YELTSIN TO VETO LAND CODE
President Boris Yeltsin says he will veto the land code recently passed by the parliament because it bans the purchase and sale of farmland, Russian media reported on 24 July. Arguing that rural dwellers should be given full land ownership rights, Yeltsin remarked that "the whole world works this way. What are we afraid of?" He also expressed regret that the Federation Council, which rejected one version of the land code in June 1996, approved the latest version passed by the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June and 7 July 1997). The code now goes to a conciliatory commission. Given that the Communist, Agrarian, and Popular Power factions have a near majority in the Duma and strongly oppose allowing the sale of farmland, it appears unlikely that the current parliament will approve a land code that Yeltsin would sign.
PATRIARCH DISAPPOINTED BY RELIGION LAW VETO
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II has issued a statement warning that the presidential veto of the law on religious organizations could lead to "tension between the authorities and the majority of the people," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 24 July. Aleksii's statement blamed the Russian and foreign media for misrepresenting the terms of the law, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Speaking in Vilnius on 25 July, Patriarch Aleksii again argued that the law was intended to block "pseudo-missionary" and "destructive" forces and would not have "infringed on anybody's rights," ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of the Russian Buddhist and Muslim governing bodies have also expressed regret about Yeltsin's veto, Interfax reported. In a 25 July nationwide radio address, Yeltsin repeated that he rejected the law because he believes many of its provisions are unconstitutional and violate international treaties.
PRIME MINISTER UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS...
Viktor Chernomyrdin on 24 July said the Russian economy is "on the point of a breakthrough." Chairing a cabinet meeting, the prime minister said "we can raise up the Russian economy and make it competitive and respected throughout the world." He praised the government's efforts to keep inflation low, reduce interest rates, and improve tax collection. While only 58 percent of taxes were collected during the first quarter of the year, he said, 87 percent of taxes were collected during the second quarter, according to Interfax. Chernomyrdin also claimed that over the past 12 months industrial output had risen by 2 percent. The State Statistics Committee recently announced that industrial output grew by 0.8 percent during the first half of 1997, compared with the same period in 1996, Interfax reported on 15 July.
...THREATENS QUOTAS ON EUROPEAN TEXTILES...
During the same government session, Chernomyrdin warned that Russia will impose quotas on textiles imported from the EU if the union does not lift import quotas on Russian textiles, Russian news agencies reported on 24 July. The EU currently imports Russian textiles worth some $140 million, while EU textile imports to Russia are estimated at $750 million. On 22 July, Russia renewed its bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). But First Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Georgii Gabuniya, representing Russia at the WTO talks in Geneva, told Interfax the previous day that Russia will join the WTO only "on absolutely equal terms," after the U.S. and EU lift anti-dumping measures. In June, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov refused to meet European Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan in protest at anti-dumping measures against 14 categories of Russian goods.
...CRITICIZES IMPLEMENTATION OF PRIVATIZATION, BANKRUPTCY POLICY
Also on 24 July, Chernomyrdin criticized the government's implementation of privatization and bankruptcy policy, ITAR-TASS reported. The prime minister noted that nearly every time the State Property Committee, chaired by Alfred Kokh, organizes a privatization auction, there is a "scandal, with serious consequences." He also said the Federal Bankruptcy Administration, headed by Petr Mostovoi, is working "very sluggishly." First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, considered the architect of Russia's privatization program, is on vacation and did not attend the 24 July cabinet meeting.
BACKGROUND TO CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION AUCTIONS
An affiliate of the Alfa-group on 18 July was declared the winner of a 40 percent stake in the Tyumen Oil Company. Critics had charged that the auction was rigged in favor of the Alfa-group. A Tyumen Oblast arbitration court is to hear an appeal concerning the privatization of the Tyumen Oil Company on 25 July. On the same day, a winner will be announced in the auction for a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. The starting price for that auction was set at $1.18 billion, a figure critics say is far too low. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" pointed out on 24 July that a 27 percent stake in the Czech company SPT Telecom was sold in 1995 for $1.32 billion. The upcoming sale of a 38 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel has also provoked controversy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1997).
