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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 16, 01-01-24

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. 5, No. 16, 24 January 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES TIES WITH RUSSIA DETERIORATING
  • [02] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS STAGE PROTEST
  • [03] SUPPORT GROWS IN AZERBAIJAN FOR WAR INVALIDS' HUNGER-STRIKE
  • [04] KAZAKHSTAN, IRAN DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION
  • [05] KAZAKH PRESIDENT UPGRADES TAX POLICE
  • [06] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CONTINUES TO PROTEST KULOV VERDICT...
  • [07] ...WHICH HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG TERMS 'UNFAIR'
  • [08] KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES WATER TARIFFS
  • [09] TAJIKISTAN EQUIVOCATES OVER APPEAL TO ADMIT AFGHAN FUGITIVES
  • [10] UZBEK DELEGATION DISCUSSES HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES WITH EU

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] DEL PONTE TO MEET WITH SERBIAN LEADERS
  • [12] DEL PONTE WALKS OUT ON YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT
  • [13] MYSTERY CONTINUES OVER SERBIAN INDICTMENT
  • [14] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT REBUFFS DEL PONTE
  • [15] DEL PONTE: MILOSEVIC KNEW OF ATTACK ON SERBIAN TELEVISION
  • [16] MONTENEGRIN MINISTER SLAMS EU
  • [17] SECOND THOUGHTS IN BRUSSELS ON MONTENEGRO?
  • [18] EU STATEMENT ON MONTENEGRO ONLY 'SUGGESTIONS'?
  • [19] INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY REACTS TO HERZEGOVINIAN PROTESTS
  • [20] SLOVENIAN PROSECUTOR ARRESTED ON BRIBERY CHARGE
  • [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER IN STRASBOURG
  • [22] ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER MEETS IMF BOARD CHIEFS
  • [23] 'VATRA ROMANEASCA' PROTESTS AGAINST NEW LAW
  • [24] MOLDOVAN RADIO JOURNALISTS ATTACKED, ROBBED
  • [25] POLLUTION KILLS FISH IN BULGARIAN RIVER

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [26] RUSSIA REPORTED DISSATISFIED WITH OSCE'S FOCUS, PROCEDURES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES TIES WITH RUSSIA DETERIORATING

    Vahe Gabrielian again told journalists in Yerevan on 23 January that the warming in relations between Russia and Azerbaijan is likely to contribute to resolving regional problems, including the Karabakh conflict, rather than adversely impact on Armenian-Russian ties, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gabrielian said no date has yet been set for a planned official visit to Armenia this year by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but added that Putin is likely to attend a meeting in Yerevan in May to mark the tenth anniversary of the signing of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. He also described Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov's low-key 21 January visit to Yerevan as "a planned working visit." LF

    [02] AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS STAGE PROTEST

    "Scores" of journalists employed by independent media outlets congregated outside the state publishing house in Baku on 23 January to protest an attack last week on one of their colleagues and the anticipated steep rise in the price of newsprint, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). Some 100 police prevented the protesters from holding a symbolic burial of an issue of the newspaper "Umid" (Hope) at a nearby cemetery. Speaking in Baku the same day, President Heidar Aliev professed to know nothing about either the anticipated price rise or last week's attack on journalist Haji Zamin, according to Turan. The Council of Editors had addressed an appeal to Aliev on 19 January in connection with that assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). LF

    [03] SUPPORT GROWS IN AZERBAIJAN FOR WAR INVALIDS' HUNGER-STRIKE

    The number of Karabakh war invalids currently participating in hunger- strikes in 68 localities across Azerbaijan has now reached over 500, Turan reported on 24 January. The hunger-strikers are demanding a three-fold increase in their pensions and allowances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). The chairmen of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, the Yurddash Party and the "conservative" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party visited hunger-striking veterans in Baku on 23 January to express their support. On 24 January, the independent daily "Azadlyq" quoted presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev as saying that the hunger- strike is "politically motivated," and that the invalids' demands will not be met. LF

