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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part II, 10 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part II, 10 December 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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part II

* NATO TO STATION LIAISON OFFICERS IN UKRAINE

* BELARUS SAYS HOUSING CONFLICT WITH EU RESOLVED

* RUGOVA WARNS OF 'BIGGEST MASSACRE TO DATE'

End Note: CROAT-BOSNIAN AGREEMENT: RAISING MORE
QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

NATO TO STATION LIAISON OFFICERS IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Borys Tarasyuk and NATO Secretary-General
Javier Solana said on 9 December that two NATO liaison
officers will be stationed in Kyiv, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Brussels reported. The announcement was
made after a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO commission.
Tarasyuk also said that Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma will attend the alliance's summit in April.
Tarasyuk said he hoped relations with NATO continue to
develop. In Kyiv, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr
Kuzmuk and his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, said
the two countries will sign a military cooperation
treaty next year, AP reported. The agreement will
include officer exchanges, the modernization of Romanian
tanks and planes, and joint arms exports. Babiuc, who
also met with Kuchma, is on a two-day visit to Ukraine.
PB

UKRAINE FORMS COMMISSION ON LAZARENKO. The Ukrainian
parliament on 9 December announced it will set up a
commission to investigate the arrest by Swiss
authorities of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, AP
reported. The commission will be headed by deputy
speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. The parliament also urged
speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko to ask Swiss authorities to
resolve the issue quickly. A Geneva court said
Lazarenko's case would be heard on 11 December. PB

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER SHUT DOWN. Oleh Lyashko, the
editor in chief of the daily "Politika," said he has
been informed that a Kyiv court has revoked the
newspaper's registration, forcing it to shut down, AP
reported. Lyashko said no representatives of the
newspaper has been asked to appear in court. He charged
that the decision was made because "Politika" recently
published a series of articles on alleged corruption
within Kuchma's office. Lyashko, however, said "in this
case I don't see the hand of the president. I think it's
an action by people who wish to arrange for Kuchma to
look as if he's strangling the press." "Politika" closed
down for several months earlier this year when a
criminal case was launched against it by tax officials.
PB

BELARUS SAYS HOUSING CONFLICT WITH EU RESOLVED.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Ural Latypov said on 10
December that Minsk and the EU have resolved a row over
diplomatic housing, Reuters reported. Latypov said EU
ambassadors with houses at the Drazdy housing area will
"voluntarily" give up those properties in exchange for
new ones elsewhere. It is unclear when the EU
ambassadors will return to Minsk and move to new
quarters. In May, some 14 ambassadors living at Drazdy
were evicted, ostensibly because of repairs to the
infrastructure of the compound. But after leaving,
ambassadors were told they would have to find permanent
housing elsewhere, and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
declared the whole compound to be the president's
residence. Latypov said the dispute with the U.S. over
Drazdy has not been solved. EU countries had said the
Drazdy conflict would not be over until Minsk observed
the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which
includes the inviolability of diplomatic housing (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). PB

LUKASHENKA, RIVAL HOLD MINI-DEBATE. President Lukashenka
received a question from declared presidential candidate
and former Premier Mikhail Chyhir during a Russian
Public Television chat show on 9 December, Belapan
reported. Chyhir called in to ask Lukashenka to explain
why pensions and average wages have declined since
Chyhir stepped down in 1996. Lukashenka said Chyhir's
statement was "absolutely far-fetched" and that the
former premier must have used "the fraudulent rate of
the black market" in calculating real wages and
pensions. Lukashenka also said that the reason that
currency reserves have shrunk is because the IMF
dislikes "our policy, so we cannot create reserves using
IMF loans." Lukashenka also announced that he will meet
with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 17
December to discuss further harmonization of the
countries' economies. Lukashenka and Yeltsin have not
met this year. PB

EU, OSCE WELCOME AMENDMENTS TO ESTONIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW.
The EU has welcomed the passage of amendments to
Estonia's citizenship law that grant virtually automatic
citizenship to stateless children (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 December 1998). "The vote of the Estonian
parliament reflects a forward-looking approach which
promotes the stability of Estonian society and is
consistent with the principles and aims of the European
Union," the EU presidency said in a statement. OSCE High
Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel
also praised the Estonian lawmakers' decision, saying
that the amendments conform with his recommendations and
will stimulate the integration process, according to ETA
and BNS. JC

