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Azerbaijan Report: March 19, 2002


19 March 2002
NEWS BRIEFS
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Stages Protest Action
The reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) led by Ali Kerimov staged a protest action on 16 March under the slogan "Jobs, Bread and Nagorno Karabakh." "We want all the national forces of the country to unite for a struggle against the present authorities, which do not have the moral right to govern the country," Kerimli said at the protest rally. "Despite evidence of the hopelessness of the present government, it seeks to continue its existence."

Khalig Bahadir from the newspaper "Azadlig" responded to accusations against the paper carried by some media outlets. The newspapers close to the Musavat Party claimed at the meeting that the protest action was staged at the order and with the assistance of the government. Bahadir denied this, saying that government bodies had done everything possible to thwart the demonstration, and that police had prevented persons wishing to participate from coming.

Kerim Kerimli, a refugee form Shusha, referred to the tragedy created by the Karabakh conflict. Fuad Gahramanli from the APFP claimed that President Heydar Aliyev dictates capitulation to the Azerbaijani people. Gahramanli said the government will not provide the people with jobs and bread or win back Nagorno Karabakh. He said those slogans are the only way the APFP can mobilize the population, and their key goal is to force Heydar Aliyev to resign.

Bahadir said that Ali Kerimov and his supporters gathered on squares more people than 30 other parties together. Participants adopted a resolution calling for the restoration of the social benefits of Karabakh invalids and martyrs' families, an increase of salaries of employees at all offices and enterprises funded by the budget, and practical steps by the government to create new jobs. Efforts to return Karabakh to Azerbaijan must be strengthened, and if the government is incapable of doing so it must resign. About 2,000 people attended the protest meeting, which was sanctioned by the government.

(Babek Bekir)

USDA Extends $10 Million In Agricultural Guarantees To Azerbaijan
On March 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorised $5 million in export credit guarantees to Azerbaijan under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Export Credit Guarantee Program (GSM-102). An additional $5 million was approved under the CCC Supplier Credit Guarantee Program. The two programs support commercial financing for exports of U.S. foods and agricultural commodities and encourage U.S. exporters to develop new agricultural trading relationships with potential Azeri partners. The International Bank of Azerbaijan became the first Azeri bank to be accredited under these U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.

"These agricultural credit lines are an example of U.S. support for bilateral business development, particularly in Azerbaijan's potentially rich agricultural sector," remarked Ambassador Ross Wilson. "GSM-102 and the Supplier Credit Program will introduce competitive financing for future agricultural transactions and encourage U.S.-Azeri business partnerships in this key sector for Azerbaijan's economy. The waiver of Section 907 has opened a new era in U.S.-Azeri relations, and further economic reforms including privatisation, improved tax administration, and a strong and independent court system will further encourage U.S. trade and investment in this country," added Ambassador Wilson.

GSM-102 guarantees cover up to 98 percent of the value of the commodity for a period of up to one year. The program normally operates through confirmed letters of credit between approved banks in the United States and the importing country. The International Bank of Azerbaijan has been pre-approved to participate in this program. During fiscal year 2001, GSM-102 guarantees helped finance approximately $3 billion in U.S. agricultural product sales to importers in over fifty countries.

The Supplier Credit Program operates directly through promissory notes which are negotiated between the exporter and importer and can cover up to 65 percent of the value of the transaction for a period up to six months. This program is relatively new and financed about $116 million dollars in U.S. agricultural products last year.

Thousands of different U.S. foods and agricultural products, including grains, oilseeds, meats and poultry, and other supermarket items, are eligible for financing under these programs.

PRESS REVIEW
Today's newspapers focus on the visit of the leader of the Southern Azerbaijan National Liberation Movement Mahmudeli Chohragani to Azerbaijan and the meetings he held there. In response to the question posed by the newspaper "525": "Will Chohragani's visit affect the Iranian-Azerbaijani ties?" Mubariz Ahmadoglu, head of the Political Innovation and Technologies Center, said that the visit could induce Iran to modify its policy towards Azerbaijan.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in a commentary "Government and society. And opposition" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" refers to the activity of both the government and the opposition, stressing the need for positive impulses. Otherwise, society can degrade.

