A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 169, Part I, 1 December 1997



A daily report of developments in Eastern and
Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia
prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document.  Back issues of
RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at
RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN, KOHL AGREE TO HOLD THREE-WAY SUMMIT NEXT YEAR

* YELTSIN POSTPONES DATE OF GOVERNMENT REPORT

* FRENCH HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN DIES DURING RESCUE  ATTEMPT

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, KOHL AGREE TO HOLD THREE-WAY SUMMIT NEXT
YEAR. President Boris Yeltsin and German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl agreed on 30 November to hold the first of a
planned series of three-way summits with France in the
Urals town of Yekaterinburg in the first half of 1998,
Russian news agencies reported. The agreement was
reached at an informal meeting at the Zavidovo
presidential residence outside Moscow. A Russian
presidential spokesman described the talks, which lasted
one-and-a-half hours, as "an intensive and dynamic
meeting". The date and the agenda of the summit are to be
set later. The idea of a "troika" summit first came up when
the three nations' leaders met on the sidelines of a Council
of Europe meeting in France in October.  JG

. . . AND  BILATERAL MEETINGS. Yeltsin and Kohl also agreed
to hold two bilateral meetings next year, alternating
between Germany and Russia. The first one, to be attended
also by key ministers, will be held in spring in Germany,
while the second - an informal summit - is to take place in
summer at Lake Baikal, the Kremlin press service said. The
two leaders also agreed that experts from the two nations
will meet in about two weeks in Berlin to discuss the
development of a European military-transport plane, to be
based on the Russian-Ukrainian An-70.  JG

KOHL SAYS INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR
RUSSIA ALSO DISCUSSED. Kohl told reporters at Moscow
airport before leaving for home that he had also discussed
with Yeltsin prospects for Russia getting new international
financial help. He said he promised to discuss the issue with
his government and other countries but gave no further
details.  JG

YELTSIN POSTPONES DATE OF GOVERNMENT REPORT.  Yeltsin
on 30 November decided to put off for a week to 10 days a
government report on its performance, originally planned
on 1 December, Itar-Tass reported. A new date will be
announced later. The presidential press service said the
decision had been taken "in agreement with Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin" and that the report had been
postponed due to a parliamentary debate on the draft 1998
budget, scheduled for 5 December, as well as Yeltsin's visit
to Sweden and Chernomyrdin's visit to Belarus, both set for
2 December. Yeltsin had warned in a radio address on 28
November that some ministers who fail in their duties
might be sacked following the government's report. "It is
not good when faces in the government change too often,
but it's worse when bad ministers remain in place. And not
only ministers," Russian news agencies quoted Yeltsin as
saying. But he did not indicate which ministers might be
dismissed.  JG

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO PUSH FOR SOFTENING IRAQ
SANCTIONS. Speaking in Moscow on 26 and 27 November,
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin
again argued that Iraq should be given the opportunity to
increase its oil exports in order to purchase food and
humanitarian goods, Russian agencies reported.
Nesterushkin said that Iraq's decision to allow U.N.
inspectors to resume their mission demonstrates
Baghdad's willingness to cooperate with the international
community. Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk
said on 27 November that "much work" is needed to
maintain the present favorable status quo in Iraq. During a
three-day visit to Iraq beginning on 27 November, Russian
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for
international sanctions against Iraq to be lifted as soon as
possible, according to Itar-Tass.   LF

YELTSIN WARNS ON WAGES, FLIGHT OF FOREIGN INVESTORS.
In a radio address on 28 November, Yeltsin also warned
that he will not tolerate excuses for a government failure
to pay delayed public sector wages by a January 1
deadline. He highlighted the government's poor tax
collection and said that "there is no money in the coffers"
to pay wage arrears. Yeltsin also said he did not expect a
flow of foreign capital into Russia soon and that internal
resources rather than outside investment should  help
revive the ailing economy. Russian Central Bank chairman
Sergei Dubinin told a cabinet meeting in Moscow on
November 27 that because of international market
instability he expects foreign investors not to return to
Russian assets until next year. JG

