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Newsline - December 12, 1997




DOCTORS TERM YELTSIN'S HEALTH 'SATISFACTORY.'

The presidential press service on 12 December issued a statement saying that doctors met with President Boris Yeltsin earlier in the day and described his condition as "satisfactory." The statement said Yeltsin's temperature has returned to normal, and that the president is working on documents at the Barvikha sanitorium while recovering from a respiratory infection. Yeltsin cancelled plans to record a radio address on 11 December. Soundless television footage broadcast that day showed him looking tired while meeting with his chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev. Also on 11 December, Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Renat Akchurin, who performed bypass surgery on Yeltsin last year, both denied reports that the president's latest illness is linked to his past heart problems. LB

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON CUTTING FEDERAL SPENDING ...

Yeltsin on 11 December signed a decree ordering several cost-cutting measures, Russian news agencies reported. The decree calls for unspecified reductions in both the number of enterprises that receive budget funding and the number of employees in budget- financed organizations. Beginning in the first quarter of 1998, budget-funded organizations will have to submit monthly reports on their receipts and expenses, as well as quarterly reports on their facilities, maintenance and utility charges. By 1 April 1998, the government must draw up an inventory of federal buildings, and federally-funded construction or purchases of buildings will be halted in 1998 and 1999. In addition, the decree instructs the government not to take steps in 1997 or 1998 to increase payments if those increases would cause federal spending to rise above the level outlined in that year's budget. LB

... RESTRICTS USE OF GOVERNMENT PLANES

The decree issued by Yeltsin on 11 December also stipulates that only six officials will be entitled to use government planes when they travel, Russian news agencies reported. Those officials are the president, prime minister, foreign minister, Security Council secretary, and speakers of the State Duma and Federation Council. All other officials will be required to fly on commercial flights. Since joining the government in March, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev have both called for saving money by restricting use of government aircraft. LB

CHERNOMYRDIN MARKS FIVE YEARS IN OFFICE

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin congratulated his cabinet colleagues when opening a session of the government on 11 December, nearly five years to the day since he was appointed prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chernomyrdin is the only person to serve as Russian prime minister since the collapse of the USSR. Prior to his appointment in December 1992, Yegor Gaidar served as acting prime minister. Only three other ministers have served in the cabinet during Chernomyrdin's entire tenure: Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, and Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov. LB

AIR FORCE COMMANDER RESIGNS

Petr Deinekin requested to be transferred to the reserve on 11 December, Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin accepted his resignation, despite Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's request that Deinekin be allowed to continue to serve after he turns 60 on 14 December. (The president has the power to make exceptions for soldiers who reach the mandatory retirement age of 60.) There was speculation in the Russian media that Deinekin would resign following the 6 December crash of a military cargo plane in Irkutsk. In a speech to the State Duma on 10 December, which was published in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" the next day, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin alleged that military aircraft are poorly maintained. He also accused Deinekin of facilitating corruption in the Air Force and charged that military planes have repeatedly been rented to private firms at a huge financial loss to the state. LB

MILITARY PLANE COLLIDES WITH HELICOPTER

Eight people were killed on 11 December when the helicopter in which they were riding collided with an An-12 military cargo plane on an airport runway in Naryan-Mar (Nenets Autonomous Okrug). ITAR-TASS quoted unnamed sources as saying that the collision was caused by poor communication between civilian and military air traffic controllers, who cleared both the helicopter and plane for landing within minutes of each other. LB

INVESTIGATION OF ACCUSED SPY COULD TAKE THREE MONTHS

A representative of the Federal Security Service (FSB) says his agency may take up to three months to complete its investigation of U.S. citizen Richard Bliss, who has been accused of espionage, Interfax reported on 11 December. Bliss, an employee of the telecommunications firm Qualcomm, was arrested in Rostov Oblast on 25 November. He has been released from custody but could still face trial. U.S. officials have asked Russian authorities to resolve the case quickly and drop all charges against Bliss. In an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow on 11 December, U.S. Ambassador James Collins commented, "I think [the Bliss case] is based in part on a conflict between what I suspect are existing Russian laws and a man who ended up as a victim, because he was using modern technologies, which those laws never contemplated." LB

