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Newsline - June 27, 1997




CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH CHINESE LEADERS

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, met in Beijing on 27 June to discuss bilateral relations and sign several agreements. The most important of those agreements was on Siberian oil and gas deliveries to China. Other accords dealt with the construction of factories in China with Russian assistance, boosting bilateral trade, and the opening of a Russian consulate in Hong Kong. Chernomyrdin also met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The unexpected arrival of Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii to Beijing on 26 June has still not been explained.

YELTSIN TO VISIT CHINA THIS YEAR

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin said in Beijing on 26 June that President Boris Yeltsin is planning to visit China before the end of 1997, according to Russian media. Karasin said Prime Ministers Chernomyrdin and Li Peng would discuss dates for the visit during their meetings in the Chinese capital.

RUSSIAN WARSHIP CALLS AT JAPANESE PORT

For the first time in 103 years, a Russian warship has docked in a Japanese port, Russian and Japanese media reported on 27 June. The destroyer "Admiral Vinogradov" will remain in a Tokyo harbor for three days. Also on 27 June, an agreement was reached to begin trans-Siberian flights between European cities and Japan. Both developments are seen as further signs of improving relations between Russia and Japan. However, the 26 June incident in which two Japanese fishermen were injured by gun fire from a Russian border guard patrol boat has elicited criticism from both countries. The Japanese questioned the necessity of firing upon a fishing vessel, while the Russians argued that the Japanese government should take more precautions to ensure that fishermen cannot by-pass Japanese patrol boats and illegally enter Russian waters.

CHECHNYA CANCELS CUSTOMS AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA

The Chechen leadership has annulled the 14 June customs agreement with Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 June. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told Interfax that President Aslan Maskhadov telephoned Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to inform him of the decision. Among other things, the agreement bestowed international status on Grozny airport. Udugov said the agreement had been cancelled because Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin had not yet signed it. Rybkin told NTV that the Chechen move should not be regarded as "a tragedy" and that a new Russian-Chechen customs agreement is being drafted and will be signed soon.

ASTRONAUT QUOTED AS SAYING SITUATION ON "MIR" STABILIZED

A spokeswoman for Russian Mission Control on 27 June quoted Vasilii Tsibliev, the commander of the orbiting space station "Mir," as saying that the situation on "Mir" had "stabilized" following a 25 June collision with a cargo craft, Reuters reported. Air pressure on the station is said to be normal, although the temperature and humidity is somewhat higher than normal. According to AFP, the station still has only 30%-50% of the electricity required for normal functioning. Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev said a shuttle with relief supplies will be sent to "Mir" on 4 or 5 July.

YELTSIN ADDRESSES PENSIONERS

In a 27 June nationwide radio address, Yeltsin said the government has made a "titanic" effort to pay pension arrears, transferring more than 17 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) to the Pension Fund since February. Yeltsin vowed to punish regional leaders "mercilessly" if they try to "solve their local problems by using the pension funds" rather than distributing the money to pensioners. He also criticized the State Duma for rejecting a package of social benefits reductions, which he said are needed to ensure that the government will have the means to pay pensions on time in the future. Duma deputies were afraid to accept responsibility for "painful, but vitally important measures," Yeltsin argued. In addition, the president promised that pension payments would gradually be increased. Yeltsin recently issued a decree on raising some pension payments as of January 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 18 June 1997).

OFFICIAL SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL GET TOUGHER ON DEBTORS TO PENSION FUND

Pension Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk says the government is working out a "whole gamut" of "tough" methods to recover payments owed to the Pension Fund, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June. He said that during the second half of 1997, the government will not allow any organizations to be exempt from such payments. Barchuk noted that the fund is currently owed 70 trillion rubles ($12 billion). Of that sum, state-funded organizations owe some 8 trillion rubles, the Railroads Ministry 3 trillion rubles, and the electricity giant Unified Energy System 1.9 trillion. Barchuk confirmed that the gas monopoly Gazprom has paid its debts to the fund. Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Livshits told journalists on 26 June that the government was able to pay pension arrears largely because of payments this month from Gazprom, Interfax reported.

DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS APPEAL BY ROKHLIN

Igor Sergeev has denounced the hard-hitting appeal issued recently by State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin as "completely unacceptable." Rokhlin sharply criticized Yeltsin's leadership and said the armed forces are on the verge of ruin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). In an interview published in the official military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" on 27 June, Sergeev said Rokhlin violated Russian laws aimed at preventing "political agitation" in the armed forces and compared the appeal to Bolshevik agitation in the Russian army in 1917. On 26 June, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin had also criticized Rokhlin's statement as "unacceptable," and Duma deputy Sergei Belyaev, leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction, had said his group does not agree with Rokhlin's views, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko distanced himself from Rokhlin's appeal.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY POSTPONES ELECTION OF RUSSIAN DEPUTY CHAIRMAN

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has postponed the election of a deputy chairman of the assembly from Russia until January 1998 and has urged the Russian delegation to agree on a single candidate for the post, Russian news agencies reported on 26 June. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lukin was deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's assembly until his term expired in January 1997. The Russian delegation has proposed three candidates to replace Lukin: Duma deputy Aleksandr Dzasokhov of the Popular Power faction (supported by the Communists and their allies), human rights defender and Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev (supported by Yabloko), and Federation Council Deputy Chairman Vasilii Likhachev (supported by members of the upper house of the Russian parliament). Likhachev also chairs the Republic of Tatarstan's legislature.

DUMA TO MONITOR IMPLEMENTATION OF RUSSIA-CIS AGREEMENTS?

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev advocates tasking the Duma with monitoring the implementation of agreements and treaties signed by Russia and other CIS member states, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 June. Seleznev said that in September, the Duma will set up special groups on relations with other CIS parliaments that will draw up the requisite monitoring procedures.

POLL ON RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION

According to a poll conducted in Russia in May by the respected Public Opinion Foundation, 75% of Russians view the Russia-Belarus union as the first step toward the restoration of the USSR, Interfax reported on 26 June. Asked which other former Soviet republics they would like to see accede to that union, 64% of the 1,500 respondents named Ukraine, 40% Kazakstan, and 14 % Moldova. Georgia and Uzbekistan each received 8%, Latvia and Lithuania 5%, Tajikistan and Armenia 4%, Estonia and Kyrgyzstan 3%, and Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan 2%.

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE MOSCOW AUTHORITIES

Prominent human rights defenders, including Yelena Bonner and Sergei Kovalev, say that the Moscow city authorities are stepping up their campaign against minority ethnic groups in preparation for the city's 850th anniversary celebrations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 26 June. In a message to Yeltsin, the activists charged that refugees from the Caucasus region are being illegally evicted from their housing, even though they have lived in the Moscow area for years and are legally entitled to Russian citizenship. Furthermore, the activists charge that the refugees routinely suffer police harassment and brutality: "[The police] don't know how to catch criminals, so they catch dark-haired people." The activists urged Yeltsin to instruct Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to curb the abuses. However, Yeltsin has not responded to the appeal, and the activists say they have been refused a meeting with presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev.

KORZHAKOV DENOUNCES YELTSIN

Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov, longtime head of the Presidential Security Service, told the British newspaper "The Guardian" on 27 June that Yeltsin is a "helpless, quivering old man" who is more interested in protecting his "family clan" than in serving Russia. Korzhakov said this clan includes Security Council Deputy Secretary Berezovskii and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and is "leading the country over the edge." He also claimed that Yeltsin attempted to commit suicide several times before suffering his first heart attack in July 1995. Korzhakov was sacked as top presidential bodyguard in June 1996, shortly after the first round of the presidential election. He recently lost a Supreme Court appeal against an October 1996 presidential decree whereby he was stripped of his military rank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 1997).

SLIGHT DECLINE IN FOREIGN TRADE

Russia's foreign trade turnover in the first five months of this year decreased by 1%, compared with the same period for 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June, citing preliminary figures released by the State Statistics Committee. The total volume of foreign trade was $62.4 billion. Exports fell by 0.1% to $35 billion and imports by 2% to $27.4 billion. Trade with other CIS member states fell by 10% to $14.6 billion, primarily because of the 18 % decline in Russian imports from the CIS. Russian trade with other foreign countries grew by 2% to $47.8 billion.

