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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 31 , Part II, 16 February 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 31 , Part II, 16 February 1998

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

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FIVE NEW LANGUAGES ADDED TO REAL AUDIO SCHEDULE
Listen to one hour of news in Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and
Romanian at the RFE/RL Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ENDS FREEZE ON PRIVATIZATION

* MECIAR TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

* YUGOSLAVIA UNDER PRESSURE OVER WAR CRIMINALS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ENDS FREEZE ON PRIVATIZATION. Lawmakers have approved
a privatization program ending a legislative ban on the sale of state
assets, AFP reported on 13 February. The program, submitted by President
Leonid Kuchma, allows for the privatization of the energy and
telecommunications sectors but would not permit the sale of farm land.
Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko said he expects privatization to add
about 1 billion hryvna ($521 million) to state coffers this year. The
parliament put a freeze on the privatization process in November after
several reports of inefficiency and corruption. In other news, the National
Statistics Committee said on 13 February that Ukraine received $759.2
million in foreign investment last year. That is a 42 percent increase over
the previous year. Investors from the U.S. accounted for the largest
percentage of investments. PB

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SAYS CALL FOR ELECTIONS ILLEGAL. Anatoly
Gritsenko said on 13 February that the Ukrainian parliament's call for
early elections in Crimea is unconstitutional, ITAR-TASS reported. The Kyiv
parliament's decision the previous day to hold early elections on 29 March
is one of a "series of illegal acts" against the autonomous republic of
Crimea, he argued. Gritsenko also said the Ukrainian parliament can demand
early elections only if the Crimean legislature violates the country's
constitution and the Ukrainian Constitutional Court rules to dissolve the
peninsula's parliament. PB

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN IN KYIV. Zurab Zhvania held talks in Kyiv on
13-14 February with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Moroz, and with
Premier Pustovoytenko. Moroz affirmed Ukraine's support for Georgia's
application for membership in the Council of Europe and promised that
Ukrainian lawmakers will soon debate Georgia's request that Kyiv provide a
peacekeeping unit to serve on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of
Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Pustovoytenko said Ukraine is interested
in drawing up a long-term program of economic cooperation that would
increase bilateral trade.  Zhvania, for his part, expressed support for
Ukraine's planned participation in the TRACECA transport corridor project.
LF

BELARUSIANS USE VALENTINE'S DAY TO PROTEST LUKASHENKA POLICIES. An
opposition group used a registered Valentine's Day march in Minsk to
protest the policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka,  RFE/RL's
Belarusian service reported on 14 February. Some 1,000 protesters carried
signs with slogans such as "I Love NATO" and "I Love the EU" and also
shouted anti-Lukashenka slogans. The march was organized by the Youth
Front, which seeks to orient Belarus more toward the West. Marchers
delivered letters to Western embassies calling for the release of political
prisoners and describing Lukashenka's policies as confrontational. Police
filmed the march but did not stop it because it was officially registered.
PB

AID FOR CHORNOBYL VICTIMS ARRIVES. A shipment of medical aid from the U.S.
for people suffering from the effects of the Chornobyl nuclear accident
arrived in Minsk on 14 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The aid, which
includes antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, will be distributed in
hospitals in the Gomel and Mogilev regions and at three clinics in Minsk.
Belarus was harder hit than any other country by the 1986 Chornobyl
accident. PB

LATVIA'S ULMANIS WANTS GOVERNMENT STABILITY. President Guntis Ulmanis told
reporters on 13 February that he will seek a dialogue with the government
parties that will not undermine the cabinet's stability, BNS reported. "I
won't give any hope to anyone perhaps wishing the president to become so
deep embroiled in a dispute with the Fatherland and Freedom [party] that
the government collapses," he said. Two days earlier, Ulmanis had vetoed a
controversial amendment to the labor code, proposed by Fatherland and
Freedom and Latvia's Way, whereby an employee could be dismissed for
insufficient knowledge of the Latvian language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
February 1998). JC

