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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part II, 4 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part II, 4 August 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 * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CREATE CONSULTATIVE BODY FOR TALKS WITH AUTHORITIES * TWO MORE SERBS KILLED IN KOSOVA * UNHCR COMPLAINS ABOUT MACEDONIAN CUSTOMS FEES End Note: DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CREATE CONSULTATIVE BODY FOR TALKS WITH AUTHORITIES. Meeting in Minsk on 3 August, eight major Belarusian opposition parties and the Supreme Soviet decided to work out a joint stance for talks with the authorities under the aegis of the OSCE and to set up an opposition consultative council, Belapan reported. According to United Civic Party Chairman Stanislau Bahdankevich, those attending the meeting determined that Belarus's political opposition consists of the Supreme Soviet and the parties that have not recognized the results of the 1996 constitutional referendum. Bahdankevich added that the opposition is ready to enter a dialogue with the authorities, provided that it is given access to the state media. JM BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO WATCH OVER VODKA, CIGARETTES. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree on strengthening state control over the production and sale of alcohol and tobacco, Belarusian Television reported on 3 August. The decree establishes that alcohol may be produced only by methods and in quantities that are approved by the state. Wholesale traders in alcohol and tobacco products must have licenses issued by the government "in coordination with the president." Belarusian Television commented that the 900 or so licenses issued so far to such traders is an "excessive" number. JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW ON RISE OF MINIMUM PENSION... Leonid Kuchma has signed a law raising the minimum monthly pension from 16.6 hryvni ($4.15) to 24.9 hryvni, AP reported on 3 August. The parliament adopted the law in mid-July after failing to overrule Kuchma's veto on a previous bill that would have raised the minimum monthly pension to 55 hryvni. Under the signed law, those pensioners receiving less than 46 hryvni a month will be paid a special living allowance of up to 21.1 hryvni. JM ...APPROVES PEACEKEEPING CONTINGENT TO KOSOVA. Kuchma also signed a law on sending 800 Ukrainian peacekeepers to Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999), AP reported. The Ukrainian Ministry said the contingent will include a 100-bed military hospital with a 246- strong personnel, a four-helicopter unit with 90 servicemen, a 108-strong logistics company with 17 armored vehicles, and a 356-strong motorized infantry battalion. The U.S. has pledged financial assistance to install the Ukrainian contingent in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). JM UKRAINIAN CURRENCY SLIDES TO LOWER LIMIT OF TRADE BAND. Ukrainian commercial banks on 3 August were trading the hryvnya at 4.52-4.56 to $1, AP reported. Some traders even offered $4.6 hryvni for $1, reaching the lower limit of the government's trade band of 3.4-4.6 hryvni for $1, which was established in February and is valid until the end of 1999. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko has urged commercial bank directors to personally monitor the mandatory sale to the central bank of 50 percent of the foreign-currency profits of their customers residing in Ukraine. The National Bank, with its current reserves of some $1.3 billion, cannot undertake a large-scale intervention on the currency market, since Ukraine needs some $3.5 billion to service various debts by the end of 2000. JM IMF MISSION LEAVES KYIV WITHOUT RECOMMENDING MORE MONEY. An IMF mission left Ukraine on 2 August without recommending the release of a new tranche of the IMF's $2.6 billion loan program, AP reported. An IMF statement summing up the mission's two weeks of work noted that so far this year tax revenues have been lower than expected, while recent tax legislation changes have further diminished expected revenues. The IMF promised to resume discussion with Ukraine at the end of August after the government takes steps to slash spending and increase budget revenues. JM ESTONIAN GDP GROWTH REVISED DOWNWARD. The Estonian Finance Ministry on 3 August announced the widely expected downward revision of GDP growth this year. The ministry now anticipates that GDP in 1999 will rise by only 0.4 percent, sharply down from the figure of 2.2 percent, which itself was a revision of the original forecast. On a more positive note, the inflation rate of 1999 was revised from 4.5 percent to 3.7 percent. The Finance Minsitry also predicted growth at 4-4.5 percent and inflation at 3.6-4 percent for the year 2000. MH POLISH PREMIER SAYS REPRIVATIZATION LAW WILL SATISFY JEWISH CLAIMS. Jerzy Buzek on 3 August announced that under the reprivatization bill his cabinet intends to submit to the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999), the property restitution claims against Poland filed by 11 Jews in a New York court in late June will be satisfied. The text detailing those claims was published by the 3 and 4 August "Gazeta Wyborcza." The plaintiffs wrote that for the past 54 years, Poland has followed the Nazi "Judenrein" plan of racial and ethnic purges, forcing Jews