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Newsline - October 17, 1997




YELTSIN CALLS FOR ROUND-TABLE TALKS WITH OPPOSITION

President Boris Yeltsin, speaking in his weekly radio address on 17 October, appealed to opposition leaders in the Duma to hold round-table talks ahead of a no-confidence vote planned for 22 October. Yeltsin said representatives of the executive and the legislature should search for compromises in the current political crisis over the draft 1998 budget. But he added that whatever happens, Russia's political system is now stable enough to "survive all political cataclysms without fear." Yeltsin said the time of putsches and plots has gone forever.

COMMUNISTS HINT THEY MAY DROP NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE DEMAND

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 16 October hinted that communist deputies, who put the no-confidence motion on the agenda, may be willing to support the government if Yeltsin agrees to certain conditions. He told ITAR-TASS the Communists' main demand is that Yeltsin sign a law whereby a successful no-confidence vote against the government would mean the automatic resignation of the prime minister and the cabinet. Under current rules, the Duma must pass a second no-confidence motion in three months before any action can be taken. The president can then dissolve the lower house.

U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST GAZPROM

Meeting in Moscow on 15 October with Rem Vyakhirev, the chairman of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, U.S. Ambassador James Collins warned that the U.S. may apply sanctions against the company because of its participation in developing an Iranian gas field together with Iranian, French, and Malaysian oil companies. Vyakhirev responded that the deal is purely commercial and that Gazprom "has never violated Russian, Iranian, or international laws and does not intend to do so", Interfax reported. He added that the threat of sanctions "is unacceptable for Gazprom." Previously, Vyakhirev had said his company had considered the possibility of sanctions but had concluded it would be "madness" not to participate in the $2 billion deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1997).

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES CONTACTS WITH PKK

Spokesman Gennadii Tarasov has denied that the Foreign Ministry coordinated contacts between the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Russian State Duma deputies. The denial was released to Interfax for circulation on 16 October. Tarasov said Russia supports a peaceful political settlement of the Kurdish problem whereby the territorial integrity of those states with a Kurdish minority is preserved. Chairman of the Duma Committee for Geopolitics Aleksei Mitrofanov had told journalists on 10 October that Duma deputies from several factions, including those of Vladimir Zhirinovksy's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Yabloko, and the Communist Party, met with PKK chairman Abdullah Ocalan in an unidentified country in early October. Those deputies later advocated that Turkey and Kurdistan create a federation. Ocalan went on trial in absentia in Turkey on 13 October. He is charged with treason.

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MILITARY ENTERPRISES MUST CONSOLIDATE

Igor Sergeev has said the military-industrial complex must be consolidated and made more efficient if it is to survive. During his two-day tour of military bases in Central Russia, Sergeev said the Defense Ministry will be able to pay only 500,000 workers and soldiers this year out of its budget and only 780,000 in 1998, "Krasnaya Zvezda" reported on 16 October. The newspaper noted that some 2.5 million people currently work in the military sector. Sergeev also said research institutes and military manufacturers will have to compete in the market place to stay afloat. He noted that it makes little sense for Russia to have 37 separate aircraft manufacturing plants and for its design bureaus to be developing six new fighter jets, when the U.S. is working on just two and Europe one.

DEFENSE MINISTRY FUND-RAISES AMONG BANKERS

Meanwhile in Moscow, the Defense Ministry is renewing its attempt to enlist financial support from the country's bankers, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 October. At a conference entitled "Non-Budgetary Sources of Financing--The Needs of National Defense," senior defense officials met with representatives of leading Russian banks in a fund-raising effort. Among those attending were managers from Menatep Bank, Oneksimbank, Sberbank, and Bank Rossiiskii Kredit, all of whom said they are willing to help the ailing defense sector but noted the ministry must open its accounting books and draw up precise rules for involvement. "Kommersant-Daily" commented that no agreements were signed and the atmosphere among the bankers and generals remained somewhat strained.

