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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 121 Part II, 25 June 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 121 Part II, 25 June 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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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE PLEDGES TO REPAY GAZPROM DEBT BY END OF 1998

* HOLBROOKE SAYS SERBS SHOULD LEAVE DECAN ...

* ... AS HE MEETS WITH UCK FIGHTERS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE PLEDGES TO REPAY GAZPROM DEBT BY END OF 1998.
Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko has said
Ukraine will pay its debt to Gazprom for gas supplies by the
end of 1998, Ukrainian Television reported. Holubchenko's
statement followed a meeting between Gazprom chief executive
Rem Vyakhirev and Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko in
Kyiv on 24 June. The two men discussed payments for Russian
gas supplied to Ukraine last year and joint use of Ukrainian
underground gas storage facilities. Holubchenko added that
Ukraine is interested in signing a long-term agreement on
Russian gas transit through Ukrainian territory. According
to him, such an agreement would guarantee that Russia will
not build an alternate pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Ukraine's
gas debt to Gazprom amounts to some $700 million. JM

LEFTISTS ACCUSE RIGHTISTS OF BRIBERY IN ELECTION OF
PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER. Leftist deputies have accused their
political opponents in the Ukrainian Supreme Council of
attempted bribery during the voting on a parliamentary
speaker, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 June. They assert that
some deputies have been offered $10,000 for casting blank
ballots during the vote for speaker. The parliament has set
up a deputies' group to investigate the allegation.
Meanwhile, after the 12th fruitless round of voting, the
Supreme Council passed a resolution prohibiting the deputies
from leaving the session hall until they elect a
parliamentary head, Ukrainian Television reported on 24
June. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC, FINLAND INDIGNANT OVER DIPLOMATIC CLASH IN
MINSK. The Czech Foreign Ministry has voiced its indignation
over the eviction of foreign diplomats from the Drazdy
compound in Minsk, CTK reported on 24 June. The Belarusian
ambassador to Prague has been asked to convey the ministry's
stance to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The Finnish
Foreign Ministry, according to ITAR-TASS, has advised its
ambassador to Minsk, who permanently resides in Riga,
against visiting Belarus. "If some Belarusian ambassador in
Europe still does not realize that he should leave home for
consultations, we will prompt him to do this," ITAR-TASS
quoted a Finnish Foreign Ministry official as saying.
Meanwhile, Polish Ambassador to Belarus Mariusz
Malyszkiewicz, who wanted to conduct a flag-lowering
ceremony on 24 June at the Drazdy compound before leaving
for Poland for consultations, was not allowed into his
residence by the Belarusian police, Polish media reported.
JM

LUKASHENKA CURTAILS VISIT TO SWITZERLAND. The Belarusian
president will participate in the international economic
forum at Crans-Montana in Switzerland on 26 June, ITAR-TASS
reported. He is expected to deliver an address to the forum
on East-West economic cooperation and security issues, as
well as to hold a briefing. Originally, Lukashenka's trip
was planned for three days, from 25-27 June, and was to
include a visit to the UN headquarters in Geneva, a speech
at a conference on disarmament, and a meeting with
International Olympic Committee Chairman Juan Antonio
Samaranch. A UN spokeswoman in Geneva said Lukashenka
decided to shorten his visit "owing to domestic reasons."
Observers suspect Lukashenka's decision is connected with
the recall of Western ambassadors from Minsk in the
diplomatic conflict over the Drazdy compound. JM

POLAND SPREADS BLAME FOR LOST EU AID AMONG MANY. A special
government commission set up to investigate errors which
cost Poland 34 million ecus in EU aid (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 26 and 27 May 1998) has spread the blame among
many officials and experts, ""Rzeczpospolita" reported on 25
June. The commission concluded that those responsible for
applying for EU funds lacked professionalism and "proper
communications" in their dealings with the European
Commission. It also decided that Committee for European
Integration chief Ryszard Czarnecki, who has formerly
claimed political responsibility for the EU aid cut, should
not be disqualified from his office. JM

