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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 37 , Part II, 24 February 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 37 , Part II, 24 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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Headlines, Part II

* CRIMEA'S SAFONTSEV DIES FROM BOMB INJURIES

* ALBANIAN POLICE RETAKE CONTROL OVER SHKODER

* U.S. CALLS TUDJMAN SPEECH 'UNACCEPTABLE'

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

LUKASHENKA PRAISES PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR. Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka highly praised Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko
during an visit to Vladivostok on the way home from the Olympics in Nagano,
Japan, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 23 February.
Lukashenka said he and Nazdratenko agree on privatization and border
policy. (The governor has long been an opponent of First Deputy Prime
Minister Chubais and has accused the government of planning to give up
territory in Primore to China.) Lukashenka hinted that the Russian
government's "young reformers" are secret opponents of integration with
Belarus. But he cited an economic cooperation agreement signed in
Vladivostok as evidence that Russian regional leaders are welcoming closer
ties with Minsk. He also said he hopes Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
loses a presidential election scheduled for 1999, because, he commented,
Kuchma opposes integration with Russia and Belarus. LB

UKRAINE SAYS TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH RUSSIA 'NON-EXISTENT.' The Ukrainian
Foreign Ministry said on 23 February that a territorial dispute between
Moscow and Kyiv "never existed and cannot exist," ITAR-TASS reported on 23
February. The statement came in response to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's
recent claims to Crimea and its port city of Sevastopol (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 23 February 1998). The Foreign Ministry said that, as in Russia,
"serious politicians in Ukraine" realize that good relations between  Kyiv
and Moscow are based on "mutual respect, sovereignty, and territorial
integrity." The Ukrainian parliament has approved a bilateral treaty with
Russia that guarantees current borders between the two countries. PB

BALTIC SEA REGIONS SIGN ACCORD IN POLAND. Regions from six countries
bordering the Baltic Sea signed a cooperation agreement aimed at creating a
"Baltic Euro-region," AFP reported on 22 February. "The Baltic Sea is
becoming a sea of the European Union," Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw
Geremek said at the signing in the northern city Polish town of Malbork.
Representatives from the Danish island Bornholm, Latvia's Liepaja and
Lithuania's Klaipeda regions, the Russian exclave Kaliningrad Oblast, and
the Swedish provinces Kalmar, Kronenburg, and Blekinge, and Polish
provinces Elblag, Gdansk, Olsztyn, and Slupsk signed the accord, which
promotes cooperation in economics, agriculture, transportation,
environmental protection, and education. PB

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

CRIMEA'S SAFONTSEV DIES FROM BOMB INJURIES. Aleksandr Safontsev, the first
deputy prime minister of Crimea, died in the hospital on 23 February, two
weeks after suffering severe injuries in an assassination bombing,
ITAR-TASS reported. A bomb exploded as his car drove by a garbage can in
Tavriya, near Simferopol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). One
person has been detained in connection with the remote-controlled bombing.
PB

TRIAL OF BELARUSIAN YOUTHS CONCLUDES. Closing arguments have been made in
the trial of two Belarusian teenagers charged with  hooliganism, RFE/RL's
Belarusian Service reported on 23 February . Prosecutor Dzmitri Tsimafeev
asked the judge to find the youths guilty. He is seeking a two-year prison
sentence for 19-year old Alexei Shydlowsky and a two-year suspended jail
term for 16-year-old Vadzim Labkovich. Both youths have served more than
six months in pre-trial detention on vandalism charges. They have
apologized and compensated authorities for the minor paint damage caused by
their actions. Defense attorney Nadzeja Dudarava said the case is political
and is based on her clients' membership in the youth wing of the Belarusian
Popular Front. PB

BANK OF ESTONIA ESTIMATES 9 PERCENT GDP GROWTH LAST YEAR. The Estonian
central bank has estimated GDP growth in 1997 at 9 percent, up from 4
percent the previous year, ETA reported on 23 February. In its 1997
financial policy report, the bank said the growth resulted mainly from
increased exports as well as larger demand in the domestic private sector.
The bank added that its new economic policies should curb domestic
consumption this year, meaning that GDP growth will be more modest. JC

