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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 83, Part II, 29 July1997



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/

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN MEDIA ARE WAGING
INFORMATION WAR

* NEW ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT PRESENTS PROGRAM

* MONTENEGRIN PROTESTERS STONE MILOSEVIC'S LIEUTENANTS

End Note
Government Crisis in Latvia

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN MEDIA ARE WAGING
INFORMATION WAR. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 28 July warned
Russian media to stop waging an "information war" against Belarus,
ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to journalists in Minsk, Lukashenka
said his government is losing its patience. He noted that it has
already allowed certain foreign journalists, among them Russian
ones, to get away with too much. Lukashenka said that Pavel
Sheremet, a reporter for Russia's ORT television network, and two of
his colleagues had violated the law and would have to meet the
consequences. The three were arrested on 27 July and have been
charged with illegally crossing the Belarusian border with Lithuania
while shooting footage for a report on Belarus's border guards.
Earlier, Belarusian security agents searched ORT's Minsk offices and
confiscated documents belonging to Sheremet. Meanwhile, the
Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement acknowledging that
Sheremet and his colleagues may have violated some regulations, but
it called for their status as journalists to be taken into consideration.

TWENTY DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED IN MINSK AFTER RALLY.
Belarusian Popular Front secretary Vyachasluv Siuchuk told RFE/RL
on 28 July that the authorities in Minsk arrested about 20 people
following a rally the previous day protesting President Lukashenka's
autocratic rule. Siuchuk said the deputy leader of the front, Stanisluv
Husak, was among those arrested and was scheduled to appear in
court on 29 July. Some 10,000 protesters took part in the rally,
chanting anti-Lukashenka slogans and burning Soviet-era flags to
mark the anniversary of Belarus's independence from the Soviet
Union.

UKRAINE CRITICIZES EU FOR DELAYS IN FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.
President Leonid Kuchma on 28 July criticized the EU for "unfair
delays in providing assistance" to help boost Ukraine's struggling
economy. Kuchma spoke to journalists in Kyiv after meeting with
Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, who arrived for a two-day
official visit. Kuchma said European countries have demanded too
many conditions in exchange for financial assistance, including the
closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the elimination of
Ukraine's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. has
surpassed the EU in investments and financial assistance to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government owes workers and pensioners the
equivalent of some $2.5 billion in back wages and subsidies. Prime
Minister Valery Pustovoitenko told journalists on 28 July that
Ukraine will try to pay off the backlog within four months.

LOOMING CRISIS IN ESTONIAN POLICE FORCE? Harry Tuul, the acting
director-general of the police force, has warned that low salaries
have started to affect the performance of the force and that the
situation is becoming critical, ETA and BNS reported on 28 July. Tuul
told the daily "Postimees" daily that it is "quite unjustified that the
pay of employees at the prosecutor's office, for example, is four times
as high as that of policemen." He complained that the police are
constantly being given new duties without receiving additional
money. He added that the Police Department has considered sacking
one-fifth of policemen to give the others a wage increase but said the
total strength of the force is already too close to the minimum.

LATVIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER NAMED AS PRIME MINISTER.
President Guntis Ulmanis on 28 July named Economics Minister
Guntars Krasts as prime minister. Krasts replaces Andris Skele, who
resigned following corruption scandals among his ministers and
increasing disagreement between himself and the seven coalition
parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1997). Krasts, who is an
economist and a member of the right-of-center Fatherland and
Freedom party, said he anticipated only minor changes in the
government's composition. The parliament could vote on Krasts's
appointment on 6 August (see also "End Note" below).

LITHUANIAN LAW ON REFUGEES GOES INTO FORCE. The 1995 law on
refugee status and the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugee Status
have gone into effect in Lithuania, BNS reported on 28 July. Under
the new legislation, persecuted citizens of other countries are entitled
to request political asylum. The director of the Interior Ministry's
Migration Department, told the news agency that political asylum can
be claimed only by refugees who are residing in the country. He
added that he expected Lithuania would grant political asylum for
the first time later this year. Some 70 refugees currently residing in
Lithuania are reported to be interested in applying for political
asylum.

