|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 117, Part II, 16 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 117, Part II, 16 June 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * SCHUSTER SWORN IN AS SLOVAK PRESIDENT * SERBIAN WITHDRAWAL PROCEDING ON SCHEDULE * SERBIAN CHURCH WANTS MILOSEVIC TO GO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BELARUS, RUSSIA DISCUSS INTRODUCING SINGLE CUSTOMS RATES. In Minsk on 15 June the State Customs Committees of Belarus and Russia discussed the introduction of single customs rates within the Belarus-Russia Customs Union, Belarusian Television reported. "In 1997 the difference between the two customs tariffs was minimal. Today we have differences regarding hundreds of items in the customs tariff [table]," Belarusian Television quoted Russian State Customs Committee head Mikhail Vanin as saying. Vanin added that Russia has lost $600 million in customs dues for motor vehicles crossing Belarus. "One cannot say that Russia suffers, while Belarus gains. Unfortunately, we [also] have a lot of such decisions that place our Belarus and its partners at a disadvantage," Belarusian State Customs Committee head Vasil Makarevich commented. JM NO PROGRESS IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN BORDER DISPUTE. Ukraine and Romania have failed to define their common border in talks held in Kyiv, AP reported on 15 June. "There is no concrete solution...The discussion at the Kyiv talks is proceeding in a tense manner," Ukraine's delegation head Yuriy Kostenko commented. Ukraine and Romania disagree on how to demarcate the Black Sea continental shelf near Zmiyinyy Island where oil and gas deposits are believed to be located. Both countries signed a political treaty in 1997 pledging to solve the border dispute within two years or appeal to an international court for arbitration. JM UKRAINE TO SELL SHARES IN MAJOR OIL REFINERY TO RUSSIA. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii said in Kyiv on 15 June that Ukraine will sell a controlling stake in the LiNOS plant, a major oil refinery in Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, AP reported. The Ukrainian government currently owns 67.41 percent of the shares in LiNOS. Ukraine does not have enough money to keep the refinery afloat, while Russia's ownership is expected to guarantee a steady oil supply to LiNOS and to provide revenues for the Ukrainian budget. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON CABINET OUSTER. The Supreme Council has put off its 16 June debate on the dismissal of Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko's cabinet until next week. The debate was proposed by the Supreme Council's communists who collected 153 signatures to initiate a vote of no confidence in the government. The postponement decision was taken owing to the need to look into several urgent economic bills and because Pustovoytenko is currently attending a CIS economic forum in St. Petersburg, AP reported on 15 June. JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT TIES BUDGET TO CONFIDENCE MOTION. The Estonian government on 15 June decided to attach a confidence motion on itself to the hotly-debated 1 billion kroon ($67 million) negative supplementary budget. The government, supported by a majority of the parliament, is not at risk of losing the motion. Rather, the procedure allows the bill to be voted on without amendments. The government recently introduced amendments to change parliamentary rules to allow the linkage. The opposition launched over 500 amendments to the budget in order to obstruct its passage and BNS reported that they have already introduced 33 amendments to the parliamentary rule change. The 15 June session of parliament, which began to debate the budget and the plethora of amendments, declared a halt in proceedings for the government to plan the confidence motion. Prime Minister Mart Laar told "Postimees" that the budget will be passed by 1 July. MH BALTIC AND NORDIC DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN RIGA. Defense ministers from Baltic and Nordic countries met in Riga on 14-15 June. The defense ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden also hosted other officials, including NATO Deputy Secretary General Klaus-Peter Klaiber. The main issues of discussion included the Kosova crisis, activities connected with the Partnership for Peace program, and developments following the NATO Washington summit. The ministers signed a protocol on the Baltic Defense College in Tartu which will define the legal status of the institution and its personnel. The ministers also announced that the joint air-space monitoring program BALTNET will be completed this year and that the three Baltic countries will submit their action plans to NATO by the autumn. MH BALTIC SEA FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN LITHUANIA. Foreign ministers from the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) met in the Lithuanian resort town of Palanga on 14-15 June. Taking part in the two-day meeting were foreign ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, deputy foreign ministers from Germany and Russia, as well as high-ranking officials from the European Commission and observer countries France, Great Britain, Ukraine, and the U.S. The agenda included a review of the CBSS's recent activities as well as discussions on EU integration and regional cooperation, which was reflected in the final communique. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas noted that during the Lithuanian presidency of the CBSS, cooperation with the Russian exclave Kaliningrad increased, stating that the relationship "could serve as a model for the development of the EU-Russia relationship on the whole and ultimately open perspectives for a free trade agreement between the EU and Russia," according to Reuters. However, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves commented on the discord between the CBSS and the EU over policy and stated: "That is why I don't take this organization very seriously," dpa reported. MH LEGENDARY DIPLOMAT RETURNS TO REST IN LITHUANIA. Stasys Lozoraitis Jr., a well-known diplomat dubbed the "president of hope," was reburied in Kaunas on 15 June in a solemn ceremony with thousands in attendance. Most of Lithuania's political elite attended the service, including President Valdas Adamkus, who served as Lozoraitis's presidential campaign manager in 1993. Despite losing that race, the diplomat of nearly five decades earned his nickname for his hopeful message and tireless work during the decades of Soviet occupation. Lozoraitis served mostly in Washington where he fought for Lithuanian independence and played a large role in the country being recognized by the U.S. Lozoraitis died in the U.S. in 1994. MH POLISH CABINET APPROVES AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDY TARGETS... The government has approved agricultural intervention plans for the Agricultural Market Agency (ARR) to render support to producers of grain, milk, butter, pork, honey, and potatoes, PAP reported on 15 June. The ARR will provide direct subsidies for 2.5 million tons of wheat and 500,000 tons of rye as well as to 60,000 tons of powdered milk. These subsidies will cost the government 105 million zlotys ($26.5 million). JM ...LIFTS BAN ON INVESTMENTS IN SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES. Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff said on 15 June that the May ban on admitting new investors to Poland's special economic zones will be lifted on 16 June. The ban was introduced following pressure from the EU, which claims that Poland offers too liberal tax breaks in those zones. According to Steinhoff, investors will be admitted to the zones on the unchanged conditions until the end of 2000. In 2001 new investment permits will be granted only by those zones where unemployment exceeds the national rate by 50 percent. Poland has 17 economic zones in which 40 companies have created 6,000 new jobs and pledged to invest a total of $2 billion. JM CZECH PARLIAMENT VOTES TO RAISE KFOR PARTICIPATION. The Chamber of Deputies on 15 June approved with a vote of 122 to 25 to send an 800-member military unit to join the peacekeeping force in Kosova, AP and CTK reported. The government planned to provide only 150 soldiers for KFOR, complaining about the legislature's unwillingness to raise the planned budget deficit to finance a bigger unit. But the chamber's Foreign Affairs Committee voted to increase the number of men and the plenum approved that proposal. The Senate is to vote on the plan on 16 June. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he was "not against" sending 800 soldiers, but "deputies should know that we are talking about an operation that will cost 2.5 billion crowns (about $69.4 million)," instead of 243 million in 1999 and 456 million next year. MS CZECH ROMA APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Representatives of 12 Romany schoolchildren from Ostrava, northern Moravia, appealed to the Constitutional Court on 15 June about the violation of human rights by the Education Ministry, the Ostrava School Office, and the directors of five so-called "special schools" in Ostrava. They say that children placed in those schools are being deprived of the chance of further studies and this represents an infringement of the basic rights of children as defined by the Human Rights Charter and other international agreements. The European Center for the Rights of Roma, which helped the plaintiffs, says that there are 27 Romany pupils to one non-Romany in those establishments. James Goldston, the center's lawyer, was cited by CTK as saying "We want to give the Czech courts a chance to say that no racial segregation will be tolerated in the educational system." MS SCHUSTER SWORN IN AS SLOVAK PRESIDENT. Rudolf Schuster, Slovakia's first president elected by popular vote, was sworn in on 15 June at a ceremony attended by the presidents of neighboring Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bratislava reported. Schuster called on the guests to help Slovakia in its efforts to be included in the "fast track" group of countries joining the EU, and said that in view of Bratislava's interest in joining both the EU and NATO, it would be "unrealistic" to expect Slovak neutrality. He vowed to be a president of "all Slovaks" regardless of political or ethnic affiliation and said he would listen to "comments" from the opposition if their goal was the "prosperity and well-being of Slovakia." Czech President Vaclav Havel met with Schuster briefly before the inauguration and accepted his invitation to pay an official visit to Bratislava, CTK reported. MS SLOVAK MINISTER SAYS EUROPEAN ORGANIZATIONS BACK MINORITY-LANGUAGE BILL. Culture Minister