"Capitulating our nation to a 'cease-fire' by demonstrating film footage of the Karabakh tragedy and showing our mothers and sisters' being exposed to Armenian torture is an affront to our national dignity." This statement has been taken from Allahverdi Donmez' article "Those who benefit from the people's tragedy" carried by the newspaper "Tezadlar." The author does not believe that the Council of Europe or the British or German government will resolve the issue of the occupied Azerbaijani territories, because their representatives witness how the refugees live in camps and how they express their gratitude to President Aliev. These refugees humiliate both themselves and their children, who are Azerbaijan's future and are branded by the name "refugee-IDPs" which they will carry throughout their lives.

Bakhtiyar Tunjay writes in the newspaper "525" that even though pessimistic views were voiced after the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs' visit to the region, there are grounds for optimism as well. He pointed out that certain changes have taken place in Russia's position. It was expected that changes would become apparent in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs' position after Russia declared it is not against the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, Russian companies' expressed interest in the project and agreement was reached on the Gabala radar station. He said the changes in Russia's position have prompted Armenia to seek new supporters. The military agreement signed with Iran show that that search is continuing.

Ferhad Mammadov in a commentary entitled "Karabakh talks in a new form" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that both the sides have accepted the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs' proposal to hold parallel talks between the presidents' special envoys. The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents have appointed their special envoys for the talks. According to the author, this proposal shows that there is nothing left for the presidents to discuss. The author recalls that unlike Heydar Aliev, the Azerbaijani community did not accept "the significant progress" reached in the Paris and Key West talks.

Flora Khalilzadeh in an article "Forgetfulness or the apologees are worse than the guilt" carried by the newspaper "Azerbaijan" refers to the protest action staged by ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov's supporters. Khalilzadeh notes that Mutallibov's actions and indifference cannot be forgotten as his hands are bloody, his mind is cold, he does not think of the good of the people and he escaped the country after condoning the murder of Azerbaijani citizens. Khalilzadeh recalls the tragedies that took place during Mutallibov's tenure and advises his supporters to do the same. She concludes that Mutallibov did not serve his nation but betrayed it.

Khalid Kazimli in a commentary "If you go to meet the people" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" refers to the people's need to meet politicians, arguing that it is impossible. He says opposition leaders cannot meet with their voters due to the strong military police regime in rural districts. He argues that a further reason why party leaders do not meet with the people is material problems and unwillingness. Kazimli says that leaders now are not the energetic young persons who existed twelve-thirteen years ago, they have grown older and their social-political status is different. The author concludes that it is necessary to go to meet people for them to respect you.

The newspaper "Khalg" refers to the opposition's protest actions, claiming that the opposition was mistaken in thinking that the people would support them and join the meeting. But it did not happen. They asked for permission for the meeting. Permission was given. The author refers to the protest action staged by ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov's supporters, stressing that the meeting held on 17 March in front of the Galaba cinema proved that the party does not play a significant role in socio-political life. He stresses in conclusion that any political action organised by the opposition shows that the level of this camp is not high.

According to the newspaper "Hurriyyet," preparations for anti-terrorist operations are underway in Zagatala. The reason is that the border Zagatala-Balaken zone is being strengthened in order to prevent armed terrorists from entering Azerbaijan's territory should anti-terror operations commence in Georgia's Pankisi gorge. Araz Gurbanov, head of the Ministry for National Security Press Service, commented that developments in neighbouring Georgia concern Azerbaijan, and certain steps are being taken to protect Azerbaijani borders.

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" notes that the U.S.-Azerbaijani relationships have reached the level of strategic cooperation.

The newspaper "Ekho" writes, citing "Turan," that at a reception at the American Embassy, Heydar Aliyev invited former state advisor Vafa Guluzadeh to return to work in the government, but Guluzadeh declined that offer, saying that he does not wish to work in any state structure or become a state official.

According to the newspaper "Zerkalo," Mirmahmud Fettayev, head of the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, has put forward his candidacy for the presidency.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)

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