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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 158, Part II, 12 November 1997



A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe,
Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe.  Part I covers Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a
second document.  Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI
Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

News from the Armenian Service's Yerevan bureau is posted to
RFE/RL's  Armenia Report each weekday.

RFE/RL ARMENIA REPORT
http://www.rferl.org/bd/ar/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* RUSSIA HOPES TO OVERCOME 'DISTRUST' IN BALTICS

* PRAGUE, SOFIA DENY INVOLVEMENT IN RADAR SALE TO IRAQ

* PLAVSIC WANTS TO JOIN U.S. MILITARY PROGRAM

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RUSSIA HOPES TO OVERCOME 'DISTRUST' IN BALTICS. Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov announced on 11
November that Russia hopes to continue consultations in order to
"transform the Baltic region into a zone of stability, trust, and
cooperation," Russian news agencies reported. Commenting on the
rejection by the Baltic presidents of Russia's offer to guarantee their
countries' security, Tarasov expressed hope that in time "the
interests of good-neighborliness and cooperation" in the Baltic region
will overcome "distrust" and "psychological" issues inherited from the
past. Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists
the same day that he expects the Baltic States to "play a game with
Russia," judging by their continuing aspirations to join NATO.
Seleznev recalled that President Boris Yeltsin and the Duma have
both said Russia will reconsider the Founding Act signed with NATO
in May if the alliance admits the Baltics. LB

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

PRAGUE, SOFIA DENY INVOLVEMENT IN RADAR SALE TO IRAQ.
Speaking in Washington on 11 November, Czech Premier Vaclav
Klaus denied any Czech involvement in attempts to sell military
equipment to Iraq. Klaus said the claims are a "provocation" and
noted that Czech regulations on exporting sensitive equipment bar
such a deal. The same day, the Ministry of Trade in Sofia denied that
any Bulgarian firms or individuals are involved in such attempts,
BTA reported. Such assertions "undermine Bulgaria's international
prestige," the ministry commented. An article published on 12
November in "The Washington Times" says a group of Bulgarian arms
dealers is working secretly with Czech military officials to arrange
the sale to Baghdad of five "Tamara" electronic warfare systems.
Those systems are capable of detecting and shooting down radar-
evading U.S. stealth bombers. MS

UKRAINE-EBRD SIGN FRAMEWORK DEAL ON CHORNOBYL. The
Ukrainian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development on 11 November signed an agreement defining how the
international community will help provide some $750 million to
make the Chornobyl reactor safe and ultimately to close it, Interfax
reported. President Leonid Kuchma has repeatedly said that Kyiv will
not close the plant without help, but the latest agreement does not
necessarily mean that Western assistance will arrive in sufficient
quantities to meet Ukraine's needs. PG

MORE BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION. The
Belarusian Security Council has ordered the arrest of Agricultural
Minister Vasiliy Leonov and a senior agricultural manager, Vasiliy
Starovoitov, for corruption and embezzlement, Belarusian state
television reported on 11 November. The council charged the two
with "theft of property on an especially large scale." PG

ESTONIAN BANKS MOVE TO HALT STOCK MARKET SLIDE. Four of
Estonia's largest commercial banks announced on 11 November that
they will no longer require investors to sell repurchase portfolios,
ETA reported. Some analysts have blamed recent steep declines in
share prices on investors' having to sell those portfolios in order to
meet loan payments. However, Hansapank, the largest commercial
bank in Estonia, declined to take such action, saying it must protect
the interests of its shareholders. Following an initial slump, the
TALSE index rallied in response to the banks' decision to close 1.72
percent down on the previous day. Meanwhile, top bank directors,
meeting in Tallinn on 11 November, concluded that neither the kroon
nor the banking sector is in crisis. JC

LATVIA'S RUBIKS PLANS RETURN TO POLITICS. At his first press
conference since being released from prison, former Communist
Party leader Alfreds Rubiks said he will try to consolidate the
country's leftist forces, BNS reported on 10 November. Stressing he is
still a Communist, the 62-year-old Rubiks said he wants to "unite"
the poor, the unemployed, and the Russian minority. He added that
he plans to visit Moscow in the near future to meet with State Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin,
and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. JC

SOLIDARITY TO REGISTER AS POLITICAL PARTY. Solidarity Electoral
Action leader Marian Krzaklewski told reporters on 11 November
that his movement, which won the recent parliamentary elections,
will register as a political party on 13 November. Krzaklewski said
the new party will seek to promote market economics and Christian
principles. PG