FINAL VOTE ON ESTONIA'S 1999 BUDGET POSTPONED UNTIL NEXT
YEAR? Lawmakers on 9 December suspended the second
reading of the 1999 draft budget, which means that its
passage is likely to be postponed until next year, ETA
reported. The budget has been reduced by 3.8 percent or
702.7 million kroons (some $54 million) to 17.75 billion
kroons, following objections by the opposition that the
initial version was "unrealistic." GDP growth is
estimated at 4 percent and inflation at 7.2 percent.
Finance Minister Mart Opmann noted that the budget
volume may be increased after revenues from the
privatization of Estonian Telecom are known. JC

BIRKAVS SAYS RIGA SHOWING 'WILL' TO IMPROVE RUSSIAN
TIES. Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told journalists
in Riga on 9 December that the new Latvian government
has already demonstrated that it wants to improve
relations with Russia, BNS reported. "The new government
has made strong signals demonstrating our actual will to
improve relations [with Moscow], but this is not a
unilateral act, this is bilateral action," he said.
Relations between Latvia and Russia have recently
progressed toward "certain actions," Birkavs noted,
pointing to his recent meeting with his Russian
counterpart, Igor Ivanov. Birkavs also urged Moscow to
appoint its co-chair to the Russian-Latvian
intergovernmental committee. JC

LATVIAN LAWMAKERS VOTE TO DISMISS COMMANDER OF ARMED
FORCES. The parliament has voted by 67 to 7 with 10
abstentions to confirm the dismissal of Juris Eihmanis,
LETA reported on 10 December. Earlier this fall,
Eihmanis tendered his resignation over the so-called
apartment affair in which he was alleged to have used
some 43,000 lats ($75,438) from military funds to
renovate his apartment. Former Prime Minister and acting
Defense Minister Guntars Krasts subsequently removed
Eihmanis from office. JC

LITHUANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST DEATH
PENALTY. The Constitutional Court has ruled that capital
punishment contravenes the country's basic law and
should be removed from the criminal code. Juozas Zhilys,
chairman of the court, told Reuters that the death
penalty violates the basic human rights to life and
protection from cruelty that are enshrined in the
Lithuanian Constitution. President Valdas Adamkus's
Office said in a statement that the president supports
the court's decision and urges the parliament to quickly
amend the criminal code to implement the ruling. His
predecessor, Algirdas Brazauskas, had imposed a
moratorium on the death penalty in 1995. Lawmakers are
expected to begin discussions early next year on a new
criminal code that makes no provision for capital
punishment, BNS reported. JC

CZECH GOVERNMENT RAISES MINIMUM WAGE. The government on
9 December approved raising the monthly minimum wage by
22.5 percent, to 3,250 crowns ($107). Prime Minister
Milos Zeman said that in accordance with the European
Social Charter, the minimum wage must be higher than the
subsistence level. He dismissed objections that a hike
in the minimum wage might result in higher unemployment,
saying that no more than 2 percent of the working force
earns only the minimum wage, CTK reported. One day
earlier, the Ministry of Labor said unemployment rose by
11,000 in November to reach 363,000, a record high of 7
percent of the work force, dpa reported. The daily
"Mlada fronta Dnes" on 9 December reported that every
third unemployed person in the country is under 25
years. MS

HUNGARIAN RULING PARTY INTRODUCES TAX POLICE BILL.
Finance Ministry State Secretary Mihaly Varga on 9
December presented to the parliament a bill on setting
up a tax investigative body, which was proposed by the
major coalition Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian
Civic Party. Varga argued that the regular police force
does not have the necessary means and skills to deal
with tax-related crimes. He said the cabinet will set
aside 2.8 billion forint ($13 million) to establish a
240-strong force, which will be armed and authorized to
"apply secret service methods." Opposition parties fear
that the tax police could be used arbitrarily and will
contravene citizens' constitutional rights. Moreover,
the cabinet and opposition disagree whether the bill's
passage requires a two-thirds majority in the
parliament. MSZ

ALBRIGHT SOUNDS WARNING NOTE TO HUNGARY. U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright told Hungarian Foreign
Minister Janos Martonyi in Brussels on 9 December that
Washington will consider it "an unfavorable sign" if
Hungary does not pass a constitutional amendment to
facilitate the movement of NATO troops across its
territory. Martonyi admitted that the present situation,
in which the parliament must decide on the movement of
foreign troops across Hungarian territory, is an
"impossible state of affairs." Opposition parties in
Hungary have refused to guarantee the two-thirds
majority required to pass the amendment, which would
authorize the government to decide on the movement of
NATO troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1998).
MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

