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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part II, 20 May 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part II, 20 May 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

* NO WINNER IN BELARUS'S SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLLS

* HUNDREDS OF SERBIAN SOLDIERS DESERT IN KOSOVA

* GEORGIEVSKI PLEDGES OPEN BORDER

End Note: RUGOVA SPEAKS OUT TOO LATE
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

NO WINNER IN BELARUS'S SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLLS... The
Central Electoral Commission on 19 May announced the
final results of the Belarusian opposition presidential
elections, which took place from 6-16 May. Viktar
Hanchar, head of the commission, said slightly more than
4 million voters, or 53 percent of the total electorate,
cast ballots. That figure was sufficient for the vote to
be declared valid. However, the commission ruled that
the results of balloting were invalid because of
"irregularities" during the vote, citing the "hostility"
of the authorities, the absence of conditions for free
election campaigning, and the "violation of the election
law" by presidential candidate Zyanon Paznyak. Paznyak
had withdrawn from the elections, claiming that the
commission had falsified turnout figures. The commission
announced it will organize another presidential poll
within three months. JM

...WHILE 'UNOFFICIAL DATA' SHOW PAZNYAK CAME FIRST. The
Central Electoral Commission did not disclose the number
of votes cast for Paznyak or Mikhail Chyhir in the
opposition presidential elections. A correspondent for
RFE/RL's Belarusian Service was told by a member of
Paznyak's electoral staff that, according to "unofficial
data," Paznyak won the poll with 2.37 million votes,
while Chyhir gained 1.62 million votes. Meanwhile,
Lyavon Barshcheuski, acting chairman of the Belarusian
Popular Front (BNF), said the BNF will address the
Supreme Soviet with a request to assess the activities
of the Central Electoral Commission. "While in the
initial stages [of the election campaign] we had only a
few allegations, the final stage has produced a scandal.
It discredits all democrats in Belarus," Barshcheuski
said. JM

LUKASHENKA DECREES PRICE REGULATION. Belarusian
President Alexander Lukashenka on 19 May signed a decree
on regulating prices and service charges, Belarusian
Television reported. The decree bans any increase in the
prices of specified goods and services without
"adequate" social security measures. It provides for the
government and the National Bank to set ceilings each
year on increases in the price of Belarus-manufactured
goods. And it establishes penalties for violations of
its provisions. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS PUNISHING CABINET. The
Supreme Council on 19 May announced it will hold a
special debate on punishing the government for its
failure to collect sufficient revenues. The decision was
made a day after the government told the legislature
that unpaid pensions and wages to state employees rose
by 10 percent in January-March to 3.6 billion hryvni
($916 million). In more bad economic news, the State
Statistics Committee reported the same day that foreign
investments in Ukraine plunged 52 percent in January-
March, compared with the preceding three months. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS SMALL BUDGET SURPLUS IN 2000.
Estonian Finance Minister Siim Kallas told an IMF
delegation in Tallinn on 19 May that Estonia plans to
have a state budget with a surplus equivalent to 0.5
percent of GDP next year, ETA reported. John Odling-
Smee, head of the delegation, welcomed the cabinet's
"conservative approach" to the 2000 budget, as well as
the "austerity measures" contained in this year's
negative supplementary budget. At the same time, he
warned that the report on the Estonian economy shortly
to be submitted to the fund's board of directors will be
more critical than in previous years. The IMF recently
argued that Estonia's 1999 budget should be cut by 2.3
billion kroons ($156.5 million), rather that the 1
billion kroons reduction foreseen by the negative
supplementary budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May
1999). JC

LATVIA'S NEW PARTY TO REMAIN IN COALITION. The board of
the New Party has voted to remain in the ruling
coalition, following the dismissal last week of its
economics minister, Ainars Slesers (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 11 and 12 May 1999), LETA reported on 19 May.
The party had threatened to respond to Slesers's
dismissal by withdrawing its cabinet ministers. Also on
19 May, the board nominated parliamentary deputy Ingrida
Udre as the next economy minister. Prime Minister Vilis
Kristopans praised both decisions as a "logical step."
JC

