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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 168 Part I, 1 September 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 168 Part I, 1 September 1998

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

* DUMA TO RECONSIDER CHERNOMYRDIN NEXT WEEK

* CLINTON ARRIVES IN MOSCOW WITH FULL AGENDA

* TURKMEN, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN AGREEMENTS

End Note: DEMIREL'S OVERTURE: OLIVE BRANCH OR CHALLENGE?
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RUSSIA

DUMA TO RECONSIDER CHERNOMYRDIN NEXT WEEK. According to
Interfax on 1 September, the State Duma will vote on the
candidacy of acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for a
second time on 7 September. After the Duma voted 251 to 94
not to confirm Chernomyrdin on 31 August,  Russian President
Yeltsin immediately resubmitted his name. Communist Pary
leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia leader Vladimir Zhironovsky have declared their
intention to reject the nomination, while Duma chairman
Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that Chernomyrdin has "no
chance" to win Duma acceptance on the second try. According
to the Russian Constitution, if the Duma rejects
Chernomyrdin a third time, Yeltsin will have to dissolve the
legislature and hold new elections within four months. JAC

CLINTON ARRIVES IN MOSCOW WITH FULL AGENDA. U.S. President
Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow on 1 September with a number
of foreign policy, arms control, and trade issues to discuss
with his Russian counterpart. Russian presidential foreign
policy aide Sergei Prikhodko told Interfax that Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and Clinton will discuss the G-8,
Russian-NATO cooperation, particularly in Albania,
Afghanistan, and Iraq, implementation of START-I,
ratification of START-II, and preparation of START-III.
President Yeltsin will also raise the issue of non-citizens
living in Latvia and  Estonia. In the area of economic
relations, the presidents will discuss most-favored-nation
trade status for Russia, while joint space exploration and
peaceful uses of nuclear energy are also on the agenda. JAC

PLUTONIUM ACCORD SLATED FOR SIGNATURE. Clinton and Yeltsin
are expected to sign an agreement on reducing each nation's
stock of weapon-grade plutonium by 50 tons through
reprocessing and disposal. According to ITAR-TASS, U.S.
experts estimate that the U.S. has 100 tons and Russia 160
tons. Both sides would use the plutonium to produce fuel and
in power-generating nuclear reactors.  Several other joint
statements are also slated to be signed during Clinton's
visit, including on handling common security challenges
during the next century, exchanging missile-attack early
warning information, and banning biological weapons.  JAC

CLINTON TO MEET LEBED, ZYUGANOV. President Clinton on 2
September will meet with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr
Lebed, a likely Russian presidential candidate in 2000, and
Communist Pary leader Zyuganov.  According to ITAR-TASS on
31 August, Lebed said he does not know what Clinton wants to
discuss with him but that he will raise the issue of
establishing a trans-Arctic airline route from North America
to Southeast Asia over Krasnoyarsk territory. Lebed hopes
that the route would enable Krasnoyarsk to earn substantial
revenue and create thousands of new jobs. Meanwhile, Lebed
continues to express his lukewarm support for acting Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In an interview with the
French newspaper "Le Figaro" on 31 August, he said:
"Chernomyrdin has only a minute chance of slowing down the
collapse, but at least he has one. Others do not. It is in
everybody's interest to support him--otherwise we will
drown." He refused to say whether he will run for president.
"I have not yet announced my decision.... The problem is
money and nerves," he noted. JAC

GORBACHEV APPROVES CLINTON VISIT. Former USSR President
Mikhail Gorbachev said that President Clinton's trip to
Moscow is well timed, since dialogue is even more important
under crisis conditions. He also said that U.S.-Russian
relations at present "are not very saturated with content,"
according to Interfax. Gorbachev suggested that the U.S. is
trying to deal with Russia "from the position of a stronger
country," but he added that even when weakened, "Russia has
an important say in international affairs." JAC

