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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 48, 01-03-09

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. 48, 9 March 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIA, GREECE, IRAN MOVE AHEAD ON PIPELINE PROJECT
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN TO INCREASE MILITARY SPENDING...
  • [03] ...AS DEFENSE MINISTER DESCRIBES ARMENIA AS 'GREATEST ENEMY'...
  • [04] ... AND HIS PREDECESSORS DISAGREE OVER ARMY'S COMBAT READINESS
  • [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DENIES SECURITY OFFICIALS ASSIST CHECHEN FIGHTERS
  • [06] IS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN PLANNING TO RESIGN?
  • [07] GEORGIAN CURRENCY STILL IN DOLDRUMS
  • [08] KAZAKH AUTHORITIES PLANNING FURTHER REPRISALS AGAINST CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER?
  • [09] RUSSIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT KYRGYZSTAN
  • [10] INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ PAPER OFFERS RIVAL'S JOURNALISTS COLUMN SPACE...
  • [11] ...AS INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG CONDEMNS REPRESSION OF PRINT MEDIA

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA BLASTS NATO
  • [13] NATO'S ROBERTSON SAYS SERBS WILL BE 'SENSITIVE'
  • [14] IS SERBIA HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS?
  • [15] ALBANIA CALLS DECISION 'HASTY'
  • [16] NATO, U.S. PLAY DOWN LATEST BALKAN VIOLENCE
  • [17] MACEDONIA WANTS NATO TROOPS ALONG BORDER
  • [18] MACEDONIAN OFFICIALS UNDER GUERRILLA FIRE
  • [19] KOSOVAR DAILY IDENTIFIES GUERRILLA LEADERS
  • [20] MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER BLASTS VIOLENCE
  • [21] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLAMS DEL PONTE
  • [22] POLITICAL STANDOFF CONTINUES IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
  • [23] DECENTRALIZATION IN CROATIA
  • [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER RECOMMENDS AMENDING STATE SECRETS LAW
  • [25] THIRD CANDIDATE EMERGES IN ROMANIAN PARTY CONTEST
  • [26] PROMINENT ROMANIAN POLITICIAN RESIGNING FROM PARTY
  • [27] ROMANIAN POLICE TO BE DEMILITARIZED
  • [28] BULGARIA SENDING 'HUNDREDS OF TONS OF MUNITIONS' TO MACEDONIA
  • [29] BULGARIA, GREECE, BOTH AGAINST DEPLOYING TROOPS IN MACEDONIA
  • [30] BULGARIA TO LIBERALIZE ENERGY MARKET
  • [31] BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL JUDGES RESENT BEING INVESTIGATED

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] There is no End Note today

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIA, GREECE, IRAN MOVE AHEAD ON PIPELINE PROJECT

    Meeting in Athens on 8 March, the foreign ministers of Armenia, Greece, and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at promoting closer cooperation in the energy sector, economic affairs, trade, technology, tourism, industry, transport, and communications, AFP reported. Iran and Armenia pledged to continue to cooperate in construction of a pipeline to export Iranian natural gas to Armenia. Greece has just completed a preliminary feasibility study for that pipeline, which Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said the EU may help subsidize. Speaking after the meeting, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said trilateral cooperation "is becoming deeper and more concrete," adding that there are "no political differences" between the three countries, AP reported. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN TO INCREASE MILITARY SPENDING...

    Defense spending in Azerbaijan in 2001 will amount to 539.5 billion manats ($111 million), which is equal to 13 percent of all budget expenditures, Caucasus Press reported on 9 March, quoting the head of the parliament budget commission. The source said the increase in military spending has been made possible by a rise in budget revenues. LF

    [03] ...AS DEFENSE MINISTER DESCRIBES ARMENIA AS 'GREATEST ENEMY'...

