December 19, 1998-January 2, 1999
  1. 2 killed in attacks on customs posts

  2. New political party formed

  3. Belgium ratifies Uzbekistan-EU Agreement

  4. Uzbekistan Passes 1999 Budget Draft

  5. President Karimov welcomes his Moldovian counterpart and critisizes Berezovski

  6. Uzbek athletes returned from Asian Games

  7. Oliy Majlis held 13th session

  8. President meets with hokims

  9. President appoints a new general procurator

  2 killed in attacks on customs posts
  An unknown armed group attacked a customs post in Turkmenia near the Uzbek border in the evening of December 29, 1998. The press service of the Uzbek Interior Ministry said on Saturday that two Turkmen servicemen were killed and one customs officer was wounded. Some time after that the same group attacked another customs post in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan on the highway linking Tashkent with Urgench. As a result, two Uzbek customs officers were wounded. One of the attackers was detained. Two of his accomplices escaped in a car in the direction of the Kurtkul district of Karakalpakia. The car was found later abandoned in the brushwood. The press service said that Uzbek and Turkmen law enforcement agencies are now conducting a joint search for the armed group.
  New political party formed
  A new political party - the Fidokorlar (Self-sacrificers) national democratic party was set up in Uzbekistan on Monday. About 8,000 people throughout Uzbekistan signed their names in supporting the new party. The country's law requires that at least 5,000 signatures be collected to create a new party. The party includes workers, small and medium-sized businessmen, intellectuals and young people. Participants of the inaugural conference adopted the party's program and rules, elected the central bodies and approved a party newspaper "Fidokorlar". Erkin Norbutayev, 38, was elected the general secretary of the party at the first meeting of its Central Committee Monday. He is a deputy director of the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies under the president in Tashkent. In early December, Uzbek President Islam Karimov met the organizers of the party. They told the president that their party will unite "selfless people with progressive views who put the fate of their fatherland above their own and are capable of assuming responsibility for the happiness of the people, democracy and justice." There are five leading parties in Uzbekistan: the Popular Democratic Party, For Progress of the Fatherland, Justice, National Revival, and Unity.
  Belgium ratifies Uzbekistan-EU agreement
  The Parliament of Belgium ratified the agreement between Uzbekistan and the European Union signed in 1996 during President Karimov's visit to Florence. So now fourteen states have ratified the agreement which will be in effect after all fifteen EU member-states will have ratified it.
  Uzbekistan Passes 1999 Budget Draft
  The Uzbekistan parliament on Thursday passed the 1999 draft budget, which estimates revenues at 548 billion som (5 billion U.S.dollars) and expenditures of 601 billion som (5.5 billion dollars), with a budget deficit of 548 billion som (500 million dollars). Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov said in parliament that the main points of the draft include cutting military and administrative expenditures and measures to revitalize enterprises through restructuring the tax system and raising local budgets proportionately. Under the draft, the 1999 gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to rise 4.5 percent, only 0.1 percentage point up compared with the growth rate in 1998. The draft is both pragmatic and balanced. Its designers have considered, during the formulation process, the impact of Russian and Southeastern Asian financial crises and the decreasing prices of Uzbekistan major export products, said Karimov. To reduce administrative expenditures, Uzbekistan's national administrative establishments will realize a 20 percent cut in 1999, Karimov said. The country will also reduce the profit tax from 35 percent to 33 percent and simplify the tax system, he added. On military reform, Karimov stressed that the top task of Uzbekistan forces is to maintain domestic peace and stability. "We do not need a large troop", he said. He called on the country to carry out military reform stage-by-stage and set the deadline for the first stage by January 1, 2000. But details on troop cuts and military expenditures were not revealed.
  President Karimov welcomes his Moldovian counterpart
and critisizes Berezovski
  Islam Karimov and Petru Lucinschi held a press conference in Tashkent on 18 December. Karimov said cooperation between the two countries will be expanded, singling out projects linked with the exploitation of the Black Sea and in the sphere of communications. Interfax reported that bilateral trade in 1997 amounted to some $9 million and in the first nine months of 1998 totaled some $6 million. Mr. Karimov said, in the context of the U.S. and U.K. air strikes against, that during Soviet times his country had biological weapons: "I can openly say this now...a bacteriological weapon was being developed in the Aral Sea area on Barsa Kelmes Island." Karimov said the leadership of the Uzbek SSR did not know about the program, but he added that since independence, his country has allowed "the international community" to take soil samples "in order to find out the scale of the work, what kind of organisms they were trying to create." Karimov also criticized the work of CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, saying Berezovskii is ignoring plans to reform the CIS, which are currently being discussed by CIS prime ministers." He added that Berezovskii is attempting "to determine the future of the commonwealth at separate meetings with the presidents of the CIS countries," Interfax reported. Karimov said Berezovskii has a different program from that of "the document approved by the CIS experts." Uzbek Television limited its coverage of Karimov's comments on Berezovskii to the Uzbek president saying he admires Berezovskii but does not like the CIS executive secretary's plan for restructuring the CIS.
  Uzbek athletes returned from Asian Games
  The athletes of the national team of Uzbekistan returned from Thailand where they took part in the XII Asian Games. An outstanding results were performed by boxers. 9 of ten boxers received medals, including three gold and four silver. Wrestlers, athletes in track and field, and canoeists also demonstrated good results. All in all the united team of Uzbekistan won 40 medals in 23 sports events - 6 gold, 22 silver and 12 bronze. also
  Oliy Majlis held 13th session
  The parliament of Uzbekistan discussed several drafts of laws and adopted some of the bills. The state budget for 1999 was the main document to discuss. However literally it wasn't discussed much, because the deputies unanimously agreed that it was a very good budget. First of all allocations for social protection are by 35% more than in the last year's budget. More money will be spent for healthcare and education, which are over 500 and 300 million dollars. Leader of the People's Democratic party Abdulhafiz Jalolov said that these three factors had given the deputies a strong reason to vote for the budget. The new budget will be short for the army and the government staff. Next year the government will shrink by 20% with heads of different government offices taking certain tests. The president said that Uzbekistan doesn't need a big army as it has no intentions to make wars. "We need a strong, effective and a professional army, therefore the service will not be mandatory", said the president and told the parliament about reforming the army based on the experiences of a number of western countries. The reform will be held between next july and january 2000. The president also denied any rumors that next year would be a difficult one for the country and that prices might go up higher followed by a shortage of goods. President Karimov assured the deputies that the country has enough reserves to buy a four-month-long import. These rumors are natural because this year Uzbekistan was short of 800 thousand tons of cotton, the worst harvest in 20 years with the price of cotton in the world market dropping by 25 percent. Besdies gold's price in the world market has also been low in the last five years. For the same reasons the country couldn't fill out its foreign currency treasury by exporting oil and non-ferrous metals. The parliament also passed several other laws - the housing code, the law on guarantees of lawyers and their social protection, the law on radiowaves and the law on advertising. The law on entrepreneurship and guarantees of entrepreneurs was hailed by local businessmen who were tired and have been harassed by continious inspections of their enterprises and companies. The law now requires only one inspection a year that shouldn't last for more than 30 days. And if a company pays all taxes on time and has a positive auditing report, the inspection applies only once in two years.
  President meets with hokims
  A day before the Oliy Majlis session the president met with khokims of all levels and their deputies in Tashkent. The president announced that this year the country's macroeconomic and financial stability was strengthened; the trade saldo was positive; all the foreign debts were paid back on time and this is when low prices for gold and bad cotton harvest didn't help earn more hard currency revenues. In addition to this, the financial crisis in South-East Asia and especially in Russia affected the Uzbek economy, despite the president's forecasts three months ago. The president also said that Uzbekistan was forecasting a 1999 budget deficit of around three percent of gross domestic product, up from 3.1 percent in 1998. The deficit would be covered by treasury bill issues equal to 1.5 percent of GDP, Central Bank money printing of 1.0 percent of GDP and the rest by privatisation revenues. The budget spending next year was forecast at almost five billion dollars (548.0 billion) sums versus revenues of almost 5.5 bln. dollars (601.8 billion). Uzbekistan plans to launch a major privatisation drive in 1999 and 2000, with stakes in thirty of the former Soviet republic's biggest assets set to go under the hammer, including the Almalyk copper plant and the Fergana oil refinery.
  President appoints a new general procurator
  On December 23 President Karimov released General Procurator of Uzbekistan Buritosh Mustafaev and appointed his adviser for national security Usmon Hudaykulov instead.

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