REGIONAL LEADERS REACT TO CRISIS. Governors in various
Russian regions appear to back Chernomyrdin if only out of a
sense that continued delay in installing a government will
risk exacerbating the economic crisis. According to ITAR-
TASS, Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov told reporters
on 31 August that he thinks Yeltsin will keep proposing
Chernomyrdin and will go as far as dismissing the
government, which, he stressed, "is more important than any
other state structure." He added that "if the deputies'
ambitions exceed their reason, the process of confirming the
prime minister will drag on and every extra day means rising
prices and instability." Samara Governor Konstantin Titov
recommended that Chernomyrdin be approved "before full-scale
chaos develops in the Russian economy." Lipetsk Governor
Oleg Korolev said that the history of other countries
suggests that paths other than compromise and consensus-
building inevitably lead to failure. JAC

LEFTISTS FLOAT ALTERNATE CANDIDATES. Interfax reported on 31
August that leftist opposition groups want to offer their
own candidates for the position of prime minister. These
would include Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Federation Council
chairman Yegor Stroev, and Industry and Trade Minister Yurii
Maslyukov. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader
Zhironovsky has offered himself as candidate. "Moskovskii
Komsomolets" reported on 1 September that Luzhkov met with
Yeltsin, Stroev, and Chernomyrdin the previous day and
agreed to support Chernomyrdin's candidacy. However, that
was before Zyuganov had proposed Luzhkov as a potential
candidate for the post of premier. The newspaper speculates
that now Luzhkov may be reconsidering that decision in light
of his new career prospects. JAC

ALL QUIET ON STOCK MARKET. Political uncertainty in Moscow
continues to have a deadening effect on the Russian stock
market. According to Interfax on 1 September, there was
little trading activity, and quotations for leading stock
fell 15 percent to 30 percent. JAC

RHETORIC HEATS UP... In their statements to the press and in
public speeches, Duma members and administration officials
have adopted more inflammatory rhetoric than usual. After it
was clear that the leftist opposition parties would not
support Chernomyrdin, presidential representative to the
Duma Aleksander Kotenkov warned the opposition that if the
crisis continues, both the Communists and the administration
will be swept away through "a popular uprising, merciless
and senseless." In his speech to Duma, Chernomyrdin warned
that "Russia is on the verge of political and economic
collapse," while Communist Party leader Zyuganov said "if we
fail to reach an agreement here, everything will spill out
to the streets." On 1 September, he declared that Yeltsin's
decision to renominate Chernomyrdin will push the country to
"a civil war and strong confrontation."  JAC

...WHILE CITIZENS CALL HOT LINE. Meanwhile, the tone of
Russians calling the White House's three telephone hot lines
have been more anxious and despairing than angry and
combative, according to "Krasnaya Zvezda" on 28 August. One
operator servicing the hot line said that most callers are
concerned about what will happen to their bank deposits.
Others question why the state has not done enough to defend
the ruble against the dollar. The newspaper reports that
Chernomyrdin closely studies data on the phone calls
collated by a special working group that determines which
subjects are of most concern to Russian citizens. Its links
Chernomyrdin's attention to the calls with his other efforts
to resolve problems in Russia's regions, such as preparation
for winter, gathering the harvest, and helping victims of
natural disasters. JAC

NEW CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF DAGESTANI LEADER. The Union of
Muslims of Dagestan called on 29 August for the resignation
of State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 September. The union
also demanded that the republic's constitution be amended to
provide for republic-wide elections for the head of state.
At present, the State Council chairman is elected by the
members of that body. The constitution was amended in March
1998,to allow for Magomedov's re-election for a second term,
but Magomedov agreed to hold a referendum on further
amendments to the constitution to introduce the post of
elected president. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TURKMEN, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN AGREEMENTS. Turkmen
President Saparmurat Niyazov, who is on a six-day visit to
China,  met with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, in
Beijing on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Their talks
focused on regional security, including the situations in
Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Taiwan, and the fight against
separatism. They also discussed the construction of a 6,700
kilometer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, which
eventually may also provide gas to Japan. The Japanese
company Mitsubishi and U.S. company Exxon are participating
in that project. The two presidents signed a declaration on
strengthening bilateral ties. Jiang emphasized "the extreme
importance of selecting this or that path of socio-economic
development in accordance with the realistic conditions in
one's own country while preserving internal stability."
Agreements were also signed on air links, education,
scientific and technical cooperation, and tourism. BP