RUSSIA SIGNS DEAL TO MODERNIZE MALAYSIA'S MIG FIGHTERS

Representatives of Russia's state-owned arms export agency, Rosvoorzuzhenie and the MiG aircraft manufacturer, have signed a $32 million deal to modernize Malaysia's current fleet of MiG-29 fighter planes. Interfax reported on 16 October that under the contract, concluded in Kuala Lumpur, 18 jets received by Malaysia in 1994 will be equipped with a mid-air refueling system that meets NATO standards, a larger payload, and more advanced weaponry.

RUSSIA STILL MAIN TRANSIT ROUTE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO EUROPE

Tatyana Regent, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service, has said Russia remains the main transit route for illegal immigration to Central and Western Europe. Speaking to RFE/RL during a visit to Prague, Regent said illegal immigrants in Russia are currently thought to number some 700,000. She said the main destinations for illegal immigrants transiting through Russia are Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Smugglers charge $10 dollars a head for passage to Belarus and as much as $1,000 for other destinations. Regent said the flow of illegal immigrants into Russia is facilitated by the visa-free travel regime with other CIS countries. She added that she hoped an agreement on joint efforts to combat organized crime will be reached at the summit of CIS leaders in Chisinau on 22-23 October.

NO HEATING IN VLADIVOSTOK

The heating season in the port of Vladivostok has been postponed for an indefinite period, despite the fact the temperatures inside apartments now average only 9 -14 degrees Celsius, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. Dalenergo, the region's monopoly energy supplier, published a statement in the local press saying the fault lies with the mayor's office, which the company says owes it 559 billion rubles ($100 million). The mayor's office, however, says it is the one that is owed money.



TAJIK POLICE DETAIN FOUR IN CONNECTION WITH KILLINGS

Tajik police on 16 October detained four men suspected of involvement in the attack earlier the same day on the headquarters of the Tajik presidential guard. Fourteen guards and four assailants died in the attack, which Tajik Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said was politically motivated and perpetrated by forces opposed to the peace accord concluded between the government and the opposition earlier this year. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told Interfax that "none of the opposition units could or did take part in this crime." Also on 16 October, the bodies of four Tajik soldiers killed in two separate incidents were found near Dushanbe.

CONFUSION OVER TAJIK REFUGEES

A spokesman for the International Red Cross said on 16 October that some 5,000 Tajik refugees have fled from the Sakhi camp in northern Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, Reuters reported. But an official with the UN High Commission on Refugees denied the report, telling an RFE/RL correspondent that the refugees are still at the Sakhi camp.

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN DUSHANBE

Muradbek ImanAliyev met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 16 October to discuss bilateral ties and Tajikistan's involvement in various regional initiatives, Russian agencies reported. ImanAliyev told journalists at the end of his two-day visit that talks focused on Tajikistan's participation in the construction of a railway linking Central Asia and China and in economic projects being jointly implemented by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, specifically involving water resources, electrical and power engineering. He added there are no obstacles to Tajik participation in the proposed Central Asian peacekeeping battalion. ImanAliyev and Rakhmonov expressed support for a UN sponsored conference on Afghanistan and on how to repatriate some 17,000 Tajik refugees currently in Kyrgyzstan, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October.

UZBEKISTAN SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH OSCE OFFICE

Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Khomilov and Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, have signed a memorandum in Tashkent on promoting democracy and developing a civil society, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Uzbek capital reported on 16 October. The agreement covers 10 projects including an educational program on human rights and programs on training Constitutional Court judges as well as on organizing and conducting free elections.

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS

In an interview published in "Le Monde" on 16 October, Levon Ter-Petrossyan said Armenia and Azerbaijan have accepted the first stage of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group's two-stage peace plan as a basis for further negotiations. The first stage foresees a withdrawal of Armenian forces from six occupied Azerbaijani raions, the repatriation of displaced persons, and other confidence-building measures. Presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in Yerevan on 16 October that Ter-Petrossyan believes the summit on Karabakh proposed by Russian and French Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac should take place only after "serious results" have been achieved in the negotiation process, Noyan Tapan reported.

