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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 71, Part II, 13 April 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 71, Part II, 13 April 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

* BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES STEP UP PRESSURE ON OPPOSITION

* RUSSIAN CONVOY ALLOWED TO TRANSIT HUNGARY

* FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIAN-KOSOVAR BORDER ESCALATES
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

LUKASHENKA TO VISIT BELGRADE OVER KOSOVA CRISIS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is planning
to visit Yugoslavia on 14 April, following an invitation
from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Foreign
Minister Ural Latypau said on 13 April that Lukashenka
will "discuss political settlement of the conflict,
sending aid, as well as Yugoslavia's desire to join the
[Belarus-Russia] union. The union cannot be made too
quickly, it requires a lot of time," Reuters quoted him
as saying. Lukashenka has so far not commented on
Yugoslavia's vote to join the Union of Belarus and
Russia (UBR). The issue of Yugoslavia's admission to the
UBR has not been put on the agenda of a UBR Executive
Committee session in Minsk on 13 April. (See related
Russian and Yugoslav stories). JM

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES STEP UP PRESSURE ON OPPOSITION.
The authorities have intensified pressure on territorial
electoral commissions that are preparing for the
opposition presidential elections set for 16 May,
RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to
RFE/RL correspondents, the regional KGB directorates and
prosecutor's offices have begun to summon electoral
commission members for interrogations "on a large
scale." According to Barys Hyunter, secretary of the
opposition Central Electoral Commission, the authorities
are looking to accuse commission head Viktar Hanchar of
a "plot to seize power" after they had failed to charge
him with "usurping official position. As far as I know,
no commission member has been forced into signing a
refusal to participate in his commission," Hyunter said.
JM

U.S. COURT STARTS HEARINGS ON ASYLUM FOR LAZARENKO. A
U.S. immigration court on 12 April began hearing a
request for asylum from former Ukrainian Prime Minister
Pavlo Lazarenko, Reuters reported. The hearings are
being held behind closed doors and no details have been
made available to the public. Last week in Kyiv,
Lazarenko's lawyer said his client has every reason to
expect that Washington will heed his plea for asylum.
"Lazarenko's life would be in danger in Ukraine," the
lawyer added. Lazarenko maintains that the charges of
misappropriating more than $2 million worth of state
property in Ukraine and of money laundering in
Switzerland are politically motivated. "Criminal
investigations [against me] in Ukraine and Switzerland
are part of a politically motivated plot to repress
opposition," Lazarenko reiterated in a recent statement.
JM

KRISTOPANS URGES CABINET UNITY OVER EU BID. Latvian
Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans issued a statement on 12
April urging his cabinet ministers to "refrain from any
negative comments on Latvia's integration into the EU,"
LETA reported. "Each remark or commentary by ministers
is perceived as a political signal by foreign embassies
in Latvia," Kristopans commented. Interior Minister
Roberts Jurdzs told the news agency that he interprets
the statement as a "political announcement" aimed at
stanching the flow of recent reports about the
government's instability. Kristopans has suggested that
the intention of such reports is to block Latvia's
integration into the EU. JC

RECORD NUMBER OF NEW LATVIANS IN MARCH. Latvia's
Naturalization Department press secretary, Aigars
Smiltnieks, told LETA on 12 April that a record 842
people received Latvian citizenship last month--125 of
whom were children. From February 1995 until the end of
last year, an average of 250 people had received
citizenship each month, of whom 20-25 were children.
Smiltnieks also noted that his department received a
record 1,481 applications for citizenship in March. With
regard to the 19,000 children of non-citizens who were
born after 21 August 1991, he noted that only 44 persons
have registered their children for Latvian citizenship
since the amendments to the citizenship law took effect
earlier this year. Under those amendments, such children
are virtually automatically granted citizenship if their
parents request it. JC

ADAMKUS DEMANDS PREMIER EXPLAIN CUSTOMS CHIEF'S ABSENCE.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has sent a letter to
Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius requesting that the
latter explain "immediately on what grounds you are
restricting my constitutional rights to keep in touch
with state officials and receive all necessary
information," ELTA reported on 12 April. The letter
comes after Customs Department director Stasys Stazys
failed to attend a 12 April meeting convened by the
president to discuss customs issues. Nor did the customs
chief offer an explanation for his absence. Instead, he
took part in a gathering at the prime minister's office
to discuss the same topic. According to the news agency,
Stazys had told presidency staff last week that he was
"eager" to attend the presidential meeting but had to
receive the "government's blessing" first. JC

WILLIAMS TO ACQUIRE ADDITIONAL STAKE IN MAZEIKIU NAFTA.
The Lithuanian State Defense Council on 12 April
approved the U.S.-based Williams company's request to
acquire an additional 33 percent stake in the Mazeikiu
Nafta complex, ELTA reported. It already owns one-third
of the company. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas
Babilius said after the meeting, which President Adamkus
chaired, that the council has asked the government to
continue talks with Williams, saying that the company's
additional investments in the national economy are "a
political issue, therefore the strategic interests of
the nation must be assessed as well." JC

