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Newsline - November 13, 1997




DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT ROYALTY PAYMENTS TO OFFICIALS...

The State Duma voted 302 to zero on 13 November to ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate royalty payments to various officials for a book on privatization that has not yet been published, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Before the vote, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist, cited allegations made by journalist Aleksandr Minkin during a 12 November appearance on Ekho Moskvy. Minkin charged that Segodnya-Press, a publishing house co-owned by Oneksimbank, paid $90,000 to each author of the book. Those authors include First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, State Property Minister Maksim Boiko, Federal Bankruptcy Administration Chairman Petr Mostovoi, and former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh. Kokh is under criminal investigation for taking a $100,000 payment earlier this year from a Swiss firm, reportedly linked to Oneksimbank, for a different forthcoming book on privatization. LB

...WHILE CHUBAIS RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS

Speaking to journalists in the Duma on 13 November, Chubais charged that "compromising material" against him was timed to obstruct the passage of the 1998 budget, ITAR-TASS reported. Minkin made the allegations on 12 November, the day before the Duma was scheduled to consider the budget and a government-backed package of tax laws in the first reading. Chubais confirmed that he, Boiko, Mostovoi, Kokh, and others co-authored a book on the history of privatization. He also confirmed that each author received a $90,000 honorarium from Segodnya-Press. However, Chubais said the authors will give 95 percent of their book fees to the Foundation for the Protection of Private Property. He added that no crime has been committed and that he may sue Minkin for claiming the authors were paid for a book that has not yet been written. LB

NO SURPRISES IN MEDIA COVERAGE OF LATEST SCANDAL

Media outlets that have repeatedly attacked Chubais and Oneksimbank in recent months gave prominent coverage to Minkin's allegations in their 13 November editions. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, acknowledged that Minkin is most likely "a mouthpiece for political and financial forces" that oppose Chubais but said his accusations nonetheless appear to be "close to the truth." The newspaper said the book's authors struck the deal with Segodnya-Press in May, two months before an Oneksimbank-led consortium won an auction for a major stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. Both "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Segodnya," owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most, gave skeptical treatment to Chubais's claim that the book fees will go primarily to the Foundation for the Protection of Private Property. The newspapers noted that associates of Chubais run that foundation, which is involved in investments rather than charitable activities. LB

COMMUNISTS WANT GUARANTEES BEFORE APPROVING BUDGET...

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 12 November said his party will decide whether to support the 1998 budget only after the government reports on its progress in implementing several opposition demands, Reuters reported. The opposition gained the concessions at a meeting between President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1997). But Zyuganov said the government has not yet kept the promises. In particular, he noted that the parliament has yet to receive additional air time on state-run Russian Television, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. Zyuganov also claimed there has been insufficient preparation for a 22 November roundtable discussion of the land code, in which officials from the government, parliament, and presidential administration are to take part. LB

...OPPOSE GOVERNMENT-BACKED TAX LAWS

Zyuganov also said the Communist faction is opposed to the package of tax laws submitted by the government, Interfax reported on 12 November. The cabinet prepared those laws, on which the revenues in the draft 1998 budget are based, after it became clear that a new tax code will not be approved by the end of the year. Zyuganov claimed the laws would increase the tax burden on both individuals and manufacturers. He also said the legislation seeks to increase budget revenues "by robbing citizens again." Among other things, the laws would raise the tax on foreign-currency purchases from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, allow local governments to introduce a sales tax of up to 5 percent, and eliminate tax breaks currently granted to military personnel and some other groups. LB

SARATOV LEGISLATURE PASSES LAND LAW

The Saratov Oblast Duma on 12 November approved a land law that would allow the purchase and sale of farmland, Russian news agencies reported. The ground-breaking law is in apparent conflict with federal legislation but has the support of Yeltsin as well as Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). The Duma on 13 November passed a non-binding resolution denouncing the Saratov land law as unconstitutional, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution also asked Saratov legislators to bring the regional law in line with the land code approved by the Duma but vetoed by Yeltsin. That code would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland. LB