Milan Knazko on 15 June said the OSCE, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe accept the minority-language bill recently approved by the ruling four-party Coalition Council. The bill is not backed by the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), which submitted its own version to the parliament. Knazko criticized the SMK for not discussing the bill with the coalition partners and for threatening to vote against it. He said the move had "met abroad with embarrassment, rather than understanding." The coalition-approved bill enables citizens in localities with a minority population of 20 percent or more to use their mother tongue in official contacts with the authorities, but the SMK wants its provisions to be extended to cover education and culture, CTK reported. MS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES KFOR CONTINGENT. The parliament on 15 June approved a resolution on sending a 350-member guard battalion to join the peacekeeping forces in Kosova, Hungarian media reported. It also approved the passage of foreign peacekeeping troops through Hungary or their stationing in the country in support of humanitarian aid missions. Government officials said the Hungarian battalion will guard the KFOR headquarters in Prishtina. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN WITHDRAWAL PROCEDING ON SCHEDULE. NATO officials said in a statement in Brussels on 16 June that KFOR deployment in Kosova is going according to plan. The text added that withdrawal of Serbian troops and paramilitary police is also on schedule except for some minor delays due to "traffic congestion." Earlier that day, the Atlantic alliance extended by 24 hours its deadline for Serbian forces to leave "Zone I" of southern Kosova on the grounds that the Serbs were making "genuine efforts" to stick to the agreed schedule for their retreat, Reuters reported. The Serbian withdrawal from all of Kosova is slated to end on 20 June. PM SUPPLY CONVOY REACHES RUSSIAN TROOPS IN KOSOVA. A Russian supply convoy from Bosnia reached the 200 Russian troops at the Prishtina airport on 15 June and another convoy left for Prishtina the following day, Reuters reported. Russian officials received NATO approval for sending the two convoys, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said in Moscow. Meanwhile, Russian commanders in Prishtina asked British KFOR troops to resupply them with water on 15 June, but continued to deny them and French troops access to the airport (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 15 June 1999). FS SERBIAN CHURCH WANTS MILOSEVIC TO GO. The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement in Belgrade on 15 June in which it called for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his government to resign and be replaced by a "government of national salvation," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The statement added: "It should be evident to every thinking person that [our] numerous internal problems and the international isolation of [our] state cannot be overcome with such a government and under the present conditions." The bishops urged Kosova's Serbs not to leave the province. Observers note that the Church has never trusted Milosevic because of his communist background. This is the first time, however, that the Church has openly called for his ouster. A Serbian political analyst told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that the bishops' "call may mobilize resistance against Milosevic's political power." PM NATO NEGOTIATES DISARMAMENT WITH UCK. U.S. Army General John Craddock told dpa from Skopje on 16 June that NATO officials are negotiating with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) about its demilitarization. Craddock did not release details about the content or location of the talks. He added that the UCK's possible disarmament is up to the "discretion" of the respective peacekeeping troops. Craddock said that "we approach it in a fair and even-handed manner...Our soldiers are not instructed to routinely disarm [the guerrillas]. However, we have got to make sure we defuse explosive situations. We don't want armed [UCK] in proximity with withdrawing Serbs." Pentagon officials said in Washington that both the Serbs and the UCK have initiated confrontations resulting in as many as "two dozen" deaths. They added, however, that "we are generally satisfied with the amount of compliance" with NATO's ban on armed violence. FS KFOR TROOPS PULL BACK FROM CONFRONTATION WITH UCK. About 200 UCK fighters refused to turn in their weapons to French forces near Gjilan on 15 June and withdrew to the mountains, a French army spokesman told Reuters. British paratroopers pulled back from a confrontation with about 50 UCK fighters who set up a headquarters in a building in northeast Prishtina. The fighters threatened to resist any attempt to disarm them. In Prizren, UCK forces moved into vacant Yugoslav army headquarters and held victory parades in the city. The "Berliner Zeitung" quoted the local UCK leader Rexha Ekrem as saying that his forces took "control of the city together with German KFOR soldiers." German army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dietmar Jeserich, however, stressed that "the Germans control this city...The UCK is walking the streets with its weapons, but the authority lies with KFOR and not with the UCK." The BBC quoted an