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Newsline - January 9, 1998




IMF TO RELEASE LOAN TRANCHE TO RUSSIA

A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said on 8 January that the fund will release a $665 million loan installment to Russia. This latest tranche has been delayed since October because of IMF concerns about Moscow's ability to collect taxes. PG

NEW BANKRUPTCY CHIEF APPOINTED

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 7 January appointed Georgii Tal as chief of the country's bankruptcy service, Interfax reported. Tal was the acting chief of that service since taking over for Pyotr Mostovoi, one of the officials fired in November 1997 for his role in a book royalty scandal. On 8 January, the government published an ordinance setting up a specialized tax inspectorate to deal with the largest taxpayers. And President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree that will allow the tax service to maintain a lien on accounts for past taxes due if the taxpayer does not have enough money to make payments on time. PG

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS CONDITIONS IN PLACE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH...

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told the cabinet on 8 January that last year's developments have laid the foundation for economic growth in 1998, Interfax reported. He said Russia's GDP grew 1.2 percent in 1997 and would grow more in the year ahead. He noted that the country was beginning this year "without wage arrears." And he suggested that improving tax collection was the government's main task for 1998. PG

...URGES GREATER SPENDING ON SCIENCE...

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin also told the government that Moscow must increase its funding of science to more than 4 percent of the budget, Interfax reported. His proposal came even though Deputy Premier Vladimir Bulgak said the brain drain from the country has eased, with only 15,200 scientists having permanently settled abroad. PG

...CONDEMNS BUINAKSK RAID

Also on 8 January, Chernomyrdin called on Russian power agencies to do all in their power to prevent further raids on Russian military facilities. He said that the perpetrators of the 22 December attack on the military base in Dagestan should be punished. But Chernomyrdin rejected as "intolerable" and "wishful thinking" the 6 January proposal by Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that Russian forces should launch preemptive strikes against Chechen bases. LF

INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS KULIKOV MISUNDERSTOOD

"Izvestiya" on 9 January quoted a Russian Interior Ministry spokesman as claiming that Kulikov's 6 January statement advocating preemptive strikes against Chechen guerrilla bases was "taken out of context." The spokesman said Kulikov's remark was made during an address to the widows and orphans of Interior Ministry staff killed on active service. LF

CHECHNYA REINFORCES BORDERS

Following a conference with field commanders on 8 January, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov deployed some 4,000 customs and border officials along Chechnya's borders with Dagestan and Stavropol Krai in response to a buildup of Russian troops, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister told Interfax on 9 January. But Dagestani Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev denied that any such buildup of Russian troops in Dagestan has taken place. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev told Interfax that Kulikov's threat is evidence that the Russian government is both unwilling and unable to implement the peace agreement signed in May1997 by Maskhadov and Russian President Yeltsin. LF

FOREIGN MINISTRY, FSB DISAGREE ON BLISS CASE

Valerii Nesterushkin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on 8 January that "there is no strict necessity" for a U.S. citizen charged with spying to return to Russia anytime soon, but he added that the case of Richard Bliss has not been closed, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the Russia's Federal Security Service is "bewildered" by reports that Bliss might extend his stay in the U.S. PG

MOSCOW SAYS ROSS MISSION IN MIDDLE EAST UNPRODUCTIVE

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nesterushkin told Interfax on 8 January that the recent spate of visits to the Middle East by U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross has not brought any tangible results. Nesterushkin suggested that progress in those talks could be made only by the immediate participants in the conflict. PG

THIRD RUSSIAN SUBMARINE FOR CHINA EN ROUTE

The third of four "Varshavyanka" submarines purchased by China from Russia is nearing its new home port of Xiangshan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. The news agency described the diesel-powered submarine as superior to comparable U.S. vessels and as having a very low level of sound emission, making it difficult to locate. Taiwan military authorities said on 6 January they monitored the submarine's passage through the Taiwan Straits. BP

LUZHKOV DENIES HE WAS OFFERED PREMIERSHIP

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told ITAR-TASS on 8 January that there is no truth to rumors that he has been offered the post of prime minister. Luzhkov added that he still has work to complete in Moscow, thereby implying that he would have declined such an offer. LF

EVEN LENIN'S EMBALMERS NEED SECOND JOBS

Many workers in the former laboratory taking care of the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, now housed in the Mausoleum on Red Square, have been forced to take second jobs to make ends meet, Interfax reported on 8 January. Many are now earning additional cash embalming the bodies of "new Russians" killed by violence or in accidents. PG