POLISH AMBASSADOR TO BELARUS RESIGNS. Ewa Spychalska has resigned as the
Polish ambassador in Minsk. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw
on 14 February, Spychalska, who had been criticized by Polish Foreign
Minister Bronislaw Geremek, submitted her resignation in order not to
complicate relations between Geremek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Spychalska's replacement has not been named.  In other news, a 63-year-old
woman died in a Warsaw hospital of Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease, the human
variant of "mad cow" disease. Poland banned all imports of gelatin last
week. Cow byproducts are used in the production of gelatin. PB

FORMER OFFICIAL FROM KLAUS'S PARTY DETAINED. Libor Novak, the former
executive deputy chairman of Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS),
was taken into custody on 14 February, CTK reported. Novak is accused of
evading the payment of taxes totaling 500,000 million crowns ($14,500) in
connection with donations given to the ODS. The Financial Office filed a
lawsuit against him earlier this month. MS

RIFT GROWS WITHIN CZECH COALITION PARTY. Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA)
chairman Jiri Skalicky told journalists on 14 February that he will not run
in the upcoming parliamentary elections but will remain ODA chairman.
Skalicky said the decision not to run for the parliament is not connected
with his demand that ODS deputy Miroslav Tosler, involved in a scandal in
which an Opava entrepreneur was allegedly forced to make a donation to the
ODA, must tender his resignation. Also on 14 February, the ODA Central
Assembly ruled that Tosler can stay on pending clarification of the
allegations. Skalicky reacted by saying that if Tosler does not resign, he
will do so. MS

IRAQIS SEEK TO RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS IN PRAGUE. Iraq has been attempting to
recruit Czechs for an international volunteer force, AFP reported on 14
February, citing CTK. An agent of the Czech counter-espionage service (BIS)
said there is an ongoing investigation into the issue. Ludvik Zifcak, a
former officer in the communist secret police and now owner of the weekly
"Nove Bruntalsko," had recently published an advertisement titled "Hands
off Iraq." Eighteen Czechs were said to have been recruited following the
appearance of the advertisement. "Lidove Noviny" reported that the BIS and
military intelligence officers were also investigating five Iraqis who were
arrested last week in Prague without identification papers on them, as part
of increased security measures adopted in the wake of the Iraqi crisis. MS

MECIAR TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT? Tibor Cabaj, the chairman of Vladimir Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia's parliamentary faction, said he has
spoken to the premier about his intention to propose Meciar's candidacy for
president and that he has "received [Meciar's] agreement," Reuters reported
on 13 February, citing TASR. Another round of the presidential elections is
scheduled for 5 March. Meciar would need nine votes from the opposition to
have the required three-fifths majority. Reuters said he is unlikely to
receive those votes because of the growing animosity between the two camps.
In other news, Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster and former Foreign Minister
Juraj Hamzik announced on 13 February that they have founded a new
political party, called Party of Civic Understanding, TASR reported. The
party is to "support the development of civil society and promote
Slovakia's orientation toward North Atlantic structures." MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S OFFICE CORRECTS FIGURE ON FOREIGN CRIME. The Prime
Minister's Office released a statement on 14 February correcting  Gyula
Horn's earlier remarks that 80 percent of robberies and murders in Hungary
are committed by foreigners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998).  The
office said Budapest police chief Attila Berta had provided data suggesting
that foreigners account for 80 percent of criminals as well as for 80
percent of the victims of crimes in which weapons are involved. But
Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze said only 3.5 percent of all reported crimes
are committed by foreigners. In other news, hundreds of neo-Nazis staged a
rally at Buda Castle on 14 February to honor German occupying forces and
Hungarian fascists who fought Soviet troops for the control of Budapest in
1945. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

YUGOSLAVIA UNDER PRESSURE OVER WAR CRIMINALS. Louise Arbour, the chief
prosecutor for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in Brussels that
the voluntary surrender of two Bosnian Serbs to the court on 14 February
increases the pressure on Belgrade to cooperate with the tribunal, "Nasa
Borba" reported two days later.  She warned that Yugoslavia will become
increasingly isolated the longer it refuses to send indicted war criminals
to The Hague. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, for his part, said the
international community will insist that Belgrade honor the commitments it
made in the Dayton agreement, including a pledge to cooperate with the
court. PM

