Accessibility links

Newsline - June 17, 1997


Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev submitted several draft laws on reforming the social benefits system to the State Duma on 17 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The proposals would reduce benefits to workers in law-enforcement agencies, who are currently entitled to free public transport and subsidies for housing and utilities. Sysuev said the measures would allow scarce resources to be reallocated to poor families and would save Russia 30 trillion rubles ($5.2 billion) annually. He noted that some 200 categories of citizens are currently entitled to social support and that the cost of those benefits has risen from 25.7 trillion rubles in 1992 to 45 trillion rubles this year. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who also supports a means-tested system for social benefits, recently pointed out that even he receives housing subsidies because his father fought in World War II.


Sysuev said the government is also requesting amendments to the law on the status of State Duma deputies, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 June. One proposed change would limit deputies to 12 state-funded trips to the districts they represent per calendar year. The government also wants to revoke the right of deputies' assistants to free travel on inter-city trains or buses. Some Duma deputies have dozens or hundreds of staff workers. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is said to have more than 200 assistants.


A conciliatory commission of representatives from the government and both houses of parliament met on 16 June to discuss proposed cuts in 1997 budget spending, but there are conflicting reports on whether progress was made at the meeting. First Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin of Our Home Is Russia told Interfax that the two sides are close to reaching a compromise that would call for spending cuts of some 34 trillion rubles ($5.9 billion) this year. The government originally requested 108 trillion rubles in spending reductions. However, ITAR-TASS quoted First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov as saying that there was "no movement forward" at the conciliatory commission meeting. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov of Yabloko also said no compromise was reached. The commission is scheduled to submit its recommendations to the Duma by 18 June.


Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 16 June that he expects the Duma to approve a new tax code this year, perhaps as early as September. However, Reuters reported that on 16 June the Duma's Budget Committee issued a non-binding recommendation asking deputies to reject the draft code in favor of less sweeping measures to change the tax system. The Duma is scheduled to consider the code in the first reading on 19 June. Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov of the Russian Regions faction told Interfax on 14 June that there is a "good chance" that the parliament will approve the code in time for it to come into effect in January 1998. However, Zhukov called on government officials to be less "stubborn" and more willing to compromise on the code's provisions.


Representatives from the government and the Communist-led opposition have vehemently denied a report by the AiF-Novosti news agency saying government and opposition leaders have struck a secret deal, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 16 June. The report alleged that following secret negotiations, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov, head of the Popular Power faction, agreed that the Duma will approve the new tax code, spending cuts, and reforms of the social benefits system. In return, government representatives allegedly promised that wage and pension arrears would be paid, Yeltsin would not dissolve the Duma, Russia's electoral system would not be changed, and Vladimir Lenin's body would not be removed from the mausoleum on Red Square. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist, called the report "disinformation."


Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 16 June that Russia will proceed with the sale of S-300 air defense missiles to Greek-controlled Cyprus, despite Turkish and Western objections, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. He said Moscow will consider canceling the deal only if Cyprus is demilitarized. Primakov was speaking to journalists in Moscow following a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart, Yiannakis Cassoulidis. The deal, agreed in January, was immediately criticized by Turkey, the U.S., and Britain. Russian officials rejected that criticism as an attempt to squeeze Russia out of the world arms market.


Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov signed decrees on 15 June ordering that the Borz [Wolf] regiment and the General Dudaev army, headed by maverick field commander Salman Raduev, be disbanded, Russian media reported. Members of those formations will be offered the opportunity to serve in the Chechen National Guard. A spokesman for Raduev told NTV, however, that the army's 4,500 men would execute Raduev if he tried to comply with Maskhadov's decree. On 16 June, Maskhadov mobilized 3,000 police in operation called "Shield of Law and Order," which succeeded in securing the release of six hostages but not that of the five kidnapped Russian journalists


Yeltsin says the Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly lacks the authority to adopt the music of the former Soviet national anthem as the hymn of the Russian-Belarusian union, Russian news agencies reported on 16 June. The parliamentary assembly voted to adopt the anthem's music at a recent meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). According to a statement released by the presidential press service, Yeltsin said endorsing a hymn for the union would require his approval. Also on 16 June, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Sochi, where both are vacationing. No details were released about their meeting.