TRIBUNAL OUTLAWS FIRING JUDGES OBEDIENT TO POLAND'S
COMMUNIST REGIME. Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled on
24 June that a law allowing the dismissal of judges who
between 1944 and 1989 issued verdicts dictated by the
communist authorities violates the Polish Constitution,
"Rzeczpospolita" reported. The law was passed in December
1997 by the rightist-dominated parliament and subsequently
sent to the Constitutional Tribunal for screening by
President Aleksander Kwasniewski. But the tribunal agreed
with the provision of the law stipulating that judges and
prosecutors who collaborated with the communist-era secret
services should be stripped of some retirement bonuses. The
ruling is not subject to appeal and Kwasniewski must sign
that part of the law approved by the tribunal. JM

LITHUANIA TO SELL TELECOM TO SWEDISH-FINNISH CONSORTIUM. The
Lithuanian government announced on 24 June that it will sell
a 60 percent stake in the state-owned telecommunications
company to a consortium consisting of Sweden's Telia and
Finland's Sonera communications concerns, Lithuanian media
reported. The two Scandinavian firms are to pay $510 million
and have agreed to invest $221 million over the next two
years. Vilnius announced that it will use the proceeds to
compensate citizens who lost their savings during the
hyperinflation of the early 1990s. PG

LATVIAN HOLIDAY FOR VETERANS DRAWS RUSSIAN CRITICISM. The
Russian Foreign Ministry on 24 June denounced a decision by
the Latvian parliament earlier this month to establish a
holiday commemorating those who fought in the Latvian Legion
during World War II, Interfax reported. The ministry
statement said that this group, organized by the Germans as
a branch of the Waffen-SS, had been involved in the killing
of "thousands of Jews, Russians and Belarussians" and that
the establishment of a holiday for it represented "a slap in
the face of the world community." PG

ZEMAN STARTS COALITION TALKS. Social Democratic Party (CSSD)
chairman Milos Zeman formally started talks on 24 June on
forming the next government. He met with his main opponent,
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus and with
the leader of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia,
Miroslav Grebenicek. After their meeting, Klaus said again
the ODS would not support a CSSD-led cabinet. The two
leaders agreed, however, to draft what has been termed as
"long-term communication rules between the main government
and the main opposition party," CTK reported. Grebenicek
said after meeting Zeman that his party might agree to
"tolerate" a minority cabinet of the CSSD and the Christian
Democratic Party. MS

SLOVAK RULING PARTY CHOOSES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia decided to back Banska Bystrica University rector
Otto Tomecek as its candidate in the new round of
presidential elections scheduled for next month, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Bratislava reported on 24 June. Without the
support of the opposition parties, Tomecek will not be able
to garner the 90 votes necessary for election as president.
His rival is likely to be attorney Peter Tomka, who is
backed by the Party of Democratic Left. Parliamentary
factions can submit presidential nominations till 29 June.
In other news, Reuters reported on 24 June that the combined
forces of the opposition continue to be ahead (54 percent)
of the incumbent coalition forces (29 percent) in electoral
preferences. MS

HUNGARY'S YOUNG DEMOCRATS, SMALLHOLDERS SIGN COALITION PACT.
Prime Minister-designate Viktor Orban, chairman of the
Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-
MPP) and Independent Smallholders' Party chairman Jozsef
Torgyan signed a coalition agreement on 24 June. Orban said
the pact removes the last obstacle to the formation of a new
government. Torgyan described the agreement as of
"historical importance," making possible a "genuine change
of regime." In other news, Laszlo Urban on 23 June
unexpectedly declined to accept the finance portfolio in the
new government, reportedly because of opposing views that he
and Orban hold on the future of Hungary's Posta Bank. Orban
announced the same day that Zsigmond Jarai, president of the
Stock Exchange Council, had been offered the post and had
accepted the nomination. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

HOLBROOKE SAYS SERBS SHOULD LEAVE DECAN... Richard
Holbrooke, who is the U.S. ambassador-designate to the UN,
said in the burned-out Kosovar town of Decan on 24 June that
Decan recalls "the kind of action we saw earlier in this
part of the world." He compared his impressions in the town
to what he saw in western Bosnia in 1992. Holbrooke added
that the destruction in Decan "was not fighting. This was
the Yugoslav security forces driving people out. The Serbs
should get out of here, and the original [ethnic Albanian]
inhabitants should come back and rebuild their houses with
government help." The diplomat said that "without the real
possibility of NATO intervention, the chances of ethnic
cleansing by the Serbs are significantly increased." Serbian
forces have vigorously attacked the Decan area in recent
weeks in an apparent effort to drive the ethnic Albanian
population out of a corridor along the Albanian border. PM