LUZHKOV CAUTIOUS ABOUT SARATOV EXPERIMENT

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov argued on 13 November that Saratov Oblast should be allowed to give farmers full land ownership rights, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Luzhkov warned that the Saratov experiment should not be extended to the rest of Russia, saying the issue should be approached "with extreme caution." On 5 November, Luzhkov vetoed a land law passed by the Moscow City Duma that would have allowed investors involved in constructing or renovating buildings to purchase plots of land underneath those buildings. LB

SLUMP ON RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET CONTINUES

The Russian Trading System Index declined by nearly 9 percent and most liquid stocks by more than 10 percent on 12 November, Russian news agencies reported. Although trading was not halted on that exchange, the Russian Federal Securities Commission twice halted share trading on the Moscow Interbank Hard-Currency Exchange. Analysts say selling by Russian investors has fueled the latest declines on the stock market. In recent weeks, previous declines in Russian corporate stocks were attributed primarily to selling by foreign investors. LB

PRIMAKOV IN JAPAN

Minister of Foreign Affairs Yevgenii Primakov held talks with his Japanese counter-part, Keizo Obuchi, in Tokyo on 13 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The two agreed to head a new structure for preparing a peace treaty formally ending hostilities between their two countries. The two ministers also discussed Japanese investment and guarantees for capital invested in Russia. Primakov supported an idea proposed by Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng that Russia, Japan, China, and the U.S. establish a system of political consultations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). Primakov also met with U.S. First Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who is currently in Japan. BP

ARE RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTS UP OR DOWN?

Foreign Economic Relations Minister Mikhail Fradkov said in Moscow on 12 November that Russia was the world's second-largest arms exporter after the U.S. in 1996, with a market share of more than 20 percent. At the same time, he noted that the number of customers for Russian arms is diminishing but expressed the hope that the abolition of the virtual monopoly previously enjoyed by the arms export concern Rosvooruzhenie would reverse that trend. First Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Aleksandr Kotelkin told Interfax on 12 November that arms exports began to drop the day he was replaced as head of Rosvooruzhenie in August. He predicted that the Russian arms exports in 1997 will be "significantly lower" than in 1996. LF

SERGEEV ON STATE OF MILITARY

Opening a conference on raising the general educational level within the armed forces, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev conceded that the Russian army is still suffering from the psychological impact of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the demise of the USSR, and the war in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. He complained that the educational level of conscripts has fallen sharply over the past 10 years and that only 6 percent can name any of the classics of Russian literature. Sergeev added, however, that he believes an increasing number of military personnel are convinced of the need for military reform. Also on 12 November, Valerii Spektor, the president of the International Academy of Sciences for Problems of National Security, advocated creating a military reserve in order to maintain Russia's military capacity following the demobilization of some 100,000 officers. LF

NEW AIDS MENACE IN RUSSIA

After examining AIDS among intravenous drug users, the Health Ministry has discovered that a testing method by dealers may be responsible for the rapid spread of the disease, AFP reported on 12 November. It reports that sometimes the drugs themselves contain the virus and that to find out whether the narcotic will coagulate blood, which would be fatal to users, dealers cut their own veins and allow blood to drip onto the drug. After the required additives are introduced and testing is completed, the drug goes on sale. According to the Russian Institute for Preventing and Combating AIDS, the incidence of the disease was 10 times higher from January-October compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported on 11 November. That report also notes the rate is increasing most quickly among intravenous drug users. BP

MORE CONFLICTING REPORTS ON SOBCHAK

Duma deputy Lyudmila Narusova, the wife of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, told journalists in Paris that her husband is in "satisfactory" condition at an unspecified private clinic in the city, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Narusova said Sobchak recently had a series of medical tests (not heart surgery as was previously reported). She denied that he has been to the American Hospital in Paris, although officials at that hospital have said they performed tests on Sobchak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). Narusova also said that Sobchak went abroad because he had received death threats but that he will return to Russia as soon as he is well. Speaking in Moscow the same day, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov expressed regret that Sobchak left Russia abruptly, without informing the investigator who wants to question him as a witness in a corruption case, Interfax reported. LB