AUDIT CHAMBER SEES GROUNDS FOR ANNULLING AUCTIONS

The Audit Chamber announced on 11 December that there are grounds to annul four controversial privatization auctions, Interfax reported. An investigation found that the August auction for 38 percent of Norilsk Nickel was rigged, allowing an Oneksimbank affiliate to buy the shares for below market value. The chamber determined that currency rules were violated in the July sale of a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. The chamber also found that 51 percent of the oil company Sibneft was sold in May for too little in an unfair auction. Finally, the chamber said the winner of a July auction for 40 percent of the Tyumen Oil Company paid too little and has not fulfilled its obligations to pay debts of that company's subsidiaries. The government frequently ignores the Audit Chamber's recommendations and is unlikely to ask a court to annul the auctions. LB

JUDICIAL CHAMBER REPRIMANDS JOURNALISTS ON BOOK SCANDAL

The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes determined on 11 December that journalists Aleksandr Minkin and Sergei Dorenko violated the law on the mass media when they accused First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais of bribe-taking and money-laundering in connection with a scandal over book fees. Minkin made the allegations on Ekho Moskvy, and Dorenko echoed the charges on Russian Public Television (ORT). The chamber ruled that Minkin and Dorenko were entitled to report on the book deal, in which a publisher linked to Oneksimbank paid Chubais and several co-authors $90,000 each, but should not have used "insulting" terms and epithets. The chamber did not support Chubais's request that ORT be reprimanded as well. The chamber is merely a consultative body. A Moscow court is scheduled to hear Chubais's slander suit against Minkin and Ekho Moskvy in February. LB

SELEZNEV SLAMS PRO-PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA BIAS

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev charged that the Russian media "serves only one power: presidential power," ITAR- TASS reported on 10 December. Speaking during an official visit to Paris, Seleznev claimed that Russian newspapers and electronic media often send journalists to Duma press conferences but then publicize either distorted information or no information at all. However, he said he is pleased with the first few editions of "Parlamentskii chas," a program on state-run Russian Television, adding that the parliament is receiving some air time on state-run Radio Rossii and Radio Mayak. Seleznev also said the Duma and the Federation Council will launch a newspaper in January and have already begun publishing a magazine. In October, the government persuaded the Duma not to hold a no- confidence vote, in part by promising to give parliamentary activities more air time in state-controlled media. LB

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT FINDS VIOLATIONS IN TAMBOV CHARTER

The Constitutional Court has ruled that several articles in the Tambov Oblast charter are unconstitutional, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 11 December. The oblast legislature adopted the charter as part of a long-running battle with Tambov Governor Aleksandr Ryabov. The court appeal was filed on behalf of Yeltsin. The court struck down articles in the charter giving the Tambov legislature the right to fire ministers in the oblast government and giving the speaker of the legislature (rather than the governor) the power to sign laws into effect. Judges also struck down an article providing for the early termination of the governor's authority if he takes up permanent residence outside Tambov Oblast. The court ruled some points in the charter legal; for instance, the Tambov legislature may determine the basic structure and financing of organs of the executive branch. LB

JUSTICE MINISTER ASSESSES REGIONAL LAWS

Sergei Stepashin has charged that thousands of laws adopted in the regions violate federal legal norms. In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 11 December, Stepashin said the Justice Ministry has evaluated some 9,000 laws adopted by regional authorities, and has found that more than a third of them contradict either the Russian constitution or federal legislation. He expressed regret that regional authorities sometimes ignore his ministry's recommendations on changing such laws. Stepashin said the Justice Ministry is preparing a government appeal to the Constitutional Court against some regional laws and will take steps to better monitor the activities of regional legislators. LB

