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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 2, 01-01-04

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. 2, 4 January 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] BORDER GUARDS INTERCEPT KURDISH INTERLOPERS NEAR ARMENIAN-IRANIAN BORDER
  • [02] LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN SEEKS EXPANDED COOPERATION WITH NATO
  • [04] PRESIDENT NAMES HEAD OF AZERBAIJAN'S OIL FUND
  • [05] ELEVEN AZERBAIJANI SOLDIERS KILLED BY AVALANCHE
  • [06] RUSSIA RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO GEORGIAN CAPITAL
  • [07] KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGE
  • [08] KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES STATUS OF REFUGEES
  • [09] IMPRISONED KYRGYZ POLITICIAN HOSPITALIZED
  • [10] MORE CABINET REGIONAL APPOINTMENTS IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [11] FOUR UZBEK CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY OSTRACIZED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS OF UZBEK MILITANT THREAT
  • [13] MINIMUM WAGE TRIPLED IN TAJIKISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [14] SERBIAN LEADER REGRETS ELECTION CHALLENGE
  • [15] U.S., YUGOSLAVIA MARK NEW ERA IN RELATIONS...
  • [16] ... AS SERBIA LOOKS TO BUSH ERA
  • [17] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SLAMS MONTENEGRIN PROPOSAL
  • [18] NEW ELECTIONS FOR MONTENEGRO?
  • [19] BOSNIAN SERB EX-LEADER TO HAGUE?
  • [20] BOSNIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REBUILDING IMPORTANT RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES
  • [21] SLOVENIA INTRODUCES EU STANDARDS FOR 'MAD COW DISEASE'
  • [22] ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO HOLD EXTRAORDINARY CONFERENCE
  • [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ABOLISHES PRIVATIZATION AGENCY
  • [24] BULGARIANS' LIBYAN TRIAL TO BE POSTPONED AGAIN?

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] STALIN AS ROLE MODEL

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] BORDER GUARDS INTERCEPT KURDISH INTERLOPERS NEAR ARMENIAN-IRANIAN BORDER

    Russian border guards apprehended three armed Kurds in the southeast Armenian regional center of Meghri on 2 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. The men had illegally entered Armenia from Iran. Five Kurds from Iran were detained last month attempting to cross from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan into Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). LF

    [02] LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION

    During a brief visit to Baku on 3 January, Indulis Berzins, who chairs the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, assured President Heidar Aliev of Latvia's support for Azerbaijan's acceptance into full membership of the Council of Europe later this month, Azerbaijani media reported on 3 January. In talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Vilayat Quliev, however, Berzins noted that in order to achieve that objective Azerbaijan must rise to "challenges," including ensuring that the 7 January repeat parliamentary elections are free and fair. Berzins also met with leading members of the Musavat and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Turan reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Berzins as saying that if the opposition supports Azerbaijan's Council of Europe membership it should abandon its ongoing boycott of the new parliament. Most opposition parties that won representation in the 5 November parliamentary elections have refused to participate in the work of the new legislature, arguing that falsification of the election returns deprived it of legitimacy. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN SEEKS EXPANDED COOPERATION WITH NATO

    Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Quliev told journalists in Baku on 3 January that Azerbaijan would like to expand military cooperation with the Atlantic Alliance in order to ensure its security, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Quliev said that the logical result of such cooperation would be eventual NATO membership, but he added that unlike neighboring Georgia, Baku has set no concrete timeframe for joining the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson is scheduled to visit Baku on 16-17 January during a tour of the South Caucasus. LF

    [04] PRESIDENT NAMES HEAD OF AZERBAIJAN'S OIL FUND

    President Aliev has appointed Samir Sharifov, the general manager of Azerbaijan's National Bank, to head the state oil fund, Turan reported on 3 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). LF

    [05] ELEVEN AZERBAIJANI SOLDIERS KILLED BY AVALANCHE

    A total of 11 servicemen, including one officer, have been killed in three separate avalanches on Mount Inaldag, near the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier, Turan and Interfax reported on 3 January. Two men died on 17 December, three on 21 December and six on 27 December. To date, four bodies have been recovered. Rescue operations are continuing. LF

    [06] RUSSIA RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO GEORGIAN CAPITAL

    Russia resumed natural gas supplies to the main Tbilisi power station late on 3 January, after Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had addressed a written appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Russian agencies reported. Georgia's Fuel and Energy Minister David Mirtskhulava had flown to Moscow on 3 January to try to negotiate a resumption of supplies with Gazprom. Gazprom had cut off supplies to Georgia on 1 January even though, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry, Tbilisi had paid in advance for gas to be supplied this month. LF

