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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 115, Part II, 11 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

*BOMB EXPLOSION IN MINSK


*BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS TO VOTE UNHINDERED?


*INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTE


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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BOMB EXPLOSION IN MINSK. A bomb exploded on 10 September at a
district court building in the Belarusian capital, causing damage but
no casualties, Belarusian state radio reported. The Interior Ministry
refused to comment, while the radio station called the bombing a
"major political provocation" by the opposition. Leading opposition
figures, for their part, said the explosion seemed to be a government
provocation. Vyacheslav Sivchik, executive secretary of opposition
Belarusian Popular Front, said neither the front nor any group or
individual associated was connected with the bombing. An
unidentified man called an independent local newspaper and took
responsibility for the blast on behalf of a group calling itself the
Belarusian Liberation Army. The group said it bombed a gas pipeline
earlier this year. Nothing is known about the group, however.

BELARUSIAN KGB CONFISCATE ORT EQUIPMENT. The Belarusian KGB
on 10 September confiscated video equipment from the Minsk office
of Russian Public Television (ORT). ITAR-TASS quoted officials from
the Russian embassy in Minsk as saying they were told the
equipment was needed for investigations into the case of jailed ORT
journalist Pavel Sheremet. The officials said the Russian embassy had
expressed its concern that this latest incident will further strain
Russian-Belarusian relations. Belarusian authorities have arrested
two ORT crews over the past two months for allegedly violating the
Russian-Lithuanian border. The other ORT employees were released,
but Sheremet --a Belarusian citizen--remains in jail. Kremlin
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 10 September that Moscow
will not give up its efforts to secure Sheremet's release.

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS CALL FOR UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS.
Eighty-six legislators in the 450-seat parliament on 10 September
called for creating a union with Russia and Belarus, Interfax
reported. The deputies issued a statement stressing the need to
tighten ties between "brotherly Slavic peoples." They vowed to work
for closer political and economic ties. In May, Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a long-
awaited friendship and cooperation treaty, but Ukraine has steered
clear of agreements linking Russia and Belarus in a loose union.

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE. Wolfgang Schuessel on
10 September told journalists in Kyiv he appreciates Ukraine's role in
Europe as a stabilizing factor. During his one-day visit to the
Ukrainian capital, he met with Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko
and Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko. The two sides discussed
bilateral relations and Ukraine's cooperation with the EU. Schuessel
and Udovenko exchanged documents about the mutual protection of
investments in both countries. The Austrian minister also met with
President Leonid Kuchma.

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS DRAFT 1998 BUDGET. The cabinet
has adopted a draft budget for next year, which Prime Minister Mart
Siimann called the "most conservative" since Estonia regained
independence, ETA reported on 10 September. Revenues are put at
14.46 billion kroons (some $1 billion) and are planned to exceed
expenditures by 53.8 million kroons. That sum is to be channeled
into a reserve fund, which will include unused revenues from the
1997 budget and proceeds from the privatization of the Estonian
Shipping Company. Siimann indicated that the fund , which is
expected to exceed 500 million kroons, was necessary because the
economy is showing signs of overheating. "The government must be
ready to avoid a repetition of events [such as those recently] in the
Czech republic," he commented. The IMF has recommended a 1.3
billion kroon stabilization fund, but Siimann said Estonia did not have
the necessary means.

ESTONIA TO KEEP RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOLS BEYOND 2000. The
parliament on 10 September declared void a provision of the law on
schools requiring Russian-language high schools to adopt Estonian as
the language of instruction by the year 2000, ETA reported. It voted
in favor of an amendment stating that the transition to Estonian-
language instruction at those institutions will start by 2008. Some
deputies said they feared that prolonging state-financed Russian-
language education would become an obstacle to integrating ethnic
Russians into Estonian society.

LATVIAN ANTI-CORRUPTION UPDATE. The Prosecutor-General's
Office has found that 18 members of the parliament have violated
the anti-corruption law by holding business posts, BNS reported on
10 September. The office stressed, however, that none of those
deputies has received remuneration from those posts and that none
has been "in a real situation of conflict of interests." The office also
sent a letter to the president, prime minister, and parliamentary
speaker pointing out what it said are several inconsistencies in the
anti-corruption law.

POLISH PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS LAWSUIT. Aleksander Kwasniewski
on 10 September withdrew a lawsuit against one of two newspapers
that alleged he had met with a Russian spy. Kwasniewski's office said
in a statement that the president has dropped his action against
"Dziennik Baltycki," which has retracted its reports, but that he
would proceed against the national daily "Zycie," which is standing by
its story. The newspapers both alleged that in 1994 that
Kwasniewski and Russian intelligence officer Vladimir Alganov were
at the same resort hotel at the same time and that the two men had
met. Kwasniewski's spokesman Antoni Styrczula said the allegations
were part of a campaign to discredit the ruling Democratic Left
Alliance in the run-up to 21 September parliamentary elections .