YELTSIN APPROVES TAX ON FOREIGN-CURRENCY PURCHASES
Yeltsin has signed a law imposing a 0.5 percent tax on some foreign-currency purchases, Russian news agencies reported on 24 July. The tax will apply neither to cash withdrawals from foreign-currency bank deposits nor to foreign-currency purchases from the Central Bank by commercial banks. Revenues from the tax will be divided 60:40 between federal and regional budgets. On 23 July, Yeltsin vetoed the law on procedures for establishing free economic zones on Russian territory, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1997). The presidential press service did not explain on what grounds the president rejected the law.
OFFICIALS ADMIT FLAWS IN DECREE ON INCOME, PROPERTY DECLARATIONS...
Deputy heads of the presidential administration Yevgenii Savostyanov and Aleksandr Livshits admitted on 24 July that Yeltsin's May decree requiring officials to submit income and property declarations was flawed, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Savostyanov noted that the decree envisions no procedure for checking the accuracy of the declarations. By way of example, he said the declaration submitted by Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii warranted such an audit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 1997). In addition, the May decree did not specify guidelines for calculating the value of property. As a result, most declarations listed not the market value of their property but the original purchase price (for some items, such as land, the difference is substantial). Savostyanov and Livshits said the administration is drafting another presidential decree that will clear up those shortcomings.
...WHILE NAMING SOME WHO FAILED TO COMPLY WITH DECREE
At the same 24 July press conference, Savostyanov listed some of the prominent officials who failed to submit income and property declarations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. They include Federal Bankruptcy Administration head Petr Mostovoi, Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov, and former Kemerovo Oblast governor Mikhail Kislyuk. Yeltsin appointed Kislyuk as director of the federal agency for regulating natural transportation monopolies earlier this month, shortly after appointing Aman Tuleev governor of Kemerovo. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 July that in his declaration, Livshits--who was finance minister from August 1996 until March 1997--listed total 1996 income of 56.1 million rubles ($9,685) and no bank accounts or securities.
FOREIGN MINISTER IN SOUTH KOREA
Yevgenii Primakov arrived in Seoul on 24 July on the first leg of his southeastern Asian tour, Russian media reported. Primakov met with his South Korean counterpart, Yoo Choong-ha, and agreed to set up a hot-line between Seoul and Moscow in case of conflict. He also met with South Korean President Kim Young Sam and handed him a letter from Russian President Boris Yeltsin in which Yeltsin wrote he wished to visit South Korea. No date, however, has been set for that visit in view of the South Korean presidential elections scheduled for December 1997. Primakov also took the opportunity to repeat Russia's offer to mediate between North and South Korea. He noted that Russia has good relations with both countries and that this is not the case with some other parties involved in the Korean peninsula. On 26 July, Primakov travels to Malaysia to attend the ASEAN conference.
U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY WRAPS UP VISIT TO RUSSIA
During his visit to Russia from 20 to 23 July, Federico Pena added the Lytkarino Instruments Research Institute to the list of those Russian nuclear facilities participating in the Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting Program, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow and Russian media. Pena said he was pleased with the progress of the program, which monitors and safeguards nuclear material. Pena also expressed satisfaction with the State Duma legislation on foreign investment but said more legislation must be passed to attract investors. He argued that Russia could attract as much as $600 billion in investment under the right conditions. He also said it could mean the creation of some 500,000 new jobs for Russian citizens.
CHECHNYA DEMANDS ROKHLIN'S EXTRADITION
The Chechen National Security Service has addressed a letter to Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov demanding the extradition to Grozny of Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July. Chechen presidential adviser Ruslan Kutaev told the newspaper that Rokhlin contrived to export from Chechnya quantities of an unnamed valuable metal from L-39 aircraft that had been shot down and that he sold the metal in Volgograd for one billion rubles ($173,000). The procuracy confirmed that Rokhlin exported the metal, but it declined to file charges on the grounds that he had used the proceeds to purchase apartments for officers serving under him.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says military reform should be delayed until social problems in the armed forces can be solved, Russian news agencies reported on 24 July. Noting that soldiers face persistent wage arrears and long waiting lists for apartments, the mayor said, "the reform should not be implemented when the situation in the army is shaky, controversial, and dangerous." Luzhkov said he saw "nothing tragic" in Yeltsin's veto of the religion law, although he advocated passing a revised version to protect "traditional confessions [from] various sects." The mayor also expressed regret that "most [Russian] newspapers are not free" because of pressure exerted by "politicized financial structures." Luzhkov is considered to have considerable influence over many Moscow-based newspapers, which pay far below market rates for rent and municipal services. The Moscow city government recently helped found the TV-Center network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May and 9 June 1997).