    [04] KAZAKHSTAN, IRAN DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION

    Zharmabai Tuyakbaev, speaker of the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, held talks in Astana on 23 January with Iranian Ambassador Murtaza Saffari, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Issues discussed included bilateral relations, the two countries' positions on the Caspian Sea, and the situation in Afghanistan. Tuyakbaev said there are no areas of bilateral relations where problems cannot be solved on a mutual basis. He singled out as the most promising areas for expanding cooperation the export to Iran of metals and grain from Kazakhstan and crude oil swaps, according to Interfax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2000). LF

    [05] KAZAKH PRESIDENT UPGRADES TAX POLICE

    Nursultan Nazarbaev issued a decree on 22 January creating on the basis of the former Tax Police Committee, which was subordinate to the Ministry for State Revenues, a new State Board of Financial Police, which is defined as an autonomous executive organ that is, however, not part of the government, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The rationale cited for that decision was the need "to reinforce the Interior Ministry's efforts to prevent, discover and curb economic and financial crime." LF

    [06] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CONTINUES TO PROTEST KULOV VERDICT...

    Thirty supporters of opposition Ar-Namys Party chairman Feliks Kulov picketed the government building in Bishkek for an hour on 24 January to protest the seven-year jail sentence handed down two days earlier on the party's chairman, former Vice President Feliks Kulov, and to demand his release, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 January 2001). Also on 24 January, Kulov's defense lawyers told journalists in Bishkek that they will appeal the verdict first in the Bishkek Military Court, which conducted the hearing, and then if necessary in the country's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. On 23 January, Ar-Namys issued a statement saying that the case against Kulov had no legal foundation and calls into question the expediency of further dialogue between the opposition and the authorities. The statement appeals to the international community to suspend cooperation with the Kyrgyz leadership. LF

    [07] ...WHICH HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG TERMS 'UNFAIR'

    On 22 January, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Foundation issued a statement condemning Kulov's trial as unfair and "an obvious violation of international law and standards." The IHF noted that many Kyrgyz are convinced the sentence on Kulov was intended specifically to prevent him from playing any role in national politics for a long period of time. LF

    [08] KYRGYZ CAPITAL RAISES WATER TARIFFS

    The Bishkek City Council approved on 23 January a proposal to increase drinking water tariffs by 80 percent from 1 February, from 0.6 soms to 1.1 soms per cubic meter, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. (The current exchange rate is 48.9 soms:$1.) But the city council also turned down a proposal to raise tariffs for public transportation. LF

    [09] TAJIKISTAN EQUIVOCATES OVER APPEAL TO ADMIT AFGHAN FUGITIVES

    Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov told Reuters on 23 January that Dushanbe will not comply with the previous day's appeal by the UNHCR to allow some 10,000 displaced persons currently camping on the Afghan side of the Afghan-Tajik border to enter Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). Echoing President Imomali Rakhmonov, Saidov said the displaced persons, some of whom have spent three months on the border, have not been allowed to enter Tajikistan because they include armed fighters. He added that allowing the displaced Afghans into the country would compound the economic problems that Tajikistan currently faces. Interfax, however, on 23 January quoted an unnamed Tajik Foreign Ministry official as saying that "it is still too early" to speak of a concrete decision on whether or not to allow the displaced persons to enter Tajikistan. LF

    [10] UZBEK DELEGATION DISCUSSES HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES WITH EU

    An Uzbek government delegation headed by Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov held talks with EU representatives in Brussels on 22-23 January on developing political and economic ties, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and on cooperating to counter the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to Europe via Central Asia, RFE/RL's EU correspondent reported. Speaking at a joint press conference with Komilov on 23 January, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who represents the Swedish EU presidency, said Uzbekistan has agreed to allow International Red Cross representatives access to Uzbek detention centers and observers from the EU to attend trials in Uzbekistan. LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] DEL PONTE TO MEET WITH SERBIAN LEADERS

    Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, met in Belgrade on 24 January with representatives of Serbs from Kosova. They want charges brought against ethnic Albanian militants, whom the Serbs say kidnapped their loved ones. She will later meet with Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic, National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic, and several other top Yugoslav and Serbian officials. Djindjic has stressed the need to cooperate with The Hague but wants to try former President Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 January 2001). Some observers suggest that Djindjic may be using cooperation with the tribunal as an issue in a political tug-of-war with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. PM

    [12] DEL PONTE WALKS OUT ON YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