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON OSCE PEACEKEEPING FORCE

Heidar Aliyev said on 15 October that OSCE peacekeeping troops will "without doubt" be needed to monitor the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territory and the repatriation process, Interfax reported. British Foreign Office official Francis Richards told Aliyev the same day that Britain is ready to provide assistance in resolving the conflict, according to Turan the next day. Britain is not a member of the Minsk Group.

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBERSHIP

Ter-Petrossyan and chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Leni Fischer agreed during their talks at the 10-11 October summit in Strasbourg that the Transcaucasus states' prospects for full membership in the council should be assessed individually and not collectively, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 October, quoting presidential press spokesman Zurabian. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia currently have "special guest status" with the council. An April 1997 council resolution makes their full membership contingent on progress in solving the conflicts in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Zurabian said that France, Romania, and Bulgaria support full membership for Armenia.

ARMENIA-NATO TALKS

Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan met with U.S. ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter in Yerevan on 15 October, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported, citing the government press service. The talks focused on the "possibilities of deepening ties" between Armenia and NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace Program and on the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Armenian Foreign Ministry official Armen Kharazian, who also met with Hunter, said Armenia wants to increase cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and to develop "direct political links" with NATO, according to Interfax.

RUSSIA TO GIVE GEORGIA WARSHIPS

A Russian senior military delegation held talks with President Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze in Tbilisi on 14-16 October, Russian agencies reported. Nadibaidze and delegation head Colonel-General Sergei Maev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry General Automotive and Arms Directorate, initialed a draft agreement on military cooperation. Maev said on 16 October that Russia "is ready to help Georgia build its navy and air force" and plans to give Georgia four warships, subject to President Yeltsin's approval.

UN OBSERVERS PROTEST GEORGIAN MANEUVERS

UN observers have lodged a formal protest over the large-scale military exercises conducted by the Georgian army in early October on territory bordering Abkhazia, Interfax reported. They made their protest at a 15 October meeting with Abkhaz and Georgian Defense Ministry officials as well as representatives of the CIS peacekeeping force. The UN observers said that the concentration of Georgian forces in the area has exacerbated tensions in southern Abkhazia. Previously, the Abkhaz Defense Ministry and the head of the CIS peacekeeping forces lodged protests over the maneuvers with Georgian Defense Minister Nadibaidze, who rejected them as unfounded, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 October.

AZERBAIJANI GAS, OIL OFFICIALS FIRED

The cabinet on 16 October dismissed Farman Veli-Zade, the head of the Azerigas joint-stock company, and Sayad Ibragimov, a deputy president of the state oil company SOCAR, according to ITAR -TASS. Veli-Zade is reported to have spent $250,000 on renovating the company's headquarters, although Azerigas owes its employees 9 billion manats ($2.25 million) in wage arrears. Ibragimov's alleged failure to adequately supervise drilling and oil-refining activities is said to have led to a "general deterioration" of SOCAR's financial position. The dismissals must be approved by President Aliev.




UKRAINE WILL NOT RESTART CHORNOBYL THIS YEAR

Officials at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant said cracks in the piping in one of the reactors will keep the plant closed until sometime in 1998, Interfax reported on 16 October. That reactor, the only one to have operated in the last several years, was shut off in June for maintenance, during which the cracks were discovered. Chornobyl managers denied Kyiv press reports that workers at the plant have been subject to excessive levels of radiation as a result of the cracks. Ukraine has pledged to close the plant by the year 2000 if foreign governments provide sufficient funds to build an alternative power facility.

UKRAINE TO SELL MILITARY TRUCKS TO INDIA

The AvtoKraz factory in Kremenchuk will sell 600 military trucks to India starting next year, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 16 October. The deal is valued at some $24 million. Ukraine is now the world's fifth-largest arms exporter.

BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS PLAN "GAGGED MOUTH" MARCH

Journalists opposed to the authoritarian rule of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka are planning to hold a "gagged mouth march" in Minsk on 19 October to protest what they call the "totalitarian control over information" in that country, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. The organizers said they hope to use the demonstration to call attention to the dangers posed by both Lukashenka's policies and the draft media law that would give the government sweeping new powers to suppress dissent. Meanwhile, collective farm leaders jointly protested Lukashenka's removal of one of their number, Interfax reported on 16 October. The collective farmers said the president's action is "illegal."

IMF OFFICIAL ON FUND'S FUTURE ROLE IN BALTICS

Dimitris Demekas, the IMF's permanent representative in Estonia and Latvia, has said he expects IMF financial assistance to the Baltic States to decline in the coming years as the countries' economies continue to strengthen, RFE/RL reported on 16 October. Demekas was addressing an international conference in Riga on banking and finance in the Baltics. He said that with the growing prospect of EU membership for the Baltics, particularly for Estonia, the role of the IMF as the main economic policy adviser to the their governments would be bound to decline. At the same time, he stressed the fund would continue to play a key role in the region, particularly in promoting sound banking principles and limiting financial sector risks.

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS AMENDMENTS TO CITIZENSHIP LAW

Lawmakers on 16 October rejected amendments to the citizenship law proposed by the People's Harmony Party, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported. Under the amendments, citizenship would have been granted to children born in Latvia since independence and the age limit for submitting citizenship applications lifted (currently only those under 25 can apply). Previously, the Cooperation Council of the coalition parties had agreed to reject the amendments to safeguard a provision of the government cooperation agreement whereby the citizenship law cannot be changed.

U.S., LITHUANIAN DEFENSE CHIEFS MEET ON NATO EXPANSION

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Ceslovas Stankevicius met at the Pentagon on 16 October for talks on NATO expansion and Vilnius's bid for admission to the alliance. Their discussions focused on steps Lithuania must take to join the alliance. Cohen praised Lithuania's participation in Bosnian peacekeeping operations and the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion as well as its efforts to form a joint peacekeeping battalion with Poland. "The Baltic States have made a strong effort to measure up to NATO standards, " Cohen said. At the same time, he warned that the "stairs to NATO membership are very steep." Commenting on Russian concerns, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon stressed Moscow has nothing to fear from Baltic membership in NATO.

POLISH INQUIRY EXONERATES SOVIETS IN 1946 POGROM

A four-year government investigation has determined that Soviet officials did not incite the violence that led to the killing of 42 Jews in the Polish town of Kielce in 1946, PAP reported on 16 October. In the past, many Poles have laid the blame for this tragedy on the Soviet authorities. Members of the investigation team said they may urge Warsaw to bring to justice Polish officials who failed to prevent the killings.

CZECH GOVERNMENT CLOSES NAZI ARCHIVE

The Czech government has closed a Prague-based Nazi SS archive to researchers, "Dnes" reported on 16 October. According to the daily, the authorities took that step to prevent the theft of materials from the archives and also to avoid angering the German government, which currently is pressing for the return of the archives to Germany.

OSCE URGES SLOVAKIA TO ADOPT MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW

In an interview published in "Sme" on 16 October, Max van der Stoel, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's high commissioner on national minorities, urged that Slovakia bow to international pressure and pass a law that would protect the language rights of minority groups in that country. But van der Stoel said he remains "uncertain" as to whether Bratislava would do so.

HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO RULE ON NATO REFERENDUM

The Constitutional Court on 16 October said it is not competent to rule whether the referendum on NATO membership can be held separately from the plebiscite on land ownership by foreigners. The court's announcement came in response to the government's request for clarification on the issue. Prime Minister Gyula Horn responded by saying the referendum on NATO memberhsip will proceed as planned on 16 November. Horn said the governemnt would be able to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary for the passage in the parliament of the proposal to hold one referendum on NATO and a separate one on land ownership, Reuters reported on 17 October.