CENTRAL ASIAN UNION CONFERENCE OPENS IN KYRGYZSTAN
Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan), Askar Akayev (Kyrgyzstan), and Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan) are attending the Central Asian Union conference in the Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata, which opened on 24 July. The three leaders agreed to a Kyrgyz proposal to hold a conference in Bishkek under UN auspices to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. All interested parties would be represented at that meeting. At a press conference, they said they had informed their respective prime ministers to draft a program for setting up an international consortium to manage energy and water resources before the next summit.
KARIMOV SAYS UZBEKISTAN CANNOT BE GUARANTOR OF TAJIK PEACE
Uzbek President Karimov announced at the Central Asian Union conference that he believes his country is in no position to act as a guarantor of peace in Tajikistan, Russian media reported. Karimov said the situation in Tajikistan is beginning to resemble that of Afghanistan and that his country "is not prepared" to take on the responsibility of ensuring peace in the neighboring country. He added that only Russia, the U.S., or possibly the EU has the resources to influence events in Tajikistan. are Seven countries, the UN, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are guarantors of the Tajik peace process. Uzbekistan, however, did not sign the April Tehran protocol as a guarantor country.
PROBLEMS IN SOUTHWESTERN TAJIKISTAN
Shirali Mirzoyev on 24 July announced the formation of the Defense Council of the Southern and Central Regions of Tajikistan, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS. Mirzoyev is the head of the council and is supported by the commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev. The council's stated goal is to establish order in the Khatlon region and implement the terms of the Tajik National Reconciliation Accord, signed in Moscow on 27 June. However, the council is opposed to allowing fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to return to Tajikistan with their weapons. Under the terms of the Moscow accord, some are to be allowed to return armed to provide security for UTO leaders who also plan to return to the country. Khudaberdiyev has already called for Dushanbe to be an arms free zone. Khudaberdiyev also said he objected to allowing "Islamic fundamentalists and Wahhabis" into Tajikistan.
DEMONSTRATION OVER UZBEK DECISION TO CUT WATER TO KAZAKHSTAN
Residents of the Southern Kazakhstan Oblast on 24 July gathered on a bridge over a major canal near the Uzbek-Kazakh border to protest Uzbek cuts in the water supply, ITAR-TASS reported. Tashkent recently cut supplies to the Druzhba Canal, which enters Kazakhstan from Uzbekistan, by 70 percent. The action now threatens to ruin crops on more than 100,000 hectares of farmland in Kazakhstan. Following negotiations, the Uzbeks decided to augment the flow by 20 percent, but the Kazakhs claim this is insufficient.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DECREES FATE WORSE THAN DEATH
Eduard Shevardnadze told a cabinet session on 24 July that he will shortly sign a decree commuting the death sentences passed on 54 convicts to 20 years' imprisonment, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier this month, 52 Georgian convicts who had been sentenced to death staged a hunger strike to protest "unbearable" prison conditions. There has been a de facto moratorium on executions in Georgia since 1995. Shevardnadze announced an official moratorium last December.
GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF OUTLINES REFORM PLANS
Addressing senior police officials in Tbilisi on 24 July, acting National Security Minister Dzhemal Gakhokidze announced the start of a broad reform of the ministry to separate intelligence and counter-intelligence, Interfax reported. Gakhokidze also said that a service for combating terrorism and smuggling (including that of drugs) has been created in response to reports that international drugs syndicates are planning to increase clandestine narcotics shipments to Western Europe via the southern Caucasus.