    An angry-looking Del Ponte hurriedly left a one-hour meeting with Kostunica in Belgrade on 23 January, brushing past reporters, Deutsche Welle reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). The chief prosecutor had been expected to ask the president to arrest and extradite all indicted war criminals on Yugoslav territory, starting with Milosevic. Kostunica argues that the constitution prohibits the extradition of any citizen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). He told the "International Herald Tribune" of 24 January that "if one wants to destabilize the situation in this country, one might behave the way Carla Del Ponte behaves" regarding the arrest and trial of war criminals. PM

    [13] MYSTERY CONTINUES OVER SERBIAN INDICTMENT

    Del Ponte was also expected to give Kostunica in Belgrade on 23 January a sealed indictment for one unnamed person. Kostunica had said that he will publish any indictments from the tribunal. It is not clear to whom she will now give the text. Speculation in the Serbian press suggests that the indictment could have been for Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj or Borislav Pelevic, who was a deputy to the late Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan. Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said that the indictment will serve as a "test of the good will" of the Belgrade authorities, AP reported. Hartmann added that Del Ponte will issue a "frank" statement about her talk with Kostunica at the end of her visit on 25 January. Meanwhile, the tribunal "ordered" the Yugoslav authorities to freeze all of Milosevic's assets. PM

    [14] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT REBUFFS DEL PONTE

    After Del Ponte left the meeting with Kostunica in Belgrade on 23 January, a joint press conference was canceled. The president's office said in a statement that "Kostunica brought up his objections to...the problem of secret indictments and the politicized work of the tribunal, pointing out especially the danger that selective justice could bring... He also pointed out the fact that most of the indictments have been against Serbs. [That] most of the Serbian political and military leaders were indicted could be seen as [presupposing] the collective guilt of an entire people, despite the fact the tribunal formally insists on personalizing responsibility... The prosecutor dismissed these remarks," Reuters reported. As did the Milosevic regime, Kostunica has called the court a tool of U.S. foreign policy and has urged that NATO and the U.S. be investigated for "war crimes" in conjunction with the 1999 Kosova campaign. PM

    [15] DEL PONTE: MILOSEVIC KNEW OF ATTACK ON SERBIAN TELEVISION

    Del Ponte's spokeswoman Hartmann said in Belgrade on 23 January that Milosevic knew that NATO had targeted the building of Radio Television Serbia for bombing on 23 April 1999, "Vesti" reported. Del Ponte provided information to that effect from NATO to lawyer Slobodan Sisic, who represents the families of 13 of the 16 people killed in the bombing. Sisic said that "if there is real, written, positive evidence about this--and we have absolutely no reason to disbelieve Mme Del Ponte--this completely changes the entire concept of our proceedings," Reuters reported. The families maintain that Milosevic knew that the building was slated for attack but kept it open and did not warn the staff of the danger. The families also want to charge NATO for the deaths, but Del Ponte told Sisic that she does not have sufficient information to link the bombing to any one individual. Del Ponte also met with Serbian civil rights activists and with the brother of murdered journalist Slavko Curuvija. PM

    [16] MONTENEGRIN MINISTER SLAMS EU

    Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac discussed regional cooperation in Tirana on 23 January with Prime Minister Ilir Meta and other top Albanian officials, "Pobjeda" reported. Lukovac told reporters that the EU's recent statement on Serbian-Montenegrin relations "will make future talks [between Belgrade and Podgorica] more difficult and will hurt the international community's credibility," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "Balkan Report," 23 January 2001). He added that "the international community should not express one-sided opinions." PM

    [17] SECOND THOUGHTS IN BRUSSELS ON MONTENEGRO?

    In Brussels, some top EU officials seemed to moderate the views expressed in the recent statement, "Vijesti" reported on 24 January. A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said that the EU will accept the results of a Montenegrin referendum, even if the majority votes for independence. The Podgorica daily also published the results of a new opinion poll, which suggests that 55.6 percent of the population will vote for independence. President Milo Djukanovic remains the most trusted politician with 27 percent of the respondents' votes, followed by Socialist People's Party (SNP) leader Predrag Bulatovic with 12 percent. PM

    [18] EU STATEMENT ON MONTENEGRO ONLY 'SUGGESTIONS'?

    Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 23 January that the recent EU statement is only a list of "suggestions... that one should keep in mind," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that he is sure that Brussels will respect any Montenegrin decision expressed in a referendum. SNP leader Bulatovic meanwhile welcomed the EU statement, saying that it has put the government in a bind. He argued that the government must abandon its goal of independence or risk finding itself on a collision course with the international community. PM

    [19] INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY REACTS TO HERZEGOVINIAN PROTESTS

    Alexandra Stiglmayer, who is the spokeswoman for High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Sarajevo that the Croatian People's Assembly that opposes the new Bosnian federal government is simply a "debating club" without any political authority, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 24 January. OSCE spokesman Luke Zahner said that he still sees room for a compromise in recent remarks by Herzegovinian leader Ante Jelavic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2001). PM

    [20] SLOVENIAN PROSECUTOR ARRESTED ON BRIBERY CHARGE

    State Prosecutor Zdenka Cerar, who is in charge of district attorneys, said in Ljubljana on 23 January that an internal investigation shows that Ptuj prosecutor Marjan Glavar has taken bribes and been linked to corruption. He is under arrest. Slovenian media have previously linked Glavar to drug smuggling and human trafficking, AP reported. The new prosecutor in Ptuj is Franc Lengar, "Dnevnik" reported. PM

    [21] ROMANIAN PREMIER IN STRASBOURG

    Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 23 January, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said his country will continue to pursue "full integration" into the EU and NATO and criticized the fact that visa requirements imposed by the EU on Romanian citizens have not yet been lifted, calling the measure "an injustice." Outlining his cabinet's priorities, Nastase said "sweeping changes" are needed to fight poverty and promote social justice. He said his government wants to continue cooperation with international financial institutions and the EU with the aim of forging what he called "a market economy with a human dimension." He also said the struggle against corruption and organized crime will be intensified. Nastase also appealed to the assembly to help bring about the release from a Tiraspol prison of Ilie Ilascu, who is now a Romanian senator and who has been nominated a member of the Romanian delegation to the assembly. MS

    [22] ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER MEETS IMF BOARD CHIEFS

    Finance Minister Mihail Tanasescu said after meeting in Washington on 23 January with members of the IMF executive board that he has outlined the main features of the government's economic policies and the manner in which the Nastase cabinet intends to structure the 2001 budget. He said Romania's main problem is a "lack of credibility" stemming from the fact that none of the six stand-by agreements signed with the IMF since 1990 has been fulfilled by Bucharest. Tanasescu said he hopes this image will change and that an IMF delegation will arrive in early February to assess the proposed budget with Romanian officials, saying the IMF is urging that the budget be submitted to the parliament "urgently," Romanian Radio reported on 24 January. MS

    [23] 'VATRA ROMANEASCA' PROTESTS AGAINST NEW LAW

    Like Matica Slovenska in Slovakia (see above), the Vatra Romaneasca "cultural" organization known for its anti-Hungarian minority postures protested on 24 January

    against the provisions of the recently-approved Law on Local Public Administration. Romanian Radio said the organization calls "unconstitutional" the provision allowing the use of minority languages in contact with officials in localities where minorities are 20 percent or more of the population. Vatra calls on President Ion Iliescu--a founding member of the union-- not to promulgate the law. MS

    [24] MOLDOVAN RADIO JOURNALISTS ATTACKED, ROBBED

    A wave of attacks and robberies, whose victims are journalists working for the Teleradio state company, has been registered in Moldova, Romanian Radio reported on 24 January. The station's deputy director of the Department for International Relations, Tudor Osaci, was killed last week in the entrance hall of his apartment block. Earlier, the editor in chief of Moldovan Radio's news department, Maria Tifan, suffered a stroke after being attacked and savagely beaten near her house. Police say the aggressors are robbers, but have not been able to identify them. MS

    [25] POLLUTION KILLS FISH IN BULGARIAN RIVER

    Toxic waste released from a copper ore processing plant has killed at least one ton of fish in Topolnitsa River in western Bulgaria, AP reported on 23 January, citing Bulgarian state radio. An inquiry has been launched. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [26] RUSSIA REPORTED DISSATISFIED WITH OSCE'S FOCUS, PROCEDURES

    By Roland Eggleston

    Diplomats at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say Russia is unhappy with criticism of its operations in Chechnya and Moldova and wants changes in the way the organization operates.

