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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48 , Part II, 11 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48 , Part II, 11 March 1998 ALL BROADCASTS FOR SIX SERVICES LIVE ONLINE All programs of RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian and Ukrainian Services are online live in RealAudio. The Russian Service broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To tune in, go to: http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/ 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 email@example.com 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 * LUKASHENKA WANTS MILITARY COOPERATION WITH SYRIA, IRAN * KOSOVARS REJECT TALKS, AUTONOMY * U.S. DENIES GIVING GREEN LIGHT FOR REPRESSION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA WANTS MILITARY COOPERATION WITH SYRIA, IRAN. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has made an offer to "modernize and service" Syrian weaponry, Reuters reported. Speaking in Damascus on 10 March, Lukashenka said Belarus has experience servicing Soviet-made hardware and is ready to utilize "those capabilities in Syria." The Syrian Defense Ministry reported that Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas met with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Chumakov on 9 March to discuss military cooperation. In the 10 March issue of the official daily "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," Lukashenka is quoted as saying during his 6-8 March visit to Tehran that "military cooperation with Iran will be carried out without danger to the world or security in the region." The newspaper also said an agreement was signed in Tehran whereby Belarus will repair Iran's Soviet-built aircraft and tanks. Belarus recently denied a U.S. newspaper report that it will sign a military cooperation deal with Tehran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 1998). PB UKRAINIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP TO BE DISCUSSED. Boris Tarasyuk, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Benelux countries and head of the Ukrainian mission at NATO, said on 10 March that Kyiv's membership in the alliance will be discussed in the future, ITAR-TASS and the "Eastern Economist" reported. Tarasyuk said Kyiv cannot currently raise the question of joining NATO since certain "conditions for this have not been created." But he did not exclude the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO "when the time is ripe," since, he said, NATO is the key institution of European security. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said during a recent visit to Moscow that Kyiv has no intention of joining the alliance but will "closely cooperate" with it. PB CRIMEAN TATARS DEMAND SUFFRAGE FOR NON-CITIZENS. Some 3,000 Tatars demonstrated in the Crimean capital of Simferopol on 10 March for the right of non-citizens to vote in the upcoming elections, ITAR-TASS reported. The protesters asked the Ukrainian parliament to pass a law allowing Crimean Tatars without Ukrainian citizenship to take part in the 29 March elections, in which the Crimean parliament will also be elected. Since the late 1980s, some 250,000 Tatars have returned to Crimea from Central Asia, to where they were exiled under Stalin. An estimated one-third of those Tatars do not have Ukrainian citizenship. PB LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES PREMIER. Lawmakers on 10 March voted by 92 to 19 with nine abstentions to keep Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius in office, BNS and Reuters reported. The vote was largely a formality following the election of President Valdas Adamkus. Under the Lithuanian Constitution, a newly elected president has the right to ask the legislature whether it has confidence in the head of government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 1998). Vagnorius told reporters after the vote that his government's main aim is to begin "individual" talks on entry to the EU. Adamkus stressed that, apart from joining the EU, the government's main task is to launch administrative reform. JC CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DROP DEMAND ON NATO REFERENDUM. The parliamentary faction of the Social Democrats (CSSD) in the Chamber of Deputies has dropped its demand that NATO accession be approved in a referendum, CTK reported on 10 March . Faction Chairman Stanislav Gross commented that the CSSD has "never maintained a referendum is a condition for NATO accession." He added that although the CSSD considers it is "unnecessary" to hold a special parliamentary session to ratify the accession treaty on 14 April, it will not block the initiative proposed by the Civic Democratic Party and will support NATO accession, CTK reported. Gross said the faction vote on the issue was "almost unanimous." MS SLOVAKIA PROTESTS HAVEL'S STATEMENTS... The Slovak Foreign Ministry on 10 March officially protested Czech President Vaclav Havel's recent comments on Slovak political developments, saying they amounted to "unacceptable interference in Slovak domestic