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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 203, Part II, 20 October 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 203, Part II, 20 October 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

* POLISH GOVERNMENT 'DISAPPOINTED' BY AUSCHWITZ DECISION

* CONFUSION IN KOSOVA

* YUGOSLAV GENERAL BLAMES POLITICIANS FOR WAR

End Note
SAKHALIN: WAITING FOR OIL BUT PATIENCE IS RUNNING OUT
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

IMF TO CONSIDER BELARUS LOAN REQUEST. The IMF plans to
send a delegation to Minsk in early November to discuss
the Belarusian government's request for an emergency
loan to help cover its loss of grain exports to Russia,
an IMF spokeswomen told RFE/RL on 19 October. Those
discussions may not lead to a loan, however, she
suggested. On the one hand, Belarus has not complied
with IMF requirements for such loans in the past. On the
other, the IMF has had relatively little contact with
Minsk since its representative there left the country
along with other diplomats in the summer. PG

BELARUS PRESIDENT STRESSES SUPPORT FOR BELGRADE. In a
message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic,
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said again
that his country will provide assistance to Belgrade if
NATO applies force in Kosova, Interfax reported on 19
October. Lukashenka's message was made public during a
17-18 October visit to Belgrade by Belarusian Security
Council State Secretary Viktor Sheiman. PG

CPJ TO HONOR BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST. The U.S.-based
Committee to Project Journalists has named Pavel
Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief of Russian Public
Television and chief editor of "Belarusskaya delovaya
gazeta," as one of five international journalists to be
honored in New York on 24 November, RFE/RL reported on
19 October. A CPJ press release said that Sheremet has
become a symbol of courage for standing up to President
Lukashenka's campaign to suppress that country's
independent media. PG

RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN CRISIS TASK FORCE TO MEET. Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma agreed during a 19 October telephone conversation
that their joint anti-crisis task force will convene in
Moscow on 23 October, Interfax reported. They also said
that a planned meeting of Russian and Ukrainian
businessmen in Kharkiv on 30 October could give "a new
impulse to bilateral economic cooperation," according to
the Russian news service. PG

CHORNOBYL-RELATED CANCERS INCREASE IN UKRAINE. Ukraine's
Health Ministry and UN officials have reported a rise in
the number of Ukrainians suffering from thyroid cancer,
dpa reported on 19 October. "The disease is a
consequence of the catastrophe at the Chornobyl nuclear
power plant," Ukrainian Health Minister Andriy Serdyuk
told Interfax. Some 1,030 children now suffer from this
disease in Ukraine, Serdyuk said, whereas "not long
ago," there were only 800 to 900 victims. PG

EARTHQUAKE HITS UKRAINE'S CRIMEA. Ukraine's Emergencies
Ministry told Reuters on 19 October that a moderate
earthquake shook Crimea the previous day, but the
ministry reported no deaths or damage. Earlier officials
at Ukraine's Geodesic Institute said that the remaining
seven seismological stations in Crimea (out of the 13
that had existed there in 1991) would close by the end
of this year because of a lack of funds. PG

TALLINN WELCOMES NEW CO-CHAIR ON ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN
COMMISSION. An Estonian government spokesman told BNS on
19 October that Moscow's decision to name Deputy Prime
Minister Valentina Matvienko as cochairman of the
Estonian-Russian intergovernmental commission will help
improve bilateral relations. "For the Estonian
government this is positive news," the spokesman
commented, adding that "we hope the co-chairs of the
commission will meet in Tallinn soon." Matvienko was
named last week to replace Oleg Sysuev, former deputy
prime minister and currently presidential first deputy
chief of staff, as joint commission head. Estonian Prime
Minister Mart Siimann is the other co-chair of the
commission. JC