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES SECURITY AMENDMENT. The
government on 10 September approved a draft constitutional
amendment on the security of the Czech Republic, Czech Television
reported. President Vaclav Havel attended the cabinet session. The
amendment outlines how state institutions should act during various
crises, ranging from natural disasters to war. It provides for limiting
some basic human rights during a state of emergency and for
establishing a State Security Council. The adoption of the amendment
was prompted by the catastrophic flooding in July, during which
some officials called for a clear definition of the duties and powers of
state institutions. Internal Affairs Minister Jan Ruml told journalists
that another three bills related to the constitutional amendment are
being drawn up.

FINLAND BACKS SLOVAKIA'S EU MEMBERSHIP. Finnish Foreign
Minister Tarja Halonen on 10 September told journalists in Bratislava
that Finland can envisage Slovakia joining the EU. Halonen made the
comment to reporters today after a meeting in Bratislava with her
Slovak counterpart, Zdenka Kramplova. She said that in the
meantime, it is necessary for Slovakia to strengthen its democratic
institutions. She also commented she is optimistic the Slovak
government will be able to make progress on resolving problems
linked with the Hungarian minority. Halonen had separate talks with
President Michal Kovac and Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.

SLOVAK DELEGATION IN BRUSSELS. Slovak Deputy Premier Jozef
Kalman on 10 September told journalists in Brussels that the EU
should not divide states into those eligible to join and those not. He
said this could divide society and provoke some people to feel that "if
they don't want us, we'll stay away." Kalman is chairman of the
Slovak government's commission for European integration. He is in
Brussels, along with Foreign Minister Kramplova and State Secretary
at the Foreign Ministry Jozef Sestak, to meet with European
commissioners Leon Brittan and Hans van den Broek. He rejected the
European Commission's comments on the position of the Hungarian
minority in Slovakia. "They have an above-standard position for
Europe," he argued.

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS TO VOTE UNHINDERED? The hard-line
Bosnian Serb parliament voted in Pale on 10 September to take part
in the Bosnian local elections on 13-14 September. The Pale
leadership had earlier threatened to boycott the vote. The change in
policy came after Deputy Prime Minister Velibor Ostojic announced
that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is
supervising the ballot, agreed that indicted war criminals will not be
arrested if they appear in public to vote. The OSCE also promised to
review the voting lists in the contested town of Brcko, where the
reinstatement of 3,000 Serbian voters previously dropped from the
lists because of irregularities could ensure the victory of the Serbian
nationalists . The OSCE further guaranteed Pale that municipal
administrations will be formed by the party that receives the most
votes, not by all parties on the basis of proportional representation.

MILOSEVIC INVOLVED IN BOSNIAN VOTE? Carlos Westendorp, the
international community's chief representative for Bosnia, and his
deputy Jacques Klein were in Belgrade on 10 September to discuss
the Bosnian elections in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic. Some observers said the talks were inconclusive, but other
observers suggested the negotiations led to the Pale parliament's
decision not to boycott the vote. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Republika
Srpska President Biljana Plavsic urged her supporters to take part in
the elections.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTE. EU
diplomats told Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb on 10
September that relations between Zagreb and Brussels will be
adversely affected if the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of
Bosnia-Herzegovina makes good on its threat to boycott the vote (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1997). U.S., German, U.K., and other
diplomats also brought tough messages about the boycott to Granic,
who replied, however, that Croatia does not control the Bosnian HDZ.
In Sarajevo, OSCE officials and Western diplomats held inconclusive
talks with HDZ leaders. An OSCE representative said later that any
party that boycotts the vote is harming its own interests. In Brussels,
NATO warned all parties in Bosnia that calls for a boycott run counter
to the Dayton agreement. In Paris, the government said it will
suspend aid to communities whose leaders call for a boycott.

PLAVSIC SAYS KARADZIC ORDERED COUP. President Plavsic said in
Banja Luka on 10 September that indicted war criminal Radovan
Karadzic ordered the Serbian Democratic Party to stage the recent
attempted coup against her (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 10
September 1997). She added that Karadzic said it does not matter if
the coup led to bloodshed. Plavsic stated that the peacekeepers
"prevented a blood bath" by thwarting the coup attempt, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Banja Luka. In Sarajevo, Jacques Klein
said peacekeepers in Banja Luka took many weapons from the Pale
delegation headed by Momcilo Krajisnik on 9 September. Klein added
that the hundreds of demonstrators bussed in by the hard-liners for
the coup had been paid $55 each. In Pale, Krajisnik said on 10
September that his experience in Banja Luka was an "ordeal." He
claimed that he had not gone there "to trigger conflicts."