MUSEUM TO GEORGIAN WRITER DAMAGED BY BOMB
A bomb on 23 July partly destroyed the ancestral home of Prince Ivane Machabeli, the 19th century writer and translator of Shakespeare, Interfax reported. The building, located in South Ossetia, is now a museum. The Georgian Interior Ministry refused to comment on the incident, which observers in Tbilisi believe was politically motivated. In late 1990, Georgian parliamentary chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia revoked South Ossetia's autonomous status within Georgia, sparking fierce fighting between the local Georgian and Ossetian populations. An peacekeeping mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been deployed in South Ossetia since 1992. Some progress has been made toward formalizing the region's status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government.
UKRAINE WANTS EXPLANATION OF LUKASHENKA STATEMENT
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Deputy Secretary Alexander Razumkov has said Ukraine wants Belarus to explain a recent statement by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Interfax reported on 24 July. Lukashenka said two days earlier that Ukraine has failed to implement bilateral agreements reached by the two countries' presidents in Gomel, western Belarus, in the spring and that he intends to introduce "tight customs and border control measures" on the border with Ukraine because economic cooperation between the two countries at present "is not being developed appropriately." According to Lukashenka, Russia will impose the same regime on the border with Ukraine. "If Ukraine wants to become a sovereign country, let it be so, but not at our expense," Lukashenka had commented. Razumkov said that Ukraine has "every reason to ask on what grounds the president of a third country made a statement about a possible change of regime on the Ukrainian-Russian border."
UKRAINE RECEIVES SIX WARSHIPS FROM RUSSIA
Russia has handed over to Ukraine six out of the 11 Black Sea Fleet warships it is due to receive, as the two countries complete the second stage of the division of the fleet, the Ukrainian Navy's press service told ITAR-TASS on 24 July. Kyiv has already received 12 out of 30 auxiliary vessels and 10 shore installations out of some 100 that it has been allocated. Under the division plan, the last warship is to be handed over to Ukraine before 25 July. The deadline for completing the division is 1 August.
ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SUES PAPER FOR LIBEL
Robert Lepikson on 24 July announced he is suing the "Ohtuleht" evening daily for libel over a recent article claiming he was stopped by police for driving at more than two times the legal maximum speed, BNS and ETA reported. The article cited a radio amateur who claims to have tuned into a police frequency and heard how Lepikson's 280-horsepower Jaguar was stopped near Parnu after police had recorded a speed of 212 kmph. The speed limit is reported to have been 90 kmph. Lepikson said he was in Parnu at the time mentioned in the article, but he denied speeding or having been stopped by the police. He is suing the paper for 212,OOO kroons (some $15,000) and says he will donate the money to the police force to buy bullet-proof vests for officers.
UKRAINE, LATVIA PLEDGE TO INCREASE TRADE TIES
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadi Udovenko, during his visit to Riga on 24 July, promised increased trade ties with Latvia, including the development of a Black Sea-Baltic Sea transport corridor, BNS reported. Udovenko discussed opportunities for boosting bilateral trade at a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele. Together with his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Birkavs, Udovenko signed bilateral agreements on the mutual protection of investments, the readmission of illegal immigrants, and visa requirements for both countries. Udovenko is scheduled to meet with Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on 25 July.
LITHUANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CALLS FOR REORGANIZATION OF VILNIUS POLICE
Vidmantas Ziemelis has called for a reorganization and strengthening of the Vilnius police force following a series of violent attacks on foreigners in the capital, BNS reported on 24 July. The most recent of those attacks took place on 20 July, when French diplomat Patric Donobedian was badly beaten and robbed by three youths near his home in downtown Vilnius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). Donobedian had to undergo surgery, and the Vilnius police chief and two of his deputies resigned over the attack. Ziemelis, however, said that more dismissals are needed and that the police force will have to be enlarged and reorganized. "It is not the city that lives for the police, but vice versa," he commented.
EU OFFERS AID TO POLAND
The European Commission announced on 24 July it is granting more than 65 million ECUs ($70 million) in aid to help Poland recover from recent floods. It also said it was asking the European Investment Bank to consider loans to the region. External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek announced the decision at a press conference in Brussels. The floods, the worst in centuries, have left at least 55 people dead and more than 5,000 sq km (2,000 sq miles) in southern and western Poland under water. Van den Broek said that the money, which is in addition to some 300,000 ECUs already released, would come from the EU's PHARE program, the funding project aimed at former Communist countries seeking EU membership. Van den Broek said he has ordered commission staff to look for PHARE funds to help the Czech Republic, which has also been hit by floods.