POLISH PRIME MINISTER ON FLOODS. A Council for Programming
Reconstruction and Modernization met for the first time on 28 July,
RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. The council has been
formed to deal with the consequence of the floods that recently hit
Poland. It consists of representatives of 24 institutions, including the
Academy of Sciences and the National Economic Chamber. Prime
Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said professional associations will
help to build thousands of apartments for families that were
hardest-hit by the floods. He ruled out for the time being the
possibility of issuing special government bonds to help the flood
victims. The German reinsurer Munich Re estimates losses caused by
the floods in Poland and the Czech Republic as totaling DM 3-5 billion
in each country. Insurance companies will have to pay out some DM
500 million in each country, according to Munich Re.

POLISH GOVERNMENT'S DWINDLING POPULARITY IN WAKE OF
FLOODS. An opinion poll carried out by the Warsaw-based PBS
Institute in mid-July indicates that the popularity of the ruling left-
wing coalition has plunged in the wake of the recent floods. Less than
9 percent of the respondents support the former communist
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and its coalition partner, the Polish
Peasant's Party. By contrast, 19 percent of those polled backed a
center-right alliance headed by the Solidarity Union, and more than
18 percent said they would support a coalition of social democrats
and liberals from the non-communist left.

SLOVAK JEWS DISAGREE WITH MECIAR OVER WARTIME GOLD. The
Slovak Jewish Community issued a statement on 28 July saying it is
"unable to agree" with Premier Vladimir Meciar's comment several
days earlier that "the Czech government has no right to decide on
Slovak assets." Meciar was referring to the Czech government's
decision to pay some $580,000 to a Jewish foundation to settle a
claim on gold taken from Slovak Jews during World War II and
transferred after the war to the Czechoslovak National Bank in
Prague. Meciar argues the gold belongs to Slovakia. "This is not the
Slovak government's property but gold and jewelry belonging to
Slovak victims of the Holocaust," the statement says. "If the Slovak
government really wants to find a constructive solution to this
problem, it should finally say when there will be a bill on
compensation for the victims of the fascist regime and [of] Nazi
persecution in Slovakia," according to the statement.

HUNGARY CRITICIZES SLOVAK RELUCTANCE TO SIGN MILITARY
COOPERATION ACCORDS. Hungarian Defense Minister Gyoergy Keleti
said the texts of two agreements on cooperation between the
Hungarian and Slovak armies are ready but that Hungary "has been
waiting two years for the Slovak party to sign them," according to
"Magyar Nemzet" on 29 July, citing Keleti's interview with the
Bratislava daily "Narodna Obroda". The treaties cover air space and
information exchange between the two defense ministries.
Commenting on the development of Slovak-Hungarian relations now
that Hungary has been invited to NATO accession talks, Keleti said it
is in nobody's interest to isolate Slovakia.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

NEW ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT PRESENTS PROGRAM. Prime Minister
Fatos Nano told the parliament in Tirana on 28 July that his
government's first priority is to combat lawlessness and restore
order. He intends to eliminate gangs, organized crime, and smuggling
and to disarm the population. Nano wants to coordinate economic
policy with the World Bank and IMF and will aim at speeding up
privatization, curbing corruption, and promoting a market economy.
His chief foreign-policy priority is good relations with the U.S., but he
will also devote attention to ties to the EU and neighboring countries.
Referring to Kosovo, the prime minister said that "the realization of
the legitimate rights of the Albanians of Kosovo...could be of
advantage to the whole region." Nano also pledged to revamp the
armed forces with an eye toward his chief policy goals of joining
NATO, the EU, and regional bodies.

ITALY WANTS ALBANIAN ARMY TO RESTORE SECURITY. Italian
Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta said in Rome on 28 July that
"before the end of the year, we must try to bring some regiments of
the Albanian army back into service. The Defense Ministry is
studying a plan to reconstruct at least a few mobile regiments that
could act as an element of internal security." In Tirana, Italian Chief-
of-Staff Gen. Guido Venturoni did not rule out that Italy might keep
some troops on in Albania in order to help train the Albanian
military. Operation Alba is slated to end on 12 August. Elsewhere in
Albania, total deaths in gang violence in central town of Berat since
24 July now stand at 20. The Interior Ministry said that police killed
a highly wanted criminal in a shoot-out on 27 July in the far north,
where smuggling to Montenegro remains lucrative. And in Lushnja,
south of Tirana, an explosion destroyed the mayor's house.