NEMTSOV IN VENEZUELA

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov met in Caracas on 11 December with Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, ITAR-TASS reported. Nemtsov handed Caldera a letter from Russian President Yeltsin calling for broader political and economic relations. Nemtsov also discussed the possible sale of Russian military helicopters to Venezuela and cooperation in the oil sector. Nemtsov subsequently told journalists that Russia is particularly interested in reviving the oil swap agreement whereby Venezuelan oil is refined in Cuba in return for Russian oil refined in Germany, an RFE/RL correspondent accompanying Nemtsov reported on 11 December. LF

YELTSIN AGREES TO RESTRUCTURE FEDERAL BORDER SERVICE

Meeting on 9 December with the head of the Russian Federal Border Service, Colonel-General Andrei Nikolaev, Yeltsin issued a decree removing the border service from its present subordination to the Ministry of Defense and designating it a state special service, "Russkii telegraf" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 and 11 December respectively. Yeltsin also agreed to Nikolaev's request to increase federal funding for the border service in 1998. Nikolaev had complained that only 3 trillion rubles ($505 million) had been allocated for his service's needs rather than the minimum 8 trillion rubles needed. LF

BEREZOVSKII TERMS CHECHEN WAR "A TRAGIC MISTAKE."

Former Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii admitted on 11 December that the war in Chechnya could have been avoided if Moscow had realized that "the problem of the Caucasus will remain with Russia forever," and endeavoured to establish new relations with the regions taking into account specific ethnic factors, Interfax reported. Berezovskii said the war was "a tragic mistake," and criticized what he termed the Russian government's inability to conclude a final peace agreement with Grozny. LF

CHECHNYA CRACKS DOWN ON OIL THEFTS

About one thousand metric tons of crude oil has been confiscated from thieves since President Aslan Maskhadov announced a major crackdown on 7 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 December. Maskhadov's press secretary Kazbek Khadzhiev told Interfax on 8 December that Chechnya's oil output had increased in recent months from 1,500 to 4,000 metric tons per day, but that during Maskhadov's November trip to Turkey and the U.S. the incidence of illegal tapping of pipelines had again risen sharply. Maskhadov estimated the weekly financial loss from such thefts at 5 billion rubles (more than $830,000). Stolen Chechen oil is increasingly being illegally sold to middlemen in North Ossetia for refining there into gasoline, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 11 December from Vladikavkaz. LF



ARMENIAN FM SLAMS OPPOSITION KARABAKH STATEMENTS

Alexander Arzoumanian on 11 December criticized as "illiterate" and "misleading" two statements addressed by the Armenian opposition to the country's leadership and to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The statements, demanding that the Armenian leadership reject any proposed settlement of the Karabakh conflict that returns Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani jurisdiction, were adopted at an opposition rally in Yerevan on 10 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997). Arzoumanian said his ministry will continue to defend Armenia's national interests despite the dissemination by the opposition of "slander, lies and suspicion." On 10 December Arzoumanian met with his Nagorno-Karabakh counterpart Naira Melkumian to discuss the Karabakh peace process, Armenian agencies reported. LF

CHEVRON TO BUILD ITS OWN TRANS-GEORGIA PIPELINE?

The U.S. oil company Chevron plans to begin construction in 1998 of a pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi to export crude from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field, according to "Finansoviye izvestiya" of 9 December. The pipeline will cost an estimated $600 million and have an annual throughput capacity of 5 million tons. It is not clear how the transport tariffs for oil exported through Georgia to Batumi would be shared between the central Georgian government and the autonomous Republic of Adjaria, of which Batumi is the capital. Chevron President Richard Matzke visited Tbilisi and Batumi in October 1996, to discuss the planned export of Tengiz oil via Georgia. LF