    In a 7 March interview with the private TV station ANS TV cited by Groong, Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel-General Safar Abiev said the country's defense doctrine categorizes Armenia as Azerbaijan's "greatest enemy." He declined to name other countries that are classified as foes, saying only "anyone hostile to Azerbaijan is our enemy." LF

    [04] ... AND HIS PREDECESSORS DISAGREE OVER ARMY'S COMBAT READINESS

    Abiev was quoted on 6 March by Bilik Dunyasi as saying that the Azerbaijani army is ready to carry out military tasks "at any time" should President Heidar Aliev issue such orders as commander-in-chief, according to Groong. The same agency also quoted retired Major-General Dadash Rzaev, who served as defense minister from February-June 1993, as saying that the army has attained a high level of combat readiness and could embark on a full-scale attack and liberate the seven districts currently controlled by Armenian forces "in a short period of time." But retired Major-General Tacaddin Mehdiev, who served as defense minister from December 1991 until mid- February 1992, said that at least six months of preparations would be needed before an offensive could be launched. He dismissed as "groundless" claims that a new war could be won "within 15 days or two months." LF

    [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DENIES SECURITY OFFICIALS ASSIST CHECHEN FIGHTERS

    President Eduard Shevardnadze has rejected as slander the claim by former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani that some Georgian National Security Ministry officials are accepting money from Chechen fighters in exchange for helping them transfer arms from Turkey via Georgia's Pankisi gorge to Chechnya, Glasnost North Caucasus reported on 8 March. Kitovani also repeated his previous claim that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev is spending the winter encamped in the Pankisi gorge with a detachment of 800 men. LF

    [06] IS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN PLANNING TO RESIGN?

    Citing "confidential sources" within the Georgian legislature, the internet publication gazeta.sng.ru claimed on 8 March that Georgian parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania plans to resign, Caucasus Press reported. The Russian publication suggested that Zhvania may have been pressured to do so because his outspoken anti-Russian rhetoric has created problems for President Shevardnadze and a rift between the two men. Alternatively, the rumors of Zhvania's impending resignation may have been circulated deliberately in order to signal to the West that any openly anti-Russian Georgian politician is in danger, and that "the young Georgian state is the victim of Russia's imperial ambitions." "Akhali taoba" on 9 March discounted the Russian report, noting that Zhvania has more than once professed his loyalty to Shevardnadze and will not embark on "political games" directed against him. Zhvania has not commented on the rumors, according to RFE/RL's Georgian Service. LF

    [07] GEORGIAN CURRENCY STILL IN DOLDRUMS

    After falling to a rate of 2.085 laris to the U.S. dollar on 21 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 February 2001), the Georgian currency gained slightly in value, trading at 2.015 to the dollar on 28 February, but it has since fallen again to 2.09 to the dollar on 9 March, Caucasus Press reported. A poll of some 851 people conducted by the weekly newspaper "Kviris palitra" and reported in its 5 March issue revealed that 61 percent of respondents believe the lari's decline is to be attributed to speculation on the foreign currency exchange, while only 12 percent believe that it is a reaction to economic trends either in Georgia or abroad. LF

    [08] KAZAKH AUTHORITIES PLANNING FURTHER REPRISALS AGAINST CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER?

    Municipal authorities in the southern city of Shymkent are preparing to close a private market owned by Temirtas Tleulesov, independent Kazakh journalist Nuri Muftah told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 8 March. Tleulesov is the author of two books detailing corruption among local officials in Shymkent city and Oblast. He was sentenced last month in absentia to two years' imprisonment on charges of hooliganism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February and 2 March 2001). LF

    [09] RUSSIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT KYRGYZSTAN

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from his Kyrgyz counterpart Askar Akaev to visit Kyrgyzstan in the next few months, but no date for that visit has yet been set, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 8 March. Among the topics to be discussed during the visit is Kyrgyzstan's $150 million debt to Russia, which Bishkek would like to pay by offering Moscow part ownership of Kyrgyzstan's 20 largest industrial enterprises. LF

    [10] INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ PAPER OFFERS RIVAL'S JOURNALISTS COLUMN SPACE...