ETHNIC ALBANIANS CHARGED IN KOSOVO. The District Prosecutor's
office in Pristina on 28 July charged 21 ethnic Albanian men with
setting up the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) and carrying out
terrorist activities. The prosecutor's office said in a statement that
the group sought to use an illegal and violent organization in order to
secede from Serbia. The statement added that the UCK has claimed
responsibility for several terrorist acts. Some 18 of the 21
individuals are under arrest. The UCK has increased the number of
its attacks since late last year and has singled out specific targets
rather than continue its earlier practice of carrying out random
violence. But ethnic Albanian activists have charged that those whom
the government has placed on trial have been scapegoats and that
the evidence against them has been manufactured.

MONTENEGRIN PROTESTERS STONE MILOSEVIC'S LIEUTENANTS...
Some 3,000 demonstrators hurled rocks and eggs at the cars of four
top officials of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist
Party of Serbia (SPS) in Podgorica on 28 July. Montenegrin President
Momir Bulatovic, who held talks with the Serbs and who is
Milosevic's main ally in the mountain republic, criticized the anti-
Milosevic Interior Ministry for failing to keep order. The ministry
replied that it would have been "too risky" to try to disperse such a
large crowd. The demonstration was called to register opposition to
what the organizers said was Milosevic's colonialist attitude and
behavior toward Montenegro, an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from Podgorica.

...WHO, IN TURN, HUMILIATE MONTENEGRO. SPS Vice President Zoran
Lilic, who is also his party's candidate for the Serbian presidency,
said after talks with Bulatovic that Serbia will go ahead with plans to
change the Yugoslav Constitution, despite the fact that not a single
Montenegrin political party agrees with the move. Milosevic is
anxious to increase the powers of the federal presidency at the
expense of the individual republics. In Belgrade, the pro-Milosevic
media said that the SPS delegation spoke to Bulatovic in his capacity
as president of the Democratic Socialist Party (DPS). The media
thereby ignored the fact that the reformist majority in the DPS
earlier voted Bulatovic out of that office. The SPS also said it will be
sending a delegation from the Belgrade party organization to talk to
the Podgorica chapter of the DPS, although the reformists earlier
dissolved that branch organization, the RFE/RL correspondent from
Podgorica added.

MONTENEGRO TO HELP HAGUE COURT. Public Prosecutor Vladimir
Susovic said in Podgorica on 28 July that the Justice Ministry will
assist the Hague-based war crimes tribunal in its request for
evidence in one specific case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1997).
Susovic added that the crime involved deporting Montenegrin
Muslims to Bosnia and returning Bosnian Muslim refugees to Bosnian
Serb forces in May and June 1992, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from Podgorica. Susovic did not name the individual wanted
by the court. He added, however, that the investigation will involve
the highest officials and that the interior minister in 1992 was Pavle
Bulatovic, the present Yugoslav defense minister. President Momir
Bulatovic previously told the parliament that the deportations were
"our tragic mistake."

WESTENDORP CALLS FOR FINANCIAL MEASURES AGAINST WAR
CRIMINALS. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief
representative in Bosnia, urged the UN Security Council on 28 July to
pass a resolution calling for the freezing of all bank accounts
belonging to indicted war criminals and the confiscation of their
property. Westendorp argued that this would be a good way to put
pressure on the war criminals, who, he said, are still blocking the
implementation of the Dayton agreement. Radovan Karadzic and
other indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals are believed to have
accumulated huge fortunes in war profiteering and sent much of the
money to Switzerland or Cyprus.

IZETBEGOVIC PROMISES INVESTIGATION INTO CORRUPTION
CHARGES. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint
presidency, suggested in Sarajevo on 28 July that the World Bank,
Westendorp's office, and the EU each name a member of a new
commission to probe corruption charges. Izetbegovic said that he will
arrest anyone found guilty of the charge. He added that, if the
charges prove false, foreigners who have spread what he called "such
lies" will be asked to leave Bosnia. British Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook was quoted by "The "Sunday Times" on 27 July as saying
corrupt Bosnian officials have taken millions of dollars of
reconstruction money and put it into their private accounts.

ROMANIAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH IMF TO CONTINUE. Following talks
with Premier Victor Ciorbea and members of his cabinet in Bucharest
on 28 July, the IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen,
refused to make a statement on the progress of reforms in the
country. He said only that the discussions were "useful" and will
continue shortly after the government proposals on restructuring the
current budget have been examined (see below), RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported. Before meeting with Thomsen, Ciorbea admitted
that the pace of privatization and restructuring was not as quick as
had been expected, but he stressed that the government has
succeeded to bring about "macrostabilization." After Thomsen's visit,
the IMF is to decide whether to release the second $86 million
installment of a $430 million standby loan approved earlier this
year.

ROMANIAN CABINET DEBATES BUDGET RESTRUCTURING. The
government on 28 July discussed the restructuring of the current
budget but failed to reach an agreement, Radio Bucharest reported.
Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara agreed to supplement the budgets
of the Ministry of Education and of the Ministry of Labor and Social
Protection. But he said that no other ministries will benefit from
budget supplements in the second half of the year. Minister of Health
Stefan Dragulescu said that the health system will collapse if no
additional funds are provided. The IMF has said the budget deficit
must not exceed 4.5 percent of gross domestic product.

FLOODS IN ROMANIA, MOLDOVA. One person is reported dead in the
Vaslui area, in the eastern Romanian province of Moldavia, and
hundreds had to be evacuated after swollen rivers flooded several
regions in the country, RFE/RL's correspondents reported. The
hardest-hit areas are the western region of Banat, the Crisana region
near the border with Hungary, central Transylvania, and the eastern
regions of Moldavia. The Ministry of the Environment announced
that 1,000 hectares of farmland are under water. But government
officials said this year's grain harvest will not be affected. In the
neighboring Moldovan Republic, floods, hail storms, and strong winds
have caused the death of nine persons this month, three of whom are
children, BASA-press reported. Damage is estimated at 198 million
lei ($43 million).

NEW MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER APPOINTED. Presidential
counselor Nicolae Tabacaru was appointed as foreign minister on 28
July, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Tabacaru replaces Mihai
Popov, who resigned on 25 July on health grounds and was
appointed ambassador to France. Before his appointment as
presidential counselor in 1996, the 42-year-old Tabacaru served at
different Moldovan diplomatic representations abroad and was
director of the Europe and North America Department in the Foreign
Ministry.

MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN RUSSIA. Visiting Moldovan
Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat and his Russian counterpart, Igor
Sergeev, met in Moscow on 28 July and signed an agreement on
military cooperation, ITAR-TASS and Radio Bucharest reported. The
agreement provides for the training of Moldovan officers in Russia
beginning 1 September and for conducting joint maneuvers of
peacekeeping forces. The first such maneuvers are to be held in
Moldova in October. Pasat also met with Premier Viktor
Chernomyrdin, with whom he discussed the withdrawal of the
Russian troops from the breakaway Transdniester region. Pasat is
also scheduled to meet with Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin.

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN TURKEY. Petar Stoyanov, at the start of a
three-day visit to Turkey, met with his Bulgarian counterpart,
Suleyman Demirel, on 28 July. Turkish dailies report that Stoyanov
asked Demirel to use his influence to bring about the removal of
Bulgaria from the list of countries deemed by the Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC) to mistreat Muslims. Bulgaria had been
placed on the list in the late 1980s, after the campaign by Todor
Zhivkov regime's against the Turkish minority. Turkish officials said
the OIC decision will be made after a team of rapporteurs visits
Bulgaria to prepare a report. Also on 28 July, Turkey and Bulgaria
signed cooperation agreements on the protection of the environment,
transportation, tourism, and nuclear safety. Demirel said Turkey was
willing to participate in efforts to achieve peace and stability in the
Balkans.

BULGARIA, VIETNAM TO EXPAND COOPERATION. Bulgarian Prime
Minister Ivan Kostov says his country and Vietnam plan to expand
bilateral cooperation, BTA reported. He said the two countries are
working on a plan for the settlement of mutual debts, but he did not
give any details. Kostov spoke after talks with Vietnamese Defense
Minister Doan Khue, who ended a three-day visit to Bulgaria on 28
July. Khue expressed a strong interest in cooperation with the
Bulgarian arms industry.