KYRGYZ MUFTIAT DENOUNCES WAHHABISM

The six senior members of Kyrgyzstan's Muftiat met in Bishkek on 10-11 December to discuss the activities of Wahhabis in the country, RFE/RL correspondents report. Members of the Muftiat have been especially vocal in their denunciation of Wahhabism since the Kyrgyz weekly newspaper "Kyrgyz Rukhu" printed an article in early December alleging two deputies of the Mufti Absatar-Agy Majitov, as well as the former head Mufti Sadykjan Kamalov, were disseminating the sect's ideas. The Muftiat stated that it is not responsible for activities of Kamalov's International Center for Islamic Cooperation located in Osh and excluded the center from the Muslim community of Kyrgyzstan. The members also reviewed the activities of Imams in Kyrgyzstan and discussed the formation of an expert commission to translate the Koran into Kyrgyz. BP

PROTEST AT TURKMEN EMBASSY IN MOSCOW

Demonstrators gathered in front of Turkmenistan's Embassy in Moscow on 11 December to protest what they claim is the oppressive rule of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The "Memorial" human rights organization and the Turkmen opposition Diaspora in Moscow coordinated the demonstration. Some people carried signs calling on Niyazov to free political prisoners and stop using psychiatric hospitals as a place to incarcerate dissidents. Participants were able to hand a letter of protest to officials at the Embassy. The demonstration took place on the eve of the second anniversary of Turkmenistan's recognition by the United Nations as a "Neutral State" such as Switzerland. BP

UZBEK-CHINESE RELATIONS

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met with his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen in Beijing on 11 December, according to ITAR-TASS and Xinhua. The two ministers expressed their satisfaction at the course of bilateral relations and noted that the volume of trade between the countries was not yet big enough, but has grown steadily in recent years. Agreements were signed on civilian and criminal judicial assistance and environmental protection. Qian said the two countries are still neighbors even though they do not share a common border. BP

SAUDI EMBASSY OFFICIAL KILLED IN KAZAKHSTAN

The second Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Kazakhstan was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his apartment on 11 December, RFE/RL correspondents reported. According to neighbors, Ahmed Assaui hosted a party on the night of 10 December and police concluded it was later that night or early the next morning that he was murdered. BP




KUCHMA WARNS OF 'RED REVENGE' IN UKRAINE

President Leonid Kuchma told an economic forum on 11 December that left-wing forces in the parliament, led by its speaker Aleksandr Moroz, "are longing for power, for the purpose of bringing back the socialist system to Ukraine," Itar-Tass reported. Kuchma said that he hoped the Ukrainian people would take this into consideration when they vote for a new parliament in March 1998. But despite his clashes with the parliament -- also on 11 December, the Verkhovna Rada again voted to fire Kuchma's privatization chief -- the Ukrainian president said that he would not dissolve the parliament in violation of the constitution. He said that he did not operate on the assumption that "no parliament equals no problems." PG

UKRAINE, RUSSIA INCREASE SECURITY, ECONOMIC COOPERATION

The Ukrainian-Russian strategy group will seek to promote a new "hotline regime" between the presidents of the two countries, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 11 December. The group's Russian co-chairman, Yeltsin press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, said in Kyiv that its members must become "lobbyists in the positive sense of the word," defending Ukrainian interests in Moscow and Russian interests in Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian experts agreed to meet in the Ukrainian capital on 13 December to discuss cooperation in manufacturing An-70 airplanes. And Ukrainian officials said that they were almost finished with a draft for expanded economic cooperation with Russia. PG

UKRAINIAN CITY 'NATIONALIZES' SOVIET WAR MONUMENT

The Lviv city council in western Ukraine has voted to change a monument erected in honor of Soviet troops who liberated the city from Nazi troops at the end of World War II into one commemorating "fighters for the freedom of Ukraine," including the OUN, UPA and other groups that fought against Soviet power there in the 1940s and 1950s, Itar-Tass reported on 11 December. PG

LUKASHENKA: BELARUS NEED NOT COORDINATE REFORMS WITH RUSSIA

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Interfax on 11 December that his country and Russia could integrate even if the two remain far apart in terms of economic reforms. He suggested that Russia should consider synchronizing its reforms with Belarus rather than the other way around, noting that Belarus represented "an example of reforming without making the mistakes of Russia." And Lukashenka again rejected wholesale privatization: only inefficient firms should be privatized, he concluded. PG