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS FEWER POLITICAL PARTIES. Lennart Meri told
"Postimees" on 23 February that a small country like Estonia needs only
three or four political parties with distinct platforms instead  of the
existing 33, ETA reported. Meri urged like-minded parties to merge, noting
that in many cases parties may have similar programs but their leaders
cannot find common ground owing to personal differences. JC

ULMANIS APOLOGIZES FOR LATVIA'S ROLE IN HOLOCAUST. Latvian President Guntis
Ulmanis on 23 February unofficially apologized for his country's role in
the Nazi Holocaust. Ulmanis, who is on a three-day visit to Israel, said at
an official reception at  Israeli President Ezer Weizman's residence that
his nation is  aware of the role some of its citizens played in the
persecution of Latvian Jews. At the same time, he stressed that Latvians
also saved the lives of many Jews during the war, an RFE/RL correspondent
in Riga reported.  Israeli officials told Ulmanis that Latvia should
undertake a "serious investigation" of the whereabouts of Nazi war
criminals living in Latvia. But on 23 February, the Latvian
Prosecutor-General's Office said it has no information about people living
in Latvia who could be persecuted for the murder of Jews or other war
crimes, BNS reported. JC

POLISH PRESIDENT, POPE SIGN CONCORDAT. Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pope John
Paul II have signed a Concordat governing relations between Warsaw and the
Roman Catholic Church, Reuters reported on 23 February. The pope signed the
document at the Vatican, while Kwasniewski put his signature to it in
Warsaw, despite objections from his Socialist allies, who claimed the
accord gives the Catholic Church too much power in society. Kwasniewski
denies those charges and said "good and friendly" relations between Poland
and the Vatican "will be developing even better" under the Concordat. The
Solidarity-led government signed the Concordat just before it lost the 1993
elections to the Democratic Left Alliance, which then failed to ratify the
document. PB

INCREASED DRUG USE IN POLAND. The government said on 23 February that there
are between 30,000 and 40,000 drug addicts in Poland, AFP reported. The
Office for Drug Addiction said this is an increase over recent years,
during which the level of drug usage had remained relatively stable. An
official at the office said that an upsurge in usage of synthetic drugs and
amphetamines is the primary reason for the increase. PB

CZECH POLICE QUESTION FORMER ODA LEADER. Police on 23 February questioned
former Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) chairman Vladimir Dlouhy in
connection with the donations scandal, CTK reported, citing Nova Television
Dlouhy said he did not fear he would be prosecuted because the ODA paid the
necessary taxes on the donations. The same day, Jiri Skalicky, who recently
resigned as ODA chairman, met with President Vaclav Havel and presented him
with a three-page report on the ODA's finances. After the meeting, Havel
said the documents show that some of the suspicions were "ungrounded"  but,
he added, this does not mean that "everything was correct as regards ODA
financing." The president commented that the ODA is a party that has "a
special spirit" and "it would be a pity if it disappeared from political
life." MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER ON MECIAR. Opposition leader Milan Knazko, who is
a former foreign minister and a former ally of Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar, says the premier does not want Slovakia to become a member of NATO
or the EU because "in a normal democracy, his position would be
threatened." Knazko told the Czech daily "Lidove noviny" on 23 February
that he cannot provide "proof" that Meciar is "cooperating with the KGB"
but it is "clear that he prefers pursuing Russia's interests to those of
Slovakia." He added that he cannot judge Meciar's "mental health" but  has
often seen him suffering from depression and losing self-control at public
meetings. MS

HUNGARY, FRANCE SIGN MILITARY SECRECY PACT. Visiting French Defense
Minister Alain Richard and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, have
signed a military secrecy agreement that applies to both military hardware
and data, Hungarian media reported on 23 February. Richard told reporters
in Budapest that France counts on Hungary in strengthening NATO's European
wing to  counterbalance the  influence of the U.S. in the organization.
Meeting with  Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, Richard said the ratification
of Hungary's NATO accession will be "unproblematic" as far as France is
concerned. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN POLICE RETAKE CONTROL OVER SHKODER. Special riot police on 23
February retook control of the northern Albanian city of Shkoder, "Dita
Informacion" reported. Police overpowered a group of some 100 armed and
masked men who had taken control of the bridge over the Drin  River at the
entrance to the city and had mined the bridge with dynamite. Police
arrested 16 people, one of whom is a well-known local smuggler. Prime
Minister Fatos Nano replaced local police chief Mithat Havari on the
grounds that Havari failed to cope with the initial armed attack by the
gang the previous day. Nobody was injured in the unrest, according to
hospital spokesmen. FS

