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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 127, Part II, 30 June 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 127, Part II, 30 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

* BELARUS SUFFERS FROM FUEL SHORTAGE

* MILOSEVIC OPPONENTS RALLY IN CACAK

* RIVAL KOSOVAR GOVERNMENTS START WORK IN PRISHTINA

End Note: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REMAKES LATVIA'S
POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUS SUFFERS FROM FUEL SHORTAGE. RFE/RL's Belarusian
Service reported on 29 June that Belarus is suffering
from an acute shortage of gasoline at filling stations.
The authorities have so far not commented on the
problem. According to independent experts, the lack of
gasoline is caused by reduced Russian oil supplies. The
Belnaftakhim concern, which has a monopoly on the
country's fuel market, is unable to pay Russian oil
suppliers and currently owes them some $80 million.
Also, Belnaftakhim is obliged by the government to
provide fuel to the agricultural sector, which has no
money to pay for those supplies. Another reason for the
fuel shortage is the relatively low price of gasoline in
Belarus. Independent experts say that the government
maintains the current low prices for gasoline for fear
of triggering another spiral of inflation. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES 13 ECONOMIC DECREES TO BOOST
REVENUES... Speaking on nationwide television on 28 June
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999), Leonid Kuchma
said he has signed 13 economic decrees to generate
budget revenues and cut expenditures. In signing them,
Kuchma used special powers granted to him by the
previous parliament; the term of those powers expired on
28 June. The "Eastern Economic Daily" reported that the
decrees address the privatization of the UkrTeleKom
communications giant, the promotion of foreign
investments, support for the pharmaceutical industry,
and special custom and tax regimes for the Mykolayiv
shipyard and the Odesa port. Kuchma also imposed a 5
percent tobacco tax, a 1 percent tax on real estate
transactions, and a 6 percent tax on owners of mobile
phones. Money generated by the decrees will be used to
pay wage and pension arrears and to compensate the
elderly for their lost savings. JM

...WHILE PARLIAMENT RESPONDS WITH BUDGET CHANGES. On 29
June, the Supreme Council amended and enacted a number
of bills altering the 1999 budget, increased funds for
social welfare programs, and obliged the cabinet to find
money for the ailing coal-mining industry. The
parliament prohibited the cabinet from reducing budget
outlays without legislative approval and earmarked 500
million hryvni ($126 million) to finance education. It
also suspended the cabinet's right to offer guarantees
for companies seeking foreign credits. The Supreme
Council increased the government's monthly contribution
to the Pension Fund from the current 16 million hryvni
to 88 million hryvni. JM

ESTONIAN POWER PLANT CHIEF MURDERED. Anatoli Paal, the
head of Narva Power Plants, was found dead in his
residence on 29 June with a bullet wound in the back of
the head. Police are investigating the incident as a
homicide. Colleagues in the power sector and local
politicians all praised Paal for his dedication and
work. Paal also served as the chairman of the Narva City
Council until recently, when he resigned to concentrate
on his work in the energy sector. Narva Power Plants is
the joint company that operates the two large oil shale-
firing plants that provide more than 90 percent of
Estonia's electricity. MH

LATVIAN GDP CONTINUES TO DROP. According to the Latvian
Central Statistics Department, the country's GDP fell by
2.3 percent in the first quarter of 1999. Coupled with a
drop of 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 1998, this
indicates that Latvia is technically in a recession.
Attributing the drop to the Russian economic crisis and
the slow redirection of some exports, the Statistics
Department indicates that growth should resume for the
second quarter and that GDP should rise by 2 percent
this year, LETA reported. The IMF recently predicted
that Latvia's GDP will rise by 4 percent in 1999 and 5
percent in 2000, while inflation will drop to 3 percent
for both years. MH

LITHUANIAN PREMIER IN MOSCOW. On his first trip abroad
as Lithuanian prime minister, Rolandas Paksas was in
Moscow on 29 June to meet with his Russian counterpart,
Sergei Stepashin, Russian and Baltic agencies reported.
The two leaders signed agreements on, among other
things, the prevention of double taxation, the
protection and promotion of investments, and long-term
cooperation between Lithuanian regions and Kaliningrad
Oblast. They also agreed to begin talks on Russian oil
supplies to Lithuania, which have been interrupted twice
this year, causing major losses to Lithuania's oil
sector. Stepashin was quoted as saying that he and
Paksas agreed to resolve that issue by the end of the
summer. JC