ALL OPPOSITION FIGHTERS IN TAJIKISTAN TAKE OATH. ITAR-TASS
reported on 1 September that all fighters from the United
Tajik Opposition (UTO) who are currently in Tajikistan have
taken the oath of allegiance to the government. The total
number of those who have sworn allegiance is 5,200; only 200
UTO fighters in northern Afghanistan have not yet done so.
The UN will assist in returning those fighters to Tajikistan
after the Tajik government and UTO hand over those suspected
of killing four UN employees in late July. The arrival of
those suspects in Dushanbe has again been delayed owing to
"technical reasons." UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan
Kubis met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 31
August. Kubis said later that he is satisfied that the
suspects have been detained. However, Kubis has recently
said the UN will not help repatriate the UTO fighters in
Afghanistan until the suspects arrive in Dushanbe. BP

KAZAKH OFFICIALS DISMISSED. Chairman of the National
Security Committee Alnur Musayev has been demoted to deputy
chairman of the same committee, RFE/RL correspondents
reported on 1 September. No reason was given for his
demotion. Musayev has made several statements in the media
recently about the fight against corruption, but a recent
article in the Kazakh independent newspaper "DAT" questioned
how Musayev's daughter was able to study abroad at a
university where tuition costs are $40,000 per year.
Presidential adviser Nurtay Abikayev replaces Musayev. Also
dismissed was Akhmetzhan Yesimov, the head of the
president's administration. Yesimov is being transferred to
another post and is replaced by Alikhan Baymenov, deputy
head of the presidential administration. BP

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION IN TRANSCAUCASUS. A Council of
Europe delegation headed by Secretary-General Daniel
Tarschys visited Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan on 29-31 August
to assess the chances of the three Transcaucasus states of
being granted full membership in the council. Currently,
those states have "special guest" status. Tarschys discussed
with both Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and Armenian
President Robert Kocharian the prospects for a settlement of
the Karabakh conflict. Progress toward reaching such a
settlement is a precondition for Azerbaijan and Armenia to
receive full membership in the council. In an indication
that the council has revised its previous intention that the
three Transcaucasus states  be granted full membership at
the same time, Tarschys said in Yerevan on 31 August that
simultaneous accession would be "a coincidence," RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIA'S PRESENT, EX-PREMIERS ASSESS RUSSIAN ECONOMIC
CRISIS. Prime Minister Armen Darpinian told Noyan Tapan on
29 August that he is confident the Russian financial crisis
will not adversely affect Armenia, where there is an absence
of those conditions that brought on the crisis. Darpinian
said that in Armenia the correlation between budget revenue
and expenditure is "realistic" and that there is no threat
of an unanticipated deficit. But former Premier Hrant
Bagratian disagreed, pointing out that one-quarter of
Armenia's foreign trade is with Russia and that the fall in
the value of the ruble will curtail Armenian exports. A
correspondent for RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau noted that
proposed investments in Armenia's industrial sector by
leading Russian banks may be in jeopardy and that those
Armenians who depend on money transfers from relatives
working in the Russian Federation will now receive less in
dollar terms. The ruble exchange rate fell last week from 64
to 52 Armenian drams to one ruble. LF

END NOTE

DEMIREL'S OVERTURE: OLIVE BRANCH OR CHALLENGE?

