Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 24, Part II, 4 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 24, Part II, 4 February 1999

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, FARMERS DRIFT FURTHER APART

* MILOSEVIC'S PARTY BACKS PEACE CONFERENCE

* ALBRIGHT GIVES BACKING TO MAJKO, GEORGIEVSKI
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SLAVIC UNION DANGEROUS.
Borys Tarasyuk said on 3 February that Ukraine is not
interested in any kind of Slavic union with Russia and
Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported in London.
Tarasyuk said any attempt to build a country on the
basis of ethnicity is doomed to fail, particularly
because Russia is a multinational, multiethnic country.
He said Kyiv thinks the idea is "very dangerous, and the
example of the former Yugoslavia is a warning for all of
us." With regard to Chornobyl, Tarasyuk called on the EU
and G-7 countries to adhere to a 1995 commitment to
provide financial aid to help close down the nuclear
power station by 2000. He said the EU and G-7's failure
to do so "worries us." PB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS TO KEEP DEATH
PENALTY. Oleksandr Tkachenko said the parliament will
debate a ban on capital punishment in the coming months,
even though he is personally opposed to its abolition,
AP reported on 3 February. Tkachenko argued that too
many Ukrainians favor the death penalty, particularly as
the trial of Anatoliy Onoprienko--accused of killing 52
people--continues. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary
Assembly recently reminded Kyiv of its 1995 commitment
to ban the death penalty. President Leonid Kuchma has
decreed a moratorium on the practice. PB

UKRAINIANS DELINQUENT ON UTILITY PAYMENTS. Government
officials said on 3 February that more than one-third of
all housing and utility bills in 1998 were unpaid, AP
reported. The State Statistics Committee said the debt
for unpaid services reached 3.48 billion hryvni ($1
billion) as of 10 January, up from 2.49 billion hryvni
the previous year. The committee also reported that
inflation in January was 1.5 percent, down from 3.3
percent in December. The government has forecast a 19.1
percent rate for this year, compared with 20 percent in
1998. PB

FARMERS' DEBTS IN BELARUS NEARLY DOUBLE. Deputy Prime
Minister Alyaksandr Popkou said on 3 February that he
blames government price controls for a huge increase in
the total debt of the agricultural sector, Belapan
reported. The debts of Belarusian agricultural
enterprises totaled some 65 trillion rubles ($22.8
million at the unofficial rate of exchange) at the
beginning of this year, nearly double the 35 trillion
ruble debt of one year ago. Popkov said a radical change
in the state's pricing policy is needed for Belarus to
make a financial and economic recovery. He added that
the implementation of a long-term agricultural policy
aimed at supporting large farms, encouraging the use of
new technologies, upgrading farm equipment, and
reforming farm collectives will increase agricultural
production to the country's 1991 level within two years.
PB

DO RUSSIANS VIEW UNION WITH BELARUS AS 'ABSORPTION?'
Sergei Karaganov, a member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences, said that the most "enlightened" Russian
advocates of integration with Belarus view it as an
"absorption" of that country, Belapan reported.
Karaganov, in an interview in the weekly "Belorusskiy
Rynok," said such a view frightened Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials and
prevented them from creating a real union with Moscow.
Karaganov said he thinks Russian President Boris Yeltsin
has pushed for a union with Minsk to lessen his
"historic guilt" for destroying the Soviet Union. PB

ESTONIAN PREMIER APPROVES THIS YEAR'S PRIVATIZATION
PLANS. Mart Siimann on 3 February approved Estonia's
privatization plans for this year, ETA reported.
Government spokesman Daniel Vaarik told the news agency
the state will sell 51 percent of shares in the alcohol
producer Liviko and in the Narva Power Grid. It also
plans to sell all state shares in the railway operator
Edelaraudtee as well as stakes in subsidiaries of the
main railway operator Eesti Raudtee. In addition, the
privatization of the Moe Distillery and gas distributor
Eesti Gaas will be completed. Also on 3 February, a
Uhispank representative announced that the Eesti Telekom
tender, which was launched on 25 January, is already
oversubscribed. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER, SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SIGN COOPERATION
AGREEMENT. Vilis Kristopans and Egils Baldzens, the head
of the Latvian Social Democratic Union caucus, have
signed an agreement on cooperation aimed at achieving
the main objectives of the government declaration, LETA
and BNS reported on 3 February. Under that agreement,
the Social Democrats will assume responsibility for the
agricultural sector and will neither vote against nor
abstain from voting on any government-proposed bills
that are supported by the Coalition Council. They also
agree not to submit to the parliament any bills related
to the state budget without the Coalition Council's
prior agreement, nor will they support opposition-
proposed bills on the budget or taxes. Baldzens
expressed satisfaction that the accord includes several
provisions important to the Social Democrats, singling
out the increase of the education and research budget to
8 percent of GDP within four years. JC

