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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45 , Part II, 6 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45 , Part II, 6 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

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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
caucasus-report-request@list.rferl.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/

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Headlines, Part II

* THOUSANDS RALLY IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST GOVERNMENT

* KOSOVARS FLEE "MASSACRES"

* ALBANIA READY TO MOBILIZE

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RUSSIA, LATVIA SPAR OVER RIGA POLICE ACTION. Russian presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 5 March said Boris Yeltsin agrees with Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov's assessment that Latvian police violated the
human rights of Russian-speaking pensioners when they broke up a recent
demonstration in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 1998).
Yastrzhembskii ruled out even preliminary talks on organizing a meeting
between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Russian news agencies
reported. Also on 5 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the
international community to take action against Latvia. Meanwhile, the
Latvian Foreign Ministry called on Russian officials to stop making
"biased" comments about the unsanctioned demonstration, and Latvian Prime
Minister Guntars Krasts said Russia may have helped stage the pensioners'
rally, BNS reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March
condemned Krasts's remarks, saying "there can be no justification" for
violating human rights. LB

BELARUS ALSO CONDEMNS RIGA EVENTS. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan
Antonovich said on 5 March that it shares Moscow's view that the use of
force against a demonstration of ethnic Russian pensioners earlier this
week was "unacceptable," ITAR-TASS reported. Antonovich recommended that
the issue  be resolved by the governments of Latvia and other Baltic States
within the framework of recommendations made by the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russian presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii said that "one can imagine the European Union's reaction if
this happened in Minsk." PB

DUMA OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Russian State Duma
Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva on 5 March criticized the behavior of
Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov and suggested that he
be replaced, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. During 3 March hearings on
ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, Tikhonov handed a
Ukrainian parliamentary delegation a proposal on holding a referendum to
reunite the two countries. When a Ukrainian deputy denounced that proposal
as a "provocation," Tikhonov tried to force him to leave the Duma chamber.
Tikhonov predicted on 5 March that no more than 50-60 Duma deputies are
likely to support ratification of the treaty (226 votes are needed for a
majority). Supervision within the Duma of  CIS issues was recently
transferred from Sergei Baburin--like Tikhonov, a member of the Popular
Power faction--to Goryacheva, a Communist who supports the treaty with
Ukraine. LB

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

ALBRIGHT ARRIVES IN KYIV. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
arrived in Kyiv on 6 March for key talks on economic and international
nuclear issues, AFP reported. Albright said Ukraine needs to rapidly adopt
economic reforms, saying that "many elements are already in place." She
also stressed Ukraine's key role in Europe based on "its size and
geographical location." Albright is to discuss a deal to supply Iran with
turbines for a nuclear power plant as well as Kyiv's efforts to resolve
complaints from U.S. businesses operating in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 March 1998). She will meet with President Leonid Kuchma and
Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko during her half-day trip. Kuchma said on
4 March that economic issues are central to relations with the U.S. and
that more foreign investment is needed. PB

DEAL WITH AUTOMAKER MEANS JOBS FOR UKRAINIANS. Oleksandr Sotnikov, the
director of the AvtoZAZ car firm, said on 5 March that a deal recently
signed with South Korean automaker Daewoo will bring 150,000 new jobs to
Ukraine, the "Eastern Economist" reported. Sotnikov said under an agreement
signed on 2 March, some $1.3 billion will be invested over the next 10
years in AvtoZAZ, which is a joint venture between Daewoo and the
Zaporizhzhia auto plant. In a move to give a boost the domestic car market,
the Ukrainian government recently passed a resolution increasing the costs
of importing cars. The EU criticized that decision. PB

LUKASHENKA CRITICIZES OSCE MISSION IN MINSK... Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 5 March that the opening of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Minsk is "absurd,"
Reuters reported. Lukashenka said he "resisted" for a long time allowing
the mission to be set up, saying "we do not need such groups." He also
expressed satisfaction with the recent sentencing of two youths accused of
vandalism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998), advising the youth
sentenced to 18 months of hard labor to "get on your knees in prison and
write the president a letter requesting mercy." PB

...SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO COLLECTIVE FARMS. Proclaiming that "the future
belongs to large collective farms," President Lukashenka said on 5 March
that private ownership of land in Belarus is impossible because the people
are  against it, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Lukashenka made his
comments at an agrarian conference in Hrodno. He said the goal for farmers
should be to reach Soviet-era levels of production, which, he said, would
happen by the time his term as president expires in 2001. PB

LILEIKIS TRIAL POSTPONED. At a short pre-trial hearing on 5 March, a
Lithuanian judge postponed until May the trial of 90-year-old Aleksandras
Lileikis, who is suspected of involvement in genocide against Jews during
World War Two, Reuters and BNS reported. The judge granted a defense
request to locate and interview a Jewish woman living in the U.S. whom
Lileikis allegedly helped during the war and a U.S. citizen of Lithuanian
origin who reportedly knew Lileikis when the latter was chief of the
Vilnius security police. The Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center
expressed "shock and outrage" at the court's decision. "Given the advanced
age of the defendant..., any lengthy delay in the proceedings significantly
increases the chances of Lileikis escaping justice," the center argued. JC

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENT ADDRESS SEJM. Bronislaw Geremek said on
5 March during his annual address to the parliament that Warsaw seeks good
relations with Russia and Ukraine and wants to help Belarus out of its
"self-isolation," an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported. Speaking
after Geremek, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that all parties in
Poland supported the country's two major foreign-policy goals: entry into
NATO and the European Union. Geremek said that although he has noticed
"some realism" in Russian foreign policy, he said it is "poor" with regard
to Moscow's "approach to Eastern Europe." Geremek said he also wanted to
intensify cooperation between Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. PB

SOLANA ON CZECH REPUBLIC'S NATO ACCESSION. NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana on 5 March told members of the foreign and defense committees of the
Czech Senate and Chamber of Deputies that they must "lead the process" of
the Czech Republic's integration into NATO, CTK reported. Solana said
membership in NATO is "too valuable a goal for anyone to risk not achieving
it." Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman, who met with Solana, said
later that they did not discuss holding a referendum on NATO accession
during their meeting. Zeman, who favors such a plebiscite, said he
continues to believe that the means of accession must be decided by the
next parliament, and not by the outgoing legislature. MS

CZECH-SLOVAK RELATIONS 'UNDER EXAMINATION.' Foreign Minister Jaroslav
Sedivy, after meeting with President Vaclav Havel on 5 March, told
journalists that his ministry is preparing an "in-depth analysis" of
relations with Slovakia. He said the Czech Republic may  have to "draw
consequences" from "the latest developments" in Bratislava, CTK reported.
Also on 5 March, Socialist Party chairman Milos Zeman, who is considered
most likely to head the next government after early elections, told
journalists he does not rule out a "modification" in Czech-Slovak relations
if Slovakia is not admitted to the EU.  Zeman said he would  nonetheless
like relations between the two countries to be "above standard," because
"governments come and go but countries remain." MS

THOUSANDS RALLY IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST GOVERNMENT. Thousands of people
rallied in the Slovak capital on 5 March to protest the government's
decision to annul last year's referendum on electing the president by
direct vote and to amnesty those involved in  thwarting that plebiscite as
well as those who took part in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. The rally
was organized by the opposition. Also on 5 March, the U.S. sharply
criticized the Slovak government's decision. A spokesman for the State
Department said the actions are "not consistent with the behavior of a
government that respects the rule of law,"  AFP reported. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT. Lawmakers on 5 March
again failed to elect a president, AFP reported. Writer Ladislav Ballek,
the candidate of the Democratic Left, received 49 votes, while rail worker
Milan Fogas, the candidate of the far left United Worker's Party, was
backed by only five deputies. A three-fifths majority in the 150-member
parliament is needed to elect a president. A fourth round of elections has
been scheduled for 19 March. MS

SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY DISAGREE OVER DAM DISPUTE DEADLINE. Slovak Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar said on national television on 4  March that Bratislava
will turn to the International Court of Justice if the Hungarian government
does not approve by 25 March the draft framework agreement on the Danube
hydropower plant. The next day,  the Hungarian government announced it will
sign the agreement only after studies of the possible effects of the
project are completed, sometime before the end of the year. Hungarian
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said it is unlikely that Slovakia will turn
to the court again or that the court will agree to re-examine the dispute,
given that Hungary remains ready to negotiate. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KOSOVARS FLEE "MASSACRES"... Hundreds of ethnic Albanians, primarily women
and children, fled the Drenica area west of Pristina on 5 and 6 March in
the wake of a massive Serbian assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March
1998). Serbian special police units on 5 March attacked Prekaz and several
other villages in which the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has
many supporters. Police barred journalists, Red Cross representatives, and
others from entering the region. The Serbs used heavy artillery, helicopter
gunships, and armored vehicles in what Kosovar spokesmen in Pristina called
"massacres" that led to 50 deaths. Several hundred Albanian women held a
protest march in front of the U.S. cultural center in Pristina. On 6 March,
Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova charged Serbian authorities
with carrying out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing." PM

...WHILE SERBIA CONTINUES TO "CLEANSE TERRORISTS." A Serbian Interior
Ministry spokesman told BETA on 6 March that the police "are continuing the
action to cleanse the region of Albanian terrorists." Police closed off the
road linking Kosovska Mitrovica and Srbica, where the UCK has widespread
support. The previous day, the ministry said in a statement that the armed
action resulted in the death of 20 "terrorists" and two policemen. The
authorities also said that police captured a "known leader" of the UCK and
found an arms cache and underground hospital facilities. There has been no
independent confirmation of the claims made by either side. PM

ALBANIA READY TO MOBILIZE. An Albanian Defense Ministry spokesman said in
Tirana on 6 March that the army is "on high alert in the northern area of
the country because of the recent tense situation in Kosovo and an increase
in Serbian troops along the Albanian border." The previous day, Defense
Minister Perikli Teta told the parliament that "the army has taken all
measures called for in a conflict situation [and that] it is ready to
mobilize the reservists if the situation demands."  He added that the army
will "prepare its contingency plans and take measures in order to be ready
should acts of violence or ethnic cleansing take a turn for the worse." At
the same emergency session of the legislature, Interior Minister Neritan
Ceka said that the "police and the army have taken measures to deal with
any extension of the conflict." PM

BERISHA ASKS CLINTON TO "DRAW LINE." Former President Sali Berisha and
legislators from his Democratic Party ended their six-month boycott of the
parliament on 5 March in what Berisha called a display of national unity in
the face of the Kosovo crisis. "It is a sign to show that the Albanians
must act like a single nation," Berisha added. The former president said he
would like U.S. President Bill Clinton to tell Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic that Washington will not tolerate violence in Kosovo. Such a
clear statement "would be crucial to save the stability of this region.
Otherwise a very large and terrible conflict could come in the southern
Balkans." Berisha added that the Kosovars "will defend themselves if they
are left with no other options.... They asked for a peaceful solution and
they have now got massacres. This is a very dramatic situation." PM

ALBANIA URGES WEST TO "LEARN FROM BOSNIA." Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal
Milo said in Paris on 5 March that diplomatic possibilities for ending the
Kosovo crisis have not been exhausted and pleaded for the U.S. and EU to
"intervene urgently." Milo stressed that the West should act decisively in
exerting diplomatic pressure on Belgrade and not equivocate as it did in
Bosnia during the first years of that conflict. PM

PENTAGON SAYS NO PLANS FOR BALKAN FORCE. A State Department spokesman said
in Washington on 5 March that the U.S. has withdrawn a package of
concessions it recently made to Milosevic as a reward for his support for
moderate Serbian leaders in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February
1998). The official added that "the repression that is taking place [in
Kosovo] is totally unacceptable to the international community and will
have the most severe consequences." A Pentagon spokesman said, however,
that the U.S. is "concentrating on diplomacy" and has no concrete plans to
increase its 250-strong armed contingent in Macedonia. Those troops are
part of a UN force that seeks to prevent armed conflict from spreading to
the southern Balkans. PM

