When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. - Mark Twain
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48 , Part II, 11 March 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48 , Part II, 11 March 1998

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Headlines, Part II

* LUKASHENKA WANTS MILITARY COOPERATION WITH SYRIA, IRAN

* KOSOVARS REJECT TALKS, AUTONOMY

* U.S. DENIES GIVING GREEN LIGHT FOR REPRESSION

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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


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