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Newsline - July 18, 1997




CHURCH LEADERS ASK YELTSIN TO SIGN RELIGION LAW

Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia and 49 other Russian Orthodox Church leaders have sent President Boris Yeltsin a message asking him to sign the controversial law on religious organizations, Russian news agencies reported on 17 July. On the same day, the Vatican announced that Pope John Paul sent Yeltsin a letter in June asking him to veto that law, which does not recognize the Catholic Church as one of Russia's "traditional religions," AFP reported. The law also would grant more rights to accredited "religious organizations" than to more recently established "religious groups." Russian human rights advocates have objected that the law is repressive and unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1997). The U.S. Senate on 16 July approved an amendment that would cut some $200 million in U.S. aid to Russia in 1998 if Yeltsin signs the religion law.

YELTSIN ORDERS MINISTER TO PAY NUCLEAR PLANT'S WORKERS

Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov says Yeltsin has instructed him to pay all wage arrears to workers at the Smolensk nuclear power plant by 10 August, and back wages to other nuclear plant workers by 10 October, Russian news agencies reported on 17 July. Yeltsin summoned Mikhailov to Karelia, where the president has been vacationing, after unpaid nuclear workers completed a 360-kilometer protest march to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 1997). Speaking to journalists, Mikhailov said he considered the demands of the protesters justified but argued that protests are not the way to solve the non-payments problem in the nuclear industry. Mikhailov's remarks came after First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov met with representatives of the protest marchers in Moscow and promised that 123 billion rubles ($21 million) would be paid to nuclear workers this month.

RODIONOV, ROKHLIN CRITICIZE YELTSIN'S DECREES ON MILITARY

On 18 July "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published extensive criticism by former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and State Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin of Yeltsin's 16 July decrees on downsizing and restructuring the Russian armed forces. Over the past two months, Rodionov and Rokhlin have become the nucleus of growing opposition to the way military reform is being implemented. Rodionov said that the Defense Ministry had argued that any reform of the armed forces should be preceded by the solution of related political problems, including strengthening the legislative foundations of Russia's military doctrine and drafting a concept for military cooperation among CIS member states. The Defense Council had insisted on the immediate reduction of the armed forces to 1.2 million. The decrees fail to address a number of crucial problems, including Russia's future military doctrine, the defense industry and the social welfare of servicemen and their families.

BANKING SCANDAL GOING OUT WITH A WHIMPER?

Nina Galanicheva, who chairs the Unikombank board of directors, announced on 17 July that a recent Central Bank audit uncovered "technical" errors made by Unikombank but no fraudulent operations with securities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 14 July charged that former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov and Unikombank were involved in two fraudulent deals that cost the state budget more than $500 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14-16 July 1997). But the next day a Central Bank official said Vavilov was not being accused of corruption, and on 16 July the Central Bank and Unikombank issued a joint statement saying Unikombank was accused only of obstructing a Central Bank audit and making accounting errors. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 17 July that the scandal may eventually cost Dubinin his post. However, the State Duma, which has the authority to fire Dubinin, is currently on summer recess.

"TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY" CORRECTED ABOARD "MIR"

The cause of a power outage aboard the Russian space station Mir was found to be a mistakenly disconnected cable, according to international media on 17 July. Mission Control in Russia is now considering waiting to do repairs on the station until a new crew arrives in early August.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT LIKELY TO CONSIDER CHALLENGES TO ELECTORAL LAW

Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai announced on 17 July that he sees "no obstacles" that are likely to keep the court from considering three appeals challenging the legality of the law on parliamentary elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. The appeals question the constitutionality of the proportional representation system used to elect half of State Duma deputies, in particular the point excluding parties that receive less than 5% of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May and 18 April 1997). If the court rules that the electoral law violates citizens' rights, the legitimacy of the Duma would be undermined. The Constitutional Court refused to hear a challenge to the electoral law in November 1995, less than a month before Duma elections were held. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the proportional representation system in April of this year.

CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST KORZHAKOV FOR SLANDER

The Procurator-General's Office has opened a criminal case against State Duma deputy and former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov on slander charges, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. The magazine "Lyudi" earlier this year published an interview in which Korzhakov alleged that NTV vice president Yevgenii Kiselev had been a KGB agent since 1988 under the code name Alekseev. Kiselev, who is the anchor of NTV's influential weekly program "Itogi," lodged a protest with the Procurator-General's Office, charging that the allegations were untrue. Kiselev also says Korzhakov damaged his reputation in April, when he appeared before television journalists and called Kiselev an "informer" and a "secret agent." Those remarks were not broadcast on television. Korzhakov says he can prove the truth of his assertions. Last year he sent copies of KGB documents on agent Alekseev to Kiselev, but Kiselev told "Kommersant-Daily" that those documents were falsified.

NEW NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR, NEMTSOV DISAGREE OVER APPOINTMENTS

Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Ivan Sklyarov is at odds with his predecessor, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, over key personnel appointments in the oblast, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 17 July. Sklyarov and Nemtsov reportedly reached an understanding on the appointments about two months ago. However, shortly after winning the 13 July runoff election Sklyarov criticized Nemtsov for not actively backing his candidacy earlier in the campaign. Now Sklyarov is refusing to allow former Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Dmitrii Bednyakov to be appointed deputy mayor of the city. In addition, Sklyarov and Nemtsov support different candidates for acting mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod and presidential representative in the oblast. During the campaign, Sklyarov's supporters warned that relations between the regional authorities and federal officials would suffer if Communist candidate Gennadii Khodyrev were elected governor.

DEATH TOLL IN BARRACKS COLLAPSE RISES TO 11

At least 11 soldier cadets have died following the 17 July collapse of a dormitory at a military school in Tomsk, Russian news agencies reported. More than 50 people are injured, and 10 of them are in serious condition. The pre-revolutionary building, which had an extra level added on in the 1950s, reportedly had not been repaired since 1955.

TWO INGUSH DPs KILLED IN NORTH OSSETIA

Two people were killed and 10 injured when a bus carrying Ingush displaced persons en route to inspect their abandoned homes in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi raion was fired on by a grenade launcher, Russian media reported. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev said that more than 20 such attacks have been perpetrated on Ingush displaced persons over the past month. Addressing an emergency session of the Ingush Security Council in Nazran, Aushev criticized the federal authorities and the North Ossetian leadership for failing to take measures to defuse tensions, and again argued that this could be done only by imposing direct presidential rule on the disputed district, according to Russian Independent Television (NTV). Aushev also telephoned Yeltsin, deputy prime minister Valerii Serov and general procurator Yurii Skuratov to discuss the deteriorating situation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 July.

NORTH OSSETIA DENIES PLANS TO REPATRIATE DPs TO GEORGIA

North Ossetia's permanent representative in Moscow, Kazbek Dulaev, has told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that a report in its 15 July edition claiming that President Akhsarbek Galazov has issued a decree on the repatriation to Georgia of Ossetians who fled the fighting there in 1991-2 is untrue, the paper reported on 18 July. [See "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July, 1997] Dulaev termed the report, which "Nezavisimaya gazeta" says was based on Georgian media reports, "a gross distortion of the true state of affairs aimed at destabilizing the situation in the republic".




FIRST GROUP OF TAJIK REFUGEES RETURN

A group of 275 Tajik refugees returned from Afghanistan on 17 July, according to RFE/RL correspondents. This was the first party of refugees to come back since the 27 June signing of the Tajik National Peace Accord which provided for the safe return and repatriation of the refugees. They must undergo a registration process and medical check before being allowed to continue on to areas of residence. However, the exchange of prisoners between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) in Tavil-Dara will not take place on 18 July as was hoped. The government side has sent a list of the prisoners it wants returned and the UTO is presently searching for these people. The exchange originally was scheduled for 15 July.