CZECH RULING COALITION PARTIES AT ODDS, AGAIN
Josef Lux, chairman of the coalition Christian Democratic Union, on 24 July threatened that his party will leave Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's ruling coalition over the government decision to reject the sale of some 100 tanks to Algeria. The sale had been prepared by the Ministry of Defense, which is headed by Miloslav Vyborny of Lux's party. Speaking on Czech Television, Lux objected to the way in which the government reached its decision, saying that the Civic Democratic Alliance blocked any discussion of the issue. Lux also protested the way in which the government decided to go ahead with the sale of the state's share in Investicni and Postovni Banka, the fourth largest bank in the country, to the Japanese Nomurra investment bank. He said that cabinet members received relevant documents on the sale only shortly before the government session at which the sale was discussed. He also argued that the sale is ill-prepared and disadvantageous for the country.
CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES PAYMENT FOR SLOVAK JEWISH GOLD
Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Karel Kovanda told journalists on 24 July that the government has agreed to pay 20 million crowns ($580,000) to a Jewish foundation to settle claims on gold and jewels held by the Czech National Bank. The foundation has been formed by the Slovak and Czech Jewish communities to undertake charitable projects. The gold and jewels were among valuables confiscated from Slovak Jews during World War II that were eventually transferred to the former Czechoslovak state bank. Kovanda said the payment will be made as soon as a bank account is set up. He said the Czech Finance Ministry had valued the gold and jewels at 32 million crowns ($950,000). Under the formula devised for dividing the assets of the former Czechoslovakia, the Czechs are to pay two-thirds of the total. Jozef Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and director of the Slovak Union of Jewish Communities, said he is satisfied with the arrangement.
SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF GAULIEDER
The Constitutional Court on 24 July ruled that the parliament violated the constitutional rights of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder when it adopted a resolution in December 1996 revoking Gaulieder's mandate. Gaulieder quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in 1996 in protest against the party's alleged hushing up of the involvement of the Slovak Intelligence Service in the abduction of President Michal Kovac's son. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic later produced a letter from Gaulieder saying he was giving up his mandate. Gaulieder, however, says he never signed the letter. The court ruled that the parliament acted unconstitutionally, but it refused to order the legislature to restore Gaulieder's mandate. Constitutional Court chairman Richard Rapant told Radio Twist on 24 July that Gaulieder will be able to resume his parliamentary mandate only after the legislature reverses its unconstitutional decision to strip him of his mandate.
HUNGARY TO OPEN AIR CONTROL CENTER
Armed forces chief of staff Ferenc Vegh announced on 24 July that the country's center for air space control will be opened in Veszprem, Hungarian media reported. He said the center, to be completed by mid-1998, will rank as "fairly advanced" in comparison with similar facilities in NATO member countries. The project is estimated to cost several million dollars and will be financed with U.S. aid. Vegh also announced that the air force will become an independent branch of the military. Following NATO's decision to invite Hungary to accession negotiations, the armed forces view the development of the country's air force as a top priority.
SUSPECTED BOMB ATTACK ON APARTMENT BUILDING IN ALBANIA
Police said that a bomb was most likely responsible for an explosion on 25 July that destroyed the top floors of an apartment building in Peshkopi, near the Macedonian border. The blast killed at least three persons and wounded another 16, but police say that more people could be buried in the rubble. In other news, Prime Minister Fatos Nano has named his cabinet and the new ministers have taken their oaths of office at King Zog's former palace, near Tirana. The 22 ministers represent five political parties. Key appointments include Deputy Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, Economy Minister Ylli Bufi, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka, and Finance Minister Arben Malaj.