    [07] KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGE

    Former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who now heads the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 3 January that he is "prepared to answer the frivolous and politically motivated charges" of embezzlement and tax evasion brought against him by the Kazakh authorities in "any legitimate independent court in the world." He noted that he had twice been thwarted in an attempt to do so, when he was detained at Moscow airport in September 1999 and in Rome in July 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999 and 17 July 2000). Replying to questions from TV viewers in Kazakhstan late last month, President Nursultan Nazarbaev had argued that Kazhegeldin should return to Kazakhstan to answer prosecutors' questions, Interfax reported on 28 December. Kazhegeldin also rejected Nazarbaev's accusation that he spent $18-20 million on election campaigning, pointing out that he was refused permission to contend either the January 1999 presidential elections or the October 1999 parliamentary ballot. LF

    [08] KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES STATUS OF REFUGEES

    The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament on 3 Januuary began debating the draft law on refugees, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Altynshash Zhaghanova, who heads the State Migration and Demography Agency, told deputies that the draft should be amended to specify the status in Kazakhstan of fugitives from Chechnya, who are currently regarded simply as citizens of the Russian Federation. But at the same time she warned that giving persons who fled the Chechen war the status of refugees in Kazakhstan could adversely affect Astana's relations with Moscow. Zhaghanova also pointed out that Kazakhs from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan who immigrate to Kazakhstan are given the status of repatriate, not of refugee. LF

    [09] IMPRISONED KYRGYZ POLITICIAN HOSPITALIZED

    Opposition party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, who was found guilty on 1 September on charges of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Askar Akaev, has been transferred to the hospital of the prison camp near Bishkek where he is serving his six-year sentence, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 3 January. He is believed to be suffering from a cold and a facial rash. LF

    [10] MORE CABINET REGIONAL APPOINTMENTS IN KYRGYZSTAN

    President Akaev on 3 January reappointed previous incumbents Tolobek Omuraliev, Sadirdin Jeenbekov and Roman Omorov to head the Agency for the Registration of Real Estate, the Committee for State Property Fund and Direct Foreign Investment, and the Agency for Local Government and Regional Development, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Head of government staff Ratbek Eshmambetov was named minister of ecology and emergency situations. Akaev also appointed Rustambek Isaev and Kubat Kojonaliev as deputies to the prosecutor-general, and dismissed six local district administrators in Chu, Osh and Djalalabad Oblasts. LF

    [11] FOUR UZBEK CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY OSTRACIZED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

    Some 1,000 residents of the village of Kurkol in Djalalabad Oblast convened a meeting on 3 January at which they demanded that four ethnic Uzbeks who recently converted to Christianity leave the village, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The local Muslim Religious Board estimates that some 130 local residents have recently converted to Christianity. In late December, police in the southern city of Osh arrested five members of the banned Hizb- ut-Tahrir organization who had pasted in public places leaflets calling for the overthrow of the Kyrgyz leadership and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the Ferghana valley, Russian agencies reported. Up to 300 people, most of them Hizb-ut-Tahrir members, were arrested in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2000 for distributing religious literature. LF

    [12] TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS OF UZBEK MILITANT THREAT

    In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service that was broadcast on 2 January and summarized the following day by Asia Plus-Blitz, Islamic Revival Party chairman Said Abdullo Nuri expressed concern that the presence in Tajikistan of Uzbek militants from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan may pose a threat to peace and tranquillity in Tajikistan. He said the Tajik government's "cautious" policy towards the militants is motivated by the fear that confrontation could lead to renewed bloodshed. Nuri denied that the United Tajik Opposition had facilitated the Uzbek militants' passage to Tajikistan, laying the blame for their infiltration on the failure of the Russian border guards deployed along Tajikistan's frontier to intercept them. Russian media have accused former UTO military commander and Emergencies Minister Mirzo Zieev of collusion with the IMU. LF

    [13] MINIMUM WAGE TRIPLED IN TAJIKISTAN

    In accordance with a decree signed by President Imomali Rakhmonov on 20 November, the Tajik government on 1 January raised the minimum wage of state sector employees from one to three somonis ($1.36) per month, Reuters reported. Pensions were raised by 2 somonis. Medical personnel and teachers will receive a 40-percent salary increase on 1 April, according to ITAR- TASS. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [14] SERBIAN LEADER REGRETS ELECTION CHALLENGE

    Zlatko Korac, who represents Serbia's soon-to-be-governing DOS coalition, said in Belgrade on 3 January that a challenge to parliamentary election results in a handful of precincts will cause unnecessary delay to the reform process (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). "We are losing time here and we can't afford it. Even a week's delay is a loss because it will postpone the start of badly needed democratic reforms," AP quoted him as saying. He added that "everyone understands clearly that this cannot change anything. All this is aimed at stalling the process of democratic reforms." The challenge was launched by Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party. Three of the polling stations are in Belgrade and four are in Leskovac. The rest are scattered around the country. The outcome of the vote is unlikely to have any effect on the composition of the parliament, where the DOS has a two- thirds majority. PM

    [15] U.S., YUGOSLAVIA MARK NEW ERA IN RELATIONS...

