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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 35 , Part II, 20 February 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 35 , Part II, 20 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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SPECIAL REPORT: A quarter of Russia's labor force receives its wages late,
in kind or not at all. This three-article series on the RFE/RL Web site
examines why. Russia's Workers: Why They Go Without Wages
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rulabor/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUS DENIES PLANNING ARMS DEAL WITH IRAN

* LEADER OF CZECH COALITION PARTY RESIGNS

* CROATIAN TRADE UNIONS TO DEFY POLICE BAN ON DEMO

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUS DENIES PLANNING ARMS DEAL WITH IRAN. Belarusian Deputy Foreign
Minister Nina Mazai has denied a "Washington Times" report that Minsk is
preparing to sell tank parts to Iran, the RFE/RL Belarusian Service
reported on 19 February. Mazai added that agreements on agriculture and
education will be signed when President Alyaksandr Lukashenka visits Tehran
in early March. The "Washington Times" reported that Belarus is to sell
tank engines and other spare parts in a deal to be signed in Tehran during
the president's visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1998). First
Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Kozlov said relations with Tehran are
"developing" and that "we do not wish to hang an iron curtain in front of
Iran." PB

UKRAINIAN, UZBEK PRESIDENTS SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Leonid Kuchma and his
visiting counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed a friendship and cooperation
treaty and several economic agreements on 19 February. Karimov said the
friendship treaty is a "foundation for our future relations with Ukraine"
and proclaimed Ukraine to be Tashkent's "most reliable and most-needed
partner." Economic agreements focused on building transportation corridors
for Uzbek gas and oil. In an effort to reduce dependence on Russian sources
of energy, Ukraine has agreed to import 1 billion cubic meters of natural
gas from Uzbekistan. PB

RUSSIAN PREMIER UPBEAT ON UKRAINIAN VISIT. At a  meeting in Kyiv on 19
February, Viktor Chernomyrdin and Ukrainian President Kuchma discussed
Ukraine's natural gas needs and Kuchma's upcoming visit to Moscow,
ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin said Moscow is not against Turkmenistan
supplying gas to Ukraine, adding that Russia cannot guarantee fulfilling
Kyiv's energy needs in any case. Natural gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine
would transit Russia. Kuchma is to visit Moscow on 26 February where he is
scheduled to sign a 10-year economic cooperation agreement with President
Boris Yeltsin. PB

KYIV PROTESTERS DEMAND UNPAID WAGES. Some 6,000 miners, teachers, and
pensioners gathered in Kyiv to protest months of wage arrears, Reuters
reported on 19 February. Oleksandr Stoyan, spokesman for  the Organization
of All-Ukrainian Unions, which organized the protest, called for the
government to use money raised last week in a Eurobond issue to address the
arrears situation. The government made some $412 million in that issue. The
state is reported to owe about 5.2 billion hryvna ($2.65 billion) in
arrears. PB

ESTONIA'S FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT GROWING. According to Estonia's State
Statistics Department, the foreign trade deficit reached 20.9 billion
kroons (some $1.4 billion) last year, an increase of 7 billion kroons over
1996, ETA reported on 19 February. Exports totaled 40.4 billion kroons and
imports 61.3 billion kroons. The Statistics Department said that the share
of exports grew in 1997 but that this growth was largely due to a boost in
re-exports. Russia was Estonia's largest export partner last year,
accounting for 18.8 percent of total exports, followed by Finland (15.7
percent) and Sweden (13.5 percent). JC

YELTSIN SENDS LETTER TO LATVIA'S ULMANIS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin
has sent a letter to his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, on how to
improve bilateral ties and achieve the integration of the Baltic state's
large Russian minority. Ulmanis's office told Reuters on 19 February that
the "tone of the letter is hopeful and positive," but it gave no details of
the proposed measures. Yeltsin's letter was in reply to one sent by Ulmanis
earlier this year confirming Latvia's  readiness to sign all drafted
agreements, including the one on borders, BNS reported. JC

