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Newsline - December 11, 1997




YELTSIN FALLS ILL, CHECKS INTO SANITORIUM

President Boris Yeltsin on 10 December checked into the Barvikha sanitorium. His spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists that the president has a respiratory infection and is likely to stay at Barvikha for 10 to 12 days so that he does not develop the flu. However, the "Washington Post" on 11 December quoted unnamed sources as saying that Yeltsin has in fact been hospitalized with heart problems and is being attended by Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who performed bypass surgery on Yeltsin in November 1996. A statement issued by the presidential press service on 11 December said the president's doctors have advised him not to record his regular weekly radio address. The Kremlin also said Yeltsin is receiving anti-inflammatory and anti-viral drugs. Because of his poor health, Yeltsin spent the better part of eight months out of public view after he was re-elected in July 1996. LB

ROUNDTABLE TALKS POSTPONED

Roundtable talks on land reform, which were scheduled to take place on 11 December, have been postponed indefinitely due to Yeltsin's illness. The president was supposed to attend the talks, at which opposition leaders had hoped to persuade him to sign the parliament's version of the Land Code. LB

MARKETS SLUMP ON NEWS OF YELTSIN'S ILLNESS

Russian stock and bond markets declined on 10 December after Yeltsin's latest illness was announced, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 11 December. Values of the most liquid stocks, such as LUKoil and Mosenergo, declined by more than five percent. Prices fell for Russian bonds denominated in rubles and especially for bonds denominated in foreign currencies. According to "Kommersant-Daily," reports that Yeltsin will be at Barvikha for 10 to 12 days sparked widespread selling of Russian bonds by Russian banks as well as by foreign holders, who have traditionally reacted negatively to news of Yeltsin's health problems. LB

ROKHLIN CALLS FOR IMPEACHING YELTSIN

State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin on 10 December urged the Duma to create a commission to begin impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking before Yeltsin's illness was announced, Rokhlin warned that under Russia's current leadership, "Planes will continue to crash in Russia, coal mines will continue to explode and the economy will continue to fall apart." He also charged that corruption is widespread in the Air Force and slammed its commander, Petr Deinekin. The Duma did not vote on Rokhlin's proposal, and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov declined to support or oppose Rokhlin's initiative pending discussions within the Communist faction, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 December. Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, discounted Rokhlin's proposal, noting that he had not accused Yeltsin of anything specific. Under the constitution, the president can only be impeached for committing treason or other high crimes. LB

LUZHKOV PROMISES HELP FOR BLACK SEA FLEET

While visiting Ukraine, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov promised that the city of Moscow will help the Black Sea Fleet and do "everything possible" to make sure that Russian sailors in the fleet "do not feel cut off from their motherland," ITAR- TASS reported on 10 December. Luzhkov noted that Moscow has funded construction of some 500 apartments in Sevastopol, where the fleet is based. He also called for restoring economic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine at least to 1987 levels. Luzhkov has repeatedly claimed that Sevastopol is a Russian city. He recently appointed Konstantin Zatulin as his adviser on CIS matters, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 6 December. Zatulin, former chairman of the Duma's CIS Affairs Committee, has long championed the cause of ethnic Russians living abroad. He campaigned unsuccessfully for the Duma in 1995 on the party list of the Congress of Russian Communities. LB

PASSENGERS DID NOT KNOW PLANE WAS HIJACKED

Passengers aboard the Il-62 airplane which 59 year-old Gennadii Todikov attempted to hijack on 10 December said they were unaware anything was amiss, Reuters reported. (See "RFE/RL Newsline" 10 December). Some said it was only when they deplaned and found themselves surrounded by anti-terrorist commandos that they knew something was wrong. Todikov is in police custody and may face 15 years in jail. Authorities are still investigating whether other passengers aboard the flight may have been involved. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, while saying "All's well that ends well," added that all people who engage in such activity will "come to a bad end." BP

WILL RUSSIA BORROW $2 BILLION FROM FOREIGN BANKS?

Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov announced on 10 December that Russia will not borrow $2 billion from foreign banks this month, Russian news agencies reported. Zadornov said Russia hopes that in the coming weeks, the World Bank will approve loans to Russia worth more than $1 billion, and the International Monetary Fund will issue a $700 million loan tranche. Russia had been negotiating with Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Salomon Brothers and Chase Manhattan over the possible $2 billion loan. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Reuters on 9 December that Russia has suspended negotiations with those banks. However, ITAR-TASS on 10 December quoted Luigi La Ferla, director of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, as saying that the four banks are ready to lend Russia $2 billion and will present the credit to the Russian government "within the next three weeks." LB

AGRARIAN LEADER EXPLAINS STANCE ON LAND SALES

Mikhail Lapshin, the leader of the Agrarian Party, says allowing the purchase and sale of farmland would be a "devious mechanism" for "taking land away from the peasants," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 December. Lapshin said farmland should belong to the peasantry and vowed that his party will not allow another redistribution of land in Russia. The Kremlin supports land legislation that would grant rural dwellers full land ownership rights. Agrarian and Communist politicians, among others, warn that legalizing the purchase and sale of farmland would allow speculators to buy up large quantities of land and convert it from agricultural use. LB

DUMA BLASTS GOVERNMENT ON CHILD ALLOWANCES

The Duma on 10 December passed a resolution denouncing the government's efforts to clear backlogs in payments to citizens with children, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution said the government owed some 14 trillion rubles ($2.4 billion) in child allowances as of November 1997. It asked the government to submit to the Duma a plan on settling the debts and to consider amending the 1998 budget to provide more funds for those with children. Earlier this year, the Duma twice voted down government-backed laws that would have made only poor families eligible to receive child allowances and other social payments. LB

MEDIA-MOST FORMS HOLDING COMPANY

Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most company has combined its media assets into a new company called NTV-holding, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 December. NTV-holding includes the influential television network NTV, the satellite network NTV-plus, the radio station Ekho Moskvy, the satellite company Bonum-1, and TNT-teleset, which will provide programming and financing for some 50 regional television stations beginning in January 1998. NTV President Igor Malashenko has been appointed general director of NTV-holding. Yevgenii Kiselev, the anchor of the weekly program "Itogi," will chair the board of NTV- holding. Asked what role Gusinskii will play in NTV-holding, Malashenko told RFE/RL, "Gusinskii carries out the main function: the function of the owner." LB

ECONOMICS MINISTER SAYS 86 COAL MINES TO BE CLOSED

Yakov Urinson says 86 out of some 200 coal mines in Russia will be shut down in 1998, Interfax reported on 9 December. Addressing a meeting of the Russian Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners, Urinson said the government will provide adequate funding for mine closures, including social payments to employees of those mines. (Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 9 December signed a government directive on providing financial assistance to workers affected by mine closures, ITAR-TASS reported.) Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Igor Kozhukhovskii told the union representatives that wage arrears to coal miners totaled 3.5 trillion rubles ($590 million) as of December 1, and overall debts to coal miners totaled 9 trillion rubles. Kozhukhovskii said energy producers owe most of that debt. He also charged that some 30 percent of government funds earmarked for the coal industry are misappropriated. LB

UNION LEADER SLAMS UNSAFE CONDITIONS FOR MINERS

Vitalii Budko, leader of the Russian Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners, claimed on 9 December that every Russian coal mine is as unsafe as the Zyryanovskaya mine in Novokuznetsk, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 December. A recent explosion at that mine claimed 67 lives. According to Budko, the mine's managers had sought to economize on safety equipment. He added that unsafe conditions make Russian mines unattractive to potential investors. During a recent visit to Novokuznetsk, Chernomyrdin promised that the government will seek to enhance safety in mines. Restoration work has begun at the Zyryanovskaya mine, but it will not be reopened for at least two months, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. LB

LUKOIL, YUKOS CONTEND NORTH CASPIAN TENDER RESULTS

On 10 December the Russian government commission conducting the tender for the "Northern" section of Russia's sector of the Caspian named Russia's largest oil company, Lukoil, as the winner, Russian agencies reported. Lukoil received 14 votes, and Yukos, which ranks second to it in size -- seven. Yukos immediately protested the decision, citing alleged "flagrant procedural violations," and announced that it will appeal the ruling in an international court, Interfax reported. An earlier meeting of the commission on 2-3 December had failed to declare a winner. Lukoil has to date concluded contracts worth $120 million to develop various Caspian oil deposits, according to "Izvestia" on 10 December. LF



ARMENIANS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST KARABAKH CONCESSIONS