POLISH PARLIAMENT BANS SEX EDUCATION

In an indication that the new Polish parliament will undo many of the policies of its socialist predecessor, legislators voted on 11 December to ban sex education as a separate subject in state schools, PAP reported. The vote was along party lines with the government coalition voting for, and the ex- communist Social Democratic Party (SLD) voting against. Meanwhile, Poland's supreme court dismissed 21 challenges to the recent election results; it concluded that none of the offenses charged would have affected the outcomes of the races. PG

POLAND BLOCKS EU MEAT

In a response to the European Union's ban on the importation of Polish meat products, the Polish authorities on 11 December blocked some 100 trucks carrying EU meat toward the post-Soviet states at the Swiecko crossing point, PAP reported. Polish officials said the trucks did not have the required veterinary transit permits. PG

STANDARD & POOR'S RANKS ESTONIA HIGHEST IN POST-SOVIET STATES

Standard and Poor's, a leading international rating agency, on 11 December gave Estonia the highest credit rates among the post-Soviet states: BBB+ for foreign currency and A- for national currency, BNS reported. Latvia received a BBB rating and Lithuania a BBB- rating. Kazakhstan and Russia received the lower rating of BB-. The new ratings will reduce Estonia's international borrowing costs and make it an even more attractive place for foreign investment. PG

ESTONIA, LATVIA COMPLETE BORDER DEMARCATION

On 8-9 December, a joint Estonian-Latvian commission completed the demarcation of the land border between the two countries, BNS reported on 11 December. PG

SIX-MONTH CARETAKER CZECH GOVERNMENT TO BE PROPOSED

Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) leader Josef Lux, who has been given the task of forming the government by President Vaclav Havel, on 11 December said he will propose to Havel to appoint a six-month caretaker administration and to call new elections in 1998. Lux told Czech Radio that the leaders of the other parties with whom he conducted talks expressed "political agreement" to have the next elections conducted in June, Reuters reported. A public opinion poll conducted by the private STEM institute shows that the opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is backed by a plurality of voters (26.3 percent,) followed by outgoing premier Vaclav Klaus' Civic Democratic Party, which is backed by 20.3 percent. Lux's own KDU-CSL is supported by 13.6 percent and 5.1 percent back the Civic Democratic Alliance. Almost three quarters of the respondents (74 percent) said Klaus should leave political life, CTK reported. MS

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS BACK NATO INTEGRATION

Addressing a conference on NATO integration on 11 December, CSSD leader Milos Zeman said his party fully supports the Czech Republic's integration into NATO and the European Union, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. He promised that if the CSSD comes to power, the country's foreign policy orientation will not change. Zeman said the CSSD wants accession to NATO to be submitted to a referendum because the issue is so important and deserves more public debate. He said he hoped the results of the referendum would show an even higher backing for joining NATO than the 85 percent support showed by the Hungarians. NATO special advisor for Central and Eastern Europe Chris Donnelly told the conference that the socialist system had destroyed the region's economies by military overspending and that NATO has no intention of making similar demands on its members. MS

SUSPECT IN BOMB ATTACK ON PILIP ARRESTED

A 43- year-old man from Brno was arrested on 11 December on suspicion of involvement in the bomb attack on the Prague home of Finance Minister Ivan Pilip on 6 December. The man was charged with illegal weapons possession. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted, CTK reported. Citing "reliable sources," the agency says the suspect is a former employee of the communist secret police. He became assistant director of the town's transportation department after 1987. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER CONSIDERS LEAVING POLITICS

Vladimir Meciar on 11 December said he was unsure whether he would run at the head of his Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) in elections scheduled for autumn 1988, or even if he would complete his current term in office, Reuters reported. Speaking in a political debate on Slovak state television after a month-long stay in the western Slovak spa of Piestany for unspecified health problems, Meciar said that if he does run in 1998 and loses the elections, he will retire from political life. He also said he would not consider being a presidential candidate when President Michal Kovac's ends his term in March 1998. MS