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior State Department official told Reuters on 4 January that the visit of Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic to Washington marks the start of a new period in bilateral relations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2000). "The reason this visit matters a lot is...the fact that it signals the end of an era, and an opportunity to try to build the European architecture that Secretary [of State Madeleine] Albright has worked hard at over the last few years." Albright herself is something of a hate-object in Serbia, where she is resented for her Balkan polices aimed at stopping former President Slobodan Milosevic's war machine in Kosova. Serbia's macho culture also has difficulties coming to terms with the presence of a strong, decisive woman in a position of leadership. PM

    [16] ... AS SERBIA LOOKS TO BUSH ERA

    It is not clear with whom, if anyone, Svilanovic will meet with from the policy team of President-elect George W. Bush during his three-day stay beginning on 4 January, Reuters reported. For some weeks, there has been speculation in the Serbian media that Bush will withdraw U.S. troops from the Balkans and repudiate the "interventionist" policy of President Bill Clinton. Those commentaries often overlook the fact that, as governor of Texas, Bush supported NATO intervention in Kosova, a fact that he recalled during his presidential campaign. Several members of his policy team have indicated that he will review U.S. military commitments abroad but not take any rash steps. Other Serbian commentaries suggest that there is unlikely to be any great shift in U.S. policy toward the Balkans, which is linked to broader, long-standing U.S. strategies in Europe. PM

    [17] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SLAMS MONTENEGRIN PROPOSAL

    Dragoljub Micunovic, who is speaker of the Yugoslav parliament and leader of the Democratic Center, said in Belgrade on 3 January that Montenegro's proposal for restructuring relations between Serbia and Montenegro is not serious, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001). He added that the Serbian authorities will soon prepare a proposal of their own. Echoing the arguments used for years by the Milosevic regime, Micunovic said that eventual independence for Montenegro would lead to independence for Kosova and in turn to new Balkan wars (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 December 2000). PM

    [18] NEW ELECTIONS FOR MONTENEGRO?

    Savo Djurdjevac, who is outgoing deputy prime minister of Montenegro and a leader of the People's Party, said that new elections are necessary following the breakup of the governing coalition, "Danas" reported on 4 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 21 December 2000 and 4 January 2001). PM

    [19] BOSNIAN SERB EX-LEADER TO HAGUE?

    The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has called on former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic to appear in the court on 10 January for her alleged role in "genocide" against Muslims and Croats during the 1992-1995 conflict, "Vesti" reported on 30 December. In The Hague, a tribunal spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying that there is no public indictment of Plavsic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 3 January. The following day, "Vesti" reported that Plavsic will tell the tribunal what she knows about Milosevic's role in the war as part of a plea bargain. Accounts of alleged Hague indictments of or summons sent to prominent leaders in the region are regular fare in the Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim press. PM

    [20] BOSNIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REBUILDING IMPORTANT RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES

    Zivko Radisic, who holds the rotating chair of Bosnia's three-member presidency, said in Mostar that three buildings will have priority in the program to reconstruct destroyed religious buildings, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 4 January. They are a Roman Catholic monastery near Capljina, the Serbian Orthodox cathedral in Mostar, and the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka. PM

    [21] SLOVENIA INTRODUCES EU STANDARDS FOR 'MAD COW DISEASE'

    Zoran Kovac, who heads the Slovenian government's office for veterinary affairs, told Reuters in Ljubljana on 3 January that tests have begun on all beef cattle over 30 months of age in keeping with similar measures in the EU. Kovac added that "our rules for protection against mad cow disease are now equivalent to those in the EU." PM

    [22] ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO HOLD EXTRAORDINARY CONFERENCE

    Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 3 January said that an extraordinary National Conference of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 19 January will elect a new PDSR chairman, who will replace President Ion Iliescu. RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau says the most likely candidate for the position is Nastase himself. The premier also said that the conference is likely to create the position of PDSR secretary general, who will not be a member of the government or the parliament. The conference is also to decide on finalizing the process of PDSR's merger with the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR), with whom it ran on joint lists in the November 2000 elections. The joint formation is to be called Social Democratic Party and will apply for membership in the Socialist International, of which the PSDR is a member. MS

    [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ABOLISHES PRIVATIZATION AGENCY

    The government on 3 January decided to abolish the State Privatization Fund, replacing it with the newly-created Privatization and State-Assets Administration. The cabinet also decided to nullify a number of governmental emergency regulations issued by the previous Mugur Isarescu cabinet. On 30 December, the cabinet approved an emergency regulation of its own, granting facilities to small and medium-seized enterprises, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Among other facilities, these enterprises will be exempted from VAT on imported equipment, will not pay taxes on profit reinvested for modernization purposes, and will be granted a 20-percent reduction in taxes if in 2001 they manage to create at least 10 percent more jobs than in the previous year. MS

    [24] BULGARIANS' LIBYAN TRIAL TO BE POSTPONED AGAIN?