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN ELECTORAL PACT

The Alliance of Young Democrats and the Christian Democratic Alliance, set up by former members of the Christian Democratic Party, have signed an electoral accord, Hungarian media reported on 16 October. The agreement stipulates that the two parties will field joint candidates in single-member constituencies in the 1998 parliamentary elections. The accord also applies to local elections.




HARD-LINE BOSNIAN SERB TELEVISION BACK ON AIR

Pale TV resumed broadcasting on 16 October, just over two weeks after NATO troops seized its transmitters. Pale-based officials would not reveal how they managed to get back on the air. Some observers suggested that the Serbs used a series of small transmitters over a large area in what the observers called a "guerrilla action." NATO spokesmen said in Sarajevo that SFOR is trying to determine how Pale TV managed to resume broadcasting. The programs did not differ in content or language from the earlier anti-Western transmissions that prompted SFOR to take control of the principal transmitters. Meanwhile, the "Los Angeles Times" wrote on 17 October that the U.S. has supplied $700,000 worth of broadcasting equipment to Pale's rivals at Banja Luka TV and will provide training for television journalists there.

KRAJISNIK CASTS DOUBT ON BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS

Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency and spokesman for the faction supporting Radovan Karadzic, said in Belgrade on 16 October that "without presidential elections, there can be no parliamentary elections." He and his rival President Biljana Plavsic recently agreed that Bosnian Serb parliamentary elections can go ahead on 23 November. She argues, however, that nothing was decided on holding presidential elections in December, which her opponents demand (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997). Elsewhere in Belgrade, Orthodox Patriarch Pavle and some 60 Serbian and Bosnian Serb intellectuals signed a declaration defending indicted war criminals Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. The signatories charge that the two are victims of Western anti-Serbian sentiments.

BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT TO STRIKE DEAL FOR MONTENEGRIN PORT?

Bosnian Transport Minister Rasim Gacanovic said in Sarajevo on 16 October that his government wants talks with the Montenegrin authorities on use of the port of Bar. Negotiations with Croatia over use of the port of Ploce collapsed two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1997). Mladen Mitrovic, the commercial. manager for Bar's port authority, said the Bosnians' "proposal of cooperation can only be welcomed and [that Bar is] interested in cooperation with [other republics of] former Yugoslavia." The communists developed Bar in the 1980s after building a costly railway link between the port and Belgrade. A rail connection between Sarajevo and Bar would have to go through either Croatia or the Republika Srpska and Yugoslavia. Bar has fallen on hard times following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the imposition of international sanctions.

SERBIAN POLICE KILL ONE PERSON IN ATTACK ON KOSOVO STATION

Serbian police in Pristina on 16 October identified the man killed in an attack on a police station near Klina as an Albanian terrorist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1997). The attack is the latest in a recent series that the police attribute to the Kosovo Liberation Army. Ethnic Albanian spokesmen charged that police have mistreated Albanian villagers in reprisal for the attacks. Meanwhile in Skopje, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that the international community holds Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic responsible for developments in Kosovo.

KOSOVO STUDENTS TO RESUME PROTESTS

Representatives of ethnic Albanian students in Pristina have agreed to resume mass protests on 29 October. The students want the Serbian authorities to implement a 1996 agreement that provides for restoring Albanian-language education at all levels in the province. The students also demand the immediate restoration of Albanian-language instruction at Pristina University, where for some years professors have taught only in Serbo-Croatian. On 1 October, police broke up the first major protest by Kosovar students in years. Meanwhile in Belgrade, local student leaders told "Nasa Borba" that they are in contact with the Albanian students in Pristina and hope to meet with them soon. Visiting student leaders from Ljubljana promised computers and other equipment to the Belgrade students.