MAJOR BALKAN HIGHWAY PROJECT LAUNCHED

Representatives of the U.S. and Albanian governments signed an agreement in Tirana on 11 December that provides Albania with an initial grant of $10.3 million to build an east-west highway from Durres to Qafe Thane on the Macedonian border. Albania will improve an existing road and build a rail line by 2003, and then it will build a completely new highway by 2010. The U.S. also will provide $20 million to Macedonia and Bulgaria to extend the route to Varna on the Black Sea. Improved east-west traffic links among Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria will not only strengthen ties between the three states but reduce Macedonia's dependence on transportation routes across Greece or Serbia. Turkey is also a strong supporter of the project. FS and PM

WORLD BANK GIVES $30 MILLION CREDIT TO ALBANIA

The World Bank issued a credit of $30 million on 10 December to support the reform of Albania's banking system, government and administration, "Koha Jone" reported. The credit is the first part of a $70 million package promised by the World Bank at an international donors' conference in October. The aim of the credit is to modernize the country's economic system and to fight poverty by reducing unemployment and improving social security. FS

INTERNATIONAL HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVO?

Edita Tahiri, a member of the presidency of the Democratic League of Kosovo, the main Kosovar political organization, said in Pristina on 11 December that the international community should appoint a high representative for Kosovo on the model of the high representative for Bosnia. Tahiri added that the Yugoslav delegation's recent walkout at the Bonn conference on Bosnia showed that Belgrade is a destabilizing factor in the Balkans and it is not interested in solving the Kosovo question, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. The Yugoslav and Bosnian Serb delegations left the Bonn meeting to protest the inclusion of references to Kosovo in the final declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 10 and 11 December 1997). PM

U.S. FIRM ON KOSOVO

A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 11 December that the Serbs' walkout could have the opposite effect on world public opinion from what the Serbs wanted. "What the walkout did was to highlight what continues to be an important issue on the agenda of the international community, namely, the serious problems in Kosovo. Belgrade's objections to including Kosovo in the communiqu... only reinforce our determination -- the United States' determination and commitment-- to press for real progress in Kosovo." PM

SANDZAK MUSLIMS SAY HUMAN RIGHTS NOT INTERNAL AFFAIR

The federal Yugoslav government issued a statement in Belgrade on 11 December that praised the walkout. The statement stressed that Kosovo is an internal Yugoslav affair, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Rasim Ljajic, the president of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of Sandzak, said in Novi Pazar, however, that human rights issues can never be the internal affair of any one country. He told the Belgrade daily "Danas" of 12 December that top British, German, and U.S. diplomats also have called attention to the human rights issue in Sandzak. Sandzak is the former Ottoman Sandzak of Novi Pazar and is now divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Muslims make up just more than half of its population and most of them feel close political and cultural affinity with the Muslims of Bosnia. Ljajic's SDA is a branch of the Bosnian party of Alija Izetbegovic. PM

OSCE CALLS FOR KARADZIC, MLADIC ARREST

Robert Frowick, the head of the OSCE mission to Bosnia, said in Vienna on 11 December that indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic should have been arrested and sent to The Hague long ago. Frowick added that the OSCE will need to maintain a presence in Bosnia for at least several years to come. Meanwhile in Pale, hard-line Serbian leader Momcilo Krajisnik played down the decision of the Bonn conference to expand the authority of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative in Bosnia. Krajisnik also stated that the Dayton agreement is being implemented "very successfully." But in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic urged the Serbs to conduct policies "based on reality" and to "professionalize" their media in order to deny any grounds for foreign intervention in Bosnian Serb affairs. PM

