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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 39 , Part II, 26 February 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 39 , Part II, 26 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

* POLAND WANTS TO KEEP VISA-FREE REGIME WITH UKRAINE

* RUGOVA NOMINATED FOR KOSOVO PRESIDENCY

* PRISON MUTINY IN TIRANA

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISTRUSTS NATO OVER NUCLEAR WEAPON PLEDGE. Alyaksandr
Lukashenka said he does not believe NATO pledges that it will not deploy
nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe when it expands, Interfax reported on 24
February. Lukashenka, addressing the Novosibirsk branch of the Russian
Academy of Sciences, added that he "categorically opposed" the withdrawal
of "Russian strategic nuclear missiles from Europe, including Belarus." The
president said that Western states are setting up "intelligence centers" in
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in order to spy on Belarus and
Russia. Turning to domestic issues, Lukashenka said there will be neither
"mass privatization" in Belarus nor a redistribution of property to bankers
such as was the case in Russia, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. PB

FUNDS OF UKRAINIAN POLITICAL PARTIES TO BE MADE PUBLIC. The Ukrainian
Central Electoral Committee approved a resolution on 25 February that
authorizes two newspapers to publish the funds of political parties taking
part in the 29 March elections, the "Eastern Economist" reported. According
to the resolution, "Holos Ukrainy" and "Uriadoviy Kuryer" will list the
total campaign funds of all parties and electoral blocs by 27 February. PB

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT STANDS FIRM ON CLEMENCY LAW. Lawmakers have again
adopted without amendments the clemency law, which President Lennart Meri
has twice vetoed, ETA reported on 25 February. Meri argues that the law
violates the president's constitutional rights  since it provides for a
"clemency committee" to advise the head of state. The basic law, however,
contains no such provision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). The
parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Commissions rejected Meri's
argument, saying the legislation only specifies the procedure to be
adopted. Meri can now appeal to the Supreme Court. JC

LATVIA WON'T EXTEND RUSSIAN LEASE ON RADAR.  Latvian Foreign Minister
Valdis Birkavs told journalists in Riga on 25 February that he sees no
possibility of extending Russia's lease on the Skrunda early-warning
missile radar, which expires on 31 August, BNS and Interfax reported.
Birkavs also stressed that Riga has received no request from Russia to
extend that lease. Recently, Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Russian
strategic missile forces, urged the Russian Foreign Ministry to seek an
extension. The Skrunda radar is located 180 kilometers southwest of Riga. JC

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN DEBT EXCEEDS $1.4 BILLION. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry
sources told Interfax on 25 February that Lithuania's foreign debt exceeded
$1.4 billion as of the beginning of this year. The sources said that from
1991 to early 1998, Lithuania received foreign credits totaling $2.05
billion, of which the state received $1.4 billion and businesses $650
million guaranteed by the government. By the beginning of this year,
credits totaling $650.4 million had been repaid. The remaining $1.4 billion
debt is equivalent to 15.3 percent of GDP. JC

POLAND WANTS TO KEEP VISA-FREE REGIME WITH UKRAINE. Polish Foreign Minister
Bronislaw Geremek said Warsaw will tighten security on its eastern border
but wants to continue visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens, Reuters
reported on 25 February. Speaking after a meeting in London with British
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Geremek said that Kyiv is willing to take
back illegal immigrants who are refused passage into Poland. Both Russia
and Belarus have refused to take that step, which Poland requires before
allowing a visa-free regime with a neighboring country. Geremek also said
Poland will lose up to $3 billion in "gray zone" trade because of increased
restrictions on Belarusians and Russians traveling to Poland. But, he said,
it is a "worthy sacrifice" for integration into the EU. PB

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNS PARLIAMENTARY MANDATE. Michal Lobkowicz on
25 February officially gave up his mandate as a member of the Chamber of
Deputies, saying he wanted to devote more time to the Defense Ministry, CTK
reported. Lobkowicz was elected in 1996 on the list of the Civic Democratic
Party (ODS), which he left recently to join the breakaway Freedom Union. In
other news, CTK reported on 25 February that Czech arms exports grew by
more than 55 percent last year, reaching a total of  $182 million. The same
day, Nova Television reported that the Kamo company has exported military
equipment worth $459,000 to North Korea, although it does not have a
license for those exports, which consisted of materials decommissioned by
the Defense Ministry in 1992-1993. MS