LUZHKOV OBJECTS TO HIGH COST OF CATHEDRAL FRESCOES

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on 12 November blasted sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and architect Aleksei Denisov for submitting a "reckless" and "extravagant" budget for frescoes in the newly restored Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Russian news agencies reported. Some 1.4 trillion rubles ($240 million) has already been spent on rebuilding the cathedral, which was consecrated in September. Speaking to a meeting of the church's advisory council, Luzhkov said 370 billion rubles, the cost estimate provided by Tsereteli, was too much to pay for the frescoes. Tsereteli has produced several controversial sculptures in the Russian capital, including a giant statue of Peter the Great. In the past, Luzhkov has nearly always defended Tsereteli's work. LB



AZERBAIJAN CELEBRATES FIRST "EARLY OIL"...

President Heidar Aliyev on 12 November opened a valve on the Chirag 1 platform,120 km east of Baku, to allow the first "early oil" to flow into the underwater pipeline that will transport it to the Sangachala terminal. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, and international oil company officials were all present at the opening ceremony. Aliyev said the beginning of production at Chirag "marks the beginning of a new era not only in our country but for the entire Caspian region," Turan reported. Nemtsov said the venture, in which Russia's LUKoil has a 10 percent stake, forms the basis for "integration and economic rapprochement between Russia and Azerbaijan." He thanked Aliyev for helping resolve the dispute with Chechnya over oil tariffs, which had threatened to delay commissioning of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. LF

...AS COMPETITION FOR MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE INTENSIFIES

Meanwhile, guests at the Baku ceremony lobbied for their respective proposed routes for the Main Export Pipeline, which will export the far larger volumes of Caspian oil that will come on stream in 2004. Nemtsov said there is a "100 percent chance" that the pipeline will run north through the Russian Federation to Novorossisk, which he said is the cheapest variant, Interfax reported. Yilmaz said Turkey "fully supports" the Baku-Ceyhan route, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Pena also expressed support for the Baku-Ceyhan route, hinting that the U.S. would welcome routing this pipeline via Armenia once the Karabakh conflict is resolved. But Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who met with Aliyev in Baku on 12 November on his way home from Kazakhstan, told CAUCASUS PRESS he is sure the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be routed via Supsa. LF

PROTEST AT IRANIAN EMBASSY IN BAKU

Police on 12 November quickly dispersed some 50 members of Azerbaijan's Turkish National Youth Movement who were staging a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Baku, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Azerbaijani capital reported. Vugar Beyturan, the movement's leader, said the demonstration was intended to protest Iranian President Mohammad Khattami's failure to fulfill his campaign promise to grant greater autonomy to all ethnic groups in Iran, including the estimated 25 million ethnic Azeris. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS REFERENDUM ON KARABAKH PEACE PLAN

Several dozen Armenian opposition parties and NGOs have demanded that the latest Karabakh peace plan proposed by the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe be submitted to a referendum in both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 12 November. They condemned President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's "defeatist" approach to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accusing him of trying to restore Azerbaijan's sovereignty over the disputed region. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH KARABAKH WAR VETERANS

Robert Kocharyan on 11 November met with members of the Yerkrapahner parliamentary faction to discuss recent developments over Nagorno-Karabakh, "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" reported. That faction is composed largely of Karabakh war veterans. The deputies urged Yerevan not to disregard the 1992 Armenian parliament decision that bars the government from signing any international treaty referring to Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. They also said the conflict is a "pan-national issue and should be settled by the whole nation." LF

