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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 54, Part II, 18 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 54, Part II, 18 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'S INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT FALLS, UNEMPLOYMENT GROWS

* RUGOVA SAYS TALKS 'OVER' FOR KOSOVARS

* SERBIAN BUILDUP CONTINUES
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REINTRODUCES BAN ON UTILITIES PRICE
HIKES. A week after Ukraine's Constitutional Court
revoked a parliamentary ban on price increases for
utilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1999), the
Communist-dominated Supreme Council on 17 March voted by
232 to 18 to reinstate the ban as an amendment to the
law on prices and pricing. The amendment obliges the
cabinet to seek the parliament's approval to raise the
prices of water, heating, and electricity supplies. It
also prohibits the cabinet from seeking such price hikes
before all wage and pension arrears have been paid.
Economy Minister Vasyl Rohovyy said the ban is
"politically motivated. We need a pragmatic approach--
everything that is consumed must have an appropriate
price," Ukrainian Television quoted him as saying. JM

UKRAINE'S INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT FALLS, UNEMPLOYMENT GROWS.
The State Statistics Committee has reported that
Ukraine's industrial output fell by 2.1 percent in the
first two months of 1999, compared with last year.
Ukraine's GDP decreased by 4.2 percent over the same
period, while the official unemployment rate increased
to 4 percent. Currently, there are 1.12 million people
officially registered as jobless, but the actual figure
is believed to be much higher. According to AP, many
Ukrainians either do not formally register as jobless or
are forced by their companies to take unpaid vacations.
JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE ARREST SEX TRADE GANG. Police in the
port of Sevastopol, Crimea, have arrested two men and a
woman suspected of selling some 200 females aged 13 to
25 years to individuals engaged in illegal sex business
abroad, UNIAN reported on 17 March. The three allegedly
received $2,000 for each woman sent to night clubs in
Turkey, Greece, or Cyprus, where the women were
subsequently forced to become prostitutes. The
International Organization for Migration estimated last
year that more than 1 million Ukrainian women seeking
work abroad are in danger of becoming ensnared in the
illegal sex business. JM

GAZPROM RESUMES FULL GAS DELIVERIES TO BELARUS. Gazprom
on 15 March resumed gas deliveries to Belarus totaling
44 million cubic meters a day, ITAR-TASS reported on 17
March. The Russian gas company reduced its supplies to
32 million cubic meters a day at the end of February to
pressure Belarus into paying its $250 million gas debt
to Russia and concluding an agreement on this year's gas
supplies. Belarus insists that the price of Russian gas
should be $35 per 1,000 cubic meters (the current price
on the Russian market), instead of $50 (last year's
price). The resumption of the full supplies followed
Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev's visit to Minsk last week.
There have been no official comments on the results of
that visit. JM

LUKASHENKA DECREES 'STRICT RULES' FOR BUSINESSES IN
BELARUS. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 16 March signed a
decree on "regulating the state registration and
liquidation of economic entities" in Belarus. According
to Belarusian Television, the decree establishes "strict
rules of behavior in the domestic economy," including
legal responsibility for businesses that "have done harm
to state and public interests." Uladzimir Karahin, head
of an organization representing Belarusian private
entrepreneurs, predicted that the decree would entail a
"colossal change in ownership" in Belarus. Many
businessmen will find themselves on a "black list" of
those prohibited from setting up new businesses for
several years because of failing to comply with the
decree. JM

OSCE PROPOSES NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN LUKASHENKA,
OPPOSITION. Referring to an unidentified source in the
presidential administration, the 17 March "Belorusskaya
delovaya gazeta" reported that OSCE Minsk mission head
Hans Georg Wieck has proposed a meeting between
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and four opposition
figures to discuss a "new constitutional consensus" in
Belarus. According to Wieck's plan, the opposition
should be represented at the meeting by Syamyon
Sharetski, head of the Supreme Soviet, Viktar Hanchar,
head of the Central Electoral Commission, and Zyanon
Paznyak and Mikhail Chyhir, candidates in the
presidential elections scheduled by the opposition for
16 May. JM

