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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 164, Part II, 24 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 164, Part II, 24 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 * DIM PROSPECTS FOR POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN BELARUS * RUSSIAN-ALBANIAN STANDOFF CONTINUES IN RAHOVEC * MAJKO WANTS ALBANIANS TO MAKE DONATIONS FOR KOSOVA-ALBANIAN HIGHWAY End Note: WHEN FOUR TIMES FIVE MIGHT EQUAL ZERO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE DIM PROSPECTS FOR POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN BELARUS. Anatol Lyabedzka, head of the opposition delegation for talks with the authorities, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 23 August that the political dialogue in Belarus "may come to a halt even without having started." Lyabedzka was commenting on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's statement last week that the authorities want to talk with a broad spectrum of public organizations on holding parliamentary elections in 2000 in accordance with the 1996 constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). There has been no response from the OSCE Minsk group to Lukashenka's announcement. OSCE Minsk group head Hans Georg Wieck announced previously that the planned talks should aim at electing a parliament "with significant functions and powers" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). JM UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO RETURN TO SOVIET SYSTEM. On 23 August, the eve of the eighth anniversary of Ukraine's independence, President Leonid Kuchma said there can be no return to the Soviet political and social system, Reuters and AP reported. Kuchma called on the government to implement economic measures, including tax and agricultural reforms and restructuring of the country's foreign debt. He predicted that Ukraine's GDP will grow by 2 percent in 2000 and by 4-6 percent in the following years. He blamed the country's economic decline on the Soviet past and the parliamentary obstruction of key legislation. "The parliament's work must be formed on the basis of a responsible majority," Kuchma said without elaborating. JM 'PATRIOTIC FORUM' IN KYIV CALLS FOR SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. A forum of "patriotic, anti-corruption, pro- independence, and democratic forces" took place in Kyiv on 22 August, Interfax and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. The forum was organized by the Open Politics association and attended by five presidential hopefuls: Yuriy Kostenko, Yuriy Karmazin, Volodymyr Oliynyk, Vasyl Onopenko, and Oleksandr Rzhavskyy. Hennadiy Udovenko, Yevhen Marchuk, and Vitaliy Kononov, all of whom also aspire to the presidency, failed to appear. Anatoliy Matviyenko, who heads the association and resigned the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party after it pledged support to Kuchma's re-election bid, urged all presidential candidates to agree on a single candidate to represent the right-wing in the elections. JM FINLAND TO CONTINUE DEFENSE ASSISTANCE TO ESTONIA. Meeting with Finnish Defense Ministry officials in Helsinki on 23 August, Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik received assurances that Finland will continue to support Estonia's defense forces. The two countries plan to continue to cooperate in the training of naval specialists and the creation of command structures in the armed forces. Luik's meeting with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari focused on questions of European security and the latest developments in Kosova. AB RIGA 'BALTIC WAY' CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON STRENGTH IN UNITY. Latvia's president and prime minister both emphasized the need for unity among the three Baltic countries at a conference in Riga on 23 August marking the 10th anniversary of the "Baltic Way," the 600 kilometer human chain that extended from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius. LETA quoted President Vaira Vike-Freiberga as saying that only by "taking each other's hand" will Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania achieve a better future in which "human rights, one law, one truth for all" are the primary values of society. Prime Minister Andris Skele noted that "if each [Baltic country] is considered separately, we are three little states, but together [we are] one of the most strategically important regions in the new Europe." MJZ LITHUANIAN LEADERS UNANIMOUSLY AGREE ON BUDGET CUTS. Meeting on 23 August, Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, and President Valdas Adamkus agreed that the spending in the current fiscal year should be cut by more than 51 million litas ($138 million). Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas and Economy Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis also attended the meeting. Lionginas has publicly urged the parliament to approve budget cuts in the range of 600 million litas. Paksas told reporters after the meeting that he hopes the parliament will soon agree to the cuts, which the government is expected to approve on 25 August. AB MAZEIKIAI OIL COMPLEX FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHTER. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation will each buy 5 percent of the remaining government-owned shares in the Mazeikiai oil refinery complex. This is a major breakthrough for the Lithuanian government which has struggled for two years to privatize the complex. The EBRD and IFC plans are contingent on the completion of negotiations between Lithuania and the U.S. firm Williams International on the sale of up to 66 percent of the government's share in Mazeikiai. AB CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on August 23 incorrectly reported that Lithuania and Poland are the only two countries with consular representation in Kaliningrad. In fact, Sweden and Denmark have a joint representation there as well. POLISH FARMERS CALL FOR NATIONWIDE PROTEST. A regional protest committee of farmers in Slupsk, northern Poland, has called on all farmers to hold a nationwide protest over the plight of the Polish agriculture, PAP reported on 23 August. Farmers' leader Wladyslaw Serafin said in Slupsk that only an immediate change in agricultural policy can prevent the current cabinet from being toppled. The Slupsk farmers also urged to refrain from holding harvest festivals this year in a sign of protest. Another meeting of farmers in Western Pomeranian Province appealed to farmers to begin paying taxes not in cash but through "products [valued] at profitable prices." JM POLISH TEACHERS WANT MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOL REFORM. Polish teachers' unions warned on 23 August that more money is needed to support the education reform slated to begin on 1 September. The unions object to the government's plans to shut down some schools and lay off teachers while ensuring pay rises do not exceed the level of inflation, Reuters reported. The government intends to reduce spending on education next year to 3.02 percent of GDP from 3.2 percent in 1999. The left-wing Polish Teachers Union wants Education Minister Miroslaw Handtke to be sacked, while Solidarity blames the Finance Ministry for failing to provide more subsidies. Both unions said they plan protests unless the education sector is given more money. JM BELARUS CITIZENS SEEK ASYLUM IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Three Belarus citizens--two men and a woman--have asked for political asylum in the Czech Republic, a spokesman for the Plzen foreigners' police told CTK on 23 August. The woman said she is a journalist and was persecuted in Belarus because she opposes Belarusian President Lukashenka's regime. MS SLOVAK PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL APPROACHING SOLUTION. Representatives of the Slovak Property Fund (FNM) and Druha obchodna have signed a deal on the transfer of a 45.9 percent stake in Nafta Gbely to the FNM, SITA reported on 23 August. Druha obchodna is a subsidiary of Nafta Trade, which is controlled by the Arad joint-stock company owned by businessman Vladimir Poor. Under the deal, the FNM is to assume Druha obchodna's debts to Tatra banka and AG Banka. The deal is still subject to an agreement between the sides on the purchase of Nafta Trade by the state-owned SPP monopoly gas distributor. Arad is asking for 390 million crowns ($9 million), while the SPP says that price is too high, given Nafta Trade's debts. MS SLOVAK POLICE VERSION OF ROM'S DEATH QUESTIONED. Vincent Danihel, government commissioner for Romany affairs, said on 23 August that he is dissatisfied with the official police version of how a Rom died after being in police custody, SITA and CTK reported. The Rom was questioned at the police station in Poprad on 13 August in connection with a bicycle theft. Police say he shot himself with the pistol of the policeman who was questioning him. Before his death in the hospital three days later, the Rom told a friend that the injury was caused by a policeman. Danihel said that even if the official police version is true, the policeman clearly violated regulations by questioning the Rom while he was alone with him and by keeping a gun within the detainee's reach. Danihel added he will travel to Poprad to monitor the investigation. MS SLOVAK POLICE INDICT SKINHEADS. A police investigator in Bratislava on 20 August filed charges against three skinheads accused of assaulting the Chinese consul and two of his friends last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1999), SITA and CTK reported. An 18-year-old was indicted for assault and racially-motivated crime, while two other youths, aged 16 and 18, were charged with hooliganism. If convicted, they could be sentenced to prison terms of between six months and three years. One of the skinheads is reportedly the son of a high-ranking Bratislava police officer. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RUSSIAN-ALBANIAN STANDOFF CONTINUES IN RAHOVEC. Hundreds of ethnic Albanians continued to block roads leading to Rahovec on 24 August, thereby preventing Russian peacekeepers from entering that town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). The roadblock includes a long line of trucks, buses, tractors, and other vehicles. Dutch peacekeepers are scheduled to begin mediation between Russian officers and the Albanian protesters later in the day, AP reported. The protesters reject the deployment of Russian soldiers, claiming that Russian mercenaries committed atrocities in that area in March and April. The protesters also say they fear Russian KFOR will protect Serbian paramilitaries who are allegedly hiding in the Serb-dominated quarter of Rahovec. FS KFOR'S JACKSON BACKS RUSSIANS... KFOR commander General Sir Mike Jackson told Reuters in Prishtina on 23 August that the Russians are "doing a good job" in all the areas of Kosova that they currently patrol. He added that the Rahovec protests are "no more than a bump in the road." Elsewhere, Colonel-General Georgii Shpak, who is commander of Russian paratroop units, told Interfax in Moscow that "we have a peacekeeping mission in [Rahovec] and we will carry it out." FS ...CONFIRMS UCK DEMILITARIZATION ON SCHEDULE. At a joint press conference with General Agim Ceku, who is the chief of the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) General Staff, in Prishtina on 23 August, Jackson confirmed that the UCK handed in all its heavy weapons, all long- barreled weapons, and 60 per cent of all automatic small arms by 19 August, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. That day marked the end of the second phase of the UCK's demilitarization. Jackson stressed that the UCK must now concentrate on transforming itself into a non-military group. The UCK has committed itself to completing its demilitarization by 19 September. FS SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS TO BE TRIED IN PRIZREN. Three Serbs arrested on suspicion of war crimes by KFOR peacekeeping troops in Rahovec on 20 August will stand trial at a District Court in Prizren, rather than in The Hague, Reuters reported. UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) spokeswoman Nadia Younes said, however, that "although this will be a domestic war crimes trial, the [tribunal] takes great interest in this case. [This is] because the events in [Rahovec] are related to the indictment of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic." Tribunal officials told Reuters on 23 August that they support the arrest and trial of suspected war criminals in local courts so long as the judiciary is "mature and democratic enough" to ensure that individuals receive a fair trial. FS DID SERBIAN FORCES USE SARIN GAS IN KOSOVA? London's "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 24 August that "the Serbs used Sarin nerve gas against ethnic Albanians before NATO intervened" in Kosova. A UN expert told "Jane's Defence Weekly" recently that Serbian forces used the gas against the Kosovar Albanians "since the early nineties.... The attacks affected some 4,000 people, including children," the London daily reported. Observers note that Kosovar spokesmen have long charged that the Serbian forces used poison gas against ethnic Albanians. Outside experts have confirmed that poisons were used in several incidents, but not that Sarin gas was one of the toxins involved. PM ANNAN APPOINTS NEW DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVA. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed German environmental expert Tom Koenigs as deputy special representative in Kosova in charge of civil administration, on 23 August, AP reported. Koenigs, who is a member of the Green Party and a close colleague of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, will replace Dominique Vian of France, who is leaving after only two months in office. Koenigs will be one of four deputies to UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner. Since 1989, Koenigs has been the head of the Environmental Protection Department of Frankfurt, which also includes responsibility for sewage management, the fire department, and energy supplies. Between 1993 and 1997, he was treasurer of Frankfurt. AP noted that he has a reputation as a tough administrator focusing on increasing the efficiency of public services and modernizing the city administration. FS MAJKO WANTS ALBANIANS TO MAKE DONATIONS FOR KOSOVA- ALBANIAN HIGHWAY. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko called on the Albanian people on 23 August to donate money for a highway linking Durres with Prishtina, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko said in Tirana that "the Albanian government has decided that the construction of a road linking Tirana with Prishtina is one of its strategic priorities. That road will serve both ethnic Albanian entities in the Balkans.... It will serve the faster movement of goods, people, capital, and culture." Majko called the plan "a gigantic challenge for our nation" but stressed that "together we...can achieve wonders for our joint future.... This will be the Albanians' road and we Albanians will build it... We shall ask for help from our international partners, but initially we should demonstrate that we are able to help ourselves." FS DJINDJIC SAYS MILOSEVIC RULE WILL LEAD TO CHAOS. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told AP in Belgrade on 23 August that Serbia will face serious problems if Milosevic remains in office much longer. Djindjic stressed that if the president "does not go by the end of October, we will have a humanitarian catastrophe and social unrest by hungry people." He added that there will also be "further territorial disintegration" if Montenegro declares independence in response to Milosevic's refusal to quit. The opposition leader argued that each unsuccessful attempt by the opposition to unseat Milosevic has been followed by war. Djindjic rejected charges by Milosevic's backers and the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic that his policies will lead to "civil war" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999), saying such accusations are "communist-style intimidation." PM ARE SOME MILOSEVIC BACKERS ABANDONING HIM? Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic said in Belgrade on 23 August that Milosevic's supporters will not fight a "civil war" for him. Batic added that some key Milosevic backers have recently contacted U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). Batic said those individuals include prominent businessman Bogoljub Karic, Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic, economics adviser Zoran Lilic, and others, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Batic stressed that Milosevic must resign and a transitional government must replace the present one. PM UN EXPERTS CAUTIOUS ON SERBIAN CHARGES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE. Pekka Haavisto, who is chairman of the United Nations Environmental Program's (UNEP) Balkans Task Force, said in Belgrade on 23 August that he and his colleagues are continuing their investigation into environmental damage in Serbia as a result of the recent NATO air strikes. The team arrived several weeks ago to look for the presence of a wide variety of chemicals and other toxic waste in the environment. In response to