PHONE LINKS RESTORED BETWEEN ABKHAZIA, RUSSIA

International telephone links between Sukhumi and Sochi have been restored, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 12 November. In mid-April, the Georgian authorities had re-routed all international telephone links from Abkhazia via Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997). Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Jinjolia told RIA-Novosti that agreement on the restoration of telephone lines to Russia was reached during bilateral talks in Tbilisi. LF

PROSECUTOR ABDUCTED IN TSKHINVALI

Guram Babutsidze, an ethnic Georgian who is prosecutor in the capital of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, was abducted by unidentified gunmen near Tskhinvali on 12 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian President Shevardnadze and his South Ossetian counterpart, Lyudwig Chibirov, are scheduled to meet on 14 November to assess the prospects for signing an accord formalizing relations between the former autonomous region and the Georgian government. LF

PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE TAJIK PEACE PROCESS

More than 1,000 fighters belonging to United Tajik Opposition (UTO) were officially registered in the Garm and Tavil-Dara areas on 12 November, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. But those fighters have not yet been disarmed, a condition for their later integration into the regular Tajik armed forces. Nor has construction been completed on the barracks in the regions where they will be relocated. Another group of 400 UTO fighters is waiting to be transported out of Afghanistan, but there are reportedly no funds available for that operation. Meanwhile, the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission complains that the UTO has handed over more POWs (over 200) than the government (58). BP

RFE/RL TURKMEN STRINGER FREED

Yovshan Annakurbanov has been freed from police detention, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat on 12 November. Annakurbanov was taken into custody as he attempted to board a plane in Ashgabat bound for Prague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997). Police later claimed he was in possession of a computer disc with material from opposition groups in Turkmenistan. BP

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER PUTS DAMPER ON HILLARY CLINTON'S TRIP

The daily "Russkii Telegraf" on 12 November quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton's trip to Central Asia is a "subtle attempt...to infiltrate the zone of Russia's traditional interests." The article also questioned Clinton's message on women's rights given the area's "local traditions and peculiarities." Meanwhile, Clinton was in Bishkek on 12 November to opening the American University of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Clinton also announced a $2 million donation to Kyrgyzstan for medical purposes. BP




UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS END TO TRADE WAR WITH RUSSIA

Leonid Kuchma says he hopes his meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 16-17 November will allow the two countries to put aside their "economic war," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Kuchma also said he hopes that the two countries will be able to ratify the Treaty of Friendship that he and Yeltsin concluded earlier. In another indication that economic ties between the two countries may be improving, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will visit Kyiv on the eve of the Kuchma-Yeltsin summit to seek a settlement of bilateral debts outstanding from the Soviet era. But the Ukrainian government's economic problems at home continue to mount. The parliament on 12 November gave a chilly reception to a modified 1998 state budget. PG

LUKASHENKA TAKES HARD LINE ON PRESS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has again said he firmly supports amendments to the press law, which would make that legislation even more draconian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 12 November. Meanwhile, the prosecutor-general has notified editors of an independent weekly that its satirical portraits of Lukashenka and other government leaders "besmirch the honor and dignity" of those officials and thus violate the new law. PG

ESTONIAN COMPANY PLANS PIRATE TV CHANNEL

An advertising company is planning to launch a 24-hour television channel from a ship anchored in a neutral zone between Estonian and Finnish territorial waters, ETA reported on 12 November. TV Zoom plans to begin simultaneous broadcasting in Estonian and Finnish in spring 1998. Kaur Hanson, the managing director of the Zoom advertising agency in Tallinn, said programming will be bought from Estonian and Finnish companies. A private investigator based in Monaco is providing the $3 million starting capital. JC

POLAND WANTS EXPANDED COOPERATION WITH BALTS

On the eve of his visit to Lithuania, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told BNS on 12 November that Warsaw is seeking a "major expansion" of cooperation with the three Baltic States. "We are convinced that Poland is a Baltic country, too, and has interests in all three Baltic [States]. For this reason, we would like to participate in all of the Baltic countries' cooperation structures," he commented. Geremek's trip to Lithuania is his first official visit abroad since his recent appointment as foreign minister. JC

