Plus, Czechs approve 1.5 billion euro IMF loan, and Moscow OKs massive protestby S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 27 January 2012
1. EurasiaNet: In Tehran, Yerevan sees "life line"
Just as Brussels, Washington, and many other Western capitals are moving to isolate Iran, Yerevan is getting closer to the Islamic Republic. According to EurasiaNet, Armenia is pursuing several long-term ventures with Iran at a time when the European Union and the United States are ratcheting up sanctions on Tehran for refusing to cooperate with international efforts to monitor its nuclear development program.
The biggest project is a 365 kilometer (227 mile) pipeline to transport oil from Tabriz, a city in northern Iran, to Yeraskh, in southwestern Armenia. With construction to begin this year, the roughly $160 million pipeline could be up and running by 2014.
Given that Armenia receives massive amounts of U.S. aid each year, the country might be expected to side with Washington against Tehran, EurasiaNet notes. But, Armenia having itself been blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s, "policymakers in Yerevan view Iran as a life line."
2. Serb leaders reject Tadic plan for northern Kosovo
"The president's proposal on north Kosovo … is basically a … version of the Ahtisaari Plan," says Marko Jaksic, vice president of the Assembly of the Association of Serbian Municipalities and Settlements in Kosovo and Metohija. "We did not accept this plan five years ago, so there will be no change of attitude now."
In 2007 UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari submitted a plan to the Security Council calling for the independence of Kosovo after a period of international supervision and in exchange for concessions by Pristina to accommodate the Serb minority, including a special municipality in the majority-Serb north. Though backed by the United States and the European Union, the plan was rejected by Serbia and Russia, and Belgrade refuses to recognize Kosovo.
Tadic's proposal has not been made public. But, according to a Eurasia Review analysis, it is similar to the 2007 framework, and Paris and London are warming to the plan even though it does not address the recognition question.
For their part, Serb leaders in northern Kosovo seem diametrically opposed to compromise. Over the strong objection of Belgrade, for instance, leaders say they will hold a scheduled referendum next month on the legitimacy of Kosovo institutions.
3. Begrudgingly, Prague chips in for euro zone bailout
Despite serious reservations, the Czech government has agreed to loan the International Monetary Fund 1.5 billion euros for a bailout fund to help indebted euro zone countries, Czech Position reports. Brussels asked for 3.5 billion euros.
Some Czech officials didn't want to give the IMF a heller. But in a written proposal suggesting the 1.5 billion figure to the government, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said it would be "immoral" to hold out on the EU considering that the Czech Republic has benefited from billions of euros in European funds since joining the union in 2004, according to Czech Position.
4. 50,000 to march on Moscow next month in opposition rally
Moscow City Hall has given the green light for a protest next month against the results of the recent parliamentary elections. According to RIA Novosti, on 4 February some 50,000 demonstrators will be allowed to march down Bolshaya Yakimanka Street to Bolotnaya Square, where they will hold a rally.
Deputy Mayor Alexander Gorbenko negotiated the terms of the planned protest with several opposition leaders 26 January. Though Bolotnaya Square was not the opposition's first choice, it has been the stage for demonstrations against alleged voter fraud by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party in the 4 December parliamentary polls.
Putin will run for a third presidential term in March. To avoid accusations of electoral fraud in that vote, he has pledged to spend nearly $500 million on Web cams for most of Russia's 95,000 polling stations, according to RIA Novosti.
5. Russian network to air new Assange talk show
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is launching his own TV talk show, and the Russian channel RT has offered to host it, according to Reuters. A statement on the WikiLeaks website said the program would to focus on “the world tomorrow,” and will feature Assange talking to “key political players, thinkers, and revolutionaries from around the world."
WikiLeaks first announced Assange’s intention to produce his own show 23 January, though at the time there were no details of how it would be broadcast. Two days later, RT announced that it had secured the rights to broadcast the show and would begin airing the 10 half-hour segments in March. RT also said in the announcement that the show would be written by Assange and recorded in the UK, where he is under house arrest fighting extradition to Sweden. So far both sites have kept quiet about possible guests.
RT, the Kremlin-funded network, has a reach of 430 million viewers and broadcasts in English, Arabic, and Spanish. In response to the news, The New York Times’ “Media Decoder” blog pondered the irony of the new relationship between Assange and RT, describing the former as a “free-speech crusader who has fought to undermine world governments’ control of information” and the latter as a “propaganda organ of the Russian government.”