ESTONIAN PREMIER INQUIRES ABOUT OECD MEMBERSHIP. Ahead
of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development conference in Tallinn on the economic
development of the Baltic region, Siimann met with OECD
deputy secretary-general Kumiharu Shigehara, BNS
reported on 19 October. The news agency reported that
Siimann asked about Estonia's chances of being admitted
to the OECD, but no further details were given.
Shigehara also met with Estonian President Lennart Meri,
who thanked the OECD official for the launching earlier
this year of a regional program for the Baltics. An
important part of that program is a survey of the Baltic
economies by the OECD Secretariat. Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania all applied to join the OECD in late 1996. JC

LILEIKIS ORDERED TO APPEAR IN COURT. Ninety-one-year-old
Aleksandras Lileikis, who is suspected of having
committed war crimes during the Nazi occupation of
Lithuania, has been ordered to appear in a Vilnius court
on 5 November, dpa reported on 19 October. In accordance
with a report on Lileikis's state of health submitted
last week by a team of Lithuanian doctors (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 October 1998), a Vilnius judge ruled that
Lileikis is healthy enough to appear in court "as long
as there are no stress situations that could catalyze
his death." Lileikis's trial has been repeatedly
postponed owing to his alleged poor health. JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT 'DISAPPOINTED' BY AUSCHWITZ DECISION.
The Polish government on 19 October said that it was
disappointed by an Oswiecim municipal court decision
blocking Warsaw's efforts to take control of a disputed
parcel of land near the former Nazi death camp at
Auschwitz, the PAP news agency reported. The government
said the decision, which makes it impossible for the
central authorities to prevent radical Roman Catholics
from erecting crosses there in clear defiance of the
Church hierarchy and despite protests by Jewish groups,
"harms Poland's image abroad." The PAP agency said the
government may appeal the decision. PG

CZECH PRESIDENT SCOLDS COUNTRYMEN'S XENOPHOBIA. Vaclav
Havel said on 19 October that Czechs should be more
concerned about their own xenophobia and worry less
about whether Britain will impose visa regulations on
them, CTK reported. Havel made his comments after an
hour-long meeting in London with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair. A spokesman for Blair said the two leaders
discussed steps being taken by the Czech government
designed to improve social conditions for Roma and
prevent them from seeking refuge in Britain. Havel also
met with Queen Elizabeth II. He is due to arrive in
Belfast on 20 October. PB

CZECH MAYOR CRITICIZES HAVEL. Ladislav Hruska, the mayor
of the Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, called on
President Havel to apologize for his comment that the
city's residents are racist, CTK reported on 19 October.
Havel said in a radio address before his trip to the UK
that the city's plan to build a wall separating
apartment blocks inhabited largely by Roma from houses
in which ethnic Czechs live is "undemocratic" and will
harm the country's reputation. Hruska said that he would
file suit against the president if Havel were not in
such poor physical health. PB

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER URGES SLOVAK ADMISSION TO FAST-
TRACK GROUP. Jan Kavan told his British counterpart,
Robin Cook, that he hopes Slovakia will be admitted to
the "first group" of countries seeking admission to the
EU and NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported
on 19 October. Kavan said the new Slovak government will
be "united by its determination to offset the
undemocratic legacy of the Meciar government." Kavan and
Cook discussed the problems caused by Czech and Slovak
Roma applying for asylum in Great Britain during the
past several months. PB

TENSIONS WITHIN HUNGARIAN COALITION OVER LOCAL ELECTION
RESULTS. Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 19 October
expressed surprise at a recent statement by Independent
Smallholders' Party (FKGP) deputy chairman Zsolt Lanyi.
Commenting on the party's failure to win any seats on
the Budapest City Council in the local elections, Lanyi
allegedly told reporters on 18 October that the FKGP's
participation in the coalition is a mistake and that the
party must review its policy. FKGP chairman Jozsef
Torgyan attributed Lanyi's comment, as published, to the
"usual distortion and indecent approach of the media."
He said Lanyi had approved the FKGP's policy at the
party's 19 October meeting. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