    The independent Kyrgyz paper "Res Publica" has published in its 9 March issue numerous articles by journalists from a second independent paper, "Asaba," which is under threat of closure, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 8 March. The Uchkun publishing house has been warned by a Bishkek district court not to print further issues of "Asaba" until its owner pays a total of 8 million soms (about $160,000) from three separate fines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). LF

    [11] ...AS INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG CONDEMNS REPRESSION OF PRINT MEDIA

    The Paris-based "Reporters sans Frontieres" wrote on 8 March to President Akaev condemning as "a brutal decision" the forced closure of "Asaba," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The organization expressed concern over "permanent attacks on press freedom" in Kyrgyzstan, adding that the use of court proceedings and massive fines "is asphyxiating all independent information." LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA BLASTS NATO

    Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica slammed NATO's record in Kosova and grudgingly agreed to the alliance's decision to readmit up to 2,000 Serbian paramilitary police and border guards into the Kosova border security zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001). Speaking in Belgrade on 8 March, he said that "the latest offer to squeeze our forces into a narrow, 5 kilometer-wide zone means that KFOR is abandoning the protection of the borders with Macedonia, and is placing our forces between the two fires. The Yugoslav forces will, of course, work to correct [NATO's] mistakes. All this is a result of years of wrong [NATO] policies... Simply said, the results of NATO policies in Kosovo are catastrophic," AP reported. Kostunica added that the alliance has "incited terrorism" and supported the idea of a "Greater Albania." He charged that NATO behaves like a "humanitarian organization... Instead of protecting the population of Kosovo, NATO is protecting its own skin there." NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told the BBC that Kostunica's remarks are "unhelpful and rather poor politics." PM

    [13] NATO'S ROBERTSON SAYS SERBS WILL BE 'SENSITIVE'

    Commenting on the Atlantic alliance's decision to allow Serbian forces into the safety zone, Robertson said in Washington on 8 March that "we were given assurances by the Serbs that they will show moderation and sensitivity," the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Before leaving for Washington, Robertson said in a statement in Brussels that the alliance's decision is "a first step in a phased and conditioned reduction of the [zone]" and the readmission of Serbian forces. The paramilitary police, which former President Slobodan Milosevic built up as his own Praetorian guard, are under the command of General Sreten Lukic, who commanded the well-armed police in Kosova during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign. PM

    [14] IS SERBIA HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS?

    Yugoslav parliament speaker Dragoljub Micunovic said in Sofia on 9 March that "KFOR must take its part of the responsibility and a part of the risk" for security on the Serbian border with Macedonia. He added that "we don't want to take over the obligations of KFOR. [It should] be discussed with Macedonia in detail, whose forces will guard that border," AP reported. PM

    [15] ALBANIA CALLS DECISION 'HASTY'

    Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Tirana on 9 March that his government condemns the Tanusevci gunmen's "extremist acts because they are against the [real interests of the ethnic] Albanians and multiethnic existence in Macedonia," dpa reported. Milo stressed, however, that "NATO has enough forces in the region to maintain peace and stability on Macedonia's border" and does not need Serbian forces to help. "I think that this is a hasty and [poorly thought out] decision taken [in response to] the urgency of the situation," Milo said. He warned that admitting Serbian forces to the zone could promote instability in the region. PM

    [16] NATO, U.S. PLAY DOWN LATEST BALKAN VIOLENCE

    NATO's Robertson said in Washington on 8 March that "we want to prevent what can be limited, localized skirmishes [from] becoming bigger or spilling over into the wider region," AP reported. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld stressed that the situation along the border between Kosova and Macedonia is now "relatively stable," adding, however, that the Balkans are "a difficult part of the world" in which to keep peace. Referring to recent shooting incidents, Rumsfeld said that "that's one of the risks of a peacekeeper. Shooting is shooting, and it has been going on throughout the period that [KFOR] troops have been there [at] one level or another, and it has been relatively minor and it remains relatively modest." PM

    [17] MACEDONIA WANTS NATO TROOPS ALONG BORDER

    Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim said in Brussels on 9 March that his government stands by its previous request that NATO peacekeepers set up a security zone in Kosova on the border with Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001). Asked if he will call for EU military help if NATO turns him down, Kerim replied: "Why not? I have a meeting with them later. But I still believe that KFOR will [meet] its commitments," Reuters reported. Unnamed EU diplomats said they are working closely with NATO, but concentrating on seeking a political solution to the conflict. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said recently that he does not want U.S. troops patrolling his country's borders because he regards them as ineffective against ethnic Albanian gunmen, Deutsche Welle reported. PM

