|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 127 Part II, 3 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 127 Part II, 3 July 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx****xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Note to readers: RFE/RL Newsline will not appear on Monday, 6 July, a holiday in the Czech Republic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * KREMLIN URGES REGIONAL LEADERS TO SNUB LATVIA'S BIRKAVS * CLINTON BLAMES BOTH SIDES IN KOSOVA * KIJEVA SIEGE OVER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS KREMLIN URGES REGIONAL LEADERS TO SNUB LATVIA'S BIRKAVS... The Russian presidential administration has recommended that Governors Vladimir Yakovlev of St. Petersburg and Yevgenii Mikhailov of Pskov Oblast avoid all contact with Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs when he visits St. Petersburg next week to open the new building of the Latvian Consulate-General, Interfax reported on 2 July. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told the news agency that the recommendation is prompted by unresolved issues linked to ethnic Russians living in Latvia. Given that those problems have not been resolved by the Latvian parliament, contacts with Birkavs "would be an incorrect message both to Russian society and the Latvian authorities," Yastrzhembskii said. JC ...WHILE MOSCOW DENIES IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON LATVIA. Also on 2 July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow that Russia has not imposed economic sanctions on Latvia, Interfax reported. Rakhmanin noted that beginning the previous day, Moscow abolished reduced tariffs for transit freight en route to Latvia, but he stressed the measure was taken "in order to streamline trade and economic relations with Latvia" and was not an embargo. "Russia opposes economic sanctions. This is our country's firm position," he said. The same day, Latvian Foreign Minister Birkavs announced that Riga will launch a campaign to notify international financial organizations about Russia's economic pressure on Latvia. Moscow, he argued, is violating IMF principles and regulations as well as the joint communique of the G-8 energy ministers on the free transit of goods. "It is obvious that Russia has not imposed sanctions de jure, but they exist de facto," he commented. JC EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION SLAMS BELARUS. Human Rights Watch accused Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of being a "quasi dictator" who is reversing political reforms and abusing human rights, AP reported on 2 July. The New York- based group said in a report that Lukashenka has "recreated some of the worst aspects of the Soviet era." The report includes a list of human rights violations registered in Belarus, mostly instances of political persecution and harassment of the media. Meanwhile in Minsk, a book on Lukashenka has been published in which he is quoted saying that "not a single journalist has been harassed." PB BELARUS BEGINS NATIONAL HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES. On the eve of the country's national day, President Lukashenka said in a speech that Belarus will "bow to no one," AP reported on 2 July. In an apparent reference to Western critics of his government, Lukashenka said a country cannot enter the year 2000 "carrying the weight of political falsehood [and] using methods of political dictatorship." In 1996, Lukashenka changed Belarus's national day to 3 July, the day Soviet troops liberated Minsk from German forces during World War II. PB UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FRUSTRATED BY PARLIAMENT. Leonid Kuchma on 2 July criticized Supreme Council deputies after they failed yet again to elect a parliamentary speaker, AP reported. Kuchma said that along with the 1998 budget, more than 100 bills await parliamentary approval. The budget includes a sharp reduction in the budget deficit, a major requirement for a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF. Kuchma said the failure of the legislature to address urgent economic issues has reached a "critical level." He said he is willing to work constructively with the parliament but is prepared to issue more decrees on economic matters if the body remains inactive. More than 50 deputies have been nominated for the speaker position in nearly 20 votes since the Supreme Council convened in mid-May. PB HEALTH OFFICIALS WARN OF RADIOACTIVE FOOD IN KYIV. Ukrainian health officials have found dozens of cases of excess radioactivity in foodstuffs being sold in Kyiv markets, particularly blueberries and mushrooms, AP reported on 2 July. Health authorities have begun televised warnings about the products, which originate from areas of the country contaminated by the 1986 explosion at Chornobyl. PB KWASNIEWSKI VETOES 15-PROVINCE PLAN. President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 2 July vetoed legislation to consolidate the country's provinces, Reuters reported. Kwasniewski said the bill, which has been passed by the Sejm and the Senate, contradicts the will of the people. Kwasniewski and leftist politicians favor reducing the number of provinces from 49 to 17, while the approved bill provides for 15 provinces. Solidarity politicians threatened to cut contacts with the president if he vetoed the bill. In other news, the Sejm approved a bill lifting the ban on beer advertising. The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. Beer recently supplanted vodka as the most popular alcoholic beverage in Poland. PB POLAND TO COMPLETE POWER SECTOR PRIVATIZATION. Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz said on 2 July that Poland's power sector will be privatized by 2002, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported. He said that energy prices could be deregulated as soon as January. And he added that the value of the firms to be privatized is nearly 100 billion zlotys ($29 billion). PB ZEMAN SAYS COALITION TALKS WITH FREEDOM UNION 'OVER'... Social Democratic Party (CSSD) chairman Milos Zeman on 2 July said the coalition talks with the Freedom Union are " definitely over." He said his latest proposal to Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml was to set up a coalition with Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) leader Josef Lux as premier and with four seats in the cabinet for the union. Ruml, however, had turned the offer down, citing incompatibility between the parties' programs, CTK reported. The same day, Ruml told journalists that he admires the " responsibility and generosity" of Zeman's proposal and that he hopes the Civic Democratic Union (ODS) will displaying a similar attitude in talks with his party. MS ...BUT HAVEL ASKS HIM TO CONTINUE COALITION PARLEYS. After meeting with Zeman the same day, President Vaclav Havel said he has asked the CSSD leader "not to make hasty decisions" and to continue efforts to set up a coalition. He added that the CSSD proposals were "very open, consensual, and generous." Also on 2 July, ODS deputy chairman Ivan Langer described as "schizophrenic and absurd" a statement by KDU- CSL deputy chairman Jan Kasal, who said an ODS-Freedom Union-KDU-CSL coalition would be feasible if ODS leader Vaclav Klaus were not in the cabinet. Meanwhile, Miroslav Grebenicek, chairman of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, said his party will not support a minority government of CSSD ministers only. But he repeated his readiness to "tolerate" a CSSD-KDU-CSL minority government on certain conditions. KDU-CSL leader Josef Lux, however, has rejected that option. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS BILL LIMITING HUNGARIAN EDUCATION. The Slovak and Hungarian opposition, supported by some representatives of the governing Movement for Democratic Slovakia, voted down on 2 July an amendment submitted to the parliament on Hungarian-language education in Slovakia. The bill, drafted by the Education Ministry, would have required Hungarian pupils to study history and geography in Slovak and use a curriculum and text books approved by the ministry. MSZ DOWNTOWN BOMBING KILLS FOUR IN BUDAPEST. Entrepreneur Jozsef Tamas Boros and three pedestrians were killed when a bomb exploded on 2 July in Budapest's downtown tourist zone. Some 25 people were injured. Media report that Boros, the owner of several restaurants in Budapest and at lake Balaton, was the target of the bombing. He had recently provided useful information to the police in an investigation into organized crime and illegal oil trade. Three attempts had been made on his life in the past two years, and his home was guarded by police. In other news, Prime Minister-designate Viktor Orban, on 2 July outlined his coalition government's program in the parliament. Top priorities are strengthening the defense of public security, tightening the penal code, and remedying social injustice. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CLINTON BLAMES BOTH SIDES IN KOSOVA. President Bill Clinton said in Hong Kong on 3 July that "Belgrade is primarily responsible" for the fighting in Kosova, but he added that "others, when they're having a good day or a good week on the military front, may also be reluctant to actually engage in dialogue." He concluded that "the conflict is going on. Both sides are involved in it. There is some uncertainty about who is willing and who is not willing to even negotiate about it. And we're working on it as best we can." Meanwhile in Tirana, five deserters from the Yugoslav army arrived after being taken across the Albanian frontier by fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). A spokesman for the Albanian Interior Ministry said that two soldiers from Montenegro and three from Serbia "refused to kill women and children" and deserted their units. The five all have Muslim names, AP reported. PM HOLBROOKE, MILOSEVIC TO MEET. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to arrive in Belgrade on 3 July for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic aimed at defusing the crisis in Kosova. The previous day, Milosevic called for urgent talks between Serbs and Kosovars as "the only way" to solve the problem. He added that "there are not, nor will there be any repressive actions against the civilian population." Milosevic said that security forces are protecting citizens and their property from "bandits and terrorists." In Washington, a State Department spokesman said that Holbrooke's aim is to persuade Milosevic that "he's leading his country down the path to ruin and that it's time for him to get it through his head that the only course of wisdom is to pull back his forces, stop the crackdown, stop the use of heavy military equipment, and start...negotiations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1998). PM BOMB EXPLODES IN PRISHTINA. A bomb went off in a market in an ethnic Serbian neighborhood in northwest Prishtina at 7 a.m. local time on 3 July. The explosion caused material damage but no injuries, Reuters reported. No one claimed responsibility. It was the first bombing in Prishtina since Milosevic launched his crackdown at the end of February. Also in Prishtina, Yugoslav air force jets continued low flights over the city in a recently begun move that Kosovar spokesmen say is intended to intimidate the ethnic Albanian majority. Meanwhile, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said the Kosovars are ready to "pay whatever price is necessary" to achieve independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM KIJEVA SIEGE OVER. Serbian forces broke through the UCK's lines around Kijeva from the west shortly after dawn on 3 July, the semi-official Serbian Media Center reported. Kosovar sources confirmed the story, Reuters added. The UCK had cut off some 200 Serbian civilians and two dozen policemen in the town for more than a week. Holbrooke earlier called Kijeva "the most dangerous place in Europe" and suggested that the confrontation could end with much bloodshed. PM ALBANIA TELLS UCK NOT TO ATTACK CIVILIANS. Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in a statement on 2 July that "we, the Albanian government, during our contact at different levels with our partners in Kosova, have asked that acts of violence on civilians of other ethnic groups be avoided." He warned that attacks on civilians would cause the international community to take a dim view of what Nano called "this Albanian popular movement." He also appealed to all Kosovar factions to agree on a joint negotiating platform. PM RUSSIA BLAMES KOSOVARS FOR CRISIS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told a briefing in Moscow on 2 July that "all outbursts of violence [in the province] were reactions by the Serbian security forces to provocations by Kosovar Albanians." He added that the Serbs will not be able to withdraw their forces before the "provocations" have ended. Rakhmanin noted that "only a political settlement can bring unquestionable long-term results. Judging from recent statements made in Washington and European capitals, such a view is starting to gain force there as well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1998). Rakhmanin called the UCK a "terrorist group" that has no place in negotiations, which are limited to political groups, Interfax wrote. PM SOLANA SAYS 'NO MORE BOSNIAS.' NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Sarajevo on 2 July that the Atlantic alliance "will not permit" a Bosnian-type conflict to emerge in Kosova. In Vienna, EU foreign affairs spokesman Hans van den Broek argued that NATO could intervene in Kosova even without a UN mandate if the conflict escalated. In Bonn, a government spokesman said that German officials will take steps to prevent the UCK from forcibly collecting contributions from Kosovars living there and have appealed to Rugova for help, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Holbrooke recently commented that forced contributions from Kosovars in Western Europe are "vital" for the UCK. Rugova's shadow state has depended for years on a "tax" paid by Kosovars abroad. PM SERBIA STOPS BROADCASTS BY PRISHTINA RADIO STATION. Serbian police and an official of the Telecommunications Ministry disabled the transmitter of Radio Kontakt in Prishtina on 1 July, the Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia (ANEM) said in a statement in Belgrade the following day. Police also blocked the entrance to the broadcasters' building. The ministry charged that the station does not have a valid license, which officials of Kontakt denied. The station began broadcasting music on 19 June and had no trouble with the authorities until 1 July, when it began rebroadcasting news programs of independent Belgrade Radio B-92, VOA, and BBC. ANEM added that Kontakt is unique in Prishtina because it is the only station that seeks to promote interethnic dialogue and broadcasts both in Serbo-Croatian and in Albanian. PM UN URGES CROATIA TO GUARD SERBS' RIGHTS. The Security Council said in a statement in New York on 2 July that "ethnically related incidents, evictions, and housing intimidation cases" have been on the rise recently in eastern Slavonia, which returned to Croatian administration in January. "A continuation of this trend could have a seriously negative effect on the restoration of a multi- ethnic society in the Republic of Croatia," the text concluded. In Rome, Pope John Paul II discussed his upcoming trip to Croatia with Zagreb's Archbishop Josip Bozanic and Split's Ante Juric. In October, the pontiff will visit Croatia to proclaim Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac "blessed," which is the first step toward sainthood. Many Croatian Catholics regard him as a martyr for his country and his faith under communism. Many Serbs view him as at least an accomplice in the Croatian Axis puppet state's persecution of Serbs and other minorities. PM ROMANIA BACKS HELICOPTER PROJECT DESPITE IMF WARNINGS. The government on 2 July approved a deal with the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron company whereby it would guarantee a $1.45 billion bond issue to finance the purchase of 96 AH-1- RO Dracula helicopters based on the Cobra model, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The decision meets the conditions of Bell Helicopter Textron for purchasing a 70 percent stake in the Gimbav Brasov aircraft plant. Finance Minister Daniel Daianu and at least two other ministers abstained from voting. The IMF last year criticized the deal as over burdening the state budget. MS IMF DELEGATION ENDS ROMANIAN VISIT. Meanwhile, an IMF mission has wrapped up a visit to Romania to evaluate the country's economic performance. An IMF press release at the end of the visit was non-committal about renewing loans to Romania and said an IMF mission may return in the fall to review the implementation of the government's reform program. On 2 July, Prime Minister Radu Vasile met with IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thompsen. An IMF communique released after that meeting praised "progress in applying the market mechanism to monetary policies" but warned that the budget deficit may "increase substantially in the absence of revenue-enhancing measures and expenditure savings." It also urged Romania to "give priority to the privatization of autonomous state-owned companies and restructuring the banking system." MS MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS. Dumitru Postovan has submitted his resignation to parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, who has yet to decide whether to accept it, Infotag reported on 2 July. The agency said his resignation is probably connected to the report released one day earlier by the State Audit Office, which revealed gross violations of financial and economic legislation among government agencies. Postovan is a close friend of former Premier Andrei Sangheli. Also on 2 July, the parliament set up a special commission to recommend measures following the findings of the State Audit Office. In other news, BASA- press reported the previous day that deputies representing the ruling coalition parties have submitted a draft law amending legislation on political parties. The amendment envisages raising the minimum number of members a party needs to register from 300 to 10,000. MS BULGARIA ANNOUNCES TELECOM PRIVATIZATION. Zachary Zhelyazkov, director of the Bulgarian Privatization Agency, told journalists in Sofia on 29 June that by the end of this year, 51 percent of the stock in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company will be sold to private investors, while the rest of the shares will remain in the government's hands. He said the government hopes to find a "strategic investor" capable of modernizing and developing the company, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. 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