CREATION OF POLISH OIL GIANT SPARKS PROTEST. The
Petrochemia Plock refinery and the CPN gasoline
distribution concern have merged to form the Polish Oil
Concern (PKN), Polish Television reported on 19 May.
Several dozen CPN employees protested the same day
against the planned restructuring and workforce
reductions. They demand two-year employment guarantees
and high severance payments, saying that some 3,000
people, or 50 percent of the CPN workforce, will lose
their jobs in the restructuring. The PKN board chairman
said the concern will not give preferential treatment to
CPN employees at the cost of its other component,
Petrochemia Plock. JM

ATTEMPT TO LUSTRATE POLISH PREMIER CONTINUES. Tomasz
Karwowski, a parliamentary deputy from the right-wing
Confederation for an Independent Poland-Homeland (KPN-
O), lodged an appeal on 19 May against the decision of
the lustration prosecutor not to launch lustration
proceedings against Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 12 May). Buzek's spokesman
Krzysztof Luft called Karwowski's action a "kind of
madness." Andrzej Potocki--spokesman of the Freedom
Union, a member of the ruling coalition --said that by
accusing the premier of collaboration with communist-era
secret services, the KPN-O is seeking "to destabilize
Poland [and] to overthrow the government." JM

HAVEL HAS CHEST INFECTION. Czech President Vaclav Havel
has fallen ill with a viral chest infection, Czech media
reported on 19 May. Havel's doctor, Ilja Kotik, said the
president's temperature rose to 37.7 degrees Celsius on
18 May but receded the next day. Kotik said the
president's schedule for this week has been canceled and
that he will be treated at home. Last year, Havel
underwent an urgent colostomy operation. Later, he
contracted a life-threatening bout of pneumonia, when
doctors operated again to remove the colostomy bag. In
1996, doctors operated to remove a malignant tumor from
his lungs. VG

CZECH COURT SENTENCES TWO COMMUNIST POLICE OFFICERS. A
regional Czech court on 20 May sentenced two former
communist police officers, Michal Danisovic and Bedrich
Houbal, to three-and-a-half and three years in prison,
respectively, for abuse of power in connection with a
police crackdown against demonstrators in central Prague
on 17 November 1989, CTK reported. In other news, the
Czech Republic signed a military cooperation agreement
with Georgia as well as an agreement to sell 120 T-54
and T-55 tanks to that country. Visiting Georgian
Defense Minister David Tevzadze dismissed speculation
that the tanks were destined for use by the Taliban
movement in Afghanistan, CTK reported on 18 May. VG

FORMER SECRET AGENT DENIES IMPLICATING MECIAR IN CRIME.
Former Slovak Intelligence Service deputy director
Jaroslav Svechota on 19 May said he has never suggested
that former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was
implicated in the 1995 abduction of former President
Michal Kovac's son, CTK reported. On 17 May, chief
police investigator Jaroslav Ivor said that Svechota,
who is currently being detained in connection with the
abduction, had sent a letter to Prime Minister Mikulas
Dzurinda requesting a pardon and mentioning Meciar in
connection with the abduction (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 18
May 1999). Svechota said he had spoken about the former
prime minister only "in connection with privatization."
According to Ivor, Svechota has come under pressure from
unnamed sources to retract his confession in connection
with the Kovac case. At one point, Ivor said Svechota
received a warning in the form of a razor blade placed
in a book as a bookmark. VG

SCANDAL OVER FIDESZ LOBBY FOR NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR. A
letter signed by 31 parliamentary deputies and three
political state secretaries from FIDESZ who are
recommending that Stephen M. Jones be the next U.S.
ambassador to Hungary has caused an uproar within the
party, Hungarian media reported on 19 May. The letter
was addressed to U.S. senators Jesse Helms and Joseph
Biden of the Foreign Relations Committee but reportedly
never reached its destination. Jones, a senior official
at Lockheed Martin Corporation, had been lobbying in
Budapest in connection with his firm's participation in
a postponed Hungarian tender for fighter aircraft.
FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Jozsef Szajer
apologized to U.S. Ambassador Peter Tufo and said his
party will launch an investigation into the matter.
Political analysts say the letter amounts to an
unprecedented intervention by Hungarian politicians in
U.S. internal affairs. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