MUTUAL RECRIMINATIONS OVER SHKODER. Socialist Party Secretary Petro Koci
put the blame for the unrest on the Democratic Party, saying that Democrats
have become a "go-between linking [government] institutions and organized
crime, which [in reality] governs the prefecture of Shkoder." He added that
the unrest was preceded by a Democratic Party rally, which, he argued,
"clearly proves the direct connection" between that party's activities and
"public [criminal activities] that result in actions against the state,"
"Zeri i Popullit" reported.  Democratic leader Sali Berisha countered that
"the accusations...are proof of [the Socialists'] communist and Leninist
mentality." He accused the government of having provoked the unrest to
destabilize the city, according to "Rilindja Demokratike." FS

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SUSPENDS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Parliamentary
speaker Skender Gjinushi on 23 February said that all  Constitutional Court
decisions will be declared null and void until the court replaces three of
its nine members by drawing lots. Gjinushi added that under current
legislation law, the court should have replaced three judges in December
1997. but its nine members refused to do so. Meanwhile, the parliamentary
lustration commission gave evidence to the legislature that Constitutional
Court chief judge Rustem Gjata was a communist-era secret service agent.
The commission proposed that the parliament dismiss him from office,
"Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS

U.S. CALLS TUDJMAN SPEECH UNACCEPTABLE... U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard
has said in Belgrade  that it is unacceptable that Croatian President
Franjo Tudjman had questioned the territorial integrity of Bosnia in a
speech two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1998). "We are
profoundly angered by the speech given by President Tudjman. His historical
allusions are outrageous, dangerous, and ridiculous.... This violates the
Dayton peace accords.... Tudjman needs to watch his language," Gelbard
added. Tudjman regards the Bosnian Muslims as a political and cultural
threat to Europe and favors a partition of Bosnia between Serbs and Croats.
Foreign pressure led Tudjman into making a tactical alliance with the
Muslims against the Serbs in 1994 and into signing the Dayton peace
agreement for a united Bosnia nearly two years later. PM

...EASES SANCTIONS ON MILOSEVIC. Gelbard also said in Belgrade on 23
February that the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has
shown "good will" and "a significant positive influence" in helping bring
the moderate government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik to power in the
Republika Srpska. In return, Gelbard said that Washington will allow
Belgrade to open a consulate in New York and to increase the size of its
diplomatic staff accredited to the UN there. The Yugoslav airline JAT will
have landing rights in the U.S., and  Yugoslavia will be invited to join
the U.S.-sponsored  Southeastern European Cooperation Initiative. Gelbard
added, however, that the "outer wall" of sanctions against Belgrade will
remain until Yugoslavia makes more progress in promoting democracy,
resolving the Kosovo dispute, and sending indicted war criminals to The
Hague. The "outer wall" bars Yugoslavia from full membership in the UN, the
IMF, and the World Bank. PM

DODIK UPBEAT ON WORLD BANK LOANS. After returning from Washington, Dodik
said in Banja Luka on 23 February that he had "agreed with World Bank
representatives on a favorable $20 million loan to the Republika Srpska, to
be paid over the next 35 years and with a 10-year grace period.... The
realization of [this and other] financial assistance agreements will put
the Republika Srpska in a much better position." The loan  is aimed
primarily at helping small and medium-sized businesses. Dodik added that he
expects the World Bank to "grant another loan of $33 million" for the
Republika Srpska government budget" in March or April. PM

BRCKO HARBOR OPENED. Six ships that had been trapped in the Serbian port of
Smederevo since the Bosnian war broke out in 1992 arrived in the Serb-held
Sava River port of Brcko on 23 February. The previous week, transport
ministers from the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim
federation reached an agreement to open the port temporarily to allow the
ships to return. A permanent agreement to reopen the harbor has not been
concluded. The disputed town of Brcko is a key transportation hub
connecting Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia. PM

