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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 118, Part I, 16 September1997



This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia
and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe, 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 I

*YELTSIN UPBEAT ON MEETING WITH BANKERS


*PRIMAKOV ON ALLEGED RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR
COOPERATION


*TAJIK RECONCILIATION COMMISSION CONVENES


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RUSSIA

YELTSIN UPBEAT ON MEETING WITH BANKERS. President Boris
Yeltsin on 15 September described his meeting with six leaders of
powerful banks and financial groups as "very useful," RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported. Yeltsin said bankers who had begun to
"quarrel with the government" needed to meet with the president,
"whom they always supported and will continue to support." He
added that tension recently arose between bankers and some cabinet
members, "whom I could not give up under any circumstances."
Yeltsin said the bankers had agreed "to end their battle against [First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii] Chubais, [First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris] Nemtsov, and the government." The heads of
Oneksimbank, Media-Most, Rosprom, SBS-Agro, Inkombank, and
Alfa-Bank attended the meeting. Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii, who wields considerable influence at Russian
Public Television, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," and other media outlets,
was not present (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).

BANKERS COMMENT ON MEETING. Mikhail Khodorkovskii, head of the
Rosprom group, told NTV on 15 September that Yeltsin promised to
take upcoming privatization auctions, including the sale of the
Rosneft oil company, under his personal control. Khodorkovskii also
said Yeltsin and the bankers discussed the presidential election
scheduled for 2000, saying Yeltsin had promised to ensure
"consistency." Alfa-Bank head Mikhail Fridman described the
meeting as a step toward "creating an atmosphere of consensus in
banking society." He added that Yeltsin agreed "in principle" to hold
regular meetings with top bankers, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
16 September. Fridman also predicted that in the future, "we will be
called as consultants on the most important economic questions."
Speaking to ITAR-TASS, Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin said
Yeltsin promised "tough rules" will be applied equally to all those
involved in the economic sector. Other bankers who attended the
meeting have declined to comment publicly.

NEMTSOV ON MEETING'S IMPLICATIONS. First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov says Yeltsin's meeting with the bankers demonstrates
that the need to create equal conditions for all financial groups is not
merely the "position of Chubais and Nemtsov" but a policy endorsed
by the president. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on
16 September, Nemtsov noted that in the spring, when the prospect
of ending favoritism and back-room privatization deals was only
"theoretical," the idea found widespread support. But opposition to
the new rules grew in the summer, when those regulations were
applied to specific privatization auctions, Nemtsov said. The
presidential press service issued a statement saying all bankers who
attended the 15 September meeting had agreed to support the
economic policies endorsed by Yeltsin and the government, Interfax
reported. The bankers also agreed that privatization process should
be transparent, with rules applying equally to all potential bidders.

PRIMAKOV ON ALLEGED RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR COOPERATION.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 15 September, Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov categorically denied that the
government is helping Iran develop long-range nuclear weapons. He
also rejected the allegation that Moscow has supplied Tehran with
nuclear technology, ITAR-TASS reported. He added, however, that
Russia will continue with construction of the nuclear power plant at
Bushehr, in Iran. He noted that the facility is "important to us in
economic terms". Similarly, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had
said on 12 September that Western media reports that Russia is
aiding Iran's nuclear program are "stupid." Foreign Ministry
spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin complained that "people in
Washington simply do not want to listen" to Russian denials of
involvement, "Segodnya" reported on 12 September.

YELTSIN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF RATIFYING START-2. Meeting
with Primakov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 15 September,
Yeltsin instructed the two ministers "to convince legislators that
ratification of the START-2 treaty and conclusion of the START-3
treaty are beneficial and useful for Russia", ITAR-TASS reported.
Primakov and Sergeev are scheduled to meet on 16 September with
the leaders of the seven Duma factions, along with some committee
chairmen. Sergeev will outline the military advantages of ratification,
while Primakov will explain the foreign policy implications. Sergeev
has argued that ratification of START-2 should be contingent on the
U.S.'s strict compliance with the provisions of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty.