During a meeting with First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, Yeltsin said he supports holding early gubernatorial elections in Primorskii Krai, Russian news agencies reported on 16 June. Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko easily won election in December 1995 and has expressed confidence that he would be re-elected if early elections were called. Nemtsov, who recently visited Primore, was asked during a 15 June interview with Russian TV how federal authorities would respond if Nazdratenko won a new election. Nemtsov replied that the government would respect the will of the people and work with whoever won the race. In a 17 June interview with "Sovetskaya Rossiya," Communist Party leader Zyuganov slammed the authorities for using Nazdratenko as an example in order to frighten "inconvenient" governors, although he said he was not defending Nazdratenko personally.


Communist Party leader Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhirinovsky are campaigning in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast on behalf of Communist State Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev, who is contesting the 29 June gubernatorial election, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 16 June. Khodyrev is the closest challenger to Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Ivan Sklyarov in the battle to succeed Boris Nemtsov. During the Soviet period, Khodyrev was first secretary of the oblast party committee. In an interview published in the 17 June "Sovetskaya Rossiya," Zyuganov explained that success in the Nizhnii Novgorod election is "important for us on principle." He noted that the Russian media have hailed Nemtsov and the reforms he implemented in the oblast and that foreign leaders, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, have visited Nizhnii Novgorod.


Many Russian journalists are worried by the fate of the state-funded magazine "Rossiiskaya Federatsiya," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 June. The government recently announced plans to cease publication of the magazine, citing budgetary constraints (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said the conflict between the magazine and the government was sparked by an article published in the monthly's March issue. That article criticized the IMF and said the public is dissatisfied with current economic policies. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais reportedly asked the magazine's editor, Yurii Khrenov, to resign. When Khrenov refused, Chubais, who is also finance minister, allegedly instructed the Finance Ministry to audit the magazine. The Glasnost Defense Foundation, a watchdog group, recently issued a statement charging that Chubais is trying to suppress media outlets that criticize the government.


Criminal charges have officially been filed against Admiral Igor Khmelnov, former chief of staff of the Russian Navy, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 June. Maj.-Gen. Valerii Suchkov, the military procurator of the Pacific Fleet, said Khmelnov is charged with abusing his authority. Suchkov has said that beginning in August 1994, when Khmelnov was commander of the Pacific Fleet, two aircraft carriers were sold to South Korea, and the $9 million in proceeds were used to build new housing for officers in Khmelnov's entourage. Proceeds from the sale of another 64 warships to India and South Korea were also allegedly used to build housing for favored officers. Khmelnov was sacked by presidential decree in April. Former Deputy Defense Minister Konstantin Kobets was arrested the following month and charged with corruption, abuse of office, and illegal possession of firearms


Azerbaijani State Adviser Vafa Guluzade has summarized the draft peace plan that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group submitted to the leaderships of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in late May, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 June, quoting Azerbaijani media. The plan gives Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous status within Azerbaijan and the right to its own constitution but stipulates the downsizing of the Karabakh armed forces. It calls for the withdrawal of Karabakh Armenian forces from five raions in Azerbaijan, the town of Shusha, and the Lachin corridor, which would be leased and policed by the OSCE. In addition, Nagorno-Karabakh would be granted the status of a free economic zone. Interfax reported on 16 June that the Minsk Group co-chairmen may submit a report on Karabakh to the G-7 summit in Denver.