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN WASHINGTON

Addressing U.S. business leaders at the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation [OPIC] on 17 July, Eduard Shevardnadze underscored his country's progress over the past three years toward political stability, privatization and marketization, Western agencies reported. He pleaded for more foreign investment in hydro-electric power, agriculture, tourism, mining and machine building. Shevardnadze also stressed his country's potential role as a transit corridor between Asia and Europe. Shevardnadze and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen signed an agreement on military cooperation and U.S. financial aid to Georgia to fund measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Shevardnadze had lunch with vice president Al Gore and met later with Senate leaders.

KAZAKHSTAN ADOPTS NEW CRIMINAL CODE

Kazakhstan on 16 July approved its new criminal code, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. A presidential spokesman said the new code "is devoid of ideology," and emphasizes human rights, not state interests. The new code does not abolish the death penalty but does make courts which pass such sentences responsible for explaining the necessity of such a punishment. The option of life imprisonment will not be debated until 2003. Also, on the initiative of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, there is an article in the code which provides for punishing those "hampering journalists' professional work."

PAKISTAN TO HELP TURKMENISTAN DEVELOP NAVY

Pakistani naval specialists will help train personnel for Turkmenistan's navy, according to a 18 July report from ITAR-TASS. The chief of Pakistan's Navy, Fasih Bokhari, is presently in Turkmenistan discussing cooperation with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Pakistan has already helped train Turkmen pilots and has been giving advice to the Turkmen armed forces. Bokhari stressed that Turkmenistan's official neutral status plays an important role in Central Asia.

OSCE MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN ARRIVE IN BAKU

The U.S., French and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group arrived in Baku on 17 July for talks with President Heidar Aliyev and foreign minister Hasan Hasanov on the latest proposals for a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Also on17 July, representatives of the 50,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis who fled Karabakh during the hostilities presented to the U.S., French and Russian embassies an appeal to the presidents of those countries not to permit the presidential elections in Karabakh scheduled for 1 September. They further demanded the restoration of their rights and said the conflict could not be adequately resolved without making provisions for them to return to their homes.




BELARUS SUSPENDS NEGOTIATIONS ON OSCE OFFICE IN MINS

Belarus on 18 July suspended negotiations with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to open an office in Minsk, RFE/RL's Vienna correspondent reported. Belarus agreed in principle in June to allow the OSCE to open an office which would assist and advise in the promotion of democracy. Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen told an RFE/RL correspondent he received a letter from Belarus Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich suspending negotiations indefinitely. Antanovich wrote that the recent session in Warsaw of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly invited only a delegation from the parliament which was dissolved late last year by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. It did not invite a delegation from the present parliament, hand-picked by Lukashenka. Petersen said the OSCE is trying to persuade Belarus to reverse its decision and allow the organization to open an office in Minsk.

BELARUSIAN POLICE DETAIN HIGH SCHOOL PROTESTERS

Police in Minsk on 17 July clubbed and detained people demonstrating against the planned closure of a high school, international media reported. Several dozen students and parents gathered at a school to protest an order by President Lukashenka to transfer the school building to the management of the presidential staff. It was part of an order transferring 22 buildings, housing cultural organizations, to Lukashenka's control. Opponents of the order said it was an attempt by Lukashenka to curb organizations objectionable to him. Meanwhile, Lukashenka said on national TV on 17 July that university entrants in Belarus will be required to write an essay extolling the country's friendship with Russia. The essay can be written in either Russian or Belarusian. Lukashenka reminded university entrants that the exams are being carried out under his personal supervision.

BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER REPORTEDLY RESIGNS

A high-ranking source in the Belarusian government, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Interfax on 17 July that Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Ling has submitted a letter of resignation to President Lukashenka. The source reported that Ling said the reason he wants to resign is that he is reaching retirement age; he turned 60 on 7 May. However, analysts in Minsk say economic difficulties aggravated by the flooding in Central Europe may have been one of the reasons. Ling was appointed acting prime minister by a presidential decree last November

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES FRIENDSHIP TREATY WITH ROMANIA

The Ukrainian parliament on 17 July ratified a friendship treaty with Romania, Reuters reported. The treaty, signed on 2 June by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, confirms the existing borders between the countries and Ukraine's authority over the territories lost by Romania before World War Two. The treaty had already been ratified by the Romanian parliament. Seventeen of 34 judges in Romania's Supreme Court said on 16 July they had issued a challenge to the treaty, contending that it violated the 1991 constitution proclaiming the country as a "...unitary and indivisible state." The challenge had little hope of success as it was submitted after Constantinescu signed the treaty into law.

UKRAINE'S PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION POSTPONEMENT TO BE DISCUSSED

The Ukrainian parliament will hold a special session on 28-29 August to discuss election legislation and a presidential proposal to postpone next year's parliamentary balloting, lawmakers decided on 17 July, Ukrainian Radio reported. Kuchma suggested in June to put off the March 1998 parliamentary election for a year, saying campaign concerns will prevent lawmakers from adopting sorely needed economic reform legislation. He said recently that holding the elections next March would "break society in pieces." The postponement would be carried out by extending the parliament's term from four years to five.

INFLATION, GDP IN UKRAINE FALL

Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko told a German-Ukrainian economic seminar in Kyiv on 17 July that inflation amounted to 17.8% in Ukraine during the past 12 months, Interfax reported. The figure is the lowest since Ukraine proclaimed independence. Since June 1996, the volume of capital markets has grown 75%, to $3 billion. Despite achievements in financial stabilization, real gross domestic product is not growing. A board member of Deutsche Bank Research, Axel Siedenberg, told the seminar real GDP could shrink 3% this year due to the slowness of structural reforms in Ukraine.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR ESTONIA

In a letter received by Estonian President Lennart Meri on 16 July, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his recognition of Estonia's aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, BNS reported on 17 July. Blair stressed the importance of Baltic security and the need to develop bilateral cooperation, especially in security issues, between Estonia and the United Kingdom. Blair said he hopes to continue active cooperation between the two countries to speed up Estonia's admission to the EU.

LITHUANIAN EUROPEAN MINISTER CRITICAL OF EU COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION

Lithuanian Minister for European Affairs Laima Andrikiene on 17 July told the European Union Ambassador to Lithuania, Henrik Schmiegeliow, that the European Commission's assessment of Lithuania's readiness to begin EU accession talks is inaccurate. The minister argued there were errors in the assessment of Lithuania's economic situation. Andrikiene noted that the Lithuanian government will work hard to convince the EU that Lithuania should be invited to EU expansion talks during the EU Luxembourg summit in December. On 16 July Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius also had voiced criticism of the European Commission's assessment.

LATVIA'S EX-ENVIRONMENT MINISTER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT

Girts Lukins, a former Latvian environment protection and regional development minister, was killed on 16 July when the car he was driving hurled into a tractor, the Latvian Interior Ministry reported on 17 July. Lukins was a minister in Valdis Birkavs' government. When Birkavs resigned, Lukins joined the Diena stock company.

POLISH, CZECH AUTHORITIES WARN OF MORE FLOODS

More heavy rain is predicted over flood-stricken areas of Poland and the Czech Republic, prompting authorities in the region to take additional emergency measures. In the Czech Republic, officials have released water from several dams in expectation of more downpours. Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz put the army on alert and appealed to people living near the Oder River to brace for more floods, RFE/RL'S Warsaw correspondent reported. On 17 July, the Polish parliament amended this year's state budget to allow the government to borrow 5 billion zloty ($1.5 billion) from the Central Bank and a further $300 million from the World Bank. In addition, an aid program was passed to allow families affected by flooding access to free medicines and low-interest loans for rebuilding.