NEW FIGURES ON INCOME RELEASED

From January to May 1997, the monthly income of an estimated 31.5 million people fell below the subsistence level, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 June, citing figures released by the State Statistics Committee. That figure is down 9.7% from the number of people earning less than the subsistence level during the same period in 1996. The committee calculated the monthly subsistence level for January-May 1997 at 407,000 rubles ($70). During the first five months of 1997, the wealthiest 10% of the population as a group earned an estimated 32.3% of total income in Russia, while the poorest 10% earned about 2.6% of total income.

JOURNALISTS' ACCESS TO RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE RESTRICTED

Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Andreev, the commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus, has issued a directive requiring both Russian and Georgian journalists to apply in advance to the Russian defense minister or the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff for permission to visit units of the group, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 27 June. The same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published further details of clandestine Russian arms shipments to Armenia via Georgia between September 1994 and February 1996, based on directives from the Russian Armed Forces General Staff.




TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED...

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri signed the Peace and National Reconciliation Accord in Moscow on 27 June in the presence of representatives from observer nations and organizations, RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow reported. Russian President Yeltsin, who also attended the signing ceremony, said the accord was a "bright, memorable page" in Tajik history. In addition to officially ending the five-year conflict, the accord provides for the return of opposition supporters and refugees to Tajikistan, legalizes the political parties that make up the UTO, and calls for the integration of the armed forces of both the government and UTO. It also grants the UTO 30% of government posts and establishes a 26-member reconciliation commission made up of an equal number of representatives of the current government and the UTO.

...FOLLOWING ELEVENTH-HOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Shortly before the agreement was signed, chief UTO negotiator Ali Akbar Turajonzoda threatened the UTO would not put its signature to the document, citing the failure to carry out prisoner exchanges and the lack of clarity over which seats in the Tajik government would be turned over to the UTO, RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow reported. Closed-door talks and a late-night meeting between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri followed. As a result, a new protocol was drawn up whereby 50 prisoners from each side would be set free by 15 July. Also, the reconciliation commission is scheduled to meet for the first time on 7 July in Moscow to decide which Tajik government positions will be allocated to the UTO (see also "End Note" below).




UKRAINE SAYS DEVELOPED NATIONS NOT ACTING ON CHORNOBYL

Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko on 26 June complained that the world's leading industrial nations are not honoring pledges to help Ukraine recover from the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chornobyl. Udovenko told journalists in New York that the major powers have been slow in providing technical assistance, advice, and financial aid. The minister is attending the UN Earth Summit. President Leonid Kuchma told the summit on Tuesday that his country spends about $1 billion a year to try to minimize the impact of the Chornobyl disaster. At the recent Summit of Eight in Denver, world leaders pledged an additional $300 million to help Ukraine build a shell over the destroyed Chornobyl reactor.

KUCHMA AIDE ON GOVERNMENT'S FUTURE

Yevgeny Kushnaryov, head of the Presidential Administration, told journalists in Kyiv on 26 June that "no formal grounds exist today for discussing the fate of the country's government. If something changes, such grounds may appear." President Kuchma on 19 June appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Durdinets acting prime minister "for the period of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's illness." Lazarenko was taken to hospital the same day, and doctors say he may need an operation for varicose veins and chronic thrombophlebitis. But observers view Durdinets' appointment as the de facto dismissal of Lazarenko.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN BELARUS DEFENDED, CRITICIZED

Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov told an international business conference in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, that his government respects human rights and is striving to meet international standards, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Martynov said that the freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press are respected in Belarus. He acknowledged there is room for improvement in the human rights situation. Meanwhile, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka condemning draft amendments to the press law adopted on 25 June by the lower house of the Belarusian parliament. The amendments provide for considerably more intervention in the media by the executive branch's State Press Committee and extend the number and range of penalties that the committee can impose.

NEW BRIDGE ACROSS NARVA TO LINK ESTONIA, RUSSIA?

Estonian Transport and Communications Minister Raivo Vare has urged that a new bridge be built across the Narva River to ease problems for traffic crossing between Estonia and Russia and to boost transit trade, ETA reported. The current bridge is in very poor condition and operates at overcapacity. Vare noted he discussed the issue at a recent meeting with the governor of St. Petersburg Oblast, who, he said, also expressed concern about border crossing issues. The minister admitted it would be difficult to find the funds for such a project but said some money could come from the EU PHARE program earmarked for border-crossing projects. Ninety percent of all transit trade through Estonia uses the Tallinn-Narva route.