In his weekly radio address, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 16 June that the ongoing talks in Moscow between Russian, Abkhaz, and Georgian representatives are no longer at a "standstill" and that his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, is "seeking compromise solutions," Interfax reported. Shevardnadze reaffirmed his readiness to meet personally with Ardzinba. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 June similarly quoted Russian Foreign Ministry special envoy Gennadii Ilichev as saying a "certain" progress has been made. Russia rejects the Abkhaz argument that economic difficulties preclude the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgians who fled the region in 1992-3. But it supports the Abkhaz refusal to condone the deployment of CIS peacekeepers throughout Gali Raion to which the Georgians wish to return.


Babken Ararktsyan resumed his duties as parliamentary speaker on 16 June after lengthy discussions with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, Armenian agencies reported. On 11 June, Ararktsyan had offered his resignation to protest the rejection of a draft law he had proposed that would allow students to continue to defer conscription (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997). The parliament, however, voted not to accept his resignation. Discussion of an alternative draft law, which abolishes the deferment provision, is to be postponed until the fall. If adopted, that bill will take effect only in 1998. Eduard Yegoryan, the chairman of the parliamentary Commission on State and Legal Affairs, condemned the mentality whereby the "first thought that comes to parents when a son is born is how to exempt him from military service," Noyan Tapan reported.


Representatives of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company [AIOC] told journalists in Baku that the choice of the export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil will be decided on economic rather than political grounds, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 June. AIOC vice president Gregory Rich said the Baku-Ceyhan route favored by Turkey is the most expensive and would be economically disadvantageous to Azerbaijan. He added that the export of Azerbaijan's oil via Ukraine, although technically feasible, may be economically disadvantageous since the AIOC plans to sell the oil in question to southern European countries. Rich said he doubted that either Turkey or Ukraine could afford to pay world prices for Azerbaijan's oil for domestic consumption. On 13 June, Azerbaijan's parliament ratified an agreement between the state oil company SOCAR and a consortium of European and Iranian companies to develop the Lenkoran-Deniz and Talysh-Deniz deposits, Interfax reported.


Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, told "ASIA PLUS" that units from his brigade moved from their base in Kurgan-Teppe to the Yavon district as part of military maneuvers scheduled to finish on 18 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). Khudaberdiyev denied he would seek to prevent fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) from returning to Kurgan-Teppe following the signing of the Peace and National Accord Treaty on 27 June in Moscow. But he added that they must be disarmed when they arrive, saying he would not tolerate people who would "destabilize" the area. Khudaberdiyev also noted there are 48,000 refugees in Kurgan-Teppe and that all of them have been given jobs.


President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Dyusenbay Duysenov as minister of energy and natural resources, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty. Duysenov replaces Viktor Khrapunov, who now becomes mayor of Almaty. Shalbay Kulmakhanov, until now mayor of Almaty, becomes the head of the State Committee for Emergency Situations, replacing Nikolai Makiyevskii.


The Belgian company Tractabel has been awarded a 15-year concession for natural gas transport networks in western and southern Kazakstan, Interfax reported on 16 June. Tractabel will pay Kazakstan $30 million for the network and will invest $600 into it. Tariffs and transportation rates will be set by Kazakstan's anti-monopoly committee. Last year, Tractabel was awarded a contract to develop a power grid for Almaty.


Some 500 miners in the northern Karaganda region held a one-hour rally on 16 June to protest the country's pension system, according to RFE/RL corespondents and ITAR-TASS. They also drew up a petition to President Nazarbayev asking him to reconsider changes made to that system last year, when the eligible age to receive pensions was raised from 60 to 63 for men and 55 to 58 for women. The miners point out that the career expectancy of a miner is 20-25 years.


