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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 87, Part II, 4 August1997



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

*RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SEEK TO SMOOTH OVER DIFFERENCES WITH
MINSK

*YUGOSLAV BORDER GUARDS KILL TWO KOSOVARS


*BONN FREEZES DIPLOMATIC TIES TO BOSNIA


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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

JOURNALIST DETAINED IN BELARUS THREATENS HUNGER STRIKE.
Pavel Sheremet, one of two Russian state television (ORT) journalists
detained by the authorities in Belarus, may go on a hunger strike, his
lawyer told Interfax on 2 August. The Belarusian authorities have
charged the journalists with illegally crossing the border from
Lithuania, where they had been filming a report on smuggling. They
could face up to five years in jail. Meanwhile, Belarus's KGB issued a
statement on 1 August saying its agents acted on a Lithuanian
request when they detained the ORT crew. The statement directly
contradicts earlier assertions by Lithuanian authorities that they had
no objections to the TV crew's border crossing. Fifteen journalists
arrested on 31 July while demonstrating against the ORT journalists'
detention appeared before a Minsk court on 1 August. They were
charged with violating a decree banning unauthorized public
gatherings near government buildings. Six of the journalists were
fined the equivalent of about 180 dollars and the rest were given
warnings.

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SEEK TO SMOOTH OVER DIFFERENCES WITH
MINSK. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 1 August expressed hope
that Russian criticism of the treatment of Russian journalists by
Belarusian authorities will not affect cooperation between the two
countries, Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin characterized his
Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a "young" and
"quick-tempered" leader who "takes criticism badly," but said the
incident over ORT journalists would not affect Russian-Belarusian
relations. The same day, Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii
criticized Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Leonid Gorbenko, who had
asked Lukashenka to postpone a visit to the oblast because of
"complications" in Russian-Belarusian relations. Gorbenko's statement
had not been cleared with the Russian Foreign Ministry,
Yastrzhembskii said. On 2 August, Yastrzhembskii criticized ORT for
not reporting on the official explanations for the postponement of
Lukashenka's visit to Kaliningrad Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1997).

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN CENTRAL BANKS
SUSPENDED. A Russian-Belarusian currency union appears as far
away as ever now that the Russian Central Bank has cut off
negotiations with the National Bank of Belarus, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 2 August. Under a March agreement, the two central
banks were scheduled to announce measures on coordinating the two
countries' currency policies on 1 August. However, the Russian
Central Bank says Minsk has not fulfilled any of the main points of
the March agreement. For instance, the National Bank still restricts
the purchase and sale of Belarusian rubles in Belarus and still sets
the exchange rate for the Belarusian ruble without regard for supply
and demand. Furthermore, the National Bank of Belarus on 28 July
limited the rights of non-residents to perform certain currency
operations, after which the Russian side concluded that continuing
negotiations would be "senseless," according to Central Bank Deputy
Chairman Aleksandr Potemkin.

WORLD BANK SUSPENDS LOAN TO UKRAINE. The World Bank has
suspended disbursements of a $317 million loan to Ukraine because
the Ukrainian parliament failed to raise electric rates as it promised,
RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 1 August. The bank
says the parliament's indefinite postponement of the higher rates
"has jeopardized the financial viability of the thermal generation
companies" which are getting the loan disbursements. The loan,
approved in October 1996, was to be used to build up fuel stocks and
spare parts, and to install metering and other modern equipment
over three years to get Ukraine's electric utility industry up to
standard. The bank says the power companies will continue to
deteriorate. without an increase in wholesale and retail prices. The
bank says it will still support power industry reforms with technical
assistance, but will only reopen the loan when electric rates are
adjusted.

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT VISITING DENMARK. Lennart Meri arrived in
Denmark on 2 August for a five-day visit which takes place at the
invitation of Uffe-Ellemann Jensen, the president of the union of
liberal democratic parties and former Danish foreign minister, ETA
reported. Meri gave a speech on 2 August on the topic "NATO and
European Union Expansion from Estonia's Position" at the annual
conference of the Venstre Party at Nymindegab. On 4 August, the
Estonian president is scheduled to give a speech on "Estonia and
Euro-integration" at the Danish Society of Foreign Politics. Meri and
Ellemann-Jensen also are due to hold a joint press conference the
same day.

LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN U.S. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, on a
visit to the U.S., told Reuter in San Francisco on 2 August that his
country will do everything possible to be included in a next round of
NATO expansion. Ulmanis expressed the hope that Latvia will win an
invitation to join the alliance in 1999. Ulmanis also said that Russian
objections to the Baltic states' possible NATO membership "are not
decisive." Ulmanis said Latvia also will continue efforts to be
included in a first group of nations invited to join the European
Union.

LATVIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE VOWS FASTER REFORM. Guntar
Krasts on 1 August pledged to speed up reforms. Krasts told state-
owned Radio Latvia in an interview that the Baltic republic needed a
better economic performance. Krasts has been chosen to replace
Andris Shkele, forced to resign after quarrels with the seven parties
that formed his cabinet. "We have to achieve better economic results
in the second part of 1997 and in 1998 and therefore we have to
increase the pace of reform," Krasts said. A deficit-free budget is
currently in doubt due to an income tax shortfall but Krasts insisted
a balanced budget was his goal. "We will aim to achieve a balanced
budget in 1997, and even if we fail, it is a must for 1998, which we
will implement," Krasts said.

FIRST LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN BORDER CHECKPOINT OPENED. Latvia
and Lithuania opened their first border checkpoint on 2 August, BNS
reported. The border point Grenctale-Salociai will substantially
reduce the time needed for routine procedures upon crossing the
border, since the customs and documents control will take place only
once. The opening ceremony at the border crossing was attended by
Latvian Acting Interior Minister Juris Kaksitis and Lithuanian
Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis.

CZECH "FLOOD" BONDS REPORTED TO BE A SUCCESS. Seven major Czech
banks on 1 August started selling government bonds, Czech
television reported. The government hopes the sale will raise some 5
billion crowns to help regions devastated by recent floods. All seven
banks reported that the bonds were selling faster than expected.
President Vaclav Havel and his wife, Dagmar, were among the first to
buy some of the bonds. The bonds will mature in five years, and
interest will be 2.5 percent above inflation. For the first year, the
interest rate was set at 12.5 percent. The damage caused by the
floods that hit eastern Czech Republic is estimated to be at least 60
billion crowns. Industry and Trade Minister Karel Kuehnl told Czech
Television on 3 August that damages to industrial companies alone
are estimated at 35 billion crowns.

EU WELCOMES SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT'S DECISION.
European Commission spokesperson Louisewies Van der Laan told
Slovakia on 1 August in Brussels that the European Commission
welcomes the ruling by the Slovak Constitutional Court on the case of
former Slovak parliament deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, and will watch
carefully further steps to be taken by the Slovak Parliament in the
issue. The Constitutional Court ruled on 25 July that the parliament
had acted unconstitutionally in stripping Gaulieder of his mandate
after he quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia.
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ON RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS. President
Arpad Goencz on 2 August, at a press conference held at the RFE/RL
headquarters in Prague, said Hungary will do everything in its power
to help Romania and Slovakia be admitted to NATO and the European
Union. He expressed support for NATO-Ukrainian cooperation, which
would bolster Ukraine's independence and sovereignty. Goencz said
he regards the incidents triggered by the attempt of the Romanian
nationalist mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, to block the display of the
Hungarian flag over the Hungarian consulate as "insignificant." He
said Hungary has its own "extreme nationalists" and added that he
will always remember the warmth with which both the Romanian
and the Hungarian population of the town received him when he
visited there earlier this year. Goencz said Hungary's option for
integration into Western structures is unlikely to change regardless
of the outcome of the May 1998 elections.

