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Newsline - May 13, 1997




REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TREATY

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov says the treaty on Russian- Chechen relations that he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed yesterday in Moscow is a "historic step." Vice President Vakha Arsanov said the accord "puts an end to the state of war" and makes Chechnya a subject of international law, Interfax reported. The treaty affirms both sides' aspirations to "firm and equal relations" based on the principles of international law. It also stresses their rejection of the use of force. No mention is made of Chechnya's status. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said the treaty will "introduce an element of sincerity" into relations between Moscow and Grozny. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev said it will provide impetus for positive changes in Chechnya. Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov termed the document a "breakthrough" and a "basis for confidence."

MORE RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENTS

Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin yesterday signed an agreement on economic cooperation that provides for coordination between Russian and Chechen ministries on reconstruction in the republic, pensions, and compensation to those who suffered during the fighting, Russian agencies reported. Sergei Dubinin, the director of Russia's Central Bank, and his Chechen counterpart signed an agreement on coordinating banking operations.

OIL EXPORT PROSPECTS IMPROVED

Khodzh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, chairman of the Chechen oil company Yunko, told Interfax yesterday that the 150 km stretch of the Baku-Tikhoretsk export pipeline running through Chechnya can be repaired within 20-30 days if $2 million is made available. The pipeline has already been filled as far as the Azerbaijani-Russian frontier with Azerbaijani oil that is to be exported under the terms of an agreement between the Azerbaijani government and Russia's Transneft. Turan on 12 May quoted a spokesman for the Azerbaijan International Operating Company as saying that the treaty on Russian- Chechen relations, which was signed yesterday in Moscow, "inspires optimism" that the export of so-called "early oil" via the Baku-Tikhoretsk pipeline will now begin on 1 October 1997. It was originally scheduled to start in fall 1996.

YELTSIN SAYS HOUSING REFORM MUST NOT HURT POOR

President Yeltsin says housing reform must not be carried out at the expense of the poor, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. Chairing a special cabinet meeting, Yeltsin admitted that mistakes were made during privatization and said "we do not have the right to make a mistake" in housing reform. He noted that Russia spends 119 trillion rubles ($21 billion) annually on housing and municipal services, which is roughly 4% of GDP and 30% of some local budgets. However, Yeltsin said, money is currently used "ineffectively and unfairly," since owners of larger apartments receive more in subsidized rent and services. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov challenged the widespread belief that lower state spending on housing will automatically mean higher rents and utility bills. He argued that money could be saved by introducing more competition among service providers.

NEMTSOV, LUZHKOV DOWNPLAY DIFFERENCES

After yesterday's cabinet meeting, Nemtsov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told journalists they have the same goals but differ over the approach to housing reform. Luzhkov said people's ability to pay rather than arbitrary deadlines should determine how much rents and utility bills increase, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Nemtsov countered that state subsidies for low-income families would continue after 2003, when subsidies to municipal service providers will end. Yeltsin yesterday praised policies implemented in both Moscow and Nizhnii Novgorod. However, he rejected Luzhkov's request for a special presidential decree allowing Moscow to implement its own housing policy, according to ITAR-TASS. Nemtsov said all regions will be allowed to draw up their own housing reform plans, as long as they fit within the government's overall framework. He noted that different climatic conditions make it impossible to impose one nationwide program.

REPORT SAYS RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR MISSILES UNSAFE

Faulty command-and-control equipment has caused some Russian nuclear missiles to switch themselves to combat mode recently, The Washington Times reported yesterday, citing a classified CIA study. The study said this would not necessarily result in an unauthorized missile launch because of other safeguards. The CIA report was written in March, after Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had warned the previous month of deteriorating control systems for Russia's nuclear arsenal. Commenting on the report, a senior unnamed Pentagon official quoted by Reuters said he has seen no evidence of a heightened risk of an unauthorized or accidental missile launch. The condition of Russia's military is expected to dominate talks between Rodionov and senior U.S. officials in Washington this week.

YELTSIN TAKES UP PHONE DIPLOMACY ON NATO

President Yeltsin phoned his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, yesterday to discuss the Russia-NATO charter, Interfax reported, citing the presidential press service. Yeltsin is expected to make similar calls to leaders of other NATO countries this week. Russian officials have said they want to sign a charter on 27 May in Paris but only if the document provides adequate guarantees for Russia. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is due in Moscow today for the sixth round of his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov.