POLAND AGREES TO AMOUNT OF NATO DUES

The Polish government has agreed to pay NATO $44 million a year once it joins the alliance, which it is scheduled to do in 1999, PAP reported on 12 November. That sum would represent 2.48 percent of NATO's annual budget. PG

SOLANA ON HUNGARY'S NATO REFERENDUM

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 12 November told Hungarian reporters in Brussels that Budapest cannot expect to join the alliance in the near future if Hungarians reject NATO accession in the 16 November referendum. He said it depends on the Hungarian government and constitution what happens if the vote is invalidated because of a low turnout. MSZ

SLOVAK PRESS CALLS OFF PROTEST

Bratislava's leading newspapers on 12 November called off their protest against a government-backed bill that would have significantly increased taxes levied on those publications. Their move came after conversations with Slovak lawmakers suggested the parliament would not pass the measure. PG

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS HE'LL SEEK SECOND TERM

From his hospital bed, Vaclav Havel told the Prague daily "Pravo" on 12 November that he will seek a second term in 1998. While his doctors have repeatedly said there is no medical reason for his stepping down, Havel's cancer operation last year and his current bout of pneumonia led to speculation that he might do so. PG

MORE RESPONSES TO IRAQI ARMS SALE ALLEGATIONS

Karel Vulterin, the director of the Czech National Security Service, told CTK on 12 November that the service is carrying out an investigation into allegations of the intended sale to Baghdad of five "Tamara" electronic warfare systems. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). He said the service will inform the government and the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Commission of its findings. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported the same day that the government has officially denied the allegations in "The Washington Times" report. It pointed out that Petar Babalov, the Bulgarian general who was identified both as a key person in the deal and as a former ambassador to Baghdad, has never held a post in Iraq. MS




U.S. SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS CANNOT JOIN PROGRAM

The Bosnian Serb army (VRS) is ineligible to participate in the U.S. sponsored "Train and Equip," a Pentagon spokesman said in Washington on 12 November. He said the leadership of the Republika Srpska has not shown itself sufficiently committed to the Dayton peace agreements to qualify for the program, in which the Croats and Muslims participate. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and some VRS commanders want to take part in the program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). PM

MUSLIM WARLORDS COMMITTED WAR CRIMES

The Sarajevo gang led by Musan "Caco" Topalovic murdered dozens of civilians and members of the Bosnian army just because they were Serbs, the Sarajevo magazine "Dani" reported in its November issue. The magazine said that top Muslim civilian and military authorities knew of the atrocities but kept silent because Caco's gang and others like it led the fight against the Serbian besiegers of Sarajevo during 1992-1993. Government troops and police cracked down on the warlords in 1993 and killed Caco, who nonetheless received a hero's funeral after the war. In October, "Dani" reported on Muslim atrocities against Croats near Mostar. The magazine editors told Reuters on 12 November that all sides must admit their war crimes if there is ever to be peace and reconciliation in Bosnia. They added, however, that the Muslim leadership has not reacted to their reports. PM

SERBIA'S SESELJ SLAMS U.S.

Vojislav Seselj, the presidential candidate of the Serbian Radical Party and wartime paramilitary leader, said in Belgrade on 12 November that "it was not enough for the Americans to destroy former Yugoslavia. Now they have started to make Montenegro secede from Serbia." Many U.S. Congressmen have openly supported Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in his political fight with backers of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Djukanovic, now president-elect of Montenegro, is slated to visit the U.S. soon. PM

WOMAN CHARGED WITH SLANDERING MILOSEVIC

Snezana Velickovic from Nis appeared before magistrates in Belgrade on 12 November on charges of committing "gross slander" against Milosevic. She allegedly said in public and before police that he is a "thief and conman" who is responsible for Yugoslavia's poverty and corruption. Velickovic denies the charges. PM

