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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 100, Part II, 21 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUS WANTS TO SUSPEND ORT ACCREDITATION * NATO TROOPS PREVENT COUP IN BANJA LUKA * ALBANIA ASKS ITALY TO DELAY REPATRIATING REFUGEES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS WANTS TO SUSPEND ORT ACCREDITATION. Ivan Pashkevich, deputy head of the Belarusian presidential administration, told journalists in Minsk on 20 August that the Foreign Ministry has asked the government to suspend the accreditation of Russian Public Television (ORT). Pashkevich accused the ORT management of "political provocation" against the Belarus leadership. He also said he was bewildered by the position of the Russian authorities, which have so far failed to give an assessment of the ORT management's actions. According to Pashkevich, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is to meet on 21 August with Russian ambassador to Minsk Valerii Loshchinin at the ambassador's request. A four-man ORT crew was detained near the Lithuanian border on 15 August following the arrest of another ORT crew in late July. The Belarusian KGB recently called in several other journalists for questioning. Pashkevich said that one of them, ORT special correspondent Vladimir Foshenko, would be expelled. DID LITHUANIA GIVE PRETEXT FOR JOURNALISTS' ARREST? The Lithuanian Interior Ministry on 2O August announced that Lithuanian border guards sent a document to Belarus in late July saying that Russian television journalists may have violated the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, BNS and Interfax reported. It added that the document may have served as a "pretext" for the arrest of the Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel Sheremet and two of his colleagues. Belarusian border guards had requested such a document following a meeting between Belarusian and Lithuanian border officials at which video footage of an alleged illegal frontier crossing was shown. The Lithuanian authorities, however, were not informed about the alleged border violation. Both the head and the chief of staff of the Vilnius Border Police have been demoted and another official severely reprimanded over the incident. Lithuania had previously denied giving any pretext for the journalists' arrest, according to BNS. UKRAINE SUPPORTS U.S. PROPOSALS FOR UN REFORM. In a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson in Kyiv on 20 August, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko and Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko supported U.S. plans to reform the UN, UNIAN reported. Richardson is on a 10-day trip to the Far East, Central Asia, and Europe to promote the U.S.'s reform proposals for the UN, including expansion of the Security Council to include Japan and Germany and lowering U.S. financial support to the world body. Udovenko said the U.S. and Ukraine have the same positions on the issue. Ukraine's support is significant because Udovenko is slated to be elected president of the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly in September. Later on 20 August, Richardson met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak in Moscow. ITAR-TASS reported that their talks focused on cooperation between Moscow and Washington in reforming the UN. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN VILNIUS. Lennart Meri met with his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Brazauskas, in Vilnius on 20 August, BNS and ETA reported. Following the meeting, Meri stressed that Estonia is in favor of all Baltic States being included in expansion talks with the EU as soon as possible. He added that the fact that only Estonia has been recommended to start such talks will not "drive a wedge" between the Baltic States. "We are all striving to make it to Europe. The Baltic States never left Europe, it is Europe that left the Baltic States," he commented. Meri is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas and parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis on 21 August. It is his first state visit to Lithuania. POLISH RULING COALITION DISINTEGRATES. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 20 August told reporters he regarded the no-confidence motion submitted against him by the coalition Peasant Party as the "formal end" of the coalition, Polish Radio reported. He said the cabinet was still in office and that he would not dismiss the seven ministers from the Peasant Party until after the no-confidence vote. "It is theoretically possible that the [Peasant Party] deputies will vote against their own motion," he said. The Peasant Party has been the coalition partner of Cimoszewicz's post- communist Democratic Left Alliance for the past four years. It recently submitted a motion asking the parliament to dismiss the prime minister after he blocked advance payments to farmers for the 1997 grain harvest. POLISH PRESIDENT ON PRIVATIZATION. Aleksander Kwasniewski told economists in Bratislava on 20 August that the scope of the privatization process in Poland guarantees the irreversibility of the country's switch to a market economy. Some 27 million Polish citizens have taken part in that process. Kwasniewski noted that as the 21 September parliamentary elections approach, some "economic experimenters" in Poland are calling for "a third way." He said Poland's priority was to come closer to meeting EU criteria on unemployment, inflation, and the growth of GDP. Kwasniewski also said that "from the Polish point of view, we can see no reason for Slovakia to remain outside the European integration process." POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC TO JOINTLY APPEAL TO EU FOR FLOOD RELIEF. The chairmen of the lower chambers of the Czech and Polish parliaments on 20 August agreed that their countries, together with Germany, would jointly appeal to the EU for money to repair the extensive damage caused by the recent floods, Czech Television reported. Meeting in Prague, Milos Zeman, chairman of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, and his Polish counterpart, Josef Zych, also proposed talks with German Bundestag chairwoman Rita Suessmuth and Austrian lower house speaker Heinz Fischer on measures to avoid flood damage in the future. CZECH REPUBLIC ABOLISHES IMPORT DEPOSITS. The government on 20 August abolished import deposits, which were introduced in May in an effort to stem the country's skyrocketing trade deficit, CTK reported. The EU demanded that Prague do away with the deposits, which, in the EU's opinion, violated the Czech Republic's association agreement with the union. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists that favorable foreign trade developments prompted by a weaker crown made possible the government's decision. Meanwhile, Harvard Holding's shareholders voted on 20 August to abolish the company. The Harvard Investment Fund, one of the largest funds in the country, was established by Viktor Kozeny in 1991 and transformed into a holding in 1995. Harvard Holding is comprised almost entirely of shares in Daventree, which Kozeny runs from the Bahamas. REPORT ON SLOVAK NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CAUSES STIR. An international study on the nuclear power plant in Mochovce, western Slovakia, warns of serious safety problems at the station, Austrian Television reported. The 400-page report was made public in Vienna on 20 August after having been kept secret for two years. It was written by independent experts from the U.S., Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria on the orders of the Austrian chancellor's office. They came to the conclusion that "Mochovce would not even measure up to the latest Russian regulations." It would therefore be "economically practical to scrap its construction and instead build a new, better power station." Austrian environmental groups and the right-wing opposition immediately called on the Austrian government to pressure Slovakia into closing down the Mochovce facility. TECHNICAL FAULT AT HUNGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT. A technical fault on 20 August caused the shutdown of one of the four units at the Paks nuclear plant, some 100 kilometers south of Budapest. A spokesman for the plant said the fault was a "technical glitch" only. The unit generates some 20 percent of Hungary's electricity and will probably be off-line for several days. Although the reactor is Soviet- designed, it is not of the same type as the ill-fated Chornobyl plant in Ukraine. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO TROOPS PREVENT COUP IN BANJA LUKA. British and Czech SFOR soldiers found huge caches of weapons on 20 August after they occupied police stations previously held by police loyal to Radovan Karadzic and the hard-line Bosnian Serb government in Pale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997). The discovery confirmed the suspicions of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and of NATO that Karadzic's police were about to stage a coup against her. NATO officials added that they had saved Plavsic from a previous coup attempt in June, the "Financial Times" reported on 21 August. Interior Minister Dragan Kijac's troops had planned to take her from the Belgrade airport back to Bosnian Serb territory "for psychiatric treatment," but they chose a border crossing where SFOR was waiting for them. SFOR MOVES TO BREAK PALE'S POLICE POWER. Peacekeepers helped Plavsic's newly appointed police officials to take over Banja Luka's police stations on 20 August. One pro-Plavsic officer said on local radio that Karadzic's forces nonetheless remain a danger in that town. SFOR officials stated that the peacekeepers are determined to break Kijac's control over the police. A NATO spokesman added that the raids on Kijac's police stations yielded evidence of "criminal activity." Some observers said that SFOR's actions in Banja Luka constitute the international community's strongest show of support for Plavsic against Karadzic to date. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said that the Bosnian Serb military are resisting attempts by Momcilo Krajisnik, the pro-Karadzic Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, to assert authority over the army. KARADZIC LOYALISTS CALL PLAVSIC TRAITOR. Following the SFOR raid, the Pale-based government issued a statement calling Plavsic a traitor and charging that she is working with foreign occupiers against the Serbs. The statement added that the raids in Banja Luka constitute a coup against the Bosnian Serb government. Meanwhile at a rally in Banja Luka, Plavsic called for free media throughout the Republika Srpska, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the northwestern Bosnian town. Representatives of opposition parties demanded that the two top executives in pro-Karadzic TV Pale resign within three days. SANDZAK LEADER WARNS OF VIOLENCE. Sulejman Ugljanin, a leader of the Sandzak Muslims, said it is likely that his people will boycott the 21 September Serbian elections, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 21 August. Ugljanin said that any hopes that Serbia might become a more democratic country have proven futile. Europe, he argued, must exert pressure on Belgrade to end its dictatorial methods lest some Sandzak youth turn to political violence out of frustration. Sandzak links Kosovo and Bosnia and is divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Muslims make up just more than half of its population and have political links to the Party of Democratic Action of Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic. BELGRADE POLICE BLOCK STUDENT PROTEST. Police cordoned off the parliament building on 20 August to prevent a group of some 100 students from reaching Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The students wanted to present him with a banana on his birthday because, student spokesmen said, he has turned Serbia into a banana republic. The protest was a parody of an annual student