HUNGARIAN GYPSIES DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR HOLOCAUST. The
National Gypsy Minority Council on 1 August demanded collective
compensation for grievances suffered by Gypsies in World War II,
Hungarian media reported. According to Florian Farkas,
parliamentary representative of Hungary's 500,000 strong Gypsy
minority, at least 50,000 Hungarian Gypsies died in concentration
camps. Farkas said the community as a whole is entitled to collective
compensation for the crimes committed against it by the Hungarian
Arrow Cross fascist movement. Hundreds of people, including Foreign
Minister Laszlo Kovacs, gathered on 2 August in front of the
Parliament building for a candlelight vigil to honor Hungarian victims
of the Gypsy Holocaust.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN MINISTER PROMISES SAFE ROADS IN TWO MONTHS.
Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said in Tirana on 3 August that he
intends to rid the roads of gangs and robbers within 60 days (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1997). He said that police have arrested
several gang members in recent days, and that "there will be no
compromise on crime." But much of the country remains affected by
gangs, including Berat, Cerrik, Vlora, Gjirokaster and Korca in the
south, and Burrel and Shkoder in the north. Last week, 60 people
were killed and 100 injured in armed violence across Albania. In
Tirana, 15 were killed during that period, including five on 1 August.

PETITIONERS WANT BERISHA BANNED FROM ALBANIAN
PARLIAMENT. Some 12,000 people have signed a petition to the
Constitutional Court to demand that former President Sali Berisha be
denied his seat in the new legislature, news agencies reported from
Tirana on 3 August. The petition, which originated in Vlora, claims
that Berisha is responsible for the deaths that followed the collapse
of pyramid schemes in March and hence has no moral right to a seat
in parliament. Meanwhile in Durres, some 360 French soldiers and
116 military vehicles left for Toulon. And on Tirana money markets,
the lek has stabilized at about 150 to the dollar. The rate was about
190 to the dollar at the height of Albania's crisis, but demand for the
local currency has increased following the June elections and the
gradual resumption of normal business life.

YUGOSLAV BORDER GUARDS KILL TWO KOSOVARS. Federal Yugoslav
border guards killed two ethnic Albanians from Serbia's Kosovo
province on 3 August, the official Tanjug news agency reported. The
guards said that one group of Albanians was trying to cross the
border into Albania as another was attempting to enter Yugoslav
territory. The guards ordered the men to halt, but fired on the
Albanians only after the Albanians fired first, Tanjug added. A
spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosovo, the leading ethnic
Albanian political party, said in Pristina, however, that the guards
fired without warning. Smuggling is endemic along Albania's borders
with Yugoslavia and Macedonia, and incidents along the frontier have
been common since anarchy broke out in Albania in March. On 31
July, Macedonian border guards killed two illegal migrant workers
attempting to go home to Albania.

FEDERAL YUGOSLAV POLITICAL UPDATE. The steering committee of
Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) decided in Belgrade on 3
August that the DS will not participate in the Serbian elections slated
for 21 September. Spokesmen said that conditions for fair and free
elections are not present. Also in Belgrade, the Republican Elections
Commission ruled that parties must present their lists of candidates
to the Commission by 6 September. And in Podgorica, supporters of
Momir Bulatovic, the deposed president of the Democratic Socialist
Party, announced on 1 August that they do not recognize Bulatovic's
ouster and will hold a party congress in northern Montenegro on 6
August, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin
capital.

POLICE SAY TEENAGERS DESECRATED JEWISH CEMETERY IN SERBIA.
Police in Zemun said on 2 August that five teenagers were
responsible for the 24 July vandalism of a Jewish cemetery. Police
ruled out any political motives in the incident in which unknown
people turned over nine huge grave stones. Jewish community
leaders said on 28 July, however, that the stones were so heavy that
the vandalism could not have been the work of a few individuals but
rather of an organized gang. The mayor of Zemun is Serbian
nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, whom opposition groups charge
with beating up a human rights lawyer and with driving a Croatian
family out of Zemun (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997). Seselj is
a candidate for the Serbian presidency and often acts as a tacit ally
of Milosevic.

CROAT CROWDS DRIVE MUSLIMS FROM VILLAGES. Recently returned
Muslim refugees fled their three home villages near Jajce on 3
August after two days of violence. Angry Croat gangs had attacked
the Muslims and torched some of their homes, burning one man alive
inside his house. Some Western media reports said that the Croats
were drunk and that local police helped them drive out the Muslims.
Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief
representative in Bosnia, wrote to Croat and Muslim leaders that the
Muslims must be able to go home within 48 hours, and criticized the
behavior of the police and other local authorities. The central Bosnian
town of Jajce had previously been one of the few places in that
country where refugees had been able to go home to areas governed
by authorities of a different nationality.