ANOTHER CZECH MINISTER QUITS ODA. Karel Kuhnl, industry and trade minister
and deputy chairman of the troubled Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), on 25
February announced he is resigning from that party, CTK reported. In other
news, Martin Bursik, chairman of the Prague City Council Environment
Committee, has been appointed environment minister, replacing Jiri
Skalicky, who resigned last week. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ELECTORAL FRAUD. At his last press
conference as Slovak president, Michal Kovac on 25 February warned the
government against electoral fraud in the September general elections,
saying he will "lead the people on to the streets" if the ballot is
"manipulated." He said that while it is not possible "for the moment" to
make "any significant progress" toward EU and NATO membership,  it is
"possible to help remove doubts about our democratic development...by
organizing the election so there is no shadow of suspicion," Reuters
reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES DAM DISPUTE. Addressing a 25 February special
parliamentary session on the Nagymaros-Gabcikovo hydropower project,
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said that the cabinet will sign
only  a "non-binding framework agreement" with Slovakia, adding that a
final agreement will have to be approved by the parliament. Zoltan Pokorny,
chairman of the faction of Young Democrats (the opposition party that
initiated the debate) repeated his earlier criticism that building a second
dam on the Danube has not been ordered by the International Court of
Justice. Young Democrat Janos Ader urged the junior coalition party, the
Free Democrats, to use its veto right to put an end to the "Socialist
madness" in dealing with the issue. MSZ

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY FINED FOR MISHANDLING MISSILE TENDER. The
Supreme Court on 25 February fined the Defense Ministry's Procurement
Office 15 million forints ($72,000) for violating the principle of equal
opportunity and fair competition over a contract for anti-missile systems,
Hungarian media reported. The $100 million contract was awarded last year
to France's Matra company. Unsuccessful bidders had received a letter from
the Defense Ministry two months before the results were made public, saying
that negotiations will continue only with Matra. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

RUGOVA NOMINATED FOR KOSOVO PRESIDENCY. The Democratic League of Kosovo
(LDK), the leading Kosovar political organization, nominated shadow-state
President Ibrahim Rugova for re-election at the LDK's convention in
Pristina on 25 February. Rugova defended  his non-violent tactics and his
reliance on foreign support. His critics charged that he has not been
sufficiently tough. BETA  reported that Rugova emerged from the convention
with his position strengthened. Parliamentary and presidential elections
are slated for 22 March. Meanwhile in Tirana, state television reported
that the Yugoslav authorities refused permission to Albanian Prime Minister
Fatos Nano and a delegation from his Socialist Party to travel to Pristina
for the convention. PM

CONTACT GROUP CONCERNED ABOUT TUDJMAN, KOSOVO. Representatives of the six
Contact Group countries issued a statement in Moscow on 25 February
criticizing a recent speech by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman allegedly
questioning the territorial integrity of Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24
February 1998). The diplomats also expressed concern about the situation in
Kosovo, which, they said, requires a dialogue between Serbia and the
Kosovars. The statement condemned both repression by the Serbian police and
violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army. But it praised the new Bosnian Serb
leadership of President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik,
saying the Republika Srpska is on its way to "becoming a model of pluralist
democracy and democratic standards." PM

WESTENDORP GIVES TUDJMAN ULTIMATUM. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the
international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo
on 25 February that Westendorp has given Tudjman one week to sack the
ultranationalist mayor of the Herzegovinian town of Stolac or face the loss
of his own political credibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998).
The spokesman said this is Tudjman's "last chance" to prove that he
supports the Dayton agreement. PM

TUDJMAN'S PARTY DEFENDS HIM. The Croatian president's governing Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ) sharply rejected "improper statements by foreign
diplomats and opposition leaders"  in relation to Tudjman's speech. The
statement issued on 25 February in Zagreb added that Tudjman had simply
stated historical facts about Bosnia "that cannot be denied." The HDZ also
charged that Tudjman's critics are ignorant of Croatian affairs. PM

OSCE CRITICIZES CROATIA FOR SLAVONIAN EXODUS. Representatives of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in Zagreb on 25
February that the Croatian authorities must take action to stem the
departure of at least 20-30 Serbs daily from eastern Slavonia. An OSCE
spokesman said that the "situation for the great majority of people in the
region is very bad and often desperate" following a series of incidents in
which Croatian nationalists or returning refugees sought to intimidate
Serbs. Croatian media suggested that the Serbs are leaving in response to
rumors that Norway has recently liberalized its asylum rules. UN refugee
officials said that Norwegian officials have decided for now not to grant
asylum to any of the 800 Slavonian Serbs who have applied for it.  PM

SLOVENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER QUITS. Defense Minister Tit Turnsek handed in
his resignation to Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek on 25 February. The move
follows a scandal that arose when Croatian authorities last month
confiscated a Slovenian van filled with $1 million worth of sophisticated
spying equipment near Varazdin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998).
The Croats released the Slovenian intelligence agents but kept their code
books and the van, which is now deployed on the Serbian border, the
"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 26 February. The two agents were
suspended following media reports that one of them sold the van to Croatian
authorities. PM

MONTENEGRO TO LAUNCH NEWS AGENCY. Information Secretary Bozidar Jaredic
said in Podgorica on 25 February that the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug
serves only the interests of President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party
of Serbia and not those of Yugoslavia or Montenegro. Jaredic said
Montenegro will soon set up its own state news agency, possibly in
conjunction with the existing independent Montena-faks news service, "Nasa
Borba" reported. PM