RUGOVA WARNS OF 'BIGGEST MASSACRE TO DATE.' Kosovar
shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Paris on 9
December that "if there is an escalation of the
situation [in the province], that will mean the biggest
massacre seen to date." He added that such a conflict
could quickly lead to "a mass ethnic-cleansing." Rugova
called the current cease-fire "very fragile" and added
that he hopes the current diplomatic "efforts of the
U.S., European Union, [and] France...will achieve
something." French President Jacques Chirac, for his
part, urged both sides in the Kosova conflict to "start
discussions without delay." PM

MILUTINOVIC REJECTS HILL PLAN. Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic and other top government officials issued a
statement in Belgrade on 9 December formally rejecting
U.S. envoy Chris Hill's plan for an interim political
settlement in Kosova as "not acceptable." The statement
contained few details but noted that the Hill plan fails
to include unspecified "key elements" from the Serbian
government's own proposal. The text argued that "the
form for solving the problem...is the broadest possible
democratic self-rule within the legal system of Serbia
and Yugoslavia" and with equal rights for all ethnic
groups regardless of their size. Observers suggested
that Belgrade rejects the idea of broad autonomy for
Kosova at a provincial--as opposed to a local--level.
The Serbian authorities also oppose extending the
principle of majority rule to Kosova, where some 90
percent of the population is ethnic Albanian (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). PM

HILL SAYS TALKS 'STILL ON TRACK.' Hill said in Prishtina
on 9 December that negotiations to end the Kosova
dispute are "still on track," despite the rejection of
his plan by both sides. He added that "ultimately the
responsibility of reaching a settlement rests with both
sides.... They have to be interested in a settlement
more than we [are]." Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the EU's
special envoy for Kosova, said that "this is a very
decisive point in time. We mustn't lose the momentum."
PM

SERBIAN POLICE BLOCK ROAD TO FINNISH FORENSICS EXPERTS.
AP reported on 10 December that a "Serb police
contingent consisting of an armored personnel carrier
and about two dozen policemen wearing flak jackets and
carrying automatic rifles stopped...[a] convoy [of 19
Finnish forensics experts] on the road in Trstenik." The
Finns were en route to the Drenica region to exhume a
site where some 22 ethnic Albanian victims of a massacre
by Serbian forces in September are believed to be
buried. The Finns returned to Prishtina after the police
refused to let them pass unless the Finns took the Serbs
with them. A spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army
(UCK), which controls the Drenica area, said that "the
Finnish team is free to come on their own but they
cannot come with the police." A spokeswoman for the
Finns said that the Serbian police committed a "clear
obstruction" of what was to have been a pioneering
investigation into atrocities in Kosova. PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS KOSOVA WITHIN SERBIA IS NOT A
SOLUTION. Rexhep Meidani said in Sofia on 9 December
that "no solution within Serbia would help to
permanently solve the problem" of Kosova. He did not
rule out a solution within the framework of the federal
Yugoslavia, but he did not elaborate, AP reported.
Meidani and his Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov,
signed agreements on preventing double taxation and
promoting cultural cooperation. During his visit,
Meidani is to discuss the planned construction of an
east-west highway and railway linking the Bulgarian port
of Burgas with the Albanian port of Durres via
Macedonia. Many observers have hailed the Turkish-backed
project as a key to promoting economic cooperation and
political stability in the region by developing east-
west infrastructure links. FS

GREECE SEES NO ALTERNATIVE TO MILOSEVIC. Greek Foreign
Minister Theodoros Pangalos said in Brussels on 9
December that there is no alternative to Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic on the Serbian political
scene. Pangalos added, "We must consider that on
[Kosova], the positions of all the other [Serbian]
political forces are either identical to those of Mr.
Milosevic, in the best case, or in most cases they're
worse.... We're not happy also in Athens with Mr.
Milosevic. But he's there. He has been elected, and he
has cooperated to some extent. And we have to make him
cooperate to a larger extent. That's the aim, so let's
not divert our efforts." Pangalos said that he made his
remarks in response to recent criticism of Milosevic by
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other
U.S. diplomats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998).
PM

MONTENEGRO TO OPEN BORDER UNILATERALLY? Montenegrin
Minister of Industry Vojin Djukanovic said in Belgrade
on 9 December that the Montenegrin economy requires the
opening of the border with Croatia at Debeli Brijeg,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that
Montenegro will "soon" open the crossing unilaterally if
the federal Yugoslav authorities continue to oppose it.
Croatian authorities, for their part, have shown
understanding for the Montenegrin position but have said
that border issues can be decided only with Belgrade's
approval. PM