BUSY DAY IN ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT
The newly elected parliament met on 24 July for its first full-day working session, which was televised live. Legislators voted to end the state of emergency and the 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. They also elected Rexhep Mejdani president and Fatos Nano prime minister. Hundreds of people greeted Mejdani's election with gunfire, despite appeals from the police to stop. Three policemen and several civilians were accidentally wounded. Mejdani is one of the few top politicians who never belonged to Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor. In his acceptance speech, Mejdani urged Albanians "to help me realize my mission on the difficult road of normalizing the life of the country and its institutions. I call on all Albanian immigrants wherever they are to come back and contribute to the reconstruction of Albania." Immigrants, however, provide much-needed foreign exchange, and Albania at present cannot provide jobs for all its citizens.
MILOSEVIC PROMISES DRASKOVIC FAIR ELECTIONS
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic discussed the upcoming Serbian legislative and presidential elections in Belgrade on 24 July. Milosevic promised Draskovic that the vote will be free and fair, the opposition leader said. Draskovic added that Milosevic agreed with him that "it is in the interest of Serbia and our people to stop divisions and hatred." Milosevic wants the opposition to participate in the elections, which 10 parties have threatened to boycott if the vote is not free and fair . It is unclear whether Milosevic addressed the opposition's specific demand for equal access to the media. Milosevic did not invite the other two main opposition leaders, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic, to the meeting, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade.
SERBIAN ELECTIONS SLATED FOR 21 SEPTEMBER
Acting Serbian President Dragan Tomic has announced that the Serbian elections will take place on 21 September, Belgrade media reported. The steering committee of the governing Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) will meet on 25 July to select a presidential candidate. The most likely candidates include Ambassador to China Slobodan Unkovic and former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. Also in Belgrade, SPS Vice President Zivadin Jovanovic on 24 July called on Washington to mark Milosevic's inauguration as Yugoslav president by dropping sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro.
SANDZAK LEADERS APPEAL FOR HELP
In Novi Pazar on 25 July, Sandzak Muslim leader Sulejman Ugljanin and other opposition coalition politicians called on U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and various international organizations to support an end to Milosevic's political pressure on Sandzak's Muslim majority. Police banned an opposition meeting the previous day because of what the Interior Ministry called the interest of "the security of people and property." Milosevic recently installed his own nominees to govern Novi Pazar, and Ugljanin himself is being harassed with a court case. Sandzak is divided between Serbia and Montenegro and forms a land bridge between Bosnia and Kosovo. Many of its Muslim leaders have close ties to Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action.
U.S. SOLDIER'S CAR BOMBED IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
A SFOR soldier's car was firebombed outside his apartment in Vlasenica near Srebrenica on 25 July. It was the latest in an almost daily series of attacks directed at foreign personnel on Bosnian Serb territory. On 24 July, a Dutch soldier was injured when drunken Serbs threw a grenade at a group of Dutch soldiers in the Kotor Varos area, near Banja Luka. Meanwhile in Bijeljina, the senate of the Republika Srpska on 24 July called on President Biljana Plavsic and her enemies in the Bosnian Serb leadership to end their feud lest it lead to the disintegration of the Republika Srpska and its reintegration into the rest of Bosnia.
SLOVENIA TO RETURN CHURCH PROPERTY
Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and Archbishop Franc Rode reached an agreement on 24 July to return to the Roman Catholic church property nationalized by the Communists after World War II. It is unclear whether all former church property is involved. The transfer will begin on 1 November, BETA reported from the Slovenian capital. The United List of Social Democrats will challenge the agreement in the parliament on the grounds that the property does not belong to the government, which thus cannot legally give it to anyone. Drnovsek's governing coalition, however, has a large enough legislative majority to approve the Church-state agreement. Recent polls suggest that 80 percent of the population opposes the return of Church property.
ROMANIAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF RESIGNS
Gen. Ion Talpes on 24 July resigned in connection with the Swiss diplomat spying affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 July 1997). President Emil Constantinescu accepted his resignation and said Talpes will be appointed to another position. In a letter to Constantinescu, Talpes said the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) has not been involved in espionage activities in Switzerland. But he added that an investigation has revealed that "for several years there had been sporadic contacts between a Swiss diplomat and SIE collaborators" and that, as a result, "Swiss-Romanian relations" were compromised. Talpes said he considers himself to bear "responsibility for this situation." He noted that the information provided by the Swiss diplomat was "not secret and in no way endangered Switzerland's interests or national security."