POLISH NURSES TO SUE MINISTERS FOR BREAKING PROMISES.
The Nurses and Midwives Trade Union on 29 June notified
the Prosecutor-General's Office that Labor Minister
Longin Komolowski, Wojciech Maksymowicz and Franciszka
Cegielska, former and current health ministers, as well
as Teresa Kaminska and Anna Knysok, the government's
plenipotentiaries for reforms, have violated employees'
rights. According to the union, the ministers reneged on
their January agreement to increase nurses' wages.
"Unless we reach an agreement with the government by 10
July, it is not ruled out that we will stop working and
abandon the sick," the 30 June "Rzeczpospolita" quoted
trade union leader Bozena Banachowicz as saying. JM

MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN CHOPPERS ENTERED POLISH AIRSPACE.
Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz on 29 June
confirmed earlier reports in the Polish media that
Russian military helicopters entered Poland's airspace
near the border with Kaliningrad Oblast in mid-June, PAP
reported. Onyszkiewicz added that the machines were
flying low and escaped radar detection. The Polish
Foreign Ministry has sent a note about the incident to
the Russian government. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY AHEAD IN OPINION POLLS.
According to Poland's leading public opinion research
centers, CBOS and OBOP, the post-communist Democratic
Left Alliance (SLD) would easily win parliamentary
elections if that vote were held in June. According to
CBOS, the SLD is supported by 31 percent of voters; OBOP
puts support for the SLD at 34 percent. The second-most
popular party is the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action:
CBOS estimates its backing at 24 percent and OBOP at 25
percent. JM

CZECH PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE FENCING OFF ROMA. Leos Nergl,
chairman of the Usti nad Labem City Council, has revoked
the council's 17 June decision allowing the construction
of a wall separating Romany inhabitants from other
residents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1999). Nergl
sent a letter to the Chamber of Deputies asking the
legislature to decide whether the measure is lawful, CTK
reported on 29 June. In related news, a public opinion
survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research
found that nearly three out of four Czechs (73 percent)
are of the opinion that police and local authorities are
not emphatic enough in fighting fascist groups. Ninety-
one percent consider fascist groups to be dangerous,
while 6 percent said those groups pose no threat,
according to CTK. MS

PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL EMERGES IN SLOVAKIA. Prime
Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 28 June dismissed Ludovit
Kanit as head of the Slovak National Property Fund
(FNM). Several members of the ruling coalition last week
had accused the FNM of negligence, after Vladimir Poor,
owner of the Nafta Gbely oil refinery, sold 45.9 percent
of that company's shares to the U.S. Cinergy firm. Poor,
a member of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia, had acquired the shares in a deal questioned
by the then opposition and now ruling coalition. After
the current coalition took over in September 1998, Poor
agreed to return his shares to the FNM, but last week he
sold them to the U.S. company. An investigator said the
damage caused to the FNM totaled some 3 billion crowns
(more than $68 million). On 29 June, Cinergy
representatives failed to appear at a meeting with
Kanit, which had been scheduled before his dismissal. MS

FINLAND EXPECTING NEW WAVE OF SLOVAK ROMA. A Finnish
Foreign Ministry official cited by AP on 29 June said
that his country is expecting a new wave of Slovak Roma
to arrive in Finland over the next few days, CTK
reported. Matti Saarelainen, head of Finland's
Immigration Office, told Reuters the same day that
almost 400 Slovak Roma have asked for asylum since 24
June. Gejza Adam, chairman of the Slovak Romany Civic
Initiative and a member of the governmental Council for
Nationalities and Ethnic Groups, said the mass
emigration to Finland has been prompted by economic
rather than political reasons. Adam told Slovak Radio
that although Roma sometimes come under attack by
skinheads, mass unemployment, rather than fear of these
attacks, drives them to seek asylum in other countries.
MS

HUNGARIAN TV BOARD RULED CONSTITUTIONAL. The
Constitutional Court on 29 June voted by six to five
that the the board of trustees of Hungarian Television
as set up the government is constitutional. In its
verdict, the court said that a "truncated board" is less
threatening to freedom of information than the absence
of such a board would be. The opposition, which appealed
to the court, refused to nominate candidates to the
board because one of the government representatives is a
extra-parliamentary party member. The court said that
the imbalance among the board members is due to the
failure of the opposition groups to make use of their
right to field candidates. Szilard Vasvari,
parliamentary member of the major coalition party,
FIDESZ, said the decision is a "total victory" for the
ruling coalition. MSZ/MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MILOSEVIC OPPONENTS RALLY IN CACAK. Some 10,000 persons
defied a police ban and attended a demonstration
organized by the opposition Alliance for Change in Cacak
on 29 June. Police set up roadblocks outside the town to
prevent the arrival of busses bringing in demonstrators
from elsewhere. Mayor Velimir Ilic, who has been in
hiding from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's
police for several weeks, told the crowd that
Milosevic's regime had "made Serbia ashamed of its own
name. They made us into monsters and God punished us,"
the London-based daily "The Independent" quoted him as
saying. Balkan studies expert Milan Protic added: "This
government has shamed us in front of ourselves, in front
of God, and in front of the whole world," "The New York
Times" reported. Alliance leader Vladan Batic said:
"We'll go from town to town, house to house, man to man
and light the torch of democracy in Serbia," according
to the "Financial Times." It was the first large
opposition political rally in Serbia since NATO ended
its bombing campaign earlier in June. PM