YELTSIN REITERATES CHUBAIS TO REMAIN FIRST DEPUTY
PRIME MINISTER. Yeltsin repeated on 28 November that
Anatolii Chubais will keep his post as First Deputy Prime
Minister, Itar-Tass reported. The opposition had demanded
Chubais' ouster over graft allegations. The issue of Chubais'
dismissal was raised again by Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev at a top-level meeting in the Kremlin the same
day.  But according to Russian media, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and Federation Council chairman Yegor
Stroev took part in the meeting alongside Yeltsin and
Seleznev.. JG

. . . AND SAYS COALITION GOVERNMENT NOT DISCUSSED.
After the Kremlin meeting, Yeltsin told reporters that
even if some ministers are removed from their posts that
"does not mean the government has to resign." He said that
the issue of creating a coalition government was not
raised, adding that it would have been "pointless."
Chernomyrdin, however, later hinted to reporters that
some new ministers could come from opposition ranks,
saying professionalism and not political background is
what matters in the government.  JG

RUSSIAN, FINNISH PRESIDENTS DISCUSS BILATERAL
RELATIONS.  Yeltsin, meeting at the Kremlin on 27
November with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said
Russo-Finnish summits were becoming "a good tradition,"
Russian news agencies reported. The two presidents stated
at their meeting - the third this year - that Russia and
Finland had no territorial claims on one another. Yeltsin
said not all goals set at a July informal summit had been
reached but that "a lot of problems had been solved."
Ahtisaari also voiced satisfaction with the talks but said
much remains to be done "to get rid of the different
approaches left over from cold-war times." After the
Kremlin talks, two memoranda on Finnish loans to Russia
and a fishing agreement were signed, Interfax reported.
JG

     AND BALTIC SECURITY. Speaking to reporters after his
meeting with Ahtisaari, Yeltsin praised Russo-Finnish
relations as a model for the entire region. Yeltsin said that
if all countries of central and eastern Europe would follow
Finland's path, they would become "bosom friends" with
Russia, Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin said Russia
wants to improve relations with all Baltic countries. He
singled out Lithuania for the "great progress" achieved in
settling relations and urged Estonia to follow the same
route. JG

YELTSIN PRAISES PROSECUTORS FOR CLEARING UP BOOK
SCANDAL. Yeltsin met on 27 November with Prosecutor-
General Yuri Skuratov and praised him for "clearing up" a
scandal over a highly paid book contract involving several
government officials. Yeltsin sacked three government
officials over the deal and removed Anatolii Chubais as
Finance Minister. Yeltsin told Skuratov that he had kept
Chubais as First Deputy Prime Minister because of his high
professionalism. Yeltsin also said that Chubais had vowed
to him to hand over 95 percent of his author's fee to
charity. Interfax reported the same day that Chubais had
filed two libel suits against Ekho Moskvy radio station and
its journalist Aleksandr Minkin, who said in a live broadcast
on 12 November that the fee was a hidden bribe. JG

YELTSIN SCHEDULES CHECHEN TRIP FOR JANUARY. Russian
President Yeltsin told journalists on 28 November that his
trip to Chechnya announced on 25 November will take place
in January, but declined to specify the precise date. Yeltsin
added that the purpose of the trip is to resolve the delay
in providing federal financing for rebuilding Chechnya's
economy and to demonstrate his support for Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov. On 29 November Maskhadov
similarly said that the issue of Chechnya's future status
vis-a-vis Russia will not be discussed during Yeltsin's
visit,  AFP reported. But Maskhadov added that the visit
must proceed according to international  diplomatic
protocol. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev and a spokesman
for Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev both acclaimed
Yeltsin's planned Chechen visit, but radical Chechen field
commander Salman Raduev denounced it, blaming Yeltsin
for the deaths of tens of thousands of Chechen civilians,
according to Interfax. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA


FRENCH HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN DIES DURING RESCUE
ATTEMPT. Karine Mane, a 28-year-old French woman
working for an organization which provides health care for
children in Tajikistan, died on 30 November, as a result of
wounds she received during a rescue operation by Tajik
security forces, according to RFE/RL correspondents in
Dushanbe. Mane and her companion Franck Janier-Dubry
were taken hostage on 18 November by a group seeking to
exchange the French citizens for a jailed leader of an
outlaw group. Janier-Dubry was released on 29 November
following the arrest of more than 20 people by government
security forces. The circumstances surrounding Mane's
fatal wounding are still unclear. While it is clear she died
from injuries received from a grenade blast, it is not known
if it occurred during an assault by government forces, or
the kidnappers chose to commit suicide rather than be
captured by troops which had surrounded the kidnappers'
Dushanbe lair or whether the kidnappers were fighting
among themselves. BP

OPERATION AGAINST KIDNAPPERS CONTINUES. Tajik
government security forces continue their operation to
capture the kidnappers of two French citizens and as of 1
December say the outlaw group is completely surrounded
and "faces annihilation" if they do not throw down their
weapons and surrender by evening,  according to RFE/RL
correspondents. Tajik officials have not said how many
remain in the group but international media reports at
least four of the kidnappers were killed in the attack on
the house where the French nationals were held hostage. BP

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT VISITS BAKU, TBILISI. During an
official visit to Baku on 26-28 November, Petru Lucinschi
held talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev on
Moldovan participation in the TRASECA transport project
and cooperation in the oil sector, Russian and Azerbaijani
agencies reported. Lucinschi said that Moldova is
interested in buying part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil and is
currently building an oil refinery on the Danube with a
capacity of 2.5 million metric tons. He added that Aliev
endorsed his proposal to export part of Azerbaijan's oil via
Moldova. A total of 13 inter-governmental agreements,
including a treaty on friendship and cooperation and
accords on economic cooperation, were signed during the
visit. On 28 November, Lucinschi proceeded to Tbilisi for
talks with Eduard Shevardnadze, again focusing on
TRASECA and oil transportation, but also the separatist
conflicts in both countries. The two presidents signed
seven accords, including a Treaty on Friendship and
Cooperation. LF

ALIEV, SHEVARDNADZE AND LUCINSCHI DISCUSS CIS, GUAM.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Baku on 27
November, Aliev and Lucinschi declared that they do not
wish to see the CIS collapse, but Aliev added that it is "an
illusion" to believe that it will become an effective
international organization while conflicts persist between
its members. Lucinschi said the CIS will become effective
only when relations between its members become "honest
and sincere," Interfax reported. The three presidents
stressed that the new alignment between Georgia, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan and Moldova is "a consultative body."
Shevardnadze told journalists on 28 November that "these
nations' cooperation does not contradict the interests of
the Black Sea states or the CIS, and should not surprise
anybody," ITAR-TASS reported. Lucinschi made clear that
he does not support a military component to GUAM,
according to Turan on 27 November. (See also "ENDNOTE")
LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON ENERGY OFFICIALS TO
RESIGN. Addressing a cabinet session on 26 November,
Eduard Shevardnadze harshly criticized several leading
officials in the energy sector for their failure to use
allocated foreign credits rationally or adequately to
prepare for the winter season, Russian and Georgian
agencies reported.  At the same session, Energy Minister
Davit Zubitashvili announced that Russia's Gazprom had
agreed to resume supplies of natural gas to Georgia, which
had been cut because of non-payment of Georgia's $10
million debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1997).
Zubitashvili warned that gas supplies will again be halted if
the outstanding debt is not repaid within 10 days. He noted
that industrial enterprises owe 35 million Georgian lari
($28 million) to Georgia's energy company Sakenergo, and
domestic consumers -- a further 200 million lari, Caucasus
Press reported. LF

DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKHSTAN. Members of opposition
movements and trade unions staged a demonstration in
front of the Kazakh parliament building in Almaty on 30
November, according to RFE/RL correspondents and
Interfax. The demonstration was called for by the Azamat
movement to protest restrictions on citizens' right to
meet in public. However, various groups chose the event to
voice their own complaints. Workers from the national
airline Kazakhstan Awe Joldari, which went bankrupt, joined
in as did members of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan.
Reports vary as to the turnout. Interfax claims 400 people
gathered while RFE/RL correspondents say 1,000. Azamat
was denied official permission to hold the protest on 19
November and held the demonstration on 30 November
without sanction from the Almaty Procurator General's
office. BP