Pavlo Lazarenko has signed several major agreements with the Canadian International Development Agency, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 16 June. Under one of those accords, the Canadian government will grant Ukraine $500,000 Canadian dollars for legislative reform. Another agreement provides for a grant of C$3.5 million for Kyiv's Technical Assistance Program Advisery Fund. Air Canada has announced it will schedule direct flights to Ukraine in the near future, while the Trans-Canada Pipeline Co. Ltd. of Calgary is to help expand and improve the existing oil pipeline network in Ukraine. Lazarenko also concluded an agreement worth C$150 million with Northland Power of Toronto to modernize the Darnytsia power plant in Kyiv. In addition, Commercial Alcohols of Ontario has agreed to conclude within the next few days a C$150 million deal on constructing a fuel-ethanol plant in Ukraine that would run on corn.


Miners in 50 mines in the Donbas area, in eastern Ukraine, went on strike on 16 June to protest delays in wage payments, ITAR-TASS reported. The total amount of unpaid wages has reached $800 million. A majority of Ukraine's 250 coal mines are reported to be on the brink of collapse. A committee representing the miners announced a general strike in the coal industry for 1 July.


NATO-led maritime exercises began in the Baltic Sea on 16 June. Some 50 warships from 13 NATO and Partnership For Peace countries are participating, including a Russian destroyer based in Kaliningrad. Naval forces from the U.S, the Baltic States, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden are also taking part. The U.S. Defense Department says the exercises, codenamed "Baltops 97" and scheduled to last for 12 days, will focus on training for maritime disasters, coastal surveillance, and air and mine warfare.


Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius has criticized his Estonian counterpart, Mart Siimann, for allegedly arguing that EU membership will also be decided in terms of geopolitical situation, BNS reported on 16 June. Vagnorius said this position was "unacceptable" to Lithuania, adding that EU membership must be assessed on the basis of "objective" rather than "geopolitical" criteria. Siimann, however, denies having made that comment, according to RFE/RL's Estonian Service. At their recent summit in Tallinn, the Baltic premiers failed to issue a joint declaration on joining the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). Latvia and Estonia were reportedly in favor of a statement saying that even if only one Baltic country were admitted, the other two would still benefit from its membership. But Lithuania had wanted the declaration to stress that the Baltic States favor entering the EU together.


Vytautas Landsbergis noted at a 16 June press conference that developing closer ties to Chechnya was more important than recognizing the breakaway republic's independence. He promised that the Lithuanian parliament will further help Chechnya's legislature develop relations with other countries and will call on the Lithuanian government to increase ties to its Chechen counterpart. A Chechen parliamentary delegation currently touring the Baltic States had appealed to Lithuania to recognize Chechnya's independence. Meanwhile, Estonian Premier Siimann has said the Chechen parliamentarians cannot be issued entry visas, since Estonia does not recognize their passports or former Soviet internal passports. The government is expected to make a decision on the issue at its 17 June session.


President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 16 June ratified the European Social Charter, Polish media reported. Poland has thus become the first East European country to adopt the charter. The document lists basic economic and social rights of citizens, such as just reward for work, the right to collective bargaining, the right of employees to organize, and the right to social security. A presidential spokesman told journalists that Poland signed the charter in 1991 but needed six years to adjust its laws to European standards. The charter was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1961 and has so far been ratified by 20 European states.


The Central Statistics Office announced on 16 June that prices of goods and services in Poland rose by 0.6% in May from April, compared with monthly increases of 1% in April and 0.8 percent in March. It also reported that annual inflation is up 14.6 percent over May 1996. Food products increased by 0.6% in May from April, the announcement said, while manufactured goods were up by 0.8% and services 0.6%. Government forecasts put inflation this year at 13%, compared with 18.5% in 1996.


An opinion poll by the Prague-based Institute for Public Opinion Research, which was published in the Czech media on 17 June, indicates that the public's trust in the government of Vaclav Klaus has dropped sharply. Only 22% of the poll's respondents said they trust the government, while 74% said they do not. In a May poll, 35% of respondents trusted the executive, while 61% did not. Only 29% of respondents said they have confidence in Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus--a drop of 13% in comparison with May. President Vaclav Havel remains the most trusted politician in the country. He received the support of 68% of the respondents--up three percentage points on May.