WESTENDORP HOPEFUL ON YUGOSLAV SUCCESSION TALKS

Westendorp told an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels on 11 December that he hopes that the Bonn gathering will have a favorable impact on the ongoing talks in the Belgian capital about dividing the assets and obligations of the former Yugoslavia. Westendorp suggested that the former Yugoslav republics could begin by dividing up among themselves the Yugoslav hard currency reserves held in Swiss banks. Previous succession talks were hamstrung by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's insistence that his state is the sole legal successor to Tito's. The other republics demand a division of the assets, although they differ among themselves about how the division should take place. PM

IZETBEGOVIC CALLS FOR MUSLIM-WESTERN COOPERATION

Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic told the closing session of the three-day summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Tehran on 11 December that Muslims should work together with Western countries. He said that "Islam is the best, but we [Muslims] are not the best... The West is neither corrupted nor degenerate.... It is strong, well-educated and organized. Their schools are better than ours. Their cities are cleaner than ours... The level of respect for human rights in the West is higher and the care for the poor and less capable is better organized. The Westerners are usually responsible and accurate in their words... Instead of hating the West, let us... proclaim cooperation instead of confrontation." PM

UN SLAMS MUSLIM SECRET POLICE

A UN police spokesman said in Sarajevo on 11 December that the Muslim-run intelligence organization known as AID is the spy-arm of the SDA and is not responsible to the Muslim- Croat federal government. He said that political parties cannot operate secret police operations, although governments certainly can. The Muslims claim that they need their own intelligence arm because the Croats can obtain sensitive information from Zagreb and the Serbs can get intelligence from Belgrade. PM

BELGRADE CHALLENGES MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

Yugoslav federal prosecutor Vukasin Jokanovic said in Belgrade on 11 December that the Montenegrin supreme court violated federal law when it ordered an updating of voter rolls before the October presidential elections won by Milosevic's opponents. Montenegrin President-elect Milo Djukanovic has warned Belgrade not to meddle in Montenegro's affairs. PM

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TESTIFIES IN COURT

Ion Iliescu on 11 December told a court in Bucharest that it was "preposterous" to claim that the miners who rampaged Bucharest and brought about the dismissal of the government headed by Petre Roman in September 1991 had been summoned by him, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu testified at the trial of miners' leader Miron Cozma, accused of "undermining state authority." Cozma told the court earlier that Iliescu should be with him in the dock. Roman said the miners had arrived at the instigation of the former president. In other news, a court of justice on 10 December sentenced former Securitate boss Tudor Postelnicu and former Interior Minister Gheorghe Homostean to 18 years in prison for their role in the killing of hijackers and hostages in 1981, when they acted at the orders of communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. MS

IMF CHIEF NEGOTIATOR MEETS ROMANIAN PREMIER

Poul Thomsen on 11 December met with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea and National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu, Romanian media report. They discussed the continuation of the reform program and agreed that reforms must be accelerated and inflation reduced. Thomsen said inflation was above the 30 percent agreed on with the government by the IMF and said it is necessary to trim the budget to reduce inflation. Details will be worked out at a meeting scheduled for January 1988. MS

CHISINAU-TIRASPOL EXPERTS MEET

Experts representing Moldova and separatist Transdniester met in Chisinau on 11 December to continue discussions on elaborating a document outlining a "joint economic, social and judicial space," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The experts also discussed the case of the Ilie Ilascu group, whose members are detained in the separatist region. The Transdniester experts said the document most likely to emerge from the meetings will be one of "intermediary nature." They said the document would have to include the agreements reached by President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov, as well as "some last- minute proposals," such as that of "double citizenship" for Transdniestrians. Moldovan presidential advisor Anatol Taranu, cited by BASA-press, said that the conditions of detention of the Ilascu group "are deteriorating." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES RUSSIAN VISIT

Petar Stoyanov on 11 December told reporters in Sofia that his 18-20 December visit to Russia has been postponed due to President Boris Yeltsin's illness, BTA and Reuters reported. Stoyanov said he had spoken to Yeltsin in the morning and they agreed that the visit will take place in February or March 1998. At a joint press conference marking the end of the visit of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the two presidents told reporters that their countries' bids to join NATO are not prompted by fear of Russia and pledged to develop friendly ties with Moscow. MS




SLOW PROGRESS ON NEW CONVENTIONAL ARMS TREATY


by Roland Eggleston

Negotiators in Vienna hope that a new treaty limiting the danger of an arms build-up in Europe can be achieved by the end of next year, although they warn considerable political will to reach agreement will be required on the part of some countries.