CROATIAN ANTI-FASCISTS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT

Spokesmen for the League of Anti-Fascist Fighters of Croatia said in Zagreb on 16 October that their members, who fought the Axis powers during World War II, do not receive all the benefits to which they are legally entitled, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. The spokesmen charged that the veterans are paid smaller pensions than those they should receive and that their rights to housing and to officially recognized invalid status are not respected. The veterans of Josip Broz Tito's Partisan movement, who enjoyed many privileges under communist rule, also charged that the current authorities belittle the Partisans' war record and praise Tito's enemies as Croatia's true patriots. Meanwhile, the government announced that it and UN officials have uncovered two criminal rings smuggling automobiles and coffee to Yugoslavia via eastern Slavonia.

ALBANIA'S BERISHA REFUSES TO ATTEND ROME CONFERENCE

Former President Sali Berisha said in Tirana on 16 October that he will not attend an international conference of foreign aid donors, which opened in Rome on 17 October. Berisha said his inclusion in an Albanian delegation led by the Socialists would only be "a facade." He demanded that he have an opportunity in Rome to present the views of his Democratic Party instead. Representatives of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe said, however, that Berisha will be able to state his opinions and that his presence is most desirable, especially in talks on constitutional reform. Albania's foreign aid donors are anxious to stabilize the country's political life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 1997).

POLITICAL TURMOIL CONTINUES OVER ROMANIAN 'REVOLUTIONARIES.'

The Chamber of Deputies on 16 October approved the government's request to postpone the debate on amending the law granting benefits to participants in the 1989 uprising. The vote was cast without the participation of deputies of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), who announced they are boycotting the legislature's debates in solidarity with the strikers, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. At a press conference later on 16 October, PDSR leader Ion Iliescu accused the government of using the dispute over the law to deflect attention from the "dramatic collapse of the economy and of living standards." He said accusations that the PDSR have instigated the strike are "monstrously absurd," Mediafax reported. Also on 16 October, Transport Minister Traian Basescu criticized President Emil Constantinescu for having intervened in the dispute and thus weakened the government's position.

EBRD PRESIDENT IN BUCHAREST

Jacques de Larosiere, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, met with President Constantinescu, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu, and Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara in Bucharest on 16 October, RFE/RL's bureau in the Romanian capital reported. Constantinescu said the discussion concentrated on Romanian infrastructure development and some "negative aspects" of Romanian bureaucracy. De Larosiere said he is "positively impressed" by the progress of reforms, adding that the EBRD intends to play a "truly historic role" in the transformation of Romania's economy if such progress continues. Ciorbea said Bucharest is aiming for the rapid privatization of the banking sector.

TIRASPOL REJECTS AGREEMENT DRAFTED BY EXPERTS

Authorities in the breakaway Transdniester region have rejected the power-sharing agreement drafted by Moldovan and Transdniestrian experts in Moscow at their 5-9 October meeting, Infotag and Interfax reported. A meeting scheduled for 16 October between President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov to consider the agreement did not take place. Moldovan presidential counselor Anatol Taranu said he doubts the agreement will be signed "in the near future". Smirnov is still examining the agreement, he noted. Vladimir Atamanyuk, the deputy chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, said in Chisinau that "such a rough draft cannot be submitted [for approval] to such a high-level CIS meeting" as the one scheduled for 22-23 October in Chisinau. He added that further work on the draft is needed.

VAN DEN BROEK IN BULGARIA

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek said during his one-day visit to Sofia on 16 October that the EU is convinced that Bulgaria's future is in the union. After meeting with President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, Van den Broek told reporters the EU is very encouraged by the "very ambitious and courageous" reform process set in motion by the government. He said the reason for his visit was to confirm the EU's commitment to Bulgarian membership in the union, which, he said, is an "irrevocable process," Reuters reported. Van den Broek signed a $22.4 million Social Assistance and Job Creation Program to help some of the neediest groups to cope with unemployment and winter conditions.. In other news, the National Employment Service on 16 October announced that unemployment in September dropped to 11.5 percent from 13.9 percent the previous month.