HUNDREDS OF SERBIAN SOLDIERS DESERT IN KOSOVA. At least
800 Yugoslav army troops left their units in Kosova on
19 May to return to their homes in Krusevac and
elsewhere in central Serbia. For several days, their
families had been protesting to demand their return,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 May 1999). Some of the deserters handed in
their uniforms and weapons before leaving their posts.
Other soldiers took their arms and equipment with them,
some of whom "used their weapons" to enable fellow
deserters to pass the roadblocks of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic's paramilitary police. Army spokesmen
in Belgrade said the men going home were mainly
reservists and that their withdrawal had been scheduled.
The BBC reported that the number of deserters was as
high as 2,000 and that some soldiers left after bitter
arguments with their commanders. In Washington, State
Department spokesman James Rubin said the desertions are
particularly significant because they involved "entire
units." PM

U.S. SHOWS EVIDENCE OF MASSACRE. State Department
officials showed a video in Washington on 19 May that
they said proved the accuracy of earlier reports and
surveillance photographs to show that Serbian forces
massacred a group of elderly Kosovars at Izbica in mid-
April. Rubin added that there are eyewitnesses to the
atrocity. He did not elaborate. PM

CACAK CITIZENS CALL ON BELGRADE TO PROTECT KOSOVARS.
Members of Cacak's unofficial "citizens' parliament"
condemned what they called the dictatorship of the
governing Socialist Party of Serbia, RFE/RL's South
Slavic Service reported on 19 May. The parliament also
called on the Serbian authorities to "protect [ethnic]
Albanian families and their civil rights, and to enable
them to return" to Kosova. Observers note that this is
one of the first calls by the Serbian opposition for the
protection and return of the ethnic Albanians. PM

MONTENEGRO SAYS YUGOSLAV ARMY 'HIJACKING' AID TRUCKS.
Zorica Maric, who is Montenegro's diplomatic
representative to the U.S., said in Washington on 19 May
that Yugoslav troops have recently begun diverting to
the Kumbor army barracks humanitarian aid trucks
arriving from Croatia. She added that "the confiscation
of humanitarian aid is already jeopardizing the
humanitarian situation in the refugee camps," AP
reported. In Podgorica, Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa
Burzan said the government will try to "convince [the
military] to leave the border area. If they don't, we
will find another way of dealing with [the problem].
People are getting very impatient with all this,"
Reuters quoted him as saying. "The army wants to
suffocate us," he added. PM

GEORGIEVSKI PLEDGES OPEN BORDER. UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan said in Skopje on 19 May that Macedonian
Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has promised him that
he will keep Macedonia's border open for Kosovar
refugees, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Georgievski
added that Macedonia's government is currently able to
cope with another 30,000 refugees. Elsewhere,
Georgievski announced the appointment of new economics,
agriculture, and health ministers. A member of the
Liberal Democratic Party joined the government as a
minister without portfolio, bringing the number of
parties in the governing coalition to four. Also in
Skopje, a bomb exploded outside a mosque in the central
part of the mainly ethnic Albanian part of town. Two
people were seriously injured. Police are investigating.
PM

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS KOSOVAR RIVALS TO
TIRANA. Paskal Milo in Tirana on 19 May called on "all
political groups in Kosova to send their representatives
to a meeting in Tirana in the next few days." He urged
them to "reaffirm once again their commitment to work
together and to talk with one voice, on the basis of the
agreement that they reached in Paris after the
Rambouillet talks," an RFE/RL correspondent reported
from Tirana. The rival groups had agreed in France in
March to create a joint provisional government.
Meanwhile, in an apparently conciliatory gesture, Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK) spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said that
he welcomes Tirana's role as a mediator between the
rival Kosovar factions. The previous day in Tirana,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair had urged UCK
representatives and the nationalist scholar and writer
Rexhep Qosja to reach an understanding with Ibrahim
Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. FS

