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Newsline - February 6, 1998




DUMA DEPUTIES TO VISIT IRAQI PRESIDENTIAL SITES

State Duma deputies have accepted an invitation from Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq to inspect "any presidential sites of their choosing," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. Hussein sent the invitation to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev the previous day. The Duma delegation will be headed by Duma Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriev of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and will depart for Baghdad on 8 February. The plane carrying the Duma deputies will also deliver humanitarian aid. Last December, when LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky led a delegation to Baghdad, an aid shipment was also delivered. BP

DUMA PASSES BUDGET IN THIRD READING...

The State Duma on 5 February approved the 1998 budget in the third reading by 232 to 141 with one abstention, Russian news agencies reported. The budget provides for 499.9 billion rubles ($83.3 billion) in spending, 367.5 billion rubles in revenues, and a deficit of 132.4 billion rubles, or 4.7 percent of the estimated 1998 GDP of 2.84 trillion rubles. The lower house of the parliament must approve the document in a fourth reading, scheduled for 11 February, before sending it to the Federation Council. That reading is considered a formality, since no changes to revenue or spending articles will be considered. The budget is unlikely to go into effect before early March. Until then, monthly expenditures are equivalent to one-twelfth of total 1997 expenditures, in line with a government directive issued last December. LB

...AMID WIDESPREAD DOUBTS ABOUT ITS FEASIBILITY

Although government officials pledged last year that the 1998 budget would be Russia's first "realistic" budget in several years, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 February that "no one doubts that this budget will not be fulfilled." Duma Speaker Seleznev described the budget as "very, very weak" and said the government will have trouble implementing it. Several members of Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction have observed that the recent events on Russian markets have driven up the costs of government borrowing. There are no additional planned revenues to compensate for those higher costs. The Yabloko faction has voted against the budget in all readings and criticized the document as unrealistic even before the recent market turmoil. LB

BUDGET HAS NO 'PROTECTED' ITEMS

The Duma voted not to give any articles in the 1998 budget "protected" status, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. Duma Budget Committee acting Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov praised the vote, saying the budget should not distinguish between articles that the government must fulfill and articles it need not implement. Some 80 percent of planned 1997 expenditures were listed as "protected" items, Zhukov said. In fact, those items were not spared from the spending cuts or "sequester" imposed unilaterally by the government last year. Some "protected" items, such as agriculture subsidies, were reduced by more than 50 percent. LB

DUMA INCREASES COMPENSATION FOR HOLDERS OF OLD BANK ACCOUNTS...

Also on 5 February, the Duma approved an amendment to increase spending on compensation for holders of pre-1992 deposits in Sberbank, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Those deposits were rendered virtually worthless by the high inflation of the early 1990s. Until now, only citizens born before 1921 have been able to receive some compensation for their lost savings. The Duma voted to increase expenditures on such compensation to 5 billion rubles ($830 million) from 3 billion rubles in the original draft. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov urged Duma deputies not to approve the increase since it is not covered by additional planned 1998 budget revenues. LB

...CUTS BENEFITS FOR VICTIMS OF POLITICAL REPRESSION

The Duma also approved a budget amendment to halve spending on compensation for victims of Soviet-era political repression to 500,000 rubles ($83,000), RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The amendment was proposed by the Labor and Social Policy Committee, headed by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia member Sergei Kalashnikov. Duma deputy Yulii Rybakov, a member of the Russia's Democratic Choice party, fought unsuccessfully to reverse the Duma's decision. He told RFE/RL that some 500,000 Russian citizens who were either arrested or deported during the 1930s and 1940s qualify for the benefits, which include free medicines and subsidies for utilities and transportation. LB

MIXED REACTION TO YELTSIN'S DEFENSE OF CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 5 February criticized President Boris Yeltsin for saying that First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov will stay in the government until 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). Zyuganov said the Communist-led opposition will prepare to stage mass protests on 23 February, 27 March, and later this year, Interfax reported. Duma Speaker Seleznev, also a Communist, argued that Chubais and Nemtsov do not deserve the president's support, and he expressed doubt that the first deputy premiers will stay in the cabinet until 2000. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, said Yeltsin's decision to keep Chubais and Nemtsov in the government is "absolutely correct," ITAR-TASS reported Shokhin said that given the difficult financial situation, "it is important to achieve stability and give a signal to investors so they will return" to Russian markets. LB

DID YELTSIN LEAVE DOOR OPEN ON FIRST DEPUTY PREMIERS?