    The trial in Libya of the five Bulgarian nurses and one doctor, scheduled for 6 January, might be postponed again, lawyers representing them told Reuters on 3 January. Libyan lawyer Osman Byzanti and his Bulgarian colleague Vladimir Sheitanov said they are now ready for the trial, but a postponement might be requested by lawyers representing eight Libyans and one Palestinian. They are all charged with having willfully infected some 400 children with the HIV virus and if convicted, they face the death sentence. It would be the eighth time the trial was postponed. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [25] STALIN AS ROLE MODEL

    by Paul A. Goble

    The United Georgian Communist Party has voted to rehabilitate former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, a man whom the group describes as "the most gifted politician of the twentieth century" and an obvious role model for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Speaking at a party conference last week in Tbilisi, Georgian Communist leader and retired General Panteleimon Giorgadze said that this decision, which delegates to the congress adopted unanimously, reflected the party's desire to boost the reputation of Georgia's most famous native son. But they added that its timing was the result of Putin's decision to resore the Soviet national anthem -- albeit with new words.

    Indeed, People's Patriotic Movement leader Vakhtang Goguadze, a close ally of the Georgian Communists, added that the Russian leader had inspired them because of his self-evident commitment to rebuilding a strong state: "Not genetically, not biologically, of course, but politically, because [Putin's] besotted with this brilliant man and it shows in what he does."

    Even though they suffered as much or more from Stalin's actions, Georgians typically have had their own and more positive view of the late dictator. When Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's crimes in 1956 and launched his de-Stalinization campaign, some Georgians tried to keep his memory alive by maintaining a museum in Stalin's memory in his native town of Gori and marking his birthday every 21 December. In the late 1980s, a local Georgian Komsomol official spoke for many of his fellow countrymen when he publicly affirmed that "As long as I live, my gods will be Jesus Christ and Stalin."

    Because of this national history, many both in Georgia and elsewhere may be tempted to view this latest decision as a uniquely Georgian affair. But in fact, it both reflects and raises three larger issues of post-Soviet history.

    First, it calls attention to a new break with the politics of the first post-Soviet decade. During the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, few leaders, except for the Communists, were prepared to look back to the Soviet past with anything but anger. And most explicitly cast their policies in terms of breaking from or overcoming that past.

    Across the CIS and beyond, most people viewed politics as a struggle between democrats and communists, one that they believed time would resolve in favor of the former rather than the latter. Throughout his term in office, Yeltsin routinely exploited this conviction to gather support for himself. But now that has changed.

    As political observers Antonina Lebedeva and Ilya Bulavinov point out in the current issue of Moscow's "Kommersant-Vlast," politicians in Russia no longer can be "simplistically divided into democrats and communists as they could be through almost the entire Yeltsin era." Instead, they argue, the dividing line runs between those politicians who are with Putin and those who who are against him, with the latter being "infinitesimally few."

    Second, the Georgian Communists' decision, like Putin's promotion of the old-new national anthem and of Soviet-era military flag, inevitably opens the way for the reconsideration of issues that many had believed were settled. When the discussion of Stalin was anathema, few people could consider supporting any of his ideas or try to mobilize political support for any return to what he represented. Now, at least some will be willing to try to do just that.

    By rehabilitating Stalin in this way, the Georgian Communists have thereby opened the door to such discussions and such attempts at mobilization. Neither they nor others who follow them may succeed in winning that political struggle, but their decision last week at least permits them to reenter the political fray, a development that inevitably will change the political scene not only in Georgia but in other post-Soviet states as well.

    And third, this decision highlights just how little progress some in the region have made over the past decade and how ardently at least a few want to return to the past. Even as the Georgian Communists were singing the praises of Stalin as Putin's role model, Moscow pollsters were reporting that a majority of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians support the restoration of a single state among them.

    According to a poll taken by the Moscow Humanitarian Academy, 61 percent of Russians, 53 percent of Ukrainians, and 69 percent of Belarusians want to live in a single state, with 38 percent of the Russians, 43 percent of the Ukrainians and 57 percent of the Belarusians saying they favored the restoration of a unitary state of the kind which existed in pre-1917 Russia.

    Again, even these widespread attitudes are not necessarily going to be translated into a new-old political reality, but both they and the rehabilitation of Stalin are a reminder that in many post-Soviet countries, the politics of the 21st century are likely to be defined by those of the 20th and the battle between those who want these countries to move toward democracy and those who do not seems certain to continue.

    04-01-01


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


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