BILINGUAL SIGNS IN TARGU MURES PAINTED OVER AGAIN
The Romanian-Hungarian bilingual signs in the Transylvanian town of Targu Mures have once again been painted over in the colors of the Romanian national flag, Mediafax reported on 24 July. Mayor Imre Fodor ordered the signs dismantled and cleaned, after which, he said, they will be put back up. He urged that the signs be permanently guarded in the future. Also on 24 July, Gheorghe Funar, the extreme nationalist mayor of Cluj, announced that the town's Hungarian consulate, which was opened the previous day, is to be fined 20 million lei (some $280,000) for hoisting the Hungarian national flag, which, according to Funar, is a violation of the Romanian Constitution. Funar added that the consulate would be fined another 10 million lei for decorating the entrance to the building where the consulate is temporarily located.
MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA
Valeriu Pasat arrived in Romania on 24 July for a two-day visit. Together with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, he signed an agreement on cooperation in military transportation. They also agreed to set up a joint peace-keeping unit. Moldovan Chief of Staff Col. Vladimir Dontu told RFE/RL that the Moldovan army is keen to familiarize itself with Romania's military instruction. Dontu said the most important thing for Moldova is that Bucharest offers such instruction free of charge, since Moldova is too poor to pay for officers to be trained abroad. But he admitted that Moldovans have "communication problems" when using the Romanian language. Dontu said there was "no close military collaboration" between Moldova and Russia because Moscow conditions such collaboration on participation in the CIS collective security system, to which Chisinau does not belong.
DETAILS ON DRAFT SETTLEMENT OF TIRASPOL-CHISINAU CONFLICT
According to BASA-press on 24 July, the draft agreement proposed by the Joint Control Commission for a final settlement of the conflict in Moldova gives the Transdniester breakaway region the right to have its own constitution, parliament, flag, state symbols, and anthem. The official languages in the Transdniester would be Moldovan, Russian, and Ukrainian. Alluding to what Tiraspol perceives as the danger of reunification with Romania, the draft gives the Transdniester the right of self-determination if Moldova loses its independence. The draft also says Tiraspol would participate in foreign-policy making, security decisions affecting the breakaway region, and decisions on Moldova's budget (while maintaining its own budget). The region is also to decide its own structure of local government.
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DISMISSES RADIO, TV CHIEFS
The parliament on 24 July voted to dismiss Adrian Usatai as head of the state radio company and Dumitru Turcanu as director of national television. They were accused of violating the provisions of the constitution on political pluralism and laws on providing accurate information. Usatai's dismissal was also linked to the broadcasting in November of a secretly taped telephone conversation between deputy Nicolae Andronic and Moldova's former ambassador to Germany, Alexandru Buruiana. Observers link the dismissal of Usatai and Turcanu to the ongoing struggle between the anti-reformist parliament and President Petru Lucinschi, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In related developments, former parliamentary deputy chairman Dumitru Diacov declined Lucinschi's offer to take over the foreign affairs portfolio, saying that his presence in the legislature is more necessary for advancing reforms, Infotag reported.
MOLDOVA RATIFIES EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The parliament on 24 July ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, which was signed by former President Mircea Snegur on joining the Council of Europe in July 1995, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The parliament, however, said that for the present, Moldova is unable to ensure the convention's implementation in the breakaway Transdniester region. It also said Moldova needs about a year to amend legislation that contradicts the convention's provisions. In other news, President Lucinschi on 24 July dismissed all four department heads of Moldova's traffic police for abuse of office and corruption, following the findings of an unannounced investigation, Infotag reported.
BULGARIAN ENERGY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN REPLACED
Georgi Stoilov was replaced on 24 July as chairman of the energy committee, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported. He attracted attention earlier this year when he became the first Bulgarian official to support warnings by international experts about environmental dangers arising from the nuclear plant at Kozloduy. The new chairman of the committee is Ivan Silyashki. All directors of the state-owned electricity company have also been dismissed.
