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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part II, 23 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part II, 23 April 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 Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT REDRAFTS 1998 BUDGET TO MEET IMF TARGETS * KOSOVAR ALBANIANS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDIATION * ALBRIGHT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR MONTENEGRO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT REDRAFTS 1998 BUDGET TO MEET IMF TARGETS. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov has said the government will submit a revised 1998 budget to the Supreme Council in May, Ukrainian Television reported. The document will put the deficit at 2.5 percent of GDP, compared with 3.1 percent in the current budget. Mityukov said the change is a condition for obtaining new IMF credits. An IMF mission is considering a $2.5 billion loan for Ukraine to support structural economic reforms. JM UKRAINIAN CURRENCY EXCHANGE CHAIRMAN KILLED. Vadym Hetman, head of the Ukrainian Interbank Currency Exchange, has been shot dead at his home in Kyiv by an unknown assailant. A Kyiv Interior Ministry Directorate spokesman told Interfax on 22 April that the police believe there are three possible reasons for the murder. Two of those reasons are economic. The third is political and related to "serious conflict situations" in the recent elections, in which Hetman made an unsuccessful bid for a parliamentary seat. JM LUKASHENKA EASES CONTROL OVER CITIZENS' FINANCES... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree liberalizing administrative control over individual hard-currency deposits, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 22 April. The decree states that the government will guarantee the safety of deposits and return the money upon the depositor's first request. Furthermore, deposits will be tax-free and confidential, while depositors will not be required to disclose the source of their money. The Belarusian Central Bank chairman said the decree will draw an additional $2 billion into the economy. JM ...INTRODUCES MANDATORY INCOME DECLARATION. Also on 22 April, Lukashenka signed a decree introducing mandatory income and property declaration, Interfax reported on 22 April. Citizens are now obliged to declare real estate and personal possessions each of which is worth more than 200 minimum wages. Failure to submit a declaration or supplying false data incurs a fine of 20-50 minimum wages. JM LUKASHENKA STRESSES ECONOMIC TIES WITH GERMANY. Lukashenka said at an industrial fair in Hannover on 22 April that Minsk sees Germany as its main economic partner in the West, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka, who is visiting the fair at the invitation of German businessmen, complained that the German government makes bilateral cooperation conditional on the political situation in Belarus. "If we cannot interact politically, we will focus on economic and trade ties," ITAR-TASS quoted Lukashenka as saying. Meanwhile, Gerhard Schroeder, the opposition candidate for chancellor, has come under fire for his luncheon meeting with Lukashenka at the fair. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Schroeder "has gone outside the positions" of the EU and the Bundestag prohibiting contacts with Lukashenka owing to human rights violations in Belarus. JM ESTONIAN BANKS SIGN MERGER AGREEMENT. The Union Bank and the Bank of Tallinn, Estonia's largest and fourth-largest banks, have signed a formal merger agreement, ETA reported on 22 April. The merger creates the largest financial institution in the Baltic States, with assets totaling nearly 16 billion kroons (some $1.06 billion). The Union Bank will have a 80.3 percent stake in the new institution and the Bank of Tallinn 19.7 percent. The two banks signed a preliminary merger accord earlier this year. JC OPPOSITION FAILS TO CALL CONFIDENCE VOTE IN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER. The United Opposition on 22 April failed to collect enough votes to call a vote of no confidence in Environment Minister Villu Reiljan, ETA reported. The opposition has accused Reiljan of the "careless and ineffective" use of tax payers' money and of breaking the law. Reiljan rejects those accusations, saying he achieved additional income for the state and has not mismanaged funds. In 1996, at Reiljan's initiative, the Environment Ministry invested state funds totaling 19 million kroons ($1.27 million) in stocks, reaping a 7 million profit. The State Audit Office is to carry out an investigation to determine whether Reiljan acted within the law. JC LATVIAN PREMIER AGREES TO CONFIDENCE VOTE IN CABINET. Guntars Krasts has agreed to a vote of confidence in a new government, BNS and Reuters reported on 22 April. The vote, which follows the departure earlier this month of the largest coalition partner, is scheduled to take place on 30 April. Before then, Krasts and the remaining coalition partners will agree on a new cabinet lineup, a government spokesman said. Also on 22 April, Krasts told an extraordinary session of the parliament, at which he presented the government's stabilization plan, that he regards the Latvian economy as stable, although he admitted there is a "certain instability" in the political sphere and "drawbacks in the security and foreign policy sectors." He added that Russia's recent threats of trade sanctions confirm the "need to strengthen our political and economic direction--EU integration, close cooperation with Baltic and Nordic states, and a reorientation to more stable and wider markets." JC DOCTORS SAYS HAVEL'S HEALTH CONTINUES TO IMPROVE. The Austrian doctors treating Czech President Vaclav Havel on 22 April said that the state of his health has shown a "slight further improvement" and that he will be gradually be brought out of an artificially induced