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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 114, Part II, 10 September1997



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

* OSCE AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BELARUS

* KARADZIC BACKERS LEAVE BANJA LUKA

* CROATIAN, SERBIAN NATIONALISTS TO BOYCOTT BOSNIAN VOTE

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

OSCE AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BELARUS. The Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe has again urged Belarus to
accept its offer to provide assistance in developing a democratic form
of government, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. A spokesman at
OSCE headquarters in Vienna said on 9 September that the
organization is ready to resume negotiations on opening an OSCE
office in Minsk. Belarus gave preliminary permission in June but
stopped the negotiations in July following a dispute with the OSCE's
Parliamentary Assembly. The spokesman said the organization
remains concerned about developments in Belarus and the political
situation there. Belarusian Foreign minister Ivan Antanovich is
scheduled to discuss the proposed mission at a meeting of the OSCE
Permanent Council in Vienna on 18 September.

WORLD BANK MAY REVIEW ITS UKRAINE PROGRAMS. Edilberto
Segura, the World Bank's mission chief in Kyiv, told journalists on 9
September that the bank may need to refocus its programs in
Ukraine now that the country has a new leadership. Segura spoke
after meeting with Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko. The bank
recently suspended a $317 million electric utility loan because the
parliament did not raise electricity rates, as required to receive the
loan. Second tranches on two other loans--$150 million for
restructuring the coal industry and $150 million for agricultural
projects--have not been released because Kyiv has failed to meet the
necessary criteria. RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reports that
Paul Siegelbaum, the bank's Washington-based director for Ukraine
and Belarus, will travel to Kyiv in mid-October.

BALTIC LEADERS ON EU ACCESSION. Estonian Foreign Minister
Toomas Hendrik Ilves told Radio Estonia on 9 September that Tallinn
should not demand that Latvia and Lithuania be admitted to the EU
in the first round of expansion since this would mean "we put the
European Commission's July decision [to recommend Estonia] in
doubt," BNS reported. But he said Tallinn should support the
aspirations of its Baltic neighbors "in some way." In Riga, Premier
Guntars Krasts again remarked that cooperation between the Baltic
States will be endangered if accession talks are started with only
Estonia. He argued that Tallinn has already lost interest in the
proposed Baltic customs union. And in Stockholm, Lithuanian
Premier Gedeminas Vagnorius told a congress of the European
People's Party that a decision not to include Lithuania in the first
wave would leave the country vulnerable to Russian pressure. He
noted that relations with Moscow are now good but added there is
uncertainty about the future.

VILNIUS COMMEMORATES TALMUD SCHOLAR. The Lithuanian capital
has begun commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of the
Gaon of Vilnius, BNS and dpa reported on 9 September. Highlights of
the state-sponsored, week-long event include a ceremonial
parliamentary session remembering the Talmud scholar and a
concert and reception hosted by President Algirdas Brazauskas. Four
torahs are to be handed over to the Vilnius synagogue in a special
ceremony. The Israeli-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has called for
a boycott of the event, arguing that Lithuania has failed to prosecute
individuals suspected of involvement in the persecution of Jews
during World War Two.

POLAND ADOPTS PLAN TO MODERNIZE ARMY. The government on 9
September adopted a 15-year plan to modernize its armed forces at
a cost of tens of billions of zlotys. President Aleksander Kwasniewski
told reporters that Poland has a "very concrete program" for
modernizing the armed forces until the year 2012. Forces will be cut
from 220,000 to some 180,000 and military service shortened to 12
months. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said equipment
needs include anti-tank missiles and electronic devices for Poland's
Huzar helicopter. The helicopter deal is being contested by Israeli
firms and a consortium led by the U.S. Boeing company and backed
by NATO states. Kwasniewski said a final decision will be made only
after the 21 September parliamentary elections.

CZECH DEFENSE BUDGET WILL BE INCREASED. Following his meeting
with President Vaclav Havel on 9 September, Defense Minister
Miloslav Vyborny told journalists that the promised Defense Ministry
budget increase is not threatened. "If Finance Minister [Ivan Pilip]
proposes something else, he is not so much in disagreement with me
as with the government's decree," Vyborny said. He and Havel
agreed that the 1998 defense budget must be increased by 0.1
percent of GDP, as the Czech Republic has pledged to NATO. Pilip said
after meeting with Havel later the same day that "because so many
cuts are having to be made elsewhere, voters need to be shown that
money is being well spent on the army." He told Czech Radio he was
proposing that if the defense budget rises by 0.1 percent of GDP next
year, a commission monitoring sales and procurement of army
equipment should be set up and clear rules established for the
tenders.