ABKHAZIA DENIES TAKING GEORGIANS HOSTAGE

Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Adleiba on 8 January said that reports of some 30 ethnic Georgians having been taken hostage in Abkhazia's Gali Raion the previous day are an "invention by Georgian journalists." Adleiba said that 30 Georgian bus passengers were detained by Abkhaz police conducting a routine passport check and that nine men who did not have adequate identification were taken into custody. He said the men would be released on 8 January after paying a fine, but it is unclear whether they have been freed. Also on 8 January, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba criticized his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, for a statement in his New Year's address. Ardzinba said Shevardnadze's espousal of a Bosnian-style operation to impose peace in Abkhazia "is an attempt to erode the negotiating process," Interfax reported. LF

ARMENIAN SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES KARABAKH

The Armenian Security Council convened on 7-8 January to discuss the ongoing Karabakh peace process, Armen Press reported. President Levon Ter-Petrossyan chaired the meeting, which was also attended by the president, parliamentary speaker, prime minister, and defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF

ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST ARRESTED

The Committee to Protect Journalists on 8 January wrote to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev expressing concern at the arrest on 22 December of Savalan Mamedov, the editor of the weekly newspaper "Istintag." Mamedov has been charged with libel for allegedly making "false and dishonoring comments" about a former local prosecutor, Nazim Tagiev. Mamedov had claimed that Tagiev had cooperated with Alikram Gumbatov, who was sentenced to death in February 1996 on charges of treason and attempting to stage a coup d'etat. LF

LAWYERS IN AZERBAIJANI POLITICAL TRIAL THREATENED

Two lawyers representing Rasim Agaev, former press secretary to ex-President Ayaz Mutalibov, told journalists in Baku on 8 January that they have been charged by the Ministry of National Security with violating the confidentiality of the investigation into their client's case. The two lawyers denied the charge, which is based on an article by Social Democratic Party leader Zardusht Ali- Zade published in the opposition newspaper "Istiqlal." The lawyers claimed that a Security Ministry official had threatened them with imprisonment in the hope of pressuring them to abandon their defense of Agaev, who was arrested in November 1996 on charges of treason. LF

IRANIAN OFFICIAL ISSUES WARNING ON CASPIAN

Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majidi on 8 January cautioned against the construction of under-water Caspian oil and gas pipelines before a new agreement is reached among the five littoral states on the status of the Caspian, according to IRNA, as monitored by the BBC. Majidi predicted that it will take a "long time" to reach such an agreement. LF

STAND OFF CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTAN

The situation remains tense on the outskirts of Dushanbe as an unregistered opposition force loyal to Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov continues to demand that the police release three of their members who were detained on 7 January, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the Tajik capital. Sanginov's group has established a checkpoint on the road outside eastern Dushanbe, and the government has moved armored vehicles into the area. The government and the United Tajik Opposition, with which Sanginov's group is not affiliated, are attempting to resolve the conflict peacefully. BP

RUSSIAN-TAJIK TRADE GROWS IN 1997

Trade between Russia and Tajikistan more than doubled in 1997, compared with the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. Last year's figure was put at $324.5 million, compared with $153.4 million in 1996. Tajikistan exports to Russia were mainly agricultural produce but also cotton, tobacco, and aluminum. Russian exports to the Central Asian state include mineral fertilizers and energy supplies. BP

KAZAKH PARTIES TO COOPERATE TO PROMOTE REFORM

Seventeen parties and movements in favor of reform have signed a memorandum on cooperation with the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. That move is seen as a response to opposition groups that do not support Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his reforms. Among the 17 groups are Democratic and People's Cooperative Parties, the Russian Community, the Federation Union Council, and the Muslim Women's Union. The opposition movement AZAT criticized the memorandum as containing leftist slogans and commented that the signatory parties and movements are in any case known to be loyal to Nazarbayev, according to RFE/RL correspondents. BP

KAZAKHS RESPOND TO CHINESE COMPLAINTS

Kazakh border guard officials said recent complaints by the Chinese Embassy in Almaty that Chinese citizens are targeted by criminals and are even victims of illegal actions by the militia and border guards are "groundless" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1997), RFE/RL correspondents reported. The Border Guard Service referred to one instance, cited by the Chinese Embassy, in which a Chinese citizen on the Almaty-Urumqi train was allegedly attacked by a Kazakh border guard. According to the service, the border guard was attacked by Chinese conductors aboard the train. BP