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON GAZPROM

Yeltsin today issued a decree establishing more control over the government's 40% stake in the gas monopoly Gazprom, ITAR-TASS reports, citing presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Under the decree, a board of government representatives, to be chaired by Nemtsov,.will be appointed to join Gazprom management. The decree will weaken the authority of Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, who since 1994 has managed most of the government stake in the company. Nemtsov's press secretary Andrei Pershin told reporters yesterday that Yeltsin will soon issue decrees forcing government officials to declare their incomes and ordering changes in the system whereby some commercial banks are authorized to handle government funds.

YELTSIN ENDS GOVERNMENT LOAN GUARANTEES

In a another decree issued today, Yeltsin ordered the government to stop providing guarantees for commercial bank loans to enterprises, ITAR-TASS reports. In recent years, the Finance Ministry has frequently guaranteed loans that are unlikely ever to be repaid. The new decree will force enterprises to provide their own guarantees in order to secure bank financing--for instance, by offering company shares as collateral.

ISLAMIC GROUPS CLASH IN DAGESTAN

Two people were killed and three injured in fighting yesterday between some 1,000 wahabis and members of local tarikats (sufi brotherhoods) in the village of Chabani-Makhi in Buynak Raion, some 30 km southwest of Makhachkala, Russian and Western agencies reported. The village has been cordoned off by police sent to the area.

SIBERIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST SPECIAL PRIVILEGES FOR REGIONS

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov says the leaders of the regional association Siberian Accord are against special privileges granted by the federal government to some regions, including the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Sakha (Yakutia), ITAR-TASS reports today. Zubov warned that if the government does not change its policy in this area, Siberian leaders may decide not to support government plans for housing reform or the 1998 budget. The government has signed power-sharing agreements with 26 of Russia's 89 regions, giving them varying degrees of economic autonomy. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais flew to Krasnoyarsk yesterday to discuss the tax code and the draft 1998 budget with top officials from the 17 regions that belong to Siberian Accord. However, Chubais said the regional leaders would be consulted only on the "parameters" of the 1998 budget, not on its overall "ideology," Interfax reported.

ENERGY CRISIS CONTINUES IN VLADIVOSTOK

Several hundred protesters blocked the main road in Vladivostok yesterday, demanding that normal electricity supplies be restored, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. The protest came despite reports that power cuts in the city have been reduced to four to six hours per day, compared with 18-20 hours late last week, Interfax reported. The energy crisis prompted city officials to introduce a state of emergency in Vladivostok on 8 May.

MEDIA UNDER PRESSURE IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD

Journalists in Nizhnii Novgorod say they are coming under pressure from local politicians and businessmen as the June gubernatorial elections draw near, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported yesterday. Nadezhda Zaftarenko recently resigned as director of the city's state-funded radio and television company, a post she had held since its founding three years ago. City mayor Ivan Sklyarov, a leading candidate for governor, said Zaftarenko departed voluntarily. However, she told journalists that she ran afoul of city officials after she violated the "unwritten rule" to report only favorably on the city administration. RFE/RL's correspondent reported on 1 May that journalists from the daily Nizhegorodskaya pravda and the weekly Delo received threats after publishing articles on the privatization of a Nizhnii Novgorod factory. The articles criticized the factory's new owners, who are relatives of former State Duma deputy Yevgenii Bushmen.




AZERBAIJAN CLAIMS ARMENIA HAS CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev claims Armenia has been supplied with five truckloads of "defensive" chemical weapons and ten truckloads of "offensive" ones, Moskovskii komsomolets reports today. Armenia ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in March 1994. Last week, Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian expressed concern that Azerbaijan has not yet done so, according to Noyan Tapan on 8 May.

TAJIK TALKS RESCHEDULED

The next round of talks between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition will not take place on 16 May as scheduled, ITAR-TASS reported. Both sides agree that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri must meet before representatives return to the negotiating table. The two men are tentatively scheduled to hold talks in the Kyrgyz capital on 17 May. Representatives would then meet in Tehran on 20 May to resume discussions on legalizing opposition parties in Tajikistan. ITAR-TASS quotes a "diplomatic source" in Dushanbe as saying the duration of the Tehran talks will depend on the success of the meeting between Rakhmonov and Nuri.