PIPELINE REPAIRS TO BLAME FOR HALT IN CRUDE SUPPLIES TO
LITHUANIA? Speaking at a press conference on 3 February,
Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius said that
according to information he has received from Moscow,
one of the reasons for the stoppage of crude oil
supplies to Lithuania may be repairs to pipelines in
Belarus that began on 1 February, ELTA reported. He said
he has asked the Belarusian ambassador for an official
explanation, adding that due warning should have been
given if such repairs are under way. Supplies of crude
to the Mazeikiai Nafta refinery were cut on the weekend
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). Both the
Russian government and LUKoil have denied ordering
supplies halted. Meanwhile, the Russian news agency RIA,
citing "well-informed sources from the Russian Fuel and
Energy Ministry," reported that LUKoil and Mazeikiai
Nafta representatives meeting in Moscow on 3 February
were unable to agree on Russian crude oil prices. JC

LITHUANIAN JOURNALISTS UNION DOES NOT SUPPORT 'BALTIC
WAVES' PROJECT. The Lithuanian Journalists Union has
said it does not support the planned launch of
broadcasts for the Belarusian and Russian national
minorities in Lithuania that would be heard on short-
wave in Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, and all three
Baltic States, ELTA reported on 3 February. The
statement follows the announcement that the Baltic Waves
project has received funding worth some $50,000 from the
British Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Among
other things, the journalists expressed fear that the
setting up of a "Belarus-oriented" radio station on
Lithuanian territory might "cause problems in
international and bilateral ties." JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT, FARMERS DRIFT FURTHER APART. The
Polish government on 3 February said it will not
negotiate with protesting farmers until they dismantle
roadblocks they have set up around the country, Reuters
reported. Farmers, for their part, made new demands and
increased the number of roadblocks to more than 200,
including at a border crossing with Ukraine. Andrzej
Lepper, the leader of the Self Defense farmers' group,
who broke off talks with the government the previous
day, added new conditions for meeting with government
officials, namely, airtime on public television, a live
debate with a leading politician, and the addition of an
official from the junior member of the ruling coalition,
the Freedom Union, to the government's negotiating team.
The government said it will approve a restructuring
program for the agriculture sector on 4 February,
without input from farmers' groups. PB

DUTCH FOREIGN MINISTER SEES POLAND'S EU ENTRY IN SEVERAL
YEARS. Jozias van Aartsen said in Warsaw on 3 February
that Poland should join the EU in 2002 or 2003, PAP
reported. Van Aartsen, who is in Poland for a two-day
visit, said setting a tentative date for EU expansion is
important both for the applying countries and the EU, as
it could accelerate its internal reforms. Polish Foreign
Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowski said he is glad that
Van Aartsen shares Warsaw's position that it could be
ready for EU membership by 2002. PB

HAVEL, VLK CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT OVER CHURCH PROPERTY.
Czech President Vaclav Havel and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk
told reporters in Prague on 3 February that a recent
study by legal scholars at Charles University on the
property of the Roman Catholic Church does not contain
the conclusions that the government says it does. The
government recently decided on the basis of that report
that the Church does not have legal claim to any
property under restitution laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
2 February 1999). Vlk added that he is glad that the
study transformed the discussion about Church property
from one about politics to one about law. Havel said he
wants the question to be cleared up through legislation,
not in the courts. He added that he will work to promote
reconciliation between the government and the Church. He
also recommended that the government's commission on
Church-state relations be reconstituted to exclude
politicians and include only experts, "Lidove noviny"
reported. PM

CZECH PARLIAMENT SAYS ONLY CITIZENS CAN CLAIM PROPERTY.
The legislature on 3 February voted down a proposal to
allow persons who are not Czech citizens to claim
property under restitution laws. Opponents of the bill
said it would only create new injustices by opening
disputes within families as to who is the rightful
claimant, Radio Svobodna Evropa reported. PM

LEXA TO FILE SUIT OVER ARRESTS IN KOVAC CASE. Former
Slovak Interior Minister Ivan Lexa said in Bratislava on
3 February that he will press charges against an unnamed
person in conjunction with the arrest of two former
intelligence agency officials earlier this week (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). He repeated his
long-standing claim that he had nothing to do with the
1995 kidnapping of the son of President Michal Kovac.
Lexa told the daily "Sme" that the government will be
able to lift his parliamentary immunity over the Kovac
affair or the immunity of any other legislator it
chooses to prosecute because it has the necessary votes
in the legislature. In a veiled threat, he added that
"the real question is what will happen in two or four
years." Lexa charged that "Sme" is taking part in a
government-backed campaign to frame him and his former
subordinates. He said he intends to prove that
accusation soon. PM