    [18] MACEDONIAN OFFICIALS UNDER GUERRILLA FIRE

    The Macedonian Interior Ministry announced in Skopje on 9 March that border crossings at Blace and Jazince will be closed as of 2:00 p.m. local time because of continued violence along the border with Kosova, MIC news agency reported. Only Macedonian citizens returning home, as well as KFOR and UNMIK personnel may pass through the crossings, through which supplies for peacekeepers and Kosovar civilians normally pass. The statement came after guerrillas in Brest attacked a convoy including State Secretary of the Interior Ljube Boskovski and Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi, who were on a tour of checkpoints in the Tanusevci area. One driver was killed. An Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters late in the morning of 9 March that the convoy is still under fire. The attackers are presumed to be gunmen whom U.S.-led KFOR troops helped clear out of Tanusevci the previous day, the news agency added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001). PM

    [19] KOSOVAR DAILY IDENTIFIES GUERRILLA LEADERS

    "Koha Ditore," which is Kosova's leading daily, wrote on 9 March that "Maliq Ndrecaj, Emrush Xhemajli, Ali Ahmeti, and Gafurr Elshani" are the former Kosovar guerrilla leaders behind the current "Tanusevci adventure," dpa reported. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 7 March that the gunmen are increasingly isolated and that their latest actions are a sign of desperation. PM

    [20] MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER BLASTS VIOLENCE

    Arben Xhaferi, whose Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) participates in the government, said in Skopje on 9 March that "in urban parts of Macedonia, people are [aware of the fighting] but believe that the conflict will not escalate," AP reported. He added that some unnamed "political forces" based far from the urban centers are engaging in violence. He stressed that "we have to join all our efforts to make the Balkans democratic." Xhaferi appealed to Macedonian troops to refrain from "radical actions," adding that such moves will only encourage "extremist elements to continue their actions." PM

    [21] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLAMS DEL PONTE

    Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said on 8 March that part of the war crimes trial of Milosevic can take place in Serbia, but only after he surrenders to the tribunal, AP reported. The court added in a statement that it has first priority in prosecuting Milosevic, although Yugoslav courts may also do so. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Kostunica told journalists that Del Ponte has "problems with herself and her ambitions," "Danas" reported. She recently called him a "man of the past." PM

    [22] POLITICAL STANDOFF CONTINUES IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

    Hard-line ethnic Croat leader Marko Tokic told "Jutarnji list" of 9 March that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina will go ahead with plans to set up their own "self-government" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001). He stressed that it is not correct to speak of a crisis, adding that the Croat leaders will pursue their goals peacefully. Tihomir Begic, who is an adviser to hard-line leader Ante Jelavic, criticized the dismissal of Jelavic by High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch. Begic added that Croatian political leader Drazen Budisa's proposal for setting up cantons in Bosnia is the "only light in the darkness," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Ivo Andric-Luzanski, whom Petritsch also sacked, told "Oslobodjenje" that Croats will not respect his decision. PM

    [23] DECENTRALIZATION IN CROATIA

    Meeting in the port city of Rijeka, the government announced on 8 March that local elections will take place throughout Croatia on 20 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A package of seven laws aimed at promoting the decentralization of government will take effect in June. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN PREMIER RECOMMENDS AMENDING STATE SECRETS LAW

    Only one day after the approval of a government-sponsored bill on state secrets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2001), Prime Minster Adrian Nastase on 9 March said President Ion Iliescu should consider sending the bill back to parliament, Mediafax reported. Nastase said there are some "ambiguities" in the bill and the cabinet "by no means intends for journalists to be damaged" as a result of provisions in the legislation. Nastase also said parliament should pass a bill on free access to public-interest information in the near future. MS

    [25] THIRD CANDIDATE EMERGES IN ROMANIAN PARTY CONTEST

    Senator Simona Marinescu on 8 March announced she would run for the position of chairwoman of the Democratic Party at that formation's Extraordinary National Convention scheduled for May. Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu announced last month that he will challenge incumbent Petre Roman for the party's chairmanship at that convention. Marinescu said she decided to run after realizing that both Roman and Basescu are "moving the party further and further away from Social Democratic positions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 8 March and in response to Roman's recent call for former party leaders to return to the fold of the Democratic Party, Adrian Severin said Roman's initiative is "wise, legitimate, and necessary" but that the party can "restore unity only within the framework of a unified Romanian Social Democratic spectrum." MS

    [26] PROMINENT ROMANIAN POLITICIAN RESIGNING FROM PARTY

    Alliance for Romania (APR) Bucharest branch Chairman Doru Viorel Ursu on 8 March announced that he and a group of followers are resigning from the APR but will ask the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal to recognize them as the legitimate holders of the party's name and insignia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ursu said he was resigning in light of protests against the recent decision by the extraparliamentary party's leadership "to abandon the party's doctrine and embrace instead Social-Liberalism." The APR leadership said in reaction that it has "taken note" of Ursu's intention to resign, which "clearly shows he wanted the APR to be absorbed in the emerging Social Democratic Party." The leadership also said Ursu and his followers' demands to be recognized as the APR successors contravene legal provisions. MS

    [27] ROMANIAN POLICE TO BE DEMILITARIZED

    The cabinet on 8 March approved a draft bill on the demilitarization of police. Under the bill, those serving with police would be considered "civil servants with special status" who are "entitled to bear arms in line with legal stipulations." Police forces would be subordinated to local administration authorities. The cabinet will request that parliament debate the bill "in urgency procedure." MS

    [28] BULGARIA SENDING 'HUNDREDS OF TONS OF MUNITIONS' TO MACEDONIA

    Defense Minister Boiko Noev on 8 March said Bulgaria is sending "hundreds of tons" of munitions to Macedonia to help halt incursions by ethnic Albanian militants from Kosova. He said the shipment does not include tanks, AP reported. Earlier on 8 March, the parliament unanimously approved in a closed-door session a secret agreement between the two countries' defense ministries on the aid. Speaking in Skopje after talks with his Macedonian counterpart Ljubco Georgievski, visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said the aid to Macedonia is worth $8 million, and the first shipment some $400,000. "I am here to express Bulgaria's support to Macedonia: moral, political and military," Kostov told journalists. Additional aid to Macedonia will come from Greece, which announced in a 9 March Defense Ministry statement that Athens is sending "five military trucks, [and an unspecified quantity of] radios, medical supplies, and bulletproof vests" under a current bilateral military agreement, AP reported. MS

    [29] BULGARIA, GREECE, BOTH AGAINST DEPLOYING TROOPS IN MACEDONIA

    Greece and Bulgaria on 8 March agreed there should be no deployment of foreign troops to neighboring countries, even if the Macedonian government requested that troops be dispatched, dpa reported. In a telephone conversation, Greek Premier Kostas Simitis and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kostov agreed that the present crisis must be "handled exclusively through diplomatic and political means" and its solution must be based on "UN decisions." According to an AP report, Prime Minister Kostov also discussed the crisis in a telephone conversation with Albanian Premier Ilir Meta, who assured him that his country recognizes the border with Macedonia. Meta said he intends to invite to Tirana leaders of the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia to discuss the crisis. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told EU ambassadors to Sofia that NATO and KFOR forces must become more involved in diffusing the conflict. MS

    [30] BULGARIA TO LIBERALIZE ENERGY MARKET

    Deputy Premier Petar Zhotev on 8 March told journalists that the cabinet on the same day had approved draft amendments to current energy bills "aimed at liberalizing the market, in line with our agreement with the IMF and the EU," Reuters reported. The liberalization is to go into force in 2002, after the parliament has approved the bills and after this year's elections. Zhotev said the amendments will be sent to parliament by 16 March, thus meeting the deadline set by the IMF as a condition for the final disbursement of funds under an $800 million three-year agreement with the fund, which expires in June. Under the amendments, local consumers will be able to sign contracts for electricity supplies with private producers as of 1 January 2002, thus doing away with the monopoly by the state's National Electricity Company. MS

    [31] BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL JUDGES RESENT BEING INVESTIGATED

    Constitutional Court Chairman Hristo Danov on 8 March said the demand by Prosecutor-General Nikola Filichev to check judges' reports on their income amounts to an infringement of the judges' immunity, the English-language daily "Monitor" reported. The daily said it is not clear why Filichev wanted to check whether the Constitutional Court judges had accurately reported on their income and property, in line with legal provisions. Magistrates have repeatedly accused Filichev of conducting a "witch-hunt" after he launched a number of investigations against senior members of the bench. Danov told private radio Darik that prosecutors should divulge suspicions concerning the Constitutional Court's judges before requesting from the authorities access to their income and property declarations. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [32] There is no End Note today

    09-03-01

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


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