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTORAL LAW. Lawmakers on 19 February adopted
amendments to the electoral law stipulating that political parties must
receive 5 percent of the vote and alliances 7 percent in order to gain
parliamentary representation, BNS reported. The vote was 52 to 22 with 12
abstentions. Some 35 members of the 100-strong parliament later appealed to
President Ulmanis not to sign the amendments. They maintain that the
thresholds will impede the consolidation of political forces in the
country.  Under the Latvian Constitution, the president must postpone
proclaiming new legislation for two months if at least one-third of
parliamentary deputies make such a request. JC

LEADER OF CZECH COALITION PARTY LEADER RESIGNS. Jiri Skalicky, the leader
of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), has resigned as ODA chairman and
"probably" also as deputy premier and environment minister, Skalicky's
adviser Katerina Lojdova told CTK on 19 February. Skalicky will formally
announce his decision at the party's Central Assembly meeting on 20
February. Lojdova said Skalicky is  "disgusted by party members trading
accusations" over donations to the ODA and alleged tax evasion. She also
said ODA Deputy Chairman Miroslav Toser was trying to find a way to
discredit Skalicky over Toser's own involvement in contacts with
businessman Kamil Kolek. Kolek claims he was forced to make a donation to
ODA in 1996 or lose a department store he acquired through privatization at
an advantageous price. MS

HAVEL CALLS FOR HARSH PUNISHMENT OF CRIMINAL SKINHEADS. President Vaclav
Havel on 19 February sent a telegram of condolence to the family of a
Romani woman who was beaten unconscious and then drowned by three skinheads
in Vrchlabi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1998). Havel said he can
find "nothing to explain this terrible evil and hatred" and that he hoped
"neither institutions nor individuals" would tolerate the growing racially
motivated violence any longer.  He added that he expects the authorities to
hand down harsh punishments to the culprits. MS

SLOVAK MINISTERS RESIGN. Economics Minister Karol Cesnek and Social Affairs
Minister Olga Keltosova on 19 February submitted their resignations to
President Michal Kovac. Presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko told Reuters
that they gave no reason for resigning. Cesnek has no party affiliation,
while Keltosova is vice chairwoman of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia. The same day, the government asked the president to
appoint Milan Cagala to take over the economics portfolio and Vojtech Tkac
that of social affairs. Cagala is currently head of the Slovak Engineering
Association, while Tkac is deputy minister of social affairs. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT WANTS TO AMEND  ELECTION LAW. The Interior Ministry on 19
February announced it is drawing up a draft amendment to the electoral law
requiring each party belonging to an electoral allianceto pass a 5 percent
threshold to gain parliamentary representation. Under current legislation,
electoral alliances of more than three parties must obtain 10 percent of
the vote, while parties running on their own must obtain five percent. The
Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), a loose alliance of five opposition
parties, said the initiative is an attempt to thwart its chances in the
elections scheduled for September, Reuters reported. Democratic Union
deputy chairman Ludovit Cernak said the move is "clearly aimed at the SDK
and even kills two birds with one stone, as it would also hit the coalition
of ethnic Hungarian parties." MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

CROATIAN TRADE UNIONS TO DEFY POLICE BAN ON DEMO.  Croatian trade unions
representatives are to proceed with a planned protest demonstration in
Zagreb on 20 February, despite a police ban, Reuters reported. Up to 60,000
people are expected to participate in the protest against deteriorating
social conditions. The organizers have stressed they have no intention of
trying to overthrow the Croatian government. Interior Minister Ivan Penic
appealed to potential participants not to convene for the demonstration,
saying police will enforce the ban. LF

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT DRAFTS JOB PLAN. The governing Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ) introduced legislation in the parliament on 18 February to
promote economic growth by cutting labor costs, ridding firms of surplus
workers, and supporting small businesses. An opposition spokesman said the
plan is a political ploy. Unemployment currently stands at 18-23 percent
and is particularly high among veterans of the 1991-1995 wars. PM

SERBS CONTINUE TO LEAVE EASTERN SLAVONIA. Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe spokesman Mark Thompson told journalists in Zagreb on
19 February that the OSCE is "concerned" about the continued exodus of
Serbs from eastern Slavonia, AFP reported. Thompson said that hundreds of
Serbs from that region have applied for political asylum in Western Europe.
Formerly Serb-controlled eastern Slavonia reverted to Croatia's
jurisdiction on 15 January 1998,  after having been administered for two
years by the UN. LF