CHECHNYA SAYS PLANS FOR BYPASS PIPELINE "NOT SERIOUS."
President Aslan Maskhadov on 15 September said that Russian plans
to build an oil export pipeline bypassing Chechnya are "not serious,"
Russian media reported. Maskhadov said such proposals are aimed at
canceling existing treaties between Moscow and Grozny. Khozh-
Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of the Chechen state oil company,
said on 15 September that Moscow has not officially notified him
about the bypass pipeline. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Premier
Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister, told RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau on 16 September that the estimated $220 million needed to
build the 283 kilometer pipeline will not come out of the state
budget. The previous day, he had ordered $854,000 transferred to
Grozny to finance repairs to the existing pipeline in accordance with
the Russian-Chechen agreement signed on 9 September.

WERE REPORTS OF ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST CHUBAIS
FABRICATED... "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 September argued that
First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais's team fabricated reports of an
alleged assassination plot against Chubais being planned by an
unnamed oil company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).
The authors commented that rumors of such a plot conveniently "cast
a shadow over a whole group of [Chubais's] political opponents,"
namely executives in the oil and gas industry. The newspaper also
said the assassination rumors implicitly depict the government's
"reformers" as warriors against "bandit capitalism" in Russia, thereby
helping Chubais settle scores with his political opponents.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" recently published a sharp attack on Chubais.
Meanwhile, Yeltsin said on 15 September that he did not believe the
reports of the assassination plot against Chubais, ITAR-TASS
reported. He commented that Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka has also claimed that opponents are plotting to kill him.

...OR ARE THEY GENUINE? "Izvestiya" argued on 16 September that
the reported threat to Chubais's life is genuine, citing unnamed
officials in the Federal Security Service. The newspaper said that
security officials believe the assassination of St. Petersburg Deputy
Governor Mikhail Manevich in August may have been meant as a
warning to Chubais. Manevich was scheduled to meet with Chubais
on the day he was killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-20 August
1997). "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued on 16 August that in
preparation for the next wave of privatization sales, "many are
interested in playing on the government's nerves." Oneksimbank is a
major shareholder in "Izvestiya" and "Komsomolskaya pravda," and
both newspapers have generally supported Chubais during the
scandals of this summer.

CENTRAL BANK, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISERS DISAGREE OVER RUBLE
REDENOMINATION. Central Bank officials have denied that any laws
will have to be amended in light of the planned ruble
redenomination, Russian news agencies reported on 15 September.
On 1 January 1998, the ruble is to lose three zeroes, and new coins
and bank notes will be issued. Ruslan Orekhov, head of the
president's Main State Legal Department, recently sent Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin a message saying that various laws setting
fixed prices, tariffs, and minimum wages and pensions will have to
be amended before the currency reform goes into effect,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 September. The newspaper said
Orekhov's department is to recommend that Yeltsin rescind his
August decree on the redenomination. Citing an unnamed source in
the presidential administration, it argued that if Yeltsin rescinds that
decree, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin is likely to be
dismissed. The Central Bank prepared the August decree.

NDR DEPUTY PREDICTS DUMA TO SUPPORT ROKHLIN'S REMOVAL.
Duma deputy Roman Popkovich of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR)
faction has predicted that many independent Duma deputies and
some Communists, along with the Yabloko and Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia factions, will support removing Lev Rokhlin from the
chairmanship of the Duma Defense Committee, Interfax reported on
15 September. Popkovich, a Defense Committee member whom the
NDR hopes to appoint in place of Rokhlin, told Ekho Moskvy that
under Rokhlin's leadership, the committee has become too
"politicized." The Defense Committee was one of four committees
whose chairmanships were given to NDR under a January 1996
agreement between all Duma factions. Rokhlin was expelled from the
NDR on 9 September. He claims to have recruited some 140 deputies
to join a new Duma group to lobby for laws that would support the
armed forces and defense industry, "Izvestiya" reported on 13
September.