FIRST WINNER IN KAZAKSTAN'S LATEST OIL TENDER

An Indonesian company has bought a majority stake in one of three state oil companies in Kazakstan undergoing privatization this week, Interfax reported yesterday. Central Asia Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of Indonesia's Medco Energy Corp., took 60% of the shares in Mangistaumunaigaz, located in western Kazakstan. Before 1991, the company produced 25 million tons of oil a year, but following independence, annual production fell to 4.5 million tons. The new owner will invest more than $4 billion over 20 years. An estimated 200 million tons of crude remain to be exploited. Reuters reports that the two other companies up for sale this week are Aktyubinskmunaigaz, which is offering 85% of its shares, and Uzenmunaigaz, believed to be located on Kazakstan's second-largest oil field after Tengiz.




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN KYIV

Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrived in the Ukrainian capital yesterday for a two-day visit. Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Lukashenka, President Leonid Kuchma hailed a border agreement signed by the two leaders during their meeting. Lukashenka said the agreement is as an example of how governments can and should solve disputes. The two leaders also signed documents on economic cooperation and overcoming the aftermath of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident. Kuchma admitted that differences arose over Belarus's debt to Ukraine. Commenting on the proposed union between Moscow and Minsk, Kuchma said such an arrangement was the right of sovereign nations and their peoples.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL VISITS UKRAINE

Leni Fischer, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, arrived in Kyiv yesterday for talks with President Kuchma and Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko. Fischer told journalists she plans to discuss with the Ukrainian leaders issues that are likely to be discussed at a Council of Europe summit in October. Ukraine's failure to enact a law abolishing the death penalty is expected to be among topics for discussion at that summit.

EU OFFICIAL CONCERNED ABOUT POSSIBLE RIVALRY AMONG BALTIC STATES

EU Commissioner for Industry and Telecommunications Martin Bangemann has expressed concern about possible rivalry among the Baltic States over prospects for joining the EU and NATO, ETA reported. He met in Tallinn yesterday with Prime Minister Mart Siimann, European Affairs Minister Andra Veidemann, and other officials. Siimann assured Bangemann that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are agreed that the participation of just one Baltic country would boost the membership prospects of the other two. Also in Tallinn yesterday, the interior ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania set up a group to coordinate efforts in fighting drug-trafficking, BNS reported. The coordination group has been established at the recommendation of the UN drug control program, which wants to donate further aid to the Baltic States together.

UPDATE ON CONTROVERSIAL FUEL DEAL IN LATVIA

Prosecutor-General Janis Skrastins says that although the fuel supply agreement concluded by the Defense Ministry is clearly disadvantageous to the state, it does not contravene existing regulations (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 May 1997), BNS reported. Defense Minister Andrejs Krastins resigned yesterday over the deal at the insistence of Prime Minister Andris Skele, while Ministry State Secretary Einars Vaivods submitted his resignation voluntarily. Minister of Justice Dzintars Rasnacs has been named acting defense minister, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reports. All documents related to the case will be examined by the Department for the Protection of Individual and State Rights. Also yesterday, the Defense Ministry terminated the controversial fuel supply agreement, which was concluded with a subsidiary of the Man-Tess firm and provided for 2,900 tons of diesel fuel to be supplied to the Navy. Skele suggested last week that the deal smacked of corruption.

JAPAN PLEDGES ECONOMIC AID TO LITHUANIA

Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda has promised to increase economic aid to help Lithuania in its efforts toward democracy and a market economy, BNS and AFP reported. Ikeda met in Tokyo yesterday with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas, who reaffirmed Lithuania's bid to join the EU and NATO. Also yesterday, Lithuanian Transport Minister Algis Zvaliauskas announced that Pakistan's Bhoja Airlines Limited intends to buy 11 Russian-made Yak-42 planes from Lithuania's state-owned airlines (LAL), Interfax reported. He said LAL plans to use proceeds from the $17 million deal to purchase new Western-made aircraft.

CZECH SENATE CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES LACK OF CONTACTS BETWEEN KLAUS, MECIAR

Petr Pithart yesterday criticized the lack of contacts between Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus and his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar. Pithart told journalists that the two leaders "owe" each other eight meetings. "Four years ago [Klaus and Meciar] met for the last time and promised that they would meet twice a year," he said, noting that problems have accumulated in the meantime and created tensions between the two countries. Pithart also said the situation was tense due to the Czech Republic's expected membership in NATO. He commented that it would be a "very serious thing" if NATO's border ran along the Czech- Slovak border.