BULGARIA STARTS CLEARING LAND MINES NEAR GREEK BORDER

Bulgaria on 16 October began clearing land mines from its border with Greece. Atanas Gonevski, the head of the engineering department of the border guards, said some 556 anti-personnel mines will be dismantled from a 2-kilometer swath of land near the village of Orlitsa. He added that he hoped the operation will be concluded within two weeks. It could take as long as three years to clear all the mines from a 70-kilometer stretch of the border. He said some 80 percent of the mines are in the vicinity of the town of Momchilgrad, Reuters reported.




HOW THE CIS MAY END


by Paul Goble

The continued existence of the Commonwealth of Independent States is now threatened both by the leaders of member countries who think it is doing too much and by those who think it is not doing enough. The only thing those two sides seem to agree on is that Moscow is to blame, either because the Russian government has used the CIS as a cover for its own national agenda or because it has neglected to promote the organization's development.

Both views are very much on public display as leaders of the 12 former Soviet republics prepare for the upcoming CIS summit in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau.

On 13 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address that Tbilisi may soon look for other partners if Moscow keeps ignoring Georgia's interests and prerogatives as an independent country. He said Georgians are increasingly angered by what he described as Moscow's crude Soviet-style approach to Georgia and the other members of the CIS. Shevardnadze also indicated that unless the Russian government changed its approach to Georgia, he would look for other partners in the West, all of whom, he stressed, have shown greater respect for his country and its interests.

The next day, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma took a different tack, blaming the organization's failure squarely on Moscow. Kuchma said that Russia had done little or nothing to promote the CIS as an institution. Kuchma made those remarks during his visit to Kazakhstan, whose leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has regularly urged that the CIS be strengthened and possibly transformed into what he calls a Eurasian Union.

At one level, this debate is simply a continuation of the one that has spanned the almost six-year history of the CIS. In March, for example, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine, who have been promoting cooperation among themselves at the expense of CIS ties, considered not attending a CIS summit to protest both Russian actions and the suggestions by several Moscow analysts that the Russian government take an even tougher line toward CIS countries.

But the problems are deeper than that, reflecting divisions inherent in the organization from the outset.

Since the creation of the CIS in December 1991, some of its members have viewed the organization as a kind of divorce court, an institution that would allow them to negotiate the division of spoils from the former Soviet Union. Other countries have hoped the organization would serve as the basis either for continued cooperation among the former Soviet republics or even for their reintegration into a single political system.

Neither side has been happy with what has happened, but the reasons for their unhappiness vary widely and often in unexpected ways. Some of the biggest advocates of the CIS, such as Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev, have wanted a tighter organization not so much in order to return to Russian domination but rather to rule out that possibility by establishing rules Moscow would have to follow. And some of the biggest opponents of improving CIS operation, including many in the Russian capital, have opposed developing the organization in that direction lest it restrict Moscow's freedom of action in dealing with its neighbors.

Thus, while many Russian officials have claimed that the CIS is a regional security organization, they have been unwilling to fully respect the rights of non-Russian countries, including Georgia, with regard to the basing of troops and other matters.

At another level, however, the arguments now being advanced by Shevardnadze, Kuchma, and other leaders of CIS member states may have more profound consequences. On the one hand, they could lead to a new agreement among the current states, one covering fewer issues but covering those in greater detail. This would formalize something that has been true but has gone largely unrecognized: namely, the 12 member countries are increasingly independent and are not interested in a single plan for reintegration sponsored by Moscow.

On the other hand, those arguments could prompt current members to decide, as Shevardnadze has suggested, that some countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union are far more reliable partners. Either of those developments would spell the end of the CIS as it has existed until now.

At the upcoming meeting in Chisinau, the first development is by far the more likely outcome. But the second is also possible, and Russian policy may even be promoting it. In addition to the actions about which both Shevardnadze and Kuchma have complained, Moscow is currently subverting the CIS by forming various bilateral and multilateral relations with CIS member states, thus calling into question the utility of the organization.

As a result, the days of the Commonwealth of Independent States now appear to be numbered. The only question still open is whether it ends with a bang or a whimper.


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