Some Russian commentators have pointed out that although Yeltsin said he will protect Chubais and Nemtsov against those who wish to force them out, he also said the first deputy premiers will stay in the government until 2000 "if they manage to hang on to power." That ambiguous phrase could mean that he would allow them to resign if the pressure from their opponents became too great. Speaking to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 5 February, political commentator Andrei Piontkovsky noted that it is difficult to interpret the phrase "if they manage to hang on to power." He also argued that Yeltsin's latest remarks notwithstanding, Chubais and Nemtsov are unlikely to regain the vast influence they wielded in the government last year. LB

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREES TO SPUR INVESTMENT

During a 5 February meeting with Nemtsov, Yeltsin signed two decrees aimed at stimulating investment in Russia. One decree provides incentives for investors who commit more than $250 million, Russian news agencies reported. According to Nemtsov, if such investors agree to increase each year the share of Russian parts for their goods and if that share reaches at least 50 percent within five years, the investors' storage facilities will be considered "free economic zones" and subject to far lower taxes. Nemtsov said the decree says to potential investors that "we are ready to help you, if you create new jobs in Russia and bring new technologies here." A separate decree on steps to attract investments in the automobile industry provides benefits for certain projects that involve at least 1.5 billion rubles ($250 million) in investments over five years. LB

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO HEAR CASE ON YELTSIN'S THIRD TERM

The Constitutional Court will consider whether Yeltsin is legally entitled to seek re-election in 2000, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 February. Although the constitution prohibits the president from serving more than two consecutive terms, some presidential advisers have argued that Yeltsin's current term should be considered his first, since he was elected in 1991 under a different constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). The Duma has asked the court to rule on the issue. The court is expected to consider the appeal toward the end of the year but might decide to hear the case earlier. LB

RUSSIA CRITICIZES U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 5 February said the U.S. State Department's 1997 survey of human rights in various countries "contains unconfirmed facts" and "does not take into account the development of democratic processes in Russia," Russian news agencies reported. The report described the Russian judiciary as weak and criticized prison conditions, infringements on press freedom, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and the new religion law (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). Tarasov argued that the report views the human rights situation in Russia "from the point of view of [U.S.] law, practice, and priorities." He also said it ignores Russia's efforts to improve prison conditions and make progress on other fronts. As for the religion law, Tarasov said it is designed to protect Russian society against "totalitarian sects" and is not aimed against all "non-traditional" faiths. LB

LUKOIL, SIDANKO NOT TO MERGE

Vagit Alekperov, president of the oil company LUKoil, announced on 5 February that his company is not considering a merger with the Sidanko oil company, Interfax reported. Some Russian media have speculated that LUKoil and Sidanko, which is part of the Oneksimbank empire, would join forces in response to the recent merger of the Yukos and Sibneft oil companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). At the same time, Alekperov confirmed that LUKoil and Sidanko are discussing possible cooperation on certain projects, including the upcoming auction for a stake in Rosneft, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

FORMAT OF NEW PASSPORTS MAY BE CHANGED

Mikhail Komissar, the deputy head of the presidential administration, on 5 February told Vasilii Likhachev, the chairman of Tatarstan's legislature, that the presidential administration and government are considering suggestions from regional leaders on the format of Russia's internal passports, ITAR- TASS reported. Leaders of Russia's republics, in particular Tatarstan and several republics in the North Caucasus, have sharply criticized the new passports, which the government began issuing last year. Among other things, they have objected to the absence of the line listing the nationality of the passport holder and the lack of a page listing the information about the holder in the titular language of the republic in which the holder resides (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 18 November 1997). LB