unnamed German KFOR official as saying that disarming the UCK would be futile because the guerrillas have more arms hidden away. FS MORE REFUGEES RETURNING TO KOSOVA DESPITE UNHCR WARNINGS. A UNHCR spokeswoman in Geneva told AP that about 8,000 Kosovars returned from Macedonia and Albania into Kosova on 15 June. She added that many more are expected the following day. Long lines of cars backed up at border crossings, according to unnamed UN officials in Macedonia and Albania. Meanwhile, aid agencies stepped up their efforts to warn the refugees of the danger of landmines. Two people were killed and one injured on 15 June by a mine as they crossed a field between Macedonia and Kosova. UNHCR officials registered returnees and set up two supply stations on the road between Kukes and Prizren to provide people with food and water during their return. FS SERBIAN CIVILIANS CONTINUE EXODUS... A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said in Geneva on 15 June that some 23,000 Serbs left Kosova for Serbia and Montenegro during the previous four days. Most appeared to be heading for Nis, she added. Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that some 33,000 Serbian civilians left the province in less than a week, of whom 24,000 went to Serbia and the rest to Montenegro. In Prishtina, Zoran Andjelkovic, who is Milosevic's governor of the province, said: "Yes, it is a panic, and it is growing into a stampede," the "Financial Times" reported on 16 June. He accused KFOR of not doing enough to provide security for Kosova's Serbs. PM ...BUT PROBLEMS AWAIT MANY. The Red Cross officials in Geneva noted on 15 June that most of the departing Serbs plan to stay with relatives. But many Serbs arriving in Belgrade complained that the authorities have done nothing to help them, AP reported. A representative of the Belgrade city government said: "The best thing would have been if they had not come here at all--not because we don't want them, but because there are guarantees for their safety in [Kosova]. Unfortunately, they don't believe us." PM ARTEMIJE TO LEAVE PRIZREN. Bishop Artemije, who is the leading Serbian Orthodox cleric in Kosova, said in Prizren on 16 June that he will leave that city because it is no longer safe for him there amid UCK patrols on the streets, Reuters reported. He added that he will leave for Prishtina with nine priests and 200 Serbian civilians later in the day. It is not clear why KFOR has not been able to ensure their security. Earlier, some 60 Serbian families took refuge with Artemije in the Monastery of the Holy Archangels, "Danas" reported. Artemije is a critic of Milosevic and advocates reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians. PM SERB TOSSES GRENADE AT ALBANIANS. A Serbian paramilitary man leaving Gjilan on 15 June threw a grenade from his car at a group of Kosovar civilians nearby, wounding 13, including several children, AFP reported. The Kosovars were celebrating the departure of Yugoslav forces. It is not clear what action, if any, French peacekeepers took against the paramilitary. PM MORE INDICATIONS OF ATROCITIES. Italian peacekeepers found two mass graves near Peja on 15 June. One of the two sites appears to contain at least 120 bodies. Britain's Sky Television reported that its journalists saw 82 mounds of freshly dug graves, some with limbs sticking out, north of Prishtina near a base of Serbian paramilitaries. On 16 June, Reuters reported from the Drenica region that villagers found bodies in four wells in an area where local people said that Serbian forces had killed up to 100 Kosovars. The villagers also found "dozens" of bodies in "freshly dug pits" nearby. PM SURROI REAPPEARS. Leading Kosovar journalist, Rambouillet negotiator, and political figure Veton Surroi has emerged "safe and sound" in Prishtina, where he has been in hiding for the past 11 weeks, Human Rights Watch said in a statement in New York on 15 June. Surroi is now "under the protection of British NATO forces," the statement continued. PM MILOSEVIC OUT ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL... Milosevic spoke in Aleksinac on 15 June in what appears to be an effort to identify himself with resistance to NATO and with national reconstruction in a runup to possible new elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). He said: "By rebuilding our country we will renew ties with the whole world, first of all by correcting an image which for the whole decade had been created by those who were dissatisfied with our resistance to [their] colonization of the Balkans." PM ...AND WITH THE ARMY. Milosevic told guests at a reception to mark Army Day at Belgrade's Sava Center on 15 June that "after 11 weeks of [NATO] aggression, we can say that we have seen peace arrive with [our] combat potentials no less [intact] than at the beginning of this war imposed on us." General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is a political ally of Milosevic and chief of the General Staff, said that the army will "obtain new, modern weapons that can strike at aggressor countries wherever they may be." Ojdanic praised the country's political leadership for "preventing the total occupation of our country as well as a total capitulation and loss" of Kosova. Milosevic promoted or decorated some 3,000 officers, including Ojdanic. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal recently indicted Milosevic and Ojdanic for atrocities in Kosova. PM HERZEGOVINIAN TAKES OVER JOINT PRESIDENCY. Ante Jelavic, who belongs to the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, replaced moderate Serbian leader Zivko Radisic as rotating head of the Bosnian joint presidency on 15 June in Sarajevo. Jelavic, who represents the hard-line Herzegovinian faction of the HDZ, said that his "three priorities" are to promote Bosnia's membership in the EU, the Council of Europe, and the World Trade Organization. He also pledged to develop joint institutions within Bosnia and promote political and economic reconstruction aimed at strengthening the country as a "multiethnic, multiconfessional, and decentralized state," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM MUSLIMS EXHUME MASS GRAVE. Jasmin Odobasic of the Committee for Missing Persons said in Mostar on 16 June that representatives of that organization have exhumed the remains of some 55 persons, presumably Muslim civilians, near Zijemlje. Odobasic added that Serbian forces reportedly killed the civilians in 1992. During the Bosnian war, some 200,000 people--mostly civilians-- were killed on all sides and more than 24,000 persons are still missing. The remains of some 2,500 people have been exhumed since 1995, AP reported. PM CONSTANTINESCU EXPLAINS REFUSAL OF RUSSIAN AIRSPACE USE. In an interview on Romanian television on 15 June, President Emil Constantinescu said Russia had requested a response to its request to use Romanian air space for transiting troops to Kosova within five hours. Constantinescu said that the use of air space granted to NATO had followed a long legal procedure, including approval by the parliament, and this could not apply to such a short-timed demand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). MS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES COMPROMISE ON EDUCATION LAW. The Chamber of Deputies on 16 June approved a compromise on the article of the amended education law dealing with instruction at university level in the languages of national minorities, Romanian radio reported. The deputies voted to accept the formulation proposed by a commission that mediated between the chamber's stricter text of the law and the more liberal text approved by the Senate. The law now allows teaching in the mother tongue in existing universities and the setting up of so-called "multicultural universities." The amended law stipulates that in schools of national minorities Romanian history and geography are taught in the mother tongue at the primary school level and in Romanian at the secondary level, examinations being conducted in the language of the minorities. The Senate has yet to examine the compromise. MS ROMANIAN PARTIES' MERGER FINALIZED. Twenty-five local branches of the Party of Romanian Unity Alliance on 15 June approved the leadership's decision to merge into the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 31 May 1999). In other news, the striking teachers said they will continue the labor sanctions till 17 June, awaiting the government's approval on that day of a protocol agreed on by their representatives after meetings with Premier Radu Vasile and Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes. MS MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES REFERENDUM VALIDITY. With a vote of five to one, the Constitutional Court on 15 June approved the validity of the non- binding 23 May referendum called by President Petru Lucinschi on changing the system to a presidential one, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The court said the referendum has no "judicial effect," since it was not a binding plebiscite. It also said that the Central Electoral Commission's decision of 5 June to recognize the validity of the referendum was legal, because the electoral law allows the commission to annul a referendum if participation was below 60 percent, but does not oblige it to do so. Presidential counselor Mihail Petrache said Lucinschi now intends to set up a "constitutional commission" to work on a draft law on changing the constitution. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER VISITS TRANSDNIESTER. Ion Sturza on 15 June met with Viktor Sinev, deputy leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, and discussed economic cooperation, Infotag reported. Sturza and Sinev visited the Moldavskaya power plant in Kuchurgan, which supplies electricity to Moldova, and said they were interested in attracting foreign investors to improve the plant's output, to modernize it, and make the exporting of electricity a possibility. The estimated costs are $150- 200 million. At present, only two out of the plant's 12 power generating blocks are working. Sturza and Sinev also visited a truck repair plant in Bedery-Tighina, which assembles Russian-made trucks. MS BULGARIA PROTESTS AGAINST TRIAL OF ETHNIC LEADER IN YUGOSLAVIA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 15 June warned Yugoslavia that if it goes ahead with plans to put ethnic Bulgarian leader Marko Shukarev on trial for desertion from his army unit, Sofia will seek "intervention" by the international community, dpa reported. The trial is to begin on 16 June. Vlaikov called on Yugoslavia to show "leniency" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 June 1999). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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