Withdrawal of Tajik Rebels From Capital Is Only a Lull in Conflict, Observers Warn
MOSCOW — THE Tajik capital of Dushanbe was calm yesterday after a weekend of fighting between pro- and anti-government armed forces, according to reports from Russian and Western news agencies.
An attempt by armed units loyal to ousted President Rakhman Nabiyev to regain power by force on Saturday has apparently failed as their units withdrew late Sunday from government buildings, including the parliament, which they had seized earlier.
Most observers, however, say the cease-fire will only be a lull in the bitter civil war that has enveloped the former Soviet Central Asian republic since this spring.
Though the Russian government and armed forces stationed in Tajikistan proclaimed their neutrality, there is little doubt that the Russians have played a key role, both in blocking the overthrow of the existing government and in forcing negotiations between the two sides.
"The latest developments in Tajikistan and the increased military confrontation in the republic give rise to deep concern in Russia," the Russian Foreign Ministry declared on Saturday after the rebels moved into the city. It warned that an expansion of the conflict could lead to the breakup of Tajikistan and threaten "the security of the entire Central Asian region." The Russians emphasized their interest in protecting the Russian-speaking population, which is a sizable minority in Tajikistan.
The statement also contained a warning to "neighboring states" not to "fan the conflict," a clear reference to Afghanistan and Iran which have been accused of aiding Islamic forces in carrying out intense fighting against supporters of former Communist leader Nabiyev in the southern border region of Kurgan-Tyube.
Russia called on the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the loose confederation of 11 former Soviet republics, to join in stabilizing the situation.
The Russian government said that in light of these circumstances, the Russian troops stationed in Tajikistan had been ordered to guard key facilities, including foreign diplomatic missions, but insisted they would remain politically neutral. Russian forces took control of the airport, the railway station, and the television station. Earlier, at the request of the government of Acting President Akbarsho Iskandarov, they had taken control of the hydroelectric station and other key economic facilities.
On Sunday afternoon, negotiations to end the fighting were held at the headquarters of the Russian Army's 201st division between Mr. Iskandarov and former parliament Speaker Safarali Kenzhayev, representing the anti-government forces. They agreed to hold an emergency session of the parliament to discuss all issues, including the deposing last month of former President Nabiyev.