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Kyrgyz Report: May 28, 1999

28 May 1999

Ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani arrived in Bishkek on the morning of 28 May and met behind closed doors with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in the presidential residence near Bishkek. According to Kanybek Imanaliev, presidential press secretary, the Afghan delegation came to Kyrgyzstan on their own initiative. ImanAliyev said the current situation in Central Asia and bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan were discussed. Rabbani expressed gratitude for Akayev�s proposal to hold a conference in Bishkek on the peace settlement in Afghanistan and suggested opening an Afghan diplomatic representative office in Bishkek. Akayev supported the idea, and said Kyrgyzstan will do its best to help to bring peace to Afghanistan. According to the presidential press service, a special non-political joint communique will be signed as a result of the visit.

The Afghan delegation also met the same day with Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev and some members of Kyrgyz Government. Economic cooperation between the two states was discussed. In the evening, Burhanuddin Rabbani met with Defense Minister Myrzakan Subanov and Security Minister Misir Ashyrkulov. All those eetings were held behind closed doors. The chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security matters, Adylbek Kadyrbekov, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 28 May that the possibility to send arms to the northern regions of Afghanistan through Kyrgyz territory was to be discussed.

Last October, a train with 700 tons of Iranian weapons, declared as humanitarian aid and sent to Afghanistan, were seized on Kyrgyz territory and sent back to Iran. However, the customs official resoponsible was subsequently fired.

On 29 May, Rabbani will meet with the speakers of the two houses of Kyrgyz Parliament, Usup Mukambaev and Abdygany Erkebaev, and with representatives of Afghan diaspora in Kyrgyzstan. There are about 1,500 Afghan refugees in Kyrgyzstan now. The delegation will leave Kyrgyzstan for Iran later on 29 May.

Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev chaired a government meeting in Bishkek on 28 May. According to First Deputy Finance Minister Malabek Toktobolotov, inflation in the first quarter of 1999 was more than 15 percent in the country while the industrial output declined by 4 percent.

According to the Deputy Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Arzymat Sulaimankulov, trade turnover with Uzbekistan decreased by 52 percent, with Kazakhstan - by 19 percent and with Russia - by 15 percent since 1 January. Sulaimankulov said negotiations with the governments of Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan on changing the situation are in progress and results are expected by 1 June.

Prime Minister MurAliyev criticized the Finance Ministry and the National Bank for their failure in keeping the som, Kyrgyz currency, stable. He asked ministers to work out urgent measures to support the som within the next five idays. The rate of the som is about 44 to 45 soms to the $1 now. Its rate was 30 soms to the $1 early in March.

The governmental press service announced in Bishkek on 28 May that Nigmatjan Esengarin, chairman of the Integration Commitee of the CIS Customs Union, was scehduled to arrive in Bishkek that day. He will meet with newly appointed Kyrgyz Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev to discuss the Customs Union issues as well as railroad transportation in the CIS and processing of nuclear ore at Kyrgyz plants. MurAliyev was appointed on 12 April.

Defense Minister General Myrzakan Subanov delivered a speech to participants at a festive meeting devoted to the seventh anniversary of Kyrgyz Army in Bishkek on 28 May. Some of best servicemen were decorated with state rewards. There are currently about 15,000 servicemen in the Kyrgyz Army.

Some 70 pensioners picketted the government building in Bishkek for two hours on 27 May to protest recent price rises and demand that penisons be increased and paid on time. No government official agreed to go out to meet the demonstrators.

Bread prices have increased by 20-30 percent in the last few weeks. The price of a bag of flour (45 kg) is now 410 soms (about $10). The average salary in Kyrgyzstan is about 700 soms (about $17), the minimum monthly pension is 100 soms ($2.50).

Kydykbek Beishekeev, deputy department head in the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 27 May that the water supply to Kazakhstan's Jambyl and Chimkent regions from the Kara-Bura water reservoir on Kyrgyz territory has been resumed. According to him, the governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have agreed that a Kazakh governmental delegation will come to Bishkek soon and all disagreements would be settled.

First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev announced in Bishkek on 24 May that Kyrgyzstan stopped water supply to the two Kazakh regions in the middle of May. According to Silaev, the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan agreed last year that Kazakhstan would give Kyrgyzstan 560,00 metric tons of coal in 1999 in return for water from the Kyrgyz water reservoirs, but Kazakhstan had not sent any coal to Kyrgyzstan so far this year. Kazakhstan cut gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan in mid-May but resumed them on 22 May. The Kyrgyz government owes $2.2 million for gas transportation to the Intergas company on Kazakh territory. Kazakhstan owes Kyrgyzstan $22 million for electricity supplies.

According to information from the Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights (KCHR), the parliamentary commitee on lawfulness considered the KCHR case on 26 May.The commitee recommended the government to re-register the KCHR.

The KCHR was founded in 1996 and was registered with the Justice Ministry the same year. But on 28 September 1998, the Ministry revoked the registration, saying there were some mistakes in the original registration documents. For the past six months the leaders of the KCHR have been trying without success to re-register their commitee with the Justice Ministry. But on 21 April, the Ministry registered another organization under the same name "Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights". The KCHR and their supporters held two demonstrations in Bishkek earlier this month and a special commission was formed on 12 May that included representatives of the presidential and governmental administrations, the KCHR, the Ministry of Justice and some other non-governmental organizations. But the Justice Ministry continued to refuse to re-register the KCHR.

World Bank representative in Kyrgyzstan Mohinder Mudahar held a news conference at the Kyrgyz National Bank today. According to him, a special $13.5-million new credit line from the international development association to Kyrgyzstan has been opened. The money will be given to six commercial banks in Kyrgyzstan for a 7-year period and with an annual interest of 15 percent. It will be used to support private business in the country. Agreement on the loan was signed between the Kyrgyz government and the World Bank in June 1995.

A special festive meeting, devoted to the 70th anniversary of the birth of Tchingiz Aitmatov, the prominent Kyrgyz writer and diplomat, was held in the State Opera in Bishkek on 27 May. President Askar Akayev, Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev, and other high-ranking officials delivered speeches. A special stage performance was held after the meeting.

A special exhibition devoted to Aitmatov also opened in the National Art Museum in Bishkek on 27 May. The celebrities will be continued in the Talas region, Aitmatov's home region on 28 May. An international symposium entitled "The Role of the Intellectual in Contemporary Society: Peace And The New Era in Central Asia", devoted to Aitmatov, was held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 25 March. A similar conference was held in London later in March.

Aitmatov was born on 12 December 1928. He received all prizes and titles possible for a writer in the USSR. He was an adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev early in the 1990s. He is currently Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to EU, NATO, UNESCO, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, and lives in Brussels.

The second radio festival began in Bishkek on 27 May. The non-governmental Almaz, Europe Plus Bishkek, Piramida, Russian Radio, Asia Center and others are participating. The managers of these radios, radio veterans of the country, other officials held a news conferenceat at the Kabar National News Agency in Bishkek on 27 May. A special conference on development of the non-governmental radios in Kyrgyzstan began at the Ak-Keme hotel in Bishkek the same day.

The parliamentary press service announced that the Legislative Assembly approved the amendments to the Tax Code on 26 May. Those amendments were prepared by a special commission that includes parliamentarians and government officials.

According to amendments, in 1999 the Land Tax will be 30 percent less than in 1998. In addition, 167-million-som in land taxes which the government has already collected must be refunded to farmers by 1 January 2001. The parliament decided in 1998 to cut land tax by 50 percent, but the government continued to collect land taxes at the previous rate.

According to the parliamentary press service, the Legislative Assembly has suggested that the government should consider the possibility of freeing residents of the Barskoon, Tosor and Tamga villages in the Issyk-Kul region from the tax land. Those residents were most seriously affected by chemical accident in the Barskoon valley last year.

A truck with 20 tons of sodium cyanide belonging to a Canadian company crashed into the Barskoon river on 20 May 1998. Four people died of poisoning in June-July 1998 and several thousands more suffered lesser degrees of poisoning. Residents of the Barskoon, Tamga, Tosor and other villages have held several protest demonstrations early in May 1999 to mark the anniversary of the accident and demand payment of all promised compensation.

The Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law released a report on current situation in Barskoon in Bishkek on 24 May. According to it, local residents are losing hope of ever receiving compensation. An official in the medical laboratory in the village of Barskoon, set up by the Canadian company, prohibited human rights activists and journalists from visiting the laboratory. Local residents are preparing to bring a legal action against the both Kyrgyz government and Canadian company.

Vice Prime Minister Esengul OmurAliyev told the parliamentary committee in Bishkek on 26 May that Kyrgyzstan will receive additional gas supplies from Uzbekistan soon. According to him, a 120-kilometer section of an Uzbek gas pipeline traverses Kyrgyz territory, and Kyrgyzstan will receive rent for it. The governments of the two states have agreed that Kyrgyzstan will receive 120,000-cubic meters of natural gas per day in addition to the amount previously agreed on.

In addition, the Kyrgyz government is preparing other proposals to receive rent for the lease of some gas depositories on Kyrgyz territory, which are used by Uzbekistan. According to Omuraliev, eight enterprises in Kyrgyzstan will begin to receive direct gas supplies from Uzbekistan soon

Uzbekistan has cut gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan several times in 1999. Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan several million US dollars for previous supplies.

Valentina Setrina, chairwoman of the teachers� trade-union, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 26 May that the government's debt to teachers for back salaries in 1999 is 42 million som (about $1 million), including 30 million soms for April 1999. An additional 90-million-som in salaries was not paid in 1998.

Exchange offices in Bishkek sold one US dollar for 44.3 to 44.4 soms on 26 May. According to the press service for the National Bank, the National Bank sold $100,000 at the inter-bank market in Bishkek at a rate of 43.2 soms to the $1.

The rate of the som was 30 soms to the $1 early in March 1999 and 17 soms to the $1 last July.