CZECH OFFICIAL SAYS NO END TO BUD WARS. Czech Agricultural
Minister Josef Lux told the daily "Hospodarske Noviny" on 11
November that he is now opposed to settling a trademark dispute
between the Czech Budvar brewery and the Anheuser-Busch
brewery in the U.S. Earlier Lux had backed an arrangement whereby
the U.S. firm would be able to use its Bud trademark in various
markets in exchange for an agreement to purchase hops from Czech
farmers. But Budvar officials have opposed any such deal, and Lux
has now bowed to their position. PG

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES SECURITIES MONITOR. On 11
November, the parliament voted to establish a capital markets
commission to supervise the activities of these bodies, much as the
Securities and Exchange Commission does in the United States, CTK
reported. But in contrast to the U.S. and to original plans, the Czech
body, expected to begin operations sometime in early 1998, will be
subordinated to the Finance Ministry. PG

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS CONTROVERSIAL DEPUTY
SPEAKER. By a vote of 164 to 53, Independent Smallholders deputy
Sandor Kavassy has been elected as deputy speaker of the
parliament, despite controversy over his irredentist views (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997), Hungarian media reported
on 11 November. The Free Democrats boycotted the vote, objecting to
Kavassy's statements in favor of amending the Trianon treaty. The
governing Socialist Party was divided over his election. MSZ

HUNGARY, UKRAINE BOOST COOPERATION. Visiting Ukrainian Prime
Minister Valery Pustovoytenko on 11 November signed agreements
with Hungary on liberalization of trade, border-zone cooperation, and
rapid notification of nuclear accidents. In talks with his Hungarian
counterpart, Gyula Horn, Pustovoytenko said there is no reason for
Hungary to be concerned about Kiev's new bill on minority
languages, which has been submitted to the parliament. The bill will
not restrict Hungarian-language education in Transcarpathia, he
explained. Pustovoytenko also said that Kyiv welcomes Hungary's
invitation to join NATO. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

PLAVSIC WANTS TO JOIN U.S. MILITARY PROGRAM. Republika
Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the SRNA news agency in Banja
Luka on 11 November that the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) should join
the U.S.-sponsored "Train and Equip" program, provided no
preconditions are attached. She warned Bosnian Serb hard-liners that
the Republika Srpska cannot isolate itself: "[regional] integration
processes have started and whoever rejects them has no sense of
reality." Some of the VRS leadership supports Plavsic's view and
argues that the army must join "Train and Equip" in order not to fall
behind the Muslim and Croatian forces, which participate in the
program. PM

ZUBAK TO DISCUSS TUDJMAN'S PROPOSAL. Kresimir Zubak, the
Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on
11 November that the Muslims do not have the right to decide for
the entire presidency on Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's
proposal for closer links between the two states (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 11 November 1997). Zubak added that he will put
Tudjman's proposal on the agenda of the next meeting of the
presidency, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian
capital. PM

BOSNIAN SHADOW CABINET APPEALS TO CROATIA. Sejfudin Tokic,
who heads the shadow government formed by non-nationalist
parties, appealed to the Croatian parliament to send a delegation to
discuss with his shadow cabinet future relations between the two
states. He said in Sarajevo on 11 November that Bosnian-Croatian
relations are of strategic importance for the entire region. Tokic
added that any proposal to tighten links between the two states must
be submitted to a referendum, an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from the Bosnian capital. PM

U.S. ENVOY WARNS OF NEW WAR. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to
Croatia Peter Galbraith said in Zagreb on 11 November that "there's a
good chance that a precipitous withdrawal [by NATO from Bosnia]
could lead to a situation where war would break out." He added that
he believes that Croatia may play less of a role in Bosnia in the
future than it has to date: "I think most Croatians would prefer to
disengage from Bosnia. Croatia has achieved its national objectives of
reunifying its country and would now like to be on the Slovenia track
into NATO and Europe. A continued major role in Bosnia is a potential
albatross." Tudjman and prominent Herzegovinians, such as Defense
Minister Gojko Susak, nonetheless favor an active role for Croatia in
Bosnia. PM