ANOTHER LATVIAN MINISTER CHARGED WITH VIOLATING ANTI-CORRUPTION LAW

The Prosecutor's Office has charged that Agriculture Minister Roberts Dilba violated the anti-corruption law by failing to declare shares in two companies when filling out an income declaration, BNS reported on 26 June. Dilba also continues to hold posts in two companies, the state-owned Priekuli firm and Agrobirza. Prime Minister Andris Skele, who is currently in Amsterdam to attend the meeting of premiers and foreign ministers of EU associate countries, said he will decide whether to ask for Dilba's resignation next month, when Skele returns from vacation. He has already demanded that State Health Minister Juris Vinkelis resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997), while Culture Minister Rihards Piks has tendered his resignation. So far, the Prosecutor's Office has charged seven ministers with violating the law.

FRANCE ASSURES POLAND OF CONTINUED SUPPORT OVER NATO MEMBERSHIP

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told visiting Polish Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz that France supports Poland's membership in NATO, AFP reported. He said the French government has changed "but not French support for Poland." The two politicians also discussed conditions that Poland has to meet in order to qualify for EU membership. Meanwhile, Reuters reported White House officials as saying that U.S. President Bill Clinton has decided to visit Poland and Romania after the 8-9 July NATO summit in Madrid. They said Clinton wants to visit one of the three countries that the U.S. has backed for NATO membership and also one country that was in the running for NATO membership but has not been backed by Washington in order to show that the U.S. remains open to its membership at a later date.

CZECH PRESIDENT MEETS PARTY LEADERS OVER NATO

Vaclav Havel on 26 June met with leaders of the three government coalition parties and the opposition Social Democrats to request their active support for the Czech Republic's membership in NATO. The leaders of the two other parliamentary parties, the extreme-right Republicans and the Communists, were not invited. Both parties staunchly oppose NATO membership. Havel told journalists after the meeting that the four parties represent about 80% of Czechs. He said the Czech Republic is ready to accept all tasks that may result from its membership in NATO and that it will do everything possible to become an equal member of the alliance. Social Democratic Party Chairman Milos Zeman told journalists after the meeting that his party is in favor of NATO membership but that it continues to insist on a referendum and is opposed to deploying foreign troops and nuclear weapons on Czech territory.

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PREVENTS PRIVATIZATION OF TV CHANNEL

The opposition parties, supported by some coalition deputies from the Slovak Workers' Party and the Slovak National Party, have adopted a law preventing the privatization of Slovak Television's Channel 2. The Slovak Board for Television Broadcasting had already granted a broadcasting license for the channel to TV Dovina, which is believed to have links to Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). Culture Minister Ivan Hudec recently said in reference to TV Dovina that a television station close to the HZDS would soon appear. Meciar supported granting the license TV Dovina.

SLOVAK PRESIDENT AGAIN URGES EARLY ELECTIONS

Michal Kovac on 26 June called for early elections to be held in Slovakia and denied there were any discrepancies between him and the opposition parties over the question of an early ballot. Speaking to journalists in Kosice, he said that if the state of affairs in Slovakia remains unchanged until October 1998, when elections are scheduled to take place, "Slovakia might miss the boat not only to NATO but also to the EU." Kovac said it would be "very useful" to implement recent recommendations by the EU to improve democracy in Slovakia. Premier Vladimir Meciar called those recommendations an "ultimatum." According to Kovac, since the opposition is unable to overrule Meciar, the country's citizens should be given the opportunity to decide in early elections.

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES AMENDMENT TO LAND OWNERSHIP BILL

The cabinet headed by Gyula Horn on 26 June approved amendments to the land ownership bill. If approved by the parliament, the new bill would allow foreign companies registered in Hungary to own land but not foreigners as private individuals, Hungarian media reported. The right of foreign companies to purchase land is restricted to the administrative area where the company is registered or where it has offices. Land owned by foreign companies will be put up for auction if the company ceases to operate. The opposition has protested against the new bill. The Hungarian Democratic Forum, the Christian Democrats, the Young Democrats, and representatives of the agricultural trade union Metesz have announced they will launch an initiative for a referendum on the new bill.