In an interview published in the 16 June issue of the Hungarian daily "Magyar Hirlap," Slovak President Michal Kovac said the situation in Slovakia is very serious. He noted that the economic growth of the past several years has stopped and that it is increasingly difficult to attract Western investors. Kovac argued that this is mainly due to political discord and social tensions. Kovac admitted there are big differences between himself and Premier Vladimir Meciar but said that he alone could not resolve this situation. He also argued that he can fulfill his role only if the government gives him the necessary powers. "However, Vladimir Meciar would not give them to me or is unable to do so, since he does not consider me an equal partner. My work resembles a struggle against windmills," Kovac said.


Herbert Boesch, the co-chairman of the EU-Slovak parliamentary committee, said on 16 June that the "present situation does not indicate that Slovakia will be invited to talks on EU expansion." Boesch, who was speaking at the beginning of the committee's three-day meeting in Bratislava, said that "despite economic achievements, it is very difficult to imagine a positive verdict right now," adding that the view that Slovakia was not ready to join the EU was gaining ground. Boesch also called on the Slovak government to abide by the criteria for EU membership. Meanwhile, Slovak parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said Slovakia is ready to fulfill the conditions for membership. He conceded that there is political tension but argued "this is typical of any country before elections." Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 1998.


Police on 16 June defused a time-bomb placed on the window sill of a Budapest district office of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), Hungarian media reported. The home-made bomb was rendered inactive an hour before it was set to explode, after an anonymous caller alerted a neighbor. Police say the incident was the fourth bomb attempt this year against offices of the two parties belonging to the government coalition. In March, a bomb, together with a letter and a Hungarian national flag, was left at another SZDSZ district office but was defused. Police suspect that national extremist groups were behind both this and the 16 June attempts.


Unidentified assailants attacked Socialist Party Secretary-General Rexhep Mejdani as he was on his way to attend a rally in Puke on 16 June, "Dita Informacion" reported. Some 30 attackers ambushed Mejdani at Qafe e Celes in northern Albania with machine-guns and grenades. Mejdani, who had an escort of special police forces, was not injured, even though five bullets hit his car. The rally in Puke was canceled. Mejdani described the incident as an "act of political terrorism."


Family members say that Greta Grabova, the sister-in-law of Vlora's Democratic Party leader Argent Grabova, was killed in crossfire in a gang fight on 14 June, not in political violence as earlier reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1997). They said that the media misrepresented the incident, and local police chief Haxhi Demiri agreed, "Indipendent" reported. One other person was killed and six injured in the shoot-out. Meanwhile, the local salvation committee was quoted by "Indipendent" as having declared on 16 June that President Sali Berisha would be "shot at with all available arms, if he comes to Vlora."


Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spokesman Mark Smith told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 17 June that the multinational body is aware that "there will be irregularities" during the elections on 29 June. He also said the OSCE is not going to announce any findings of its monitoring mission before the final report goes to the European Parliament. According to Smith, there will be between 400 and 450 OSCE observers. They will be protected by multinational forces when traveling to areas outside Tirana. But U.S. experts from the National Democratic Institute said in Tirana on 16 June that there is such chaos in Albanian that the vote may have to be postponed in some areas. One U.S. diplomat agreed, calling Albania "a third-world country having a melt-down."


" OSCE monitoring chief Paul Simon, a former U.S. senator, charged in his official report in Zagreb on 16 June that the presidential vote the previous day was "fundamentally flawed." Simon said that incumbent Franjo Tudjman, who easily won the election , enjoyed unfair advantages over his opponents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1997). He singled out the state-run electronic media for having displayed particular bias in Tudjman's favor. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed similar views in Washington, noting that the opposition did not have a fair chance to get its message across to the voters. Albright added that the flawed election will not help Croatia's case for a $30 million World Bank loan due to be decided in June.