THIRD BOSNIAN SERB TO TURN HIMSELF IN? The Belgrade daily "Dnevni telegraf"
wrote on 15 February that Simo Zaric, one of six Bosnian Serbs from
Bosanski Samac who is wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, will
turn himself in to the court's representatives in the near future. The
newspaper quoted him as saying that he intends to surrender to the court as
soon has he has "cleared up some legal matters." Miroslav Tadic and Milan
Simic, who are also among the six men charged with setting up concentration
camps and carrying out "ethnic cleansing" in 1991, gave themselves up on 14
February. They told reporters in The Hague the next day that they are
innocent. Tadic and Simic are the first Bosnian Serbs to voluntarily
surrender to the tribunal. PM

DODIK WANTS GOOD TIES TO ZAGREB. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad
Dodik said in Zagreb on 14 February that the Bosnian Serbs are
"particularly interested in establishing economic cooperation with
Croatia." Both he and Croatian Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa agreed to set
up a commission on missing persons, which will hold its first meeting
within two months. The two sides will also discuss setting up border
crossing points and promoting cooperation between the Croatian oil company
INA and the refinery at Bosanski Brod, an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from Zagreb. Dodik said he supports Croatia's wish to open a consulate in
Banja Luka, and his hosts said they will consider abolishing visa
requirements for Bosnian Serbs who are holders of the new joint Bosnian
passport. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER CALLS BELGRADE "ARROGANT." Mahmut Bakalli, a leading
communist-era Kosovar political leader, told RFE/RL from Belgrade on 14
February that the Yugoslav government is "arrogant and masochistic." He was
referring to the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry's statement the previous day
that German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and his French counterpart,
Hubert Vedrine, are not welcome to make a previously planned visit. Bakalli
added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is behaving like a "crude
Balkan Saddam Hussein" in his stubborn refusal to modify Serbia's policies
in Kosovo. Kinkel and Vedrine launched a diplomatic initiative in November
1997 to promote autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia. PM

RUGOVA SAYS SERBIA DESTABILIZING KOSOVO. Shadow-state President Ibrahim
Rugova said in Pristina on 13 February that the Serbian authorities are
increasingly using force in Kosovo. He stated that Belgrade's goals are to
intimidate the ethnic Albanians and destabilize the province in the run-up
to the shadow-state's parliamentary and presidential elections slated for
March. Rugova added that the elections could provide an impetus for a
Serbian-Albanian dialogue, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the
Kosovar capital. PM

KOSOVO STUDENTS CALL PROTEST. Ethnic Albanian student representatives on 13
February called for renewed mass protests on 13 March to demand control
over school and university buildings. In December, Serbian riot police put
down peaceful protests aimed at restoring Albanian-language education (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). In other news, unidentified gunmen
killed an ethnic Albanian employee of the Yugoslav Post in Glogovac on 13
February. Three days later, the Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" wrote
that the body of an ethnic Albanian employee of the Serbian electric
company has been found  in the Glogovac area. In the past, the clandestine
Kosovo Liberation Army, which is strong in Glogovac, has killed several
ethnic Albanians whom it regards as Serbian collaborators. PM

ALBANIAN LEGISLATOR MAY FACE CHARGES. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka on 15
February asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to prepare charges against
opposition Democratic Party deputy Azem Hajdari, who enjoys parliamentary
immunity. Hajdari and 15 other people were involved in two armed incidents
with police in the Shkoder area the previous day. Police arrested 11 of
Hajdari's group and confiscated "a large quantity of arms." Hajdari, who is
no stranger to controversy, said in Tirana on 15 February that the police
had staged "another attack on me." Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha
said that if Hajdari's immunity is lifted,  his party will reconsider its
recent decision to end its boycott of the parliament. PM

JOURNALISTS DETAINED AT ALBANIAN BASE. Police briefly detained three
journalists, including Fatos Baxhaku, the editor-in-chief of "Gazeta
Shqiptare," at a naval base in Vlora on 12 February, a Defense Ministry
spokesman said in Tirana three days later. The spokesman said that the
three tricked guards at the base into letting them enter the site, which
they then filmed. The spokesman added that "the media should respect rules
protecting state secrets" and not seek admission to any base without a
permit. PM

