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Azerbaijan Report: March 1, 2002

1 March 2002
U.S.-Azerbaijani Diplomatic Ties Celebrate 10th Anniversary
On the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and the U.S. on 28 February, U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson held a press conference at the U.S. Embassy, where he noted that U.S.-Azerbaijani ties have developed greatly over the past 10 years. Today, American-Azerbaijani ties cover the political, economic, and cultural spheres. Wilson pointed out the fact that presently, some 75 American companies do business in Azerbaijan, with trade estimated at $230 million. According to the ambassador, after the agreement on economic cooperation signed last year, much work has been carried out in the sphere of mutual cooperation. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has allotted $325 million in assistance to Azerbaijan, as welll as some $103 million worth of humanitarian assistance has been allocated.

On relations in the educational sphere, the ambassador noted that some 2,000 Azerbaijani youth have taken part in student exchanges so far. In addition, hundreds of Azerbaijani teenagers have participated in short-term educational exchange programs.

Wilson stressed in his remarks that there are a lot of issues in the two countries' mutual ties awaiting solution. According to the ambassador, the U.S. wants to see Azerbaijan as a fully developed country. He also expressed the wish for the development of democratic institutions and ensuring the supremacy of law in the republic. Wilson said the U.S. wanted Azerbaijan to protect human rights and ensure the rights of individuals and organizations.

The U.S. ambassador noted that America is making efforts to strengthen state structures in Azerbaijan. In his remarks to the press conference, Wilson stated that the U.S. wants to convey to the international community that America is together with Azerbaijan, wants to assist Azerbaijan's strengthening, and see it as economically developed country. As stated by Wilson, America is ready to render all assistance to Azerbaijan in this sphere.

In response to the question regarding Russia's jealousy of America's activity in the region, the ambassador noted that U.S. activity in the region should not be evaluated as against Russia. On the contrary, America approves of Russia's recent joining in the region's energy projects as well as its joining the East-West pipeline.

In response to the question regarding the resolution of the Karabakh conflict, the ambassador said that America continues efforts for peaceful settlement of the conflict.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Health Care In Azerbaijan Among World's Worst
Health care in Azerbaijan has a strong legal foundation. Since 1995, the Azerbaijani parliament's social policy commission has adopted dozens of laws in compliance with international standards. Regretfully, these laws have no mechanism of enforcement. Because of this, Azerbaijan placed 109th in the world in ratings of medical service, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). How was this ranking determined? RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service posed this question to Professor Farman Jeyranov, M.D.

According to Jeyranov, the WHO came to this conclusion based on its studies of the death rate among children, the spread of infectious and venereal diseases, as well as the low rate of health care available to the public, among other factors.

Jeyranov added that the Ministry of Health obtains a large amount of grants and loans from international organizations. A considerable profits is obtained from paid medical services as well, but no reforms are made with these funds and they are not spent on improvement of health care. According to Jeyranov, the Soviet health care system has been destroyed but the new one serves personal interests.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Azerbaijani Roads Under Reconstruction
Yusif Novruzov, head of the state-owned Azeravtoyol (Azerautotransport) company, held a press conference on 1 March in the office of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, where he provided a great deal of information about the roads constructed from Baku to the districts. According to Novruzov, modern equipment worth an estimated $3.2 million has recently been brought from Japan. He said that they have also obtained $40 million in credits from the World Bank for reconstruction of a 94-kilometer section of the Ganja-Gazakh road.

According to Novruzov, the Islamic Development Bank and the Kuwait Fund have allotted credits for reconstruction of the 44-kilometer highway from Alat to Hajigabul. He also referred to the state budget allotted for reconstruction of roads, 75 billion manats, which is not sufficient. But Novruzov stated that the highways of the republic will be restored in future through different ways, that is by obtaining new credits.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The newspapers "Azerbaijan," "Khalg," "Azadlig," "525," "Yeni Azerbaycan," and others carry materials about Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's return home after his treatment in the U.S. and his interview with journalists at Bina airport. The head of state expressed satisfaction with his treatment and the situation in Azerbaijan.