CROATIA PUT ON NOTICE OVER SLAVONIA

William Walker, the UN's chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, said in Erdut on 12 November that "how Croatia...completes [its] reintegration process will most likely determine whether and how quickly it takes its rightful place in its European home and in the international community of nations." Eastern Slavonia is the last Croatian territory under rebel Serb control. The UN is slated to return the area to Croatia in January 1998. The UN began a transitional administration there under an agreement signed in Erdut on 12 November 1995. PM

CROATIAN UPPER HOUSE APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

The upper house of the Croatian parliament on 12 November endorsed a package of constitutional amendments recently proposed by President Franjo Tudjman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). A key provision prohibits any union with other states or the setting up of a new Yugoslavia. The lower house is to vote on the amendments within the next week, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM

SLOVENIA TO BAN EX-COMMUNISTS FROM OFFICE?

President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 12 November that a proposed law to ban former Communists from office is unnecessary. He said the names of those individuals who violated human rights under the old regime are well known and consequently there is no need to punish all former communist officials for the crimes of a few. Opposition leaders Janez Jansa and Lojze Peterle recently introduced the motion in the parliament. They said that Slovenia must break with its communist past. If passed, the bill would make Kucan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek ineligible to hold public office. The government has a parliamentary majority of only two votes. PM

FREER TRAVEL BETWEEN HUNGARY, SLOVENIA

Interior Ministers Mirko Bandelj of Slovenia and Gabor Kuncze of Hungary signed an agreement in Budapest on 12 November that will enable citizens of each country to visit the other with only their internal identity papers. The two ministers also agreed to better implement the rules set down in the EU's Schengen border control agreement along their common border. PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT CLASH

The Socialist Party's parliamentary majority on 12 November sharply criticized Socialist President Rexhep Meidani for returning a draft law that the legislature had approved two weeks earlier. The law sets up a commission to investigate the anarchy that gripped Albania between January and June. Meidani had argued that the legislation would give the commission too many powers, including some that legally belong to other government branches, "Koha Jone" reported. The parliament, nonetheless, reaffirmed the draft, albeit with an amendment stating that the commission does not have the right to order arrests. FS

NO SOLUTION TO ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW...

The Senate convenes on 13 November to debate government regulations issued earlier this year amending the 1996 education law. The regulations provided for teaching history and geography in the mother tongue, but a commission of the Senate headed by a National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) deputy overruled those provisions. The PNTCD leadership on 12 November endorsed the commission's changes, a move Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) leader Bela Marko said is "unacceptable." Earlier, Marko had commented in an interview on state television that the UDMR would accept a compromise whereby only the teaching of history in Romanian would be compulsory. MS

....WHILE NATIONALISTS MOVE ANTI-HUNGARIAN MINORITY MOTION IN PARLIAMENT

The Party of Romanian National Unity on 12 November moved a motion to debate the situation of ethnic Romanians in Harghita and Covasna Counties, where Hungarians constitute a majority, the RFE/RL Bucharest bureau reported. The motion says Romanians in those counties are in danger of losing their national identity as a result of the policies pursued by the UDMR. In addition, it calls for launching a "national program" to prevent assimilation of the Romanians living there. The motion, which is also backed by the Greater Romania Party, the Alliance for Romania, and one deputy from the Ecologist Party, is to be debated on 17 November. MS

ROMANIA TO SIGN CONVENTION ON LAND-MINE BAN

The Supreme Council of National Defense, which is chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, has recommended that the government sign the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 12 November. The council said signing the convention "will be an important step toward the integration of our country in European and Euro-Atlantic communities." MS

MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES SAY SALE OF FIGHTER PLANES 'ILLEGAL.'