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SEEKS COMPROMISE ON ELECTORAL LAW

Aleksandr Shokhin says his Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction is seeking a compromise with the president on proposed changes to the electoral law, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 February. NDR opposes Yeltsin's proposal to abolish the proportional representation system currently used to elect half the 450 State Duma deputies. Instead of amending the law so as to elect all Duma deputies in single-member districts, NDR favors less radical changes. For instance, the pro-government faction would support removing the current requirement that parties receive at least 5 percent of the vote in order to be assigned any of the Duma seats allocated proportionally. In the December 1995 Duma elections, NDR won just 10 of the 225 seats elected in single-member districts--fewer than many analysts had predicted. LB

MOSCOW RAISES UTILITY CHARGES FOR OWNERS OF MULTIPLE APARTMENTS

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 3 February announced that effective 1 January 1998, residents of the capital who own more than one apartment will pay 100 percent of the costs of municipal services, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 February. The average Muscovite currently pays just 17.6 percent of the cost of those services, which include electricity, heating, and telephone charges. Although the city administration is counting on the new regulation to provide an additional 144 million rubles ($24 million) in budget revenues this year, "Kommersant-Daily" argued that the revenue increase will be much smaller. Anyone who wishes to avoid the higher charges for municipal services can simply transfer the title of a second or third apartment to a relative, the newspaper noted. LB

CAPITAL'S HOUSING REFORM DIFFERS LITTLE FROM FEDERAL PROGRAM

Luzhkov has been one of the most outspoken critics of the federal government's housing reform plan, which is supervised by First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov. However, the concept of the housing reform plan being implemented by the Moscow city government differs little from the federal plan. Both policies call for citizens to pay a higher share of the costs for municipal services each year, and both promise subsidies for low-income families. The main difference is that the federal plan calls for citizens to pay 50 percent of utility costs in 1998, with gradual annual increases until 2003, when citizens will have to pay those costs in full. The Moscow policy calls for more gradual rate increases so that citizens will pay 22 percent of utility costs this year, 27 percent in 1999, and 100 percent by 2007, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 February. LB




KOCHARIAN SAYS SITUATION IN ARMENIA UNDER CONTROL

Acting Armenian President Robert Kocharian said on 5 February that he is in complete control of the situation in Armenia, Interfax reported. He hinted that he might appoint Vardan Oskanian, the first deputy foreign minister, as acting foreign minister. Asked about his citizenship, Kocharian, who is from Nagorno-Karabakh, said he does not know "for sure if I am an Armenian citizen or not." Armenian citizenship is a requirement for candidates in the presidential elections, which are scheduled for 16 March (see also "End Note" below). PG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE BEGINS

Meanwhile, Vazgen Manukian, the leader of the opposition National Democratic Union, has said he will take part in the presidential elections next month, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 5 February. Calling the resignation of Levon Ter-Petrosyan the doorway to a "new epoch" in Armenian politics, Manukian said he did not expect fighting in Karabakh to resume. Other likely candidates are the Communist Party's Sergey Badlian and longtime anti-Soviet dissident Paruir Hairikian. PG

FURTHER REACTIONS TO TER-PETROSYAN RESIGNATION

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 5 February praised Ter- Petrosyan for his courage in resigning, saying the decision will promote "stability in the region," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said the same day that Moscow considers the resignation an "internal affair" of a friendly country. PG

AZERBAIJAN, TURKMENISTAN AGREE ON DIVISION OF CASPIAN

In a breakthrough for Baku and a setback for Moscow, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have agreed that the Caspian Sea should be divided into national sectors, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. Such a division would allow each of the five littoral states to develop the offshore oil resources without taking into consideration the views of the other four countries, as Russia has been insisting. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov announced the agreement following consultations in Ashgabat. PG

EU SUPPORTS TURKMENISTAN OVER PROPOSED PIPELINE

Kees Wittebrood, the chief of the EU's Central Asian department, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 5 February, Interfax reported. Wittebrood told Niyazov that the EU supports a proposed pipeline that would transport Turkmen natural gas to Europe via Iran and Turkey. Wittebrood also announced the EU will provide 14 million ecu ($12.7 million) in food aid to Turkmenistan. Niyazov proposed a joint project with the EU for cotton production. BP