UN HAILS AGREEMENT ON BOSNIAN SERB POLICE. In Banja Luka
on 9 December, Elisabeth Rehn, who heads the UN mission
to Bosnia, met with President Nikola Poplasen and Prime
Minister Milorad Dodik and signed an agreement to
reorganize the Republika Srpska police. She praised the
document as a commitment to setting up a "professional
police force" that will include Croats and Muslims as
well as Serbs. The parliament must ratify the agreement.
PM

WESTENDORP CALLS HAGUE TRIALS KEY TO STABILITY. The
international community's Carlos Westendorp said in
Sarajevo on 9 December that "Bosnia is not going to be a
normal country until [all indicted war criminals face
justice], until they are all in The Hague." He noted
that the influence of indicted war criminal Radovan
Karadzic is decreasing in the Republika Srpska. But he
cautioned that the influence of Milosevic and Serbian
Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj is on the rise,
which, he said, "is not the best alternative" to
Karadzic. PM

SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER WINS VOTE. Janez Drnovsek
survived a no-confidence vote in the parliament on 9
December. Opposition leader Janez Jansa obtained the
support of only 24 out of 90 legislators for his motion
to unseat the prime minister. Jansa sought to hold
Drnovsek responsible for the fact that the intelligence
services concluded a secret agreement with their Israeli
counterparts in 1995. The Slovenian Constitution
requires all "legal acts" by government authorities to
be public. PM

ALBANIA CHANGES POLICY TOWARD ISLAMIC CONFERENCE. The
parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on 9 December
recommended that Albania formally reactivate its
membership in the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, dpa reported. The move marks a major shift
in the foreign policy of the governing Socialist Party.
The previous Socialist government of Fatos Nano cut ties
with the OIC but never formally left the organization,
which Albania joined in 1995 under President Sali
Berisha (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998).
Current Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, for his part, has
called for an improvement in relations with the OIC for
economic reasons. FS

ALBANIAN POLICE CATCH MURDER SUSPECTS. Police in
Mallakaster on 8 December arrested four suspects in a
bus robbery and the murder of a policeman, ATSH
reported. The four are believed to have robbed the
Tirana-Athens bus near Tepelena two days earlier (see
"RFE/RL Newsline" 8 December 1998). FS

ROMANIAN CABINET DETERMINED TO CLOSE UNPROFITABLE
FIRMS... Premier Radu Vasile and members of his cabinet
told journalists on 9 December that they intend to go
ahead with plans to close loss-making state enterprises
this month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Vasile
said some of those enterprises generate about 15 percent
of total losses to the economy. State Property Fund
chief Radu Sarbu said that as a result of the
liquidation of the 49 loss-making companies, 70,000
people will lose their jobs. Industry Minister Radu
Berceanu said the large mining companies head the list
of those earmarked for closure. Berceanu said that the
combined losses of the non-ferrous Minvest mining
company, the hard coal pits in the Jiul Valley, and the
lignite mines in Ploiesti were 1.3 trillion lei ($124.9
million) so far this year, while production costs exceed
the value of total production by six times. MS

...BUT UNIONS REJECT GOVERNMENT-PROPOSED MORATORIUM.
Dumitru Costin, head of the National Trade Union Bloc,
has said his group will not support a six-month
moratorium on industrial action proposed by Premier
Vasile, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 9
December. Leaders of the Confederation of Democratic
Trade Unions, who also met with Vasile on 9 December,
said later they are postponing a decision MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION SAYS PRESIDENT, PREMIER
ACTED ILLEGALLY. A parliamentary commission set up to
review the legality of the sale of Moldovan military and
civil aircraft has ruled that President Petru Lucinschi,
Premier Ion Ciubuc, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat,
Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru, and other officials
acted illegally in promoting and approving the sale of
21 MiG-29 military planes to the U.S. as well as six TU-
154 civil aircraft to a Russian company in 1997-1998.
The commission said the sales contravene a 1997
privatization law. Parliamentary deputy chairman Iurie
Rosca, said the commission does not intend to make
claims against the U.S. or Russia. The parliament voted
83 to zero to ask the commission to make recommendations
within one month on the personal responsibility of those
involved. It also voted to invite President Lucinschi to
explain his conduct to deputies. MS

