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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 151 Part II, 7 August 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 151 Part II, 7 August 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

* BELARUS, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBT

* KINKEL SAYS KOSOVA INTERVENTION WOULD BE DIFFICULT

* MACEDONIA, UN CONFIRM MINING OF BORDER WITH YUGOSLAVIA

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUS, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBT... Meeting in Minsk
on 6 August, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and
Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev reached an agreement on
Belarus's repayment of a $250 million debt to the Russian gas
company, Belapan and Interfax reported. "Today we agreed on
all points," Vyakhirev commented, but he refused to provide
details, saying only that Belarus will pay in cash for gas
supplies at the same prices as Russian customers. He also
denied that the agreement with Belarus amounted to a barter
arrangement. Citing unidentified sources, Interfax reported
that Lukashenka asked Gazprom to supply 17 billion cubic
meters of gas this year and 18 billion cubic meters in 1999.
The president is also reported to have insisted that the
state bonds with which Belarus intends to repay some one-
third of its gas debt should not be sold to other parties
until Belarus buys them back. JM

...WHILE LUKASHENKA BLAMES RUSSIA FOR REPAYMENT PROBLEM. The
Belarusian president said after  meeting with Vyakhirev that
Belarus would not have had the "most painful" problem of
paying its debt to Gazprom if Russia had paid in cash for
supplies of Belarusian goods, Belapan reported. Lukashenka
hinted that Belarus and Russia should "make operational" a
system of mutual debt payments instead of barter deals, which
are currently the main means of paying for Russian gas. "We
still cannot agree with the Russian government and the
Russian president on supplies of our goods, which are
necessary for Russia, not only to Gazprom," Lukashenka said.
JM

UKRAINE TOUGHENS BORDER ZONE REGIME FOR FOREIGNERS. In a bid
to clamp down on illegal immigration via Ukraine, the
government has introduced new restrictions on foreigners
staying in Ukraine's border zone, Ukrainian Television
reported on 6 August. In addition to valid passports and
visas, foreigners  there must now have a document from the
Interior Ministry confirming "the necessity of their stay on
that territory." Pavlo Shysholin, chief of staff of the
Ukrainian Border Troops, told journalists on 6 August that
11,000 border violators were detained in Ukraine in the first
half of this year, including 5,000 illegal immigrants who
were seeking to reach the West. Two-third of the illegal
immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa arrive in
Ukraine via Russia. JM

UKRAINE TO CUT CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION STAFF. Oleksandr
Yakovenko, head of the personnel policy department in the
presidential administration, has announced that the
government administration will be cut by 100 people to a
total of 600, Ukrainian Television reported on 6 August. He
added  that the Ukrainian president's administration will be
cut by 20 percent. He provided no figures for that reduction
because, according to the television station, "it is unknown
how many people are working in the [presidential]
administration by now." The reductions are part of an ongoing
administrative reform that is to be completed in 2010. JM

UKRAINIAN PLANT THREATENS TO POISON RIVER. Workers of a
chemical plant in Stebnik in Lviv Oblast have threatened to
release poisonous waste into the River Dniester unless they
are paid their wages for the past six months, ITAR-TASS
reported on 6 August. The river passes through  Lviv,
Ternopil, Chernivtsi, and Odessa Oblasts, as well as
neighboring Moldova. The plant's management has sent a
delegation to Kyiv to obtain funds to repay wage arrears
totaling 8.5 million hryvni ($4.1 million). JM

OFFICIAL SAYS LATVIAN GDP COULD  FALL 2-3 PERCENT. Latvian
Railroad Minister Vilis Kristopans told reporters on 6 August
that the country's GDP may decrease by 2-3 percent owing to
worsening relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported.
Kristopans said budget revenues will fall because of a
decrease in transit cargo  and in Latvian exports to Russia.
The minister, who is planning to meet with leaders of Russian
transportation departments next month, said it will be
difficult to discuss anything if the amendments to the
citizenship law have not gone into effect by then. A campaign
is currently under way in Latvia to collect signatures in
support of a referendum on the amendments. JC