TIME, LOCATION SET FOR CENTRAL ASIAN MILITARY EXERCISE

A two-day conference on planning the next Central Asian military exercise under NATO's Partnership for Peace program ended in Almaty on 5 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The first deputy defense ministers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan were present, along with representatives from Russia, the U.S., Georgia and Turkey. The next round of exercises will take place at the end of September 1998 in southern Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan, and in Kyrgyzstan. BP

KAZAKHSTAN CREATES HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Kazakhstan and the UN have agreed to set up a presidential commission on human rights in the Central Asian state, Reuters and AFP reported on 5 February. The commission will review complaints from citizens, mediate in disputes with authorities, and sponsor seminars to raise make citizens aware of their rights. The UN is donating $100,000 to help start up the commission. BP

KAZAKH BANK TO OPEN OFFICES ABROAD

Kazakhstan's Narodnyi Bank will open representative offices in Moscow, Beijing, and London over the next six months, AFP reported on 5 February. Those offices will not engage in banking activities. A bank official said "our bank is opening new credit lines by working with foreign banks, so it's necessary for us to represent our interests [abroad]." BP




CRIMEAN DEPUTY PREMIER SERIOUSLY INJURED IN EXPLOSION

Aleksandr Safontsev, the first deputy prime minister of Crimea, and his bodyguard were seriously injured when a bomb exploded near their car, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. The incident occurred in Tavriya, near Simferopol, and followed a special session of the Crimean Supreme Soviet to discuss the situation in Yalta, the scene of an ongoing power struggle (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). Safontsev is responsible for industry, trade, and energy. PB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BROADCASTING LAW

Lawmakers have again passed a broadcasting law that allows foreign-funded television stations to air campaign advertisements. President Leonid Kuchma previously vetoed the law because it prohibits any network that is even partially funded by a foreign company from broadcasting political advertisements. He argued that such a law would have kept several nationwide television networks from airing campaign advertisements. The legislation bans foreigners from holding top-level jobs in television or radio stations in Ukraine. PB

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MINSK

Valery Pustovoitenko held talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 5 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka said that Belarus is ready to "strengthen relations with Ukraine" and that he hopes the visit would help solve bilateral problems. He added that the visit should lead to an increase in trade between the two countries, which he said was too low. Pustovoitenko said his country wants to expand dialogue with Minsk. Pustovoitenko is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sergei Ling and visit several industrial sites. PB

BELARUSIAN AMBASSADOR RECALLED FROM WARSAW

Viktor Bursky has been recalled for consultations after Minsk accused Poland of interfering in Belarus's internal affairs. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich said the recall is in response to a meeting of Belarusian opposition leaders in the Polish town of Bialystok and a seminar for opposition newspaper chiefs in Warsaw last weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). He also cited the border restrictions on Belarusians recently imposed by Warsaw. An official in the Polish Prime Minister's office said he is surprised that Minsk regards "independent civil initiatives as interference in its internal matters." Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said the ministry was not involved in organizing the seminar and was surprised by the decision to recall Bursky. PB

ESTONIAN COURT RULES LANGUAGE LAW CHANGES UNCONSTITUTIONAL

The Supreme Court has ruled that amendments to the language law that were adopted by the parliament last fall are unconstitutional, ETA reported on 5 February. President Lennart Meri had turned to the court in December after twice refusing to promulgate the amended law. According to the president, the legislation would upset the constitutional balance of powers since it would allow the government to evaluate and determine the level of proficiency of parliamentary deputies and local government officials in the Estonian language. JC

RUSSIA ACCUSES ESTONIA OF 'COLONIAL' ATTITUDE

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 5 February said that the main obstacle to Estonia's entry to the EU is the county's "colonial" attitude toward its ethnic minorities, ETA reported, citing RIA Novosti. Tarasov argued that Tallinn is unwilling to "find a civilized solution to the human rights problems" of all those living in Estonia. He added that Tallinn's assertions of Russian opposition to Estonian EU membership are "groundless." Tarasov was responding to an interview that Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave to the Italian daily "Corriere della Sera" in which, according to Tarasov, Ilves maintained that Russia is opposed to the Baltics' joining the EU. JC