POLAND PLANS TO BEGIN NATO TALKS IN SEPTEMBER

Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati announced on 17 July that his country will begin formal discussions on its admission into NATO in September. Rosati set the date after receiving a letter from NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. The letter confirmed Poland's invitation to join the alliance. North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders meeting in Madrid on July 8-9 extended an invitation for NATO membership to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST EUROPEAN DIVISIONS

Josef Zieleniec told journalists in Prague on 17 July that divisions should not be allowed to arise in Europe between those countries invited to join the European Union and NATO, and those that have not yet been invited. He said there is a need to prevent the impression that the countries which have been included in a first wave of accession talks are now turning their backs on rejected applicants. Zieleniec said he would discuss this issue in Prague on 18 July with the foreign ministers of Poland and Hungary. All three countries have been invited to open talks with NATO and have been named as front-runners for talks on joining the EU. He said it is important to make use of all tools for cooperation with those states not invited to be in the first wave.

SLOVAKIA REACTS TO EU ASSESSMENT

A foreign ministry statement on 17 July said the recent assessment of the situation in Slovakia by the European Union Commission does not "fully depict the real state of political life" in the country. The European Commission on 16 July said that the country's political reforms are not far enough advanced to allow its inclusion in a first round of EU enlargement talks. It said the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar had insufficient regard for the constitution, the rights of the opposition, and for Slovakia's ethnic Hungarian minority. Meciar said on Slovak Television that the Commission's assessment is not a "catastrophe." He noted a final decision on a first group of EU invitees will be made by EU heads of state in December. Both the opposition and President Michal Kovac have harshly criticized the government. Kovac said in a radio speech that the Meciar government had foiled the hopes of the Slovak people.

HUNGARY PLEDGES FLOOD AID TO NEIGHBORS

The Hungarian government on 17 July pledged 350 million forints ( $1.8 million) in disaster relief for Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Reuters reported from Budapest. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss told reporters that the government decided to provide food and pharmaceuticals worth 250 million forints and an additional 100 million forints to cover other expenses, such as transportation. Kiss told reporters that Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn in a telephone conversation that the floods in his country were the most severe "not of the century, but of the millennium."




ALBANIA'S BERISHA SET TO RESIGN

President Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 17 July that he wants to convene the newly elected parliament in order to present his resignation to that body. He charged, however, that the Socialists' election victory "has its roots in violence, terror, assassination attempts and killings, [which were] organized by the victors before and during the election campaign." Berisha also argued that the Socialists manipulated voters' desire for compensation from their losses in collapsed pyramid schemes. He predicted, however, that the Socialists will soon lose support among the population. Before the election, Berisha promised to resign if his party lost the vote. He cannot legally hold both the presidency and the parliamentary seat he won in the 29 June elections. He and the Socialists blame each other for the delay in convening the new legislature.

VRANITZKY WARNS AGAINST ALBANIAN SECURITY VACUUM

Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief envoy to Albania, said in Vienna on 17 July that the planned withdrawal of foreign troops by mid-August could lead to a "security vacuum." He suggested that NATO could avoid that possibility by maintaining a training mission "within the Partnership for Peace program." He stressed that "of all [Albanian] institutions, the police and army deserve special mention. They will have the primary responsibility of tackling security problems." The WEU has been helping to rebuild the police force. Vranitzky also warned both the winners and the losers in the June elections that they must face up to "their democratic responsibilities. Should this not happen, should they return to their old games, the international community will not be willing to cooperate" and will leave the Albanians to their own devices.

SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS SESELJ OUT OF PUBLIC LIFE

Opposition politicians and human rights activists said in Belgrade on 17 July that nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj should be banned from public life and the media, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. The call came after an incident the previous night at the studios of BK Television, during which Seselj's body guards severely beat up human rights lawyer Nikola Barovic. Media accounts of the incident differ in details, but "Nasa Borba" of 18 July quotes Seselj as telling Barovic: "consider yourself a dead man." During the broadcast, Seselj insulted Barovic, who threw water in the politician's face. The beating took place after the broadcast. Opposition spokesmen regretted that BK Television did not report the beating in its newscast.