SOLIDARITY WANTS LUSTRATED OFFICIALS TO RESIGN UNTIL
CLEARANCE. The ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS)
wants the AWS-recommended officials in the government to
resign their posts after their declarations denying
collaboration with the Communist-era secret services
have been questioned and passed to the Lustration Court
for scrutiny. According to the AWS, if the court
confirms that those officials have not collaborated,
they may resume their posts. Under Poland's lustration
law, the lustration declarations are examined by the
lustration prosecutor, who may pass questionable
declarations to the Lustration Court for a final
verdict. If an official is found guilty of lying in
his/her lustration statement, that person will be
forbidden from holding public office for ten years.
According to "Rzeczpospolita" and "Gazeta Wyborcza,"
none of the 23,000 lustration statements have so far
been sent to the court for scrutiny. JM

PRESIDENT SAYS CZECH POSITION ON KOSOVA DISCOURAGES NATO
EXPANSION. Vaclav Havel, speaking on television on 12
April after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, said that
NATO has doubts whether the alliance should be further
enlarged after experiencing "contradictory signals" from
the Czech Republic on the Kosova conflict, CTK reported.
Havel said his information comes from "outstanding
sources." He also said that the position on the conflict
taken by some politicians "deprives them of the right to
contribute to diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing peace
to Kosova." But Albright, also on Czech television,
praised the Prague government for its role aimed at
"harmonizing" alliance attitudes on the conflict and
said the Czechs can "serve as an example" to countries
not yet admitted to NATO through their "central role" in
the conflict. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATO STATEMENT. Foreign
Minister Kavan on 12 April told CTK that the Czech
government approves the statement released on the same
day by NATO's foreign ministers at their meeting in
Brussels. Kavan said that possible ground operations in
Yugoslavia "were not on the agenda" of the meeting. The
statement speaks of sending peacekeepers to Kosova only
after a political agreement has been reached, he said,
and this reflects the Czech cabinet's position and means
that Belgrade must approve of the peacekeepers'
presence. He added that a ministerial team headed by
Deputy Premier Egon Lansky is preparing a document on
humanitarian aid to Kosova refugees. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
'OPTIMISTIC'... Jan Slota, leader of the Slovak National
Party (SNS), said on 12 April that he was optimistic
about his chances to reach the runoff in the
presidential elections, whose first round is scheduled
for 15 May. Slota said that if he advances to the
runoff, he believes he could "come to an agreement" with
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia leader Vladimir
Meciar and secure his backing, CTK reported. If he fails
to reach the runoff, the SNS will "support a pro-Slovak
politician," and that is Meciar, Slota said. MS

...WHILE KOVAC REJECTS COMPARISON WITH SCHUSTER. Also on
12 April, former President Michal Kovac said he had
never collaborated with the former Czechoslovak
communist secret police and called on all other
presidential candidates to declare whether they had done
so, CTK reported. Kovac also rejected any comparison
between himself and the ruling coalition candidate,
Rudolf Schuster, because of their communist past. Kovac
said that while he was a supporter of Alexander Dubcek
and was demoted to a minor banking clerk position,
Schuster occupied important positions in the party in
the 1980s and was the last communist chairman of the
Slovak parliament in November 1989. Meanwhile Schuster,
who is leading in the polls, said in Warsaw that he is
convinced Meciar will not win the elections, but if he
did Slovakia's access to the EU and NATO "will
definitely be closed." MS

SLOVAKIA READY TO ACCEPT 'THOUSANDS' OF KOSOVA REFUGEES.
An Interior Ministry official on 12 April told CTK that
Slovakia can accept "thousands" of Kosovar refugees. Jan
Michalko said some of these refugees may be granted
political asylum after their temporary stay permits
expire. MS