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSED OF INFORMING UNDER COMMUNISM

Joszef Torgyan, the leader of the Smallholders Party, says he will take legal action against Joszef Ferenc Nagy and a group of other former members of his party who told reporters on 26 June that Torgyan was a member of the communist-era secret service under the name of Lajos Szatmari. The group claims Torgyan was informed of the screening panel's findings by then Prime Minister Joszef Antall on 31 March 1991. Torgyan told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that the six-year-old allegations lack any foundation.

HUNGARY TO RAISE POWER GRID TO EU STANDARDS

Budapest is planning to build two new gas turbine power plants in an effort to meet the electricity requirements of the EU and to improve the reliability of electricity services throughout the country. The World Bank has agreed to provide $60 million to help Budapest quickly start the project, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported on 26 June.




POLITICAL VIOLENCE INCREASES ON EVE OF ALBANIAN ELECTIONS

Eleven people were injured in a shoot-out at a Democratic Party rally in Lushnja on 26 June at which President Sali Berisha was present, "Dita Informacion" reported. It remains unclear how the shooting started and who was behind it, an eyewitness told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana. In Vlora, a gunman fired wildly at a meeting of about 500 supporters of the United Right of Albania coalition. National Front leader Abaz Ermenji was present at the rally, at which one person was killed and two injured, "Koha Jone" reported. "Indipendent," however, says the incident was a fight between gang-leader and independent parliamentary candidate Zani Caushi and the members of another gang. Journalists and international observers were forced to remain in their hotel all day. It remains unclear if the situation has improved.

VRANITZKY WANTS ALBANIAN POLLS TO CLOSE EARLY

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mediator Franz Vranitzky met with Albanian President Sali Berisha in Tirana on 26 June and urged him to change the closing time of the polling stations from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m on 29 June. Berisha had argued that only the Constitutional Court could make such a decision, but Vranitzky told a press conference that he believes that the Central Election Commission could request that the court grant it the authority to make that decision, "Indipendent" reported. The court is expected to announce a decision on 27 June. The opposition wants an earlier closing time to reduce the chance of fraud under the cover of darkness. Meanwhile in Saranda, two ethnic Greek politicians were kidnapped in separate incidents on 26 June. Control of Saranda and the rest of the far south is in the hands of armed gangs.

THREE ALBANIAN PARTIES SAY THEY'D FORM COALITION GOVERNMENT

The party leaders of the Socialists, Social Democrats, and the Democratic Alliance have pledged to form a coalition government should they win a majority in the parliament, "Dita Informacion" reported on 27 June. The Social Democrats and the Socialists have already nominated joint candidates to increase their chances of receiving direct seats, but the Democratic Alliance has not joined them. The three parties also cooperated in drafting a joint proposal for a new constitution, which has been a controversial issue in Albania since 1994.

KOSOVAR ALBANIANS CRITICIZE MILOSEVIC'S VISIT

The Albanian-language media in Serbia's Kosovo province reacted angrily to President Slobodan Milosevic's visit to the area on 25 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1997). The independent "Koha Ditore" called Milosevic's appearance a "return to the scene of the crime," a reference to his emotional political rallies in Kosovo during his rise to power in the late 1980s. "Bujku," which is close to the leading Democratic League of Kosovo, said the visit was "an obvious demonstration of force...designed to give new life to Serb nationalist extremism." Belgrade papers noted that few Albanians were in the audience for Milosevic's speeches, and "Koha Ditore" added that even local Serbs were unenthusiastic about their guest.