BUTINGE TO BE 'SAFEST' TERMINAL IN BALTIC SEA. In a letter to
his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, Lithuanian President
Valdas Adamkus argued that the Butinge oil terminal will be
the safest installation in the Baltic Sea, BNS reported on 6
August, citing the Lithuanian presidential press service.
Adamkus stressed that the terminal is being constructed using
the latest technology, ensuring ecological safety. He
expressed surprise at "alleged fears" that the terminal will
pose a threat to the environment. Such fears are unfounded,
he maintained, and  reflect "unfair competition and
inappropriate political lobbyism on the part of certain oil
exporting and transport firms." Adamkus was replying to a
letter sent by Ulmanis last month. JC

POLISH PRIMATE DEFENDS CROSS AT AUSCHWITZ. Cardinal Jozef
Glemp, primate of the Polish Catholic Church, said on 6
August that the controversial cross at the former Auschwitz
death camp should remain in place, PAP and Reuters reported.
"The papal cross should stay. I am expressing my own views,
but I feel I also express views of other bishops," he was
quoted as saying. Glemp was speaking after the Polish
government had said that the Catholic Church is the correct
addressee for Jewish demands that the Christian symbols at
Auschwitz be removed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1998).
JM

SUPPORT FOR POLISH COALITION DECREASES. Support for the
ruling coalition parties, the Solidarity Electoral Action
(AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW), has decreased in July owing
to their disputes  over integration with the EU and Poland's
administrative reform, Reuters reported on 6 August. A poll
by Poland's Center for Studying Public Opinion showed that
the AWS's approval rating  dropped to 20 percent in July,
down from 25 percent the previous month. Support for the UW
fell by two points to 13 percent. Meanwhile, backing for the
ex-communist opposition Democratic Left Alliance grew by
seven points to 31 percent. JM

HAVEL'S HEALTH CONTINUES TO IMPROVE. Czech President Vaclav
Havel's health continues to improve, his doctors said on 7
August. CTK quoted the head of the Czech medical team
treating Havel as saying the president is now breathing on
his own. Laboratory results and X-rays show his lung
infection is clearing up. Havel will probably remain in
hospital one week longer than the original 10-14 days
forecast. Havel underwent surgery on 26 July to close a
colostomy but subsequently developed breathing and heart
problems. JN

SLOVAKIA REJECTS REVOKING BENES DECREES. Slovak Foreign
Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar told Czech Radio on 6 August
that a Czech revocation of certain decrees signed by
Czechoslovak President Edvard  Benes in 1945 would be
unacceptable for Slovakia. The most controversial of the
decrees dealt with the confiscation of property owned by
ethnic Germans, Hungarians, "and other enemies of the state"
and amnestied certain crimes against expellees. "Our position
is that this is a historical matter upon which the legal
order of our state and the Czech Republic stand and any
intervention would have absolutely unacceptable
consequences," Tokar said. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman
has come under fire from German politicians for saying that
the Sudeten German expellees association,  like the Czech
Communists and Republicans, should not take part in the new
Czech-German discussion forum since it opposed the Czech-
German declaration.  Sudeten-German expellees have repeatedly
demanded that the Benes decrees be revoked. JN

HUNGARIAN MINISTRY PROPOSES CHANGES TO LEGAL SYSTEM. The
Ministry of Justice has completed draft legislation providing
for the prosecutor-general to come under the government's
supervision, instead of the parliament's, as is currently the
case, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 7 August. The prosecutor-
general would be nominated by the prime minister and
appointed by the president and can be removed from that post
without explanation. The government is also planning to
tighten the penal code, strengthen the role of investigating
authorities, and simplify procedures for  fighting organized
crime. JN