...MEETS WITH UCK FIGHTERS. In Junik on 24 June, Holbrooke
met with two uniformed fighters of the Kosova Liberation
Army (UCK), one of whom carried a Kalashnikov. Holbrooke
called the situation in Kosova "explosive" and added that
the Kosovars "are beleaguered and they don't have supplies.
The Serb security forces are all over the place." The envoy
stressed that he is on a fact-finding mission and denied
that his meeting with the UCK representatives constituted an
official contact between Washington and the guerrillas. Some
Western and regional media nonetheless speculated that the
meeting suggests that the U.S. has established contact with
the UCK and may be seeking to draw it into the negotiating
process. During Holbrooke's stay, there was fighting along
the highway between Decan and Gjakova, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported. Elsewhere, UCK spokesmen said in
Prishtina that the guerrillas now control much of the Fushe-
Kosova (Kosovo Polje) region. PM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE WANTS DEMOCRATIC CHANGE. The parliament of
the Council of Europe passed a resolution on 24 June in
which it blamed the Yugoslav government and President
Slobodan Milosevic for the current escalation in the crisis
in Kosova. The text added that no long-term solution is
possible in the province without far-reaching democratic
changes in Yugoslavia. Until that happens, the international
community must keep all options open, including the military
one. The parliament also called on Milosevic to launch a
dialogue with the authorities in Montenegro. Also in
Strasbourg, OSCE chairman Bronislaw Geremek called on
Milosevic to set down a time-table for ending the Kosovar
crisis. PM

BLAIR SAYS MILITARY OPTION STILL STANDS. British Prime
Minister Tony Blair said in London on 24 June that NATO
retains the option to intervene militarily as long as
Milosevic refuses to withdraw his special security forces
from Kosova. Media reports from Brussels earlier that day
suggested that NATO planners were moving away from a
military option lest the alliance play into the hands of the
UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). "The New York
Times" wrote that the UCK has begun targeting Serbian
civilians in an ethnic cleansing campaign near Klina in
recent days, which has in turn drawn Serbian paramilitaries
into the region. The UCK's official position is that it
fights only the Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians
whom it regards as collaborators, and that Serbian civilians
have nothing to fear from it. Serbian refugees have
repeatedly charged that the UCK and other armed Albanians
have told them to leave "and never come back." PM

YUGOSLAV ARMY NOT TO SEND RAW RECRUITS TO KOSOVA. The
General Staff agreed in Belgrade on 24 June not to send
untrained recruits to Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. The move comes in apparent response to numerous
protests from parents and opposition political leaders
across the country against sending conscripts to the
province. Elsewhere, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk
Draskovic called for NATO intervention -- against Albania --
to clear out "terrorist training camps" there, "Nasa Borba"
wrote. His party said in a statement the next day that the
Kosovar civilian leadership backs terrorism and that its
claim to be devoted to non-violence is just a ruse. The
Democratic Party said in a statement that Milosevic is
unable to preserve order in Kosova and protect the lives "of
citizens who live there." PM

SILAJDZIC OFFERS BASES TO NATO. Bosnian Co-Prime Minister
Haris Silajdzic said in Tokyo that his government will offer
military facilities to the Atlantic alliance should it
decide to intervene in Kosova, "Nasa Borba" wrote on 25
June. It is not clear if Silajdzic has the authority to make
such an offer without the approval of parliament or of
Bosnian Serb leaders. In Sarajevo, the international
community's Carlos Westendorp warned that Milosevic "will
end up like [Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu" unless he
ends the imbroglio in Kosova, the Belgrade daily "Danas"
wrote. Westendorp also cautioned that "if Kosova explodes,
it could ignite extreme nationalism in Bosnia." Meanwhile in
Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb parliament voted on 24 June to
move its seat officially from Pale to that western Bosnian
city. PM

CROATIA LAUNCHES REFUGEE RETURN PROGRAM. Government
authorities in Zagreb made public on 24 June a plan for a
refugee return that guarantees "all citizens" the right to
go home. The plan foresees that some 220,000 individuals
will return to their former homes inside and outside of
Croatia by 2003. Some 24,000 ethnic Serbs are expected to
come back to Croatia in 1998 alone. Parliament votes on the
measure on 26 June. Its passage is widely seen as crucial in
determining the course of Zagreb's future relations with
Western countries and for its integration in Euro-Atlantic
structures. PM

ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VOWS TO SACK CORRUPT POLICE
CHIEFS. Perikli Teta said on 24 June in Tirana that he has
prepared a list of over 20 high-ranking police officers whom
he suspects of corruption. Teta added that the cases involve
a variety of crimes ranging from selling passports to
smuggling cigarettes. He did not elaborate on individual
cases but said he would file charges in the near future. FS

ALBANIA STILL PLAGUED BY CUSTOMS EVASION. "Shekulli" on 25
June quoted a recent secret government report as saying that
customs evasion remains endemic. The report points out that
taxed imports of six key goods have dropped by almost 50
percent in the first four months of 1998 as compared to the
last four months of 1997. The report suggests that this drop
indicates that the goods continued to be imported but were
neither declared nor taxed. "Shekulli" estimates the loss at
about $80 million. It adds that General Director of Customs
Gezim Bleta told the paper that the report is accurate. FS

RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER ON ROMANIAN TREASURY. Gennadii Seleznev
told journalists in Bucharest on 24 June that the problem of
the Romanian state treasury deposited in Moscow during World
War I is "hopeless." He said Romania was raising this
problem within the framework of the parleys on the basic
treaty between the two countries. Seleznev replaced Romanian
Senate chairman Petre Roman as chairman of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation Organization, whose 11th Parliamentary
Assembly session ends on 25 June in Bucharest. His mandate
is for six months. On the same day, the parliamentarians
attending the session adopted a declaration expressing full
support for close economic cooperation in the region, ITAR-
TASS reported. The document also says a lasting peace and
settlement of conflicts in the region are inseparable from
strengthening economic cooperation. MS

ARMENIA BACKS ROMANIAN OIL TRANSIT PLANS. Armenian
parliament chairman Khosrov Harutiunian, who attended the
PABSEC session, told Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu in
Bucharest on 23 June that his country backs Romanian plans
for having pipe lines transporting Caspian oil transit
Romanian territory, Romanian state radio reported.
Harutiunian also said Armenia's position is that all states
in the region must benefit from the new transit routes and
"fulfill their interests." Plesu said Romania must "urgently
open" an embassy in Yerevan. Plesu also met with Moldovan
parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov, with whom he discussed
the "special" bilateral relations between their two states.
Diacov and the chairmen of the two Romanian chambers of the
parliament, Ion Diaconescu and Petre Roman, on 23 June
signed an accord on cooperation between the two
legislatures. MS

UKRAINE TO SEND PEACE-KEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTER. Igor
Smirnov, leader of the separatist Transdniester region, and
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma agreed in Kyiv on 24 June
that Ukraine will send ten peace-keepers to the security
zone in the Transdniester, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same
day, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that Moldovan
President Petru Lucinschi, in a telephone conversation with
Kuchma, urged Ukraine to enhance its involvement in conflict
resolution attempts and send peace-keepers to the zone. In
other news, BASA-press reported on 24 June that OSCE
chairman Bronislaw Geremek told the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that Moldova may
"count on the support of international organizations" on the
withdrawal of "all foreign troops" from its territory.
Geremek also said Chisinau must "prove" its determination to
solve the Transdniester conflict. MS

BULGARIA WANTS INFORMATION ON MINORITY CONSCRIPTS IN KOSOVA.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 24 June said
Bulgaria has requested official information from the
Yugoslav authorities on conscripts from minority groups
being dispatched to Kosova, BTA reported. Vlaikov said that
if the information about an "imbalance" in selecting and
including Bulgarian minority members in the contingents
dispatched to Kosova turns out to be true, Sofia "will not
pass over the matter in silence." Earlier this month, top
Montenegrin officials and representatives of Vojvodina's
Hungarian minority demanded that conscripts from Montenegro
and Vojvodina, respectively, be stationed only outside
Kosova. In other news, on 24 June visiting Uzbek President
Islam Karimov and his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov
signed a treaty on friendly relations and cooperation
between their countries, BTA reported. Stoyanov said Sofia
will support Uzbekistan's application for membership in the
Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. MS

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