BELGRADE OVERRULES PODGORICA ON ELECTIONS. The Yugoslav
Constitution Court on 10 September ruled that a Montenegrin law
stipulating each party may nominate only one candidate for that
republic's presidency is unconstitutional. The court's verdict
overrides previous decisions by its Montenegrin counterpart and by
the Montenegrin Election Commission. It allows current President
Momir Bulatovic to run for reelection as the candidate of a faction of
the governing Democratic Socialist Party, even though the majority of
that party backs Milo Djukanovic for the presidency. Djukanovic and
his allies have said a court decision allowing Bulatovic to run will
lead to a constitutional crisis between Belgrade and Podgorica.

NATO TO HELP ALBANIA REBUILD ARMY. NATO Secretary-General
Javier Solana and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano signed an
agreement in Brussels on 10 September whereby the Atlantic
alliance will help rebuild the Albanian army. The cornerstone of the
program is to put the military firmly under civilian control. Nano
added that he wants to integrate his country into European
structures and to bring Albania up to European standards in all
spheres of public life, including military affairs. Albania joined
NATO's Partnership For Peace program in 1994 and seeks to join the
alliance itself. Meanwhile in Tirana, Russian special envoy Vladimir
Shizov ended a three-day visit aimed at restoring relations that were
neglected during the recent chaos.

ALBANIAN ROUNDUP. Former President Sali Berisha left Tirana on 11
September to attend the funeral in Calcutta of Mother Teresa, who
was an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia. Observers said his presence
at the funeral, together with that of President Rexhep Meidani,
underscores the political rivalry between the two men. Meanwhile,
the government announced it has renamed the country's main
hospital in Tirana after the famous nun. Still in Tirana, the
International Committee of the Red Cross announced that its
emergency relief program for Albania will soon end. In the Italian
city of Turin, police deported 191 Albanians whom the police said
had broken Italian law.

ROMANIA TO CLOSE 30 MINES IN NEXT TWO YEARS. Nicolae
Staiculescu, a state secretary at the Ministry of Industry has said 30
of the country's unprofitable coal mines will be shut down during the
next two years, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 10
September. No indication was given as to how many miners will lose
their jobs because of the closures. Staiculescu said about 42,000
miners have been laid off in the past month. Most left voluntarily to
take advantage of a government compensation offer of up to 20
months' wages. Staiculescu said some 4,000 miners have retired in
the past month and another 15,000 have been transferred to other
mines.

ROMANIAN CENTRAL BANK TO MEET IMF CONDITIONS. A spokesman
for Romania's central bank said the bank will meet conditions laid
down in the IMF's Article 8 within the next few days, Bloomberg
Financial News reported on 10 September. Article 8 prohibits
countries from restricting international payments and transactions
without first receiving the fund's approval. It also prohibits certain
currency practices without IMF approval. Romania has pledged to
meet the IMF conditions in order to receive the next tranche, worth
some $83 million, of a $414 million stand-by loan. The IMF board of
directors is expected to meet in Washington on 12 September to
discuss the disbursement.

BELGIAN PREMIER SUPPORTS SOFIA'S EU, NATO BIDS. Jean-Luc
Dehaene concluded a state visit to Sofia on 10 September by pledging
support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU and NATO, RFE/RL's Sofia
bureau reported. In a speech to the parliament, Dehaene said
cooperation between the two countries is "intensive" and serves as "a
lever for Bulgarian integration into NATO." Dehaene on 10 September
was present at the signing of a contract whereby Belgium's Union
Miniere paid $80 million for a 56 percent stake of Bulgarian copper
producer MDK Pirdop. As a result of the sale, Belgium has surpassed
Germany as the largest direct foreign investor in Bulgaria, with its
total investments exceeding $251 million.

GEORGI MARKOV SENTENCED BEFORE DEATH? The Sofia daily "Trud"
reported on 9 September that six years before his death, dissident
writer Georgi Markov had been sentenced in absentia by authorities
in his native Bulgaria. The newspaper said he was given a six-and-a-
half year sentence at a closed-door trial in Sofia in 1972 on charges
of "working for foreign organizations to undermine his own country. "
Markov worked as a broadcaster at RFE/RL, the BBC, and Deutsche
Welle. He died on 11 September 1978, four days after he was
stabbed in the thigh with a poison-tipped umbrella while waiting for
a bus in London. His assailant has not been found.

UNESCO CHIEF SAYS OBSTACLES BLOCK FREE PRESS. Federico Mayor
said on 10 September that the development of independent and
pluralistic media in Eastern Europe is hampered by an "excessive
concentration of ownership" and intimidation by organized criminal
groups. Mayor made the comments at a seminar in Sofia attended by
some 300 journalists from 40 countries. Mayor said the application of
laws protecting press freedom in East Europe "is often very limited."
The four-day seminar is sponsored by UNESCO.


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