RUSSIAN CONVOY ALLOWED TO TRANSIT HUNGARY. Following
intensive talks between Hungarian Interior Minister
Sandor Pinter and Russian Emergency Minister Sergei
Shoigu in Budapest, the Russian convoy carrying aid
shipment to Yugoslavia on 12 April was allowed to enter
Hungary, Hungarian media reported. Five armored trucks
were returned to Ukraine and only four of the eight
gasoline tankers were allowed to travel with the convoy
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). Russia's
presidential deputy chief of staff, Sergei Prikhodko,
cited by ITAR-TASS, said that despite the settling of
the dispute, Moscow "will draw very serious conclusions
from Budapest's actions." He said Hungary had not acted
"independently" or "freely." Shoigu said before
returning to Moscow that Hungary had consulted with NATO
before blocking the convoy's passage. MSZ/MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MORE REFUGEES ARRIVE IN MACEDONIA. Over 2,000 Kosovars
arrived at the makeshift refugee camp at Blace on 13
April. The previous day, Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev
said in Skopje that the government is concerned about
delays in the evacuation to third countries of refugees
already in Macedonia. Sadako Ogata, who is the UN high
commissioner for refugees, recently asked Australia,
Canada, and the U.S. to postpone plans to take in
refugees lest the Kosovars find themselves too far from
their homeland. Macedonia is currently home to over
100,000 Kosovars, some 60,000 of whom are staying with
families. In Lojane, each house in the village of 2,000
hosts some 10 to 30 Kosovars, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile at Radusa, a spokesman for the OSCE's William
Walker referred to the local camp as a "concentration
camp." Women residents spoke of frequent harassment by
Macedonian guards, AP reported. PM

DANGERS FOR MACEDONIA. In Washington, a study prepared
for the House of Representatives warned that a
continuing influx of refugees could destabilize
Macedonia. The paper added that the small but militant
Serbian minority poses a lasting threat to U.S. troops
there, Reuters noted on 12 April. Elsewhere, President
Kiro Gligorov told the German weekly "Der Spiegel" that
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic poses a danger
both for Serbia and for the entire Balkan region.
Gligorov stressed that Serbia is the only Balkan country
that has not begun a process of democratization and
economic reform. PM

SERBS CONTINUE TO DRIVE OUT KOSOVARS. More than 3,000
Kosovar refugees arrived in the Albanian town of Kukes
on 13 April, an OSCE official told Reuters. The official
said the refugees came from Prishtina and Prizren. It
was the biggest influx in three days and brings the
total number of refugees in Albania to 310,000. Private
families have put up about half of them. With foreign
assistance, the Albanian authorities have so far built
24 refugee camps with space for a total of 31,000
people. Another 10 camps with a total capacity of 58,000
are currently under construction. FS

FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIAN-KOSOVAR BORDER ESCALATES. A
battle between Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) guerrillas
and Serbian forces entered its fourth day near Tropoja
on 12 April. The Yugoslav army fired mortars at the
village, Reuters reported. Serbian state television
claimed that its forces killed 150 UCK fighters. The
report could not be independently confirmed. Albanian
and French army helicopters evacuated six wounded UCK
fighters and one journalist to the Tirana military
hospital. Meanwhile, Serbian troops began torching three
villages inside Kosova near Prizren on the night of 12
April. The burning appeared to be part of a Serbian
campaign to prevent Kosovars from returning. Refugees
had earlier described the villages as "ghost towns"
after Serbian forces had expelled the population. Some
refugees reported seeing corpses sprawled along the
roadside in these areas. Elsewhere, "Der Spiegel"
summarized dozens of interviews with refugees from
throughout Kosova, which suggest that Serbian forces
frequently carry out killings, often in a sadistic
fashion. FS

MILO HAILS NATO SUPPORT. Albanian Foreign Minister
Paskal Milo told the BBC on 12 April that "NATO is a
guarantee for our sovereignty [and] territorial
integrity." He accused Milosevic of trying to
"destabilize" Albania. The same day, French and U.S.
helicopters and troops arrived in Albania as the first
part of NATO's 8,000-strong Allied Harbor mission to
help aid agencies cope with the influx of refugees. A
French army spokesman told Reuters that "the purpose of
Operation Allied Harbor will be to coordinate NATO's
military assistance to the government of Albania and to
international organizations to help alleviate the
suffering" of the refugees. FS

NATO HITS SERBIAN REFINERIES. NATO aircraft hit oil
refineries in Pancevo and Novi Sad on 12 April as part
of a campaign to slow Milosevic's war machine by denying
it oil and gasoline. Serbian authorities said that a
passenger train was hit, killing nine and wounding 16. A
NATO spokesman said in Brussels that the Atlantic
alliance does not deliberately target trains but added
that it does hit transportation and communications
infrastructure that has military uses. PM

NATO REAFFIRMS FIVE DEMANDS FOR MILOSEVIC. Foreign
ministers of the Atlantic alliance's 19 member states
agreed in Brussels on 12 April that air strikes will
continue until Milosevic agrees to meet NATO's five
demands. These are that he stop the killings and
expulsions, withdraw his forces, permit international
peacekeepers in the province, allow refugees and
displaced persons to go home, and accept the Rambouillet
accords, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. The
ministers warned Milosevic against attempting to
destabilize Macedonia, Albania, or Montenegro, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. The ministers also
discussed ways in which Russia might be brought into an
eventual peacekeeping force. Britain's Robin Cook said
in London on 13 April: "We would hope that together
[NATO and Russia] might be able to make progress in
getting Belgrade to recognize that the world is not
going to let them get away with ethnic cleansing" in
Kosova. PM