Nicolae Andronic, the deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, and deputies from the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo parliamentary faction, have said the sale of the Moldovan MiG-29C planes to the U.S. was "illegal," BASA-press and Reuters reported on 12 November. Andronic said the government broke the privatization law, which bars the sale of Defense Ministry property without the prior approval of the legislature. But Andrei Diaconu, the deputy chairman of the parliament, noted that the law came into force in September, while the MiG deal was signed in July. MS

MOLDOVAN INFLATION RATE CONTINUES TO DROP

Inflation in October stood at 8.2 percent, Infotag reported, quoting National Bank chairman Leonid Talmaci on 12 November. The bank is now predicting a 1997 inflation rate of 13 percent, up 3 percent on its forecast in January, Infotag reported. Inflation dropped from 2,700 percent in 1993 to 104.5 percent in 1994, 23.8 percent in 1995, and 15.1 percent in 1996. MS

BULGARIAN ARMY CONSCRIPTS TO SERVE FEWER MONTHS

The parliament on 12 November passed a law reducing the length of service for military conscripts from 18 to 12 months, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. University students will serve only nine months. In other news, President Petar Stoyanov on 12 November said the new currency board is "critical for ending postcommunist illusions." In an interview with the Japanese daily "Nikkei" ahead of his upcoming visit to Tokyo, Stoyanov said the currency board, set up in July, is a helpful instrument for stabilizing the country's finances and thereby allowing economic reform to be expedited. MS




END OF THE BEGINNING FOR POLAND'S NEW GOVERNMENT


by Jan de Weydenthal

Seven weeks after winning the parliamentary elections, Poland's center-right parties have given a green light to their new government.

Voting on a 11 November confidence motion, the Sejm backed Jerzy Buzek's government by 260 to 173 with two abstentions. That vote largely reflected the political divisions within the lower house, where the coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW) confronts the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party.

Before the vote, Buzek outlined the government program, promising to promote economic growth, combat inflation, and reduce the budget- and current-account deficit. Other government priorities are to complete privatization of state enterprises within four years, restitute property seized by Communist governments, overhaul the health and pension systems, and increase funding of educational institutions.

Commenting on the address, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that it contains an impressive list of promises but that they are no more than that. He noted that Buzek failed to explain how his government will pay for what it is pledging to accomplish.

Leszek Miller, the head of the postcommunist parliamentary opposition, was even more critical, saying Buzek's speech was "too general" and included "a lot of contradictions." Miller added that his group will closely watch the government's actions.

They will not be the only ones to do so. Dozens of AWS deputies have already indicated that they will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to support their own government (31 of them have even signed a statement to that effect). Most belong to small, but radical Christian parties that formed an alliance with the Solidarity trade union for electoral purposes. Moreover, several AWS nationalist deputies failed to show up for the confidence vote to protest their leadership's decision to give important government posts to the more liberal and secular UW.

There is little doubt that such dissent will continue, putting a strain on the AWS's political cohesion and testing the authority of its leaders. In particular, this may affect the role of Marian Krzaklewski, Solidarity's chairman and a leading figure in the AWS's electoral campaign. Krzaklewski declined any direct role in the government, opting for chairmanship of the AWS parliamentary caucus instead.

Krzaklewski told a new conference in Gdansk on 11 November that he is about to take steps to register the Solidarity-based AWS as a new political party rooted in Christian values. A few weeks earlier, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa also registered a new party with the same political profile.

It is generally assumed that Krzaklewski is already positioning himself for the 2000 presidential election. years time. Possible conflicts within the AWS itself and eventual tension between the AWS caucus and the government will challenge his leadership qualities. His failure to impose and maintain discipline could easily cripple any future presidential plans.

The parliamentary confidence vote completed the process of formally establishing the AWS-UW coalition government, which, owing to considerable program differences between the two partners, was both difficult and protracted. Those differences are unlikely to disappear. The key question for Polish politics now is how and when they could affect the operations of the government itself.

The 11 November vote marked merely the end of the beginning for the current coalition. Now a different, but also difficult, kind of business is about to start; namely, the business of governing.

The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.


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