ESTONIAN RIGHT-WING PARTIES SIGN COALITION AGREEMENT...
The Reform Party, the Moderates, and the Fatherland
Union on 17 March signed a coalition agreement naming
Mart Laar, chairman of the Fatherland Union, as their
candidate for prime minister. The three parties pledge
to continue pursuing the country's foreign-policy goals
of admission to the EU and NATO as well as a "stable and
reliable" monetary policy, ETA reported. Beginning in
January 2000, the 26 percent corporate tax will be
abolished--a major provision of the Reform Party's
platform. Another goal of the alliance is to gradually
increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP. The three
right-wing parties have a combined total of 53 seats in
the 101-strong parliament. JC

...WHILE COALITION PARTY GOES INTO OPPOSITION. Also on
17 March, the former ruling Coalition Party announced
that it will go into "constructive opposition" with the
Center Party, the Country People's Party, and the United
People's Party, ETA reported. Earlier, some members of
the right-wing alliance had hinted of the possible
inclusion of the Coalition Party in the ruling coalition
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 1999). JC

LATVIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR TACKLING UNEMPLOYMENT.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Free Trade
Unions association, Vilis Kristopans said that
unemployment has reached a level where it is necessary
to seriously tackle the problem, BNS and LETA reported.
Stressing that there is no reason to "panic," he said
that he will declare war on the "black" labor market,
vowing to find out how many registered unemployed have
unofficial jobs. On 16 March, the Central Statistics
Office revealed that unemployment in Latvia has reached
10 percent, up from 9.7 percent at the beginning of the
month. JC

EUROSKEPTICS GROWING IN NUMBER IN LATVIA. According to a
poll conducted by the SKDS polling company and the
European Integration Office last month, 36.6 percent of
Latvians are in favor of the EU membership, down some 10
percent compared with last November, BNS and LETA
reported on 17 March. Some 30.4 percent are opposed to
EU membership and 33 percent undecided (compared with
26.8 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively, in November
1998). Fifty-four percent said they had a positive
attitude in general toward the EU, compared with 63.5
percent three months earlier. JC

LITHUANIAN PREMIER UPBEAT ABOUT WTO MEMBERSHIP.
Gediminas Vagnorius, wrapping up a three-day visit to
the U.S., said that he believes Lithuania will complete
negotiations for membership in the World Trade
Organization by the end of this year. He was speaking
after a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Charlene
Barshefsky in Washington on 17 March. The U.S. is
leading the WTO accession negotiations with Lithuania.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Vagnorius said a "major but
unrecognized problem" has been the incompatibility of
membership requirements for the EU and the WTO. He said
that he and Barshefsky discussed "compromises that would
"balance" the requirements of the two organizations. JC

BALCEROWICZ SURVIVES VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE. The Polish
parliament on 18 March voted by 228 to 180 with four
abstentions to defeat the no confidence motion in
Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Balcerowicz was
supported by deputies from the Solidarity bloc and his
own party, the Freedom Union. The opposition Peasant
Party proposed the motion. That group blames
Balcerowicz's policy of lowering the budget deficit for
a rise in unemployment and the impoverishment of many
social groups. Peasant Party leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski
told the parliament the previous day that the no
confidence motion reflects the opinions of millions of
ordinary Poles. "We must not allow Poland to be pushed
toward the policy of printing money to pay for welfare,"
Balcerowicz commented before the vote. JM