TURKMENISTAN RECEIVES CREDIT RATING

The London- based rating agency "Fitch Ibca" has given Turkmenistan a B credit rating for long- and short-term hard-currency loans, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. The rating was based on Turkmenistan's hard-currency reserves of $1 billion and the $1.5 billion owed to the country by CIS states, mainly Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. The rating is sufficient for further loans to Turkmenistan from international organizations to develop the nation's industries, notably the development and export of natural gas deposits. BP

FORMER KYRGYZ SECURITY MINISTER DIES

Anarbek Bakayev, who held the security portfolio from 1991 to 1996, died on 8 January after failing to regain consciousness following an October 1996 automobile crash. Bakayev was appointed security minister immediately after the August 1991 attempted coup in Moscow. He was 48 years old. BP




UKRAINIAN INFLATION FALLS

Inflation in Ukraine fell to 10.1 percent in 1997, the lowest level since that country became independent, the State Statistical Committee told ITAR-TASS on 8 January. That represents a steep decline from an inflation rate in 1993 of more than 10,000 percent. The government predicts that the economy will begin to grow by 0.5 percent this year, the first positive growth since independence. In another move with economic consequences, the cabinet said it will abolish value-added tax on Russian goods as of 1 February if the Russian government does the same on Ukrainian ones. PG

KYIV DENOUNCES PLANS TO "NEW UNION TREATY."

Presidential administration chief Yevgenii Kushnarov has described plans by communist groups from former Soviet republics to sign a new union treaty in Kyiv on 7 February as a publicity stunt, Interfax reported on 8 January. He noted that no one can speak on behalf of countries except the duly constituted authorities. PG

ORT JOURNALIST'S TRIAL RESUMES IN BELARUS

On 8 January, the trial of Russian Public Television journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman, Dmitriy Zavadskiy, resumed in the Belarusian city of Oshmany, Interfax reported. In a much-delayed case that has soured relations between Moscow and Minsk, the two are charged with illegally crossing the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. One witness, border guard officer Igor Korovkin, said the two continued to film the border even after being ordered not to. Korovkin added, however, that they had not in fact crossed the border, as charged. PG

BELARUS DOES NOT WANT RUSSIAN TROOPS ON ITS SOIL

Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Buzo said on 8 January that Belarus does not want Russian troops stationed on its territory, Interfax reported. Instead, Buzo said, Minsk wants Moscow to "make full use of Belarus's military potential" as the two countries move toward full integration. He added that the two governments would discuss the issue at the Belarus-Russia Union Higher Council on 22 January. On a related matter, Buzo said that Minsk was opposed to any delay in the next summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1998). PG

BELARUSIAN "CHARTER 97" OPENS BRUSSELS OFFICE

The organizers of Charter 97, a group seeking to oust Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, opened their first office abroad on 7 January, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The office is located in the Belgian capital. Andrei Sannikau, a former deputy foreign minister, will serve as the group's representative there. Charter 97 has already collected some 40,000 signatures since it was launched two months ago. PG

ESTONIAN COALITION POSTPONES DECISION ON TARIFFS

Leaders of the ruling coalition on 8 January decided to postpone taking a decision on customs tariffs until the conclusion of membership talks with the World Trade Organization, ETA reported. Last month, the government announced it would not impose customs tariffs on EU member states. Some politicians from the agricultural parties in favor of protective tariffs argue that this decision will have a negative effect on talks with the WTO, which Estonia hopes to join later this year. JC

LATVIAN CENTRAL BANK HEAD PREDICTS CONTINUED ECONOMIC GROWTH

Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse has predicted that the country's economy will grow at a rate similar to--or possibly higher than--that in 1997, BNS reported on 8 January He forecast GDP growth at some 6 percent and stressed that tough fiscal policies will encourage the maintenance of a balanced budget, preventing the inflation rate from exceeding 7 percent. JC

MORE PEOPLE NATURALIZED IN LATVIA IN 1997

A total of 2,994 people were naturalized in Latvia last year compared with 3,999 for both 1995 and 1996, BNS reported on 8 January. Eizenija Aldermane, the head of the naturalization department, attributed that increase to the fact that people below the age of 25 years can now apply for citizenship and to the government's decision to reduce naturalization fees for certain categories of applicant. Aldermane also estimated that a total of 121,000 non- citizens who were entitled to apply for naturalization last year did not do so. JC