NEW CZECH MINISTER NAMED

President Vaclav Havel yesterday named Tomas Kvapil as minister for local Development, Czech media reported. Kvapil, a member of the Christian Democratic Union/Peoples Party, replaces Jaromir Schneider, who resigned last week under pressure from his party. Kvapil previously served as deputy prime minister for local development.

SLOVAK OPPOSITION CAMPAIGNS FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP

Leaders of several opposition parties in Slovakia yesterday appealed to the public to take part in the 23-24 May referendum on Slovak membership in NATO and on direct presidential elections. Speaking at a rally in Presov, Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky, Democratic Union Chairman Eduard Kukan, and Jan Langos, a leader of the Democratic Party, stressed that Slovakia's future depends on the results of the referendum. Carnogursky added it is already obvious that Slovakia is becoming isolated abroad. "If the public rejects NATO membership, [our] isolation will further deepen," he noted.

HUNGARIAN PREMIER WANTS GRAND COALITION

Gyula Horn says an anti-extremist grand coalition should be formed after next year's parliamentary elections, when the country will face the decision on joining NATO and the EU, Reuters reported. Horn told journalists that "four or five parties will be represented in the next parliament and inter-party squabbling should be subordinated to the interests of the country." The agency said polls show that Horn's Socialist Party and its coalition ally, the Free Democrats, have lost much of their electoral backing as a result of the government's austerity policy. They now trail the opposition Smallholders Party and the Young Democrats. Horn said non-extremist parties should be "aware of one another" and take into consideration "Hungary's image abroad."

HUNGARIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS POSTPONE DECISION ON TWO-PARTY COALITION

Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) leaders say Hungarian Democratic Forum President Sandor Lezsak's proposal calling for the two parties to form a joint parliamentary faction is untimely, Hungarian dailies report today. At a KDNP faction meeting yesterday, faction leader Tamas Isepy said an electoral alliance of only two parties would limit the opposition's chances in the 1998 parliamentary elections. The final decision on the proposal will be made at the faction's next meeting, scheduled for later this month.




ALBRIGHT SAYS ALBANIAN ELECTIONS MUST GO AHEAD

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Prime Minister Bashkim Fino in Washington yesterday that the early elections slated for 29 June must proceed. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said her message is that "the U.S. and Europe will not tolerate attempts by one party or faction to delay or obstruct the important process of the preparations for the elections."

ALBANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES STILL DEADLOCKED ON ELECTION LAW

The ten parties in the coalition government failed again in Tirana yesterday to agree on a new election law. The final text must reach President Sali Berisha by 15 May if elections are to take place on 29 June, because Albanian law requires 45 days' notice before such a ballot. Meanwhile in Brindisi, Italian authorities announced that a salvaging company has found the wreck of the Albanian tug that sank on 28 March with more than 80 people on board. And in Rome, police stated that a dragnet yesterday against Albanian smugglers resulted in the detention of 126 illegal migrants and the seizure of $34 million worth of marijuana.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WARNS CROATIA

The ambassadors of the Contact Group countries called on Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb yesterday to strengthen his country's ties with Bosnia-Herzegovina, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Earlier, U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith gave President Franjo Tudjman a letter from U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton urging Tudjman to improve relations with Sarajevo and Belgrade. The U.S. president also insisted that Zagreb cooperate fully with the Hague- based war crimes tribunal. He promised to help Croatia achieve integration in Western political and military institutions if Tudjman complies. If he does not, Washington will block Croatia's relations with the IMF, Clinton said. Domestic and foreign critics have accused Tudjman of seeking economic integration with the West while maintaining his foreign policy.

GEN. JOULWAN WANTS MORE TROOPS FOR BOSNIA

Gen. George Joulwan, NATO's commander in Europe, said in Washington yesterday that 3,000 more troops from the alliance may go to Bosnia. He argued that the additional SFOR soldiers could be necessary to ensure that the September local elections run smoothly, especially in the contested regions of Mostar and Brcko. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, a SFOR spokesman said that Bosnian Gen. Atif Dudakovic threatened Canadian troops over the weekend when they tried to confiscate unauthorized anti-aircraft weapons from the Fifth Corps in the Bihac area.