Khalid Kazimli, in a commentary "Fifth return" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," refers to President Aliev's return home after his treatment in the Cleveland clinic. Kazimli writes that it is the head of state's fifth return from treatment in addition to short-term medical examinations and treatment. According to the author, the vast majority of the people did not believe that Aliyev would recover. The people were used to seeing their head of state sound and had never seen him ill. The author writes that the people are now used to Aliev's illness and his return this time again refuted the rumours about him.

According to the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan", a parliament member from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) Seyyad Aran told the agency Olaylar that the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs' visit to the region must be evaluated as one of the steps towards regulation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. According to him, the scheduled visits will be a development toward regulation of the conflict. As stated by Seyyad Aran, most probably, after a concrete decision is adopted, the proposals will be submitted to the public, and a certain progress with adherence to the national interests of the Azerbaijani people and state will take place during this visit.

Nijat, in a commentary devoted to the successor issue carried by the newspaper "525," writes that "the successor plan" is more pressing among commentaries carried by the opposition press about the possible governmental change. The opposition press comments on the tactical steps the government in office can take for prolongation of its power and tries to convince the people that it is impossible for the "Yeltsin-Putin" variant to happen in Azerbaijan. According to the author, it is a fully possible and optimal variant to enact a transference of government through elections from one wing of the government to another even though the Azerbaijani opposition terms it a "successor plan." The author notes that everybody knows who the president wants to see as his successor after he leaves office. Secondly, there is nobody in the ruling team who has doubts about Ilham Aliev's political perspectives.

Galib Arif in the newspaper "Khalg" comments on the opposition's activity claiming that everything in our opposition carries the character of a campaign. The whole activity of the opposition also proves it. There is no regular policy and concrete strategic direction is unknown as well. The author argues that sometimes everybody begins criticizing the state's oil strategy. Sometimes they all march to Karabakh, but sometimes they abandon Karabakh and begin attacking the invented "successor plan."

The newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with YAP official Mubariz Gurbanli. He thinks that there is nothing wrong with Heidar Aliev's staff policy. According to Gurbanli, Aliyev has placed particular attention on staff policy since 1993. Azerbaijan's socio-political stability and the development of its economy reflects this policy. As for the opposition demanding the president's resignation, Gurbanli said that this demand is not legal. The people can de facto demand something, but they have no right to speak on behalf of the people. As stated by Gurbanli, the opposition recognizes that the president will win the presidential elections of 2003, so they must be engaged in something in order to ensure their existence.

Eldar Azizov, in an article "About the third force" carried by the newspaper "Azerbaijan," poses the question "What is the third force?" and answers that "the third force" is not concrete but an abstract notion. According to the author, "the third force" cannot be formed in Azerbaijan because all the politicians as well as those who have plenty of political ambitions have changed their position more than once and renovated them and they continue renovating their positions. The author asks that in case the second force, that is the opposition, has not turned to real force then how proper is it to start discussions over the third force?

Khalig Bahadir in an article "The factor of the third force" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the term of the clan government is coming to end. As the government's term is ending, the number of those wishing "to catch fish in gloomy water" is rising. Such people try to legalize themselves and pass themselves off as "the third force." According to the author, the "third force" includes those who are pure and have not worked for the corrupt government. The author thinks that those who have played a separate role in the establishment of an antidemocratic and antinational regime can never contradict this government, regardless of how they pass themselves off.

Rasim Bayramov, in a commentary "Will Azerbaijan and Georgia have territorial problems?" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet," writes that there are many disputed territories between Georgia and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, the topic carried by the Armenian media outlets is covered from the wrong angle. The author writes that there is the Red Bridge on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border, and there are some villages which are in disputed territory.

Azerbaijan's ex-President Ayaz Mutallibov, in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," tries to clarify some mysterious moments of the tragedy in Khojaly. According to the ex-president, even though he had given all the relevant instructions, he was later accused of everything.

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" carries a major article about the suspension of technical vocational schools. Another article carried by the newspaper reads that the Ministry of Health will register tobacco goods hygienically and the sale of cigarettes with a high volume of nicotine will be banned.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)