sleep "in the coming days," CTK reported. They also said he will soon be able to breathe normally, without the aid of a respirator. MS U.S. COMPANY TO PURCHASE TROUBLED CZECH PLANE MANUFACTURER. The government on 22 April approved an agreement for selling its 93 percent stake in the Let Kunovice airplane manufacturer to the Georgia-based U.S. Ayres Corp. Minister of Trade and Industry Karel Kuhnl told journalists that Ayres Corp. will pay $4.5 million and will invest a further $20 million in Let Kunovice, whose debts total some $1.2 million. MS HUNGARIAN ETHNIC PARTIES MERGE IN SLOVAKIA. The three political parties representing Hungarian ethnics (Co- existence, the Christian Democratic Hungarian Movement, and the Hungarian Civic Party) have reached an agreement to merge to form a new party, Hungarian media reported on 22 April. Previously, the parties were joined in an alliance. The merger to form a party comes after Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia submitted a draft law that would raise the threshold for parliamentary representation from the present 5 percent to 5 percent for each formation represented in an electoral alliance, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVAR ALBANIANS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDIATION. A delegation of Kosovar Albanians have called on the international community to become involved in seeking a solution to the crisis in the Yugoslav province, AFP reported on 22 April. The delegation was in Strasbourg to meet with officials from the Council of Europe, whose Parliamentary Assembly released a statement saying a solution can be found only "on the basis of greater autonomy" for Kosova within Yugoslavia "where democratic reforms will intervene." Edita Tahiri, the leader of the delegation and a member of the leading Democratic League of Kosova, said talks between Belgrade and ethnic Albanians to be moderated by the EU, the UN, and the U.S. should be held as soon as possible. She said the situation in Kosova "has reached the point of no return." Yugoslavia is holding a controversial referendum on 23 April to ask if international mediators should be involved in resolving the crisis in Kosova. PB HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION SLAMS YUGOSLAVIA. The UN Human Rights Commission approved a resolution on 22 April condemning Serbian officials for violently repressing the expression of political views in Kosova, Reuters reported. The resolution was adopted by a 53-country grouping in Geneva, although 12 countries, including Russia, abstained. It said ethnic Albanians in Kosova have experienced "harassment, beatings, brutality, torture, warrantless searches, and unfair trials." It called for the withdrawal of special Serbian police units from Kosova. The document also called on Yugoslav authorities to capture indicted war criminals. PB ALBRIGHT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR MONTENEGRO. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Washington supports Montenegro and will assist the Yugoslav republic in the event that sanctions are imposed against Belgrade, an RFE/RL correspondent reported in Washington on 22 April. Albright made her comments before meeting with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who is on a four-day U.S. visit. Albright praised Montenegro's reforms and said she hoped "the spirit of Montenegro" will extend throughout Yugoslavia. Djukanovic said his government opposes extreme positions in Kosova. He argued that the ethnic Albanians there need to have a say in government but he ruled out independence. A third party is needed to conduct discussions between Belgrade and the Kosovar Albanian leadership, he added. PB MONTENEGRO WANTS YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTER TO RESIGN. Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic called for the dismissal of Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic after the latter accused Montenegro of supporting terrorism in and independence for the Serbian province of Kosova, AFP reported on 22 April. Vujanovic said that Bulatovic, who is Montenegrin, made the charges in a letter to Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic and that the comments were "political manipulations." Bulatovic was a strong supporter of and is related to former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, who lost a tense election last year. Vujanovic said Montenegro condemns terrorism and supports a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Kosova, which, he said, must remain part of Yugoslavia. PB UN PROSECUTOR WOULD SEEK LIFE SENTENCE FOR KARADZIC. Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, said on 22 April that she will demand a life sentence for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic if he is brought to face charges of genocide, AFP reported. Arbour, speaking from Sarajevo, said the tribunal has enough evidence to convict Karadzic. In Washington, senior U.S. political and military officials said that an operation to capture Karadzic was called off after French Major Herve Gourmillon had clandestine meetings with Karadzic, "The Washington Post" reported. French officials confirmed the meetings took place and subsequently recalled Gourmillon from Bosnia. U.S. officials said the incident seriously damaged cooperation between the U.S. and French militaries in Bosnia. PB FORENSIC OFFICIALS SAY MASS GRAVE SITE DISTURBED. International forensic experts exhuming a mass grave near Brnice say the site has been tampered with. Kelly Moore, a spokeswoman for the UN war crimes tribunal, said there is evidence that objects have been removed from the site. She stressed, however, that exhumation work will continue and that, despite the tampering, "valuable evidence" has been found. Hard-line Bosnian Serb officials previously refused permission to officials from The Hague to investigate the mass graves. In the southern Bosnian village