ALBANIAN COMMUNIST LEADER TO HAVE HEART SURGERY. Ramiz Alia, who was
president of Albania from 1985 to 1992, underwent tests in Salonika,
Greece, on 14 February and is slated to have heart surgery later this week.
Alia had a heart attack on 24 January and also suffers from respiratory
problems. PM

ROMANIA EMPLOYS STRONGER LANGUAGE ON IRAQ. In a departure from its cautious
position on the Iraqi crisis last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February
1998), the Romanian government released a statement on 14 February saying
Bucharest is "ready to participate" in a U.S.-led military strike against
Iraq if diplomatic efforts  fail to solve the conflict. The statement said
the government will seek the approval of the parliament if such
participation becomes necessary. In other news, Foreign Minister Andrei
Plesu on 13 February ended a two-day visit to Germany, where he met with
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. Kinkel promised continued support for
Romania's integration into Euro-Atlantic structure and for German
investments, but said there is "some worry" about political stability in
Romania. MS

ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS SET UP 'SHADOW CABINET.' The Democratic Party has set
up a 17-member team to "monitor" the performance of Victor Ciorbea's
cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 13 February.  Party deputy
chairman Traian Basescu will coordinate the group, which, he said,  should
"not yet" be viewed as a "shadow cabinet" because "we are still a member of
the ruling coalition." However, the group intends to work out "parallel"
reform programs"  and each of its members will be in charge with
"monitoring" the performance of a ministry. Former Foreign Minister Adrian
Severin is not included in the group, and foreign affairs will be
"monitored" by incumbent minister Andrei Plesu. Observers point out that
this is a unique situation in which a party both participates in the
governing coalition and adopts an opposition-like stance and in which a
minister "monitors" his own ministry. MS

CHISINAU DENIES U.S. COMPANY INVOLVED IN MIG SALE. The Moldovan government
on 13 February said it does not owe the U.S. company Virtual Defense
Development International any money for facilitating the sale of the MiG-29
aircraft to the U.S. last October. Chiril Sorocean, a counselor to Premier
Ion Ciubuc, said the sale took place without any intermediaries, RFE/RL's
Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 13 October 1998). In other
news, Moldovan and Romanian experts concluded in Chisinau on 13 February a
new round of talks on a basic bilateral treaty. Radio Bucharest reported
that Romania wants the treaty to mention  the "special relationship"
between the two states. According to Mediafax, Bucharest wants the document
to be called a "fraternity treaty," while Chisinau rejects giving the
document any special title. MS

TIRASPOL AGREES TO RESCHEDULE MOLDOVAN ENERGY DEBT. Transdniester
separatist leader Igor Smirnov, meeting with Moldovan Deputy Premier Ion
Gutu in Tiraspol on 13 February, agreed to reschedule the $15 million
outstanding debt Chisinau owes for energy supplies from the Moldavskaya
power plant on condition that Moldova pays its current debt, Infotag and
BASA press reported. At the same meeting, Smirnov delivered an ultimatum
demanding the abolition of the tax imposed on Transdniestrian goods
transiting Moldovan territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998).
Smirnov and Gutu agreed that President Petru Lucinschi and Smirnov will
discuss the issue at their meeting re-scheduled for 17 February. MS

IMF, EBRD PRAISE BULGARIAN ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. Ann McGuirk, the IMF's
chief representative in Bulgaria, has said Bulgaria's economic performance
is "very positive" and "better than expected" after the introduction of
stabilization measures in 1997, AFP reported on 13 February. Olivier
Descamps, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development regional
director, said the same day in Sofia that Bulgaria's credibility with
foreign investors and bankers is now "the best it has been  in the last
five years." He added that legislation on foreign investment and
privatization must still be passed by the parliament and the privatization
of the banking sector accelerated. In other news, Finance Minister Muravei
Radev on 15 February sought to persuade some 400 miners at the Grobuso lead
and zinc mines, some 300 kilometers southeast of Sofia, to end a four-day
hunger strike and leave the pits. The miners are demanding that the
government triple their wages. MS


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