MILOSEVIC'S PARTY BACKS DOWN ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

Radmilo Bogdanovic, the vice president of the upper house of the federal Yugoslav parliament, said in Belgrade on 26 June that his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will not try to push through constitutional changes aimed at increasing Milosevic's power (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1997). Bogdanovic said that the SPS decided to back down because of its Montenegrin allies' opposition to the amendments. He added that elections in Serbia will take place sometime between October and December and that the SPS expects to win the presidential vote again.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CRITICIZES CROATIAN TREATMENT OF SERBS

Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council on 26 June that Croatia has not done enough to win the confidence of eastern Slavonia's Serbs. Annan said he is concerned that the area's return to Croatian control in mid-July could prompt large numbers of refugees to flee to Serbia and Montenegro. Such an exodus, he added, could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region. Annan earlier called for the UN to delay its withdrawal until it is clear that the Serbs will be well-treated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). Belgrade and the local Serbs also want the UN to stay on. In Luxembourg on 26 June, EU foreign ministers endorsed Annan's proposed delayed withdrawal. And in Zagreb, Milorad Pupovac, a leader of the Serbian minority, said that there are now 250,000 Serbs in Croatia, down from 700,000 before 1991.

CROATIA SAYS IT DOES NOT NEED LOAN

Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa told a closed-door government session on 26 June that Croatia can do without a $30 million loan from the World Bank, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Washington is trying to delay the credit in order to force Croatia to better observe the Dayton agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1997). The government later issued a statement accusing the Hague-based war crimes tribunal of treating Croatia unfairly and of favoring the Muslims. President Franjo Tudjman, however, said again that Croatia will faithfully implement the Dayton agreement. Meanwhile in Dalmatia, the authorities shut down one independent television station and three privately-owned radios. Officials claimed that the four broadcasters had not paid for their licenses. A spokesman for the station denied the charge.

OSCE DISQUALIFIES FOUR CROATIAN CANDIDATES IN BOSNIAN VOTE

International officials supervising the September local elections said in Sarajevo on 26 June that they have dropped four ethnic Croats from the ballot. The four members of the Croatian Democratic Community were allegedly involved in fraud in registering voters in Zepce and Capljina. The OSCE has already banned from the ballot 25 members of the Serbian Democratic Party for similar reasons, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Meanwhile in Brussels, NATO officials agreed to send 3,000 additional peacekeepers to Bosnia for the elections. The soldiers will come from the countries that currently contribute troops to the 31,000-strong SFOR.

ROMANIAN LOWER HOUSE RATIFIES TREATY WITH UKRAINE

The Chamber of Deputies on 26 June approved by 165 to 92 votes the basic treaty with Ukraine, signed by Presidents Emil Constantinescu and Leonid Kuchma on 2 June. The three opposition parties voted against ratification. The treaty must now be approved by the Senate, Radio Bucharest reported. The same day, the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) organized a demonstration against the treaty in front of the presidential palace in Bucharest. President Constantinescu told the protesters will raise the problems of the Romanian minority in Ukraine when he meets President Leonid Kuchma in Izmail, Ukraine, on 3 July.

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER RECEIVES ADVISE FROM SLOVAK PREMIER

Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar says former President Ion Iliescu must regain power because both Romania and Slovakia "should be governed by patriotic forces." In a letter to Iliescu published on 26 June by the daily "Romania libera," Meciar has volunteered to "contact the Russian leadership, based on our old contacts" (which he does not, however, specify). Meciar says that, "for the sake of our joint efforts to obtain security guarantees for that part of Central Europe...that will remain without protection after the NATO enlargement," he is also ready to use other "contacts I have in Moscow." He advises Iliescu to refrain from exploiting growing social unrest over reforms. He notes he has been informed about that unrest by the extreme nationalist Romanian politicians Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Gheorghe Funar.

MEDIATORS IN TRANSDNIESTRIAN CONFLICT SUBMIT DRAFT AGREEMENT

The mediators in the conflict between Moldova and the Transdniester breakaway region have submitted a draft proposal for a settlement, BASA-press reported on 26 June. The Russian, Ukrainian, and OSCE mediators expressed the hope that the draft will serve as the basis for a "speedy and successful" outcome of the negotiations. No details were released on the contents of the document. In other news, Vasile Tarateanu, the president of the Federation of Romanian Communities in Ukraine, handed Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi a memorandum on the situation of Romanians in Ukraine and asked him to intervene on their behalf. Radio Bucharest reported on 26 June that the memorandum describes the problems faced by Romanians living in the Odessa and Chernivici regions. Lucinschi promised Tarateanu to discuss the matter at the meeting of the three countries' presidents in Izmail next week.

