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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 43 , Part II, 4 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 43 , Part II, 4 March 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3, 1998) and all future issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO WEST * KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY VOWS REVENGE * KOSOVARS, SERBS BURY THEIR DEAD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO WEST. Leonid Kuchma said that despite a tightening of relations with Moscow, Ukraine will continue to work toward integration with Western institutions, Reuters reported on 3 March. "The direction of Ukraine is integration into the EU, and our close, multifaceted agreement with NATO...remains unchanged," he said. Kuchma said that development of relations with Moscow "is of primary importance for any country," particularly for Russia's neighbors. Kuchma was criticized by many in Kyiv for signing a 10-year economic program with Russia, which has been dubbed "Ukraine's surrender to the grip of the Russian bear." Kuchma said the deal will offer "millions of jobs for Ukrainians." PB RUSSIA TO HELP BUILD UKRAINIAN REACTORS. Ukrainian President Kuchma said on 3 March in Kyiv that Russia will help complete construction of two nuclear reactors that are necessary to compensate for the loss of energy after Chornobyl is closed. Kyiv had been seeking financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but the bank decided last week not to fund most Ukrainian proposals. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry confirmed that Kuchma and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin agreed on a protocol in Moscow last week to cooperate in building the two reactors, located at the Rivno and Khmelnitsky nuclear power plants. Ukraine has said it cannot afford to close Chornobyl until those reactors are completed. PB BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES CIS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 3 March said that the CIS has failed to fill the void left by the "catastrophic" disintegration of the Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka, speaking at a Minsk conference entitled "Six Years of the CIS," said the commonwealth was deliberately used to facilitate a "civilized divorce of the Soviet republics, that is to rupture their ties." Lukashenka predicted that the 19-20 March CIS summit will resemble the previous two such gatherings, in Moscow and Chisinau last year, which he termed "failures." PB LATVIAN GOVERNMENT FACTIONS TO REVIEW CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Cooperation Council has announced that the government factions will draw up proposed amendments to the citizenship law over the next week, BNS reported on 3 March. The council will consider those proposals later this month. Also on 3 March, the council rejected a bill drafted by the Democratic Party Saimnieks faction whereby children born to non-citizens since independence would automatically be granted citizenship. The Fatherland and Freedom party remains strongly opposed to such a measure. JC POLICE USE FORCE TO DISPERSE DEMONSTRATORS IN RIGA. More than 1,000 people blocked a street near the Riga city council building on 3 March to protest low living standards, BNS reported. When the demonstrators failed to comply with a request to clear the street, police used batons to beat the demonstrators, most of whom were elderly Russian-speakers. According to "Diena," no one was hurt. Riga police chief Aivars Valcis said later that the police dispersed the crowd because the demonstrators had not sought prior permission to hold the rally and because they were blocking the street. Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers declined to comment several hours after the incident, saying he was not familiar with all the details. JC LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT PULLS OUT OF DISPUTE WITH MOBIL. The Lithuanian government has announced it is "pulling out completely" from an ongoing dispute with the U.S. corporation Mobil, BNS reported on 3 March Mobil is suing the Lithuanian government for the alleged non-payment of oil deliveries to Lietuvos Energija. Government chancellor Kestutis Cilinskas told BNS that the government had not participated in concluding the relevant agreements and that therefore "we believe there are no grounds for inviting us to the litigation process." He said the litigation should continue between the companies involved in the deal. JC POLISH PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE COMMUNIST PARTY FUNDS. Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Hanna Suchocka has ordered an investigation into allegations that the Socialist Party diverted Communist Party funds totaling some $7.5 million. Last week, "Wprost" reported that leaders of the (formerly Communist) Social Democratic Party, including President Aleksander Kwasniewski, withdrew that sum just before all Communist assets were nationalized (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 1998). Suchocka said there is a "justified suspicion" that the law was broken. Former Communist Party leader Danuta Waniek said the investigation is "political." PB NUNS HAND OVER CONVENT AT AUSCHWITZ. Catholic nuns have officially handed over a former cloister near the Auschwitz concentration camp to the state. This may pave the way for the removal from the site of a wooden cross, which Jewish groups have long objected to. The Carmelite nuns have not used the convent since 1993, when they moved following protests by Jewish leaders over its proximity to the concentration camp. PB THREE MORE DEPUTIES LEAVE ODA. Karel Ledvinka, the chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) faction, resigned from the alliance on 3 March, together with two other ODA deputies, CTK reported. This makes a total of nine deputies who have now quit the party. The ODA is involved in a scandal over illegal donations made to the party in 1994-1995. Ledvinka said he has no intention of stepping down as deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies. MS FREEDOM UNION LEADER NOT TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT. Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml, on 3 March said he will not seek a seat in the parliament in the elections later this year because he wants to concentrate on leading the new party. Trade and Industry Minister Karel Kuhnl, who recently left the ODA, said he will seek election to the parliament on the ticket of the Freedom Union, while government spokesman Vladimir Mlynar said he has accepted an invitation from the union to run on its lists. A public opinion poll conducted by Sofres Factum shows that the union has 10.9 percent of popular support, while former Premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, from which the union recently split, has 9.2 percent. MS SLOVAK CABINET VOIDS KOVAC'S REFERENDUM DECREE... The government on 3 March canceled the referendum on NATO membership and direct presidential elections, recalled 28 of Slovakia's 59 ambassadors, and granted an amnesty to some prisoners. RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau said the cabinet, symbolically meeting in the presidential palace after Premier Vladimir Meciar had assumed some presidential powers, decided not to publish former Slovak President Michal Kovac's referendum decree in the government bulletin. That decision means the plebiscite has been voided. AFP cited a government statement saying that in July, the cabinet will propose a constitutional amendment providing for direct presidential elections. The statement said the presidential ballot will be held at the same time as the September parliamentary elections. MS ...PROMPTING OPPOSITION PROTESTS. The Democratic Union countered that Meciar "is successfully doing everything he can to ensure that Slovakia is definitely excluded from the community of democratic countries and becomes a country like Belarus, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, or [communist] Czechoslovakia." The Christian Democratic Movement said it will launch a petition drive to collect the 350,000 signatures necessary to hold a referendum on direct presidential elections, Reuters reported. MS KOVAC JR. RELEASED ON BAIL. A Munich court has released on bail Michal Kovac Jr., the son of the former Slovak president, AFP reported. The bail was set at 150,000 German marks ($83,000). Kovac Jr. was arrested in the Czech Republic on 4 February and extradited to Germany to face charges of involvement in swindling a Slovak textile company. MS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS VOTE ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF LAND. By a vote of 223 against 62 with 13 abstentions, the parliament has rejected an opposition initiative to stage a referendum on foreign ownership of farmland, Hungarian media reported on 2 March. Last September, opposition parties gathered more than 200,000 signatures supporting such a plebiscite. The parliament's Constitutional Committee ruled, however, that if the referendum were passed, Hungary would be under a legal obligation contrary to several international agreements it has signed. Ibolya David of the Hungarian Democratic Forum said her party will appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul the parliament's decision. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY VOWS REVENGE. The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement published in "Bujku" on 4 March that the UCK will seek "multiple vengeance for the innocent deaths" of up to 30 ethnic Albanians at the hands of Serbian police on 28 February and 1 March. The UCK said it has clashed with Serbian security forces in a dozen villages in the Drenica region over the past four days, noting that it captured "a large amount of military equipment, a dozen vehicles, and a [police] helicopter" in the process. The recent violence has led to a ground swell of support among Kosovars for the UCK, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM KOSOVARS, SERBS BURY THEIR DEAD. Some 40,000 people on 3 March attended the funerals of 24 ethnic Albanians killed in recent police violence. Serbian police barred foreign journalists from the funerals, which took place in Cirez and Likosane, and discouraged Kosovars from outside the area from attending. Speaking in Pristina, Kosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova condemned the police for those actions. Meanwhile in Belgrade, two policemen killed in the violence were buried with full military honors. PM GELBARD TELLS MILOSEVIC NOT TO USE FORCE. Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Washington on 3 March that Yugoslav "President [Slobodan] Milosevic is well aware that the United States will not tolerate violence, and violence will be met by the most dire consequences imaginable. That will be the end of his government without any question." Gelbard added that, in a telephone conversation, he "offered President Milosevic two choices: one choice is to rejoin the international community..., the other way however is the road to the end to his government." The envoy also urged ethnic Albanians to shun "those who are terrorists and advocate violence." Gelbard added that the Albanians must solve the Kosovo problem themselves through dialogue with the Serbs and not expect "any rescue from outside." PM ALBRIGHT WEIGHS KOSOVO MEETING. A spokesman for U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on 3 March that she has discussed the Kosovo situation with her Russian and British counterparts by telephone. The spokesman added that he does "not rule out" a meeting on Kosovo between her and other key foreign ministers later this week. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is slated to speak with Milosevic in Belgrade on 5 March. Cook's spokesman said in London that the minister will tell his host that the EU will not restore Yugoslavia's membership in the international community until the Kosovo problem is solved peacefully. PM EU WANTS RETURN OF KOSOVO AUTONOMY. EU Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek said in a statement in Brussels on 3 March that President Milosevic must "open a dialogue of peace with the Albanians of Kosovo... and restore its autonomy. If he does not act, he must not be surprised if others do so in his place." Van den Broek added that Milosevic faces "tough economic sanctions" if he resorts to violence in Kosovo. PM YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTER BLAMES FOREIGNERS. Federal Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic said in Belgrade on 3 March that "there would be no terrorism [in Kosovo] and the Kosovo problem would not be what it is today if the separatists did not enjoy the support of a certain section of the international community." Meanwhile in Pristina, the daily "Koha Ditore" wrote that "Gelbard shares responsibility" for the violence because he allegedly played into Serbian hands by recently accusing some Albanians of engaging in terrorism (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). PM MACEDONIA HEIGHTENS BORDER ALERT. Macedonian troops stationed on the borders with Yugoslavia and Albania raised their level of readiness on 1 March, BETA reported from Skopje on 3 March. In Ankara, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for a dialogue in Kosovo to guarantee "basic rights and freedoms" for all ethnic groups "within the framework of Yugoslavia's territorial integrity," the "Turkish Daily News" wrote. In Athens, a Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that Greece has put its good offices at the disposal of all parties to the Kosovo dispute and that Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will go to Belgrade on 6 March. PM NO SFOR FOR KOSOVO. A spokesman for the Bosnian peacekeepers said in Sarajevo on 3 March that SFOR will not intervene in Kosovo because its mandate strictly limits its activities to Bosnia and Croatia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. The "Washington Post" wrote the next day that the U.S. and its NATO allies have decided to keep SFOR's strength at about 31,000 troops throughout this year. PM DODIK WANTS IVANIC FOR BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Brussels on 3 March that he hopes that Mladen Ivanic will replace Momcilo Krajisnik as the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency after the 12-13 September general elections. Ivanic was Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's first nominee to become prime minister, but Krajisnik and other hard-liners vetoed his appointment. PM BETTER CHANCES FOR NON-NATIONALISTS? In Sarajevo on 3 March, the international community's Carlos Westendorp urged representatives of six opposition parties from both Bosnian entities to form a joint slate for the upcoming elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Westendorp also discussed the possibility of changing existing legislation in order to increase the electoral chances of multi-ethnic and non-nationalist parties. PM ALBANIAN PYRAMID TO BE INVESTIGATED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING. Officials at the Prosecutor-General's office said on 1 March that they will soon launch an investigation into the VEFA pyramid to determine whether the company was involved in money laundering, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. They noted that the final report on VEFA drawn up by the U.S. auditing firm Deloitte & Touche shows that the origins of a large amount of revenues are unknown (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). Meanwhile, the government's chief pyramid investigator Farudin Arapi has discussed that report with Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi. "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 3 March that Rakipi will probably soon start legal proceedings against the owners of all five pyramid schemes investigated by Deloitte & Touche on charges of misappropriating investors' money. FS ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO INCREASE BUDGET REVENUES. The cabinet on 3 March raised gasoline prices as part of the effort to keep the budget deficit at 3.6 percent of GDP. The price of gasoline was increased by 50 percent and diesel by 25 percent. Finance Minister Daniel Daianu said that despite those hikes, estimates of inflation this year at 45 percent may be "over ambitious." Also on 3 March, the State Property Fund said the Bucharest IMGB motor enterprise, one of Romania's largest, is to be sold to the Norwegian-British Kvaerner concern for $500,000. IMGB's $26 million debt is to be taken over by Kvaerner, which will also invest $80 million and refrain from layoffs. MS CONSTANTINESCU MEETS ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADERS. Emil Constantinescu on 3 March told Bela Marko, the leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), that the UDMR is behaving "responsibly" and that its contribution to the government coalition goes "far beyond that of an ethnic party." Marko said that for the time being, the UDMR will not insist that its demands be implemented immediately because "the most important thing on the agenda" now is to ensure the passage of the budget in the parliament. The previous day, the Chamber of Deputies decided to postpone debates on the education law. Meanwhile, Gheorghe Funar, the nationalist mayor of Cluj, has announced he is banning all commemorations on 15 March, when Romania's Hungarian community marks the 1848 revolution in Transylvania. MS KUCHMA TO TAKE PART IN TRANSDIESTER NEGOTIATIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 3 March that he will participate in negotiations on the Transdniester conflict in March. He said that he will meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, and the leader of the separatist region Igor Smirnov to discuss a settlement of the conflict. Kuchma specified neither the date nor the venue of the talks. In other news, Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc responded to Ivan Rybkin's appointment as Russian deputy premier in charge of relations with CIS states, by saying cooperation within the organization has been developing "irrespective of personnel changes in either Chisinau or Moscow," ITAR-TASS reported. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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