POLITICAL STORIES FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
by Patrick Moore
For many people in the former Yugoslavia, the most important event of the past week was the 23 July soccer game in which Partizan-Belgrade beat Croatia-Zagreb 1-0. But in addition to that highly politicized soccer match, there were at least three recent political stories that captured attention.
The first such story involves the power struggle between Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and most of the rest of the Bosnian Serb leadership, who remain loyal to Radovan Karadzic, the former president of the Bosnian Serb Republic. Plavsic says she is determined to establish the rule of law and thereby uproot Karadzic's corrupt, mafia-like power structure. In recent weeks, she has fired Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, dissolved the parliament, called new elections, summoned support from the army and the Constitutional Court, said she would arrest Karadzic, and publicly called Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic the ultimate source of her problems. Her enemies have opposed her at every step of the way, but Plavsic refuses to be intimidated.
Her campaign surprised many observers, because she is no less nationalistic than her opponents, with whom she had been allied since the founding of the Serbian Democratic Party in July 1990. Most important, she was Karadzic's hand-picked successor in 1996 when the international community forced him to leave public life.
Plavsic says that those who thought she would be simply a puppet did not know her. The question nonetheless remains as to why she waited until now to launch her campaign. Plavsic says that her wartime job as vice president limited her to humanitarian affairs and that she has been able to show her mettle only since September 1996, when she became president. Some observers say that the corruption and profiteering became too much for her to bear as a citizen and as a president whose government was being cheated of huge amounts of revenue by the mafia. Other pundits speculate that she was encouraged to strike out on her own by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who visited the region less than two months ago.
But for whatever reason Plavsic chose to take on the establishment, it is shrewd politics to attack the ill-gotten gains of a handful of profiteers in a country where the vast majority of people have to struggle on a monthly average income of $35. Plavsic has attracted support, particularly in her power base of Banja Luka, which is the Republika Srpska's only city and which has traditionally gravitated economically toward Zagreb rather than toward Belgrade. In any event, Plavsic is likely to remain a thorn in the side of Karadzic and his friends as long as she is on the scene.
The second main recent political story involves Milosevic himself, who became president of federal Yugoslavia on 23 July. Just over a week earlier, his backers steamrolled his election through the parliament before Montenegrin deputies realized what was happening and could marshal their opposition.
He now seems bent on turning the formerly ceremonial federal presidency into a real source of power. To do so, he must first amend the constitution to reduce the authority of Serbia and Montenegro with regard to federal institutions. The governing Montenegrin Democratic Socialist Party, which recently threw out Milosevic ally Momir Bulatovic as its leader, seems prepared to challenge him. Milosevic can also expect a fight from the Popular Concord coalition and other Montenegrin opposition groups, as well as from the Serbian opposition.
But that opposition has shown itself as divided as ever, not only at a time when Milosevic is trying to amass more power but also as the September elections in Serbia draw near. Milosevic is nonetheless taking no chances regarding those elections and is using his now familiar tactics to ensure a victory for his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). He made an emotional visit to Kosovo to show his support for local Serbs and forced out the Muslim leadership in the city government of Novi Pazar in Sandzak. The SPS and its legislative allies then passed a new election law that raises the number of electoral districts and ensures ample gains for the SPS. Milosevic has, moreover, begun to shut down the few local independent radio and television broadcasters in a bid to regain complete control over the electronic media outside Belgrade once again.
The third news story also involves the past repeating itself, but in a different sense. On 15 July, the EU invited Slovenia to participate in the first round of its talks with prospective new members. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from Brussels that Slovenia alone of the former Yugoslav republics stood any chance of being invited.
Jelko Kacin, the chair of the Slovenian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told RFE/RL in Ljubljana, however, that Slovenia's invitation from the EU does not mean that Slovenia is turning its back on its former Yugoslav partners. Geography, he says, makes that impossible. Kacin also pointed out that in socialist Yugoslavia, Slovenia was the economically most developed republic and hence always the "laboratory in which new social or economic experiments were tried out first." Now, Kacin explained, Slovenia is simply continuing the old tradition of being the first to try out a new system. "Europe," he concluded, will sooner or later come to the Balkans--via Slovenia.