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS KRASTS NOT INVITED TO MOSCOW

Russian government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov has denied that Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts was invited to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998), BNS and Interfax reported. Shabdurasulov said Krasts has not received such an invitation either from Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin or through diplomatic channels. But Maris Riekstins, secretary of state at the Latvian Foreign Ministry, who was present during the recent talks in Riga between Chernomyrdin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, stressed that Chernomyrdin's invitation to Krasts was "unequivocal." Riekstins added that "we believe everything said at such a level should be taken seriously." JC

LITHUANIA WANTS EXPANDED ECONOMIC TIES WITH RUSSIA

Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius on 5 February called for strengthening Lithuanian-Russian economic relations. Vagnorius said that Lithuania is interested in signing a bilateral agreement on trade liberalization, above all with Kaliningrad Oblast. But to reach such an agreement, Vagnorius commented, there is a need for "mutual willingness." The prime minister noted that Lithuanian companies seeking to promote economic cooperation with Kaliningrad face "many obstacles and superficial barriers" there. JC

POLAND AGREES TO AUSCHWITZ PRESERVATION PLAN

Polish and Jewish leaders on 5 February agreed to sign a plan on developing and preserving the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, news agencies reported. Miles Lerman, the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, called the agreement a "very important moment" for Polish-Jewish relations. Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at the two camps from 1940-1945. The sites are visited by some 5 million people a year. PB

UPROAR IN CZECH PARLIAMENT OVER GERMAN-CZECH COUNCIL

Czech deputies responded angrily to the announcement on 5 February that Germany has nominated the leader of the organization of expelled Sudeten Germans as a member of the coordination council set up to study Czech-German relations, CTK reported. Franz Neubauer, head of the Sudetens' Expellee Associations, was included on the list of the councils' members exchanged by the Foreign Ministers Klaus Kinkel and Jaroslav Sedivy in Bonn the same day. The session had to be interrupted to restore order. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats (CSSD), said it will submit a motion to debate the issue in the Chamber of Deputies on 6 February. CSSD leader Milos Zeman said Neubauer's presence in the council was "incomprehensible" since he had "from the very beginning" been opposed to the Czech-German reconciliation declaration signed last year. MS

KOVAC JR. AGREES TO EXTRADITION

Michal Kovac Jr., the son of the Slovak president, who was arrested at a Czech-German crossing point on 4 February, told Czech investigators in Plzen that he agrees to being extradited to Germany, CTK reported. The Plzen regional court has asked the Munich Prosecutor's Office to send an official extradition request. As soon as the request arrives, the court will pass it on to Justice Minister Vlasta Parkanova, who will then decide on the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). MS

HUNGARIAN COALITION DIVIDED OVER GABCIKOVO- NAGYMAROS COMPROMISE

The Alliance of Free Democrats (ZSDZS), the junior coalition partner in the Hungarian government, is opposed to the Socialist Party's proposal for solving the Gabcikovo- Nagymaros dispute with Slovakia, Hungarian media reported on 5 February. The same day, the Socialist majority in the cabinet approved the principles of an agreement whereby the Hungarian side would build a dam, either at the original site at Nagymaros or at Pilismarot, and the two countries would drop compensation claims against each other. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss said the costs of building either site would probably have to be met by Hungary alone. Studies show that building a dam at Nagymaros would cost $600 million and at Pilismarot some $1 billion. Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze of the ZSDZS has requested that the coalition's Coordination Council meet to debate the issue. MS