TURKMENISTAN ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR FORMER
OFFICIAL. The Turkmen government has informed the
Moscow Procurator General's office of an arrest warrant for
former Oil and Gas Minister and deputy Prime Minister
Nazar Suyunov, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 27
November. Suyunov was detained by the Russian Federal
Security Service on 26 November but after four hours of
questioning was released on the grounds of insufficient
evidence. However, Suyunov told RFE/RL that he had
information that the head of Turkmenistan's state security
service and the deputy procurator general were in Moscow
seeking his extradition. Suyunov is accused of corruption
while serving as an official in his home country. BP

NEW SPEAKER FOR KYRGYZ PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY. Abdygany
Erkebaev was elected the new speaker of Kyrgyzstan's
People's Assembly (lower house of parliament) on 26
November, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek.
Erkebaev replaces Almambet Matubraimov who lost the
position when deputies of the People's Assembly decided,
also on 26 November, to reduce the term a speaker can
serve from five years to two-and-a-half. BP

ARMENIA ASSESSES POSSIBLE OIC KARABAKH INITIATIVE.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian
believes  that Azerbaijan may again try to include
discussion of the Karabakh conflict in the agenda of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference summit scheduled
to open on 5 December in Tehran, ArmenPress reported on
27 November. Gasparian said that leading Islamic
politicians have frequently rejected Azerbaijani claims
that the Karabakh conflict is a religious one. He added that
any attempt to discuss the ongoing negotiations on
resolving the conflict outside the framework of the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk
Group would negatively impact on the peace process. On 26
November a group of Armenian opposition parties
appealed to the OIC not to adopt an "anti-Armenian"
resolution at the Tehran meeting, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. LF

ARMENIA'S KARABAKH WAR VETERANS HOLD CONGRESS.
Some 380 delegates representing the 6,000 Armenian
veterans of the war for Karabakh (Yerkrapah) held a two-
day congress in Yerevan on 27-28 November, Noyan Tapan
and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prime Minister
Robert Kocharian, parliament speaker Babken Ararktsyan
and deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan, and Defense Minister
Vazgen Sargsian, who is chairman of the Union of
Yerkrapah, also attended. The chairman of the Yerkrapah
parliament faction, Albert Bazeyan, said the Union is
prepared to fight for a "victorious settlement of the
Nagorno-Karabakh issue" based on the right to self-
determination of the region's Armenian population.
Delegates adopted a statement calling for unity among
Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Diaspora, and
advocating a "flexible and prudent" foreign policy to
safeguard Armenia's national security. The congress also
decided to create a Union newspaper to propagate "the
national ideology." LF

SETBACK FOR AZERBAIJAN OFFSHORE OIL PRODUCTION?
Drilling of a first test well at Azerbaijan's "Karabakh"
Caspian oilfield has been abandoned after the test
registered gas but no oil, Interfax reported on 27
November. The Karabakh field is being jointly developed by
the Caspian International Oil Company comprising Russia's
LukOIL (32.5 percent), Pennzoil (30 percent), AGIP (30
percent) and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR (7.5
percent).  Drilling of a second test well cannot begin before
April or May, 1998, because the only functioning semi-
submersible drilling platform is to be leased to another
consortium beginning on 28 November. LF