LITHUANIA'S PAULAUSKAS CONCEDES DEFEAT

Arturas Paulauskas, who lost the 4 January runoff of the presidential election to U.S.-Lithuanian Valdas Adamkus by some 11,000 votes, has conceded defeat but criticized election officials, BNS and Reuters reported on 8 January. Paulauskas aide Gintautas Kniukshta said that on 9 January, the former prosecutor will congratulate Adamkus on his victory. But he said "it is a pity that the election commission did all it could to give grounds to doubt the result." Paulauskas had asked for a recount in some 40 polling stations, citing violations of voting procedures. But the electoral commission agreed only to recount in 26 stations, as a result of which 100 votes were added to Paulauskas's tally. JC

POLISH PARLIAMENT APPROVES VATICAN TREATY

By a vote of 274 to 160, the Solidarity-dominated parliament on 8 January gave final approval to a Concordat with the Vatican, PAP reported. The agreement, signed by the earlier Solidarity-led government in 1993, was not ratified when the former Communists dominated the parliament. Opponents of the measure said the agreement's provision on the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland would cause further social divisions. PG

POLAND IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS AT RUSSIAN BORDER

Polish border guards on 6 January refused to allow Russian tourists to cross from Kaliningrad into Poland unless they could prove that they had paid for hotel accommodations in advance, ITAR-TASS reported two days later. Earlier, Russian tourists had been able to cross the border simply by presenting easily available tourist visas. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said that Moscow was seeking "exhaustive official information" on Poland's unilateral action and would take all necessary steps to defend the rights of Russian citizens. PG

SPLIT IMMINENT IN KLAUS'S ODS?

Finance Minister Ivan Pilip on 8 January resigned from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), while retaining his seat in Josef Tosovsky's cabinet, CTK reported. Pilip said he will soon decide on his future political activities. According to "Lidove noviny," former Interior Minister Jindrich Vodicka has decided to leave the ODS in March. Local Development Minister Jan Cerny said on Czech Television that he will decide by the end of the week whether to follow Pilip's example. On the other hand, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Stanislav Volak said he did not see any reason to follow in Pilip's footsteps. MS

HAVEL'S COMMUNIST RIVAL MEETS WITH PRESS

Stanislav Fischer, who so far is Vaclav Havel's only rival in the Czech presidential elections, told journalists on 8 January that he is a "realist" who recognizes that "with the present composition of the legislature," he cannot expect to succeed, "Lidove noviny" reported. Fischer is endorsed by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM). Meanwhile, extremist Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek may well miss the 20 January presidential election. Prague district court president Lubomir Novak said Sladek, who is being prosecuted for incitement to hatred, will not be released from prison before 23 January. He will also be unable to attend a meeting, planned by Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman for 11 January, with other political leaders to decide on the date of early elections. MS

MECIAR WANTS NO CONTACT WITH NEW CZECH GOVERNMENT

Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar on 9 January told a rally of his Movement for Democratic Slovakia in Bratislava that he will "by no means negotiate" with the new Czech government. He said the Czech political crisis arouses "great worries in Slovakia, as it is something we have already experienced here." Alluding to his own cabinet's dismissal in March 1994, Meciar said Czech developments were an attempt "to ascribe responsibility for failures to one person and one party," CTK reported. "We are witnessing efforts to oust not only Klaus but the whole of his party and to divide [that party] into smaller groups and promote [Josef] Lux as the leading Czech politician." MS

SLOVAKIA DECLINES TO RESPOND TO HUNGARIAN CRITICISM

A Foreign Ministry spokesman on 8 January said the ministry has decided "not to comment" on the critical remarks made by Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs in Budapest one day earlier, Reuters reported.. Kovacs said that unlike relations with Romania, relations with Slovakia did not improve in 1997. He said Slovakia has not gone far enough in meeting the demands of its national minorities and that, in general, progress in bilateral relations has been "disappointing." Slovak Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova is due to visit Hungary in January. MS

ALBANIAN REFUGEES DETAINED IN SLOVAKIA

Forty- seven refugees from Albania were detained in Slovakia after crossing the border from Hungary in an attempt to reach West European countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. A police officer said the refugees will be deported back to Hungary, whose authorities will have to decide on their fate. MS

HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTRY RELEASES MACROECONOMIC INDICATORS