On 10 December, several thousand people participated in a demonstration in Yerevan convened by opposition parties to demand that the Armenian leadership reject any Karabakh peace accord that would restore Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 9 December, the Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing opposition parties of adopting a "demagogic" and "adventurist" stance on Karabakh, and appealing to the Armenian people to "refrain from extremism" in the runup to the 18-19 December meeting of Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe foreign ministers in Copenhagen. The statement affirmed that the Ministry "fulfills its obligations before the people, the country's leadership, and future generations, and is not dependent on outside influence," Noyan Tapan reported. LF

KARABAKH ARMENIANS CALL ON YEREVAN LEADERSHIP FOR SUPPORT

On 9 December, a dozen Karabakh political parties issued a statement affirming their commitment to independent status for the disputed enclave, Noyan Tapan reported. The signatories expressed the hope that the Armenian leadership "will find the courage and strength" to defend the position of the leadership and people of Nagorno-Karabakh in the international arena, and called on international NGOs and government organizations to respect the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination and security. LF

ARMENIAN TELEPHONE NETWORK PRIVATIZED

The Armenian government press service announced on 9 December that a Greek consortium has won the tender to acquire the national telephone network Armentel for $142.5 million, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian government owns a 51 percent stake in Armentel, and will retain a 10 percent stake; the remaining 49 percent is owned by the U.S. Trans-World Telecom Corporation. The Greek consortium is headed by the partly privatized OTE state telecommunications company together with the Greek Levantis Group. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may acquire a 10 percent stake in Armentel in the near future, according to Asbarez-on-Line on 9 December. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON OIC ...

Addressing the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Tehran on 9 December, Heidar Aliyev listed as the basic goals of that organization the protection of the rights of Muslim minorities and communities, safeguarding the territorial integrity of Muslim countries and the "stable progress" of the Muslim world, Turan reported. Aliyev expressed appreciation for aid provided by several Islamic nations to Azerbaijanis displaced during the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev reaffirmed his country's commitment to a peaceful solution of that conflict, which would create conditions for Azerbaijan "to become a prosperous state and provide aid to its Muslim brothers." Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in his address to the summit likewise called on the OIC to redouble its efforts to solve the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 11 December. LF

... AND TIES WITH IRAN

In an interview with Turan on 10 December, Aliyev denied that Azerbaijan's relations with Iran have recently cooled, but expressed his displeasure at the flourishing ties between Iran and Armenia. Aliyev said that during his 9 December meeting with Iranian President Muhammed Khatami, "we agreed on the necessity to develop relations in all spheres." Aliyev added, however, that he could not predict whether Iran would drop its objections to dividing the Caspian Sea into national sectors. But he argued that "there is no alternative" to all Caspian littoral states doing so. He said no negotiations have yet begun on the possibility of building an export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Iran. Aliyev also met on 10 December with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who affirmed that "reliance on Islam is the prerequisite for the success of any government in Azerbaijan," IRNA reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY SPLITS

Several former prominent members of the Musavat Party, including former Prosecutor-General Ikhtiar Shirinov, on 10 December announced the creation of a new opposition party named National Congress, Turan reported. The defectors from Musavat have accused the party's leader, Isa Gambar, for his allegedly authoritarian manner, and have demanded a review of his role and that of former president Abulfaz Elchibey in the collapse of the Popular Front leadership in June, 1993. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, however, Gambar said that the split in his party's ranks was triggered by the offer by President Heidar Aliyev of government posts to Shirinov and a second former Musavat party member. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO REDUCE TAJIK CONTINGENT

The commander of the Russian Border Guards, Colonel-General Andrei Nikolaev, announced in Moscow on 10 December that border guard forces in Tajikistan would be cut, ITAR-TASS reported. Though Nikolaev noted the cut from 16,000 to 14,500 would be "insignificant," he also said the role of the guards had changed with the establishment of peace in Tajikistan. He said their role is now focused on narcotics interdiction. The general added that the position of forces still in Tajikistan allows a rapid reinforcement of any area which may be threatened. BP

UZBEK SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT IN MOSCOW

The speaker of Uzbekistan's parliament, Erkin Khalilov, was in Moscow on 10 December and met with top officials of the Russian government, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Khalilov discussed inter-parliamentary relations with Russia's Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev. Stroev encouraged a more visible Uzbek presence in the Russian market and extended an invitation for Uzbekistan to send a representative to future CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly meetings though Uzbekistan is not a member. Khalilov also met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to consult on the latter's trip to Uzbekistan at the end of December and next year's exchange of presidential visits. Khalilov also saw Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. The two reviewed CIS relations and the situation in Central Asia. BP




OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON STATE OF UKRAINE'S ECONOMY

Anatoliy Galchinskiy, an advisor to President Leonid Kuchma, gave an upbeat assessment of Ukraine's economy, Interfax reported on 10 December. He said Ukraine had come very close to economic stabilization in 1997. He predicted that inflation for the year would be under 10 percent. But Serhiy Tyhypko, the deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform, was less optimistic. Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on the same day, he suggested that Ukraine's economic situation was now so desperate that the country might finally become serious about reform. PG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE MAY SUSPEND UKRAINE FOR EXECUTIONS

Tunne Kelam, an Estonian member of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, said in Kyiv on 10 December that the council might be forced to suspend Kyiv because Ukraine had executed people after President Leonid Kuchma had promised that there would not be any more executions, Ukrainian media reported. But Kelam added that his group would be "very unhappy" if that happened because Ukraine has made significant progress on a variety of other human rights questions. PG

BELARUSIANS PROTEST CLOSING OF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER

More than 1,000 Belarusians assembled in Minsk 10 December to protest the closing of "Svaboda" by the authorities and new laws limiting freedom of assembly and the press, Interfax and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. They carried signs reading "No to Dictatorship." The demonstration was sanctioned by the police, and there was no official interference. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Minsk released a statement in Russian noting that "normalization of relations with other nations for Belarus must begin with a return to a full observance of human rights." Also on 10 December, coordinated press conferences were held in Warsaw, Kyiv, Moscow and Vilnius to publicize the Belarusian opposition movement Khartia 97, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. PG

LUKASHENKA DECREES TIGHTER WORK DISCIPLINE

Beginning in January 1998, Belarusian workers and employers will be subject to special fines if they do not meet the requirements of workplace discipline, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced on10 December, Interfax reported. But the Belarusian leader suggested that the system would not be applied in a draconian fashion: "People must not be punished for a trifling incorrect action. There must be no reverting to the 1930s when people were jailed for a spike stolen from a collective farm." PG

PREMIER CLAIMS BELARUS HAS "OPEN ECONOMY."

At a 10 December ceremony for the signing of a joint venture with a German truck manufacturer, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Ling said that Belarus has an open economy and cannot do without reform, Interfax-West reported. But he said that his government has "its own approach to reforms" and that it must guarantee social security." Meanwhile, Belarusian officials announced that the 1998 government budget deficit had been set at 3.5 percent of GDP. PG

BALTIC DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN BALTBAT, BALTRON PACTS

The defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 10 December signed the agreements formally creating the joint Baltic peacekeeping battalion, Baltbat, and a joint naval squadron, Baltron, BNS reported. The accords call for a common command subject to supervision by the three defense ministers and the three Baltic governments. PG

MOSCOW CONDEMNS LITHUANIAN'S VIEW ON KALININGRAD

The Russian embassy in Vilnius issued a press release on 10 December criticizing as interference in Russia's internal affairs a statement by the deputy speaker of the Lithuanian parliament that Kaliningrad is now the fourth Baltic republic, BNS reported. Romualdas Ozolas had made that suggestion in an interview with the Baltic News Service. The embassy said that "Kaliningrad is an indivisible part of Russia and can have no other political fate." PG

HAVEL ACCEPTS NOMINATION FOR RE-ELECTION

President Vaclav Havel on 10 December accepted the backing of the country's four mainstream parties for a second five-year term, CTK reported. The vote in parliament is to take place on 20 January 1998. Earlier, Havel said he would run only if backed by all the parliamentary formations he considers democratic, namely the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Social Democrats. In another development, Reuters reported on 10 December that KDU-CSL leader Josef Lux, after talks with Social Democrat opposition leader Milos Zeman, said it was "pretty clear" that early elections will be held as soon as Zeman and ODS leader Vaclav Klaus wanted them. Lux said the Social Democrats would not participate in a new government coalition but would tolerate one formed by the outgoing coalition if it pledged early elections. MS

BLAST AT COMMUNIST PARTY HEADQUARTERS IN PRAGUE

An explosive device was thrown into the building of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) in Prague on 10 December, CTK reported citing a party spokesman. KSCM deputy Vojtech Filip told the Chamber of Deputies that the device was thrown from a car and said he believed the attack was a "provocation." The incident comes four days after a bomb went off outside Finance Minister Ivan Pilip's house (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). In a separate development, Karlovy Vary deputy mayor Zdenek Musil said on 10 December that the town does not intend to remove Adolf Hitler from the lists of its honorary citizens. Hitler was made one in 1938, after the annexation of the Sudetenland. Musil says the town's honorary citizens "are part of the history of Karlovy Vary in the 20th century," AFP reported. MS