CHILE PRESIDENT WARNS PRAGUE NOT TO INTERFERE IN
PINOCHET AFFAIR. Eduardo Frei said in Prague on 17 March
after meeting with President Vaclav Havel that "foreign
legal systems" have no right to interfere in the case of
former dictator Augusto Pinochet and that "what happened
in Chile must be dealt with by a Chilean court," CTK
reported. Frei said that his country underwent a
transition from dictatorship to a democratic system but
claims no right to "evaluate how this transition
proceeded in Czechoslovakia and how it is now proceeding
in the Czech Republic." Foreign Minister Jan Kavan the
same day dissociated himself from the praise for
Pinochet voiced by opposition Civic Democratic Party
Senator Vaclav Benda at a meeting with Chilean Foreign
Minister Jose Miguel Insulza. Benda said Chile's current
stability and prosperity proves Pinochet's methods "were
justified." and that he "saved Chile from terror and
communist dictatorship." MS

CZECH ARMY TO GET NEW FIGHTER PLANE BY END OF 1999. The
Czech air force will "probably" get the first five of
its new L-159 fighter combat planes in December 1999,
Adam Stranak, director of the Aero Vodochody company,
which produces the plane, told chief of staff General
Jiri Sedivy on 17 March. The air force has ordered 72 L-
159s, CTK reported. Stranak said that his company "has
been contacted" by several NATO states showing an
interest in the purchase of the L-159, adding that NATO
countries could start using the fighter in 2007. Sedivy
confirmed that he "has often discussed the project
during his trips abroad." But the daily "Mlada fronta
Dnes" on 18 March writes that Czech pilots will not be
able to "effectively use" the L-159 because the Defense
Ministry has failed to order special simulators
necessary for pilots to familiarize themselves with the
new aircraft. MS

HUNGARIAN MINISTER DENIES SLOVAK INVOLVEMENT IN BUDAPEST
BOMBINGS. Secret Services Minister Laszlo Kover told
journalists on 17 March that the Hungarian national
security authorities have found no evidence that the
Slovak secret services had anything to do with a series
of bombings in Budapest in 1997-1998. Kover confirmed
that the Slovak operation "Omega" was designed to slow
down Hungary's Euro-Atlantic integration but denied
reports that the Slovak secret services were successful
in harming Hungary's national interests. Meanwhile,
national police spokesman Laszlo Garamvolgyi said on 17
March that no laws were broken during the neo-Nazi
Hungarian Welfare Federation's 15 March demonstration in
Budapest. He said video recordings of the event were
sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office for further
investigations. Gusztav Zoltai, executive chairman of
the Hungarian Federation of Jewish Communities called
the statement "strange," saying that remarks made at the
demonstration constituted "openly racist incitement."
MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

RUGOVA SAYS TALKS 'OVER' FOR KOSOVARS. Shadow-state
President Ibrahim Rugova told RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service on 17 March in a telephone interview from Paris
that the conference on the political future of Kosova
"ended successfully" for the Kosovars when they agreed
to sign the Rambouillet agreement (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 March 1999). He stressed that the outcome
of the meeting now depends on the international
mediators. Rugova added that he is confident that the
international community and NATO are serious about their
possible intervention against Serbia. He noted that the
Kosovar delegation's top priority is to "end the
massacres in Kosova as quickly as possible." In
Prishtina, his Democratic League of Kosova issued an
appeal to NATO to intervene to prevent further attacks
by Serbian forces against ethnic Albanian civilians. PM

CONFERENCE TO END SOON? British Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, will
meet in Paris on the evening of 18 March to decide
whether to continue the conference. Kosovar delegation
member Veton Surroi said that he and his colleagues are
ready to sign the Rambouillet accord and "pack our bags
and go home." U.S. envoy Chris Hill told reporters that
the Kosovars have done all that mediators could expect
of them. He added that Serbian representatives remain
intransigent and that he sees little hope for a
breakthrough. Russian negotiator Boris Mayorskii,
however, said that hope for progress remains as long as
the talks continue. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
said in Moscow on 18 March that "we appeal to Belgrade
to sign" the Rambouillet accord, Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN BUILDUP CONTINUES. Surroi also said in Paris on
18 March that "the Serbs...have not participated in
negotiations here but, as we have seen with the troop
[increase] in Kosova, they are 'negotiating' on the
ground and [in effect] saying 'no, we don't want to
[talk], we actually want to resolve this by war,'"
Reuters reported. The London "Independent" quoted NATO
Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark as saying in
Washington that Serbian forces are preparing to "resume
the conflict on a very large scale." Unnamed Western
officials in Prishtina told the "International Herald
Tribune" that the Serbian forces' goal is to secure the
rail line running through Kosova to the Macedonian
border. One official added that the Serbs "may also be
testing the threshold of Western tolerance for their
actions." PM