END NOTE

Government Crisis in Latvia

by Peter Zvagulis

        The government crisis in Latvia, which began to intensify some
two months ago, culminated with Prime Minister Andris Skele's
resignation on 28 July. When Skele announced his intention to resign
several days earlier, some Latvian leaders responded with sharp
criticism of his performance as premier. Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs of Latvia's Way commented that "there is only one person in
the country who would not admit his mistakes," meaning Skele.
President Guntis Ulmanis sounded a more conciliatory note, saying
that "the Latvian government [would have had] broad opportunities
to continue to work under the leadership of Prime Minister Andris
Skele."
        The reasons for the government crisis are to be found within
the government rather than in its performance on economic or social
issues. The confrontation between the seven government parties and
the prime minister had deepened signficantly of late. There were
shady financial deals involving the state-owned companies
Latvenergo and Ventspils Nafta as well as the Banka Baltija, which
has since gone bankrupt. And it was alleged that Skele himself was
involved in the misappropriation of G-24 credits, although he was
later cleared of any involvement following an investigation. Even the
recent European Commission's decision not to include Latvia among
those countries invited to begin EU membership talks may have
helped exacerbate the crisis (Latvia's foreign policy was sharply
criticized at home in the wake of that decision).
        To make matters worse, five ministers have resigned over the
past two months, four of whom were accused of violating the anti-
corruption law: Roberts Dilba (agriculture), Rihards Piks (culture),
Juris Vinkelis (health care), and Vilis Kristopans (transportation).
Some of the accused had failed to state all their assets and business
activities when filling out income declarations. None, however, was
charged with any crime; and statements issued by the Prosecutor-
General's Office failed to make clear whether or not the ministers
were guilty. The fifth minister, Dainis Turlais, resigned the internal
affairs portfolio over the fatal accident in the western town of Talsi
on 28 June in which eight children were killed and 22 injured during
a fire fighters' show.
        In December 1995, Skele was appointed head of the coalition
government largely because he did not belong to any political party.
Now, his non-affiliation is being cited as the reason why he came
under pressure to step down. It may well be that Skele's political
influence had grown to such an extent that political parties no longer
considered him to be as neutral as he was in 1995. Moreover, they
may have seen him as concentrating too much political power in his
own hands.
        Over the past year, some parliamentary deputies had
expressed dissatisfaction with what they called the "undemocratic
tendencies" of Skele's government methods. Skele, for his part,
pointed out that his reform-oriented economic program was
extremely successful. During his term in office, the country's budget
deficit of 90 million lats (some $158 million) changed into a budget
surplus totaling 30 million lats.
        As a politician, Skele has a record of making unexpected moves.
In January, he surprised his supporters and opponents alike by
tendering his resignation following opposition within the cabinet to
his candidate for finance minister. That move proved successful,
since Skele was able to increase his popular support and form a new
government. When the scandal over violations of the anti-corruption
law began to emerge, he surprised everyone again by his reaction.
Instead of threatening to resign, he went on national television to
express his moral stance and to make clear that he would not cover
up for any minister who had broken the law. The announcement last
week of a government recovery plan was his last surprise move as
prime minister. It was designed to gain time for himself and to test
the will of the coalition parties to save the government.
        Following negotiations between the ruling parties and
consultations with President Guntis Ulmanis, Economics Minister
Guntars Krasts of the right-of-center Fatherland and Freedom party
was nominated as Skele's successor. Born in 1957, Krasts graduated
from the Economics Faculty of the University of Latvia. He has held
several research posts and was a Riga municipal official before
becoming minister of economics in December 1995.
        Some analysts speculate that one of the reasons for nominating
Krasts as premier is that the ruling parties consider him less
ambitious than his predecessor. The Economics Ministry seems likely
to go to the left-of-center Democratic Party Saimnieks in return for
its support of Krasts's candidacy as prime minister. Krasts has
already said that the government lineup is likely to remain more or
less unchanged. In any case, it seems a relatively safe bet that
Birkavs will remain foreign minister.

The author is director of RFE/RL's Latvian Service.





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