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON LANGUAGE LAW
COMPLAINTS. The Constitutional Court on 9 September ruled that a
provision in the language law requiring all Slovak citizens to use the
Slovak language when writing to state bodies is unconstitutional,
RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Opposition deputies filed the
complaint against the provision. The constitution guarantees ethnic
minorities the right to use their mother tongue in official contacts.
The court, however, did not uphold 10 other opposition complaints
against the language law, saying that a number of mistakes were
made in filing them. Court chairman Milan Cic said that if the
deputies had used different legal arguments, the final results might
have been different.

HUNGARY CRITICIZES SLOVAK PROPOSAL ON MINORITY EXCHANGES.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told the parliament on 9
September that a Slovak proposal for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia
to resettle in Hungary violates a friendship treaty between the two
countries. Kovacs said he will do his best to bring international
pressure on Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar to abandon the
idea. Meciar told a rally of his ruling Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia on 4 September that he had proposed Hungary accept any
ethnic Hungarians who do not want to live in Slovakia. Slovak
authorities have denied that Meciar made the proposal during talks
with Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, but Horn says he did.
There are some 500,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia.

HUNGARIAN SCREENING PANEL URGES FINANCE MINISTER TO
RESIGN. The panel examining the communist past of senior officials
has called on Peter Medgyessy to resign within 30 days, Hungarian
media reported on 10 September. The panel said that in his capacity
as deputy prime minister between December 1987 and May 1990,
Medgyessy had access to secret files, which, it argued, is
incompatible with his present position. Medgyessy has refused to
resign, saying that in the last communist government, he dealt only
with economic issues and did not use secret files made available to
him.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KARADZIC BACKERS LEAVE BANJA LUKA. An RFE/RL correspondent
in Banja Luka said the situation is calm there following the failed
coup attempt by backers of Radovan Karadzic against Republika
Srpska President Biljana Plavsic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September
1997). Peacekeepers cleared the way for Momcilo Krajisnik, the
Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, and over 70 other
Karadzic backers to leave their hotel on 9 September. The hotel was
surrounded by Plavsic's police and angry crowds. Krajisnik's
automobile convoy spent some hours at a nearby SFOR base before
returning to eastern Bosnia.

U.S. WARNS BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS. A State Department
spokesman in Washington on 9 September praised SFOR's role in
preventing the coup against Plavsic. The spokesman also said SFOR
may retake a television transmitter that peacekeepers recently
returned to the hard-liners unless Pale honors its obligations to
broadcast materials supplied by the international community (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1997). In related news, former U.S.
envoy Richard Holbrooke said the U.S. will not tolerate any armed
threats against its personnel in Bosnia. Some observers noted,
however, that the international community has not always made
good on such warnings in the past.

CROATIAN, SERBIAN NATIONALISTS TO BOYCOTT BOSNIAN VOTE.
Meeting in Mostar on 9 September, leaders of the Croatian
Democratic Community called on Croats across Bosnia-Herzegovina
not to take part in the 13-14 September local elections (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 September 1997). Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak
charged that international election officials favor Muslims over
Croats in disputes about voter registration. He added that Muslims
and Serbs alike try to push the Croats to the margins of Bosnian
politics. In Pale, the hard-liners' Serbian Democratic Party also called
for a boycott of the vote. In Sarajevo, however, international officials
in charge of the elections warned that the international community
will penalize those who call for a boycott. The officials urged all
parties to take part in the vote. Observers noted that political parties
throughout the former Yugoslavia often threaten to boycott elections
but do not always do so.

VOJVODINA CROATS DEMAND NEW ELECTION RULES. Leaders of the
Democratic League of Vojvodina Croats said in Subotica on 9
September that their party insists on guaranteed representation for
Serbia's ethnic minorities in the new parliament slated to be elected
on 21 September. The ethnic Croatian leaders charged that the
current electoral districts have been set up to the detriment of ethnic
minorities and that Croats are split up among six different districts.
Vojvodina has been a mosaic of various Central European peoples
since the Habsburg era. But Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks, and others
have often accused the Serbian authorities over the past 10 years of
discrimination against minorities.

SERBIAN POLICE ARREST NINE KOSOVO ALBANIANS. State-run
Pristina Television said on 9 September that police arrested a "gang
of nine bandits" who have allegedly carried out a series of "terrorist
acts" in Prizren since August. The nine men, who have Albanian
names, will go on trial soon. The television broadcast also showed
what it said was a large quantity of weapons found in the arrested
men's possession. Observers noted that over the past few years, the
Serbian police have periodically arrested groups of what the police
called armed Albanian terrorists. Ethnic Albanian human rights
groups have charged in response that the men were framed and the
weapons planted on them. Meanwhile in Pozarevac, Vojislav Seselj,
the Radical Party's candidate for the Serbian presidency and wartime
paramilitary leader, said he will deport to Albania all Kosovo
Albanians who cannot prove they are Serbian and Yugoslav citizens,
"Danas" reported.