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SERBS 'PREPARING NEW
MASSACRE.' Paskal Milo, speaking to Albanian Television
on 17 March in Paris, said the recent concentration of
Serbian security forces within Kosova means that
Belgrade is preparing for a military offensive against
the ethnic Albanian civilian population. Milo stressed
that "there are clear signs that they are preparing for
a new large-scale massacre." He appealed to "the
international community, the Contact Group countries,
[and] NATO... to take urgent measures to prevent the
Serbian authorities from repeating their previous
massacres," dpa reported. FS

ALBRIGHT INVITES KOSOVARS TO WASHINGTON. U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright has invited Hashim Thaci and
other members of the Kosovar delegation to the Paris
talks to discuss their political goals with her in
Washington, AP reported on 18 March. Thaci and his
colleagues have accepted. State Department spokesman
James Foley told reporters that "we want to develop a
good relationship with [the Kosovar leaders] as they
transform themselves into a politically-oriented
organization" in a peace-time environment. PM

COVER-UP OF RECAK MASSACRE? "A row has erupted over the
long-awaited report of a Finnish [team of pathologists']
investigation into the killing of more than 40 ethnic
Albanians" in the Kosovar village of Recak in January,"
London's "Daily Telegraph" reported on 18 March. The
newspaper added that "Helena Ranta, head of the Finnish
team, refused to label the killings a 'massacre,' saying
that such a conclusion lay outside her competence. But
she later admitted that the killings had been 'a crime
against humanity.'" She also refused to say who she
believes shot the civilians. The "International Herald
Tribune" wrote that unnamed EU officials "had asked the
forensic team to withhold from the press and public some
of its most potentially inflammatory findings." The
daily noted that unnamed officials of Germany, which
holds the rotating EU chair, "ordered the Finnish team
not to release a summary of its investigation, which
includes details about how some of the victims appeared
to have died." PM

SERBIA BANS KOSOVAR DAILY. Serbian police on 17 March
confiscated from kiosks in Prishtina and other towns
copies of the mass-circulation daily "Kosova Sot." The
action followed a Prishtina district court decision to
"ban" the paper and fine it some $150,000 (see "RFE/RL
Balkan Report," 17 March 1999). The staff of "Kosova
Sot" said in a statement that they intend to ignore the
ban and continue to publish. PM

BELGRADE COURT RAPS MONTENEGRO. Meeting in Belgrade on
17 March, the federal Constitutional Court called
"unconstitutional" a recent resolution of the
Montenegrin parliament stating that Montenegrin
conscripts are not obliged to serve in Kosova, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE BREAK UP BIG COFFEE SMUGGLING NETWORK.
Albanian police have arrested 12 suspects in a major
coffee-smuggling ring, including seven customs officers
and three policemen, "Albanian Daily News" reported on
18 March. Police seized more than 270 tons of coffee
with a market value of $900,000 in a warehouse in the
village of Sauk, near Tirana. Among those arrested was
Janaq Murati, the owner of the major coffee importing
company Murati do Brazil, and his brother. An unnamed
police source told the newspaper that "top government
officials" were involved in the smuggling network. He
did not name those officials on the grounds that any
disclosure at this time could adversely affect ongoing
investigations. Secret Service Chief Agim Tirana told
dpa that "we are encouraged by this success and want to
keep up our operations against all kinds of smuggling
activities in Albania." FS