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MILOSEVIC'S PARTY BACKS PEACE CONFERENCE. Gorica
Gajevic, who is secretary-general of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, told the
parliament on 4 February that the party "thinks that we
should show that we are fighting for peace and to
defend" Serbia's claim to Kosova wherever the future of
the province is discussed, AP reported. The legislature
is expected to vote later in the day on whether to
attend the Rambouillet talks, which are to begin on 6
February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). In
New York, the UN Security Council on 3 February
discussed the situation in Kosova but did not take up
Belgrade's appeal for the UN to stop NATO from launching
air strikes against Serbian targets (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 2 February 1999). PM

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WANTS ROLE IN TALKS. Patriarch
Pavle appealed to the French government on 3 February to
include the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Rambouillet
negotiations as an observer. Bishop Artemije of Raska
and Prizren and his spokesman Father Sava would
represent the Church, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. Artemije stressed that the Serbs of Kosova do
not trust Milosevic to represent their interests (see
"RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 January 1999). PM

UCK NAMES DELEGATION. The General Staff of the Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK) has named Rama Buja, Jakup
Krasniqi, Hashim Thaci, Azem Syla, and Xhavit Haliti to
represent it at Rambouillet, Krasniqi told the VOA's
Albanian Service on 3 February. The moderate shadow
state will be represented by Ibrahim Rugova, Fehmi
Agani, Bujar Bukoshi, Idriz Aeti, and Edita Tahiri,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mark Krasniqi,
Veton Surroi, and Blerim Shala will attend as
independents. PM

U.S. GROUND TROOPS FOR KOSOVA? Secretary of Defense
William Cohen told Congress on 3 February that the U.S.
may send a "relatively small" ground force to Kosova in
order to reassure other NATO participants in that force
that "they would not be attacked" by Serbian army or
paramilitary police units. He stressed that there must
first be "a real agreement" on the political future of
the province before the Pentagon will send an armed
force there. Cohen suggested that the troops might stay
up to five years. General Henry Shelton, who heads the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a maximum of 2,000-
4,000 U.S. troops might be required if NATO decides on
an overall force of 20,000-30,000. He added that the
Atlantic alliance is still discussing the number of
troops it might send to Kosova. The Pentagon has
previously been opposed to sending any U.S. ground
troops to Kosova. PM

ALBRIGHT GIVES BACKING TO MAJKO... Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright told Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli
Majko on 3 February that the U.S. supports Albania's
territorial integrity. Asked by Reuters if "this meant
that the U.S. would not let Albania's borders be
breached, he replied: 'Yes, this was the bottom line.'"
Majko said that he is confident that the Kosovar leaders
are patriots who will sink their differences and present
a united front at the upcoming negotiations at
Rambouillet. He added of the Kosovars: "They are not
terrorists." Majko stressed that "those bloody massacres
in Kosova" must end. Other top State Department
officials pledged financial aid for the Albanian army
and customs service, "Shekulli" reported. At the World
Bank, Majko signed an agreement on a $9 million loan to
improve infrastructure. He told Reuters he will soon
sign an agreement with the U.S. firm New World Telecom,
which will invest $325 million to modernize Albania's
antiquated telecommunications system. PM/FS

...AND TO GEORGIEVSKI. In a separate meeting, Albright
told Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski that
the U.S. supports his efforts at promoting a free-market
economy, a "Western orientation," and improved inter-
ethnic relations. Her spokesman, James Rubin, added that
Albright "reiterated our appreciation of the
[Macedonian] government's firm support of our efforts to
bring stability [to Kosova], including the agreement to
host the NATO extraction force." Rubin stressed that the
U.S. will oppose any attempt by China to link
Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan with extending the
mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Macedonia (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). It is unclear
whether Majko and Georgievski met or spoke with U.S.
officials together. Macedonia and Albania will play key
roles in any settlement in Kosova. PM

POPLASEN NAMES THIRD CANDIDATE TO HEAD GOVERNMENT.
Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen on 3 February
nominated parliamentary speaker Petar Djokic to head the
government. It is unclear whether Djokic, whose
Socialist Party is not allied to the nationalist
Poplasen, will accept, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. Poplasen's two previous nominees were unable
to command a majority in the parliament, where
Poplasen's supporters are in a minority. Meanwhile in
Sarajevo, the joint parliament elected Svetozar
Mihajlovic, who is a Serb, and re-elected Haris
Silajdzic, who is a Muslim, as co-prime ministers. PM