NUCLEAR WORKERS PROTEST FUNDING PROBLEMS. Workers at the
nuclear research center in Sarov, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, staged a
protest on 16 September over wage arrears and other government
debts to the center, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod
reported. They claim the government is not honoring a pledge to
fund the center adequately. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin made that
promise when he visited Sarov in July, on the eve of the Nizhnii
Novgorod gubernatorial election. Meanwhile, managers and trade
union leaders at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center in Snezhinsk,
Chelyabinsk Oblast, have warned that the center's workers are
preparing to declare an indefinite strike on 30 September, ITAR-
TASS reported on 15 September. The workers at Snezhinsk have not
been paid for three months and charge that funding problems are
jeopardizing safety at the center. In July, some 300 nuclear industry
workers participated in a protest march from Smolensk Oblast to
Moscow.

ENERGY PROBLEMS IN PRIMORE. Electricity was cut off in some areas
in Primorskii Krai on 15 September, according to an RFE/RL
correspondent in Vladivostok. An official from Dalenergo, the region's
power supplier, said the cuts were necessary because of a lack of coal
owing to ongoing coal miners' strikes. Most households in
Vladivostok currently have no hot water, and many have only
infrequent electricity supplies. Coal miners from the largest pit in
Primore went on strike on 15 September to demand the payment of
wage arrears. The following day, some 500 coal miners and workers
from the energy sector picketed city and krai administrative offices
to press the same demand. Meanwhile, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, the
governor of Primorskii Krai, has urged that the price of electricity for
domestic consumption be lowered from 566 to 300 rubles per
kilowatt hour.

AUTONOMOUS OKRUGS TO PARTICIPATE IN TYUMEN LEGISLATIVE
ELECTION. Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs
have agreed to participate in the Tyumen Oblast legislative elections
in December, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. Legislatures of
both okrugs have approved a plan agreed on earlier this month by
the executive authorities of Tyumen and both okrugs. Khanty-Mansi
and Yamal-Nenets are part of Tyumen Oblast, but the okrugs also
have their own governors and legislatures. Both okrugs boycotted the
Tyumen gubernatorial election in January, despite claims by Tyumen
authorities that their action was unconstitutional. In July, the
Constitutional Court ruled that Tyumen Oblast elections should also
be held in the okrugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). Khanty-
Mansi will conduct the December election in accordance with the
Tyumen electoral law, while Yamal-Nenets plans to adopt its own law
on holding oblast-wide elections on the okrug's territory.

COURT DELAYS EX-MINISTER'S LAWSUIT AGAINST TABLOID. A
Moscow municipal court has delayed hearings in former Justice
Minister Valentin Kovalev's libel lawsuit against the weekly
"Sovershenno sekretno" until 12 November, ITAR-TASS reported on
15 September. In late June, the newspaper printed a feature called
"The Minister Has No Clothes: Secret Pranks of the Head of the Justice
Ministry." The article was accompanied by photos allegedly showing
Kovalev and nude women in a sauna in a Moscow club frequented by
organized crime figures. Kovalev was first suspended and then
replaced shortly after the feature was published. He is challenging
the authenticity of the photos, charging that the videotape from
which they were taken was doctored. The newspaper says both the
videotape and the photos are genuine, and Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov has also vouched for their authenticity.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK RECONCILIATION COMMISSION CONVENES. The National
Reconciliation Commission held its first session in the Tajik capital on
15 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Said Abdullo Nuri,
chairman of the commission and leader of the United Tajik
Opposition, had arrived in Dushanbe four days earlier (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 September 1997). Opening the meeting, President
Imomali Rakhmonov called on guarantor states of the peace process
to continue their work and asked international donor organizations to
help in the reconstruction of the country. Four sub-committees were
formed to deal with legal, military, political, and refugee issues. Also
on 15 September, the Russian Federal Border Guard Service
announced that 800 Tajik refugees had returned to Tajikistan from
Afghanistan within the previous 48 hours. Nearly 6,000 refugees
have been repatriated since the process began on 17 July.

