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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 157 Part II, 17 August 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 157 Part II, 17 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

* UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK'S RESERVES FALL SHARPLY

* SLOVAK SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST MECIAR'S PARTY

* SERBIAN FORCES CAPTURE JUNIK
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK'S RESERVES FALL SHARPLY. Ukrainian
National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko says the bank's
reserves dropped to $1.15 billion from $1.49 billion in
August, following the repayment of a loan to Nomura
International (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). The
government initially planned to repay the loan with foreign
aid but was unable to secure such assistance because of the
lack of confidence in Ukraine among foreign investors.
Yushchenko remains optimistic about the country's financial
prospects. "The largest payments in 1998 have been made, and
now everything should be done to win the confidence of both
market operators and Ukraine's creditors in the Ukrainian
market," Interfax quoted him as saying 15 August. JM

METHANE BLAST KILLS 20 UKRAINIAN MINERS. A methane explosion
at a coal mine in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, killed 20 miners
and injured four others on 16 August, ITAR-TASS reported.
The blast occurred 600 meters underground. In April, 63
miners died in Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine's worst-ever coal
mine accident. The death toll at Ukrainian coal mines this
year exceeds 200. Some 270 miners died in accidents at coal
mines last year. JM

PRISONERS OF LUKASHENKA REGIME DENIED REGISTRATION. The
Belarusian Supreme Court has upheld the Justice Ministry's
decision to refuse registration to the Belarusian
Association of Prisoners of the Lukashenka Regime, Belapan
reported on 14 August. According to the Justice Ministry,
the organization's name does not conform with its charter,
since there are no political prisoners under Lukashenka. The
ministry pointed to official court records for 1994-1997, in
which, it said, no trial for "particularly dangerous crimes
against the state" is recorded. The Supreme Court argued the
association is using President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's name
without his consent. It also ruled that the association
broke the law by including Vadzim Labkovich, a minor, among
its founders. Labkovich has been given an 18 month prison
sentence for spraying anti-Lukashenka graffiti in the city
of Stoubtsy. JM

BELARUS REPORTS HIGHER BUDGET REVENUES THAN EXPECTED.
Belarusian Tax Committee Chairman Mikalay Dzyamchuk says
budget revenues this year will exceed forecasts by 15-18
percent, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. According to
Dzyamchuk, the increase is due to a "high level of tax
collection." During the first seven months of this year,
state budget revenues totaled 108.5 percent of the expected
sum and local budget revenues 117.2 percent. JM

KALLAS SAYS ESTONIA'S RURAL PARTIES GROWING STRONGER. Siim
Kallas, leader of the opposition Reform Party, wrote in the
14 August daily "Postimees" that the Coalition Party is
losing ground to its rural partners in the ruling coalition
and that the latter will likely have the upper hand if the
alliance is renewed for the March 1999 elections, BNS
reported. "One can already say that the Estonian Country
People's Party has taken the lead in the minority
coalition," he argued. He added that the diminishing
influence of former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi within the
Coalition Party makes the rural bloc's position in the
alliance stronger. Kallas went on to accuse the government
of seeking to buy votes in the run-up to the elections. He
commented that if, as is currently rumored, subsidies to
farmers are to be increased by 26 percent, "one can ask
whether the government coalition really thinks Estonia
doesn't have any bigger worries." JC

KRASTS SIGNS PETITION FOR CITIZENSHIP LAW REFERENDUM.
Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts on 14 August signed a
petition in support of holding a referendum on amendments to
the citizenship law, BNS and Reuters reported. Krasts had
said earlier that the amendments were passed without a broad
public debate and that the best way to judge public opinion
would be through a referendum. The driving force behind the
initiative is Krasts's Father and Freedom party, which is
opposed to the amendment whereby all children born after
August 1991 will be granted citizenship without having to
demonstrate proficiency in the Latvian language. The
campaign to collect signatures closes on 18 August. Local
media say that the initiative is still far short of the
133,000 signatures needed to force a vote. JC