by Liz Fuller

	Armenian presidential adviser for public relations
Gassia Apkarian told journalists in Yerevan on 26 August
that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has invited his
Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, to participate in
the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the
founding of the Republic of Turkey. Kocharian has accepted
that invitation and will announce shortly who will represent
Armenia at the ceremonies in Ankara and Istanbul on 29-30
October.
	Demirel's overture and Kocharian's acceptance are the
most concrete manifestations to date of Ankara's and
Yerevan's desire, expressed by both after Kocharian's
election as president in March, to improve bilateral
relations. Although  in late 1991 Turkey recognized the
independence of Armenia, along with that of the other former
Soviet republics, it has never established formal diplomatic
relations with Armenia. And despite flourishing informal
business contacts, Ankara has refused to reopen the border
crossing with Armenia that was closed at the time of an
Armenian offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993.
	The Turkish government insists that reopening the
border and establishing formal diplomatic relations are
contingent on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six
districts of Azerbaijan adjacent to the unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Yerevan's recognition of
Azerbaijani sovereignty over the disputed Armenian-populated
enclave.  Turkey is keenly interested in promoting a lasting
political solution to the Karabakh conflict, fearing that
continued instability in the Transcaucasus may adversely
affect the prospects and timetable for construction of the
proposed Main Export Pipeline, which will transport
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish
Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. The realization of that
project will not only benefit Turkey financially; it is
considered symbolic of Turkey's aspirations to be recognized
as a regional power.
	From the Armenian perspective, the primary obstacle to
improved relations with Turkey is one of moral principle,
namely the refusal of successive Turkish governments to
acknowledge that the killings of up to 1.5 million ethnic
Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 constituted a deliberate
policy of genocide. The new Armenian leadership has pledged
that securing international recognition and condemnation of
the killings will be a key tenet of its foreign policy.  But
Armenian officials stress that the motivation for achieving
that aim is not because Yerevan aims to force a
confrontation with Turkey but because failure to discuss
that legacy "poisons" bilateral relations and precludes
increased cooperation.
	In this context, the timing of Demirel's proffered
olive branch may be intended to highlight the distinction
between Ottoman Turkey and the Republic of Turkey and thus
underscore Ankara's argument that the latter should not be
held morally responsible for the crimes committed by the
former. In addition, the Turkish leadership may hope that by
adopting a more conciliatory attitude toward Armenia, there
is less likelihood that other countries will follow the
example of France in formally condemning the Armenian
genocide. Turkey reacted with shock and anger when the
French National Assembly (the lower chamber of the
parliament) adopted such a resolution in July.
	There is also a second foreign-policy dimension to
Demirel's overture insofar as it raises the possibility of
Ankara's reconsidering its position of linking the
establishment of diplomatic relations with Armenia to
concessions by Yerevan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a "de-
linkage" would constitute a retreat from Turkey's hitherto
unwavering support of Azerbaijan's position on resolving the
Karabakh conflict. In the same vein, Demirel's invitation to
Kocharian may be intended to convey the message to
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev that Ankara expects him
to deliver on his professed commitment to implementing the
Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project.
	It is equally possible that the Turkish leadership is
counting on Kocharian's decision not to travel to Turkey for
the October anniversary celebration but to send instead a
lower-level delegation. Last month, Kocharian declined an
invitation to attend an EU-sponsored conference on the
TRACECA project in Baku. Kocharian's foreign policy adviser,
Aram Sarkisian, explained that Kocharian's participation
would have given an overtly political dimension to what is
first and foremost an economic forum. "Anti-Armenian
hysteria in the Azerbaijani press" would have turned
Kocharian's presence at the conference into "a political
show," he argued.
	Another reason why President Kocharian may not attend
is the possible adverse public reaction in Turkey to such a
visit--especially in the light of his key role in
coordinating the Karabakh Armenians' military victory over
Azerbaijan. Similarly, Armenian public opinion and several
of the political parties that currently support Kocharian
may argue that if he were to accept Demirel's invitation, he
would be presenting the Turkish president with a public
relations victory, without a guarantee of receiving anything
in return. The Armenian president thus has to weigh the
possibility of a domestic political backlash against the
opportunity to drive a wedge between Turkey and Azerbaijan
and simultaneously to demonstrate to the international
community that he is not the hard-liner he is frequently
portrayed as.

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