EU SETS GOALS FOR APPLICANTS

The European Commission decided in Brussels on 4 February on a list of goals that each of the 10 applicants must meet by the end of 1998 and in the longer term if they are to stay on track for EU membership. The detailed plans, called "accession partnerships," are specifically tailored to each country. The commission asked Poland to reduce its external debt this year and implement a new plan to restructure its steel industry. Estonia and Latvia are told to make it easier for their Russian-speakers to become citizens. The Czech Republic will have to monitor banking, securities, and the insurance business more closely. Slovakia, which is not in the first group of countries tentatively slated for EU membership, is told to hold free and fair presidential, legislative, and local elections in 1998 and to adopt laws guaranteeing use of minority languages. PM




EU CALLS FOR SERBIAN-ALBANIAN DIALOGUE

British Junior Foreign Minister Tony Lloyd said in Tirana on 5 February that Serbs and Kosovo Albanians "need to move toward greater autonomy for the Albanians in Kosovo and the recognition that neither separatism nor violence offers any solution to the Kosovo Albanians." He added that the EU, whose presidency the UK currently holds, "will condemn violence from any part and [stress] that separatism is not on the agenda of the international community." Lloyd urged the Serbian authorities to implement the 1996 agreement to reintroduce Albanian-language education. He also called for direct talks between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Kosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. The Kosovars reject bilateral talks and want internationally mediated negotiations or a Dayton-style conference. Lloyd also noted that the EU is considering setting up an office in Pristina. PM

HAS ALBANIAN POLICY TOWARD KOSOVO HARDENED?

Albanian Foreign Ministry officials reassured Lloyd that Albania will work to restore calm if an armed conflict breaks out in Kosovo, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Those assurances followed a statement earlier this week by Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that Albanians everywhere will react "as one nation" should war erupt in Kosovo. The previous government of President Sali Berisha often used that formulation to indicate that Albania would respond militarily if Serbia launched a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the Kosovars. The current Socialist-led government has in recent months distanced itself from Berisha's pro-Kosovar policy and sought better ties to Belgrade. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the Defense Ministry denied a report in "Koha Jone" of 3 February that the military are concentrating artillery and armor in the Kukes area, near Kosovo. FS

SERBIA STOPS KOSOVO MAIL DELIVERY

Officials of the Kosovo branch of the Yugoslav Post in Pristina earlier this week decided to stop mail deliveries to some 20 mainly ethnic Albanian villages in the Srbica and Glogovac areas, BETA news agency reported from Kosovska Mitrovica on 5 February. The officials cited security concerns as the reason for that decision. It is unclear whether the ruling has come into effect. The villages affected are located in an area where the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army is particularly strong. PM

MIXED RESULTS IN YUGOSLAV-SLOVENIAN TALKS

Mihailo Milojevic, the president of the Yugoslav Chamber of Commerce, told his visiting Slovenian counterpart, Jozko Cuk, in Belgrade on 5 February that Ljubljana must change its political stance toward Belgrade if economic relations are to improve. Cuk suggested that an improvement in economic ties could lead to a warming of the political climate. He also noted that trade between Slovenia on the one hand and Serbia and Montenegro on the other totaled $5 billion in 1990 but only $138 million last year. Milosevic's Yugoslavia claims to be the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia and hence entitled to all its properties and assets. Slovenia and the other former Yugoslav republics demand that the properties and assets be divided among the successor states. PM

PLAVSIC ADVISER WARNS AGAINST YUGOSLAV DINAR

Rajko Tomas, an adviser to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, said in Banja Luka on 5 February that Bosnian Serbs should have confidence in the new Bosnian joint currency, the convertible mark, which is pegged to the German currency at one-to-one. Tomas added that the convertible mark will shield Bosnian Serbs from the inflationary affects stemming from the ongoing fall of the Yugoslav dinar, which is the most widely used currency in the Republika Srpska. He said that the "advantage of the convertible mark is the advantage of stable money.... Therefore, the convertible mark should provide for stable development of the Republika Srpska and Bosnia- Herzegovina in general." Tomas also commented that the Yugoslav dinar is "just printed money without backing." PM

