He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 43, Part II, 3 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 43, Part II, 3 March 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

* UKRAINE TO JOIN CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

* POLISH PREMIER LAUNCHES GOVERNMENT REFORM

* NATO HAS 'NO INTENTION' OF LAUNCHING AIR STRIKES?
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE TO JOIN CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY.
Following several failed attempts last year, the
Ukrainian Supreme Council has voted to join the CIS
Interparliamentary Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported on 3
March. The decision was backed by 230 lawmakers; at
least 226 votes were necessary for the motion to pass.
JM

RUKH REGISTERS NEW PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS. Following a
split in the leadership of the right-wing Popular Rukh
of Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999), 16
parliamentary deputies have registered a "Popular Rukh
of Ukraine-1" caucus in the Supreme Council, Ukrainian
Radio reported on 2 March. The caucus, headed by Rukh
former leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, is composed of 16
Rukh deputies, including Rukh presidential candidate
Hennadiy Udovenko. The Rukh party has 47 seats in the
parliament. JM

UKRAINIAN POWER PLANTS FREE OF MILLENNIUM BUG? Oleksandr
Parkhomenko, head of the Enerhoatom state nuclear
agency, has said the equipment at Ukraine's nuclear
power plants is so obsolete that it cannot be affected
by the so-called millennium bug. "Fortunately, our
nuclear energy sector is not fully computerized, and
problems existing in the West are not relevant for us,"
Reuters quoted Parkhomenko as saying. Meanwhile, nuclear
plant workers have escalated their protests over unpaid
wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1999).
Ukrainian law forbids them to strike, so they are
spending most of their spare time in tent camps built
around power plants. JM

POLICE SEARCH PREMISES OF HRODNA INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER.
The Belarusian police on 2 March searched the offices of
the independent newspaper "Pahonya" in Hrodna,
confiscating political cartoons and letters from
readers, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The State
Committee for the Press last month warned "Pahonya,"
along with five other independent newspapers, against
publishing materials connected with the opposition's
initiative to hold presidential elections on 16 May (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999). The police told
"Pahonya" chief editor Mikola Markevich that the
authorities have instigated criminal proceedings against
those attempting to seize power in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN LAWYER BARRED FROM VISITING JAILED
OPPOSITIONIST. Hary Pahanyayla, a lawyer known for
defending Belarusian oppositionists and people
persecuted by Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, was
prevented on 2 March from visiting Viktar Hanchar, who
was jailed the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
March 1999). Pahanyayla was stripped of the right to
practice law in Belarus last year but is registered as a
lawyer in the Russian Federation. He demanded to be
allowed to visit Hanchar on the basis of a 1993
convention between CIS countries on rendering legal
assistance to persons charged with minor offenses.
Hanchar has been detained for 10 days for holding a
meeting of the opposition Central Electoral Commission
last week. Thirteen other members of the commission were
jailed, fined, or given a warning for participating in
that meeting. JM

LATVIAN WORKING GROUP FAILS TO DRAW UP RULES ON ACCESS
TO INFORMATION. LETA reported on 2 March that
regulations have still not been drawn up on how state
and municipal institutions are to guarantee public
access to information at their disposal. Under the law
on access to information passed by the parliament last
fall, the government was to draw up such regulations by
1 March. A Ministry of Transport official who heads the
working group dealing with the issue told the news
agency that owing to inherent "contradictions" and
"imperfections," the law itself must first be amended.
The absence of the government regulations means that
officials and civil servants can continue to deny
individuals access to information. JC

LITHUANIAN PREMIER PONDERS RESIGNATION. Addressing a
closed meeting of the Conservatives' parliamentary group
on 1 March, Gediminas Vagnorius said he is considering
resigning, according to Conservative deputy faction head
Rasa Rastauskiene, ELTA and BNS reported the next day.
Rastauskiene said that both Vagnorius and the
Conservatives feel they have been "defamed" over
attempts to link "the complex status of the energy
sector'' to scandals and to make "grave accusations" of
corruption against the government. Conservative Party
Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said that Vagnorius has
the right to "mull over [his] resignation as he has been
insulted and defamed." Vagnorius reportedly told the
Conservative faction that before taking any decision on
resigning, his cabinet is determined to investigate
whether any powers were abused in the so-called Lietuvos
Energija affair and to examine whether the U.S. Power
Bridge Group, which won a tender last year to link
Lithuania's power grid to Poland's, is financially
capable of carrying out that project. JC