NATO TO AID BULGARIAN ARMY REFORM. Supreme Allied
Commander Europe General Wesley Clark, meeting with
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in
Brussels on 8 December, that Sofia has played an
important role in the Kosova crisis and the support it
extends to NATO has helped defuse the situation by
peaceful means, BTA reported. Clark reasserted NATO's
intention to provide Bulgaria with "all possible
assistance for the implementation of reform in its armed
forces" and particularly to achieve interoperability
with NATO forces. On 9 December Defense Minister Georgi
Ananiev told Bulgarian Radio that regardless of what
decision is taken at the Washington summit next year on
expanding NATO, Bulgaria must reform its armed forces.
He spoke after meeting with Admiral James Ellis,
commander of NATO troops in southern Europe, who is in
Bulgaria for the official opening of a NATO command
staff exercise. MS

END NOTE

CROAT-BOSNIAN AGREEMENT: RAISING MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT
ANSWERS

by Andrej Krickovic

	The long-awaited agreement on special relations
between Croatia and the Bosnian-Croat Federation (the
Muslim and Croatian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina) was
recently signed in Zagreb by representatives of the
Croatian government and the federation. The agreement,
which promised to be a crucial step toward the final
implementation of Dayton, provided the basis for
peaceful coexistence between the two nationalities
within the federation. Implementation of the agreement,
however, may prove a tall order for the signatories. The
details of the agreement have yet to be worked out, and
both sides face stiff opposition within their own camps.
It is questionable if the agreement will provide a
lasting solution for the stability of the federation.
	By signing the agreement, the Bosnian Croats have
agreed to finally dismantle their separate government
institutions and to accept the institutions of the
federal government. The question of their security as a
minority within the federation will be addressed through
the development of special ties between the federation
and Croatia proper. So far, this has been agreed to only
in principle. The separate annexes of the agreement that
will work out the details of special relations still
have to be worked out.
	Those annexes will have to cover some very
sensitive ground. The Croatian government's direct
financing of the HVO (the Bosnian Croat army which
operated during the war in Bosnia and still continues to
operate today) has been a bone of contention for years.
Through the agreement, the Bosnian Muslim side has
accepted the right of the Croats to provide military aid
to Bosnian Croatians as long as that aid is transparent.
Yet its unclear exactly what form this aid will take and
how transparency will be implemented. The Bosnian Muslim
side is also sensitive about such other issues as the
formation of a free trade zone between the two
countries, education, and a joint system of social
security. They fear they may be giving up too much of
their sovereignty to their larger and economically more
developed neighbor.
	Indeed, the Bosnian Muslim side was reluctant to
come to the signing table and only did so finally
through pressure from the international community and
the colossal efforts of Jacques Klein, the principle
deputy of the international community's high
representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina. While Croatia's
nationalist president, Franjo Tudjman, praised the
signing, leading politicians on the Muslim side--Ejup
Ganic, president of the Bosnian-Croat Federation, and
Alija Izetbgovic, the Bosnian Muslim member of the joint
presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina--were noticeably
reserved. Many in Sarajevo remember Tudjman as one of
the biggest proponents of the division of Bosnia-
Herzegovina and are wary of Croatian expansionism. While
Ganic and Izetbegovic may tacitly support the agreement,
there is no guarantee that it will be ratified by the
Bosnian parliament.
	Tudjman has enthusiastically touted the agreement
as a continuation of Croatia's commitment to Dayton, but
Tudjman's motives may have more to do with internal
politics in Croatia. Tudjman's ruling Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ) faces a serious threat from
the opposition in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Croatia's international isolation will be an issue in
the election campaign, and Tudjman sees the agreement as
a way to decrease that isolation and get Croatia back on
track toward European integration.
	Nonetheless, there may be problems from the
Croatian side as well. The hard-liners in the HDZ have
been the biggest supporters of a separate Croatian state
in Bosnia. They are often identified as the
"Herzogovinian lobby" because of the close ties of many
of their leading politicians to the Croat-populated
region in Bosnia. In recent months, these hard-liners
have strengthened their position within the HDZ and the
Ministry of Defense by forcing many of their more
moderate opponents out of the political limelight. And
they have done so with Tudjman's blessing. Dismantling
separate Croatian institutions in the federation may be
a difficult task even for Tudjman, and it will be
interesting to see how much control he has over his
hard-line supporters within the HDZ.
	The international community has firmly backed the
agreement as the solution to the problem of making the
federation function as one self-governing body rather
than separate Croatian and Muslim entities. Whether the
leaders of the Croats and Muslims of Bosnia will be
willing to implement the promises they have made on
paper remains to be seen. Nor is it clear whether the
U.S. and other members of the international community
are willing to take sufficient steps to ensure that they
do so.

The author is a free-lance journalist in Zagreb.
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