The negotiators are revising the 1990 CFE treaty between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, which placed limits on the number of tanks, artillery, armored cars, war planes, and battle helicopters located between the Atlantic and the Urals. The new treaty will replace the bloc-to-bloc ceilings imposed on both alliances with national and territorial ceilings.

National ceilings place a limit on the size of each country's armed forces, while the territorial ceilings impose a limit on the overall number of military forces deployed in any single country. In most cases, the territorial ceilings will be higher than the national ones, but the actual limits are still being worked out.

A senior negotiator told RFE/RL that the national and territorial ceilings on the number of tanks, artillery, and other weapons are among the most difficult issues to resolve. "They go to the heart of the security of individual states, many of which remain suspicious of each other" he said. "Each government wants to be certain that the treaty allows it enough forces to meet its legitimate defense requirements."

Thirty countries are participating in the negotiations, including the U.S., Russia, and most of the states of Western, CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova. The neutral countries and Central Asian states, with the exception of Kazakhstan, are not involved.

Gregory Govan, the chief U.S. negotiator, told RFE/RL that the talks are proceeding "slowly but methodically." He said one of the biggest political problems is Russia's attempts to impose conditions that would limit the effects of NATO enlargement. For example, Russia wants to restrict the degree to which the original 16 members of NATO can deploy forces on the territory of the alliance's new members, either permanently or temporarily.

NATO believes fixed limits should be established only for ground forces, while Russia wants also to include fixed limits for warplanes and battle helicopters. NATO argues that including aircraft and helicopters is unrealistic. It is relatively easy for inspectors to determine whether ground forces are within the limits set by a treaty. But aircraft and helicopters can be flown in and out of a territory within minutes, making effective inspection virtually impossible.

NATO diplomats say the alliance considers Russia's fears of a possible buildup of Western military power in countries near its borders to be exaggerated. However, it understands those fears and is trying to quell them. To this end, the U.S. has proposed the creation of a "zone of stability" in which the size of military forces would be limited. However, it insists that the zone include other countries as well as the new NATO members.

Under the U.S. proposal--which has now been accepted by NATO as a whole--the "zone of stability" would include Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belarus, northern Ukraine, and Kaliningrad. The U.S. suggests that territorial limits in this zone would be the same as the present national limits, effectively preventing a build-up of foreign forces in any of those countries. The same conditions would apply until the next review of the treaty, scheduled for 2001. The U.S. further proposes that the treaty be reviewed every five years.

Govan says that, in addition to political issues, there are many technical problems to be resolved. Among them is the system for checking that signatories are honoring the treaty. "One of the best features of the 1990 CFE treaty was its system of verification and transparency," he said. "Everyone agrees that it worked well and should be continued. The problem is how to maintain the same degree of assurance and confidence in a much more complicated treaty."

According to Govan, the attitude of some countries is also a problem. "One group of countries at the talks has strong ideas on how a future treaty on conventional forces should look," he said. "There are other countries that don't have this outlook. Some have difficulties adjusting to a new kind of treaty that is not based on a bloc-to-bloc approach. Govan did not identify any countries but acknowledged that some NATO countries are among those nostalgic for the ease of decision-making under the old system.

Originally, the new CFE treaty was expected to be ready by summer 1998, but few diplomats believe this timetable is realistic. Most now hope the negotiations can be completed by November 1998, allowing the new treaty to be signed in December by the heads of government attending a summit meeting of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe. However, the signing ceremony is still many months and many problems away. The author writes regularly for RFE/RL.


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