COOK LEAVES BELGRADE EMPTY-HANDED. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
said in Belgrade on 5 March that he failed to persuade Milosevic to restore
Kosovo's autonomy. Also in the Yugoslav capital, Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic commented that Serbia "alone is competent" to deal with the
problem. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov
spoke of the need "to fully rule out any extremist manifestations and
threats.... A civilized dialogue must be conducted [and] the problems of
the Albanian population must be resolved in the framework of the
territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. PM

MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR DIALOGUE. The government in Podgorica said in a
statement on 5 March that "it is necessary to establish a dialogue urgently
to solve the Kosovo problem. Terrorism and use of force by the state do not
lead toward a solution but can only intensify the situation with the risks
of unforeseeable consequences and the inevitable internationalization [of
the crisis]." The Montenegrin authorities appealed to their Serbian
counterparts to pay attention to "serious warnings by the international
community and risks of new sanctions" and come up with a "responsible
approach" to the problem. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic recently
called on Milosevic to restore Kosovo's autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25
February 1998). PM

WESTENDORP FIRES HERZEGOVINIAN MAYOR. Carlos Westendorp, the international
community's chief representative in Bosnia, sacked Pero Raguz, the
hard-line Croatian mayor of Stolac, on 5 March. A spokesman for Westendorp
said that Raguz refused to let Muslim refugees go home despite repeated
warnings from Westendorp to let them do so. PM

ALBANIAN PYRAMID BOSS UNDER HOUSE ARREST. Vehbi Alimucaj, president of VEFA
Holding, was put under house arrest on 6 March. The move came after a
state-sponsored foreign auditing company filed a law suit against him for
allegedly obstructing the auditors' work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March
1998). PM

ROMANIAN COALITION PARTIES DIG IN HEELS. The Democratic Party's National
Council on 5 March released a statement saying the  present crisis can be
solved "within 10 days" by "forming a new government, working out a
different government program, and the new cabinet's assuming responsibility
for the 1998 budget."  National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus
said the budget must be submitted to the parliament by Victor Ciorbea's
cabinet, after which a "change [of premier] is possible." National Peasant
Party Christian Democratic leader Ion Diaconescu said his party has "no
grounds" to change Ciorbea as premier. He added that it cannot be ruled out
that President Emil Constantinescu will again ask Ciorbea to form a
government if the legislature dismisses the cabinet by not approving its
budget proposal, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN COURT RULES ON CONFLICT WITHIN NATIONALIST PARTY. The Bucharest
Municipal Tribunal on 5 March ruled that "all actions" taken since last
November by Gheorghe Funar, the former chairman of the Party of Romanian
National Unity (PUNR), were "illegal." The tribunal said the decisions to
hold  a rival National Convention of the PUNR in Cluj on 22 November 1997
and a rival PUNR Extraordinary National Convention one week later had
violated both the PUNR statutes and legislation on political parties. The
29 November meeting had invalidated the decision of the PUNR earlier that
month to expel Funar. Also on 5 March, the "Funar wing" in the PUNR and the
extremist Greater Romania Party called  for a general strike to protest the
"treacherous" cabinet headed by Ciorbea. MS

UNEMPLOYMENT IN ROMANIA NEARS 1 MILLION. More than 970,000 people, or 9.7
percent of the work force, are currently unemployed, the Labor and Social
Protection Ministry announced on 5 March.  MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON ELECTORAL LAW. Petru
Lucinschi on 5 March asked the Constitutional Court to invalidate the
provision in the electoral law establishing a 4 percent threshold for both
political parties and independent candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
February 1998). He said the law discriminates against independent
candidates and therefore violates the Moldovan Constitution  as well as
international legislation on human rights. A spokesman for the court told
BASA-press that the Constitutional Court will debate the presidential
appeal early this month. Elections are scheduled for 22 March. MS

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