Serbian charges that the air strikes led to radioactive fallout because some of the bombs allegedly contained depleted uranium, Haavisto said his team will proceed according to scientific evidence and not be swayed by "rumors." The experts expect to complete a preliminary study in September. They will then decide what to do next, Reuters reported. Officials of UNEP and NATO maintain that NATO used depleted uranium only in shells fired at tanks in Kosova and not in missiles or bombs used against Serbia proper. PM PRESUMED SREBRENICA VICTIMS EXHUMED FROM MASS GRAVE. Representatives of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons completed the exhumation of 23 persons from a mass grave near the Serbian-held town of Zvornik on 23 August, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The experts believe that the bodies are those of some of the 7,000 missing persons from Srebrenica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999). The forensic team will resume work in September. Survivors say that up to 1,000 Srebrenica victims may be buried in mass graves in that area. PM CROATIAN MINISTER TELLS VETERANS NOT TO MAKE POLICY. Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 23 August that Dubrovnik-area war veterans who recently blocked the border crossing to Trebinje should desist from such protests in the interest of promoting good relations with Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). He urged the veterans to let the Hague-based war crimes tribunal deal with Serbs who committed atrocities during the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik, including former Trebinje Mayor Bozidar Vucurevic. Obrad Gazda, who is that town's current mayor, told Rijeka's "Novi List" that the people of Trebinje have nothing to apologize for. He stressed that the former Yugoslav army alone is responsible for the shelling. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER WARNS PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES... Before the parliament convened in an extraordinary session on 23 August, Radu Vasile urged parliamentary deputies to pass the government-proposed legislation on restitution of real estate and agricultural land to former owners or their heirs. Vasile said that if they fail to do so by September, the government will legislate such restitution by emergency regulation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania is threatening to boycott the debate on procedural grounds. It also says government- proposed restitution will increase the budget deficit by $50 billion. MS ...DISMISSES RUMORS ON QUITTING. Vasile dismissed rumors recently reported in the media that he intends to resign and accept an offer from the World Bank. He said that no such offer has been made and that if it were, he would turn it down. On 20 August, Education Minister Andrei Marga, whom the media tips as a possible successor to Vasile, told journalists that the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) needs to "urgently embark on [developing a] strategy of reconstruction," Mediafax reported. Marga said that reconstruction can take place at "a doctrinary, an organizational, and a personal" level and that he believes he "has solutions" for all three levels. He added that he does not intend to run for a party leadership post but would "think the offer over" if it were made to him. MS ROMANIA TO CHANGE TAXATION SYSTEM. The government on 23 August approved a regulation changing the taxation system. Under the new system, Romanians will be taxed on "global income," which will include wages and earnings deriving from any other sources of income, either in Romania or abroad. The government also decided that the pensions and incomes of farmers are not to be taxed in the future. RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS RUN-OFF IN GAGAUZ-YERI ELECTIONS. A run-off will take place on 5 September between incumbent Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Region Governor Georgii Tabunschik, who placed second (20.6 percent) in the 22 August elections in the region, and Moldovan Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Dimitrii Croitor, who came first with 21.5 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Turnout was 55.1 percent. Run-offs will also be held in 25 of the 35 constituencies where candidates for the People's Assembly were elected for the first time since 1994, when the region gained autonomous status, using a single-seat majority system. Tabunschik, who has virtually introduced a system resembling the one President Petru Lucinschi favors for the whole of Moldova, has a good chance of being re-elected. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT READY TO COMPROMISE ON PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM? Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea told journalists on 23 August that Lucinschi is "ready to discuss various variants on amending the constitution." He said Lucinschi has initiated the debate on amending the basic law in order to get feed-back from citizens and international organizations and is "ready to discuss any constructive proposals." Golea said that "unfortunately, many representatives of parties are rejecting the draft [proposed by the presidential commission] without having even read it." In response to a question, Golea said the president regards the draft submitted by 38 deputies on instituting a full-fledged parliamentary system as "an attempt to monopolize public [opinion] and ignore people's will freely expressed in the [non-binding] referendum of 23 May." MS END NOTE WHEN FOUR TIMES FIVE MIGHT EQUAL ZERO by Michael Shafir Some 300 days after the four-party ruling Slovak coalition took over the helm, the cracks in that coalition are threatening the country's political stability. The presence of a "Romanian syndrome" of decision-making paralysis, mutual accusations among the coalition partners, and political cronyism is beyond dispute. Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet was formed by four formations--the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), the reformed-communist Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), and the Hungarian Coalition (SMK)- -most of which have different social, economic, and political priorities. Like the SDK, the SMK is a political product of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's midwifery. To circumvent an electoral law that raised the parliamentary hurdle for political alliances, three parties representing ethnic Hungarians merged to form the SMK before the 1998 elections. But unlike the SDK, the SMK currently shows few cracks. The cementing force is the coalition partners' failure to fulfill promises made before the elections. As in Romania, where the unity of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania is safeguarded by the struggle of its many wings and various ideological views on how to enforce ethnic Hungarian demands its on coalition partners, the SMK is already threatening to "review" its participation in the coalition. In the first place, Agriculture Minister Pavol Koncos of the SDL refused to appoint an SMK party member as head of the Slovak Land Fund, ignoring what the SMK claims was a "verbal agreement" whereby it withdrew its demand for the agriculture portfolio. The SMK is suspected by the SDL--not to mention the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the xenophobic Slovak National Party--of intending to use the land fund to restitute to ethnic Hungarians land confiscated under the Benes decrees. Second, the SMK is dissatisfied with the law on the use of minority languages in contact with official authorities, which it considers too restrictive. Passed by the parliament on 10 July, that law was mainly the brainchild of Deputy Premier in charge of legislation Lubomir Fogas of the SDL. Not surprisingly, Slovak media reported that the SMK is demanding the dismissal of both Koncos and Fogas. Set up on the eve of the 1998 elections by five center- right parties that, like the SMK, aimed at circumventing Meciar's new electoral law, the SDK is the major coalition partner. It is also the party most affected by the Romanian "coalition of coalitions" syndrome. The five "mother parties" of the SDK--the Christian Democratic Movement, or KDH, the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Union, the Democratic Party, and the Green Party--agreed before the elections to separate again after the ballot. Following the ballot, however, Dzurinda opposed dismembering the SDK. That stance put Dzurinda on a collision course with KDH leader, Justice Minister, and former Premier Jan Carnogursky, who, understandably, objected to seeing Dzurinda, a former KDH member, becoming the dominant personality in Slovak politics. But the Democratic Union and the Democratic Party have also advocated--though less emphatically than Carnogursky-- a return to a looser alliance formed by the "mother parties." Dzurinda says that option is "out of the question." Carnogursky has led the campaign that ended on 9 August with the ousting of former Transportation Minister Gabriel Palacka, Dzurinda's most loyal minister. Palacka's ties with Dzurinda date back to their employment in the Czechoslovak railways company and were strengthened when he became the SDK treasurer. The premier was very disturbed about the forced departure of Palacka, who was held responsible for irregularities in appointments at the ministry and privatization tenders supervised by it. He openly attacked Carnogursky, admonishing him for causing "government instability." Nor is Palacka the only ally of Dzurinda to have come under criticism. Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak, who managed the premier's 1998 electoral campaign, has been linked to the privatization scandal caused by businessman Vladimir Poor's sale of his shares in the Nafta Gbely refinery to the Cincinnati-based Cinergy Company. Whereas Carnogursky and the media blamed the deal on Cernak, Dzurinda deflected the blame on National Property Fund (FNM) chief Ludovit Kanik and his deputy, Ladislav Sklenar, demanding that both resign. He was able to have the government approve a resolution calling for their resignation but failed to have the parliament endorse it. Carnogursky and, above all, the Democratic Party, which had nominated Kanik, came to the FNM chief's defense. All of which made Czech journalist Peter Schultz wonder, in an article published in the 16 July "Lidove noviny," whether Dzurinda was not promoting a sort of "Meciarism without Meciar" by defending his own cronies and attacking those of his adversaries. Dzurinda's conflict with the Democratic Party may have serious consequences. The most ardent promoter of the long- due economic reforms is Privatization Minister Ivan Miklos, who is a member of that party. Should his party leave the coalition, Dzurinda might find himself surrounded by strange bedfellows. The SDL, true to its origins, is refusing to back the Miklos-sponsored bill on the privatization of large state-owned companies, insisting that the state keep a majority stake in energy and gas distributors as well as a 34 percent stake in banks. The Romanian parallel is once more striking, but in Romania it is the Democratic Party that plays a role like that of the SDL in Slovakia. Meanwhile, the HZDS is hinting that the SDL and the SOP may leave the coalition and help Meciar return to power. Is Dzurinda's four-party coalition multiplied by the SDK's five- party "coalition of coalitions" about to result in zero? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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