Hungary's GDP grew by some 4 percent in 1997, while the government budget deficit reached 4.6 percent of GDP (compared with the originally planned 4.9 percent), Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy told Hungarian media on 8 January. According to the ministry's estimates, inflation was 18.2-18.3 percent last year, he said. Meanwhile, data released by the Hungarian National Bank show a drop in the current account deficit, from $1.177 billion in 1996 to $613 million in November 1997. The current account even registered a surplus of $72 million in November, but the current account deficit for 1997 as a whole is expected to be $1-1.2 billion. MSZ




KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY WARNS MACEDONIA

Spokesmen for the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) told the Pristina daily "Koha Ditore" of 9 January that the UCK carried out three recent bombings in Macedonia. The spokesmen said the bombings were a warning to the Macedonian police not to cooperate with their Serbian counterparts in a joint crackdown against the UCK. Macedonian, Kosovar, and Albanian officials have expressed doubt about the validity of a statement by the UCK on 7 January claiming responsibility for the Macedonian bombings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 1998). PM

ARMY TO STAY OUT OF MONTENEGRIN IMBROGLIO?

Montenegrin government officials told Reuters on 8 January that Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic "exchanged New Year greetings with...[reform-minded President-elect Milo] Djukanovic [and that] the general also exchanged cards with [representatives of the pro-Djukanovic] Montenegrin police. This formality indicates that the army is not willing to back Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in pressuring Montenegro" (see also "End Note" below). PM

SUPPORT FOR SERBIAN TEACHERS IN KOSOVO

Serbian Education Minister Jovo Todorovic said in Belgrade on 8 January that he will increase Serbian teachers' salaries in Kosovo by 20 percent in recognition of the "difficult conditions under which the teachers work." He added, however, that the resumption of Albanian-language education there is a "political question on which I have no authority to act," "Nasa Borba" reported. PM

CONTACT GROUP TELLS BELGRADE TO ACT ON KOSOVO...

Representatives of the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Russia urged the Serbian authorities in a statement released in Washington on 8 January to "make concrete progress" in improving the political and human rights situations in Kosovo. The statement said that such progress is a prerequisite for federal Yugoslavia's return to active participation in the international community. The Contact Group said that it favors neither independence for Kosovo nor a continuation of the status quo but rather an improvement in Kosovo's status within Yugoslavia. PM

...AND ISSUES WARNING ON BOSNIA

In another statement issued in Washington on 8 January, the Contact Group told the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats that "further temporizing will not be tolerated." The representatives of the five countries urged the Bosnian Serbs to form a new government quickly and to broadcast parliamentary sessions live. The text called for an end to delays in appointing joint ambassadors and in implementing the results of last year's local elections, in which refugees were able to elect officials for towns from which they had been "ethnically cleansed." PM

KLEIN BACKS PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTER

Jacques Klein, one of the international community's chief representatives in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 8 January that the international community urges the Bosnian Serbs to support Mladen Ivanic, who is Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's nominee for prime minister (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 7 January 1998). Klein added that the international community "considers Ivanic as an exceptional character.... In this critical time for the Serbian people, those of good will who are real patriots have to step forward and assume their historic role." Hard-line supporters of Radovan Karadzic have rejected Ivanic's proposed national unity government of technocrats. PM

PEACEKEEPERS TO ENFORCE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT?

A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 8 January that peacekeepers and international police will block any attempts to interfere with public transportation across the border between the Republika Srpska and the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation. The announcement follows a recent incident in which Bosnian Serb officials arrested two bus drivers from Sarajevo who were driving on a scheduled trip to Banja Luka, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. The spokesman added that Klein has sent a letter to the federal and Bosnian Serb transportation ministers to demand the restoration of a regular bus service between the two cities. PM

SARAJEVO GETS NEW MAYOR

The Sarajevo City Council elected Rasim Gacanovic of the leading Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) mayor on 8 January. The council also chose Ante Zelic of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) as his deputy. The elections end a 22 month-long stalemate caused by the SDA's refusal to share power with several other parties. The opposition parties finally agreed to support Gacanovic because of his reputation as a pragmatist. PM