relay race staged on Josip Broz Tito's birthday during his lifetime. At the end of the race, a student would present Tito with the baton. KOSOVO LEADER SAYS ALBANIANS STILL HAVE NO PARTNERS IN SERBIA. Parliamentary Party leader Adem Demaci said that there are no political forces in Serbia who are prepared to treat the Albanians as equals and work for a solution to the Kosovo problem, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 21 August. Demaci added that he is interested in a solution that will benefit everybody and will not be to the detriment of the Serbs or Montenegrins. He said that the Albanians would certainly take part in the Serbian elections if a Serbian party offers a platform on Kosovo that the Albanians can accept. All Albanian parties plan to boycott the September ballot. ALBANIA ASKS ITALY TO DELAY REPATRIATING REFUGEES. President Rexhep Mejdani urged the Italian government on 20 August not to carry out its plans to repatriate 10,000 Albanian refugees by the end of August. Mejdani asked the Italians to wait "until there is a more suitable time for all." Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that the Albanian government "asks good understanding and maturity from Rome. This is not the time to send back refugees." Some of the refugees had appealed to Tirana to urge Rome to give them visas so they can stay on. The Albanian government wants to restore law and order and create new jobs before having to deal with a large influx of returnees. The Italian authorities, however, may have difficulty finding and deporting some 7,000 refugees whose whereabouts are not known. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSION. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Greater Romania Party have called for a special session of both houses of the parliament at the end of August, Romanian media reported. Lawmakers are currently on vacation. The three parties want to debate the government's amended memorandum with the IMF, its decision to liquidate loss- making enterprises, and the ordinances amending the Education Law and allowing bilingual signs in localities where national minorities make up at least 20 percent of the population. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RELEASES EDIBLE OIL RESERVES. The government on 20 August has placed 10,000 tons of edible oil reserves on the market in an attempt to end a crisis caused by an 80 percent rise in the price of edible oil, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government said the steep hike was unjustified and due to speculation. It warned retail traders that inspections will be carried out to ensure profits from the sale of edible oil are registered on tax forms because compensation for the needy is to come from budget revenues. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara said the government intends to temporarily freeze the prices of edible oil and other basic foods. ROMANIAN CONTACTS WITH U.S. INVESTORS. A delegation of U.S. businessmen headed by Bell Helicopters' chairman of the board met with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea in Bucharest on 20 August to discuss the possible production of the "Dracula" version of the Cobra helicopter at the IAR-Ghimbav factory, in which Bell Helicopters has a 70 percent stake. The government pulled out of a plan to purchase those helicopters for the Romanian army after the plan was vetoed by the IMF. In other news, the U.S. Shapiro Investment Bank has announced it is interested in purchasing parts of the Ploiesti-based Vega refinery, one of the state-owned enterprises slated for liquidation. The number of those enterprises was recently reduced from 17 to 16 because one enterprise turned out to be profitable. Assuming personal responsibility for the error, Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Sebastian Vladescu resigned on 16 August. MOLDOVAN CHURCH LEADER WARNS AGAINST RELIGIOUS WAR. Metropolitan Vladimir, who heads the Moscow-subordinated Moldovan Orthodox Church, says there is a danger of a "war among Orthodox Christians" if the Chisinau Court of Appeal's decision to recognize the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is not overturned (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 20 August 1997). Vladimir told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau that if the decision remains in force " the loser will not be the Church alone but also the State." Also on 20 August, Gheorghe Armasu, director of the government office in charge of religious affairs, said the government will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. Armasu said the Bessarabian Church declares itself to be the successor of a Church that had existed "under foreign occupation," BASA-press reported. TIRASPOL SETS UP COMMISSION ON "BORDER DELIMITATION." Igor Smirnov, the leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, issued a decree on 20 August setting up a 10-member government commission "on the delimitation of the borders of the Transdniester Republic." The commission is headed by Smirnov's deputy, Aleksandr Karaman, and includes representatives of the breakaway's region five districts that are on the left bank of River Dniester. The commission does not include a representative of the town of Bendery-Tighina, which, though under separatist control, is on the right bank of the river. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to email@example.com 2) In the text of your message, type subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName 3) Send the message UNSUBSCRIBING: 1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 2) In the text of your message, type unsubscribe RFERL-L 3) Send the message CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES OF RFE/RL Newsline: RFE/RL Newsline is available online on the World Wide Web. http://www.rferl.org/newsline/ BACK ISSUES OF OMRI Daily Digest: Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available on the World Wide Web and by FTP. 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