WILLIAMS WANTS TO STAY IN LITHUANIA. Following media
reports that the U.S. energy company is considering not
investing in a major Lithuanian concern, U.S. Ambassador
to Vilnius Keith Smith confirmed that the company has
not changed its plans and wants to stay in Lithuania,
ELTA reported. Smith made those remarks during a meeting
with President Valdas Adamkus on 2 March, held at the
latter's initiative. Media reports claiming that
Williams is unwilling to pay the asking price for a
stake in the Mazeikiu Nafta oil concern came on the
heels of the announcement that the Mazeikiu's losses
last year totaled some 98 million litas ($24.5 million,
see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1999). JC

POLISH PREMIER LAUNCHES GOVERNMENT REFORM. Jerzy Buzek
began the promised restructuring of his cabinet on 2
March, dismissing eight officials with the rank of
deputy ministers, Polish media reported. "This is the
first step in the reform of the whole government," Buzek
commented. He added that Wieslaw Walendziak, chief of
the prime minister's staff, will be replaced by an
administrator without political affiliation. Marian
Krzaklewski, leader of the ruling Solidarity Electoral
Action (AWS), said changes are necessary primarily in
the Health and Defense Ministries. Polish media reported
rumors that Walendziak, an AWS member, may replace
Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz of the Freedom
Union, the AWS's coalition partner. According to
commentators, Buzek has been forced to restructure the
cabinet in order to boost its popularity, which has
waned since the introduction of major reforms this year.
JM

POLAND BEGINS PUBLISHING NAMES OF SECRET-SERVICE
COLLABORATORS. The government mouthpiece "Monitor
Polski" on 2 March published the first 25 names of
persons who admitted to having been employed by or
collaborated with the Communist-era secret services. The
list is composed exclusively of judges, prosecutors, and
attorneys. Under the 1997 lustration law, Polish
officials are required to state whether they
collaborated with the communist secret services from
1944-1989. Those who fail to admit to collaborating but
are found guilty of having done so by Poland's
lustration court will be barred from holding public
office for 10 years. JM

HAVEL SAYS CZECH 'INDIFFERENCE' MIGHT HURT EU BID...
Before departing for a three-day visit to Paris,
President Vaclav Havel told journalists that Prague's
"indifference and "lack of preparedness" might leave it
out of the first wave of candidates for joining the EU,
CTK and Reuters reported on 2 March. Foreign Minister
Jan Kavan responded that "fears" of the Czech Republic's
being transferred from the first to the second wave of
candidates are "completely unsubstantiated," and he
added that he does not share the president's views.
Parliamentary chairman and leader of the opposition
Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus said Havel's warning
"amounts to scaremongering." MS

...THANKS CHIRAC FOR FRENCH SUPPORT. Addressing a state
dinner in Paris on 2 March, Havel thanked French
President Jacques Chirac for France's support for Czech
efforts to join the EU and NATO, saying Prague is "ready
to assume its responsibility in European affairs,"
Reuters and CTK reported. Chirac said he and Havel share
a vision of Europe based on "solidarity among peoples,
maintenance of peace, and development to the benefit of
all." MS

LEXA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN KOVAC JR. ABDUCTION. Ivan
Lexa, former head of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence
Service, has denied allegations that he masterminded the
abduction to Austria of former President Michal Kovac's
son in August 1995, CTK reported on 2 March. The
previous day, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said a
taped conversation between Lexa and Karol Martinka, the
former head of Devin Bank (which had close links to
Russia under Vladimir Meciar's premiership), showed the
former's involvement. In that conversation, Lexa is
heard giving Martinka a detailed account of events.
Pittner said the investigation into the kidnapping might
be expanded to examine the possibility that "foreign
agents" were also involved. Lexa told Slovak Radio that
the tape is "a fake" and that he will not agree to being
stripped of his parliamentary immunity. MS

HUNGARY, ITALY, SLOVENIA DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY. The
Hungarian, Italian, and Slovenian Foreign Ministry state
secretaries, meeting on 2 March in Budapest, agreed to
set up a joint peacekeeping brigade. Zsolt Nemeth,
Umberto Ramieri, and Franco Juri announced that a
trilateral summit at the level of premier is scheduled
to be held in Maribor, Slovenia, in May. Nemeth and
Ramieri expressed support for Slovenia's NATO accession
in the anticipated second wave of expansion. The three
officials also agreed to cooperate in fighting organized
crime and illegal migration and in strengthening the
international system of protecting minorities' rights.
MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