PLAVSIC SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS WILL NOT START WAR

Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic says the Bosnian Serbs will never start a new war but that their army will preserve peace and, if necessary, defend the Republika Srpska. She noted that the Dayton peace treaty gives the Bosnian Serbs "a high degree of sovereignty." Plavsic was speaking at a parade in Prijedor in which some 2,500 soldiers took part to mark Bosnian Serb army day. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the government of the mainly Croatian and Muslim Federation said it is willing to resettle 50,000 ethnic Serb refugees in the Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Zenica regions, Nasa Borba reports today.

MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SLAMS BELGRADE

Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica yesterday that federal Yugoslav diplomats in Athens are obstructing payment of the Greek credits that he recently negotiated for Montenegro. He accused the diplomats of "shocking behavior" and of working against the republic's interests, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. This development marks a further heightening of tensions between Djukanovic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

SERBIAN MINISTER THREATENS RADIO OVER "LIES"

Borisav Stevanovic, the director of the opposition-run Radio-Television Kragujevac, told AFP on 11 May that his company is "proud to be targeted in an attack by a corrupt and incompetent regime." Serbian Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic said in an interview with Belgrade's Dnevni telegraf the same day that the station will have to "pay for" its repeated warnings to listeners that state- supplied news bulletins are "lies." She added that Radio- Television Serbia "must take control of Radio-Television Kragujevac and bring its management to justice." Milentijevic also said recently that Serbia has no "need for radio like Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, and [Radio] Free Europe." A few months ago, she returned to Serbia after living in the U.S. for decades and has taken charge of media policy in the runup to elections due later this year.

NATO LAUNCHES EXERCISE IN MACEDONIA

Some 1,000 soldiers from nine countries began a five-day NATO- sponsored military exercise in central Macedonia yesterday. Operation Savior simulates a chemical disaster caused by an earthquake. NATO-member participants are Italy, Greece, Turkey, and the U.S.. Soldiers from Albania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Romania, and Macedonia are taking part within NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, all of which are expected to be included in NATO's first wave of eastward expansion, have sent observers. This is the first multinational military exercise to be held in Macedonia.

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT PRAISES ROMANIAN REFORMS

James Wolfensohn says Romania has made "enormous progress" toward economic reform in recent months and notes that there has also been progress in the realm of social protection. He told a press conference yesterday that the situation is "less good" in rural areas, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Wolfensohn announced that the bank will grant Romania loans totaling $625 million, of which $ 330 million will be granted this year. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea emphasized at the press conference that the loans were "considerably larger" than those originally envisaged. Wolfensohn was received by President Emil Constantinescu and by the chairmen of the two chambers of parliament. This was the first visit to Romania by a World Bank president in 20 years.

CLUJ MAYOR LAYS DOWN CONDITIONS FOR HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT

Gheorghe Funar says he will picket a visit planned later this month by Hungarian President Arpad Goencz unless the guest agrees to renounce what Funar says are irredentist claims to Romanian territory, Romanian and Hungarian media report. Funar said Goencz made those claims in a book on Transylvania which he wrote a few years ago. Funar is also objecting to the planned opening of the Hungarian consulate in Cluj during Goencz's visit. Last week, Funar, who was dismissed in March as leader of the Party of Romanian National Unity, wrote to President Emil Constantinescu to protest the visit.

CHISINAU, TRANSDNIESTER DISAGREE ON INTERPRETATION OF MEMORANDUM

President Petru Lucinschi says the 8 May memorandum on normalizing relations with the separatist Transdniester region commits both sides to developing "relations within the framework of a single state." Lucinschi spoke to reporters in Chisinau after his return from Moscow. But separatist leader Igor Smirnov said at a press conference in Tiraspol yesterday that the memorandum recognizes the existence of "two states." Lucinschi demanded the removal of border and custom guard posts along the Dniester River by 1 June and the setting up of joint check points along the Ukrainian border. He said Tiraspol must now allow schools in the region that offer "Moldovan-language" instruction to use the Latin script, BASA-press and Infotag reported yesterday.

MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON RELATIONS WITH ROMANIA

Ion Ciubuc says relations between his country and Romania "go beyond normal ties between neighbors." In an interview with Rompres ahead of his visit to Romania this week, Ciubuc said the two peoples' "common historical origin" transforms their relationship into one of a "special character" with a "spiritual" dimension. Ciubuc also said Romanian President Emil Constantinescu's proposal to set up two "Euroregions" in areas where the Moldovan, Ukrainian, and Romanian borders converge (introduced in the recent Romanian-Ukrainian treaty) is a framework for solving both economic and ethnic-cultural problems.