CONFUSION IN KOSOVA. A spokeswoman for the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Prishtina
on 19 October that the UNHCR has canceled plans to send
out two humanitarian aid convoys from the capital
pending a clarification of the military situation on the
ground. Serbian spokesmen say that the Kosova Liberation
Army (UCK) recently took advantage of the agreement
reached by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke to reoccupy lost
territory and to attack Serbian police. They add that
the security forces are restoring order. At the same
time, the Serbian spokesmen deny Kosovar reports that
the Serbs are shelling villages. Kosovar officials argue
that the Serbs have responded to the killing of four
policemen by launching an assault on unarmed civilians
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). Western
diplomats are unable to "determine which side is telling
the truth," the "Washington Post" reported. Diplomats do
not agree among themselves whether the movement of the
security forces violates the agreement, the "Financial
Times" added. PM

COOK WARNS UCK. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
said on 19 October in London that the UCK has recently
committed "several breaches of the cease-fire. Such
continuing acts of hostility serve only the interests of
those who wish to undermine the political process and
return to war.... We have no intention of NATO being
conscripted as a sort of air force" for the UCK. PM

JOURNALISTS APPEAL TO DEMACI. In Paris, the
international organization Reporters without Frontiers
appealed on 19 October to Adem Demaci, the political
spokesman for the UCK, to do all he can to secure the
release of two Tanjug journalists who are believed to
have been captured by the UCK (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19
October 1998). In Belgrade, the Yugoslav government said
in a statement that the disappearance of two men is a
"blow to the implementation of the Milosevic-Holbrooke
agreement and the agreement on the OSCE verification
mission.... It is inadmissible that teams of journalists
are being abducted...before the very eyes of the
international community." PM

YUGOSLAV GENERAL BLAMES POLITICIANS FOR WAR. General
Momcilo Perisic, who is chief of the army's general
staff, told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 20 October that
the politicians, not the army, are responsible for the
conflict in Kosova. He argued that "the basic problem is
that a shadow state has existed [in Kosova] for
years.... There are very few politicians" who are
willing to admit that they cannot solve the problem and
make way for those who can. Perisic added that armies do
not make policy and that the mission of the army is to
defend the country. He noted that "Serbs have been
fighting a war since 1991 and we still have no allies.
Not even the Russian Federation has declared itself our
ally. We have never been so isolated for so long and we
have never [before] been without allies." Perisic
concluded that "one doesn't make war against the entire
world." PM

MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION MAINTAINS ITS LEAD. Ljubco
Georgievski, who is the leader of the Internal
Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), said
in Skopje on 19 October that Macedonia has entered a new
era by giving victory to VMRO and its ally, the
Democratic Alternative, in the previous day's
parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19
October 1998). Spokesmen for the governing Social
Democrats (SDSM) replied that Georgievski's initial vote
tallies are inaccurate and that the SDSM could still win
in the second round on 1 November. Official results are
expected shortly. PM

BANKING CLERK ADMITS LEAKING TUDJMAN ACCOUNT FIGURES.
Ankica Lepej, a 23-year veteran employee of the
Zagrebacka Banka, said in Zagreb on 19 October that she
recently provided the independent daily "Jutarnji List"
with information about the account balance of Ankica
Tudjman, the wife of President Franjo Tudjman. Lepej
said that she could not keep such information secret at
a time when public attention is focused on the private
wealth of politicians. She faces up to five years in
prison if convicted of wrongdoing. Tudjman's office said
in a statement that he believed that he was obliged to
make public information only about the property he owns,
not about his or his wife's bank accounts, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. Some opposition
politicians suspect that Tudjman's opponents within his
own Croatian Democratic Community leaked the information
about the bank account to the media. PM

ALBANIAN COURT ORDERS MONARCHIST LEADER DETAINED. A
Tirana court on 19 October ordered the detention pending
trial of Eqerem Spahia, a leader of the monarchist
Legality Party, and Sali Shehu, a former Tirana district
police chief. The Tirana Prosecutor-General's Office has
charged both with organizing and participating in an
armed uprising in Tirana on 14 September, ATSH reported.
The prosecutor-general has presented photos of Spahia
and Shehu among crowds of armed people attacking the
office of the prime minister. The prosecutor also
submitted a videotape showing Spahia saying on state
television that "the government [of former Prime
Minister Fatos Nano] is toppled" and that "the situation
is under the control of the [opposition coalition] Union
for Democracy," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September
1998). FS

ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS UNCLEAR ON CONSTITUTION. The
Democratic Party's National Council, meeting in Tirana
on 19 October, failed to adopt a statement on the draft
constitution drawn up by the governing coalition during
the Democrats' nearly year-long boycott of the
parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1998). The
party leadership, however, strongly criticized a recent
proposal that any referendum on the constitution be
valid regardless of voter turnout. "Albanian Daily News"
on 20 October suggested that "the Democrats were upset
by the proposal, as it will make it more difficult for
them" to count on the defeat of the draft in a
referendum owing to a low turnout. Observers noted that
the Democrats do not seem to have prepared themselves
for a public debate on the draft and have not produced
an alternative draft. FS

ROMANIAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER RESIGNS. Romanian
President Emil Constantinescu accepted the resignation
of Sorin Dimitriu on 19 October, Reuters and Rompres
reported. Dimitriu, who also resigned as head of the
State Ownership Fund, said the reasons for his
resignation are "deeper than the apparent
dissatisfaction with the campaign against myself and the
institutions" that he heads. Dimitriu had often been the
subject of criticism from Prime Minister Radu Vasile,
who alleged that privatization was moving too slowly.
Dimitriu said "to approach privatization as a race
against the clock...is dangerous." Constantinescu
appointed Vasile as interim privatization minister. PB

WORLD BANK OFFICIAL ON AID TO ROMANIA. Andrew Vorkink,
the World Bank representative for Romania, said on 19
October that the bank is committed to granting Bucharest
financial assistance, Rompres reported. Vorkink,
speaking after a meeting with Senate President Petre
Roman, said the aid is needed to support Romanian
programs on restructuring the financial and agricultural
sectors in an effort to speed up reforms. Roman said
Dimitriu's resignation is a clear signal that
privatization must resume in a different way. PB

MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER PRAISES TIES WITH ROMANIA. Ion
Ciubic said after a meeting with Romanian Foreign
Minister Andrei Plesu that close relations between the
two countries "give us hope for the future," Rompres
reported on 19 October. Plesu is in Chisinau for the
eighth meeting of the Committee for Relations between
Moldova and Romania. Plesu said the two men had
discussed, among other topics, the countries' respective
economic difficulties. Ciubic commented that the working
meetings have allowed bilateral relations to
"intensify." PB

BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY VOWS FURTHER REFORMS. Delegates
to the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party
congress in Sofia agreed on 19 October to push for
greater economic reforms, Reuters reported. Party leader
and Premier Ivan Kostov said "political complacency is
unforgivable..., society expects action from us. Our
mission is to build the new Bulgaria." The conference,
the UDF's first since coming to power in April 1997,
approved resolutions calling for rapid privatization,
the closing of unprofitable enterprises, bringing laws
into line with EU standards, and working to join the EU
and NATO. PB

COOK IN SOFIA TO SHOW SUPPORT. British Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook, who arrived in Sofia on 19 October, said his
trip to Bulgaria is to show Britain's commitment "to the
territorial integrity and security" of the Balkan
countries, Reuters reported on 20 October. Cook,
speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Kostov,
said the two agreed that the instability in Kosova
cannot be allowed to "spill over into wider insecurity
in the region." Cook said he would like to see Bulgaria
join the EU "as soon as possible." He said that Britain
and Bulgaria should develop stronger economic ties. PB