ALBANIA REINFORCES TROOPS AROUND KUKES. The Albanian
army moved additional troops, tanks, and other military
equipment into the Kukes area on 19 May, Reuters
reported. Meanwhile, U.S. A-10 "tankbuster" planes
continued to attack military positions on the Yugoslav
side of the border. Elsewhere, no additional refugees
crossed the main border checkpoint at Morina. FS

ITALIAN COAST GUARD RESCUES 30 KOSOVAR REFUGEES. An
Italian coast-guard vessel rescued 30 Kosovar refugees
from Albanian's Karaburuni Peninsula on 19 May, Reuters
reported. Instead of bringing the refugees to Italy as
promised, smugglers from Vlora dumped them on the
Karaburuni Peninsula after a short trip across the bay
of Vlora and wished them good luck. The refugees said
they paid about $2,500 each for the journey. FS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT FACES POTENTIAL STRIKE. Prime
Minister Radu Vasile warned that a threatened general
strike would destabilize the country, Reuters reported
on 19 May. Vasile's comments came after inconclusive
talks between his government and union leaders. The
unions are expected to decide on 20 May whether to go
ahead with a general strike on 24 May. Vasile also said
labor unrest would crush Romania's bid to take part in
the planned Balkan reconstruction plan after the Kosova
conflict. The Vasile cabinet is facing a confidence vote
in the parliament on 20 May in connection with a package
of economic reform laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May
1999). VG

NEW BILINGUAL RADIO STATION TO GO ON AIR IN
TRANSYLVANIA. Gyorgy Frunda, a senator for the Hungarian
Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), announced that
a 24-hour Hungarian- and Romanian-language radio station
will be launched in Targu Mures on 1 September, the BBC
reported on 19 May, citing Hungarian Duna TV. VG

MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES WANT STRONGER GOVERNMENT. A group of
39 parliamentary deputies from Moldova's governing
Alliance for Democracy and Reforms has submitted to the
Constitutional Court a package of constitutional
amendments on expanding the government's powers, Infotag
and BASA-Press reported on 19 May. According to Moldovan
law, all amendments to the constitution must be examined
by the court before the legislature can deal with them.
One of the deputies said the amendments would give the
government the power to "pass decisions of a legislative
character," provided the parliament did not reject them
within "two to three days of their adoption." Deputy
parliamentary speaker Iurie Rosca said the proposed
amendments are part of President Petru Lucinschi's
attempt to "reduce the role of the parliament to that of
a decorative body under governmental subordination,"
BASA-Press reported. A non-binding referendum on
expanding the president's powers is scheduled for 23
May. VG

OSCE PRAISES BULGARIAN ROMA INTEGRATION MODEL. Bulgarian
Deputy Prime Minister Veselin Metodiev said the OSCE is
planning to apply the Bulgarian model for integrating
Romani communities and organizations to other countries,
according to an 18 May BTA report cited by the BBC.
Metodiev's comments came after he met with OSCE High
Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel in
Sofia. BTA also cited a government official as saying
that the EU's PHARE program has approved funding for
projects connected to Bulgaria's Romani minority. In
other news, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda
Mikhailova met with her Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang
Schuessel, in Vienna on 19 May, BTA reported. Schuessel
said "almost no other country" in the region has
suffered as many losses owing to the Kosova conflict as
has Bulgaria. VG