HERZEGOVINIAN POLICE ON STRIKE. Ethnic Croatian members
of the police force in Mostar-Neretva County walked off
their jobs on 16 March and did not report for work the
next day in protest over the assassination attempt on
Jozo Leutar, who is the Bosnian federation's deputy
interior minister (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 March
1999). In Zagreb, Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic
said that Croatia expects the Bosnian authorities to
"respond firmly" to the bombing. He did not, however,
repeat charges made by Herzegovinian leader Ante Jelavic
that the attack was linked to the Muslim political
leadership, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the
Croatian capital. PM

CLINTON TO VISIT SLOVENIA. A White House spokesman said
on 17 March that President Bill Clinton will visit
Slovenia in June after he attends the summit of the
Group of Seven industrialized countries in Cologne,
Germany. PM

ROMANIAN NATIONAL CURRENCY DROPS SHARPLY. As the leu
dropped sharply on 17 March, Premier Radu Vasile met
with National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu to discuss
the issue, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Mircea
Ciumara, deputy chairman of the ruling National Peasant
Party Christian Democratic, said the bank is likely to
intervene to stop the trend. The official rate dropped
from 14.040 lei to $1 early on 17 March to 14,900 lei at
closing, while authorized dealers charged 15,000-20,000.
Also on 17 March, the four largest trade union
confederations, which plan to launch a general strike in
the second half of April, met with the Standing Bureau
of the Chamber of Deputies to submit their demands.
Those demands range from amending the budget to allow
for salary indexation to curtailing the prerogatives of
the State Property Fund in the privatization drive. MS

ROMANIAN CUSTOMS CHIEF UNDER INVESTIGATION. Police are
investigating Nini Sapunaru, chief of the General
Customs Directorate, who is suspected of having failed
to forward to the Finance Ministry a license for a duty-
free company operating at Bucharest airport and of
causing the company losses totaling 1 billion lei
($71,000), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The
company was temporarily closed in 1998 under suspicion
of defrauding the state, but later a court allowed it to
resume operating. Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, chairman of
the coalition National Liberal Party (of which Sapunaru
is a member), said he is convinced Sapunaru is
"innocent." Ionescu-Quintus added, however, that he will
not intervene in the investigation. MS

WORLD BANK OFFICIAL MEETS LUCINSCHI, STURDZA. Robert
Grawe, World Bank regional director, met with President
Petru Lucinschi and Premier Ion Sturdza in Chisinau on
17 March, RFE/RL's bureau there reported. Grawe said
that lending to Moldova may resume "within weeks,"
following a visit to Moldova by a group of experts from
the bank to assess the situation. He said the resumption
of lending depends on whether the new government will
honor the obligations assumed by its predecessor.
Lucinschi assured Grawe that "there is no continuity
problem" and that "reforms have become irreversible."
The same day, Sturdza and Grawe signed an accord for a
$15 million World Bank credit aimed at restructuring
public administration. MS

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY DEMANDS DEBATE ON KOSOVA.
Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov on 16 March said
that Premier Ivan Kostov's statements in the parliament
earlier that day about the cabinet's position on the
conflict in Kosova "do not comply with the national
interest"(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1999). He
added that his party will demand a debate in the
parliament. Parvanov said the government has been
conducting negotiations with NATO "behind the back" of
the legislature and "in violation of the constitution."
It has also been "making commitments that may have fatal
consequences for Bulgaria's national security," he
argued. MS

CZECH PREMIER IN BULGARIA. Milos Zeman and his Bulgarian
host, Ivan Kostov, have signed an agreement on combating
organized crime and terrorism, AP reported on 17 March.
The same day, Finance Ministers Ivo Svoboda and Muravei
Radev signed an accord on mutual protection of
investments. Zeman told Kostov that Prague has suspended
a plan to introduce entry visas for Bulgaria and
Romania. He also expressed support for Bulgaria's bid to
join NATO and the EU. MS

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