ALBRIGHT MEETS WITH REGIONAL MINISTERS. U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright discussed the crisis in
Kosova on 12 April in Brussels with her counterparts
from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia,
Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. She reaffirmed the international
community's interest in regional stability and pledged
support for those countries taking in Kosovar refugees.
Albright also stressed that she will do "all in her
power" to support the "democratic government in
Montenegro" and prevent efforts to destabilize it. She
turned down a request from the UCK for anti-tank
weapons, saying that Washington supports the arms
embargo against Yugoslavia. PM

MONTENEGRO REJECTS UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS. Deputy
speaker of parliament Predrag Popovic reminded reporters
in Podgorica on 12 April that the Montenegrin government
does not recognize the legitimacy of the federal
authorities in Belgrade. He added that Podgorica
accordingly rejects the federal parliament's decision to
seek admission to the Union of Belarus and Russia (see
stories in Part I and above). Social Democratic leader
Zarko Rakcevic said that Milosevic is trying to give
"false hope" to Serbs through what he portrays as an
alliance with Russia. Rakcevic said that Montenegro is
more interested in joining NATO's Partnership for Peace
program and the EU than in "linking up with
ultranationalists." He stressed that Russia and
Montenegro need to base their cooperation on concrete
economic and cultural programs rather on "myths and
Orthodox fundamentalism," AP reported. Observers note
that Montenegrins are traditionally known for their
Russophile sentiments. PM

YUGOSLAV NAVY TOLD TO LEAVE BAR. Petrasin Kasalica, who
is the chief administrator of the Montenegrin port of
Bar, told the Yugoslav Navy Command in a letter on 12
April to withdraw its vessels from that port
immediately. He stressed that a gunboat recently acted
"provocatively" by firing on NATO aircraft. Kasalica
called the incident "a clear breach of trust and abuse
of our friendship and hospitality." He added that "under
the present circumstances, the port of Bar does not need
the protection of the Yugoslav Navy," Reuters reported.
PM

WAR CRIMES TRIAL OPENS IN HAGUE. The International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia opened
proceedings on 12 April against Croats Dario Kordic and
Mario Cerkez for war crimes against Muslims in central
Bosnia during the 1993-1994 internecine war. The two men
turned themselves in to the court in 1997. PM

BOSNIAN ECONOMY HIT BY KOSOVA CRISIS. Bosnian Federal
Industry and Mining Minister Mirsad Salkic said in
Sarajevo on 12 April that Bosnia has now lost recently
restored economic links to Serbian companies. He added
that NATO's closure of Bosnian air space to civilian
traffic is also costing airports and local carriers
dearly, Reuters reported. PM

ROMANIA, IMF, RENEW NEGOTIATIONS. The IMF's chief
negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, met in
Bucharest on 12 April with Transportation Minister
Traian Basescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. An
IMF team of experts has been in Bucharest since last
week. Basescu said the meeting aimed at bringing in line
the envisaged standby accord with the IMF with the $300
million World Bank loan agreed to in March. He said the
fund will grant a much larger loan if the negotiations
are successful. In June, Romania must service some $900
million of its foreign debt and its capability to do so
depends on the outcome of the negotiations with the
fund. Zervoudakis said after a first round of February-
March negotiations in Bucharest that "some progress" had
been made but not sufficient to meet IMF conditions for
renewing loans. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TALK ON NATO GROUND
FORCES 'PREMATURE.' Andrei Plesu said in an interview on
12 April with Romanian state radio that it is
"premature" to discuss which position Romania will adopt
in the event that NATO launches a ground attack on
Yugoslavia. Plesu said Romania has not been "even
vaguely approached" on the matter by NATO and that the
position "in any case rests with the parliament alone."
Plesu also said Bucharest will not diverge from its
decision to not "become directly involved" in military
operations. European Integration Minister Alexandru
Herlea on the same day said Milosevic, "just like
Ceausescu, embodies [a] political mixture between
communism and nazism," Mediafax reported. MS

UKRAINIAN CARGO PLANE DETAINED IN CHISINAU. The Moldovan
customs authorities on 9 April detained in Chisinau a
Ukrainian "Air Alliance" AN-26 cargo plane secretly
transporting 5,000 Hungarian-made pistols bound for
Yemen, via Sofia, Infotag and Reuters reported the same
day. The plane, which originated in Budapest, landed in
Chisinau due to technical problems. The crew provided
documentation claiming the plane was transporting oil
exploration equipment. On 12 March, a Ukrainian plane
belonging to the "Air City" company was detained in
Chisinau on route to Yemen, upon suspicion that it was
transporting cartridge-cases. That plane was allowed to
take off following the intervention of the Ukrainian
embassy. "Air City" said it will sue for damages. MS

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