SECRET POLICEMAN MURDERED IN KOSOVO. An undercover Serbian policeman was
shot dead in an ambush near Pristina on 19 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. The victim was riding with other policemen in a car close
to the town of Podujevo when three men ambushed the vehicle. No one claimed
responsibility for the attack, though officials suspect it was carried out
by the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army. Meanwhile in central Belgrade on
19 February, seven people were injured when bombs exploded in a popular
cafe. Four people are in serious condition, Tanjug reported. No suspects
have been named by police. PB

OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER ON MINORITIES IN KOSOVO. Max van der Stoel met with
Albanian Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova in Pristina on 19 February. Van der
Stoel refused to reveal what the two men discussed. Rugova's main political
rival, Adem Demaci, refused to meet with the OSCE official because
Albanians in Kosovo "are a nation" not a minority, AFP reported. But Van
der Stoel met later with representatives of human rights organizations. His
visit was a private one, as Serbia and Montenegro have been excluded from
the OSCE since 1992. PB

ANOTHER BOMB EXPLOSION IN MACEDONIA. A bomb exploded in an Albanian-owned
butcher's shop in the mainly Albanian-populated western town of Gostivar on
19 February, Reuters reported. No one was injured in the blast, which was
the second in Gostivar and the fifth in Macedonia during the past three
months. LF

DRASKOVIC UPSET BY PREMIER'S RE-APPOINTMENT. Vuk Draskovic's Serbian
Renewal Movement (SPO) has denounced the naming of Mirko Marjanovic to
continue as Serbian premier. In a statement on 19 February, the SPO noted
it had not agreed to that decision, taken by Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic. Draskovic reportedly had agreed earlier this week to join a
coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), to which both
Marjanovic and Milutinovic belong. But Draskovic had insisted that he be
named prime minister in exchange for his party's support. If the SPO
decides not to join the SPS in a coalition, the Socialists will most likely
form a minority government. PB

DODIK THREATENS TO QUIT OVER FINANCIAL BACKING. Republika Srpska Prime
Minister Milorad Dodik said in Washington on 19 February that he will
resign if previously promised foreign aid is not forthcoming. He noted
that, despite having taken many steps to meet Western approval, financial
aid was still being withheld. Dodik referred specifically to a promise by
Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in
Bosnia, that Dodik's government will receive some $6 million in aid, which,
he said, is urgently needed to prevent a teachers' strike. The premier
added that the goal of returning some 70,000 displaced persons to their
homes by September is still a priority, even though the complexity of such
a task is "beyond imagination." PB

BOSNIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS CALL FOR TOLERANCE. The leaders of Bosnia's main
religions pledged tolerance and interethnic understanding in a joint
message on 19 February in Sarajevo. Jakob Finci, head of Sarajevo's Jewish
community, Roman Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Serbian Orthodox Church
Metropolitan Nikolaj, and Mustafa Ceric, the head of Bosnia's Muslim
community, held a roundtable discussion on religious issues and the
importance of implementing the Dayton agreement before issuing their
statement. Westendorp said the religious leaders have a major role to play
in the country's reconciliation process. PB

ORGANIZED CRIME GROWS IN SLOVENIA. Parliamentary speaker Janez Podobnik
told a government anti-crime conference in Ljubljana on 17 February that
organized crime accounts for three-quarters of all criminal activity in the
Alpine republic. Interior Minister Mirko Brandelj noted that Yugoslav
citizens dominate the money laundering, extortion, and drug rackets, BETA
news agency reported. Croats specialize in counterfeiting, gun-running, and
illegal border crossings, while citizens of former Soviet republics
concentrate on prostitution, money laundering, and stolen cars. Brandelj
added that Slovenes can be found in all branches of criminal activity but
that they tend not to be as brutal as some of the foreign gangs. PM

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTY DENIES CHARGES. Democratic Party deputy Azem
Hajdari told journalists on 19 February that charges of intimidation and
incitement to violence brought against him are politically motivated, dpa
reported. The charges followed a 14 February confrontation between a group
of parliamentary deputies led by Hajdari and police officers who searched
the deputies' cars and found  arms and ammunition (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
16 February 1998.) In other news, the Democratic Party has issued a
statement announcing that its national council will decide on 20 February
whether to end its five-month boycott of the parliament, Reuters reported.
The boycott was launched to protest an incident last year in which Hajdari
was shot and wounded by Socialist deputy Gafur Mazreku (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 September 1997). LF