BULGARIAN ADMINISTRATION TO BE STREAMLINED

Ivan Kostov, the candidate for premier of the coalition United Democratic Forces, says he is determined to cut bureaucracy and make administration efficient. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported yesterday that Kostov said administrative reform will be financed by a $700 million grant from the EU's Phare program. He said streamlining means that government employees can do more work in less time.

BULGARIAN CARETAKER PREMIER QUESTIONS BULGARGAS CLAIMS ABOUT GAS RESERVES

Stefan Sofiyanski says he "seriously doubts" the claims of Bulgargas director Petar Sabaev that the country has enough natural gas reserves for the next 20 years. Stoyanov spoke yesterday in response to a statement by Sabaev one day earlier, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. During a visit to Moscow last month, Stoyanov signed an agreement on imports and pipeline transit of Russian gas through Bulgaria, but the agreement did not specify prices or fees. Sabaev also announced that Bulgargas has started negotiations with the U.S. company ARCO for joint exploitation of reserves in four different locations, which, he said, were "a trade secret."




THE KOSOVO SHADOW STATE AND ITS INVISIBLE PARLIAMENT


by Fabian Schmidt

In late May, the Kosovar shadow-state parliaments term was due to run out, five years after the underground vote that elected it. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova recently extended the parliament's mandate by decree and said new elections will be held by 24 December. His Western backers, however, would prefer that the Kosovars give up the shadow state completely and return to Serbian political life.

The parliament, which came to power on 24 May 1992 in elections considered illegal by Belgrade, has never convened. Police blocked the one attempt to hold an opening session of the legislature, which took place soon after the vote. Since then, deputies have repeatedly met in small groups and Kosovar political parties have sought to maintain a consensus among themselves by setting up a multi-party coordination council. But Rugovas Democratic League of Kosovo has used the council to dominate the shadow-states political life. And the shadow state, for its part, has repeatedly failed to pump life into its legislature.

Owing to the deadlock between Pristina and Belgrade, opposition parties within Kosovo have stepped up pressure to give the underground legislators more responsibility. They argue that the inability of the shadow state to form internal democratic structures and debate its strategy contributes to its political failure. Adem Demaci, leader of the opposition Parliamentary Party and a leading human rights activist, has gained the support of 57 deputies to demand that the parliament finally meet. But the backing of at least 66 out of a total of 130 legislators is needed for that move, and it is unlikely that Rugova and his party will support Demaci in this initiative. Rugova, in fact, has made clear that the legislators will continue to meet in committees only.

Previously, Demaci had said he would run against Rugova but at the same time had expressed doubts about holding new elections. The independent Pristina weekly Koha quoted him as asking rhetorically at a press conference in late April: "Who would organize [new elections] and who would have the moral right to hold [them]?" He added that the people would become the victim of our political games if such a vote were held.

The shadow state is now faced with a growing dilemma. On the one hand, it has presented itself over the past five years as the legitimate, democratically elected representative of Kosovos population. But at the same time, it has failed to inject life into its most fundamental democratic institution. Furthermore, the exile government of Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi has been convening since 1990 but has no accountability to the legislature. That government was appointed by deputies of the former communist-era parliament and has since financed the shadow-states underground education and health systems by collecting taxes from Kosovars working abroad. However, it has had little influence on Rugova's policies and has been constantly plagued by turf wars.

At the same time, the West is increasingly pressuring the Kosovars to recognize that they do not enjoy international support in their desire for independence from Serbia and to tailor their policies accordingly. At a meeting with Rugova last week, Richard Miles, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade, made clear that the U.S. does not support new underground elections. Rugovas decision to postpone the ballot again for half a year may have been prompted by Miless admonitions, but Rugova may also have opted for a December vote because he believed it was impossible to organize an underground election sooner.

Whatever the case, all countries concerned, including Albania, have accepted that a solution must be found within the framework of a democratic Serbia and through peaceful negotiations. Observers argue that the Kosovars need to launch a discussion about their political goals and how to achieve them. They also say that, like the Serbs, the Kosovars need to develop democratic institutions through which they can debate difficult and controversial issues. With or without new elections, the underground parliament could become such a forum.


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