HUNGARY ACHIEVES TRADE SURPLUS WITH EU

In the first 10 months of 1997, Hungary's exports to European Union countries totaled $10.754 billion, while imports from the EU were $10.616 billion, Peter Balas, deputy state secretary at the Industry, Trade and Tourism Ministry told Hungarian media on 10 December. He said this trade surplus is unprecedented. He explained the increase in exports is a result of foreign investments in Hungary, adding that exports to Germany represent 37 percent of Hungary's total exports. In other news, Hungary agreed to send secret service files to Paris on the notorious terrorist known as Carlos "the Jackal," who used Budapest as a base in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Carlos is awaiting trial in Paris for the murder of two French secret agents in 1975. MSZ




NANO'S CALL FOR MORE ITALIAN INVOLVEMENT IN ALBANIA...

Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the Italian daily "La Repubblica" on 10 December that the Albanian government welcomes the presence of Italian specialists in the Albanian ministries to help promote reforms. Nano was quoted by "Koha Jone" as saying that "we would be ready to return to being an Italian protectorate if that would guarantee us a faster integration into Europe." He added, however, that "our position is that of partners, not of a colony." FS

...BRINGS DEMAND FOR HIS RESIGNATION

Democratic Party spokesman Genc Pollo responded on 11 December to Nano's statement by calling him "an abnormal prime minister" and demanding his immediate resignation. Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee chief Sabri Godo said there will never be "an Italian protectorate for Albania as long as there are honest Albanians." Tirana, he added, wants "intensive relations" with Italy, but he warned against "any violation of the sovereignty of our country." Parts of Albania were an Italian protectorate from the time of formal independence in 1912 until just after World War I. Mussolini occupied Albania in 1939 after several years of a de facto protectorate over King Zog's Albania. PM

FRESH WESTERN INTEREST IN KOSOVO

U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said at the international conference on Bosnia in Bonn on 10 December that the Serb walkout to protest references to Kosovo in the final declaration only served to draw foreign attention to the Kosovo question (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1997). German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel pointed out that the Kosovo issue involves the repression of an Albanian majority by a Serbian minority. He added that Germany has a strong interest in Kosovo because it has 140,000 asylum seekers from there. Kinkel also said that the international Contact Group, including Russia, supports the conference's final document, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokesman stated that it is not clear why the Serbs walked out because the final text is not directed against Belgrade but is rather aimed at helping it overcome its isolation. PM

WESTENDORP THREATENS TO SACK KRAJISNIK

The Bonn conference agreed on 10 December to expand the powers of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. The Spanish diplomat will now be able to impose agreements on the three Bosnian parties and punish individuals who boycott sessions of joint institutions or who violate the Dayton agreements. Westendorp called the change in his mandate "a turning point" and threatened to sack Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the joint presidency, unless Krajisnik stops blocking the functioning of joint institutions. PM

MIXED REACTIONS TO BONN DECLARATION

Krajisnik said on 10 December that the Serbs will not accept portions of the final declaration that they consider to be a violation of Dayton. He added that the Kosovo question affects all Serbs. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that the outcome of the conference was essentially positive. Senior Muslim leader Ejup Ganic, however, told "The Guardian" that "these conferences don't bring much. The fact is that we [Muslims] are getting stronger, and the Serbs and the Croats are getting weaker. That's the reality." PM

SESELJ FOR COALITION WITH KARADZIC PARTY

Vojislav Seselj, the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party candidate for the Serbian presidency, said in the Bosnian town of Sokolac near Sarajevo on 10 December that the Bosnian branch of his party will form a coalition with the Serbian Democratic Party of Radovan Karadzic. He said that the two parties agree that it is necessary to, as he put it, prevent Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic from destroying the Bosnian Serb state. PM

U.S. SETS DOWN BOSNIAN OPTIONS

U.S. representatives to NATO on 10 December presented other NATO delegations in Brussels with four options regarding a continued military presence in Bosnia. The options range from a complete withdrawal of all NATO forces, a reduced peacekeeping operation, keeping a presence equivalent to the current 30,000-strong SFOR, or an expanded operation with more troops on the ground in Bosnia. The international military presence in Bosnia in 1996 peaked at just more than 60,000 troops. Observers suggested that any NATO- led force after SFOR's mandate expires next June will probably number about 18,000. PM