out of the country and making a profit from confiscated Jewish property. "Gazeta Wyborcza" chief editor Adam Michnik denounced the text for its "lying and despicable way" of dealing with the "painful and true" issues of the wrongs done to Jews in post-war Poland. JM CONTROVERSY IN CZECH REPUBLIC OVER PROPERTY RESTITUTION TO EXPATRIATES. Civic Democratic Alliance Senator Michal Zantovsky on 3 August criticized Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich for having misled the house the previous week by saying the government will submit a draft law on the restitution of Communist-confiscated property to those Czech expatriates who regain citizenship, CTK reported. On 30 July, one day after Grulich made that statement, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said restitution to expatriates who regain citizenship under the recently approved bill is "out of the question." Zantovsky told journalists that a restitution bill will be drawn up by the senators "in the next days." He did not mention which parties will support the initiative. Milan Spacek of the Christian Democratic Party, who is chairman of the Senate's Commission on Expatriates, said on 3 August that "some way" must be found to compensate those expatriates. MS CZECH PRESS SAYS NUCLEAR KNOW-HOW EXPORT TO IRAN CANNOT BE PREVENTED. Officials from the Foreign and Trade and Industry Ministries were quoted by "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 3 August as saying the authorities have no legal mechanism to prevent the export of nuclear expertise to Iran, CTK reported the same day. The officials said the authorities have been searching in vain to prevent Czech experts from advising the Iranian authorities on the competition of the Bushehr nuclear plant, whose construction was begun by Germany's Siemens and is being continued by Russian firms. The officials said that while Czech legislation prohibits the export of materials for use in the construction of nuclear power plants, there is no legal provision forbidding the export of expertise. Recently, the Prague-based Skodaexport company has made inquiries with the authorities about acting as a consultant to Iran on the construction of the Bushehr plant. MS HUNGARIAN PARTY TO DEMAND SLOVAK GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE. The Presidium of Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) on 3 August demanded a reshuffle of the government in the fall, CTK reported. The presidium said it is dissatisfied with the cabinet's performance so far. SMK chairman Bela Bugar told Slovak Television that the coalition has a "negative reputation" owing to both the unsatisfactory performance of some ministers and to scandals surrounding top officials. He said he "cannot rule out" that the SMK will demand the resignation of Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak, Transport Minister Gabriel Palacka, and Agriculture Minister Pavel Koncos. Party of Civic Understanding chairman Pavol Hamzik, also speaking to Slovak Television, said that his formation is prepared to support the dismissal of "some ministers." CTK reported that the Democratic Left Party is ready to accept a reshuffle but not to "sacrifice" its own ministers. MS HUNGARY'S BALANCE-OF-PAYMENT DEFICIT GROWING. Preliminary figures released by the Hungarian National Bank show that the balance-of-payment deficit in the first half of 1999 was $1.2 billion, compared with $905 million last June, Hungarian media report on 4 August. Capital influx during the first six months was almost $1.6 billion, and observers are optimistic that the second half of the year will see a continuation of the influx of foreign direct investment. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE TWO MORE SERBS KILLED IN KOSOVA. A spokesman for KFOR said in Prishtina on 4 August that peacekeepers have found the bodies of two Serbs whom unknown persons shot the previous night. At least two other Serbs died on 2 August as a result of acts of violence, including a 90 year-old woman. On 3 August, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Budapest-based Roma Rights Center issued separate reports in which they blamed the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) for recent violence against Serbs and Roma. Both reports criticized KFOR for not doing enough to protect members of Kosova's dwindling Serbian and Roma minorities. PM KFOR AT CENTER OF CONTROVERSY. Bishop Artemije, who is Kosova's leading Serbian Orthodox cleric, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 3 August that KFOR must either protect the province's minorities or leave. He argued that UCK leaders Hashim Thaci and General Agim Ceku have not sufficiently "distanced themselves" from the violent incidents against Serbs. Belgrade's "Danas" on 4 August quoted KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson as saying that no one should be surprised that Serbs have been the victims of violence in Kosova. He denied, however, that the violence is systematic or amounts to "ethnic cleansing." PM KFOR ARRESTS FIVE ETHNIC ALBANIAN MURDER SUSPECTS. KFOR soldiers arrested five Kosova Albanians in Peja on 3 August. The five are suspected of having taken a Serbian couple hostage and killing the man after releasing his wife the previous day. Meanwhile on 3 August in Mitrovica, French KFOR soldiers arrested 15 Serbs who tried to hinder ethnic Albanians from returning to their