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

KINKEL SAYS KOSOVA INTERVENTION WOULD BE DIFFICULT. German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said on 6 August that NATO
intervention in Kosova would be drawn out and "enormously
complicated," Reuters reported. Kinkel, speaking at The
Hague, rejected allegations that the West has delayed taking
action to stop the violence in the Serbian province. A White
House spokesman said preparations for military intervention
will be finished in a couple of days. Spokesman P. J. Crowley
said Washington is outraged by the Serbs' continued use of
violence against civilians. Kinkel also called on Russia to
support a UN mandate for possible foreign military
involvement in Kosova. PB

AFANASEVSKII IN PRISHTINA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Nikolai Afanasevskii traveled to Prishtina on 7 August for
talks with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and
representatives of Serbian authorities and humanitarian
agencies. Afanasevskii met in  Karadjordjevo with Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic the previous day, and both men
urged new negotiations between Yugoslav and Kosovar Albanian
officials, Tanjug reported. Afanasevskii told RIA Novosti
after the talks that he concentrated on making Milosevic
aware of Russian alarm over the latest developments in
Kosova. JN

EU CALLS FOR EXPERTS TO PROBE MASS GRAVE ALLEGATIONS. The EU
on 6 August called on Yugoslavia to grant forensic scientists
access to the town of Rahovec, where  mass graves are alleged
to have been found (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1998). EU
officials said the previous day that they saw no evidence of
the mass graves, which are said to contain the bodies of some
500 people. The Austrian daily "Die Presse" said the same day
that there are two sites, not visited by the EU officials,
that have been freshly plowed over by a bulldozer. UN human
rights investigator Jiri Dienstbier said he has no
independent confirmation of mass graves. He added that
Serbian action in Kosova could not be termed ethnic cleansing
when compared with what occurred in Bosnia. In Prishtina,
family members of some 100 Serbs alleged to have been
kidnapped by the Kosova Liberation Army met with Red Cross
and U.S. officials to seek help in finding their missing
relatives. PB

HUMANITARIAN GROUPS PLEAD WITH  CLINTON ON KOSOVA. Several
human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. President
Bill Clinton urging him to take immediate steps to stop
Serbian aggression against civilians in Kosova, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Washington reported on 7 August. The letter
said the international community cannot afford to wait for a
cease-fire or a political settlement before resolving the
"humanitarian disaster." The letter was signed by 30 major
humanitarian and human rights groups including Doctors
Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
and the Open Society Institute. The letter said a large-scale
crisis would occur without urgent action. It said the number
of "besieged, displaced, and attacked" Kosovar residents
nearly 1 million people. PB

HUNGARY WANTS BELGRADE TO STOP SENDING VOJVODINA CONSCRIPTS
TO KOSOVA.  The state secretary of Hungary's Foreign
Ministry, Zsolt Nemeth, summoned Yugoslav ambassador Balsa
Spadijer on 6 August to request that the Yugoslav authorities
cease sending ethnic Hungarian soldiers and police from
Vojvodina to Kosova, ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told
"Nepszabadsag." Nemeth repeatedly expressed the ministry's
concern about the broadening of the crisis in Kosova and the
call-up  of ethnic Hungarian reserve soldiers and policemen
to Kosova.  In Subotica, the Democratic Alliance of Croats in
Vojvodina asked the Yugoslav Army not to send ethnic Croat
conscripts to Kosova and called for the return of all
conscripts from Vojvodina. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August)
JN

MACEDONIA, UN CONFIRM MINING OF BORDER WITH YUGOSLAVIA. The
Macedonian Ministry of Defense on 6 August confirmed news
reports that the Macedonian-Yugoslav border has been mined.
The previous day, a representative of the UN Preventive
Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in Skopje said the minefields
overlap UN patrol routes. Defense Ministry spokesman Petar
Atanasov told Radio Macedonia the anti-personnel mines are on
the Yugoslav side of the border. Yugoslav forces have been
laying the mines for at least one month, the Skopje daily
"Nova Makedonija" reported on 6 August. It added that four
mines have exploded since 9 July. JN