BOSNIA TO GET UNIFIED CURRICULUM. Bosnian Federation Education
Minister Fahrudin Rizvanbegovic announced in Sarajevo on 11
November that Croatian and Muslim pupils and students will soon
study from the same textbooks and that those books will stress
Bosnia is a single, multi-ethnic state. Croatian schools now use texts
from Croatia, while Muslim schools have their own books. Critics
charge that both sets of texts are nationalist and that maintaining
separate education programs helps promote the division of Bosnia
along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 29 October 1997). PM

SREBRENICA WOMEN PROTEST. Several hundred women from
Srebrenica and the Drina valley region of eastern Bosnia marched
through Sarajevo on 11 November to demand that the international
community provide more information about the 8,000 or so missing
men believed to have been massacred by the Serbs after the fall of
Srebrenica in 1995. The women also demand the release of three
Muslim males now held prisoner by the Serb. PM

FIRST TRAIN BETWEEN CROATIA, SERBIA. Local trains began running
between the two former Yugoslav republics on 11 November for the
first time since 1991. The line connects Vinkovci with Sid. Direct
trains between Zagreb and Belgrade will start in May 1998 (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). Meanwhile in Podgorica, the
Montenegrin Helsinki Committee demanded that local border traffic
be restored between Croatia and Montenegro. The committee also
called for the two former Yugoslav republics to open consulates on
each other's territory. Committee President Slobodan Franovic
claimed that Belgrade supports the restoration of direct links with
Croatia for Serbia but not for Montenegro. PM

CONFLICT DEEPENS BETWEEN ALBANIAN CENTRAL, LOCAL
GOVERNMENTS. Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino on 11
November charged that Democratic Party-controlled local
governments are preventing central government agencies from
functioning properly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997).
Fino urged citizens to demonstrate against obstructionist local
officials, "Dita Informacion" reported. He added that the Interior
Ministry will organize local elections between December and January
in some areas where the local government has collapsed. Meanwhile,
Albert Brojka, the head of the Association of City Mayors, challenged
a Council of Ministers' decision to sack 420 centrally appointed local
officials, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS

ALBANIAN DAILIES THREATEN STRIKE. The publishers of nine
dailies and two weeklies demanded on 11 November that the
government lower taxes levied on the press or face a shutdown of
news publishing on 15 November. The publishers claim that
newspapers are threatened with bankruptcy, largely owing to an
increase in value-added tax to 20 percent in September. Taxes on
newspaper sales, paper imports, and advertising are also
problematic, "Koha Jone" reported. FS

ONE-THIRD OF ALBANIANS LIVE IN POVERTY. Prime Minister Fatos
Nano said in Tirana on 11 November that more than 1 million
Albanians live below the poverty line. Some 40 percent of those
people are pensioners, who receive between $7 and $22 a month.
Most of the poor live in urban areas. Nano promised to launch a new
program in 1998 aimed at taking people off welfare rolls and having
them work on public projects. FS

ROMANIAN COALITION LEADERS ON UPCOMING RESHUFFLE.
Following a secret meeting in Bucharest on 11 November, several
leaders of the governing coalition parties said on Romanian state
television that a new Council of Reform will be set up as a result of
the upcoming reshuffle. Premier Victor Ciorbea will head that body.
The idea of setting up a new Ministry of Privatization has been
abandoned, but it has been agreed to merge the State Property Fund,
the Agency for Development, and the Agency for Privatization. The
head of the new structure will have ministerial rank. Also on 11
November, President Emil Constantinescu met with leaders of the
main trade unions to discuss both the reshuffle and economic reform.
MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS ON ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW. The
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 11
November warned that it will draw the "appropriate consequences" if
there is any deviation from the "agreed government program." The
statement, which was made by an ad-hoc body that meets only to
discuss emergencies, came after negotiators representing the UDMR
and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic failed to reach
an agreement on amendments to the Education Law. In another
development, the Chamber of Deputies on 11 November rejected a
motion of the three opposition parties criticizing the government's
policies in the industrial sector, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

BULGARIA RETURNS FORESTS TO PRE-COMMUNIST OWNERS. The
parliament on 11 November passed a law providing for the return of
forests nationalized during the communist era. Foreign citizens are
not eligible either for restitution or for compensation, AFP reported.
The legislation will affect 15-18 percent of forests now belonging to
the state. Local government authorities, monasteries, and mosques
will be able to apply for the restitution. Owners whose forests were
destroyed are to be compensated. MS

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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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