homes in the Serb-held part of the city. The soldiers also confiscated a machine gun and a grenade, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. One of those arrested was a member of Serbian paramilitary forces and was suspected of having committed atrocities against ethnic Albanians between March and June. FS RUGOVA PLEDGES PARTICIPATION IN KOSOVA TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL. Kosovar Albanian moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova on 3 August promised that his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) will participate in the Kosova transitional council along with other political parties, "Bota Sot" reported. He made the pledge at a meeting with UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner in Prishtina. Rugova urged Kouchner to accelerate the process of installing the international administration in Kosova at "all levels" of government. FS UNHCR COMPLAINS ABOUT MACEDONIAN CUSTOMS FEES. UNHCR spokesman Chris Janowski told AP that Macedonian officials demand "exorbitant" customs inspection fees on humanitarian supplies passing through their territory. Janowski said that the UNHCR refused to pay the fees, arguing that "we are a relief agency which is exempt normally from such fees and taxes.... There is no justification whatsoever to charge [$348] for the so- called inspection of a UNHCR truck.... The fee is...totally out of proportion to the service rendered." There are currently 86 trucks with 3,400 tons of aid and 17 rail cars with 850 tons of timber blocked inside Macedonia. Macedonia's authorities imposed the fees in July. The dispute is jeopardizing UN efforts to rush in supplies to Kosova to rebuild destroyed or damaged houses before the onset of the winter. Janowski stressed that the UNHCR would face a monthly bill of $200,000 if it agreed to pay the fees. FS TAIWAN'S PREMIER VISITS MACEDONIA. Vincent Siew arrived in Skopje on 3 August at the head of a 160-strong business delegation, Reuters reported. Siew and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, are scheduled to inaugurate a tax-free economic zone in Petrovac, near Skopje airport. Siew told "Nova Makedonija" that "in the long term, our plan is that Macedonia becomes Taiwan's gateway to southeastern Europe, even to other European regions.... After the zone is completed, Taiwanese companies will be the first to invest in it, and we also expect foreign and local companies to do so." He stressed that the creation of similar free economic zones has greatly contributed to Taiwan's economic development. Macedonia is the only European country that recognizes Taiwan, apart from the Vatican. FS PETRITSCH SAYS MILOSEVIC REGIME 'BEYOND HOPE.' Austrian diplomat and Balkan expert Wolfgang Petritsch said in Belgrade on 3 August that he has "given up hope that the regime [of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] will be ready to reform itself and become a partner in the democratization and stabilization of this region." Petritsch stressed that Serbia must follow Montenegro's example and embrace democratization. He urged the international community not to deny humanitarian aid to the "Serbian people," Reuters reported. The Frankfurt- based Serbian daily "Vesti" quoted Petritsch as saying that the Milosevic regime could have prevented NATO bombing had it been more willing to compromise at the Rambouillet peace talks in February. Petritsch said that Serbian delegates at one point offered to admit foreign troops to Kosova but then withdrew that key concession the following day. Petritsch ended his mission as Austrian ambassador to Belgrade and will soon succeed the international community's Carlos Westendorp in Sarajevo. PM SERBIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE. Some 3,000 people attended an anti-Milosevic rally in Vrsac on 3 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Several hundred people attended separate rallies in Kragujevac, Valjevo, and Leskovac. In Belgrade, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said that he accepts the invitation from a group of independent economists to attend an opposition rally in Belgrade on 19 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic previously accepted the invitation. PM SERBIAN AUTHORITIES THREATEN OPPONENTS WITH LAWSUITS. The opposition Vojvodina Coalition said in a 3 August statement that the authorities have threatened to launch legal action against several farmers. The farmers recently told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that the minister of agriculture should resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). In Belgrade, Aleksandar Nikacevic, who is the new, pro-Milosevic head of Radio B-92, said he will launch legal proceedings against Draskovic's Studio B Television. That station recently gave one of its frequencies to Radio B2-92, which is run by the independent journalists who formerly staffed B-92 before the authorities took it over in March. Nikacevic charged that the creation of B2-92 has led to unspecified financial losses for his station, Reuters reported. Elsewhere, several senior Serbian officials and state-run media said that the U.S. is "trying to conquer Serbia" by placing Milosevic's opponents in power, AP reported. PM NEW ELECTION LAW FOR BOSNIA. Representatives of the OSCE said in Sarajevo on 3 August that a draft election law for Bosnia is ready. The law aims at breaking the grip of Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian nationalist parties on the electorate. The provisions require candidates to win at least some of their votes both in the Republika Srpska and in the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation. In addition, voters will no longer be able to vote for party lists but will have to mark the names of each candidate individually. PM BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTERS AGREE ON DEBT. Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and Edhem Bicakcic, who is his counterpart from the federation, agreed in Banja Luka on 3 August to divide between their respective governments Bosnia's outstanding debts to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The agreement paves the way for the release of $170 million in new loans from the bank to Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER BOSNIAN BORDER AGREEMENT. Republika Srpska Vice President Mirko Sarovic said in Banja Luka on 3 August that the recent Bosnian-Croatian border agreement violates the Republika Srpska constitution. He called for the resignation of the two top ethnic Serbian officials who approved the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). In Sarajevo, a spokesman for Westendorp's office said that the agreement changes nothing and simply "reaffirms the legal border." He charged that unnamed Bosnian Serb leaders are trying to use the issue for their own political ends. PM DODIK BLASTS BOSNIAN TELEVISION LAW. Dodik said in Banja Luka on 3 August that the new law establishing a public broadcasting service for all of Bosnia is "not acceptable" to the Republika Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). In Sarajevo, Westendorp's spokesman defended the law, which he said "is not about politics [but] is about joining the real world," Reuters reported. PM CROATIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF 'OPERATION STORM.' Croatia on 5 August celebrates a national holiday marking the anniversary of the 1995 Operation Storm, during which Croatian forces completed their conquest of the Serbian- held Krajina region. Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said that any persons who committed war crimes against Serbian civilians during the offensive are now behind bars, "Vecernji list" reported on 4 August. He added, however, that the government must protect its "security interests" and will not give the Hague-based war crimes tribunal the documents about Operation Storm that it has requested. In Knin, local police officials denied recent charges by a human rights group that the rights of returning Serbs are being systematically abused, "Vjesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). Some 200,000 Serbs fled Krajina in the wake of Operation Storm, Belgrade's "Danas" reported. PM ROMANIAN STATISTICS SHOW CONTINUED ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN. Industrial production from January-May 1999 dropped by 9.4 percent, compared with the same period last year, Rompres reported on 3 August, citing the National Statistics Commission. The sharpest drop (13 percent) was registered in the energy and mining sectors. The foreign trade deficit stood at $831.6 million, compared with $1.1 billion in 1998. That decrease is mostly due to a drop in imports (18.6 percent), although exports also dropped (8.6 percent). The inflation rate was 30.8 percent in the first six months of 1999 and 48.2 percent for the past 12 months. Experts on the commission said that the government's intention to keep inflation this year at 32-35 percent (recently revised to 40 percent) is unlikely to be met. Unemployment in June 1999 reached 11.3, up 2.4 percent on the level in June 1998. MS ROMANIAN OPPOSITION TO COORDINATE POLICIES. Representatives of five opposition parties on 3 August agreed to set up a Consultative Coordination Group, which will examine draft laws presented in the parliament by the ruling coalition and will strive to adopt a common stand on those legislative proposals, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Each party will be represented on the new body by one deputy and one senator. The formations included in the group are the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Greater Romania Party, the Party of Romanian National Unity, the Alliance for Romania, and the Romanian National Party, whose chairman, Viorel Catarama, initiated the setting up of the group. The Union of Right Forces and the National Christian Democratic Alliance declined to take part in the new forum. MS MOLDOVAN COMMISSION RELEASES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE PROPOSALS. The presidential commission on amending the constitution on 2 August published its proposals. In addition to the proposals made public last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999), the commission recommends that the president, rather than the parliament, have the prerogative of appointing and dismissing the premier and other ministers, Reuters and RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The president would head the Supreme Council on National Security and appoint the prosecutor-general and judges. And the head of state would also have the right to dissolve the parliament if deputies block a draft law for longer than 60 days. Deputies will be elected from constituencies under a single-mandate representation