GRENADE KILLS SERB REFUGEE IN SLAVONIA

A grenade tossed into a cafe in Grabovac in eastern Slavonia killed an elderly Serb refugee from western Slavonia on 10 December. Local authorities arrested but then released a Croat who was reportedly carrying another grenade. U.N. officials said they will ask that the man be arrested again. In another incident, a grenade explosion damaged three cars in nearby Darda. PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION AGAINST TUDJMAN'S AMENDMENTS

Opposition deputies in the lower house on 10 December introduced a set of measures against President Franjo Tudjman's proposed constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). The deputies want the constitution to identify Croatia's ethnic minorities by name and oppose any constitutional ban on Croatian membership in new Balkan or Yugoslav federations, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Tudjman's amendments are nonetheless expected to pass easily. PM

SHELL EXPANDS IN CROATIA, GOODYEAR IN SLOVENIA

The Anglo-Dutch Shell company plans to open 40 service stations in Croatia over the next four years at a cost of $70 million, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb on 10 December. And in Kranj, Slovenia, the Goodyear company acquired a 60 percent interest in Slovenia's Sava rubber company. PM

SLOVENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS ANTI-COMMUNIST MOVE

The legislature voted 44-41 late on 10 December to turn down a motion condemning Slovenia's communist-era leadership. Parliament will now discuss a related measure aimed at barring former communists from office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). The bills, which the conservative opposition sponsored, are aimed at President Milan Kucan, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, and several other top leaders who held high posts in communist Yugoslavia. PM

ROMANIAN POLITICIANS SEARCH SOLUTION TO COALITION CRISIS

The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic on 10 December decided that faction discipline will be imposed when the government regulation amending the 1995 Education Law comes to debate in the Chamber of Deputies. According to regulations, the different texts approved by the two chambers would then have to come before a mediation commission. President Emil Constantinescu on 10 December met with leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and said he would refuse to promulgate a law that infringed on the right of the national minorities to set up independent universities and to have separate sections in existing universities. The president said the coalition must abide by the protocol signed on 3 December, but added that he supports the stipulation which makes the teaching of history and geography in the Romanian language obligatory in all schools, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN MINISTERS WITHDRAW SUPPORT OF MONARCHY

After meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea on 10 December, the three members of his cabinet who earlier signed a declaration supporting the restoration of the constitutional monarchy (See "RFE/RL Newsline", 10 December 1997) said they "regretted" the step and pledged that "in future their statements will conform to the constitution and to the government's line," a press release of the government cited by RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau said. Separately, the press office of former King Michael in Versoix, Switzerland, released a statement saying, among other things, that marking 50 years since the monarch's enforced abdication should by no means "raise constitutional questions that could damage the stability of the country at this crucial moment in its history." The statement said Romania's priorities are "economic reconstruction, the consolidation of its political position and integration into European structures." MS

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER: "NO FREE LUNCHES."

Romania's new Minister of Finance, Daniel Daianu, on 10 December told Reuters that 1998 is still going to be a year of austerity and that "post-communist free lunches" are over. He said it was unrealistic to expect any economic growth for at least six months from now. In other news, a Soviet-made MiG-21 fighter crashed near Bucharest on 10 December. The crew managed to eject safely. This is the 17th crash involving a Soviet-made military plane in the past seven years. MS

DUMA DEPUTIES AGAINST RATIFICATION OF RUSSIAN- MOLDOVAN TREATY

Deputies from several committees of the Russian State Duma on 10 December recommended that the Duma refuse to ratify the 1990 basic treaty with Moldova, Infotag reported. They said that since 1992 two states "have been de facto existing" in Moldova and Moldovan sovereignty "does not apply to the Transdniester territory." They also said that NATO's expansion eastwards makes the presence of Russian troops in the Transdniester one that "meets the strategic interests of Russia" in the region. They recommended that President Boris Yeltsin work for a "redefinition of the status of relations between Transdniester and the Moldovan Republic" and only afterwards conclude a new treaty with Moldova. The deputies also recommended that the government immediately open a consulate in Tiraspol. MS

BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY IN CHISINAU

Addressing the 10th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Chisinau on 10 December, President Petru Lucinschi called on member countries to coordinate economic and commercial legislation and to transform the organization into one with a "well-defined judicial status," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said such steps would facilitate relations with other regional, European and international organizations, as well as with international financial institutions. Lucinschi also called on member states to set up a free trade zone and said that they could play a major role in the exploitation and transportation of Caspian Sea oil. The Assembly concludes its meeting on 11 December. Petre Roman, chairman of the Romanian Senate, is to be elected assembly chairman for the year 1998, replacing Moldova's Dumitru Motpan. MS

ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FROM BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT

The Union of National Salvation, which is dominated by the Turkish ethnic Movements for Rights and Freedom (DPS), on 10 December formally withdrew its support from Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's government, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The DPS, which controls 19 seats in the 240-seat parliament, accused Kostov of pursuing "populist measures, rather than reforms." Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces still maintains a 137-seat majority in the legislature, where the opposition Socialist Party has 58 seats. In recent months, tension has been growing between Kostov and the DPS. On 9 December Kostov accused the DPS of protecting the interests of criminal groups. DPS deputy Osman Oktai recently accused Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Justice Minister Vassil Gotsev of taking part in the forcible assimilation of Turks in the 1980s. They denied the accusation. MS

BULGARIA PLEDGES TO REPAY DEBT TO POLAND

President Petar Stoyanov on 10 December said Sofia will repay an outstanding $ 80 million debt to Poland, to clear obstacles to its joining the Central European Trade Agreement (CEFTA), Reuters reported. The debt dates back to 1989. One of the conditions for CEFTA membership is the clearing of bilateral debts. Stoyanov spoke to reporters after meeting his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski, who arrived on a two-day visit to Sofia. Kwasniewski pledged Polish support for Bulgaria's quest to join CEFTA, NATO and the European Union. MS




ARE RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS SAFE?


By Paul Goble

The American intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government currently has reasonably effective control over its stockpile of nuclear warheads and missiles.

But at the same time, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency said, Washington is "very concerned" about the status of Russian safeguards against the illegal sale of the components needed to manufacture such weapons.

In a report released in early December by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, George Tenet said that he did not believe that Moscow had lost control over any warheads or nuclear missiles, although the reason he gave for that is not entirely encouraging.

"We do not believe that Russian ICBMs are as vulnerable to theft or sales as missile components," Tenet said. "A conspiracy of many government officials would be necessary to purloin an entire ICBM." Instead, Tenet said his institution feared that Russia might be losing control over the components needed to make a bomb, including large and widely dispersed stores of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

Tenet argued in the report that Russia's "continuing social and economic difficulties, corruption in the military and the potential activities of organized crime groups" put government control of these materials at risk.

And he pointed out that "Russia's ability to enforce export controls remains problematic because of resource shortages, weak customs enforcement and corruption."

Tenet's report is likely to trigger a new debate on how to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons after the Cold War. At the very least, it seems certain to introduce a new clarity into just what the problem is.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union six years ago, Western analysts and governments have debated whether Moscow has been able to control the nuclear weapons and materials on its territory.

In general, that discussion has focused on the question of whether the Russian government has control of nuclear weapons rather than on whether it has control of the nuclear materials needed to make weapons.

That debate flared anew most recently when Aleksandr Lebed, a former Russian general and aide to Boris Yeltsin, made a dramatic suggestion that Moscow might have lost track of dozens of "suitcase-sized" nuclear weapons.

Tenet's report suggests that Lebed's claims are almost certainly untrue. But if that conclusion is reassuring, Tenet's discussion of Moscow's gradual loss of certain control over the components of nuclear weapons is frightening in the extreme.

The CIA report notes that there are some 1,200 tons of highly enriched uranium and 200 tons of plutonium stored in a large number of sites spread across the Russian Federation.

Because producing such materials is the hardest part of building a bomb and because only a few pounds of either substance are needed to make one, any loss of control over even a small part of such stockpiles could quickly lead to disaster.

Obviously, both Russia and the entire world have a vested interest in making sure that the Russian authorities maintain effective control over such materials. But how that is to be done remains very much an open question.

In contrast to nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles, the movement of such materials is far more difficult to monitor and thus extraordinarily difficult to prevent -- especially in a country as troubled as Russia now is.

Tenet's report may now prompt both Moscow and the West to explore some new means of making sure that the safeguards over nuclear materials are just as effective as those over nuclear weapons.

If that does not happen, his report strongly implies, the dangers of future proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will only increase.


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