Representatives of the World Bank said in Sarajevo on 16 June that the bank will approve no more aid projects for Bosnia if the republic does not pay $8 million to the bank within 45 days. The bank will drop all contact with Bosnia if the $8 million, which is part of Bosnia's $620 million share of the old Yugoslav debt, is not paid within 60 days. The mainly Muslim-Croatian federation has agreed to pay its share, but the Serbs say they have no money, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Also in Sarajevo, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said that NATO forces should stay on beyond June 1998 in order to ensure peace. And in Berlin, a similar message came from Michael Steiner, the outgoing international deputy high representative for Bosnia.


The steering committee of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL) endorsed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for the federal Yugoslav presidency in Belgrade on 16 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the capital. The leaders of JUL said that Milosevic's candidacy "is an expression of the citizens' broadest consensus and trust." The committee also backed Milosevic's call for the federal president to be elected directly. JUL consists mainly of elderly hard-line communists and is headed by Mirjana Markovic, who is also Milosevic's wife. The president is currently elected by the parliament, in which increasingly independent-minded Montenegro has a strong voice. In a direct one-man, one-vote election, Serbs would outnumber Montenegrins 10 to one.


The opposition Popular Concord coalition introduced a motion in the parliament in Podgorica on 16 June to oppose Milosevic's plans to elect the federal president directly. The draft resolution said the proposed constitutional changes would destroy the equal status of Serbia and Montenegro under law. The text added that Milosevic's candidacy is detrimental to political and economic reform in federal Yugoslavia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. In another development, deputies from the governing Socialists agreed that editors in the state-run media are responsible only to the administrative bodies of their own organizations. There had been calls from the Socialists and Popular Concord for the parliament to sack top officials at state-run TV.


A miners' delegation failed to reach agreement with representatives of the government in talks in Bucharest on 16 June, Radio Bucharest reported. The miners are demanding that Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara come to the valley for further negotiations. Vlad Rosca, who is in charge of relations with the trade unions, said agreement was reached on nearly all demands made by the miners but that the government cannot agree to increase wages by 45%. He also said the executive cannot interfere with the judicial procedure and release miners' leader Miron Cozma from detention. Meanwhile, unrest has spread to other mining areas. Miners in the Filipestii de Padure mining area near Ploiesti joined the sanctions and roads were blocked in several counties.


Adrian Severin, on a two-day visit to Israel, told his Israeli counterpart, David Levy, that Romania is willing to host Israeli-Syrian peace talks, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 16 June. Israeli diplomatic sources said Jerusalem views the initiative positively . Severin also asked Israel to back Romania's bid for NATO admission in the first wave, according to the same sources. Israeli officials said they back Romania's candidacy and consider the country to be a "factor of stability in the Balkans." The previous day, Severin and Levy signed an accord on avoiding double taxation. Severin also met with Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, President Ezer Weitzman, and opposition leaders Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres. On the last day of his visit, he held talks in Bethlehem with Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority.


Addressing the congress of the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) on 14 June, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc called on PDAM parliamentary deputies to rally behind the government's reform program, Infotag reported on 16 June. He said the program cannot work if those who should be personally responsible for its success do not take responsibility for the program. PDAM leader Dumitru Motpan, however, stressed that the party cannot agree to the law on agrarian reform proposed by the executive. He said the PDAM was not opposed in principle to making land purchasable but that it wants the peasantry to be transformed into "genuine land owners" and will not allow "land concentration in the hands of financial tycoons." Motpan also insisted that the PDAM must continue defending "Moldovanism" as a definition of national identity, BASA-Press reported on 16 June.


Valeriu Matei, the chairman of the opposition Party of Democratic Forces, says he is in favor of establishing an alliance of right-wing forces before the parliamentary elections but that the step should be made only after careful preparations. Matei told Infotag on 16 June that "there is no need to hurry" when the precise date of the elections, due to be held in 1998, is not yet known. He said that "haste may lead to the formation of a shaky, non-lasting alliance." Earlier, former President Mircea Snegur called for setting up a coalition of right-wing parties on 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1997), a call endorsed also by Popular Christian Democratic Front leader Iurie Rosca. An RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau said that the leaders of the other right-wing parties consider Matei's position to be a "subtle attempt" to postpone setting up the coalition.