ROMANIAN-IMF NEGOTIATIONS ENCOUNTER DIFFICULTIES. Referring to negotiations
under way with the IMF on the 1998 budget, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea
said that it is an "aberration" to employ the term "Bulgarization" in
connection with the development of the economy. His remark followed
comments by Finance Minister Daniel Daianu and Reform Minister Ilie
Serbanescu one day earlier. Ciorbea said chief IMF negotiator Poul Thompsen
has prolonged his stay, at the end of which  the government will sign  an
aide-memoir with the IMF stipulating measures to accelerate privatization
and meet budget expenditures. Also on 19 February, Charles Frank, the vice
president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said in
The Hague that he is  "somewhat disappointed" by the slow pace of Romanian
reform. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION MOVES MOTION ON HEALTH SYSTEM. As paramedics continue
their general strike, the Senate factions of the Party of Social Democracy
in Romania (PDSR),the Greater Romania Party, and the Party of Romanian
National Unity have moved a motion opposing the government health-care
policies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PDSR chairman Ion Iliescu
said his party hopes the Democrats will support the motion, but Democratic
Party deputy chairman Radu Berceanu said his formation will not do so. In
other news, a commission mediating between the two chambers of the
parliament has succeeding in bridging the gap over a law granting
compensation to persons persecuted under the communist regime and those
deported to or held war prisoner in the former Soviet Union. Romanian
citizens who reside abroad will also be entitled to claim compensation. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CHISINAU. Andrei Plesu met with his Moldovan
counterpart, Nicolae Tabacaru, and Deputy Prime Minister Ion Gutu in
Chisinau on 19 February, RFE/RL's bureau there reported. Talks concentrated
on the pending basic treaty and on bilateral economic relations.  Plesu
told journalists that he prefers a "very good treaty" to a "very quick one"
and does not know whether the accord will be concluded during his tenure as
foreign minister. Romanian media reported recently that Bucharest agrees to
no mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact being made in the document but
insists that the treaty be called a "fraternal" one and be written in the
Romanian language.  Plesu is also to meet with Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc
and by President Petru Lucinschi. MS

RUSSIAN DUMA POSTPONES RATIFYING MOLDOVAN TREATY. The Russian State Duma on
19 February postponed debates on the ratification of the basic treaty with
Moldova until next month, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Duma speaker Gennadii
Seleznev. The treaty was signed in September 1990 and ratified by the
Moldovan parliament the same year. The separatist leadership in Tiraspol
has called on the Russian Duma not to ratify the document and to negotiate
a new treaty that takes into consideration the "new situation" that arose
with the existence of the "independent" Transdniester state. MS

GAZPROM INVOLVED IN BULGARIAN CD PIRACY. The chief of Bulgaria's National
Security Service on 19 February said that the Multigroup conglomerate and
Gazprom  have been involved in smuggling pirated compact discs out of
Bulgaria, AFP reported. Atanas Atanasov said more than 1.5 million pirated
CDs were produced at the state-owned DZU-DMON factory in Stara Zagora and
transported to Russia in five shipments aboard planes owned by the Russian
gas monopoly Gazprom. He added that Multigroup's earnings from the
operation totaled $500,000 a month. Multigroup is alleged to have been set
up with funds from the communist-era secret police and to be owned and
managed by former members of the nomenklatura who have links to organized
crime. BTA reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office has received
documents attesting to the smuggling. MS

JAPANESE BANK WINS BID FOR BULGARIAN BANK. Japan's Nomura International
investment bank has won a bid for a 78.3 percent majority share in
Bulgarian Postal Bank, AFP reported on 19 February, quoting Bulgarian
officials. The deal is  to be finalized by the end of May. Privatization
chief Petar Jotev told BTA that the privatization of the Postal Bank is the
first in the banking sector and will be followed by the privatization of
four other banks. Postal Bank made a profit of 13.5 billion leva ($7.4
million) in 1997. MS


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