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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 7, Part II, 9 April 1997


Vol 1, No. 7, Part II, 9 April 1997

This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part I, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW
pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
WWW pages:
http://www.omri.cz/Index.html


PRIMAKOV IN MINSK
SLOVAKIA RECALLS AMBASSADOR, DEMANDS APOLOGY
FROM HAVEL
ITALIAN POLITICAL ROW THREATENS MISSION TO ALBANIA


EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MINSK. Following his
meeting in Minsk yesterday with Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Yevgenii Primakov told Interfax that
the Belarusian-Russian union involves only "deeper
integration between two sovereign states." But he added that
the extent of the union will be determined by the peoples of the
two states in the future rather than now. The draft of the
union charter was published today in the official Russian and
Belarusian press for public discussion. Lukashenka told
reporters that opponents of integration are making a mistake
by insisting on a discussion of the document. He said "the
charter only specifies but does not develop the idea of
Russian-Belarusian union." While in Minsk, Primakov told an
international conference on the creation of a nuclear-free zone
in Central and Eastern Europe that one of Russia and
Belarus's main tasks is "minimizing the impact of NATO's
eastward enlargement."

U.S. CHARITY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS IN BELARUS. The
U.S. Embassy in Minsk says the U.S.-based charity CitiHope is
suspending its humanitarian aid activities in Belarus because
the authorities have seized nearly $350,000 from the bank
account of its partner, Nadezhda Express, and is refusing to
return it, Belapan reported. The embassy says the seizure is a
clear violation of a U.S.-Belarusian assistance agreement.
CitiHope says it has delivered millions of dollars worth of food
and medicaments to needy Belarusians and regrets the
government's action. Belapan reports that if the government
returns the money, CitiHope will consider restarting its
program.

NEW UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER. Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma has appointed commercial bank chief Serhey
Tihipko as a deputy prime minister, Reuters reported. Tihipko
replaces Viktor Pynzenyk, who had been in charge of economic
reforms until his resignation last week. Presidential
spokesman Dmitro Markov said the decree appointing Tihipko
does not outline his duties.

UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR UPDATE. State Nuclear Committee
Deputy Chairman Vasyl Katko says Ukraine's nuclear power
plants will be unable to afford annual repairs this summer
because energy consumers are not paying their bills, RFE/RL
reported. Katko estimates that Ukraine's five nuclear stations
can undertake only 30% of the necessary repair work. Interfax
quotes Environment and Nuclear Safety Minister Yuri
Kostenko as describing the safety situation at the country's
nuclear power plants as "unsatisfactory." He told the
parliament yesterday that the safety of the concrete
sarcophagus covering the fourth reactor at Chornobyl has
deteriorated because of moisture buildup, insufficient
monitoring, and inefficient contingency plans for a chain
reaction. The ministry's nuclear control administration says
the number six reactor at the Zaporozhye atomic power station
was switched off yesterday because of a malfunction in the
reactor unit, UNIAN reported.

LATVIA SUGGESTS JOINT OIL PIPELINE WITH LITHUANIA.
Latvia has proposed to Lithuania that the two countries build
an oil pipeline between Mazeikiai in Lithuania and Ventspils in
Latvia, BNS reported yesterday. Janis Blazevics, president of
the state oil terminal Ventspils Nafta, told reporters that
Lithuania has not yet responded to the proposal. Meanwhile,
Ventspils Nafta is ready to reach an agreement with Western
companies on prospecting for oil in the Latvian sector of the
Baltic Sea, according to Blazevics. The Latvian government
signed an agreement in October 1995 with the U.S. oil
concerns AMOCO and OPAB on prospecting for oil in the
Baltic Sea. The parliament has ratified the document, but it
can take effect only after Latvia and Lithuania have agreed on
their common sea border.

LITHUANIAN OFFICIAL PRESSES U.S. ON NATO.
Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis told
RFE/RL in Washington yesterday that he has urged senior
U.S. officials to support his country's application for NATO
membership. Russia, Landsbergis said, is the "only obstacle"
to Lithuania's admission to the Western alliance. He added
that if Lithuania is not included in the first round, he hopes
the U.S. will provide expanded bilateral as well as multilateral
guarantees. So far on his U.S. tour, Landsbergis has spoken to
Lithuanian Americans in Chicago and met with Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright and Vice President Al Gore.

POLAND ASSURED OF ITALIAN SUPPORT ON NATO, EU
ADMISSION. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has been
assured of Italy's support for Poland's entry into NATO and the
EU, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reports. Italian Foreign
Minister Romano Prodi told journalists after his meeting
yesterday with Kwasniewski that he would like "to clarify once
and for all that Italy's position is in favor." Poland is expected
to be invited to begin negotiations on NATO entry at the
alliance's July summit in Madrid. Meanwhile, Polish Foreign
Minister Dariusz Rosati said after his talks with Vatican
officials yesterday that Poland's ratification of the 1993
Concordat with the Vatican "is very likely."

CZECH NATIONAL BANK TO BLAME FOR SLOW
ECONOMIC GROWTH? Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's
economic advisers have blamed the Czech National Bank for
the slowdown in economic growth, a rising foreign trade
deficit, and budgetary difficulties. Martin Kocourek and Jiri
Weigl said on Czech TV yesterday that the CNB's restrictive
monetary policy last year was "premature" and "excessive."
That policy aimed at reducing currency in circulation and
suppressing inflation. Klaus told Czech Radio that the March
annual inflation figure of 6.8% is a "very good result" but said
he would never give priority to a single indicator at the
expense of all others.

SLOVAKIA RECALLS AMBASSADOR, DEMANDS APOLOGY
FROM HAVEL. The Slovak Foreign Ministry has recalled its
ambassador to Prague in connection with the dispute over
recent comments by Czech President Vaclav Havel, TASR
reports today. In an interview last month with the French daily
Le Figaro, Havel had said that Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar was "paranoid" in his belief that Slovakia is being
discrimated against in NATO expansion. The Slovak
government yesterday called on Havel to apologize to Meciar,
saying his remarks were a "gross violation of the basic rules of
decency." Slovakia is unlikely to be among the first wave of
countries invited to join the alliance. Havel is currently on
vacation in the Italian Alps. His spokesman says it is unclear
how he will respond to the Slovak government's demand.

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO. Laszlo Kovacs
says Hungary is not seeking protection from NATO but rather
the benefits of belonging to an expanded zone of stability,
Hungarian media reported. Kovacs was speaking yesterday at
a meeting with representatives of civic organizations. A recent
Gallup poll shows that only 47% of the Hungarian public
supports NATO membership. Support among the military,
however, stands at 57%, according to the poll. Meanwhile,
Kovacs also said the scandal over anti-Semitic remarks made
in the parliament by Smallholders Party Deputy Chairwoman
Agnes Nagy Maczo sheds poor light on Hungary. He added that
the main problem is that she is defended by her own party,
while "other opposition parties failed to clearly distance
themselves" from her comments.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ITALIAN POLITICAL ROW THREATENS MISSION TO
ALBANIA. The Italian government faces a tough test today
when the lower house of the parliament votes on a proposal to
deploy an Italian-led security force in Albania. Italy's upper
house yesterday approved the plan, but Romano Prodi's
government does not have a majority in the lower house. His
allies there, the Refounded Communists, oppose Operation
Alba as colonialist and as aimed at propping up the
government of President Sali Berisha. The center-right
opposition approves of the force in principle but has
introduced its own bill with the aim of forcing Prodi to resign.

ALBANIA BLASTS ITALIAN CALL FOR BERISHA TO GO. In
Rome yesterday, Prodi and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister
Piero Fassino distanced themselves from Fassino's earlier
remarks that Berisha should resign. The Albanian Foreign
Ministry in Tirana sent two protests to its Italian counterpart.
One note slammed Fassino's statement as interference in
Albanian affairs, while the other demanded a clarification of
the remarks. The Italian deputy minister had openly criticized
Berisha in hopes of winning the Refounded Communists'
backing in the lower house for Prodi's bill on Operation Alba.
The communists welcomed Fassino's remarks against Berisha
but said he did not go far enough.

GREEK FORCE ALL SET FOR ALBANIA. A Greek government
spokesman said in Athens yesterday that most of the more
than 700 Greek troops for Operation Alba will go to Tirana. At
least 100 soldiers will head for the port of Vlora in the south,
which has been a hotbed of lawlessness. Greeks troops will not
be deployed in southern regions with a large Greek minority.

U.S. URGES SLAVONIAN SERBS TO VOTE IN CROATIAN
ELECTIONS. A State Department spokesman said in
Washington yesterday that eastern Slavonia's Serbs should
vote in the 13 April elections to ensure a stake in Croatian
political life. He noted that this is the first post-war vote in
which the region's Croats and Serbs will cast their ballots
together. But in Vukovar yesterday, the local Serbian assembly
put off its decision on whether to participate in the elections.
The Serbs are holding out for more political concessions from
the Croats. The UN has often told them to be satisfied with the
package of rights promised by Zagreb for when the area rejoins
Croatia in July.

CROATIA'S TUDJMAN ON THE STUMP. Amid much military
pomp and circumstance, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman
yesterday opened the Maslenica bridge, near Zadar, to link
northern and southern Dalmatia. He told the crowd that they
have his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to thank for
Croatia's achievements, Vjesnik reported. Serbian shells
destroyed the original bridge in 1991, but the Croatian
authorities quickly replaced it with a pontoon structure. In
Croatia, the bridge has come to symbolize national unity and
defiance of the Serbs. Novi list, for its part, accuses the HDZ of
using misleading TV advertisements to suggest that the
Roman Catholic Church backs that party. Polls suggest that
the HDZ is in trouble, and the party is making use of national
symbols to try to regain popularity.

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER DIGS IN. Milo Djukanovic
in Podgorica yesterday defied orders from President Momir
Bulatovic last week to sack three ministers who had openly
criticized Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL
reported. Djukanovic admitted that Deputy Prime Minister
Slavko Drljevic, Culture Minister Goran Rakocevic, and
security chief Vukasin Maras should have been more careful
in their public statements. But he stressed that it is he, not
the president, who determines the government lineup. The row
between the president and prime minister mirrors tensions in
the governing Democratic Socialist Party and in society as a
whole over Montenegro's relations with Milosevic and Serbia.
Many politicians charge that Milosevic's policies have brought
economic hardship to the tiny mountain republic, which
depends on tourism and shipping for its livelihood.

CALLS FOR UNITY OF SERBIAN OPPOSITION. Zajedno
coalition leader Vesna Pesic told her colleagues Vuk Draskovic
and Zoran Djindjic yesterday to stop feuding lest their fighting
hurt the opposition politically, RFE/RL reported from Belgrade
and New York. Djindjic blames the regime for stirring up the
feud and says that he never challenged Draskovic's plans to
run for the Serbian presidency. Djindjic also called for an end
to public squabbling among opposition leaders. Draskovic had
earlier accused Djindjic of trying to split the coalition. The
three have just wrapped up their visit to the U.S.

SOFIYANSKI WARNS AGAINST COMPLACENCY. Caretaker
Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski has warned members of the
United Democratic Forces (ODS) not to be complacent about
winning a big enough majority in the parliamentary elections
scheduled for 19 April, Reuters reported yesterday. Sofiyanski
said the ODS should work hard to win a majority large enough
to form a government and continue reform policies. He added
that one of the new government's first tasks would be to pass
the legislation needed to set up the IMF-proposed currency
board. A Bulgarian delegation in Brussels continues
discussions today with the G-24 group of industrialized
countries on additional support to accompany an IMF stand-
by loan. Bulgaria and the IMF reached agreement on the loan
last month.

BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN GAS AGREEMENT. The Bulgarian
interim government and representatives of the Russian
Gazprom company have initialed an agreement on
constructing gas pipelines that will transit Bulgarian territory
and on Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria, RFE/RL's Sofia
bureau reported yesterday. The Bulgargas company will be the
owner and financer of the new pipelines, while the Bulgarian-
Russian joint venture Topenergy will finance and build them.
The Bulgarian government and the Russian delegation agreed
"in principle" that some Russian gas supplies will be paid for
by Bulgarian goods. Bulgarian caretaker Prime Minister Stefan
Sofiyanski and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
are scheduled to sign the agreement in Moscow later this
week.

IMF OFFICIAL IN ROMANIA. Poul Thomsen, chief IMF
negotiator for Romania, says he is satisfied with the
government's fiscal, budgetary, and monetary policies,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Thomsen said after his
meeting with Premier Victor Ciorbea yesterday that he is
confident inflation will begin to drop in the near future. But
Radio Bucharest later quoted Thomsen as saying it is
"premature" to asses the success of economic reforms to date.
Thomsen is in Bucharest for a final round of discussions on a
new stand-by loan for Romania. The IMF is scheduled to take
a decision on the loan later this month.

ROMANIAN MAGNATE UNDER INVESTIGATION. George
Paunescu is under investigation by the Prosecutor-General's
office. In an interview with RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
yesterday, Prosecutor Gheorghe Mocuta said Paunescu was
suspected of having bought shares in a bank using credits
from another bank, which is illegal under Romanian law. He
has not yet been charged with any crime. Paunescu is known
for his ties to leading officials in the regime voted out of power
last autumn.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON MILITARY REFORM. Petru
Lucinschi says the country's army will given a "non-political,
neutral" status, Interfax reported yesterday. Lucinschi was
speaking at a meeting of the state commission in charge of
drawing up and implementing military reform. As head of
state, Lucinschi is also army commander in chief. Lucinschi
instructed the commission to draw up a reform concept based
on the models of Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Slovakia.
According to Interfax, Moldova has some 10,000 servicemen,
but their number is expected to be reduced.

Bosnia Five Years On

by Patrick Moore

        This week marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the
war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Bosnian Serb forces launched
that war in close coordination with Belgrade, if not on direct
orders from the federal Yugoslav military and political
leaderships. Their goal was to destroy the multi-ethnic
community that had existed for centuries and take the lion's
share of the land and riches for a Greater Serbia. Their means
were not just conventional warfare but also a systematic policy
of "ethnic cleansing" to force people who had lived together in
relative harmony into three mutually antagonistic, ethnically
based statelets. To this end, the Serbs appear to have had at
least a tacit understanding with the Croatian nationalist
leaderships in Zagreb and in Herzegovina.
        The aggressors also had the de facto assistance of the
international community, which refused to intervene before
the partition of the country was more or less complete. The
foreigners talked themselves into inaction by repeating
mantras that claimed the war was the inevitable result of
"ancient ethnic hatreds" and that all parties were equally to
blame. This was the accepted truth particularly in West
European capitals. But neither in Europe nor in the U.S. was
public opinion willing to support armed intervention to stop
aggression--despite the fact that all major powers had experts
in Yugoslav affairs, who could have cleared up the myths, and
despite what the 1930s had taught about the dangers of
ignoring or appeasing aggression.
        A change did not come until 1995. That year, NATO's use
of air strikes and the no-nonsense Rapid Reaction Force in
response to Serbian atrocities combined with a joint Croatian-
Muslim ground offensive to destroy the myth of Serbian
invincibility. Bosnian Serb troops were sent reeling and
Serbian lines crumbled. Meanwhile, economic sanctions had
taken their toll on the Serbian economy. Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic, the architect of the destruction of Tito's
Yugoslavia, decided to go to the conference table under the
effective prodding of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Holbrooke.
        The result was the Dayton agreement, which the three
parties signed in December 1995. Its military provisions were
clear, and NATO was determined to enforce them. Accordingly,
major fighting stopped, the forces disengaged, and NATO
launched a program to register and monitor the respective
armies' weapons. The U.S. also dismissed European worries
about helping any of "the warring parties" and began to build
up the armed forces of the shaky Croatian-Muslim federation
to deter future Serbian aggression.
        But if Dayton was clear on military issues, it was very
woolly on civilian ones. There was, in fact, a possibly fatal
contradiction from the very outset. On the one hand, Dayton
recognizes the principle that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a united,
multi-ethnic country. On the other, the treaty provides no
teeth for enforcing this point, so that nationalists have been
able to consolidate their hold in the areas under Serbian,
Croatian, and Muslim control.
        Thus, virtually no refugees belonging to any one ethnic
group have gone back to their homes in areas controlled by
another ethnic group. In another clear violation of the Dayton
agreement, freedom of movement across the inter-ethnic
boundaries remains, at best, a joke. Thugs of all three
nationalities continue ethnic cleansing unpunished, and major
and minor war criminals are still on the loose, often holding
good jobs and remaining in public view. Elections last
September returned the three nationalist parties to power in
their respective fiefdoms and thus only served to reinforce the
divisions along ethnic lines. Moreover, the central institutions
that Dayton set up have proved as weak and vulnerable to
nationalist sabotage as were their Tito-era predecessors.
        But beyond that, the nationalists face big difficulties,
starting with economic ones. True, some powerful people on all
three sides made fortunes in war profiteering, and the political,
military, and criminal worlds often overlap. But unemployment
is a problem everywhere, and the Republika Srpska is so
impoverished that its per capita income is just $35 per month.
        Each side has political problems as well. The Serb
leadership is split by a series of internal feuds centering on
power and money rather than on ideology. The Muslims are
divided between leaders who would prefer a small but "pure"
Islamic state and those who argue that the Muslims' only
future lies in a large multi-ethnic community. And among the
Croats, some groups are happy to withdraw into their ethically
homogenous Herzegovinian heartland, which borders on
Croatia. Others favor cooperation with the Muslims lest the
Serbs some day divide and rule the Croats and Muslims, who
fought a short but bitter war against each other in 1993.






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