TIRASPOL KGB TRIES TO ABDUCT MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST LEADER

The security forces in the town of Bendery-Tighina, which is under the control of the Transdniestrian authorities, recently tried but failed to abduct Moldovan Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin, Infotag reported on 26 June. Voronin confirmed the incident to the news agency but refused to provide any information. According to Infotag, Voronin was in Bendery-Tighina at the time to attend a meeting of local Communists. It cites "local observers" as saying the breakaway region's leadership "utterly dislikes" Voronin's activities in the Transdniester. A growing number of local communist organizations have pronounced themselves in favor of unification with the Moldovan Communist Party. The Tiraspol authorities view this possibility as an "encroachment on Transdniester statehood," Infotag reported.

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REDUCES CUSTOMS TARIFFS

The parliament on 26 June approved a bill abolishing custom tariffs on imports of mineral fuels, crude oil and its by-products, and a number of other items. Other import tariffs were reduced from 20% to 5%. Reducing tariffs on imported goods is one of the conditions set by the IMF for the release of a $25 million loan, Infotag reported. In other news, the agency reported that the Romanian private television company Pro-TV will launch a channel in Moldova by the end of 1997. The channel, to be called Media-Pro, will being operating with a $1 million investment by the U.S. Central European Media Enterprises, which owns a majority of shares in Pro-TV.

HEROIN ADDICTION GROWING IN BULGARIA

Filip Lazarov, head of the National Council on Drug Addiction, told Reuters on 26 June that the country is facing a sharp increase in the number of heroine addicts. "Every day 30 to 50 young people in the big cities are becoming dependent on heroin," he said. Interior Ministry spokesman Razum Daskalov said his ministry has evidence that more than 2,000 drug addicts are involved in criminal activities. Daskalov told a news conference in Sofia that Bulgaria's crisis-ridden economy faces difficulty in fighting drug addiction and related crime. In other news, one of the miners injured in the explosion at the Bobovdol coal mine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997) has died from burns and methane gas poisoning, Reuters reported. Three other miners are in critical condition.




Peace in Tajikistan or a New Stage in the Conflict?


Umed Babakhanov and Bruce Pannier

Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition leaders signed a long-awaited peace agreement in the Kremlin on 27 June. Witnessed by ranking officials from the UN and observer countries as well as President Boris Yeltsin, the signing could bring an end to five years of internal unrest. On the other hand, it could merely mean a new stage in that conflict.

Several factors made the signing possible. Among the most important is war-weariness on the part of the public and the warring sides. The apparent determination of Russia and Iran to stabilize Tajikistan in the face of the fundamentalist Taliban threat in Afghanistan is also another major factor.

But while the parties involved seem intent on consolidating peace in Tajikistan, it is likely that the signing ceremony in the Kremlin will be followed by all manner of political intrigues. The country's new battlefields are likely to become the lobbies of the government buildings in Dushanbe, as both sides begin to tackle the question of question of dividing power.

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov faces the extremely difficult task of selecting 30% of the leading government posts and handing them over to his enemies of yesterday. That selection process is bound to incite tension within the presidential camp. And the question remains whether Rakhmonov will be able to accomplish that task. Even minor Dushanbe officials have their own "protection" in the form of small military units with which government institutions neither want nor are able to compete.

Another bone of contention will be the redistribution of property. Under pressure from international financial organizations, the government has proceeded with property privatization over the past few years. But, numerous members of the opposition and the thousands of Tajiks who fled to other countries to avoid the fighting were unable to participate in that process. Opposition leaders, their supporters and many citizens are likely to want a share of the pie, and it will be up to the government to make sure they get it.

There is also the likelihood that isolated events will spark local armed confrontations. A strong and stable central government is needed to try to prevent such conflicts and to deal with them if and when they arise. But it is debatable whether such a government can be formed when, under the peace agreement, government institutions are to be composed of members of the forces loyal to Rakhmonov, on the one hand, and the opposition, on the other.

Finally, there remains the need to take into account a wide range of political, regional, financial, and others interests. Recent experience in Tajikistan suggests that ignoring those interests will foster tension and separatist tendencies, which, in turn, could provoke armed conflicts. Such a scenario could turn Tajikistan into another Afghanistan. Umed Babakhanov is a journalist for Tajikistan's Asia Plus news agency based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.


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