END NOTE

RUGOVA SPEAKS OUT TOO LATE

by Fabian Schmidt

	Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova has finally outlined
his political strategy some two weeks after arriving in
Rome from Kosova, where he spent more than one month
under Serbian house arrest. He told the "Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung" of 17 May that he does not recognize
the provisional government of Kosova Liberation Army
(UCK) leader Hashim Thaci, thereby clearly defining his
position in the ongoing power struggle over the future
of Kosova. His statement, even if addressed more to a
Western readership than to the Kosovars, was certainly
overdue.
	Rugova failed to take advantage of the extensive
international media coverage he received immediately
after he arrived in Rome. He refrained from stating
clearly his position on key issues and explaining what
had happened to him while he was under house arrest.
Then he lost more valuable time by travelling to Paris,
Brussels, Bonn, and London, where he met with numerous
Western leaders. Albanian and Kosovar politicians both
in Tirana and elsewhere were left guessing about his
political views and plans.
	By mid-May, the UCK had become a strong political
force. It quickly filled the vacuum created by the
collapse of Rugova's shadow state in the course of the
Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign. Thaci's government
draws its legitimacy primarily from an agreement on
forming a provisional government that the Kosovar
delegates to the Rambouillet peace talks concluded in
March. Thaci, who headed the Kosovar delegation in
France, went on to claim the post of prime minister for
himself and assigned several ministerial positions to
the various Kosovar parties represented in Rambouillet.
The key ministerial positions went to the UCK, while
Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) received less
important ones.
	This was apparently one of the main reasons why an
LDK delegation, led by shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar
Bukoshi, declined to join the Thaci government when
visiting Tirana on 2 May. Another reason was reportedly
that Bukoshi still has large funds from Diaspora
donations and does not want to simply hand over the
money to Thaci. Instead, Bukoshi suggested forming a new
government, which he invited the UCK to join. On 3 May,
UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi dismissed Bukoshi's
proposal as "unacceptable," making clear that "there is
already a government of Kosova led by Hashim Thaci."
	Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, who had
invited the rivals to meet in Tirana, urged them--in
vain--to unite. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo stressed
that "there is no time to lose as to who will be prime
minister and who will be ministers." He added that "it
is important to set up a government representing all
Albanians in Kosova." Each side, nonetheless, insisted
that its rivals join its own government first, and each
remained unwilling to compromise.
	Two days after the Albanian government's mediation
effort ended, Rugova arrived in Rome with his family. He
had a golden opportunity to promote unity among the
Kosovars and thereby influence the Albanian government
to take positions close to his own. But by focusing on
meetings with Western leaders rather than spending time
with his own people, he left the political initiative to
Thaci. On 12 May, the Albanian parliament's Socialist
majority voted to recognize the Thaci government. That
same day, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
announced that Rugova had decided to stay in Germany.
	By that time, Rugova had not yet explained to the
Kosovar public what had happened to him in Serbian
captivity and whether he signed a document with Serbian
President Milan Milutinovic under duress or voluntarily.
That document called for autonomy within Serbia and for
direct Serbian-Kosovar negotiations, with foreigners
present only "as guests." Instead, Rugova said he
preferred not to talk about his meetings with
Milutinovic.
	Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on 14 May
urged Rugova to declare his support for the Thaci
government. Milo stressed that the Albanian government
does "not support one side [of the Kosovar political
spectrum] against the other" but rather seeks to promote
Kosovar unity. Milo also called on Rugova to visit
Tirana, saying that "if [Rugova] says he is the
[president] of the [Kosovar] Albanians..., then first of
all he needs to come and see Albanians. [It is]
unacceptable, unthinkable that he would not come to
Albania, where there are 440,000 people from Kosova. He
must come here to encourage them, to support them."
	Rugova finally clarified his position in an
interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of
17 May. "Whatever I signed in Belgrade is meaningless,"
he said, adding that he put his signature to the
document to protect his family. Rugova also said that he
will travel to Macedonia and to Albania and visit
refugee camps there. Furthermore, he sounded a
conciliatory note by saying that "it is tragicomical
that we have two provisional governments at the same
time." Rugova added that he will invite Kosovar
political leaders from all political groups to Bonn to
discuss forming a new provisional government.
	It remains to be seen how the UCK will respond to
that suggestion. Indeed, Rugova risks losing the little
sympathy he may have left among the UCK. In an interview
with the Hamburg weekly "Die Woche" of 19 May, he called
on the West not to arm the UCK and to negotiate with
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
	Rugova seems to be working on the assumption that
his most important asset is his good personal and
political links to Western politicians. But he must be
careful not to lose contact with his electorate in the
refugee camps and with fighters in the field if he wants
to maintain his position. Sooner or later the Kosovars
will hold an election, and foreigners will not be the
ones voting.
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