PRISON MUTINY IN TIRANA. Hundreds of inmates at a Tirana prison started a
revolt and took three guards hostage on 25 February, "Koha Jone" reported.
The prisoners surrendered as police were about to storm the jail. Earlier
that day, Tirana police were put on high alert after receiving telephone
threats of possible attacks on police stations by armed civilians.
Meanwhile in Shkoder, an unnamed prosecutor investigating the recent unrest
told "Koha Jone" that "some of those arrested [after police retook control
over the city on 23 February] were on a list of people who had received
arms from the Democratic Party" during the unrest early last year. He added
that others under arrest include well-known wanted criminals. FS

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES 'SHOOT TO KILL' ORDER. The parliament on 25
February passed legislation allowing police to "shoot to kill" armed
attackers. That legislation is part of a code of police conduct that has
been in preparation for three months and  provides a legal basis for "shoot
to kill" orders given to police in December. The law was rushed through the
parliament in response to the unrest in Shkoder on 22-23 February. The code
also stipulates that policemen must act impartially and remain politically
neutral. Also on 25 February,  police in Tirana detained about 80
supporters of the Democratic Party for several hours "for disturbing public
order." The detainees had attended a rally that attracted some 2,500 people
and at which former President Sali Berisha called for "mass protests"
throughout the country and for new elections. FS

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT LIFTS HAJDARI'S IMMUNITY. Lawmakers on 25 February
voted by 93 to six to  lift the immunity of Democratic Party deputy  Azem
Hajdari, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. Hajdari was involved in armed
clashes with police at a roadblock in northern Albania earlier this month
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Also on 25 February, 30
investors in the VEFA pyramid company launched a hunger strike in the
Tirana VEFA building. They are demanding that state-appointed auditors be
withdrawn and that the government allow VEFA owner Vehbi Alimucaj to
continue his operations in order to repay his debts, "Koha Jone" reported.
FS

LACK OF CLARITY OVER ROMANIAN MINISTER'S RESIGNATION... Privatization
Minister Valentin Ionescu on 25 February said he has "irrevocably" resigned
because the decision-making process in the economic sector has been
paralyzed by the ongoing government crisis. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea
later revealed that Ionescu decided to quit because of conflicts with State
Property Fund chief Sorin Dimitriu. Following a meeting between Ionescu,
Dimitriu, and  the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD)
leadership,  PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said Ionescu had agreed not to
resign pending "an examination of his views." But Ionescu told an RFE/RL
correspondent after the meeting that he has "no intention whatsoever" to
withdraw his resignation. MS

...AND OVER DEMOCRATS' RELATIONS WITH GOVERNMENT. Democratic Party leader
Petre Roman  told journalists after his 25 February meeting with chief IMF
negotiator Poul Thompsen that the Democrats are not prepared to support an
austerity budget for 1998 unless it is submitted to the parliament by
"another government," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Earlier that day,
leaders of the Democrats and  the Social Democratic Party of Romania, which
are partners within the Social Democratic Union (USD), agreed that the
budget must be presented to the parliament by "another team" and said they
will strive to enlarge the USD to include the opposition Alliance for
Romania. But the PNTCD leadership later decided to "fully back" Ciorbea as
prime minister. Diaconescu said he has the Democrats' promise to back the
budget but added he will also contact "other parties" to try to enlist
their support. MS

ROMANIAN LABOR UNREST SPREADS. More than 100,000 members of two teachers
unions staged a two-hour "warning strike" on 25 February to demand that
their wages be doubled, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They said a
general strike will be launched on 15 March if the demands are not met by
then. Paramedics have been on general strike for the past 15 days.
Meanwhile, a report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development released on 25 February says GDP in Romania dropped  6.5
percentage points in 1997. It also said that unemployment, which currently
stands at 7 percent, is expected to rise. MS

TRANSDNIESTER WAIVES 'ENTRY TAX' FOR MOLDOVAN CITIZENS. Transdniester
Deputy Interior Minister Leonid Manakov told journalists on 25 February
that Moldovan citizens, as well as citizens of other CIS member states,
will be exempt from a recently imposed $10 "entry tax."  The tax will
remain in force for citizens of other countries. It is unclear whether the
requirement that foreign nationals register with the police within three
hours of crossing the border will continue to apply to Moldovan citizens
who do not reside in the breakaway region or to CIS nationals, BASA-press
reported on 25 February. MS

BULGARIA URGES REGIONAL INITIATIVE ON KOSOVO. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Radko Vlaikov on 25 February said Bulgaria is "seriously worried about the
worsening of the situation in Kosovo" and about the danger that the
conflict there "could spread to other parts of southeast Europe," Reuters
reported. Vlaikov said Bulgaria will appeal to Greece, Turkey, and Romania
to make a joint declaration on the conflict. A draft declaration proposed
by Sofia calls for "dialogue" between Serbia and ethnic Albanians and urges
all sides to avoid violence. It also says that a solution "must be sought
within the framework of respecting existing borders." Vlaikov denied that
Greece has rebuked Sofia's initiative, saying that Foreign Minister
Theodoros Pangalos offered "his support in principle." Athens the previous
day said any international initiative on the Kosovo conflict should involve
the EU. MS


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