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS PEACEKEEPERS TO STAY. Kiro
Gligorov said on 9 September that international peacekeepers must
stay on to provide the necessary stability for Macedonia to overcome
its poverty and social problems. He added that he hopes that
Macedonia, which marked the sixth anniversary of its independence
on 8 September, can eventually join both the EU and NATO. Also in
Skopje, several hundred people attended memorial services for
Mother Teresa, who was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in that city
in 1910.

ALBANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES END TO RIGHTS ABUSES. Fatos Nano
said in Vienna on 9 September that his government will set down
legal guarantees for human rights to ensure that the authorities do
not abuse their power. Nano will proceed to Brussels on 10
September and then to Luxembourg to promote links between
Albania and European institutions. It is his first extended trip abroad
since winning the 29 June elections. Meanwhile in Athens, police
arrested three Albanians and two Greeks and confiscated from them
drugs and weapons, including 130 pounds of hashish and 44
Kalashnikovs. Greek police said that there has been a constant influx
of arms and drugs into Greece since law and order collapsed in
Albania early this year.

ROMANIA PLANS CONSULATES IN SHANGHAI, HONG KONG. President
Emil Constantinescu, who is currently on a state visit to China, said
his country plans to open consulates soon in Shanghai and Hong Kong,
RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 9 September. Constantinescu
made the announcement after talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li
Peng. Beijing has approved a license allowing Bucharest to export
15,000 Romanian-built Dacia cars annually to Chinese retailers
during the next three years. Constantinescu expressed regret about a
recent decline in bilateral trade, while Li told him that Romanian
products must be competitive in order to sell in a free market,
according to Bucharest.

ROMANIAN BANK HOLDS TALKS WITH ABN AMRO. The vice
president of the private Banca Comerciala "Ion Tiriac" said
negotiations are under way to sell the institution to Bank of The
Netherlands, Bloomberg Financial News reported on 9 September.
Serban Bobulescu said he expects final negotiations to be concluded
in October. The bank was founded by Ion Tiriac, a former Romanian
tennis player and coach, who now owns a 31 percent stake. The
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development holds another 20
percent. Tanno Massar, a spokesman for ABN Amro, refused to
comment directly but said the Dutch bank is working to further
develop its network and improve its position "either by autonomous
growth or by acquisitions." ABN Amro has branches in the Czech
Republic, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

WORLD BANK TO LEND MOLDOVA $100 MILLION. The World Bank's
International Development Association (IDA) has approved two loans
totaling some $100 million to support the Moldovan government's
economic reform program, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on
10 September. The credits are to be used to offer short-term support
to basic public services and to provide foreign currency for imports
critical to the country's economic stabilization and recovery. IDA
officials said the loans are designed to help Moldova de-monopolize
and privatize its energy sector, accelerate land reform and
privatization, overhaul the pension system, and complete the
privatization of state firms. The credits are to be disbursed in three
tranches based on the progress of reforms.

IMF PRAISES BULGARIAN PROGRESS ON REFORM. The IMF's deputy
chief has said that Bulgaria has made positive steps on its reform
program since Prime Minister Ivan Kostov took office in April,
RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 10 September. Stanley
Fischer praised Sofia's determination to tackle difficult issues in the
enterprise and banking sectors. He said the country's currency board,
which is the core of an IMF-recommended reform program, has
drastically improved economic stability even though inflation
remained high during the summer. Fischer said recent inflation
figures reflect essential adjustments made in utility prices and that
underlying inflation remains very low. Bulgaria experienced
hyperinflation at the beginning of 1997, and the lev was in free fall
against the dollar before the currency board was established.

BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER IN SOFIA. Jean-Luc Dehaene arrived in
Sofia on 9 September for two-day talks aimed at encouraging
Bulgarian efforts to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL reported.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said several accords intended
to strengthen relations between the two countries are currently
being drafted. Dehaene said he expects economic cooperation
between the two countries to deepen. He added that Bulgaria must
meet NATO criteria by 1999 in order to begin entry negotiations. He
said Brussels will offer "bilateral cooperation" to help Sofia in its
membership bids.

PRIVATIZATION OF BULGARIAN METALS PLANT APPROVED.
Alexander Sabotinov, the director of the Privatization Agency, said
on 9 September that the government has approved the sale to a
Belgian metals firm of a majority stake in a state-owned copper
refining complex, RFE/RL reported on 9 September. Belgium's Union
Miniere has agreed to pay some $55 million for a 56 percent stake in
MDK Pirdop and agreed to invest another $300 million to revamp the
facilities and to construct a new refinery. The sale would make
Belgium the largest direct foreign investor in Bulgaria.






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