CLAIMANT TO SERBIAN THRONE CALLS FOR MILOSEVIC TO GO.
Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic said at the
historical seat of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in
Peja on 29 June that Milosevic is a "monster." The son
of Yugoslavia's last king added: "Milosevic must go for
the sake of Yugoslavia." Aleksandar joined Serbian
Orthodox Patriarch Pavle in urging Serbian civilians not
to leave Kosova. The prince said the purpose of his trip
is to promote democracy in Serbia. He visited Montenegro
on 28 June. The British-born prince does not openly seek
to restore the monarchy but has repeatedly said he will
serve if asked by the Serbian people. The "Los Angeles
Times" reported on 30 June that Aleksandar's portrait
hangs in place of Milosevic's in many city halls in
Serbia and that some protesters in Cacak carried
pictures of the royal family. PM

MILOSEVIC SEEKS TIES TO WEST. Milosevic said in a
statement reported by the official Tanjug news agency on
29 June that "reconstruction and reforms,
reestablishment of economic and cultural ties with all
[countries]--above all with the progressive and
democratic countries--on an equal footing, as well as
affirmation of an open system of market economy, are our
top goals in this period." PM

THOUSANDS HOMELESS IN KOSOVA. A spokesman for the UNHCR
said in Prishtina on 29 June that many refugees have
returned to Kosova only to find that their homes have
been destroyed. He estimated that some 40 percent of the
houses in the Gjakova-Peja area are no longer standing,
the "Berliner Zeitung" reported. The spokesman stressed
that providing accommodations for the homeless is a
major problem for the UNHCR. PM

RIVAL KOSOVAR GOVERNMENTS START WORK IN PRISHTINA. Both
the Kosova shadow-state government of Bujar Bukoshi and
the provisional government of Hashim Thaci held cabinet
meetings in Prishtina on 29 June. Bukoshi's government
agreed to pay teachers' salaries for June and July,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. That cabinet
also decided to provide some money as compensation to
war invalids and families who lost all their possessions
during the recent Serbian campaign. Thaci's spokesman
Jakup Krasniqi told AFP that the provisional government
is willing to cooperate with the shadow state's leader
Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova
(LDK). Krasniqi made the remarks after Thaci met with
representatives from 13 out of Kosova's 17 political
parties. The LDK did not participate in that session. It
recognizes only Bukoshi's government as legitimate. FS

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN UCK
KILLINGS. Albanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sokol
Gjoka on 29 June denied a report in "The New York
Times" four days earlier claiming that Albanian police
were involved in the murder of a rival of UCK leader
Thaci (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). Gjoka
told an RFE/RL's South Slavic Service correspondent in
Tirana that the New York daily's sources were not
reliable, and he claimed that the Albanian government
has never interfered in internal conflicts on the
Kosovar political scene. Sabri Godo, who is the
chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs committee
and belongs to the small opposition Republican Party,
told the correspondent that "the UCK leaders must
answer these accusations themselves. I agree [with
Gjoka] that the Albanian state is not involved in such
things." He acknowledged, however, that "mysterious
killings happened here." Opposition leader Sali
Berisha declined to comment on the "The New York
Times" report. FS

ARE CRIMINAL GANGS FROM ALBANIA LOOTING IN KOSOVA? A
senior official in the German Defense Ministry told
the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 30 June that
there are indications that criminal gangs from Albania
are systematically looting houses in Kosova. He said
that German troops will not be able to stop the
looting in their sector even if their numbers are
doubled because they can not monitor all small
villages there. FS

NATO TAKES OVER TIRANA AIRPORT DURING STRIKE. NATO
specialists took over operations at Tirana's airport on
29 June following a strike by Albanian ground personnel
(see "RFE/RL Newsline" 29 June 1999). Officials from the
Albanian Ministry of Transportation told dpa that "work
at the airport cannot be stopped at this moment as we
are expecting more humanitarian aid for the Kosovar
refugees." The airport staff demands a 50 percent wage
increase. Negotiations between the strikers and
government officials have produced no results. FS