    Russia's criticisms of the OSCE came to a head at the end of last year when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov vetoed an official statement due to have been issued after a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Vienna. That draft statement called for an independent investigation of alleged atrocities against civilians in Chechnya. Other parts of the document criticized Russia for making what it said was little progress on the withdrawal of its troops from Moldova.

    The Russian veto shocked the meeting. It was the first time that Moscow had vetoed an OSCE statement since the collapse of communism 10 years ago. In Vienna this week, some diplomats said they feared it could herald a return to the days when Moscow routinely vetoed statements after OSCE meetings because they were not to its liking.

    Russia denies, however, that this will happen. Its chief delegate at OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Oleg Belous, said Russia vetoed the statement because it pointed the finger only at the former Soviet Union. He says Russia wants a balanced consideration of international problems, including those in the West.

    Belous said Russia also wants a return to the principle that most OSCE agreements and documents require consensus -- that is, the unanimous agreement of all of the organization's members. Consensus is still the guiding principle at OSCE, but Russia claims it has been undermined and is not properly implemented.

    Most of the criticisms in the Vienna statement vetoed by Russia were published anyway. The then OSCE chairwoman, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, repeated them in a so-called chairman's statement, which was not subject to a veto. Russia said later her comments did not reflect the consensus of the meeting and Russia was not bound by them.

    In a speech before exercising his veto, Ivanov criticized what he perceived as an exaggerated OSCE focus on problems in the former Soviet Union, particularly the conflict in Chechnya. He charged that OSCE meetings focused on problems in the Caucasus, Moldova, Georgia and Central Asia but rarely discussed problems in the West which, he said, was riddled with xenophobia, racism and crime.

    Diplomats said the focus of Ivanov's remarks was the statement's language on Chechnya. The proposed declaration said foreign ministers "urge Russian authorities to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to Chechnya." It deplored the continued loss of life and material damage in Chechnya and called for a "prompt and independent investigation and prosecution of all alleged atrocities against civilians and other violations of human rights."

    Diplomats in Vienna say they are reluctant to comment on the matter because negotiations are underway with Moscow to end the dispute. But they agreed that Russian operations in Chechnya frequently come under fire at OSCE meetings, although few details emerge because the meetings are closed.

    As OSCE chairwoman, Ferrero-Waldner unsuccessfully pressured Russia last year to allow an OSCE mission to return to Chechnya so it could assist in finding a political solution to the conflict and encourage a dialogue. The mission was forced to leave because of the fighting in the breakaway republic and it is now based in Moscow.

    Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov was also critical of a passage in the proposed statement which said there is "growing concern" that Russia is making little progress in withdrawing its military forces from Moldova. At an OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999, Russia signed a statement which said some forces would leave by the end of this year and that all Russian troops would be gone by the end of next year.

    In another comment, the proposed declaration expressed concern over Russia's decision to demand visas for most citizens of Georgia beginning last month.

    Russia's dissatisfaction is being taken seriously by the OSCE. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder discussed it with President Vladimir Putin during Schroeder's recent visit to Moscow, but the German Foreign Ministry declines to give any details of those talks. The OSCE's Secretary General, Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis, was in Moscow earlier this month to try to defuse the crisis and the organization's new chairman, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoana, will go to Moscow shortly, probably sometime next month.

    In the meantime, Moscow has circulated a paper at OSCE headquarters calling for changes in the way the organization works and the freedom of the chairman to make statements in the name of the organization.

    European diplomats say the paper indicates Russia wants closer control of the chairman, who serves for only one year. The paper argues that when making comments on crisis areas such as Chechnya, the chairman should reflect what it calls a consensus view of the OSCE, including Russia, rather than make what it calls "one-sided statements" in the name of the OSCE or issue statements that do not reflect consensus among members. In Russia's view, if there is no consensus, then the chairman should not speak in the name of the OSCE.

    In addition, Russia wants major issues to be discussed in closed meetings of small groups before they are raised at the weekly meeting of the OSCE's Permanent Council, which is currently its main forum for considering crises and other problems. Moscow wants various opinions on a problem to be identified and followed by political consultations aimed at finding compromises.

    The Russian paper suggests that these private meetings should, in its words, "shun publicity" and not publicize draft documents. Nor, it urges, should statements made to the meeting by individual countries be publicized.

    Roland Eggleston is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich.

    24-01-01


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


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