BONN FREEZES DIPLOMATIC TIES TO BOSNIA. Germany on 3 August
became the first country to enforce the new international ban on
contacts with Bosnian ambassadors. Westendorp announced the ban
the previous day after the Muslims, Croats and Serbs failed to agree
among themselves on a division of ambassadorships in the joint
foreign ministry. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Bonn
that "it is time that the Bosnian politicians see that our patience is at
an end." Most Bosnian ambassadors are Muslims, but the Croats and
Serbs demand a greater number of posts for themselves. Sven
Alkalaj, the ambassador to Washington, is a Jew who may lose his job
after the three main nationalities have finished fighting among
themselves. The Foreign Ministry and the other joint institutions are,
in any event, largely paper institutions. The Serbs in particular
conduct their own foreign policy independent of the other two ethnic
groups.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES FASTER REFORMS. In an interview
with the BBC on 1 August, President Emil Constantinescu urged the
government to speed up economic reforms and said he intended "to
intervene" if the government failed to do so. In case of failure, he
said he will "propose a government reshuffle or the whole
government will have to go." Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said on
the same day that it was "premature" to speak of a reshuffle and that
he enjoyed the president's "full confidence." The government
continued to debate on 1 and 3 August the restructuring of the
country's budget. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Ciorbea said
the revised budget and other harsh reform measures will be
finalized in the next days.

ROMANIA TO COMPENSATE FORMER ENTERPRISE OWNERS? The
National Agency for Privatization has drafted a law providing for the
compensation of owners of enterprises that were nationalized by the
communists between 1948 and 1950, Romanian television reported
on 3 August. The law provides for the compensation of owners of
factories, banks, mines, hospitals, hotels, movie theaters or insurance
companies. Those who lost a judicial appeal against the
nationalization or those already compensated will not benefit from
the provisions of the law. The compensation will be in form of stocks
now owned by the state. The draft law, which must be approved by
the government and parliament, says former Romanian citizens now
residing abroad can benefit from the compensation.

NEW ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY MUST APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP IN
RULING ALLIANCE. The bureau of the Democratic Convention of
Romania (CDR), which is the largest component of the ruling coalition,
on 1 August ruled that the Liberal Party must reapply for
membership in the CDR because it is "a new political formation." The
Liberal Party was set up earlier this year through the merging of the
National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention, which was a CDR
member, and the Liberal Party '93, which was not a component of
the CDR, having left it in 1995. Liberal Party leader Nicolae Cerveni
said his formation will not reapply for membership.

HEAVY FLOODS IN ROMANIA. The Prahova, Dambovita, Arges and
Ialomita counties were severely affected by heavy rainfalls on 3
August. Several parts of Bucharest also were reported to have been
flooded. Radio Bucharest said some 300 homes are affected in the
four counties. Rail traffic had to be suspended between Bucharest
and Brasov. There were also reports of landslides.

TRANSDNIESTER AUTHORITIES STOP MOLDOVAN DEFENSE
MINISTER'S MOTORCADE. An official Moldovan motorcade on its way
to Bendery-Tighina was denied right of entry into the town by the
Transdniester breakaway authorities, Radio Bucharest reported on 4
August. The most prominent member in the motorcade was the
Moldovan Defense Minister, Valeriu Pasat. The Moldovan officials
were invited by the commander of the Russian troops in
Transdniester, Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, to participate in an "open day"
of the contingent. The Tiraspol authorities said they had been
unaware of Pasat's presence in the motorcade. The Russian
ambassador to Chisinau, as well as other diplomats who traveled
with Pasat, returned with him to Chisinau in a sign of solidarity.

BULGARIAN PREMIER ON FUTURE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP. Ivan Kostov,
in an interview with Radio Sofia on 3 August, said his countrymen
should be bracing for further economic hardship as the government
carries out harsh economic reforms. Kostov said the difficulties will
continue until about next spring, when he predicted the beginning of
a steady revival and a takeoff in economic development. He said
unemployment is likely to grow as the government closes down
unprofitable state enterprises. Kostov said the government will seek
foreign investments and will finance a series of infrastructure
projects in order to create new jobs. Among the projects under
consideration are a gas pipeline to Turkey and an oil pipeline to
carry Russian crude oil from the Black Sea port of Bourgas to
Alexandroupolis in Greece.



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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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