INTERIOR MINISTER JOINS FATHERLAND AND FREEDOM PARTY.
Latvian Interior Minister Andrejs Krastins has joined the
Fatherland and Freedom party, BNS reported on 14 August.
Krastins quit the National Reform party last month and, as a
cabinet minister, required the support of a political party.
According to BNS, Fatherland and Freedom was the only party
he found acceptable to join. Krastins is a former member of
the Latvian National Independence Movement, which he left in
protest when it merged with the Fatherland and Freedom
party. He will not run for a seat in the October
parliamentary elections. JC

POLISH FARMERS THREATEN NATIONWIDE PROTEST OVER GRAIN
IMPORTS... The national protest committee of the Solidarity
trade union of private farmers, the largest trade union of
its kind in Poland, has sent a letter to Prime Minister
Jerzy Buzek demanding that the government immediately halt
all grain imports. If their demand is not met by 20 August,
farmers threaten "to resume protest actions on rail, road,
and sea border crossings and on internal roads," PAP
reported on 16 August. Marian Zagorny, head of the protest
committee, said that the aim of the protest action is to
destroy all imported grain by dumping it on railroad tracks.
Following earlier protests by farmers, the government
imposed duties on grain imports and agreed to purchase
domestic grain. But farmers now complain that they have to
wait for several days outside grain-purchasing stations,
which are limited in number, to sell their grain at
unsatisfactory prices. JM

...PROMPTING MIXED REACTION. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, head of
the Polish Catholic Church, has criticized farmers who are
threatening to destroy grain, Television Polonia reported on
15 August. Glemp delivered a sermon to 200,000 pilgrims at
the national shrine of Jasna Gora on 15 August. "This is the
start of a terror [action], not democracy," he commented.
Jaroslaw Kalinowski, leader of the opposition Polish Peasant
Party, said the farmers "do not want anything for free. We
only desire to receive equitable payment for what we have
produced with our own hands," Polish Television reported.
Minister of Agriculture Jacek Janiszewski pledged that the
government will increase purchases of Polish grain this
week. He also confirmed that grain imports to Poland have
ceased since the government increased tariffs on such
imports at the beginning of this month. JM

CONTROVERSY OVER HAVEL'S CONTINUING IN OFFICE. Former
Chamber of Deputies chairman Jaroslav Zverina on 15 August
said that the doctors treating ailing President Vaclav Havel
believe another operation would endanger his life and do not
recommend that he remain in office, "Lidove noviny" reported
on 15 August. At the same time, Zverina said he is "not
challenging" Havel to resign. Last April, Zverina caused a
controversy when he called on Havel to quit his post.
Miroslav Cerbak, a member of the medical team treating
Havel, said the team has "never issued a report saying Havel
is fully able to perform his presidential duties," but he
stressed that neither has it "recommended that Havel
resign," CTK reported. Another member of the team told the
news agency on 16 August that Havel's condition is
"satisfactory" but that it is not yet possible to say when
the tracheotomy performed on him will be removed. MS

SLOVAK SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST MECIAR'S PARTY. The
Supreme Court on 14 August rejected the appeal by Vladimir
Meciar's ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)
against the registration of the opposition Slovak Democratic
Coalition (SDK) and its right to participate in the
September parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. The
HZDS claimed that the SDK is a coalition of parties and
that, in line with the new electoral law, each of its
components must win at least 5 percent of the vote on 25-26
September to gain parliamentary representation. SDK leader
Mikulas Dzurinda commented that the court has "prevented the
destruction of the democratic system in Slovakia" and that
its ruling means "victory of justice over the HZDS's ill-
will." MS