BULATOVIC CALLS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS IN MONTENEGRO

President Momir Bulatovic told Belgrade's BK Television on 17 July that Montenegro's ongoing political crisis has become so serious that the only way out is to hold new elections. Bulatovic appears to have lost the power struggle within the governing party, and elections might be his only hope of not becoming completely marginalized. In Budva, parliament speaker Svetozar Marovic said that newly elected Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is "our reality." Marovic, who supports the anti-Milosevic faction of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, added, however, that "the future clearly belongs to democratic norms, an open society, and radical reforms." And in Podgorica, the Montenegrin government criticized recent pro-Milosevic statements and actions by Zoran Knezevic, the federal Yugoslav justice minister, who is from Montenegro. The statement stopped short of demanding his resignation, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 18 July.

CLINTON SAYS DAYTON AGREEMENT MUST BE DEFENDED. U.S

President Bill Clinton said in Washington on 17 July that NATO peacekeepers' mission in Bosnia will come to an end in mid-June 1998 as planned. He added, however, that "none of us wants to see Bosnia revert to what happened before we started [the mission]. And none of us wants to see the extraordinary efforts, which had to be made by the United States and our allies in NATO, have to be made all over again a few years from now because Bosnia goes back into war." He did not elaborate as to what kind of NATO or other international presence he might envision for Bosnia after the end of SFOR's mandate, however. Clinton added there is no evidence that the attack on a U.S. soldier on 16 July on Bosnian Serb territory had anything to do with NATO's recent actions against indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals.

ANOTHER EXPLOSION IN THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

A bomb damaged the home of a U.N. police monitor in northwest Bosnia on 18 July in what has become a daily series of explosions, which some observers believe may be aimed at intimidating foreigners in the Republika Srpska. The previous night, posters of Radovan Karadzic went up in Banja Luka, with captions such as: "Don't touch him," "He means peace," and "He is freedom." Bosnian Serb radio reported that citizens have given a "spontaneous response" to recent NATO actions against indicted war criminals by refusing to serve foreigners in restaurants and shops. In Banja Luka, British SFOR officials say they have handed over to local police the suspects in the latest grenade attack on British troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 1997). In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 17 July repeated the SFOR's official position that there is no evidence that the recent anti-foreign incidents are related.

BOSNIAN SERB MEDIA CALLED "RACIST AND DISHONEST"

In Sarajevo, spokesmen for international organizations on 17 July called recent trends in the Bosnian Serb media "racist and dishonest," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. The spokesmen referred specifically to coverage of international organizations and of embattled Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. In Pale, the office of Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, issued a statement saying the Bosnian Serb authorities must work together with SFOR to prevent current tensions from getting out of hand. Krajisnik's office also stressed the importance of implementing the Dayton agreement, including the smooth functioning of joint institutions. Krajisnik had met earlier with Gen. William Crouch, the commander of SFOR.

CROATIA WANTS SPEEDY RETURN OF REFUGEES

Development Minister Jure Radic said in Zagreb on 17 July that he expects some 1,000 Serbs will leave eastern Slavonia for their old homes elsewhere in Croatia "by the end of next week." He added, however, that he will demand that Jacques Klein, the UN's chief administrator in the area, enable 10,000 of the 80,000 Croats who fled eastern Slavonia during Serb rule to return within three weeks. Also in the Croatian capital, Cardinal Vinko Puljic and three other Roman Catholic bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina called for strict implementation of the Dayton agreement. They stressed the right of all refugees to go home, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. And elsewhere in that city, a major fire broke out in the Student Center and spread to the railway yard, disrupting international and domestic traffic in and out of the main train station.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN INDONESIA