END NOTE

INTRODUCING THE OTHER GUAM

by Liz Fuller

        The newest acronym to add spice to the New World
Order alphabet soup risks confusing cartographers and
laymen alike. Meeting in Strasbourg in mid-October on the
sidelines of the Council of Europe summit,  the presidents
of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova issued a joint
communique registering their shared strategic interests.
The four presidents further affirmed their intention to
deepen political and economic ties and cooperation, both
on a bilateral basis and within regional organizations, and
their mutual interest in questions of regional security.
        This quadrilateral statement marked the admittance
of a fourth member to the "Union of Three" comprising
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. This alignment, the
brainchild of Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze, Heidar Aliev
and Leonid Kuchma, had taken shape during the fall of 1996
on the basis of a shared pro-Western orientation, mistrust
of Russia, and the desire to profit jointly from the export
of part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia and Ukraine.
In the case of Azerbaijan and Georgia, dissatisfaction with
Russia's track record as a mediator in the Karabakh and
Abkhaz conflicts provided additional motivation.
        Predictably, Moscow assumed --  wrongly -- that the
impetus for this triple alignment had originated with the
U.S. as part of a strategy to accelerate the erosion of
Russia's influence in the Caucasus and Ukraine. Western
powers, for their part, reacted with alarm and dismay,
conveying the unequivocal message: "Don't rock the boat,
don't risk anything that could irritate Russia,"  especially
during the anticipated difficult period of horsetrading over
NATO's planned expansion eastwards. Consequently, in
public statements during the spring and early summer of
1997, Aliev and Shevardnadze both prudently denied the
existence of any "axis," stressing that the accords
concluded between their two countries and with Ukraine
were exclusively economic in nature.
        The unveiling during the summer of a new U.S. policy
that identified both Central Asia and the Transcaucasus as
spheres of national interest indirectly served to bestow
Washington's approval on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kyiv alignment,
and thereby to increase its attraction to other potential
members.
        Moldova's subsequent inclusion in the alignment
served to formalize a convergence of interests that had
emerged five months earlier. The so-called Flank
Limitations Agreement modifying the1990 Treaty on
Conventional Forces in Europe specifically allowed Russia
to deploy increased amounts of weapons in the
Transcaucasus, Ukraine and Moldova. Of the 32 states bound
by the CFE Treaty, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova ratified
this Agreement only days before the deadline for doing so
in mid-May, and expressed serious misgivings about the
concessions to Russia which it contained.
        At the Strasbourg meeting in October, Azerbaijan's
Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov had underscored the
economic potential of GUAM, specifically Ukraine's and
Moldova's interest in the TRASECA project intended to
create a coordinated transport corridor from Central Asia
via the Transcaucasus to Europe, and in the possibility of
exporting part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Ukraine or
Romania.  At a subsequent gathering of deputy foreign
ministers from all four countries held in Baku in late
November, however, the primary topic of discussion was
regional security. On that occasion, Hasanov advocated
coordinating security policy within the parameters of
NATO's  Partnership for Peace program, proceeding from
the formula "16 +4" (meaning NATO's present sixteen
members plus the four GUAM states). The strengthening of
quadrilateral ties between GUAM members, Hasanov
continued, should proceed parallel to those states'
integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and
will contribute to strengthening regional security and
stability.
        Both Hasanov and Heidar Aliev explicitly denied that
GUAM was directed either at Russia or at any other state,
saying that the new union was open to other would-be
members. There has not been any official Russian reaction
to the Baku meeting, but Armenian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Arsen Gasparian played down its implications
for his country. Gasparian noted that "Armenia enjoys
normal relations with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and we
are really convinced that this quadripartite cooperation is
not aimed at any other country." (This reaction is in marked
contrast to Hasanov's and Aliev's repeated vehement
condemnation of the Armenian-Russian Treaty on
Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in
late August which they perceive as directed against
Azerbaijan.) Gasparian conceded, however, that in the light
of the unresolved Karabakh conflict it is unlikely that
Armenia will join GUAM.
        As yet, GUAM remains a purely informal alignment, in
contrast, say, to the CIS and the Russia-Belarus Union, but
potentially more viable than either of those. Its chances of
long-term survival will depend on two factors. The first is
whether Russia reacts with paranoia or equanimity to the
construction of new political, economic and security
alignments in Europe from which it is excluded. The second
is whether the choice of route(s) for the Main Export
Pipeline for Azerbaijan's  and Kazakhstan's Caspian oil could
drive a wedge between GUAM members, with Azerbaijan
(under pressure from the U.S.) opting for the southern
route to the Turkish terminal at Ceyhan, and the remaining
three favoring the Western variant to Supsa on Georgia's
Black Sea coast, and thence via tanker to Odessa and
westwards through Ukraine.

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