NATO HAS 'NO INTENTION' OF LAUNCHING AIR STRIKES? Citing
U.S. administration officials and NATO diplomats, "The
New York Times" reported on 3 March that "the United
States and its NATO allies have no intention of
launching punitive strikes against Yugoslav military
targets at this point despite an army buildup and
renewed fighting in Kosovo." The article quoted an
unnamed Pentagon official as noting that "we're back to
square one again. NATO has pulled out the 'we're ready
to act' card way too many times." An unnamed diplomat
added: "What we don't have at this point is a pre-agreed
level of violence at which NATO will respond. It will be
judged when it happens." PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS DEAL LONG WAY OFF. Milan
Milutinovic said in Belgrade on 2 March that "a
political agreement [on Kosova] has not been adopted and
is far from being close at hand." He stressed that "a
lot of work on the political agreement remains to be
done." After the Rambouillet talks ended on 23 February,
several Western diplomats suggested that the Serbs had
accepted the proposed political agreement and that the
only significant problem was to persuade them to accept
a foreign military presence. PM

SERBIAN ASSAULT CONTINUES. The pro-Serbian Media Center
reported from Prishtina on 3 March that an unspecified
number of Kosovars died the previous day in an assault
by Serbian security forces near Jankovic (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 2 March 1999). Some 3,000 displaced persons
tried to flee into Macedonia, AP reported. The
Macedonian government said in a statement that "persons
fleeing due to a worsening security situation [in
Kosova] will be transported in an organized manner to
shelters and their status subsequently determined." The
text added that the authorities will prevent arms
smuggling across the frontier. Macedonian officials
recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Skopje that they fear
that a large influx of ethnic Albanian refugees from
Kosova could upset Macedonia's delicate ethnic balance.
Ethnic Albanians make up nearly one quarter of
Macedonia's population and many have close family and
social ties to Kosova. PM

DEMACI QUITS AS UCK REPRESENTATIVE. Adem Demaci, who was
Kosova's best-known communist-era dissident and
political prisoner, resigned as political representative
for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) on 2 March. He said
in a statement in Prishtina that he feels "morally and
historically obliged to point out again that this
imposed Agreement of Rambouillet will not bring freedom
to the Albanian people of Kosova and will not liberate
Kosova from Serbian slavery. We feel morally and
historically obliged to show that unscrupulous
propaganda [by moderate Kosovar leaders] aims at
deceiving the people" by claiming that the Rambouillet
text offers more political freedom than it actually
does. Demaci stressed that anything less than full
independence constitutes a betrayal of fundamental
Kosovar interests. Veton Surroi, who belonged to the
Rambouillet negotiating team, told RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service that the agreement gives the Kosovars much of
what they want. He added that Demaci has failed to keep
up with changing times. PM

TAIWANESE FOREIGN MINISTER BEGINS VISIT TO MACEDONIA.
Jason Hu arrived in Skopje on 2 March with a delegation
of government officials and businessmen. It is the first
top-ranking visit to Macedonia by Taiwanese officials
since the two countries established diplomatic relations
earlier this year. AP noted that unnamed Macedonian
officials have said that Hu's visit could lead to $235
million in direct government-to-government aid and an
additional $1 billion in commercial investments. Prime
Minister Ljubco Georgievski's free-market-oriented
government hopes that Taiwan will be able to provide a
much-needed boost for Macedonia's economy, which has
been adversely affected by high unemployment,
corruption, and the proximity of conflicts in
neighboring former Yugoslav republics. PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL SECRET SERVICES. The
parliament in Banja Luka on 2 March approved a new law
stipulating that the government appoints the top
officials of the secret services and the president
approves those appointments. Previous legislation gave
full control over such appointments to the president,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SAKIC TAKEN TO HOSPITAL. Dinko Sakic (77), whose trial
for war crimes during World War II will open on 4 March
in Zagreb, was rushed to hospital on 3 March after
falling ill in his prison cell, AP reported. It is
unclear whether his hospitalization will lead to a delay
in his trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999).
In other news, Jewish groups on 2 March called on the
government to take measures to combat what they called a
rise in public expressions of anti-Semitism, including
on state-run television. PM

SIBENIK AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE WARTIME SHELLING.
Officials of the district attorney's office in Sibenik
announced on 2 March that they have begun an
investigation into claims that appeared recently in the
media to the effect that the Croatian military shelled
the Adriatic town during the 1991 war in order to
discredit the local civilian authorities. Davor Skugor,
who commanded local military units at the time, said
recently that he never intended a large-scale shelling
of the town. He added that he ordered the firing of two
mortars "so that people would understand that there was
a war on." PM