President Emil Constantinescu on 18 July began in Jakarta discussions with his Indonesian counterpart, Suharto, Radio Bucharest reports. Constantinescu is paying a three-day visit to Indonesia during which he will discuss bilateral political and economic relations. Radio Bucharest and AFP reported that at the outset of the visit on 17 July, Constantinescu was "disagreeably surprised" by the display of portraits of his wife, alongside his own, in the Indonesian capital. At his requests, the portraits of Nadia Constantinescu were removed by the hosts, who explained that this was part of the "official protocol." An AFP reporter in Jakarta commented that "Several years after the fall of Ceausescu, Romania still suffers from the 'Elena syndrome.' " Elena Ceausescu was dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's spouse and, like her husband, the subject of a "cult of personality." Nadia Constantinescu is accompanying her husband as a private person.

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY REFORM

At a press conference in Bucharest on 17 July, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said his country's armed forces were too large, though under the limits imposed by a November 1995 Vienna treaty on armament reductions. Babiuc said the Madrid NATO summit decision means Romanian defense expenditure will have to grow rather than be reduced, and that he plans to ask the government for an increase in the ministry's share of the budget. He also said Russia has recently suggested to Bucharest that the countries renew military technological cooperation and conclude a military treaty. He said that "just as NATO can not ignore Russia, neither can Romania do so, the more so as it is a country in our immediate vicinity," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

ROMANIAN INFORMATION SERVICES DENY LINKS WITH SWISS SPY

Spokesmen for both Romanian information services denied on 18 July any involvement with a Swiss diplomat arrested for spying for Romania (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 1997). The director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Gen. Ioan Talpes, said his service "is not and was never involved in any activity of espionage against Switzerland," the independent Mediafax agency reported. The agency also cited a spokesman for the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) who said that SRI's activities concentrate on the defense of Romania's internal security and that it is "in no way linked with such activities, the more so as we speak of a friendly country."

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS

The Moldovan parliament on 17 July dismissed Dumitru Diacov as deputy chairman of the legislature. Diacov, who is close to President Petru Lucinschi, had repeatedly called for early elections to overcome the parliament's reluctance to pass legislation on reforms urged by the president. The move is apparently a retaliation by deputies who were unable earlier on the same day to gather enough support in the house for the election of Andrei Diaconu as the second deputy chairman of the parliament. The Socialist-Unity-Edinstvo faction made its support of Diaconu conditional on the dismissal of Diacov. The removal of Diacov was proposed by the parliament's chairman, Dumitru Motpan. Some opposition members also voted in favor. Diacov told Infotag that the vote was forged by Motpan.

IMF RELEASES NEW INSTALLMENT FOR MOLDOVAN LOAN

The IMF on 17 July approved the release of the third installment of Moldova's three-year extended fund facility loan, which carries a total value of about $ 181 million. The drawing is for some $ 21 million and was approved after a review of Moldova's economic performance, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The IMF's Executive Board said it welcomes the recent intensification of economic reform efforts but cautioned the government not to neglect its "effective implementation." An IMF mission will visit Chisinau next week to continue the "regular dialogue" with the authorities.

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WANTS OWN SECRET POLICE FILE OPEN TO PUBLIC

Petar Stoyanov says he wants his communist era secret police file to be opened to the public. He told reporters in Sofia on 17 July that although a draft law under debate in the parliament would not cover him, he wants his file made public even before the law takes effect. The parliament begins debating the draft on 18 July. The law would open to the public the files of all members of parliament, ministers, top government officials and high ranking judges. The opposition Socialist Party said it would vote against the new law on "national security grounds," an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. Deputy premier Vesselin Metodiev, a historian who briefly served as head of the State Archives in 1992, said about 250,000 Bulgarians were recruited as secret police informers.




TROUBLE FOR MILOSEVIC?


By Patrick Moore

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic stands poised to assume the federal Yugoslav presidency in a few days. He probably will be able to transfer his power and authority he has personally accumulated to his new job, but some of his former allies in Montenegro could make things difficult for him.