affairs" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998).The "sharp protest" was conveyed to the Czech charge d'affaires in Bratislava, CTK reported. The Slovak statement said Havel's comments were all the more unacceptable as he used a visit to a third country to assess the situation in Slovakia. Also on 10 March, Bronislaw Geremek, Polish foreign minister and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told Havel that the Slovak government has agreed to the presence of OSCE monitors for the September parliamentary elections. MS ...WHILE HAVEL CONTINUES CRITICISM. Meanwhile, Czech President Havel continued his call for support of democracy in Slovakia, despite protests from Bratislava, Reuters reported on 10 March. Havel said during a lecture at Warsaw University that there is "a great potential of longing and will for democracy" in Slovak society. He also said it was "our common duty towards our friends" to support "mechanisms directed against the authoritarian inclinations of one or another politician" in Slovakia. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski seconded those remarks, saying what happens in Slovakia is "far from the procedure that characterizes a country governed by the rule of the law." PB EU CONCERNED ABOUT SLOVAK DEVELOPMENTS. The European Union on 10 March expressed concern at Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar's decision to halt criminal investigations into the abduction of Michal Kovac Jr. and at the manipulation of the 1997 referendum on NATO accession and the election of the president by direct vote. In a statement issued by the EU presidency, which the U.K. currently holds, the union said Meciar's use of the presidential powers he took over following the departure of Michal Kovac from that office "brings into question his commitment to commonly accepted principles of good governance and the rule of law," AFP reported. The statement warned that those measures "do not make a positive contribution to Slovakia's efforts to prepare for EU membership." MS REGIONAL AFFAIRS LATVIA OFFICIALLY PROTESTS RUSSIAN RESPONSE TO PENSIONERS' RALLY... The Latvian Foreign Ministry on 10 March officially protested to Russia over Moscow's sharp criticism of the way Riga handled the 3 March rally staged by mainly ethnic Russian pensioners. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrejs Pildegovic said a note that included a full description of the incident had been handed to the Russian ambassador. He commented that some remarks made by Russian officials over the incident "went beyond diplomatic and even ethical norms." He also said Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs has suggested an official visit to Moscow to clarify Latvia's position and "directly inform" the Russian government and the State Duma on the incident. Also on 10 March, Birkavs's Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, said in Riga that "everything we have seen from the so-called incident is that Latvia behaved entirely properly and that the accusations made are groundless," Reuters reported. JC ...DENOUNCES DESECRATION OF SOVIET SOLDIERS' TOMB. The Latvian Foreign Ministry also expressed regret over the desecration of a tomb of Soviet soldiers in Liepaja, Latvia, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported. The statement came one day after the Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed outrage over the incident, claiming that vandalism is a logical extension of "nationalism, Russophobia, and trampling on human rights" in Latvia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998). Riga appealed to Russian senior officials to refrain from "hasty and non-objective comments." It also expressed confidence that the Latvian authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and punish those responsible. JC SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MILOSEVIC OFFERS MORE OF THE SAME. The Serbian government said in a statement issued to Tanjug on 10 March that the authorities are willing to "hold an open dialogue about solving all concrete problems" with "responsible representatives" of the Kosovars, meaning those who renounce violence. Serbian Television noted that talks must proceed on the "basis of the Serbian Constitution," which stipulates that Serbia is an integral state. The "new" offer thus appears to be no different from Belgrade's long-standing position, which is that the Serbian authorities are willing to hold talks with Kosovars provided the latter renounce violence and agree to the constitution. All Kosovar political parties support independence and accept autonomy as, at best, a first step toward independence. In the wake of the recent Serbian assaults on Kosovar villages, many Kosovar spokesmen have become increasingly reluctant to denounce the violent tactics of the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). PM KOSOVARS REJECT TALKS, AUTONOMY. Fehmi Agani, a leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, the main Kosovar political party, told Belgrade's independent Radio B-92 on 11 March that Milosevic's offer is "not serious." He added that the Belgrade authorities are "arrogant" because they coupled their offer of talks with a statement that praised the recent police action in Kosovo that has led to at least 74 deaths. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, for his part, said in Pristina that "the only acceptable solution for us is an independent Kosovo, not some kind of autonomy." Also in Pristina, the UCK issued a statement promising to continue the armed struggle for Kosovo independence. PM MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR UNCONDITIONAL DIALOGUE. President Milo Djukanovic said in a statement in Podgorica on 10 March that "the bloodshed in Kosovo must end immediately, the fighting must give way to political discourse.... The use of police to resolve the problem must be replaced by a top-level dialogue between the president of Serbia and the Albanian leadership in Kosovo, immediately and without pre-conditions.... A start must be made without delay on resolving the problem of Kosovo, which has been neglected and naively underestimated for too long." Djukanovic added that Kosovo is an international problem and that it is "demagogic" for Belgrade to maintain that Kosovo is purely Serbia's internal affair. PM IS ARKAN AT WORK IN KOSOVO? Serbian police buried 51 Albanians in Donji Prekaz on 10 March. Relatives refused to claim the bodies and insisted that independent experts first perform autopsies, which police refused to allow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998). Albanian spokesmen charged that police wanted literally to bury the evidence of "a massacre" of Albanian civilians, including a five-year-old boy and elderly women. Survivors of the recent police action said some of the dead were shot after they surrendered to police and that others were killed without having had an opportunity to surrender. Serbian police maintain that the dead were "terrorists" who died in combat with Interior Ministry forces. Some survivors from Donji Prekaz said the Serbian assault force was led by the paramilitary Tigers of Zeljko Raznatovic, better known from the Croatian and Bosnian wars as "Arkan," the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported. PM U.S. DENIES GIVING GREEN LIGHT FOR REPRESSION. A State Department spokesman in Washington denied recent media reports to the effect that a remark by special envoy Robert Gelbard may have been interpreted by Belgrade as a license to strike in Kosovo. The spokesman said on 10 March that during talks with Milosevic in February, Gelbard criticized "terrorist acts" by the UCK, but the spokesman added that Gelbard did not identify the UCK as a terrorist organization, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington. The Kosovar and independent Serbian media reported recently that Milosevic took Gelbard's remarks linking the UCK to terrorism as a green light for the crackdown. Speaking in Pristina on 10 March, Gelbard criticized the Serbian authorities' use of "brutal, disproportionate, and overwhelming force" and demanded that independent experts be allowed to examine the Albanian dead. He added, however, that "the future of Kosovo lies within...Yugoslavia" and urged both sides to refrain from violence. PM CHINA BLOCKS SECURITY COUNCIL STATEMENT ON KOSOVO. China on 10 March blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a statement on Kosovo, which Chinese diplomats called Serbia's internal affair. U.S. and U.K. diplomats in particular wanted the council to endorse the decisions of the Contact Group in London (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998). In Belgrade, Milosevic's office issued a statement slamming the London decisions as interference in Serbia's internal affairs. In Pristina, Rugova said the Kosovars "had expected much more" from the Contact Group. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said it is "counterproductive" to focus on sanctions and added that "Russia puts the accent on an end to terrorist activities and an end to the use of massive force." PM MIXED REACTIONS IN TIRANA. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on 10 March called the London decisions "the best that could be had" under the circumstances. He said the package is "an important first step" to ending the crisis. But opposition parties said in a joint statement that international military action is needed to defend Kosovo's "unarmed Albanian population.... The first signs of the Bosnia syndrome were seen in the London meeting, that is, the weakness of the international community in defending with determination and efficiency the principles of the agreements and conventions on which international order is based." Democratic Party leader and former President Sali Berisha added that major powers should declare Kosovo a "no-fly" zone. PM BALKAN STATES ISSUE STATEMENT ON KOSOVO. Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey have called for a dialogue to end the crisis in Kosovo, AFP reported on 10 March. The Bulgarian-initiated joint statement condemns "terrorist attacks serving political ends, as well as violence used as a means of repressing political ideas." The signatories expressed "serious concern over a deterioration of the situation in Kosovo and the serious consequences which an inter-ethnic conflict spreading in the region could have." They stressed that a solution to the conflict must be found "while strictly respecting the existing borders." And they urged Belgrade to "seek mutually acceptable solutions based on a wide autonomy for Kosovo." Also on 10 March, Bronislaw Geremek, Polish foreign minister and chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, disclosed a nine-point action plan for solving the Kosovo conflict. The plan is similar to the Bulgarian initiative but adds points concerning OSCE mediation and monitoring. MS BULGARIA'S OPPOSITION ATTACKS U.S. POLICY TOWARD KOSOVO. Meanwhile, "Duma," the mouthpiece of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, wrote on 10 March that U.S. policy toward Kosovo aims at establishing a military presence there, as has been the case with Bosnia and Macedonia. Washington, the newspaper wrote, is looking for "pretexts" to achieve that aim: "In the Balkans this is a very simple matter--one sets Islam against Eastern Orthodoxy, and everything is in the bag, including the US military presence." The daily noted that "Madeleine Albright snapped [her fingers]" and "the most powerful lungs of the most powerful diplomacy" began "blowing the trumpets most militantly." MS HAGUE COURT GATHERING KOSOVO EVIDENCE. Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal, said in The Hague on 10 March that her office is gathering information and evidence relating to recent events in Kosovo and will continue to monitor any subsequent developments. She added that the court is legally competent to deal with atrocities committed in Kosovo and that it expects full cooperation by the Yugoslav authorities in its investigation. In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said the Kosovo problem will be solved as part of the democratization process in Serbia. She added that the current international attention focused on Kosovo provides an excellent opportunity for all parties involved to work toward a solution. PM BOMB ATTACK AGAINST ALBANIAN MINISTER. Unidentified persons on 10 March planted a bomb at the Tirana home of Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Ermelinda Meksi, "Koha Jone" reported. The blast destroyed part of the building but caused no injuries. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. FS LABOR PROTESTS IN ROMANIA. Some 600 professional drivers blocked traffic in Bucharest's Constitution Square on 10 March to protest the government's decision to raise gasoline prices, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In Brasov, some 12,000 workers marched in protest at the recent price hikes in general. MS MOLDOVA PROTESTS UKRAINIAN BORDER CHANGE. Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc on 10 March protested Ukraine's decision to fence off a site on the Danube estuary and thereby push the border 100 meters into Moldovan territory, ITAR-TASS reported. That move deprived Moldova of its only access point to the river in the area, where it is building an oil terminal with aid from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. After visiting the site, Ciubuc said the Ukrainian move is "contrary to international law" and said Ukraine cannot proceed with the fencing until ongoing bilateral talks on border delimitation are completed. Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Vasile Sova, who heads the Moldovan delegation to those talks, told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau that mutually acceptable solutions have been reached in "90 percent" of such cases. MS ELECTION COMMISSION REJECTS MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS' COMPLAINT. The Central Election Commission on 10 March rejected the Party of Moldovan Communists' (PCM) demand that the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc be banned from running in the 22 March parliamentary elections. The PCM accused the bloc of breaking the law by promising to give $1 million to the electoral district where it receives the most votes. The bloc responded that the promise had been made by one of the candidates running on its list. Also on 10 March, a group monitoring media coverage of the election campaign said the pro-Lucinschi party has already received more air time than it is entitled to. The group asked the Central Election Commission to intervene. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER IN U.S. Ivan Kostov attended a dinner with prominent U.S. businessmen in New York on 10 March in a drive to further boost investments in Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Figures released by the U.S. Foreign Investment Agency show that U.S. companies invested nearly $66 million in Bulgaria in 1996, while that figure soared to $410 million in the first nine months of 1997. The Bulgarian cabinet says that by the end of this year, some 85 percent of companies in Bulgaria will be in private hands. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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