END NOTE

SAKHALIN: WAITING FOR OIL BUT PATIENCE IS RUNNING OUT

by Floriana Fossato

	Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has
repeatedly underlined the importance of having regional
leaders on his side to prevent local tendencies toward
independence dividing the country.
	Sakhalin governor Igor Farkhutdinov, who presides
over a region where offshore energy resources are
estimated by some experts to rival those of the North
Sea, was one of the first governors to hold talks with
the new prime minister. The focus of that meeting was
almost certainly how to speed up the development of oil
and gas projects on Sakhalin as well as how to deal with
the threat of social unrest on the Far Eastern island.
For despite Sakhalin's great natural wealth, the level
of poverty in the region is one of the highest in
Russia, with more than a third of the population of
600,000 people officially registered as living below the
subsistence line.
	Farkhutdinov's main aim at the talks would likely
have been to forge the same cooperative links with
Primakov as he had with the previous Moscow government
on a key issue, namely securing the passage through the
parliament of legislation guaranteeing the protection of
foreign investment in Russia.
	Since the early 1990s, the Communist-dominated
State Duma has put obstacles in the way of laws
guaranteeing the protection of foreign investment for
consortia and a share of the oil and gas extracted.
Those terms are included in the so-called production-
sharing agreements (PSA) signed by local authorities and
the consortia.
	Local officials have tried to galvanize the Duma
into taking action and are frustrated by the lack of
results. Galina Pavlova, director of the Sakhalin local
department for offshore oil development, told RFE/RL in
a recent interview that "instead of working together,
the Duma obstructs everything...; as a result we are,
with our own hands, destroying our own possibilities."
	Farkhutdinov says passage of the necessary laws is
a critical issue for Sakhalin if the big foreign oil
companies already working there are to remain committed
to developing the region's resources. "At a time when
foreign capital is fleeing Russia, this is not happening
on Sakhalin," he commented. "Sakhalin cannot go on
without money, but if we want to overcome this difficult
situation and not become a burden for the state, we need
legislation even more than financing."
	Enormous sums of money are at stake. Foreign
consortia have said that the first three major projects,
called Sakhalin-1, -2, and -3, could result in
investments totaling $36 billion.
	Sakhalin-2, the only project on target so far, is
scheduled to begin production next spring. Those
prospects, however, could suffer if the Duma decides not
to approve a bill amending existing legislation to
comply with tax breaks and provisions included in PSA.
Meanwhile, Sakhalin-2 managers put on a brave face.
	Sakhalin's road toward the desired oil and gas
wealth has not been an easy one. Vladimir Sorochan, the
editor of the newspaper "Sovietskii Sakhalinsk," said
that prospects for oil production, coupled with plans
for developing rich gas fields, provoked "euphoria"
earlier in the 1990s, when it was thought that there
would be cheap energy, jobs, and positive developments
for the island.
	But the situation "has changed radically over the
years," Sorochan commented. "People have understood they
will have to wait a long time for tangible results," he
said, "while hopes of jobs are fading and the governor,
instead of improving people's lives in decrepit cities
and villages, seems more interested in grandiose plans
like the building of an international airport."
	Farkhutdinov denies those charges. "If the oil
projects finally get under way, 20,000 permanent jobs
will be created over the years...and an international
airport would be a sound investment, if only because
every meeting with foreign investors starts with the
question: what's your airport like?" The regional
administration has also announced that the first $20
million bonus from the Sakhalin-2 project is to be used
for urgent construction projects such as a new school or
hospital.
	After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian
authorities acknowledged that extraction and production
operations in Sakhalin's oil sector required expensive
and sophisticated technologies that the country did not
have. So they started offering the reserves to consortia
dominated by, and often composed entirely of, foreign
companies. Foreign oil companies were lured by the
prospect of gaining access to offshore oil reserves
estimated at 29 million barrels.
	There is interest also in Sakhalin's vast gas
resources. Farkhutdinov told RFE/RL that the development
of gas resources would provide cheap energy for the
island and would thereby solve the problem of energy
cuts owing to the non-payments crisis in the coal
sector. That crisis led to the coal miners strikes this
summer that paralyzed Sakhalin for weeks.
	Even more important, said the governor, noting
Sakhalin's proximity to Asian markets, energy companies
involved in the oil projects, would help build natural
gas pipelines running to Japan, South Korea, and China.

This is the last in a three-part series on Russia's Far
East by Floriana Fossato, an RFE/RL correspondent based
in Moscow.

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