of Pljesivica, five Muslim houses were blown up, cantonal officials reported on 22 April. The area is dominated by Bosnian Croats. PB GERMAN OFFICIAL WANTS SANCTIONS UNLESS ZAGREB COOPERATES ON REFUGEES. Dietmar Schlee, Germany's chief of refugee affairs, said on 22 April that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is not keeping a promise he made to allow Serbian refugees back to their homes in the Krajina region, Reuters reported. Schlee said that the international community can no longer accept this and that "sanctions will soon be needed." German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann said it is too early to discuss sanctions but that the EU is discussing ways of increasing pressure on Zagreb to allow refugees to return. Schlee said that border guards are obeying orders from Zagreb to turn back Serbs when they try to enter Croatia. Some 200,000 Serbs fled Krajina ahead of the advancing Croatian army in 1995 as it retook territory captured by rebel Serbs. The UN High Commission for Refugees says some 18,000 Serbs have returned to their homes. PB ALBANIA RELEASES PYRAMID SCHEME CHIEF. A court in Tirana released Vehbi Alimucaj, the head of Albania's largest pyramid scheme, from house arrest on 22 April. Alimucaj is the head of Vefa Holding, which reportedly defrauded thousands of Albanians of some $300 million. The pyramid scheme's collapse last year helped prompt riots that threw the country into chaos. Alimucaj had been under house arrest since February. No reason for his release was given. Meanwhile, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani decreed that local elections will be held 16 electoral districts on 21 June. It will be the first time local elections have been held since 1996. Many areas of Albania are currently run by self-appointed officials. PB ROMANIA TO RENEGOTIATE IMF LOAN. Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 22 April said he has invited IMF chief negotiator for Romania Poul Thompsen to Bucharest on 26 April to re- negotiate the terms of the IMF stand-by agreement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Vasile said the government has restructured its budget and has a new program, which, he said, means new negotiations are necessary. In February the IMF suspended the release of a $86 million tranche from a $430 million stand-by loan because of the slow progress toward reform. Finance Minister Daniel Daianu said on 22 April that Romania may not be able to meet the loan's conditions because of the recent political crisis and that a new accord may have to be negotiated. MS ROMANIAN PEASANT PARTY CHOOSES MAYORAL CANDIDATE. The Bucharest leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 21 April elected Viorel Lis, the acting mayor of Bucharest, as its candidate for the Bucharest mayoralty. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said he hoped to persuade other parties within the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) to accept Lis as the CDR joint candidate. The National Liberal Party, however, has decided to nominate its own candidate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Also on 22 April, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania failed to reach an agreement with the Greater Romania Party and the Party of Romanian National Unity to back its candidate, Sorin Oprescu. But the three parties, together with the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Party, and other smaller formations, have concluded a "non- aggression pact" whereby they will refrain from mutual attacks during the campaign. MS ROMANIAN-FRENCH DEAL ON BLACK SEA OIL DRILLING. The French company Elf Aquitaine and the Romanian oil company Petrom on 22 April signed an agreement to jointly explore for oil in the Black Sea, AFP reported. The French company will initially invest $15 million in seismic studies and trial drilling. MS DETAILS OF MOLDOVAN COALITION AGREEMENT REVEALED. The center-right coalition agreement reached on 21 April in Chisinau stipulates that the three signatories--For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD). the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), and the Party of Democratic Forces--will receive government representation proportional to the number of votes they received in last month's elections. At the same time, it states that for every two portfolios given to the PMPD and the CDM, the Party of Democratic Forces will receive one. The agreement also stipulates that the PMPD will have the chairmanship of the parliament and the premier will be a member of the CDM, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The agreement will be declared void if those provisions cannot be implemented. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN POSTPONES VOTE ON CHAIRMAN. The parliament on 22 April again postponed electing its new chairman, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Communists first requested a five-minute consultation pause and then failed to return for the debates. Dumitru Diacov, who is the candidate of the center-right coalition for the chairmanship, told journalists that the Communists' accusations that the alliance will adhere to the CDM's pro- Romanian union principles are "groundless." He added that the coalition reflects "national reconciliation" and will allow the government to concentrate on continuing reforms and raising living standards. MS NATO INFORMATION CENTER OPENED IN SOFIA. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova attended the formal opening of the NATO information center in the Bulgarian capital on 22 April, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The same day, an AWACS surveillance aircraft carried out its first mission to Bulgaria--a three-hour demonstration flight over Plodviv, with 10 Bulgarian military officers on board. 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. 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