DRIVERS BLOCK BELGRADE STREETS. Taxi and truck drivers blocked roads in and
around the Serbian capital on 24 February to demand lower taxes and higher
fares. The previous day, several thousand pensioners demonstrated outside
the Serbian parliament to urge payment of back pensions and improved living
conditions. Pensioners in particular are affected by poverty across the
former Yugoslavia. PM

SERBIAN KINGPIN ARRESTED. Spokesmen for the Serbian Interior Ministry on 23
February confirmed  media reports that police have arrested Nenad
Djordjevic for embezzling $10 million from the Serbian Health Insurance
Service, which he headed until recently. Djordjevic is a key political ally
of Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, and a deputy chairman of her United
Yugoslav Left party. Djordjevic is widely regarded as one of the richest
men in Serbia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. PM

EU CALLS FOR DIALOGUE IN KOSOVO. EU foreign ministers issued a statement in
Brussels on 23 February appealing to "all parties concerned [with the
Kosovo issue] to exercise restraint and refrain from all acts of violence
to achieve political goals." The ministers said they will support any
settlement acceptable to the Serbs and Albanians. The statement added that
the most likely solution would be to establish broad autonomy for Kosovo
within Yugoslavia. PM

ROMANIAN BUDGET TO BE SUBMITTED IN MARCH. Emil Constantinescu on 23
February said an agreement has been reached to submit the draft budget to
the parliament "by end of March." That agreement was reached at a meeting
of ministers in charge of the economic sector and members of parliamentary
economic commissions, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. For the first
time, opposition members of the parliamentary commissions participated in
such a meeting. Earlier, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said that an IMF
decision not to disburse the third tranche of the approved stand-by loan
would not have any influence on the budget, because the country's monetary
reserves are very large. He added, however, that it would negatively impact
on Romania's image in the eyes of foreign investors. Mediafax said
Ciorbea's dismissal was "imminent" in view of the failure of the
negotiations with the IMF. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER WITHDRAWS PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDACY.... Dumitru Diacov, the
leader of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova
Bloc, told journalists in Chisinau on 23 February that Prime Minister Ion
Ciubuc has withdrawn his candidacy for  the 22 March parliamentary
elections. Ciubuc had planned to run as the number two candidate on the
bloc's lists. Last week, the parliament ruled that members of the executive
must suspend their government activities if they run for a seat in the
legislature. Diacov said it is "more important" that Ciubuc remain as head
of the cabinet. He said the premier will continue to be a member of the
pro-presidential party, which bears the same name as the bloc. An RFE/RL
correspondent in Chisinau said Ciubuc's withdrawal is thought to
considerably diminish the electoral chances of the bloc. Several ministers
belonging to various parties have  announced they have suspended their
government activities. MS

...WHILE LUCINSCHI ASKS ELECTORATE TO SUPPORT PREMIER'S PARTY. In his
weekly televised address to the nation,  President Petru Lucinschi on 22
February called on the electorate to support political parties willing to
cooperate with him, saying he would like Ciubuc to stay on as premier.
Lucinschi said he would not single out any party but added that the actions
of parties like the center-right Democratic Convention of Moldova
demonstrate that they are bent on not cooperating with him. He said if the
elections are won by parties that would "struggle against the president,"
this would lead to conflicts with Moldova's neighbors and inter-ethnic
strife in what he called a repetition of the "Transdniestrian blunder."
Lucinschi said he is "unhappy" with the constitution and with the electoral
system and will strive to have both changed after the elections in order to
better "promote cooperation between the branches of the government." MS

BULGARIA SEES NATO AS KEY. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told the
annual meeting of Germany's Suedosteuropa Gesellschaft in Munich on 21
February that achieving NATO membership is the main aim of Bulgarian
foreign policy. She stressed that there is no security in Europe without
security in the Balkans and that Balkan stability requires Bulgarian
participation in "security-generating structures." Mihailova noted that the
sound development of bilateral relations with each of Bulgaria's immediate
neighbors is possible only within a broader European, multilateral
framework. With reference to Russia, she said that Bulgaria's desire for
membership in NATO is not directed at any third country, but she stressed
that Sofia will not allow any third country a veto right over Bulgaria's
security policy. Mihailova added that Bulgaria's second priority is to
secure membership in the EU. PM


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