MACEDONIAN ELECTIONS CALLED. Tito Petkovski, the speaker of
the Macedonian parliament, said on 6 August that elections
for the 120-seat legislature in Skopje will be held on 18
October, AP reported. The Social Democrats won the last
elections, which were boycotted by several opposition parties
because of alleged voter fraud. PB

BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIANS PUNISHED. Two Bosnian Serb
politicians on 6 August were barred from participating in
next month's parliamentary elections because of their actions
in a protest to prevent the burial of a Muslim cleric, AFP
reported. The names of Predrag Lazarevic and Slavko Zupljanin
were struck from candidate lists by the Elections Appeal Sub-
Commission for failure to "respect the codex of the
elections." Some 800 Bosnian Serbs prevented the burial of
Mufti Ibrahim Halilovic at the former site of the Ferhadija
mosque in Banja Luka late last month. In Sarajevo, the UN
announced that 17 Bosnian Serb policemen were suspended last
month for torture and abuse of authority. PB

MORE BODIES FOUND IN BOSNIAN MASS GRAVE. UN officials said on
6 August that 70 more bodies have been exhumed from a mass
grave in eastern Bosnia near Srebrenica, Reuters reported. UN
spokesman Alexander Ivanko said many of the victims had been
blindfolded and their hands had been tied behind their backs.
Some 7,000 people from the Srebrenica region went missing
after the fall of the town to Serbian forces. PB

CROATIAN TAXES ANGER BOSNIAN CROAT FARMERS. Bosnian Croat
farmers blocked all but one border crossing between
southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia on 6 August to
protest against a value-added tax on their produce, Reuters
reported. Zagreb recently imposed a 22 percent levy and
instituted other regulations on fruit and vegetables imported
from Bosnia. Ahmed Smajic, the Bosnian agriculture minister,
sent a letter to Darinko Bago, the Croatian ambassador in
Sarajevo, protesting the actions as derailing economic
cooperation between the two countries. Croatian farmers are
also upset about the government's imposition of a 22 percent
tax on the money they receive from government purchases of
their grains. PB

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PLAN TO COLLECT ARMS. The
parliament on 5 August approved legislation aimed at
accelerating the collection of unregistered weapons. The
creation of a central disarmament commission, headed by
Minister of Local Government Bashkim Fino, is envisaged.
Local disarmament commissions are to carry out the nationwide
action to collect weapons over the next year. The authorities
will first appeal to the people to hand over their weapons
voluntarily; those who fail to do so will be liable to
punishment. The law, however, allows several categories of
Albanian civilians to keep their weapons. More than 600,000
arms were looted from depots during unrest in 1997. Police
have so far collected only a small number of those arms. FS

ALBANIAN COMMISSION PRESENTS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. Minister for
Institutional Reform Arben Malaj on 5 August said the
commission drafting a new constitution, which he heads, has
finished its work and will send the latest draft to the
parliament for approval. The parliament will discuss the
draft in September--after the summer recess--and is scheduled
to submit it to a referendum on 22 November. A preliminary
version of the draft has been published in newspapers over
the last two weeks. Albania's current constitution is based
on constitutional provisions passed by the parliament in 1991
to replace the communist basic law. FS

BULGARIANS DIVIDED OVER ZHIVKOV'S LEGACY. Commenting on the
death of Todor Zhivkov on 5 August, Bulgaria's reformist
president, Petar Stoyanov,  said the former Communist
dictator had overseen "one of the darkest periods of recent
Bulgarian history.... Eight million Bulgarians lived during
that long period with their work, dreams, and illusions, but
also in fear and political repression." He added that "with
the death of Todor Zhivkov, the era of Bulgarian communism is
finally ending." The Bulgarian Socialist Party, which
reinstated the ousted leader as a member earlier this year,
praised Zhivkov and predicted "generations of Bulgarians
would link his name to hard but creative work and a secure
and easier life," BTA reported. JN

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