CROATIA WANTS TO OPEN ROAD TO REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. Deputy
Foreign Minister Josko Paro said that Croatia has been
waiting for a month for the Bosnian joint authorities to
respond to Zagreb's offer to re-open the road linking
Dubrovnik with Trebinje, in eastern Herzegovina,
"Vecernji list" reported on 4 February. Paro added that
he finds it difficult to understand the lack of a reply,
because the opening of the frontier would benefit the
Bosnian Serbs more than it would Croatia. PM

CROATIA DENIES REPORTS OF JOINT TANK PRODUCTION. Defense
Minister Pavao Miljac said his country will not jointly
produce M-84 tanks with Serbia, Bosnia, or Slovenia,
"Vecernji list" reported on 4 February. There has been
repeated speculation in the media since the breakup of
the former Yugoslavia in 1991 that the successor states
might continue to produce arms jointly in order to earn
hard currency. Miljac confirmed that Croatia will
purchase Mi-8 helicopters from Russia and that Israeli
experts will help modernize Croatia's aging MiG 21s. PM

INVESTIGATION INTO FORMER ALBANIAN LEGISLATOR CLOSED.
Spokesmen for the Prosecutor-General 's Office announced
in Tirana on 3 February that the investigation into
former Democratic Alliance Deputy Ridvan Peshkepia, who
allegedly organized a drug smuggling network to Italy
between 1993-1996, has been closed, "Shekulli" reported.
The investigators concluded that another person ran the
network and used Peshkepia's diplomatic passport, which
he lost in 1992. Journalists who asked not to be
identified told an RFE/RL correspondent that the ring-
leader is a well-known personality and the brother of a
prominent politician. They did not elaborate. FS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES PLAN TO MODERNIZE
INFRASTRUCTURE. Addressing a conference on upgrading the
country's infrastructure, Emil Constantinescu on 3
February said Romania should prepare to act as an
economic corridor between Central Asia and Europe, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. He pleaded
in favor of modernizing roads and communication
networks, building new oil pipelines, and expanding the
country's oil refining capacities. Constantinescu's
optimism, however, was in stark contrast to the
country's latest economic performance. The same day, the
National Bank fixed the exchange rate for the dollar at
slightly more than 12,000 lei. The national currency
thus overstepped a new "psychological threshold," after
crossing the 10,000 lei barrier on 24 November 1998 and
the 11,000 one on 4 January 1999. Since the beginning of
this year, the leu has lost almost 10 percent of its
value. DI

MINERS' LEADER SAYS HE WILL SNUB JUSTICE. Miron Cozma,
the controversial leader of the Jiu Valley miners, who
has led several miners' marches on Bucharest since 1990,
told a press conference on 3 February that he will not
present himself at any court or submit himself to any
criminal investigation as long as justice continues to
be "politically manipulated by Bucharest." Cozma noted
that several cases have been opened against him
following the 18-22 January march, which came to a halt
after an agreement had been reached with Premier Radu
Vasile at the Cozia monastery. Meanwhile, General
Gheorghe Lupu has denied any responsibility for the
failure of the police to stop the miners' latest protest
action. He blamed the deputy prefect of Gorj County for
having ordered the withdrawal of officers from the Jiu
Valley. DI

MOLDOVAN PARTY THREATENS TO LEAVE RULING COALITION. The
chairman of the Party for Revival and Conciliation in
Moldova, Mircea Snegur, said on 3 February that his
party will leave the Democratic Convention of Moldova
(CDM) if the latter continues to refuse to designate
Nicolae Andronic as the country's future premier, an RFE
correspondent in Chisinau reported. But the next day,
however, Snegur softened that stance, expressing
optimism about the future of the CDM and the ruling
coalition, known as the Alliance for Democracy and
Reforms. The same day, President Petru Lucinschi
continued separate consultations with parliamentary
leaders over nominating a new premier. DI

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA. During his visit
to Sofia on 2-3 February, Igor Ivanov met with his
Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, Prime
Minister Ivan Kostov, parliamentary chairman Yordan
Sokolov, and President Petar Stoyanov, whom he gave
personal messages from President Boris Yeltsin and Prime
Minister Yevgenii Primakov, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov's
talks with Mihailova focused on bilateral relations,
economic issues, including the repayment of mutual
debts, the situation in the Balkans, and Kosova. Ivanov
told journalists on 3 February that Moscow has decided
to extend customs concessions to Bulgaria, noting the
need to overcome the downturn in bilateral relations in
recent years. Ivanov denied that the issue of NATO
membership, to which Bulgaria aspires, was discussed. LF

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