SUSPECTED KILLER OF HUNGARIAN MEDIA TYCOON GIVES HIMSELF UP.
Njazi Aqifi, an Albanian from Kosova suspected of having
shot media tycoon Janos Fenyo in February, gave himself up
on 14 August at Roeszke, a Yugoslav-Hungarian crossing
point, MTI reported. While still on the Yugoslav side of the
border he told journalists that he is innocent and hopes to
be able to prove his innocence in Hungary. A lawyer
representing Aqifi said the authorities have agreed to
release him if investigators fail to prove his guilt within
30 days. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES TAX CHAIRMAN APPOINTMENT.
Socialist Party parliamentary group leader Laszlo Kovacs and
the leader of the Alliance of Free Democrats parliamentary
group, Balint Magyar, have criticized the recent appointment
of Lajos Simicska as president of the Tax and Finance
Office, Hungarian media reported on 14 August. Simicska is
the former treasurer of the ruling Federation of Young
Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party. Kovacs said the appointment
of a party official "to head an organization demanding
impartiality violates the unwritten rules of politics and
good taste." Magyar called the step "political cynicism" and
said it is aimed at "covering up shady deals" and at using
the tax office for "political intimidation." Bela Horvath,
leader of the parliamentary group of the Independent
Smallholders' Party, a member of the ruling coalition,
called the accusations a "political hoax" and expressed
support for the appointment. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN FORCES CAPTURE JUNIK. A spokesman for Serbian
paramilitary police forces said in Prishtina on 16 August
that those forces took control of Junik, which is located
near the Albanian frontier and which was the last key town
under the control of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The
spokesman added that Serbian forces are now able to move
unhindered throughout the province. Foreign journalists
reported from Junik that it is deserted except for some 15
people too old to flee. The correspondents also noted
widespread material damage, including to the main mosque,
the minaret of which is reported missing. Kosovar sources
said that Serbian forces used tanks and aircraft to launch
an assault on villages near the Albanian border on 15
August. PM

EXODUS OF REFUGEES CONTINUES. Spokesmen for the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that some 600
refugees from Junik reached Tropoja in northern Albania on
14 August alone, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"
reported on 17 August. Two days earlier, the newspaper had
quoted a UNHCR spokesman as saying in Geneva that
"thousands" of Kosovars are waiting in the mountains near
the border to cross into Albania. The spokesman added that
refugees had previously avoided the minefields that Serbian
forces laid along the Albanian frontier but that more
recently they have begun trying to cross through the mined
areas. PM

DEMACI ACCEPTS UCK POST. Veteran Kosovar politician Adem
Demaci told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 14 August that
he is pleased to accept the UCK's recent offer to head its
negotiating team and will relinquish all other political
duties, as requested by the guerrillas (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 August 1998). Demaci added that he remains
committed to independence for Kosova. The next day, he said
that no negotiations on Kosova's future can be successful
without the participation of the UCK and the political
opposition. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's
negotiating team includes only parties that participate in
the shadow-state government. PM

MOSCOW PRAISES KOSOVAR AGREEMENT TO TALK. The Russian
Foreign Ministry on 14 August praised the decision of the
shadow-state leadership to appoint a special delegation to
talk with the central government in Belgrade, Interfax
reported. The Ministry press release called on all sides to
"start negotiations immediately and without any preliminary
conditions." In a related release, the Foreign Ministry said
that Russian participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace
maneuvers in the Balkans reflect "Russia's role in
strengthening stability and security" there. PG

NATO STARTS MILITARY EXERCISES IN ALBANIA... Military
personnel from 14 NATO and Partnership for Peace member
states began a five-day exercise in Albania on 17 August.
The 1,700-member force will take part in various drills in
the mountains. ITAR-TASS noted that "no exercises imitating
air raids have been planned.... NATO promised to do
everything possible so that the exercises seem 'politically
sterile,' as Russia... insisted." The U.S. Defense
Department on 14 August withdrew two of its planned three
warships from the exercises, reducing the number of its
participating marines from 1,000 to 275. A Pentagon
spokesman said the same day in Washington that the troops
are needed to help evacuate U.S. citizens from the
Democratic Republic of Congo. He stressed that the reduction
is not related to the situation on the ground in Albania.
The exercises are partly designed to show Belgrade that NATO
is able to respond, if necessary, in the Kosova crisis. FS

...WHILE U.S. EMBASSY EVACUATES PERSONNEL. The U.S.
government began evacuating all but essential staff from
Albania on 16 August after the State Department temporarily
suspended normal embassy operations in the wake of the
embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 August 1998). An unnamed embassy source told
Reuters that Ambassador Marisa Lino will stay on. State
Department officials said the previous day in Washington
that the decision to suspend activities does not reflect any
change in the "good" U.S.-Albanian relations. The officials
declined to comment on whether they fear any specific
terrorist threat in Albania. The evacuation follows earlier
media reports that the African bombings may have been in
revenge for the arrest of four Islamic fundamentalists in
Albania earlier this year. Meanwhile, an unidentified
Albanian police official told AP in Tirana on 16 August that
the authorities recently arrested a fifth suspected Egyptian
Islamist. FS