INFORMATION MINISTER SAYS KOSOVA DEAL WILL IMPROVE
ALBANIAN STABILITY. Musa Ulqini told dpa on 3 March that
the signing of the Rambouillet draft peace agreement
will help Albania overcome its domestic difficulties and
open up new prospects for economic development. Ulqini
said that "Albania's prosperity is very much linked with
the situation and developments in Kosova. A continuing
crisis in Kosova means continuing instability in
Albania." He stressed that the Kosova conflict has
exacerbated economic and social problems, especially in
the northern and northeastern districts that border the
Serbian province. Tensions in Kosova have frightened off
some foreign investors from investing in Albania and
have forced the government into spending scarce funds on
the military and refugee relief, Ulqini added. FS

DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SAYS ALBANIA MUST ABOLISH
DEATH PENALTY. Namik Dokle told the parliament on 2
March that the Council of Europe will expel Albania if
it retains capital punishment in the penal code beyond
the year 2000. Dokle stressed that the council is
determined to enter the next millennium with no member
state's legislation providing for the death penalty.
Albania has observed a moratorium on executions since it
was admitted to the Council in 1995. Most Albanian
politicians are in favor of retaining capital punishment
as a means of combating rampant crime. There are five
Albanians on death row, "Albanian Daily News" reported.
FS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTY STRIPPED OF PARLIAMENTARY
IMMUNITY. The Chamber of Deputies on 2 March approved by
a vote of 242 to 50 to lift the parliamentary immunity
of opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania
(PDSR) deputy Gabriel Bivolaru, RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported. Bivolaru has been charged with fraud
and forgery of official documents. Miron Mitrea, deputy
leader of the PDSR parliamentary group, said his group
voted for lifting Bivolaru's immunity, adding that some
of the "no" votes came from among the ranks of the
ruling coalition. In other news, the Bucharest Municipal
Tribunal on 2 March rejected the request of two non-
governmental organizations to outlaw the extremist
Greater Romania Party. The court said that under the
basic law, such a request can be made only by the
government or the chairmen of the parliament's two
chambers and that a decision is made only by the
Constitutional Court. MS

INTERNATIONAL AGENCY DOWNGRADES ROMANIA'S RATING. The
Thompson Bank Watch international rating agency has
downgraded Romania's country risk from B plus to B
minus, citing internal and external debt servicing
difficulties, economic stagnation, and political
obstacles to implementing reform. The agency also
downgraded two large banks, Bancorex and the Romanian
Bank for Development, saying this reflected the
country's risk downgrading. Bancorex has encountered
recent difficulties owing to bad loans extended in the
early 1990s. On 28 February, the government appointed
Nicolae Danila as the bank's interim director, following
the resignation of Vlad Soare, whose restructuring
policies were not approved by either the World Bank or
the IMF. Last week, Bancorex was flooded with requests
from depositors wishing to withdraw deposits. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT VOTES CONFIDENCE IN STURDZA CABINET.
The parliament on 3 March approved Ion Sturdza's
cabinet, but it is unclear whether the vote is
constitutionally valid, Reuters reported. The cabinet
was approved by a majority of 51 deputies in the 101-
seat parliament, but the Constitutional Court has ruled
in the past that so-called "organic laws" need a
majority of 52 to pass. It is unclear whether a
confidence vote falls into this category. President
Petru Lucinschi said he will ask the court to rule
whether the vote is valid; if it is not, "I will propose
a new candidate," he said. The motion passed without the
support of the Christian Democratic Popular Front
(FPCD), which boycotted the vote and continues to insist
on four portfolios in the cabinet, instead of the two it
has been offered. The FPCD said after the vote that it
will leave the Alliance for Democracy and Reform
coalition majority in the parliament. MS

MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER SUMMIT POSTPONED. A 2 March
meeting between President Petru Lucinschi and separatist
leader Igor Smirnov has been postponed owing to the
ongoing political crisis in Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau
Bureau reported. On 2 March, Moldovan veterans of the
1992 armed conflict with the Transdniester picketed the
parliament's building and blocked traffic in front of
the presidential residence, protesting social conditions
and pension arrears. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES SERBIAN STATEMENT. Petar
Stoyanov on 1 March dismissed as "frivolous" a statement
by Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj two days
earlier. Seselj had told a rally near Belgrade that
Serbia will declare war on all neighboring countries
that allow NATO to launch an attack against Serbia from
their territory. Stoyanov told journalists that Seselj's
declaration is "neither serious, nor does it deserve
special attention." MS

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