system that will replace that of single-constituency proportional representation on the basis of party lists. MS END NOTE DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT' by Floriana Fossato Despite the lack of public comment from top Russian officials following their talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Moscow on 2 August, most Russian media are describing the visit as a "turning point" in the country's foreign policy. Djukanovic's official visit was the first time that a leader who has challenged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was warmly received at the top levels in Moscow. Ahead of the Moscow trip, Djukanovic had repeated earlier warnings that Montenegro might declare its independence unless Serbia--its larger partner in the Yugoslav Federation--introduces substantial reforms leading to democracy and a market economy. The Russian daily "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 3 August that Djukanovic's visit showed that Russia "intends to forge links with democratic forces opposing Slobodan Milosevic." It added that "even more important, [the visit indicates that] Moscow intends to sever ties with the questionable friends it inherited from its [Soviet] past." Djukanovic's talks with Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov focused on boosting political and economic ties between Russia and Montenegro. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that both sides agreed "on the need to solve problems in Yugoslavia through dialogue and the existing constitutional order." Luzhkov--a leading presidential candidate in Russia--was the only Russian politician to comment publicly on Djukanovic's visit. He spoke in support of Montenegro, saying that "we must not allow Milosevic's arbitrariness toward Montenegro. This is the most important thing. It could lead to a new worsening of the situation." At the same time, the Moscow major stressed that that he still considers NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia "an act of aggression." Stepashin, in footage broadcast by Russian television networks, only repeated his view that humanitarian aid should be provided to all Yugoslavia, not just the province of Kosova and Montenegro. Western countries, including the U.S., say Serbia should be excluded from receiving such aid as long as Milosevic remains in power. "I think that the position of Russia and of its president has played an important role in putting an end to military operations," Stepashin commented. "This is something that everybody acknowledges and was confirmed also in Sarajevo [at the 29-30 July Balkans reconstruction summit]. Those who, as a result of the military operations, are now in a difficult situation, independently of the place where they live, need the support of international organizations and also of Russia." During the Balkan reconstruction summit, however, Stepashin did acknowledge that "the sufferings of the Yugoslav population were caused not only by the [NATO] bombings but chiefly by Milosevic's regime." Djukanovic, for his part, told "Kommersant-Daily" in an interview published on 3 August that "it is very important that Moscow recognized Milosevic's responsibility for Yugoslavia's tragedy. This shattered the illusions of many Yugoslavs whom Belgrade had convinced that Russia supported Milosevic and would defend him." During NATO's 11-week bombing campaign, Russia clearly supported Milosevic. Most analysts in Moscow say the new pragmatism in Moscow shows an understanding of changed circumstances. Andrei Piantkovskii, director of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that "this is not the first time Russia changed position on an issue. Simply, Russian officials have finally understood that support for Milosevic leads nowhere and it is time for a change." Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S. and Canada Studies Institute, told "The Moscow Times" that Russia now is "interested in participating in the Balkan settlement and not in being associated with anti-Western regimes." Russian news agencies reported that in the talks with Djukanovic, emphasis was given to the issue of reconstructing war-torn Yugoslavia. Russia has promised some $150 million from its budget to finance fuel and food supplies this year and to promote Russian companies' efforts to win contracts for reconstruction in Yugoslavia. Much of the country's energy infrastructure was built with Soviet and Russian assistance. Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said recently that his ministry will be in charge of controlling the funds and that a special commission focusing on Russia's participation in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia will have only a "consultative character." "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 August reported that the work of the special commission--chaired by Stepashin-- will likely be aimed at facilitating the participation of Russian companies in the rebuilding works. It also quoted controversial businessman Vladimir Potanin, appointed as Stepashin's deputy on the commission, as saying that in order to be able to join the group of Western donor countries, Russia "will have to convince the West that [by] rebuilding Yugoslavia, it does not aim at strengthening Milosevic." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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