ALBANIA QUITS ISLAMIC CONFERENCE. Prime Minister Fatos Nano
told "Zeri i Popullit" of 16 August that Albania is no
longer a member of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC). Albania, which has a large Muslim
population, became a member of the OIC in 1993 under former
President Sali Berisha. Nano, however, claims that Albania
never really belonged to the OIC because Berisha did not
follow Albanian legal procedure when applying to join that
body. He added that "Albania has no other future but to be
integrated in Europe." And he stressed that Albania will
continue to cooperate with the "Arab countries" on a
bilateral or multilateral level. Meanwhile, "Koha Jone"
reported on 16 August that it has received unspecified
threats because of its recent articles against Islamic
fundamentalism. FS

HERZEGOVINIAN SERBS GO HOME. Some 100 Serbs from Bacevici
near Mostar returned home on 15 August for the first time
since 1992 and immediately began rebuilding the devastated
village. The UNHCR will provide the returnees with drinking
water and other basic necessities until Bacevici's basic
infrastructure is functioning again. To date, only 15,045
Bosnian refugees have returned to homes in regions where
they constitute an ethnic minority, the "Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 August, citing UNHCR
figures. The newspaper added that some 376,146 Muslims and
Croats have gone back to homes on the territory of the
mainly Muslim and Croatian federation since the Dayton
agreement was signed at the end of 1995. PM

SREBRENICA INVESTIGATION WIDENS. Dutch military justice
authorities in Arnhem and Defense Minister Frank de Grave in
The Hague have launched investigations into charges that
Dutch peacekeepers in July 1995 ran over with armored
vehicles and killed up to 30 Muslim soldiers who were
blocking the Dutch path of retreat from Srebrenica, the
"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 August. The
military justice authorities also plan to issue an open
invitation to all 460 former peacekeepers to file a
disposition about their recollections of the fall of
Srebrenica. Several Dutch government bodies are
investigating a variety of charges that the Dutch troops did
not carry out their duties to protect the Muslims and that
they may actually have helped the Serbs round up Muslim
civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). PM

ROMANIA'S LIBERALS WANT ALLIANCE RESTRUCTURED. Valeriu
Stoica, first deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party
(PNL), said on 16 August that his party wants to continue
its membership in the Democratic Convention of Romania but
that the convention must be "restructured". He said
restructuring is necessary to "make more specific the role
each member plays in the alliance." He added that the PNL
may want to run its own candidates in the next local
elections. Stoica also warned against the "obsessive ongoing
discussions" about a government reshuffle that Prime
Minister Radu Vasile has announced for next month. He said
the such discussions are reminiscent of the "reshuffling
psychosis" that preceded the events leading to the
resignation of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADER ON UNIVERSITY IN ROMANIA. Attila
Verestoy, leader of the Senate parliamentary group of the
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said on 14
August that he wished to "remind" President Emil
Constantinescu of his 10 December 1997 declaration.
Constantinescu had said he supports the setting up of a
Hungarian-language state university in Romania. Verestoy was
responding to Constantinescu's recent statement in Cluj in
support of a "multi-cultural" university in the town,
Mediafax reported. Verestoy also said he does not rule out
the possibility of setting up a separate university for
national minorities scattered throughout several
Transylvanian towns and whose center would be in "Cluj or
Targu Mures." He also said teaching at such university could
take place "in Hungarian and German." MS

BULGARIAN OFFICIALS CLAMP DOWN ON CORRUPTION, CRIME. Three
customs officials and two police officers in the Black Sea
port of Burgas have been dismissed and 13 other customs
officials are being investigated for involvement in
smuggling into the country millions of tons of sugar without
paying custom duties, AP reported on 14 August. The sugar
was processed at a nearby plant owned by a subsidiary of
Multigroup, which is run by members of the former communist
nomenklatura and security services. The same day, customs
officials at the Black Sea port of Varna seized 670
kilograms of cocaine, while police near Sofia arrested a
Bulgarian who tried to sell a Turkish bus driver 3,200
compact discs suspected to be pirate copies. MS

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