TUDJMAN PLEDGES MORE DEMOCRACY

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said in Zagreb on 8 January that the return of eastern Slavonia to full Croatian control on 15 January will mean Croatia can concentrate its efforts on building democracy and improving its economy. He was speaking at a ceremony to honor William Dale Montgomery, the new U.S. ambassador to Croatia, who said that Croatia must become fully democratic. Montgomery added that "Croatia is absolutely critical for two of the major foreign policy objectives of the United States--firstly, the full implementation of the Dayton agreement and secondly, the establishment of long-term peace and stability in this region." PM

THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR ALBANIAN DEMOCRAT'S FUNERAL

Some 5,000 people on 8 January attended the funeral in central Tirana of Abdyl Matoshi, a policeman and former deputy national customs chief, who was recently killed in Tropoja by unknown gunmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998). The funeral took on the aspect of a Democratic Party political rally, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The Democrats blame the Socialist Party and the government for the killing of Matoshi. Two other Democrats who were killed the same day in Tropoja were buried in their respective hometowns. FS

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION ANNOUNCES "ANTI-CRIME PACT."

The five-party governing coalition announced on 8 January a number of measures to combat the growing crime wave, "Dita Informacion" reported. The parties pledged to pass new laws giving the judiciary and police greater powers to fight organized crime and terrorism. They also agreed to develop a strategy to disarm the civilian population, which is still in possession of an estimated 600,000-800,000 illegal weapons. The parties promised to form a permanent parliamentary commission to fight organized crime. Further measures are designed to help families of policemen who lost their lives in duty and to combat corruption within the judiciary and police. FS

ROMANIAN COALITION'S FUTURE HANGS IN BALANCE

In a televised address on 8 January, Petre Roman, the leader of the Democratic Party, warned his coalition partners "not to play with fire," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Roman said his party wants neither the dismemberment of the coalition nor early elections, but he reproached his allies for treating the Democrats as an "annex" of the other parties. The coalition, Roman said, "will either be one of equal partners or will not be at all." Roman said the main differences go far beyond the "particular case of [dismissed Transportation Minister Traian] Basescu" and that the discussions scheduled to take place "in the next days" will show whether the partnership is still possible. In response, government spokesman Eugen Serbanescu said Premier Victor Ciorbea believes it is Roman, rather than the government, who "is playing with fire." MS

EBRD PROVIDES LOAN FOR ROMANIAN PORT

The European Bank for Construction and Development on 8 January announced it will provide a $13 million loan for new grain-handling and storage facilities at Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported. The loan will be used for the construction of a sea-port terminal that will have a grain storage capacity of 100,000 tons and facilities for handling road and rail freight. MS

MOLDOVA'S INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CREDIBILITY DWINDLES

Moldova received international credits worth $227 million last year, according to a report by the Economy and Reform Ministry, cited by Radio Bucharest on 8 January. The World Bank lent Chisinau $129 million and the IMF $20 million. The fund's loans for 1997 were only one- quarter of the amount it granted Moldova in 1994. The reason for the reduced credit is Chisinau's failure to meet the fund's conditions on monetary, budgetary, and fiscal policies as well as on the country's external debt. Last year, Moldova also received international technical assistance worth $104 million. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER RELEASES TAPES ON 1997 CRISIS

Ivan Kostov on 8 January released transcripts documenting a meeting of the former socialist government following the January 1997 mass demonstrations and the storming of the parliament by protesters. The transcripts reveal that former Prime Minister Zhan Videnov advocated the use of police force to break up the protests on 10 January. Videnov also discussed how reports by state and private media can be silenced and how the media was to be later blamed for instigating the protests. More than 300 people were hospitalized on the night of 10 January 1997, when police attacked the protesters demanding the resignation of the government. The release of the tapes comes two days ahead of a Socialist rally marking what the main opposition party says was a "black day for Bulgarian democracy", an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. MS

BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN PARLEYS ON GAS DELIVERIES

A delegation of the state-owned gas company Bulgargas began talks in Moscow on 8 January with Gazprom officials on energy imports for households and on the transit of Russian gas deliveries through Bulgaria to Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Vassil Filipov, the head of the Bulgarian delegation, said Gazprom's foreign trade subsidiary, Gazexport, has indicated its readiness to sign two contracts on 9 January. But Kiril Gegov, the deputy chairman of Bulgaria's State Energy Committee, refused to comment on that statement. MS




TENSIONS RISE IN MONTENEGRO AND KOSOVO


by Patrick Moore

Policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have recently led to a dramatic rise in tensions in Montenegro and Kosovo. The question is whether the outcome will be violent.