HOMBACH WINS BALKAN POST. EU heads of government meeting
in Rio de Janeiro have agreed to accept German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's controversial nomination
of Bodo Hombach to be the EU's coordinator for the
Balkan stability pact (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June
1999), the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported on 30 June.
Hombach was approved after the Austrian government
withdrew its nomination of Balkan expert and former
Deputy Chancellor Erhard Busek. PM

PETRITSCH TO REPLACE WESTENDORP. Austrian Balkan expert
Wolfgang Petritsch will soon replace Carlos Westendorp
as the international community's chief representative in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Austrian Radio reported on 30 June.
Westendorp returns to his political career in his native
Spain. Petritsch is a member of Carinthia's Slovenian
minority and has repeatedly said that he is therefore
able to understand the concerns of ethnic minorities in
the Balkans. He first attracted public attention in his
role as the press spokesman of Chancellor Bruno Kreisky
in the 1970s. Petritsch most recently served as an EU
negotiator during the Kosova crisis. Westendorp's two
deputies--the U.S.'s Jacques Klein and Germany's Hanns
Schumacher--will soon be replaced by people of the two
men's respective nationalities. PM

CROATIAN POLICE WARN FARMERS. The Interior Ministry
issued a statement on 29 June calling upon farmers to
remove roadblocks on many important roads throughout the
country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). The
statement warned that the roadblocks are illegal.
Elsewhere, Agriculture Minister Ivan Djurkic said the
farmers' demands are unrealistic and that negotiations
have proven fruitless, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported from Zagreb. Finally, the National Security
Council condemned the protest on the grounds that the
farmers have blocked several border crossings. President
Franjo Tudjman chaired the meeting. PM

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary
William Cohen on 29 June thanked Romania for supporting
the NATO strikes in Yugoslavia but told his visiting
Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, that while NATO's
door remains open, "the steps leading to that door are
very high," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington
reported. Cohen said that Romania must cut the size of
its military forces and improve training. The U.S. has
presented Romania with a study recommending actions that
will strengthen its case for membership. Babiuc said
that he and Cohen will examine "modalities of
strengthening the defense of Romania's eastern border,
making it militarily impenetrable." AFP, cited by
Mediafax, said that Babiuc's statement is linked to the
recent violation of Romanian air space by Russian planes
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR BELL
HELICOPTERS OFFER. The government on 29 June announced
it is extending by 30 days the deadline for receiving an
offer from Bell Helicopters Textron for the
privatization of the IAR Ghimbav aircraft company. One
day earlier, Romanian media reported that the U.S.
company no longer makes buying a majority stake in the
company conditional on government guarantees for the
purchase of 92 military helicopters produced there.
Babiuc said in the U.S. that Bell has presented "eight
or nine proposals" for "future collaboration," which are
now being examined. Premier Radu Vasile has on several
occasions indicated that he now expects a more
advantageous offer to be made by the German-French
Eurocopter consortium. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MINORITIES-FRIENDLY BILL.
The Chamber of Deputies on 29 June passed a law on the
status of the civil service. The new law stipulates that
members of the service whose duties involve direct
contact with the public in localities where ethnic
minorities make up 20 percent or more of the population
be able to speak the language of those minorities,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Senate had
approved the bill last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26
May 1999). MS

BULGARIAN JOURNALIST STABBED. Aleksei Lazarov, who works
for the independent weekly "Kapital," was attacked by
unidentified assailants near his home in Sofia on 28
June, AP reported the next day, citing the daily
"Demokratsia." Lazarov was stabbed and badly beaten.
Police were unable to specify the reason for the assault
but said Lazarov was not robbed. Lazarov's father heads
the information department of the Foreign Ministry. He
is the second journalist to fall victim to violence in
recent years. A man accused of throwing acid last year
into the face of a popular "Trud" journalist
specializing in criminal investigative reporting is
currently on trial in Sofia. MS

END NOTE

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REMAKES LATVIA'S POLITICAL
LANDSCAPE

by Martins Zvaners

	Latvia's presidential election, which took place in
the parliament on 17 June, has been hailed by many
observers as a turning point in the country's political
development. Not only was a returned emigre, Vaira Vike-
Freiberga, elected as Latvia's head of state--the
country's first-ever woman in that post and one of only
four worldwide. Latvia's political establishment was
also turned on its head by the failure of the center-
right "party of power," Latvia's Way (LC), to have its
own very popular candidate, Anatolijs Gorbunovs,
elected. Gorbunovs's defeat, LC's petulant reaction, and
accusations of attempted vote-buying by persons close to
the party all threaten LC's dominant role in Latvian
politics as well as the stability of the LC-led three-
party minority government.
	Five hopefuls took part in the presidential race:
Gorbunovs, well-known Soviet-era pianist and composer
Raimonds Pauls, People's Party (TP) deputy chairwoman
Vaira Paegle, Latvian UN Ambassador Janis Priedkalns,
and parliamentary deputy Arnis Kalnins. Gorbunovs, along
with Pauls, was considered a favorite. However, he
suffered from handicaps that his party, LC, could not
overcome.
	Gorbunovs had earned credit for helping Latvia
renew its independence in 1991. He also helped LC
dominate the country's post-independence political
scene. But many in Latvia could not forget his Soviet-
era post as the ideology chief of the Latvian Communist
Party and were horrified that a former senior Communist
official might again rise to the top of the political
pyramid, this time in a Latvia freed from Communist
occupation. Not least on account of his "on-again, off-
again" presidential aspirations, Gorbunovs was seen as
an unwilling front-man for party members and supporters
who want total control over Latvia's political and
economic structures.
	When voting began, Gorbunovs was still considered
an odds-on favorite to become Latvia's next president.
But by the end of the first round of five votes, he had
been eliminated, having received the lowest vote total
in the fourth vote. The candidates remaining at the end
of the round, Pauls and Paegle, withdrew when it became
clear they would not win. New candidates were sought,
and a coalition of three parties--the left-center
Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party (LSDSP), the
right-center For Fatherland and Freedom" (TB/LNNK), and
center-right TP, with a combined 55 deputies--agreed on
a winning compromise: Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
	However, even before deputies stopped
congratulating the newly-elected president, LSDSP leader
Juris Bojars announced that an unnamed businessman with
ties to LC had offered his party 70,000 lats ($116,200)
to back Gorbunovs. Before the second round of votes
began, the same businessman called to offer Bojars
"anything you want" to secure LSDSP support for LC's new
candidate, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs.
	Dubbed "Bojargate", the LSDSP leader's charges
gained credibility when TB/LNNK deputy Juris Dobelis
revealed that he, too, had received several offers from
businessmen of money in exchange for not supporting
Vike-Freiberga. As a result of Dobelis's revelations,
the parties backing Vike-Freiberga agreed to use
colored-ink pens to mark their secret ballots during the
first vote of the second round, in order to prevent
violations of party discipline.
	Both Bojars and Dobelis have provided information
to the Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office to support
their charges. According to "Diena" on 26 June, acting
Prosecutor-General Olgerts Sabansks doubts whether any
bribery charges will ever be filed. The accusations
have, however, further tarnished the image of LC at a
time when it is already perceived as playing a much too
dominant role in Latvian politics.
	Commentators in Latvia reacted positively to the
election of the 62-year-old Vike-Freiberga, who was born
in Latvia but lived in exile in Canada during the Soviet
occupation. A psychologist and linguist who has held
high academic, government, and NGO posts in Canada,
Vike-Freiberga is considered intelligent and honest,
unencumbered by domestic Latvian political
entanglements, and able to offer Western know-how and
the experience of working in a multiethnic democracy.
Some, however, expressed reservations about the
President-elect's lack of political experience and
unfamiliarity with political processes in Latvia.
	Most of the commentary, however, was devoted to
what "Diena" journalist Aivars Ozolins called on 22 June
"the fundamentally different political landscape" that
resulted from "the first decision of national import to
have been made against the will " of LC since the first
post-occupation parliament was elected in 1993. No one
in Latvia predicts any deviation from the country's pro-
NATO and pro-EU orientation. However, the presidential
election and its fallout have led to a situation where,
according to "Neatkariga Rita Avize" on 19 June, LC can
"no longer dictate the rules of the game to its
coalition partners."
	The result, according to "Diena's" Ozolins, will be
the eventual fall of the current government--either when
agreement is reached on a new one or when it becomes
clear that no agreement is possible. The election will
also force LC to deal more openly and honestly with its
coalition partners and other political forces in the
parliament. "LC earned the support of a little less than
one-fifth of the electorate [during last fall's
parliamentary elections], and it is doubtful that it
will any longer be able to manipulate national politics,
divide up jobs, appoint and remove prime ministers as it
sees fit," Ozolins wrote. "This time [I] have to agree
with [Prime Minister Vilis] Kristopans--the government
is stable, it is sitting on a powder keg."

The author is assistant director of RFE/RL
Communications Division.
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                     All rights reserved.
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