ANTI-NUCLEAR FORUM OPENS IN TASHKENT. A conference whose
aim is to officially declare Central Asia a nuclear-free zone opened in
the Uzbek capital on 15 September, Interfax and ITAR-TASS
reported. Representatives from more than 60 countries and
organizations are attending the meeting. Uzbek President Islam
Karimov said that declaring Central Asia a nuclear free zone would
help to "ensure the security and peace of the people who live here
[as well as] the prosperity of the region." Karimov pointed out that
the people of Central Asia still feel the effects of testing carried out
in the 1950s and the 1960s in northern Kazakhstan and more
recently in western China. He also said there are countries in the
region that are trying to acquire the technology to make their own
nuclear weapons. He urged that a control mechanism be developed to
"avert the spread of nuclear weapons."

AZERBAIJAN'S "YEREVANGATE" TEAM IN MOSCOW. First Deputy
Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov arrived in Moscow on 15 August to
attend a session of the trilateral government commission charged
with investigating Russia's arms supplies to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly protested the alleged shipment to
Armenia from 1992-1994 of weaponry worth $1 billion. The
Azerbaijani Security Council discussed the issue on 14 September,
according to Interfax. Meeting with Georgian Ambassador Gia
Chanturia, President Heidar Aliev expressed concern that much of
the weaponry in question has been transported to Armenia via
Georgia, Turan reported.

AZERBAIJAN THREATENS SANCTIONS OVER DISPUTED OIL FIELD.
Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR issued a statement on 11
September threatening unspecified reprisals against Western oil
companies that participate in the tender for the disputed Kyapaz
Caspian oil field, Russian media reported. Kyapaz is included in 11
Caspian sectors for which the Turkmen government opened tenders
at the beginning of September. SOCAR Vice President Khoshbakht
Yusif-Zade told journalists in Baku on 15 September that Azerbaijani
and Kazakh government experts are close to coordinating their
position on dividing the Caspian into "equally-distanced national
sectors," Interfax reported.

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGNS. Jirair Libaridian,
senior adviser to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, told journalists on
15 September that he is resigning in order to rejoin his family in the
U.S., RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Libaridian, a Beirut-born
naturalized U.S. citizen, has worked in Yerevan since 1991. He
concentrated on foreign-policy issues, conducting talks on the
Karabakh conflict with his Azerbaijani counterpart and maintaining
contacts with Turkey (with which Armenia has no formal diplomatic
relations). Libaridian said he rejected the offer to become Armenia's
representative to the UN but will retain the post of presidential
ambassador-at-large. Ter-Petrossyan publicly thanked Libaridian for
his service to Armenia. His successor has not yet been named.

LEBANESE PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PROPOSES KARABAKH
REFERENDUM. Nabih Berri told journalists in Yerevan on 14
September that Lebanon will recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic as an independent state if the population votes for
independence in a UN sponsored referendum, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. The enclave unilaterally declared its independence
from Azerbaijan in 1991 but has not been recognized by any
country. During his three-day visit, Berri held talks with his
Armenian counterpart, Babken Ararktsyan, and with President Ter-
Petrossyan. No formal bilateral agreements were signed, but Ter-
Petrossyan said the visit "marks a new stage" in bilateral relations.
He noted that Lebanon could become Armenia's door to the Middle
East and described Armenians' attitude to both Lebanon and Syria
(where he was born) as "special," Interfax reported.

GEORGIA, GREECE SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Georgian President
Eduard Shevadnadze and his Greek counterpart, Constantinos Simitis,
signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation on 15 September, the
first day of Shevardnadze's three-day official visit to Greece. The two
presidents discussed regional conflicts, including Cyprus, and Greek-
Turkish relations. Simitis noted the readiness of the Greek business
community to invest in Georgia and commented that Greek foreign
policy in the Black Sea and Caucasus should be more active. Georgia
and Greece are both members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

ABKHAZ POLICE ABDUCT SIX GEORGIANS. Abkhaz police seized six
ethnic Georgians in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 14
September and took them to a police station in neighboring Gali
Raion, in Abkhazia, AFP reported. The reason for the kidnapping is
unclear. The Georgian government has lodged an official protest with
the Abkhaz leadership and with the UN observer and Russian
peacekeeping forces deployed in the region.



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