Milosevic enters 1998 with a major political difficulty in Serbia out of the way. The victory of his ally Milan Milutinovic in last month's Serbian presidential vote ensures that the Serbian government will do Milosevic's bidding for the next several years. Although Milutinovic's ultra-nationalist opponent, Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, will continue to be a major figure in Serbian politics, the levers of power will be well out of his reach.

Three other potential sources of trouble for Milosevic nonetheless remain, beginning with the power struggle among the Bosnian Serbs. The hard-liners loyal to Radovan Karadzic are blocking attempts by Prime Minister- designate Mladen Ivanic--the nominee of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic -- to form a government of technocrats with all-party support.

It seems clear, however, that neither Bosnian Serb faction is strong enough to decisively defeat the other. The stalemate is likely to continue for some time, which will enable Milosevic to use the divide-and-rule tactics he has often applied with quarrelsome Serbian politicians in Croatia and Bosnia. Ivanic told RFE/RL recently that the current political in-fighting among the Bosnian Serbs reminds him very much of the debilitating political struggle among the Croatian Serbs shortly before the fall of the Republika Srpska Krajina in 1995.

The Yugoslav president faces a situation in his second trouble spot, Montenegro, that could pose a more direct threat to his power than does the imbroglio among the Bosnian Serbs. Montenegro and Serbia form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and an independent-minded Montenegrin government could undermine his plans to strengthen his presidential powers at the expense of the individual republics.

His ally in Podgorica, President Momir Bulatovic, lost the 19 October presidential vote to Milo Djukanovic. The new head of state wants autonomy from Belgrade and an end to international sanctions, which have crippled the tiny mountain republic's tourist and shipping industries. Djukanovic argues that Milosevic wants to run Montenegro like a colony and that his policies are responsible for the hated sanctions.

Milosevic seems unwilling to accept the result of the Montenegrin vote and has turned up the pressure on Djukanovic in the runup to the 15 January Montenegrin presidential inauguration. The pro-Milosevic media have sought to intimidate Djukanovic, whom they wrongly accuse of seeking outright independence for Montenegro. The Belgrade courts, for their part, have questioned the validity of the October vote.

More seriously, there have been strong suggestions from the Bulatovic camp that the former president's supporters may resort to violence rather than yield power to their rivals. Djukanovic and the pro-reform Montenegrin government expect Milosevic to use his time-honored tactic of bussing in well-paid, armed demonstrators from outside Montenegro to intimidate the new government or even to prevent it from taking office.

It is unclear, however, whether Milosevic is prepared to use violence to keep Bulatovic in office or whether he is simply trying to bully Djukanovic. The Belgrade daily "Nasa Borba" wrote on 7 January that Milosevic has accepted defeat and plans to name Bulatovic as Yugoslav foreign minister. But Djukanovic's allies in the Montenegrin government are taking the hard-liners' threats of violence seriously. The reformers have also promised to stage a referendum on independence if Milosevic tries to end Montenegro's constitutional equality with Serbia in the federation.

The third problem confronting Milosevic is Kosovo. He has kept the restive mainly ethnic Albanian province under tight police control since he abolished its autonomy in 1989. The moderate Albanian leadership under shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova, for its part, continues to advocate non-violence and seeks foreign support. Rugova, however, has achieved nothing in his quest to restore Kosovo's autonomy.

Over the past year, the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), has become bolder in its attacks on government and police buildings, Serbian officials, and ethnic Albanians whom the UCK considers collaborators. Many observers report that the UCK has captured the imagination of many young Kosovars, who regard Rugova's policies as having reached a dead end.

The UCK, moreover, may have won political and military as well as psychological victories. On 28 November, some of its uniformed, armed members felt confident enough to deliver a political speech in public. On 4 January, the UCK issued a declaration saying that the armed struggle for the liberation of Kosovo and its unification with Albania has begun. And Belgrade's BETA news agency reported this week that the town of Srbica and some other areas are now firmly in UCK hands, at least under the cover of darkness.

There may be signs, however, that Milosevic is planning to intervene in Kosovo with massive force, as he did in Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia the following year. Some media reports suggest that the departure of Serbian police from Srbica and several other communities in Kosovo could be a prelude to an intervention by the Yugoslav army or by paramilitaries like Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as "Arkan." The military or Arkan might claim real or imagined UCK violence as a pretext for waging war on the local Albanian population and for conducting a policy of "ethnic cleansing."


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