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Azerbaijan Report: April 27, 2001

27 April 2001
Aliyev And The Fight For A Successor
There is no doubt that most of the recent commentaries that have appeared in opposition newspapers about Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's health and his designs to have his son, Ilham, succeed him as president contain some exaggerated or at least partially biased ideas.

It is not surprising, since an attempt by a weak opposition to wage it's campaign against the 78-year-old president using propaganda might be considered a "natural" form of politics in Azerbaijan.

Nevertheless, there is little doubt and too many indications that the fight to be Aliev's successor has begun in Azerbaijan. Rumors, reports, and commentaries on this subject are persistent. And Aliev's poor appearance on TV screens is too obvious to doubt that his health is not good -- contrary to what he and his son claim or what the official media tells the public. The Turkish TV Channel D, in a report on 26 April on the summit of Turkic-speaking countries, described the appearance of the Azerbaijani president in an unusually blatant manner: "Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's gaunt appearance drew the attention of many people."

The remark is neither diplomatic nor polite, of course. But it might serve as an indicator of a new approach of in the Turkish media and perhaps the Turkish government towards Aliev. This fact is, of course, an external nuance of the fight to be Aliev's heir that is going on in Azerbaijan. It might have and might not have an impact on the battle for succession, since not Turkey, but maybe Russia and Iran also are interested to have their own "input" into this process. But there is no doubt that the main game is being played in Baku.

Aliyev continues to show his determination to have Ilham succeed him as president. In his remarks at the Baku airport on 25 April before his flight to Ankara, Aliyev praised Ilham's "great" speech in Strasbourg at a session of the Council of Europe. The Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo," in a commentary on 26 April, showed confidence that the time has arrived for the anointed successor (Ilham) to appear in public. "The successor has been chosen and the only issue on agenda is to legitimize him," comments the paper.

It seems "Zerkalo" is right. The time is arriving. But there are a lot of problems and difficulties in getting a transition of power to occur at the right time. Aliev's decision to have his son be the next president angered and frightened many of his close allies within his own elite from the Nakhichevan "club." Judging from reports published in the local press, a fierce struggle to neutralize potential contenders -- Ramiz Mehtiev, the president's chief of staff, Ali Insanov, the health minister, and Kamaladdin Heidarov, head of the powerful state customs committee, are in the center of this ongoing infighting. According to some observers in Baku, Aliev's decision to tab his son as the heir apparent not only prompted a fight within the Nakhichevan "clan" for succession, but alienated most of his supporters among those people from Nakhichevan. Therefore, according to the same sources, even if Aliyev succeeds to have his son appointed or elected as the next president, the new president will fail to have strong support among from not only the general public, but also from his own "kinsmen" from Nakhichevan.

This is considered to be the main weakness of Ilham. Therefore, a common question being asked in Baku in this regard is: How could Ilham Aliyev survive in power without the support from his own "clan," which his father enjoyed for about 30 years? And the questions continue: Will Ilham be able to stay in power for a long time, as his father did? What can Azerbaijan expect from Ilham, if his father manages to bring him to power? How would the main outside players in the Caucasus -- Russia, the West, Iran, and Turkey react to such a power transition in Azerbaijan? And finally, will the opposition in Baku and some opposition leaders in exile actually accept this form of "natural" succession in Azerbaijan or not? These are the questions of the day. The answers will come and most likely rather soon. (Mirza Xazar)

Azerbaijani Releases Genocide Resolution
A delegation from the Republic of Azerbaijan taking part in Council of Europe meetings distributed the text of a resolution calling on the council to recognize a genocide that they say was committed against Azerbaijanis in Armenia and Azerbaijan nearly a century ago. According to the resolution, which was signed by the representatives of several countries, the Armenians carried out massacres against the Azerbaijanis in 1905-1907 in order to create a "Greater Armenia." The resolution says that in March 1918 Armenians purged and committed mass killings of Azerbaijanis in Baku, Shamakhy, Guba, Karabakh, Zangezur, Nakhichevan, Lankaran, and other regions of Azerbaijan. The resolution, which commits only the members of the Council of Europe who have signed it, accuse Armenia of annexing Zangezur and other Azerbaijani lands with the help of the Soviet regime in 1920. The declaration also mentions a massacre of the population of the town of Khodjaly in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992 by Armenian forces. The Azerbaijani delegation appeals to all members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to take the necessary steps to "recognize the genocide" perpetrated by the Armenians against the Azerbaijani population from the "beginning of the 19th century."

Armed Conflict On Azerbaijan-Iran Border
A shooting incident occurred on Azerbaijan's border with Iran. According to the press service of the National Security Ministry on 24 April, border guards Ramil Lyalyaev and Mamuka Tatarashvili tried to keep some unidentified people from crossing the Iranian-Azerbaijani frontier when fighting broke out in which Lyalyaev was killed.

Agayi Jalali, the press secretary of the Iranian Embassy to Azerbaijan said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that it was not the first such incident on Iranian-Azerbaijani border. According to him, the incidents are not politically motivated. (Maarif Akbarov)

Azerbaijani-Turkish Relations
Some analysts point out the coolness in relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey on the eve of the summit of leaders of Turkic-language countries, which opened in Istanbul on 26 April. At the same time, they do not believe relations between the two countries will continue to worsen. Politologist Gabil Huseynli, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service, said that although the destruction of facilities in Shahidler Khiyabani created some tension in relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey, it will not worsen them, because both countries have the same strategic interests. Such an action can certainly create cool feelings between Azerbaijan and Turkey on the level of personalities, but not at the level of the states or their people. According to Huseynli, the thaw in Russian-Azerbaijani relations is not the reason for a worsening of relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. (Samira Gaziyeva)

Repeat Votes Held In Azerbaijan
On 27 April repeat municipal elections were held in Azerbaijan. According to the Central Election Commission, elections were held in 43 electoral districts, with 671 candidates standing for 305 municipal positions. More than 400 of those running are members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. Thirteen are members of Musavat and seven belong to the "reformist wing" of the Popular Front Party. On 26 April, Mustafa Mirzaev, a candidate from Baku's Azizbekov Electoral District, told a press conference about what he said were the "facts" about the falsification of the election. According to him, no citizens will select the members of the municipal governments but instead the head of the Azizbekov authority will appoint them. (Natig Zeynalov)

The Milli Mejlis discussed on 27 April problems with iodine deficiency diseases and the draft of a decree on measures to prevent such illnesses.

More than 200 million people in the world suffering from illnesses related to iodine deficiency. The number of people in Azerbaijan with such diseases has been increasing each year, said deputy Musa Guliev. (Zarkhanim Akhmedi)

Comments From War Invalids
On 25 April, the Protection Committee of Karabakh War Invalids held an international forum on the problems of legal state building in Azerbaijan. Saftar Nehmatov, a member of the Committee, said that the laws on the social protection of invalids have some problems within them and should be remade. He added that the current laws lay the foundation for corruption. Siruz Tebrizli, the former minister of the press and information, accused Ramiz Mekhdiev, the head of the president's administration, for violating the rights of Karabakh war invalids. (Babek Bakir)

Predictions On Oil Output In Future
On 27 April, Ramiz Mirzaev, the director of the Azerneftyag industrial association, told a press conference that in 2003 the annual oil output in Azerbaijan will be 20 million tons, in 2010 some 40-50 million tons, and in 2010-2015 between 60 and 70 million tons a year. According to experts predictions, the oil reserves in Azerbaijan are some 8.7 billion tons and natural gas reserves are even greater. (Almaz Nasibova)

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," in a commentary titled "Aliyev Was Received Coldly in Turkey," justifies the reception as being logical when one considers that many steps by Aliyev are directly responsible for the worsening in relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey: the destruction of sanitary facilities at the Shahidlar Khiyabani, which was built by Turks; the Aliyev government's maneuvers with Russia, Turkey, and the U.S., as well as Azerbaijan's position on the "Armenian genocide" issue caused protests from a friendly country.

Zardusht Alizadeh, co-chairman of the Social Democratic Party, writes in the opposition newspaper "525" that Western countries used the "Armenian genocide" issue to put pressure upon Turkey. Countries raising this issue do not actually think about the interests of Armenia, but follow their own interests. According to the paper, the Armenian diaspora is not very influential in the U.S.

The opposition newspaper "Ulus," in an article titled "Who Will It Be After Heidar Aliyev ?" writes that it is not known who will be president after Aliyev because it is not known when he will leave the presidency. The majority of opposition leaders are waiting for the "X" day. In contrast to them, representatives of the current government are more active in a political struggle. According to the newspaper, the group headed by Ramiz Mekhdiev, head of the presidential administration, is the strongest in Azerbaijan because of its political support and access to information. The group represented in the government and consisting of financial leaders and industrialists is also influential. One of the groups contending for the president's post is headed by Health Minister Ali Insanov. Others vying for the right to succeed Aliyev include former Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanon and of course the president's son, Ilham, who also has support and will who will not easily abandon the struggle for power.

The opposition newspaper "Zerkalo," recalling Aliev's remarks about his son Ilham's address made during a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, writes that it was the first time that the president positively appraised Ilham's activity. This fact shows that the time for the promotion of a successor is nearing. The legitimization of a successor is on the agenda of the government today. The paper cites the fact that Ilham has recently made overtures to Moscow and that this is evidence that any new leadership in Azerbaijan will include more friendly relations with Russia.

The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," noting the infighting's within the government, writes that Ramiz Mekhdiev, head of President Aliev's administration, made a serious effort toward formulating a future government. The paper also noted the weakening of the propaganda for Ilham Aliyev to be his father's successor. According to the paper, Mekhdiev is more experienced than the young Ilham. Today, the majority of government members are people close to Mekhdiev, it says. At the same time, the paper pointed out that Heidar Aliyev is likely to render Mekhdiev harmless with certain structural reforms that will cause Mekhdiev's supporters to be dismissed.

The opposition newspaper "168 saat" reported that according to official statistics about 600 Azerbaijan citizens emigrated from Azerbaijan each month last year. The majority of people who left Azerbaijan are representatives of the intelligentsia. (Samira Gaziyeva)

Compiled by Mirza Xazar in Prague and Samira Gazieva in Baku.