On 15 July, both houses of the federal Yugoslav parliament elected Milosevic to succeed Zoran Lilic by overwhelming margins. The regime-controlled media spoke of an "historic event," and orchestrated congratulatory telegrams poured in from around the country.

On closer examination, however, the victory seems less than remarkable. Parties controlled by Milosevic or his wife, Mirjana Markovic, easily commanded the necessary legislative majorities. A further advantage was that Milosevic ran unopposed, because obedient parliamentary committees ruled on 14 July that the five other declared candidates had not been legally registered for the contest. And in any event, the absence of opponents may not have made much difference, since the Serbian opposition has been so prone to in-fighting that it almost always plays into Milosevic's hands.

What was surprising, however, was the speed with which the election was held. Critics charged that the vote should have taken place legally only the following week, most likely on 23 July, RFE/RL correspondents reported from Belgrade. Instead, Milosevic supporters forced the election through early.

Furious opposition politicians claimed that Milosevic had stolen the election. But some of them told RFE/RL that Milosevic was behaving like "the dictator and autocrat he always was," and that the vote should come as no surprise. In any event, at least some opposition figures felt that Milosevic had left himself open for a legal challenge and filed a suit in the courts against his election.

The question remains as to why Milosevic resorted to dubious tactics in order to secure an election that had long been regarded as a foregone conclusion. After all, it had long been clear that the Serbian constitution barred him from another term as Serbian president, and that the Yugoslav constitution similarly banned Lilic from running for re-election. Pundits had been arguing for perhaps a year that Milosevic would stay in power by becoming Yugoslav president and transferring his massive powers to his new office, which had been a figurehead position under Lilic.

Milosevic was forced to change tactics quickly. In recent months, a revolt had been brewing in the once-docile Montenegrin leadership. President Momir Bulatovic and his Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) owed their power to Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), but, as the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" put it, "some of the puppets began to assume a life of their own."

The reason was that Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his leading allies such as Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic had come to the conclusion that ties to Milosevic had become a political liability for Montenegro and for themselves. The tiny mountainous republic lives primarily from tourism and shipping, and Djukanovic, whose fortune is widely believed to come from war-profiteering, would like to set up a huge free-trade zone. But Milosevic's policies have kept Yugoslavia politically and economically isolated, thereby thwarting any hopes of Montenegro overcoming its poverty.

The revolt reached a new stage on 11 July, when the DPS Steering Committee voted to dump Bulatovic as party chief and replace him with Pejanovic-Djurisic. Five days later, when Bulatovic tried to enter party and government offices while the Steering Committee was meeting, security guards turned him away. Some observers at home and abroad wrote that Bulatovic might be able to start up his own new party, but that he could not expect to be re-elected to the presidency. In short, Milosevic's enemies appeared triumphant in Montenegro.

The mountain republic's political leadership was slated to meet on 22 July to make a final decision on how Montenegrin deputies in the federal Yugoslav parliament should vote in the presidential ballot expected on 23 July. Milosevic apparently decided not to take any chances with possible Montenegrin opposition in the presidential vote and held the election more than a week early. Once again, as so often in his 10-year career, he showed himself to be a master of tactics, but this time his shift resulted from weakness.

Nor is Montenegro his only problem. In recent weeks, he has been tightening his grip on Kosovo through a well-publicized visit to the region and through show-trials of ethnic Albanian "terrorists." In Sandzak, which connects Kosovo to Bosnia and has a slight Muslim majority, he has purged the administration of its main town, Novi Pazar. International isolation and a catastrophic domestic economy, moreover, will continue to confront him.

But it is Montenegro that poses the greatest immediate potential problem. Federal legislators from that republic -- and perhaps even from Serbia -- may well block Milosevic from weakening the legal prerogatives of the republics in order to strengthen those of the federal presidency. RFE/RL correspondents report from around Yugoslavia that the best Milosevic may be able to hope for is to remain the source of real power while not enjoying the formal and legal attributes of authority.


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