KLEIN URGES CHANGE OF BOSNIAN PASSPORT DESIGN

Jacques Klein, a deputy to the intentional community's Carlos Westendorp, said in Sarajevo on 5 February that the joint passports, which the parliament approved on 15 December 1997, should be modified to remove the reference on the cover as to which of the two entities the bearer comes from. Klein stated that removing the words "Republika Srpska" or "Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina" would reduce the risk of the bearer being subjected to harassment by nationalists from the other entity. He argued that the principle of not including the name of the entity of origin was successful in the case of the design of the new license plates and that it should prove successful with the passports as well. PM

KARADZIC ARREST WARRANT STILL VALID

A spokesman for the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said in Sarajevo on 5 February that the court "expects that if [indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic] travels outside the Republika Srpska, he will be immediately arrested and transferred to The Hague." The spokesman added that the court "would like to put on record that there is an outstanding international arrest warrant for Karadzic." Reports appear from time to time in the former Yugoslav and international media that Karadzic has left Bosnian Serb territory for destinations that have included Montenegro, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, and Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry recently denied Belgrade press reports that Karadzic has gone into exile in Russia. PM

BRCKO TALKS BEGIN

U.S. negotiator Roberts Owen opened talks in Vienna on 5 February to decide the status of the north Bosnian town of Brcko and surrounding villages. The deadline for a decision, which has been postponed before, is 15 March. The Brcko question was the only one left open in the 1995 Dayton agreement. The Serbs claim that town and surrounding area because they provide a land link between the two halves of the Republika Srpska. The Muslims and Croats argue that they together constituted the majority in the town before the war and that to deny them Brcko would be to endorse the results of "ethnic cleansing." PM

SLOVENIA, ITALY SETTLE PROPERTY DISPUTE

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in Ljubljana on 5 February confirming an earlier statement by visiting Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini that Italy will accept $62 million from Slovenia to compensate Italian citizens who fled Slovenia at the end of World War Two for their property losses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). PM

ROMANIA'S COALITION PARTNERS SIGN PROTOCOL

Members of the coalition signed the new government protocol on 5 February following lengthy negotiations, Radio Bucharest reported. Coalition leaders have suggested that the protocol is generally viewed as a temporary arrangement and that a new government is likely to be set up within the next few months. The Democrats have stressed that they will continue to seek the replacement of the prime minister. They undertook to back those laws that "promote reforms" and the measures that the government agreed on before their withdrawal from the executive. However, there is no mention in the protocol of a pledge to refrain from backing or initiating no-confidence motions in the government. The 11 Democratic deputy ministers officially resigned on 5 February, but Democratic prefects remain in office. MS

VAN DER STOEL IN ROMANIA

European Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 4 February met with George Pruteanu and Anghel Stanciu, the chairmen of the bicameral parliament's education commissions, both of whom are opposed to amendments to the 1995 education law proposed by the government and supported by the Democratic Federation of Romania (HDFR). Last December, the Senate passed a version of the amended law that failed to meet the Hungarians' demands. Pruteanu said Van der Stoel told him that under international law, Romania is not obliged to set up universities teaching in national minority languages. In related news, Democratic Convention Chairman Ion Diaconescu said on 4 February that the convention will respect its promises to the HDFR, including those on the education law. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SUBMITS DRAFT DECLARATION ON STATEHOOD

At a 5 February meeting of experts from the two conflicting sides in the Transdniester conflict, the separatists submitted a draft "Declaration on Transdniester Statehood." Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan delegation, has rejected the draft, saying that "it can be seen with the naked eye that the document...contradicts the spirit of the 8 May 1997 memorandum on normalization of relations." He added that the separatists are "counting on concessions" as they try to exploit the election campaign in Moldova. He emphasized that all issues between Tiraspol and Chisinau must be settled "with full respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova." Chief Tiraspol negotiator Vladimir Garbuzov argued that the declaration is "within the spirit of the memorandum." Like Taranu, he called for negotiations to continue. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES BILL ON NATIONAL PROPERTIES REGISTER

Deputies on 5 February approved in the first reading a bill on creating a national properties register. Last November, they had rejected a similar bill proposed by the government, prompting the World Bank to postpone a $16 million loan to finance setting up the register, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Both the World Bank and the IMF have made the creation of the register a condition for extending loans to Moldova. Also on 5 February, David Owen, IMF deputy director for Southeastern Europe told President Petru Lucinschi that while Moldova has succeeded in reducing inflation and stopping economic decline, it needs to strengthen financial discipline and control more strictly the implementation of the budget law. The fourth installment of a $185 million loan approved by the IMF last year has been postponed pending changes to the 1998 budget. MS




WHY TER-PETROSYAN FELL


by Paul Goble

The resignation earlier this week of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan highlights the limits of international pressure on countries with democratic political systems and the dangers inherent in ignoring those limits.

Under pressure from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group--led by Russia, France, and the U.S.--Ter-Petrosyan was forced to accept the so-called Lisbon principles for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Although Ter-Petrosyan himself sometimes violated democratic norms, his grudging acceptance of those principles cost him the support of both his own government and people and ultimately forced his resignation. Moreover, it brought to office Robert Kocharian, who is less susceptible to international pressure and less sympathetic to the Lisbon principles.

Those principles, presented at the OSCE summit in 1996, call for the restoration of Soviet-era borders, broad autonomy for ethnic Armenians in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and international guarantees of such a settlement. While many have repeatedly invoked them as OSCE policy, they were, in fact, never formally adopted by that body. Yerevan refused to give its approval, arguing that the principles failed to take into account its own interests as well as facts on the ground.

As Ter-Petrosyan made clear at the time, Armenia could never agree to compromise the fate of the Armenians of Karabakh by forcing them to accept the restoration of Azerbaijani control of the disputed enclave. His government made clear that Armenians were being asked to concede their victories in the field with little to show for it except Azerbaijan's promises that it would respect the autonomy of Karabakh in the future. And neither Ter-Petrosyan nor other Armenians placed much faith in the notion that the international community would effectively monitor any settlement that might be reached.

Instead, they feared that the international community would eventually turn away from the issue out of deference to Baku and its enormous oil wealth and because of a sense that the Karabakh situation was no longer a pressing issue.

But following the 1996 summit, the Minsk Group put ever more pressure on Ter-Petrosyan to agree its proposals. Ter-Petrosyan frequently countered by pointing out that neither his government nor his electorate could support them. He noted that the international community, in the form of the Minsk Group, was putting all the pressure on Armenia and thereby allowing Azerbaijan to obtain at the negotiating table what it had been unable to achieve in the field.

With each visit by Minsk Group diplomats, Ter- Petrosyan moved ever closer to the Lisbon principles, winning praise in the chancelleries of the Minsk Group countries but costing him support at home.

The popularity of Ter-Petrosyan in those foreign capitals was evident in the comments of world leaders after his fall from office. But his unpopularity at home is the reason he fell. Ter-Petrosyan clearly recognized that danger and sought to limit it last year by appointing Karabakh leader Robert Kocharian as his prime minister.

Although politically shrewd, that move bought Ter- Petrosyan only a small amount of time. Moreover, it meant that Kocharian, who opposes the Lisbon principles, could mobilize Armenian opinion against the policies of his president. Kocharian did that with both skill and abandon; as a result, Ter-Petrosyan is out of office and Kocharian is now acting president.

On the one hand, the change at the top in Armenia may introduce a certain clarity in any future talks on reaching a settlement of the Karabakh dispute. No one can doubt where Kocharian stands, and an appreciation of that may lead to more serious talks.

On the other hand, a broader lesson has been learned: however well-meant, international pressure on leaders of democratic or even democratizing countries may quickly become counterproductive if it fails to take into account popular attitudes in those countries. Ter-Petrosyan was prepared to go along with the Minsk Group. As he stressed in his resignation speech, he was the leader of the party of peace in Armenia.

But the Minsk group did not take into account Armenian popular attitudes and did not appear to many Armenians to be even-handed in its dealings with the parties to the conflict. Also, it did not provide Ter- Petrosyan with the concessions he needed to remain in power.

Now, the Minsk Group program is at best on hold, and the dangers of a renewed conflict in the region are far greater than they were before Ter-Petrosyan's departure.


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