic's party would welcome Montenegro's ruling parties into the federal government. Last week, Zizic said that the reason his party had to be represented in the new government was to ensure that Slobodan Milosevic would not be extradited to the UN tribunal at The Hague, which has indicted the former president for war crimes.
Before visiting Montenegro earlier this week, Kostunica traveled to Bosnia- Herzegovina, the first visit by a Yugoslav leader since Milosevic went there in 1993 in an unsuccessful effort to mediate an end to the fighting.
Kostunica went to Trebinje. in the southernmost corner of the Bosnian-Serb entity, to attend the reburial of Serbian poet and Yugoslav diplomat Jovan Ducic, who died in exile in the U.S. in 1943. Kostunica had decided to participate long before he was even nominated to run for president. The Bosnian Foreign Ministry initially expressed outrage at Kostunica's participation. But its anger dissipated once the international community intervened.
An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Trebinje that the participants greeted Kostunica with a "storm of applause," although the Yugoslav president did not address the gathering. The entire Bosnian Serb leadership was present, as were the leaders of Bosnia's religious communities and Liljana Karadzic, the wife of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic whom The Hague tribunal has also indicted for war crimes.
The head of the UN mission in Bosnia, former U.S. general Jacques Klein, escorted Kostunica from Trebinje to Sarajevo in a UN helicopter for hastily arranged talks with the Bosnian leadership at Sarajevo airport. Kostunica told reporters afterward that Yugoslavia's recognition of Bosnia- Herzegovina is "the issue of the day." He said that their meeting represented a "very serious normalization of diplomatic relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I can announce that very soon-- I'm convinced it will be realized at the moment when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forms its new, democratic, federal government."
Kostunica also called for full compliance with the nearly five-year-old Dayton peace accords, including their references to the existence of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.
The current president of the Bosnian presidency, Zivko Radisic, a Serb, also expressed support for the renewal of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo, while respecting the continued existence of the Bosnian Serb and Muslim/Croatian entities.
"This was an opportunity and we are expressing our readiness and willingness to establish and build up relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [while] respecting the existing territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country and state," Radisic said.
The speaker of the Bosnian parliament, Halid Genjac, a Muslim, said he expects both sides to agree on specific steps to improve relations.
After meeting with Kostunica at the airport, Bosnia's foreign minister Jadranko Prlic, a Croat, said : "We support Yugoslavia in its effort to reach an association agreement with the European Union, but on condition that Yugoslavia undergoes the same procedure for acceptance into European integration [as] all other countries."
UN mission chief Jacques Klein called the meeting "historic." "We all know that we cannot change the past, but if we work together we can build a better future," he noted. And he added that "today is the beginning of the future."
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty