|Saturday, 27 February 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 59, 01-03-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 59, 26 March 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES KARABAKH CONFLICT WITH POLITICAL PARTIESPresident Robert Kocharian met on 24 March first with the leaders of parties represented in the Armenian parliament, and then separately with members of the Yerkrapah Union of War Veterans and with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun to discuss the Karabakh peace process prior to the talks in Key West between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He held a similar meeting the previous day with the Kayunutiun parliament faction, according to Noyan Tapan. Participants said after the 24 March meetings that they received the impression that the two presidents will not discuss or sign in Key West any formal document resolving the conflict. Albert Bazeyan of Yerkrapah said he believes Kocharian is sympathetic to Yerkrapah members' insistence that there must be "no subordination of Karabakh to Azerbaijan" under any peace deal. LF
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES TO CREATE NEW FACTIONSome 12 deputies plan to form a new faction that will lobby for the passage of legislation favoring the industrial and agricultural sectors, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 March. The new faction will be headed by Vladimir Badalian, a member of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK). Most of the other prospective members are independent deputies. Badalian told RFE/RL he will quit the Majority Miasnutiun faction, of which the HZhK is a member, but remain aligned with the HZhK. He said the HZhK does not object to a new parliamentary force concerned primarily with lobbying the interests of domestic industry and agriculture. Badalian's exit will leave Miasnutiun with only 46 members in the 131-strong parliament. LF
 ARMENIA POSTS RISE IN TAX REVENUESOfficials of Armenia's Ministry for State Revenues announced on 24 March that tax revenues and other duties this month will amount to up to 14 billion drams ($26 million), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That figure is 40 percent more than during the same period last year, and 15 percent higher than the total for February 2001, and increases the likelihood that this year's target of 167 billion drams in tax revenues will be met. Moreover, official data show the Armenian economy expanding by 12 percent in the first two months of the year. Speaking on 24 March at a meeting with the ministry's staff at which the March figures were unveiled, President Kocharian praised State Revenue Minister Andranik Markarian and denied rumors of his imminent dismissal. But Kocharian also criticized the tax authorities for creating administrative hurdles for Armenian exporters. The criticism apparently reflected grievances of the local mining industries that export copper and other nonferrous metals. They have long complained that the government regularly delays payment of the value-added tax rebate to which they are entitled under Armenian law. LF
 AZERBAIJANI MINISTERS CALL FOR TURKISH, NATO BASES IN SOUTH CAUCASUS...During talks in Baku on 23 March with U.S. General Carlton Fulford, who is deputy commander of U.S. forces in Europe, and while meeting with journalists the following day, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev said NATO should establish a military base in the South Caucasus in order to "strengthen peace and stability" in the region, Turan and Interfax reported. Abiev described Armenia as the main destabilizing factor in the region and said the presence of a Russian military base and Russian border guards in Armenia make a mockery of claims that Armenia is an independent state. On 24 March, Foreign Minister Viliayat Quliev similarly told journalists that Azerbaijan should host either a NATO or a Turkish military base in order to create a balance of forces in the South Caucasus and strengthen its security, according to ITAR-TASS. But he added that Baku has not yet formally made such a proposal to either Ankara or NATO. LF
 ...WHILE PRESIDENT'S SON ARGUES AGAINST DOING SOTuran on 24 March quoted President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham as saying he is "categorically against" any foreign military presence in Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliev further criticized the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for what he termed their "inadequate" measures to resolve the Karabakh conflict, and expressed satisfaction that Russia "wishes to strengthen its presence in the region." LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY'S KARABAKH PROPOSALS MET WITH APPROVALAt a roundtable discussion in Baku on 23 March, participants expressed support for the seven-point program for resolving the Karabakh conflict proposed by the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHChP), Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 11, 16 March 2001). AHChP reformist wing Chairman Ali Kerimov stressed that resolving the Karabakh conflict necessitates creating a system of national security that provides for the establishment of a military doctrine and the protection of the integrity and sovereignty of the state. The roundtable participants agreed on the need for military action to liberate seven Azerbaijani raions currently occupied by Armenian forces. LF
 GEORGIA, RUSSIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON BASE CLOSURESAt the sixth round of talks between Georgian and Russian government officials on the closure of the four Russian military bases in Georgia, which took place in Moscow on 24 March, the Russian delegation reaffirmed its readiness to withdraw from the Vaziani and Gudauta bases by the 1 July deadline, Caucasus Press reported. The schedule for withdrawing from Gudauta may, however, be amended if agreement is reached that the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia will take over that facility, according to Interfax. Agreement was also reached that Moscow will have continued use of the Russian military air base at Vaziani, ITAR-TASS reported. But the two sides failed to reach any agreement on withdrawal from the Akhalkalaki and Batumi bases. Moscow wants to retain those facilities for a further 15 years, while Tbilisi has offered a three-year extension. LF
 GEORGIAN OFFICIAL SETS DEADLINE FOR CHECHEN REFUGEES TO RETURN HOMEVakhtang Shamiladze, chairman of the Georgian parliament's committee for relations with peoples of the Caucasus, told Interfax on 25 March that the estimated 7,000 refugees from Chechnya currently living in Georgia's Pankisi gorge must return to Chechnya before the end of this summer. He said the present situation in Chechnya is "relatively stable," and that the continued presence of the Chechen refugees in Georgia would only create problems for the Georgian authorities. LF
 TWO GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS FOUND SHOT DEADThe bodies of two Georgian frontier guards were found at a control post on the Akhaltsikhe sector of the Georgian-Turkish border late on 25 March, Caucasus Press reported the following day. The two men, who had failed to return from a routine patrol, had been shot, and their machine guns were missing. LF
 10 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES TO JOIN FORCESRepresentatives of some 10 Kyrgyz opposition parties agreed on 23 March to align into a new bloc to be named the People's Patriotic Movement, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A special working group is currently drafting the founding documents for the movement. On 17 March, leading members of the Ar- Namys, Ata-Meken, Kairan-El, Liberty, Communist, Republican, and People's parties reached agreement on joining forces to defend human rights and work for establishing the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan. LF
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL ON OMBUDSMAN IN FIRST READINGThe Legislative Assembly, the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, on 23 March passed in the first reading a draft bill presented by President Askar Akaev's administration on creating the post of national ombudsman, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some 30 representatives of NGOs picketed the parliament during the session, protesting that the bill allows for the appointment to that post of a person fully under the influence of the Kyrgyz authorities. Under the draft, the president nominates a candidate for ombudsman and the People's Assembly, the upper chamber of the legislature, approves that candidacy, as it also does in the case of the prime minister, the Supreme, Constitutional and Arbitration Court judges, and the prosecutor-general. The Legislative Assembly rejected two alternative draft laws that would have given it the right to appoint the ombudsman. Murat Mukushev, who heads the legal department of the presidential administration, told Interfax that if the Legislative Assembly is empowered to name the ombudsman, the ombudsman "will become dependent on political factions and will not be neutral and independent." LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT CLAIMS VICTORY IN OFFENSIVEMacedonian army forces moved through the streets of Tetovo before dawn on 25 March. At 7:00 am local time, tanks and artillery launched a barrage against the guerrillas of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) in the nearby hills. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski later claimed that the offensive was a complete success, adding: "This is the first phase of the solution of the problem in Macedonia. When this action is completed, we will begin on the long road to finding a political solution," dpa reported. The authorities claim to have captured several rebel-held villages and moved their inhabitants, whom the UCK had allegedly used as "hostages," to Tetovo in a "humanitarian action," the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Helicopters landed Macedonian troops behind rebel positions, but it is not clear what has happened to the fighters. A German KFOR officer said that Macedonian forces are in control of the UCK stronghold of Kale. AP reported that "hundreds" of ethnic Albanians fled from Vejce and some other communities into Kosova. Dpa added on 26 March that the Tetovo region is "relatively calm." PM
 BUSH SLAMS VIOLENCE IN MACEDONIAU.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement in Washington on 23 March: "I strongly support the efforts of President Boris Trajkovski and the Macedonian government to uphold democracy and the rule of law. We encourage the government to act with restraint and to work closely with elected representatives of the Albanian community to address legitimate concerns, while taking the necessary steps to prevent further violence," Reuters reported. Bush added that the U.S. will provide military assistance to Skopje, but stressed that the way out of the crisis is through dialogue. He added that the guerrillas are harming the long-term interests of ethnic Albanians throughout the region. Two days later, he said that he hopes the U.S. and its allies will be "able to seal off the border [with Kosova] to prevent people and arms from [going] to the rebels." PM
 POWELL REASSURES MACEDONIAN PRESIDENTState Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 24 March that Secretary of State Colin Powell told Macedonian President Trajkovski in a 20-minute conversation that NATO is doing all it can to control the Kosova-Macedonian border. Powell noted that the U.S. is "ready to assist in improving [Macedonia's] military capabilities where necessary and supporting their efforts to bolster a democratic, multiethnic state," AP quoted Boucher as saying. The secretary also "deplored and condemned the actions of the extremists and applauded and supported the actions to uphold the [governing] coalition in Macedonia that includes members of all ethnic groups." PM
 EU CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH MACEDONIAN ALBANIANSThe EU summit in Stockholm gave strong political backing to the Macedonian government in its fight against the guerrillas, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 26 March. The EU offered economic help to President Trajkovski, who attended the gathering. The EU leaders nonetheless rejected a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin for international intervention against the "Albanian terrorists" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2001). The EU called for resolving the conflict through "peaceful and democratic means" and for dialogue with "moderate Albanian forces." Trajkovski conceded that there are "some problems" where rights for the 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority are concerned. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called on the Macedonian authorities to be "reasonable" in their dealings with the ethnic Albanians, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 24 March. He stressed that peace in the Balkans must not be endangered because of the actions of "a couple of hundred terrorists." PM
 EU OFFICIAL: GREATER EUROPEAN 'PRESENCE' IN THE BALKANS...Javier Solana, the EU's chief official for foreign and security policy, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 26 March that the trend in the Balkans will be for EU member countries to increase their military presence and for the U.S. to reduce its role. He added that it is a "logical development" for "the Europeans" to assume a greater responsibility for developments in their own backyard. PM
 ...NEED FOR BETTER INTEGRATION OF MACEDONIAN ALBANIANSIn his interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 26 March, Solana stressed that the conflict in Macedonia can be contained. He pointed out that the three most important Kosovar leaders have condemned the violence (see below) and that the overwhelming majority of Kosovars voted for moderate candidates in last October's local elections. He added that the Albanian government has pledged to respect Macedonia's frontiers and that there is "no dream of a Greater Albania" in government circles. Solana stressed that the resolution of ethnic difficulties in Macedonia will not come through military means, but by improving the integration of the ethnic Albanians in national political life. He added that the Albanians are not yet fairly represented in all spheres of political life. PM
 KOSOVAR LEADERS APPEAL FOR PEACEModerate leader Ibrahim Rugova and former guerrilla chiefs Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj signed a statement in Prishtina on 23 March in which they called for peace in Macedonia. "We, the leaders of the political parties in Kosova, call on the extremist groups that have taken up arms on the territory of Macedonia to lay them down immediately and to return to their homes peacefully," Reuters reported. Western governments have appealed to the Kosovar leadership to take an unambiguous stand on behalf of the peace and territorial integrity of Macedonia, which opened its borders to tens of thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign. PM
 SERBIAN FORCES MOVE INTO DEMILITARIZED ZONESome 1,000 Yugoslav troops entered the demilitarized zone separating Serbia from Kosova on 25 March, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2001). Milovan Coguric of the Defense Ministry said in Merdare: "This is our territory again. Our forces are entrenching and are getting ready for their stay in this territory." Yugoslav forces also entered the security zone separating Montenegro from Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Serbia hopes to regain control of Kosova through cooperation with the international community. NATO agreed to let the Serbs back into the buffer zone provided that they stay out of ethnic Albanian villages and as a warning to ethnic Albanian guerrillas not to treat the zone as their own territory. Reuters reported that the parts of the zone which the Serbian forces have entered are not places where the guerrillas are active. PM
 PRESEVO PEACE TALKS BEGINRepresentatives of the Serbian authorities and local Albanians held face-to- face talks near Merdare on 23 March, Reuters reported. NATO representative Peter Feith told Reuters: "This was a constructive meeting which lasted about two hours. This meeting is the first in a series...that will continue next week." "Vesti" reported that the Albanian delegation included persons close to the guerrillas of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB). Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that the main issue of the talks was the six Serbs detained by the guerrillas. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA SLAMS ARREST, EXTRADITION OF WAR CRIMES SUSPECTSpeaking in Belgrade on 25 March, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said that he regrets the arrest and extradition to The Hague of Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Milomir Stakic by Serbian authorities two days earlier. Kostunica called the arrest and extradition an "exception that should not have been made," "Danas" reported. Kostunica argued that the legal framework for cooperating with The Hague tribunal is not yet ready, and that non-Yugoslav citizens -- such as Stakic -- should not be arrested until the relevant issues are clarified. PM
 PRO-BELGRADE COALITION FORMED IN MONTENEGROThe Socialist People's Party (SNP) and the People's Party (NS) agreed on 24 March in Podgorica to form the "Together for Yugoslavia" coalition for the 22 April parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2001). The Serbian People's Party (SNS) agreed to join the coalition the following day. PM
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT SACKS 3 MORE GENERALSDefense Minister Jozo Rados announced in Zagreb on 24 March that President Stipe Mesic has retired generals Miljenko Crnjac, Zivko Budimir, and Zvonimir Skender, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Rados added that Croatia must reduce its number of generals to between 20 and 30 if it is to meet NATO standards. The state-run news agency Hina reported that Croatia has the largest number of generals of any country in the world in proportion to the number of inhabitants and ordinary soldiers. The officer corps was a bedrock of support for the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman. PM
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET...The government on 23 March approved the draft law on the 2001 budget and the parliament will began debating it this week, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The budget forecasts a 4.1 percent growth, an inflation rate of 25 percent, and a 3.8 percent deficit. Neven Mates, IMF chief negotiator for Romania, told journalists after meeting Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 23 March that he has recommended that the government "make efforts to reduce inflation and set in place a transparent fiscal system, as well as reduce arrears to the budget." Mates also said "more financial discipline" is required in wage policy to avoid overburdening the budget, and stressed that privatization must be accelerated. Nastase expressed the hope that a new standby agreement with the IMF will be signed by April or May. MS
 ...SUSPENDS PREFECT OVER CONFLICT WITH PRM LEADERPremier Nastase on 23 March announced he has accepted a proposal by Gorj county prefect Toni Grebla that he be suspended from office pending the findings of a governmental commission. On 22 March, Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said he is "breaking contact" with Nastase and President Ion Iliescu until Grebla, who insulted Tudor's wife in a telephone conversation, is sanctioned. Nastase said Grebla's suspension was also due to his "attitude toward members of the government," and added that it is "inadmissible" for prefects to display an "uncivilized posture" regardless of whom it is directed to. MS
 ROMANIAN TABLOID ATTACKS RFE/RL...The tabloid "Atac la persoana" on 26 March said RFE/RL and Voice of America "continue to attack the Romanian nation and people." The tabloid claims that RFE/RL "continues to be part of the CIA." It said RFE/RL continues to "greatly harm Romania's real image" and that, furthermore, journalists formerly working for RFE/RL from abroad are indulging in similar activities while acting as independent journalists in Romania. It claims these journalists were placed in their new positions by their former masters in order to better "disseminate their ideology" and transform Romanians into "submissive people." On 23 March, "Romania mare," the weekly owned by PRM leader Tudor, who has numerous links to "Atac la persoana," called for the end of RFE/RL broadcasts, arguing that "the Cold War is over." MS
 ...IN RESPONSE TO CRITICISM OF PRIBOI'S APPOINTMENT?Observers say these attacks may be an indirect response to criticism in Romania and abroad of Ristea Priboi's appointment as chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE). Priboi was recently cleared by the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS) of the suspicion of having been engaged in "political police activities" but the daily "Romania libera" on 24 March, citing "SIE sources," wrote that Priboi had personally coordinated the Securitate's actions against RFE/RL, including the bomb attack on RFE/RL's Munich headquarters on 21 February 1981. MS
 CATHOLIC METROPOLITAN DISTANCES CHURCH FROM ATTACKS ON ROMANIAN PATRIARCHBucharest Catholic Archbishop Ioan Robu on 23 March said he wishes to express "respect and Christian solidarity" toward Romanian Orthodox Church Patriarch Teoctist and rejected "any speculation" that his church might have initiated allegations published in the daily "Libertatea," which is owned by the Catholic Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 March 2001). The daily wrote that Teoctist had been a member of the fascist Iron Guard, a Securitate informer, and a homosexual, though his church is opposed to legalizing homosexual relations. Meanwhile, the CNSAS said it has dismissed Gabriel Catalan, who provided the information to the daily, on grounds of "infringing" Teoctist's "constitutional rights" and harming his "public image," as well as having infringed rules regulating the "status of a civil servant." MS
 TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS REFUSE TO ATTEND BRATISLAVA MEETING...The leadership of the breakaway Transdniester Republic refuses to attend the OSCE meeting in Bratislava, scheduled for 28-29 March, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 24 March. The separatists say the meeting must await the election of Moldova's president on 4 April. They also say that separatist leader Igor Smirnov, currently visiting Moscow, had "not instructed" them on whether to participate or not. Reports attributed to anonymous sources said Yevgenii Primakov, chairman of the Russian State Commission for the Transdniester conflict, warned Smirnov in Moscow that Tiraspol must adopt a "more flexible" position and said his visit to Tiraspol in April is conditional on the separatists' participation in the Bratislava summit. MS
 ...PROMPTING HARSH WORDS FROM PASTUKHOVState Duma CIS Commission Chairman Boris Pastukhov was cited on 23 March by RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau as saying that Moscow's patience with Tiraspol "is running out" and that the continuation of the conflict suits its leadership because "uncertainty daily drips money into their pockets." He said these leaders are "kings in a lawless kingdom where common sense no longer works" and that Moscow "will no longer tolerate stupidity, incompetence, arrogance and theft." MS
 VORONIN SPEAKS ON THE TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT...Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) Chairman Vladimir Voronin on 23 March welcomed Pastukhov's statement and said it was "very good" that the "decision-making factors in the Russian Federation begin to understand the gravity of the Transdniester problem," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said the problem cannot find a solution without Russia, and "if those factors take a position similar to Pastukhov's, a solution will soon be found." He said the conflict had its roots in Chisinau's own "confused internal and foreign policy" and it would be "a mistake" to believe that the solution must address only the problem of "territory unification." No less important, he said, is to make "joint efforts" to overcome the present economic crisis on the two sides of the Dniester River, from which "one of the river's banks draws a lot of profit." MS
 ...OFFICIALLY SUBMITS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACYThe ad hoc parliamentary commission in charge of the 4 April presidential elections on 23 March officially registered Voronin's candidacy for that post, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The candidacy is supported by 42 PCM deputies. Commission Chairman and Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Vadim Mishin told journalists that if the Braghis Alliance will not submit a rival candidacy, the PCM may submit the name of a second candidate to avoid a legal deadlock. The law stipulates that candidacies must be supported by at least 15 deputies, but makes no stipulation for a single candidacy. The Braghis Alliance is the only formation in the parliament apart from the PCM that has more than 15 deputies. MS
 OUTGOING MOLDOVAN PREMIER BRIEFS VORONIN ON BUDGET DEFICITOutgoing Premier Dumitru Braghis on 23 March told Voronin -- likely the next Moldovan president -- that the deficit in 2002 will reach its peak, with the country having to serve $170 million in external debts, of which only some $70 million can be covered by revenues, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Braghis said that due to the government's efforts, the 2000 foreign debt had been restructured and Moldova had to service only $57.3 million instead of $75 million. He said foreign debt servicing for 2001 amounts to $81.3 million and after the 2002 peak, the debt will drop in 2003 to $95.8 million. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER WARNS COUNTRYMEN AGAINST INVOLVEMENT IN MACEDONIAPrime Minister Ivan Kostov on 23 March told the parliament that Bulgaria must avoid all forms of involvement in Macedonia because any suspicion of participation could bring about attacks inside Bulgaria itself. He said any Bulgarian interference in the conflict is conceivable "only together with the international community, under the auspices of the UN." Kostov warned that "rumors of Bulgarians taking sides in the conflict could spark anti- Bulgarian sentiments in Albania and Kosova, which could lead to eventual terrorist attacks in Bulgaria," Reuters reported. On 24 March, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos and his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Noev, meeting in Plodviv, agreed that Macedonia's neighbors must not take the lead to settle the crisis, but should instead help the international community find a solution. MS
 EXPELLED RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS LEAVE BULGARIAThe three Russian diplomats ordered out of Bulgaria on suspicion of spying left the country on 23 March, AP reported. Military attache Vladimir Lomakin, his deputy Sergei Vlasenko, and counselor Boris Smirnov left by air, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Sofia said. One of the three Bulgarian diplomats expelled in retaliation told journalists upon arriving in Bulgaria's capital that he had been presented "neither written nor verbal charges that I have been involved in spying activities." Russian Ambassador Ilyan Vasiliev told Interfax he hoped the mutual expulsions "have put an end to the affair." MS
 BULGARIA CANCELS HYDROPOWER DEAL WITH TURKEYThe government on 23 March canceled a concession granted to Turkey's Ceylan Holding last year for a $300 million hydropower project in Bulgaria, Reuters reported. A governmental statement said the Turkish firm has not proved its financial and technical abilities to carry the project through. The project envisages the rehabilitation of existing dams along the Arda River, near the border with Turkey. Ceylan's Bank Kapital is among Turkey's troubled financial institutions and has been put under administration by Turkey's Banking Supervisory Board in October 2000. MS
[C] END NOTE
 MR. IVANOV COMES CALLINGBy Patrick Moore
Russian President Vladimir Putin's Cold War Revival has come to the Balkans. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has just visited Serbia, Kosova, Macedonia, and Albania in a trip that was long on rhetoric but short on substance.
This should come as no surprise, because Russia does not have much to offer the countries of the region and has little influence outside Serbia. Even in Belgrade, most of the leadership is aware that their country's future lies in Euro-Atlantic integration, and that other paths -- such as an "Orthodox bloc" -- are an illusion.
All Russia has to offer are political support, arms sales, and natural gas - - and where the gas is concerned, it drives a hard bargain. Not much magnanimous Slavic solidarity here, even for Serbia. But this is what Russia's policy toward the Balkan countries has always been through the years, namely a hardheaded pursuit of Russian interests, irrespective of what sentimental orators may say about special ties.
Moreover, Russia's current Balkan policy, like former Soviet policy in the Middle East, is less than effective because it is widely seen in the region as completely partisan toward one side. This further limits Moscow's clout in the region, because Belgrade and Skopje know that Russia has virtually no influence in Tirana or Prishtina, let alone with the Macedonian Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) or the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB).
Finally, if German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt had a point two decades ago when he called the Soviet Union "Upper Volta with rockets," the comment seems even more appropriate for today's Russia, which lacks much of the empire and resources that the USSR had. This point is well appreciated in the western Balkan region.
To hear some of Ivanov's remarks in recent days, one would think that the Golden Age of "Mr. Nyet," the late Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, had returned. Ivanov said in Belgrade after talks with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 19 March that "the world community must state in clear terms that the developments in the south of Serbia and in Macedonia [constitute] aggression by international terrorists, who must be resolutely rebuffed if we are against destabilization and an explosion in the Balkans... The time has come for each state and for the international community to decide which side they are on: those who would like to build a peaceful, prosperous, and multiethnic Yugoslavia, or those who are sowing the seeds of ethnic enmity and death in Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. This recalls the black-vs.-white approach of Soviet ideology, against which Mikhail Gorbachev's "New Thinking" was supposedly directed.
Another time-honored component of Soviet thought, namely the belief in the omnipresence of Western agents and conspiracies, emerged as well. Ivanov told Russian troops in Kosova on 20 March that the international community "is becoming aware of the fact that the conflict in Macedonia is not about national minority rights and has been provoked by terrorist organizations, in particular those based outside the country." He called "very important" unspecified "media reports" to the effect that "Albanian terrorists" in Macedonia are backed by the intelligence services of various Western countries. He added that such reports "require checking," Interfax reported.
And like the diplomats of Gromyko's school, Ivanov knows how to float a "proposal" for purely propagandistic purposes. Speaking to reporters in Skopje on 21 March, he said that "passive reaction by the West to the spread of the Kosovo conflict to the Albanian-populated regions [of Macedonia]...only helps the separatists [to] go unpunished and be more radical in their actions," Reuters reported. He said that NATO intervention has failed to solve the region's problems. Ivanov called on the Balkan countries "to forge a pact under international auspices" that would make it clear that borders cannot be changed and territorial integrity must be respected. He added that the Balkan states should pledge themselves to prevent use of their territory to prepare "terrorist or similar activity" against their neighbors.
Words like "terrorist" and "separatist" are, of course, Belgrade's code words regarding Albanians, and not necessarily only those who take up arms. Ivanov accordingly did not emphasize such rhetoric during his stop in Tirana, stressing instead that "the situation [in Macedonia] has reached the point where a great deal of caution is needed to prevent the conflict from turning into an ethnic conflict." He called on Albania to help find a peaceful solution to the crisis. But some Albanians remembered his remarks from the first stops of his trip and greeted him with protests and pro-UCK songs.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty