|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
Vol. 1, No. 11, Part II, 15 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 11, Part II, 15 April 1997 This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RATIFICATION OF CFE "FLANK LIMITATIONS" AGREEMENT UNDER THREAT * OSCE MISSION ARRIVES IN BELARUS * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT TIGHTENS GRIP ON PARTY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RATIFICATION OF CFE "FLANK LIMITATIONS" AGREEMENT UNDER THREAT. Ukraine, Moldova, and Azerbaijan intend to block ratification of the May 1996 agreement allowing Russia to temporarily exceed limitations on the armaments it can deploy on its north- and south- western borders under the 1990 CFE Treaty, AFP reported yesterday, quoting unnamed diplomats in Vienna. The three countries argue that the 1996 agreement gives Russia carte blanche to deploy troops on their territories as well as in Kazakstan, Armenia, and Georgia. Georgia has expressed its support for that argument. One Armenian commentator recently wrote in Nezavisimaya gazeta that Azerbaijan has violated the so-called CFE "flank limitations" by deploying in Nakhichevan more than 500 East German tanks supplied by Turkey. FRANCE WANTS SECURITY PARTNERSHIP WITH NATO CANDIDATES. A spokeswoman for President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that France wants to build a security partnership with NATO candidate countries not invited to join the alliance in the first round of eastward expansion. The statement came after talks between Chirac and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis in Paris. The spokeswoman said Chirac wants the partnership to take the form of a charter between NATO and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden. France has tried to have Romania included in the first group of nations but has encountered resistance from other NATO members. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are expected to be offered the first bids for membership at the NATO summit in Madrid this summer. OSCE MISSION ARRIVES IN BELARUS. An OSCE mission arrives in Belarus today for talks with government and opposition leaders about the political and human rights situation there. An OSCE spokesman in Vienna told RFE/RL yesterday that the delegation will remain until the end of the week. He said the Belarusian authorities have promised the mission "full access" to whomever they wish to meet. The delegation is led by Danish diplomat Rudolf Thorning- Petersen. The OSCE wanted to send a mission to Belarus last month, but the trip was canceled when it became clear the mission would be prevented from meeting with opposition members. RUSSIAN PREMIER REJECTS CHARGE BY BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT. Viktor Chernomyrdin has rejected a charge by Alyaksandr Lukashenka that someone in the Russian government is accepting orders from the West. Chernomyrdin yesterday called for "common sense" in relations between the two states, which two weeks ago signed a union accord. "I am somewhat bewildered by President Lukashenka's announcement that there is someone in the Russian leadership 'who is fulfilling orders from his overseas masters' to destroy Russian-Belarusian relations," Interfax quoted Chernomyrdin as saying. Some Russian government members who are concerned about Lukashenko's authoritarian tendencies reportedly helped water down the union accord. BELARUS APOLOGIZES FOR LITHUANIAN BORDER INCIDENT. The Belarusian embassy in Vilnius has apologized for the accidental border crossing by two of its military vehicles during maneuvers. The incident occurred on 11 April during a Belarusian military exercise in the border region of Hozha. Two vehicles apparently lost their way and crossed over into Lithuanian territory. The 700-km long border between the two countries is not clearly demarcated in many places. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over what it called the "gross violation" of its border and says it hope Belarus will abide by an agreement to speed up work on the demarcation of the frontier, BNS reported on 14 April. PROBLEMS AT UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR PLANT FIXED. Operators at the Zaporizhska power plant, one of the largest in Europe, have restarted a reactor shut down yesterday because of a malfunctioning control rod. A plant spokeswoman told journalists that one of the 61 rods regulating chain reactions in the reactor core was descending into the core more slowly than regulations permit. She said operators fixed the malfunction by repeatedly dropping the rod down and pulling it back until it was moving at normal speed. Zaporizhska's output has decreased owing to recent minor incidents that forced five reactor to shut down. Officials say none of the problems has posed any danger within or outside the plant. EBRD TO INVEST IN POLAND'S SHIPYARDS. Allan Pillaux, who oversees Polish affairs at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, says the EBRD will invest in the Polish shipyard industry, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. Pillaux was speaking after an EBRD meeting in London yesterday, which was attended by Polish Deputy Prime Minister Marek Belka and Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Former Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, who is Poland's representative at the EBRD, told journalists that Polish contracts with the bank will total $100 million. CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH ALBRIGHT. During her meeting with Jozef Zieleniec yesterday in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pledged equality for all new members in an enlarged NATO. Albright told journalists later that "there is no such thing as second-class membership" and that no deals will be struck with Moscow behind the backs of candidate countries. Zieleniec said only full membership in NATO is acceptable to Prague but added he does not believe NATO is negotiating any secret deals with Moscow. A spokesman for the Czech embassy in Washington told RFE/RL that Albright assured Zieleniec that NATO expansion will go ahead regardless of whether Russia agrees. CZECH PRIME MINISTER IN BRUSSELS TO DISCUSS NATO MEMBERSHIP. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told Vaclav Klaus yesterday in Brussels that the Czech Republic should engage in a more active dialogue with Russia. Klaus said at a press conference later that the NATO leadership does not want candidate countries to think that the alliance's talks with Russia are taking place without those countries' participation. Addressing the NATO Council, Klaus warned that the deepening of relations between NATO and Russia should not be allowed to "damage the position of new members." COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW. Daniel Tarschys says Slovakia should adopt a bill on the language rights of ethnic minorities. Slovak media reported. Tarchys, who is on a three-day visit to Slovakia, met with Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and other top officials in Bratislava yesterday. He praised cooperation between the Council of Europe and Slovak officials, especially in amending legislation to conform to European standards. Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik said the government is not opposed in principle to an ethnic-language law. In other news, Slovak President Michal Kovac has announced that Alexandr Rezes is to be replaced by Jan Jasovsky, director-general of the Slovak Post Service, as transportation minister. Rezes has suffered from serious health problems in recent months. HUNGARIAN JUNIOR COALITION PARTY LEADER RESIGNS. Ivan Peto resigned yesterday as chairman of the Alliance of Free Democrats and leader of the party's faction, Hungarian media reported. He said he was stepping down because of the need to "renew" the party before next year's elections. Peto denied any connection between his resignation and the "Marta Tocsik affair." Tocsik is an independent consultant who received fees totaling some $5 million for her services to the State Privatization and Holding Agency. Those funds are believed to have reached businessmen close to the Free Democrats. Peto is replaced as party chairman by Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze until a special congress next month elects his successor. UPDATE ON ROW OVER HUNGARIAN HEALTH INSURANCE FUND. Agnes Cser, director-general of the Health Insurance Fund, remains in her post for the time being, following a "stormy" meeting of the Health Insurance Authority board Hungarian media reported yesterday. Peter Simsa, head of the board, has accused Cser of causing billions of forints in losses ((see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 April 1997). No-confidence motions against both Simsa and the board as a whole were voted down, while Welfare Minister Mihaly Kokeny told the gathering that the report accusing Cser was "inadequately prepared" and "one-sided." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE OPERATION ALBA GETS UNDERWAY. The deployment of an Italian-led multinational force in Albania began today at dawn. A French naval ship arrived in the western port city of Durres, and its marine commandos secured the port. More troops and a shipment of 400 tons of food aid are also due today in Durres. Meanwhile, the first of six Italian military aircraft carrying paratroopers has landed at Tirana's airport. An advance unit of about 100 Italian troops arrived in Albania on Friday. The total force will number about 6,000 and will seek to secure aid deliveries. ALBANIAN PRESIDENT TIGHTENS GRIP ON PARTY. At a meeting of the National Council of President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party late Sunday, the majority firmly rebuffed 13 dissidents who had challenged his control over the party. The council also sacked three leading dissidents from the party presidency: former Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni and former Deputy Prime Ministers Dashamir Shehi and Bashkim Kopliku. Berisha's position was further strengthened by the naming of his closest aide, Genc Pollo, as secretary-general of the party. ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER BACKS INTERVENTION FORCE. Fatos Nano says the Italian-led mission is necessary to stabilize Albania. Nano was speaking to RFE/RL's Russian Service by telephone yesterday. He said the multinational force has his full backing and that political trends in the country are moving against President Sali Berisha, whom he blames for much of the current crisis. Nano was prime minister in one of the post-communist transition governments in 1991 but until recently was imprisoned for embezzlement. His backers and many foreign human rights organizations say the charges against him were politically motivated. TUDJMAN'S PARTY STILL STRONGEST IN CROATIA. Unofficial results of Croatia's local and parliamentary elections on 13 April show voters endorsed the status quo, with the largest group backing the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of President Franjo Tudjman. The unofficial results, obtained by an RFE/RL correspondent in Zagreb, show the HDZ has increased its majority in the upper house of parliament. They also show that Tudjman's party has a slight lead in elections for the crucial Zagreb City Council, controlling 24 out of 50 seats. The opposition has won other key cities, such as Rijeka, Osijek, Split, and Dubrovnik. VOTING ENDS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. UN spokesmen, U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, and local Serb leader Vojislav Stanimirovic all said in Vukovar on Monday that the vote in eastern Slavonia was largely free and fair. UN officials nonetheless blasted Croatian authorities for not delivering enough ballot papers and for irregularities in the voting lists. Polls closed early yesterday evening after a second day of voting in Croatia's last Serb-held area. First results in the vote for local and county offices are due later today. The Serbs put forward a united slate, but the Croatian vote is likely to be split between several parties. SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SAY THEY ARE UNITED. Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic, and Vesna Pesic of the Zajedno coalition say the "crisis of confidence" is now behind them and that they will stick to cooperation agreements they signed earlier, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. The three leaders met yesterday in the Serbian capital to discuss their differences, which recently became public. Djindjic had objected to Draskovic's decision to run as a joint presidential candidate in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections due by the end of the year. MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT BLASTS SECRET SERVICE. Speaking in Podgorica yesterday, Momir Bulatovic attacked the State Security Service (SDB) and called for an urgent session of the parliament to look into what he called its "violations of human rights and citizens' freedoms." An RFE/RL correspondent in Podgorica says this is the latest episode in the dispute between Bulatovic and some members of his party and of the government over ties to President Slobodan Milosevic. Bulatovic recently tried unsuccessfully to sack three ministers, including SDB chief Vukasin Maras. ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES BANK PRIVATIZATION BILL. The Senate yesterday approved the bill on the privatization of banks, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. The bill, which will now be debated by the Chamber of Deputies, frees three-quarters of the banking system from state control. Ninety percent of the shares of each bank to be privatized will be offered for sale to Romanian or foreign investors, and the remaining 10% will be retained by the State Property Fund. Only leading international banks and financial institutions will be allowed to acquire more than 20% of the shares in a single bank. The bank privatization bill is one of the major pieces of legislation stipulated by the IMF and the World Bank as a condition for loans. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS. At his own request, Emil Constantinescu yesterday met with parliamentary opposition leaders to discuss laws aimed at promoting economic reforms and ways to prevent social unrest after the passage of the legislation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. At the meeting, the opposition protested what it called the government's "political cleansing" policies in the public economic sector. Neither Ion Iliescu, former president and leader of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, nor Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), attended the meeting, opting instead to send their deputies. Iliescu said he will participate in such discussions only if his party is invited to a separate meeting with Constantinescu or if all parliamentary parties are present. Tudor, a former Ceausescu "court poet," is currently in Libya attending a poetry festival. BULGARIAN STATE OIL REFINERY TO BE PRIVATIZED. The Bulgarian caretaker government yesterday approved a Privatization Agency proposal to sell up to 75% of the Neftochim oil refinery, located in the Black Sea port city of Burgas. RFE/RL's correspondent in Sofia reported that the only known bidder for the state-owned refinery to date is the Russian company Rossinvestneft. Neftochim's assets are estimated to be worth more than $9 million, but the company has debts totaling nearly $6 million. Meanwhile, caretaker premier Stefan Sofiyanski has left for Moscow to resume talks on the construction of transit pipelines on Bulgarian territory and Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 and 11 April 1997). BULGARIAN ELECTION UPDATE. Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), yesterday canceled an election rally in the DPS stronghold of Kardzhali. The move was in protest against police raids the same day on properties belonging to Elzhan Rashid, one of the country's wealthiest ethnic Turk businessmen, RFE/RL's local corespondent reported. Police seized firearms, counterfeit foreign currency, and a substance believed to be heroin. Rashid himself was beaten after he put up resistance. Dogan denounced the police action as a "provocation against ethnic peace" aimed at discrediting ethnic Turk businessmen on the eve of the 19 April parliamentary elections. Dogan said many corrupt businessmen in Kardzhali were protected by groups close to the United Democratic Forces and the Socialists. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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