Responding to an appeal by Nadezhda Mihailova to publicly name the countries that might be invited to join NATO in a second wave of enlargement, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it is "not the inclination" of the administration to do so. The two leaders spoke at a press conference on 16 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Mihailova said her country's "immediate national interest" is to join NATO. Later, U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the administration believes a prudent approach is required, adding that the progress recently made by Sofia "is very important and a good sign about the direction in which Bulgaria is going."


Petar Stoyanov said at the beginning of a three-day visit to Kuwait that his country has opened its doors to foreign investors, the official Kuwaiti KUNA agency reported on 16 June. He invited Kuwaiti and Gulf investors to avail themselves of the opportunity to invest in Bulgaria. Stoyanov held talks with Emir Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah and with interim Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, AFP reported.


Martin Bangemann, the EU commissioner for industrial affairs, information technologies, and telecommunications, has met with members of the parliamentary Committee for Foreign and Integration Policies to discuss steps aimed at accelerating Bulgaria's integration into the EU, BTA reported on 16 June. Committee chairman Assen Agov said they also discussed possible Bulgarian-EU projects related to infrastructure development.


by Paul Goble

Washington's decision to support invitations for only three countries in the first round of NATO expansion is almost certainly definitive. But European support for inviting as many as five new members at the July summit in Madrid may provide an opportunity for some countries not included in either plan to receive a public timetable for their inclusion in future rounds of expansion. That possibility is likely to drive much of the diplomatic activity in Eastern Europe over the next few weeks.

On 12 June, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued a statement indicating that Washington would support issuing invitations to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the first round of expansion of the Western alliance. Clinton's statement came in the week of suggestions by nine European NATO members that Slovenia and Romania should also be invited now. It appears to have ended the discussion, even though it clearly angered many Europeans both inside and outside the alliance.

The following day, Neris Germanas, the foreign policy adviser to Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas, told journalists that the U.S. declaration, while likely definitive, is not an end to the matter. Germanas suggested that the differences between the U.S. and some of its NATO allies on whether the number of new members should be three or five might give Lithuania, its Baltic neighbors and other East European states a chance to extract a promise for the future. What Vilnius is looking for, he went on to suggest, is a commitment by the alliance to include the Baltic countries as members in the second or, at worst, third round.

Germanas' suggestion is nothing new. During the past two years, Lithuanian officials have urged the Western alliance to identify all the countries that will be invited eventually and then indicate when any particular one will be included. Such a strategy--called by some the "first who, then when" approach--would give a kind of surrogate security to countries not included in an early round and would prevent the emergence of an insecure gray zone between the alliance and Russia.

What makes the Lithuanian suggestion especially interesting is that Vilnius has been very much opposed to the proposals of some European countries to take in five, as opposed to three. Like some Europeans and many Americans, Lithuanians have been very frank in expressing their view that inviting five new members now would almost certainly delay a second round, if not rule out any possibility of future growth altogether. That is because many in the West would see such a step as somehow final owing to the reactions it would produce both at home and in Russia and owing to the difficulties and expense current members would face in absorbing five rather than three.

Germanas's comment indicates that the Lithuanian government is clearly calculating that differences between Washington and some of its European allies open the door to negotiations. Vilnius is thus likely to step up its campaign for a declaration that a second round will take place at a precisely defined time and that the alliance is prepared to declare that Lithuania will be invited to join at that time.

Whether that strategy will work or whether the Lithuanians are taking this step because they do not know what else to do remains to be seen. But their approach means that the 12 June U.S declaration may be the last word on the first round of NATO expansion. But it almost certainly will not be the last one on the question of the future growth of the Western defense alliance.